White House Nursery
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Trump:
We regret to inform you that your son Donald has once again violated the basic norms of behavior for our nursery.
As you know, we have spoken to you about this before. When Donald was admitted, school psychologists expressed grave concern about what they felt was sociopathic behavior.
You will recall, a minority of staff members persuaded the majority to accept Donald.
In recent days, his conduct has been unacceptable.
On an outing to a Boy Scout rally, he delivered a soliloquy on subjects having nothing to do with scouting. We have heard from the Scouts that his comments were not appreciated.
Then, on a visit to a police ceremony on Long Island, he urged them to commit violence to people under their control. Many people in law enforcement were insulted by this talk from a child, and have told us so.
In short, we can’t take him anywhere.
Donald also makes threats about staff members, including the very experts hired to scrutinize him and help him.
Our staff psychologist has identified his behavioral type as “The Little Dictator” – and tells us this condition begins in the home and, unless modified, can lead to real danger in the outside world.
To make things worse, Donald seems drawn to other badly-behaved children, especially a new boy whom I will identify only as “Mooch.” They goad each other into crude language and blatant threats to more pacific students in our school.
As we made clear when you beseeched us to accept him, we reserve the right to expel a child who disrupts the entire school. We feel his behavior predicts future danger for himself, unless you get him help.
As of this letter, Donald is on final probation. One more outburst and we will have to expel him, for the good of our nursery and as a warning to society.
With our sincere best wishes,
(This piece was written 12 hours before John McCain cast a deciding vote in defeating the bill that would have taken health care from over 20 million people. I have read Paul Krugman's perceptive column in the NYT, also written earlier Thursday, long before McCain's vote, depicting the senator's erratic stances.
It's tricky to write about a moving story. On Thursday, Laura Vecsey wrote a glimpse of the Scaramucci family from our town. Later, Anthony became Trump's Trump via his vile rant to the New Yorker. It's a moving spectacle. I think I know where this is all going -- sooner rather than later, one can only hope. GV.)
* * *
This is not the role anybody wanted for John McCain – appearing in public with a red raw line above his eye, from the recent incursion toward his brain.
I have been writing for over six months that I fully expected Sen. McCain to be a pivotal figure in the inevitable dumpsterization of Donald Trump.
I spent a few hours with Sen. McCain in his office for a column during an Olympic hearing in 1999, seeing the cranky side and the generous side.
Sen. McCain remains enigmatic – coming back from an awful diagnosis to cast a vote on health care, temporarily siding with the president who once declared him not a hero, and also supporting the amoral Mitch McConnell, to prolong this foolishness.
But then John McCain did what I have expected of him on his good-John-McCain days: he plainly called the Republican health-care “plan” meaningless, empty.
Now he has viscerally reacted to the pathetic tweeter of the White House by criticizing the call to bar transgender people from the military. This pilot served, was tortured. He knows how things actually work in the service, as opposed to the poseur from military school.
The same goes for Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost parts of her legs while serving as a pilot in Iraq. I saw her on TV the other night, talking about the foolish gesture toward transgender military people. She was, as always, so smart, so dignified. So presidential.
John McCain did not get to be president. His best moment during the campaign was to take the microphone back from the bigot in red who labelled Barack Obama “an A-rab.”
It was hard, recently, to watch John McCain stumble while asking questions in a Senate hearing. Now we know what is happening. But I am counting on him to exercise the just part of him. His pals in the mute White Citizens Council posse that materializes behind McConnell cannot pretend things are just fine, when John McCain is reacting viscerally to the disorder.
Unlike Trump, Sen. McCain felt no need to pander to the religious right on the transgender issue.
I originally thought it would take 18 rational months to rid the country of the buffoon, but now I think it could happen by Labor Day. This can’t go on. John McCain can help by calling out a disturbed man.
He flew many missions, but when he and Lindsay Graham pay that visit to the White House one of these months, it will be John McCain’s greatest mission.
Who made this &*%$#@?
How often do we scream this?
I do, every time water dribbles on my feet from the dispenser on our refrigerator.
I do, every time one of our imbalanced knives or forks goes clattering to the floor.
I do, every time I have trouble with coding or design on my not-totally-smart-phone.
Fortunately, I have found the perfect tool for one of those problems. Hint: you probably have a dozen under your desk.
First: the refrigerator. (I sometimes say “icebox” to annoy my wife.) Fairly new, and functional, except for the cheap pieces of plastic in all recent household appliances, designed to break after the warranty runs out.
