Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Today's LESSON IN SARCASM: Stella.


Happens all of the time. In fact, did again just the other night with a co-worker. They'll hear me talking to (or about) a woman named Stella - who also happens to be my mother - and, say:

you call your mother Stella?

Yes. I always have, is my invariable reply.

Don't you think that's weird, calling her Stella?, is the almost invariable response.

And, I always answer: No. Since her name IS Stella, what would be weird would be to call her Margaret or Donna.

That is all.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Today's MOSTLY TRUE SHORT STORY: Kissing God

F LoBuono

Growing up in the late 60's and early 70's and living where I did meant you were fully indoctrinated into the so-called Drug Culture of the time.  It was the zenith of the Tune In-Turn On-and Drop Out generation. Most of us subscribed to that philosophy in one degree or another. It was a time when experimentation ruled and I, for one, was willing to try almost anything, often simply for the sake of saying that I did. I was young and fearless - death was inconceivable. It seemed so far away. But I was reckless and foolish, too. I was living life on the razor's edge - bullet proof - indestructible.

I wasn't looking to use drugs as some did, i.e. to escape reality or just to "party", but much more for the experience it might bring. I was a big fan of Aldous Huxley's seminal work, "The Doors of Perception". In the essay, Huxley describes his experiences using mescaline, the psychedelic ingredient in the peyote cactus. He believed that using mind-altering substances like mescaline would bring him to an alternative state of reality - one that existed only deep within the recesses of our unconscious minds. Some of these materials could provide the key to that lock. He would break on through to the other side (by the way, The Doors took their name from Huxley's work). With that in mind, there seemed to be few drugs that I would not experiment with- except HEROIN (until I did. More later).

Pot, LSD, mescaline, peyote, Quaaludes, uppers, downers, and in-betweeners were all on the menu. All could be be used in the name of experimentation - all except heroin. That was the devil's drug. It could do no good, only harm. It was an evil substance that was a blight on our inner cities. Nice white kids from suburbia didn't do heroin; gang-bangers and minority kids did. It seemed to never leave the ghetto. And, as long as it stayed there, no one seemed to care.

Well, that's not the case today. Heroin addiction is now no longer restricted to the inner cities. It has seeped into virtually every bastion of white privilege - like Cambridge, Mass., the home of Harvard University (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/07/us/heroin-epidemic-increasingly-seeps-into-public-view.html?_r=0). I have been approached by a number of women who have lost their children at young ages to heroin overdoses. They are all wonderful women who are great mothers and also devastated by their losses. They did everything they could to save their children: interventions, arrests, repeated trips to rehab. But, to no avail. In the end, the heroin proved even stronger than their love.

But, why? How? What is it about heroin that makes it so insidious?

I'm not sure that I have the answer, especially in light of my one and only experience with the drug.

I was in my mid-twenties and fresh out of graduate school. I hadn't quite settled into a professional career and, so, was just driving a taxi to get by until I figured it all out. During my time with the cab company, I was befriended by a regular passenger. His name was Mike. He liked my "style" and regularly requested me to drive him into NYC to conduct his business. A ride into the City with Mike could make your whole day. He always left a generous tip. And, he was a most unusual man. Extraordinarily tall (about 6'7"), he came from a very wealthy Jewish, New York family. His father was the largest importer of Teamo tobacco products in the City. His mother owned the 4th largest private collection of Tiffany Lamps in the world. Mike also claimed that he was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, the veracity of which I can not verify. And, he was also incredibly intelligent. On our trips into town, we would have long, deep, detailed conversations on the meaning of life. One day after riding in my taxi he told me that he would need to go back into the City the next day and he wanted me to drive him. He wanted to make the trip more interesting and, so, challenged me on my lexicon. That night, he wanted me to to look up any three words from the dictionary to question him as to their meanings when I drove him the next day. He said the more obscure, the better. When I picked him up at the predetermined time the next day, I was ready. I had found three words that I had never even heard of before, much less knew the meaning of, confident that I could stump him. Well, not only did he get the words IMMEDIATELY, he chided me for bringing him ones that were so obvious!

Yes, he was remarkable. But, he was also very troubled. He had two major addictions - gambling and heroin.

