Wednesday, May 21, 2008

she did it her way

And now the end is near, and I am sure that she is hurtin
So close, so close she was, to the nomination flirtin
But now Barack's the choice, of this one thing I'm certain
And soon the show will close, the final curtain

The statements that she made, they oft created ire
Like the time she said she drew the Bosnian fire
But on the campaign trail, she never seemed to tire
And all along the way she tried climbing higher

At times, the rhetoric, it sure seemed to get rough
Sometimes the pundits said she was way, way too gruff
But while the path was hard and often seemed too much
There is no question, no, she always stood tough

Mistakes, she made a few, of this just ask Marc Penn
She didn't get black votes and too few of the young men
The caucuses ignored, she just seemed to forget them
But she, she persevered, through all the mayhem

She knows that she would be an inspirational President
She knows in 1600 she would be a perfect resident
But she must let it go and try to be less discontent
For no, she will not go, the hourglass all spent

So now the time has come, she's in her final days
There are no options left, there are no more cards to play
And though she came up short, of this one thing we all say
Hillary , oh yes, oh yes, she did it her way

Friday, May 16, 2008


Justine Henin is 25 years old. She is currently the number one women's tennis player in the world. She has won 7 Grand Slam titles. She announced earlier this week that she was retiring from competitive tennis effective immediately. She talked of having more money then she could spend in 3 lifetimes. She is moving on .

The same day, Annika Sorenstam announced that she was stepping away from the world of championship golf as of the end of this year. At 37 years of age, she has been ranked the number 1 player in the world at the end of 7 seasons. She is currently the number 2 player in the world , has won over $22,000,000 in prize money, more than any woman who has ever played the game, and announced she is ready for other challenges.

Henin has gone through some difficult personal moments in her life. She was estranged from her family for a decade, as they opposed her involvement with a man she would later marry, and then , last year divorced. The life of a women's tennis player , wandering the globe from the earliest of ages, in chase of a singular pursuit, must at times be extremely lonely. This is not a team endeavor and personal goals limit one's ability to become a committed part of a group dynamic.

Focus was a central core for Henin. Once she reconnected with family and enjoyed those moments she had long ago left behind, she found that the drive necessary to beat the best in the world was lacking. She said she thought long and hard about her decision, but in the end, beginning a life she had long put on hold was what mattered most.

For Sorenstam, she has a world outside of competitive golf that she is now exploring. She is engaged to be married, speaks of starting a family, and is involved in golf related business ventures that now occupy her time and her mind. Like Henin, she has a life that is waiting for her in the wings.

It is jarring for us to watch those at the top of their career in professional athletics step away from the spotlight. We don't care how much money they have made, or how much they have grown tired of living out of suitcases. In the abstract, we believe that what is missing from their existence cannot possibly measure up to what their greatness has brought them. We all fantasize about being that kind of world class athlete. There is no way we would walk away from that, not when there was still more we could accomplish.

But we do not follow them once they have left the spotlight for the day. We don't know what it feels like to be uprooted for weeks and months on end. We don't have to exist in a vacuum where we are enveloped and overwhelmed by the requirements of our craft. There are large holes that can develop that need to be filled. Both Justine Henin and Annika Sorenstam are now trying to fill those holes. We wish them luck and even greater success in 'real' life then they have experienced at the apex of their professional worlds.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


It is funny how life sometimes gets in the way. I have not written to all of you in a while because:

1. My law practice started to get busier ( thank goodness) and thus my focus has been somewhat shifted
2. I began to sleep later ( to about 6 AM from 5AM)
3. My daughter returned home, and our computer was moved into the 'master' bedroom ( meaning I run the risk of awakening my bride from her slumber by my composing)
4. The Yankees have been uniformly unexciting.
5. The democratic nomination process has worn me out.
6. My fervor for writing these pieces has, for the moment, been slightly diminished.

