Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Republican Primary - The Musical- Act One

Act One Scene One
The cast is all on stage, when suddenly  Rick Santorum begins to sing, " Maybe I'm Wrong but At Least I'm Far Right".  One by one, the candidates join in, each one taking a position further and further to the right side of the stage. Finally, they each move so far right that they disappear from sight, leaving only Santorum looking around triumphant.

Act One Scene Two
With a background of ever shifting sites of Michigan, Massachusetts, California. Utah and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney breaks out into the beautiful ballad , "It's Great to Be Home Again"  with the classic refrain, "You can have many houses but only one place you call home". Unfortunately, Romney realizes too late that he doesn't actually own a home in Michigan, and so has to take reference to this state out of the song.  At the end, a clearly emotional Romney leaves the stage in a car with a dog tied to the roof.

Act One Scene Three
Herman Cain sits outside an accountant's office munching on a slice of pizza.  In a powerful baritone , he delivers the stirring, "Nine is Just a Number".  It takes the classic children's joke with the punch line "Seven Ate Nine" as the centerpiece  for an accidental theory of economic importance. At the conclusion of his song, Cain enters the accountant's office, pizza in hand, humming his anthem.

Act One Scene Four
Newt Gingrich holds a wig in his hand that is blonde and inflexible. He caresses it sweetly and sings a tender love song to it called "Three times a lady".  He laments over the wrong choices he has made from the attack on Clinton and Monica to the 2 former wives he has left behind.  He praises God and Callista and promises to be faithful to both.  The song ends with Gingrich on his knees in prayer and giving a gentle kiss to the wig.

Act One Scene Five
We see the  Alamo before us as Rick Perry enters  in cowboy boots and an oversized cowboy hat, singing "If at first you don't secede".  It is a country song and its refrain is about the 3 reasons the country should be divided, only 2 if which he can now recall. A discouraged Perry finishes his tune realizing his hat is falling off his head.

Act One Scene Six
 Donald Trump sits behind a huge desk.  A microphone descends from above. Trump grabs it, gets up on the desk and begins to belt out " Not Born in the USA".  It is a scathing indictment of Obama in which Trump says that facts must not get in the way of the truth. He finishes his tune, sits back down behind the desk and very calmly says "Mr. President , you're fired."

Act One Scene Seven
Michele Bachmann  stands center stage and from the wings several questions are posed. Each answer ends with " and I will make him a one termer". She then sings " One Termer" a tale of  in which every question she has ever been asked elliciits the same response. As the lights dim on Ms. Bachmann, she asks. "Any more questions?"

Act One Scene Eight
There is an old man doing one armed push ups on the stage. Suddenly Ron Paul stands up and begins to sing "No government is the best government of all". It is a vision of a country that is free from oversight, and concludes with the line "If I am elected, you will be left on your own".  Suddenly, the lights on the stage brighten to show all the candidates now back where they began.

Act One Scene Nine
The ensemble sings "I'm proud to be a Republican", a stirring anthem to everything good and powerful in a party that is catering to the rich and powerful. It ends with all the candidates holding out their hands chanting the refrain, "super PACs are good".


Friday, February 24, 2012


When I was in 7th grade, I thought I was a pretty good basketballer. When our all star team played the 8th graders and lost 68 to 9, I knew I was mistaken.

The enormously loud sound I heard last night was people jumping off the Jeremy Lin bandwagon. He looked as over-hyped and overrated as TT. He looked as overwhelmed as  David without a slingshot against Goliath He looked as over-matched as I did that day against the 8th graders.  He looked  as uncertain as Bambi in headlights. He looked like the other teams who had let him go or passed him over might have been right after all.

And now comes the All Star break and a chance to worry. And wonder if Mr. Lin  must stay out of the kitchen, because  it appears that he can't stand the Heat.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reporting Day for Pitchers and Catchers

February 20, 2012-

First day for pitchers and catchers and I am woefully out of shape.  My sciatica is a pain in the ass and I can't throw 'over the top' without a tingling all the way into my fingertips.

My last start was a disaster. 4 runs scored off me in the first inning, with a succession of bloops and seeing eye base hits.

I did throw a one hitter early in the season. And the scoring decision on that so called hit was definitely questionable.

But there is only one small problem. I haven't won a game in 47 years.

At a time in my life when I have difficulty remembering what I ate for breakfast (a banana, because I couldn't take my painkiller on an empty stomach), and can't recall the name of movies immediately upon exiting (I know I saw a film I enjoyed last Friday, but beyond that is a blank), I can tell you the first hit I got in our little league team's first practice 50 years ago (a double to right center), the pitcher (Bobby Chaderchian), and that my father (an assistant coach) later told me that Mr. Malzone (our manager) was very impressed. I can describe, with clarity, that before my first start as a 10 year old, I had to leave the field and go to my aunt and uncle's house to deal with a very nervous belly.

