Wednesday, September 20, 2023


I don't know about you but every morning when I wake up I have to re-calibrate my attitude after assessing my situation. Here are my realizations and responses:

Still blind -- Damn

Not totally blind -- Yay, I guess

Today's gonna be hard -- Ugh. But at least I'm not dead

This dialogue happens every day. My mind needs to do it because, in dreams, my vision is perfect. Asleep, my brain hasn't caught up to reality. Then I open my eyes and it spins up-to-speed.

Friday, September 15, 2023


Bad things are unbearable

until they aren't.

We get used to new situations

no matter how hard.

Expectations about life

adjust like a thermostat

controlled by someone else.

Thursday, August 31, 2023


Tales of tenacity inspire us. Hearing how others endured terrible trauma and overcame hardship give us hope. We learn how potent determination can be when facing adversity.

A story of tenacity touched my life when I was young and I've carried it with me for half a century. There's a lesson in the story.

In 1980 I was in my second year of law school (BU). I took an elective course on Entertainment Law. The class was taught by a then-unknown local businessman; his name was Sumner Redstone.

Sumner was a visiting professor; this was the only class he taught. Sumner's business career began when he joined his father's company after serving with distinction in the military during World War II.

Sumner's father owned a small chain of movie theaters in Boston (National Amusement). During our class Sumner candidly explained the economic structure of the entertainment industry. Movie studios historically used their power -- in violation of antitrust law -- to dominate that industry. They profited unfairly by exploiting movie distributors and exhibitors. 

Unknown to most customers, movie theaters are owned by small businesses, not the studios. Because studios control whether to give or withhold popular films they can extract up to 90% of box-office revenue from exhibitors who have to settle for scraps. The only real income theater-owners make is from food concessions, which explains why theaters sell popcorn and soda at inflated prices and are strict about not letting in outside food.

In the 1940s the U.S. Dept. of Justice recognized this blatant violation of antitrust law and sued movie studios. It agreed to a Consent Order designed to re-structure the industry. Studios, however, retained their power and kept repeatedly violating the Consent Order. The Justice Department went back to court several times to enforce the Order but with little success.

Sumner Redstone realized he belonged to the weakest part of the entertainment industry. Famously declaring "Content is king," Sumner plotted a path to power. With strength and cunning Sumner acquired new businesses that enabled him to wrest control of several huge media companies. He ended up owning CBS (television), Paramount Pictures (movies), Blockbuster Video (video) and Viacom (distribution). As a result Sumner became a multi-billionaire with a net worth of $2,600,000,000.00. His extensive influence made him one of the biggest media magnates in the world. His business moves were chronicled in the press and lauded by industry observers.

This, however, is not the core of the story. It wasn't merely Sumner's rise from humble origin to big success that makes him notable. Sumner faced an earlier -- more tragic -- event that we should focus our attention upon.

We return to my personal involvement in this story. It was 1980, my second year in law school. Sumner was teaching his only course and I was rapt in it. Halfway through the seminar Sumner brought up a controversial subject about which I was uncommonly knowledgeable: i.e., pornography. 

Sumner offered the traditional view that confuses pornography with erotica and concludes obscenity law is unenforceable due to vagueness. Like innumerable speakers before him Sumner said we can't define pornography. He quoted Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who famously wrote, "I know it when I see it."

At the time I was active in radical feminist politics and supporting a new legal initiative on pornography devised by Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon. That effort specifically and importantly defined pornography, something Sumner said couldn't be done.

The lecture was held in a large auditorium. I sat in the back, far away from the teacher. After sparring with Sumner on this topic in classroom discussion I approached him after class to continue our debate. I wanted to inform him about new ideas of which he obviously hadn't heard.

When I reached the podium I was stunned. I noticed Sumner's hands and forearms were horribly disfigured; they looked like claws. I couldn't see his injury from my seat. I later learned the tale behind it.

A decade earlier Sumner had been in an upper-story hotel room at the Copley Hotel (Boston) when a fire broke out. The fire raged and he had no where to escape. Sumner retreated to a balcony and clung to its railing. Fire burned the flesh off his hands and arms while he hung on for dear life. Many people, suffering the intense pain, would have let go and dropped to their death. Sumner did not; he hung onto the railing until firefighters were able to rescue him. In his autobiography Sumner attributes his survival to his "sheer will to live."

After the fire Sumner faced more challenges. His injuries required 30 hours of extensive surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was warned he would never be able to live a normal life. Eight years later, however, Sumner was fit enough to play tennis every day. He pursued a disciplined regimen of physical exercise. It was around then that Sumner began teaching at BU. Later he went on to become a billionaire and media mogul.

Sumner lived to 97 years old; he died in 2020. Sumner lived 50 years past a day when he could have easily fallen to his death. During that half-century he not only salvaged his health, he succeeded to an extraordinary degree. Few achieve heights as rarefied as the one he reached. 

I find inspiration in this story. Sumner, through strong determination and grit, survived trauma and overcame terrible injury. That day in class when I saw up close what Sumner was living with, I was truly shocked. I couldn't imagine going through life so handicapped. And he not only persevered, he prospered.

I've written here before that there are moments in life when we face only two options: struggle or surrender. Those capable of fighting deserve applause. Such effort is virtually superhuman. I know how indescribably hard it is.

In 2012 Sumner donated $18 million to Boston University School of Law, funding construction of a five-story classroom structure now called the Sumner M. Redstone Building. Future students will benefit from Sumner's struggle; some might even learn about it.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Fine Art

At the beginning of the year I had passions and plans. Then everything crashed. Now I'm picking up pieces and seeing what I can salvage of my dreams. The news is good and bad.

