Before The Fall

May 31, 2018


(Real) Estate Planning

The other day, I stopped in at the office presently and formerly known as Garfield Realty. This has been happening a lot less often which I now realize may have something to do with the infrequency of my blog posts, a situation that is close to becoming epidemic.

When I went into the office I was greeted by Luap and his two sons, Everett and Gus. The younger of the two, Gus, looked about the same age as my grandson, Rex, so I asked him how old he was. He said, rather proudly, that he was four years old. I asked when he had turned four to which he answered, “On my birthday.”  Apparently, the kid is every bit the smart-ass his father is.  I followed up by saying that I couldn’t wait to turn four also.  He explained to me that grownups can’t turn four because “you have to be three before you can turn four.”  See what I mean?

But even more fun and interesting was the presence in the office of a woman Luap was meeting with who, it turns out, is a founder of a seniors organization in Park Slope that arranges group activities.  Luap had mentioned this outfit to me a few weeks ago.  Why, I can’t imagine. He introduced us and despite my long-term absence from the world of normal civil discourse, I was able ask her a bit about the organization. Almost as if I was getting some information to pass on to my parents.

Luap asked what events she had coming up and this is when it got really interesting.  She said that early in June her group would be having a meet-up to discuss funeral planning. I must have made the face that I use for things that I can’t fathom because she quickly added that there would be a free lunch at that meeting.

Luap #2 (or #3)–there are a lot of Luaps at Garfield Realty—- was also in the office and was sitting near to me. When I heard the suggestion that the funeral planning would include lunch, I leaned toward #2 and remarked, sotto voce, that they’d have to do a lot better than that to get me there. The woman continued that later in June there would be a meeting to discuss “fall prevention.”  Again, I whispered to #2, “how can you hold back an entire season?”  After he made the face he uses when he can’t fathom something, I realized she wasn’t making an autumnal reference. Then I launched into an internal tirade about how I had just finished up biking back from the tennis courts after playing for a few hours and why would anyone in there right mind think that I had to worry about falling and who did she thing she was talking to  . . . and . . . and . . .   Clearly, she had touched a nerve.

Maybe this is an indication that visiting my old office is not all it’s cracked up to be.  And then again, there’s that steep set of stairs getting in and out.  Seems kind of risky.  A person could take a terrible fall.  Maybe Luap should look into installing a handrail. Or maybe two.



“The Birth Of A Notion”

May 10, 2018

I imagine that many of you have read about Senator John McCain’s failing health and his request that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush give eulogies at his funeral  Oh . . . and also his insistence that Donald Trump not attend his funeral.  This planning of his final Senate hearing is a bit macabre but certainly understandable, particularly as it regards the Asshole-In-Chief (AIC).

This news story has prompted me to consider if I might have any special requests when my time comes.  And I do. I’d also like Obama to attend the final set of my last tennis match and perhaps say a few words. After all, he is a terrific speaker.  But I’m not so delusional that I don’t know that’s a real long shot.  However, like Senator McCain, I also am adamant that the AIC stay away. Under no circumstances should he be anywhere near my final serve.

And, I’m not alone. Not one person I know would want him to attend any of their occasions–happy or solemn.   So I’ve decided to launch the #IAlso movement both as a paean to the Senator and as a companion to the #MeToo movement.  Think of it . . . #IAlso could be the meme that, in shorthand, says that this guy is so vile and despicable that you wouldn’t want him around even “over your dead body”.  #IAlso.

Because Senator McCain is in his twilight, those of us who have disagreed with him may be more sanguine about the homages honoring his decency and morality. Maybe . . .  but not quite. Because, as right as Mr. McCain is about the venality of DJT, it’s too soon to forget that he is the one who, in an act of cynicism, introduced us to Sarah Palin by making her his running mate. It’s possible he fells guilty about that and recognizes that Ms. Palin may well have been the gateway drug that led us to a President who is so crass, corrupt and devoid of any humanity that he is unwelcome to attend funerals.




The Ice Breaker

April 19, 2018

Maybe you’ve not noticed but I haven’t written in quite a while. This, because I’ve been stricken, once again, with “bloggers block”, a malady I’ve suffered with three or four times during this blog adventure. The timing of my infirmity is particularly unfortunate because I’ve been making real strides in escaping my hermitage which would ordinarily yield some real blog fodder. Sadly, that has not happened.

