Birthdays, Father’s Day, A Puppy & A Beatle

Celebrating decades of friendship at Avalon nature trail in Stony Brook, NY. earlier this year. Dewey is the good looking one.

This is a big week for me.A big, important and wonderful week.My father, two of my best friends, my new golden retriever, and one of my all-time heroes are celebrating birthdays. Plus, it’s Father’s Day.So this is a time to celebrate, a time to rejoice and a time to take stock.I’m sharing my bounty in the hopes that it will inspire you to think about yours or to create one if your lacking. It’s never too late to resurrect or cultivate a relationship. And you know what? Life is all about relationships.Close readers of this blog know how much I admire my father.

He’s my hero and someone who has made a profound difference in my life and the life of everyone he has encountered. He’s just a good man. And when I survey the landscape these days  I realize that he’s a rare commodity in a troubled world. I appreciate him more and more as time and life go on.On this Father’s Day, I find myself thinking about how fortunate I have been to have such a great father and I hope I’ve been a good father to my children.

I also find myself thinking about the father’s who’ve lost children in Uvalde and elsewhere. Life is capable of delivering us sorrow beyond words, a fact I remind myself of when I find myself stressing about something that will be insignificant a few months from now.So that’s a reminder to enjoy the little perks  of life—a lunch with a good friend at Granger’s, the squirrel who comes to the door and watches us watching television and the first birthday of your golden retriever.Yes, our Gracie turns 1 on the first day of summer. A good dog—and they are all good—changes your life. Gracie happens to be a great dog.

She’s a joy. A character. A beauty.

She’s friendly, affectionate and so well behaved. She delivers a large dose of love everyday without fail and has an endless reserve.I wish I could say the same about myself.Dogs make you question your priorities because dogs—Gracie especially—-have their priorities in perfect order. Happiness equals good sleep, good (or any) food, affection, long walks and spending time with your pack.

Speaking of my pack, two core members are celebrating birthdays this week; my buddies Andy (we know him as Dewey) and my brother from another mother Scott.I go back a long, long, long time with these guys. I’m talking 50 years back. We graduated high school 40 years ago—together.So, if you have old friends you know how special they are. And if you have lost track of your friends look them up and reach out. It’s worth the effort.

I’m so proud that I have stayed in touch with my childhood friends. We are all proud. Life doesn’t make it easy. Deadlines and commitments what to leave in, what to leave out, Bob Seger once sang.

Distance, time, wives, kids, careers and now even politics can separate  you from people who mean so much.But if you can navigate those things the rewards are enormous.We’ve managed to do it. And I’m so grateful.Today, when I look at these guys via Zoom across the years and the miles I still see the kids I once knew. They are there, right in front of me. While we talk about current events, we can also access decades of history. Nights spent in Dewey’s legendary Karmann Ghia, summer days playing tennis with Scott but mostly dreaming of the future. Where would it lead?Today, we have most of that answer.  Not all of it. Nope, we are not done yet.But I can say this, when I talk to these guys I’m overcome with pride. They’re good men. And that fact satisfies something very deep inside.My buddies share a birthday week with one my all-time heroes Paul McCartney.The “cute” Beatle turns 80 on June 18.I have loved The Beatles for as long I can remember. I have listened to their music almost every day since I was a little kid.So Paul is a big deal for me and a few hundred million people. It’s amazing and inspiring that he’s still out there performing, writing and recording music. A blessing in a screwed up world.My dad, two friends, a golden named Gracie and a Beatle.I just boosted my spirits writing this.I hope you have your own version of this happy tale. Have a wonderful Father’s Day.

She’s a lot bigger now but just as cute.

In Search of Hope & Joy

“Stay gentle, keep the eyes of a child

Don’t harden your heart or your hands

Know to find joy in the darkness is wise

Although they will think you don’t understand

Don’t let the world make you callous

Be ready to laugh

No one’s forgotten about us

There is light on your path

—“Stay Gentle” lyrics by Brandi Carlile


This will be my last post for 2021.

I want to wish you all a happy, safe, and joyous Christmas and New Year and I want to thank you for reading. I’m grateful for your time and attention every Monday (and sometimes Wednesdays).

