I had this thought while watching the Democratic convention Wednesday night:
Are the young Trumps watching? Do they hear what Michael Bloomberg says about their patriarch?
Do they watch President Obama skewer their benefactor, their teacher, just about he did at that press dinner in 2011?
How do they react to the gentle jibes of Tim Kaine?
What do they think when Donald J. Trump asks Russia, invader of neighboring nations and clandestine drug pusher to its athletes, to hack the emails of Hillary Clinton?
Does the word “treason” cross their minds?
By genetic definition, these offspring don’t have all of Trump’s wiring – the disabilities that do not allow him to take in information, that make him lash out. Certainly the spouses do not. But have they absorbed Trump’s mind set?
Do all those Trump mothers’ genes kick in and make the next generation fear the rampage he is on?
Do they know right from wrong?
Is there room for embarrassment when the Clinton commercial is repeated on the tube, showing children watching and listening as Trump makes fun of women’s bodies, of a reporter’s condition?
(Serge Kovaleski is a friend and colleague, a terrific guy, who has a condition called arthrogryposis, which limits the motion of his arms but not his work, his life.)
Do they ever try to bring up these ugly acts to Trump – or would he cut them off without a dollar, as if they were a vendor who had done honest work for him?
Are they touched by the church ladies who have known tragedy up close but at the convention spoke of love and forgiveness while calling for gun control?
What do they think when Vice President Biden refers to his late son, and talks about how the Obamas have become “family?” Can they imagine feeling that way about other people -- or other people feeling that way about them?
What do the Trump scions feel when Michelle Obama reaches the whole world with her speech?
We have been told that one member of the Trump entourage admires Mrs. Obama – Melania Trump, who used several chunks of Mrs. Obama’s speech in her own talk at the Republicans’ fearful convention. Or was that a weasel way of explaining amateurish plagiarism?
Are they touched by Mrs. Obama’s intelligence and dignity – or do they carry the same racist contempt of the Obamas that can be found under the rock of the Internet – and, oh, yes, in Congress?
What do the young Trumps really think when Michael Bloomberg refers to their meal ticket as a serial welcher and cheapskate, who got his start with a $1-million loan from his old man? Are they impressed with Bloomberg’s billions-of-dollars charity, or do they think to themselves, “chump?”
The cliché is that the Trump kids seem okay, that they don’t have the bullying tactics of the old man. One reporter went hunting with the two older Trump sons and found them not obnoxious or repellent.
But is there room in their hearts for self-awareness? For shame?
George Butterworth did not see himself as a composer. Rather, he was a well-rounded musician, who, like so many other privileged English men, enlisted in the military early in what they called The Great War.
(I wrote the first draft of this a week before the Donald Trump Heel Spur controversy; of course, I did not serve in the military, either, having had two children young. George Butterworth did volunteer for the Great War, at the age of 29.)
I never knew much about George Butterworth except as the first of three composers on a lovely Nimbus CD, “Butterworth, Parry & Bridge” -- three British composers, brought together in a 1986 recording by William Boughton and the English Symphony Orchestra.
In my iPod, that arrangement blends into one long summer afternoon in the British countryside, idyllic, gentle, peaceful. It takes me back to afternoons when we used to visit a friend in mid-Wales.
I paid more attention to the name Butterworth when it popped up in my wife’s ongoing genealogy study. One of her ancestors married a man named Butterworth in the 19th Century somewhere in Lancashire.
It does not appear to be the same family, inasmuch as George Sainton Kaye Butterworth was born in London. His father was an executive on a railroad, who sent his son to the best schools—Eton and Trinity College, Oxford.
After university, Butterworth traveled around England, sometimes as a professional morris dancer (there was such a thing in those days) and collector of folk songs. Sometimes he went around with Ralph Vaughn Williams, whom he prodded to expand a short piece into what would become his “London Symphony.”
Butterworth expanded on the folk song, “The Banks of Green Willow,” and wrote music to accompany the poems of A.E. Housman in “A Shropshire Lad.” But "composer" was a label he resisted.
In August of 1914, Butterworth joined up and was sent to the front, where armies were hunkering down in the fields of Belgium and France.
He was made a lieutenant, put in charge of coal miners from Durham, with whom he had great rapport. He was shot once in the Battle of the Somme but recovered and went back to the trenches.
On Aug. 5, 1916, George Butterworth was shot by a sniper. His body was not recovered but friends back home made sure his music was written down and survived the war.
Ursula Vaughn Williams, the widow of the composer, kept Butterworth’s music in circulation. (I wish I had known that while watching that force of nature, Frances de la Tour, portray her in the recent movie, “The Lady in the Van.” )
“The Banks of Green Willow” has come to represent the people who died in the Great War.
There is a Butterworth B&B in the French countryside, not far from where George Butterworth fell, a century ago, Aug. 5, 1916.
