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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Reading the New Yorker

I ran into someone a few months back who told me she reads The New Yorker cover to cover every week. So do I, if that means perusing both the index and the Cartoon Caption Contest. I think I have a better chance of spontaneously regrowing a full head of hair than starting with The Mail, meandering through the maze of phrases piled from here to eternity and ending up with any hold on my sanity.

If the road of life is strewn with good intentions then I would suggest you detour away from my personal highway. This is definitely the week I get past The Talk of the Town before raising the white flag. Does Shouts and Murmurs count as progress or is that like adding insult to injury?

I should be able to read the Fiction piece. After all, it is like a one chapter book. How hard can that be? If you have to ask then you really don't have a clue.

Those poems. I mean I never understood anything beyond "There once was a boy from the South....." So, unless it is a piece about a pencil, it has no point (get it, pencil without a point).

As for the television and movie reviews. Now that I should be capable of digesting. But everything is suddenly so complicated and complex, with various layers and meaning far beyond what I thought I was watching. It kind of makes my head hurt and convinces me to cancel my Mensa membership.

The other sections are so far beyond the realm of my universe I can't even remember what they are. And all those pages in the front taken up with discussions of restaurants, museums and other things happening in NYC. You know I live in NJ, don't you? I can barely afford the toll across the bridge, forget about the garage and the cost of exploring every venue you suggest. Unless you are giving out interest free loans, I am staying on Governor Christie's side of the Hudson, thank you.

So, why do I get The New Yorker? I don't actually think I paid for the subscription. I believe it was one of the freebies if I made that $10 a month contribution to my local public radio station. Next year I think I may reduce my gift to $5 per month so I can get the free tote bag instead.

I hope I haven't hurt your feelings. That was not my intention. I only wanted to let you know that I am trying to live up to your expectations of me, but I am forever doomed to failure.

But keep up the good work. There is apparently at least one person out there who takes full advantage of what you have to offer. I recently heard she is expected to be released from the sanitarium in a matter of weeks. With strict NNY orders (No New Yorker)



And Then There Was One

And then there was one. It was not 10 little Indians, but Yankees, the projected starting nine on Opening day, plus the DH, all now on the "oh boy this is not good" list. Only Gleybar Torres still standing.

Sanchez, Bird (ok, a semi-starter), Gregorious, Andujar, Stanton, Hicks and now Judge. Throw in Severino on the mound and, maybe a little stretch with Tulowitzski as DH and there you have it. Add a Betances to the mix for a little not so comic relief. 

What happened? Is it the New York City air, the bumpy roads, the broken subway system? Is it the pre-game meal or the post game interview? Is there a rabbit's foot that has been lost or a voodoo doll that has been found? Did I do something wrong? Or maybe, just maybe, it is the reverse curse of the Bambino, a hundred years later.

Whatever the cause, there seems no cure to the rash of maladies that now covers this team worse than an outbreak of the measles. All I know is that Gleybar should be taking a good look at his health insurance policy and the team should be protecting him more closely than Barr is protecting the President (sorry, couldn't help myself).

And while the Indians, and the rest of the AL, lick their chops as the Yankees lick their wounds, the only joy in Mudville is how bad the Red Sox have been without having a depleted roster. 

Maybe the curse of the Bambino has hit both teams for their century old indiscretion. Strike two. 

Or more like 14 and counting.

Monday, April 1, 2019

ANOTHER LETTER IN THE NEW YORK TIMES - JUST NOT MINE



At every opportunity, I have advised in BOLD LETTERS of my writing accomplishments, intending to emphasize my mastery of my craft. Years of honing my skills and a mental dexterity, combining to produce yet one more piece of wizardry. Not something to be lightly taken or dismissed. A talent, absolutely.

Not to be attempted by those without the requisite training and creativity. Studying the political landscape, becoming uniquely adept at translating our collective angst into a stunningly well crafted statement. Or capturing some personal moment with my own well honed mix of humor and gravity.  I was, I am, special.

So, a few days ago, my friend was visiting her parents, reading the New York Times. Out of sheer boredom, she decided to write a letter to the editor in response to an article about the diminishing universe of stick shift cars. With no expectations, off the letter went. It was her first and only attempt at this exercise. She had clearly chosen a topic of limited interest, one which I would never advise anyone to waste their time on if the intent was to ever be seen in print.

I saw my friend and her husband this past weekend. He casually mentioned that his wife's letter, on her grave disappointment in having to enter the world of automatics, was to be published in MY domain. I was MORTIFIED, but I mumbled some words of congratulation, trying to turn insincerity into genuine sounding applause.

My world is crumbling around me, for today's NY TIMES has my friend's thoughts there for the world to view. A neophyte, writing to the paper for a lark, because she ran out of alternative ways to keep herself entertained. Could even Caesar have felt more a sense of betrayal?

What cruelty, what a mortal blow to my ego. Where are the gatekeepers who should keep entry into this most exclusive club far away from those who would treat this experience so cavalierly? 

From this time forth consider me humbled. I shall limit my exclamation points and BOLD notations of my greatness, for I have learned that anyone with a quick wit and a minute or two with nothing better to do is equally capable as I.

 I do CONGRATULATE my friend on a job well done. I just wish she hadn't made it seem so damn easy.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

What Did We Expect from the Mueller Report?

