A wish, a birthday, a good laugh …

May, 2013 will soon be gone, never to return again. Each turn of the page weaves its magic and then leaves … forever.

A wish …

I wish there was more time. Time to tell those I love all the things I never find the words to say. I wish I could talk less and do more. Kind of like show and tell in our work. Don’t talk about what you want … do it.

I wish I had learned more sooner. Or as my father predicted, that I didn’t have to learn the hard way.

Oh, screw it … I’m having too much fun to worry about woulda-coulda-shoulda.

biker chicks

Biker Chicks Photo Credit

A birthday …

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 30th, 2013, my mother, Maria Carmela Fieore Fois would have been one hundred and two years old. She lived for eighty-one years. She was a feisty old broad who gambled, drank, smoked and wore it out before she cashed it in.


Funny Old Lady Smoking

She left me the legacy of an open window. From the window where I would find her lost in thought … the one that faced wooden fences, pigeon-coops and a string of city-back-yards … to the window where she sat keeping vigil as my father slowly passed his last days … to her last window … the one she never bothered to look through … a cold rectangle in a senior high rise that faced the expressway.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I hope the view is better where you are now.

A good laugh …

And who doesn’t need one … at least one … every day? From Bleeps, Bloopers and Outtakes … A blind date.


The Poster Lady: Funny Blind Date Poster

Does Anyone Out There Miss Ronald Reagan …
Or How I Survived The Eighties, Yuppies and Six Blind Dates.

As promised … Gail’s first blind date.


His name is Sherman, the nephew of Uncle Herb’s partner. He is an accountant studying for his CPA exam. “He’s a good catch, Ira. Gail should be grateful.”

Washington Heights is almost the end of Manhattan Island and our subway stop is two stops before the last on the A Train. Most locals know you take the A Express from 59th and Columbus to 125th Street in Harlem, stay on the express until it starts to get closer to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, 181st Street, 190th Street and at the end, 207th Street in Inwood.

Non-locals believe Harlem is a third world country occupying the real estate above Columbia University.

My mother answers the door and he falls in. “Herb never told me you lived in Harlem.”

“What Harlem, Kissinger’s mother lives down the block.”

He is sweating profusely and pulling on the collar of his shirt. His eyes dart around the room. “Should have met downtown.”

She’s not about to let a live one escape. “Come, come. Sit a spell. Have a glass of iced tea and rest. You’ll take a cab downtown.” She turns to my father. “Ira, make sure Gail has cab money.”

Sherman’s eyes open wide. “Cabs come up here?”

My father shakes his hand and shakes off beads of sweat pouring down from the insides of Sherman’s palms.

I nod and he nods and we sit on the edge of the sofa, nodding. He looks around the apartment. “I bet the rents up here are cheap.”

“We live in rent-controlled.” At this he is impressed. New Yorkers have been known to forge birth certificates to move into rent-controlled apartments.

Sherman sips his iced tea and nervously pulls on his shirt collar. The sweat from his hands, splashes me when he gestures and leaves sweat stains on the arms of the sofa. He leaves a large hand, sweat stain on my blouse as we get into the gypsy cab for the ride downtown.

We walk for an hour while Sherman reads each menu posted in the window of each restaurant. We finally settle on a second floor Chinese restaurant with a faded menu taped on the glass door with yellow, dried up scotch tape.

Being a take charge type of guy, Sherman orders two Number Four Combination plates and as he gives the waiter back the menu, it slips from his hands.

It’s late summer and the restaurant is air-conditioned. I ask, “Are you hot, Sherman?”

He frowns and states flatly. “Palmar, hyperhidrosis.”

This I should know, like I carry a medical encyclopedia in my purse? I mumble, “I’m sorry.”

“Not as sorry as I am.” He holds his hands out, palms up. “Only happens when I’m nervous.”

I want to be polite and not stare. It’s not nice to stare at people in wheelchairs, or old men walking on crutches. I can’t stop myself and gawk at the flow of sweat pouring from his palms, looking away quickly if I think he sees.

We eat, or rather, Sherman eats. I am too busy trying not to notice the waterfall of fluid pouring from his hands. I try another tactic. “Can’t you take something?”

