Friday, December 31, 2010

Happiness? What Does It Mean To You

From a Sunday Times section meant for children but applicable to adults as well:

"In recent years, a few books have been published on the subject of happiness – including arguments against simple pleasure and surface-level complacency. What does happiness mean to you?

In an essay in the Sunday Times Book Review, Amy Bloom considers the studies and books that have been published in recent years about the pursuit of happiness, as well as the cynicism about it. She then offers this list: the Fundamentally Sound, Sure-Fire Top Five Components of Happiness: (1) Be in possession of the basics — food, shelter, good health, safety. (2) Get enough sleep. (3) Have relationships that matter to you. (4) Take compassionate care of others and of yourself. (5) Have work or an interest that engages you.
I don’t see how even the most high-minded, cynical or curmudgeonly person could argue with that."

Child or adult one can't really argue about the components of happiness. I would venture to guess that one might add to it and maybe change the order but the five  components listed above couldn't be excluded. Having the components doesn't actually describe what happiness really is, i.e., the experience of being happy. Someone recently asked me if I was happy to which I responded "sure". After we separated I thought about it. Yes I was "happy" but what did that mean to me? Could it be that my definition of "being Happy" differed greatly from my friend's even if we both possessed the five components of happiness?

Many believe happiness is being in the state of some euphoria such as when the person you love finally says they love you also and you are walking on air. When you come down from that cloud and walk on the ground again does that mean you have stopped being happy just because the euphoria has left? The feeling of well being can have a bit of ennui attached to it but just because it may contain boredom doesn't necessarily exclude it from a state of being happy. Does it? Being content with one's lot in life is very good for some but not for others. To those that need vacations, or success after success being content with the five basic components of happiness listed above might lead to a state of unhappiness. Can we be happy with failure, disappointment, and never rising to the heights some seem to attain? Some might maintain it isn't the goal that makes one satisfied with one's lot in life but the experience of attempting rather than the need to achieve.

As far as I am concerned the way to true happiness is to "feel comfortable in one's own skin".  Life's goal should first be to find out who you really are and being comfortable with that knowledge. Shakespeare's, "To Thine own self be true then thou canst be false to any other." or something like that. This is the necessary ingredient. Not accepting one's self is the start of many bad things. However one can't be so self absorbed that every relationship relys only on what your desires may be. To explain further:

Our materialistic society measures success by what one owns or as in sports, how many wins can be acquired. Winning is the only way for in winning one acquires wealth and power. The pyramid gets very narrow at the top. There is room for only the few. What has happened to "...How you play the game is what counts."? What has happened to learning from our failures? What has happened to the reward of just trying?

To know, realize, and accept our shortcomings as well as our attributes leads to happiness. A Priest's homily once explained Christ's call to perfection, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."' as realizing that God's perfection is unattainable but our perfection is not. He went on with the allegory of a large pitcher of water filled to the brim, that is perfection of purpose for that pitcher. The glass, eight ounces, filled to the brim, is perfection for that glass. Both have reached perfection for which they were made but the glass can only provide eight ounces while the pitcher can provide much more.

Therefore to my friend who asked if I was happy I would expand on my answer of "Sure!" by saying I am content by being comfortable in my own skin with my talents and lack of talents, recognizing that there are many things I can't have or do' but I can try and find the things I can do. While attempting new ventures I sure as hell can love the people I meet and live with as well as all the wonders around me like the snows in winter, the budding trees in spring, the beautiful flowers of the summer and the blazing colors of the fall.

Be happy, Live well. Happy New Year! Happy New Day!

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Different Kind of Christmas Story

December 23 finds the family of Zach and Caitlin at the dinner table with their two children and Zach's father
munching on Pizzas. No cooking since tomorrow, Christmas Eve will be a big gala day or should I say night. Zach came from a large family and they all converge on their household Christmas Eve to exchange presents, eat, drink and catch up but for the most part make merry. Zach's father came to live with them after Zach's mother passed on. Caitlin wasn't so sure this would be a good situation since she regarded his father as a grumpy old man who got worse as he grew older. She really liked Zach's mother and often thought the wrong one went first. She could of seen her living with her mother-in-law, but her father-in-law? When they were discussing this arrangement Zach convinced her he could keep his Dad in tow and "What the hell, at his age this wouldn't last too long!". The last few years proved to be uneventful. Zach's Dad had a sort of perverse humor and sometimes this encouraged Zach to indulge in the same humor, much to Caitlin's chagrin. For the most part everybody was getting along, including his granddaughters who never payed much attention to anyone in the household anyway.They were enjoying their Pizzas and talking about nothing in particular when one of them brought up the loss of their dog, Abba Dabba. Shortly after Zach's father moved in Abba D.,as they called him, who wasn't feeling well but seemed OK for a sixteen old mutt, died. Zach's father was home with his oldest granddaughter and her current flame at the time. Between Zach and his father the remembrance went some thing like this; "The night before Abba D. was showing more life than ever running around and playing. The next day he was just moping around. He disappeared and Zach's father and his granddaughter found him, he was laying on his side with his tongue out, eyes open but not moving. They tried to lift his paw gingerly and it was motionless, just limp.", Abba D. was dead, stone cold dead in the market. When Zach told his part he was rolling over in laughter as he lifted his arm and let his hand droop as he stuck out his tongue to one side and drooled. Zach and his father were rolling over in laughter but Caitlin and her daughters seemed more confused as to what was so funny about losing their beloved Abba D. They finished eating and talked a little more.Then Zach's father bid everyone a good night as he ran and bolted up the stairs to his space to watch whatever sports might be on the air or a good sexy picture before he went to sleep.

Dec. 24, Zach and Caitlin spent this day getting the house in order and arranging for the food that would be served. They enlisted their Daughters, not without a struggle, they succumbed to Caitlin's orders after it became painfully obvious to them that they weren't going to get away with doing nothing this time by screwing up their chores , so they caved and helped. The day was a bright cold  Dec. day and the weather was going to hold up so it looked like every one was going to make it this Christmas Eve, a real houseful. Sometime around 4PM Caitlin asked Zach if he didn't think it strange that that they hadn't seen or heard from Zach's father yet? Zack said you know the old guy has peculiar habits and he's probably tying to get rest so he could over-indulge in wine and food tonight. By 4:30 she was whining that Zach should go and wake him up. Zach, with a sigh said OK and went to wake up his father. "Caitlin" Zach called, "Come up here for a sec.". She said she didn't want to intrude on his father and told Zach to go ahead and get him up. Zach pleaded and she went up. His father was laying in bed on his left side facing the door. Zach pointed out that he thought he looked a little peculiar, his head to one side and his mouth opened with his tongue hanging out on the pillar. "He reminds me of his description of Abba D. when he found him dead.", Zach uttered more to himself than to Caitlin. She was appalled that he would even think such a thing. They approached him, tried to wake him to no avail. Caitlin was getting panicky and Zach lifted up his father's arm which had no life to it and his hand drooped downward, "See just the way he said Abba D.'s paw was.". Caitlin started to cry, "He's dead." she whimpered. Zach said, "Yeah it sure looks that way." Caitlin wanted to call the police but Zach had other ideas. "Look, if we call the cops everything is off for tonight. All the kids, all my brothers and sisters, all upset their Christmas ruined! All the money we spent on the food and drinks; WASTED!!!" Caitlin said she thought he was terrible to even think of the money at this time and she said no matter what he wanted, she was going to call the police. As she started to leave the room Zach called out, "OK, but just remember this is going to blow tomorrow also. This means the big dinner for your folks, Father, Mother, Brothers, Sisters and your Aunts, all cancelled. Your family's Christmas, RUINED! How about that Caitlin?". Caitlin stopped in her tracks, "What are you suggesting?"  Zach was scrambling in his mind, after stalling a bit he suggested that they keep his father in bed, open all the windows and let the cold air keep him from stinking up the place with his dead body. They could lock the door and say that he went out someplace with his new flavor of the month. The heat would be turned up to combat the cold from the upstairs. After the Chrismas dinner, when everybody left THEN they could call the authorities. Caitlin was worried that they could get into trouble but Zach lied that he knew they were legally within their rights and after all it saved Chrismas for almost a hundred people. Caitlin didn't feel quite right about this but she always trusted Zach and even if he was wrong sometimes he was right many times also. On top of everything else she really looked forward to hosting the big Christmas dinner just so she could show her mom and sisters she was capable. So she agreed to the plan. The windows were opened wide and the cold air gushed in. The door was locked. Downstairs they turned up the heat and continued to prepare for the evening of fun and frolic.

