Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Rise and Fall of Agent Orange

Over 50 years ago, Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan wrote that “even the President of the United States sometimes must stand naked.”

At the time he was referring to LBJ who was dragging the U.S. into the early stages of Vietnam, a quagmire that would leave lots of dead Americans (58,000+), far more Vietnamese (2 million?), and a long lasting stain on the Nation’s soul.

Seems like ancient history.

Now, decades later the Sturm und Drang rolls on as Agent Orange hovers in the Oval Office naked as an Oriole. So what did we learn from this week’s dog and pony show before the Senate Intelligence Committee?

The President is a liar who suffers from hoof in mouth disease and the fallen FBI director was a chicken?

Cluck, cluck, cluck.

Far be it from me to opine as to whether the President obstructed justice, as many in the press have declared. Meanwhile, some legal scholars beg to differ.

It seems to me, however, that the last honest president we had was Numero Uno, General George Washington, after the Cherry Tree Incident – another tall tale of American folklore.

As for the former FBI chief, how the hell did this guy make it to the top of the Nation’s leading law enforcement agency?

He bungled HRC’s illegal server “matter,” mishandled the probe into the ballyhooed collusion caper, leaked government documents to the media, and then cried “woe is me.”

My family has long time friends who are former FBI agents and they are most likely not very impressed. Of course, they’re not talking – which is the way it should be, no? Loose lips sink ships, and all that jazz.

Nonetheless, this never ending gobstopper of an investigation is bound to go on and on, with Congress and the Special Counsel ramping things up. It’s far too early for anyone to say what will come of all of this. But the media hordes and the far left will undoubtedly continue clanging the impeachment bell.

Ring a ding, ding, ding, as Sinatra used to sing.

Of course, this will certainly hamper the legislative agenda of the White House and the GOP. But keep your eye on the ball.

Although there have not been any legislative achievements early into the presidency, and there may not be any this year, former President Obama’s legacy is being stripped away, for good or ill, much to the chagrin of nearly half of the electorate.

The Clean Power Plan, restrictions on coal, the Paris Climate Agreement, and so on and so forth are all gone by way of Executive Order, just as they were ushered in.

Last week, the House passed the CHOICE Act that will ultimately gut the ill conceived Dodd-Frank Act, and the mysterious ACA repeal languishes in the Senate, while tax reform is missing in action.

Next up this week, Obama’s Cuba policy is set to be scrapped in a speech by POTUS in Miami on Friday. Lastly, Neil Gorsuch is on the High Court, and the curious case of the travel ban looms.

The question remains as to what effect this will have on the three upcoming run-off elections and the 2018 midterms.

Since I’m no longer in the prognostication business, having publicly, and wrongly, called the election for HRC last fall, it’s not clear to me what’s to come. If we believe the press, the GOP is headed for a shellacking next year.

But who knows what tomorrow will bring?

The media writ large predicted a big win for HRC in 2016. And one has to wonder about the accuracy of their reportage in the collusion caper as well. What we do know is that media conglomerates were largely responsible for the rise of 45, and they are all in on bringing him down.

While it does not look promising for DJT, as a friend recently suggested over dinner in NY City, “don’t count him out – you watch, he’s gonna come out on top.”

Anyway, regardless of your political stripe, it’s pretty sad that all of these people are pulling the purse strings of power, Democrats and Republicans alike, while the rest of us pick sides in this senseless battle.

There ain’t a winner in this game, and we can do better than this, no?

In the meantime, despite the widespread panic and mass hysteria, the sky is not falling. Last time I checked, most of us were still getting up each day, trying to make a living, and taking care of business.

Same as it ever was.

Perhaps everyone should calm down a bit, stop watching the 24/7 news cycle of woefully inaccurate reportage, speculation, hearsay and gossip, and let things unfold. Besides, “summer’s here and the time is right, for dancing in the streets.”

