July 31, 2012
My latest for NY Post is on Mayor Bloomberg’s offensive “breastfeeding for all” initiative. I didn’t write the awesome headline.
July 30, 2012
September 22, 1972-July 24, 2012
I was playing poker when I got the call you had died. The first time we met was over poker too, the night I played my first tournament. We had a bunch of mutual friends and they were going through a poker phase. I’d fall madly for poker and we’d play together from time to time. You once cracked my AA with a straight flush. I’m not still bitter. Much.
There were parties:
Hanging out on couches:
And more couches:
When I’ve tried to picture you over the last week I keep thinking of this day.
Bright, sunny day in Brooklyn with our friends, you in a red Gagarin shirt I found, for some reason, hilarious.
You had a great raspy laugh and a very energetic way about you, like you were always in a big hurry. It’s hard to reconcile the image I have of you, the strong, tan, healthy guy you were, with the way you died.
What I find so baffling, as I look over the pictures I have of you with our great group of friends, is why you didn’t tell anyone you were sick. I understand the urge to be strong, and I certainly remember you as someone strong, not a complainer at all, but I think your friends would have welcomed the opportunity to be there for you. People talk about how you threw them off the scent of your sickness with your broken arm. It’s hard to understand why you didn’t let more people in. I hope you found solace in your decision to not burden people. All I keep hearing is people would have wanted to be burdened.
I’ve written before about the awful history of people dying young in our part of Brooklyn but a young man becoming suddenly sick and dying so fast is something I think anyone, anywhere can relate to.
RIP Zach, you will be missed and remembered.
July 24, 2012
The problem is that people like me, who believe guns serve a necessary purpose of self-defense, don’t want to spend the days following a national tragedy showing the hysterical gun-grabbers the factual information about guns. We want to be able to mourn our fellow countrymen too, but because of the rush to blame and finger-point it becomes an immediate debate. We want to spend the days in solemn thought, not pointing out that according to a Justice Department study in 1994, there are approximately 1.5 million defensive gun uses in America each year. We don’t want to keep stating the obvious: that places like NYC, Chicago, or DC, which essentially ban all guns, have an extraordinarily high level of shootings. It turns out that people who would use guns for ill don’t actually care about laws and those of us who do are sitting ducks because we are prohibited from owning guns. It’s tiring to keep pointing out that, no, banning some guns won’t make any difference at all.
July 23, 2012
(Every year on July 20th, I celebrate the day my mother and I arrived in America. This year the shooting in Aurora, Colorado was so overwhelmingly on my mind that I found it hard to focus on anything else and write about my happy day until now. Please keep the victims in your thoughts.)
In 1977, the year I was born and the year my father and many other Jews left the Soviet Union (my mother and I left in 1978, my grandmother and great-aunt left in 1976), the Soviet propaganda machine began circulating a rumor. It went, roughly: life in America is so terrible that the old people eat cat food.
People didn’t quite get it: they have food specifically made for cats in America? What a country!
A lot of things about America remained beyond their comprehension.
A week after my father arrived in New York, he and a friend were walking around Manhattan in pure wonder. They got to midtown and stood in front of Bloomingdale’s watching well-dressed people come in and out. They discussed it amongst themselves that they would obviously have to show evidence that they had money, or proof of income, or some other paperwork to get inside. Surely this store for the wealthy wouldn’t just let them in. They watched and watched but didn’t see people getting stopped. They walked slowly through the doors and found no one gave them a second look.
There’s a feeling in America today that there isn’t equality until any of us can walk into Bloomingdale’s and buy whatever we want. The two men standing there in 1977 weren’t thinking that it was unfair they couldn’t wear the same clothes as the beautiful people around them, they were just grateful for the opportunity to try. They had left a place where that opportunity simply didn’t exist. You were born poor and you would die poor–everyone would. You could gain influence in your life and that might get you small victories–instead of being assigned to practice your profession in Siberia you might get lucky and get sent to a capital city. Perhaps you, your wife, your child, your parents and other relatives could have your own apartment, one you wouldn’t have to share with another family. Those were your wins.
It’s hard for Americans, even the ones who see America’s greatness and love this country for it, to understand the lack of opportunity that my family left. As Communism retreats into the rear-view mirror of history it’s easy to gloss over the everyday ways that Communism is meant to crush the individual and make everyone equal–equally poor, equally scared, equally hopeless.
If you’ve always lived in a country where companies make food specifically for cats then you’ve known an abundance that my family couldn’t even begin to imagine while they waited to be free. They wanted to say and do whatever they wanted, to live freely, to be allowed to earn as much money as they could, to keep their family safe from murderous ideologies and monster rulers. They just wanted the chance. Success isn’t guaranteed to anyone, and they knew this, but only if you come from a land of opportunity do you ever imagine that it’s even possible.
This year marks 34 years that I’ve lived in America. Even in the toughest times, in its darkest days, the times where we all might feel pessimistic about our collective future, we’re all so blessed to be here. On each July 20th I remember exactly how blessed.
Previous July 20th posts:
2003 (scroll down a little to July 18).
July 22, 2012
No, he didn’t. He meant exactly what he said. My latest for WNYC’s A Free Country.
July 16, 2012
Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
I love the “somebody invested in roads and bridges.” Like, perhaps, the taxpayer that Obama is minimizing here?
Also, as my buddy Demetrius Minor tweeted, if nobody deserves credit for their accomplishments then I guess Obama should share credit for capturing Osama bin Laden with George W. Bush. Wait for it.
July 11, 2012
Mike Bloomberg is pushing 300sqft units in Manhattan. My latest for the New York Post. Excerpt:
I grew up in Brooklyn, in the parts (Flatbush and later Bensonhurst) that don’t get exalting articles written about them, and lived to tell about it. Maybe we didn’t have artisanal pickle shops, or the latest cutting-edge designer stores, but we had space and lots of it. A 300-square-foot apartment would’ve been laughed at. In our immigrant community, your home was your pride.