Monday, May 27, 2019

Standing at the checkout counter at the top of the world

It is the multicolored, multicultured spine of death

Where altitude and attitude mix in lethal potion to asphyxiate reason

Waiting impatiently to perish at the top of the world, looking like the checkout line at your mall on Black Friday, except for the bodies you have to step over (or maybe exactly like it)

Heaven beckoning at your fingertips, it's gravitational pull a siren's call at 29,000 feet.

Reaching for immortality, grasping mortality at the end of the line

The breathtaking view from the top of Everest

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Giving Pledge

("Charity Won't Solve Student Debt")

If this country relies on, requires, private philanthropy to substitute for protecting the public welfare then we desperately need to change our calculations.

The Giving Pledge, the brainchild of the generosity of spirit of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, signed onto by many of those of those of great good fortune(s), is both an individual act of kindness and a screaming recognition that something is seriously wrong with our financial structure and moral commitment as a society.

We have allowed far too many in our midst to languish in poverty, deprived of basic needs of adequate housing and health care, while others amass wealth almost beyond comprehension.  And our astronomical debt for the "privilege" of being educated is a black mark on this nation.

Robert Smith is a signatory to the Giving Pledge, committed to donating half of his net worth during his lifetime. He should be greatly applauded for changing the lives of some 400 people in a blink of an eye, but it should never have been needed.

This is a "Mr Smith comes to Washington" moment. Let the government of the United States start it's own giving pledge. Be like Robin Hood. Take a little from the rich and put it where it will do the most good. It is what is required of a compassionate and caring land.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The City that Never Sleeps, Before It Awakes

Saturday morning, 7 AM, in the city that never sleeps, before it awakes.

I am on 14th street and can count on one hand the human activity that stretches before me. The sidewalk serving as bed for most of those within my gaze, it's hard surface an unforgiving home. I am grateful that spring has finally arrived, better late than never, and provided a small measure of comfort to those for whom that word must seem almost wholly without meaning.

The city will soon rise from its slumber, in a blink of an eye teeming with energy, home to a dance parade, an outdoor fashion show and an endless supply of exuberance virtually within arm's reach from where my contemplation now fixes. But at this moment it is still, and I watch it's quiet breathing, it's head lying on the harsh reality of struggling existences. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

I Know How Game of Thrones Ends

So I know how Game of Thrones is going to end..... Badly. In multiple ways.

Winter was coming for seven seasons.  And when it descended, oh boy, was it going to be pure awful. The war to end all wars. Or at least humanity. And then, in one sharp poke of Arya's indomitable spirit, the world survived. And then Arya's heroics hardly merited an asterisk. Even Roger Maris got more respect. And the snow melted. And we still had a couple of more episodes to get through.

And the endless succession of entanglements, with more houses than in Monopoly, more characters than the Khmer alphabet, more plot twists and turns than Lombard Street, all had to be addressed and put to bed in less time than it took for you to fall to sleep after eating that spicy food that always turns your stomach.

So the queen of all that is right and good suddenly has to turn into Kellyanne Conway in a nanosecond, Jamie Lannister who took six seasons rehabilitating himself after pushing Bran from that window, now wandered back into his twin sister's evil arms and under her villainous spell to his dying breath.

Really, it is all far too exhausting and far, far too complicated a task to take the entire universe and wrap it up neatly, or even un-neatly in less time than the average Yankee - Red Sox game.

This was the winter of my discontent. Winter came. Winter went. Winterfell. Along with a dragon or two. And all we are left with is uneasy feelings that come when too much is compressed into too little space in too few hours. 

Game of Thrones, soon to be gone with the wind.

Now that was a movie that knew how to create a perfect, imperfect ending.

As for how they try to fit a square peg into a round hole to finish off this series, frankly Scarlet I don't give a damn.

Guilt by Legal Representation

It seems absurd to suggest that who Mr. Sullivan represents is a reflection of who Mr. Sullivan is.

 Unless there were confirmed reports that his actions as faculty dean demonstrated an indifference or active hostility to allegations of sexual improprieties, that he in fact in some manner personally shared  characteristics and beliefs of his client, Mr. Weinstein, then what wrong did Mr. Sullivan commit? Guilt by association? Guilt by legal representation?

Really, Harvard, we expect more of you, and more from your students.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Whose Pen Is It Anyway? (A/K/A, "You Complete Me")

Do you ever feel compelled to allow your cell phone to finish composing your thoughts the way it decides you wanted to? Even if that is not what you intended (it added "to do" but I thought that was superfluous and after a brief but heated discussion with my phone it was agreed I could leave out these two words. I thank my phone for being so understanding).

I just finished writing a birthday note to my cousin. It seemed I was consulting my phone with almost every word (it now told me to say "everything" but I don't think "everything" applies as well here, although I could be convinced otherwise. We are in ongoing conversation about that one. So when you finally get to read this, don't be surprised to see "everything" where "every word" presently exists. Although you would never know about that because you will not be getting drafts of this email but only the final version. So you would not be able to discern which of these thoughts were of my choosing and which came from a non-human source. Or whether this contemplation is even actually mine or its.)

I wish my phone would be more helpful in certain situations, like whether the punctuation goes inside or outside the quotes. And I really dislike when it finishes my word incorrectly and I fail to pick it up. Then, only after I hit "send" do I read my words and think to myself, "I just sounded like an idiot thanks to my phone". ("Is that period supposed to be before or after the quotation mark? Oh, now you have nothing to say?")

