We were in Great Neck, Lon Gisland! Neither Sally nor I had ever been to this area of New York. We were there for a wedding – Adam Shafiyan and Sarah Noble. It was a wonderful, traditional wedding and we were honored to have been invited.
This post is not about Great Neck or the wedding. It is about what I experienced during the wedding reception.
As I said, it was a lovely wedding quickly followed by a lavish reception. The seven member band played traditional music as the couple entered the room. The dancing, men with men / women with women, was joyful and energetic. I participated for quite a while. There was mixed dancing to a wide variety of cover songs after dinner.
Sally and I were dancing. She was wearing an evening gown. I was in a tux, and yes, I was starting to shvitz. The music was familiar, a mix of songs that could have been played at any Bar Mitzvah, wedding, or graduation party.
One song led directly into another. The band was excellent and the crowd was ready to party. The bride and groom are in their mid-twenties and they, and dozens of their friends, were all on the dance floor. Some of the older guests drifted between the dance floor, their seats, and the open bar. We danced.
As the music got a bit faster I became aware not just of our dancing, but of my adrenaline surging and of a sensation of strength that I had not felt in months. I realized what I was feeling was a return of me. I’ve not felt like me in an awfully long time.
Whether you are fighting to overcome a physical setback like me (cancer) or the emotional devastation of divorce or the death of a loved one, it is not unusual to feel personally lost. You may try to power your way through. At some point, it may even appear that loss, that numbness, might be the new normal, might be permanent. Sunday night, on a dance floor, I briefly saw/felt the old me.
I missed him. I hope to see him again soon.
I have friends who are Conservatives and friends who are Republicans. Most of my Conservative friends vote for Republican candidates, but not all straight-ticket Republican voters are actually Conservative. Many are simply anti-Democrats. They may be able to espouse the appropriate Conservative talking points, but if push comes to shove, they will vote for any R regardless of the candidate’s policies or positions. The exact same can be said for Liberals and Democrats. I expect a certain amount of squealing over this assertion, but a quick look at your Facebook timeline should confirm my statement.
Having stated the above, I have been trying to avoid the Facebook political posts from my Republican friends. The memes are bereft of wit or humor. At some point it is just boring. And by the way, there really is nothing amusing about any presidential candidate suffering from dehydration and feeling woozy. But that’s just my opinion.
I’ve known Jack (name changed) for over ten years and was pleased to accept his Facebook friend request in 2011. Jack lives in another part of our country, believes passionately in the Second Amendment, and is an honest to goodness Conservative. Other than our love of country, there is very little we have in common. I disagree with most of his posts, but I try to read as many as possible, if for no other reason than to understand a different point of view. I have several friends like Jack. Some live as close as Shaker Heights.
This brings us to something Jack shared a few days ago. The post, an article from the National Review, was entitled Yet Another Campus Speaker Disinvited in the Name of ‘Tolerance’. I had a moment, and because the post was from Jack, I followed the link and read the article. The writer slammed the NYU medical school for disinviting James Watson, the famous biologist who was one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA. The reason? “Watson has said some controversial things in the past”. That’s it according to the author, Jason Richwine. Mr. Richwine’s article is about political correctness, the foolish claims of tolerance, and the value of FREE SPEECH. Comparisons to Soviet propaganda are a key part of his article.
I confess that I was confused. First, the DNA thing was in the early 50’s and I knew that he got a Nobel Prize in the 60’s. I didn’t know he was still alive. Second, it has been 50 -60 years, if he was still around what would he add to the conversation that these students wouldn’t already have read? So, I didn’t know why he was invited, but more importantly, I couldn’t imagine why he would be disinvited and why it would have anything to do with tolerance.
The comment section of the article was the first clue. And that is the purpose of this blog. Mr. Watson has a history of bigoted comments. Many of them are centered around a belief that Sub-Saharan Africans are inferior. He has been quoted as saying, “(I am) inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa (because) all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all testing says not really.” There is more and his opinions on obesity and others dissimilar to himself are equally shocking.
