Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Illegal aliens in France allowed to "Squat" in your empty building

Bon soir,
On a second visit last month to our favorite French restaurant in the French Antilles, my husband and the owner got into a conversation about Real Estate and tenant rights and the rights of illegal immigrants in France.
The conversation started out when I mentioned that American laws are so skewed towards the tenants. I recently had my first tenant in a newly renovated condominium paint it, re-stain the 70 year old hard wood floors, wall paper one of the bathrooms, put vinyl tiles up in the other bathroom and change out all the light fixtures. All totaled, 14 lease infractions. This tenant then, after only 5 months on a 2 year lease found a new tenant to replace him and left. I took him to court. The bottom line after spending $1200.00 on a lawyer was, I was able to keep his $1500.00 deposit and settled for $1000.00. My lawyer said I was extremely fortunate to have done so well.
The young French restaurant owner told us the most shocking truth I have heard in quite a while. In France, illegal immigrants may "Squat" in an empty building. If the landlord does not figure out the illegal "squatters" are living there within a very short period of time (weeks, not months), the illegal "squatters" can then live there forever and never have to pay rent. Ever. They must also be allowed to receive gas and electricity. French society is all about the "Rights" of the citizens. The common man. Even the illegal citizens.

Cash is now King in America just like in France, Yes?

Bonjour mes amies! Ca va? Last month, my husband and I were chatting with a young French owner of a fine restaurant in Marigot, St. Martin in the French Antilles. His comment "People in France do not go out and buy flat screened TV's on credit like the Americans do" sparked an even more interesting conversation.
He stated that French citizens and Europeans do not have access to credit cards like the Americans. He said the European societies run mostly on Cash because taxes are so high (about 60%). Yes, health care is "Free" as are many other types of Government programs and accessible to all citizens. He says: "successful citizens are quiet with their money. Europeans do not flaunt their money around and act as though they own everything, like the Americans."
One of our other young friends is saving to buy a restaurant in the Marigot Marina. Her husband is the chef and she waits on tables. During the busy Winter season, she hires 1 other waiter and they have 1 dishwasher. They probably sell 70-90 dinners per night. They are open 7 days a week. These folks work! They do not have any children. She says they cannot afford to have children yet. She tells us she keeps a cash box in her small, meager apartment, and states: "I save cash first for what I want to buy. If I do not have the cash, I wait and save more cash, because, I do not work for Carla."
Cash may become the new currency running under the tablecloths of American businesses if our taxes rise to European levels. Retirement at 65, or at all, may become what it was before Roosevelt implemented it, just an "American Dream." Bon chance et Au revoir, y'all.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Neighborly Giving vs. Government "Giving"

My Father said when he was growing up during the height of the Great Depression, his Mother would make extra dinner once a week, enough food to feed the family at the end of the street with 6 kids. During the Depression, only one person per household was allowed to work to spread out the jobs. The father had lost his job. The mother had to raise those 6 kids. They were poor. They were thin and starving. All the neighbors took turns. Everyone pitched in to help this family in need. The neighbors were only too happy to share what little they had with their neighbor not as fortunate as they.
America was not a wealthy country, yet, people appreciated what they had. Respect for each other and respecting a neighbor's feelings was paramont. One never embarassed another person for any reason. What we now refer to as "Old World" values and ideals were the rules of the day. Upon meeting someone, the first questions one would typically ask were: "Who is your family?", "Where are you and your family from?", and "What is your education." Families lived within their means.
We started this country for the purpose of small government and in the 1930's, government was still small. There was no public assistance, no food stamps, no Section 8 housing, no Social Security and workers had few rights. With progress came the good and the bad, but have we now bought into the mindset that government owes us everything as a "Right?" Please, help thy neighbor, treat others as you would wish to be treated. Please, be responsible for onself, one's children and one's family.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

6 Degrees of Friends

I have heard there are 6 degrees of separation connections among us all. I think it is more like two, but, I digress.
They're are, however 6 degrees of friendships: Friends of friends, acquaintances, surface friends at an arm length, friends, close friends and finally, lifetime friends.
Friends of friends have heard of you, acquaintances know who you are, surface friends one can chat with, friends one can confide some truths, close friends one can confide closer truths, but lifetime friends know your soul, influence your life and stick with you through trials and thicknesses. Lifetime friends are as close as family, and can be substituted for family, if one has not much of a family. Cheers, salut, and chin chin to those lifetime friends!

To celebrate "Lifetime Friends", a poem:

May you through life be blessed,
With friends selected from the best,
And in return may you extend,
That gem of love to every friend.

Your Mother

Minnie Hannah Schaefer
December 26, 1905

International gift giving

Gift Giving Protocol varries from country to country. Traditions and superstitions behind gift giving grow out of the particular cultural, societial and religious beliefs. Did you know:
Appropriate gifts in Europe include: most flowers, chocolates, liquors, books, porcelain or silver.
Inappropriate gifts in Europe include: Logo products, perfume, red roses (only for your own spouse), white flowers (funeral flowers), anything extravagant (never want to show off).