For example, about a month ago Lebasi and I took a little trip to Charleston, South Carolina. The trip was timed to include my birthday. I thought my absence from home would somehow shield me a bit from the indignity of a new age.  Unfortunately, it didn’t.  Somehow overnight, I went from one ridiculous age to an even more ridiculous one. Funny how that happens.

Charleston is obviously very welcoming, gorgeous and even in light of its very complicated history, a real treat.  So despite the onslaught, we had a wonderful time.

As further evidence of my committment to escape the confines of my apartment, last week I took a trip with Lebasi to Washington, DC.  During our stay there, we visited a few museums including the Holocaust Museum.  I left there emotionally spent.  Also with a bad cold. Lebasi thought it was something I picked up from the throngs inside the museum.  I saw it as one last desperate attempt by the Nazis to get me. A clear sign that I’m both more suspicious and more Jewish than she is.

Before the “block”, these outings would have given me tons to write about.  I’m not certain, but I have a sense that the stuff that’s going on in the political world is overwhelming my sensibilities and may be preventing me from getting back to form.  I just know it’s waaaay more inviting to write about that than a travelogue.

Particularly the kind of sordid business that involves Michael Cohen and the Defiler In Chief (DIC).  For example, I’m tickled by the irony that the judge in Cohen’s case is Kimba Woods. Among Mr. Cohen’s “clients” is a Republican fundraiser who enlisted Mr. Cohen’s services to pay $1.6 million dollars in hush money to a former Playboy Playmate.  As luck would have it, while she was a student in London, Judge Woods worked for a period of time as a Playboy Bunny at the Playboy Club there. Who would’ve thunk it?

Before the “block” that could have been a riotous and interesting story.  So let us imagine this essay as one would look at one of those ships that break up icebergs.  As a small ice breaker assaulting a block of ice at least the size of the one that took down the Titanic. I think that’s what I may very well be up against.

Stormy Whether….Or Not

March 21, 2018

As you might expect, I’ve been paying close attention to the legal battles that our Philanderer-In-Chief is currently fighting. Lately, the TV coverage of the brouhaha with the porn star, Stormy Daniels, has taken up a lot of my free time. (Truth is . . . I have nothing but free time.)  As a result, I’ve become somewhat of an expert on non-disclosure agreements, lie detector tests, court proceedings and fake tits.

While the reporting on this saga has been pretty solid, there are times where I think I could supply some really interesting analysis. For example, there have been a number of times where I’ve heard some pundit question why the settlement with Ms. Daniels was such an odd amount—-$130,000; not $125K or $150K but $130K.  Here’s where my expertise could be really useful.  You see, the pundits are primarily gentile and miss the semitic significance of that amount.

In the Jewish gestalt, the eighteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, chai, is considered lucky.  So it is not uncommon for Jews to give cash gifts of some multiple of $18. (For example, a grand-nephew of mine recently had his Bar Mitzvah and my gift to him was $360. Or $36,000. Or maybe $360,000 . . . I forget which.)  At any rate, the lawyer who handled this matter for our P-I-C is one Michael Cohen who is, unfortunately, Jewish. Not one of our stars, for sure.  It’s obvious to me that the amount Mr. Cohen “gave” to Ms. Daniels is exactly 7,222.2 times chai. Just do the math . . . 7,222.2 X $18 and voila! — $130,000! Sometimes, if you have the right background information, explanations can be quite simple. (CNN, MSNBC —if you’re listening; you might want to start looking around for someone with a yiddishe cup.  Maybe someone with a lot of free time. I’m just sayin’.)

Another interesting observation I recently heard about this weather business is that apparently, the non-disclosure agreement that Stormy signed was a boiler plate document that had the appearance of having been used many times.  That it was a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, etc.  You know, one of those forms that get fuzzy and lose their margins after a while.  For the life of me, I just can’t figure out why that would be.  Maybe I’m not the right man for that pundit job, after all.

The Grateful Dread

February 13, 2018

Just recently, I went to a dinner party given by one of Lebasi’s friends. There were about a dozen or so guests all of whom knew one another in varying degrees.  That is, except for me, who knew no one but Lebasi.

