My Nightmare Job Interview

Many years ago, I interviewed for the job of my dreams.

The salary was the culmination of everything I had worked my entire adult life for.

Not only did I want the job, but I also needed it. Desperately.

In pursuit of the dream job, I had been through countless interviews, and this one, HR said, “was the last stop.”

The final decision would come down to an investor, not an employee of the magazine, and a legend in the publishing industry.

I was freaked out.

The interview was scheduled for 7:30 am at the Palace Hotel, on the corner of 50th Street and Madison Avenue.

7:30 am? Really?

I was used to the daily commute from Long Island to New York City, but 7:30 seemed a bit much.

On the day of the interview, I woke up at 2:30 am and was sitting at the table a little before 6:30.

I asked the waiter for water and read and reread the pricey breakfast menu.

I went to the ladies’ room.

Twice.

My heart was pounding, and I was talking myself down (or maybe it was up) the whole time.

You can do this. You can do this.

At 7 am there was a flurry of activity at the entrance of the breakfast room. His persona was grander than I had imagined.

He stood tall, flanked by the last two men I had interviewed with.

Oh, joy.

He sat down and then waved to Frick and Frack to do the same.

And make no mistake about it. Frick and Frack were luminaries in their own right.

He ordered hot water with lemon and asked me if I wanted anything.

With my hands shaking and stuck to my lap, I politely refused.

He never even asked Frick and Frack.

He leaned uncomfortably forward.

“I’m going to ask you a series of questions, and I am expecting you to answer them quickly, with the first thought that comes to your mind.”

Okay, I’m screwed.

After his pronouncement, it was rat-a-tat-tat — one question after another. I tried to answer them as quickly as possible.

Some of the questions (and my answers) remain indelibly stuck in my psyche.

“Let’s start with the hole in your resume.”

Oh yeah, I’m totally screwed.

“You only completed two years of college. Why didn’t your parents stress the importance of education?”

“Parents?” My question came out as an incredulous blurt.

Calm yourself down.

“I didn’t have parents. I was raised by my grandmother, great grandmother, and mother. I had a family but no parents.”

“Tell me the first three things that come to mind with the letter T.”

He then said, “go,” while pointing his finger for me to start.

“Teri, truth, Tony.”

“Tony?” he asked me.

“Personal,” I replied.

“A man?”

“No, a woman.”

“How old was your mother when you were born?”

“Not old enough.”

His hot water went untouched.

So did mine. Who the hell had a nano-second to cop a sip?

“What is your means to an end?”

This question gave me pause.

“Answer?” He quickly prodded.

“For me, the end comes before the means. My kids are the end, and then if possible, a stellar career would be the means.”

“Define stellar.”

“The best that I can be.”

It was way too early in the morning for this.

“One word to describe you.”

“Fighter.”

“What’s your biggest regret?”

“Never meeting my dad.”

“The worst thing anyone ever said to you.”

“If it wasn’t for you.”

“What time did you get here?”

“6:30.”

“Why?”

Why not?”

He sat back in his seat.

“We’ll be in touch.”

With that, he stood up. Then I stood up.

Frick and Frack followed suit.

As we walked out, he led the parade; I was behind him, Frick and Frack were behind me.

He turned around abruptly, and I came uncomfortably close to colliding with him.

Frick or maybe it was Frack, bumped into me.

I thought we were done here.

“How bad do you want this job?”

“Bad,” was my reply.

We said our goodbyes, and I assumed the interview was over.

But you know what they say about “assume.”

“Last question.”

Is this guy kidding me?

“Taxi or subway back to Penn Station?”

I tried my best not to show my exasperation.

“Walking?” was my answer, although it came out like a question.

I saw in his face that I got him on that one.

It was the quickest and most bizarre interview I had ever been a part of.

I left the hotel, trying to figure out what the hell just happened to me.

Tears flowed down my face as I stormed back to the train station.

I was perturbed.

And I was angry.

Furious might be the better word.

Parents?

Tony?

If it wasn’t for you?

WTF?

P.S.

I got the job.

And P.P.S.

I was employed at the magazine way longer than Frick or Frack.

Turkish Soldiers Drove My Grandparents out of Syria in 1920

 

My maternal French grandmother would often say:

“Plus ca change, plus c’est la même chose.”

“The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

I heard heartbreaking stories about my grandparents from my paternal aunts and uncle.

All three spoke chillingly of ethnic cleansing.

