Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Something Awfully Funny

Ben introduced me to a fun site, I am sure there are some really objectionable things on it, but some parts are very funny. For instance, the site offers romantic advice for men on various methods of breakups. I particularly enjoyed this one:

Method #1: Passive Aggressive Attempt to make both her and yourself as miserable as possible until she decides to leave you. The advantage to this is that since you’re the one who was dumped, you can play it for sympathy with your friends and family, and you might even be able to wheedle out of work for a day or two if your boss is the caring sort. The disadvantage is that this process can take up to fifty years and often involves marriage.

We Needed (a) BATH

In late April, Szonyi and I spent a long weekend in the Cotswolds, primarily in the Ancient city of Bath on the River Avon. We stayed at the Three Abbey Green, a pricey but elegant and centrally located B&B. The Ancient Roman hot springs, after which the city was named, are truly spectacular. They are the best Roman ruins I’ve ever seen (including Israel and Rome). A beautifully preserved Gorgon’s head, from a temple that seemed to mesh the Celtic and Roman Gods was found near the Baths. The whole set-up was luxurious, involving lots of slaves, schleppers and people to loofa the dead skin off of you. (Dead skin from famous galdiators was sold as souvenirs to ardent fans). As I understand the process, first come the hot baths and steam rooms, then the cold plunge, and then the tepidarium (our new nick-name for our shower in London).

In addition to its ancient history, Bath had a splash (as it were) of fame in the time of Jane Austen, when all of Georgian society went to take the curative waters. Jane Austen hated Bath and used it as a locus for all the phonies and bad girls, but the modern city is not above capitalizing on her unhappy four year stay in the city, hence our visit to the Jane Austen Centre.

We had a very interesting scholarly tour of Bath by a resident teacher (who coordinates elementary ed exchanges with IU). One night I went on a very clever tour/ stand-up/ magic show entitled Bizarre Bath. It involved no history, just chatter and gentle ribbing of the assembled crowd punctuated by moments of lunacy (involving, for instance, throwing a Houdini-like, chained stuffed rabbit into the Avon river and watching it escape). I recall that Debby went on the very same one ten years ago and recommended it. Good call, Deb.

Finally, we took a day trip to Stonehenge and three small villages, one of which contained another stone circle. I was prepared for Stonehenge to be just another pile of rocks (which it obviously was) but there was an feel to the place of peace and energy combined that was indescribable. The rest of the Cotswolds look like a parody of itself, or an attempt to look like its own postcard -- bubbling brooks, abbeys, sheep. It was quaint to a fault. We went to Castle Comb and Lacock where the Hogwarts scenes from Harry Potter were filmed, and one of Camilla’s kids is soon to be married.

Great food. Gorgeous scenery. Small town feel. Bath is definitely a worthwhile trip – an easy train ride and a century away from London.

Ben is ready to go to the

after-prom party, Mike (aka

Professor Higgins) admires his


A whirl-wind lesson
in tying a double-
windsor knot

Beth and Ben slice vegetables for

my Mother's Day meal

Beth and Mike in our lime-
green front hallway (Beth is
shielding her eyes
from the glare)

Mike & Beth Visit London

Mike is studying in Israel this year at the Technion in Haifa doing computer science. He spent New Year’s in Eilat, and Pesach with mischpacha. He has been learning a lot of German hanging out with his roommates, Gilad and Julia. The Technion is not noted as a party school, and Mike had been seriously missing the inimitable Beth (who just graduated from Brown), so the two decided to meet in London.

Mike’s trip was almost foiled by the fact that he is technically an Israeli citizen (being the son of an Israeli citizen, me). They did let him out without sending him to do Army service, but it was touch and go. Mike is currently debating between computer science and Egyptology for grad school. Watching him decode relics at the British Musuem gave me much nachas.

Highlights of Mike and Beth’s visit included:
· Dim sum in China town
· Learning to make scones (Beth’s recipe)
· A trip to Borough’s Market to check out the various food stalls
· Lunch at the OXO tower
· Fabulous mother’s day dinner made by Mike and Beth, where Ben was pressed into service as sous chef (for those of you paying attention, that’s five food related items, when you’re with Mike and Beth, you eat well)
· A visit to the National Gallery

Szonyi and I left for Poland mid-visit, which put Mike, tempered by the more compassionate Beth, in charge of Ben. They took Ben out to see The Crucible and then for a late North-African Dinner. The next day, a school day, Mike called Ben in “sick” and they all went out to Dim Sum (again). I am very proud.

