Tag Archives: Joel Solkoff

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inspiring inaugural address

 

Inaugural Address of Mayor Bill de Blasio:

“Progress for New York”

January 1, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blazio delivers his inaugural address
Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his inaugural address

Editorial notes:

1. Finally, out of the politics of despair and retrenchment, a new leader has emerged from the Democratic party unafraid to express the values in which I believe. In this, Bill de Blasio’s inaugural address, he states:

Fiorello La Guardia — the man I consider to be the greatest Mayor this city has ever known — put it best. He said: I, too, admire the ‘rugged individual,’ but no ‘rugged individual’ can survive in the midst of collective starvation.”

" La Guardia revitalized New York City and restored public faith in City Hall. He unified the transit system, directed the building of low-cost public housing, public playgrounds, and parks, constructed airports, [and] reorganized the police force..." --Wikipedia
” La Guardia revitalized New York City and restored public faith in City Hall. He unified the transit system, directed the building of low-cost public housing, public playgrounds, and parks, constructed airports, [and] reorganized the police force…” –Wikipedia
2. What follows these editorial notes are excerpts from the speech I find especially relevant as well as the full text of de Blasio’s prepared remarks.
3. I am especially grateful to de Blasio for signaling out for distinction Harry Belafonte who de Blasio said, “we are honored to have with us here today.”Harry Belafonte was an early supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the years when support mattered. In my 66 years, I believe that Dr. King was the greatest leader in my lifetime. King’s non-violent approach toward racial inequality prevented a bloody civil war. See:  http://www.joelsolkoff.com/dr-martin-luther-king-i-have-a-dream-speech-on-august-28-1963/. After King’s assassination, Harry Belafonte supported King’s family and worked tirelessly to keep Dr. King’s dream alive.

Harry Belafonte, actor, singer, civil rights activist
Harry Belafonte, actor, singer, civil rights activist

4. No matter where I live, I will always think of myself as a New Yorker. I was born in the City. My mother taught Hebrew in the City and received her doctorate in Hebrew Letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary. My grandmother Celia Pell’s apartment in Brooklyn was my home throughout my youth. Celia was an apparel worker, for decades sewing bras and girdles by day–doing what she described as “uplifting work.” She spent her nights playing Beethoven and Mozart on her piano for hours on end. My sister Sarah Schmerler, a distinguished art critic lives in the City as well as her author husband Robert Simonson and my nephew Asher, who will be bar mitzvahed in September.

5. I am a graduate of Columbia College and will be celebrating my 45th Reunion–a reunion filled with memories of the demonstrations of 1968 which all too slowly led to the end of the evil War in Vietnam.

6. Last year, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer where my physician here in State College, PA sent me to New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The brilliant surgeon Dr. Paul Russo successfully removed my cancerous tumor and saved my right kidney. The day before my first appointment with Dr. Russo, at the suggestion of my friend Kathy Forer, I visited The Renzo Piano Morgan Museum and Library–providing dramatic comfort to the cancer experience.  The comfort continued during surgery and recuperation as I wrote and made videos about the Morgan and the brilliant architecture of Renzo Piano published by my editor Adrian Welch at http://www.e-architect.co.uk/editors/joel-solkoff.

7. I hope that Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to shatter the barriers between the wealthy and poor will result in government and private foundation grants to remove the expensive admission fees to the superb Morgan collection as well as the Frick, the Whitney, and other museums in the City. Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to make hospital emergency rooms accessible to the poor should lead in turn to an understanding that access to art should come without an admission fee because art’s therapeutic value has far too long been neglected.

–Joel Solkoff

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Excerpts from Mayor de Blasio’s Inaugural Address

–We see what binds all New Yorkers together: an understanding that big dreams are not a luxury reserved for a privileged few, but the animating force behind every community, in every borough.

–The spark that ignites our unwavering resolve to do everything possible to ensure that every girl and boy, no matter what language they speak, what subway line they ride, what neighborhood they call home — that every child has the chance to succeed.

–We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love. And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York.

–Nearly a century ago, it was Al Smith who waged war on unsafe working conditions and child labor.

[Note: It was Al Smith who said, “The only cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.”]

–It was Franklin Roosevelt and Frances Perkins who led the charge for the basic bargain of unemployment insurance and the minimum wage.

[Note: Francis Perkins said, “What was the New Deal anyhow? Was it a political plot? Was it just a name for a period in history? Was it a revolution? To all of these questions I answer ‘No.’ It was something quite different… It was, I think, basically an attitude. An attitude that found voice in expressions like ‘the people are what matter to government,’ and ‘a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.'”]

–It was Fiorello La Guardia who enacted the New Deal on the city level, battled the excesses of Wall Street, and championed a progressive income tax.

–When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as One City. We know this won’t be easy; It will require all that we can muster. And it won’t be accomplished only by me; It will be accomplished by all of us — those of us here today, and millions of everyday New Yorkers in every corner of our city.

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Full remarks as prepared: Mayor de Blasio’s Inaugural Address

Thank you, President Clinton, for your kind words. It was an honor to serve in your administration, and we’re all honored by your presence. I have to note that, over 20 years ago, when a conservative philosophy seemed dominant, you broke through – and told us to still believe in a place called Hope.

Thank you, Secretary Clinton. I was inspired by the time I spent on your first campaign. Your groundbreaking commitment to nurturing our children and families manifested itself in a phrase that is now a part of our American culture – and something we believe in deeply in this city. It Takes A Village.

Thank you, Reverend Fred Lucas Jr., Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Monsignor Robert Romano, and Imam Askia Muhammad for your words of prayer.

Thank you, Governor Cuomo. Working with you at HUD, I saw how big ideas can overcome big obstacles. And it will be my honor to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with you again.

Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg. To say the least, you led our city through some extremely difficult times. And for that, we are all grateful. Your passion on issues such as environmental protection and public health has built a noble legacy. We pledge today to continue the great progress you made in these critically important areas.

Thank you, Mayor Dinkins, for starting us on the road to a safer city, and for always uplifting our youth – and I must say personally, for giving me my start in New York City government. You also had the wisdom to hire a strong and beautiful young woman who walked up to me one day in City Hall and changed my life forever.

Chirlane, you are my soulmate — and my best friend. My partner in all I do. My love for you grows with each passing year. Chiara and Dante, I cannot put into words the joy and the pride that you bring your mother and me. You are the best thing that’s ever happened to us, and we love you very much.

And finally, thank you to my brothers Steve and Don, and all my family assembled today — from all around this country, and from Italy. You have always guided and sustained me.

Thank you, my fellow New Yorkers ‑- my brothers and sisters — for joining Chirlane, Chiara, Dante, and me on this chilly winter day.

De parte de Chirlane, Chiara, Dante y yo, les extiendo las gracias a ustedes, mis hermanas y hermanos niuyorquinos, por acompañarnos en este dia tan especial.

Like it is for so many of you, my family is my rock. Their wisdom, their compassion, and their sense of humor make each day a gift to cherish.

But, what makes today so special isn’t just my family, but our larger New York family. We see what binds all New Yorkers together: an understanding that big dreams are not a luxury reserved for a privileged few, but the animating force behind every community, in every borough.

The spark that ignites our unwavering resolve to do everything possible to ensure that every girl and boy, no matter what language they speak, what subway line they ride, what neighborhood they call home — that every child has the chance to succeed.

We recognize a city government’s first duties: to keep our neighborhoods safe; to keep our streets clean; to ensure that those who live here – and those who visit – can get where they need to go in all five boroughs. But we know that our mission reaches deeper. We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love. And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York. And that same progressive impulse has written our city’s history. It’s in our DNA.

Nearly a century ago, it was Al Smith who waged war on unsafe working conditions and child labor. It was Franklin Roosevelt and Frances Perkins who led the charge for the basic bargain of unemployment insurance and the minimum wage. It was Fiorello La Guardia who enacted the New Deal on the city level, battled the excesses of Wall Street, and championed a progressive income tax.

From Jacob Riis to Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Belafonte — who we are honored to have with us here today — it was New Yorkers who challenged the status quo, who blazed a trail of progressive reform and political action, who took on the elite, who stood up to say that social and economic justice will start here and will start now.

It’s that tradition that inspires the work we now begin. A movement that sees the inequality crisis we face today, and resolves that it will not define our future. Now I know there are those who think that what I said during the campaign was just rhetoric, just “political talk” in the interest of getting elected. There are some who think now, as we turn to governing – well, things will continue pretty much like they always have.

So let me be clear. When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as One City. We know this won’t be easy; It will require all that we can muster. And it won’t be accomplished only by me; It will be accomplished by all of us — those of us here today, and millions of everyday New Yorkers in every corner of our city.

