Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Steve Jobs

Street Seens: LISTEN HERE!


All Capital Letters are considered rude.  But the headline for this Sunday’s walk together might sound similarly cross or dictatorial.  Let that just underscore the difficulty of finding a brief few words to capture the topic suggested for our conversation by the past week’s events. Take it that this observer of Street Seens has lately been a sort of semi-shut-in continuing the daunting task of liberating her home from the tyranny of papers and all the other things that have, over the years, disguised themselves and crept in to files and folders naively labeled “Keepers.”  Join me in affirming that since there are no coincidences in life these fragments that floated to the surface last week could have the potential to enrich kindly readers as much as they have me.

The happy news is that I stumbled upon, found or resurrected some marvelous jewels that I will now share with you and hope you find them soul-nourishing, or laugh provoking, eloquent, renewing or just plain great to come upon as second chances to savor something worth remembering.

Think of what Proust made out of the remembered fragrance of madeleines! And speaking of Proust, that’s as good a place as any from which to start.  Once upon a time, now nearly three years past, I sat across the aisle on a Southwest flight to Chicago and when, towards the end of our flight, I could no longer restrain my amazement, said to the man sitting across the aisle that I could not help but note that he was reading Proust. “Have you seen Alain de Botton’s wonderful book on How Proust Can Change Your Life?, I asked.  He had not, and so I resolved to get the book to him.

Then life intervened, and I could not safely send the book to Tom Post who had moved on from his office at Forbes.  Next, in a notable non-coincidence I stumbled upon news of this amazing person on LinkedIn and learned that he is an Author and SVP Content Strategist for a firm that offers counselling to client executives on the art of “storytelling” that lies at the very heart of successful marketing.  Now, I need to find a bricks and mortar bookstore that will set up what I hope will begin an alliance between two champions of highly imaginative insight captured in the pages of a book that qualifies as a definite “keeper.” I even found the handwritten note from Mr. Post that recommended how I might take some next steps in my own pursuit of writing.

This mixed bag of sayings and observations came via radio waves, file folders, television interviews, pulpits and sources as varied as they are unsurprising to this person who becomes surer by the moment that there are no coincidences.

Hudson, Ohio is a singular place and it was a reference from Hudson-born Farrell Fitch-Cosmas that made me take a second look at a print-out I requested her to find about her childhood neighbor from Hudson.  The New Yorker “Double Take” that (again no coincidence!) was entitled, Magnificent Jewels featured a multi-carat square cut sapphire (making it in my estimation, a double-barreled “no-coincidence”) signaled the magazine’s offering of “Eighty-Five from the Archive: Ian Frazier.” And so, I rescued for the real “Keepers” file an addition to the many “Shouts and Murmurs” written by Frazier that have given me so many laughs courtesy of one described as a master of “the tough representation of Idiocy.”  That same humorist also said, “Words are charms…It’s like a song you didn’t know you knew.”

Writing in a different vein of the death of Crazy Horse, Frazier told of the Chief’s refusal to lie on an army cot when he breathed his last. Lying on the floor of an Army office, Ian Frazier described him and the scene in these words,” With his body he demonstrated that the floor of an Army office was part of the land, and that the land was still his.” It fortified my own conviction regarding the proposal by the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to rescind President Obama’s order to protect Native Americans’ sacred lands and instead “return them to the states.”   That, I think, goes what might be paraphrased as “a bridge not far enough.” Wouldn’t it be far better to return them to their original occupants?

On the positive side of the ledger during the semi-imprisonment imposed by the work of “clearing” was the chance to hear a video interview with Walter Isaacson.  The iconic media executive and biographer of giants such as Einstein and Steve Jobs ended a conversation with an encouraging observation that is especially consoling in our turbulent times.  He expressed his belief that in the worst of times (and he cited the period of McCarthyism, when lies were the rule of the day) that there seems to be a saving “gyroscope” at the heart of our brave adventure of democracy, that somehow rights our nation and resets it on its path to achieving its Founders’ hopes.  I think I remember that Isaacson told his readers that the last word of Steve Jobs, was “Wow.” I choose to believe that that leaves us realizing that the great inventor, at the end, came face to face with the Supreme Creator. And was in awe.

Last Sunday was observed as “Good Shepherd Sunday” and so in the Church of Saint Vincent Ferrer, the gathered community heard the following words from the Gospel of John. They came as the climax of a description of the contrast of a true shepherd committed to the safety of the sheep, “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” That is the motto of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, who since 1849 have been dedicated to going wherever there is need, from the streets of Beziers France, to classrooms, court rooms, community centers, hospitals, even the United Nations offices for NGOs.  I don’t need files or papers to have those words be a permanent part of my life.