Everyone seemed nice enough but I didn’t really connect with anyone. That, I attribute to two factors; the first and most important is that the person I was traveling with (and am always traveling with) was me.  Secondly, and possibly just as salient, was the fact that there was no hard liquor being served and I was embarrassed to been seen swigging red wine. So I wasn’t as loose as I sometimes can be.

It’s not that I didn’t make an effort to be social. I did. In fact, at one point I found myself in a long conversation with a woman who was probably very nice. I say “probably” because she had a very thick Spanish accent which made understanding her really difficult. I know that a lot of the time I wound up nodding my head as if agreeing to much of what she was saying.  For all I know, she and I may have planned a long vacation together. Yet, Senora X and I did manage a sustained conversation.  Unfortunately, what we wound up talking about included my three least favorite things — real estate, her health and my health. I’m giving myself a B+ for the effort.

As the party wore on we all helped ourselves to the main courses and settled into various places of the living room to eat. I was just about to dig in when I heard the sound of a spoon clanging against a glass. Someone wanted our attention. A woman I had briefly engaged with wanted the floor . . . I thought she was going to toast or thank our hostess. But that’s not what she wanted.  Not by a long shot. Instead, she related how at her house before meals, her family would go around the table to talk about what they were “grateful for”.  And wouldn’t it be a good idea for all of us to the same. I thought that actually that wasn’t such a good idea at all. But as an outsider it wasn’t my place to put the kibosh on such a nifty plan.

The fun began as the first guest spoke and the solemnity made its way around the room  After a few people spoke saying some sincere and sometimes platitudinous remarks, it became my turn. You should know something about me—-public speaking fills me with dread.  And, by “public”, I mean speaking to any more than one person.  So after the person before me made their little speech and all eyes were focused my way, I said, “Ditto”.  I thought that fit the bill quite nicely.

Well . . . no, I didn’t say that. Instead, I said what was in my heart, “I’m kind of a private person and since I don’t know any of you at all, I feel somewhat put upon to have to talk so personally and intimately to strangers.”  I thought this would really lighten the mood in the room.

Actually, I didn’t say that either. Instead, I said something to extricate myself from the nightmare I was in without actually touching upon what I was grateful for. Eventually, the grateful speeches made their way around to the woman who had suggested it and not surprisingly, she was well-prepared with her gratitude platitude(s). And then, we all got back to eating and being less thankful for our blessings.

After the party, on our way home, I complained to Lebasi about how I didn’t like being put on the spot in that way and maybe Ms. Gratitude might have been more sensitive that there was a  gorilla in the mist stranger in her midst and maybe  . . .  blah, blah blah. Lebasi was very patient with me and ultimately brought me down from my high horse and back to earth.  Now that’s something to be grateful for.

Origin Of The Specious

January 30, 2018

There’s a quote attributable to Lawrence Summers, Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, that I’ve alway liked: “In the history of mankind, no one has ever taken a rented car to a car wash.” His remark was part of a larger point which, for now, eludes me.

I thought of that quote the other day when I was having dinner out with Lebasi and was getting annoyed at how loud the music in the restaurant where we were eating was. I called the waiter over and asked if the music’s volume could be lowered. Which he took care of.  It occurred to me then that, most likely, there’s another thing that has never happened in the history of mankind; no one has ever asked his waiter see if the volume of the music in a restaurant could be turned up loud.

I’ve noticed that lately I’m  becoming much more proactive in dealing with circumstances, such as that one, which annoy me. As if I’ve chosen to light a candle instead of curse the darkness. This trading in of indignation for action is a very big deal for me. In fact, just last week I did something I’d never done before to mollify my grouchiness. I was standing in line at the supermarket holding just a couple of items. I was behind a woman with an entire cartload of groceries who was next to be checked out. I got her attention and while pointing to my paltry payload, asked if I could go ahead of her. Although clearly not too happy about it, she agreed. Beware, this may be the new me.

This got me thinking about how my growing impatience with everyday events (albeit starting from a pretty high mark) has been countered by an offsetting increase in a willingness to get out of my comfort zone, be more brazen and advocate for myself in heretofore unknown ways.  At first glance I saw this change in behavior as simply an arbitrary, interesting and fortunate turn of events.