I am happiest when I am surrounded by my children. Their interactions with each other and the love, enthusiasm, intelligence, wit and kindness they exude remind me that the best and most important job I’ve ever performed has been as their Mom. My only regret was that David, and his girlfriend Edina could not have joined us at the same time. It is always a treat to be surrounded by all three Greenberg boyz, especially now when it is very rare that I have to prohibit the older two from giving Ben a weggie.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


What can one do when the grey, blah, rainy, London weather causes depression and listlessness? Why, try some aROMAtherapy. Ben and I did just that and found that the warm and sunny climate, beautiful art, and easily accessible and cheap internet cafes (compare this last item to our Paris posting) lifted our spirits enormously.

The trip to the airport justified all my nervous-traveler tendencies. There was a fatality on the track and the our high speed train shut down. Given that I had left a ridiculous amount of extra time, we made it with no problem on the slow and nauseating bus ride to Stanstead airport. (One negative of our very cheap tickets is that we had to fly out of this small airport 30 miles north of London). The plane ride itself was marred by two very screechy kids of mixed British and Italian parentage. The Italian indulgent side seemed to mix with the British "let the governess handle it" attitude (alas there was no governess) to create monsters who rendered the entire plane supporters of either infanticide, euthanasia, or both.

I knew it was going to be a good trip when the guy who met us at the airport had a sign reading "Mr. Ben." I actually think having someone meet you upon arrival is a good idea when you haven't been to a place before. Our other choice would have been a bus, to the train, to the metro, and we weren't quite ready for that (though it was no problem on the return).

We arrived late and hungry on a Friday night. Our hotel was in a residential neighborhood and we went to a local restaurant. At 10:30 the joint was hopping -- and I mean literally. Every time they emerged from the kitchen, the waiters would run, and take a long, showy glide, punctuated by a little hop. There was lots of yelling, supported occasionally by a megaphone to give a shout out to friends passing by the restaurant or to sing happy birthday. The food was delicious -- the best we had while we were there. We were the only non-Italians in the place. My Italian failed regularly -- especially in the din of the small restaurant where the lights were turned out every time a flaming dessert was served and I could consult my Berlitz book.

Rome is not well-marked for tourists, and when we emerged from the metro the next day looking for the Gallaria Bourghese, it took us a while. We stopped for fresh-squeezed blood oranges and got some directions. The Gallaria, once the private resident of the Medici family is over-the-top Baroque marble, gold, art everywhere. Sumptuous, beautiful, and too much all at once. Ditto for the surrounding gardens.

Ben asked, if gallery is galleria, what is diary? I guess Italian art inspires the high brow in him.

Other things we saw:

  • many lovely fountains by Bernini
  • the Pantheon (which is now a Catholic Church)
  • the coliseum
  • the Roman forum
  • the Vatican (Ben comments that the Sistine Chapel is overrated. I just don't think anything worth looking at should be on a ceiling unless we're talking mirrors in tawdry motels)
  • We ate gelato -- some great, some awful

Much of the food was surprisingly disappointing and of the tourist-trap pizza variety. The key, we found, was to search out a place (1) off the beaten track; (2) small; and (3) with lots of Italians eating in it.

Although we had some tiffs, Ben and I made good travel companions. We both enjoyed the change of scene, in fact it was therapeutic.

A lesuirely stroll down a
British avenue,
North-Carolina style

The North Carolina Orensteins

at the Tube Station

Sue Orenstein works in our very orange bedroom to prepare her speech to my family-law class

Elliot and Sam play

balloon volley-ball

North Carolina Orensteins Come to Visit the Queen...

...but end up in Islington instead. Rafy, Sue, Elliot and Sam, came for a fabulous visit during the kids' spring break. Highlights included, the Tower of London, the Eye (Sam and Elliot strongly disagree with Saba and Ben's assessment of the slow-moving ferris wheel/ hamster cage as "a lame rip-off"), a (long) walk on the South Bank of the Thames, The Tate Modern, and The Lion King.

