November 27, 2007

Fingers have gotten stiff

My fingers are stiff and it required quite a lot of work to blow the cobwebs off of the keyboard. Honestly, I am not at all sure where to begin. It seems like such a long time since I last sat down and pecked out an entry here that I am at a loss for a starting point. Maybe, instead of something structured, I could just ramble a bit, indulge myself with a little free association. I warn you, though, that if I decide to do that, I will not re-read the entry. I will simply, when I tire of writing, hit "post" and let it rip. So, bearing in mind that caveat, I begin:

I remain puzzled by the flurry of statements and accusations released by the Democratic presidential candidates. Is really nothing going right in the country? Is all that is going wrong really correctly laid at the President's door? Why, now that things seem to be going so much better in Iraq, have the candidates stopped talking about the war? I am waiting for one of them to show me something special, something that looks like leadership. Right now, the only guy I really admire is Rudy. He has, at least, the courage to stand up and say that he is running contrary to the deeply held views of his base. At least he's honest.

* * *

I watched my daughter ride in her second horse show this weekend. The results were quite a bit better than even her first. And, considering that she has only been riding since August, I gather it is remarkable that she jumped cross rails well enough to take a ribbon. And it wasn't one of those "everybody is a winner" ribbons. It was a "I did better than someone else" ribbon. She had to be pulled aside by her instructor before the two jumping rounds so she could watch the other children ride first since she had no idea how to jump a horse show course. The thing that pleased me the most was how calm and composed she was when her horse refused a jump in the second round. She just pulled his head around, took him back, and then took him over the jump. That showed a terribly rare grace and composure under pressure that seems unusual in a not quite 7 year old. Good for her.

* * *

We spent a long weekend recently in Boca Raton, Florida. We had to go for a family bar mitzvah.

I loathe Florida, at least that part. It all looks alike, I cannot find my way around, I cannot differentiate one part of the area from any other part. I am so glad I plumped for the GPS unit in the car I rented.

That said, swimming with the kids was nice.

I actually missed, almost entirely, my cousin's bar mitzvah, though. I took the Boy Child to the potty and, coming back, found an elderly woman, in tears, sitting on her walker. The lobby attendant asked me if I knew her and, sure enough, she was Gloria, my aunt's oldest friend. The lobby attendant immediately fled and there I was with Gloria. Gloria got lost on the way to the synagogue, she got disoriented in the handicapped bathroom and exited into a dark room where something feel on her leg, and now she just wanted to leave. I calmed her down, after some time (I think we were out in the lobby for somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes) and all three of us went back in to sit in the back. Once in the back, we regularly got shushed as we sat there and made disparaging comments about the rabbi and all of the silly and pointless speeches. It was great fun.

Gloria had been married to a very, very learned man, an Algerian Jew. Her husband, in fact, at his own son's bar mitzvah, was supposed to read from the Torah. He told the rabbi there that he would read it, although the Torah was wrong. Turns out he was correct and the scribe who wrote the scroll had made a mistake. I don't know too many people who can do that. So, if Gloria, finally calm, wanted to talk smack about the rabbi, you bet I was going to let her and even join in.

Gloria later sent my parents an email, by the way, thanking them for raising me so well. She even called me a young man, which was especially nice. If there is any interest, I will post the email. It was quite the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me.

* * *

My in laws are in town for a three week visit. It may feel as if it is dragging on a bit. My father in law has already killed the bourbon, which is a shame since with my mother in law in the house, this is when my wife needs it the most.

* * *

I brought the Boy Child, all of 4.5 years old, on to the paddle tennis court to hit with the instructor for 15-20 minutes. I trust the instructor. He's a good guy and promised to be honest with me about the Boy Child. His verdict? The BC has extraordinary coordination, better than many of the 7 year olds he teaches.

Can anyone say, "squash scholarship", please? Pretty please?

* * *

I have had a beastly cold for a little more than a week now. I believe I must have caught it from one of the children. I have not let it interfere with anything important but it is damn little fun.

* * *

I forgot what I was going to put here. No bother. We leave this section as is and move on to the next one.

* * *

The Viking Bride and I are gathering some 70 people together and making them put on ties and dresses, as appropriate, for a cocktail party marking our both turning 40. It was what she really wanted to do, you see, and who am I to tell her no? Just the same, while I am sure it will be fun -- lots to drink, lots to eat, a string trio for light music, good company -- I am not completely looking forward to it. Go figure.

* * *

I have to cross the water tonight. I am going, in other words, to Brooklyn. I have not been there in a really long time. I have to play a squash match for my club team where I will do my best to, if not cover myself in glory, at least not make anyone say, "it is so sad when they get old yet insist on playing".

