Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Injustice Of The Justice Department

I’m appalled but not surprised that the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder is working assiduously to put Julian Assange and WikiLeaks “in the frame”. As a recent article in the Boston Globe states, “Justice Department officials have been struggling to come up with a way to charge Assange with a crime.”

This, of course, is the same Justice Department that has successfully struggled to come up with a way to ignore the crimes committed by members of the Bush administration against our Constitution, our laws and a non-aggressive sovereign nation. If ever there was a rogue government that violated our nation’s laws and core beliefs it was this bush-league bunch of troublemakers, and if we ourselves won’t shine the cleansing light of truth on their dirty deeds, then thank heavens there’s a WikiLeaks to do it for us.

At the end of the day, it will be deeds done in the dark that cripple our moral authority and make a mockery of our Constitution. Attorney General Holder will do us all a favor if he points his dogs in a different direction, pursuing those who, operating under a cloak of secrecy, used their positions of power to validate and legalize wide-ranging acts of criminal behavior.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Letter From Uncle Bernie

December, 2010
FCI 336
Butner, NC

Dear Nephew:

It was with bittersweet emotion I received your letter of last week. Admittedly, it was sad to recall the plans you and I once shared for you to join my firm and begin your career “on the street”, as the world of American finance is often termed. But, joy of joys, you still call me “uncle” and declare that your love and concern is no less rigorous or faithful for all my public failings and criminal convictions.

How the mighty have fallen, it sadly seems, but not so low that you would abandon me or sever our familial bond; nor that I would abandon the mentorship I promised to provide. True, I may no longer have the freedom to walk beside you on the streets of Manhattan but I still hope to guide your steps and help chart your future all the same.

Please send my love to your mother. I would ask for her forgiveness but, alas, hers is not a forgiving nature. Perhaps her fall from pampered affluence can serve as a caution for you not to place your trust too heavily on any one individual, no matter how intimate or well-meaning he might be.

Not even your jailbird uncle.

In your letter you ask for a few simple precepts that might guide you as you venture out into the world of finance. In this first of what will hopefully prove a voluminous correspondence I shall confine myself to speaking about one simple precept concerning the economic landscape. Simple as it may sound, believe me when I say this first axiom is the underpinning for everything else you may encounter on your journey, though scarcely anyone but me seems aware of its existence or credits its value.

Simply put, dear nephew, “Wealth is finite.” There is no bottomless well from which wealth is drawn, no magical horn of plenty to replenish its stocks. Nor is it so vast that, like the ocean, one can never hope to determine its limits. That is not to say there isn’t a natural rise and fall of wealth, much like a breath rises and falls, but at any given time the boundaries containing and defining the available wealth in a country such as ours can only be stretched so far.

I have to laugh. Here am I, once as wealthy as Croesus and now imprisoned by the spent force of my unquenchable greed, and I have the nerve to lecture you on wealth’s outer limits! How foolish this must sound to your young ears.

Nevertheless, the significance of a country’s wealth being finite looms large when you realize that America’s entire capitalist system is based on the increase and accumulation of wealth. Which means that for individuals or corporations to amass vast assets, other individuals and corporations must suffer a balancing loss. That is why fortunes ebb and flow, why companies rise and fall, and why, living in an age where those at the pinnacle of our socio-economic pyramid enjoy immense personal wealth, there is increasingly less abundance left on the table for the others.

Sad but true. Have you never stopped to ask yourself why there is no longer enough money available to care for and feed the poor, to maintain our bridges and roads, to send our children to college, to keep the elderly from falling into poverty, to adequately police our cities, or to perform a million other tasks that were once affordable and seemingly a normal part of life in America?

Where has the once prosperous middle class disappeared to? Why have their salaries frozen? Why are their cars, houses, rents, vacations, lifestyles no longer within their financial comfort zone? Why can they no longer look into the future and see bright horizons where now instead they see the darkness of uncertainty?

Truth is, it’s because of fabulously wealthy men and women like myself who long ago sucked all the cream out of the bottle, and now we’re coming back for whatever milk remains.

Now don’t worry, neither public infamy nor the rigors of prison life have changed your Uncle Bernie all that much. I still value the caressing feel of silk shirts, the admiring lift in people’s voices when they address me, the comfort and security of being surrounded by servants, the billion and one things staggering wealth can bring to your life. In fact, I value them more in their absence than I ever did when I was free to enjoy them. But I never allowed wealth to cloud my understanding of what I had to do—who I had to become—to amass as much of it as I did.

Take a good look at the fellow standing next to you in line at Starbucks and know that he would step over your broken back to achieve an advantage for himself, and he would probably jump on that same broken back with cleated army boots if the advantage would fall even quicker his way.

And that’s what you have to do, my dear sweet innocent nephew—that's what you have to become—if you are intent, as you say, on building your own sizable fortune. Understand that now and you will save yourself much regret and self-flagellation later on.

So, yes, I’ll say it again, “Wealth is finite.” For all the abundance of money and assets you see around you, for all the power and influence the wealthy accrue and use to increase their own holdings, the truth is their wealth comes at the expense of many others who are forced to make do with less. A lot less. Some with nothing at all. If you have trouble with that reality, then let us stop right here at the beginning of your career path and look to other callings for your life’s happiness.

Right now, watching America’s legislative bodies debate the extension of tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, you can see how wealth uses its steamrolling power to remove ever more money from the communal pot. Those legislators who advocate tax breaks for the rich are wealthy themselves—many have made their wealth, as I did, by serving the conceits and appetites of millionaires. The fact that they will vote $700 billion in tax savings for their wealthiest friends while denying $12 billion in extended unemployment benefits for the rabble and hoi poloi shows how indifferent to suffering and fairness you must become when you accrue great wealth yourself.

Sorry nephew, I don’t understand why I seem to go on this way. Perhaps prison life has changed me after all, though for the life of me I can’t see what Jesus and Buddha found so rewarding in a life of poverty and suffering. But maybe they didn’t have an Uncle Bernie to teach them better.

Anyway, that will have to do for now, dear boy. In fifteen minutes I’m scheduled to meet with the warden to discuss a prison endowment fund he’s thinking of setting up. Hell, it beats working in the laundry!

Write soon. And know that I will always remain,

Your loving Uncle,


P.S. Can you tell my youngest son those Havana cigars he sent were somewhat dry. I’m scheduled to move to a larger cell next week, at which time I could easily accommodate a small SubZero humidor.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Unchastened" A Vision Of Beauty And Courage

Unchastened from brynmore on Vimeo.

As someone who spends most of his time on Facebook explaining why I made some mistake in some communication to some friend or stranger, I don't hold much admiration for the forum. Having said that, I must share this video I viewed on Facebook with anyone who has had breast cancer, or knows a breast cancer survivor. I don't know Brynmore Williams or Catherine Musinsky, but I do know them much better than I did before I viewed this wonderful 3 minute video. Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

To You Who Are Different

Every one of us is different.

Every one of us has a unique personality and a calling to become something special. We may not hear that calling, may not see our uniqueness as a blessing and, especially, may not understand that it’s the nature of the herd to trample wildflowers.

