This Day Can’t End Soon Enough

First thing this morning, some poor fellow from Severn Trent — a subcontractor of the City of Newburgh who was working on our sewer plant   — wrote a suicide note and stepped in front of a CSX freight train, right by the plant, on the riverfront.

Then — or maybe it was just before that — the roof at City Hall started leaking so badly that it caved in part of the ceiling directly over the IT Department on the first floor.

And then in the afternoon, the fire department was called to bring the Jaws of Life to the scene of a car crash on Carobene Court, near Mt. St. Mary College. Turns out, the only guy in the car had been shot — multiple times. He was rushed to St. Luke’s, but died there.

I’m almost afraid to look outside.

New Maus Fan

Never one to jump on a bandwagon until it has rolled by and disappeared over the horizon, i just this week read Art Spiegelman’s great masterwork, Maus and Maus II.

Published from 1986 (Maus) to 1991 (Maus II), these works won Spiegelman a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992. For those few of you who don’t know, Maus is a comic book about the Holocaust.

OK, i know that doesn’t sound good. But it’s wonderful. Here, Spiegelman is a cross between Hannah Arendt and R. Crumb, combining riveting, gut-churning horror and suspense with great cartoons (black and white), while telling the story of what happened to his Polish-born father during WW II.

The Jews are all drawn as mice, the Nazis as cats, the gentile Poles as pigs, the French as frogs. Mercifully, he intersperses his father’s you-are-there story with “present-day” updates showing how he went around tape-recording his very ill father in the latter’s old age, and we see how grumpy, cheap, and hard to get along with the old man was.

We also learn that shortly after her suicide in 1968, the father has destroyed his wife’s (Art Spiegelman’s mother, who also survived the Holocaust) wartime diaries —  an act that Art Spiegelman considered a kind of “murder” and for which he never forgave his father (i think).

Anyway, it is all you ever need to read or see about the Holocaust, and both volumes are also beautifully produced. Go read them, please!

Take Care of Yo Mama

Today there’s a wonderful op-ed piece in The New York Times about the possibility of life existing anywhere but on earth:

As for me, I like Michio Kaku’s thesis in his 1997 book “Visions,” in which he posits that the reason we still haven’t discovered extraterrestrial life despite all the probes, satellites, broadcast radiation, etc., that we on earth have been shooting into space for decades, may be very simple: Intelligent life may have arisen elsewhere eons ago, many times and in many places, but then as on Earth, these creatures poisoned their planets’ ecosystems with pollution or got caught up in nationalistic, religious, ethnic, or political-power wars and destroyed themselves. Thus the reason no one in our galaxy has as yet responded to all of our “Are you out there?” messages is: They WERE out there, but now they’re dead! Three take-aways: 1. Develop longer-range probes and keep trying; 2. Be open to the probability that intelligent life elsewhere doesn’t look like us. Evolving in a different environment, after all, aliens may look like a used tire, a stick of raw spaghetti or a mole rat. And 3. Revere our own beautiful planet and treat her well. As Robert Frost said: “Earth’s the right place for love: I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”

Block That Metaphor!

Watching sports on TV this month, and turning 64 too, has stuck a metaphor in my head like a basketball wedged between the backboard and the rim; I shall relate it here in the hope that some pointed words, properly flung, may poke it loose.

“Is it a basketball analogy then?” you ask, trembling.

NO! Worse: It’s football. Go sit on the bench and listen.

Reaching 64 is like entering the Red Zone of Life.

I mean, if life (as I suspect) is a journey towards G-d, then you embark from your own end zone, unable even to see the goal line that seems so far away.

You face a long, difficult and sometimes painful path, but as the game wears on you gain more confidence. You feel that you’re the quarterback here, and can call the plays.

At the same time, you also become more and more invested in reaching that goal line, seeing that you have teammates who have put their own efforts into the game and seeing how your life has depended on them in so many ways – and theirs on you. You know how indebted you are to them, and you know that if you fail, you’re letting them down, too. This realization is a tremendous burden, but it also increases your determination to keep going. (And even if you’re the best, smartest, most athletic player on the field, in many situations you need good luck. The great American philosopher Jimmy Dean once said, “You gotta try your luck at least once a day. Otherwise, you might be going around lucky all day and never know it.”)

As you make your way downfield, sometimes you make progress through luck and sometimes through your own skill. You suffer many losses, but somehow you keep moving and, if you’re lucky enough to still be playing when you reach your mid-60s, you begin to see the Big Picture. You start to understand what your role has been, and to gain the wisdom to evaluate how you’ve been doing, what plays have worked best for you, and why, who your most reliable teammates are and who you’ve most liked having on your side.

In my own case, there have been precious few spectacular, long completed passes (I did win a ticket to see the Beatles in Shea Stadium in 1966, after which I promised G-d I would never ask Him for anything again; I did, while pregnant, break that vow and through grace alone did indeed give birth to a healthy child). Many times I have been thrown for a loss (my mother died when I was 9; I was divorced when my daughter was in first grade). But in general, it has been three yards and a cloud of dust on every play, after which I rise bruised, confused and weary. Overall, I’ve done about average.

But dear G-d, it’s been fun! And now, the goalposts are just ahead. The long, long field has become a very short one. Things are much simpler here; everybody’s bunched up together. Extraordinary speed and long passes are unneeded; just plow ahead and don’t fumble.

It’s also much more exciting now than it’s ever been; more is riding on each decision, because you have so few left to make.

