Sunday, January 31, 2010

Edwards & Young: perfect together

I have not yet read Andrew Young’s recently released book, The Politician. But I’ve heard and seen enough in the media to have some thoughts.

First, a confession.

I liked John Edwards. I would likely have voted for him for president if given the chance. I also liked John Kennedy. I would have voted for him if I had been old enough. (Let’s not even talk about Bill Clinton.)

My ability to vote should be revoked, as I obviously have NO ability to judge male character.

That said, let’s consider John Edwards’ rotten luck.

He screwed around on his wife. Nothing new there. With such notable exceptions as “catch me if you can” Gary Hart and “cash up front” Elliot Spitzer, numerous politicians have survived this “flaw.” But Edwards’ wife was battling breast cancer. Major bad.

Then he knocks up this other woman, right in the middle of his second presidential bid. Major bad timing.

His luck turns, or seems to, in the person of his “devoted aide” Andrew Young, who throws--not only himself but his whole family--on the sword to protect Edwards and save the campaign. He claims the love child as his own and enters into a bizarre period of hiding out (with preggers+wife & kids) in a series of posh “safe houses.”

As we all know, this has been unraveling without end—until Young’s tell-all memoir. With its publication, we are treated to details, including videos of the Youngs and pregnant mistress in hiding, and Edwards’ interviews in which he shows off an ease of deception equal to that of “I did not have sex with that woman” Bill Clinton.

Edwards deservedly comes across as a major scumbag. Young, on the other hand, paints himself as a victim, an idealistic young man deceived by a man he served.

Well, exuuuuuuuuuse me! How can I put this politely? DONKEY DUST.

While I don’t doubt Andrew Young started out supporting a man he believed would make a good president, when push came to shove, he caved. The best that can be said of him is that he became an enabler. The worst, was that in participating in the cover-up, he was also furthering his own ambition.

I’m sorry. I have no sympathy for either of them. Neither showed regard for their families or for any reasonable standard of behavior.
And now Young will be rewarded with a best-selling book. Who knows, maybe he’ll even run for president one day.

Would you trust him

Saturday, January 23, 2010

millennium mo: a flashback

It was Dec. 31rst 1999, millennium madness, Y2k run amuck. The world was suppose to come to a crashing halt at the stroke of 2000. Remember?

A close friend recently emailed me of catching up on this blog after being sidelined by a computer viral attack. She reminded me of that special New Year’s night we spent together, a long decade past.

My good buddy Barbara and I chose to celebrate in a bowling alley parking lot on Rt. 88 in Point Pleasant, NJ, counting down to the “end of time” with Mo The Millennium Mossbunker, a 10-foot wooden replica of an Atlantic bait fish, covered with 1,500 Mylar scales.

The big ball-drop at Times Square had nothing on us when Mo was lowered down a 40-foot scaffold outside the bowling alley, after being taken a mile out to sea aboard a fishing boat, returned to land and paraded through the streets. Word of the “dropping of the fish” spread ‘cross the pond to my daughter living in London.

"We fully expect this to be the epicenter of the millennium," Mo's creator, Gene Bissey was quoted as saying. OK, so not exactly the epicenter, but Bissey, a local artist and entrepreneur was a character with an imaginative flare for the quirky. Unfortunately, he died several years ago. But that don’t mean he be forgot.

He left the Jersey Shore, and the town of Point Pleasant Beach with the annual “Hey Rube Get a Tube Race,” which is now ends each summer season. Bissey came up with the idea for the tube race 41 years ago, some say, after a night out tilting a few with friends.

It started out as a few rowdy guys peddling backwards across the inlet, I believe, and was later moved to the ocean. It grew in size and lore and in later years was later taken over by the Lions' club as a fundraiser. Beer mugs remain a big seller.

Always the showman, I seem to recall that when women demanded to be included, Bissey suggested they swim topless, like the men.

His mind seemed to overflow with the playful and the absurd, not all of which were a success. If I remember correctly, he once proposed a flour war to be held Gull Island, a small uninhabited hunk off Point Beach. But the war was truncated when one of the teams secreted themselves on the island the night before and ambushed the other. At least that’s what I recollect.

Bissey was a rare and wild duck, the likes of which are missed at the Shore, especially in these oh-so-serious times.

Here in Sarasota they drop a Pineapple to ring in the New Year.


Sunday, January 17, 2010


For the past week or so I’ve been finding dimes—in the most unexpected places. By this, I mean, not on the floor beside a vending machine for example. There I am, cleaning and straightening books in the nature section of my kids department, and there on the shelf will be a shiny 10-cent piece, winking at me.

The other day, working the cashwrap, I pointed out to a customer that he had left a dime behind on the counter. “Oh, that’s not mine,” he says.

And the list goes on...

A while back I wrote a piece on finding pennies—which also continues, by the way—and what it means to me. In light of this latest development and for the benefit of new readers, I repost that piece below.

pennies from heaven

Pennies make me smile.

No, I’m not one of those people with jars and dishes of pennies stashed around the house.

It’s that pennies like me. Really.

I go through periods in my life when they show up, unannounced.

I don’t go looking for my copper friends, you understand. I don’t stare at the ground, shake pants or empty junk drawers.They just appear. In some of the strangest places.

And literally out of thin air.I walk by the kitchen counter, nothing there.I walk back a few minutes later, and there it is, in plain view, winkin’ at me. I move a jar of cream on a bathroom tray and a Canadian penny shows its face.

And I smile. Every time.

Because they are a reminder of abundance.

But also, I know that money is on its way. It happens every time.I don’t know how, when or how much. But ALWAYS some unexpected cash comes my way. Without fail.

