I believe in God. Specifically, I believe in the God who appeared to Moses in the form of the burning bush. Moses asks: “Who are you?” God says: “I am who I am.”
As a mystic, not much more can be said about God with this exception. God is not a He nor a She. God is genderless. Given my contrarian nature, I have taken to refer to God as She in no small part because doing so upsets some people. E.g.:
One of my heroes is Edward R. Murrow. The great North-Carolina-born journalist instituted a series of radio programs ( which on NPR continue to this day) on what prominent people believe.
I am not prominent, but I am old (71j and am so dyed-in-the-wool Jewish that what I believe is equivalent at least in my own mind to what Judaism is or ought to be.
I can readily trace the conceit of my own rectitude to my mother who was an impressive woman and educator. Despite a lifetime of self-doubt, Mother never doubted that to be a proper Jew one must do what she insisted upon.
For me, my belief in God is the least import aspect of being Jewish. I would argue it is irrelevant to what truly matters; namely, “If I am for myself alone, what good am I.”
One consequence of my going to Israel to fight in the Six Day War ( where I arrived at Lodd Airport on Day Four) was that despite the Israeli government’s understandable 1967 assertion (that the impending War was the 1948 War of Independence all over again) was my surprise upon being asked by the military official in charge of the airport,” Why are you here? “ My response (after kissing the tarmac and saying the requisite bracha):
“Whatever you want.”
Had it been 1948, I would have been handed a Stenn gun and sent to the Syrian front where the IDF troops scaling the Golan Heights suffered the worst deaths of the War.
Instead, being untrained naive and young, I was sent to a dairy farm in the South where I was badly needed to shovel the manure that had been built up while the farmer I had partially replaced was off in the Sinai reinventing tank warfare.
My Israeli experience as a migrant agricultural worker resulted in my becoming an agricultural policy expert ( of sorts):
Most recently, my “expertise” has resulted in my efforts to affirm Eli Weisel’s insistance that being a Jew ( surrounded as I had been in the 1950s by tattooed survivors of the Holocaust) requires us as Jews to end genocide of whatever form; specifically in Yemen, the Mayanmar region of what used to be Burma, Venezuela ( most especially on the Western border in Colombia) the Sudan, and ….
Here is the book I am most eager to complete and publish:
DEVELOPING A BLUEPRINT FOR FEEDING THE 20 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO ARE STARVING TO DEATH
Here is a relatively recent expression of what I regard as my primary life’s work:
Fortunately or unfortunately my rotten health ( which is to blame for my not being in shul yesterday) has required me to pay attention to a pressing reality(intervening in what I regard as my primary work).
For the past two years, I have been suffering from one of the many consequences of radiation treatment that cured me of two of the three cancers I have survived and which resulted in my losing the ability to walk and stand 25 years ago.
The radiation has badly damaged my GI tract which has resulted in an inability to swallow, required that I relearn how to eat, and which most recently is manifesting itself in a severe cough. Last week, I was seen by the Digestive Diseases clinic at UPMC and with any luck I will receive surgery in June to put me on the road to recovery.
In February, by impulse or necessity, I moved to Williamsport after over 15 years in State College. Here I am receiving medical treatment unavailable in State College. And here, as a result of Larissa Simon’s efforts, that of Ohev Shalom and you, I have been rescued. Details available.
How I am able to write and write and write despite the failures of my body surprise me. The image that comes to mind is that my mind is in fifth gear; my body in second.
Clearly, it is time to stop this seemingly endless e-mail but I must first mention the following Yiddishkite issues of importance to me:
1. The revival of the Hebrew language. Eliezer ben Yehuda and Bialik, Bialik, Bialik.
2. The understanding that the killing of Jews in Pittsburgh and Southern California makes clear that, as Jabotinsky expressed it, in the Diaspora even the rocks are anti-Semitic.
