Posts categorized “Observations”.

Godzilla vs. The Health Care System

I am dumb with amazement at the people who are against universal health care. If I sent Godzilla in to fight with the hundreds of insurance companies, I doubt he would win.

The thing about Americans that amazes is me is the idea that some people deserve health care and others do not. Our society, for better or worse, is based on Judao-Christian ethics, a cornerstone of which is charity.

Many did not seem to mind plunging the country into debt with the ill-conceived and floundering war in Iraq. We already have Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Universal health coverage is a natural extension of this.

We pay more when people use ERs for minor ailments, because they cannot go to a doctor. We pay more when there’s more reactive care than prophylaxis. I paid for diphtheria medication ($68) because my insurer wouldn’t cover it when I went to Sri Lanka; but if I got sick, they would have covered it, for much more money.

These people screaming in town hall meetings? Who are they? Why are they so angry. Believe me, if there was an outbreak of the flu, they would be screaming for the government to do something, but at the same time they want people to not be covered, because they pay for health coverage (a portion of it via work), and some might not?

I am currently unemployed and spending $300/month for Healthy NY via Empire Blue Cross. That $3600 could go to a LOT of other stuff I need to do to keep up the house, but I have to keep myself up as well. People go nuts over the notion that they don’t have a choice of doctors. Well, you don’t under the current system either. I changed jobs 10 years ago and had to leave a doctor I liked to one that turned out disasterously during a time I had a (false) cancer scare. The actual problem, which I won’t reveal here, was actually hilarious.

The bottom line is that a society that thinks it is built on some primary religious ethics should be a lot more charitable. We already have a lot of the basics in place. People are fed up, and even doctors are fed up, with the health insurance companies’ control over the situation, and it needs reform now.

ROTT: The One that Got Away

1000islandsFor some reason, I was overly fond of pennants, and my old room’s decor, before I slathered the walls with posters of all the new music artists I loved after graduating college, were these souvenir pennants, to show where we had gone on family vacations. I took all of the pennants down in a fit of “this is so uncool” pique in 1985, but I never tossed them out.

I am now tossing them out. Photographing them is much much easier. Except for a few vintage ones made of real felt, these are a styro-board mystery, and there’s no one  to donate them to. So out they will go.

I posted a gallery of them on Facebook, but the one vacation we too that was very different was right before I went to college. It was less glamorous than most of our vacations–we spent a week in a cabin on a lake in the 1000 Islands area of the St. Lawrence river, suspiciously close to Canada, where they lure you in with maple syrup and then brainwash you with bilinguality and the metric system. It was not completely primitive. A TV pulled in good enough reception for me to catch my daily fix of The Edge of Night. I mean, Gunther was on the loose. I couldn’t miss a minute.

I have maybe gone fishing three times in my life, and at least twice, I was the once who either caught the most, the biggest, or the only fish on the trip.

My father had polio when he was six and was left only able to walk using canes. But this didn’t stop him from doing anything he really wanted to do. Sportswise, he was limited to either gambling in Vegas or Atlantic City (and never losing that much, since he was an accountant) and swimming and fishing. As a kid, Grandma hired an off-duty lifeguard to carry Dad into the water and he would scare her to death by swimming out very fa, reducing Grandma to a frantic dot on the shore, waving her hands  and indicating he should head back in.

It’s easy to see why Dad liked swimming so much. The combination of gravity and legs robbed of their muscles made Dad less independent than others. So being able to swim on his own must’ve been very liberating. Gambling at a craps table gave him a sense of excitement. In the late 1940s, a car with hand controls was presented as a gift by Grandpa, because Dad spent many years enduring bad treatments and pointless operations and long separations from his parents and siblings while at the hospitals, waiting for these ill-conceived but well-meant surgeries. When a surgeon in 1995 asked me if I knew why there was a leg muscle in Dad’s abdomen, I knew exactly why.

Anyway, that week in 1981, we went out several times to go fishing. I know I caught at least one fish that fed us one evening–although I know very well that someone else took that fish off the hook. Late in the trip, only Dad and I went out in the small motorboat to go fishing.  We were armed with a depth map of the immediate area. This let me fully utilize my cartophilia (love of maps). We went to a quiet area around one of the 1000 islands, and we waited a bit. It was later in the day–not the time you are supposed to fish. You’re supposed to fish at first light, when I am usually heading to sleep these days.

At one point, there was a tug on the line. I thought it was a mistake at first, but it pulled again, and got stronger. I cannot remember which of us held the fishing pole, and which of us held the net, but a very fat, large fish soon emerged to the surface, fighting every inch of the way. Just as the net was being put under it, the fish broke the line and got free.

