Cooking American

 

Working from home has allowed me to do more cooking.  Even though everything I make is both low-carb and Kosher, Sally and I still have a fair amount of variety even here at home.  In the last week I’ve made chicken burritos, Pho, chicken soup with kneidlach (matzo balls), and a pasta with pesto.  Yes, I’ve been cooking American.

It seems like the word American tends to confuse some people.  They hear the word and they immediately have an image in their minds of someone who looks a particular way, prays a specific way, and has a collection of beliefs that define who and what is American, or at least, a real American.  To be clear, I do not fit any of their imagined definitions of an American.  Most of my friends don’t either.  And a hundred years ago or so when the families of these so-called real Americans came to this country, there were some already here who would have been happy to have seen these people go back from whence they came.

Since we were seated a proper social distance apart and both wearing masks, it is not an exaggeration when I tell you that I could see in my friend’s eyes that he was distressed.   The rest of his faced was covered.  Mark (name changed) is a young guy, handsome, a doctor!  His family came to the United States when he was still a toddler and settled in Greater Cleveland.  This is the only home he has ever known.  But his last name isn’t Smith, or Jones, or even a Cleveland acceptable name like Russo or O’Malley.  His last name doesn’t end with –ski or -ovich.  We talked the other day about being “Other” in this current toxic culture.

Mark grew up an American.  His family became citizens and the flag flew outside their home.  And yet there are some who would question his status.  It is as if some of us are here, some of us are Americans, as long as we don’t get in the way.  As I said to Mark, there is an advantage to being “Other” to be able to observe how some in this country behave.  An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.  The people who would attack a Black Church are the same people who would attack a Mosque.  The people who would attack a Sikh Temple are the same people who would attack a synagogue.  The people who would turn away refugees from South America are the same people who turned away boatloads of Jewish people fleeing the Nazis.  There is no difference.  Hate and bigotry simply change targets, but the results are the same.

The pandemic has given us way too much time in front of our computers exposed to social media.  The memes, many of them created in foreign countries with the goal of dividing us, can be the most disheartening.  One of my Facebook “friends” recently posted a truly disgusting meme.  There was a picture of President Obama and a symbol of Islam.  The caption was “My plan was to destroy America and to convert you to Islam.  And then, your Christian God sent Donald Trump to ruin it”.  Honest. I couldn’t make that up.  I had to read it a couple of times to fully grasp the hate it took to both create and repost such drivel.

There is a constant theme on Facebook that Democrats in general and Obama in particular have an agenda to destroy the United States.  Sixty years ago there were some who questioned whether a Catholic could be president.  Would Kennedy answer to the Constitution or the Pope?  There are enough Catholics in government that that question is now moot.  In 2012 we had some of the same people question Mitt Romney, a Mormon.  And Barack Obama has been a constant target.  The fact that a Muslim, a Jew, or even an atheist could serve as our president eludes these people.  The fact that Obama is a self-professed Christian shouldn’t be important, but since he is, the constant barrage of claims that he isn’t says more about those leveling the charge than about him.  It seems important to them to stress President Obama’s middle name, as if the name Hussein defines the man.  And maybe it does, for them.  Or maybe because he’s Black, visibly “Other”.

There also seems to be a need to label Donald Trump as some earthly savior of Christianity.  Not being Christian, I find it odd that such a major religion would need a protector, and if I was picking one, he wouldn’t be it.  Comparing a family man who has never had a hint of scandal, a guy who embodies what was once called the American Dream with a guy who used to seek publicity from the tabloids for his elicit sexual exploits, multiple marriages, and questionable ethics seems like an odd practice.  And yet, I see this daily.

I fully understand policy differences.  But the attacks on Obama and Democrats have long stopped being about the mundane.  One Facebook “friend” recently posted something from Franklin Graham, the son of the late, and far more apolitical, Reverend Billy Graham.  “Unless Christians Vote We’ll Lose’ the Country”.  What followed was twenty-six comments.  Most of them conflated a particular type of Christianity with the Republican Party with America as they know it.  To be clear, there is a place for Mark and I in their America, as long as we keep our mouths shut and let them have their way.

