Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October 31, 2017--Lindsey's New Bromance

Lindsey is about to be dumped by John McCain who is insensitve enough to his feelings to be dying from brain cancer. No more get-away trips together to Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Lindsey, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, can't resist a hunky tough guy. Even while McCain is still alive, he's moved on to another one--Donald Trump. 

Though Trump is anything but a real tough guy. Recall, while McCain was flying jets over North Korea and held prisoner by the Viet Cong, Trump was avoiding the draft with a series of student deferments and a bone spur in his foot that miraculously cleared up when the draft ended.

Doesn't take much to get poor Lindsey's heart fluttering--just a few tete-a-tete rounds of golf with the big guy who has his little hands on the nuclear codes and a ride or two back and forth to Camp David, that well-known trysting place in Marine One--the president's personal helicopter. That's all it takes to get Lindsey all googly-eyed.

Graham says he's just being practical--it's better to have the president's ear (not his literal one of course) than to be made fun of or to have his cell phone number outed in a presidential tweet. 

And, he told the New York Times, there are a lot of Trump supporters in South Carolina and by being cozied up to Trump helps him back home, on the rare occasions that he's there and not junketing.

It also takes the ability to forgive and forget. Including the things The Donald said about him during the campaign. You do remember that Lindsay was one of the 19 seeking the nomination and Trump disposed of him without needing to break a sweat.

Not only did he torture him by revealing his telephone number and mocking the fact that Lindsay was in low single digits during the primary season, but he also, just a couple of months ago, after the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, after Graham criticized Trump's comments about racial violence, blaming equally both sides, Trump tweeted--
Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is morale equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis white supremacists. . . Such a disgusting lie. He just can't forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember!
It must be that they serve wonderful snacks on Marine One.

Lindsey Graham In Marine One

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

October 30, 2017--Mueller's First Moves

It is being widely reported that special counsel Robert Mueller is about to announce his first indictments. Perhaps as early as Monday.

Everyone is expecting that those charged will include Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. I am expecting them to be at the top of the list.

But look for two other indictments, much higher profile and more incendiary--Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

A tip off about the latter is the fact that Kushner for a couple of months has been largely invisible. I have been speculating about his absence (as well as his wife Ivanka's). My first take was that they are separating themselves from Donald Trump Senior in large part not to be dragged down with him. Perhaps, based on this, there are other reasons Jared is nowhere to be found. Maybe because he is about to be arrested, fingerprinted, and soon to be tried minimally for perjury. 

What next--

Manafort and Flynn to save their skins will decide to cooperate with prosecutors. If they do, this will further jeapodize all Trumps, likely including the president.

And then?

Trump and his Fox News friends will accelerate their campaign to undermine the objectivity of the Mueller investigation. Mainly by trying to tie collusion with the Russians to Hillary Clinton. That won't work.

And so--

Look for Trump to pardon all involved. There is no way he will stand by and sacrifice his children. This is not the Old Testament.

And, he will attempt to fire Mueller.

Will it work?

Trump will not be impeached much less tossed out of office by the Republican controlled-Senate or the 25th Amendment.

And, though I do not understand all the legal moving parts, there is some credible opinion that all of these folks can be pursued by prosecutors in New York where any number of potential crimes may have been committed. If so, the presidential power to pardon would not work for New York based crimes.

Stay tuned. This week will be historically interesting.

Robert Mueller

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Friday, October 27, 2017

October 27, 2017--Trump's Get Out of Jail Free Card

Up to now here's how I thought Donald Trump's presidency would end:

For many months I've been writing that the real threat to him is not the ideological split among Republicans, the opposition of the Democrats, his failure to accomplish anything, or his intemperate and outrageous behavior. Like the sort of things he said recently about John McCain, Senator Bob Corker, and gold star families, among the many targets of his ire.

Most perilous, I have felt, would be the looming findings of the investigation being directed by special council Robert Mueller. This, I thought, will turn out to be the ticking time bomb that would bring him down before the end of his term. 

We would learn about collusion between Trump and the Russians who worked together to doom Hillary Clinton's candidacy, Trump's corrupt business practices in Moscow and elsewhere, illegal money-laundering activities that would be discovered through an examination of his personal finances, and his various efforts to obstruct justice as this investigations unfolds.

That the weight of evidence would turn out to be so overwhelming that he would either be impeached and voted out of office by the Senate or, like Richard Nixon, be forced to resign.

None of this is any longer likely.

No matter what Mueller finds it will be at most a one-week story.

Here's why--

Trump and his enablers have come up with a winning defensive strategy. Much of it focused on Hillay Clinton, the Clintons (plural) and Trump's favorite nemesis, Barack Obama.

They are working on three themes--

First, they are in the process of turning the focus of the collusion-with-the-Russians narrative from Trump to Hillary. Earlier this week Trump and his people basked in the revelation, reported in the fake-news Washington Post of all places, that the infamous BuzzFeed dossier that outlines in literally explicit detail Trump's nefarious business activities with Russian oligarchs and frolics with prostitutes was largely paid for by Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee. More than $10 million worth.

People close to Hillary Clinton acknowledged this, claiming that it was routine opposition research. Everyone does it they blandly said. Well, that may be true, but from a political perspective it is ruinous to any attempt to use the dossier revelations as part of a case against Trump. Now the whole episode will become a case against Hillary. Slimy political jujitsu at its best.

Then there is the uranium flap. 

This was reported by the New York Times many months ago and at that time I had a few things to say about it. The paper of record alleged that at the behest of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton herself while Secretary of State and Barack Obama was president approved the sale to Russian business interests of the Canadian company that produces of 20 percent of our uranium supply. 

Bill Clinton was shown to be in the middle of this--he was paid $500,000 to deliver a speech in Russia after which more than $100 million was donated by Russians to the Clinton Foundation. These, it is speculated, lubricated the approval process by U.S. governmental agencies, including Hillary Clinton's State Department. 

Republicans at the time did not make that big a deal of it. They were focused more on pillorying Hillary about Benghazi. But periodically during the campaign Trump alluded to it. Now, reprised earlier this week by Trump's Minister of Propaganda, Sean Hannity on his radio and Fox TV shows, it is proving to be another effective diversion from the Mueller investigation, which reportedly is moving along quickly.

Then, to finish the trifecta of Trump preemptive defensive strategies there is the slow boiling process of sliming Robert Mueller. 

Again, Fox News and Trump himself are beginning to bring up things, I should say, make up things in an effort to undermine Mueller's reputation. They are saying he was and is chummy with fired FBI Director James Comey and that he has ties to the law firm that was paid by the Hillary people to come up with the BuzzFeed dossier. Thus, they are asking how can we trust anything Mueller and his staff uncover.