("After the Mueller Report, the Dream of a Sudden Magic Resolution to the Trump Tragedy Is Dead")


We were never going to have a "sudden magic resolution" involving Mr. Trump even if Mr. Mueller had concluded that Mr. Trump was a Russian spy masquerading as an American imbecile.

Each day of his presidency has been an affront to our democracy, to the precepts that have guided this nation for almost 250 years. Yet with his every attack on our intelligence, with his every blatant falsehood, with his every misstep regarding both friend and foe, the Republican party turned a blind eye and a deaf ear.

So what did we expect that the Holy grail of the Mueller report would accomplish? Would Mr. Trump say "you got me" in one final anguished tweet and leave the White House without bothering to turn off the lights? Or would there be a unanimous hue and cry of Republicans in Congress demanding the President shave his head and tattoo the scarlet letter "I" for idiot on his forehead?

This was never more than pure fantasy. Donald Trump was never going anywhere before November 2020, any more than the never Trumpers were going to be able to keep him from becoming the nominee in 2016, any more than there would  be an open rebellion by the sycophants and the nose holders, any more than he would unilaterally decide to slink away from the presidency out of boredom or because he admitted he was overwhelmed and unprepared for the demands of office.

There is hard work that must be done to unseat Mr. Trump in the election next year. Mr. Mueller's magic bullet never was the actual answer to this confounding problem. Step by step and inch by inch is the only way that this vermin will be eradicated.

My Dad

It is fitting that opening day of the baseball season falls on my dad's birthday. He would have been 101 today. He was born just before the last season of triumph for 86 years for the hated Red Sox. Thank you "No No Nanette." Long live the "Curse of the Bambino."

My dad loved sports, was an All-American fencer, a wonderful golfer, a natural athlete, excelling at every game he played, from ping pong, where he spent many an evening teaching me the meaning of having to earn victory, to basketball, shooting at a rim set far too high above our garage door. But, it was in our mutual love for baseball that the bonds between myself and my dad were forever deeply cemented.

From my earliest memories I was drawn to this game. It was the mid 1950's and baseball ruled the landscape. Decades before the internet and a million distractions, even before television sets were ubiquitous, spring ushered in melting snow and the great American pastime.

Football was still attempting to make its mark, the overtime championship game of 1958 and Alan Ameche shepherding its entry into our consciousness, the NBA maybe less of a draw than the Harlem Globetrotters. Baseball was everything, the Yankees were dominant and Mickey Mantle was, well Mickey Mantle. My first hero. Actually my second. After my dad.

40 years after my dad's passing, as I near my 67th birthday, it is hard for me to fathom how much I still miss him. Even as I write this, I have a hard time holding back tears.

My dad was my first and forever best friend. I was, like him, a natural athlete with a deep love of sport. It was a perfect fit for the two of us, enjoying hour after hour of shared skills and passions. It was, and it remains, my definition of pure joy.

More than six decades after our first catch, more than six decades after our first entry into the House that Ruth built (thanks again to No No Nanette), more than six decades after we walked hand in hand and heart in heart into gloves and bats and balls and strikes, I remember with a smile and a small ache everything good and wonderful about my dad.

Today, I celebrate another Opening Day. And the memory of my dad, on his birthday.

I wish for just one more catch with him.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Not guilty? Not innocent

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR IN THE BOSTON GLOBE

The worst of this is Mr. Trump taking on the role of blameless victim. If Mr. Trump did not commit crimes, at least crimes relating to the scope of Mr. Mueller's investigation, it is not because his actions are above reproach, his moral fiber beyond question. Not because he made a conscious determination not to cross a line. Just that it didn't happen.

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime as an unscrupulous, manipulative, undisciplined businessman, husband and now President. There are legions of tales of his con games from his treatment of minorities in his housing complexes, his swindling of contractors, his cheating on wives, his payoffs of mistresses to keep silent, his abuses of his not very charitable foundation, his multiple bankruptcies to avoid creditors he has manipulated and deceived and on ad infinitum. He has demeaned and maligned those who stand in his way from political opponents to parents of a deceased war hero to foreign leaders to his own agencies from the FBI to the CIA and the Department of Justice, all because they had the audacity to speak of the far too evident flaws and deceptions of Mr. Trump. He has stoked the worst instincts in those who follow and believe in him, their bigotry, their xenophobia. He has reduced his office to the level of a reality game show, tweeting policy determinations in the middle of the night after consulting with no one but a television set turned to Fox news. He has courted autocrats and dictators, willing to turn a blind eye to their worst atrocities. He has treated virtually everyone else with disdain and contempt, none worse than immigrants across a constellation of nations whose only wrong was trying to flee violence, war, poverty and famine. He has stocked his administration with those willing to do his bidding no matter the reason or the result

So you will have to excuse me if I fail to agree with Mr. Trump's definition of exoneration. This is a man who is a walking talking definition of a criminal whether he is ever charged or indicted. So he managed, quite possibly, to slip away this time. But do not equate this with Donald Trump being blameless. No halos for this man, not now or ever. Not guilty is not the same as innocent. Not even close.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Awaiting Mr. Mueller





("James Comey: What I Want from the Mueller Report")

For a President who has taken a pound of flesh from this nation, I am hoping for at least an ounce of blood in the Mueller report.

While Mr. Comey may not care the outcome of this investigation as long as it's determinations are untainted, I cannot share his dispassionate gaze.

