Monthly Archives: September 2019

Good News Friday: A bookstore, an old lady, and a college student provide an amazing act of kindness. Elizabeth Warren and a little girl share a beautiful moment. And a dog (not Rowlf from the Muppets) plays the piano wonderfully

And a Happy Friday to you all! Another surreal day Thursday in Washington, D.C., I know it shouldn’t surprise me anymore, anything this President does, but I have to say I kind of marvel with awe and amazement at one thing: Every other politician in history that I’ve ever heard of has tried to deflect, obfuscate, or ignore a scandal when it comes his or her way. They talk about other things they’ve done, or want to do, and try to downplay the scandal as much as possible.

Not this guy! He RUNS to scandal, he can’t WAIT to talk about it, and talk about it some more, and then talk about it some more. He relishes talking about his scandals!

It’s truly quite something.

Also, a personal note to let you know there will be no new blog post in this space on Monday; the family and I are taking a short vacation with much of our other family on a little three-day cruise. Should be fun and provide lots of blog material 🙂

OK, on with the show.

Want to start Good News Friday this week with a fantastic story I saw on my friend Catherine’s Facebook page the other day. It’s about a bookstore clerk, an elderly customer, and a college student on line to buy textbooks.

This is the beginning, but I highly, highly recommend reading the whole thing, the kindness and generosity in it blew me away:

I work in a decent sized, local, indie bookstore. It’s a great job 99% of the time and a lot of our customers are pretty neat people. Anywho, middle of the day this little old lady comes up. She’s lovably kooky. She effuses how much she loves the store and how she wishes she could spend more time in it but her husband is waiting in the car ‘OH! I BETTER BUY HIM SOME CHOCOLATE!’ She piles a bunch of art supplies on the counter and then stops and tells me how my bangs are beautiful and remind her of the ocean (‘Wooooosh’ she says, making a wave gesture with her hand.
Ok. I think to myself. Awesomely happy, weird little old ladies are my favourite kind of customer. They’re thrilled about everything and they’re comfortably bananas. I can have a good time with this one. So we chat and it’s nice.

Then this kid, who’s been up my counter a few times to gather his school textbooks, comes up in line behind her (we’re connected to a major university in the city so we have a lot of harried students pass through). She turns around to him and, out of nowhere, demands that he put his textbooks on the counter. He’s confused but she explains that she’s going to buy his textbooks.
He goes sheetrock white. He refuses and adamantly insists that she can’t do that. It’s like, $400 worth of textbooks. She, this tiny old woman, boldly takes them out of his hands, throws them on the counter and turns to me with an intense stare and tells me to put them on her bill. The kid at this point is practically in tears. He’s confused and shocked and grateful. Then she turns to him and says ‘you need chocolate.’ She starts grabbing handfuls of chocolates and putting them in her pile.

It gets better from there. I have no idea if this story is recent, or a few years old. Doesn’t matter. The sentiment is beautiful.

**Next up, I’m not trying to influence you on who to support in the Democratic primary, but I think we can all agree this is a super-sweet moment on the campaign trail between Elizabeth Warren and a little girl named Viola.

Just a minute or two of pure, unadulterated innocence and joy. Really, really sweet.

**And finally today, just because after the last few days of political madness we all need some mindless joy, may I present a dog playing the piano, and a baby dancing along with it.

If only these two were running our country right now… (insert your own joke here).

Finally, impeachment proceedings are going to start. It’s about damn time. A powerful new video from the Sandy Hook Promise folks. And why do chess players need to be in great physical shape? An eye-opening story explains why

A brief look behind the curtain of my brain as it operates in relation to this here blog…
So for about a week now I’d been planning to write a long post today about an issue in our political landscape that continues to perplex me: Just what Republican Senators and Congressmen are so afraid of when it comes to pushing back even the slightest at the lawlessness of this President.

Are they so, so afraid of pushback in their states, and their districts, from Trump supporters that they’re incapable of finding any fault in the lawlessness, corruption, and overall asshole-ery of the current Commander-in-Chief?

I mean, I’m not stupid or naive: I understand a lot of these elected GOP officials are afraid of being primaried, of having the Trump MAGA crew find a halfway-sane candidate to run against a Ben Sasse in Nebraska or a Cory Gardner in Colorado or whoever and possibly even beat them. And I also understand that for many of them, like Mitch McConnell, Trump can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City and they’ll be fine with it, such is their lust for power and passing legislation (and installing judges) who agree with their worldview.

But come on, NONE of these people have any sense of country, of decency, of morality?

Anyway, that was going to be my post. I consulted some friends whose opinions I trust to sound them out, got some feedback, and it was going to a nice long Wednesday rant.

