Governor Chris Christi & The GW Bridge Shuffle

 

Governor Chris Christi & The G.W. Bridge Shuffle

 With all of the furor surrounding the fiasco of creating massive traffic jams for four days in September 2013 at the approaches to the George Washington Bridge, there is much to be learned about the facts of this case. On January 10, 2014, Governor Chris Christi faced reporters for two hours, he seemed quite upset, declared his innocence, and spoke of the actions he had taken and will be taking.

There are two primary reasons that people declare their innocence in a matter such as this: one is because they don’t want to own up to their actions, errors, and accountability and the other reason is because they’re innocent. As I write, there’s no information that I’ve seen that proves that the Governor knew about this or authorized his staff or his appointees at The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to take this action. The bulk of the evidence is email transimissions and that doesn’t mean that a cagey person can’t relay commands verbally to avoid such documentation. This is particularly true of people in high office who delegate communications constantly and in confidential “executive” session.

To briefly review what seems to factually determined at this point is that a man by the name of David Wildstein, who was appointed by Governor Christi to a high paying, executive position with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered lanes to be closed during rush hour on the busiest bridge in the world on September 6, 2013 and the lane closing occurred on September 9th – 12th . Wildstein, is an avid Christi supporter was also a friend of the Governor when they were in school. For years, the political appointements to the executive positions of the Port Authority were noted to be acts of cronyism and political patronage, and not finding the best people to fill the important, powerful and complex jobs.

The current case seems to suggest that the denial of politicians who consistently state that making these appointments are based on talent and competence are hollow and meaningless. The appoinments are financial plums handed to favorites. It’s a profoundly flawed process.

The Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Ann Kelly, on August 13, 2013 sent an email to Wildstein which read “time for some traffic in Fort Lee.” The reply from Wildsteind came within moments and was simply “Got it.” This brief correspondence clearly indicates to me that this wasn’t an idea that simply popped up and was acted on with thoughtless spontaneity, there was a history, a plan or a discussion that was being put into effect on August 13th . It was pre-meditated.

So why did they want to back up traffic into Fort Lee? It seems the Mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, who is a democrat, wasn’t willing to back Governor Christi’s gubernatorial reelection and this was retaliation for the Mayor exercising his freedom of speech, freedom and fundamental right to make a choice.

Here’s a hypothetical situation to consider: If I was ticked off at the way things are in this state, and actually I am, and I decided to create a monumental traffic jam to make a statement and demonstrate my pwer, I’d be arrested. I’d be prosecuted. Was this action by the Governor’s supporters about demonstrating power? Yes it was, that and more.  If Governor Christi is sincere about being repulsed by this behavior, he needs to support vigorous prosecution, let them have their day in court and if convicted, whack the bastards. No pardons Governor, let the consequence happen.

David Wildstein didn’t get fired: he quit. His attorney said he was going to anyway. Did he have the authority to do what he did? Was it abuse of power? Was it illegal to block traffic? No soft landing here Governor: Whack him. Yes, I know, he’s a friend and likely a financial supporter too. Did you know that politicians sometimes give very nice jobs to “thank” financial supporters? I hope this doesn’t leave you breathless, but they do.

 Bridget Ann Kelly was fired. This is someone who was so close to the Governor, was he totally obvlivious to what she was doing and saying? Was she believing that she had the right to do this? Was it abuse of her authority? How could she order such a thing? Come on Prosecutors,do it: Whack her.

Let Wildstein and Kelly, and any other person who acted on this, covered it, or who was in a positition of responsibility and failed to exercise that responsibility appear in court. Let their attorneys give good faith, aggressive defense and see what comes squeezing out of the proceedings. I would be charged if I did what they did. They should be charged for doing what they did.

Governor Christi has been trying to overcome a reputation of being a bully. This doesn’t help – if he’s not a bully then some of the people very close to him that he entrusted and empowered sure as hell are. He also is trying to show he can work over political party divides and find solutions. Using political power to punish people who don’t agree with you, don’t side with you, don’t vote for you or openly question you is an attempt at tyrannical suppression of free speech. It’s an attack on what it means to vote your conscience and beliefs. It’s despicable.

So is the Governor a bully? I don’t know: I think he might be. I have to question the values that drove his office, the behind the scene conversations, and the thinking behind strategies that launched this stupid, foolish act by people who arguably are intelligent enough to get to high levels of public service and exercise public abuse. What’s the culture behind the public declarations of compassion, caring and open mindedness? I can’t judge someone’s intent, I can only judge their actions.They know their intent. I do know a foul smell when I encounter one.

Political appointees tend to get soft landings in cases like this. She lost her job? She should have lost her job. She’ll get another one and if it doesn’t go to court, her story will end with a pile of emails. We’re a nation of laws: “poorly written and randomly enforced” according to the remarkable statesman Frank Zappa.