On that note, it’s been 50 years since the Summer of Love. How about a redo?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Purgatorial Dreams

Asleep beneath a bed
of stars stranded
between destiny
and fate or maybe
a purgatorial state
oh, the ties that bind
on the ladder of faith
over islands of doubt
across narrow straits
all these words
pale reflections
in pools of mirrors
under the sun
finding reasons
to be grateful
looking for the one
seeking forgiveness
the essence of grace
give thanks and praises
the whole human race

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bloos for John Coltrane

The sound of music

that horn blows


to mine ears

after all these years

no tears no fears

no surrender

so much younger then

still the same old blues

searching for the sound

seeking a love supreme

by the grace of God

to whom all praise is due

for leading us

to a richer life

om mani padhme om

is where it’s at

minds blown in the

real gone world

where the jewel

is in the lotus

as Buddha retreats

oh, mercy mercy me

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Capital Beltway Follies

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” (Hunter S. Thompson)

The situation inside the Capital Beltway has gone from weird to off the hook. In another time, writing political satire was all good clean fun. Now, not so much…after all anything you say can go viral and end up in the hands of the NSA.

Just ask the President…who has returned to twitter to air more conspiracy theories born on conservative talk radio.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, let’s rewind it back.

The last time I wrote about the goings on was before Gen. Flynn got smoked. It seemed like things had settled down since that fiasco and the Administration was finding its footing leading into the President’s address to Congress.

Some called it “the best speech of his political career.” Hell, even Van Jones said words to the effect that tonight “Trump became the President” in relation to that well crafted, theatrical ovation for the fallen Navy Seal’s wife. I thought the speech was pedestrian, even if it was delivered cleanly and temporarily calmed the hysteria.

Then, less than 24 hours later, the NY Times and WaPo mysteriously ran stories about Jeff Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador. Alone, these talks were S.O.P….in fact the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak cultivated an extensive network of democrats and republicans, and even made it to the White House 22 times during Obama’s tenure.

But given the controversy over alleged connections of Trump’s associates to shadowy figures in Russia, and AG’s lawyeresque double talk at his confirmation hearing, it’s like the ghost of Dr. Strangelove (look it up).

This is exhausting...and not much fun to write about.

In any case, something is happening here and we don’t know what it is or do we?

What we do know is that media widely reported that the government ried on two occasions to get FISA warrants to probe Trump’s associates. The first was too broad…but the second was granted….to investigate Trump surrogates who had business connections in Russia.

To proceed with wiretaps and such, the government needed probable cause. But these matters are supposed to be highly classified and the way this has gone down does not pass the smell test. And I am not an advocate of the president.

At first blush, the leaks about Sessions right after the address to Congress seemed coordinated and part of a pattern of career government officials….holdovers from the Obama, Bush and even Clinton Administrations, leaking classified intelligence to the press.

Say what you will about Trump, but this is not good….it’s causing uncertainty if not chaos, and stalling the government from functioning as it should.

Of course, it’s on the president. He ran a nasty campaign, viciously took down his opponents, and made enemies on both sides of the aisle, and throughout the so called “deep state.”

At this juncture, we don’t know what the real situation is visa vis the Dancing Russian Bear, but the way this has played out smells like political retribution. After all, it’s been said that politics is a blood sport and there is blood in the water.

Whether they succeed in taking Trump down remains to be seen; but this shit show is not good for anyone, especially we the people. Hold the popcorn, please.

Meanwhile, up on Capitol Hill, the GOP is playing steal the bacon with the health care reform, ACA repeal two-step. All these years have passed, and legislation was not ready on day one? Nonetheless, lawmakers are well advised to proceed with caution.

To borrow a line from Hippocrates, “first, do no harm.”

Then there’s the media in all its forms, the so called Fourth Estate, whipping all these stories into a lather, and talking heads tripping out on every cable channel, speculating about things they know nothing about. Certainly it’s not fake news, but rather “advocacy journalism.”