Around 7:30PM the crowd began to arrive. Zach really enjoyed these family gatherings. He secretly felt far superior to his siblings and if the truth be told each one of the siblings felt far superior to the other. Growing up in a family largely populated by males where testosterone ran wild causing fierce competitiveness also affected the female members of the family. However, they used their wiles to get the best of the brothers. Having older brothers was a blessing and a curse. Most guys that dated them would never get out of line but many they liked were scared away by the hulking presence of males who let it be known that they would hunt them down if they came on too strong. Within an hour everybody had arrived, siblings with their children and their children's friends. Finally one of the guys asked Zach where, "Where's Pop?", to which Zach explained that Dad had to go out with his "flavor of the month" despite the fact that he really wanted to be with them. This caused a lot of laughter and some snide remarks about their father. One guy started up the stairs and Zach stopped him. "Hey, I just wanted to use Pop's bathroom, yours is full.". Zach thought fast and said that Dad had locked the door and he didn't have a key. Quite a few of the guests complained that it was quite drafty by the stairs and overly warm in other parts of the house. It was suggested that Zach do something about the house's uneven heating. Finally the presents were opened, the food eaten and the drinks drunk and the crowd left around 1AM. The guys had quite a few off colored remarks about their father being with another woman besides their mother. The girls took umbrage with this. From their childhood the guys vied for their mother's attention but the girls were Daddy's little girls and don't think they didn't play that to its fullest. After they left, Caitlin and Zach cleaned up and Caitlin let her fears about Zach's father being upstairs, "waiting". But Zach assured her that after Christmas dinner with her family the proper steps would be taken. So they went to bed tired yet somehow happy as they fell asleep.

Dec. 25, Christmas Day, found Zach and Caitlin's immediate family gathered around the Christmas tree exchanging presents from about 8:30 to 9:30AM when Caitlin declared the exchange time over because they had to get the place shaped up to greet her family for Christmas day celebration. This caused her two daughters to immediately disappear which Caitlin was thankful for since she wanted to talk to Zach about his father's condition. "Zach I could hardly sleep knowing that your father was upstairs in that cold room." Zach responded with a grin he tried to hide, "Honey, he doesn't feel a thing. Just hang on one more day. As soon as your family goes home I promise, we'll take care of  Dad.". So Caitlin busied herself with the preparations trying not to be preoccupied with her father-in-law's condition, so much so that she never realized her daughters managed to stay invisible while she and Zach did everything. Finally around 2PM Caitlin's family descended on their home seemingly all at once.

As with his family Zach felt quite superior to Caitlin's family. However the men in her family were humongous. Her father was the short one at 6'4", her brothers were all taller stretching all the way to almost 7 feet. Therefore Zach kept his superiority feelings quite subdued, "Why roil the waters?" he thought so long ago. He really liked the women in Caitlin's family and thought they were articulate, intelligent and attractive. All in all he enjoyed being with her family even if he felt compelled to keep some of his most provocative thoughts to himself in order to keep peace in the family and not to agitate those really large guys. The women drank wine while the guys had beer except for Caitlin's father who had Scotch Rocks. The meal went well with everyone enjoying the Ham, Turkey and Yams. The desert was sumptuous, Apple Pie with a scoop of the most delicious new ice cream flavor. Caitlin's mom asked where Zach's father was spending his Christmas day and while Caitlin phumferred, Zach said he was over one of his sisters house. Caitlin's father did insist that Zach should have his heating system checked since it was quite cold and drafty by the stairs going upstairs while the other parts of the house was hot and stuffy. Zach did what he always did when his father-in-law insisted he do something, he agreed and said he'd take care of it this coming week. The day was a success. The dinner went well. Everybody was happy and well fed and as quickly as they all appeared they all left around 8PM, all laughing and hugging. Very shortly after they left Caitlin and Zach's two daughters left saying they had a party waiting for them. As they left Caitlin reminded them of their curfew to which they nodded but had no intention of keeping. Finally Zach and Caitlin were alone with Zach's father upstairs.

Caitlin immediately got out the vacuum saying she didn't want the police to enter her house when it was a mess. They cleaned, washed the dishes and got the house ship-shape by 11PM. Caitlin told Zach he could now call the police. Zach hesitated and Caitlin whined that he promised he would take care of this matter as soon as their day was over. Zach put his arms around Caitlin and while he was caressing her he whispered, "Look honey, we are both exhausted. Despite some very trying circumstances this was a great Chrismas Eve and Day, perhaps the best we ever had. If I call the police now we are up until the early morning hours. What difference would it make if we got a good night's sleep then called? We would not only be well rested but we won't have to go to work. We'll probably be off the whole week. A gift I am sure my father would want us to have. So what do you say? Let's go to bed and take care of this slight problem tomorrow?" Caitlin was totally exhausted. She had no fight left in her. She agreed and went to bed without even washing up. As soon as she hit the pillow she was asleep. Zach climbed into bed next to her and slept back to back touching rear-ends which always felt just right to him. As he was drifting into the echo chamber that was between sleep and being awake, he thought; "Even though it cost me a fortune to heat the house these days it was worth it. Almost a hundred people having a real good time enjoying family, laughing and loving. Not bad! And my father never really liked holidays anyway. Just before he dropped into a deep sleep he heard a dog bark, his father's raucous laughter and voice saying, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Miracle or Co-incidence Fifty-Two Years Apart

It was Wednesday, June 25, 1958. He was next in line waiting to be mustered out of the US Army. He was just under six feet tall and was a strapping One Hundred Seventy pounds. While in the Army they generally referred to him as "Big Lou". Carrying his duffel bag over one shoulder and his Trumpet under his arm he was dressed in his Class A's. Khaki's neatly pressed, cap in regulation upon his head which while not sporting the pompadour that was there two years earlier, he still sported a wave that he liked. The mustering out pay was only a couple of hundred dollars since he was a peace time soldier but it would be enough to get through the month since he was assured of his job starting the next Monday since this was the law. A few bills were a lot in 1958, it would be all he had for his wife and new born first child of only a week old. He was secure in the thought that he would be able to take care of his loved ones and was chomping at the bit to see them. He wanted to hold them both and make them feel secure in his arms. He would be their protector. The guy in front of him was dismissed and the Officer in charge yelled "Next!".

He snapped to and spouted rank, name, and serial number with a snappy salute. The ceremony was settled in a few minutes and he accepted the brand new bills folded so nicely, and his discharge papers. He snapped a salute made a crisp about face left the room and let out a cheer. He was a free man again and in a day he would see his beloved. He was convinced to take a train rather than fly. His mother and wife felt there was a greater possibility of an accident in the air than on the ground. Remember this was 1958. He took a hitch into town where he grabbed a bus to Atlanta where he boarded a train to New York. Secretly he thought the flight of a few hours would be better than the train ride of twenty-four, but why tempt fate. At the Atlanta train depot there was an hour and a half wait for his train. He wandered about the depot getting something to eat and generally wasting time. The announcement came to board the train some fifteen minutes before departure. Boarding the train he selected a window seat and got comfortable. He kept his money in a side pocket ever since the barracks were robbed and his wallet rifled. He was thinking about seeing his son and kissing his wife as he reached into his left side pocket just to get the feel of his money which was going to get them through the month. He reached in and felt nothing. He tried the other pocket, empty. He searched his wallet, nothing. He looked on the floor, under the seat, NOTHING, he panicked. He thought he must of lost it in the depot but the conductor was making the departure announcement. He ran to the conductor and pled with him to hold it up while he checked with the depot. He was dressed in his Class A's and in those days they respected the uniform. The Conductor held the train and summoned two station plains clothes men. They did what they could, checked with lost and found but----NOTHING! Now Big Lou was feeling very small as the train pulled out of Atlanta, in fact he was sweating profusely. He turned around and saw an old couple, remember he was Twenty-Four and upon recollection maybe they weren't so old, maybe mid fifties, and he accused them of finding the money and keeping it. No matter their assurances of innocence, he was unconvinced but short of beating this old guy to death Lou could do nothing. He took refuge between two cars and lit a Lucky Strike and drew in heavily. How could he explain this to his girl, his wife? How could he protect her and his son if he couldn't hold on to the means to providing. Big Lou felt like a little weeny. He then started to pray very deeply, first to St. Jude but since he felt it was lost item it was more in St. Anthony's purview. He lit up his third Lucky when the idea came into his mind to go back and check between the seats. He wasn't sure what this meant. He sheepishly passed the old couple as he sat down and noticed that the seats were covered with protective material. He forced his hand between the seats and pushed them a bit apart. Low and behold there was his money neatly folded being held by a string stretching across the seats. He picked it up and thanked St. Anthony. The apologies to the old couple were accepted. Now he could go home and be the protector he wanted to be and not the wuss he was going to be until St. Anthony  intervened. Fast Forward Fifty-Two years.

