Wishing Well

I have been meaning to post all week. I was meaning to post all last nervewracking week. I have been meaning to post since Saturday when everyone was dancing in the streets except my neighbor at Trump Corners (corner of County Road 28 and County Road 28B if you happen to be in Niverville and care to see the sights) who has instead dry-cleaned and rehung his “No More Bullshit” flag.

Then came the pasteboard denial of craven elected Republicans. Then came redbaiting by Democratic moderates; then progressives’ logical, logistical, statistical rebuttal (in short: seven moderates lost, while every swing-district progressive won); then moderates’ ad feminem retorts; and meanwhile the low hum of scraping and groveling for a seat in the Federal cabinet we’re told will be named by Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, only two weeks away: when each of us will sit in sanitary, socially distanced gratitude for turkey with all the trimmings and none of the respiratory threat. Well, perhaps not socially distanced at Trump Corners, unless reality miraculously sets in. One must keep hope alive.

Meant to post, as I say, so why not? Dread. Dread of 73 million disillusioned acolytes, pickups beflagged choking highways coast to coast, necks dangling little gold N95 masks to recall their defrauded hoaxed rigged undead messiah, keeping hope alive. Dread that all the effort and sacrifice and wretched compromise in the interest of protecting the slimmest chance of a more perfect union sometime in the future would waste away in futile talk of unity, virulence biological and cognitive, and the ingrained habits of the once senior Senator from MBNA (they sell credit cards), our President-elect. He’s already named Ron Klain as chief of staff, much of whose household income derives from his wife’s service to the Waltons of Arkansas: not an encouraging sign.

It is so, so, so likely to get worse before it gets better, and for years, even should re-enfranchised Georgians send a Jew and a Black preacher to the Senate and force Yertle to tug that globby head back under his minority shell. As Bruce Springsteen prophesied in Philly (of all places!) on Election Eve 2016, it’s gonna be a long walk home.

There’s the virus, where I suspect Biden will make slow painful progress. Then there’s everything else. Paychecks. Crumbling bridges. Private prisons. Huddled masses yearning to be free, and not only foreign-born, but fellow citizens. And sickness, sickness unto death.

Which brings me to the current byword, “healing”, and back to the house at Trump Corners.

I’ve never seen those folks, who I’m sure would be friendly enough (until they saw the magnets on my car: One still says “Bernie”). But me, I wish them well. I wish them health, a decent income, a planet with reasonable weather, low oceans, air they can breathe, and all the liberty they want that doesn’t impede or deny anyone else’s or cause anyone else to die, whether of COVID or a cheap Walmart bullet. I wish them happiness and peace of mind enough that they’ll nevermore let themselves be had.

That would be healing. It won’t come from one more read of Hillbilly Elegy (or an hour with the new Netflix movie). It won’t come from fretting over polarization. And, to my brothers on the left, it won’t come from pretending that Trump—-with his rallies; his cult of personality; his dog-whistled, AK-47-toting thugs; his diversion of government power to personal ends, to crush personal (not political, like Nixon) enemies; his privatization of Justice and the GSA; his exile of the Bureau of Land Management and contempt for that least impeachable of agencies, the National Weather Service; his hacking at national parks, plunder of national forests; his coddling of tiki-torch Nazis; his intercontinental shakedowns (in both directions: Burisma, Erdogan); his rhetorical division of us all into “Democrat” (evil, incompetent, radical) and Republican (law abiding, patriotic) clans; and beyond all, his systematic corrosion of the influence, the possibility, the very notion of empirically grounded fact—-is no worse than Bush 2, Dick Cheney or Barack the Deporter.

