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Friday, December 28, 2018

New Year's Eve in the Fast Lane



Unless they move the start of New Year's to about 10 PM there is virtually no possibility that I will be awake to celebrate the first moments of 2019. Honestly, I don't drink champagne, haven't been a hard partier since, well truth be known, maybe never and, being an official senior citizen for a while now, have a license to go to sleep anytime after dinner is served.

For the past several years I have spent the early evening of December 31st bowling. More than half a century ago I was in a bowling league at Feibel's in my hometown. Three games and bowling shoes for $1. My cousin Larry and I also bowled every Sunday after Hebrew school. Our reward for not having a fake stomach ache Sunday mornings.

I once bowled 257, but now, a half century later, it would take a bigger miracle than God parting the Red Sea for Moses for me to break 200. My ball travels down the alley so slowly I fear it will bounce off the pins and head back to me in mocking display. My back is tight, my shoulder hurts if I lift my arm too high and this year my twisted knee is added to the laundry list of excuses. One game is about my limit, although maybe I can be coaxed into a second.

The real star of our annual gathering is the son of one of the three families of friends who share this night. He is in his late 20's and has a love for this undertaking that I did not, even on those Sundays after Hebrew school. He bowls every Monday evening and, I think, may have broken 200 on one occasion. And, oh by the way, he is autistic. 

The tradition we started, mainly to accommodate our young companion's passion for this sport, has become just about the most fun way I could imagine to cast off the old and welcome the new. About as far away from tweets as one can escape in today's universe. Worried only whether I can throw anything heavier than a 10 pound ball, walking from lane to lane to see if my fingers properly fit into anything light enough for me to roll at an agonizingly slow pace towards the pins that seem to be gathered together laughing at my feeble efforts.

I think Feibel's burned down decades ago. I do not recall what eventually was constructed on this site, but I am certain it was not another 🎳.

Our present bowling establishment is now on the market for four million dollars. At that price, I think we will still be coming here next year.

Many, many summers ago our family was on vacation. It was a rainy afternoon and we spent most of it at a local alley. I did so well that, as we finished, one of the people working there asked if I lived in the area and wanted to join their league. Trust me when I tell you that will not happen this year.

So I will begin another New Year's Eve preening at the occasional strike, agonizing when I miss a spare by an infinitessmally small margin, commenting how expensive this undertaking has become and remembering my past glories at Feibel's. 

I am especially excited this year because I heard there is a new place to eat at the alley that is supposed to have decent food. I wonder if their fries can compare with Feibel's. For, as far as I am concerned, there is nothing more satisfying then eating greasy French fries with dirty fingers while in the middle of a particularly mediocre game of bowling. 

Now that would make for an absolutely perfect New Year's Eve.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Dewey Beats Truman, Part Two

("U.S. Stocks Tumble, Riding the Roller Coaster Back Down")

So the Dow just closed UP 258 points today.

Trying to analyze the why's and wherefore's of the stock market arrhythmia is like trying to catch the wind in your hand. It is an impossibility.

Did the "warning signs" about the economy that caused the Dow to drop more than 500 points by lunch suddenly disappear in the afternoon?

Your headline looks like a Dewey beats Truman moment. My suggestion is that your paper (indeed any publication) refrain from mid-day proclamations regarding the health of a product that seems to provide perfect definition to the word volatile.

PS - Your headline, as of 4:30 PM, now reads : "Stocks Rise, as Wall Street's Roller Coaster Stages Late Day Rally"

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Promises Not to Keep - My New Year's Non-Resolution

You say you want a resolution. Well-ell you know we all want to change the world.

I don't have any New Year's resolutions this time around. Not that I don't need a barrel full, as I am a poster child of imperfections:


1) being of little to no assistance to my beleaguered wife in even the most basic of life's responsibilities



2)  doing almost nothing to take care of my aging and breaking down body


3) spending far, far too much of my day staring at my cell phone hoping my latest blog post will somehow capture the attention of more than a handful of the very bored, or begging the stock market to inform me it is quite ok to retire now

4) despite my best intentions to devote myself with as much energy as possible to lessening the plight of those whose lives have taken a decidedly hard turn, doing little more than spending as much energy as possible advising everyone I intend to devote myself with as much energy as possible to assisting those whose lives have taken a decidedly hard turn

5) grousing endlessly about the deplorable state of our political union,  announcing my distaste with the President and his party and then taking absolutely no steps to change anything

I hardly read books, I do not listen well enough to what others are saying, I basically just spend my days in an endless daze.

So why you may ask (if you managed to read this far) would I not at least focus on one of these deficiencies and resolve to make a change for the better?  

Because of all my shortcomings, the worst is my laziness. Why do today what you can talk about doing tomorrow? And while Shakespeare might speak of our tomorrows creeping at a petty pace, my resolve is far slower than that. In fact it is non-existent.

So why waste the energy this year promising to do what I have not done before, or worse, making a feeble effort to do what I said I would do and then failing miserably to follow through? It is that failure which is the real issue, the disappointment in myself for not meeting my self stated expectations, the true quicksand of my life.

And so, if I have no goals for the coming year, then I will not fall short, I will not have that gnawing pain eating at me. I will be at peace. 


So my wish for all of you this year is that you do not make the same mistake I have in the past. That you come to the same inevitable conclusion as I have. That you free up your tomorrow's to do all the wrong things that you are going to do anyway, only now insulated from the promises you knew deep in your heart you would never maintain.

I have now decided I have a resolution this year after all. To spread the gospel of the non-resolution. But I fear I am far too lazy to do even that. So just forget that promise. I could never keep it.