And I recall  Moose, Richardson, Boyer, Kubek, Lopez, Mantle, Maris, Berra, Howard, Ford, Arroyo, Tresh, Terry and almost the entire roster from the 1961 Yankee team as if they took the field this morning.

It is hard to fathom that  more than half a century has passed since I began my worship of the Mick. It is even harder to conceive that at this stage of existence, when I should know much better, I don't. I truly care what happens, and while I don't get up at 6:30 every morning and rush to find the results from the game the night before, that is only because I now check at 4:30 or 5AM when I find myself awake.

While I have had dalliances with the Giants (20 years a season ticket holder) and the Knicks (my wife still able to recall, with "Diner" like clarity, most of the 1976-77 roster that she would recite before our marriage), my devotion to Abner Doubleday's game has never wavered.

So today,  my commitment to everything baseball is renewed. My vows are silently spoken and I promise to love, honor and cherish until death do us part. Or at least until the first long losing streak, or the next Yankee-Red Sox game that lasts an interminable 4 hours plus. You see, even my devotion has its limits.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The "Problem" with Sports

Mr. Brooks writes of a  modern day scenario of the dilemma faced by Joe Hardy in "Damn Yankees". Devotion to sports success ("The Jeremy Lin Problem") is equated with selling one's soul to the devil. By this treatise, one either lives in a moral universe where self is sublimated, or an immoral one where the search for greatness is to be demonized. To cast sport itself as Satan's playground is just nonsensical fantasy.

Sport does not only teach us to "put (ourselves) on display". Certainly there is ego involved in achievement, whether it be on the playing field, in the classroom or in the business world. Yet, in the context of athletic endeavor, I was instructed from my first days that the team is greater than the individual. and that highest level of success comes as a consequence of dedication to something larger than self.

It is the portrayal of athletics in such black and white terms that makes "The Jeremy Lin Problem" such a problem for me to swallow. It has the feel of right wing dogma where there is no nuance or subtlety, and everything is entirely right or wrong. Yes, there is a tension between individual glory and selflessness. But this does not make these 2 concepts mutually exclusive.

In sports, being humbled and humiliated is one of the lessons that is learned over and over. When the opportunity comes to escape the defeats, to get off the bench and somehow, almost miraculously lead the team to victory, this is not a failing but an achievement. And if you ask either Mr. Tebow or Mr. Lin, I am sure they will tell you that proving the critics wrong and showing them all that you are and can be is not evil incarnate, but rather a vivid reminder that there may be hidden value in each of us. And isn't looking for the best in our fellow man a moral lesson we should all learn? Sports, like life, is complex, and the insights to be gained from taking part in this endeavor are boundless. It does all of us a grave disservice is trying to make sport a villain in a morality play.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Void (No One's Child)

 It is difficult to write about my Mom now. I am uncomfortable with the words of endless lament. Watching the deterioration and being so powerless is very painful. I never feel like I have done enough,  but I have come to understand the reality of my position. I am mere witness.

I talk often now of lowering the bar of expectations. That it is enough for me that my mom is less restless. I don't have the right to be frustrated that her sleep patterns are so erratic that it makes it difficult for me to plan visits. I must not find it so jarring when yet another layer of her being seems to slip away. I have to quiet my demands for her to fit into my vision of the world.

It is easy to wish that her long odyssey end, that all those who live their final days grasping and holding on, should be spared the torture and the torment. And in so many ways I do believe that when the living is done and all that remains is being alive, there is a cruelty and harshness that none should have to bear. Peace is something that my mom deserves.

Yesterday, I attended a funeral. Later that evening, as we convened to pay our respects, I was surrounded by similar stories of children who watched failing parents. I was most struck by one woman who recently lost her mom and now found herself 'an orphan'. And it crystallized for me why, even in the midst of my own sadness, I am reluctant to let my mom go.

I can't imagine the void I will feel when she is not part of my present. For so many years I have only been able to deal with the concept of my father. To speak of a parent only as a memory, to write only in terms of what was, not to have the access to touch, to comfort, to share, is still painful for me over 3 decades later.

As we paid our respects last night, there were words of solace for the family. The relentless suffering of their mom was no more. And I know that in a very real sense there was profound relief.

Yet, there were moments of contemplation for 2 children who now found themselves no one's child. An immutable truth throughout their existence was no more. I could sense the depth of emotion as they struggled to find answers to what this meant. And I know one day people will be looking at my sister and me as we grapple with this same reality.  And I realize how much I dread that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On a Lin Streak

How do we know if Jeremy Lin is a shooting star, primed for a quick flame-out, or the true center (point guard) of the universe? Will Melo be mellow enough to cede the stage, and allow the bright lights of Broadway to continue to shine on the new leading man? Can Amare pick and roll with all that has happened in his absence?