You have a right to fear the herd because they fear you. They will crush you if they can or, worse still, bend and twist you until you no longer appear different. They fear your difference because it threatens the comfort and security of their sameness. They can’t abide someone who travels in a different direction or questions their sovereignty.

But the herd is not capable of changing reality, they can only trample innocent flowers in their blind ramblings. Don’t let them trample you.

Every one of us is born a caterpillar, seemingly sentenced to crawl and inch our way across the long expanse of our lives. But one day we will fly. And when we take flight we will see a world far richer and more beautiful than we ever knew existed when we lived as caterpillars.

Don’t be fooled by the way you feel now. In the vulnerability of your youth you long to fit in, to go unnoticed for your eccentricities, to be accepted by everyone else. It’s only natural. How frightening to discover you’re different from others at the same time you’re being taught in school to conform and smooth out your rougher edges.

It isn’t just you who finds yourself swimming against the current. It isn’t just you who fears being discovered, challenged, taunted, crushed and rejected. We live in a society that values conformity over deviation, team sports over individual pursuits, extroverts over introverts, flash over substance, athletes over intellects, and normalcy above all else.

You may be too young to appreciate that Nature celebrates diversity in all that it creates. But years from now, if you persevere in holding onto yourself, you will discover your uniqueness was a gift that, because you did not reject it or let it be trampled by the herd, brings much depth and richness to your life. Robert Frost wrote of taking the ‘road less traveled’ without ever mentioning the bullies, hecklers and self-righteous moralists who inevitably try to block your way.

Don’t let them stop you or make you doubt yourself.

You are not only different, you are perfect the way you are.

This is dedicated to every school child, young adult (or even an old one) who finds him or herself questioning their personal worth because they are gay, disabled, impoverished, bullied, not socially adept, not perceived as cool, or ostracized for any reason whatsoever. Please pass this on to any youth whom you think might gain some insight or support from reading this. Thank you!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Ballad of the Republicans

For those who've been watching with wide-eyed shock as the Fox News/Sarah Palin/Glen Beck juggernaut convinces normally sane voting Americans that the Democrats are responsible for all their struggles, pains, fears and unhappiness, I offer a brief stroll down memory lane. See how many Bush-era scandals, blunders and constitutional crimes you can recall. Then marvel at how many additional screw-ups were left out. I'm not saying the Democrats or Obama deserve your vote, but I am arguing (through the lens of history) that the Republicans deserve nothing more than disgrace, censure and ridicule. Please forgive me if my droll foolery offends you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Quit Complaining, Willya!

"Enough already!" I shouted. "You've done nothing but complain since you sat down."

"But, but . . . !" she stammered, "but I thought . . ."

I generally try to show tolerance for another person's distress, but it's not always easy.

"Doesn't matter what you thought," I replied. "You think life is supposed to be easy? Whoever told you that? My life is anything but easy; still you don't hear me whining all over the place. And, trust me, I could teach you a thing or two about suffering.

"Just for example . . . you wouldn't know it, of course, but my wife ran off and left me two weeks ago. That's right, emptied the bank account, took the car, leaving me with two kids and a box of unpaid bills. All she left behind was her dirty laundry and a note that read, 'Don't forget Elliott's dental appointment on Tuesday. I'm leaving.' How's that for rough luck? And you think you've got it bad!"

"Wow," she said, "that must have been hard to take."

"Hard to take? Hell, the guy she ran off with was my lover!"

"Oh, that's horrible," she cried, her eyes widening to the size of serving platters.

"Wait, I'm not done yet. This so-called lover of mine was renting an apartment from my sister, and I just this morning discovered he skipped out owing her six month's back rent. Which is why we don't have the money we need to repair our Mother's broken dental bridge. Poor lady, she broke it in a car accident. Now, when she smiles you think you're looking at a checker board, which is less than ideal for someone who works as a greeter at Wal-mart's."

"Car accident . . . ?" she asked, clearly afraid to open up another chapter of my family’s sad history for discussion.

"Yeah, it was pretty bad; put my dad in the hospital. We won’t know how badly he's hurt until he wakes from the coma."

I could see something was bothering her, so I asked outright, "What's on your mind?"

"I was wondering how your sister could let your lover fall six months behind in his rent?"

"Same old story," I sighed, "she was sleeping with him, of course. She thought he was going to marry her; now she does little else but spend her days and nights crying . . . "

"Because he left her?"

"Ehh, not really . . . "

"Because of the money?"

"Don't think so."

"Your mom's dental bridge; your dad's coma . . . ?"

"Well, more than anything I think it was the test results."

"Test results . . . ?"

"Yeah, she found it in his room after he skipped out. Seems my sister's boyfriend, who was also my lover and my wife's current traveling companion, has what is politely referred to as a 'social disease.' Boy, that got my attention, if you know what I mean."

She started to rise from her chair.

"Where are you going?" I asked in surprise.

"I'm leaving," she tersely replied.

"You can't do that," I pointed out. "We've only barely started your therapy. You have at least another forty minutes to go."

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Ballad Of The Republicans

Hear the bombs bursting all through the night
Bush is bombing Baghdad, says he has the right
Thousands will die like many thousands before
Only problem is they’ll never know what for…!
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
Where men like Lincoln once took a stand
But now they took all that they could
Pretending it was for our good
In eight long years they nearly brought this country down!

The stealing starts on election night
Bush flies to victory on a Florida flight
Though exit polls say in fact he lost to Gore
Supremes give him the crown and so much more…!
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
Eight years of plunder down in Washington
And now they hope that you’ll forget
All the blunders, crimes and debt…
That for eight long years nearly brought this country down!

The CIA says Bin Laden will strike
But Bush is out that day riding his bike
Not till 9/11 does he figure out the score
Sees thousands lying dead, Twin Towers no more…!
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
Rumsfeld, Rice and Cheney take a stand
Take us to Iraq thru Afghanistan
Can’t take our asses back out again
In eight long years they nearly brought this country down!

Did you see the scowl on Dick Cheney’s face
When someone said torture is a human disgrace
That’s no longer torture, he tells Fox news
Those Amnesty wimps are just singing the blues…!
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
They read our mail and tapped our phones
Said they could send anyone to jail
Then erased all White House email…
That showed eight long years of bringing this country down!

They never find any W.M.D.’s
They even search Abu Ghraib detainees
Turns out Saddam had run out of gas
And we’re just bullies kicking his sorry ass…!
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
Acting like the ugliest Americans
Paul Wolfowitz lusting at The Bank
Larry Craig tapping at toilet tanks
In eight long years they nearly brought this country down!

By now the middle class is feeling poor
Can’t afford college or doctors anymore
Wages shrink but the rich keep getting fat
They even try to take social security back…!
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
They told us lies, rewarded their friends
Like Halliburton, Goldman Sachs and more
Then sent ill-equipped soldiers off to war
In eight long years they nearly brought this country down!