It will come from justice. It will come from the kind of justice that reaches the heirs of Rodney King, shitkicked by cops so long ago there weren’t yet cellphones (it so happens the Handycam which caught that primal scene went on auction last July, six weeks after Rayshard Brooks was murdered at a Wendy’s in Atlanta, three weeks before Jacob Blake, the floor price set at $225,000. No one bid.), and then reaches beyond. Justice reaching folks who don’t think they need it, like they think they don’t need unions, like they don’t get how global economics and their own longed-for standards of living will keep that factory from ever coming back, like they don’t know they’ve been conned by a real-estate sharpie from Queens. Justice for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ and guys selling loosies and overeducated logorrheic Jews, justice flowing like a mighty river right to the banks of Trump Corners. Justice that doesn’t merely augment privilege with guilt, but erases it.

That’s not moderate. That’s Medicare for All and a Green New Deal and protecting the vote and reforming campaign finance and strengthening public education and defunding our bloated, militarized, demonstrably challenged-to-maintain-the-peace police.

Such justice is not blind, but all-seeing and compassionate. It’s not ideological, not partisan, not wrapped up in identity; least of all is it pie in the sky bye and bye. It’s legislatable. Can believing in Q or in heaven some day beat three meals, healthy kids and a fair shot?

The flag at Trump Corners is right: No more bullshit. No more triangulation, no more secret deals, no more ginned-up fear, no more status-quo-ante “moderation.” If 78 million of us could breathe deep and agree on Joe Biden, we can insist he follow one deeply immoderate northstar, and it’s not “healing.” It is justice, justice that wipes away dread, justice so powerful, so beneficent, so small-d democratic that the other 73 million can see why.

The Manchurian Shutdown

So I woke up this morning pissed at the failingNewYorkTimes because the bastards scooped me, I thought. All week I’m getting ready to write this post (the one you’re reading), and then last night those fakenewsies across from the Port Authority come up with some titbit about the FBI starting an investigation into the possibility that SHMOTUS works for the Russians. Starting? So what happened after they started the investigation?

Turns out Old Grey didn’t bury the lede, because starting was all that there was. Robert Mueller showed up after a couple of days and the G-Men passed the files along, and zzzzip, now we may never know.

But now I’m pissed because someone named KM or Kayem or Kayyem does seem to have scooped me, asking CNN Tonight “How WOULD a president compromised by the Russians behave? Give me any moment in the last two years where Trump has behaved differently.” (I can’t find the clip online, but I trust Brian Stelter‘s Reliable Sources newsletter & so should you.)

This Kayyem seems to be an Arianna-Huffington type up in Boston (entrepreneur/ex-Federal functionary/expert in national security and ride-sharing), but don’t hold that against her, because she’s right. And why isn’t everyone asking this?





Step 1: Destroy confidence in the courts.
Step 2: Destroy confidence in the press.
Step 3: Destroy confidence in law enforcement.
Step 4: Destroy the separation of powers.
Step 5: oh what the hell, just shut the damn thing down. Indefinitely.

I don’t feel scooped anymore, or worse, vindicated: I’m scared. And with due respect to the Times and WaPo and the networks for their well reported tales of Federal workers’ mortgage payments and stolen Joshua trees: There’s a forest here, fellas.

And there may be a bear in the forest, and what if his name isn’t Vladimir, but Trumpy? (Go on, click it…you’ll see the clue that’s all over Fox News)

Meanwhile here’s Blimpman screaming “national emergency,” and we’re all like Amy Winehouse, no, no, no.  Only what if it’s yes, yes, yes?  What if we’re midway through some 1960s movie brought to life by Mark Burnett?

I know. Paranoia. I’m paranoid. It’s crazy talk. Because we all know Donald Trump could never be elected.


Off to the races

Like most people on the planet, you were probably busy yesterday, and maybe today the last thing your hangover needs is a newspaper. So maybe you didn’t notice that Elizabeth Warren formally began her campaign to become President of the United States, not in the face of human voters, but with an New Years Eve morning show funky as Final Cut Pro. Guess what: She grew up middle class and became successful, and that’s really hard today, and Warren wants to fix it . . . somehow. Also, like Bill Clinton, she thinks you should just have to “work hard and play b’the rules.” Also, like Bernie Sanders, she doesn’t like billionaires.

The video washes every idea, contradiction, capitulation and trope of outrage floated in the Democratic Party over the last 20 years into a bowl of, I know I should resist but, Indian pudding.

