Monday, November 30, 2020

The Competition


Friday, November 27, 2020

The Thanksgiving Tree

So there it was. In black and white, actually in color, but that is not the point. And my wife and I were nowhere to be found in the image that stared mockingly into my eyes.

My granddaughter's teacher had created a Thanksgiving tree on a piece of paper. From the branches hung those things, person or place, for whom our little two year old treasure was most grateful.

"Mom and dad" was a given. Her uncle, with whom she had a special closeness, also caused me no consternation. I could understand " the playground" and "school" might have been a combination of true sentiment and a little urging from the one who was placing the words as leaves that remained affixed through all seasons.

But "cheese sticks" was a bridge too far. I mean, I know food is needed to sustain us and I always have my own stash of cheese sticks at the ready, but couldn't my wife and I have slipped in ahead of this delicacy. Or even behind it. For there was no evidence on this tree of our existence, our importance, in this little person's life. 

I fully recognize there will come a day when the presence of grandparents is an intrusion. When the events of life are far more pressing, the friends far more important, even the foods far more interesting then these two old people populating your living room. But I was sure that day was some time in the distant future. That, at least in the moment when asked the Thanksgiving day question, we would have been a rung or two above cheese sticks.

This does not in any manner diminish my joy at being in the presence of this little beauty. My smile plastered on my face, my laugh accompanying virtually everything she says or does.

With one exception. Kid, put our names on the damn tree.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Place Where the Heart Resides


They are boarding planes, taking trains and buses, loading up their cars. All headed to the same destination.

The place where the heart resides.

They are not intending to do ill but they will take that chance. They are not wishing to get ill but they will suffer the consequences if they must. They are not asking to suffer but they are suffering already.

And so they defy the directives, they deny the realities, they decry the fates that would keep them apart.

Because they must be a part on this day. They must be one of many, not many who are each one. For if they are not together then they are not whole. And the hole in each of them would be too large for any of them to bear.

By the millions they have a single tale to tell. Of survival of the soul. Of a pandemic that would strip them of everything even if it never touched them. Of a disease that invaded every inch of their being even if it never reached them. Of the pain they felt coursing through their veins even if their health was unencumbered.

And so there is an exodus, a leaving behind of the loneliness of this God awful year, a journey to a spot where there is safety in numbers, even as there is danger in gathering. A day when they can remember how it used to be and forget for even the briefest of moments how it is.

They are heading home for the holiday. Because they cannot live without it. Even if they risk dying because of it.

The place where the heart resides.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Closing Argument for the Prosecution - The People of the State of New York vs Donald John Trump

 October 6, 2024

Six Counts- Depraved Indifference to Human Life

What is the value of a life? What is its worth? It cannot be determined in dollars and cents. It is not a commodity that can be traded. It is something that can truly only be measured in terms of its impact on others, those it touches, those it shapes. In the final analysis the value of a life, for good or bad, is judged by what it leaves in its wake.

You all know the catastrophic numbers of Covid 19. You all know that the landscape of this country was brutalized by this disease, raped and pillaged and far, far too often left for dead. You all know of the hospitals that were unable to serve their given purpose, the doctors and nurses left screaming cries of anguish, their hearts broken day after day at the helplessness they felt, at the smell of death that permeated their souls.You all know of the families that were forced to imagine the last breaths of a father, a mother, a daughter, a son, a husband, a wife. You all know that these men and women are gravely damaged, their spirits crushed, their tears a river of despair, their days filled with an almost unfathomable pain.

I come before you not to ask for justice for the nearly 600,000 who succumbed to a foe unlike any other this country has faced, a foe more powerful than the most brutal dictator, a foe more devastating than an atomic bomb. I do not seek retribution here for the countless millions who are collateral damage, who have lost a friend, a lover, a companion, a guide, a partner, a mentor, a child, a parent, a grandparent. That is not my role.