We have watched in horror as Mr. Trump has soiled his office beyond recognition. He has turned his bully pulpit into a bully's pulpit, has made lying his centerpiece, discarding truth as a flexible, worthless concept. We know full well that if he has not broken an armful of laws relating to the areas under investigation it is not by design but mere serendipity.  

He is a walking, breathing scandal, having spent a lifetime disregarding moral and legal precepts. These past two plus years have been ones of collective anguish, and our abiding faith that Mr. Mueller would ultimately prove this charlatan the heartless crook he has forever been, mandates something far more than an antiseptic synopsis of undistinguished behavior.

So, Mr.Comey, you who may well have been responsible for placing Mr. Trump in office with your breathless last minute heated cries, making much ado about nothing concerning Ms. Clinton and her emails, you must excuse me if I am not fully comfortable with your present high-minded stance.

Let Mr. Mueller report to us that his investigation has not resulted in an empty vessel, let him instead chronicle chapter and verse of the myriad sins committed by a man who deserves nothing but our full-throated condemnation. 

If Mr. Mueller is not going to bring us the head of Donald Trump, let him at least give us a drop or two of his blue blood.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sticks and Stones and Donald Trump


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






What Mr. Trump does with his bigotry, his hatreds, his vitriol, his invectice, his diatribes is to give sanctuary to the worst instincts, the anger, the distortions of those whose prejudices and ugliness seek confirmation. His is the warm embrace, the succor that makes them comfortable in giving voice, in giving life to their malevolence.

If the President of the United States, the President of the United States says they are not wrong to feel rage against immigrants, if he tells them that Mexicans and Muslims are an existential threat to this nation, then ipso facto this will be a land more prone to violent attacks, to tragedy piled upon tragedy.

Mr. Trump's words do not exist in a vacuum, studied and then discarded. They attach to the heart and soul of those who believe in him. They become part of the listener as much as they are of the speaker. And their acts are an extension of what Mr. Trump has invoked.

So the old adage about sticks and stones is a falsehood. For Mr. Trump's comments do give cover to cruelty, do incite hostilities, do cause damage far more real and permanent than bruised feelings. Words, especially those of Mr. Trump, are far too often the catalyst for grave, irreparable harm.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Mutiny? No, nothing beyond a momentary false bravado


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


Let us not overreact to this action by a handful of Republican senators. It is not a coup, not nearly time to suggest Mr. Trump's unfettered desecration of our democracy is nearing a conclusion.

What Mr. Trump did was blatantly defy the will of Congress in his declaration of a national emergency. It was not the policy but merely the procedure, the stripping of the fundamental power of Congress to control the purse strings which was the precipitating cause for this mini revolt.

But fundamentally this was little but a symbolic slap on the wrist, to be quickly undone by presidential veto. And life, as we have unfortunately come to know it, will quickly and inevitably return to normal in the tomorrows to come.

There will be no talk, at least no serious talk, of Republicans joining in a call for impeachment and conviction of a man whose entire presidency has been one dismal abuse upon another. There has been no growing of a backbone, no declaration that this is an irreparable bridge too far. 

It is a welcome moment when there is even a hint of something other than pure capitulation by Mr. Trump's party to his whims and tantrums. But unless and until he declares the powers of Congress to be dead, until he puts a crown on his bird's nest and announces he is now king, there will be no Republican mutiny at 1600. Just the occasional reminder that some in his party have not simply permitted the President to cast all their votes for them.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Six Months Old







So I turn six months old in a few hours and I am worried. I read about the scandal surrounding college admissions and I fear that even if I have served two terms as President by then, I might not get into the school of my choice.

I think back a half year when I was so carefree. Back then I was just trying to figure out what a diaper was and the difference between day and night. Back then I didn't know anything about Fox News.

Now I wonder whether it makes political sense to move forward with impeachment proceedings. Now I am sad to learn Alex Trebeck is sick. Now I have to deal with the trauma of the Knicks trading Porzingis and the Giants dumping OBJ. Now I wake each morning to the reality of Donald Trump.

But now I know who my mom and dad are, I know what snow is. Now I know how to laugh and smile, I know I have a favorite "lovey"and I know how to turn the pages in a book. Now I know what solid food is, I know I have almost as good an appetite as my dad and I know that one day soon I will be able to sit up without falling over.

So I still spit up way too often. But that will pass. I am still trying to get the hang of this crawling thing. But that will come soon enough. And while Dad says I am almost ready to dribble a basketball, the truth is I am really still just dribbling. 

I recognize that the rigors of a presidential campaign lay ahead for me, I am a bit concerned about the extent of the problem with the arm of Luis Severino and I am distressed by the long term effect of ongoing trade wars.

But I am happy. I am happy for the thousands of kisses I have received and I am happy to feel protected and safe. I am happy that I am surrounded by those who make me feel like the most important person in their lives. I am happy that each day I learn so much and I hunger to absorb as much new information as I can.

So here's to the past six months and to the adventures that lay ahead. Life is indeed wonderful. Thanks mom and dad for deciding to bring me into the world. I love you both very much. And I promise in the days to come I will give you as many hugs as you could possibly want. That's the thing where I wrap my arms around your neck, right?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Preparing to Hit the Campaign Trail


I have just spent nearly a week with my granddaughter. In that time we discussed topics as crucial as rolling over from back to belly and belly to back, eating solid foods without trying to grab the spoon from grandma and going to sleep without artificial aids (not Ambien but a binky).

