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Judy Marcus
  • Newsflash for Ye: You may love Hitler, but he would not have loved you.

    Sure, the Nazis despised Jews, but they also had no love for Roma and Sinti people, gays, people with mental and disabilities, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. While Hitler and the other Nazis did not have an organized extermination plan for Black people as they did for Jews, don’t kid yourself, Ye, aka Kanye West. The Nazis considered Blacks to be in the sub-human category, too.

    Here’s the truth: Nazi policies directed against Blacks were cruel, inhumane and discriminatory. These policies reduced the rights and living conditions of Black people in Germany.

    In case, there’s any doubt about what Hitler thought of Blacks, he wrote in “Mein Kampf that there was “contamination by Negro blood on the Rhine in the heart of Europe,” which he said, “suits the purpose of the cool calculating Jew.”

    Ye, I should not have to point this stuff out to you and other haters. While I acknowledge you may have mental health issues and I would like to just ignore your revolting, jackass rantings, I can’t.

    Especially, when a certain former president (and now a presidential candidate) just had you and a white nationalist over to break bread. I mean WTF?

    According to the Anti-Defamation League antisemitic incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism in 2021 increased 34% over the previous year, which is the highest number since the ADL began tracking them in 1979.

    In New York City, it’s even more alarming. Last month, antisemitic incidents made up 60% of all hate crimes in the five boroughs. That’s an increase of 125% over the previous month.

    And as President Biden said last week, “Silence is complicity.” So here goes.

    Back in the 1920s, black soldiers of French-African descent occupied the Rhineland. Some of these soldiers married German woman, and had mixed-race children. These Afro-Germans were legal German citizens.

    The Nazis didn’t like this development. The mixed race children were labeled “Rhineland Bastards.” The Nazis were so afraid that the Afro-Germans would pollute the Aryan race that in 1937, under the Nazis, the children of these couples were secretly forced to undergo sterilization. That’s right, Ye, the Nazis were terrified these children would have kids and taint the lily-white German bloodline.

    An estimated 500 children were sterilized under this program, including girls as young as eleven-years-old.

    The number of Black Germans living in Nazi Germany were estimated to be between 20,000-25,000. Under the Nazis, people of African descent living in Germany were socially and economically ostracized. They could not attend university. They lost their jobs. They sometimes lost their citizenship.

    In 1935, the Nuremberg laws banned sexual relations and marriages between Jews and other Germans. Later, the laws were amended to include Black and Roma people .

    Black people living in Nazi Germany also faced increased persecution in schools and  further education. In 1935, “race science” became compulsory in schools. This pseudo-science promoted the idea that some people, such as Jews and Black people, were biologically inferior to white Aryan children.

    In 1939, black children in Austria were excluded from attending school. By 1941, this law covered the whole of the Third Reich.

    What’s more, Nazis deemed “Negro music”such as jazz and swing music, popular at the time, as “degenerate” and banned it.

    Exact numbers don’t exist, but some Black Germans were sent to concentration camps and forced labor camps, where some were murdered like Black German actor Bayume Mohamed Husen, who died in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1944. Others were subjected to cruel medical experiments.

    The Nazis never had an organized plan to exterminate Blacks, but that was most likely because their numbers were so few compared to Jews and other groups.

    Bottom line, Ye: Black people experienced persecution and discrimination before, during and after the Third Reich in Germany and elsewhere.

    And at least a couple of articles suggest there is evidence that if Nazi Germany had not been defeated, Black people most likely would eventually have been rounded up and murdered like the Jews.

    Yeah, Ye, the Nazis didn’t want Jews around, but they didn’t want you either.

    As the German anti-Nazi activist, who was, by the way, a prominent German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller said:

    They came first for the Communists,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and by that time no one was left to speak up.

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  • Have you heard about about the violin scam? It was news to me

    I wish it was possible for you to hear this photograph. The music I’m listening to in the Target parking lot is so beautiful it’s almost shocking. It seemingly is being performed by the man with the violin.

