Wednesday, July 31, 2013


The late great George Frazier, stellar and oh-so-unique columnist at the Boston Globe, coined the adjective "duende", that special force or characteristic that makes someone or something irresistibly attractive. "So difficult to define," he wrote, "but when it is there it is unmistakable, inspiring our awe, quickening our memory. To observe someone who has it is to feel icy fingers running up and down our spine."

This aura is alive and well, especially in the world of politics. John F. Kennedy had it, as did Franklin D. Roosevelt (the ultimate father figure), Robert Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower ("he led us to victory"). So did Bill Clinton, which leads me to an inevitable comparison between him and Anthony Weiner, who most decidedly does not. The scandals surrounding both men are strikingly similar, yet one survived while the other is imploding.

Clinton's sexual escapades were not confined to one woman. They culminated with the Monica Lewinsky affair. When confronted with unequivocally damning evidence, he denied the obvious, choosing to parse his words and embarrass a nation. He was impeached by the House of Representatives and his anguished appearance betrayed his attempt at confidence. His wife did not embrace him. She distanced herself but did not divorce him.

Clinton did more than just survive. His popularity is as high today as it ever was. He is on top again, and the reason he was able to so remarkably recover was his face. It's magnetic. I once saw him up close at London's Heathrow airport and must admit that I was quite taken by his star quality. He had the  face easy to like. He had duende.

Weiner's situation, at least allegation wise, is not dissimilar. He sexted to more than one. He steadfastly denied wrongdoing until incontrovertible evidence was uncovered. His wife stands publicly by his side, to her own political detriment. And yet, his political career has plummeted to pieces. He did not mind the gap and has fallen upon the third rail. It's because of his face. It's unlikeable and off-putting. He doesn't have duende.

My readers will undoubtedly scoff at this notion as a ridiculous over-simplification. And well it might be, for I doubt that this post shall challenge the writings of Plato. But take a step back and think on it a bit. It ain't as crazy as it sounds.

Which is probably why I would never have made it in politics.

Hark! I doth mock myself.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Most reasonable people now agree as to how the Zimmerman aquittal verdict should be interpreted. It was predicated on the paucity of prosecutorial evidence in the context of Florida's "no retreat" law on the use of dedly force in self defense. This is as it should be, the rabble-rousung of Rev. Al Sharpton and others, notwithstanding. The prevalence of common sense and reason on this point serves the cause of racial harmony. Consensus of reasonable analysis is an emotionally salving lotion. One factor has, however, received insufficient attention.

The trial was held in Sanford, Florida. That city has an African American population of 40%. The trial jury was composed of six people, all women, five caucasians and one hispanic. Why was there not one African American on that jury?

It is not difficult to understand the defense's motive for desiring such a composition, but intentional exclusion is prohibited by law. Why was the prosecution apparently passive on this point? If the jury pool, from which the jurors were chosen, was similarly devoid of a proportionate share of African Americans, appropriate motions could and should have been made.

A criminal defendant is entitled to be tried by a jury of his peers. Should not a victim in a murder case be afforded similar playing-field-levelling protection? There is no case law by which this is mandated, but the reputation of Trayvon Martin was equally on trial with that of George Zimmerman. The trial judge should have made this the subject of judicial scrutiny.

It is impossible to predict what the outcome would have been had the jury been composed of some African Americans, but the result would have been more digestible.

Trayvon Martin was entitled to a jury of his peers.

He didn't get it.

George Zimmerman did.

Friday, July 19, 2013


The next time I hear  "It's God's will", I shall puke on the spot.

When I was a kid, maybe 11 years old, my Dad was stricken with an illness that his doctors couldn't diagnose. He had to stop working and we were literally penniless. He reached out to his brother for help. They sat down in the living room (the parlor) and the scene that played out will forever remain indelibly etched in my brain. My uncle pulled a folded $50 bill from his pocket and handed it to my Dad. He stared at the money in his palm and suddenly began sobbing hysterically. I had never before seen him cry and, as young as I was, it tore me up inside, for his pain was mine. He was such a good guy, why, I asked myself, was this thing happening to him? Where was God?