It’s not fair and balanced coverage, but reportage mixed with opinion and speculation fueled by anonymous if not nefarious leaks as the players in the Oval Office hunker down behind a wall of obfuscation.

With all this noise, it’s no wonder there is anxiety spreading across the heartland, from every mountain side, from sea to shining sea. Trump has apparently not lost the faith of his supporters. In fact, they are digging in their heels. Meanwhile opponents of “Agent Orange” are rooting for his downfall.

As for me, I have no skin in the game, one way or another. My political agnosticism grows deeper every day as I continue to struggle to pull my life back together in the wake of a series of unfortunate events, not the least of which are the remains of Sandy, a gift that keeps on giving.

Back in the day, I had a grand old time riffing on Obama and his follies, and despite his popularity, there were many, especially on the foreign policy front. Of course, I managed to piss off a lot of my readers, but it was all good natured. Now, everyone is freaking out and I just want to listen to John Coltrane….dig it!

Let’s hope the dust settles soon so we can get back to having a few laughs, and it starts with the person in the mirror…..WTH?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Twilight Falls

Going down the road

as silence

fills the skies

polka dots and moonbeams

rise in azure fields

shadows linger

on new horizons

of smoking clouds

the day recedes

in the fog of mind

almost yesterday

in between tomorrow

suspended animation

or a purgatorial state

thinking of these things

as twilight falls

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mid Winter Blues

Silence under winter moon

The wind stands still

Yearning for the morning

To follow tracks in snow

Down to the seas

Where memories linger

As if ripples of mind

Strings of space and time

Separate you and me

As the cold creeps in

Footfalls in the snow

Echo across the universe

Crying out for spring

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Art of Noise

Far be it from me to speculate about the first frenetic weeks of the Trump administration, after all the chattering class has had plenty to say.

Nor do I have expertise in domestic and foreign affairs to lend any meaningful insight to guide us through the cacophony. That being said, the print, cable and online media are filled with the usual tripe, so why not add to this bitch’s brew?

So, during the campaign our fearless leader often touted his ghost written best seller from back in the day, The Art of the Deal. Of course, that was published before his Waterloo in Atlantic City…

Since ascending to the Oval Office, there have been murmurs in the press about how he and Steve “Darth Vader” Bannon have modeled their playbook from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, to wit:

All warfare is based on deception…offer the enemy bait to lure him.

Having read both books eons ago, I can safely say that Tzu is a better read. Anyway, it seems that Trumps antics are similar to the negotiating tactics he laid out in his book and his act thus far has been a matter of deception, hyperbole, and distraction.

But me thinks a better title for this shit show is: The Art of Noise.

Certainly, the president has been busy signing all manner of Executive Orders and making outlandish statements much to the chagrin the Washington elite, a few foreign leaders, the left, the media, democrats, RINOS, immigrants, academics, anarchists, and fair minded men, women and children of all stripes and feathers.

Obviously, the roll out of the travel ban was ill conceived, not coordinated with the appropriate agencies, rankled the diplomatic corps, and motivated the resistance. Now, a federal judge (appointed by G.W.Bush) has issued a TRO which effectively lifts the ban. Perhaps the White House should take a knee on this one?

Of course this will be appealed, maybe up to the Supreme Court, and therein lies the rub: many legal experts agree that the law is on the President’s side. Nonetheless, he will burn through a lot of political capital along the way, so it’s a losing proposition at best.

It is worth noting, however, that this is not the first time a president has taken this type of action.

In fact, in 2011, Barack Obama implemented a 6 month moratorium on immigration from Iraq, and also created a watch list of countries that pose a threat to national security that formed the basis of the no travel order. And the media and the left said nothing.

In the waning days of his presidency, Obama ended the “wet foot-dry foot” policy for Cuban refugees that had been in place for twenty+ years. This policy allowed those fleeing Castro’s Cuba to enter the U.S. if they set foot on dry land. Barack's midnight move was met with the sound of crickets, not the war cries of radicals.

