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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erev Rosh Ha-Shanah 5772

SOS (our son, source of sanity) decided that he preferred his former blog “handle”, TLP (the little prince).  I am worried.

But I was immediately distracted by how adorable he was in his blue blazer, tan slacks, penny loafers, and bow-tie and my heart melted.  Just FYI: I keep suggesting “regular” ties, but SOS (or TLP) demurs.  I think because he knows the bow-tie makes him irresistible to many women (not only his moms).  He doesn’t want to chance missing out on the “boob crush” hugs he gets from all the lesbians in the synagogue (hey, breasts are breasts).  When he gets taller and there is no boob bonus in the hugs, he’ll probably switch to regular ties. Just a guess.

SOS lasted nearly the whole service, which is quite extraordinary for an adult, let alone a child.  “E-Mom, does every word end in “echa” in Hebrew?”  Almost, buddy.

The service was a mixture of celebration, remembrance, solemnity and a little irreverence (we are after all, a gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, queer and intersex congregation).

The Torah portion we read tomorrow the binding of Isaac by his father Abraham.  I have always hated this story.  A crazy father, a submissive son, and a psychopathic deity.  With a heritage like this, we should start therapy in utero.

What do we learn from that Biblical story, other than we shouldn’t read the Bible to our children, especially before bedtime?

 

I still don’t get why Abraham was so willing to kill Isaac that the angel twice had to tell Abraham to stop before Abraham put down the knife.

I don’t understand why it is part of our liturgy except for us to be horrified by it.  Our rabbi noted that the story seems to defy the requirements elsewhere in Torah for us, as a community, to teach, love and shelter all of our children.  Abraham, the parent generation, is so invested in his belief that he is willing to kill Isaac, the child generation, regardless of whether Isaac has the same commitment.

I never thought of it quite that way — we say we love our children but we send them to battle the wars we decide to wage.  It is as true then and it is today in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in countless other places where wars have been waged so long that no one remembers peace.  We are horrified at the ghastly stories of child abuse here and yet we barely remember that we have sent thousands of other people’s children to war this year alone.

 

Love your children.

Protect your children.

Teach your children.

Remember peace.

 

RIP, Cousin Bernie

Cousin Bernie died yesterday,

Cousin Bernie wasn’t really my cousin.  But I didn’t find out that Bernie wasn’t related until my mother’s shiva.  Trust me, that’s when you learn everything about everybody, whether you want to or not.

It turns out that Cousin Bernie was the cousin of Betty, one of my mother’s closest friends from college.  Betty and my mother married two brothers, so Betty was my Aunt Betty by the time I was born.  Cousin Bernie also was (for time enough to have two children) the husband of Blossom, one of Aunt Betty’s and Mom’s other close friends.  For the record, Aunt Betty’s only successful match was Mom and Dad.  The rest were, shall we say, short-lived.

Not only was Cousin Bernie, and therefore, his wife Susan not my cousins, but Blossom wasn’t, and Blossom’s second husband, Aaron, wasn’t and his third wife, Marjorie, wasn’t.  All of which I found out at Mom’s shiva.  And Marjorie was the only one who asked POB (partner of blogger) if we were having a child by a known donor or unknown donor.  You mean she asked that and she wasn’t even related???  You have to admire a woman who picks up the beat of the Blogger family.  No boundaries, ever.

What makes them my family is more important than blood or marriage.   They are related by love.  And if not, love, then time.  After a few decades, even my mother, who would cringe at Bernie’s cursing like a sailor (he was one, in World War II), loved him even though he divorced Blossom and swore in front of her children.  Family is family, however it is constituted.

And so my heart is breaking for his wife Susan, Aunt Betty and Bernie’s kids.  Bernie, my Mom, Aunt Betty, Uncle Willy and my Dad were among the generation that bridged the divide between immigrant children and Americans.  They were the generation that fought in the war that American won.  They all put their foot on the gas pedal and roared into the American dream.  They laid the foundation for my generation’s successes.

And they were characters.  In his later years, Bernie was a caricature of himself.  And we lovingly laughed at his meshugas (craziness).

