Make America Grate Again

November 30, 2016
Not sure...is this what they mean by

Not sure…is this what they mean by               “conflict of interest”?

A Trump voter from West Virginia:  “I don’t think he can ever fulfill all the promises he made even in four or eight years, but I think we’re headed in the right direction.  He wants to make America great again.”

It’s been three weeks that I’ve been living in a nightmare that there’s no waking up from. In fact, the nightmare is getting worse.  And it’s not just my nightmare.

Almost everyone I talk to is having the same bad dream. It’s all everyone I know talks about. The upside . . . if there is an upside, is that there are a lot of people talking to each other who would otherwise be strangers. One feels no reserve in joining a conversation upon hearing a phrase like, “I can’t believe it!” or, “Isn’t Canada awfully cold?” It’s kind of like sneezing–everyone feels that they can chime in with a “bless you” whether you’re in a store, the subway or on the street. Anywhere. For that moment, it’s like living in a small town where everyone knows one another. Kindred spirits so to speak. But nowadays, instead of “achoo” I’m sneezing, “Fuck Trump!”.  And guess what— I  still get lots of  “Bless you’s”.

In some ways, this situation reminds me of the divide, the grating that occurred in the country during the Vietnam War Era. But this feels different. As rancorous as that period was, it was mostly about a chasm in the country over policy.  I never felt the Republic was in jeopardy; this Trump mess has me and many others feeling like the country is at the edge of an abyss with a hollow, rootless, avaricious demagogue ready to push it over the edge.

Unfortunately, with Democrats being out of power in Congress, the brake (remember “checks and balances”–that quaint notion) on this guy rests with the Republicans. Don’t count on it.  If you want evidence that these people are not patriotic (in fact, they’re whatever the opposite of patriotic is) just look to Mitch McConnell and his cohorts’ vow (made on the day of Obama’s first election) to do whatever they could to make sure that Obama’s presidency failed so voters would be disillusioned and that they, the Republicans, could increase their numbers in the House and Senate in the mid-term elections.  In other words, formulate a plan to screw the country just for the sake of the Republican party.  This is who we have to count on to do the right thing.

You should know . . . we here at the blog factory would rather not be writing about politics.  We’d much prefer the light, frothy, frivolous and sometimes ironic stories which have been our hallmark.  But this is a very grave period we’re living through so it might seem almost careless to write about something like an obituary I saw today of a man, Mark Taimanov, who had been a Russian chess champion and a virtuoso pianist who died at age 90. The part of his story I would have liked to write about was that he fathered twins (a boy and a girl) at age 78 with his fourth wife.  I would have quoted the end of the obit because it had a fact that I would have been too tired to figure  out:  “The twins were 57 years younger than his first child and 27 years younger than his granddaughter, although they were aunt and uncle.” Makes perfect sense, no?

I would have continued that part of his story reminds me of one of the few records in my house when I was growing up.  It was a novelty song by Jimmy Durante called, “I’m my own grandpa”.   The lyrics include a convoluted family tree full of marriages and divorces that culminates with Durante figuring out that he’s his own . . . well, you get it.

Anyway, that’s the stuff I wish I was writing about.

The Electoral Community College

November 15, 2016

Like many of you I was devastated by the election results last week. I mean really devastated.  I am just now uncurling from the fetal position I’ve been in.  I’m regrouping and trying to make the best of a horrible circumstance. Trying to make lemonade from lemons, water from watermelons and peanut butter from peanuts.  It’s not easy but I may have found one positive element to extract from this disaster.

I’ve decided to swear off all of the political shows I had been watching in a not so healthy way. I am now living in a politics-free zone. No more MSNBC, no CNN, no nothin’. This frees up an enormous amount of time which I can now devote to . . . to . . . ah yes, that’s the dilemma I now face.  Certainly, I’m going to start reading again; and probably writing more blog posts. My gain, your loss. The perfect illustration of one man’s ceiling being another man’s floor.imgres

This election has reinforced in me the notion that America is indeed, a wonderful country.  One in which, as we like to tell our children, anyone can become President regardless of their background or to whom they are born.  (Except if you’re a Jew or a woman—or worse yet, a Jewish woman).  And now, I find that America is even greater than I had thought. Because it seems that you can also become President despite being a sexist, racist, bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic, draft-dodging, amoral ignoramus incapable of putting two sentences together. Apparently, there are no restrictions whatsoever in America for entry to the White House. Evidence for sure that we are a land of freedom and opportunity. Is it any wonder we’re a beacon to oppressed people across the world? Unfortunately, they now have a less than zero chance of making it to our shores

So many interesting facts have come out about this election.  One that has completely absorbed me is that according to exit polls something like 25% of the people who voted for Trump thought he was unsuited to be President. 25%! Unfit for the freakin’ job. Remarkable! Did they think he was running for dog catcher!?? Which leads me to an exit poll I conducted of myself.  I overwhelmingly came to the conclusion that 100% of those people were morons and unfit to vote.