Where do we draw the line? Was NYU stifling free speech? Was it important to expose the NYU medical students to a man who said, apologized, and said again any number of racist statements? Or is this more of an example that one cannot falsely shout fire in a crowded theater? Of course, the other obvious question is why James Watson was invited in the first place. Was it to embarrass the university? Was it to provide a hatemonger a forum to spread his ideas?
Some of my Conservative friends, in the defense of free speech, believe that someone like Watson should be allowed to speak. Inappropriate comments are destroyed by the bright light of observation. All we need to do is give every bigot, every racist, every anti-Semite a megaphone and the absurdity of their baseless hatred will reveal itself to their ultimate shame. Yeah, right.
Whether it is the idea that the Mexican government is intentionally shipping us all of their rapists and murderers, or the terrible anti-Semitic, anti-Black, anti-gay, etc.… that fills the internet, megaphones seem to encourage, not discourage, the spread of hatred, half-truths, and absolute lies. I’m tired of providing the megaphone. I’m tired of the abuse.
I don’t know why James Watson was invited or disinvited to NYU. I honestly don’t know where to draw the line. I am tired of hearing people yell FIRE.
There is a real value in Yes, in being positive, in Hope. John Lennon talked about this as he described how he met Yoko Ono. He attended one of her exhibitions and enjoyed the humor of her work. He approached one piece with a certain amount of trepidation. He had to climb a ladder and look through a magnifying glass to see the painting / message on the ceiling. He was worried that it would be “No” or worse. But it wasn’t. The word was “Yes”. It was that positive message that made the difference.
Rabbi Greenberg delivered a sermon yesterday morning that claimed, in part, that Hollywood’s longtime focus on happy endings was traceable to the Jewish roots of the founders of the studios. Now I realize that leaders in all cultures sometimes sound like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, happy to claim every invention or cultural advancement, but he may be on to something. So much of Judaism is about overcoming odds, of the weak prevailing over the seemingly strong, of knowing that there is a Promised Land and that the Children of Israel were going to get there eventually. Passover is the retelling of the exodus from Egypt, the celebration of freedom from slavery. And though a certain amount of Jewish humor is self-deprecating and sardonic, there is always a happy ending. And there is always hope.
I received an email from a friend a few days ago. The subject line was “Your thoughts” and the content was a link. My initial thought was that it was spam, but since he is a computer professional I quickly discounted that possibility. My second guess was that it was about health insurance and, since he is reliably Republican, how the system is on death’s doorstep. OK. I clicked the link. I wish I hadn’t.
The link took me to a smug, fifty-something, self-identifying Jewish guy who wanted to tell me to grow up and vote for Donald Trump and other Republicans. Yes, this would be the second worst link a non-Jew could send to a Jewish person. This is the equivalent of a white guy telling his African-American friends to grow up and vote Republican or me explaining to my Catholic friends why they should eat steak every night of Lent. You get the picture. I was more than a little offended. And that was before I saw the comments, like this one “Can you f*****g Jews just support Trump already? Stubborn kikes.” (edited) We all agree that sending this link was inappropriate.
The video was thirteen minutes of propaganda, half-truths, and absolute BS. But most of it wasn’t any worse than the usual memes and crap on Facebook. What was truly awful was the introduction. Mr. Smug began by declaring that Jewish Democrats and Jews of a liberal bent are more interested in Jewish things than actually being Jewish. Their Jewishness revolves around Seinfeld and corned beef. Ritualistically observant Jews, in his way of talking Real Jews, were already Republican. And that’s when I really got mad.
I know Jewish Republicans who don’t bother to go to synagogue on Yom Kippur and many who attend services daily. I can say the same about Jewish Democrats. There are 613 Mitzvot (Commandments). Not one of them speaks to political affiliation. Several, however, admonish us from speaking ill of each other, from gossip, and from slander. Loving one another, a positive commandment, isn’t predicated on one’s choice of presidential candidates.
