Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Ultimate Winner of the Apprentice

("Donald Trump's Apprenticeship")

Mr. Trump's world is not divided by those who are for or against him, but rather by those who are winners and losers. And, like in "The Apprentice", Mr. Trump teaches us to love winners and hate losers.

How many references are there on a weekly basis denigrating others who he portrays as weak, vulnerable, ugly? From the Mexicans coming across the borders to his political opponents (Carly Fiorina's face, John McCain's capture by the enemy, Jeb Bush's lack of energy?) Everyone except for Mr. Trump is deeply flawed and thus only worthy of being demonized and destroyed.

And who does he choose as a winner? Vladimir Putin has been singled out by Mr. Trump for his strength of character. Forget what he has done in Ukraine, don't pay attention to his continuing support for Assad. It is not important the lives he has ended, but what counts is his fixed and forceful determination and rhetoric. They surely are engaged in a little bromance.

Mr. Trump intends to fire the opposition, first those in his party of choice (not for its ideology, for he has none beyond promoting his own brand) and then Ms. Clinton. He pretends that he remains forever in his tv boardroom giving life or death as he, the greatest winner of them all, decrees. And then he will be the last man standing, the winner of this year's version of "The Apprentice" where he serves as both master and contestant.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bloviator In Chief

Donald Trump is above all else, a self absorbed, self indulgent, self righteous bloviator. A man whose only principle is self promotion.

To label him a Fascist is to give him credit for a coherent political philosophy where none exists. He has an unrivaled capacity to play us, from his "You're fired" proclamations to demonstrate his business gravitas, to his creation of a birther "controversy" to inflame prejudices against a President with an uncomfortable sounding name, to his building of emotional and physical walls to keep the "other" from further reshaping our damaged landscape. He is an absolute master at finding our inner proclivities and showing them the light of day through his harangues and rants.

But he is no more Fascist than he is Democrat. He is, and will forever be only an opportunist. This does not make him less a threat, or a danger, as he will wander wherever opportunity best lies. And if it takes him down some ugly and incendiary paths so be it.

Donald Trump is a Donald Trumpist, no more and no less. And that in itself is certainly more than enough to cause considerable damage.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Tale of Criminal Wrongdoing

I imagined an Arlo Guthrie, Alice's Restaurant, type scenario, Christmas day trespasses, an officer of the law, embarrassing explanations and shaking heads. I was, after all, too old to be taking part in such illegal activities.

But the circumstances were unique and I would be fool not to take advantage. So, as Barry (his name has been changed to protect him from unintended consequences) and I drove up the length of private road to our destination, I fervently hoped that no one had taken notice. We moved up a short hill and then into one of the spots designated for invitees. Of which, on this particular day, we were not. 

Christmas day is a time for sleds, hot cider, reindeer and fireplaces. It is coming face to face with the reality of winter. It is a moment to hunker down and tuck in. But not this day, this time.

I was surprised to see we were not alone in our nefarious thoughts. As I opened the car door, I was greeted warmly by another criminal in the making. There were perhaps a half dozen of us, or slightly more, all with similar intent, all in the right place at the wrong time.

It seemed that winter had not awoken from its slumber. The grass which was supposed to be the ugliest shade of pale, was instead filled with mid summer radiance. The trees, which had shed their leaves were not shivering against descending cold, but basking in an unexpected warm embrace. If the birds had not flown south out of habit, there would have been no rationale for leaving these environs. And the clothes which were intended to blanket us from the ravages of the Christmas chill, were languishing in the closet untouched and unloved. 

I pulled our weapons of choice from the trunk of the vehicle. The others nearby, similarly situated, were in like process. We stared at each other in disbelief, mumbling words of wonder, almost chortling at our good fortune.

Barry and I were both anxious to begin. But, unlike the rest, we thought we should stay out of sight, away from where our crime could be noticed. So, we headed farther away from the main road, while those more bold moved back towards where we entered.

We were soon alone in our undertaking. Nothing stood between us and our violation of the rules of the game. It was astounding in its peace and open spaces. A kind of Christmas miracle.  And then, just like that, we were off, wandering up and down hills, through woods, to places intended and not. This was exactly how it was meant to be, as right as it was wrong.

And in our enterprise, we created variations on the theme, playing our parts in two part harmony. For much of the time, we placed self restraints on our abilities, reducing our choice of options from 14 to 2. There was unbridled freedom here, and joy in the capacity to do what was prohibited. 

As we grew more comfortable in our wrongdoing, we headed towards the main road and open spaces, where our trespass would be evident to probing eyes. But we were almost done with our adventure and there was but one more play to be made.

With the last stroke of good luck, or skill, Barry emerged as the winner of the contest which he and I had undertaken. And what really had been the wrong we had committed? 

Arlo had come to dump his trash, only to find the Thanksgiving holiday stood guard against this happening. And so, he had in fact unceremoniously left another landscape pocked with his garbage. But though Christmas day acted as apparent barrier to this golf course, what Barry and I had done did no damage and created nothing more than an indelible memory December 25, 2015 in the Berkshires. A crime was committed on the Egremont golf course. Move over Arlo, there's a new tale to tell.

Nothing But Net


("Baseball Has a New Policy on Netting But There's a Catch")

Paul O'Neill was at the plate. I knew from watching him play for several years as a Yankee that he often hit vicious line drive fouls into the stands behind third base.

I was seated about 20 rows deep, just beyond third base. I was focused on the play on the field. I never even had time to react to the ball that hit off my right hip and then caromed probably 50 feet  before being "caught" by someone sitting 5 or 6 rows from the field and further down the left field line.

Thankfully I was not injured. But "being alert" for foul balls is inadequate warning. Put up the net.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The True Story of the Night Before Christmas

It was days after Chanukah and all through the house there was nary a present, not even a blouse.

The jackets were hung by the fireplace that night in hopes that by morning they would dry right

The children were grown and in their own beds, while visions of their homes danced in my head

My wife in her tee shirt and me in my shorts, for sure she would soon be hearing my snores

When outside my window I heard much chatter and cursed to the sound of much pitter patter

I peered out prepared for what I don't know, maybe some kids playing in snow

The moon it was full, the stars were so bright, and I was much startled by what was in sight

There was this old man full white of beard surrounded by what sure looked like reindeer

I'm Jewish I thought this must be a dream, that can't be Santa with his full team

But up to the heavens they started to climb. He called their names as if in a rhyme

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and more. Comet and Cupid and Donner for sure.

Blitzen, he cried, and with that they neared. To my window they flew but I had no fear.

They were all there, jolly man in tow, and within a moment it had started to snow

Then in an instant down my chimney he came, for certain I thought he did not know my name

I ran down the stairs to greet the old man, to look in his face and shake his hand

A bundle of toys, a very large sack, he drew something out from within his pack

He was so happy, and oh so merry. He said he was sorry but he could not tarry.

His face was aglow, all reddened and bright. Much work to be done he said on this night.

I asked if he actually knew who I was, being Jewish I said to old Santa Claus.

Sure he replied but this day is for all, young and old, big and small

It is in your heart that Christmas lives, for those who are good presents I give

And with that he was gone, his sleigh in the sky and I was left with a tear in my eye

So for all who believe in treating every man right, Happy Holidays to you and to all a good night.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Disappearing Act

It is the great disappearing act and it occurs several times each year. It is one that would make Houdini proud.

I woke up this morning to find New York City had vanished. From my vantage point high above the banks of the Hudson, on the New Jersey side of the great grey bridge, I peered out into a white haze. No cars on the West Side Highway, no Grant's Tomb, no skyline of stunning majesty, no Statue of the Lady (as my son denominated it in his earliest days).

When the fog descends, it is as though the last several hundred years have been but mirage and what I understood lay on the other side of the river was mere fantasy. Later, there will be a rebirth, first in faint outlines and then in all its glory. But for a brief moment, New York City is no more.

The Gunfight

("The Republican Fear of Facts on Guns")

"The Carrying of Firearms is Strictly Prohibited". That sign was posted in 1879 in Dodge City. In Wichita, Kansas in 1873 there were notices to "Leave Your Revolvers At Police Headquarters and Get a Check." (Information from a 2011 article in Huffington Post by Adam Winkler, author of "Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.")

Even in the Wild West there was sensible gun legislation. Yet now, almost 150 years removed from that time, we have an epidemic of unchecked gun violence. Almost 100 dead each day and enough guns in circulation to arm every man woman and child in this nation.

We have witnessed the devastation in our classrooms, in our churches, in our theaters. We have been counseled in fear and taught that we somehow are the "well regulated militia" contemplated by the Second Amendment. We have refused to investigate, refused to understand where our obsession has taken us.

