Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Baby Freedom Is Coming. Just Not Yet

Soon, any day now, Baby Freedom will paddle down the birth canal inside Ellie and present us with our third grandchild. Her due date was March 31, but you can never tell with first pregnancies if they will culminate on the appointed date.

You may be wondering why I referred to our soon-to-be granddaughter as Baby Freedom. Count back nine months and you will note conception most probably occurred over the Fourth of July holiday.

Moreover, revealing her dual heritage, Baby Freedom will pop out before or during Passover, the holiday that celebrates the release of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt, their exodus and formation as a united people.

Whatever Ellie and Donny choose to name her, she will always symbolize freedom to Gilda and me. It will be tough not using her nickname of the last half year, Freddy.

Medical Update: Nothing new to report on the kidney stone front. No pain. No sign it has passed.

Meanwhile, it appears that rather than pain from a TMJ disorder I have a nerve problem in a bottom molar, tooth #30 for you would-be dentists. Seeing a specialist Thursday morning. Either a root canal or an extraction replaced by an implant looks to be in my future. In the interim, as Gilda can attest, I am not suffering in silence. Whimpering abounds. 

Solar Update: Four days into our solar panel project we have saved a whopping $5. I know. It doesn't sound like a lot. But we are only expecting to save about $1,000 a year which is about $2.75 a day. Given the mostly overcast weather of the last few days we might not be too far off from projections. We could make it up when it is truly sunny out.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Good Morning Sunshine, But Another Painful Day

Let the Sun Shine In: After receiving the go-ahead from ConEd this morning, at 3:45 pm Friday, we went solar. Naturally, it’s been an overcast day, but I have confidence the sun will come out tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that and we will get the bulk of our electric power from solar panels. I’ll keep you updated on the SolarCity system’s efficiency.

False Hope: My hope to be kidney-stone free has been dashed. After days without pain a slight twinge poked my back Tuesday afternoon as I drove around. The pain has not returned again but my doc says the stone probably is still there, so keep peeing into the strainer and hope it shows up.

Meanwhile, I am beset by a different excruciating pain. I’m a teeth grinder. I wear an appliance while I sleep to protect against a loss of enamel from the grinding. I’ve been wearing a mouthguard for more than 20 years. I even wore it while commuting on Metro North. My friend Lloyd always knew it was time to stop the banter when I slipped the appliance into my mouth on the ride home from Manhattan. 

Grinding also puts excessive stress on one’s jaw muscles, resulting, in my case, in temporomandibular joint  disorder (TMD). Pain starts in the middle of my lower right jaw and travels up beside either the front or back of my ear to the top of my skull. I’m not sure why TMD has suddenly flared, but the pain can come, and go, at a moment’s notice. The pain can last for hours. Our dentist (a reader of this blog so I’ll have to be careful what I say—just kidding, Mitch) is taking a conservative approach. We’ve eliminated the idea the pain is tooth-related. We’re hoping a slight adjustment to my mouthguard will, over time, reduce and eliminate the cause.

If you’ve gotten the impression I bounce from one pain to another, imaginary and not, let me assure you you would not want to suffer from these real aches. Still, Gilda has challenged me to keep a pain log for one month. Today’s entry has TMD.

Pain of Another Sort: If you think my pain is stressful, imagine how Ted Cruz must feel if any of his would-be supporters clicked on the following link: tedcruz.com.

There’s a presidential candidate not ready for prime time in this digital age. His chances of being the second bi-racial, Harvard-educated, two year-freshman United States senator to mercurially climb to the presidency is more remote than my going through a full month painless.

Monday, March 23, 2015

On Reaching an Existential Tipping Point

When I started this blog almost six years ago part of my my intention was to stimulate your senses, your memories, your emotions, to elicit a reaction from you, pro and con. One truth I wish all journalists, particularly bloggers, had was the understanding that they are not the sole repositories of truth. Divergent opinions exist and sometimes might even be more correct. Accordingly, I welcome feedback, either directly to me at mforseter@gmail.com or by posting a comment at the bottom of each blog by clicking on the “No Comments” link (I know it sounds counterintuitive but that’s how Blogspot works). 