    Only he’s not actually playing it. He’s pretending to while a recorded music track plays on.

    This guy is a con artist. A scammer.

    The man to his left is part of the scam. He’s holding up a sign written in broken English that says, “I NEED HELP FOR ME 6 KIDS I NEED BUY FOOD AND PAY RENT GOD BLESS YOU FAMILY.” The sign also has information about how to send money to them on Venmo.

    This is the second time I had come across the violin scam so I was hip to the scheme. The first time, about a month ago, I wasn’t. I was coming out of Trader Joe’s when I heard the exquisite violin music.

    I glanced over at the sidewalk where a young woman was playing her heart out (or so it seemed), her wavy, long black hair swaying as she dramatically moved the bow over the violin strings. Next to her was a 6-year-old girl holding a sign similar to the one the guy in front of Target had.

    I was mesmerized by the ethereal music and the scene. I was also saddened. Confused. Who was this uber talented woman? And why did she have to resort to playing in a parking lot with a little girl in tow, asking people for money? I had visions of helping the woman get an audition, maybe with the CSO.

    The whole thing tore my heart out. Little did I know then that’s exactly what it was designed to do.

    Later that evening I was talking about it on the phone to my husband’s daughter Pam. “The same thing happened to me last week!” said Pam, who lives in Tucson, Arizona. She told me it’s a scam that’s going on all over the country.

    After we finished gabbing, I googled “violin scam” and sure enough, she was right. There were over two and a half billion–that’s billion with a b, search results! There was all sorts of evidence from the right, from the left and YouTube that this was a thing. And get this: the violin scammers all had almost the same wording on each of their signs!

    While I feel sorry for someone who has to fake-play a violin to make a living, and, admittedly, I enjoyed the music, I don’t like being played for a fool. But if I knew they were phony violin players, would I still give them money even if they gave Oscar-worthy performances? No way.

    Police say these fraudsters are part of an organized group. Not only are these people not musicians, their sob stories usually aren’t true either.

    What’s more, East Coast elder law attorney RJ Connelly III warns on his website that people giving money via phone apps like Venmo are particularly vulnerable.

    “Thieves who once used stolen paper checks to steal money from your account are now turning to digital fraud schemes. Because it’s remote, they can drain your account without ever having to show their faces. So if you still want to give money, despite the warnings about these frauds, never use electronic methods of payment to do so.”

    Bottom line: If you choose to give these scammers money, at least now you know the score. Yes, I know there are people out there doing far, far worse things. But understand this: These scammers are playing on your emotions, not the violin.

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  • The worst part about Alzheimer’s isn’t always the forgetting. Sometimes it’s the remembering

    Everyone knows Alzheimer’s is the God-awful disease in which people lose their memory. Eventually, their ability to do ordinary tasks are gone such as paying bills, making phone calls and sending emails. They lose their judgement.Their reasoning. Their dignity.

    But for my husband, at least, it’s the remembering, the remembering of upsetting events, that’s the most surprising for me and, perhaps, the most disturbing.

    It’s startling, really. He doesn’t remember where we keep the breakfast cereal that we eat nearly every day, but he vividly remembers the day his dad died some 40 years ago when he was killed in an accident at work.

    Allan doesn’t remember how to record a TV show or that we even can record a show, but he hasn’t forgotten the perceived wrongs his estranged sister did decades ago.

    He doesn’t remember that we’re leaving to going over to dinner later today to the home of our good friends, Chris and Randy, but he remembers that 20 years ago he dropped a glass of red wine in their family room at a party.

    You might think, of course, he remembers those things. They were very traumatic. But the thing is he remembers ordinary things that piss him off, too.

    He doesn’t remember that we went to Trader Joe’s and the Vitamin Shoppe yesterday, but he remembers that a month ago when he ordered a burrito bowl to-go at Chipotle, they left out the lettuce. He says he’ll never go back there again.