Sue, a psychologist, talked to my family law class about when therapy can help families and discussed the latest research on which couples stay together. She was a big hit.

It was a fabulous week of getting to know my nephews better, and the time we spent together was precious. In addition to all the touristy things we did, I enjoyed the meals and the improptu games of balloon volley-ball where an upended inflatable mattress served as the net.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Some Mother's Day Thoughts

When I'm not teaching law, I moonlight as an advice columnist for the Fort Fairfield Journal in Maine. I got this gig because I liked the paper, which Szonyi's friend Steve Shaw sent to us. I asked the editor if I could sign on as a columnist, and in that he wrote most of the rest of the paper himself, he was game. This alternative paper (which, among other things recommends that its readers not sign up for social security numbers as they are the sign of the beast, see Revelations) will ensure that I will never have a position of public trust. Meanwhile, for my first column, I had to actually make up my own letter. Here's the second column:

OK, Fort Fairfield, so far no letters from readers asking for advice or disagreeing with my first column. My email is If you don’t have access to the internet, send the letter to the editor, David Deschesne, and he will get it to me. Meanwhile, in between compulsively checking my email to see if there’s a letter from a Fort Fairfield reader, I am moved to think about Mother’s Day.

I remember as a kid once asking my mother, no doubt on Mother’s Day, why there was no children’s day. “Every day is children’s day,” she explained with some measure of not-so-subtle criticism of the cushy lives led by my brother, sister, and me. This seemed unfair at the time and still does today. Certainly if children are spoiled, they are not directly to blame. Someone has indulged them inappropriately and then has the bad grace to call them names (or, as in my case, insinuate that they have it way too good).

I am aware, however, of how remarkably lucky I was (and am). Although my family was never wealthy, my father’s salary as a rabbi assured that we never worried about where the next meal was coming from. Being a preacher’s kid did mean some unwanted attention drawn to our family, and some very unwelcome encouragement to be a good role model for other kids – I was already enough of a goody-goody to discourage the popularity I craved. Mostly, though, I felt safe and loved. The only real trauma of my youth was a serious illness of my mother’s. She was in bed for eight months and at points there was doubt as to her recovery. My grandmother stepped in to take care of us kids and I realized that my mother was right – we had it very good. My grandmother was a lot less indulgent.

What one enjoys growing up is not necessarily what one looks back upon with appreciation later on. As a kid, I remember loving to roller skate, to visit the mall (a new concept in architecture), and to go out for fillet of fish. I now, however, appreciate my mother’s work ethic, something that as a kid I took for granted or even perhaps thought of as a negative.

My mother has always been a fierce worker, with high expectations for herself and others. When she was a stay-at-home-Mom, she participated in many charitable organizations and school activities. She always toted a serious book on history, even to the beauty parlor. When, at age 48, she went to law school and launched a second career, she was equally diligent, nerdy even, working first in corporate law and later in criminal defense. One of her proudest moments was getting an innocent man (who had already spent eight years in jail) exonerated and freed.

A willingness to work hard, and a concept of what hard work looked like, turned out to be a great gift. None of us siblings can equal her energy and grit, but she showed us the importance of persistence and how to remain undaunted. Parents teach these values in a million subtle ways. If I could bottle the formula and sell it to lazy, busy, or self-indulgent parents, I’d be a rich woman. But, it turns out, teaching hard work is itself hard work.

This past year has been a tough one for my Mom who has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Surgery and the chemotherapy are not for sissies. My Mom almost never complains. Most of her concerns are directed towards her family. Mostly, she doesn’t want us to worry. She also feels bad that my father’s first year of retirement was dominated by her illness, though she acknowledges that he has had plenty of time to play tennis and repeatedly re-injure his knee.

My Mom is an exceptional woman. But then again, most mothers are exceptional, and all have something to teach us (though for some Moms, their teaching is of the inadvertent or “don’t do this” variety).

What should we aim to teach our kids? What are the core aspirations we mothers have for them? I think about this a lot and have determined that my main goals for my three boys are that they be compassionate, involved in their community, kind to those around them, and willing to do their fair share. I don’t care much about their material success, but they should be self-supporting. A healthy, able kid in his thirties who is mooching off his parents is just sad.