I wrote to a few friends that one of the saddest ironies about what has happened is that we will now have a president who doesn’t pay taxes. And proud of it.  Almost all thought that was one of the lesser calamities that has befallen us.  I agree . . . but in terms of irony and a definitive example of the kind of person who will become the leader of the free world, it speaks more than volumes. It speaks entire libraries.

Now that all the votes have been counted, we find this interesting anomaly: Hillary won the popular vote, more people voted for Democratic Senators than Republicans and the total vote count for House members was overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats.  Yet, we now have a wholly Republican government. In another country, this would be called a coup—in ours, we call it the electoral college and gerrymandering.

A long time ago,there was a season of Dallas in which they killed off Bobby Ewing only to have him reappear the next year.  The explanation given to us viewers (yes, I admit I was one) was that the entire Season 9 had been Pam Ewing’s dream—that it hadn’t actually happened.  Well, each day since last Tuesday, I wake up hoping that I’ve been living in Sean Hannity’s dream and that the 2016 election hasn’t really taken place. But unfortunately, this isn’t a network drama I’ve been watching.  It’s reality TV at its very worse. God help us.

 

From The Gipper To The Groper

November 10, 2016

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God help us.

“Five From New York, It’s . . .!”

October 25, 2016

Life is so full of coincidences and symmetries. For example, just last week MetLife announced that it was abandoning its association with Snoopy and the Peanuts family.  Just like that. For decades Snoopy et al have been the soft side of life insurance.  Now, no more beagle, Charlie Brown or Lucy.

She'll Be Missed

She’ll Be Missed

But in a twist that makes me almost believe there are surreal forces at work, Lucy has been replaced.  You see, my daughter, Onnaoj and her husband, Hsoj, had a baby girl last week–named, Lucy.  Yes, the world is full of mysteries.

This, for me, is grandchild number five and as my friend, Retep#2 likes to remind me, I now have enough for a basketball team. Of course, my team doesn’t have a lot of experience . . . the oldest is only six. And the truth is, they’re rather short.  For example, my starting center, Julian, is only 4′ 0″; and it’s downhill from there.

As I’ve written before, all this grandfatherness has all happened rather suddenly. And honestly, I don’t think I’ve fiscally prepared for it very well.  You see, when the first was born I started giving what I consider a very sizable cash gift on each birthday.  I continued this with each grandkid.  I had never considered that there would be this many birthdays.  Now, I’m starting to think I may have to reconsider this entire ret . . . retirem . . .retirement thing.

But there are saving graces and advantages (beyond the obvious pleasures) to having all these grandkids. As you may know, I’ve had an ongoing commitment to try to maintain as much of my mental acuity as I can. Doing crosswords, walking on cobblestones, supplements–the works.  But I don’t think any of these do as much for me as trying to keep track of five new birthdays. Can you imagine??  Of course, I use all kinds of memory aids and mnemonic devices but this just more of the kind of brain cell activity I relish.

And then . . . and then, just when I think I’ve stimulated all of those cells that have just been lying around doing nothing for years, I realize I get to try and keep track of a whole new bunch of middle names.  Let’s see . . . there’s Damian—-or is it Damien; there’s Shepherd— or is it Shephard. And all those others. Wow, how great is this!

My Starting Point Guard

My Starting Point Guard

 

 

Fantasy Goofball

October 10, 2016

I was having a conversation with my friend, Nod, the other day and mentioned that I had gone somewhere on my own recently.  He asked kiddingly if anyone had “hit’ on me.  Which, of course, no one had.  But it led to a conversation that we’ve had off and on about how as we’re getting older, we often feel that we’re invisible to women. What I mean by “invisible”, is the lack of any recognition by random women that there is a sexual human being under all that gray, white, thinning or missing hair.

I’ve had this conversation with any number of my friends.  Many, unlike me, have been married for a long time and have not been “in the market”, so to speak.  Which means that for many of them, when a woman pays some attention, it’s an opportunity to flirt; usually this is limited to some harmless patter with waitresses.  I exempt myself somewhat from this paucity of flirting because for periods of time over the last number of years, I’ve taken part in not-so-harmless patter while dating. I’ve found that if you meet someone for a drink, occasionally she will look at you as if you’re a card-carrying member of the opposite sex. And if you go all in with dinner, well . . .