3. The shameful way in which the elderly and disabled are treated in our society.
4. My reverence for the late Rabbi Heschel, Professor of Mysticism and Theology at the Jewish Theological Seminary who marched with Dr. King as did I.
I am preparing to become a grandfather; Joanna’s due date is early April, 2016
“Driving to the World Series of Rodeo in Oklahoma City while listening to the Eagles over the radio” might be considered an eccentric way of saying, “My elder daughter Joanna is pregnant. The due date is April 2016. I am counting down the months ahead when I will be handing out cigars–chewing gum, chocolate and real tobacco cigars while announcing, “I am a Zeyda.”
In my culture Zeyda is all the title required to command respect for my wisdom, sagacity, and mindfulness. [Yes, there are the parents Joanna and Jade to consider.]
With a grandfatherly purpose (which will be revealed) I write about the 1972 World Series of Rodeo with deliberate intent. The appearance of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is deliberate.
“Keep on Trucking,” especially in this R. Crumb rendition, is a lifetime motto although as I prepare to become a Zeyda my mind turns to 1972 and the Gusher Club in Oklahoma City
The news that I am about to become a grandfather has been occupying all lobes of my brain.
Except, like Donovan’s Brain, my brain has expanded to prepare for Amelia and Javier’s wedding August, 2016, Chapel Hill, NC where I will be giving away the bride to Javier Blanco a sergeant in the Spanish Army. Amelia and Javier live in Toledo [not Ohio]. The wedding will be officiated by my friend Adam Phillips.
You Tube Note:
When I came to the emergency room a week ago Thursday, a massive infection swept through my body. On my site, I will provide a list of names of the physicians who saved my life. I will also tell you about my doctors, the staff–wonderful staff–who paraded in and out my room. When I arrived, I was so infectious that I could not kiss you [whoever you are.]
Now you can kiss me. Toward the end of my stay only hospital workers had to wear gowns when entering my room. They also had to shed gowns immediately upon leaving. Visitors did not have to wear gowns. The gown-precaution was to reduce the remote chance that the oncology patients on the forth floor might catch a germ from a hospital worker.
Immediately after this film, my physician in charge walked in without a gown and shook my hand without a glove. Yesterday, Dr. Salmon Haroon told me that it is safe for me to visit my daughter Joanna who is pregnant with my first grandchild.
This video will be the first of future efforts to work with hospital architects and maintenance administrators to make Mt. Nittany hospital rooms more accessible while at the same reducing costs. In February I plan to publish an academic technical report for the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center on this subject.
In 1972, after flying back from the New York courthouse where I obtained an annulment from Vicki, I became a legal resident in the State of California. After living with a good friend, I decided to live alone which also pleased Hadley.
On the flight from the annulment, Mary, a California-raised nurse then living in New York, was on vacation. A brief conversation about the fact that she was wearing yellow glasses may have contributed to our arranging to sit next to each other. Deer hunters wear yellow glasses to better kill their prey trying to hide behind trees. Why Mary was wearing yellow glasses from JFK to San Francisco airport….
I explained to Mary that I had a lot of business ahead of me:
–Renting an apartment
–Traveling to REMOTE Northern California where I had spoken to legendary cartoonist R. Crumb by phone in NYC, but whom I wanted to see in person
–Preparing to drive from San Francisco to Lubock, Texas and then take a bus to Oklahoma City where I would be lodged at the World Series of Rodeo headquarters hotel, drink with cowboys and cowgirls and the author of Dallas North 40 in the Hilton’s Gusher Club and cover bull riding and the other events three hours a night for five nights and several blurry early mornings.
Mary said she would spend her vacation helping me find an apartment. She said helping me generally sounded like fun. However, first we had to go on a helicopter ride.
We flew from the San Francisco Airport to the Oakland Airport where Mary had reserved an automobile. She called her sister whom she had been planning to visit. It was a private call. Then, she drove to the house I shared with Hadley on Bernal Heights. http://www.datapointed.net/2010/02/more-steeps-of-san-francisco/bernal heights
“I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!” Less than 12 hours after delivered his I Have Been to the Mountaintop speech (excerpted below), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed.