Mark’s America celebrates people who have chosen to come here from all over the world, people who bring their heritages, their cultures and their religions.  My America celebrates their diversity and their foods.  And it turns out that you can make a really delightful Kosher, low-carb Pho.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – An All American Dinner – David L Cunix

Please Don’t Say It Is Just The Flu

The retired teacher was practicing proper social distancing while she cleaned her golf clubs and talked with her neighbors.  She was excitedly preparing for the beginning of her golf league, an opportunity to both play the game she loved and to experience a bit of normalcy.  There will, of course, be concessions to the illness.  Each golfer will have her own cart and the flags will be sitting on top of the greens.  She was also hoping that some of her golf friends, unlike her neighbors, will agree that this whole COVID 19 thing might be overblown and that President Trump is doing a great job.

There is a vast array of opinions on TV and online.  Some in the medical field express real fears about the Coronavirus.  Some, mostly those getting their medical information from political pundits, may not be nearly as concerned.  They are ready to tell you that xxxxx kills far more Americans.  At the very least, they will tell you that it is no worse than the flu.  That comparison doesn’t fly with the doctors and nurses working in the hospitals.  One of my friends, after a difficult shift, was clear that he didn’t want to hear, “this is just like the flu”.

I tend to read books and articles about government, insurance, and politics.  I don’t subscribe to Scientific American and wouldn’t have seen this article had a doctor friend not shared it on Facebook.  Comparing COVID-19 Deaths to Flu Deaths Is like Comparing Apples to Oranges  makes a clear case about the differences.  For one, when was the last time you saw refrigerated trucks used to remove the deceased from a hospital?  When was the last time we saw so many health care workers fall victim to an illness?  Minimizing the condition puts you, the first responders, and our medical providers at risk.

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One of the things I noticed this year during my annual trip to Washington DC this past February was the high level of security.  Heavily armed, some on horseback, they were on street corners and at the entrance to many of the buildings.  I told a friend that it reminded me of a trip to Paris in 1999 during a time of unrest.  I have been going to the US Senate and House of Representatives offices for years.  I visit the Ohio Statehouse annually.  Regardless of the weather, you stand in line until you access the checkpoint.  There you empty your pockets, remove your coat, and walk through a metal detector while your personal items are run through a scanner.  Pat downs are not uncommon.  So I have to express my shock of seeing armed terrorists threatening Michigan lawmakers in their Senate chambers.  How does that happen?  Who let them in?  The internet and TV news have identified some of the participants as known provocateurs from other states.  Here’s a few questions:

  • The pictures showing them threatening law enforcement officers and the elected officials. Why were they not arrested?
  • Who paid for the people from as far away as California to attend? What organization has “terrorism” as a line item on its budget?
  • Was anyone surprised that these protests in various state capitols included Confederate flags and anti-Semitic signs?

There is a sickness infecting our country.  It has resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 Americans.  It has manifested itself in armed thugs storming our statehouses.  Please don’t say it is just the flu.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – The Hospital Parking Lot Is Full – David L Cunix

 

A Solid B In A Pass/Fail World

 

Dusty, the main character in Alex Bevan’s song Gibson Mandolin, looked up too soon.  Spoiler Alert: It does not end well for poor Dusty.  Letting your guard down too early can have dire consequences.

We are working hard to earn a solid B in this pandemic.  We haven’t locked ourselves in the condo, covered ourselves in bubble wrap, and limited ourselves to occasional trips to the balcony.  We are being careful and listening to the medical experts.

Our first masks were abject failures.  Sally attempted one from a bathing suit top.  It was stylish, Sally is always stylish, but it was too big and of little value.  I tried to make one from an old blue t-shirt.  The ear loops made from her ponytail holders were of little value.  Rubber bands hurt.  We were doomed.  We finally found a couple of masks for sale at Fresh Thyme.  We were on our way.    We scored a dozen organic cotton non-medical masks from Naturepedic.  The elastic ear pieces fit much better.  Having the basics covered, I even ordered two masks from our friend, New York fashion designer Michael Kaye.  We’ve got masks and we’ve got gloves.

