About

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Put Down Your Pencils. And Come Out Swinging



("Let's Debate: Are Democrats Doomed?")

"Now you will be given 60 seconds to tweet your most insulting, fact free response to each question, followed by a 20 second sigh from your opponent."

Does anyone doubt that Donald Trump could decide to take the low road and declare presidential debates an unnecessary expenditure of human energy, as he already knows how the media will twist his lies and fabrications into, well, lies and fabrications?

As we ponder the Democratic candidates trying to fit sound bite responses into sometimes very cramped quarters, we all have an eye (ok, maybe even both eyes) and an ear on 1600, waiting for the tweeter in charge to translate what we have seen and heard into a series of one line disses.

This, we know, is what our collective future holds for us. Forget the campaign trail, don't fill your brain with information you can regurgitate on a stage in a one on one with the mouth that spewed. Instead, be prepared to deal with slings and arrows coming from the fingers of a brain that has a "do not disturb" sign hung on its front door.

How many times will AOC and her posse be referenced no matter who is the chosen challenger to the king? How many immigrants will be standing at the border waiting to pour into your living room en masse the moment Mr. Trump's wall is torn down? How many guns will be pried from your cold dead hands the instant the Second Amendment is shot down in cold blood on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight? How many degrees of separation from environmental reality can fit into a lightbulb? 

The rules of the game have been changed. Before, "no kicking, no biting, no pulling of the hair" was the warning given to each of the participants in the fray. And as we watch the Democrats tussle with one another, we sense that they (at least most of them, most of the time) have that statement tattooed on their foreheads. But once Mr.Trump enters the arena, Wrestlemania will commence. Chairs will be broken over heads and a 2020 version of a Two Stooges marathon will become the main event.

" When I say put down your pencils, stop writing. And come out swinging."

Friday, September 13, 2019

What Debate?

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN THE RECORD, A BERGEN COUNTY NEWSPAPER

Raise your hand if you watched the Democratic debate from stem to stern last night. OK, the three of you can put your hands down now.

I did, maybe because the Yankee doubleheader was finished by the start of the evening, or maybe because I felt I owed it to the people on stage to make certain their effort was rewarded with something more than the sound of one hand clapping.

But honestly, the answer to the question is ANY of the above. Sure, Bernie was hoarse from always yelling and Castro's attack on old Joe made me squirm, but this was a group of intelligent people with passion and compassion, seeking to show us there is light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

I doubt the needle will move much after last evening. People have debate ennui already and we are only in about the second inning. This is a process that lingers far, far too long and our brains are perpetually on overload just trying to endure another day with you know who doing his worst impression of a crazed dictator.

And for those Democratic candidates who didn't make the cut of the top 10 don't worry. I won't tell anyone you weren't there last night.

On to the next auditorium, town hall meeting, or the other dozens of places each one of you is headed. "If this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium." And there are miles to go before any of you sleep.

Is it still 14 months to the election? Wake me in about a year. 

Hey, how about those Yankees!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

I Stare at You

I stare at you
And watch you breathe
So still and peaceful like a river calm
Your eyes wide open captured all the light
That filled your day from early morn
And my heart is yours to keep
As you wander off to sleep
No troubles can reach you
I'll keep you safe from harm

I stare at you
And watch you dream
Of the wonders that will come your way
Your eyes wide open to the promises
Tomorrow beckoning within your reach
And my heart is yours to keep
As you wander off to sleep
No troubles can reach you
I'll give you shelter from the storm

I stare at you
And you are all the world
There is no other place upon this earth
My eyes can see no other face but yours
And all I know is here within my gaze
And my heart is yours to keep
As you wander off to sleep
No troubles can reach you 
I'll keep you close and warm


My heart is yours to keep

So wander off to sleep
No troubles will reach you 
Forever in my arms




Monday, September 9, 2019

A Starring Role

("The Real Donald Trump Is a Character on TV")

He is obsessed with his ratings: the biggest crowds his non-stop mantra literally from his first day in office. Playing to a full house while others struggle for crumbs the red meat he requires for his very survival.

This has all been about attention. His candidacy clearly intended not as reality but as a means to keeping his name, his face in the public eye. And if being a category five hurricane gave him the 24 hour coverage he needed, he had that part down pat.