A few days ago I did a necessary but painful thing: I moved my motorcycle gear from our front-door closet to storage in the basement. My leather jackets, my riding boots, my helmets -- objects I know as intimately as my arms and legs. As I held them, a wave of grief rose up and overwhelmed me. My chest heaved and my lungs started to howl. HOWL. Loud and uncontrollably. I'm surprised nobody called the cops.

Memories of motorcycle adventures crossed my mind and I realized, with profound sadness, that there will be no more. That thought crushed me. It still depresses me.

On a positive note I am turning my attention to fine art. Art was a major source of joy for me in the past and something I'd planned to pursue in the future. Some might ask "How can a blind guy appreciate VISUAL art?" The answer is: I'm not totally blind, just visually impaired. I can look at something and see part of it. If there's time I can move my head around and take in the rest of the view. With static objects (like glass art) this is possible. With moving objects (like film) it isn't. Images on a screen flash by faster than I can comprehend them.

I returned to researching artists working in glass and spoke several times to my principal art advisor. I just discovered a new artist whom I admire, Anja Isphording. Born in Germany Anja now lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. She has decades of success mastering a difficult technical process called "lost wax." The process is laborious; it takes Anja up to two months to make a single artwork. 

I like how Anja's art explores shapes from nature without literally reproducing them. You sense her imaginatory leaps which are subject to individual interpretation.

Anja's exhibiting her latest work at a gallery in Manhattan. I'm going there next week to select a piece for my collection. With glass it's important to see work in person; two-dimensional pictures don't depict them accurately. 

The prospect of returning to art cheers me up. Sitting in a pile of broken dreams I need that emotional boost.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Movie DVDs


Netflix is ending its DVD-by-mail service next month. I'm sad to see it go. 

People used to ask me why I still had the service after streaming started. My answer was simple: Netflix's DVD library is huge and contains many films that aren't available elsewhere, especially older, artistic or foreign works.

I just looked at the stats in my account and they're very interesting. I began the service in 2003, twenty years ago. Since then I've watched 2,272 films. That averages to 113 movies a year -- or one movie every three days. And nine a month.

That's a lot of movies! How much do you watch on average?

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Pee-Wee Herman

I've got good news for those of you who aren't familiar with Pee-wee Herman's cinematic ouvre. There's a surprise in it.

Pee-wee hit the big time in 1985 with his masterpiece, "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure." Directed by Tim Burton, the film is an all-time classic. It has as many memorable lines as "Casablanca," as much humor as "The Big Lebowsky" and uniquely quirky characters. I've seen it two dozen times and watched it again this week. The film holds up.

Soon after that film Pee-wee released a movie so bad we don't speak of it. Ssshhh...

The surprise is that thirty years after his first two movies, Pee-wee made a final film, "Pee-Wee's Big Holiday." Almost as good as his masterpiece, "Big Holiday" is currently available on Netflix. The most remarkable thing about the film is that at the time it was made (2016) Pee-wee (Paul Reubens) was 64 years old. 64!! And he looks exactly the same as he did thirty years earlier. Makeup helped but you have to admire someone who can do physical comedy at that age rivaling work in his prime.

The theme of "Big Holiday" is Pee-wee's friendship with actor Joe Manganiello (playing himself). Joe rides into town on a loud motorcycle, befriends Pee-wee at the diner where Pee-wee works and then takes him for a ride. Joe later invites Pee-wee to his birthday party in New York City -- encouraging Pee-wee to experience life on open road as he travels there: 

Pee-wee Herman: I've never each been on an airplane.
Joe Manganiello: No! The only thing you're gonna learn about yourself on a plane is if you like the honey-roasted peanuts better than the plain salted. If you're really hungry, the open road is a smorgasbord of life experience. A few days on the open road is worth a lifetime in Fairville. Way I see it, Pee-wee Herman, you got a choice to make. Stick around here or live a little... [Joe revs his motorcycle engine]

Pee-wee takes Joe's advice, hits the road and has a series of amusing, impossible adventures. He's taken hostage by three female bank-robbers, sees the world's scariest snake, gets taken to the wedding chapel by a farmer with nine daughters and a shotgun, jumps out of a plunging airplane, etc. 

It's a real Pee-wee film!

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The Journey Back

I'm working with half of one eye. Not a full eye, just half. My vision flows through a single, narrow tunnel. I see only what's at the center of that and nothing to either side. My eyesight is also permanently dark, like being trapped in a bad nightclub.

I recently learned how to compensate for peripheral impairment by continuously rotating my head side-to-side. That's how I become aware of surroundings I'm unable to see directly.

To maintain my physical and emotional health I go on long walks, usually along the busiest road on Long Island (Route 110). (I live adjacent to it.) During walks I'm regularly threatened by 3,000 lb. creatures with tiny brains. These fat insects don't obey traffic signals and fly through intersections without slowing down. To stay safe I deploy sophisticated strategies devised to combat brainless bugs.

I travel as a pedestrian the same way I used to ride motorcycles -- with guts and grit. Anything less is hazardous. You need to display courage to convince reckless bugs to back off. They sense confidence the same way they sense fear: if they see you hesitate for an instant they charge right into your path. They're emboldened by their large size.

Robin thinks I'm crazy to play in traffic with half an eye. I respond that this is a pre-existing condition. I've been doing it (safely) my whole life and fiercely crave independence. 

At this moment I'm sipping expresso in a Starbucks a mile away from my house. I walked here and will walk home. I'm steeped in euphoria no less than if I'd summited a mountain. Three months ago I laid in a nadir of despair, totally blind and unable to imagine the future. Since then I climbed out of that existential pit, examined my diminished circumstances, crafted practical solutions and pursued all opportunities with vigor. The psychological distance between that despair and my present elation is immense. As bugs pass by me on the road they don't notice my real journey but it happened. Seen or unseen.