Driving him to an illegal betting parlor on the lower East Side of Manhattan one day, I saw him take a brown paper bag filled with about $10,000 in cash that he had withdrawn from his father's bank account and bet the whole thing on a NY Knicks basketball game. I believe that he lost that bet. I would also take him on his frequent trips to the Alphabet City neighborhood in lower Manhattan to purchase his heroin. I was not afraid to drive him. In fact, I found the whole subculture fascinating.

I was also mystified how this brilliant, wealthy, friendly man let his life get so out of control. During our trips together, in an effort to understand, I would pepper him with question about his life and how he had gotten to that point. When I pressed him as to why someone with so much talent would waste it all by being an addict he answered, "because doing heroin is like kissing god"!

Of course, this piqued my interest in him and heroin even further. Every time that I drove him I barraged him with questions as to how and why he did what he did. Finally, one day, after one of our forays into the City, I was dropping him off at his apartment when he pressed something into my hand as a "tip". When I opened my hand to check it out, I noticed that it was a small, cellophane packet containing a small amount of a brownish-white powder. It also had a graphic of a blue locomotive stamped on it. I asked, "what the hell is this"?

"What do you think it is? Time to put your money where your mouth is", he replied.

I looked at it again as said, "you're out of your mind! I'm not shooting this shit into my body".

Mike responded, "you don't have to. You've snorted cocaine before, right? Well, you can use heroin the same way. There's enough in this packet for about 4 lines. Cut out 2. You can always do more if you want to but you can't do less once you've begun. Wait until you have a time when you don't have to be anywhere and find out for yourself what it's all about".

He left my cab, I placed the packet in my pocket, finished my shift, and drove to my apartment. It was a Friday night. I took the packet into my bedroom to open it. I found my "cocaine kit" (a small mirror, razor blade and straw) and emptied the contents onto the mirror. As Mike said, the brownish powder was enough for about 4 small "lines". I cut out 2  as he had suggested. My roommate wasn't home yet, so I had the privacy that I needed to conduct my experiment. I snorted the two and waited for my roommate to get home. He arrived about a half- hour later.

I greeted him but made no mention of what I had done. Since he was an intrepid experimenter too we had often discussed the possibility of trying heroin - at least on a temporary basis. He was familiar with Mike and had also been intrigued by what it was all about. But, I said nothing. I wanted to be the first to find out what knowledge it might offer. Perhaps, afterward we would discuss what I had experienced. Since it was a Friday he suggested that we go to the nearby grocery store to shop for something to eat before we headed out for the evening's festivities. I agreed and we walked to the corner together.

When I first snorted the heroin, I felt nothing. There was virtually no sensation except, perhaps, a little burning in my nose. That all changed shortly after we got to the supermarket. Suddenly, I started to get nauseous. At first, it was just a little uncomfortable. But, after a few minutes the nausea started to get severe - so much so that I was afraid that I would vomit in the middle of the store. I made some excuse to my roommate explaining that I had to go outside for a minute but that I would be right back. I felt like I desperately needed some fresh air or I was in danger of passing out in one of the aisles. I stepped out into the store's parking lot and began to breath deeply. I was desperately trying to get control of myself. After some time, I started feeling a bit better and returned to the store and found my roommate. He asked how I was doing and I replied "fine".

We finished our shopping and headed back to our apartment to put our groceries away and begin preparing for the night. We started loading the stuff into the kitchen cabinets while discussing our plans for the evening. Suddenly, as before but only worse this time, I started to experience light-headiness and EXTREME nausea. I fought the feeling as best I could but after a few more minutes I was getting overwhelmed with this sickness. I called over to my friend and said, hey, if you don't mind, I'm not feeling very well. Would you mind if you finished up alone so that I could lie down for a bit? He looked over at me. His jaw dropped and he replied, "holy shit - you're fucking GREEN! You'd better go lie down"! And, that's exactly what I did.

When I got to my bed, I laid down on my back, with my clothes on. And, I was acutely ill. I found that the only way I could avoid the feeling of overwhelming nausea was to lie as completely still as possible. Even turning my head slightly nearly paralyzed me with sickness. So, there I lie, fully clothed and as motionless as I could possibly make myself. And, there I stayed - ALL night. My roommate and other friends who had come by for the normal Friday night revelry came in to check on me from time to time. I responded as succinctly as I possible could, not moving my head at all and whispering, "I'm OK". Of course, that was a lie. The fact was that I was not even sure that I would make it through the night. Still, I told no one and suffered in silence.

