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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Put Down Your Pencils. And Come Out Swinging



("Let's Debate: Are Democrats Doomed?")

"Now you will be given 60 seconds to tweet your most insulting, fact free response to each question, followed by a 20 second sigh from your opponent."

Does anyone doubt that Donald Trump could decide to take the low road and declare presidential debates an unnecessary expenditure of human energy, as he already knows how the media will twist his lies and fabrications into, well, lies and fabrications?

As we ponder the Democratic candidates trying to fit sound bite responses into sometimes very cramped quarters, we all have an eye (ok, maybe even both eyes) and an ear on 1600, waiting for the tweeter in charge to translate what we have seen and heard into a series of one line disses.

This, we know, is what our collective future holds for us. Forget the campaign trail, don't fill your brain with information you can regurgitate on a stage in a one on one with the mouth that spewed. Instead, be prepared to deal with slings and arrows coming from the fingers of a brain that has a "do not disturb" sign hung on its front door.

How many times will AOC and her posse be referenced no matter who is the chosen challenger to the king? How many immigrants will be standing at the border waiting to pour into your living room en masse the moment Mr. Trump's wall is torn down? How many guns will be pried from your cold dead hands the instant the Second Amendment is shot down in cold blood on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight? How many degrees of separation from environmental reality can fit into a lightbulb? 

The rules of the game have been changed. Before, "no kicking, no biting, no pulling of the hair" was the warning given to each of the participants in the fray. And as we watch the Democrats tussle with one another, we sense that they (at least most of them, most of the time) have that statement tattooed on their foreheads. But once Mr.Trump enters the arena, Wrestlemania will commence. Chairs will be broken over heads and a 2020 version of a Two Stooges marathon will become the main event.

" When I say put down your pencils, stop writing. And come out swinging."

Friday, September 13, 2019

What Debate?

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN THE RECORD, A BERGEN COUNTY NEWSPAPER

Raise your hand if you watched the Democratic debate from stem to stern last night. OK, the three of you can put your hands down now.

I did, maybe because the Yankee doubleheader was finished by the start of the evening, or maybe because I felt I owed it to the people on stage to make certain their effort was rewarded with something more than the sound of one hand clapping.

But honestly, the answer to the question is ANY of the above. Sure, Bernie was hoarse from always yelling and Castro's attack on old Joe made me squirm, but this was a group of intelligent people with passion and compassion, seeking to show us there is light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

I doubt the needle will move much after last evening. People have debate ennui already and we are only in about the second inning. This is a process that lingers far, far too long and our brains are perpetually on overload just trying to endure another day with you know who doing his worst impression of a crazed dictator.

And for those Democratic candidates who didn't make the cut of the top 10 don't worry. I won't tell anyone you weren't there last night.

On to the next auditorium, town hall meeting, or the other dozens of places each one of you is headed. "If this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium." And there are miles to go before any of you sleep.

Is it still 14 months to the election? Wake me in about a year. 

Hey, how about those Yankees!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

I Stare at You

I stare at you
And watch you breathe
So still and peaceful like a river calm
Your eyes wide open captured all the light
That filled your day from early morn
And my heart is yours to keep
As you wander off to sleep
No troubles can reach you
I'll keep you safe from harm

I stare at you
And watch you dream
Of the wonders that will come your way
Your eyes wide open to the promises
Tomorrow beckoning within your reach
And my heart is yours to keep
As you wander off to sleep
No troubles can reach you
I'll give you shelter from the storm

I stare at you
And you are all the world
There is no other place upon this earth
My eyes can see no other face but yours
And all I know is here within my gaze
And my heart is yours to keep
As you wander off to sleep
No troubles can reach you 
I'll keep you close and warm


My heart is yours to keep

So wander off to sleep
No troubles will reach you 
Forever in my arms




Monday, September 9, 2019

A Starring Role

("The Real Donald Trump Is a Character on TV")

He is obsessed with his ratings: the biggest crowds his non-stop mantra literally from his first day in office. Playing to a full house while others struggle for crumbs the red meat he requires for his very survival.

This has all been about attention. His candidacy clearly intended not as reality but as a means to keeping his name, his face in the public eye. And if being a category five hurricane gave him the 24 hour coverage he needed, he had that part down pat.

Remember, this is a man who in earlier times reportedly acted as his own PR agent under the pseudonyms John Barron and John Miller to tell tales of himself to the press. Anything and everything was fair game to feed an insatiable ego.


Donald Trump became President by mistake. Not because he wanted the office, but because he needed it. Not because he intended to improve the world but because he hoped he could stay relevant. He HAD to stay relevant.

And so the buffoonish character he plays, the loud mouthed braggadocio, the foul mouthed puerile, the Archie Bunker on steroids, was the one born of testing at rallies, the one he learned from the villains at Wrestlemania, the one he honed and crafted on The Apprentice.

 If, on that first day he descended the escalator, the Mexicans as rapists line had fallen flat then who knows how different the world would look today. But it caught fire and there is nothing Donald Trump craves more than being the heat of a fire. The higher the flames, the more it demands our attention.

So this presidency is all about Donald Trump being a five alarmer. Huge and out of control. Playing the role of a lifetime.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

My Birthday Wish

My granddaughter is rushing up to her first birthday. She appears on the cusp of so many breakthroughs, walking only a step away, talking in Shakespearean verse surely the next sounds to emanate.

Graduating from baby to child as I stare in unadulterated awe. As if she is the only being on the planet. A smile permanently etched on my heart. Her grandfather wrapped around every finger of her tiny hands.

A year ago I wrote to a child yet to be born, welcoming her and telling her of my hopes and dreams for her future. But that was mere abstraction. This is as real as it gets.

I look out on a world of young grandchildren, with grandparents embracing the same feelings as I, aching for the same joys for the most precious being in their lives that I wish for my granddaughter. We are all but variations on a theme, none of us more worthy, none of us more entitled.

