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snow place else

While LA is certainly home sweet home to this self-professed California girl, this time of year brings a certain fondness for my early years in New York City. There really is no place else like it during the holidays – at least in my growing-up memories.

Back then, New York City in December had a certain magic that I’ve not seen elsewhere since. I grew up about 30 miles outside its sparkling skyline, and the holiday season meant trips into The City to take it all in. To wit:

Legendary Fifth Avenue seemed dressed up in its holiday best, its store windows filled with magical, moving figures set in holiday scenes, with crowds at each one, transfixed by the show. From B. Altman at 34th Street and Fifth, to Lord & Taylor on 38th, to Saks Fifth Avenue on 51st, the street was one amazing holiday card brought to life. My mother and I would walk block after block, pausing at some point for lunch in one of the then-elegant department-store restaurants. No matter how cold it got (and it felt really cold back then), the promise of a hot pretzel from a street cart (something that has never tasted as good anywhere else) was all I needed to keep warm.

We would meet my father after his work day ended and then explore even more, the city now brilliantly aglow. There was the Rockefeller Plaza tree with its zillions of lights. A gigantic, invisibly suspended snowflake at 57th Street. Cartier, wrapped in a huge red ribbon; Tiffany, its windows overflowing with jewels (bigger and brighter in my young mind, I’m sure, than in reality); FAO Schwarz, its irresistible musical clock luring us in and its gigantic teddy bears and overflowing abundance of toys making it hard to leave.

New York offered far too much for one holiday excursion, though. I remember a Sunday afternoon visit each year to see The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. While I had always dreamed of being a ballerina as a little girl, my shyness kept me from taking ballet lessons. But The Nutcracker gave my heart and my imagination fearless freedom, and I loved those performances dearly. Tutus, dancing candy canes, the luminescent Sugar Plum Fairy – and the soaring music. Thinking about it now gives me the same shiver of joy.

And then, of course, a trip to the magnificent Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes and a holiday movie. It didn’t matter much to me what the movie was. Seeing those dancers kick in absolute, perfect unison never failed to delight me. Santa arriving on stage afterward always seemed far less exciting than that amazing line of women.

Chrismastime in New York City back then was like the stars being aligned in a way long gone today. There was the cold weather, of course, meaning rosy cheeks, mittens, and the promise of snow flurries. There were the classic department stores. There was the idea of getting dressed up to go into The City. And there was, above all, a sense of innocence. The innocence of a little girl whose eyes got wider each time a new bit of holiday magic came into view. The innocence of a city that believed in the miracles of the season. And the innocence of feeling safe in a snowglobed world.

May we all find a few moments this holiday to feel that kind of innocent joy again. To laugh with family or friends or both. To welcome a bit of comfort into our days and magic into our nights. To remember our childhood dreams and to dream of good things to come. Happy holidays, one and all.

Visions of sugar plums, indeed.

©2022 Claudia Grossman


fowl play

This Thanksgiving post originally appeared several years ago – this updated version (more laughs included) is dedicated to all those who prepare a Thanksgiving feast, big or small, for friends and family. Thank you for all the love and effort you put into it – and happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Something isn’t exactly right at our place on Thanksgiving. In truth, I suspect foul play. Because up until recently, most of our Thanksgivings, while certainly warm and joyful, have been haunted by the specter of, there’s no other way to say it, turkeys past. And by that, I mean the Thanksgiving meals that both B. and I grew up with – perfectly roasted turkey, perfectly carved turkey, perfectly ready-when-company-arrives turkey. But our Thanksgivings? Not so much. Leading me to conclude that my favorite Thanksgiving dinner is the one someone else cooks. To wit:

The Very First Turkey Thanksgiving. I had never made a turkey before, so I watched hours of the food channel in order to prepare for the feast (we were having just a couple of friends over). It seemed that every cooking-show host, while stuffing their turkey, warned against overstuffing. I, as a result, became hysterical when B. started adding spoonful after spoonful into the bird. Me: “Stop! Stop! Stop!” He: “What? What? What?” (Two former New Yorkers, we speak in exclamation points and multiples.) Me: “If we overstuff the turkey, something terrible will happen!” He: “What, exactly?” Me: “I don’t know … but I think the bird explodes!” He: “Does that seem realistic?” Me: (after breathing into a paper bag to stop hyperventilating) “Oh … I guess if you overstuff the turkey, the stuffing just spills out.” He: “There you go.” Me: “Shut up.”

