Category Archives: Cleveland

A whole can of worms.

I want to start off by saying that in no way is this a retracting statement for my blog post entitled Culture Shock, posted on August 13th. However, it has been brought to my attention that a few people from within my close-knit Russian community here in Cleveland had issues with the reflections concerning my family life.

With anything that is posted for the public eyes to read, I understand that criticisms will arise. I just would have wished that the people that have known me my entire life and know what kind of person I am, would have had the sense to realize that I have nothing but good thoughts and pride towards my family and background.

The type of writing that I do is what I like to consider sarcastic, at times witty, but all-in-all endearing. I wanted to show to my readers, particularly my non-Russian/Jewish readers, what a wonderfully quirky family I have and all the traditions that come along with being an Alter. Additionally, in case anyone out there in cyberspace is wondering, I read my post out loud to my parents who laughed at themselves and encouraged me to write similar pieces in the future. (And I will.) …I guess their senses of humor are fully intact.

I also hope that in the times to come, those few who felt offended by my light-hearted jesting will understand that my banter does not come with ill-intentions, but rather deep affection.


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Filed under Cleveland, Family, Friends

Good news: I’m still alive.

I have trouble falling asleep at home. If I think long and hard about why this happens to me, I come to the conclusion that it is most likely due to a lack of wearing myself out. Last night I decided I was sick of staying up until 4AM, watching bad television and surfing the Internet for celebrity gossip. So I did what any normal person would have done in my situation, I took a shot of Nyquil.

Because Nyquil is supposed to relieve fever, flu symptoms, headaches, etc., and I was feeling none of the aforementioned ailments, it left me with a strange (OK, high) feeling. I’m not sure why exactly this happened, but my lack of medicinal knowledge leads me to believe that the drug had nowhere else to go but directly to my head. Sure enough, within the half-hour it had done it’s magic, and I was happily asleep.

Today is a different story. I’m not entirely certain whether I should even be blaming this on what could be an innocent over-the-counter medicine, but my whole body felt tragically frail. It took effort to get myself out of bed, brush my teeth; even deciding what to wear felt as tedious as sitting down to take the SATs.

Eventually though, I managed to drive myself to a morning yoga class. How I got through this hour-long endeavor, I’ll never know. I felt as though the other women present, many in their 50s and 60s, looked at me as though I was the “young unruly-type”. (Meaning, I looked like I got-drunk-and-had-a- really-good-time-the-night-before-and-somehow-still-managed-to-pull-my- ass-out-of-bed-and-make-it-to-yoga-class, “young unruly-type.”) Anyone who actually knows me however, is aware that unless my schedule is completely open the next day, I tend to steer clear of the courage juice.

Upon coming home from the said class and practically crawling up the stairway to reach my room, I made it to the bed. That’s right, at twelve in the afternoon I was ready to go to sleep again. What’s wrong with me, I thought as I began to drift off. Luckily, my thoughts stopped then and there as I passed out until three-o-clock. In hindsight, I’m not sure I should have been operating my car earlier that morning; as it is what many warning labels refer to as “heavy machinery” and hence, something to be avoided.

To make a long, and unnecessary story short, the 30 milliliters of Nyquil I consumed kept me in a comatose state for over thirteen hours. As proof that I have learned my lesson in regards to abusing such substances, you have this blog post that I have completed writing at 2AM. I am wide awake and remain seated on my bed plotting the next task to accomplish that will hopefully induce heavy eyelids and eventually REM while the Nyquil bottle sits untouched a mere fifteen feet away.

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Filed under Cleveland, Sleepless Nights

Culture shock.

In the famous debate over nature vs. nurture, we’re asked to question whether our genes or our life experiences determine our unique individual behavioral and physical traits. Growing up, surrounded by a family and extended network of Russian-Jewish immigrants, here’s what I have avoided nurturing:

1) a desire for vodka or cognac before the sun sets.
2) urges to highlight my hair, tan my skin, or wear lipstick with a metallic luster.
3) getting married at 19, despite several of my grandmother’s failed matchmaking attempts.
4) a knack for sporting see-through clothing
5) incorporating Yiddish into everyday jargon

Here are some unavoidable characteristics my Russian-Jewish nature so lovingly imposed upon me:

1) boobs
2) curly hair
3) a desire for bagels and lox
4) self-deprecating sarcasm
5) boobs

…to name a few.