Monday, August 7, 2023


I saw "Barbie" today in a theater. Well, "saw" isn't exactly accurate but you know what I mean.

The film is superb and deserves its critical acclaim. It has surprisingly smart content delivered with sharp writing for intellectuals in the audience and pretty actors in lavish song-and-dance routines for the rest of the crowd. The movie hits all bases with exceptional execution.

Many aspects of the film are unexpected such as cameos and philosophical digressions. It'd spoil things to describe them so you'll have to see for yourself. This is a film everyone will be talking about and a cultural reference point.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart was one of the finest actors in cinematic history. He made dozeof films in varied genres. My favorite four are listed below. 

Unlike Bogart's famous gangster movies, the first three are romances and the fourth is a comedy. An unexpected comedy.

1. "Casablanca" (with Ingrid Bergman)

2. "The African Queen" (with Katherine Hepburn)

3. "To Have and Have Not" (with Lauren Bacall)

4. "We're No Angels" (Bogart leads a trio of escaped convicts)

Have you seen any of these? What's your favorite Bogart movie?

No, that's not Humphrey; it's me as his most famous character on Halloween (Rick).

Monday, July 31, 2023

True Love

Tiny but powerful, my mother possessed influence. Barbara Jo managed both our family and a larger social circle. Her friends were charming people with exotic names, names no longer fashionable. Like Gertrude and Walter, Cliff and Muriel, Frank and Edith. Born in the 1930s these people prospered in post-War America. My favorite name among them was Willie Wenker, a German immigrant who founded a successful fuel oil company. Willie Wenker -- it slides out of your mouth as if poetry.

Barbara Jo felt fierce commitment to our family. After raising two boys my parents moved to Florida where they settled into a comfy new home. My mother's final years (1985-1991) were spent relaxing in well-earned leisure. During that period she regularly mailed me monthly checks, unsolicited gifts designed to ease my financial situation. It was the beginning of my law career and I could use support. 

My first legal job was found after a long, desperate search. My boss, an exploitive tyrant, paid me the least he figured he could get away with in tough market conditions ($10,000/year). I later discovered our secretary was making more money than I was.

The monthly gifts from my mother were appreciated. In addition to enabling me to enjoy a slightly better life-style her checks represented something else: reminder of her maternal love. Emotionally the mail erased geographical distance between us.  Envelopes arrived with the reliable frequency of a Swiss timepiece.

Near the end of my mother's life she struggled with physical pain from cancer. She never complained and refused to even acknowledge her illness. The only clue was her new wigs and turbans. Barbara Jo was stoic and strong to the end.

Checks from my mom were written in a steady hand -- the same hand that had cradled me as an infant, fed me as a child and led me through life. I viewed her steady hand as a pillar, something always there that could be counted on. As certain as the Sun rose in the morning, my mother's love existed and sustained me.

Then, suddenly, something happened. One day I casually opened my mail and saw a check written in shaky handwriting, manifestly unlike its predecessors. This check stopped me in my tracks. Looking at it I shuddered. The check's paper, account, amount and envelope were all same as usual but my mother's infirm hand betrayed her deteriorating health. I realized she couldn't really write any more and had slowly, painfully forced herself to spell out my name letter-by-letter in a heroic act of devotion. A last, significant act powered by sheer will. 

I'll never forget that check or its significance. Barbara Jo taught us to care deeply and be Herculean in our devotion to loved ones. I honor her by following that example and spreading her lesson. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Riding Through The Storm

Have you missed me?

I've been struggling with my eyesight for the past five months. Initially my blindness was called a temporary, normal effect of illness. Later it was misdiagnosed by an optometrist as cataracts (which can be easily fixed). Then an ophthalmologist corrected that mistake and announced the condition is glaucoma, not cataracts. Glaucoma causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve and permanent blindness. 

Glaucoma has already destroyed all vision in my left eye. We're trying to save my right eye from the same fate. Five eye doctors are treating me, including specialists like a neuro-ophthalmologist and a renowned eye surgeon. 

I took powerful glaucoma medications for months. They had horrible side-effects: e.g., constant nausea, erratic sleep, digestive distress. I lost 20 lbs. and now need new belts.

The medication helped the glaucoma but not enough so I then began a series of eye operations. The first surgery (laser iriodomy) drilled two holes in my head. Literally -- the doctor used a laser-beam and drilled new holes in my head. That certainly wasn't on my Bingo card. The surgery helped a little but not enough. Glaucoma was still causing dangerously high pressure in my eye and threatening total blindness.

Last month I had two more surgeries in a single operation. One installed a drainage-shaft shunt in my eye-socket. The combined operation took over five hours and was excruciatingly painful. The surgeon kept me awake and used only local anesthesia. He did that so I could assist him by moving my eye during the procedure. He sewed fifteen filaments onto my eyeball to anchor the shunt. The pain was worse than anything I've ever expeerienced -- including the time I laid dying on a cold roadway twenty years ago after being knocked off my motorcycle by a reckless motorist. (During that trauma I struggled to breathe despite four broken ribs and a collapsed lung.)

In this operation the surgeon also removed my eye's natural lens and replaced it with a new artificial one. I was given official laminated cards for explaining to TSA/security in the future why I have multiple foreign objects inside my head.

Nobody knows how well these treatments will work. I'm trying to avoid despair and instead focus on re-building my life. There are many practical adjustments available to improve things.

I couldn't have made it this far without extensive assistance from Robin. She transports me to doctor appointments (2-3 each  week), puts drops in my eyes (5-6 each day) and leads me by the hand through grocery stores. Robin even learned how to help with cooking: she's now a talented sous-chef which surprised her as much as you. 