The night finally passed and when the morning came, much to my relief, I had survived. I was actually able to lift myself off of the bed and stand. After a few minutes, I realized that the worst was over and that I was gradually returning to some type of normalcy. My roommate woke a short time later and we sat together to have coffee. Of course, he asked me if I was OK and what the hell had happened to me the night before. I came clean and told him exactly what I had done. Instead of being angry, he was quite impressed that I had been so bold. And, we both wondered what could have gone wrong. It certainly was NOT like Kissing God! We called a mutual friend who had some experience in these matters to ask. He explained to us that my experience was not unusual for first-time users. He went on to say that there are certain precautions to take, like protecting your stomach with some type of anti-nausea medication, that will protect you, at least somewhat.

My roommate asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of the heroin. I told him that he could have it if he wanted. I was DONE with THIS experiment. That night had told me everything that I needed to know about heroin. My body had punished me for my insolence. How dare I allow this poison into the temple that is the human body. The message was VERY loud and clear - this shit is DEATH. If that's the price for Kissing God, then I'm not interested.

We flushed what was left down the toilet.

I know that heroin has infiltrated our society in a way that it has never done before. It is accessible and it is cheap. But, take it from me, it is also DEADLY. I was lucky to have survived a foolish experiment. So, young people, LISTEN to your parents and those who love you enough to tell you the truth - find another way to KISS GOD - his lips cannot be found at the point of a syringe.

Epilogue: My friend, Mike, who had given me the heroin in the first place, made me watch him shoot it into his veins one day. And, he did it on purpose - whatever "romantic" notion that I may have once had about experimenting with that poison was completely dashed by the vision of that filthy needle sticking in his arm. I have not seen or spoken to him in over 20 years. But, I'm sure that he, too, was taken by the needle.

I miss my son. Mornings are so hard. I cry here at my kitchen table while the world still sleeps just about every morning before work. I will never understand why after years of prayer and intervention after intervention we still lost this battle. After over 3 years clean we had begun to breath again finally. We had begun to think he had made it. This disease is cunning, baffling and powerful. It robbed us of everything. It is the devil's drug no doubt. I carry you with me Zach Ziehm. All day every day. I will love you forever. 

Tami George, who lost her son to a heroin overdose.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/07/us/heroin-epidemic-increasingly-seeps-into-public-view.html?_r=0




Saturday, March 18, 2017

Today's MOZEN: Journalism - Sunscreen for the Truth

F LoBuono

People often ask me what good is a Free Press anyway? After all, WHY do we need journalists? What EXACTLY is it that they do?

I like to use this analogy to explain: The truth can be big and blinding, like the sun. It is just as illuminating and powerful. And, it is as essential to life as we know it on this planet. However, left unfiltered by some protective means, the sun can also have a devastating effect. It is the source for all life but it can also burn and destroy. That's why doctors advise against long, unprotected exposure to the sun's rays. They recommend the use of sunscreen in the proper amount and potency if one plans to be exposed to the sun for any length of time.

Well, that's where we come in.

Journalists (at least good ones) act as a type of sunscreen for the truth. Stories, in their raw form, are usually big and complex. They generate a lot of heat, if you will. They must be researched, scrutinized, and then, most importantly, interpreted. Without these checks and balances, a story, like the sun, can burn instead of illuminate. It is up to the journalist to find a way to filter out the harmful rays of distortion and inaccuracy and allow the essence of truth to shine through. Honed through education and years of experience, the journalist, like the right SPF sunscreen, creates a safe setting from which we can bathe in the light of truth and honesty. Left unfiltered, like the unchecked rays of the sun, a story which has not been properly screened for intent and accuracy, i.e. vetted, can do far more harm than good.

Of course, there are those who prefer their information completely unfiltered. And, they have a point. It is important for each person to interpret the facts as they see them. But, it is the journalist who MUST present those facts in a way that we can see them for what they are while not being burned by an unfiltered lie. That is why journalism is a sacred profession. It is an enormous responsibility to shine the light on the truth while at the same time protecting the individual from getting burned.




