Paul was once again duped by the promise the Merritt Parkway always breaks. It is one of the most beautiful highways in the nation, tree lined, and curvy enough for his 6 speed 228i. That is until it breaks its promise. WAZE said the drive to Milford was to be one hour and 13 minutes. Then exactly four times during the drive, WAZE dinged. The female British voice said there would be a 5-minute delay because “traffic was building up ahead.”  What it should have said is, “Paul, you should have known that the “, fool on a hill” fuckers will brake as soon as they see a hill …,” or “Sorry Paul, your exit has a curve that scares the idiots.” Still, it’s better than the dreaded and seriously ugly, I-95

Milford’s old, but not architecturally curious houses don’t make him downshift. Finally, he hits a main drag while looking for a place he found online for a light lunch, but he can’t find it. Optimistically, he drives on figuring he can scope out this top 5 coastal Connecticut town. He eventually finds Broad street, a boulevard with a broad green median. “Not very creative.” There he finds a place called Scratch Bakery.  “Odd name. Bedbugs? Ticks?”

Curious and hungry, Paul parks and enters. “Ok.” Inside there isn’t much seating but a long open kitchen with 4 busy worker bees.” A few people are waiting for their orders yet there are a few open tables inside and out. He steps up to the register to order a simple and quick BLT. “Hello?” The closest worker bee is so busy working she doesn’t notice him as she finishes a coffee order and brings it to a table.

Paul turns around, and notices a woman behind him, also waiting. He shrugs. The busy bee comes back to the register and just as he opens his mouth to order she makes eye contact with the woman behind him who gives her order. “What? “Paul thinks, then politely says while waving his hands magicianlike in front of his 6’4” frame, “Hi, Am I invisible?”

The woman behind him says, “Oh I’m sorry I thought you ordered, and were waiting.” The nice Paul replies, “That’s alright.” Inside the real Paul is saying, “What the fuck? How about a simple ‘Are you waiting’ BEFORE you order with me standing in directly front of you?” The worker hardly mumbled an apology. She knew he hadn’t ordered. Paul breathes deeply and simply orders his BLT.

The busy barista bee now tells him, “Oh that will take about 20 minutes.” Rather than pull the New Yorker schtick, Paul says, “Just give me a croissant and a large cappuccino with an extra shot.” To himself he mumbles, “Count to 10 slowly… Breath.”

Croissant in hand, he grabs a table and picks up his much-needed triple shot cappuccino. Disposable cup in hand, “What, no real cups?” he sits to relax and enjoy his “lunch”. He feels a tap on the shoulder and turns to see this grizzled oldster pointing to his sneaker that somehow slithered next to his uttering, “My sneakers are nicer.”  Paul’s immediate retort to rid himself of this intrusion was, “Mine are bigger. I wear a size 13.”   That didn’t work. “Shit, is this old dude trying to pick me up and measuring cock sizes by comparing foot size?” Paul changes the subject. “It’s harder to pack at my size, because everything is twice the length of everyone else’s.” Paul caught himself too late.

Luckily, the footster started jabbering away about learning to pack in the Navy. “Oh, Paul thought, “This old coot just wants to chat with someone. I hope that’s not me in fifteen years.”  He cordially replied, “I know how to do that. Roll things, but the math and physics of it still says my clothes take up more room so I’ll get half as much as you in because you are half my size. Anyway, I have to run.”

The drive through town to the Air B&B to meet landlady, Susana, is even less impressive. Trip Advisor, Fake news flash. This cannot be one of top five cute CT towns.  East Broadway turns out to be a typical beach town beach road but without Mc Mansions. It’s surely not the Hamptons. It’s more Jersey shore.

It turns out my host, Susana, is a hard to understand thickly accented Chinese woman. Paul’s mind wanders. “Is she the presurgical killer nurse from Columbia Presbyterian.” As she walks him around back and up the stairs to the private entrance, he still wasn’t sure. The room looks just like the pictures on Air B&B. Simple. Clean.

In their correspondence Paul told her he was a photographer. Paul asks, “What are good spots in town for photos? I didn’t see any driving in.” Weakly, she says, “None.” “Any parks?” “You may have to drive around.” “Any interesting old buildings?” “Nope.” “It isn’t a very pretty town.”

Yeah, too late now.  She knew why Paul was coming. He had been at many Air B&Bs before with lots of brochures or a notebook full of options for food, drink, activities and highlights of the area. He figured she figured that people just came to her place for the beach.  Still.

She left. He unpacked, put on his red Tommy Bahama trunks with the blue swordfish, and took her beach chair and umbrella across the street to the little beach.  This is obviously the value of this place. Where are the WASPS? Paul felt like it was more Staten Island or Jersey than Connecticut. He expected more people wearing whales. Instead he saw more whales wearing bathing suits they should not be wearing.Beachday 1

Peaceful. Calm water.  An island floats not far off shore.  Sailboats cruise as power boats rip up the smooth surface of the water. A woman walks backwards across the darkened sand as the tide goes out.  She is still walking backwards.  “Hope she sees the jetty out of her rear-view eyes.  Damn.  She did.”

Paul tried to look suave as he put the umbrella in the sand.  Of course, it wouldn’t go deep enough to stay firm even with no breeze.  It was old. It didn’t have a screw in bottom like the new ones that drill a hole deep enough in the sand so they don’t get blown over.  The one Paul brought had it …but was still in the trunk.

Paul felt eyes on him. He was new to these parts.  He didn’t want to look like a beach newbie. He, had, after all spent a great deal of time on beaches, albeit without a dumbass umbrella. This “Tommy Bahama” would have worked except for the fact that the umbrella wouldn’t lock in place.  It kept slipping into the 60˚ angle position. Rather than look even more idiotic, he decided to just soak up the sun. Down came the umbrella.