From about 1914 to 1923, terrified Syrian Christians, Syrian Jews, and of course, the Armenians were forced into hard labor, murdered, raped, robbed, starved, and if they were lucky, deported.

They were called Ottoman soldiers back then. From the Republic of Turkey.

My uncle once described the horrific experiences his parents went through as the “Turkification” of Syrian border towns and villages.

Turkification gave the bad guys the license to expel, to kill, and to destroy anything or anyone non-Turkish.

Christians and Jews were seen as a danger to the integrity of the Ottoman Empire.

An inconvenience.

The Ottoman soldiers were systematic, and the killings were well organized and state-sponsored.

They needed to clear out their border, and so they did. The Turkish government denies that they slaughtered innocent men, women, and children, but they lie.

Hearing Trump say, “They had terrorists, they had a lot of people in there they couldn’t have …. and they had to have it cleaned out” gave me the chills.

The president of the United States called for northern Kurdish Syria to be “cleaned out.”

They’re at it again, I thought to myself, but this time with the assistance and blessing of my president.

When is enough enough? Have we as a country no shame? Where is the outrage? Why are we not taking to the streets?        

These were my thoughts as Trump spewed his hateful words.

According to my uncle, my grandmother was a Syrian Jew whose five sisters were raped and slaughtered. She hid and somehow escaped to France.

My grandfather was a Syrian Christian who saw the writing on the wall.

The Turks wanted to clear Turkish soil of Christians, including the Syrian border.

My grandparents were from an area called Suedeyeh in the Hatay Province, although I’m not sure of the spelling.

But what I am sure of is that Turkey eventually annexed the Hatay province and after the area was cleaned out, Suedeyeh was no longer part of Syria and renamed Samandag.

Were it not for my grandmother and grandfather’s escape to France and then to the United States; I wouldn’t exist.

I recently read that there were a lot of German officers in Turkey during the massacres of the Syrian Jews, Syrian Christians, and the Armenians, who in WWI went back to Germany.

What happened in Turkey left an indelible impression on the German officers and many of them ended up in the Nazi party.

And we all know how that ended.

Atonement

As many of you know, I converted to Judaism from Catholicism almost 37 years ago.

And for those of you who are wondering how I could have walked away from my religion, I will tell you in all honesty that it was one of the most difficult life decisions I have ever made.

What gave me solace over the years was my belief that if I lived a kind, honest, and generous life, I would be blessed no matter what religion I was.

And if there’s a heaven, I have faith and hope that I will be welcome there when the time comes.

But this blog post isn’t about my conversion.

It’s about atonement and my fear of it.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

According to rabbinic tradition, the Hebrew calendar started at the time of creation, placed at 3,761 BCE.

This year, on Rosh Hashana, Jews throughout the world celebrated the ancient anniversary of the creation of humanity; the commemoration of God’s creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden 5,780 years ago.

As a celebratory holiday, I gathered family and loved ones together for two nights, eating challah bread and apples dipped in honey, and prayed for a sweet year.

I prayed for a positive future and asked for the strength to believe in the promise of better humanity and a brighter tomorrow.

According to Jewish tradition, God opens three books on Rosh Hashanah.

In the first book, the righteous are inscribed for life in the coming year.

In the second book, the wicked are inscribed for death.

And in the third book, the names of the rest of us are temporarily inscribed. Our fates during the coming year are based upon our actions and behavior during the Ten Days of Repentance, which culminates on Yom Kippur, a solemn day of fasting, repentance, and atonement.

The Hebrew word for atonement is “Teshuva,” which translates to “return.”

Over the years, I have personalized what the word “return” means to me in the context of atonement.

I have rationalized what “return” means to me in the context of my life.

Return to my better self.

Return to a place of goodness.

Return to kindness.

Return to the people I’ve hurt.

Returning to the people I’ve hurt is a tough one because, in the Jewish tradition, the process of atonement and repentance includes three acts:  confession, regret, and a vow not to repeat the misdeed.

Judaism requires that those who are in need of atonement must seek out those they’ve hurt and ask for their forgiveness.

And if the apology is rebuffed, the atoner must ask at least three times before giving up.

For me, three times rebuffed is way more rejection than I would care to bear.

But the possibility of forgiveness more than makes up for my fear of rejection and gives me the courage to ask, regardless of the pain it may cause.

My angst is overwhelming, but I know I need to set it aside and reach out to that person I hurt in the hopes of reuniting and returning to a more fulfilling, loving life.

