Future Perfect

One of the downsides of being a science fiction fan, both in video representations and literary, is that I was set up to believe that the future would be perfect. Perfect, at least, in the eyes of a child.

Whether it was traveling to the stars or living in a world free of strife, the future was laid out for us as Heaven on Earth. No Dystopian universe to depress us. We may have read Orwell and Huxley but were never persuaded to think that our future would-be authoritarian in nature. No, ultimate freedom and pleasure were what was in store for us.

If George Jetson worked not at all by our standards, and Jane Jetson had a robotic maid to do the housework, life would be grand indeed for us baby boomers of the ’60s.

All of our hopes and dreams for a glorious future were confirmed by the New York World’s Fair in 1964.

Whether it was in the General Electric Pavilion, Progressland, the General Motors Pavillion, Futurama, or The Ford Rotunda, the future was quite literally a Disneyland for all of us to desire.

What made this such a powerful statement of hope for a better life was that the Fair opened five months to the day after our President had been assassinated. If ever there were a time to lose hope for the future, this was one. Perhaps, it helped our nation renew its optimism for a glorious future despite the challenges we had faced and would continue to face?

When we thought about the future in the ’50s, and 60’s space flight was on the top of the list. How many times had we taken time away from math and English in order to watch a space launch? Our teachers back then realized these were historical events, and we frequently were allowed to witness them on a flickering black and white television screen.

We had heard our President declare that we would put a man (no thought of women going to space quite yet) by the end of the decade. So profound was our faith in the future that when our President was shot in 1963, we entertained no doubt that this goal would be achieved.

Indeed, we reached this goal in 1969 and remained seemingly able to launch another moon mission anytime we wanted. Then in 1968, Stanley Kubrick, along with Arthur C. Clarke, made us believe that by 2001 we would have a lunar base from which we could reach the outer planets.

Space shuttles would be the new airplane as Pan Am would expand beyond the Americas and provide space station service daily. Sadly, Kubick’s representation would prove a considerable gaff as the real Pan Am went out of business a full ten years before their so-called shuttle brought Dr. Heywood Floyd to the rotating space station on his way to the Moon.

Oh well.

Nevertheless, in 1968 when 2001 A Space Odyssey debuted, and a full year before Neil Armstrong took that first step, space stations, and lunar bases were still optimistically a certainty.

But the future we imagined as children of the ’50s and 60’s never seemed to come to fruition.

We have many frills of modernity that would have inspired awe in the teenagers of our youth, but few have made our lives that much better.

Sure, I can hear a song on my satellite radio and go to iTunes to instantly purchase it, but that is nothing like going to Camera Craft in Parckchester to get the first 45 copy of I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Finishing a book on my train ride home, it was nice and convenient to go to the Kindle Store and download a new book in a matter of seconds? But is this better than going to an out of the way book store and discovering an unknown author?

It’s not that we don’t have a choice in our music or books or movies, but there is no randomness about the process.

Smart Phones and Smart Televisions have their upside but so too are their downsides. Always being on the grid. Always being available. Always being calibrated by some logarithm.

Our phones and TVs may be smart but are we?

Nostalgia was something we never considered about the future. It would not even enter our mind that the future would present challenges the like of which we are now experiencing.

We read about Big Brother and the Brave New World, but they were never going to be our future, or so we dreamt.

Our dreams and whimsy’s privacy are no longer private as being on the grid is akin to standing naked in Macy’s window.

For many, work has become less laborious, but for too many, it has ceased to represent a means of changing one’s status.

Our lives are not that bad, and certainly I have no reason to bemoan my fate. It’s just that we have seemed to stagnate these last fifty years since we stopped going to the Moon.

Perhaps, successfully meeting our most significant challenge yet and eliminating the scourge of Covid-19 will help usher in those long lost dreams for a utopian future?

That indeed will be a miracle of science that will restore our faith.

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Promises Made Promises Kept

Trump has just delivered the promise of his red hat.

America IS Great Again!