Thus, to steal a quote, in case you were wondering, the reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I hope to come back to you in the near future, stronger and better than ever. In the meantime, I guess you will have to look for other ways to fill up the few minutes in your day that you have been devoting to reading my mental meanderings.

I am signing out, but not signing off.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

George Washington and the Nomination Process

Can it really be that this is the best approach to determining the Presidential candidate for each party? The last I looked, we no longer live in a world in which we have to get on our horse to travel from one town to the next to get our message to the public. The days of stumping from the back of a train are nothing more than remnants of an era long gone. Communication through the mail and getting word out only through the newspaper is an ancient and cumbersome approach. The voice of the candidates is heard around the globe instantaneously. Their message is spread by way of 21st century technology. So why do we approach the process as if we are living in a time of quill pens and Paul Revere?

There is no need for the candidates to give variations on a theme hundreds of times. We don't have to be faced with a situation where the stump speech is repeated in town halls, houses, auditoriums, arenas and a hundred other places over and over. The media and the voting public turn off to the words and start searching for the distractions that too often take center stage. For the last year and a half Clinton and Obama have exhausted themselves, exhausted their coffers, and exhausted the English language in a continual assault that is as unnecessary as it is counterproductive.

When are we going to reach the conclusion that present day circumstances demand present day responses to the procedures utilized to find a candidate of choice? To permit elected officials to announce their candidacy so far before the primaries begin just serves to take them away from their responsibilities to their present office and foist them upon us much too soon. I know that shaking hands and looking in the eyes of the electorate provides a benefit to the candidate. I know that each opportunity to meet and greet can lead to something greater. But in the weighing of benefits and detriments, there is no contest. We must streamline what the candidates do and for how long they can do it. Otherwise,after awhile, their words are nothing more than sound and fury signifying nothing. It need not be this way.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Yesterday, I attended a funeral of the mother of a close friend of mine. She was 95 years old and had lived a long and seemingly happy life. My friend eulogized his mom in a simple and understated manner. He made her appear no more, and certainly no less , than a loving mom , grandmother and great-grandmother. Her life was filled in the small moments. I was struck by the simplicity of the speech and of the things that people remembered and cherished.

Afterwards, my friend and I spoke for a moment. After discussing his loss, my friend said that he had struggled to write the speech, and that it had taken him 3 days to gather his thoughts. He said that he wished that I had written the eulogy for him, as it seemed that it was easy for me to put together what I hoped to impart to others. While I was most grateful for his praise, I told him that I believed his speech needed no editing. However, the comments my friend made did get me to start contemplating the way that I believe people would most hope to be remembered after they have passed on.

I think back to my Dad, who is now gone almost 30 years. Not a day goes by that I don't regret that he is no longer here. I envision life for my Mom, with my Dad right up to the present. I see him involved in the lives of my sister and myself and our families. All my thoughts are of a man focused not on the greatness of himself but only on sharing his goodness with others. It is his goodness, not his greatness, that is implanted in my brain and in my heart.

I believe that my father was a great man in his accomplishments. He was an all- American fencer, a graduate of law school ( first in his class ) at age 21, an extremely intelligent and successful lawyer, and an athlete of note. But accomplishments are only accomplishments. They are not what we are , they are only what we have done.

What made my father a good man was the respect with which he treated life. He did not take his good fortune for granted and seemed to be imbued with the qualities that emanate from one who appreciates that he has given an opportunity to enjoy all the benefits that family and profession provided . There was a modesty about him , and a genuineness in his personna. There was no hint of ego in his manner. There was no bluster and no pretense. My dad had been given many gifts and he understood this.

I felt that my dad treated all others with courtesy and dignity. No one deserved to be looked on as anything but an equal. I believe that this formed a core for him, and allowed me , through his eyes, to see the value in all others. I find myself writing these days about the serendipity of my being given the privileges that I have enjoyed. I know that there but for the grace... It is a lesson I learned from a good and great man.