    He remembers that a neighbor didn’t say hello to him 10 years ago and is still angry with the guy.

    He doesn’t always remember that he has a memory problem although just the other day when he couldn’t come up with the name of his cousin, he said, rather profoundly, I thought, “It like there’s an eraser floating around in my brain.”

    One day, I’ll probably miss the odd and terrible things he now remembers and is able to verbalize. The cruelty of this disease knows no bounds. Virtual crying emoji goes here.

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  • Queen Elizabeth, Prince (now King) Charles, and the time I lived in England

    The Opinionated Woman in 1970 at a Carnaby Street shop in London. You can tell the photo was taken in England because the sign in the store on the top right says “lifts” not “elevators.”

    When I found out that Queen Elizabeth had passed away, I felt a bit melancholy. But I didn’t cry me a river, not even a drop leaked out from my eyes. After all, The Queen had lived a long, fulfilling life, had a happy marriage, traveled around the world and was surrounded by luxury and adoring family, subjects, and Corgis.

    I don’t mean to be cavalier, but she was 96-years-old, on the throne for 70 years. It was enough already. Besides, I’m an American. Need I say more?

    A couple of years from now, I doubt I’ll remember what I was doing when I learned she had died (scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed) although I do remember exactly what where I was when I found out Princess Diana was killed (I was in Cadillac, Michigan, visiting my mom’s friend Gerry and her little dog Peaches, who didn’t come home that night when we called her name over and over again. Sadly, Peaches was never found and presumed to have been snatched by an owl.).

    But The Queen’s death brought back memories of the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was gaga for everything British. There was Twiggy. The Beatles. The fabulous fashions–go-go boots, miniskirts and more. The cool, cool accents. It didn’t matter if the accent was Cockney or upper class; when an English person spoke, it was music to my American ears.

    I lived a rich fantasy life back then, and I was fixated on Prince Charles. I mean, he was a prince! And being so gangly and awkward (like me), he was more attainable, I reasoned, than, say, Paul McCartney, my favorite Beatle (the cute one who almost every other girl liked, too). In my imagination Charles and I would fall in love and marry.

    At first, his mother, The Queen, would despise me. After all, I was nonroyal, American, and, to top it all off, Jewish, but she would soon adore my charming self. As I said, I lived a rich fantasy life.

    By 1970, I was at the University of Illinois in Champaign studying to be an elementary school teacher, still enamored by all things British, when out of the blue, the U of I education department launched their first ever semester-long program to send students to study the new, innovative, open classroom concept. The program took place in– you guessed it, England!

    I had to get in that program. And I did. It was fairly inexpensive to go to school in Great Britain back then, and I convinced my parents it would be good for my resume, making me stand out from other graduates. (Turns out I was right. I later got a coveted position teaching 3rd graders in Park Ridge, Illinois while my newbie teacher/friends struggled to get jobs.)

    I ended up at Saint Mathias College, which was affiliated with the University of Bristol.

    St. Mathias College

    I soon got the hang of putting milk in my tea, saying “cheerio,” calling the bathroom “the loo”, policemen “bobbies,” an elevator a “lift,”and guys “blokes.”

    Two Bobbies in London.

    But some things threw me. One time, I needed a drugstore because I had my period. England was a civilized country, and it should have been no biggie, right? Wrong.

    When I asked around where I could find the nearest drugstore, the British students didn’t have a clue what I was talking about until it dawned on one them, “Oh, you mean a chemist!” Who knew across the pond they called a drugstore a chemist?

    So-oooo I walked to the chemist, i.e., drugstore, and discreetly asked the pharmacist where they kept the sanitary napkins. He directed me to the kitchen paper napkins.

    I got redder and redder as I went back up to him, and I tried to explain again what I really wanted. All he gave me back was a blank stare. I eventually found out sanitary napkins were called something else. I don’t remember what. I might have been studying in France or Spain with all the trouble I was having with English.

    Bristol is 118 miles from London, where I thought I’d run into The Prince. Not exactly next door, especially without access to a car.