When I commented upon this on The Facebook, well-meaning friends counseled that we need to be positive and unified. Sure: 18 months from now. Now, right now, we need fierce debate, from the DNC on down. We need songs of ice and fire that will forge an unmistakable, weasel-free vision for the next 50 years — and reveal a flagbearer who can pronounce that vision with authority and conviction, from a foundation of achievement, surfing over the cheap barbs and insults to come.

Presidential politics isn’t horseshoes (close don’t count), tiddlywinks or a fashion show. And it’s too important to leave in the hands of the fundraisers and “professionals” who live for their share of the video production budgets. We the people need to get acting like we the people, and fast. Warren heads to Iowa next weekend: Here’s hoping the Hawkeyes light some ethanol under her feet.

The other guy isn’t moving past his 38%. That makes 2020 ours to lose. And that makes 2019 no time for focus-grouped gruel.

(Now click on the post title to have your say. Really, do it!)

Quickthought #1: oh for Pete’s sake

Blogging’s hard. So I’ll try some quickthoughts now and again. Here goes:

It’s a bit odd to hear a white, gay, Harvard-superstar self-described Millenial and Midwesterner argue that Dems need to leave “identity politics” behind–and that’s why I’m still supporting Keith for DNC . He’s a proven national leader, and it can’t hurt the Democratic Party to be led in these troubled times by an African American who really is Muslim.

But the aforementioned Millenial Midwesterner, Pete Guttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana and a dark horse in the race for the chair, isn’t stupid about the direction Democrats need to take if they want to bring people of reason and compassion who, for whatever reason, pulled the other lever last November, back into the fold. Take a listen (h/t AB) as he tries to share that wisdom with an audience of tech venture-capital types.

(His VC interlocutor and lest-we-not-be-impressed-he-mentions-more-than-once-they-were-Harvard-College-roommates is a bit hard to take, doing that thing where you say’fuck’ a lot instead of perfectly polite alternatives in order to at once pretend you’re not and convey that you absolutely positively are a powerful elitist.  Try not to let him make you puke.)

Having our Phil

I’m sitting in Base & Ignoble’s, not buying books but drinking coffee and trying to stop reading WaPo telling me what I already know (Littlefingers acted out at a press conference this morning. Oh, really?), trying to get to work but I’m overhearing two very loud very expensively haired skinny former Long-Islander denizens of the Upper West Side playing I-can-top-that over whether their daughters will rush sororities successfully or have to transfer to Yale. (Have you heard of “Johns Hopkins”? says Carly-Simon-looking to Gloria-Steinem-looking. I think it’s for pre-meds.) Then they start talking about how they really don’t know enough but one of their husbands knows someone at work who was once in the army in Israel and he says Netanyahu is right, but really I need to read some more, I don’t know what to think.  Did you read Hillbilly Elegy?

Oh for chrisssake. This is exactly what I was going to write about. I thought it this morning. I thought. “It’s all goddamn Phil Donahue’s fault, Phil Donahue with that goddamn long wireless microphone.”

You have no idea, I’m guessing, who Phil Donahue was. Is. The reliably liberal husband of Marlo Free to Be You and Me Thomas, but also Phil was Oprah before there was Oprah, before Oprah could be. Phil may even have been the one who hired Oprah, who gave her her shot, I can’t remember and I don’t feel like looking it up. He was smart, middle-aged, prematurely white-haired and reliably Irish. Voluble. Plain-talking. White.

Phil had a talk show, with guests as serious as daytime TV got back then, more serious than most, with Expertise, for Serious Conversation, but Phil was no Right Coast elitist. He was an American, Chicago-born, a democrat, small d (large too).  With that goddamn small-d democratic microphone of his. Technology can’t change everything, you say? You never saw Phil Donahue hop off the stage into the studio audience wielding that long microphone, asking those audience people what they think.

