Thursday, December 30, 2010


Carly is my niece
My great, great niece
To be precise
She is in the third grade
And she said that she really likes her teacher this year
For Christmas, I bought her
A fire engine red sweater
Two sizes too big
As it turned out
Much to my embarrassment
And chagrin
But much to her delight
For fire engine red is her color you see
Carly’s mother Claire called me
And put Carly on the phone
Claire is named for my mother Clara
Carly said that she wanted
To thank me for her gift
And to wish me a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year
And the same to you honey I said
Thank you so much for calling me
It means so very much to me
To hear your voice and to hear you smile
That smile means everything to me you know
After such a long period of silence
Not since last Easter
Instantly our bonds were renewed
As our familial blood ties
Reasserted themselves
Blood is thicker than water they say
And they are right to say it
Today I purchased a lottery ticket
Hoping to hit the mega millions jackpot
A million to one shot to be sure
But that one phone call from Carly
Was worth a king’s ransom in gold
Can’t hardly wait to see you again Uncle Jack
She said handing the phone back to her mother
Me too I said and I really meant it
And I am pretty sure she did too
And that was good enough for me.

Jack H. Markowitz
Philadelphia, Pa. 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Food, Clothing and Shelter

Food, clothing and shelter
That’s all that’s needed to sustain life
Or so we are told and taught
As soon as we are deemed capable
Of absorbing other people’s ideas
In what is laughingly called
Free public school education

Food, clothing and shelter
That’s all that is needed to sustain life
Not love, not mercy, not joy, not sorrow,
Not war, not peace, not justice,
not poetry, nor romance,
nor dog, nor wife
Just food, clothing and shelter

Provide a man with food, clothing and shelter
And he’ll get up every morning and go to work,
He’ll marry and reproduce
He’ll buy property and expand the economy
He’ll soon want to drive a car
And take a vacation
And pursue higher education
And earn advanced degrees and awards
And excel at sports and hobbies of every kind

And then he’ll grow old
And begin to wither
And along the way
He’ll bury a few relatives
Though hopefully not his own children
Though he may see a child or two
Marching off to some god awful war
To some forlorn corner of the planet
Perhaps never to return

And he’ll learn to hurl accolades
At his leaders, whether elected or not,
Whether deserving or not,
And he’ll go to the movies to kill time
And maybe even write a book or two
In his spare time or when he cannot sleep any more

Or when he can no longer bear sleeping alone
And then he will begin to see in the mirror
The face of old age
Creeping up on him,
Incrementally robbing him of his strength,
His cunning, his hair and teeth
His muscle, his health,
his stamina, and finally,
The greatest theft of all,
robbing him finally of even his ability to breathe

At which point, food, clothing and shelter
Will no longer be needed
The flame of the candle
having burned itself out
The wick having turned cold and sooty to the touch
Never having needed so little to sustain it
Yet always wanting and always needing
So much.

Jack H. Markowitz
Philadelphia, Pa. 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Last Night I Said Kaddish

Last night I said Kaddish for my father
Ohev v’ Shalom
On the Yarzheit anniversary of his death
But who will say Kaddish for me?

I was but ten months old
When my father died
A man whose face I do not remember
Nor his touch, nor his voice

Save for the one and only surviving photograph
That sits atop my RCA tv
Along with other assorted bric- a –bracs
I would have had no conception of his image

I was a going away present
A last gift for my mother from dad
A change of life baby
Or the tumor baby as I was called

The last thing that mother needed
Another clamoring mouth to feed
Always sickly, always neglected
Who will say Kaddish for me?

Now grown to manhood
Both parents reposing in their graves
So much history already forgotten
So who will say Kaddish for me?

Philadelphia, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Homage to John Lennon

It was thirty years ago today
John Lennon’s death taught us all to pray

Though his career was going in and out of style
we always thought we’d have him ‘round for yet a while

But Mark David Chapman had set a trap
He had a gun was eager to take the rap
He never was able to just enjoy the show
He had his gun and he wanted to make it glow

And now he’s rotting in an upstate prison cell
Though we all wanted him to rot in hell
But he was set on murder and wanted to kill
He was certain it would be a thrill

To see John’s blood bright red in the snow
Mostly because he had no other place to go
Filled with envy and self hate
Sick and tired at being second rate
He would kill that which once he professed to love
Sure that fame would fall from above

He said he didn’t really want to stop the show
but killing John was all that he did know
So he aimed his gun and pulled the trigger
And John fell with a shiver

That cold grey afternoon in December
The one we will always remember
Seeing John’s blood spilled in the snow
Because he had no other place to go

As he made his way to the Dakota
He stopped to buy himself a soda
He just wanted to be a dad
Like the father that he never had

Never thinking that day would be his last day on earth
Had he known, what would that have been worth?

And now John’s killer wants to sing a song
and he wants us all to sing along
So let me introduce to you
the one and only Billy Shears
And Mark David Chapman’s
Lonely Hearts Club Band

Jack h. Markowitz
December 8. 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2010.

I wish, I wish, I wish I was a wishing well. On Thanksgiving morning I was wishing that I could find more motivation to get something done. The amazing thing is that I was able to muster enough enthusiasm to get anything accomplished whatsoever. Even brushing my teeth was an accomplishment. I was just not feeling the holiday spirit, as they say.

Nor was I in the mood or frame of mind to be driving all the way to Metuchen, New Jersey where my family usually reunites for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. The drive takes about two hours down the New Jersey Turnpike from Philadelphia to Exit 11. New Jerseyans all identify each other by what exit they must take off the Turnpike to get home. I knew that giving in to the urge to call and cancel out was a sorry thing to do no matter how good the excuse. Blame it on the weather or blame it on the Bosa Nova. In the end I knew that I would be throwing on some holiday appropriate clothes. I knew that I would be getting the car and heading for the Turnpike despite my misgivings and the nasty weather mostly because of the tradition of it all. Say what you will old traditions definitely do die hard.

