Stephanie Abrams' Travel Blog
Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams Blog – Nationally Synidcated Radio Show Host
Mount Greylock Regional High School Rocks Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox, MA with “Much Ado About Nothing!”
November 19th, 2017

One of the joys of living in Massachusetts is that there is a commitment to support of cultural institutions and of grass-roots cultural projects and programs. These programs result in wonderful exhibits, exhibitions, events, performances and activities that create learning experiences and enriching experiences for residents and visitors to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. These activities are overseen by the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) which is the umbrella organization that oversees individual Local Cultural Councils (LCC) across Massachusetts. The MCC’s official website states,”Administered by 2,400 municipally appointed volunteers, the LCC network consists of 329 councils serving all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns. Each year, local councils award more than $3 million in grants to more than 5,000 cultural programs statewide.

I am now in my fifth year serving on the Cultural Council Northern Berkshire (CCNB) which represents the 11 towns in the Northern Berkshires of Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts. I have done my best, over the last four years, to attend events and performances that are funded by CCNB which have included programs at Centers for the Aging, summer events at local libraries aimed at entertaining while educating children, magicians, singers and dancers, art gallery exhibits, storytellers and dramatic productions performed at schools, churches, social halls, auditoriums, museums and other venues in the Northern Berkshires, all funded, in full or in part, by the Cultural Council Northern Berkshires.

On Friday evening, November 17, 2017, I attended the performance of, “Much Ado About Nothing,” performed by students of Mount Greylock Regional High School, the local high school serving students from Lanesborough and Williamstown, Massachusetts. This culminating activity was the result of the students studying this Shakespearean work, learning and understanding the language of Shakespeare’s time and the story and its nuances and, ultimately, participating in the set design, creating the costumes, learning and performing the parts, performing the play for the school’s student population and another for family and friends before Friday night’s highlight of performing on the same stage where Screen Actors’ Guild and Shakespearean actors of renown have performed.

The play, with a 21st century twist at every turn, was clearly well understood by the students who attended this performance by the bus loads! The theater, which holds almost 400 attendees, rocked with the laughter, applause, and encouragement of the schoolmates of those who were performing and it was clear they understood the story line, the plot, the nuances and subtle meanings as they reacted to the salient spots of the story in all the right places!

I was seated just to the left of Tina Packer, for whom the theater that we were in, the Tina Packer Playhouse, was named. Her beaming face reflected the joy in the production and her enthusiastic support of the relationship between Lenox, Massachusetts’ Shakespeare & Company. Tina Packer was more than pleased! And well she should be as the experience of  the student spectators and the student actors, costumers and others who worked on the play but were not among the performers, created one of those life-altering and lifetime memories of what effort, work, and enthusiasm can produce. That alone is a great life-lesson.

Official information about Tina Packer states that, “Tina Packer is the founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. She has directed most of Shakespeare s plays, acted in seven, and taught the entire canon at multiple colleges and universities, among them Harvard, MIT, and Columbia.” How lucky we are to have such talent in this county and talent that is so interested in this particular program that she would be at the performance to see the product of the investment of time and resources by Shakes & Co! Note that this is the second performance by Mount Greylock Regional High School which performed, “Romeo & Juliet” earlier Friday evening at the Tina Packer Playhouse following the same educational scheme outlined above.

The Cultural Council Northern Berkshire takes pride in supporting the efforts of all who bring their talents to share with the eleven communities we serve. This event is just one of so many worthy projects that CCNB supports. Have a look at the photos below to get a sense of the production and go to my facebook page at facebook.com/stephanie.abrams.94 to see the video I shot from my seat!

Special congratulations to all of the students who performed, acted as stage hands, scenery design, and costume design, and to all who had a hand in making this an outstanding production! Also kudos to the faculty members involved in this enriching experience for the students and all who were privileged to see the production at Mount Greylock Regional High School and at Shakespeare & Co. And huge thanks to all of the staff associated with Shakes & Co. (the loving local knickname for Shakespeare & Co.) for investing their time and talent yearly to bring Shakespeare to life for the students and adults in this county who are constantly reminded of the universal and ongoing relevance of Shakespeare’s work.

Enjoy the photos and remember to go to my facebook page to join the play in progress with a short video depicting  a reason to rejoice in the story line!

BRAVO TO ONE AND ALL!

BRAVO! YOU ALL ROCK!


Walk Thru the Facts About Bowe Bergdahl’s AWOL Story Before You Jump to Conclusions!
November 14th, 2017

I wrote this blog in response to an email I received about Bowe Bergdahl and his unique travels that wound up with him being captured by the Taliban resulting in his spending five years incarcerated on the other side of the world under torturous conditions. The email was critical of Bergdahl being in line to receive back pay amounting to $300,000usd. Think before you rush to judgment!

From a travel point of view, can you imagine being anywhere worse and experiencing what came next which includes his unit’s anger and harsh comments about how they feel about his defection in light of the effort of his unit to find him and some being injured and killed in that process? Maybe they don’t know what could be the whole story which had to be played out as if the story is what exactly what you see on the surface. But, just maybe there is a lot more to this story that is classified and we won’t know for  decades or in our lifetime!

Think about this:

The US Military doesn’t take lightly to people who abandon their post.

In general, court martials are swift and soldiers await their hearings in while incarcerated.

Bowe Bergdahl was brought home, given a desk job under his own recognizance for more than three years now.

He was given no sentence, dishonorable discharge and is scheduled to receive back pay.

Those are the facts.

What’s missing in this story?

I predicted that he’d get off with a tap on the hand. Why?

How about just maybe he was on one of those mission impossible missions to infiltrate the enemy where, if captured, the US would deny any  knowledge of what he was up to.

What if he’s a hero taking it on the chin to keep the secrecy of the mission he was sent out on and now has the nation’s opinions dumping further insult to his injury for which he is soldiering up to continue the mystery of why he was out  there in the first place.

How about you see the film “ARGO,” the true story of how the Canadians were given credit for saving our US Embassy personnel in Iran when, in fact, it was an undercover US mission but we just couldn’t take credit for it at the time. Once declassified, the facts of the case were made public and then made into a film which I hope you see.

Don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions. The US Military is tougher and US Military courts are tougher than the public sector of law in the US so if he’s getting the treatment you are now seeing, just maybe the people making the decisions are on the inside track to information that can’t and won’t, anytime soon, be made public.

My father’s words to me when I was barely 4  years old ring in my ears: “Believe half of what you see and a quarter of what you hear and you’ll be all right!”

Do some re-evaluating of this story, step by step, of the special treatment offered to Bergdahl before you jump to any conclusions. I saw the handwriting on the wall for this dismissal from the military way back when they gave him a desk job instead of keeping him in jail until his trial. Who would do that for  a deserter?? No deserter stories I’ve ever heard were treated with such kid gloves which makes me think of  all of those “Mission Impossible” stories.

Give it another thought before you dump more on this guy who, more than likely, is quite a hero! Hard to accept that thought but  those in a position to punish him properly up and down the line have given this GI careful treatment. That’s not the temperament of US Military officers who take abandoning one’s post very seriously.