For some men who want to re-live the glory days of their youth, there exists a number of opportunities. One of these is the availability of fantasy baseball camps.  The idea behind this is that a bunch of aging men who regard themselves as athletes go south to some facility to play baseball for a week or so.  The key to the success of these camps is that former major leaguers are embedded in the teams; so, you or I can go to the New York Mets fantasy camp and live out our childhood dreams of being a Major League Baseball Player and become temporary teammates with players such as Eddie Kranepool, Ron Swoboda, Mookie Wilson, et al.  Sounds like it’s probably a lot of fun.

SATCH.COM?

SATCH.COM?

It occurred to me when Nod and I had our conversation (remember . . . in the first paragraph?) that a similar contrivance could be used to allow us, and others like us, to re-experience the frisson of some harmless flirting. So I suggested to Nod that we create our own fantasy “camp”.  Rent out a bar or two; hire some women to make believe that they see the “campers” as interesting, attractive and virile men. In much the same way that Eddie Kranepool high fives some old guy for making  what would otherwise be considered a routine play, some woman might act utterly charmed by someone like Nod. Or me, for that matter.

But as I’m thinking about this plan, it’s starting to sound awfully pathetic. And creepy. I’d probably be better off finding my old mitt and check out flights to Florida. The truth is, I’ve always thought Art Shamsky and I would get along really well.

Note:  If you have an interest in the political season check out this youtube done by my friend boB:

V-J Day

September 16, 2016

Sadly, Greta Friedman died last week at the age of 92.  My connection to her was tenuous, at best.  I’ll explain:

Greta was most famous for being the nurse captured in the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph taken in Times Square on V-J Day.  In it, she is being held and kissed by a sailor she didn’t know.  But I knew him. Kind of.

Ankles Aweigh My Boy

Ankles Aweigh My Boy!

The sailor in the photo was a former girlfriend’s uncle–Uncle Carl.  Some years ago, probably marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, Uncle Carl was making the rounds on TV as the avatar of the sailor in the photo.  Unfortunately, a number of other men also claimed that they were, in fact, that sailor. Though having met neither them nor Uncle Carl, I have maintained throughout that he was certainly the man in the photo. Further evidence that my claims to fame are very few and sometimes very strained.  I’ve used this connection whenever it seemed appropriate (witness here) and sometimes when the randomness of it can seem quite sad.

One of the things I like most about that photograph is how it harkens to a simpler, more innocent time. In the more cynical and jaded times we live in, moments of such genuine exuberance and joy are in very short supply.  And yet, when I read Greta’s obituary, it seems that even this icon of a charming, ideal portrait of the United States at that moment has come under attack as an example of a sexual assault by modern standards.  Jeez!  Based on that calculation, I’d be doing hard time by now.

But more to the point . . . where does that leave Uncle Carl?  And even more to the point–where does that leave me?  An admirer and relation (of sorts) to a molester?  No, thank you!

Fortunately, Ms. Friedman is on record as saying that., “it was just someone celebrating.  It wasn’t a romantic event.”  She didn’t view it as an assault in any way.

From what I read in her obituary, it seems that she lived a good life. I also read that there are a number of other women who claim to be the nurse in the photo.  Which means that there may be more obituary notices covering that photo in the future.  Which means that I’ll . . . well, I guess you can figure the rest out.

“I Coulda Been A Contender . . .”

September 8, 2016

It’s beginning to dawn on me that my chances for glory are gradually and inexorably diminishing.  I’m not talking about fame or fortune; or even “making my mark” professionally.  More along the lines of a distinguishing, permanent record of some kind of achievement or accomplishment that I’ve been part of.

Game, Set, Match!

Game, Set, Match!

This point was hammered home to me while on vacation this summer in UnSag Harbor.  One day, I decided to take a bike ride over to an East Hampton tennis club, Green Hollow, that I had joined for the summer about thirty years ago. At the end of the season, the club ran a member tournament that I entered. I made my way into the finals and in what (sadly) remains a highlight of my tennis life, I won. Not only won, but beat the perennial champion, a guy named Ken Trell.

Without boring you too much (just a little) the match went like this:  I lost the first set badly and was trailing in the second set.  A handful of people were watching.  But then somehow I came back and won the second set. Apparently, word spread at the club and a lot of members started appearing to see the third set.  As we played in the third and deciding set, an interesting thing happened; even though Ken (who I was friendly with) was a very nice and well-liked guy, I started to feel like the crowd was rooting for me.  Maybe they just wanted a change. (This, by the way, is probably why W. won against Al Gore.  Despite the Clinton years of prosperity and relative peace, voters wanted change for change sake. Which may also be the reason Hillary is having such a problem with that moron.  But that’s a story for another time. Told by someone else.)  In any event, unexpectedly, I managed to win a tight last set in front of a crowd that had swelled to about fifty onlookers.