Last week’s post on the existential threats facing Israel and the United States (http://nosocksneededanymore.blogspot.com/2015/03/existential-threats-within-and-without.html) elicited more than the usual level of feedback including this heartfelt response from a friend whose identity will remain anonymous. Please favor it by reading it through and, if you are so moved, contribute to the dialogue: 

Let me preface my thoughts by saying that I am by no means a Bibi (Netanyahu) fan. I was actually quite upset that he was re-elected and thought it was time for him to go and maybe let some fresh ideas come through. Going to Congress, while it was an electrifying environment and moment, was ill-timed and, of course, the crude attempt to galvanize the electorate with the “NO” two-state solution was appalling. But in spite of that, Israeli voters do have a right to fear for their existence and we hardly could, from our cushiony high-chairs, dictate to them how to feel or tell them that they bought Bibi’s bridge. And, yes, the right-wingers here and abroad stand for many things that you (and sometimes even a center right/left person like me) can deride.

BUT my question is this…. it is a hypothetical but very real question, given the current trends and facts on the ground. At what TIPPING point do you say to yourself (forget about the blogging of it), that Obama and a growing number of Democrats no longer have any interest in Israel (no matter who is in power in Israel)? That Israel just gets in the way of a new wave of American contraction and isolationism (being able to defend militarily against a nuclear threat from Iran is not the “real” existential threat here). 

At what point does an American Jew say that Obama and my so called “parents’” Democratic Party no longer defends or represents my interests and I need to stand up against my own party to stop the Anti-Israel bashing or silence? At what point does the antenna go up or one wakes up from sleep and one realizes that, while anti-Israel criticism is acceptable or even a democratic right of speech, more and more of the world (including America) is using it as a veiled pre-text towards anti-Semitism and we are slowly but surely becoming collectively guilty of letting it grow by not speaking out against it or rationalizing to ourselves that it is Ok and either acceptable or will just pass?

Will that TIPPING occur when, as a result of academic boycotts, Jews are no longer allowed in certain schools? Will that TIPPING occur when a Jew is killed on campus for being a Jew? Will it occur when your grandchildren apply to prestigious colleges and are politely rejected (like in South Africa)? 

Will it occur when a school rejects a Jew from a student council because she is engaged in Jewish organizations (kind of happened already in California!!)? Or when a university board actually adopts a BDS resolution that applies to all of Israel? Or does it occur when police have to guard our shuls from possible attack (oh! Isn’t that already happening!), or does it occur when the police maybe no longer answer, or delay, the “protective” call and no longer investigate acts of anti-Semitism? At what point does mainstream Jewry collectively say, “We’ve seen this movie before and it doesn’t end well!!”?

My point is not to say we are there yet (Israel is still overwhelmingly supported but Democratic support is decreasing and becoming increasingly “soft”), but rather at some point every Jew, no matter their ideological bent, should create a very clear marker of when that tipping occurs (I think we are pretty darn close to that tipping point in Europe). 

And don’t for a second think that American Jews aren’t nervous and thinking about it as we speak (it is topic number one among many center/progressive non-Orthodox Jews), as they hear every day of Obama threatening to stop supporting Israel in the UN and letting Israel hang to dry. These aren’t idle political threats. Obama is foretelling you his future actions (it is always his MO of taking a position and not let go of it) and is petulant enough to “teach Bibi a lesson” by throwing Israel under the bus.  

Do we really believe that anti-Israel sentiment is somehow good for American Jews? Can we just ignore it or somehow defend it if it grows and becomes very mainstream? Are we so na├»ve that we believe that one can divorce anti-Israel rhetoric from anti-Semitic rhetoric? Or when many performers sign on to boycotting all of Israel?  

So at what point do Jews who support Obama actually start to get a reality check and push-back against Obama’s veiled (well, it’s not so veiled anymore) non-support of Israel which purposely green-lights others to engage in anti-Israel behavior (or do we continue with the status quo type of thinking that this is all the right-wing’s fault), before some real intractable damage is done? Just asking!!!

I am just asking these questions, not to elicit debate or convince you of anything, but to maybe (I use that term lightly) make you think of where the line is and when is it actually crossed (I don’t expect an answer). If history is of any guidance, maybe it is better if one is delusional and over-reactive on anti-Israel or anti-Semitic sensitivities, than under-react and realize it when it is much too late.  I can with great certainty say, that my antennae are currently rising!!!  You’ll have plenty to write about over the next two years.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

No Longer Stoned. I Hope.