I am tasked only with making sure that six people, six residents of the State of New York, did not die without a voice. I am their voice and I have told you, in chapter and verse, of their final days upon this earth, their final words, their final looks of fear, of loneliness, of bewilderment. Their final moments and what surely were their last wishes.

I have told you of the days that came before Covid 19, that came when their world was a very different place, when they were free to love and laugh, to argue and complain, to spend their hours dreaming of the promise of tomorrow. I have told you of the lives they lived before it all came to a screeching halt. All because of one bad breath taken in, one errant touch. All because of something that happened that didn't have to.

They were neither young nor old, rich nor poor, black nor white. They were neither perfect nor imperfect, happy nor sad, knowledgeable nor uninformed. They were all of these things and more. They were not you, but they could have been. They were not leaders but they might have been. They were not destined for greatness but they should have been. We will never know what their future held in store for them because they have no future, only a past. Because they are dead today, they will be dead tomorrow and for all the tomorrow's to come. There is a finality to their existence that no wishing, no begging, no summation of a prosecutor of the State of New York can undo.

Donald Trump didn't care about any of these people. He did not give one thought to their welfare. He did not care about the hospital workers, the nursing home residents. He did not care about the lives that any of the almost 600,000 led. He did not care about their stories, about their days, about their worries, about their dreams. He did not care about how they lived. He did not even care if they died.They were faceless, nameless and, in his estimation, wholly unworthy of his consideration.

How do we know that? How do we know of his heartlessness, of his cruelty, of his depraved indifference to the very existence of those he was charged to protect. We know it from the words of the reporters to whom he revealed his knowledge of the horrible certainties of this disease and his admitted determination to do nothing about it. Even worse than nothing. He made a calculated decision to lie about the danger, to treat it as if it were a nuisance rather than the unstoppable force he knew it to be. We know it in his words challenging and belittling the pronouncements of science, of those within his own ranks who pleaded for sanity and reason. We know it in his endless capacity to mock those individuals who preached, who practiced respect for the power of the enemy and who pleaded and prayed for the President to be an equal and opposing power.  We know it in his mistreatment of those states, New York chief among them, from whom he withheld critical supplies, equipment and monies to battle the enemy. We know it in the maskless gatherings of thousands, all come to worship at the feet of this false God, all then taking the possibility of disease away with them from these sites. We know it in his demand for those in his administration, and those Republican governors, senators and congressmen to follow his lead in exposing the populations under their dominion to senseless danger. He even willingly enlisted his wife, his own children to take part in this Devil's play.

And for what reason did this occur? What benefit outweighed the incalculable harm? For there must have been something. God knows there had to be something. But we all know there wasn't. At least nothing beyond satiating one man's ego. Nothing more than an unwillingness to permit others to tell him how to run his country. Others to put his reelection at risk. Others to impede his coronation. Others to persuade him that the lives of those entrusted to his care were something more than worthless commodities, something greater than a dollars and cents calculation of the possible drop in value of a stock portfolio.

And so today, you are given the solemn responsibility of reporting back to the State of New York, to the United States of America, to the world and to Donald John Trump that this is finally the day of reckoning. Today is finally the time that the actions of this Defendant have consequences for him. That a man whose life has only been devoted to protecting himself, will be unequivocally informed that he has failed in that goal, even as he has failed to protect, to save the lives of the six in whose names we bring Mr. Trump to justice.

For in the end, his life can only be measured by the devastation he has left in his wake. And for this, I respectfully request, and the six lives that are no more, demand justice. Demand a verdict of guilty as charged.

Thank you. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Birdie Putt

 January 20, 2021- West Palm Beach, Florida

He was unsure whether to hit the five or six iron. He had been making good contact all day and so decided on the six. He hit it flush and ended up about 30 feet below the hole.

As Donald John Trump approached the green in his cart, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was being sworn in as the 47th President of the United States. The 46th, Michael Richard Pence, had taken office on the morning of January 19th, 2021. His only official act had been to pardon his predecessor for Federal crimes of any nature that he may have committed at any point during his life. 