We find "Big Lou" standing in line at the local super market waiting to be checked out. Maybe the "Big" part had to be revisited. He was just under five feet ten Inches weighing in at 195 pounds. His cap sitting on his bald head was an old Yankee cap that needed to be turned in but he was sure it was his lucky hat that contributed to many Yankee victories while the losses were the fault of the manager or players. He wasn't dressed in what one would call class A's, maybe class Z's would be more apt, hardly a crease to be found except on his face. He got up to the check out where a girl who he thought was closer to 10 than 20, with purple colored fingernails checked him out. He had purchased some fill-in groceries and the bill came to Fifty-Five Dollars, thirty dollars less than the months rent on their first apartment. She packed the items as he took out his wallet and got his American Express card out ready to give her for payment. His kids, three of which were in their fifties and the others closing in on that age very quickly, now thought he needed protection. He who was the great provider now was the one who needed to be provided for. The check-out girl never seemed to look at him, like he wasn't there. He gave her the card. At least he didn't have to say his Rank, Name and serial number the equivalent was on the card. She handed the card back with the paper that needed his signature which if he signed mickey mouse would have passed through without question. He put the card back into his wallet and put the wallet in his back pocket. Three small bags of groceries felt as heavy as his duffel bag had once. He was on his way out when he heard a gruff voice bellow, "Hey!" which caused him to turn to see if he was the "Hey". There was this youngish guy, maybe middle Fifties, pointing towards the ground at what seemed to be Lou's wallet, "Your's", he bellowed. Sure enough it was. He bent over to pick it up for Lou which I guess was deference to the age differential. Lou thanked him profusely and shook his hand which engulfed Lou's as Lou's used to engulf others. "It will be a merry Christmas for me.", Lou exclaimed as the wallet had the credit cards, licenses and many other things which would take days to take care of. They left the store together and this guy proceeded to give Lou the advice not to carry his wallet in his back pocket. He told the tale of losing his wallet at a movie house and going back the next day and despite the objections of the house's manager he went to the seat he had the previous night and found the wallet in the rear of the seat as he pushed his hand down into the seat. The wallet was hanging on a thread, spread loosely with the thread supporting it.The moral offered was to carry the wallet in the side pants pocket. The moral taken was St. Anthony was reminding Lou that goodness is still around and even though there is nothing to protect or a wife to kiss, there still was purpose. Lou thought to himself that he should have asked that guy if he prayed to St. Anthony before returning to that movie house but he didn't and don't think St. Anthony didn't let Lou know he wasn't happy about that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Something Was Lost Along The Way! Innocence?

A couple of Jewish guys I know always let it be known that they got fountain pens for their Bah Mitzvah. They didn't remember if the girls had anything at all for their Bat Mitzvah. Today they marvel at the fact that both the guys and gals celebrate like it was their weddings. The cost is almost as much as it used to cost for a wedding. The gifts expected are at the level of what past expensive wedding gifts were.

Confirmation celebrations haven't quite reached that level but are getting there and so are the gifts. What is reaching the level of ridiculousness is sweet 16 parties. The girls get dressed up in mini wedding dresses and a hall is rented, music provided and large gifts expected.

The wedding itself has risen to the cost of a year or two or three of an expensive University. Of course the Bride wears white signifying virginity. Pardon me while I guffaw! Come to think of it wasn't the expression "Sweet sixteen and never been kissed."?  Now it's "Sweet sixteen and only had oral sex, so I guess I'm still a virgin."

When my Jewish buddies were Bah Mitzvahed they were considered to be men despite their early ages. They had to take on responsibilities of family and community all for a Fountain Pen, one that held real ink and had a point. Today for far more, I am told that the "men" or "women" are allowed to go back to worrying about their acne and hair and whatever else teenage children obsess over for far more than a fountain pen.

College was a place one went to learn and become aware of the world about us. It would take four years and many acquired a Liberal Arts degree. Graduate school allowed the most gifted to go on to specialized field always with the thought that learning was the goal. The undergraduate was out by 22 and the post graduate by 24. Now the college experience goes on without stopping with many stretching out the experience to the age of 30 or more, and it is not Doctors I am referring to. The cost has mushroomed to such a degree that many parents and students alike are in hock until old age. AND what does the College experience give besides drunken parties, unwed mothers and over age adolescents? With the lure of college being to get a GOOD JOB, that PAYS MUCHO MOOLA, one wonders where all this greed comes from doesn't one? From athletes to financial and economic gurus all that counts is how much money can I make.

We are all so smart these days. Nobody can tell anybody about purity of ideas and caring about the other guy. The theme is "How can I get mine and how fast?". The marriage pact comes later with the idea that if it doesn't work out there's always divorce. When the children are raised with the thought of everything is coming to them how can it be expected that when obligations come their way they run away from them. In life for better counts, for worse is time to bail. The loss of wonder comes from the loss of innocence. This is too bad because the wonder is still there if we only let the innocence stay for awhile.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

He Misses Her The Most When It Gets Coldest

She left him when it became too unbearable to stay. He tried to keep her but he wouldn't be able to give her what she wanted. What she wanted was out there far away from him. She couldn't have both, her freedom to be all she could be and him. She gave it the best try she could but she was restricted and couldn't grow. The fact was she began to regress the longer she stayed. They loved each other deeply. They held hands, laughed or just enjoyed being in each others' company. But in order for her to reach her potential she had to leave.

He came to realize that this had to happen. In fact he knew he had to help her reach the point where she would go and feel no guilt in leaving. His love was that strong that he wanted only what was best for her even if it meant leaving him with a void that could never be filled.

They enjoyed the summer with it's wonderful colors, sweet smelling flowers and long never ending days. They knew the winter was approaching as the leaves on the trees started to change colors and the wind was coming from the north with it's chilling effect. Then in the coldest days she could bear it no longer so she quietly left to reclaim herself and he was left alone. He missed her during the days but the nights were the worst especially the cold winter nights. When they were together he'd wrap his arms around her warm body and together they were warm. Now even though he has woolen blankets the winter nights remain chillingly cold and foreboding. He has some peace and solace knowing she is now complete and happier than he could ever make her. His hope is that he too will find that place so he can be all that he can be also.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Secrets; One Held; One Told; Wrong One Blamed

Things were pretty hectic for Sarah in those days. It seems that people were seeking her out to confide in her. Some wanted her advice. Some wanted to relieve themselves of burdens. Some just wanted to talk. Others had problems that were like an Albatross around their necks and by confiding in Sarah the Albatross would release itself and hang on to Sarah. This was quite a burden, yet Sarah couldn't say no to anyone who sought her presence. She knew from past experiences that deep dark secrets told usually led to a dissolution of the friendship. Once the person revealed the secret there now was at least another who knew of the weakness and the person would shy away from one who knew as much about them as they knew.

There was one family that was going through a particular struggle. Two in-laws were at odds in a bitter family struggle. These two women knew Sarah and befriended her. They used Sarah's broad shoulders to cry on about the family struggles. One of them developed an illness that could be cancer and she panicked. Until the tests had run their course and she had the results she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Sarah was there for her at all times, comforting, listening and crying with her when needed.

The other gal had a deep dark secret that was coming to a head. She would refer to it in a vague sense. As the time for some sort of resolution seemed to draw near she finally revealed this secret with the caveat that Sarah could tell no one, including her husband. Sarah's husband pressured her to tell because he was acting like a Yenta. Sarah was also being pressured by a friend who was actually a Yenta. This Yenta friend knew both of the people involved and was watching the drama from afar. She tried to get Sarah to reveal everything she knew but Sarah stood firm. She was there for both of these women but kept all secrets to herself much to her husband's chagrin.

Then one day the gal with the fear she was going to have cancer got all the results back. The biopsy revealed only a fatty tumor. This person then reverted to her old self and increased her attack upon her in-law. The intensity of hatred was raising so much so that the family's Patriarch had to intervene and chastised both of them but especially the one who had found out she was well. This person formed a new alliance with a neighbor who knew all concerned. Sarah was being shunned.

Suddenly, the gal who had the deep dark secret abruptly stopped talking to Sarah and started avoiding her. Sarah was besides herself. She couldn't understand what she had done to deserve such treatment. Years went by and everything seemed to calm down with the family tolerating each other but never really trusting one another. Then one night when the Yenta previously referred to, was with Sarah, she told her that she found out that the secret had been revealed and Sarah was being blamed for the leak. The Yenta tried to get Sarah to tell her what could be so great that would turn a person's life around but Sarah never relented. Even Sarah's husband tried to get her to share with him, after all weren't they one? As it says in the wedding vows. But Sarah wouldn't budge.

Many years passed and Sarah got very ill and passed away never revealing the secret she was  sworn to hold. The gal with the secret always believed she was betrayed by Sarah and this was like a thorn in her side.
Sometime after Sarah's death the neighbor that revealed the secret, let it be known to some outsiders that the gal who thought she had cancer told her what the secret was. She decided that the sick, now well person, used people like pawns for her own purposes, be it good or evil, and would not say anymore about this matter. The gal with the deep dark secret never heard that it was her own in-law who betrayed her and to this day blames Sarah. Of course the perfidious one is still going about wrecking havoc on all who get in her way of enjoying life. I am sure she will eventually get her just desserts, in this life or the next.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Barack Obama & Rodney Dangerfield

Rodney passed away some years ago but we can still see him yanking on his tie or suit Jacket saying, "I don't get no respect!". He was a funny man who brought great laughter from night clubs, to TV, to movies. Who can not smile when one thinks of "Easy Money" and Caddy Shack and the whole host of Dangerfield's productions. Outlandish, hard to believe but very, very, funny. He came to us too late in life and left too soon at least in the category of performing. I don't think he ever got a star on The Walk of Fame in Hollywood. He was recognized mostly as a genius by his peers, fellow comedians who were as zany as he was. But in life and death he rarely got any respect from those who control the industry. Too bad. Yet at what he did he was great and left a lot of us happier he was with us. He accomplished his purpose, he made us laugh.