The Turkey that Wouldn’t Get Done Thanksgiving. When my in-laws came to visit us one Thanksgiving (different apartment and oven), I was well prepared. This time there’d be no foolishness about overstuffing, no lack of confidence about a perfectly cooked turkey, and not one proverbial feather out of place. Wrong. When the three-hour cooking time for the turkey grew to four, five, and then six hours, I knew that something was afoul. The internal temperature had yet to reach the proper number (another food channel directive), and so we cooked on and on. At seven hours, the turkey was done (temperature-wise) and done (tough stuff). Turns out, our oven was not working correctly. Call it 50 degrees of miscalibration.

The Whose Thanksgiving Is It Anyway? Thanksgiving. Ah, yes. The time that one of our guests decided that she was Martha Thanksgiving Stewart – and decided to make our Thanksgiving celebration her very own. Without asking and without delay, she rushed to the table (nicely set, if I say so myself), removed the flowers at the center, and replaced them with a pair of turkey-shaped candles (not candlesticks, because that would have been bad enough, but candles). She then reorganized the refrigerator (that is, shoved all of my platters and bowls aside) to make room for her jell-o mold in the shape of a yes, you guessed it, turkey. And finally, the pièce de resistance – she showered the table with turkey-shaped glitter. The. Entire. Table. And the floor. We were crunching tiny metallic turkeys underfoot for the next two weeks.

The Bye Bye Miss Pumpkin Pie Thanksgiving. Last year’s, known in our home as The Thanksgiving the Oven Died. Enough to make me want to consume vast amounts of whiskey and rye. Enough said.

Despite all the misadventure, I do love Thanksgiving, albeit not the turkey. So for years, not one giblet showed up in my kitchen. Instead, I made brisket with all the Thanksgiving sides (tip: it makes great leftovers).

Due to popular demand, though, it seems that turkey (breast) has made its way back onto the menu here. But it’s okay, I’ve got this one under control. I’m fully confident (well, sort of) that it will turn out perfectly without incident. If not, there’s always extra pumpkin pie (purchased from the bakery) for everyone to fill up on.

What could go wrong?

ⓒ2015, 2022 Claudia Grossman


checking all the boxes

We all know of women who are renowned for their accomplishments; women who have made a name for themselves on the national or international stage; women who have changed lives with their innovations, their breakthrough talents, their extraordinary hearts and brilliant minds. And for them we are left thankful and in awe, on our feet, applauding. Brava.

This post is about a woman whose universe is much smaller, but whose impact is hugely meaningful on a daily basis. Someone who puts her heart into each interaction every day (and we’re talking hundreds of face-to-face encounters); someone whose quick mind and amazing memory engender countless smiles of appreciation; someone who has made myriads of lives better by showing what it means to put herself into her work, by showing how much she cares, by showing up. By checking all the boxes.

No, she’s not a doctor, although she’s lovingly tended to her share of scraped knees and assorted owies, cared for an elderly parent over the past several years, and listened to a litany of workplace woes. She’s not a lawyer, although she’s settled lots of kids’ skirmishes and on-the-job customer issues for decades. She’s not famous by celebrity standards, either on a marquee or on social media, although she’s incredibly well-known among her weekly audience of fans. She’s not a scientist, although she seems to have the science of human behavior down pat. And she’s not an artist per se, although what she leaves as she retires this week is some kind of beautiful.