That’s when the under suited whale (manatee?) looked up at him and asked, “Do you need sun block?”  Thoughts of manatee flippers spreading liberal amounts of creasy goo on his skin made him shudder, so he responded “Ha, ha. Thank you, I already put some on in my apartment.”

Hoping Ms. Manatee didn’t come talk to him, Paul settled in listening to his Apple Music. Deodato.  Desposito. Then he noticed the Keb -Mo/Taj Mahal song.  Laughing to himself, he realizes, that it is, “Please Don’t Leave Me Here.”An omen Next song?   “Keep On Waiting For The World To Change.”Pleeease’, he thought.  “How long do I have to wait?”

Note. Paul looked around and noticed that several houses were recently rebuilt or are being rebuilt on stilts.  Sandy? Across the little Bay up on a cliff, are the real Big Ass Houses.  “Bet the WASPS are there and the beaches are private.”

WASPs at 4 o’clock …. time and direction. Paul spotted an 80 something couple setting up their chairs and umbrella as the sun gets lower and less intense.  He’s wearing black shorts and a white tee with matching black suspenders stretched over his expanded gut. Paul chuckles to himself.  “Oh shit, there’s a dog squatting in the water.” The sign entering the beach said “NO ANIMALS!”

“I can’t find where I put that $200”, a woman shouts as she walks to her friend.  So nonplussed. Paul thinks, “I’d be shouting, Shit. What happened to my 200?” She doesn’t seem to care as she sits and lights up a smoke.  An ambulance slowly cruises by behind us.

“Medication” by Steven and Damian Marley.  Ganja music.  Paul wishes he had.  That floating 12-foot-long and 10-foot-high pink flamingo anchored at the edge of the water would be even more far out than it is. Uh, oh! The surgical killer nurse and 3 other older Chinese women are walking to the water with a cooler, pails, and shovels. “Are they digging for dinner or recovering a corpse?”

Paul packed his stuff and went back upstairs to shower, change, and go to dinner after sunset.  There is, a block or so away from the Air B&B, a beautiful boardwalk, through dunes, tall grasses, and long willowy reeds. Paul took his gear and took about a dozen pictures, hoping for the best when he gets to his computer after dinner.  “Time to go. Better not to be alone. He doesn’t know where killer landlady is hiding.

Paul chose to have dinner at a place called SBC. It looked good on “The Google”. The place was too full so he at sat at the bar to watch the Giants – Jets game. To his right sat an annoying high pitch voiced millennial who could not get over the nails of one of the bartenders. Paul’s barkeep took his order and calls him Bud. Paul hates “Bud” … and the beer of the same name.

Paul ordered a pulled pork quesadilla, with crispy sweet potato fries and 2 Sam Adams’s… one at a time.   The Giants are doing well. Paul is a big fan.  Then another shoulder tap. “Is that old guy here and checking sizes again?” Nope. A scrawny, bearded, tattooed, short of a full set of teeth 20 something wearing, of all things, an Eagles jersey asks Paul if he can move over, so he can squeeze in another chair for his companion.  Of course, he added insult to injury by calling Paul Sir. Paul slides over and gets back to his food, drink, and the Giants game.

It turns out Paul got lucky. When Paul asked for the check, his barkeep told him he got the last pulled pork quesadilla. Paul told him thanks and when he asked if Paul wanted dessert, Paul said “I am both done and full.” while thinking, “These other people will never say that.” Paul had already taken out his cell phone and snuck a “portrait” of a tattooed, food slurping manatee. barstaurant

Tattoos and beards to the left of him. Tattoos and beards to the right of him.  And that’s just the women.  “Is this really Connecticut?”“Wonder what would happen if I yelled Trump sucks?”

As Paul gazes around the “barstaurant” the crowds have disappeared and it’s only 8:45. But never fail. More tattooed beards just walked in. Paul would soon be taking up valuable bar space. He decides not to give up his stool until halftime.



The minute he walked in the joint,
He could see several men of “distinction”,
Some real big spenders,
Bad looking…not refined.
Wouldn’t you like to know what’s going on in his mind?

(with humble apologies to Shirley Bassey)

“What’s it been?” Howard asked…. “Too long”. Paul cordially replied. “How have you been?” Feigning humor, Paul told him, “Ok, except for the heart operations.” Marlene followed with the usual, “You look great.” “Bull shit”, thought Paul, I am balding and greying and have a bubble wrap I can’t get rid of.” …“Thanks, so do you.”

Paul looked around the room, and from his 6’4” vantage point, saw a sea of grey, balding guys like him with women trying not look their ages. They strut around the room like elderly peacocks working way too hard to show off their distinctions. Sprinkled in among the social security set were a few millenials…siblings and friends of the bride and groom.

He usually loved events weddings with good food – especially the apps – and good music. Dancing all night. But that wasn’t to be this night.

The ceremony on the Hudson, at sunset, should have been filled with gorgeous yellow and orange tones, but with a grey and foreboding sky, the evening’s tone was dark. Grey sky on grey water over grey buildings overlooking all that grey hair. The black ceiling made the dark and drab room even more tomb like. He watched the joyously smiling parents and siblings watch a not so handsome bride and groom finally get married off after too many years of waiting. They gave the syrupy, typed, hand written vows. The rabbi happily sauntered though his role with old jokes until we heard the sound of the groom smashing the glass. He honestly thought the groom might miss, or was that just his darkness thinking out loud?

The short, but happy, families walked back up the aisle. As they disappeared, a black and white flood of penguin like men and sequined female salamanders descended on the bar and even more so, the food stations like a scrum of huddled omnivores.  This was a Jewish wedding after all.

