Cooperstown

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My kids have grown up. I know this because I’m banging away on a keyboard in Haverstraw, NY, right now, when I should be on the way home from Cooperstown.

Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you all about a grand tradition that began in October of 1987, when Josh was 8 and Ben was 2 and Josh and I decided to have a baseball weekend, just us guys, no mom, no baby brother.

The plan was simple:

We’d drive to Cooperstown on Friday night, when I got home from work, and check into a motel for a couple of nights. We’d spend all day Saturday at the Hall of Fame, then head to Brooks’ Diner in Oneonta for some chicken and ribs, and then return to our motel room to watch Game Six of the World Series. Just the two of us.

And there would be a brief but essential stop at a convenience store on the way back to motel from Brooks’, so we could pick up some essentials for watching the game. All involving excessive amounts of sugar and salt.

There was one ground rule: Anything goes. You want it, we’ll buy it. Chips, candy, soda, Twinkies, whatever. We’re guys. We snack till we’re sick.

The next morning, we’d have breakfast somewhere, then doughnuts at Snyder’s Bakery, and then we’d head back home, stopping en route to pick up a Halloween pumpkin or two.

Perfect. Continue reading

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On my honor . . .

 Repeat after me . . .

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
And to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
Mentally awake, and morally straight.

That, kids, is the Scout Oath, the words that every Boy Scout recites with two or three fingers pressed against his forehead.

The “morally straight” part almost got settled this year when the Scouts finally ruled that gay boys would henceforth be worthy of joining the club. I don’t think the founders of this organization ever intended “morally straight” to mean “morally heterosexual,” and now they’ve halfway straightened it all out. I say halfway because they still don’t allow gay adults to be Scout leaders. So now you can be gay and a Scout until you reach adulthood, at which time you must amazingly become straight or, more likely, take a hike. Them’s the rules.

But those rules are downright radical when compared to another part of their pledge. We’re talking “God and my country.”

In 2013, if you don’t happen to believe in God, then you’re still on the outside looking in. The Scouts make it very clear: We don’t want no stinkin’ atheists.

So what do you do when your kid wants to join the Scouts, and you happen not to believe in the Big Bad Invisible Voodoo Guy in the Sky?

Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you about the day my son, Ben, wanted to be a Tiger Scout, and how a little clause in the signup form opened not only my eyes, but his.  Continue reading

Bronx cheer, 10/09/13

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Say hello, or guten tag, to Brenda Barton, an Arizona state representative who can’t spell right and can’t think straight.

Our gal Brenda decided recently that the president of the United States reminded her of a certain German dictator from back in the early ’40s. We’ll pause here for a moment while you try to figure out who that might be.

The decidedly left-wing Talking Points Memo notes that our gal Brenda posted this cute message on her Facebook page:

“Someone is paying the National Park Service thugs overtime for their efforts to carry out the order of De Fuhrer… where are our Constitutional Sheriffs who can revoke the Park Service Rangers authority to arrest??? Do we have any Sheriffs with a pair?”

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Never mind that it should be Der Fuhrer, not De Fuhrer (It’s Der, d’uhhhh!). Let’s just consider that it is really, really offensive to compare just about anybody to that certain German dictator who was responsible for the systematic extermination of roughly . . .

5.1–6.0 million Jews, including 3.0–3.5 million Polish Jews
1.8 –1.9 million non-Jewish Poles (includes all those killed in executions or those that died in prisons, labor, and concentration camps, as well as civilians killed in the 1939 invasion and the 1944 Warsaw Uprising)
500,000–1.2 million Serbs killed by Croat Nazis
200,000–800,000 Roma & Sinti
200,000–300,000 people with disabilities
80,000–200,000 Freemasons [23]
100,000 communists
10,000–25,000 homosexual men
2,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses

Barton, to her “credit,” decided to stick to her guns (this, after all, is Arizona), reportedly telling the Arizona Capital Times, which is behind a paywall:

“He’s dictating beyond his authority . . . . “It’s not just the death camps. [Hitler] started in the communities, with national health care and gun control. You better read your history. Germany started with national health care and gun control before any of that other stuff happened. And Hitler was elected by a majority of people.”

Well, I guess that makes it official. Obama = Hitler.

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Here’s someone else who was compared to Hitler . . .

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And here’s another . . .