But most of our days were spent in a far more important pursuit, framing her platform for her run for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020.

We talked about the Green New Deal but she thought I was referring to the avocado we recently introduced into her diet. We considered climate change but her understanding focused on how cold the living room seemed even with the heat on high. We analyzed our friendship with Canada but she imagined I was speaking of the girl downstairs. We covered immigration, voting rights, gerrymandering, an equal protection amendment for women, Russia, China, North Korea, mass incarceration, the opioid epidemic, infrastructure needs, gun control, Medicare for all, raising taxes on the wealthy, the electoral college disaster and myriad other matters of consequence. But she kept getting distracted by her favorite book on the parts of the body.

Overall though I thought our preparation went wonderfully, certainly far better than did any of the sessions involving then candidate Trump. He nodded off while being educated far more often than my granddaughter did for her naps. And since my granddaughter has not yet learned how to tweet, or even type, she was able to concentrate in ways Donald could not. In addition, since neither of them actually reads books, she was at no competitive disadvantage.

I know there is a long way to go between now and the convention. There are certain to be many pitfalls, many places where it is not easy to find a good place to change a diaper, many days when my granddaughter would rather play with an empty water bottle than make another speech. But she has the boundless energy of youth on her side and she will only become stronger and more mature in the coming months. 

So, I am filled with a hope bordering on overconfidence, certain as I can be that there is ample room in this nation to embrace a brand new face (with maybe a little spit up in the corner of her mouth). A person unencumbered by past transgressions, willing to fight without end for what she believes, unafraid to take on Donald Trump. A person who is up in the middle of the night not covering her backside, but maybe having her backside covered.

And while, like the President, she has small hands, she is only 5 months old. And unlike him, she has a very big heart.

Look out America. Here she comes.

Fairy Tales Are Not True



Fairy tales are not true, no, not even a few
Oh your lying heart
And hard times you will find, life can be ever unkind
To a lying heart

You alone you demean with your litany of schemes
You will cry in your sleep for you're in this too deep
And investigations will mushroom with each passing day
And subpoenas either issue or they're on their way

Don't you see all your dough can't your evil unsow
Oh your lying heart
For though rich in your head, you've turned gold into lead
With your lying heart

And with all of your lies, you will never survive
From all you contrived, you have nothing derived
And here is the worst part, there is no fresh start
For one as bad as you with a lying heart

For one as bad as you with a lying heart.

Bread Crumbs Leading to the Front Door




A full time job.

If we worried that the members of Congress had too much time on their hands, with little but fundraising to occupy their days, Mr. Trump's house of horrors has given new life to an old body.

With a litany of wrongs to dissect as endless as the universe, a cast of characters as long as a Tolstoy novel and a villain who leaves more bread crumbs leading to his front door than Hansel and Gretel, Jerry Nadler and crew will be kept busier than a one armed paper hanger.

So, while our infrastructure is crumbling, our environment is disintegrating, our taxes are taxing, our immigration policy is devastating, our gun control is oxymoronic, our votes are unprotected, our cyber security is insecure, our health care reform D.O.A., our plight is unrelenting and our expectations are evaporating, at least we have our investigations to keep us warm at night.

While Mr. Trump has not a clue how to govern, he is a master at disaster. And for that Achilles heel, make that his entire foot (in his mouth), those otherwise left merely to twiddle their thumbs in the halls of Congress are eternally grateful.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

My First Crush







A half century is a long time to have a crush on somebody. But I still do.

It was 50 years ago this week that Mickey Mantle announced his retirement. The Mick arrived on the scene in the season of 1951, with an uneven beginning before his star shined bright later that year. Just about the time I was conceived. So you might say that we entered the big stage together.

From my earliest memories, Mick and I were friends. He would hang around the house with me, my glove an extension of his arm. We would be in my backyard together, Mick making a throw from the center field wall to the cut off man, little Robby, who turned and threw a bullet, a perfect strike to home plate, cutting down the runner trying to score from first.

And at night I would listen to my friend's exploits on the transistor radio, that brown leather covering a smell my mind recalls vividly even today. And there, in my mind's eye was Mick, like a blur between first and second, sliding in safely, dusting himself off, grinning that slightly off center grin that told me how much fun it was playing baseball.

When he got injured I felt the pain in the pit of my stomach. When he struck out, I ached. But when he hit those home runs that traveled farther than nature intended a baseball to go, I felt a rush of adrenaline unlike anything else I had ever experienced.

We were best friends for 18 seasons, inseparable. He was always my hero, a god really. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

I know it was mostly a mirage. I know he was a pretty bad alcoholic and an even worse husband. I know that I should long ago have abandoned my silly childhood fantasies and brought Mick crashing back to earth. But that will never happen.

To me, Mickey Mantle was and will forever be what I saw the first day he entered my universe. Forever young, forever great beyond description. And though it is nearing 70 years since he first arrived and 50 since he lay his bat and glove down, he is still walking beside me, still in my mind, still in my dreams. Still and forever my first crush.

