Jordan, Ontario: "The Sun Rose in the West"

September 28, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

Now, I do know my geography and, when necessary, I can read a map. But from New York to Southampton to Hartford to Boston to Spencertown, I never even looked at one. Only up here in Jordan was I utterly confused.

It was a snap to drive east from New York City to Southampton on Long Island to visit my friend (former mother-in-law) Helga Dawn and her new husband Ed Frohling. We had dinner in Sag Harbor.

The next morning Helga and I visited the grave of her late husband, my father-in-law, David Dawn. Later I wandered alone through the Southampton Rose Garden and the David Dawn Memorial Gazebo where the ashes of my former wife Alice Dawn are interred.

The garden is an elegant tribute to a determined and talented man and one of America's most knowledgeable and respected rosarians. The garden is also the final testament to the devotion of a loving daughter.

For me, the visit to the gravesite and the rose garden was a sad, yet comfortable and welcome closure to the important and early portion of my adult life.

I didn't need any GPS to drive north to visit my old friend and colleague, Bill Ricco and his enthusiastic wife Grace who live in Bloomfield near Hartford, Connecticut. Way back in the middle of the last century, Bill hired me as the Training Director at The Plaza Hotel in New York. The Plaza experience was the foundation of my twenty-year career in the Hospitality Industry. Bill is a fine mentor and teacher. I owe Bill a lot.

It was even easier to drive from Hartford to Boston. I stayed with my good friends Brooke and Larry Benowitz who live in Newton, Massachusetts just outside Boston. Brooke is an exceptional social worker. Recently, Larry was recognized as one of the one hundred most outstanding scientists in the United States. I expect to meet him in Stockholm one day soon.

Larry's late mother Lillian Huriash and my late mother Ruth Lifson were best friends in Junior High School. They remained the closest of friends for more than seventy years. I like to explain that Larry and I knew each other before we were born and I expect that we also will be friends for many years to come. Larry is what we call a mensch.

My friend David Alinsky invited me to the surprise birthday party for his wife Joanne. Joanne and David have been my trusted and steadfast friends for years and years. Shelby, Robert and Jason, their three adult children are simply amazing. I have never met a group of siblings more respectful and loving toward each other. It was a joy to be with the Alinsky's and their many devoted friends. I am sure that the Alinsky's know that I return their love and loyalty.

I certainly didn't need a map for the next leg of the trip. So many times have I been their guest, I can drive blindfolded from Boston, Massachusetts to Spencertown, New York to visit my most loyal and most generous friend, Allen Milman and his dear wife Helga. 

Earlier this month, in New York City, Allen and I attended our high school reunion together. If there had been a reunion of our elementary school, we would have attended that one too. Or a Kindergarten reunion from Public School 73? Ditto that.  Troop 70 - BSA?  Talk about old friends! Well, not that old!

At a service plaza on the New York State Thruway, I sought advice from a bearded, pony-tailed truck driver. We consulted his maps (nobody's perfect) for the best route over the border to Fort Eire, Ontario.

After a brief visit with a former Sheraton colleague in Fort Eire, I pointed my PT Cruiser toward Toronto and just followed the signs. (PT Cruiser is a misnomer. That little car is comfortable and has all of the standard equipment except for one item: no cruise control! Maybe they should call it PT Steerer.)

Cruising along the Canadian Highway QEW, I decided to stop in Jordan, a small, picturesque, wine-country town outside Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario. It was a long day, so I had dinner and went to sleep. The next morning I awoke to view the sunrise from my balcony overlooking the Lake.

Now close your eyes. Please, please close your eyes and imagine that you have driven across the border from the United States into Canada. You wake up in the morning to watch the sunrise. The sun, of course, is rising in the East, on your left as you face south on Lake Ontario. Yes? NO! The sun this morning is rising on my right!! The sun is rising in the West! How can that be? Has the Earth reversed is rotation while I slept? Am I on another planet? I ran to my map to solve the mystery.

Now I am not the only one who is geographically challenged. Later that day I explained the phenomenon to Hollis and Michael Landauer, my former sister and brother-in-law (my second marriage). Michael was incredulous so he checked his maps and reluctantly had to admit that I was correct.

My cousin Pamela also was doubtful. I called her and told her I was in Jordan and I would visit her the very next day. Later she told me that she wondered how I could travel from Jordan (that other Jordan, she thought) to Toronto in just a few hours. She also had to consult a map.

My friends and cousins, native Torontonians all, and yours truly as well, none of us knew the location of Jordan, Ontario. Have you solved the mystery yet?

My Toronto friends and cousins are certainly not hospitality-challenged. I hadn't seen Michael and Hollis in many years, but they are welcoming and gracious. I hadn't seen my friend Joan Solway for many, many years but Joan and her cousin Margot are generous and warm hosts. And finally, I met two second cousins on my father's side for the first time ever.

With our similar bearing and attitudes, Pamela Franks and Barbara Soskin could well be my first cousins or my sisters. I felt so proud to be part of their family and I dare say they were happy to meet me at last. I reckon we all are happy to be aware of the ever-expanding Polatschek's. (Joseph Polacek - Czech spelling - is our great-grandfather.)

Here's another good story: On my way back from Canada to New York, I presented my well-worn passport to the American border guard. He paged through and paged through and scanned and scanned all the exotic Visas. He glanced at me and scanned and thumbed through again and again. Finally he asked, "What were you doing in Jordan?" (That other one.) I explained that I like to travel and that I was a tourist there. He followed up with, "Have you ever been to Pakistan?" I smiled back and said "no" and he waved me on through. (The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is just around the corner from me in Bangkok. What if...?)

Toronto to New York is a long drive so I stopped again in Spencertown and took some photos of the early fall foliage. As I wandered through the woods of Columbia County, I had a chance to think about my excellent journey up North:

I didn't visit a museum or see a show. I didn't do any shopping or eat in any fancy restaurants. This was a "people trip." Milman, Dawn. Ricco, Benowitz, Alinsky, Landauer, Solway, Franks and Soskin are "the people." As are Mickey and Jay Gilsen, Sandy and Ken Metviner, my cousin Linda Leaf, my cousin Jeffrey Taxier, his wife Madeline and their children Jason, Jamie and Adam, Harold Pockriss and Oscar Muscarella, Rosemarie Weiss, Sean O'Reilly, John Calamari, Marion Mandel and Susan Mann.

There are many, many other cousins and friends I did not see on this trip. Please forgive me. I hope I will see you next time.

Finally, thank you all, thank you all for your friendship. Despite the distance and despite the time between us, and despite our setbacks and "bumps in the road," I am certain, certain that from whatever direction it rises, East or West, the sun does shine on us.


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