The family business

page 32, Made In America
In his book Made In America, Sam Walton credits my father’s business (Wiener Buying Corp.) with helping him get started. This really thrilled Dad, who mailed me photocopies of the relevant pages back in the ‘80s. He never seemed to mind that Mr. Walton got his name and address wrong. See Made In America, search “Harry Weiner” (note misspelling).

My shrink, Dr. Marynia Foot Farnham

Yep, Putney School, founded from day one on a principle of sexual equality, really did send me to the co-author of Modern Woman: The Lost Sex. Too funny! I’ve been told there actually was another choice, though I didn’t know it at the time. Perhaps neither did they.

For the morbidly curious, here’s a summary of a contemporary review from a 1947 issue of The Psychoanalytic Quarterly. In her excellent book, Backlash, Susan Faludi points to my therapist as a prime example of the sort of professional woman who views herself as an exception and who therefore undercuts other women, instead of empowering them. And, heaven knows, no one was easier to undercut than I was.

Here’s a YouTube video in which she explains why women shouldn’t work. Oops, I mean, earn money for their work.

Elena and Doc
beautiful Elena
Two snapshots of the radiant young woman I knew.

The man Elena was so madly in love with was Harold Louis Humes, which made it a much more complex and interesting situation than I could possibly have appreciated at the tender age of fourteen. In other words, boy, was I wrong—but nobody could ever have guessed how.

Here’s the photo of Doc that Elena carried in her wallet and showed me that day. (It weirds me out that this tiny private memory of mine turns out to be available on the web.)

His daughter, Oscar-nominated documentarian Immy Humes, has made a fascinating film about her father, which discusses Elena briefly. You can learn more about Doc at

Sadly, Elena died of an illness in 1973. I never saw her again.


Arabic, not English, is the language in which poets compete like singers on an American Idol-style TV show. The Arabic-speaking world has a thriving pop culture; like us, they idolize singers; unlike us, they also idolize poets. In this culture, Tau’s father, Ahmed Ramy, poet laureate of Egypt for his generation, was a rock star.

The story of his passion for the great singer Umm Kulthum is fascinating; here are a couple of books about it:

Nonfiction The Voice of Egypt: Umm Kulthum, Arabic Song, and Egyptian Society in the Twentieth Century, by Viginia Danielson.

Fiction I Loved You For Your Voice, by Selim Nassib.