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Monday, August 19, 2019

Cruelty of the Gods

(A companion piece to "The Error")

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The writing has long since faded to an almost secret code. Its words hidden deep beneath decades of time, a hieroglyphics now known to only those who witnessed what these symbols report.

In recent days I informed you of my horror upon learning that my son had voluntarily parted with a sliver of history in the House that Ruth did not build. 

But the truth is that all my family members did not perform such acts of selflessness with every baseball that fell into our laps, or at least landed in a locale close enough to scoop up. There is one that did not get away.

I entered the Stadium this past Thursday evening with soaring hopes. In this season of greatness dominated by unexpected heroes, there had been few if any outright debacles. Toss in the team's voracious appetite for home cooking, and it was surely a recipe for a delicious evening meal of round trippers and loud ovations.

On this night's adventure with me were two people who fit seamlessly into my family's saga of baseball catching lore.


Apart from the errant catch and releases of my son and myself, there had in fact been a third ball captured by immediate kin of mine over the past six decades. At the old Stadium, on a Father's Day more than a half century past, a foul ball rattled off the steel girders holding the roof, or maybe the deck above, aloft. In the succeeding instant, as I vividly recall, the outstretched hand of my dad was admiring its newly owned piece of glory, his face mirroring the joy that shone in the eyes of the three young boys in his care: his favorite (and only) son, my friend Marc, and my cousin Larry, who was, all these years later, seated to my left for this evening's contest.

And now to my right, finishing up a helmet cup of ice cream, was the father of the young girl who had been the recipient of my baseball giveaway largesse almost three decades earlier. 

The coincidence as to my companions, given the proximity to this past week's ball delivery miscue involving my son, struck me as something more than serendipity. Maybe this was karma. We would be witness to a rousing triumph of our boys of this wondrous summer. And, with almost complete certainty the next ball hit would be one with my name on it.

By the time we settled comfortably into our seats, the Bombers had turned into bummers. Merely a half inning in, it read seven for the wrong squad, three home runs having done damage to the seats in the furthest recesses of the park. 

For those who had endured the traffic, who had stood on the long meandering lines to gain entrance into the inner sanctum, who had anticipated hours of fine entertainment as just reward, the game had ended in darkness before the night sky had even descended. And it only got worse after that. If this were a prizefight, the corner would have thrown in the towel by the third. By the fifth, our crew had been subjected to more than ample punishment. And thus, as the promise of this undertaking had fallen into mortal disrepair, we three signaled our retreat to the comfort of our respevtive abodes.

No ball had found me this eve, none even entering my orbit. And with the final tally registering in at 19 to 5, it had been the worst shellacking I had the unhappy task of witnessing for as long as my eye could recall.

For but a bit of solace, the next morning I walked into my living room to stare at the baseball that has long held such a place of prominence in my universe. And there, it was, legible in its words only because it was ingrained in my heart:

 "June 9, 1964, hit by Yogi Berra in his 2000th game as a Yankee."  

Oh, how I treasure that ball.

Only it turns out, as I now decided to  google Yogi Berra's career, he did not play in 1964. And as far as I can determine, his 2000th game was in 1962.  And Father's Day in 1964 was June 21. And it was not even June 9th in '62. WTF???

So you see, not only did the Yankees take a drubbing at the contest I recently attended, not only did magic not fall into my hands, but I was now bewildered by the terrible reality that my most prized possession was, well, what exactly? I frantically searched for an answer but it eluded my grasp, like a ball touching my fingertips then landing in the welcoming arms of another.

Sometimes the baseball gods are particularly cruel.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Grand Experiment



("With Trump as President, the World is Spiraling into Chaos")

It has been a grand experiment, a question in search of an answer as to  whether the United States and the world can survive a rudderless ship, whether our democracy is greater than the sum of all the failings of Donald Trump.

At home, his personal hatreds have  broadened our divides. Abroad, his bumbling photo ops negotiations with North Korea, his bull in a China shop trade tariffs, his wink and nod relationship with Russia, his distancing from long term alliances and destruction of hard fought agreements have all combined to send a screaming signal to the world that the lights are on but nobody's home at 1600.

Yet we hoped that the economy would thrive and peace would prevail not because of, but despite the worst of Mr. Trump's intentions.