Think about it carefully and don’t just jump to what seems like should be the “logical” conclusion that everybody in the military is just ’soft’ and ’soft-hearted’ ’cause it ain’t necessarily so!’


Crab Cakes and Amazing Rolls at the Plaza Athenee Hotel in NYC & the Recipes Too!
November 12th, 2017

Staying at the Plaza Athenee in New York City is a marvelous experience! But even if you’re not going to stay at the hotel located in so close to Central Park . . .

. . . you’ll still experience the elegant reception as you enter the hotel’s public areas and you’ll be greeted by lovely fresh flowers and sparkling marble floors.

Now, if you’re a guest in residence, stop in your room or suite to relax a bit in the elegance of your accommodation, and refresh in the glorious bath room. . .

. . . and then pop into their lounge for a drink or their lovely restaurant, a place where I had  a wonderful lunch that made me feel like I had just flown to France for lunch!

I did something my cousin Jerry Sachs tells me never to do outside of the region of the Chesapeake Bay! I ordered Crab Cakes. And I can tell you that even a Marylander would overwhelmingly approve of these crab cakes. . .lump crab meat. . .all crab meat. . . not that “stuff” that many restaurants refer to as crab cakes that contain anything but 100% crab meat and are overwhelmed by  mashed potatoes or bread stuffing! No, this was the real deal!

Also served were amazing rolls with whipped butter. . .rolls so amazing that I had to ask the executive sous-chef for the recipe for the crab cakes and the rolls which I share with you in hopes you’ll get busy in your kitchen and think of me as you dine on these generously shared recipe.

ENJOY!

Generously Shared by the Plaza Athenee Executive Sous-Chef Alfred Thomas

Recipe I: Crab Cakes

1 pound-jumbo Lump blue crab meat, picked over the shells

1/3 cup Mayonnaise

½ cup panko bread crumbs

1 large egg, beaten

2tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

3 dashes Tabasco

¼ small dice sweet bell pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoon vegetable oil/unsalted butter

-In a large mixing bowl, combine half of the crabmeat, panko, eggs mustard, Worcestershire, tabasco and paprika. Season with salt and pepper and stir until thoroughly combined.

-Gently fold in the remaining half of crabmeat and sweet red pepper, try not to break apart the lumps of meat as you stir, gently coat in bread crumbs and shape into 2oz patties and arrange on parchment-lined sheet pan.

-In a medium cast iron nonstick skillet, heat oil/or butter over medium-high heat. Add 2oz patties and cook and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and finish in oven

Alfred Thomas

Executive Sous Chef

Recipe II: Nut and Raisin Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup white sugar

1tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg, beaten

1 cup applesauce

3 tablespoon butter, melted

1 cup raisin

½ cup chopped walnuts

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F ( 175 degree C ). Lightly grease muffin pan

- in a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar and cinnamon and the rest of dry ingredients

-in a separate bowl, beat together egg, applesauce and butter

-mix applesauce mixture into flour mixture until combined

-fold in raisin and chopped walnuts into prepared muffin pan

-bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean, allow to cool and serve warm

With special thanks to Alfred Thomas Executive Sous Chef at the Plaza Athenee in NYC for sharing!


Sexual Harassment Injusticed & Under-Secure Facilites Aren’t Confined to Hollywood & Churches!
November 12th, 2017

Advice to New York State Tourism Folks: Upgrade Security, Turn Down the Sex and Give Some Business Practices Training to Staff!

This bulletin board is located next to the entry door to an office at the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid, NY, overseen by ORDA, in the office where the First Aid Kit hangs prominently on the wall for all to use and see. . .along with this material and the postings of important contacts of people and a list of where fire extinguishers are available for  those who care for the complex!

Here’s a good place to look in the Olympic Jumping Complex if you need a fire extinguisher or a dirty joke!

The First Aid Kit hangs prominently on the wall across from the bulletin board shown above with the unique offerings unrelated to operation of the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid, NY!

The story in short:

  1. If lunatics can walk into a church in the US and maim and kill and if people in the biggest tourism center in America, Las Vegas, are at risk simply by attending a music event, you’d think that would be the signal to every agency that oversees safety at tourism destinations to take a closer look at security and shut the barn door before the rogue horse thieves get in! So this is my message to the folks at ORDA, the Olympic Regional Development Authority headquartered in Lake Placid, NY, to get some security mechanisms (like lock your doors) . . . both exterior and offices. . . and security people over at the Olympic Jumping Complex. Because I went in search of my “lunch date,” an executive of ORDA who scheduled an appointment with me for which she chose the date, time and location of that luncheon which meant a 350 mile round-trip drive over 7 hours for me to be at the appointment that she never changed nor cancelled, I wound up, not at ORDA’s headquarters but, at the administrative offices of the Olympic Jumping Complex down-the-road-a-piece. (How I got there is a whole story for another day!) That building was wide open, the warehousing area of dozens of ski suits , boots and skis was wide open;  the offices in that building, except for one with a locked door, was wide open and NOT ONE PERSON was in that building or anywhere near it. I walked in and out of every office hoping to find my lunch date executive who never showed up  at the darling restaurant right on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid that she suggested I make a reservation at but never showed up, was nowhere to be found and  had not yet returned any of my at least four (4) calls to her office and cell phone lines.

But what I did discover is that this whole area was open to whatever mischief some loony-bird might want to perpetrate!

The view of Mirror Lake from the Mirror Lake Inn

Right beside that building is this iconic tower with an elevator to the top for skiers and, at this time of year, for the many visitors who were milling about the grounds with intentions of having a look at the foliage from the top of this tower used for ski jumping in winter. WHERE WAS SECURITY??? There just wasn’t any! I entered the administration building of the Olympic Jumping Complex with only the best intentions of finding either my lunch date or someone who could tell me where I could find her. Were I a person with mischief on my mind, who knows what kind of story would have been on the front pages of every newspaper and on newscasts! But I fell into so much more!

The Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid located off of Ski Jump Road/Ski Jump Lane and just outside of the Administrative Building

  1. At least one employee in that building is a woman. Her office is lovely; the only neat and nice office in what is otherwise a bunch of pig-pen offices made that way by those that use those offices. This woman, whose office I walked around freely because it was open and available to any visitor, regrettably, was not my errant lunch date as the name of the inhabitant of that office was clearly discernible from all of the memos on her desk addressed to her so my joy in seeing a lovely office that I might wait in for my appointment was crushed learning it was some other woman’s office.

I feel sorry for that woman, and any other woman who works in that building at the site of the Olympic Jumping Complex in NYS because the men who work there seem to think that at least one of those office is their private club and in this room, where there are desks for 2 people, probably men, lockers for staff, bulletin boards boasting lists of telephone contacts for key ORDA staff and maintenance crew, next to and across from the First Aid kit hanging on the wall for all who need a bandage or have an emergency, you’ll find the kind of pin-ups you might expect from a magazine that panders to those interested in viewing salacious materials. Note that I have no problem with what people want to look at in the privacy of their homes but do remember this is an office whose physical plant and employees are supported with funds from New York State which is supplied by tax payers. Additionally, there’s a copy of a  “joke” attached to the bulletin board and posted just beside lists of important phone numbers that a staff member might need so at some point, everyone who works in that office, between needs to see the lists, use the First Aid equipment or use a locker provided therein, just might have to have their faces shoved into this clearly inappropriate materials and is a clear indication of the lack of respect for the women, or woman, who works there and women in general. . . all supported by tax payer funding.