And then… Tuesday happened, and shit finally got real for Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic party in the House and a woman with whom millions of us have been pleading, begging, cajoling and calling on to please, please, pretty please with a sugar on top, start impeachment proceedings against the most deceitful, lawbreaking, corrupt President we’ve ever had (and Richard Nixon was once President!).

It took years, it took dozens of Trump administration crimes, but by golly, it took one more giant one (Dear Leader threatening/witholding foreign aid to Ukraine unless they investigate Joe Biden’s son’s business dealings) for Pelosi to finally, praise the Lord, agree that impeachment proceedings are in order. Here’s a great little overview of 40 of the many, many things Trump has done in his Presidency to deserve to be impeached/brought up on charges.

Nancy! Bubeleh, we’ve been waiting for you! You’re the last Democrat in America to reach this conclusion, but we’re just so happy you finally got there! It’s like you’re the final kid in school to find out you’re allowed to ditch school on Senior Cut Day!

In all seriousness, Pelosi did give a great speech announcing her decision, and people like Congressman Adam Schiff of California echoed her in quoting Thomas Paine, the great 18th century writer and Founding Father.

“The times have found us,” Schiff told his colleagues during the Democratic caucus meeting. “And in light of the damning allegations the president has admitted to, the time is now.”

The time is now. It’s been now for a good while. I hold out no grand illusion that Trump will be impeached by the Senate. But the more digging that goes on, the more sunlight proves to be a disinfectant, who the hell knows what the House impeachment investigation will find. Maybe it will be so much overwhelming evidence of awfulness that a few Republican Senators actually…

Hey, a guy can dream.

***Next up today, I like to run these powerful ads from the Sandy Hook Promise group, formed from the ashes of the devastating Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012, because they’re incredibly well-done, they are attention-getting, and even though I am still incredibly pessimistic about anything ever getting done to curb gun violence in schools in our country, I still have to try.

And so does Sandy Hook Promise. To coincide with students across the country returning to school this month, they’ve released this ad called “Back to School Essentials.” Please watch to the end, for as always the message is in the juxtaposition from the beginning of the ad, to the end.

Fantastic, devastating. ad.

**Finally today, this was one of those stories that would’ve been totally off my radar if a few people I follow on Twitter hadn’t pointed it out, and I’m so glad they did.

On ESPN.com, a writer named Aishwarya Kumar has written a fascinating piece on why chess players must train, physically, so hard and put on weight and muscle mass before big tournaments.

On the surface, it sounds ridiculous: They spent hours, and days at a time sitting on their butts in a chair, making moves, getting up only to go to the bathroom.

And yet…

“The 1984 World Chess Championship was called off after five months and 48 games because defending champion Anatoly Karpov had lost 22 pounds. “He looked like death,” grandmaster and commentator Maurice Ashley recalls.

In 2004, winner Rustam Kasimdzhanov walked away from the six-game world championship having lost 17 pounds. In October 2018, Polar, a U.S.-based company that tracks heart rates, monitored chess players during a tournament and found that 21-year-old Russian grandmaster Mikhail Antipov had burned 560 calories in two hours of sitting and playing chess — or roughly what Roger Federer would burn in an hour of singles tennis.

Robert Sapolsky, who studies stress in primates at Stanford University, says a chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories a day while playing in a tournament, three times what an average person consumes in a day.”

There’s lots more great stuff in the story about this. Really, really well done, and well worth your time. I learned a whole lot.

 

The Emmy Awards were just fine without a host, and had some shocking winners. And a couple of quick NFL thoughts, including a new star born in N.Y.

Sunday night was the Emmy Awards, always my favorite awards show because I watch more TV than I do movies (certainly true since co-creating two new humans in the last five years), and despite not having seen a lot of the winning shows (I always make really good lists of shows we “Must start watching!” the night of the Emmys), I was as usual entertained by the telecast.

There were a few shocking winners, a few winners I expected, and lots of laughs.

Some thoughts from a night TV got together and paid tribute to its past as much as its present:

— There was no host, but the opening bits worked great, with Bryan Cranston coming on as “savior” and a really funny gag with Ben Stiller putting the still-alive Bob Newhart standing in a line of wax figures of dead comedians.

Man, when Bob Newhart finally does pass away, the Emmy tribute to him will go on for hours. As it should.

— Shocker of the night: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, trying to go 7-for-7 in the Best lead comedy actress category for “Veep”, was beaten by Phoebe Waller-Bridge of “Fleabag,” which I’m told I gotta start watching. I literally said “Wow!” when this award was announced.

— How Kate McKinnon continues to be amazing and yet NOT win Emmy Awards is a tragedy. She gets passed over way too often.