Some of the words I found written or recurring in memory during this period of winnowing through the records and memories embodied in the “too much paper masquerading as things I need to keep” evokes smiles, and even laughter. For example, the brilliant James Agee’s observation in his novel, A Death in the Family.  There, the central figure characterizes the difficulties of speaking with his brother in these words, “It’s like putting socks on an octopus.”  Every bit as memorable as his script for African Queen!

So, the challenge of “socking” the octopus of 8+ years of excessive “saving” continues. I celebrate the validated “keepers” and promise myself that I will use them as the litmus test of future “data storage.” And I remember the innocent remark of a young man struggling under the weight of the too many books a friend had hired him to remove from the fourth-floor walk-up he was leaving, “You know, Mister, all this information would weigh a lot less if it were in your head (or I might add, in your heart), and not in books.”

With all due respect to actual librarians, archivists and the Library of Congress, I think he got it right.  Stay tuned, and wish me well…preferably, verbally or via mental telepathy.

Street Seens: Dodging a Bullet- A Saga of Knights and a Lady in Wireless Armor


It all started near Grand Central when I dodged a bullet because of a turf war between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs designed by an Archangel. That left me stranded 750-plus miles from our 10065 urban village, with only a geriatric piece of equipment as my electronic lifeline. I knew I was in trouble.  But along came Good St. Nicholas and a rescue that left me celebrating the fact that 24-carat Customer Service is alive and well in an area code far, far away.

Now, before even the kindliest followers of Woman Around Town and Street Seens begin to wonder if the aforementioned challenges have left me quite unhinged, let me invoke the old truism, “You can’t make this stuff up.” I didn’t. There’s an explanation for these unlikely scenarios.  And if you come along I’d love to tell you about each and all. And I promise that in the course of the stories you’ll meet some great people and have renewed hope in America’s service industries and retailers.  No kidding!

Let’s start with dodging the bullet and Grand Central.  The first was a metaphor; the second an iconic New York site.  On my return to the terminal after Metro North returned me there from a long day on the banks of the Hudson, I fell victim to the frequent fallacy that I had time to tick off one more task on my “Urgent To Do” list. So, I went to the Verizon Wireless store en route to the Third Avenue Uptown bus stop to choose the replacement for the Android phone dating back some three and one half years.

I browsed the various options and concluded that one was “just right.” It had the stylus I had come to like; not so many features as to make me feel like a deer in headlights.  In all externals, it seemed the winning choice.  That’s when the reality of the clock and of the brewing turf war brought me back to reality.  Over years in which he and his team have guided me (sometimes kicking and screaming) from PCs to the recent and current MAC, a brilliant network engineer has earned my designation as Michael the Archangel, a patron known as warrior and message deliverer supreme.  Somehow he and his staff have created a system that allowed me and my colleagues to have the best of both worlds, perhaps even three.   Contacts were kept, files were portable, for better or worse we didn’t need to miss a phone call or a text.

But don’t ask me how that was able to happen so seamlessly.  And don’t take it that the Messrs. Jobs and Gates always approved. Remembering that, I had to say to the helpful Grand Central Verizon Wireless associate, “I’m so sorry but I will have to put off closing our deal until Michael the Archangel engineers the transition.” AND THAT IS HOW I MISSED PURCHASING THE SAMSUNG NOTE 7! (How do you spell Whew?) just before it began exploding (literally!) in the media and aboard trains, planes and clothing pockets. While I was breathing a sigh of relief, the original connector cord wore through and I acquired an emergency stand-in from my local CVS.

Fast forward to a 5-day trip to Illinois that has so far lasted for some 35.  Very near Christmas Eve, the cell phone and connector of this story decided to divorce for irreconcilable differences.  Enter Good Saint Nick.  As manager of the Verizon Wireless Store across from the Macy’s at the Louis Joliet Mall, he stepped in to be my Knight in Wireless Armor.  Sight unseen, he took my phone call and came to the rescue.  Only after the fact did I learn that he was “the boss.” He personally conducted the search for a hard-to-find double connector; called a nearby sister store that had the replacement and told them to save the unit for me to pick up that very day.

Forgive me for being astonished! When I asked his name and found it was Nick, I thought immediately of the Good Saint Nicholas of Dutch legend who personifies the giver of gifts at the Christmas season. Truth to tell, Nick Vlachos was not the first and is not the only amazing Verizon Wireless miracle worker I have encountered.  There was the young woman who insisted on staying with me on a landline until she “found” the missing and muted phone I had packed into an under-bed box of stored winter clothing.  And the Long Island executive who said, “take my cell phone number in case you have a problem.”

I opted out of the FIOS option because of the yards of plaster that would have had to be drilled through.  But let’s raise a toast to the likes of Good St. Nick of Joliet, Illinois who restores our faith as he preserves the life of antiquated cell phones.  And of course inspires us to eradicate all memories of the phrase “Beware of Greeks who come bearing gifts.” Perhaps he should sign on to find the safe solution for Samsung’s burning issue of the Note 7.