Poor eyesight makes everything difficult. At first I couldn't put toothpase on my brush and had to figure out a work-around. You're also vulnerable to injury from collision with poles, objects, pedestrians and moving cars. I have bruises to prove this. 

We never know what's ahead of us and life can sometimes become very hard. When it does the only choices are struggle or surrender. That's where I am today.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

"How Good It Feels"


I know what it's like to be loved

I know how well it feels

I know what it's like to have someone to love

To share the air they breathe

And I know what it's like when they leave

I know what it's like to be young

I know what it's like to be free

I know what it's like to be out in front

I know what it's like to climb trees

And drop like falling leaves

I know what it's like to be hurt

I know what it's like to bleed

I know what it's like to be misunderstood

And know the truth concealed


I know what it's like to be lost

Crying in the swirling crowd

I know what it's like when a hand comes...

And lifts me off the ground

I know what it's like to be found...

- Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam (2023)

  "How Good It Feels" (Excerpt)


Friday, June 16, 2023

Cat Stevens

I've been listening to a lot of music lately. (Connect the dots.) I mean really listening to it -- as we did in the Seventies. Back then spinning vinyl was done with serious purpose: we treated albums as art and studied them closely.

Most of my current listening has been to half-century old vinyl but today is an exception. Months ago I pre-ordered the latest album by Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam). It was released today and I got both digital and records versions

There are very few musicians whom I'll buy an unheard album from but Yusuf is one of them. His songs are magical, full of beauty and mysticism.

"King Of A Land" doesn't disappoint. Its songs are sweet and melodic with lyrics that are deep. Yusuf's voice is as strong as ever. You'd never guess he's 74 years old and that it's been 56 years since his first album. Yusuf spent a decade creating this collection of songs and that care shows. Critics (and I) are praising it as mature, interesting work.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

On Life And Death

One of the great writers of our time, David Foster Wallace, delivered a highly influential speech in 2005. Three years later, when he was only 46 years old, Wallace killed himself. 

Wallace's masterpiece novel, "Infinite Jest," has been acclaimed one of the best novels of the last hundred years. Wallace and his work are universally lauded. A writing class is taught on his ouvre at Harvard, a literary Society and professional Journal are devoted to his writing and a movie was made about his life. When he was young Wallace tried but abandoned a doctorate program at Harvard because it bored him: Wallace explained that philosophy requires only "50% of his brain" whereas creative writing uses "97%."

So what did David Foster Wallace talk about in his famous speech? He advanced two important positions. The first is that our "default setting," installed at birth, is our natural but mistaken belief that we are the center of the universe. If we consider ourselves and our interests as the sole focal point of all experience, we miss seeing reality outside our heads. Wallace illustrates this and how it leads to distorted, numb existence.

His second position points a way out of this dilemma. "I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about 'the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master'."

French philosopher Albert Camus, of whom I've written in the past, believed the only true question for us is: why not suicide? "There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide." Camus saw the question arising naturally as a solution to the absurdity of life.

Camus, unlike David Foster Wallace and most of us, witnessed the carnage and destruction of World War II first-hand. He fought the Nazis as a member of the French Resistance. If anyone was entitled to be a Gloomy Gus, it was Camus. Horrifying experiences inflicted existential despair on millions of war-time survivors.

Like Wallace, Camus was also widely admired. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Two years later Camus died: he was 46 years old, the same age Wallace was at his death.

I have no urge toward suicide. I confess that on dark days I sometimes lose the will to live -- but that's categorically different from actively extinguishing one's existence. I view life as too precious a gift, even when damaged by injured senses, to go to the Return Counter. I'll exploit my opportunity for experience, as limited as it now is, without moaning What Has Happened To Me? (the default setting Wallace warns us about). Let's see what the future holds for all of us.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Things You Don't Expect

I had two new holes drilled in my head this week. Literally. Two new physical holes were drilled in my head. Their purpose is to create drainage for circulating eye fluids.

This ranks among The Things I Never Expected. It joins removal of a chunk of my tongue (2018) and having a tube jammed into my chest (without anesthesia) to inflate a collapsed lung (2002). As Pee-Wee Herman says, "They don't teach you this stuff in school."

I could tell you about the laser iridotomy but don't have energy or enthusiasm for that. I've been sleeping all day and night since it happened Thursday. While I hope this will be the last eye surgery I need, that's unrealistic: I'll likely need more -- and that stuff is even worse. Right now I want to physically and emotionally recover before facing anything further.  

When I was a child my family ate dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. I was excited to get a fortune cookie that predicted I'd have "an eventful life." If only I'd realized...

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Stanley Cup Finals

Hockey News: Well, we now know who'll play in the finals for the Stanley Cup -- Florida Panthers against Las Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas is given a slight edge but neither team has ever won the Stanley Cup before. First game of the series is Saturday night (8pm).

I'm rooting for the Panthers for an emotional reason. You always like the team that beat the team that beat your team. The Devils were eliminated in the playoffs by the Hurricanes so it was nice to see the Canes later get trounced by the Cats. Plus the biggest surprise of the year was Florida's defeat of Boston in the first round. The Bruins had set records in the regular season so nobody saw their defeat coming. 

Some friends have noticed my hair lately. It's part of my plan to become a pro hockey player. Players call long hair "flow" (as in, "Nice flow!"). I figure once I get flow, I'll learn how to skate and the rest will be easy.

Go Cats!

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Turning A Corner

As you know my eye situation is dire. It's not going to get better; we're fighting to keep it from getting worse. But there is some good news.

My closest friends have been listening to me privately whine in despair. I've been naturally depressed given the cold water this unexpected predicament splashes on my future. Lately though, for the first time, I had two good dreams. 

