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.

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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

Time To Take A Deep Breath

 

My quadrennial contest is now closed.  Twenty-one of us have made ten guesses about 2020.  Guesses.  None of us know who will be the Democrats’ nominee.  No one could possibly know how many regular season games the Indians will win this summer.  It is our willingness to predict, in advance, these outcomes that separate us from those who will share their expertise, always perfect, after the fact.

Yes, there is a certain amount of snark in this enterprise.  The contest originated in 2003.  Tired of the retroactive expertise, I challenged a local know-it-all to predict the 2004 election eleven months before the polls closed.  He declined, but others saw the fun in this and a tradition was born.

There is a secret to winning the Everyone’s A Genius In Hindsight Contest – humility.  This is a general knowledge game.  The winner will claim first prize with only three or four correct answers.  Entering the contest is an admission that you aren’t an expert in everything.  And, you are willing to be human, flawed and imperfect.

I found myself getting agitated this year as I got closer to the deadline for entries.  Social media, particularly Facebook, has forced us to interact with an increasing number of know-it-alls.  I had personally invited a number of them to participate in this year’s contest.  Just to be clear, I am referring to the people who post lots of memes, most of them easily disproved, but little to no original content.  These experts are happy to repeat the craziest of conspiracy theories or their (mis)understanding of the innermost thoughts of Democrats or Liberals.  As you may have guessed, none of them even acknowledged the invitation.

And I was getting agitated.

It is not my job to fact-check someone’s Facebook posts.  G-d knows FB abrogated that responsibility in favor of the revenue BS memes generate.  I already knew that anyone capable of posting a video of Nancy Pelosi, obviously slowed-down and doctored to make her look impaired, lacked the humanity to express fallibility.  That is just one example of why some of my friends have walked away from Facebook.  Yet, I still held out hope.  I started to imagine that my little contest was a lifeline, a path back to balance.

That was stupid.  In truth, my reaction to a group of know-it-alls stubbornly working to retain their imagined status was really an accurate reflection of my status – Exhausted.

It is time for me to step back and take a deep breath.  I will be in Punta Cana for the next week or so.  Sally will get a tan.  I will get some needed rest.

These are my answers for the contest:

  1. The President of the United States December 30, 2020 ___Pence___________.
    2. The Democratic nominee will be_______Klobuchar__________________.
    3. The winner of the 2020 Presidential election will be____Klobuchar___________.
    4. There will be __9_ justices on the US Supreme Court on December 31, 2020.
    5. The winner of the February 2, 2020 Super Bowl will be ____49ers____________.
    6. The Cleveland Indians will win _93___ regular season games.
    7. The Cleveland Browns will win _8__ regular season games.
    8. The Academy Award for best picture will go to _Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood _.
    9. The Dow Jones Industrial Average will close December 31, 2020 at __23,500_______.
    10. A gallon of milk will be $3.79_ at Heinen’s Mayfield Village on June 30, 2020.

Tie Breaker: There is a song associated with every major city. For many of us, our favorite Cleveland song has our hero tell the story of how a decent model citizen is transformed by lust and thirst. Please name the song and artist __Skinny – Alex Bevan____.

Breathe!  It is a longtime till November.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – Ready! – David L Cunix

2020 Hindsight – Calling All Geniuses

This is it! Welcome to the 2020 I Told You So Contest. This is your opportunity to have your genius fully appreciated. All you need to do is predict 2020 before it happens. I host this contest every four years. There is no cost to enter and the game is open to anyone. Please share this with your friend who always knew Trump was going to win and be impeached or with your cousin who knows when Freddie Kitchens will be fired.

Though the contest is for fun, there are prizes.

1st Prize – $50 Gift Card to Shuhei or the restaurant of your choice.

2nd Prize – Lunch with me.

3rd Prize – Two lunches with me.

The Rules:

All entries must be submitted to me by January 6, 2020. The winner will be determined by the number of correct predictions. In lieu of exactly correct answers, the closest to the correct answer will be given credit. The decision of the judge (me) will be final. The second tie breaker is a coin toss.

Don’t be intimidated. No one will get them all right.

1. The President of the United States December 30, 2020 _______________________.
2. The Democratic nominee will be__________________________________.
3. The winner of the 2020 Presidential election will be________________________.
4. There will be ____ justices on the US Supreme Court on December 31, 2020.
5. The winner of the February 2, 2020 Super Bowl will be _______________________.
6. The Cleveland Indians will win ______ regular season games.
7. The Cleveland Browns will win _____ regular season games.
8. The Academy Award for best picture will go to _____________________________.
9. The Dow Jones Industrial Average will close December 31, 2020 at _____________.
10. A gallon of milk will be $_____ at Heinen’s Mayfield Village on June 30, 2020.

Tie Breaker: There is a song associated with every major city. For many of us, our favorite Cleveland song has our hero tell the story of how a decent model citizen is transformed by lust and thirst. Please name the song and artist __________________________________.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – A Little Chutzpah In The 216 – David L Cunix

Is YOUR Economy Booming?