Couple this with a large part of the public's disinterest in anything critical of Donald Trump and the very recent reports that Republicans in Congress are rolling over for Trump and giving him standing ovations, afraid that if they don't Steve Bannon and his people will come after them with pitchforks and toss them out of office, putting all of this together, I am coming to think that whatever Mueller reports and recommends will be largely ignored, except on MSNBC.

With the resignation of congressmen such as Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, the Republican Party is in the process of becoming the Trump Party. 

He may be all the things critics say about him, but one thing he surely is--when it comes to fighting back he's shameless and effective.



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Thursday, October 26, 2017

October 26, 2017--Audiological Tale: Previous Life (Conclusion)

"Now all we need," I said, "is to run into a woman who speaks Czech. You remember how Gary programmed my hearing aids to have a Czech woman talk to me? How I thought she was asking me to help her? As if she was in danger or had been kidnapped or something."

"I do remember that," John said, "But most important, don't forget Gary himself. None of this makes any sense if he's not here. He's at the center of this, whatever the this is. And thus far we haven't caught sight of him."

"I suspect since he's the mild-mannered type if he gambles at all we will find him at the quarter slots. He probably has a limit to how much he's willing to lose. I doubt he's into roulette or craps or blackjack. Unlike your Dunkin Donut guy who we spotted at a $25 blackjack table."

"So," John suggested, "why don't we inconspicuously slide over in that direction. To where the slot machines are. To see if maybe Gary's there."

This is the proletarian area of all gambling casinos. Where retired people, mainly women, are to be found perched with blank faces on high stools feeding quarter after quarter into the maw of the machines. 

Invariably, the players have jumbo soda cups in which they dispassionately scoop what cascades out when they on occasion hit three cherries. And then how they from these cups retrieve coins to use to satisfy the lure of the machine. Until they over time inevitably get cleaned out.

It is also the most depressing underbelly of casinos since one senses here that the money being slowly confiscated by the slots is money from Social Security checks that might otherwise be directed to paying rent or to buy healthy food.

"I doubt if we'll spot Gary here," John said, "He too would find this an unhappy place to chase Lady Luck. Much of his clientele, of course, is older--including the two of us!--but I am sure most of them would not want anything to do with this sorry scene."

"I agree. Why don't we take a break from this sleuthing and get a bite to eat. We've been at it since five this morning. I could use a cup of coffee and maybe a sandwich. In fact, I could use a nap."

"We're not here for that," John said, "We're on a mission. I'm OK with a bite to eat but don't need any rest. I'd like to press on."

"Me as well," I said, "I was just thinking out loud. Do you want something to go with your coffee?"

"Yes. I think maybe chicken salad on a roll."

We spotted a modest cafeteria and while I got on line to place our orders, John headed for the men's room. 

I picked up and paid for our food and drinks and took them to an table just off the casino floor where I waited for John. I began to feel concerned as ten minutes had passed and there was no sign of him. I was about to leave our food on the table and set out to find him. But before I could do that, John, almost running and out of breath, plopped down on one of the chairs. 

"What's happening? Are you OK?" I asked concerned about him.

Ignoring that, he said, "You're not going to believe this."

"This would not be the first time," I said. "I mean, not believing all the crazy things that have been happening. Tell me the latest."

"We were making a joke about the Czech woman whose voice your were hearing."

"Right. After Gary had reprogrammed my devices."

"I think I just met her."

"No way. Impossible."

"Apparently not," John raced on, "There's a lounge by the bathrooms with sofas and chairs where I guess gamblers can take a break. Only this one woman was sitting there since I assume when people come here to gamble they're not interested in taking breaks. She spotted me and waved me over to where she was sitting. A tiny blue-haired woman who was so small she was swallowed up by the armchair. She was smiling weakly at me. She felt lonely and sad. 

"I went right over to her. She had that effect on me. To draw me to her. She said something I couldn't make out. She was speaking that softly. The lounge is off the betting floor but still quite noisy. So I kneeled down to get closer to her to make it easier to hear and understand her. She had quite a think accent. European. She grabbed hold of my arm. And . . ."

My heart was pounding as I interrupted John, "I think I know where this is headed. She's . . ."

"I think so. Impossible as it may be, I think she's your Czech lady. Her accent was so pronounced I couldn't make out what she was saying. She was speaking in an Eastern European language. I of course couldn't understand a word of it. I asked her if she spoke English. She nodded and asked me to help her. Exactly what she was asking you through your reprogrammed hearing aids."

"That's it? Just her asking you to help her?"

"Isn't that enough? First, there's this Eastern European woman who speaks Russian or Czech. Then, and this is most important, she asks me to help her. Just what she asked of you. This can't be another coincidence. Including, why me? You're the one with the Czech person talking to you. I'm just your friend. I agreed to go along with you on this adventure and . . ."

"I feel badly that I somehow enticed you into it. I only thought that . . ."

"No need to apologize. I'm here because I want to be. But this was so upsetting. You should have seen her. She looked so lost and helpless. I guess that's why she keeps asking to be helped."

"From what I don't know. Did she say anything else? And, of course, what happened? Did you just leave her there? That's not you. You wouldn't do that. You're too . . ."

"I didn't just leave her. A huge man in his 40s, stuffed into a suit, came and took her away."

"Took her away?"

"Not literally. But when he came out of the men's room and saw her with me, he raced over and almost lifted her bodily out of the chair and whisked her off. I got up and tried to follow them but they disappeared into a crowd of conventioneers who were hooting and hollering. I thought it best to come find you. Did I do wrong?"

"About all of this I have no idea what's wrong or, for that matter, what's right. Let's try to calm down and have our lunch. After that, we can figure out what to do next."


*   *   *

After we finished--we gulped down our sandwiches--I said, "Maybe in the first place it was a crazy idea to come here. To drive all that distance. A wild goose chase. I am thinking we should back off. Just resume being normal audiological patients. Leave all this spy stuff alone. I am feeling we're getting drawn in too deep. I didn't mean to speak for you, about being drawn in, but that's how I feel."

John said, "I don't disagree. This is beginning to be very funky."

"Beginning! I'd say it's been funky for months. In the meantime, what should we do? Leave? Stay? Play the slots?"

"I hate gambling," John said, "So that's not an option for me. You're probably right. We should leave and try to forget about all this funny business. But, having said that, we came all this way, we're here, we have a long drive back, and so I'm thinking let's maybe take one more pass around the casino to see if Gary's here. I say that because, again, there's no story, this is all an incredible bunch of coincidences, unless Gary's here to tie all the pieces together. I suggest let's give it another half hour and if he doesn't turn up, get back in the car and head to Maine where things are not so crazy. What do you think?"