Friday, March 1, 2019

When You're With Don ( A message to Republicans in Congress)



When you let Don
Turn you into a clown 
You'll regret what you did
You've let everyone down

When you protect 
You make yourself a fool
You have lost everything
You are evil and cruel

You're covered in dung
You need some disinfectant
You're at the lowest rung
You're disrespected

When you let Don
Get away with his lies
You become just like him
Til the day that you die

When you elect
To do nothing at all
You turn into a joke
You build him his own Wall

You're better than this
At least you know you should be
You lay down with a dog
You wake up with fleas

When you pretend
That you're blind to all this
That he's really not bad
All his hate you dismiss

Then you're with Don
You're with Don all the way
From the first cover up 
To your last dying day

First cover up
To your last dying day

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Donny and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (Mikey talks while Kim and Donny stop talking)



Donny is far away from home and his own bed. He is in a strange place he stayed away from a long time ago because something was wrong with his feet, or maybe it was his knees, he can't quite remember which.

Anyway, back home, his old friend Mikey is telling terrible stories about Donny. He is saying that Donny is a cheater, a liar, a very bad boy. Donny doesn't like Mikey any more.

Donny likes cheeseburgers and french fries but where Donny is, they don't serve him what he likes. Donny misses cheeseburgers and french fries.

It seems that Mikey is going on forever about all the things Donny was supposed to have done. It sounds like Donny committed tax fraud, perjury, obstruction of justice and maybe a lot of other nasty stuff that Donny doesn't understand. And that maybe a lot of people are investigating him. Donny wishes he knew what investigate meant.

And he is also sad that he is so far away because Donny likes to tweet in the middle of the night but it is the middle of the afternoon where Donny wants to be when it is the middle of the night where Donny is. Donny doesn't understand how that could be.

Donny is meeting with a fat man with a very bad hair cut. Donny likes his own hair very much and he would never, ever wear his hair like that other man does. Or ever be fat like that other man. Donny is very handsome, or so the mirror on the wall tells him when he asks. And he asks a lot. But, in this strange land, the mirror doesn't understand English and is not telling Donny how handsome he is. Donny is sad.

Mikey is still talking. Some of Donny's friends keep saying to Mikey they don't believe a word he says about Donny but Donny wishes he could tell Mikey to his face what a bad boy he is being. Or maybe order a hit on him.

And the Fox News feed just went dead in Donny's room. He is very mad now and is screaming and cursing. Donny is not happy. He is not happy, not even one little bit.

Donny is going into a meeting now with the fat man with the bad haircut. Donny says the fat man is wonderful but he really has no idea what the fat man is saying. Donny wishes the fat man had a very pretty translator. And that Billy Bush was there hanging out with Donny.

The meeting with Donny and the fat man does not go well. Donny wants the fat man to stop building all his big toys but the fat man says he wants to still build some, even if Donny stops all his sanctions. Donny likes the word sanctions. It sounds very grown up. He doesn't like the fat man so much anymore. He pissed Donny off. Donny pouts when he walks out of the meeting. And he tells the fat man he should get a different barber..

After the meeting Donny decides he is going to bed. Mikey is done talking now but Donny thinks many other bad boys and girls will be saying some very mean things about Donny tomorrow.

Donny won't sleep well tonight. He had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

If only he could have said what a good boy Mikey was when Mikey was so polite around Donny and kept saying pardon me. If only Donny had said "you're pardoned" maybe he and Mikey would still be friends. Good friends. The kind that don't rat on each other. Who would take a bullet for you.

And then it would not have been such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Shelter from the Storm

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS PUBLISHED IN THE MAIL (LETTERS) IN THE MARCH 18, 2019 EDITION OF THE NEW YORKER

("How Much a Dementia Patient Needs to Know")

My sister and I watched for a decade as the mother we knew faded into a fog and then disappeared from view. Her dementia eventually left us with nothing but her physical shell.

But there were occasional moments when my mother would animate. Most often these involved her belief that she was a young girl residing with her parents and was needed to work at the family store. And I traveled back in time with her, asking her questions of her day, her parents and what was happening of consequence. 

We kept my mom in her apartment until the end, hoping that familiar surroundings would prove soothing. But it was truly only when I wandered with her into her childhood home that a certain peace, fleeting as it might have been, emerged.

Dementia is a horrible illness, stripping one of virtually every connection to the universe one has inhabited. But there still remain shreds of a former life waiting to be uncovered, remembered, revived, providing brief shelter from the storm.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Republican Party Backbone? D.O.A.




So this is where the Republicans in the Senate show their fealty to country over party, to Constitution over pouty leader, to the dictates of their position over protecting their chances in 2020? Have you not been paying attention over the last decade?

From that moment in January 2009 when Mr. Obama took office, the mandate from Mr. McConnell was to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. Denying that President any victories was their mantra and for eight years they were ever vigilant, from seeking to derail Obamacare, to eviscerating even the most limited measures to rein in the Second Amendment abuses, to the bitter end when they stole a Supreme Court seat in blatant dereliction of their duties.

And with the ascension of Mr.Trump, they have protected him at every wrong turn, an occasional mini slap on the wrist, and John McCain's vote preserving Obamacare notwithstanding. For each random act of insanity, each revelation of another grave error on the part of the President there has been capitulation on the part of those whose couId demonstrate, with their votes, that the line in the sand has been crossed. 

So today is an emergency? We have long ago passed emergency. That first week in office when the initial executive order on the immigration ban was pronounced by the dictator in chief, that was when all hands should have been on deck putting out the fire. 

Now it has spread beyond all boundaries, out of control and creating a conflagration from sea to not so shining sea. And there is no water in the Republican party's hose. 

They ran dry a decade ago.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

My First Protest

"This is what Democracy looks like. This is what Democracy looks like."

My first protest. I know I am five months old and late to the party, but I am feeling it now.