Appropriate gifts in Taiwan - Singapore include: Quality pen, Leather daily planner, Journal, books and Scotch liquor.
Inappropriate gifts in Taiwan - Singapore include: Food or Bourbon, a clock, wall decoration, anything 'Made in Asia.'
Appropriate gifts in Latin America include: Perfume, chocolates or logo gift, gifts for children and gifts for the entire family.
Inappropriate gifts in Latin America include: Kives, hankerchiefs, anything the color of Black or Purple, anything numbering 13, inappropriate to arrive empty-handed, excessive gifts.
Call the Embassy of your host country or go to the library or travel section in a bookstore, or search the internet and do your research before visiting any country. You will be considered a good traveler, you will have an easier time with your travels. As opposed to being called "the Ugly American", you can be proud to be a good American traveler.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Miniature Earth:Facts From Their Website

Did you know ....If the population of the Earth was a small community of 100, the world would look something like this....

61 Asian
12 European
14 American
13 African
1 Australian

50 Men
50 Women

33 Are Christian
67 Are NOT Christian

6 People own 59% of the wealth of the community

25 live on $1.00 per day or less
47 live on $2.00 per day or less

13 Are hungry or malnourished
14 Cannot read
7 Are educated

You are better off than 75% of the world if....

You have clothes in a closet,
You have food in a fridge,
You have a bank account.

Appreciate what you have. Do your best for a better world.
Work hard and be kind to all people.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Poem about How To Speak To Others

A Poem from my book: "Forget-Me-Not, Forget-Me-Never,
Remember the Fun We Had Together." p. 70

If pleasures path you wish to see,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak, of whom you speak,
And when, and how, and where,

Florence Gaynor
June 21, 1906

Saturday, March 21, 2009

LTTE Town & Country Magazine: "Lady and the Vamp" and Teaching Tolerance.

Dear Ms. Fiori,
Thank y'all for your article: "The Lady and the Vamp," by Molly Haskell in your February 2009 issue. It was refreshing to read an article about a few 'characters' outside of New York City. The complicated and controversial Scarlett and the sweet, simple yet steely Melanie characters from "Gone with the Wind" are more alike than first glance gives us. They admired, complimented, tolerated, loved and forgave each other. Forgiveness. Not a quality recently seen on Reality TV (or what I call 'mean TV'), in movies, books or other print media.
Speaking of forgiveness, The Margaret Mitchell House and Museum in Atlanta is where the true reality of my revealing and relevant story particular to our time begins. Margaret Mitchell lived in this two story house for seven years while writing her Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, Gone with the Wind. This historic site scrapes by and struggles to survive not only because donors and donations are few, but because some regard Gone with the Wind to be a racist movie and book (I wonder how many people have actually read the book), and repeatedly keep trying to burn down the house.
The tour starts out typically enough with a walk through the house, then her apartment which is furnished with "alike furnishings and a typewriter of the period" from, as we were told by the guide, Goodwill. A bit shocking. The first treat, however, was the mahogany lion head gargoyle adorning the staircase outside of Margaret Mitchell's apartment. Upon entering and exiting her small, ground floor home she rubbed the lion head for good luck.
Down the stairs of the house into the brick basement we were shuffled for the second half of the tour. Immediately upon entering, under glass and on the brick walls were many of Margaret Mitchell's letters to her family and relatives there for our viewing and reading. In perusing this remarkable collection of letters, one can see the natural writer in Margaret Mitchell's soul. A God calling in her life she thankfully answered to. Then, the tour took a most unexpected turn after rounding the corner.
In plain view were approximately 30 very nicely produced photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Bob Adelman. Large, vivid, striking portraits of the men and of the time.
Quietly in the middle of the exhibit hung a black & white photograph of a ten year old Martin Luther King, Jr., standing on the front stairs of what was a Hollywood 'mock up' of Tara, singing 'Negro Spirituals' with the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir for the 1939 Gone with the Wind movie Premiere Ball. His father was the choir director.
Surrounding the choir, milling about the grounds, was Atlanta's privileged society enjoying their privileges. An all white audience, white men stood in their white tie, top hat and white gloves, white ladies watched in their furs, beautiful ball gowns, white gloves and evening clutches. Some members of this polite society were photographed listing casually to the choir, as others were seemingly there to see and be seen.
Then, the stark reality hit. There stood Martin Luther King, Jr., as a boy, part of the entertainment for the cream of a society that in 1939 he was not allowed to be a participant. Amazingly, as an adult, he rose like cream to the top, emerging in an American society not only as a grand figure of national importance, but as a tolerant, important role model for his generation and future generations to come.
My Father always said: 'The cream rises to the top,' and it does. And it has. Maybe it is time for us all to find a little forgiveness in our hearts, souls and our lives.

