Sunday, March 29, 2020

stand and deliver

Mrs. Pincus and I have been eating the same thing for dinner — nearly every night — for over a year... and we love it! We actually look forward to it. No, it isn't anything exotic or that can be considered "gourmet." In fact, it's fairly simple with minimal preparation. We eat salad. A big salad... with all kinds of stuff on it. Although I have been a vegetarian for almost fifteen years, I eat a surprisingly limited amount of vegetables, the majority of which are commonly classified as "salad" ingredients. I pass on tomatoes, cucumbers and celery. I will, however, include generous amounts of green peppers, radishes, artichokes and pickles. Yes, pickles! I love pickles on salad. Curiously, my wife likes the vegetables that I don't like, so our refrigerator is still stocked with celery stalks and a container or two of little grape tomatoes. Our salads are usually topped with a five ounce can each of salmon. Then we garnish our big salads with a sprinkling of crispy French fried onions and a smattering of "bacon bits," those tiny morsels of unknown origin that have never been anywhere near actual bacon. The kosher certification emblazoned on the label — to this day — cracks me up.

We try to keep all of these ingredients on hand at all times. Since most of these items are straight from the fresh produce section of our local supermarket, we find ourselves having to restock and replenish the vegetable drawer of our refrigerator a few times a week. And now that we are forced to stay in our homes due to the threat of the spreading COVID-19 pandemic, even sporadic visits to the supermarket can be somewhat dicey. Not to mention the fact that some supermarkets are having a difficult time keeping some items on their shelves. Mrs. P has still been venturing out to a nearby produce store, in an effort to stop her 80+ year-old parents from going out into the risky world. For other, shelf-stable items, we have taken (like most people) to having groceries delivered. During Week 1 of our government-mandated quarantine, we placed an order with mighty retailer Walmart. I love and hate Walmart. Their prices are ridiculously cheap, but as an entity, they are the bane of my existence.... but their prices are so low! Through their website, Mrs. Pincus placed an order for the following items: nine 6 ounce foil packages of French fried onions (we had been out of these for at least a week and our salads lacked that familiar "crunch"); a 13 ounce container of imitation bacon bits (again, the last of our fake bacon bits were shaken out weeks ago); and two 21 ounce bottles of teriyaki sauce (I love steamed broccoli dipped in teriyaki sauce. Maybe I like the taste or maybe this is the only way you can get me to eat broccoli. Who really knows?). That's it. That was the order. Within a day or so, allowing for the sudden rush of online orders, Mrs. Pincus received an email stating that our order would arrive on Saturday.

Well, Saturday rolled around. Another email arrives informing us that our delivery had arrived. I looked out the window of our front door and, except for the things that are usually on our front porch, it was empty. No box from Walmart... no matter what Federal Express claimed. I went outside and surveyed the area around our porch, expanding my search to include our front lawn, the front walkway and even the shrubs and flower beds that surround our porch. You never know the thought pattern and camouflage methods employed by a Fed Ex driver. I checked everywhere and concluded there was no delivery. My mind began to wander. In the current climate of panic and uncertainty, did some desperate scavenger sneak out of his claustrophobic self-quarantine, take a box from our front porch and spirit it away to a make-shift shelter to revel in his spoils. Did he think they had absconded with untold riches (from Walmart, no less!)? Was he hoping for something he could use as bartering leverage on the Black Market? I would love to been a fly on the wall when this motherfucker split the security tape on the box to reveal fried onions, fake bacon bits and teriyaki sauce! Serves 'im right! Bastard!

I posted an account of our Saturday morning "possible" burglary episode on Twitter (as I am want to do) while the more reasonable Mrs. P contacted some of our neighbors to see if our delivery was accidentally waylayed to one of their homes at the hands of a dyslexic Fed Ex driver. After getting negative replies for our contacted neighbors (my wife actually talks to our neighbors), she called Walmart customer service. The service rep said that we would be refunded for the order and, if we still wanted the items, we would have to reorder them. Well, of course we wanted the items, so Mrs. P recreated the order.

