276 girls


How is this possible?  There have been decades of atrocities, unbreakable cycles of violence, the world over. Countless children sacrificed to the power struggles over land and its resources.  Nigeria has devolved into chaos.

Legacies of colonialization and Western arrogance.  And backlash.

This is the one case that is gaining international attention.  Because of the brazenness and insanity of the Boko Haram fighters.  How does a militant group, fighting in the name of God, kidnap 276 school girls to sell them into marriage and slavery?

These girls.  These poor girls.  Their poor families.  I cannot imagine what it is to have my child taken from me by lawless gangs who roam with impunity.

This massive kidnapping is about radicalism and the cheapness of human life, in general, and that of a girl’s life, in particular.

And the knowledge of the perpetrators that we, in the United States, will soon turn back to the results of the NFL draft.  And then they can do this again.  And again.  And again.  Until no child is spared from the war crimes.
Our souls, and our beliefs in the sanctity of human life and in the God-given right of a child to realize his or her potential, lie in the balance of our nation’s response to this crisis and others like it across the globe.  Let’s find these girls, airlift them and their families and share the bounty of our nation with them.  It isn’t fair to those left behind, but it is a start.  And, in Jewish theology, it is a person’s moral obligation to save even one life even if one cannot save everyone.

God bless and keep these girls, and keep them safe from more ravages of war.

This Parent’s Nightmares

Two New York Times articles this weekend conveniently book-ended the gamut of parental nightmares — child abuse and drug abuse.

In the hallowed halls of elite Horace Mann School, unabashed pedophilia survived through willful blindness for decades.  Just another reminder for me to listen closely to my child’s discomfort and fears, if G-d forbid, there was some problem.  And any man who takes an active interest in SOS and engages in “horseplay” is suspect.

When SOS was young, we thought to have a manny (male nanny) to give him daily contact with a male (something missing in a two-mom household).  But the logistics got complicated when I realized that if we had a manny (who might just be a pedophile), we would also need a nanny to watch the manny watching SOS.  POB gave up on the idea rather than try to unravel my paranoid (and correct) logic.

The second story was about high school kids buying prescription drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  These drugs, when used properly, help certain kids function with the “appropriate” level of attention and focus in classrooms and other venues. The drugs’ effects on kids who don’t need the drug are laser-focus on task and rapid recall.  Like steroids, these drugs are now seen as performance enhancing aids so that kids can perform better on class tests and college entrance exams.

It is shocking how easy it seems to get a prescription or buy a few pills from a classmate.

(My high school alma mater was singled out as one place where there is a real problem.  The person who said any publicity is good publicity is, um, wrong.)

So, POB and I were talking about this and we both scratched our heads.  We as a society are pushing our kids into drugs “to make us proud”.  It made getting high and playing frisbee seem like something out of Mayberry.  You know, the stuff you did to rebel and make your parents fret about your future.

And now my new view is:

SOS, if you must try drugs, please smoke A LITTLE dope (and then make sure it was a bad experience).  And promise me (pinky-swear and everything) that you won’t ever, ever, snort Adderall for performance enhancement. 

I love you just the way you are.


Life American Style

You want to know why our society is crumbling?  Why we are losing our preeminence in education and innovation?  Look in the mirror.

These are the items that get equal billing in the news re-cycle in the US.  These are taken from CNN, Yahoo, MSNBC and FOX.  Ok, I cherry-picked.  And I re-ordered to prove a point.  So what?  I bet that I gave us more credit than we are due.  In order of (my manipulated) importance, accompanied by my snide remarks:

  • US consumer confidence is at an all time low.  No one is buying off-road vehicles for the urban terrain.
  • Banks are not lending and companies are not hiring because of confusion over the new laws that will go into effect over time.  Would you like us to re-enact Glass-Steagull (that was eviscerated when the GOP was in control)?  I bet you would take Dodd-Frank in a heart-beat.  So, shut up.
  • Did Anderson Cooper flub a critical question to Michele (Night of the Living Dead) Bachmann (two n’s so she is not a secret Jew) in the GOP Debate on Tuesday night?  Does she have a cause of action if she loses the GOP nomination?
  • The housing bubble has not bottomed out.  So, the economy has to stop and wait for that.
  • Unemployment is over 9% which is a reflection of the last 2.5 years and not of the implosion caused in the years that preceded it.
  • People are occupying Wall Street and financial centers across the country because they don’t understand why the American Dream is out of reach, but aren’t they anarchists?
  • Lindsay Lohan has to go back to jail because she overslept on her first day of community service.
  • Stock prices are lower.  “Euro Contagion,” baby.  (Wait, don’t tell me, it must be an ad for “The Black Death Has Returned,” in movie theaters everywhere.)
  • Qaddafi is dead after an insurrection against his brutal rule, but enough about that, oil prices are dropping and it is a sign of Obama’s failed domestic policies (I am still figuring out the latter).
  • The Queen didn’t mind a curtsey malfunction in Australia.  She is a woman of the people.
  • Not all of the 99% pay federal tax (but they do pay state, local and sales tax).  Nevertheless, they should be deported.
  • The GOP candidates are talking crazy talk in their debates about how much less taxes we ought to pay (and Herman Cain would not tax used goods but food — which cannot be sold “used” or “pre-owned” — would be more expensive than ever) and how we need a fence across our entire southern border because Martians and other aliens are landing and illegally entering our country and taking our jobs.  Who said the GOP doesn’t believe in UFOs?
  • Israel negotiated with terrorists because the release of one soldier was worth freeing 1,000 Palestinians non-POWs (“If you save a life, it is as if you saved the world,” said a great rabbi; it was also a smart move to undermine Abbas and his UN bid for statehood).
  • There are almost 9 billion humans in the world, at least 8 billion of whom live in abject poverty.  And I worry about my retirement accounts.
  • There is a faster and easier way to lose flab around your abs.  You mean I can watch TV, drink red wine and eat french fries (not together) and the fat will melt away?
  • Ashton’s and Demi’s marriage is on the rocks.  I didn’t know they actually got married.  Apparently, he thinks politics is sexy because . . . RIGHT before he was shtumping (I mean, stumping) for Obama.
  • The best and worst Versace styles are available at H&M stores.  He is dead, so I don’t get it.
  • Jessica Simpson (who IS she?) wants money to talk about her pregnancy.  It may be cheaper to buy “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”.
  • There are ten HOT Halloween costumes for this year.  You mean the French chambermaid outfit won’t work again this year?

Res ipsa loquitur.








Though ‘round the girdled Earth they roam, Her spell on them remains.

This is part of the Dartmouth anthem.

CAFOB (California friend of blogger) is staying with us and I feel blessed by 30 years of friendship.  Even after months of no contact, our conversation starts up again with, “as I was saying”.  No beat skipped.  It is the best of what Dartmouth offers: enduring friendships arising out of a small community. (There is the underside to the Dartmouth experience, but let’s leave that, for now.)

CAFOB just left our house for another liaison with same “unavailable” guy (I have the name, phone number and address now, phew). I kept opening the door while she waited for the elevator to make sure she had money for a cab if she felt she needed to come back tonight, to make sure she knew where she was going and to make sure she knew her “friend” would take care of her.  And finally before I closed the door for the last time, I made sure she would tell him I knew where to find him and that he should be afraid, very afraid.  I don’t care if we are all nearing 50.  Adults are simply children in expensive clothes.  So, I worry.  Sue me.

I am grateful for the friendship that are etched in ♫ the granite of New Hampshire that is made part of us ’til death.♫  And the granite of New Hampshire does indeed keep ♫a record of [our] fame♫.  I like to think that line of the anthem refers to our triumphs in things that matter — love, enduring friendships, and healing the world.  (Tim Geithner, ’84, we expect a lot.)

