Tag Archives: Evelyn Jerome Alexander

The One About Feeling Helpless, Far From Home

It was April 29, 1992.  I was renting a room in someone’s townhouse in Rockville, Maryland.  I had finished my undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins a few months earlier, and had moved to the DC suburbs to pursue my Master’s degree.

April 29, 1992.  I was a week away from my 21st birthday, and I had spent a very intense 10 days volunteering on a successful primary campaign in Philadelphia.

April 29, 1992, was a Wednesday.  After sleeping in following the victory party, I hopped into my car to return to Rockville.  I got home at about 6 pm and flipped on the news.  I was horrified to see Los Angeles, my hometown, going up in flames, as a riot moved through following the verdicts in the Rodney King police beating case.  I was 3,000 miles away from home.  I felt helpless.

It’s April 29, 2015.  For the past two days, I’ve watched the tensions in Baltimore manifest themselves in rioting and burning.  I lived in Baltimore – granted, not primarily the parts that are filled with strife right now.  But I’ve walked down North Avenue, past that check-cashing place, past that hair extension place.  I’ve seen the desperation, the boarded-up homes in East Baltimore, just blocks away from Johns Hopkins Hospital.  I’ve been to Mondawmin Mall.

I’m 3,000 miles away from the city that is the only other city that I’ve considered “home” in my life.  Baltimore – that gritty, segregated, flawed city you probably first saw on “Homicide” or “The Wire.”  Baltimore seems to be precariously balancing on the thin line that separates most of America today.  And again, I’m 3,000 miles away from “home,” and I feel helpless.

Interestingly, I’ll be in Baltimore for a long-scheduled conference next week – happy to say it’s a conference that (so far) has not changed its plans to meet there.  I’ll find a way to show my love and support for Baltimore, my home away from home, next week.


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The One About Staying Hydrated

So I was sitting at O’Hare Airport last Friday night, on the floor, staring out the window, eating airport food, chatting with a friend who had been on the same college visit trip.  A pilot walked up, wheeling his Jeps behind him.

I’m a pilot, so I like to chat with pilots.  So we start chatting.  He invited me to come up to the cockpit before the flight; not the first time I’ve been invited up and on a few occasions, I’ve taken them up on it.

Captain Evelyn

I think I really just wanted another excuse to show you this picture. From an overnight flight to Boston in 2013.

So we board the flight – 8:15 pm out of Chicago for LA.  It had been a long week.

About a half hour into the flight, a guy – Asian, about 30 I would say – came walking down the aisle as if headed to the bathroom.  I was sitting on the aisle on the left side.  A row ahead of me, the walking guy sort of stumbled into the guy sitting on the aisle on the right side.  The sitting guy sort of pushed back on him, and he made it one more row and basically fell into my lap.

My first reaction was, “oh my g-d, how rude, look where you are going!”  And then I realized that I was supporting his entire body weight and he was clearly not in control of himself.  And he wasn’t drunk.

The sitting guy realized that the now-stumbling guy is having some type of medical situation, and came up behind him, with his arms underneath the stumbling guy’s arms, and when it was clear that continuing to stand up was not an option, he laid him down in the aisle.  He asked the guy what day it was, and he responded clearly that it was the 11th.  I asked him what his name was.  “Jonathan.”

We called the flight attendants, who brought a cloth to put on his face.   I offered him some water and pulled out my trusty dark chocolate raisinets, in case we had a blood sugar situation on our hands.  The way he was laid in the aisle, my hands were at his knees, so I kept one hand on his knee and kept telling him, “We’re with you, Jonathan.”

Then the announcement came that you never want to hear on an airplane:  “Is there a physician on board the aircraft?”  Two people from first class responded.  The flight attendant pulled out an emergency kit, and the first doc immediately began using the stethoscope and the sphygmomanometer (I am shocked at how many people know this word and don’t have to look it up!  Pat yourself on the back, smartie!)

Jonathan’s blood pressure and pulse rates were high.  I asked him if he had eaten or drunk anything that day – remember this was an 8:15 pm flight.  He said no.  I was relaying information back to the other two flight attendants – the first one was straddling him in the aisle (which I sort of thought was odd and a little bit constricting but what do I know?) and two more were behind him.  At some point it occurred to them to tell the cockpit.

The first doc (the second doc didn’t really do much the whole time!) told the flight attendants to get him sugar water and tomato juice.  He was dehydrated.  He needed sugar and salt.  Electrolytes.  The flight attendants brought Sprite and tomato juice, and then they all left.  The original guy one row ahead of me helped Jonathan up to his knees.  I opened both cans and poured a cup of each, and he downed both of them.  He literally got up and walked away, leaving me holding two half-full cans, and that was that.

