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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Reading the New Yorker

I ran into someone a few months back who told me she reads The New Yorker cover to cover every week. So do I, if that means perusing both the index and the Cartoon Caption Contest. I think I have a better chance of spontaneously regrowing a full head of hair than starting with The Mail, meandering through the maze of phrases piled from here to eternity and ending up with any hold on my sanity.

If the road of life is strewn with good intentions then I would suggest you detour away from my personal highway. This is definitely the week I get past The Talk of the Town before raising the white flag. Does Shouts and Murmurs count as progress or is that like adding insult to injury?

I should be able to read the Fiction piece. After all, it is like a one chapter book. How hard can that be? If you have to ask then you really don't have a clue.

Those poems. I mean I never understood anything beyond "There once was a boy from the South....." So, unless it is a piece about a pencil, it has no point (get it, pencil without a point).

As for the television and movie reviews. Now that I should be capable of digesting. But everything is suddenly so complicated and complex, with various layers and meaning far beyond what I thought I was watching. It kind of makes my head hurt and convinces me to cancel my Mensa membership.

The other sections are so far beyond the realm of my universe I can't even remember what they are. And all those pages in the front taken up with discussions of restaurants, museums and other things happening in NYC. You know I live in NJ, don't you? I can barely afford the toll across the bridge, forget about the garage and the cost of exploring every venue you suggest. Unless you are giving out interest free loans, I am staying on Governor Christie's side of the Hudson, thank you.

So, why do I get The New Yorker? I don't actually think I paid for the subscription. I believe it was one of the freebies if I made that $10 a month contribution to my local public radio station. Next year I think I may reduce my gift to $5 per month so I can get the free tote bag instead.

I hope I haven't hurt your feelings. That was not my intention. I only wanted to let you know that I am trying to live up to your expectations of me, but I am forever doomed to failure.

But keep up the good work. There is apparently at least one person out there who takes full advantage of what you have to offer. I recently heard she is expected to be released from the sanitarium in a matter of weeks. With strict NNY orders (No New Yorker)



And Then There Was One

And then there was one. It was not 10 little Indians, but Yankees, the projected starting nine on Opening day, plus the DH, all now on the "oh boy this is not good" list. Only Gleybar Torres still standing.

Sanchez, Bird (ok, a semi-starter), Gregorious, Andujar, Stanton, Hicks and now Judge. Throw in Severino on the mound and, maybe a little stretch with Tulowitzski as DH and there you have it. Add a Betances to the mix for a little not so comic relief. 

What happened? Is it the New York City air, the bumpy roads, the broken subway system? Is it the pre-game meal or the post game interview? Is there a rabbit's foot that has been lost or a voodoo doll that has been found? Did I do something wrong? Or maybe, just maybe, it is the reverse curse of the Bambino, a hundred years later.

Whatever the cause, there seems no cure to the rash of maladies that now covers this team worse than an outbreak of the measles. All I know is that Gleybar should be taking a good look at his health insurance policy and the team should be protecting him more closely than Barr is protecting the President (sorry, couldn't help myself).

And while the Indians, and the rest of the AL, lick their chops as the Yankees lick their wounds, the only joy in Mudville is how bad the Red Sox have been without having a depleted roster. 

Maybe the curse of the Bambino has hit both teams for their century old indiscretion. Strike two. 

Or more like 14 and counting.

Monday, April 1, 2019

ANOTHER LETTER IN THE NEW YORK TIMES - JUST NOT MINE



At every opportunity, I have advised in BOLD LETTERS of my writing accomplishments, intending to emphasize my mastery of my craft. Years of honing my skills and a mental dexterity, combining to produce yet one more piece of wizardry. Not something to be lightly taken or dismissed. A talent, absolutely.

Not to be attempted by those without the requisite training and creativity. Studying the political landscape, becoming uniquely adept at translating our collective angst into a stunningly well crafted statement. Or capturing some personal moment with my own well honed mix of humor and gravity.  I was, I am, special.