— Great that Tony Shalhoub won for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” for best supporting actor. He’s terrific in everything. But I really, really wanted Anthony Corrigan from “Barry” to triumph, because his NoHo Hank character is freaking fantastic.

— Thrilled that Bill Hader won for “Barry,” and also very happy to see Maisel’s Alex Bornstein win; both are fantastic and also Bornstein gave a very funny acceptance speech.

— The canned pre-planned comedy bits were mostly, as usual, lame. But Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel’s mock-anger over the show not having a host was pretty hilarious.

— Simply outstanding speech by Michelle Williams, who won for “Fosse/Verdon” talking about opportunities given her, and how women, and especially women of color, should be paid more and certainly equally to men.

“When a woman, especially a woman of color … tells you what she needs to do her job, listen to her… so that she can succeed because of her environment and not in spite of it.”

Tremendous speech that you should watch here. Michelle Williams has come a looong way from “Dawson’s Creek.”

— Best-dressed and worst-dressed of the night, as always in this space provided by my wife:
Best: Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Catherine O’Hara. (I’d like to add that Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Laura Linney looked amazing).  Also, in the boys “I wouldn’t kick him out of bed,” category she liked Jason Bateman, Peter Krause, and Sterling K. Brown of “This is Us.” He’s crazy handsome, I agree.

Worst: Nobody truly terrible, but Taraji P. Henson’s dress wasn’t great, and what in the hell died on top of Billy Porter’s head? Also, Halsey, singing the death montage, seemed to be missing the bottom of her skirt.

**Finally, a couple quick NFL Week 3 thoughts, when a new star was born in New York, a paranoid coach made me laugh in New England, and this QB in Kansas City continues to amaze:

— Well that was one hell of a debut for the New York Giants new QB. Eli Manning was finally benched this week, years after he should’ve been, and the rookie Daniel Jones stepped in and was amazingly good. Scored two touchdowns running, threw for two more, and led the Giants to their first win of the year.
All those Giants fans screaming bloody murder after the Draft about taking Jones so high at No. 6? I don’t think they’re complaining today.
Oh and the Giants tried really hard to lose the game despite Jones’ heroics, but there’s a rule somewhere

— So there was nothing really surprising about the Patriots’ 30-14 beatdown of the Jets, except maybe that the Jets actually scored two touchdowns (they were on special teams and on defense, but still, it’s two more TD’s than I thought they’d get!), but I had to laugh out loud at Bill Belichick’s comical paranoia in the fourth quarter. So there’s only about six minutes left, it’s 30-7, and the Pats have pulled Tom Brady for backup QB Jarrett Stidham.
Stidham promptly throws a pick-six, returned for a TD by Jamal Adams.

So now it’s 30-14, and the game is totally over, there’s no way the Jets are scoring two more touchdowns… and yet Coach Hoodie puts Brady back into the game.
Totally cracked me up. He’s so freaking paranoid.

— So Patrick Mahomes is just ridiculously good. I saw a good bit of Ravens-Chiefs (which was wildly fun; Lamar Jackson is going to be a WAY better NFL quarterback than I thought he was) and what struck me again about Mahomes is how effortless he makes playing quarterback seem. The guy is just so fluid, so smooth, and just makes plays. The Chiefs will go 14-2, because even though their defense isn’t great, Mahomes is.

— The 49ers are 3-0 So are the Bills. The Steelers are 0-3. You never know what’s going to happen in this sport.

Good News Friday: A Pittsburgh man does nothing but good deeds. A teacher makes her student’s day with an awesome gesture. And a college football fan’s goofy sign for TV leads to thousands for a great cause

Happy Friday, my fellow Earthlings. As we anxiously await just what fresh hell our current President will get us into today (war with Iran? Making secret deals over the phone with foreign leaders? Everything’s on the table this season on “America: Who the hell knows?”), I want to as always focus on the positives in life on this day.

So much good stuff this week that I’m cramming a fourth item kinda into another item I’m writing about.

So you may remember a few months back I wrote about my smart, amazing, and oh so kind friend Catherine Pearlman, who donated a kidney to a complete stranger she learned about from a flyer at a Los Angeles-area Starbucks.

Well, Catherine’s story, and that of the recipient of her incredible kindness, Eli Valdez, were recently profiled on the “Today” show, and I urge you to watch this short story about them here. So, so proud.

But that’s not the main kidney-related story I’m leading with today, no sir or ma’am! Check out this wonderful piece from the always-uplifting Steve Hartman of CBS News, about a Pittsburgh man named Jon Potter, who is “addicted” to doing nice things for people.

His latest gesture? It involved a kidney that he no longer has. He gave it to another person. Jon Potter, you are my new hero.