And the question no one seems to be asking is whether it is too late. How do 300 million guns not equate to a perpetual disaster, no matter what regulation we may enact around the fringes of this problem? It is well and good to challenge Congress to authorize a study and highlight the misconceptions but then what?

There is no more gunfight at the OK Corral, no more Wyatt Earp to clean up our town. This is a nation that has long since spiraled out of control and until we post a sign "No Guns Allowed" throughout our land, we are doomed to perpetuate our daily ritual of counting our dead. If we are worried about threats to our country's well being, we need look no further than in our own homes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Whether Don King, Al Sharpton, Russell Simmons, Mike Tyson or any other black person who has come within Mr. Trump's orbit is conflicted in his feelings about an erstwhile friend is of absolutely no moment. It is wrong of the New York Times to go down this path, as if to create ambiguity or uncertainty in what our eyes and ears inform us.

Mr. Trump's monologue with this nation is clear and demonstrative. His words are self explanatory.  Your front page examination softens the tone and intent of the viciousness to which we have been continuously exposed.  Don King  would suggest that Mr. Trump is "merely misunderstood".

That concluding comment to the piece serves as indictment for your paper. One of the most significant errors media can make is to give weight or substance to ludicrous debates (eg whether climate warming is "real"). Mr. Trump is what he shows himself to be, an outrageous exaggeration, a hate mongering, fear inducing misstatement of a candidate. There is and should be no cover, celebrity or otherwise, for him.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Noun, A Verb and 9/11, Updated

"A noun, a verb and 9/11". The description of Rudolph Giuliani's rhetoric would require mere tweaking to have application to this no nonsense nine preening and puffing on last night's stage.

When Barack Obama entered office our country was worn down and fed up with counting body bags. His mandate and our priority was to bring the troops home from wars that we no longer had the stomach or will to fight. The futility of our past strategy was evident.

But if you listened to those who spoke loudly and would carry a very big stick,  we must now kill, kill, kill our way out of this conundrum.

Have we no memory, no understanding? The past seemed forgotten in the fog of  war created by the new mantra, "fear, death and ISIS." 

With all due respect to former President Roosevelt, we do have something to fear other than fear itself. A Republican in the White House.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Letter, Part Two


The Letter-

My dad wrote 4 love letters in his life. This piece is about the last one

April 28, 1978-

"There are only three love letters that I have written. The first, in March of 1943 to my mother - which I wrote after having been on an army transport for 47 days, had been terribly unhappy, and felt that after 25 years of experiencing the love that only a mother can show, that I did want to tell my mother my thoughts before the tropical sun addled my little brain."

"The next love letter was written in 1944 to Dot - after I returned to British Guyana from a month long furlough and during which she agreed to marry me. That letter was written as an expression of the love that I finally discovered." 

"The third love letter was written in the summer of Gail's birthday, her 16th.... I realized at that time what a wonderful young lady Gail was. I told her so and told her that I knew she would mature into a wonderful person."

"And now, at the ripe old age of 60 years and 1 month, I am writing my fourth and last love letter - and to a man and a woman too!" 

My father was dying when he wrote this letter. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer the year before, and he would succumb to the disease before the end of 1979. So, when he mused that this would be his last love letter, it fills me with an overwhelming sadness.

This letter was found, this week, by the son of Hope and Max, the people to whom the 1978 letter was written. As I put these thoughts on paper, Hope lays dying. She carried my father's note for the past 37 years. It was located among her important papers. 

In 1948, two young couples moved into the same garden apartment complex. My dad and Dot, my mom, had been married in 1945, but has lived with my dad's parents for more than two years. New housing was in scarce supply as World War II meant that all resources were focused not on building homes but on building a strong military. Max and Hope were also newlyweds, Hope a stunning beauty and Max equally as handsome. And from the first there was an inseparable bond that grew between these couples.

If we are very lucky in this life, we are able to know and appreciate the love for a parent, for a partner, for a child. My dad was very lucky. But good fortune  also allowed him to experience the love of friends who were so much more than that. 

To me, they were always Aunt Hope and Uncle Max. In writing his letter, my dad reflected on what it meant to be something more than mere family by circumstance. "To friends, or even ordinary blood relatives, I write a prosaic note of appreciation. But you are not friends, you are not relatives resulting from an accident of birth or from marriage- you are as I think Goethe wrote "relatives by choice."  To such, I write love letters."

But unlike parents or partners or children, expressing love that one feels for someone who has made your life so much richer, does not always flow easily. At least it didn't for my dad. "Perhaps because society has, since our birth, taught us to mask our feelings in public... we have lost our ability to express our feelings for one another. So- you will have to accept my inability to express my love -(one of my many shortcomings) and accept my plain, simple unadorned statement that I love you both, deeply." 

Hope has, in her dying days, allowed my sister and me to hear our father's voice, to listen to him wax eloquent on his gratitude for the love that was in his life and in his heart, to bring his words back to us after such a long, long absence.

For all of us who feel that death is a final chapter, this week's discovery seems like I was permitted to peer into the secrets of the universe. 

Farewell Aunt Hope. And thank you for your most unexpected and overwhelming final gift.

And thank you dad. It was wonderful speaking with you again. I love you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Indict Donald Trump

Can we indict Donald Trump?

18 U.S.C. 2101- Riots

"Whoever travels in interstate commerce... or uses any facility of interstate commerce including but not limited to.. telephone, radio or television with intent to incite a riot... or promote, encourage, participate in or carry on a riot or to commit any act of violence in furtherance of a riot..... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.'

Maybe the definition of inciting a riot is not so expansive as to include the reckless words of Mr. Trump. If there is not the necessary connection, the mens rea, the intent to cause public mayhem there is certainly a depraved indifference evident herein. If Mr. Trump pretends not to understand the implications of his hate filled vile, then we do.

Mr. Trump is shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. He is guilty of committing  the worst of offenses against immigrants, women, the physically impaired and now against Muslims worldwide. He is inciting acts of violence against these groups with each speech, each pathetic tweet.

So, even if we cannot ultimately prove our case, let's go for it. Mr. Trump does not allow political correctness to slow him down, so why should we permit questionable prosecution to stop us.

Indict Donald Trump.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Master Race

These are people  who "believe only in jihad... who show no respect for human life." With the call to ban the entry of all Muslims into the US, Donald Trump reminds us with each passing day, each escalating insult, each dehumanizing tirade, of the blackest of moments of the 20th century.

No one should lightly compare the words of Hitler to another, but are there not echoes of the master race in the call of Mr. Trump to cleanse us of our "illegals", to shield us from the evils of Islam? While he does not speak, as Hitler did of a master race shed of all its weaknesses, the Jews, the gypsies, those with physical or mental disabilities, there is in Trump's every inflammatory remark a demand to make us great again by eradicating anything that makes us weak or vulnerable. He will bomb the hell out of enemies, he will paint them with the same brush that Hitler used to categorize the "subhumans". He will call for his followers to abandon all logic, all basic human decency, all compassion and instead lead them into action in contravention of the most fundamental precepts of this nation, and of any moral society.

Do we not have the courage to call Mr. Trump what he is, to demand that others denounce him, to address the danger that he creates? One wonders what those in Germany in the early days of the Fuhrer must have been contemplating when they listened to the tirades against the "enemies of the state". And one wonders why we in the United States can't imagine the unimaginable consequences should Mr. Trump wear the emperor's crown in November of next year.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Front Page Editorial by the New York Times

Front page editorial ("End The Gun Epidemic in America")

Dear Editors:

95 years is a very long time. There must have been many events to which you contemplated a front page reply:  the Great Depression, the rise of Hitler, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, the four term presidency and death of FDR, the Korean War,  Castro, Khrushchev, the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the Civil Rights Act, Vietnam, the walk on the moon, Watergate, Nixon's resignation, the American embassy hostage crisis, the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan,  the tearing down of the Berlin wall, Monica Lewinsky, 9/11, our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Great Recession, the transcendency of the election of President Obama, Republican obstructionists, the death of Bin Laden, the rise of ISIS, the Donald Trump phenomenon. And countless other defining moments.

For you to choose this issue at this time can only mean that your level of disgust has reached epic proportion for the unfettered fealty of this country to its 300 million and counting weapons of destruction. That we are complicit as a nation in 30,000 deaths each year. That we can no longer turn a blind eye, a deaf ear to the blood and tears, to the cries of anguish. That we can no longer allow fear and hatred to capture our minds and our hearts but that the better part residing in each of us must be heard. That we can and must turn away from this insanity.

Thank you for deciding that too much was enough and for shouting out the window "We are mad as hell and we won't take it anymore." It is well past time for America to wake up to its self inflicted carnage.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Letter

My Aunt Hope is dying. As my cousin often reminded me, she is not really my Aunt.

