Friday, February 26, 2010

Don't Touch the Whale, Take Sarah Palin Instead

Two days ago, Dawn Brancheau, an experienced trainer at Sea World in Orlando, was tragically drowned by Tilikum, the largest of its killer whales.

Was there a reason for this sudden act of violence?

"Tilly" had a history of violence but he's an Orca, or a Killer Whale.  And killer whales kill.   That's what they do.

Yet they're bright, intelligent mammals and those that know them say the act was premeditated.

A former trainer said it could have been the sight of Dana's ponytail that set him off--that caused him to lift her, shake her, and drag her under the water until she drowned.

Killer whales weren’t created to live in man made pools, fetch sticks, twirl around, or jump over poles. At an average weight of five to six tons, they roam the world oceans and have no enemies, except for man.

Only man, of course.

Smart, yes, but with an instinct to kill. You can’t change them if you tried.

I know it sounds far fetched, but I couldn't help thinking of Sarah Palin.  Scraping the lower half of the IQ charts, she's supposed to have a brain but clearly runs on instinct and overwhelming adrenaline, blurting meaningless name-calling propaganda to anyone within the listening ear of her mike.

Last month she cried foul when Rahm Emanuel called some liberal activists “F---g retarded.”

The mother of a Downs Syndrome child, Palin charged that because he used the “R” word, he was out of bounds and should immediately resign.

Wasn't that a bit harsh?  The man didn't use the word to describe a child. 

Emanuel apologized twice, but an apology wasn't good enough for Palin on the warpath.  The woman wouldn’t let it go.

Come on, Madam Former Governor. Maybe you're the one mentally challenged.  Did you conveniently forget that your buddies Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh also used the "R" word on more than a few occasions?

Last January, during an interview, Fox newscaster Mary Lynn Rajskub spoke about artwork produced by Downs Syndrome children. Beck laughed and asked, “What do the paintings of the retarded children go for?”

And Limbaugh responded to the controversy surrounding Palin and Emanuel by saying, “liberals who complain about health care reform are ‘retards.’”

But Palin kept mum about her friends.
Maybe she couldn’t think of a reasonable response?   Or maybe she never guessed that some reporter would check Beck’s or Limbaugh’s record?

God, she's d--b. (But I won't say it).

We don’t expect a killer whale NOT to kill just as we don’t expect Sarah Palin to start connecting the dots logically.

Can't expect miracles when it’s inherently part of their DNAs.

Hey, it goes with the territory.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nowhere to Hide

In 1871, after eight months of searching the depths of Africa, Henry Stanley, a lone reporter (top picture), stood gazing at Dr. David Livingstone (below).

Livingstone, an explorer and English national hero had set out to find the source of the Nile River in 1864 but lost contact with the outside world and disappeared for many years.

People became frantic to find the man, the mystery consuming the papers, conversation, and gossip all over London.

What had happened to the great Dr. Livingstone? Was he captured, lost, or dead?

Journalist Henry Stanley was hired to discover the answer.  Taking two hundred men, he finally made his way to the east African village of Ujiji on the shore of Lake Tanganyika.   There, Stanley saw a white man amidst a crowd of natives.

So overcome with emotion and respect, he didn’t know how to approach him. Finally pressing forward, he said.   “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”

“Yes,” he said, with a kind smile, lifting his cap slightly.

Thus began a moment in history that has been repeated in plays, books, and films.

Can you even imagine that happening today?  A famous man getting lost for an indefinite period of time and finding a polite journalist welcoming him back into society?

Tiger Woods had a little run-in with his SUV, his wife, and a couple dozen mistresses, or whatever number the public settles on as sufficient.

The man stayed indoors for over a month, probably going insane, but it was better than facing a phalanx of reporters shoving mikes into his face and asking the most intimate of questions.

“How often did you have sex?”
"How many partners?"
“You getting divorced?”
“Did your wife beat you with the golf club?”

You get the picture.  Things weren't looking good, and the best golfer in the world needed quiet time alone.

But where to go?


Brad and Angie can't find a tree large enough to hide behind.

Michael Jackson flew everywhere and couldn't find a place.   Elvis didn't either.

