Happy birthday, Stars and Stripes.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
I hope all of you here in the U.S. who had yesterday off had a good time and remembered why we mark Memorial Day.
Okay, now that little guilt trip is over. How many of you went to a picnic, barbeque, or to the movies? I saw Star Trek Into Darkness. Speaking of rebooting….
Anyway, summer is unofficially here in the States.
Monday, May 27, 2013
I grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio. It’s a small town, a suburb of Toledo, and when I was a kid in the 1950′s and ’60′s, it fit all of the images that small towns in the Midwest have: tree-shaded streets, neat homes, lots of churches, and a main street — Louisiana Avenue — with little shops like the drug store with the fountain, the dime store, the barber shop, the hardware store, the bakery with the smell of bread baking and the sweet scent of icing, and the bank with the solid stone exterior. They’re all still there, just under different names now, and my parents, who still live there, still call the drug store by its old name, even though it’s changed owners and become a jewelry shop. In the winter the Christmas decorations line the street, and each Memorial Day there is a parade that starts at the Schaller Memorial, the veterans hall, and proceeds up Louisiana Avenue, taking a turn when it reaches the Oliver Hazard Perry Memorial (“We have met the enemy and they are ours…”) and marches down West Front Street past the old Victorian homes that overlook the Maumee River.
When I was a kid the parade was made up of the veterans groups like the American Legion and the VFW, and platoons of soldiers and veterans, including, through the 1970′s, the last remaining veterans of World War I. They wore their uniforms and their medals, and those that couldn’t march sat in the back seat of convertibles, waving slowly to the crowds that lined the sidewalks. They were followed by the marching band from the high school, the color guard, the Cub Scouts, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the drum and bugle corps, floats from church groups, all of the city fire equipment, antique cars, and the service groups like the Shriners, the Elks, and the Kiwanis Club. After the last float came all the kids on their bicycles decorated with streamers, bunting, flags, and all the patriotic paperwork we could muster. My friends and I would try to outdo each other, and it had less to do with patriotism than it did with seeing how many rolls of red, white, and blue crepe paper we could thread in between the spokes of our wheels.
I was about ten or so on one Memorial Day when I spent a lot of time getting my Schwinn Racer ready for the big parade. It was a perfect day; the sky was a sparkling spring blue and all the floats, cars, and fire trucks were gleaming in the sun as the parade organized on Indiana Avenue in front of the Memorial Hall. The high school band in their yellow and black uniforms marched in precision as the major led off with a Sousa tune, and as the parade slowly made its way down the avenue we could see the crowds along the sidewalks waiting and waving. As we waited our turn we wheeled our bikes in circles, just like the Shriners in their little go-karts, and finally we got the signal that it was time for the kids to roll. There was an organized rush to lead off, and then we were slowly pedaling down the street, waving to everybody outside the library, the Chevy dealership, even the people lined up on the roof of the pizza parlor. I looked for my dad shooting movies with the 8mm camera, but didn’t see him. Oh, well, it didn’t matter; we were supposed to meet at the home of friends who were hosting a post-parade picnic in their backyard. Their house was at the end of the parade route, so that was the perfect place to pull out of the parade and have the first of many Faygo Redpops that summer.
But for some reason I stayed with the parade, on down West Front, and then up West Boundary and past the gates of Fort Meigs Cemetery. The floats and the fire trucks were gone, but what was left of the parade — the color guard and the veterans — went through the gates and along the path. There was no music now, just a solemn drumbeat keeping a steady muffled tapping. The color guard turned at a small stone memorial, and then past it to a gravesite where a family was gathered; a mother in a black dress, a father in a grey suit, and a teenage son and daughter, looking somber and out of place. The grave was still fresh, the dirt mounded over, the headstone a simple marker with a flag. A minister spoke some words, and then the color guard snapped to attention. A volley of rifle fire, then Taps, and then a tall young soldier in dress blues handed a folded flag to the mother, who murmured her thanks and tried to smile.