Barack Obama I fear is our political Rodney Dangerfield. President Obama is really a genius who is accomplishing much as he tries to get all his promises in place despite opposition from all sides. Obama has unintentionally given us lots of laughs, while he has gotten us through a financial crisis that perhaps could have equaled The Great Depression. He has managed to get a comprehensive health care program covering most Americans. Like Rodney not all of his moves were great success' but he tried. AND like Rodney he gets little respect. Let's look at the present brouhaha. He got a compromise which for the most part benefits the unemployed, the middle class worker among other things. He had to give the upper class what the Republicans wanted in order to get this. Today  we find his own party bashing him. He just don't get no RESPECT. This was pretty funny for Rodney but I don't think it is for Barack. I have a theory about this.
He doesn't get respect because no one is afraid of him. The Republicans, his own party, the Progressive Independents, they all feel the guy in the most powerful office in the world can't hurt them so they bully him. The longer he goes without hurting them the less respect he gets and the less respect he gets the more the country will laugh at him until like Rodney he will be gone, coming to us rather early in the life of a politician and leaving even earlier. He once said in an interview, I am paraphrasing, that he'd rather be a one term President that did good things than a two term President that compromised his beliefs in order to stay in office. If he keeps up his present modis operandi he will accomplish his prophesy.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wiki Leaks and Other Absurdities

The United States is being embarrassed by Wiki Leaks who have come into classified information passed on from a lowly uniformed worker. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? The most powerful country in the world is getting its ass kicked by guys like these and no one else is involved? The US must have the worst Intelligence community in the world or there is more to this story than anyone wants to admit.

The President of the United States is acting like Rodney King after the riots asking the Republicans, "Can't we all be friends?". ARE YOU KIDDING ME? The answer is obvious to a schmuck like me. NO! We can't be friends and make nice, nice because you are in power and we want to be. Nothing else matters. But for the record we shall look like we are co-operating while we work on making you a one term President at all costs. Check out the Mitch McConnell quotes.

A commission comes out with a report that says we are on the road to financial ruin unless we cut things like social security, medicare and medicaid. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There are more billionaires in the US while there are more people at the poverty or near poverty level than at any time in its history, yet there is no mention of redistribution of wealth. OOPS! That is a dirty word, after all why should we be concerned with the needy as long as the needy ain't us? They didn't say it but let the rich get richer and screw the common folk. Did you ever notice that bitter financial medicine only seems to affect the middle and poor class? Hey why does a billionaire care if medical costs are expensive? They have enough to make sure they will have enough even with catastrophic illness yet the lower classes get wiped out. By the way George Steinbrenner's death this year saved the family millions in Estate Taxes which come back into effect next year but not if the Republicans have anything to say about it. The lower classes of course aren't affected as much because they have much, much, much, much LESS. Yet the very ones being adversely affected by the Tea Party and the Republicans are the very ones supporting them GO FIGURE!

You can all stop with the office collections for Derek Jeter! The poor guy had to take a pay cut but he'll manage to get by, only Fifty-one MILLION for the next three years. Boy that's tough! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I agree the Yanks didn't play nice with him but have you noticed over the years they very rarely play nice with anyone? Babe Ruth really meant more to the Yanks than any one. He alone drew them in the stands and the stadium was the one HE, THE BABE, really built. When his time came they cut him and never even offered him a VP PR job. Yeah, he got a stone in center field. BUT he came a long way from the incorrigible youth in Baltimore didn't he?  So Derek and Babe did OK. The fans now? The seats cost a fortune. Can one really take his family to a few games without being the beneficent of some corporation? Notice though, the seats are loaded with guys that have much moola! Guys and gals that really never have to worry about cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. They really enjoy their season tickets don't they? And the Game gets richer and richer as do all that are in it, Ballplayers included. We of course should be concerned if they don't make all they can because its America's National Past Time.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

December 1, 1901 Luigi's Birthday

Luigi was born in Bari, Italy on December 1, 1901. Luigi was in the middle of some 15 or so children. Whenever his children tried to find out the precise number by asking Aunts or Uncles they never seemed to nail down a fixed figure. Luigi grew up in a happy but strict Italian family. Luigi's father was a shoemaker, not a shoe repairer but one who made shoes. Luigi's mother used to bake bread for the Nuns that lived nearby. Luigi's family lived in a suburb of Bari called Casamasama. This was a poor town and business for new shoes wasn't a thriving one. The Mother kept the finances between bearing all those children. Two years separated the kids since she nursed and managed to get pregnant when she stopped. Catholics take note, better than the rhythm method. Luigi seemed to grow up happily enjoying Football (Soccer), Opera and loved to sing and eat although he always was very thin. Yet he never wanted to become a shoemaker like his father and a few of his brothers so he did odd jobs. Luigi shared with his son many years later that each town's square had a shell for musicians that would tour and play Operas. God forbid if they made a mistake. The people knew each Opera, note for note and if badly played they would throw tomatoes and rocks at the musicians.

Around 18 Luigi became restless and saw very little future for him at home. A few of his siblings had immigrated to the United States and encouraged him in letters to join them. When he was 19 he boarded a ship and set sail for Waterbury, Conn. with first stopping at Ellis Island, New York. Now he could only afford the cheapest so he sailed on the lowest deck and ate very little since he was seasick most of the way.
Luigi arrived in New York harbor barely a man, unable to speak the language knowing very little of the customs. He must of been very afraid yet his Italian pride would show none of that. He got through customs and was met by family members and headed for Waterbury. I guess you could say he settled in a ghetto which was good not bad. The Italian part of town gave him a feeling of belonging, of home. It was near the Polish part of town. He got a job in a factory that was staffed at his level with Polish and Italian workers. The Polish guys were big brawny guys and Luigi was wiry but thin. In those days eating was a sign of manliness. The Italians knew about Luigi's eating prowess but the Polish guys didn't. They would be suckered into a bet choosing the favourite as to who could eat the most, not the fastest but the most, quantity not speed. When the Polish guys saw skinny Luigi the betting went up. Luigi insisted on the menu which consisted of the most filling Italian cheeses and salamis. He easily beat them. The Italians collected the money from the bets and went home for lunch, including Luigi.

A little later Luigi's family moved to New York where he picked up the trade of Furniture (Re)Finisher in which he excelled because of his ability to color and match colors. He met a young Italian-American girl and they married. For a while he fractured the English language but when two young girls in a bakery made fun of him and he didn't know why until he asked his wife he became so angry that on his own he studied and in his later years had a refined accent. I guess you could take the boy out of Italy but you could never take Italy out of the boy. He had friends that migrated from Italy also. Many a night they would listen to records of great Operas and cry at the beauty. This was never understood by Luigi's children until they got older. Baseball was foreign to Luigi but Soccer was not popular here. Yet he tried to understand the game as his children were really into it. Little by little he became Americanized. His name became Louis. He became a naturalized citizen. He was very proud of this. He worked hard, supported his family, loved his wife and kids yet never got too sentimental in showing this.

Luigi now Louis died at age 69 and his children have never forgot what courage this young guy of 19 showed by coming over here to make this strange country his very own. How he managed to be a good husband, always loyal showing respect to his wife's family as if they were his own blood. Even trying to understand his children who at times were too American for an Italian guy to understand, yet try he did. In a way Louis epitomizes what makes this country great, built by humble people with great strength and courage.
Happy Birthday, Pop.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Those Were The Days My Friend

A recent HBO special called "Public Speaking" Directed by Martin Scorsese which had Fran Lebowitz spouting all sorts of answers to all sorts of questions for about an hour and fifteen minutes sparked memories of when my friends and I used to sit in the local Bar, I'd call it a Pub but that would make us sound British, and talk and argue for hours over everything. Remember this old song?

Mary Hopkin lyrics - Those Were The Days

Those Were The Days

(Gene Raskin / Russian Traditional)

Once upon a time, there was a tavern

Where we used to raise a glass or two.

Remember how we laughed away the hours,

Think of all the great things we would do?


Those were the days, my friend!

We thought they'd never end.

We'd sing and dance forever and a day.

We'd live the life we'd choose.

We'd fight and never lose.

For we were young and sure to have our way!

Di di di di…

Then, the busy years went rushing by us.

We lost our starry notions on the way.

If, by chance, I'd see you in the tavern,

We'd smile at one another and we'd say,

Those were the days, my friend!

We thought they'd never end.

We'd sing and dance forever and a day.

We'd live the life we'd choose.

We'd fight and never lose.

Those were the days, oh yes those were the days!

Di di di di…

Just tonight, I stood before the tavern.

Nothing seemed the way it used to be.

In the glass, I saw a strange reflection.

Was that lonely woman really me?

Those were the days, my friend

We thought they'd never end

We'd sing and dance forever and a day

We'd live the life we'd choose

We'd fight and never lose

Those were the days, oh yes those were the days!

Di di di di…

Through the door, there came familiar laughter.

I saw your face and heard you call my name.

Oh my friend, we're older but no wiser,

For in our hearts, the dreams are still the same.

Those were the days, my friend!

We thought they'd never end.

We'd sing and dance forever and a day.

We'd live the life we'd choose.

We'd fight and never lose.

Those were the days, oh yes those were the days!

