ברוך השם

 My beautiful wife wrote a very heartfelt piece on our visit last week to the Sinagoga e Museo ebraico di Firenze (Jewish Synagogue and Museum of Florence). She framed it as her “Shiksa perspective”. As a companion piece to my companion’s piece (see what I did there?), I’d like to share my take on the experience.

 The Synagogue was not on our agenda, nor had it been on my first visit to Florence many years ago. But this time, as the final day of our stay approached, I felt a growing compulsion to go there. It wasn’t far from our apartment and sort of on the way to yet another spectacular Florentine church (the Basilica of Santa Croce) where we were headed to pay our respects at the tomb of Michelangelo – and Machiavelli, Galileo, Rossini… it’s one hell of a church! 

 I told Nickie that I’d like to visit the Synagogue and she was supportive without hesitation. As we approached, and saw the magnificent dome loom closer and closer, we started to notice a few kosher restaurants and some Hebrew writing in the shop windows. I was a bit surprised – and happy. When we arrived at the site, the first thing that struck me was the armed guard out front, a soldier actually, standing in front of his Jeep, cradling an AR70 assault rifle. We’d been in Florence for four days, visiting some of the most beautiful, iconic, priceless treasures in the world, but this was the first time we’d seen a gun. 

 There was just one person in front of us at the glassed off ticket window, a small chokepoint of an entrance with lockers and an airport security X-ray tube. The sign on the ticket window said, “We speak Italian, English, French, Spanish and Hebrew”. I said, “Boker tov. Shnai cartisim b’vakasha” (Hebrew for “Good morning. Two tickets please’). The woman looked at me blankly and said, “I don’t speak that language”. But the sign says…. 

 No matter. We took our tickets, put our belongings in a locker and, one by one, we entered the X-ray tube. 

 The grounds were lovely and the edifice was quite impressive. As we approached the entrance, there was a wall to our left in the garden. My Italian language skills are basically non-existent, but I could make out that this was a memorial to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the wall was inscribed with the names of the 248 Florentine Jews who were taken from their homes and sent to the death camps. Now, I’ve been to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and I’ve been to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, so this “little memorial” barely caused more than a ripple in my hardened soul. I paid my respects and went into the Synagogue. It was a dark interior with very muted lightning, maybe a bit dusty and mildewed, not bright and polished like the Cathedrals and Basilicas we’d visited. But it was hauntingly beautiful. A little tour group of a dozen or so people noisily went by us. One thing we’ve learned on our travels is that more often than not, if a historical site is busy, you can just lay back for a few minutes until you find a brief lull in the crowd and you can have the place virtually to yourselves for a minute or two. We did.

 The outer portions of the building, the tiny darkened rooms and staircases, contained a small museum, filled with precious artifacts and a handful of tourists. From certain vantage points, we could see downstairs into the shul itself and that became our focus. Once we entered the congregation, we found ourselves alone. It was absolutely breathtaking, as fine as any of the churches we’d visited. We wandered through the benches, the men’s and women’s sections separated. I noticed that the railing in front of each seat had a brass name plate, some old and tarnished, some newer and with a bit more luster. Beneath the railing, each seat had a small locked cabinet that I assumed held sidurim and talit (prayer books and shawls). A soiled tissue was on the floor. I frowned, then picked it up and put it in my pocket. From the back corner, we could hear loud talking in Italian and then giggling. I tried to ignore it but it persisted, growing into a crescendo. I couldn’t take it anymore and as I approached, I saw three people wearing name tags – they were employees! Using my handy language app, I said rather firmly (and maybe a bit contemptuously), “Silenzio prego. Questo è un luogo sacro. Per favore mostra un po’ di rispetto” – “Quiet please. This is a sacred place. please show some respect.” They looked at me with shock and what I perceived as disdain, but the look in my eye and the tone of my voice worked. They rolled their eyes, grumbled a little, and shuffled out of the sanctuary. I felt angry but, frankly, proud that I had stood up for myself, and for my people. From what I’d experienced these past several days, no church employee would dare exhibit such callous disrespect. None! 