    A few of my fellow U of I exchange students and I went to London once or twice and did the usual touristy things. Naturally, we stopped at Buckingham Palace, where we spotted the Royal Guards. Cool uniforms, but no prince in sight. How could Prince Charles and I ever find each other?

    A Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace.

    Eventually, I came home and gave up my dream of meeting and marrying Prince Charles. In 1981, after a TV reporter asked the newly engaged Charles and Diana if they were in love, he answered, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” How odd and unromantic, I thought. I felt sorry for Diana and was happy my path never crossed with The Prince’s. I had dodged a bullet (insert smiley face emoji here). .

    But back in 1970, when I returned to the U.S, I found out my parents were getting divorced. Reality hit, and it hit hard.

    Years later, I ended up marrying a man named Allan, who didn’t grow up in a palace, but an Albany Park bungalow. When we met, he owned a restaurant in the Rush Street area. As the years went by, I’ve learned something: Your partner doesn’t have to be a royal to be a prince. He just has to treat you royally.

  • Why inspirational quotes don’t do it for me anymore

    Seize the day

    The only people who fail are those who don’t try

    And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom

    Just do it

    I used to love these sorts of motivational quotations, sayings, advertising slogans and, yes, cliches. I have often used them to psyche myself up to do something that gives me a sense of fulfillment.

    Writing is one of those things. Why would I have to psyche myself up? Laziness? Fear of rejection? Making a fool out of myself? Of being, well, boring? Check. Check. Check. Check.

    These quotes were inspiring to me, useful in motivating myself to get off my figurative and literal butt and begin to write. For more than 20 years, the Anais Nin quote you see in the photo above has been perched on my bookshelf in my office, unframed, now smudged and discolored. Not a day goes by that I don’t sneak a peek at it.

    I imagine you might need a little motivation, a little push to do certain things, too. Maybe it’s going back to school. Or playing the flute. Or taking up, say, karate or tap dancing.

    A few years ago, my husband Allan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Before that, I was in denial. When Allan would ask for the 6th or 7th or 20th time what time it was or what we were having for dinner or what day we were going to the dentist, I didn’t want to believe there was anything wrong.

    I would get angry, thinking he was wasn’t paying enough attention to me. He was always a bit spacey (in a cute way), I rationalized. It was part of his persona.

    Still, underneath I knew. His mother had dementia so I was already familiar with what a heartbreaking journey it was for everyone involved. When he was finally diagnosed, I went into a horrible depression that I hope to never relive again.

    On top of it, my inspirational tools–my quotes–no longer made any sense. How could I “Seize the day,” i.e. pursue my personal wants and desires, when there were so many pressing issues taking up my time? My attention. My energy.

    For the most part, I couldn’t. I’m not trying to be a hero or a martyr here. It is what it is. I knew my priorities had to change.

    I’m certainly no expert at caregiving. I imagine like most caregivers, I’m kinda winging it (with a bit of help from professional experts, other caregivers and Google). Over time, I’ve been learning what keeps Allan well and content. Also, what will set him off in a direction that isn’t good for him or for me. At least, I know for now.

    It suddenly dawned on me that my inspirational quotes still have value to me, albeit, in a different way. “Seize the day” now means find a way, even in challenging moments, to help keep my husband happy.

    Yesterday he was pissed off because he thought the garbage men didn’t empty our can (they did).

    Today, he looked like the model for a happy face emoji. He had a humongous grin on his face and danced me around the kitchen. If I can somehow contribute to keeping him happy, it makes me happy. Content in a way I could never be any other way.

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  • The dirt on why I’m no longer on ChicagoNow and where you can find me.

    Judy Marcus

    Friends and loyal readers: If you recently tried to click onto my blog on ChicagoNow, this is what you found.

    See, I’m no longer on the ChicagoNow blogging site because, as of last week, there is no ChicagoNow on the planet. Or at least on the internet. It’s been killed by the powers that be at Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that acquired Tribune Publishing in May 2021.