I agreed and so this is what we did. Even though we didn't think Gary was a slot machine player that's where we started. We worked our way from the nickel slots to the ones that ingested silver dollars. 

No sign of Gary.

"Let's try the roulette tables next," I suggested, "Though roulette is for suckers since the odds are so in favor of the house, it is a classic game. Europeans love it--think James Bond--and who knows, it might appeal to Gary's romantic inclinations."

There was no sign of him at the roulette tables.

"How about blackjack? Remember that's where we saw the Dunkin Donut guy." So we threaded our way from the five dollar to the hundred dollar tables.

Gary was nowhere to be seen. 

"We're running out of places to look," I had already taken off my cap and dark glasses as a sign of capitulation. And we were no longer talking in whispers.

"How about the craps tables? That could appeal to him. Like me, he was born and raised in New Jersey and could easily be a craps player. It's similar to the dice games we used to play in the streets."

"In Brooklyn too," I added. But though we checked out the half-dozen dice tables, again there was no sign of Gary.

"We're about out of luck," I said, which is never a good thing in a casino--to be out of luck.

"There's just one more area," John said, pointing to an elevated part of the casino, off in a dark corner, with a velvet rope and security guard to keep out casual players. "It's for high rollers."

"Gary a high roller? That would stretch credulity much too far. I'm OK with the donut guy and even the Czech woman--though both being here is totally inexplicable--but Gary playing baccarat or some other exotic high-stakes game for big bucks is more than I'm willing to entertain."

"Well, maybe you'll have to rethink that," John said, whispering again. With a shrug he directed my attention to someone standing just inside the rope. "It's the . . ."

"I can see who it is," I said with a hint of exasperation  How much more of this can I take. 

"Your donut guy. And if you really want to make yourself crazy, check our who's in the chair next to the baccarat table."

I looked first at the man and then at the person almost invisibly curled up in the chair.

"The little old . . . ?"

"None other," John said.

"And if you look at the one player at the table, the man facing the dealer, the one wearing what looks like a white dinner jacket with a black bowtie, I think it's . . ."

Not needing me to complete the sentence, John, sounding shaky, said, "Let's get out of here." 

I was feeling more than shaky. And so, trotting, I followed him to where our car was parked, making sure not to look back


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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

October 25, 2017--Audiological Tale: Previous Life (Part 3 of 4))

Very early Sunday morning, before dawn, John Allan and I were on route to Uncasville, Connecticut. To the Mohegan Sun hotel and casino where we suspected our audiologist, Gary Schwartzberg, was likely at a professional workshop. "Suspected" and "likely" because we weren't sure of anything. 

Friday afternoon, while driving home from his office, we heard from his assistant, Angie, who sent me a text message indicating his family said he was well and that there was nothing to worry about. But she didn't include any details about what he was up to or where he was.

But I'm a worrier; and though I was relieved to hear this from Angie, I was concerned about Gary and must confess was still curious why he had disappeared Friday afternoon after luring us (that, I feel, is the right word) up to Rockport to see him urgently and then, unceremoniously, without a word of explanation, vanished.

After hearing from Angie, while I drove, John did some searching on line to see what he might learn about a possible workshop for audiologists in Uncasville. It took little time to determine that there was in fact something of that sort scheduled for the weekend at the Mohegan Sun. It appeared that attending helped audiologists acquire some of the continuing professional education credits that are required for them to maintain their licenses. 

John said, "Why not go? He's apparently OK but we're eager to learn more about what he's up to in his professional life and, who knows, maybe we can even find out a little more about what he refers to as his previous life. My guess is that these kinds of meetings are where some of the covert stuff is arranged. If the CIA, for example, needs audiologist operatives--as with the Cuba sonic attack business--what better place to recruit some?"

"I'm not busy this weekend so I agree--why not have a little innocent fun? It seems the workshop runs through late afternoon Sunday. Sunday morning would be a good time for me to go there and do a little playful snooping around."

"Sounds like a plan," John said.

"One thought," I said, "maybe in the spirit of having some fun and trying to be covert, why don't we get into the spirit of things and go undercover? I mean, see if we can observe Gary and keep an eye on him and what he's up to but try not to have him recognize us. You know, we can wear dark glasses and caps and lurk around in the shadows. Not during the workshop sessions of course, but when they're taking a break and are free to wander around, get food or drinks, and of course do some gambling."

"I like it," John said, "But of course this all assumes he's really OK and there."

"If he's not attending, it still will be fun to take the drive with you."

So, we finalized Sunday plans. I was to pick John up at 5:00. The drive to Uncasville looked to be about four hours. We'd reconnoiter, have lunch, see what we could see, then return home. On Sunday, the traffic both ways should be manageable.


*   *   *


After a easy drive, arriving at the Mohegan Sun, we took to drifting around the casino and checking out what was going on at the many restaurants that surrounded the playing floor. Gary thus far was nowhere to be seen though we had already determined that the formal sessions of the workshop had ended. The meeting rooms where they had been held were empty and staff were busy cleaning them and removing the audio-visual equipment, chairs, and tables.

Inconspicuously as possible we approached the gaming tables where I suddenly pulled up short and poked John in the shoulder to get his attention and steer him in a different direction. 

Turned around, nodding toward the Blackjack tables, I whispered, "I've seen that guy before," though there was no need to talk softly because even if one shouted on the floor of the casino it would be difficult to be heard over the din of canned music and slot machines. Isn't it ironic, I thought, how this is the perfect place for an audiological worksop, where it's impossible to hear anything above the cascade of silver dollars being disgorged to slot machine winners accompanied by the clang of bells and flashing lights when on occasion someone wins a jackpot. 

"I don't remember from where, but I'm pretty sure I recognize him. The elderly man with dark glasses in the blue shirt. Let's loop around behind him so I can get a better look and not be observed, making sure to keep our eyes diverted in case he's who I am beginning to think he is. I know him from either the waiting room at Gary's office or somewhere else connected to Gary. I'm pretty sure he's a Gary person."

"If so," John said, "I think we may be on to something. To spot someone associated with Gary but who isn't an audiologist attending the workshop. If it were otherwise, that he's not linked to Gary, it would be too much of a coincidence to find him here four hours from Maine on the very same day as Gary. Assuming, of course, that Gary's actually here."

I was pleased to see John getting into the intrigue. For months I had been the only one of the two of us to be drawn directly into those strange events. It felt good to have a coconspirator to validate some of what I had been experiencing and feeling.

