Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Legacy

"No water, no electricity, no security"("Militants Show Might, Striking in 13 Iraq Cities", NY Times, August 26, 2010). With insurgent shows of force seemingly everywhere, with the dead strewn about, with the government in disarray, we must take a hard look at what we are leaving behind in Iraq. Is this what Operation Iraqi Freedom can claim as its legacy? Is this what we spent all those years, all that money and all those lives for?

The insurgents spoke with an exclamation point as they proclaimed that they were still able to produce the kind of damage to body and mind we had long tried, and failed, to eradicate. History will have a hard time looking kindly on what more and more appears to be a lost decade in Iraq.

As we now focus on the continuing struggles in Afghanistan, with the rampant corruption in its government and our disastrous efforts to destroy the insurgency, one village at a time, we ask what have we accomplished in this region of the world. The answer is very little and at a very great cost to our standing in the international community, to the economic well being of our own country, to the opportunities wasted on our own soil and the lives lost or irreparably damaged abroad. We have been chasing a mirage, creating a picture we wanted to see that never existed, and never had a chance to exist. Not a fighting chance.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Burlington Coat Factory

Who realized that the abandoned coat factory was in the shadow cast by the old Twin Towers? Who knew the shadow extended not merely as far as the eye can see, but over our entire country? Those whose foundational belief is in the excess of evil of any Muslim yesterday found another reason to protest with misspelled placards.

It is in the grand tradition of the Rudolph Guiliani school of "9/11, 9/11, 9/11". It is a fanatical fervor borne of the core principal that all of 'them' have some secret agenda to destroy us. While 'they' may appear on the surface to come only in peace and goodwill, we know better.

One out of five in our country believe that "our Hussein" is a Muslim. Our President stands indicted and convicted of crimes he did not commit. For those who only wish to run this community center, it matters not what they say, what they do or what they intend. It is of no moment that their mission appears to be one of inclusion and construction. They are but walking symbols of something greater, something to be feared and reviled. For those with misspelled signs and mistaken logic, this is not a fight about the religious freedom but a war on terrorism.

Friday, August 20, 2010

In Word and Deed

I give my unequivocal support to the vigorous criminal pursuit of Roger Clemens. Anyone who has the audacity to appear before the Congress of the United States and be less than totally candid and forthright should be prepared to face the consequences. Is there anything more crucial to the preservation of our democracy than making certain that those who speak to the members of the House and Senate tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them God? What would we have left to believe in if those coming forward in this hallowed institution were allowed to misspeak and misrepresent in furtherance of some personal agenda?

The real truth is that while we so feverishly chase after Mr.Clemens for his words uttered under oath before Congress, we turn a blind eye each day to the many members of these chambers who abuse the rights and privileges of their office. The Halls are filled with those who trade votes for some political advantage, who line personal or political coffers in exchange for favors.

We should focus not on lies, but on lies with real consequences. When talk of fictitious "death panels" is made to try to assure continued viability of the giants of insurance, when environmental needs get buried underneath a mountain of oil, when we watch the shape of our nation being changed by those whose ethics are for sale, then we should indeed be moved to act forcefully.

If we want to do this right, instead of focusing our time, energy and resources on baseball players who fib about how they were able to hit a ball so far or throw one so hard, we should instead do everything in our capabilities to assure the purity of word and deed of those now sitting as our surrogates to serve and protect us. Let's be relentless advocates of our fundamental right to a government run by the people and for the people.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Driving Lessons

It was a mostly forgettable evening. In the 'dog days', when baseball players try to re-energize for the stretch run, there are often moments like this. The game dragged on. The Detroit pitcher was excruciatingly erratic, the plate seemingly a moving target. The crowd was eerily quiet. My friend Tom and I left the stadium after 6 innings, talking about food, the weather or almost anything but we had just paid to witness. Then matters become interesting.

I am one of those people obsessed with the time it takes me to drive from point A to point B . Under 2 hours and 10 minutes from Fort Lee to Great Barrington fills me with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Over 2 hours and 30 minutes for the same journey leads to consternation bordering on anger. Each trip to my daughter's apartment in New York City is mainly an excuse to discuss my ability to circumnavigate traffic obstacles.