There are a couple of loud Trump supporters trying to aggravate everyone. I want to get into it with them but grandma tells me not to. Since I am lying on her chest in a snuggly and rely upon her as my mode of transportation and warmth today, I think it best if I heed her advice.

The crowd is a little smaller than I hoped. Thinking it may be Trump fatigue. I may try to help organize the next rally. They could probably use some new blood.

I wish I could read. There are a couple of posters that my uncle is taking pictures of and I bet they capture the mood. I think mine would show a picture of Trump's big rear end and say "This is what an a...hole looks like. This is what an a....hole looks like." Grandma is telling me to calm down a bit.

I am worried what this idiot will do next, aren't you? I mean I think every day of my life has been uncertain because we have a President with more than one screw loose. In fact, I think every screw is loose. Geez Louise, he is dangerous.

Grandma, grandpa and my uncle are ready to leave now. I hear them talking about being hungry and wanting dinner.

"Stay a little longer. Just five more minutes. There are some things more important than food. I promise I will not make a scene if we can just stay five more minutes. Just five."

"Thanks."

"This is what Democracy looks like. This is what Democracy looks like."

Grandma tells me not to yell right in the face of that Trump supporter. We are leaving now.

She tells me I am too worked up, but I can't help it.

This protest stuff really gets my juices flowing.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Our National Emergency

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

Mr. Trump is absolutely correct in declaring a national emergency. 

We have a President without regard for the Constitution, for the limitations of his office, for the rule of law, for the dictates of history, for truth, for morality.

We have a President whose actions are directed by ego, by petulance, by spite, by whim, by tweet.

We have a President who has alienated his own administration, the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department.

We have a President who puts this nation in perpetual jeopardy, who treats our environmental concerns with disdain, our gun violence fears with flippant dismissal.

We have a President who manufactures a crisis for his political purposes, whose major accomplishment is misdirection, who lives in a permanent state of anger, filled with hate, consumed with bad intentions. Ridiculous and ridiculed around the globe. Doing grave damage to the Oval Office each and every day.

So yes, Mr. Trump, we do have a national emergency.

You

Friday, February 15, 2019

5 Months Old


So, I am 5 months old today. Hey, can anybody hear me. What am I, yesterday's news? When I was a baby everyone made such a big fuss over each month's passing. Now, it is like, oh really. Just a big yawn. Well this does not make me happy. Not in the least.

I know you care but step up your game a little. I want to feel that first day love every day.

Just recently, grandpa let me cry a full three seconds before rushing in my room to pick me up. What, I thought, does a woman have to do to get some attention around here.

And yes, I understand that I must now become involved in group activities, like music class, but did I really have to learn at such a tender age that there are other children who seem equally important to their parents as I do to mine?

And play dates? Am I supposed to pick out a best friend already? I am not even quite sure of the difference between head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, so choosing who I really want to spend my time with is a daunting task.

This whole undertaking is more complicated than I originally thought. It turns out there is a lot more to each day than just eating, sleeping and pooping.

Just an aside, but is this a particularly strange winter? First it is so cold, then it is warm and rainy. Sometimes I am just cooped up inside all day. Personally, until I am old enough to ski, I think this will have to be considered my least favorite season.

Anyway, I don't want to sound ungrateful. I am learning what love is and it is a pretty awesome feeling. Those smiles I give to mom and dad are real, and the laughs that come from deep inside me do mean I am very, very happy.

I am just putting everyone on notice. I have a big birthday coming up next month. A half year old. I am already hoping for a surprise party. I think I will really like chocolate. Maybe I can taste it for the first time then. And can I see the guest list? I like that little girl downstairs.





Wednesday, February 13, 2019

One Year After Parkland

("Would Congress Care More If Parkland Had Been a Plane Crash")

Welcome to the brutal reality of this our universe, where money and power corrupt our morality. For these children who witnessed the sights and screams of death, who were irreparably altered and who believed the depth of their pain and the urgency of their pleas would pierce even the coldest heart, this year must have been terribly hard and, in our responses from Washington, tremendously disappointing.

For those of us who have long watched in dismay as one mind numbing tragedy after another was met with immediate horror and soon thereafter with indifference, even contempt, by those at the Federal level who had the capacity but not the will to find a remedy, we have long since abandoned our expectations.

There may come a day when we meet this danger head on when, like the opioid crisis, it touches too close to home for too many of those in power to continue to ignore, or a time when the long reach of the NRA no longer extends deep into the pockets of so many politicians, or a moment when those who would turn a blind eye to the blood and tears are no longer the ones in control of our destiny.

And I hope when that happens that these children will not have lost their faith, but will have persevered in their quest. That they will be the ones leading the charge. That they will be able to rest a little easier knowing that their children and their nation is safer because of them.

But that day, at least in the nation's capital, seems very distant one year after the Parkland shootings.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Selling the Brooklyn Bridge

("Republicans Got Us Into This Mess, and They Have to Get Us Out of It")

This concept is all well and good until you realize Mr. Trump has, for the main part, merely carried out the Republican agenda: feed the rich, leave crumbs for everyone else, deregulate, give all your love to white men and dole out your enmity to the rest of the masses.

Yes, his trade tariffs have not necessarily endeared him to the powers in his own party and he has trouble deciding if he is hawk or dove (although he exhibits no hesitation in expanding the defense budget for development of new toys), but his is very far removed from a tear down our own house presidency.