Perhaps one day, laws will be truly observed and uniformly enforced. This blog is being written the day after Major League Baseball suspended one of the game’s greatest superstars, Alex Rodriguez, for an entire season for violating the well established drug policy. He’s one of baseballs’ most recognized players, certainly one of the richest and they found he didn’t follow the rules so they gave him a consequence and in the process sent a message to others who may consider abusing drugs or using performance enhancing drugs. “It doesn’t matter who you are, the rules are going to be applied.” Good message I think.

Perhaps our political leaders need to consider this example. Perhaps, one day, we’ll see Police Officers willing to arrest another Police Officer who drives drunk rather than let him or her go on driving or carry him or her home. Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen: it absolutely does happen. Perhaps one day, politicians will enforce the laws on themselves, their own staff, friends and cronies who violate the law and do what they all swear to do when they take the oath of office: uphold the constitution.

When pigs fly.

What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear from you. Respond on this blog or send an email to dave@openmindedmic.com   I promise that if you disagree, I won’t cause a major traffic jam in your town to punish you. That promise, however, doesn’t extend to my staff.

On Mitt, Victims, NPR, FNN & Other Toxins

On Mitt, Victims, NPR, FNN & Other Toxins

No spin? No SPIN???? Let’s get it right: the SPIN IS NON=STOP.

I’m not an avid NPR listener although I do support public radio and television and think they have a value. I usually listen to NPR nightly news where they do air various viewpoints and that word “balance” isn’t an obscene misrepresentation of what they do, just a bit misguided. I also like NPR programs on Saturday where I learn about cars and gardening even though I’m dangerous with tools and live on a plot of sand near the ocean where nothing grows except nut grass. This week, I heard some absolute trash on NPR. Very slanted, very misleading. To my liberal friends and readers, don’t cry “foul” quite yet, I’ll get to the conservative propagandists on the “fair and balanced” network soon, but for now, I’m going to point out the liberal propaganda.

Coming home from a show on Wednesday night, I turned on NPR’s WHYY in Philadelphia and heard a few minutes of a talk show. I didn’t get the names, and turned it off because it was so slanted, especially when made several inferences and then treated the inference as if it were fact. I thought Bill O’Reilly had a patent on that process.

In the interview, the woman being questioned noted a “scientific” study where sophisticated imaging of the brains of conservatives and liberals showed actual differences in neural structures and then she started to name some specifics including the “fact” that in conservatives, the “amygdala” was larger than in liberals: side note, she mispronounced “amygdala” giving me the impression that she had no idea what she was talking about.

What’s the “amygdala?” In a trivia contest, my hand would shoot right up. I used to teach this stuff and I’d hit the buzzer and say “it’s the part of the brain that’s believed to control our fear response.” Unless this was jeopardy when Alex would shake his head and tell me I don’t get credit because my answer wasn’t in the form of a question, which we all know is a tactic reserved for politicians.

Back to being a professor. When I heard a student say  something like this – point to a “scientific study” or express a “percentage” along with an assertion (four out of five dentists recommend… or 64% of all blondes have brown eye: someone actually stated that once) or make an assertion that I either believed was outrageous, wrong or just in conflict with my own common sense, I wouldn’t declare it to be “bullshit”, even if I thought it was. I’d ask them to “cite the source.” Give credibility to the comment and at least give me a chance to check it out for myself and not depend on a comment as revealing a fact.

The host conducting the interview never did that or anything like it as the guest continued to make rather wild and what I believe were invalid assertions about conservative and liberal brains and minds. She also never did comment on what the significance of a larger amygdala actually is. She did however make some generalities about the meaning, the most interesting of them being that liberals were more able to accept and enjoy plays that didn’thave a happy ending. I’m not making this up. Her inferences from the results of this study, amazingly enough, seemed to indicate that liberals were more open minded, better abstract thinkers and generally superior. This is in conflict with my own common sense where I personally know many people who are conservative and very open minded. I don’t think it’s radical or irrational to say that there are differences in mindsets, but this was a gross overgeneralization, and lacking credibility. This was bullshit.

Now let’s look at the conservative toxic waste aired by the Fox News Network. When Mitt Romney’s comments on the now famous video became public and spread on youtube and social media, and the networks,  the “Fair and Balanced” Fox News Network began a process they’ve done over and over again through the years: they invented the news instead of reporting it.

One “reporter” after another on this house of barely intelligent discourse, attacked Mother Jones Magazine, the source of the Romney video as being extremely liberal. This does appear to be true, but – perhaps I should be clearer – BUT the political leanings of Mother Jones is absolutely, completely, 100% IRRELEVANT. It wasn’t them reporting on what they state Mitt said, or making inferences into what his words meant. They released a video where the candidate did the talking, said what he said and there was no context to be manipulated. Romney said it – it’s true whether it was Mother Jones or Rush Lumbaugh who put it out to the media. There is no “source” issue here at all and yet Fox News, over and over, complained about that. It was an empty assertaion for the sake of attack and diminishing the credibility of the information. Deduct a point from the “fair and balanced” scoreboard.