You must continue to make your voices heard. You must be at the center of this debate. And our work begins now. We will expand the Paid Sick Leave law — because no one should be forced to lose a day’s pay, or even a week’s pay, simply because illness strikes. And by this time next year, fully 300,000 additional New Yorkers will be protected by that law. We won’t wait.

We’ll do it now. We will require big developers to build more affordable housing. We’ll fight to stem the tide of hospital closures. And we’ll expand community health centers into neighborhoods in need, so that New Yorkers see our city not as the exclusive domain of the One Percent, but a place where everyday people can afford to live, work, and raise a family. We won’t wait. We’ll do it now.

We will reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy, both to protect the dignity and rights of young men of color, and to give our brave police officers the partnership they need to continue their success in driving down crime. We won’t wait. We’ll do it now.

We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day universal pre-K and after-school programs for every middle school student. And when we say “a little more,” we can rightly emphasize the “little.”

Those earning between $500,000 and one million dollars a year, for instance, would see their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. That’s less than three bucks a day – about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks.

Think about it. A 5-year tax on the wealthiest among us – with every dollar dedicated to pre-K and after-school. Asking those at the top to help our kids get on the right path and stay there. That’s our mission. And on that, we will not wait. We will do it now.

Of course, I know that our progressive vision isn’t universally shared. Some on the far right continue to preach the virtue of trickle-down economics. They believe that the way to move forward is to give more to the most fortunate, and that somehow the benefits will work their way down to everyone else. They sell their approach as the path of “rugged individualism.”

But Fiorello La Guardia — the man I consider to be the greatest Mayor this city has ever known — put it best. He said: “I, too, admire the ‘rugged individual,’ but no ‘rugged individual’ can survive in the midst of collective starvation.”

So please remember: we do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success. We do it to create more success stories. And we do it to honor a basic truth: that a strong economy is dependent on a thriving school system. We do it to give every kid a chance to get their education off on the right foot, from the earliest age, which study after study has shown leads to greater economic success, healthier lives, and a better chance of breaking the cycle of poverty.

We do it to give peace of mind to working parents, who suffer the anxiety of not knowing whether their child is safe and supervised during those critical hours after the school day ends, but before the workday is done. And we do it because we know that we must invest in our city, in the future inventors and CEOs and teachers and scientists, so that our generation – like every generation before us – can leave this city even stronger than we found it.

Our city is no stranger to big struggles — and no stranger to overcoming them.

New York has faced fiscal collapse, a crime epidemic, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. But now, in our time, we face a different crisis – an inequality crisis. It’s not often the stuff of banner headlines in our daily newspapers. It’s a quiet crisis, but one no less pernicious than those that have come before.

Its urgency is read on the faces of our neighbors and their children, as families struggle to make it against increasingly long odds. To tackle a challenge this daunting, we need a dramatic new approach — rebuilding our communities from the bottom-up, from the neighborhoods up. And just like before, the world will watch as we succeed. All along the way, we will remember what makes New York, New York.

A city that fights injustice and inequality — not just because it honors our values, but because it strengthens our people. A city of five boroughs — all created equal. Black, white, Latino, Asian, gay, straight, old, young, rich, middle class, and poor. A city that remembers our responsibility to each other — our common cause — is to leave no New Yorker behind.

That’s the city that you and I believe in. It’s the city to which my grandparents were welcomed from the hills of Southern Italy, the city in which I was born, where I met the love of my life, where Chiara and Dante were raised.

It’s a place that celebrates a very simple notion: that no matter what your story is – this is your city. Our strength is derived from you. Working together, we will make this One City. And that mission — our march toward a fairer, more just, more progressive place, our march to keep the promise of New York alive for the next generation. It begins today.

Thank you, and God bless the people of New York City!

–30–

REGINALD ON CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

Excerpt:

“Personally, I can’t see where the difficulty in choosing suitable presents lies.  No boy who had brought himself up properly could fail to appreciate one of those decorative bottles of liqueurs that are so reverently staged in Morel’s window…. People may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die.”

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REGINALD ON CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

by Saki

I wish it to be distinctly understood (said Reginald) that I don’t want a “George, Prince of Wales” Prayer-book as a Christmas present.  The fact cannot be too widely known.

There ought (he continued) to be technical education classes on the science of present-giving.  No one seems to have the faintest notion of what anyone else wants, and the prevalent ideas on the subject are not creditable to a civilised community.

There is, for instance, the female relative in the country who “knows a tie is always useful,” and sends you some spotted horror that you could only wear in secret or in Tottenham Court Road.  It might have been useful had she kept it to tie up currant bushes with, when it would have served the double purpose of supporting the branches and frightening away the birds—for it is an admitted fact that the ordinary tomtit of commerce has a sounder æsthetic taste than the average female relative in the country.

Then there are aunts.  They are always a difficult class to deal with in the matter of presents.  The trouble is that one never catches them really young enough.  By the time one has educated them to an appreciation of the fact that one does not wear red woollen mittens in the West End, they die, or quarrel with the family, or do something equally inconsiderate.  That is why the supply of trained aunts is always so precarious.

There is my Aunt Agatha, par exemple, who sent me a pair of gloves last Christmas, and even got so far as to choose a kind that was being worn and had the correct number of buttons.  But—they were nines!  I sent them to a boy whom I hated intimately: he didn’t wear them, of course, but he could have—that was where the bitterness of death came in.  It was nearly as consoling as sending white flowers to his funeral.  Of course I wrote and told my aunt that they were the one thing that had been wanting to make existence blossom like a rose; I am afraid she thought me frivolous—she comes from the North, where they live in the fear of Heaven and the Earl of Durham.  (Reginald affects an exhaustive knowledge of things political, which furnishes an excellent excuse for not discussing them.)  Aunts with a dash of foreign extraction in them are the most satisfactory in the way of understanding these things; but if you can’t choose your aunt, it is wisest in the long-run to choose the present and send her the bill.

Even friends of one’s own set, who might be expected to know better, have curious delusions on the subject.  I am not collecting copies of the cheaper editions of Omar Khayyam.  I gave the last four that I received to the lift-boy, and I like to think of him reading them, with FitzGerald’s notes, to his aged mother.  Lift-boys always have aged mothers; shows such nice feeling on their part, I think.

Personally, I can’t see where the difficulty in choosing suitable presents lies.  No boy who had brought himself up properly could fail to appreciate one of those decorative bottles of liqueurs that are so reverently staged in Morel’s window—and it wouldn’t in the least matter if one did get duplicates.  And there would always be the supreme moment of dreadful uncertainty whether it was crême de menthe or Chartreuse—like the expectant thrill on seeing your partner’s hand turned up at bridge.  People may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die.

And then, of course, there are liqueur glasses, and crystallised fruits, and tapestry curtains, and heaps of other necessaries of life that make really sensible presents—not to speak of luxuries, such as having one’s bills paid, or getting something quite sweet in the way of jewellery.  Unlike the alleged Good Woman of the Bible, I’m not above rubies.  When found, by the way, she must have been rather a problem at Christmas-time; nothing short of a blank cheque would have fitted the situation.  Perhaps it’s as well that she’s died out.

The great charm about me (concluded Reginald) is that I am so easily pleased.  But I draw the line at a “Prince of Wales” Prayer-book.

— from Reginald, by Saki, published by  METHUEN & CO. LTD, 36 ESSEX STREET W.C. LONDON and made available from Project Gutenberg.

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Saki, the pen name of H. H. Munro, photographed in 1913
Saki, the pen name of H. H. Munro, photographed in 1913

“Hector Hugh Munro (18 December 1870 – 13 November 1916), better known by the pen name Saki, and also frequently as H. H. Munro, was a British writer whose witty, mischievous and sometimes macabre stories satirized Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story and often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. Influenced by Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, and Kipling, he himself influenced A. A. Milne, Noël Coward, and P. G. Wodehouse.” — Wikipedia

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[Personal note by Joel Solkoff: Saki’s short stories were given to me by my friend Hyman Yudewitz who was also a friend of my father Isadore Solkoff. Isadore met Hy when my father attended law school at Cornell. Years later, at Hy’s fifth floor walkup on Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village, Hy gave me a copy of Saki’s complete short stories from a pile of 20 from which he handed out presents on occasions Hy regarded as suitable–Christmas not being one.]

NOT SUITABLE FOR MINORS. Miley Cyrus “Can’t Be Tamed”, plus sign language video “I kissed a girl and liked it.”