And I thought that was the most exciting part of our flight until I got off, and saw the pilot I had chatted with before, who said to me, “Did you see Buzz Aldrin on our flight?”  And he showed me pictures.  Indeed, Buzz Aldrin, wearing a bright red flight suit that said “Dr. Buzz Aldrin” on it – though he doesn’t want to talk to you (I tried – saw him at baggage claim – told him I was a pilot – I could see him in his mind wanting to say to me, “You fly a single-engine putt-putt and I’ve been on the f@#$#@#ing MOON!”) and won’t let you take his picture.  Yes indeed Buzz Aldrin was also in first class on that flight.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated, boys and girls.



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The One About Networking. Again.

So I went to another networking group the other night, one I’ve attended in the past. There were many familiar faces in the room. We were given a blank Bingo card and told to walk around the room and get people to sign the squares. Networking Bingo, as it were. Fun. I just love icebreakers.

So I found myself standing with a guy I’d met before – a chiropractor – and a very tall woman whom I know I have attended networking groups with before, because she has a very distinct look, and I knew as soon as I saw her that she was a speaking coach. But she was wearing a guest name tag. So I welcomed her, and said my name, and reminded her that we’d met before.

Blank stare.

I was pretty sure that I had actually met her more than once, so I started naming groups I attend.  She shook her head no.  I said to her, “Do you remember seeing me stand up and say that I’m an independent college counselor?”  Nope.

So I asked her what groups she attends.  This Chamber.  That Rotary.  Nothing.  Then she named the one.  The one group where I had met her.  The one group that met last week, for lunch on Tuesday.  The one group WHERE I HAD BEEN THE FIVE-MINUTE SPEAKER THE PREVIOUS WEEK.

So here’s the thing about networking.  We all do it.  It’s about getting your name and your card out there.  But it’s about making sure people LIKE you and WANT to refer people to you.  And what makes people like you?  Making people feel like, even though you are there to promote yourself, you are looking out for opportunities for them as well.  Who wants to network with someone who can’t be bothered to remember what anyone else does?

So after a little bit of “oh, thank goodness we finally figured THAT out” bullshit, she moved onto the topic of my work.  And then she proceeded to tell me how I could refer my clients to her.  “You know,” she said, “if you  have clients who are going for college interviews, I can help prepare them for that.”  I told her that after 15 years of being a college interviewer, I take care of interview prep.

I left the meeting with another woman I’ve met several times – someone who was also in the room for my five-minute presentation the week before.  She works for a local cemetery, helping people take care of “advanced planning” issues.  She told me that the same person had informed her that she could refer HER clients to the speech coach if they wanted to deliver a stunning eulogy.


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The One About Flying Around on Labor Day, 2013

EJ dad plane 1

I sent this photo of me with my dad and 8228J – “Juliet” – his Piper Seneca that he has flown since 1987, when the Daily News asked for photos and memories of Van Nuys Airport (VNY).

My dad got his pilot’s license a few years before I was born.  In fact, he relishes telling people that my first “memory” of flying came when my mom was 7 months pregnant.  There are some details you probably don’t need to hear.  There was barfing involved.

In spring, 1996, I was working on a project in Florida; I took myself to the airport and announced, “I’ve been flying right seat for 25 years, I’m ready to learn.”  I didn’t tell my parents about my lessons for three weeks, when I soloed on my 25th birthday.

I haven’t flown for awhile; I’ve recently developed a little bit of positional vertigo, and really, who wants a dizzy pilot?  But I was thrilled when I was chosen (at random, so they say) by the Daily News to go up in Lear 35 with legendary pilot Clay Lacy, who runs one of the larger charter flight operations at Van Nuys Airport, one of the busiest general aviation airports in the world.

Dodger Stadium!

Dodger Stadium was empty on Labor Day

I was able to take a guest, so of course I took my dad, who arrived wearing the shirt I got him after I took my checkride in 1996:  a green polo with the words “My daughter is a PILOT too!” stitched in blue on the front breast pocket.  He’s worn that shirt so much over the past 17 years I can’t believe it’s not in tatters by now.