Certainly he is extremely dangerous and as unprepared for this office as a nudist is for standing outside in a blizzard. Clearly he is personally repugnant, exhibiting none of the trappings that someone in his office should have.

But if you believe this group of Republican leaders will bite the small hands of Mr. Trump, well I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn I think you might be interested in acquiring.

Mr. Trump will not be gone unless and until the walls ( including that one) cave in on him, courtesy of Mr. Mueller or a Democratic led investigation. The Republicans will not cannibalize their own leader for, deep in their hearts, in places you don't want to know about sonny, they understand he is largely a reflection of their own beliefs.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Phone Call

So, the wait time to speak with you is estimated to be 47 minutes? And the hold music will be like fingers scratching on a chalkboard? And there is a 97 per cent chance if I do stay on the line that entire time that I will then either be disconnected or I will be put on hold for 6 more minutes while you check with your supervisor and then you will apologize when you return and inform me that I am calling the wrong department and you will give me the correct number to call and you will apologize for not being able to transfer me to that department and then you will tell me I should not speak in that tone of voice because you were only trying to assist me and then I will feel guilty for yelling at you, a person who I don't know who was just trying to do your job and is probably not very happy in this particular position and has already been yelled at far too many times today and is not making enough money to be subjected to the abuse that I and others similarly situated give you each and every day and then you will ask politely if there is anything else you can do for me today and then I will say no and then you will thank me for calling and wish me a good day and then I will realize that this was an hour of my life I can never retrieve and I will hang up the phone and wonder why I subjected myself to this?

And if I decide not to make this call I will be mad at myself all day knowing that I should not have to pay the balance of that bill because it was not processed correctly and I know that the company is counting on me not spending the time and effort to fight over such a small amount and I know this is why they make so much money and I know this is wrong and this will never change if I don't pick up the phone and spend an hour getting nowhere and then make that call to the second number and maybe the third and fourth until finally I get someone who says that he or she will authorize the payment of this bill and then he or she will apologize for my inconvenience and wish me a good day and I will say thank you and hang up.

So you can appreciate my dilemma, can't you? Thank you for taking my call  today. Do you have any other questions?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Response to the State of the Union



Did President Trump attempt to obstruct justice in his state of the Union address?

Was his "no peace and legislation if there is war and investigation" a not so veiled threat for Democrats in Congress not to try to rough him up if they want him to compromise on say his obsession with the Wall, on meaningful immigration reform, on gun control, on giving more than empty promises to taking on the massive infrastructure debacle, on health care protections for the many millions still uninsured, on actually aggressively addressing our rampant opioid crisis, on acknowledging that climate change is not a fiction and seeking to at least slow its progress, on not treating allies as enemies and enemies as allies, on providing relief to those struggling with a mountain of educational debt, on dealing with real voter protection issues instead of fictitious voter fraud, on making those best able to afford to share in the burdens as well as reap the benefits of this nation do more to meet their obligations, on allowing people to organize and unions to be brought back from near demise, on recognizing the crying need for sensible financial regulations, on mandating a living wage for each and every worker, on protecting Social Security and Medicare benefits and pushing to expand Medicaid to those states who have refused to allow many of those in most dire straits the aid that this program can provide? On doing what sanity, morality and reason dictate?

I noted but the most cursory or perfunctory of discussion on any of these topics in the 5100 words of the President.. Rather I heard him direct a warning to lay off him or he will treat the needs of those under his care with the same disdain and contempt has he has these past two years.

We know how this plays out in the tomorrows to come. The investigations will move forward, Mr. Trump will refuse to do anything but snipe and tweet on any matter of import and lay blame at the feet of the Democrats for obstructing the justice this nation deserves.

Only, as usual, he will have everything bass ackwards.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Black and White

("Blackface is the Tip of the Iceberg")

Let us not wonder the future of the Governor of Virginia for, unlike one of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court, his yearbook page has made him a dead man walking. Maybe if he had just admitted that he liked to drink beer he too could have survived the scrutiny.

Yes, some Democrats are racists. But unlike those on the other side of the aisle who circle the wagons around every Congressman King in their midst, the Dems have been unified in their condemnation and call for the resignation of the man who couldn't quite remember if that was a picture of him in blackface or if he was just mixing this up with the Michael Jackson dance contest he won.

Tonight we will be subjected to a state of disunion speech by the man who made lying great again as he demonstrates to the country he is getting better reading off a teleprompter. If only the Governor had the President's skill in misdirection, maybe he could have turned his debacle into a discussion about why we don't need to build the Wall in Virginia.

Man is an imperfect being as we are reminded each and every day in a land beset with perfidy. Racism our constant companion, even if no longer in blackface, still hiding in plain sight.The Governor the latest, but certainly far from the last, to show that those in whom we place our trust and faith are often far from deserving.

But the distinction between how the two parties address the matter when it rears its ugly head is as different as black and white.

The Sheer Cruelty of the New York Times

("How I Learned to Love the Patriots (Again)")


Is there anything more discomfiting than having to endure a semi self examination turned gloatathon from a conservative columnist rekindling his love for the New England Patriots on the page of the New York Times. It is the sheer definition of the very wrong person at the extremely wrong place at the absolute wrong time.

Mr. Douthat, who heretofore I had little love for, is now to be the recipient of almost Trumpian disdain from me. To revel in the Patriots, with an extra dollop of Red Sox for good measure is beyond cruel.

