Friday, June 29, 2018

Loving Trump

Now that I have your attention…………….

I seem to remember how the poet Allen Ginsberg suggested we learn to love Ronald Reagan or, at least, find the Reagan inside ourselves and embrace him. Ginsberg led a poetry group at Naropa Institute in the mid-eighties in which everyone was asked to finish the poem with an opening line, I’m going to vote for Ronald Reagan because……………. My underwear is on backwards, said one student. Because my pen is running out of ink, said another …or because a squirrel came into my room yesterday.

Sorry, Allen none of these work for me.

I imagine Ginsberg, ever the Buddhist, would preach the same message today. However reaching for our interior Trump might require many hours of chanting to the wall in a loin cloth while inhaling massive doses of some intoxicating incense. We would also need a Bodhi tree and a new set of gongs. It strikes me as the ultimate alchemical transmogrification perhaps even too much for the Dalai Lama.

I wonder if Ginsberg thought Hitler was also lovable. True, Adolph did a great impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. A psychotherapist might praise him for not repressing his aggressive impulses. Go ahead, Adolph, get it all out. He appreciated Wagnerian operas and was said to be a fair painter. Perhaps all he needed was an affirmation here and there.

Coming back to Trump, first I must buy a red tie and get a total make-over on my scalp topped with a red cap. Now, under deep drug-induced narcosis I can seek out this shadow side of myself.

Here I am in kindergarten knocking over some kid’s blocks. I wouldn’t put it past me. Maybe I thought he stole my milk money.

Now I’m reusing an un-cancelled stamp and parlaying that three cents into a shopping mall and hotel where I act as a slumlord evicting poor families. Of course the property I buy is on the Atlantic City Boardwalk …but that was all in a Monopoly board game where I found my true habitat between Baltic and Mediterranean. Yes, I love you for that, Donald, revealing the primordial greed and avarice to myself.

Here’s another instance of my inner-Trump. I, too, colluded with Russians. Well, not really Russians. But Soviet apologists who turned a blind eye to Stalin’s megalomania during the early years of the Cold War. So vehement was I against U.S. support of assorted tyrants, military dictatorships and colonial repression. I join with you, Donald, as a selective isolationist. I even made the headline of the Daily Worker which no doubt got me a place in J. Edgar Hoover’s filing cabinet. Now look at me bragging about it. 

And yes, I probably insulted some ball players during the game. Call it trash talk. Call it the heat of competition. But it was all from the couch yelling at the T.V. set. Thank you, Donald, for legitimatizing my infantilism.

Is that enough? I feel myself coming back from the slime of my reptilian brain. Now I must take a very hot shower. Is it really fair to presume that we all have particles of Trump DNA infecting our soul? And if so must we descend to our own underworld and learn to love it? No, but perhaps it is useful to own it as a cautionary note … and then mature, grow up, gain some measure of enlightenment and compassion.

It’s too easy to demonize Trump as if he’s a visitor from outer space. The truth is he displays an aggregate of ignorance, arrogance, mendacity and malice, rarely seen in one individual, particularly in a public official. But all human deficiencies we’ve either disowned or outgrown.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Now Hear This

Peggy got hers from her late ex-husband, Sam, and now that’s being replaced by the generosity of M... who got his from a friend who died three years ago. This is no small gift. We’re talking about $7,000 hearing aids. For a mere $250 our audiologist has reset the instrument and provides new ear molds.

And why not? The damn thing is probably the most over-priced gadget in the history of over-priced gadgets. Yes, I’m sure world-class technology has gone into miniaturizing and fine-tuning them according to an individual’s frequency and decibel loss but once that mountain had been climbed there is little to justify such an enormous mark-up….even given the follow-up visits for adjustments.  

I suppose a hearing-aid dealer would argue that thousands of dollars of expertise goes into each instrument in addition to years of education in the creation of these state-of-the-art hearing aids. And considering the life-altering change it is a reasonable value. Furthermore that one cannot simply add the cost of material to determine the true worth. By the same reasoning a Reuben sandwich probably contains about 11 cents worth of ingredients and sells for approximately $15.

