The thought of working in New York City sounds glamorous to some people but, speaking from experience, I found New York City to be inconvenient, crowded, and, dangerous.
In 1981, as a spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, I traveled from my home in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, to my job in the heart of New York City. Whether I took the New Jersey train, the bus, or drove my car, nothing about the commute was easy. Each afternoon, I tried leaving my office no later than four o’clock; the commute from New York’s Penn Station to the Little Silver Train Station took almost two hours.
One evening, after missing the bus to Penn Station, I opted to take the NY Subway, a bad decision.
It was six o’clock and, by now, most commuters were off the streets, and some were already home. I knew I was over-dressed for the subway in my silk blouse, straight/slit skirt and high heels....to say nothing about my jewelry--- consisting of a gold neck medallion, gold earrings, and gold bracelets. Although I almost never rode the subway, it was the fastest way to connect with my train to New Jersey.
It didn’t take long to sense trouble. Within minutes of finding a seat, I watched two guys race from the back of the subway car to sit directly across from me. Instead of looking at my face, both stared at my neck. Uneasy, I glanced around the train, hoping to locate another seat.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, two very hippie-looking guys crammed their bodies into the small bench seat where I was sitting—one on either side. I felt my pulse accelerate; I held my breath. This was it. The enemy had me surrounded; the bad guys were across from me and their buddies were next to me. I was about to be grabbed, raped and killed!
The man on my left, the one with the biggest earrings and longest ponytail—made the first move. Roughly hooking his right arm through my left arm, he whispered “Lady, get ready to stand up and move toward the doors....one....two....NOW!!!!!! Before I realize it, the other man had grabbed my right arm and, when the subway doors opened, both men propelled me through the open doors and onto the platform.
Everything happened quickly while each held firmly to my arms.The subway door closed, the train pulled away, and the head man—the spokesperson —turned and shouted in my face, “Lady, do you realize you were seconds away from being murdered?!?!?”
"First of all, you shouldn’t be riding the fuckin subway this time of day and second of all, why the hell are you wearing those expensive clothes and gold jewelry on the goddamn Subway?!?! Lady, do you have some crazy-ass death wish? Those guys sitting across from you were professionals! They were ready to kill you to get that fuckin gold out of your ears, off your arm, and from around your neck!”
For the first time since he’d begun speaking--- I noticed the guns. Seeing me eye their weapons, both guys dropped my arms at the same time and flashed police badges in my face. “Lady tonight was your fuckin lucky night! You must have brought your damn guardian angel along for this ride.
My name is Lennie and this is my partner, Steno. We’re undercover cops and it’s our job to ride the subway looking for criminals, murderers, drug dealers, and thieves. Officially, we're off-duty, headed back to the station to sign out, then we witnessed what was going-down with you. The minute those bastards swapped seats we knew you were the target. Those shitheads were only seconds from grabbing you so... we had to get you off the train.
Lady, those assholes make their livin by robbing and killing women like you! You wanta know how long it’d take them to get that gold necklace off your neck? It would take about three seconds for one of them to hold you down while the other one sliced your fuckin head off!”
What a sight we must have been, standing on the subway platform. Evening commuters must have been curious to see two long-haired, bearded men in dirty tennis shoes, ragged jeans, wearing grateful dead sweatshirts, each holding a gun, and standing on either side of a tall, fashionably-dressed female in high heels.
Together, we climbed the crowded subway stairs to the busy streets above.Before stepping on the bus bound for New Jersey—I listened again to Lennie’s stern warning: “Never take the fuckin Subway when you’re all dressed up—fit to kill!” Steno stood close-by, silent and unsmiling. Both men helped me on the bus and, as it pulled away from the curb, I looked out the window, hoping to wave goodbye to my heroes, but they were gone.
Both had disappeared into the crowd.
# From my book, THE BEAUTY QUEEN, Let No Deed Go Unpublished.
If you aren’t interested in Miss Arkansas Pageant Trivia, I suggest you skip this post but… If you’re still reading…allow me to share a few interesting facts—facts that make me proud to have won the 1958 Miss Arkansas title.
Officially, I was the first Miss Arkansas selected under the Miss America Pageant's official guidelines. Historically-speaking, I was also the first Miss Arkansas crowned at Oaklawn Race Track in Hot Springs. In fact, I was probably the FIRST beauty queen ever crowned—like a horse—on a race track!
In 1958, the city of Hot Springs didn’t have an auditorium large enough to accommodate pageant crowds so creative minds developed a plan to utilize the race track’s expansive grounds, parking, and grand-stand seating. Quite appropriately, the pageant’s professional stage and ramp were built at the race track’s finish line. Dressing rooms were located beneath the large stage and equipped with make-up tables, mirrors, clothes racks, makeshift bathrooms, circulating fans, everything but air conditioning.