None of us knows when fortune will shine on us, or when it will turn its eye in another direction. However, as my friend's mom and my dad well knew, the riches we have are ours irrespective of our wealth.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Perfect Foursome

It has been 9 years since this has happened. While it is an occasion that has been little noticed by the rest of the world, and has no impact on the daily lives of those of you reading this, it is of monumental import to me. If you had asked me 9 years ago of the possibility of this day coming to pass, the words remote and non-existent would have been the most likely ones I would have uttered. As of last evening, and at least for the next several months, both of our children will be living at home.

I had always told myself, and anyone who would listen, that I did not care where my children ended up residing. If they were happy and healthy, then whatever suited them was perfectly fine with me. Intellectually, that is exactly what I believe. We all want our children to be living productive and well adjusted existences. Where this happens is much less important then the fact that it occurs..

We live in an age where communication through the internet, by cell phones and by a myriad of other methods means we can be in touch with others at a moment's notice. Air travel affords us the opportunity to feel like we are not as far apart as the miles would suggest. The world is a smaller place and there is an intimacy to long distance relationships that grows stronger with each technological advance.

Alex has been living out in Utah for the last 6 months. We went out to visit her on 3 occasions.She was fine, well adjusted, and enjoying an unusual and remarkable time in her life. It was great visiting with her and always a little sad for me when we parted. Yet, I never felt like it was anything but the right place for Alex to be spending her time.

When she went out to Utah, she had no specific plans for her return to the East Coast. We spoke about the possibility of her coming back for graduate school, but it was just a discussion, and by no means a certainty. As events unfolded, the next chapter of her life will take place in NY, beginning in the fall, as she starts a Masters program in the city.

So, in the middle of last week, Joanne boarded a plane and headed out to Park City. Alex had finished her job at Deer Valley ski school. The day after Jo's arrival in Utah, she and Alex began a cross country journey in the same Subaru Forester that had taken Richie across the country to Berkeley in 2003 for his Master's program. That car had also been responsible for bringing Richie back to NJ after an illness prevented him from completing his program. Richie remains with us and still struggles to regain his energy and strength.

The Forester had travelled back out West with Alex this fall, and was now ready for its second long journey back to NJ. Alex and Jo, 2 women on a mission, were able to navigate the 2100 mile trip in 3 days. Last evening, at about 8:30, we were reunited as a family living under one roof.

All my intellectualizing the benefits of my children being on their own went out the window the moment we were once more a foursome. I know I should be at a point in my life where I find the pleasures of grandparenting to be more appropriate then being a reconstituted parent. But I have always been and will always be, one who finds the most joy in my life in times I share with my children and my wife beside me. I was the type of overindulgent parent who brought breakfast up to my children in bed before they went off to school in the mornings ( I know, I know). I always sent them off on their daily adventures in life with 'have a good day and a fun day'. When the kids went off to college and graduate school, that phrase was how all my communications with them ended.

With both Richie and Alex safely tucked in their beds last night, I stopped to think about the strange places life takes us. I do not know what tomorrow may bring, but I do know one thing for certain. If my kids ask, I will still bring them breakfast in bed, and I will still use my sign off to them as I head to my day at work. Welcome home Alex. Thanks for giving Jo and me the privilege of taking care of both of our children again. It is a good day and a fun day.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Radio City's Radical Policy on the Redistribution of Wealth

NOTE: This is a guest post from my son, Richie. It also appears on his blog, The View from the Seven-and-a-Halfth Floor.

My father and I purchased a 4-pack of lectures at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, "The Minds That Move The World" Speakers Series. At the time we purchased our tickets, you had to buy tickets to all 4 events (now, I believe, they are selling individual event tickets). The first event was a roundtable discussion, hosted by Anderson Cooper, and featuring several pundits (Arianna Huffington, James Carville, Tucker Carlson). I personally found it a bit underwhelming (it was like watching a pundit show on TV), but my dad enjoyed it. The second event, last night, was Al Gore (more on him later). The next two events will be John Edwards with Rudy Giuliani, moderated by Tim Russert; and Bill Clinton.

