Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Hugging, Cuddling, Snuggling, Reading Books: Joys of a First Post Quarantine Family Visit

 It’s that first hug of a long-separated relative that jolts muscle memory.

It had been more than seven months since I wrapped my arms around any of my grandchildren and their parents. That drought of togetherness ended last Thursday afternoon. Gilda and I made our first pandemic-period overnight trip since last August so we could celebrate Passover together with Dan, Allison and their kids, Finley and Dagny, in their Massachusetts home.

As much as we cherished their closeness, though, we continued to long for contact with Ellie and her family in Omaha. We had to settle on their being part of a zoom seder Saturday night, one of the highlights being nearly six-year-old CJ chanting the “mah nishtana” four questions, with some accompaniment by three-year-old Leo and their dad, Donny. 

As much as I longed for more and more hugs, not everyone in our family is a hugger. I don’t say that critically. Just factually. I wasn’t a big hugger growing up or in adulthood, until it became common among my close male friends to hug on occasions both happy and sad. Sometimes even with a kiss on the cheeks.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if I lacked hugs from Gilda during the pandemic. It’s just that hugs from children and grandchildren are different. There’s simple, whimsical joy to snuggling a toddler, to cuddling up next to a single-digit youngster when reading to them in bed or on a couch. 

Finley and Dagny border on the age of hugging indifference. Finley’s 11 and a third. Dagny will be nine in July. I think they knew we wanted to hug. They more than tolerated our needs. 

For several days Gilda and I crammed in activities we were denied by quarantine. We read books with them before bedtime. We watched them play, ride their bikes. We played cards and badminton. We marveled at how tall they have grown. Finley is 5’1”; his father was six inches shorter at his age. 

Gilda cooked Friday night shabbat dinner and Saturday night’s “mandatory” seder brisket. Saturday morning Dan and I prepared French toast with the last of the pre-holiday challah.

Before we returned to White Plains I lingered in goodbye hugs with Finley, Dagny and Allison, spending even more time in Dan’s embrace. I kissed his neck. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

#BoycottGeorgia Until Repeal of New Voting Law


The Masters Tournament is scheduled to begin April 8 in Augusta, GA. But in the aftermath of repressive voting restrictions just passed by the state’s Republican led legislature and signed into law by a Republican governor, it is incumbent upon all PGA golfers to forcefully and publicly declare they will not play in a state that makes it more challenging for minorities to vote. 

Now is a moment when Tiger Woods can show he is more than an automaton athlete, that he has a social conscience. Even though he is currently injured and would not be teeing off in Augusta, he must issue a public condemnation of the new law and advocate the Masters should be moved out of state if the law is not immediately revoked. 

Similarly, professional and college baseball, basketball and football players should say they will not play in Georgia until the law is repealed. Major League Baseball’s All-Star game, scheduled to be played in Atlanta in July, should be moved ( 

All athletes and entertainers regardless of color should #BoycottGeorgia. 

Though the new law makes voting by minorities more difficult, the issue is not simply a black or brown one. All Americans who cherish universal freedoms should be enraged and stimulated to resist such anti democratic rules.

Accordingly, everyday Americans should #BoycottGeorgia companies. Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Airlines, UPS, Arby’s, Chick-fil-A are some of the more prominent enterprises based in the Peach State. 

Georgia enacted the law under the guise of protecting the integrity of elections despite repeated assurances by state and federal election officials, law enforcement and courts that the 2020 election was free from fraud.

Discriminatory laws and actions generate consequences. Economic pressure can alter political decisions. 

The NFL forced Arizona to change its policy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances after Phoenix lost a bid to host a Super Bowl. Only after the MLK day became a paid holiday did Phoenix host a Super Bowl. The NBA moved its All-Star game from Charlotte after North Carolina enacted a controversial “bathroom bill.” The law was subsequently rescinded.

It took the NFL several years to acknowledge the legitimacy of Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest against police treatment of black suspects. There can be no such delay in rejecting Georgia’s assault on voting rights (

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Dealing With Tragedies At Home, Disaster Abroad

Superstitious people believe bad things come in threes. If you are so inclined, you would be well advised to stay away from anything called Evergreen in the near future.

In the early morning hours of Tuesday a fire at the Evergreen Court Home for Adults in Spring Valley, NY, killed one elderly resident and a volunteer fire fighter. The fire destroyed the assisted living facility.

