El Hombre Ironico

January 21, 2020

Over the last number of weeks I’ve had interactions with a number of people who have mentioned that either they or their partner have some kind of dual citizenship. These revelations have almost always taken place in the context of a discussion about where to re-locate in the event Donald Trump doesn’t get removed from office and wins re-election. And each time I’m involved in these discussions I’m left with a feeling that’s new to me — one that I haven’t been able to put my finger on.

But finally it’s hit me. It’s envy I’ve been feeling. But not the usual garden variety kind included as one of the Seven Deadly Sins; more like a subset, Passport Envy, a condition that seems to have developed in this country over the past 3 1/2 years.

Having diagnosed the problem, I’m hell-bent to come up with a solution or strategy to deal with the potential apocalypse facing us all. Lebasi and I have discussed this and unfortunately, as neither of us have dual citizenship, we’ve not been able to come up with any obvious alternatives to ride out the storm. Canada, which at one time I thought was a perfect hideaway, doesn’t want to take in older Americans. Your loss my Canuck friends!  I suppose I could make a case to go to Israel . . . but that’s just another place with a Trump who happens to wear a yarmulke. Nish git!  Until recently, we had also considered Australia as a haven. My nephew lives in Melbourne so that might have made for an easy transition but given the disaster taking place there, we could be literally going from the frying pan into the fire. Sorry mate!

But I may have an ace in the hole. Up until now, I’ve always pooh-poohed using an ancestry service to look into my roots because I’ve assumed that all I would learn is that I come from a long line of Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. No Native American heritage; no Irish, Welsh or Celtic bloodlines, just Jewish. But . . . and this is a long shot . . . maybe somewhere along the way, some wayward Sephardic Jew cast out by the diaspora had infiltrated my family lines. That’s certainly a possibility. As you may know, the Spanish government is now offering dual citizenship to anyone who can prove that their ancestors were part of the hordes of Jews who were expelled from Spain in the fifteenth century. For all I know, my family name before it was changed at Ellis Island, might have been Steinano. So I say, Buenos dias, mis amigos!

Bernie, Marty and Me

January 7, 2020

As I’m sure you’re aware, Bernie Sanders had a heart attack about a month ago. If you were paying attention to last week’s paper, you may have noticed an article in which his cardiologist is cited giving him a clean bill of health. By chance, that doctor is my childhood friend, Marty LeWinter, who I wrote about a while back (Le Winter Of Our Discontent.)  Now I know that opening hyperlinks can take one down rabbit holes that even rabbits don’t want to go down but in this case, I’d strongly suggest you throw caution to the wind and open the one in that last sentence. It will help in following the rest of the blog.

No, I don’t go by ‘Mickey’. Sent by a friend of a friend of …

. . . okay, I hope you’re back from that read. Well, as I said Marty is Bernie’s cardiologist which is interesting in itself, (which in turn, makes me more interesting) but when you add to that information the news that Bernie graduated from my high school (James Madison High School in Brooklyn) a few years before I did, the connections are almost eerie, no? In fact, it seems I missed out on being the Senator’s friend (although with all the shouting, I’m not sure how close we would have been) by just a few years. Almost as if I’m the nexus of their relationship. Now of course, you might say that there are probably only two cardiologists in all of Vermont so there’s a one in two chance that Sanders would wind up with Dr. LeWinter. But I’m waaay ahead of you — you see there are, in fact, four cardiologists there; so the freakiness of the coincidence remains. I get goose bumps each time I think about it.

When last I wrote about Dr. LeWinter (Marty, to me), I had mentioned that my friend Retep, (also a Madison grad who happens to know Mssr. LeWinter from college), and I were considering a road trip to Vermont to confront the good Doctor about his not responding to our emails. Well now that Bernie’s involved it seems even more appropriate that we head up to Burlington or wherever it is that Marty hangs out.

But I’m thinking that maybe Retep and I shouldn’t go it alone. Charles Schumer lives around the corner from me here in Park Slope and he too graduated from James Madison. Obviously, he knows Bernie, so maybe I’ll swing by Chuck’s house on my way to pick up Retep and the three of us make the trip. While I’m at it . . . Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Madison ’50) could be in town and might want to join us. What a great idea. Can you imagine what a hoot it would be to take a really long car ride with Chuck and RGB?!

 

It’s A Grave New World

December 26, 2019

 

 

Last week, the office formerly and currently known as Garfield Realty had its annual office holiday party at a restaurant in downtown Brooklyn. There were about ten of us present and as is usual nowadays we went around the table to introduce ourselves and provide our pronoun preferences. As it turns out there were no they/them’s; just he/him’s and she/her’s. That is, except for yours truly. I, of course, opted for Broker Emeritus/Your honor.  It seemed only right.

