Friday, December 31, 2010

The Saving Face Book

("From Twins, Second Thoughts") It is the follow up to the tale of Mr. Zuckerberg, and it could be called the "Saving Face" book. As the Winklevoss twins are pictured, Olympian in stature, and the value of their settlement is now estimated at $140 million, it is hard to feel much sympathy for their plight (clearly, empathy would not be an applicable sentiment).

When the NY Times is advising that nearly 8.9 million people obtained unemployment benefits for the most recently reported week, the stories involving those of great wealth wrestling over unfathomable amounts of money seems obscene. Let us first become a nation of the fully employed, and then we will have time to turn our attention to righting the wrongs suffered by the rich and famous.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Storm from Within

It was the night after Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Unfortunately, for the 2 central characters in this almost true tale, they were not in that house. Rather, they were alone (together) in the dark of night, in the barn that sat in the remote area behind the main residence. Or at least they thought they were alone.

Christmas had come and gone in this sleepy New England town. The next day, with all of Santa's presents unwrapped and in varying states of use or neglect, nature brought it's own gift: a blizzard.

The snow started in earnest about dinner time. It was the type of storm where footprints disappeared in an instant. A strong wind tossed the flakes to and fro. Neither man nor beast would venture out in this weather. Or so our 2 central characters believed.

These 2 young women had been coming to this barn for years. As teenagers they befriended 2 boys, brothers. Through the years, each and every winter, they met in this place. This barn had always served as their home away from home. It was a place where they had gathered to party with others. They knew every inch of this space and every noise that could possibly emanate from inside these walls. Or at least that is what they thought.

The house itself sat far off the main road. It was an old Victorian, sturdy and regal. It was here that the mother, father and younger sister of the 2 boys, were sleeping comfortably while the storm raged about them. There were no streetlights in this neighborhood. On this night, no sound of automobiles could be heard. There were no signs of life outside this barn. Well, none of which the 2 young women were aware.

At about midnight, the 2 brothers trudged the 100 feet back to the main house. A few steps from the barn, they disappeared from view. The swirling snow had snapped them up. It was as if they never existed.

The barn had been built well after the main house. Years ago, it's owners decided it would be converted into living space for their children. It was here that they could entertain, and it was here, in the loft above, that any guests could spend the evening. Now, the light in the downstairs of this barn was extinguished, and the 2 young women lay in the king sized bed, hearing nothing but the sounds of this building and the howling of the wind.

They both found sleep to be elusive. There was something not right in this place, on this night. They had never been frightened out here, not for one second. Tonight was different.

Suddenly, it sounded like the door opened. Both of the young women froze. They stopped breathing, so they could listen. In the dark nothing could be seen. But nothing certainly appeared to be something this evening.

From the perch of the loft, much of the lower region of the barn was hidden underneath. If someone was in here, even in the light of day, he could escape viewing if he chose the right hiding place. Tonight he could be hiding in plain sight.

The 2 young women fumbled to find their cellphones. They would call the main house, and tell the 2 boys what was happening, or maybe happening. The cell phones were not working. In this remote spot, on this night, in this blizzard, their contact to the outside world was gone. Dead.

One of these 2 young women was sure she heard movement from below. She feared the worst. The other thought she was about to throw up. Panic gripped them tightly and threatened to take away their reason. And maybe more than that. Thoughts of disaster filled their minds.

There was that noise again. This barn, that had served them so well for so many years, now held them captive.

In hushed and frightened tones, these 2 young women decided it could not end this way, not cowering under the covers. They would face their enemy, whoever or whatever it was. A small lamp sat on a table next to the bed. Fumbling in the darkness, a hand reached for the lamp. The light flickered, but then turned on.

The 2 young women looked at each other, hoping to see some small sign of courage to latch onto. Holding hands, they ventured forth.

They descended, slowly and as silently as they could, into the main room. Where was that noise? It was quiet, too quiet maybe. The door was wide open.

These 2 young women, scared in ways they could barely imagine, headed towards that door. If they could make it out of this room, the house, and all that it had to offer, was only yards away.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, the sound appeared again. Was this how it was to end?

These 2 young women reached the doorway and leaped into the waiting darkness. The storm had covered any tracks made earlier, and there was no sign that anyone had come or gone from this place. They were now in full sprint. The house had to be steps away, if only they could see it. Safety was nearly in their grasp. And then......