The weather was seasonal, blustery with some snow, hail and rain in the forecast for the rest of the day. Truth be told, this kind of blustery weather was actually my favorite kind of weather for sleeping in with a good book and the newspaper. My two cats were way ahead of me, already curled up for a nice long afternoon’s snooze. The roads were soaked and dangerous with fall leaves everywhere making the going even more slippery. To go or not to go? How inviting the old, soft couch in my living room seemed. I would have loved to just take a short nap, to calm myself down. Short naps, however, can be dangerous. I know that short naps can turn into long naps, especially with football games playing on the tube. It is so easy to find a hundred excuses not to do something that you really do not want to be doing in the first place.

My daughter lives in Charlotte, NC. My brother and his family live in West Palm Beach, Fla. And my sister and her family live in Delray Beach, Fla. Another niece lives in San Ramon, Ca. and her sister and family live in Wash. DC. Only my New Jersey nieces live close enough for a holiday get together. With a family that is so scattered to the winds it is hard to make family get togethers work in a way that accommodates everyone’s needs and schedules.

So in the end, despite all of our misgivings and procrastinating, we usually end up doing the most expeditious thing in most cases. After all no one really wants to be left alone on Thanksgiving, do they? And I do hate disappointing people, letting them down, especially when they are counting on me to do something for them. I’ve already done way too much of that sort of thing in the course of my life. And I do not like it when the tables are turned and I am counting on someone to do me a favor and they let me down. So it works both ways. I let you down, you let me down, we let each other down –where does it all end? Better to break the cycle and just do the things that we commit ourselves to do in the first place. And in that vein, let me take this opportunity to wish all of my friends and relatives a very happy and safe Thanksgiving, 2010.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The More Things Change

The French, bless their little hearts, have a famous expression that goes like this - "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose!" Translation- The more things change, the more they stay the same! And they are correct of course. I am thinking today about the upcoming US mid term elections which are only a few days away. I do plan to vote though I am less than enthusiastic about my choices. I will hold my nose and vote the big D for democrat party candidates.

The mass media folks have been saying for weeks (over and over again ad nauseum) that the Republicans can expect to claim enough seats to take over control of both the Senate and the House. I cannot believe that such will come to pass. I have even put my money ($5.00) to the test. I bet a man in my gym class that after all the smoke settles that the dems will still be in control of both houses of Congress. Some of my friends have since told me that I will most probably lose this bet.

Maybe so. But I just cannot bring myself to believe that the good folks of America will abandon President Obama after only two years in office at the time of his greatest need for their support. Not to mention that they would just be shooting themselves in the foot, cutting off their collective noses to spite themselves. Why in the name of all that is holy would they vote to put the G.O.P. back into power?

Why would they give the keys of power back to the very same people who all but destroyed the American economy in the crash of 2008? President Obama and his capable inner circle brain trust basically pulled a rabbit out of a hat in their efforts to save and shore up the few jobs that were still available while managing to save the financial system from a complete and total global financial colllapse. Not a bad record for only two years in office. And let us not forget that President Obama was able to end combat operations in Iraq after eight years of futility.

This in addition to Obamacare, the most important overhaul of the US healthcare system in fifty years. (The G.O.P has sworn to repeal Obamacare in the next congress if they manage to gain a majority of the seats). This must not be allowed to happen. We here in the USA agree that majority rules. That is the essence of Democracy is it not? On the other hand no party has a monopoly on stupidity.

We all say that we all want what is best for America. I only wish this were true. Something that should be beneath all good and true and loyal Americans is to wish an incumbent President to fail in the performance of his job. Rush Limbaugh has openly said that he prays every night for President Obama to fail. In my book that smacks a lot of treason. Yes, it is treasonous to wish your own President to fail.

I say if all of the so-called Red states want to fail, I say let them! If they want to withdraw from these United States and form their own country again I say let them (and good riddance to them!) We have come too far and have suffered too much as a people to ever willingly turn the clock back to the early 1950s. There, I have said my piece.

Now don't forget to vote this Nov. 2. I hope we will have cause to celebrate a renewed victory for President Obama and the American people! And may it be so speedily and in our time, Amen.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Perfect Day At The Beach

A perfect day at the beach
The sky, a deep pastel shade of blue
The ocean, deep green and full of salt
The beach, alabaster white for as far as the eye can see
The wind, gentle and caressing
The seagulls, calling and mocking, always on the hunt for fish

And all I needed to make it
A more perfect day
Was a big, beautiful kite to fly.

And you can be sure
That the next time
I come back to the Jersey shore
To my big, beautiful Jersey shore

I will be sure
To have a big, beautiful kite to fly
And that’s for sure.

jack h. markowitz

Thursday, September 30, 2010

November 29, 1947

Millions of Jews
The whole world over
Hold their collective breath
Huddled around their radios
Straining to hear
The latest bit of news
Hoping against hope
That the 20th century
The bloodiest of them all
Still might hold
The seeds of promise
For a tired people
An ancient people
A wounded people
Fresh from the killing fields of Europe.
The United Nations meets to decide the fate of the Jews!
For or against partition of Palestine and the Yeshuv!
UN General Assembly Resolution 181.
Roll call!
Australia votes yes!
Egypt votes no!
America votes yes!
Jordan votes no!
Canada votes yes!
Syria votes no!
Argentina abstains!
Chile abstains!
United Kingdom abstains!
A million Jewish hearts beat as one!
Then, suddenly, the final vote tally is taken!
Thirty three for, thirteen against, ten abstain!
Like a thunderclap from the heavens!
Partition wins!
There are to be two states!
One Jewish, one Arab!
Hope is reborn!
The Jewish People again have a homeland at last!
After two thousand years of exile!
A Jewish homeland at last!
Such a beautiful magnificent word!
Hope renewed!
Hope restored!
Hope rekindled!
With the simple stroke of a pen!
Hope, Hatikvah, again triumphs over despair!
No more need Jewish children
Tremble and shake in their beds
Homeless no more!
Stateless no more!
Powerless no more!
Cheering and crying
Dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv!
The world has changed
The tide has shifted!
From out of the ashes of Auschwitz
The Jewish Phoenix has arisen!
Resurrection! Redemption!
Shout it from the roof tops of Jerusalem and Haifa!
Shout it from the valleys of Galilee
And the orange groves of Jaffa!
Shout it from the mountaintops of Mt. Sinai and Mt. Hermon!
Am Chai Yisroel!
The Jewish People live!