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And another . . .

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I could go on. But you know what? It ain’t funny. Not even close.

Frank Bruni addressed this in The New York Times the other day, and he was dead right.

The only person who should be reasonably compared to the worst genocidal maniac in the history of our planet should be an equally genocidal maniac. And we haven’t seen him in the last 70 years, and I hope we never do. Largely because of him, over 60 million people were killed, including nearly half a million American servicemen.

So I’m sick and tired of hearing about how this is like the Nazis and how this guy is like this guy . . .

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. . . because it debases each and every one of us when we say that. Nobody is like this guy. Nobody.

Not a day has gone by in my life when I haven’t heard the word “Nazi” or “Hitler” or “Third Reich,” which just goes to show what an influence this evil wretch had on history. Time Magazine named Albert Einstein the Person of the Century back in 2000, but they were wrong. It was Hitler. It’s 2013 now, and I can go days, even weeks, without reading or hearing Einstein’s name. I can’t say the same for Hitler. Somehow, I seem to hear or read a reference to him every damn day.

See for yourself. See if a day goes by when you don’t see a reference to Nazis/Hitler/Third Reich. (I’ve just covered today.) They’re always there. And there’s a reason for that . . . Because an unimaginable global horror took place just 70 years ago, and we can’t help but gape in awe at the evil.

There’s a reason we say “Never Forget.” And that’s because we never should. But it’s also why we need to stop comparing people we don’t happen to like to the person we hate more than anyone else. It’s unseemly. It’s beneath us. Let’s stop.

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The night my kid chatted with Tom Clancy

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Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you about the night my 10-year-old kid chatted with Tom Clancy.

Contrary to reports, Josh didn’t actually come out of the womb with a book in his hand. It just always seemed that way. He took to reading at a very young age, and I’m certain he’d tell you it’s always been one of the greatest pleasures of his life. When a friend told me the toughest part of law school was handling all the reading, I knew there’d be no problem. My son is now a lawyer.

But I digress. This is about the night Josh chatted with Tom Clancy, who died yesterday.

When Josh was in the fifth grade, around 1989, his teacher assigned the class to read a book and write a book report. I’m sure you’ve been there.

Josh picked The Hunt for Red October.

Did I mention that he was 10-years-old at the time?

No, the teacher told him, that book is wayyyy too hard for a 10-year-old. Grownups have trouble reading that book. Pick something else.

But I want to read The Hunt for Red October, Josh told his teacher. And then Josh came home and told me. And then I had to call Josh’s teacher — I called a lot of teachers between K and 12 — and tell him that if Josh wanted to read The Hunt for Red October, the appropriate response should be, “Go for it, kid.”

Because nobody tells my kid a book is too hard for him.

And so it came to pass that Josh, age 10, read The Hunt for Red October, and devoured it, and delivered an excellent book report. And a few months later we visited the Submarine Force Library & Museum in Groton, Ct., and Josh went from exhibit to exhibit explaining everything to me, because I had tried to read the book and got lost in the weeds somewhere around Page 50.

But I digress. This is about the night Josh chatted with Tom Clancy.

This was around 1989, remember, and the whole online thing was pretty new. I had a Macintosh II computer — the original color Mac — with a whopping 2MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive and a 1200-baud modem, and I was like the king of the world with a setup like that.

And I became a beta tester for a new service called Applelink Personal Edition, which later became known as America Online, which later became AOL. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Tom Clancy had heard of it. He came to this online stuff pretty early, too, and on this particular night he was hosting an online forum with his fans. People could type their questions to him, and he could type back. This was amazing stuff. Imagine, talking with a famous author from your living room.

And Clancy’s greatest fan was in my house. By this time Josh had also read Red Storm Rising and Patriot Games, and he wanted more. And, like any 10-year-old, he wanted it NOW! And Clancy mentioned that he had another book coming out very soon, which most likely was Clear & Present Danger, and, of course, he was encouraging all his online friends to run out to their local bookstore and buy a copy as soon as it came out.

And that was pretty much all he had to say about it.

But Josh was in no mood to wait. Like any 10-year-old, he needed to know some things, and he needed to know about them NOW.

Josh typed:

“What is your new book about?”

And Clancy typed back:

About $22.99.

Yeah, that happened.

Thanks for chatting with my kid, Tom. And rest in peace.

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