I was sitting opposite a new agent in the office, James, who was fun to talk to particularly when our table starting discussing child rearing. Ordinarily this isn’t my cup of tea but James was telling us about neighbors of his who have a ten month old baby whose gender they have decided not to identify. (James let slip that she/her is a girl . . . but that’s just between us, please.) They are waiting for their baby to self-identify his/her/they’re gender. (I’ve since learned that such a baby is called a “theybe.” Of course it is!)

I love language and learning new words so this dinner was turning out to be pretty thrilling. James told us the theybe’s name, which is so unique and kind of bizarre that if you google it, there are lots of entries. So in the interest of staying out of trouble, I’ll just say that if I said they’re name is, Harriet Tubman Hailstorm Cohen, it wouldn’t any more unusual than the actual name. Not by a long shot. Unsurprisingly, the parents — I think that’s what they’re called — don’t refer to themselves as Mom or Dad. Nor Mother or Father. And certainly, not as Mommy and Daddy. That would be nuts because as I’m sure you know, those words are loaded with meanings and stereotypes, hidden and otherwise that could lead to .  . to . . . well, I’m sure something cataclysmic. I don’t think James mentioned when or, if ever, the parents/caregivers/keepers of the flame intend to reveal themselves or their roles to Harriet Tubman Hailstorm.  But boy, I’d love to be there for that conversation.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that we spent the entire dinner talking about children. Not so. There were a lot of other provocative discussions which more or less escape me. But, in what I see as a real passage of time, this was the first annual party at which De didn’t toast me for being the progenitor of the entire Garfield operation. Usually, he’s drunk enough and effusive enough that it sounds like I’m the one taking everyone out and it’s all I can do to avoid picking up the check. That was left to Luap (eh/mih) and Zil (ehs/reh) for which I’m thankful.  They are absolutely terrific and when I say “they”, I mean both of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“No Mas!” *

November 25, 2019

Last week I received an email from a friend, Mas, to whom I send an ironicman link whenever I post a new blog. Much like the link I may have just sent to you. That email read: “Please remove me from your blog. Don’t have time.”  Now several years ago when I received a similar request, I made it clear that I need to get a notice from your attorney or at least, a notarized letter (sent “certified”) to get off my list.

But, Mas (I considered entitling this essay, “No Mas” – – – Mas: 2019, but thought that it would be too cute by half . . . or  even two-thirds), Mas is someone I’ve known and been friends with a long time. Not close but warm, i.e, there’s an almost-hug when we see each other. So I’ve made an exception to my rules of dis-engagement and have removed him from my blog list.

This might be a good time to explain that list. It’s comprised of an email contact group compiled over the years of people I thought might be interested in reading this stuff. The mainstay of that group are my instructors and people I’ve been in various writing classes and workshops with over the years. Most of those go back about a decade and I have no doubt that many of the email accounts I have are not in use any more. And for sure, I bet most of the recipients have no memory of me. But rarely have I gotten a request from any of these folks asking me to stop sending these annoying emails . . . almost as if there’s an “honor among thieves.” As writers, we indulge one another. Or so I suspect.

When I got Mas’ email, I was more confused than upset. It seemed like a lot of trouble to go through. So I did some experimentation and calculations and found that it takes a little over a minute to write and send, “Please remove me from your blog etc.” Whereas it takes about one-half second to delete an email and even less time to just ignore it.  Meaning, that the time that Mas used in emailing me would have covered about the next ten years of deleting my emails had he chosen that route. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he’s a lot older than me and I’m not feeling so great lately so the chances of our both being around after 2029 is . . . is, how shall I say . . . awfully optimistic. I guess he didn’t bother with the arithmetic. Probably another thing he didn’t have time for.

I understand that I’m playing with fire here and that this essay may open the floodgates for lots of you to feel unleashed and begin planning your escape. But if I were you, I’d consider it carefully. “Hell hath no fury as a wo(rd)man scorned.” For certain, I don’t want this turning into another @metoo movement.

If there’s a silver lining in all this, it’s that this minor mutiny has given me some grist for the blog mill. But jeez, if all I have to write about is my readers jumping ship, the logical conclusion is that ultimately, I’ll be sending the blog only to myself. It’s sort of like burning your house down to keep warm in the winter. A bit short-sighted, don’t you think? No mas!

 

 

Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Durán II, also known as the No Más Fight, was a boxing match which took place on November 25, 1980.  It was the second of three bouts between the pair. It gained its name from the moment at the end of the eighth round when Durán turned away from Leonard towards the referee and quit by apparently saying, “No más” (Spanish for “No more”).