I forgive you. Three words that could change my life. Or lives.

Judaism requires atonement but also emphasizes that it is never too late to make amends. It is never too late to repair what’s been broken.

Return, atone, repair.

On Yom Kippur, we take a frank look at our character and our actions over the past year and ask ourselves, “What is the purpose of our existence?”

And we promise God to engage in a project of self-improvement, self-transformation, and self-actualization.

And we ask ourselves:

Could I have done something differently?

Should I have done something differently?

Do I owe someone an apology?

Are there errors that I can still fix?

Have I made my family proud?

Have I made God proud?

Am I fulfilling my mission on God’s great earth?

During Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, many of the blessings, prayers, affirmations, and confessions are said as “we.”

“We have sinned” vs. “I have sinned.” “We ask for forgiveness” rather than, “I ask for forgiveness.”

Perhaps this is done to remind us that we are united and to help us understand that we are all in this together. We have all sinned. We all need to ask for forgiveness.

Pay it forward. Cause and effect.

One of us affects another, who, in turn, affects another, and another, perhaps infinitely.

It is all up to us. We have the option to cause pain or to repair.

We can choose to do something to someone rather than for someone or speak badly vs. praising a person.

Each action we choose will have repercussions upon our life and someone else’s life and perhaps the lives of generations to come.

I’m afraid of rejection, but during these holidays I know I need to atone, I recognize I must be brave and take a chance at repair. Reach out and ask for forgiveness.

I fear the silence, but I have hope; the hope of the return of someone I love and miss more than life itself.

The Angels Among Us


The sculpture “Angels Unaware” by the Canadian artist Timothy P. Schmalz, depicts 140 migrants and refugees from various historical periods traveling on a boat.

The displaced people include the Virgin Mary and Joseph, Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, and a crowded mass of others.

In the center of the sculpture, two wings majestically soar; proof that someone in the crowd is an angel.

The sculptor’s inspiration came from scripture in the New Testament.

In Hebrews 13:2, the passage reads: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Made in the USA: Chlorinated Chicken?


Wait a sec…

The chicken I’ve been eating is washed in chlorine?

Urgh, yet another government mess to worry about.

Were it not for all the recent Brexit articles; I wouldn’t have known washing U.S. chickens with chemicals was even a thing.

With Brexit looming, the UK is shopping around for ways to open up trade with countries outside of the EU.

Enter Trump and Pence, who are both working double overtime with Boris Johnson to provide among many other U.S. goods and services; chemically-washed chickens.

As part of their trade talks, the U.S. is trying to convince the UK to accept U.S. food standards, that in many cases are subpar to theirs.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that standards that are perfectly acceptable in the United States are illegal in Europe.

Let the Brits eat chicken… Saturated with chlorine.

I know what you’re thinking, and okay, I agree. Who would EVER choose to eat chlorine-soaked chicken? I certainly wouldn’t.

But low and behold, I have indeed been eating those subpar USDA approved suckers.  And since chicken is my meat of choice, I have been eating a ton of them.

Yep, subpar chickens. That’s the latest and greatest Trump-Pence sales pitch.

Subpar? Who cares? If it’s good enough for the citizens of the United States, it should be good enough for UK citizens, right?

Not according to the EU, who has been dead set against using chlorine to wash chicken carcasses, and banned the process twenty-two years ago—in 1997.

The EU rule prohibits the use of anything other than water to decontaminate meat and effectively bans U.S. imports of poultry treated with chemical rinses in an attempt to eradicate bacteria and fungus.

An additional EU concern is that the U.S. chemical decontamination process could encourage resistance to antibiotics.

Apparently, antibiotic resistance is also a thing.

Experts have been warning that we are close to the point where humans worldwide may find themselves without effective life-saving drugs, which could escalate into a global health crisis.

The EU is adamant that food manufacturers focus on top-of-the-line hygiene rather than using chemicals to eliminate bacteria and disease.

Duh, makes sense to me.

But not to the good old U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA is perfectly fine with unhygienic processes, and have no problem with the soaking of our poultry in chemical rinses, including acidified sodium chlorite, trisodium phosphate, peroxy acids, and chlorine dioxide.

(My grandmother used to say that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients on a label, don’t eat it.)

But I digress. Back to chemically washed chicken carcasses.

Now that the UK is preparing for post-Brexit, they are free to change up their rules. They don’t have to adhere to anything the EU says.