By Jack Henry Markowitz © 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bleeker and MacDougal - The Hippest Street in Town

Scotch and soda
Mud in your eye
Baby do I feel high
Oh yeah, oh my
Higher than a kite can fly
Baby, do I feel high…

Scotch and soda
Jigger of gin
Oh what a spin you’ve got me in
Oh me, oh my
Baby do I feel high…
(lyrics by Kingston Trio)

Like a pigeon
tossed into the city sky
Where do you go?
Where do you fly?

Bleeker and MacDougal
The hippest street in town!

F train to West 4th
Play some B ball
On the corner
If you must.

Stop for coffee,
hot and black,
Espresso, Cappuccino,
Have a snack
Sit, snooze, sip,
Read some Kerouac.

Have a laugh,
sing a song
Who needs all that drug paraphernalia?
Who still needs to buy a bong?

Birdland, 8th and 44th.
Lovano, Liebman, Coltrane,
Big Sax Summit
Brother Phil on the keys

Food, people, wine
Not a sour puss in sight
Homing like a pigeon.
Bleeker and MacDougal
F train to West 4th.
To the hippest street in town
Did someone say
Cafe Figaro
May be shutting down?
Damn shame if you ask me.

In the blink of an eye
Here today, gone tomorrow
All the joy
All the sorrow
Poured out to the last good drop

Ah, well,
Let’s order another bottle,
Plenty of time
Until tomorrow
Plenty of time
Before the last train
Out of town!

Every Poem Is A Victory

Every Poem Is A Victory
By jack henry markowitz
© 2010

Every finished poem
Is a victory
Over the soul killing system
That has been trying for decades
To kill
The poet
Inside every one of us.

So write, write
And write some more
Whether miracle
Cant or drivel.

Just a few more bars
A few more stanzas
And I really do think
We’ll finally
Have the bastards
On the run.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I recently managed to complete my long delayed visit to my grand kids in Charlotte, NC with a minimal amount of discomfort and fanfare although the trip by air was not without some stress. There still remains the expected amount of discobobulation (sp?) that goes with the security checks that have become a major hassle to air travel. I could single out Continental Air for special mention in the department of needlessly harrassing passengers but I will rise above the occasion for the time being. Enough to say that I was not a happy camper. The plane was cramped (to say the least) and they bumped me to a later flight after mistakenly giving away my seat to a standby passenger because I was delayed getting to the departure gate. Partly to blame for my tardy arrival (yes, I do admit I was five minutes tardy) was the fact that my feet were hurting me so much because I had on a pair of ill fitting sneakers. This discomfiture made me hobble about in excruciating agony for the whole trip. Lesson learned. Never wear new shoes on a long trip. Always wear your most comfy, broken in pair no matter how unfashionable.

I am not a very seasoned traveller to begin with (not that I ever really was). I am not called old stick in the mud by family relatives for nothing. In as much that the airlines now charge for checking baggage, I only took enough essentials that would fit into my carry on. No toothbrush, no toothpaste, no razor, no shaving cream. A change of shirts and underwear and socks was about all I allowed myself. It was supposed to be a short trip so I wasn't going to need a lot. I did bring a bathing suit. As luck would have it, the hotel pool was closed during my visit for unknown reasons. I liked the idea of travelling light. I also liked the amount of money I saved by not checking any baggage.

I am a superstitious person (as I freely admit, a gift from my superstitious jewish gypsy mother) so crossing paths with a halloween black cat just as I left my house was not a good omen. Also I had to return back to the house on two more occasions to retrieve forgotten items thereby losing the celestial escort of angels that my mother used to assure me was assigned to all travelers on condition that they not return to their homes to retrieve forgotten articles. So I was apprehensive to say the least. In addition I was very apprehensive about the security search that the airlines impose on all travellers.

Sure enough, at the security check point, I was told to remove my shoes, my belt, and deposit all metal objects into the baskets that need to be x-rayed before allowing folks to continue to the boarding gates. My stuff was flying in all directions. I think it was here, during all the confusion, that I lost my passport. In addition to the humiliation of having my pants fall down in public for all to see I was stressed out to say the least. But apparently I was in good company. Everyone seemed to receive equally bad treatment as far as I could see.

Once on the plane all requested amenities now come with additional charges, so a cup of soda and a small bag of pretzels is all that is offered for free. I was glad for the gesture as my sugar levels were playing havoc with all the stress and rushing about. Once I reached Charlotte, NC I waited for an hour and a half for the courtesy van to arrive. This was partially my fault for being hard of hearing and mistakenly waiting in Zone B instead of Zone D. When I finally made the connection and hooked up with my ride I suggested to the the hotel clerk that they use military lingo to communicate such rendezvous points by saying Alpha, Beta, Charlie and Delta instead of a,b,c,d. The clerk thought this was such a good idea (apparently no else had ever made a similar suggestion) that he charged me the military rate for my hotel room (a whole ten bucks cheaper!) thinking that I was somehow involved with things military. I accepted the act of kindness for what it was worth.

Meeting my grand kids (the youngest for the first time) was as wonderful an experience as people claim it to be. My daughter and her husband and her inlaws were as gracious and accomodating as could be and we all had a generally good time seeing some local sights and visiting with family for Sunday dinner. The weather was glorious and I was genuinely glad to be away from Philadelphia even for a short while. I am always preaching to my friends that a change of scenery goes a long way towards improving mental health and it felt good to be taking my own advice for a change. It (the trip) has rekindled within me the desire to go visit new places and see new things. I hopefully expect to do a lot more of both once I finally officially retire in about two years from now.