People who’d, what?, sent stamped self-addressed envelopes in advance for a ticket for a taping since they’d be in Chicago on vacation, or maybe lined up at the last minute to see Phil and Sally Field or Betty Friedan or Cher or Daniel Patrick Moynihan or someone they’d never read about in Time on that stage, live and in person. People who were, by definition, “who?”  Phil brought them that microphone. And damn if every one every last one of them didn’t have an impassioned opinion on the budget, contraception, nuclear waste, on containment, East Asian policy, on whether homosexuality was inborn or a choice, whatever goddamn topic not one of them had thought about for five minutes, for one minute, until Phil pointed that mike-wand toward their pieholes.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking those people had every bit as much right to opinions as I do, right?, back in those days before any twit could blog his little heart away on WordPress. You’d be right, too, right 100%. But I’m not talking about me. Or Carly or Gloria or their daughters who might transfer to Barnard instead (it’s a girls’ school). Because this is America, right, and we all have a right to an opinion, and we all have a right blah blah blah to be heard.

Or, an electoral majority’s decided, to be President.

That’s why I’m mad at Phil Donahue today. I can’t blame the dishonest media or illegal leakers or James Who-me? of the FBI or some activist judge or anyone else Littlefingers and That Woman in the Hidey Hole in Chappaqua blame for the way things turned out, even Well-Oiled-Bodied Vlad the Oilman. None of those people decided you didn’t need to know shit to be President or that once you were President you didn’t need even to read, even to read graphs and tables, or ask anyone who knows anything about anything anything. You only had to have an opinion. You only had to be an American. Thanks, Phil.

The two moms left a while ago: off to pick their youngests up from good neighborhood charter schools. Now there’s a dad about my age and his 10 year old daughter at that table; she’s got a decaf mocha and a croissant. She pulls a worksheet out of her backpack, smooths it on the table, I read “Eskimo Good Manners,” and she points to the line-drawn-illustrated faces of three Inuit women or maybe men, I can’t tell upside down, and she asks, “Dad, is that Native American?”

Dad looks at the worksheet, doesn’t touch it, just looks. A good long time. Looks at her, and she’s waiting (and I’m waiting) and after a very long while he says, “Why do you ask?”

I didn’t see that coming.

She says she wasn’t sure, or something, and he thinks again and thinks and then he says, very softly, “Very similar. But I don’t think they were in the United States.”

And she fills in the blanks.  She finishes a printout page of long division too. She puts them away and zips her pencils in the pocket in her big black three-ring binder and she says “You know what Trump reminds me of, Dad? You know the guy in the Lego movie, the guy who krazy-glues everyone?”


And so hope stays alive.

Out like Flynn

I spent most of today moving Donkey School to this snazzy new home from unfashionable Blogspot where I started it back when there was still a chance of a public option in ObamaCare.  I wrote about pop culture for a while here and there, and politics when it occurred to me, but mostly Donkey School has been dormant for the longest time.

Until last night. Last night I got tired of pingponging back and forth for the benefit of Zuckerman’s database and yelling at the little NPR people inside my girlfriend’s Alexa, yelling that if the lies spewed all over us are true, why won’t anyone ask Ponce if he’s pissed at LittleFingers for knowing for two and a half weeks that Flynn lied, but never passing it along?  Is Ponce pissed that he was the last to know, and might not even know now if someone hadn’t left a Washington Post in the EEOB crapper? Does blowdried Poncey have the slightest shred of dignity?

Now let’s stipulate that what the liars are saying happened happened the way the liars say.  Does anyone with a Secret Service entourage have an opinion about Flynn telling Putinwelt (on a call that only a genuine dope wouldn’t guess was being recorded for customer service and training purposes) not to get antsy about the lame-duck sanctions? Does Small Ryan? Ronald McConnell? Johnny McVictim?  Why won’t anybody ask?

