Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Ode to a Patroller


 It is still dark out and the winter cold is strongly suggesting that remaining under the covers would be extraordinarily prudent.

Nevertheless, my wife puts on so many layers of clothing it will take several minutes to peel them off at day's end. Then she heads out to work. At a job that pays her nothing. And never has for more than two decades.

Butternut is a small family owned mountain located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The vertical drop approximately 1000 feet. Moguls normally nowhere to be found. Powder days an anomaly. Just another dot on the ski industry's map. But not to us.

What do you do when your children no longer ski with you but have gone off to find their own adventures on the slopes? You become a ski patroller, or so my wife and I planned. But one chapter into the OEC (Outdoor Emergency Care) course I remembered just how much I hated both the rigors of learning and the sight of blood. And thus two suddenly became one.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Last Dance

It was a virtual lifetime of single minded focus, a dedication more accurately considered an obsession. Lindsey Vonn's drive and ability to overcome serious injuries was mythical. Her 2010 gold medal occurring mere hours after clearly sustaining a concussion was both inspiring and terrifyingly unwise. 

But where was the joy, the humanity?

With these being her last Games, Lindsey Vonn the legend became Lindsey Vonn the human. She wept for the loss of her grandfather. She wept for the uncompromising declaration of her body that her time on this stage was ending. She was satisfied even in defeat. She took on the role of cheerleader and mentor for her teammates. She was looking back, not forward, grateful for the gifts that had been bestowed upon her rather than being consumed with what she had not yet achieved.

It was the role of elder stateswoman, able to see in her peripheral vision, soaking it in, being a participant in all elements of the Olympic experience.

And it was in seeing her vulnerability, her sadness and happiness in equal measure, her raw emotions now finally exposed, that the last Olympics of Lindsey Vonn may have in many ways been her finest.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Reading, Writing and Target Practice


("Trump Promotes Arming Teachers, but Rejects Active Shooter Drills")

It is a call to arms. Our nation, having created a monster, dealing not with the cause but the effect.

And so the President would turn our teachers into an elite fighting force, willing to throw in a bonus or two for a job well done, if not in educating our young, at least in excellent marks in target practice.
Reading, writing and bullseyes.

And thus we declare war on those AR-15ers. But not by taking away their  weapons. No, we choose to engage them in mortal combat in the classroom. Does that sound anything less than insane?

And if the gunmen should move away from the halls of our elementary and high schools and instead mow down a bus full on their way home from work or enter a library or the million other sites that we are not protecting with our finest teacher/warriors? What then, do we turn our street corners into war zones? Do we become a citizen army, our Second Amendment rights turning every restaurant, every concert hall, every nook and cranny of this nation into the next gunfight at the OK Corral? Every mother, father, grandma and grandpa into John Wayne wannabes? Every 18 year old with an itchy trigger finger, scratching?

Where does this end? If we plug one (bullet) hole there are surely others to follow.

We need to face the devastating reality of what we have permitted in the United States. We need real solutions, not shootouts, to end this scourge.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

An Op-Ed on Why I am Unqualified to Write an Op-Ed

I write letters to the editor of the New York Times a lot. I mean A LOT. I have opinions on just about anything. But the reality is I am an expert at nothing. Except maybe writing a lot of letters to the New York Times.

On occasion I may write a letter that sounds like I know what I am talking about. A word here, a phrase there. A whole sentence on the rarest of times.

And there may even be entire pieces that are witty or moving or even somewhat novel. But while that may make me momentarily somewhat unique that is far different than making me actually unique.

I am one of the countless millions of people who will never see my name printed as the author of a New York Times Op-Ed. Not on our national travails under Mr. Trump, not on our national travesty on gun control, not on those among us we so badly mistreat, not on what it feels like to watch a parent suffer with dementia, not even on whether my beloved Yankees are about to embark on another championship run.

Why don't you write a book, I am sometimes asked. Because I can't. My mind does not work that way. I have a thought or two, move it from my head to my fingers and then let it go. And I am done. There is nothing left for me to express.