The next step, once you’ve got protective gear, is to wear it.  I recently saw a post on Facebook from a guy laughing at people wearing masks while driving alone in a car.  Well of course we do!  I put on the mask and gloves before I leave my home.  There is a chance that I will come into contact with someone in the garage, at the store, or on my way into my office.  The goal is to put this on once, not to take the mask on and off.  Every time I put the mask on I am touching my face.  The gear is most effective if left on and kept on.  Is it comfortable while wearing glasses?  No. Do my glasses fog at times?  Sure.  But these are small prices to pay for safety and safety is the goal.

We have limited our trips outside of our home.  I haven’t cooked this much since the kids were little.  The side benefit is that we are eating well and may even lose a pound a two.  We are walking a couple of miles around the condo complex almost every day.  Our neighbors have been doing a good job of social distancing.   We’re all trying.

The malls are opening up this week.  Some states have decided that this is pretty much over.  I could use a haircut.  You could, too.  I miss eating out, and traveling, and meeting with my clients in person.  These are small sacrifices.  Will the barber, the store clerk, or the waiter universally practice social distancing?  Can they?  And can you get a test to find out whether you or they have or have had COVID 19?  The answer to all of these questions is no.

Dusty looked up too soon.  I hope to not repeat his mistake.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – Butterflies – David L Cunix

The Doctor Will See You Now

 

I had my first virtual medical appointment this morning.  The advantages were obvious:

  • I didn’t have to drive to University Hospital and park my car
  • No potential exposure to sick patients
  • The magazines are new
  • There was coffee before, during, and after the appointment

The disadvantages were more important.  My appointment was with the woman that I have entrusted to quarterback my healthcare for the last few years.  And though some of my doctor friends have scoffed, she is a CNP, a Certified Nurse Practitioner.  For almost four years she has answered every one of my questions, referred me to the specialists that I wanted to add to my care team, and interpret the results of my tests.  She has delivered good news and, thankfully rarely, bad news.  And yes, she has performed numerous physical exams.  That relationship, that trust, was built through one on one personal contact.  It would never have happened by video conference.

Medicare and our insurance companies have responded to the Coronavirus pandemic by increasing access to telemedicine.  It makes us all safer.  But true trust is built through connections.  And for me that will require the connections built through personal contact.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – The New Examination Room – David L Cunix

 

All Dressed Up And No Place To Go

 

My routine blood test was scheduled for 8:30 this morning.  I was so excited to be going to someplace, anyplace, that I considered wearing a suit to the University Hospital building in Chagrin Highlands.  I didn’t.  Wearing a suit would be counter-productive to a blood test.  I may wear one tomorrow, just to sit by myself in the office.  The tie could be optional.

@               @               @               @               @

I saw this on Facebook.  The woman was complaining about her governor, Andrew Cuomo, closing access to her country club’s golf course.  In a country where over 20,000 of our fellow citizens have died from a pandemic and at least 500,000 people are known to have been diagnosed with this terrible illness, this woman’s biggest problem involves a sand wedge.  Our doctors, nurses, police, and paramedics are rushing headlong into harm’s way, knowing full well that they lack the protective gear to insure their own safety.  Millions of workers have lost their source of income.  And small business owners like dentists, barbers, restaurateurs, and retail store owners have shut their doors with no guarantee whether they will ever reopen.   These people represent the best of us.  Wynton Marsalis recently said, “Let’s see if we are who we said we were before this”.   That challenge is today.