I have been to the mountaintop
It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”
And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
“If, when you have entered the land that the Lord your God has given you, and occupied it and settled in it, you shall be free to set a king over yourself… Moreover, [the King] shall shall not keep many horses or send many people backed to Egypt to add to the horses. ‘You must never go back that way again. ‘”
–Deuteronomy, 17:14, Jewish Publication Society translation (2)
I am musing over the idea of being a grand father. Grand father.
Amelia Altalena Solkoff (r) with Javier Blanco. The couple will be married August 2016, Chapel Hill, NC
Observations on my maternal grandfather
My San Francisco Noe Valley apartment was like living in San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House
Winslow, Arizona. Yes, the radio was playing “Well, I’m a standing on a corner/in Winslow, Arizona/ and such a fine sight to see…” just as I picked up a hitchhiker
“Take It Easy” by the Eagles, lead singer Don Henley
Well, I’m running down the road tryin’ to loosen my load I’ve got seven women on my mind,
Four that wanna own me, Two that want to stone me; one that says she is a friend of mine.
Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me
Come on, baby, don’t say maybe I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me
We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again so open up, I’m climbin’ in, so take it easy
Well I’m running down the road trying to loosen my load, got a world of trouble on my mind lookin’ for a lover who won’t blow my cover, she’s so hard to find
Take it easy, take it easy don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy come on baby, don’t say maybe I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me, oh oh oh
Oh we got it easy We oughta take it easy, Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can don’t even try to understand Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy
Flashback Three Weeks Earlier: Mary and I drive to R. Cromb’s remote hermit-like retreat
The “side trip” to Crumb’s kitchen in the woods took place before Mary returned to NYC. Also, the visit took place before I obtained a car stopping at Winslow, Arizona en route to Lubbock, Texas where I dropped off the car and took a bus to Oklahoma City.
My experience with R. Crumb took place in 1970 where I worked for Scanlan’s Magazine where Crumb published two covers–illustrations that so dominated the front cover critics in New York City (for personal reasons unwilling to provide coverage to Scanlan’s) could not help but provide us with coverage because Crumb’s work is so startlingly good and mind bending.
In addition to being research director at Scanlan’s and co-author of a cover story on Russian pornography, my job was to get in touch with Crumb when we needed him. Wikipedia’s account of Crumb’s whereabouts is incorrect. He was not in the South of France, as reported. Rather, Crumb and his wife lived in a community so remote that it made calling him by telephone extremely difficult and time consuming. I figured I might get enough to pay the rent if I interviewed Crumb. I also greatly admire Crumb and Ralph Steadman. Here is Ralph Steadman.
[Note from this site’s lamentably non-existent Protocol Editor who regrets the confusing manner in which this posting is being put together and who wonders about the relevance of my becoming a grandfather to a story involving R. Crumb, the World Series of Rodeo, Martin Luther King, Jr. and virtual reality in the construction industry. This is an elaborate way of saying that I may come back to this side-trip to R. Crumb or I may focus my attention on the fashion show put on by the wives of rodeo cowboys. This posting is coming together. However, I have not reached a conclusion–in my mind Yes; in practice Not yet. Please be patient. Festina lente.]
Shocking bull riding footage
“Sometimes it is prudent to know when to give up.” In February, 2011 I published these words plus the following two paragraphs on rodeo. I was writing a column on a subject totally unrelated to rodeo. Rather than get to the point immediately, I wrote about the rodeo. No relevant reason explains why I decided to write about the courage (perhaps misguided courage) of a cowboy who was waiting to ride a very angry bull. The hold of my now 43-year-old experience with rodeo still emerges when I least expect it. The relevance of rodeo to my prospective grandfather hood indicates….
