Sunday, February 24, 2013


My earliest recollection of him is the chocolate covered pineapple chunks he stashed in his top dresser drawer. When I discovered this, every morning I'd sneak into my parents bedroom and dig in. Most of the time the delectable tidbit was there. I never knew if he left it there for me to find, but that expresses most of my relationship with him.

There was a lot of shouting between my parents at the top of their lungs and both not stopping until exhaustion. I was too young to understand their quarrels but I think they were mostly about money. My sister, four years older also had to put up with them but she and I never talked about them. I suppose they seemed like normal parents. Didn't they all scream? I'd sometimes listen in while my mother and her sister across the street denigrated their men to each other.

My father worked two jobs and little time for us. Mother's poker game rotated from house to house; on poker night, she would send him and me out for a movie or what not. Alas, I always felt stiff with him and didn't trust his judgment. I remember once he wanted to go into a bowling alley to watch the action but I adamantly refused because such places were reputed to be centers of crime. Dumb me.

I felt his absence as I grew older and wanted some kind of relationship with him, but I didn't understand that two jobs made that unlikely. At sixteen, I got a job as a waiter in a summer camp. My mother used to write about all the distress in her life, hardly much fun for me and I asked her to get him also to write to me. After several begging letters to her, I received mail from him consisting of one paragraph in which he hoped I was well. Feh!

You might not remember that I was a deplorable high school student and almost failed to graduate. But, I did and as that time approached, I could only think of enlisting, nothing else loomed. My idiot uncle Jack, a well-educated man with a stick up his butt said the only place for me was Yale and I jumped through their admission hoops until receiving their inevitable rejection. Then, my father swung into action. He found a college placement agency and they determined I could get into a military school or Florida Southern College. And, he determined to send me to stenography school so I could take notes. I chose the Florida school and discovered it was mostly a rehash of my senior high school year. That, plus transcribing every lecture got me straight A's and then my father arranged for me to go to Syracuse University. Clearly, what he did for me transformed my life. Mother was silent through this phase of my existence.

Still, my father remained something of a shadowy figure. Whenever he answered the phone, he'd say,”Hi Bert, I'll get your mother.” She would gossip about relatives whom I hardly knew existed and when he was not in the room, she would tell me about his failings. She never spoke about his heroic efforts to keep us in shelter and food during the thirties, something she might have been proud of, but she never failed to complain.

After WWII, two friends and I decided to buy a car and drive to Mexico. Alfred was nineteen, I eighteen and Big Bert (bigger than me) was seventeen, the three of us hardly aware of what the country was like. My father opposed the idea and offered to buy me a car I could have at school, but my mother thought it a good idea so off we went. In retrospect, I sometimes think he was wiser.

After graduation, the Korean “Police action” started and I was drafted. All during that time, my mother again wrote letters that complained about my father and about my sister. My sister she thought was “crazy” and my father not only incompetent but also unethical in his treatment of friends. It got so that I tossed some of her letters unopened and I had learned not to expect any communication from him. If you get the idea that I mostly raised myself, you'll be correct. I felt very alone in the army and turned to drink . . . and boy, did I drink.

When I got home, I went to graduate school and met my future wife; someday I'll write about that disaster. My parents, in despair that I had no prospect of marriage urged that I pop the question. I did and the rest is misery.

All along the way, though we had not a relationship to speak of, my father made sure to provide help. When Marilyn developed cancer and could not work, my father was ready to provide us with whatever we needed so we could keep going.

Things continued pretty much the same way until my mother died. I remember leaving Brooklyn to go to the airport. My father stood on the sidewalk and said, “Don't forget me. Don't forget me.” That shocked me, that thought had never crossed my mind. Over the next year, every Sunday, I'd call him, we’d speak for about an hour and I discovered the man he was and he, I hope, discovered me. We covered a spectrum of topics including my nephew, sports, local politics, national politics and he always knew what's what. Well, he died and for the first time in a million years, I cried.