CAFOB, I’ll be waiting up until morning when you come back.  No guilt. No pressure.


Nine of Us, Thirty Years and Going Strong

I often write about my college friends.  (See http://40andoverblog.com/?p=942  Us, in a Rear-View Mirror and http://40andoverblog.com/?p=2418, one of the many posts about our 25th college reunion.) 

We nine friends have sustained each other through ups and downs in our lives.  

One of the Nine, CAFOB (California friend of blogger) is staying with us for a few days.    Another of the Nine, NYFOB (New York City friend of blogger) emailed about what CAFOB was up to.  I emailed back that CAFOB was staying downtown some place that night. 


NYFOB was soooo right: I failed in my obligation to question her comings and goings with the detail and precision (and techniques) of a seasoned New York detective. 

There are some rules we Nine live by:  “you do it, you live with it” and “if you want to dance, you pay the fiddler”  (both courtesy of the now much-mellowed DCFOB (DC friend of blogger). 

In other words, CAFOB had a responsibility to spill her guts and break all confidences about the — hmmm — liaison.  And it was my responsibility to enforce the rules.

Utter and total failure.  I am sensing a group visit and intervention being planned.

Luckily, POB (partner of blogger) was available and got the whole story.  POB says to CAFOB, “You have a choice:  you tell the Nine or I will tell the Nine.  Choose wisely.”  Sad things can wait; juicy gossip among us must be revealed with great dispatch.

I love that POB enforces the laws of the Nine if I am not around.  POB is a true life partner.


Just Give Us Something To Talk About

A friend who is slightly paranoid about being known as a friend of blogger (and ergo, SPOBFOB) and I were discussing (and, might I add, solving) the world’s ills over lunch.  It is so frustrating when two people make major breakthroughs in world peace, economic policy, and moderate reformist politics and no one will let us see the President.  We wouldn’t have made him take notes (he is the President); we know enough about protocol (we could write the book) to bring a short-form and long-form memoranda setting out the action points for achieving these huge global steps forward.

Not only did SPOBFOB and I have important problem solving breakthroughs, but we also took stock of the freak show that comprises the leaders of our nation.  Let’s face it:  Men like the game — thrust and parry, if you must — of negotiations.  Women want to get the damn thing accomplished in the least amount of time with the most impact. Sure there are women who are impossible to deal with in these situations (Michelle Bachmann, par exemple) but by and large, you don’t hear women say, “let’s say this and see what they come back with” when you know full well that “saying this” will only lead to vengeful behavior and reverse any constructive negotiations up to that point.  We rarely make grand pronouncements that make compromise impossible because our egos are in the way.  Just sayin’.

Maybe President Obama would not like to think that he is pretty much in the same camp as John Boehner and Mitch McConnell when it comes to purposeful and constructive negotiations.  Ok, so the answer is that the White House would slam the door on our advance team.

I was despondent because here we had answers and no one who would listen.  I mentioned having a cable talk show and SPOBFOB came up with the brilliant idea of naming it the “Alternate View” because we look at the world quizzically and with our heads tilted, as if we were trying to understand really edgy art.

[So, this is where I go off on one of my tangents and SPOBFOB has no responsibility for anything that follows:]

We can invite our friends and family to come on the show.  They represent a varied and seasoned cross-section of America.  Ok, the liberal, urban/suburban, well-heeled and over-educated America.  So, there would be wide national appeal.  (Ok, that would be in the sovereign nation of No-Where-istan, a state of my mind (see prior blogs).  But, I digress.)

Everything would be fair game, from:

  • did anyone really think Justin and Selena were anything but a media creation?
  • to: should you home school your children in places where the gay liberal communist agenda has not fully infiltrated main stream public school education?
  • to: should fertility treatments and surrogacy be tax deductible for same-sex couples in states where gay marriage is legal?
  • to: who is the sanest person in the Tea Party asylum? and is that like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
  • to: whether quinoa is subversive grain that could reduce America’s dependence on hamburgers?
  • to: how to keep skin from sagging without surgery?