In this context, last night's journey home from the game made all that had come before without consequence. Since Tom and I had exited the stadium early, there was no rush of people to our parking garage. Thanks to my son, and the Bx 13, I had discovered a wonderful new lot, and an exciting new route, which shortened my journey to and from the house that taxpayer's money and Steinbrenner built. Pulling out of the garage, Tom and I checked our watches to confirm the hour and minute of departure.

The first critical decision was whether to take the Deegan or the side roads to the bridge. Normally, highway driving is avoided. But tonight, in its apparent emptiness, this road beckoned. And so, off we went. Smooth sailing.

The merge to the Bridge went swiftly and easily. The path from there to NJ unencumbered. The streets of Fort Lee quiet.

11 minutes after having gotten into Tom's car, he pulled up to my residence. 11 minutes! A new land speed record.

The evening suddenly seemed an overwhelming success. I was almost giddy as I entered my apartment. I turned on the television and the game was still in the same inning as when I last left my Stadium seat. Could there be anything more perfect?

The only discouraging note was that this drive was engineered and undertaken not by me, but by Tom. I was but a passenger in his moment of triumph. I now am driven by a passion to beat his mark. The gauntlet has been laid down before me. 10 minutes or bust.

Speech Lessons

The two politicians from Illinois stand in such stark contrast. One so careless with his words, the other often too constrained.

Rod Blagojevich, the mouth that roared, was mute during his 2 month trial that ultimately proved not much except to confirm that corruption is an integral part of the political system. No matter how ill conceived the Governor's musings on the power he wielded, no matter how low he stooped, no matter. 'Words can never hurt me', or at least not a lot, was what seemed to emerge from the verdict of a jury who couldn't decide if stupidity and braggadocio is a crime.

For our President, so eloquent, and so thoughtful, his mind twisting parsing on his comments of last Friday on the right of those in our country to choose when and where to pray, has been yet another painful episode. The man who attacked with such fervor during the campaign when his own religious and cultural background was challenged, has demonstrated an inability to elevate during the course of his presidency. This is particularly frustrating for those who know he knows better. Don't govern like you have just been read your Miranda rights and that everything you say can and may be used against you in a court of law.

Freedom of speech. One should just keep his mouth shut and the other should start speaking his mind.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Unorthodox Dancing Lessons

I am considering becoming an Orthodox Jew. This has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with my dancing.

My family calls the one dance step that I perform the Horace Mann shuffle. This is not meant as a compliment. It is a short hand reference to how they perceive the skill set of me and a number of my old high school classmates. For those of you who may be fans of Seinfeld, think of the memorable dance of Elaine, and multiply it many fold.

I don't know any other way. Once the music starts, the shuffle emerges. There is a biting of my lip (which is a trait I believe I share with Elaine), a contortion of my face, an awkward flailing of my arms, and a thrusting to my side of one leg and then the other. Joanne is left a helpless victim, a partner in name only.

For a person who gives the appearance of being coordinated, I often display complete physical ineptitude. I am that one guy in the crowd who can't do rhythmic clapping. Tapping to the beat of the music is a foreign concept. And then there is my dancing.

So, tonight, when I attended an Orthodox wedding, it came to me. From the youngest boy to the octo/nanogenerian, they were amazing. There was jumping, bumping, twisting, turning, smiling. I couldn't tell if they were all great but they were certainly not painfully awkward. And they seemed in control of the space they inhabited.

If I could only absorb what I saw this evening. I began to envision myself much like the young John Travolta, strutting and preening.

So while it may be true that white men can't jump, I have discovered that there is a certain portion of white men who can dance. If I am soon one of them, you will know that I took some very unorthodox steps to get there.