As Donald John Trump lined up the putt, the count of those in the United States who had perished from Covid 19 stood at close to 400,000. The number who had contracted the disease in this country had passed 20 million in the first week of 2021.

Donald John Trump had lost the popular vote for his reelection by almost 6 million people. He was actually the 14th sitting President in the history of this country who had been beaten in his effort for a second term. He was unaware of that fact as he stood over the ball.

There had been almost 12 million vaccine shots administered to front line health care workers and the most vulnerable in our population since early December, 2020. Donald John Trump was convinced he would still be the 45th President had the announcement of the success of the drug trials been made in the days before, instead of the immediate aftermath, of the November 3, 2020 vote.

Donald John Trump had been without a birdie all round as his putt headed towards the cup. His scorecard reported he was only two over for the day but he had given himself several putts that he had missed from relatively short range. His actual tally should have read that he was at least five over.

As Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. swore, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, the birdie putt hit the edge of the cup, seemed for a moment like it would stay out, then fell to the bottom of the hole.

The former 45th President of the United States smiled and gave a little fist pump. He was, by his count, only one over par. 

He thought to himself, all things considered, it was turning out to be a pretty good day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


Wilma Supik was a religion editor for the Bergen Record. In 1978 she wrote a piece in that newspaper in praise of someone who had changed her life, gave her the strength, the confidence to become a writer. She did not know where this person was, or whether the words on that page would ever find her eyes. 

The woman whose virtue she extolled had been her high school English teacher in the early 1940's, well over three decades removed from the sentiments Ms. Supik felt compelled to express. That woman was my mom.

I was reminded of that thank you note earlier this week. My first crush, almost 60 years ago, was on my fifth grade teacher. She was young, pretty, with a smile that put me at ease and, in the same moment, made my heart flutter. I don't know that I ever stopped having a crush on her.

As the fates would have it, with a bit of intervention from my mom and dad, by seventh grade that teacher became my aunt. And there this tale might have ended, but for the actions of one of my fifth grade classmates.

Several days back, she posted a picture of our class of 1963 on Facebook. The ensuing discussion among those whose young faces graced that page led to a suggestion to try to reach out to the teacher in the middle of that photo.

Yesterday and today, I have received copies of many thank you notes directed to my Aunt, with the understanding that more may be forthcoming. These words were intended for someone who had been out of each of their lives for nearly six decades. Yet, the details they recalled were as if all this had transpired but yesterday. And the feelings they discussed of the effect she had on their existences, some of whom found a stability in the classroom that was not evident elsewhere, were profound and clearly as present in 2020 as they were when they sat at their desks so many lifetimes before.

I have been graced to have known two women whose lasting impact on those they taught was far beyond anything they could have imagined.

This is my thank you note to both of them and to all the teachers who have been a positive force on those who came under their wing.

Thank you for shining your light on us. No matter the years that pass and the distance between us, please understand that light has never been extinguished. And the warmth from that light is still felt in each of our hearts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


 ("How to Deal with People Who Ignore Covid Safety")

Lockdowns. Punitive measures. 

Why can't we change the language  used when speaking  of efforts to control the spread of the pandemic? The crime is not in enacting these measures but in failing to do so. The death penalty is in ignoring the reality of the disease not in addressing it.

If you think language doesn't matter, that framing is of little consequence then you have taken a Rip Van Winkle the past four years 

There is a time for brutal honesty and this is it. This country has received an F in its attempts to treat cancer with a bandaid. We all know that only with aggressive treatment can we even possibly hope to survive until the panacea, the vaccine, arrives to save the day 

We are not going to jail if we stay inside as winter, literally and figuratively, arrives. We are not being punished but protected by keeping our masks on, by staying out of restaurants, out of bars.

Don't frame this as a crime against humanity but rather as a safeguard for humanity. We are not packing you up and throwing away the key.

This is one time the bad guy is not the one wearing the mask. Rather it is the one without it.

