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Showing posts from 2010

Did The Pilgrims Remember To Thank The Haters?

A few hours ago we had 17 people over for Thanksgiving. They comprised four generations and ranged in age from 3 to 84. In that setting, it’s not hard to find reasons to be thankful. I have to assume my experience was not unique. Whatever wrinkles individual families apply to their personal celebrations, more than any American holiday, we do Thanksgiving pretty much the same. It may look, smell and taste different next door, but chances are very good that it all boils down to family and food. Thanksgiving is also distinguished by the fact that its purpose - first declared by Abraham Lincoln - holds true today. So many of us actually use the day to step back and give thanks for what we have. Gluttony aside, it’s a good holiday; one that tends to reveal the best of human nature. This year, the fourth Thursday in November couldn’t have come too soon. After all, it’s hard to turn on a television, open a newspaper, a magazine, or a web browser without finding a young celebrity with so

I Have a Dream. Why is Glenn Beck in it?

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.” Dr. Martin Luther King My friend, Cal Ramsey, awakened to a ringing phone on August 28th, 1963. Wilt Chamberlain was calling to say he thought they should go to Washington to hear Martin Luther King speak. Cal agreed and, after a hastily arranged flight, they were among a sea of people privileged to hear Dr. King tell a still-segregated country about his dream. I once asked if it occurred to him that day that he might see a

Would Harper Lee Have Signed With the Miami Heat?

I admit it. I was one of the millions who tuned in to The Decision , the clumsy and uncomfortable ESPN program by Lebron, of Lebron and for Lebron. A genuine basketball wunderkind, Lebron James was so convinced of his exalted place in our consciousness that he was certain his business decisions should be televised live (he was, of course, proven correct as the amateurish one-hour show registered a higher rating than his final playoff game). I witnessed the announcement that he would play for Miami and then saw the ridiculous display of narcissism dissolve in to an equally bizarre talk radio-fueled hysteria. The insanity did not subside until I read a small piece in the New York Post noting a significant literary milestone. It said To Kill A Mockingbird , Harper Lee’s classic Southern novel, is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its publication this year. Mockingbird was one of my mother’s favorite books. She read it the year it was published. I had just reached my first bi

Father's Day

My father’s grandfather was named Israel Schwab. At least he was when he arrived at Ellis Island from a small town straddling the Polish-Russian border. Language problems, impatience and incompetence in processing the new immigrants conspired to give him – and me – a new name. By the time he made the brief trip to Manhattan’s west side, his papers said he was Israel Goldberg. It hardly mattered as his mostly hospitable new neighbors immediately dubbed him “Jerry the Jew”. The rest of my name comes from his son; the original David Goldberg in my family. Dave (we never called him Grandpa) was born in to a horse-and-buggy era and lived through the space shuttle. The world got small on his watch and he did his best to play a role. Leaving school at age 12, he went to work to help put food on the family table. Still a boy, he got a job with the city serving primarily as a court officer. He qualified for retirement before reaching 40 and immediately began a whole new career as hea

John Wooden

It was past midnight when the I-phone on my hotel nightstand began to vibrate. I had a text from my daughter telling me that John Wooden was hospitalized in grave condition. She is too young to have experienced Coach Wooden’s half-century heyday, but she knows me well enough to know I would want to be awakened by such news. A few minutes ago, I learned of his passing. I was lucky enough to know Coach Wooden. We weren't close -- occasional business associates. Since we first met around 1990, we saw each other no more than 10 times. But he always treated me like a friend. Invariably, he greeted me warmly, asked about my family and listened as much as he spoke. More revealing is the fact that he behaved as if we were equals though I knew we were not. Our days together were school days for me and he was my professor. I learned from listening to him, from observing him, from chatting with him and from reflecting on our time together. I learned from his textbook. I loved the quotes .

Willie Mays In My Lint Trap

Last week, my wife mentioned that one of the kids in the neighborhood was having a birthday party on May 6th. I responded by telling her, “That’s Willie Mays’ birthday.” I don’t know why I said it. I certainly knew she was not interested in this information and was unlikely to send a Hallmark greeting to the “Say Hey Kid”. If I had to guess I would say she wouldn’t even recognize the name of the greatest baseball player I ever saw. But this tidbit from the back of an old trading card was so easily accessible in my aging mind that it had little choice but to come out of my mouth. And it’s just the beginning of my problem. The things I have filed neatly in my brain would shock many people. Poems and speeches recited to long-ago classmates. Breakfast cereal commercials. Election results. Names of teachers, newscasters, disc jockeys and sitcom characters. Anecdotes for every social occasion. Boxes and boxes of baseball card factoids. A few years back, Sports Illustrated's Ste

I'm NOT going to Disneyland

The one thing I knew before the NCAA Championship game began is that Cinderella would not fare well. I had no idea who would win the game, but I was certain that Cinderella was, in fact, not invited to the party. Monday night's game matched the team ranked #3 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll against the team ranked #8. I’m not sure how anyone gets Cinderella out of that. David and Goliath? Which was which? If #12 Michigan State had beaten Butler for the right to face Duke, do you think anyone would have called it David vs. Goliath? Maybe it’s Butler’s “small school” status that calls to mind the diminutive sling shotter, but that’s pure nonsense. These are scholarship athletes; twelve per side. Nobody’s holding tryouts among the student body at Duke or Butler hoping to find good players. Enrollment level is irrelevant. In fact, Duke's undergraduate enrollment of barely 6,000 is much closer to that of Butler than to schools like Texas or Ohio State. The NCAA power con