That argument falls upon my deaf ears. I still believe they are taking advantage of us old folks who in our eight or nine decades let in too much punk rock or Pavarotti. Pharmacists, having endured five or six years of higher education and licensing exams, dispense life-saving medications plus consultations for a fee set by insurance companies of five or ten dollars. When I arrived in California in the mid 1950s you could buy a house for today's price of a hearing aid. 

I wonder if Martha Washington passed along George’s old teeth or did the termites make a meal of them first. We’ll never know. But it’s a good idea to cozy up to Uncle Abner in his twilight years. It wouldn’t hurt to laugh at those jokes he’s told for the past forty years…even if you no longer can hear them as you wait for him to check out and stake your claim to his old trumpets.

It might be time to summon the lawyers to re-write the will. To my good-for-nothing son, Clive, I leave the heavily mortgaged manor house. To Marigold I bequeath my Lamborghini which no longer runs. And to Neville I hereby pass along my hearing aids.

On the other hand, with all the lies emanating from high places, maybe an irremediable hearing loss is the preferred state. I understand the new Blue Tooth bilateral devices come with an on and off switch to save us from the moral violence in the air.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What Thank You Brings

No Worries, she said when I requested a booth. And NoWorries again with bread for the table. I never suggested she had anything to worry about or even a cause for concern. A final, NoWorries, when I asked for a napkin and then the check. I’m glad we got through our meal without distressing her any further. By now I was longing for, No Problem. Apparently her serving our lunch resulted in neither worries nor problems…nor early onset Alzheimer’s nor zits nor her rent check to bounce.

How did this happen, all this negativity? When did, You’re Welcome, vanish? say nothing of You’re Very Welcome. Is, No Worries the end point of, Don’t Mention it or Not At All? I want to petition for the return of, My Pleasure or Happy to Oblige. With it might come the restoration of civil discourse and the end of road rage, police brutality and maniacal Tweets.

I fear we’re trending in the wrong direction. At least, No Problem was singular. Now we must be slipping into the abyss of multiple perturbations with plural worries. A problem is like a busted shoe lace or a piece of spinach left on your tooth. But worries seem to me one step before dread. That No doesn't help; why bring it up in the first place.

When I hear No Worries I imagine the server is saying, You’ve been a pain in the ass but this is my job and I can put up with anything till my shift is over since I have a high threshold of endurance. Or is she implying that I shouldn’t fret about having inconvenienced her?

But what if I want to worry? It's like my right not to Have a nice day. Even with my napkin and bread the planet is being choked with foul air, homeless people are begging for shelter, asylum-seekers and refugees in flight for their lives. No worries indeed!

I wonder if Trump said, No Worries, to Kim Jong Un when he promised the cessation of War Games. Also curious what the Korean expression is for, No Worries when Un promised to denuclearize, Hey, Don’t worry about it, Buddy Boy.

We live in a time of obliquity. Not only deviating from moral rectitude but indirectness. Can I get you a drink? I’m good. I didn’t ask whether you’ve behaved yourself today or whether you are an ethical person or a good for nothing. I merely asked whether you would care for a drink.

Maybe all this is a form of poetry. It was Emily Dickinson who said to tell it slant. No Problem, No Worries, I’ll get over it. I’ll take English as a second language. No really, I’m good.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Pulse of America

Thump, thump, Trump, harrumph. Ah, that elusive pulse. When you think you’ve got it, you don’t.

Only a science fiction writer would have imagined a coalition of Charley Lunchbucket and Wall St. Suits along with Bible-thumpers and assorted female-haters. Maybe it’s the same marriage of that singing-waiter, Irving Berlin, who ended up living in a fifty room mansion with no less than 134 servants, writing songs of the common man (God Bless America) often sung during the 7th inning stretch of ball games.

The rather mawkish petition to the Almighty was first composed in 1918 and revived twenty years later. It was the form of patriotism designed to remind us of our values yet keep us out of the war. We were, after all, exceptional and separated from those rascals by an ocean white with foam. God would protect us in the night with a light from above.

Ronald Reagan also seemed to have his finger on the pulse of America. As the voice denigrating the role of government he conveniently forgot how his father worked for the W.P.A. during the Depression along with his brother and himself.

I have voted dozens of times against candidates who gave me that same finger in their victory speech. Sometimes it seems the country has gone moribund with no pulse at all. Today we have two bodies each with its own throbbing surge. One lives on Planet Fox, fabulists for the mobocracy. The pulse I feel and hear and taste is an inclusive, vibrant brotherhood/sisterhood of aroused citizens deeply offended by the miscreant in office. 

God does not bless America, alone. Not now. Not with the desecration of Emma Lazarus’ words at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

She had her finger on the pulse when she wrote her sonnet in 1883 and even twenty years later when the New Colossus was inscribed on the Statue, seven years after her death. She wrote about a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning and her name is Mother of Exiles. America was a sanctuary nation. When did we lose our way?

Ironically, hundreds of birds lost their way when the Statue served as a lighthouse in its early days. The single light confused them and as many as 1,400 dead birds lay besides the inspired words on a single morning in 1903. At first the carcasses were sold to New York milliners but that practice soon ended. A metaphor for the false beacon of hope yet to come.

Emma Lazarus sonnet is now again being mocked. That lamp beside the golden door is no longer lifted to the tired, poor, wretched refuse and tempest-tossed yearning to breathe free. Instead our disgraced President and his religiously hypocritical Attorney General have slammed the door and young children are being torn apart from parent’s arms in an unconscionable policy of calloused indifference to humanity.

Irving Berlin might have taken back his patriotic anthem. He actually did use Lazarus’ words in his 1949 musical, Miss Liberty. Instead he might defer to her entire poem which was, in fact, put to music by David Ludwig in 2002 and performed at President Obama’s inaugural in 2013.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Further Father

How the mind meanders!

I was thinking how a large minority of our country appears to be concussed. As if having received a severe blow to our brains defending the infantile tantrums and bloviations of Trump for almost two years.

Which led me to imagine all those Friday night fights I listened to on the radio imagining Rocky Graziano or Jake La Motta taking a beating. Why was I such an avid fan? Ask Rabbi Schulweis.

I had the privilege of meeting the late Rabbi on two occasions when he officiated the marriage and Bar Mitzvah of close friends. He led a large Conservative Jewish congregation and was also an inter-faith religious leader and a voice of reconciliation in Los Angeles and nationwide for decades. A peace-loving, contemplative, enlightened man whose hobby was an enduring interest in prize fighting. Seemingly incongruous with his nature.  

And this led me to my father. He was the embodiment of equanimity. A calm surrounded him tinged with caution. I remembered him in the pharmacy receiving a prescription, studying it as if it contained some arcane message. In those days it actually did with Latin the prevailing language. Q.S. ad…a sufficient quantity to make or Misce et Fiat…mix and make. Powders and elixirs were to be weighed and measured in minims, grains and scruples. My father deliberated as if weighing the world on the torsion scale.

His love held no contingencies. Though he worked very long hours…from 8A.M. to 11 P.M. when he owned his own store, he was, in my mind, a constant presence. His conscience was unshakeable as was his commitment to the causes he gave himself to. When visited by Hoover's men in suits during the McCarthy era and asked to give names he stood tall and blocked their entrance. His silence was his spine.

I think of my Dad as a kind of shaman, custodian of leaves & stems, rhizomes & roots. His secret was less in this herbal garden of dubious value in apothecary jars than in a single, simple virtue. He listened. Not only to the words of patients but he read their faces, their woes and small triumphs. My father was not a reader of books. He was late to literacy, possibly dyslexic. He healed by being altogether present and exuded the precondition for self-healing.

I have to watch myself before anointing him for sainthood. There were a couple of flaws that saved him, thankfully, from a seat next to the gods. Found among his papers was a legal admission of guilt signed by him, in 1931, admitting to violating the Prohibition law by dispensing twelve ounces of ethyl alcohol without a proper prescription. He paid the twenty-five dollar fine. Pharmacists were permitted to handle alcohol and dispense it accordingly only with a doctor’s signature. Hard times led to desperate acts.