Also on Tuesday, some 6,000 miles away, the Ever Given container ship operated by the Evergreen Marine Corp. of Taiwan got wedged between both sides of the Suez Canal linking the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The unprecedented mishap effectively cut off sea traffic in both directions as the location was an area where ships traverse the waterway in a single lane


No injuries were reported but world trade has been affected as ships have been forced to float in place awaiting the canal’s reopening. The AP reported “30 vessels waited at Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake midway on the canal, while some 40 idled in the Mediterranean near Port Said and another 30 at Suez in the Red Sea.”

Will there be a third Evergreen disaster? Depends on how superstitious you are.

GQP: Have you noticed that in the intro feed to Bill Maher’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” HBO show he has adapted the Republican Party’s Grand Old Party (GOP) nickname? 

It now appears as GQP, an homage to the party being enthralled with the conspiracy theory QAnon cadre. 

No Comedy, Just Common Sense: After the double mass murders in the last week late night television hosts shunned comedy to deliver appropriate commentary.

Seth Meyers on NBC opined that we should do away with some all too common words and phrases that are quickly voiced to categorize the tragedies. 

Given their frequency, the slaughters no longer are “unimaginable,” said Meyers. The perpetrators should not be described as “shooters.” That is a word for a hobbyist. No, they should be called “killers” or “murderers.” 

And politicians who “offer thoughts and prayers” would serve us better by taking concrete action to prevent gun violence.

Over on CBS, Stephen Colbert took issue with Sen. John Kennedy’s admittedly impure analogy to drunk driving that the Louisiana Republican said should be “combated.”

Colbert took up the comparison, saying, “Let’s regulate guns the way we regulate alcohol and driving. You’ve got to be 21. You’ve got to pass a test to have a license. You’ve got to have registration and insurance for your gun. If you move to a new state, you’ve got to do the whole damn thing over again. And you can’t go out loaded.”  

Monday, March 22, 2021

Penny Stocks: I Learned My Lesson Well

 People, or should I call them pigeons, with excess cash they don’t know what to do with, once again are being warned about investing in penny stocks. The lure of putting down a tidy sum under the expectation of raking in a small fortune is hard to resist both for the investor and the swindler eager to help him or her part with their money (

You no longer need beware the unscrupulous cold call from a boiler room stock broker, the kind depicted in book and film “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Technology has turned penny stock shilling into Internet con games.

I know of the seduction I warn of penny stocks, though my experience with them, fortunately, ended up in the black, not red.

It began shortly after I received a sizable bonus in the mid 1980s. 

The call to my office came out of the blue. A cold call by an eager young broker from Thomas James Associates trolling for dollars, pushing penny stocks. I knew better than to invest in these high risk shares, but he reached me at a moment of vulnerability. I had just received an unexpected windfall of several thousand dollars. With Gilda’s assent, I gambled $2,000 on a company that promised big returns in the then embryonic laser eye surgery field.

It was hard to follow the stock. Penny stocks weren’t usually reported in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Plus, my eager-beaver of a broker didn’t call back once my check cleared. I assumed my investment was as flighty as my erstwhile broker, an assumption reinforced in my mind when six months later another cold call came from Thomas James Associates informing me my broker had departed the company and was being replaced by the gentleman now on the phone.

He wanted to know how happy I was with my investment. I was ignorant to its value, so I casually said, “Not too much,” to which he responded, somewhat incredulously, that he had never come across anyone less enthusiastic by a tenfold return on principal. My $2,000 investment had increased to $20,000!

I stammered some explanation for my passivity. He then confronted me with a challenge. What did I want to do with my $20,000? We agreed to cash out half of it and invest the rest in a different penny stock, Holiday RV, as in recreational vehicles. Baby boomers like me would be taking to the open road in land cruisers once they retired, he pitched. Now would be a good time to get in on the ground floor. 

What the heck? Let’s spin the wheel a second time. Oy! This time it ended in a crash. I got out after losing half the pot. The rest went bye-bye in some other speculative investments. 

All in all, I netted $8,000 and a lesson in the risky business of penny stocks. 

One more thing. Thomas James Associates wound up being sued for fraud. I seem to recall receiving a small sum from a class action lawsuit against the firm and its successor, but nowhere near the value of the education I learned to stay away from penny stocks.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Of Course Robert Aaron Long Committed a Hate Crime. Against Asians. Against Women.