This is a presidential candidate and “fair and balanced” reporting should indicate that if that’s what the candidate said, then that’s what he said whether you like it or not. But his is about slants, not reporting. Yet another incredible misdirection employed by FNN or put another way, a total absence of credibility. Truly, this is  exceptionally poor reporting.

So about Mitt’s comment and the 47% of people who believe they are victims. What’s your source Mitt? Are you overgeneralizing? Are there good, hard-working, independent people with good minds and hearts who are supporting the President’s reelection? This “47%” strikes me as relevant and supported as 64% of blondes have brown eyes. A.K.A. a fabrication and when spoken or written many will simply believe it even if it’s pure fiction. I believe this number is pure fiction or at least, I’ve not seen any credible evidence that it’s not. In the meantime, the “fair and balanced” reporters on Fox News Network have started a montra that Mitt hsould run on this statement: a campaign with a fabricated foundation. Good advice guys.

Perhaps, and this is conjecture on my part, if you listen to Mr. Romney’s words, you might get a sense as I did, that he was appealing for contributions from who he believes are the real “victims’ in America today: the very wealthy who are having the wealth that they’ve accumulated attacked by the 47% of those people who want the government to provide for them. Aren’t people who look to others to work for them and support them often referred to as “deadbeats?”

Since this controversy erupted, Mitt’s supporters on FNN and elsewhere have stated that Romney didn’t say he wasn’t concerned with this 47% as people, but as getting their votes in November. I think that’s perhaps a fabricated interpretation after the fact, but then again, I’m interpreting his statements as he really didn’t care about these people. He didn’t make any mention of their votes in his comments and his demeanor seemed rather flat. This is an interpretation on my part, and I’m not sure what his intent was, just his what his words were. Similarly, those defending his words as merely writing off the votes are also engaging in speculation. The are reading into the intent and so am I.

Yes, I engaged in conjecture. That’s one of the differences between Bill O’Reilly and me. He treats his conjecture as if it were “fact”, not conjecture. Other differences include that he has a very large audience and on a good week I have a couple of hundred readers; he’s wealthy and I’m not; I have a Seeing Eye dog and he doesn’t need one; I’m good looking and he’s a – no, I actually think Kermit is cute – O’Reilly’s not..

Some NPR programming and what appears to be the lion’s share of Fox News Network’s broadcasting seem to be trying to create “balance” by expanding the quantity of misrepresentation and misinformation to equal one another.  Mitt Romney’s comments were wrong and I seriously doubt, in spite of Fox News Networks assertion that Romney is right, that there is any credibility or actual support for this contention. Even more regrettable than the leak, and the content of Mitt’s kissing up to wealthy backers, is that such back room discussion happens all the time in politics. We don’t’ hear it in the grandiose speeches, but it’s there and it’s driving our politics. The country is sick and they keep feeding us poison. Even worse, we keep consuming it.

What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear from you. Please reply on this blog. “Be Heard.” Prof. Dave

On Kissing Frogs

On Kissing Frogs

I received a wonderful comment on my blog “Real Love” that inspired this commentary. She found promising frogs, kissed them and now has a garden filled with frogs and not a Prince in sight. The story of the Princess and the Frog is an enduring story and theme, with an obvious message and less obvious suggestions.

The obvious theme of tales such as this, including Beauty and the Beast and others, is what’s immediately obvious about someone, may not be who they are and love  can transform them. Love can transform us, it can bring out our nobler side, give us strength we never knew we had, make us more playful, our lives more directed and difficult time more endurable. It doesn’t make us more handsome or beautiful, except perhaps within our own eyes.

I don’t know if these fairy tales are completely harmless. In these enchanted stories, there is a resident evil that cast a spell and created a beast or a frog from a Prince. So the kiss wasn’t merely transforming a scary or lowly critter into a handsome hunk, it overcame evil too. She was beautiful, lonely and l,onging and he was appreciative, handsome and wealthy and they lived happily ever after.  What’s wrong with that?

Does she have to beautiful? Does he have to be a Prince? Is the restoration permanent? Do they have to develop a rapport? Overcome barriers and obstacles or is it all a smooth, unobstructed path? Is this truly the foundation of real love? We were raised on these fairy tales and we somehow bought in to the messages: both obvious and hidden.

Perhaps a more realistic story about the results fo kissing frongs may be “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson, The classic horror tale that I see played out constantly. The brilliant Dr. Jekyll begin transformed into the monsterous Mr. Hyde. We meet one, and in time meet the other and wonder which is the true person, the Jekyll or Hyde guy? They  both are.  We see the potential of Dr. Jekyll and the reality of Mr. Hyde. And love’s first kiss will cause Hyde to hide? No, it typically encourages Hyde to come out and dominate the relationship.

Love’s first kiss can be transformational, it can bring out what’s within us, but can’t reinvent what’s within us. To experience real love you don’t have to rescue someone, don’t need to be beautiful, don’t need to be or acquire the status of royalty, and although gratitude and appreciation are critical to real love, they’re not the only elements you need to experience it.