Scanning over the tops of the far shorter populous, Paul first tried to find the groom, his parents, (his friends), or his siblings, or anyone he knew, but to no avail. He couldn’t even find the food stations. Still looking, he turned as Jane exclaimed, “Oh look, finally, there is a waiter with h’ordeurves.” “Too late”, he replied.  “That waiter was attacked. The others were swallowed up by a pod of Orcas.” “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” He cracked himself up.

Fishing for food with glasses of Sauvignon in their hands, Paul and Jane ran into the three couples they knew in this small New York wedding of 250 family members and close friends. Their hopes of maybe sitting with Stan and Lorie at table 22, where they were assigned, were soon dashed while eating some shrimp concoction on a napkin.

The hall’s penguin keepers then instructed the guests to find their eating troughs numbered 1-23. Half were fenced off from the musicians and dance floor on the western, Hudson side, and the other half were also fenced off, next to the bathrooms and exit to the parking lot. At least that would provide an exit for the lucky ones.

Everyone crept around trying to find the small, poorly placed table numbers hiding among the table flowers and place settings, each with 2 wine glasses – red and white- already poured champagne and water, 2 plates, and silverware that blindly merged each place setting with the next.

Finally, Paul shouted across the room to Jane that he had found their table. They, Dean, and Carol, were seated at the far end of the room from Stan and Lorie, who would not be seen again.  Only Bob and Alice were at their table. Paul barely knew them. He had some business contact with Bob and Jane knew them from growing up in her old neighborhood. Things were not improving.

Paul, now among the lucky ones nearest the bathroom and exit, was already scheming. But while planning his exit strategy something more insidious was unfolding. You know how table seats are not assigned at many of these events, yet somehow, they are?

By the time he looked up, his seat was given to him, facing the wrong direction. To watch the festivities, he would have to either stand, or swivel his head like the kid in the “Exorcist”.

To his left was Jane. To her left were Bob and Alice. It would be hard to converse with them through Jane, even if there was something in common with them to talk about. That was pretty much used up foraging for food during the cocktail fortnight. To Paul’s right was the only other couple at the table. To their right were three guys, and to their right, and to the left beyond Bob and Alice, were four women. So much for the man-woman-man arrangement. Who was with whom? Were those seven singles. It was that table…the table of… where do we put those people?

Over the din of everyone at every table trying to talk over everyone else, the strangers strained to introduce themselves to each other. Paul could have introduced himself as Elmer Fudd and would have gotten the perfunctory handshake and bouncing head nod. Maybe that’s what they said. He didn’t care.

One woman at the table, Mary, had heard about Paul’s first book and wanted to talk to him about it and how he could help develop a program at an education foundation she was soooo deeply involved with. Turns out her Sutton Place hubby was Chairman of the Board. They spoke briefly. Paul thought, “Will she call me? I doubt it.” Maybe she just is attracted to tall guys.

Paul then spoke briefly with Bob and Alice. Bob is a major magazine publisher who helped him get an essay published 4 years ago based on his first book but can’t help with the new one. Paul sensed a little embarrassment about that. Bob’s a nice guy. He was seated gobbled up by the conversation between Jane and Alice. Because of the seating, Paul felt excluded, so he had a brief conversation with the people to his right who were from California and from the bride’s side. Wow, were they misplaced. Somewhere between salad and dinner, they disappeared. Their exit strategy worked.

At each course, Paul observed the table scene. The three men and 4 women were each engaged in their own conversations. “What the f… are they talking about? Paul wished he could say out loud.  Then he turned to the dance floor scene for the next toast.

Speaking of toasts, that is a tradition that needs to be reexamined. You shouldn’t force 250 people to suffer through 6 speeches from people who can’t write, can’t speak, and don’t know when to stop talking.

So, it was to Paul’s surprise that the highlight of the evening was a toast, or roast as it turned out to be, by the groom’s tall, slim yet still very Jewish brother, who, now at 30, incredibly reminded him of fabulously funny John Mulaney doing a stand-up set.

One of the highlights of any wedding for Paul is the music. He loves great musicians. You can’t stop him from playing every part on every air instrument.  In fact, He claims to be a virtuoso at bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, percussions, and any and all instruments in the horn section…all while dancing his feet off. Usually.

But not this night. The 12-piece band included a horn section and 4 vocalists. “Wow”, thought Paul, “the harmonies are going to be great.” Unfortunately, whoever picked the play list knew more about golf or their real estate jobs than music. To add to the problem, unless you were directly in front of the band you couldn’t hear the lyrics. Too often he couldn’t even recognize the song.

Jane kept asking Paul to dance. He kept saying, “Not to this shit”.  After the opening traditions of The Jewish Hula, the Horah, they played songs from the famous Jewish musical groups… The Temptations and 4 Tops. He danced to those thinking, “This shows my age.” But then the music got way too white.

Totally frustrated, Paul slipped to the railings that surrounded the dance floor and watched a sea of mostly portly penguins and sequined salamanders squirm around the floor as if they were trapped in a fishing net. It was downright ugly. Seeing his despair, and glancing at her watch, Jane said, “It’s getting late. Let’s say our goodbyes.”

Then they retreated to the well-placed bathrooms and exit.


conference-presentationIf it was sunny he would have gone to the Conference, just off Washington Square Park earlier, strolled around and had lunch at The Spotted Pig, especially after the Batali accusation. Why is it these NY abusers like Batali and Weinstein actually look like spotted pigs, or like Anthony Weiner, a porcine product?