    It’s not that surprising that ChicagoNow is gone. Sadly, a slew of fine reporters, editors and columnists lost their jobs at the Chicago Tribune last year when Alden took over. ChicagoNow was part of Tribune Publishing, and Alden, the new owners, were entitled to do what they wanted with it.

    But to not answer our questions, to not respond in any way whatsoever when rumors were flying, and then shutting down the platform abruptly without warning, was mean, cruel and unnecessary.

    Would it have been so hard for someone at Alden to send out an email to the bloggers informing them that ChicagoNow would be kaput in two weeks? One week? Even a day?

    According to Jimmy Greenfield, who launched ChicagoNow and lovingly nurtured it and its bloggers (many of us were newbie bloggers when we joined the site) for eight years, ChicagoNow blogs once boasted 25 million page views a month.

    Up until last week, there were still many insightful, funny, interesting, generous writers who actively maintained blogs on ChicagoNow. When Alden suddenly shut the site down, many of those bloggers lost the entire body of their work.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to save my posts and to find a new home for my blog. But I did lose my subscription list. I have no idea if you were on it.

    Sooooo, if you want to keep following me, I’m right here at Opinionated Woman Chicago. It’s free to subscribe, which you can at the bottom of this page. Or look for me at ChicagoNow Live, where you can find some of your other favorite former ChicagoNow bloggers.

    You may be wondering why I blog period? After all, I used to get paid to write. First, as an advertising copywriter. Later, as a freelance journalist writing features for an array of publications, including, yes, the Chicago Tribune.

    What I can tell you is there is a certain kind of freedom and pleasure I get from writing whenever the whim strikes me on whatever topic I choose.

    Plus, I am a caregiver to my husband, who has early stage Alzheimer’s. He’s doing okay right now, but my primary focus is on him, not writing. So I write when time permits, which I can’t do if I have a deadline.

    So that’s the story about my story. Bottomline: Alden Global Capital sucks, but I’m still here. Hope to see you again down the road.

  • How to get the bad guys to spill the beans: Give them mammograms

    A long time ago, someone (I’m sure it was a man), decided that women are the weaker sex. What a bunch of hooey.

    Think about all the sh*t and pain that women have to put up with that men don’t. Periods. Cramps. GIVING BIRTH!!! (Try pushing a 6 pound something out of one of your tiny orifice, guys.).

    And if that’s not enough, there’s menopause, which comes with hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vajayjay dryness, hair loss and urinary problems.

    Still, there’s something we ladies endure that’s in a category by itself: getting a mammogram. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast tissue, which doesn’t sound so bad, right? True, it’s an important tool doctors use to screen for breast cancer. But trust me. It’s also a torture device.

    In case you don’t know–and if you’re a male, you probably don’t–here’s how the process goes: a technician jams your boob onto a horizontal glass plate while forcefully arranging your arms, legs and shoulders into an awkward position that would not be described as looking like you were doing a happy dance.

    We ladies have to remain in that position–frozen and not breathing–during every image they take, but that’s hardly the worst part. Another plate comes down from above, shoving your breast between the two glass plates, compressing your tata as flat as a tortilla. Well, not exactly a tortilla, a fluffy pancake maybe, but you get the picture.

    Needless to say, it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it hurts like hell. And once they’ve tormented you on one breast, the do it all over again on the other one.

    If you’re small-breasted (guilty as charged), the tech pulls and pushes and stretches your breast tissue like it’s Domino’s pizza dough. If you’re big-busted, they have to smoosh more of your breast down, down down, squeezing it between the two glass plates. 

    I’m not usually one to complain when getting a test or vaccine, but during my last mammogram (which I’m thrilled to report, showed no indication of malignancy), I was in so much agony I squealed like a pig, shrieking like the devil had come for me, which he did in it the form of this device.

    Look, I don’t mean to underplay or demean the significance of mammography as an important health care tool, and we women are lucky to have it.

