We had barely introduced ourselves when the newspaper editor held up our book, gesturing to our "two-faced" logo on the front cover and said something along the lines of …
Ok, off the record, admit it, you embellished the characters in the book to be more entertaining.
When we finished laughing, we explained …
that actually we had toned it down, feeling that no one would believe what we're really like, especially Black. With a journalist's healthy degree of skepticism, he politely smiled, put down the book beside him and we proceeded to do what's most important when you're at Kenny & Ziggy's Delicatessen, deciding what to eat.
And then, what else would two Jewish women (sisters, no less) meeting with Michael Duke, editor of the Jewish Herald-Voice, one of the Gulf Coast's oldest Jewish newspapers, do? We talked. And talked, and talked. About how we grew up in New York. About how we took very different roads in life, yet both ended up in Houston (Black as a career choice, Red because it's where her British husband had been transferred). And how Red had a crisis that Black turned into a book, a brand, and a business. One that was supposed to go to Hollywood but ended up in the world of education, having completed our first semester of teaching at KIPP Houston High School less than a year after Neiman Marcus had launched the book.
So, it began … a breakfast meeting that lasted until almost lunch. We had hoped for an article and ended up with a front-page cover story, with one of our favorite titles, "Raising Kids, Racing Cars." But we never expected that we'd soon begin writing a monthly column for the Jewish Herald-Voice. But now, over ten years and over 120 monthly columns later, here we are. Life has a funny way of taking you in directions you never expected.
Obviously, we didn't know any of that as we reluctantly got up from our table. As we started to walk towards the front cash register, Michael, who we now felt had become a friend in a mere few hours, paused, turned to us, and said:
You're right. You downplayed the characters.
Want to read our monthly column? Here's a list.
Who knew that one of our most memorable speaking engagements would also end up being one of our absolute favorite stories, full stop. And when it comes to Red & Black, all we are … are stories, so that's saying something. But there was no way to know any of that as we set out to do a speaking engagement for high school students. And to this day, we can't decide which part of the story is our favorite … how we got there or what happened once we arrived.
Well, we were off to Silsbee High School in, where else, Silsbee, Texas. Which is about a two-hour drive from Houston and about 25 miles north of Beaumont, which was the closest city we could find to stay overnight as we were due at the school first thing in the morning for a full day (starting with a presentation to the entire senior class, and then one for the students that had used our book as the personal finance textbook in their Economics course).
So, off we go bright and early with me and my paper driving directions, as I'm old school and like to have everything ready in advance, plus I'm not a huge fan of technology. On the other hand, Black's busy on her iPad as we set forth on our latest student adventure. The road to Silsbee (sounds like a country western song) starts with three lanes, quickly drops to two lanes, and before I know it, I can see that it's about to go to one lane, with no signs indicating exits. And my paper directions are now useless! I turn to Black and ask her (well, really, tell her in my "panic") to see if she can find out where we are on her iPad and how to get to Silsbee, and ideally, Silsbee High School. All I can see is ruralness (Is that a word? If not, it should be) all around me, all I'm missing are some cows crossing the road. And Black's reply?
This past weekend, although not on my "To Do" list (although maybe I should start including it), I decided to take a little time to catch up on reading. So, I grabbed the pile of newspaper articles that I've been saving to read when I have extra time (which doesn't happen often). The good news (pun intended) is that many of these articles are so old by the time I get to them, that they go straight into the recycle bin. Such as the one when Trump was still President and covered not only the pardons he had announced but also the ones that were still expected.
Anyway, I wasn't sure the subject still interested me, as obviously it was no longer relevant, but decided to give it a quick glance, which is when I saw that it mentioned how Trump had promised to "drain the swamp" when he was running for President in 2016. Before you stop reading – this post has nothing to do with politics. It's about how that phrase brought back one of my fondest memories of my Dad and a piece of paper now yellowed with age …
Certain days are etched in your memory. All earning a place based on the significance of the event – some good, others bad. I will never forget 9/11. I was out of town on a business trip and when I called my crew chief that morning to talk about the transport of my race car, he asked if I had been watching the news. Obviously, I had not. And, as I turned on the television, I saw the plane crash into the second tower.
I am not one to be glued to the television – nor am I one to be overwhelmed by emotions. But I could not help watching the news, almost non-stop. Looking back, I think it was because I was trying to make sense out of what I was seeing. Watching with horror and heavy heart as the day unfolded, looking for an explanation.
There are many images that still stand out in my memory. Interestingly, the most vivid ones are the ones that reflect how we, as Americas, stood together as a people. The first-responders rushing in while people covered in dust and debris wandered shell-shocked. Poignant pictures of President Bush at Ground Zero. Firefighters and EMTs from around the country working together.
The American people stepped up to help in whatever way they could. Whether it was donating blood or raising money for the victims and rescue workers. Or, simply prayer. People attended impromptu candlelight vigils and participated in moments of silence. We demonstrated our patriotism and belief in the ideals of our country. Of Democracy. People flew the American flag at their homes and even on their car antennas, while others pinned it to their clothing. Not to mention all the t-shirts.
People gathered together. Sometimes to pay tribute to the dead. Sometimes to honor all the first responders. Sometimes to share their grief with others. And, sometimes because they just did not want to be alone. I was stranded out of town as all flights were grounded but did not feel alone. And, although all of us felt differently in what specifically to do in response to the attacks, we seemed to agree that standing together – a sense of unity – provided hope in this horrible time.