The handler applies the fully charged cattle prod to the rear of a bull bred for ferocity. The cowboy—Slim really is his name—holds onto his hat with his left hand. In his right hand are the reigns, two strips of leather held on tightly at first, but capable of falling apart to help the rider jump away from the bucking bull to safety after the regulation eight second ride is complete.
The maximum score is 100 points; 50 for the rider and 50 for the bull. A mean angry bull is the most desirable because he gives the rider the opportunity to make the most money. This bull is mean. When the bull jumps higher after the cattle prod, Slim smiles with optimism. The gate leading to the ring fails to open. Historically, when the gate sticks, a confined maddened bull has been known to break both legs of a rider. Slim, who attended rodeo schools, is aware of the danger.As a reporter at the World Series of Rodeo at Oklahoma City (before it moved to Los Vegas), I am sitting next to the handlers on the inside wooden planks of the chute. It took considerable effort to get permission to be this close to Slim—close enough to watch his pupils dilate into huge ovals displaying a fear he cannot disguise. The lead handler asks Slim if he would like to wait 20 minutes before beginning the ride. Slim nods him off. The gate opens.
Six-time World Rodeo Champion Larry Mahan guided me through the inside world of professional rodeo
Peter Gent, former receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, provided me with detailed comparisons between professional football and professional rodeo
I convinced Peter to report on the fashion show in which cowboy wives exhibited the latest style–the layered look. The two of us were the only males in a large room filled with women drunk on cold duck, describing their lives, disclosing names of the women cheating on their husbands, providing up-to-the minute cancer reports on a friend recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Nothing bonds two journalists together like sharing exclusively a mind-altering view of life on a seemingly different planet.
[Note: This video from Gent’s movie version of North Dallas Forty contains language not suitable for minors and others who like English expressed without non-stop obscenities. Note required on what is fit to publish and why,]
“Peter Gent, a receiver for the Dallas Cowboys of the 1960s whose best-selling novel “North Dallas Forty” portrayed professional football as a dehumanizing business that drove pain-racked players to drug and alcohol abuse, died Friday in Bangor, Mich. He was 69.
Gent (pronounced Jent) never played college football — he was a basketball star at Michigan State — and he caught only four touchdown passes in five seasons with the Cowboys.
But he achieved an enduring niche as a writer, most notably with “North Dallas Forty,” his first novel, published in 1973. He contributed to the screenplay for the 1979 movie of the same title in which Nick Nolte played a role drawing partly on Gent’s career.
Amarillo by morning, up from San Antone. Everything that I’ve got is just what I’ve got on. When that sun is high in that Texas sky I’ll be bucking it to county fair. Amarillo by morning, Amarillo I’ll be there.
They took my saddle in Houston, broke my leg in Santa Fe. Lost my wife and a girlfriend somewhere along the way. Well I’ll be looking for eight when they pull that gate, And I’m hoping that judge ain’t blind. Amarillo by morning, Amarillo’s on my mind.
Amarillo by morning, up from San Antone. Everything that I’ve got is just what I’ve got on. I ain’t got a dime, but what I got is mine. I ain’t rich, but Lord I’m free. Amarillo by morning, Amarillo’s where I’ll be. Amarillo by morning, Amarillo’s where I’ll be.
“A long long time ago/when we were young and pretty,/we ruled the world, we stopped the time, we knew it all, we owned this city/Running with the crowd, carefree and proud I heard somebody say/….”
The Corona virus appears, when least expected, In this case in my memories of my first “real” job now 50 years ago. “O tempora! O mores!” as that old windbag Cicero once exclaimed.
Afterward: For more on how Scanlan’s Monthly in June 1970 failed to disrupt that august race try as it might to disrupt the derby as effectively as Covid-19 already has, please six years ago, I published this account of my eight month career at Scanlan’s because I badly needed to raise money to attend my younger daughter Amelia Altalena’s wedding where I “gave away the bride.” This posting below was a gimmick to sell my complete set of Scanlan’s Monthly.Had I not loved my daughter so, I might have waited forever before parting for $480 with this memory of what I had done when I was 23– now 50 years ago.