I won both competitions—talent and swimsuit—in my weeklong quest to be Miss Arkansas, another “first.” The night I won the talent competition the famed Metropolitan Opera star, Marjorie Lawrence, was in the audience. (Soon after winning the title, I accepted Ms. Lawrence’s invitation to study voice at her Hot Springs Ranch called Harmony Hills.)
Two nights later, it was time to compete in the swimsuit competition. With the little girl in me using the power of pretend/playtime, I confidently modeled my swimsuit in front of the judges and the audience. Completing my final pivot—I left the stage, relieved to have the swimsuit competition over.
Backstage, my competitors waited around in their swimsuits, each hoping to be the night’s swimsuit winner but-- confident that the night’s swimsuit winner wasn’t me-- I began changing into my gown for the finale. A chaperone was zipping my gown when the pageant’s master of ceremonies began the closing ceremony and everyone heard the name SALLY MILLER. What?!?!? Someone grabbed my arm and began removing my gown while someone else handed me the swimsuit, screaming “Hurry, get upstairs, they’re waiting for you!”
Hands reached out to smooth my hair, help with a high-heel, blot my makeup, and push me back on stage. When the spotlights found me, I automatically smiled, despite my confusion. The reigning Miss America placed a trophy in my arms and I heard the exploding applause but it was only when the current Miss Arkansas began attaching a banner to my swimsuit that I realized--Yes! I am tonight’s winner in swimsuit competition!
Later, my daddy remarked “Those spotlights were your best friends. When you stood in front of the judges, the shadows hit you in all the right places." One day after winning the Miss Arkansas title, I enjoyed a few minutes alone with my father. Still emotional from the night before, he said “Times like these you want to freeze the moment, stay young forever; you wish time would simply stand still and never move beyond the good feelings.” I never wanted to be Miss Arkansas for more than one year but I wanted the good feelings and my Daddy to last forever.
Life can be a heartless teacher. After endless hurts, disappointments, and the loss of my Father, I learned that good feelings and good people never last.
The first time I heard the voices, I was cuddled in my sleeping bag--the comfort of sleep slowly enveloping my exhausted body. Suddenly awake, I sensed something was wrong. Surrounded--on all sides--by velvety-blackness, I slowly pushed back my covers to sit-up. At first—the night’s heavy silence was all I heard… then… a low-key chatter began. The indistinguishable words...uttered from unseen mouths….cut-through the night’s thick silence like millions of small knives.
Determined to rise above my inner- panic, I kept focusing on the voices, trying to understand the words. Was it the sound of many-voices-- communicating through whispers-- all at the same time or-- was it a large crowd—united in performing the same low-key ritual or chant—together?!?!
The indiscernible sounds, impossible to identify as Chinese, were everywhere. Huddled inside my tent, I was helpless to know their exact location or how many were involved in-- what sounded like-- a lively “group” discussion.
I reached for my flashlight and, as quietly as possible, unzipped the tent’s opening. Expecting to see a number of people standing outside, I bravely prepared for a confrontation. With no means of protection, I decided to use the element of surprise to frighten and confuse “whomever or whatever” I’d be facing. I believed my unusual look and foreign sound would work to my advantage. My presence would surely startle and, hopefully, frighten my night visitors... assuming they were human.
Climbing out of the tent’s opening, I quickly flooded the area—in all directions- with light from my flashlight. Then, I unfolded my body to “Stand Tall” on the Great Wall’s dew-covered surface. It was important for me to look fearless and strong-enough to over-power any unwelcome guests. Looking around, I saw nothing but darkness. The voices had stopped; all I heard was silence. My flashlight searched the awesome darkness and still… nothing. From someplace deep inside, I heard the warning: Searching would be in vain.
Over a period of seven months, I heard the voices seven times. The voices always spoke softly, in almost a whisper, and their undistinguishable words were delivered in unison—like a chorus—but without music.
My Night Voices only visited me when I was alone and sleeping “on top” of The Great Wall. Each time I heard the voices…I left the security of my tent to search the darkness. Sometimes, I shouted greetings in both English and Chinese yet there was never a response….only silence.
During the day, as I moved beside or on top of The Wall, I would remember the voices and rehearse how, the very-next-time I heard them, I would remain calm. Yet, each time the voices awakened me… I responded with fear.
Desperate to make sense of it all, I kept repeating the same pattern, time after time: I would leave the tent to flashlight-search the darkness. And, as always-- there was nothing to see, hear, or find.
After completing my journey of ALL THE WALL, I searched through my many documents to find something I’d read years before--- while researching the Great Wall's history:
“Ancient Chinese writings state that The Great Wall’s indomitable strength is derived from those who built the Wall—by hand; scores of nameless men suffered unbearable hardships while constructing The Great Wall and endless numbers died.