I’m no longer stoned. I hope.

While Gilda went with Ken and Jane to what turned out to be a dreadful play Saturday night, I opted to stay home and drink and drink and drink. Orange-flavored water, mostly followed by a lemonade-flavored vitamin water chaser I stocked up on at the local Stop & Shop. The doctor had said to swill four liters a day, but I could barely manage half a liter until Saturday evening.

Drinking all that fluid had its natural consequence. Wagon trains crossing the dry southwest didn’t cut deeper ruts than the path I carved from our TV room to the bathroom every 10-15 minutes or so. It would have been impossible to sit through a 90-minute play with no intermission. It would have been rude to the actors and the audience to witness my repeated excursions.

It also was kind of hard to watch a movie at home when so much action was happening off screen, but, truth be told, the interruptions made it a little easier to absorb all the violence in Fury, the Brad Pitt World War II film. Gilda came home just as the end credits started to roll. She would not have been able to sit through Fury.

I still didn’t know if I was stone free. I hadn’t had any pain since 5 am Saturday, but that followed the pattern. I suffered only twice a day, presumably when the stone was making its way down my urinary canal. All that extra drinking was intended to speed its flow. Still, I had been cautioned it could be a painful journey of several days.

Indeed, two people—neither of whom had experienced childbirth–told me the agony associated with a kidney stone compares to the pain of bringing a baby into this world. As our daughter is days away from delivering her first child (our third grandchild, second granddaughter) I will not presume to suggest they were right.

Our nephew Eric forwarded a link to a Seinfeld episode wherein Kramer copes with a kidney stone. Here it is: http://youtu.be/uiioP_bQVMA

The good people at the hospital emergency room the other night had sent me home with a handful of paper strainers that look very much like Mr. Coffee filters with mesh at the coned bottom. To catch the stone you are supposed to pee into the funnel of the strainer and, like a gold miner sifting a pan of water, hope that a deposit shows up.

At 1 am Sunday I thought I saw something solid at the bottom of the funnel. I had been expecting a round, dark sphere about 2-3 millimeters wide. Instead, it looked like shreds of poppy seeds. I saved them in a container the urologist  gave me for just such a purpose. Hopefully, it is the stone, or the remnants of the stone, which can be analyzed to determine why it showed up and if I could do anything to prevent a recurrence.

As I get ready to post this blog it is past 1 pm Sunday. I’ve been pain free for more than 32 hours. I’m hoping it’s a positive sign I am stone free.

P.S. Now it is Gilda who is under the weather with a sore throat that will keep her away from work Monday and Tuesday. Though we are not age-conscious, looks like turning 66 for both of us this month has been a trying experience.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Genetics Suck

For her birthday on Tuesday, I gave Gilda two days to remember and a three millimeter stone. No, I didn’t mean a three carat ring. I meant a three millimeter stone, as in kidney stone.

It all started innocently enough as we prepared for our flight home from a grand week in London. Flying to London I watched two films, Foxcatcher and Whiplash. I had hoped to watch St. Vincent and Fury on the return trip. But it was not to be. 

At the airport for the first time during our trip I ate a traditional English breakfast—two fried eggs, bacon, baked beans, sausage and grilled mushroom. I didn’t eat the cooked tomato. (Are you sick yet?) 

I started to feel queasy when we reached the departure gate. I couldn’t decide which orifice should take precedence to alleviate my discomfort. But nothing was forthcoming. 

I boarded the American Airlines Boeing 777-300 and took the middle spot in a three-seat row near the back of the aircraft. Until right before we left the gate it appeared I’d be able to slide over to the aisle seat, but a fellow traveler arrived to dash those hopes. Meanwhile, I had been grimacing discomfort since we boarded. I wanted to hit the bathroom but had to wait until we reached an acceptable altitude to get up. 

The lower right side of my back hurt no matter how I sat. My front right abdomen hurt. No matter how I tried to go I couldn’t. 

The flight crew witnessed my agony, was supportive but couldn’t do anything other than offer me their seats in the last row and a makeshift hot water bottle. At one point the head steward asked if I wanted to see if a doctor was aboard. I said Gilda is a nurse practitioner so they brought her a stethoscope and blood pressure monitor to check me out. I think they wanted to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack. I noticed on the flight map we were near Labrador so I surmise they were checking if an emergency landing was necessary. The flight was eight hours of unrelenting pain. 