Of course the Georgia murders at three women-owned massage and spa parlors were a hate crime. It is a misogynistic crime. Women were the target. Yes, it matters six of the eight victims were Asian, but equally, if not more important, Robert Aaron Long hated women.

Long didn’t attack men masseurs (the lone male among the eight dead was a tradesman at one location at the most tragic time possible). Long targeted women.

When will we accept the reality women face—discrimination that too often leads to violence (physical and emotional) in the workplace and at home?

According to the FBI, a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

It seems obvious to me the Georgia murders fit the hate crime definition.

Culture Wars: I never liked reading Dr. Seuss to my kids and grandkids. Ditto for the Berenstain Bears. I was flabbergasted to discover the good doctor allegedly seeded his stories with racist images and messages. No word yet on what cultural improprieties the Berenstain family might have woven into their books, other than undermining the authority and intelligence of the father bear.

Was I prescient in keeping the six offending Dr. Seuss books away from my children’s developing sensibilities? Not really. In fact, had I read the six books now proscribed by their publisher I would have been disappointed if my children didn’t ask why the Chinese man had a long pigtail of hair and why he used sticks to eat his food. I could then have explained the origin of the long hair as a symbol of servitude and the use of chopsticks even by young children.

“The Little Mermaid” is a classic children’s story but the original Hans Christian Andersen version ends much darker than the Disney cartoon movie and musical (spoiler alert—she dies). It is our obligation as parents to protect our offspring, but not to shield them from truth and reality. Fairy tales do not always end up happily ever after (see “Into the Woods” if you don’t believe me).

Counter culture has seemingly taken over all public discourse. I am pleased that Turner Classic Movies, one of my favorite TV channels, has not cancelled airings of cinemas filmed when mores were painfully different and not so enlightened. “Gone With The Wind” might gloss over the evils of slavery and demean blacks, but it is an historical portrait of how large segments of our population viewed life before and after the Civil War.

Al Jolson appeared in black face in “The Jazz Singer.” So did Fred Astaire in “Swing Time.” Were they racist? Not to my knowledge. 

Movie studios regularly exploited child actors, even into their adult years. Are we to ban all Judy Garland movies because of her drug-abused treatment by Metro Goldwyn Mayer?

Context is important. So is informed discussion. Let’s not quickly ban the images and writings of previous cultures without recognizing the values and lessons that may be learned from a thoughtful review of their standing within the period in which they were created and how they relate to our present understanding of prejudice and social justice. 

Let’s keep in mind that even the most popular book ever sold, and presumably read, is full of cultural norms Western society would find repulsive. The Bible contains such inappropriate themes as fratricide, incest, idolatry, sedition, rebellion, vengeance, genocide, slavery. And, of course, misogyny.

The Cult of Cuomo: Working for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been compared to living inside a cult. 

I have no doubt the experience was all consuming. Even toxic. Like any cult. Why else would anyone devote virtually all of their waking hours to advance the interests of one person?

There can be little doubt Cuomo spoke too often like a  frat boy with no legitimate relief outlet for an enhanced testosterone level. He is far from the only politician, workplace manager, or just your average Joe, to share the condition.

Did his behavior rise to the level of resignation or impeachment? No, not even if you figure in the shady reporting of COVID-19 nursery home deaths. No one, so far, has accused him of rape, as Donald Trump has been. He did not violate any laws as one of his predecessors, Eliot Spitzer, did by patronizing a prostitution ring, causing him to resign. New York’s pandemic deaths were not underreported, just misreported. 

It should be left to Cuomo to decide if he can effectively govern during the remaining 21 months of his third term. 

That said, another no doubter is Cuomo will not be able to outdo his father Mario. He will fail to secure a fourth nomination much less a fourth term leading the Empire State. Doubtful any bridges will be named for him, unlike his father’s namesake, The Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which most Hudson Valley residents still refer to as the Tappan Zee Bridge.  

Friday, March 19, 2021

Writing in the Wee Hours of the Morning

Ninety minutes after falling asleep Thursday night I woke up, the first of several nocturnal awakenings. Nothing unusual here. Happens every night.

So it wasn’t special that after failing to fall back to sleep I began reading some news articles and then wound up at 2 am logged onto Facebook. My sister had reposted a comparative bar chart from author Lynn Miclea. It depicted “how clearly and concisely you can articulate your thoughts.” 