My friends on Facebook are all, great, he’ll get impeached. Yeah, great, so Poncey’s POTUS? Or Ponce gets booted too: Speaker Small Ryan? We are fucked no matter what, for at least two years, and Putzder going back to frying burgers doesn’t compensate.  Did you notice that Littlefingers yesterday turned his first bill into law, and all it does is make sure Secretary Rexxon doesn’t get in dutch for spreading green around in Putinwelt? That‘s Job 1 for Ronald McConnell, Lyin’ Ryan & Littlefingers?

I’m ranting, I know.  And it’s a luxury, with Daniel the DREAMer sweating in some ICEy cell and god knows what other genuine suffering being felt under the radar, out of Alexa’s range, families inches from torn apart, decent quiet hard working people shivering with fear in the darkness, what screams drowned out by the blather of outrage or not outrage and by Littlefingers’ whining?

Two Trains, Hitting 70

Oy. Today’s Forward is asking us to compare Paul Simon and Bob Dylan.

My cred here: Have followed Paul Simon live and recorded since 1972, jesus, 39 years! (and S&G on LP before that). Straight through Songs from the Capeman, every new Paul Simon album dropped into my world like a letter from an old friend. Me and the girlfriend (the no-longer girlfriend; tale worthy of a Paul Simon song or, knowing Paul Simon, several) saw The Capeman on Broadway twice; we were rewarded with a last-minute invitation to the cast party closing night because Eddie Simon, whom we chatted up in the aisle, was thrilled to be recognized, not mistaken yet again for his big brother.

We also, the girlfriend and me, suffered a night in a crap Freeport, Long Island, motel so we could hear three evenings straight of Paul & Bob/Bob & Paul at Madison Square Garden and Jones Beach. That weekend proved Paul Simon should be honored by the comparison alone. Dylan was different every night: kaleidoscopic, charismatic, alluring and impenetrable. Paul and the hundred-fifty Africo-Brazilians behind him were note for note, gesture for gesture, fabulous, make no mistake. They sure didn’t. The act was outrageous, James Brown tight, and identical night after night, like watching a video.

Paul Simon still has the songwriting juice, his last two albums of glib, random ramblings about old age & new babies notwithstanding. But, as he once told The New Yorker’s David Remnick, kvetching about the challenge of duets with Bob Dylan, it’s “the words, the words.” His own words have ever veered from undervalued gems like “You’re the One” (available today for 1 cent at Amazon) to flaccid wise-assery like “Pigs, Sheep and Wolves” (on the same 1 cent CD). As tearful as “Sounds of Silence” or “Homeward Bound” may make tri-generational stadium crowds, they forget “We’ve Got a Groovy Thing Goin’ Baby.” (Simon, of course, is silently glad of this: It ain’t “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.” I, meanwhile, admit I often sing “Groovy Thing” to myself, moving too fast down Morningside Avenue.)

Paul Simon concocts endless, seemingly effortless, wry incidents and accidents, not only in song but, though rarely acknowledged, in screenplay. He’s virtuously fearless of self-parody too: “Soft Parachutes” disrespects Simon & Garfunkel as deftly as “A Simple Desultory Philippic” did Bob Dylan. But his incidents rarely come to as sharp a point as, say, Dylan’s “Black Diamond Bay.” Why do God and son come to Earth in “Love and Hard Times” anyhow, only to split and make simultaneously self-aggrandizing and -effacing room for “an old songwriting cliché”?

Since Rhythm of the Saints, Simon’s serious lines have been obscure as Dylan’s, if usually to some cringingly obvious end: Consider “The Teacher,” “Beautiful,” or (department of boundless vocabulary) “So Beautiful or So What.” On the other hand, hook-hooky “boy in the bubble and the baby with the baboon heart” wants to say something about modern times but, as the bard himself might moan, “What? What?”

With respect to Simon’s self-promoted sincerity (see the recent interview in Rolling Stone), those who accuse Dylan of exploiting 1960s folk music generally ignore the fact that a lyrically sensitive Simon emerged only after Bob built a market for folk-pop. His eye always on “the marketplace, the marketplace” (Simon, again, to Remnick of The New Yorker), mid-60s Paul (“Jerry”) shlepped Artie (“Tom”) from doowop to full-frontally Queens-Jewish acoustic folk. As Bleecker Street displaced the Brill Building, so Everly ooh-baby danceables gave way to off-the-shelf angstunes like “I Am A Rock.” He’s nothing if not a professional.