You say you'll change my constitution.
Well-ell you know, you better free your mind instead.


Monday, December 24, 2018

Donald Trump, You're Fired



At the conclusion of each episode of The Apprentice, Donald Trump would appear as the hand of God, the Deus ex Machina, to pronounce sentence on the losers. "You're fired" was a statement of ultimate control and unassailable power which, in many ways, acted as the principal catalyst for Mr. Trump's presidency.

James Mattis did the unthinkable, humiliating the President with his letter of resignation, castigating him for his pronounced deficiencies and total misunderstanding of the appropriate role of America and it's military forces. For Donald Trump, he of remarkably fragile ego and paper thin skin, this was the most unforgivable of all sins. And so, Mr. Mattis has now been let go even after he has quit.

Mr. President, no matter how you attempt to reshape the landscape, you have been the one summarily dismissed, a spectacular five starred failure as the apprentice to Mr. Mattis. 

Donald Trump, you're fired.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Twas the Night Before Christmas - All Was Silent in Our House


Twas the night before Christmas and the House was shut down
Thanks to the tweets of one orange faced clown
Must have my wall need five billion now
Just get it for me, I don't really care how

So he rants and he pouts and throws quite a fit
While we sit and we sit and then we just sit
A nation in limbo as Christmas time nears
Not a nation in peace but a land filled with fears

On this holiday Santa's not in the skies
He's replaced by an ogre and his orange faced lies
While those in the House have gone to their homes
All remains silent in the Capitol Dome

So Santa and Rudolph and all the reindeer
Are saddened and quietly shed a few tears
The chimneys are still, the stockings all bare
But the orange faced man he just doesn't care

In our nation's capital at this festive time
There now is occurring a terrible crime
The man who stole Christmas is ruling the land
With a terrible, awful, very bad hand

But if Santa exists then here is our wish
Please serve it at dinner as our favorite
dish
Build Donald that wall as tall as you can
As long as it keeps out one orange faced man


Friday, December 21, 2018

Twas the Night Before Christmas in Donald's House


Twas the night before Christmas, all snug in their beds,
'Cept a creature in DC, with a strange orange head
His fingers were moving, the tweets coming fast
Recounting the names of those from his past
Gone Ayers and Zinke, from A right through Z
Gone Comey and Cohn, who start with a C
So long Sessions and Spicer, those two with an S
And Scaramucci, as bad as the rest
Bye Bannon, adieu Pruitt, au revoir to Hicks
No more Kelly or Priebus, of whom he'd grown sick
And Powell, Price and Porter, some more with a P
McGahn and McMaster, those two with Mc
Tillerson and Flynn, both now cast asunder
Last not least, Mattis, departed with thunder
These but a few of the many now gone
The bad list of Donald goes on and on
And this Christmas eve, no screams in their ears
Just the sweet sound of silence, no Donald near
They all will give thanks he is nowhere in sight
But a nightmarish dream, just one ugly night

For those now arriving to take their new seat
Just remember tomorrow you'll be taking some heat
So this night before Christmas, sleep tight in your bed
But you'll wake in the morn to a tweet in your head

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Crumbling Foundation

("Trump Foundation to Dissolve, Accused of 'Shocking Pattern of Illegality")


It is not as if the problem is one of blurred lines with Mr. Trump. It is that the lines are non existent.

When it is all about him when the benefit must flow directly to him, everything that Mr. Trump touches and that touches him is directed by his own predispositions and predilections.

Campaign finance laws, charitable foundation mandates, conflicts of interest, all these are rules which do not apply when the universe begins and ends with one very flawed human being.

Donald Trump has lived his existence reshaping the landscape to fit his vision, refusing to adhere to the dictates of a structured and regulated society. In his personal life and business practices, he has been dedicated to the sole proposition that what is good for him is good enough.

Only, under scrutiny, it is not. And scattered in his wake are broken promises, broken laws and broken lives. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Staring At My Cardboard Box - Home(less) for the Holidays

There's a darkness that covers my heart
That suffocates and strangles me 
That blinds me to the light
And tells me that I can't be what I can be

Sitting on the corner of here and nowhere
Staring at my cardboard box
Trying to catch a glimmer of a dream
Each day another blow in a life of hard knocks

There's a shadow that won't let me be
A ghost that grabs at each breath
And yet hope still resides in my soul
Telling me I'm not done yet

As I look out on the blank stares
The empty eyes blocking the sun
I refuse to lay here and disappear
For I know there are races to be run

It seems I have spent my whole life
   With a song that I never could share
   I can't remember a day
   Where I was ever really somewhere
   
   Where I was really somewhere
   Where the trees were ever in bloom
   Where there was somewhere to go
   Except here in my cardboard room

  Where the darkness did not cover my heart
  Where pain did not rest in my soul
  Where I was more than this
  Where I believed that I was whole

  There's a shadow that won't let me be
  A ghost that grabs at each breath
  And yet hope still resides in my soul
  Telling me I'm not done yet

  I know I'm not done yet

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Cycle of Life



The 10 stages of life - a relationship first to one's parents and then one's children (The story of a person who passes away with dementia)

1. I have no idea who I am

2. I have no idea who you are but you seem like very nice people  

3. I know exactly who I am and I do not need your guidance 

4. I am doing very well on my own but I do appreciate your assistance 

5. I am at the apex of my capacity and am willing to assist you if I can.
------------------------------------------
6. I am at the apex of my capacity and am willing to assist you if I can

7. I am doing very well on my own but I do appreciate your assistance

8. I know exactly who I am and I do not need your guidance

9. I have no idea who you are but you seem like very nice people

10. I have no idea who I am

Friday, December 14, 2018

Is It OK for a Jew to Want a Christmas Tree This Year?

