Saturday, July 30, 2022

A Dad Joke

 Unfortunately, this conversation actually took place yesterday morning:

Son: (After a steep hike in the hot sun) "Boy am I perspiring."

Dad: "I am not a sweater. I'm a shirt."

This is exactly why children are often embarrassed by their fathers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Donald Trump and Lieutenant - Commander Queeg

 ("The Case Against Trump" - Talk of the Town - August 1, 2022)

Amy Davidson Sorkin's evaluation of the circumstances surrounding the circus involving Donald Trump reminds me of the film, Caine Mutiny. Ms. Sorkin writes of President Trump's relentless assault on the truth, his disappointment that Vice President Pence "let (him) down" and the unwavering support for the former President, no matter the facts that would suggest otherwise.

In the film,  Lieutenant - Commander Queeg speaks of alternative considerations as to what is the appropriate manner of performance by those under his command:

Queeg (during his introduction to the officers): "Mr. Maryk, kindly tell the crew on behalf of myself- that there are four ways of doing things on board my ship: the right way, the wrong way, the Navy way; and my way. So long as they do things my way, we'll get along."

And later, at Queeg's trial, there is a description of his symptoms which bears striking echoes to what we, as a nation, have borne witness to regarding Mr. Trump:

Lt Greenwald :"Doctor, you have testified that the following symptoms exist in Lieutenant- Commander Queeg's behavior: Rigidity of personality, feelings of persecution, unreasonable suspicion, a mania for perfection, and a neurotic certainty that he is always in the right. Doctor, isn't there one psychiatric term for this illness?"

And the response, which could apply with equal force to those who have stood behind Mr. Trump despite all evidence to the contrary, and would very likely result in their casting votes for him to run this country, even from a jail cell, in 2025:

Doctor Dickson: " I never said there was any illness."

Monday, July 25, 2022

Too Little, Too Late


("I Was Wrong About Al Franken", by Michelle Goldberg)

Mr. Franken was swept up in the "one size fits all" frenzy that consumed him predicated, in very large part, on one photo showing a comedian making an attempted joke gone horribly wrong. 

Even at the time I believed the clamor for his political head was an error. Now, given what has transpired in this nation since that day, and the very distinct possibility that Donald Trump may be his party's 2024 presidential nominee despite a list of grievances that makes Mr. Franken's seem as a pebble to a mountain, my belief in the mistaken rush to judgment for Mr. Franken has grown exponentially.

I understand the mea culpa of this op ed. But too little, too late never seemed a more apt reply 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Thru Hikers and Me

 For those who find walking from the kitchen table to the refrigerator a journey, the idea of thru hiking would be as appealing as my imagining Mr. Trump plopping his ample posterior back in the Oval Office in 2025.

But for me, there is something magical in these men and women, boys and girls and a few geriatrics putting one foot in front of another, Forrest Gump style, from the first hint of coming spring until the changing leaves of fall beckon. 

And sometimes, in the deepest heat of the summer, their lives and mine intersect for a nanosecond. So it was yesterday.

The Appalachian Trail stretches for over 2000 miles from its southernmost tip to its northern edge. My son went to college in New Hampshire and the path of the thru hikers took them right through the middle of his campus. And on occasion into the house where my son was staying. He would say that sometimes you could literally smell them coming, the months of accumulated toil and variable weather leaving a calling card that was testament to both their perseverance and perspiration.

Our family likes to hike, but what we do should not be given the same name as their task. On most mornings when we are in the Berkshires (except when the snow, artificial or real, demands our attention on the slopes) we take an hour or two to give ourselves modest challenge, to get the heart pumping and the muscles moving. Sometimes, we walk the tiniest sliver of the route as those who have committed to something enormous in scope.

I am 70 with feet as ugly as a political campaign and a mind wholly useless at everyday tasks like boiling water or following the most mundane instructions. So the chance of me ever performing this 2000 mile plus feat is about the same as my parting the Red Sea. No, less.

Yesterday, my son and I found ourselves on a small stretch of the AT (for us, in the know, that is shorthand for the Appalachian Trail). I remarked that I thought it was late in the season (by their calendar) for thru hikers to be still this far south. I was wrong. Over the next ten minutes, at least three, maybe four, passed us (we were not necessarily slower, just hiking in the opposite direction).