One year later, he was in the hospital. He kept complaining that he couldn't breathe all the way in. The look on his doctor's face did not bode well. I was an only child and every time the phone would ring in our tiny apartment, my heart would jump to my throat. The vigil was frustrating and endless. My cousin was getting married and I was to be an usher at the wedding. The plan was for me to surprise my Dad at the hospital, resplendent in my debonair white tie and tails. As I was getting dressed, I remember hearing on the radio that General George S. Patton had been in an accident and had died from a blood clot in the brain. I shuddered without knowing why. The phone rang. Panic! It was the hospital advising that my Dad had suffered a blood clot and telling us to come immediately. The next two nights were spent in the waiting room on his floor. I asked the nurse if there was a place for praying. She told me that the hospital chapel was on the street level. My mother was in a wailing mood and I was purely and simply frightened. The first thing I noticed, as I entered the chapel, was a huge cross. Uh, oh! I was Jewish so how could I pray to a cross? I sat on a bench, folded my hands,  first asked God to forgive me and then began to beg Him to not let my father die. But he did, that night, and I couldn't understand why God had let me down. I was twelve tears old.

As a young man, I read a book by a theologian which attempted to address why bad things happen to good people. The author explained how frustrated he would be when asked to intervene with God on behalf of a perilously ill loved one. God doesn't have time to a give every situation on earth his personal attention, he claimed, but faith can sustain you in hard times. The book was a cop-out. He had dodged the question.

The Holocaust. Millions of innocent men, women and children ruthlessly slaughtered by a country whose national policy was to eliminate a religion from the face of the earth. Why didn't God strike Hitler dead?

Maybe the role of luck is vastly underestimated.

I find it difficult not to recognize fate as the ultimate decider of things. That way, the "why" questions are no longer formidable.. They are resolved.

Why, then, when good fortune comes my way, do I instinctively, spontaneously and immediately whisper to myself, "Thank God?"

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Anyone who rejects the theory that life is filled with moutains and valleys is full of crap.

Call it God made tests, forks in the road or challenges of choice, the art of survival comes into play when, for one reason or another, you find yourself in the shithouse, face down.

Obviously, it's easy to deal with the good times--you just enjoy to the max and try to ignore the nagging thorn that it's temporary and won't last forever. Make the best of it--you've obviously earned it because good times don't happen by natural causes. Your confidence soars, your swag becomes more pronounced and you vibe out a certain magnatism which draws others to you. They'll hover over you, eager to see and touch the man who is riding the fast track in fine fashion. These times have a way of erasing doubts and previous misfires because you're a winner and everybody wants to get close in the hope of gaining a rub-off effect. You're a potential benefactor, on top of the world, a Tony Montana, if ever there was one.

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, and, before you know it, you find yourself in a valley, all the forces in your life having done a one-eighty. The day to day incentives dissipate, the road becomes bumpy to the point of impassibility and everything you reach out for to break your fall splinters on contact. The fawners thin out and disappear, for they only signed on for the good times and never subscribed to the "for better or worse, in good times and bad" commitment. "Fuck 'em" becomes your mantra for survival. The only one you've got to lean on is yourself.

Being alone has certain advantages. You are obliged to answer to no one. Your former admirers become insignificant, rapidly fading to harmless whisperers. In a strange way, it's a relief, being able to differentiate the good from the shallow. And you develop your own tool for survival.

You re-prioritize the things in life that give you pleasure, free of tension,like oases in the desert. You arrange each day's schedule around these previously underestimated roads-to-escape and indulge in them. Watching movies, listening to your favorite music, eating on the cheap at neighborhood haunts where you get to know the regulars. A personalized anti-stress therapeutist. The fancy joints take a step back for awhile, until the next mountain comes around. Your task is to hold on and stay afloat until that day comes. And it surely will, because as an additional part of your weathering the storm, you are pursuing every angle, every opportunity to climb back, out of the rut and back to the level of success where your innate basic talents belong. You have exorcised the pressure of daily stress in favor of relaxing in the comforting knowledge that you have emerged from the rough onto the manicured grass all by yourself, once again reaffirming your personal mettle.

You're stronger now, for instead of giving up, you went into the ocean, you relaxed and simply let the wave take you.

It only works with good people.