Don’t go around kissing frogs: it’s disgusting. If you don’t believe me, ask any frog.

What’s yoiur opinion? I’d like to hear from you. Please reply on this blog or send an email to dave@openmindedmic.com. Thanks for reading. Prof. Dave

The Difference Between A Nasty Political Smear Ad & A Negative Fact About The Opponent

The Difference Between A Nasty Political Smear Ad & A Negative Fact About The Opponent

The national election is still about 6 months away, but we’ve already been treated to the primaries and if you look at the statements, speeches and especially ads that came this primary season, which now lasts almost 2 years, it’s a good barometer for what we’re likely to experience in the upcoming months. I think I’d rather watch sausage being made.

You’ll hear lots of complaints about “smear” campaigns by both sides and by an army of “unaffiliated” groups, who in the name of free speech unleash a tsunami of bile in ads that neither candidate approves of and neither candidate does anything to stop either.

So in the fervor of running for the Presidency of the entire country, isn’t it fair to say negative, true things about your opponent? To point out your opponents failures, short-sightedness, lack of experience, poor judgment while touting your own accomplishments, credentials and wisdom? Now that I think of it, an ad that’s positive by any measure is a rarity. But, yes, it is fair to do that, but it’s not fair to be nasty and “smear” your opponent.

So what’s the difference between a “smear’ and stating a “negative fact?” Here’s the difference: a “smear” is something negative you say about me, and a statement of “negative fact” is something I say about you.

So why do they keep selling this junk to us? Because we keep buying it, that’s why. In the voting booth it seem all too often to be about who scares us less. Another way of putting that is, the one who scares us less is the one who had the less effective “smear” campaign directed at him or her, or the “negative facts” he or she stated were more threatening than the other sides..

This is the shortest piece I think I’ve written since 8th Grade when Mrs. Karabinchek wanted a 200  word essay and in a move I can only describe as sneaky and daring, I it in at 199, on purpose, to see if she’d notice. Maybe I shouldn’t put that out in public in case I ever do run for President. Would you elect the man who “cheated in school and hates educators?” I wouldn’t.

What’s your opinion. I’d like to hear from you. You can reply on this blog or write to dave@openmindedmic.com – thanks for reading. Prof. Dave

The Difference Between Difference And Divisive And The Divisiveness Of Difference

 

The Difference Between Difference And Divisive And The Divisiveness Of Difference

I believe it was Winston Churchill who noted that Americans will always do the right thing, but only after trying everything else first. Score one for the later, great Sir Winston. We get so embroiled in debate and stances, so embedded in positions: we argue and cling to our arguments even at the expense of all other values and even our lives. We’ve become a bunch of bickering fools.

Freedom of speech isn’t seen as an opportunity to discourse, but an opportunity vent spleen, capitalize on fear, grab the podium, the microphone, the attention and the money. We love to think that we’re the greatest nation on earth and standing ovations are always gratifying but somewhat tainted when you give it to yourself. We’re a depleted society; unproductive, ineffective and unwilling to take responsibility for our situation, preferring to cast aspersions and blame.

In our lives, when we hit a down time, financial woes, sadness or depression, one of the first,time honored rules on the road to recovery is “take responsibility for your state.” The word is “responsibility” and in our country, we quite literally abuse that word and idea. We use the word “responsibility” when we mean “blame.” What’s the difference? “Blame” is concerned with who caused the problem, “responsibility” is concerned with whose job it is to fix the problem.

Let’s examine the health care / health insurance debacle: it’s not a debate, it’s a debacle. The fear seems to be that we just can’t afford health insurance for every American and pursuing that would be financially catastrophic. The fact is, we’ve been paying for it for decades, but haven’t been doing it in an organized, systematic way. I’ll explain why I say this, but I can’t explain it within a thirty second commercial that’s designed to scare the hell out of you.

A few years ago I went to the emergency room and fortunately I do have health insurance. A short time after the visit and treatment (or mistreatment in this case) I received a statement from my health insurance company and for those of you who have health insurance and have received such statements, I’m sure what I’m going to say won’t surprise you. I’m rounding off the numbers to the nearest 100, and the hospital charges were slightly over $5,500 and the amount the insurance company paid was slightly over $700. The hospital, being a member of the health insurance network, accepted the $700 as payment in full and I paid a $25 co-pay.

What would I have to pay if I didn’t have insurance? You know the answer to that: I’d have to pay the full $5,500 hospital fee. If I had it, maybe I’d just pay if off and the hospital would make a windfall profit, doing a whopping $4,800 better then they’d do being paid by the insurance company. Maybe I’d have to pay it off over time in which case the hospital would still receive the same whopping fee with interest and the interest rate could make you whistle.

What if I couldn’t pay the bill? Would the hospital have to take the loss? No, they’d get paid anyway. Bad debt is tax deductible, so lets’ suppose the hospital pays 15% income tax after all adjustments, if the bad debt is $5,500 then 15% or $825,  is taken right off of the hospital’s taxes. The hospital doesn’t get the money “in” but rather gets to knot needed to send it out.  The Federal Government receives less tax revenue, the patient who used hospital serves, if he was broke before it’s worse now and he may have some nasty marks on the credit report.

