Monday, September 26, 2016

Predicted Takeaways From Tonight's Debate

 

Donald, our dangerous Dionysian jester, drunk with folly.

Hillary, hopelessly Apollonian, sober with facts.



Will his Maenads, the raving ones, dance us off a cliff?

Can he, muzzled to script, not put us to sleep?



He of the lunatic moon, immediate, aural, starved for applause.

She of solar light, illumination, substance, studied, weighing words.



He, loose-tongued says he didn’t say what he said for five years.

She of the page cannot know the art of the blurt.



He, amorphous, slippery, fabricates and denies.

She, Euclidian of postulates and proofs.



He of inference and innuendo.

She, literal stuck in parenthesis.



He with a militia of deplorables

She weighted with unfavorables.



He, all blabber & bluster, fear & loathing.

She, our stay against chaos and incoherence.



Is he an ignoramus, a fraud or certifiably delusional?

Is she untrustworthy, unlikable or victim of misogyny?



We have met our archetypes.




Saturday, September 24, 2016

Arrested Development


People who aren’t sports fans can never understand. Fans are fanatics. We are all eight years-old having created an alternative universe which we slip in and out of, one in which we live and die a little according to the fate of our teams.

Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers for the past 67 years has been a word-painter with a wide palette. His descriptions of the play-by-play have supplied our imaginations with a measured economy of adjectives and ellipsis worthy of a poet. In this polarized world his might be the last non-partisan voice. As a broadcaster on T.V. he has known instinctively when the roar of the crowd better articulates the excitement than any words might. Yet he has also taken the game to a fuller dimension with allusions to Greek mythology, Shakespeare or some homespun folklore.

After all, baseball is life. Only we know that. It is Williams Blake’s grain of sand through which we see the universe. Every game is a fresh human drama enacted, a chess game unfolding on grass. In spite of all the sabermetrics there remains an unquantifiable X-factor still inexplicable. Innings correspond to decades. Some games even go into the tenth. My chosen way to die would be sliding into home plate having hit an inside-the-park home-run with an ovation from 47,811 fans and an ump calling me safely home.

Vin Scully tells the story how, in 1936, he passed by a Chinese laundry in the Bronx which posted a World Series score in the window of the Yankees beating the Giants 18-4. From that moment he became a fan of the underdog Giants. He was nine years-old.

I was 8 ½ in 1941 when the Dodgers lost a World Series game to the Yankees after the last man up in the 9th inning struck out but reached 1st base when the Dodger catcher couldn’t find the ball. You had to be there and I was through the announcer, Red Barber who became Vin Scully’s mentor.

Baseball is a long lesson in failure, in learning how to lose. ( Disappointment prepares us for political elections). The greatest who ever played the game failed 65-70 percent of the time. The season is long; the stats are longer. Patience gets tested. Cub fans have waited since 1908 for their team to win a World Series. They were so good that year the cry was to break up the team before it became an invincible dynasty. So much for predictions.


Fandom may be arrested development, the sort I couldn’t give up at gunpoint. I bleed it. It’s irrational, indefensible, juvenile and without consequences in the order of things. Particularly in these bleak times on the brink of a return to the Dark Ages if Trump is the will of people I require this portal to another world. At the crack of the bat I’m 8 ½ again. And it’s closer than Canada.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

30th Anniversary


Thirty years ago today we made legal our previous 2 ½ years living together. It was a small garden party with about two dozen friends of which almost half are now deceased. It happens that way to octo and nonagenarians.

Anniversaries are to be celebrated and we do but as I think back, the day before September 20, 1986 was no different than the day after. Peggy and I were married soulfully since we met in late 1980 when I won the human lottery. We meshed. Every day is the observance of the day before.

There is a certain rhythm mutually composed. A choreography in the way we move particularly in these late innings with her walker and cane, the running of her bath and dozens of other small steps, a ritual dance in our dailiness.

At the core of course is a love that doesn’t need to speak its name. It is our own creation. A sort of poem, a sort of sculpture. It finds new stanzas and shapes by itself.

We each honor the secret self in the other, that sacred inner terrain which may never be fully known. The opportunity to explore and slowly share that dimension is what feeds the intimacy.

This last third of our lives has gone by in a wink. Yet it is also dense with shared moments each of which can halt time when we dwell there. The eleven trips to Europe, four to Canada and excursions to about half the States are all noted in detail in Peggy’s journals. It’s always the unexpected happenings that seem to get etched in our album of memories.

Yet with all this travel we now find these days of simple mooring to be most enriching. Reading aloud to each other every evening, watching movies and our creativity more than fills the vessel. The quiet years are still bee-loud in that internal meadow saying the unsayable.



Friday, September 16, 2016

Cautionary Tale

Imagine an arrogant, megalomaniacal New York builder of unknown personal wealth whose name is not Donald Trump.

My friend just sent me a 1,235 page book which is hard to pick up and even harder to put down. It is a signed copy of Robert Caro’s masterpiece biography on Robert Moses, The Power Broker.