And I ask why do some get treated so poorly, with a cruelty that none among us deserve. I see a nation that destroys lives for no reason other than that it can. Who declares happiness and possibility the province of some but not others. Who treats with disdain and contempt the lives of people whose sin is not who they are, but where they were born.

And I know my granddaughter is no better or worse than them. That it is serendipity that she is not among those whose lives are damaged by a darkness superimposed on their being. And I can but imagine the ache that would rip my soul if I were one of those grandparents.


So for my granddaughter's first birthday I wish for her all that my words to her a year ago envisioned. That as she grows, she grows into the best person she can be. That her life continues to bring me an almost indescribable happiness.

And that for all the grandparents around this nation who have suffered the most, that in the tomorrows to come their pain subsides and one day soon they are able to dream the same dreams as I. That their grandchild's first step is unfettered, their first words filled with poetry.

That is my birthday wish for my granddaughter. And their's.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Our Little Secret

There it was, on the side of the road. A cutout big enough to house maybe two cars at most. A small opening in the trees, no markings to announce its intention. Here our hike began.

My son located this trail by a combination of sleuthing and serendipity. A brief mention in two discussions on line. A route of a mile or less to a waterfall. No description of the journey to the destination. No hint of what lay between here and there. No clue of what waited to greet us.

Only a small way up the road we had passed a well known trailhead. There, at least twenty five cars had gathered, shepherding a relative mass of humanity. Here it was us and nature. The road less traveled. As in extremely less.

We had no expectations as we walked the relatively flat path. In short order we came across the beginning of the stream bed. It was dry as the desert floor. The rocks protruded from the earth and we could have moved forward in their midst without fear of a drop of moisture dampening our feet or our spirit. And so it continued for a good while, no sign that we would encounter any hint of water along the way. An easy hike with a disappointing payoff. This was why it was unmarked and unattended. It was, I was certain, wholly unremarkable.

And then it began. The trail we had been following suddenly became more suggestion than statement. No definition marked the path ahead. Did it turn left? Maybe. And now the hill ascended, not in slow orderly fashion, but all at once, as it burst upward to the sky. And the first tricklings of water covered the stones that were, in a blink of an eye, situated far below.

In skiing, the most difficult terrain is the double fall line, signaling you should be moving in two directions at once. And now, as we strained to move upward, we were also invited sideways, to our right to the ravine that waited to capture our attention and any errant step.

We had definitely not been warned, or prepared for this. Looking for the foothold, or the finger pull as we thrust ourselves up the gnarly path, or maybe it wasn't the path, it was hard to distinguish friend from foe. 

At certain moments we thought of retreating, no one would know the better. We had given it valiant effort and there was no shame in saying enough. But then we caught a glimpse of a waterfall through the trees, barely a few hundred yards above. We heard it calling us and we did not want to be rude to our host. And so, on we trekked seeking answers to the questions of where and how we were possibly to continue our steep ascent.

It took less than an hour to complete this most treacherous portion of our task. From the point where the one and only marking on this trail, stating "US Boundary" notified us we were entering what exactly? to where this trek would conclude. And then we came upon it.

My son said we could have been anywhere in the world as we stared out on this site. The sheer sides of rock, chiseled from millions of years of contact with the falling water, creating a carving on both sides worthy of the finest sculptor the world has known. The trees hovering, staring down at the majesty day after day for eternity. The greens that blended seamlessly into this landscape, a perfect painting come to life.

And at the fall's bottom a pool of water, as clear as the sky on a cloudless day. How deep its reservoir unknown. Six feet, maybe much more. Every pebble on its bottom as visible to our eyes as those that sat on the dry bed that had greeted us far below at the inception of this adventure.

We looked at each other in utter disbelief, as if we were the first humans to gaze upon this sight. As surprised at this find as if we had discovered that pot of gold at rainbow's end.

And so my son took to chronicling our treasure, photographing it from all angles we could get to, even taking video to try to capture its essence. But we both knew nothing he would show others would do justice to what we were so privileged to witness. It was the sheer unexpectedness of the strain of reaching this point and the surreal beauty that we now soaked in with every pore of our being that made this such a unique and unforgettable moment. What we viewed, what we felt, could not be expressed from within the confines of a camera.

And then we descended, giddy from what had just occurred and certainly a bit saddened that we were leaving this smallest reminder of something far, far greater than us.

We will breathe word of this locale to no one, first because we don't want to send anyone on a path unintended for their level of capacity. And also because I think whatever God there may be wanted to keep this quiet, not marked for the hordes but maintained as the private reserve for a select few who stumbled unknowingly into its magnificence. 

Just our little secret.



Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Oh The Thinks You Can Think

"I have second thoughts about everything"  -  Donald Trump, August, 2019

You can think about this
You can think about that
You can think where you stand
You can think where you sat

Oh the thinks you can think
If only you try
You can think of one truth
Instead of ten lies

And it need not end there
You can think of much more
Like opening your heart
Not just shutting a door

You can think about crowds
Of enormous size
Or maybe, just maybe
Of one baby's cries

You can wonder aloud
Did I do what I could
Not just to do bad
But this once to do good

Think, think again
And then a third time
And maybe you'll learn
Thinking isn't a crime  

Thinking can hurt
I know its hard work
But just think about
Not being a jerk

You can think of your buildings
That reach to the sky
You can think of your planes
That fly oh so high

But maybe, just maybe
Instead think of others
Those that have little
Those who just suffer

And if you think to yourself
Oh I can't do that 
That would cost far too much
Let me be where I'm at

Then know that we think
That you can do better
Just learn a new alphabet
With no I as a letter

Oh the thinks you can think
If only you try
The sky is the limit
In a world with no I.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Feeling the Loss of a Parent

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS SCHEDULED TO APPEAR IN  LETTERS TO THE EDITOR IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

("I Couldn't Say "My Mother" Without Crying")

My dad died 40 years ago this coming December and while I was not a teenager at his passing (I was 27 at the time)  I still feel his loss daily.  