Di di di di… 

Our Bar was The Villa. The Beer was Fifteen cents a mug and the whiskey went on the average about forty cents a shot, Pizza was a buck for small, a buck and a quarter for medium and a buck and a half for a large. We generally got the medium or small, a buck and a half was way too much. We never got there before ten or eleven at night after some time at a roller rink, movie or even church. Yes that's correct, CHURCH. 

A group of us were in the YCW, Young Christen Workers which had its base in Belgium and fostered union principles based on Catholic ethics. We'd spend time on Monday nights at the St. Anne's rectory discussing things like "A fair days wage for a fair days work." We'd also discuss such things as whether French kissing was a mortal sin. Sometimes representatives from Belgium, one guy was called Billy, visited to discuss the horrible working conditions overseas and touch base with the moral ethics of the young people here and there. There was a girls chapter also and dances were held inviting all the parishes to meet and greet one another and further explore French kissing. By the time our weekly meetings were done a few of us were thirsty and we go to the Villa to quench our thirst. We'd walk in bursting with energy, loud and feisty carrying our Bibles which confounded the old hard drinkers who were there before us. But we were ready for anything in the form of conversational arguments. One that sticks out in my mind was one old, I guess he was about forty-five, guy challenged us on our beliefs saying our drinking couldn't square with the Church's stance on drunkenness. We of course argued we never got drunk, today they measure drunkenness back then it was different. He challenged us about dressing up for Sunday Mass saying it was hypocritical. I told him to show up at the Twelve-fifteen one Sunday and he would see me unshaven and in my old clothes, didn't have jeans back then, and look for me receiving Communion. He did,. I did. He reformed and went back to church for awhile. I never saw him at the Villa after a time nor did I see him back at Church so who knows if the reformation stuck or if he just visited another Bar.

There was another group of guys and gals who went out together and after doing whatever we were doing ended up at The Villa. We drank ate Pizza argued and laughed until closing. We covered everything from sin to medicine to baseball to sex. Denny, argued that Cancer was caused by a virus. This theory arose some years later but I first head the argument from Denny. One of the girls' father was an alcoholic and she had a mother who was very ill and suffered at times in great pain if anyone even touched her bed. She was bedridden. One night before we went out the father came home in a drunken stupor and was jumping up and down on the mother's bed causing great pain, I can still hear the groans and see the tears. Finally I could not stand this anymore so I pleaded with him to stop but he wouldn't. I lifted him up and bodily threw him out of the bedroom and followed him into the living room promising to kill him if he ever did that again. He might have done it again but not in front of me nor did she ever mention it again. That night we didn't go out but we did shortly thereafter and in the Villa we argued whether I had the right to do what I did. We argued it from a ethical and moral viewpoint. I think we agreed right or wrong it was the thing to do.

We had lots of laughs at The Villa. When I might of had a little too much to drink I'd do my impersonation of Marlyn Monroe and Jane Russell from "Gentlemen Prefer Blonds" which required me to get up on the bar. The bartender never complained. We were good tippers, sometimes we'd leave as much as five or ten bucks which wasn't bad for a crowd of ten or so back then.

We solved every moral, political issue of the day. We had great ideas and weren't afraid to argue the pros and cons between Beers or Gin Rickeys. Some of us got drafted. Some of us married and had kids. Some of us just drifted away. Today there is no more Villa. There is no more YCW. There are very few of us left. 

Just a few months ago one of the guys died of cancer. The girl whose father was a drunk married the guy who had the virus causing cancer idea. They married and moved away and faded in obscurity as far as I know. There are very few who seem to want to discuss ideas or just argue and have fun. Everyone I see today is texting or playing games or having hot sex but never really getting involved with anything but some sort of pleasure they think is out there.

Fran Lebowitz, Scorsese's "Public Speaking" on HBO helped me realize that sometimes just talking and swapping ideas about everything and anything is what is missing today. The Roundtable at the Algonquin with it's group of witty people no longer exists. Today we have the talking heads shouting, screaming and usually saying nothing but trying to get people to follow them so their power base can be satisfied. By the way George S. Kaufman, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Day are a few of the people from The Roundtable that we could use today. Or maybe, to paraphrase, Fran Lebowitz, "One of the reasons the good old days were good was because I was in my twenties.".  In any case as far as I am concerned, "Those Were The Days My Friend'.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Even Christ Appreciated A kind Word

Today's reading from Luke 23 (35-43) celebrating the feast Of Christ The King is particularly moving and gives an insight into the humanity of Jesus. Here he finds himself nailed to a cross to die a not only a most tortuous death but a public humiliation. His body aching from toes to head. Almost naked. People jeering him, spitting at him and constantly degrading him. All this is happening in front of his mother. The soldiers are gambling for his cloak. He has nothing left. He is stationed between two criminals. One of them continues to revile him using jeering taunts. The two men on each side were hardened criminals, possibly murderers. Yet one of them who Tradition calls Dismas looks at Christ. Is he a secret follower? Certainly he has heard of him yet he wouldn't be hanging on a cross dying a death only reserved for those trying to revolt or have committed the most heinous crimes. Whatever he is, he certainly feels compassion and empathy so much so Dismas is moved to words quieting the other jeering criminal and is moved to ask Christ to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Did Dismas really believe in his request or was he just trying to comfort someone he felt was wrongly being destroyed? We will never know the answer to this despite all the theological musing about the subject because all that is recorded is in Luke's detailed accounting, the other Evangelists don't have it. Jesus' response is " you will be with me in Paradise." Was this Jesus rewarding a deathbed conversion or did he reward a man for an act of kindness that was not shown by the multitudes that laughed, jeered and spit at Jesus? It sort of fit into what Matthew 25 (31-46) said about those who would be saved because they fed the hungry, clothed the sick and visited those in prisons because when they did that to them they did it to Jesus. Imagine an act of kindness, caring and loving is the measure used in salvation not necessarily calling Jesus Lord. Check it out that's what is recorded. So here we are some 2000 years later celebrating the feast of Christ the King while at the same time celebrating an act of kindness that moved our King to bring a hardened criminal into Paradise because he cared for another being. We shall never know if Dismas believed in Christ as the Messiah or if he was just moved by love and compassion. What we do know is Christ appreciated the words and caring and rewarded him. If we go back to Matthew 25 (31-46) and put all this into practice I am sure we too can experience the splendor of Paradise which is the Kingdom of Christ.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

PS120, The Grammer School on "The Hill"

Way back when Queensborough Hill was still in it's infancy PS120 was the neighborhood school we went to from Kindergarten to Eight Grade. The classes were marked A and B and we got to know our classmates since some of us were together for more than Eight years. Not only did we get to know each other but our teachers got to know us. This created quite a family like existence.  The school had a yard that was fenced in certain sections by a fence that was maybe a story  and a half and in other sections by a fence that was a little over five feet tall. Before classes, for about forty-five minutes in the morning and at lunch time, every one went home for lunch, all the students would congregate in the yard until they were summoned by the teachers to line up and go into classes. If the weather was nice, and I mean sunny and dry not necessarily warm, each class had a time for exercise during the school day. The school yard had enough room for two softball fields but usually only one at a time was used. There was a full court basketball court right in center-field which was always in use even if softball games were being played. Sometimes there were full court games but most of the time half court games with two or three men on each side. In left field of the main softball field some two hundred feet or so away were two handball courts. To the left were the steps going into the school where some used to congregate to talk sports, girls or play craps after school. In certain areas were fast pitch sites. These only needed two guys and a sawed off broom-stick for a bat. A tennis ball or high bouncer (Spauldeen) was used since we all could throw curves with them. A box was drawn on the wall from shoulders to knees representing the strike zone. A game could be played by two people, sometimes four with an outfielder being used. We played ring-a-leevio, tag, Chinese handball, in this school-yard.

After school we'd go home to change into our play clothes and return to the school-yard to play until dinner time. Weekends would see Roller-Hockey and Moose and the big guys would kill one another. In the summer the big guys would go there after work, they were sixteen and up, to each chip in a dime for a new clincher and play softball with the winning team keeping the ball. Back then we never threw the ball away. When the cover would come off we'd tape it with black tape. When a bat split we would try to nail it and tape it using it until it became useless. We used wooden bats only and they were expensive, maybe anywhere from a buck to three or four dollars. The kids heard that the Babe used a bat that was around forty-four ounces and at least thirty-six inches long, so we used heavy bats, usually about thirty-six ounces and the same length. The games were quite good. One game played between 8A and 8B resulted in an one to nothing win for 8B with the potential tying run on third with no outs.

At least three or four times a week there would be fist fights. Somebody went home bleeding. Funny but no one was sued and no parent got involved, unless of course it was really a dirty gang fight. But then who would want their parents involved. If you lost Mom would usually beat you up for fighting; if you won you didn't let them know. Somehow you got the feeling Dad didn't mind if you got into a fight. The cops would raid the crap game every so often. The guys would scatter and the cops kept the money. You didn't want to be brought home by the cops because then even Dad would become incensed. Cops, Teachers, Priests and Nuns were never wrong and you always were and that goes for any adult neighbor, if they had a gripe.