This woman is a supermarket checker, or at least she was until a few days ago. She held the very same job for more than 45 years, ever since she was 15, and she retires now having touched thousands of people over the decades with her charm, her decency, and her absolute niceness. Starting in high school and continuing through college, through marriage, divorce, and single motherhood, through her own series of life’s ups and downs, she has persevered. And done so wonderfully and meaningfully.

Having been her customer for 25 of those years, I’ve come to know her well (although I’m not the only one who would wait a little longer on her line just to have the chance to chat during the checkout process – probably why her line was always the longest). She’d always, always remember to ask about family, about how B.’s teaching was going, about how my writing was going, about when he and I were going up to the Bay Area for our next vacation. About how our respective moms were doing, about how my health was, about how much she enjoyed my book. And she loved (loves!) to talk about her son (now a grown man) and his bright future. Unbelievably, I’d hear her have the same kind of detailed, specific conversations with her other long-time customers, too, always remembering the ins and outs of people’s lives. And always caring enough to ask.

So there she was earlier this week, wearing a glittery “I’m retired” tiara and matching sash on her last day at work, continuing to ring up groceries while customers and coworkers stopped by in a steady stream, offering congratulations and best wishes and telling her how much they would miss her. And I was certainly one of them, handing her a bouquet of white hydrangeas and wishing her all the best. “It’s been wonderful serving you and knowing you all these years,” she told me warmly. “And I hope that you and B. get the chance to retire to San Francisco. I know how much you both love it there.” That last comment did it – I found myself welling up at her remembering how much that city means to us and having the insight to understand how wonderful that dream might be.

She’s moving to the other side of the country in a few months, relocating to be near her son and his growing family. This born-and-bred California girl is off to explore the next chapter of her life with an open heart, an open mind, and open arms. To those who are about to meet her, believe me, you’re in for something – and someone – special.

Check her out.

©2022 Claudia Grossman

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is it chili in here?

It seems that more and more these days, the little imp who loves to mess around with my efforts in the kitchen is alive and well. Baking doesn’t seem to be its focus, thankfully, but cooking certainly is – let’s just say that the imp strikes so often that the person at the takeout pizza place and I are on the verge of becoming BFFs. I could blame the oven, but nope, my baking turns out just fine each time (way to go, let’s put that jinx opportunity out there for the imp to jump on). But my cooking endeavors? Just not going very well right now. I’m pretty sure it’s a phase (I certainly hope so), but I’m also pretty sure it’s enough already.

Last night’s effort was the latest of these foibles. And it all started out so well. To wit:

I make a really good turkey chili, if I say so myself. So good, that it doesn’t even need the tomatoes that I leave out (B. hates canned tomatoes). So good that it doesn’t need a bed of rice under it. So good that whether you pair it with with a cold beer or a decent Cabernet, you’ll be very happy. (If you’d like the recipe, let me know. No pressure. But it really is very good.)

Rather than leave a good thing alone, though (who me?), I decided to try something different yesterday. Something creative. Something that looked amazing when it came out of the oven but, well, things are not always as they appear.

While I almost always make cornbread to go along with the chili, this time I thought, why not save some calories (we eat far too much of the cornbread when I make it – it’s more like, would you like some chili with that cornbread instead of the other way around). Why not top the chili with the cornbread batter instead of making a whole pan of the bread? Kind of like a shepherd’s pie or pot pie effect. Also, I was going for an Ina (Garten), homecooked vibe. Sounds good, right? One would think so.

So I set to work, cooking the chili on the stove, then ladling it into a pie plate. Next I prepared the cornbread mix according to the package directions and spooned the batter atop the chili. Except. It seems that I had packed the chili almost to the very top of the pie plate so that now the batter hovered dangerously close to the rim. And we know that cornbread rises as it bakes. (Disclaimer: I did, in fact, use the entire bowl of batter to cover the chili. It just looked so naked without a nice snug blanket of cornbread covering every single inch.) Fearing overflow, I spooned some of the batter off the chili.