Sigh. I love Paul Simon. I can watch One Trick Pony again and again; I hear “Hearts and Bones” coursing through “Graceland.” But while Simon fruitfully, brilliantly borrowed from obscure third-world, Zydeco and gospel artists, Bob Dylan, seeming to pay those musicians no heed, changed their music and their lives. Dylan didn’t lift tracks from Nashville; he became Nashville, and gospel, and Aaron Copland and Blind Willie McTell. I cherish my old packets of letters from Paul, and lord knows aspergersy Bob never talked to anyone but himself. Still, you don’t need a weatherman to know your windows are shaking, your walls rattling, and the words of the prophet have long faded therefrom. It’s sad as a lonely little wrinkled balloon, but Paul Simon–like pop paragons as varied and fine as Harold Arlen, Joni Mitchell and Paul McCartney–may be history. Dylan, incontrovertibly, still makes it.

Christmas in somebody’s heart, maybe Bob’s

There’s this scene of longing in Portnoy’s Complaint. I’m not going to fact-check, because the recollection’s what counts: Young Alex Portnoy has gone down to the neighborhood park on a snowy day; there he sees a single perfect pardon-the-expression shiksa skating gracefully across a pond, dubs her Thereal McCoy, goes home to make use of her memory.

It’s one of those pages where Philip Roth captures the precise in/outness, possession/rejection and, pardon the double meaning, self-love of being a non-Orthodox American Jew/Jewish American. It popped to mind last night within a note or two of my first listen to what I soon knew was the most important American pop album since “The Rising”: Bob Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart.”

Is this record sincere and in ghastly taste? Might be, but so are its models–the Great American Pop Star Holiday Albums. Is it a spot-on incarnation of a particular, half-century-dead, school of American recorded music? Roger. Is it a, pardon this expression too, post-modern commentary on same? Of course. Is it awesomely (in the pre-21st-century sense) specific in its musicality? Oh yes.

And does “Christmas in the Heart” embody, parody, celebrate, embrace, gaze upon dumbstruck as at a slow-motion pile-up, the gaiety and religiosity to which America pretends each December? Uh, duh. But does it at the same time convey the whole-bodied sense of ownership, the whole-souled sense of not-having-been-invited-to-the-party-and-secretly-glad-of-that, together with the slightly shameful ridiculous feeling when you show up anyhow (singing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” in the 5th-grade choir) that is the rootless-cosmopolitan secular American Jewish condition at Holiday Time? Mm-hmm. And does it, even so, with wisdom unavailable to the early Roth, capture the complement: our great and good nation’s heartfelt, yet suspicious, yet nonetheless dutiful welcome of the Other?

Oh, mama.

But wait, there’s more. Listen to Dylan’s final “t”‘s. Listen to the precision in his phrasings, rhythmic, melodic, and in intonation: Bob Dylan rising to the level of a Sinatra, a Fitzgerald, a Holiday in blazing his own trail through stands of chestnuts, roasting, open-fired, songs we can sing in our sleep, the tunes to which visions of sugarplums dance. Listen to the interplay of classically synthetic pop-choral/orchestral sounds-of-the-season with his own certified-organic vocal instrument. And recall that “Jack Frost,” the nominal producer–i.e., the man who made every musical choice you’re hearing–is Bob Dylan himself, once famous for his one-take intolerance of the studio.

I used to wonder why Dylan, already pseudonymed, chose that seasonal second-degree nom de travail. “Christmas” may be the answer. It may even be the album he’s waited all his life to make, its formalism, its jaunty, maudlin material, and the wintry ravage to his vocal cords achieving the effect “Self Portrait” could not. After 48 years writing killer songs and singing them live every which way, Bob breaks out here at last as master of that peculiarly American art form: studio-recorded performance of standards.