Further back in history, Jimmy Carter suspended immigration from Iran during the hostage crisis and also banned the import of Iranian oil into the U.S. which touched off an energy crisis. Seldom was heard, or so it seems.

During WWII, Franklin Delano Roosevelt rounded up 120,000 Japanese-American and 50,000 Italian-American citizens, not immigrants, sent them to internment camps and confiscated their property and assets. How democratic (with a small d) was that?

What’s my point?

Well, every president does stupid stuff. Of course this is not a justification for this administration’s policies, which is tantamount to noise that has been met by a howl. But the selective moral outrage of the media and the left speaks volumes….

Anyway, signing decrees is one thing, but making policy and governing are another. Since most of the President’s Cabinet has yet to be installed, we still have no idea what’s going to happen, although the words of the prophet are on the proverbial wall.

Meanwhile, the loudest noise has come from protestors, some of whom recently resorted to the ultra-violent at Berkeley and NYU to shut down inconsequential, lunatic fringe speakers….and it’s the shape of things to come, as the protests will be endless. A wise man once said that fear is the mother of violence.

Of course, the intelligentsia has opined ad nauseum about what all of this means. But the fact that people are so stunned by the edicts on immigration, the Wall, regulatory rollbacks, and on and on, or the President’s blunt talk, flippant remarks, and obnoxious tweets is curious at best.

These are the things he campaigned on. Elections have consequences, and for the next four years, Trump is the President, unless he’s forced out prematurely. Next time, however, more people need to represent at the voting booth.

In the meantime, F all this noise!

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting (Sun Tzu)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The American Landscape

And so it goes, power has been peacefully transferred from former President Obama to President Trump.

Trust me, writing those words is pretty astonishing, but it is what it is, until further notice. Of course, the chattering class, the pundits and the intelligentsia are offering analyses and commentaries on the sturm und drang of the Inaugural Address.

Certainly, Trump is not an eloquent speaker, but this has been his schtick since day one: an emotional appeal to those seeking a populist revolt against the establishment. Though his blunt talk may have been alarming for many, it’s way too early to know what comes next.

Since I didn’t vote for him, my hope is that he works for the good of the Country. And the challenge will be daunting. It goes without saying his legitimacy is in question until Senate, FBI and Intelligence investigations of the Russian Connection are complete.

In my humble opinion it would be far better for the Country if this turns out in his favor lest the clangs of the division bell grow louder and there is a push to oust him from office. Careful what you wish for: Trump leaving prematurely by way of resignation or impeachment opens the door for uber conservative VP Mike Pence. Enough said?

As of now, Trump looks and sounds totally exhausted. And making statements sans prepared remarks like he did yesterday is a very bad idea, as is hitting Twitter. His communications team has not served him well thus far….it’s still early, so perhaps they will find their footing…..they better had.

There’s also been much consternation over his Cabinet picks…..and fears that we are headed for what my friends on the left would call a plutocracy in which we don’t have government by the people but rather a country governed by the wealthy.

In case you haven’t noticed, America is a Republic that has always been ruled by an elite class since the day of our founders, regardless of which party has held office.

In any event, chances are most of Trump’s selections will ultimately be approved even if there is a sacrificial lamb….either Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator (an agency established by Richard Nixon), Rep. Tom Price at HHS or Betsy Devos at Education.

As Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt spearheaded numerous lawsuits seeking to block EPA Rules promulgated by the Obama Administration on water pollution, air pollution, and climate change. Tom Price is leading the charge to repeal the Affordable Care Act and revamp Medicare into a voucher system (equally bad ideas), and stock transaction shenanigans have emerged.