Oddly enough, this is probably the only truly exciting anticipatory moment my father and I ever shared. That, and rushing home from Baskin Robbins to see if Ronald Reagan was going to choose Gerald Ford as his running mate (this is the last time I watched a Republican National Convention, btw). We talked about that fish for quite some time. It is probably a better story that it got away, actually. In retrospect, I can see how exciting such an event would be, if you felt you couldn’t really do everything you ever wanted. But Dad pretty much did anything we needed him to do with us. He played baseball with my brother in the backyard, and tossed frisbees to us, and quite frankly, it was a pretty normal childhood.

So much emphasis is placed sometimes on what didn’t happen, instead of what did. And I sometimes wonder if Dad envied that fish, or hoped we would have caught it. I think if anyone valued the concept of independence, it was Dad.

The fishing poles are still in the basement, along with the tackle box. Bought once, used for a week, spending an eternity in the basement.

ROTT: Learning to SHARE

One day I went to high school, senior year, to find swastikas painted on the columns out front. We also were to find out that someone had scrawled “Hitler” and “Jews Rember” [sic] on the side of the school. As always, the haters are never very good spellers, are they.


Great Neck by 1981 was mostly Jewish, and you would think that the non-Jews in Great Neck were pretty much used to the population shift. The haters turned out to be our age, and non Jewish.

The incident ultimately led to what I called than an “all-day overreaction.” For one day in December, the entire school’s schedule was suspended for SHARE — stop hatred and respond effectively. I have the SHARE t-shirt to prove it, but not for long. It’s one of the many things, one bit of the Bookey Accumulata, that I am donating to the next charity that calls and offers to swing by and take a plastic garbage bag full of stuff for their ultimate placement.

I felt at the time it was an overreaction because I saw it in terms of Jews vs. non-Jews, and that with 75% or more of us in the school being Jewish, it was like preaching to the choir. Hindsight being what it is, I can see now that the point was to show all of us the irrationality of hatred and bias. The only program I remember vividly that day was a Chinese woman who worked at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. She told us about the stigma in general of being born female in a Chinese world that only valued boys. She told us how she was adopted, and therefore stigmatized further. She told us how the American-born Chinese and the China-born Chinese didn’t get along, and if you were born in a particular province in China, someone from another province or region was not too thrilled wtih you.

In a nutshell, everyone hates everyone else. It was astounding, coming back to Great Neck many years later, to hear that many old-timers are not happy about the Israeli- and Iranian-born Jews “taking over” and that among the Persian Jews, the Tehrani bunch doesn’t like the other non-Tehrani Persions. But this is nothing new. In Frankfurt on the Hudson, I read how the German-born Jews were at odds with the American Jews, and how in Germany, the Landjüden (the country Jews) were mocked by the urban Jews. And of course the yekkes didn’t like the Polish Jews all that much.

And over in France, most of the French hate Paris and many Parisians despise the Eiffel Tower. In Iraq, we have three groups that hate each other (Kurds, Sunni, and Shi’ites) forced into one mutual country.

So after all this time, what exactly is the secret behind the message on the t-shirt? How do you stop hatred and respond effectively? By trying to like other people anyway, and going to their restaurants? I dunno, but I am glad that I live in an area where we are all thrown together anyway, and I am glad to go to H-Mart and ask some questions and deal with the notion that no one behind the cash register understands a word I am saying, and going back week after week and NOT demanding that they learn English for my benefit. I am still going to say hello to my new orthodox neighbors, even if my being dressed appropriately for summer (i.e., wearing shorts) scandalizes them. Because I am not going to change how I am for their benefit either.

Oh, if only that t-shirt were magic and we could make some Lisa Simpson-style wishes and get world peace. But then Kang and Kodos would take over. Or Canada. I can just see the Mounties overtaking us and forcing the metric system down our throats once and for all. But aside from that, it might be nice.

Boycott Colorado


The coming out process is not one event, or a particularly focuses time, but a series of events that goes on throughout one’s gay lifetime. You think you’re out, and suddenly something pulls you back in, in some ways, into the closet. But, coming out to your parents is usually considered the biggie.

I came out to my parents in 1989, and it went pretty well, but you really feel acceptance when your parents come march in the New York City Gay and Lesbian Pride parade. My brother also came. I have to find the photo…

This item was something I carried in the parade–a “Boycott Colorado” banner, affixed to a hollow tube and accompanied by the appropriately gayly coloured ribbons.

