Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Daughter's Emmy Award

She is in deep preparation, testing out her lines before the most trusted, discarding those that fall flat, tweaking the ones that remain, always tinkering to find the right balance. She is searching for the deepest truths, the ones that will resonate most with her audience, the ones that will draw the deepest laughs and the most knowing nods. No, I am not describing you know whom readying to do battle against you know what. Rather, I am speaking of something infinitely harder: writing a best woman speech about a bride to be.
My daughter Alex is in the final moments of study, reciting her lines like a Shakespearean actress, working on tone, inflection. Her greatest concern is that she will not live up to the impossibly high standard she set with her Emmy (that was the bride's name) winning performance last year: a rollicking two minutes that had the crowd in the palm of her hand from hello. It was a thing of beauty and there are more than a few of those assembled who consider it the gold standard. In the immediate aftermath, many came up and congratulated me as if I had done something worthy of admiration. Having taken part in the act that produced Alex does not, I believe, qualify me for special recognition.
Even today, if questioned, most of those at my daughter's coronation, also known as Emmy's rehearsal dinner, could still recall a gem or two, a magnificent blend of humor, sarcasm and pure wit, not too long or short, in many ways the equivalent of Goldilocks finding the perfect bed after trying and discarding all the others.
This weekend's subject is a person my daughter has known since they were both but tiny, adorable toddlers. She is intimately aware of all the peccadilloes, each slip and fall, every laugh and tear of her oldest and dearest friend. And that can make the task even harder, as there are too many roads to travel, too many stories to discard. Excess, despite what one of my friends suggests, is not always best.
Alex is getting married next year and I will face a slightly less Herculean task: the dad speech. I have found best man and best woman speeches almost universally engaging, the landscape dotted with ridiculously good stories and songs, tales replete with intelligent, witty banter. As for the profound words of dads like me, not so much. They tend to the sappy (my strong point), the pointless (my weakness), filled with often questionable humor, lingering far too long or lasting less than one full paragraph. So my bar is decidedly lower. Kind of like you know what in his running battle of words with you know who.
As the finishing touches are applied to my daughter's makeup and comments tomorrow night, I will worry a bit and hope that my little girl comes up with another award: the Morgan, for making  it a most memorable two minutes (give or take a few seconds), full of fun, of joy, of good memories and great expectations. Kind of like a marriage.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Champion of Change

I agree wholeheartedly with those who suggest that Donald Trump would be the champion of change were he to be crowned Emperor on November 8. As of January 20, 2017 the American people could well expect that things will stop moving in their present trajectory. Let me count the ways:
1. Return to the good old days of recession and possible depression as years of job growth come to an abrupt end as trade wars with foreign nations proliferate, decimating our job force.
2.  Trickle down failures dominate our landscape as large tax cuts for the one per cent deliver nothing but large tax cuts for the one per cent. Government coffers are almost bone dry and only thing to grow larger is the possibility of collapse of our physical infrastructure and the destruction of our social safety net.
3. Nuclear war is not the abstraction it has been for over seven decades and North Korea or some other aberrant element is goaded by Mr. Trump into an exchange of emotional and then physical explosions.
4. Race relations deteriorate as Mr. Trump continues to bait and alienate with his lethal combination of brutal words and deeds. Martial law becomes the two most common words on the nightly news.
5. We have boots on the ground in ever escalating numbers as Mr. Trump follows through on his pledge to eradicate ISIS. Our former allies abandon us and America is left bleeding money and lives as our President turns his bully pulpit into the bully march around the globe.
6. Russia returns as a superpower as Mr. Putin thoroughly outmaneuvers a bewildered Mr. Trump at every turn.
The list is endless. Choose an issue, any  topic that warrants our serious consideration and attention, and I will show you how Mr. Trump will be an agent for change.

Mr. Trump has pushed fear and hatred as his central themes, of Muslims, of Mexicans, of weak armies and weak soldiers, of blacks, of women, of an America in free fall. I fully concur with him that we should be afraid, very afraid of what the future holds if this country makes the wrong choice on November 8.
Donald Trump, champion of change. In the worst way possible.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Still a Man Hears What He Wants to Hear and Disregards the Rest

I am worried. I am worried because I know what I heard and saw last night is not what millions of other Americans witnessed. I am reminded of the line from the Simon and Garfunkel song, The Boxer: "still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."
What did those who support Donald Trump hear last night? What did those who are undecided, or maybe contemplating a third party vote or just sitting this one out, hear? How much will their immediate responses be amended by what they read in the paper this morning, by what their colleagues at work inform them, by what the talking head tells them they really saw, even if they never noticed?
I turn to my newspaper, my cable network station for confirmation, for reassurance, for fortification. But there are millions upon millions who mock my choices, find them reprehensible and of less than no value. And they have more than ample ammunition at their fingertips to validate their belief and to assure them, no matter what I thought I witnessed last night, that their man, Donald Trump, was magnificent and in his full glory.
I won't know the temperature of this country for a few days, until the next set of polls instructs me as to whether my ears and eyes lied to me, whether Ms Clinton was presidential or wonkish, astute or acerbic, ready or not to lead this nation. I won't know for a few days whether Mr. Trump was a consummate liar, vague and unprepared, defensive and annoying, or if he was none of these but persuasive and thoughtful, demonstrative and defiant, and ready to lead this nation.

