Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Disappearing "Op-Ed"

 (Why We're Retiring the Term "Op-Ed")

So now I will be compelled to respond to "Guest Essays"? As though opinions are not members of your family, but outsiders who have popped in for a moment? As if their words were reflective of something apart from, not a part of the very fabric and fiber of what makes the New York Times the New York Times.

What then be my letters to you? Let us come up with a different definition. Maybe, "ruminations" or "vivid suggestions". 

I fear your change is far too clever by half. If it ain't broke don't fix it. Digital, shmigital. "Op-Ed" has significance far greater than where it is located. 

You have indeed made much ado about nothing. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning. When I will be reading the Op-eds.

Saturday, April 24, 2021


 It's not you it's me. So, the rejections begin.

Recently, in the middle of the night, as is my unfortunate habit, I awoke with a phrase running through my feeble cranium. Unable to turn this trickle aside, an hour later I was putting the final touches on yet another stroke of something likely far less than genius. But maybe, just maybe, this one has as many legs as a centipede.

I decided in that moment that this Seuss-like poem could indeed stand up to the light of day. And so, I am deeply sorry to advise, I have kept this tale tucked away from all but a handful of you. This one, if it were to find a larger audience, requires a smaller one for now. 

My problem is that I lack the focus and energy to sustain almost anything. Lazy is too kind a term for what ails me. Thus, faced with the daunting task of turning my early morning gem into an every day classic, I was in unfamiliar territory. Hard work and patience are to me what kryptonite is to Superman.

But, determined for once not to fold at the first hint of trauma, these past weeks have been spent trying to gain an education on the do's and mostly dont's of the process of finding a publisher willing to engage my thoughts with something other than a sneer.

The first step, find an agent. And so, I formulated a query letter, a kind of pep talk guaranteeing the reader that I would be the guy to make their day. Only there are more child story agents than there are grains of sand on the beach. And most are seemingly shut down for the likes of me tighter than Melania  when Donald gets that frisky look on his face.

I have however muddled through, so far able to send my piece, along with my all too positive cover note, to a half dozen or so of those who represent the first hurdle in the Mt.Olympus sized struggle before me.

Don't call us, we'll call you is what their universal message is on their websites. We are very busy and if we don't get back to you before you die, awfully good try.

This week, the first two replies appeared, much sooner than anticipated. "Not a good fit for me" read the first, as though I was a pair of shoes that had come in the wrong size. The other was crueler, finding mine a wonderful story that she just couldn't "connect with", as if my deodorant was not working as advertised.

I am trying not to be discouraged.  I know my chance of success is smaller than the probability I will dunk a basketball this afternoon, or spontaneously grow a full head of hair on the airplane landing strip on top of my head. But I feel strangely compelled to soldier on.

 Maybe it is a response to the title of my work, "The Land of Not." Maybe it is in its message that positive thought can turn bad into good. Maybe it is just that the reality of the futility of this exercise has not fully penetrated my skull.

But for now at least, I have not waved the white flag. I apologize for keeping you in the dark about this tale, but I will keep you informed as events unfold. And maybe, just maybe, we will all read "The Land of Not" together one day when it is not the subject of rejection but praise.

 By the way, I definitely see some new hair protruding from my scalp this morning. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty


Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. 

As much as we all wish the verdict today to signal the beginning of the end of the epidemic of brutality, it took a perfect storm of events to exact the result herein. 

What if there had not been the nine minute twenty second video defining obscene cruelty? What if there had not been witnesses to these horrors? What if the police chief had not repudiated the actions of one of his own and the blue wall of silence had remained unbroken? What if Derek Chauvin had not ignored the pleas of a dying man, of a frantic crowd, with a callous indifference that made it clear the life he was suffocating out of existence was of no value? 

What would have happened then?

Yes, we are grateful for how quickly and decisively the jury responded to the overwhelming force of what was presented to them. But we must ask if this was progress or merely a moment where literally everything coalesced so that this conclusion was an inevitability.

But what if the next one is not?

That will be the real test of where we go from here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Water Torture

It stares at me and laughs as I wince at its every sound. It takes such immense pleasure in my discomfort.

It dares me to accept its challenge. "Come on" it says. "Come on." But it knows I am not equipped for such an undertaking.

It is a Rubik's cube. It is an enigma's enigma. It is more difficult to solve than the most complex equation in our universe.

And so I am forced to accept its inevitability. I am compelled to bend to its domination. I am powerless to stop the relentless assault on my soul.

I move with trepidation into this room as the enemy notes my arrival and seems to increase the speed and volume of its attack upon my senses. If on occasion I should not need to wipe the slate clean on my end, I fleetingly contemplate leaving well enough alone and exiting this chamber of horror without confronting my foe. I fear if I anger it with futile effort to quiet its dark tune to my brain it will reply by redoubling its orchestration.
If ever the devil has inhabited your home, if ever a creature typed its incessant message into your skull and would not stop, could not be cajoled, could not be reasoned with, could not, would not respond to begging, to pleading, then you alone know of that which I speak.

I now comprehend the true meaning of water torture. The sink's unstoppable drip.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

This Time Things Will Change. And They Never Do

 ("Indianapolis Faces Its Third Mass Shooting This Year; Victims Identified By Officials")

What meaning in the words?

What meaning in the numbers?

What meaning in the anguish of the lives that remain, scarred forevermore beyond recognition by the tragedy that touched their very soul, their loss everlasting, their vision of the world never to be the same as it was before?

And so we learn of another shooting, of more death, of more senseless violence. And so we say this time it will be different. This time things will change.

And they never do.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Mr. Biden, Tear Down This Wall


 ("Biden Should Finish the Wall")

I have a different idea. Tear down this wall.

Even Mr. Stephens admits it would take years to finish. Thus, it has virtually no capacity to stem the present surge.

And beyond that, after 4 years of Mr. Trump using caricatures to create hatreds and stoke fears, the wall merely stands as a symbol, a testament to America's inhumanity, a sign of moral weakness not strength.

Yes, the sudden influx of immigrants creates logistical nightmares. But that is poor excuse for turning our backs, for shutting our eyes, for locking our doors to those in dire need.

We are better than the wall. We are at our finest when we find room in our hearts, and a home in our nation for those who seek shelter from the storm.

Mr Biden, tear down this wall.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Opening Day 2021

The snow fell lightly here this afternoon. As though it was  mocking me, an April fool, fixated on an event happening over 100 miles away.

It brought to mind Opening Day 1996, as I sat in the stands, the snow swirling while Pettite toiled. A quarter of a century past. It seems even further distant, the space between then and now overflowing with events that moved me, that changed me.

But one thing neither years nor distance could ever do was diminish my attachment to this sport and to my team. 

Baseball is in my soul. It bears an importance that I find almost impossible to fathom as I approach the beginning of my 70th year. It should long since have shrivelled, blown away by the winds of time. But it has remained steadfast companion, a part of me as real as my arms or my legs.

In the bottom of the second, the 2020 sufferings of Gary Sanchez momentarily disappeared into the left field bleachers. I did not witness this feat, as I was then in my car. But my mind followed the ball's flight and I danced next to the Yankee catcher as he circled the bases.

This past year has been unlike any other, our collective pain almost incomprehensible, our separation from the people and places that give life its meaning, bringing us all to our knees. 

My team lost today and I am living too far away to head to the Bronx on a whim. There is a sadness in each of those thoughts.

But my heart is overjoyed knowing the game I so love is ready for my full embrace. My spirit elevated by its mere presence.

It is Opening Day 2021.

And, especially this year, its so much more than that.