 

The Impairment of Donald Trump

November 12, 2019

“BREAKING NEWS!! TRUMP STEPS DOWN FROM PRESIDENCY! CITES A DESIRE TO SPEND LESS TIME WITH HIS FAMILY!”

Oh, if only . . .

******************************************************************************

For much of the summer of 1974, while the Nixon impeachment hearings were being televised, I was away at a rented house in a rural area of New York State where there was scant TV reception.  As a result, I didn’t see much of that drama in real time. A real loss. The public hearings of Trump’s impeachment are starting to be aired this week. I won’t make the same mistake again — I’m staying in town. And I’ve already assembled my Seamless menus for ordering in.

Like many of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, I’m also critical of these impeachment hearings.* But for an entirely different reason; It just seems such a distortion to have a fruit that I like so much, the peach, associated with this guy. As Nancy Pelosi might say, it’s a shame to waste it on him.

It’s one of things that has bothered me since the impeachment proceedings began about a month ago. To rectify that, I had begun referring to this sad episode in our history as the implumment of Donald Trump.  This caught on the way the Edsel did . . .which is to say, not at all. Even Lebasi couldn’t get on board with the plum thing. Then she suggested we move on to another fruit — a PEAR!  The impearment of DJT sounded just right.  But after kicking it round further, we decided that, in a pearfect world, we should be talking about the IMPAIRMENT of Mr. Trump. Which, when you think about it, says it all.

 

* For those defenders of the President who are now saying that he may have done something “inappropriate” but it isn’t impearable, let’s all agree: wearing white after Labor Day is inappropriate; bribery and extortion are illegal and, along with abuse of power, are impeachable.

 

 

“What Goes Around . . . ” (sort of)

November 4, 2019

It was not so long ago that I would ordinarily drive into Manhattan from my home in Park Slope. However, I had a rule that I wouldn’t take my car to anywhere above 23rd Street.  About five years ago, because of an increase in traffic, I moved my boundary to 14th Street.  But recently, things have gotten so out of hand, I now won’t go past Union Street in Park Slope. That’s about 78 feet from where my car stays nestled in the garage beneath my apartment building.

So I’m taking the subway a lot more than I ever had. The train gets me where I want to go almost always with less stress and time than had I driven. Apart from the ignominy I feel when I’m sometimes offered a seat, it’s all good. And, when I have to change trains and there’s a connecting one waiting, I’m as excited as if I had won the lottery. (At least, I think that’s about as happy I would feel with a seventy million dollar payday.)

But a few months ago something happened that almost soured me on my romance with the MTA.  Lebasi and I were coming home from seeing a play in mid-town and were on a train that was reasonably but not terribly crowded.  I was standing facing forward when the train lurched ahead before I had grabbed onto a pole; I staggered backwards about five or six falling steps before I landed, not in the lap of luxury, but the lap of some passenger who caught me as if I were a routine pop-up.

The man (who looked to be in his forties) into whose lap I fell couldn’t have been nicer. But after the first few, “are you okay”s it occurred to me that he was being overly solicitous because he saw me as old and it started to really irritate me. After about the seventh inquiry, I lost it and barked at him; “As I said, I’m just fine!  Maybe just a bit tired from playing three hours of singles earlier today against someone a bit younger than you are.” (This may or may not have happened.)

This episode was pretty embarrassing so, of course, we got off at the next stop and moved to another train car where hopefully, word hadn’t yet spread. The rest of our trip was unremarkable and I had more or less forgotten about the incident until about a week ago when something similar and equally disturbing happened.

I was sitting on the train lost in thought when, out of the blue, a young man who must have lost his balance fell hard on me and jabbed his elbow into my forehead almost knocking me out. All with no warning whatsoever. This was no pop-up; more a line drive hit like a shot back at the pitcher’s head. (For those of you with some institutional baseball knowledge, think: Herb Score.) Although stunned, I could hear this guy apologizing, “I’m so sorry Sir, I’m so sorry.” Then, “Sir, I think you’re bleeding!” Then again with the, “Are you okay”s to go along with the “Sirs.”  Almost too much to bear. While I wasn’t really okay, I managed to shoot back at him, “Yeh, I’m fine, just fine; maybe just a bit tired from the marathon I ran this morning which I followed with a couple of sets of . . . ”  Well, you get the idea.

