Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day

Ski gloves, ski hat, thermal underwear, turtleneck, fleece, rain/snow gear. Yes, I am ready for another opening day at Yankee Stadium.

It is not even April. A big snowstorm is predicted for tomorrow not too far up the road in the Berkshires. Yet, my thoughts today turn away from everything winter related, as I picture green grass, warm sunlight, and days of summer. "Play ball" is not just a cry for the game to begin, but a triggering mechanism for a flood of memories and emotions.Yankee baseball has been an integral part of my existence since the first day that I stuck a glove on my hand.

Over the last 50 years, life has drawn my attention in many directions. People, places and things one day are determined by me to be the most important aspect of being, and the next deemed irrelevant. But not the Yankees. From the days of the Mick, Yogi, Whitey, through the down times of the late 60's and early 70's, to the reincarnation with Steinbrenner and everything, good and bad, that he brought with him, from Catfish, Reggie, Winfield, and Donnie baseball, to the era of Derek, Bernie, Mariano, Andy and Jorge, to the arrival of Roger and A-Rod, through the steroid era and to the present day when CC will take the mound, I have been unwavering in my dedication to everything pinstripe.

While the world rages on, and I seem to catch but fleeting glimpses, this team of 25 men has drawn my undivided attention. And so, no matter the weather forecast this morning, despite the fact that I may well be wet and uncomfortable for most of the afternoon, like the postman, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow can keep me from my appointed rounds. And when that first pitch is thrown, and I begin my soliloquy for the next 162 games on everything Yankee, I will be in a spot that is warm, protected and comfortable. Well, at least I will be if my hand warmers are working well, and the wind is not blowing too hard in my face.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blind Eye

It is a stark and brutal reminder of our failures to act as guardians for those who need our help. " Where the Bailout Went Wrong" is Mr. Barofsky's lament that he was helpless to stop the misuse of the TARP funds that left banks bigger and wealthier than ever while the Home Affordable Modification Program lay in shambles. While the goliaths of industry feasted, david had his home foreclosed.

So too, "Why We're Fasting" is Mr. Bittman's plea for a moral structure in our economic dealings. We constantly read of the enormous disparities that leave a few economic giants both with enormous wealth and the capability of shielding that wealth from the clutches of the tax man, while millions are left figuratively and, in many cases, literally starving. And so Mr. Bittman, and others like him, fast in symbolic solidarity with those that are without.

And in the face of all of this inequality, the government continues down the wrong path. "The High Price of Rigidity" speaks of how we have allowed the concept of debt reduction to take hold, and permit the decimation, step by step and inch by inch, of programs that are the lifeline for those in need. We have been hijacked by the ludicrous concept that this nation can only right itself by taking from the least among us. Mr. Barofsky and Mr. Bittman both see the folly and the tragedy in this. It is inconceivable that Congress does not notice. Yet it turns a blind eye, and continues on the wrong path. Shame on those who see but do not look, or worse, do not care.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The "I" Word

On December 11, 2009 Tiger Woods announced that he would be taking an indefinite leave from the PGA tour. Who knew that indefinite might last forever?

The imposter presenting himself as Tiger failed to win in 12 tournaments last year. Only twice in 2010 did he finish in the top 10. This year, 4 tournaments have only produced more of the same. On courses that in the past have been home to many victories, the numbers have been startling mediocre: tied for 24th, 44th, 20th and 10th. There was also a first round loss in the match play championship.

Of all the slings and arrows thrown at Woods since revelations of his serial infidelity first surfaced, a word that could cut him almost as deep as any other may be creeping into our lexicon: irrelevant.

The Masters, the first major of the year, will be upon us the second week of April. Prior to 2009, we might have been planning this event as a coronation of a new king. By 2008, Woods had garnered 14 victories in the majors and it seemed like the question was not if but when he would be surpassing the 18 wins of Nicklaus in the 4 most prestigious events on tour. But now it seems that Woods might be stuck on 14 forever.

Woods this week spoke of being very happy with his game on Sunday, when he shot 72 and finished far from victory. Is this the same man who used to win convincingly and announce his slight dissatisfaction for not bringing his A game? When do we stop waiting for Tiger to resurrect his game, and start coming to the realization that this might never happen?