Yes, we’re already paying for it; in terms of tax write-offs, in terms of people dying because they don’t have insurance, in terms of wasted time debating over details when we haven’t even created a well- defined goal, a direction we want to go.

I hear it all the time, “we can’t afford to have health insurance for everyone.” Well, can we apply the same concern to national defense? We can’t afford to protect ourselves from terror attacks? That doesn’t seem  too smart, you have to be able to afford that, there’s no option, is there? So the question seems to be similar for me, do we have a viable option to health insurance for everyone or not? Can we afford to continue as we have been doing it, which is, in fact, costing us in lives and tax revenues.

We’re too deeply rooted in divisive rhetoric to examine what we want to happen; too busy engaging in arguments over concerns about how to get there when we don’t seem to know where we’re going.  We’re not only avoiding meaningful dialogue, we’re sabotaging it. Meaningful discussions take time. It takes time to articulate thoughts and present them, it takes to clarify points of agreement and disagreement, it takes time to come up with alternative, refine them and move forward. Why is it being sabotaged? I believe because the time that I noted is longer than a 30 second commercial aimed at creating confusion and fear.

This isn’t a quest for solutions, it’s a mission for power. Try to scare more people over to our side of the line than they do, get elected, and do it all over again. We need to be reminded that good, intelligent, thoughtful people can see things differently and disagree. That’s normal and healthy. The game is divide, divide, divide. It’s manipulative, unproductive, callous and bitterly destructive. It’s depleting us, making us weaker, and if we don’t redirect ourselves, a catastrophe of epic proportions awaits. We’re so concerned about decisions, we’re overlooking the vast ignorance upon which decisions are made.

We can change this, and I imagine eventually we will: after we’ve tried everything else first.

What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a reply on this blog or send an email to dave@openmindedmic.com. Thanks, Prof. Dave

A REALLY Bad Song / A Brilliant Song of Protest: The Same Song?

A REALLY Bad Song & A Brilliant Song Of Protest – The Same Song?

I’ve long held great fascination with both songs of protest and conscience and really bad songs that got serious sales and massive amounts of radio air time. Among the songs of protest and conscience, some of the obvious great offerings include Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome”, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin’”, Phil Ochs “Outside OF A Small Circle of Friends”, Barry McGuire’s “Eve Of Destruction”, and The Guess Who’s “American Woman.” Ok, the last one is a weak entry but I loved the way it sounded so I threw it in.

On the really bad song side, there are thousands of candidates for the worst. Captain and Teneille’s “Muskrat Love” (I get sick just writing that), Richard Harris’ highly controversial “MacGarther Park” (some love it, some hate it: I’m sick of it), The Shangrala’s “Leader Of The Pack”, and the song I consider to be among the elite worst,Sylvia’s “I’ve Never Been To Me.” All notable – but one song, one brilliant, incredible song, managed to make both of these lists, but not at the same time.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Turtles were a major force in popular music. A bunch of good looking, very talented guys with a unique sound and almost everybody liked what they had to offer. In the early 70’s they went to their business manager and as the story is told, wanted to do some experimental music, branch out into acoustic stuff. They were obviously inspired by the music revolution of that day where you had amazing and diverse musicians like Jimmi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Cream, Crosby, Stills & Nash,  Carlos Santana, Janice Joplin, James Taylor and Led Zepp who were all exploring new frontiers in musical expression.

Their manager, believe it or not said “NO!” to their request. He reasoned that the Turtles were a hit machine and there was still a huge market for the type of music they wrote and played and they were to continue to write that type of “stuff.” Needless to say the guys were upset with their manager’s suppressing their artistry so they took the anger and got some revenge.

What they did, was write the worst song they could come up with. Threw every cliché in the book into the lyric, a dull predictable melody with bland harmonies and a snooze of a lead break. They recorded this song which will go down in music history, without a doubt, as their biggest hit: “Eleanor.”

When I learned the story behind “Eleanor” the song went from my worst song list to the top of the songs of protest as the most brilliant of the bunch. I love the Turtles, and in their honor, here are the lyrics to that awful / brilliant song.

You got a thing about you,

I just can’t live without you.

I really love you Eleanor near me.

Your looks intoxicate me,

Even though your folks hate me.

There’s no one like you Eleanor really.

Eleanor gee I think you’re swell.

And you really do me well,

You’re my pride and joy etc.

Eleanor can I take the time,

To ask you to speak your mind.

Tell me that you love me better.

 

I really think you’re groovy.

Let’s go out to a movie.

What do you say now Eleanor can we?

They’ll turn the lights way down low.

Maybe we won’t watch the show.

I think I love you Eleanor, love me.

 

Eleanor gee I think you’re swell

And you really do me well,

You’re my pride & Joy etc.

Eleanor can I take the time,

To ask you to speak your mind.

