Saturday, January 16, 2010


In another life back in the late 60’s, I created costume jewelry and hand crochet snoods.  In addition, I sold DO IT YOURSELF JEWELRY KITS.  Acquiring all the department store accounts in New York State, and some boutiques, my business was growing. Two manufacture representatives represented my line. I had to use different names and labels, selling the same product to two different companies. One represented Jobbers while the other, retail stores. Eventually my line was sold all over the country, including Canada.

When the orders increased to tremendous volume, my husband and I had to fly to Haiti where labor was cheap. In our line of business we had to ship six colors of each style to the retail trade in one delivery

At home, we had a sleep in maid taking care of our 2 and 4 year old boys while we were training Haitians in one of Haiti’s plants.

Arriving into Haiti’s airport we were greeted by soldiers with mirrored sun glasses, holding machine guns staring at us. We had no knowledge about Haiti and the political revolution that had occurred years ago.

Haiti, a small Caribbean nation of about 8 million people was a slave nation up to 1791 when Toussaint’s Overture helped the black slaves’ revolt and became free. After his death, the political turmoil started again and life for the Haitians became unbearable.

Francois Duvalier, a country doctor turned out to be the worst tyrant in history. A sadistic killer and the most frightening man ever was known as Papa Doc. With his thugs, the Ton Ton Macoutes, known as the Boogyman, in Haitian Creole, was feared by the Haitians as they were the security force of his private army. Papa Doc was known as the High Priest.

Not knowing that Haiti was a bizarre dangerous place to live, we bypassed customs quickly as our contractor was politically acceptable to the Ton Ton’s. We thought Haiti was just a poor country, but we never dreamed it was a violent one.

Looking out the window of our escorted Mercedes Benz, I could not believe how primitive the people were. There were women carrying baskets of food on their heads, like the movies we watched. People were running after the Mercedes, begging. I asked the driver what the crime rate was, as I was very frightened and did not know what to expect. He assured me that there was little crime on the island, but don't mess with a Haitian or he will perform Voodoo on you. Thinking it was a joke, I learned later that Voodoo was common practice.

After arriving at the El Rancho in Port Au Prince, a modest motel to my standards, but deluxe in Haiti.  There were only two motels in Haiti. We met some white people whom we thought were guests. After introducing each other, I learned they liked to hang around the motel looking to meet the new guests.  They lived in Haiti all year round, as they had their manufacturing business there.They lived like kings in a big haciendas with maids, servants, drivers, cooks and everything else you could possibly imagine. Their wives were miserable, wishing they had a bagel and some nova lox. They occasionally flew to Miami to break up the monotony visiting family and friends, and of course shopping.

It was about seven in the evening when I tried calling home to see if our boys were okay. To our frustration, we could not get service. Haiti shut down their phone system every day for a couple of hours. I hated the fact that we were helpless not knowing what was going on at home. In those days, cell phones were not available.

The following day, we were driven to the plant where I had to show the workers how to crochet the snoods to my styles. The plant was brightly lit with huge windows bringing in the light. One by one the workers piled in until they shut the doors. Hundreds more were peering into the windows begging for work. In no time flat you could not see day light because of all the Haitians covering the windows hoping to be picked for the second shift. It was pitiful. Then the air condition went off at noon, as electricity was being rationed.

The next day our contractor took us to the Iron Market which was similar to a flee market for the cruise ships. As he was driving on the road with no traffic lights, anyone in the way would get run over. It was that simple. The only thing that was respected was a funeral procession..

People were running after our car begging. When we got out of the car, it was a hassle passing all the beggars. When we finally got into the Iron Market, there were all kinds of gifts and novelties to buy. It was their only tourist store in Haiti. One Haitian tried to sell my husband a pair of shoes. He said he did not want it. But they picked him up anyway and made him try on the shoe as one person put the shoe on him. “Get me out of here," he yelled  As he disappeared for a moment, I yelled out to him, “Lenny, Lenny, and the whole place yelled out his name, following him, anxiously awaiting him to buy something. After making a few purchases, our contractor ushered us out of the building into the car. All the Haitians ran after us. Once we got into the car, the beggars covered the windows, where we could not see day light. One old man took off his glasses to show us he had no eyes. I thought we were going to faint. There were many people lamed with no feet, arms, and other deformities, too gory to describe.

When we arrived back at our motel, we started to pack for home. Needing something at the drug store, the hotel sent a man to do the errand. When he returned to our motel room, we gave him a $2.00 tip. The man stayed outside our room and would not leave.

We called the manager complaining that the man was not leaving. We were told that the errand boy was afraid of being reprimanded for taking advantage of us because he took too much money. He was terrified and did not know what to do.

That evening we were invited to a night club by our contractor and his executives. We were introduced to a journalist, like the Walter Winchell.of Haiti.  He was a dapper dressed gentleman with spats covering his shoes, carrying a swagger stick under his arm. My husband noticed a wire coming out of it when he was secretly recording what we were saying to our contractor. When we told our contractor about the secret wire, he got very concerned and shook nervously as his brother was a political prisoner.

We were extremely ecstatic about leaving Haiti and going home. While we were waiting for the plane to let us board, we attempted to speak politics to our contractor. He was literally shaken and urged us not to speak about politics to him as he feared for his life. He said there were microphones all around us. As I looked around, I could not tell. But later, when we came home, and after kissing the ground of our country, we saw the movie “The Comedians the book was written by Graham Green. Everything in the movie was true.

