Saturday, October 27, 2012


My route to town during the week often provides choices now that I have a job with regular business hours. I am one of those guys who listens to the fellow in the helicopter.  His message is typically the same and usually is nothing more than a reminder that if I leave between 740 and 830 it is going to take a while.

I have, however, become creative.  At a certain juncture I can make a choice to take alternate routes. It is always a bit of a guess.  You see the traffic lined up on route 16 and you have to decide to make a left and go into it and risk a backup that drives you mad on the turnpike--or go right and take Commonwealth Avenue for a stretch.  Of course you can just forget those routes altogether and take 20 to town. Even then you have options. It's a puzzle of sorts, given conditions x and y, how can you get to z?

On Tuesday I had to get in early and spent a good portion of the commute patting myself on the back for having made the correct choice at every turning point. (It has gone the other way on more than one occasion). Maybe it was because I was not particularly aggravated that I began to muse about the metaphor of having to make choices when the road gets jammed and aggravating. It is not the first time I have had such thoughts, but this week--maybe because I am starting a new lap--the metaphor notion arrived more vividly.

You come to traffic and what to do, take the highway or the backroads?  I don't have a gps system but I understand that some sophisticated versions can tell you which way to go on the basis of traffic.

 I don't think the entrepreneurs have developed a gps system that would apply when there is traffic in our heads. This would be a valuable tool.when confounded about which way to go.  Should I stay in this home? job?  Should I raise my kid with a strict hand because he is acting out--or bathe him or her with unconditional love.  Should one stay in a marriage that is rocky and threatening to either destroy your shocks or make you numb--or stay the course and pave the road?  Should I move to timbuktu or stay put?.

A GPS system would be good for such cerebral traffic, no?

Last summer there was a very happy high school reunion that I attended with a bunch of us who are over the hill but enjoying the ride. I go to each of these and they are all fun, but this one was particularly joyful. Since then someone opened a facebook site just for our class and it has been active.  One fellow created a string: "Who is still with their high school sweethearts?"  Another string, "Who still has their high school ring?" A third, "Does anybody know what became of ..."

The fourth string was of interest to me as well.  Someone asked if anyone had a list of those who have passed.  One such list had been available at the reunion and I have referenced it in a blog I wrote around that time.  However, what has happened  because of the social media is that people who had not attended the reunion in August have joined in the class conversation with the result that more names have been added to the list that nobody wants to be on.

I learn yesterday that a fellow I took driver's ed with is now gone. I had not seen this guy since we graduated.  Someone posts his obituary and I see that he had become an academic like me. He worked at various institutions and had become astonishingly accomplished.  A woman who endured the same English class I was in during tenth grade had become a prolific literary critic.  I read book reviews regularly and never noticed her name (likely because she used her married name).  Her obit was posted and she apparently was at the top of the class in terms of literary reviewers.  I see her smile and hear her self-effacing high school comments and even though I had not seen her in nearly half a century I am sad to read about this.  There are others too that I'd not known had passed.  At one point I hesitated to look at the facebook string lest I read about someone else who I can hear laughing in my memory bank and who is now gone.

Sometimes you hit traffic and there is no way out.  Both Ralph and Merle died of cancer.  No alternative routes to dodge the effects.  No GPS system that can make a suggestion to allow the journey to continue. For those of us still on the road, it might be helpful to view that traffic as something our friends who are gone would like to have the opportunity to address.  And employ our GPS systems to make our time on the road as happy as it can be.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ducks and Pigs

Old Joke.  A man walks into a bar with a duck under his arm.  An old geezer sitting at the bar has had more than a few.  He yells out to the newcomer.  "Hey" he slurs, "Whaddaya doin in here with that pig?"

The fellow very politely replies, "This isn't a pig. This is a duck."

The boozer shouts back. "I wasn't talking to you buster, I was talking to the duck."

Lots of vitriol going back and forth as we near the end of the campaign for president here.  Some of it as gratuitous as the dig from the geezer to the man with the duck.  The campaigns have long since eschewed even handedness and are now jumping on any misstep by the opponent to say "Gotcha See there what a fool my opponent is."

It is so easy to begin seeing the candidate you don't like monolithically.  As I read through the comments on social media your guy is presented as great and the other as the devil.  Not likely to be the case.