Lastly, Betsy Devos is another billionaire who is a staunch advocate of charters schools (for profit K-12 and online colleges), has no experience in public education and whose vote has been postponed pending an ethics review. For those of you who may be opposed to these or any other picks, call your local Congressman or Senator.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the Inauguration, as if anyone missed it, millions of women, their partners, and children took the streets, in Washington, across the Country and all over the world. The question remains as to whether those who were marching will take a page from the Tea Party playbook and turn this into political action.

Not a believer in protesting , and having participated in a handful in my younger day, the real way to effect change is to participate directly in the system, a system that often eats it young. And at the end of the day, change starts with the person in the mirror.
Nonetheless, Trump would be well advised to listen to those voices for he will ignore them at his own peril, much like Obama did with the tea baggers…..

As for the former President, though the Country is in better shape than it was when Obama took office, let’s be real: there was no way to go but up even though millions of people have obviously been left behind. Nonetheless, that same chattering class have been going on and on about Obama’s legacy. But history will be the ultimate judge.

During his two terms, however, as it has been widely reported, Democrats have lost over 1,000 legislative seats across the country, the GOP controls 32 Governorships, the House, Senate and the White House. That being said, Mr. Obama and the First lady conducted themselves with dignity and grace under pressure, and his thoughtfulness and eloquence will be missed.

Ultimately, new leadership will have to emerge in the Democrat Party, and looking to such dubious luminaries as Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Van Jones, Michael Moore, and Madonna(???) is not the answer.

In the meantime, perhaps we should heed what Pope Francis has said: wait and see. Regardless of your feelings about the election, it’s my still my thinking that we are not nearly as divided as the media keeps saying. Most of us are doing our best to make a living and take care of our families.

Keep the faith, and don’t lose hope. The day after tomorrow will be brighter than yesterday. America is still an exceptional Nation that was founded on the ideals of liberty and freedom… your minds.
Peace be with you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

All New Christmas Carol

Jesus Joseph and Mary
came riding in on
the Star of Bethlehem
in the Arabian night
skies of the mind
over desert sands
where nomads and
assorted kings searched
for faith hope and love
while the archangels
sang hosannas and
hallelujahs or possibly
blues for Allah
back in the real gone
world the struggle
to believe is real
down in the soul
where eternity lingers
between destiny and fate
in the twilight hour
when the silence roars
then suddenly the
heart quickens as I
look into your eyes
Oh, comfort and joy

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Make America Grateful Again

As we head into the holiday season and empty political bumper stickers fade into the rearview mirror, Thanksgiving reminds us of the need to have an attitude of gratitude.

Though there have been scattered reports of feuds among family and friends (not Fakebook friends) arising from the election, as the media doubles down on its false narratives, and some have taken it to the streets to clang the division bell, perhaps expressing thanks may help to make things better.

There are many urban legends about how this holiday began, but we should remember that it started before the Nation was formed when the first colonists (or immigrants?) gathered together to give thanks for surviving and the harvest. Now, centuries later, for those who are fortunate to be celebrating Thanksgiving with loved ones, let’s hope we can cultivate gratitude.

Gratitude is not some empty, feel good, new age thing. It runs much deeper: into the well of the soul in states of grace and gratefulness. It means appreciating the things that we have while not focusing on what we lack. Regardless of what we are going through, after all life is hard, it is essential to recognize the goodness in our lives.

While a sense of well being starts from within, gratitude is an awareness that some good things come from others, from nature, and if there is a heaven, God. Of course, that’s a matter and faith, which is hard to come by these days, so let’s stick to the tangible and be grateful for one another.

An attitude of gratitude may seem like a lofty notion, but there’s actually research that shows the being grateful is linked to greater happiness. Having a state of grace can help us feel more positive and enjoy good experiences, while not letting hard times drag us down. Whether or not gratitude can lead to better health is uncertain, but it can help us overcome adversity and build better relationships.

Gratitude manifests itself in a number of ways whether by being grateful for good fortune, not taking things for granted and having hope for the future. Rather than chasing after something new to find happiness, gratitude is about being thankful for what we have even if it’s not that much. This is not to say that having an attitude of gratitude is easy, it takes work; but over time it’s a state of mind that will grow stronger.