Although our buyers were extremely patient with us extending their delivery dates, it did not take long to find out that our materials were missing. Our merchandise was stolen and not being delivered on time.  When a carton was delivered, it came in with one color.  The following month another color. We needed assorted colors of six, which was what was contracted. Eventually our orders got canceled.

One thing I learned from this experience; it is impossible to contract work to Haiti unless you are physically working there every day.  That is why the American people we met living and working in Haiti had businesses that needed to be watched. The people steal whatever they can to survive.   The whole country in Haiti was corrupt.

It is such a shame about all the corruption, as Haiti is beautiful.  That place if turned around could be a money pit. The developers and venture people would have a field day, making it a paradise place to live, work and vacation.

Haiti has two classes of people. the poverty stricken and the educated upper crust.  Those who were professionals and business people thrived, but still live in fear.  Every day the Ton Ton's arrest someone for political reasons, and there is no freedom of speech.

Is it any wonder these poor Haitians flee for their lives in unstable boats to come to our country for a better life?  Very few made it and survived.  Others who made it were sent back to Haiti.

Who made this statement? "For every bad thing something good follows." It took a disaster like this recent earthquake to allow 150,000 children and their families to finally come into our country legally to house, feed and educate them.  My heart goes out to all these poor people.  We should welcome them with open arms for the way they lived.  However, I do have one question; if we are running in such a steep deficit, how, and where will we get the money to take care of them?

Do you have the answer?  Please comment below as this is a very important issue and our readers would like your opinion

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Sunday, January 10, 2010


While surfing Face book, I recognized a son of a neighbor of ours whom we have not seen in forty five years. How thrilling to see this once young kid, now a middle aged man with teenage children.

It has been years since we have seen our old neighbors from our first house on Long Island.  We always wondered why we never ran into any of them in all the years when we traveled.

Thinking it was time to connect, I invited his mother to our home to reacquaint each other and  catch up with all the years missed. She told me her husband had a stroke years ago and was recently admitted into a nursing home for life.  To my horror, after asking about old friends and neighbors, I was told that each member of most of the houses on our street passed away from cancer.  A couple of people died from heart attacks. Three family members who lived directly across the street from where we lived, died from brain tumors.  Someone who lived in our house died of cancer as well.

The news saddend me wondering  "why?"  I suspected the reason but who was I to predict something like this would happen to each member of a household?

We lived in a community near Kennedy Airport.  Our view was awesome, over looking Jamaica Bay.  In the evening the airport lit up magnificently.  At first we did not notice the noise and fumes from the planes flying so low over our houses.  We were busy making friends, decorating our homes, bringing up our little children and enjoying our new community.

 Then our sleepless nights occurred often when the noise awoke us. Listening to TV was difficult  Our picture frames were always crooked and the house vibrated as well.  I remember watching our little kids running out of the house to play, holding their ears as the plane flew over them.  It appeared we lived in a flight pattern where the planes flew over several times during the day and evening.

Our son became ill with asthma as soon as we moved in at the age of three.  Medications did not help and he was put on a strict diet.  It took a few years to sell our home and I can see now, we got out with our lives.

As soon as we moved up state, with no planes in sight, my son never had another asthma attack until our furniture arrived from storage.  I washed everything down well and polished all the wood.  He has been fine since and is doing well as a young 48 year old.

Still sadness lingers over the news. I researched Google and learned it was definitely confirmed by many studies, living close to airports causes cancer, heart diseases, strokes as well as other conditions.  It seems the noise does something to the immune system of the body. It affects people differently.  However, fumes from the planes are definitely the cause of cancer.

Researchers who have done studies say, people who live near the airports should get out as fast as they can before it's too late.

This is an example of how low  planes fly over the houses near airports.
This is how we lived for eight years

Do you know anyone living near the airport?
What are your thoughts in this study?
Please comment below

Monday, January 4, 2010


Face book is a great place to find old friends and acquaintances.  If you want to be found, that is.  Old classmates found me, however some were not recognizable until I went into my year book.

Sometimes I reflect back to when neighboring children played with our children in our yard.  Wondering what they look like today caught my curiosity.  As I typed their name in the search box, I anxiously waited to see their picture. "Could this be, the cute little girl with the big brown eyes that dominated her little face?" My, she is a grown woman, looking completely different today.  I never would have recognized her.  Yet others maintained the same face, only they are older and a little heavier than when they were children.  It was thrilling looking into their friends pictures seeing how much they have grown with children of their own.

What is more amazing was a name I recognized from my community address book.  It was quite unusual and one that would be remembered.  When glancing on Face book, I noticed my cousin married a woman with the same maiden name as my neighbor.  After emailing both, neither knew each other.  But a little while later both were face book friends.  Is that called a Shidoch? (Yiddish)

I have become a little addicted as I am with my emails.  I enjoy going into my home page to read about our grandchildren, if they are having a good day, or what ever is on their mind.  It keeps me up to speed on what they are thinking.  Once when speaking with my daughter on the phone, we chatted for hours.  Yet on Face book she spoke of things she forgot to tell me.  How wonderful is that!

Yet other news of my Face book friends can be eliminated if the content annoys me, yet they will still remain on my friend list. It has never been that bad where I had to block anyone.

There is still one more person to find.  An old neighbor and friend since childhood and one whom I loved.  Her name is Gloria Kaufman, an alumni  of Berkeley and I would like to know if she is okay.

Do you have any interesting stories about your Face book experiences?  Are you looking for someone too? Please comment below.
More about Face book and the most sorrowful and alarming news I have yet to report in my next issue.