I know this year feels different in many ways from the past. With the memory of the horror in Pittsburgh still a fresh, open wound, with anti-semitism on the rise around the globe and attacks in this country dramatically increasing, it is a time of grave concern for Jews.

So, at the risk of sounding foolish, unsympathetic, or even worse, I ask this simple but increasingly complicated question. Is it ok for a Jew to want a Christmas tree this year?

I did not grow up in a household where religion was a centerpiece of our universe. Hebrew school was a Sunday morning activity that preceded bowling. Temple was that place where I was compelled to sit several times a year for seemingly interminable periods, attempting to stifle the laugh that would inevitably surface at exactly the most inopportune moment. This is not meant to castigate or denigrate my upbringing, or the place of reform Judaism in the hierarchy of religious practice. It is merely intended to act as explanation for why I considered Christmas to be a secular experience, not antithetical to my beliefs, but more like bowling in a different context.

Christmas was, to me, merely a time of great joy and happiness, one where wishes did come true. It was not, in my mind, something that belonged exclusively to one people. Not intended as a day of exclusion but inclusion. Santa was not a man of  limited bounty but one who would spread goodwill, near and far, to all those who deserved good cheer, who had suffered indignities or hardships throughout the year and were entitled to a moment of respite, no matter his or her station or color, no matter what temple, church or mosque he or she prayed in, no matter if they believed in your God, their God or no God at all.

And so, I was envious of the one Jewish friend of mine in town who grew up with a Christmas tree in his house. I did not know, care or understand if both of his parents were Jewish (they were). I merely comprehended, without need for clarification, this was not something that would ever happen in our house. And it didn't.

When I married, and as our children were growing, Chanukah became a time when we lit candles and exchanged gifts. It was, so I now understood, part of our inherited tradition, central to our being, even though our own attachment to the other aspects of religion was tenuous. And remains so to this day.

We are in a very difficult time in our society, in our world, where it seems that at any moment one half of the universe is in pitched battle with the other. It appears we are always drawing lines, always finding reasons to separate one from the other, forever being reminded that what makes us different is far more important than what brings us together. And Christmas is no different, a holiday reserved for some and not for others. 

I have never grown distant from my love of what unites family, what brings smiles to our collective being and warmth to our hearts. And so I wish that in this year, maybe more than any other, that Christmas was open to every Jew, every Muslim, every person who was in need of the concept intended by this holiday. I know far too little of the teachings of Jesus to speak at all to what Christmas really means. But for me, I think he would be more than happy to share this day with everyone, everywhere in need of solace, comfort and a moment of happiness.

I want to believe that, this year and in those that lay ahead, I am able to have a Christmas tree, literal as well as figurative. Without this making me a heretic. Without forgetting what it means to be a Jew in this often cruel and heartless world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wanted: Chief of Staph

("The Most Powerful Reject in the World")

Wanted: Chief of Staph

Job description:

1. Must be able to treat foot in mouth disease of boss, which illness most often appears in the middle of the night

2. Must find cure for belly aching, a daily occurrence 

3. Must check hearing of leader who is deaf to the sounds of reason

4. Must employ best eye doctor for the fuhrer who turns a blind eye to the needs of those with whom he toys

5. Must implore Wizard of Oz to find a heart and a brain for the CINO (Commander in name only)

6. Must be prepared to deal with someone who has a very poor working knowledge of his own Constitution.

7. Must have death wish for as sure as day leads to night, this job will lead to your slow, painful and torturous demise.

It would appear that, for some unexplainable reason, the site is down as no applications have been received in response to this solicitation.

Staph infection, an incurable position.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Three Dogs



My wife, son and I were walking on the streets of New York City earlier today, when she ran into a high school classmate, someone she had likely not seen in many decades. As would be expected, he synopsized the last near half century in but a few minutes. Princeton, Stanford law school, big new York law firm with some special area of expertise I could barely comprehend on my best day. Long time resident of New York, married for three decades, with no children but now on his third dog. Internationally recognized, the author of several books, quoted or published in the most well respected newspapers and journals. Loves his work and, if he were to have a second home, it would be abroad, likely London. My wife said she knew of some of his exploits from reading about him through the years.

After my wife gave a much shorter overview of the important work related history of our family, we all said our farewells and headed onto the rest of our lives.

When we got into the car, I turned to my son and wife and said that I had absolutely none of the accomplishments that marked her classmate's existence.

My wife's reply corrected me in my errant assessment. "You both have had three dogs."

I now know how my headstone will read so that all the world will understand the mark I made during my stay here. "He had three dogs."


Now He Does A Stand-up Routine in DC

("A President Without Humor")

It is the lack of humor that defines Mr. Trump. That, and the lack of a dog.

It is what humanizes us, what makes us seem like there is joy in our being. Where is the joy in Donald Trump?

It cannot be in the accumulation of more toys. Maybe that brings him self satisfaction, but that is a far different animal than joy. It cannot be in having the ultimate power of the presidency, for we see his every day wrapped in self pity, in anger, in an unhappiness that permeates and radiates. Not exactly a 1000 points of light.

Donald Trump needs a stand up routine. A self deprecating punch in his own face. A few self directed barbs about his hair, the color of his face, the pear shaped body. About his bromance with autocrats and dictators. About the size of his nuclear arsenal.

And most of all he needs a puppy with him, at all times. One that he hands little treats, one that has an occasional mistake on the President's shoes.

Does Donald Trump want to insure a second term and a positive place in the history of this country. Become a human being. Find the joy in life.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Eight seconds

Eight seconds. I thought about that as I lay on the ground, my knee and leg not in the direction intended.