And I am grateful for whatever it turns out to be.It may be a long forgotten rebate check, a gift, a miniscule royalty payment. Recently, I learned I was entitled to a small annuity from my time at the Asbury Park Press along with a cash payment.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind a life-changing extraordinary infusion of green, like a big time lottery win.I allow myself one a week ticket in each of the two Florida games.This permits me to indulge in my favorite game: Fantasy Philanthropy.(Full disclosure-a colleague came up with the name.)

When the jackpot is obscenely huge, I imagine myself the holder of the only winning ticket, then estimate the net amount, say $100 million.Then the fun begins.

I imagine all those I’d like to help and look for unusual ways to do so: paying off various debts, mortgages, setting up trusts to pay real estate taxes, health care, college.

My latest twist is a foundation called Second Acts for those starting over in life. I figure my journalism friends could make use of this, for sure.I also like the idea of paying off all debt for someone, like a Clean start foundation. Spending big money is big fun. And surprising, a lot of work.

But when I can’t sleep or am stuck in line or whatever, I occupy my mind with thoughts of creative giving, each tailored to a particular person’s personality.

Hey, it’s much more fun than fretting over my own economic woes.And when the time comes, I’ll be ready.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

whose child is it, anyway?

For thousands of years, we Jews had the answer. Since motherhood could not be disputed, the child always took the religion of the mother.

With advances in fertilization techniques, such distinctions have long since become moot. And I find myself, once again, considering the legal and emotional intricacies of surrogacy. (Regular readers of this space will recall my involvement with the Baby M case as a fledging Asbury Park Press reporter. For background just click on the December blog archive.)

And once again, it’s a New Jersey case that brings it to the forefront. Several weeks ago, a state judge gave a gestational surrogate of twin girls the right to seek primary custody. He ruled her the children’s legal mother, although there is no genetic connection. Experts hold that if this ruling stands it could expand the rights of gestational surrogates by making it indistinguishable from traditional surrogacy.

In 2006, Angelia G. Robinson, had the girls for her brother and his male spouse The embryos were created from anonymous donor eggs and fertilized with sperm from the spouse. The girls and went to live with the male couple in Jersey City. But in March 2007 Ms. Robinson filed a lawsuit seeking custody, alleging that she had been coerced into the arrangement.

Judge Francis B. Schultz relied heavily on the precedent established by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1988 in the case of Baby M. In that case, Mary Beth Whitehead, carried her own genetic child for another couple after artificial insemination with the man’s sperm. After Ms. Whitehead decided she wanted to keep the baby, the court ruled a fit mother’s maternal rights could not be terminated against her will. Judge Schultz ruled the lack of a genetic link irrelevant.

The lawyer for Sean and Donald Hollingsworth, said the case was of importance to gay men and lesbians because of their reliance on reproductive technology to have children. It illustrates the legal complexities of gestational surrogacy, in which a woman carries unrelated embryos created in a Petri dish. Although a gestational surrogate in Michigan recently got custody of twins she carried, courts in other states have upheld the rights of people who contracted with gestational surrogates.

I find myself deeply ambivalent on the subject.

The NJ lawyer in this recent case also represented Whitehead, and is among those who consider surrogacy exploitation of women, where those who can afford it take advantage of their less affluent sisters. I’m not sure I agree. Yes, there are women who have children with ease. And I can see little wrong with them using their abilities. I don’t even think it’s wrong for them to make some money at it. It can be the ultimate win-win.

I can also feel for those who find it impossible to part with children they have sheltered inside their bodies, who have shared their blood and been soothed by their heartbeat—whether or not they share DNA.

The problem lies in not being sure in which camp a potential surrogate falls. Even she may not know. When I was in my 30s, a couple, a friend of a friend I barely knew, asked me to carry their child. It was extremely flattering, although I never gave it serious consideration.

I was one of those women who gave birth with ease, at 21 and 23. I enjoyed my pregnancies and intended to have more children, but my marriage ended soon after and it never happened. But I knew deep inside that I could never voluntarily part with a child of my body.

We all know people who have adopted. These children are loved no less for the lack of a genetic connection. How can those who emerge from our body have less of bond? It matters not if they begin their journey in a Petri dish or a night of passion.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

new year, old me

So here sit I, mere days into this new decade. And with all the hype notwithstanding—it’s NOT: a “new” me. In fact, I’m more like the “old,” OK, let’s make that “original” me.

Last week, I chucked decades of red hair to return to a version of my chestnut brown. I’m still not sure what prompted the action. My daughter was visiting from London, and I was watching the brunette Barefoot Contessa on the food network. And suddenly, I wanted brown hair again. What can I say? I just didn’t feel like a redhead anymore.

I guess it’s possible that even such a superficial change could signal that deep down, I’m coming to terms with who I really am. Hey, you never know. It could be. That’s not to say I don’t desire changes, have ambition, even still some high-flying dreams, ‘cause I do. I’m not even gonna bore you by listing them. Most are the same we all share and have for years.

All I’m saying is that if my 62.5 years on this earth have taught me anything, it’s that we can control only a small fraction of the circumstances of our lives. And wasting our time and energy fighting that only prevents us from enjoying what we do have. Who knows, even brown hair may end up being too high maintenance, with all the “new me” grays underneath.

So I’m making the same determination this year as last: to find a way to be happy wherever I be. I don’t want to put it off until I: loss weight, finish the novel, find a love, have a grandchild etc. etc. This is deceptively simple—not easy in the least, I know.

I think most of us have it backwards, anyway. The inside changes really do have come first. Or perhaps from the top down, eh?