Sunday, November 15, 2020


 I am a little confused. Are we in the pre-black Friday blowout period or the pre-pre Christmas moment? Are these the best deals I can get or am I waiting for the best, best deals?

And what is this with TV's? How can it be that a 24 pack of toilet paper costs more than a 50 inch television with built in Roku and a 12 month free subscription to the New Yorker as an added bonus?

And speaking of magazine subscriptions, why can I get 99.5 per cent off of every list price? I mean I can pick up the December 1 issue at the newsstand for $6.99 or get 2 years delivered through the mail at 3 cents a week. It is like asking if you want to pick what is behind door one or two, when you already know that the first one has a million dollars stashed there and the other a copy of your mother's recipe for dried-out lamb chops with mint jelly.

This is a disorienting time for sure. One day falling into the next as we wait for our regularly scheduled program called normal life to begin again. And this time of year can be particularly confusing even in the best of times. As we drive around and see houses dressed up in their finest Christmas attire, Santa ready to put his ample backside down a possibly non-cooperative chimney, Rudolph warming up on the front lawn doing some calisthenics. Is November the new December?

I have too much time on my hands and thus my thoughts tend to wander further away from my brain. I mean if we can play the Masters golf tournament in mid-November why do we have to keep any other event fixed on the calendar? Why can't we swap out Christmas and Thanksgiving? Easter where New Year's Eve normally sits. Graduation the first instead of the last day of school. How about dinner at breakfast and Tuesday three times in March and everyday in April?

Everything after all is but a social construct. I mean it is what it is because that is what we say it is. But what if we didn't say it is, but said it might not be, or even that it wasn't? What if we made up a whole set of new rules?

Oh wait, the orange man already stole that idea. 

And we do want a sense of stability, of constancy, this year more than ever. We do need to understand that double stuffed oreos is going a bridge too far, that stop lights aren't a request but a demand, that giving myself every putt under four feet does not make me a bad person. 

If rules like this don't exist, then we are left with anarchy. What would prevent snow from falling in Newark, New Jersey on July 4th or day deciding it would rather be night?

No, there are some things that must remain immutable. Like me getting up to pee every two hours. Or free refills of beverages at fast food restaurants.

Let me just wish everyone a happy holiday season, free from the burdens that have befallen us this year, secure in the knowledge that we reside in the most stable democracy the world has ever known, for the past four years housed in the small hands of a very stable genius.

Is there no more sanity clause? 

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Uninvited Guest

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite day of the year. It is not only the endless supply of the foods that your mind can even now almost taste. 
It is not just seeing the family break into pods, some sitting in the room where the Dallas Cowboys, the Detroit Lions and other footballers run on endless loop year after year. 

It is even more than merely the hugs, the touch, the feel of a lifetime of memories and shared experiences, of being around those who know you best and need the least explanation for your actions the past 12 months.

It is the sense that you are safe here, that in this space the troubles of the world are not welcome. That, for at least a single day, there is a calm to which each of us is entitled.

This year there is a desperate need for this momentary respite, a longing for something that allows us to wipe off all that has attached to our being, and attacked our soul.

There will be no family gathering for us this Thanksgiving. What we have all known for months was made official this week in an email sent by my cousin who has served as our host over the last decade. 

This year we are learning long division. How many times 50 can be divided by 3 or 4 or 6. My mom was one of  five children. She was the last to pass away, in 2017 at age 99. When I was very young, we traveled each year from our northern Jersey home to Morrisville, Pa., where the sibling who had wandered furthest from the family nest in Lodi, NJ had relocated. I laughed every year of my youth as our journey took us past the same sign etched into the same bridge, "Trenton Makes, the World Takes." Familiarity did not breed contempt, but joy.

I remember seeing my first color television set on one of those Thanksgiving day gatherings. It was not at the house of my aunt and uncle, but at the home of their best friend. We made a special trip to see this eighth wonder of the world. It was a very different time.