In the end, the only intruder was Old Man Winter. For you see, the fears these 2 young women experienced, lay inside each and every one of us. Just waiting for the next storm, the next barn, the next dark night and the howling of the wind.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Food for Thought

It was the noise that caught my attention. The conversation was loud, and grew progressively louder. The laughter was loud, and it too escalated in intensity and volume throughout the course of the evening. It was hard to distinguish whether it was the wine or the company. It mattered not.

Through this little ski patrol, in this little town, with its little mountain, new friendships have developed. As the pasta carbonera cooked, and then cooked some more, the stories of lives past and present flowed. I learned of upbringings and ancestors, of travels and travails, of meetings and departures. There were coincidences and similarities. There were bad jokes and more bad jokes. There were conversations in small numbers, and discussions as a group. There was something always to keep the mind from wandering too far.

As the evening moved forward, and the intimate details and thoughts emerged, the caveat was heard with increasing frequency. "This", we were advised, "is not to go beyond the confines of this room". What was being said was being said in this time and place, for the consumption of only those who heard and saw. There was to be no recounting of tales, no hearsay recollections. And so, you get no details from me.

I once viewed the Berkshires as a purely collateral part of my existence. No connections of consequence could take place there. But I have learned that pre-conceived notions are only that. The bonds formed this night flowed as easily and naturally as wine from a bottle.

I do not know when this group will next convene, though I hope it is not too distant. For me, the evening will long be remembered for all it revealed and all it offered. There was a joy and a camaraderie unexpected in scope and intensity. While the carbonera may have been why we came, we certainly left with much more than full stomachs.


It is true (" A Return to Normalcy") that the Republicans in Congress did seem a little less skittish during the lame duck session. After all, the logic goes, they now own at least part of the pie, and nobody gets to cut a slice unless they get a taste. But to confuse what just happened with a return to anything is, I fear, more wishful thinking than reality.

What did the Republicans do, but compel a massive entitlement package for the wrong end of the financial spectrum before they would even consider much lesser "concessions" on other legislation? What did they grudgingly agree to but the continuation of the Start treaty that their party had long championed, or abandonment of opposition to the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" that virtually all in the military, who they looked to for guidance, said was long since without purpose or justification?

We know there are big battles looming in the coming months. I am skeptical that this is now the dawn of a new era of cooperation based on the pre- Christmas presents, handed out by the party of Boehner, Cantor et als. When there is a looming threat of a government shutdown, and there will be one, come back to me then. Let's see whether the Republicans are willing to offer anything to eat but the crumbs.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Snowstorm

There is a wonderful quiet to it. A stillness draws my complete attention. Footsteps make no sound and a peacefulness descends. It is the beauty of the snowstorm.

I venture out into every so often just to confirm that it is real. The flakes surround me, encompass me. They are everywhere at once. There is a grace to their movement. There is a dignity about them. Together forming a blanket that envelopes my sight and my imagination. We are in our own universe.

I peer out the window. I fear I will be disappointed, but I am not. I am thankful.

I will wake up periodically in darkness. I will look into the streetlights and strain to confirm that the snow has decided to keep me company throughout the night.

In the morning I will fly down the stairs and out into the world to play with my new present. I will measure the depth with the legs of my pants and proclaim the greatness of it all.

And I will view a world that is unlike anything I have seen before. There will be a freshness and a vitality that was not there yesterday. There will be an importance to this day.

I am happy tonight knowing that as this snowstorm continues I am no different than the little child peering out the window thinking the same thoughts as me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bigfoot, Small Brain

You must understand that I am essentially an idiot. I recall very little, comprehend even less, and observe nothing. My life is filled with round pegs and square holes. The things I can accomplish would fill up just about as many pages as the book on Jewish NBA stars of the 21st century. Thus, on the first day of this ski season, when my attempts to put on my ski boots proved useless, and it looked like I was trying to squeeze a size 8 into the baby's first booties, one thing was clear: these boots were not mine.

When I first began to ski, back in the days of ski straps and boots that barely went over the ankles, the stress of putting my feet properly into my equipment almost drove me from the sport. By the time I figured how to undo this buckle, open that up, put the foot at just the right angle, sit not too high or too low, and push like I was in labor, I felt like I was in labor. Utterly exhausted and in pain even before I made the first turn on the slopes, skiing was not so much an adventure as it was a job.