The tickets are quite pricey, averaging $50 per seat per event for the very cheapest seats, and going up to $500 per seat for the best seats at the most-demanded events (Gore and Clinton). If you've never been to Radio City Music Hall (until the first event, I had never been), you probably can't imagine the enormity of the place. It has not one, not two, but three mezzanine/balcony levels above the orchestra floor level. The place is cavernous. And our assigned seats (we bought the $50 ones) are near the back of the third mezzanine. It literally feels like you're sitting a football field away from the stage, and there are even jumbotrons so you can see what's happening way down there (although, the giant screens are actually positioned a little low for the uppermost balcony, pointed more directly at the lower balconies).

When we arrived at the first event, rode the elevator up to the third balcony (I have bad knees, or we would have taken the 100 or so steps), and took our seats, we noticed that the place was mostly empty. I told my dad that we should ride down two levels--to the first balcony--and see if there were some free seats there we might be able to move up to.

We stepped out of the elevator on the first mezzanine, and tried to quietly slip into a section of mostly-empty seats. We were stopped by an usher, who I assumed would send us back up to the nosebleeds, despite all the empty seats lower down. Instead, he asked us if we wanted to upgrade our tickets. I gave him a puzzled look and said, "for free?" "Yes," he answered, as he took our old tickets and handed us new ones.

The new tickets, as it turned out, were for row FF in the orchestra. "Wow," I said to my father, "He's moving us downstairs to even pricier seats for free." I had assumed that row FF was behind rows A-Z, and figured that we'd be near the back of the ground floor--still, a major upgrade from the 3rd mezzanine. But, no, I was wrong. Row FF is the 6th row, BEFORE the single alphabet starts. Gratefully, we took our seats, and looked around to see quite a few empty ones. It also appeared that they had emptied out the whole first mezzanine and upgraded them to seats downstairs. At the time, we figured that this was an effort to make the downstairs auditorium look more full, which is probably nicer for the speakers than staring out across a sea of mostly empty chairs.

Two weeks later, we showed up for the Al Gore event. Upon entering, I actually spotted the usher who had 'upgraded' us at the first event, and contemplated politely approaching him to ask if there were upgrades available today. Given that this event featured a more popular speaker, and that this usher was now working a busy entrance downstairs, I figured that there wouldn't be many empty seats, so I decided not to bug him. My father and I walked over to the elevator bank to take the long ride up, when we were approached by a man who asked, "Where are you going?" Before I could finish saying, "To our seats in the 3rd mezzanine," he handed me and my father 2 tickets, in Orchestra row CCC.

Oh yeah, row CCC. I neglected to mention the Triple-letter rows earlier. These are the special, beyond-the-velvet-rope, VIP seats comprising the first 4 rows of the theater. They are actually temporary seats, effectively in the orchestra pit, in front of all the permanent built-in seats. You have to walk past a second usher to get into them, and past some tough looking security guards, who may or may not have been secret service agents last night. So, there we are, flashing our new $500 per seat tickets to see Al Gore, walking past a second usher and taking our seats in the third VIP row, a dozen or so seats over from Katie Couric and her entourage, and no more than a dozen or so feet from the edge of the stage.

My father and I decided then that this was not some isolated incident, but rather a progressive policy of wealth redistribution at Radio City Music Hall. Either from the management down, or from the ushers up, someone at Radio City had promoted the idea that the little people deserve to be mixed in with the bigwigs, that those of us who bought reasonably-priced tickets deserve the full-price experience, space-permitting, and subsidized by the uber-wealthy a few seats over who plunked down hundreds or thousands of dollars for the speaker series. Radio City seems to be engaging in a radical (and effective) experiment in socialism, where each individual is expected to give according to his or her means, but is granted near-equal access to the benefits accorded to the wealthier Radioans (Radio City residents). The wealthiest do not suffer, nor are they made to sacrifice--they are entitled their pick of the choicest seats in the house. But, at the same time, the poorer are not punished or marginalized; through the contributions of their wealthier neighbors of excess seats (from which the wealthiest gain no benefit by hoarding), the less fortunate are often afforded opportunities to move up through the social strata and experience the same rights and privileges (as well as responsibilities, such as the expectation to comport oneself respectfully when sitting mere inches from an on-stage dignitary) as their more privileged fellow Radioans. "What a wonderful, utopian social experiment," I thought, and imagined what it would be like in America today if we did less finger-pointing and scape-goating, and felt a communal obligation to ensure the well-being of the most, and least, privileged amongst us.

