Friday, June 30, 2017

The Forest for the Trees

Need any better sign that we deal with the sensational rather than focus on the critical?

As of about 6:45 AM, the "Mika" mistake, the latest but far from the last Trump created tsunami, had registered more than 5000 comments to the NY Times. 

If one were to add up all the responses on line to all the other top stories and op-ed of the last 24 hours, on the Republican attack on the health care system, on the terrible toll of the war in Syria, on the administration response to human trafficking, on the the partial lifting of the stay on the travel ban, they would compose but a fraction of our reply to Donald's latest meltdown.

His is a game of misdirection and we are his willing players, distracted from what is so seriously impacting the lives of millions in substantive ways, instead spending our energy and focus on responding to our leader's childish rants, his boorish behavior.

We have lost sight of the forest for the trees.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I Am Their Bona Fide Relationship


 ("With 3 Words, Supreme Court Opens a World of Uncertainty for Refugees")

Well, I fully understand why the Supreme Court would fail to reject outright the travel ban Mr. Trump seeks to impose. After all, look at the spate of terrorist acts in this country that followed in the immediate aftermath of  the stay of Mr. Trump's intended executive order.

The court's ruling is an answer in search of a problem. History since 2001 has taught us that our fear of immigrants is grossly, wildly exaggerated. As we have created laws to address non-existent voter fraud, so too the Justices now throw the President a lifeline concerning an intended mandate grounded not in statistical confirmation but in bigotry, hatred and intolerance.

If the Justices want to apply the "bona fide relationship" test tell them it is with ME. Let those who have suffered the most egregious deprivations know that there are many who find their travails  the most compelling, bona fide reason to open our hearts and our borders to them. Our relationship with them is bonded not in who they may know here, but in our common humanity.

Shame on the Supreme Court.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Are You My Mother?

My mother died on March 25, 2017. If my friend is right, she has returned.

For the last four months or so, my office has been a confounding place. Calls, coming and going, disappeared in mid-sentence. Words and thoughts were left hanging. There was an uncertainty, a question mark haunting my space, distracting me and making my days at work daunting.

Trial and error led only to tribulation and more error until finally, about two weeks ago, a solution manifested itself. Phrases were finished, apologies to clients disappeared as order returned and normalcy seemed ready to be, well, the norm.

But scarcely had one head scratching episode ended, when the next reared its unusual head. Staring directly in my face.

We have all, at one time or another, experienced the phenomenon of a bird striking a window next to where you were sitting or standing. The startling thwack out of nowhere, the banging, the fluttering of wings and then, soon after it begins, it ceases. And so, I gave it little thought when I received a visit outside my office window close to two weeks ago.

The bird, smallish, with brown body and top of head, mostly white in the neck and face, and black of beak, appeared just to the left of where I sat, looking out the large wall of glass towards the universe outside. The contact of moving object against immovable one was intense, and repeated itself in rapid succession as the bird moved from my left to my right. A quick flutter of wings, a crack against the pane. A small retreat. And then repeat, a few inches from the last spot. Bang, flutter, bang, flutter, bang, flutter.

My computer was in my direct line of sight. Just below it, and slightly to my right, the bird suddenly stopped this cycle and came to rest on the lower right quadrant of the window. It perched by the small rubber piece on the window frame. And then it began attacking this rubber, furiously trying to remove it with its beak, as though it was attempting to break into my office.

I moved from my seat and tapped at the window, separated only by the width of the glass from where the hard repetitious work was being performed. Remarkably, this did not seem to scare the bird. It did nothing but fix its gaze directly at me. I spent a few seconds in a staring contest. Then it ended, and the bird, at its own pace, moved on, banging, fluttering, banging, fluttering. A few inches to my right and then a few more. Finally, after several minutes, the symphony concluded and my erstwhile acquaintance disappeared into the day time sky.  And that, I thought, was that. 