The crappy May day meant he would just drive in do his 2 minute pitch for his overwhelmingly underselling book to the representatives of over 100 Jewish groups looking for speakers. At least the weather let up. Out of the garage and – boom – a downpour. Rain jacket on, hood up, the cold wind driven rain pelted his face and pants. “God, I hope I dry off before I have to meet anyone.” “Maybe I should have gotten here at 2 when registration started.” He didn’t want to be there longer than necessary. No one knows how shy Paul is when in new situations. He puts up a good front.

Finally, he reached the doors of the Hebrew Union College.  Water dripping off his jacket, he followed the 5 women ahead of him and, as he always does, observed what they did, so he could “do the right thing” when it was his turn to get in. They waved paper tickets and ID’s, so he figured they were members showing their tickets and membership ID’s. “I don’t need that” he thought, “I’m a presenter.”

The chunky security guard looked up at him, “ID?” “I don’t have one. I’m not a member, I’m a presenter,” Paul replied confidently. The guard asked again. Paul smiled and replied again, figuring the guard didn’t hear him. “I don’t have one. I’m not a member, I’m a presenter,” The guard asked again. “ID?”

“Fuck, what is he asking me for? “Duh… He means a photo ID, a driver’s license.” “What an idiot I am.” Aware of the line building behind him, Paul sheepishly said, “Oh, I misunderstood…. Ha, ha, ha …. Here you are.” He pulled out his ugly NYS driver’s license photo hoping no one behind him noticed his screw up. “So far, no good. First the rain then this embarrassment. Let me go register”, he mumbled to himself. At least he got on the correct line for presenters.

While he mulled over the crappy start to this long shot of a day, he was asked his name and handed a yellow name tag dangling from a too long nylon string. The generically faceless woman seated far below him mumbled something about a coat room, the restrooms, a sanctuary, and to hang around a half hour before the 3 PM indoctrination. The actual pitches would start at 4. He took his tag and headed to the coat room to hang up his dripping rain jacket. He went to the men’s room and dried himself the best he could with the cheap paper towels that crumbled when wet. He decided to come back and pee. At his age, timing urination was not only an art and science, it was a necessity. You didn’t want to be stuck in a room doing the one knee bounce and the seated butterfly dance.

No food, just some gallon sized jugs of water on a table next to the sanctuary. Nothing would be allowed in. Drink here. Deposit your garbage in the trash. “What is this, the Negev?”

He grabbed a cup, filled it with luke cool water and found a chair. As soon as he sat, he felt it. “What moron spilled water on the seat and didn’t wipe it off? I just dried off. I hope no on sees my wet ass.” It reminded him of his last wet ass.

Two years earlier Paul was in pre-op for a routine aortic valve replacement. Arriving at 5:00 AM to hurry up and wait, he was finally taken in by a pre-op nurse whose Chinese accent was impossible to understand as she questioned him to fill out the pre-op form.  She led him to a zip locked enclosure where he was instructed to sit on a gurney. That’s when his ass felt wet. “I don’t have the shits” he thought.” “What could that be?” He stood up and felt his now wet, gown covered behind.

Jane screamed, “It’s blood!” The Chinese nurse came over and said, “You bleeding. You bleeding.” He went to change to another gown.  On his return, he sat back on the gurney and felt wet again. The Chinese nurse Ratchet screamed again. Paul calmly raised his voice to intimidation level eight and lowered it to the deep bass he can be when it’s time to scare the shit out of people. The nurse was the recipient.

“Don’t touch me.”

Jane lunged at the gurney and pressed on the wet spot just as Paul was ushered into the operating room by his surgeon and anesthesiologist.  Blood oozed up and covered the sheet. At least that ended well. The hospital was so embarrassed he was upgraded to a private room and the “good” meals.

“This is not a good omen,” thought Paul. But off to the bathroom he went to dry off. “Thank goodness they don’t just have those stupid blow dryers. What would I do? Bend over and blow my ass goodbye?”

2:55. Not finding anyone who would make eye contact and chat, he went to pee and grabbed his last glass of water before entering the desert sanctuary. He was escorted to his alphabetically arranged seat on which he found a thick directory the size of a prayer book opened to his author page. He sat, put his pitch under his chair, and flipped through the book with the 253 other authors with whom he was competing. “Fuck.”

He glanced around the room. This session’s 45 authors were split, seated along the side walls. Between the two sides was the bimah… one of those extra wide ones in temples for the unscrolling of the Torah and the hiding of the fat. A mike on an elbow stand was on the right. Facing it were 200 or so seats.

Some authors knew each other. They had done this before or knew each other through NY Times or freelance gigs. Paul glanced through the directory and noticed quite a few award winning authors as well. “Could I just slip out now before anyone noticed.” He started some small talk with the authors next to him until they were interrupted by a voice at the mike who needed that extra wide podium.

Susan Swan, or some alliteration like that, went on and on for about 15 minutes before Andrea, the mistress of ceremonies, “Does one call her Mistress?” told them about the day’s procedures. Andrea would call the “next up” author to sit beside her as the author who was “up” was introduced to speak. “At least this sounds well organized.” They already knew they had NO MORE THAN 2 minutes to speak. They would be timed and apparently shamed if they went over. “Yes Mistress.”

First up would be two “surprise” pitchers who had to leave early… “Why?”

It dawned on him that this was looking more and more like a slave auction and as he leaned over to one of the authors he thought would appreciate a good joke, the woman leaned to him and said, “I think they’ll be checking our teeth as we go up.” Paul laughed and was grateful she said it first.

Mistress Andrea said they could test the mike to adjust its height and check the volume. Although Paul didn’t need to because he was familiar with mikes and his voice didn’t need one in a room that size, he’d have to adjust it up to his far greater height than anyone, so he went to look at the hardware. While waiting, a woman tried to adjust it, but it kept slipping. Another author tried to help but gravity rules if you don’t turn the knob at the elbow to lock it in place.  Paul nudged his way forward to demonstrate. At least he felt good about that.