I came back home greatly releived to find my two cats (Katrina and Rusty) healthy and the house still standing pretty much as I left it. I took an extra day off to catch up on sleep and lower my blood pressure before returning to work and the old routine. I am now back in the saddle at work and pretty much settled back into the regular routine. My daughter sent me pictures of the visit with the grand kids and they came out very nice. I see myself smiling a lot in the photos so I must have had a really good time. After all, in this new digital age of pixel perfection, pictures don't lie!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Epiphany On A Sunny Summer Afternnoon

Epiphany on a Sunny Summer Afternoon
Jack Henry Markowitz

The hand painted sign read
Farm Fresh Ripe Tomatoes
Just ahead
Less than one mile
Sufficient warning
For any motorist on the hunt
For farm fresh fruit and vegetables
Visa and MasterCard gladly accepted

Armed with sufficient warning
I pulled the car into the parking lot
An easy walk to the entrance of the tent
That housed the bounty of all
That the road side farm stand had to offer

I set off in search of farm fresh blueberries
And perhaps some ears of sweet corn
When I passed
An older man
Which is to say
A man much older than I

He was seated
On a white wicker chair
His seersucker suit and straw hat
Only partially shaded from the sun
Playing with his little grand child
And her little dog Scotty
While mother shopped
For farm fresh ripe tomatoes
For only the very best would do
For her precious family

As I passed from sunlight into shade
I smiled and said hello
To the smiling man with the sparkling eyes
Who tipped his hat to show
That he had the softest of snow white hair
Looking to me like a Semitic version
Of an older Robert Frost
He smiled back and waved
The back of his hand
Dappled with liver spots
Medals of Honor
For a lifetime well lived

And then I thought
What if?
What if all had not gone
According to plan?
What if he’d been assassinated
Somewhere along the way
By the army of enemies
That he’d no doubt made
While clawing his way to the top
Of his erstwhile profession?

Watch your back
Cover your behind
Never falter
Never stumble
And above all else
Never make a mistake
Or else you will pay

Pay with your heart
And your soul
With the loss of your job
Of position
Of income
Of status
Of pension
Of family
Of Home

Pay with the loss of a softer
And more dignified place in old age
In post modern industrial society
When you are no longer able
To be either modern
Or especially social
Taken aback
I again looked to see
If the older man
Was still there
Seated in his white wicker chair
Playing with his golden haired grand child
And her little dog Scotty
While mother shopped for farm fresh ripe tomatoes
For only the very best would do for her family

He stared back at me
Curious, puzzled
Returning my unblinking gaze
Was I all right
He may have been thinking
Would I be okay?
Or would I falter and stumble
And make a mistake
Along the way?

Don’t worry he seemed to say
As you can see
Here we blessed be
You and me and our little golden haired girl
And her little dog Scotty
While mother shops for farm fresh ripe tomatoes
At a roadside farm stand
Sometime in the future
Half way between
Yesterday and tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Jack Henry Markowitz (c) 2010

(Homage to Garcia Lorca
Translated from the original Spanish)

Ever since the day that you left me
I have lived in the mouth of the wolf
Lost in the forest of midnight darkness
My heart in shreds

Like the lone wolf in the forest
I cry to the moon
In a show of my grief
For all the other forest creatures to see

Some take pity and join in the mournful singing
While others take my measure and continue stalking
What they see as easy prey
Easy prey

And if the morrow should reveal
My blood soaked carcass
My spilled blood crimson
In the winter snow

Can you yet show me
Some gesture of kindness
And bury my pitiful remains
And cover my naked and broken bones?

For this last gift
I would be forever grateful
Though I cannot promise
To rest in peace

For my soul remains a prisoner
Jailed in the mouth of the wolf
En la boca del lobo
Una alma sin pais

You Ought To Be In Pictures

I have read and heard that some societies do not take pictures of friends and relatives for fear of somehow stealing their immortal souls. This is not the case with picture happy Americans who are always snapping pictures of this or that by virtually every means available in today's high tech society. I do believe that the act of taking pictures/photos can be very powerful means of freezing a moment in time in ways that are stunning and captivating. Taking photos may in fact be the only means of stopping time as we humans experience time in all of its fleeting reality.

We are creatures of time, more so than any other animal on this planet. We measure time constantly. The inexorable tick tock of the clock clicks off the moments of our lives with irresistible force. This inability to stop the flow of time scares us; we fear the grain by grain sifting of sand through hour glass of our lives, knowing (as no other animal does) that our time is limited and that no matter how good we are, or how pretty we are, or how many good deeds we may or may not do, the drip, drip of the sands of time cannot be stopped; and when the sand grains run out, so do we, our lives are at an end. No amount of bargaining, of praying, or cajoling can alter this fact. And this knowledge of the ultimate finitude of our lives both motivates our actions (or lack thereof) and fills us with a terrible dread that we will not have accomplished all that we desire in this life; that we will not have lived our lives to the fullest; In fact, many of us do realize that we are not living our lives to the fullest potential.

We too often become "couch potatoes", endlessly flipping the remote control in search of entertainment to help fill the empty hours of our lives. We are aware that there are perhaps more fulfilling ways to spend our time, yet inertia, or lethargy or illness may keep up on the couch instead of pursuing a more active and engaged life style. Someone once said that Life is not a spectator sport, but how many of us are the doers and how many of us are content to just watch? I plead guilty to this pattern of behavior. I would hate to calculate the number of hours I have wasted semi-awake, just clicking the remote or surfing the internet.

There is no easy solution to this wasting of time. We chastise our children for the very slothful postures and procrastinating that we ourselves are also just as guilty of doing. It is very hard to break the sloth cycle, especially in bad weather (hot or cold) when staying immobile under the AC or in front of the fireplace gives us the perfect excuse. The physical and mental consequences of this lackadayzicle life style is all to plain. We pay for our inactivity with weight gain, flabby bodies and flabby muscles. We can't sleep, or enjoy the activities that once brought us pleasure. Obesity is epidemic, along with Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, leading to heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

The Jewish New Year is just around the corner. This is as good a time as any to make new resolutions to become more physically active and more conscious of how many calories we consume. I was once a two pack a day cigarette smoker. It took years of trying to finally break the cigarette habit, but I did manage to succeed eventually. I know I can also increase my activity level and cut back on calories once I put my mind to it. And therein lies the rub. Mind over matter.

