Thursday, April 19, 2018

Today's MOZEN: Birthday Reflections

F LoBuono
In exactly one week from this posting, I will, hopefully, celebrate my birthday. It is a rather nondescript #63. Certainly, it's not one of the so-called biggies like 50,60, or 70. Still, it gives me pause to reflect.

I certainly don't feel like I'm in my 60's. And, fortunately, with the exception of my almost pure, white beard, most people say that I don't look it. Most importantly, I really don't feel old, either. Sure, I have the mysterious aches and pains that come with aging and I ain't running any marathons, either (but, then again, I never did!). However, I posses a certain vigor that, at times, can put younger men to shame. I suppose my lifelong hyperactive nature is finally good for something!

When I was a young man, I used to think that someone in their 60's was quite old. Now, of course, actually being a sexagenarian, my overview has certainly changed. And, it's not just physical either. Having 60 plus years under one's belt certainly gives one the perspective of experience. And, I'm proud to say that I have had a bunch, both professionally and personally. My work has allowed me to witness, firsthand, some of my generation's most historic events like a launch of the Space Shuttle, the election of our first black President and a Pope, among others. I've been married and alone. I've been poor and financially stable. And, I've been lauded and cursed. Mine has been a full life so far. Certainly, my desire is for it to continue for as long as I able to make things happen.

As part of my reflection, I have come to terms with the fact the older I get the more death I will also experience. Just within the last few months I have lost 3 contemporaries whom I loved very much. My mother is 94 and my dog 14. Many of my friends who still have their parents are in danger of losing them, too. Plus, some of them have their own age related infirmities, as well.

In the long run, to me, this means that we must prepare ourselves on a daily basis to live as fully as possible, as intensely as is feasible, and love as profoundly as is obtainable. We need not fear the inevitable. But, we must face it, not only for ourselves but with those around us. The only thing truly permanent about life is its impermanence. So, laugh while you can but don't be afraid to cry, too. Make your life as full as you can for as long as you can. And, the rest will take care of itself.




Saturday, April 14, 2018

Today's MOZEN: The Tail Waggin' the Dog

F LoBuono

Suddenly, for an Administration that prides itself on the overuse of intimidation as a negotiating tactic and whose bluster borders on the psychotic, they seem to have added a strange new word to their lexicon: Compassion.

Yes, you heard that right, compassion.

You see, there have been reports of a poison gas attack perpetrated in Syria by the Russian and Iranian supported Assad regime against rebels fighting to overthrow him. The gas killed many, including innocent women and children, in a most horrific fashion. Video from the attack was disturbing to say the least. Blaming Assad directly, the world was rightly outraged. An imaginary line in the sand had been crossed. Using chemical warfare to dispatch one's enemies would simply not be tolerated. Action would be taken and, of course, America would lead the way.

Now, on the surface, who would argue with any steps taken to stop a barbarous dictator from brutalizing his own people? Joining the U.S., France and the U.K. launched aircraft and missile strikes against specific targets inside Syria. Initial reports indicate that the missions were successful in destroying their targets with minimal loss of life.

So, what's the problem?

Well, I have a few.

First, and perhaps most importantly, what difference does it make if children are killed by so-called conventional weapons compared to those murdered by chemical ones? And, Syrian children have been suffering and dying by conventional means for years now. Isn't one violent death as disturbing as another? Why should our interest to "save the children" have peaked now. Has our President truly discovered compassion?

Perhaps.

But, there are those who would argue that this has happened because our President is in dire straights at home with many salacious scandals and needed a distraction - one that would make him look both powerful AND empathetic. And, what better way to accomplish this than by throwing red meat to his base than with screaming fighter jets and booming rockets punishing a despot?

But, without a follow-up policy, what have we really accomplished? Will the civil war there be brought to a halt? Will the children stop dying? Unfortunately, I think not.

Then, there is the issue of our involvement in a country nearly 6 thousand miles away and that has been involved in a violent internal conflict for many years. Yes, it seems noble to want to save innocents but is it truly altruism on our part or something more nefarious? What will "Nation Building" get us? It certainly did not work in Iraq or Afghanistan. And, it won't work here, either.

Next, there is the issue of the cost. The US alone is reported to have launched at least 118 missiles into Syria. Assuming that they were Tomahawks (our weapon of choice), that would be a total of over $162,000,000 spent to punish Assad. $162,000,000. Now, no one likes to put a price on saving a human life but, just for context, it is said that it would cost only $55,000,000 to repair the water pipes that are the cause of the toxic water inflicting the children of Flint, Michigan. So, in other words, we have PLENTY of money to exert our influence in a foreign country but not enough to save one of our own cities.

In the final analysis, we have a slogan to describe this type of scenario: The Tail Waggin' The Dog.