He frowns at me and shakes his hands under-the-table. “Tried all sorts of tranquilizers. Nothing helps. The minute I get nervous it starts. It’s the reason I’ve been avoiding the CPA exam.”

On the way to the movie he explains. Hyperhidrosis is a rare nervous disorder, and palmar, meaning the palms of the hands, is one of the most persistent. People with palmar hyperhidrosis are afraid to shake hands, write on paper, or handle paper products at all. Tough luck for a CPA.

We go to the Regency and see a retro of Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Siera Madre. There is a scary scene when one of the men sees a Gila monster crawl under a rock and tries to warn another member of the gang.

When the man persists and begins to reach under the rock, looking for treasure, Sherman cowers. “I can’t look. It’s a reoccurring nightmare that someday I’ll wake and have no hands, just stumps.”

All night I try to avoid any contact with Sherman. Hard to do, as he is like a moth to a flame and touches everything in sight, sweating and muttering. “You don’t have to stare.”

Honestly, it’s not so much Sherman’s sweating and muttering. I am willing to be open-minded when he falls asleep on my shoulder and wakes, screaming. “No, at least leave the right one!” But as we walk out of the Regency, he turns and states flatly. “Herb said your mother dressed you like twins.”

This I am sure is to admonish my obvious attempt to pass myself off as my sister. “You’re no twin. I’ve seen Elaine’s picture on Herb’s desk.” I didn’t know Uncle Herb has a picture of Elaine on his desk.

We stand on the street corner, Sherman’s hands stuffed into his pockets, happily sweating in private. “Cabs won’t go to Harlem.” He hands me a subway token. It slips and I watch as it rolls out of sight through the sewer grating..

I’m still working on Elaine’s picture on my uncle’s desk. He turns to walk away and looks back at me. “You don’t look anything like your sister, you know. You should try Weight Watchers. Always works for my mom.”

I take a cab uptown. When we stop at my building the cabdriver, a man with a name that has seventeen consonants, smiles at me with two gold teeth in his mouth. “Twenty-two dollar.”

“What?” Something about a hazard bonus. He carries on in a dialect, not akin to Yiddish, and waves his hands furiously in the air.

“I do not make the dollar, transporting to Harlem.”


Thanks … I will revisit Gail’s story, the story of the eighties, the story of me, two kids, and star gazing at a window in Washington Heights.

How about you … 

Are there moments you wish you could revisit?

What one thing would you change if life gave you one do-over?

fOIS In The City



Filed under Ramblings

25 responses to “A wish, a birthday, a good laugh …

  1. OMG, Florence. You perfectly describe the blind-date-from-hell. I was kinda-sorta feeling sorry for old Sherman until he told Gail to join weight-watchers and left her to find her own way home after that less-than-stellar restaurant choice.

    That picture of your mom lighting a cigarette from her birthday candles is priceless. Smoker-phobics will likely tsk, tsk at the image. But, it explains at lot about where you got your I’ll-do-it-my-way spunk. I’m certain her view is much better now.

    Can’t wait to read the next installment. Bring it on, Chiquita!


    • You bet, Gail has six blind dates from hell and you’ll get them … one at a time.

      Thanks for much for your comments. Often when I do snarky stuff, I think of you, Gloria … mostly because I love your spirit and spunk and also because I can picture you like those old broads.

      I think me and Gail also like Sherman until that comment 🙂


  2. Awesome writing, Florence! And you knew I’d love the old biker broads! I’d look for myself in the photo, but they’re much too well-dressed for me!
    Write on!


    • I don’t know, Laura. YOu looked so great at last year’s RWA National. Why not put that version of you on a bike? Yeah, and you know the minute I saw that I thought of you.

      Go write another great book yourself 🙂


  3. What a brilliant story. This is one of your best posts and that is saying A LOT. I know what one thing I would change.


  4. I agree with Gloria, I kinda felt sorry for him up until the time he insinuated she was fat! And, like Laura, I enjoyed the biker chicks picture SO much. When James and I go riding (which isn’t often) I can be seen in a pair of ratty cut-off sweat pants and a leather bomber jacket – real cute! Your mom must have been quite a character and I can tell you miss her. Memories…


    • Patti, we “boomers” need to stick together. Cut aways, boots and frayed jean jackets … I used to be able to dress myself for about $50 bucks a year 🙂

      And my mom was a real pip … I’ll write more about her later !!