So, a few days ago, my friend was visiting her parents, reading the New York Times. Out of sheer boredom, she decided to write a letter to the editor in response to an article about the diminishing universe of stick shift cars. With no expectations, off the letter went. It was her first and only attempt at this exercise. She had clearly chosen a topic of limited interest, one which I would never advise anyone to waste their time on if the intent was to ever be seen in print.

I saw my friend and her husband this past weekend. He casually mentioned that his wife's letter, on her grave disappointment in having to enter the world of automatics, was to be published in MY domain. I was MORTIFIED, but I mumbled some words of congratulation, trying to turn insincerity into genuine sounding applause.

My world is crumbling around me, for today's NY TIMES has my friend's thoughts there for the world to view. A neophyte, writing to the paper for a lark, because she ran out of alternative ways to keep herself entertained. Could even Caesar have felt more a sense of betrayal?

What cruelty, what a mortal blow to my ego. Where are the gatekeepers who should keep entry into this most exclusive club far away from those who would treat this experience so cavalierly? 

From this time forth consider me humbled. I shall limit my exclamation points and BOLD notations of my greatness, for I have learned that anyone with a quick wit and a minute or two with nothing better to do is equally capable as I.

 I do CONGRATULATE my friend on a job well done. I just wish she hadn't made it seem so damn easy.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

What Did We Expect from the Mueller Report?

("After the Mueller Report, the Dream of a Sudden Magic Resolution to the Trump Tragedy Is Dead")


We were never going to have a "sudden magic resolution" involving Mr. Trump even if Mr. Mueller had concluded that Mr. Trump was a Russian spy masquerading as an American imbecile.

Each day of his presidency has been an affront to our democracy, to the precepts that have guided this nation for almost 250 years. Yet with his every attack on our intelligence, with his every blatant falsehood, with his every misstep regarding both friend and foe, the Republican party turned a blind eye and a deaf ear.

So what did we expect that the Holy grail of the Mueller report would accomplish? Would Mr. Trump say "you got me" in one final anguished tweet and leave the White House without bothering to turn off the lights? Or would there be a unanimous hue and cry of Republicans in Congress demanding the President shave his head and tattoo the scarlet letter "I" for idiot on his forehead?

This was never more than pure fantasy. Donald Trump was never going anywhere before November 2020, any more than the never Trumpers were going to be able to keep him from becoming the nominee in 2016, any more than there would  be an open rebellion by the sycophants and the nose holders, any more than he would unilaterally decide to slink away from the presidency out of boredom or because he admitted he was overwhelmed and unprepared for the demands of office.

There is hard work that must be done to unseat Mr. Trump in the election next year. Mr. Mueller's magic bullet never was the actual answer to this confounding problem. Step by step and inch by inch is the only way that this vermin will be eradicated.

My Dad

It is fitting that opening day of the baseball season falls on my dad's birthday. He would have been 101 today. He was born just before the last season of triumph for 86 years for the hated Red Sox. Thank you "No No Nanette." Long live the "Curse of the Bambino."

My dad loved sports, was an All-American fencer, a wonderful golfer, a natural athlete, excelling at every game he played, from ping pong, where he spent many an evening teaching me the meaning of having to earn victory, to basketball, shooting at a rim set far too high above our garage door. But, it was in our mutual love for baseball that the bonds between myself and my dad were forever deeply cemented.

From my earliest memories I was drawn to this game. It was the mid 1950's and baseball ruled the landscape. Decades before the internet and a million distractions, even before television sets were ubiquitous, spring ushered in melting snow and the great American pastime.

Football was still attempting to make its mark, the overtime championship game of 1958 and Alan Ameche shepherding its entry into our consciousness, the NBA maybe less of a draw than the Harlem Globetrotters. Baseball was everything, the Yankees were dominant and Mickey Mantle was, well Mickey Mantle. My first hero. Actually my second. After my dad.

40 years after my dad's passing, as I near my 67th birthday, it is hard for me to fathom how much I still miss him. Even as I write this, I have a hard time holding back tears.