Today's Mostly True Short Story: St. Partick's Day 2017

F LoBuono

St. Patrick's Day 2017
Pearl River, New York
Southbound Bar and Grill

It was a very rare Friday night, indeed. At least it was for me. First, I had the evening off. Normally, I work on Friday nights, but my schedule was switched to 8 a.m.-4 p.m. It also happened to be St. Patrick's Day and my good friends, Loren Korevec and Tim O'Donaghue, were playing with their band, The Liffey Mud, at a nice little B and G in the heart of the most Irish enclave in Rockland County, NY; Pearl River. The Southbound Bar and Grill is a really local place next to the railroad tracks and in the old train station. If you didn't know it was there, you might walk right by it. Because of this, the crowd would not be overwhelmed by the young amateurs who would be looking to prove their drinking prowess (or, LACK of it) at the more popular bars in town. The music was scheduled to begin at 7.

It couldn't be more perfect.

I decided to get there around 8. This would give the band a chance to get a little "lubed up", in every sense of the word. I parked nearby and walked through the front door to find the boys in good form and the crowd lively and appreciative of the music. Wading through a small mob at the bar, I found a gap and got the bartenders attention. A small women with wavy, strawberry-blonde hair, was alone behind the bar. Despite the fact that it was busy, she seemed to be doing just fine on her own and I didn't have to wait long for her to come over. I thought that I detected a slight Irish brogue when she asked:

What'll it be, lad?

Raising my voice above the din, I replied: What draft beers are you pouring?

Of course, we have Guinness.

I said: Well, I know that it's St. Paddy's Day and all, but Guinness and I are not on speaking terms.

I spared her the gory details of how one St. Patrick's day, a LONG time ago, I was one of those bold, young men trying to prove my drinking prowess (or, LACK of it) like the ones I would be avoiding that evening. I did so by attempting to consume as much Guinness as I possible could at the now defunct Glocca Mora Pub on Manhattan's East Side. I drank so much of it that I was eventually forced to worship the Great Porcelain God for payment. It was so bad that, to this very day, I have trouble simply smelling Guinness. Even during my visit to the temple for Irish beer, the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, I couldn't drink it (now, consuming the whiskey they make is a story for another day).

That's too bad, lad. We also have Heineken, she replied.

I'll have one of those, thanks.

She poured me a long, cold one. I paid and tipped her and turned back to the music which was now in full swing. I stayed for one more round and them made my way home by 10 pm.

Yes, my friends, it was a very mature St. Patrick's Day.







Sunday, March 12, 2017

Today's Mostly True Short Story: Ax and Ye Shall Receive.

F LoBuono
Someone must have had an ax to grind with me - because they stole mine!

I love to chop and split my own firewood. I live near a nature trail, so aged lumber is in ready supply. It's just a matter of harvesting it. Splitting the wood with a hand ax is great, natural exercise - no need to go to the gym after an hour of swinging that tool. I use the wood in the small fireplace I have in my bedroom. A warm, cozy fire on a bitterly cold night is one of the few pleasures I take from winter.

A friend had given me and old, wood-handled ax last year and it had served me well for the last two winter seasons. I kept it in an old shed of sorts in an abandoned lot next to my apartment. The "shed" had no door but adequately held the ax and the wood I split there. I never thought of hiding it - after all, who would even think of stealing such a thing?

Well, someone did!

With the latest round of frigid weather, I needed a fresh supply of firewood to burn. So, I went to my little shed to split some for use. When I got there, I went to the spot where I store my ax. It was no where to be found. Figuring that as absent minded as I can be, perhaps I left it somewhere else in the shed. I searched in vane - nothing. After I exhausted all possibilities of where it might have hid itself, I realized that it was simply gone. It certainly didn't walk away on its own. Someone must have seen me use it and figured that they could secure it for themselves with an easy five-fingered discount. Bye-bye ax.

And, it was damned cold - I need that wood!

So, it was off the local Home Depot for a replacement.

I hadn't been to the store in quite some time, especially to buy a tool like an ax, and I couldn't remember where they kept them. So, I decided to ask one of the bright yellow-shirted Home Depot assistants who was congregating near the front checkout area.