I asked a business man for whom I have great respect what would happen if the material shown in the photos here were posted in the office or jointly-used space anywhere on his company’s premises. His answer was that the material would have been removed at once, the staff given a reminder orientation of what is appropriate in the work place and an update on what is included in the term “sexual harassment.” Somehow, all of the above has been overlooked at the office building on the site of this iconic NYS monument to Olympics in NYS!

  1. The process of that led to this missed appointment opened up a series of events I could not have expected! While calling to leave messages for my lunch date in hopes of tracking her down before I made the 175mile/3.5 hour drive home without meeting with her, I went online again to see if there was another location in Lake Placid for ORDA and, having left voicemails for a superior in that office I thought I should try again to reach him to see if he could direct me to my missing lunch date. In doing a generic search for the name of the “boss” and the name of the organization hoping to find a cell phone or other way to reach this fellow before sunset in hopes of getting some input on my missing lunch date, I fell upon a Google result of a pdf of the court decree that declined the defendants’ counter-suit to dismiss the action which came up in the first 10 results on the first page of results for that search that I clicked on that I hope you take the time to read so you, too, will know what I know related to the fish rotting  from the head down.  Apparently, a sexually harassed three+ years female employee with only good review evaluations complained to her female superior about sexual harassment she experienced from a particular male employee and her superior essentially told her to try to get along so she complained to the “boss,” who told her to “get used to it.” (The judge was clear in his distaste for that remark and lack of action to protect this women immediately!). Through spectacularly clever maneuverings, the harassed woman wound up with no job and out the door. She’s just gone. But the “boss” who told her to get used to it was promoted this May, 2017 to ‘top dawg’ of the organization that oversees the place that the harassment took place as well as the greater reach of the organization overall! And to add icing to this awful cake,ehile the harasser was fired, to soften the blow of letting him go he was given ski passes for the winter as a ‘goodbye severance gift,’ which gave him access to come back with some frequency to where he used to work to continue to focus on what he saw as the relationship between his genitals and verbal abuse and the woman who complained about him and ultimately lost her position.  Finding this public information truly sidetracked the intention of my visit to Lake Placid! I hope you read what the District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe decreed when the Defendants requested that the court dismiss the case against the harasser, the superior who did not fight for relief for the complainant, and the top executive whose attitude and advice to the abused employee was, “Get used to it!” I loved reading the judges remarks. Read the whole decree. . .it’s fascinating and not a difficult read! Then you’ll be accurately informed, too.

Ski suits hanging in an unlocked warehousing room on the first level of the administrative building of the Olympic Jumping Complex with not      one staff person nor one security person anywhere around. What’s with that?

If you look at the material on the bulletin board currently available at the Olympic Jumping Complex in NYS and you factor in what appears to be a long-standing attitudes toward women internally in that organization as is evidenced by the District  Court’s public statements, how does indifference to respect for women in the workplace result in heaping more praise, more responsibility, and more rewards upon those in charge who do nothing to better the situation for the victim while the victim is sent off to disappear from a job for which, over her more than three-year longevity, she received only praise-worthy evaluations according to the court records which anyone can access online and which prominently appear for search only for the new head fellow’s name and the organization’s acronym?

By the way: I finally got a call from my errant lunch date at 3:45pm that day who, with a great chuckle on her part giggling about how this could have happened, told me that she was, at that moment, on her way to Albany, NY while I was still in Lake Placid looking for her! Pity she didn’t call me earlier to tell me her plans were taking her to Albany to deliver some posters by 6pm as Albany is a one-hour drive and 29 miles each way from where I live which could have been accomplished in a 2-hour drive and 58 mile trip  as opposed to the 350 miles and 7 hour drive to which I was subjected. (And when I suggested we’d get to Albany by 6m as we were leaving Lake Placid now and perhaps we could have a snack or dinner or whatever fit into her schedule, regrettably, I was told that she thought she might be meeting a friend for dinner and that was that! Just as well!)

But maybe it was Divinely Planned that I go in search of this woman so that I was confronted with the nature of what I was about to step into. You may recall my story recently on Generali Global Assistance, a company I thought would be a great fit as a sponsor for my nationally syndicated radio shows, only to find out that our standards hold a higher bar than their history as a company could meet. This is a similar story, i believe. Clearly, there are issues here from staff whose business practices make working with them more than difficult to ‘ol’ boys club’ attitudes that reward those who allow men to abuse women. I’m glad I didn’t have lunch that day or I would have risked losing that lunch on the way home.

In the new era of focus on the garbage that women are subject to in the entertainment industry, let it be known that the entertainment industry does not have the market cornered on sleazy men who exhibit horrendous behavior because they have “issues” and because they have power in the workplace and believe they can get away with just about anything. Tragically, when such things emerge that demonstrate that those who do not stand up for what is right, who are in supervisory capacities, whose advice is not to rectify the situation immediately but to advise the victim of such actions to, “Get used to it,” and the result is that the victim is maneuvered out of her job but the  supervisor is honored, lauded, praised and promoted to the Big Cheese with press stories announcing why this choice is not only the best choice but the only logical choice for ‘leader of the pack,’ one wonders if there is any justice anywhere.  The Harvey Weinstein story should be an eye-opener for all people and a reminder of something I have learned from business and personal experience:

When someone behaves bizarrely with me, it’s neither the first nor the last time that person is going to behave that way.

In the case of the woman who worked for ORDA  at Gore Mountain and was harassed and got no protection from her superiors, both female and male) in that regard which ended in a law suit she justifiably filed to seek relief, it would be no surprise to me that other women are out there who have stories to tell but, like this victim, were afraid of losing their jobs. When you live in a remote mountainous place and you lose your job, the choices for re-employment are not as vast as one will find in a big city and the gossip that surrounds a ‘whistle-blower’ is enough to ruin what might have been a career path. All of this is the stuff that sad films are made of but this isn’t fictional drama. This is all real. And it’s something I want no parts of under the circumstances I have uncovered in doing something as innocent as wanting to help an organization that should be of interest to tourists and travelers to meet and exceed its goals. Not so much any longer, thank you!

And as a reminder to all people in business, and even those of you who make a date for lunch with a friend:

If your plans change, be sure you let your lunch companion know as soon as you do and don’t play Hide & Seek at the appointed time. Worst of all, this character was in her office the whole time I was leaving her messages on her office and cell phone numbers telling her I was at the restaurant waiting for her! UGH! When I train the world maybe we can get everyone on the same page! Watch for the fictionalized version of all of this in my  next novel, SECRET, which I hope will be out next year. . . so go read RUMORS now!