Trump has left the White House.

God Bless America.

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The Deep Fake

Something occurred to me in the midst of my delicious Sunday morning breakfast prepared with excellent culinary skills by my wife, Eileen.

Let me start by stating that I am a devout Anglophile and love everything English. From music to literature, I love it all and consume as much as I can. I subscribe to two streaming services that provide a broad array of English television in both drama and comedy genres.

In many of these distinctly British presentations, the lead characters frequently sip from the omnipresent cup of tea.

I have yet to see any of my favorite characters imbibe in a crumpet and, I confess, which I wouldn’t be able to identify in the first place.

I never thought at all about this glaring omission and wouldn’t even think to raise it as an issue of concern or remorse. However, this morning, as I was finishing my breakfast (not a typical Brit Fryup but containing two of the basics, eggs and bacon), I hit upon a more serious concern than the missing English crumpet.

I was dabbing the last bit of Smuckers Strawberry onto my English Muffin when it occurred to me that not once in my forty years of watching British characters ranging from Monty Python to Sherlock Holmes have I ever seen a Brit as much as mention (not alone eat) an English Muffin!

What’s up with that?

Has a fraud been perpetrated against me? With all their alleged nooks and crannies, is there anything distinctively English about the so-called English Muffin?

For forty years, all I have seen my English cousins of the arts only enjoy two pieces of toast and jam to complement their tea.

I don’t even believe that what Americans buy as English Muffins actually originate in England!

Ok, so occasionally, I have seen the odd scone or two but never an English Muffin.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the English Muffins that I have been eating all my life with butter melting in the nooks and jam settling in the crannies, but I think I will have to refer to them by some other name.

It’s just going to take some time getting used to calling our beloved English Muffins, American Tea Breads.

Just another issue to deal with in 2021.

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The Day That Shook America

No, it wasn’t January 6, 2021.

In fact, it wasn’t even in this century.

The day that forever changed America, and from which we have never recovered, was November 22, 1963.

Back in college, I wrote an essay, Decade of Decadence, in which I noted that the Kennedy Assassination ushered in a ten year period of American political and social decay.

I was too short-sighted, as it turns out.

I was thirteen years old in 1963, so you might be correct in questioning the evaluation of memories from a teenager.

The fifties still lingered in Camelot. They may have, in fact, received a jolt of rejuvenation with the election of John Kennedy.

As he reminded us in his inauguration address, he was the first President born in the twentieth century. He saw America’s failures falling behind the Soviet Union in the space race and challenged the nation to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade.

The Civil Rights movement was growing and had the ear of a sensitive President.

We had only sent advisors to Viet Nam, and there is no telling what would have happened if Kennedy had lived, but there is reason to believe that he would not have escalated the conflict as had Lyndon Johnson.

But who knows?

Kennedy was killed by an American citizen and very few people, even today, accept the Warren Commission’s account, which had investigated the assassination. Many people believe that Oswald did not act alone.

This was when Americans were introduced to doubt.

This is when Americans legitimately questioned what their leaders were told them.

Years later, we learned they lied to us about Viet Nam.

Lying about the need to wage war was a bi-partisan disease, as our Gulf Wars’ long history has shown.

We have been lied to in all sorts of endeavors, not just politics.

Religious leaders have shown to be the biggest liars. Whether in the form of shielding pedophiles or merely conning donations from poor people so that megachurches can be built and their preachers live the life of a wealthy Pharisee.

We were even lied to regarding America’s pastime.

Baseball players were taking Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDS) for years, and team owners and sportswriters were (or should have been ) fully aware of this. But players who hit home runs filled ballparks and reaped substantial television deals, and sold newspapers.

Suddenly, they found religion and were appalled and aghast at players breaching the sanctity of their sport and shattering records set by men of character dedicated to truth, justice, and the American way.

So, when another leader tells Americans that the election was rigged and that he was victorious in a landslide, accepting yet another lie is a piece of cake.