When speaking, the vertical bar barely broke the zero axis. When writing, the bar was 11 times taller. In bed at 2 am when thinking about writing, the bar was some three times taller than the writing bar. Of course, those are just estimates, but the sentiment is one I agree with wholeheartedly. The wee hours of the morning are some of my most productive. 

Still not able to resume slumber I surprised myself by looking at the comments section accompanying the chart.

Several FB’ers complained they were confounded by not being able to write down their thoughts while showering. By the time they toweled down their ideas had dried up, as well.

Murray to their rescue—“Buy a scuba diving plastic slate and hang it in your shower. Use a pencil to write on it. Erase by brushing it with toothpaste. I have had one hanging in my shower for more than a decade.”

I neglected to add the shower slate would keep one’s ideas from going down the drain.

Several people also were frustrated they couldn’t write when driving. They wanted an ability to record their ideas. Apparently they have not discovered the Voice Memo app for their smartphone. If they wanted their thoughts transcribed they could look into installing Voice Recognition Software applications.

Truth is, I have rarely used the record feature on my iPhone but the thrust of Lynn Miclea’s post rang true—many of my blogs, like this one, were started and often finished (except for minor copyediting) around 2 am or thereafter.

I write fewer notes to myself in the shower since retirement. No longer am I constantly thinking of articles to assign or new marketing programs for my magazine. No longer am I filling up the shower slate with ideas I am worried would vanish down the drain if not written down.

Well, it’s quarter to three. Time to try to go back to sleep.  

Monday, March 15, 2021

Tripping Along With SAP

I received an email invitation Monday morning to an SAP sponsored event on “the latest technology trends and innovations in the global retail industry.” Nothing extraordinary here, except it brought back memories of the first time SAP sought my attendance at a conference in the fall of 1996 in Luxembourg. SAP didn’t just seek my attendance. It asked me to be a featured speaker at its user conference. 

Now, you should know two important facts. Then, as now, SAP was and is a leading technology company used by many retail chains for enterprise resource planning. Second, then and now, I am a tech neanderthal. 

That didn’t matter to SAP. I was solicited to provide an overview of retail trends. At least, back then, I was an expert on that topic. 

As I did on many of my international speaking engagements I brought Gilda along with me, this time for a two week trip through Amsterdam, Brussels and finally Luxembourg. We arrived in Luxembourg Monday evening. I was to speak Wednesday morning, so Tuesday we decided to tour the city. 

As we waited for our car to be brought to the front of the hotel Tuesday morning, I thought I’d go to the restroom on the lower level. The conference registration area was on the way, so I took the opportunity to tell the coordinator I’d arrived safely. She was more than relieved—she said they were wondering where I was. I was to give my presentation in 20 minutes! 

Zounds! Yikes! Sacre Bleu! I no longer had to go to the bathroom. Instead, I raced upstairs, found Gilda wandering the lobby and told her I had to hurriedly change out of my jeans into my suit because I was to go on in now less than 15 minutes. I made it back down with a minute or two to spare and with the resolve to double and triple check my schedules from then on. How embarrassing that would have been had I failed to deliver my presentation after enjoying a two-week vacation underwritten by their confidence in me? It makes me shutter to think of it even to this day.

For the record, my presentation was well received. 

Showing up on the wrong date, or rather, not showing up on the right date, is a recurring fault of mine, at least as it pertained to business trips with Gilda. One of our first such domestic excursions, I believe it was in October 1981, was to attend a weekend conference in San Antonio produced by the now defunct Association of General Merchandise Chains. Members included Woolworth, Kmart, Winn’s, T.G. & Y., Rose’s, Duckwall-ALCO, Sprouse-Reitz and Walmart. 

We arrived on Friday to check in at the conference hotel only to be told our room had been reassigned. The hotel expected us on Thursday and had released the reservation when we didn’t show up. Uh-oh. After a long flight from New York, neither Gilda nor I were happy campers. 

Fortunately, for me, AGMC staff were able to to slot us into a room another attendee had last minute cancelled. If you put your ear to your computer, notepad or smartphone you probably could hear my relieved exhalation still reverberating through the air waves 40 years later. 


Friday, March 12, 2021

Killing the Filibuster Would Not Automatically Create a Progressive Playground

The call to eliminate the Senate filibuster so Republicans cannot stymie Joe Biden’s legislative agenda is crescendoing. But it is crucially important to keep in mind that killing the filibuster does not mean Democrats automatically can turn the country into a progressive playground. 