At least I got an early slot: 5:45. Means I might make it home before day break.

* * *

I attended a memorial service on Saturday where I watched a friend say goodbye to his wife of 48 years. He did so with remarkable grace and tremendous class. How does one summon the necessary fortitude to get up in public and bid farewell to your best friend of almost half a century?

* * *

Ok, enough for now, I think.

Anyone still actually reading this blog?

Or, should I let it go the way of all things and allow it to slip gracefully into the twilight, unmourned, but remembered with affection, rather than continue to hit it with the occasional jolt of energy? Seriously, any thoughts?

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:21 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 09, 2007

Veterans' Day

November 11, this Sunday, is Veterans' Day. In Europe, it is known as Armistice Day, to mark the end of World War I. I just returned from leading a wreath presentation here in NYC to mark the day, a bit early, but still. I hope that today (or Sunday) you take a moment and, at minimum, think of those who served our nation and think of them with gratitude. Better still, thank a veteran for his or her service. They have paid a price, some of them have paid the ultimate price, so that you could enjoy your life and so that your children could grow up in safety and security.

Thank a Veteran. You'll feel better, too.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

An opening

So, as I recently posted, I asked my wife for either a mistress or a puppy. She thought about it and told me last night that I could have a mistress. A mistress, she said, is someone I could take care of during either business hours or the evening, from time to time. But a puppy, said she, is something that she would have to take care of all the time. So, I was cleared for a mistress.

I am now accepting applications.

Just saying.

In all seriousness (although creative emails and comments are welcome), I have to report that I did then go on to tell her that if I was being cleared for the odd evening out, I would actually prefer to play squash. I mean, I would still have to shower afterwards but it might go on for longer (squash, that is) and I would not have to ask my partner if the experience was good for him or her. It sucks getting older, doesn't it?

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:54 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The first fall

The Girl Child came off her horse, twice, at her lesson on Wednesday. She had the wind knocked out of her the second time, landing on her back. This was what her instructor wrote to us that evening:

"So, poor GC had a tough day today... She seemed a little upset, but physically ok. The horse was FRESH! I chased him before the lesson (to get the bugs out) and apparently that wasn't enough, so I had a big kid get on him and haul him around, but he figured the GC out and got her off twice! But I have to say, I explained specifically what to do, and told her to get mad at him and be tough and she did, she is a tough little kid and she totally listened to me and did what I said and she stayed on every time he tried after that. I just wanted to let you know what happened. Let me know how she is feeling tomorrow."

What she doesn't mention is that the GC got back on the horse, after getting the wind knocked out of her, and successfully cantered that same horse and jumped him, too. Pretty gutsy.

But she was upset on Thursday morning. She didn't want to go to school. So, I told my wife to please buy a cake so we could have a small celebration last night, to celebrate her first fall, which we did. We told the GC how proud we were of her for finally falling and for getting right back up. We told her that she was officially a rider now.

Later, I asked her why she didn't want to go to school and this is the conversation we had:

GC: Because I was afraid I was going to get teased for falling off the horse.

Me: By whom?

GC: People.

Me: That is a ridiculous answer. Who else could tease you, chairs? That tells me nothing. Of course it would be people. Which people?

GC: I don't know. Just people.

Me: Well, do these un-named people ride?

GC: No.

Me: So, they are not entitled to have an opinion are they?

GC: What do you mean?

Me: Well, if they can't ride, how do they know anything about what it means to fall off a horse.

GC: Oh. Yeah.

Me: In fact, if any of them does tease you, you can say: "Do you ride? No? Well, if I need an opinion about riding I will go ask someone who rides. If I need an opinion from a doofus, I will come right back to you."

GC: [Laughing] I can call them a doofus?

Me: You bet. Now, did anyone tease you today?

GC: Nope.

I thought my wife was going to smack me for this but she actually told me that she thought I handled that pretty well. I worry that her staying home full time is destroying her judgment.

I am curious to see how things go at the next riding lesson, on Sunday.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Difference between fright and exhilaration

I have just this week managed to pin down the difference between fright and exhilaration. Let's say, by way of illustration (no, there really aren't any pictures here), that you have to give a talk, a set of remarks to about 250 people gathered to listen to you present an award to a distinguished American historian. The event is going pretty well and it is almost time for you to speak. You discreetly pull your notes from the podium to go over your remarks during dessert to make sure you are not going to screw up your delivery or the message you want to present. You read the notes and the prepared remarks. You decide that, despite all the time you spent writing them, they really don't come within 500 miles of hitting what you had hoped to convey. So, you sit there with the notes in hand, while your ice cream melts, and you decide that you cannot give these remarks.