We’ve grown so accustomed to being lied to that we wind up believing nothing or everything. Maybe we believe the last thing we hear.

Some believe that COVID-19 is a hoax, but they still want to get the vaccine.

Anti-vaxxers are tired of being lied to, so they don’t believe medical science promotes vaccines as safe and efficacious therapies for all sorts of treatable illnesses.

We hear of such terms as “alternative truth” and “alternative reality.”

So, back to Philosophy 101, we go:

What is truth?

What is real?

On that Friday afternoon in 1963, the only thing I doubted was whether the New York Giants were going to win that Sunday.

But that doubt was quickly replaced by others.

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It Started With Sports

In 1962 my brother Michael won a pair of tickets for the first Saturday game that the New York Metropolitans ever played.

Make no mistake about it; I was a Yankee fan.

Nevertheless, I nagged my father to take me to this game over in the Polo Grounds, which was not an easy do, public transportation wise, from our section of the Bronx.

A few years later, in 1965, my brother Michael bought a season ticket to the New York Jets.

Make no mistake about it; we were New York Giant fans.

But, neither one of us had ever been to a Giant game as this storied franchise never had a problem selling season tickets, which were routinely bequeathed to generations of Giant fans over the years, or so the legend goes.

We probably would have become Met fans and remained loyal Giant fans, but society (at least the society with which we interacted) would never let you be the fan of both New York baseball or football teams.

I am not sure why that was the case, but there it is. You couldn’t do it, and we didn’t.

But there were those who not only refused to root for the other New York team but got distinct pleasure from the other team’s failure. Some even went so far and rooted more against the other team than rooted for their own team.

There were other rivalries, of course, mostly within the group of teams the New York teams actually competed against.

Yankee -Red Sox (although I never remember the Red Sox being a rival when I was a kid.)

Jets- Oakland Raiders, especially in the early days of the American Football League.

That was the real cause of the rancor erupting in New York between Jet and Giant fans. It wasn’t so much that the Jets were another New York football team but that they dared to belong to the upstart (some would say inferior) American Football League, and that went against the traditional National Football League, which had been around for all our lives.

Now, no one should have any concern about rooting for the team of their choice or actually attend a game in which they are competing.

But it hasn’t always been that easy.

There have been fights and even deaths at sporting events because a fan wore the wrong colors to the game.

Sound familiar?

Many fans have a hard time accepting that there are other teams that Americans root for, and it has often gone beyond the point of arguing which team had the better players.

I had a season ticket to all Saturday Yankee games for over sixteen years before moving to Florida. During that time, I stopped going to Yankee-Met games and even Yankee-Red Sox games because often, things would happen that would ruin the experience of attending the game.

So, it is no wonder that we have devolved to the point of hating people who think differently than we.

This last week has been a bizarre period in a bizarre era.

That’s all I have to say about it because anything more would only illustrate the point more.

I am about to watch an NFL playoff game, and I am going to enjoy it thoroughly.

I don’t have a team in either of the three games played yesterday or the three games today.

I could care less who wins.

Naturally, what happened this week was an event in which we all had skin in the game.

But, unlike a World Series or Super Bowl, we all came out as losers.

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E Pluribus Unum

Assuming that most of you haven’t had three years of high school Latin and two years of college Latin:

e plu·ri·bus u·num/ˌē ˌplo͝orəbəs ˈ(y)o͞onəm/noun

  1. out of many, one (the motto of the US).

I’ve always had some difficulty understanding what our so-called motto meant?

Out of many one?

Did it refer to the various states and regions that comprise our country?

Dit it refer to the many types of people who live in our country?

Religion?

Nation of Origin?

Race?

Gender?

Out of many, one certainly didn’t apply to blacks and women when this slogan was adopted.

Eventually, however, E Pluribus Unum’s application did include blacks and women, but some continue to wish that it didn’t.

To assert that we are ONE of many is a ridiculous statement.

We weren’t one in 1776.

We weren’t one in 1860.

We weren’t one when the Doughboys came home after World War I.