 At the end of World War II new housing in this country was almost impossible to locate. The war took the focus, material and manpower away from constructing homes to the building of an overpowering war machine. When my dad returned home from the service and married my mom in November of 1945 they did not move into their own residence. Rather, until 1948, they lived in the apartment of my dad's parents.

When a  new garden apartment complex opened in Teaneck that year, two young couples were among its occupants. Hope was a striking beauty, married to the equally handsome Max. They formed an immediate and everlasting bond with a young lawyer and his bride, my parents.

As Hope's breathing becomes more labored, she is administered a stronger dose of morphine. She soon relaxes and continues her inevitable march. Marc has been sitting watch for several days. He checks in with me regularly, as we discuss matters mundane and profound. He relates to me the treasure trove of old photos he has discovered, so many picturing four vibrant lives in full glory.

 And then he mentions one particular piece that fascinates and thrills me.

 My dad passed away in 1979, at the age of 61. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer two years earlier. In March of 1978 he turned 60, an event our family marked with a celebration at a restaurant in New York City. I wondered what my dad must have been thinking at that moment, as time became his enemy.

 "I found a four page note written by your dad to my parents on the occasion on his 60th birthday."  Almost 36 years after my dad's passing, I would be able to hear him speak again, learn of the thoughts that his death had kept hidden.

Was my dad's letter filled with sorrow for the days he would not see, for the things left undone, for the generations to come that he would not touch, not enjoy? Or would he speak only of the passion he had for my mom, for my sister and myself, for Max and Hope and for all the gifts that had been bestowed upon him? Did he even contemplate he might be stronger than the disease that was enveloping him? That there was a future, not merely a past? The answers, I hoped, were on these pages.

How compelling must my dad's reflections have been that Hope had carried them with her through all these years? I imagined they contemplated everything that time would rob him of, the chance to explain to us, to consider with us, to wonder and worry, to celebrate. 

And I wondered, if he could write such a note to Hope and Max, what must he have penned to my mom? Could I be reunited with my dad not only now but in coming years? While my mom is still alive, she has spent nearly a decade in an alternate universe, one in which my dad is only a very infrequent visitor. No, the answer to my thoughts on the full scope of my dad's musings will have to await another day, another ending.

I had been in infrequent contact with Marc for several years after he moved out west in the early 1970's. My wife and I visited him and Georgette on our honeymoon in 1977, but distance and life's demands created a void that was not filled until Max died over two decades ago. After that Marc practically mandated that we strengthen our ties, opening his home to us then and in all the years that have succeeded. It is as though the ties that brought his parents and mine together in that apartment in 1948 were an inevitability through succeeding generations.

I await his call this morning. When Hope passes, I will be on a flight down to Florida, to pay tribute to her and to an enduring memory of two young couples who wandered through their lives inextricably entwined. And I will wait to hold in my hand that piece of paper which will help me open a time capsule into the head and heart of my father. I thank Hope and Max for their deep and abiding love for my parents and for the friendship they all so deeply treasured. And for keeping that piece of history in their possession for the last 36 years.

 Dad, I will see you soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


("Mark Zuckerberg Vows to Donate 99% of His Facebook Shares for Charity").

Wow! We are grateful for Mr. Zuckerberg, Dr. Chan and others like them, including those mentioned in your article, former Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Buffett and of course, Bill and Melinda Gates. Their financial generosity is astounding, their accumulated wealth being matched by their profound dedication to seeing the condition of humanity improve.

The world would indeed be a lesser place without these people in it. Nothing But Nets is but one example of how money well spent can have enormous positive impact.

We speak often of the 1% in derogatory terms intended to denigrate their dollars and diminish their accomplishments. The accumulation of so much by so few is indeed a cause for grave concern, as our nation, our planet, each day witnesses so much deprivation and despair, so much poverty and pain, that we cannot help but question the hows and whys of the wealthiest among us.

But while some wear their wealth poorly (Mr. Trump) there are those who recognize the responsibility that attaches to their excessive good fortune. Max is indeed lucky to have parents who intend to be good shepherds, to do whatever they can to give her, and our children, a sustainable and welcoming home.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Easter Bunny and Moderate Republicans

(Invitation to a Dialogue: Moderate Republicans)

Where is this Republican, champion of the poor, protector of women's rights, advocate for sanity in gun legislation, keeper of the planet, supporter of immigrants, believer in compromise? Certainly not in the halls of Congress or on the stage at the Republican debates.

Ms. McGirr paints a fictional character no more real to me than Santa or the Easter Bunny. She may cite statistics of those who profess moderation but they are like the leatherback turtle in today's political arena: an endangered species that most of us never see, in grave danger of extinction.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Turkey on Thanksgiving

("King Kevin Versus Queen Cersei")

This turkey is impossible to swallow.  Talk about ruining my appetite.

It is all well and good that Maureen has a brother to whom is given an annual platform in your paper. My sister is pretty smart too but my next letter to the editor won't be written by her.

Kevin, is the strange hair do what drove you into the arms of Mr Trump? How else does one explain the description of Mr. Trump "joyfully debunk(ing) political correctness"? I find your "touch the nerve" argument as predicate for Donald's popularity disgraceful and distasteful as Trump is nothing but charlatan and showman playing upon prejudices and fears.

Ben Carson as an "intriguing possibility"? What is intriguing about his utter lack of knowledge on fundamental topics and his outrageous assertions? Is it because his words are clothed in the doctor's soft demeanor?

Will Marco Rubio's delivering his speeches in Spanish cover up his Tea party views? Is this the wolf in sheep's clothing theory of governing?

And what about Ted Cruz, that Harvard educated sharp debater, able to beat up on a moderator who asked questions that none of those on the stage wanted to answer? Try 11 hours of grilling before a hostile Congress on their eighth investigation of a fiction of wrong doing and cover up on Benghazi.

As for Jeb! Bush, the many millions behind him and the propelling force of his family name could not save him from himself.

Chris Christie attorney general. REALLY?

These are the best you can offer Kevin? These are your "informed candidates"?

The Democrats do proudly champion health care, college and Social Security as bedrocks of our society. Is the best put-down that they are not as "diverse" as the hordes that have filled up the stage at Republican Wrestlemania? The leader of the Republican pack has flourished despite his abusive remarks directed at Mr. Bush, Ms. Fiorina, Dr. Carson and anyone with the chutzpah to call out the contradictions and flaws in this sorry mess of candidates.

Kevin Dowd, may you have a happy Thanksgiving, filled with laughter and love. But for the sake of all of us, next year may you keep your mouth occupied consuming food and your thoughts to yourself.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My Thoughts on the Eve of Thanksgiving

It is a tumultuous and troubling time in our country. The offshoots of war seem to touch every corner of our nation and of our minds. Racial inequities and financial struggles continue to impact far too many. There is antipathy between our political parties and an abiding mistrust of those in our midst predicated solely on religious beliefs. We seem forever to be one step away from the next grave problem. Calamity has become our bedfellow.

This week is Thanksgiving, a time when we search out the best in our own lives and express gratitude for the gifts bestowed upon us. But it is a difficult undertaking this year. When so many who are suffering come to our doorstep but are deemed unworthy of our compassion and our beneficence, it is that much harder to celebrate the joy in our personal experience.

When those who would dare to lead us, dare to lead us astray, when guns proliferate in anticipation of the worst in our fellow man, when education is lacking in so many in our population and opportunity is a word that attaches to far too few, when we have come to think so much less of others, how can we not think less of ourselves?

Do I give thanks this year? Can I ask that I hold my thanks in abeyance, that I wait until next week, or next month, or next year? Until a time when we are less angry, less hostile, less consumed with our own well being and more concerned with the welfare of others. More like what we want to be and less of what we are. When we are more encouraging, more enthusiastic, more energized and motivated not by our demons but by our higher selves.

If I have a wish for this Thanksgiving, it is that we take a good look at what we have done, are doing to our fellow man. And that we determine that tomorrow our first priority is that, for those whom we now treat with enmity, their next Thanksgiving should be better than this one. That would indeed be a worthy Thanksgiving tale.

9/11, The "Gift" That Keeps On Giving

Forget the dismal employment numbers, the pension fiasco, the tunnel to nowhere. Disregard the mistreatment of teachers, of Kaci Hickox. Don't fret his abusive manner and certainly deep six anything and everything Bridgegate. It is time to recall 9/11, the "gift" that for Chris Christie, much as Rudy Giuliani before, keeps on giving.

Mr. Christie could touch the seminal moment in our history, could smell its burning embers, see its cloud of death. For a politician whose presidential hopes were on life support, the recent events in Paris served as perverse rescue.