**Next up today, I love this story, sent to me by my friend Rhonda, who spotted it. So a football fan in Iowa was trying to get on camera at ESPN’s wildly popular college football pregame show last week when the TV crew was in Ames, Iowa.

A 24-year-old kid named Carter King thought it’d be funny to hold up a sign asking for “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished,” and listing his Venmo address for donations.

Well, the joke was on King once money started pouring in, and once he’d raised a few hundred bucks, he decided to actually do something much more worthy with the money (and really dude, Busch Light? that’s an awful beer).

King decided to donate any and all funds given to him to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, a place he’d raised some money for before.

As word spread, the money really started pouring in, and both Venmo and Busch Light’s corporate headquarters vowed to match the donations from the public.

As of this writing, Carson says that he’s raised more than $67,000 for the hospital, bringing the matching total to more than $200,000.

Fantastic, fantastic job. Who knew that a plea for some cheap beer could result in something so valuable?

**Finally today, another terrific story of an educator going above and beyond for their students (hat tip to my sister Deb for this story).

Willonda Caffie is a third-grade teacher in Alabama, and a few weeks ago she did something kinda fantastic. Her student Christopher McCarley earned a grade of 100 on his first reading test of the year, and to show how proud she was, Caffie stopped by the McCarley house and planted a yard sign.

It read “Mrs. Caffie is so proud of me!”

Ashly McCarley, Christopher’s mom, took to social media on August 18 after receiving a surprise visit from her son Christopher’s teacher. The post has since gone viral with over 19,000 likes and nearly 10,000 shares.

According to this story, when the little scholar saw his teacher with the sign, his mother says he ran out of the house and jumped into her arms.

“I feel like Mrs. Caffie gives my son a fire to want to do his very best,” she said.

“Other students have also gotten signs for their accomplishments also! I am not really sure what made his teacher decide to give signs other than trying to reward them in a special way that would also motivate them and others to do their very best,” McCarley told FOX 26.

McCarley says she had many emotions when Mrs. Caffie showed up to her doorstep.

“I was so proud, and I was also overflowing with joy to see how happy my son was, because his teacher made a special trip to our home on a Sunday,” McCarley said.

What a wonderful gesture by an educator who is surely paid far too little, but whose impact is so, so great.

Maybe too good to be true, but it looks like Bibi may be done in Israel. Kodi Lee wows “America’s Got Talent” finals. And a woman in England marries a tree (seriously)

It’s not even Rosh Hashanah, and the New York Jets are down to their third-string quarterback this season, and are a 22-point underdog to the Patriots this weekend.
Just wanted to share my misery with you all. Now on with the show…

I don’t want to celebrate prematurely, since so many of us are frightened of doing that after past election shockers (see, Clinton, Hillary, 2016), but I was feeling very upbeat Tuesday night upon reading headlines declaring that finally, ding dong, the witch of Israel might be (politically) dead.

After 13 years over two decades in power, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu maybe, possibly, likely, finally lost an election as Prime Minister.

And speaking as a Jew, as an American, and a citizen of the world, this is freaking fantastic news.

As the election results trickled in Tuesday night, all the exit poll data showed that Bibi and his far-right, ultra-orthodox ruling party had failed to secure a majority of votes, and that Benny Gantz, a moderate who opposed Netanyahu in the election, would emerge slightly ahead and get the first chance to form a coalition government.

If this is true… it’s wonderful. For so long, Netanyahu has bullied, lied and bribed his way to power and then to keep it, and his unbelievable arrogance and refusal to even consider the rights of Palestinians in a peace process he never had any interest in joining, has been disgraceful.

His coming to Congress at the behest of Republican leader John Boehner in 2015, to then browbeat America and President Obama was particularly odious, and his constant, consistent lies and half-truths about Palestinians, his disgusting behavior toward America, and most recently, his slavish devotion and love of Donald Trump has been a stain on the world.

Oh yeah, he’s also under indictment for bribery and corruption.

Bibi has been close to political death before, and has always escaped. So like I said, I’m not celebrating yet. But as an American Jew who simply cannot support the far-right, constant war-mongering man who leads the homeland of my people, this could be a wonderful, wonderful change in leadership.

My fingers will be crossed.

**Next up today, I blogged a while back about the incredible singer Kodi Lee on “America’s Got Talent,” a blind man who has tremendous vocal range and an inspiring backstory.

Well, Tuesday night was the “AGT” finals and Lee once again put on one hell of a show. Check out his performance. What a talented young man.

**And finally today, this story kind of made me wonder exactly what makes some people tick. Because I have no Earthly idea.

So there’s this 34-year-old woman in England named Kate Cunningham, and about 10 days ago she legally married a tree.