During the time we had been there, we had wandered around in the casino and checked out what was going on in the many bars and restaurants that surrounded the playing floor. There was still no sign of Gary though it appeared from their badges that many of the audiologists who had attended the workshop were still hanging out, mainly taking their chances at the craps and roulette tables.

"I've got it," I shouted, forgetting my own admonition to speak in whispers. John wheeled in my direction and glared at me for my carelessness. I shrugged an apology and said, softly this time, "He's the one who was spying on Gary and me when we met to talk in late August at the Dunkin Donut in Rockport. The day Gary filled me in about having been recruited to help with the sonic attacks in Cuba. It was the first time he confided in me about the other aspects of his life. His covert activities."

"I remember you're telling me about that," John said.

We ducked back into a dark alcove by a nearby cocktail lounge so as not to be observed or overheard. "He's the guy who pretended to doze off while we talked, and to make it seem more authentic, drooled on his newspaper. Quite a nice touch when pretending to be incognito. After Gary and I were finishing and he had to get back to the office, this guy, quote/unquote, woke up and while fumbling with his cell phone I felt sure took a few pictures of the two of us."

"You're certain that's him?" John asked.

"A hundred percent," I said, "I recognize the scar on his neck. He must have had his thyroid removed."

"What is he doing here? And if he's involved with Gary, where's Gary? This guy came all this way to play Blackjack? There are closer casinos in Maine where he could go if he just wanted to gamble."

"You got me," I said, "All of this is a big mystery."

Now John pulled on me to get my attention. "What? What's up?" I said.

"He's gone."

To be concluded tomorrow . . .


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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

October 24, 2017--Audiological Take: Previous Life (Part 2 of 4)

When in a rush John Allan and I arrived at Gary Schwartzberg's office, his assistant, Angie, said he was finishing with a patient and would be with us shortly. Even she, who is always calm and centered, seemed upset. I was tempted to ask her what was going on but didn't want to pass along any of my own anxiety or breach any confidences.

We settled in the waiting room and without the ability to concentrate on them thumbed through some Starkey hearing aids pamphlets. In a few minutes we heard Gary in the hallway, escorting one of his clients to Angie's desk. "Please make an appointment for Mrs. Lindley in about four weeks. For her next adjustment."

I was relieved to see that Gary seemed like his familiar self. No signs of distress. "I'll be right back," he said to John and me, "I want to walk Mrs. Lindley to her car." Gently, he took her and together slowly they approached the door to the parking area.

I whispered to John, "Maybe he's more OK than we are imagining. I mean, he seemed perfectly normal. I know him pretty well by now and he didn't seem any different to me. This may be wishful thinking, but let's see what he has to say."

John said, "I agree. Let's hold back and let him do the talking. We shouldn't express any unusual concern, other than through the fact that we're here! And that he said he'd appreciate it if we could come right away to see him. That in itself is evidence that something out of the ordinary is on his mind or happening. So let's try to act casual and as if we were nearby and just popped in."

"I'm trying not to sound worried but don't forget he asked us to come to see him on short notice, knowing we don't live around the corner."

"All true. But let's try to play it cool."

I sank back in my chair and listened to the Bach cello suites barely audible on his office sound system. "This is the same music he programmed my hearing aids to pick up during nights when I couldn't fall asleep. Not that he admitted that he did that, but how else might that have happened?"

"Chalk it up to more strangeness," John said. We both strained to listen to the music.

After another five minutes, I said, "Doesn't it seem that he's been out there with Mrs. Lindley for a long time?"

"I agree," John said, "I'll ask Angie." Which he did. 

"She said she'd check on him. It's not unusual, she said, for him to linger with patients. He's very devoted to them as we well know. But she also said that she'd see what's happening."

Angie by then was at the door and looking intently out to the parking area. "I don't see him," she said, turning to us, "What's strange, very strange, is that Gary's car is not there." 

"He's gone?" John said, all our anxieties reignited.

"His car's not there," Angie said, no longer calm. "He's never done this before. I mean, leave without letting me know what's going on. I don't know what to think." She now, understandably, was more upset than either John or I.

"Did he get a call from his wife or mother? That there was some sort of trouble?"

"If he did, he would have told me. Everything seemed normal. Of course, with the exception of the two of you being here and his asking me to reschedule his afternoon appointments."

"It's not our business," I said, "And I don't want to get involved in anything private. We've become close but we know each other for only a year. But, having said that, he wanted to see us about something that's apparently on his mind." 

John and I smiled, trying to look and sound matter of fact.

"Now that I think about this," Angie said, "For the past few days he hasn't been quite himself. There appeared to be something coming up this weekend, tomorrow, that was weighing on his mind. Some sort of workshop about audiology. Not that that's unusual. They happen all the time and he hardly ever goes. But, as I said, this one seemed to be concerning him. I can't imagine why. He almost never goes, thinking they're a waste of time. So I didn't give it that much attention. We've been very busy."

"But for him just to leave?"

"To tell you the truth, that's what has me worried. It's totally uncharacteristic of him. I don't . . ."

"Do you remember anything about the workshop?" John asked.

I could see Angie struggling to remember. "Nothing that comes to mind. Except maybe one thing."

"What's that?"

"I think it's someplace in Connecticut."

"Maybe Hartford?"

"Not Hartford. They tend to schedule them in resort kinds of places so spouses can come and there's something more to do than just sit in a hotel conference room for two days hearing about the latest advances in audiology."

"I don't know Connecticut that well," I said. "Are there resorts there?"

"Uncasville," John said. They have gambling there. My mother loved it. Mohegan Sun is what it's called. The hotel and casino."

Angie brightened, "That's it! That's where it's being held. But Gary hates gambling. It's not his thing. nor is it his wife's, if she's going with him."

"In the meantime, he's gone," I said, bringing us back to that reality. "On the other hand, I can't connect any of the dots." I looked at John, not wanting to say or reveal  anything inappropriate--his strange and upsetting email to John, his wanting to see us urgently, all the things he hinted to me about his so-called previous life. And now his disappearance.

"I don't know what to say," I confessed to Angie, "Are you OK to be here on your own? I mean, we could stay if . . ."

"I'm all right," Angie said, I'm a Mainer and that means I can handle anything. I have your phone numbers and will call if I hear from him. I guess I should also let his wife know what's happening, though maybe she knows all about it. She also can handle anything. But I don't want to inadvertently create a problem."

We encouraged her to call and, with some reluctance, John and I left, promising to stay in touch to see what she might hear and also, in case he communicated with either of us, to let her know what we might learn.