For those like Mr. Christie and Donald Trump, who are masterful at stirring up the fear and hatred, there is nothing that plays better to audiences then damage inflicted upon us by "others". Whether they be immigrants from Mexico coming to take our jobs, Ebola victims from foreign lands come to infiltrate and infect us or refugees from Syria come to terrorize, Mr. Christie will play upon our worst instincts like Paganini on a violin.

And Mr. Christie, like the former mayor of New York, can tell you of the personal pain and intimate details of the horror that was thrust upon us that terrible morning in September of 2001. Disaster, on this level, is Mr. Christie's ultimate political weapon.

In the concluding line of today's article, a New Hampshire resident and Christie convert worries of those in her state that "they can't all see him." I have the same concern.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bombs and Bombast

("How ISIS Defeats Us")

Mr. Bruni is completely right. And utterly wrong.

Yes, the last 14 years have taught us some basic lessons. First, that the two planes which struck the World Trade Center changed the landscape of New York, the face of this nation, and the course of much of the world. We have spent untold trillions of dollars in defense against possible further attacks in the United States, many trillions more in boots on the ground and bombs in the air in hunting down those who we perceived had done us wrong, or could do us wrong. And we have demonstrated that, for all our physical might, we have been unable to stop the conflagration that has ensued.

The other conclusion is that many in this country have played upon our worst instincts and helped produce a country gripped with paranoia and irrational fear. We have turned our collective back on suffering, whether it be from those in Mexico, West Africa or now from Syria. We are in grave danger of losing our moral compass.

To call out President Obama for speaking bluntly against those who incite our internal riot is an error. He has been the adult voice in the room when it comes to our emotional response. If he does not, in moments of crisis, forcefully challenge those who would weaken our moral resolve, then he would be complicit in a terrible crime. If he has shown annoyance or disdain for Mr. Trump, Mr. Rubio, Dr. Carson and those others who have miscast the danger as a marketing tool for their candidacy, if he has demonstrated disgust for the governors who pander to prejudice, if he has denounced the hysteria and hyperbolic predictions, then he has done what he has a mandate to do.

We have gone down a terrible path these last 14 years and the maze that now confronts us is almost impossible to decipher. ISIS has gotten into our heads and into our hearts, has weakened us in ways that are central to the core of our being. If we do not want to veer towards defeat, then it is not with bombs and bombast that we will win but with belief in humanity. If we close our hearts and our borders we have lost the war.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mr. Trump, Tear Down This Wall

("More Mexican Immigrants Leaving U.S. Then Entering, Report Finds")

"Mr. Trump, tear down this wall."

Thankfully, President Trump will not have to spend his time and energy or our money in keeping "illegals" out of our country. They are leaving of their own accord.

If anyone has been paying attention, despite the pumped up rhetoric, there has been no crisis for many years concerning mass immigration from Mexico. Our lower paying jobs have not been in ready supply, as Republican led efforts to keep Federal coffers dry has translated into a paucity of employment in infrastructure rebuilding and many other industries.

Mr. Romney's  2012 stated wish to make life so inhospitable for Mexicans that they would self deport has proven prescient. Our national obsession with castigating "others", the vast majority of whom are law abiding, seeking nothing more than opportunity for a better life, has been an unbridled "success."

With the recent hyperbolic response regarding millions of Syrian refugees clearly leaving their war torn country to infiltrate into the US for purposes of jihad, our national conversation has reached an alarmingly new low. We have become a country closing its borders and withdrawing its outstretched arms to those whose lives are lived in grave desperation. We are turning a deaf ear to the cries of the many as we symbolically tell the world to stay off our grass.

When those who seek the welcoming embrace of Lady Liberty decide to walk out of this country and not in, we should examine what we have become.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ebola and the Syrian Refugees

Ebola and the Syrian refugees. Related by the mass hysteria that enveloped both issues. Close the borders. Shut the doors.  The President is inept, incompetent or as Mr. Trump now so delicately suggests, insane.

Eventually we discovered in the Ebola crisis that our government was equipped to protect us, to utilize its capabilities to separate fact from fiction and keep those who could cause us harm from entering our midst.

These 10,000 Syrian refugees who we, in the course of exhibiting our morality and compassion,  are expected to welcome upon our soil in 2016, are they really not to be vetted? All evidence would suggest to the contrary, but if you give in to the ever louder voices of panic and hatred, you do not hear the words of reason.

Like Governor Christie and Kaci Hickox, you quarantine, you exclude, because, well, you can. As of the latest count, 31 governors had joined in the hue and cry to demonize those whom the Federal government would allow upon our shores.

Panic plays easily in these moments. This is not prudence, as Paul Ryan would suggest. Or caution, as the  position of Mr. Bush to exclude non-Christians would demand. There is no rational basis to support the policies being proffered today. But common sense has no place at this table.

Are we keeping all Belgians from walking among us? Didn't the masterminds of the Paris attacks reside there? 

Ebola is thankfully under control. Those who listened to proven science and discarded frantic fictions, were shown to be correct. Our mass hysteria  on that matter appears ridiculous in retrospect. Much like history will likely treat the sounds of nonsense that proliferate on the Syrian refugee issue. 

Insane, to borrow the word from Mr. Trump.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Old Friends

He began with an apology, of sorts. As he strained to capture the remains of a once wondrous voice, all those who listened gave a collective shudder.

Art Garfunkel appeared as a reminder that things do not stay the same forever. Within the sea of white hair that stared at this vaguely familiar looking image, there beat the hearts of those who recalled the halcyon days. When the man on stage projected one full and glorious note after another. Who was this bald headed elder statesman?

It is unfair to demand of our legends that they do not grow old. That they stay as Peter Pan that they look as Dorian Gray, that the constraints that nature imposes on mere mortals somehow fails to apply to them. That they remain frozen, images to be reconstituted at our pleasure.

If one gave this man on stage a chance, the words that came forth still resonated with the same astonishing beauty.  The lyrics so full, the images so vivid. But it was hard to get past the shortened sets, the truncated songs, the missing phrases that were beyond the reach of this version of Art Garfunkel.

He tried to fill in the gaps with short tales that he read, as he put his glasses on so he could, like the rest of those assembled, see the small print. He was, in a word, old. Not like in old friend, but as in one who had been on this stage seemingly since the first light of day. And it was now deep into the night.

I wanted to love this evening. I struggled to like this evening. I could not will myself to any other conclusion.

And as he ended the shortened performance with but two verses of Bridge Over Troubled Water I wondered if Mr. Garfunkel was not himself weary and feeling a little small.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

An American in Paris


An American in Paris.

A  Jewish American.

"We're safe. But is anyone safe in this crazy world."

The earth is seemingly on fire this morning as Paris reels from another barbaric atrocity. As we are warned in pools of blood of the dire consequences of our continuing to interfere with those trumpeting the caliphate while they annihilate their own, cannibalizing the many thousands in their midst who fail to swear allegiance.

There are cheers this morning within the ranks of ISIS as they  demonstrate a depravity of unfathomable proportion. As if these cowardly acts are a sign of strength.

And in the seventh arrondissement sit my friends, wondering what has become of this world. They must be frightened, as we are for them. Come home soon. Be safe. If, as they so touchingly write, that is any longer possible.

An American in Paris. How times have changed.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Billy Joel and Kermit the Frog

My throat hurt a little. As I made my way across the room, I sensed I had wasted my opportunity.

I had first selected a Beatles song for my debut as a karaoke singer. I listened to several who went before me, hoping they would all fall down. But a couple were good, maybe even more than that. I worried about my song choice, fearing it was not upbeat enough.

"Are you Robert?"  The young girl approached, unsure if she had picked out the right face in the crowd. I nodded. "I am sorry but the song you picked was used earlier." It was karma. I would now be butchering a Billy Joel classic.

I began to zone out a little, nervously contemplating that I would be unable to recall how the scrolling words related to the music. And then the far too enthusiastic MC called out "Next we have Robert from New York." Somehow I had decided that this crowd of almost all Americans in Mexico would not have heard of my home state of  New Jersey.

There was momentary enthusiasm from the group of 10 or so of my friends who were sitting with me, some in more than a slightly altered state of being.  I had been waiting all of my life for this moment, convinced that those who made fun of my singing, one noting that I reminded her of Kermit the Frog, would be proven wrong.

And so, with several hundred mostly inebriated eyes upon me, I steadied myself as the band played the opening chords.

"Friday night I said I'm sorry. Saturday I said..." It had begun.

I could not stray too far as I had seemingly forgotten all the lyrics, my eyes fixed upon the screen reminding me of the next word. I knew I was singing all in my throat, in my best imitation of Kermit, but I was powerless to do anything about it.

