Saturday, March 27, 2010

Last week I had the privilege of doing a book signing at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
My wife and I had been through the exhibits some months before and found the experience overwhelming. I didn’t see anything that I hadn’t seen before, but seeing it assembled the way it was made me wonder again how human beings could treat their fellow human beings with such viciousness. Then I remembered the way some of our fellow Americans used to treat African-Americans just a few decades ago, and I stopped wondering.
In any event, a few days ago I was sitting at a table in the Museum Bookstore with books of mine to the right of me, books of mine to the left of me, and a periodic announcement that a real-life survivor of the Holocaust was sitting at the back of the store, signing books. I wasn’t very comfortable with this characterization, since my own experience had been nothing like what was portrayed inside. My story wasn’t in enduring the Holocaust, but in escaping it. But here, on this afternoon, for the people who happened to be visiting that day, I was the embodiment of the Holocaust experience. It was a heavy load to carry.
Hundreds of people trooped through, mostly high school groups with teachers and chaperones, many glassy-eyed after what they had experienced inside. Some bought one or both of my books and had me sign it. Some just wanted my signature. Many wanted their picture taken with me. Some just stood there and looked at me.
One highschooler took one look at me and exclaimed, “Albert Einstein!” I explained to him that many older Jewish men tended to look like Einstein. Another, a high school junior, stopped by and, when we got to talking, she showed me a sample of a “T” shirt that her class was selling to raise funds for Darfur. Her name was Jessica Royce, and she had designed the logo herself. It was quite beautiful and professional looking, and she gave me one as a gift. If you want a beautiful “T” shirt for $12 and/or to donate to Darfur relief, contact her at
At the end of my three-hour session I discovered that we had sold every one of the 52 copies of “Mother and Me” that they had on hand and some 15 of “A Ship in the Harbor.” As I walked back across the Mall to our hotel, I was exhausted by the experience, but encouraged by the feeling that, when my generation is gone, there will still be people who believe that the Holocaust really happened.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Some time ago, as I started on my run, I felt an electric shock across my heart. I knew what electric shock sensations in that area mean and stopped immediately. As I stood there, for a minute or so, the shocks stopped as well.
Cautiously, I started walking, and the shocks did not return. But as soon as I took an experimental running step, there they were again.
I turned around and walked home. Then I got into the car and drove to an immediate care center. There, they did an EKG, which they pronounced perfectly normal. When I asked the doctor what the electric shock had been, he said he had no idea, but that I should take the EKG to my primary care doctor.
My primary care doctor did an EKG of his own, found everything normal, and had no idea what the electric shock might have been. He did, however, suggest a stress test.
I always enjoy stress tests, as the doctors have trouble stressing me on the treadmill. This one was no exception, and I got another clean bill of health. “So what was the electric shock all about?” I asked the cardiologist. If anyone would know, I figured, he’d be the one.
The cardiologist shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and admitted to having no idea. I resumed my running with no further shocks.
A couple of weeks later, I was seeing my chiropractor for my monthly adjustment. “A funny thing happened when I was running, the other day,” I said, as he did his usual thing on my back. I was hoping that a little conversation would remind him that there was a human being on his table and he should be gentle.
“You thought you were having a heart attack,” he answered.
“Yes, I did, how did you know?”
“You have a rib out.”
Some weeks later I was at a cocktail party and found myself talking to a lady chiropractor. For want of something better to say, I launched into, “I have a funny story to tell you. I was running the other day and felt this electric shock across my heart.”
“You had a rib out,” she said.