Friday, July 26, 2013

The Lament

The clock it was ticking, the time it was short,
Tempers a flaring, tension a fraught.
There was no joy in Congress that day
The House Republicans had come out to play

Come Boehner, come Cantor, come Ryan too
Come aggravate, come decimate, come do what you do
Come heartless, come vapid, come fail every test
Come trouble, come headache, come bring out the rest

So we sat in the House, we sat there we few
Who knew it was wrong, knew not what to do,
We sat there and listened, and just shook our heads
Another piece of America now nearly dead

Put guns in our hands, show immigrants the door
Polluting our air, condemning our poor,
Make Obamacare unhealthy, make caring a flaw
Create a debt ceiling when you ramble on the Floor

You sit there so smug, who have torn this House down
Where is your compassion for there's none to be found
You hypothecate without basis, treat facts like the plague
You make lying an art-form, make truths seem so vague

You do damage to our Body, you do harm to us all
You do disservice to our President in hopes that he fall
You can't see the forest for you cut down the trees
You bring government to a halt and reason to its knees

You are less than you should be, you are less than you must
You have earned only enmity, you have not earned our trust
You have battered and beaten and broken and bruised
You have nothing to offer and everything to lose

So we sat in the House all that too too long day
We sat and we listened for what could we say
We sat and we grieved for damage being done
We sat and we waited for answers to come

But there was no joy in Congress that day
Not with Boehner, Cantor and Ryan at play
At day's end we got up and turned off the lights
Our House still a mess, no clean-up in sight.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cruel Intentions

It is the cruelty and the malevolence of the Republican leadership that is so jarring. It is the evident pride with which they announce their adamant and unfettered opposition to the policies of the President that is so alarming. It is the clear intention to act not as foe but as enemy that is so disturbing.

This is the point where the threats of destruction begin their seasonal awakening. Once more we will be forced to listen to demands for austerity that fly in the face of economic logic and treat all those but the ones with the most money and power as fodder, used as pawns in an unrelenting attack on rationality and morality.

This charade is ugly, vile, repulsive. The Republican hierarchy has repeatedly demonstrated in the clearest of terms that it has no boundaries in where it will take its unrelenting and unmitigated venom. It aims directly at anything and everything fair and decent that this President seeks to accomplish.

The health care law, the environment, the welfare and survival of so many of our citizens are all considered acceptable collateral damage in the attack on the oval office. This cannot be how it was intended.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Emile Griffith and the Secret

("Emile Griffith, Boxer Who Unleashed a Fatal Barrage, Dies at 75")

In 1967 CBS ran a segment of "60 Minutes"  called "The Homosexuals". Mike Wallace summarized the plight of such a person: "told by the medical professional he's sick, by the law that he's a criminal; shunned by employers, rejected by heterosexual society. Incapable of a fulfilling relationship with a woman, or for that matter a man."

In a sport celebrated for its savagery, at a time more than a half century ago, when being gay was deemed unnatural, perverse and even criminal, the public allegation raised by Benny the Kid against the welterweight champion of the world was much worse than any punch to the gut.

Only one person could ever know whether those words contributed to the fury of the blows that night in March of 1962. Only one person will ever know whether those punches were intended to beat back a truth that society, and maybe even Emile Griffith, was far from ready to accept.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Warming Up for the Yankees: The Fat Lady

Do we really care if A-Rod is suspended, since he was never here, wasn't very good the last time we looked and unless he brings Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira and a boatload of performance enhancing drugs with him for the gang that couldn't hit straight, his return will mean about as much to the welfare of this team as an umbrella during Superstorm Sandy?

The 2013 Yankees are a sinking ship, having more important parts on the permanent do not play list than an old Back Street Boys album. If there is such a thing as an injury bug, than this is the year of the plague. A-Rod with no games in, Jeter one and gone again, Granderson and Teixiera with insulting injuries piled on top of one another. Who in his right mind will be pitching to Cano the rest of this season? Meanwhile, who kidnapped C.C. Sabathia and left this less than mediocre imposter in his place?