A question I have is how often do the candidates realize that they have become someone other than who they are.  Romney has certainly morphed from the guy who campaigned to the right of Ronald Reagan. And Obama must wonder now and again if he isn't pouncing too much on some of Romney's faux pas, which reflect less on Romney's innate character and more on some foolish thing he has said which renders him vulnerable.

The guy at the bar knows the fellow has a duck under his arm. He is just being mean.  It must be tough for the candidates not to get mean after 6-8 months of nonstop battling.  It would be nice, however, if combatants for public office could just resort to identifying how the two are simply different ducks and leave the pig out of it.  It would also be a relief to see their supporters do the same.

Friday, October 19, 2012

lap dance

My father sent me a note this evening commenting on my blogs.  One of the comments related to the 10-11-12 short entry. This referred to fleeting moments and the need to seize time.  Dad told me about a Horace Mann quote which reads, "Lost yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with 60 diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever."

I'm about to complete my current lap around the track this weekend.  Ready to start on the next one in a few days.  The truth is that on this last lap as on all of the preceding ones, there are golden hours that were lost.  There are also golden hours that were not.  And there are still other golden hours that were not lost, but I was not wise enough to realize they were golden at the time and only see the beauty in retrospect.

Probably not unique in this way.  I was watching a documentary about athletes the other day who had lost it all and were broke. Their stories were repetitive and depressing. They took for granted their skill and wealth and are now bereft of both--all they have are recollections of joy and their foolishness.

Heard today about a colleague who is in his last hours.  Can see the guy clearly. Always had a twinkle in his eye.  He was around my age when I knew him as a colleague, then he must have retired, and now we get this notice telling us that we might want to consider a program for him to recall his contributions.

There's an old Honeymooner episode where Ralph and Norton are trying to identify their good "pernts" and bad "pernts" with the idea to focus on the bad pernts and make them good ones.  As I approach turning into this next lap I think that while I am very happy with a number of things about what I have done with time, what I believe is a bad "pernt" is not realizing that certain golden hours were golden.

I wonder if that is how A-Rod feels now having been benched in the playoffs despite being the highest paid player in baseball.  I wonder if Romney and Obama in this whirlwind that has been the last six months, have had time to marvel at what both of them have accomplished.   I am a fan of one of these pols and not the other, but regardless I admire them both for their energy if nothing else and perseverance.  They have been putting on their game faces nearly every hour of every day and one will of course lose.  That person will still have had many golden hours which they might have difficulty acknowledging as such.

A walk for an ice cream cone, a smile in a park, dinner with your folks, reading a good book, whacking a tennis ball just where you wanted to... golden moments each set with 60 diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are lost forever. My lap dance as I begin a new trip should be to take the steps to reverse the bad pernt that on occasion has had me not acknowledge some golden hours that are now lost forever.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

George McGovern

I just read a search engine headline that relayed that George McGovern is no longer responsive and is nearing the end of his life.

It's difficult to comment about someone whom I've never met and who I only know from media representations.  That written, I've always thought of McGovern as a mensch who stayed true to his conscience regardless of the politics involved.

 I voted for McGovern in 72 and will never forget the acceptance speech he delivered at the convention.  (Unfortunately, it was in the middle of the night, and therefore many Americans did not hear it).   McGovern was snakebit in that campaign, losing his vice presidential candidate half way through the election and then not being able to convince others to take the second spot for fear that Nixon's lead was insurmountable--which it turned out to be.  He was also a victim of what Donald Segretti later admitted to as "dirty tricks"--perpetrated by Nixon supporters.

I always thought McGovern handled himself with class and spoke from the heart.  He lost the election in 1972, but he was a good citizen of the country, and someone willing to fight for ideals even when they were unpopular.  We are about to lose an American hero.

Energizing the Base

I have often scoffed at those who argue that politicians must energize their base.  I recall that when Sarah Palin was selected in 2008 as the GOP Republican candidate for Vice President, many explained this bewildering choice by commenting that this would energize the Conservative base in the party.