The Fun Pass

For $8.25, the New York City Transit Authority will sell you a “Fun Pass”. Buy one and you can ride the subway all day long – sort of like the POP bracelet at Six Flags. I’m a walker by nature, so I usually opt for the regular Metrocard and pay for my subway one trip at a time. Last Wednesday was an exception. My early morning meeting was way up in Harlem, my dinner was in the East Village. Between business and pleasure, I had at least five other stops to make. If ever there were a day for a “Fun Pass”, I knew this would be it. I worked my way downtown on the Broadway-Seventh Avenue line – the 1,2 &3 trains. I started off at 137th and Lenox before progressing to Cathedral Parkway, 66th, Columbus Circle, Times Square, 14th, and Wall Street. Twice I ventured East; once on the Grand Central Shuttle and once on the L. I grabbed breakfast in a diner located in the lobby of Harlem Hospital Center, lunch with a colleague at a Columbia University watering hole and dinner with my

Play Ball!

Things as critical as this, the selection of a favored baseball team, are not, as some suspect, a matter of choice; one does not choose a team as one does not select his own genes. They are confirmed upon you more than we know an act of heredity. -- David Halberstam I am reasonably certain the Mets will win the pennant in 2010. Truth be told, I’ve believed that same thing every year since 1965. That was the year my father first took me to Shea Stadium and “confirmed my favored team upon me”. We still had black and white television so I had never seen a game in color before. Like so many kids of that era I was struck by the green grass, the brown dirt and the bright colors of the uniforms before a pitch was even thrown. I was, however, dumbfounded, by my first in-person look at my favorite Met; a third baseman named Charley Smith. Twenty-seven-years old in 1965, he was already a journeyman having played for the Dodgers, Phillies and White Sox before coming to Shea. He went on to pla

Ted and Dippy

I looked at the “Today in History” note in my morning paper and two old friends jumped out at me. One I knew very well. I never met the other, but he knew me; and every other kid of my generation. March 2nd is the birthday of Theodore Geisel (1904-1991); better known as Dr. Seuss. On a college application I was asked to name my “most memorable book”. I knew they expected 18-year-old males to respond with Hemmingway, Tolkien, Melville or Salinger. In the seventies they surely got their fair share of Keseys and Kerouacs. Maybe even a Hunter S. Thompson or two. I’m sure they reveled in more ambitious responses featuring Joyce or Milton. They did not get it from me. The application said “most memorable” and I interpreted that quite literally. I declared Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop as the obvious answer. After all, I had memorized it cover to cover by the time I was 5 and could still recite it verbatim as I completed that application in 1977. What could be more memorable than that? From “Up,

Start the Revolution! Hold the Bun!

Something amazing happened to me today. I ate a panini. I was on my way to a meeting when I stopped at Tully’s on 11th Street and grabbed a hot panini with ham and muenster cheese. Not amazed? A few days earlier, I popped in for a banana muffin. In the previous week or two, my wife made me cookies from a Betty Crocker mix, I took out a pizza from the local pizzeria, I had a hot pretzel, and I hosted a business dinner at an Italian restaurant. Still not amazed? You obviously do not have celiac disease. But one of every 133 Americans does. In my circle, I am the one. Unlike my 132 closest friends, I must adhere to a strict gluten free diet or risk malnutrition among many other physical indignities. No wheat, barley, rye, etc. No white flour. No traditional cakes, breads, beer or pasta. Landmines in the fine print ingredients of processed foods and restaurant meals of every description. In 1978 – at age 19 and reduced to 135 pounds on my 6’2” frame – a doctor

Are the Ks OK?

Social commentators often note that we've blurred the lines between fame and infamy. Some argue we actually prefer infamy. To paraphrase Richard Glover of The Sydney Morning Journal, Mother Theresa is interesting, but Joey Buttafuoco is fascinating. Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, Sonia Sotamayor? We know them. Britney Spears, Tiger Woods, Bernie Madoff? We really know them. Fame, infamy, notoriety -- today it all boils down to this thing called celebrity. And then there is a force called the Kardashians. Their stepfather was the world's greatest athlete and had his own Wheaties box. But he's a bit player in the public lives of the Special Ks. If their reality show were a sitcom, he would be the equivalent of a wacky neighbor at best. Lamar Odom is an NBA champion with an amazing backstory. . Still it took a quickie marriage to Khloe to hit the big time and propel him to two national TV commercials. Reggie Bush has a Super Bowl ring and a Heisman


"Welcome to America. Now speak English" I often wonder how the irony is lost on the legions posting this message on their Facebook pages and spouting it across conservative media outlets, mall t-shirt kiosks and the like. Shouldn't it be "Welcome to America. Now speak American"? You'd think so, but so few of us actually speak American. The colonists came here 500 years ago and we still speak the language they got off the boat speaking. They decided they'd rather not learn American languages like Cherokee, Navajo or Iroquois. Generation after generation, we've simply gone on speaking English; an immigrant language. Learning a new language was difficult for American colonists just as it is difficult for immigrants today. But modern immigrants do a much better job learning English than the first immigrants ever did learning "American". In fact, immigrant families of every description are far more likely to be bilingual than homegrow