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.