My friend, Trisha, says I’m a news junkie. But she hasn’t met my Aunt Elaine, who at 83, has a zest for politics like you wouldn’t believe. And trust me, even I can’t believe it.
Yet, when I want to get my true, 100% all-in political fix, all I have to do is pick up the phone and call Aunt Elaine. She’s my favorite news junkie and the best go-to news source around. Guaranteed.
“Bubala,” she says. “I feel like a celebrity, you interviewing me.” (This is the second time I’ve called to write about her. You can read my first post here.)
“Aunt Elaine, I just have to know. What’s your take on the debates?”
“What are you talking about?” she explains in a New York accent so thick it can slice a bagel. “Where do I begin??”
Aunt Elaine, grew up in Bronx, but has been living in New Jersey for as long as I’ve known her. So the New York accent is genuine. The bomb. Like Bernie Sanders times ten. I ask her where her infatuation with the world of politics began.
“When I was growing up,” she recalls, “I woke up to the news on the radio every single morning. I would hear Walter Winchell and Gabriel Heatter. From 7:30 in the morning until I got home at night, I heard the news. You could go to the movies every week and watch the newsreels. I belonged to the Sedgewick Democratic Club in the Bronx. I had a brother in the service and that made my father a strong follower of politics. I became interested because of him.”
Today, politics still courses through Aunt Elaine’s veins.
“I watch news all the time,” she says. “Bloomberg News, CNN and C-span. Sometimes Fox News. I never agree with them but I listen. My favorite is MSNBC, and I adore Rachel Maddow—whom I think is brilliant—Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Matthews, too.”
“I do not like Joe Scarborough,” she adds. “Joe doesn’t know his history, like Chris Matthews does and Bill O Reilly, who I don’t like, does. I like the young people they have on MSNBC. I think their views are great. They’re very tolerant of different opinions. I like Chuck Todd. I watch his show, ‘Meet the Press,’ and also ‘Face the Nation.’”
Whew. That’s a lot of news!
The first time Aunt Elaine voted in a presidential election, Dwight D. Eisenhower was running against Adlai Stevenson. She’s voted in every election since, and firmly stands by one belief:
“No matter who’s in office, whether I voted for them or not,” she says, “I respect the President of the United States of America. I feel proud to be a citizen of this country and stand by the President.”
Like many, Aunt Elaine feels the news has become more about entertainment than substance, pointing to one candidate in particular.
“Trump is a bluff,” she observes. “He exaggerates, he brags. He’s a self-promoting entertainer, and I resent that. If you want to run for president, let’s hear policy. Let’s hear what you’re going to do. Don’t tell me what you don’t like. You want to get rid of ISIS? So do I. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and kill everybody. And who are you to say you don’t like immigration? Well the Native Americans are Americans and everyone else is an immigrant, so that’s where I feel Trump lacks his history. I want to know how he’s going to run the country.”
As far as the other candidates, Aunt Elaine has this to say: “They can say what they want but I wish they would do so without belittling the president. Out of respect, no one should belittle the president, no matter who it is.”
When Aunt Elaine disagrees or has an opinion about something she heard on the news, she’s not afraid to voice her opinion.
“I’m not on email or Facebook,” she explains. “So I constantly call and leave my comments on the MSNBC comment line. I never get to speak to anyone, though, and they never call back.”
Politics isn’t Aunt Elaine’s only interest. She also has a penchant for the Yankees and Frank Sinatra.
She remembers playing hooky from school with friends, to see Sinatra perform at the Paramount.
“My mother wrote a note to excuse me from school,” she recalls. “She also made lunch for us. I wore my bobby socks and saddle shoes. There were long lines to get in and we were screaming our heads off. We didn’t know why we were screaming but we were excited because it was all new. My brother taught me the Lindy Hop and the Suzie Q and I’d dance to the Big Band and Frank Sinatra on the radio. After the war, Frank was popular because people were looking for more loving songs like, ‘Be Careful, it’s My Heart.’ I just fell in love with Sinatra.”
She pauses for a moment. Then adds,
“Of course, he lost his chance. If it wasn’t for Ava (Gardner, whom he married), he could’ve had me, but there you go.” She laughs.
As for the Yankees, Aunt Elaine has always been a die-hard fan, going back to the Joe DiMaggio days.
“Living in the Bronx, I could walk to Yankee stadium,” she recalls. “Sometimes we’d go to to a game. Other times I could see the games from the elevated train platform. Since I’m retired now, I’m able to watch more. If I’m out to dinner, I check the score. Sometimes I record it.”
Aunt Elaine’s home is filled with Yankee memorabilia—tee shirts, baseball caps, a pen and ink portrait of Babe Ruth; posters and plaques from when they won the World Series, a nightstand, throw pillows, a wall clock and a book signed by Yogi Berra.
“I have a lot of paraphernalia,” she says matter-of-factly.
Of course, her most prized possession are the lyrics she wrote for her team with love, and with the hope that someday someone will put them to music.
“We are the New York Yankees you’ve heard so much about,
Everyone stops and stares at us whenever we go out,
We are decent, kind and charitable in everything we do,
Everybody loves us,
We know that you will too,
So come all to a game and cheer us when we play,
In the Bronx or on the road you’ll have a terrific day
You’ll be thrilled to watch us win,
We really can’t be beat cause we’re the New York Yankees
The best you’ll ever meet.”
Any takers for setting this to music? You just may make my Aunt Elaine’s day.