But to say that was not that would be a huge understatement. Every day that I have returned to work since then the pattern has repeated, several times each day. Thwack, flutter. Move over a bit, thwack, flutter. And then again. But always there is that spot, below and to my right where my new mate spends time, pecking at the rubber, stopping to look, it seems, directly at me. What is it trying to ask? Or tell me? A movie on replay. Groundhog's day, only not with a groundhog.

I have spoken with the office manager, relating this tale, and of my concern for this seemingly disoriented being and its self destructive behavior. He has shrugged his shoulders in that "birds will be birds" kind of "what do you think I can do" retort.

It has been suggested  by my wife that I take photos and send them off to the local nature center with my inquiries on my best course of action. But for now, my companion remains a constant presence in my life.

My friend says that everyone who dies returns in some other form. And that she is quite certain that my mother is now fluttering outside my office window, checking up on me, furiously trying to re-enter my world.

Two weeks ago, my daughter was married.. Family was my mom's central force. She would have absolutely been thrilled with everything about the wedding, would have soaked up every detail. Is it mere coincidence that the bird happened upon me on the first day I returned to work after that wondrous weekend? Should I be pressing pictures of the ceremony against my window?

I have never been one to believe in the after-life. I figure we are all one and done. But there are mysteries that lay far beyond my grasp to comprehend, and who am I to make unqualified pronouncements about what is and what is not. And I do love Heaven Can Wait, so what is wrong with believing we get more than one crack at existence?

So if that is my mother hovering outside my office, peering in to see how I am doing, I must be on my best behavior during her visits. And, yes mom, that is a picture of you and me, next to the one of dad in mid-swing on the golf course. You see, you both may be gone but you are far from forgotten.

Or maybe you are just far from gone.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


It was nearly 40 years ago that my wife and I wed. I remember the act of proposing in one moment and in the next having my future mother-in-law straighten my bow tie as I readied to walk down the aisle. I am generally oblivious to life and the space between engagement and I do was no exception.

This weekend our daughter got married. And everything that was lacking in me was overflowing in her and my new son-in-law (this is the first time I have written that phrase to describe him and I could literally feel my breathing change as I tap-tapped the letters). For all the detail I knew or cared nothing about, they sweated each and every atom, particle and possibility.

It was for them a production, a statement of how much they cared not only about each other but about every person who was there not solely as witness but as participant in a joint celebration. This was not mere inauguration of husband and wife but a love in.

When we were young, if we were fortunate enough, we forged unbreakable bonds, the connective tissue the common passions of the heart. For this weekend at a camp in the Adirondacks, those connective tissue were on full display.

These were young men and women returned to their childhood, to the baseball diamond and the basketball court, to the games and the rivalries, to the boasting, the chastising, the glory and the less glorious,  the freedom from the burdens and the obligations,  the days and times lost but not forgotten. To be with the ones they grew up loving and still loved, doing what they most loved. To have the joy of youth and the knowledge of age combined in a single marvelous moment.

There was no distraction, no dissonance, no thunder or lightning to diminish or deprive one of undeniable, unmitigated pleasure. The clouds literally parted, the long awaited spring arriving alongside the guests for the weekend, the sun a constant welcome companion. The cold waters of the lake warmed and embraced its first visitors of the season. The earth and sky played their roles to utter perfection.

And each of those tasked with shepherding the wonder from here to there, did so more than nobly. There was no detail too small, no undertaking too big. Everything in its place, every place shined and polished, ready and waiting to do its thing.

For those who just witnessed the wedding and party Saturday evening, they missed the soul of this undertaking. Yes, my daughter was radiant, the groom beaming, the venue beyond one's imagination, the vows as beautiful as the setting sun over the lake. And the celebration that ensued was loud, raucous, delicious and enthralling. But the greatness in this weekend was not in the centerpiece but everything that surrounded it.