“Stretch your legs. Be back at 3:45 when we open the doors for the audience. DO NOT BE LATE.” “Yes, Mistress.” Paul found a place to practice his 2 minutes pitch. “OK.” Then it was time for clockwork urination, get one more swig of swag swill, and return to the sanctuary of the sacrificial scribes.

Paul counted the authors before him. He would be thirteenth. “Ugh.”

Oddly, the orange name tagged audience would not make eye contact. Maybe they were under strict instructions not to. They had been given those directories to peruse days earlier. Perhaps they had already made up their minds? Lyle Lovett popped into his head.

“Because she’s already made up her mind.

She’s already made up her mind.”

First up? Dr. Ruth?

She grabbed the mike out of the stand and stood before the bimah. No one would have seen her if she was behind it. She spoke longer than 2 minutes, but who cuts off Dr. Ruth? … Sex would end.

She pitched a graphic children’s book “about the Holocaust, not sex” she dryly noted, in her still heavy eastern European accent after all her years in the US. Next up was a Simpson’s writer, whose book was about writing the Simpsons and its Jewish actors and writers. “I have to compete against them?”

Then came the normal authors. Some were boring, some overly dramatic, and a few were damn good. Paul, hoping not to seem rude, glanced down at his script when possible. Finally, he was called.  “Next up”. He noticed no one had yet adjusted the height of the mike and that there were a few seconds to do so. He figured he would use that time to lighten up the audience a bit.

He walked to the bimah barely hearing his introduction. Mistress Andrea returned to her seat to start the clock as he raised the mike almost a foot higher and said, “Sorry for this technical interruption but the last time I was up at a Bimah… I was Dr. Ruth’s height.”

He heard some laughter but supposed many were not paying attention and that a few snowflakes thought he was insulting Dr. Ruth, not joking about his own height. Two minutes later he returned to his seat. “Whew.”

During the two hour session there were pitches for cookbooks, children’s books, novels, self-help books, memoirs, and an art book. One cookbook was pitched by a famous chef he had actually met. He would have to go over and say hello after the session. There was even one absurd pitch about a book about seltzer. It was funny… too funny.

“At least there weren’t any like mine. That’s encouraging. Maybe there are some folks who would want me because I come cheap.”

Session done, Paul went to the reception followed by the audience members who decided to mingle. Paul took a selfie with Chef Shaya and reminded him about their visit in New Orleans. He spoke briefly to a couple of other authors and an organizer who Jane said to say hello to for her dermatologist. He found a woman from Albuquerque and hoped she knew an old friend from the Bronx. She did. He would have to contact Gail and tell her to pitch him to this woman.

Noshing on latkes, mini egg rolls, and pigs in a blanket as if at a cheap Bar Mitzvah, he hoped one or two audience members would approach him feigning at least some interest… Not one.

He tried placing himself around the room in almost unavoidable or hard not to notice spots… to no avail.

A few authors had some groupies, one of whom was his chef buddy. He glanced around the room for a last time… no eye contact.

Then, as was his custom, he quietly slipped out and went home.




1915’s The Birth of a Nation has been widely seen but rarely discussed in depth.  “They lectured about D.W. Griffith and his film,” in NYU, Spike Lee says in the most recent TIME magazine. “But the social and political implications of the film were never discussed.” During that period, the KKK was largely inactive. “The film brought about the rebirth of the Klan,” Lee says. “…Never discussed.”

Of course, it wasn’t the only culprit, but there is no doubt that 100 years ago a film, one of the first ever in the new medium, was partly responsible for the resurrection and rise of the KKK in the 1920’s.  History not only has its eyes on you, me, and us, we must have our eyes on it. Spike Lee’s new film, BlacKkKlansman, helps in that regard by drawing parallels between the 1970’s and the present. No, he isn’t referring to Watergate.

BlacKkKlansman connectslaw enforcement then and now; between the Klan and the so-called alt right; and between KKK grand wizard David Duke and President of the United States Donald Trump.

In an odd way, one might call the election of Barack Obama a “Birth of a Nation” because it directly led to the rise of Trumpism and the distractions “Agent Orange” throws at us. Lee has always referred to pulling the wool over our eyes as the “okey-doke” and Trump is a master at it with the help of social media and its many cancerous posts. As Lee puts it, “It’s well-conceived, well-disguised. So, we, as a people, as American people, have to really stop going for the okey-doke. We have to be smart and not go for these distractions.”

So why do so many of us fall for Lee’s okey-doke? Another article in the same TIME helps us understand that. It focuses on answering these questions, “Why are even the smartest among us so bad at making judgments about what to trust on the web? And how can we get better?” To this old history teacher, it’s pretty obvious. “Americans of all ages, from digitally savvy tweens to high-IQ academics, fail to ask important questions about content they encounter on a browser, adding to research on our online gullibility. Other studies have shown that people retweet links without clicking on them and rely too much on search engines.”

Even before the digital age many of us taught our students the tools to study history, among which were always to ask, “Who says so?”, “How do I know this is credible?”, and “Where’s the bias here?” BEFORE I WRITE IT!

These techniques are far more important as “A 2016 Pew poll found that nearly a quarter of Americans said they had shared a made-up news story. In his experiments, MIT cognitive scientist David Rand has found that, on average, people are inclined to believe false news at least 20% of the time.”

We can blame Facebook, Twitter, and Google as much as we want, and certainly they are not blame free, but if we really want to solve this issue, we need to look in the mirror and fix ourselves. We must stop being susceptible and become more skeptical. Question everything!

