Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

 Outside our living room window this morning, we both heard a god awful screech.  We looked outside and a man in a white car is, very dangerously, doing wheelies in the parking lot of our neighboring park.  He is driving speedily, and then quickly jerking the car in another direction such that some wheels come off the ground and the car, when it rights itself, swivels dangerously.  It is pouring outside this morning. He is racing near a path where we and neighbors often walk. Nearly always there is at least one parent with a baby carriage strolling on the path.  If this was a mild day, the crazed driver could and likely would cause a horrific tragedy.

So what prompts someone to do what this man is doing?  Here is how I deconstruct it. Quite possibly just a wild guess not on the mark.

The fellow wakes up on Thanksgiving. And he believes he has nothing to be thankful for. He is alone, his spouse has left; his children away and not concerned with the dad.  In the midst of COVID he spends his days in a small apartment with no real place to go.  His job looks rocky if it exists at all. COVID has resulted in downsizing and he is living on the edge of solvency with bills coming in that he does not see how he will pay. The people in the next unit play their music too loud, and the noise from their frolicking children reminds him of how empty is his life.  He recounts all the bad turns he has taken to bring him to where he sits.  So, with these negative thoughts coursing through his head, and nothing to do, he gets into his car on a pouring rainy day and drives recklessly in a park where skidding could cause him to smash his car into a brick refreshment stand near the baseball field, the fence for the tennis courts, the pole that supports the basketball hoops, or something, God forbid, human.

The chances are his world is not as bleak as he thinks it is when he gets behind the wheel, but that is the way the head works when one event tumbles onto another on a holiday and one is feeling sad, disrespected, and useless.

Sad to consider this scenario.  But an opportunity to be thankful for all the blessings we have, and maybe an opportunity to reach out to someone who you fear might be having a similarly bad day--particularly on this COVID Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2020


 What with the bizarre aftermath of the election, with a sitting president of a country founded on democratic principles attempting to undermine that very democracy; what with a pandemic now nearly a year in, exacerbated by the inactivity of leaders including a bona fide head in the tuchas governor of South Dakota who encouraged spreading behavior; what with weather concerns making our environment and the survival of our descendants risky---the following should not be a big deal. But it bugs me.

I woke up today thinking that I need to get a new address book. I have relied on the computer for keeping address and phone number information the last years, and the address books that I used to update annually have not been so updated. I went to write a new address in one of the old books and noted, sadly, that two people on the very page where I wanted to place the new person, are now dead.

I decided that I would get a new book.  Because I am averse to shopping in stores in general, and am cautious in this COVID era about going into any store--and also because I am an Amazon prime member, I figured to do my purchasing on-line. 

I did. I bought my address book. And then I remembered that I had some thank you notes that I wanted to send out. Again, with the advent of computers and generally new technology, I tend to write thank you notes on line.  But I like, at times, to write out notes.  My handwriting is terrible so I prefer pads that have lines on them.  So, after purchasing my address book I went to buy some thank you notes with lines. And that decision prompted this early morning blog.

It prompted the blog because the first several entries on Amazon for stationery, spelled stationery wrong.  These are stationery companies! and they spelled stationery wrong--stationary not stationery.

I guess it is a good thing the companies aren't going anywhere (a joke for all who can spell) but this is an annoyance to a prig like me who feels the least a stationery company can do is learn to spell stationery correctly.  

Does it matter.

Yes it matters.

First it matters because I decided not to purchase any product that spelled the word incorrectly. They can survive without my 20 bucks but perhaps there will be a movement that will gain momentum.

Second it matters because these are two words. One refers to paper and writing products, the other refers to the lack of motion.  "Charlie we need to send out notes about our change of address. Get me some stationary so we can let people know we're not the kind of business that stays stationery."  Write that, and your company might as well be stationary because it is not going anywhere.

It is six am and perhaps I am grouchy anticipating the latest attempt to destroy our country by an amoral megalomaniac; Republican legislators who have the backbone of weak mollusks; and Democratic legislators who are afraid to say boo, thinking--with no sense of history whatsoever--that this all will blow over.  Just like in Germany.

Don't sell stationery calling it stationary or-- I am out to get you.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Early morning, easy listening.

 Even when I was a young man, when the Doors, Beatles, Stones, and Airplane were my popular groups--even when I would then, bring a beer bottle near my lips and croon raucously into the empty vessel along with Morrison or Slick--even then--to the amused surprise of contemporaries--I liked easy listening stations.  

For my 20th birthday, my folks gave me dough to buy a new alarm clock/radio.  I went to a place on Hempstead Turnpike and bought a snazzy one that cost more than the gift, but it had a few features which, now, are comically primitive but then were hoo hah. It could wake you up to music, or if you prefer an alarming buzz.  It had FM, not a standard feature in the first years of the Nixon administration.  The radio wasn't as slick as what was becoming fashionable in the dormitories--multi component stereo systems with separate speakers, turntables, and what we called receivers.  But for a stand alone radio it was handsome and multifaceted such that a number of folks who bounced into the room would ask about it.  It's best feature for me was that it had a sleep function.  You could put the radio on at night, and set a timer.  You could snooze to music and then not be awakened by it, because it--miraculously--knew enough to shut itself off after the certain time you'd set it for.   

