I negotiated a transfer to Cleveland in the fall of 1982. I had been a manager for Prudential in the Youngstown area and I wanted Phillip to have the opportunity to go to good Jewish schools. We moved to University Heights.
We moved into our house in November and the first thing I noticed was the absence of Christmas decorations. Many of the houses, including our next door neighbors’, didn’t have any lights, reindeer, or even a Santa. This was all new to me. We had been the only Jewish family in the neighborhood most my life.
Cedar Center was a couple of blocks from our new home. I had been coming up to Cedar Center since our family lived in Canton in the late 60’s to get our Kosher meat at Irving’s. My father’s favorite bagels came from Davis Bakery next door and Corky and Lenny’s was across the street. It was late November and I was walking through Cedar Center when I passed the Yellow Front store. There, in the front window, was a huge Hanukkah display. There were toys, Menorahs, and all kinds of decorations. I had never seen anything like it.
I went into the store and was amazed by the selection. And though Phillip was only three, I purchased a huge Hanukkah coloring book for him. I looked around and realized that this was a normal discount store, not a Jewish specific store, and that it had all of the usual small appliances and stuff. I even found the aisle, in the back of the store that had Christmas decorations and toys. I couldn’t leave the store until I had revisited the Hanukkah area. It just made me feel so good, so much at home.
We were walking in Beachwood Place a couple of days ago. I saw a woman smile and heard her gasp as she passed us on the second floor. I turned to see what had caught her eye. The picture above is a kiosk in the center of the mall. I don’t know that she needed a pair of sunglasses. I think she simply saw the sign, “Ramadan Sale”, and suddenly felt that she was finally at home.
There was a little over four minutes left in game 2 of the NBA Finals. The score was lopsided and Tyronn Lue, the Cavaliers coach, realized that the game was lost. With no hope of victory, Coach Lue emptied the bench. He chose to save his stars for another battle and another day.
I sometimes wonder if Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams are watching the country that they helped to create and still have an invisible hand in our current government. Did these giants look at the United States, circa 2016, and decide to empty the bench?
Would a country that still had hope, a country that still thought that it was the leader of the Free World, put men like Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, and John Bolton into the game? Did we simply throw in the towel and give up?
Coach Lue and the Cavaliers have lost the first two games of a best of seven series. They know that they still have the opportunity to win. Does the United States have the same opportunity to come back for a win?
Unlike Rudy Giuliani, I will not spend any time pretending to be a competent attorney. In fact, I’m not an attorney, at all. I won’t bore you with my analysis as to whether or not Trump should or shouldn’t respond to a subpoena to testify before a grand jury in the Russian investigation or fight a deposition from Stormy Daniels’ attorney. The nightly news/entertainment shows on FOX, CNN, and MSNBC have that covered.
I do, however, have a theory that I’d like to share. A lot has been made of the raid of Michael Cohen’s office. Even though Cohen has numerous business ventures, his main gig appears to be serving as Donald Trump’s attorney. Getting a search warrant for an attorney’s office takes a lot of effort. A search warrant for the president’s attorney – positively herculean.
Attorney Giuliani has been trying to state that Attorney Cohen’s payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels was not a campaign financing law violation. Rudy says that this is normal, this concept of rich guys having their lawyers pay off mistresses and one night stands. Rudy wants us to ignore the timing, days before the election. Rudy also insists that Donald Trump reimbursed Cohen, who took out a home equity loan on his in-laws’ house to pay Ms. Daniels. This was routine business and there may be other women and hundreds of thousands of dollars involved. Nothing to see here. Mr. Cohen was just paid his usual retainer.
My question: Was Mr. Cohen’s retainer, the one that included the various pay-offs for Mr. Trump’s sexual escapades, deducted as a normal business expense? If so, by who? Did we, the American taxpayer, help fund Trump’s indiscretions? Forget about minor campaign finance law violations. Let’s talk about Tax Fraud.
Investigators are currently sifting through thousands of pages of business records, emails, and an oddly large collection of cellphones from Mr. Cohen’s home and office. Scarface, Al Capone, was convicted and sent to federal prison for tax evasion. My guess is that Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump are painfully aware of the power of the taxman.