Two nights ago I dreamt I was with my beloved mother. (She died in 1991.) We couldn't talk but she was there. I felt her palpable presence and could even hug her. That felt really good. 

Then last night I dreamt I had a chance meeting with a famous comedian right outside his TV studio. We intuitively clicked, went inside and did an unplanned, funny comedy skit. It brought down the house with laughter. The dream made me happy I can still entertain people, even if only in my dreams.

Do you ever dream about seeing deceased family members?

Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Rodeo

My current illness is like riding a bronco. I'm dealing with a powerful, feral beast. Some days I hang on and others I get bucked into dirt of despair.

This morning I saw a neuro-ophthalmologist, my fifth eye doctor. Last night I felt a little nervous so I reflexively joked, "Well, what's the worst that can happen?!"

Wrong question. I'm now scheduled for a MRI to check for brain tumors. 

The bronco wins again.

Saturday, May 13, 2023


 Hi friends,

It's been a roller-coaster of emotion for me this week. After spending years planning fun retirement full of adventure and joy I find myself facing crushing disappointment. I'm struggling to re-gain my emotional balance and figure out how I can salvage a dire situation.

I began having eye problems in February around Valentine's Day. I thought they were temporary and would get better. They didn't. I spoke to friend who's an optometrist and she assured me it was a condition that isn't serious (cataracts) for which there's an easy remedy (cataract-surgery which replaces your eye's lens with a new plastic one). She referred me to an ophthalmologist who, Wednesday morning, delivered devastating news -- I don't have cataracts; instead, I have a horrible disease that usually leads to total blindness. Called "neo-vascular glaucoma" the disease causes the eye to create visual obstructions that can't be fixed and raise the eye's pressure to dangerous levels. (I didn't know our eyes have pressure but they do.) When I went in and was being tested, the doctor was greatly alarmed: normal eye pressure is 10-20 mmHg; mine was over 60. After checking the pressure three times he gave me medication and made me wait an hour to see if it helped. He was getting ready to conduct emergency eye surgery if it didn't.

Fortunately the medication worked and my eye pressure lowered. Bad news is damage to my left eye (which I thought was a cataract that could be fixed) is irreversible. That eye is now gone; its vision is permanently destroyed. We fighting to save the right eye from being lost the same way.

I believe and hope we'll win this battle. If so, I'll be able to salvage some of my future plans. I can't imagine life being totally blind. I can live with one eye; I can't conceive of living with no eyes. Vision is essential to almost everything we do and necessary for most activities and pleasures.

I want to ride my motorcycles, walk in nature, take photographs and appreciate fine art. I want to read great books and think about ideas. I want to be free and mobile, able to visit friends and travel. At bare minimum I want to look into people's faces and see if they're smiling or frowning. I don't want to be pitied or ignored.

If you have empathy and want to offer support, now is the time. I'm in the battle of my life. I've never felt as threatened and sad.

Monday, May 8, 2023


Throughout my life art has been a salve, medicine for soothing harsh reality. I turn to art in bad times, like when health suddenly dives off a high cliff. As one waits to hit water, wondering if it'll be deep and free of rocks, art calms down flailing emotion. Or, if that isn't possible, at least it gives context for acceptance.

My current visual incapacity renders painting, sculpture and film unhelpful, indistinct blurs. I had two foreign movies lined up but couldn't read their subtitles and don't speak French so they were a bust.

Fortunately music has no visual component. Music can portray wide range of emotion. And skilled performance can elevate a listener's mood. I'm searching my catalog of vinyl for some solace. One song in particular speaks to me right now.

The Allman Brothers Band, at their artistic peak, was popular and accomplished. The band broke through with "At Filmore East," a concert recorded live in New York (1971). The album is considered one of the finest live records of all time. Sadly Duane Allman died later that year in a motorcycle accident and bassist Berry Oakley died the following year in another motorcycle accident. Their performances are now irreplaceable.

During the concert the band does a 23-minute version of "Whipping Post," a classic song with amazing stretches of instrumental play. The band explores exotic places in the sonic realm; you never expect them to travel there. Riffs, as wild as jazz flights, are tight: the whole band plays together, making sharp, cohesive turns. As you listen, you lose yourself in the surreal excursions. Guitar and drums magically conjure up imaginative land where hearts can grow.

On "Whipping Post" Duane sings plaintively with palpable feeling. The song resonates with me right now, voicing my anguish.

Sometimes I feel

Sometimes I feel

Like I've been tied to the whippin' post

Tied to the whippin' post

Good Lord, I feel like I'm dyin'

Thursday, May 4, 2023


Sage minds of the past figured out something fundamental we often lose sight of in our world of modern distractions.
Two centuries ago Emily Dickinson advised: "Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough." A hundred years earlier Jonathan Swift wrote: "May you live every day of your life."
Today is an opportunity, a gift. Treat it with mindfulness and gratitude.

There's an instructive story behind this picture. I took it at the site of the former World's Fair in Queens, NY a few years ago. I was using one of my vintage cameras for the first time. Looking for the best angle I walked around and around the Unisphere, staring at it from every perspective. Intently focused on that singular task I failed to see a crack in the pavement that caught my foot. I tumbled hard and tore skin off my left knee and hands. The camera flew 10 feet away. The place was empty so there was nobody around to help me. I just laid on the cold ground for a while, bleeding and trying to manage considerable pain.
The morale of the story is -- take a wide view of your life. Don't focus too intensely on one thing and miss other stuff around you.

Friday, April 21, 2023


Aging comes for all of us. Being in denial won't shield you from its destruction.

My time has arrived. "Batter's up!" 

For several months recently I lived with profound existential dread. I pondered what my life would be like without activities that give me joy. No motorcycle-riding, no reading and writing, no outdoor communing with nature. I wondered what the point of living would be if I couldn't appreciate fine art, savor conversation with friends or see a small child's smile?