There may be some reason to support Mr. Trump based on some interpretation of the Law. There may, but I have yet to see it. Mr. Trump doesn’t preach a Jewish message. His speeches are uniformly negative. When he tells communities that they are failing, that they live in danger, and finishes with “Choose me. What have you got to lose?” he is preaching hopelessness, not hope. Trump is the champion of fear, not courage. There is no comfort, just despair. An immigrant, probably illegal, is hiding behind every door ready to pounce and steal our country. That’s not positive and it’s not Jewish. Which is not to say that Jews shouldn’t vote for Trump. That’s not for me to say. Nor should anyone imply that a Jew, a Real Jew, should vote for him or anyone else.
Every Jew walked out of Egypt free, not just the Republicans, not just the ones who made light and fluffy matzah balls. It led to the ultimate happy ending. YES.
I had to be reminded that I have cancer. I really hadn’t thought about it in those terms. A friend of mine, a doctor, felt it necessary to tell me that yesterday. I had cancer. I have cancer. And I will continue to have cancer until it, or some other illness or accident, claims my life. Remission? I will never be cured. I may one day be told that my cancer isn’t expanding or easy to find. But, it will always be there.
Well that’s pretty bleak. We are not machines. I am totally aware that I will not live forever. I don’t think I would want to. But I think that hope is as important as oxygen. And at some point you have to have faith in the doctors, the hospitals, and the system to guide you towards a positive outcome. Even if a cure is not possible, relief from pain or an extra year or two might be. Maintaining one’s focus on those realistic outcomes seems to be more productive than wallowing in despair or anger.
You can’t un-hear a conversation. Or at least, I can’t. So I will move forward with the full undeniable knowledge that I have cancer. The important part of that last sentence isn’t that I have cancer. No, the most important words are that I will move forward.
Friday was supposed to be a day of celebration. I rang the bell at University Hospital at noon. That was the official end of my radiation treatments. Nine weeks, five times per week. Sally and I went to lunch on Coventry and then we visited a local business that will remain nameless. Let me be clear, I have never experienced worse customer service. I didn’t even know that it was possible to make some of the mistakes and service blunders I endured over a three hour period. I am not a victim and I normally expect and receive good, often great, service. This was more than an exception. At one point I wondered if this was one of those awful practical joke shows and I started to look for the hidden cameras. We were aggravated for the rest of the day.
I received an email from the business on Monday morning. I was expecting an apology. What I got was their customer survey. I didn’t answer it till later in the evening when I had yet to receive any other correspondence from them. I wasn’t overly dramatic. I didn’t reply in all caps. I did detail 5 major errors. I received an email the next day. This is a portion of the note:
I have received your survey and spoken to _____ that you worked with and I am embarrassed. Not only do you deserve a huge apology from all of us, but so much more. I don’t want to make any excuses for what happened on Friday. And an explanation of what was going on behind the scenes doesn’t fix anything. It sounds like it started out bad and snowballed into a complete debacle. Usually, we are much better than that and strive for perfection with every customer that visits our store. But for whatever reason, everything that could go wrong in the ______ industry, happened to you… on that day. I am very sympathetic for the time you’ve lost and the fact that what should have been a celebration, turned into a day you wanted to forget.
Although I can’t take back what happened on your last visit, I can try and make it right the best I can. First, I want to sincerely apologize for everything that went wrong. That level of service is not our standard…
Notice that the first thing the manager did was to sincerely apologize. He said that they were wrong and that they were sorry. No excuses. No shared responsibility. Having acknowledged the errors, he then made a generous offer to prove that he understood the full implications of their failure. Will I do business with them again? Sure. Not because of his offer, but because of the sincerity of the apology and his understanding of their failure.
An apology, a sincere unequivocal apology, is so rare that it must be noted, even celebrated. If you confront someone for saying something inappropriate, you might get the weak, “I’m sorry you feel that way”. No ownership. No real contrition. The worst offenders are our current batch of politicians.
Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will ever issue an honest, heartfelt apology. The reasons may be different, but the results are the same.