But it takes a lot more than a tricky batter to ruin my perfect ballgame. (Or so I thought.) Into the oven the dish went and 30 minutes went on the timer. About 15 minutes in, I realized we were in the danger zone. The batter was rising beautifully – up, up, and over the edge of the plate. Quickly, I pulled a cookie sheet out of a drawer and then carefully, oh so carefully, removed the chili from the oven, slid the cookie sheet in, and placed the pie plate back on it. Extra points for avoiding spills all over the oven; lost points for opening the door, thereby lowering the oven temperature. Minutes put back on the clock.

And then, the big moment, The cornbread crust was golden brown on top and smelled heavenly.

Until all hell broke loose. I took my masterpiece out of the oven, let it cool a few minutes, and spooned out a picture-perfect scoop – steaming, bubbly, tempting. But wait – what was that? Under the beautiful, golden cornbread crown was – oh, no, no, no. Rivers of uncooked batter, obeying the laws of physics, gravity, and Murphy, were now making their way throughout most of the chili. I lifted off the entire cornbread lid (nibble-worthy only at the very edges) to find that 90% of it had just not cooked through. Sheesh.

The good news? I did manage to scoop out enough unbattered chili from the bottom of the pie plate to make two small servings (I wanted us to eat lighter, right?). The bad news? The cornbread was theoretically a loss. The other good news? At least there was a half-full bag of tortilla chips in the pantry (way to look at the situation as half full).

What went wrong? Maybe I should have kept it in the oven longer and covered the top with foil to keep it from over-browning. Maybe I should have gone with a much thinner layer of batter. Maybe I should have left things alone and made the chili the way I always have and baked the cornbread separately.

Maybe we should have had popcorn for dinner.


©2022 Claudia Grossman


if they only had a clue

I’ll admit it – I’m probably the only person out there who can’t stand The Wizard of Oz. What was meant to enchant, enlighten, and entertain just leaves me endlessly edgy. While I know that the film has been a classic since its 1939 inception – and while I get how the transformation from black and white to full-blown, glorious color (especially back then) is a magnificent achievement – for the life of me, I don’t understand how the events captured on screen don’t scare the living daylights out of everyone. But maybe that’s just me. To wit:

For starters, we’ve got the tornado that lifts Dorothy’s house up, up and away – until it comes crashing down on a person. A person! Okay, a witch, but still. That pair of legs that sticks out from the house’s foundation and then just rolls up and disappears – am I the only one that finds that event the least bit disturbing? (Of course, I also shiver whenever I pass Halloween decorations depicting fake hands reaching out from the grave, so that might explain my discomfort.)

Once she “lands” in Oz, who comes to greet Dorothy but a singing, dancing mob, crowding around her and accusing her of witchcraft, followed by the Glinda the Good Witch (again with a witch?) dispatching her on a journey down the yellow brick road in order to find her way home. Are you kidding me? I’ve just crash landed in a strange, strange place, all I want to do is get back to Kansas, and you’re sending me on a head trip to figure it out by myself. Really? And before she leaves, Dorothy is given a dead witch’s shoes to wear? Just ugh (although those ruby slippers are super sparkly).

Then, of course, there’s the Scarecrow of if-I-only-had-a-brain-fame. (Am I the only one seeing a clown face here? Yikes.) The if-I-only-had-a-heart Tin Man. (Right, like seeing a humanized oil can talk isn’t too scary.) And the inexplicably Brooklyn-accented, if-I-only-had-the-nerve Cowardly Lion. (Watching the King of the Jungle reduced to a big crybaby in what looks like a bad onesie is frightening in its own right.) Not exactly the three magi. Not exactly inspiring confidence. Not exactly cute and comforting. But exactly what I’d imagine to find on a bad acid trip.

And, obviously, the Wicked Witch, clearly one of the scariest female characters captured on celluloid, right up there with Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) in Misery, Baby Jane (Bette Davis) in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, and Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) in Fatal Attraction. And you’re turning her loose on children? Her “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!” scared me to tears decades ago and still does today. (B. has no such problem here. He’s an adult.) But as evil as she is, the scene of the Wicked Witch melting away is pure horror, her “I’m melting…” lingering in my mind long after lights out.