The arc of my business life changed dramatically (my nearly life long dream of practicing law with my dad over almost as soon as it began) and I mourn that he never got the opportunity to be a grandfather to my children, for them to feel his warmth and his strength.  But most of all I miss his companionship.

I understand that I did not suffer my loss when I was still trying to sort out the basics of who I was, or attempting to grapple with the fundamentals of the complex workings of the universe. But grief remains a part of my being, my soul, even as I near 70. 

So while I understand that there are quantum differences between losing a parent in one's formative years as opposed to when one is supposedly able to more easily stand on one's feet, I still occasionally wobble four decades removed from the guiding hand of my dad. The pain of loss has no age limits.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Past 30 days Hit List of Mr. Trump (in alphabetical order)

1. Baltimore
2. Birthright Citizenship
3. China
4. Danish Prime Minister Frederiksen
5. Disloyal Jews
6. Endangered Species
7. Fed Chairman Powell
8. Ford Motor Company
9. Gun Control
10."Poor" Immigrants
11.The Squad (this one is his favorite)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Cruelty of the Gods

(A companion piece to "The Error")

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The writing has long since faded to an almost secret code. Its words hidden deep beneath decades of time, a hieroglyphics now known to only those who witnessed what these symbols report.

In recent days I informed you of my horror upon learning that my son had voluntarily parted with a sliver of history in the House that Ruth did not build. 

But the truth is that all my family members did not perform such acts of selflessness with every baseball that fell into our laps, or at least landed in a locale close enough to scoop up. There is one that did not get away.

I entered the Stadium this past Thursday evening with soaring hopes. In this season of greatness dominated by unexpected heroes, there had been few if any outright debacles. Toss in the team's voracious appetite for home cooking, and it was surely a recipe for a delicious evening meal of round trippers and loud ovations.

On this night's adventure with me were two people who fit seamlessly into my family's saga of baseball catching lore.


Apart from the errant catch and releases of my son and myself, there had in fact been a third ball captured by immediate kin of mine over the past six decades. At the old Stadium, on a Father's Day more than a half century past, a foul ball rattled off the steel girders holding the roof, or maybe the deck above, aloft. In the succeeding instant, as I vividly recall, the outstretched hand of my dad was admiring its newly owned piece of glory, his face mirroring the joy that shone in the eyes of the three young boys in his care: his favorite (and only) son, my friend Marc, and my cousin Larry, who was, all these years later, seated to my left for this evening's contest.

And now to my right, finishing up a helmet cup of ice cream, was the father of the young girl who had been the recipient of my baseball giveaway largesse almost three decades earlier. 

The coincidence as to my companions, given the proximity to this past week's ball delivery miscue involving my son, struck me as something more than serendipity. Maybe this was karma. We would be witness to a rousing triumph of our boys of this wondrous summer. And, with almost complete certainty the next ball hit would be one with my name on it.

By the time we settled comfortably into our seats, the Bombers had turned into bummers. Merely a half inning in, it read seven for the wrong squad, three home runs having done damage to the seats in the furthest recesses of the park. 

For those who had endured the traffic, who had stood on the long meandering lines to gain entrance into the inner sanctum, who had anticipated hours of fine entertainment as just reward, the game had ended in darkness before the night sky had even descended. And it only got worse after that. If this were a prizefight, the corner would have thrown in the towel by the third. By the fifth, our crew had been subjected to more than ample punishment. And thus, as the promise of this undertaking had fallen into mortal disrepair, we three signaled our retreat to the comfort of our respevtive abodes.

No ball had found me this eve, none even entering my orbit. And with the final tally registering in at 19 to 5, it had been the worst shellacking I had the unhappy task of witnessing for as long as my eye could recall.

For but a bit of solace, the next morning I walked into my living room to stare at the baseball that has long held such a place of prominence in my universe. And there, it was, legible in its words only because it was ingrained in my heart:

 "June 9, 1964, hit by Yogi Berra in his 2000th game as a Yankee."  

Oh, how I treasure that ball.

Only it turns out, as I now decided to  google Yogi Berra's career, he did not play in 1964. And as far as I can determine, his 2000th game was in 1962.  And Father's Day in 1964 was June 21. And it was not even June 9th in '62. WTF???

So you see, not only did the Yankees take a drubbing at the contest I recently attended, not only did magic not fall into my hands, but I was now bewildered by the terrible reality that my most prized possession was, well, what exactly? I frantically searched for an answer but it eluded my grasp, like a ball touching my fingertips then landing in the welcoming arms of another.

Sometimes the baseball gods are particularly cruel.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Grand Experiment



("With Trump as President, the World is Spiraling into Chaos")

It has been a grand experiment, a question in search of an answer as to  whether the United States and the world can survive a rudderless ship, whether our democracy is greater than the sum of all the failings of Donald Trump.

At home, his personal hatreds have  broadened our divides. Abroad, his bumbling photo ops negotiations with North Korea, his bull in a China shop trade tariffs, his wink and nod relationship with Russia, his distancing from long term alliances and destruction of hard fought agreements have all combined to send a screaming signal to the world that the lights are on but nobody's home at 1600.

Yet we hoped that the economy would thrive and peace would prevail not because of, but despite the worst of Mr. Trump's intentions.

Today it appears we may be closer to getting our answer. The world is wobbling and seems but a tweet or two away from conflagration. We are, it turns out, not stronger than our weakest link. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Error

A ball was hit to my son yesterday. He committed an error on the play. He gave the ball away.

In over six decades of attending hundreds and hundreds of Yankee games I can count on one hand, with four fingers to spare, the number of balls I have caught. And my grave mistake, my unforgivable moment of weakness, was in handing that one ball to my friend's young daughter who was seated next to her dad at the stadium that day. The pain of that loss remains embedded deep within me.

I have recounted that story to my son throughout the years. Far too often, I am certain. And as he is nearing 40, he should well have absorbed the lesson of that cautionary tale.