My reaction was to suggest that they reconsider this wisdom.   Would Conservatives vote for Obama if McCain had selected a liberal Republican as the running mate?  They would--as the alternative would not be palatable to them..  So, why pick a Conservative who could alienate those in the gray area who might otherwise be swayed. The answer came back: "well they need to energize the base."

After last night's debate and the resulting post debate discussion, I am reconsidering the stance I'd previously taken about the importance of energizing loyalists.  The October 4th debate which Mitt Romney--according to almost every indicator--won, had dispirited Obama loyalists.  These supporters would still vote Democratic as to vote Republican would be unthinkable, but the enthusiasm for their candidate ebbed.  I noticed the subdued reaction in several places, but most notably on the web.  Prior to last night, there was less political cyber cheering for the Democrat, fewer jabs at the opponent, fewer posts suggesting that it was essential to get the vote out.

Last night and this morning, however, the volume is back on.  It seems as if many deflated Democrats are now filled with an energy because of what they witnessed.  One might argue, "well these people are still going to vote for Obama and one vote remains only one vote energy or no energy.".

This is true, but discussion in support of a candidate can lather and create a contagious narrative which might influence those undecided.  There is a greater bounce to the step of Democrats this morning, and the Republican noise has been, to some extent, muted.
In the same way as Romney energized his base after October 4th, Obama energized his on the night of October 16th. As opposed to what I have thought previously, this may have an effect on momentum and the eventual success of the candidate.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Well, we thought about the game

One of the songs in "Damn Yankees" is called The Game.  At one point the players, incredibly as is the case with all musical numbers, break out in song and croon about how they need to stop thinking about anything else, but the game. "We thought about the game, the game..."   I can remember when I lived in Buffalo, on the eve of the sixth game of an exciting Boston Celtics--Buffalo Braves playoff series, my roommate, now a successful lawyer, walked in to the apartment, tossed his law books on a chair, and began singing "So we thought about the game, the game..."

For what might be obvious reasons, this song has popped into my head the last few days and not because of the Major League Baseball series or the glut of football games that took place this weekend.

The political debate tonight is analogous to a sporting event.  Those of us who have been following the pol/ls and the rhetoric know that this debate is a crucial one that can affect the election and consequently the direction of the country.  Never has it been any more obvious that speaking--the ability to articulate one's thoughts and get an audience to accept them--is a powerful phenomenon. There is the old Daniel Webster quote. "If all my possessions and powers were to be taken from me with one exception I would choose to keep the power of speech, for by it I could soon recover all the rest."

Governor Romney knows this is so.  During the first debate, he was able to wow enough voters to render what had been a one sided contest into a dead heat.  Now, the pressure is on President Obama.

Tonight, one might contend, the pressure is on the New York Yankees to win a game in Detroit lest they go down 3-0 in their best of seven series with the Tigers.  I am rarely one to downplay the significance of sport, but in this situation the pressure on Yankee starter Phil Hughes is nothing compared to the pressure on President Obama.  Republicans and Obama's liberal supporters ridiculed him after the first debate.  Tonight he has the job of winning back the voters who turned lukewarm or cold after the first contest.

It is not melodramatic to write that so much is riding on the outcome of this contest.  Roe vs. Wade will either be the law of the land or history depending on the outcome.  Medicare will either continue as the safety net for seniors or change in a way that is essentially not recognizable.  The country's approach to taxation and war and business and civil liberties will be a function of the outcome. The two candidates have agreed centrally on one issue and they are both right.   The choices in this election are as starkly different as they have ever been--akin to the Nixon-McGovern election of 1972.

I have a standing singles tennis match on Tuesday nights (as long as the two sixty somethings who are combatants are both uninjured at the time).  I wrote to my bud last night and asked if we could change the time so we could watch the debates. He was agreeable, but we both eventually agreed that it would be better on our nervous systems if we played while Romney and Obama were sparring.

I've known people who could not watch a game during the exciting times because they got too nervous. I have almost never felt that way.  However, tonight, I do.

In the seventies I went to see the Thrilla in Manilla in a movie theater.  This, for the uninitiated or young, was the third and rubber bout between Joe Frazier and Muhammed Ali.  More is riding on this bout tonight.

Monday, October 15, 2012


I saw something today on Facebook that was startling, but not surprising.  It was a photo of a man standing at a political rally.  His shirt read Romney/Ryan at the top.  In large letters below that was the following: "Let's Put the White Back in the White House."