Today it appears we may be closer to getting our answer. The world is wobbling and seems but a tweet or two away from conflagration. We are, it turns out, not stronger than our weakest link. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Error

A ball was hit to my son yesterday. He committed an error on the play. He gave the ball away.

In over six decades of attending hundreds and hundreds of Yankee games I can count on one hand, with four fingers to spare, the number of balls I have caught. And my grave mistake, my unforgivable moment of weakness, was in handing that one ball to my friend's young daughter who was seated next to her dad at the stadium that day. The pain of that loss remains embedded deep within me.

I have recounted that story to my son throughout the years. Far too often, I am certain. And as he is nearing 40, he should well have absorbed the lesson of that cautionary tale.

So what if he was a guest of his friend at yesterday's game. So what if the friend informed my son as Didi stepped to the plate that the Bomber's shortstop was his favorite player. So what if my passion for baseball is not matched by my child.

With the swing of the bat, the ball headed directly at my first born. As this was a weekday 1 PM start, a makeup game, the first of a day night doubleheader, the seats all around were almost entirely empty. And while the ball was not caught in its downward descent by the sure fingered child of mine, it did come to rest immediately next to him. Surely he would grab this prize, pick up his cell phone and announce to his dear old dad that finally, finally, that lost ball was now found.

Instead, without hesitation, in gratitude for his friend's kind invitation, armed with the knowledge of his friend's deep admiration for the batter, knowing it would bring a huge smile to his friend's face and because keeping this baseball would really not fundamentally change the course of his own life, my son handed glory directly into the outstretched palm of his buddy.

My son committed a miscue on a fly hit to him yesterday. But the undeniable truth is that there was no error on the play at all.

$o That'$ Why It I$ Called a Green Card

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS SCHEDULED TO APPEAR IN THE RECORD, A BERGEN COUNTY NEWSPAPER

("Trump Policy Favors Wealthier Immigrants for Green Cards")

Now I know why it is called a green card.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" will soon be removed as Lady Liberty's words of deep embrace. Rather, "Show me the money" will become the official greeting for those seeking shelter on our shores.

The cruelty intended herein is anathema to the underlying principles for the founding of this nation. What has long made this nation great is not its wealth but its wealth of spirit. 

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime in pursuit of nothing but the next dollar at the intended expense of those of lesser good fortune. And he is attempting to reshape this nation in his image.

In making the decision on who remains in this country based on how rich they are, we are becoming much poorer instead in the currency that should matter most to us. The currency of a compassionate heart.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The picture that is worth much more than a thousand words (and needs no words at all)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one deserves more pages than "War and Peace.

Mr. Trump's thumbs up, pasted on grin, absolutely tone deaf image informs us, screams at us, that there stands a man with not a whiff of compassion, grace or dignity. 

In a moment that calls for making himself as small as possible, he cannot seem to even comprehend the absurdity of this photo hogging center stage disaster.

Where is the pain, the recognition that this is a child who will never again feel the touch of a mother and father, whose parents died because of an ongoing tragedy of epic proportion that is poisoning our nation? 

How does this look any different from the way Mr. Trump would appear at the ribbon cutting for a new golf course?

If we are attempting to portray Mr. Trump in his true light, we need not utter a single syllable, write another phrase. Just post this picture and let it tell its tale.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Fact of Life - Strike That - A Fact of Death



(Its Too Late to Ban Assault Weapons")

Finally, an editorial that deals with the reality of gun ownership today and for as far in the future as the eye can see. 

We are never, ever going to pry the guns from the hands of the over 30% of adult Americans who own at least one, the over 40% who say they reside in a household with a gun. These are numbers of staggering proportion. We don't have a problem. We have an epidemic.

This is a national disease, as virulent as any other significant health risk. But unlike other diseases, this one will not be eradicated with research (thanks to the government ban on funding in this area) and cannot be eradicated with warnings or numbers. Gun ownership is ingrained into the very fabric of this nation. As American as apple pie.

Herbert Hoover once promised America a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. The sad truth is that there is no need to make a promise regarding gun ownership. It is already anywhere and everywhere it wants to be.

And so, while we fight for red flag laws, while we argue around the very fringes and seek remedies that barely glance off the surface, the white flag is the one we should actually be waving. Homicides, suicides and mass casualties at the wrong end of a gun are a fact of life in this county.