I suddenly realized that I felt out of place there with my gaudily-patriotic bike and my red-white-and-blue striped shirt. No one noticed me, though, and when the people started to slowly move away from the gravesite and back to the entrance, I followed along until I was able to ride slowly back to our friends’ house, park my bike with all the others, and find my parents, who probably hadn’t even noticed that I was not there with all the other kids running around and playing on the lawn.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.
This post originally appeared on May 25, 2009.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the the victory of the Mexican Army over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It’s a big deal in Mexico and in parts of this country with a large Mexican population, like California, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico (where I had some of the best chile rellenos with enough green chile to take the top of your head off), although it meant more to some than others. I had a guy I worked with who was of Mexican descent who actually asked me, “Hey, when is Cinco de Mayo?” (We always suspected that he was a burrito shy of a full combo platter anyway.)
Here in South Florida, outside of Homestead with its large Mexican population (and some of the best food in the state), it’s not a big deal other than party time and a double margarita, the same way this multiethnic community deals with other national holidays like St. Patrick’s Day; we don’t really know why we celebrate it (as if defeating the French in a battle was like a huge military victory in the first place), but any excuse to eat and drink is good enough, so why fight it?
Pass the salsa.
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Happy Easter from my family, back in the time when we celebrated it. If you celebrate, have a happy day.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Happy Passover for those of you who celebrate.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Monday, February 18, 2013
Today is Presidents Day, the federal holiday mashed together to honor Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday which used to be holidays on their own. This one generically honors all presidents, and it’s a mid-winter break for schools and a day off for those of us who work in them. The only thing I have planned is a dental appointment later on this afternoon.
Things will be a little quiet around here.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Saturday, February 2, 2013
I’m not sure if it means a lot down here in Florida if the groundhog sees his shadow.
It’s also the day of the 12th annual Downtown Classic Car Show on Flagler Street in Miami hosted by the Miami Downtown Development Authority. The car club is hosting the event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bring your ride and for a small registration fee (funds go to the Olympia Theatre renovation), you can show off your car and have some fun.
See you there.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
This is one of the pieces that would echo through our house on Christmas Day as background music for the opening of gifts.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
A Father’s Journey — Frank Bruni talks about his relationship with his dad and being gay.
For a long while, my father’s way of coping was to walk quietly from the room. He doesn’t remember this. I do. I can still see it, still feel the pinch in my chest when the word “gay” came up — perhaps in reference to some event in the news, or perhaps in reference to me — and he’d wordlessly take his leave of whatever conversation my mother and my siblings and I were having. He’d drift away, not in disgust but in discomfort, not in a huff but in a whisper. I saw a lot of his back.
And I was grateful. Discomfort beat rejection. So long as he wasn’t pushing me away, I didn’t need him to pull me in. Heart-to-hearts weren’t his style, anyway. With Dad you didn’t discuss longings, anxieties, hurts. You watched football. You played cards. You went to dinner, you picking the place, him picking up the check. He always commandeered the check. It was the gesture with which he communicated everything he had trouble expressing in other ways.But at some point Dad, like America, changed. I don’t mean he grew weepy, huggy. I mean he traveled from what seemed to me a pained acquiescence to a different, happier, better place. He found peace enough with who I am to insist on introducing my partner, Tom, to his friends at the golf club. Peace enough to compliment me on articles of mine that use the same three-letter word that once chased him off. Peace enough to sit down with me over lunch last week and chart his journey, which I’d never summoned the courage to ask him about before.
It’s been an extraordinary year, probably the most extraordinary yet in this country’s expanding, deepening embrace of gays and lesbians as citizens of equal stature, equal worth. For the first time, an American president still in office stated his belief that two men or two women should be able to marry. For the first time, voters themselves — not lawmakers, not courts — made same-sex marriage legal. This happened on Election Day in three states all at once: Maine, Maryland and Washington. A corner was turned.