Joe Manchin of West Virginia, indeed every senator in the Democratic caucus, would be empowered to block extreme measures. They hold the key to passage of each piece of legislation as Republican opposition would be expected to be solidly against any Biden plan. Without unanimous approval by the Democratic caucus, and Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, nothing would get passed. But at least the hurdle would be satisfying senators with Democratic values, not Republican negativism. 

“Give a little, get a little” is thought to be a tradition of the U.S. Senate. Compromise. Or as the deposed leader called it, the art of the deal. Maybe 20 to 30 or more years ago, but compromise today is a political state of affairs at best non palatable, at most anathema, to die-hard senators of both political parties.

To accomplish anything, Chuck Schumer, the first Jewish Senate majority leader, would do well to reflect on an old saying from his ancestral heritage—haba lehargecha, hashcame lehargo. Roughly translated: If someone is coming to kill you, get up early to kill him first. It’s a variant on the golden rule—do unto others before they do “it” to you.

What is the “it” I am referring to? “It” is eliminating the filibuster rule that requires 60 votes to end debate in the Senate. Get rid of it before Republican leader Mitch McConnell does it to you next time the GOP controls the Senate with less than 60 senators.   

If you doubt McConnell’s intentions to do away with the filibuster if it benefits conservatives you haven’t been paying attention for the last decade when Republican senators operated under his leadership. McConnell’s loyalty to Senate tradition runs only as deep as his need to follow precedent if it pushes a right wing agenda. Given the fact that the filibuster was an ad-hoc invention by southerners in the early 1800s to protect slavery, and after the Civil War deny civil rights to minorities, McConnell could easily justify killing the filibuster if such action advanced his causes. 

Don’t expect any of McConnell’s potential successors to be more responsive to the needs of working and middle class families and people of color.

Republicans are aghast that Democrats enacted a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package without any of their votes, as if they are practitioners of bi-partisanship. Their crocodile tears mask the reality that McConnell used the same reconciliation tactic without any Democratic votes to push through their $1.9 trillion tax cut bill that benefitted the wealthy and corporations. Good for the goose, good for the gander.

Though he had his reservations about the pandemic relief bill, Manchin exacted sufficient compromises to cast an affirmative vote. Perhaps at this moment it would be instructive to consider the state of the state of West Virginia. Here’s how U.S. News & World Report ranked the Mountain State compared to the 49 others:

Health Care—48th





Fiscal Stability—34th

Crime and Corrections—21st

Natural Environment—41st

Overall, the state ranked 47th. For a more detailed explanation (i.e., Natural Environment does not mean mountains and lakes but rather air and water quality plus pollution), link to the magazine’s report:

West Virginia ranks 50th in life span. While its minimum wage is $8.75 compared to the federal standard of $7.25, it is hardly a living wage for anyone working 40 hours a week ($18,200 a year). 

While not a resident of Manchin’s state, I would be stunned to discover how Biden’s relief program and future plans for infrastructure improvements would not benefit West Virginians. Legislation to safeguard voting rights for minorities, enhance environmental protections and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour are three areas Manchin and all other Democrats should embrace.  

But passage of these initiatives requires doing away with the filibuster. It must be done forthwith, for Democrats cannot be certain they will retain majorities in either chamber of Congress post 2022. 

Howls will come from the right. At the state level Republicans are actively working to restrict voting rights.

For Biden and his hair-thin majorities in the House and Senate it’s now or probably never to effect real change. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Shades of Ralph Nader: Is Your Car Unsafe?

Shades of Ralph Nader’s warning that Chevrolet Corvairs were unsafe to drive at any speed.

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but you may be driving a car that is unsafe at highway speeds. Your car’s low pressure fuel pump could fail, causing a loss of power and even an engine stall. The vehicle may be unable to be restarted. An accident could very likely occur.

For about two months I ignored notices from Toyota late last year that my 2019 Camry could be susceptible to this condition. Even more problematic—Toyota at the time said it had no timetable as to when a fix could be implemented because no remedy had been discovered.

It wasn’t until tragedy struck close to my extended family last fall that I was shocked into action. A former wife of my nephew’s girlfriend’s dad died after her car stalled and was struck by another on a roadway in California. I did not know what make or model year car she was driving, but her death, catapulted me into action.

I immediately called my car dealership. Like its namesake owner Hall of Fame New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, the dealership in Mount Kisco saved the day. Without hesitation it agreed to pay for an open-ended Hertz car rental until a repair could be done. That turned out to be three months, ending the end of February.