Remember, this is a man who in earlier times reportedly acted as his own PR agent under the pseudonyms John Barron and John Miller to tell tales of himself to the press. Anything and everything was fair game to feed an insatiable ego.


Donald Trump became President by mistake. Not because he wanted the office, but because he needed it. Not because he intended to improve the world but because he hoped he could stay relevant. He HAD to stay relevant.

And so the buffoonish character he plays, the loud mouthed braggadocio, the foul mouthed puerile, the Archie Bunker on steroids, was the one born of testing at rallies, the one he learned from the villains at Wrestlemania, the one he honed and crafted on The Apprentice.

 If, on that first day he descended the escalator, the Mexicans as rapists line had fallen flat then who knows how different the world would look today. But it caught fire and there is nothing Donald Trump craves more than being the heat of a fire. The higher the flames, the more it demands our attention.

So this presidency is all about Donald Trump being a five alarmer. Huge and out of control. Playing the role of a lifetime.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

My Birthday Wish

My granddaughter is rushing up to her first birthday. She appears on the cusp of so many breakthroughs, walking only a step away, talking in Shakespearean verse surely the next sounds to emanate.

Graduating from baby to child as I stare in unadulterated awe. As if she is the only being on the planet. A smile permanently etched on my heart. Her grandfather wrapped around every finger of her tiny hands.

A year ago I wrote to a child yet to be born, welcoming her and telling her of my hopes and dreams for her future. But that was mere abstraction. This is as real as it gets.

I look out on a world of young grandchildren, with grandparents embracing the same feelings as I, aching for the same joys for the most precious being in their lives that I wish for my granddaughter. We are all but variations on a theme, none of us more worthy, none of us more entitled.

And I ask why do some get treated so poorly, with a cruelty that none among us deserve. I see a nation that destroys lives for no reason other than that it can. Who declares happiness and possibility the province of some but not others. Who treats with disdain and contempt the lives of people whose sin is not who they are, but where they were born.

And I know my granddaughter is no better or worse than them. That it is serendipity that she is not among those whose lives are damaged by a darkness superimposed on their being. And I can but imagine the ache that would rip my soul if I were one of those grandparents.


So for my granddaughter's first birthday I wish for her all that my words to her a year ago envisioned. That as she grows, she grows into the best person she can be. That her life continues to bring me an almost indescribable happiness.

And that for all the grandparents around this nation who have suffered the most, that in the tomorrows to come their pain subsides and one day soon they are able to dream the same dreams as I. That their grandchild's first step is unfettered, their first words filled with poetry.

That is my birthday wish for my granddaughter. And their's.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Our Little Secret

There it was, on the side of the road. A cutout big enough to house maybe two cars at most. A small opening in the trees, no markings to announce its intention. Here our hike began.

My son located this trail by a combination of sleuthing and serendipity. A brief mention in two discussions on line. A route of a mile or less to a waterfall. No description of the journey to the destination. No hint of what lay between here and there. No clue of what waited to greet us.

Only a small way up the road we had passed a well known trailhead. There, at least twenty five cars had gathered, shepherding a relative mass of humanity. Here it was us and nature. The road less traveled. As in extremely less.

We had no expectations as we walked the relatively flat path. In short order we came across the beginning of the stream bed. It was dry as the desert floor. The rocks protruded from the earth and we could have moved forward in their midst without fear of a drop of moisture dampening our feet or our spirit. And so it continued for a good while, no sign that we would encounter any hint of water along the way. An easy hike with a disappointing payoff. This was why it was unmarked and unattended. It was, I was certain, wholly unremarkable.

And then it began. The trail we had been following suddenly became more suggestion than statement. No definition marked the path ahead. Did it turn left? Maybe. And now the hill ascended, not in slow orderly fashion, but all at once, as it burst upward to the sky. And the first tricklings of water covered the stones that were, in a blink of an eye, situated far below.

In skiing, the most difficult terrain is the double fall line, signaling you should be moving in two directions at once. And now, as we strained to move upward, we were also invited sideways, to our right to the ravine that waited to capture our attention and any errant step.

We had definitely not been warned, or prepared for this. Looking for the foothold, or the finger pull as we thrust ourselves up the gnarly path, or maybe it wasn't the path, it was hard to distinguish friend from foe. 