@               @               @               @               @

Linked In has devolved into a second-rate Facebook.  The only difference, some days, is the lack of kitten pictures.  A recent Linked In post noted a $1,000,000 contribution to COVID 19 research from Dolly Parton.  You needn’t be a Dolly Parton fan, or even like country music, to know that Ms. Parton has generously donated to worthy causes for years.  And, a million bucks is a million bucks.  But it wasn’t enough for some people.  Instead of appreciating her effort, or simply ignoring the post, some felt it necessary to criticize the amount.  It wasn’t enough.  After all, Dolly Parton is very successful and wealthy.  She should be giving more.  You’ve seen these posts on various social media platforms.  Pick a name, you know them, Bloomberg, Bezos, Gates.  What are they doing and why aren’t they doing more?  Truly those are the wrong questions.  Bloomberg, Parton, et al don’t need to answer to us.  The right question is what are we doing?  Now is the time to step up any way we can.  Some of us will donate money to food banks, churches, synagogues, and other organizations that will get food and services to the people who need our help the most.  Others are sewing masks and helping health care workers and the most at risk gain greater safety.  Food distribution centers need volunteers.  There are a myriad of ways to help.

Jewish tradition teaches us that there are eight levels of Tzedakah, charitable giving.  According to Maimonides:

The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.

 We each have the opportunity to help our fellow Americans today.  You don’t need to put on a suit.  And you won’t need a putter.

Stay Safe.  Stay Healthy.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – All Dressed Up And No Place To Go – David L Cunix

 

The Four Children Of Passover

 

Four sons are discussed during the Passover Seder.  They are meant to describe all of our children.

The wise son asks: “What is the meaning of the rules, laws and customs which the Eternal our G-d has commanded us?”  You shall explain to him all the laws of Passover, to the very last detail about the Afikoman.

The contrary son asks: What is the meaning of this service to you?” Saying you, he excludes himself and because he excludes himself from the group, he denies a basic principle.  You may therefore tell him plainly: “Because of what the Eternal did for me when I came forth from Egypt” I do this.  For me and not for him: had he been there, he would not have been redeemed.

The simple son asks:  “What is this?” To him you shall say: “With a strong hand the Eternal brought us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

As for the son who does not even know how to ask a question, you must begin for him, as it is written in the Bible, “You shall tell your child on that day: This is done because of that which the Eternal did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.”

Translation from the Goldberg Haggadah

We are supposed to go to Israel next month.  Our flights haven’t been cancelled, yet, but they will be.  And we will have to find a different time to go.  This is a little story about my first trip:

I had waited my whole life to see and touch the Kotel, the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem.  And then, in May of 2008, I was about to have my chance.  I was mesmerized.  I had cleared security and was walking across the plaza, intently focused on the ancient wall, when I was accosted by a beggar.  He was aggressive, a professional, and I first tried to ignore him.  I had already donated Tzedaka, charity, while in Israel.  I wanted to get to the wall.  But he persisted.  I said NO.  He wouldn’t take no for an answer and put himself between me and my goal.  Finally, in exasperation, I said that I had waited my whole life for this moment and he was ruining it for me, as if I could shame him into leaving me alone.  And that is when I failed the moment.  This wasn’t about me getting to the wall.  The important thing was for me to connect to 5 thousand years of our history, to be a part of everything that culminated in me being in that plaza at that moment.  Our successes, our Torah, our laws.  And part of that history, part of our heritage was that beggar and everything he represented in how we treat the stranger and the poor amongst us.  The dollar in my pocket wouldn’t significantly change either of our lives.  What mattered was how graciously it should have left my pocket and into his hand.

We begin as children who don’t know how to ask questions and when we do, it is of the simplest nature.  We become capable of being both the wise son and the wicked son.  It is simply a question of whether we put ourselves first or choose to be a part of our group, to honor our heritage, and to accept the responsibility of the moment.

Sally and I will get our trip to Israel.  It will be my third, her first.  And when we do, we hope to pass all of the tests we encounter and to fully appreciate our connection to our heritage.