Speaking of Her Evilness, let’s look at the archetype for all evil spirits everywhere – those terrifying, soulless, black-hearted Flying Monkeys. Just writing about them here scares me into thinking I’ll conjure them up. The embodiment of fear, the Flying Monkeys are enough to keep any child (or, in my case, adult) from thinking twice before misbehaving. Nightmares of being carried off in the claws of one such creature have followed me for weeks each year after watching the movie.

Let’s consider this for a minute – who puts wings on monkeys from hell and thinks that that’s okay for a children’s story? For this one I blame the author, Mr. Baum. Just reading about these creatures is bad enough – a kid’s imagination will do the rest. But we’re talking about the movie here, and MGM has certainly done its share to ensure that lots of little kids require therapy as adults (no, you can’t blame it all on overbearing mothers).

Of course, no children’s movie would be complete without a universal political statement. Think about it. The idea of a little man behind the curtain, a coward himself, pulling all the strings to control his world and make everyone afraid – it’s a theme as old as time. Brilliant as social commentary. Beyond upsetting to little-girl me (the whole idea of someone hiding behind a curtain – really?) and monumentally scary to grown-up me (art imitating life is not always pretty).

So there we go. Sure, Dorothy finally figures it out at the end with the help of Glinda (couldn’t the so-called Good Witch have told Dorothy how to get back home at the start?). With three ruby-slipper clicks, Dorothy is back in Kansas. Looking up at clown-faced, scarecrow-now-farmhand Zeke. No. Just no.

Sorry, but I’ll take my children’s movies a bit less on the sociopathic side. The world is a scary enough place without having to worry about a stray Flying Monkey swooping down.

Adieu, yellow brick road.

©2022 Claudia Grossman

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girls’ night out

I originally wrote this post a few years ago. But the message and the relevance seem particularly apt today (and the humor so truly needed). So for every woman who longs for change – now is the time to lose the glass slipper. And vote.

So Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty walk into a bar. Ever-after can be long – especially when it’s not so happily – and it’s time to let down their hair (Rapunzel notwithstanding) and get real.

“A pitcher of Margaritas, Walt,” Snow calls out to the bartender. “And keep ’em coming.”

“So girls,” Cinderella says, “my feet are killing me.” The other two look at her sympathetically.  “It’s these damn glass slippers,” she continues. “They’ve got no flexibility, zero padding, and the arch support isn’t very stable. Plus, they come in one color – clear.”

“Then why wear them?” asks Sleeping Beauty.

“Because apparently that’s my story line,” Cindy explains. “And I’m tired of it.”

“I hear you,” says Snow. “If I have to continue cooking, cleaning, and singing with little birds just to keep seven men with silly names happy, I think I’m going to scream.”

“I’m just so tired all the time,” Sleeping Beauty sighs, licking the salt from her Margarita glass for sustenance. “I can’t seem to get my energy back after sleeping for years. And then what do I wake up to? Some so-called Prince Charming who just wants me to ride behind him on horseback forever.” She yawns. “Boring.”

“Did you say Charming?” Cindy raises her voice, her peaches-and-cream complexion turning red. “That’s the name of my glass-slipper fetishist prince!”

“What a glasshole!” Snow pipes up, causing some of the bar patrons to turn around. “That’s the name of the guy who keeps promising to take me away from being housemother to what’s turned out to be the most annoying bunch of psychologically challenged frat boys ever drawn.”

“Yup, that’s the name of the character who kissed me awake.” Sleeping Beauty nods. “And between you and me, what he doesn’t know about kissing could fill a story book. Plus, he could use a breath mint.”

“I’ve had it,” Cinderella stamps her foot. The sound of glass shattering is heard. “Enough with all this. I’m going to start wearing Nikes – and then I’m going to start my own shoe line.”