And it was all orchestrated by two whose only true obligation was to exchange rings, share a kiss and walk hand in hand to a wondrous tomorrow. If I had been in charge, and thank God I was not, it would at most have been a decent getaway.
Instead, for me, and I believe for all those who absorbed all its brilliance, it was the best weekend of our lives.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Catch (Part Two)

It is known simply as "the catch." My daughter and I were at perfect vantage point in the stands when Derek Jeter ran as if one step clear of rampaging bull and dove, Greg Louganis like, headfirst into the stands, risking life and limb (or at least a bruise or two on the face) in pursuit of a baseball and an out. He left his feet a mere mortal, but emerged from the clutter of bodies and metal a god.

This effort was better.

It was a one inning softball game, fielded on each side by 50 or so players (I use that term as loosely as humanly possible). Our capacity was from woeful to formerly wonderful. Our ages ranged from my body still responds sometimes to my commands to what the hell were you thinking bringing me out here. We were joined as one in celebration of the wedding of my daughter to the man who is the centerpiece of this tale.

Everyone on each squad would bat once, and each was welcome to take a place (I can't call it a position) when his team was on defense. There was a family of ducklings that had taken possession of part of the outfield, and they were slowly moving as one unit in single file as the game began. Children who I had coached a generation before were scattered  in small groupings, theoretically in the outfield to perform a function, but for most part merely taking up a different physical space in which to conduct conversation.
The outfield wall in straight away center was a lake, probably a good 600 feet from the batter's box. I doubt Aaron Judge could have deposited a ball that far removed from where he would have stood staring out at the pitcher. Down the left field line, was a thicket of bushes and trees, ranging from a few feet in foul territory to a spot, near third base, maybe 10 to 12 yards from where my future son in law stood guard of the hot corner.
I was stationed in what should have been the third base coaching box. There were maybe 20 to 25 outs and anywhere from a few to more than a few runs in, runners on first and second, when it happened.
I am certain I barked out instructions to the runner on second reminding him or her not to run on anything in the air but to watch for my sign on whether to tag up. I might as well have been giving directions to the nearest Jiffy Lube.
The emotion of the moment was almost palpable. This must have been what it was like when Casey at bat was penned. The third basemen tensed, getting into that athlete's crouch that I only now find myself in unintentionally and with great discomfort. At bat, stood some man or woman who, in all likelihood, was wondering if he or she had time for a nap before the next activity. The pitcher peered in for a sign from the catcher, who I think was contemplating if and when he could inform everyone that his wife was pregnant.
And then there was an unmistakable thwack of the bat, or maybe it was more like the thud of the bat, as softball and soft swing met in a moment of athletic purity. The pop up, not more than a story or so high, drifted past the third base line towards the waiting arms of the grove. The left fielder, or maybe the short left fielder, or the short short left fielder, would make valiant effort, the ball would fall harmlessly to earth, the batter would take his or her stance once more, and life would go on as intended.
But the man who would be married to my daughter in less than two days, was not thinking about his wedding vows or the life he would lead hereafter. He was not contemplating his finances or the weather or even wondering if the ducklings were being bothered by the mass of humanity that had descended on their territory. No, for him, there was an urgent call to action, to make the effort, no matter how risky, or futile, in pursuit of that quickly falling orb, its parabola almost done.
And as he ran full tilt and then left his feet, landing with great force in the tangles and brambles, my thoughts turned to Derek Jeter. Here I was in the third base box, with the same angle of vision that I had on that day so many years before, as my daughter and I sat in wonder at the majesty of what we were witnessing. And the first and only thought I had at that moment was I hoped that my future son in law was not landing in a field of poison ivy.
I will not tell you whether or not he made the catch. It was, after all, the effort of both Jeter and my now son in law that is the tale.. Emerging bloodied or not, with ball in hand or empty, the legend is of leaving it all on the field.  A man jumped into the stands and another into the bushes. And on each occasion, a legend was born.
But more than all that, I thank god there was no poison ivy.