It was quite a show. Whether the cocktail party reception was placed in a room that was just a bit too small for the number of guests might have been by accident or quite possibly by design. In the very center of the room was a table filled with oysters on the half-shell, impossibly large shrimp with cocktail sauce, cracked crab legs, and other delicacies. The wait staff scurried back and forth to the open bar for those who didn’t choose to partake from the wine displayed at the table by the door. There were only a few tables with seats. This wasn’t a party. The people in attendance were there to be seen, to PAY their respects to the guest of honor, and to leave as soon as possible. And into all of this we throw Dave Cunix, the world’s worst mingler.

I approached four people, all holding wine glasses, who were standing near the back of the room. We all introduced ourselves and then two of the group, a married couple, took the opportunity to break away. I wish I had done the same. I was left with a financial planner in need of new friends and the owner of a chemical company, equally capable of polluting a conversation or the water supply. I will spare you the majority of his opinions, his rehash of the worst of Hannity, or his unhappiness with arrogant people (read Jews) like Dr. Zeke Emmanuel. What I found particularly offensive was his lead issue with Obamacare – the previously uninsured will be flooding the system demanding health care.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) provided front door access to people who had been shut out from the health care system due to finances or preexisting conditions. Some were met with open arm. Some were met with resentment. How dare the poor clog up the waiting room at MY doctor’s office?

Today is the last day of Open Enrollment. Health insurance premiums in Greater Cleveland went up around 10%. Some were less. Some were more. The Tax Credit Subsidy, the help people get to pay their premiums, didn’t go up 10%. And I know that my clients who don’t qualify for a subsidy, the people who pay 100% of their premium, didn’t see a 10% increase in their income.

So my question is – Is Your Economy Booming?

We hear, incessantly, that the US economy is booming. The stock market is booming. Unemployment is falling. But, how are you doing?

If you take a trip to the mall, yes there are still retail enclaves, you will see plenty of vacancies. Talk to the store employees and you will find people working two and three jobs. Their hourly pay rate virtually unchanged in the last 10 years. Adults, 45 – 70 years old, still making less than $12 an hour. No benefits. No stability.

While entering information into healthcare.gov I learn about the number of ways people work to make ends meet. Part-time real estate agents vie with future multi-level marketing executives for server positions at your favorite restaurants or to stock the shelves at your grocery store. Two jobs. Three jobs. Too busy to be successful. They are locked on a hamster wheel that takes all of their time and energy.

How frustrating it must be to be fighting to get by while the news touts our booming economy. When the national discussion turns to you getting a raise, alarms are sounded about the dangers of inflation and the fragility of American businesses.  And if you actually can afford to purchase insurance, because G-d knows you aren’t getting group health insurance at work, you encounter people who view you as an interloper.

I have heard from some how their 401K’s have grown in the last 10 years. Those more politically motivated will only tout the growth of the last three years. It is as if the stock market only goes up and never ever goes down. And, more importantly, the value of the Dow Jones doesn’t impact your  day to day ability to buy groceries. We really need to spend more time talking about the personal economies of average Americans.

The guest of honor kept his remarks to a minimum, working hard to say damn near nothing in three short paragraphs. I got my moment with him, trying not to be the first and certainly not the last, and then gave the valet my ticket to retrieve my car.

By the way, those shrimp really were huge. Someone’s economy is booming.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – Some Exclusions Apply – David L Cunix

Everything Will Get Done

 

My goal had been to take off by 3:30, 4 o’clock at the latest.  It was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and I was already over a month into the annual Open Enrollment season.  By the end of November I am long past tired and more than a little frazzled.  My plan was to leave early and to spend the evening in my kitchen.  I could hear the cranberries calling to me.  A pumpkin pie was in my immediate future.  And then it wasn’t.

I had an unexpected service issue that kept me in the office till a little after 4.  I left my office only to find a couple in my waiting room.  There had been a small mix-up.  Their appointment had been for 4 PM yesterday, Tuesday, but they were here now, Wednesday.  The couple, we’ll call them Bob and Judy, had been referred to me by one of their friends, one of my favorite clients, and were here to get organized.  It would be a month or more before we could possibly do business, if ever.  They were here.  It would be rude to reschedule them.  Lianesha got them bottles of water and I ushered them into my office.

G-d I didn’t want to be there.  From the other side of the room I could hear emails, messages, and the ringing of the phone.  Even if they left immediately, I was locked in for another hour or more before I could escape to my kitchen.  I was able to relax once I accepted the fact that I wasn’t leaving.  And that is when I realized that I really liked Bob and Judy.  We were all about the same age.  I had a real connection to Judy’s profession and her employer.  I could relate to the twists and turns of Bob’s career path.  My agitation, my stress, had nothing to do with Bob and Judy.  We had a nice conversation.  The hour or so that I spent focused on them was as good an appointment as any I had had that week.

The holiday season can be incredibly stressful, even if you aren’t an insurance agent.  There is still that woman in front of you in the Express Lane checkout, a cart full of groceries, talking loudly on her cellphone.  You’re going to get cut-off by the guy who couldn’t wait to get into the mall.  And yes, you will be stuck at an intersection behind a Buick, its driver never looking up from his phone to see that the light has changed.  The challenge is to let those moments go, to not let a source of irritation impact the rest of your day and the other people you encounter.  I’m not saying that it is always easy.  Maybe it can be a goal.

I answered the call of the cranberries Thursday morning.  The pie was done by noon.  Everything gets done.  It always gets done.

DAVE

www.againreally.com

Picture – The Colors Of Thanksgiving – David L Cunix