But as TIME points out, “We don’t fall for false news just because we’re dumb. Often, it’s a matter of letting the wrong impulses take over. In an era when the average American spends 24 hours each week online–when we’re always juggling inboxes and feeds and alerts–it’s easy to feel like we don’t have time to read anything but headlines. We are social animals, and the desire for likes can supersede a latent feeling that a story seems dicey. Political convictions lead us to lazy thinking.

But there’s an even more fundamental impulse at play: our innate desire for an easy answer.” We tend to use what Psychologists call heuristics. Sometimes simply referred to as “practical”, it has really become more about the use of lazy shortcutting. For example, we tend to believe what looks familiar, so hackers, bots, and Aquaturfers create websites that look and feel familiar and safe. “It all looks identical,” says Harvard researcher Claire Wardle, “so our brain has to work harder to make sense of those different types of information.

I have often asked friends not to share these fake sites because I intrinsically realized all that did was spread them to other people who wouldn’t necessarily look at them through that skeptical eye. It would, instead, make it easier for them to invade the “collective consciousness”.

Google has become a verb. As a result, anything found high on its list “must be reliable”. But that is not the case at all. Too many fall for that even when being skeptical about the site they may try to research. They are more likely to “evaluate sources based on features like the site’s URL and graphic design, things that are easy to manipulate.” They are also more likely to “like” information that confirms their beliefs, again leading to intellectual laziness.

How do we fix this? We have to go back to those pre-digital concepts I mentioned earlier but now we have to use the technology. How do we get post school adults to learn? That’s the problem. This is a major crisis and I doubt there is the funding for it in schools, especially if we continue to focus on test taking as a goal. We must train skepticism without developing cynicism.

Who are our models TIME asks? Professional fact checkers. Today’s historians of the contemporary.

“Lateral Reading” is one way they do it. Yes, it takes longer and yes, it also works. Good teachers and librarians teach these skills.

They immediately leave the site they are investigating and open new tabs and keep them open at the same time so they can shift back and forth to compare information. Therefore, they can find out what is factual and who actually is behind or funds the site to find the biases.

Another technique is called “click restraint”, which might be even harder. When confronted by a list of possible sources, they simply stop and review them all and then start selecting where to go. This must be done especially when “Googling”, because of how keywords are manipulated by sites to get to the top of the list so more objective sited are buried.

Then, once on the site comes the most logical thing but in today’s hurry up age is very hard for most. It’s a take-off of Nike’s Just Do it… JUST READ IT… not just someone else’s summation. Time point out that, “One study found that 6 in 10 links get retweeted without users’ reading anything besides someone else’s summation of it. Another found that false stories travel six times as fast as true ones on Twitter, apparently because lies do a better job of stimulating feelings of surprise and disgust. But taking a beat can help us avoid knee-jerk reactions, so that we don’t blindly add garbage to the vast flotillas already clogging up the web.

So, read the TIME I quoted. (http://time.com/5362183/the-real-fake-news-crisis/) and (http://time.com/magazine/) You better, or I might shame you. Many are now pushing for the use of shame as a toll to combat the spreading of bad information or “fake news”. At first you may not win a popularity contest but maybe if we all pointed out to folks, in a civil manner, that they just spread a falsehood, they might stop littering the net with it and make it a less “toxic” place.

The source is the August 20, 2018 issue of TIME.











The exasperating traffic on the drive to Johnny’s Reef restaurant at the very eastern tip of City Island allowed me the time to drift off down memory lane. Driving down the Hutch and getting off at the City Island/Orchard Beach brought back many wonderful childhood and teenage memories of section 10, baby oil, sun reflectors, and old friends just hanging out.

Orchard never had the waves of Jones or Moses or Montauk. It’s softly rippling cloudy waters, where you could always count on seeing your shadow, occasionally distorted by a small boat’s wake were never the drawing card. The drawing cards were always the people and the beauty of this 1930’s beach, boardwalk, and concessions modeled after Jones Beach.

It was then and is still now a haven for immigrants from all generations. My mother went here as a young adult. She brought me there as a child and I went with my friends as a teen and young adult. We took the slow but steady BX 12 bus until my friend Kenny and I had cars. Section 10 was where we parked ourselves for hours upon hours of sun, sand, laughs, and ventures into that cloudy water. It is still a haven for Bronxites young and old.

The crossing of the City Island Bridge brought back more memories of those famous huge old seafood places. The “Original” Crab Shanty, Sammy’s Fishbox, The Lobster Box, Anna’s Harbor were samples of places you could eat the best (and most) seafood in New York City at the best prices in the city and still need a doggy bag. The Black Whale had a “Hot Fudge Chocolate Ice Cream Cake” which was actually a huge brownie covered in vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce that was enough for 3 but no one ever actually shared one. Moving your spoon or fork in the direction of anyone else’s was an instant declaration of utensil war.

Finally, trailing behind a city bus, I arrived at Johnny’s…. the last place on the left. Johnny’s is an old school cafeteria style open air restaurant opened over 60 years ago with beautiful view of the Long Island Sound and all its boaters. Even “hizhonor” Da Mayor Bloomberg said this about it. “I used to drive my kids to Johnny’s Reef Restaurant, which is all the way out on the point. We would order baskets of fried clams and eat them outside on the picnic tables overlooking the water. I still go when I can. It’s a great escape without leaving the city.”Ok that’s it for the free advertising. You really have to like fried food on paper plates in plastic trays to enjoy Johnny’s. It’s the experience that matters.

I parked. Learning from past experiences that you could never take the Bronx out of us, I did not walk into the restaurant’s ample seating area or cafeteria to find my old players and fellow coaches from the Adlai Stevenson High School football teams circa 1974-1979, but rather looked to the back corner of the parking lot where I knew they would be hanging out as the arrival times stretched from 2:00 PM to… whenever.