When I was a senior in high school, I was captain of my soccer team and reputed to be a fine player. Reputed, because I had missed all but 4 games of my junior season with impetigo. Don't ask.

Senior year began with me on the sideline with a sneezing fit. When it subsided, I entered the fray. A goal kick was made, headed my way, I leaped, an opponent leaped, we collided, I fell, ankle broken, season over. Eight seconds, one parabola, and then, poof.

Today was opening day of the ski season at Butternut. No sneezing fit, or actually a few, but none that were debilitating, as debilitating was defined in my unique universe. But a balky back threatened to keep me off the trails. Clearly, I am a fountain of weakness, never more than a moment from placing myself on the DL.

But, early this afternoon, I decided that my case of impetigo redux would not prohibit me from my appointed first day of glory.

I put on my boots, snapped into my skis, after one errant effort, and headed up the mountain.

At the top, I was smooth as silk getting off the chair, and headed into another season of mediocrity. Except I apparently had not snapped into one of the sticks on my feet. As I tried to make my very first turn, only one ski reacted, the other almost immediately detached emotionally and physically from me. I struggled mightily for a few seconds with this state of being and then found I was residing in a foreign state, akimbo, having fallen squarely and heavily on my ego. I heard the scream, almost as though it had not emanated from me.

How embarrassing and humiliating. Forty years into this undertaking, and within seconds, eight seconds, this senior's year  was, I feared, history.

I was with my son and after a minute or two of contemplating a sleigh ride down the hill, I arose, like a baby deer uncertain of remaining upright. Being incredibly stupid, three runs later I concluded skiing and headed to ski patrol.

There I was assessed by none other than my wife, who, after internally shaking her head at her sorry excuse for a husband, gave me some TLC, some ice and some ski patroller instructions.

I spent the balance of the afternoon at home with RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation). I hope that the sizable bump and swelling on the outside of my knee is more a figment of my imagination than a declaratory statement.

Tuesday I head to the orthopedist for some answers. But for now I am left to ponder that goal kick and the time it took for my soccer season to go from start to finish.
  •  I now fear I shall forever more be deservedly saddled with the moniker "the eight second man" (don't even go there. I know what you are thinking)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Will there be a Republican to Challenge Donald Trump for the Party's Nomination in 2020?

Is there not to be at least one Republican so disgusted and discouraged by the daily debacle to stand up, head to the window and go Howard Beale on the President? Will there be someone, anyone in the Republican party to challenge Donald Trump's reign and seek the nomination as the Republican candidate for the office of President in 2020? 

While the entire field of potential challengers, in fact the  party as a whole, has now seemingly abandoned all pretense of governing of the people and for the people, anyone who steps forward to make Mr. Trump's day even a little more distasteful, his path to continued power a little more difficult, would be doing a service to this nation.

Even should the effort ultimately prove futile, and even if the replacement choice would govern in infamy if handed the reins, it would be a good thing to make Mr. Trump squirm in his seat, attacks at the idiocy that marks his every day forthcoming not only from the left but also from one or several of the assemblage of the wrong on the right. 

Those Republicans in positions of power have long since appeared to give at the very least, tacit approval to the notion that Mr. Trump, no matter how ugly his methods, is doing their bidding and that any means to their intended ends is ultimately not so bad. And while my contemplation of who might well be considering stepping up is, in no shape or form, to be considered as an endorsement, I would be personally grateful to any person who proclaims that their party can no longer tolerate or provide silent sanction to the charlatan in chief.

On the other side of the aisle, they will be lining up around the block to take a shot at the mouth that annoys. What will be difficult is to locate a Democrat who doesn't decide to toss his or her fedora into the ring. If you are breathing and can take nourishment, you have to feel better suited for the rigors of the Oval Office than the current occupant. 

Who knows where Mr. Trump will be nearly two years from now. Maybe, thanks to Mr. Mueller, all of the President's closest allies will be getting three squares a day compliments of the Federal government and the President will decide his golf game needs his immediate attention. Maybe he will determine, given his advancing years, that he requires the warmth of Florida full time in the winter. Maybe Mr. Trump will move to Moscow and become co-dictator with Mr. Putin. Such is the beauty of the man that anything, no matter how impossible it seems on its face, is not really fake news when it comes to our considerations of him.

But should none of the preceding come to pass, and should Mr. Trump be envisioning eight years of relentless, water torture tweets, should he want to inflict as much pain upon this nation as he is capable for as long as humanly possible, is there not someone within his own party who will say enough is far too much?

It seems that the only ones on the right most seriously challenging the king are those who have either walked, or been pushed, from their office. The first to come to mind is that Flake from Arizona, Jeff, who took to the Senate floor earlier this year to admonish the President for his attacks on the media, speaking of Mr. Trump's reckless, outlandish behavior and it's damning effect on our democracy, who leveled continued intermittent cries of outrage against his own leader, who made impassioned pleas for sanity and morality, all of which earned Mr. Flake the President's enmity and continued snarky rebuke . The Senator is heading out the door next month, riding his white horse into suggested permanent obscurity, so what does he have to lose by now proclaiming that he, and his party, can do better than Donald Trump? To stick a fork (figuratively speaking) into the President and tell him he's done?

Or how about throwing in a particularly  long shotted Scott Walker, who for a nano second or two in the past, with his union busting bravado, was the Republican big boy, but now is just another never was after being shown the door in Wisconsin. There is no way to go but up from his current station, and there is a considerable smarmy underbelly on this particular snake that would love to seek yet another turn in the warm sunlight.