 As our visit came to a close, we walked up to the gift shop where two other employees were chirping away as if they were in a cocktail lounge. Upon receiving my icy glare, the man hightailed it in one direction while the woman retreated into the shop behind the counter. I said to her, in Hebrew, “This is a place of quiet”. To my surprise, she apologized in heavily accented Hebrew and wished us a yom tov (good day). Upon exiting the building, Nickie went into the garden while I went around the building to take it all in. On one side, in the back corner, was a small blacktop basketball court/soccer pitch. Oh! So this place was actually an active Jewish community center. I walked around to the opposite back corner where I found a little children’s playground where I found myself picking up more trash. As I went back towards Nickie, I saw a window with a large child’s painting displayed in it. It was a Hebrew school! 

 That’s when I lost it.

 After everything this community went through – a community dating back to the 1400s – annihilated by the Nazis, Jews still choose to live here, to raise their children here in the ancient traditions, under the shadow of one the greatest Synagogues in Europe. I walked back to the memorial, read all of the 248 names and shed a few more tears, tears for the people who died for one reason, and one reason alone – the senseless hatred of the blood that was in their veins – the same blood that is in my veins.

Baruch HaShem

A letter to the Commissioner of Baseball:


I’m not mad. 

Well, I am mad, but that’s not the first word that comes to mind. I am appalled, I’m aghast, I’m hurt, I’m well beyond deeply disappointed and, without a doubt, I’m absolutely disgusted. 

With both sides. 

But to publish this condescending bullshit? Really? You’re apologizing? 

Apology not accepted. 

 I blame both sides. Billionaires in a pissing contest with multi-millionaires. These poor players, having to scrape by on an insulting minimum wage of seven hundred grand a year (plus endorsements, hotel suites, per diems that are probably more than I make in a year, the best medical insurance on earth and a pension) 


…and be adored, worshipped, idolized… never have to pay for another goddamned cocktail in their lives! 

 Boo hoo, you have to wait five whole years to get that 30, 40, 50, 300 million dollar deal? Aw, poor baby. I feel so bad for you, to be treated like a piece of property like that. Must be fucking unbearable for you. 

 Why don’t you teach those owners a lesson and just walk away! I’m sure you can find plenty of other employment opportunities where you’ll find better working conditions and compensation.

Don’t even get me started on the owners

I hope the whole game goes bankrupt. I really do. 

From Field of Dreams:

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.

I Stand With…

 So, I’m in the shower, music blasting as usual, and Back in the USSR comes up on my random play. And I get a little ironic chuckle because poo-tin is invading Ukraine. Well, not much of a chuckle because this isn’t actually funny. At all.

 I’ve been reading as much as I can, as fast as possible, about all the horrors the Ukrainians face and how it could spread throughout Europe and how this could encourage China to seize Taiwan and this could spread, at least in economic terms, to our border soon enough. Then I read how poo-tin could be threatening nukes and I feel my stress level starting to spike. 

We’re fucking doomed.
And what can I do?
Other than fret.

  And right when I decided that the sanest thing I can do is to simply tune it all out, the next song comes on and it’s George Harrison singing Just For Today:

If just for today
I could try to live through this day only
Not deal with all life’s problems 
Just for today

 Thank you. George (and Happy Birthday, by the way). 

 And selfish as that may sound, it struck me as very sage advice. I’m working myself up over something that I have zero influence over. Sure, I can change my Facebook cover to a Ukrainian flag, or add a little frame to my profile picture proclaiming that I stand in solidarity with Ukraine. I can even send some money to a relief fund, and go the extra yard and research which ones might actually use my donation for the welfare of the Ukrainian people.

 But to immerse myself breathlessly into the hour to hour, minute to minute of it… That’s madness. I’m just not going to do it. Not going to be frightened like when I was a schoolboy hiding under my desk because Russia was going to drop a bomb (which never happened). Or any of the other fear tactics the media loves to pump into our eyelids to keep us glued. Yes, I’ll follow the progress and root for the Ukrainian people, because this is tragic. 

 As is every ever other senseless loss of life and limb going on on this planet today. Like, for instance, the war going on in the U.S.A. today with everyone arming themselves because they’re scared to death of all the ‘other’ people who are arming their selves. And please don’t get me started on Syria. Not seeing a whole lot of, “I stand with Syria” proclamations on Facebook. 

 I’m just not going to turn on the television news. Not going to read one article about what “could’ happen. Hypotheticals don’t interest me.

 And I’m definitely not going to flash some self serving “Look at me. I’m so compassionate” meme or “I stand with Ukraine” sign on my social media. Remember Je Suis Charlie? Seemed like everyone had that one plastered on their pages for about two days. Who among you sent actual aid to those victims or their families? Or followed their stories past the news cycle? Who? 