This is truly an odd Passover this year.  Many of us will be conducting virtual Seders.  Our family safely attending via Skype or Zoom.   Regardless of the circumstances, I hope that you find meaning and comfort in the retelling of our redemption from slavery, our march towards freedom.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – The Kotel – David L Cunix

Woefully Unprepared

 

A Few Random Thoughts

It happened two Fridays ago (Yes, Friday the 13th) at COSTCO.  The 70 something year old waiting for a liver transplant was shaking hands with the 65 year old cancer survivor who no longer has his spleen and one of his kidneys.  What were they thinking?  They weren’t thinking.  That is the point.  We aren’t going to do “Social Distancing” on our own.  It isn’t in our nature.  Should we have known better?  Of course.  Still, it was good to see him.

*          *          *          *          *          *

“How long are you going to do this?”  I’ve been asked that question almost every week for the last few years.  My standard answer is that I have to be dead three years before I can retire.  The joke initially referred to the state of my savings, which may not be that far off base with the market’s recent plunge.  But in truth, my real concern was with the very thought of retirement.  For one, I love what I do.  No, not every day.  There are moments of great success and days of failure when I confront problems that I cannot solve.  I’ve been an agent for 41 years.  It is what I do.  It is who I am.  Worse, sitting at home this last couple of days is everything I feared about retirement.  Too cold to be outside for very long.  Limited in where I can go and what I can do.  I am not ready for this.  Thank G-d tomorrow is Monday.

*          *          *          *          *          *

We are essential!  It is truly a strange world that needs its insurance agents to work, but furloughs its dentists.  In truth, I’m actually happy that my dentist friends are not in their offices.  Without proper testing, the idea of exposing dentists and their staffs makes no sense at all.  Of course they will be available for dental emergencies.  The dentists are losing money.  Their rents and their equipment leases will still be due.  And the dentists I’ve talked with today are still paying their employees.  I asked if they have donated any extra their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  What I’ve been told is that when/if that becomes an issue in Ohio, the Ohio Dental Association will organize the donations.

We are woefully unprepared.  My friend Greg, a doctor in Wisconsin, reports that more and more health care workers are getting exposed and more and more staying home.  Health care workers and first responders are ill-equipped and under-tested.  They are playing golf in a thunderstorm.

*          *          *          *          *          *

We are all doing what we can.  Museums are available for virtual visits.  Here is the link to the Cleveland Museum of Art.  While you are stuck at home you can access artists, comedians, and musicians who are tending to our mental health.  Local favorite, Alex Bevan, has been performing daily from his home.  He played for almost an hour today.  I’ve been a fan for years.  His efforts serve to remind us that we truly are all in this together.

Stay Safe.  Stay Healthy.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – Clean Office – David L Cunix

The Train, It Won’t Stop Going

 

We’ve been told that there is an out-of-control train slowly bearing down on us.  It cannot be stopped.  We don’t even know if we could redirect it or slow its progress.

Using the word “know” is a challenge.  It is hard to say what we really know.  There are those who would have you believe that the people dying in China and Italy are just taking one for the team in a global effort to embarrass and defeat Donald Trump.  The other extreme have decided that a case of toilet paper is the first line of defense when the sky is falling.  Finding good information requires one to first learn how to disregard the bad.

The train, it won’t stop going.  Italy appears to be about 5 -7 days ahead of Spain and France who appear to be another 5 – 7 days ahead of us.  We can stand on the tracks and hope to stop it, or we can get as far away from the train as possible.  Social (physical) distancing seems to be a key element.  Since we have no idea who has the Coronavirus due to the testing failure, we must behave as if we are all contagious.  You might be asymptomatic.  You aren’t sick, but you could be dangerous to someone else.  There will be major inconveniences.  I have volunteered at an Alzheimer facility for the last twelve years.  That is on hold.  It has to be.  Many restaurants and other businesses have been forced to close temporarily.  Sadly, many will never reopen.

France closed its restaurants and clubs as of Sunday.  Ohio and other states have taken similar action.   Closer to home, churches, synagogues, and mosques are cancelling services in an effort to be socially responsible.  Acknowledging that the Lord helps those who help themselves is a wonderful lesson that transcends any particular faith or creed.