To be continued . . .



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Monday, October 23, 2017

October 23, 2017--Audiological Tale: Previous Life (Part 1 of 4)

An agitated-sounding John Allan was on the phone, "We need to talk."

"Sure. What's up?"

"I got this strange email from Gary."

"Gary?"

"Gary Schwartzberg. My, our audiologist."

"Of course. There's only one Gary. You caught me by surprise."

Now whispering, John said, "He never sends me notes so when I saw his name pop up on my email page, I knew something was wrong. Did he get to you too? You've been working with him longer than I and I know he has on occasion confided in you about, how shall I put this, other aspects of his life."

"True. But this time I've heard nothing from him. He doesn't need to use me to say whatever he wants to say to you. We should have separate relationships with him. Both audiologically and with regard to anything else. But, yes, it appears he hasn't always been the straight-laced professional we know. You remember the Cuba business?"

"Do I ever," John said. "That was pretty wild."

"Yeah. That somehow he was mixed up in figuring out the nature of the sonic attacks Cuba launched against our embassy workers in Havana. How about two dozen have severe disabilities from what the Cubans did to deafen or otherwise injure them."

"I do recall that," John said, "Gary implied he was acting covertly. He hinted that he had some expertise with this sort of thing. That he had been a consultant to one of our security agencies regarding our own capacity to wage sonic warfare. Therefore, we speculated from what he said, including how some of his patients--retired CIA types who live in the area--knowing this about his past life thought he might be helpful with the Cuban situation."

"You're remembering correctly," I said. "He claimed he was trying to lead a normal life and they began hassling him. I told you, I think, how about a month ago he called me and sounding frantic asked if I could come by to talk and how we met at a Dunkin Donuts where he felt we were under surveillance by an undercover operative. I thought he was making this stuff up to add a little drama to his life."

"And then there was the incident of the loaner hearing aids he gave you while yours were being repaired and how through them you heard the voice of the dead woman whose they were. And how it seemed she and her husband too were implicated in some of these spying operations."

"Don't forget how Gary convinced me to allow him to reprogram my hearing aids' prompts so they would sound as if hey were coming from someone who was speaking Czech. And in addition to the prompts, after I attempted to translate what she was saying I thought she was desperately asking me to help her."

"All totally strange," John said.

"So, now what? You mentioned you have an email from him. More weirdness?"

"Decide for yourself. Let me read it to you."

"I can't wait to hear this one."

"He wrote--'I have to tell you my imaginary other life is way more exciting than my present one. I confessed to you and Barbara when you were here for an adjustment that there was a brief moment in which I wondered if there was a possibility that I had been brain-washed by the government to forget my previous life for security reasons; thinking this may be possible as my entire life between 40 and 50 years of age seemed to be like one day.'

"Then he added, which has me worried--'Uh oh, I just might be losing it.'" 

"Incredible," I said, "Do you think there's something to worry about?"

"You would know better than I," John said.

"Is there anything we should do?" I asked.

"I thought you would have ideas," he said, "You're really the one who he has confided in."

"Not confided, more hinted," I corrected John, "But then again why would he send the note just to you? Why not to the two of us?"

John said, "I don't think that's too big of an issue. It's more important I, feel, to see if we can figure out how to respond, maybe help him--I'm pretty sure he'd be OK knowing I shared this with you."

"Why don't you call him to see if he wants to talk. Maybe we'd drive up there and meet him for a drink or something. I'm free later today or any time tomorrow."

"I'll do it," John said, "I'll call his assistant, Angie ,to see if he'd like to get together. I'll call back to let you know what he says."

Before I could get a glass of water John rang back.

"Angie asked Gary and he said he was eager to meet at 2:00 today for a cup of coffee. He told her to reschedule his afternoon appointments. Though two o'clock is just an hour and a half from now I said we'll be there. It's clear he is eager to talk. He doesn't casually reschedule appointments on such short notice."

On the ride up we didn't talk much. It was as if we each in our own way needed silence to prepare ourselves for what would likely turn out to be a very complicated conversation.


To be continued . . . 

Dr. Gary Schwartzburg

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Friday, October 20, 2017

October 20, 2017--Sarah Is Pissed With Me

"You've finally gone too far." It was Sarah calling. I know her for more than 35 years.

"I'm listening."

"That blog you wrote about ISIS and Donald Trump."

"From a few days ago. It was the piece about the end of ISIS as an organized fighting force."

"That part of it I was OK with."

"So what has you so agitated?"

"That you assigned credit to that turd Trump for having defeated them on the battlefield. Something your New York Times was skeptical about in two articles published a few days after your blog."

"I beg to differ with your interpretation of the differences between their pieces and mine. Not that my stuff is of the quality of the New York Times. Not even close, but some times I feel I get to a story before they do. So at those times I'm ahead of the Times." 

I thought that was pretty snappy.

"You can make light of this all you want but this finally made me crazy."

"How's that?"

"For at least two years in your pieces you've been an apologist for him. By your taking him seriously you've helped normalize him. To give him the credibility of a regular politician and not the skunk he is. An unqualified and dangerous skunk." I could hear her breathing hard.

"Let's try to calm this down and unpack it. First, about ISIS. I said Trump accepted the strategy Obama set in motion and doubled down on it. In one of the Times pieces they compared how many attacks and how many bombs were dropped on ISIS during Obama's time and Trump's. They concluded Trump authorized more and unleashed our troops more than Obama did and that contributed to ISIS's defeat. That was a part of what I wrote and was also a part of what the Times reported."

"He's a lunatic, a monster, a danger to the world who has his hands on the nuclear codes and you take him seriously? I've had it up to here with you," she shouted.

"Of course I take him seriously. He's the president for ill or good. I know the ill part and try to find a few things that are good. Like maybe listening to his generals when it came to ISIS. I wrote about that too."

"That's the part that torqued me off the most," Sarah spat, "How you could find anything good to say about him."

"Now we're getting to a bigger problem."

"Now, I'm listening," she said.

"I know you'll be offended by this but I'll still take the risk of raising it with you." I waited for permission to put our relationship on the line. It didn't come, but her silence and the fact that she didn't hang up encouraged me to continue.

"Here's one of my big problems with Democrats and liberals when it comes to opposing Trump. It's almost as if they--and honestly, though I love you, I mean you too and, I have to add, me--it's almost as if we so much hate the idea that he might do something or stumble onto something good--like fighting ISIS effectively--that you'd prefer him to do everything wrong. Some call this 'confirmation bias,' where you look for things to support your already-established point of view. In Trump's case, this means that you despise him so much that the only things you pay attention to are the horrendous things he does. And of course, in my view too, almost everything he does qualifies."