 And do you really stand with Ukraine? How exactly? What are you doing beyond the meme? Talk is cheap. Twenty four hours of memes and banners are even cheaper. 

Are you walking the walk?

I sincerely you hope you are. 

 Speaking of the Beatles, when I toweled off, I grabbed the t-shirt on the top of the pile and you know what it was? A shirt designed to look like an old-fashioned fruit crate label that says:

Nothing is real
Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
Doesn’t matter much to me

 Sounds reasonable. 

 And realistic.

 For the record, and I’m not saying this to boast (just a statement of fact) but Nickie asked me if it was okay to take “a chunk of change” from our sacred, hard earned “vacation fund”. I said, “Sure, if it’s not more than twenty three dollars and fifty three cents”. She’s a better human than I am. Her response was, “Well… I was thinking…”.  

 And I know that “a lot” can mean different things to different people depending on their circumstances, but it was A LOT!

Cranberry sauce

and PEACE!

P.S. Lyrics are copyright (probably) Ganga Publishing B.V. and Sony/ATV
I’m not digging too deep on that because this blog is not for commercial purposes.
But I stand with them.

COVID45: June 2020, U.S.A

I read and hear numbers, but they don’t always answer the questions I’m asking.

 So, since the end of April, I have been maintaining my own database, using the daily figures from Johns Hopkins. 

This is my analysis for the month of June, 2020 in the USA:    

New cases: 846,347 (up from 720,767 in May)
Resolved cases: 298,873 (275,873 recovered, 23,042 died)
% of resolved cases that resulted in death: 7.71% (down from 12.46% in May)
Increase of active cases: 547,432 (44% higher than end of May)

Total active cases: 1,788,482
% of total cases since onset that are currently still active: 68%
In other words, when you hear on the nightly news that there have been 2.5 million cases in the US, 68% of those people are sick right now.

June testing: 15,269,354 (up from 10,705,709 in May)
Positive %: 5.54% (down from 6.73% in May)
Death “projection”: 265,317

This “projection” is the result of taking June’s % of resolved cases resulting in death (7.71%), applying it currently infected people (1,788,482) and adding that result to the number of dead as of June 30th (127,425).

 This resulting death “projection” of 265,317 does not take into account anyone newly infected from July 1 going forward. Given that the increase of active cases for the 7-day period ending June 30 was 210,153 (13.31%), my “death projection” will pale in comparison to the actual number of American lives that will be lost.

 What does my close friend and confidant, the critically unclaimed Loop Granddady think of the precautions Americans are taking to stop the spread of this plague? Please check out our new tune, the Massk.

Thanks and good luck!

the Massk by Loop Granddaddy
© 2020 Hannah’s Dad’s Music/Samsongs BMI

Do the math. Please

 Been seeing a lot of people debating (arguing) over COVID-45 math. It’s always people downplaying the threat, puffing out their chests, demanding their spa day or beer fest (their “freedom”), and they throw around some minuscule percentages to support their positions. Problem is, they simply don’t know basic math. And they’re so damn proud of their ignorance. 

 Let me start by pointing out that 0.01 is not 1/10 of 1%. It’s just not! I’ll offer proof later.

 A couple of important notes when discussing COVID rates:
– Our data is incomplete. In the grand scheme of things, we know diddly squat! We have no clue how many cases there were before we starting recognizing them. How many people went to the doctor with symptoms in January and February that were not even considered as possible COVID infections?
– Less than 2% of Americans have been tested.

What we do “know” (numbers taken from Johns Hopkins this evening)
– There have been 6,231,182 tests to date.
– 17.16% of tests were positive (we could get into a whole other discussion over possible interpretations of that little nugget), resulting in:
– 1,069,424 confirmed cases in the US.
– These cases fit into one of two categories, active or resolved.
– A case can be resolved in only one of two ways, the patient has either recovered or they have died.
– 852,481 cases are active and 216,943 have been resolved.

 Active cases shouldn’t be considered in death count percentages because we have no idea how these cases will ultimately resolve. They’re ongoing, TBD, not concluded, still unresolved… 

Of the resolved cases:
153,947 survivors have recovered (71%)
62,996 souls have perished (29%)


Basic math lesson:
1) Can we agree that there are 100 pennies in a dollar?
2) Can we agree then that one penny is 1% of a dollar?
3) Can we agree that a whole dollar is written as $1.00?
4) Can we agree that a penny is written as 0.01?

