The News

These last few days I have read the newspaper, cover to cover.  Death, starvation, destruction and war games.  And economic chaos, too.  And political polarization and the concomitant demonization of the “other”.

Today, I have been humming One Tin Soldier, an anti-Vietnam War song from the 1970s.  I didn’t remember all of the lyrics, but I did remember the prize that everyone in the parable is bickering over, killing over and claiming rights over.  It is worth a listen (click on the hyperlink) and read the lyrics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7jHp7OchP0

(by Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter; performed by Jinx Dawson and Coven in the movie “Billy Jack” (1971))

Listen, children, to a story
That was written long ago,
‘Bout a kingdom on a mountain
And the valley-folk below.

On the mountain was a treasure
Buried deep beneath the stone,
And the valley-people swore
They’d have it for their very own.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgement day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.

So the people of the valley
Sent a message up the hill,
Asking for the buried treasure,
Tons of gold for which they’d kill.

Came an answer from the kingdom,
“With our brothers we will share
All the secrets of our mountain,
All the riches buried there.”

Now the valley cried with anger,
“Mount your horses! Draw your sword!”
And they killed the mountain-people,
So they won their just reward.

Now they stood beside the treasure,
On the mountain, dark and red.
Turned the stone and looked beneath it…
“Peace on Earth” was all it said.

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.

 

It makes me wonder

People always say that two people can view the same set of events from the almost identical vantage points and have three different versions.

I posted earlier on Facebook that I was walking by a group of men outside a neighborhood bodega, “chewing the fat” about Osama Bin Laden.  “How did the man manage three wives holed up in the same house for five years?” Clearly, proof positive that he was a worthy adversary of the United States of America.

I did not take that away from the unfolding events.  (I will say that I was happy that his kids were able to go out and play.  Judaism teaches that the sins of the fathers are not inherited by their children.)

I didn’t immediately think the wives were complicit or victims.  Those kind of knee-jerk conclusions simply marginalize them as cardboard cut-outs to fit our view of women in the fringes of a culture, religion and world view we have not even begun to understand.

I also did not take away, as Herman Cain did, that President Obama may have “dithered” before making the decision.  On what basis does Mr. Godfather’s Pizza say this?

Here is what I took away from this:

  • The president made a decision that would make him a hero if it worked, or a pariah like Jimmy Carter, if it didn’t.
  • The decision rocked an unsteady alliance with Pakistan, an unstable country with lots of nuclear warheads.
  • The killing will incite retaliation.
  • If Osama Bin Laden was a continuing terror mastermind, then this is what had to be done.
  • If he was the isolated, broken man that some videos suggest, then this was a vengeful and stupid mission with untold consequences dripping in blood.

 

Dear Paul

Dear Paul:

I am not a Ryan, but I know members of your extended family. 

I know you come from such a good family, with strong community values based in religious precepts, like the one about taking care of the poor and the stranger.  Or the other one about not putting a stone in the way of a blind person.  And even though Rabbi Hillel said, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” that is totally in sync with the Christian Bible.

Here’s the big problem with your budget:

No amount of spending cuts is going to get us out of the hole caused by waging war in Iraq, Afghanistan and, now, Libya. 

Paying for these requires tax increases.   (Remember when the GOP just put the Iraq and Afghanistan tabs on the credit card and, oops, forgot to put these line items in the budget??????) 

Cut all you want from social programs, etc.  Go on.  

But one year from now, when the deficit is still essentially as large as it now, there will need to be a tax increase on all Americans. 

All you will have done is gutted the social compact that each generation has with another:  we will not leave those vulnerable in our society — the young and the old — to fend for themselves.   The very social compact that makes America great.

What are you thinking?

More tales from the City

These past days, I have been lost in the old days and vignettes from childhood.

I remember that my parents often threw cocktail parties for my mother’s colleagues in the advertising and cosmetics industries.  My mother knew everyone’s cigarette preferences and she filled silver cases with the preferred brands and laid them on the coffee table.

And women had those tortoise cigarette holders that made smoking look so cool.

People drank Manhattans, Rob Roys and martinis (gin and very dry) and gimlets.  People drank blended scotch whiskey and Gordon’s gin back then.  I guess there weren’t that many other choices.  Twists of lemon, little onions and olives were in dishes, and there was a bottle (?) of bitters, ready to finish off the drinks.  My parents converted a closet in the foyer into a bar with an open front that faced into the living room.