Monday, August 9, 2010


They appeal to the worst part of our beings
They search for the worst in others
They prey on our fears
They create deceptions
They create divides
They create nothing
They disregard truth
They foster despair
They make us hated
They make us hate
They make us small
They destroy

Is this the best they have to offer?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Thank You Note to My Wife on Our 33rd Anniversary

Most who read this might find it strange that I am thanking you for not being with me today. You were not with me while I played golf (very badly) with 3 of my long time golfing companions. You were not with me when I decided to go with Richie to the Yankee game this evening. You are not with me now as you traveled up to Great Barrington this afternoon with friends. You will not even be with me tomorrow morning when I play yet another round of golf (also, quite certainly, very badly) with 7 golfing companions. In short, after 6:30 this morning, we spent our entire anniversary apart. I thank you for allowing me, and my passions to be important today, of all days. I thank you for making each day matter, but none matter more than another.

I thank you for accepting that first date. I thank you for our first tennis game. I thank you for your Mom and Dad. I thank you for rescuing me every night while I was studying for the bar exam. I thank you for your Mom fixing my bow tie right before the wedding ceremony. I thank you for our first apartment. I thank you for not letting me bid on every house we saw. I thank you for Tenafly.

I thank you for bringing the oranges to all Alex's soccer games. I thank you for finding that sign language class for her. I thank you for loving that Saab even with the push pins, the rust and the water seeping in. I thank you for helping Richie make that school project object that looked like a hamburger. I thank you for the centerpieces made out of old ski boots. I thank you for those car rides back and forth from the Berkshires with the kids talking, arguing, or sleeping. I thank you for Coal, Shadow, Mickey and Banjo. I thank you for the mogul runs I made you take a little too early in the vacation. I thank you for enjoying shoveling manure. I thank you for being the co-chef with Richie in his search for the perfect edible alternatives.

I thank you for sleeping with the air conditioning on in our bedroom even though you are freezing and even though the noise wakes you up throughout the night. I thank you for doing all those chores I don't do because I am very bad at them. I thank you for not worrying at all the things I worry needlessly about. I thank you for being the handyman and the moving man. I thank you for taking those long walks with me. I thank you for the bike rides I am now starting to enjoy. I thank you for thinking 5:30 is an actual dinner time and 10 PM is late. I thank you for making me feel that my writing has value. I thank you for the joy in your face when you do something well. I thank you for introducing me to a very interesting group of people known as ski patrollers. I thank you for putting up the plaque listing all those in my bunk from Camp Akiba. I thank you for the way you help me out with my mom. I thank you for all the things you do with Richie. I thank you for driving with me in the middle of the night to pick up Alex. I thank you for still laughing with me. I thank you for never going to sleep angry. I thank you for letting me discover new joys in the Berkshires. I thank you for refusing to get old.

I thank you for the million things I did not thank you for over the past 33 years.

I thank you for where we are now, and where I hope we will be tomorrow. I thank you for all the yesterdays and all the days to come. I thank you for today. I thank you for being my wife.

I hope you sleep well tonight and I will see you tomorrow afternoon. I love you.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Witnessing History

I had been at the game when he hit 599, and I was at the Stadium this past Monday when the futility in trying to reach 600 continued. A- Rod, in full view. You could almost see him twitching internally, as a succession of mostly forgettable names stymied him in his ongoing pursuit of greatness.

One of sports seminal pleasures is recounting tales of having been at a defining moment. I will bore anyone within earshot with a top ten list of my 'accomplishments' of having been in the right sporting place at the right time. Yesterday, I was not at the Stadium. However, that is not to say that I didn't have tickets to the game. I did, or at least, I kind of did.

Some years ago, I presented a friend with 4 tickets to a Yankee game, in celebration of his son's birthday. It turns out that an annual tradition was born that day.

As I sat in my car and listened to the radio yesterday afternoon, I imagined the arc of A-Rod's 600th. My first thought was not of the steroid issue, or of the weight that was lifted from his shoulders, but of those 4 seats, none of which were being occupied by me. Joanne texted our friend "600 !!!!!" and got a joyous reply moments later. That could have been me, I thought.

The truth is that my best memories are of moments unscripted. My daughter and I watched as Jeter dived into the stands and came out bloodied but triumphant during that unforgettable game against the Red Sox. It was stirring being with my son while seeing a fading Doc Gooden pitch a no hitter against a Seattle team led by a young star by the name of Ken Griffey.