It has been estimated that sixty million Chinese died while erecting more than 10,000 miles (The main wall and its many tributaries) of The Great Wall. According to traditional Chinese Belief, the bodies of all who died while building The Great Wall--were buried inside The Wall, creating the world’s largest cemetery, and--fortifying The Great Wall of China to live--forever."
Remembering the voices I heard--night after night-- I’m honored to have “met” the Wall’s many builders, now buried in The Great Wall. I believe they stayed close by me-- much-like an honor guard-- to demonstrate their support of my first-ever journey of THEIR Great Wall of China.
Chutzpah= the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. The Yiddish word is derived from the Hebrew word ḥutspâ (חֻצְפָּה) meaning"insolence" or "cheek".
As a teenager in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, I made my spending-money by babysitting. Back then, I think the going rate was 50 cents an hour---certainly not get-rich-quick money. My babysitting services were most-popular among local Jewish Families, with such familiar last names as Baim, Sherman, Gershner, and Blau.
Young and impressionable, I observed that Jewish women were more confident, more out-spoken, than other women in Pine Bluff. Jewish women appeared to “say what they thought and get what they wanted.” From that time on, I observed that every Jewish woman---from Arkansas to New Jersey, from California to New York—wore the fanciest jewelry, the most elegant furs, drove the finest cars---and had the most adoring husbands.
In the eighties, while living in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, I became friends with a young doctor named Bob, from Long Branch, New Jersey. I never tired of hearing Bob's most-unusual story:
“Growing up in a poor Italian family, Bob was determined to earn money for Medical School and soon, he took the advice of a few of his more-seasoned, male friends. Barely eighteen, he signed up to be a House Boy at one of Long Branch’s Fanciest High-Rise Hotels. The Hotel catered to wealthy Jewish Widows from New York City who paid large sums to live there, year-round.
Basically, being a House Boy meant doing anything and everything requested by “The House”….meaning the occupants therein. When Bob wasn’t attending college, taking tests, and studying, he was driving some Jewish Lady (in her car) to the hair dresser, bridge parties, shopping, and doctor’s appointments. He also served as a Jewish Woman’s “date” for dinner, movies, plays, and sight-seeing, It seems Bob was a favorite dance partner for the much-older ladies too, but-- most intriguing--Bob was the most sought-after House Boy when the Jewish Ladies were in need of a... bed partner.
Fascinated by his former job description, I asked Bob endless questions including: What did the job pay? Of course it was difficult to break-it-all down for each “assignment” but… he said that working approximately 48 hours for an “average” week earned him more than 6 thousand dollars. He explained that Jewish Ladies liked to “tip” rather than pay an hourly wage. So, the more these wealthy women liked your looks, your actions, and your ability “to please” them….. the bigger the tip.
He admitted there were some major “challenges” and described one Jewish Lady in particular. The Lady was more than eighty, in a wheelchair, completely incontinent, had loose dentures, and--- despite endless cosmetic surgeries and hair implants-- resembled a grotesque old man. Even worse, because of her “plumbing problems”.... she smelled like an outhouse. Bob said it was widely-rumored she was the wealthiest woman in the building and... she tipped well to the young boys she liked best. He admitted to spending several nights with her but refused to divulge the intimate details(I was insatiably curious). Bob only confirmed that he received more than five thousand per night.
I’ve always said that money can’t make you happy but--- it allows you to have choices. Jewish Ladies from Long Branch, New Jersey, seemed to enjoy spending their money in entertaining ways, like: When in need of a dancing partner, they just paid for the youngest and best-looking House Boy with the best moves. When they felt lonely, they chose the best House Boy money-- could buy-- to provide all-kinds of attention. And, when they wanted a bed partner, they selected the best-looking and best-equipped House Boy in the building and paid him extremely-well for a “job well done.”
By the way, Bob had no problem paying for college or med school-- thanks to the Jewish Ladies of Long Branch. He may not have loved his job but--it certainly loved him back.
Hmmmmm...wonder if.....in many ways....this doesn't sound a little-like prostitution?!?!?
Regardless, it was a situation that, apparently, satisfied everyone involved. Most importantly, Bob is now a wonderfully-trained gynecologist who has an outstanding reputation for knowing HOW TO PLEASE his patients...mostly Jewish.
MAKE EVERY DAY BEAUTIFUL. IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOU.
MARK THIS MONDAY, AUGUST 3, 2020, AS YOUR NEW BEGINNING; THINK ABOUT TODAY AS A UNIQUE ADVENTURE. TODAY, DO SOMETHING UNEXPECTED. DO SOMETHING THAT'S NEVER BEEN ON YOUR TO-DO LIST.