I am the tall guy in the back.

Slowly they arrived, hardly any with the trim hardened bodies of their youth. After all they now ranged in age from 57-61. Little did they know then that we coaches were only in their 20’s when we first started. Three of them had had open heart surgery as I did, so we compared notes and scars. Another former all-star was there even though he lost his speech as a result of a stroke. Another came leaning on a cane because of a botched back surgery, and one on strolled in using a walker because of the osteoporosis that ravaged his once athletic body.

Harvey, Bob, and I had slimmer bodies than most of them and we gave them quite a ribbing for it. I lined up 5 guys who used to be the “skinny” wide receivers and told them, “Now you look more like an offensive line.”

It took an hour or so of laugh filled story telling before we collected enough of us to march down to the restaurant’s outdoor seating area and grabbed enough tables for the all of us.

Over time some had to leave and  more came. We learned of families, jobs, and 40 years of life. We told stories, goofed on each other, relayed what some thought were still secrets, and just enjoyed the company of old friends. We were reminded of a time when on a Senior Trip to a dude ranch, when one of them, seeing my 6’5” body up climb up on the biggest horse they had exclaimed, “Look at Coach Greene…. Damn he is high in the saddle.” And I responded, “Better to be high in the saddle than high in the room.” After several elongated seconds of huge laughter, he asked, “You knew?” To which I responded, “Let’s just say we had been around the block.”

The stories were too many to share here. We honored the half dozen or so who had passed away at too young an age including a fellow coach. They were saddened of the demise and break up of their Alma Mater as had happened to almost all the high schools in New York City.

Now as grown men, they talked about their struggles of surviving in that time period filled with crime and gang violence all around them. They rattled off the names of the Savage Nomads, The Black Spades, The Savage Skulls, and the Ghetto Brothers. They thanked us, as coaches, for giving them the tools with which to do that.

They told us that their survival and future successes were due mostly to their being on that team and how what we, as coaches, did for them then shaped their adult lives and the lives of their children. A few brought their own teenaged and 20 something sons to introduce them to us. What an honor. There is none bigger for a teacher or coach. Well, maybe the signed “game ball” they gave me that day.


Why write of this? In this highly divisive time we must speak up. We must fight the hatred, the racism, and the conflict ridden nature of this president’s administration. This reunion of 40 plus years of fellowship, respect, and love of white, Black, and Latino men from the Bronx is more than just that.

We symbolize what making America great actually means.


4 Bernie Keller Poems: They speak for themselves.



It doesn’t begin

with the report of a gun,

or the rantings of a madman.

It doesn’t begin

with a hopeless dream.

It doesn’t begin

with a perhaps

or a maybe,

or with some meticulously, well thought out plan.

It doesn’t begin

with the wisdom of sages,

or the courage of a martyr.

It begins simply

with the word






is happening.


is boiling


Someone is

standing up

and call them


Someone is saying

it’s time to stop


and lying

and revising

and pretending.

Someone is saying

it’s time to stop acting

as if up is down

or old is new,

that it’s time

to stop recycling


and slogans

that didn’t work

the first time

they were trotted out

as “the great solution”,

(and certainly won’t work




You can’t turn back


you can you push

it back

or hold it off

for the moment,

but you can’t turn back


You can’t turn back


you can deny it,

you can hide it

or run from it,

but you can’t turn back


once it’s on it’s way,

it is coming

straight for you.


is happening,


is boiling



is standing up

to say

#This ends




You cannot wear


like some kind of

a badge,

any more than

wearing a flag

on your lapel

or a patch on

your shoulder

makes you patriotic.

You don’t put it on

or pretend it’s there

just because you can

say the word.


is the respect

for what is right,

beyond your interpretation

or myopic,




is not worn

like some kind of patch

on your shoulder

or like some kind of


or something to be waved

like some banner

or flag-


is the respect

for what is right.

Enough Already.


It has been one year, 3 months, and 13 days since Donald Trump was elected president. I shared very few posts about the matter and frankly have felt less compelled to write about much about education either since so many have said so much already. Most of what I read seems more like Truth or Consequences than truth or fake news. At any rate, I have just been disgusted at most of what I see on Face Book or Twitter even by some of those with whom I agree.

Posts are tagged, reposted, shared, liked, and spread like wildfire without any verification. Lies and, yes, fake news is spread by both sides…much to my chagrin. I have hoped that those who agree with me would not do that. I must admit even I have gotten caught up in the frenzy and passed along something that was a concoction. Of course, I have no idea whether the “concoctor” was a well-meaning person who didn’t get their facts straight or a Russian Bot. Either way it both saddens and horrifies me that our society has been duped by the social media hype and technology that now runs amuck and threatens the very fabric of our society.

Pick an issue. Guns? School shootings? Mass shootings? Immigration? Dark Money in politics? Tax cuts for whom? Gerrymandering? Presidential behavior? Congressional obstructionism by both sides? Race? Education? Russia, Russia, Russia? The list goes on.

And with each issue, any post or comment, among friends or foe, is likely to bring forth a slew of comments, many times without the commenter actually reading the entire post. Some of the comments are reasonable, but most…again from either side… seem to be reactionary with various degrees of provocation of anger.

Of course, we now know, thanks to the Mueller Investigation, that the Russians have infiltrated our social media by easily creating fake news through fake or stolen identities.

Trump was right. The Russians are laughing at us.