If Tiger wants the "I" word to disappear, I would suggest that he choose the Masters as the forum where he decides to return to the PGA tour. Otherwise, we may soon start referring to him as the golfer formerly known as Tiger. "Now stepping up to the first tee, Eldrick Woods". It doesn't have the same panache.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Let the Game Begin

Gail Collin's "What's in a Nickname" runs through a laundry list of those who are exploring the possibility of maybe declaring at some time other than now that they are really strongly considering the thought, if not the actual intent, of throwing their hat, if they own one, into the ring of fire to potentially be the 2012 Republican nominee for President of the richest 1% of America to whom they pledge allegiance.

And so it begins. For the next 20 months we will be subject to an endless stream of political commentary, most of which will make all of us less smart, less well informed, and less willing to listen. We will get the fringe players who strut and fret their hour upon the stage, like Trump, Palin, Bachmann, Paul (senior and junior). Hopefully their sound and fury signifying nothing will be here and gone before the warmth of this summer is upon us. If we are in luck, we may have already witnessed the disappearing act of Huckabee, as the dollars he continues to earn as a result of his last failed attempt at this game, prove to be our salvation.

Will we see Daniels (another non-starter on the list of Ms. Collins) emerge as a contender? Is Gingrich 2, who clearly should be a spokesman for either a waffle, pretzel or hula hoops company after his recent running debacle on Libya, really a viable alternative? Can Romney emerge as the most rational of Republicans and somehow distance himself from his own policies on health care? Does Barbour carry excess baggage? And does Pawlenty carry enough weight?

We will have an excruciatingly long time to find out these answers. And if history has taught us anything, it is that the issues front and center today may well be of little note or consequence come November, 2012. When Shakespeare said that " Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death" , I wonder if he had the interminable process of political considerations, nominations and elections in mind.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Doing the Right Thing


We comprehend that the undertaking in Libya is indeed fraught with peril on many levels. The Arab nations that join the alliance are uncomfortable partners; we are involved in yet one more muddled situation in a part of the world that views us with much suspicion and much contempt; we are uncertain in our ultimate aims and we are unclear whether those aims can be reached; we don't know, even if successful, what form new leadership will take; protecting our own national security is not the issue here; we are militarily engaged in other countries that require our attention, our resources and drain us economically; and there are other countries in this region who, like the Libyan rebels may soon be looking to us for more than moral support. These are all legitimate reasons to question our sanity in what we have now undertaken.

Yet, despite all of this, if we stand by idly, watching as the seeds of democracy are crushed, and a people are slaughtered systematically by one of their own, what are we? When we have the opportunity and the capacity to act as guardians for a people who cannot protect themselves, and face imminent annihilation, isn't that the moment that all other concerns must be cast aside? If we can do what's morally right, is there any way that we cannot?

Mr. Douthat would suggest that this undertaking, based on moral underpinnings, is at best naive. But I would much rather be in this fight than in the ones former President Bush began during his tenure in office. President Obama, in an impossibly tight box, is calling on us, to use the words of Spike Lee, to "do the right thing". Just because it is not comfortable, and we are not certain where it may lead, does not mean it is not right.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Uncomfortable Companions

This has been a hard week. Guilt, fear and sorrow are not comfortable companions.

Tales of my mom's tough times at night have been escalating. Her confusion, agitation and inability to sleep, to rest have led to very distressing discussions with my sister, and in my own household. How much longer can we expect those handling my mom's care to hold on? What can we do to slow down the demons?

I still see so much to be thankful for in my time with my mom. I know that much of her day, and almost all of her night is filled with struggle, but when we are together, I can get smiles and laughter. I like to think that what I say, and what I do, can somehow be enough to stop the onslaught. I know it isn't so, but if I didn't believe, then what?

In our house, and with my sister, we have now very reluctantly begun to broach the subject of alternative residences for my mom. It makes me so sad. From the days, a half century ago, when my mom's Aunt Minny was moved into a nursing home, my mom began her mantra. "Don't put me in Weissman's". I knew that she meant it. Even mentioning the possibility now, I feel am I disobeying her first commandment.

Earlier this week, we received a worried call from her caretaker. We all rushed over to my mom's apartment in the middle of the day, and quickly called for an ambulance. It turned out that a medication she had begun the night before to calm her, appeared to have been the culprit. Fortunately, she recovered sufficiently to avoid hospitalization. But I wonder what we are doing and are we doing the best we can? There must be better answers, but I just don't know them. And for all of us, there is that guilt in not knowing, and the uncertainty in doing too little or too much.