Just wonderful. The United States has a presidential candidate who seems to have major psychological and developmental problems. (Plus, he’s obnoxious.)
I couldn’t watch Thursday night. Turned on classical music on WQXR.
However, I am vastly reassured by the latest reckoning by the Ouija Board people at the Times who have come up with odds on the presidential election.
Hillary Clinton – we are told – has a three-quarters chance of winning the election.
That sounds great.
Then I read that this is the equivalent of the foul-shooting percentage in the National Basketball Association.
I did not know that numbers people had a sense of humor and could drop a sly line like that in the middle of a story.
We do use a lot of sports metaphors in this country, our brains perhaps terminally addled by reality shows and sports broadcasting.
Now there is the NY Times observation comparing Hillary Clinton’s chances with the NBA’s overall foul-shooting percentage -- .757 on this recently-concluded season.
I was of course reassured by the prospect of Hillary Clinton, steely-eyed survivor of spurious charges, strong-minded debater who dribbled rings around Congressional pinheads like Trey Gowdy, fierce rebounder who held off Bernie (Mr. Elbows) Sanders in the primaries, now saving the day for humanity.
In my fevered brain, in the championship final, Clinton gets fouled by Mad Dog Trump, the designated hacker from the Dark Side, who mysteriously never fouls out of games despite the dirty fouls he constantly commits.
The ref signals: one shot.
To let her think a bit, the Dark Side calls time out. Both teams repair to their benches. The joint is going nuts.
Her supporters keep telling us that in the clutch Hillary never misses. (“You should have seen the time she threw the vase at me,” her husband often brags.)
Coach looks at her and says, “Nothing to it, Big Lady. Over and in. Then we pop the Champagne.” In the stands, my knees start knocking like castanets.
When do we wake up?
Our journalist/scholar family friend in Istanbul writes about the upheaval in her country. Please see:
* * *
We know Nice.
My wife was recalling how she and our daughter Corinna walked that promenade years ago.
We always talk with awe about France.
Our friend Sam who lives in the Alps says the nihilists hate it because it is beautiful.
We also know Istanbul.
We went there in the lush fall of 2012.
There were rumblings, omens, but also waves of beauty and history and comfort.
We walked the hills, took trolleys along the Bosporus, visited mosques, drank coffee.
One day we took a ferry to the Princes islands, a leisurely hour north of the city.
The main island, Büyükada, was like one of those vanishing bucolic American islands. We bought baked potatoes for takeaway and strolled the streets.
On the ride back we passed Yassiada, a smaller, more rugged island.
“That’s where they kept political prisoners,” a chatty man told us.
We looked it up. A former prime minister, Adnan Menderes, was held on Yassiada before being executed at a more distant island on Sept. 17, 1961.
That is apparently the most recent political execution, as Turkey sought its place, straddling Europe and Asia.
We visited Asia – Uskadar, with markets and cafes and an admirable book store.
We consider Turkey one of the best vacations we have ever taken -- the farms and villas and rolling countryside near Izmir and Ephesus.
The other night we watched glimpses of the troubles -- bridges and hills and buildings that looked familiar, but this was no travelogue, not with crowds in the streets, soldiers in the streets, rumors and bullets flying.
Will there be new executions in the wake of the attempted coup?
Could we once again take that modern T1 tram line from Kabataş to Bağcılar, gliding through neighborhoods, chatting as we did with a nice Jordanian couple?
More important, for the people who live there, can that great city endure, with one foot in each world?
We sit home and grieve for the great places.
The great journalist Sydney Schanberg died the other day at 82.
(Please see the lovely tribute by Charlie Kaiser, another ex-Times person:)
I was more of an admirer than a close friend, but we had one moment of contact that I probably recalled better than he did.
This was on the spring day in 1976 when he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize after having stayed behind in Cambodia to write about the ravages of a society gone mad.
He had become separated from his colleague, his friend, his brother, Dith Pran, who was still missing.
I knew Schanberg only as a presence who moved through the city room now and then when he was on home leave. Foreign correspondents have an aura. I knew I could not do what they do, and I admired them greatly.
On Pulitzer day, I was a cityside reporter, covering the suburbs, but if the city editor spotted you walking and breathing you could get sent anywhere – a shootout in Brooklyn, an assassination in Bermuda, a visiting king or prime minister in our town.
One editor asked me to interview Schanberg for the profile of him in the paper the next day. He was surrounded by friends and I introduced myself and we walked to a less noisy corner and I started with a very general question.
This gutsy correspondent who had survived the Khmer Rouge began to cry, and then he began to sob. I did what reporters should do. I went silent and waited for him to make the next move. He was a pro. He gathered himself and managed to say a few things:
“I accept this award on behalf of myself and my Cambodian colleague, Dith Pran, who had a great commitment to cover this story and stayed to cover it and is a great journalist.”