Naturally there were girls in the school-yard before school commenced but never after school was over. It wasn't because they weren't invited but for some reason they deferred, especially if they wanted to keep their reputation. One named Helen could beat most guys in a good fist fight but when she got a little older she refrained because her reputation as a tom-boy was keeping the romantic ones at bay.

Little by little Queensborough Hill matured and more room was needed for the emerging student body. New wings extended out into the school-yard until there was very little room left to do anything. The roller-hockey games, the softball games, the crap games, handball, basketball and the fights are all gone. Only echos from the past are heard but the ones hearing them are dwindling. But I believe somewhere there is a school-yard where the guys and gals can get together . Everybody knows each other and there is always something to do, someone to talk to, lots of laughs and youth reigns supreme.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Love Story, Long Ago And Far Away

Long ago and far away,

I dreamed a dream one-day,

And now that dream is here beside me!

Long the skies were overcast,

But now the clouds have past,

You're here at last!

Chills run up and down my spine,

Aladdin's lamp is mine,

The dream I dreamed was not denied me!

Just one look and then I knew,

That all I longed for long ago,

Was you!

Music and Lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Jerome Kern

He was only in his teens when he first saw her. She was the prettiest girl he ever saw. He tried to get to know her but he was rebuffed at every move. On top of being fed the wrong information by some of his friends who were looking to make a move on her themselves she just didn't seem interested in him.

Life was very busy for him then. He was playing ball. He was starting to get very active in music. Graduation from High School was a goal that was near but seemed unobtainable as he barely made grades that were passing. But he finally graduated, just barely. He was free to go after his dreams. Of course he had to get a job but that was only to mollify his mother. His real dream was music or sports. He was about as successful at his job as he was at his school work. However he was making some progress at music which necessitated his concentration to be in music as he abandoned his dream of baseball.

Playing a musical instrument even back then lent itself to groupies. He didn't have a shortage of girls. He had a very active social life and his music career while really not giving much money was progressing as he not only played, he composed and arraigned. 

He seemed happy and absorbed in his life yet there was always the memory of that girl who wouldn't pay any attention to him. He started to drink and experiment with drugs. His social life became even more active. One might say he was content and happy. Yet there was this void he felt like a deep wound that wouldn't heal.

Then one day he spotted her walking along Fifth Ave., that same girl who had now become the most beautiful women he ever laid his bloodshot eyes on. What the hell he thought, I've got to chance it and approached her. He ran besides her and asked if she went to his high school and when she replied in the affirmative the game was on. She said she recognized him and seemed genuinely glad to see him. They walked and talked for a long time and he finally asked her out and she accepted. It was a whirlwind courtship which led to a quick marriage. He suddenly found out that a wife and children really couldn't wait for him to realize his dream since they all needed food, shelter and clothing. Little by little he gave up his dream and concentrated on earning a living which required him to return to night college in order to compete.

They were married many years and were entering that stage when both were asking themselves "If I had to do it all over again, would I?" She seemed to be tiring of him and he was beginning to feel that he lost the chance for dream fulfillment. He thought, "Could it be that she's falling out of love with me?". She was older but still very beautiful, lively and full of life. He became overweight and the lines in face gave evidence of his early life even though he long ago gave that part up. He felt he was losing her and that void he felt when he was younger was returning.

Then she became very ill. She contacted a long term disease that took many years to reach its conclusion. He tried to be the faithful caregiver. Even as she lost herself in the illness she became more beautiful. He realized the finality of this so when it came he was not devastated. Yet the void in his soul became greater. He could not play his music anymore but he listened and remembered. With each song a memory of their relationship was brought into vivid consciousness. Then he finally realized that they were not separated, she was still alive, in his mind, in his heart in the the great beyond. While they lived in different dimensions, if he didn't give up they could still be together, not in the same physicality but in the same spirit. And so the void started to close as he realized that the dreams he had as a young man were really chasing bubbles and the real dream was she. He realized while it was fun chasing bubbles it was better living life.

Long ago and far away,

I dreamed a dream one-day,

And now that dream is here beside me!

Long the skies were overcast,

But now the clouds have past,

You're here at last!

Chills run up and down my spine,

Aladdin's lamp is mine,

The dream I dreamed was not denied me!

Just one look and then I knew,

That all I longed for long ago,

Was you!

Music and Lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Jerome Kern

Saturday, November 13, 2010

“God save me from my friends - I can protect myself from my enemies.”

Proverb Quote is so apt. Some years ago a couple was getting ready to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary. Their children were preparing to surprise them with a trip to Puerto Rico. The first twenty-five years of marriage didn't leave itself to much vacationing for this couple because of financial difficulties. This was to be a big effort on the part of the children and a great source of pleasure for the couple. The plan was to surprise them at a dinner. There were friends of this couple called John and Fran who went to the children and asked them what their plans were for the big event. When they were told John and Fran volunteered to do the booking and take care of the details which was a relief as the children were unsophisticated in handling travel plans at this time. At the dinner which J & F were at the big surprise was sprung. The bigger surprise was that J & F were coming also. Of course they asked if it would make the couple uncomfortable but what could they say but "Love to have you. Come along.".

The whole scene was overwhelming. They arrived in Puerto Rico for a week's stay only to find that they had adjourning rooms which could be accessed simply by opening a door. This was supposed to be a second honeymoon so needless to say the couple felt a little uncomfortable. While they were on the beach one day J & F met cousins who happened to be vacationing. What a co-incident! There was some fun like the girls winning $100 at Roulette and seeing a few shows. But J&F were becoming more intrusive so much so that a chair had to be put up against the adjoining door so they were sure that J & F didn't just walk in on them uninterrupted. After spending time with their cousins and enjoying themselves J&F started to get bored and started making overtures to leave early which caused no little consternation to the couple, especially the wife.

One day on an excursion to the rain forest there was a stop at a water-fall. The young people were attempting to scale the rocks up the falls. John insisted on going. The Husband declined. Half way up John fell down the rocks into the pool. Needless to say John was bruised and hurt. Consider the fact that John was fat and out of shape and did very little athletic things, so he was really hurt. The couple took this as a great opportunity for them to enjoy time by themselves. The next morning while John was licking his wounds they snuck out of their room and went to Old San Juan to enjoy a real Puerto Rican breakfast. The day alone was wonderful. Unfortunately John pushed his recovery so all they had was one day to themselves. Finally the day came to leave. The trip home J & F were distant. That distant was maintained for the rest of their lives. Some friends relayed the ugly rumors they were spreading about the couple. J & F avoided any contact with the couple whenever they could.

The couple wondered why this was happening. When their children questioned them about the flowers and champagne that was in their rooms the couple didn't know what they were referring to. It seems J & F were given a few bucks to purchase these items as additional gifts for the celebration. Maybe J & F just forgot it but it appeared they pocketed it. When the kids we asked why they went to them for help they explained J & F took it over and booked through their travel agent. Checking with some people it was determined that The Hotel booked was being shut down for renovations and the adjoining rooms went to J & F free of charge. Nobody knew how but the cousins of J & F probably were in on the freebie some way.

The recap is John & Fran horned in on this couple's first real time to be alone and celebrate without being asked because they were "friends"; J & F pocketed about $100 in cash that was supposed to be for the couples enjoyment. J & F got a weeks freebie stay and repaid the couple by de-friending them and spreading rumors about them. So I guess the Proverb Quote which is this Blog's title is very, very apt.

As an epilogue when the couple's Thirtieth anniversary came they went on two trips, Bermuda and the children's gift to Can Cun, ALONE, and they really enjoyed it. The time in Puerto Rico shall never be forgotten however.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Letter To President Obama

Dear President Obama,

I know very little about politics but I know how to react when threatened by thugs. You played schoolyard Basketball when you were a kid. You probably played in some leagues also. If you were in a travelling league you got to know how dangerous it was to beat some home team in a rough part of town. The goons pushed hard. It was fight or get the hell kicked out of you. You could quit, turn tail and run. I get the feeling you knew how to fight. You stood your ground and won more than you lost.

You give the impression that you think Washington, D.C. is more civilized than the schoolyard and that the thugs and goons are left back home on the rough streets of our Cities. To me, a novice, there is little difference between D.C., Congress and the schoolyard except the facade of expensive suits and cleaned up language.

You entered the scene with your team some two years ago with the promise of a cleaner game which would help all Americans along the road to a better life. You seemed to really mean we could be better as a nation and people who cared for one another. You kicked the home team's butt. However, they didn't go away, instead they reverted to the goon tactics all thugs have. Playing on fears, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell encouraged a new gang called the Tea Baggers, who could have been called Tea Bangers, who morphed into the Tea Party. They made up false charges, "death panel", "forged birth certificate", Black Christian Radical", "Muslim in waiting for the overthrow of this government.", let the rumors circulate and never deny them. Their one object was to have you have a one term Presidency. The verbal clubs, slings and arrows were not very noble but were very effective.