Friday was incredibly busy. I had had two appointments scheduled, two couples in to begin Medicare. Another client rushed in to take care of an issue at the last minute. There were calls, emails, and ongoing service situations that needed to be resolved. I ran out of time. I picked up Sally, zipped over to Arden Courts in Bainbridge and then returned to my office to submit the time sensitive Medicare Part D (Rx) applications, before meeting friends at Lizardville for the unofficial start of our vacation. Welcome to Getaway Day, normally the busiest day of the year.
It is hard to take time off. I have never understood the fixation some people have with Fridays. “We’re done!” Some people start pining for the weekend on Humpday. Others start obsessing about retirement on their first day of work. Not me. I would be lost without this gig. I’ve been doing this for almost forty years. The work is challenging and rewarding. And I spend far more of my waking hours in my office than I’ll ever spend at home. The office isn’t my second home. It is my primary and I have to tell you that I lingered there, just a little longer, before I left today.
We will be in Mexico for a week. No second thoughts. No regrets. I am ready for a vacation. I’m exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally. I need the break. Part of this is just an acknowledgment of my own personal limitations. My little health adventure a couple of years ago shows itself when I battle a cold or find that 12 hour days aren’t as easy as they once were. The routine fights with insurance companies (yes, I do expect to get paid for my efforts) and the day to day tussles of running a business seem to weigh on me more in the months before a trip.
And emotionally? Crap, I think we have all had enough. I am going to spend a week away from the news. Sure, the TV in my room will have CNN and I will be checking my emails daily, but the daily onslaught of all things Trump will be one of the highlights of my trip. He has only been President for a little over a year. I know, it seems like ten. I had a woman in my office earlier this week who was more than a little agitated over the price of coverage. A Trump supporter, she was adamant that “Trumpcare is supposed to save me money.” Do you want to disabuse her of this notion?
The beaches are calling Sally. The sand, the water, and highs in the mid-80’s are waiting for me. It is time for a little rest. But I will miss my office. And I’ll be ready to be back next week.
My friend Ed (real name) is a committed Christian and a true Conservative. We have little in common other than our age and occupation. And yet, I proudly call him my friend. We tend to catch lunch once or twice a year. Most of our interaction takes place through Facebook and emails. He made one respectful inquiry about my connection to Judaism during a lunch we had after my little health adventure a couple of years ago. I understood his interest. He honored my answer. And that was that.
On Palm Sunday Ed posted a scholarly dissertation on Facebook from Dr. Jerry Newcombe entitled What Was The “Crime” That Got Jesus Crucified?” The post was there for anyone to read or ignore. My chicken soup was boiling in the other room and I had a couple of minutes to add to my knowledge of someone else’s faith. I’m glad that I did. Reading the article wasn’t supposed to change anything, and it didn’t. Facebook is best when we use it to better understand each other while respecting our differences.
Respect is the key. Ed isn’t trying to convert me to Christianity and I have no interest in having him become either Jewish or a Democrat. That means that I don’t send him an email every time Donald Trump does something that might shame us, his wife, or himself. Ed can read the paper. He doesn’t need to justify his votes or positions to me.
And that brings us to Roger. My first encounter with Roger (name changed) was detailed in October 2014’s Coffee with Roger. Roger wanted me to determine whether the story of the Resurrection was fact or a hoax, as if those were the only choices, or more importantly, whether I actually cared. The whole thing ended with each of us returning to our own corners.
I hadn’t talked to Roger in almost four years until last week. I bumped into him at a meeting. It only took him a couple of minutes before he started to pitch me. A breakfast, a leadership prayer breakfast, was coming up. He thought I might be interested. A police detective, an atheist skeptic, set out to disprove Christianity. Guess what happened! Golly, who would have seen that coming? I made it clear that I had no desire to come to his breakfast. This went on for another couple of minutes. I must admit that I was so ticked by the time I returned to my seat that I had to share what had just happened with everyone at my table.
There must be some Christians who think that “convert a Jew” is one of the blocks on their get into heaven bingo cards.
This email came Saturday night:
Nice to see you the other day.
Here is the link to the event I mentioned. How about if you come and sit at my table, then we get together a week or 2 after and you tell me what was not true?
I am no match for you, so it would be fun for you.
I’ve not included the invitation link.
This Friday and Saturday evening Jews around the world will celebrate our exodus from Egypt at Passover Seders. I intend to share the invitation and my response to Roger with my children and guests. We were required, 3,000+ years ago, to take action to earn our freedom from bondage. It would appear that it is up to every generation to affirm our choice to be Jewish.