When I think about that fellow, my father
Who never, never, seemed eager to bother
To complain about his wife
And their years of bitter strife
Ah, she stood between us, my matriarchal mother.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


When I was a lad, perhaps twelve or so, in the middle of walking across a busy street I had an ecstatic moment. I mean, I was infused with a sense of intense pleasure that transcended any reality; and if the light had turned against me, onrushing cars might have mashed me flat. There was a purity to the experience that I had never known before but it lasted only a few seconds. I reached the other side of the street safely and wondered that had happened, and I surely wanted it to re-experience it. Alas, in that form, never again. Of course, I tried to replicate it by walking across the same street many, many times but to no avail. Never again did it happen with no relationship to reality. I have read that some describe such as having been touched by an angel's wing, but even at that early age, my reading filled with magic spells and sorcery, I never thought of a supernatural explanation. It was too mindless for that idea to have legs.
But, I surely since I have had ecstatic moments and have sought them out because they all had direct links to reality which, to some degree I could control. Some years later, while washing sand off my body in the shower I suddenly almost fell over consequent to an extraordinary burst of pleasure and delight. And, it was pure, powerful, obliterating time and place during those exquisite moments; I wanted more. This time, I knew what had happened: I had vigorously washed that magic part of my body and voila, ecstasy. Knowing what to do, and wanting more, I tried again and achieved only a pale imitation of the first time. Reality intruded  . . . rats. But, I understood that time would fix it.
You can be sure, that following my plan to try crossing the street I realized that taking showers was the key and my mother was astonished at my newly discovered penchant for cleanliness. While she might have figured it out, it was not a decent topic of discussion between mother and son. Still, sex became an important part of my life. Ah, ecstasy!
Much later, in graduate school, I struggled with finding a dissertation topic. It became a matter of some urgency and my professors looked at me with the proverbial fish eye, almost like parents demanding grandchildren. Do you know Sullivan's song about fooling around on the organ (no pun intended) and out of the soul of that organ came the sound of a grand amen. Well, that's what happened to me. I typed this and that and suddenly the idea popped into my head. Whence, I knew not nor did I care. I began putting it into words and it held together; and it grew to cover vaster territory than when first it appeared. My pleasure and joy transcended reality and I leaped from my chair and danced around the room. Every now and then, I rushed back and typed a few more words as the idea grew even greater. The whole experience lasted half an hour, but I knew it to be the Truth.
Well, my mentor who will read this did not share my happiness and doubted the whole thing would work. Knowing the Truth, I challenged him to find a flaw in my logic. He could not. The compromise was that I would run a pilot study and demonstrate I had not gone bonkers. Well, it worked and the rest is history. He urged me to send it to the American Psychological Association for their annual competition and I received honorable mention. Hey, not a bad outcome for an ecstatic moment.
Combat veterans have told me about ecstatic moments when they killed an enemy. There is ecstasy when the home team wins, when a first baby is born. Reading great literature does it; a painting, music, etc. can do it. I remember the first time I heard La Demoiselle Elue, and how for a brief moment I became suffused with extraordinary pleasure. The experience is everywhere. Oh, yes, I must include varieties of religious experience in which some religionist consequent to the experience proclaims she has had contact with God. Of course, no one can gainsay such a statement; it is best received with a shrug.
Except for once hearing some neurologist explaining ecstasy as stemming from the spinal cord, I have no recollection that any work has been done in that area. Clearly, the experience is too elusive to be replicated easily for science to examine it. It remains for us to enjoy. Wonderful

I admit I am truly fanatic
About anything that results in ecstatic
For those who would doubt
I derisively shout
Go suck on your thumb in the attic.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Some of you may remember I told about the yeshiva boys who attacked us on Saturdays. Yes, we played games in the streets, punch ball, Johnny-on-the stoop, box ball, marbles and sometimes a version of football called “association,” bur who knew why. So, the yeshiva boys would pass our street corner and throw rocks at us. They were too wise not to invade our street because our section of Hewes Street was our home and they knew what they would get. This after all was Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

We kids thought we were lords of the universe, but, alas, Williamsburg has become a haven for the Haredi, the ultra orthodox, the sort of folk who wear old Latvian clothing . . . and their behavior has not changed; they have become the moral police. Let me preface with “police” carries insufficient meaning. Henceforth we’ll call them the moral thugs.

Imagine you are a shopkeeper with a family. You work hard and things are moving smoothly when a stranger approaches.

Mr. Rabinowitz, we need to talk.”
So, what about?”
Your daughter, you need to do something about her.”
My daughter,” said with consternation, “who are you, what's this about?”
Who I am is not important; she needs to button the top of her blouse. She looks like a, you know what I mean.”
Rabinowitz scowls and starts a menacing look.
Mr. Rabinowitz, you understand, there are vandals everywhere. We don't want your shop windows shattered, or who knows what else?”
Rabinowitz gets the idea and speaks with his wife and daughter and the top button is put into use.

No, the thug is not there to extort money; he is upholding the community's standards from which no deviation is acceptable.