I didn't dare look out at the crowd for fear I would lose my place with the scrolling phrases. And so I couldn't reel them in with my charisma, my magnetism. Most, I am sure, lost interest by the second verse. The most inebriated ones didn't even last that long.

But, as the seconds ticked on, I grew more comfortable. The song began to resonate in my brain. I started to wander left and then right, Mick Jagger like. And then I turned my back to the crowd and locked eyes with the young female singer with the band.

"You may be right. I may be crazy. But it just may be a lunatic you're looking for." This was more like it. This was hot.

And then it was over. Suddenly my time fretting and strutting upon the stage was no more. I walked back to my seat to the sound of tepid applause. My career was off to a rocky start.

"You were really good." What else was my wife supposed to tell me? From my posse there were a few "rockin" or the equivalent, but within seconds I was just one invisible face among many.
"I think the mic was too far from you most of the time. It was a little hard to hear you." So, it seemed I had been moving my lips but,  for those more than a few feet away, virtually no sound was emanating.

It turned out that one of my friends had videoed this debacle, at least most of it. And if one listens very closely, the sounds of Kermit the Frog can be heard. Indistinct but unmistakably Kermit. But no back turning, harmonizing with my back up singer. Mercifully, for history's sake, there is no recorded image of that portion of my performance.

With wounded pride and small damage to my vocal chords, my evening as a rock legend has passed. Maybe next time I will do better.  I know I can sing the crap out of "Yesterday." Just be sure to sit near. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Moving Day

(This is written on what would have been the 70th anniversary of the wedding of our parents)

My sister is saying goodbye to our father, again.
Yesterday morning she called me, a quiver punctuating her words. "I have been very weepy for the last two days." She knew that I would understand.

Our father passed away on December 13, 1979 after a two year battle with cancer. Next month will mark 36 years without his slightly crooked smile, the warmth of his embrace, the intelligence and grace that permeated every fiber of his being. One would think that after the passage of so much time the pain of his leaving would have dissipated and eventually disappeared.

But the truth is that my sister and I still grieve, still cry, still are stung by the reality that we have been forced to live so much of our lives without his life, his hand as a guiding force.

My sister has worked in the same building in New York City for more than 40 years. It is this building in which our father had his law office, and it was on a visit to him there that serendipity brought my sister and her employer together.

Her company is moving to another part of the city at the end of this week. It is time to say farewell to this home, but it is not in the job related memories being stored in the packed boxes that my sister's sorrow lies. It is in the recollection of the days that she and our father would meet for lunch, in the moments that they could steal together from their work days, in the sound and feel of our dad's office, in the comfort of knowing that he was there for her, just a moment away. 

It is that immediacy which my sister senses is being discarded, like one more item that is not making the trip to the new locale. It is the feeling that our father is still alive in these walls, still here, still able to take the time to hold his one and only daughter in his arms, to give her that feeling of security and comfort that only he could provide. It is the sadness of thinking that when her office door closes for the last time, this will all be gone.

I spoke earlier this week with a friend of mine who is going through the grieving process of having recently lost his dad. He talked of recently having gone to a synagogue to pray. He listened to the words of a man who was there to honor the memory of his father's passing thirty years ago, and who continued to lament his loss. My friend said that the reality of this pain had caused him to break down and weep.

I did not cry as I listened to my sister's words. It is hard for both of us to lose control simultaneously. She talked haltingly, long pauses punctuating her conversation as she tried to gather herself. I told her to take solace in knowing that this pain would pass, that tomorrow or the next day she would begin to regain her equilibrium, that there were new adventures that awaited her where she was headed.

But the truth is that tomorrow will really not lessen this pain, the one that has lingered for well more than three decades. And that feeling that every piece of our father that disappears is one we can never retrieve. My sister does not want to leave this place, this attachment this connection. She does not want to lose the touch of our dad's hand, the smile on his face, the knowledge that he is there, right there whenever she needs him.

The last boxes will be carted out of this building by the end of this week, but there is one that cannot be neatly packaged and labeled. It resides in the heart and head of my sister. If there is one piece of advise, one consoling thought that I could give her, it is that she should know that although she physically vacates the building, she can never leave behind the memories of our dad. She carries them with her wherever she goes.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Messengers of Death

Maybe it all does fit on the front of Mr. Trump's hat. The despair, the anger, the resentment that the American dream has disappeared. It is the illegals, the left wing, the media, the 1%, the Democrats who have all conspired to take away the hope and belief in a better tomorrow.

For those in the Bible belt, for those on the right, there has been a constant drum beat of negativity. From Rush Limbaugh and the other talking heads to the leaders of their political party, they have been indoctrinated in the belief that their lives don't matter, that they are the forgotten, the betrayed.

Why have they clamored in such large numbers to the most bizarre of Presidential candidates, the ones who spout such hateful speech and convey nothing which resembles an understanding of what it takes to run this nation? Is it because they have become so desperate in their own hearts and minds? There would be seem to be correlation between the rising death toll of white middle Americans and the rise of Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson. 

Mr. Krugman concludes with the assertion that answers to this problem are seemingly elusive. It is the narrative not only of these unhappy lives but of the Republican party that is at the center of this tragedy. Until the leaders stop their constant harangue about how all is lost, how the sky really is falling, this epidemic in the heart of our country, in the head of our country, is likely to continue to manifest.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Ben Carson, Victim


Mendacity. Exaggeration. Obfuscation. So what?

Dr. Carson counters with exasperation and frustration the media exploration of his personal narrative, as questions are raised of the veracity of some of his central tales. As if it is he alone who has had to withstand this level of scrutiny. Unlike say Ms. Clinton who was forced to explain the true circumstances of her run for cover on the tarmac from enemy fire. And how about someone like Mr. Obama who spent countless hours in unnecessary refutation of the insistent harangue led by one Mr. Trump questioning the place of birth of Barack Hussein.

Politicians often "embellish" personal truths. And for that sin, they should be held accountable. But this version of Republican candidates has made mis-truth  their own, relishing it seems in their capacity to say just about anything about anything without believing examination was warranted or appropriate.

No, Dr. Carson, you are not being attacked or vilified. No, this is not an uneven hand of the press clamping down upon you. But this is the message that will be conveyed to the followers of the former neurosurgeon (and how impressive is that title) and they will, if recent history is prologue, join in the call for the mass deportation of the left wing media.

Mendacity. Exaggeration. Obfuscation. Next topic please.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Three Down in Colorado. How Many More?

Donald Trump is packing. No, not for the White House. He is packing a gun. Maybe even as we speak. He just won't tell us, as he wants to keep it a surprise, so his would be assassins won't know whether to go after him. And, oh yes, it would be a splendid idea if everyone in his employ was ready to unload on the next person who walked through the door.

Ben Carson is napping. Or maybe just trying to put us to sleep with his oh so quiet speech and soft demeanor hiding the fact that his answers make absolutely no sense.

Ted Cruz is yapping. At the media, as he and Marco Rubio and just about everyone else on the stage took up an enormous amount of time and energy complaining about the main stream, left wing media, conspiring to ask the wrong questions of the candidates, the ones they actually had to answer.

Jeb Bush is sapping. As in sapping all the energy out of his candidacy. He is not an attack dog, not an alpha male and he is overwhelmed by a field who are comfortable with zingers. Poor Jeb! was almost completely undressed when he went after his one time protege. Yes, Jeb, I cut school, but so did Barack. A lot.

John Kasich is failing. In what he thought might be his breakout moment, he almost broke down. His zinger on Trump's immigration nightmare of a plan brought only a major league putdown by the king of major league putdowns. Anybody can put you in the corner, baby. You can have him America.

Rand Paul is missing. Was he actually on the stage last night? Ted Cruz stole his ideas on the economy and everybody else seemed to steal his air time. What was left for the kind of libertarian was merely to be one of the physical bookends, along with Mr. Kasich at the end of the line, figuratively and literally.

Marco Rubio is rising. As in the polls, as he nimbly dodged ugly questions and every attack upon his financial missteps and his voting record, or lack of one. He and Mr. Cruz are the slickest of the pack, able to use bigger words and full sentences to their advantage. Watch out for this one.

Carla Fiorina is tricky. She maneuvered away from her dismal record at HP and instead had us focus on the image of her taking down one Hillary Clinton. In an all girls fight, she would end up on top. World Wide Wrestling come to the big stage.

Chris Christie is sincere. Forget those cones that he did not move. In fact, forget everything he did wrong to bring his state to such a dismal place. No, he was not talking to the moderators or even to his fellow competitors. He was talking directly to you, looking directly at you and telling you that he knew what it took to make America great again. Except that the yutz who kept reminding us about the tank that is Atlantic City had already stolen that line.

