Saturday, July 31, 2010

Birthday Wishes

His wife asked me to do it. I felt it was my duty to comply. After all, she or one of those closest to her husband had been emailing me every few weeks to thank me for my friendship. I was being asked to celebrate her husband's birthday by sending him a note of congratulations. It had been a tough year for him and he needed to know I was there.

I wrote to him about perseverance. I told him that better days lay ahead. I tried to be encouraging and funny at the same time. At one time or another, many of us have been placed in a similar situation. You hope your words will have some positive effect.

Today I got an invitation to a party in his honor. I am not even sure I will attend. Even though the birthday boy is having trouble making ends meet, I don't what I could bring that would be a meaningful present.

If I do go, I will only stay a little while. I will end up in conversation with people who don't really care what I have to say. I will search the room for familiar faces, without success.

Barack Obama turns 49 on August 4. I hope he smiles when he reads my birthday card to him. I am surprised he has not responded yet, but I guess he will get to it soon. Happy birthday, my good friend (at least that's what Michelle tells me we are).

Jersey Sure

Like the President, I have never watched "Jersey Shore"(or at least neither of us would admit to it). I wouldn't know any of its cast of characters if I tripped over one of them while he or she was passed out on the floor after a night, and/or day, of self excess. However, I have story line suggestions, that I believe would raise the level of discourse and provide clearly redeeming social value to this show.

1) Foreign Affairs - The cast goes on a road trip to scout out locations for season 4. Happy, Peppy and Bursting with Love all want to leave the US. The only dissenter is Dopey who thinks this would be a violation of the terms of his probation.

2) The Environment - Dumpy, Squeezy and Muffin lead a group discussion on the merits of cap and trade. Dumpy says that salary caps are fluid, while Squeezy says the July 31 interleague trade deadline serves no rational purpose.

3) Racism - Is Obama half white, or half black? Snooki gives us the definitive answer.

4) Fiscal Responsibility - Each cast member demands $100,000 per episode. The network talks of replacing everyone (but Snooki). They settle on $75 per show, and a state of art tanning bed.

5)Immigration - After days of tanning abuse, 3 cast members go outside and are immediately stopped by 2 policemen. Searched, questioned, and asked for identification, one nervous cast member tries to flee. Arrested and in jail for 12 hours, he comes back and convinces everyone to swear off the tanning bed.

6) Drugs - Doc says his days of roid usage are over. The pimples on his back are more than he can take.

7) War - Knuckles gets into a fight at a bar and falls down hard, a few times. After leaving the hospital, he announces that his lawyer advises him that he will soon own the bar. Everyone breaks into spontaneous applause. He smiles, the missing space where his teeth used to be, in prominent display.

8) Democracy - Queasy says his mother is coming to visit. Queasy is escorted off the island.

9) Global Warming - To compensate for the lack of a tanning bed, Wrinkles spends 74 consecutive days lying in the sun. He begins to peel, leading to widespread panic that this condition could be catching.

10) The Mid-Term Election - Young and Restless finds out that she is 10 weeks pregnant. It is decided that everyone will have an equal say in what comes next. This is the last episode for the season, and we are left just as Snooki is about to cast the deciding vote.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I got a new camera (this one, in case you're curious), and I've had the chance to take a few random photos with it: Of beetle-infested flowers that look like alien life forms, our own terrace garden, and the abandoned wastelands of the Great Barrington Fair. Enjoy. rj.


As we continue past the first decade of the new millennium and lurch forward, we are confronted with the ongoing question mark called Afghanistan. Revelations that Pakistan appears to be hedging its bets, working both for and against us in Afghanistan, merely adds to our confusion and consternation.

The only certainties about this war are death and taxes. Everything else seems just some amorphous blob.

For those looking to find reasons to abandon this long and, to the present, futile effort, there is now one more justification for suggesting that we pack up and head home.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Dance

Now class, everyone line up. Today, you will learn the steps that hold the key to your future success.