And, it ain't right. . .






Sunday, April 8, 2018

Today's MOSTLY TRUE SHORT STORY: Easter Bells

Photo courtesy of Holy Virgin Protection Church

Let's face it - it's been a crappy Spring so far - cold, grey, blustery. And, today was pretty much the same with the exception of a bit more sunshine. It sure has gotten to wear thin. But, today, I was determined to not let it bring me down. The first Nyack Street Fair was scheduled - the perfect excuse to quit complaining, get the hell out of my apartment, and take a sojourn through town and the fair.

Walking at a brisk pace to match the weather conditions, I reached downtown in almost no time. Broadway was loaded with vendors hawking their wares to thousands of potential customers. I suppose that many people felt as I did and needed to get out, evidenced by the packed streets.

I eyeballed some of the merchandise but did not feel compelled to buy anything - I have too much stuff anyway. But, I was hungry and did stop to buy a crab cake for 8 bucks. It was pretty good, too. I was also lucky to have had a good supply of dollar bills with me which I used to place in the buckets of the VFW, the American Legion, the Soup Angels, and the VC/Nyack Indian Little League Team. After having satisfied my curiosity, satiated my hunger and fulfilled my philanthropic endeavors, I decided to head back to my apartment.

One of the reasons that I choose to live where I do is because I believe that it gives me the best of two worlds: when I want activity, it's just a few blocks into town. When I want peace and quiet, I get it by walking back out and into my quiet neighborhood. So it was today.

I crossed the village line between Nyack and South Nyack - Cedar Hill Ave. - and the mood changed almost instantly from the hustle and bustle of the fair to the bucolic quiet of a neighborhood. I went a few more blocks when I heard them: bells, church bells. But, these were not the booming church bells most of us are familiar with. Rather, they were more delicate, like wind chimes, but more powerful and melodic. The sound was drifting down from the hills above and flowing towards the River. It was then that I realized that I was listening to the distinct sound of the bells of an Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Holy Virgin Protection Russian Orthodox Church is located on Mill St. in Nyack, just a few blocks from where I was walking. They were in the midst of celebrating it's most holy day - Easter Sunday. And, their distinct bells where singing with joy! The bell tower at the church is very different from those located in the Western Christian churches in town. Instead of a large bell located in a brick or stone structure, the tower at Holy Virgin is open and airy, with many different sized bells instead of just a single (or two) large one. They are also played differently - like an instrument with the operator pulling a series of ropes tied to the bells. He also uses his feet attached to others via pedals to add to this symphony of sound. The combined effect is a complex and appealing cacophony of rings and tinkles.

For such a delicate harmony it still stood out against the competing street noise. In fact, it was almost as if it gained volume when it rolled down the hill and reflected off the Hudson. It must have lasted about 3 or 4 minutes as I continued my way south and towards my apartment. Then, as suddenly as it had started, the bells were gone. But, that's OK. The effect they had on me made my whole day. It's the simplest of things that can make living here so wonderful. You just have to listen . . .


Friday, April 6, 2018

Today's MOZEN: A Tale Told By An Idiot.

F LoBuono

We are all guided by a set of principles - or, at least we should be. We most often define this as morality. Many associate those fundamentals with religious doctrine. That's fine. However, one can certainly be governed by a set of ethics that doesn't involve some type of religious influence.

Call them what you will - morals, scruples, tenets, codes, etc. - without them, our lives would be mayhem.

This is why I find the current Administration so infuriating. Beyond the politics, in spite of the partisan bickering and the constant churn of top officials, I just might be able to tolerate, if not support, this regime if it had ANY integrity at all. As of today, I have not been able to detect even the slightest amount.

Before we get to the man in charge, let's review those nominated to key Cabinet positions: from Michael Flynn through Anthony Scaramucci to Rex Tillerson (and, others too many to list here) it has been a parade of one misanthrope after another. Mr. Trump made the campaign promise to Drain the Washington Swamp. Well, he is actually doing it - his way - by filling it with the most disreputable characters first and then firing them! It seems that if any of them had any principals at all, they were to be used to advance their own fortunes and that of their boss. If they once did have any type of moral code they seemed to have abandoned it with their appointments to the current Administration.

But, then again, they were working for a man who apparently lacks any type of moral compass himself. He is a womanizer, evidenced by the infamous Access Hollywood tapes and a host of accusations from multiple women. He mocks the disabled as we saw him attacking a reporter with a physical deformity. He makes absurd, racist statements with no evidence to back up his claims. And, he flat out LIES - constantly.

And, he does it all with a smile. No. Check that. It's more of shit-eating grin.