Mike Huckabee is preaching. What else can he do, as Ben Carson has stolen his evangelicals? He was standing next to Mr. Kasich, for God's sake and wasn't that already bad enough?

All of them assembled on the stage had a plan. This madness was rehearsed and choreographed. The anger, the resentment, the belittling of those who dared to ask the questions. Ten voices all going at once, all trying to make you believe that he or she held the secret in the palm of his or her hands. And none of them actually responding to any inquiries but merely directing their 60 seconds (who actually only spoke for 60 seconds?) to their stump speech on whatever it was that would sound most authentic.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young once cried out to us "Four dead in Ohio. How many more?' For us it is three Republican debacles, I mean debates in the books. How many more?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Walk to My Mom's Apartment


I will soon be walking  slightly less than a mile, repeating a journey I have taken several times a week for nearly a decade.

I will stroll past the church with its rotating message out front, welcoming guests but warning that those who park illegally in its lot are subject to being baptized. I will move past the flashing signs at the intersection of the road notifying drivers of their speed and informing those who drink and drive of the penalties that surely await.

Past all the high rises that a few decades ago were the first to dot the horizon on the Jersey side of the Hudson just south of the Great Gray bridge. Past the myriad banks that seem to crop up everywhere, like daisies in a field or bamboo chutes that take over a landscape.

Past the law office that is home to one of those "I recognize that name from those television commercial" firms.

Past the hot dog establishment that used to sit next to the other hot dog establishment, non-identical twins, but now stands alone, triumphant. My mom used to love eating here, at the place with the really good french fries and the hot dogs that had meaning.

My mom doesn't get to this place to eat anymore, doesn't go past the law office or the banks or the flashing signs or the church. She doesn't walk or ride to my residence, which sits a few minutes from where she has resided for well over three decades. My mom's world begins and ends within the confines of  her apartment, the one at which I will soon be arriving.

It is a late October morning, the air has turned markedly colder today and there is a fine mist spraying everything between where I sit and my mom's. Part of my routine in spending time with her is to speak of the colors that I see outside. Her apartment faces west and recently the fall foliage was at its peak. I was mesmerized by the far away hills and all their hues on proud display.  I am concerned that I am less than adept at mastering the words needed to convey the beauty and majesty of what can be viewed from her balcony, what she could see if only she still had her vision.

I will inform her of what the world holds as though she is still capable of understanding my meaning and its meaning. I will tell her tales of my children, of myself and my wife, of my work and my play, of anything and everything as though she retained the faculties that have seeped out of her head, like a constant trickle from a fissure that could never be closed. She sits mostly mute on some days and on others she will respond, for a moment or two and then fall back into that place that is now her home.

From my apartment window I look east, staring now into a gray sky and at the softly moving waters of the Hudson. At the buildings that sit across the river, at this distance, as silent as my mother, but which I understand are teeming with life and noise the closer you approach. At the planes, the helicopters, the boats, all signaling the vibrancy of this moment, this locale.

My mom knows none of this anymore. For her there are images in her brain of her parents and grandparents, her sisters and brother, of a small town cigar store and a big family. Where she lives there has not been a second World War, not a husband or children, not grandchildren. Not loves come and gone, hearts broken and mended, triumphs and tragedies of the past day, week, month, year or decade. There are no new sunrises or sunsets, no leaves turning the most miraculous shades, no today and certainly no tomorrow.

I will go to my mom's on this day and for all the days hereafter that remain for her. I will walk past the church and the warning sign, past the apartment buildings and the law office, past the hot dog stand. I will continue this journey for as long as she continues hers. Though she is no longer with us, she is still here.  And I will forever try to bring the mysteries and wonders of the world inside the apartment where my mom resides but no longer lives.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Group Photo

I got a haircut yesterday, will probably not eat a lot today (a two meal diet) and  likely dress well, at least in my terms, this evening. For those who know me, attention to physical detail is not my strength. But tonight is something special: my high school reunion.

Most of us don't get to make an impression on our classmates more often than the Mets travel to the World Series. Each time counts. 

I understand that little is likely to change in my life, or the others in attendance, whether I shave or not today, whether I wear my new glasses or contact lenses and whether or not I even appear. 
But vanity and ego can be no more evident than on that stage where you get to show yourself before some you seemingly didn't form deep kinship with even as you sat side by side in class during the Lyndon Johnson years.

My grade was only 100 or so strong and tonight will be barely a quarter that. So there is no hiding in these bushes. Four or five of those assembled have remained the closest friends for the last half century. The rest I recall mostly as pages of a good book I read in my youth. But somehow it is important that they all walk away from this gathering impressed by my stature, physically at least.

When later asked by our spouses, our children or even our mirrors we will weigh our success in large part by how we held up in that group photo. The one where we are all tightly bunched, where we gauge our ability to beat back time in relation to the statistical norm of those around us. "I looked pretty good" or "where did that second chin come from?" will be echoed throughout the households of my classmates in days hence.

I got a number two buzz, as though cutting the few remaining hairs on my head very short will serve as statement that a near empty scalp shows me in my full glory. 

I will probably wear that sports jacket with the wide shoulders, making my rather puny upper body grow larger in stature. I understand that a lifetime of studiously avoiding working out cannot be fully hidden by my attire, but it can at least distract from reality.

I comprehend intellectually that the measure of a man goes far beyond the width of his girth or the cut of his tresses. That attention to the outer being is shallow and without purpose. But on this night I am seemingly compelled to give great weight to those without it and high kudos to old acquaintances who appear anything but.

So I will suck in my gut, trim my nose and ear hairs and head off for the evening, with the fervent hope that the guy standing next to me in that photo does not have a picture of Dorian Gray in his closet.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Trey Gowdy's 15 Minutes


Thank you Mr. Gowdy. You have succeeded, in your never ending quest, to produce one clear and resounding finding: Hillary Clinton is strong, resolute and of Presidential timber.

Can one imagine Mr. Trump after a morning, afternoon and night's ceaseless grilling of one of his questionable endeavors or reckless pronouncements? Can the images instantly conjured not but contrast unfavorably with the performance of the former Secretary of State?

For all that this Congress should focus it's attention upon, for all the profound problems that face this nation, it is well past time that the Republican obsession with this tragic event come to an end.

Your position is clear and in continually resurrecting this charade in an effort to break Ms. Clinton, you have only made yourself look small and ugly.

Mr. Gowdy, your 15 minutes (or 11 hours) are up.

Friday, October 16, 2015


I remember Oscar Gamble, his helmet looking helpless trying to contain the ever burgeoning afro that cried for freedom. How about the Oakland A's teams full of facial hair, none better than the twirled masterpiece of Rollie Fingers. And then there was Johnny Damon and his free flowing locks and impressive beard making a mockery of the buttoned down Yankees. Or Randy Johnson, standing impossibly tall on the mound, with something resembling a long flowing mullet tumbling out from beneath his beleaguered cap.

From the San Francisco Giants and the intimidating if hirsuitically questionable black beard, to the mass of wavy beauty that exploded from the head of Jacob DeGrom, the tradition of expressing one's inner freak through a vast array of hairy options remains a quintessential part of the last half century of baseball lore.

That is not to say that the pursuit of everything hair is but a hardball phenomenon.  From Bill Walton, his red hair flopping as he raced up and down the court to Troy Polamalu and the incredible mass of twists and turns that cried out for national recognition, athletes in every arena have vied not only for the most talented on the field, court or diamond, but most follically blessed.

But somehow, watching a baseball game, with the players in generally static pose for minutes unabated, gives particular focus and emphasis to the challenge of naming the best in class.
And there stands the Dodger third baseman, Justin Turner, his number 10 a reminder of Ron Cey, as I survey his beard and significant locks and wonder what the old hot corner star would have looked like if given full reign to let his wild thing out.

Not everyone on the field  has enjoyed the luxury of freedom of hairy expression.  Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Don Mattingly, who happens to be Mr. Turner's manager, was a star performer and captain of the most storied franchise in baseball.   The team's principal owner imposed a strict mandate on hair length and when the first baseman's tresses reached near his collar, he was ordered to the barber for a trim. When he refused, Mattingly was suspended. The next day, he was shorn.

And the aforementioned Mr. Damon, upon his appearance in Yankee pinstripes, looked more the part of Wall Street banker than descendant of Samson. Even today, the mere hint of excessive hair is a literal non-starter with the Bronx bombers.

For those like me, there are only myriad jokes about the reasons no hair finds a home on top of our scalps. I don't know which I envy more, the grace and athleticism of those upon this stage or their capacity to demonstrate they are world class hair growers. 