Back in New Orleans the wind starts to howl,
Water is a-rising, Brownie’s on the prowl,
Bush is on a plane heading west for the coast
Flies over the waters just to see if blacks can float…!
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
They ran our country like a Christian scam
Tried to keep Terry Schiavo undead
Pulled the plug on stem cell research instead
For eight long years they nearly brought this country down!

Where are you when Wall Street gets the bends?
They’re in the vault handing billions to their friends
Some of those billions simply disappear
The rest go to bonuses for needy millionaires
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
The ones who told us not to lie or sin
And then were caught with pants askew
Ensign, Foley, Vitter to name a few who…
In eight long years nearly brought this country down!

Then there’s forgetful Alberto Gonzales
In all of Bush’s gang none needs more solace
‘Cept Harriet Miers in her Supreme Court mess
Or Scooter Libby lying for his V.P.-ness
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
Said global warming would improve our tans
Their senior drug plan was so nice
‘Cept they made the U.S. pay list price
In eight long years they nearly brought this country down!

Their biggest crime isn’t Katrina or Iraq
Or turning U.S. Attorneys into G.O.P. hacks
Or leaving Afghanistan with the enemy still intact
It’s torturing the truth till they break its damn back…!
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
Eight years of plunder down in Washington
They turned our surplus into debts
Gave shoddy care to wounded vets…
In eight long years they nearly brought this country down!

Now look at this mess the Bush gang leaves behind
Two wars in limbo, Wall Street flying blind
An economy gasping, the states in default
Obama tries to clean up and they claim it’s all his fault…!
Here comes the ballad of the Republicans
They pray that you can just forgive their sins
And vote them back in power again
Forgetting all the lies, the graft and pain…
That for eight long years…
eight god-forsaken years…
nearly brought this country down!

The above lyrics pretty much speak for themselves. I wrote them to be sung to the tune of Bob Dylan's "Hurricane". With any luck, I'll soon make a video featuring photos and footage of the events and people mentioned in the song. I am sorry if my brash lyrics disturb your peace of mind. I do not claim they represent the Truth as much as they do MY Truth. All these events happened just a few short years ago, yet so many appear to have conveniently forgotten them. Hence the need for someone to write "The Ballad of The Republicans". I'm pleased it was me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Commencement Speech

To The Graduates Of The Class Of 2010:

You are here today at a critical crossroads of your life. For most of your 22 years you’ve been taught to work hard, obey the rules, listen with respect to your elders and to trust that every effort you make will receive an ample and just reward.

You recognize that sound, don’t you? A few of your parents and teachers couldn’t keep their opinions to themselves it seems…but let us examine the cause of their laughter.

Yes, I am afraid that for most of your life you’ve been handed a script from “Leave It To Beaver” and that all those wonderful principles I enumerated earlier won’t take you very far down the Road of Life in today’s America. In fact, if you insist on playing by the rules and trusting in the fairness of others you’ll very quickly get run over and flattened like so much road kill on that very same Road of Life.

All across America speakers like me are admonishing new graduates like you to live up to principles that are no longer relevant or practical. Principles that are no longer even acknowledged in today’s business world. Principles which, like fragile Louisiana marshlands, cannot survive today’s overwhelming inflow of dark, viscous wealth-making ideas and ventures.

Go ahead, take a deep breath and smell the oil vapors. That’s America! That’s your future! It ain’t roses but it sure smells sweet.

Yes, other commencement speakers would tell you to work hard, play fair and be nice as you emerge from college to make your way in the world; I’m here to advise you to look both ways before crossing the street and to pick the other guy’s pocket before he picks yours.

Those other commencement speakers are frozen in time, spouting axioms and adages that long ago ran out of gas on the American Road of Life. Like scenes from an old black and white Hollywood movie they make us smile but they don’t prepare us for a world that’s more reminiscent of “Jaws” than it is of “Flipper.”

“Be nice,” they say.

I say “Be nice when it helps, cruel when necessary, vicious when it counts.” Bernie Madoff was a nice guy, I am told, but he never forgot to take all the money off the table before he went home.

“Don’t forget the Golden Rule” they say, most of them unable to keep a straight face while saying it.

“I say “Don’t forget the Golden Rule”, only my Golden Rule is a little different from theirs. My Golden Rule says “Go for all the gold, and screw the rules!”

They would tell you to, “Follow your bliss” in choosing a career.

I would advise you to follow the money.

So in short, members of the graduating class of 2010, I advise you to live richly as well as wisely, to always give to yourself first (and maybe keep it all anyway), to always take the largest slice of the pie, to choose financial gain over spiritual growth, and to always want more physical possessions which, even though they rust and corrupt (as Jesus pointed out), they also clean up pretty easily these days. You can’t complain about that.

So yes, graduates, feel free to live lives of unbridled hunger, unquenchable thirst and unfettered avarice, happily unburdened by a commencement speech that urges you to seek out greater challenges while building strength of character.

For those of you who would like greater instruction on how to achieve your own wealth-based lifestyle filled with houses, boats and servants, see me at Webster Hall immediately after Dean Whiting hands out your diplomas. And don’t forget to bring your checkbooks.

Inspired by my minister Ken Read-Brown's sermon last Sunday, "The Commencement Speech I Would Give", which happily offered more sane and soul-enriching advice than I offer in my speech. I was also inspired by the fact I'm giving a reading in NYC tomorrow night and wanted to create something new for the occasion.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tales Of The Book Part Fifteen


Something there is that loves balance and righteous redress. That tips the scales to measure out justice and knows no judgments other than the ones we declare for ourselves. Something there is that equates giving with the gifts we receive, and arrows sent into the darkness with barbs that come back and wound us without warning.

Something there is that deals out measure for measure as though they were cards placed thoughtfully in a solemn pack of Tarot. For each Fate dealt to another there is one that comes back to the dealer. For each smile offered to a stranger there is another that comes back as an unexpected offering.

Something there is that won't allow me to denigrate another without denigrating myself. Or to devalue my efforts when I have given my all to the enterprise. Something there is that knows when laying down bricks of kindness and devotion to others I am building a home for my spirit that casts shadows on palaces and mansions.

Something there is that knows true wealth accumulates in the heart and is the only capital I can give away yet never exhaust. Were I to gather all the riches of Rockefellers and Kings and Oil Barons and hold them locked with a miser's love in the deepest vault, I would be the most impoverished of spirits walking the planet.

Something there is that won't allow me to take away the rights of others without losing the ones I hold most dear. With each wall I erect to keep out those I fear, I carve out deeper levels to the prison within which I am held captive. How far from the sun I fall when I build a world to exclude those on whom the sun shines freely.

Something there is that lifts up and honors the gifts of life and love. That breaks through the darkness of a wounded spirit like tendrils of grass breaking through the deepest asphalt. Something there is that will ever rise above fear and the pitiful acts of frightened people and self-serving governments.

Something there is that knows the measure of a man or a woman and the gifts which, by their offering, they have chosen to receive. Something there is that tips the scales to measure out justice and knows no judgments other than the ones we declare for ourselves.

Something there is that lets us build a world for ourselves as we would build a world for others.

Something there is that is writing this now.

Something there is that is reading this now, as well.