In hindsight that reaction was extreme but you'll be surprised where your mind goes when it feels threatened. Contemplating a future without vision led me to dark places.

This is not a woe-is-me personal essay; rather, I want to alert you to the certainty that at some point in your life you'll start losing your sensory abilities. It's inevitable and the result of natural aging. I asked my doctor yesterday why my eyesight has deteriorated and she confessed science doesn't always know. It could be residual effects of damage to my body caused by chickenpox a half-century ago; it could be biological changes from the COVID I contracted last September; it also could be viral impacts from the RSV I caught two months ago. Our bodies are complex, fragile systems that can endure only so much before, at a critical point, collapsing. My present condition is likely a multi-factored consequence of simply existing as a biological organism for six decades.

This fate comes for us no matter how much we try to prevent it. My persistent, long-standing efforts at maintaining health and strength through good diet (mostly vegetarian with lots of unprocessed food), regular exercise, etc. carried me only so far. It took me farther than neglect would have but not far enough to the land of immortality we all fantasize of reaching.

For three months last Fall I was almost completely-blind. I struggled with that condition emotionally as well as physically. I fortunately recovered most of my vision in November but then was whacked with RSV in Febuary. That illness plunged me again into complete darkness. Fully blind for a month, my eyesight slightly improved in March but then hit a plateau -- and not an adequate one. 

Currently I can see only about 20%, am blinded by sunlight and have clouds in my eyes obstructing vision. I can't see clearly beyond five feet. I can't drive or ride a motorcycle. I can barely read with the assistance of high magnification and dimmed brightness. 

Normal life alters starkly when your senses become impaired. Every day I spill things when trying to make a cup of tea or daily food. I got a bad burn on my hand while cooking. I bump into product-displays shopping local stores. I've come dangerously close several times to getting hit by cars walking outdoors. Experiences like this are new and unwelcome.

How do we react to life-altering change? Usually not well. Just before John Fetterman achieved his life's goal of becoming a U.S. Senator (D.Penn.), he suffered a stroke that affected his ability to hear and process words. That, in turn, caused him to fall into deep, clinical depression. Fetterman stopped eating, stopped getting out of bed and gave up on doing normal stuff. His family pushed him into month-long rehabilitation where medication and psychological care pulled him out of despair. Fetterman's now attempting to return to duty in the Senate. He still suffers sensory impairment but, with auditory equipment and familial support, is finding a way to enjoy life again.

Some of us can do that (with or without professional help), some of us can't. When I was young I couldn't imagine why anyone would ever kill themselves. Now I do. Viscerally. When what makes life meaningful and pleasant for you is taken away, cruelly and often suddenly, what's left to live for? It takes a lot of imagination and fortitude to forge past that gauntlet. Not all of us have it. You'll find out yourself some day and I hope it's late in life, like your 90s, and not earlier like your 60s (or worse).

This report from Down The Road We'll All Travel has a point: i.e., appreciate your good health. Today. Mindfully be grateful for your ability to do simple tasks like make coffee. Or watch a hockey game. Don't somnambulate through the good years or you'll regret it when good turns to bad. Sadly, it inevitably will. Taste and savor every day, starting now.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

More Hockey

I hope I've enticed you a little to watch some hockey. Playoff games start next week and they're always intense. Stakes are high, reputations are made, and the excitement is palpable.

One way into the sport is to learn who a team's star-player is and then watch him. Even when he's not near the puck he'll be doing something purposeful. You'll grasp this as you see plays unfold.

To "hit the back of the net" and not the "pipe" you should learn some hockey lingo. It's fun and you'll suddenly understand what the heck the announcers are saying.

- "Hit the back of the net" - Score a goal. You'll hear this said a dozen times every game

- "Pipe" - A metal goal-post. It clangs when struck by a biscuit 

- 1st/2nd/3rd "frame" - Frame means period; there are three, each 20 minutes long

- "Barn" - The arena where the game is played. Beloved home-ice

- "Biscuit" - The puck. "Please pass me the biscuit" is communicated by banging your stick on the ice

- "Bucket" - A player's helmet. Comes off during fights 

- "Chirping" - Talking trash to an opponent to disrupt his concentration. "Does the coach know you're out here?"

- "Sweater" - A player's jersey. Fans wear replicas which are absurdly expensive

- "Five-hole" - The space between a goalie's legs. An embarrassing place for a shot to go through. Oops!

- "Flow" - A player's long hair, gloriously cascading out the back of his bucket

- "Spitting Chiclets" - A player getting his teeth knocked out. Devils veteran Ondřej Palát had it happen to him a month ago. Ondřej caught a high stick in the mouth during the second period. He went into the locker-room, had his mouth stitched up and returned to the ice in the third period to score another goal. Hockey players are tough!

Wednesday, April 5, 2023


This has been a magical season for the New Jersey Devils -- they reached the playoffs for the first time in many years. During those years the team usually ended up in last place. (I rooted for them nonetheless.) Now the Devils are poised for glory.

At the start of this season odds for the Devils making it to the Stanley Cup finals were 5,000 to 1. Today, they're 6 to 1. Amazing play and surprising success changed everyone's view of the team. They're now respected for youthful energy, incredible speed and advanced skills. The Devils set an all-time NHL record for most wins in one month (eleven in November).

The regular season ends next week and playoffs follow. It'll be exciting so tune in and cheer with me.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

April Fool's Day Joke

Another April Fool's Day, another successful April Fool's joke.

Most of my past April Fool's jokes have been visual pranks -- a squirrel invading our home through an open window (plush animal), a scary man in a trench-coat and hat peering through a backyard window (mannequin), a four-foot tall pirate ship in the bathtub (inflated balloon). 