For many, last night's debate was merely :"A pocket full of mumbles, such are promises. All lies and jests."  I wait to learn if the truths I thought were evident were truly there or but products of a wishful imagination, mere mirage.

Monday, September 26, 2016

On the Death of Arnie Palmer

He played the game with passion, with swagger. Hitching up his pants, showing off those massive forearms, he was a swashbuckler, an Errol Flynn of the links.
And if John Kennedy was made for the age of television, so was Arnie Palmer. He revealed his emotions, he captured our hearts and we became his Army. When he won, we were overjoyed. And when the failures came, when he had that double bogey on the 72nd at the Masters, we suffered almost as much as the King.

His battles with Jack Nicklaus were the stuff of legend, the Golden Bear with all his length and his youth challenging the undeniable greatness that was Arnie. Along with Gary Player, these three dominated an era of golf and made the game compelling for an entire generation. 
Arnie never really faded from view, his appeal and magnetism still present to the last. And we, the members of his Army, never left his side. Now and forever we will recall his love of competition, his passion and that strange swing that didn't so much strike the ball as attack it.

There are few athletes in any sport who change the entire complexion of their game. From a sport of kings, Palmer made it a sport of the people, as we were inevitably and inexorably drawn in by the sheer force of Palmer's skills and personality. Before there was "I wanna be like Mike" there was Arnie, and we all wanted to be just like him. And for those who grew up with Arnie as our first hero of sport, we still do.

Round One

Let's Get Ready to Stumble
In the blue corner, wearing a lovely pantsuit, out of the state of New York by way of Arkansas, weighing in at (it is really impolite to guess the size of a woman), the former first lady, senator and secretary of state (no Donald, not that kind of secretary), the feisty, sometimes beaten but never defeated, the woman so much of America loves to hate,  the one and only Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In the red corner, his face glowing a wonderful shade of orange, also hailing from the Empire state (and this man knows a lot about empires), weighing in on almost everything but knowing next to nothing, the former master of Atlantic City (before it collapsed), the Miss Universe pageant (before it became totally irrelevant), and of course the one and only Apprentice (and its equally important first cousin, the Celebrity Apprentice), the ferocious, sometimes a loser but always a winner, the man who never met a mirror he didn't like, the one and only (thank God) Donald John Trump.

As they meet in the center of the ring, the referee, Lester Holt, reminds the combatants to play nice, no biting, kicking or pulling of hair (especially Mr. Trump's), no making up crap on the fly, no boring us with a hundred little facts, no facial expressions, no sighs, no finger pointing and definitely no talking out of turn. For the first violation there is a warning. The second leads to a point being taken away, and the third leads to the candidate being hauled out on a stretcher, the victim of a TKO, or at least of his or her own hubris.

As the countdown clock, which seemed to start three years ago (on those cable station screens which have so much scrolling of breaking news that we seem to forget what story we are watching), reaches zero (Dick Clark would be rolling over in his grave), the crowd roars in anticipation of the greatest disaster to befall this nation since Hostess Twinkies were temporarily removed from the shelves. 
And with that Mr.Trump, seemingly deeply offended by the instructions of Mr. Holt which the Republican candidate knows were intended to move the needle in the favor of Ms. Clinton, suddenly leaves the stage, shouting something about media bias and Lester Holt being a lackey for the man (or in this case, woman). Ms. Clinton, stunned and confused, smiling that smile that does a pretty lousy job of hiding everything she is thinking, wanders away, asking Huma Abedin as she reaches the wings whether that was a good or a bad thing that just happened (maybe she is not the best person to ask this question).

Think it couldn't play out this way? You, me and 100 million others will be tuning in just to see if it does.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Warning - This is not intended for mature audiences

Where is the politics in our political discourse? 

This debate will likely be won or lost not on a stance on abortion, health care reform, the environment, the economy, the depth of Ms. Clinton's grasp of issues or the fundamental lack of knowledge and understanding of Mr. Trump but on a wink or nod, a poorly placed grimace or a well timed smile.