This is Walter Mitty time. It has been a fascinating ascent for one player and for a franchise that has long been in a downward spiral. Here's hoping that Mr. Lin does not suffer a spectacular fall to earth when the big names return to the lineup. It is a moment of  burning intensity for this young man, and if fortune is kind, one that is not soon extinguished.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Word of the Year

Austerity was named the word of the year in 2010 by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. For those in Greece who have given living definition to this term, there is nothing positive in this association. "Greece Passes Austerity Plan As Riots Rage" is about the natural and inevitable response to this misbegotten theory being superimposed on a people who cannot survive under its rigors. Is there nothing more telling than the tale of the woman who has worked without pay since last September and is now in jeopardy of  'losing her job entirely'? The dignity of these people is being daily degraded to the point of near extinction. And who then can, or more aptly should be surprised at what is happening in the streets? Austerity in Greece is a failure of monumental proportion.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Counting "I's"

Insomnia sucks. I have finished watching the Joe Namath documentary on HBO, read online about the problems in our society and cleaned up my g-mail inbox. It is 3:30 AM and my night's sleep has long ago ended.

I have tried to put a positive spin on this disaster by saying that it is in the quiet of the dead of night that my writing comes to life. "Tooearlytocall" is only possible because I am awake while you are not. But, the corollary to this is that I am ready for bed before most of my friends sit down at the dinner table.

I have tried to read a bad book, count sheep, recall every hole of golf I played last season. I have prayed to Morpheus and bowed down to Hypnos .Nothing helps. I am bright eyed and ready to begin my routine when the first rays of daylight are only beginning to show up in London.

I should find a second job from 2AM to 6AM. I might as well be economically productive, as the $800 that I have earned for my writing over the past 4 years translates into roughly one cent for every 2 days of labor. I know I can do better than that in some other endeavor. I am open to any possibilities, as long as they are legal (or maybe my standards are not even that high).

I think I will try to read my old blog posts now. Do you notice that this piece is filled with the word "I" because there is no "we" at 4:23 AM? I count 18 (including the one in this sentence). I have sunk to new lows.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Trying to Keep Up

It was almost 4PM and here I was, surveying the landscape below and trying to figure out a safe passage home. I had almost forgotten what this felt like.

I have become a half day skier for the past several years. This resulted from a combination of factors, not the least of which was that most of my old ski buddies were now literally old and unwilling, or unable, to withstand the rigors of a full day on the slopes. The snow was almost always better early in the day, so there was no compelling reason to force myself and my skis to struggle with the flat light of late afternoon.

But this past weekend I was in the company of one of my friends who did not take growing older easily. Not that he hasn't had his share of reminders that he is not quite the man he used to be, especially since doctors removed various parts previously on his inside. Yet he has always had this ferocious desire to compete and an unparalleled relentlessness . On one occasion I thought I was heading out for a leisurely bike ride with my friend and our wives. Within what seemed like seconds, I felt like I had wandered into the middle of the Tour de France, as my friend accelerated up the first hill and then looked back at me, wondering why I was breathing so hard and lagging so far behind so soon. And so I should have been forewarned when we began our ski adventure in the early morning hours.

Oh, one more thing. A little more than 6 months ago, one of my friend's hips was surgically extracted. This was to be his first day attempting to ski since then. Whereas a sane and rational person might have been tentative in approach and limited in  duration of activity, I don't think either of these thoughts entered into the brain of my friend.

From the first, he pushed himself and the device that had been inserted in place of the old ball and socket. As the hill was relatively empty, there was little time to relax between runs.  Morning turned to lunchtime, and my first not so subtle suggestions that maybe it was time to pack it in for the day. My comments were met with a brief shrug of the shoulders and a clear statement that he was fine and fit.  How could I be the one to say I was too tired, that my legs were too weary and that my thoughts had already turned to the couch and a little rest?

By early afternoon, our wives had left our company for alternative pursuits, having had more than enough to satisfy their appetite. Left on our own, my friend promptly requested that we head out for more. And, if anything, his skiing got stronger as the day progressed. While I was fading quickly, there was  nothing but a boundless energy beside me.

Finally, it was time to quit, but only because I indicated I was needed at home to prepare for the party we were hosting that night. Reluctantly, my friend took off his boots and packed up.  I had barely survived the day on the hill and had taken more runs than I cared to count.

The only indication of my friend having any response to this activity came that night. While the party raged around him, he nodded off. Whether it was boredom with the company, or fatigue finally settling in was hard to determine. For the sense of keeping my ego intact, I prefer to believe it was the latter.