I don't want to lose my mom to drugs that may remove some of the agitation and the hallucinations but leave her vacant. I don't want to lose my mom to a facility because we haven't been aggressive enough in trying to remove some of the agitation and the hallucinations. How can we make her tranquil without tranquillizing away her spirit? And in the middle of it all, living through each and every moment, I feel such sorrow for my mom.

My sister, with untold amounts of discomfort, boarded a plane Thursday morning. Much of her time away has been spent on the phone with Joanne, myself, various doctors, my mom's caretaker and of course, my mom. Physical distance notwithstanding, my sister remains firmly planted right here. To do otherwise, would in her mind be an enormous disservice to my mom. There is no escaping our responsibility. There is no escaping our concern. There is no escaping reality.

I will wait until 11AM to call my mom this morning. I will make plans for lunch, and go about the business of life with her. I will pretend that everything is ok, and hope that she is convinced. Then I will call my sister and report. If all has gone well, maybe my sister can rest easier for a moment. There are tough days, and difficult decisions that lay in front of us. Spring and rebirth are just around the corner. But not where it matters the most.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Paul Krugman asks a question about America's "Forgotten Millions". The answer is that these people are not the millions that matter. The currency that has meaning is not measured in the quality of human lives but in the sheer quantity of human greed. The millions that catch the attention of those in power are not black or white but green.

There is conversation of reducing deficits now in an effort to protect our children and grandchildren in the future. These are our children and grandchildren who suffer each and every day because of a government that fails in its fundamental obligation to protect those in its midst. They are without voice because they are simply without.

The Democrats are complicit in this charade. While the Republican machine continues to send out its propaganda about deficit, deficit, deficit, the response from those that know better is muted and ineffective. To watch the government bleed money from necessary programs in increments every few weeks, and wait for the other shoe to drop in the near future, does a great disservice to all those who have been seemingly tossed aside.Those in power have long ago forgotten, or merely given up, on the concept of economic stimulation. Mr. Krugman asks why. I ask when. When do we say that our economy has punished the many for the benefit of the few for long enough? When do we say that it is by taking from the pockets of the wealthy, not the poor, on which this economy must base its recovery? When?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Oasis

Stop whatever you are doing. Do not pass go or collect $200. This is important.

Last night I found a small oasis. It is called "The Book of Mormon"

I dare not critique the show or its message. I will let each one who has the absolute good fortune to watch this "World" unfold come to his or her own revelations. It was, quite simply, the best. Not just the best show, but the best thing ahead of what used to be your former best thing

Hyperbole you say. You be the judge. If you attend a performance and don't come out of this with your face hurting from a grin that has permanently attached itself to your face for almost 2 1/2 hours, you haven't been paying attention.

By way of disclaimer, I have no financial interest in this theatrical undertaking, and my only benefit is that it will make each and every one of you happier. This is my gift to you, my few and loyal readers. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


David Brooks ("The Ike Phase") does a disservice to the President on both the domestic and foreign fronts. Wisconsin, and its offspring, represent the damage that can be done by the Republicans, when in control of policy. After 2 years of merely saying no as a way of attempting to help govern the country, this party is now showing us what it is capable of. Why do Republican mistakes somehow become the implicit fault of President Obama? Don't make this about him. It is not.

As to foreign intervention, I believe that caution is the most rational, if distasteful course that this President can take. We are all too well aware of the ramifications of leading the charge in Libya. The events of the last decade are lessons that we must learn.

This is a President faced with an overwhelming set of problems. He is not a chameleon, but rather a leader who reflects and then reacts with his head, not his gut (as his predecessor so uniformly did). While Mr. Brooks has a hard time discerning what the President will be next year, the answer is that he will continue to be what he has been from the first day of his presidency.

In Harm's Way

As the Daiichi Nuclear Power Station shows more and more evidence that it is a complete meltdown waiting to occur, I can only wonder what the 50 workers who, at least as of this morning, are remaining at the plant must be thinking. As those within 30 kilometers of the site are ordered indoors, with windows closed and air conditioning off, these 50 stay put.