Sarah was groaning. "This may sound crazy, but when it comes to a really dangerous situation like North Korea it would confirm your worst fears if he got us into a major war with them. Maybe even using atomic weapons. That would prove once and for all, including the historical assessment of his presidency, that he was, is the worst president we've ever had. If this is at all true, think about it--that his starting a nuclear war would confirm for all time that he is truly crazy and he ultimately led to many millions being killed during his years as president. You'd prefer that than think or hope he can somehow solve our problems with the North Koreans. I know this is unlikely, but it's possible and shouldn't we therefore work to make the possibility more probable? Rather than hope he'll fail with this too?"

"What you're saying is crazy," Sarah said, "He's the one who's a danger to life on earth and still you keep looking around to find good things to say about him? Again, like what you wrote about him and ISIS. How maybe since he listened to reason about how to deal with them he'll do it again when it comes to a bigger crisis like with North Korea."

"We're never going to agree about this," I said. "But one final thing. I've also written pretty extensively about how most of the liberals and Democrats I know did very little to actively defeat Trump and elect Hillary. At most, most of the people I know sent checks to support her campaign or Bernie's. I won't ask what you did though I know you didn't go to any rallies or work the phones. And you live in a purple state. So, and we're speaking frankly with each other, as you accused me, you helped by not being active in the campaign to elect the person you most hate."

"What I did is my own business. You're changing the subject. Turning it on me."

"True, I am changing it. And since I am I have one more question for you--what are you doing about Alabama?"

"Alabama?"

"In the senate race there? To replace Jeff Sessions? There's a lunatic on the Republican side. Judge Roy Moore who tried to get the 10 Commandments displayed at the statehouse. And then there's the Democrat, Doug Jones. He has a chance. In fact, a Fox poll this week has the contest as a toss up. So, if you're so riled up, what are you doing to help elect Jones?" I waited. "Your silence tells me more than I hoped to know. Bottom line--we all have to check ourselves out. Few of us are not implicated. We all contributed to this mess."

Sarah said, "Let's take a time out. I mean in our relationship. I hear you but still disagree. I mean about the role you've played in this. I'm still furious with you. You write this stuff and send it out. You have a lot of followers. Therefore, you have an additional responsibility to be careful with what you say."

"And, love, so do you. Including what you do."
Judge Roy Moore--10 Commandments

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

October 19, 2017--"Big Gods"

I've been reading a fascinating book from 2013 with this title by Ara Norenzayan. In less than 200 pages he surveys the evidence that human's propensity to create religions is both genetic and cultural. Also, that it is globally pervasive and dynamic. More religions are literally being created every day. 

In spite of the title, this is not pop social biology nor about the so-called "God Gene." It is chock full of findings from the latest and most sophisticated research. But readable. So, I recommend it highly since our planet is roiled in large part by religious strife. In spite of the Enlightenment that in the 18th century emphasized scientific evidence as opposed assertions based on belief, in only a few countries in Western Europe, religions continue to play a powerful and, in many cases, dominant role in shaping behavior.

Here is a brief sample about the number of believers--
There are today nearly 2 billion self-proclaimed Christians. Islam, with 1.3 billion people is thriving too, and fundamentalist strains are making fresh inroads into all three Abrahamic faiths. Christian fundamentalism in particular is spreading like wildfire in places like China and Southeast Asia and most of all, in sub-Saharan Africa. 
The United States--the world's most economically powerful society and a scientifically advanced one--is also, anomalously, one of the most religious. Over 90 percent of Americans believe in God, 93 and 85 percent believe in heaven and hell, respectively, and close to one in two Americans believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis.  
These facts and figures . . . about human evolution [that] despite many predictions of religion's demise in the last 200 years, most people in most societies in the world are, and always have been, deeply religious. . . . 
Religions have always been multiplying, growing  and mutating at a brisk pace. In one estimate [World Christian Encyclopedia], new religions sprout at an average rate of two to three per day. [My italics]  
"Many are called, but few are chosen," says the Gospel according to Matthew (22:14). This "Matthew Effect" might as well refer to the iron law of religious evolution, which dictates that while legions of new religious elements are created, most of them die out, save a potent few that endure and flourish. 
By one estimate (ibid), there are 10,000 religions in the world today. Yet the vast majority of humanity adheres to a disproportionate few of them.
Eye of Horus--Egypt--Late 6th to 4th Centuries BCE

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October 18, 2017--Back Thursday

I'll be back Thursday with some astonishing data about the proliferation worldwide of religious practice.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

October 17, 2017--Jack's Reading

Jack has returned to the diner. But he is careful to avoid coming when Betty is working.

"You've got me reading," he said, clearly feeling proud of himself. I decided to just listen.

"You mentioned it in one of your thingies," that's how he refers to my blog, "The book about Nixon and Kissinger. I forget the exact title." I restrained myself from supplying it.

"I'm sure you're not surprised that I'm a big Nixon fan. Not that I liked Watergate or some of his other capers. He's lucky they didn't put him in jail. But nobody's perfect." He chuckled.

"Look what he did with China and Russia and Vietnam. He got us out of that one." I resisted saying that Nixon escalated the war in Vietnam, kept it going for at least three too many years and during that time 22,000 American soldiers were killed not to mention hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. Or, off course, that we lost.

"Until I read that book of yours I thought he did all this pretty much by himself. I totally forgot about Kissinger. Henry Kissinger, who was his Secretary of State." Again, I restrained myself from correcting him--during Nixon's first term Kissiner was National Security Advisor. It wasn't until Nixon's second term that he also became Secretary of State. Nixon and Kissinger hated Nixon's first Secretary of State, William Rogers. They managed to keep him out of the loop, not telling him what they were up to in Vietnam or for that matter China and the Soviet Union.

"From the book it seems they were close partners. They were crazy, I'll admit that, but they were brilliant and quite a team. Both were insecure, needy, a little paranoid [A little?], and very competitive with each other. Both wanted sole credit for all they accomplished. Kissinger sucked up to a whole lot of newspaper columnists and would leak to them what they were up to. Claiming that he was the lead partner. The brains of the operation. Turns out not to be true." 

Jack did get that right. "From the tapes of their conversations and from documents the author [Robert Dallek] turned up it's pretty clear that Nixon was the boss. At least until near the end when the world was collapsing on Nixon and he was drunk and raving most of the time."

He paused, trying to draw me in. I was still into just listening.