I am well aware that the holidays can be rough, stir up a lot of emotions (not emoji) and past grievances sometimes surface. Don’t let it toss you away. Be mindful of the things you have, and enjoy the people in your life while they are here: life is brief and time is a thief.

As for me, I remain forever grateful, even though the past bunch of years have been a tough row to hoe, the struggle is real, but so is love. On that note, let me say thanks to all for encouraging me to continue writing.

Give thanks and praises, and let’s make America grateful again!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sex, Lies and Election Consequences

Question: How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: None. They’d rather sit in the dark and lie about it.

You can plug all kinds of variables into this one and come up with a wide range of politically incorrect replies. But let’s stick with the politicos, and the sex, lies and videotape of this bizarre political season. How did we get here?

In response to a recent post some readers were put off by my categorization of the candidates, but anyone reading this space over the years knows that it’s an equal opportunity mix of satire, reportage and opinion, all in the spirit of good clean fun. After all, does anyone think so highly of either of these deeply flawed candidates that they are beyond a playful poke? Lastly, this is not a place for political endorsements.

Anyway, I miss the days of those spirited debates with my ole pal Karen….we never let our divergent viewpoints interfere with our friendship. And over the years, I’ve run with peeps from across the political spectrum. Now, folks seem to take this stuff very personally, that’s the bad news. The good news is that the political season will soon be over, and perhaps we can get back to having fun: light up or leave me alone. (Steve Winwood)

As it looks, Mrs. Clinton is poised to “break the last highest class ceiling” when she’s elected next week, but how many are really that excited about her ascending to the Oval Office? Surely there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth by those who think she’s a crook, but here in Nassau County, we’ve got plenty of our own crooks in the GOP to contend with, believe me! Get it?

Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that elections have consequences. One need only look to the Obama presidency to see this truth. For good or ill, whether you agree with his politics or not, he has been a significantly consequential figure.

Of course, his signature legislative accomplishment, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare has serious flaws that have been well documented: less competition and higher costs are the direct opposite of what was pitched. But much like planned obsolescence in the tech sector, this program was designed to fail and push us to a nationalized, single payer system. And Hillary will try to make it happen.

Then there’s the Dodd Frank reform measure, the largest overhaul of financial regulation since the Great Depression. The costs have been enormous, it has temporarily stifled financial innovation, and here’s the best part: a key component of this law, the creation of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, was recently ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The way it’s set up, the president has sole oversight unlike any other federal agency, all of which fall under the jurisdiction of Congress. Lawmakers also have no funding authority. So, it’s a federal agency that has broad, unchecked powers that falls outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution – you now, the cornerstone of our democratic republic. Nice one!

That being said, the Nation is in better shape overall than it was before Mr. Obama took office. But much of that is due to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies for 8 years that salvaged the banking system and pumped up the financial markets. Much of the job growth has been fueled by the gig economy and the tech sector, not because of the Administration’s fiscal and economic policies.

Meanwhile the National Debt has nearly doubled to $19.25+ trillion dollars, and it’s a drag on the GDP. Back in 08 while on the campaign trail, Obama called Bush “unpatriotic” for doubling the debt, and then doubled down. Classic!

To be clear: President Obama and the First Lady have conducted themselves with loads of dignity; and his approval numbers are at 57 percent or so, far better than his predecessor.

Isn't it ironic, however, that the high hope many had for unity when he was first elected has festered into the divisiveness that dominates the discourse, haunts the airwaves, and social media?

Anyway, I could go on, but the long and short of it is this: voting matters. So when you’re voting on Tuesday, if you have not done so already, give it some serious thought. It’s not about politics or the personality flaws and misdeeds of the candidates, of which there are many, but rather their policies and leadership qualities. To quote Ted Cruz, vote your conscience, or rock the vote.

