Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Free Rein

("Racism Comes Out of the Closet")

He has not diminished the office to which he has ascended. He has demolished it. The last vestiges of decency having vanished in his latest tirade, the last semblance of propriety now shredded. The presidency lying in the gutter, covered in the feces emanating from the mind of the last person on earth who should be holding the keys to the kingdom.

We began this journey outraged by his thoughts and actions. We were certain during the primaries he would self immolate. We were in disbelief when his ugliness persisted and so did he. We took to the streets in mass protests when the inconceivable occurred, believing that our demonstrations against the worst of his offenses would at least temper his temper. 

But nothing and no one can change the stripes on this man. Not our cries of anger, not the actions of his political opponents and certainly not the timid pleas of some within his inner sanctum. Two and a half years in office not having given him perspective or taught him humility, but having informed his brain that he has free rein to unleash the furies. His incompetence exceeded only by his hatreds. 
And so we are left, once again, to say he has finally crossed the line in the sand, that too much is now enough. But as the endless tomorrows of our nation's nightmare persist, we well know that we have not heard the last, or the worst, from Donald Trump.

And the presidency will never be the same again. Nor will our country. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Masters (Of the Universe)


("Unlike Any Other")

I don't think Mr. Paumgarten should anticipate a special invitation to Berckman's Place next April.

I am now in my seventh decade chasing after a little white ball into decidedly unhappy environs. During that entire time, Augusta National has seemed an unattainable privileged white fantasy, the Mecca of the golfing universe, it's long driveway leading to impossibly colorful azalea bushes, it's beauty and elegance covering multiple character flaws hiding in plain sight.

As Mr. Paumgarten chronicled the absurdity of its excesses, it was troubling to me that I choose to ignore its many defects, inexorably and inevitably drawn only to its greatness. Much like I overlook the past myriad transgressions of the game's most wondrous talent, Mr. Woods.

By the way, if these words should find the light of day in The New Yorker, I am quite certain I do not have to check my mail for an invitation to Berckman's for the 2020 Masters. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

On the Death of Jim Bouton

I saw Jim Bouton on the streets of this Western New England town several weeks ago. He was moving unsteadily, his wife by his side to protect him from the ravages of time and disease. It was strange that he and I had crossed paths in several of his iterations through life.

In his first incarnation, there was the hard throwing, hat escaping, young star for my beloved Yanks. But by 1965, as the team fell from the sky so did he,  fastball and glory ephemeral. 

His career disappeared after several years of futility of recasting himself as a knuckleballer, no Hoyt Wilhelm he.

Next he surfaced in my universe as the mastermind behind Big League chew, the bubble gum alternative to the Nellie Fox wad of tobacco, cancer inducing image of a ballplayer. He appeared at my son's school as inventor and reinventor, now having reshaped himself by using the power of his brain, not his arm.

And his most famous reincarnation was as author, revealing the secrets behind the curtain in an era where what happened in the clubhouse, or the White House, stayed there. 

In the last decades of his life, on occasion, I would spot Mr. Bouton, not holding court but merely blending seamlessly into the fabric of life in this town. Once or twice, including just a few weeks ago, I wandered up to him to say hello.

Little did I realize I was saying goodbye. 

Thank you Jim Bouton for a lifetime of memories and for your ability to demonstrate that capacity and greatness come in many forms. Even after you have lost your fastball.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Of Attitude and Altitude

("Oh, To Be Ivanka")

They are royalty. Even that description does them an injustice. Important because their position imbues them with fairy dust that turns pedestrian into unique. Jared and Ivanka. Everywhere they want to be because, well do they really need a reason?

As Ivanka's dad has demonstrated, being prepared or qualified for a task is irrelevant. Just show up, nod your head, shake a hand and declare a victory. E-Z, P-Z. While many may find this act ridiculous, look who's laughing all the way to the bank these days.

Who can blame Jared and Ivanka for turning this country into their own play toy? This is like one huge game show, "come on down and see what is behind door number two." Life is so exciting, so interesting when capacity is not a prerequisite.

If politics is a joke as Mr. Trump's presidency reminds us every day, then Jared and Ivanka are the punch line.

As in a punch in the face.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Open Mic Night and Kamala Harris

It was open Mic night, peppered with discordant sounds, waiting to hear that one voice, find that one moment when a star is born.

It is unfair that political futures can be won or lost in a turn of a phrase, a lifetime of work synthesized in the blink an eye, a politician's future crystallized by our one thought. Kirsten Gillebrand, overbearing. Joe Biden, defensive. 

But in the midst of this 10 car fender bender, one singer did sound the right notes. On this night Kamala Harris played the part of Lady Gaga, her pitch seemingly near perfect.