Instead, the man with the thick fisted black book is said to have checked into a sex clinic in Mississippi.

I bet he hated it. I bet even with a raging wife and disappointed public, he didn’t want to go.  I bet he silently enrolled, kicking and screaming.

But Mr. Woods had no other choice.

Dr. Livingstone got lost unintentionally. Tiger couldn't do it for a million bucks.

But did you know that Stanley and Livingstone became lifelong friends and that after the explorer died, Stanley quit reporting and continued Livingstone's work in Africa?

Some things can't be replicated today, even fundamentals like privacy and dignity. 

How about that for a happy ending.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The other night the Olympics opened to our favorite and only neighbor to the north—a neighbor we sometimes forget resides above us because they send no drug gangs with vendettas to fulfill, don’t hide in trucks to sneak across the border, or wreak havoc on our social services.

Did I say North of us?

Did you know that there are two places where Canada is south of the U.S

Alaska and Detroit.

That’s right, Detroit.

I’m from Detroit, and we actually had to drive downtown to cross the Ambassador Bridge or take the tunnel into Windsor, Ontario.

The Detroit River divides the cities, and you can stand its banks and peer across to a foreign country.

For a few years in the fifties my father kept our 17 foot luckless inboard boat in a rundown marina on the Canadian side. Spending more time keeping the engine running than cruising the currents, time on the river was often tense and anxiety filled, but there were those welcomed moments.

Sometimes it was even fun.

The Schwartzes owned their little Titanic, the JeTeSu, named after the three of us, Je for my brother Jeff, Te for me, Terry, and Su for my sister, Susan.

Sputtering through the cold choppy waters of early spring—my father didn’t want to waste a precious day of boating—we covered ourselves with jackets and towels against the chilled water spraying our faces and bare legs as we made our way past the many islands dotting both the American and the Canadian sides.

Beyond the islands were the factories spewing smoke, and in one small section on each side stood the Windsor and Detroit waterfronts.

Well Windsor wasn’t much of a showplace, a few office buildings and restaurants, but on the Detroit side stood Cobo Hall, our giant convention center for the day, a park beside it, and restaurants like Sinbad’s and the Rooster Tail.

Summer came, and it got hot, and on the days the boat ran, we searched for a place to swim, away from the current, away from the shipping channels and the many merchant cargo ships streaming through the channels. Some of the islands along the river looked okay to the naked eye, but the river floor turned out to be mucky, or too deep to stand, or clogged with seaweed.

How did we know? My eight year old brother became our human sacrifice—jumping overboard to confirm our nasty suspicions.

But on a particularly Sunday, my father chugged by a lumpy deserted island about the size of an average family room. Jeff stepped over the side and surprised the group when the water swelled only to his waist.

“The bottom’s sandy,” he said, in shock.

“Bernie, let’s anchor,” my mother said, already making plans to sunbathe on land.
Turned out to be a great day and we returned the following week.
A short time after we anchored, another boat joined us.

“What’s the name of this place?” the guy asked.

“Bernie’s Beach,” my father said.

Over the next weeks and months other boaters rumbled by, set anchor, and Bernie’s Beach, a spot on the Canadian side, became a happening place.

Modest. Unpretentious. Like the rest of Canada.

Did you know our innocuous neighbor has no monetary crisis? They made sure their banks had money to lend and that their borrowers could pay the mortgage.

While Americans are trying to build a fence across our ragged border to the south, we often make fun of our under populated over cautious neighbor to the north.

Like the awesome opening ceremony Friday evening, we’re lucky we got them.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Did you see that Barbara Walter's interview with Jenny Sanford about her failed relationship with husband Mark, the governor of South Carolina?

My question is, couldn't this smart lady see this coming ages ago?

I mean if I was a bookie, what odds would I stake on a marriage where the husband refused to swear he'd be faithful DURING the wedding ceremony?

And what kind of soon-to-be-father stalks out of his wife's Lamaze class calling it stupid? Or buys her a diamond necklace and then yells that it's too expensive and takes it back?

Yet Jenny Sanford, heiress to Skil power tools, a woman who could buy anything she wanted, hitched her hopes to this soulless scumbag.

Hey, did you hear the one about the bike?