“You go, girl!” Snow cheers. “I’m going to open my own bed and breakfast. I’m not dopey, bashful, or grumpy, and I don’t need some three-timing spoiled loser to run my life!”

“And I’m going into scientific research,” Sleeping Beauty says excitedly, her energy returning by the minute. “I want to study sleep disorders and start my own clinic.”

“Another pitcher!” Cinderella orders. “To hell with the midnight curfew!”

“You’re all so cute when you get animated,” comments a guy at the bar, oozing with familiar cheap charm.

“Yo, Prince Smarming, go find yourself some two-dimensional women to save,” Snow hoots. “And don’t let the door hit your horse’s ass on the way out.”

Once upon a time. For a change.

©2016, 2022 Claudia Grossman

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really, she wrote?

Angela Lansbury’s passing several days ago brought to mind an encounter I had had with the legendary actress nearly ten years ago. The impression she left with me was one of utter grace, elegance – and more than a glimmer of humor. I wrote a blog post about this very encounter at the time without revealing her name. I am reposting it here as a tribute to her and her extraordinary career. Brava.

While browsing the aisles of an LA shop well known to makeup artists and their clients, I suddenly saw Ms. Acting Legend. Awarded and beloved for decades for her work on stage, screen, and television, there she was. Not a young woman by any means, but absolutely regal in how she carried herself and in how she looked. Living in LA, it’s not hard to see celebs on a somewhat frequent basis, but even by those standards, this sighting was truly a find.

Being the cool chick I am (!), I gave Ms. Acting Legend her space and privacy, only to find myself standing right beside her at the cashier desk a few minutes later. Because this store deals with the entertainment community so closely, it offers a discount to actors, professional makeup artists, etc.  The young cashier asked, and Ms. Acting Legend said yes, she was in the industry. (You’re actually asking her that? Don’t you know who she is?). But then came the shocker – the cashier asked to see her SAG card for verification.

Really? You work in a store that caters to movie and television clientele and have no idea who the actress standing right in front of you – larger than life – is? Even if you don’t know her name, she doesn’t look even the least bit familiar? And you’re asking for proof of her actorhood?

And then it occurred to me. The cashier was just too young to know whose credit card she was swiping.

It took me a few seconds to recover from the realization that I’ve reached an age where the legends in my reality may not even exist in the lives of people 25 years younger than me. Whoa. Mind warp.

To give the actress credit, she wasn’t the least bit put out or offended. She was utterly gracious about it all. She smiled, signed for the purchase, thanked the cashier, and, as she turned to leave, gave me a conspiring wink.

And that, as they say, is all she wrote.

©2013,©2022 Claudia Grossman


like, oh my dog!

As I’ve written before, I love dogs. I love their friendliness, their personality, their unconditional love (as in, “I don’t know you, but if you give me a belly rub, I’ll follow you forever” or, in the case of goldens, “If you pet me, I’ll show you where my owners hide their valuables”). And I love their absolute ability to make any moment sweeter, warmer, better. Sure, not all dogs are this wonderful (we’ve all heard bad stories here and there) but, in my experience, most certainly are.

Our dog, Ilsa (named for the Casablanca character), lived for 18 years and was perfect in our eyes. In fact, she was the inspiration for the title of this blog, rice on your head (you can read that story here). An Australian shepherd / spaniel mix, Ilsa was a rescue dog who lived most of her life right here with us in the City of Angels. And while we loved her dearly and took great care of her (she never ate “people” food; she went on 4-mile walks each day; she had a dog bed that was oversized so that she had all the room she could possibly want), she was never, ever an “LA dog.”