Monday, March 16, 2009

LTTE Vogue Magazine - Extremely thin models

Dear Ms. Wintour,
As pleasing as your plea to all designers to: "consider athleticism and vitality as assets in the wearing of great fashion," sounds, we both know the fashion industry better.
My Mother, who worked on Seventh Avenue for 25 years often said: "designers will always want models who look like 'human hangers' because the clothes hang better on them.
After College, my first job in 1983 was working for a popular, well loved designer as an order clerk/receptionist/house model. At 5' 10" tall, I started the job weighing 136 pounds. One year later, I weighed a mere 118 pounds. I was offered an entree into the runway business if I would lose 15 more pounds. I also had an offer in Paris, but knew the unspoken, unwritten rule was "once over the pond, under 100 pounds." I thought seriously about both offers and passed on both having been told by the persons offering me these positions that I was not going to be able to eat anything, ever. Ever. Ever.
Twenty-five years later, this international, "under 100" silent rule has simply traveled across the pond to the USA. There undoubtedly is and will continue to be an unspoken, unwritten pressure within the fashion industry for models to be extremely thin.
Governments, Prada wearers and TV show personalities cannot regulate weight for models. Only we the general public can be definitively responsible for what we will tolerate and what media we will purchase, watch and subscribe to for our enjoyment and escapism.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sitting on my hands at Bergdorf's.

Today I was content in an upscale, quiet camera shop editing and ordering photos on their computer. A woman entered the shop. She was my age, or older. I am 47 years old. She had three children with her, all under the age of 5. The oldest child whizzed through the door screaming and wheeling a toddler in a stroller. The third child, about 31/2, came into the store twirling and running after the other two children.
The woman, completely unfazed, sat down next to me and began ordering her photos on the computer as well. She also calmly began expressing to the three children how she wanted them to behave.
At this point, the twirling child was falling down dizzy, laying on the floor and screaming. The oldest child was screaming with his voice and screaming that stroller around the displays. All of a sudden, these three children were disrupting everyone and in a way, had taken control of the aura of the entire store. I had the distinct impression that this Mother lives her life in this manner, and behaves like this everywhere she goes, and allows her children to do the same.
What has happened to our polite, puritanical behavior here in America? Have we gone stark, screaming mad? I knew this woman was as old as I, therefore must remember being raised in the 60's. Back in the day when we were raised on a respectful fear of our parents and elders.
Then, I remembered sitting on my hands in the Delmann Shoe Department at the Bergdorf Goodman Department Store in New York City as a child. Yes, quietly sitting, lightly on my hands, patiently watching my Mother try on hard to find size 11 shoes. No hardship lesson here. Bergdorf's is a beautiful store. I had fun looking at all the lovely shoes. I imagined myself one day doing the same. Teaching tolerance and patience. Using one's own imagination during a quiet moment. Nothing wrong with teaching children these lessons.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Friends and Family are Forever

As the self-appointed family historian, in 2005, I published a Forget-Me-Not book complete with poems, lyrics, rhymes and cleaver quips combined with corresponding family photographs from the turn of the last century. The collection celebrates friends and family.
I have sold only 150 copies and have sent 50 copies to local and national media including Oprah, Ellen, FOX, Vogue Magazine, People Magazine and the New York Times. No one was interested.
The pretty trade paper "coffee table" book was not an international best seller. Early last year in 2008, I decided to begin donating the book to local retirement and nursing homes. They were absolutely appreciative and thankful for this thoughtful, soulful, inspirational book. I am so fortunate to be able to give to others.
During this "Retirement Recession" of sorts at best, are Americans less fortunate now than we were in 2005? Do we need the fancy new cars, designer dry goods and huge houses to feel like we have a better life and are closer to our happier family and friends? I say who needs designer goods when you simply appreciate and remember your friends and family, the best kind of vintage.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

You are who your friends are on Facebook

Last month we dumped our old dial up and finally got high speed. Last week I found Facebook. This week friends and family found me on Facebook. Wow. Current friends. College friends. High School friends. Childhood friends. My childhood nemesis. Old boyfriends. Oh my! Your good past and bad past does come back to haunt and taunt you. Yikes!
I set up a profile. Name, address, phones, marital status. Current job. Old jobs. Education. Favorite movies. Favorite books.  Favorite photos. Family photos. Profile photos. Favorite places traveled. All places traveled. Facebook even has a section for political views and religious views. Remember however what your mother told you about religion and politics. Hard not to offend someone else eventually.
And just like that, my Facebook profile page now reflects who I am and who my friends and family are. Just think, a few posted pages reflect your entire being. A resume of your life. Fascinating and frightening. A record of everything you type onto some elses Facebook Wall. Permanent public babble posted in writing forever. So, always keep it positive. Colleges and future employers will be checking out your FB page, and Googling your name.
Facebook is also addictive. Time can be wasted. So, keep it quick, informative and interesting. Stay away from what you ate for dinner. Not all thoughts are diamonds.  
The old expression "Birds of a feather flock together," really has come home to roost on Facebook. Just keep it pithy and positive!