So what if he was a guest of his friend at yesterday's game. So what if the friend informed my son as Didi stepped to the plate that the Bomber's shortstop was his favorite player. So what if my passion for baseball is not matched by my child.

With the swing of the bat, the ball headed directly at my first born. As this was a weekday 1 PM start, a makeup game, the first of a day night doubleheader, the seats all around were almost entirely empty. And while the ball was not caught in its downward descent by the sure fingered child of mine, it did come to rest immediately next to him. Surely he would grab this prize, pick up his cell phone and announce to his dear old dad that finally, finally, that lost ball was now found.

Instead, without hesitation, in gratitude for his friend's kind invitation, armed with the knowledge of his friend's deep admiration for the batter, knowing it would bring a huge smile to his friend's face and because keeping this baseball would really not fundamentally change the course of his own life, my son handed glory directly into the outstretched palm of his buddy.

My son committed a miscue on a fly hit to him yesterday. But the undeniable truth is that there was no error on the play at all.

$o That'$ Why It I$ Called a Green Card

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS SCHEDULED TO APPEAR IN THE RECORD, A BERGEN COUNTY NEWSPAPER

("Trump Policy Favors Wealthier Immigrants for Green Cards")

Now I know why it is called a green card.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" will soon be removed as Lady Liberty's words of deep embrace. Rather, "Show me the money" will become the official greeting for those seeking shelter on our shores.

The cruelty intended herein is anathema to the underlying principles for the founding of this nation. What has long made this nation great is not its wealth but its wealth of spirit. 

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime in pursuit of nothing but the next dollar at the intended expense of those of lesser good fortune. And he is attempting to reshape this nation in his image.

In making the decision on who remains in this country based on how rich they are, we are becoming much poorer instead in the currency that should matter most to us. The currency of a compassionate heart.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The picture that is worth much more than a thousand words (and needs no words at all)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one deserves more pages than "War and Peace.

Mr. Trump's thumbs up, pasted on grin, absolutely tone deaf image informs us, screams at us, that there stands a man with not a whiff of compassion, grace or dignity. 

In a moment that calls for making himself as small as possible, he cannot seem to even comprehend the absurdity of this photo hogging center stage disaster.

Where is the pain, the recognition that this is a child who will never again feel the touch of a mother and father, whose parents died because of an ongoing tragedy of epic proportion that is poisoning our nation? 

How does this look any different from the way Mr. Trump would appear at the ribbon cutting for a new golf course?

If we are attempting to portray Mr. Trump in his true light, we need not utter a single syllable, write another phrase. Just post this picture and let it tell its tale.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Fact of Life - Strike That - A Fact of Death



(Its Too Late to Ban Assault Weapons")

Finally, an editorial that deals with the reality of gun ownership today and for as far in the future as the eye can see. 

We are never, ever going to pry the guns from the hands of the over 30% of adult Americans who own at least one, the over 40% who say they reside in a household with a gun. These are numbers of staggering proportion. We don't have a problem. We have an epidemic.

This is a national disease, as virulent as any other significant health risk. But unlike other diseases, this one will not be eradicated with research (thanks to the government ban on funding in this area) and cannot be eradicated with warnings or numbers. Gun ownership is ingrained into the very fabric of this nation. As American as apple pie.

Herbert Hoover once promised America a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. The sad truth is that there is no need to make a promise regarding gun ownership. It is already anywhere and everywhere it wants to be.

And so, while we fight for red flag laws, while we argue around the very fringes and seek remedies that barely glance off the surface, the white flag is the one we should actually be waving. Homicides, suicides and mass casualties at the wrong end of a gun are a fact of life in this county.

Strike that. A fact of death.




Thursday, August 8, 2019

Will this election be about "The Squad" for both parties?



("The Squad" Is the Future of the Democratic Party")

The title of this op-ed will undoubtedly be the rallying cry for the Trump campaign in 2020. 

No matter his opponent, he will warn this election is about what the face of this nation is to look like come 2021. 

The issue is whether the Democrats will make this their central theme as well. 

These are women who demand to be seen, to be heard, to be felt.  They don't ask for permission. They don't await our approval. 

And if they can bring the people of color to their feet, if they can spur women to respond, if they can inform those who have been minimized, discarded and forgotten, that they have a voice, that they have a future better than their past but only if they rise up, that they can begin to exorcise their demons but only if they exercise their right to vote, then November 2020 can be a defining moment when both Democrats and Republicans come to the polls to answer the question if these four women are truly to represent the future direction of our country.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Speaking a Foreign Language

I have been speaking a foreign language in recent days, one filled with terms that are hard on the ears and harder on the heart. So many of those I hold dearest are going through physical battles.

"How are you"  no longer a superfluous phrase but a gateway to conversations on surgeries, on recoveries, on tests and more tests, on worry and wonder what tomorrow holds. I have reached an age where what was supposed to happen to the generations that came before, now applies with ever increasing force to those who stand astride of me.

It is a funny thing about getting old, or at least older. It caught me by surprise. Being on Medicare, celebrating over 40 years of marriage, they seemed like abstractions to me. In one sense I understood the implications of these events. But I was not ready to watch the collective mortality of those around me appear. Not on the distant horizon but on our doorstep. 

Now I wake up in the morning and try to recall the ever burgeoning litany of names I want to check in with that day. To monitor progress, to offer whatever meaningless phrases of support I can muster, to see if there is something, anything I can do to make the day a little easier. For now, in many ways, abnormal is the new normal.

And I wonder when the time arrives where I am not making that call but am on the receiving end, will I handle it with the grace and dignity that seems to prevail among those who are now struggling around me. I am a worrier, a heart on the sleeve guy, I cry at commercials. Will I muster up the strength and courage to show a brave face to the world when my time to fight arrives?

