The eight year old in your back seat has only one question. It is a two hour ride, including an hour on the turnpike, and you are only fifteen minutes from home, and he wants to know, “Are we there yet?” It takes all of your patience, self-control, and parental love to simply say, “Not yet.” You will be tested a dozen times before you deliver him to Grandma.
It is really hard, sitting in the back seat, to be patient. The child knows the final destination, but has no control of how he is getting there nor a real sense of the time or direction.
In 2010 the American public was popped into a back seat, buckled up, and taken on a journey. We were told that we were heading towards a great place, universally accessible affordable health care. WOW. We were pretty excited. And for eight years we have been asking, “Are we there yet?” There were two people in the front seats during the first six years of our trip. One kept saying, “Not yet” while the other constantly threatened to turn the car around and take us back home.
It is now the end of July 2018. We switched drivers eighteen months ago. The people in the front seats seem to spend their time arguing whether to go back home or just park the car, in the middle of the freeway, and take a break. And the American public? We’re still in the back seat asking, “Are we there yet?”
Picture – Strapped in and ready to go
I could hear my humidor calling me from across the room. Thank G-d I can’t smoke in my office. I’d be up to five cigars a day. But I could hear it calling me, a short CAO Mx2, and I decided to heed the call. Just a half hour, just a short walk before the rain to clear my head.
I have noticed a trend in my posts of late. The Health Insurance Issues With Dave posts reflect anger, my agitation at having my clients and my industry under attack with no concern with the damage he might / is doing to health insurance, the way most Americans access and pay for health care. I revisited posts from late 2009 and early 2010 when there were Democrats in Congress who actually wanted to eliminate my occupation. No anger, just resolve. Now? Now I feel like we, all of us, are under siege. It can’t be just the difference between a D and an R after someone’s name in Washington.
And the last few posts on Again? Really? are about escaping, even if just for a few minutes, from the ongoing chaos. So the question is whether this is just me or are we, as a nation, embroiled in something different, something we haven’t seen in about 5 decades?
I was born in 1955 and my formative years were the 60’s. I feel a wave washing over us. But from here, a quiet office in Mayfield Village Ohio, that wave feels like the polluted waters of a dying sea. The 60’s were about change. There was a pervasive feeling of hope, peace and equality that were both positive and unrealistic. There was even an underlying self-awareness and sense of irony that helped keep many people (but not everyone) from taking themselves too seriously. Did my friends believe that they could change the world by growing their hair long hair and putting a peace patch on their jeans? Of course not. But we were all, in our own little ways, trying to make things better.
That is not the change we are seeing today. There are people in power who are trying to normalize Stormtroopers in khakis and the separation of parents from their children. It is as if we have forgotten how hated the Irish, the Italians, the Japanese, and yes, the Jews, were and how we had to fight for our place in this country. I find the politics of resentment, this desire to scapegoat others so odd when it is exhibited by those who would have been hated and/or bared from the US just a few generations ago.
Facebook is filled with fear. I can count on one FB friend (a longtime client) for a constant stream of posts from Donald Trump for President 2020, USA Patriots for Donald Trump, Trump For America and any number of Russian bots every time his guy has a bad day. The worse the news, the more direct the attacks on Democrats, the press, and especially, Black women such as Whoopi Goldberg and Maxine Waters. Today’s post is a particularly disgusting one featuring Congresswoman Waters. But this all screams fear. And to be honest, I’m not really crazy about this guy, and others like him, feeling cornered in their homes, fondling their guns, wondering how to defend themselves from liberals, gays, and the very real possibility that 1950’s America is never coming back. By the way, the fondling of the gun line is real. Not only does this guy glorify guns in countless posts, but I was in his home years ago as he was cleaning one of his guns. I never returned.
So where are we? There are those amongst us who view the current darkness, this moment of nativism and vitriol as a passing fad, one, like the shower outside my window, will pass without doing any lasting damage. I’m not so sure. So much hate. So much fear. So many guns. And, a man in Washington without any scruples who is willing to do anything to further his perception of what is in his own best interests. I think, especially after the last few weeks, that we have a right to be concerned.
It was a short cigar. It lasted just a bit over 30 minutes, just until the rain started to fall.