He used to be president of the New York Runner’s Club.  I ran in one of the New York City Corporate Challenges and, as I crossed the finish line, Bernie was there to hug me.  I said, “Bernie, it is great to see you!” He said, “[Blogger], is that you?”  So, in fact, he was hugging any sweaty, young woman who would hug him back.  “I won’t tell Susan,” I said as I kissed him.  At the next family function, OF COURSE, I told Susan.  Bernie’s response: “Jesus Christ, all of these f*%$ing young beautiful, sweaty women!! What the hell do you want me to do? Wave? How else would I get anyone to hug me. [more profanity].”  That was Bernie.  (You should know that he hit the jackpot with Susan.  He knew it, too.  To use his parlance, he would have been a schmuck to do anything untoward.)

I drove Bernie and his wife Susan to Uncle Willy’s unveiling a few years back. Bernie called and said he hadn’t seen Willy in a while and would I include them in the Great Schlep.  SOB (sister of blogger) and I didn’t know whether he remembered that Uncle Willy had died.  So, during the Great Schlep, we asked leading questions intended to elicit some acknowledgment that Uncle Willy was dead.  We were afraid that Bernie who had a defibrillator and pacemaker in his chest might go into cardiac arrest if he thought he was actually going to see Uncle Willy and then we pulled up to the cemetery. Thank G-d, he knew.

We saw Susan and Bernie at Dad’s 90th birthday party in October.  He looked frail. He was cursing about all the doctors he needed to see and how he had no more room in his schedule.  He also was singing the praises of prune juice as an elixir he recently discovered.  Cousin Bernie never changed.

I just called my Aunt Betty to express my condolences and I started reminiscing about the prune juice and the cursing and the doctors.  She has buried a son, a husband and countless other loved ones.  It was good to hear her chuckle as she mourns another loss in our greatest generation.  As we mourn right along with her.

Rest in peace, Cousin Bernie.

Even More to Talk About

COB (colleague of blogger), wants to write for the Alternate View (see prior blog entries).  He thinks Blogger and SNOBFOB (my awesomely funny friend who isn’t so sure she wants to be associated with blogger on-line) should try a YouTube video first, one that is a “parody” of The View.
Here are his ideas for the guests:
  1. Someone from the “Iced” Tea Party [blogger comment:  or The Latte League, truly effete, New York liberal intellectuals]
  2. A 10 year-old who has ideas for running government more efficiently [blogger comment: or Christine O’Donnell, who has the IQ of a ten year-old and is a witch to boot]
  3. A gay/lesbian person who is against same sex marriage [blogger comment: or Mr. Michele Bachmann, who thinks he cured himself]
  4. A person who is now an actor/actress since they can’t get a different job in this economy [blogger comment: because everyone assumes actors and actresses, especially the most talented ones, are unemployed]
  5. A crazy person (COB thinks I could fill that role.) [blogger comment: I think COB could audition for this role.]
Not a bad start.

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, part two

Blogger Note:  My friend, formerly known as SPOBFOB (slightly paranoid about being associated as friend of blogger) is now SNOBFOB because I understand, after further consultation, that she is only neurotic about being associated with me.

I remembered yesterday, as I was accosted on the subway by a sea of tattooed flesh, that SNOBFOB and I also discussed the state of (un)dress in the City.

We didn’t specify guidelines for appropriate body coverage and so I throw the following draft regulation out to SNOBFOB and to the community in general for comment:

Regulation:

At all times in public spaces, a person should cover 50% of one’s body (and those of such person’s unemancipated minors) if one’s BMI (body mass index) is over the VPT (visually pleasing threshold).  A VPT is determined as the minimum amount of body coverage that a reasonable person over the age of 45 would require not to reminisce about the good ol’ days. It is only a violation if the body coverage is so below the VPT that it could reasonably cause a reasonable person over the age of 45 to have an IHR (involuntary heaving reaction).

All in all, a public safety crisis that must be addressed immediately by Mayor Bloomberg. Imagine if a subway car full of people had IHRs. Not a pretty sight. In fact, I might have an IHR just thinking about it.

 

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.

 

Our Trip to Philly

The six of us set out yesterday morning for the City of Brotherly Love:  POB (partner of blogger), TLP (our son, the little prince), SOB (sister of blogger), HOSOB (husband of SOB), DOB (Dad of Blogger and SOB) and me. Three generations. One car.  Four sets of directions.