Little by little people began to believe these insidious rumors some because they wanted to believe them and some because they trusted the goons who were saying them. Your team never got out to talk to the people. Sure you went to rallies, Town Halls and tracked polls. You guys never got past preaching to the choir. The  people I talk to and live with. Your team didn't believe the signs and just lost an important game getting your butts kicked all over this nation. Yes the economy is a big reason but there are so many other contributory factors. Believe this, there are people in this country that hate you. WHY? Because you are Black. Yes bigotry still exists. Because they think you are a Muslim and Socialist who wants to subject America to Islamic laws. The following are a few things floating around the inter-net these days. Supposedly there is included in the new health care bill a Muslim term that is put in to start the process of getting us under Islamic rule. Another is a picture of a ceremony where all are saluting except you who have arms at full length and hands folded. This is called "The Crotch Salute" and supposedly is you disrespecting all of us so called Americans. People believe this junk and the goons like those I have referred to are perpetuating the myth and getting away with it.

There are others out there who are waiting for the dream to be fulfilled. Who brought you in on a wave of hope two years ago. These represent many more than the nay sayers but have to be reassured that you are the guy who the nations thought you were. You have to be stronger, stand up and LEAD. Stand up to the Tea Bangers and the Washington goons who think they own that town. You are being perceived as weak always apologizing and seeking compromise while getting your nose rubbed in it. Before it is too late put a little starch in your backbone. Return to the schoolyard style, come out swinging and go for the knock out.

You are needed as a strong leader don't let the thugs and goons win. You can win using truth, strength and bringing the dream closer to fruition for all Americans. The fear is, if you let the goons and thugs win America will lose and that will really hurt.

Very truly yours,


Friday, November 5, 2010

In Life: Short Moments With Enduring Impact

The actual moment of living occurs in a flash drifting into memory where it lives for eternity. The event almost forgotten. The people seen only briefly live on in our minds although never seen again.

In 1946 I had to have elective surgery for flat feet because at the time the thought was if it was not done then I would collapse in my middle twenties. This thought is not held today but back then the Orthopedic Surgeon convinced my mother to have it done. The New York Hospital for Orthopedic Surgery was on Fifty-Seventh Street near the Fifty-Ninth Street bridge. The operation would cause me to miss grade 7B. The arches on both feet had to be broken and reset. The Achilles tendons had to be severed and reset, and bone scrapings from my right shin had to be utilized. I'd be in casts for three months and had to learn how to walk again, no rehab centers then. We got off the BMT subway this late August day and stopped at a Woolworth's where my Mom let me have whatever I wanted before entering the hospital. I had A BLT with mayo and a vanilla malted, which I can still taste it was so good. We entered the hospital and I was prepped for the operation the next day which took a little more than three hours. The anesthesia used was gas or so I was told and it wasn't bad during or after. My mother saw the surgeon after. He was twitching so badly she was sure he had botched the whole thing. He didn't. I was placed in a semi-private room with an older man.

The room, two beds were faced in opposite direction. I looked out at the hall way and he looked out at an apartment building across the street. The nurses used to come in to sneak a smoke. They stood in the bathroom and I'd yell "Chickie" if a supervisor was headed in our direction.The mornings held diversion since across the way apparently, a young woman would emerge from what we guessed was her morning shower unclad and dry herself in full view of my room-mate and the nurses. They all laughed gleefully and when I would attempt to get a view they stopped me since I was too "young" for the view.

My room-mate was a window washer. Back then the window washer would step out on the ledge and hook himself up to hooks on the frame of the building. My window washer was up high when he did this one day and the frame came out and he fell many stories landing on his feet breaking many bones causing him to have what seemed like ever lasting pain and many operations. With all his problems he cared for me. He always made sure I was taken care of properly and reassured my parents that the nurses were doing a good job. My first nights after the operation I must have been in a lot of pain and he stayed awake until I was fast asleep. I wasn't always nice, kind of a snotty kid, yet for some reason he put his pain aside and wanted to care for me even though he was bed bound. I was due to go home on a Saturday and all I was looking forward to was my mom's spaghetti and meatballs, which I missed greatly. That Thurs. night when being visited by my family my brother got me a vanilla malted and I drank it voraciously. Early Fri. morning around three I woke up throwing up all over the place. My room-mate called the night nurse and I had a fever. A few hours later with my mom present a Doctor from Roosevelt hospital examined me and determined I had to go to his hospital to have my appendix removed. I cried like a baby, which caused everyone Doctors and nurses, my room-mate and his wife to cry. I knew I wasn't going to have mom's spaghetti and meatballs this Sat.. I requested that I be given gas and not ether. My Doctor agreed.

My only ambulance ride as a patient was taken and it was kind of exciting. We got to Roosevelt Hospital which had no available semi-private rooms so I was placed in a ward. This was kind of scary, a lot of beds with grown men who I didn't know. I was prepped and brought into the operating room on a gurney, remember I had casts on both legs up to my knees. I was quite a sight. I remember the hospital lights going by quickly as I was being wheeled on the gurney. Another first which I hope is never repeated. The Anesthesiologist placed something over my nose and mouth and the first breath I took I knew my Doctor had lied, it was ether and it was terrible. I grabbed at the mask to pull it off but then apologized and succumbed to the darkness. I woke up in the ward with my mom and pop by my bed side. I remember going in and out of consciousness. I told my Pop I knew he had to go to work the next day so he could go home. I asked my mom to stay. She said the Hospital wouldn't let her. I suggested she hide under the bed. Then there was darkness again. I woke up in the middle of the night, many times, very thirsty and having the dry heaves. Everytime I woke up there was this guy standing over me, helping me making sure I didn't tear my stitches. He was like my surrogate mother and I trusted him completely. I woke the next morning feeling a lot better and this guy came over to me to see how I was doing. We talked a bit and this I remember, he was concerned that I was young and alone with two operations in two weeks. He assured my parents he would look after me. I asked what he did and he said very proudly that he was a Hobo. He made it plain that he was not a Bum since a Bum was looking for a handout while Hobos rode the rails from town to town looking for work so they could survive. Hobos were very prevalent during the Great Depression since so many couldn't find work. Robert Mitchum, who was a very good actor rode the rails when he was very young and never hid the fact that he was a Hobo. Later that day they took me to a semi-private room. Later that week I went home and had my mom's spaghetti and meatballs. And it was very good.

I never saw these two guys again. My window washer room-mate spoke to me once on the phone since he was interested in how I was doing. I was too shy and stupid to be able to thank him for all he did. The Hobo
disappeared from my view as quickly as he appeared. I never had the chance to tell him how much he meant to me during my night of hell. Two people who came into my life at a time of great need when I was most vulnerable and felt most alone, then disappeared never to be seen or heard by me again. I shall never forget them. I don't remember their names but I know who they are; certainly God's Angels sent on a mission of love. I would bet that many of you have these Angels in your lives also.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I saw Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" and was enthralled. Read the New York Times' review for all the reasons I find compelling about this picture. One great part not mentioned by the Times was Eastwood's original music he composed. I am sure the arrangement only added to it but it was great. Not only did it fit the subject matter enhancing the movie but it reminded one of Eastwood's talent as a piano player. He had some terrific operatic pieces in the movie as well. I should point out that not all will find the movie as satisfying. I refer you to the New York Daily News' review which panned it giving it only one star. Read the both reviews and then go see the movie and see who you agree with. By the way the french actress has the type of beauty that is haunting and the children are so good you might think they are little people (midgets is a politically incorrect term).

I voted today. I like tea but only when it is brewed. Letting the bag soak until it releases all the flavor tastes scalded to me, and we can see how these tea baggers have a skewed vision with one of them in California suggesting second amendment solutions to voting problems among our legislature and one of them in New York telling a reporter who we felt was threatening his family, "I'll take you out!", sounding more like Tony Soprano than a guy running for office. Let's not forget the nutcase in Delaware who doesn't read much and reclaimed her virginity after she lost it but it didn't have anything to do with her dabbling in witchery.

Nobody made apple pie like my mom. The apples were just the right firmness, and the taste was sweet yet with a tinge of a lemony bite. Above all her crust was terrific. I always told her she had some crust. Only recently I realized what she made that was so tasty was probably clogging all our arteries all at once. She had the dough, used the flour, kneaded it carefully blending in lots of butter and Crisco. Her crust was flaky as anything and tasty and unhealthy. Remember when as kids we teased the fat one by calling him The Criso Kid, fat in the can. Funny, as unhealthy as it was, and the fact that I haven't tasted it in probably thirty-five years If I could, I would bring her back from where she is right now just to have another slice of her Apple Pie.

This Blog will end here the way it started by referring to the hereafter.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nobody Asked Me But Are They For Real?

According to The Tea Baggers, Birthers and everyone else who hates Obama he is not an American citizen who can legally hold the office of the President; He belongs to a fringe conservative Christian group who hates America; He is a Muslim in disguise waiting to subvert America at the right moment and he must of been plotting this since he was playing half-court basketball while he was a pre-teen. This implies he must of been a very busy guy who since he was a kid figured if he joined all the subversive groups he could hide his birth country and destroy America and let Islam triumph. Are they kidding me?

According to the Conservative element in our political midst we should privatize social security, gut medicare, medicaid and do away with the health plan just passed into law, keep the tax credits for the small portion of our society that holds the greatest portion of our wealth and this will make the poorer richer and the middle class stronger. Are they kidding me?

