Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm Getting Old

One of the things that I enjoy about Facebook is the ability to remember friends' birthdays as they are announced each day on the Home Page. Birthdays are still a cause for celebration; I look forward to mine as my "Once A Year Day" (cue in The Pajama Game). I also look forward to extending greetings, at least, with a virtual acknowledgment on the celebrant's Facebook Wall. In my experience, people like to be remembered. If they have taken the time to include their birthdays in their personal information utilized and distributed by Facebook, the odds are they share my enthusiasm for the annual festivities.

It is shortly after midnight on February 27th. I just noticed that four Facebook friends are celebrating their birthdays today. Robert Danielson, Stephen Berman, Nicholas Schaser and Terese Farr. While not unusual to have four Facebook friends sharing a birthday, a thought struck me as I reviewed these names, giving me pause, and generating some Prairie Pondering.

First of all, Happy Birthday, Bob, Steve, Nick and Terese! I hope you have a wonderful day and that you think of tonight's Oscar Awards as your very own birthday party thrown in your honor by Hollywood's elite. Don't worry about not being in attendance. Traffic is murder in Los Angeles. You're better off enjoying your party from the comfort of your home.

Moving on, I realized when I saw the names that each celebrant represents a different phase of my own life and, as I approach 59, there aren't a lot of phases left. I'm not being maudlin; I find it ironic that the every day routine of checking on the day's birthdays resulted in a mortality reality check.

Bob Danielson and I went to college together. We lived well. We were both street smart at a young age and enjoyed the anticipation of an endlessly unfolding future.

Steve Berman is one of my closest friends from law school and, later, Washington, D.C. He's been married the entire time I've known him. Holidays during law school were always celebrated at the Berman household because his spouse, Judy, was an early example of a full-time employee who somehow managed to also be a homemaker. We were still young, striving to reap the rewards, material and otherwise, that we were sure would follow once we successfully entered the legal profession.

Nick Schaser represents the era of my early parenting. His mother and my wife became best of friends attending parenting classes at the community center shortly after the arrivals of our respective first born sons. Nick and Phillip were best friends as toddlers. It was a time of life when I became acquainted with the concept of having a social circle that revolved around relationships in existence because of my children.

Terese Farr is the mother of a client. I met her only a couple of years ago when she accompanied her daughter to our initial meeting. Terese was there to take measure of me on behalf of her daughter, who was hiring an attorney for the first time. I knew I was connecting with the daughter. However, I wasn't sure I'd be representing her because I couldn't read Terese's reaction to how I was handling the meeting, particularly the parts about not speaking openly in front of her so as not to waive attorney-client privilege. Ultimately, I was retained and obtained a good result for the client.

Forty years have transpired since Bob Danielson and I first celebrated birthdays together. That's a lot of birthdays. It's as many as my mother celebrated during her entire visit to the planet. I can't imagine that I'll have another 40.

I'm no longer the youngster eager to meet the unknown. I've long ago given up fawning over the majesty of the law and all it offers. These days, I'm more likely to pine for a baseball bat to resolve conflict; the fighting that passes for legal wrangling is tiresome. Phillip is no longer a toddler. He'll be 28 in a couple of months. He and Nick have taken my place on the temporal merry-go-round, entitled to enjoy the ride on horses of their own choosing. My days as an attorney are waning. I can't imagine ever retiring but nor can I imagine maintaining the same pace of practice for another 10 years. In the scheme of things, 10 years is the blink of an eye. W was a month into his presidency 10 years ago.

The self-absorbed bottom line: Read the title of today's blog. I'm getting old. 60 may be the new 40, but that's just a reflection on how old we used to consider it to hit 40 (or 30 for that matter).

I'll still enjoy celebrating my birthday and the birthdays of my friends. But I expect that more and more experiences, like the simple reading of birthday announcements, will reflect the length and breadth of my worldly experience and, to be honest, a bittersweet tinge at the realization that the proverbial fat lady is gargling in anticipation.

The REAL bottom line: enjoy it while you can and don't forget to extend birthday wishes to those whose presence who have contributed to the memories that sustain you.

Dedicated to Richard Diamond, Mensch
(Nov 21, 1947 - Feb 14, 2011)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Time to Own Up and Admit a Mistake

Why aren't the neo-cons, who MUST now admit that Saddam had neither WMD nor ties to Al-Qaida, either (a.) apologizing for jumping the gun and invading Iraq, or (b.) clamoring for an invasion of Libya to overthrow a deranged dictator who has oppressed his people for decades, is murdering his opponents in the streets and is culpable in one of the largest terrorist attacks on Americans in history (i.e., PanAm/Lockerbie) prior to 2001? It just seems to me that their chest-thumping defense of the Iraq war is irreconcilable with their silence on Libya. Could it be that they were wrong in 2003?