Tell me that you love me better.

They don’t write ‘em like that anymore. Brilliant.

What’s your opinion? What’s the best protest song or the worst song ever given serious air time? I’d like to hear from you. Reply on this blog or write to dave@openmindedmic.com – thanks, Prof. Dave

Real Love

Real Love

I’m  59, and as those who know me are abundantly aware, much of my life has been a search for “real” love. I’ve never found it, or perhaps I have but have been so distracted that I didn’t recognize that real love was right in front of my nose and I just didn’t see that. Along the road I’ve learned some lessons and these lessons are coming back to both reward and in some ways haunt me.

In my thoughts today, I’m referring to the real love of a mate, a partner and a lover because in terms of friends and family, I’ve been blessed with abundance of real love, that’s how I know it exists. But never in that partner. This story isn’t uniquely mine, in fact, it seems to be remarkably common. So today I’m reflecting and departing from the irresistible exercise of commenting on the dreary state of political campaigns and getting personal.

My search for real love has led me down some familiar and some odd paths.  I’ve done online dating, met many interesting women and through all the paths followed, have managed to remain single. I could blame this on my blindness, but I really don’t think that’s the reason. Many women are completely willing to overlook that problem, not most, but many. It could just be fortuitous and to a large degree I imagine it is. My firm commitment at this point is back to the basics; relationship 101. It seemed to work for my parents.

There is a huge difference between attraction and relationship. There can be stunning attraction based on nothing that truly relates two people. The “electricity” that’s sometimes noted on a first encounter can make us go to extremes to follow a scent of bonding, but it’s not bonding, it’s attraction. Lesson One: Real love whispers and you have to be attentive or you’ll miss it.

Attraction can disguise character, cause us to see what we want to see and ignore or dismiss what’s negative.   We can throw and sacrifice our hearts, minds, souls and bodies in pursuit of an illusion. In turn we often try to create an illusion that we are other than we are, somehow believing that our imagination and image weaving is superior to the person who stands behind the mask. Lesson Two: Real Love presents and accepts “as is” as the best we can offer and expect.

We move far too quickly. Set up house, invade each other’s bodies, homes, bank accounts and personal stories long before trust is established. I’ve seen it and I’ve done it. Trust is assumed and there’s nothing wrong with that, but trust is a quality that develops, deepens and becomes meaningful over time. You can’t rush the process any more than you can make a flower grow more quickly simply because you want it to. In our haste, we make “Poof Trust” and then get deflated when it’s violated. But nothing was actually violated because it never existed in the first place. Trust is first assumed and bonded when earned. Lesson Three: Be patient. Give trust the time it needs to blossom

Building anything takes effort and care, destruction is fast, easy and powerful. It can take years to grow a tree and minutes to cut it down. Construct the house of your dreams and blow it up in seconds. The same seems to be true for real love. Trust can be sabotaged by an act of deceit. Bonds shattered by selfishness. There are Ten Commandments and notably they’re not called the “Ten Suggestions.” There is no fine print or further explanations. We really don’t need to be specifically told what’s the right thing and the wrong thing to do: we know but sometimes if we’re not violating a written code we dismiss garden variety sensibility. Do the right thing, we know what that is. Lesson Four: Play by the rules.

Real love doesn’t turn when times become difficult. Real love listens, deeply listens. Real love does more than tolerate, it celebrates even in the darkest of moments. Real love isn’t the stuff of fairy tales, it’s the gritty stories of survival, sacrifice, passion, appreciation, laughter, acceptance and courage. This doesn’t sound all that glamorous: exactly my point.

This was partly inspired by a friend’s daily posting of Life Lessons: a line or two of daily inspiration. This blog was written on a Toshiba Notebook computer that’s just begging to be recycled.

What’s your opinion? Any thoughts to add to “real love?” You can leave a reply or write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com and let me know what you think. Thanks, Prof. Dave

 

Who Do You Want To Be?

Who Do You Want To Be?

Last week my dear friend Nydia invited me to go to a seminar with her in Philadelphia, and because it was Nyd, and because we were going to get a Center City burger before the seminar, I eagerly agreed to go. The subject matter of the seminar was “relationships” and although I used to be a psychologist, and thought I had some expertise in the subject, I never forgot what I used to tell my students at Warren County Community College: “We talk like we know. We act like we know. We think we know. We don’t know.” There’s always something to learn.

It was a good seminar even though a chunk of it was dedicated to selling people spots in upcoming seminars. Among the ideas raised was “who do you want to be” Interesting way of phrasing it. Not “what do you want to do?”

I gotta’ be me! I gotta’ be me! What else can I be but what I am? Words of wisdom from Frank Sinatra – or was it Steve Lawrence? It wasn’t Nat King Cole, I know that. Perry Como? Alright, I’m sticking with Sinatra and if I’m wrong write me a caustic, nasty reply on this blog and I promise to ignore it.