And if we cannot find a thorn in Mr. Trump's side from among those who hold no office and have nothing to fear but fear itself, then what about a few who are still seated but have demonstrated visceral discomfort with the autocrat in chief ?

Will Ben Sasse muster his ample charm and intellect and take a stab at Mr. Trump (figuratively speaking)? He has written a book entitled  "The Vanishing American Adult" which was not a very subtle slap in the puerile child's orange face. Mr. Sasse, but 3 months ago said that he " thinks about leaving the GOP every morning." He may be young enough and brash enough to believe he has what it takes to shut the mouth that roared.

Will John Kasich bring his moral compass and common sense to the big stage again? His reign as Governor of Ohio comes to a term limited conclusion in 2019, he has been a consistent vocal critic of Mr. Trump, refusing to endorse him for President even after he was named the party nominee, criticizing him on issues such as his threat to impose trade tariffs on our allies, his vicious verbal assaults on women, on immigrants, even on the nearly sainted John McCain. Mr. Kasich wrote his own book with the equally unsubtle title, "Two Paths: America Divided or United", challenging the vision of Mr. Trump and the trajectory of this nation under his guidance.

And who can leave out America's favorite villain, "Lyin" Ted Cruz, who may well owe his continued existence as Senator from Texas to playing kissy face with his former mortal enemy, the man who practically accused Mr. Cruz's father of pulling the trigger that November day in Dallas in 1963, the man who retweeted a picture is worth a thousand words insult about the looks of Mr. Cruz's wife. Mr. Cruz has, in earlier days, derided Mr. Trump as a pathological liar and a narcissist (never was Mr. Cruz more accurate on honest). And in the battle of hubris and ego, only Mr. Cruz compares favorably (or unfavorably) to the man he used to pointedly refer to as "Donald". And wouldn't Mr. Cruz revel in sticking a knife in the President's back (figuratively speaking)?

 Will someone, anyone, please take a stand and stand up against the most destructive force this nation has ever elected(?) to lead us forth into the wilderness?

I well understand that after the last demolition of 16 human beings who stood between Mr. Trump and the nomination, and given the rabid support of the President by the many millions who have seemingly lost their capacity to see what is directly in front of their faces, it might give one pause as to whether to take the inevitable abuse leading to a likely very unhappy end. But there has to be a courageous soul among this crowd, there has to one who has not lost all sense of what our democracy intended, of what their party stood for in better days, or maybe is just motivated by an unquenchable desire for ultimate power. Whatever the underlying predicate, there has to be a single person who will be suggest he or she can be everything, or at least some things that Donald Trump is not. Someone who can knock that self satisfied, contemptuous smirk off the President's face.

Figuratively speaking, of course.



Monday, December 3, 2018

Sweet Dreams

Of what do you dream little girl? 
As I sit in the darkened room just staring at you, watching your every breath as you settle into sleep, I wonder what occupies your thoughts.
   Are you busy cataloguing all that came before you today, contemplating and considering, absorbing and           analyzing, becoming what you will become? Are you piecing it all together, the jigsaw puzzle taking shape, the     questions now receding one by one? 
It is still here, the friends you have in this room in their repose. Ellie the elephant, the one you stare at so intently each time you lie on your changing table, in deep slumber. The toys, the books, the clothes, each in their own resting places, their work done for the day. They fall silent when you do. All is in harmony in this room. 

What did you learn today? Did you discover your own laugh, did you recognize your own smile? Was it the sound of daddy singing to you that brought you such joy? Was it looking directly into mommy's eyes that brought you great comfort?

I wait for the hour when you awake, eager to learn the secrets you will next reveal. Eager to watch as you discover the vastness of the universe, eager to see what next brings you happiness, eager to have a front row seat to the greatest show on earth.

But for now I am content merely to sit here and stare at you. And dream of your possibilities.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

You're as Cold as I.C.E.

("We Need a High Wall with a Big Gate")

"You're as cold as ice."

Is it mere coincidence that these are lyrics by a band named Foreigner?

This past week's tear gassing was a statement of contempt and disdain, of cruel calculation from a government, from a President, who has chosen brutal mistreatment as this country's response to those seeking fulfillment of the promise our country once offered to those in desperate straits. 

And the release of the canisters brought forth tears of sadness and anger here as well as in Tijuana.

The world is a place of grave disorder with myriad factors creating instability in regions around the globe. And the mandate for us is to open our minds to the possibilities of what need be done, what we can do, to quiet the chaos and stop the bleeding. But we have made a decision to close our emotional borders, our vision ever more myopic, until we are near blind to the sights and sounds of the dismay and distress of others.

A  heart turned cold as I.C.E.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Crossing the Mendoza Line

It started innocently, casually, almost cavalierly. It could have ended in disaster.

Thanksgiving has been, for most Americans, a time of unbridled joy. Recently, it has also been a moment of trepidation, as families feared that an impolitic phrase could lead to tragic consequences.

But, at least for my family, the negative possibilities have been virtually non-existent. The political leanings have mostly been to one side of our vast continental divide, and for those tending closer to the fault line, well they have remained blessedly silent. The recurrent distresses over midterm elections, Supreme Court nominations, over caravans and environmental disasters, over Putin and posturing, over the very fate of our nation, would, for one most thankful day, be quieted. Nothing to cause raised eyebrows or voices.

No, our conversations have been superficial and saccharine. Our concerns are as those that I imagine have existed since the first turkey was plucked, prepared and put before the assembled masses. Food, food comas and catching up on family lore, the bread and butter of the day of feasting.