In the coming days, I hope that each of those who are on a quest, find answers to their questions and remedies for what ails them. But I know the odds are long that all will emerge unscathed. Along the way there will be pain and even some who are lost. It is a hard and uncomfortable reality that now is knocking on the door.

Growing old is inevitable. I just thought it would never happen. Not yet anyway.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Video Games Causes Mass Casualties and Other Truths We Have Learned From Donald Trump

1. Eating too many hamburgers causes hardening of the head

2. Excessive tweeting causes brain damage

3. Cheating at golf causes a belief that two plus two equals three

4. Turning one's face orange causes a swelled ego

5.  A high border wall causes Humpty Dumpty's great fall

6. Insulting friends and praising enemies causes acid reflux

7. Disregarding the truth causes national embarrassment

8. Refusing shelter to those in harm's way causes damage to the soul

9. Racism causes everything to be seen in black and white

10. Donald Trump being President causes mass casualties

Monday, August 5, 2019

Trade Wars - What Are They Good For - Absolutely Nothing, Say It Again



That was the sound of the other shoe dropping.

The miracle of this misbegotten presidency is that the belligerence of Mr. Trump, the random shots across the bow of policy and protocol, the lack of preparation and perspective, have not resulted in catastrophic consequences.

We have held our collective breath as we stumbled into possible confrontation with North Korea and escalating tensions with Iran. We have seen our allies abandoned, our enemies embraced. We have lived on the edge of chaos as a perpetual state of being. 

And the missteps have often been matched by the seeming lack of even basic comprehension. No more evident then in the trade wars that the President, in full pomposity, proclaimed are good and easy to win. Tariffs, even their threat, would bring those who dare challenge us to their knees. 

But it is not so, and the effects of Mr. Trump's ill conceived plan has been to hurt our own economy and force China's hand, now throwing our stock market into turmoil and threatening our continued stability.

While Mr. Trump fiddles around we wait for the conflagration. It is seemingly only a matter of time before his bad becomes our worse.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

DOA


As another mass shooting becomes but a statistic that sits contiguous to the ones that came before and will, inevitably be astride the one that appears in the tomorrows to come, we must admit defeat. Our battle to inject life into a moribund argument has been lost.

Day after day, month after month and year after year, our children have been taken from us. Futures have been stolen. Our landscape is overflowing with anguish and pain, broken dreams, broken promises, shattered families. There is nothing left to say, no more images to detail the horror. And yet the madness has proliferated unabated. This is no longer merely a bad dream, a nightmare. This is what we will wake up to every morning and this is what will be our lot each night when we close our eyes. We must understand that THIS is our reality.

Shame on those leaders in our country who have permitted THIS to happen on their watch. Shame on the lobbyists, shame on the NRA, who have measured the value of existence in dollars and cents. 

Today, when they add up the number of dead, there must be one more included. Opposition to the insanity of a nation accepting as the reasonable cost of doing business, mass casualties and over 100 deaths every day at the wrong end of a gun is now DOA.

And it has been as easy to accomplish as turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the destruction that stares us in the face and screams at us in desperate voice. 

This nation should all mourn the loss. And this nation should not rest in peace.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Dream Team or a Nightmare?

("Imagining a Warren - Buttigieg, or  Buttigieg - Warren, Ticket")

Can America once more find bright appealing after semi-electing the most anti-intellectual tweeter since man developed fingers? Or is going for smart the stupidest decision the Dems could make?

We have ping ponged from brilliant and black to rich white trash. Now what? Does combining female and gay, old and young check all the boxes for success or guarantee four more years in Hell? Does somewhat left to extremely wrong mean we are now only prepared for the middle? And what in God's name does that look like,for the center has long since disappeared, as extinct as the Dodo.

Who are those oh so valued undecideds in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania? And what could they possibly be undecided about? Are the differences between the parties not clear enough? Shouldn't we be courting those of our own who did not manage to get to the polls last time instead of chasing after the mythical unicorns in the swing states? 

This interminable season of debates leaves us far too much time to manufacture riddles wrapped in enigmas creating nothing so much as massive headaches. Is Elizabeth Warren's hair too short, her manner too strident? Does the mayor of South Bend look too much like Alfred E Neuman? Did anyone send out a search party for Beto?

I ask Mr. Kristof to revisit his question in what now feels like about 74 years when the next election is scheduled to occur. That is unless Mr. Trump declares it unnecessary or unconstitutional to conduct a vote and appoints himself Emperor. Which decision will of course be upheld 5 to 4 by the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Go Big or Go Home



When did compromising their values become the Democratic (big D) way? So asked Elizabeth Warren, she of the huge ideas and the overflowing policy statements. Why run for President if you can't demand excellence in yourself and your party?

What if John Kennedy had suggested going on a trip to nowhere in particular instead of to the moon? Why do she and Bernie Sanders push Medicare for all ? Not because it is easy but because it is hard.

Stir the imagination. Invigorate the spirit. Be bold. That was the message from Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders who occupied center stage and the center of the political universe last evening.

If you believe it can't be done, it won't. But the thrust of the proposition from the two front runners was "Yes we can."

Now where have I heard that mantra before?

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Fore! A Love Story

This August 6th will mark 42 years since my wife and I exchanged "I do's". Since then, it has become a lifetime of far too many she does and I don't's. My ineptitude at most of life's most mundane tasks, from changing a light bulb to lighting a stove, have left my beleaguered partner overworked and often exhausted.


She manages her life and mine with a fierce determination, a steely resolve and, I am certain, more than a few private moments of wonder how she ever signed onto this undertaking.  

But here she still is, sleeping beside me as I write to tell you of my favorite day of each year of our marriage. Our anniversary. Not for the exchange of gifts (for that is not our style), not for the special meals, elaborate plans or big parties. None of that marks these annual reminders of that day so long ago. What makes this day so glorious is that it is the single time each year we play a round of golf together.

I have been struggling to conquer this game for over six decades. And while I wonder why I still think tomorrow the seas will part and I will walk on water, I am drawn as always to the course.