The main problem is the gadget that dispenses ice (crushed or cubed) or water (allegedly cleansed by a pricey little filter.)
To get water or ice, you push in a curved bar with a glass; the H2O comes out of the innards; when you have enough, you take the glass away – and another few seconds’ of water, solid or liquid, falls to the floor.
Infuriating. No adjustment or fast hands can solve the problem.
My theory is that the people who built this device never, ever, tested it. Just built it.
Out of innate politeness, I will avoid mentioning the maker. Let me just say: Kamsahamnida.
* * *
Then there is our dinnerware, sleek and silvery, only used when we need a full set.
So pretty to look at. But the tines do not hold much, and when you lay the knife or fork down, the handle is so top-heavy that it performs a one-and-a-half gainer onto the tablecloth and thence to the floor, with rice, salad or fish splattering on the rug.
They never tested the thing. Just built it.
Out of innate politeness, I will avoid mentioning the maker. Let me just say: the imprint on the silverware reveals the country where it was made. Hsieh-Hsieh
* * *
Then there is my smartphone. I’ve only had it a few years – resisted a long time, but now I am hooked. Check for emails every 60 seconds.
It works pretty well, but the other day I could not fit the charger into the rectangular slot. My wife’s charger did not fit, either.
Oh, great, I thought, those blankety-blankers will tell me I need a new super-duper 12A phone, or whatever series they are up to. This is a costly little malfunction.
Then I had a thought. Nature’s wonder tool. Should be hawked on late-night TV.
The humble paper clip. Good for what ails you. Cures the common cold.
I opened one segment of the paper clip and inserted it into the slot where the charger no longer fit.
I wiggled it gently. And out tumbled a pound or two of what we New Yorkers call schmutz -- detritus from my pocket, my desk, my yard, my jogging shorts.
The charger now fit.
* * *
I don’t think the paper clip will help fix the spattering water dispenser or clattering silverware.
I have given it a permanent place of honor on my desk.
(PS: the paper clip has heroic implications in Norway. (Check it out.)
My daughter Laura Vecsey is a New Yorker. She loves upstate and she loved Seattle. But she’s a New Yorker.
Her only criticism of Seattle was that nobody talked. Non-verbal. An entire city.
Maybe it was the rain. Or the e-culture. Or being the end of the line, south of Canada, east of the Pacific.
We loved Seattle, too. If she had stayed, my wife and I might have moved there.
But, geez, we are New Yorkers. She’s back on Long Island, horrifyingly aware that our “sleepy little fishing town” suburb is full of desperadoes who propel their fancy cars down the middle of narrow streets to express their rage at not being rich, or richer.
Laura’s a writer (also a poet). She’s been driving her daughter to summer school in a town near us, where she recently discovered a really good little Afghan restaurant. Today she decided to do some reading in one of the many magnificent libraries in Nassau County.
This is her stream-of-consciousness about the library:
* * *
by Laura Vecsey
Working at the public library in Hicksville today. Walked into the building with a familiar sense of gratitude: We pay taxes and pass special levies to pay for these places to continue to exist.
Sitting here for only a few minutes, in the air conditioning, with WiFi and outlet, amidst some book stacks and DVD collections, all I can hear are librarians talking at full volume; many unemployed 60-year-olds trying to master web applications on the free PCs offered. Lady next to me at the laptop desk drumming her long finger nails as she putzes around on her Kindle Fire.
I don't see anyone reading a book. FYI. I'm going to go read one. (Now the librarians talking about how one of their colleagues orders too much food at lunch. ("You should just go with the soup.") THERE WILL BE NO WORK FOR ME TODAY! Also, this short stint in the library has already confirmed that New Yorkers, especially Long Islanders, really do talk ....a lot.
I could have been in the Magnolia branch of the Seattle Public Library for 4 years before I heard this much talking. Make that 10, I mean. No one talks in Seattle. You have to use sign language in the libraries there or risk expulsion -- from the state.
The conversation at the librarian station is now shifted from lunch and soup to ... acupunture.
The lady with the Kindle Fire just said to me: "Why don't people whisper? I whisper when I'm here and all they do is talk loud over me!"
I was not actually complaining as much as ....very aware that this IS a community space, not a study hall. And it is amazing the service residents are given. Questions answered. Resources for jobs, notaries, computer help ... it is indispensable stuff!