And then there is Fox and Friends.  Seldom has so much disinformation been packaged so slickly.  Last Thursday featured Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Geraldo Rivera.  Three years of serving as a Trump apologist only serve to reinforce the impression that Geraldo is still the same guy who broke into Al Capone’s vault.  Last Thursday he told a gullible national audience that they had nothing to worry about and didn’t have Coronavirus if they could hold their breath and count to ten.  Really!  If stupid was contagious, Geraldo would be Patient Zero.

Really don’t mind if you sit this one out
My word’s but a whisper your deafness a shout

There were six, seven, eight hour waits at our international airports over the weekend as Americans scrambled to get back home.  It had appeared that Trump was going to try to close the borders.  His message was, as usual, a word salad that failed to present any evidence of a well-prepared plan.  This was confirmed when we later learned that the mayors and governors had not been given any advance warning, nor had TSA been alerted.

Governor J. B. Pritzker (D-IL), who criticized the situation in Twitter late Saturday, appeared on NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday morning.

“We knew when the president gave the orders that European travel was going to be cut off, that there would be an influx of people traveling back to beat the cutoff,” Pritzker said. “What should have happened is they should have increased the Customs and Border Patrol numbers and the CDC workers on the ground. They did neither of those.”

There are daily press briefings with Dr. Anthony Fauci and a rotating cast of characters, many forced to uncomfortably remain silent as the president contradicts their messages and common sense.  One day this is all an overblown hoax.  The next day Trump is a nationally known expert who understood the dangers of the Coronavirus long before anyone else.  Trump’s political appointees and sycophants, Pence, Seema Verma, the Surgeon General, etc. nod their heads with every word he speaks.  The professionals and the military stare blankly and must silently pray for all of this to end.

Did Trump get tested for the Coronavirus?  His doctor said that he shouldn’t hours after he supposedly did!  Though I honestly hope that the US President doesn’t have this or any other illness, there is absolutely no reason to believe him.  And if you can’t believe him about this, you can’t believe him about anything.

The train it won’t stop going.  No way to slow down.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – Manchester Valley by Joseph Pickett

 

A Kingdom Of One

XM radio is counting down the top 1000 Classic Rock songs of all time.  I turned to Channel 30 when I got into the car and heard Peter Frampton’s Do You Feel Like We Do!  It was near the end, so I was going to hear who they rated as the very top songs.  The song ended as they introduced the next song, number 319, Taking Care Of Business.  Wait! How can there be 319 songs better than Do You Feel Like We Do?  Not in my world.

Facebook provides interesting insight as to what is important to each of us.  What is important in your little Kingdom of One may be as totally irrelevant to everyone else as my opinion of the top 1000 songs.  This looms large as we get closer to November and the big election.  Your issues may make one candidate better than the others.  Your issues may disqualify one or most of the candidates.  For YOU.  The rest of your friends may have prioritized the issues in a different order.

Look at the list.  Are all of those songs better than Frampton?  Not to me.  But in total, it is a pretty good list.  And when we get through the primary season and the conventions we will have two options.  They may not be who you or I would have chosen to compete for the #1 spot, the Leader of the Free World, but they will be our choices.  We will have to choose one of them.  There is an excellent chance that neither candidate will share all or your priorities.  I can guarantee that neither candidate will have those priorities in the same order as you.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – #1 Was No Surprise – David L Cunix

Don’t Cry For Me Ashtabula

I had a dream last night. Our Senator, Rob Portman, was on a balcony, in a dress, addressing a crowd. The crowd was, of course, gathered to see someone else.

With sincere apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber

It won’t be easy
You’ll think it strange
When I try to explain how I feel
But I still crave your vote after all that I’ve done

You won’t believe me
I never really was that guy on TV
A congressman and trade rep
And hardly a misstep

But this is different
He might tweet nasty things about me
I should be braver
Instead I’ll just flee

Don’t cry for me Ashtabula
I don’t run again till twenty-two
You’ll forget by then
It’ll be in the past
I’ll ask for your vote
And bury this fast.

Ohio set the Guinness Book of World Records for most tomatoes thrown.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – Pre-tomato – David L Cunix