How do I want to be remembered? Have I forgiven everyone? Will my teammates think of me with a smile when I’m gone, and say I gave it everything I had?

The funny thing is, I have never figured out the game plan. I’m not even sure there is one — if one is ever needed. As I embark on my 65th year of life, I’m getting the idea that maybe just grit and luck is all you need.

And, as the Beatles said, Love.

Newburghers: Don’t Miss This!

Newburghers Should Not Miss This!

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley and SENATOR WILLIAM J. LARKIN, JR. invite YOU to


Talk to an attorney and learn your rights in these areas:

  • Housing
  • Public benefits & Social Security
  • Education & Special Education
  • Elder Law
  • Disability Rights
  • Veterans Issues
  • Foreclosure
  • Domestic Violence

2-5 pm, Wed., September 18, 2013

Fresh Start Café

280 Broadway

Newburgh, New York 

Save the Cliffs!

Millions of people riding the Amtrak or Metro North’s Hudson River Line have gazed up at the Palisades, those sheer cliffs on the west side of the river just north of New York City. But have you ever hiked it from top to bottom, and then back up again?

Well, you should. Tim and i did it last year and found it to be one of the most beautiful and rewarding hikes ever. Of course, there are some scary descents, but they’re not as bad as they look from the 8:07 from Beacon! In fact, despite what you would bet your life on while looking up at those cliffs from Yonkers, there’s no technical climbing at all. That’s right: No ropes needed! You  can park at a lovely parking area/restaurant with great hiking-related guidebooks and gear for sale, and following the blazed trails, you can do the entire down-and-up trip in less than 5 hours. Go to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference website at, click on “Find a Hike,” click on “strenuous” and then scroll down to “Giant Stairs/Long Path Loop” for complete directions. But MEANWHILE… that view — that magnificent view of the cliffs from New York — could soon be wrecked by the building on top of those cliffs of the headquarters of LG Electronics. (Never heard of them, you say? Look again at the logo on the front of your Verizon cellphone. In millions upon millions of cases, it will say “LG.” That’s them.)

Trying to stop LG from erecting a huge corporate structure there is the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, Scenic Hudson, and the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs. The latter is a group i’d never heard of until, half-way down the cliffs on our Palisades hike, Tim and i saw a turnoff for a small, castle-like stone building about 1/4 mile off the trail. It is a very cool place to visit, with great views (but of course, just about every step of that hike has great views.)  That little “castle,” which you can’t see from the river or even from the trail, was built to honor the NJ State Federation of Women’s Clubs (

Ayway, here’s the thing: If not for these organizations filing an appeal to a recent court decision, LG would be able to just go ahead and erect their huge headquarters atop the most beautiful site in our region. Pray that their appeal wins, and that these beautiful, ancient cliffs go unmolested.  Below is a snippet from the Aug. 28 issue of  Law360:


Groups To Appeal NJ Decision For LG Headquarters Building

By Martin Bricketto

Law360, New York (August 28, 2013, 7:16 PM ET) — Scenic Hudson Inc. and other parties are moving forward with their challenge to a ruling that upheld the approval of LG Electronics USA Inc.’s planned North American headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., which they frame as a threat to the Palisades region along the Hudson River.

On Tuesday, Scenic Hudson, the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs and two members of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference filed a notice of appeal over the Aug. 9 decision from Bergen County Superior Court Judge …

Blood on my Hands

Got up this morning and tried to wash the blood off my hands.

Not working.

My neighbor Angel Calderon was attacked at 1 a.m. in his own house, where he was sitting watching TV with his dog (forgot to ask what show), when a guy Angel describes as a 6-foot-tall black man, “strongly built,” burst into his livingroom. Apparently he had come in through a window in the back of the house; Angel lives alone on the first floor. The guy punched him till his whole head and face were bleeding, but Angel managed to run out the front door and start yelling for help. That’s when Tim and i, who were engrossed in a DVD of Season II of “Downton Abbey,” heard him and came running outside. Angel was already standing at the foot of the porch of our neighbor Elizabeth Holpuch’s house, and Elizabeth was already on her cellphone with the cops.

Dear God, it seemed like she was talking to them for an eternity. i heard her describing his wounds in some detail, and relaying questions to him (“Did you get a good look at him, Angel? Did he have a gun?” etc.) and telling him to sit down, put a “cold compress” on his head, etc. i ran back home to get a roll of paper towels (brand-new; it happens we’d just bought it yesterday) and a pan of water and a can of spray-on Bactine as if it were a mosquito bite. i ran back and started mopping off his head, which was dripping, dripping, dripping with blood, all down his face and shirt and down onto his shorts and socks. That’s all he was wearing. i’d used up the whole roll of paper towels, and half a 6-quart pan of cold water, before the cops arrived some 20 minutes later. Then it took another 10 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, though the police dispatcher had told Elizabeth that he was calling for one while she was still on the phone. Anyway help did finally arrive.

Angel used my cellphone to call his sister in the Town of Newburgh, and when the EMTs had finished bandaging him up the best they could and the sister had arrived, Tim and i felt he was in good hands and went back home. We figured he’d be in St. Luke’s Hospital today. But just now i ran into Elizabeth and she said St. Luke’s had sent him to Westchester because the contusion inside his ear needed stitches that St. Luke’s couldn’t provide.

Let us pray. And let us wonder if there isn’t blood on the hands of us all, for our failure to demand and produce a safer city for all the Angels among us.