It is also up to every generation to say “NO” and mean it.
Pictures – Bookshelf and The Bread of Affliction – both David L Cunix
This is a quick question for all of the attorneys out there. When your client asks you to draft a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to silence his mistress about their illicit affair, do you click on LegalZoom, or formsRus to get the document? Do you reach into his file, grab one of the previously filed forms and modify it as necessary? Or, do you draft a new NDA for this particular instance? In other words, is your Non-Disclosure Agreement boilerplate?
I only ask because there are some interesting clauses in the NDA between Peggy Peterson (AKA Stephanie Clifford, AKA Stormy Daniels) and David Dennison (AKA John Miller, AKA John Baron, AKA Donald Trump). There has been a lot of speculation that Ms. Clifford might have pictures with her when she appears next week on 60 Minutes. There is little doubt that she has tangible proof of the affair. The NDA includes “certain still images and/or text messages which were authored by or relate to DD”. In other words, our guy at 1600 may have been texting his mistress during the affair. We all know how much he likes to Tweet. Did he privately (?) send her sweet nothings in 140 characters? But there is more.
Stormy Daniels (she does appear to prefer her nom de porn) can not disclose “paternity information” and she is also barred from discussing “alleged children”. At this point, her attorney has been brushing these clauses aside and stating that they aren’t relevant to the case.
But if you look at this from a few steps back, you have more to wonder if among Attorney Cohen’s sins of possible campaign finance law, sloppiness, and threats, if he has now been caught charging a ridiculous fee per hour to generate legal boilerplate.
Picture – Step 1 – David L Cunix
You might call it frustrating. Me, I call it the opportunity to reacquaint myself with every square inch of my condo. It always starts the same way. Sally is at work and I decide that I want to look at something – in this instance a couple of items I recently brought back from Washington for my granddaughter. Over the next hour or so I looked in every closet, opened every drawer, and explored every nook and cranny. If we had a thirteen year old, I would now know where he was hiding the Playboys. I saw stuff I hadn’t seen in years. But I couldn’t find Maple’s gifts.
Sally was positive that she had put the stuff in one of two places. She was wrong, but the riddle was solved within a few minutes. One thing for sure, I’d never find her if we ever played hide and seek.
The toughest kid in the third grade spent some of his time bullying his smaller classmates. He focused mostly on the second and first graders. He was the lord of a very small world. His only fears were the adults who occasionally visited his playground and the fourth and fifth grade bullies. Such is the life of the bully. There is always someone a little bigger.
I was walking through one of our dying malls when I saw a manager berate an employee. She was demanding his counter keys because he had failed to turn-over a potential customer. The salesperson stared at his shoes, standing there in the middle of the store, a well-known chain that infests most of our malls. Properly humiliated, the salesperson was allowed to continue his day while the manager returned to her cellphone.
It has been seven years since I last wrote about the demise of retail, The Empty Suit. Brick and mortar retail has only gotten worse. The newspapers, magazines, and TV constantly bemoan the invasion of online retailers such as Amazon. We are told about the lost jobs, the empty buildings, and the value of shopping locally. We are supposed to feel guilty. I confess that I used to second guess my decisions to shop online. That day has passed.
A walk in the mall is an obstacle course of desperate employees begging for credit applications, bogus special events, and kiosks for anything from replacement windows to beauty products. Regular shoppers have a difficult time finding the same clerks on successive visits. The salesperson who helped you Tuesday may or may not still be employed Friday when you return to pick up your order. Many stores, even the best such as Nordstrom’s, no longer carry a full run of sizes and styles. In the end, ordering online provides more choices and faster delivery.
And as local retail dies, the quality of management decreases. The empty suit I described seven years ago has been replaced by an even lower species. The stores, especially the chains, view their employees as replaceable warm bodies. The managers have no respect for their underlings. Based on the quality of the managers, it is likely that the supervisors have little regard for them. And absolutely no one gives a damn about the customer.
The toughest kid in the third grade is running a retail store in your local mall.
Photo – I’m Ready For My Close Up – David L Cunix
20 Seconds! This link is to 20 seconds of film history, a great insight into human character as well as the nature of government and power. Enjoy a few moments of Casablanca.