We weren’t one when the GIs came home after World War II.

We are certainly not one today.

I was going to write a blog on my desire to reduce my social media footprint.

Facebook and Twitter (never a big user of Instagram) used to be a fun way to keep in touch with friends and family. It was especially nice to re-connect to friends with whom I hadn’t been in contact with for many years.

Now, however, social media has been weaponized into a vehicle of division.

Over a month ago, I got off Twitter due to the people I was following. It wasn’t a political leader or a pundit but rather a group of New York Jet fans. This group whined and whined about the Jets and what they should do.

I just got so sick of all their negativity.

Earlier, I stopped following a few Yankee fans who couldn’t write anything positive about any of the Yankees.

So, I stopped going to Twitter.

I am doing the same with Facebook.

This is a positive step for me to retain a positive outlook and perhaps lose some of my negativity to all that is going on in our country.

I realize that my blogs have irritated people who do not share my views, so I invite them to delete me as I have deleted those who annoy me.

It’s only fair.

After yesterday’s horror, we all need to strive to rid ourselves of the hatred that divides us. It was so sad to see those people storm the Capitol as if we were, as President Trump would say, A Shithole Country.

I was looking at some of these people, wondering what motivated them to act like that and, more importantly, question whether they had anything else in their life that would have been jeopardized by such action?

I wasn’t judging them, only wondering how they got to that point.

When President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, my three children played hooky from school and work to attend this momentous event. They weren’t protestors or demonstrators, merely witnesses to History.

I can’t help but feel that that inauguration in 2009 motivated the seditious act of treason perpetrated yesterday.

I can’t help but feel that the election of a black man to the Office of The Presidency has driven some people to the point of evoking the Dogma of Dixie, and they have been empowered by Trump to come out of the woodwork and proudly stand up for racism.

The only question that remains is, will E Pluribus Unum survive?

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Another Christmas Passing Through

Ordinarily, I am a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas and, in particular, the Christmas Season.

We always learned that The Epiphany, January 6th, marked the day the Magi gave their gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Murr to the newborn Messiah. Therefore, the Christmas season extended to January 6th.

No matter that we usually went back to school before this date, in my view, Christmas was still going on.

The tree was still up and decorated (unless it was a real tree, which would be long gone by now.)

My trains were still set up.

My new toys still retained their newness and were probably driving my mother crazy, still strewn across the living room floor.

Today, January 1st, the new year barely 12 hours old, I am ready to move on and leave Christmas early.

No matter how I tried to keep the season as I had always done for the last sixty-plus years (assuming my early years were not really in my power to commemorate a season of any type), it just wasn’t the same.

I don’t mean to complain about that either because so many people have much more to complain about than I, and it would be grossly disrespectful to them to moan about my Christmas.

Still, I have had some justification for feeling less than jolly this yuletide season.

I haven’t seen my children in over a year, and there is a cute little guy in the Bronx who I have yet to see in person.

Thank God for Zoom and FaceTime.

As I prepared to spend New Year’s Eve last night, I thought of last year.

At that time, Eileen and I were booked for a trip to London and Dublin.
Then, when we got back, we would go up to New York for my birthday.
Those trips were quickly quashed, but we were soon given new hope for another trip.

Our daughter was due to have our first grandchild in December, so, in June, anticipating that the worst would be behind us, speaking pandemicly, we booked a trip to New York for December 1st.

We even built in a fourteen-day quarantine period just in case.

Well, the worst was not behind us, and we had to cancel that trip as well.

Nevertheless, I have no reason to complain, and I really don’t think I am.
Relating this is just my way of justifying bailing out on the Christmas season.

Last night I wrote about Faith, Hope, and Charity, and I hope to maintain these virtues as 2021 progresses. We have to remain positive in the face of such challenges, but we have the example that our parents have provided, and, like them, we will overcome 2020 and make 2021 a better year for us all.

Happy New Year, once again.

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On The Eve Of Christmas

I know, the title is backward but in 2020, what isn’t?