Ah,Diners! A Great Part of a Great Roadtrip!
November 11th, 2017

Decades ago, a Greek immigrant came to America and opened a diner. There are places called “Diner” all across American and some or great and others are quite average but if you live in the northeast of the US down the coastline to the Middle-Atlantic states, or grew up in that region, you have been spoiled by diners owned by Greeks! Newcomers from Greece, seeing their countrymen doing nicely owning and operating diners, jumped into that business sector. Apparently, early on, the owner of a Greek diner created a daily list of specials and special soups. If, like me, you love pea soup, then you need to find a Greek diner on Thursdays as that’s the day pea soup is the ’special’ soup on the menu and the ONLY day of the week you’re going to find it on the menu! When I lived in NY and NJ, Thursday night was “Diner Night” at our house because I needed to get my weekly dose of pea soup!

For the traveler, you’ve left your favorite restaurants behind at home, wherever in the world home is, and you may be yearning for food types you miss,  the joy of stopping at a diner is that you can get something to please every member in your party with a diversity of items that include a variety of ethnic styles. You’ll find full meals, hot and cold, sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, breakfast all day and, in many cases, through the night at 24-hour diner locations. Literally, it’s like being at home where you can get exactly what you want only it’s better since you don’t have to make and you don’t have to clear up afterwards!

When you enter the diner, you can count on a refrigerated case filled with huge, gorgeous, tempting pastries and cakes that will probably make you decide on the spot to have a salad so you’ll have room for some of those dessert items! That’s what happened to us when we stopped  at the I-84 Diner in on Interstate 84 on my way back from two events that I’ll share with you soon. So I ordered something not on the menu but clearly able to be put together and that was a Greek salad with grilled chicken on top. My husband ordered a Cobb salad. The salads were delivered in creative dinnerware  that reminded me of a theater in Albany, NY called The Egg. Have a look:

Another thing you’ll generally find in a Greek diner, generally not advertised or marketed as a “Greek”diner but just as a “Diner,” is that if you were with another person, if you each ordered a side salad or a cup or soup, you could order one meal and split and both of you will be quite satisfied as food is generally more plentiful than any one person needs, especially if you’re planning to order dessert which is something two can easily split as well!

This is Tony, the owner of the I-84 Diner in Fishkill, NY, a warm, friendly, hospitable and jovial fellow who, like most owners of diners, is hands-on and there to make diners feel like they are with members of their family. I asked to meet him and he sat down next to me in our book as I did my best to convince him to open a diner in Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts! He asked me, “Where were you 40 years ago?” The I-84 Diner just celebrated its 40th birthday on November 10, 2017, just yesterday, and you can see that Tony has reinvested in keeping the I-84 Diner on the cutting edge! And let me tell you that the chicken in my marvelous Greek salad was succulent and deliciously spiced! Yum!

But Tony, please get your friends and relatives together and come to the Berkshires! We need you! And special thanks for the yummy dessert you sent our way. . . and the recipe for it that I’ve posted below! Thanks for sharing!

Custard Pastry

GALACTOBOUREKO

1 quart milk                      8 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar                    1 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup cream of wheat            3/4 lb. fila dough (by in market refrigerated case)

4 TBSP. butter                             1 cup butter

In deep saucepan, heat milk with sugar. Add cream of wheat and butter. Simmer, uncovered, until thickened, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat, and set saucepan in cold water to cool mixture slightly. Beat egg yolks until light, and combine with milk mixture, blending thoroughly. Add vanilla flavoring.

Grease an 11″ x 14″ baking pan with melted butter. Arrange half the fila in a pan, brushing each with melted butter.

Pour custard mixture, and top with remaining fila, brushing each with melted butter.

Fold edges to retain mixture.

Brush with melted butter.

With sharp knife, cut through top layers of fila in lengthwise strips, about 2 inches wide.

Bake in over pre-heated to 350 degrees until lightly browned and pastry shakes loose from pan, about 45 minutes.

If pastry browns too quickly, place brown paper over pan and continue baking until done.

Pour syrup (see instructions below) over warm pastry and let stand 15 minutes before cutting into diamond-shaped/pie-shaped servings.

Makes 45 servings.

To make Syrup:

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

Juice from one lemon

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until a medium-thick syrup is formed. Cool before pouring over warm pastry.

YUM! Try not to eat all 45 servings!!

Enjoy!


TO OUR VETERANS PRESENT AND PAST: I SALUTE YOU!
November 11th, 2017

TO OUR VETERANS PRESENT AND PAST: I SALUTE YOU. . . EVERY ONE OF YOU!

And with special thanks, appreciation and pride, I salute:

My grandfather, Adolph Statter, born in Austria and brought to the US by his family in the early 1870’s, joined the US Army, Maryland Company F Unit, 1 Maryland Infantry to fight in Teddy Roosevelt’s Spanish American War in 1898. God Bless the Immigrants!

My grandfather, Adolph Statter, right, with my grandfather, Philip Beber standing in front of his furniture store named for himself!

My father, Jacob Leonard Beber, US Army Infantry, was a highly decorated WWII hero having received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Distinguished Service Medal, Sharp Shooters Medal, French Fougere for his service in France, and a case full of other medals that I need a list to discern! Here’s a photo. See if you know what all the medals are for! The ribbon and medallion came with a big book about his army division and its mission in Europe.

And I salute my mother, Bertha, “Bootsie” to family and “Betty to more distant friends” Statter Beber Danzinger for her service as “Rosie the Riveter” who built bomber planes during WWII at Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore and checked serial numbers in the news each time a US fighter plane went down to make sure it wasn’t one she worked on building! Happily, none of the ones with her fingerprints were brought down!

This four-generational  photo of  my mother, Rosie the Riveter Bootsie Statter Beber Danzinger, left, on her 88th birthday with me, right, and her granddaughter, Tara Jacqueline Abrams Jacobs, and great-granddaughter Piper Lily Grace Jacobs when she was almost 3 months old! Can you imagine her with her welding tool building airplanes to contribute to the war effort during WWII?

My cousin Jerome “Jerry” Sachs served in Korea in the Air Force and so many uncles and cousins served our country well.He looked very sharp in his Air Force uniform! I wish I had that photo which my aunt, Hannah, cherished. But this is Jerry today:

Jerome “Jerry” Sachs, Air Force

I salute those here and long since gone, always remembered every day but especially today.


New Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Talk About Travel When Thou Knowest Not of What One Speaks!
November 1st, 2017

Broadcaster Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams aboard a 777 Flight Simulator at British Airways Flight Training Center at Heathrow Airport with Senior Flight Officer Amit Sani about to “take off” with Stephanie as co-pilot!

Every time. .  EVERY TIME. . . newscasters speak about “all things travel,” I want to jump through the TV or radio and grab them by the neck! The current news about Paul Manafort is already fraught with drama and if the news folks stayed focus on the relevant facts, that would be quite welcomed. But today’s big story is that, according to the MSNBC report I just heard, “Paul Manafort has three (3) passports with different numbers!” Can you imagine!