It is time to give up the ghost, throw in the towel.  As wonderful as this farewell tour is for Mariano, the one who is actually warming up in the Yankee bullpen these days is the fat lady. As unthinkable as this is, as unhappy and uncomfortable as I am, as much as I am used to looking down on the rest of the baseball universe, I am afraid that I am now compelled to utter those immortal words of surrender: Wait til next year.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Our Black President

President Obama is a man of great intellect.  The anti- George W,  it is his head, not his gut, which dictates his decisions. To some of his detractors, this makes him appear dispassionate and distant.

Yet, there is a fire burning within and he is at his finest, his most eloquent, when that passion emerges. And while I am certain he would think it best that his own trials and tribulations as a black man not be highlighted,  this nation is not at a place and time where that is appropriate.

Despite Mr. Obama's election, we are still far from Mr. King's mountaintop.  Notwithstanding the recent ruling of the Supreme Court, rampant racism is evident in efforts to disenfranchise blacks.  And in the death of Trayvon Martin, the assumption of guilt by color is once more revealed.

President Obama should speak of these injustices from a personal perspective. He should be full of fierce emotion in responding to unwarranted attacks on his presidency or his people. He would do a grave disservice to this nation if he did not, at a moment like this, remind us in powerful tones what it means to be black in the United States.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Presumed Guilty

During the course of our first black presidency, when we were supposed to have taken huge strides in becoming post-racial, we have seen Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrested while suspected of breaking into his own home, witnessed the continuing stop and frisk policies of New York City being endorsed for its rationality by its mayor,  and recoiled as  a young Trayvon Martin was gunned down for the crime of being black.

Being the hunter rather than the hunted still attaches as closely as another layer of skin to being a black person in the United States. Presumed guilty follows each step of the way, whether one is highly esteemed like Mr. Gates or unknown like the hooded Mr. Martin.

We try to pretend that this is all illusion. But the reality is ugly and keeps reappearing whether one is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, New York City or Sanford, Florida. We act as if we are color blind, when in truth all we are is intentionally blind to the reality of what Mr.Zimmerman saw when he viewed Mr. Martin the last night of his far too short life.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


When do recollections stop being visceral?

Well over 500,000 hours have passed since I entered this universe.  I have more than six decades of events stored somewhere in my mind. Clearly, my brain is not smart enough to retrieve most of what is crammed into the nooks and crannies. But even when I do have the capacity to latch onto a distant moment, all I bring forward is an image painted in black and white, void of splashes of emotional color.

Much of my life feels like it happened to someone else. Or more precisely, it doesn't feel like it happened to me.

Yesterday, my daughter reported to me with great delight of her triumphs on a surf board. That brought forth the story of my one and only severely sun burned attempt to stand tall on a moving piece of furniture in the ocean. But 45 years removed from the actual event, there is no internal residual discomfort . Sure, I can recall  having to be given a shot to ease the pain caused after my way too vigorous rubbing of my back with my towel. But that itch is not mine, It belongs to some teenage idiot who spent a full day frying his skin under an unrelenting sun. It is not that I am disassociating from his lack of judgment. Rather, it is that he is a fictional character in a play. He is not me.

Am I alone in this universe? Do others feel their youth, and remain attached to what has brought them to this point? If some are instead as I am, then what is it that robs us of the sensation of joy and discomfort, the internal smiles and the tears and leaves us only with tales to recount?

I know that I was that small boy in the bathroom of my uncle's house, having to leave the playing field in the middle of a game when my manager told me I was going in to pitch the last 3 innings. I can recall being an unwelcome guest in the home of my college girlfriend for having committed the unpardonable sin of being born into the wrong religion. But to where did the panic of that 10 year old disappear? What happened to the response I surely felt at the unrelenting look of disgust I got from my girlfriend's grandmother?

I can and do recreate sentiments to attach to my past days. It is not that my world is without intense emotion, for I do feel deeply. I speak of my father daily and miss him greatly, almost 35 years after last we hugged. But those moments we spent together from the earliest days at the ballpark to the last hours in the hospital, how do I retrieve what is not part of my present day experience of those events?

And when does who I am as I put these words down lose its emotional vitality? Will I not feel what it was like to be 60 when I am 70? Or will it take until I am 80 to make this version of me but a picture on a wall?

