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.


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)


("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.