    All I’m saying is if they can figure out how to put a man on the moon, which Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin they first did back in 1969, why can’t they make a contraption to screen for breast cancer which doesn’t inflict so much pain at the same time?

    If this kind of suffering was happening to a sensitive part of the male anatomy, say a guy’s testicles had to be mashed like a potato for a health screening, I’m pretty sure the problem would be fixed lickity-split.

  • One thing Alzheimer’s can’t take away from us: love

    Last year, naturally, I bought a card for my husband for our wedding anniversary. Unnaturally, I didn’t expect one back.

    Several years ago, my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I haven’t written anything about it until now because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Although the disease hasn’t progressed as quickly as I feared it might, the words I’ve written here no longer have the power to hurt him.

    Anyway, a year ago on our anniversary, I propped up a pink envelope which I covered in crude blue ink-drawn hearts on his pillow. Inside was a card. When he saw the envelope, he grinned and tore into it neatly and carefully, as he does most everything. He got a little teary-eyed, and he said he was going to write something back to me.

    I told him it wasn’t necessary, but he was determined to do it anyway. I could see he struggled as he wrote– to find the words, spell them and actually write them down.

    It took him about a half an hour before he handed the note to me. But what he wrote was beautiful, poignant, heartfelt. I took a minute to take it all in. I was touched. Grateful for what he chose to do and that he was still able to do it. After all, I didn’t know if a moment like this it would ever happen again.

    Which brings me to the other day. Our anniversary had rolled around once again. It was our 37th! As usual, I gave him a card. I could tell he was really touched by it as, once again, as he got verklempt as he read it.

    He put the card up on his nightstand. And that was that. He forgot all about the card and our anniversary in a few minutes. This time, it certainly didn’t occur to him that he should give me a card too or write something back.

    I wasn’t angry or upset as I would have been years ago, before his official diagnosis. By now, I knew the score. It was not his fault. Still, it made me sad, nostalgic for the way things once were.

    One thing I had always cherished in our relationship were the thoughtful, loving cards he would present to me for anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day. To be sure, they were always commercial cards, but he always added his own handwritten sentiments, personal expressions of love.

    Even though I will probably never receive another card or note from my husband again, I’ve kept the cards I’ve received from him over the years, stashed in the bottom drawer of my dresser. I took some of them out today, and they were as lovely as ever (perhaps, a bit mushy, but who doesn’t love mushy from your main squeeze!?).

    Don’t get me wrong. Alzheimer’s sucks ass. It’s fucking, fucking horrible. It’s worse than any words–including swear words, I could possibly write. It has robbed my husband of many things, his memory and cognitive abilities, foremost. But the disease has also stolen from me, too, including the ordinary and extraordinary things couples do for each other and with each together.

    I notice bits and pieces of my husband disappearing every day. But, so far, he’s still the same sweet, silly, caring, kind, loving person I married. As I glance at these old cards, one thing I can say is that I was never a woman who doubted her husband’s love. And although the disease is taking away his mind, for now at least, it hasn’t taken away his heart.


  • The time I accidently walked into a cannabis bakery

    It all started with babka. For the last month or so, I’d had a hankering for a slice of the stuff. So when I was asked to bring a dessert to a brunch at my sister and my brother-in- law’s house, I knew just what I would get.

    Babka. Not just any babka. A chocolate babka. From Leonard’s Bakery in Northbrook. And if chocolate wasn’t available, I would snag a cinnamon nut one. Leonard’s, after all, was legendary on the North Shore for their Jewish-style favorites: challah bread, hamentashen, rugelach, mandel bread, and, yes, babka.

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with babka, it’s a dense, braided bread-like cake made with yeast and layers of sweet filling. It was made famous in a “Seinfeld” episode. Babka originated in the Jewish communities of Poland, Russia and Ukraine in the early 19th century, and it’s often found here in kosher and Jewish bakeries.

    Leonard’s wasn’t exactly next door to my house, but it was close to my doctor’s office. I decided I would stop there after my upcoming appointment.