This column is a labor of love and something that I look forward to every week.

I cherish your feedback and take it all to heart.

As we wrap up 2021, I find myself thinking about the twin concepts of hope and joy.

Those words were planted in my brain by none other than Stevie Van Zandt, guitarist for the E Street Band, and the guy who played Silvio on The Sopranos.

I just finished Mr. Zan Vandt’s awesome autobiography “Unrequited Infatuations” which has become a surprise best seller. The book is terrific, and I love the title because it summarizes the experiences of most guys I know. Sigh.

Littler Steven is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, consigliere to Bruce Springsteen and a political activist who played a prominent role in the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. He’s also quietly been at the forefront of everything from satellite radio and Netflix’s international expansion to the resurgence of arts education through his “Teach Rocks” foundation and curriculum.

He seems like a cool guy and is certainly a larger-than-life figure hanging out with the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, James Gandolfini and Little Richard. Now that’s a dinner party!

A minor but recurring theme of the book is the notion that we, as a society and as a nation, have lost our sense of hope and joy.
Stevie feels that those words were a common thread behind the spirit of the 1960s, but somewhere along the way we lost our mojo.

There’s no joy in Mudville as they say. Little hope that the world we inhabit will get better.

The 60s were a turbulent era—war, assassinations, street protests, struggles for civil and equal rights. But despite the chaos, Mr. Van Zandt says there was joy and hope in our music, in our culture and even in our politics. There was a sense that we were working toward a more perfect union.

I’ve been thinking about these heavy topics amidst the turbulence and division of 2021.

We’ve lost 800,000 plus Americans to Covid; but instead of this threat binding us together; the virus has driven us apart—physically, spiritually and politically.

We hold elections and a great many no longer trust the results.

Faith in our institutions—government, courts, media, schools, universities, the financial system and businesses are suffering according to public opinion surveys. Attendance at religious services— in person and on-line— is dropping.

It’s a scary time of public health crises, inflation, climate change and spasms of gun violence.

We fear and loathe those who do not think like us.

Right here at home, we end the year with arguably our greatest civic icon, Frances Bourque, embroiled in a lawsuit pitting Old School Square against the City of Delray Beach. Think about that for a moment. It’s just a big, loud (and sad) wow.

Which begs the question; is there still room for joy? Is there space for hope to take root in such a climate?

I believe there is.

I have no evidence to support my feelings. No magic formula that says things will get better other than faith.

I still have faith.

It may be misplaced, it may be delusional, but I still harbor a belief that before we sink further our better angels will wake up and save the day.

As Mets fans used to say: “Ya Gotta Believe”.

Reknitting our torn social fabric is the leadership challenge of a lifetime. The stakes could not be higher. I believe the survival of American Democracy is at stake and because we remain a beacon for the world, if we fail, there will be grave global implications. The world needs America. And we need her too.

So, what should we do?
Well, we need to re-establish the existence of objective facts. That won’t be easy but if half of our population says today is Monday and the other says Tuesday, where does that get us?

If half the nation wants to try and address climate change but the other half doesn’t– what happens to our world if the overwhelming majority of scientists are correct and we are indeed experiencing an existential crisis affecting every corner of our globe?

If we hold elections and half the country doesn’t trust their basic integrity how do we function as a Democracy?

And if we lose faith in our courts and large swaths of our nation decides to ignore rulings where does that leave the rule of law, the basic building block of a civilized society?

I don’t know the answers or even where to begin, yet I remain full of hope that we can somehow find a way forward.

It seems to be that most people I interact with—on both sides of the aisle—are pretty miserable these days, especially at the state of our politics—on all levels federal, state and local.

There’s no joy and where’s there no joy hope wanes.

As someone who believes in the power of community, I believe the answers start right here at home.

We can resolve to be kinder to each other. We can resolve to talk more and shout less. We can resolve to listen to those who are disaffected.

We can make it a point to confront bullies and not cede them the public square.

We can resolve to respect each other, to listen and to be stewards instead of bulldozers.