My wife likes to say golf was a product of our marriage. When we first wed, we worked in positions that afforded us the opportunity to sneak out late afternoons to play a few holes. I would put a few clubs for each of us in one bag and we would spend the twilight hours together, alone, our most pressing concern whether the putt was straight or broke a little to the left.

Over the succeeding decades, my wife's interest in the game waned and it was left to me to chase after that little ball into places unknown. Yet once a year she humors me and grants me a few hours with her on the course.

Here, at just the right moment and in just the right light, I can clearly see that little girl I married over four decades past.  She is a natural athlete and though many of her shots end up in undesired locales, there are more than a few that go directly as intended. And when she says "Did you see that" or when she literally jumps in the air with glee after a particularly memorable swing, all the wear and tear of these past decades seems to disappear. She is, in that frozen capsule of time, the young woman who said "I do" with a lifetime of expectations in her pocket, a twinkle in her eye and joy in her heart. Vibrant and unburdened.

Far too soon, the moment passes, the round has finished and the realities of the day return. But while many renew their vows in an elaborate ceremony, my wife and I exchange our promises of commitment by my lining up a putt for her and exchanging wide smiles when the ball immediately thereafter rests in the bottom of the cup. 

The perfect anniversary. On endless repeat.



Friday, July 26, 2019

Democrats in Black and White

("How White Democrats Moved Left")

Mr. Brooks castigates those who take issue with the many imperfections in our society, somehow making good intentions seem bad.

Liberal becoming toxic, a synonym for white privilege, for unrealistic demands and expectations. Those of color of Democratic stripe being far less idealistic, far more concerned with fundamental issues like jobs and taxes.

NONSENSE.

Do not label or pigeonhole Mr. Brooks. It makes you appear small, intellectually lazy. We are all people who are concerned about the destruction of our values, of our educational system, of our right to choose, our right to vote, our right to exist in an environment, in its various meanings, that is not choking us. We worry each day about our nation's physical and intellectual well being.

Don't try to segregate us, Mr. Brooks. We are more complicated, more complex than that. 

We are far better than you perceive. You who see our color in black and white.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Best Game I Never Saw

Since my earliest memories after I was released from the womb, I have lived and breathed Yankee baseball.


While Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956 escaped my four year old gaze, the horror of the Maz homer in '60 still resides deep in the troubled recesses of my brain.



For 60 years I have been in search of the true perfect game, not the one with no baserunners from stem to stern but one consumed by an endless frenzy of activity ending in improbable, virtually impossible victory. Each inning replete with triumphs and disasters. A roller coaster ride where, for once, I didn't want to retch at its conclusion.


Last night was such a game. The game I never saw.

Yesterday, I journeyed by car and boat to visit family. Once at my destination, they were my one and only focus. That is apart from my repeated glances at my phone to check the status of the Yanks game with the Twins. It had the unquestionable markings of a debacle as the score climbed to eight against and a mere two in favor. Our starter showered and shaved by mid game. A three game skid an inevitability.


And so, I wandered off to sleep with the foreboding thought that in the morning I would awaken with the uncomfortable belief that the good times for this often glorious squad were coming to a staggering halt.

As is my wont, my reflexive activity on arising is to reach for my phone and go to the ESPN highlights. OMG! 14 to 12 in 10. WTF happened?

It was ridiculous. Didi on a tear, almost single handedly bringing the dead to life. Then the Twins countering, blow for blow, two heavyweights standing toe to toe in the middle of the ring (or, more precisely, diamond).



Finally, Aaron Hicks surely putting a stake through the heart of the enemy, resurrecting his team that had wobbled within but a single out of devastation.

But the boys from Minnesota refused to die, courtesy of Mr. Chapman walking (thrice)on a high wire. And thus did nine end at twelve (for each squad).



A game such as this demanded more heroics, more drama, more angst. 

When two plated for the Bombers in the tenth frame, the fat lady was heard rehearsing backstage. Yet she almost lost her voice, drowned out by the screams of the crowd as Kepler's drive with the bases full and two gone was surely headed for glory.

Until Mr. Hicks, faster than a speeding bullet, laid out in Superman fashion, flying through the air and changing the course of destiny.



The perfect game, perfect in every way. Except one. My eyes never staring in ecstasy or agony. My heart never skipping a beat. My mind never locked into each pitch, each swing of the bat as though the future of the universe was dependent on its outcome. For I enjoyed not one scintillating, terrifying moment of this epic struggle.

Which made it for me just about the most imperfect game ever played.



Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Pride in Prejudice

("Lincoln Would Not Recognize His Own Party")

Where do we go after "Send her back"?

What does the future hold for a nation where pride and prejudice has now become pride in prejudice?

How can we ever emerge from this nightmare, for it seems to have swallowed whole the very essence of half of those in our midst?

When will there be a day where the divide between us does not seem so insurmountable?

Who has the capacity to heal these gaping wounds?

No longer mere adversaries, now a country of mortal enemies.

Living as far as the eye can see and the ear can hear in a land of uncivil war.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Story Time

I was in the library the other day for story time. There was one blond hair, blue eyed little girl, maybe a bit older than me, for not only could she crawl but she could stand and walk. The President would tell me she was almost certainly a true American.

But the rest of those gathered as the librarian read stories, taught us how to clap hands and finally turned on the machine that sprayed out hundreds of tiny bubbles that bounced off our faces and our bellies (my personal favorite) were different. Mr. President, were they true Americans?

It was hard to know for sure. Because, just like the blond hair, blue eyed girl, they played with the toys on the floor, they cried if they were getting hungry or if they fell down and they laughed at the strangest times. And I noticed that just like the blond hair blue eyed girl they all had short attention spans. And each came to the library in a stroller. 

It must be hard for the President to be certain which babies are true Americans, especially if it is very dark in the room and he can only hear the sounds of them laughing or babbling or crying. But that must be why he was elected President, because it seems he knows things, he sees things, the rest of us don't.