    My mouth was watering as my husband pulled into the bakery’s parking lot, but we soon realized there was no Leonard’s there. In its place was, however, the Wake N Bakery.

    We were in shock. What happened to Leonard’s? Did they change their name? Were they bought out? Do they still sell Leonard’s goodies? We were already they there, so what the heck. We went inside to check it out.

    When we stepped inside the front door, we could see right away the store looked completely different. The place was freshly painted, very stark, with colorful, hippie-like murals, like something you’d like on a Grateful Dead album cover.

    There was no line of beautiful babkas or row upon row of fragrant challah breads. None of Leonard’s famous chocolate coffee cakes drenched in glistening, sweet, chocolatey goodness.

    Was there the heavenly scent freshly baked goodies? There was none. Nada. Zilch.

    There were a few sweets on display. But the prices!? Damn. I mean $16.88 for a brownie!? Chocolate Chip Pecan cookies for $10.88??? Each. Whaaaaat!?

    Behind the counter, a tall, friendly, bearded young man could see we were completely befuddled. He told us Leonard’s, which had been in business for 34 years, closed two years ago.

    The guy explained to us clueless souls that Wake N Bakery was a bakery which sold sweets and drinks items which were infused with cannabis, THC hemp-derived cannabis. The sweet baked goods were made right on the premises, too. (Later I learned the bakery was a franchise of the bakery and coffee shop, Wake-N-Bakery in Lakeview.)

    Aha! Now it made sense.

    “Would you like to try a Banana Nut muffin? Or an Oreo cupcake?” he asked. He explained the cupcakes ranged in price from $8.88 to $10.88 to $18.88. The nice guy explained that the cupcake price differential was due to how big the cannabis infusion was. The larger the infusion, the higher the price of the cupcake.

    “Not today, I said. “Maybe next time.” And I meant it. Maybe we would “get “sconed,” as it says on the bakery’s website, in the future.

    When I badgered the nice bearded guy with more questions about Leonard’s, he kindly and patiently told us, Wake ‘N Bakery did not sell any products made from Leonard’s recipes, but Once Upon a Deli, located next door, did. The business had purchased some of Leonard’s recipes.

    With that info, we hightailed it next door with high (no pun intended) hopes. They did have some of Leonard’s standbys. But sadly, no babkas. Turned out they didn’t make or sell babkas.

    At Once Upon a Deli, we ended up buying a chocolate coffee cake, which tasted exactly the same as the one I remember from Leonard’s. Over-the- top sweet. Drowning in chocolate. Addictively delicious. So much so, one bite and we were experiencing a high of our own. It may have been just a sugar buzz high, nevertheless, for now at least, it was high enough for us.

  • What my Russian-American relatives have to say about Putin and the war in Ukraine

    Recently, I learned more about my roots. Turns out my grandfather left behind five brothers and sisters in Russia when he came to the U.S. in the early 20th century.

    Many of their descendants are still alive and well, living in the U.S., Russia, Germany and elsewhere. This was news to me. Exciting news.

    Among my new-found relatives is a married couple, Julia, 46, and her husband Sergei 47 (not their real names). They are IT engineers living in California who immigrated to the U.S. in 2001, a year after Putin came into power.

    Julia’s 75-year-old mother still lives in Russia. In fact, Julia was able to visit her mom in Moscow as recently as December of last year. Presently, her mother is trying to get a visa to come to the U.S. She still isn’t sure if she wants to live in America permanently or remain in Russia, where her son and other relatives live.

    Julia and Sergei keep in touch with friends and family in Russia and Ukraine. With day after day of watching the horrors happening in Ukraine, I thought the couple might be able to share some light on the war there. They generously agreed to talk to me. Here’s part of what they had to say.

    Q: What do the average people in Russia believe about the ongoing situation in Ukraine?

    Sergei: You have to understand that unless you have some technical background, it is very difficulty to get access to independent media in Russia. Putin has shut it down. What the population hears on the radio and watches on TV is complete propaganda.