But when I thought longer and harder about this (aided by some alcohol), I began to see this dynamic as not some aimless, haphazard occurrence. It’s become clear to me that what I’ve been both witnessing and been a part of, is the mobilization of some Darwinian laws of nature. In effect, I’ve become part of a small lab experiment in proving the theory of the survival of the fittest. That is, I’m adapting in ways needed to keep the species (me) going.  This sounds almost noble.

Of course, being part of the entirety of man’s evolution is not something I set out to do. I didn’t seek that kind of responsibility. But I’m happy to do my part to keep mankind going; at least for a while. But only if I can be assured that I won’t have to wait on any long grocery lines.

A Real Thrilla In Wasilla

December 31, 2017


Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had their famous fight known as the “thrilla in Manila” over forty years ago.  Recently we had a smaller, much less well-attended and less publicized battle in Wasilla, Alaska. Ordinarily, this would have been big news but we’re living in (through) an era where everything short of nuclear war seems to fall in the cracks because of a chaos, disruption and outrage that has become almost commonplace in the Trump era.

Last week I came across an article about Sarah Palin and her  family that caused me, at first, to have very mixed reactions. It seems that one of her sons, Track, was recently arrested on a variety of charges including assaulting his father, Todd.  Evidently, Track got into a dispute with his father about borrowing a truck, physically assaulted him and then . . . well  you know how it is, one thing led to another and pretty soon Todd was leveling a shotgun at his son. Track is now awaiting sentencing.

Ms. Palin is and has been one of my least favorite characters in the political world over the last number of years. And I’ve written about her several times on this blog. Upon reading this story of family dysfunction, my initial feeling was one of Schadenfreude (the pleasure taken in someone’s misfortune). But then I began reading some other stories of misfortunes befalling the Palin household in the last several years and I softened and began to feel somewhat sympathetic towards her.  After all, it is the holiday season.

But then I read a news account of Track’s arrest (yes, another) about a year ago for beating up his girlfriend and Ms. Palin’s related comments and I felt the bucket of my new-found generosity of spirit spring a leak.  She attributed Track’s violent behavior to his Army service and the ramifications of PTSD.  No problem with that but she added, “and it makes me realize more than ever, it is now or never for the sake of America’s finest that we’ll have that commander-in-chief who will respect them and honor them.”  Seemingly, that inglorious draft dodger, DJT is Ms. Palin’s North Star when it comes to virtue. I then realized that she is the same idiotic panderer she’s always been and any feelings of empathy I had for her dissipated.

Which is really too bad . . . because I was really getting in this holiday spirit of “good will towards all men.”  Oh well, there’s always next year.

Folks, this concludes the ninth year of the blog.  You’ll be pleased to know that years #8 and #9 will be published as one volume in an attractive non-leather bound edition that will be available in the spring.  This year, we’ll be paying in bitcoins for you to take them off our hands.

We here at the blog factory wish you all a healthy and joyous New Year.

Bargain (De)Basement

December 19, 2017

“Can you do any better?”  That question has stayed with me since I first heard my mother ask it when I was about ten years old.  A carpet salesman was at our house and was giving a quote for wall-to-wall carpeting that my parents were buying.  At first, I didn’t understand what my mother meant; and then it hit me — she was bargaining with the salesman. My first thought was that my family must be going broke.  Why else try to take from the carpet people’s pocket and put it into ours? What other explanation could there be? My shock was followed by an embarrassment so severe that I went upstairs and hid under my bed (a theme for me) until the salesman left.

In all the years I was around my parents this was the sole time I ever heard either of them bargain or hondel (as we Jews might say) with a merchant of any sort. It just wasn’t in their DNA. Nor in mine or my siblings. I say this not out of a feeling of moral superiority but rather as an admission that my family generally lacked the chutzpah required for haggling.

Like most of you, I think my cable bill(s) are way too high. So my ears really perked up when, over dinner, by friend Nnelg told me a story about how he had gotten Time Warner (“We’re now Spectrum!”) to substantially lower his bill.  It required some tenacity and some nerve but he ensured me he knew how to “play the game” with them.