I am overweight (I hate the word obese, but if the shoe fits) and I have Type 2 Diabetes (the two are related I am often told). Fine, so be it. I have resolved to make a change (hopefully for the better). I know my friends wish me well in this endeavor. I appreciate expressions of support.

As Dylan Thomas once wrote, Time holds me green and dying, though I sing in my chains like the sea! Every journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. My journey begins today. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Better not button up your over coat, because, baby it is HOT outside! July 20th, 2010. Ten straight days of temperatures in the high nineties with no relief in sight! It's official, this past July has been the hottest July on record! Air conditioner sales have gone through the roof (that is if you can find a store that has them in stock!) Ditto for fans! Fans of every shape, size and variety (all made in China of course) are flying off the store shelves. The media daily airs stories about how ordinary folk are dealing with the unprecedented heat. The stories are fairly typical. Some people head down to the Jersey shore! Others seek out AC wherever they can find some (at the movies, libraries, shopping malls, etc.) Sleepless nights have become the norm and people are dozing off as they sit at their desks at work staring at their computer screens. Sales of ice cream, ices, cool beverages, whiskey, and beer are all making saloon keepers and ice cream vendors very happy. They are hoping the heat wave lasts forever!

Not me. I can barely function in this kind of oppressive heat. Just getting to and from work is a major chore and a major challenge. I seek out the shady side of the street. I pray that the AC on the buses and subways keep on working. I always have a bottle of water and enough tissues to wipe away the beads of sweat. By the time I get back home from work I am so stressed and frazzled all I want to do is flop in front of the AC and zone out watching TV. Trying to fall asleep at night is a battle. I sleep in short spurts, before the wheezing and ancient AC contraption in my window kicks into a higher gear straining to supply cooler air on demand. I also have an assortment of fans whirling and twirling and spinning in every room in every direction. I dream about frigid climes. I dream about the snow covered mountains of the Alps and Andes. I rent movies that include winter scenes, the more snow storms the better. Such movies remind me that the seasons really do still change and that the summer does not last forever. We are mercifully half way through July. Then comes August, usually the worst month for heat (more heat waves expected! Yipes!) How will we ever make it through? My electric bill is making my utility company rich, rich, rich (even as I struggle to pay last year's heating bill). What a racket! Bartender! Quick! Another cool one for me and my buddy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I am no spring chicken. Come this February I will be 64 years old, two years shy of my planned retirement. Retirement. A very scary word and a very scary new world. I am having a very difficult time planning what to do with myself when the time comes that I no longer need jump out of bed every work day at 6 am. Oh sure, I will enjoy being able to roll over and snooze on for another hour or so, but that still leaves the rest of the day to be filled. I hate doing household chores, something that I should have considered before I decided to become a home owner.

And the house needs a lot of maintenance, upkeep, repairs, general cleaning, constant pruning. The house is the most demanding and unforgiving mistress that I have ever had. Car ownership is a close second. At present I do not own a car and I do not miss it. Whenever happen to need a car these days I simply just rent one. I also belong to a car sharing co-op here in Philadelpia called Then there is also a rival company called Zip Car. Same general idea. Just rent a car for a short period of time to handle shopping chores, medical appointments, etc. Then drop the car off and you are done with it. No headaches. No worries about storage, insurance, maintenace, upkeep, finding a place to park etc. It makes sense since I live in a city that has an excellent public transit system for commuting back and forth to work. I have cut down my carbon foot print considerably and I feel better about that as well. Two pats on the back for self-congratulation.

I have spent a good deal of time in the course of my life trying to improve myself both spiritually and physically with varying degrees of success. When I was a practicing yoga enthusiast studying Hatha Yoga under a wonderful teacher named Swami Bua I succeeded in regaining physical fitness, health and a certain degree of spiritual enlightenment. When you've done it, it isn't bragging. Just a statement of fact. However, I was under the delusion that there were higher states of conciousness that I was not yet privy to. So I undertook transcendental meditation (much harder than it looks to the casual observer). I practiced various breathing techniques, a strict vegan diet, chanting, meditation, sufi dancing, etc.
Did I ever attain Buddha like enlightenment? The short answer is no, I don't think so. Did I succeed in ostracizing myself from the general society around me, including family and friends? Again the short answer is yes. I am very grateful to Swami Bua for taking me aside one day to share this tidbit of information: he said that there was no such thing as finding higher and higher states of consciousness or awareness. It was all a lot of hooey. No one knows what happens to our souls after we die, he said. Whatever happens, if anything is an unknowable mystery and it will always be so. I was very grateful for this advice. It saved me years and years of fruitless searching. I pass along this information in the hope that you too, dear reader, will benefit from Swami Bua's advice. Perhaps you too are searching and searching for cosmic answers to every philosophical question under the sun. I wish you all good luck in this endeavor however long it may take to discover, find, achieve whatever ultimate knowledge that you seek. As for me, these days watching a good baseball game on TV and rooting for the home team to win a pennant is about as much meditation as I can muster. As I have said, once upon a time I used to be different, but now, for better or worse, I am mostly the same.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I had a great 4th of July. I was able to finally get out of Philadelphia by driving down to Margate, New Jersey. Miraculously I was able to find a great parking spot not far from the Jessie O dock where a pontoon boat was waiting to take the next fishing party out to the back bays of Margate. Margate is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth, snuggled between the Atlantic Ocean and the back bay inlets that protect some of the state's most precious water birds, flora and fauna. The sky was blue with great puffs of white clouds and the air was clean and clear.
I was fortified by having grabbed a quick lunch at my favorite restaurant on the strip, Maynard's. Maynard's is a blue collar kind of a joint whose recently deceased owner Al Triano was one of the most congenial hosts I have ever met.