And at night just before I slipped off into oblivia, (spell check tried to change that to Bolivia) I'd set the radio station to an easy listening station and set it to wake me up with the same soft crooners in the a.m.  For years, even to date, the women who deigned to spend time with me found this a remarkable aberration from what was my personality. The same guy who loved Surrealistic Pillow, mellowed out listening to instrumental renditions of the Impossible Dream, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Moon River, and Send in the Clowns.  

Had some trouble sleeping last night.  Does not happen regularly, but last night was up at 4.  Started a new book which I thought might do the trick, but did not.  So, I got up.  Went to the computer and found ESCAPE on my sirius favorites.  Moon River, as a matter of fact, is coming through the speakers right now.  

We like Classical Music in the morning when we read the newspaper.  There is a tolerance for ESCAPE for short periods, but after a spell, I am asked politely to put something else on.  Had a girlfriend in the 80s who was willing to listen for extended periods, but I think that was only because she liked me. One day, when on vacation, we were staying in a remote spot in Maine by a lake.  I had the easy listening station on all day while we were reading.  Around dusk she just exploded.  There was a limit to what she could stand even for a fellow whom she thought was a decent catch.

Here I am at three score and ten, pushing three score and eleven--pushing real hard in fact.  When I was in my 20s listening to my new fangled radio late at night, and listening to a station that my colleagues felt suitable for people three score and ten, pushing three score and eleven--I did not know I would be still finding comfort in easy listening.  Don't misunderstand. I can still get the beer bottle out and bang it out with Morrison and Slick. This, to young-uns is as aberrant as my listening to Andy Williams in the 60s was to contemporaries.  I guess one could say I have, and have had, eclectic musical tastes. 

Probably be able to go back to sleep now.  Bouncy rendition of "Help Me Rhonda" on a moment ago. Now, "They Call the Wind Mariah" from Paint Your Wagon.  Zs for Z.

Monday, September 28, 2020

tikkun olam and the new year

 I, more often than not, have trouble on Yom Kippur staying focussed.  I like the ceremony of Kol Nidre on the evening of the holiday and almost never miss it.  In the morning I have more success than later in the day staying with the goals of the day.  But the holiday is a fast day so by the time early afternoon comes, I am often dwelling on how long it will be before I can eat.

Often what helps is that I am in a book. When I am in a book I will spend time in the afternoon reading whatever it is that I am reading. Reading helps me think. While a novel is not prescribed on Yom Kippur (probably is forbidden) it does good things for me beyond filling up hours. I'll read something and that triggers a thought and before I know it I'm engaged in some introspection.  A problem this year is that I am not in a book presently.  And, of course, to make things more difficult there are no synagogues open.  I did later in the day watch services from both Buffalo and Cincinnati which were excellent.  These were Reform services with much in English so that made it more valuable to me.  Besides the English, the services were well thought out and likely more choreographed than they would otherwise be. I found the readings very meaningful, especially the end of the Neilah service in Cincinnati.

Around mid day, well before I travelled by computer to Buffalo or Cincinnati,  I played a dvd I had taken from the library.  Around twenty years ago I read what is one of the top twenty, maybe top ten, books I've ever read, American Pastoral by Philip Roth.  I found out around a month ago that there was a movie made of the book, so I borrowed it from the Waltham public library.  And around noon I watched American Pastoral. (A shout out to the Waltham public library--the people there during this pandemic are trying very hard to provide books for the community in a safe way.  Very pleasant and helpful under what are trying conditions).

If you want to read the book or see the film you might want to skip this and the next paragraph.  A young man named Seymour Levov is nearly perfect.  Handsome, intelligent, considerate, and an outstanding athlete.  He is a high school hero, goes off to fight in World War II with the Marines and returns healthy.  He falls in love with a woman who is intelligent, considerate, from humble beginnings and beautiful.  She represented the state of New Jersey in the Miss America pageant. Theirs is a perfect match.  He inherits his father's glove factory and considerately manages the facility being kind, as his father was, to the workers. The business is successful. The couple buys a beautiful home in the country. They are wonderful beautiful people. 

However, they have a child who becomes a revolutionary and maniacal in her activities.  The child leaves home after a bombing and the parents fear their daughter might have planted the bomb which killed a neighbor.  The couple is emotionally ripped open because of the events.  The book/movie describes how these actions by the daughter and her disappearance--which were not brought on by parental negligence--destroy two wonderful people.