Jenny wanted a simple bike--not titanium, not custom designed.

The first year Mark hands her a sketch of half a bike. The next year he offers a sketch of the other half, and the third year--ta da--let's hear the drum roll--he buys her a used piece of crap for twenty-five bucks.

Did I hear correctly?

Barbara Walters asked Mrs. Sanford what she thought of the incident, and Jenny shrugged it off like it was just like him.

So this was somehow cute?

Maybe her husband should've gone into comedy?

Instead he went into politics--often the same--just ask Jon Stewart.

So the loving wife, already slaving, enters human bondage when Sanford offers Jenny the deal of a lifetime. She could singlehandedly juggle the house, the marriage, and the kids while organizing, supporting, promoting, and advising him politically.

And all this for free.

To their shock, he won the election for state representative to the South Carolina legislature.

After that he kept running and winning race after race until he moved into the governor's mansion, with Jenny at his side, working, advising, while knowing their marriage was sliding over the edge.

But she ignored the signs because Mark was happy--or so she thought.

Wanna know what I think?

I think someone inserted a brain chip into her skull that severed her common sense connection between reality and her husband.

But at least Mark Sanford was honest.

The guy who never swore to be faithful, kept his word.

He climbed on top of the heap and searched around for a little loving. And by golly, he found her in Argentina by way of the Appalachian Trail.

Don't try to follow. This whole thing is screwy, but what isn't about their marriage?

But Jenny, there were signs.

Like a sunflower seedling planted into the earth, no one really knows it if will absorb the soil, the water, the sun, taking in all the nutrients and growing into a giant.

Sometimes it just takes faith.

But uh, your husband never promised that.

All you had to do was take a moment that day at the alter, look at the man and listen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Our youngest daughter Barbra got married over the weekend.

It was gorgeous, happy, nerve wracking, nostalgic, exciting, and wondrous. Both families waded through months of details to create a few magical moments that none will soon forget.

But no matter how much you plan, there are always those oddities--those spur-of-the-moment incidents that pop up from nowhere and add to the richness of the event.

Like when the bride and her bridesmaids gathered in the giant ballroom wing of the hotel to take pictures with the photographer before the ceremony. Decorated with a lone conversational grouping—sofa, cocktail table, and a couple of chairs, the area was empty.

Except for a fortyish man—passed out cold on the couch and looking like he was sleeping off a big one.

The girls giggled and gathered around.

Wedding aside, they couldn’t pass up a golden photo op. The six bridesmaids held their index fingers to their mouths as if saying, “shh," while Barbra, in full white gown and train, carried her bouquet and bent over the stranger, pretending to kiss him.

Picture taken, the group scattered, and the star never stirred.

Next it was time for business.

The rabbi arrived and the marriage license needed to be handled and signed. As the bridal party and out-of-town guests lined the room, the witnesses were called.

But the license was nowhere to be found.

Barbra forgot to bring it.

Suddenly numb, I stared at the rabbi as if someone had taken away my Bloomies’ charge for a year, but he assured me that although he was breaking the law, the show would go on.

And it did.

The ceremony started, the vows were taken, and no one knew the difference—much less the state of Florida.

After a lively evening of eating, drinking, and dancing, the bride and groom waved their last goodbyes and made their way through a veil of bubbles blown into their path.

Finally over, they stood outside their honeymoon suite. Pulling the key from his pocket, Matt tried the lock but it didn't budge.

His cellphone had desensitized the magnetic strip.

Reluctantly, the groom hurried down to the lobby for a replacement while the bride, still dressed in glowing white, tried to sit on her train and waited.

She heard a noise and looked up. A drunk swaggered toward her carrying a bag of peanuts.

He stopped when he saw her.

“Did you go to a wedding tonight?” he asked.
She gave him a sidelong look. “Yes.”
“Did you have fun?”
“Can I help you with something?” he slurred.

Barbra assured him she was fine when Matt reentered the hall holding the key and saving their wedding night.

So our daughter Barbra got married last Saturday.

I found the marriage license at home the next day and hand delivered it to the rabbi Monday morning.

But the weekend lingers. It was more than I ever imagined, and today, it's legal to boot.