Lenny’s Yahrzeit 2010

War Dead Reaches 1,000 in Afghanistan

The yahrzeit for my Father, Lenny, is 25 Sivan, which in this year corresponds to the sundown before, through the evening of, Monday, June 7, 2010. I find the Jewish calendar comforting in this regard since, were we to observe the Roman calendar date, the actual date on which he died, June 16, 1963, Father’s Day, I would always be saying Kaddish and lighting a candle for him on a made-up day designed to have you remember your father. A little too contrived for me, since my relationship with him didn’t last so long and most of it was too painful to be worthy of celebrations endemic to Father’s Day.

When he died, I was a year short of my sixteenth birthday, a milestone of significance only because it allowed me to obtain a learner’s permit. His sickness carried on for most of my memorable childhood. We started taking him to the hospital and to the doctor’s offices when I was six or seven. I can remember the operations to remove little cysts from his arms, neck, and head. I remember the coughing, the wheezing, the fatigue. He couldn’t throw a ball anymore, walk, carry things, or bend over. At ten, we found out he had some kind of blood disorder and something growing in his lungs. He fought on for all those years, missing work, getting treatments. I helped put salve on the wounds left by the primitive radiation treatments of the time. No surprise when he died; subject to the remissions, he had a dead-going-through-the-motions-look for years. No one thought I knew. Continue reading “Lenny’s Yahrzeit 2010”


Not Just Unlucky

Seven Days, a local free rag that covers politics, culture, food, and life in primarily northern VT, highlighted a disturbing problem extant in Burlington. There are street people who actually hang out on the street, people who have not been netted in the City’s social services. Shocking both sides say about the positions of the other. Both teams, for the sake of argument are made up of good, hearty, well-meaning people. One thinks that individuals have a right to the public streets no matter what they look like or how they earn a living; the other thinks that only people who have somewhere to go, preferably a job or a shop or a restaurant can use the throroughfares. To support the use of the police power to rid the paths of unattractive humanoids, the gendarmes rely on the public order and safety argument, sophistry which has stripped the right to assemble, press and almost the right to free speech of their intended protective shields. Frankly, I think it is because some don’t like to see the disadvantaged up close.

Continue reading “Jesse”

Fewer Behind Bars

Overcrowded Jails

NYT reported yesterday that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the number of inmates in county and city jails was more than 767,600 at the end of June 2009—a drop of nearly 18,000 inmates or 2.3 percent from a year earlier.” Credited for the decrease was a drop in the crime rate.

As much as I would like to laud the statistic having been and remaining a critic of the overuse of incarceration to maintain order, punish the mentally ill, maintain the racial superiority of the ruling classes, control public and private morals; and provide employment to otherwise unimaginative or poorly motivated individuals, a drop due to a realization that the State/Government confines too many people at great cost and for insufficient reasons, destroying lives, families, and communities would have been more heartening.

Lone Sailor Sees Again

Clear Enough

The smoke went north when the winds shifted. Fires continue to burn in Quebec. Clouds brought rain, helping the plants and settling the smog. Winds and cool air chased the clouds. Voila. Blue skies for a change. Not that the weather ever stops me from going outside. I like the gray days, the windy days, the cold days, too. It is just a matter of how many layers and which one sits closest to my body or farthest away. It is the windy days, when it is cold, that keep me huddled up inside.

Just a t-shirt today and shorts. No wind. No humidity. Warm sun. Clean air. And no people.

So Sharon and I rode along the Lake on the bike path, after the bike commuters cleared out. Few visitors here early on a Friday morning and locals have to work. Relatively empty but for a peloton of kids learning bike etiquette. Not sure they know their right from their left or that when they ride their bikes, they have to follow the rules like everyone else, giving up their usual exception for being short and young.

What kid wouldn’t want to be on their bike on a day like today, a day when we are all kids, enjoying the freedom a bike brings and the thrill of having the wind in your face as you generate the energy needed to travel?Just lovely.

To avoid the kids, Sharon wanted to exit the path and ride down North Street, fearing they wouldn’t know to move when I said “on your right.” But they all had control over their equipment and moved the correct direction, giving us an aisle to ride through. In the lead, I didn’t hit any of them and none ran into me.

As I passed, I said a customary, “thank you.” The well mannered Burlingtonian kids replied, “your welcome.” Very wholesome.

He Was Robbed


Every morning I check out the baseball news. You never know what has happened until you look at the scores. They play the games, because anything can happen between the lines. Ask Don Larsen.

I am a fan, for sure. People get on me for rooting for the Yankees. I tell them, too bad, especially if they are Sox fans. Then I tell them that I am a baseball fan first, a student of the game, a member of SABR, who follows the game twelve months a year. Frankly, I don’t care who wins or who loses, though I prefer seeing the Yanks win and the Sox lose. I have players I measure, announcers I listen to, and stats I pay attention to. I trust the game, because I trust the people. They don’t have to get it right for me; they just have to be honest.

So, yesterday was a very tough day for me. Ump blew a call that cost a pitcher immortality. Ken Griffey, Jr. retired. As for the former, there will be other perfect games. As for the latter, he was my favorite player, higher on the list than Derek Jeter, albeit, just slightly. Not sure if the game will produce another like him.

Only twenty perfect games in the recorded history of the game. Two this past May. One in a World Series. Damn. Not as rare as an unassisted triple play, of which there are only fifteen, but one of such infrequency and overall significance that it gets everyone’s attention immediately. 27 up and 27 down. You don’t need to understand the game to understand the significance like you do with some of the other more esoteric records like last at-bat homers or six hits in a game, records you can make even if your team loses. Big Blue at first base, Jim Joyce, arguably one of the games best, missed a call that deprived the pitcher of a place in Cooperstown. No question the guy was out. He called him safe. Just enormous. And may I add, far more rare that the feat itself.

Now the talk will be for more instant replay. Not for me. As long as the ump wasn’t paid for the call or acting out of some unknown animus, let the bad calls stay. They are part of the game. It is played by people and referreed by people. Let the game stay fragile. People make mistakes. It is part of the beauty of the game.

Rookie CardAs for Jr.. He deserved to be the home run king. By playing hard, he cost himself a longer and more illustrious career. He had all the tools, including a smile that always made him look like a kid who was happy playing the game. The only thing he couldn’t do was stay healthy. I often wondered why he kept running into walls or shifting into overdrive to get to balls. But I shouldn’t have. That is how he played the game. And, no one ever suggested that he took anything he should not have taken to accomplish what he did. Happy to have had him as long as I did and sad that he stayed on too long like Willie and The Mick.

Images of Ben Stein

Ben Stein, architect and artist died in January 2010. I didn’t know him. OZ, my Shul, will feature some of his drawings and water colors in a show this summer. The art will be offered for sale, prices to be determined by the buyer. Today, I took some pictures of his work for the press release. They are on my photosite, www.duckshots.smugmug.com in the Art section. The proceeds will go to some youth activity, probably the religious school.

I may get to do more, like the brochure or poster, but who knows with that place. Someone probably has it covered. They live deeply in the past with their media, among other things. David brown and the other photographers must have turned the assignment down. They have a web based newsletter and a hard copy, but neither has images or graphics of note. There will be something like a cost factor which no one will have actually costed out except for the actual cost or a boundary between committees or the hired help or the ones who volunteer for discounts or some other category I haven’t become privvy to that will reassign the tasks. But who knows.

Everything is so mysterious at that place, a condition not unlike the entire religion. Hard to tell what the deal is there. It could be a modern congregation with a social conscience or just a vestige of the past, another fading Jewish institution burying the old, marrying the daughters, and bar/bat mitzvahing the young. Lashon hora is all too omnipresent. And before you hear the answer to a question or understand a facial expression or seating arrangement, its a long story.

I do have a place to pray and am part of the community, but I pay for it.

Fifth Amendment Blues

The Fifth took another hit today from the Supremes-5 to 4 was the predictable score with the usual jurists casting their usual barb filled votes. Far be it from me to quibble.

They be the ones who are right because they be the ones who be right, not that they are right or have an interest in being right. It is because they are who they are that they are right. Don’t mess with them. They have too much to do, even if they take fewer cases. Stare decisis be damned. Change the law and let them change it back. Cannot wait for them to act. They don’t want the cases. This bullshit about judges interpreting the law and not making it has taken over the process. Everytime a judge interprets the law, they make the law. Laws are made to be interpreted, expanded, explained. It just depends on who is doin the splaining, spanding, and terpreting.

So, in the most recent past Term, the warnings have been loosened and the time covered by the invocation of the right to remain silent have been reduced. You don’t actually have to give the proscribed warnings, so long as you get your thoughts across. And if you assert your right to counsel or the right to remain silent, so long as law enforcement waits two weeks (a timeframe smelling of middle class values), they can talk with you again. Now you have to say you want to remain silent to invoke the right. Sitting still and not answering questions isn’t enough. At least, the cops still have to say that there is a right to remain silent, but not in so many words.

We Need Starman

"You are a strange species. Unlike any other, you are at your best when things are worst."

“You are a strange species. Unlike any other, you are at your best when things are worst.” Not sure I agree with him. The tougher it gets, the more right wing conservative, stingy, and hateful people seem to become. The government becomes less creative. The people become more fearful and protective. If a good alien like Starman would land in Wisconsin tomorrow, the reception no different than what happens here. The Government would try to capture him. Not realizing he had transformed himself, but still possessed other worldly powers, they’d nuke him just to be sure he could not spread his seeds or undefined evil intentions.  When he didn’t die, although much of cheese land would have been destroyed, that being the price of eliminating someone you don’t understand, Barry could meet with him, seeking an answer to the leak in the Gulf. Rahm could send Bill to arrange the meet and suggest there could be a job in it if he stayed, especially if he became a Democrat. We certainly are a strange bunch, Starman!

Revisiting Jeff Bridges movies to understand and appreciate his longevity and better understand my affection for him. Praise be to Netflix. I began with Last Picture Show and In Search of America, but not here. This movie made in 1984, stands the test of time without much stress. Appropriate year for such a flick, too. How many sci-fi romantic road movies are there? Just him and Karen Allen. Not much dialogue; lots of ballet. Jeff  is as innocent here as Lebowski, an outsider with more questions about how we creatures of the earth survive, wanting to learn how to do so. He figures out quite quickly that we operate on a simple plane, oblivious to our responsibilities our surroundings, and especially oblivious to the rest of the universe. He just want to survive and get out of here.

So innocent and awkward, he has no idea who he is as a member of the family of earth. Limited by the words he learns from a disc sent up with the Voyager in 1977 and the lessons he gets from the Karen Allen,  a woman of less than worldly experience whom he teams up when he lands in Wisconsin, of all places, after being shot down by whatever predecessor to Homeland Security was protecting US at the time. Lucky. Well, the beginning is good. Then it dissolves into an amalgam of others of the same ilk: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Close Encounters, and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Bridges, however, creates a unique character who is both all of the other leads and his own whimsical adaptation of a Brother From Another Planet.

A homophobic bathroom encounter seems well ahead of its time. Nothing bad, either, about driving from Wisconsin to Arizona with the Government on your tail. You know they will make it, right.

Not unlike Tarzan, he learns to eat, drive, shoot a gun and have sex, never exactly fitting in, though doing enough to get along and not get beat up or killed. Not sure why, except to satisfy audience demands, he saved a deer shot by a hunter using his magic powers or how he learns how to drive a car, but he does. He also should have given Allen all of his superior talents and knowledge rather than leaving it in the form of a magic ball for the kid he made with her when they fucked without contraception. Social responsibility hadn’t hit the galaxy yet. Now she has to raise the kid without means, ken, or understanding. And what does she say when asked who the father was?

As trite and repetitive as the oft told story is, Bridges plays it with softness and wonder. Kidlike, he just wants to learn as much as he can, knowing that he only has a three days to reconnect with his rescue ship or he will die. He takes her hostage, so she thinks. Then they fall in love, something kidnap victims have a tendency to do, that is just the American way. Stockholm Syndrome.

When Allen leads him across the plains in search of the rescue ship, he looks dumber than the rocks he slips and slides over. He trusts her to lead him to safety. Hell, she did it for Indy, right? He has to leave and he cannot take her-she would die on his planet. He has learned love, a particularly earthly emotion. At the end, he just wants to learn how to say “good-bye.” The ship arrives. He leaves. No sequel.

Lake Smoke

Never Saw Smoke Before

Awoke this morning without the Lake. Later learned that forest fires in Quebec burn out of control, sending smoke southward to VT. My eyes burned during a brisk walk on the bike path. Most of the boats harbored in Burlington stayed home. The Lone Sailor and his gull friend stood watch. One looked for his ride, the other for his breakfast. The breakwater barely showed through, but the islands, NY coastline, and Appalachians were covered.

How big must the fires be to send their debris all the way down here? Lots of people being uprooted, no doubt, and forests destroyed. I cannot picture where the smoke comes from or how far away it is.

Very eerie, let me tell you. Its not like heavy fog, which has metallic texture, wet feeling, and watery smell. The fog comes and goes, aided by nature. The sun comes up. It burns off. The temperature changes, it rains. In the winter, it leaves wet snow. Fog never hurt nobody, unless you try to drive through it and hit something you didn’t see. Not so with this polluting smoke which burns the eyes and lungs. No one  benefits from the smoke. It just obfuscates.

Here, people tell you how long they have lived in the Green Mountain state to add credibility to their views. Sometimes they add the number of bodies in the ground their families have buried to embellish the story. For example, we had an early May snowfall that faked out all the plants and insects who thought the season to come out had arrived. One old guy told a local news station he had lived here for 80 years and never seen such a late snow storm or heard of one. I guess there hasn’t been one, then.

During my walk, a jogger with a headband who looked like a pirate in search of his ship, shared his observations of 40 years in VT and his more recent experiences snowbirding in the Everglades, “seen lots of burning brush fires, but none that could leave a blanket of smoke like this.” No records exist for cosmic occurrences involving smoke from a forest fire traveling down Lake Champlain, but I would have to say that in the few years I have been in VT, I have not seen anything like it.

Dennis Hopper Is Dead

Not sure what movie to watch in his honor. Has to be Easy Rider? Saw it in Philly over summer recess, after graduating college and before leaving for law school. Not easy remembering who or what happened during that period except that the world seemed to change and he helped liberate me. He seemed so grown up and free of restraints. He also seemed so crazy, so against everything, so high all the time, and so nuts. I should have paid more attention to his act. Maybe I would have been better off had I been a Rebel Without a Cause.

Five wives. Art collector. Art maker. Actor. Director. Writer. Almost as interesting as Ben Franklin. He should be buried in Blue Velvet.