Three days later, on Tuesday, a plain brown box arrived on our front porch. Aside from the reordered Walmart items, we were not expecting anything. I brought the box in, examining the unusual way the address label was affixed. I realized that it had been cut from another box and carelessly taped to this new box. The blue remnants of a Walmart box were still attached to the label, clearly visible through the transparent packing tape. I opened the box. It contained a translucent plastic bag, its contents obscured. I undid the knot at the top of the bag with Mrs. P witnessing my untying ability. To our surprise, the bag contained nine bags of French fried onions and a large plastic container of imitation bacon bits. Conspicuously missing were the two bottles of teriyaki sauce. Or were they.....? Upon closer tactile examination, each foil bag of fried onions was coated with a thin layer of teriyaki sauce, as was the container of bacon bits. Actually, in some spots, the dried sauce was clumpier, a light brown in color with visible congregations of sesame seeds. And each bag smelled like a Benihana's.

I tossed the bags — one by one — into the kitchen sink, where Mrs. Pincus gingerly wiped them down with a wet paper towel. Then, we further inspected each bag, checking for a complete state of unstickiness. Several bags required additional wiping, especially in the folds and creases of their undersides. Mrs. P cleaned the bacon bits container. We placed everything on a dish towel to dry. A little later, we found room for everything in our cabinets along the stockpiles of our favorite salad dressings. (When did we become food hoarders?) We are still short the two bottles of teriyaki sauce.

So, now we wait for the replacement order. After it arrives (if it arrives), we will have eighteen bags of friend onions, another giant container of imitation bacon bits and — hopefully — those two bottles of teriyaki sauce.

Then, we'll be all set for the next pandemic.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

splendid isolation

This is weird. Very weird.

Like many people worldwide, I am working from home... except I am working from home for the first time in my 30+ tenure in the workforce. Honestly, it is very disorienting, but I am slowly getting used to the situation. For twelve years, I worked in the marketing department of a law firm. When I would arrange and take time off for a vacation, my supervisor would throw herself into a panic in the weeks and days before my scheduled time off. I argued that the graphic designer couldn't possibly hold this much importance in a law firm. Often I would ask if I could work from home, something I felt was totally feasible with an internet connection. I was regularly told that it was impossible and my request was denied. I don't work there anymore.

Well, here I am... two weeks into a mandatory "work from home" situation set in place by local jurisdictions to combat the potential spread of the volatile COVID-19 pandemic. Although my current job is very "hands-on," I am working from home.

Unfortunately, there is very little work. My employer is very reliant on the trade show industry and since trade shows (and other public gatherings) are being canceled left and right... well, there is very little to do. At the end of the work day on March 12, 2020, an ominous office-wide email went out, the contents of which gave instructions to all employees to take their computers home with them. "Work from Home" would begin the next morning... like it or not.

To maintain as much "normalcy" as possible, I still wake up at 5:30 in the morning, like I always do. I wake up so early because I work approximately forty miles away. My commute, depending on traffic, is a little over an hour on some mornings. However, now that I'm working from home, my commute is about thirty seconds, or as long as it takes me to walk downstairs to my dining room table. But still, I wake up when I am used to waking up and I get dressed like I'm going to work.

I get a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal and I watch a few episodes of The Andy Griffith Show — as is my usual morning ritual. Now, because the traffic is much lighter, I can watch My Three Sons, The Beverly Hillbillies and an episode of Leave It to Beaver and still be on time for work. At 8:30, I send an email to my boss, letting him know that I am ready and anxious to tackle any work that may come our way. Almost immediately, I receive a reply from my boss to say: "Thanks." Then I don't hear from him again until 5:30 when his email wishes me a "good evening," echoing our daily parting words when we are at our office. We had one meeting via Microsoft Teams that was awkward. Our weekly, 30-minute production meeting, conducted as one big conference call, lasted about four minutes.