Mrs. Clinton has been fighting with the Republicans and the press for 25 years. Many of her most egregious errors seem to have been made in an effort to avoid dealing with her antagonists. Certainly the private server appears to have been designed with that in mind. Can she apologize? I guess not. Any apology, any admission of error, will be replayed on TV, ad nauseam, for the balance of her political career. There is an old joke that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that there really isn’t someone hiding behind the door. That may actually apply to Hillary Clinton. Still, there is always the possibility that an apology for her missteps might allow us to move on.
Mr. Trump is different. He appears to believe that an apology or any admission of error is a sign of weakness. We have witnessed countless gaffes, misstatements, errors, and “confusions” in the last year. Fact Checkers view the daily onslaught of Trump pronouncements and Tweets much the way Sisyphus viewed the mountain. His failure to acknowledge his errors and uncontrollable need to double down on his attacks makes him the very opposite of the kind of leader we would want our children to emulate.
We are about to choose between two people incapable of admitting error. In other words, an epic fail.
I was a little kid. The technicians led me into a dimly lit room and had me lie down on a table. They put a pillow under my head, covered my waist and legs with a sheet, and asked me to be very still. I was handed a name tag, not to put on my wrist, but to hold while I tried not to move. The three technicians continued to talk to me as they moved around the room and checked their machines. Someone pushed a button and my table and I were now high in the air, even with the shoulders of the shortest tech. It was hard to say whether they were interested in a conversation or just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t nervous. They asked me what kind of music they should have on in the background. I named a couple of groups. They didn’t appear to recognize the names and offered to play one of their favorites. OK. And with that they all walked out of the room.
A heavy door slid shut and I was now alone. Trying not to move, I surveyed the room. There were two red lights, one above and one on the far wall. The ceiling had a fake skylight. There were panels of low light and a picture of trees. I closed my eyes as the music started to come through the speakers. Moments later I reopened my eyes to the sound of CLICK, CLICK, CLICK. I almost sat up. My table was actually a platform and I was a part of a huge machine. It began to buzz and whirl. And then it started to move. I was stationary. Four massive arms rotated around me. Two were flat panels. Two looked to be left over parts from a spaceship. The music was barely audible over the sound of the machine. It wouldn’t have mattered what they had played.
One full rotation. Now the four arms have reversed direction and are rotating the other way. I tried to close my eyes. When that failed I looked up and focused on the fake trees. I thought about the park and being outside. Two full rotations. The arms reversed again. There was more buzzing and clicks. And then it lurched to a stop in the middle of a round. The biggest, heaviest, scariest piece was hovering right over me. I would have been squished if it fell on me. And it just stayed there, hovering over me. I became aware of the music. I could tell that it may have seemed like I had been in peril for hours, it was really only a minute or so. I was relieved when the clicking began. The machine came back to life and finished the third and final rotation. The door reopened moments after the machine stopped and the technicians came in to get me.
I was a little kid, yesterday.
Last week was painful and exhausting. We experienced a variety of low points as a country. And when I say “We”, I mean all of us. We are all impacted by the shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas. Not one or the other, all of them. Joe Jackson came to Cleveland and I had a two hour reprieve Saturday evening. Sunday I visited the Cain Park Art Show. Saw a guy holding a Bernie sign. Always good to be in Cleveland Hts!
Cherries have been both particularly good and cheap this year. I have been experimenting with a Cherry Pie Recipe and tried again yesterday. I still get a lot of requests for my low carb recipes. Here is how I turned off all of the noise yesterday.
2 Pounds fresh cherries (+ / – a little)
¼ Cup Splenda
1 Teaspoon potato starch
1/8 Teaspoon vanilla
2 Cups pecan pieces
5 Tablespoons melted butter / margarine
2 Tablespoons liquid sweetener
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 Teaspoon vanilla
Margarine to for the glass pie pan
½ Cup almond meal
2 Tablespoons potato starch
2 Packets of Splenda
½ Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Diet V-8 Splash
1 Teaspoon vegetable oil
- Pre-heat oven to 375
- Butter standard glass pie pan
- Wash and pit the cherries. It took me less than 15 minutes to pit the cherries and get them into a 3 Qt. saucepan.