It was a good movie to see on Yom Kippur, a day of atonement.  Jews are taught to practice tikkun olam--not only to look within and clean up the debris that accrues in our souls, but to look at our society and work toward making our world better.  But sometimes it does not work. Sometimes you can be a wonderful soul and be socially conscious and practice Tikkun Olam as a matter of course, but some things happen. There is an impediment of someone else's making that gets in your way.  Often times the impediments that appear to be of someone else's making are self created, but in the case of Mr and Mrs. New Jersey, something out of their control affected their lives.

It's a test.  Cleaning out the debris that you've accrued, and working towards repairing the world (tikkun olam).  My take aways today, at three score and ten pushing three score and eleven, are these: sometime the debris that you think someone else created is stuff you've created; regardless of the crud in your system and the crud surrounding us, it is our job to work and work to make it better.  And if we think we have problems, maybe we should consider what happened to Seymour Levov.  

And now, as the sun sets, I am ready to eat. Whatever is being made downstairs smells heavenly.

Happy new year.  Apples, and honey, and joy to all.

Friday, September 25, 2020


 I read this morning the obituary for Sylvester Stallone's mother.  She was, if the obituary is accurate, a remarkable entrepreneur who engaged in various activities some of which were way ahead of her time.  She invested in a gym in the 50s just for women, for example.  How many "health clubs" beyond Vic Tanny's existed in the 50s.  She became a successful astrologer, but had--toward the end of her life a new technique for predicting the future. She would explore the lines of one's buttocks to learn about what was forthcoming and advise her clients.  Ms. Stallone called this approach rumpology and at the end of her life was still active as a rumpologist charging customers 300 dollars a cheek for her wisdom.

My libido is down these days from my college years, but I wouldn't mind a stint as a rumpologist--assuming I could filter the clientele to some extent.  I imagine that otherwise the job might be less than pleasant. Plus, I have doubts about what one could learn from such explorations that could predict the future. "You have lovers in your future" "You should quit your sedentary job"; "more rigorous hygiene would improve your chances for romance."

Rumpology. Ah, America. What's the office slogan?  "Have no fears. No bum steers."

Still the obituary set me to thinking about next steps. Ms. Stallone, starting at 15, tried this activity or that--always staying active.  I write textbooks and teach courses about Communication.  I like my work; think I am good at it; have had better than average reviews for my efforts; and can get immersed in a writing project which is at once all consuming and energizing.  Yet, I've been doing it for some time.  Maybe it is time to start exploring.

What may have fueled my thoughts about next steps is that I was told on a weekly zoom call that an old college girlfriend of mine passed in March.  Our stint as sweethearts was only a couple of months long, but I did bump into her coincidentally at a party a decade after graduation and we had fun for a day reminiscing and cavorting around the campus.  I was stunned by the news. I could barely recognize her in the obituary that I unearthed, but reading it made me think about this precious thing we have called time and life.

I will not, no matter what, go into rumpology as an entrepreneurial endeavor.  But it might be fun to explore other rides before the amusement park closes.    

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Insidious Cancer

 In four years the fabric of this country has changed. 

Four years ago lawmakers asserted, aggressively, that a supreme court justice should not be replaced during an election year. Now, the same lawmakers are asserting, aggressively, that they have the right and will attempt to replace a supreme court justice during an election year.

That we have a group of lawmakers who are unethical is clear. That we have a citizenry that supports such amoral behavior indicates how the fabric of our country is shredding and has shredded.

People who had, at least superficially, spoken about patriotism, moral values, and integrity have now abandoned these platforms.  Honesty means nothing to over 40 percent of the population. The president of the country is honest about how honesty is irrelevant to him. And yet in many states the majority of people support the president.

And the toxicity seeps into our culture and distorts what the United States claims to stand for.  Even in so called blue states there is evidence of amorality spreading like an insidious cancer.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Good lasagna

 I went to send a note to my brother to wish him a happy new year.  In Hebrew, you wish a happy new year by saying or writing, l'shana tova.  Tova means good. Shana means year.

So, I typed l'shana tova into my phone. The spell checker changed l'shana into lasagna.  

Okay, so, good lasagna to all.

Rosh ha shana means-- new year.  Literally, the head of the year.  Rosh = head. Ha=the. Shana again year.  

The holiday begins a ten day period of introspection.  A time for people to assess how well or how poorly we are doing morally and ethically.  And a time to pledge to work toward being the best we can be.  

Often the holiday begins with a big meal.  And often the meaning of the holiday is lost because the food consumption becomes more significant than the reason for consuming in this way.  I'm as much a miscreant as the next person.  The holiday began last night and we had a big meal and I read some parts from a book I like related to the holiday. Yet, just this morning I became furious at city hall about something inconsequential.  I hissed venom at the Republican party for not waiting for a supreme court justice's body to be cold, before trying to rush in a replacement.   And other stuff crept into my head that was not conducive to a healthy reassessment of where I am at.

It's work to examine oneself.  And work toward making the new year a happy one.  Good lasagna.