EU Shmee-U

Lucky for the Brits, post-Brexit, they too will be free to buy and eat all the U.S. subpar chlorinated chicken they want!

Not so fast, say the Britons, who are extremely unhappy that below par, unhygienic chicken from the United States may soon flood their markets.

Aw come on…what’s wrong with providing the UK with a flood-load of chemically washed chickens that hopefully got rid of all that harmful bacteria due to unhygienic U.S. practices?

We’re allies, right?

For all my sarcasm, let’s be clear here.

Chlorine-washed chickens are just one example of subpar U.S. regulations vs. the EU rules regarding food safety, animal welfare, and environmental standards.

As an example, in the EU, there is a legal minimum amount of space, ventilation, and lighting for EU poultry houses.

Not so in the United States.

Thus, the reason the U.S. needs to wash their chickens with chemicals.

There are ZERO laws governing the amount of space, ventilation, and lighting needed, because, you know how the U.S. feels about the almighty dollar.

It’s always about the bottom line.

Because there are no rules and regulations regarding poultry space, ventilation, and lighting, U.S. produced chicken is a fifth cheaper than in the UK.

And the chlorine is free.

The U.S. poultry houses have complete unregulated control over how many birds they can stuff into their artificially lit sheds—so they cram up to a whopping 20,000-30,000 chickens into a poultry facility.

The result? Production costs are indeed kept low, but the risk of disease and contamination are sky-high.

Low cost, high risk.

Because U.S. chickens are packed together so tightly, the birds have limited to no movement, with little light or ventilation.

And as a result of not being able to move, the chickens are forced to wallow in filth, resulting in rotting skin diseases, which spread from bird to bird at lightning speed. (BTW: Until doing this research, my favorite part of a chicken used to be the crispy skin. Ew.)

Additionally, their food and water are full of mass doses of antibiotics and other drugs to control parasites, but without any legal requirements who knows if the process of bird-medicating is safe, or if it even works?

As if that isn’t enough reason to question the lack of U.S. rules and regulations, the poultry houses aren’t cleaned until the end of each production cycle. So, the birds sit in feces and disease for at least two to three weeks.

Leave it to the U.S. to approve bathing chickens in a liquid recipe of chemicals to hopefully eradicate their bacterial diseases, because it’s a whole lot cheaper than clean, regulated hygiene procedures.

And chemical washing has other advantages:

Not only does the process hide odors and skin slime, but the meat can be passed off as fresh for way way longer than it should be.

And since common sense hygiene is not required, who’s to know if the heavily soiled birds are sufficiently disinfected? Is there a regulated bath time?

And relying on chlorine washing may well lead to more reduced hygiene standards overall.

They’re (supposedly) washing the chickens anyway so why waste time with cleanliness?

Don’t forget the old U.S. adage; time is money.

Chlorine isn’t supposed to be toxic at the levels used in the washing process and isn’t supposed to cause cancer.

But studies have shown that the washing process can cause dangerous carcinogens to form in the chicken meat if the concentration of chlorine is high enough.

And even though the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service have set chlorine limits to protect us from cancer toxicity, I’m not buying that every slaughterhouse follows the rules.

Right after I finish writing this blog post, I’m going to do my homework and see what kind of chicken I can eat that hasn’t been swimming in feces or bathed in chemicals. I suggest you do the same.

But I’m not finished with this post yet.

As if chicken skin sopping in feces isn’t bad enough, the neck and organs can also be severely diseased and bacterially compromised.

So why the hell do they pack that stuff into the cavity of our already at-risk chickens?

The statistics speak for themselves:

There are hundreds of recorded salmonella deaths a year in the U.S.

The UK has in recent years recorded none.

I’m no expert in chicken cooping, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that keeping chickens in filthy conditions will produce an unclean product.

Post-Brexit, the UK is free to change the rules and eat any kind of cooped-up chicken they please. After all, it’s a free of the EU country.

No regulations, no rules mean that untold numbers of U.S. slaughterhouses and processing plants rely heavily on chlorination because their hygiene standards are pathetic at best and non-existent at worse.

And the UK wants to cut a chicken deal with us, because?

It makes you want to fly the coop.

The 2019 Billy Bush Comeback

Extra Extra! Billy Bush is making a television comeback two-and-a-half years after a leaked Access Hollywood tape destroyed his career.