DOB sat up front will me.  HOSOB and SOB took row two.  POB and TLP were in the third row, practically a full block away from me in the driver’s seat.  In fact, the car was so huge, that I entered New Jersey and Pennsylvania a solid two seconds before they did.  I was surprised the car didn’t take diesel and we didn’t have to park with the trucks at rest stops.

As soon as DOB got settled, he offered me some hard candy.  You know, the kind that old Jewish ladies carry in their pocketbooks for decades and old Jewish men have in every pocket of every jacket they own.  Those candies.  I make it a point not to eat anything that I think may be older than 9 year-old TLP.  I declined.  SOB, ever the intrepid one, said yes.  She took one for the rest of us, because she knew DOB wouldn’t stop offering until someone said yes.

DOB read every sign out loud from the Lincoln Tunnel to Elizabeth, New Jersey.  But he didn’t sing.  And SOB was counting on having him sing to see just how crazy I would get.  SOB finally asked DOB, “Dad, doesn’t that sign remind you of a song?  Like, ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again?'”  SOB was soooooooo trying to win our bet about how quickly, how much and what DOB would sing.  Of course, that kind of cheating is only allowed when I do it.

Soon after Elizabeth, New Jersey, there was a multi-generational bathroom emergency.  So we stopped at a rest stop that was named for someone whom I am sure would be horrified if he/she were still alive.  As SOB and I walked into the women’s room, our faces already had the scared-and-disgusted-look in anticipation of what we might see in the stalls. We caught sight of each other and laughed but we didn’t have the camera to record.  Our looks were not in vain.  Nasty.  Nasty.  Nasty.  POB yelled out a helpful, “Use your hamstring muscles, girls!!!”

As I left the bathroom, I noticed the medical waste dispenser with a sign that said, “For your sharps”.  I made SOB go back in with a camera and take a picture.  When she sends it to me, I will post it.  SOB is a doctor and always optimistic: “it must be for insulin”.  Really, SOB?  You run an ICU in an urban hospital.  Are you kidding me?  If only the needles were for insulin . . . . We beat it out of there.

We were soon back on the road with traffic, narrow lanes and fellow travelers seeking to go 70 mph in work zones.  Of our four sets of directions, two were written, and two were saved on handheld electronic devices.  No GPS with the automated voice.  No map.  Still we had six or seven different opinions on the way forward.  TLP (the only child) offered constructive critical questions, like: “Emom, are both hands on the wheel?”  “Did you signal long enough to practice safe driving?”  “Are we there yet?”

Rules:  Always have a diversion for your child.  Always have a bona fide map.  iPhones and blackberry screens are tooooo small and, with two sets of directions, there is no agreement on the correct exit until after we have passed it.  In fact, even when we were within one block of the hotel, no one could make out the directions, and ended up back on the highway and in a traffic jam. One hour later, we got to the hotel.  And all the time TLP is asking, “did we get lost?”  AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaargh.

When we arrived, I had to go to the gym, sit outside for a bit and then nap.  No sightseeing.  I knew I couldn’t sit outside the old Custom House anymore when men dressed in Revolutionary Era clothes tried to show kids how to hold fake bayonets and march like militiamen.  I met SOB and DOB as we were all on our way back to the hotel.  DOB couldn’t really handle that much sightseeing. His stamina and physical stature have declined markedly this last year.  Still, I think he enjoyed the trip.

DOB doesn’t hear very well and therefore can’t follow conversations so closely anymore.  And over dinner, the restaurant music included “The Girl from Ipanema”, and HOSOB and I were trying to remember the woman who sang the original with Jobim.  DOB didn’t remember the song, so he just started singing something else that he knew, “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess.  But The Girl from Ipanema was still playing overhead.  HOSOB started singing a combo of “When Johnny Comes Marching With the Girl From Ipanema . . .” .  Then TLP abandoned singing  the Louie Armstrong part of the duet with DOB, and chimed in with “La Cucharacha”.  (Not sure why.)

The rest of us started to lose our minds a little.  SOB and I took pictures of each other’s exasperated, disbelieving looks.  POB retreated to a happy place in her head where her family was not re-enacting a scene from a psychiatric ward.