Schanberg told me he had spent the last year “in a state of deep decompression – I lost a lot of friends over there.”
I knew enough not to go much further. I typed up his words, which were in the paper the next day.
* * *
In 1979, Schanberg’s friend, his brother, made it over the Thai border and soon became a photographer for the Times, a sweet and slight man who made us happy just by being alive. The two buddies got to watch Sam Waterston and Dr Haing S. Ngor portray them in the movie, “The Killing Fields.” (Dith Pran died in 2008.)
* * *
Sydney was appointed Metro editor in 1977 shortly after I had taken a new post reporting on religion. The Times already had an expert on theology and religious history, and Sydney did not think they needed a second reporter on such a soft beat. He said he would find something else for me.
I was enjoying the beat – Hasids one day, nuns the next day, Evangelicals the day after that. I did not want to get shifted.
A few days later I just happened to be having lunch with the rabbi who was the spokesman for the Orthodox wing of Judaism in North America. I allowed as how I was feeling a bit glum that day because they were cutting back on the religion beat. My rabbi thought that was too bad because the Orthodox liked the way I, a Christian, wrote about them.
It took me 10 minutes to walk from Lou G. Siegel’s on W. 38th St. to the old Times building on W, 43rd St. When I reached the newsroom, Sydney spotted me, and with a mixture of annoyance and possibly admiration he said, “Aw, fuck it, you’re staying on the beat.”
I asked no questions but I assumed my rabbi had called a higher-up (not that Higher-Up) and arranged things while I was walking five blocks on Seventh Ave.
Sydney held no grudges. He played hardball; he understood it.
The next spring, he called me to his desk and said Passover was starting that night and could I get him a Haggadah, the guide to the rituals of the Seder.
“Pretty contemporary,” he said. “But not too liberal. You know.”
Oh, that Haggadah.
I took the No. 1 train uptown to a Judaica bookstore, rounded up a few Haggadahs, and presented them to Sydney. I never asked how the Seder went.
He was a hard editor to work for because, like most great reporters, he was used to cutting his own deals; after all, he had defied his own editors by not leaving Cambodia.
He was not so good on leadership, on listening to his staff, but he was smart and tough and talented, and I admired him greatly. Later he wrote a column and inevitably butted heads with his own editors, and left the Times.
Over the years we met at Times get-togethers and funerals, and we got along fine, old colleagues who had been through stuff together -- but not the kind of stuff he had seen in Cambodia.
Every time I saw him, I thought of him crying in the City Room for his missing buddy.
(NB: The following was written before the Mets had triple bad news on Friday. Well, I said it was frivolous. GV.)
It seems frivolous to be talking about the freaking Mets with all this other stuff going on in the world, but that’s where I am, mostly to preserve my own sanity.
It is very reassuring to watch a prodigal son, José Reyes, and a folk hero, Wilmer Flores, duel for playing time.
Everybody loves a prodigal son (unless, of course, Reyes has lost his edge) and everybody loves a grown man who cries.
“The Ballad of Weeping Wilmer,” David Vecsey wrote in a text message.
Write it, I said. Maybe he still will.
The Mets may have upgraded themselves once again in mid-season, by bringing in Reyes and apparently stimulating Flores to take better hacks.
Upgrades. Everybody needs a Yoenis Céspedes to come along, like last year.
Now that I think about it, the Mets have upgraded their infield defense in at least three of the four positions since last season – Asdrubal Cabrera (where has this guy been?) doesn’t look spectacular at shortstop, but…he is…and clearly a great teammate in the dugout, too.
Neal Walker is consummately professional at second base. And James Loney is so smooth at first base, making plays unseen since Keith Hernandez. When Lucas Duda is healthy, I still want Loney at first base.
With all due respect to Daniel Murphy, the newest Met-killer, having a great year for the Nationals, it had really grown tiresome watching him improvise near second base. Entire games can turn on a ground ball being handled competently. And it is possible that Reyes at third base could be an upgrade to the impaired David Wright.
Have you ever seen a club upgrade at least three quarters of the infield like that?
Then there is Wilmer Flores, who cried last year when he was almost traded, and was in a slump a few weeks ago, but now he is hacking – The Peepul’s Cherce, as we once called Dixie Walker in Brooklyn.
As David Vecsey pointed out, Flores forms a trio of legendary No. 4s in Met history, along with Ron Swoboda and Lenny Dykstra. Don’t forget blast-from-the-past Duke Snider, passing through in 1963.
Weeping Wilmer, energized, is not exactly like Céspedes arriving last summer as proof the Mets were spending money, were serious. But we all need upgrades.
If the Mets could spring for Céspedes before the deadline, other upgrades are possible.