If you watch the recent 60 Minutes interview of Donald Rumsfeld, you'll see that the former Secretary of Defense still cannot bring himself to admit that, knowing what he knows now, it was a mistake to invade Iraq on the pretext of preventing Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction. According to Rumsfeld, the world and the Iraqi people are better off without Hussein, justifying the U.S. invasion leading to his overthrow.

All things being equal, Rumsfeld may be right. The world may very well be better off without Saddam Hussein. I just believe this view misses the point. There are many evil-doers (President Bush's term, not mine) whose demise would shift the cosmic balance towards love and harmony. That, in and of itself, does not give the United States the legal or moral authority to act unilaterally to bring about such a shift. If Rumsfeld and his supporters believe otherwise, they should be pressing for U.S. intervention in Libya to remove the murderous Khadaffi from power.

If, in the alternatve, they recognize that the 2003 invasion was ill-conceived, relying on questionable intelligence from uncredible sources, and not justified in light of the absence of WMD, they should have the decency to admit it. They have an affirmative moral obligation to use the mistakes of President George W. Bush's administration to persuade those they blinded with patriotic rhetoric that the consensus building approaches of President George H.W. Bush and President Obama make more sense in the short term and in the long run.

Diplomacy, not pre-emptive war-mongering, needs to be the standard by which we exist in the community of nations.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Got Shorty

This past couple of weeks have been rough ones at Meadow Breeze Farm. Our 6-1/2 year old Bassett/Terrier cross, Shorty, spent last week in the Metropolitan Veterinary Referral Services clinic, fighting for his life. He came home last Friday, brightening everyone's mood, including that of his brother, a 6-1/2 year old Bassett/German Shepard cross, CJ. And while it will be some weeks before Shorty recovers fully, the panic, fear, helplessness, depression and emotional roller coaster experienced since January 25th, will make those weeks, and all the weeks beyond, all the more precious.

The threat of losing Shorty brought several life lessons into sharp focus. Besides the usual "hug your kids", "hug your spouse/significant other", "call Mom and Dad while you can", and "live each day as if it were your last", I was again reminded of how blessed I am to have an extensive network of friends and family who took the time to offer emotional and spiritual support when the need arouse. The comfort garnered from reading comments posted on Facebook (where I chronicled Shorty's struggles) wishing Shorty well is indescribable.

I've also come to realize the truth of another life lesson. Taking responsibility for the well-being of another of God's creatures puts you all in. All the times that I longed for no more than to be home with my dogs, trading their unconditional love for the stress of the real world, came home to roost. Since he was asymptomatic, it took us a week too long to bring Shorty to the vet. But once we realized that his condition was life-threatening and the odds were against our little guy, there was no turning back. Treatment was expensive; medical miracles always are. We were fortunate to have actual miracle workers, Dr. Goullaud and Dr. Reinker, applying all of their considerable training and skills to keep Shorty around for us.

Today, Shorty seems to have beaten the odds. His jaundice is dissipating. He's starting to eat more regularly. The days of roaming the countryside on his own are a thing of the past. There's no sense letting him find another meal on one of those sojourns that will shut down what's left of his liver. I am less inclined to take Shorty for granted. The spectre of losing him shut me down for a week. In the end, his unconditional love comes with a condition. "Love me back".


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Love and Politics

I thought I would take a break from the rancor our politics seems to invite these days. I find the level of harsh rhetoric engaged in along the entire political spectrum bemusing insofar as it consists mostly of shouting at one another to "turn down the rhetoric".

We need a break.

I had a marvelous dinner of seared ahi tuna and San Francisco-style cioppino last week at the Blue Point restaurant in tony Wayzata. Charlie Leck (my blog mentor and host for the evening) and I were joined by our friend Steve Eckman to discuss the upcoming municipal elections in our corner of Lake Wobegon: Independence, Minnesota.

We gathered early enough to take advantage of happy hour, but sat in the restaurant rather than in the bar, so Charlie paid retail. Steve and Charlie have lived in Independence long enough to know all the players, alive and otherwise, all the alliances, all the blood feuds, most of the dirt, who can be relied on and who needs to be politically neutralized. It's a small town; the players take on caricature-like personas. As a relative newcomer to Independence with only one election under my belt, I mostly listened and offered up forest-from-the-trees strategies. It was a wonderful accompaniment to my Grey Goose.

The evening became even more enjoyable when John and Mary Beattie arrived at the Blue Point to celebrate their 32nd wedding anniversary. "You're the reason we're here!" proclaimed Mary to me as she stopped to greet us. Curiosity piqued, Charlie and Steve insisted I explain Mary's comment. Once explained, Charlie insisted I share it with my reader(s).