This is not a lament, or a plea. It is not even a request, for I know your newspaper has far better ways to fill its pages than putting me where I don't belong. 

I have spent the better part of a decade as your pen pal. I have conversed (in a manner of speaking) with your Letters to the Editor,  Metropolitan Diary, Sports Editor, even your Magazine. I have convinced all of them, at one time or another, of my merit. But you are different. You require something I cannot give for I do not possess it.

So I thought why not give it one more try by telling you why you should not publish me. Use a little reverse psychology. Make them want you by kind of saying you don't want them. Make my being unqualified my qualification.

I know this is the longest of long shots but did not a snowboarder just win a skiing medal in the Olympics, did not the most unlikely, unprepared, unseemly candidate recently become President of the United States, did not a Democrat defeat a Republican in Alabama, did not I just save $300 by switching my car insurance to Geico (that last thing did not really happen)?

I understand your reticence. This is not who we are you are thinking. Well think outside the box. The world it is a changin. Our leader is an expert at nothing yet the country is engrossed in analyzing his every misbegotten tweet. Having in depth knowledge on any subject is so 20th century. The new expert is one who knows next to nothing but has plenty to say. And I fit that definition to a tee.

Having a wealth of information at one's fingertips merely clutters the mind. Having little to encumber the thought process is liberating and allows for endless possibilities. Give me a topic and I am able to fill in the blanks with more blanks. It is like having infinity at your beck and call.

It is almost like the best of Seinfeld. Making a tv show about nothing was what most of us craved. That is what reality is all about. That is what captivates us. Knowledge is boring.

So I ask you to reconsider your rejection of this submission which I know you are on the verge of doing. I believe I am just what the New York Times needs. A man knowing little saying a lot about nothing in particular.

On second thought, scrap that. I think I am going to announce my candidacy for President. I am perfectly unqualified.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Perfect 30th Birthday Present - A Weapon of Mass Destruction

("No Country for Young Men with AR-15's")

What have we become? Your 30th birthday present an AR-15? Is this a serious suggestion by Mr. "Don't Do(u)That"?

What have we become? Is acquiring the right to possess a weapon that has ABSOLUTELY no useful purpose in our society to be treated with the same seriousness of purpose as being of necessary age to drive a car?

What have we become? This is not a question of maturity, of being able to handle the vicissitudes of life so that you don't turn your assault rifle on a classroom of children or a nightclub full of gay men and women or a crowd listening to a concert. Rather, this is a question of the insanity of arguing that at 18, 21, 30 or 100 years of age there is valid reason for giving one the capacity to even contemplate these actions.

What have we become? When did we decide that the phrase "we are coming to take away your guns" was akin to the bubonic plague? When did our moral fortitude disappear?

Mr. Douthat, I have a better suggestion for 30th birthday present. A day without the imminent threat of another Parkland.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bang, Bang, Shoot, Shoot

Let us, for once, stop pretending and start facing the hard inevitable truth. We are a nation filled with white, male addicts.

Don't just point to the NRA, or simply try to rewrite the Second Amendment, or merely tell us Congress is to blame. A significant segment of our population is  consumed with holding a gun in their hands, their opioid. We don't only need legislation. We need rehab.

Why don't we learn the lessons of yesterday and today, as our children lie in graves, our classrooms become nothing more than targets and our peace of mind lays in tatters on blood soaked floors? It is because the pull of our addiction is stronger than the love of family. Consequences be damned. Those who are consumed  see no further than the end of the barrel of a gun, the rest of the world lost in the haze. They do not hear the screams, they do not notice the tears, they do not feel the agony.

All they worry about is getting the next hit.

Stop crying about the insanity of it all. That gun they cradle and caress is just another version of a needle in the arm or a pill in our mouth. We, as a country are in desperate need of help.

Falling from the Sky

It was a night (or morning in Korea) to forget. Superwoman threw up. The whirling dervish fell from the sky and landed with a thud. And the blonde bomber bombed.

Shiffrin, Chen and Jacobellis. To err was indeed human. It was the agony of defeat in triplicate.