What an incredible question: who do you want to be? We always ask kids “what do you want to do when you grow up?” We never ask what do you want to be? So what do you want to be? What do I want to be? We’d get answers like “I want to be happy.” “I want to be loved and I want to love.” “I want to be appreciated and show appreciation.” “I want to be generous.” “I want to be calm.” “I want to be trusted.” I’m sure you can add generously to this list and I think that would be a good idea.

I’ve been blessed in my life to have a handful of folks who have answered that question with abundant persuasiveness, likely without consciously addressing it, but stating it in the way they live their lives. My family, Dad, Mom, brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces and the boys in my life (Josh, Ryan & Isaac) all showed me who the “be.” Some great friends, co-workers and colleagues also gave me cause for gratitude.

This week I was in touch with my beloved buddies Marcia and Linda who I worked with in the Child Study Team at Warren County Tech a few lifetimes ago. These two are certainly included in the group I described above and they reminded me of the one year anniversary of the death of another beloved member of that team, Helen Liebow. Today I’m reflecting on how Helen answered the question “who do you want to be?”

Helen was an exceedingly beautiful woman in every sense of the word except the conventional sense of the word. The woman was incredibly loving, gentle, deeply caring, her compassion was abundant, tolerance overflowing, humorous, smart and amazingly generous. With Helen, you never needed to worry about the conversation running dry. All you had to do was say “Good Morning” and she’d take it from there.

Helen asked a lot of questions and often one right after another not giving time for an answer. She wasn’t being rude, that’s how her mind worked. She laughed a lot and didn’t spare herself as the target of her humor. I’m going to use the word “be” again: it was so easy to be around her. Did you catch how that sounded in that last sentence? Who I was being when I was around her, was somebody that I liked being.

Helen, being such a warm, caring, humorous person, it would stand to reason that her life was easy with an absence of struggles. Considering her generosity it would stand to reason that she was a person with substantial financial depth. It may stand to reason, but it wasn’t the case. Helen struggled for years with a myriad of very serious health problems. There was no hidden cache of cash either. Without going into detail, Helen never had a comfortable day, never had it “easy” but somehow managed to take circumstances that would sour the strongest among us, and still be sweet through and through.

I miss my friends that I rarely see since my work was outsourced, at the same time Helen, Linda and Harvey were outsourced. It was done to save money and there was no political agenda or avarice in the decision. Oh, look at that: a pig just flew past my window.  I miss Helen.

When I think of who I want to “be”, I can’t completely answer that question, but I hope that being with Helen gave me direction and a model of who I want to be. People just don’t “be” better than her.

What do you want to be? Do you have a Helen in your life? Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or put a reply on this blog. Also, if you know who sang “I Gotta’ Be Me” I’d like to know that too. Prof. Dave

Why We Support The Free Meal Center

Why We Support The Free Meal Center

Next Sunday, March 4. 2012, John and I are taking our Open Minded Mic act to Flip Flopz in North Wildwood to support Free Meal Center of Cape May County. We employ a small army of dedicated, talented performers to help draw crowds, and in the process, provide fuding for charities that we are connected to or care deeply about: the Free Meal Center is both.

The problem is of hunger in our nation is more widespread than most of us realize. It’s Senior citizens on a fixed budget choosing between food or medicine. It’s single moms who have been abandoned and try to make ends meet on minimum wage job. It’s kids who only get to eat a meal in school, or eat the stuff served in most schools that resembles food; they may not eat all weekend or during breaks in the school year. It could be you, and it could be me.

Does the government need to do something about this? That might make our job easier, but the government is horribly inefficient, wasteful and inundated with procedures and bureaucratic procedures that increase the cost and greatly reduce the benefit.

When we ask our government to do something like this, what we’re saying is that this is a dirty job, I don’t want to do it, you do it and I wash my hands of it. The more we wash our hands of any responsibility to do something about this problem the dirtier our hand get.

The Free Meal Center gives a meal to anyone who shows up and wants one with no questions asked. They’re starting after school programs and tutoring for kids who have parents who can’t afford a tutor. They provide food on weekends too; food is not an option or a luxury. They do all of this and 100% of the money raised, food donated and other resources made available go to the single purpose of supporting the Free Meal Center. There are no country club dues, high priced autos or other perks that are subsidized in the name of charity; it’s all charity.

Since we started Open Minded MIc, we’ve worked with some great organizations including The National Breast Cancer Foundation, The Foundation Fighting Blindness, The Atlantic City Ballet and The Free Meal Center. Different but a common bond in a commitment to help, heal, enlighten and remind us what it really means to be fully human.

Please go to our Home page and click on the link for the Free Meal Center. Join us at Flip Flopz on March4, tickets are only $20 each for the meal and the show.It’s going to be a great time, a great show for a great cause. If you can’t make it there, please donate to the Free Meal Center. No amount is too small and very dollar helps the center’s mission.

I don’t need the services of the Free Meal Center, but in my life I’ve certainly needed help and thank God it was there. Today, let’s be helpful. Please donate.