And maybe there was one more tradition, as old as the first smile and the first camera. The family photo. That image which captures, for all time, the happiness (real or manufactured) of each gathering.

Those who came together at the home of my cousin were no different from almost every household stretching from sea to shining sea. Only today, for some of us, was even of a little more significance.

This was the moment that two long time best friends, who married two first cousins and thus took on a dual relationship, were introducing their first born children to one another. It was, in all respects, simply perfect. The two month old and eleven month old were soon imagined best friends, like their dads.

As the afternoon wore on, both sets of parents and their respective babies decided to sit (and/or stand) to memorialize this occasion. And, without incident, several pictures resulted, each more glorious than the one before.

And so, this story should have a simple and easy conclusion. But, an outside factor rudely intruded. Instagram.

Many are addicted to the rush that ensues when an image we unleash upon the world has a dramatic and substantial response. We are liked, in fact well liked, appreciated for whomever we say we are in the pictures that travel through space and reach your home and your mind in less than a blink of an eye. As the numbers escalate, the closer we inch toward Instagram heaven.

Thus now, for most of the waking universe, what happens in Vegas rarely stays in Vegas. This capturing of a momentous, near legendary meeting needed broadcasting to those who were interested, and those who were not. And the timing of the posting became of immediate and significant concern.

One said it had to be broadcast now, now, now, for if it were not, it would merely fall in line with the myriad other photos of cute babies and family good cheer that were sure to quickly follow. The caption for the image was to be determined with haste, it being almost irrelevant to the pressing need to beat the contemplated onslaught.

The other said it could wait. Patience and the perfect wording were what should consume them. The dispute became heated. The time that was wasting, the window of opportunity to gain the most attention and the highest number of likes, was frittering away.

In an act bordering on desperation, they turned to a second cousin (maybe even once removed - I am not very good with this family tree calculus). She was in high school, a full generation more in tune with what was to drive this engine. A proper caption was paramount, she declared. And so it was.

It took almost an hour and a half from the smiles and shots to come up with a suitable catchphrase. One of the best friends was now distraught, almost apoplectic. Surely, they would fall on the scrapheap, gathering only minimal attention and but an inconsequential number of likes. All was irretrievably lost.

Once the photo appeared on Instagram, the responses came almost painfully slow. It seemed that the one who had argued so strenuously for his position, had been proven correct. Then, little by little, even in the face of thousands of faces, in the teeth of the storm of shots of happy babies and hugging families, the numbers began to climb. And the e-mails between the participants began to fly.

With more than a hint of angst it was suggested that less than 200 likes was but abject failure. This led to a review of the recent postings of the accuser, the many pictures of his wonderfully happy child being studied for the level of approval. 200, the Mendoza line (for you baseball fans, you know what I refer to) being the ultimate barometer. It was soon recognized that breaking past this  barrier placed one in rarefied air.

At last look, there were 160 likes and counting. And the best friends/cousins seemed to be past their earlier frantic back and forth and heading on to their next major area of disagreement: their fantasy football league records and how it related to their respective mental acuity.

It turns out, the photo was just an excuse to argue. Like they had been since childhood. Just to be included as another in the long line of our family holiday traditions.

I love Thanksgiving.  Even though it will forever more, like almost everything else it touches, be altered by the long arm and the peering eyes of the Internet.




Sunday, November 18, 2018

Throwing Her Pacifier in the Ring (alternative title "Baby, She Was Born to Run")



C.L. (so well known she is referred to only by her initials), two months old, of New York City, announced her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for President in 2020. She stated that she had long considered a run and, after consultation with her mom and dad, decided she could no longer sit idly by (since she can't actually sit yet, it would be more accurate to state she could no longer take this lying down).

C.L. said she was not concerned about breaking any glass ceilings. She was, she admitted, a bit apprehensive over whether she would be fully potty trained before she sat in the chair in the Oval Office. Although, she suggested, based on the tantrums and puerile behavior of the current occupant, she was not at all certain that he was not subject to the occasional accident.

While she admitted she might be slightly young for the responsibilities of the office and was still trying to figure out how to suck her thumb, she indicated she fervently believed she was more prepared for the challenges of the presidency than Mr. Trump. He had been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. She hasn't even tasted solid food yet. He had a tremendous ego and was full of hubris that clouded his judgment and severely limited his capacity to properly formulate policy. She doesn't even know the meaning of ego and hubris. Literally.

And when it came to dealing with foreign people who sought to enter our homes, she had shown a unique ability to accept new babysitters without question. Everyone was equal in her eyes, entitled to the respect shown for one's own family. Although, truth be told, at two months old, it was hard for her to really distinguish between her parents and the neighbors downstairs.

She is prepared for the relentless grind of the presidency, the 3 AM wakeup calls. But, she says, she is up for a feeding at that hour, so not much need actually change.

And she makes a solemn promise not to tweet in the middle of the night like you know who. Tweeting, she suggested, is a sign of an immature mind, unable to formulate complete thoughts, unwilling to do the work necessary to provide reason and substance to one's professed position. Or maybe it is that she still doesn't know how to use a computer.

The immediate reaction of the public was overwhelmingly positive.

"It is well past time we had an infusion of young blood in the government."

"She is tainted by no scandal, has no skeletons in her closet and, in fact, is even a little scared to look under her bed."

"She is a breath of fresh air for her party and the nation. And God knows our environment has been toxic far too long."

There is rumor that Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are re-considering their decision to run for the Democratic nomination.

And Donald Trump, we are told, is ranting and raving, challenging those in his administration as to why they had not seen this coming and stopped C.L. before she got out of her crib.

Privately, Mr. Trump has told those around him that he believes C.L. is an unstoppable force.