In the midst of all this contemplation, it appears that a baseball game broke out yesterday, an often thrilling and exhilarating display of talent. The deciding contest between the Dodgers and Mets produced a star performance by Daniel Murphy, stealing an unprotected base and clubbing a game winning home run against a mostly dominant and very impressively coiffed Zack Greinke. The only problem was that Murphy's beard is fairly sparse and in need of something more compelling. 

Maybe if the Mets last several more weeks Murphy can improve his look if not his already stellar game.  

Somewhere George Steinbrenner must be vigorously shaking his well manicured hair in disapproval.

Monday, October 12, 2015

McDonald's Love of Chipotle

BACK STORY - I recently attended an Audra McDonald concert in which she spoke of an undying ardor for everything Chipotle

There is gastronomic irony here
And it feeds a hungry mind
For McDonald to dine at Chipotle
Is an  edible slice unkind

She has the great Audracity
The stomach and the heart
To order tortillas with meat or sofritas
Not Big Mac a la carte

She claims she keeps an office
Near the guacamole and rice
And would rather dos tacos, black beans and cilantro
To  McNugget with fries super sized

It must ibble the great Mickey D
That it let Chipotle escape
The soprano's high trillas for their tomatillos
Is the icing on the cake

She loves her burritos and quesadillas
No room for burger with cheese
Dear Audra sings praises of Mexican places
And brings McDonald's to its knees

So though it is just food for thought
It fills this writer's plate
A sumptuous meal of irony
A joke too great to waste

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Stink

("Hillary Clinton's Opportunist Solution")

Stop the presses!! A politician with shifting views to meet the needs of the moment. Is this really where Mr. Brooks wants to go?

The top vote getter on the Republican side is not a career politician and has thus not been subjected to endless inquiry and inspection on his views. But even in that context, look at Mr. Trump. A Democrat seemingly a minute ago, Mr. Trump's changing sentiments were analyzed on a recent segment of Meet the Press . We witness the Republican front runner praising Hillary Clinton, applauding President Obama's economic policies, defending Obamacare and characterizing himself as strongly pro choice. I am certain Mr. Trump would say that was a different time and he was a different person when those views were stated. Uh-huh.

Who can forget a tongue tied Rick Perry trying to castigate Mitt Romney by suggesting he had "before he was before" changed his stripes on the second Amendment, abortion and Obamacare?

The plain truth is that politicians are well, politicians. And yes, they pander to the electorate. Hillary Clinton has spent the last 25 years squarely in the bulls eye. She is a seemingly difficult person to love and yes, she will say what is required for her to get elected. But for Mr. Brooks to single her out as though she is somehow unique is ludicrous. Wake up and smell the roses Mr. Brooks. They often stink.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015



("Take Me Out to the Nosebleeds")

The Nosebleeds. Mr Leitch would suggest that it is only here that the real romance of the game lives. Where the true fan of baseball exists, where the stories abound and the recollections are not manufactured. Where there are no "Johnny come latelies".

I have been chasing foul balls for six decades now all over Yankee Stadium, old and new, front row to last. From days when I poured water over my head to battle the heat to those when I took shelter from the cold and wind in the bathrooms. From Mickey Mantle to Derek Jeter, but also Phil Linz to Horace Clarke. And while there is a mythology associated with being in the Nosebleeds, I want to report that the best fans do not congregate in only one section of the stands.

The seats of the die hard are scattered about, living wherever one locates someone  in whose heart the beauty of the game beats fiercely. I have had a continuing love affair with the Bronx Bombers from the 1950's to this evening, when I will take my seat in the third tier out by the foul pole and try to will a worn out and staggering team to victory.

I am a Nosebleed fan no matter where I am located.  Nosebleed is a state of mind.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Other Foot

("Seeking President, No Experience Necessary)

After years of filibusters, after focusing not on what could be accomplished but what could be shut down, after spending all their political energy on destroying the legacy of a sitting President, the Republicans had no answers when they were thrust into a position of power in both Houses in the last election cycle.

What is it that makes the likes of Trump, Carson and Fiorina so attractive in this bizarre alternate universe? It is merely that they have not been party to the failure to dismantle all that the President accomplished during the first six years of his term in office.

Mr. Wehner would suggest the core issue is one of tone that can be corrected by putting a better foot forward. But there is no better foot. This is what being a Republican looks like in 2016, with obscenely conservative stances parroted not only by the "newcomers" but those long on the political scene. 

The Democrats suffered through years of having the trappings of power but not its reality. Too many victories eluded their grasp. Too often they seemed on the defensive. It is a now all too familiar scenario only being played out on the other side of the aisle. The party faithful on the right turn their gaze away from those who, whether they were any part of it or not, are perceived as being unable to undo the intransigence and obstruction they in fact birthed. Government, once and still the problem. Only now it is their own.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bad People

Why have speed limits when those who drive recklessly are likely to do so anyway? Why have regulations on food products or emission standards or the myriad other laws which make us healthier, safer and more secure?

If the rationale of Mr. Guiliani and those on the right is that bad people are going to do bad things despite the intended restraints then why even bother to pass any laws? Or is that really the underlying theme? Is this not Reagan's "government is the problem" gone to it's most illogical and vile conclusion?

Friday, October 2, 2015


("Obama Condemns "Routine" of Mass Shootings, Says US has Become Numb")

He has been derogatorily referred to as "no drama Obama". Blessed with the ability to speak with great eloquence and depth of knowledge on critical matters, this is a President who many believe does not often enough reveal his inner fire. But not on this issue.

From Fort Hood, to Tuscon, Newtown to Aurora, Charleston to Roseburg. For Mr. Obama, these have been the moments when he has voiced his  pain and pleaded with a nation to respond. Especially in the wake of Newtown, there was reason to believe some sanity might prevail.  Yet,an endless stream of massacres has been met, ultimately, with national indifference.

Was anyone not moved by the sight of the President singing "Amazing Grace" at the memorial to honor the pastor and the others slain in his Charleston church? Yesterday, there were no such elevated images as a bitter and angry Mr. Obama was called upon yet again to mourn the senseless loss of life.
Gun control, or more precisely the lack of gun control, is one of the great failings of this nation.

Seemingly held hostage by the NRA and the donor class who control both the dialogue and the votes of those in Congress, the possibility of reasonable gun legislation seem ever more remote. And for a President whose term in office has been pock marked with these tragedies, Roseburg was merely the latest, but in all likelihood not the last.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

99 MPH

As I lay motionless on the ground, a single thought entered my mind : "Please don't let my father see me die." Then I passed out.

My fastball was clocked at 99 MPH, but I knew as it left my hand that it was going to catch too much of the plate.  In slightly less than .4 seconds the 36 ounce bat had done its damage. In that small window of time the batter, a man standing 6 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 235 pounds, who had already hit 46 home runs in the 2015 season, had gotten a visual read on the pitch (after about 12 feet), decided to swing (after about 30 feet) and began his attack on the less than 150 gram (about 5.25 ounce) sphere hurtling towards him.

The exit speed of the ball after the collision of the two moving objects was estimated at 113 MPH. A study stated that a 90 MPH fastball can be returned by the hitter at up to 110 MPH. But as my offering was 10% faster than the study, and thrown to one whose bat speed was off the charts, the study be damned. The ball hit me before I even had time to flinch.

My mother had died that spring. She was 60 years old and had suffered through a three year battle with cancer. There had been the usual treatments with chemotherapy and radiation, and she had undergone surgery to try to eliminate the tumor after it had shrunk due to the medical attack upon it. But,in the end, it had been too far progressed before it was discovered. And despite every effort of the doctors, and the incredible will of my mother to live, the disease had proven too strong.

My father was heartbroken. He and my mom met just after he finished college and was entering law school. She had been lukewarm to his attentions which drove my father absolutely nuts. After repeated efforts to convince my mother that he was worthy of her, she relented. A one year courtship began and in the spring of 1977 they were married.

I was the oops baby. My oldest sister was born in 1981, followed by a second child, another girl, in 1983. Even though both my parents would have liked a boy to give some symmetry to the family, it was decided that two was enough. But then, in a scene that must be repeated in many households in every country in the world, one night in November,1988 something went wrong (or right) and so here I am.

If my father was a talented attorney, which he was, he was as inept in every other phase of life as was humanly possible. My mom always used to lament the fact that she had four children. The truth was that she had three children and one infant. While my sisters and I developed at a normal pace of growth, mentally and physically, my father was stuck in a holding pattern, unable to perform the most basic of tasks. And so the roles of chief cook, bottle-washer, worker, mom and, in many aspects dad, fell on the tiny shoulders of my mother.