Meanwhile, all this talk of tightening polls is hooey. Sec. Clinton still has a comfortable lead, will probably win the popular vote by 4+ percent and clear 300 Electoral College votes. There was speculation of this being a wave election, but the GOP will hold onto the House. While the Democrats will gain seats in the Senate, whether they take back the majority is 50-50 as Republicans come home, so to speak.

In the end, Hillary will likely make history as the first woman president. So, let’s hope she listens to her centrist inner voice, avoids getting the country in another war, and lastly, that she’s not dogged by incessant investigations. Of course, I could be wrong and we may have a Brexit situation on our hands….then what?

Regardless, let’s get back to levity, having a few laughs, and remembering what’s important: our families, friends, and the neighbor down the road. All politics is local, or is that loco?

Peace, y’all.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Pictures of Autumn

Some days, as if

in a Cole Porter song,

revisiting the old ennui

pictures of autumn

and all that jazz

world weary falling

autumn leaves in

orange fields

as little chills and

fevers of pleasure

feed the groove

before standard time

returns rushing headlong

to solstice darkness

oh, the struggle is real

but so is Love and

forgiveness lies in the

pure land of the heart

Friday, October 28, 2016

Flashbacks of the Flood

My last fun post stirred a bit of controversy, which of course is often my aim, a little good clean fun. Anyway, now that I’ve got your attention, the Four Year Anniversary of Super Storm Sandy compels me to reflect and update the real gone world of the reality of the situation in the flood zone.

My understanding is that people who have taken psychotropic drugs often experience flashbacks: recurring hallucinations and such long after dosing. While I cannot speak to that issue, I can say that Surviving Sandy has been a bad trip. I’ve written about that night here, and the days in the wake of the flood. Now, four years later we are still living with the aftermath.

It’s widely been reported that the afflicted areas in New Jersey and Long Island have struggled to return. In my hometown, the fun continues. So far, 65 houses have been raised, another 20 or so torn down and rebuilt – homes that were once 1,000 square feet or so are now 8 foot high 1,700 square foot giants. Of course they’re on lots that are far too small, so it’s a bit unseemly. And more are in the process of being lifted and/or rebuilt. Lastly, there are still 30+ zombie homes scattered about – wonder what they look/smell like inside……

In the heart of town the long lost Village Hall remains an empty, fenced in lot that serves as a reminder of the storm – who needs flashbacks? We are still living the tangerine dream. As I last reported the town board approved a $1.5 million dollar bond to rebuild the structure, paid for a design, and then took bids that all came in over $2 million – pure genius. Of course, this being the heart of GOP country, what did you expect?

Meanwhile, the town was supposedly awarded $22 million from the Feds for infrastructure repairs: replacing the drainage system underground that was built in the early 70s, rebuilding bulkheads along the canals, repaving roads, replacing/repairing sidewalks. Nothing has been done. The county did conduct a feasibility study of the drainage system, but after 4 years, one would think there would be more urgency. Have to wonder what is being done with the proceeds of the bond and the FEMA award, no? Of course, talking like that will make me a lot of enemies, but whatcha gonna do?

To top off all this indignity, all the Sycamore trees that were planted over 40 years ago have been cut down – so driving into town is much like a desolation row – the topic of my last blog post. Speaking of which, some folks were most unhappy with the labels I attached to both candidates. Looks like I’m doing my job, hey? But I digress. Anyway, not sure if flood damage killed the trees or if it was some strange bug or virus, but the main road looks like a spoonful of naked lunch served up on a fork– for those who are not familiar with the junky author William S. Burroughs, look it up.

As for the family compound, we have finished all the repairs, and after losing three cars, we replaced it with one – so do the math. Makes things a bit complicated. We still have yet to receive all the funds we were awarded by the state even though numerous inspections have been completed. The red tape is thick as steel, which makes me wonder how people who lost their homes are getting along.