Friday, November 16, 2018

My emails with my granddaughter

So I have begun emailing back and forth with my granddaughter. I know this is a little unusual since she is only two months old, but she is clearly very precocious, as we discuss a whole range of topics.

She is very concerned with the state of our democracy and keeps asking me how the hell we managed to elect such a (she then used a series of expletives, but since this is a public domain, discretion keeps me from repeating her terminology). I have no good explanation for our irrational behavior.

She has expressed a firm intention to ski this winter, following in the footsteps of the people who refer to themselves as her mother and father. I tried to explain to her that you have to crawl before you can walk (unless you are her uncle who basically by-passed the first step) and you have to walk before you can ski. But she has a stubborn streak and is adamant. So, if you should see a 3 month old working on her snow plow in a few weeks time, you will know exactly who she is.

She was witness to the chaos in New York City with yesterday's unexpected snowfall. She called the Mayor's office to complain about her father being stuck on the West Side Highway for hours. She is still awaiting a call back.

She has asked about where she can make a donation to help those who have been displaced by the California wildfires. And she wonders if she can do anything to make life even a little better for those who approach the border to this country from Mexico, as she finds man's inhumanity to man absolutely bewildering. She clearly has a good heart.

She is still trying to learn to open her hand fully so she can swat that little black and white object that is just tantalizingly close when she plays with her toys. Some things are just harder than others to master.

She went without a diaper for a few days, but I don't think she is quite ready for big girl underpants. But I applaud her for the effort.

She is deciding who she will designate as her best friend. There are several candidates who her mom has introduced her to, but no clear favorite has emerged.

She does not like being put on her stomach. She requests that anyone who does this to her stop. Now.

She is diligently studying the intricacies of  football. She understands the blitz, but wonders why, against veteran quarterbacks who read these schemes so well, the defenses don't just stop and reconsider whether this tactic is worth the risk.

She asks if the Knicks are actually a professional basketball team And she says she can't wait to go to her first Yankee game with me in the spring. She reminded me that Aaron Judge is her favorite, even though she has never seen him play. She admires his demeanor as much as his reported skills.

She is struggling to comprehend the recounts that are going on in Florida and wonders what a hanging chad is.

She asks me why the President seems so mad all the time. She questions what could possibly be making him that unhappy with that many people.

She likes to be read to. And she pretends that she doesn't yet know how to read. Fluently. In four languages.

Anyway, I could go on forever with the emails that now enhance my in-box, and my life. My granddaughter is such a wonderful young woman (I know, at two months, most are not referred to as women, but she deserves this title) and I so enjoy our time together.

I just remind her that her grandma and I are babysitting tomorrow night, so she should get ready to party. No bed time, and anything she wants to do is perfectly ok. It is great being a grandparent.




Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Myth of the Dissident Republican





("I Take Back My Praise of Jeff Flake's Book")

What we want is a Republican in full out mutiny. Sticking his or her head out the window, sreaming in semi-lunatic manner, "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" and then voting against absolutely each and every item proposed by the full out lunatic in the Oval Office. Such a creature does not exist. Not Susan Collins, not Lisa Murkowski, not Jeff Flake, and truth be told, not even the dearly departed and nearly sainted John McCain.

The recent Supreme Court appointment of Justice Kavanaugh is a perfect case in point. Ms. Collins protested and then dissolved, Ms. Murkowski threatened and then vacillated, Mr. Flake demanded and then disappeared. It is the mantra of the mostly unhappy, the dissidents who promise revolt and then, revoltingly, don't live up to their promise.

And if Mr. Flake's book snookered you, shame on you. For we have, time and again, been witness to the embodiment of the mantra, "actions speak louder than words." And Mr. Flake's many words in his book are no match for the actions that betray them.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out Jeff Flake.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Don't Let the Rain Fall Down on Me

I can't stand what it does to my hair
All the moisture leaves it matted down
Can't go out, don't give a damn, I don't care
Screw the French I won't look like a clown

I work too hard to keep this nest from falling
Sitting high atop my orange face
I'll stay here, my friends from Fox are calling
Get some fool and send him in my place

Don't let the rain fall down on me
Don't get me wet,
There's too much chance that all of you will see
Can't allow a photograph like that
To wander free
Cause messing up my hair
Is like the sun going down on me

Tell them I'm sick, just make up a stupid lie
Do it now, I need them off my back
If the sun should shine let them know I'm fine
But for now just keep them off  track

What's the forecast - is it sun this afternoon
I'll show them all how good my hair looks then
Keep them guessing, say I'll update very soon
Never tell them how or why, where or when

Don't let the rain fall down on me
Don't get me wet,
There's too much chance that all of you will see
Can't allow a photograph like that
To wander free
Cause messing up my hair
Is like the sun going down on me




Saturday, November 10, 2018

At Journey's End

She is consumed with fear that her young boy, still a month from his fifth birthday, might be suffering from dysentery. For five days, he had been in increasing discomfort, now screaming at times with the pain. There is no doctor here, no medical assistance. No answers. Except maybe one..

She must think only of him now. She is with her two other children, girls aged six and nine. Her husband is dead, gunned down last year in the cross fire of gun violence in the only town she had called home her entire life.

She was now more than six hundred miles from the terrible memory of finding his blood stained body less than 50 feet from where the family lived. She had spent the last three days carrying her little boy on her back, trying desperately to keep up with the rest, praying that tomorrow by some small miracle he would be cured, would be able to take his own steps forward.