First step - Lean far to the right, open your mouth and prevaricate
Second step - Repeat step one, but add a spin and be sure not only to prevaricate but to obfuscate
Third step - Saunter, strut and pontificate
Fourth step - Begin to yell and stamp your feet, and always exaggerate
Fifth step - Continue to gesticulate, while now running like a raging bull, pinning those on the left directly against the wall
Sixth step - With fire in your eyes, agitate, as those on the left do the squirm
Seventh step - Turn yourself around and reinvigorate, if your prevarication, obfuscation, pontification, exaggeration, gesticulation and agitation lose their momentum
Eighth step - Run circles around those on the left, slowly causing them to disintegrate
Ninth step - Rest, and self congratulate as those on the left trip over their feet, trying to get out of their own way

Repeat over and over until the dance becomes one continuous flow- Perpetuate, be obdurate and never vacillate

You are a natural at the dance of the right, by the right and for the right.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Where Is That Ringing Coming From?

In the 21st century, we have stores devoted entirely to choosing cellphones and proper 'plans'. It is now a fundamental need of many in our society to carry little computers in their pockets. Significant sums of money are devoted to the purchase, utilization and worship of the latest, and for what appears to be the briefest of moments, the greatest in technological achievement.

To put this in context, my phone is a relic. It has no 'data' plan and does little more than permit me to speak with others without a telephone cord. I don't do text messaging. I still have not quite mastered the art of searching for my phone contacts. I did not program these contacts, and would be without any alphabetical list were it not for the assistance of my family.

I am proud to report that I have taken many pictures with my phone. However, almost every one is of the inside of my pocket. Those few that have been taken intentionally, remain locked inside my own world as I have no idea how to send the images to the rest of society. I am always told that most applications are intuitive. What the hell does that mean?

Over the past several weeks, we have had numerous family discussions about upgrading our phones and our plans. It seems that every time a new phone is acquired, one must pledge allegiance to a particular carrier for a period of years. Like LeBron, Dwyane and Chris, my entire family has now played out our contracts. We are free agents on the phone market.

Jo and I enter the Verizon store. There is much energy and enthusiasm among the gathered throng. I listen to animated conversations about the size of this piece, the narrowness of that one. I hear mention as to the clarity of the picture. There is talk of Droids and similar other worldly sounding pieces. I know that all of this has significance, but for the life of me, I can't find the on-off button on the phone at which I am staring.

I watch as Jo picks up a demo model and navigates through its portal into another universe. I try, in my head, to mimic her every move.

Jo shows me how she got onto the Internet. NYTimes.com appears and she is soon turning images sideways, making them bigger and then smaller. She continues to do magic tricks for a few more minutes. She has now convinced herself, I think, that she is up whatever challenges she may encounter.

I soon step up to bat. I try to make myself almost invisible, so that those in the room won't notice that there is an imposter in their midst. I make it appear that I am totally conversant in the rudimentary functions of this lump I hold in my hand.

After a few moments, images actually appear on the screen. I quickly get the hang of moving my fingers closer together or further apart. I find the icon to be advised as to the weather in every town on the globe. I can do some things. Not a lot, but some things.

I don't want to press my luck. While it takes a little effort, I am eventually able to back out, and produce a blank screen for the next visitor. I don't think anyone has noticed me. Given my limited abilities, I consider this to be an unqualified success.

Jo and I slowly work our way out of the store and into the night air. We speak of options for each family member. We decide that I will wait a little before making a decision. I will try out what Jo buys, slowly, and see whether frustration or excitement is the prevailing sentiment. Let me dip my toe into the water, before diving in. One small step for man...

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Restraining Order Has Been Lifted


My friend once referred to it as the lost generation, as she watched uncomfortably while her daughter, a law school graduate, found herself unemployed and, for a short period, back home. It is a distressing time for our generation, as we watch dreams of our young being deferred and hope they are not permanently destroyed.

I am a parent of 2, both of whom are in their 20's. I have witnessed a number of their friends stress over whether to remain in jobs that were a bad fit. The fear of the alternative, has caused some unhappy alliances to continue. Others, have decided that the anguish of being in the wrong workplace is ultimately just not worth it. They now are either in their childhood bedrooms, like Scott Nicholson, looking for something that makes sense, or seeking the shelter of a further degree, hoping they find a different economic environment down the road.