I did actually get to fly with Clay one other time many years ago, a ride home after an aviation convention in Atlanta.  But I’d never flown in a Lear, and this week’s flight was just for fun.  Four of the six passengers were pilots.  We took off from VNY, with its freshly repaved 8,001-foot runway (longer than Burbank’s 6,500-foot runway 7 miles to the east), and headed through the Sepulveda Pass, past the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory, over downtown LA, and then Dodger Stadium.  We were at about 2,000 feet the whole time.

Then we headed out to Pasadena and circled the Rose Bowl, empty except for the joggers circling the 3-mile path and golfers wondering why a jet was flying so low.  Then we turned west again, flew past Burbank and VNY where we started, and skirted through the Santa Susanna Pass at not much higher than the rocky hills, to the Reagan Library.  Clay gave us a nice view with a 45-degree bank, which made me sit back and stop shooting photos for a moment (veritgo is FUN boys and girls!).  Then he decided to show us what a 1970 Lear could do by punching the engines and climbing at a rate of about 10,000 feet per minute.  Thankfully he did that for less than a minute, as we topped out just over 10,000 feet and headed over to Malibu, where we descended (quickly!) and flew up the coast.  Here’s a little video of our ride over Malibu – we were at about 1,000 feet (you may want to turn your speakers down as the engines are loud!):

And finally, we headed over the hills and back home to Van Nuys.  You can see all of the photos I took here.

LA City Hall

Pretty nice photo of LA City Hall!

When I posted a photo after we landed, one of my cousins reminded me that I live a charmed life.  I do.

Thanks VNY, thanks Daily News, and thanks Clay, for the ride!

Clay Lacy (2)

Clay chatted with us about 50+ years of flying after our flight

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The One About The Dog Who Climbed The Tree

(or, Why Evelyn is Not A Documentary Filmmaker)

You probably won’t believe that our dog climbed a tree and ended up 12 feet above the ground.  If we didn’t have a witness, I’m quite sure there would only be two of us that believed it.  Since Benjamin’s cousin was here and saw it with his own eyes, there are three of us.

There are no pictures, because, well, I was suppressing the overwhelming urge to scream the whole time.  I didn’t want her to think I was in distress and try to run towards me.  And it was so horrifying to me that I really didn’t want to see proof of it again.

Chloe’s been having fun in her new backyard but this was a whole new situation altogether.  I kept asking if I should call the Fire Department.  I wonder how many times they get a call to rescue someone’s dog out of a tree?

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The One About the Millennial Approach to National Security

millennial 2A few years ago, I attended a seminar that was geared towards helping people who sell products or services know their audiences better, based on their age group.  We heard from social scientists who have spent a considerable amount of time studying members of The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and now Millennials.

So to be honest, I’m not surprised that Edward Snowden, the person who took it upon himself to reveal top secret intelligence gathering techniques of the National Security Agency, also known as PRISM, is 29 years old.  Millennials, I learned, are a group that feels strongly about community.  They work well together in teams, believe that groups come up with more desirable results, and are less concerned (as a general rule, there are exceptions, of course) about individual accomplishment than older cohorts.

And they invented crowdsourcing.

Edward Snowden, a high school dropout with top secret clearance (um, hello? anyone else see an issue here?) decided to crowdsource the concept of security surveillance.  Metaphorically, he posted it on Facebook to see how many “likes” it would get.

I believe it’s fair to note that he’s a high school dropout, and to remind you that high school seniors study US Government in their last year of high school.  This might be where Snowden would have learned that we live in a REPUBLIC, in which we elect representatives to make policy decisions for us, and not a direct democracy, in which everyone gets to decide every issue one by one (well, in California we have direct democracy on many things – you can see how well that’s worked for us….)

millennial 1By the way, you can see “how Millennial” you are here.  My score came up 29 out of 100, making me older than Gen X and younger than Baby Boomer.  Damn I’m predictable.

I wrote another piece about some ladies’ advice to me about our previous pooch awhile back.  I guess we are all pretty predictable!


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The One About Wines – JHU Alumni Trip to the Hudson Valley – Part II

20130519-142827.jpgJonathan Palevsky followed yesterday’s lecture on Old World wines with another today about wines of the New World, including the US, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. [Palevsky hosts WBJC’s “Word on Wine” radio commentary weekly on Thursday – click here for more info!]

He told us about the Hungarian man, Harasty, who brought vine clippings over from Europe in the 1940s and planting them on land that was later purchased by Robert Mondavi Sr. Mondavi was the first to bring the German way of labeling wine by the varietal, not by the region, as French wines are labeled.

Palevsky discussed the 1976 world blind wine tasting event in which the French snickered about the American wines that eventually beat them – both reds and whites from Napa. This was a revolution in the industry and put the US on the winemaking map.