From "How To Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone, ©2009 Paul Steven Stone

Sunday, May 9, 2010


When I grow up I’m going to become a cop in Massachusetts. I’m going to carry a gun, stand around construction sites all day, scarf up all the overtime I can get, earn a quarter of a million dollars a year and intimidate anyone who tries to institute changes that could affect my wealthy lifestyle.

When the Commonwealth tries to use civilian flaggers at one of my construction sites I’ll come down on them so hard they’ll think twice about doing it again. I’ll scare the living daylights out of the flagger, even threaten to arrest her, start a protest at the site, get my fellow officers to shout threats and obscenities, get my union to file lawsuits and all the time point out what a threat to public safety the state is creating.

I don’t care that all 49 other states use civilian flaggers. This is Massachusetts. We use police officers at our sites, and pay them for four hour shifts even if they work only 15 minutes, because we care about safety. And because the police union is so magical it can make 1000 politicians dance on the head of a pin.

And if I can’t become a cop in Massachusetts when I grow up, I guess I’ll become a fireman.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jesus In Arizona

And Jesus went to the desert, looked amidst the angry crowds and spoke of truths both ancient and new.

Raising his arms, he declared, "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
 But I say to you, first know who your enemies are. Hate is too sharp a sword to be swung indiscriminately.

“Your enemies are those whose skin color is different than yours. Your Father in Heaven would not have made them different from you if He hadn’t meant for them to be easily identified, even from a distance.

“Then, too, your enemies are those who speak in different tongues from yours. Again, your Father in Heaven was making sure you could effortlessly identify your enemies, even in total darkness.

“You have heard that it was said “It is better to love your enemies than to hate them, to bless those who curse you, and to do good to those who persecute you.” Those words of mine were misquoted in a leftist newspaper. What I actually said was, “It is better to deport your enemies than to have them living nearby, better to lock them up than allow them to hold jobs, and much better to let their families starve or go homeless than to tie up welfare funds meant entirely for the poor, the weak and the deserving.

“You have heard it said that your Father in heaven makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust alike. That is true, my children, but He never meant for the sun to shine down on illegal aliens on Our side of the border. And if it seems especially dry on Their side of the border, such is the love He shares for those who so easily forget their rightful place.

“For if you love those who don’t belong in your country, what reward will you have left once they’ve eaten your food, taken your jobs, slept with your children, robbed you in your sleep and sent for the rest of their family from Mexico City? Stick to greeting and loving only your brethren and business contacts. Therefore you shall be rich and comfortable, just as your Father in Heaven meant you to be.”

Then Jesus called for questions.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

When Mary Wed Abby

(Celebrating Six Years Of Romantic Justice)

The water is wide, I can't cross over
And neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

Once, long ago, they charted different courses and followed different stars as they sailed toward their destiny and ever closer to each other. Neither knew the other would appear along the way like a treasured companion once lost and now found, nor that all of us—a church filled with friends, relatives and well-wishers—would gather to celebrate and honor this love they had shared for seventeen years.

There is a ship and she sails the sea
She's loaded deep as deep can be
But not as deep as the love I'm in
I know not how I sink or swim

Theirs was a voyage and a love affair not embarked upon lightly. Two women whose intentions of the heart broke society's rules of acceptable behavior with each smile and tender thought that passed between them. Now, no longer guilty of some unnameable crime, no longer forced to hide their love as if it were shameful, no longer barred from rites and privileges held high and unreachable by a world so myopic it could only recognize the most ordinary of love's many guises, they came to our church to sanctify and solemnize their bond.

Oh, love is handsome and love is fine
The sweetest flower when first it's new
But love grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like summer dew

How the heart overflowed to see their faces lit with joy and, yes, the nervous uncertainty of brides. How like brass horns welcoming home a host of angels did the words of the brief ceremony cut through the darkness of our separate lives to feed our hungry spirits. We were there to celebrate life and love, and to bear witness to two lives joining as one. There was no place in this centuries-old sanctuary for fears or concerns about hateful people, peevish politicians or homophobic religious groups. Such negativity could not be kept at bay indefinitely, but it would not find itself a welcome guest at this particular wedding.

The water is wide, I can't cross over,
And neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

Now they are wed. The two are joined as one. And the voyages they chart, the waters they navigate, will from this day forward be mapped out on a single axis. A few short years ago, no one could have predicted we'd gather today to celebrate their marriage, in a church that has seen marriage vows exchanged hundreds of times in its 329 years. And though something profoundly different happened this morning, something also remained profoundly unchanged. So that one day, perhaps, with the sharp vision hindsight often brings, it may seem less significant that two women were married this day than that love, once again, overcame all obstacles.

Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I
And both shall row, my love and I

Copyright ©2004 Paul Steven Stone
"Water is Wide," traditional lyrics

Next month we celebrate the sixth anniversary of legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. I wrote this commentary at that time to celebrate the wedding of two women who, after years of sharing their love on the fringes of society's acceptance, were now allowed to step openly into the center where all God's children belong. I am proud to live in Massachusetts where even in our imperfection we sometimes get it right. This was one of those times.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Church of Sacred Vampires

“Father Porter is coming!” a terrorized child would shout. Within seconds the hallways of St. Mary’s Grammar School would empty, its children fleeing in abject terror, knowing there was no one to protect them, no one to stand between them and a serial rapist and pedophile priest. A pedophile priest who loved to feast off their youth and innocence like a hungry vampire. A vampire who had been placed in their midst by a church seemingly, amazingly, shockingly unconcerned with their welfare.

A church that would move Father Porter from one parish to the next, from one hunting preserve to the next, for the next 14 years, putting hundreds of unsuspecting children within his sights and suddenly at risk.

Father Porter’s sexual crimes against children began before his ordination in 1959, but stepped up to epidemic levels in April 1960 when he was assigned to St. Mary’s Church and its parochial grammar school in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. By March 1964 he had been removed from his pastoral duties after molesting anywhere from 30 to 100 children—depending on whose estimates you believe—many of them repeatedly, some on a weekly basis.

After a year of treatment that included electro-shock therapy, Father Porter's cure was accepted as a matter of faith, his transgressions were forgiven, and he was reassigned to Sacred Heart Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts where he would molest another 28 children before being removed to a different parish in just a year’s time.

And on and on it sadly went…

These days, stories of the Catholic Church shielding and enabling pedophile priests are so common it is easy for the mind to focus on statistics—the tally of children violated, names of parishes afflicted, millions of dollars paid to victims—that we often lose sight of the nightmare the victims endured or the young lives that were destroyed one after another by one rapacious priest after another.

Imagine what it must have been like for 11-year-old Paul Merry to be fondled by Father Porter on a weekly basis for three years. Or to be viciously sodomized, as happened to an 11-year-old girl who tried to intervene in Father Porter’s rape of a six-year-old child. And think what a living hell life was for two hundred boys who were repeatedly molested in a Wisconsin school for the deaf. The priest this time was Father Lawrence Murphy, and he regularly violated defenseless deaf boys in his office, his car, on class excursions, at his mother’s country house, in the confessional and in their dormitory beds at night. There was no safe haven from Father Murphy, no “Get Out Of Hell Free” card for these deaf and vulnerable children of God.