Of those who are voting for the Republican candidate,  most--I am guessing--would not endorse the sentiments of the racist with the shirt.   However, there is a number who would. I wondered during the last election how then candidate Obama could overcome the large population of simpletons who reject people on the basis of ethnicity.  The answer seemed to me that McCain, in a move that was straight out of the Chelm playbook, selected a running mate that even the racists could not tolerate. In fact, the population that hates on the basis of race, might hate on the basis of gender as well.  Had Palin been convincing as a possible successor to McCain in the event of tragedy, or had McCain selected anyone with a modicum of knowledge and experience, I believe enough people would have voted against the black candidate because he is black.

Racism is still here.  I am not at all suggesting that Romney or Ryan support racism.  And they are in a difficult position desiring all the votes they can get.  The question I have is this:  If Romney were to repeatedly in every campaign speech bang out his opposition to racism and to those people who wear these shirts--would he win the election.  If a standard refrain of his speeches were, If you are voting for me because I am white and he is black, I don't want your vote--would Romney prevail?

I don't think so.  I think if you eliminated all votes that were cast for Romney because he is white, and all votes that were cast for Obama because he is black, Obama would win the election.

Racism is still here.  Ryan is not Sarah Palin.  And it is sad to write that I think that despite whatever merits Governor Romney may have, he may get elected on skin color, not because of these merits.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Next year, November 12th will work, then December 13th the following year.  But after that we won't see this again in our lifetime.

Another reason to seize the day.  Once it is over, we've lost it forever.


I do not like the Yankees.  Never did.  When the Giants and Dodgers moved to San Francisco and Los Angeles respectively (but not respectfully) my dad took us to Yankee stadium because there were no other teams in town. There, in the Bronx, I cheered for the Washington Senators or whoever were the Yankee opponents in the double header that Sunday.

Nevertheless, what occurred last night--despite my disappointment in the outcome--is what makes sport great, advertising for ball games expensive, owners rich, and fans in a lather come game time. There was more drama in the Bronx last night than on Broadway.

Down 2-1 in the ninth inning the manager for the Yankees did something that I could not believe. I had the sound down (because it appeared to be working as a jinx against the Yankees) so I could not quite believe what seemed to be transpiring.  One of the highest paid players in all of baseball, Alex Rodriguez--A-Rod to his fans--the number three hitter in the powerful Yankee lineup was being pinch hit for.  A player named Raul Ibanez, a bench player--a substitute-was batting in the ninth for one of the greatest home run hitters in history.  Rodriguez is currently number five on the all time home run leader list with only Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays ahead of him. Next year he will pass Mays who has 660. A-Rod has 647 and counting.

To take A-Rod out for a bench player when all you need is a homer is so unbelievable that I sat up in my chair and inadvertently knocked the cat off my lap.  Raul Ibanez for A-Rod?

So, all that Ibanez does is slam a homerun into the right field stands to tie the game and send it into extra innings.  He does this in the 9th.

When he comes up again in the 12th, all Ibanez does is slam another home run into the right field stands to win the game.

Baseball movies would not have such a dramatic ending.

The Orioles and Yankee haters might not like it, but games like last night's are high drama.

The epilogue to the real world drama, the sprinkles on the cone, occurred about two hours later when the Oakland Athletics, losing 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth scored three runs to beat the visiting Detroit Tigers.  The bad news for the advertisers is that the cost of a thirty second spot just went up.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


One of the issues that I found disturbing in last night's presidential debate related to the responses--from both candidates--regarding the medicare issue.

Governor Romney and his running mate Congressman Ryan have proposed that we go to a voucher system instead of Medicare.  The plan, as they have described it during the campaign, would not affect those who are 55 years or older.  These persons would be grandfathered into the current system.

When asked about the plan last night, Governor Romney asserted again--that this will have no effect on those 55 years or older.  One would assume that this assertion has been stated repeatedly to avoid alienating voters over 55 years who would find the voucher system unattractive.

Simple question: If the proposal is unattractive to those 55 and older, then why would it be attractive to those 54 and younger.