This year I thought it'd be fun to try something different -- an auditory prank. One using sound. You have to keep your target off-balance. Since Robin expects a joke today and is on high-alert looking for one, I can't repeat myself.

So I found a YouTube video of a cat meowing loudly. I snuck into the basement and put my computer under the stairs. Then pressed "play" and went upstairs to watch television.

Ten minutes later Robin walks into the room, stops and says 

"Do you hear something?"

"I don't hear anything."

"Really? Listen! I hear a cat. Don't you hear that?"


Robin checks the windows. Opens the front and back door. Then she narrows her search at the basement door.

"Ralph! There's an ANIMAL in the basement!!"

"Let's go down and take a look.'

I descend the stairs while Robin follows me. She tentatively comes halfway down.

"Don't worry" I say, "it's probably just an April Fool's joke."

Robin face turned from scared to agitated in an instant. Then the cursing started...

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Understanding Your Parents

I just solved a mystery that'd confused me for decades.

In childhood we see but don't always understand our parents' behavior. Their motivations often elude us. That was the case when I observed my normally-thrifty mother spend money every year buying sets of uncirculated coins from the U.S. Mint. The "United States Proof Sets," encased in plastic, include that year's penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar and dollar. I discovered dozens of these in my father's belongings recently when cleaning out his stuff.

As a child I was a coin-collector myself so the concept of collecting coins wasn't foreign to me but my attraction to coins was their aesthetic value. For example, my favorite coin (from Germany) has fancy writing on the SIDE of the coin. How cool is that? Other coins also have intriguing designs.

My mother had no interest in coins' artwork so that wasn't her reason for collecting. Nor was investment value. The value of coins depends on two things: condition and scarcity. While the condition of coins in these sets is "mint" (never handled by humans) they are certainly not rare. Millions were minted and sold meaning they'd never acquire any real value.

No, the reason lay elsewhere. I pondered my mother's uncharacteristic behavior for decades. Only now, after sustained consideration and mature insight do I understand it.

To grasp what was going on, you have to put yourself in the head of an insecure immigrant. As young adults my parents desperately strove to assimilate, to become Americans. They wanted the idyllic life of an American family. My father took courses to lose his German accent; my parents finished the basement of our small house with a wooden bar and decorated it with alcoholic advertisements (e.g., Rheingold) to host drunken parties with their neighbors. Stuff like that.

Viewed in this context, my mother's coin-buying suddenly makes sense. She was not purchasing coins; she was buying into the idea of America. Her puchases were an expression of faith in a country she and my father embraced wholeheartedly. 

Patriotism is uncommon now but back then, especially in immigrant groups, it was pervasive. Standing apart from American culture was dangerous; fitting in was safer. Demonstrating allegiance to our country's symbols, including its currency, is a form of cultural worship my parents engaged in. 

Now, finally, I get it. 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

My Career

I was admitted to the Bar on March 23, 1983 -- which makes today the 40th anniversary of that event. (I actually started working as a lawyer earlier in September 1982.)

I announced my "retirement" a year-and-a-half ago but, honestly, it hasn't occurred yet. Winding down my law practice is taking longer than one might expect: there are too many complicated, long-term commitments to conclude quickly. I've had success, however, and now confidently predict final, real retirement by this Summer. I want a big party to celebrate this history of work and have already picked out a band. 

How long do you want your career to last?

Wednesday, March 8, 2023


In last night's game Devils veteran Ondrej Palat caught a high stick in the mouth and was forced to leave the second period with knocked-out teeth and busted lips. But in the tradition of heroic hockey players Ondrej had his mouth sewn up in the locker-room and came back in the third period -- where he scored another key goal. This picture tells the story.

The Devils are TOUGH. 

Monday, March 6, 2023

"The U.S. and the Holocaust"

I've been terribly sick the past three weeks with RSV. The worst part of the illness is blurred vision. That's prevented me from reading and writing. Please forgive my absence from your blogs. I hope to return to commenting soon.

While sick I watched a new, 6-hour documentary from Ken Burns about the Holocaust ("The U.S. and the Holocaust," PBS, 2022). Its core message: Americans were fully informed of the tragedies committed in Europe during that period but chose, inexcusably, to turn a cold shoulder toward widespread suffering.

The documentary examines the dangers of appeasing evil and ignoring noxious beliefs (which persists today). You're also struck by the fragility of family as parents and children were cruelly separated from their loved ones. Finally the vast scale of the horrors of that time is hard to take in. Literally millions were murdered.

The 3-part series, while difficult to watch, changes your perspective on several important subjects, such as man's capacity for inhumane behavior.

(If you want to borrow the DVDs, just ask me.)

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Raquel Welch

Raquel Welch just died.

You could not have been alive 50 years ago and been unaware of who she was. Western society elevated her to the pinnacle of womanhood -- a dubious and slippery perch.

At that time Raquel said something deeply true, not just for her but for many women who learn conventional "beauty" isn't an attribute but a tool: "To have it said that you’re a sex symbol, the most beautiful girl in the world, is initially terrific. You think, isn’t that neat? Then you pass a mirror and you say, ‘Uh-oh, that face ain’t gonna launch a thousand ships, and that bod’s not so hot either.’ Nobody can be the most beautiful girl in the world. It’s just fairy-tale time. Now, after some psychotherapy, I’ve come to grips with the monster and said OK, there’s the public thing, the label. It means money and the chance to do other things. It’s going to be tough, but using it you can open up the other side and let people find out you’re a serious artist." (source)

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Valentine's Day

I hit the Valentine's Day jackpot last night. Took Robin to dinner and a live concert of Beatles songs by a talented band at My Father's Place

Robin sang, danced and laughed all night -- the happiest I've seen her in years. Beatles music magically makes people happy: there was enthusiasm from teenagers to 80-year olds.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Legal Marijuana

New York State recently made marijuana legal for recreational use and the first store just opened in NYC. To its credit the State is prioritizing social justice in licensing sellers. The first store is a laudable non-profit (Housing Works) which started in 1990 to help people with AIDS find housing. Currently it provides housing, healthcare, and vocational training to thousands of New Yorkers. I went into the city for an art event today so I added a detour to Housing Works and -- legally -- bought cannabis.