And over the quarter-century leading up to it, at a succession of newspapers in a succession of cities, I interviewed scores of people about the progress we were making and why. But until last week, I couldn’t bring myself to examine that subject with the person whose progress has meant the most to me: my dad.
In my case, my father and my mother have been the most giving, loving and supportive parents a son could wish for in his life’s journey. My father is the opposite of Mr. Bruni’s; loving, compassionate, free to display his emotions and give a hug, warm and giving to friends and lovers, open in his disdain for those who reject their gay children, and concerned above all with my happiness. I count the blessing every day that my parents are with me, always have been, put up with my fancies and dreams, and gave me the strength and courage to be who I am. In that simple way, they have done more for LGBT equality and freedom than all the campaigns and bumper stickers ever could. If I am ever a parent — hey, it could happen; I’m only 60 — I want to be just like them.
A Second Look — Jeffrey Toobin explains the Second Amendment for you.
Does the Second Amendment prevent Congress from passing gun-control laws? The question, which is suddenly pressing, in light of the reaction to the school massacre in Newtown, is rooted in politics as much as law.
For more than a hundred years, the answer was clear, even if the words of the amendment itself were not. The text of the amendment is divided into two clauses and is, as a whole, ungrammatical: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The courts had found that the first part, the “militia clause,” trumped the second part, the “bear arms” clause. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon.
Enter the modern National Rifle Association. Before the nineteen-seventies, the N.R.A. had been devoted mostly to non-political issues, like gun safety. But a coup d’état at the group’s annual convention in 1977 brought a group of committed political conservatives to power—as part of the leading edge of the new, more rightward-leaning Republican Party. (Jill Lepore recounted this history in a recent piece for The New Yorker.) The new group pushed for a novel interpretation of the Second Amendment, one that gave individuals, not just militias, the right to bear arms. It was an uphill struggle. At first, their views were widely scorned. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who was no liberal, mocked the individual-rights theory of the amendment as “a fraud.”
But the N.R.A. kept pushing—and there’s a lesson here. Conservatives often embrace “originalism,” the idea that the meaning of the Constitution was fixed when it was ratified, in 1787. They mock the so-called liberal idea of a “living” constitution, whose meaning changes with the values of the country at large. But there is no better example of the living Constitution than the conservative re-casting of the Second Amendment in the last few decades of the twentieth century.
The Christmas Letter — William L. Copithorne of The Atlantic examines the tradition of people you don’t know or care about telling you everything they did this year.
“I THINK we ought to write a Christmas letter this year,” my wife said at the breakfast table the other morning.
“A what?” I asked warily.
“A Christmas letter. You know, like the kind the Huggins send out to all their friends every year.”
I recalled the Huggins’ Christmas letters: five page mimeographed reports on family activities for the preceding year, with the simple greetings of the season all but buried.
I hurried off to work before my wife could pursue the subject any further, but, that evening she presented me with a packet of letters including not only the recent efforts of the Huggins hut Christmas letters other families had sent us as well.
“Now you read these and see if you don’t think it would be a good idea for us to do this instead of sending cards this Christmas,” she said.
One would have been enough, for the letters were indistinguishable in style and content. Posing innocently as Christmas greetings, they were actually unabashed family sagas. The writers touched lightly on the misfortunes which their families suffered during the year, dwelt gladly on happy events, and missed no opportunity for self congratulation.
I haven’t the slightest intention of writing a Christmas letter myself, but once I’d put a red or green ribbon in my typewriter, I’m sure I could turn one out in no time at all.
“OUR HOUSE TO YOURS!” is the standard beginning. Centered at the top of an 8 x 11″ sheet of paper, it spares the writer the nuisance of penning salutations on the hundred or more copies he will doubtless send out. The exclamation mark is the first of dozens that will be used. No Christmas letter averages fewer than eighteen “!’s,” “!!’s,” or “(!)’s” a page.
The opening sentence always starts with the word “Well.” “Well, here it is Christmas again!” is a favorite; or, “Well, hard as it is to realize, Christmas has rolled round once more!” A somewhat more expansive opening is “Well, Christmas finds us all one year older, but young as ever in the spirit of the Season!” Actually what is said is unimportant as long as the sentence starts with “Well,” and ends, of course, with an exclamation mark.