In fact the projects built under the auspices of Moses dwarf anything our Donald’s fevered brain could even concoct. Reigning for over forty years he managed the construction of bridges, tunnels, parks, playgrounds, housing projects, parkways, expressways, power plants, stadiums and World’s Fairs which totaled approximately 27 billion dollars in 1960s money. Without his vision the United Nations building might well be in Philadelphia. It was also Moses who made Jones Beach possible. He presided over projects from NYC and Long Island up to the St. Lawrence River. Arguably he was the architect that made the suburbs possible.

It came at a price not only in dollars but the cost of human displacement. Half a million people lost their dwellings and neighborhoods were destroyed in the name of urban renewal. One might say he had an edifice complex…but I would never say that.

Though Moses never held an elected office he had, at one time, twelve different positions in NYC from Parks Commissioner to Planning Commissioner, Construction Coordinator to Zoning Commissioner a chair on the Board of Estimate. Any infrastructure project from 1924 to 1963 passed through his hands… and his grip.

Moses was perhaps the closest any American every came to creating his own monarchy with a fiefdom of enormous power, privilege and purse accountable to no one. He collected all toll money on the city’s bridges and floated his own bonds. Ninety percent of the N.Y. State debt currently goes to paying off those bonds.

What was it that built the Master Builder? He came from a wealthy family steeped in noblesse oblige. German Jews of considerable means had an inbred sense of superiority toward Eastern Jewish immigrants. He was his mother’s child fierce in a pragmatic approach toward the less fortunate with more than a touch of condescension. As an Ivy Leaguer he demonstrated a brilliance, vision and persistence far off the chart. His idealism slowly whittled away until power itself seemed to be primary.

Ultimately Robert Moses hit the wall when he tried in vain to erect an expressway in downtown Manhattan that would have been the end of Greenwich Village and SoHo. With all the right-of-ways for traffic (just as here in Los Angeles) at the expense of public transportation there is still major gridlock. It wasn’t until 1968 that the toll money was re-directed toward funding rapid transit. He also lost his way trying to block  the free Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park.


Notably, the parkway leading to Jones Beach was built so busses were unable to pass under the overpass. This kept out the lower classes who relied on public transportation. Additionally when the huge Stuyvesant Town was constructed for returning G.I.s Moses put restrictive covenants in place to exclude Blacks.


He was an unapologetic elitist who defended the British colonial system. In his Oxford thesis he wrote that the subjects were not yet ready for self-rule…nor would they be any time soon. His authoritarian ideas of governing belonged in the 19th century. Trump also declares quick fixes to complex problems without offering any details as if his followers need only to leave it to him. Power resides in his pre-eminence at deal-making bestowed upon him by virtue of birth and breeding.  

The phenomena of abusive power is one we need to heed and the Robert Moses story is a lesson in that narrative.  Even before Joseph McCarthy, Moses engaged in smear tactics and witch hunts to discredit his enemies. In this new age of Trump and the Big Lie the study of Robert Moses can be seen as a cautionary tale.



Sunday, September 11, 2016

Gilbert to the Rescue and Bring Sullivan Too


These are indeed the times that try men’s souls. Thank you, Tom Paine. I couldn’t have said it better. Trump has so poisoned the well I have taken cover listening to Gilbert & Sullivan operettas to clear my head. 

It hasn’t worked. He shadows me wherever I turn. Here’s a pretty mess / In two months or less / Trump may be the one who’s heading / Let the bitter tears I’m shedding / Witness my distress / Here’s a pretty mess. And to think  his candidacy started out as a source of innocent merriment.

If the lord-high executioner is elected Mikado it will be a self-inflicted punishment that exceeds the crime. Collective electile dysfunction results in unaroused voters with a limp turnout and lethal inattention. 
However unconsummated, the marriage cannot be annulled. Even if he were to come in second I expect we’d hear, not a concession speech, but his, It was rigged speech. He will sue the states he lost, call the voters stupid losers and summon the militia to take back the government from the cheaters and liars. He may even ask Putin to send his troops to assist.

When he was a lad did he even serve one term as office boy / in anyone’s firm, / clean the windows and sweep the floor / or polish up the handle on the big front door? Did he polish up that handle so assiduously / that now he is running for the presidency?

I need G & S to set this past year in perspective as a comic opera. Not comic, you say. Neither was British imperialism or their treatment of suffragettes or their supercilious court system. Win or lose, I’m afraid America has been Trumped. He has uncaged that latent beast.

In Iolanthe we are told, Every boy and every girl / Born into this world alive / Is either a little Liberal / Or else a little Conservative. He is neither. His foul tongued grandiosity has legitimatized a new breed of mindless mendacity we’ve not seen before. I smell witch hunts. 


It’s as if a short song in Rudigore was written for him. If you wish in the world to advance / Your merits you’re bound to enhance / You must stir it and stump it / And blow your own trumpet / Or trust me you’ll never advance.

He’s got a little list… as that someday it may happen that a victim must be found / he’s got a little list /…… of society offenders who might well be underground / he’s got them on his list and they’ve none of us be missed.