But, thankfully, things changed over time. First came the rear entry boots which provided no support but were easy to slip on and off. Then, as the technology improved, I was able to master the art of actually putting one foot at a time into a boot without having to exert enough energy to want to take a nap. So, when this ski season began earlier this month, the last thing I was worried about was whether the boots would cause me unhappiness.

Thus, as I sat in the patrol room bootless and disconsolate, Jo suggested that back at the house, in another boot bag, my friends had to be waiting anxiously to begin their season.

And so I left the mountain and returned to begin the search. Much like Goldilocks, I determined that this one was too big, this one too tight, and so forth and so on. Then, I opened up Richie's ski bag and the boots reached out and grabbed me. They went on my feet as easily as long lost friends reuniting.

For the last 2 weekends, I comfortably slid down the hill, giving little thought to any part of my equipment except the skis which did not always turn how and where I commanded. But that is a separate tale with no possible happy ending.

Last night we arrived at the ski house, Richie joining us for the first time in several weeks. One of the evening's activities is readying ourselves for the next morning's trip to the slopes. Suddenly, in a slightly animated tone, Richie advised that the boots which I had been enjoying so thoroughly were not mine. The ones I had tossed aside that first day were in fact my long time companions. How, he wondered, could I have forgotten what the boots looked or felt like that I had skied on for close to 100 days? There is no good answer to that question.

And so, I turned my attention back to the offending footwear. I knew I would have to go to war again, and this time find a way to emerge victorious.

In the morning I headed out of the house, determined and worried. I took the keys, put the bags in the car. Then, Jo called out and told me that we never use the car I was loading and that the skis were in the other vehicle, like every other day of past winters. Some days are even worse than normal.

At the mountain , I unpacked my bag and stared at my enemies. They did not seem concerned. However, I called over the best possible re-enforcement, my wife. She pulled and pushed, twisted and turned until the boot would have done anything to escape her grasp. Suddenly, it loosened it's grip on my foot, and my sole touched down, like a gentle moon landing. One small step for man.

We now add to the enormous list of items for which I require the assistance of my beleaguered bride, putting on my ski boots.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eagles 38 - Giants 31

This one had to be described with adjectives and adverbs as nouns and verbs alone would not do it justice.

This one happened so quickly that it was virtually more than my mind could absorb.

This one almost made me pull the car to the side of the road.

This one was the reason that statistics were invented.

This one led to incarcerations.

This one created babies.

This one hurt all over.

This one could have been the one.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Holiday Present

(" With New Tax Bill, A Turning Point for the President")

Is this supposed to be a stocking stuffer?

I know we want to be grateful at this time of year but do we count our blessings for: extending unemployment benefits which should have been a moral imperative; cutting payroll taxes which will open the discussion for slashing of long term essential programs; and allowing monies needed to fuel the government and propel the recovery to instead remain in the pockets of the few?

I don't want to be the one to say we were all just handed a lump of coal, but really couldn't Santa have slid down the chimney with a better present than the Great Compromise of 2010?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Demand an Investigation

I swear I could hear King George yelling from the great beyond. As Cliff Lee headed down the road, turning his back on pinstripes and dollars, the axis of the baseball world tilted towards Philadelphia. As a lifelong Yankee fan, I demand an investigation.

This is the time of year when everyone is supposed to be grousing about the inequity of it all. Once again, the story goes, the Yankee green has the rest of the world seeing red. Now it is just a Philadelphia shade of red.

Sure, we missed some along the way. The great Greg Maddux shunned us and teamed up with Glavine and Smoltz in Atlanta. That one hurt a lot. But now Lee joins Oswalt, Halladay and Hamels in a foursome that should be nicknamed "piling on". This is something only we are allowed to do.

So we have an infield whose combined annual salary is just short of the budget for the war in Afghanistan. So we retain every star in our galaxy because it is in our galaxy. Mariano and Derek belong to us. Don't touch our guys, and don't stand in our way when we want what we want because we deserve it.

I am asking the commissioner to intercede on our behalf. I don't want to go into spring training with the thought that we will have to be lucky to win the World Series this year. That is something for the rest of the world to contemplate. New York is well, New York. That is all I need to tell you, Mr. Selig. Just find some reason why this is illegal, immoral or at the least intolerable.

Monday, December 13, 2010


My dad passed away 31 years ago today. I almost never hear mention of him these days. Most of his friends have passed away, or don't live in the area anymore. My mom has long since lost the ability to recall the details of the 34 years that she and my dad spent together. She now only occasionally speaks in oblique references, inserting 'him' into present day events.