Monday, June 5, 2017


Our ugliness his specious lies
The knowledge that he feigns
His bitter tongue a tragedy
With full contempt he reigns
America, America god what's become of thee
We've lost our good and brotherhood
No majesty have we

Our ugliness his royal seat
This stern, embattled mess
A thoroughly alarming beat
His every thought a guess
America, America, god help us find our way
Confront this soul with no control
Bring light to darkest day

Our ugliness, no hero he
Mere home to endless strife
A selfish man he'll ever be
No mercy in his life
America, America, god help us good men find
We'll find success in nobleness
In open, gentle mind

Our remedy, our fervent dream
To look beyond the fears
When once again our nation gleams
A beacon for the years
America, America god knows what we should be
And find our good and brotherhood
For all the world to see

Saturday, June 3, 2017

An Equal Opportunity Offender

He is an equal opportunity offender.

There are 196 countries in the world, if you include Taiwan. The language of the Paris climate accord was a result of discussion among 195 of them. Only Syria, in the midst of its bloodbath of a civil war, did not participate.  All who were part of the conversation, except Nicaragua (who thought the document did not adequately confront the problem) signed the agreement and 148 countries have ratified it. One has now repudiated it.

We should have seen this coming. Mr. Trump's political ascension has seemingly correlated directly to the number of other nations he has criticized.  Even before he entered office, Mr. Trump took pot shots at, among others, Mexico ("they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists"), China ("they're raping our country; the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese"), the Philippines ("we're dealing with animals"), Germany ("a total mess- big crime. Get smart") Iran ("doing bad things behind our backs"). He criticized how France and England handled  the "Muslim problem".

And he even went on the attack against institutions like NATO (obsolete) and the Pope (disgraceful).

Once in the White House, it was hoped that the magnitude of the undertaking, and the guidance of those who at least should know better, would moderate the hand and the mouth of the President.

Yet less than a week into office, Mr. Trump's declaration that Mexico would "absolutely 100%" pay for the wall led to an obscenity laced reply from Mexico's President and cancellation of a visit to Washington. The following week, the President hung up on the Australian Prime Minister over immigration policies, and shortly thereafter took a swipe at Germany and Sweden on their apparent massive crime problems. The list goes on and on, neither friend nor foe immune from the acerbic tongue and the misguided thoughts of our leader.

But, instead of a piecemeal approach, Mr. Trump has now offended virtually the entire planet in one ill conceived moment. While, in past months he has withdrawn from trade agreements, has threatened to renege on a pact reached by seven countries to control and delay the manufacture of nuclear weapons by Iran and has refused to commit to protecting our NATO allies, he has now removed our nation from a universal pledge to keep this planet from melting. His ignorance is matched only by his chutzpah.

There are no adjectives to adequately describe the ill conceived actions that are the essence of Mr. Trump. His is not an "America first" policy, but an "America last". We are no longer leaders on the world stage, instead we are the only country on this planet to step away from a commitment to address the one issue that beyond all others unites us.

What will Mr. Trump do now that he has insulted everyone?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Shakespeare on Comey and Trump

("The Complexities of James Comey")

"What's done cannot be undone."  

Can James Comey wash the imaginary blood from his hands? Was Lady Macbeth wrong?

"The play's the thing in which I'll catch  the conscience of the king."  

As act two unfolds, can Mr. Comey's Hamlet be contemplating Mr. Trump's manifest denouement  after the ruler hears the damning testament ? Will the king tweet an armada of denials to which we will merely reply with a "methinks he doth protest too much", and deliver our indictment?

If Shakespeare were scrivener, would the final scene be one in which Mr. Comey makes amends for past transgressions? Will this be his resurrection or will he seem but a man "in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes", a "poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more"? 

If for no other reason, this presidency is unforgettable for its intrigues, deceptions, its injustices and lurking evil. Its characters with flawed characters.

Shakespeare could hardly do better. In fact, I dare suggest he could not. Or as 45 might tweet of the drama he has created, "the best ever. Great. Great. Really."

 "To be or not to be. That is the question."