My "work day" now is taken up with more television watching. I have seen every episode of Friends, Family Affair, Petticoat Junction and Father Knows Best. Some of them multiple times. I have scrolled through countless posts on Instagram and Twitter, adding mindless silly comments where I probably would have been better off keeping my thoughts to myself. I have drawn pictures of dead celebrities that I will add to my illustration blog in the coming weeks. I have watched several concerts on my phone. Performances by artists confined to their own homes, trying to release pent-up energy squashed by canceled tours. In the late afternoon, I take a daily walk with my wife. We respect the new normal of "social distancing" from our neighbors, but, as the days go on, there are fewer and fewer people from which to "social distance."

This time at home has a melancholy feel to it. I hate being non-productive. Sure, the are some Saturdays where I don't change out of my pajamas for the entire day. But that's what Saturdays are for. I don't like sitting day after day and doing almost nothing... especially when I am used to doing something. It reminds me of, a few years ago, when I lost my job. Every morning, after scouring and applying to every relevant job posting on the internet, I sat on my sofa and watched television. I rarely paid attention to what I was watching. And I hated it.

So, now I have a new job and some disease is disrupting my daily routine with no ending point in sight. We are trying to stay optimistic. We are trying to look forward to the day when we can go back to work and we are trying to brush away visions of Will Smith walking through a deserted city in I Am Legend.

At least I'm trying.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

that's what keeps us going on and on and on and on

Today is the fifth consecutive day that I have been working from home. My office closed last Friday, along with thousands of other businesses, due to concerns regarding the unprecedented spread of the virus known as COVID-19. Just a few days prior, every staff member was warned of a possible — no, pending — closure. On Thursday, every one received an email informing us that the office would be closing indefinitely as of Friday morning.

So, here I am. Working from home for the first time in 30+ years of being a part of the work force. After I check in with my supervisor around 8:30 in the morning, I have had, pretty much, nothing to do. To maintain a sense of normalcy, I have been waking up at my usual "get ready to go to work" time. I posted my usual celebrity death anniversaries on Facebook. I drew some pictures. I watched a lot of television. I further wound my way around the internet, including posting a more-than-normal group of pictures on Instagram — both freeze-frames from television shows and screenshots from things I found on various websites.

This morning, I came across a story about former (or current... depending on how you look at it) Queen guitarist Brian May. As a longtime fan of the theatrical British rockers, I have had an on-going beef with May, ever since he began opening his previously-closed mouth in the days, weeks and years since the passing of iconic lead singer Freddie Mercury. I loved — and I mean loved — Queen. After a brief hiatus in the wake of Mercury's death, May, along with drummer Roger Taylor, assembled a few different incarnations of Queen. He took these cobbled together bands on the road, first with former Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers and more recently, American Idol eighth season runner-up Adam Lambert. (Former Queen bassist John Deacon retired from the music business, citing the death of band mate and close friend Mercury as the reason.) I do not begrudge Brian May or Roger Taylor for their desire to make music. Their contemporaries have continued, even as their advancing age brings them ever closer to irrelevance. I don't care that they continue to perform Queen songs, despite being only fifty percent of the band. (I cite The Who, ELO and even Paul McCartney as other examples.) What I do object to, is Brian May's self-appointed position as Freddie Mercury's mouthpiece, as well as official band historian. On many occasions, May has been quote as saying "Freddie would have liked this." or "This is what Freddie would have wanted." Referencing online apps testing your vocal range versus Freddie Mercury's vocal range, May puffed "Freddie would have loved this." May asserted Freddie Mercury's approval for licensing Queen songs in commercials for dog food and potato chips. Brian had final say over script and production of Bohemian Rhapsody, the Oscar-winning bio pic of the origins of Queen. While I will happily praise the performance of Rami Malek for his uncanny portrayal of Mercury, the rest of the film was a total fabrication, fraught with inaccuracies, anachronisms and plain old made up stuff. In promotional interviews, May admitted to the falsehoods in the film, but brushed them off as "poetic license." This is my gripe with Brian May.