While 800 of their fellow employees have been told to get out, those that continue to serve must be filled with a terror of untold magnitude. Are they little more than human sacrifices? What possible function do they have? The forces of nature have combined to overwhelm all human efforts to bring this disaster under control. What can these 50 possibly do?

When calamities of this magnitude occur, the extent of the human tragedy is beyond our comprehension. The lives lost, the emotional suffering for those that remain, the scope of the physical destruction, and the enormity of what lays ahead in the months to come, all seem to combine into an amorphous jumble. In Japan, we wait for body counts to escalate as the tsunami waters recede to reveal the full extent of its devastation.

Each day seems to bring with it more and more horrific news. Rulers brutally turn on their own people, leaving those in opposition bloodied and batter. Now we see the unfolding of a 'natural' calamity of ever growing proportion.

So many people, in so many parts of the globe, lost. And yet the 50 stand guard. Is it time to admit defeat in this battle, and get those who are left at Daiichi out of harm's way?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My (Imagined) Conversation with Frank

I recently submitted to the New York Times an ode lamenting the imminent departure of Frank Rich from the paper. To my surprise, within a matter of days I had received a thank you note from the Great One.

With little urging, I decided that this was an open invitation for us to begin a conversation about matters large and small. In my very best English, I provided the Great One with chapter and verse of my history as an esteemed writer. I invited him to review my letters in the Times (attaching each of them at the end of my email, to make his process that much easier), told him of my stories that had been published, and essentially set forth my resume as if I was applying for a job as his friend and confidant.

Yesterday, I checked my computer religiously throughout the day, hoping that Frank (I feel we are on a first name basis at this point in our relationship, even though he called me "Mr.Nussbaum" in his email) decided that on the last week of his job at the New York Times, with the world literally and figuratively exploding, the most important thing he could do was chat with me. Sadly, that did not happen. Today, as they say, is another day. Nothing yet, but still hoping.

And if that moment does occur, I know that we can talk about so much. His theater background will come in handy as we debate what can be done to save the flying disaster known as Spiderman. We will have a lengthy back and forth on the global economic quagmire. We will speak of the philosophical and psychological dimensions that attach to this President. We will talk of family, of the past and of our futures. The fluid meaning of democracy will also be addressed. Even A-Rod may be a subject we decide to touch upon. Our prose will be soaring one moment, and laughably not the next. It will be invigorating and inspiring.

However, until that day comes, I will just have to turn to the pages of New York magazine, the next stop along the way for the Great One, to discover what is on his mind. We could be such good friends, best friends really.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


This is what the Republican conservative power brings with it: Scott Walker, Peter King, and now the resignation of Vivian Schiller. Unions, the Muslim community, NPR all are targets for destruction. It is part of the reshaping of the American vision.

What was the mea culpa moment for Ms. Schiller? She resigned not as a result of her actions, but merely in an effort to slow down the juggernaut that threatens to deny funding to National Public Radio and to the stations that would support it. In the Republican world, it is a fundamental undertaking that the voice of opposition be silenced. Don't merely debate with those who would question and criticize, destroy. Create villains and then take any actions you must to assure that they are removed.

In this universe, unions are the root cause for our financial predicament, all Muslims are one command away from the beginning of our armageddon, and public radio is the home of the radicals who believe in things like the rights of unions and Muslims to exist among us. Everything in this new world comes without shade, or degree. Each enemy is evil incarnate.

When someone like Ms. Schiller makes a hasty exit, and the voice of NPR is threatened with extinction, it should well remind us of that time when Joseph McCarthy and his band of witch-hunters was in control of the message. It was a moment when we were told of demons in our midst. Fear replaced reason, and extremism became routine. In the early months of the Republican reign of terror, we are watching the unfolding of a new era of the depths to which government can sink. Ms. Schiller, I fear, will not be the last to suffer unnecessarily.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

No Laughing Matter

"Sexy Ruses to Stop Forgetting to Remember"- Yesterday was my wife's 57th birthday, and my card to her was a not so humorous reminder that we are not what we once were mentally (but since I do not recall what we actually once were, this is only a guess on my part).

If as suggested, to most effectively reconstruct the ever diminishing capacity of our brains, we must come face to face with Freud, that is a small price to pay.

It would be most refreshing if I actually remembered the title of the movie that I had just seen, if I was able to attach names to familiar faces, if I didn't have to leave reading glasses in each room as I never have a recollection of where I put them down and if the computer didn't become the storage cabinet for recalling everything of consequence.