Lyrics

For those who don’t know me, / I can get a bit crazy  Have to get my way, yep / 24 hours a day / ’cause I’m hot like that /

Every guy, everywhere / just gives me mad attention / Like I’m under inspection

I always gets a ten, / ’cause I’m built like that / I go through guys like money / flyin’ out the hands / They try to change me / but they realize they can’t

And every tomorrow is a day I never plan / If you’re gonna be my man understand

I can’t be tamed / I can’t be tamed / I can’t be blamed / I can’t, can’t, I can’t, can’t be tamed / I can’t be changed / I can’t be tamed / I can’t be, can’t, I can’t be tamed

If there was a question about my intentions, / I’ll tell ya / I’m not here to sell ya / Or tell you to  go to hell / (I’m not a brat like that) / I’m like a puzzle / but all of my pieces are jagged /

If you can understand this, / we can make some magic, / I’m wrong like that

I wanna fly, / I wanna drive, / I wanna go / I wanna be a part of something I don’t know

And if you try to hold me back I might explode / Baby, by now you should know

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Line in the sand.

Below this line is material that shocked me–demonstrating that at 66 I am not as mature as I thought.

Consider Miley Cyrus’ current hit:

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Miley Cyrus is 21. She was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father was a cornball country music singer who involved her in his work. Disney cast her as a wholeshome heroine until….

Here is Wikipedia:

“Cyrus developed an adult image and mainstream pop sound ….Cyrus’ maturing image progressed [and] featured more prominent dance elements than her earlier releases, and was promoted through sexually-themed performances….

“After signing with RCA Records, Cyrus released her fourth album, Bangerz, in 2013. Its singles “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” were promoted with provocative music videos.

The former was additionally performed during a controversial performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, while the latter became her first number-one hit in the United States.

Cyrus is recognized as among the most successful artists to originate from Disney. Cyrus ranked number thirteen on Forbes‘ 2010 Celebrity 100. By the age of 18, she had seven top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and had four RIAA certified albums. As of October 2013, Cyrus has nine top-ten hits on the Hot 100.

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Post-Lady Gaga feminists

An emerging group of talented performers are singing praiseworthy feminist themes. That they shock me at times is good.

Miley Cirus is joined by Katy Perry as forerunners of this new generation of talented and startlingly shocking feminists. Consider: “I kissed a girl and liked it.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAp9BKosZXs[/youtube]

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This is a disability friendly site. “I Kissed a Girl,” originally recorded and performed by Katy Perry, performed in American Sign Language by Shanna Syme.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/25725813[/vimeo]

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From CBS News, September 3, 2003

More On The-Madonna-Britany Kiss!

So, how did Britney Spears’ parents react when the 21-year-old pop star locked lips with Madonna on the MTV Video Music Awards?

“Well, my mom liked it actually. I was really kind of nervous! I was like, `Oh my God, my mom … she’s going to see this!”‘ Spears said in an interview on “Access Hollywood.”

“But no, she liked it! And my dad, weirdly enough, he thought it was fine, too. I mean, come on … it’s Madonna. If you can kiss any girl in the world, that has to be her.”

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The tourch has been passed to a new generation of Americans….

1991 – Madonna – LIKE A VIRGIN

This is the old generation.

— Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

 

“Television is a vast wasteland “applied to current efforts to limit Internet access; Woody Allen makes a guest appearance

In 1961 the FCC Chairman, Newton Minnow, gave a scathing speech at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention calling television “a vast wasteland.” Last week,  in the tradition of Newton Minnow’s “television is a vast wasteland” speech, the new and exciting Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler delivered his visionary plan to ensure access for the poor to the Internet. TowWheeler Access to the Internet is a primary requisite for participation in the Information Age. If you cannot access the Internet

  • You job prospects decrease
  • Access to startling new healthcare, such as remote surgery is denied you
  • Communication with relatives and friends is more difficult.
  • Being part of mainstream society is DENIED.
"This picture is derived from Greek mythology, where the blind giant Orion carried his servant Cedalion on his shoulders." --Wikipedia
“This picture is derived from Greek mythology, where the blind giant Orion carried his servant Cedalion on his shoulders.” –Wikipedia

To get an understanding of the relevance of Wheeler’s ground breaking speech on the implications of excluding large numbers of people, especially, individuals in rural areas and the disabled and elderly, there are two Giants who come to mind instantly.

By giants, I refer to the phrase: “Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants (Latin: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes) is a Western metaphor with a contemporary interpretation meaning “one who discovers by building on previous discoveries”.

“Its most familiar expression is found in the letters of Isaac Newton: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” –Wikipedia

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The two giants on whose shoulders Tom Wheeler is sitting are:

1. Marshall McLuhan and 2. Newton Minnow.

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“Marshall McLuhan,  (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980) was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory. His work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as well as having practical applications in the advertising and television industries.

“McLuhan is known for coining the expressions the medium is the message and the global village, and for predicting the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented.”

–Wikipedia

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http://youtu.be/A9tJWoPlcHE

It is widely believed that John Kennedy became President by one of the narrowest margins in history because of his TELEVISION appearance in the 1960 Kennedy / Nixon debates described above. By 1968 (it is well documented) then candidate for President again Richard Nixon read Marschall McLuhan’s work very carefully. His top campaign advisors were sending memos back and forth with large excerpts from McLuhan’s Understanding Media, a very difficult book to read.

McLuhan had observed that people listening to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had won. I listened to the debate on radio and I thought Nixon had won. These debates marked a profound shift in the influence television has on our society.

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Minow campaigned for President John F. Kennedy prior to the 1960 presidential election,” notes Wikipedia. “In 1961 he was appointed by President Kennedy to be one of seven commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as well as its Chair.

“Thereafter, it came as little surprise that after the election Minow eagerly pursued the position of FCC Chair. …Reportedly, Robert F. Kennedy, brother of John F. Kennedy, and Minow frequently talked at length about the increasing importance of television in the lives of their children during the Kennedy presidential campaign.

“Minow became one of the most well-known and respected — if sometimes controversial — political figures of the early 1960s because of his criticism of commercial television. In a speech given to the National Association of Broadcasters convention on May 9, 1961, he was extremely critical of television broadcasters for not doing more, in Minow’s view, to serve the public interest. His phrase, “vast wasteland”, is remembered years after the speech.”

Excerpt from Minnow’s Wasteland speech:When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

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Back to the Present

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tldh2B1-CQ[/youtube]

Here President Obama announces the appointment of Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission.

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As I write here in Rust Belt Pennsylvania in the center of the state of Pennsylvania, Internet service is limited to pockets of miles and miles of area where one cannot make a cell call because the infrastructure is not in place, let alone find one’s way to a Google prompt. ++++ What follows is the heart of Wheeler’s groundbreaking speech. As someone who works in the architecture, engineering and construction community, I am especially interested in the  effect access to broadband will have as the Baby Boom generation, as the largest generation in history retires and relocates. Essential to living in place is access to broadband.

This month, I became a columnist for e-architect uk. http://www.e-architect.co.uk/columns/joel-solkoffs-column-vol-i-number-3

My focus is on advice to architects on incorporating into their work consciousness about the requirements for elderly and disabled individuals. One clear lesson of Wheeler’s speech is that housing with easy access to broadband is essential coming  a close second, for those of us who are mobility disabled. to wheelchairs and ramps.

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Prepared Remarks of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

December 2, 2013

“How we connect with friends and family, how our homes use energy; the efficiency of our transportation network; how we elect our public leaders and engage with government; all are impacted by our new networks.

“Here at Ohio State there was a dramatic example of how networks are changing old practices when Dr. Christopher Kaeding donned Google Glass to conduct a surgical operation that allowed medical students located miles away to see through his eyes.

“There is another aspect of the new networks that will differentiate the lives of the current crop of students at Ohio State.

“Historically, networks have been a centralizing force, pulling users closer to the place where the technology resided. The new network operates in an opposing manner, pushing activities outward to the edge of the network. The result is an explosion in individual opportunity – a re-birth of the entrepreneurial dynamism that characterized the pre-industrial era of our nation. “Enter the Federal Communications Commission.

“The FCC is the public’s representative to the ongoing network revolution. “The agency was created originally in 1934 to oversee the third-generation networks of telephony and broadcast and, eventually cable and wireless carriers.

“Specifically, Congress charged the FCC to protect – quote – ‘the public interest, convenience, and necessity’ of the nation’s networks. “In serving the public interest, the FCC has focused on dual responsibilities. “First, facilitating dynamic technological change to ensure the U.S. has world-class communications networks.

“Second, ensuring that our networks reflect our civic values, most notably our belief that communications networks should be accessible to all.

“Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads. The old monopoly telephone network is being replaced by new, more flexible and efficient digital networks. This is a good thing. The networks of the 21st century bear scant physical resemblance to the networks that defined the 20th century.”

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Wheeler’s complete remarks, available at the FCC site,  includes Wheeler’s glee that his alma mater beat its arch football rival Penn State in football.  Here in State College where i live  WE ARE ALL PENN STATE.

Despite Tom’s position on the wrong side of football, I trust that Tom Wheeler is on the right side of broadband policy for the poor, elderly, and disabled.

— Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Alan Jackson’s startlingly effective video tribute to the victims of The World Trade Center Tragedy

The year the World Trade Center was bombed in New York, Alan Jackson won the Country Music Award for his song about the tragedy.

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Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

Before going to the entire lyrics, I was particularly struck by this small but startlingly effective selection:

I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God

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These are the lyrics to the entire song:

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?

Were you in the yard with your wife and children

Or working on some stage in L.A.?
 
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Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
 
Risin’ against that blue sky?
 
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
 
Or did you just sit down and cry?
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Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don’t know?
 
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
 
Did you burst out with pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin’ what they do?
 
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
 
And look at yourself and what really matters?
 
[Chorus:]
I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
 
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
 
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love
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Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty ’cause you’re a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?
Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
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Did you turn off that violent old movie you’re watchin’
And turn on “I Love Lucy” reruns?
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Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Did you stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?
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[Chorus x2]
And the greatest is love.
And the greatest is love.
Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
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This intensely country music perspective on the Twin Tower Tragedy demonstrates the breadth of the Tragedy for the U.S as a whole. This is a tragedy equivalent in significance to the United States when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor convinced Congress formally to declare war and have the United States enter World War II as a critically important Ally.

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Alan Jackson’s song demonstrates the breadth and death of the great grief throughout the United States.

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning Graphic video

Warning:

When you click on the arrow of this video you will be presented with startlingly vivid  detailed images of Ground Zero.

You will see the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. You will see the injured and dead. You will cry.

Be prepared.

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If you are not a fan of country music, this video is worth watching in mute just for the graphic portrayal of the Tragedy.

I was reminded of this Alan Jackson song when I became interested in the rebuilding at  Ground Zero.

Now after years and years of bitter debate about rebuilding, Ground Zero construction is taking place.

The Master Planner for this massive architecture, engineering, and construction effort  is the architect Daniel Libeskind who is both a U.S. and Israeli citizen.

Wikipedia notes:

“Libeskind is perhaps most famous for being selected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to oversee the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. He titled his concept for the site Memory Foundations.

I will will be publishing detailed accounts about Libeskind’s progress in rebuilding at Ground Zero at www.e-architect.co.uk

You might like to see the biographical information on who I am and the articles and videos I have published on the e-architect site. The site receives nearly a million hits a day. http://www.e-architect.co.uk/editors/joel-solkoff

— Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

December motto plus optional isolation

CanceroustumorsurroundingrightkidneyDr. Jeniffer Simon, a caring and experienced urologist, Geissinger Medical Center, State College PA showed me on her computer this image–a cancerous tumor surrounding my right kidney, referring me to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “Unless you have surgery quickly, you will be dead in 10 years.” The date: April 5, 2013, 4 P.M. We hugged; I cried.

The order of this posting (typically presented in a hodgepodge of disorder):

  1. Motto
  2. Paraplegia and the recollection of previous cancers
  3. The last part of cancer therapy
  4. Optional isolation
  5. Joanna’s wedding
  6. This I believe

Motto

Make haste slowly is the motto.

Gold coin Emperor Augustus (63 BC to 14 AD) minted to display the symbol for his motto: "Make haste slowly."
Gold coin Emperor Augustus (63 BC to 14 AD) minted to display the symbol for his motto: “Make haste slowly.”

I first came across this seemingly contradictory expression when trying to learn Latin: Festina lente.

Unless one is in a situation such as mine, Make haste slowly appears to make no sense.

Speed and slow are opposites.

The last part of cancer therapy

My situation comes at the end of a difficult time.

The time began in April when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and reached medical optimism after I left my home in State College, PA where the expertise to save my life did not exist.

This is my first "step" in getting to New York.
My first “step” in getting to New York.

I was referred to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City—a five hour car ride away. On August 8th, Dr. Paul Russo removed the cancerous tumor, saved my right kidney, and essentially prevented me from dying of kidney cancer. It was a gift of 10 years.

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In The Canary Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine, Philo Vance—almost certainly the most obnoxious snob in the history of detective literature—is helping his friend the district attorney solve a difficult murder. The district attorney says, “’Well, well! So the case is settled! Now if you’ll but indicate which is the guilty one, I’ll arrest him at once, and return to my other duties.’”

“’You’re always in such haste,’ Vance lamented. “Why leap and run? The wisdom of the world’s philosophers is against it. Festina lente, says Caesar; or, as Rufus has it, Festinatio tarde est. And the Koran says quite frankly that haste is of the Devil. Shakespeare was constantly lamenting speed. ‘He tires that spurs too fast betimes.’”

Still from the 1929 film version of The Canary Murder Case
Still from the 1929 film version, The Canary Murder Case

Vance, whose name in 1927 became synonymous with private detective, goes on to quote Moliere, Chaucer and the Bible on the subject.

My energy level is sufficiently low and my acuity high enough I understand Vance’s point without citing the additional paragraph.

Paraplegia 

For the past 20 years, I have been a paraplegic unable even slowly “to leap and run.” Paradoxically, in high school I received a letter sweater for running 2 ½ miles regularly during cross-country competitions. My best record was clocked running two miles in less than 12 minutes, hardly the Olympics, but good enough for Cheltenham High School  in Wyncotte, PA.

Yes, I would like to leap and run. There are a lot of things I would like to do that I cannot.

What I want to do is live life to the full and in the process make a contribution along the path I have committed myself.

I certainly have done a lot of living in the past 20 years as a paraplegic. In one of my three trips across the United States from sea to shining sea, I took my battery-powered scooter and drove it around the rim of the Grand Canyon.

In California, I watched my elder daughter Joanna train a horse to jump a fence. As I watched, the horse did something amazing. After going over the fence for the first time, the horse did a double-take, shaking its head as if to say, “I do not believe I did that.” Joanna’s smile of accomplishment…

In Santa Cruz, one glorious day, Amelia my younger daughter and I boarded a ship and watched whales frolicking.

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Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan

For a while, I chose the Isadora Duncan School of Dance rather than rehabilitation–both dance and physical rehabilitation have become an essential part of my doxology.

The brilliant physical therapist Alicia J. Spence at State College's Phoenix Rehab begins; it is time for me to return to her.
The brilliant physical therapist Alicia J. Spence at State College’s Phoenix Rehab begins; it is time for me to return to her.

In the Silicon Valley, I wrote a technical manual for KLA-Tancor on inspecting silicon wafers for defects. Often, I scrubbed down, putting on a white gown and hat; wheeling into the clean room where my readers would be using the documentation.

The recollection of previous cancers

After radiation treatment for cancer, I fathered my two children, published three books, and loved and was loved in return.

The experience of having cancer twice, first at age 28 then at 42—treatment which burned my spine and made me unable to walk certainly slowed me down. It did not stop me. Nor has the experience of having cancer for the third time at age 65 stopped me.

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“The Roman historian Suetonius… tells that Augustus… thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness, and, accordingly, favorite sayings of his were: ‘More haste, less speed’; ‘Better a safe commander than a bold’; and ‘That is done quickly enough which is done well enough.'”

Wikipedia continues, “Gold coins were minted for Augustus which bore the image of a crab and a butterfly, which was considered to be emblematic of the adage. Other pairings used to illustrate the adage include a hare in a snail shell; a chameleon with a fish; a diamond ring entwined with foliage; and, especially, a dolphin entwined around an anchor. Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany had festina lente as his motto and illustrated it with a tortoise with a sail upon its back.”

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Frequently, I suspect I have not learned from experience.

The same mistakes seem to repeat themselves in predictable order. This is most often the case with loss of energy. So often have I felt my body filled with power and enthusiasm that when the power disappears and getting out of bed becomes a chore, a dark cloud seems to hang over me.

The cloud is not there now.

Recovery from surgery has surprised me by its slow pace.

When I returned from New York in August, the combination of weakness and pain made me grateful to be alone.

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One consequence of my receiving a cancer diagnosis in April of this year is that the telling provoked waves of  affection and attention not merely from those close to home.

A woman whom I had loved intensely in 1972 ( not seen or heard from since) read here on this site an optimistic account of my situation and responded with an e-mail followed by phone calls. We talked about the children we did not have together, the life we did not share, and the strangely odd and encouraging fact that affection untended continues despite the reality that it had its origins so long ago.

