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.


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


("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.