I find myself looking forward to days like today so that I can bring him back to life, if only for the time it takes for me to recall him on my computer screen. It permits me to strike up a conversation, even for the briefest of moments, to let everyone know that my dad was here and made his mark upon this earth.

I have written to you on past anniversaries. I have told of my dad's exploits, of his passions and of how he has shaped my life.I understand that years can have a way of taking away the smudges, and leave only clean images, but my dad did not have to be scrubbed clean. There was not one instant in my life with my dad where I was ever ashamed of him, or unhappy with him. His presence was always something that made my day better.

I know that human beings are a fallible lot, and that mistakes are part of the overall equation. But not my dad. To regret nothing that was, but only that it couldn't still be is one of the great joys of my life.

I want my children, and their children, to remember someone they never knew. I want them to believe in the fairy tale and know, that at least for me, it was, and will forever be, the truth. I want them to know that greatness exists. I want them to strive to be the best. I want them to strive to be Richard Jay Nussbaum.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Words Unspoken

He had not spoken with his father in 2 years. As the world of Mark Madoff collapsed around him, one can only imagine what was left unsaid.

At some point yesterday Bernie Madoff must have received the news. The tentacles of Madoff's wrongdoing had just claimed another victim. But this was not just someone, this was his oldest son. And this was not a discussion of a financial disaster. This was the end of a life.

At times along the journey of destruction, Madoff must have contemplated what would happen if everything went wrong. He must have weighed and considered, and made decisions as to what he could accept as collateral damage. He must have known that bodies would be strewn along the way. But not this one.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Breakup


There are no more questions left to answer
There are no more paths left to pursue
The less we say the better
The less we try to do

This is our no more breakdown, break-up
This is our no more put down, wake-up
This is where beginning meets the end
This is where broken starts to mend

We were but now we're not
We could but never did
We thought but then it wasn't
We seeked but then we hid

This is our no more breakdown, break-up
This is our no more put down, wake-up
This is where beginning meets the end
This is where broken starts to mend

So let's leave bad enough alone
And hold on to what was good
Let's do better as we part
Then doing together ever could

This is our no more breakdown, break-up
This is our no more put down, wake-up
This is where beginning meets the end
This is where broken starts to mend

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


It was 30 years ago today, when his voice was silenced.

Imagine, from the sky above us, his words could be heard this morning.

Imagine what he would say as he viewed countries around the globe who are willing to sacrifice lives in the name of nothing worth dying for.

Imagine what he would say about religion as he watched our own country show such outright hatred for the Muslims in our midst.

Imagine what he would say about the powerful in this country and all their allies who continue to gather all the possessions, their greed without boundaries, and watch all the pain and hunger of others without any thought of a brotherhood of man.

We would surely say, in today's world, 30 years after the death of John Lennon, that he was a dreamer. We would say that the world does not live as one and it is hard to imagine, in this time and place, that his vision could become a reality. I imagine John Lennon would be sad today to see where the last 30 years have taken us.


Can't we leave Sarah Palin out of the discussion, just this one time ("Pass the Caribou Stew")? Just for now can we stop finding reasons to metaphorically move President Obama into her cross-hairs? We are trying to digest the pros and cons of the latest White House compromise, and the last thing we want or need is another Palin sighting. Let her, at least for the moment, go off to the wilds by herself (and with those who will follow her any where she goes). Just for today, you didn't have to put a gun in the hand of the woman who couldn't shoot straight. Just for today, let me chew on matters without adding in the flavor of Palin.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Battlefield

As we survey the battlefield, the destruction seems overwhelming. The stimulus package, weak and broken up to begin with, now lays almost motionless and broken down. Financial regulation, emasculated even as it emerged, has been cast aside like an annoying bug, and its opponents stand on top of the carcass, unscathed and unaffected. Health care reform almost died in childbirth and now breathes weakly, hoping it can survive future surgery. Now, to the rubble, we add the promised end of the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy and the reincarnation of a meaningful estate tax. As our economy wobbles, barely able to stand, the carnage escalates. War is ugly, and this war has left most of our country bloodied and beaten.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


You can feel the sadness and the desperation in each of the stories. Each one unique in its pain, but all merely part of a whole. As friends and relatives watch helplessly, the ravages of old age take a mother or father down physical and mental paths that lead nowhere good. We all suffer alone, and we all suffer together.