Friends appeared with whom I had lost contact for decades. My expectations of how good people could be to me were vastly exceeded by reality. I have emerged from surgery with the feeling of being cherished. Nothing I can say or do can ever repay my gratitude. You know who you are and yet you do not truly appreciate how much you have graced my heart.

Often I feel words used to describe me are wrong, just wrong. I do not think of myself as “brave” or “courageous” or a “fighter.” When I think of myself, which I do often, I try to stop—meditate and in my own fashion pray that the ego will dissolve and I will just continue, pursue the path.

Optional isolation

Late in August, back at my apartment, alone, feeling that strange happiness that comes when intense pain disappears, whoever I am is comfortable to me. By nature I am impatient. By nature, I am persistent. Then, the phrase make haste slowly serves as a comfort. I will do what I need to do when the time comes. I will be grateful for energy and understanding when I cannot do what needs to be done. If the sky falls and I do not have the strength to stop it, the sky falls. Such is life.

Joanna’s wedding

Before I scooted Joanna down the aisle, she drove me to New York for the surgery. My friend  Ben Carlsen drove from State College to New York to bring me back home.
Three months before I scooted Joanna down the aisle, she drove me to New York for the surgery. My friend Ben Carlsen drove from State College to New York to bring me back home.

Going to Joanna’s wedding in October appears now on the second day of December a miraculous event. Weeks before I boarded the plane, I did not believe the energy would return. I persisted. Giving away my elder daughter on a farm in Mebane, North Carolina produced euphoria that brought me through and carried me home on Delta Airlines.

Amelia was my caregiver at  the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in NYC where we roomed together before, during, and after my surgery.
Amelia (right) was my caregiver at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in NYC where we roomed together before, during, and after my surgery.

At the wedding it was a delight seeing Amelia again in North Carolina a seeming aeon away from New York , saying goodbye before she returned to Spain for her third extended trip.

I loved:

  • Watching my sister Sarah Leah Schmerler dance without inhibition after the intensity of being together at the hospital in New York

sarahatwedding

  • Revisiting my 12 year-old only nephew Asher Simonson with his unexpected moments of humor
  • Seeing his father Robert Simonson who had lugged my mobility devices around the Island of Manhattan
  • My son-in-law Jade Phillips and his firefighting colleagues who, when the festivities were over and the bonfire burned out, literally picked up my exhausted body and flung me into the passenger side of a truck

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Then fatigue. Delight in being alone. Concern I would not finish the work I must finish. Optional isolation. Appearing outside my apartment only occasionally. Seeing as few people as possible. Avoiding crowds, large gatherings, and familiar places where I have been surrounded by affection.

Periodically, I receive calls, visits, e-mails and reports of those who ask with affection and concern “Where’s Joel?”

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Life continues.

A dear friend becomes sick. Miles and often even a few blocks I do not have the energy to travel keep me from being where I would otherwise like to be.

I sit in my apartment and wait. A rush of energy and I find myself writing, as I am writing now, without stop, expressing while leaving dishes unwashed, my bed unmade, not yet able to complete rigorous academic writing—not quite able to pull together a large project.

Instead, I follow whim. I have been making You Tube videos—going off to a computer in the patient company of an expert in iMovie editing software, collapsing, returning, making slow steady progress as bills pile up, consistently refusing to think about the money I do not have and the energy I do not have to obtain it.

I have been reading Robert Alter’s The Book of Psalms, his introduction tracing the psalms’ origins back to the Bronze Age over 3,000 years ago, reciting his clear translation, going to the Hebrew, recalling my mother never left the house without a small Hebrew copy of Psalms in her pocketbook, dipping into David Halberstam writing about Elvis Presley, reading a paragraph here and there about architecture, engineering, virtual reality—not doing much for long, but doing and then in fatigue watching by choice vapid Netflix videos for hours.

The last part of cancer therapy

I hope to encourage others like me who are recovering to recognize our temporary limitations and persevere.

Most do not recognize the difficulties involved in recovering from cancer after the disease is gone but the energy has not returned.

[To be inserted here observations about suicide attempts by survivors. This issue I discuss in my book Learning to Live Again, My Triumph over Cancer available on this site http://www.joelsolkoff.com/book-store/books/learning-to-live-again-my-triumph-over-cancer/].

While researching, I came across a footnote in a medical journal article. A young man with the most dangerous stage of Hodgkin’s disease had killed himself after being cured. The autopsy revealed no cancer was present in his body.

Surviving while still recovering can be a hard time unless one is willing to believe in the future. Henry David Thoreau should be an encouragement to those us living in situations such as the one I am now in. Thoreau wrote, “There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.”

My life seems to have been lived on the principle that best way to get from here to there is NOT to go in a straight line.

I have been watching You Tubes of Edward R. Murrow, my hero. This one caught my fancy yesterday at 2 in the morning.

This I believe

I believe:

  1. I am alive for a purpose.
  2. The attempt to achieve the purpose, which I choose to call my path in homage to Laozi, serves not only its own end but to unite all that is sacred to me; namely, my children (of course) who are adults and have lives of their own; my sister Sarah and my family, my friends who are family; my love for women (a woman were the right woman in my bed); the need to care for myself, be independent in body and mind, be a good citizen who embraces not only my country but my mother Earth, and the need to be the human being I strive to be who believes in the spirit that gives us life.
Clearly a fictitious image of Laozi. No one knows what he looked like. The story is Laozi appeared at a border crossing. The guard asked him to write a book of wisdom. Laozi wrote The Way, gave it to the guard who allowed him to cross. Laozi disappeared. This story and The Way are the only evidence of his existence.
Clearly a fictitious image of Laozi. No one knows what he looked like. The story is Laozi appeared at a border crossing. The guard asked him to write a book of wisdom. Laozi wrote The Way (The Path), gave it to the guard who allowed him to cross. Laozi disappeared. This story and The Way are the only evidence of his existence.

3. My chosen path is to help the elderly and disabled achieve their potential.

4. Along that path is the virtue of technology which makes it possible for me to go seamlessly from my bed to my kitchen out the door and into the world on scooters like the kind that my dear friend Al Thieme of Amigo Mobility invented which he refers to as Power Operated Vehicle scooters or POV scooters to distinguish them from toys. The technology mobility path includes power chairs and equipment being developed at an astonishingly rapid pace. The consequence of this technology is I do not think of myself as one whose disability prevents me from living life to the full. For individuals with hearing and visual disabilities technology has developed to the point where, for example, an individual blind from birth can drive an automobile specially equipped with laser scanning of the road;  the automobile provides the driver computer-voice simulated operated instructions.

Thank you Wired Magazine: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/07/blind-driver-challenge/
Thank you Wired Magazine

Totally blind drivers have passed tests on intentionally difficult driving courses. I believe in my lifetime the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will issue drivers licenses to individuals who are totally blind but who have proven their ability to drive sophisticated vehicles such as the ones already produced by the Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory.

Amigo manufactures this narrow travel scooter shown here in a tight space in a tiny motel room as I traveled nearly 1,000 miles to my daughter Amelia's college graduation.
Amigo Mobility manufactures this narrow travel scooter shown here in a tight space in a tiny motel room as I traveled nearly 1,000 miles to my daughter Amelia’s college graduation.

5. My path is focused on what the architectural, engineering, and construction community refer to as the built environment. See, for example, my biographical information and published work for e-architect: http://www.e-architect.co.uk/editors/joel-solkoff

6. To rebuild the environment, the promise of virtual reality is real. Virtual reality is a promise my 30 year-old mentor Sonali Kumar introduced to me as I worked with her as a research assistant at Penn State’s Architectural Engineering Department to complete her doctoral dissertation entitled: Experience-based design review of healthcare facilities using interactive virtual prototypes. 

VirtualRollinshower

Sonali apologized when she used me as the model for this avatar. “I am sorry I put so much gray in your hair. You do have a lot of gray in your hair.”

Fashion aside, one of my contributions to Sonali’s animated three-dimensional model of an independent-living-aging-in-place home was the suggestion she replace the original bathtub with a roll in shower. As a paraplegic for whom being clean is vital, I have all too often been trapped in a bathtub–on one occasion it took me 45 minutes to figure out how to get out of the tub finally using my arms to push me out, pulling my legs after me as I landed onto a dirty bathroom floor.