We spend a week in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, every January. This year’s beach book was Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff’s gossipy fly on the wall reporting of the first nine months of the Trump White House. And I was shocked, SHOCKED, by how none of it was shocking.
Mr. Wolff’s book is filled with stories of entitlement, incompetence, and individuals more concerned with the creation of their own fiefdoms than with governing our country. But at no point is the reader shocked. It is all so banal. It is simply understood that this is the standard behavior of Donald Trump and everyone who comes under his gravitational pull. Donald Trump is the Typhoid Mary of immorality.
The president at the core of Fire and Fury is a shallow, vain man, the living embodiment of the Peter Principle. Surrounded by a cadre of Yes Men who spend all of their time trying to both game him and the system, the government veered from one self-inflicted disaster to the next. And yet, you aren’t really surprised. We, the American public, are forced into two camps. One group, Democrats and moderates of all stripes, express righteous indignation with each revelation to the point of exhaustion. His defenders, a core base of less than 40% of the public and the elected Republicans, have fallen into a predictable pattern:
- No he didn’t
- Well if he did, the other side does the same or worse
- Really, it’s not that big a deal.
This particular exercise, the combination of intellectual dishonesty and blatant hypocrisy, infects everyone Trump touches. The book details Trump’s fascination with bedding the wives of his friends. What is sad is that you aren’t shocked. It is just Donald. The Sean Spicer of the White House was barely recognizable to the people who knew him prior to the election. Same for Reince Priebus. The book details the destruction of the moral foundation of these men.
There are plenty of examples of Donald Trump’s impact on his supporters. I think that there is a more current and more telling gauge of his influence. Think Stormy Daniels. Were you surprised to learn that Trump had had an affair? Of course not. With a porn star? Still, just Donald being Donald. Now paying her off right before the election with who know whose money might be interesting and a campaign law violation, but we don’t expect much from Mr. Trump. The interesting part of this is how it has debased his defenders.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said the Trump gets a “Mulligan”. Jerry Falwell, Jr. defended Trump on national TV. And the Republicans in Congress were strangely silent. Credibility, integrity, moral standing – these are the first costs paid by every Trump associate and defender.
It doesn’t matter if Fire and Fury is 100% accurate. Even 75 % would be damnable. Even 50% would be disheartening. Fire and Fury was the perfect beach book. Fast paced with tons of interesting detail, the only thing it isn’t is shocking.
“The guitar is dead.” I must have been 11 or 12 and I was alone in the car with my father. The radio was playing some long forgotten song and I was appreciating the artistry of the guitar player and wishing that I, too, could play the instrument. My father was clear. “The guitar is dead”, he said. He was so sure, so clear, that I will always remember the moment. It was the moment that I realized that my father had no idea what he was talking about. Zero. It was an important moment. My father spoke in superlatives. He always knew the absolute right answer, the best way, the ONLY solution. And he was almost always wrong. It became a safe bet to go in the opposite direction. Once I realized that it was all bluff and bluster without any facts to back up his assertions, I stopped letting him play the devil’s advocate with whatever path I was planning to take. The more certain he was, the less likely he was right. There was an awful lot of sizzle, but almost no steak.
I have had this dull throb begging for my attention for over two years. Every once in a while I would think that It might be Donald Trump, first the horrific idea of him being the leader of the free world and then, worse, when he was actually elected. Fran Lebowitz is credited with first noting that “Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person”. I would add that Trump is also a weak person’s idea of a strong man, a follower’s idea of a leader. But my disdain for him and his apologists wasn’t the cause of this particular discomfort.
Yesterday Donald Trump was captured on camera. This transcript is from the Atlantic.
President Donald Trump briefly took questions from reporters at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Sunday. A White House transcript shows the following exchange:
Reporter: What is your response to people who say you are a racist?
Trump: No, no, I’m not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.
This wasn’t the first time Trump has made this ridiculous claim. It won’t be the last. But something hit me. I finally recognized it. The sizzle. The empty, patently false assertions. The importance of not believing a word of any of it. I was back in the car with my Dad. Oh, don’t get me wrong, my father (May he rest in peace) was neither a racist not an unrepentant Trumpian liar. No, it is more a combination of attitude and generational norms. Donald Trump is still applying for a position in the Rat Pack.
Three more years of the Trump presidency, but at least that dull throb has gone away…
Photo – Woodstock, No Frank, Dean, or Sammy