One of the other little girls there was fascinated with my grandfather. While I was sitting on the floor near the librarian, playing with the colored handkerchiefs in front of me, she crawled over to where my grandpa was sitting. She got herself up, lifted herself onto the chair next to him and then plopped herself on his lap for a few minutes. She looked and acted just a I do when I am with him. But her skin was very dark so I guess the President would have figured she was not a true American.

I like story time at the library a lot. I only go once a week but I wish it were more. And I look forward to seeing the other kids. I hope when we are all a little older I can become good friends with all of them. Even the ones who aren't true Americans.


Friday, July 19, 2019

Color Blind

They see not the heart 
They see not the mind
They see not the pain
They see not the dreams

They see nothing 
Blinded by what they see

Living in darkness
Living in black and white
Living in color

Living color blind

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Free Rein




("Racism Comes Out of the Closet")

He has not diminished the office to which he has ascended. He has demolished it. The last vestiges of decency having vanished in his latest tirade, the last semblance of propriety now shredded. The presidency lying in the gutter, covered in the feces emanating from the mind of the last person on earth who should be holding the keys to the kingdom.

We began this journey outraged by his thoughts and actions. We were certain during the primaries he would self immolate. We were in disbelief when his ugliness persisted and so did he. We took to the streets in mass protests when the inconceivable occurred, believing that our demonstrations against the worst of his offenses would at least temper his temper. 


But nothing and no one can change the stripes on this man. Not our cries of anger, not the actions of his political opponents and certainly not the timid pleas of some within his inner sanctum. Two and a half years in office not having given him perspective or taught him humility, but having informed his brain that he has free rein to unleash the furies. His incompetence exceeded only by his hatreds. 
And so we are left, once again, to say he has finally crossed the line in the sand, that too much is now enough. But as the endless tomorrows of our nation's nightmare persist, we well know that we have not heard the last, or the worst, from Donald Trump.

And the presidency will never be the same again. Nor will our country. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Masters (Of the Universe)

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN THIS WEEK'S EDITION OF THE NEW YORKER

("Unlike Any Other")

I don't think Mr. Paumgarten should anticipate a special invitation to Berckman's Place next April.

I am now in my seventh decade chasing after a little white ball into decidedly unhappy environs. During that entire time, Augusta National has seemed an unattainable privileged white fantasy, the Mecca of the golfing universe, it's long driveway leading to impossibly colorful azalea bushes, it's beauty and elegance covering multiple character flaws hiding in plain sight.

As Mr. Paumgarten chronicled the absurdity of its excesses, it was troubling to me that I choose to ignore its many defects, inexorably and inevitably drawn only to its greatness. Much like I overlook the past myriad transgressions of the game's most wondrous talent, Mr. Woods.

By the way, if these words should find the light of day in The New Yorker, I am quite certain I do not have to check my mail for an invitation to Berckman's for the 2020 Masters. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

On the Death of Jim Bouton

I saw Jim Bouton on the streets of this Western New England town several weeks ago. He was moving unsteadily, his wife by his side to protect him from the ravages of time and disease. It was strange that he and I had crossed paths in several of his iterations through life.

In his first incarnation, there was the hard throwing, hat escaping, young star for my beloved Yanks. But by 1965, as the team fell from the sky so did he,  fastball and glory ephemeral. 

His career disappeared after several years of futility of recasting himself as a knuckleballer, no Hoyt Wilhelm he.

Next he surfaced in my universe as the mastermind behind Big League chew, the bubble gum alternative to the Nellie Fox wad of tobacco, cancer inducing image of a ballplayer. He appeared at my son's school as inventor and reinventor, now having reshaped himself by using the power of his brain, not his arm.

And his most famous reincarnation was as author, revealing the secrets behind the curtain in an era where what happened in the clubhouse, or the White House, stayed there. 

In the last decades of his life, on occasion, I would spot Mr. Bouton, not holding court but merely blending seamlessly into the fabric of life in this town. Once or twice, including just a few weeks ago, I wandered up to him to say hello.

Little did I realize I was saying goodbye. 

Thank you Jim Bouton for a lifetime of memories and for your ability to demonstrate that capacity and greatness come in many forms. Even after you have lost your fastball.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Of Attitude and Altitude



("Oh, To Be Ivanka")

They are royalty. Even that description does them an injustice. Important because their position imbues them with fairy dust that turns pedestrian into unique. Jared and Ivanka. Everywhere they want to be because, well do they really need a reason?

As Ivanka's dad has demonstrated, being prepared or qualified for a task is irrelevant. Just show up, nod your head, shake a hand and declare a victory. E-Z, P-Z. While many may find this act ridiculous, look who's laughing all the way to the bank these days.

Who can blame Jared and Ivanka for turning this country into their own play toy? This is like one huge game show, "come on down and see what is behind door number two." Life is so exciting, so interesting when capacity is not a prerequisite.

If politics is a joke as Mr. Trump's presidency reminds us every day, then Jared and Ivanka are the punch line.

As in a punch in the face.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Open Mic Night and Kamala Harris



It was open Mic night, peppered with discordant sounds, waiting to hear that one voice, find that one moment when a star is born.

It is unfair that political futures can be won or lost in a turn of a phrase, a lifetime of work synthesized in the blink an eye, a politician's future crystallized by our one thought. Kirsten Gillebrand, overbearing. Joe Biden, defensive. 

But in the midst of this 10 car fender bender, one singer did sound the right notes. On this night Kamala Harris played the part of Lady Gaga, her pitch seemingly near perfect.

As they say, this race is a marathon not a sprint and maybe the impact of the performance of Ms. Harris will prove ephemeral. And maybe the audience was only half paying attention or was out ordering a beer when she sang her tune.

But, at least on this evening, the possibilities for Kamala Harris seemed endless.