7. Experienced-based design is essential. Experienced-based design is one of a number of academic terms meaning the best way to design an environment is to ask the person who will use it. The example that comes most readily to mind is an article I read about a new hospital in the Philadelphia area. The article complemented the hospital administration for asking patients at the previous facility what changes they would suggest making to the design of the new building to make the hospital more patient-friendly. The patients suggested making it easier to get from bed to bathroom by making the bathroom closer to the bed. The article praised the administration for the reduction in falls as a consequence. [I know. My instant reaction to that was Daaaaaaaaaaaahh.] Asking does matter. Ask experts like me, for example, or my neighbors at Addison Court (an independent living apartment building for the elderly and disabled) whom I arranged to view Sonali’s model wearing 3-D glasses at Dr. John Messner’s Immersive Construction Lab for Construction industry. The consequence is we have the experience to instruct the design of the environment around us so that it is more efficient. The result is not merely an exercise in odd-sounding academic words such as case studies, scenarios, and activities of daily living (ADL); it is also a good idea.

SloanBath

8. Self reliance should be encouraged. Shown here

[Note: Think of I believe in points 8, 9, and beyond as Coming Attractions.]

9. Knowing when to ask for help.

Color coded socks at Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College, PA. These socks indicate patient is at risk of falling.
Color coded socks at Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College, PA. These socks indicate patient is at risk of falling.

To be continued.

Meanwhile, here is Edward R. Murrow  interviewing then former President of the United States Harry S Truman on what Truman believes. http://thisibelieve.org/essay/17058/

President Truman is followed by a bad video of an Alan Jackson song. I like the theme. I like the song.

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

 

Preparing for Guatemalia Bar Mitzvah, Simon Kreindler lived with my mother and me in 1952

Editor’s note: When I was 6, my mother Miriam invited 12-year-old Simon Kreindler to live with us at the request of his father. The year was 1952 when Simon arrived at our small apartment in Miami Beach, Florida after flying from his home in Barbados  While Simon lived with us, my mother helped prepare him for his bar mitzvah to be held in Guatemala where Simon’s grandparents lived. Mother and I went to the celebration in Guatemala City in 1953. The following year, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency overthrew the legally elected government of that country. Fifty-four years later, Simon, who lives in Toronto with his wife Ruby, got back in touch and we renewed our friendship. Meeting Simon for dinner at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Inn, I finally had the opportunity to approve of his marriage to the lovely and charming Ruby Kreindler, who at that point was a grandmother.  Last month, Simon published “More Than Just Words, A Memoir.” What follows is his chapter entitled: Bar Mitzvah.

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Simon Kreindler and Joel-Solkoff, Miami Beach, Florida,1952
Simon Kreindler and Joel Solkoff, Miami Beach, Florida,1952

As alluded to earlier, Joe [Simon’s father] was intent that I would learn about my Jewish heritage and be prepared for my Bar Mitzvah. In September 1952, he brought me to the Miami Beach Jewish Centre where we met Norma Lewin, secretary of the congregational school. Joe explained he was looking for a Jewish family with whom I could live for the academic year and as luck would have it, Norma’s good friend and next-door neighbour, Miriam Solkoff [later to become Miriam Schmerler], was interested. I moved in, with her, enrolled in the local public school, attended congregational classes at the Centre on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (where, coincidentally, Miriam was my teacher) and Bar Mitzvah classes on Sunday mornings with another teacher.

A Brooklyn native, 27 year-old Miriam and her six year-old son, Joel, lived in a modest bungalow on Alton Road. Miriam ran a tight ship but was a good mother and always treated me well. I soon became a surrogate big brother for freckle-faced Joel who loved to play cowboys and Indians.

Although I missed Sara, Peggy, and Maurice, I saw Joe from time to time when he passed through Miami on his buying trips to New York and Montreal.

Probably the most difficult part of adjusting to life in Florida was witnessing the discrimination by white people against blacks. Buses prominently displayed signs directing blacks to sit in the last three rows; they were forced to use separate bathrooms and water fountains; and were not allowed to eat in the same restaurants as white people or use public beaches. I had not been used to this in Barbados and it made me very uneasy.

When I could put this grim reality out of my mind, there were many new things to see and do. TV was a novelty and I often watched the “Howdy Doody” show with Joel on Miriam’s black-and-white set after school. I enjoyed roaming around in Woolworth’s and Kresge’s 5¢-and-10¢ stores with their huge selection of toys and was fascinated by the escalators in Burdines Department store where Joe sometimes took me shopping when he visited Miami. Supermarkets with their endless varieties of food were also intriguing but I was particularly fond of the corner store near Miriam’s that sold my favourite dessert – miniature cans of fruit cocktail. It was a treat to wander on Lincoln Road (now a pedestrian mall) past store after store with their doors wide open, blowing cold air out in an attempt to lure customers inside. Even as a 12-year-old I was struck by this wastefulness, knowing that electricity in Barbados was so expensive.

On Friday night, Miriam always lit candles and served a traditional Shabbat dinner. On Saturday morning, service at Temple Emanuel, next door to the congregational school, was followed by a lunch of cold  chicken sandwiches on challah slathered with mayonnaise. So delicious I can still taste them 60 years later.

Saturday night roller-skating in the park across the street from Miriam’s home was a popular activity for the neighbourhood youngsters and I joined a throng of other kids who skated around and around the four adjoining tennis courts until the music was turned off around 10 PM. Sundays were reserved for swimming at one of the hotel pools on the Beach where Miriam and Norma, a divorced, blond bombshell, rented a cabana. In retrospect, I suspect both were anxious to meet men because neither ever left their deck chairs to venture into the pool. Because Joel could barely swim, I amused myself by jumping off the diving board or searching for loose change that I sometimes found at the bottom of the pool.

Halloween was unknown in Barbados but that fall I was introduced to the holiday by Harris, a neighbourhood peer I had befriended. He dressed up as the Grim Reaper, wearing a sheet over his head and carrying a scythe and I, as Father Time, wearing a sandwich board decorated with clocks front and back. Although the treats were great, I remember feeling a little stupid walking around the neighbourhood in costume.

The academic standards at Dade Junior High, the public school I attended, were so much lower than those at Lodge, I hardly had to study the entire year and while I enjoyed the “vacation” this permitted, being in a co-ed environment was even better, especially since our music teacher allowed us to play spin the bottle in class. Congregational school was an entirely different matter as Miriam took her job seriously and expected me to work hard. In my Bar Mitzvah class I studied my Torah portion and maftir, and rehearsed with the help of an audiotape my instructor had prepared.

I had many wonderful experiences that year: eating at the famous Wolfie’s Delicatessen with Joe when he was in town; visiting the Parrot  Jungle; watching Jai Lai and the dog races on TV; and “almost” rubbing shoulders with the famous boxer, Rocky Graziano, who supposedly owned the large house just down the street from Miriam’s. I witnessed the northward expansion of the Collins Avenue hotel strip and the beginning decline of the smaller hotels that now comprise the Art Deco district. By the end of my stay, I had become very fond of Miriam, Joel, and Norma, and knew I would miss them when I returned home.

Family in Guatemalia for my Bar Mitzvah. Standing L-R: José Habe, aunt Lily, Sara,   my grandparents, Joe, Sarita and Abie Habie. Sitting: Joel Solkoff, Zakiya Habie. Carol Gerstenhaber, Marice, and Miriam Solkoff

At the beginning of August 1953, my parents and Maurice [Simon’s brother] met me in Miami and we flew to Guatemala. My Bar Mitzvah took place at the Hebrew Centre in Guatemala City on August 8th. My grandparents and my Uncle Edy and Aunt Lily were there, along with many of their friends. To show their appreciation for all that she had done for me, my parents invited Miriam and Joel to join us, and they came too. A Kiddush  lunch followed the morning service and there was a dinner in the evening. I know this not because I remember it but only because I have a copy of the invitation! The only memories I have are of a few of the gifts I received, a camera from my uncle and aunt, a biography of Chaim Weitzman from Miriam, and a blue Parker fountain pen with my name engraved on it.

I learned practically nothing at Dade Jr. High the year I was there and paid dearly for it when I returned to Lodge in September 1953. The headmaster decided I was too far behind to be promoted and kept me back in second form. I was disappointed, but in retrospect it was probably a good thing because had I been promoted, I would have been only 16 when I graduated and probably too immature to start university.

— from More Than Just Words, A Memoir by Simon Kreindler

Copyright © 2013 by Simon Kreindler. All rights reserved.

My first cancer survival at age 28

I have been describing my third cancer experience at age 65 when I was diagnosed in April in State College PA and had a successful operation in August in New York City at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

  • How did I survive cancer three times?
  • How was I able to father two daughters after massive radiation treatment?
  • Why was cancer treatment responsible for my becoming a paraplegic?
  • What was my emotional state during these three experiences which otherwise might have forced me to concentrate on death rather than enjoying life?