It is also a fascinating place to observe what the heck people are up to and, frankly, how inept so many people are. I am not judging, per se. I am just ... amazed at how many things you assume people know … they don't. Hmmmm. Let me draw a parallel to the victory of a certain fraud elected to White House by these fellow Americans. ELITIST speaks!
The Hicksville High School Tech Squad is giving a seminar on computer programming. I am not joking: About 28 of the 30 kids in there are ... of Indian or Pakistani descent. Which is why Hicksville is pretty cool these days.
* * *
(The bustle in our libraries includes English as second language, storytime for children, current events discussions, as well as computer training. I can order up books from the entire county system; a book on my desk is from East Meadow, one of the best-stocked in our county.
And if there is a buzz, a hum, the services offered in our county more than make up for the my-half-out-of-the-middle SUVs and wagons blasting around our town. The suburbs pulse with life from recently-arrived cultures, people on the old main streets. We often drive half an hour to the thriving House of Dosas in Hicksville.
Laura, who knew the best pho joints on Aurora in Seattle, has found Thai and Colombian and Afghan places in sleepy old Nassau County. She insists her family is moving upstate one of these years. What – and miss the Aush-E-Boreeda at the Afghan place?)
Here’s the stupidest thing I have read in a while (excluding American politics, of course.)
Akbar Al Baker, the head of Qatar Airways, recently criticized the blatant flaw in America commercial aviation – the age of its flight attendants.
He seemed to mean the females, ignoring the male ones.
Customers of American lines are "always being served by grandmothers," said Akbar Al Baker, who also called American carriers “crap.”
He’s half right, but that’s not the point. He noted that female attendants on his airline have an average age of 26, as if that were the major qualification for helping customers jammed together in a tin can in the sky.
Flying from Point A to Point B is not a fashion show or beauty pageant. Style was more important back in the day when service and amenities were better, when burly, hairy passengers did not wear shorts or sweatpants and chew on nasty-smelling fast food out of a paper bag.
Failing United even had thugs drag a bloodied passenger from a flight after he was randomly selected for termination by overbooking.
It’s all a good reason for staying home, which I do, after 50 years of travel. But one thing I know is that flight attendants could make things slightly better, and that your chances of expertise were often in direct ratio to a decade or three of experience.
Older attendants have been there and done that. When the airlines created havoc by charging for luggage, the attendants dealt with so-called carryons with a sense of authority and a feel for space. This is a generalization, but they did not get flustered. Solve the problem.
Many older attendants seemed to know stuff, could even drop a quip, if it looked like you might get it. I am blessed with being able to sleep on planes. Gone before the wheels leave the ground. One time I slept through a three or four-hour flight. Woke up on touch-down. An older attendant nodded and said, “very impressive.”
That was in coach. (The Times did not subsidize business travel for peons like me.) But when my wife was escorting children from India for adoption by others, her aunt – who worked at a great airline named Pan-Am; perhaps you have heard of it – often arranged an upgrade.
Those attendants saw her lugging one, two, once even three babies, and they found corners with more space and provided water, towels, food, whatever she needed. They were the best.
We all know that top executives, to please stockholders, have turned American carriers into hellish avatars of capitalism – your pass or your few extra dollars qualify you for a few more precious inches.
Airlines no longer respect family groups by encouraging agents to play with the computer to put families together. Pay a stipend – or sit in a middle seat surrounded by strangers. Tough. You should be rich. Your fault.
I’m not comparing attendants of Qatar with attendants on American carriers. Different cultures. I’ve seen uniformed attendants from the Emirates at the U.S. Open tennis, where their company was a sponsor -- their outfits fashionable, their demeanor modest, their posture superb, their smiles lovely; they represent their part of the world well.
But jammed into a torture chamber at 30,000 feet, wishing for one small favor with a touch of intuition, I’m opting for 40, 50, whatever. Older attendants notice stuff. Isn’t that what “service” means?
PS: Mr. Al-Baker recently issued an executive-style walking-back, or apology. Too late. We know what he thinks. See:
One July 9, we were in Rome, right near the Via Veneto, with our three little children, one of whom had a birthday. My wife found a cake and some candles and borrowed the roof garden of the hotel for a little party.
My wife has taught the children a love of music and art and poetry and cooking and family. I taught them how to say, “Tre gelati, per favore,” so they could walk down the Via to an ice-cream stand and order their favorite flavor.
Today is Corinna V. Wilson’s birthday; her family is fussing over her in Pennsylvania.