A hired waiter passed hors d’oeuvres to men in slicked back hair and square hankies in the front pockets of their thin-lapeled suits and women (including Mom) who had Jackie Kennedy hairdos and dresses with shoulder wraps. No one dressed like Lady Bird Johnson.

We would come out in our matching pajamas and say good night.  And then Mom or Dad would tuck us in bed.  As soon as they were out of sight, we would creep back to the closed door closest to the “action” and listen and giggle until we were discovered and sent back to bed.

Only in retrospect, can I place the end of those heady days as around 1968.  I am guessing that it all ended as a result of social upheaval from the 1968 assassinations and the Vietnam War.  And because raising three children in the city was expensive.

Everyone tells me I ought to watch Mad Men.  But I prefer the memories.

The Vegan and the Hot Dog

Yesterday, I was part of a group of colleagues entertaining an out-of-town colleague’s client who was visiting New York.  The client is vegan, so we tried a highly rated vegan restaurant in Gramercy Park.  Not a piece of bread for the table.  There is nothing non-vegan about bread. The food was tasteless.  There is nothing non-vegan about flavor.  There was not enough food in a serving.  There is nothing non-vegan about healthy-sized servings.  Somehow even the protein sourced from non-animals didn’t fill me up.  There is nothing non-vegan about a few extra pounds around the midsection. Maybe I ordered wrong because all I seemed to eat was grass and shrubbery.

Later in the day we took the client to a basketball game.  There is nothing non-vegan about popcorn, french fries, onion rings, beer, pretzels and peanuts.  Being vegan CAN BE awesome.  Imagine being able to say the following: “Sweetie, I had to eat the fries and rings and roasted peanuts, because there was nothing else.  What could I do?”

But everyone grabbed all the food I had and left me alone, waiting for some miscellaneous things, like wine and mixed drinks that were ordered. And, I was starving.

I looked to my left.  No one I know.  I looked to my right.  No one I know.  I turned around.  Uh oh, a colleague on his cell phone. But, wait, I remembered that he doesn’t have such good far-vision.  So, the coast was clear.  I put on my sunglasses anyway.

I proceeded to order a decidedly, and possibly offensively, un-vegan hot dog and scarfed it down so no one would see. Immediately, I felt terrible about what I had done.  Here I was stuffing sausage derived from mystery meat of inhumanely killed animals and we were entertaining someone who has a conscience.

Then I was sure Karma would boomerang and I would be the Lucille Ball character in a “Here’s Lucy” episode where she was at a gallery opening and she started breaking out in hives.  Lucy excused herself.  Then the spotlights turn on, a curtain is pulled back and there is Lucy behind the prized sculpture, scratching her hives and looking like a deer caught in headlights.

But I wasn’t caught.  Except when I got home, I noticed a mustard stain on my jacket . . . .

Karma IS a boomerang.

The New Me (In the Test, Day 7-ish)

It is hard to describe how I feel as I watch the events unfold around the world, but let me try:

say you are in a bath (reading a book, sipping red wine in the hypothetical awesomely fabulous Manhattan apartment) and you pull the stopper to let the water drain.  At that exact second, you hear a big BANG from somewhere.  So what do you do?  You put the stopper back in the drain and shiver a little.

Powerless and with shivers of fear.  (FYI:  I don’t live in the hypothetical fabulous apartment, I am drinking an unfortunate Sauvignon Blanc (I don’t even like white wine) and I have no time to expand my intellectual acumen (maybe when my son is 10).)

In truth, I never thought anything was out of my control until TLP (the little prince) was born.  Now, I worry about the world after I am dead because (I hope) he (and his children) will still be alive. THAT makes what we do now even more important.  Because we all know that the harvest reaped in two generations will be directly related to the seeds we sow now.

My mom always believed that if you can’t change the big things, then start with the little things, but you must always, always, strive to repair the world (tikkun olam) — תיקון עולם

Here is the difference between Mom and me.  Mom just did things.  I, first, need a whole new outfit and work-out regimen.

Did you think I could stay so serious and not deflect my fears, hopes and dreams by lapsing into (sometimes, forced) humor?  DO YOU KNOW ME?

Sooo, deflectors are engaged.

One has to have strength to repair the world, no?