We learned about how white Zinfandel – of which six times more than red Zinfandel is sold – is made, and why it was made to begin with. In the mid 1970s, American producers began making white wine with red grapes as white wine’s popularity grew and Americans had a taste a bit more on the sweeter side. White Zinfandel is made from the same Zinfandel grapes that can create a big, fruity, sometimes spicy flavor. Winemakers drain a bit of the juice out if the barrels and let it ferment less time than the juice still sitting with the skins, so the juice stays sweeter and does not absorb the skins’ color. Almost 10% of the wine sold in the US is white Zinfandel, and not surprisingly, Gallo is the major producer of it.

20130519-142626.jpgPalevsky spent a little bit of time on my favorite wine producing region, Australia. “Love it or hate it,” he said, “you have to recognize the sheer audacity of Shiraz.” Shiraz is Australia’s signature wine. It’s “huge bodied, enormous jammy upfront fruit, maybe a little bit of eucalyptus,” he said. Most Shiraz is flavored with and aged in American oak.

I spent a little bit of time in the McLaren Vale in Australia a few years ago and have definitely developed an affinity for wines from that region. I particularly like Sauvignon Blanc from Australia or New Zealand.

It’s a drizzly spring day so we toured the inside of the winery and looked out over the rows and rows of grape vines, and then enjoyed a tasting-sized flight of six wines and a box lunch before leaving Millbrook, the Hudson Valley’s flagship winery.

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The One About The JHU Culinary Institute Visit – Wine Talk


“Everything that needs to be said about wine has been said already,” said Jonathan Palevsky, program director at WJBC, Maryland’s classical music radio station and host of its show, “Word on Wine,” to a group of JHU friends and alumni gathered at the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie, NY. But assuming that his audience had not read all of the thousands of books that have been published about wine, he pressed on, taking us on a whirlwind tour of France, Italy, Germany, Spain and their respective wines.

Palevsky compared the difference in taste between French Burgundy and Bordeaux to the difference between New York and Los Angeles, and let us in on the secret that Dom Perignon was actually the person who tried to figure out how to remove the bubbly from wine!

He talked about many different types of wines, and the grapes from which they are pressed, as well as some pairings. “My favorite pairing, by the way,” he said, “is wine with nothing.”

Palevsky expressed admiration for Chardonnay – not my favorite wine by the way – telling us that Chardonnay is blended into many different kinds of wine, including champagne. Good vintage Chardonnay can be kept for years, he said. “In a lousy vintage, just drink them now.” He referred to pinot noir as “the problem child of the wine world.”

Wines labeled ‘Gran croux’ come from a single vineyard. Wines labeled “village,” (best to say that with a French accent, like ‘vee-lajh’) come from different vineyards in a region.

When he moved on to talk about Italian wine, Palevsky told us that moscato is only 5.5% alcohol. “Perfect for breakfast,” he said.

Pinot Grigio is the top-selling wine by the glass in the U.S. – it’s medium body, medium fruit, medium flavor, medium color. “It’s the high fructose corn syrup of wine.”

Super Tuscan is a mixture of indigenous grapes and non-indigenous grapes. In the early 1900s, Tuscan vintners who wanted to blend sangiovese, cabernet and merlot grapes could only get the designation of ‘table wine’ for these blends. So in an early display of marketing genius, they came up with the name Super Tuscan so they could sell their expensive product with a more impressive name.

It’s hard to give a lecture on wine when your audience is not actually tasting, but Palevsky’s clear expertise and love for his topic made this an entertaining opportunity. Tomorrow we’ll be tasting wine at a local winery, so I’m looking forward to putting my new knowledge to work!

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The One About Driving in L.A.

Radical thought for the day:  It’s more important to pay attention to what is going on in front of you than behind you, when you are driving.

I was behind a Prius on Mulholland Drive yesterday, for what ended up being an eternal stretch between Coldwater and Laurel Canyons.  I have often wondered if Priuses have gas pedals at all.  This driver was lollygagging along, maybe 20 miles per hour, hitting the brakes on every curve, car in front of him nowhere in sight.  I thought I couldn’t get more fed up with him when he stuck his cigarette out the window and flicked the ashes.  “You are going to set us all on fire!” I said to myself.  OK not to myself, out loud.  With the window open.  Actually really loud.

So putt-putt we kept going, and yeah, I was tailgating him.  And yeah, he did the slam-on-the-brakes thing and I was not deterred.  “MOVE,” I thought, this time actually inside my head.