At a time in life where fuzzy is the new normal, where hairline, vision and memories all seem in a furious race to exit the building, revitalizing one's brain is no laughing matter. But maybe it should be.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reasons to Go Home

If Thomas Friedman is correct, ("The $110 Billion Dollar Question") then what have we done except impede the progress of democracy, and strengthen the argument of the Islamic fundamentalist by our actions in Afghanistan, and our not so surreptitious activities in Pakistan? And if that is the lesson to be learned from watching the internal implosions around the Middle East, which were fueled not by our presence, but to some extent by our absence, then why draw the conclusion of the inevitable continuing need for 150,000 soldiers in the region?

At a point in time when a computer has seemed wholly capable of impeding the ability of Iran to move forward with its nuclear weapons program, and the will of oppressed people have taken down governments, and may take down some more, isn't this the moment to put our ego aside and admit that Afghanistan and Pakistan are nothing more than ongoing mistakes? Let us not compound the error by seeking to distinguish, explain and rationalize. The best we can do for ourselves, and for those we seek to assist, is exit as gracefully and as quickly as possible.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Economics 101

"How to Kill a Recovery" - Why are the words of Mr. Krugman not the immutable law of the land? The Republican fairy tale that is about to shape this year's Federal budget, is a story with anything but a fairy tale ending. For those programs that will lose funds that are required to protect and care for the neediest among us, the cuts are an abdication of the responsibility of government. For the people whose jobs will be lost, they will inevitably sustain economic hardships, stare into the face of foreclosure and cause nothing more than a recycling of the disasters we should be desperately trying to avoid.

Where is the voice of economic reason in Washington? How can the threat of a government shutdown force those in charge to accede to a plan of financial suicide? It is incredible that voices like those of Mr. Krugman seem to have been drowned out by the droning noise of "shared sacrifice" and belt tightening. While ideas that can truly assist our economic recovery (eg raising taxes on those who most have the capacity to pay the same, thus helping to fill the government coffers without decimating that portion of the population's ability to thrive and spend) gather dust, we now move headlong into the abyss. As we know all to well, fairy tales with unhappy endings can lead to the worst nightmares.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Poorer without Rich


I regret to announce that, as of March 14, 2011, I will officially be stupider.

When I read of the imminent departure of Frank Rich from the NY Times, I issued an audible "oh no". Sunday mornings in my house don't officially begin until my son and I have read and discussed the latest entry from Mr. Rich. His column invariably has a crystal clear insight into the crisis de jour. His words inevitably make me feel as if I now have a better understanding of why I believe what I believe

How is my Sunday to begin now? Who will fill the void? I appreciate that Mr. Rich has other opportunities that he wishes to explore and I wish him nothing but success in his new endeavors. But, for me, it feels like the best teacher in the school has just walked out of the classroom.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Towns Without Borders

It is like the Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan movie ("You've Got Mail") on steroids. No longer is it the little bookstore that is forced out of business by the corporate giant. We are another generation down that road. Now Borders is soon to be no more in our town of Fort Lee. And the big empty space it leaves behind will indeed be hard to fill.

As I walked through the aisles with my wife last weekend, she was audibly unnerved. "Oh, this is so sad" could be heard every few steps of our journey. As the minions combed the now depleted shelves, seeking the best remaining bargains in this "everything must go" sale, the skeleton of what once was became more evident by the minute.

This was a regular stop along the way for both my son and my wife. It was here that I actually saw my name in print, as an author (in a book featuring a collection of 100 other authors), and experienced my personal 15 minutes (only in my mind, as no one else knew or cared to know who I was). But, more importantly, it was here, along with our town library, that my wife and son had a visceral connection to everything literary.

Certainly, in this era, where almost everything is but a mouse click away, the offerings within this store can be duplicated in cyberspace. However, the physical intimacy of the experience, of seeing and touching that book for the first time, of opening up that page to see if this is the one that is going home with you, cannot be duplicated

Like Meg Ryan, I understand that in the name of progress, things don't stay the same. And my wife and son may soon find another store, not a bookstore, that they will designate as a regular destination on any walk. But life will be a little different in our town as we morph into the era of books without borders. And that walk will be just a little less interesting.