After we landed and was able to stand a while I felt slightly better. But the ride home brought the pain back. Tuesday night I slept okay. When I woke up at 5:45 am I was able to drive Gilda to work in Manhattan. I ate a full can of lentil vegetable soup, then went to deliver food to the elderly in Yonkers as I do most Wednesdays. Afterwards I went to Costco where a true sign of my deteriorating condition revealed itself. The pain returned so severely I couldn’t conclude my shopping expedition.

After napping for an hour I felt good enough to drive back to Manhattan to pick Gilda up. Big mistake. An hour into the two-hour round trip the pain returned with a vengeance. Once home I slept again for 90 minutes before eating a light dinner. I felt good enough to watch some TV before turning the lights off at 11:15 just as the pain returned.

I tried to drink some vitamin water but wretched it up. I walked around. The pain persisted. Finally, around 12:30 I woke Gilda to say we needed to go to the emergency room. I had checked the Internet; my symptoms suggested an intestinal blockage. It was a painful 10 minute ride but like the toothache that doesn’t hurt once you show up at the dentist the pain magically disappeared once inside the hospital and did not return for 24 hours.

We were at the ER for more than six hours. Gilda had slept less than two hours in 24 hours. 

A CT Scan showed I have a kidney stone 2-3 millimeters in size. So I have to drink a lot to pee it out. When my brother had a kidney stone 45 years ago they said he could drink beer. Medical science has either progressed or regressed as they told me to drink lots of water!!!

Bernie also told me he’s had three or four kidney stones, that our father had one and his brother, Uncle Willy, had multiple kidney stones. I'm not looking forward to a recurrence. Genetics suck. 

Both our parents had gall bladder issues. Indeed, our father was discharged from the army during World War II because of it. Bernie and I haven’t suffered through that affliction but our sister Lee has. I’ll say it a different way—genetics can be a real pain.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

London Calling

Just got back from a week in London to attend the wedding of our son’s first girlfriend last Friday. Not that he was holding a torch, mind you. Dan and Tash, after all, were just months shy of their third birthdays when their budding romance was laid asunder by none other than media magnate Rupert Murdoch. The tycoon shipped Tash’s family back to England so her dad could be a top editor on The Sun, a tabloid newspaper even more racy than The New York Post where he had toiled for Murdoch for 18 months. While Dan and Tash bonded, both sets of parents developed a now 35-year friendship. Dave and Gemma Banks lived around the corner from us on Parkview Court in White Plains. Indeed, the edges of our back yards touched. We met when our first borns were about 18 months old.

I’ve previously written about Dave (http://nosocksneededanymore.blogspot.com/search?q=dave+banks) so this posting will be about our visit to my favorite foreign city, and not just because I can usually discern what the natives are saying.

I’ve been to London almost a dozen times, for business and pleasure. It is one of the most walkable cities, with each district providing a unique experience. This time we stayed in a hotel in Islington, a borough in the northeast quadrant of London. Islington is undergoing gentrification. Along its High Street (the term used for the major retail avenue of most communities), restaurants and shops abound, though they have to compete for space with real estate offices proffering apartments and homes that, given the usual small size of English residences, would make an observer gasp at the prices. Million, even multi-million, dollar homes were the norm.

Now that I no longer publish or edit a retail industry magazine, I am under no obligation to dart in and out of stores. Yet, England has been said to be a country of shopkeepers, so the pleasure of being served proved alluring. Service levels were extraordinary. In the major department stores of Selfridge’s, House of Frasier and the like, one had to walk through a phalanx of eager sales people, and not just on the ground floor. Even in small shops, like the Ben Sherman outlet in Islington, the two salesmen were engaging and friendly, commenting about the sad state of the NY Knicks but optimistic that Phil Jackson could turn the team around (I said they were engaging and friendly, not sports mavens). 

London traffic is worse than New York City’s. However, during our week-long stay we never observed a single double-parked car. 

Using public transportation to get around London is a pleasure. An Oyster Card allows unlimited hopping on and off the Underground and extensive bus network. Most convenient were digital signs at bus and train stops advising wait times for desired conveyances. Each Underground and bus stop was preceded by discernible public address messages that often included mentions of nearby tourist attractions. 