People, let me be the first to inform you that YOU TOO CAN EASILY HAVE TWO (2) PASSPORTS, EACH WITH A DIFFERENT NUMBER AS THAT’S HOW PASSPORTS ARE ISSUED! And if you travel extensively and needed to have a third passport, I suspect, never having done it, that the Passport Service would accommodate that special need!

Now, why, you ask, would anybody need two. . . or maybe three. . . passports?

Firstly, every passport is individually issued and if you lose or misplace your US Passport, the replacement, like a replaced credit card, will have a different number so having two, or three, passports, each with a different number is how it works and has no special value to be a story UNLESS the passports are counterfeit, black market, manufactured by some underground organization, are bogus and/or exist for the purpose of fraud.

But yes, you can have more than one passport and extremely well-traveled people often have two passports and it seems logical that the need for a third would result in an additional passport being . So why is this not news?

There are countries in the world that won’t let you in if you if you have a stamp of entry on your passport from a country they view as an enemy or with whom they have an adversarial relationship. Such is the case in the Middle East where, if you have a stamp on your passport that displays you have visited Israel, you will be denied entry into Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Libya. Chances are good that you will also be denied entry into Kuwait, Algeria, and  Iraq.

If you have a reason to visit any of the countries in BOLD letters above, and you also need to visit Israel on the same trip, the trick is to go to Israel LAST and then you beat the system! But once that trip is over and you need to make another trip to the Middle East, that stamp from Passport Control when you entered/exited Israel will be a barrier to your visiting any of the aforementioned countries. The US State Department, which governs US Passport services, recognizes the nuances of international travel and understands the need of US travelers to be able to travel where they need to go to without barriers to their progress and, therefore, it is legal. . . and recommended. . . that anyone who wants to go to Israel or any other country that would impede the ability to then go to other countries may apply for a second passport with the intention of using one  of their two passports for all travels to Israel or any other country that some other destinations might use as a reason to deny entry to the travel.

For whatever crimes Paul Manafort may be accused of, it probably would be best to focus on those and not blow up a tale about the number of passports he has, something that, on the surface, appears to be perfectly legal and something that so many people who travel extensively for business or pleasure possess. If these passports are using different names in an effort to pretend to be someone else, as you’d see in an episode of “Jason Bourne” where he has a backpack filled with passports from multiple countries and each bears his photo with another name and identity, that would clearly be illegal.  But having two US Passports to expedite  your travels is something you can apply for today! And, given that the US Passport Service is sensitive to the needs of passengers, my guess is that if you explained that you now have a stamp on both passports from a country that won’t be acceptable to another place you need to visit, the likelihood is good that you’d be issued a third passport but I’m going to defer to the wisdom and knowledge of Brenda Sprague, a frequent guest on my radio shows, Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams and Travelers411, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services, a division of the US State Department and get her opinion on the subject of multiple passports. If things go right, we’ll get her back on the air with me very soon, in her very busy schedule, to bring us all up to date! You can hear interviews with Brenda Sprague archived if you click on this link.

Also note that there are people with dual citizenship so if  you have roots in Ireland, for instance, or if you were born in another country and have become a US citizen, you can carry a passport from your “motherland” and you could have two US Passports if you indicate you need that second one because of political differences between a country you visited and the next place you want to go so,  you, too, could have three passports. . . all with different numbers!

If you want to nail Paul Manafort for misdeeds, go after him for something that makes sense and don’t dilute the story with how many passports he has unless there’s some illegality about the passports such as that they are forgeries or some other meaningful arguments. If the Department of Justice wants to be sure that he doesn’t take off for parts unknown, it would, of course, be important to know how many passports he has and confiscate all of them. I suspect if you traveled as much as he does you’d need three passports too so there’s not really a story in today’s news story! Don’t waste air time with a non-story and leave the impression that there’s something nefarious in having more than one passport. One day, I suspect, I’ll have the need for a second passport too! I can’t imagine that becoming national news!


A Dozen Rules to Live by to Enjoy Air Travel!
October 29th, 2017

The best way to have the best trip is to control as much as you possible can of your travel experience. You can muddle through complaining and moaning or you can do your best to control your experience to eliminate the hassles you hate! Yes, you can!

Broadcast media radio show travel expert Stephanie Abrams.  Photo credit: Dru Abrams

I love to travel and it if I were constantly made miserable you’d find me staying at home enjoying the view from my windows and the presence of Maggie McGee, our English Springer Spaniel so, clearly, I’ve learned some tricks and created my own rules for traveling elegantly and it’s my pleasure to share my ‘Rules of Air transportation Travel’ with you!

1. View your air flight day as the event of the day and devote the day to that experience. Your flight is not something you should be ‘running’ for. Plan to arrive three to four hours before your flight. Years ago, one hour before domestic flights and two hours before international flights was the rule for airport arrival for passengers. Since 9/11 and intensified check-in/check-thru procedures, that standard has been raised to 2 hours before domestic and 3 hours before international to give you time to get through the process without risking missing your flight. All that does is revolve around check-in/baggage drop/security check-thru and time to get to your gate which will probably leave you feeling over-stressed and living in a pressure cooker. Add an hour onto what is required so you have 3 hours for domestic and 4 hours for international check-ins. Most airlines will accept check bags starting 4 hours before the flight so that will also work in your favor and will take all the hassle out of becoming a breathless racer trying to stay on track!

2. Take advantage of all online services your airline will allow such as checking-in online and printing your own boarding passes or capturing a snapshot of your information to present at the airport. Be sure you are following the rules of the airline you are flying today and not those of another carrier from another trip as each is quite different. Assume nothing!

3. Use kiosks to check-in at the airline with whom you are flying to avoid long lines and follow instructions as to where to drop the bags you pre-checked.

4. Before you pack your luggage and carry-on, go online to carrier you are traveling with and/or the airport you are flying from and be sure that you are not packing or carrying on any “contraband.” Know what those articles are that are considered dangerous. If you are taking a wedding present to friend or family member that is valuable and you don’t want to pack it, be sure, if you are carrying it on, that it doesn’t look like a weapon or it will be confiscated. A set of steak knives or a sterling silver pie server that, according to the airline security folks is seen to have the potential to be used as a weapon, will be taken from you and you’re not getting it back! Some airports have a stand near the security area where you purchase what you need to mail these items to yourself or the destination you are going to so you don’t just lose them in the process but those stands and services are not everywhere! You are better off mailing ahead any items that could be considered dangerous. And don’t wrap your presents and then pack them in your carry-on as you are going to be asked to unwrap them!