Based on who I know and what I hear the very people who benefit the most from social security, the new health law, medicare and medicaid, and will not benefit if the Bush Tax credits for the wealthy stay in effect,
support the conservative position. Are they kidding me or are they just nuts?

Have you noticed that most of the big banks are making tons of money and are paying very little interest to borrow money yet they pay practically no interest on their savings or checking accounts and have cut dividends greatly while their CEO's are making millions along with their other top executives? All this while they have continued to cut the work force or hire young inexperienced workers while getting rid of their older middle management? They do this while saying all their moves are in the interest of America. Whose America? They gotta be kidding me!

Have you noticed Wall Street is having a banner year. Goldman Sachs is making tons of money and paying very large bonuses. Yet unemployment is still around 10% with real unemployment around 16% and if you count in underemployment around 25%. Foreclosures are on the rise and middle class America seems to be getting screwed and loving it since they seem to support the very same people who are screwing them without even kissing them. Are we dopes or just gullible? They gotta be all kidding me!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How To Lose A Baseball Season Yankee Recipe

Let Damon, Matsui and Molina go. What the hell they only provided spark and professionalism and gave the team character that resulted in some 15 walk-off wins. Molina gave Posada the backup that could throw and defend. Molina made Posada a better Catcher. Damon and Matsui provided needed hits that mattered as well as never letting their professionalism  fail them. All three were replaced by individuals who may have talent, be younger and greater potential but they weren't able to contribute on the level of these three.

Then develop a philosophy that seemed to always plan on the future without taking care of today's business. The professional athlete is somewhat of a head case. You have to convince him he is unstoppable and all that matters is winning. The plan is to come in first in your division. This not only gives you home field advantage but it further builds up confidence in the feeling of infallibility. Playing for the Wild Card position should only occur if there isn't a chance of securing first place. What should be always first and foremost is to come in as the best confirming to the athlete that he is the best with no one better.

Then when the team is in a position to win it should always go with its best. The Yanks had a dramatic comeback in game one against Texas. They should have gone out and stomped on Texas throat in the second game, go with their best, Pettitte was the best available but they went with Hughes thereby blowing the opportunity of going two up and wasting Pettitte's gem that he lost to Lee. All this based on statistics.

Statistics are history, numbers relating to the past but the game is played in the present, the now. You have to go with what the player is like now not how he was then. Two examples of the premise just proffered, Burnett was left in to pitch to Molina based on the numbers and Robertson was brought in to face Guerrero based on the numbers, one hit a home run the other a base clearing double. Clearly Burnett based on this season was in trouble although he had pitched well up to that point and Robertson had trouble just a day or so ago and the season was on the line. Burnett should have been lifted and Wood instead of Robertson should have been brought in and damn the numbers, what counts is now not then.

To conclude, take one very successful team, wreck its chemistry and over plan, over manage mix well put in the hot stove league and leave simmer till spring training.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nobody Asked Me But Were These Two Movies Necessary?

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger: Woody Allen's latest and possibly his worst. Some reviewers have said the laughs are there and actually liked this mess. I barely chuckled. A group of lightly connected miserable people who are searching for happiness but the more they struggle the more miserable they become. Anthony Hopkins is misused and is showing his age. More important Woody Allen seems to be forgetting his roots. He is a crazy type of comedian and should forget about being an artist and return to being funny. Allen peaked with Annie Hall, Manhattan and Hanna and Her Sisters and except for a rare work hasn't turned out anything of that magnitude although he is trying. This latest one rambles so much it appeared that he didn't know how to end it so he just did. His followers apparently think this was artistic. I know he couldn't do anything else so he let it die a peaceful death. If you do meet a tall dark stranger run for your life or you will be bored to death.

Stone: Robert De Nero, Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich is a movie that tries so hard to be artistic that it becomes boring. Ed Norton brings out the best in Robert De Nero who actually does some fine acting instead of just mailing it in as he has done over the past few years. However there is no action to speak of just talk, talk and more talk with gratuitous sex thrown in. Milla Jovovich is a beautiful young lady with not too much acting ability but plenty of sex appeal and I guess the Director had no other choice but to use that. There isn't a lot of these scenes but what there is is graphic without furthering the theme of the picture. What it sought to accomplish could have been done with less openly lewd scenes. What comes to mind is A Man And And A Woman a great French film of some thirtyfive years ago. Rent it and enjoy and feel how great artists from actors to the Director further the plot using sex without being overly graphic and you shall see what I mean. Getting back to Stone, Milla Jovovich is beautiful but De Nero isn't and at his age I'd rather not see him in these scenes unless of course it is entirely necessary, which as I said, I don't think it was necessary. Without giving too much away, another weakness of the film is its predictability and there is no resolution. Another attempt at being artistic that fails. Maybe, if you insist on going, it would be wise to have a few drinks before so you can be stoned as you view Stone, it could lead to enjoying it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

St. Luke, Was Jesus this insensitive? REALLY?

I do not purport to be a Biblical scholar. I do know that there are scholars that say that the Gospels may not have been written by the Saints they are ascribed to and that perhaps they were written by the communities that were established by these Saints. Almost all scholars agree that they were written many years after the resurrection of Christ, before that they were carried word by mouth. The originals writings were lost and many translations followed. Ergo it is hard to accept them as a word for word quote of Jesus. The important thing is the Holy Spirit has a point to make and does. However I would like to take this opportunity to treat two passages from St. Luke as though it was written by the Saint who travelled with St. Paul and question the veracity of the quotes he ascribes to Jesus as more of St. Luke trying to make his point. The first reading I would refer you to is Luke 10, 38-42, Martha and Mary.

Luke has Jesus dropping in on the girls and their brother Lazarus as he and his troop were travelling from town to town. They stay for supper and Martha is doing all the preparation and serving while Mary camps at Jesus' feet and listens to the men talk. Martha's feeling bushed and asks Mary for help and she doesn't move so Martha appeals to Jesus. He answers that Mary has chosen the best part and it will not be taken away while at the same time seemingly chastising Martha for being worried about things that really don't matter.

Now come on St. Luke did Jesus really say that. This wasn't a small thing you know. There were at least 13 men counting Jesus and his disciples and who knows how many others who were following him from town to town. But at the very least counting Lazarus and his two sisters there were 16 people and it could've been a lot more. This wasn't like feeding the 5000, she was manually preparing and serving. They couldn't call the local Pizzeria for a half dozen everything pizzas. Besides the fact Mary was sitting with the men which was a little unheard of. Even today Orthodox Jews keep the women apart from men so you can imagine how it was in Jesus' day. I am also sure St. Luke that as a Greek man you never prepared a feast in your life.
Jesus however seemed to understand the plight of the women of his day, in fact maybe he was one of the first feminist, remember how he treated the woman found in adultery and the prostitute that washed his feet with oils and dried them with her tears. I know St. Luke, you wanted to make your point and I guess The Holy Spirit's too, that the bread of life is more important then the bread needed by the body. But I can't see Jesus being that insensitive to Martha whose body probably was aching from being tired and the soul wanted a little of what Mary was getting. No, Jesus would've found a better way, a gentler way to handle this.

The second reading Luke 17, 11-19 The Cleansing of Ten lepers

Jesus and his guys were travelling through Samaria and Galilee when 10 lepers approached him and asked for a healing. Pretty tall order I'd say. Jesus was filled with feeling for them and he told them to show themselves to the priests. They were cured on the way. The Samaritan came back to offer thanks and Jesus commended him while seemingly chastising the 9 Jewish lepers, first for not giving thanksgiving to God through Jesus, and lacking faith. Again St. Luke, I know you had a point to make. Is it possible your Greek background kept you from seeing things that Jesus himself would have seen and recognized?

The first amazing thing about this story is that the 9 Jewish guys let the one Samarian travel with them Samaria was once the Northern Kingdom of Judea but they intermingled with the Pagans and eventually lost the faith. They hated one another as the Jews felt they were blasphemers and the Samaritans felt they were looked down upon and discriminated against, which they were. But as Lepers according to Mosaic law they were expelled from the community. They lived on garbage and what they could hunt until they lost parts of their bodies and eventually expired. Out of their need they bound together and tried to survive as best they could laying aside religious differences. Jesus did nothing but tell them to show themselves to the Priests. They knew according to Mosaic law only the Priests could readmit them into the community. Only when they were on their way did they become clean. The nine Jews were faithful to the orders and continued to see the Priests. First they had the faith to turn and head for the Priests before they had seen any change. That takes a lot of faith. I might have asked Jesus for something more tangible; Wouldn't you as a Greek, St. Luke? Then to continue only showed obedience to a command they truly understood as a mandate of their faith and doing what Jesus told them to do. Who knows? Perhaps they became followers of "The Way" and did great things? We do know from this recounting that they were men full of faith and trusted in Jesus. They followed his every word. The Samaritan actions proves your point St. Luke  and hopefully he returned to Samaria to spread the Gospel. His actions however in no way makes the 9 Jewish lepers any less faithful or trusting in Jesus. Now tell me the truth St. Luke, if you could express this story in a slightly different way and still make your point (AND THE HOLY SPIRIT'S) wouldn't you do it?