Archive for Friendship

Anti-Semitic Fever Dream

The two 4-inch square brass plaques in the photo below are stolpersteine (“stumbling stones” in German). They are embedded in the sidewalk in front of my former apartment at 14 Ruhlaerstrasse in Berlin. Edith and Willy Lindenberg lived there until November 11, 1941 when they were deported to a concentration camp in Minsk (Belarus) and murdered simply because they were Juden (Jewish). The plaques are part of the stolpersteine project created in 1992 by German artist Gunter Deming.

The plaques are to commemorate the victims and remind all who “stumble” across them of the Nazi’s “final solution”– to obliterate all “racially inferior” non-Aryans. They are placed in front of the last known residences of those deported and murdered during the Holocaust. As of 2019 there were more than 75,000 stolpersteine in 1200 locations in Western Europe. read more

Fiction or Non-Fiction?

I’ve forgotten what M was reading, but years ago, when we were newly together, I asked her whether she preferred fiction or non-fiction. The answer came quickly, “No question,” she said, “I don’t have time for fiction.” Just the facts, Jack. Since then our tastes and preferences have evolved, but at the time it signaled a startling difference between us.

We were both early readers, but I didn’t hit my stride until I encountered John Steinbeck in high school. M, on the other hand, was a voracious young reader. So were her parents, and they encouraged her. Anything with pages was OK. Kids books, Book of the Month Club selections, historical novels…especially those with a little romance. She was a late bloomer and hid in books. When she did bloom, she used them to hide from me and all the other bloom-snatching high school predators. read more

Ms. 2.0…

On the 50th anniversary of Ms. magazine, the cover article of the New York Times Sunday Review was, “The Feminist Malaise: Where is the women’s movement when we need it most?” Included were three articles reflecting the movement’s diminishing vitality. Ms. captured the zeitgeist of a time now past but has been replaced by other isms – Trumpism, racism, fascism, authoritarianism and others. For years it drew our attention to “feminist” issues, but change is the only constant over time. read more

Travel is Like Chocolate Mousse…

It might have been Treasure Island or Mutiny on the Bounty that sparked my interest, but islands have always exerted a magnetic pull on me. Small. Romantic. Isolated. Surrounded by water. Their attraction is galvanic.

I first heard about the Balearic Islands when I was in college.  Dots in the Mediterranean Sea, ruled successively by Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Moors, and Catalans. Spain, but not quite Spanish – Mallorquin. Exotic.

The archipelago has four major islands – Mallorca, the largest, with Minorca, Ibiza, and Formentera in descending order. My first visit was to Formentera a few years before its first hotel was built. Then, a windless sailing trip took me to Ibiza, the party island, where we repaired the blown engine that left us becalmed in Mediterranean shipping lanes at night. Mallorca was last in the sequence but not least in its appeal. read more

Have We Passed the Point of No Return?

I am profoundly sad today. Yesterday, the country I love, the country I served, and the liberal democracy I believed in revealed itself to be under the thumb of an ultra-conservative, self-serving minority.

I remember the racist backlash when Michelle Obama told a 2008 primary campaign audience,

“For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country, because it feels like hope is making a comeback … not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”

I too was proud – for the same reason. We were about to elect an African American, running on a platform of “hope and change,” to the presidency of the United States. I was all in. read more