I was very impressed and lamented that I had neither the skills nor the interest in hondeling with the cable company.  And then one of two things happened: either I begged Nnelg to do the same thing for me or he offered to do it. Either way, I told him there was a nice dinner in his future for his efforts.

I transmitted to him all the relevant information regarding my account including my latest bill and gave him license to do his best. I have to say I didn’t feel overly indebted to him because, unlike me, Nnelg warms to this kind of task; he sees it as a challenge or a game. I admire him for the way he makes this kind of thing fun. In fact, as I think about it, it’s probably fairer that he buy me dinner.

In any event, a few days later he reported to me that he had some modest success which would reduce my bill. However, this would involve my installing a new router that was being sent to me. I was less than thrilled at the thought of myself on my hands and (bad) knees fumbling around making connections but accepted my plight. And then a funny thing happened—that evening, when I tried to access HBO, it wasn’t available to me. Nor Showtime. Nor STARZ (whatever that is). All my “premium channels” were gone. In other words, things weren’t going swimmingly.

The next day the box with the new equipment came; a very BIG box. At this point I knew that I was defeated, that Time Warner (We’re now Spectrum!) had won. Rather than re-enlist Nnelg, or call the cable company I decided to go directly to their store located in a nearby neighborhood.  I wanted to give them back the BOX and reinstate my old services. I was willing to sign any document they wanted indicating I would never try bargaining with them again.

I met with a representative, Danissa, who heard my story and out of the blue, offered to lower my bill considerably—just for showing up. I thanked her and walked out, not exultant but with a feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on; one that I found a bit disquieting. Later that day as I was settling in for the beginning of a weekend of binge watching, I turned on my TV only to find that the screen came up with a notice to “Call this number to activate or re-activate your account”. I picked up my land line phone to call ASAP and found that I had no dial tone. And then I checked—no internet either!  I was practically off the grid.

I won’t bore you (further) with my phone call (cellular) for reactivation other than to say I wound up screaming at the top of my lungs at the representative who told me a technician couldn’t get to my house for three or four days. So, as I write this, I’m sitting in front of a large TV that can’t transmit anything. I can’t call anyone nor can I find out all the neat things on the internet that I used to.

One small solace though. With the silence that now surrounds me, I’ve identified that strange feeling I had when I left the Time Warner store. I realize now that I was experiencing a feeling of regret. Regret that when Danissa told me the amount by which she was reducing my bill, that I didn’t just this once say, “Can you do any better?”


City Whinery

November 28, 2017

I’ve never thought of myself as a complainer but I think it’s entirely possible I may have been deluding myself.  Because lately, I find myself whining to anyone who’ll listen about how lousy things have been for me recently.  Oh . . . not in all respects, but definitely as regards the attention I need to pay to my body as I try to recover from knee surgery. This endeavor has proven to be way more all-encompassing than I could have suspected. Meaning that I’m almost always attending to some part of my rehabilitation; either I’m going to physical therapy, visiting my gym, icing my freakin’ knee or doing exercises at home. This drudgery is the subject that I seem to be most conversant with.  You can only imagine what good company I’ve become.  You, at least, can avoid me—-I can’t.

The purpose of all this effort is so that some day (hopefully, within my lifetime) I’ll be able to resume those activities that give me the most pleasure.  Sure, sure . . .  there are lots of passive things I can still do that I enjoy.  And truthfully, if those were all I was interested in, I could skip the gym and probably all the rest of it.  But I’d really like to get back to playing tennis . . . both for the playing part and for the social connections with my tennis friends.  But despite my best efforts, that camaraderie that I sorely miss, may be in serious jeopardy.  And there’s no amount of physical therapy in the world that’ll be able to set things right.

There’s a famous baseball story that has become almost metaphorical.  At the height of their baseball hegemony, the New York Yankees had a first baseman, Wally Pipp, who on June 2, 1925 complained to his manager that he had a mild headache and asked if could sit that day’s game out.  He was replaced my an unknown bench player named Lou Gehrig.  Well, that game began what became the longest consecutive games played streak in the history of the game.*  Gehrig, who earned the nickname, “Iron Horse” , would play in every game for the Yankees until May, 1939 —  a stretch of over 2000 games. Mr Pipp (who earned the nickname, “Wally, The Shlemiel”), never again played first base for the Yankees.