That’s right, a tree. The ceremony took place in Rimrose Valley Park, and Cunningham invited her family and friends to come see the ceremony, after which Cunningham said she was legally changing her last name to “Elder,” after the species of tree she married (well, sure.)

Cunningham’s goal with this “marriage” was to draw attention to the destruction of green spaces in her local park, see. So she figured by getting hitched to an inanimate object, she’d get lots and lots of attention.

From this story in the Daily Mail: Miss Cunningham said that she was inspired by female activists from Mexico who held similar ceremonies to bring attention to illegal logging and land clearing, and that she hoped to draw attention to the campaign to save Rimrose Valley Park.

The former primary school behaviour support assistant said her family and boyfriend were supportive of her decision.

She said: ‘My boyfriend is very supportive of my decision. He’s even helped make props for the ceremony.

‘My oldest son was initially embarrassed when I told him I was going to do it, but he decided to come to the ceremony. It means a lot to him to be there.”

Sigh. You just KNOW her son is going to be talking about this in therapy some day.

James Corden with a heartfelt takedown of “fat-shaming.” A hilarious obit from the family of a prankster. And NFL Week 2: Any healthy QB’s left? And boy do the Giants stink

It’s pretty rare when one late-night TV show host goes after another publicly on their own show. But James Corden, who I love, went after Bill Maher, who I used to love and now I just feel sorry for, last week on Corden’s show, and I applaud him for it greatly.

Maher, who was once a smart, edgy thinker who was very funny, did a stupid, thoughtless monologue at the end of his “Real Time with Bill Maher” HBO show last week about “Fat shaming,” and how it needs to come back, and be amped up. Fat people, Maher argued, need a kick in their rear to lose weight, and the rest of us should be constantly reminding them of it.

“Fat shaming doesn’t need to end, it needs to make a comeback,” Maher said. “Some amount of shame is good.”

James Corden, who like millions of us has struggled with his weight for his whole life, rightfully, and smartly, whacks back at Maher’s idiotic takes. Watch this heartfelt, so well-done seven minutes by Corden. I admire him using his platform for his, and shame on Maher (you said some shame is good, right Bill?) for once again showing the world has passed him by.

Bravo, James.

**Next up today, it’s rare you’ll ever read an obit as funny as the one a Connecticut man named Joe Heller had written about him, by his three daughters.

Heller, a master prankster and the life of any party he went to, died at age 82 on Sept. 8, and the obit is hilarious.

This is the lede to the great obit:

“When the doctors confronted his daughters with the news last week that “your father is a very sick man,” in unison they replied, “you have no idea.”

It talks about how as a kid he named his pet dog “Fart,” so his mother would have to yell that word out every time she was looking for the pup. It mentions how he embarrassed his family constantly and in many ways.

The obituary listed achievements such as being a “consummate napper” and a regular browser of collectibles at the local dump.

There wasn’t a road, restaurant or friend’s house in Essex that he didn’t fall asleep on or in,” Ms. Heller wrote, adding that her father “left his family with a house full of crap, 300 pounds of birdseed and dead houseplants that they have no idea what to do with.”

The whole thing is fabulous, a sweet, warm tribute to a Dad they loved dearly.

Who is now taking the ultimate nap.

— First off, what in the world did the New Orleans Saints do in a past life to piss off the referee Gods? We all remember last year’s debacle of a missed pass-interference call in the NFC championship game, that may have cost them a Super Bowl chance. And then Sunday, they scored an apparent touchdown on defense that was called back because of an “inadvertent whistle.” The NFL refereeing continues to be so, so bad.

— Quarterback down! Quarterback down! Actually, quite a few quarterbacks down on Sunday, not counting my future star Sam Darnold of the Jets, who this week came down with mono, so clearly those makeout sessions with the offensive line in the locker room had some deletory effects.

Drew Brees, hurt and maybe out for a while. Ben Roethlisberger, hurt and maybe out for a while. Carson Wentz of the Eagles, who finished his game Sunday night, might be hurt.
Rough sport, this football thing.

— My ex-father-in law, who lived near Buffalo for a long time, used to taunt me on the rare occasions the Bills were doing well, saying “You know Michael, the Bills are the only true New York team,” since of course the Jets and Giants have played their games in New Jersey for decades.

Well, after the first two weeks of the NFL season, the Bills are certainly the best New York team. Because they just got done beating both of the “other” New York teams, finishing off with a stomping of the Giants Sunday.
I don’t know if the 2-0 Bills are for real yet, because both the Jets and Giants are horrible this year, but I know Buffalo might have a good young QB and some playmakers on offense, and an aggressive defense. Let’s see how they do against some better competition.