Shiffrin hurled. A lot. And it seemed her invincibility was left there on the ground, her energy dissipated and her cape in tatters. She could only beat herself and she did.

And Nathan Chen followed up his desultory disaster in the team competition with a five alarmer in the short program. The quad no longer something he owned or even rented. All his hard work, all the hours of dedication, now seemingly turned to dust in two minutes and forty seconds. Skating in a puddle of his own tears.

2006. Torino. Could Lindsey Jacobellis exorcise the demon that seemed to curse her since that inglorious fall from grace within a whisper of the finish line twelve long, long years ago? Again, victory seemed there for the taking. Until it suddenly wasn't.

No podiums. No glory. These transcendent athletes descended from Mt. Olympus and, for today, became one of us. Mortal.

Our hearts ached as we understood the pain that these three were enduring. We knew that if we were in that position we too would likely have lost our cookies, spit the bit or slowed as the finish line seemed to recede. Their losses, their humanity ours too.

The Olympics can be cruel. Reminding us time after time that excellence is not always rewarded, greatness does not always mean you are Shaun White or Chloe Kim at day's end, that you stand far greater chance of falling, of failing.

It is what makes these Games, what makes sport, so captivating. The recognition that your best may not be enough, that perfection is almost certain to elude you, that victory is never preordained, never to be treated with anything less than the utmost reverence.

And we hope that those whose skills we so admire accept these truths as self evident, that they arise from the rubble and they be granted a tomorrow when their capes are securely fastened, they elevate to the heavens and the finish line once more becomes a cherished old friend.

Tonight we are sad. Tomorrow we get back to work. For that is what Olympic athletes do. And that is what mere mortals, as we all are, must. A retchingly painful lesson learned.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Absolute Corruption Corrupts Absolutely

("The Trump Stain Spreads")

It is a matter of feeding the beast. Whether it be Richard Nixon, Chris Christie or Donald Trump, those within the ambit and employ of evil, devious, pompous, deceitful leaders take on the traits of their bosses as a matter of self preservation. Kill or be killed.

Bridgegate happened as an offering to Chris Christie. Watergate as the way to do business under Richard Nixon. And Portergate is emblematic of an ethically bankrupt White House.

John Dean, John Kelly or Bridget Kelly it matters not. What power you gain in  the shadow of ugliness is in direct proportion to the morality you lose.

Absolute corruption corrupts absolutely.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


The Olympics as platform for political statement. Hitler in Munich in 1936. Streets cleaned of any sign (literal) of the coming Jewish extermination then in its nascent stages. An attempted display of power and dominance, coupled with an image of a nation not consumed with evil intent.

And yes, we understand that the presence of North Korea, the cheerleaders, the sister of their leader, the combined women's hockey team, the pairs skating team are all designed for a purpose.  It is a choreographed dance informing the world that we are not the monsters you would suggest. We are as human as you, with similar emotions, desires, goals. 

Can this lead to detente? It presents but the smallest sliver of hope, for reality will likely shortly superimpose its presence on the image now projected. The saber rattling will reemerge. 

But for a fortnight, we will be spared the constant drumbeat of threats, of flexing political muscles, of looming disaster.

It could be perceived as a start, but it is far more probable it is mere mirage. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Ballad of Dooh Nibor

This is a plan that does not leave intention to surmise, to nuance. One that reveals a heart of stone and a head full of nothing but chest thumping macho. Alms for the rich and crumbs for the rest.

It is as if the ideals that made this country great vanished with a stroke of a pen and a tweeting finger.

But I owe the president a debt of gratitude (along with much other debt). For his requested budget shows the emperor with no clothes, revealing that beneath the bluster there is nothing but a tiny man with evil intent.  

For our leader and his party it is not an embarrassment of riches but merely an embarrassment. The facade of fiscal restraint gone, the fiction of protecting the poor and downtrodden vanishing with every dollar taken from their pockets.

A bold declaration that would make Dooh Nibor proud.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Life - Let the Games Begin

We bid a brief adieu to Mr. Trump, to stock market jitters, to shutdowns and showdowns. We place matters large and small, private or public, on pause. Life, as we know it, will just have to wait. For now it is time for the Olympics.