I’m not going to bore you with details of what a low pressure fuel pump does, but know that more than 3.3 million Toyotas and Lexus brand vehicles have been affected. In addition, other car brands that use the equipment supplied by Denso, a Toyota affiliate, include Honda, Ford, Subaru and Mitsubishi for some models sold in the United States from 2013-2020, according to (

Not all model years are affected. Go to and enter your car’s VIN (vehicle identification number) to see if you’re driving a car with a defective low pressure fuel pump. Your safety depends on it.

(P.S.: Some Kia owners have their own problem to contend with. Faulty electronics could short circuit with the engine shut off, causing a fire. So the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is advising not to park Sportage and Cadenza models from 2017-2021 in a garage or you could burn it down along with your home (

Monday, March 8, 2021

Royal Exposure—It's Shin-ful

As expected, controversy galore followed the royal revelations exposed during Oprah Winfrey’s televised interview of the self-exiled Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Your views of the British “firm,” the monarchy and its numerous appendages, may well influence your reaction to the gabfest.

But one incontrovertible fact was visible for all to see one and three-quarter hours into the one-sided tell-all—Harry’s naked shins. 

How is it that someone of his stature and upbringing does not know that it is truly déclassé to display one’s skin when your pants leg inches up when seated and your socks are too short to cover up the gap? Was his gentleman’s gentleman off the day of the shooting? It is okay for Meghan to show off her ankles, as she did above four, or maybe five, inch heels, but it is most definitely not acceptable for Harry to blind viewers with the whiteness of his lower leg. 

Harry’s not the first public figure to make this faux pas. Back in 2009 I pointed out President Barack Obama’s sartorial sin during an appearance on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” ( I’m content to report that during subsequent sit-downs Obama wore sufficiently long hose. 

It’s just not presidential or princely, er, dukey, to shock viewers with your ankle epidermis. Unless you choose to go sockless, which the red-haired Harry did not.

Tut tut, Harry. Time to admonish your personal valet, or if you’re now dressing yourself, order some over-the-calf length socks to cover up the royal shins.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Passing of a Chevra Member

 In simple terms the Hebrew word “chevra” connotes a group of like minded men and women who share common values and beliefs. A society.

To be part of a chevra, residency in close proximity is not required. Political leanings might be polarized, economic status could be disproportionate, education levels and professions might be different, family status need not be uniform.

You don’t have to be best friends with every member of your chevra, but it is universally understood that in a crisis, large or small, you would be available without hesitation to do whatever is necessary or asked.

What matters is that one cares for the other. Sort of like members of a military platoon, like in “Band of Brothers.” A chevra transcends any defining code. Chevra celebrate good times together and comfort each other when tragedy or just the normal ebb of human existence intrudes, as it inevitably will.

The serenity of the chevra Gilda and I belong to was pierced Saturday morning by the sudden death of Howard Silver. Five months shy of his 72nd birthday, Howard’s passing exposed the vulnerability of the dozen or so couples in our chevra, all in the seventh or eighth decades of our lives.

Most of us latched onto our chevra 35-40 years ago when we moved to White Plains, joined Temple Israel Center, and enrolled our children in the Solomon Schechter School (now the Leffell School).

Our children played sports together, performed in plays together, partied together. We parents attended their bar and bat mitzvahs, their weddings and sat shiva with them when a grandparent passed away.

After our daughter Ellie went off to college she complained that we lived in a bubble. It was hard for her to relate to other students. None of our chevra divorced. None had drug or alcohol dependencies. No one was abusive or arrested.

Perhaps unique among a chevra of our age, it has been 31 years since a member of our group, Michael Lauchheimer, had died. Through several coronary issues and assorted minor ailments we survived intact. Howard’s passing shattered any illusion of invincibility.

I didn’t consult anyone but I am sure many like me had difficulty falling asleep Saturday night. Most of this blog was written between 1 and 2 am.

Saturday, for Gilda and me, started out in a joyous way. Saturday was my 72nd birthday. Calls from friends and relatives filtered in throughout the day.

Birthdays are supposed to be merry occasions, a day to remember happy times. And so it was for me as I sat at my desk writing a whimsical blog about past birthday celebrations when a 4 pm call from one of our chevra brought overwhelming sadness into our lives.

More than a friend passed away Saturday.