Father Murphy, who was never charged with a crime or defrocked for his sins, had been promoted to run the school in 1963 even though students had complained about his predatory behavior back in the late 1950s. Documents show that three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told of Father Murphy’s crimes against children but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities. Instead, the not-so-good Father was eventually transferred to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin where he spent his last 24 years working unhindered with children in parishes, schools and even a juvenile detention center.

Anyone who reads a newspaper knows these events aren’t isolated, nor are they anomalies. Given the large number of children molested, the many years those crimes were kept hidden, the long list of bishops and cardinals involved in the cover-ups, the number of dioceses and countries affected, it’s shockingly clear the leadership culture of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church is corrupt. So corrupt it could foster the commission and concealment of unspeakable acts against two generations of children. So completely corrupt it would take outsiders and lawsuits and a rising sea of outrage to force the church to finally start valuing the safety of children over the privileges of priests.

When you read how blithely and indifferently the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church responded to the savaging of children by priests, when you watch with disbelief as archdiocese after archdiocese, country after country, joins the list of the vampire priests’ feeding grounds, you realize those who stand guard over the Vatican long ago abandoned Jesus’ precepts in order to protect and perpetuate their own power and privilege. Even when local church officials took action, as did Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee who asked his superiors to defrock Father Murphy, requests were almost uniformly met with an indifference that resonated all the way from the inner walls of the Vatican.

How strange then that this enabler of pedophile priests, this destroyer of childhoods and lifetimes, this institution too-tightly-held by the corrupters themselves to ever really change, should tell others how to live their lives, how to vote, who to like, what to think.

That these men who kept sacred the freedom and hunting privileges of priests who feasted on children could lecture the world on the inviolate rights of the unborn! What hypocrisy, what sham morality!

When will someone tell them they have lost their moral authority?

When will someone tell them they gave it up long ago on an altar of sacred vampires and broken childhoods?

And when will they ever change?

My apologies to any Roman Catholics who take offense at what I've said. My anger and disgust is not with them, nor with their religion, but with an institution that could so grievously abandon its responsibility to its flock. Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me." I can't imagine what he would have said about predator priests who cruelly suck the lifeblood and innocence from little children.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Candle For Those Who Never Give Up


On this Easter Sunday I light our chalice for all the resurrectionists in the world. The ones who always get back up after a fall…those who lose at love but stay in the game…those who lose their job and let that loss be the gateway to a new career…those who come back to their sport after a devastating injury. I especially light this chalice for those who experience losses of unimaginable impact—the death of loved ones, the loss of their retirement savings, the destruction of their homes, the taking of their freedom—yet who refuse to succumb to cynicism and despair.

I light this chalice to honor and recognize the unconquerable resilience of the human spirit.

The above words were spoken as I lit the chalice last Sunday at my Unitarian-Universalist church in Hingham, MA.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tales Of The Book Part Fourteen


Somewhere long ago he was once a child.

His world was a child’s world where adults towered over the landscape in a wondrous sort of mute majesty and rarely slowed down to listen to children.

Somewhere long ago he was a blueprint of the man he might one day become. A youthful creature brimming with untested strengths and unexplored depths. But he was also small, needful and, most of all, vulnerable. He had to trust that the giants in his world would provide for his needs. That they would nourish and care for him, and keep him safe from harm.

Somewhere long ago he was once a child. And as a child he saw the world through an innocent’s eyes. So, when an adult in that world, a parish priest, rose up like a menacing shadow to darken his life, he could only fall back on his limited experience to understand what was happening.

And there was no understanding.

There was only a child lost in confusion and fear. A child deeply hurt and frightened. A child surrounded by people but engulfed by a sense of isolation. A child who felt guilty rather than victimized, as if by questioning the actions of a priest—a man as close to God as any mortal could come—he himself had done something wrong.

Somewhere long ago he was once a child and used a child's logic to order his world. Thus, when he learned he could no longer trust adults to keep him safe, he did what he must to survive. He created boxes in his mind. Boxes to hold those things that frightened or angered or confused him. Boxes he could keep hidden. Hidden from the world, hidden from the priests, even hidden from himself.

In one box he placed his anger at his parents for not protecting him. In another he placed the memory of the innocence that had been taken from him. In another he placed his fear of intimacy, having seen what happens when you allow someone to come too close.

And in the largest box of all he placed himself, an eleven year old boy frozen in time. It was the only safe harbor that child would know.

Many years later the boy had grown into a man, and the boxes which had been buried in the darkness of his memory began to fall apart like broken dresser drawers. They would spill out their hazardous contents at the oddest moments. When he found himself standing outside a church. When he noticed how vulnerable his children seemed while asleep. When people who thought they knew him, told him how lucky he was to have the gifts he’d been given. Or whenever he felt threatened or frightened, like a little child hiding in a grownup’s body.

For many years those leaking boxes and their toxic seepage dominated the man’s life. They undermined his most intimate relationships, they kept him running from job to job, they sent him searching for relief in alcohol, drugs and an endless succession of mindless distractions. Worst of all, they unleashed on those he loved the pent-up fury of a rage that had been burning for most of his life.

Sitting there on the TV screen, somewhere on the other side of the continent, he talks to a reporter about his painful past and why, after all these years, he is finally confronting his demons and opening up his boxes. He is one of a number of men who are forcing the Catholic Church to face up to a pattern of almost bestial behavior by some of its priests. Forcing the church to acknowledge it had condoned crimes any civilized society would condemn as savage and depraved.

He is one of many such men who, like the lost boys of Neverland, never lived out their boyhoods but instead placed themselves, frozen in time, in their own inner boxes. And now the boxes are being open. The victims are telling their stories.

The healing has begun.

And the church, perhaps, is being dragged from its own peculiar set of closed and darkly hidden boxes.

But as he sits there at his kitchen table holding his five year old daughter in an unconscious protective embrace, I see more on the TV screen than the angry victim, the outraged reformer and the loving father.

I see the man whose blueprint—once tragically unrealized—was now coming to life. Resurrected after all those lost years. Hopefully to blossom, even with all the discovery and pain that still lay ahead.

For that blueprint, too, had been hidden inside a box.

Waiting for years in darkness.

Waiting to be uncovered and brought back to life.

Waiting for an eleven year old boy to whisper it was now safe to come out and play.

From "How To Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone, ©2009 Paul Steven Stone. It's somewhat sad and amazing to realize I had first written this essay in 2002 and yet today so much still remains to be uncovered, so many wait to be healed, and, most sadly of all, those responsible for enabling, condoning and ignoring these bestial acts remain protected and unpunished. Later in the week I hope to speak further about the culture of complicity and elitism that allowed hundreds of priests to prey like vampires upon thousands of helpless children across the vast expanse of decades and continents.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sidekicks Of The Canyon

A remembrance of a great spirit and friend.