As the weekend ended, my friend said that we had to get together again soon for another ski day. I wonder if I can get him to replace his other hip before then, so that at least I have a fighting chance to keep up.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Sound of Money

("Another 2012 Campaign for Sale")

I find it almost shockingly naive and out of touch with the reality of the moment that you suggest that the President should sit idle in the face of the Republican super PAC onslaught.

The staggering candidacy of Newt Gingrich has recently risen up, based largely on $10,000,000 of contributions from one man (actually one man and his wife).

The Romney machine, pumped full of super funds, has beaten back this attack with a relentless demolition of Mr.Gingrich in Florida.

The Koch brothers, with help from a few of their buddies, are trying to put together $100,000,000 to make sure the President is a one termer.

All the small donations made directly to the Democratic political coffers stand no chance against the unleashed wealth of the Republican few. It is only through the super PAC that the playing field can be leveled.

So, yes, the President can and should denounce the damage and destruction caused by Citizens United. But his overwhelming concern should be to protect and preserve the welfare of this country. While he can win the battle by taking the moral high-ground on this issue, he is almost certain to lose a much larger war in the process. Money does in fact talk. A lot. And people listen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Party Crashers

What is the sound  of 10 West Point cadets talking animatedly in your living room? I can tell you.

A combination of habit and circumstance has resulted in our house being the site of the annual ski-patrol groundhog's day party. One of the patrollers at our little mountain also spends some time at an even smaller hill at West Point, training young cadets not in ways of war, but in treating injuries sustained from losing battles on the slopes. As fate would have it, these 10 young men were in the area last Saturday night.  And then they were at our front door,  a very different group of guests.

They moved around the party as a pack, all short hair cuts and smiles. I kept my distance, playing host to what turned out to be a very large gathering in pretty tight quarters. As the crowd thinned, I expected our new friends to be among the first headed out the door. But, apparently the next stop, an overnight stay at a local armory, was not as enticing as the food and beverage before them.

Soon there were but a few stragglers and this group was situated around the dining room table, exchanging laughs and stories. My son,  in very different circumstances in life, was clearly enjoying their company. On the other end of the table from him,  one of our feistier patrollers was giving anyone within earshot a hard time about anything and nothing.

In the back of my mind, and I am sure many others that evening,  thoughts inevitably turned to what the near future held for some at that table. Unknown to the cadets was the fact that one of the families at our house has a son deployed in Afghanistan. The night before they had been able to speak with him, but his whereabouts remained an absolute secret.

Apart from the repetitive "sirs" and "ma'ams", this young band seemed no different from the friends of my son and daughter who had inhabited these quarters in the past, and who, in the coming weeks would be sleeping in large numbers in our beds and on the floors,  enjoying the moment. But the course for these cadets would hold very little in common with those who would soon take over our residence..One momentous decision had dictated a different path for the 10 who sat before me.

With the firmness and certainty of a commanding officer, our patrol friend who had been delighting in shocking the cadets with her brashness, barked out orders that the party was at an end. With much gratitude and fond farewells, the assembled moved out as one into the night.

But the tale does not end here, for the next morning my son and I caught up to a few of our new buddies at our little mountain. Like so many others of the same age, they seemed eager to impress with their ability to ski better and faster than I imagined boys from Tennessee or other areas of the country, far removed from snow, might perform. The tales of growing up and of a planned trip out West during their next break from school filled the air in the rides up the lift.

As we parted and said our goodbyes, I let them know that I hoped I got a chance to see some of them again. There is more of an urgency  and meaning to our words and our thoughts when what we take for granted as life's natural course does not necessarily apply. And so it is my wish that many years from now, a few of these boys will be at another one of these groundhog day gatherings, recounting tales not only of war and turmoil, but of slopes skied and mountains conquered.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pet Phrases

I have a (dog) bone to pick with Gail Collins. I ask that she please refrain from referring to Romney as "the guy who drove to Canada with the family dog strapped on the roof" anymore. It is distracting that in seemingly every column on the former governor this tale (tail) appears. It is lazy journalism and eventually (meaning now) it detracts from the value of the piece.

And while I am at it, I don't need any more images of the "confidence fairy" appearing in Paul Krugman's columns on the Republican view of how to deal with our economic debacle. He should not rely on reusing and recycling Tinkerbell's cousin for support of his theories.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with Ms. Collins perception of the likely Republican presidential candidate as something light years away from the  perfect image he attempts to project. Further, I find compelling Mr. Krugman's contention that the Republican economic philosophy is the antithesis of what this nation requires. Mr. Krugman is the op-ed writer whose views I most respect, and reading of his column is my first order of business each Monday and Friday.

But your paper strives (successfully) to reach the pinnacle with the most interesting, informative and well written pieces day after day. Ms. Collins and Mr. Krugman are far more clever and far more entertaining when their phrases are not on auto-pilot.