As thrilled as I was to win, I was even more elated to know that a plaque with my name as the club champion would be displayed on the clubhouse wall for time eternal.  Which is why I decided to bike over (remember the bike ride in the first paragraph?) a few weeks ago. I hadn’t been there in decades and things looked a little different.  I sought out the manager and explained that I had won the club championship in the 1980’s and wanted to see the wall where the plaques were displayed.  Sheepishly, he told me that the club had changed hands a few years ago and he had no idea what had happened to any of the club’s memorabilia.  And there went one of my few opportunities for an enduring marker.

That disappointment got me thinking about some of my missed chances for exactly the kind of superficial (read: plaque on a wall) evidence of accomplishment I’m looking for.  Probably my biggest error was my shortsightedness in the name I chose for a bungalow colony I converted to a co-op around 1980.  I had bought what had been Sharon Bungalow Colony (named for the owner’s daughter) and for marketing purposes decided to call it, Lake Huntington Summer Community, Inc.  Catchy . . . no?

Now, all these years later, it’s a thriving community of some fifty odd families who spend their summers in an idyll.  Had I known then what I know now,  those people would be going to the pool or playing tennis at, Neil’s Place.  Or maybe, Stein’s Vacation Cottages.  Or better yet,  Neil Stein-you know, that guy who won that Green Hollow tennis tournament-‘s Summer Colony.

(Ein) Stein On The Beach *

August 19, 2016

For much of this month I’ve been vacationing in Sag Harbor.  This place used to be called the unHampton . . . meaning that it was less ritzy than the other Hamptons.  More downtown than uptown. Well, that sensibility has gone the way of pleated pants.  One can almost no longer say with the same holier than thou attitude that he/she is staying in “Sag”.  I say “almost” because if you saw the place that I had rented you would understand why I have no trouble maintaining that endearing quality I have of being above it all.  I am, in fact, staying in the unSag Harbor.

Aaaahhh!

Aaaah!

Because it’s been so hot and so damn sunny, I’ve been going to the beach more than I have in many years. Occasionally, B and I biked on a lovely road to an ocean beach a half-dozen miles away. As I’ve sometimes done in years past, I strapped a chair on my back and attached a beach umbrella to the frame of the bike. All went well until we got to the parking lot at the beach and it was time for me to get off my bike. Because of various joint problems too dismal to go into, dismounting my bike has become a bit of an adventure.  Having the umbrella extending beyond the rear wheel made it virtually impossible for me to get off my bike in the conventional way.  So the only choice I had was to lift my leg over the cross-bar in the front of the seat.  I was a few inches shy of clearing the bar and sadly . . . very sadly, B had to grab my foot and guide it over the bar to the safety of land.  After that episode, I don’t think she’ll ever have sex with me again.  And who could blame her?

Once on the beach, I put the chair down and set out to plant the umbrella.  Somehow or other, I have become an expert in placing my umbrella in such a way, that it’s sure to get blown away.  This is not nearly as bad as it sounds; it’s a great way to meet people. They’re usually grateful they didn’t get impaled and it gives us something to talk about. Of course, if things go badly, it can also be a not-so-great way to meet their lawyers.

After several hours of me making believe I was reading and B actually reading, it was time to go.  But not before I got a chance to use my other great way of making friends at the beach. You see, for some reason my beach chair ordinarily won’t close. So I have to struggle with it by trying every which way to get it to fold. This, it turns out, is very entertaining to the people around me watching the show.  And often, they come over with suggestions and will sometimes even give it a try. This bonding experience usually leads to drinks, dinner and the formation of life-long friendships.  (Well . . . maybe not.)  I usually end the performance by trying to rapidly close the damn thing sixty or seventy time and then —voila!— it closes.  The only thing missing is a drum roll.

Finally, after feeling totally enervated from being at the beach, it’s back on the bikes for a ride that seems twice as long going back. As we arrived home, I so wanted to get off my bike.  But, given the dismounting problem,  I also so wanted not to have to get off my bike.  The classic approach/avoid conflict. Boy, life’s a beach!

*Einstein on the Beach is an opera in four acts (framed and connected by five “knee plays” or intermezzos), composed byPhilip Glass and directed by theatrical producer Robert Wilson. Not to be confused (as I often do) with: Kafka on the Shore, a 2002 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

 

Good Idea!