My dad was my first and forever best friend. I was, like him, a natural athlete with a deep love of sport. It was a perfect fit for the two of us, enjoying hour after hour of shared skills and passions. It was, and it remains, my definition of pure joy.

More than six decades after our first catch, more than six decades after our first entry into the House that Ruth built (thanks again to No No Nanette), more than six decades after we walked hand in hand and heart in heart into gloves and bats and balls and strikes, I remember with a smile and a small ache everything good and wonderful about my dad.

Today, I celebrate another Opening Day. And the memory of my dad, on his birthday.

I wish for just one more catch with him.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Not guilty? Not innocent

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR IN THE BOSTON GLOBE

The worst of this is Mr. Trump taking on the role of blameless victim. If Mr. Trump did not commit crimes, at least crimes relating to the scope of Mr. Mueller's investigation, it is not because his actions are above reproach, his moral fiber beyond question. Not because he made a conscious determination not to cross a line. Just that it didn't happen.

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime as an unscrupulous, manipulative, undisciplined businessman, husband and now President. There are legions of tales of his con games from his treatment of minorities in his housing complexes, his swindling of contractors, his cheating on wives, his payoffs of mistresses to keep silent, his abuses of his not very charitable foundation, his multiple bankruptcies to avoid creditors he has manipulated and deceived and on ad infinitum. He has demeaned and maligned those who stand in his way from political opponents to parents of a deceased war hero to foreign leaders to his own agencies from the FBI to the CIA and the Department of Justice, all because they had the audacity to speak of the far too evident flaws and deceptions of Mr. Trump. He has stoked the worst instincts in those who follow and believe in him, their bigotry, their xenophobia. He has reduced his office to the level of a reality game show, tweeting policy determinations in the middle of the night after consulting with no one but a television set turned to Fox news. He has courted autocrats and dictators, willing to turn a blind eye to their worst atrocities. He has treated virtually everyone else with disdain and contempt, none worse than immigrants across a constellation of nations whose only wrong was trying to flee violence, war, poverty and famine. He has stocked his administration with those willing to do his bidding no matter the reason or the result

So you will have to excuse me if I fail to agree with Mr. Trump's definition of exoneration. This is a man who is a walking talking definition of a criminal whether he is ever charged or indicted. So he managed, quite possibly, to slip away this time. But do not equate this with Donald Trump being blameless. No halos for this man, not now or ever. Not guilty is not the same as innocent. Not even close.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Awaiting Mr. Mueller





("James Comey: What I Want from the Mueller Report")

For a President who has taken a pound of flesh from this nation, I am hoping for at least an ounce of blood in the Mueller report.

While Mr. Comey may not care the outcome of this investigation as long as it's determinations are untainted, I cannot share his dispassionate gaze.

We have watched in horror as Mr. Trump has soiled his office beyond recognition. He has turned his bully pulpit into a bully's pulpit, has made lying his centerpiece, discarding truth as a flexible, worthless concept. We know full well that if he has not broken an armful of laws relating to the areas under investigation it is not by design but mere serendipity.  

He is a walking, breathing scandal, having spent a lifetime disregarding moral and legal precepts. These past two plus years have been ones of collective anguish, and our abiding faith that Mr. Mueller would ultimately prove this charlatan the heartless crook he has forever been, mandates something far more than an antiseptic synopsis of undistinguished behavior.

So, Mr.Comey, you who may well have been responsible for placing Mr. Trump in office with your breathless last minute heated cries, making much ado about nothing concerning Ms. Clinton and her emails, you must excuse me if I am not fully comfortable with your present high-minded stance.

Let Mr. Mueller report to us that his investigation has not resulted in an empty vessel, let him instead chronicle chapter and verse of the myriad sins committed by a man who deserves nothing but our full-throated condemnation. 

If Mr. Mueller is not going to bring us the head of Donald Trump, let him at least give us a drop or two of his blue blood.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sticks and Stones and Donald Trump


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






What Mr. Trump does with his bigotry, his hatreds, his vitriol, his invectice, his diatribes is to give sanctuary to the worst instincts, the anger, the distortions of those whose prejudices and ugliness seek confirmation. His is the warm embrace, the succor that makes them comfortable in giving voice, in giving life to their malevolence.