Over two thousand years ago, the Roman government proclaimed an edict requiring all the Jews to return to the town of their origin. So, thousands of Jews were urged to travel.

Today, our government (well, at least the CDC and the NIH) urges everyone to stay put.

The other night we witnessed the Great Conjunction of 2020.

It is believed that the Magi witnessed the same event, Jupiter and Saturn in the closest proximity to each other. The last time this type of conjunction occurred was over eight hundred years ago. The rarity of this event is what motivated the Magi to follow the “Star of Bethlehem.”

Again people traveled.

Christmas has been the subject of songs, movies, and novels, and other works of art. It has also been a polarizing topic causing people to argue over such a mundane matter as “Merry Christmas” v. “Happy Holidays.”

How silly that argument seems today.

One thing that many of us agree on is that Christmas has been much too commercialized in recent years…recent meaning my lifetime.

But this year, the true meaning of Christmas has struck home even as we are stuck home.

Christmas isn’t about your Christmas tree or ornaments but about the people who decorated and enjoyed your Christmas tree.

Whether you have turkey, roast beef, or a beautifully glazed ham is of no consequence if the ones you would love to share a meal with are a thousand miles away unable to travel to you.

It’s not the food but the people passing the plates of food around the table.

Then on Christmas morning, the big concern was, “What did you get for Christmas?”

This year? We’re all getting coal.

We realize that it was never the train or bicycle, or Play Station, or Foosball game that you might have given but having the loved ones of your life opening those gifts revealed what the Magi and Shepards felt on that night over two thousand years ago.

Christmas was never commercialized.

All the toys and ties and gift cards could never stand in the way of the true meaning of Christmas and, in the Pandemic year more than ever, and it has never been so evident as to the true meaning of Christmas.

Those of us who are protecting ourselves and the ones we love most in the world have opted to make the sacrifice and stay home knowing that Christmas, like Thanksgiving, will be celebrated in 2021 on the very first day that we have all been vaccinated.

It may be that Memorial Day will be Thanksgiving, and The Fourth of July will be Christmas.

Right now, that works for me.

In the meantime, we all share in the gift of having loved ones to care about and who care about us.

Merry Christmas all.

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I Now Understand The Meaning Of Advent

As a kid in Blessed Sacrament, I always felt that the Christmas Season started on Thanksgiving. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade culminated with the arrival of Santa, after all.

Then the day after Thanksgiving began train season, as in Lionel trains.

The religious equivalent for me was the First Sunday Of Advent.

In Church on Sundays during Advent, there was a Christmas wreath decorated with four candles. Each Sunday, a new candle was lit so that by the end of Advent, The Fourth Sunday of Advent, four candles twinkled on the altar.

It was quite festive.

Then, too, we began each mass by singing O Come O Come Emmanuel. That was always one of my favorite hymns.

So, Advent was the beginning of the Christmas Season, liturgically speaking.

The trouble is it wasn’t and isn’t.

Advent is a period of longing and anticipation. It’s not a joyful season, or at least the Church doesn’t consider it to be a joyous time. In fact, we had a priest not too long ago in East Quogue who used to urge us not to light the Christmas tree or any Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve.

Advent was not supposed to be a time to celebrate but to anticipate an event that was worthy of a magnificent celebration.

I would always object to this interpretation because I reasoned, we always seemed to Need A Little Christmas Right This Very Moment.

2020 proved my interpretation was the correct one.

Nevertheless, Eileen and I have experienced the true meaning of Advent in 2020.

About six months ago, our daughter Jeannine told us we were going to be grandparents.

Thus began our Advent.

Since that time, we waited in great anticipation. It was not without its suffering. We are here in Florida, and she is in The Bronx. In normal times we would have jumped on Jet Blue and whisked up to be with her.

Covid made this impossible back in June.

But the summer seemed to bring us a reprieve as the infection seem to wane. We made our plans to come up to New York and even timed a fourteen-day quarantine so that we would be there for the birth of our grandchild.