A Child's Cry and the Heart of Darkness

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARED IN THE RECORD, A BERGEN COUNTY NEWSPAPER

When they study the history of this nation, this moment, this place, will mark a nadir, a staggering descent into darkness.

A time when this nation's heart hardened, when decency and humanity were nowhere evident, when kindness and compassion neared extinction.

As we stare in near disbelief that this country, this country, could treat children, babies, with such disdain and disregard, their lives considered of so little worth, we wonder who and what we have become.

We should be ashamed that on our watch this nation has fallen into such grave disrepair. History will not easily forgive our transgressions. And neither should we.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

150 Lives Saved in Act of Valor


AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARED AS THE LEAD LETTER TO THE EDITOR IN THE NEW YORK TIMES ON SATURDAY, JUNE 22 

Per his latest tweet, Mr. Trump now says he called off an impending strike on Iranian targets because of a last minute concern for the kill count (estimated at 150) Really?

This man with grave humanitarian concern? Have we not witnessed, by word and deed, his repeated disregard for the welfare of others around the globe, his depraved indifference no more stark than at our southern borders. The child separation policy, the Muslim ban, the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia to facilitate the terrible loss of life in Yemen. His a compassionate heart? Never.

No, the truth is that Mr. Trump faces a dilemma of his own making. Withdrawing from the seven nation nuclear weapons agreement, without breach by Iran, placing ever greater economic sanctions on this country, attempting to impose our will on other signatories to the accord. Pushing Iran into a corner, hoping they would break. But when they did not, being forced to deal with a possibility he has long argued vociferously against: putting this nation into yet another middle East conflict.

Want to see the measure of this President? Stay tuned. But restraint motivated by concern for innocent Iranians. Give me a break.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Yankee Doodle Donny



AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN THE RECORD, A BERGEN COUNTY NEWSPAPER

Donald Trump is the Grinch who stole the 4th of July.

He has made the very image of our flag an emblem of our internal strife. No longer a statement of unbridled support for the lofty ideals upon which this country was founded, now mere declaration of unthinking allegiance to the ideas of a President upon which we fail and flounder.

The red, white and blue not imbued with the elevated spirit of our best selves but a portrait of fevered nationalism in all its negatives, not a tribute to our pride but a reminder of our hubris and hatreds, not a reflection of cherished freedoms but a stars and stripes declaration of repression and our efforts to diminish the lives of so many in our midst.

Donald Trump has changed the definition of July 4th, eviscerating the heart of what has long made this country great. He has reshaped this nation and this day in his image. No longer a tribute to Uncle Sam but to Mafia Don.

So, the fact that, with his speech in the nation's capital, he intends to pilfer some of this holiday's bandwith is sadly fitting.The flag now flying wounded and tattered. Splattered with red, draped in unflattering white and, far too often, feeling blue.

On the Precipice


("Iran Threatens to Exceed Nuclear Deal's Limits; Trump To Deploy New Troops")


This is what we really feared about Mr. Trump. That his belligerence, his ignorance, his propensity to break things would one day lead us to where we now find ourselves: the brink of war.

Mr. Trump, Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo have been of a single mind and a single purpose with Iran. Notwithstanding the recognition by the other nations to the  agreement that Iran has abided by its promises, our country, our President found justification for withdrawing from its pledges. If it smells like WMD, tastes like WMD, then it must be another Republican administration bending facts to fit their intention.

Donald Trump has been the boy who cried wolf since the first moment he stepped into office, manufacturing a crisis at our southern border that has exploded into an ongoing horrific humanitarian disaster. 

And now, if Mr. Trump's worst instincts are unchecked, we can well envision the terrible consequences. More than all the other damage this President has done to the fabric of our country, this is why he poses such a grave danger every day, not merely to this nation but to the nations around the globe. 

If it is 3 AM can the world survive his picking up the phone?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

My Dad's Son


This Sunday will mark 40 years since the last Father's Day my dad was alive. I don't remember how we spent that day together but I am sure I fooled myself into believing there would be at least one more to come despite the growing evidence of the progress of his cancer.

Four decades later I remain my father's son. Despite the chasm of time, I am still self defined by the feeling of being his boy. Not first a husband, not a dad or a granddad, but his child. Whatever else in life I have become, I have never stopped being that. 

I think it is that perception, despite the passage of over 14,000 days, which makes his existence almost palpable. Still makes me try to envision him standing in the next room. Still waiting for death to write a letter of apology and return my dad to me. But the truth is he has never left.

I am now 67 years old. Yet on this Sunday, I will be as I was on that Father's Day in 1979. Just the son of my dad. Past, present and forever. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

President Trump Announces a Series of New Tariffs

("Trump Says U.S. Will Hit Mexico with Tariffs to Stop Flow of Immigrants")


President Trump today announced he would enact a 10% tariff on all Democrats until they become Republicans, a 15% tariff on all blacks until they become white, a 20% tariff on all poor people until they become rich, a 25% tariff on global warming until Hell freezes over, a 30% tariff on Roe v Wade until it rows and wades no more, a 35% tariff on the New York Times until it endorses him for a second term, a 40% tariff on Robert Mueller until he says no obstruction, no collusion, a 45% tariff on Hillary Clinton until she admits she lost the popular vote in 2016, a 50% tariff on Ruth Bader Ginsburg until she dies, a 55% tariff on Nancy Pelosi until she stops that phony clapping during the State of the Union, a 60% tariff on Colin Kaepernick until he stands up, a 65% tariff on Michael Cohen until he admits he was the one with Stormy Daniels, a 70% tariff on New York and California until they fall in the ocean, a 75% tariff on Barack Obama until he produces his actual birth certificate, an 80% tariff on John McCain until he changes his vote on Obamacare, an 85% tariff on China until it makes a really good egg roll, a 90% tariff on the Constitution until everything but the Second Amendment is erased, a 95% tariff on Russia until it pays him commensurate with the services he is providing for them and a 100% tariff on America until it changes its name to Trumpworld.