She wept quietly, trying to shield her face from the prying eyes of those she protected. Her feet were blistered and swollen, the dried blood caked in the one remaining pair of shoes she owned. She had lost 15 pounds in the month since this all began. Her two girls also looked so thin, so terribly thin. They did not complain, but she knew how impossibly difficult this had been for them. They were all past the point of exhaustion to a territory even she could barely comprehend.

She reconstructed how she had gotten here. She thought of the family and friends she left behind uncertain if they might ever meet again, trying before this trek began to sear every memory of them into her brain. Holding onto her mother and father, her older brother, her niece's and nephews in one final aching embrace, having failed in her pleas to convince them to join her and her children in attempted escape.

Armed for this journey with virtually no possessions, almost no money, little reason to believe that this would end well, but with the immutable knowledge that this would end badly should she not try to gain freedom from the fear, the omnipresent sense of impending violence, the suffocating poverty, the hopelessness that she had carried with her every moment of every day. This was the only option.

She recalled the searing heat for days on end, relentless even for one who knew no other universe. The heavy weight of understanding that tomorrow and for many tomorrow's to come, there would be nothing but this endless march. The universal kindness of those along the way, who helped sustain their souls as much as they provided nourishment for their bodies. The incredible resilience of her young ones, following without question, surely comprehending little of why this was happening.

She wondered when they matured, what scars her children would carry with them. She knew nothing of the concept of post traumatic stress disorder, her education having ended far too early, the demands of life taking her far away from the classroom.

She had dreams of one day going back to school, of earning a degree, of becoming a teacher. And she pictured her children, each one so bright, having the opportunities that had eluded her. But right now she was consumed with the worry of the cost of this endless odyssey. The hope of tomorrow replaced by the pounding reality of today.

As she looked at her young boy, at the one she called her precious child, she fell to her knees.. She remained there, in silent prayer, for several minutes. She gave thanks to God for allowing her family to come this far, and told Him she believed, she had to believe, that all of this was happening for a good reason. 

She motioned to her children to come close to her and gathered them as one in her arms. "We have reached our destination. For us there is now only making your brother better, stronger. And when he is better, we will start again, on our own, in this place, our new home. I love you with all my heart and promise you we will make a good life here." 

Thus their journey ended.

And so, the caravan that menaced the border of the United States grew smaller by four invaders, their desperate attempt to overthrow our way of life thwarted.



THIS IS BUT AN IMAGINED TALE (OR IS IT?)


Friday, November 9, 2018

In Contemplation of the Loss of RBG




Weekend at RBG's. Hearing of the broken ribs of our most beloved Justice caused more than half of this nation (yes, Mr. President you did lose the popular vote) to wince in pain. It was the imagined agony of a Supreme Court tilting even further right, our star pitcher no more. It is the stuff of nightmares.

But this octogenarian and a half will not be going anywhere as long as the orange faced monster and his party control the appointment of her successor. No matter her infirmity she will remain. Neither wind, rain, snow nor gloom of night will keep our anointed heroine from her appointed rounds.

And even should death take her from us, she will still sit Supreme. For like Weekend at Bernie's, we will make certain that RBG takes her place. We have not heard an utterance out of Clarence Thomas for decades, for all we know he may have passed away sometime before the end of the millennium. So what would be the difference if our dearly departed RBG took up another chair in silent contemplation. I wish RBG a speedy recovery and know she will soon be her feisty self. But, if tragedy should befall her, we are ready.

The Good Old Days of Beauregard

Mr. President had no regard for Beauregard so this Sessions has now been ended.

Jefferson Beauregard the third. Going to miss the name if not the man. Somehow went from sinner to saint just by refusing to offer Mr. Mueller as a sacrifice to the gods. Truth: a saint he ain't.

And now, playing the lead role of "acting" attorney general is someone with a much less interesting name. Whittaker doesn't even rhyme with anything.

And if he intends to be nominated for an Oscar for his performance Matthew will have to convince us that he alone is the driving force in the imminent slicing and dicing of the investigation into how well Mr. Trump speaks Russian.

Surely his appointment is in direct contravention of the Constitution, his installation a not very clever ruse to obstruct justice. But this President does not major in subtlety and his stated wish to be "softer" lasted about as long as it took for him to accost Acosta.

And so now we begin Chapter Two in the book of Donald. Second verse same as the first. Only maybe a little worse. 

Oh for the good old days of Beauregard.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Now What? Make Us Proud

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

("The Democrats Won the House. Now What?")

The mandate given to the House Democrats was definitely not to spend the next two years obsessing about bringing down Donald Trump. Don't focus on those damn tax returns. Don't get tunnel vision on impeachment. Instead, concentrate on the job that Congress was elected to perform, governing. Leave the rest to Mr. Mueller.

Make it hard for Mr. Trump in ways that change lives for the better. On protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. On improving the health care system. On rebuilding this nation, literally as well as figuratively. On tearing down the imaginary immigration wall. On making it uncomfortable for the Republicans in the Senate and the President to just say no.

We are so desperate in this country to feel encouraged by our political system, not buffeted by it. Even those who are saddened by tonight's results in the House are sick and tired of our internal wars.

Show us what this nation is capable of accomplishing. Make us proud.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Great Caravan

Mr. Trump was right to fear the great caravan, marching inexorably in ever increasing numbers toward a destination it has long dreamed of reaching.

It is the millions of Democrats standing in line, waiting for their opportunity to cast their vote today.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Make America Great Again



Mr. Trump is right. What makes America great is protection. Protection of:

Our vote
Our environment 
Our speech
Our education
Our infrastructure
Our poor
Our health
Our minorities
Our beleaguered
Our equality
Our integrity
Our morality
Our commitments
Our dreams

Make America great again on Tuesday. Vote Democrat.