5. Go to the US Government’s Trusted Traveler Programs and apply for acceptance into Global Entry/Trusted Traveler. If you’ve got a criminal record, chances are good you won’t get into the program! But if you can pass the acceptance scheme, which is really quite efficient and easy to do, and if you can get past the idea that the government is going to now have your fingerprints on file, go for it! I’m now well into my second five-year membership in this program and what it does is expedite your getting through security in US airports and speed-up dramatically your re-entry into the US when you fly in from abroad. Since the membership is for 5 years, the fee becomes nominal based on a yearly rate and if you are an American Express Platinum Card holder, you’ll get credited for the cost so it’s a gift! When you fly into the US into an international airport where, perhaps, ten planes each carrying about 300 people land at the same time so about 3000 are now flooding the immigration hall, Trusted Travelers walk over to a kiosk, place their passport info page in the noted place and in less than 60 seconds they are out of the immigration hall and waiting at the luggage carousel for their bags to arrive! It’s the best service the US Government has ever delivered to the traveler.  .  . and will eliminate a lot of moaning and groaning about inconvenience especially at the end of an international flight! Also, you don’t have to fill out that immigration form . . . tell them on the plane not to wake you up to give you that form as you don’t need it because you answer all those re-entry questions US Customs & Border Protection asks on the touch-screen of the Global Entry/Trusted Traveler kiosk. AND when you leave the baggage claim area and find another line of people trying to hand those white forms to the customs officers, either there will be a special exit line or Global Entry/Trusted Travelers or, if there isn’t, YOU HAVE FRONT OF THE LINE PRIVILEGES! Just bypass the line, go to the front and hand them the little receipt that has your photo on it that the kiosk spit out at the end of your entering the info into it and you’re done. . .unless you spent more than your customs allowance and need to see a cashier to pay up on the duty you owe and you’ll be told that if you need to! All of the above takes a huge chunk of hassle out of the airport process! (Note: If you are flying in from Dublin or Shannon, Ireland, or Toronto, you will clear US Customs & Immigration at those airports so when you land, all other passengers from everywhere else will be sent through the International Arrivals procedure but those on the flights from the Republic of Ireland and Toronto have already done that and just go pick up their luggage and leave the airport! A blessing!).

6. Don’t go to the airport wearing your laced up gladiator boots, your belt with the giant metal buckle, or fifteen pounds of bracelets, watches, and necklaces unless you are willing to start stripping down while you are on the line waiting to go through security! Wear shoes that slip off, which will make it faster to get out of and not require you find a bench to sit on to put them back on, and read the sign that tells you what you need to take out of your pockets, what you can’t bring on the plane and comply while you are waiting in line so you don’t become the source of the bottleneck that backs down the flow of passengers through security! Be sure that you have that one-quart sized clear plastic zip-top sack for your liquids and gels and that none are in containers that say anything over 3oz. If you have an 8 oz. bottle that is almost empty and it is clear to any thinking person that there’s only about an ounce in that container, some dumbo is going to take the bottle away because it says 8 ounces! This happened to a 20-something year old guy in front of me at an airport and he pleaded that he needed his saline solution, what was left of it, for the flight but, after all, the bottle said “8 oz.” It happened at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris and, happily, I was able to have a chat with the security fellow in French which resulted in him allowing the liquid to be poured into a clean plastic zip-top sack and having the container, itself, confiscated as if it was an instrument of torture. Most security people go by a very black-and-white book that doesn’t leave room for shades of gray! But if you follow the rules, you won’t create your own problem. Had this young man, who I later had on the air with me to retell the tale. . . imagine flying from France to the US without saline solution if you wear contact lenses!!. . . put the solution into a little plastic bottle that indicates it holds 3oz, he wouldn’t have had to go thru that nonsense! Lucky for him, the Lord put me in line behind him to sort things out. He thanked me and said, you have no idea what torture it is for someone who wears contact to take a 7 hour flight without saline! So if you need saline solution or anything else that comes in a big container, buy those little plastic containers and fill them with what you need. Just make sure that what you are transporting is not considered contraband!

AND DON’T PUT ON HAND LOTION AND THEN USE YOUR LAPTOP WITHIN A DAY OR TWO BEFORE GOING TO THE AIRPORT! Most hand lotions/body lotions and potions use glycerin as an ingredient which, by the way, is an ingredient in bomb-making equipment such as nitro-glycerine! I knew about a Mexican woman named Hilda who lived near Puerto Morales/Cancun who missed her flight because she used hand lotion the night before her flight and then checked her email before she went to bed and. . .BINGO. . .she got stuck at security at the airport because they swabbed her laptop and ‘glycerine’ showed up on the key pad! Two hours later, they figured out how that ingredient got onto her  laptop but, by then, she had missed her flight! That happened in 2003 or 2004. While I remembered that story, like a big Dumb Bunny, I put hand lotion on and then checked my email on my laptop the night before a flight and . . . BINGO. . . I, too, got stopped at security because of the glycerine content on the outside from my hand prints and on the keyboard. I was asked if I wanted to step into this cabana-looking room next to security on the floor or if I wanted to go to some clandestine room somewhere else in the airport! I figured I was better off on the floor in the little ‘dressing room’ so if I decided to scream someone could actually hear me. They finally came to the conclusion, when I realized I had “Pulled a Hilda,” and explained about the hand lotion that I was not a threat to anyone and would not be massaging anyone to death with my newly softened hands! Happily, because I follow my own rules of travel, that 20 minute delay at security didn’t cause me to miss my flight! REMEMBER: Don’t put on hand lotion and then use your laptop immediately! You need time for that stuff to absorb and maybe go through many numbers of hand washings and ‘wearing-off’ time before you touch your equipment or the swab they do of your laptop will trigger ‘further investigation’ that you probably don’t need!

7. If you’re not flying in an upper class of service, meaning you’re a coach-class passenger, you won’t have access to the oases of sanity provided to Business and First Class passengers by most airlines! There are some private clubs at many airports created for passengers who want that quietude and civil space where there is comfortable seating, TVs with access to news and entertainment stations, newspapers, magazines, everything from snacks to soup and sandwiches and beverages. . . your living room away from home. . . and if you don’t have membership in one of them, you can either buy a day-pass at one of those lounges or you can often buy a day pass from the airline you are flying with to use their lounge. This does not have much value if you only have 10 minutes left before you need to be at your gate so if you arrive as outlined above with some serious advance time, you’ll get through the process of check-thru with the better part of an hour so  you can relax in one of these lounges. Again, if your an American Express Platinum member, you receive membership in a club that has a presence at hundreds of airports domestically and internationally. It’s so much better than sitting in a less-than-comfortable seat at the gate with people traveling with children who only know how to scream!

8. You are so much better off not bringing through security items that are questionable when the same items are for sale in the airport stores! It’s fascinating that you can’t bring through security more than 3 oz. of ‘liquid-this-and-that’ but after you get past that check-point you can go into one of the stores and buy 12 oz. of a beverage, a bottle of booze, large sizes of shampoos and more! Or buy those items at the destination when you land and don’t weigh down your luggage with things you don’t really need to carry!

9. Take advantage of the opportunity to go window-shopping at the airport! Even if you don’t buy anything, you may be inspired by a creative idea or fashion-statement made in a store or window display. And if you need to pick up a last minute gift for someone at the destination you are flying to, get it now! AND if you see something you love, don’t wait to buy it thinking you’ll pick it up on the return flight! You may land in another terminal or land outside of store operation hours so you’ll see the store again but won’t be able  to get inside unless you plan to break in. . . which I wouldn’t recommend!