While we no longer have Ilsa, we still take long walks as many mornings as we can, and we’re lucky enough to run into lots of neighborhood dogs, enough to satisfy my puppy fix. Some of them fit the “LA dog” designation – the too-fabulous LA that is known for its swimming pools, movie stars, glitz, and glam. (Not the LA we know and love, mind you, but the one that most people think of because, well, that’s part of it.) To wit:

First, the labradoodle we met recently that was wearing a diamond pavé collar. While scratching the dog’s ears, I commented on the collar to her owner, who explained that it was indeed real, terribly expensive, and had been given to the dog by A Very Famous TV Star (he dropped the name, I won’t) whom he had worked with for years. The dog, sitting at my feet on the sidewalk while her owner name-dropped his way through the next ten minutes, was sweet, although she, too, seemed bored with his monologue. She only agreed to leave with him when he offered a treat – one, he made sure to tell us, that had been purchased from A Very Famous Hollywood Establishment. But of course.

Next, the basset hound being shown off by his owner as we walked by, carrying out commands and appearing to love our applause. When the owner boasted that the dog took agility lessons at a very exclusive school, I asked, “Is that because of his short legs? Do the lessons make it easier for him to get around?” Wrong questions, I guess. The owner gave me a baleful stare and responded in clipped tones, “No. My dog is so intelligent that he needs to be continually challenged!” Or what – he won’t get into Harvard? OMG.

Finally, the dog that, in another life, could have played the Miranda Priestly character in The Devil Wears Prada – a perfectly coiffed miniature French poodle, pushed around in the Mercedes-Benz of strollers featuring velvet pillows and piped-in music. Diva dog wears oversized designer sunglasses (how they stay on I do not know) and, when thirsty, is served water from a crystal bowl that her owner fills with Evian and places carefully on the sidewalk. (You can’t make this stuff up.) With a click of her pedicured-pink toes, the dog then jumps from the stroller and laps up a few sips before resettling herself. All that’s missing is for the dog to utter a single bark to let its “chauffeur” know that it’s time to move on. Miranda would be proud.

Seen and scene. In LA.

©2022 Claudia Grossman


seventh inning stretch

I can’t help it – I’m a Yankees girl. Growing up in NY when I did, the choices were the Yankees or the Mets. Given that my mom rooted for the Yankees and my dad the Giants; given that the Giants moved out of town the year I was born (along with “da bums” from Brooklyn); given that my dad adored my mom to the ends of the earth – well, it seems like it was a given that we all became Yankees fans. And those boys of summer in their pinstripes still fascinate.

To understand why my mom was a Yankees fan, you need look no further than where she was born and grew up – the Bronx. To understand why my dad became a Yankees fan, you need look no further than my mom. His affinity for the Giants probably came from his living in Harlem until his early teens, not far from where the Giants played ball at the Polo Grounds. Even long after he had moved to the Bronx and met (at age 14) and married (at age 19) my mom, my dad would hop a train from work in Manhattan to catch a Giants game on the occasional summer afternoon. But when the team left New York (followed by my parents leaving the Bronx for the suburbs), he turned his allegiance to the Yankees. (Except for his lifetime love for Willie Mays. Say hey.)

In fact, my father met my mother because of a giant among Giants – Mel Ott. The story goes that my father’s best buddy was someone whom my mom knew very well – this boy was her neighbor in the Bronx apartment building where they both lived. When my father asked his friend to introduce him to my mom (my dad had seen her many times and was smitten), he offered his prize possession as motivation – his Mel Ott baseball card. The friend accepted, made the introduction, and sparks flew.

Back in the ’60s and ’70s, Yankees games were on the car radio whenever my dad was behind the wheel during baseball season, Phil Rizzuto’s voice coming through, bringing the play-by-play to life. (I still get a kick out of people who listen to the radio broadcast of a game while sitting in a ballpark. The late and legendarily great Vin Scully, master of the genre, was renowned for having been in everyone’s ear in Dodger Stadium.)

Often those trips brought us to my mother’s sister’s home for dinner. My aunt was17 years older than my mom. It was such an age difference that when, as a single woman, she would take my mom (then a baby) out in her stroller for a walk, neighbors at first whispered of a scandal – that perhaps my mother was actually my aunt’s daughter being passed off as her sister. (Very Chinatown, the movie, but nope, no cigar.) She was a tiny, lovable character and the biggest Yankees fan I’ve ever known. She and my uncle always had the game on when we got to their apartment and kept it on throughout our visit.