All seats on the London subway have armrests which struck me as a form of collective weight control. We didn’t see any obese people in London, especially not on the Underground. Maybe the weight-challenged know they would be restricted to seats just 24 inches or so wide. 

I did observe one interesting and perplexing advertisement in the first Underground ride we took. A picture of some businessmen horrified by the prospect of a terrorist attack advocated avoiding trouble by using a teleconference service for their next meeting. Not the most desirable commentary on the safety of London.

Perhaps as a carryover from the days of IRA bombings, I noticed most pubs had no trash bins in their bathrooms. No paper towels, just electronic dryers. 

One other strange pub occurrence. In the pub hosting the pre-wedding get-together for out of town guests the single TV screen featured a show on dogs. Now I know the British love their pooches, but I would have thought a soccer game or cricket match would have been the favored screen fare.

By the way, English beer is chilled, not cold, and not really carbonated, so you don’t fill up as quickly as in American bars.

Here’s another comparison between the Old and New Worlds—security personnel in London were numerous and for the most part seemed to be from the India-Pakistan subcontinent. We were embarrassed by how few American passport control agents handled our flight at JFK. What a poor show of efficiency to the hundreds of foreigners waiting to enter our country. Moreover, the mostly Hispanic agents talked Spanish among themselves. Gilda opined that it would seem to be a violation to speak in a language not understood by the public as the guards could be commenting about people in an inappropriate manner without their knowledge.

Finally, back to the reason for our trip to London. Unlike the outdoor weddings of our two children, nuptial ceremonies in England must be held indoors, with a roof overhead. Tash and Ali exchanged vows in the council chamber of Islington town hall. No religious readings are permitted in the ceremony, nor is the mother of the bride included in the procession. Dave, however, circumvented tradition as best he could. When asked who gives away the bride, he replied, “I do, as does her mother.”

Tash and Ali are a most adorable couple. Like her father, Tash is an accomplished journalist, recently promoted to a lead position for the science section of The Guardian’s Web site. Alister is a makeup artist chosen to be part of the two-man team to create the beast in Disney’s soon to be filmed Beauty and the Beast, to be played by Downton Abbey alumnus Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley, Lady Mary’s husband). Born in Scotland, Alister wore a kilt. The last time I saw a groom dressed in a kilt was at Charlotte’s wedding to Trey MacDougal on Sex and the City

Monday, March 16, 2015

Existential Threats Within and Without

When I was growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s we lived under a palpable existential threat to the United States. Despite what you might have seen in newsreels about that time, I don't recall ever hiding under a school desk in mock preparation to thwart the impact of an atomic explosion. 

Nuclear catastrophe was made real through film. On the Beach. Dr. Strangelove. Fail-Safe. Mutual assured destruction kept the bomb bays at bay, the missiles siloed.

Two countries I care deeply about--the United States and Israel are engaged in what some of their leaders believe are existential negotiations to prevent Iran from developing nuclear bomb making capabilities. I trust Israel and the U.S. have the means to militarily thwart any actual attempt by Iran to fulfill the rantings of its ayatollahs and government leaders.

What I have less confidence in is the ability of both of my revered countries to withstand internal attacks on their respective values. Hallowed, respected practices of diplomacy and legislative discourse have been cast aside for short term political gain.

Repeatedly Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu has announced new housing projects at moments that disrespected the Obama administration. Now, in a last ditch effort to corral votes before Tuesday's election, Bibi has finally been candid about his position on an independent Palestinian state--it won't happen under his watch.

Which means Israel would continue on a path of denial to others of a basic human right the country's founders fought for beginning nearly 100 years ago. I am well aware of the physical dangers a Palestinian state could pose. One need only consider what Hamas has turned the Gaza Strip into, or what Hezbollah has done to southern Lebanon.

But the threat to the democratic values of Israel are greater. To keep a  people perpetually subjugated is to foster a mindset of inhumanity, of intolerance. No civilized nation could hope to survive long term as a denier  of dignity and opportunity. This is the  real existential threat facing Israel as its people go to the polls Tuesday.

The United Stares has been a land of expanded opportunity since its inception. Though equality and equal opportunity were not available to all at the outset the whole thrust of our national existence had been to extend these rights, first to all men, not just landowners, then to blacks, then to women. Targeted legislation corrected what didn't get implemented at first. When economic forces polarized society, government stepped in to create safety nets--social security, Medicare, Medicaid  and the like.