Ok, so let’s critique my old gym regimen, also known as, NP2 — “no pain, no pain”:

  • 3 times a week, get on the stationary bike for 30 minutes, but quit after 25 minutes.  Don’t even break a sweat.
  • Think about doing sit-ups. Hyper-ventilate about the anxiety of dealing with my expanding midriff. Suck in my stomach and do something else.
  • Do push-ups because I actually can do them.  And not the girl-y ones, either.
  • Do back muscle exercises because I don’t want to stoop too much in my dotage.
  • Talk to some people, less now that some gym friends have moved to other locations.
  • Notice the time and realize I have to get home.

There was a time when I could suck in my tummy, arch my back a little and my stomach would be flat and my breasts “perky”.  One cannot leave on memories of prior glory.  Starting tomorrow (because I am drinking wine and might hurt myself if I tried it out now):

My new, Spring, regimen, also known as SPB2 — “some pain, but buff”:

  • Buy some new outfits for my new gym state of mind.
  • Do Michelle Obama arm exercises because we all deserve to look like we could go sleeveless on national TV.
  • Do something cardio for 40 minutes. And actually break a “glow” but no sweat because I am becoming more genteel (and eccentric) as I age.
  • Stop watching the TV because next year Oxford English Dictionary will declare “pundit” a synonym of “idiot” and people who watch pundits “vidiots”.

I promise, Mom, in the midst of my self-absorption, I won’t forget about tikkun olam.  For your grandson and your great grandchildren.  For everyone’s children and grandchildren.

תיקון עולם

In the Game

So, SOB (sister of blogger) and HOSOB (husband of SOB) jetted off to Rome today.  They were there two years ago (and Florence and Venice in the two years before that), but got excited about our trip and decided that one can never go to Italy enough. (I believe our family has only grown higher in the esteem of IFOB (Italian friend of blogger).)

So, they are going to a country that, Thank G-d, is just providing bases for the sorties over Libya and not missiles or planes.  So, there is a lesser likelihood that Italy, in general, and Rome, in particular, might be bombed in retaliation.

YES, I have gone through the disaster scenarios and I am comfortable that they are traveling to Italy.

It is a sad, sad, truth that war is only real, if — to quote a business axiom — you have “skin in the game”.   Otherwise, it is a statistical variance on the number of humans in the world.

Our family doesn’t have “skin in this game”.  But some of us now are closer to the “game”.  And it is no longer a GAME.  It is war.

The Test

COB (colleague of blogger) is tired of my doom and gloom. (Really?  I thought it part of my magnetic personality. . . .)

And that, in and of itself, is shocking, since COB was discussing that the end of the world could occur on December 21, 2012.  Something about the Mayan calendar, Nostradamus and planetary alignments. Not that COB BELIEVES it, or anything.  But he was just putting it out there.

Probably to stack the odds before he dared me to be hopeful and cheerful for one month.  ONE MONTH.

In case you didn’t read carefully enough, I was challenged to be hopeful and cheerful for one month.  (COB is a poker player and probably has side bets on whether I will sink into despair in 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 2 weeks.)

I think it is funny that people are talking about the end of the world being in 21 months away, since Japan lies devastated (and its nuclear rods laid bare) by an earthquake and then tsunami, Libya is in civil war, Bahrain and Yemen are in chaos, the Ivory Coast is a bloodbath, we are in two wars, our deficit is out of control, the recession hasn’t ended for most Americans and we have a dysfunctional Congress, and on and on and on.  Sounds like the end of days now.

BUT, I digress, comme d’habitude.

Back to sweetness and light and kumbaya.   A dare is a dare and I have my pride.  So, forget the images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Forget images of breadlines during the Depression.  Forget the daily carnage for an acre or two of oil fields.  I am going to be happy, hopeful and cheery, Gosh darn it.

So, here is what I did today to make good on the dare:

  • When I was at the gym, I didn’t tell the stinky man that he was curling my nose hairs, as we took turns on the same machine.
  • I made sure that all elderly, infirm or pregnant people on the bus had seats.  (Yes, I know I am too pampered to hang with humanity, but the recession hasn’t ended.)
  • I swore to POB (partner of blogger) that I would take a time-out from the 24-hours news REcycle, where the object is to scare us more than to provide information.  (Note to self:  If Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper is at the nuclear power plant in Japan, it can’t be releasing THAT much radiation.)
  • I kissed and hugged my son, as I asked G-d (and whomever else with power over these things) to protect him from the chaos.

Not bad for my first few hours of Blogger-High-On-Happiness.