Even as an elderly woman, my aunt always referred to the team as “My Yankees,” never missing a game. In fact, she had her TV on a rolling cart out on her apartment terrace, where she could watch the games while working on her suntan at the same time (baby oil and iodine were still a thing back then).

All of which is to say that I remain a Yankees fan to this day both for sentimental reasons and because the team has always personified the romance of baseball to me. Aaron Judge’s remarkable 62nd homerun last night adds to the extraordinary history of this baseball institution. Remaining a Yankees fan seems to tie me to my roots in ways I never could have imagined as a child. This time of year – which happens to include the end of baseball season – is one in which I always seem to miss my parents more, and the tie to the Yankees is a sweet reminder of them.

So yes, I have always cheered for the Yankees (not as vocally since I’ve been living in LA, but still). This fandom was an especially not-easy task in the late 1970s when, as a student at Tufts, in Boston, I rooted for them in a couple of World Series – this in a town that detested the Bronx Bombers (and still does, Curse of the Bambino and all that), even though the Red Sox weren’t even playing.

If the Yankees were to play the Dodgers in a future World Series (even later this year), where would my loyalties lie, you ask – with my roots or my wings? Hard to say, but a series I’d love to see.

Field of dreams.

©2022 Claudia Grossman

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a new leaf

I never was one for New Year’s resolutions. No sooner are the words out of my mouth than the promises seem to vaporize into thin air. Committing to losing those few pounds, swearing to write 3000 words a day (speak, yes; write, not so much), promising to look before I leap (or, in some cases, to leap before I look) – all of these made-in-the-moment plans just never seem to come to pass. Blame it on the pressure (everyone’s doing it!); blame it on the Champagne (even one glass makes me silly); blame it on the fact that there’s a new month starting every 30 days or so and picking January (boring, back-to-blah January) isn’t much of an impetus.


As much as the first of day of the new year isn’t the get-up-and-go I need to make those changes, the first day of fall certainly is. (Of course, the summer-to-fall transition was clearer when I lived back East and fall really felt like a new season. Here in LA, fall weather – or the kind of fall weather we get out here – usually doesn’t really settle in until later in October. Even the end of September is often good for one last blast of summer heat.) But the first day of autumn brings with it all the promise of the starting-again season of my youth. That first-day-of-school feeling imbued with all kinds of “news” – new box of crayons, new books (yay!), new pencils (with perfectly sharpened points), new clothes, new crisp snap to the air, new feeling of possibility and of reaching new goals.

Maybe it’s that summer’s laziness feels gone, washed away by cooler mornings. Maybe it’s the appeal of a cup of hot tea with breakfast instead of summer’s staple iced version. Maybe, this year at least, it’s having gotten through a summer marked with the challenge of my covid and other health issues and the turning toward the refreshing wash of fall’s new palette, new pace, and new promise of better things ahead.

Or maybe’s it’s that box of 64 shades of crayons (still to this day) just waiting to be cracked open, its rainbow of colors at my fingertips making me smile. Not that my drawing talents are noteworthy – doodling is my specialty – but those crayons are a symbol of what fall has always meant. The fact that it’s okay to hope, to dream, and to wish.

It’s also that feeling of freshness in the air (yes, even here in LA) that wakes you up to face what the day has to offer. Like the ability to go for long walks without the heat of summer cutting them short. Or the crunch of autumn’s profusion of apples replacing summer’s sticky-sweet harvest of peaches. Or the chance to have your cheeks turn pink from nature’s chill, not makeup. All changes, and all for the good.

So yes, I’ll make my resolutions now, when they feel possible, not three months from now. I’ll resolve to write more (entirely doable), worry less (more of a challenge for someone like me, but more embraceable this new season than last), and look forward to positivity even as we get ready to turn our clocks back.

Be-leaf it.

©2022 Claudia Grossman

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