At certain moments we thought of retreating, no one would know the better. We had given it valiant effort and there was no shame in saying enough. But then we caught a glimpse of a waterfall through the trees, barely a few hundred yards above. We heard it calling us and we did not want to be rude to our host. And so, on we trekked seeking answers to the questions of where and how we were possibly to continue our steep ascent.

It took less than an hour to complete this most treacherous portion of our task. From the point where the one and only marking on this trail, stating "US Boundary" notified us we were entering what exactly? to where this trek would conclude. And then we came upon it.

My son said we could have been anywhere in the world as we stared out on this site. The sheer sides of rock, chiseled from millions of years of contact with the falling water, creating a carving on both sides worthy of the finest sculptor the world has known. The trees hovering, staring down at the majesty day after day for eternity. The greens that blended seamlessly into this landscape, a perfect painting come to life.

And at the fall's bottom a pool of water, as clear as the sky on a cloudless day. How deep its reservoir unknown. Six feet, maybe much more. Every pebble on its bottom as visible to our eyes as those that sat on the dry bed that had greeted us far below at the inception of this adventure.

We looked at each other in utter disbelief, as if we were the first humans to gaze upon this sight. As surprised at this find as if we had discovered that pot of gold at rainbow's end.

And so my son took to chronicling our treasure, photographing it from all angles we could get to, even taking video to try to capture its essence. But we both knew nothing he would show others would do justice to what we were so privileged to witness. It was the sheer unexpectedness of the strain of reaching this point and the surreal beauty that we now soaked in with every pore of our being that made this such a unique and unforgettable moment. What we viewed, what we felt, could not be expressed from within the confines of a camera.

And then we descended, giddy from what had just occurred and certainly a bit saddened that we were leaving this smallest reminder of something far, far greater than us.

We will breathe word of this locale to no one, first because we don't want to send anyone on a path unintended for their level of capacity. And also because I think whatever God there may be wanted to keep this quiet, not marked for the hordes but maintained as the private reserve for a select few who stumbled unknowingly into its magnificence. 

Just our little secret.



Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Oh The Thinks You Can Think

"I have second thoughts about everything"  -  Donald Trump, August, 2019

You can think about this
You can think about that
You can think where you stand
You can think where you sat

Oh the thinks you can think
If only you try
You can think of one truth
Instead of ten lies

And it need not end there
You can think of much more
Like opening your heart
Not just shutting a door

You can think about crowds
Of enormous size
Or maybe, just maybe
Of one baby's cries

You can wonder aloud
Did I do what I could
Not just to do bad
But this once to do good

Think, think again
And then a third time
And maybe you'll learn
Thinking isn't a crime  

Thinking can hurt
I know its hard work
But just think about
Not being a jerk

You can think of your buildings
That reach to the sky
You can think of your planes
That fly oh so high

But maybe, just maybe
Instead think of others
Those that have little
Those who just suffer

And if you think to yourself
Oh I can't do that 
That would cost far too much
Let me be where I'm at

Then know that we think
That you can do better
Just learn a new alphabet
With no I as a letter

Oh the thinks you can think
If only you try
The sky is the limit
In a world with no I.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Feeling the Loss of a Parent

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

("I Couldn't Say "My Mother" Without Crying")

My dad died 40 years ago this coming December and while I was not a teenager at his passing (I was 27 at the time)  I still feel his loss daily.  

The arc of my business life changed dramatically (my nearly life long dream of practicing law with my dad over almost as soon as it began) and I mourn that he never got the opportunity to be a grandfather to my children, for them to feel his warmth and his strength.  But most of all I miss his companionship.

I understand that I did not suffer my loss when I was still trying to sort out the basics of who I was, or attempting to grapple with the fundamentals of the complex workings of the universe. But grief remains a part of my being, my soul, even as I near 70. 

So while I understand that there are quantum differences between losing a parent in one's formative years as opposed to when one is supposedly able to more easily stand on one's feet, I still occasionally wobble four decades removed from the guiding hand of my dad. The pain of loss has no age limits.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Past 30 days Hit List of Mr. Trump (in alphabetical order)

1. Baltimore
2. Birthright Citizenship
3. China
4. Danish Prime Minister Frederiksen
5. Disloyal Jews
6. Endangered Species
7. Fed Chairman Powell
8. Ford Motor Company
9. Gun Control
10."Poor" Immigrants
11.The Squad (this one is his favorite)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Cruelty of the Gods

(A companion piece to "The Error")

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



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.