As they say, this race is a marathon not a sprint and maybe the impact of the performance of Ms. Harris will prove ephemeral. And maybe the audience was only half paying attention or was out ordering a beer when she sang her tune.

But, at least on this evening, the possibilities for Kamala Harris seemed endless.

A Child's Cry and the Heart of Darkness


When they study the history of this nation, this moment, this place, will mark a nadir, a staggering descent into darkness.

A time when this nation's heart hardened, when decency and humanity were nowhere evident, when kindness and compassion neared extinction.

As we stare in near disbelief that this country, this country, could treat children, babies, with such disdain and disregard, their lives considered of so little worth, we wonder who and what we have become.

We should be ashamed that on our watch this nation has fallen into such grave disrepair. History will not easily forgive our transgressions. And neither should we.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

150 Lives Saved in Act of Valor


Per his latest tweet, Mr. Trump now says he called off an impending strike on Iranian targets because of a last minute concern for the kill count (estimated at 150) Really?

This man with grave humanitarian concern? Have we not witnessed, by word and deed, his repeated disregard for the welfare of others around the globe, his depraved indifference no more stark than at our southern borders. The child separation policy, the Muslim ban, the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia to facilitate the terrible loss of life in Yemen. His a compassionate heart? Never.

No, the truth is that Mr. Trump faces a dilemma of his own making. Withdrawing from the seven nation nuclear weapons agreement, without breach by Iran, placing ever greater economic sanctions on this country, attempting to impose our will on other signatories to the accord. Pushing Iran into a corner, hoping they would break. But when they did not, being forced to deal with a possibility he has long argued vociferously against: putting this nation into yet another middle East conflict.

Want to see the measure of this President? Stay tuned. But restraint motivated by concern for innocent Iranians. Give me a break.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Yankee Doodle Donny


Donald Trump is the Grinch who stole the 4th of July.

He has made the very image of our flag an emblem of our internal strife. No longer a statement of unbridled support for the lofty ideals upon which this country was founded, now mere declaration of unthinking allegiance to the ideas of a President upon which we fail and flounder.

The red, white and blue not imbued with the elevated spirit of our best selves but a portrait of fevered nationalism in all its negatives, not a tribute to our pride but a reminder of our hubris and hatreds, not a reflection of cherished freedoms but a stars and stripes declaration of repression and our efforts to diminish the lives of so many in our midst.

Donald Trump has changed the definition of July 4th, eviscerating the heart of what has long made this country great. He has reshaped this nation and this day in his image. No longer a tribute to Uncle Sam but to Mafia Don.

So, the fact that, with his speech in the nation's capital, he intends to pilfer some of this holiday's bandwith is sadly fitting.The flag now flying wounded and tattered. Splattered with red, draped in unflattering white and, far too often, feeling blue.

On the Precipice

("Iran Threatens to Exceed Nuclear Deal's Limits; Trump To Deploy New Troops")

This is what we really feared about Mr. Trump. That his belligerence, his ignorance, his propensity to break things would one day lead us to where we now find ourselves: the brink of war.

Mr. Trump, Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo have been of a single mind and a single purpose with Iran. Notwithstanding the recognition by the other nations to the  agreement that Iran has abided by its promises, our country, our President found justification for withdrawing from its pledges. If it smells like WMD, tastes like WMD, then it must be another Republican administration bending facts to fit their intention.

Donald Trump has been the boy who cried wolf since the first moment he stepped into office, manufacturing a crisis at our southern border that has exploded into an ongoing horrific humanitarian disaster. 

And now, if Mr. Trump's worst instincts are unchecked, we can well envision the terrible consequences. More than all the other damage this President has done to the fabric of our country, this is why he poses such a grave danger every day, not merely to this nation but to the nations around the globe. 

If it is 3 AM can the world survive his picking up the phone?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

My Dad's Son

This Sunday will mark 40 years since the last Father's Day my dad was alive. I don't remember how we spent that day together but I am sure I fooled myself into believing there would be at least one more to come despite the growing evidence of the progress of his cancer.

Four decades later I remain my father's son. Despite the chasm of time, I am still self defined by the feeling of being his boy. Not first a husband, not a dad or a granddad, but his child. Whatever else in life I have become, I have never stopped being that. 

I think it is that perception, despite the passage of over 14,000 days, which makes his existence almost palpable. Still makes me try to envision him standing in the next room. Still waiting for death to write a letter of apology and return my dad to me. But the truth is he has never left.

I am now 67 years old. Yet on this Sunday, I will be as I was on that Father's Day in 1979. Just the son of my dad. Past, present and forever.