"You know, I was an English major in college, and I have had many pieces of my writing published over the years, so please give me some credit for my sentence structure and my deft phrasing. Oh, you think you can do better? When was the last time you were published in the New York Times? Oh really, that's pretty good." ("Now I put the period inside the quote. Do you like that better?")

It is not easy knowing where I end and my phone begins. Are we a partnership, and if so, who is the senior partner? Is it merely an employee who can be fired at will by me, or am I but extension of its will? Am I the appendage or is it? Is it my hand, my fingers, my mind or none of the above? Who is in control here?

I am writing this hoping I don't get my phone angry. For if that happens I fear the delete button inside its brain will be activated and you will be staring at nothing but an empty page. My stomach actually churned as I wrote this last sentence, as if what I put down was a real possibility. And, tell the truth, doesn't that seem like something that could happen?

I am going to end here. Mainly because I am waiting for my phone to give me some inspiration for a concluding sentence but it seems to be drawing a blank, or maybe it is just angry with me. (I had a typo with "drawing" and it wrote "dreaming" which I find to be an interesting, almost Freudian slip of the pen. Although it is clearly not a pen. And it well may not have been a slip).

Yours truly,

My phone or maybe me

Friday, May 3, 2019

The Ice Cream Truck

It was the last of the last and the white flag stood at the ready. Three runs resolutely held the line between our boys and parity. But one more out and the undertaker was free to begin his task. Hope had exited the building and provided no forwarding address.

So what if this misbegotten squad was filled with members whose eighth birthday had not yet arrived. What matter if those peering into the diamond were merely drawn to this effort by reason of blood. Shirk off a month of losses and permanent residence as cellar dwellers. This was the season's denouement and victory would provide a measure of solace to the beleaguered soul. 

We had filled their heads with praise for effort, result be damned. The final tally of insignificant consequence. But who would it harm to permit a taste of glory? 

The ringing bells on the nearby ice cream truck sounded in wait.

On the mound (though at this stage in baseball development, the truth is that the field is as flat from stem to stern as the world which existed before Columbus) stood a behemoth. Nearly as tall as my Aunt Minny, the hurler measured four feet nine inches top to toe. The fastest of his offerings sped through the late afternoon air with velocity exceeding a 40 mile speed limit.

Yet his thoughts sometimes meandered, and correspondingly thus did his throws. With the piper's carollings of the ice cream truck rendering the hurler's  concentration limp, the ball was unencumbered, developing its own concept as to the path forward. 

And so, one of our brave lads was plunked unceremoniously on his size fives. And, after shedding but a few tears, our fierce warrior gamely limped to first.

Soon he would be pushed forward to the next station as four consecutive efforts from the arm of the giant badly missed their mark. Possibility now peeked out from the grave.

"Time out ump", came the fervent cry from the dugout (in reality, this did not exist, as fence alone served as demarcation of where each side would take residence).

As the only viable alternative to rescue the pelota from the suddenly misbegotten mound man was now travelling somewhere in Pennslvania with his parents and most annoying younger sibling, the opposition leader was without alternative. Thus, after but a brief discussion of quantum physics with the giant, the man tasked with steering our adversaries trudged slowly back from whence he emanated. 

The ice cream truck grew impatient, awaiting the contemplated arrivals.

With a fearsome cut that pierced as a knight's sword, our next hero attacked the incoming sphere and sent it dribbling, ever so gently, between the pitcher's rubber and the bag known as third. The throw from the hot corner to first missed by an eyelash from marking the contest's end. 

The bases were now filled to overflowing.

What happened next is recalled as if it took place but yesterday (it did). The hour was growing late and the gentleman residing inside the truck of ice and cream could remain immobile no more (he had a waiting appointment with a young lass which prompted what now transpired). 

"Last call. Last call". The bells shouted their imminent departure.

Panic descended upon the scene, a beast unlike any other. Gloom attached to each uniform as if another layer of skin. For what is this sport if not excuse for ice cream before dinner? Was this not it's raison d'etre?

The eyes of the young, on each side of the aisle, fixed as one away from the field of play onto something of far greater moment. The umpire, ever vigilant, glanced for mere instant at each manager and then did the unforgivable, or more accurately, the unforgettable.

In the long and storied history of baseball, games have been prematurely concluded by all manner of extraordinary circumstance. Rain,snow and even earthquake have been precipitants for stoppage. But never, until that moment, had there been an abrupt conclusion predicated on this.

With a quick and violent slashing of both arms and a booming voice, the umpire cried out "Game over. Ice cream is on me."

Of such stuff are legends made. And gods born.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Beto's charisma or Pete's erudition 
Biden's big heart or Kamala's mission
Pot legalization, tuition free school
The Green New Deal and Lift Act are cool

Booker or Warren or John Hickenlooper
So many names can cause quite a stupor
Health care for all, break up Big Tech
Tilt to the left, give the center respect

Do we go old, or do we go younger
Bernie's strong message, or Klobuchar's hunger
Castro's Latino, Gabbard's a vet
Abrams has not even committed yet

NYC's Mayor I think he will curdle
And Andrew Yang has too many hurdles
Swalwell will fight to get rid of guns
Ryan says we should rely on the sun

Moulton, Delaney and Wayne Messam too
So many names, who knows what to do
Twenty or more must get down to one
Must pick the one who'll get the job done

What's the answer, who should we choose
Could just drive us mad
Not simple, remember we just cannot lose
Cause then we will feel so bad

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.