So, today, I found a story explaining that Brian May fears that the current incarnation of his Queen will no longer be able to tour in the uncertain aftermath of the coronavirus. I screenshot the headline and posted on Instagram with the caption: "Coronavirus may stop Brian May's efforts to shit all over Freddie Mercury's legacy." This, I would soon find out, would not sit well with some other folks who were killing time on the internet while they, too, were working from home. Soon after this post (which I simultaneously posted to my Twitter account), I received a response from  one "❤️Anna 15 days until 🎂❤️" — yes, that's the name. My comment apparently offended Miss Heart Birthday Cake Heart, and she let me know just how much.
I guess she saw an earlier post of mine, berating Brian May for arrogantly referring to himself as "your friendly neighbourhood rock star."  Nevertheless, this began a vicious back and forth between Anna and her emojis and ol' JPiC.

I replied: "I'll stop when he stops"

❤️Anna 15 days until 🎂❤️: "And how exactly is Brain May shitting on Freddie's legacy?"

I sent her a link to one of several blog posts (on this blog, as a matter of fact) in which I expressed my feelings about Mr. (oops, I mean Doctor) May's behavior. She was not convinced. Or perhaps she just didn't fully read my post. Or maybe "comprehension" just isn't her thing.

❤️Anna 15 days until 🎂❤️: "But they are not shitting on Freddie’s legacy. They are just keeping Queen’s music alive. There is nothing wrong with that. They are still Queen no matter what." I'm thinking that she didn't read my post. I don't blame her. I do have a tendency to get long-winded when making a point. Look at the size of this post, for goodness sake!

Not one to give up so easily, I replied: "They are not Queen. They are Brian May and Roger Taylor and a singer from American Idol. I have no problem with them continuing to make music. I don't like Brian May becoming the self-appointed spokesperson for Freddie Mercury and whitewashing Queen's history. My opinion."

Anna came back hard and fast... and insulting. ❤️Anna 15 days until 🎂❤️: "Bit of a dumb opinion if I do say so myself."

JPiC:"You are not the first person to call me dumb. Not even today. I'm sure I'm not the first person to call you narrow-minded."

❤️Anna 15 days until 🎂❤️: "Actually, you are the first person to call me Narrow minded today"

JPiC: "It's early."

Anna's final response was priceless.

I love the internet and this "working from home" deal is starting to grow on me.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

these are a few of my favorite things

Here's a questions almost everybody has been asked at one time or another....

"What's your favorite _______ ?" 

"Color" is usually the word that fills in the blank most often, followed by "food," then "band" then any number of specific categories.

When I was younger, I always had an answer to any "what's your favorite" inquiry that was posed. My favorite color was orange. We had plastic tumblers at my house and I always selected the orange one from which to drink. Eventually, that orange tumbler was placed at my usual seating position at the dinner table without a special request.

My favorite food changed as I grew up, but I always had a specific favorite. As a kid, my favorite food was Frosty-O's cereal with Dudley Do-Right on the front of the box... not the one with Chumley, Tennessee Tuxedo's dimwitted sidekick. There was something cheerful and compelling about the cartoon Mountie's smiling visage on a bright green background that made me want to consume bowl after bowl of those little sugar bullets. And I could happily — and effortlessly — eat bowl after bowl of Frosty-O's and never get sick of it... until, I course, I got sick of it. As a teenager, my favorite food was pizza. My father was convinced that I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner... and, quite possibly, he was right.

When I was in high school, everyone knew I was the guy who loved Queen. My bedroom was plastered with giant posters of the British band, as was the inside of my locker. I bought their albums as soon as they were released and I would sleep out for tickets when a concert tour was announced. I knew every lyric to every one of their songs. I studied every Queen-related article in every publication, absorbing a plethora of trivial tidbits like a sponge. Actually, my obsession had its rewards. In the summer of '82, there was a street vendor on Philadelphia's famed South Street who sold the original Chipwich, an innovative frozen novelty comprised of a slab of vanilla ice cream between to chocolate chip cookies with the exposed edge of ice cream covered in more chocolate chips. He had a sign hanging from the giant branded umbrella that shaded his branded cart which read "Rock and Roll Trivia." When questioned, he explained that if a customer could answer three questions about any rock band, he would award them with a free Chipwich. I was game because who couldn't use a free ice cream sandwich?!? Of course, I chose to answer three questions about Queen. The Chipwich guy eyed me up and down as he prepared to deliver the first of three guaranteed stumpers.