— Football in Florida is putrid this season. The Jaguars stink. The Bucs are pretty woeful, too. And the Dolphins… wow, if they don’t go 0-16, something very surprising has happened.

— Pray for me tonight. The Jets are down to their backup quarterback, have a bunch of other injuries, and are playing a Browns team that got embarrassed last week and needs a win badly. This could get uglier than the shower scene in “Psycho.” (look it up, young’uns.)

A letter to my son on his 5th birthday: A year of big changes, a big surgery, and my pride grows deeper

Dear Nate,

Hi! It’s Daddy again. You know, Daddy, the guy who gives you way too many snacks way too close to dinner, is always losing to you in board games and on your Hot Wheels track, and has so much fun with you, every day.

Another year in your incredible life has passed, and just the other day you turned 5. FIVE! I can’t believe it, you’re half a decade old. Halfway to double digits! (Trust me, when you get there it’ll feel like a HUGE milestone).

There have been so many changes in your life in the past year, and so many things I want to get down here in this space, as I do every year, to try to “time capsule” every year of your life, so one day you can look back and say “Oh, that’s what I was like when I was 4!”

Since your last birthday you’ve gone to a new preschool called Gan Shalom, and had so much fun and made so many new friends there. You were blessed with two outstanding teachers who gave you the building blocks you needed for your next challenge: Kindergarten.

You’ve only been there a week but you already love it. Your teacher, Mrs. Michaelides, seems great, and getting a crown on your birthday last week and having the whole class sing to you sure got the year off to a good start (good thing you’ve mostly overcome your fear of loud noises, otherwise that might have scared you!)

You also got to go to your first full-day day camp this year, riding a bus and playing sports with your friends and getting to love your counselors! Your swimming got so much better and you only lost about three hats and four T-shirts, so all in all, you know, a good summer 🙂

Another major change this year was having your tonsils and adenoids removed in July. That was a big deal for you, having to go under anesthesia and have surgery, and Mommy and Daddy were so proud of how brave you were (except for those 30 seconds before surgery when you screamed so loud you could’ve woken the dead).

You handled the surgery like a champ, Nate, getting to eat lots of ice cream and cold stuff afterwards. Even us waking you up every three hours during the night for the first 10 days, to give you medicine, didn’t bother you too much.
Now, you’re sleeping better (no more snoring, hooray), and not nearly as stuffy as you used to be. We’re still waiting for you to eat more food, and have bigger portions, but hey, we can’t have everything.

You’ve undergone so many changes this year, but so many things have, happily, stayed the same. Your love for trains, and the creative way you build your tracks and play with them, still blows my mind. You can spend an hour down in the basement and then emerge with a wonderful creation, and it’s times like this that I know you got your mechanical/building side of your brain from your mother (as we always say in our house, who fixes the boys’ toys? “Mommy.”)

Your love for “Paw Patrol” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” shows no signs of slowing, and lately you’ve really gotten into tennis, which makes Daddy so happy (but I’m still afraid to force it on you, since I love it so much I don’t want you to feel like you HAVE to love tennis!)

We are so proud of you, Nate, for so many reasons: You’re a wonderful listener, you have such an inquisitive mind (when we got our new car you were so excited to figure out the various machinations of where everyone could sit, now that we have 3 rows!), and you have a kind heart that’s always sharing and being friendly to others.

Finally, we’re so proud of the big brother you continue to be to Theo. You love playing with him at all times; riding around the kitchen on your toy bicycles, rough-housing in your room, or always giving him a kiss goodnight and a “Hi, buddy!” greeting when you see him first thing in the morning.

You and Theo have so much fun together, and I hope it never changes.

Happy, happy birthday, sweet Nate. Five years in, you’re still one of the two best things Mommy and Daddy ever did.

Love,
Daddy

P.S. Oh yeah, one more thing: Listen to me when I tell you not to root for the Jets, ever. You’ll thank me when you get older.

Remembering 9/11: Somehow it’s been 18 years since it happened. The Democratic Prez candidates make a great ad about gun violenec in schools. And a beautiful gesture from the newspaper in Pittsburgh.

Eighteen. It’s a number that has a huge relevance in life for many peoples, including those of my tribe, in Judaism. Turning 18 signifies so much in our cultural life in America: The ability to vote, the ability do many things as an adult for the first time (play the Lottery was always a big one for me), and most people really feel like a grown-up at 18.

The number 18 has been in my mind this week because today is September 11, of course, and it’s now been, unfathomably, 18 years since two airplanes struck the World Trade Center on a beautiful Tuesday morning in New York City.

Which means that a child born on 9/11/01 is starting college this year, having lived their entire life in a post-9/11 world.

Mind-boggling to me. Because when I close my eyes I can still see all the images from that day, the confusion, the panic, the sheer “what the $*#*@*$ is going on?” on the faces of all my fellow New Yorkers.