- Cook the cherries on a low heat for 30+ minutes to release liquid. Stir occasionally.
- Now you can turn your attention to the crust while the cherries are on the stove.
- This works best if the pecans were kept in the freezer until you are ready to make the crust. Pulse them in a food processor or grind them in a coffee mill. Keep them chunky. You don’t want powder.
- In a medium sized bowl add the margarine, vanilla, cinnamon, and fake sugar. I like Joseph’s liquid or a couple of Splenda packets. Mix the five ingredients thoroughly.
- Dump into the pie pan and spread the crust with your fingers. There really is enough.
- Check on the cherries. Continue to draw out the juice.
- Once a large amount of liquid has been released, take the pot off of the heat and stir in the potato starch, Splenda, and vanilla. Place back on the burner for 2 minutes.
- If the filling appears too thick, add a little water.
- Cool 10 minutes.
- Make the topping as the filling cools.
- Combine the topping dry ingredients into a medium size bowl.
- Add the liquid ingredients and mix with your fingers.
- Filling on to the crust
- Topping on to the pie
Bake 45 – 50 minutes
This is certainly not a solution to the country’s problems, but it will give you an hour or two without pundits or bullets.
1968. It was in Chicago, at the chaotic Democratic Party’s convention, that Vice-president Hubert H. Humphrey won his party’s nomination. It was in Miami, at the Republican convention, that former Vice-president Richard M. Nixon was nominated to be president of the United States. And it was in Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, that Governor George C. Wallace nominated himself. Three men, all wanting to be president. All willing to do anything to be president. Humphrey came out and said that Nixon and Wallace were incompetent. Then Nixon announced that Humphrey and Wallace were incompetent. And Wallace shouted through his bullhorn that Nixon and Humphrey were incompetent. And for the first time in all three men’s political careers, they had told the truth.
From The Legend of Ma Cohen
It is only July 8, 2016. The election is four months away and I already have Clinton fatigue. I’m so tired and Hillary Clinton is still a candidate. What is it going to be like if she is elected?
This is an excerpt from my December 1993 annual letter to my clients:
“1993 was the first year of the Clinton Crisis Administration. Every issue, the budget, NAFTA, etc…, will supposedly make or break the presidency. So far he has won each fight, so thank G-d, the United States continues. But, either these people like to walk on the edge of cliffs or someone is crying wolf.”
What followed was seven years of stress and prosperity. And after a government shut-down and it seemed that things couldn’t get worse, we experienced an attempted bloodless coup masked as impeachment. There were no angels in that debacle. Our innocence the only victim.
Yesterday I listened to FBI Director James Comey testify before Congress. I could have written the script. It was all so predictable. The Republican Congressmen, outraged that a Clinton had AGAIN escaped their clutches, asked highly political questions of a witness in hopes of eliciting a soundbite for a future campaign commercial. The witness swatted away the questions. FOX and MSNBC cherry-pick the video and replay, ad nauseam, portions that prove that their side carried the day.
But why was Director Comey there? Because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had, again, explored the lines dividing legal and illegal, right and wrong. This problem is entirely self-inflicted.
And Trump? Seriously? I wonder how many of my Republican friends would be voting for The Donald if he was running as a Democrat. My guess is none. I watched him speak at a rally in Cincinnati Wednesday evening. He spent an hour spreading his invective to cover just about anyone who fails to agree with him. He insulted Democrats, Republicans and the news media (specifically and generally). But what he truly insulted was our intelligence. His defense of retweets of memes from neo-Nazi websites was a low point in American politics. Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to waste money on ads. She could just run his Wednesday night speech on a constant loop till November. She would win by 30%.
So let’s all be honest for a moment. The TV news, the papers, and the internet have countless negative stories about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. What if 75% of this stuff was true? 50%? Do you really believe that less than 50% of the reports about either of these candidates are true? Please review the charges and get back to the rest of us.