"Where can I find an ax", I inquired.

With a quizzical look on his face, he responded, "an ax"?

"Yes, an ax".

Making a chopping motion like he was raising one over his head, he said, "like this kind of ax"?

"Exactly", I assured him.

He paused to think for a second. I could only imagine that, for the life of him, he couldn't figure out what I could possible want with an ax. Taking one look at me, perhaps he thought that I would use it to murder someone and dismember their body.

"I'm not sure, sir. Let me ask my supervisor", which he then preceded to do.

The supervisor jumped right in said, "Of course we have them. Follow me, sir. Right this way".

While he led me to where they were located, he made sure that I wanted a full-sized ax and not just a hatchet. I assured him that I did, indeed, need a whole, entire ax. I found exactly what I needed and $30 later, it was mine. There would be warmth that night.

I suppose the moral of the story is that when you need information, you need to ax the right person.

That is all.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Today's MOZEN: JEZEBEL

Bette Davis in JEZEBEL
by F LoBuono
Using the TV remote, I was aimlessly flipping up and down the channel line-up, wading through the mindless drivel that passes for entertainment these days, when I stopped at Turner Classic Movies. "Jezebel"was airing at the time. I was somewhat familiar with the story but had never actually seen the movie. Directed by William Wyler with a screenplay co-written by John Huston, the film was released in 1933 with Bette Davis in the lead supported by Henry Fonda. The role won Davis an Academy Award and established her as a bonafide Hollywood leading lady.

Set in pre-Civil War New Orleans, Davis plays Julie Marsden, a strong willed Southern Belle of wealth and privilege. Henry Fonda is Preston Dillard, an influential and powerful young banker who is also Julie's fiance. Julie is a catch with a catch - she is beautiful and engaging. But, she is also spoiled and petulant.

Together, they are set to attend one of New Orleans' famous balls where all of the young, unmarried women display themselves in elaborate, antebellum white gowns when one day Julie appears at Dillard's office and insists that he leave his work and shop for a gown with her. Citing his busy work schedule, he declines. Julie is incensed and quietly plans her revenge for Dillard's slight. Instead of purchasing the delicate white gown designed for her, she decides instead to go for a hot, red number. This will teach him that she gets what she wants! Her seamstress is incredulous. She explains to Julie that wearing ANYTHING but virginal white is absolutely forbidden. If she insists on wearing the red dress to the ball she will risk becoming a social pariah. But, Julie insists that she will make her own rules when it comes to what she wears. She raves that her life is her own and she will walk the path the see chooses for herself - convention and tradition be damned! She is warned that if she persists in her defiance, there will be consequences.

When Dillard founds out of her plan, he is incensed! He threatens that if she does not honor the tradition and, therefore, the other women, she will pay a hefty social price. When he arrives at her home to bring her to the ball, he finds that she has ignored his warnings and is wearing the red gown. Others in their party beg her to change but she refuses. She is determined to have her way. Dillard accommodates her, letting nature take its course.

Of course, when they arrive at the ball, the couple is met with distrustful glares. The gossip begins immediately. When the time for the big dance arrives, they hit the floor together. Eventually, all of the other couples move away and actually leave the floor, abandoning them to dance completely alone. Julie realizes her folly and begs Dillard to take her away. He refuses, opting instead to allow her to bear the full brunt of her decision. When they do finally leave and arrive at her home, she slaps him for what she perceives as his insolence. He breaks the engagement and leaves the city.

When he does finally return to New Orleans, it is with a new woman - his Northern wife. Julie, who anticipated his return and, therefore, their romantic reunion, is devastated. She eventually finds her redemption by working as a nurse to help quell an outbreak of yellow fever that has affected most the city, including Mr. Dillard.

What I found most interesting about Davis' character was the fact that, at the time, her fierce independence was seen as a most unflattering liability. Another issue was that her attitude flew in the face of a time honored tradition and mocked the morals and ethics of the others on her level of society. It reinforced the idea that if you stand against the crowd, you do so alone. There was a certain level of righteous indignation on the part of her contemporaries, including her fiance. She was "redeemed" only when she sacrificed herself for the good of all - as a "proper" woman should. Her sacrifice is admirable, but it once again establishes the stereotype that women do not lead - they serve.