Not on Black Lives Matter or ISIS, not trade with China or a nuclear North Korea, not Iran, not Putin or even the Wall, but whether Mr. Trump holds his tongue in reply to an accusation of his opponent  or Ms. Clinton loses her cool in response to one of Mr. Trump's whoppers, or yet another reference to Benghazi.

Mr. Trump is not studying in advance of Monday, even as Ms. Clinton fills her head with facts and figures. For him, this is entertainment. For her, school. For him, a play.  For her, lecture. 

Two divergent figures on stage. Not judged by the character of their being but their ability to stay in character. Not on winning a point, but an Emmy. The election seemingly hanging by a chad not on tax plans or spending cuts, not on invasions or retreats, not poverty or riches, but a Donald zinger or a Hillary laugh.

This could not be how it was intended.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

One Small Favor

Why am I so troubled, so worried and perplexed
Why am I so harried, so hassled and so vexed
Why am I uncertain, so fearful of my shadow
Why is there this darkness that's seeped into my marrow

What can cause such tension, such damage to my soul
What can leave me empty, this cleaving of my whole
What evil is there lurking, what is this devil's name
What Lucifer arises, what Satan lays it's claim

In all my days and equal nights, in all that I have known
In all the twists and every turn, in all that I've been shown
Never have I come upon a danger such as this
Never seen a warning sign signal the abyss

Turn away my glance, must not look into its eye
My screams will do me nothing, no need my bootless cry
Must I spend my days so burdened, from now into the future
Must I spend my nights so wounded, left bleeding with no suture

There is but one true answer, one remedy so certain
There is but one solution, one way to stop the hurtin'
One lever to be pulled, one hand that I must play
One way to make the sun shine and brush the clouds away

For I will wake the morrow renewed, like newborn child
Look upon the vast horizon, with expectations wild
Happy and contented, at last I'll find my peace
Serene and much elated, at last I'll be released

If only this can happen, I dare not ask for more
If just this one thing happens, I will want no more
No more sorrow, no more fear, no shudder and no shake
No more worry, no more tears, whether sleep or when I wake

Just need this one small favor, just need this one small thing
Just need to make this happen, then I'll fly on open wing
Just make the Donald disappear, please take him from our sight
And then I'll live with endless joy, instead of endless plight.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

New Top 10 - Revisionist History

A new top 10

1. George Washington - "OK, OK, I cut down that damn cherry tree, but it was about ready to fall anyway."

2. John Wilkes Booth - "I shot Lincoln but I was aiming at the mouse that was running across the floor."

3. Mark Sanford - "I was on the Appalachian Trail and then I took a detour to the house of some woman who invited me in to take a shower."

4. Bill Clinton - "I had sex with that woman, but it was her idea."

5. George Bush - "Read my lips. Maybe a few new taxes, but very small ones, so you won't even notice."

6. Bernie Madoff - "Maybe not 12 per cent, but at least 10, guaranteed."

7. Vladimir Putin - "We are not annexing Crimea. Those are not our soldiers, just some guys who made a wrong turn, and kind of got lost. Like Mark Sanford."

8. The tobacco industry - "Did we say smoking doesn't kill. I think we were misquoted."

9. Marco Rubio - "When I said I wasn't running again, I was merely stating that I had stopped jogging."

10. Donald Trump - "Hillary Clinton started this vile falsehood about our beloved President, and I put an end to it."

Friday, September 16, 2016

My Talk

Last evening, I gave a talk on the art of writing letters to the editor of the New York Times. I think, and hope it was well received.

For those unable to attend, don't worry. You can hear my words, from first to last.

Part essay, part pieces on politics, sports and the highs and lows of life, a bit of poetry (with a nod to Dr. Seuss), and hopefully much poetic sounding prose.

I hope you enjoy.

Patriotism on Bended Knee

In the wake of 9/11, there was a fervor to project unity and strength, a love for this country and for each other. We wrapped ourselves in the flag and sang our national anthem arm in arm. Rudy Giuliani made a career out of this patriotism, with his noun, a verb and 9/11. 

But we were not then a country at peace with itself, our political parties at war and our citizens armed with words and actions against one another. And 15 years later, we remain a house deeply divided.
We are a nation in crisis, and no singing of a national anthem can hide our flaws. We do not need to rise in unison to show we are as one. Instead we need to do the hard work that remains undone, recognize our shortcomings and strive to overcome them, meet our prejudices, our biases and hatreds head on.

Like the rallying cry of "Hamilton" , "we're gonna rise up", but we rise to fight the injustice not to mask it. And until we act in concert according to the aspirations of our anthem, Mr. Kaepernick and others aggrieved, whether high schooler or pro, football player or bricklayer, have good cause to kneel in silent protest. 

It is not in the words of an anthem but the actions of its citizens that this country can reveal its greatness.