That is pretty close to fright.

You get up to the podium and ask for the room to come to order so you can speak. You tell the audience: "I have some remarks that I prepared for the occasion and I am now going to throw them away. Let's wing it, shall we?"

That is liberating. One step on the way to exhilaration.

The room goes totally silent when you tell them you are chucking your speech. You begin to talk. You speak extemporaneously, from the heart, and with some passion. You are interrupted twice by spontaneous and sustained applause.

By the second interruption, you experience exhilaration.

That's the difference between fright and exhilaration. Stepping out on to the wire without a net and then getting to the other side.

I might not want to live every speaking engagement in that fashion, but I am happy to do so every so often.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 02, 2007

To catch up

Well, I know that of late all you have seen on my page has been acres and acres of white space with no text to fill it up. I have been consumed with demands on my time and, with little end in sight, I am going to simply catch up in a sort of staccato bullet form entry:

*The Girl Child rode in her first horse show last weekend. She looked so mature on her horse with such beautiful posture. She rode in Short Stirrup Equitation Walk/Trot and Walk/Trot/Canter. Her instructor told me that it was a big deal to canter in her first horse show, that she had other students who had been riding in Walk/Trot for six months without cantering. She also told me that the GC had come to the attention of the senior trainers at the Club and that they were beginning to discuss her development plans. I gather that they think the GC might be something special. After I saw her handle her horse when he tried to buck her off, I might have to agree (no flinch at all on her part, she just smacked him on the neck with her crop and pulled his head around with a sharp tug of the reins with her other hand and off the horse went, quite happily -- her instructor, watching that, said to me, "and that's why the GC is so awesome; did you see that?").

*I attended, as a guest, the quarterly dinner of a PG Wodehouse club. I was asked by a senior member why I was not a member and I had to tell him it was because I had not been asked. He walked away muttering, "well, we have to change that". That was nice. The dinner was over candles in large silver candelabra and with silver pheasants on the table. It was lovely. We dined at a very small, very snappy private club on the Upper East Side in a small townhouse. The place has no sign and no markings. Very private, indeed. Great fun.

*I heard, last week, Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak. She is extraordinary. Maybe the most extraordinary person I have ever met. I intend to contribute to her protection fund and I think you should at least consider doing so, too. Also, she is so charming.

*The poor Girl Child was sent home from school on Wednesday with what turned out to be strep. In other words, she totally missed out on Halloween. I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home to get her drugs, candy, treats and then a video at the rental place. She selected her mother to stay home with her. They had a great time, ordering pizza and watching videos and playing on the swings. I took the boys out for two hours of candy gathering. The Boy Child was persistent. The Baby was happy to walk by himself for about 20 minutes. I carried him for the other 100 minutes. It was a long night but very satisfying for them both.

*Turning 40 was not a thrill. I began the day with squash and eggs benedict and ended the day by watching a professional squash tournament and then being taken out for dinner by some friends. That was great fun. I just wish I could have prevailed upon my friends not to order the Dom Perignon with dessert. That may have been the one bottle too many that accounted for my feeling older than 40 this morning when I failed to get up to go the gym. I am still dragging, actually. I think, by and large, that birthdays suck.

*I had the conversation with the Viking Bride about my turning 40. It went like this:

I think that I am going to experience my mid life crisis now that I have hit 40. I think that I would like to take a mistress. I think that I would like to start sleeping with other women.

[Pause. Silence. No reaction from the Viking Bride.]

Or, maybe I could get a puppy. What do you think?

[Cue laughter until tears ran down her cheeks.]

Regrettably, I think that I may have a better shot at a mistress (which I know I don't have the time for) than I do at a puppy (which was what I really wanted). Can't say I didn't give it a shot.

*I had an oral argument last week that ended with me being told to shut up and sit down. The judge granted the relief the other side requested and denied my application. After he gave his oral decision, I asked the record to reflect my exception to his ruling and requested that he reconsider his decision after taking the time to read the papers on the motion, most of which he had received just moments before argument began. He denied that application. I am pleased he didn't sanction me. I walked out of that court as angry as I have ever been before. It really may be time to stop litigating. I don't think I can handle any more of these lazy, incompetent, phoning it in, hack judges who do more to lower the reputation of the courts than any dishonest lawyer could do.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday to drop their birthday wishes in my comment section. I was really surprised by all the lovely comments and good wishes. Thanks so much!

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 01, 2007

Well, my log in still works

I am happy to see that I seem to remember my password and my log in information has not been deleted for non-use.

So, today I have turned 40.

More later. I just didn't really want the day to slide by without at least noting it.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:07 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack