Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wedding Anniversary Redux

47 years ago and it seems like yesterday.   I’ve told our wedding story before in this space, but here’s an edited and expanded version:  I spent the night before our wedding in my apartment at 66 West 85th Street and Ann at hers at 33 West 63rd Street (although we were already living together on and off).  Her apartment would become our first home.

Our one-week trip to Puerto Rico a few months before we were married became, unknown to us at the time, our honeymoon in advance.  I was between my first job in publishing where we had met a few years before and returned from our holiday to start a new one in Westport, CT, which I would occupy for the rest of my working life.

That trip was memorable for several reasons besides being our first vacation together.  We got to see the new 747 when we landed.  Little did I know how often I would fly that plane across the Atlantic and Pacific in my future, frequently with Ann.  Our hotel was on the beach and Tony Conigliaro was staying there, the Red Sox outfielder who was hit by a pitch a couple of years before, but made a comeback and, in fact, that season which he was about to begin would be his best.  Also, I finally got to rent and drive a VW Bug, something I had coveted when I was younger but could not afford to buy and maintain in Brooklyn.  Driving through the rain forest was particularly memorable.  But what I most remember is the high anxiety I felt about starting a new job upon our return.  Consequently in the evenings I would read industry journals and technical books about running a business, something that did not make Ann particularly happy.   

Nonetheless, during that trip we decided that marriage sometime in the future would be preferable to just living together, so upon our return, Ann placed a call to The Ethical Culture Society which she regularly attended.  There was one Leader who she knew personally and admired, Jerome Nathanson, the man she wanted to marry us.  Naturally, we were thinking of sometime that summer but he had only one date open in the next seven or eight months – the following Sunday in exactly one week. We looked at one another and said let’s take it. 

Consequently, Ann began hasty wedding arrangements, including ones to fly her mother and Aunt in from California, picking out a dress for herself and mother to wear, hiring a caterer and picking out flowers.  We chose the list of attendees, mostly our immediate families and closest friends, including a few colleagues from work and of course, my young son Chris from my previous marriage.  Ann’s brother and sister-in-law graciously offered their home in Queens for an informal reception.  Everything had to be done on a shoestring and obviously with a sense of urgency.

The ceremony itself was what one would expect from a brilliant and humorous Humanist Minister.  A substantial part of the service captured our enthusiasm for the then victorious New York Knicks, with names such as Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier, and Willis Reed sprinkled throughout our wedding vows.  Later that night we returned to my 85th Street apartment.  I had to go to work the next morning, my driving to Westport, while Ann took a one day holiday to spend with her Mother and Aunt Lilly.  So our married life together began.

I posted a brief photographic essay of our years together marking our 42nd anniversary which can be seen here.

Fast forward to now.  Romantic love deepens into a friendship like no other.  So how did we celebrate? 

First Oysters and Clams on the half shell at Spoto’s and then later, off to the Sunday jazz jam at the Double Roads Tavern in Jupiter with our friends, John and Lois.

There we again saw the upcoming jazz prodigy, Ava Faith, only 13 years old. 

It will be interesting to watch how she matures but it is good to know that the Great American Songbook is being passed on to a younger generation.  Much credit in this geographic area goes to Legends Radio and its founder Dick Robinson and to the Jupiter Jazz Society and their founders, the incredibly talented keyboardist Rick Moore and his wife Cherie who helps to organize and publicize the traditional Sunday evening jam.
As we are on the topic of music, a special shout out to David Einhorn, a professional bass player who had been out of the country for years, and is now back and playing in the area and occasionally comes by our house to jam with me on the piano -- above which his sister Nina’s painting hangs.  

I hear him beating timing into my head, something less important when one plays solo as I have done all of my life.   His recordings with the late, great pianist Dick Morgan are a shining light to me.  Thank you, David.

And thanks Ann for putting up with me these oh so many years!

A card from our friends, Art and Sydelle, hand illustrated by Sydelle

Monday, April 24, 2017

Barbarians IN the Gate

It didn’t take long to deface The Office of the Presidency, celebrity triviality “trumping” expertise and dignity.  To the victor belong the spoils and it is no more in evidence than the recent White House fĂȘte personally hosted by Donald Trump, his guests being Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent and Kid Rock, whoever the latter two are.  Supposedly, Sarah invited Ted and Kid because Jesus was busy.  During their four hour run of the White House including a white china dinner they apparently discussed “health, fitness, food, rock ’n’ roll, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, secure borders, the history of the United States, guns, bullets, bows and arrows, North Korea, [ and ]Russia.”  It is reassuring to know our President is getting such good advice.

According to NPR, Mr. Nugent described the visit as follows: "Well well well looky looky here boogie chillin', I got your Shot Heard Round The World right here in big ol greazya— Washington DC where your 1 & only MotorCity Madman Whackmaster StrapAssasin1 dined with President Donald J Trump at the WhiteHouse to Make America Great Again! Got that?"

For a fuller account of the symbolic desecration of the White House with some official White House photographs go to Sarah Palin’s website.  This includes a photograph of the three mocking the portrait of former first lady Hillary Clinton.  According to the New York Times, an unnamed person “asked the three to extend their middle fingers beneath the portrait.  ‘I [Mr. Nugent] politely declined,’ he said. ‘Let the juxtaposition speak for itself.’” 

Meanwhile, apropos to this topic, a recent Palm Beach Post cover story revealed the contributions to Donald Trump‘s inaugural committee and not surprisingly, some of the larger contributors are right here in the Palm Beach area, the home of the so-called Southern White House (might as well be the White House given the extent of his time here).  The leading donor in this immediate area was billionaire Chris Cline whose private company has more than three billion tons of coal reserves.  No wonder he was happy to throw in $1million to the inaugural festivities. Presumably such contributions assures a place in the new swamp. It is truly a plutocracy of self-serving popular culture or corporate elitists.  