We have a sizable chunk of voters who can’t seem to make up their minds. One wonders if they have minds to make up. In the short operetta, Trial By Jury, Edwin, the love-sick boy, put it this way. You cannot eat breakfast all day / Nor is the act of a sinner / When breakfast is taken away / To turn his attention to dinner / But this I am willing to say / If it will appease her sorrow / I’ll marry this lady today / And I’ll marry the other tomorrow.

Let us hope the misinformation which the misinformed feast on will either wake them up from their slumber or cause them to stay home. That’s our How–de-do !

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Faux Authenticity

It happened about 50 years ago before our very eyes. The hero got grubby. His Levis were frayed. His name was no longer Gable or Grant. He suddenly had a past either buried or one that could fill a police blotter. His marriage was doomed. He was on some twelve-step program and stuck at number six.

All this in the name of authenticity. Clean-cut wasn’t to be believed. Or happily married. Or what we used to call well-dressed. The scruffy chin and vomit scene became mandatory short-hand for what is allegedly real. Throw in a few tattoos and a skin rash to make the grit into True Grit.

If Doris Day were a star today her name would be Kappelhoff and Kirk Douglas would stay as Issur Daniclovitch Demsky. Reality is all the rage. We have little patience for artifice. Except, of course, that Reality shows on TV are as fake as commercials. There is a longing among us for the actual, scorn for pretension, even for received truths. One must dress down, talk down, think down.

There is an irony in all this as the middle-class goes slumming in denims with holes and have their hair done to look like they just got out of bed. The well-educated have to drop their g’s as in comin' and goin'. Even Obama does this to show he’s just one of the guys. The dumbing down of America has prepared us for this year’s presidential campaign.

Enter the demagogue who knows just what to do. The Art of the Pander is to fake authenticity. He hears them. He mimics the talk and throws them red meat to chew on. He scares the bejesus out of them and then pulls out the snake oil, the panaceas and promises, the wall. His audience doesn’t care that he makes no sense, only that he is one of them in his blurts and his barbs. Believe me, he says.

Because his opponent is not to be believed. She waffles, hedges and hides. She doesn’t connect. She can’t fake authenticity the way he can. She is what she is, a political animal. He’s just an animal. If she is seen as Lady Macbeth, he is the dangerous fool, part Falstaff, part Richard III on stage… strutting and fretting.

When the curtain goes down on this theater will the audience have demonstrated to the world their gullibility and ignorance the same way they buy cereal because of the hokum on the box? Or will we cast our lot with the woman of substance, in spite of her prevarications, who hears the disenfranchised, listens to Science, addresses underpaid workers and student debt and can move the agenda toward a more authentic society?



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mattering


I must have been no more than five years old because my legs didn’t reach the floor when I sat back in a large seat of the darkened Austin movie theater on a Saturday afternoon. There was, of course, the March of Dimes collection box passed around in between the double feature, cartoons, a serial and possibly a Pete Smith Special Short. In those days people entered at any time.

Now the place was pitch black. A large man groped his way along my aisle, his eyes still wide with the sun. He inched slowly feeling for shoes anxious to find a seat with no legs in front of it. Stopping in front of mine he started to settle down on top of me.

What could I do to announce myself in this world, to avoid eradication? My defense to being crushed and erased was to make a joyful noise, to shake my Good & Plenty. A sound that I was good and there was plenty of me or at least enough to live another day.

It was like Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo yelling to the cars as he crossed a street in Manhattan, I’m walking here, I’m walking. It was my declaration of existence, I’m sitting here, I exist, I matter.

I‘ve returned to this scene many times in my head but there is a missing person in the tableau. I have never before included my brother who, four years older, was my keeper. Many fleeting snap-shots still cling to my bone in those early years but I seem to have photo-shopped Arthur out from all of them.

In my solipsism of childhood he didn’t matter… but, of course, he did. Too late to make amends; he died 56 years ago yet that needs now to be at least stated. Arthur had a short and troubled life. I don’t think he ever knew he mattered. His death came on a mountain road with a high alcohol content in his bloodstream.

One day as teenagers we were left a couple of dollars to have dinner in a restaurant. Either my mother was in the hospital with a detached retina and my father was working or he was laid up with double pneumonia and she was working. I recall how uneasy my brother was as we sat at the local deli waiting to be served. He wasn’t sure anyone would see us and if they did would the waiter even take our order?

There were times along the way when mattering takes the form of vanishing. One class in Pharmacy College was taught by a professor Aldstadt who tyrannized us with his Gestapo-like tactics. The subject was pharmaceutical chemistry. We had to memorize structural formulas of new products coming on the market. Typically he would say, You, with the pimples on your face hiding behind Goldstein, get up to the blackboard and show us how stupid you are.  

My strategy was to disappear by wearing a beige shirt to class that I hoped would blend in with the seat. It worked but a far better way of mattering happened when a returning G.I. cornered the diminutive teacher, grabbed him by the collar and reminded him why we fought the war.

When Peggy was in a rehab for over sixty days in 2013 I hung around and got to chat with a few others in recovery. Everyone I spoke to had stories to tell. There were movie directors and security guards, teachers and checkers in markets. They struggled to be known beyond being that patient in the room at the end of the hall. They all mattered.