The one area where my father and I could bond, and did, was over baseball. He loved the game, loved the smell of it, the sound and touch of it. He loved everything about it, and most of all he loved to watch me play. From my earliest contact with baseball, I was as drawn to it as my father, and because of my father that love was only enhanced. We talked baseball, we listened to baseball, we watched baseball and we always, always played baseball. My first recollections are of me with a mitt on my hand. My first pictures are of me in the crib, with a ball and bat mobile over my head. And from the first, from the very beginning, it turned out that I had a special talent for the game.

My dad was assistant coach on my Little League team. He used to rush home from working in New York City to appear in our suburban community in Bergen County in time for the beginning of the game. Often he would change out of his shirt and tie in the dugout seemingly only seconds before the first pitch was thrown. But I never remember him being late and I never remember him leaving until the last member of our team was picked up by a parent and safely on his way home.

When I was 11, I pitched a perfect game,  dominating the other team, embarrassing most of the hitters. After it was over, my teammates and I joked, in the cruel way that young people do, about the shortcomings of an over-matched opponent. When my dad and I were the only ones remaining in the dugout, he told me to come over to him. "I have never been as disappointed in you as I am now." His words were almost spit out at me. "You have been blessed with a special talent, but that does not make you any better than the next person. Those players on the other team may not have your athletic skills but today they were far superior to you in ways that are much more important. They tried as hard as they could, they took their defeat with grace, they were true sportsmen and athletes. Today they were the winners and you and your buddies showed yourself to be nothing but a bunch of immature losers." There was only silence on the car ride home.

Soon after my mom was diagnosed, my parents sat me down to tell me of the prognosis. I was in Triple A ball at that time, in my first year after having graduated from college. My parents had insisted that I finish my schooling before embarking on my career, even though I had been drafted in the second round immediately after finishing high school, and even though a very sizable financial incentive had been dangled in front of me to forego my education. I loved college and while I had occasional regrets about not taking the money and heading off to the rookie league, I came to appreciate my parent's insistence that I put my baseball career on hold.

I was in the living room of my parent's house when my dad began to cry, softly at first, then more loudly and finally uncontrollably. My mom told him to stop, that it was not doing her any good and it was certainly not making it any easier on me. And then she almost whispered to me that she had between 6 and 12 months to live. I watched the tears stream down my father's face,even as he tried to stop them. 

I headed back to my team the following day. I had only been elevated to Triple A  three weeks earlier. I hadn't really made any good friends there and so I dealt with my mom's "situation" on my own. And not very well. I was treated very rudely in my two outings the week that followed the revelation.

And then one night there was a knock on my apartment door. There stood my parents, my mother with a scowl on her face, a deep, full look of disgust and displeasure directed at only me. "What the hell is the matter with you?". My mother NEVER talked to me that way. and certainly not after just having completed a 350 mile journey in a 14 year old Audi with intermittent air conditioning, in order to visit her one and only son. "Stop feeling sorry for me and STOP feeling sorry for yourself. Get over it. Your father and I are dealing with this and you are NOT allowed to make this any harder on us. Go out and pitch like you know you can. Make us proud." When she finished speaking she closed the apartment door in my face. She and my father got back in the car and drove the 350 miles home without a stop. I did not give up another earned run over the 34 innings of relief I pitched the rest of the 2011 season.

I am told that I appeared to be unconscious even before landing face first in my descent from the pitching mound which is elevated 10 inches from the rest of the diamond. . The ball hit me squarely in the left temple. I had always been known as a good fielding pitcher, as my follow through set me up well to gather any ball hit back to me. If I had been less adept, maybe my body motion would have put me in a different stance and the bullet might have laid a glancing blow or even whistled by me entirely. 

As it was, after striking my head, the ball retreated in the direction from which it came, bounding with much speed just next to the dugout where my teammates watched in horror. One camera angle panned in and captured the faces as they realized what they were witnessing. My best friend on the squad came running out to me even as the play was still unfolding. It was a violation of every rule of the game to enter in the midst of the action, but for this wrong no punishment would be meted out. 

My father had come to very few games during the 2015 season. In the early months, he was still in deep mourning, most days only working part time and on occasion not even bothering to get out of bed. He was, in my opinion and that of those around him, clinically depressed. Baseball, which had always captured his heart and his soul, was unable to even capture his attention. And even as I was having the best season of my career, making the All-Star squad for the first time, and getting close to signing a 6 year mega-deal with my team, even then, he was unable to gather any pleasure from what was happening.

Reluctantly, he attended the All Star game with me and took in some of the festivities. In the past, his being shoulder to shoulder with the greats of the game would have brought him to a place of unadulterated joy. But without my mom around, he was a lost soul. Even my appearance, striking out all three batters I faced, with one pitch being clocked at 101 MPH brought only a somber "job well done" when I met him in the locker room after the game.

As July gave way to August and then September, the race heated up. We were only two games out of first place on September 13, and the team that stood between us and the pennant was in town for a three game set. We managed victories in both of the first two contests and so, on the morning of September 15 there was a deadlock at the top of the standings in our division. And, for the first time all season, my father seemed genuinely interested in what was going on with me and with the game we both adored.

We drove to the park together, arriving about 3 hours before the first pitch. On the way in, we talked about the excitement of the moment and the electricity that would be felt at the stadium that night. We discussed how good my arm seemed, even this late in the season, and how eager I was to get the ball in my hand. I wanted to pitch on the night of September 15 maybe more than at any time in my entire career. I felt that I could bring my dad back into the world if only I could do my job well on this night. That he could stop grieving and start living. And I wanted to do this for my mom to show her that I had learned the lesson she taught the day she yelled at me and closed the door in my face.

On October 16,1920 Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch from Carl Mays. It was twilight, the ball was scuffed up, and reports are that Chapman never saw the pitch that killed him. The ball hit his skull with such force that Mays thought the ball had made contact with the bat. As the ball rolled out to him on the mound, he fielded it and threw it to first. Chapman took several steps before collapsing to his knees, the blood pouring out of his left ear. Twelve hours later he was dead. It remains the only fatality of a player in the history of the major leagues, dating back about a century and a half, and involving pitches and hits in the many millions. As I remained apparently lifeless on the field, the question everyone watching was pondering was whether I would be the second. My dad's face turned ashen and he sunk deep into his seat, almost fully slumped over.

I had pitched the bottom of the eighth inning in this tie game, thrown only thirteen pitches and retired the side in order. It was not my routine to pitch two innings, having only done this once in the season. But this was a pennant race and the rules of engagement were now changed. And so I headed back to the mound for the last of the ninth with our team leading by a run, thanks to a massive home run from our clean up hitter. Three outs away from the sweep, and headed to first place. I hoped my dad was enjoying the moment.

Herb Score arrived on the major league scene as a 21 year old phenom in 1955. He would strike out 255 batters that season a rookie record that stood for almost 30 years. He won 20 games in 1956. On May 7, 1957 he threw a fastball to Gil McDougald. The ball sped off McDougald's bat and hit Score squarely in the face, breaking multiple facial bones and damaging his eye. McDougald, seeing what had happened, ran not in the direction of first base, but directly to the mound. While Score would recover, his career never did. He eventually retired in 1962, well short of his 30th birthday.

The 6 foot 5 inch 235 pound man instantly knew that I was in trouble. Much like the reaction of McDougald, and even in the most heated of moments of a pennant race, his instincts took over. He sprinted from the batter's box, not to the base that was awaiting his arrival as the potential tying run in the most important game of the season, but towards me. He would be called out for running outside of the base paths. 

The protocol in baseball, when an injury happens or is suspected, is for the team trainer to head out to the field to inspect the problem. Then, except in the rarest of instances, the player is helped into the dugout, if that is required, or walks off "under his own power". In all the years that I had watched baseball and in all the years my dad had been around the game we had never seen the ambulance go through the outfield gates in the first instance. But, within a matter of what seemed only a few seconds, there they were, ready to attend to me. They knew this was serious.

My dad had been seated several rows back from the field, along with family members of many of the other players. After sitting slumped over for an instant, he suddenly righted himself and stood up erect and focused. He was going to his son, his only son and no one was stopping him. 

The security guards formed a protective shield around my dad and brought him to the edge of the field. There he jumped over the three foot barrier and ran towards me, in full stride. In what was but a brief moment from when I went down, a most unusual group huddled over me; the medical team, the batter, my best friend and my father. As the umpires attempted to restore some sort of order and the teams stayed a respectful distance away, this strange entourage assembled. In the days that followed, the picture of these people thrown together in the worst of circumstances went viral, receiving almost 30 million hits within the first 72 hours.

And as I lay there and the medical team worked furiously to try to get me stabilized so they could move me into the ambulance, the voice of the most senior of the medical personnel could be heard. "This does not look good", he said reflexively and no one in particular, "this does not look good at all."