PREPARE FOR THIS ADVENTURE---EARLY---BEFORE YOU THROW THE COVERS BACK AND PUT YOUR FEET ON THE FLOOR. FIRST: LIE IN BED AND SIMPLY---REMEMBER. FIND A PLEASANT MEMORY FROM YOUR PAST AND FOR JUST TEN OR FIFTEEN MINUTES---"RELIVE" IT. DARE TO LAUGH, GIGGLE, OR EVEN SHED A SWEET TEAR---JUST REMEMBERING “THE MOMENT”.
REALLY THINK! CAN YOU REMEMBER SOMEONE—A SPECIAL SOMEONE-- WHO ONCE SAID “I LOVE YOU” …. SOMEONE WHO IS NO LONGER IN YOUR LIFE...SOMEONE FROM—LONG AGO-- WHO MADE YOU FEEL BEAUTIFUL/HANDSOME AND VERY- SPECIAL?!?!? PICTURE THAT "SOMEONE" AND NOW--SMILE. NEXT… SAY THAT PERSON’S NAME OUTLOUD, THEN SMILE, AGAIN, AND SAY "THANK YOU".
NEXT: NOW....SIT UP AND START TODAY WITH A GREAT BIG "THANK YOU" TO GOD. IN FACT, OPEN-UP YOUR MOUTH—AND YOUR HEART-- AND “THANK GOD” BY SINGING YOUR FAVORITE SONG OR HYMN!
GOD DOESN'T CARE IF YOU DON’T SING LIKE A PRO. HE ONLY CARES THAT YOU LOVE HIM--IN WORD, DEED, AND SONG. SO SING LIKE A CHILD.. HAPPY..FEARLESS.. AND SO PROUD TO BE ONE OF GOD'S CHILDREN!
EARLY THIS MORNING, WALKING ALONG THE SPILLWAY TRAIL WITH BIG DOG- CUBBY DOG....I FOUND MYSELF SINGING "JESUS LOVES ME" AND IT SIMPLY-FELT RIGHT. I KNOW GOD WAS LISTENING BECAUSE--HE WALKS WITH ME, TOO.
NOW--- IT’S TIME FOR ACTION! IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO GET UP, PUT ON YOUR MOST-COMFORTABLE CLOTHES AND SHOES BECAUSE…YOU’RE ASSIGNMENT IS TO STEP OUTSIDE, SAY “GOOD MORNING” TO THE WORLD AROUND YOU--- THEN---- START WALKING!
JUST PUT ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER AND START MOVING. YOU DECIDE HOW FAST OR SLOW YOU WALK….OR IF YOU BREAK INTO A JOG OR A RUN. HOW FAST AND HOW FAR YOU GO DEPENDS ON YOU BUT... YOU MUST AT LEAST GO THE DISTANCE OF ONE OR MORE BLOCKS. EVERY DAY YOU MUST INCREASE YOUR DISTANCE BECAUSE-- IT'S ALL PART OF YOUR NEW ADVENTURE.
TRUST ME….I SPEAK FROM DECADES OF EXPERIENCE. SADNESS, BOREDOM, AND DEPRESSION CAN’T SURVIVE--WHEN THEY’RE EXPOSED TO THE OUTDOORS AND LOTS OF ON-THE-GO MOVEMENT. RAIN OR SUNSHINE, IN COLD OR HOT WEATHER, I START EVERY MORNING--OUTSIDE. I CALL IT “STRENGTH” TRAINING. IF I CAN DO IT...YOU CAN TOO.
OVERTIME, MANY PEOPLE, EVEN FAMILY, JOINED ME “OUTSIDE” TO WALK/HIKE/JOG/RUN BUT…FEW WERE WILLING TO COMMIT TO A DAILY RITUAL. IT DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE…I’VE STOPPED DEPENDING ON OTHERS FOR MY HAPPINESS AND WELL-BEING. I KNOW I MUST STAY STRONG, HEALTHY, AND HAPPY... FOR ME. IN THE END…IT WILL ONLY BE ME…AND GOD.
SIMPLE PLEASURES, LIKE SPOTTING A DEER IN THE WOODS, SHARING THE OUTSIDE WITH SQUIRRELS, POSSUMS, BIRDS, AND ALL OF NATURE"S CREATIVE DESIGNS... REMIND ME THAT LOVING GOD'S CREATIONS IS A GIFT AND...IT'S FREE. SUCH BLESSINGS ARE FREE--TO ALL OF US--WHEN WE TAKE TIME TO GO OUTSIDE AND ENJOY THEM.
I’VE LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO WARN EVERYONE OF ONE FACT: DO NOT ALLOW OTHERS TO DETERMINE HOW YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS; HOW/WHERE YOU FIND YOUR HAPPINESS; OR HOW YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE.
TOO-OFTEN, HUMANS COMPLICATE OUR LIFE, QUICKLY LEAVE US , THEN... "BILL US" FOR THEIR SERVICES.