We are so easily led, like rats were led by the Pied Piper, to our demise. In fact, we are as easily led as Soviet citizens were during the Soviet regime. Advertisers have known that since Mad Men days. Corporations have led us through the nose for generations. The NRA has made a science of this. Oh yeah, Zuckerberg knows that too. So does Gates and all the other Silicon Valley manipulators. Of course the Russians are laughing. The only ones who haven’t seen how lemming like we are, are us.

Speaking of reeducation, who would have thought 25 years ago that corporate influence over public schools would become a “liberal rage?  This liberal rages against that. Once upon a time we fought the military industrial government complex…now most “liberals in government seek an education-industrial-government sponsored by the likes of Bill Gates and hedge funders and anyone who donates big bucks to their political campaigns. I am aghast.

For years spoon fed, money soaked political leaders have ignored far too many of our citizens who cannot literally contribute to their power and authority. African Americans and Latinos have known this. The poor have known this. And over the past several years, especially after the recession of 2009, more and more working and middle class white Americans have noticed it. So, when, in 2016, many felt that the only answers to their worries and anxieties would be provided by Bernie Sanders on one end of the spectrum, and Donald Trump, on whatever end of the spectrum he actually is and not the mainstream Democratic or Republican candidates…. well, here we are!

I taught history for almost 4 decades. One thing a student of history knows is that it repeats itself…not exactly…but that certain trends and counter trends appear and reappear over time.  We have had this divisiveness many times. It appeared during the Colonial, Revolutionary, Federal, Anti-bellum, Civil War, Reconstruction, Industrial, Progressive, Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, pre-WW 2, post-WW 2, Civil Rights, and especially Vietnam and Watergate eras.

Should I go on? Iraq War 1? Iraq War 2? Afghanistan? Electing an African American president?

I will end this rant with this.  We wonder why @ 40% of Americans still support President Trump? Many of his followers either ignore, or don’t believe, that the Russian meddling in our elections happened…whether or not President Trump and his people were duped, colluded, or covered up. It reminds me of how the lyrics of one of my favorite songs bothers me. I love Lynyrd Skynyrd’s great guitar licks in Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama, but when a lyric says,

In Birmingham they love the Gov’nor, boo-hoo-hoo
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you, tell the truth…”

I have a rather negative reaction. That 1974 song reminds me that we have been this divided before.

That Governor? George Wallace! Best remembered for his segregationist policies, he was the guy who stood in front of the University of Alabama doors to block African Americans and in an inaugural address said, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”.  And oh yeah…He was running for President in 1972 until he was shot.

Speaking of 1972, President Nixon supporting Alabamans, Hard Hats, and the Silent Majority felt that way. To many then, Watergate was a liberal plot. Nixon was being railroaded. It was all “fake news”.

Sound familiar? Enough Already. Can we get past this? Can I? The optimist in me says yes and I keep trying to help others do the same. Then I get frustrated and yet I try again. I already know that for some reason this will anger some. I do hope though, that they read the last paragraph.

But if we, as a society don’t start to listen to each other, read various points of view, understand the difference between opinion and fact, then actually VOTE for what benefits Americans from all walks of life, not just the rich and famous… my optimism will die out like a candle…slowly flickering in the darkness of eternity.



Just stop! You are making it terrible for the rest of us. Why do we feel like we will be spending the rest of our lives wincing at your actions? From the President to Alabama Senate candidates, to celebrity pricks, internet idiots, cable cocks, and street stupid guys, there is no hiding from beef-jerkiness. What are the rest of us to do? Not all of us are jerks.

Americans still stereotype.  Many racially profile, objectify women, are homophobic and nativist. This is beef-jerky activity, yet as we try to back off those stereotypes we have increased stere-bro-typing because it has become well deserved. Examples abound. Start at the top. Nary a week goes by without reading presidential tweets and quotes that make us wince.

The “Brommander in chief” routinely is quoted saying things like “I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most.”

And then there is this:

“Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes.Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times.”

“So, they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.”

What do you say to that? What a braggart?  What an egomaniac? What a Jerk? Or what a guy…?

Why are we still dealing with how jerks treat women and African Americans? It’s been 50 years since the women’s movement of the 60’s. It’s been over 60 since Rosa Parks and MLK.

Who leads the continued assault on them? Jerks. Wealthy powerful ones as well as general jerks on the street. Trump. Weinstein. O’ Reilly. NFL owners. The list goes on forever.

In 1968 women protested the Miss America Pageant condemning objectification of women. It still goes on. In 2016 more women in Pussy Hats marched against the Jerk-in-Chief than there were people at his inauguration.

In 1968 Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised fists at the Olympics. They were suspended and only academically accepted as civil rights heroes 2 decades later and 2 decades before Colin Kaepernick took a knee and was blackballed from playing.

Perhaps the biggest example of male beef-jerkiness is Congress. Stubborn? Yes. Know it all? Yes? My way or the highway? Yes. Paternalist? Certainly. Yes, there are obviously female members but the overriding mentality and behavior is male boorishness.

Americans say they want better health care? “So what”, says Congress. Americans don’t want the Ryan-McConnell tax cut plan? “We do.” Congress says. “We know what’s for your own good.” What Jerks!

I can go on, but so can you all. I am tired of it all. I am an older white guy, and I am angry. My anger is NOT against Women, Latinos, African Americans, or Immigrants. It is NOT against activists and protestors truly trying to create change. In fact, I am one. I am angry at those who rush to judge ALL men as jerks.

Mostly though, I am MOST ANGRY at those men whose actions lead people to think of us all as jerks.

So, to them I say ….




Written and decided

in dark, secluded,

locked rooms-

no inclusion

no debate

no discussion

no dissent-

only lock step,



liberally peppered

with empty talking

points and claims

embracing and asserting

“the championship” of

“the least of these”

– autocracy is at work.