And then he whipped out his iPhone.  [I continue to wonder what all of the people who have taken a picture of my license plate do with that image.  There must be dozens, hundreds of them.  What good does that picture do?]  And he stuck it out his driver’s window.  So I darted to the right side of the lane, hoping to reduce his ability to capture my license plate.  Then he moved the phone to the middle of his car, and I darted back to the other side of the lane.  Then he stuck it out his sunroof.  We played this game for a few moments and then it occurred to me that he wasn’t trying to take a picture of my license plate, HE WAS VIDEOTAPING ME driving behind him.

So after a few minutes of this foolishness, I determined that  he was never going to drive any faster, that he was clearly spending way too much time focused on what was going on behind him and I would wave the white flag.  I pulled aside and let the car behind me go ahead of me.  Enough already.

The car behind me pulled ahead and I got back right behind him.  Having been behind me as I moved back and forth (but always inside the lane!), this next car thought I was the asshole, and he pulled BACK over to let me BACK in front of him!  No!  I resisted, and then let two additional cars in front of me.  I really just wanted to get where I was going at this point.

Finally close to Laurel Canyon, Prius driver pulled into a swanky private drive and continued to videotape the procession that passed him, including me.

And so I return to my thesis:  it’s more important to pay attention to what is happening in front of you than behind you.  If everyone in L.A. would just look up from their lap and follow the car in front of them, I am pretty sure we would all get where we are going much faster.  While I was not the paragon of good driving during this episode, I was not the one breaking the law and photographing/videotaping while I was driving!!!!!!

I know you have your own stories to share – here’s your chance!  Comment below. 


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The One About Networking

Networking – we all do it, and many of us hate it.  But if you’re a small business owner, or if your job rewards you for bringing in new business, it’s a staple in your life.

Networking is an art.  People don’t do business with people they’ve just met once – they need to get to know you.  They need to trust you.  And you need to really stand out as the master of your craft, product or service.

So you go to your local Chamber of Commerce, or some affinity group, in the hopes of networking and building relationships.  I’ve made some good friends and served briefly on the board of the Los Angeles Jewish Chamber of Commerce, and I go to a few women’s networking groups as well.

About two years ago I was introduced to an organization whose structure was a bit different for me:  the two people with the title “Managing Director” were actually owners of the Los Angeles franchise of a national, for-profit networking group.  They held events and seminars that helped members grow their businesses.  It always struck me as odd that someone owned this so-called networking group.

Last week I went to another group with this same structure, and the person who owned the local chapter invited someone higher up in the organization to be the guest speaker.  While the people attending the meeting were very interesting, the program was nothing but a pitch for the group.  Interestingly, no one has followed up with me about membership.

And today, a friend who is also involved in the college admissions process and I attended a meeting for a women entrepreneurs’ group.  We each paid $75 for this meeting, held from 11:30 to 1:30 today (hello, does that scream LUNCH TIME to you or is it just me?) at an office building in which they did not validate parking.  When we arrived, there were 7 of us in the room:  the two “Managing Directors” (owners) of the franchise, their administrative assistant, my friend and I, plus two more people:  a manicurist in the process of transitioning to selling life insurance, and a custom frame store owner.

There were two cocktail-sized plates on the table with about 8 (as my friend described them) 2×2 sandwiches stacked on them.  There was a basket with cookies.  And some bottles of water.

We each took a few minutes to introduce ourselves, and then the sales pitch began.  Despite the fact that the Managing Director who did most of the talking started by saying that people hate to be sold but love to buy, from the moment we walked into the room, she was selling us this group.  She wouldn’t tell us how many members the group had (ie how many people will I be networking with, if I attend a meeting that has more than 7 people at it?) and when we presented our business challenges for input from the group, she was the only one who spoke and her answer was always that we needed coaching, which you receive for “free” with your $290 membership fee and $16.95 monthly dues to this organization.

She clearly realized that it was ridiculous to have people pay $75 for a not-quite-lunch meeting with four people, because she immediately offered us a $30 discount on next week’s meeting, which she claims will have 60 people in attendance.

I left a few minutes before the meeting ended because, well, I was tired of the hard sell.  The structure really irks me;  I think networking, which is forced to begin with, should be as organic as is possible under the circumstance, and I don’t think a structure in which someone owns the group has the best interests of its members at heart.  If you make money from every single person who joins, you can’t truly be looking out for all of them – you are looking for your own bottom line.

So I drank at least three bottles of water – $25 apiece as far as I can tell.  And then I came home and ate lunch.


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