"What is Brian May's guitar made from?," he asked, a smirk spreading across his face. He folded his arms across his chest and waited for me to throw my hands in the air in surrender.

I looked him right in the eye and answered in my best smug voice, "A chair and some wood from his fireplace." The Chipwich guy was dumbfounded. His eyes widened and his jaw literally dropped open. He reached into the freezer compartment and extracted a cellophane-wrapped treat. "I'm not even going to ask you the other two questions.," he said, shaking his head in disbelief, "No one knows that! You get the Chipwich!"

My favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz until I saw James Cagney push around the Dead End Kids in Angels with Dirty Faces. Then, when I was thirteen, my more sophisticated tastes were piqued by Phantom of the Paradise. That became my favorite movie. It remained my unwavering favorite for five full months when Tommy took its place at the top of my list. Then, my mother introduced me to Singin' in the Rain and that became my new favorite. I experienced a similar streak with television shows. First, I was enamored with Milton the Monster, then Underdog. Then, I moved on to The Brady Bunch, then The Partridge Family. Of course, I graduated to more meaningful, well written, programs like Hill Street Blues and ER as I got older. After the cancellation of those two shows, my interest in currently produced television shows dwindled. I found myself not wanting to follow an ongoing story line and not wishing to keep track of a specific cast of characters. Instead, I watched reruns of old shows, readily available on a number of cable networks.

But now.... now, I really don't have any favorite anything.

Sure, there are foods that I like and bands that I like and movies that I like, but I wouldn't designate any of them as "my favorite." If I was asked, "What food could you eat for the rest of your life?," I'd say Mexican food.... or Chinese food.... or my old stand-by — pizza. But I don't think any of those would qualify as "my favorite." With very few exceptions*, I will eat nearly anything that is put in front of me, because I know it will not be my last meal.... until it is. But, I don't have a favorite food.

I go to a lot of concerts and I listen to a lot of music. While I still have a soft spot for Queen from a purely nostalgic standpoint, there is no band I would say is currently "my favorite." Yes, I like a lot of bands, but I really don't have a "favorite."

The same goes for television and movies. I like some movies. I don't like some movies. I watch a lot of reruns of television shows that were popular when I was a kid and I watch very few of the current crop of new programming. Yes, I do have an affinity for the old Andy Griffith Show and the new Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — but "favorite?" Nahhhhh.... not really.

And I no longer require the plastic orange tumbler be placed at my table setting.

Note: A discussion, prompted by the idea of this blog entry, produced this list of Mrs. Pincus's favorites: 
Movie: Gone with the Wind
Band: Grateful Dead 
Color: Pink (Although I could've sworn it was "purple." The record has since been set straight.)
Food: Hamburger
Dessert: Hesh's Bakery Birthday Cake (Sadly, this is no longer available, as Hesh's closed its doors in 2014 after 54 years in business. Duplicating that cake and its legendary icing has proven difficult by other Philadelphia bakeries
— despite their claims.)

*Some of those exceptions are meat, tomatoes and coconut.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

time (clock of the heart)

A few years back, I was watching one of my favorite movies — Marty, selected by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as the "Best Picture" of 1955 (and the downfall of one Herb Stempel on the TV quiz show Twenty One). Early in the picture, "Marty Piletti" (as portrayed by 1955 Best Actor Ernest Borgnine) is talking to his mother. She tearfully laments to her son that she is an old woman of 50. 50! An old woman! I was floored. Immediately, I logged on to (the invaluable Internet Movie Database) and searched for the film. My research revealed that Esther Minciotti, the actress who played Ernest Borgnine's screen mother was actually 67 at the time of filming. However, I was still a bit disturbed that, in 1955, fifty years of age was considered "old." It should be noted, though that Ernest Borgnine was only 38, but looked well into his 50s. I suppose it was around this time that I became a little obsessed (just a little) with the ages of actors from the "Golden Age" of cinema as well as those on television during my formative years.