Conclusion #1: 1% is written as 0.01. 5% is 0.05, etc.
Conclusion #2: If you disagree, you should go back to 5th grade (or refrain from publishing your ignorance, ffs).


I don’t deny the probability that Trump has bought a ton of Novartis stock recently. Given his proclivities for graft, profiteering and money hoarding, it’s a natural conclusion.

Consider this though:

Trump. The germaphobe, is so terrified of getting sick that his doctors had to come up with a couple of placebos for him, just so he’d stfu and get a little work done on behalf of “his” country. Suddenly, Trump (or as he sees himself, Dr. Albert Schweitzer-Trump) starts pushing the “hydroxychloroquine and zinc” that he thinks he’s being treated with. 

In another week or two, the curve will be flattened by the social distancing promoted by leaders such as President Newsom and President Cuomo and suddenly our stable genius will proclaim that his miracle discoveries have worked. He’ll immediately nominate himself for a series of Nobel Prizes in science, medicine, presidenting and game show hosting (retroactive). Throw in an Emmy or two for his great press conference ratings.

And voila, we’re great again. 


My Dream

 I rarely engage Trumpholes. What’s the point? They seem impervious to logic, incapable of cogent debate, devoid of original thought. On rare occasions, I slip up and troll them a little. It’s cruel, I know, like a cat toying with a moth. Lord, please forgive me. I am weak.

 Today, I saw a Facebook post from Adam Schiff. (Full disclosure. This guy is my hero! I literally wrote him in on my primary ballot for President). Chairman Schiff posted today saying, “Once we’ve recovered, we need a nonpartisan commission to review our response and how we can better prepare for the next pandemic.” You know, like we did after Pearl Harbor and 9/11. 

I commented, 
“Can’t wait until you’re Attorney General in January! You’ll get to the bottom of this #COVID45 mess. One word of advice, pace yourself! There’s going to be SOOOOO much to unravel.”

 Well… woodwork squeaks and out come the freaks.

  This one troll told me I won the stupidest comment of the thread award (which I suspect he is uniquely qualified to hand out), and then he (inadvertently?) quoted Adam Schiff’s Impeachment mantra, “facts matter” and pasted an 800 word Trumpifesto wherein the author recounted Comrade Donald’s many, many achievements – curing polio, discovering algebra, building Noah’s Ark (he’s a great builder), mastering time travel etc., all despite being treated very unfairly, and a lot of people are saying this, by ungrateful libtard lefties.

At least that’s what I guessed it said. I don’t read ALL-CAPS propaganda. 

 Anyway, this one gentleman comments to me, “you’re having a wet dream”. Now, I’ve been pondering what impresses me more about that statement and, frankly, I’m at a loss. Was it that he finds the topic somehow erotic or that he spelled “you’re” correctly?

 But here’s my “wet dream”. Melania tries to turn Lindsey Graham out and…. oh. No no no no no. That’s a different dream. My apologies. Be best!

 My dream is that on Inauguration Day 2021, when Trump has barricaded himself in the Oval Office squealing live on air to Sean Hannity, “The election was rigged, it’s deep state this and a failed Dem coup hoax that, no President has ever been treated so badly” and the Secret Service breaks down the door and hauls his pitiful ass out of the building, kicking and screaming like a four year old. They drag him outside to the waiting Marine One escape pod and, for his final temper tantrump, he drops to the tarmac and starts spinning in a circle like Curly from the Three Stooges. 

THAT, my friend, is MY wet dream. 


Baseball, Ray

 It’s really hitting me hard today. We’re all struggling to adjust and adapt, to find some normalcy in this madness, to come up with a routine, to live in the moment, to find some joy and beauty among the fear and sadness.

Today’s a tough pill to swallow. I’ve always said that the saddest day of the year is the last game of the World Series. Today is even sadder.

 It’s not just a game. 

 This too shall pass. 


Pandemic 2020 – 3.25.20

Facebook’s asking me, “What’s on your mind Joel”. Well, glad that you asked 🙂

Here’s something I heard today:

“My mother is not expendable, and your mother is not expendable, and our brothers and sisters are not expendable and we’re not going to accept the premise that human life is disposable,” Cuomo said. “We’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life.” 

NY President Andrew Cuomo, March 24, 2020

May I be frank for a minute? I’ve been doing my best to remain positive, to not resort to invective, to post mostly positive commentary, to take the high road, to offer hope, to focus on “We’re going to be fine”. And I believe that the vast majority of us will be.