10. Don’t wait until you are on the plane to consider your happiness quotient with your seat assignment. Check and double check your boarding pass and the configuration of the plane to be sure you have your preferred seat location if that is an option. You may run into a surprise when you’ve been shown, online or at check-in, a seating chart and when you get on-board they’ve changed the type of plane and your seat is now one that clearly is not what you reserved. . . as in now finding yourself next to the galley or across from the lavatories. Ask for assistance but, regrettably, if the flight is full you won’t have much choice but to take what you now have. . . UNLESS if the plane is very full and your new seat location is truly unacceptable because of legroom or other concerns and there is space in Business Class, you just might have a shot at getting upgraded. . . BUT STAY COOL AND SWEET AND GENTLE IN YOUR PRESENTATION OF YOUR REQUEST or you’ll find yourself at the gate waving at the plane that is flying without you! Remember, although you are the passenger, the customer who pays the bills of the airline, there is an overwhelming attitude that started in the 1980’s when travel agents would fight for the needs of their clients and airline personnel would say things like, “This is what you’re getting. Take it or we’ll sell it to another agency!” Regrettably, there are more people than there are planes so there is, generally, someone else to replace any one passenger! And, therein lies the problem. You know something is wrong when the “Rights of Passengers” was written by the airlines!

11. If you are on a no-food-service flight, make sure you have time to pick up snacks and maybe a salad, sandwich, bucket of chicken (which you can resell on the plane when everyone smell how good it is and then you can pay for that upgrade to business or first class!. . .not).  Pick up that food after you clear the security check point so it doesn’t have to go thru the x-ray machine!

12. Start your trip being pampered. Rather than drive to the airport, park, take a shuttle bus with your luggage from the parking area of a private lot or walk from the airport, less secure, parking area, arrive by limo. Please do not confuse taxi service and limousine service. Too many residential regions are not served by taxis but when passengers look for transportation they equate the service of a limo with that of a taxi. No, no, no! Here is how to use and experience a limo:

a. Expect your driver to open the door for you.

b. Expect your driver to put your bags into the trunk of the limo. (Have someone in your party oversee that, you if you have to, to be sure that nothing is left at the curb or in your driveway and that nothing is inserted into your luggage that you didn’t put there! See the film, “Brokedown Palace!”)

c. Do not allow the limo driver to stop double-parked at the curb of your terminal or to stop 6 feet away from the sidewalk at the terminal.

d. Expect your driver to open your door to let you, or help you, out of the limo.

e. If you are doing curb-side check-in, if that exists at the airport you are flying from, or if you need a “Sky-cap” to assist with your luggage, allow/expect your limo driver to get the attention of those who provide those services while you sit in the limo, especially if the weather is extreme.

Most people, regrettably, use a limo like a fancy taxi! Limo drivers, from the better limousine services, are trained and skilled at providing pampering services to their clients. Let me ply their skills and enjoy the elegance and ease of it all! I  know you are self-reliant and don’t need any help! So what! Enjoy being treated like the king!

Year ago, when I traveled weekly for business, I can remember when a limo driver, after chauffeuring me to and from our local international airports in the NY/NJ area for almost a year, said to me, “It’s such a pleasure to serve you! You understand what limousine service is about! Most of my customers are jumping out of the back seat while I’m still pulling up at the curb! They think we’re just a snazzy cab!” I get it! And, in many cases, the cost of a limo, when compared to driving and parking yourself, is a great value especially if you’ll be parked at the airport for days or weeks! And if you’re off on a wonderful adventure to celebrate a bench-marking occasion or just to celebrate life and recharge your batteries, start and end with pick up at your home or office and being met at the airport by your limo driver who will help you with you baggage and bring the limo to the terminal door!

If you follow the above step, so much of the groaning and moaning associated with air transportation will fade into the background of positive experiences!

Happy travels!


Dear NAACP: Please Fight for All Passengers to Have Civil and Humane Treatment!
October 29th, 2017

Photo of Mark and Stephanie Abrams about to board an Aer Lingus flight from Bradley International Airport to Dublin, Ireland.

Photo credit: Dru Abrams.

The NAACP has issued an advisory to its members regarding the nasty treatment of member passengers on US airlines citing racist roots for rude/abrupt/unkind treatment of minority passengers and ejection from flights.
To our NAACP friends: Don’t take it personally. They treat everybody that way!
The “friendly skies” is nothing more than a slogan of the past. Airline personnel and crew have it on their minds that they are prison officers and the pilot is the warden. Hospitality at airports and on planes, even civility, regrettably, is a thing of the past and if you state your complaint, no matter how politely explained and no matter how rational, you risk being removed from the flight. Only the crew is allowed to be rude and/or obnoxious! So, as much as I can’t refute the racial bias contention of the NAACP, I can tell you that they don’t have the market cornered on being abused by US carriers and their staff on the ground and in the air! I could write a thick volume on my experiences and things I’ve observed traveling by air that have happened to me and to people of all sizes, backgrounds and shades of the color spectrum including some very lily-white folks. I’d love to see the NAACP’s meeting with American Airlines result in better/proper/customer-service-oriented treatment of all passengers! Most airlines today see their function only as providing safe transportation. Oh for the days when flight attendants were charming, smiling, friendly and accommodating. But they’ll be the first to note that passengers of yore were nicer people. They may not be wrong on that score either as I have traveled with strangers who behave badly and don’t know how to deal with sharing space in an airplane!
BTW: even though they’ve had some goofy flight attendants do ridiculous things in flight, I’ll fly to any city JetBlue flies to, rent a car and drive where I need to go if JetBlue doesn’t fly all the way to where I need to go. . .like flying to Chicago and renting a car to drive the 80 miles to Milwaukee because JetBlue didn’t fly there and I wasn’t willing to subject myself to being in the care of those airlines that could have taken me non-stop! JetBlue is the closest you’re going to get to the good ol’ days of Eastern Airlines and Pan Am service which, even in coach class, was spectacular! When you meet anybody in the travel industry who is a pleasure to deal with, chances are they used to work for Eastern or Pan Am!
I pass my silk scarf to the NAACP to go into battle like Joanne of Arc and fight for better treatment for ALL of us because nobody is doing that! Bless your hearts and wishing you great success! Give ‘me Hell!

On another note, it is well known among international travelers that you’re not going to find out what ‘first class service’ means until you leave the US. It was always a source of amazement for first-time travelers to Europe, and especially to Asia, to learn what it means to be ‘well looked after.’ Since the invention of air mileage loyalty clubs and people getting upgraded into first class by using some frequent flier points or credit card loyalty points, there is no such thing as a ‘First Class Passenger.’ Passengers in the US have far too long been interested in free drinks and a wider seat and have not demanded the kind of service that accompanies those features in upper classes of service on international carriers. . . and when you don’t demand fine service the result is that you don’t get it!

The European first class passenger, now the business class passenger, for the most part, has a history of being elegant in dress and behavior. There is a correlation between the dilution of the quality of service in all cabins on an aircraft and disintegration of the demeanor and presentation of the passengers themselves, some of whom look like they’ve just come in from plowing the back 40 acres! When passengers have no respect for themselves, they often find little respect from those who are there to serve them.