Last night in Cleveland my grandparents and great aunt and uncle came over for a typical dinner filled with caviar, liquor, and pumpernickel bread. However, throughout the entire meal all I could think in my head was: they are giving me such great material for my next post. But where would I even begin?

Here is a quick run-through of events that tend to happen each time my family gets together.

After setting the table, as I always set the table; my brother, Jordan and I make sure we’re sitting next to each other. (It should be noted that he and I sit next to each other at each Russian event so we can discuss in full-confidence what is going on around us, because none of our friends care or would ever understand.) So we’re sitting next to each other, people start grabbing at food, pouring themselves shots of wine, cognac, vodka…pick your poison!

Then my grandmother’s boyfriend starts speaking to Jordan and I…some joke he thinks we care to listen to. After he’s done telling us the joke or “wise” anecdote, a disappointed look spreads across his face, as he clearly has not gotten the reaction out of us that he would have liked. In Russian he then goes, “Ah, they don’t understand Russian. Why don’t they understand the Russian language? They should know it!” Meanwhile, the man who lives in America, cannot utter a single word in English. At this point, since Jordan and myself can both speak and understand Russian, we just shoot sarcastic remarks about the man in front of his face. I guess the old school discipline failed on us.

My aunt, who was six when her family came to the U.S., lives in California now. It’s true she survived the drama that comes along with having a family that lived through Communism, but the fact of the matter is that she escaped. All I have to say in regards to her and last night’s dinner is this: my grandparents are very worried about her food preparation methods. “Grilling?!” (As if it were synonymous to pulling out scraps from the garbage.) “And no soup? How are the children supposed to grow without some ‘soup-cheek?'” I suppose only time will tell.

Finally, after about ten toasts in a thirty-minute span and my mother asking everyone whether they have tried and/or enjoyed each individual food item on the table, it’s time for my grandpa and my grandmother’s boyfriend to go play dominoes. The game of dominoes, I’ve come to realize, is the old man’s X-Box. To me it looks like just about the most boring thing anyone would dare to inflict upon themselves, but who am I to judge?

This has been just a small sampling of what a night at the Alter residence might be like. Far from the usual, I must say, it has always kept me entertained.


(Yes, styrofoam is the norm for such an occasion.)


Filed under Cleveland, Family

I hope you enjoy the tour.

Well, I’ve been back in Ohio since Sunday. During the last three days I have gotten up at 6:45 AM to go on a brisk walk/jog/mainly walk with my Dad. I have also unpacked from my summer in NYC. I have caught up on some great reality television, but have also found the time to sit down and read Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. (Which, by the way, I know everyone and their mother has already read. However, if you haven’t yet, I suggest you pick up a copy at your nearest bookstore.)

To say the least, I’ve had a lot of downtime. And it’s not the kind of free time where you feel motivated to accomplish a long list of “To Do” tasks. I wish I could say I was being really productive, but home is the kind of place where the lack of stimuli makes me about as entertaining as a trip to the dentist’s office. Both leave me with a nice, clean feeling, but other than that they fall short of being considered amusing.

This morning I decided to do something other than simply sit around, waiting for minutes to pass. With the intention of posting on my blog today, I went out in search of something to write about. I hopped in my ’94 Toyota Camry (a real beauty with no air conditioning) and took to the open road, driving wherever my little heart desired. As tends to happen though, the open road turned into a five-mile radius surrounding my house, and the idea for a post became taking pictures of my town from within the confines of my sauna…I mean car.


Giant Eagle. Far from just a grocery store “the Eagle,” as called by the locals, is a common meeting area. As there is often not much to do in the evening for the under-21 crowd, students tend to loiter in the parking lot until asked to leave by patrolling officers.


Haskins Road. Cornfields, among nothing else, surround this stretch of land.


Dairy Island. In grade school, if you did anything right, a sweet treat from this tempting roadside concession was your reward.


The Popcorn Shop. No, I don’t live in Pleasantville. But by the looks of it, you may think so. (I would also like to mention that this quaint eatery is located on Main Street.)

After traversing the varied streets of Bainbridge Township and Chagrin Falls, I have come to the realization that leather seats plus no air conditioning is just another recipe for failure to look like a decent human being. I vacated my car with a pool of sweat dripping down my thighs and a dark, wet imprint on the back of my shirt the size of Texas. Fortunately, no pictures from this portion of the morning exist.

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Filed under Cleveland