The arc of history has been to open the doors to all. Except now. In far too many Republican controlled governments efforts are underway to roll back opportunity and helping hand legislation. The Haves do not want the Have Nots to have any of their good fortune.

Moreover, Republicans have sought to undermine the validity of our established form of government. Over the last six years they have questioned the constitutionality of our elected president. They have poisoned political discourse. They have stymied the appointment process, they have unhinged the economic foundation of our national budget. They have questioned the validity of numerous scientific theories to the detriment of our educational and environmental futures. They have refused to fund necessary infrastructure investments unless they can gut social service programs, as if investing in our populous is not an investment in our future. They have most recently challenged the president's ability to conduct foreign negotiations.

I am not against political debate. Lord knows George W. Bush gave Democrats plenty of reason to attack him and his policies. But never did Democratic opposition rise to the level it has under Republican/Tea Party extremism.

We are approaching a dangerous point of extreme polarity in politics and economics. Unless we move to the center in both areas--compromising in legislation as we provide more opportunity for the underprivileged while requiring more taxes from the economic elite--I fear the existential risk to our democratic republican experiment will only heighten.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Birthdays Can Be a Pain, But Spring Is in the Air

When I woke up on my 35th birthday I was more than a little distressed to experience pain in my right hip, a pain I had never felt before. The pain vanished the next day. Being no stranger to pain of unknown origin, and being a hypochondriac of some repute as defined by friends and family, I took my temporary condition in stride. The pain in my hip has not returned.

Now, 31 years to the day later, I awoke last Friday not with pain in my hip but with a sharp pain in my lower right back, along the waistline, a pain I have suffered through before but not lately. Gilda has told me it’s arthritis, that stretching exercises would ameliorate much of the agony. Do I listen to her? Not exactly. 

It’s not that I’m a glutton for pain. It’s not that I don’t trust her. It’s just … I’m lazy. I hate exercising, and I suffer the consequences. The pain has persisted over the weekend, with occasional respite. 

I wasn’t the only object feeling my age Friday. Reluctantly, I finally had to jettison the Macbook I received when working on Chain Store Age and purchased when I retired. Seems a mid-2007 operating system, even upgraded to the maximum, isn’t compatible with today's real and future tech world. 

Reality came crashing down on me when I tried to load a disk of TurboTax. My upgraded system reached its limit at OS X. v10.6.8. TurboTax required at least 10.7.5. So my birthday present to myself was a new MacBook Air. Of course, the MacBook Air doesn’t have a disk slot, so I have to buy a stand alone disk drive, but isn’t that par for the course, any time you change hardware? You’re always forced to buy more than you expected.

I’m getting used to the new laptop but one major problem is I can’t seem to connect it to the HP printer. This is why I dislike new technologies. There’s always something that doesn’t work right. I’m not a happy camper.

Spring Is in the Air: Take heart all who have had enough of winter. The first harbingers of spring have appeared. No, I am not referring to red-breasted robins. Rather, I have spotted and quickly disposed of two silver fish, no doubt on separate expeditionary missions for their subterranean colony. It is just a matter of time, and melting snow, before we see lawns again.

As for melting snow, it is dropping in chunks from our highest roof to the level below. 

In case you’re wondering, we still haven’t gone live with solar panel electricity. The city has approved the installation. We’re waiting for ConEd to sign off to flip the switch.

In case you’re further wondering, when it snows the panels get covered just like ordinary roof shingle. Light snow doesn’t impact production but heavy accumulations probably will. But snow clears away from the panels sooner and tends to clean the panels, making them more efficient. Also, snow on the ground reflects sunlight, giving them more solar exposure. 

Of course, that’s all conjecture and prayer. I can’t wait to go live and find out (though I’d be content to wait until next winter to test the snow thesis).

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Sound of Music

Fifty years ago, two days ago to be precise, the film version of The Sound of Music debuted. It became, arguably, one of the most cherished films worldwide. Heck, even my Jewish high school, the Yeshiva of Flatbush, arranged an outing into Manhattan so we could see the novitiate nun-cum-governess-cum-wife and her once brooding widower-employer-cum-husband outsmart the Nazis by leading the Von Trapp family on a climb over that mountain leading to Switzerland. For many in my class it might have been their first exposure, albeit by celluloid, to the insides of a church and the black clad ladies who toiled within. 