Dear David:

There’s a photo I’ll forever cherish. It shows the two of us standing together, posing like two campfire buddies for the camera. We were starting a five-day rafting trip down the Colorado River. And there we were—poised to raft through canyons carved out millennia ago—two old friends, both a little overweight. Maybe you a little more overweight than me. Anyone could look at that photo and tell we were buddies, David, clearly comfortable with sharing each other’s space…two sidekicks of the canyon poised to begin yet another adventure.

That photograph came to mind several times over the course of the last seven months. The seven months it took for Cancer to write a triumphant final chapter to the last days of your life, the life of David Sumner Cutler. And it was a triumphant ending, David. Glorious in many ways. How wonderful for you to be surrounded by the love of family and friends. What a gift to have Josh, Ben or Carolyn read you the daily postings on your web site. And what a marvelous idea—a web site where all of us could go to celebrate and share memories of your life!

And so many people did. Over 4,500 visits.

You heard from old friends, aging marine buddies, former and current employees, minor acquaintances, children of friends, business partners, ex-wives, all manner of passersby on your journey through life. And many of them had a story to share. A story about you—about how you helped shape their lives, or mentored them, or made their lives richer, or taught them to be good journalists or helped nurture their communities. What a difference you made in their lives, Mr. Cutler, and we were privileged to witness you hearing it for yourself, taking it in, learning what an impact your life had on so many others.

But there’s a third sidekick who’s missing from the ‘Sidekicks of the Canyon’ photo, David, and she was definitely there—from start to finish—at your side all the way, a loving guide and navigator (and sometimes pizza-orderer), dear Catherine. She created a space around you that was large enough to contain all our pained spirits. I cannot say enough about your wisdom, Catherine, your generosity or your strength of purpose and insight. So many of us owe you a debt for your graceful, faithful management of David’s final days. Your strength gave us strength. You were the rock so many of us held onto as the tide steadily rose.

Catherine, I speak for all who hold David in their hearts when I say with sincere love and appreciation, “Thank you!”

The rest of your family was there, too, David, surrounding you with love and support. Foot massages from your sister Gail and twin sister Meg were little things that meant so much. Meg’s husband Jim taking night duty, as did Catherine’s brother Jay. Mindy and Patti lending their nursing expertise. And, of course there were your children, helping you, loving you, searching for their place in a world where one of their pillars of strength would no longer be standing.

I can hear you barking out their names in your best patrician voice: Josh, Ben, Jonathan; Mandy, Carolyn, Becky. And their spouses, your other children: Leslie, Nancy, Heidi and Mike. How you enjoyed those July 4th family gatherings, those outings in the boat with Mike and Jonathan, taking Becky to play softball or ride her horse, dressing up as Santa for all the little ones at Christmas. Nothing filled your spirit and brightened your skies better than family. Take a look at any photo with you holding a grandchild, David, and you’ll see the biggest, sloppiest, unabashedly happy grin splashed across your face.

Now, I would not be a true friend if I passed up this opportunity to remind local residents that your son Josh is running for public office, and you would appreciate their votes.

How proud you were of Josh’s efforts to enter public service, even when he lost in an earlier bid to become state rep. I remember you outside the polls pumping arms as if they were attached to water pumps, telling anyone who would listen “I’m Josh Cutler’s dad!” as if that obviously explained your excess of pride and enthusiasm.

Oh, what a delight you were when the wind filled your sails! How many lives did you enrich with that wide open, ready-to-engage spirit? With that ever-ready laugh, that eager expectant smile, those rich, patrician articulations you used both for scolding and pontification, none of which was meant to be taken seriously? You could sound like the severest Scrooge yet never lose that Peter Pan twinkle in your eye. A scold from you was nectar to a neophyte journalist or a struggling sales rep. You were the boss people complain about but really love—because you trusted them enough—cared about them enough—to push them outside their comfort zone, to test their courage and plumb their depths.

“Give it a try,” you would encourage them. “Go for it.” Always pushing them, opening doors, standing behind them. I know because, almost 30 years ago, I was a young inexperienced writer and you phoned out of the blue to offer me a weekly newspaper column. And thus, “A Stone’s Throw” was born, a column that would see hundreds of stories, essays and insights published in print and online across a span of 25 years.

What a gift to my life! What a candy store for a writer to be given! You changed my life, dear friend, even before you became my friend. You took a chance on someone who had no experience. You opened a door for me as a writer and gave me a forum in which to develop my talent.

Ah, the curious workings of fate that put two lives such as ours on intersecting courses? We were not always sidekicks of the canyon, nor would we have seemed likely candidates. You were a child of privilege, at least on your mother’s side, the Sumner side of your family tree. I was a struggling writer, born in the Bronx but capable of speaking fluent English. From such meager ingredients a great enduring friendship would arise.

You were never one to dwell on emotions, were you, David? Discussing emotions went counter to your natural reticence. How hard for you to say the words “I love you.” Remember that time in Norwell when I told you, as a friend, that I loved you? You responded like a burdened nobleman, declaring in a fit of noblesse oblige, “Well I guess these things must be said”, adding, “I love you, too” in a hasty conclusion. Watching you exchange “I love you’s” with all of us these last few months…well you came a long way, baby, that’s all I can say.

And when Fate (with a capital ‘f’) touched your shoulder and tested your mettle last summer, your overriding concern was not for yourself but for the impact your illness would have on your children, especially those who were youngest and most vulnerable. There was never a hint of complaint about life’s injustices, or the cruelties of fate, just a resigned Marine-like commitment to see things through as best you could. And so you did, Old Friend. With your customary grace and silent strength.

You were always destined to be a hero, David. It was in your DNA. Not just in Viet Nam where, by braving enemy fire to retrieve a fallen comrade, you received bullet wounds to both your legs. In some ways it’s easier to be a hero in war than in peace, in Khe Sanh rather than Duxbury, easier to take up the mantle of leadership in Viet Nam than in New England. But you were a hero for all seasons. The letters to your web site repeatedly speak of you as a personal hero to those who knew and worked under you. Hero, mentor, counselor, role model, inspiration and, always, friend. Raw testimony to your leadership skills in the trenches of the real world, in everyday life. You were huge in their lives, David, but you never saw it till the end. Just four weeks ago, before the Caringbridge web site was launched, you described your life as unremarkable—as if it had never been touched by greatness.

Most of us here today know the greatness contained in your life, David. But you never knew how good you were. Your huge heart, generous spirit and tolerant nature were so intrinsic to how you lived your life you couldn’t see how special they were. Nor could you see how many lives were influenced by yours. You and I shared each other’s secrets, but you never told me about the single mother you helped with a job, or the photo journalist whose career you launched with a camera, or the reporter you told not to worry about the $25,000 his story cost the paper, or the sick couple you kept on the payroll for six months, or the dozens of others who wrote to testify what a difference you made in their lives.

I always thought Viet Nam was the anvil on which your character was beaten, shaped and polished. But if Nam was the anvil then the United States Marines Corps had to be the hammer. The corps gave you a palpable sense of yourself, and of your capacity to overcome enormous odds, a guiding star that stayed with you your entire life.