Picture – David L Cunix – The Gathering Storm
I hope to bring you peace. I hope to bring you joy. G-d knows we need this. I need this. I have already made three cherry pies this summer. One more trip like last week’s Helsinki debacle and I will be opening a bakery.
It is time to flip off the internal switch, the one that monitors the world and our place among the nations, and take a short break. Allow me to provide the soundtrack for this quick escape from reality.
Just as there are no bad covers of the Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter, there are any number of wonderful musical performances inspired by German poet Friedrich Schiller’s 1785 Ode to Joy. The first and most famous was the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Many have followed with a variety of musical instruments and styles. I have provided a few below.
I hope that one of them brings you a moment of respite. I hope that at least one of these brings you joy.
The public affairs announcer asked everyone to stand for the national anthem. I stepped away from the mustard dispenser and looked down to the field where a hand bell chorus began to perform. They were pretty good. Not perfect. Pretty good. I suspect that all of the musicians lived within 10 miles of this stadium. This is small town America, the perfect escape from Trump’s America.
We were at a Lake County Captains game. The Captains are a farm team for the Cleveland Indians. I had won four tickets at a Chamber of Commerce lunch and I was looking forward to baseball, a brat, and a couple of hours of relative peace.
The stadium delivered. The food was reasonably priced and very good. The service staff was uniformly helpful and friendly. Well over half of those in attendance were under 15, possibly under 10. There were little kids everywhere. Some were even watching the game.
Everything about the game was minor league. The players, the promotions between innings, and even the cheesy product tie-ins during play. When the Captains got a player in scoring position, Attorney Tim Misny exhorted the crowd from the scoreboard to “Make Them Pay”. This was family fun. No negativity. No profanity. No anger. No Trump.
By now some of you may be yelling at the computer screen that Lake County has traditionally voted Republican and that Donald Trump carried the area in 2016. All true. But this isn’t Trump Country. I spent four hours without hearing anyone complain about Mexicans or people from Latin America. There wasn’t any yelling or name-calling, or lying, or even unwarranted bragging. Not so long ago pundits on FOX News used to accuse Barack Obama of bring “Chicago-style Politics” to Washington. Donald Trump has infected the entire country with his special brand of coarseness. Small town America may be one of the few places where we can escape.
Facebook offers no solace. No post, no subject is safe from the Trumpian trolls. Much of Cleveland is obsessed with the future of LeBron James. When Los Angeles became a serious option, the trolls focused on Californian politics and sanctuary cities. And that epitomizes Trump’s America. While the rest of us are looking for a good point guard, the Trumpsters are looking for a fight.
There is no relief on television or in the news. Republicans and even Democrats who refused to sink to Trump’s level were deemed weak and feckless. Polite society was told to not listen so carefully. “Don’t take him literally.” While another segment of our population came out of hiding to applaud Trump for saying what everyone was thinking. But not everyone was thinking that good people donned khakis and polo shirts and marched through Charlotte chanting ‘Jew will not replace me”. Freed from shame or repercussions and aided by Russian bots, the trolls emerged online and on our TV screens. That forces us to choose from three types of TV news. There is the network that promotes Trump and is willing to change its positions on issues to accommodate him. There is the network that challenges him directly. And there is the network, which in an effort to achieve balance, forces itself to allow the truth to be subverted by the likes of Kellyanne Conway and former Congressman Jack Kingston.
It is all designed to be very loud and disorienting. We are supposed to be off-balance. We are trapped on Oceana and Trump is trying to decide whether we should be at war with Eastasia or Eurasia. Eastlake seemed like a world away.
The speaker at our Mayfield Area Chamber of Commerce lunch was an on-air personality at our local ESPN radio station. Nice guy. The surprise wasn’t that I won some tickets in a trivia contest. The surprise was that it was a Browns question. I was the only one who knew the name of the starting quarterback the last time the Browns won a game. Robert Griffin III.
“Where are the girls?” I hear Sally ask that question several times a day. Maybe it is because she is the daughter of Holocaust Survivors, maybe it is because she has had a series of negative premonitions about Donald Trump from the moment he declared his candidacy, or maybe it is just too much exposure to the news, I have no way of knowing. And, more importantly, I have no way to answer her question.
Picture – A White Dress
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