It is no secret that I watch a lot of television. I rarely watch any current programming, opting to view and review programs from my youth. I love to revisit the shows I watched as an adolescent, parked in front of our big black & white Zenith in my family's den with my mom on the sofa and my dad settled in "his" corner chair, chain-smoking Viceroys. (Unsurprisingly, one of the few "current" shows I have watched and enjoyed is Amazon's original The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, mostly because of its retro setting.  Go figure...)

If you follow my illustration blog (found elsewhere on the internet), you will find that a lot of my drawings are heavily influenced by the television shows from my youth. In 2011, I published a drawing of actor Joseph Kearns. Kearns had a long and celebrated career as a bit player in a number of radio shows before making the transition to the new medium of television. He performed and held his own alongside such entertainment giants Jack Benny, George Burns, Eve Arden and (ironically) Gale Gordon. He is best remembered as the cantankerous "Mr. Wilson" on the insufferable sitcom Dennis the Menace. The show ran for four seasons.  If you remember, Kearns sported wire-framed glasses, a crew cut and wore his pants pulled up to his armpits. He always had a scowl across his face and doddered around his house with a loose cardigan draped over his slumped shoulders. Granted, Dennis was a pain in the ass and drove Kearns's character up a wall, but he carried himself like a man of seventy. With just seven episodes left to film in Season Three, Joseph Kearns suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and unexpectedly passed away. He was 55. 55! (Gale Gordon, who replaced Kearns was just a year older.)

Recently, I was watching the zillionth rerun of The Andy Griffith Show. I love The Andy Griffith Show almost as much as my wife hates it. I love the gentle humor and the crazy characters and how Sheriff Andy tries to maintain some sense of order in the nuthouse that is Mayberry, North Carolina. I am convinced that the real reason that Andy doesn't carry a gun, is because he would have shot Deputy "Barney Fife" to death in episode four. In the show, town sheriff "Andy Taylor" (as played by Andy Griffith) lives with his son Opie (future Oscar winning director Ron Howard) and his aunt "Bee Taylor." Bee is embodied by actress Francis Bavier, who enjoyed a career playing essentially the same befuddled character in films and television going back to the early 1930s. In this particular episode of The Andy Griffith Show, there was a discussion about Aunt Bee's birthday. I was prompted to look up just how old Ms. Bavier, at the time of filming this episode. With her dark-patterned, high-necked dresses and her gray hair pulled back into that omnipresent bun, she gave the appearance of a woman in her mid to late seventies. She was 62. If you need a frame of reference.... Madonna is 62. Additional research led me to discover that Irene Ryan, feisty "Granny" on The Beverly Hillbillies, was the same age as Francis Bavier. Sure, Ms. Ryan wore a wig and glasses that she didn't really require, but I recall seeing her on Password at the height of The Beverly Hillbillies popularity. She looked a lot older than 62. Incidentally, Buddy Ebsen, the Hillbillies patriarch was 54.

Oh, there are others that fascinate me. Actor Carroll O'Connor (a favorite of my father) was just 48 years old when All in the Family premiered in 1971. Abe Vigoda, who was the brunt of many "boy, is he old" jokes for the latter part of his career, was just 54 when he played the role of "Detective Phil Fish" on Barney Miller, making the "old" jokes a bit odd. The "Sweathogs" on Welcome Back, Kotter were all in their twenties when they were playing high schoolers in 1975. (Ron Palillo, who played "Horshack" was 26.) Marcia Strassman was just two years older than the actors playing the students when she appeared as series star Gabe Kaplan's wife. Jim Backus, pompous "Mr. Howell" on Gilligan's Island, was just 52 when the show began. And Oscar-winner Shirley Jones was 34 when she was cast as the mother of five kids on The Partridge Family, just 14 years older than her real-life stepson David Cassidy.