In spite of that, the deck is stacked against the passenger from the minute you enter the airport today! Airports and air transportation is no longer about service to customers but about customers entering a zone in which their rights are vastly diminished to very few at all. Sad as it is, airports and airlines, in general, discriminate against all passengers in creating a prison-like atmosphere in the name of security.

I manage to get through the system holding on to my contention that airports are amusement parks for adult travelers, with a few who cater to children and families with wonderful places to play and inspire creativity. Watch for my next blog with rules to live by to enjoy air travel! One of them is choosing air carriers by their customer service friendliness and their safety record and not by who has the cheapest seat the day you want to travel! You know who I like to fly with! You can tell by my smile above!


With Apologies . . .Especially on Yom Kippur for Featuring an Insurance Company Involved in Settlement for Non-Payment to Holocaust Survivors
October 1st, 2017

I am shocked and embarrassed and nonplussed and owe my audiences, especially my Jewish fans, an apology especially for an interview that broadcast on Yom Kippur!

We often create interviews that air on the weekends when our guests aren’t available by doing recorded interviews in person or by telephone during the week before it airs. When there are holiday and other scheduling obstacles, mid-week recorded interviews are the key to successfully creating programing.

So the September 30th program of Travlers411, my Saturday show, broadcast on Yom Kippur, the most Holy Day in the Jewish calendar, included programming that was previously recorded which included an interview with Chris Carnicelli, CEO of Generali Global Assistance, an Italian-based insurance company with offices in Europe and the US.

I am a great believer in the value of buying travel insurance and saw this interview as a public service for my radio and online audiences so I welcomed the opportunity, especially in light of the object lesson to travelers that recent hurricanes and the earthquake in Mexico  have become in teaching those who travel that at any moment the destination you have invested money in visiting in advance of the visit, or your home, may become uninhabitable and the trip is “off!” But without travel insurance, you may have just poured salt in the wound of the loss of the trip by experiencing the loss of your deposits, full payments, and  non-refundables as there’s no place to apply for your refund as the destination is now under rubble!

There are official lists of broadcast/media outlets that PR firms use to find the right spot to get an interview for their client. As it turns out, on the premiere lists in the travel media industry, my shows and I, Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams, Travelers411, Abrams Hospitality Marketing and Stephanie Abrams show up at the very top so, daily, we are approached with a barrage of potential guests. So when I was approached by a public relations firm offering up their travel insurance client, I expressed interest, especially at this very important moment in time when so many people with tour and cruise plans either can no longer visit the destination or can’t leave home to go anywhere until they rebuild a home to come back to! Yes, I was interested in the guest.

I was emailed an overview of information and links to pertinent sites to become better informed about Generali Global Assistance.  Everything I read which was sent from their PR firm looked very good. . . a company selling insurance for well over 100 years with roots in Italy and other European offices and offices in the US for over 20 years! Sounds good, no?

Here’s what happened next:

I went to Google to do a search for “Chris Carnicelli” the CEO of the travel insurance company. I like to Google our guests two or three weeks after they appear to see if the interest  info about our guests is appearing  in search results related to the interview. Chris’ interview first broadcast on 9/24/17, only a week ago so I really didn’t think we’d have pushed through tons of links for a results for this man or the company he represents yet but thought I’d check. In that process, I stumbled up on this enlightening article that you should read:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/30/business/worldbusiness/30iht-insure.4408382.html?mcubz=0

I have seen films, docudramas, documentaries, read articles, heard panel discussions and interviews on radio and television and read print media articles about insurance companies who made a fortune targeting Jewish families in Europe, selling them insurance policies, recognizing that the Nazis would soon be at their doorsteps and taking them off to extermination camps. These insurance companies then  found every reason under the sun not to pay the monies due to the heirs when they were victims of concentration camp deaths! What a surprise it was to me that Generali was at least one of those companies that made a fortune when, after the extinction of those policy holders’ lives, obstacles were put in the way of their heirs so that collection on those policies was rendered impossible. While the article you can read from the above link gives insights into the ’settlement’ (you can find volumes on this subject online with little effort) and the excuses for not not paying off all of the debts owed to the heirs of those who perished in the Nazi Concentration Camps who bought insurance, and while the world looked at Switzerland as “neutral” when, in fact, Hitler wouldn’t have touched Switzerland, not because of its mountainous terrain and not because it declared itself ‘neutral’ during WWII but because Switzerland was the repository for money, gold, jewels, artwork and other treasures the Nazi regime had placed there for safekeeping after confiscating valuables from the homes of deported Jews, until such time as the marauders could retrieve the treasure . . . and do their best not to return them to the families from which these valuables were stolen. . . (see the film, “Women in Gold!” about Austria’s similar actions), I am truly embarrassed that I didn’t look beyond the well-presented information on the company presented by their PR firm that led me to invite their CEO, an awfully nice-sounding fellow whose interview I enjoyed (!), to be a guest on my shows and expose that company to my audiences on air and online.

I have long had the most heinous  experiences resulting from dealing with PR firms.  This is the straw that will long be remembered as the one that broke the camel’s back. After I finish, “1001 Reasons to Visit Ireland,” my first travel guide and “SECRET,” the sequel to my novel, RUMORS, watch for my first business guide, “How to Pick a Good PR Firm or Why PR Firms Suck!”

To all of my listeners, I want you to know that I go out of my way to present to you the best of the best that the travel industry has to offer and in 15+ years in broadcasting I have never been caught up in a situation that comes close to comparing to this web I stepped into. And to everyone, and to all of my Jewish following, at this special time of year, I wish you L’shana tova, a Happy & Joyous Sukkoth, Health, and every Blessing and a reminder to Never Forget. At a time when Germany does a better job of remembering the errors of the past than seems to be happening here in the US, it is ironic that I should be confronted with this awful story and caught by surprise. Trust that I will do my best not to allow myself to be ensnared by surprises again! I can’t tell you what a shock this information was to me that I stumbled upon while looking for something else!

Note that that doesn’t negate the value of travel insurance! Do your own due diligence to find the company whose history, ethics, reputation for treatment of clients and paying debts due and reviews indicate that that is a company you want to do business with and then make your own educated decision as to where you wish to do business, wherever that may be. Travel insurance is such an important protection tool for the traveler and it’s a personal expense that truly touches the lives of those who need to cash-in on what they have bought when it’s time to collect. Choose the company that you feel you can trust to take care of your most personal needs when you are most affected by circumstances beyond your control.

There’s a joke I heard a comedian once tell about insurance:

“Insurance is a product that provides  you with protection while you are paying the premium and is unavailable when you go to collect on it!”

There’s even a commercial on TV running NOW in which the actor says something like, “I had an accident. When I called my insurance company they told me I bought the wrong insurance policy. No, I bought from the wrong insurance company.” That story seems to be as relevant today as it was in the 1940’s and onward! Clearly, it’s well known that some insurers are better than others, have differing levels of customer service availability, especially when it comes time to collect. Don’t buy until you know the company you’re buying from and learn quickly! Deal with companies who have great reputations. Be sure you can count on the company to be there when you need them. That’s fundamental.


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