More that half a million hours on this planet, more than 30 million minutes,  about 2 billion seconds since my name was added to the roll call. Maybe no one is equipped to carry that much baggage around with them. Maybe we all have to shed almost everything but the most essential so that our heads don't explode. Maybe what I have kept are only the gems and the rest, the emotional entanglements, are meant to fade into oblivion. I only wish that I believed I had more of a choice in the matter.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Unfit for Office

They did not hear the screams of those 20 children and 6 adults . They cannot see the pain on the faces of the 11 million. They care not about those who do not have enough to fill their bellies. They are certain only in their mistrust and their righteousness. They believe they are the ones under attack, who must defend themselves with their guns, with their walls that stretch as far as the eye can see, with their laws fixed not on protecting but punishing.

They must be filled with an unrelenting rage for how else can one explain what they do? I am ashamed that our country has put into positions of power and responsibility those so unfit to lead. I am ashamed of the Republicans in the House of Representatives who continue to take this nation on a path of such destruction.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Second Class

("Class Struggles in the Sky')

It isn't just the shrinking legroom that is so annoying. It is that nothing except the questionable air we breathe comes without a price. The headphones are not there for the taking. The sandwich that you wouldn't eat if you were on terra firma, now is mockingly out of reach unless you open up your wallet. And the baggage fees, don't get me started on that.

It is not the feeling of being second class in second class, it is the feeling of no class that is so pervasive. There is not an absence of luxury, but of appreciation that permeates. Yes, they seem to be mockingly stating, we know you are here, and yes we must invite you on board, but you must understand that you are not really being accepted, but  merely tolerated.

Are we not intelligent enough to recognize that the fare is not really as fair as it appears? Is it our math skills that are being questioned? Are we the victims of a 30,000 foot 3 card monte?

That right hand turn upon entering the plane signals entry into a universe lacking in much more than the space between you and the back of the seat thisclose in front.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


That resounding thud you heard yesterday was the sound of my golf game falling heavily back to earth. More accurately, it is the opposite of the gravitational forces at work, for in this sport when your score goes down it must eventually, and with great consternation, elevate.

73. After more than a half a century of searching, I  finally located the swing that had been hiding deep in a dark corner of the room. I had stumbled upon the answer. From the first tee to the last, nary a hiccup or a bobble. Sure the hole still seemed to disappear as soon as the putt left my club-face, but really even I had a hard time complaining.  So this is what the game looks like when you are having fun.

I found that I could chat a bit between shots, impressing not only with the trajectory of the little white ball but the light-hearted banter that emanated from me. This jovial person has virtually been missing in action since those first ugly moments as a little boy when the parabola of the club in flight was far more impressive than the dribble, slice, shank (I have a hard time even writing that word) or other miserable misfire.

No longer did I have a perpetual scowl attached to my inner linings, no more was I contemplating the next disaster. Yet, in the recesses of my mind, even in the midst of such triumph, I heard the voice of impending doom. "You may have gotten the better of me today, but there is always tomorrow."

Couldn't it leave me alone? Wasn't I entitled to something more than this, after all this time?

Tomorrow literally came the next day. Almost aching to get back to the first tee, I had to wait until the afternoon to impress those gathered. And yet,  from the start, it began to slip away. By the third hole, I was already thinking that I would have to shoot under par the rest of the round to equal yesterday's total. My old companions, doubt and creeping despair,  joined the group, said they had missed me, but had been on a short July 4th holiday. They apologized for their absence but promised they would not be going away anytime in the foreseeable future.

The wind, my most vicious foe, now reared its ugly head, and my body contorted in reply. The greens were too fast, too slanted. The group in front was too slow, throwing off the delicate rhythm that I never really had. The excuses piled on, weighing me down like an anchor. I was back, as if it had all been a mirage.

Golf is a game for fools, trusting against all logic that the next swing and the next hole will be better, be different from all that has come before. The newest club will cure all that ails, the tip on page 34 of the magazine really will mean I can get out of the sand trap without using a hand mashie.  Against all odds and all evidence, there is hope.

But maybe the cruelest irony is that when that moment does arrive,when that drive splits the  fairway and the fade that has been living in your house for 50 years is nowhere in sight, when the sound of the club and the ball is a harmony that only gods hear, when the obstacles disappear and there is nothing ahead but glory,  when the air smells fresher and the grass grows greener, when all the questions have answers and all the effort and the angst suddenly doesn't matter, when everything you wanted and never attained is unexpectedly here, when this happens and you are almost content,  when you dare to believe in miracles, when victory is yours for the taking, it is precisely then, in the next blink of an eye, that it is gone.

