Saturday, March 23, 2024

Capes Are Not Just for Super Heroes

The headline made reading the story irresistible: 

“Martin Greenfield, Tailor to Sinatra, Obama, Trump and Shaq, Dies at 95”(

I was hooked not by the reference to Obama, Shaq or Trump, but by Sinatra, for it was his name that linked Martin Greenfield to my wife, Gilda. 

Among the many skills Gilda has mastered in her professional career spanning nearly 6 decades—as a waitress, office manager, newborn intensive care nurse, ICU-CCU step down unit nurse, nursery school aide, pre-and postpartum counselor, research coordinator for infectious diseases, and nurse practitioner specializing in pre- and post-spine surgery assessments—is an East Greenwich Village summer job she held while in college. 

Gilda was a seamstress in an avant-garde establishment catering to the notable and eccentric trade. Indeed, she sewed a cape for none other than Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra. 

The cape was black. With a red lining. 

Gilda had been working as a clerical assistant at Hartz Mountain headquarters near Astor Place in Manhattan. Not able to afford a ready-to-wear wardrobe, she sewed her own outfits. One was a green dress that required button holes her home sewing machine was not equipped to make. 

She brought the nearly finished dress to a nearby East Village store, Capes for Men. Admiring the workmanship, the owner asked who made the dress. I did, said Gilda. Impressed by her skill, she offered Gilda a job on the spot. 

Capes for Men also specialized in knit dresses for women, though one of the customers Gilda observed trying on a dress was most definitely a man, she surprisingly discovered as the patron emerged from a dressing room wearing only tight red boxer underwear leaving little to the imagination of what it was hiding. Keep in mind that this revelation transpired in the mid-1960s when Gilda was in her late teens and a person’s public anatomy was not so gender fluid. 

Gilda never had the opportunity to meet Sinatra to ask him if he liked the cape. She never really was a big fan of his, anyway. Six decades later she hasn’t lost her touch around a sewing machine, though not to make apparel from scratch anymore. For the record, I sew on my own buttons when needed.  

Also, for the record, there are some fashionistas who believe a cape is reemerging as a staple of a man’s wardrobe ( 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Post Election, Do We Stay or Go?

As it does at many a gathering of upper middle class couples, the conversation eventually led to where it was a good place to escape to. 

Only this dialogue was not to plan an escape from winter, or a quick trip to the beach or ski slope, or a fashion fling to a spa or retail hot spot. 

No, this Friday evening shabbat dinner of matzoh ball soup, chicken marsala, smashed potatoes and root vegetables featured conversation among liberal, educated, well informed and connected Jews with a special interest as to where in the world could we find permanent safe refuge from an America unhinged by rising antisemitism and the very real possibility that Donald Trump could win the November election. 

Israel used to be the first response. Bibi has dashed that option. Equally guilty of closing that door were those who want to replace Netanyahu but whose egos have kept them from uniting behind one candidate. Israel teeters on the brink of undemocratic reform and a future even more oppressive for Palestinians under its control. 

Canada was a popular alternative. English is spoken. Heck, Toronto streets have been passed off as those of New York City in films and television shows. Toronto has a vibrant Jewish community. It’s colder, but not too cold. But there’s an undercurrent of conservatism gaining traction in Canada. A newly proposed bill could land you in prison for life for speech crimes. Jews are anything but demure when it comes to expressing their opinions. If passed, that new law would blow a very cold welcome greeting. 

Want some place warmer? Costa Rica might do. Sure there are gang and drug problems but they are small compared to other countries south of our border. 

For some, England had an attraction, though it too has been hit by rising antisemitism. France was definitely out. 

No one mentioned Australia or New Zealand. 

Reality set in. There is no safe haven. Come November, there is only an America PT—Post Trump or President Trump. 

If he wins in 2024, would he leave in 2029? Would he pull a Putin and stay in the White House for life? The tragedy, not just for Jews but for all of America, indeed for all of post World War II democratic liberal traditions here and abroad, is that half of our country is ignorant to Trump’s cancer, or so enthralled by it that they do not care.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

How the Times Have Changed Over 75 Years

I woke up today, March 6, a 75-year-old. As I lay in bed recalling all the good, and some bad, things that have happened to me over the years, I contemplated how different the world of today is compared to when I emerged from the womb. So many of the things we take for granted today were not present, or were in their infancy, when I was born.

Broadcast television, for example. Evening national news telecasts had not begun; there was no cable; most cities had three national networks—ABC, CBS, NBC—and, if they were large enough, a few independent stations; many communities had but one national network whose signal could be picked up by rooftop or set-top rabbit-ear antennae. 

The polio vaccine had not yet been developed. Nor had the anti-vaxx movement been formed. The triple dose MMR vaccine to ward off measles, mumps and the rubella virus was approved in 1978, the year Gilda’s and my son was born. 

Jet plane travel would not come till 1951; my first plane ride in January 1958 was on an Eastern Airlines propeller plane to Miami. I was ushered into the cockpit by a stewardess and given wings by the captain. 

The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants had not yet moved to California. They would do so in 1958. There were just eight teams in the American League, eight in the National. No New York Mets. No Tampa Bat Rays, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Miami Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Denver Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers. 

Computers were enormous back then. Full rooms were dedicated to mainframes. Desktop computers would show up in the 1970s. Personal computers did not exist until 1974. 

Music was restricted to in-home consoles and car radios. Transistor radios tuned in in 1954. Boom boxes in 1966. The Sony Walkman in 1979. The Apple iPod in 2001.  

Telephones had rotary analog dialing systems. Most families had but one phone, if any. Handheld mobile phones became widely available in the mid 1980s.  The iPhone debuted in 2007. 

Space was still an unexplored frontier. Uri Gagarin became the first human in outer space in 1961. The first human lunar landing was in 1969. Aliens still have not been discovered. 

Pickleball started in 1965. The first Super Bowl, played in 1967, was called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. The ultimate game was dubbed the Super Bowl in 1969. 

Schools used chalk and blackboards, not today’s markers and white dry-erase boards. 

There were no MRI machines. Physicians had to make do with X-rays. 

Almost everything families bought was made in America. Goods made in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were considered inferior. The only truly national chains back then were Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, JC Penney, Woolworth. There were no ubiquitous discount stores. Walmart and Target, and Kmart, began in 1962. There were no Best Buys, Crate and Barrels, T.J. Maxx, Costco. Retailing was very much localized. Department stores were landmarks of downtowns, with few if any locations outside the central city. There were no suburban shopping centers, no enclosed malls. Amazon was just the longest river in the western hemisphere, not today’s behemoth of international non-store retailing. 

Full voting rights were not universally enforced throughout the nation, a condition sadly still with us. 

Playboy had yet to appear on newsstands or be delivered through the mail. The sexual revolution did not truly take off until the pill was sanctioned by the Federal Drug Administration in 1960. 

Howard Johnson restaurants dotted the nation’s roadways which, until President Eisenhower started building the interstate highway system in the 1950s, passed right through the central business district of major and minor communities. Woolworth luncheon counters were a dominant foodservice enterprise. McDonald’s was just a single unit in San Bernadino, Calif., run by Richard and Maurice McDonald until Ray Kroc joined them in 1954 and bought them out in 1961. 

The changes in America, in the world, go on and on. Anyone born today and living to their 75th year in 2099 will have witnessed mind-boggling changes during their lifetime, as I have. Let’s hope they are all for the better.