"I admit the book [Nixon and Kissinger: Partners In Power] made me thing about my boy Trump." I couldn't wait to hear this. "It looks to me he could use a secretary like Kissinger. This Tilletson guy [Tillerson] is no Kissinger. In fact, I want to check his claim that he was the CEO of Exxon. He feels like a zero. How did he ever get that job? Assuming he's not lying about it. I know, he really was with Exxon. There's no way he could lie about that. But, boy, what a moron. I know, that's funny since he called Trump a moron, actually, a 'friggin moron.' I love the idea that Trump wanted to compare IQs. I'll give you that Trump isn't a Mensa candidate, but Tilletson's the moron, if you ask me. And I know," he smiled, "that you didn't. I mean ask me."

I had no idea where Jack was going with this monologue. I would have thought that since he's so enamored with Trump that he believes he can do anything on his own, including relating to the rest of the world. Or intentionally not relating to it. I would have thought Jack would hope that Trump would be his own Secretary of State. As Nixon was.

"Reading about what was possible to do about Vietnam, forget Russia and China for the moment, I realized that the situation was much more complicated than either bombing them back to the Stone Age or cutting and running. There were a lot more moving pieces, including that China and Russia separately--since even though they were both communists were rivals--were supporting and arming the Viet Cong. Nixon had to figure all that out. If he wanted to make a deal with China he had to figure out a way to either ignore the Chinese helping the North Koreans or make part of the deal that they would be sort of OK with what we were doing there. He knew it was all about self-interest and that the Chinese were probably all right with letting Nixon do his thing in Vietnam so not to screw up the possibility of a deal between us and them. Whew."

I continued to look at him, impressed that he had the outline right about what was going on. The complicated juggling that was required.

"And," Jack continued, "Nixon needed Kissinger to bounce ideas off and needed his hands-on help, including flying back and forth to have secret meetings with the Chinese and also the Russians since they had to be OK with us cozying up to Red China."

He took a deep breath, "And so my point after all this rambling is that even Trump, who is not as smart or knowledgeable as Nixon, I'll admit that, also needs someone other than Steve Bannon, who I assume he still talks with, and his daughter, whatever happened to her--as you said she and the son-in-law have pretty much disappeared--to try ideas out on. Tilletson's clearly not the one. So, to tell you truth [with him telling the truth can be a rarity], I'm a little worried. I don't want to get in a shit fight with Kim-whatever-his-name-is without thinking out all the options and complications."

I smiled. "I did notice," Jack said," that the other day Trump had Kissinger in to the White House to I assume talk some of this over. Kissinger scrunched in a chair in the Oval Office looked like he's 115 years old and has shrunk to four-feet tall. But I assume his big brain is still working. Maybe Trump got some good ideas from him."

If only that were true, I thought.

"One more thing and then I have to run. I wrote it down from the book. It scared me I admit. It comes from one of Nixon's Oval Office tapes. Students were protesting the war and Nixon was trying to coopt them by occasionally meeting with some of the leaders."

Jack pulled a paper out of his fleece pocket. "It's about one of these meetings."

Jack cleared his throat and read--"The meeting left him with a sense of hopelessness about changing minds. 'It's just crap, you know,' he told [his chief of staff] H.R. Haldeman. 'We have to sit and talk to these little jackasses . . . Why don't I just . . . scratch all this crap, really bullshit, all these meetings, this therapy meeting with the little assholes . . . and recognize that we have a crisis in the country in terms of understanding, recognizing that nobody can solve it.'"

"Incredible," I finally said. "I remember reading that and was shocked that . . ."

"That a president could talk this way in the Oval Office? And think this way? Again, he was brilliant, but as I said, also crazy. This is all very scary." He paused.

"Scary?"

"Yeah because who knows how they're talking these days in the White House." This was hard for Jack. "Probably the same way. And how they're thinking," He sighed. "Also probably the same."


Nixon and Haldeman

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Monday, October 16, 2017

October 16, 2017--Whatever Happened to ISIS?

It wasn't very long ago that ISIS or ISIL or the Islamic State caused widespread fear in the Middle East and the West. Very much including in the United States.

Almost daily, for many months, ISIS would release a video of the hideous torture and beheading of captured Americans, Europeans, and Muslims. The map of the area showed ISIS's metastasis occurring as more and more territory fell before its brutal, seemingly unstoppable anschluss.

As recently as 2014, ISIS declared itself a caliphate. Which meant that they claimed religious, political, and military authority over all Muslims. All Muslins worldwide. In the region (beginning in expanding parts of Iraq and Syria) with visions of taking over all of the Middle East and ultimately at least as much of Africa and Europe as the previous caliphate of the 7th through 15th centuries occupied.

This terrifying aspiration did not seem far fetched. 

The Iraqis, torn by internal strife between the Shia majority and the Sunnis (who joined ISIS in large numbers), the Iraqi government and military felt powerless to resist. Syria was torn by a hopeless civil war and resisted becoming involved; and no one in the West, including the United States during the last years of the Obama administration, had a response that felt credible. 

And then there were the Russians who saw this divisiveness and chaos as an opportunity to exert influence and even dominance.

But then toward the end of the Obama years and continued and expanded during the early months of the Trump administration--yes, that administration--the U.S. military did two things that appear to have been decisive--somehow after more than a decade of frustration, we were able to train elements of the Iraqi army to actually fight effectively and supplied close-in tactical air support as they took on the previously unvanquished ISIS fighters. 

Slowly the map of the area controlled viciously by ISIS began to contract. As recently as last week the last of their caliphate strongholds, Hawija, fell to the Iraqis. Thousands while retreating were killed and then, rather than dying a martyrs' death, other thousands surrendered, mainly to Kurdish forces who have been in the mix as critical fighters.

A few things--

First--ISIS will continue to inspire and take credit for individual acts of terrorism. As hideous as this it, it's not a caliphate.

Then--though Donald Trump has a checklist of Obama initiatives and achievements that he has made his agenda--to obliterate Obama's political and historical existence is what more than anything else guides Trump. But in spite of this, in regard to ISIS, his military people saw an effective strategy and Trump doubled-down on it. Soon he will be all over Twitter and the media taking credit for "defeating" ISIS. What he boasted during the election campaign.

He is entitled to some of that credit. This is culminating on his, forgive me, watch. Maybe, doubtful, but maybe he will learn something from this--about the big things (war and peace) he might act more moderately than what many are fearing. North Korea a case in point?

Last--seemingly hopeless situations can at times resolve themselves. 

Hawija

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Friday, October 13, 2017

October 13, 2017--Harvey Weinstein--"That's What Woman Are Asking For."

I've been wanting to write about Harvey Weinstein but pretty much everything I have to say has been said. 