Would it have been better off not to be deceived?  When reality smacks you upside the head, when you learn yet again that par is really an illusion,  when you have been to the mountaintop but are now once more at the bottom staring up, when you find yourself  in a very unpleasant conversation with God, when all of this re-attaches to you, is what you saw in that fleeting moment a curse?

The truth is that I am one of those fools and will always be so. Golf is a game that invades your soul and demands that you believe. It is in the possibilities that you step up to the tee. Those dreams are not extinguished by this shot, or even the one after that. For there is always, at least in the mind of a golfer, another tomorrow and another opportunity to shove aside the darkness and find that glimmer of sunshine.  For a sliver of time, I was in its path and it was good.

Friday, July 5, 2013


There was an irony, on the eve of our Independence Day, in witnessing fireworks in Tahrir Square celebrating a forced military change of power. It serves as yet another vivid reminder  that democracy does not always come easily or neatly

 Our concepts of orderly transition are only that. Even in our country, where we celebrate 237 years since we declared our right to self rule, there have been bumps and bruises. The civil war taught us, 85 years after our Declaration of Independence, how fragile a concept we are living under.

Hopefully Egypt will prove resilient enough to withstand the growing pains and emerge stronger and ever more resolute to form a government that is receptive to the needs of all its people.

 Last night I watched the night sky bursting above me and gave thanks for our system of government, as imperfect and frustrating at it so often seems. My feelings were only elevated having just witnessed the cheering going on in another universe for a very un-democratic ending to the presidency of Mr. Morsi.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Not Taxes but the Other Thing

I am having trouble with the first sentence of this piece and wonder if you can give me some assistance. Let me know which of these opening lines you prefer:

" I went to a good funeral the other day."

" I had an enjoyable time at a funeral recently."

Yes, I understand that it may be in bad taste to combine a reference to death and pleasure in the same thought, but there you have it.

For us no longer baby baby boomers, we have said goodbye to almost all of those who came in the generation before us. If one of our parents still survives then the connection of death to that person is as close as milk is to cookies.If an elderly person goes easily and quickly then we are likely to think how lucky they were to have lasted so long and so well. If the struggles, physical or mental, have made the rear end of life just that, then death comes with quiet relief, whether we choose to admit it or not.

And so it was that when my friend's dad died closing in on his 90th birthday and intact almost to his last breath, there was little in the way of deep, penetrating grief. Sadness for certain but not the type of gut wrenching reserved for other far worse endings.

What struck me most about the funeral itself, and what I have found as a recurring theme at these moments, is the almost spectacular ability of family members to communicate with wit and wisdom. Here the grandchildren spoke, eloquently and with a level of love that almost burst forth. And that led me to thoughts of my own mother.

She is very much still with us, deep into her 96th year and holding on for what, truth be told, is no longer such a dear life. She has lost almost all the battles one can lose to father (or mother) time and remains here trapped inside a being that bears almost no resemblance to the vibrant person that graced my life for well over a half century. When death does come, it will be something that she has earned inch by inch.

After attending the funeral and listening to the beautiful words of compassion and joy, I thought about how I might speak of my mother's existence and its meaning to me and others, if and when the grim one reaps. I thought I might start out like this: "My mother ruined me for life". Too much of an attention grabber ? I know you must be thinking "What in the name of everything holy did he just say?"

The truth is that in some ways, she and my father conspired to do me in. Their marriage was far too perfect, my father without blemish. No arguments, no good guy and bad guy (only good). I was far too wonderful in her eyes (and this vision then moved into my brain), the world far too good (think Father Knows Best but on steroids, no not actual steroids) and her universe of friends far too extensive (I never could determine who was her closest friend for the multitudes all seemed to hold that title). She was way too protective of me and my feelings (just ask anyone who has seen me around my children) and demanded far too little of me (just ask my wife). It was a perfect universe that she created and, as I have learned, one that is not possible to duplicate in the real world.

So, what do you think of my opening line? Is it crass and horrid of me to even mention my thoughts on this subject? Am I the only one who has these ideas ruminating around my head?

There are as we know only two things certain, and we talk about taxes all the time (maybe too much). I am not comfortable with death any more than you. I love my mother and will be horribly sad the day she passes on. But there is no harm in getting my thoughts gathered in advance of that time. Is there?