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Answers may be difficult to provide, but what follows is my first attempt to use language for the ineffable.

Five years after my experience with Hodgkin’s disease, my publication on the subject in The New York Times, my appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America, I received a book contract and proceeded to interview formally (receiving signed releases) and on tape the accounts of my:

  • Oncologist
  • Lover
  • Surgeon
  • Mother
  • Father
  • Friends
  • Therapists
  • Members of the therapy group who first learned I had cancer

Writing the book was difficult especially revisiting the radiation treatment room at George Washington University Medical Center where the chief radiologist had died from exposure to his own machines.

Making the difficult an easy read was also difficult and slow.

What follows is Chapter One of Learning to Live Again, My Triumph Over Cancer.

[Readers desirous of obtaining the entire book, praised by the prestigious Library Journal, may download it here and now. http://www.joelsolkoff.com/book-store/books/learning-to-live-again-my-triumph-over-cancer/

What follows is the entire chapter one of Learning to Live Again: My Triumph Over Cancer, published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, then a subsidiary of CBS.

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Chapter 1

I DO NOT HAVE CANCER ANYMORE. The disease was treated by conventional radiation therapy, and my physicians say that it has been eradicated. I believe that I have been cured, despite a recurring nightmare that a doctor is examining my body, checking for lumps.

Today, I had lunch with Laura in the oak-paneled dining room of the Hay-Adams Hotel. We each had two drinks and needed more. Our love affair became a casualty of the cancer cure. Too much intensity was confined to too short a period of time, time that always seemed to be running out. Although we tried afterward, we were unable to salvage our relationship. Today, I told Laura that I am engaged to marry another woman—Diana, whom I met after the cancer experience was over. Laura and I toasted to the future—a future that we will not share.

It is spring here in Washington. The cherry blossoms are out early.

Spring this year feels the same as it did five years ago. I continue to live in the same city and in the same apartment. At thirty-three, I am too young to write my memoirs. Yet that is what I am doing, reliving the period five years ago when I was diagnosed as having cancer and feared death. The diagnosis and its treatment—over a period of six months—was the worst experience of my life. Remembering how poorly I behaved is worse than remembering the physical pain and the fear.

Now, five years later, my statistical category has changed. Today I conform to the American Cancer Society’s definition of cured: five years without a recurrence of symptoms. A generation ago my type of cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, was described as “invariably fatal.” A generation ago I could not have survived five years. I would not have lived to interview family, friends, and physicians, nor to revisit the hospital in which I was operated upon and treated. The difficulties of remembering and surviving would have been denied me.

ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON, April 23, 1976, I am sitting in a doctor’s office worrying. Worrying is something that I do a lot and am good at. At the time I do not realize that I have much more reason for concern than when I normally worry about (a) money, (b) getting the article in on time, (c) my relationship with Laura, (d) finishing the book, (e) cleaning the apartment, and so on. Specifically, I am in the waiting room of Aaron Falk’s * office because there is a small lump—about the size of a golf ball—under my right arm. The lump does not hurt, and it is noticeable to no one but me. However, it has been there for a number of weeks, and several times a day I find myself feeling under my armpit to check whether it has gone away. The lump has joined my mental list of things to worry about.

Given how regularly I worry about my health—running to a doctor’s office at the first sign of a cold, a sore throat, or a backache—I do not anticipate that my first appointment with Dr. Falk will be noticeably different from previous appointments with other doctors. My experience as a mild hypochondriac is that doctors find my ailments boring. I leave their offices feeling embarrassed for bothering them and stupid for paying so much money to find out that there’s nothing wrong with me.

Indeed, I have made the appointment because I want to be reassured that nothing is wrong with me. This time I am sufficiently concerned about the lump that I am willing to risk the likely embarrassment and expense. However, the longer I sit in the waiting room, the more convinced I become that the lump is inconsequential and that it will probably disappear if I wait long enough. I am convinced that Dr. Falk, whom I have yet to meet, will be polite, but in a tone that will imply that doctors go to medical school to cure really sick people and why does he have to waste his time seeing obviously healthy people like me.

As I read the plastic sign welcoming patients to talk about physician fees with the physician, I decide that now that I am in the doctor’s office, I can stop worrying about the lump and start worrying about money. My concern about money at this time has a rational aspect to it. As a free-lance writer my income is precarious. I have difficulty obtaining insurance. My previous policy, with Stan, a friend of a friend who agreed to let me join his group plan, was terminated because Stan pocketed the payments rather than sending them to Blue Cross. That experience has made me feel insecure about my current plan, with the newly formed Washington Independent Writers. The paperwork is already fouled up. Despite the organization’s reassurance that my membership card has been processed and is in the mail, I worry that I may not be covered by insurance at all. So as I appraise the doctor’s office, which is in an expensive neighborhood, provides free parking for its patients, has its own laboratory on the premises, and offers a spacious waiting room (where a large potted plant has cedar chips covering the soil), I am concerned that the tests and doctor’s fee will be more than I can afford—and all for a complaint that will probably turn out to be nothing.

Aaron Falk begins, as doctors do, by asking why I have come to see him. I tell him about the lump under my arm, that it has been there for several weeks, that it doesn’t hurt, and that it hasn’t gone away. I ask, “Is it serious?”

He says, “I don’t know yet. First let’s get the usual questions out of the way. Then we’ll go next door where you’ll take your clothes off and I’ll examine you. We’ll take some routine blood tests and a chest X ray. When we’re done with that we’ll come back here and I’ll tell you what I think, assuming I think anything. Okay? Now, how old are you?”

“Twenty-eight.”

“Profession?”

“I’m a writer, specializing in agricultural policy.” We talk about that for a while.

We get along instantly. Our ability to communicate seems uncanny. There are not the usual barriers that separate doctor from patient. Dr. Falk is only seven years older than I, so we relate as peers. He is not condescending toward me, as are physicians who make themselves inaccessible because of their specialized knowledge.

BY THE END Of the day, I was calling him by his first name, because it seemed artificial for him to call me Joel while I was calling him Dr. Falk. In retrospect, I must have decided to trust Aaron as soon as we met, when I entered his private office and sat down on the wood-and-wicker chair.

At the time of this first visit, I knew nothing about his educational background. Dr. Falk graduated from Harvard College and went to the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. I also did not find out, until much later, that Dr. Falk and I shared a similar religious upbringing: he attended the Hebrew Academy of Washington; I went to the Hebrew Academy of Miami Beach. While I soon rejected the ritual and ever-present discipline of orthodox Judaism, Dr. Falk continued to observe it. Indeed given the additional distance I was then putting between myself and Judaism, if I had known about our shared religious background, it would have put distance between us.

AARON is the same height as I am-5 feet 10 inches. He is thin and although prematurely gray, he looks younger than he is. Our preliminary small talk clearly makes him impatient, an impatience he has difficulty curbing. He recognizes the necessity of getting acquainted, but fidgets as he sits, uncertain about what to do with his large hands and arms, patently restraining the impulse to dash down the corridor and “do something.” This impatient, almost distracted manner extends to his dress. He is wearing a regulation jacket and tie, but it is that and no more, he looks neither dapper nor even coordinated, his clothes the expression of a man who has more important concerns. He talks in spurts, the way professors do who are more comfortable with scholarship than students. Sentences are strung together rapid-fire, followed by long pauses while he weighs each word. He suspects that he’s transparent and that everyone knows what he’s thinking when he’s thinking it. So Aaron smiles a lot during his embarrassed pauses or when I am talking too long, as if to say, Dealing with people comes awkwardly, but I want you to like me. The smiles work. His eyes light up, expressing interest, even tenderness.

“Marital status?” Aaron asks.

I must be more frightened than I realize. Rather than say, “Single and divorced,” which is how I usually automatically answer the question, I launch into an exposition on the intricacies of New York State’s divorce laws, which five years previous made it more convenient to get an annulment than a divorce. When I respond to a simple question with a long, irrelevant answer, it means that I don’t want to deal with whatever’s going on.

On the way to the examination room he asks how I’ve been referred to him. I say, “I see Dr. Bernstein” (an ear-nose-and-throat specialist whom I visit for colds and allergy attacks). “I asked the secretary what kind of doctor specializes in lumps. She said an internist and gave me your name.”

“You certainly are lucky,” Aaron says. “Not only am I an internist, but this office’s specialty is hematology.” (He does not mention that the office’s other specialty is oncology—the treatment of cancer.)

We are now inside the examination room and he says, “Take off your clothes and I’ll be right back.”