But I’m a little angry tonight. My step-son Jason just said, “Trump is a piece of shit” and I thought, “No. That’s not right. He’s like 10 pieces of shit fused together”. This fucking syphilitic, narcissistic, cloven hoofed, fucking loquat is going to kill an untold number of Americans with his “commerce first, what’s in it for me?” immoral, sick, psychotic, profiteering off of misery, bull fucking shit. And down in Alabamy, and Oklahoma, and in Evangelical *clusters*, ignorant buffoons are having their #COVID45 rallies and incubating mass destruction. And in some ways, that’s just fine. Let their God damned Lord sort it out. But what about the “collateral damage”? It won’t just be jackass trolls getting sick, and suffocating our health care system and stacking their neighbors corpses in refrigeration trucks because there’s too fucking many to bury and no one to bury them. Fer fux ache people. Do you EVER think about the rest of the world?

Breathe, Joel. Breathe.

Now breathe again.


Listen. I’m heartened that many, many state Governors are in charge now, not Cinnamon Hitler. I’m grateful to live in a state where California President Newsom is calling the shots, not this useless game show host and serial-failed businessman. And I’m grateful to live in a community that seems to be pulling for each other and, for the most part, following the advice of the Professionals. 

Today was wonderful for the most part. I heard and saw a lot of beauty in this darkness (it’s everywhere if you look hard enough for it) and I loved and I felt love. And I know I’ll wake up in the morning (that’s the plan anyway) next to my Sweetheart, my soulmate, my wife and my Perfect Plague Partner. Yes, we’re scared and we’re worried, more for our loved ones and our neighbors and humanity in general than our own personal selves, but we remain optimistic that this too shall pass and somehow, something good will come of it. I KNOW it will.

For the survivors anyway. 

Goodnight, my friends. Sleep tight. Tomorrow is another day.


P.S. OMG. Malachi Constant, Unk, the Space Wanderer just popped into my head. I think it’s the perfect time to read Sirens of Titan again! My favorite book and totally relevant to our current situation and the hope that I am cultivating.

Pandemic 2020

March 22, 2020

I’ll say this about the pandemic. It has truly helped me focus on today.

 I know I’m my best self when I’m living a life of gratitude, but it isn’t always easy to remember to stay in a positive space.

Until now.

 I’m finding that, once I got past the initial terror and shock, and turned the news off, life has become great. I wake up each day next to the woman I love with all my heart. I’m blessed to work from home and tomorrow Nickie starts working from home too. I check in with my family and we tell each other that we love each other. I scroll past the horror stories on Facebook and land on the many positive posts where people are sharing music and humor and stories of kindness and hope. I feel such gratitude that we are healthy and fed, that we still have income and medical insurance. We are so blessed. We have what we truly need for today. 

 This afternoon, we drove on empty freeways enjoying the clearest blue skies we’ve seen in forever, arriving at the ranch where our horses were delighted to see us. We sat out in their pasture for hours, the horses coming up and putting their faces against ours. They feel the energy and just love on us as we love on them. Today, they actually led us to their leads, imploring us to take them to the hitching post where we groom them and let them eat the long grass. At these times, there is no worry in our worlds, just pure love. I’m so, so very grateful for today.

 Afterwards, we drove to our favorite burger joint, hoping against hope that the drive through (which we’ve never used before) would be open. It was! The first words to come through the speaker were a cheery, “Thank you so much for coming”, to which we replied, “Thanks so much for being here for us!” I’m finding this everywhere I go. People actually seem happier, more courteous, nicer. Maybe it’s just the way I’m seeing the world, but either way I’m feeling a lot of love.

 As far as getting sick, I’m pretty convinced that I’ve had this crud for a week or more. Seriously. I’ve had mild sniffles and headaches and sore throat and a pesky little dry cough. Of course, this is probably just first week of spring allergies, but if I remain convinced that I have low grade symptoms of the virus, I’m no longer afraid that I’m going to get it. Liberation from fear is so powerful.

Bottom line, I feel happier than I have in a long time. Every day is a gift, a miracle, and I’m so grateful for all of the blessings in my life.

As bobwhite once said, “Tomorrow’s gonna be what tomorrow’s gonna be tomorrow.”

Until then, today is pretty great! 

Love to all! I hope you’re finding peace and hope and love and humor. You deserve it