Next year, my daughter completes her graduate education. I hope that all her hard work will have immediate positive results, in a job that is both satisfying and pays the bills. It is not too much to wish for, but with an "elusive American dream" I recognize that it is something that she, like so many others, could find just out of reach.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Letter of Apology from Dan Gilbert to LeBron James

My Dear LeBron,

I wanted to take this opportunity to apologize to you for my outburst the other day. It was uncalled for, and was not in keeping with the relationship we shared over the past 7 years. I will never forget all that you have done for me and for this city.

When you arrived, we were but a struggling franchise, never able to reach the NBA's promised land. Thanks to you, as you leave, we are now a struggling franchise, never able to reach the NBA's promised land.

I thought we would be together forever, like Brad and Jennifer; A- Rod and Kate; Ben and Jen (#1).

I must have done something wrong. Was it not naming the arena after you? Did I forget to give you a Rolls Royce for your birthday? Were you really serious about being governor of Ohio in the off season?

I wish things had worked out differently, but I guess the stars just didn't align. Or maybe they did, but there is no such thing as collusion among players.

I will always think of you like a son, a son who stole my money, my heart and then ran away.

I had a dream last night. In this dream, you were an angel. I am sorry, I truly didn't mean to push you down those stairs.

So, from me, and all of us who remain in Cleveland, we wish you nothing but the best. Let me rephrase that. We wish you nothing, and hope you and your new friends are never the best.

With deep regrets for my earlier open letter, and my love always,

Dan Gilbert, Majority Owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and your former BFF

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


As we watch and wonder, as we await the television special devoted to the man and his decision, we are in the vortex of LEBRON. Our lexicon demands tributes to this phenomenon. Following, are some possibilities:

'Lebronite' - a fawning, synchophantic follower; a worshiper; an idolizer; one consumed by the greatness of another.

'Lebronned' - to be overwhelmed by the possibility of gaining financial benefits on the back of another - see the video by the mayors of Cleveland and New York as examples of this ridiculous hyperbolic attempt to capture the economic capital known as LEBRON

'Lebron , the billionaire' - a board game in which the protagonist moves around the country seeking to fulfill a lifelong dream to be richer than the entire community in which he settles- if the protagonist can do this in New York City he automatically wins the game

'Lebronzed' - to be immortalized during your time

'Lebronican' - a political movement to name an athlete governor of your state upon signing of his contract

'Lebron time' - whatever time Lebron says it is

'Lebron, Florida; Lebron, Ohio; Lebron, Illinois; Lebron, New York' - 1 right and 3 wrong

This is worse than the buildup to awarding a city the rights to host the Super Bowl or the Olympics. When the decision is rendered, it will appear that the fate of the winner and the losers will be forever sealed. Elation or depression. To be a lover or a hater of everything Lebron. All in the blink of Lebron's eyes.

'Lebronatronics' - The world according to Lebron (stay tuned)


Sunday, July 4, 2010

things to remember

when attending a James Taylor, Carole King concert at Tanglewood on a July 4th weekend.

1. drive over at least 4 days in advance to secure the best parking spot and best spot on 'the lawn'.
2. hire a sherpa with a donkey to carry the chairs, tarps and food supplies you need for the evening
3. bring "War and Peace" so you have some reading material before the concert starts
4. anticipate your little patch of earth becoming a main thoroughfare for 20,000 travelers
5. don't drink any water or other beverage for at least 3 days before the concert so you don't have to use the facilities
6. no one is sitting next to the garbage dumps for a reason
7. don't eat very much for the week before, as you will consume enough calories to hold you through the next week
8. don't make arrangements to meet by the third big tree from the left
9. the crowd's most likely drug of choice is not marijuana but Pepcid AC
10. as much as you consider your voice the equal of either of the performers, no one is there to hear you,

1. you are in one of the most beautiful venues you will ever find
2. it is a wonderful evening
3. you are sitting with the people who mean the most in the world to you
4. everyone is smiling; everyone is happy
5. there are babies, and young children, older children, young parents, young grandparents here and they are all in your group
6. you love this music
7. you have almost no rhythm, and you don't really care
8. you should be getting to your car before the last encore but you won't be
9. you are more relaxed then you have been in weeks
10.you will be coming back next year if your luck, and James Taylor hold out