 

 

 

 

A Chip Off The Old Block

October 4, 2019

As you may have noticed, these postings have become a lot less frequent.  So much so that I’ve had to cut back on the staff here at the blog factory. Fortunately, I’m able to carry on single-handedly. For your part, you may want to put these essays somewhere for safe keeping as they’re getting so rare as to become valuable “collectibles.” Just a heads up.

The primary reason that I haven’t been writing is that my social life seems to be contracting. (There seems to be a marked correlation here with my obsession interest in the scandals in our politics). So, when I got an invite to go to my tennis club’s year-end party, I decided I would go. Not because I thought I would enjoy it but more because I hoped I would get some blog fodder.  And I have — kind of.

This annual event of the Knickerbocker Field Club was held last week at a rooftop farm/lounge at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We have had several events there at different venues and each time it’s a bit of an adventure finding the building where the party is. And this year was no different. To gain access to the Navy Yard I needed to stop my car at a security gate where the guard gave me some vague directions to find the building I was looking for.  But before I had a chance to get lost, I saw another member who used to work there, Andrew, drive past me. I assumed he knew what he was doing and started following him.

After a bit, I became suspicious that he and I weren’t going where we were supposed to and I turned back and ultimately found my way to the party.  When I later saw Andrew and questioned him about his route, he explained that he hadn’t been at the Navy Yard in a while and was taking a tour to see what had been going on. That made me think of a story my father used to tell on himself of also following a car to get somewhere and my first thought was that my decision to leave my apartment had produced exactly the result I had hoped for . . . a blog story! I’d write about my father’s adventure.

That was supposed to be what this essay is about.  Big problem though —  after checking, I found that I had already written about that very incident nine years ago. It’s entitled, Lost In America.  (I just read it — it’s not bad.  I’d suggest you put it on your phone and take it into the bathroom with you. That’s usually the best place to read this stuff).

Despite that subsequent blog disappointment I had a surprisingly good time at the event.  There were lots of people I knew well enough to schmooze with and of the eighty or so people there, I don’t think any of them are not actively not talking to me.  That’s a good percentage in my book.

However, there was one incident that kind of shook me. There’s a member of the club, Mr. X, who is notorious for cornering people in conversations they don’t want to be having. And he’s really hard to shake. So my usual modus operandi is to avoid any contact other than a, “Hi.”  But for some reason (“Me, me …call on me! I know the answer: Ketel One”) that evening I broke my own rule and entered into a conversation with Mr. X.  And then, an amazing thing happened; before very long he excused himself as if he couldn’t wait to get away from me!  

True, that’s frightening and possibly interesting, but in and of itself, nothing worthy of a blog.  So it seems that I made a mistake in thinking the party would give me something to write about.  Oh well, I guess it’s back to MSNBC for a while.

 

 

Welcome Pilgrim!

September 6, 2019

I recently met a friend of Lebasi’s, S, who is visiting New York and staying at her house. S currently lives on Cape Cod where her family settled a while ago. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. While we were chatting, she blithely mentioned that her family goes back to the Mayflower’s landing on the Cape.*  Not bragging or anything —  just a piece of information. She couldn’t possibly have known . . .  but this is precisely the kind of stuff that impresses me. I know that it shouldn’t and I’m not proud that it does but, but  . . .  you have to take into account that my roots in America are shallower. By a lot. In fact, the closest I’ve ever gotten to any Mayflower is when I bought a pedestal sink from some developers just prior to the Mayflower Hotel In Manhattan being demolished about fifteen years ago.

I’m sure my fascination came as no surprise to Lebasi.  She knows that I have a misplaced value (by her measure)on this kind of stuff. As a result, she keeps her own lineage pretty close to the vest.  Oh sure, she’s taken me back five or six generations but, to date, I haven’t been able to get her to go any further back than that. Does she think I believe that her great, great grandfather just appeared fully formed from nowhere? It’s hard to explain her reluctance about this. Maybe she thinks I’m an ancestry gigilo.

I’ll be honest with you. If my forebears went back to Plymouth Rock, you’d know it within the first five minutes of meeting me.  I’d delicately weave it into our first conversation. Or you’d notice the, “Descendant of the Mayflower” tee shirt I was wearing. One way or another you’d know the I’ve been here a long time.

I’ve tried to figure out why this kind of stuff registers so with me. My bet is that there’s not a healthy explanation for it.  If I ever go back into therapy (hah!) I guess I could start with that. ‘But Doctor, I do remember a feeling I had of being the one who belonged, the entrenched one. There was a time, a long time ago, when I threw a birthday party for my business partner at the time, Isaac. Unlike I who was born here, Isaac (who was quite successful) had emigrated from Russia in the 50’s when he was nine years old. I remember remarking in my birthday toast that he acted like he was renting America from me.’  Oh . . . if only!