Al has set the tone and his son and staff carry on the traditions of hospitality, good food and drink without the pretentious prices or upscale decor of the more pricey joints on the strip. Maynard's is a place where a smelly fisherman can pop in for a cold beer before heading home to dinner and a shower, no questions asked. They also have an outside garden restaurant with bar and live entertainment. On a very hot day I prefer the inside with the air conditioning.

I arrived early at the dock, and purchased my ticket for the afternoon outing. The pontoon boat is extremely stable and well equipped with an experienced captain and crew. They also serve refreshments and there is an onboard rest room. Soon we were heading out to the bay for the afternoon's fishing. I love the water, the roar of the boat's twin outboard engines, the sea gulls following, laughing, begging for scraps of fish and bait. The oceanscape was breath takingly beautiful. The marshlands were the greenest green, against the deep blue sky and puffy white clouds. There was a constant sea breeze and the tempature was at least ten degrees cooler than the shore.

Soon we had our lines in the water, drifting with the tide, searching for elusive fish of all kinds, but mostly we were fishing to catch flounders. Flounders are among my favorite kind of fish. They are unique in their coloration and design, aptly called flat fish, with both eyes on one side of their body. I have seen so many of these fish that they no longer appear strange or odd to me. And they are good eating too. However they must be at least 18 inches long in order to be "keepers". We were able to catch about 100 fish of every size and description, but very few "keepers". The others were all catch and release. Catch and release allows the smaller fish to develop and multiply thus assuring that there will be plenty of fish for future generations.

Again my thoughts turned to the Gulf of Mexico and the ongoing tragedy that the BP oil spill has caused. The ocean and every living thing in it is so precious. The environment must be protected and preserved for future generations to enjoy and treasure. Somehow we must learn from the BP calamity to make sure that such a travesty against nature does not ever happen again. I will dedicate the rest of my life to that purpose and I hope everyone will join me. What we do not know about the environment we must learn. I have said it before and I will say it again: We must all become oceanographers and marine biologists. We are all environmentalists and tree huggers now. Or at least we should all want to become such. Saving the planet is a huge calling, but it must become our highest priority if life on this planet, in all of its glory, magnificense and exquisite diversity is to survive. May it be so and speedily in our time. Peace, shalom.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The big city runs on electricity. This obvious fact tends to get lost in the hurley burley of everyday life as we go about our usual daily business of endlessly trying to make ends meet (a trick I've never fully managed to accomplish). However I have learned out of necessity to become an accomplished juggler, robbing Peter to pay Paul and robbing Paul to pay this overdue bill and that. This morning however I was once again rudly reminded of just how dependent we all are on the uninterrupted supply of energy to our homes.

This first week of summer we are caught in the grip of the first heat wave of the season, temperatures in the high nineties for at least the past three days with plenty more of the same to come. Today it is expected to hit 97 degrees. Heat warnings have been issued by the authorities. Stay indoors they say; stay cool they say; drink plenty of liquids; check up on elderly neighbors. All good advice that depends on the single most important resource - electricity.

I went to bed last night with the small window air conditioner in my bedroom humming along nicely providing enough cool air to allow me to actually fall asleep. I awoke this morning very early and noticed an absence of any sound whatsoever. No AC; no fan; At first I thought it was all my fault (what else is new?). Had I forgotten to pay the electric bill again? Did I ignore a shut off notice again? (I get so many utility shut off warnings that I have become indifferent to them; like the little boy who cried wolf too often, the utility companies have to have boots on the ground, and send a hard hatted workman banging at my door in order to get my attention. I'm not proud of this behavior; but it happens often enough whenever my financial juggling act is not enough to turn the trick and/or the utility company finally decides enough is enough and my bluff gets called).

In a panic, I jumped out of bed (in a manner of speaking, my aching knees permitting) and vaulted down to the basement flashlight in hand to check the breaker box to see if any switches had been knocked off line. To my relief the problem was not there, I was not at fault. The problem had to be external; In a flash (again, relatively speaking) I ran to the upstairs bedroom window to see what I could see. Hmmmm. Buses were running (a very good sign, especially as I had to be at work today for a very important meeting and I depend entirely on public transportation). However, the traffic lights were off and the street lights as well. I concluded that the whole neighborhood had lost electrical power. Oddly relieved that the problem was only a neighborhood power outage (and again, not my fault!) I prepared for my work day by going about my usual morning rituals (shaving in the dark with cold water!) As I was about to leave the house I suddenly heard the bubbling sound of my acquarium air pump kicking back into action! The power had been restored. Hallaluyah! I was soooooooo relieved. All the food in my refrigerator wasn't going to spoil after all. I would once again have air conditioning (especially during this dreadful heat wave!). I felt renewed, even born again! I was humbled though. All that was needed to expose my vulnerability and fragility was for the electric power to be out of commission (for whatever reason; perhaps a transformer somewhere in the grid had been hit by lightening). The good news was that the power was back on and all was once again right with the world. May it always be so!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I have New Orleans on the brain. I find myself musing about NOLA constantly these days, not only because of the Big BP Oil Spill catastrophe though that tragedy continues to weigh heavily on my mind and spirit. As one wh0 has had a lifelong love affair with the wind, sun, ocean and beach I feel acutely pained by the sudden destruction of the Gulf Of Mexico water and land resources even though I have never visited the Gulf shore (yet).

I have been watching the HBO series called "Treme" with facination and awe. It is one of the very best HBO productions that I have ever seen that deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on NOLA. The acting is excellent and the dialogue rings very true. The fact that the whole shebang has been filmed in NOLA gives it a lot of authenticity. All the grime, and grief, and pathos of the residents and neighborhoods of NOLA
are portrayed with love and respect and compassion.

Conversely, I have fallen in love with NOLA as a result of watching this series. I really must visit NOLA come Mardi Gras one of these days. It's on my bucket list of must things to accomplish/do before I shuffle off this mortal coil. I can't wait to see the final episode in the next few weeks.