Anyway, it’s merely a coincidence that The Sound of Music is being celebrated this week. I’ve brought it up because of an interview Gilda and I heard Wednesday morning as we drove to Manhattan. The Outlook program on BBC World Service talked with Joanne Milne of Gateshead, England. For the first 39 years of her life, Milne was deaf. Last March, after cochlear implants were inserted into her head, she was able to finally hear (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7LcNUxcQ8Y).

Among the first sounds she heard was Imagine, the John Lennon song. Which made me wonder, what music, what song, would I have chosen for that intoxicating, unimaginable moment? I immediately thought of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, perhaps because it was the alma mater theme of Camp Columbia, the camp, incidentally, I attended when The Sound of Music premiered in 1965. 

If you’re so inclined, let me know what music you would have picked.

Speaking of Sounds: Did anyone else who watched Bibi Netanyahu’s speech to Congress Tuesday notice a loud thud just as the Israeli prime minister completed his first reference to Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons? To his credit, Netanyahu didn’t react. He simply plowed ahead with his dissertation. 

Speaking of Thuds: While writing this blog at my desk Wednesday morning I was startled by a loud thud coming from the window behind me. A large clump of snow had fallen from the roof above to the roof of our extended dining room. It also bent a gutter out of shape. Comparatively speaking, that’s little damage from this winter of non-stop agony. Oh, the joys of being a homeowner!

Where’s the Outrage? In the last few days we’ve been treated to revelations that Hillary Clinton used a private email account while she was secretary of state, leading to a continuous barrage by Republicans that she was undermining the integrity of her office and the country.

At the same time there was nary a word from them about a more troubling disclosure, that former General and ex-CIA director David Petraeus will plead guilty to illegally providing classified secrets to his mistress, that he lied to the FBI and that he left national secrets in his home (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/03/david-petraeus-plea-deal_n_6792344.html). 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Close Shave

Its advertisements are everywhere. Right in the middle of my daily afternoon update from The New York Times. On the sports radio channels WFAN and ESPN. On CBS AM 880 News. Harry’s—the place to go for quality blades at affordable prices, or so its ads tout.

You might think looking at my picture that I don’t shave a lot. After all, except for one month back in 1973 I’ve had a beard since November 1969. The truth is, when I was a working stiff I shaved a minimum of five or six times a week, always when trudging off to work and at least once every weekend.

Nowadays, I shave maybe two or three times a week.

I shaved with a razor, usually a Gillette disposable. Or a Bic. A couple of months ago I started alternatively using an electric shaver, a plug in Norelco that used to be my father’s.

As a youngster I would watch him shave. Back then he had a Remington. He would prep his face with some pre-shave talc that came in a round stick. Or he’d splash on some Mennen pre-shave lotion. Often as not, he’d pass the shaver over my peach fuzz face to tickle or scare me.

The first time I used a blade I was 16. It was a Saturday night. I was home alone. My parents were playing cards, one of their monthly floating poker games at friends from my father’s Old World society. My brother was out on a date. My sister was in Israel attending Hebrew University.

I had traces of stubble from an electric shave several days before, an outline barely visible. Feeling a little adventurous, on a whim I decided to try out my brother’s double-edged safety razor. I lathered up and effortlessly glided the razor across my cheeks, down my neck. This shaving was a piece of cake, I said to myself.

And then I looked in the mirror. Red splotches everywhere. No pain no stinging, but lots of crimson.

I washed the blood away, along with any remaining shaving cream. The bleeding seemed to stop everywhere but one persistent spot under my chin. I applied pressure. Blood kept oozing out. I put on a band-aid. Soon it was all red. Tissue after tissue stained red. An hour went by. No relief.

With no one home to share my predicament with, I sat down at the dining room table and wrote my sister, using one of those lightweight, folding aerogram letter forms. To illustrate my misfortune I dabbed the paper to my cut. When I finished writing it was nearly two hours after the dripping began. I finally stopped bleeding.

Over the next 50 years I rarely have cut myself shaving. No cut has bled for more than a few minutes. I’ve never used a styptic pencil or walked around with pieces of tissue covering mishaps across my face. Perhaps I bled my life’s quota that Saturday night five decades ago.