In my mind, this was almost the same as bumping into a few NY Yankees on the street (maybe this is a bit of an exaggeration, more on the level of running into a few Knicks).

And I took the opportunity, whether those trekking North were interested or not, to do a brief interview of two. I flunked the first test in flame out fashion.

My son always reminds me that not everyone gets my terrible sense of humor. That they don't always understand that I am only kidding when I say something that sounds discordant when it reaches their ears. 

So, the first contestant in my game show was a nice young lady who gave me a brief synopsis of this her first (and, she said, last) AT expedition. I congratulated her on her effort and exchanged a few more minor pleasantries. As we were concluding our ships passing in the night time together, she mentioned she was from the South. My political antennae now acting like a third rail I replied that she was still welcome as long as she was thru hiking. The attempted joke falling flatter than the Sierra. I could almost see the question mark above her head as she mumbled some response and headed on, sure she would be less accommodating to inquiry from strangers the rest of her trip.

My son had wandered up ahead, but was unfortunately still in earshot and reprimanded me for my comment that had missed its mark by the full length of the AT.

Luckily, not five minutes later I was given a chance at partial redemption. Another young thru hiker arrived where we were standing. This time it would be only compliments and no hint of controversy in my remarks.

First, all these hikers seemed remarkably "unscented". As though they were just out for a bit of a stroll, not well over a thousand miles and several months into reaching a goal that took them off the beaten path onto a road less traveled by bathtubs and showers or washers and dryers.

The gods shined on me, as this young lady was delightful, all smiles and sunshine and not in a rush to get past my inquisition. She allowed my son and me nearly 15 minutes of her time before we told her she should catch up to her friend, with whom she was on this quest and meet up with her mom and dad, who lived in the area and were meeting up with her later in the day (where she would spend the night at their home, with all the creature comforts, before returning to the same spot the following day, to continue, step by step, and inch by inch, onward).

So, my angst at my mea culpa was somewhat mollified by the good graces of my do over.

As my son and I finished our day on the mountain and returned to the car, I am sure he hoped I had learned a small lesson in the way I speak to those who don't know, and may not appreciate my particular method of communication. 

And sadly knowing I had not.

To all thru hikers I may meet in future days. I admire you for everything you are doing. And I apologize in advance if I leave you wondering if there is a more remote path where you can enjoy your time in the mountains, without the intrusion of those like me, who may be the very reason you are months removed from the daily noise of society. 

Even the AT not giving full protection from this particular storm.

Saturday, July 23, 2022


 ("The Myth of the Good Trump Official")

You say you want some absolution
Well, you know 
You can testify
You say you love the Constitution
Well, you know
You can end the lie

But when you lived with such destruction
Don't tell me that you shut your eyes

Don't you know I can see 
All right
Don't you know I can see (all right)
Don't you know I can see (all right)

You say you love the institution
Well, you know
You can make it right
You say he called for revolution
Well, you know
It was our darkest night

But when you stood by and just watched the hate
Oh brother you're too damn late

Don't you know I can see
All right
Don't you know I can see (all right)
Don't you know I can see (all right)

You say he was the real pollution
Well, you know
That is understood
You say we need some resolution
Well, you know
We do need something good

But if you were there for the whole damn ride
Don't raise up your head with pride

Don't you know I can see
All right
Don't you know I can see (all right)
Don't you know I can see (all right)

Not right

Monday, July 18, 2022

Swimming Lessons

 This was definitely not what the doctor ordered.

I stood in the lake, the water just about chest high. I was there for the sole purpose of protecting one little person learning the fine art of kicking her feet and moving her arms while trying not to swallow a fish. Or something like that.

But of course, me unfortunately being me, giving all my focus to one almost four year old guppie was not sufficient. And so I began to attract other similarly aged diminutive persons with swimmies, all who happened to be friends with my ward.

And soon, I was a being with ten arms and legs, charged with giving free rides into the shore line, or spinning the bodies in circles of those who used me as home base or even searching in vain for the whereabouts of those who attached themselves to the side of me I could not see.

Oh yes, about my doctor. He had, slightly less than half a year in my rear view mirror, put my left shoulder back together again, with the warning that Humpty Dumpty should not try to test the outer limits of what his artistry was capable. Kind of forever, but definitely well beyond the present tense.