The past few days have been filled with tales of troubled children trying to cope with failing parents. Surgeries to slow time, caretakers to tend to the most basic of needs, wrenching decisions to take away independence. Each told with an ' I know you can understand what this means'. Each told in a way that says 'I want there to be dignity and peace for my parent and I wish I knew what I could do to make that happen'.

Life is cruel in its certainty. For some, it is gone in a missed heartbeat. For others, it is an awkward dance, stumbling and falling to the finish line. It brings to mind images of the long distance runner who has become disoriented and unable to control his thoughts or his limbs as he tries to remember how to get from here to there. Like a drunk, he crawls, he falls, he meanders, each step becoming its own battle.

While we all understand the inevitability of it, in our universes we never think that now is destined to be that moment. When a life does start to disintegrate the immediacy of it can be overwhelming.

I have been part of the story involving my mom for several years. What I once found unspeakably unacceptable, is now merely part of what is. Over time, I seem to adjust, because I must. If it was only this bad, and never beyond this, but there is always a 'beyond this'. Then I am forced to recalibrate what is, and what must be.

And so, in a sad way, I become grateful each day for what remains.

Friday, December 3, 2010


David Brooks' "Vision" is not a dream, but a pure fantasy. It is a suggestion to the President to once more be swayed to abandon his core belief based on a promise that tomorrow will be a different day. Republicans, in the world according to Brooks, are thisclose to being your partners in moving this country forward.

We have been taught,over and over, by word and deed, that these parties will not be joining hands during the upcoming term. The Bush tax rates for all will shortly be extended, not because this will lead to a land of milk and honey but only as a means to the end of trying to allow any governing to occur during this lame duck session of Congress. It is not a dream, but an endless nightmare of obstructionism that will spur the Democrats to once more fail to draw a line in the sand.

We should not be fooled by the vision of Mr. Brooks. It is but a mirage.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


"Unfinished Business" - "One major priority" (in the waning weeks of the current administration) is to "complete a task nobly begun" reaching "an agreement on deeper cuts in Russia and US nuclear arms"... "Washington can afford to be accommodating if it can verify the changes Moscow is proposing."... The President can "leave no finer legacy than to complete the task he has begun - diminishing the nuclear danger."

"For America's Health" - The President "promised to deliver worthy health care reform legislation to the Democratic Congress in his first hundred days. Victory assured... During the campaign the idea was stretched almost beyond recognition." Congress and the public will have to understand first, how (the plan) is supposed to work. That's the subject of this editorial. An editorial tomorrow will discuss what legislation is needed to make it happen."

"The Military Can Successfully Integrate Gays"- "The Armed Forces can adjust to openly gay and lesbian personnel." versus "Soldiers won't fight as effectively for leaders they can't respect and most soldiers will not respect a homosexual".

"Sexual Politics, The Real Thing" - "Two Sundays ago, I stumbled to the door to retrieve my Washington Post, and like most Washingtonians, scanned the headlines to see what was happening- a local euphemism meaning "What politician has been caught doing something outrageous or disgraceful?"

"We Are Not Amused" - "It is just foolish to speak plainly on a cellular phone because everyone knows technogeeks listen in".

"Buy Up the Guns" - "The Administration should explore whether we might be able to buy peace and humanitarian relief"- "If that doesn't work, then send troops".

If you think the above is a preview of tomorrow's headlines in the NY Times, you are mistaken. 18 years ago today, December 2, 1992 the above words appeared on the editorial and op-ed pages of the Times. As the first President Bush was being escorted out of office, and the young William Jefferson Clinton and his bride Hillary were ascending, the country wrestled with how to reach agreement on matters like nuclear arms control, health care reform, gays in the military, outrageous politicians, unauthorized access to private communications, and foreign involvement of our troops.

I stumbled upon these parallels by unwrapping a dish that these pages had protected through the Clinton administration, W's misadventures and the first 2 years of a mountain of troubles for Obama. While the print had yellowed and the words had begun to fade, time had barely diminished the relevance of the content.

While we anguish over the choices we make today, and those who make decisions for us, is the lesson learned that good or bad, wrong or right, we are destined, or doomed, to recycle our problems?

I intend to save tomorrow's paper and open it up again on December 2, 2028. Hopefully, it won't still seem like everything old is news again.