How else would you have had the nerve to turn your back on a weekly paycheck from the Patriot Ledger to make the biggest decision of your professional life—to start publishing a community newspaper. You were all of 29 when you, your wife Suzie and Michael Sterns started the Marshfield Mariner with your saved-up vacation pay. You were destined to be a publisher, David. You knew instinctively which elements made for a good local newspaper, which stories to feature. When it came to the business side, however, your business model rivaled the bumblebee for its ability to fly when the laws of physics say it should never have gotten off the ground. By all rights, the Mariner papers should have gone out of business any number of times.

My writing a weekly column for the Mariner was the bedrock of our friendship. A friendship that over the years saw both of us neck-deep in one adventure after another. Running out of gas on the North River. Living as Odd Couple roomies when my marriage failed. Retracing the Colorado River expedition your Grandmother braved 65 years earlier. Discovering Iceland. Escaping from Iceland. Almost getting stuck on a sandbar next to Nantucket. Braving open seas in a boat too small for such nonsense. And learning to tell jokes about cancer and death, especially when cancer and death were staring you in the face.

“We joke about death and dying,” you proudly informed a visitor one day, as if we no longer followed silly outmoded social conventions. What better place for laughter than a sick room? Who better to laugh than the man whose remaining laughs could now be counted in single or double digits? And we had a lot of laughs during those last crowded months. Best of all, you got to hear from many folks who loved you, whose lives would have been different without you. Like George Bailey, the James Stewart character in “It’s A Wonderful Life”, you were given a glimpse of your life’s real value. And just like George Bailey, you discovered you were the richest man in town.

It was an honor being with you these last seven months, sharing the adventure with you and Catherine. Just as its been an honor sharing my road with you for almost 30 years. I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive you for going away so soon, leaving me to carry on without my dear friend and fellow adventurer at my side. I had planned for us to grow old sitting in boats, talking about grandchildren.

But, as John Lennon said, life is what happens while you’re busy making plans. It was by the side of the pond at my Plymouth cottage that you first told me you were sick. Remember what I said? I said I wasn’t going to lose you. And I’m not. I’ll always have you in my heart, dear friend, in my memories, and in my prayers.

You and I will meet up again, someday, somewhere, eager for our next adventure, just as one might expect from two old and trusty sidekicks of the canyon.

Goodbye, David. I love you.

David Sumner Cutler passed away February 28, 2010. He was a wonderful fellow to have in your life whether he was your friend, father, partner, boss or neighbor. In giving the above eulogy I was fulfilling an ironic arc in which David, by discovering me as a writer, had chosen me almost 30 years earlier to chronicle and honor his life. As you can tell, I loved David, greatly enjoyed our shared time together, and looked forward to our growing old and serene together, secure in our friendship. Life is what happens when you're busy making plans! Goodbye, old friend. Thanks for the laughs, the hugs and for just being you. Which was pretty special.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tales Of The Book Part Thirteen

By Paul Steven Stone

Reviewed by Manson Solomon

If the title of Paul Steven Stone’s novel doesn’t tell us that we are about to enter a world in which we are not quite sure what is real, the blind elephant tapping his way across the cover confirms it: something different is about to happen in these pages. The old Hindu legend of the blind men each feeling a different part of the elephant and coming to different conclusions as to what they are confronting is well known, but when it is the elephant itself which is portrayed as blind and groping its way through the world, what’s up with that?

Stone’s view of the world as it might appear through the eyes of a blind elephant will not surprise those already familiar with his wry sense of humor portrayed in his collection of pieces assembled in How to Train A Rock. Serious stuff masquerading as burlesque, Mark Twain meets Philip Roth meets Saul Bellow meets Paul Steven Stone. The hilarity begins very early on with the protagonist being dragged towards a ratty couch by his determined would-be seducer, who, we later discover, turns out to be his nine-year old son’s schoolteacher. Whom he discovered at a bizarre singles dance which he finds himself attending after his disorienting divorce. And then there is the hilarious encounter with the gold-digging single mother whom he picks up at the scouts’ pinewood derby -- where his creative effort to fashion a car from a wooden block – painted pink! -- results in embarrassment for him and his son. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also serious, since behind the humor the protagonist’s escapades constitute an existential exploration, a quest to find solid reality – what is -- behind the illusion of appearances -- what seems -- and to restore dignity to his life after a debilitating divorce.

Sound like Bellow’s Moses Herzog with a sense of humor, Roth’s Alexander Portnoy without the hysteria? Well, perhaps so, since where Bellow tried to restore his hero’s emotional equilibrium via intellectual scribblings, and Roth paraded his overwrought Freudian ejaculations for help, Stone gives us an ongoing dialog conducted with The Bapucharya, a giggling videotape Hindu guru. Ah, the elephant, the Hindu god Ganesh seeking reality beyond the facade of illusion! But, being Stone, the dialog is laced with wry humor, parody, irony, is never didactic, always offbeat, amusing. How is this possible? Well, you’ll have to read it yourself to find out and to have your sight restored. And if you don’t make it all the way to Enlightenment, at the very least you will be wholeheartedly entertained while engaged in the quest.

Manson's review struck me as particularly perceptive, especially as it places the book into direct comparisons between the works of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth. Very interesting, I thought, and well worth sharing. So here we are. Sharing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


(Written For Amy Before She Came Into My Life)

I imagine her as a bird. All silver in her feathered finery as she flies over landscapes reduced in size like a topographical map.

Where she is coming from I cannot say. But where she is bound, the far distant perch that calls to her like a guiding star . . . ah, there's a thought that brings up a smile!

For hers is a journey that could take her across continents, lifetimes, even the universe for all I know. While here I wait in the crow's nest of my solitary life, watching for a woman whose features I won't recognize but whose heart I will know intimately with the certainty of a lover.

And in truth I am not waiting, but also flying in my soul to meet her, a journey that has taken me across the span of my own lifetime and the gulf of that same mysteriously mapped universe.

I cannot say when she and I last met--in what former life, in what manner of relationship. We could have been brother and sister, parent and child, even lovers in a doomed marriage. But in this lifetime we have passed through each other's night skies without taking notice, living our lives apart while slowly and inevitably being drawn together like planets falling into each other's orbits.

Now, it is time for us to meet and I know it. Just as she must know the same truth within her own heart. What a beautiful illusion this is. What pride the Master Magician must feel to see us flying towards each other while the watching world believes us stuck in our lives, trudging across the same mundane existences we trudged across yesterday, and all the yesterdays before.

But no measure of time or distance truly separates two kindred spirits. What matters most is the rightness of the moment not the limitations of physics. What matters most is the urgency of two hearts to once again be joined.

And so I feel her presence. I sense the shadow of her wings as it glides across my soul's landscape as certainly as I sense fragrance from flowers and moisture in a mist. We are flying towards each other through a sky free of cloud or obstruction, both of us unable to resist the accelerating pull of love's gravity.

In a world where the laws of physics have been superceded by the inevitability of attraction, time no longer holds sway over possibilities; yet ironically it has somehow become the right time for this cosmic connection to be made. The right moment for her to find me and for me to find her.