God Bless, Prof. Dave

What’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from you. Please write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply right on this blog. Thanks, Prof. Dave

Life Lessons & Drunkenness

Life Lessons & Drunkenness

It was October 1974 and it was the last time that I got drunk. I was visiting my friend John while he was working in Syracuse, New York. He had a one room efficiency apartment and every night, he and his co-workers would go out and get plastered. This was a Friday night, so the rule was start drinking earlier and end later.

We went to a bar called “The Mad Hatter”, the juke box was blarring “love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain and Tenielle – that’s the only thing I can remember about the bar because I wake up every night at 3:00 a.m. screaming with that particular memory.

I’ve never been a heavy  drinker and I can’t “hold my liquor” very well. That night, inertia got the better of me and I drank. At 2:00 a.m. they threw all of us out so they could close the bar and John and I staggered to my car. We decided that I was the less drunk of the two of us so I should drive even though I had no idea where we were and didn’t know Syracuse. It was a ten minute ride back to John’s apartment but about an hour later, John shook me to wake me up and asked “When did we get home?”

I looked around through squinted eyes and said “I don’t know. “ We got out of the car, dragged ourselves up to the second floor apartment where there was still some “meat sauce” on the range from our earlier feast on spaghetti and meat sauce and John asked “Would you like a meat sauce sandwich?” I think I said “yes” but I’m not sure.

He heated up the sauce, slapped it between a couple of slices of gummy white bread and plopped it down on the table. We ate and chewed and as we looked at each other, John got reflective and said “This really tastes like shit.” I took another bite and said “Yeah.” We finished our sandwiches and John had more meat sauce left so we each had a second which didn’t taste any better than the first.

We somehow managed to get to bed, slept, and as you certainly suspected, the next morning woke up in great pain. That’s one of my few clear memories of the event. It was horrible, disgusting, nasty and took me years to recover fully.

So following a day of misdeeds, mischief, the violation of numerous laws including some of the laws of physics and drunkenness, that I obviously survived, I did learn an important life lesson: never visit Syracuse.

It’s odd how life can present us with compelling, extraordinary, vivid, undeniable life lessons and we draw the absolute wrong lesson from it. Drunk driving isn’t a joke; it’s serious, dangerous, unconscionable behavior. I work at clubs and listen to people talking about the clever routes they need to travel to get home and avoid the police: what they’re actually avoiding is recovery and dealing with the reality that if they’re not alcoholics, they are abusing the stuff and need real help.

I’ve worked with women who had been involved in one abusive relationship after another, and in their pain they’d lament “Why do I always seem to attract these monsters?” The pain speaks loudly but the question is light years away from what I believe is the real life lesson: it’s not at all about why these monsters are attracted to you, it’s about why do you give them your phone number? Why are “you” attracted to “them?”

When the United States invaded Iraq, the popular country trio, The Dixie Chicks openly expressed objection to the justification of the action. In the invasion fervor of the day, the group was scorned, there were organized rallies to destroy their musical albums, and the few outspoken folks who agreed with them were labeled as cowardly and exposing us to even greater danger. As it turns out, it seems The Dixie Chicks were right, the premise of the war was false and motivated and supported by fear and a lust for retaliation, not on real need to go to war. What does “real need to go to war” mean anyway?

In 1973, I lived in Israel in the shadows of the Golan Heights on the border of Syria and Lebanon. I was there when the Israel experienced a surprise attack from it’s neighbors and as all hell broke loose,I had a front row seat. I wrote a letter to my Mom that she saved but has since evaporated, and I wrote in that letter something that I didn’t know exactly what it meant back then when I wrote it, but I know now. I saw planes knocked out of the sky, rabbis visiting next of kin, Mount Hermon on fire and I wrote that war, even for the best of reasons and noblest of causes is psychotic. My opinion hasn’t changed on the subject.

So the life lesson we gathered seems to have been that we must be stronger, more responsive, more deadly and destructive, more violent. God help the person who says otherwise. Do we need to suppress freedom of speech and even worse, freedom of thought? Is the only answer to increase military spending in order to protect ourselves? Our life lesson has been institutionalized hatred and institutionalized responses. Thinking and discourse is for sissies.

So life lessons. Don’t drive drunk, it’s really stupid and dangerous and if you know it – but if you do it anyway you need to get help: you’re an alcoholic. Constantly in horrible, abusive relationships? Look inside, question whether that feeling you describe as “electric’ when you first meet isn’t a misinterpretation of your body and intuition telling you to get the hell out of here. The feelings are quite similar and with practice (or association) easily confused.

Before we use deadly force, think, think, think. As an American, I believe the most patriotic thing you can do is exercise your freedom of speech. Speak your mind and keep it open. I became a big fan of the Dixie Chicks after that: it took guts and I admire that.

And for me, I never did drive drunk again. Never got drunk again after that night in October 1974. IIn truth, I’ve never visited Syracuse again since that trip, but I’ve managed to forgive the city for my stupidity.

What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear form you. Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Thanks for reading. Prof. Dave