I went out on the deck of our family home on Long Island and looked at the empty nest discreetly hidden on a branch. A few weeks ago, the nest held three blue eggs, guarded by the mother. Then there were three wide beaks, waiting for her to get back from our front lawn, where she had discovered a stash of meals.
For a few days, the three birds were flying at low altitude, watching their mother forage. Now they are full size, and they flit and feed and sing.
One of the highlights of most weeks is the arrival of the New Yorker – usually on Tuesday.
That’s the day the Postal Service decides to give up the print copy. (I think somebody in the dreaded Flushing transfer point takes it home and reads it on Monday.)
But the New Yorker in print is worth the wait – and now it also arrives via the web. Hope you have seen Paul Rudnick's recent insight into America's most dangerous dilettantes -- Jared & Ivanka's Guide to Mindful Marriage.
Not only that: the New Yorker is on the radio as well as the web. Editor David Remnick, a former sportswriter who went straight, introduces the show on the local public station (WNYC-FM).
On July 8 (and already on the web site), Ariel Levy interviews Lucinda Williams and Adam Gopnik interviews James Taylor and does a star turn with guitar and voice with “Something in the Way She Moves,” in front of the master himself. Who knew?
Gopnik lived in Paris, writes about cool stuff, and has been performing JT at night to put his children to sleep. They are teen-agers now? They still indulge him in the sweet ritual? (I used to read “Ulysses” to our son, particular the part when Bloom is falling asleep, making puns on the name “Sinbad-the-Sailor.”)
Taylor and Williams – retaining their North Carolina and Deep South accents and roots – remind me we are one country, despite the red-blue stuff.
Not on this interview, but Sweet Baby James takes us to a childhood visit to a moonshine still in his song “Copperline.” He has also recorded songs about Civil War survivors – North or South? Doesn’t matter. Us.
Not on Ariel Levy's interview of Williams, in a song called “2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten,” the singer takes us to a dirty little juke joint (“sorry, no credit, don’t ask”) in Rosedale Miss. That’s part of my country, too.
In the interviews, Gopnik and Levy allow Taylor and Williams to explore the creative roots of their songs.
When Gopnik reveals that he plays at the guitar, JT hands him one of his gamers (a ball player word for game-worthy glove) and calls up his wife Jill from the audience to sing harmony with the writer from the New Yorker. It goes very well.
For the rest of this afternoon, JT and Lucinda seem to be singing in my head -- thanks to the New Yorker.
* * *
Whenever I hear the Canadian national anthem, the first thing I think about is skaters, moving in place near center ice, fidgeting until the puck is dropped.
I think of the heart, the core, of a country, a sport, a way of life. I think of great nights in Montreal and Vancouver and Edmonton, the Stanley Cup waiting in the wings.
I hope this does not seem condescending. There are a lot worse things that could pop into mind for a country.
Saturday was Canada’s 150th birthday. I did not realize this version only became official in 1980.
The second thing I think about is music. Again, this a high compliment. I think of k.d. lang’s album “Hymns of the 49th Parallel” – she aces Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” – and Neil Young and The Band and Joni Mitchell and all the other musicians known around the world.
Really, that’s enough right there.
As the birthday approached, I thought about Dave Semenko, the enforcer on the great Oilers teams, who passed the other day at 59. And I thought about Kate McGarrigle, of the McGarrigle Sisters, who passed in 2010 at the age of 63.
In tribute, I put on “The McGarrigle Hour,” a collection of folk and pop with Kate and Anna and also the talented extended family, which became our family.
I thought about my friend’s mom from Montreal who always reminded me who Lady Byng was (on hockey’s sportsmanship trophy) and I thought about the family in Victoria with the garden and lawn bowling and music, and I thought about my e-pal Bruce from near Hamilton, who sends me bird photos from his window, and reminds me about the good medical care up there in the deprived wilds of the frozen north.
I thought about the grand old gent, Camil Des Roches, publicist extraordinaire of the Canadiens, who gave me my first tour of the Forum in 1984, and sent me cassettes of Danielle Oddera, singing Jacques Brel.
I thought about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, wading into a gay parade in Toronto recently, practicing inclusivity.
(I admit, my mind also wandered to Emmanuel Macron of France and Angela Merkel of Germany, but I could not afford to go down that melancholy path.)
Mostly, I thought about the good neighbors to the north, going their own way, doing fine.
Joyeux anniversaire. Happy anniversary.
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.