In later years, the honor of hosting moved among the five siblings. For several years, it resided at the home of my uncle, who definitely had the only bocci court in his hometown. We would patiently await our opportunity to demonstrate our skills. But while I was a pretty good bowler, it never translated to a string of wins on this playing surface.

As my mom's generation aged, my sister, myself and our first cousins  took turns housing the ever expanding numbers. At its largest, we were over 50. It was something to be a part of this spectacle, each year seeming to add another new life into the mix. And then, one by one, we lost the matriarchs and patriarchs. And, apart from one aunt (who happened to be my fifth grade teacher two years before she entered our family as one of the "outlaws") we now have become the elder statesmen and women.

Our family, as so many others, has scattered. While Morrisville was once the furthest tentacle from our north Jersey roots, now we reside in places as far as California, Washington DC, Wisconsin, Massachusetts. There has been some natural attrition as a result, but still we gather as a large contingent, still often close to 40, sometimes even a bit more. And we have started to welcome a new generation, the children of our children, the great grandchildren of the generation that began our Thanksgiving lovefest.

When we got the note from our cousin many of us wrote brief responses, all echoing the feelings we share at what will not be in the coming days. What we have lost as a result of this pandemic. The hole in each of our hearts.

Coronavirus does not understand or respect holidays. It only knows that this day would stand as the perfect setting, a petri dish, for demonstrating how multiplication works. How letting our guard and our masks down might give us an ephemeral sense of euphoria, but would more than likely provide an intimate family portrait in illness and death.  

This has been a year of almost unfathomable pain for this nation. Apart from having to deal with the constant stress of Donald Trump, we have been forced to reside in isolation and fear, frozen in place by a disease we cannot see coming.

If you decide that you are getting your clan together for Thanksgiving, fully understand that there may well be one additional guest in your home this year. And it will not be an unexpected visit from a long lost cousin.

A horrific illness is standing outside your front door, waiting for it to open. Once it comes in, it will be sitting with your family at your table, as you take another helping of stuffing, turkey or cranberry sauce. You will be passing around much more than the gravy.

 I suggest rather that you keep that front door closed this year, as impossibly difficult as it may be. The sadness and emptiness will pass. Death will not.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

On My Mom and Dad

 They were born while the battle raged. And they were but babies when, on November 11, 1918, the four year siege, the war to end all wars, came to a merciful conclusion.

Later the world would survive another four years of Hell. A time when nation upon nation recoiled at the horrors of a leader who stoked the flames of prejudice and hatred, a time when they fought as one to survive the damage that he would inflict upon them. And then one day, he was gone. And it was over. And there was dancing in our streets. 

My mom and dad were married 75 years ago today. November 11,1945, the day President Truman called upon us to remember and honor those who stood fast against the unimaginable horrors they faced in both of these conflicts.

Now we have gone from those world wars to a country at war with itself. All the values my parents believed in, the values they passed on to me, that I tried to instill in my children, all have come under relentless attack for the past four years..

We again danced in the streets this past week, as yet another long existential crisis has waned. I know if my parents were still alive they too would have been in the midst of the celebration.

It is has been more than a century since we first beat back the forces that would seek to destroy us. And I would guess that Donald Trump does not represent the last challenge to our democracy.

I can only hope that the future is filled with those like my mom and dad, who led by example, who taught the lessons of humility and humanity we all need if we are to survive.

On this day when we remember our fallen, I also remember with everlasting love and gratitude my parents who began a life together three quarters of a century ago.

Thank you for everything you were. The world is a better place because you were in it.


Monday, November 9, 2020


 As Mr. Trump carries on with his last presidential breath whining as only he can about Shakespearean injustices, the stabs in the back, the democracy that buckled but refused to break, we are left to listen one last time to fictions masquerading in an alternate universe as immutable truths.

We are the corrupt ones. We are the ones manipulating the system. We lie, cheat and steal our every waking hour. And we have purloined his throne.