Maybe we can learn a thing or two from Radio City.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Accepting Mediocrity

Is it time to panic yet? No, I am not talking about whether Barack is losing his grip on the nomination or whether we are faced with the ever growing possibility of 4 more years under Republican dictatorship, I mean Republican rule. I am concerned about something much more critical than the fate of our country and of the world. I am worried about something that has not been seen for well over a decade. I think the Yankees may miss the playoffs.

I know that it is only May 2. I understand that things are never as dark as they may seem at a given moment (just look back at my post on the tumbling stock market, which has now risen a 1000 points since I wrote of my distress over the fate of my investments). I am aware that the Yankees were 21 wins and 29 losses at the 50 game mark last year and still managed to make the playoffs. But I don't even know half of the team that is now masquerading in the pinstripes, and those I do know, for the most part, have been anything but stellar.

Last night, for example, the starting pitcher was Ian Kennedy.He is a young pitcher who is supposed to have promise. Since when are those the people that are regulars in the Yankee starting rotation? Between Kennedy and Phil Hughes, a touted 21 year old, they take up 40% of all the starts and have combined for a grand total of 0 wins. They have seemingly gotten almost no one out and have rarely lasted more than 4 innings. They have left the mound time and again in a confused and beleaguered state. They have put inordinate pressure on the bulllpen and on the other 3 starters.

The bullpen has been, apart from Joba and the incomparable Mariano, remarkably mediocre. The middle relievers are nothing if not overused and underwhelming. Each night the team seems to throw out a succession of has beens, never was, or might possibly be some day in the future, to try to bridge the gap to get to the spectacular tandem for the 8th and 9th innings. Most nights, it doesn't work.

The remaining 3 starters are Wang, Pettite and Mussina. Wang has been a rock, and remains unbeaten. If anything were to happen to him the season would go down the toilet in a heartbeat. Pettite and Mussina are each approaching the end of very long and successful careers. Mussina, especially, seems to be pitching on fumes and always appears to be hanging on by a thread.

The struggles of the hitters is not much better. Whenever there are runners in scoring position, it seems the batter is unable to make solid contact with the easiest of pitches. Runners are left on base with staggering regularity.

Where has Robinson Cano disappeared? For a hitter who has been compared to Rod Carew, he looks more like Rodney Dangerfield at the plate. He don't get no respect because he don't deserve it.

A-Rod is on the disabled list. Posada is on the disabled list. Hughes is on the disabled list. Last night, Chad Moeller was catching, Morris Ensberg was at third base, and Shelley Duncan was at first base.. Murderer's Row this is not.

Jason Giambi looks like a human being again, and appears to have taken most of the steroid mass off his body. That is wonderful, but he is hitting well under .200. I wonder if he couldn't juice up just until he is hitting about .300, especially with the team struggling.

So we are left with a $200,000,000 payroll and a team in disarray. It appears too old and too young at the same time. It has no apparent core, and it certainly fails to intimidate opponents as it did in years past. It is a group without an identity at the moment and it appears like it is headed in a downward spiral.

But I know that one good homestand, or one spectacular series by a star, or the emergence of a new hero from among the apparent drek being paraded out on a nightly basis, and all this worrying may be misplaced. I have grown too used to success since 1995 to go gently into the night with this team. There must be a light at the end of this tunnel. For now, however, it appears to be pitch (and catch) dark.