This past week, I watched a movie called Harry and Tonto. I had seen it before, probably just after its 1974 release. The film, about an elderly man traveling across the country with his cat, starred Art Carney. Carney had diligently campaigned for the role, convincing the studio that he could pull off the role of a 72 year-old man, despite being just 56. (An age-appropriate James Cagney was the first choice for the role. He turned it down.) However, Carney wore little age-enhancing make-up, preferring instead to wear his real hearing aid and not conceal his war-injured gait. Carney won an Oscar for his performance and a "second act" in films opened up for the actor. By the way, Brad Pitt just won his first Oscar at this year's ceremony. He is 56, as well.

Of course, the most jarring age revelation (at least for me), is Judy Garland. I grew up watching the annual telecast of The Wizard of Oz, as well as Ms. Garland's other grand musicals like Meet Me in St, Louis, Easter Parade and Summer Stock. Judy's personal troubles are well known and the toll they took on her are apparent. Judy passed away in 1969 at the age of 47. On a December 1968 appearance on The Tonight Show, just six months before her death, she looked quite haggard and aged beyond her years.

Perhaps I have just become more aware of age and the ages of my contemporaries as I approach my sixtieth year on earth. I think it makes me feel younger.

I guess this is the kind of thing that old people do.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

you and your cousins

My wife's cousin passed away unexpectedly this week, just ten days before her 66th birthday. Yesterday, we — along with many family members, friends, co-workers and other acquaintances — attended a memorial service in her honor.

I didn't know my wife's cousin very well. I had only seen her a handful of times in the 38 years I have known Mrs. Pincus. Our paths crossed mostly at large family gatherings — weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals and those sorts of events. When I was still new to the family, I'm sure I was introduced and reintroduced to my wife's cousin a few times. I remember that our brief conversations were pleasant, although I cannot remember exactly what we spoke about.

The memorial service began around 11 AM on a Sunday morning, once the attending crowd was coaxed into their seats after a period of mingling and reminiscing. A rabbi spoke and then chanted a few prayers. Then, the rabbi introduced a number of my wife's cousin's family and friends to share their thoughts and memories of a loved one. One by one, a brother, a life-long friend, a neighbor, a nephew and another friend approached the lectern. Each one delivered a short, but heartfelt, tale of kindness, warmth, devotion, loyalty and love. Some of the related anecdotes evoked laughter from the attendees — and rightfully so. These were sweet and humorous glimpses into relationships that my wife's cousin shared with those with whom she was close. Her brother told of long talks at her house when he should have been working on a needed home repair. A friend talked about teaching my wife's cousin how to ski. A neighbor smiled as she spoke about my wife's cousin dropping off freshly baked cakes at her house for no reason at all. Another friend revealed a long tradition of gathering for each other's birthday — with this year's soiree having my wife's cousin's daughter taking her mother's place.

Although I did not know my wife's cousin very well, I was touched by the consistent emotion of each little speech. Everyone spoke of her kindness, her consideration, her ability to listen and comfort, her advocacy for other's ideas and plans. She was a genuinely nice person, something that is rare today. 

I have attended several funerals and memorial services — more than I would have liked. I am not a believer in "just because someone dies, all of their bad qualities are automatically erased." I understand that a funeral is not the time to bring up someone's terrible disposition when they were alive (although I have seen it happen). Eulogies are reserved for extolling the niceties someone exhibited during their time on Earth, not to rehash old grudges or to expose an all-around jerk for what they were. Sometimes, I have listened to a eulogy and wondered if I was at the right funeral. But hearing one story about my wife's cousin after another, made me realize that I had never — and I mean never — heard anyone utter a negative word about her. Never!

It is probably unlikely, but that is the way we would all like to be remembered.