Secondly, he liked to bet on the horses, not compulsively but now and then. The other side of his risk-averse identity. One day he took me along to the harness racing at Roosevelt Raceways. His bets were two bucks, not the rent money. I think we broke even or close enough that his internal scale remained balanced. There was a thrill of winning in life denied him which he hungered for.

I love him even more for these incongruities. He did risk. Like the good Rabbi he allowed his shadow side a day in the sun. Father, you went beyond yourself, you went further.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Some Words on the Fly

There he goes or is it one of those floaters
roaming the outskirts of my eye?
He’s like my personal fly, a meta-vision,
possibly a preview of my next incarnation.
I can let it loose like a fly on the wall
who has tales to tell if only he could
or that one where the customer calls the waiter over
to complain about the fly in his soup.
I’ll stay with the one on the wall even if
this fly is enjoying his backstroke in tomato bisque.
It’s a short span for either one dodging swatters.
Flies are not fleas but life flees in any case.
Amazing what you find out in the course of writing.
I just looked it up and fleas don’t fly they
don’t even have wings but they jump a lot,
sort of like words…little black squiggles and smudges.
Back to flies, Bill Clinton had trouble with his.
Even now in his political after-life he can’t quite zip it.
I know this from my observation point on the wall
listening to his bumbling blather.
What a way to live. There goes another one.
I might be better off as the fly in the ointment
raising necessary havoc
from where I’m perched here on the ledge
salivating over the fruit bowl
which can use a bit of blemish and disruption
as I’m famous for in Dutch still-life, portrayed
on a pear or petal as death itself, not very
flattering given our mission in the eco-system
to feed on aphids, clean up decay and pollinate.
Where has it gone, my floater? Could be impaled
on that jagged right-hand margin of a poem.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Under Cover

I’m not going to answer that call. It could be the Agency again. I told them I’m done being a double agent urban guerilla. I’ve infiltrated my last gang. I’m too all in to be outed. I can’t handle the prospect of having my cover blown. They’ll throw me off the bowling team. I’ll have to resign as president of the P.T.A. Everyone in Bible study group thinks I’m a mild-mannered pharmacist. I’ve seen friends disappear. In fact I vanished for eleven months in Tierra del Fuego at some penguin-ridden safe house. Those black and white birds aren’t cute after a few weeks. 

When my kids played in the Little League pennant race I was impersonating an arms dealer in a Cappadocian cave. When they graduated from high school I was turning an election in Indonesia. Besides, my memory is faulty. I can’t remember why I helped overthrow the Ukrainian regime or which side I fought for in Guatemala. At one time I could lie in seven languages but couldn’t tell the truth in any of them. It’s all over now, those glory days. I have so many skeletons in my closet there's no room for the vacuum cleaner. I don’t remember if I have three kids with my second wife in Slovenia or two kids with third wife in Slovakia. I just flushed my cyanide pill down the toilet.

They won’t even let me write my memoir. I’m sworn to secrecy. No one would believe me anyway unless I set it on another planet with three-headed cockroaches running around taking over the world kitchen by kitchen.

When the Commander-in Chief is chummy with the Russian Mafia the jigs up. Them has become Us. We’re doomed. What’s happening in Washington smells like an equatorial swamp where bodies are buried, or like the coup I engineered in Chile. This is where I came in. The Banana Republic used to be a clothing store. Our Parliament, I mean Congress, have all cowered and gone mute. The High Court is rubber–stamping his edicts. The beast has been un-caged. Oh, that fearful symmetry. He is hungry for walls and parades. Money is being dropped off at all-night laundromats. He is writing pardons with both hands. I know a dictator when I smell one. I staged all that with rigged votes back in the day. He’s making me nostalgic but no, not here. It can’t happen here…..can it?

I’ll need a new face with new papers. Or I could put on a few pounds and become a bouncer at a salad bar. Or maybe pose as a Sherpa tribesman at low altitudes or a Talmudic scholar and spend my remaining days in disputation going from the man who knew too much to the guy who can never know enough.