  5. I love Gail, felt sorry for Sherman like Patti and Laura did, until I reached the part where he compared her to her sister. At which time I appropriately thought “you stinker!”. 🙂 And I love the tidbit about your mom and the open window. Those images will stay with me for a long time. Happy birthday, Mom Fois …

    Do-overs? Your comment section isn’t big enough. LOL!


    • Yes, Sheila. I never go into anyone’s house or apartment without looking directly to their windows first. Like I want to see what they see all day. And twice I picked a place “solely” because of the view from the front windows. Thanks … and we would all need a volume to list our do-overs 🙂


  6. Vicki Batman

    Another great story, Florence. His comment at the end stinks and all along, I felt like he had social issues. Some ladies are amazing; they stay with us forever, and your mom fits that category.


    • Thanks, Vicki … Sherman was the tip of poor Gail’s iceburg dates 🙂 We shall see who among the six is voted the biggest fool.

      And not only does my mom stay with me in spirit, I hear her coming from inside. Ever wonder when it happened that you began to sound like her, think like her … and realized … sooner or later … all daughters become their mothers 🙂


  7. christicorbett

    My favorite part of this post was when I saw the picture of the biker ladies, and immediately leaned forward to see which one you were. I thought it was a picture of you and your friends, and I love that I could totally see you doing that!

    Speaking of love…love this story and one thing in particular; the small yet oh so descriptive detail of the yellow, dried up scotch tape. I could immediately picture the menu, the door, the entire place. Nice detail!

    Christi Corbett


    • Christi, that’s why we’ve been friends for so long. To notice that detail. I had that image imprinted in my brain for years from al old Chinese restaurant I knew in downtown Brooklyn.

      Hey, if that were a true replica of us … the women in that picture would include me, Laura Drake and Patti … Gloria would be the one holding up the rear. It’s a boomer thing 🙂


  8. I could picture every excruciating step of this story, Florence, and kept yelling in my mind, “Make any excuse, Gail…get away!” Great story.

    My great aunt always walked with a cane. When I was a girl, I asked her (with the candor of youth) if she needed a cane because she was getting old. She snapped back, “No, I need a cane because I slid my Harley at 60 mph when I was 35 and hurt my leg.”

    I was never sure what to think until her wake, when I saw a portrait of her on her bike, proud member of the San Francisco Motorcycle Club, the first to admit women, in the 1930s.


    • Ah, ha … that’s were you get your feisty spirit. Great story. Don’t you just love the old gals with vinegar in their drawers? When my mom lived in that senior complex, I met dozens of them. What a treat and what great memories. Thanks for sharing yours, Debra 🙂


  9. This brings a smile, Florence. My Dad and his brothers were bikers. My Mom rode double with him until I came along, and then they moved into a Jeep. I guess I cramped their style. Both of them were chain smokers, and I thought of my Mom when I saw your Mom’s photo… she died at 64 of multiple cancers, notably of the throat and lungs. Dad, however, lived on to remarry and enjoy life until Alzheimer’s slowed him down and a stroke took him at 83.

    Looking forward to more of these stories. 🙂


    • Carol, the most surprising things happen when we look back to those wonderful memories. We see how those we love were so unique and made us who we are. I so appreciate your visit and I love to add these stories to my posts 🙂


  10. Florence,

    Like the others I loved the biker chick photo. And Gail’s blind date story. Didn’t like Stewart from the start. Just intuition…but you wrote him well. Or did you base him on a sweaty Mr. X from the distant past? 😉

    A do-over moment? I wish I’d insisted we would travel more before our youngest had his accident which changed our lives forever in ways we never imagined at the time.


    • Yeah, Casey … what’s not to like? Those gals are the picture of FU and I just loved finding them !! I thought the date was doomed from the minute he walked through the door, but some gave him until the end of the night 🙂

      Oh, that is would be possible, I think that is a great wish for a do-over moment in your life.


  11. Wonderful, as always my friend. Your scrappy characters never cease to entertain and amaze me at the same time. You have that special way of bringing together the brittle with the tender and in the end, your girls are all lovable in their own way. You are indeed a one of a kind rare talent.


  12. Ewww… poor Sherman and his sweatiness. What a great job with characterization.


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