I understand those who oppose marijuana but (1) it's legal here, (2) I'm an adult, and (3) you're gonna have to respect my self-determination. As a former pot-user I know the scare tactics of the drug war (from 1960s onward) were untrue: I'm not going to become a heroin addict after puffing a joint.

Candidly I haven't smoked grass in 40 years. I consumed it in college and law school, then dropped the activity when I got a job. For me lighting up after such a long time is more nostalgia than anything else.

The reason I smoked during the seven years I spent in higher education was to reduce stress from academic striving. Those were tough years and pot helped me relax after long days of study. I didn't get that relief from alcohol and currently drink only for flavor or to improve socializing. 

Marijuana has changed over the past half-century. Grown with better care than the skunk-weed we often got, it's cultivated by horticulturalists who know what they're doing. Legal weed is guaranteed pure and safe, avoiding contamination that sometimes taints illegal pot. Plus, a new market is opening -- products designed to appeal to connoisseurs. Terms like terpenes and cannobinoids are used to distinguish among different weed strains. Each type is labeled with its percentage of THC (the thing that makes you high) so telling strong product from weak is now easy. This isn't your grandpa's ganja.

Buying pot in New York means standing in line, proving you're over 21, selecting from a menu and paying. Like you do for everything else. Simple and efficient. The menu has dozens of brands of pot in flower form, rolled joints, vape oil and edibles. 

Have you ever smoked pot? Will legalization make you consider it again?

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Kim Petras

Kim Petras is a 30-year old singer from Germany. She's transgender and transitioned when she was 16. Her career is blossoming and she's hitting a number of firsts. Last year she was the first transgender performer to appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. This year she won a Grammy for Best Duo/Group and is the first transgender musician to do that. She also performed at the Grammys with Sam Smith ("Unholy").

Have you heard of her? Her music?

Monday, February 6, 2023

Winter Scenes

Photography teaches us how to see -- which we do with our brain, not our eyes.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

5-Bar Tour

In the dead of winter motorcyclists get bored. To combat this we go on a 5-bar tour. One of us knows dive bars intimately throughout New York City and leads us on a fun excursion. It changes every year.

This year the tour included sights like the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park, the Dakota Hotel where John Lennon was living when killed, and the firehouse used in the Ghostbuster movies.

Have you ever been to New York City?

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Challenger Explosion

Yesterday marked an anniversary of the tragic Space Shuttle Challenger flight. It's been almost forty years.

Few saw the event live: TV networks didn't broadcast the launch and cable TV wasn't popular yet. Media showed tape of the tragedy endlessly but only after it happened.

While the physical cause of the explosion was technical (failure of O-ring seals) its real cause was human error. NASA administrators felt pressured to move forward with a scheduled launch despite warnings from engineers that weather conditions were unsafe. (Cold temperature made the seals fail.) There was no escape mechanism for the shuttle -- despite being available --because NASA officials decided it was too expensive. 

A Presidential Commission investigated the incident and concluded NASA officials were to blame. The Commission recommended changing the decision-making process at the agency to improve safety in future flights. Essentially bureaucrats are now forced to pay more attention to engineers.

Post-crash investigation showed, sadly, that most of the seven astronauts survived the air explosion but died three minutes later when the crew module hit the ocean at 200 mph. There was nothing they could do during that time and their bodies were torn apart by impact.

Do you remember this sad event?

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Cheddar Cheese

Want a good tip?

Cheddar cheese is popular because it appeals to Western palates. Like many foods, cheddar ranges from awful to fabulous depending on two factors. One is how the cheese is made. Cheddar can be produced industrially and taste bland. The cheese tastes better when aged but even then there's a limit. A long time ago I bought cheddar from a specialized cheese-maker in the Midwest that had been aged 20 years. Twenty! I assumed it'd be the pinnacle of food but was disappointed: it was simply ordinary. If you take normal cheese and let it sit, you'll get something better than what you started with but not necessarily terrific.

The second factor, of critical importance, is the quality of cheddar's prime ingredient, milk. The taste and quality of milk varies depending a host of influences. Until recently I've been buying Cabot cheddar cheese because its milk, produced in upstate New York, is very good, much better than competitors in the supermarket. But Cabot isn't the best cheddar in the world. I recently discovered what is the best and that brand now resides in my frig on a regular basis.

The special cheese is made by Snowdonia Cheese Company and is called "Rock Star." You can buy it locally at Sayville Cheese, a delightful little shoppe that rotates its wares. Rock Star isn't expensive (a 5 oz. package costs only $12). If you want to try before buying they will offer you a taste -- or you can ask me and I'll give you some.

Rock Star cheddar is made in Wales; Snowdonia is a region in the northern part of that country. Wales is an agricultural nation with long history of dairy production. Milk used in the cheddar reflects the country's cows, soil, air and overall environment. There are fancy words for this (e.g., terroir) but all you need know is it's very good.

Rock Star has a stronger, sharper taste than most cheddars but I find it delicious. Flavor explodes in your mouth. If you want to dilute it simply use the cheese in cooking. It's great mixed with cooked veggies like spinach or corn.

Ask me and I'll give you some.