This Mother’s Day, I’d like my kids to cook me dinner and make a charitable donation in my honor. A food pantry would be nice. Or they might consider where you can purchase a goat for a family in Africa that will allow them (between the wool and the milk) to be self supporting. It would be the best Mother’s Day present, better than flowers, or jewelry, or a fancy restaurant meal. By cooking a decent dinner and recognizing their obligations to others, they will demonstrate that I’ve managed to pass on some of the very fine traditions of service and self-sufficiency personified by their grandmother. Nothing would make my Mother’s Day happier.

So, How Are You Enjoying To Krakow (pronounced "Krah-kovf")?

This was a very weird question to answer in that the whole reason that Szonyi and I went to Krakow was to visit Auschwitz, which is an hour and a half south. We bypassed the market square and the cool castle and went right to Auschwitz as soon as we arrived. The visit was sobering and incongruous. The town of Auschwitz (Osterwitz, in Polish) is a thriving industrial town of fifty thousand. It is set in beautiful countryside with lovely birdsong. It was pouring when we first arrived, but then was sunny and lush. Before we went, I was afraid that I would be so moved that I would immediately head off to work in Darfur. Alternatively, I feared just feeling numb. Neither was the case. Although billed as a museum, and some blocks do have exhibits, it is not like Yad VaShem. Auschwitz is itself a place of great evil, not just a commemoration of it, located, ironically, in a banal, bucolic settling. The place is simply too horrible to absorb fully, but it makes a deep impression. Perhaps the biggest impression was left by the piles of items confiscated from the people in the camps: a room full of kitchenware, another full of shoe polish, a third brimming with combs. Each room made me think of the various owners who had packed their most precious belongings to go to Auschwitz. The items made me reflect on how useless our stuff eventually is to us in time of extremity. The rooms of human hair, eyeglasses, prosthetic devices, emphasized the inhumanity and degradation of the place. Really, who could remove a child’s artificial leg without a twinge of guilt at their own brutality? By comparison the gas chamber and the crematoria were more than I could understand. Perhaps it I will be able to process those images better over time.

The sense of disconnection was enhanced because Auschwitz is clearly a place of German creation where many Poles died. Although Poles have a long history of anti-Semitism, and currently have a government that is homophobic, anti-Semitic, and very pro-USA, there wasn’t any point in being mad at Poles. (I did stick it to them a bit in my lecture, when demonstrating the problems of screening jurors for bias, I asked the Polish audience, “Who doesn’t like Jews?” in order to demonstrate that people don’t always fess up to their prejudices. But I digress). The Poles themselves were pleasant, ingratiating to a fault (may have something to do with how we constantly overpaid for cabs and were big tippers at restaurants). As a people, they struck me as friendly, but not polite, the opposite of the English. When we did go to the Market Square we were treated to what I can only hope was a high-school band playing various U.S. pop music. During “I Will Survive” the horn section sounded more like a moose in its death throes. Around the square was very kitschy art of John Paul II, the Madonna and Child, Krakow, and, creepily, Hassidic Jews davening. Looking around at the so-called folk art, I would say that the Poles invented the tchachke, but the word only has two c’s, and no j, y or sz, so I kind of doubt it.

I went to Poland in the first place to deliver a lecture to a fourth year criminal procedure class: “O.J. Killed Two People and the Jury Voted ‘Not Guilty’: What the O.J. Simpson Case Can Teach Us about the American Criminal Jury.” The lecture both fascinated and horrified the students, who are more familiar with the inquisitorial system. To my amazement, the Dean of Warsaw University, who is an expert in forensic law, provided evidence pictures from the O.J. case (bloody glove, white Bronco, etc.). I had a delightful meeting with Bryan Hemming and his wife Ola, who are in Warsaw for the semester. Bryan, a 2L at Indiana, learned Polish on a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints -- talk about a thankless task, trying to convert Poles to Mormonism when the Pope is Polish! He's returned to Poland as an exchange student. I also met four people who will be coming to Indiana from Warsaw this coming academic year, including Agnieszka who is writing a PhD on sexual discrimination in higher education and works with an NGO defending the rights of refugees, particularly those from Chechnya.

All in all, Szonyi and I had an interesting time. Perogies were great, as was the borscht and mushroom soup. We felt out of place speaking not a word of Polish. It will be some time before we can fully absorb the gastly and haunting images of Auschwitz.