Before it is too late -- for all of us -- the Republicans could pull a yooge deal at their convention and bring in a rational and accomplished candidate, Michael Bloomberg.
And the Democrats could bring in a charismatic and courant candidate, Elizabeth Warren.
Think Céspedes. Think big. Think upgrades.
For so many years, the schedule of a sports columnist took me far from home on the birthday of my country, on my own birthday.
“Do you remember all the places you’ve been?” my wife asked. Sometimes she was with me. Sometimes she wasn’t.
Companions get used to journalists being away -- weekends, nights, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. My wife recalls my taking a day's drive to the mountains on our first month in Kentucky -- and being gone for New Year's after a mine blew up in Hyden. (After that, I kept a change of clothes in the car.)
Reporters head toward danger, not totally unlike police and fire officers. But I was a family guy and could be hard to find by the office when a child had a big game or we had company. But sports reporters often work on scheduled events and cannot avoid being away holidays and weekends.
It's easier for a man than a woman to forage for a meal on the road. In her Sunday column, Maureen Dowd describes the snooty reaction to a single female diner in a Paris hotel. Alas, her good meal was spoiled by the rancid presence of Boris and Donald in her active mind.
My birthdays were often spent on the road. When I was at Wimbledon, I would scan the Times, which ran a daily box of birthdays of notables. I never expected to see my name – and never did – on July 4 but I was always happy that George Steinbrenner was a non-person in the UK, and I hoped Pam Shriver would be mentioned.
I never mentioned my birthday to colleagues; why draw attention in a press room? But in the age of the blog, here are birthday highlights of a travelling journalist:
1939: Born the day Lou Gehrig delivered his farewell speech in Yankee Stadium, I was a Brooklyn Dodger fan at birth.
The ‘60’s: a blur of Mets and Yanks, three children being born, great times. Was I in Minnesota…or Shea Stadium….or home? Can’t remember.
1970: We took the family to Italy for a glorious month. I can’t remember where we were on July 4 – possibly the side trip to Switzerland – but I do know that on July 9, Corinna’s birthday, my wife arranged a cake on the hotel patio, off the Via Veneto.
1976: Bicentennial Day. Now a news reporter, I was assigned to a destroyer in the Hudson, where Henry Kissinger was on board. Asked about the raid on Entebbe the night before, the Secretary of State said in his gravelly accent, “You people know more than I do.”
1982: I was alone in Barcelona, covering my first World Cup. On the night of the Third, I went to a concert by Maria del Mar Bonet in a plaza. The next day I went to El Corte Inglés and bought a vinyl record of hers, which I still play, in memory of a lonely but beautiful night.
1986: We landed in Moscow for the Goodwill Games. A grim customs agent inspected my passport and suddenly he smiled and said, “Happy birthday” in English – the start of a lovely three weeks, glasnost in summery Moscow.
Wimbledon: The English always honor the Original Brexit with flags flying, burgers in pubs. I would buy a bag of cherries in Southfields and sit with a friend and listen to the military band play American music before the tennis began.
1990: We woke up in Naples after Argentina beat Italy on penalty kicks in the semifinals of the World Cup, and we took the train back to Rome, celebrating the day in the trattoria beneath our flat near the Piazza Navona.
1994: Tab Ramos was cold-cocked by Leonardo in the round of 16 at Stanford. I bought a great t-shirt with American and Brazilian flags; it recently fell apart. After dinner with Filip Bondy and Julie Vader in Palo Alto, I caught the red-eye to Boston for another match.
1998: Dennis Bergkamp scored in the 90th minute as the Netherlands beat Argentina, 2-1, in Marseilles. We were staying in Aix; my wife had gone shopping in a market for presents.
1999: A joint birthday celebration, for me and ace photographer John McDermott in San Francisco, with family, the night before steamy July 4 semi of Women’s World Cup, a 2-0 victory over Brazil.
2004: Alone in a motel in Waterloo, on the Lance watch, reading David Walsh’s book that pretty much convinced me Lance was cheating. (The masseuse who was ordered to lie about saddle sores!) Watched Greece beat host Portugal in Euro final and wrote paean to underdogs.
2005: Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon finals. Next morning we took the Eurostar to France to pick up Lance’s bid for a fifth. Two days later, we heard that nihilists had set off explosions in the London transit.
2006: In our hotel in Berlin, watched Italy beat Germany, 2-0, in semifinals, then went out in streets to interview rollicking fans, celebrating a good run with beer and curry and ever-present wurst.
2010: Jeffrey Marcus drove from cold, inland Johannesburg to the fresh salt air of Durban for the Germany-Spain semifinal two days later. My unexpected birthday present: chatty Indian staff and glorious smell of curry from the dining room -- a treat for a journalist who picked an odd day to be born.
(Birthday wishes to Pam Shriver, John Hewig and John McDermott, all over the globe.)
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.