* In an amazing instance of serendipity or fate or the Lord moving in mysterious ways, today, September 6 is exactly 399 years to the day that the Mayflower departed Plymouth, England, in 1620. Which means that next year will be the quadricentennial of that departure. To co-opt a phrase, “Next Year In Provincetown!”

Let’s Play Two! *

August 13, 2019

Ernie Banks

 

Very occasionally, good news arrives at my doorstep. This is what happened last week when I picked up my New York Times and came across an article that has made me positively ebullient since I read it. It concerned a study by some Harvard researchers published in the medical journal, JAMA, which has found that major league baseball players have a longer life expectancy than the general population. And not by just a little but by a whopping 24%!

The study analyzed the lifespans of ballplayers who had died between 1979 and 2013. More than 10,000 of them. You might ask — what does this have to do with Neil? Well, although I never played major league baseball, I’ve played all kinds of ball my entire life. Stickball, punchball, softball, tetherball, volleyball, paddleball . . . you name it. All that has to count for something.

But it gets even better; it seems that for some reason, middle infielders (shortstops and second basemen) have an even greater edge in life expectancy.** When I read that additional analysis I was so gleeful that I cancelled my long-term healthcare policy. Just don’t see that I’ll be needing it. Because you see, when I was in college I played shortstop for my fraternity in the intramural softball league.  True, I wasn’t very good but I was stationed in . . . in . . . in the MIDDLE INFIELD!!!  How lucky can one guy get!?

I’ve had too many aches and pains lately which has forced me to face my mortality in a way I’ve never done before.  Up until a few years ago I just assumed I’d live forever. Or more precisely, that there was so much time ahead of me that there was no urgency about . . . about . . . well, about anything. Which is an attitude that’s a little surprising considering that I’m pretty good in math.  But as I say, that changed a couple of years ago. But now, now there’s this Harvard study which kind of rights the ship for me. How I love the Ivy League!

I often wonder what gets researchers to home in on a particular group to study. What’s the calculus that determines who, what and when. Why not analyze the life expectancy of left handed CPA’s, for example. They might find that twisting one’s hand in that weird way might shave years off an accountant’s life. Or better yet, how about a study of life spans for Brooklyn tennis players (right handed) with petty decent forehands but backhands that are just eh. I’d bet a study like that could prove awfully interesting.

 

* Famously said by Ernie Banks, the Hall Of Fame shortstop for the Chicago Cubs upon arriving at the stadium for a doubleheader. The full quote: “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let’s play two today!” Banks died in 2015 at the age of 83.

** The researchers also found that catchers had the worst life expectancy of ballplayers. Probably all that crouching behind home plate.  More good news for me though— I caught only one inning of one stickball game in 1957.  That was it.

Pappy Hour

July 9, 2019

 

Most weeks, my dear friend and I go out for dinner.  (I could disguise X‘s identity by spelling his name backwards, upside down or even inside out but given the nature of this story, it might still be too risky for him to be “outed” So best to call him X.) We usually go to the same bar/restaurant each week where we are now considered “regulars”.

Ordinarily, we have the same wait-person, Ervin. Our assumption is that Ervin and the rest of the staff think we’re an older gay couple who have been together decades. (What else is new!?) To that point, X told me that one time when he showed up at the restaurant with his wife, he was sure he overheard some remarks coming from the bar that suggested he was cheating on me. Nerve!

In any event, last week we met for dinner as usual.  But on this particular evening, Ervin was nowhere to be found. Instead, our wait-person was a cute young woman who was filling in for him. Which is why we have this story.

X and I had gotten into the habit of ordering the same drink each week — me, vodka on ice and X, more often than not, the happy hour-priced  wine. Ervin knew this. But our new wait-person — the cute young woman — didn’t. So naturally, she asked what we were drinking,  I gave her my vodka order and followed up by asking her what the “early bird special” wine was. After I let out a yelp, he quickly corrected himself by asking about the “happy hour” wine.  But, the truth is, there’s really no recovering from something like that. Might just as well whip out some pictures of the grandkids at that point. However, If there was one saving grace to this episode, it was that we were seated at a high barstool table . . . so it was a lot easier for me to hide under the table so as to be associated with the “early bird” comment.

Eventually, I came out from hiding, X and I had a good laugh and continued our evening talking about the Mets and Nietzsche —  you know, the usual stuff. Obviously, we can’t go back to that place again, so now I’m on the lookout for some new restaurant for us to frequent. Ideally one that has a happy hour or one that, in a perfect world, has a grandpappy hour.