Why I’m telling you this story is that I’m in danger of becoming the modern-day tennis version of Wally Pipp.  You see, for a while now, until I needed to drop out because of my knee surgery, I’ve been in a great doubles game with some good friends; the tennis is really good and we have a lot of fun together.  But all that may well become just a bitter memory.

In my absence, my tennis buddies have enlisted a replacement, another friend of mine, Retep#2.  Unfortunately, from what I hear, the four of them are having a grand old time without me.  Which makes sense since Retep#2 is nicer than I am and also a better player.  And if that isn’t bad enough, he also has a car available and has supplanted me as the group’s designated driver.  This is no small deal since that service was my ace in the hole and supposedly made me irreplaceable. Hah!

But unlike Wally Pipp, I don’t intend to take this usurpation lying down. But short of slashing the tires of Retep#2’s car, I haven’t yet figured out a plan to re-insinuate myself into the group.  But I will.  Because believe me, the next-to-last thing I want, is to be referred to as “Neil The Shlemiel”.

Before all the smarty-pants weigh in, I know that some fifty years later,  Cal Ripken Jr. broke Gehrig’s consecutive games record. However, it should be noted that Ripken was often inserted into the lineup for an inning or so, solely to keep his streak going.



November 10, 2017

As a result of my recent knee surgery, over the past month or so, I’ve been mostly housebound.  On the few occasions where I’ve been in social situations, I’ve noticed something about myself.  Other than responding to questions about my surgery and recuperation, I pretty much have nothing of interest to say.  I’ve become a bore.

I don’t doubt that even before the knee debacle there were people with whom I engaged who didn’t find my presence exactly scintillating but what I now notice is that even I don’t have so much fun being with me. The well of pleasure I took in hanging out with myself has started to run dry.

My descent into becoming a totally un-engaging person has been accompanied by an ennui, a boredom which has been especially hard for me to shake.  When I’ve mentioned this to some friends, a few suggested that with all the time I seem to have on my hands (since I do nothing but ice my knee) I could spend more time writing this blog. Which, on paper, makes sense.  But the truth is, very little happens in the part of my apartment where I’m ensconced that’s worth writing about.

So, when I made plans last week with my girlfriend, Lebasi, to go out for dinner I was pretty excited. It happened to be, as (bad) luck would have it, on Halloween. We decided to walk down to the restaurant which is a few avenue blocks away. But what I didn’t count on was the throngs of people/families in the streets. Apparently, it’s been like this in Park Slope for some time now. But since I’ve spent the last number of Halloweens hiding under my desk or in my car parked inside my garage, the explosion of humanity on the streets has escaped me.

Because I was so worried that some little super-hero or princess would run into my brand-new knee, Lebasi ran interference for me as we made our way to the restaurant.  The trip was very daunting and I arrived at the restaurant with an even greater eagerness than usual (if possible) to have an intimate experience with a martini glass.

About an inch into my glass, I starting to regain some sense of equanimity.  Lebasi and I ordered dinner at the bar and were in the midst of eating when, without warning, several families of trick-or-treaters blew into the restaurant creating a tumult which was completely at odds with my vision of a lovely dinner. This went on for what seemed like days (but was actually about five minutes—  a window into my soul). Unfortunately (for me . . . and for whoever is with me), I have a fairly simple rule: if I’m dining at a restaurant where the entrees are more than $7.99, I pretty much expect an aggravation-free experience.  Which was exactly what was not happening.

So, I went over to these families and asked their addresses.  I said that I’d like to stop by their houses sometime while they’re having dinner. And I’d like to bring my grandkids; maybe with some of their friends. It shouldn’t be more than six or seven kids . . . nine, at most. Would that be okay?

Of course, that’s not what happened. (Maybe in a year or so.) Instead, I stewed or complained to Lebasi.  Or stewed and complained. Which, apparently, is not that attractive. Although she had some sense of my grinchiness from reading some of my blog posts, I think Lebasi had the mistaken impression that I had exaggerated for dramatic effect. Now the (black) cat is out of the bag. And I have some serious ground to make up. I told her that, going forward, I’d try to embrace the holiday. But next Halloween is a long time away.  So what I’m doing now is looking around for just the right outfit for Arbor Day. Sounds like fun!