On the shoreline, I am certain that my wife chalked up my stupidity to, well my stupidity. As to the people who birthed my expanded appendages and stood watching the show, they must have come to the unavoidable conclusion that Papa was more than a few cards short of a full deck.

After an extended while I noticed that the one who I had begun this exercise with was either doing morse code with her teeth or was in full shiver. And so I excused myself from the others to whom I had become so attached, and headed to the beckoning towel.

My daughter, who had left her first born in the care of Papa and crew, soon received numerous messages from those who had witnessed the attack on me, worried that my doctor and I would, in the immediate aftermath of this undertaking, be having a serious discussion about whether I had ever advanced beyond the emotional maturity of the guppies with whom I had interacted.

Luckily, today I can still lift my arm above my head and also remain quite capable of taking a poor fake golf swing without incident.
Which only goes to show that stupidity is not necessarily fatal. Just incurable.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

The President's Precedent

 ("At 79, Biden Is Testing the Limits of Age and the Presidency")

The President's precedent.

What do the following names have in common: Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, Calvin Coolidge, Rutherford Hayes, James Buchanan, James Polk? If you answered one and done (some with an asterisk, for they held office more than 4 years) you would be correct. All with an option to seek re-election. All deciding not to.

Franklin Pierce, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur. All sitting Presidents who did not even secure their own party's nomination to run for a second term (to be fair, 4 of these 5 had not been nominated for a first term, but had been elevated to their position by reason of the death of the then sitting President).

That makes 11 who did not even make it to the starting line the second time.

In addition, 11 more sitting President's lost  in a bid for re-election.

Thus, as we stare into the great unknown and begin our contemplation of November 2024,  the future of Joe Biden, his party and the possible demise of democracy, we should understand that we are far from the first to consider whether we should continue to dance with the one who brung us. That is, if he decides to dance at all.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

The Crowning Blow

 ("Elena Rybakina Wins Wimbledon and Her First Grand Slam Title")

This was, in intended triple entendre, the crowning blow. The champion as Russian as Stolichnaya vodka and nesting dolls.

Born and bred in Russia, but for the fact of a later arriving greatness, Elena Rybakina would today have held her tongue rather than the Wimbledon trophy, unhappy as a member of her homeland's tennis federation that she had been deprived of this opportunity by mere accident of nationality.

This victory demonstrated the absurdity of treating those hoping to participate as political pawns. We have been continuing witness to the tragedy of Brittney Griner. It should serve as warning that Wimbledon does disservice to the cause of democracy if it, in its own fashion, stigmatizes and dehumanizes individuals and treats them as symbols a part of, rather than apart from, the wrongs they wish to confront.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Red, White and Blue. With an Asterisk

 ("The American Flag Belongs to Me, Too, and This Year I'm Taking It Back")

Margaret Renkl did not raise the red, white and blue alone but with an asterisk. For on its own, this flag is now far too often a declaration of hatreds and prejudices, of exclusions and divisions. A statement not of what we are but what we are not.

The Republican party is one of messaging through symbols and slogans. Where is the Democratic equivalent of "Let's Go Brandon", or "Trump 2024"? Republicans wear their politics on their shirts, display them on their lawns and wave them in the faces of those they so vehemently and vociferously oppose. And they have captured July 4th and the flag as their own, not as a matter of pride but provocation.

So Ms. Renkl now flies a rainbow of colors to provide necessary clarification of her intentions, counterpoint to the visceral response and inevitable conclusions of seeing the red, white and blue flapping alone in the wind.

This was not how it was meant to be. But merely exactly how it is in the divided state of America.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Six Shooters

 They should forever after be denominated the "Six Shooters".

They have swiss cheesed the Constitution, the division between church and state bloodied at the 50 yard line, the protections afforded women to control their own body and destiny now left staggered and with a gaping hole, the limits of the Second Amendment eviscerated as gun slingers roam the streets without challenge while threatening the nation's safety, the air we breathe now given free rein to choke the very life out of us. 

It has been a busy week for these six who have managed in one horrifying session to dismantle and disfigure our most fundamental understandings. And the worst is that the worst is yet to come, as this weapon of mass destruction will be menacing us for the indefinite future. In their recent declarations they have given clear evidence they intend to demonstrate their full power to destroy our most cherished rights. Who and what we are being defined at the wrong end of their collective gun.

Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Democracy, as we would seek to define it, in serious danger of imminent demise.