So what do we do? I don’t know. Mrs. Clinton’s email debacle frustrates the Hell out of me. And I’d vote for a potted plant before I’d vote for Donald Trump. There is a chance, a very small chance, that the Republicans will find a way to nominate a more qualified candidate when they meet here in Cleveland. There is a chance, a very small chance, that Mrs. Clinton’s legal issues (Perjury?) could sideline her presidential bid.
But please don’t tell me that your candidate, Trump or Clinton, is flawless and that the other one is awful. Thank G-d America is great, great enough that we will survive either one of them being president.
Country. Some homes had a few pieces. We were totally committed. It was the mid to late 1980’s and we had the ducks, the geese, and the Pfaltzgraff. I have to admit that I loved the country blue Pfaltzgraff dishes that were discontinued a week after we bought service for 12. Still, my taste is a touch eclectic and having the whole house, every room, dedicated to one style, any style, was too much for me. Especially one that embraced ducks and geese.
But life is filled with little negotiations. Who amongst us can say that they have always been gracious in both victory and defeat?
My Favorite Nurse (MFN) LOVED country. Her father’s hobby was woodworking. He was very good and we received shelves and other pieces. We also visited any number of craft shows to supplement our collection.
We were at the Yankee Peddler Festival, about 28 years ago, and MFN saw a napkin holder. It had a simple design of wood and blue cloth. It was $25. I don’t remember the conversation, but I do recall that I was less than enthusiastic. I didn’t want it and I didn’t want to spend 25 bucks for it. I wasn’t a total asshole. There were no lines drawn in the sand. I paid the vendor and it came home with us.
Once the napkin holder was on a counter, filled with napkins, it appeared to have always been there. It was OK. And one day, about three years later, the ducks, the geese, and MFN were gone. But the napkin holder remained.
I still have the napkin holder twenty-five years and three homes later. Until today. Today I retire the napkin holder. It is tired and has given its all. My friends at Zeber-Martell made a special dish for me to hold napkins. This beautiful piece, and a few others with the same glaze, now sit on a cabinet.
I just hope this new piece realizes that it is replacing a really great napkin holder.
I bet a dime on Muhammad Ail. Not ten dollars. Not ten thousand. A dime. And he wasn’t Muhammad Ali at the time. He was Cassius Clay and he was fighting Sonny Liston. The big fight was a major topic of discussion on the bus ride to Hebrew School each afternoon. One of the older boys, a fifth grader, was the boxing maven and he declared Liston the winner weeks before the fight. He offered to cover any bet. I knew nothing about boxing, but I recognized intelligence and bravado. Clay amazed me. What the hell. I had a dime. I bet it. And the following week I had two dimes.
The sixties were a time of fear. The older generation was so afraid of nuclear war that they built bomb shelters, talked about it incessantly, and even had us hiding under our desks during drills. They were afraid of racial unrest. They were afraid that the war in Southeast Asia might not be so good an idea. But what they were really afraid of was change.
Muhammad Ali epitomized change. He was loud. He was Black, very Black with no interest in pretending to be White. He abandoned Christianity and embraced Islam. And in the end, he rejected the war and the values that war represented.
As a kid I wanted to understand why the adults were afraid of Ali, The Beatles, and anti-war protestors. I watched Hugh Downs, host of the Today Show, look into the camera and warn America about the new Beatles album. So I found it and listened. The police riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention energized me. And then THEY arrested Ali.
The adults played the game differently. Sure there were real patriots, like my dad and baseball great Bob Feller, who actually enlisted in the military and fought in World War II. But by the mid-sixties it was pretty much forgotten that the super patriots of the day never really served, they just played the parts of soldiers in the movies. Even Elvis did his two years in uniform. Ali’s refusal to be cannon fodder in Vietnam divided the country. You were either with him or against him. I was already with him. This sealed the deal.
We lost Ali last night. We lost the Champ.