We count on our leaders to be people of high moral fiber, i.e. of the HIGHEST integrity. They may be flawed for, after all, aren't we all? We may even vehemently disagree with them politically. However, they must display the intangibles that, despite those differences, we ultimately respect them. It is one of the core principals of what it means to be American - to have the integrity to, despite political differences, always do the right thing. It has helped us to keep a smooth transition of power for over 240 years.

However, the mean-spirited nature of this President and those in his Administration has relegated things like morals and scruples to the back-burner. They have been replaced with a belligerent, bellicose, banal rhetoric that, for some reason, some find refreshing. I see it more as, perhaps, Shakespeare did in Macbeth:

It is a tale told by and idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.



Thursday, March 29, 2018

For Jerry

F LoBuono

We buried a most remarkable man today; Jerry Donnellan. And, as if the very Heavens cooperated, it dawned as his Irish ancestors would call a soft day - overcast with a benign mist falling like the sky was gently crying.

Thousands came, and rightly so, to honor him. Their memories brought both tears and laughter - because that was the essence of the man. He was many things to many people. To me, he was friend and mentor. And, he taught me a life lesson that I have never forgotten - to pay it forward, ALWAYS - as he did, ALWAYS. Find peace by sacrificing for the good of others.

Whenever I give of myself without reservation to someone in need I am honoring Jerry. I did it while he lived and now I will continue it to honor his memory. This is his legacy to me.

So, let the pipes call you home, my friend, and the gentle mist cradle you in its bosom. Your mission here is complete.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

When You Think About It: The Code of Bushido

F LoBuono
As the gun control debate continues to rage, I thought that this might add some perspective: when it comes to gun safety, virtually no one does it better than the Japanese. Their murder rate by firearm there is virtually non-existent. Japan rarely sees more than 10 gun deaths/year. Less than 10. Excluding suicides, the U.S. recorded over 15,000 in 2017! 15,000*.

Think about that - Less than 10 compared to over 15,000!

Why? How?

Both cultures might be classified as "macho", i.e. having a warrior class. We often identify with the romance of the Wild West and how cowboys, with their trusty six-shooters and repeating rifles, conquered a hostile land. The Japanese also take pride in their warrior code, known as Bushido, embodied by the Samurai. Certainly, the courage and fierce nature of the Samurai is legendary.

So, what's the difference?

Well, in my mind, we are a culture that worships guns and the extreme violence they cause. A popular military slogan (you can even have it printed on a T-shirt) is; KILL THEM ALL AND LET GOD SORT THEM OUT. In other words, the more efficient the killer, the greater the reward. We even have a Constitutional amendment that insures that firearms will remain a part of our culture forever.

In Japan, this is not the case. In fact, it's quite the opposite. It is EXTREMELY difficult to purchase a firearm - ANY type of firearm. You must go through extensive training and a long waiting period. So, there is a very limited pool of people who own guns. Research confirms that LESS GUNS = LESS GUN DEATHS. Japan is living proof of these studies.

And, THEY DON'T CARE! If they did, they would change their laws. But, they don't. They are perfectly happy with their code of Bushido, which as a moral code, honors and respects individual combat - not mass murder. They simply see no point in acquiring weapons of mass destruction. And, they live in relative freedom from the fear of it.

So, WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT, the choice is ours!

*https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/07/a-land-without-guns-how-japan-has-virtually-eliminated-shooting-deaths/260189/




Friday, March 23, 2018

The Measure of a Man: Jerry Donnellan

F LoBuono
When one lives as full a life as Jerry Donnellan, there certainly will be no shortage of tales to regale him by. My memories of him are loaded with stories of courage, integrity, philanthropy, charm, and wit that made him exceptional in every way.

But, this is the one that I choose to remember most - the story that, for me, captures the real essence of the man:

I had lost my first television job and was in that twilight zone between endeavors, searching for a permanent solution but taking any odd job that offered payment. I'm pretty good with tools and have a back as strong as a mule's, so I figured I would do handy-man gigs to try and pay my rent.

Jerry got word that I was looking for work. He called and told me that he needed some repairs done on the houseboat he lived on which was docked at the Nyack Marina (it was eventually destroyed by Hurricane Sandy). I went down to his place and inspected the job. Being a long time friend, I wanted to be as honest as possible with him. I told him that I felt that the work needed was beyond my skill level. I mean, I could do some basic carpentry and painting but this involved repairs that could not easily be hidden. If it wasn't done properly, it could effect the appearance of his home! His response was classic Jerry: I don't care. Just do the best that you can.

The point was this: he could have easily hired someone more skilled than me. He had the means and the contacts. But, ultimately, the quality of the repair was not that important to him. The fact that he could help me by giving me MEANINGFUL WORK was! It was not charity - it was employment. He never let me lose my dignity. And, he did this for virtually EVERYONE.

I did the best that I could - which was not terribly good. Jerry inspected the work, said it suited him just fine and paid me cash on the spot. I almost cried with gratitude.