Never in a million years would I have thought, 18 years later, we’d still be fighting in Afghanistan, still have American soldiers dying in a war that started nearly two decades ago.

All we can do is not let the passage of time dim our memories of the heroes, and tragic figures, of that day.

And today, take a few minutes to think about the sacrifice so many have made, trying to protect our freedoms since that horrible day.

**Next up today, it’s been rare to see the Democratic Presidential candidates all appear in the same ad, and with the next Presidential debate Thursday night (one I’m eagerly anticipating, and hoping for great performances from Kamala Harris and Cory Booker), I thought it was very timely that this ad was released this week.

Featuring most of the top contenders, and dealing with the very real but ignored by our Congress issue of gun violence, it’s powerful, and it’s fantastic.

**Finally today, I would normally save this for Good News Friday, but since this week is a different, special GNF I do every year at this time, I wanted to make sure I ran this now.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize in April for its outstanding coverage of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in 2018. With the prize comes an award of $15,000, and at first the journalists at the paper weren’t sure what to do with it, or how to divide it up.

So they came up with a fantastic, heartwarming solution: They donated it to the synagogue that had suffered so much, to help rebuild it.

The newspaper’s executive editor, Keith Burris, in presenting the  check to the temple, said these words at the ceremony on Aug. 29:

“Rabbi Myers, when the unthinkable happened at Tree of Life, it was our job to tell the story.

And to tell the backstory.

We did our duty.

It was our honor to do it.

Nothing about doing our duty makes us noble or exceptional.

But the DUTY ITSELF was and is noble.

Now we share with you another duty: TO REMEMBER.

And to assure that Pittsburgh, the United States, and all the world, REMEMBERS.

We feel bound to you and your congregations – by memory and duty.

And we offer you, in humility, our service – as scribes and witnesses.

We wish Tree of Life to have this gift – the newspaper’s cash award for the Pulitzer Prize for spot news – as a sign of this bond and this service. We give it as a modest contribution toward the repair and rebuilding of the congregation’s physical plant.

Really wonderful gesture that I’m certain will be remembered long after the people who won the Pulitzer are gone.

An amazing U.S. Open finals weekend, as Bianca and Rafa (and Daniil) put on an amazing show. And NFL Week 1 thoughts: The Jets are the Jets, the Browns are the Browns, and the Dolphins are godwawful

So, the tennis over the weekend, not so bad, eh?

What. A. Weekend. As always the Sunday after Labor Day is one of my favorite sports days of the year, because we’ve got the men’s final of the U.S. Open, and Week 1 of the National Football League season.

This is always one of my longest blog posts of the year and if you hate football and tennis, well, the next 1,000 or so words aren’t going to thrill you.

Man oh man, what a fantastic, fantastic weekend of tennis from the men’s and women’s finals. First a few thoughts on the epic men’s final Sunday, when a 23-year-old Russian kid who a year ago few had heard of, came oh so close to scoring one of the greatest comebacks and upset wins in the sport’s history.

Daniil Medvedev, the 6-foot-6 elastic man who just kept on coming for two weeks at the Open, got down two sets and a break Sunday to one of the five greatest men’s players ever, Rafael Nadal.

And somehow found a way to battle all the way to a fifth set, to fall behind 5-2 in that fifth set, and then come within one measly point of squaring the set at 5, as 24,000 New Yorkers at Arthur Ashe Stadium screamed their bloody heads off.

Nadal, because he’s a beast, and a machine, and maybe the best fighter the sport has ever seen, did not fully crumble, as he staved off defeat in the fifth set and won his 19th Slam title, and fourth U.S. Open.

(Deep breath). Yes, I know concede after many, many years of denial, that the kid from Spain will pass Roger Federer’s Slam haul of 20. And I also think Novak Djokovic, with 16, will eventually pass both of them.

All credit to Nadal, though, for an amazing tournament. He didn’t have to play the other two of the big Three, but he stood toe to toe with all challengers, and against a very worthy foe Sunday, had just enough nerve, stamina and shotmaking to win.

What a glorious time to be a tennis fan.

— A few words on Medvedev: He had a rocky two weeks with the Open fans, after snatching a towel angrily from a ball boy in Week 1, and subtly giving the chair umpire the finger as well. But the kid grew up a lot at this Open, before our very eyes. His incredible effort Sunday, coupled with his very gracious post-match comments and press conference, show me he very well could be a huge star in this sport. And that would be a good thing.

— On the women’s side, a brand-new star was born, and one nobody saw coming a year ago.
Do you realize that 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu lost in U.S. Open qualifying last year? And that she just won seven matches splendidly, showing poise, confidence and sensational talent all the way through?