Last night President Obama spoke to the nation from the Oval Office for the first time in his presidency. He spoke about the Gulf of Mexico crisis and assured the country that he was on top of the situation (none of it his doing in the first place). He said wonderful things that people in such a desperate situation would want to hear. He will stand by his pledge to make the people whole again and to restore the marshlands, wildlife and wetlands to a pristine condition. All fair minded and right thinking people will wish him success in this commitment although, understandably, patience is in short supply these days. He deserves a chance to make good on his words. The consequences of failure are too depressing to contemplate. This is indeed one of those historic occasions when failure is not an option. All resources available must be brought to bear if this job is to get done. May it be done as speedily as possible. I am looking forward to my first trip to NOLA whenever I am able to make it happen.

Monday, June 7, 2010


There is a definite limit to how much bad news a body can absorb over a given period of time. The steady drumbeat of bad news coming out of the BP Gulf Oil Spill has become numbing; an overload of information; too much video of oil gushing out of the gaping wound along with the failure to just "plug the damn hole!" as Prez Obama has ordered in frustration. As of the writing of today's blog, the damn hole has not yet been fully plugged, although, according to BP, some progress has been made in siphoning off a percentage of the leak (we have to take BP's word for this). The video pictures continues to show billowing clouds of effluent pouring from the spout, seemingly as thick as ever.

The grim truth is that a goodly amount of oil is going to continue to flow from the source until a relief well can be drilled to intercept the flow from the original pipeline. This relief well is not expected to be completed until mid August at the earliest. Again, we have only BP's word on this. In the meantime a whole slew of anti-spill measures are being undertaken from cleaning up oil soaked wildlife to building giant sand berms to intercept and absord as much of the splilled oil as possible. We are told by BP and the Coast Guard that cleaning up the damage from the spill could well take several years perhaps as much as a decade. So ask not what the spill has done to you; rather ask what you can do to help clean up the spill. This work will provide many spring break college students with something else to do other than guzzling beer and smearing each other with sun block for years to come.

As for me, I am oversaturated with following the torrent of bad news. I have to start tuning out a good portion of the daily download, even though I have always been something of a news and politics junkie. I need to turn off the the evening news reports and maybe just read a good book instead. I need to find good news items that give me hope for the future. I have grand children now and I have to have hope that they will inherit a world that still offers clean air and clean water with habitats of animals that can sustain life in all of its magnificent diversity. Perhaps some lasting good will come from this calamity after all if we can marshall the political will to make preservation of the environment job number one as our gift to posterity. If we fail in this endeavor, there will be no posterity to pass anything to and the vision expressed in Rachel Carson's "Silient Spring", one of the most prophetic books ever written, will have become humanity's reality.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


The Big Spill redux. Just get over it? I don't think so. No matter how the mass media tries to downplay the historic significance of this monumental environmental catastrophe the reality of the environmental damage that is taking place even as we speak belies the media's meta message that all will be well. Well, I beg to differ. Already, Louisiana's fishing industry has been all but destroyed. The oil slick has now entered the Gulf Stream, looping the oil around the Florida peninsula, threatening the Florida Keys and even the east coast beaches up to Miami and beyond (taking with it Florida's $60 billion tourist industry).

But this mega environmental catastrophe is not just a blow to the tourism industry (serious as that may be). It is a major wake up call to all of humanity. If we continue to poison the Oceans of the world at the rate that we are going we will in the not so long run be jeopardizing the whole planet's bio sphere. Earth is a water world (as every sixth grader should be able to tell you). Simply put, no water no life.

Are we human beings actually capable of killing all life in the Oceans? Don't act surprised. We humans have done a miserable job of stewardship of planet Earth. Not only are human beings capable of destroying our earthly environment, we have already inflicted massive damage. Whole habitats are being killed off, species are disappearing at an alarming rate. There are Sargasso seas of garbage and litter that literally stretch for miles in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Coral reefs are being killed and there are dead zones where algae blooms, feeding off the pollution in the waters of the world, have depleted water oxygen levels so that fish cannot survive. This disrupts the entire food chain leading to massive die offs as we have witnessed time and again.

All that said, the Earth is fairly resistant. Though we have abused our home planet almost beyond recognition, the planet has shown remarkable resilience or none of us would be here today. Human survival on planet earth is not guaranteed. The demise of the dinosaurs gives ample evidence that life on planet earth has always been something of a crap shoot. We owe it to our children and grand children to leave them a world that not only sustains human life, but the lives of all living things in the biosphere. We are capable of doing a better job of stewardship if we can summon the political will to do so.

Environmentalists are not just a bunch of starry eyed tree huggers. We must all become environmentalists if mother earth is to survive. We must all become Oceanographers and Marine Biologists. Save the oceans of the world! Save planet Earth!

Friday, May 14, 2010


It took me a while to become a fan of At first blush I could not figure out its value, especially the practice of the seemingly purposeless accumulation of so-called "friends". To what end? To what purpose? And doesn't this collection of stangers called friends actually trivialize true friendship? Those were my thoughts when I hesitantly dipped my big toe into the Facebook pond. I have since changed my mind. Perhaps it is the outcome of having become more familiar and more comfortable navigating the site. It has become a means of locating people from the past (even the very distant past) and resuming some contact with them, reminiscing about "old times" and catching up on each other's lives.

Several days ago I even stumbled over the site a past girl friend of mine whom I thought was lost forever to the fog of lost romance gone bad. I hesitated for a long time before I finally clicked the mouse to ask to become one of her "friends". As of the writing of this blog I have not yet heard from her in any way. That is of course the beauty of Facebook. One does not have to accept such an offer of friendship. The request can be simply ignored and everyone goes on about their own business, chaulking up the experience to nothing ventured nothing gained.