Leaving aside the issues of whether those now 54 will eventually become older and, to some extent, not want to fight with insurance companies over benefits, and whether private insurance companies are likely to provide better service to those infirm than the current system--leaving aside these two issues--there is something that I find fundamentally offensive about the asterisked plan--and about the president's rebuttal.

To assume that 55+ year old voters will find the Romney-Ryan plan palatable because it will not affect them, is to assume that those over 55 do not care about anyone  but themselves.  To extrapolate, it suggests that people are not concerned with any issues unless they are directly affected by them.  I, alas, hit 55 a while back.  Does this mean I should not care about the people who are 54 and younger--or our society as a whole.  Let's see, if I am not black, does that mean I should not care if the civil rights regulations of the 60s were to be repealed.  If I am not poor, should I not care about disproportionate taxation. If I am a man should I not care about women having a right to choose.

The assumption that we should only care about the medicare proposal if we are under 55 is offensive.  President Obama's response was somewhat tongue in cheek when he said that "if you are 54 and under you should be concerned."  What I would have liked to hear the president say is that we do not pass legislation solely because it benefits individuals.  That everyone should listen to his response.  That if you are 15 or 95 you should pay attention to the response.

When I was a kid it was an annual battle to get the community to vote to approve the school budget.  Many residents in our area would argue that they had no kids, or their kids were out of school, so why vote for the school budget.  Well, maybe--assuming the budget does make sense--we should support the schools because we have a commitment to consider our entire society and not just ourselves.

At the core of what bothers me about the voucher system is NOT that it is myopic--though it is (when you are 90 you are not going to want to fight with insurance companies when your knee is killing you and you are too tired from life to fight anymore) what bothers me is that the proponents keep telling the 55 year and older population not to worry. It's not going to affect them.  That is not good enough for this person born in the Truman administration and I am sure it not good enough for a majority of people who have been around the track as many times as I have.    If the current Medicare system is a good plan for us then it should be there for others--our colleagues, children, friends, and strangers.  Neither the Republicans or Democrats seemed to acknowledge this last night.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Huntington Caterers

I am not sure there is a team that is more pathetic than this year's Boston Red Sox.  As an inveterate Yankee hater, a Red Sox fan, and an admirer of the Baltimore Orioles, I watched tonight's Yankee/Red Sox game with interest.  Had the Red Sox won, the Orioles would have been tied with the Yankees for first place in the American League East with only one game left in the season.

The Red Sox led 3-1 in the ninth inning and then managed to give up two runs in no time to let the Yankees tie the game.  In the twelfth with two outs, the Red Sox reliever walked a batter that had not played in 23 games. He then walked the next batter on four pitches before giving up a walk off single.

When I played little league my team was called the Huntington Caterers.  The Red Sox remind me of the Huntington Caterers.

I think, however, we had more heart.


In the Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield relays a story about a classmate at one of the prep schools he attended.  The classmate, whose name I believe was Kinsella, would interrupt his teachers' lectures by yelling out "digression" whenever the teacher, well, digressed.

For some reason this popped into my head today as I was driving to work.  What I started to think about was whether digressions were always a bad thing.  Are digressions always transgressions?

Sure, as someone who has spent a good deal of time teaching students how to prepare and deliver talks, I know organization is a key to success and speakers should follow a coherent path when they address audiences.  To digress would, of course, violate this principle.  Tomorrow night when the presidential candidates square off during the debates, they will probably want to stay on topic and not digress--unless the response to a question would take them into dangerous waters--making a digression an attractive strategy to avoid a vulnerable area.  However, often such a dodge is obvious, and besides it is deceptive, so an ethical speaking coach would recommend that speakers stick with the key messages and not digress.

But outside the world of public speaking, a digression might not be a bad thing now and again if, in fact, the path you are on is taking you the wrong way.  To digress from forward motion heading to perilous turf would seem to be the thing to do.  To digress in such situations might indicate some progress even though an outside observer probably would not see this from her or his vantage point.

In sports, varying your game plan when you are being pummelled is the thing to do.  Same thing outside the lines of sport. And outside the lines of sport a good friend is someone who shouts Digression.  Unlike Kinsella who was pointing out a deficiency, your friend is urging you to digress in order to right yourself-- a necessary step for progress.