I imagine her as a bird. Flying with a certainty known only by an arrow truly shot or a soul mate heading for the open perch in her lover's heart.

She is flying to me. And I am flying to her.

Two souls who, in the perfection of some unwritten Grand Plan, will once again become one.

Love, I am waiting.

Friday, January 29, 2010


He was one of my more sober and saner friends. So it was surprising to see him so worked up, so inexpressively frustrated by his inability to remember most of what happened during the last ten years.

“I get flashes,” he admitted, “sometimes full blown images that bring back those events. But mostly they’re gone.”

“For instance…” I prodded.

“Like this budget mess,” he explained. “I get so worked up by Obama spending so much money. But then I get one of these flashes and I remember, oh yeah, Republicans were in charge for the last ten years. It’s like I totally forgot they spent incredible sums on a small war that was totally unnecessary! Shelled out billions to Halliburton, Blackwater and other Republican-supporting friends, with no accounting, no auditing, no…”

“Okay,” I said, trying to calm him down. “Anybody could forget a trillion-dollar mistake like the Iraq War.”

“Yes, but I forget it all. You hear me screaming about the cost of healthcare reform, but then…sort of hazily…it comes back to me that Republicans voted in prescription drug coverage for seniors that forbade the government from using its buying power to negotiate lower prices with the drug companies.

“How could I forget something so egregiously wasteful as forcing the government to pay list price!”

“Do you remember Terry Schiavo…?” I asked tentatively.

“Only when I find myself arguing against ‘death panels’ or some other leftist intrusion into people’s lives.”

“How about the fact we Americans tortured our prisoners?”

“I still don’t believe Americans in the employ of their government would commit acts of torture. Of course that depends on how you define torture…”


“One man’s torture is another man’s enhanced interrogation!”

“You do remember a number of people died from those enhanced interrogation sessions?”

“Not really. At most, I remember some Fox TV commentator offering to get waterboarded to show what pussies the liberals were.”

“Well this is pretty bad,” I sadly acknowledged. “If what you say is true, you probably have no memory of the Great Financial Collapse that occurred the last year of Bush’s term?”

“Is that why we’re suffering 10% unemployment? And here I was thinking Obama had ruined our economy in merely a year’s time.”

“Do you recall Dick Cheney outing a CIA spy to get back at her husband for writing a New York Times Op Ed piece?”

“I vaguely recall something.”

“Or that we had advance information about Al Quaeda’s plans to attack us, and that the CIA titled its August 6, 2001 Presidential Briefing: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”?

“No, I don’t.”

“How about tax cuts?" I pursued. "Do you recall Bush and his Republican majority cutting taxes twice at the same time he was borrowing money from the Chinese to pay for two wars?”

“Is that where we got the money?”

“Or that President Bush violated our constitution any number of ways—by reading our emails, intercepting our phone calls, telling lies to lead us into war, using the Justice Department to go after political enemies, using the levers of government to create a permanent Republican majority…?

"You protest about Obama bankrupting the country," I concluded, "and yet you forget that Republicans practically picked clean the Treasury's pockets."

“Wait, before you go on, just tell me," he shouted, almost in despair. "Was there anything that George W. Bush and his Republican majority in Congress did right during the last ten years?”

“Do you remember Hurricane Katrina?”

“Sure," he said, almost smiling. "Wasn’t she an exotic dancer…?”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


For any democrats, progressives or dumbstruck Obama supporters wondering “What the hell happened?” in Massachusetts yesterday, let me offer a few thoughts.

As Pogo once said in a famous cartoon strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

After eight years of Bush-Cheney malign neglect, the American presidency was turned over to a man who promised to change the way Washington worked. To take back power for the people. To curtail the power of the lobbyists and their entrenched special interests. To fight Wall Street for Main Street. To bridge partisan divide. And to restore America’s pride, not just as a powerful nation but a moral one as well.

And where do we find ourselves a year later?


With a president who appears to value comity over fighting for what he believes in. With a president who promised to fight for real health care reform but appeared to quickly abandon the very drug cost containment and public option elements that real reform requires.

We voted for a president who would fight drug companies for the right to import drugs from Canada and who would use America’s colossal bargaining power like a club to lower drug prices. Instead we ended up with a president who negotiated away his power in exchange for the pharmaceutical industry’s collusion in a program that would never threaten either their American monopoly or their colossal greed.

We voted for a president who would fight Wall Street but who quickly brought in the usual suspects to run things, some of them clearly tarnished by their inside involvement in the financial crisis or their initial efforts to make whole the bankers and CEOs whose greed and system manipulation caused the crisis.

This last year we have hungered for a President who would worry less about upsetting the apple cart and more about removing the bad apples and cleaning up the mess. It may have been politically expedient to give Bush and Cheney a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, but America’s constitution has been bloodied by their cowboy-up approach to starting wars, torturing prisoners, denying constitutional rights and subverting civil liberties.

To not shine a light on these illegal and destructive behaviors is to allow them to eat away in the dark at the cornerstone of rights that others have died to secure.

We voted for a president who, if he didn’t have the heart or courage to pursue these miscreants, would at least have had the wisdom to convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. If only to uphold the honor of his office and his somber responsibility to our Constitution.

Over the last year we have watched President Obama repeatedly step back from using the full weight and power of his position to foster the policies and programs he was elected to pursue. His willingness to enter into compromise or meaningless negotiation with fanatical Republicans so invested in protecting the wealth and power of entrenched interests they would never meet him halfway on any field, over any issue, will prove to be his—and probably our—undoing.

Mr. President, we elected you to clean up Dodge City, but it appears you’ve settled in far too comfortably, and much more quickly than anyone could have expected.

If your advisors tell you that you are doing a good job, fire them. If you can’t find worthy advisors to replace them, perhaps you’ll need to look beyond the boundaries of Washington, D.C.

That would be change we could believe in.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tales Of The Book Part Twelve


Move it, he said, there isn't much time.

So you stepped on the gas or walked a bit faster or hurried your phone conversation, and still arrived late for your next activity.

Faster, he said, only losers slow down.

So you worked late at the office or left the party early or rushed out of the house without kissing the kids goodbye, and still never made up for the time you lost.

Hurry up, he said, you'll miss your big opportunity.

So you took a second job working weekends or cheated in business or cancelled the family vacation, and still never found the opportunity you were looking for.

Skip the formalities, he said, you'll have time for that later.

So you forgot your anniversary or never showed up for parents night at school or stepped over a friend to better your position, and still found yourself dreaming about all the things you didn't have.

Don't slow down, he said, time grows shorter every minute.

So you pretended to stay young or cheated on your marriage or forgot to watch your children growing up, and still never found someone who could understand you.

Pick up your speed, he said, time's almost up.

So you grew bitter and resentful or left your family or started a list with everything the world owed you, and still grew older every day.

Final seconds, he said, last chance to make good.

So you looked around and wondered where all the time had gone or searched out those you had wronged or started making friends with priests, and still couldn't get his voice out of your head.

Move it, he said, you're running out of time.

And finally he was right.

You ran out of time.

The above is from the collection, "How To Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone, available on For more information, go to, or the author's site at