By way of disclaimer, I am a romantic. I am also a huge fan of Humphrey Bogart and, particularly, Casablanca. Whenever I revisit that masterpiece, I am struck by the amount of colloquialisms that have made the jump from the screen into my vocabulary. They are second nature to me now, like breathing out and breathing in (to borrow from another masterpiece). A little more than 32 years ago, my romanticism and admiration for Richard Blaine collided, resulting in the Beatties' visit to the Blue Point last week.

In November, 1978, I was getting ready to leave Washington, D.C., where I had been working for Senator Wendell R. Anderson as his legislative counsel. The Senator had lost his election in November and the office was in a transition mode. I was returning to Minneapolis to start a job in private practice. Mary Hartigan worked as the secretary to Peter Gove, Senator Anderson's legislative director. She had developed a crush on John Beattie, who grew up with Peter in St. Louis Park and was then working as an attorney at the Department of the Interior. Although Mary was convinced there was a mutual attraction, John was too shy to respond to any signals she was sending.

I was also in a transition mode. I had spent a few months of quality time with a lobbyist for the rural telecommunications industry, convincing her to make an exception to her self-imposed "no dating Senate staff" rule. The relationship had had a bittersweet ending some months before and my lobbyist and I shared one last lunch at the Monocle on Capitol Hill before my permanent departure from D.C. It being 1978, three martini lunches were not atypical. It was a great lunch. I had the chance to emulate Mr. Blaine and say all things you want to say to let someone know you'll remember them always and that you know that they know that they'll remember you, too. Fortified by vodka, we spent a couple of hours reminiscing, laughing until we cried and crying until we laughed. At the end, she might as well have boarded a plane to Lisbon. I had achieved my storybook ending to what had been an intense romance.

And I was in a mood. I knew of Mary's pining for John. I thought they'd be perfect for one another. And, having just closed the book on one doomed romance, I was determined not to allow Mary and John's story end without so much as a prologue.

I walked to the Capitol from the restaurant and went into the dome to the Senate Library. This was, of course, pre-cell phones so I needed to find a phone somewhere that allowed a private conversation. I called John at his office at Interior, still fortified by the three martinis. When John answered, without any introduction, I said something like, "John, I am at the Capitol and I am on my way to the Russell Senate Office Building. By the time I get there, I expect you to have called Mary and to have asked her out. She's nuts about you and if you don't follow up before heading back to Minnesota, you'll regret it, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But soon and for the rest of your life." And I hung up.

When I walked into the office ten minutes later, Mary came over to me. "What did you do?!!" she asked.

"Why?" I responded.

"JB called and said you told him he had to call me. We're going out tomorrow night."

I had forgotten this, but if last week was Mary and John's 32nd wedding anniversary, they were married two months after my intervention. I returned to Minneapolis in December, 1978 and, three months later, went on my own blind date with my bride of 30 years. John and Mary also moved back to Minnesota and raised a family of three sons.

Of all the gin joints in all towns in all the world, they walked into the Blue Point and, thanks to Charlie, I get to share this beautiful relationship.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Palin's "Oops"

I was going to write about the disgust I felt over Sarah Palin's refusal thus far to acknowledge that putting rifle scope cross hairs on the map of a Congressional District "has consequences" (quoting Rep. Gabriel Giffords, D-AZ, in a March, 2010 interview on MSNBC). To suggest that the absence of known ties between the shooter and Palin or the Tea Party negates culpability on the part of all hate-mongers (Conservative or Liberal) is ridiculous. You and I might not react to Palin's map by taking matters into our own hands. But you and I are sane.

In any event, I refrained from writing because Tucson's Sheriff made my case, bemoaning Arizona's status as the center of hate and bigotry in politics today and warning, again, of the consequences of such inappropriate pandering to basest instincts.

I AM writing today to share a link sent to me by a Facebook friend from Canada. Here's the link to paste into your browser:

I am not posting it to engage in a debate about whether Sarah Palin has the right to cleanse comments to her FB page. She does. I am posting it to make sure everyone reads to the point of the post on the killing of 9-year old Christina Green:

"It's ok. Christina Taylor Green was probably going to end up a left wing bleeding heart liberal anyway. Hey, as 'they' say, what would you do if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a kid? Exactly."

While comments suggesting the Palin had blood on her hands were removed within a minute or so, whoever was editing the comments on behalf of Palin felt that the "okay to kill Christina Green" comment was appropriately retained.

It seems to me that once you start sanitizing comments to your posts on Facebook, your true colors are shown by (a) what you believe needs to be removed because it is offensive to your point of view and (b) what you allow to continue to be posted because it is not offensive to your point of view.