July 28, 2016

It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally realized it’s near impossible to get someone to change their mind . . . about almost anything.  About the best one can hope for is something along the lines of, ” yes, you’re right but …”.  My mother was a specialist in this; one of the reasons why the phrase, “banging your head against the wall” is so resonant with me.

Similarly, it’s really, really hard to get anyone to do things differently—-to find solutions in ways that vary from the approach they’re accustomed to.  It’s not so much a question of not being able to “teach old dogs new tricks” as it is the unwillingness of the “dog” to give a different approach a shot.

It’s not that I’m above this rigidity. Far from it.  I think the last suggestion of “a better way” I actually tried was about a hundred years ago when I was working as an accountant. I worked with a good friend, Warren, who was really smart.  But what I liked most about him was that he thought innovatively, looking at things from a fresh viewpoint.  At some point, Warren showed me that there was a better way to subtract numbers; which didn’t involve subtraction, at all.  Essentially, instead of “taking away” a number to get the correct result, you do addition by entering the number which, when added to the lesser number, yields the larger one.  (Of course, this discussion is rather dry and certainly not ironic but it will lead somewhere.  In other words, “you’re right but . . . .)

A few years ago, I tried to pass this technique on to Luap — you remember Luap — one of the owners of the office formerly and currently known as Garfield Realty.  This was at a time when he thought I was smart and would listen to me as if I knew what I was talking about.  But even he, even at that time, even though it was coming from me, wasn’t interested in trying a new “trick”.

A Favorite

A Favorite

This intransigence to new approaches, which it seems that we all have to some degree, made something that happened recently between me and my girlfriend, B, rather remarkable.  She was teasing me about having a night-light in my bathroom.  I explained that it wasn’t because I was afraid of the dark nor did I need it to find my way. I continued that when a number of years ago I found myself having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I realized that putting the bathroom lights on made me even more awake and made it hard to go back to sleep. Hence the use of a 4 Watt bulb.

Inadvisedly, I also told her that in many of my past relationships, I had put the gizmo in the bathroom of whomever I was involved with. That, in effect, I was kind of the Johnny Appleseed of night lights. Despite that bit of TMI, B looked a me with what I took as a new appreciation.  And then she said something I haven’t heard in a gazillion years . . .”You know, that’s a good idea; I’m going to give it a try.” Now, I  just can’t wait to show her that math thingy!

Brace Yourself!

July 7, 2016

To look at me, you’d probably guess I’m fairly healthy.  And, in fact, as far as real diseases go, that’s the case.  But the truth is I’ve been struggling with assorted injuries for years now.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m not complaining; I just thought in the spirit of candor (the hallmark of the Ironicman blog) I would let you know that physically, not everything is hunky dory.

Almost all of the aforementioned injuries are tennis related.  For the most part, they’re not serious and the truth is, if I didn’t want to continue to be active and was content to just sit and watch TV (or god forbid, read a book) I’d be just  fine.  But being that sedentary would almost certainly affect what’s left of my mental health.  So I find that I’m in a mostly constant state of trying to ameliorate the restraints that these injuries have on my athletic life.

To that end I’ve accumulated more orthotic devices than anyone should rightfully own.  I have gizmos for Achilles heel tendonitis, ankle problems, calf and hamstring strains, groin pulls and just in case you think I’m biased toward lower extremities, a nice assortment of aids for rotator cuff injuries. But my real specialty is a huge collection of knee braces. Because, in what seems to be a contradiction in terms, for some years now, my (right) knee has been my Achilles heel.

Tennis Anyone??

Tennis Anyone??

My kneemoania has been well-documented here. Now, in an effort to avoid knee replacement, I have been relentlessly trying new, often heavy-duty, knee braces. To such an extent that the customer representatives at BetterBraces.com are now my third and fourth best friends.  I’ve found some relief but it seems that I’m at a point where I either accept being a lesser tennis player, spend more time watching TV or move on to bionics.

There’s a quip that I’ve often found very appropriate: minor surgery is when it’s on the other guy.  Well, knee replacement isn’t minor; and, although I know it’s well-meaning, I find the advice I get from people in my life (by the way, not my friends at BetterBrace) to just go ahead    and “get a new knee” rather facile.  Although it’s just four words, Get-A-New-Knee it’s a big deal.  Very big.  Pre-op testing, surgery, post-op rehab, months and months of physical therapy and when all is said and done I’m still stuck with the same crappy backhand.

And there’s the psychological part.  I’m attached to my knee . . . in more ways than one.  I guess I’m just  not one to discard body parts that easily.  And then, of course, there’s that business of alarms being set off by the metal in my new knee as I pass through the TSA scan at JFK.   I need that like a hole in the head. Or a new knee.