And he is so disgusting, what he did was so disgusting, the world he trolls is so disgusting, the politics of this is so disgusting, that I am inclined to take a pass. 

I don't want to have anything to do with him, even if it's only to write something. I feel that I will be slimed by any involvement.

But when I read what fashion designer Donna Karan said, I couldn't ignore this and leave it to others to rant. 

Self-proclaimed feminist Karan offered the traditional sexist rape defense:

"You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for?" 

She answered her own question--"Trouble."

And she is not alone in making excuses for him. Almost everyone in the Hollywood and show business community (I include fashion in that) has for decades been making excuses for him. Even his wife. How could she not have known what a disgrace he is? While his behavior was "secret" she remained with him. When it became public, she took off. More to protect the reputation of her own fashion line than because of her outrage.

One could say pretty much the same thing for most of the B- and A-List stars who were either groped by him or knew about his pathological behavior. They didn't want to spoil the party or their ability to be cast in his movies and make millions a picture.

And what about the politicians? All, by the way, Democrats. They liked to hang with him too and couldn't resist. It took Hillary Clinton six days, six, to express her outrage. And she knows more than anyone else about this kind of alpha-male behavior.

Saturday Night Live ignored this though they have been quick to mock Donald Trump when his grabbing pussy comments went viral or when any GOP congressman got caught fooling around in the men's room.

But Harvey to these bi-coastal elites was too powerful, too much fun to turn away from.

Look, for decades everyone knew what he was up to. As a close friend who is a prominent feature film maker said to me, "What he is has been known for years. It's the industry's dirty little secret. Pretty much all the guys who came to Hollywood to make movies did so to get laid."

I might add, or ran for Congress or the White House. Think Franklin Roosevelt, think Lyndon Johnson, think Bill Clinton, and especially think John Kennedy.

It is just this sort of thing, this hypocrisy that helped elect Donald Trump and will doom Democrats going forward. If there is a going forward. This hits especially hard on liberals because we're supposed to know better. Well, we don't.

This is what the Trump people hate about the rich and famous and powerful--that they're only in it for their own good times. And the cash.


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Thursday, October 12, 2017

October 12, 2017--Not-So-Smart Phone

I know that more and more things are only accessible with a smart phone. Like calling for an Uber car. 

Even though I realize I'm being left behind, here's why I still do not want one. It all became clear to me over breakfast the other morning with John Allan. 

As usual we were having a wide-ranging discussion. Somehow, the film Clockwork Orange came up. John, Rona, and I remembered it vividly. But for quite some time none of us could remember who directed it. I thought it was Richard Lester, who I recalled was thought of at the time as a filmmaker who was influenced by Mod style. 

Neither John nor Rona remembered him and I wasn't sure I even knew his name. And of course, I couldn't remember the titles of any of his movies. 

John reached for his iPhone and began entering Clockwork Orange. Before he could get too far with that, I asked him not to do so, saying I wanted to challenge my memory and didn't want to get right to the answer. 

He put the phone down, smiling at my desire to test my memory. At my age, I like to do that as much as possible, though often I get frustrated and think I have Alzheimer's. John understood that as he struggles with some of the same issues.

I continued to play around with Richard Lester's name, spelling it various ways--Lester, Lister, Lesnor--in an attempt to spur my memory, thinking that if I could do so I'd also be able to confirm that he was in fact the director none of us could remember.

We struggled with this for some time before Rona blurted out, "Stanley Kubrick. He's the director. I'm sure of that." She leaned back, feeling proud of herself. 

"I'm not so sure," I said, "I still think it was Richard or John Lester."

Quickly aggravated, Rona said to John, "I think it's now OK to look it up on your phone. No reason to struggle anymore with that since I'm sure . . ."

Before she could complete her thought John confirmed the director was Kubrick. 

In the meantime, though I reluctantly agreed, I felt certain that the director I was thinking about was Lester, Richard Lester. "I think he made the film Bedazzled and something with Julie Christie."

John had proceeded to look him up, "Yes he did make a film with Julie Christie, you were at least right about that; but, how could we have forgotten, the Beatles' Hard Days Night."

"I loved that movie," I said. "When it came out I was with my ex-wife in Dublin and it was playing across from a pub we had turned into our 'local.' We got on line with hundreds of kids and saw it. It was a terrific film and Lester was the director. But what about Bedazzled? Who made that?"

Looking at his phone, John said, "It was Stanley Donen, who also made a lot of musicals including Singin' in the Rain."

"Amazing," Rona said, "How a simple reference to Clockwork Orange has us thinking about the Beatles and Singin' in the Rain.

"And Julie Christie," I said. "Don't forget her. Did I ever tell you my Julie Christie story?" Rona rolled her eyes. She has heard it at least 100 times. John indicted he was interested.

"This goes back to 1967. My ex-wife, again, and I had driven cross country to San Francisco where Lisa was enrolling in the Art Institute. We rented a houseboat on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge in the houseboat community in Sausalito. It was quite a time to be there. The Summer of Love, the year Sargent Pepper was released, Haight-Ashbury. All that. And if you can believe it, also on a houseboat, just across the dock from us, living there were Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and the rest of the Grateful Dead."

No," John said.

"Really. We'd hang out with them when they practiced and smoked together. They had the best stuff in the marina."

"You're making this up," John said.

"Not at all," I said, "You can check it out. In your phone, type in Grateful Dead, 1967, and Sausalito. It'll come up."

He did and it did. "Amazing," he said, "And Julie Christie?"

"You can look that up too. Just enter her name and also Sausalito. Then click on 'Images' and a picture of her houseboat will appear. It was a big yellow ferry. It was also near our dock, on the San Fransisco side. She was there having just made Petulia with George C. Scott. Richard Lester was the director. I'm sure of all to this. I remember it." I was happy to report that. That I remembered it."

"Sounds like it was fun," John said.

"It was. And if you can believe it, Julie Christie and I became friendly. She was living with a French guy, a so-called artist, I think in fact more a boy-toy. But we became friendly and then over the years when she was in New York she'd occasionally call and we would get together. Once, she took me on a 'date' to see Hamlet on Broadway. An actor friend of hers, whose name I can't remember, played Hamlet. He wasn't that good, but we had fun."

"I get your point," John said. "Not looking things up prematurely can jar the memory. And is a good antidote to feeling you have dementia. That is, until you have it."

"Now you're sounding just like him," Rona sighed.

"I could look that up," John said, getting his smart phone ready. "The actor who played Hamlet." He looked at me to see if I was inclined to want him to do so.

"Let's leave that for another time." Rona was itching to leave.


Sausalito--The Yellow Ferry

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