His minions will do his bidding, pleading (in multiple senses) his cause, attempting to convince those who are now called upon to judge us that it is we who cannot be trusted. That there has been a conspiracy, the size of which is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.

It would be sad in a different world, a saner world, one not beset with the terrible damage left in this man's wake. It would be sad if he had ever earned our esteem, or was ever worthy of our praise. It would be sad if there had been even a moment's recognition of the solemn responsibility of the task he swore to undertake. But this is not sad, for Donald Trump has not caused us anything but pain, has not treated us with anything but disrespect, has not handled his office with even a scintilla of the care it mandates.

So let him take one final stab at convincing us that he is not the perpetrator of unspeakable crimes but its victim, carrying with him the certain knowledge of the verdict that awaits at journey's end.

For Donald Trump is now but a dead man walking

Sunday, November 8, 2020


 ("Biden Beats Trump")

Your headline was wrong. Biden did not defeat Trump.

Trump beat himself.

Saturday, November 7, 2020


 I want to thank you for your time Mr. Trump.

I am two years old. Actually two years and almost two months. I have lived my entire life with a President of indeterminate color, whose vocabulary is now smaller than mine, who has lost the combination to his moral code, who has so clearly taught me the  wrong side of the divide between right and wrong, who has less self control than anyone in my pre-school class, who doesn't know the meaning of grace or compassion, of friendship or kindness, who has shown me what hatred looks like and the damage it causes, who is willing to sacrifice as many lives as he has to in order to try to save one, who has obliterated the line between truth and lies.
I want to thank you Mr. President for everything you have brought to my young eyes, everything you have suggested to my young mind, everything you have tried to imbed in my young heart, everything you would instill in my young soul. 

I have watched everything you have done, heard everything you have said, seen everything that resulted from your words and deeds. I promise I have learned lessons from you that will stay with me forever.

But know this Mr. President. Until you have finished your latest rant, I want you to sit in time out. When you calm down I want you to pack your bags and leave your big white house without saying another word. 

You see, your time as my teacher is over. Your services are no longer needed. I can take it from here. 

You're fired.


Friday, November 6, 2020


 253 to 214. Those numbers are etched in my brain.

I mean I love Nicole Wallace, Joy Reid and Rachel Maddow, but even they must be running out of things to say. And they really should have a camera on Steve Kornacki 24 hours a day. He deserves an Emmy or at least a new shirt and the promise of a month off after this.

If good things come to those who wait, there better be excellent treats at the end of this exercise in Chinese (are they behind this too) water torture. Can we possibly come up with a 21st century solution for tabulating our preference?  I mean we got men to the moon over a half century ago. Do we still have to count votes with our fingers and toes?

The only positive of this is that they just took Captain Queeg off the stage in a straitjacket. When they have to cut away from the President's statement because even he is not allowed to shout FIRE in a theater, then do we get a moment for the hint of a smile in the middle of this absurdist play?

Wait. They just counted 12 more votes in Nevada. Mr. Biden is now  two and a half votes behind in Georgia. And Pennsylvania promises results will be forthcoming by the time the sun comes up, or goes down. Or somewhere in between. Did Arizona just secede from the Union? What day is this?

Yogi was right. There is such a thing as deja vu all over again. Please, I am begging you, finish the count. Note to orange man: don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Monday, November 2, 2020



 How must it feel to be Joe Biden today knowing that the future of our democracy rests in his hands?

In the day before what could be the end of the world as we know it, all I want to do is watch re-runs of Yankee classics. Anything but face the suffocating thought that Donald Trump could be unleashed upon this nation in his full fury for four more years (or beyond).

Joe Biden has lived through hard times that none should have to endure. He is remarkably resilient. But today the weight of the world rests on his shoulders and even he must be staggering.

Hillary Clinton's loss sent us into the streets in protest. A defeat tomorrow would send us into Hell.

Joe, no pressure buddy. Just like any other day knowing our heads will explode if you fail in this mission. 

No pressure.