Now, the film is of a historical nature and looks to capture a bygone era - the Antebellum South. Director Wyler had to remain true to the scruples and morals of that particular time period. It was also made in 1933, not exactly the age when independent women where truly valued (although as an actress an individual, Davis did much to change that perception). Even the title of the film, Jezebel, taken from the bible, is synonymous with morally "difficult" women - at least as perceived by the men who write about them.  I wonder if the film were made today, would the character of Julie Marsden still be seen as a selfish, self centered, petulant bitch or a true, free spirit who is determined to flaunt the rules and live her life as SHE sees fit?

Food for thought.






Friday, March 10, 2017

Today's MOZEN: WTF???????????

F LoBuono
Stella always chastises me to watch my language. I have a tendency to punctuate my conversations with, shall we say, colorful phrases. Simply put, I swear like a stable boy (why stable boys curse so much is beyond me). One of the reasons is where and how I was raised. My friends and I grew up on the streets where swearing was an integral part of our vernacular. Using that type of language, in a sense, has become second nature to me. Besides, I subscribe to the George S. Patton school of public speaking (and writing). When asked why he swore so often, the general replied, I give it to them fast and dirty. That way, they'll remember it.

So, with that in mind, allow me to say this: WHAT THE FUCK?!

How can ANYONE defend the BULL SHIT that is being put forth by our government?

Here are the top WTF? moments from THIS week alone:

Ben Carson, HUD Secretary, compared African slaves to immigrants who came to this Country looking for a chance at a new life. WHAT THE FUCK???????????

Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, just DENIED that human activity (i.e. CO2 gas), despite the FACT that 97% of  environmental scientists say that it does, plays a major role in global warming. WHAT THE FUCK???????

Michael Flynn, President Trump's former adviser on National Security, was found to be working for the Turks WHILE he was also working for Trump's campaign. WHAT THE FUCK????????

John Shimkus, a GOP Congressman from Illinois, questioned WHY should men have to pay for prenatal care??? WHAT THE FUCK??????????????????

Donald J. Trump, our President, claimed, without offering any PROOF, that former President Barack Obama had ordered Mr. Trump's phones tapped during the campaign. WHAT THE FUCK?????????

And, I could go on - but, WHAT THE FUCK???????????

Epilogue:

https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015-12-17/study-people-who-swear-more-are-smarter-have-larger-vocabulary


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Today's MOZEN: Hate by Any Other Name

F LoBuono
In a Facebook discussion a few days ago, a friend chided me for making the recent spike in hate crimes, particularly those involving anti-Semitic behavior, a political topic. I argued that, under the climate currently being fostered by this Administration, that is nearly impossible NOT to do so.

Although hate crimes and anti-Semitism have existed for thousands of years, statistics are indicating an alarming increase in their frequency since the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States (http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/02/so-far-rate-of-hate-crimes-in-2017-outpacing-2016-109621). It is not too far-fetched to simply connect the dots. Mr. Trump's rhetoric, particularly targeting immigrants and refugees, has been far from compassionate. In fact, many have called it downright incendiary. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that one has led to the other.

However, I also think that I get the point that my friend was trying to make. Hate, and anti-Semitism is not exclusive to this Administration. To bolster his case, he sent me statistics of the large number of anti-Semitic attacks that happened under the Obama Administration that went largely un-reported or under-reported. He asserts that for this reason, politics should play no role - hate comes in many shapes, sizes, and administrations. He asked, "why now? Why not ALWAYS"?

On this point, I tend to agree. It s arguable that many are using this current trend more to discredit the President than they for a genuine concern for the elimination of hate and prejudice. THAT does make it political.

However, words count. Attitude counts. POLICY counts. And, this President, in word AND deed, is giving license to those who hate. When we practice exclusionary tactics, it tends to spread like cancer - it starts in one area and, if left untreated, infects the entire body. I believe this is what is happening in our Country now. With Executive Actions that single out particular groups, the President gives tacit approval for those with hate in their hearts to express their vitriol. It may be focused on one group initially, but like cancer, spreads to any others who may be different from the mainstream - like Jews. And, Jews, like few other groups, have born the brunt of the hate since their inception. Although I live in a area where Jews are common place, they still make up a VERY small percentage of the American population. It is estimated that there are only about 5-7 million Jews out of nearly 320 million Americans. That makes them an EXTREMELY small and, therefore, a most vulnerable minority.