I forget exactly why, without doing research, why we were boycotting Colorado–there was an Amendment for its state constitution that was basically going to codify LGBT folks as second-class citizens. It got defeated, and I have since been to Colorado twice, and visited its Capitol. But at the time, a lot of people were just not going to go to Colorado, for business or pleasure. I think some big conferences planned not to go to Denver.

BoycottCOMore recently, I came out publicly as a gay member of the Special Libraries Association–in that I marched with the SLA in DC’s gay pride parade. And, a younger cousin of mine who recently came out (I had to find out on Facebook, btw) invited her parents along this year. Previously, only her brother had been invited along, so this was a big deal.

Introducing ROTT

I am photographing a lot of the stuff that I am tossing out. It’s time to get rid of some of all this stuff that’s taken over my life. So, I will immortalize the items in photographs and stories instead.

You can find these stories under the subject “Rememberance of Things Tossed”–a/k/a ROTT.

The Fat Man Always Swims Twice

You know, when you’re overweight, you are well aware you are overweight. Believe me, I know I am overweight. I should sue Dr. Kaplan for telling me in 1981 that I weighed 159 lbs and “probably always will.”

Stupid metabolism!

Of course, there are always people who want to remind you, in case you have forgotten, that you are in fact overweight. Because you never pass a mirror, or buy bigger clothes, etc.

Recently, some jerk on Facebook attacked a friend of mine who also seemed to be reminded publicly that he needed to lose weight. Me, being Mr. Sunshine, insisted on a counterattack, which led to a sassy response from the attacker, but ultimately, a removal of the offensive post, and the attacker retreating completely from Facebook and deleting his profile.

I am gooooood.

In his counterattack on me, he pointed out that I need to lose 100 lbs, which I am sure Dr. Kaplan would agree with, but the funny thing is, in the course of moving last year and moving boxes around and climbing stairs carrying 25-lb boxes… I have lost weight. And I have lost a dress size. But you know something, a lot of people will keep reminding you how obese you are, no matter how well you’ve been doing. I reminded said attacker that I can lose a ton of weight but he will still be an $%^&*.

I hated gym intensely and it wasn’t until I went to college that I “filled out nicely” and then put on a few extra pounds, and then, as they say on AbFab, “another one who’s ballooned.”

But despite my hate of non-coed gym and all-boys teams, I always liked swimming. I even won a swim race in Color War up in camp. So, here I am many years later, finally finding “my sport,” which turns out to be swimming.

At Camp Kent, I got as far as Advanced Swimmer and Junior Lifeguard. I had to swim a quarter of a mile uninterrupted, while a counselor in a rowboat stayed nearby in case I pooped out.

So this year, I joined the local town pool, which has be rebuilt, and includes a lazy river. But I usually try to go to the lanes where they have lap swimming. I don’t know if it is because we come from an aqueous environment in the womb, but I just love being in the water, as do my niece and nephew.

The water is the one place where I just don’t feel like the great potato you see before you (apologies to AbFab again). And I have noticed, under the water, with the help of goggles, that there are a lot of other fat folks in the pool as well. This is encouraging, since so many overweight people don’t want to be seen half naked out in public. But I love the water so much, I don’t care. If I get some stupid comment, believe me, that ship is going down.

But when I am in the water, I actually do feel agile again, and I wind up swimming many more laps than I thought I would. So however fat I might be right now, there’s the thinner me of years ago, who a doctor thought would never gain weight, swimming along with the bigger one.

Cry, Cry, Creepy Crickets

You know, I like to think that I have respect for all living creatures, but the insects known as camel crickets really creep me out. I wrote about this a while ago. Well, Nero alone, killing only the ones that make it up from the basement, is not enough.

Last month, I deployed four glue traps, and was shocked, delighted, and surprised to find that within 24 hours, three of the four glue traps were standing room only.

It’s almost as if someone let one or two people know there was a new hotspot in town. A very deadly hotspot.

Of course, the horror of glue traps is that they are really a horrible death for rodents, and it’s really horrible when you have to go pick them up.

Well, picking up a glue trap with about 36 camel crickets stuck on it, some of them still moving, is no picnic.

I don’t know how mafia hitmen do it.


It is very embarassing to admit this, but it’s almost been a year since I moved my life and all of my stuff back to Long Island, and I still haven’t truly unpacked everything. The problem is that I have everything now, plus everything my parents ever owned, too. It’s 45 years of my own accumulata, plus theirs.

Consequently, my mother’s erstwhile neat home became crammed full of lots of extra stuff, and made the house less than hospitable for guests, though I have had some.