As we were walking back to the hotel, everyone was amiable and quiet.  TLP was holding DOB’s handing, HOSOB was holding SOB’s hand and I was holding POB’s hand. Unwilling to let a wound heal, I started to sing the “Ants Go Marching Two by Two, Hurrah, Hurrah,” to see if I could get a rise out of SOB.  She was engaging in willful deafness.

This morning we went to the Franklin Institute, which is worth a return visit.  It took us a few tries to leave Philadelphia and at least one electronic device conked out after the second escape attempt.  We went a little too far on 295 North (or East, whatever), and had to stop for food and directions at the Frying Skillet, a real trucker stop in Bordentown, New Jersey.  Everyone looked at our posse of three women, a child, middle-aged guy and nonagenarian, who were tattoo-less and looked every bit like effete New York liberals that we are.  (What kind of lettuce is in your house salad?  Just what’s been out on the salad bar that looks like wilted spinach?  Hmmmm.  Pork, bacon and burgers are the house specialties? I guess I’ll have a grilled burger.  Oh, ok, pan-fried in a skillet is fine.)

On the way back, TLP and DOB had quite a sing-along.  I wanted to press an eject button but I was the driver.

We powered through and all were safely deposited at their doors, happy to have had an adventure and even happier to be home. Safe and sound and exhausted.

Mad Vow Descends on New York — And How Wonderful It Was!!!

It was overcast.  It was pedestrian.  It was a long line on Worth Street.  I bet a few wondered if they could get their driver’s licenses renewed while they waited.  It was spectacular.  It was thrilling.

It was a jumble of emotions.

It was, except for the lines (and that it was a Sunday),  so unremarkable in its normality, that I wanted to cry for joy.  Yet a whole community celebrated standing in line for a marriage license — something that everyone else, until now, took for granted and, frankly, groused about.  Young and old, of every nationality and race, same sex couples stood on that line.  Four couples with whom we are especially close took their vows yesterday.  We couldn’t find them.  G-d bless texting and emails because we all knew we were there somewhere standing as witnesses.

Even Samantha Bee and Jason Jones from the Daily Show were on hand to mock the events.  That is how you know you have arrived.

Some sang and danced around and under the rainbow chupah (wedding canopy) [see above shot, looking up].

There was a lone protester.  He said terrible things that TLP (our son, the little prince) asked about.  TLP also asked why I said, “Shame on you!!” to the protester.  I told him that the protester used bad words and is spewing hate in the name of Jesus who was a man of love.  “Well, E-Mom, maybe it is because you and Mommy won’t be married until June.”

G-d bless TLP.  He thinks the problem is that we are living in sin.  But all will be ok once we get married in June.  In fact, he told some people on the subway who got married, “don’t worry, WE are getting married in June!!!”  Yep, the whole family.

The times they are a’changing

I always knew I was gay.  People often ask, “how could you know before you were ever with a woman?”  “The same way you always knew you were straight,” I say.  But the truth is that kids don’t think in terms of gay or straight.  They are who they are.  So, I knew as much that I was gay as straight kids knew they were straight.  Labels didn’t apply yet.  It only became an issue in the teenage years and beyond.  I desperately tried to be like everyone else, to the point of going overboard.

In the 1970s-90s, it was something to be hidden if I wanted to be a successful lawyer, if I wanted to fit in, if I wanted to get into the right social and professional crowds.  By the late 1990s, the gulf between who I was and who I pretended to be was wider than the San Andreas fault (gee, I hope that the fault line is wide, or I bungled this analogy).  I was tired of the schism, and so tired of the inevitable lies that somehow never fooled anyone, that I was willing to give up some measure of “success” and “acceptance” for peace of mind and peace of being.  That’s when the journey toward self-acceptance and family acceptance began.  A long, winding road, filled with pot holes, and yet, at various critical points, surrounded by warmth and beauty.

Today, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the military must end “don’t ask, don’t tell”.  Last week, New York legalized same-sex marriage.  A recent poll reported that more people in the country support gay marriage than not.

Still, I am not equal in the United States of America, the beacon of liberty to all nations.  But I am closer to equal than ever before.

I just hope that there comes a time when people wonder why there ever was a need to fight for equality — for anyone, anywhere.