“What’s hematology?”

He stops moving and answers. “It deals with disorders of the blood. It means, you might say, that lumps are our bag.”

What he says frightens me. Instead of asking the obvious—”Do I have a disorder of the blood?”—I revert to worrying about money. Telling him of my concern I say, “Tests are expensive and I’m short of funds right now. Can you go easy on the tests?”

Abruptly, he places his right arm against the door, as if to stop himself from exiting. Turning toward me, he seems suddenly angry as he says, “Nobody’s going to tell me how to practice medicine. If I order tests, it’s because I think they’re necessary. I’m a doctor and my concern is your health. I don’t give a damn about the money. If you can’t afford it, then you can’t afford it. We’ll work something out. You’ll pay me if you can, and if you can’t then you can’t. Money is the last thing we need to worry about now. I’m not going to let you tie my hands by telling me not to order the tests I need to practice quality medicine.”

After I take off my clothes, he feels the lump under my right arm, asking whether it hurts as he touches it. It doesn’t hurt. Kneading my skin with his fingertips, he feels for lumps under my left arm, under my ears and behind my neck, across my abdomen, and at my groin. There aren’t any other lumps.

He asks, “Do you have sudden chills or wake up sweating in the middle of the night?

“Have you been running a fever?

“Do you have sudden outbreaks of itching?

“Have you recently experienced sudden and unexplained weight loss?

“Do you suffer from loss of appetite?”

I answer no to all the questions, and when they stop, I say, “Why are you asking me this? What’s wrong with me?”

He says, “I don’t know that anything’s wrong with you. Go to the lab around the corner—he points the way—”and they’ll take some blood. The nurse there will direct you to the X-ray room. After you’re done with the chest X ray, get dressed and return to my office. Then, we’ll talk.”

If there were more room in the office, he’d probably pace, trying to figure out some way of saying what he wants to say without frightening me. Instead, he leans awkwardly against a bookshelf and, in a rush to get it over with, blurts out, “Look, I don’t know what the lump is. It’s probably nothing, but I don’t know. I think it’s a good idea for you to see a surgeon so he can remove the lump from your arm and we can examine it and find out what it is.” He is trying hard to convey as much information as possible, so I can understand his perspective and make a rational decision. He smiles abruptly, as if to apologize for what he’s just told me, and asks, “Are you willing to see a surgeon?”

“I guess so.”

“Can you do it right now?”

“Yes.”

He gets on the phone and calls a surgeon named Cory Simpson and inquires whether he can see me right away. He can. Aaron says about me, “Yes, he’s perfectly capable of walking over. In fact, I’ll tell him to run over. He’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Aaron gives me Simpson’s address, which is about five blocks away. He says, “Look, it’s Friday afternoon and you’re lucky that Dr. Simpson can see you right now. I want him to have a look at your arm. Then come back here so we can talk.”

As I leave his office, he calls after me. “Hey, there’s nothing to worry about. I don’t want you to be alarmed. It’s best to do these things quickly, just to be on the safe side.”

As I am crossing L Street and New Hampshire Avenue, it does not occur to me to question why I am listening to this doctor’s urgent instructions or why I trust him. I am puzzled because never before has a physician taken my physical ailments quite this seriously. Fear is creeping up on me, fear because the doctor has asked me specific questions and because it seems that I have a specific disease; fear because he says he specializes in disorders of the blood and by implication that’s what I may have; fear because I am en route to a surgeon. I have never had an operation, and I’m a coward when it comes to pain. Fear because a doctor thinks that an operation is necessary at all. But I don’t actually feel frightened yet. I can tell that the fear is coming, but am able to put it off, not wanting to be afraid, too busy concentrating on getting to Simpson’s office and on obtaining as quickly as possible a new range of information that I’ll need to deal with this situation. I know that I’ll be frightened later, but for the moment my curiosity is stronger than the fear. I consciously decide—like Spock in “Star Trek”—to banish my emotions and concentrate on being logical.

I arrive at Dr. Simpson’s office and am filling out the insurance form when the doctor comes out. “Are you Mr. Solkoff?” Pointing to the insurance form, he says, “You can do that later. Why don’t you come into my office?”

Simpson is also not much older than I. He is tall, thin, and wears a tapered three-piece designer suit. Among George Washington University medical students, who are notoriously hard on their instructors, he has a reputation for being a very fast and very good surgeon.

Right away, I find him to be unpretentious and easy to understand. He feels the lump under my arm and says that he doesn’t think there will be any problem removing it. He reassures me that the operation won’t be painful (which I don’t believe), that I’ll be awake while he does it, and that I can return to work right away.

I say, “What’s the rush? Why did Dr. Falk tell me to run over here?”

“Aaron has a tendency to be enthusiastic. He probably thinks it’s a good idea to find out quickly what that ‘lump,’ as you call it, really is.”

“What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Aaron.”

SIMPSON’S ATTITUDE toward me, from the beginning, was matter-of-fact. Later, he told me, “In reality, as a surgeon I was actually put in the position of being just a technician. I was not making major decisions regarding your care. The major decisions were really made by Dr. Falk—and you, of course.” He explained that surgeons, like anyone else, would prefer to be creative and in a position of authority.

Instead, as often happens, he was asked to do a routine task which he had done hundreds of times before. He was perfectly willing to explain the procedure to me and consistently answered every question asked about surgery and possible complications. However, regarding speculations on my diagnosis and life chances he continually referred me back to Aaron, whom he regarded as my primary physician. Whenever I asked whether he thought a procedure Aaron recommended was necessary, he said yes, telling me that Aaron was a respected physician who specialized in conditions like mine and whose judgment was trustworthy.

Eventually Simpson told me, “You and I are relatively close in age, and since I could avoid thinking about your dying, I did.”

Simpson and I never became friends, as opposed to my relationship with Aaron. I still don’t know Simpson well, and I doubt that many people do. Yet I respected him. He was easy to be with during painful and stressful situations. Like Aaron, he has an off-beat sense of humor, which we shared and enjoyed, and while there was nothing memorable about our jokes and bantering, it made future events easier that we all “horsed around” (as Aaron put it), often in a self-deprecating way. Given the closeness in our ages, none of us took offense or felt threatened when I complained about Simpson’s sutures or Aaron’s plans for treatment or when they complained about my behavior. Had they been much older, or had I been much older, my relationship with my doctors would have been more decorous—making the whole experience grimmer.

BACK AT AARON’S OFFICE, I ask what he thinks the lump is. He says, “It may be nothing at all, just some fatty tissue.” “But you think it’s something else?”

“I don’t think it’s something else. I don’t know what it is. That’s why I want to find out.”

“What else might it be?”

“It’s probably a benign tumor.”

I am frightened by the word tumor. Having assumed that I’d never have to deal with a tumor, each time the word appears in conversation I tune it out. “If it’s benign, why is it swollen?” I ask Aaron.

“All tumors are enlargements, abnormal growths. Most just happen, for reasons which are complicated and about which we’re not entirely sure.

Most tumors are benign, which means they’re not serious, and when we remove them, there’s nothing to worry about. The chances are that yours is benign and that when Dr. Simpson removes it, you and I will be done and you can go about your business.”

“And if it’s a serious tumor?” I don’t want to say the word cancer.

“I don’t think it’s serious, but if it is, then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

We talk about scheduling for the operation. He wants the tumor out of me as quickly as possible. I realize that walking around worrying that I have “something serious” when I probably don’t is stupid, and the sooner I know the better. But I don’t want someone else or something else controlling my life. I have an article to complete on Cesar Chavez, which Marty Peretz, the owner of The New Republic, commissioned and is expecting. Already, I am beginning the process of negotiating, trying to fit the problem of my tumor into my schedule. Aaron says firmly, “Don’t wait too long. This is something that should be taken care of right away.” I promise to call Simpson’s office and schedule an appointment.


 * While all characters in this book are real, several names have been changed.

This material is copyrighted © 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

[Reminder, to read the rest of the book, please click this link: http://www.joelsolkoff.com/book-store/books/learning-to-live-again-my-triumph-over-cancer/]

learning-to-live-again-triumph1

 

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Here is Tim McGraw singing on just this very subject.

He said 
I was in my early forties 
With a lot of life before me 
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime 
I spent most of the next days 
Looking at the x-rays 
Talkin’ ’bout the options 
And talkin’ ’bout sweet time” 

I asked him
“When it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How’s it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what’d you do?”

He said
“I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying”

He said
“I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn’t
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishin’
Wasn’t such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I’d do if I could do it all again…

And he said

“Someday I hope you get the chance

To live like you were dying

Like tomorrow was a gift

And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?