But the brilliance of this record is not merely formal. Dylan knows something is happening, and he knows just what it is. It’s Portnoy’s pristine skater; it’s us, watching from the shore. Every note and every beat of “Christmas in the Heart” prove Thereal McCoy knows what America needs, but Bob Dylan knows what we want.

Memorial Day

A pretty long while ago, I spent too little time working on a screenplay. I was the third writer on the project, not counting my pal T. and his partners, whose idea it had been in the first place and who’d figured why not give the reporter a chance. They were fine with whatever explosions, glass-shattering, air- or waterborne biological agents or massacred troops I might want to adjust, but the name of the picture wasn’t changing: Memorial Day.

This was not brought to mind by what you think.  After one last punishing all-nighter Thursday, I’m back on freelance time, which means that today, for me, is a day like all others, apart from the suspension of alternate-side-of-the-street parking which allowed me to wake late, unpack some boxes of books, go back to bed, at last get around to cooking up coffee.  No, what recalled the movie project was a CD I came upon last summer in that cutout place on the stretch between Stockbridge and Lee, playing as the au-lait part of breakfast boiled over: Shirley Temple, Animal Crackers in My Soup, peewee Jolson impressions, multiply anachronistic Otchi-tchornya jokes.
I can’t remember:  Was it Sunday afternoons after Hebrew school? Early Saturday mornings? Channel 9? Channel 11? on the huge butterscotch plastic-framed black and white Magnavox, alone on the mustardy couch in the rec room.  I must have been younger than the youngest friend I have today, which makes me wonder whether A. has ever watched Shirley Temple pictures, whether they’d hold any interest for a mind raised on Angelina Ballerina and Arthur.  If anything in the succeeding fifty years filled me with as much dull indelible anxiety as Shirley Temple hearing she’d been orphaned between ads for Sugar Pops, I’m grateful it’s slipped out of memory.
Slipped memory.  Friends I didn’t call about matters pressing to them while I was foolishly studying all night.  Projects I yet believe I may begin for which I bought boxes of books I’ve never read, late fees on credit card bills, dishes in sink, this humid afternoon months from the season of repentance.
The Hebrew year starts with that season, the season with a day of remembering.  Our American calendar opens with auld acquaintance forgot, never brought to mind, and when its Memorial Day finally rolls up, life cannonballs giddily into pools, ponds, oceans, orangeade stands.  The only memories the editorialists charge readers with are of dead veterans: memory of nobility. For the rest, notwithstanding tell-all books, chat-show blame or oldies stations, time is short, memories of life more likely to summon regret than satisfaction. No wonder a person’d rather shop and splash it out of mind.  I wish I’d figured out how to deploy those simulated weapons of mass destruction, how those troops could save the day, how our hero could find peace of mind and loving sex before the Oscar-bait end-credit hip-hop song kicked in, but there was something else I had to do back then.  I can’t remember what.

Fired up, ready to go

It’s a little embarrassing, but it’s also one of the two most important causes facing the USA today, so I’ve written to President Obama again (an undertaking that has become uncannily like writing a letter to God).  Not sparkling prose, so take this message, rewrite it your way and tell your representatives to get on the stick…

Dear President Obama:

Congratulations on all your success so far.

I’m writing with a simple request, and one I’m sure you’ve already heard: Don’t back down on a public option in the health-care plan.  

Not long ago you were a fierce supporter of single-payer health care.  I don’t understand why that’s off the table, even as a negotiating tool.  But the public option should be absolutely non-negotiable, or else the plan is nothing but a full-employment act for private insurers.  

Opponents of the public option talk out of both sides of their mouth.  They say government can’t run an efficient  system, then they say it will be so efficient that private insurers won’t be able to compete.  I say: Let private industry prove it can compete against “bloated” government–and give Americans a true choice.  

Finally, please ignore the nonsense about our needing an “American” plan–as if Americans were biologically different from everyone else in every other industrialized nation.

Stand firm, Mr. President.  You can win this one–on principle!

best, Russell Miller

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