And everything else anyone wants to cover.


High School Reunion


Thirty years.

Thirty YEAHS (said like a New Yorker).

It isn’t as if we were celebrating 30 years of marriage or a career.  We were celebrating surviving for 30 years since we last saw each other as a group.  “So, whatcha been doin’?” would require days, if not weeks, with every classmate, in order to catch up.

But we only had a few hours.

I was the class nerd whose parents couldn’t afford to have me keep up with the clothes and accessories of the others.  So, I always felt I was on the outside looking in and, sometimes, some of the girls were mean.   And, of course, I had an inkling that I was different somehow (later, to realize I was gay).  I think it manifested by not understanding how to connect to the other girls; I was always at home talking with the guys.

So, this is was a loaded event for me.  But I had a plan:

look thin and prosperous.

Except I hurt my arm 10 days ago and hadn’t been to the gym.  And, POB (partner of blogger) is no longer employed.

Great plan; bad execution.

So, I was bloated and feeling unprosperous.  And yet I am a lucky person in life and I am really happy, so, Saturday, I had a new plan:

Just make sure the make-up is flawless and the lipstick color is awesome.

So I put on comfy clothes and went.  There was a small pre-party at a classmate’s chocolate shop, with people who were always quirky and kind enough to accept my bizarro-ness and eccentricities even then.  Immediately upon entering the chocolate shop, all trepidation disappeared.  And the years melted away in such a warm and wonderful way.

[Just a side bar about the chocolate shop: Bond Street Chocolate, www.bondstchocolate.com, a tiny, fabulous place that is worth the schlep to East 4th Street; it isn’t actually on Bond Street].

Everyone was instantly recognizable.  Same laughs, same voices, same cadences and same energies.  Some looked so fabulous that I just know they have their own Dorian Gray-like pictures in their closets.  They were AGELESS.  And no scalpel touched their faces.  (Maybe some hair coloring and under-eye cover stick but that was it and we are 48!!)

We all arrived at the official party.  The turn out was amazing.  And, again, people were instantly recognizable.

Life has tread on all of us.  We lost our harder edges.  The mean girls weren’t mean anymore.   Those old distinctions didn’t matter anymore.  We all had happy times, disappointing times, scary times, and sad times and that makes us all a lot more grounded than teenagers spending grades 7-12 together in a tiny Upper East Side private school.

I left grateful for the occasion to reconnect with people who share some of my past and, I hope, part of my future.

Who am I; What am I?

For over 46 years, I was an American.  I was one of us — even though I am Jewish, an unrepentant liberal, and gay.  There was room in the tent, even if a few people called me unpatriotic for opposing the Iraqi invasion.

But this year, things are different.  Was my grandmother a citizen when my mother was born?  Yes.  Does it matter?  Maybe I get dispensation because I pay in taxes what most people earn in a decade.  I thought that in this country, one no longer had to buy freedom or the right to be protected from government interference.  But if neo-fascists get their way, birthright citizenship goes away.  If that happens, hell, I am moving because I am not paying my tax dollars into a system that makes me prove my mother’s citizenship.  I bet that America would find that most of their tax dollars comes from second generation Americans and not the Tea Party Express members who fear that their status as descendants of European conquerors doesn’t buy a loaf of bread.

Then there is this talk about the oppressive Atheists who deprive Christians of their right to pray in schools.   News flash:  it isn’t just the Atheists.  It is every mainstream of every minority religion that wants breathing space from fundamentalists — of whatever religion.  As religious as were the founders, they believed, and the case law of our nation’s highest court supports, that there be a separation of church and state, mostly for the protection of the minority against the tyranny of the majority (thank you, Thomas Jefferson).   Chew on that, Christine O’Donnell.