We can summon the courage to stand up and be counted— in a respectful way of course. We can stop pretending that we can’t be found when our friends ask us to stand up for what’s right.

We can show up and speak truth to power even if that truth may hurt our interests in the short term. It’s called doing the right thing.

We can react or we can respond.

From Seth Godin: “When we react to a medicine, that’s a bad thing. When we respond, it’s working.”

We can throw a tantrum or we can respond—with something that works. With an approach we’re proud of, proud of even after the moment has passed. It’s not easy, it’s often not fun, but it’s the professional’s choice.

It’s also the citizen’s choice. We need to become citizens again.

We can save our communities. We have the power to do so.

It starts with kindness and empathy and ends with joy and hope.

Joy keeps us going. So does hope. Right now, we have to keep moving forward even when we feel tired and want to chuck it all. Especially when we are tired. We must never ever give up.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a safe New Year.

I’ll leave with part of a  poem called “One Today”  that I recently discovered. It’s by Richard Blanco.

“We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight

of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,

always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon

like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop

and every window, of one country—all of us—

facing the stars

hope—a new constellation

waiting for us to map it,

waiting for us to name it—together.”




Wrestling With Marie Kondo

Two of my favorite baseball players Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez graced the cover of this vintage Newsday special section. I’m keeping it!

We’ve been doing a lot of spring cleaning these days.

Check that, Diane and my niece have been knee deep in the garage and I get to come home and decide what parts of my past I want to keep and what to throw out or donate. I have to admit it has been difficult for me to part with mementos from the past.

I don’t know if you’ve caught any of the Marie Kondo phenomenon but the organizational guru who challenges people to throw things out if they don’t “spark joy” wouldn’t be my top choice for a dinner party at my house. Truth is, all of my stuff sparks joy—it’s just that there’s so darn much of it.

There are three main causes driving my collection: I’m sentimental, I’ve spent two decades plus as a journalist and I did 7 years in local politics.

That character trait and those two endeavors have generated an overwhelming amount of mementos: clips of articles I’ve written and a slew of plaques, proclamations, letters and ‘do dads’ from my civic work.

For better or for worse, they represent my life’s work—or at least a great deal of it. I’m still out here writing my own story.

So all of it means something to me. The newspaper and magazine stories I wrote, the letters from people who liked something the commission did (we had plenty of critical letters too and I kept some as well) and of course the souvenirs from the places we visited. So while I understand that material possessions pale in comparison to what really matters, these artifacts spark memories and yes Ms. Kondo a certain amount of joy.

But my argument to keep this stuff falls apart if you ask a few basic questions such as: Who is going to want or care about these things when I pass? And short of expiring, how are we going to store/move/organize this stuff should we decide to move or downsize?

Of course, I don’t want to answer any of those questions. But my better half is posing them and it’s hard to put off answering the woman who was brave enough to wade into my vast archives. Plus, she’s really cute and very smart and totally logical. I am simply no match for Diane.

So every night, I come home and wade through another pile.
It’s been an interesting ride…newspapers that take me back to the 80s and 90s, articles that reintroduce me to newsmakers from back in the day, magazine columns penned for Atlantic Ave magazine, old photos, campaign literature from landmark races, vintage Rolling Stone magazines,  a stray Playboy or two (read for the articles of course) and a really bad fake ID that I remember paying $20 for in Times Square so I would be old enough to buy a beer in downtown Port Jefferson—life was sure simpler then.

So here’s what we’ve decided and I think Diane is mostly on board although I’m sure she’d like to cart it all away.

I’m keeping some stuff.

I’m getting rid of some stuff.

I’m donating some stuff.

I’m looking at all of it and reminiscing.

These are my takeaways…

Memories are precious.

Life goes fast.

But you sure rack up a lot of miles and accumulate a lot of stuff.

Most likely, my kids and hopefully my future grandkids, won’t be interested.


And hopefully, there won’t be time to sit back at the end of it all and look back. Why?

Because if all goes well, I’ll be busy making new memories up until the very end. In other words, I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to sit in that rocking chair.

As my friend from across the miles and the years texted me this week—“Life’s about the moments.”


You have got to keep making them.