My Giants are giants no more and my much beloved Yankees have become  almost annual fodder beneath the red socks of my most hated tormentor.

Pitchers and catchers report in but a few days and I can only hope to then begin the arduous process of flushing the bad taste of Mr. Douthat's words from my mind. 

But until I can stand directly on the chest of a New England sport fan, holding aloft proof of World Series #28 for my Yankees or Super Bowl #5 for the Giants I will not rest easy.

Thanks to you Mr. Douthat and to the New York Times for starting my day off on a horribly wrong foot. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

My Worst Nightmare

In today's NY Times there is a long letter to the editor asking the paper to publish more letters from women. There is then a joint response from the editors of the letters department, Tom Feyer and Sue Mermelstein, agreeing that this is a worthy idea. They make a plea for more women to raise their voices (their pens).

Below is my note directed to Tom and Sue, setting forth my (tongue in cheek) horror at this concept, 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------



("A Woman's Plea: Let's Raise Our Voices")

Wonderful to see both your names in print, but it was like your pen was a dagger to my heart. Equal voice for women, if my math is right, means less voice for men, and in particular, one man.

Now not only do I have to deal with the cruelty of my 60 day detention every time I am in print (and if we are to be truly democratic then shouldn't each letter, each day be judged on its own merit and not subjected to preordained demise based on an arbitrary prohibition), but I must now face the reality that more women, many with far more talent than I, will likely leap over me in the hierarchy of your affection.

Woe is me. Here is a man's plea. Do not forget me, your loyal and trusted friend for a decade now. Maybe you could just cut H.L. back a little and leave me unscathed. Yeah, that could definitely work. (to protect the guilty for purposes of this post, I have only set forth the initials of my mortal enemy, the man who is the most prolific writer of published letters to the Times)

Sincerely (and I mean it)

RSN

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

("No People. No process. No policy.")

This is the fear that haunts us every day. That some enormous stress test will arrive at the President's doorstep and he will be wholly incapable of meeting its demands.

Mr. Trump has been playing President, at least in his own uniquely warped vision of what this entails, for these past two years. But he has not been called upon to act as President, demonstrating the capacity to address a crisis, not of his own making, with dexterity of mind and certainty of purpose.

There are so many arenas where calamity can arise. I shudder to conceive how Mr. Trump would have addressed the Ebola outbreak. I dare say he would have shut our doors, refused to provide our aid and expertise and watched as the death toll exploded and moved far beyond its borders, into our own homes.

Why can we not allow Mr. Trump a second term? Beyond anything else is that the odds increase every day that our luck will run out, that our nation will be faced with a serious problem that requires so much more than that of which Mr. Trump is capable, and that the results will prove cataclysmic.

It is not death by a thousand cuts that is the real jeopardy of this presidency. It is the tsunami that we will have no answer for that should keep all of us awake at night. Staring into the darkness, contemplating our own glaring weakness. And waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Rejection



Dear Shouts TNY:


Yesterday I received three notes from you, all identical:

"Dear Robert,

We're sorry to say that your piece wasn't right for us. Thank you for allowing us to consider your work.

Best regards
The Shouts Department
The New Yorker" 

Well now I feel better, knowing that you took the time and energy to personally sit down and soothe my wounded psyche.

Couldn't you at least have created a series of different clever responses? After all, you are The New Yorker, this is the Shouts and Murmurs column, allegedly home to some of the finest wit in the nation. Start with a joke, or maybe even a riddle. Or, at a bare minimum you could have placed a smiling emoji at the end of each reply.

And what is this, sending out all these rejections at once? Are you trying to send me a subliminal message? Am I supposed to get the hint buried somewhere deep in this trifecta? I submitted the three pieces over a number of months. What do you do, alphabetical rejections? That is just cruel.

Am I really supposed to believe you are grateful for having been given the opportunity to read my words? If so, you have a funny way of making a person feel appreciated.

The polite response would have been to pick up a phone and call. I left you my number. Ask me what's new, how the family is, do I have any vacations planned. Let me know how much you care about me and that you are terribly saddened that I was not chosen.  That you lost sleep wrestling with this decision. Ask if I am free for dinner next week.

Tell me it came down to whether to accept my work or that of a Nobel Prize winner whose mother called you to beg on behalf of her only son. Lie to me.

I remember, a half century ago, getting multiple college rejection letters on the same day. This was worse.

Did you ever consider giving out trophies for everyone who takes the time and effort to submit to your publication? Something to assure us that we are all winners, that you didn't turn us down, you just ran out of room.

I am shocked that you are still in business given the way you treat those most loyal to you. With friends like you, who needs enemies? 

What would it take for you to print my words? A thousand dollars? A million? A horse's head in your bed? I know a guy.

You know, many others consider me a great talent. I could send you letters of recommendation from some very well regarded people. Very well regarded. Would that help? 

If you really want to show your appreciation, scribble little comments on any piece you turn back. Write things like "this sentence is hilarious" or "I laughed so hard I could barely breathe."

Even better, send me your thoughts in French. It will be an acknowledgement by you of the level of my sophistication.

I am going to end this letter now. My psychiatrist's office just called to remind me my appointment was supposed to start ten minutes ago.

I am sorry if I sound aggrieved. I really think you are the best. And that horse's head you may be receiving is just a joke. 

Very truly yours,
Your best friend Robert (but you can call me Rob)