On the other hand, by resuming some semblance of contact one leaves open the possibility of new possibilities; of new adventures yet to come; of rekindling an old extinguished flame. Had I chosen not to try to contact the lady in question (let's call her X for the time being) I would have foreclosed (perhaps forever) whatever new developments (or not) that might have resulted or could have resulted as a possible outcome based on having taken such a karmic gamble. In fact, in trying not to think about X, I was in fact obsessing about her. And it was affecting my work. My writing came to a complete halt. I was totally blocked unable to focus or take the next step. I was full of "what if" scenarios, worries and doubts.
I was second guessing my every motive, cross-examining myself as if I were a suspect in a crime. What had I done to be dumped by X in the first place (we are talking some twenty five or more years ago, though I still remember with crystal clarity just about every detail of the day she walked out on me). Did I really want to stir that pot of misery again? Did I really want to dig up and relive all that past karma?

The end result of all that hemming and hawing was that I decided that it was better to forge ahead, make the friendship request and wait for the results. I have resolved to be gracious and generous, forgiving and courageous in the face of yet another rejection if such was to be the case.
As all the results are not yet in I must say that not knowing what she is thinking is somewhat unsettling. But then I felt better thinking that now the shoe was on the other foot. Let X be the one having to make all the same calculations as to whether or not to resume contact with her Ex (one of a long line I must add in the interest of full disclosure).

At least I am able to write again and the blockage has been removed. Again the flow of words can resume. I am back in my element.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


It must mean something that all that is now required to identify the disasterous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is to refer to it as the Big Oil Spill and everyone instantly knows what you are talking about. Wonderful. Glorious. I am so angry about this latest rape of nature that I can literally spit. Angry, frustrated and powerless. BP has made all of us into victims. Of course BP is trying to shirk the responsibility pointing to its subcontractors TransOceanic and Halliburton. Halliburton, Dick Chaney's alma mater. Might have known that sooner or later Chaney's filthy presence would make itself known in this latest disaster against the good and welfare of all Americans. Like dracula of old, only a wooden spike though the heart will rid us of his diseased presence.

Poor NOLA. First Katrina and now this latest travesty. How much bad news can a city take? There ain't enough blues or booze on Bourbon Street to wash away the tears that the loss of beach, marshland and marine habitat will cause. We are talking about the loss of an entire coast line, the destruction of flora and fauna on a massive scale; the poisoning of the water supply and food chain; the end of a waterfront, sea going way of life that can be traced back to the birth of the nation.

Will this Big Oil Spill prove to be President Obama's waterloo? Perhaps. Especially if the administration takes its eye off the ball and treats this catastrophe as just one calamity on a long list of calamities that need his attention. The solution to the crisis cannot be left in the incompetent hands of Chaney, Halliburton, TransOceanic or BP. It is time to call out the army, navy and marines; time to put the best minds and the best known expertise on the planet to work together to cap this runaway gusher a mile deep in the Gulf on the ocean floor. Big Oil Spill is a misnomer; It should be called the Big Oil Gusher, pouring 200,000 gallons of crude into the Gulf every day.

T.S. Elliot may have been so very correct to write that "this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Weird. I have such bad karma with technology. I started writing this blog back in February and then totally forgot how to access it again until today. I am glad that I have this outlet back on line though I am pressed for time today. I wasn't expecting to be back, so this is a pleasant surprise and a nice cherry topping ending to a rather bland and boring day at work (is there really any other kind?). As usual I am feeling at odds with myself; knowing that I must make some major changes in my life yet not sure how to proceed or even what those changes need to be (sound familiar?).

I describe myself these days as being semi-retired though that is only half true. I still report to work every day, but I have a predetermined retirement date several years from now; still, knowing the date of my retirement provides the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and that does make a big psychological difference in how I approach each and every day.

I try not let the usual office politics and in fighting affect me as much as before. It is sad that our work environments have become so toxic to good health and to our self-estime and sense of well being. I try to take more time off from work. My new scheme is to try to take payday Fridays off so that at least I will have some coins to spends before I am again flat broke (it does not take long). Like most writers, I have found that living a hand to mouth existence becomes second nature; I know that I have lots of company in this quandry. How are you faring in the wake of The Great Recession? Has the election of Barack Obama ushered in a new golden age for America? We can only hope so! More on all of the above later. Right now I have to close up shop and get ready to catch my train for the home bound commute. Stay tuned folks!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Shalom,y'all. Welcome to my free association blog. I am new to this blogging thing, so bear with me if I ramble from one topic to another. There may be a pattern or there may not depending on the reader's (and author's) point of view.
I welcome this outlet to jot some random thoughts about just about everything. It is somewhat intimidating, sort of like trying to be a trapeze artist without having had any real formal training. I have not been much of a fan of formal training in the first place though I concede it must have its proper place in the overall scheme of things.
I generally have a short concentration span and my mind does seem to like skipping around the lily pond from lotus lilly to lotus lilly, whether gilded or otherwise. I used to love to watch the long legged insects skate atop the water of the various ponds that I have frequented or encountered during my life.
I thought it was wonderful how they (the insects) could literally walk on water (it all has to do with the tensil strength of the water molecules at the water surface). I have spent a good deal of my life just observing. I allowed myself the privilege of such wool gathering as it has been disparagingly called by people who do not engage much in day dreams.
I may have once feared that all my wool gathering observations may have been for naught until I discovered this blogging thing. Now I feel that I have at long last found a suitable outlet for the whole inventory of woolgathering thoughts that I have stored in the warehouse of my mind (And just in time too. I was starting to run out of storage space).
I have recently published a children's book titled "Bubbie and Zadie Save the Day" (Xlibris, 2010). I say that it is ostensibly a children's book, but I am really not so sure if the primary audience is children at all. I am thinking that the book works just as much for adults as well. The story line remembers a Romanian folk tale that my mother used to tell me and my siblings as a rather unusual bed time story. I dedicated the book to my mother's memory and to my two grandsons, Peyton Earls and Samuel Earls; kind of a bridge across the generations. At least I hope so. I am very curious as to how the book is going to be received so reader's comments will be greatly appreciated. And so it goes.