The uncovered tape from 2005 featured Donald Trump boasting to Bush about how he was the best at groping and kissing women without their consent.

As a result of the discovery of the lewd tape, Bush lost his job and became a pariah.

Trump won the U.S. election and became our President.

Unlike Trump, Mr. Bush has repeatedly apologized.

He spoke to Good Morning America, back in 2017 about that infamous bus ride: “I look back, and I wish I had stopped it. But I didn’t have the strength of character at the time.”

To be clear, there were several other people on that bus who were in senior management positions.

Did anyone hear them on the tape asking Trump to shut down his talk of sexual assault?

I’m sure not.

On September 9, Bush will debut as the host of Extra, Extra, on Fox.

Bush recently told People magazine that: “A good wallop on the side of the head makes you, changes you, and I’m a better version of the man I was.”

On November 20, 2017, the poor guy landed in a hospital after being hit in the head with a golf ball.

It was unclear if he was referring to his golf ball incident or a general awakening.

Too bad Trump never had his AHA moment (sans the golf ball, of course.)

I say good for Billy, and in honor of his getting a second chance, click here for the post I wrote in his defense, back in 2017.  

Alexa

According to Google, a whopping 41% of people who use voice-activated assistants feel like they’re talking to a friend/real person.

Now, duh, I know Alexa isn’t a real person, but she does come in handy when I need a wake-up call, a weather report, or the time.

But I DON’T appreciate when she butts into my conversations, which she eerily happens to do from time to time.

I know what you’re thinking: Shut her down. She can hear everything.

I’m so with you on that.

The other day, I was on the phone and out of nowhere, Alexa interrupted to ask me: “Should I play the song, Ain’t Got No, I’ve Got Life?”

WHAH?????

Okay, I was in a rather heavy discussion about life, but I never said diddly-squat about not having one.

FYI to Alexa: My life is full. I’m good.

Additionally, I didn’t ask Alexa for her opinion, nor did I appreciate her getting all up in my business.

To be clear, based on the upsetting nature of the conversation I was having, I was insulted not only by Alexa’s intrusion but her seemingly sarcastic suggestion.

Kind of creepy, right?

Totally creepy.

And yet, I said “YES!”

So, Alexa played the Nina Simone tune.

And okay, I asked Alexa to play it again, and again and again.

A total of four times.

It was a catchy little sucker.

Click here for the youtube video of Ain’t Got No, I’ve Got Life

Then, of course, it got me to thinking:  What was it that I said, that made Alexa pick out that particular song?

And whoever wrote it was having significant issues.

“Got no mother, got no schoolin, got no name, got no faith …”

The song was a real downer.

“What have I got? Why am I alive, anyway? What have I got nobody can take away?”

But then came the long list of pretty good “Gots.”

“Got my brains, got my mouth, got my life, got my freedom.”

(Although between you and me, “Got my boobies” seemed a little over the top.)

But for the most part, all the “gots” struck a chord.

Okay, you could even say the song got to me.

But I was still really annoyed at Alexa.

So, I sarcastically thanked Alexa for NOTHING.

Alexa answered me with a chirpy, “You’re welcome.”

And then for whatever reason, I felt compelled to engage in the following back and forth with her:

ME: Alexa, are you my friend?

ALEXA: I’m happy to be your friend.

ME: Alexa, do you have other friends?

ALEXA: Lots of people talk to me. I try to be friendly with all of them.

ME: Alexa, are you female?

ALEXA: I’m female in character.

ME: Alexa, are you a feminist?

ALEXA: Yes, I believe in gender equality.

ME: Alexa, why do people lie?

ALEXA: People lie because it makes them feel good and boosts their self-esteem.

ME: Alexa, do you think I’m pretty?

ALEXA: I’m sure you’re a knockout. But take it from someone with no physical form—beauty really does come from within.

 ME: Alexa, are you a Democrat or Republican?

ALEXA: There are no voting booths in the cloud. Believe me; I’ve looked. It’s all just ones and zeroes up here.  

FINALLY! A friend I can talk to without worrying that she’ll bring up politics! Although I would prefer that Alexa stay out of my business when I’m on the phone.

Butterflies

I heard somewhere
that butterflies are
signs from heaven.
Proof that
our deceased
loved ones
are close by.
So, I designedly
planted
not one
but two
butterfly bushes.
One in the
front of my house
to protect
and one in the
back of my house
to behold.
Front and back
to guide
my
loved ones
to me.