Protest is the hallmark of our nation.  We were founded upon the belief that we had a right to protest the edicts of King Charles of England.  So when video captures a campaign aide stomping on the head of a protester, one has to wonder who has hijacked our nation.  I disagree with the campaign aide’s candidate on more things than I can count but I support his right to campaign on his ideas.   If his staff cannot support the right of the opposition to protest, then they are totalitarian thugs.  They don’t belong in the great experiment in democracy that is America.

Also in this election cycle, we learned that there are those who believe that if this nation were to allow gay marriage, it would be tantamount to allowing a person to marry a piece of furniture.  No joke.  Try telling that to your girlfriend.

Where did the ideals and dreams of America go?  I am a stranger in my own land.

Driving and Fishing

Just last night over dinner out, POB (partner of blogger) and I were discussing our different approaches in dealing with annoying people or circumstances. 

POB is from a “good home”, has wonderful manners and rarely curses.  Even though I , too, came from a “good home”, I have a potty mouth. 

The practical difference is that POB can be baited for a long time before she boils over.  Someone has to dangle that fish hook at her for a good, long while.  In contra-distinction, I will drive to some barely noticeable bait, put in the water by a sleepy fisherman and impale myself on the hook, squirm and cuss.

Who knew that our theoretical conversation would almost immediately have practical application.

Our son’s teacher sent around an email that all the kids need to bring 2-litre clear bottles for a science experiment.  Because POB is a class mom (and so am I, by extension), we decided to get some extra ones in case some of the kids’ parents did not receive the email blast. 

Thinking, “reduce, re-use, recycle,” we went to the basement of our building to get used soda bottles.  It was an event so I had to document it (pictures are a little unclear; darn that blackberry camera).







Last night late, POB sent around an email suggesting that the recycling in everyone’s apartment buildings’ basements would be a good place to look for this particular “school supply”.  Just keeping with the “reduce, re-use, recycle” mantra.

One of the parents needed to send around an email this morning,  “I was rummaging around our basement recycling area at around 7:00 AM this morning – not part of my usual morning routine. . . .” 

Ok, AS IF any of us rummage through our building garbage as part of our daily regimen?

So, I had to, had to, had to email back (hitting reply to all, of course), that it was foreign for us, too, so much so that I took pictures to document the event.

POB emailed back to me (not reply to all, thank G-d — that good upbringing is so important):

“you just had to impale yourself on that hook, didn’t you?!”

Yes, yes, I did.


Back in School

Tonight was curriculum night at our son’s school.

The teachers tell the parents about what the kids are learning and the year’s goals.  As if I know whether it makes any sense or is grade-appropriate.  Nevertheless, I go because, well, you know the adage, “be there or be talked about”.  In fact, POB (partner of blogger) and I did talk about those who weren’t there over dinner later.  Let’s face it, we are all just children with graying hair.  So, if you put us in a gossip-y environment, then you better run for cover.

We were at the school for two hours, during which I slipped into the slouching, smart-mouthed, bored student of my youth.  I was disruptive during the reading teacher’s presentation because I was joking back and forth across the table with another mother (who has made a cameo in prior blogs — the mother of our son’s future wife).  Later, I was whispering to the father of my son’s best guy friend (who also has made a cameo in prior blogs — he was the one in need of adult male bonding rituals after months at home with the kids).

During the math teacher’s presentation, I was getting antsy and was counting ceiling tiles.  During the art and music presentation, which was last, I stared at the clock until there were ten minutes remaining and then I started packing up.   Just the kind of child that makes teachers leave teaching.

POB took notes throughout and asked pertinent questions.  She elicited smiles and positive reinforcement from the teachers.  She was like that as a kid.  Remember we’ve known each other since we were ten years old and I know that she always did her Hebrew school homework.  Her Hebrew school homework, for G-d’s sake (in a manner of speaking).

If there is a test on the details at the next parent teacher conference, POB will ace it and won’t let me peek at her paper.  I just know it.

My poor son.  I sure hope nature (POB’s genes) beats nurture (my overbearing personality) because otherwise he is toast.