If ever there was a moment when we longed to lose ourselves in a universe of heroes, of stories of courage and dedication, of pursuit of greatness, of triumphs and tragedies that share equal billing each compelling and engrossing, now, NOW, is it.

In a world that is seemingly often more fiction than fact, we need respite from the constant storm. For today we focus on the triple axel, on hurtling 90 miles per hour down the face of an impossibly steep mountain, on power plays that have nothing to do with politics.

Yes, we do tend towards our own, waving our flag and raising our voices for the red, white and blue. And maybe in this time when national pride has morphed into something far more sinister, there is a little, maybe more, tone deafness in our almost jingoistic zeal. But that is a topic for another day.
For today, we welcome with open arms and swelling pride those athletes who often toil in relative obscurity between these massive gatherings. For every Vonn or Shiffrin, there are myriad others whose names have never reached our lips or touched our consciousness. But tomorrow they will fill our hearts and they will be as our sons and daughters. 

These next two weeks will prove fascinating, as all Olympics are. They bring the best out in the best among us and we are grateful witness. And when it is done, when the gold, silver and bronze have been tallied and the athletes have taken leave of us, we will have concluded a wonderful and wondrous journey.

Maybe more than all else we will be thankful that our regularly scheduled program will have been placed on hold for a fortnight. Mr. Trump, tweet all you want. We are not paying attention.

Let the Games begin.

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Super Super Bowl

I have to say this was a wonderful Super Bowl. Even if my only thought was hoping that somehow both teams would lose.

I am a die hard Yankee fan so I know a thing or two about hubris. And while I might not appreciate the unfettered animosity of those who despise my team, I have no particular problem expressing similar sentiments towards the Brady Bunch. How wonderful it would be to humble them, like the Giants did but a millennium or two past.

But then I have nothing but quiet loathing for those in the town of the Broad Street Bullies, with their Rocky steps and that Herm Edwards fumble return. And while I hate the Cowboys and their "America's team" moniker, there is enough ugliness in me to wish the NFC rivals from down the road in Philly only the worst.

So I was more than prepared to find this spectacle a spectacular bore, all hype and no substance. But as this played out like a real life video game, with the defenses apparently having already started their off season vacations, and the punt suddenly an endangered species, it became a joyful evening of watching absurd skills on prominent and permanent display.

And today as the Eagles soar and the Patriots lick their wounds, I must admit that this was a game for the ages. And maybe, just maybe, I could forgive both teams their excellence for one unforgettable night.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off (Updated)

So it all comes down to this
We have lost each other's trust
For you say this and I say that
You say can't and I say must

There seems no good end to this tale
No rainbows and bright lights to find
For never will we reach accord
Never will two be of one mind

You say believe me and I say collusion
You can't deceive me so I say delusion
Believe me, deceive me, collusion, delusion
Let's call the whole thing off

You like to tweet and I say you're crazy
You fail to read cause I know you're lazy
Tweeting, not reading, crazy, lazy
Let's call the whole thing off

And if we part it will not be as friends
For we will each go to our own
And if that should be, then you must know
You will forever be alone

You like your lying, you like your cheating
You keep on crying, you keep on bleating
Lying, crying, cheating, bleating
Let's call the whole thing off

You say potato but I say you're too fat,
You say tomato but you just don't eat that
Potato, tomato,  you're too fat, won't eat that
Let's call the whole thing off

But maybe we need each other, like yin needs yang
Like day needs night, like a drum needs a bang
Do we fit like a hand in a glove (no, not the OJ one)
And without your darkness maybe there is no sun

So if you like your job and I say impeach him
If you like a mob and I say stop screeching
Job, mob, impeach him, screeching
Let's think what we can do

When you have your burger and I want my veggies
We'll have a burger and top it with veggies
Together its better, not now maybe never
We'll try it, deep fry it, you'll eat it, don't tweet it
We'll call the calling off, cause we're just a cold and a cough