Of course, during this frustrating time of 2020, our plans had to be canceled. It was just too dangerous for us to travel, and in all likelihood, we wouldn’t be able to see our new baby.

Longing and anticipation won out, and no matter how close we get to Christmas, I couldn’t imagine feeling the joy we had so needed.

Until yesterday.

At about 3:30, Ethan James was born, and Christmas had come early to our family.

The joy that Eileen and I feel and his parents and his uncles, Sean and Bryan, overcame the darkness of 2020 and restored the light of hope.

All is well once again.

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It’s (Still) A Wonderful Life

Last week I was going to write a blog entitled Meltdown In The Sunshine State. I thought the better of it and opted not to dwell on my meltdown.

I have tried to be funny and sometimes uplifting during this challenging time, but I have strayed into the morose and the enduing world of rant. But you don’t need me to remind you of all that.

I have gotten political on a few occasions, probably more than I should have, but I never promised to be a saint, and I have definitely lived up to that aspiration.

But today, I am going to try to redeem myself for whatever mood transgressions I may have proffered during the last year.

On New Years Eve last year, I wrote a blog Vision 2020. I retold a story of New Year’s Eve 1969 when my friends PJ and Lou went to Times Square for my first and only time of reveling in the cold. It is the closing paragraph that I wrote last year that I wish to share with you now.

So, tonight at the first strike of 10 (for I have long ago given up staying up till midnight and DVR the ball drop), I will once again rejoice at the dawning of a new year if not a new age of peace, love, and understanding….but hope always remains.

Well, no one on December 31, 2019, had any idea what 2020 would bring to us, but I am sure that I was not the only one who had tremendous hope for the new year.

So, fighting back the urge to make 2020 even grimmer by telling the tale of my meltdown, I decided to keep it to myself. After all, we all have our reasons for the 2020 meltdown.

But then the other night, something occurred to me that brought me out of my particular meltdown.

Eileen and I decided to watch It’s A Wonderful Life.

I hadn’t seen it start to finish in a while, and it was nice to do so, maybe because of 2020.

It seemed quaint that George Bailey had a more significant meltdown than I because Uncle Billy lost $8,000. He’s ready to jump off a bridge rather than live with the disgrace of the failure of the Bailey Building and Loan. (What if Donald Trump dealt with business failure in this way? OK, that’s the last mention of Trump.)

George Bailey thinks he is a failure not just because he hasn’t got the eight grand to keep himself out of jail but because he has failed to achieve any of his dreams.

He never went on that cattle boat.

He never went to Europe.

He never went to college.

He never got out of Bedford Falls.

So, Clarence comes along and shows him his real failure.

Clarence grants George his wish and shows him what would have happened if George had never been born.

His brother Harry drowned when he was ten because George wasn’t there to save him. Because Harry died, he never saved the hundreds of soldiers on the transport ship during World War II.

Uncle Billy goes insane because he lost the Bailey Building and Loan.

George’s Mother becomes a cranky old hag instead of the beautiful Mother George still remembered.

Mary Hatch becomes an old maid who works in the library, and, of course, their four adorable kids were never born.

So, George’s failure was not that he didn’t go to Europe or college or get out of Bedford Falls but that he didn’t realize, until Clarence showed him, that he had indeed gotten everything that he ever really wanted.

So, yeah, I, like all of you, had reasons to have a glorious meltdown until Clarence came along.

I know that I will be the resurrected George Bailey (just as you will be) in a matter of time.

I will be able to travel to New York and see my children.

I will be able to see my friends and family in three dimensions.

I will be able to play Trivia with my friends, situated in our living room.

I will be able to go to a Yankee game.

I will be able to go to London and Sligo.

But, most importantly, I will be able to hold my grandson and maybe even stealing his nose once or twice.

I still believe in the miracle of the divine. So whether you celebrate Hanukah or Christmas, Santa is real and will visit us all with the gifts we really need.

Happy Hanukah.

Merry Christmas.

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