In the end, this situation has thrown us for a loop, and taken us far from where we thought we would be once upon a time. It was Nietzsche who said “that which does not kill me make me stronger;” but he died face down in the street from pneumonia or TB, so what the hell did he know? Of course, no one wants to admit to being weak, but if nothing else, the remains of Sandy have reminded me how fragile we are, que fragilidade, que fragilidade, en Portuguese, indeed.

In that spirit, for those who have been left anxious over the election season, don’t be afraid. For good or ill Mrs. Clinton will be our next president, and she will take us one step closer to socialized medicine. Whether that’s a good thing or not is not for me to say. But one of the rules for radicals espoused by Saul Alinsky was that the government needs to take control of the healthcare system – and HRC did write her graduate thesis about America’s godfather of socialism.

As for Trumpism, as I mentioned to a dear old songwriting chum, it’s the death rattle of the Ugly Americans, and the alt right, formerly known as neo-cons, will slink bank into the night. America is a far more tolerant country today compared to when I was growing up, and we are mostly people of good will. Haters will always hate, because they are angry, but Love conquers anger.

What that tangent means is unclear, but I do know that surviving a natural disaster has reminded me that all the divisive B.S. and social media scatology we get wrapped up in is meaningless – all that matters is me and you – God bless us, everyone.

“Sometime the lights are shining on me, other times I can barely see… lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it’s been…” Indeed.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Remains of Sandy

After years 3 ¾ years of hard work, endless paper work, disputes with contractors and waves of workers passing through the dwelling we have finally finished the last of the repairs to the homestead by replacing dry wall, painting, replacing fireproof doors and electrical work in the garage, cleaning out crawl spaces, replacing insulation and so on.

State inspectors were out here at the end of June, which disrupted a long overdue social engagement, only to say we needed more electrical work….but now, the final inspection has just been signed off, and we are about to close our settlement case out with the state……if and when we get any comp funds remains to be seen.

For those not living in the afflicted in the areas, you’d be amazed how battle scarred the south shore remains. Although we had $ thousands in damage to the dwelling, and lost even more in personal property – that was not covered, other residents of my hometown have not fared as well.

Scores of houses have been lifted, or are in the process thereof, and more are slated to be raised once the money comes in. And there are still quite a few empty houses. It’s my understanding that NY York State has bought a number of these, which will either be flipped to contractors, or torn down.

Meanwhile, the Village Hall was razed, and never rebuilt, which is curious given the fact that the Village Trustees approved a $1.5 million bond in a special session early one Saturday morning in 2014, and then sent out a notice to residents the village via fliers in the post office and the library….Nice One.

Of course, that was approved before they accepted any bids, and when those rolled in, the lowest was over $2million…..So, the property remains vacant, and fenced in, filled with remnants of the foundation and weeds…..very unsightly as you drive through town….of course this place never had much street side appeal… interest is being paid on the bond is unclear. Then again, this town has a long history of political shenanigans. I learned from my father’s mistake not to fight city hall…..these folks are uber vindictive….trust me.

In addition, the county has been conducting a feasibility study of the drainage system that’s piped underground…..apparently over $20 million was approved for infrastructure rebuilding which was supposed to cover the cost of rebuilding the locks, and repaving, and replacing sidewalks, and bulkheads along the canals…..The work has yet to begin……it’s gonna take years if/when it ever starts.

I’ve never been one to hold onto things, after all letting go is essential to our emotional well being. But, dealing with this day-in, day-out for all this time has been exhausting. Now that work on the home is done, I look forward to moving ahead. In the meantime, the only thing to do is take it day by day. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

In the end, surviving a natural disaster, however, definitely changes one’s perspective. All the white noise of the chaotic political season, and the world situation which is drastic as usual, becomes irrelevant. We remain forever grateful to the handful of friends and loved ones who pulled through in the wake of the flood, and now set our sights on the golden road to unlimited devotion. Give thanks and praises!