I could not be more impressed with this kid, both in the couple of times I was in press conferences with her, from her post-match humility and aw-shucks “Is this really happening?” attitude, and her larger-than-large game.

The first Canadian Grand Slam singles champion ever, Andreescu is here to stay. She was absolutely fearless for two weeks and seven matches, and even though she wobbled a bit at the end against Serena, letting a 5-1 lead get back to 5-5, she steadied and got the job done.

What a performance.

— Now about Serena: This is four times now in the past 18 months she’s reached a Slam final, and four times she’s gotten beaten soundly. This is not a matter of coming close to Grand Slam title No. 24 and losing, say, 6-4 in the third. This is playing very well for six rounds, then getting smacked in the final. I don’t know if it’s mental at this point, or physically she gets worn down, or what. But she is simply not the same player in finals as she is the rest of the tournament. And I’m not sure she’ll ever win another Slam.

I must say, though, that she was exceedingly, brutally honest in her post-match press conference, and very gracious on-court to Andreescu after the loss. Serena has come very, very far in the humility and grace departments when she loses.

Tennis, man. It’s just the best.

**OK, a few quick words now on Week 1 of the NFL season, when everyone overreacts to results and assumes either their team is going to the Super Bowl, or will never win another game:

— I didn’t expect THIS type of Jets loss Sunday, but no Jets loss ever really surprises me anymore. Their offense stunk, their kicker who had never kicked at MetLife Stadium before Sunday missed a field goal and an extra point, and the defense collapsed in the 4th quarter, and they lost to Buffalo, 17-16.
Sam Darnold, our franchise QB, was bad, so was the O-line, and at least Le’Veon Bell looked like the real deal. Just a brutal, brutal loss. Many more to come.

–So much for those Super Bowl-bound Browns, eh? After six months of hype about how good Cleveland was going to be, it’s a new era, etc., the Brownies went out and lost by 30, at home, to Tennessee. Poor Browns fans, they’re just never going to get a winning team, are they.

— Still, the Browns didn’t have the worst Week 1 showing. That goes to the Dolphins, who gave up 42 points IN THE FIRST HALF. The Ravens ended up hanging 59 on ’em, and as a Jets fan I’m thrilled. Wow is that franchise a mess right now.

— The Cardinals and Lions, two of the worst franchises historically in the NFL, played to a tie, which led to this amazing Detroit Free Press tweet:

— Finally, Antonio Brown is the biggest drama queen/idiot the NFL has seen in quite some time, it’s a disgrace the way he behaved to get himself released from the Raiders, and now he’s a Patriot and he’ll probably act like a choirboy. I hate sports sometimes.

Good News Friday: Two sisters read bedtime stories to kids on the Internet. A new ESPN commercial really moves me. And Marvin Gaye, stripped down vocals, is amazing to hear

 

And a Happy Friday, the first weekend of September is here, I’m wearing pants during the day for the first time in months as there’s a little chill in the air here in New York (don’t worry, I wasn’t walking around in my underwear all summer, I just meant I’m not wearing shorts today. Now that we’ve cleared that up…).

School has started for all of us now, so I wanted to start Good News Friday with a great educational idea I read about this week on Upworthy.com. From a recent story:

“Every week, 13-year-old Zaria Willard and her 8-year-old sister Hailey visit their local library to pick out a selection of books to read on social media. The girls then take turns recording their Facebook Live readings every night of the work week.

The Delaware girls have been sharing their daily bedtime stories on their Zaria x Hailey Facebook page since March—and they have already garnered over 10,000 fans.”

“We are already reading each night, but we thought it may be beneficial for children who don’t get this luxury,” wrote the sisters. “Parents sometimes work late or are too tired for stories [so] we are not only helping children, we are giving parents a nice break after a long day of work.

“We presented the idea to my mom and she agreed it would be great. She personally doesn’t want us to be on social media but we all agreed being on it in a positive way would help light the world.”

Very, very cool idea. So many parents working long hours don’t get a chance to read to their kids, so every little bit helps. Here’s the link again, check them out.

**Next up today, I admit I’m very much a sucker for inspirational sports commercials, but this new one from ESPN, called “There’s No Place Like Sports,” gave me ALL the feels.

I’ve seen it quite a few times since the U.S. Open started, and it gets me every time.
Just beautiful.

**And finally, speaking of beautiful and exquisite things, here’s a little something to take you into the weekend. I saw this on Twitter yesterday and it was, of course, fantastic. The late, great, Marvin Gaye, singing “Heard it Through the Grapevine” without the music and backing vocals.

Not since Whitney Houston’s stripped-down singing have i heard something so incredible, vocally.