Strike that. A fact of death.




Thursday, August 8, 2019

Will this election be about "The Squad" for both parties?



("The Squad" Is the Future of the Democratic Party")

The title of this op-ed will undoubtedly be the rallying cry for the Trump campaign in 2020. 

No matter his opponent, he will warn this election is about what the face of this nation is to look like come 2021. 

The issue is whether the Democrats will make this their central theme as well. 

These are women who demand to be seen, to be heard, to be felt.  They don't ask for permission. They don't await our approval. 

And if they can bring the people of color to their feet, if they can spur women to respond, if they can inform those who have been minimized, discarded and forgotten, that they have a voice, that they have a future better than their past but only if they rise up, that they can begin to exorcise their demons but only if they exercise their right to vote, then November 2020 can be a defining moment when both Democrats and Republicans come to the polls to answer the question if these four women are truly to represent the future direction of our country.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Speaking a Foreign Language

I have been speaking a foreign language in recent days, one filled with terms that are hard on the ears and harder on the heart. So many of those I hold dearest are going through physical battles.

"How are you"  no longer a superfluous phrase but a gateway to conversations on surgeries, on recoveries, on tests and more tests, on worry and wonder what tomorrow holds. I have reached an age where what was supposed to happen to the generations that came before, now applies with ever increasing force to those who stand astride of me.

It is a funny thing about getting old, or at least older. It caught me by surprise. Being on Medicare, celebrating over 40 years of marriage, they seemed like abstractions to me. In one sense I understood the implications of these events. But I was not ready to watch the collective mortality of those around me appear. Not on the distant horizon but on our doorstep. 

Now I wake up in the morning and try to recall the ever burgeoning litany of names I want to check in with that day. To monitor progress, to offer whatever meaningless phrases of support I can muster, to see if there is something, anything I can do to make the day a little easier. For now, in many ways, abnormal is the new normal.

And I wonder when the time arrives where I am not making that call but am on the receiving end, will I handle it with the grace and dignity that seems to prevail among those who are now struggling around me. I am a worrier, a heart on the sleeve guy, I cry at commercials. Will I muster up the strength and courage to show a brave face to the world when my time to fight arrives?

In the coming days, I hope that each of those who are on a quest, find answers to their questions and remedies for what ails them. But I know the odds are long that all will emerge unscathed. Along the way there will be pain and even some who are lost. It is a hard and uncomfortable reality that now is knocking on the door.

Growing old is inevitable. I just thought it would never happen. Not yet anyway.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Video Games Causes Mass Casualties and Other Truths We Have Learned From Donald Trump

1. Eating too many hamburgers causes hardening of the head

2. Excessive tweeting causes brain damage

3. Cheating at golf causes a belief that two plus two equals three

4. Turning one's face orange causes a swelled ego

5.  A high border wall causes Humpty Dumpty's great fall

6. Insulting friends and praising enemies causes acid reflux

7. Disregarding the truth causes national embarrassment

8. Refusing shelter to those in harm's way causes damage to the soul

9. Racism causes everything to be seen in black and white

10. Donald Trump being President causes mass casualties

Monday, August 5, 2019

Trade Wars - What Are They Good For - Absolutely Nothing, Say It Again



That was the sound of the other shoe dropping.

The miracle of this misbegotten presidency is that the belligerence of Mr. Trump, the random shots across the bow of policy and protocol, the lack of preparation and perspective, have not resulted in catastrophic consequences.

We have held our collective breath as we stumbled into possible confrontation with North Korea and escalating tensions with Iran. We have seen our allies abandoned, our enemies embraced. We have lived on the edge of chaos as a perpetual state of being. 

And the missteps have often been matched by the seeming lack of even basic comprehension. No more evident then in the trade wars that the President, in full pomposity, proclaimed are good and easy to win. Tariffs, even their threat, would bring those who dare challenge us to their knees. 

But it is not so, and the effects of Mr. Trump's ill conceived plan has been to hurt our own economy and force China's hand, now throwing our stock market into turmoil and threatening our continued stability.

While Mr. Trump fiddles around we wait for the conflagration. It is seemingly only a matter of time before his bad becomes our worse.