And the one that surpasses them all is recalling my dad beaming, while clutching a foul ball that had just been hit by Yogi Berra in his 2000th game as a Yankee.

So, while I lament my failure to be a witness to history, maybe I should, much like A-Rod, stop trying so hard. Let it all come to me naturally, and allow what is meant to be to happen of its own accord.

That is not to say that I am not trying to figure out exactly when 700 will be hit, and maybe even calculate the moment in time when 763 should go sailing into the history books. I wonder if the Yankees can put tickets on hold for mid-August 2013 and 2015 in the left field bleachers?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Calm from the Storm

My sister is on vacation this week. In her absence, others in our clan scramble to fill the temporary void in 'coverage' for my Mom. Last night, my nephew, his wife, my niece, Jo and I all joined my mom for dinner at her favorite restaurant.

Towards the end of the meal, I mentioned that one of our cousins would be taking my mom out to lunch the next day. In these difficult times, when even a meal with my mom can be trying, I am thankful for those willing and able to continue to make the effort.

Not too many years ago, I attended the funeral of a friend of the family. I contemplated what I would say if one day called upon to eulogize my mom. I remember thinking that I would gaze out on a room overflowing with people, all with good reason to consider themselves her best friend.

Time has robbed her of many things. Chief among these is the constant flow of people in and out of her life. Her days were once filled with chatter and activity. From the moment she awoke, there was always something going on. The phone calls with all her sisters, and a myriad of others, was a given. Something was always happening or about to happen. Loneliness and isolation were words that belonged in someone else's world.

Now, she looks out at a universe filled only with space. With her memory having almost completely betrayed her, she is unable to visualize what lays ahead. Plans are never initiated by her, and often don't exist. Many days, she finds herself in the passenger seat of a car, being driven for hours to no place in particular by one of the women who are entrusted with her care. She has to keep moving to try to stay one step ahead of the emptiness.

It is a painful dance to watch. My sister and I are filled with guilt if neither of us is able to be in her company. We call my mom religiously, many times a day, so that there is something, anything to fill this moment, if not the next. We try to stagger our time with her, and alternate vacations. Each 24 hour period is now an exhausting lifetime for my mom. All we can try to do is make it a little less cruel.

I know that this story is repeated, with minor variations, in many households every day. For those fighting to maintain their dignity, and the many who love them and watch in desperation, it is not easy, never easy.

If I could have one wish for my mom it would be that each day not be the enemy. Let her just be able to sit in a chair, pick up the newspaper and read it peacefully. If I could have one wish it would be for calm from the storm.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Secrets Unrevealed


I have a serious character flaw. I am unable to keep a secret. I have a great and wonderful secret to reveal to 2 of my friends. I can't. It is more than I should have to bear.

My friends are actors. And they have established clearly defined rules and regulations that one must live by when discussing things touching their craft. Chief among them is that one is never, ever to tell them about a critic's analysis of their work, during the run of a show. Good or bad, it matters not. Never is the operative word.

On page 3 of today's arts section of the New York Times is a review of the play in which they are currently starring, (in a major stretch) as a husband and wife who are both actors. The review, at least in my opinion, is very positive, as to the production in general and as to my friends in particular. Accompanying the article is a large picture of the lead couple, in an embrace on stage.

But, this piece is not about them or their acting abilities. It is about the curse they put upon me, which swears me to remain mute in their presence concerning what I have just read.

Throughout the years, I have been known to reveal even the smallest of gems, at the least of provocations. Holding back on something of this magnitude requires an act of inner fortitude that is miles above the pay grade of that part of my psyche in charge of controlling impulsive speech.

Fortunately, I am nowhere near their presence for the next several days. But, come Friday, and throughout this weekend, I fear our paths may cross. Will I give myself away with a smile, or a thumbs up? Will I find the urge to blabber uncontrollable? I think that I may have to run and hide anytime they appear, even in my periphery.

The only consolation is that this play has a limited run. Come the end of this month, the show is scheduled to close, and the prohibition placed upon me will be lifted. Holding in my secret any longer would be deemed cruel and unusual punishment. Thus, my fervent wish for my friends is a short, successful and happy engagement. Short being the operative word.