THIS was the man - giving without question, ennobling everyone he met. He used the experience of a body broken in battle and instead of becoming angry and bitter, empowered the lives of countless others. What he accomplished for the veterans of not only this County but throughout the Country is immeasurable. He was a hero in every sense of the word. And, once again, our little village is a little less bright today . . .




Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Just A Wonderful Neighbor

Words and photo by F LoBuono

Friends, neighbors, will you allow me one last word on the passing of our brother, Paul O'Donoghue?

So much has been said already and, still, there is more to tell. But, I think one person's statement probably best sums up the relationship that Paul had to the Nyack community and how it embraced him in return.

When I wrote that the hundreds, if not thousands, of people filled Hanneman's Funeral Home in Nyack, most waiting for hours, was a testament to his memory, it elicited a wonderful response with many of Paul's friends sharing their own remembrances of him with us. However, perhaps, former Nyack mayor Terry Hekker expressed Paul's relationship to his hometown most perfectly:

Only in Nyack could there be such a huge turnout of mourners for a man who wasn't rich or famous. Just a wonderful neighbor.

It's why we live here. Rest well, our brother.





Sunday, March 18, 2018

Today's MOZEN: Have You No Decency?

F LoBuono
It was a dark time in our Nation that came to be known as The McCarthy Era (1946-1957). Named after Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, who, in an effort to gain political power, led a series of congressional hearings aimed at routing out Communists and other subversives that he believed had infiltrated the highest offices of the Federal Government. In addition, he saw Communist sympathizers in every corner of Hollywood and, through his hearings, subsequently destroyed many a creative career. This, too, bears its own shameful moniker: The Blacklist. McCarthy capitalized on the almost irrational fear of Communism, a.k.a. The Cold War, created by the rise of China and the Soviet Union in the years immediately after WWII.

He was all about FEAR AND LOATHING.

McCarthy's rise was meteoric and unexpected. His power was unquestioned - to do so was to be labeled a COMMUNIST - at that time, the kiss of death for anyone's career. He badgered and blustered. He ran roughshod over anyone who opposed him. The Senator from Wisconsin was feared but also respected by many - until he wasn't.

On June 4th, 1954, the Senator was holding one of his infamous hearings, this time attacking the integrity of the US Army. The hearings were being broadcast LIVE in front of a national TV audience. McCarthy, along with his lawyer, the later disgraced Roy Cohn, claimed to have a list of over 130 people in the highest positions in the Army whom were either Communists or Subversives. During questioning, the Chief Counsel for the Army, Joseph N. Welch, challenged them to produce the list. They could not. In a heated exchange, McCarthy then attacked the integrity of one of Mr. Welch's legal associates. That claim also had no merit. That's when Welch, in frustration and disgust, lost it and uttered these famous words:

You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

After the exchange, the gallery erupted in applause. The audience watching at home had a similar reaction - joy that the tables had been turned - no longer would Mr. McCarthy intimidate innocent people with the tactics of a boorish bully bent solely on advancing his own career and fame at the expense of others. His grip was broken. In a bit of irony, McCarthy died of throat cancer in 1957.

I see an awful lot of Joe McCarthy in our current President, Donald J; Trump. He blusters and he bullies. In fact, he is the ultimate ruffian with the World's Most Powerful Bully Pulpit at his disposal. He destroys others for his own gain. He makes false claims that he cannot prove. In my mind, he has absolutely NO redeeming values at all.

So, the question remains, who will be OUR Joseph N. Welch? Who will have the courage - and, the position - to say, Mr. President, You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?




Tuesday, March 13, 2018

To My Friend, Paul O'Donoghue


We have lost a giant.

Paul O'Donoghue was a towering figure.

He was smart.
He was funny.
He was warm.
He was deep.
He was generous.
And, he was flawed.
But, above all, he was a most gentle man.

I loved him.

The tributes that are pouring in by the hundreds are a testament to his impact on his family, friends, and entire community. This village, in which he lived his entire life, is a lesser place this morning. Christmas, without Paul as Santa, can never be the same. My dog, and hundreds of others, will not receive the biscuit treats that he constantly kept in his pocket. And, personally, I will miss him stopping his bike ride to say, "Frankie, how's life treating ya'?"

I believe that it's safe to say that Paul's life touched hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. I know that he touched mine in ways that will never be forgotten. Over the course of time, I could share dozens of Paul O'D stories of humor, charm, and, yes, a bit of lunacy.


I'm sure that many of you have your own memories and fitting stories of Paul. I hope that you will share them over the course of time. It hurts very much right now to think that we will not see him again, well, all over town. But, in time, his wonderful legacy will make us smile again.

Now, let there be peace - to his many friends, and, most of all, to his equally wonderful family.