In Israel, the same occurs except the moral thugs accost women if not dressed properly. They are insulted, spat upon and sometimes physically attacked. Even preteen children are not safe from their assaults. So, now we know about Jewish religionists, self -righteous and nasty. Still, they are not alone. Worse, are the Taliban and El Qaeda? When they take over an area, no woman is safe from beatings that sometimes draw blood and regardless of age.
Even when there are no beatings, women are required to cover up according to the local custom, often, except for their eyes; their whole body is swathed in black cloth.

We are much nicer in this country; such things don't typically happen but don't forget that the FCC has the power to shut down anything deemed immoral. On TV, police may beat their suspects for information without invoking charges of immorality, but hints of sexual misconduct draw a quick response. Imagine what would happen if The Police Commissioner in a popular show had a sexual friend on the side.

There is nothing wrong with intensely religious beliefs. Such people know the capital t Truth and live according to its precepts. They claim their lives are better and every now and then, I come across some research that suggests they are right. OK, they live the way they want and raise their children accordingly. But, some have a sense of outrage that others do not follow their customs and beliefs. Hence, they seek out malefactors and do bad things to them.

The kids who threw rocks at us had that sense of outrage. The ultra orthodox have that sense of outrage. The Taliban and their ilk have it. Islamists believe that the whole world must become Islamic and what happens to those who don't? Religious days must not be violated and women are eager to engage in improper sex. Because men have no capacity to resist women, the women must be controlled.

In Colorado, we are caught up in the argument over Civil Unions with the religious antis claiming that such would violate their religious freedom. They argue it is immoral would be destructive to our traditional notion of marriage. So, they are religious and outraged and thus wish to limit the civil rights of a certain class of our citizens. Please note that they never explain how their religious freedom is jeopardized nor do they explain how the institution of marriage would be impaired. Hell, it's no more than religious outrage.

But, I don't get why our legislature is not aiming for marriage.

Many citizens are alas, quite brain dumb
When they keep others from living in freedom
Just like the boll weevil
Civil marriage is quite evil
But to explain why is too tough a conundrum

Sunday, February 3, 2013

January 28, 2013

Back in the very early days of my life, sexual relations between men and women seemed strictly bound by rules. It was not unusual for a couple to be engaged for several years; clearly, lust had no place in their relationship, (Anyway that was the assumption.) That a man and woman could live together without state sanction did not fit social mores; when it happened, everyone went ooh. Of course, we did not want to know the truth, that passion overrode civility, that men and women covertly enjoyed each others bodies. I had a great aunt who had lived with her married lover for decades and we kids stared at her as if she were from another planet. The adults felt sorry for her.

The same was true for homosexual love and passion, but even more so. The names for such people included fag, queen, gay, homo, et al and tell the story. Society had no use for such and its practitioners kept in the closet. For such proclivities to become public meant social and often financial disaster. The chances for such person to occupy public office simply did not exist. It was far worse than a divorced politician seeking election.

No one could come up with a coherent reason for such social absurdity. Explanations abounded, such as god did not approve, the bible did not approve, sex is for procreation homo sex is not, children might get the wrong idea about what's OK, gays in the military caused trouble and I'm sure many more. At least parental disapproval made a modicum of sense, i.e., no grandchildren.

So, now the world is changing. Homosexuals can win elections, they are OK in the military, public discrimination is illegal; we can see them approved of in some of our TV shows. But, God forbid they should marry or even have state recognized civil unions. The Colorado hoorah about such remains astonishing. Our state legislature is about to pass a civil union law making it permissible for two love birds to swear their loyalty to each other and have most of the perks of marriage. But, there are noisy people who demand that not happen because, now get this, it infringes on their religious freedom.

Infringes on their freedom? They do not assert that civil unions make it impossible for them to pray, or attend church, or marry by religious ceremony. They simply assert and are astonished we do not fall supine in obeisance to their wishes. Suppose religious Jews demanded that ham be removed from markets because its sale reduced their religious freedom. They would wind up accompanied by ambulance staff with nets to the nearest hospital.

Civilization is a mass of social doctrine, which people take seriously and are willing to kill about. Such social doctrine however serves to identify to which group we belong and make us feel comfortable with each other. Remember Henry Higgins of Pygmalion fame? He asserted that language kept us apart, but he missed that language keeps our reference group together. This country tried to force Native American children to give up their language, much to their anguish. Taking social convention seriously has lead to disasters.

It is likely that in Colorado, we will soon have civil unions, and I hope that down the road they will become marriages.

Whenever you wind up in bed
With the wrong someone, it is usually said
You have to carefully ration
Your sexual passion
Lest you wind up with a bonk on the head.