    Russia is led by a dictator in an autocratic state so most people learn only what Putin decides they should hear. He suppresses any other information. You can’t even use the word “war.” You can get up to 15 years in prison if you “misrepresent” what’s going on in Ukraine! You have to say “special military operation.”

    He told the Russian people that soldiers went into Ukraine because it’s a serious threat to Russia. That there was militarization against Russia, new fascist elements, neo-nazism within Ukraine. Therefore, he said, Russia invaded Ukraine for humanitarianism and peace-keeping reasons.

    But Putin is a master of deception. He feeds people lies and half-truths. For example, while it is true that there is historical context for widespread antisemitism in Ukraine in the past, that is not the case, now… After all, the president of Ukraine is Jewish!

    Julia: My mother was never a supporter of Putin, but he had the support of most of the Russian people for a long time. Putin represented stability, the ability to travel, get free medical care. At the same time, a lot of people say he is a different person now than he was then.

    Sergei: Putin told the Russian people that Ukraine, directed by the U.S., has biological labs where they are working on developing weapons which the Ukraine army will direct at Russian cities, and that Ukrainians in Chernobyl were working on a dirty nuclear bomb.

    Most people believe him and support him. But from the people I talk to in Russia, nobody expected Putin to do what he is doing–not in their worst nightmares. 

    Putin was surprised by the resistance to Russian troops. Russians approved when he invaded Crimea. He thought in Ukraine, the people there–especially in the east, would greet the Russian soldiers with flowers and open arms.

    Q: What do you think is the real reason Putin sent troops to Ukraine?

    Sergei: There are different narratives of why Putin went into Ukraine. The decision was made by Putin and a small group of people he trusts. There are probably multiple aspects which influenced his decision.

    I believe one of the reasons is economic. There is natural gas in the region, and Putin wants it. After Poroshenko–who was the president of Ukraine after pro-Russian Yanukovych, but before Zelensky, contracts with Russia were canceled.

    Another reason, is oil transit. He wants to be able to go through Ukraine to get Russian oil to sell to European countries.

    He also sees Russia as losing influence. He wants to establish a new Russian Empire. He wants to be remembered as a great leader and have his legacy to be as a Peter The Great.

    Q: What do you hear from relatives and friends in Ukraine?

    Most of them have fled the country, but I have three elderly aunts in Kiev and Odessa who won’t leave.

    When the war first started and people wanted to get out, it could cost $2,500 for a person to get on one of buses to take them to the border! Now there is more organization, more volunteers to help them. And most people who wanted leave already did.

    A couple of weeks ago, I talked to one of the aunts, and they were all doing okay. They were happy because they were able to get out and buy bread and sugar. But everybody is super nervous.

    For the last month, one my aunts was sleeping in the hallway of her flat because she thought she was more protected if bombs went off. Last night was the first time she slept in her bed.

    As the Russians pull out of Kiev, things are improving there, at least for now. They have heat and electricity for the most part. People are talking about kids going back to school. But everyone is glued to their TV sets and on the internet, trying to get information. My aunts are devastated as they’re just learning about all the atrocities.

    Q: How are Russian people living without access to credit cards such as Visa?

     Sergei: One way is that people are using Chinese credit cards now instead of American ones.

    Q: Is there anything else the U.S. can do to help stop the war other than sending our soldiers into Ukraine, which Americans don’t have an appetite for?

    Well, many people want to leave Russia and Ukraine. The U.S. can streamline the process of issuing visas. Also, we can put as much pressure as possible on China to not trade with the Russians. We need to pay attention to other rogue actors like Iran and North Korea. We need to increase sanctions on Iran, which could become a proxy for Russia.

     Q: What can ordinary Americans do to help? Do you have any organizations you’d recommend donating money to?

    Julia: I support Cash for Refugees.

    Sergei: We are Jewish and also support through the American Jewish Committee.


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