Doonesbury — They need women!
Friday, December 21, 2012
For me, school’s out until January 7, so things are going to be a little slower here as I enjoy my time with friends — both real and in literature — and get to sleep in a little.
I hope you get to do the same, or whatever it is that makes Christmas — if you celebrate it — and the New Year special for you. If you’re traveling, best wishes for a safe and uneventful journey.
Now that’s my idea of a Christmas tree.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The White House holiday card is out.
It was selected in a contest, and here’s the backstory on it.
You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Sure you do.
The inside of the card reportedly reads, ”This season, may your home be filled with family, friends, and the joy of the holidays.” The card is signed by the entire First Family — along with Bo’s paw print.
Vanity Fair deemed this year’s Obama ‘Holiday’ card his best-ever in a posting titled, “Bo Obama: the True Meaning of Christmas.”
The 2012 card made no mention of any specific holiday nor did it include a Bible verse noting the birth of Christ.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, while 80% of the people in this country may self-identify as some version of Christian, not everyone does, and the president and the White House is for everyone, not just them. Second, there are other holidays this time of year besides Christmas.
Friday, December 7, 2012
For the first night of Hanukkah (or Chanuka)…
Oops, a day early. Okay, I’ll put up something for it tomorrow night, too.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas in a religious fashion, I do like certain types of Christmas music, and to deepen the irony, I prefer the religious Christmas music — the carols and the anthems — over the jingly tinkly stuff that overpopulates the commercials. I will take a good choral arrangement with brass of “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” over some muzaked rendering of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” or “Jingle Bells” any day. (Exception: I love a good rendition of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”)
I think the reason is because the composers of those carols and hymns were doing it out of a genuine act of faith — or being paid by people who wanted to express it — so they put their heart and soul into coming up with something that glorified their belief, as opposed to driving people to shop at Wal-Mart. Songs that celebrate the holiday but skirt around the actual reason for it — the birth of Jesus — are trying to be inoffensive to those of us who don’t go in for the whole Son of God bit. But in doing so, all you get is a sentiment to celebrate something without a whole lot of meaning. So when you hear “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” or Nat King Cole croon “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” all you’re getting is the wrapping. And if you’re really going to celebrate the holiday — even if you aren’t Christian — you might as well go for the real reason and sing about the First Noel. For one thing, the music is a lot better.
By the way, I never understood why songs that celebrate the season without mentioning Christmas at all — i.e. “Winter Wonderland” and “Let It Snow” — are considered Christmas songs and get bounced off the playlist after New Years. Take it from someone who’s lived in snow country, winter lasts a hell of a lot longer than the final football bowl game. I suspect that by the time you’ve put away all the decorations and shoveled the driveway for the fifth time in a day, that “winter wonderland” has you looking at Travelocity for a flight to Miami.
Monday, November 26, 2012
For a lot of people — myself included — today is back-to-work day after the long Thanksgiving weekend. That means that the leftovers are finally consumed or tossed, the kitchen and dining area cleaned up, and now it’s time turn attention toward — or away from — the onrushing holidays coming up in the next month: Hanukkah (starting December 8), Christmas, New Years, Kwanzaa, Festivus, and whatever else they can make up to get us to spend money. This is when the TiVo fast-forward or mute button gets a workout to get past the commercials.
Hey, I’m all in favor of capitalism, and I’m glad to see that people are going out and shopping; that means the economy is improving, right? I’m not so crazy about the stories of people getting shot, pepper-sprayed, Tazered, trampled, or beaten over the last on-sale HDTV at BrandSmart, though, and if the “spirit of the season” means that people are getting shitfaced and then driving around with their BAC at twice the legal limit, then I’d rather they were doing it at home while It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story was running in cycles on TV.
In the words of the immortal Phil Esterhaus, “Let’s be careful out there.”