Jim Wright, the author of the Stonekettle Station blog has written a related essay on this topic,The Hubris of Ignorance.  Wright used to write obsessively in his blog but over time has turned more to Twitter for his incisive jabs.  Thankfully, he’ll still post a lengthy, thoughtful essay.  This is must reading from an ex-military man who sees the world, and the administration, for what it is.  A brief quote from his most recent entry summarizes this issue of expertise (or the lack of it) and “the cultivation of intelligence”: 

The Founding Fathers weren’t amateurs

 The men who freed this country from King George and then went on to forge a new nation were intellectual elites, the educated inheritors of The Renaissance and products of the Early Modern Age. They were able to create a new government because they were experts in government, educated in war and politics and science and religion and economics and social structures and all the hundreds of other things it takes to build a nation instead of tear one down.

Unlike their foolish descendants, the Founders knew that liberty and democracy and good government take far more than shallow patriotism.

Good government takes intellect, education, experience, curiosity, and a willingness to surround leadership with expert advice and support.

More than anything, it takes the cultivation of intelligence instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Boys of the Hot Florida Summer Play Ball

Major League baseball spring training has now departed the halcyon fields of Florida and the real boys of the hot summer have arrived for Florida League Class A+ minor league ball, the Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlin’s affiliate) and the Palm Beach Cardinals (St. Louis’ affiliate) playing at our home turf of Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL.  We missed the first Weds. night game of the “Silver Sluggers” promotional circuit, still the best baseball deal around, 30 bucks total for a ticket to every Weds. night game of the season which includes a soda and peanuts.  They used to include a hot dog instead of the peanuts (or pretzel or popcorn) but I suppose cutbacks eliminated this perk.  However they give out an “Official Silver Sluggers membership card” which I guess they think to us seniors is as exciting as getting a Captain Video ring when we were youngsters. 

They’ve also cut back on places to sit and eat near the concession stands (actually, there are no more picnic tables there), requiring you to haul your food and drink to the seat and they don’t even provide a cardboard tray.  Hey, it’s good for you old people to learn balance your food as you walk up the steps! We used to arrive early, have a bite before the game at a table, then watch a little infield practice and then sit back and watch the game.

Roger Dean Stadium is showing its age and rather than providing some seating for eating and sprucing up the place they’ve ignored their new competition of the Ball Park of the Palm Beaches. Right now the BPofTPB is hosting only Spring Training but if they get a minor league team there, Roger Dean Stadium will be affected.

Still, it was a glorious Florida night to take in our first game of the season and serendipitously the visiting team was the Tampa Yankees, the Class A affiliate of the MLB team I most closely follow, the New York Yankees.  Much has been said about the Yankees building their team of the future from their farm clubs rather than signing multiyear contracts with aging free agent stars.  Well, after last night, don’t depend on the Class A affiliate but look to the Trenton Thunder (AA) or The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (AAA).
Regarding last night’s game, credit goes to Junior Fernandez the Palm Beach Cardinal’s pitcher who is only 20 years old but has been pitching professionally for three years already.  He’s high up on the Cards’ prospect list and for 6 and a third innings he had a perfect game going against Tampa until the Yankee’s #19 prospect, second baseman Nick Solak, got a single with one out in the 7th. Solak also chalked up a double later in the game and those were the only two hits the Tampa Yankees had.  Meanwhile, they managed to play a downright sloppy game, their two errors leading to three unearned runs which left Yankee starter and #13 prospect Domingo Acevedo with the loss, although his 99 MPH fastball was humming, leading to 6 strikeouts in 6 innings.

The much touted Yankee shortstop prospect (#4) Jorge Mateo had a lackluster game going 0 for four and his infield play was unimpressive.  Maybe it was just an off day, but he’ll have to play better than that to make the parent team one of these days.

Although the game was unremarkable (except for the nearly perfect game), the night was wonderful, enjoying the Florida breeze and the cadence of baseball.  I’ve seen many Class A ball games and I’ve always said that they are as professional as MLB in every way.  Last night was the first disappointment in that regard as, at times, the Tampa Yankees looked like a bunch of sandlot players.  But as they say, wait ‘till next week!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Orphan Master’s Son Revisited

It’s time to revisit Adam Johnson’s prophetic, Pulitzer Prize winning novel about North Korea, The Orphan Master’s Son.  It was nearly four years ago that I reviewed it in my blog.  I was stunned by the novel and now, with the United States and North Korea marching to the drum beat of conflict yet once again, with dire consequences of such a face off, this novel is must reading.  Unfortunately, Donald Trump doesn’t read but instead relies on Fox and Twitter.  If he read this novel, he’d understand why withdrawing support for the National Endowment for the Humanities is a grave error.  From Johnson’s imagination and research, there is probably a greater truth regarding the North Korean persona than most government reports, not to mention TV coverage.

Here’s how I began my review…

North Korea is an enigma (to me at least).  Only a few months ago the young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was saber rattling nuclear missiles, threatening not only South Korea, but American bases in the Pacific as well.  Bizarrely, at about the same time, basketball celebrity Dennis Rodman visited the country and the new leader (apparently Kim Jong-un likes basketball).  Rodman thinks he played peacemaker.   How weird to see the heavily tattooed Rodman sitting side by side with the young chubby cheeked dictator.

Did I really want to know more about the circus-like-train-wreck of North Korea?  However, the accolades for Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son were overwhelming, calling to me. So, I’ve read it and can understand why it deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature last year.

This is a compelling novel, such a good story, and so well written.  But can life in North Korea really be as Johnson writes?  While no one can say whether his depiction is accurate, it is fiction, and it succeeds as an allegory of universal themes. 

The entire account can be read here.