How did this happen? Well, attaching sentiment to everything does not help, nor does the notion that “I might use it one day.”

When I first moved in, I was not only working full time, but I was also working part time. So I was too busy to really deal with it. Then, I became completely unemployed, and even though my time was my own, I wasted a lot of it, pulled in different directions–job hunting, networking, napping, you name it.

But last week, my brother and his whole family came to visit. I was cleaning for two days before hand, and even during the visit. I gave my brother and SIL my bedroom, so while the kids slept, I was going through stuff in my own room to make it more hospitable.

And somewhere along the line, I turned a corner. I found more like items to put together and finally find permanent places to store them. I would take three boxes and after sorting through them, reduce what was left to just one box.

A bit part of the problem is identity theft, for me. Everything I own seems to have my SSN on it! Even blue exam books from my college days demanded my SSN. I found a cache of all my dorm and tuition bills–all of them need shredding. I even found very old items that actually had my SSN on the mailing label!

Having had two identity thefts last year, I am being ultra cautious and shredding like crazy. My father was a CPA, and having found two file cabinets’ full of old 1040s and lots of current addresses and the occupants SSNs on them, I figured I should shred all of that too. But after two hours of shredding, my shredder shuts itself down.

But honestly, every time I tie up a cubic foot of old magazines and put them out for recycling, I feel a lot better. It certainly does not help that the daily mails bring us more and more paper that just gets sent to the curb or shredded.

At least I am getting somewhere, finally, for all of my efforts. I certainly have a better appreciation of what housewives go through. It’s hard to keep a whole house clean on your own, and keep the clutter at bay.

From East Egg to West Egg

I went to see Public Enemies last night in Port Washington. The most direct way to get home to Great Neck is to drive a winding road (quite fatally dangerous in bad weather) down the western shore of Cow Neck (Pt. Wash and Manhasset), around the opening of Manhasset Bay, and back up the east shore of Great Neck.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald gave these towns the monickers East Egg and West Egg. Back then, West Egg was all new money and East Egg was old money. Readers of this novel will surely remember how Gatsby gazes across the bay to see the light on Daisy’s dock in East Egg.

It’s very easy to see how anyone could romanticize this landscape. Even now, there’s something very intriguing about seeing where you live from another place, whether it’s across a body of water or from a plane or a mountain.

A few months ago I discovered that the local library here posted some books in PDF form about the history of Great Neck. One book was a collection of reminiscenses by Mills P. Baker, the son of the man who owned the farm on which my house is built. He had the entire hill, actually. Their old farmhouse is the Village Hall now, and the school behind it is named for Baker’s mother.

It was interesting to read how what is now a 20-minute car trip was about a four-hour carriage ride. It was also interesting to hear how it took hours for his mother to get from the ferry to Manhattan back to Great Neck via trolley, making about a million stops between here and Long Island City.

But one of the most intriguing stories he told was how a pair of sisters just got into a canoe in Manhasset and rowed over to Great Neck, climbed the hill, and visited Mills Baker and his friends. It’s very hard to imagine just getting into a canoe and going to visit your friends.

Americans have embraced the car, and the traffic that has come with it. I recently took a ferry from Manhattan to Red Hook with two friends so we could go to IKEA. The ferry is free, for another few days. It’s probably too expensive for IKEA to afford, and, local residents have found the trip from Red Hook to Manhattan quite delightful. If you know how difficult it is to get from the far side of the highway in Red Hook to a bus or subway, you can see the attraction of going on the water.

There is something very alluring about being near the water. Unfortunately, the average New Yorker doesn’t get to enjoy even getting close to it. Luckily, there’s a nice uninterrupted park going from the Battery all the way up the West Side, and a lot of cyclists, joggers, and walkers do enjoy it. But I get the feeling that so many more people don’t ever get to enjoy being on the water for any significant amount of time–schedules, work overload, responsibilities.

If you have the chance to get onto any sort of waterfront, do it. It’s something that really helps recharge the spirit.

Today Is “It’s what Michael Jackson would have wanted…” Day

I think as a reaction to Suze Orman telling us all the things we SHOULDN’T do, for just one day during this Great Recession, absolve anything you do by recalling, It’s what Michael Jackson would have wanted…”

I was just thinking of how MJ went on a spending spree from the cameras of Martin Bashir (the toilet paper of broadcast journalism) as he said, “this one, this one, I want this one,” as he went through a shop full of ornate furniture in Vegas.

So enjoy that mocha half-caff latter. Buy that large screen TV. Unfriend someone on Facebook for having a contrary opinion. After all…

It’s what Michael Jackson would have wanted…