If the President of the United States, the President of the United States says they are not wrong to feel rage against immigrants, if he tells them that Mexicans and Muslims are an existential threat to this nation, then ipso facto this will be a land more prone to violent attacks, to tragedy piled upon tragedy.

Mr. Trump's words do not exist in a vacuum, studied and then discarded. They attach to the heart and soul of those who believe in him. They become part of the listener as much as they are of the speaker. And their acts are an extension of what Mr. Trump has invoked.

So the old adage about sticks and stones is a falsehood. For Mr. Trump's comments do give cover to cruelty, do incite hostilities, do cause damage far more real and permanent than bruised feelings. Words, especially those of Mr. Trump, are far too often the catalyst for grave, irreparable harm.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Mutiny? No, nothing beyond a momentary false bravado


AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS SCHEDULED TO APPEARS IN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR IN THE NEW YORK TIMES


Let us not overreact to this action by a handful of Republican senators. It is not a coup, not nearly time to suggest Mr. Trump's unfettered desecration of our democracy is nearing a conclusion.

What Mr. Trump did was blatantly defy the will of Congress in his declaration of a national emergency. It was not the policy but merely the procedure, the stripping of the fundamental power of Congress to control the purse strings which was the precipitating cause for this mini revolt.

But fundamentally this was little but a symbolic slap on the wrist, to be quickly undone by presidential veto. And life, as we have unfortunately come to know it, will quickly and inevitably return to normal in the tomorrows to come.

There will be no talk, at least no serious talk, of Republicans joining in a call for impeachment and conviction of a man whose entire presidency has been one dismal abuse upon another. There has been no growing of a backbone, no declaration that this is an irreparable bridge too far. 

It is a welcome moment when there is even a hint of something other than pure capitulation by Mr. Trump's party to his whims and tantrums. But unless and until he declares the powers of Congress to be dead, until he puts a crown on his bird's nest and announces he is now king, there will be no Republican mutiny at 1600. Just the occasional reminder that some in his party have not simply permitted the President to cast all their votes for them.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Six Months Old







So I turn six months old in a few hours and I am worried. I read about the scandal surrounding college admissions and I fear that even if I have served two terms as President by then, I might not get into the school of my choice.

I think back a half year when I was so carefree. Back then I was just trying to figure out what a diaper was and the difference between day and night. Back then I didn't know anything about Fox News.

Now I wonder whether it makes political sense to move forward with impeachment proceedings. Now I am sad to learn Alex Trebeck is sick. Now I have to deal with the trauma of the Knicks trading Porzingis and the Giants dumping OBJ. Now I wake each morning to the reality of Donald Trump.

But now I know who my mom and dad are, I know what snow is. Now I know how to laugh and smile, I know I have a favorite "lovey"and I know how to turn the pages in a book. Now I know what solid food is, I know I have almost as good an appetite as my dad and I know that one day soon I will be able to sit up without falling over.

So I still spit up way too often. But that will pass. I am still trying to get the hang of this crawling thing. But that will come soon enough. And while Dad says I am almost ready to dribble a basketball, the truth is I am really still just dribbling. 

I recognize that the rigors of a presidential campaign lay ahead for me, I am a bit concerned about the extent of the problem with the arm of Luis Severino and I am distressed by the long term effect of ongoing trade wars.

But I am happy. I am happy for the thousands of kisses I have received and I am happy to feel protected and safe. I am happy that I am surrounded by those who make me feel like the most important person in their lives. I am happy that each day I learn so much and I hunger to absorb as much new information as I can.

So here's to the past six months and to the adventures that lay ahead. Life is indeed wonderful. Thanks mom and dad for deciding to bring me into the world. I love you both very much. And I promise in the days to come I will give you as many hugs as you could possibly want. That's the thing where I wrap my arms around your neck, right?