This is why it is so dangerous AT ANY TIME to single out ANY ETHNIC group from exclusion.  It may begin with one but, eventually, it effects ALL of us. Hate by any other name, including anti-Semitism is still just hate. Beyond politics, beyond labels, HATE IS HATE IS HATE - and we must condemn it as such in all its manifestations - no matter who is in charge!



Saturday, March 4, 2017

Today's LESSON IN SARCASM: WINTER


Winter.

It's all about the love.

I love it when it's so cold that my eyeballs ache, my fingers bleed, my toes scream, and my member shrivels to an even more pathetic size.

I love wearing so many layers of clothes that if I fell down I wouldn't be able to get up from the shear bulk.

I love it when I enter my car, turn the key and hear a noise that sounds something like please don't start me - please don't start me - leeeeeve me alone!!

I love it when the wind is so fierce that it feels like something is eating my face.

I love driving on black ice that can't be seen until it's too late.

I love it after it snows and the road crews lay down so much salt that my green car turns white with the residue until May.

I love the deserted streets because it's too damned cold for any human to walk them.

And, I love it when people tell me how much they enjoy the clean, fresh air, even when it hurts to even breath!

Oh, yes, I LOVE winter.

That is all.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Today's MOZEN: BEAT

F LoBuono
When I'm in a mood like the one I happen to be in tonight, I think of the word BEAT to describe it. I mean it in the same sense that the great author, Jack Kerouac, did when he was writing his seminal work "On the Road" in the early 1950's.  Kerouac, and his compatriots had just witnessed the near destruction of civilization in WWII. Many of them, like Kerouac, served in some capacity (Kerouac was in the Merchant Marine) and experienced the horror of the war firsthand. They returned to civilian life changed men. They saw that the "old way" of doing things was just leading to more death and destruction. It created a weariness in them of heart and soul that was palpable. Kerouac said that they were beat down by their experience. There had to be a better way - and, it could only be achieved with a new type of free thinking. He (and many others) swore to tune in, turn on, and drop out. They were determined to find a new path, a brighter light to guide them into the future. If that meant being "anti-social", then so be it.  They simply would not return to the old ways. And, the Beat Generation was formed.

Now, many people today see the Beat Generation as "beatniks", the precursor to the so-called Hippie Generation - you know folks with long hair, beards, and beads, playing bongo drums and saying "cool man" and "peace" while holding two fingers up in an inverted "V". This is true, but only superficially. The real change came from within. There was rebellion against the authority that had created the whole mess in the first place. The writing of men like Kerouac, Allan Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Gregory Corso crystallized this new way of thinking. They were mad as hell and they were not going to take it anymore!

Well, tonight, I'm beat. Yes, I am physically tired but that's not the weariness that I'm talking about. I'm beat in the sense that my soul aches from what seems to be a constant barrage of negative thoughts and images. Today, exacerbated by a new administration supported by millions of my fellow Americans, fear and loathing rather than love and compassion seem to dominate our thinking. Our President and his supporters seem to seek out the worst in people instead of the best. Hate crimes of all nature seem to be on the rise (statistics are supporting this assumption). Fear and distrust of strangers, i.e. immigrants, is becoming common place. Laws protecting our environment are being rolled back. Billions more will be spent on the military rather than on schools and care for our veterans and elderly. Hard won gains in the LGBT community are being reversed. Health care is being obliterated. It's enough to make my fucking eyes bleed!

And, I'm not sure what to do about it. Writing helps, but is it enough? I'm tired of dealing with trolls, i.e. people with small minds and even weaker constitutions. They are the ones who accept the lowest common denominator simply because it's the easy way out. I wish that they would all just dry up and blow away. I don't want to stop caring. I can't. It's not within me to do so.

I suppose the best thing to do when I get in a mood like this is to follow Stella's advice : Frankie, hang in there. Tomorrow is another day. I can always trust (and, hope) that it holds the promise to be better than today.