Think twice about Germany. From my personal collection.
Why this posting is being published before completion:
To await the references from William Gillis, editor The American Historian, to arrive by U.S. mail. Gillis is the author of a brilliant paper on Scanlan’s Monthly written as a graduate student at E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Here is a link to the paper presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Toronto, Canada, August: 2004. http://list.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0411a&L=aejmc&P=46716
To acknowledge that without Gillis’s paper giving my 8 issue service at Scanlan’s a patina of respectability, I would not have had the courage to write let alone publish this work in progress.
To sell a complete set on Scanlan’s on e-Bay or to the highest bidder, preferably a well-healed university. Gillis says it is difficult now for scholars to read the publication. [Scholars!]
To entice Ralph Steadman to send me the original drawings of his work that appeared in Scanlan’s. Most especially, this one which I saw him create at the editorial offices above a bar in the then seedy section of Times Square.
Scanned from my personal collection
[Query: How do I get this to read 7 instead of 1?] As a kindly suggestion for Chanukah / Christmas presents to suggest purchasing children’s book and not-for-children art as gifts while the British pound is weak and the dollar strong: http://www.ralphsteadman.com/
To locate J.C. Suares whose work at Scanlan’s prepared for the creation with David Schneiderman of the op-ed page of The New York Times.
To express appreciation to Warren Hinckle III [http://www.argonaut360.com/] not only for having shared with him months of near-lunacy [near?] but appreciation for his work at Rampart’s which convinced Martin Luther King, Jr. to denounce the War in Vietnam.
[Query: How do I get this to read 9 instead of 1?] To allow frequent site contributor Hadley Baxendale to make a pre-publication comment to this prematurely published posting.
To convince my skeptical webmaster and friend Kathy Forer I really did work for a publication that PAID for advertising
My first “real” job: Scanlan’s Monthly 1971 [NOT for minors]
Working at Scanlan’s was one of the weirdest experiences of my life
The advertisement that begins this posting is a good example of what I mean by weird:
This is the back cover of the second issue of Scanlan’s Monthly where in 1970 I worked on the editorial staff after having been hired at the downstairs bar of Sardi’s Restaurant.
This is the upstairs bar at Sardi’s:
Sardi’s Restaurant is located on West 44th Street in the Times Square neighborhood of Manhattan. Founded in 1927, Sardi’s is across from the center of the theater district.
The restaurant appears regularly in films showing Broadway producers, playwrights, and actors celebrating or bemoaning the first performance of a play. Generally, the scene includes an out loud reading of a review from The New York Times, a review that either made or broke the play. [Note: the offices of The New York Times are around the corner; Clive Barnes then its theater critic was a bar regular.]
Working out of bars in fancy New York City restaurants was an essential part of my first real job after graduating from Columbia College. [Many years later President Barack Obama received his bachelor’s degree from Columbia.]
I was 21 years old, having majored in Medieval European History without a salable skill to my name except the bravado to convince the magazine’s already notorious editors to hire me.
This was regarded as a dream job for any journalism school graduate. Only I was not a journalism graduate and had no formal training. As it would turn out, now that I am weeks away from my 67th birthday, I had no formal training to do any of the jobs that punctuated my career including:
Writing a speech for a controversial President of Lebanon who was literally blown up before he was able to deliver it
Publishing a book on food policy read by the most influential Secretary of Agriculture in my lifetime with whom I became telephone buddies after he was forced to resign from office in disgrace
Working on a report on the M1 tank for Congress’ General Accountability Office
Serving as a political appointee in the Carter Administration in a job requiring extensive security clearance and confirmation by the U.S. Senate
Designing on-line documentation for startup companies in the Silicon Valley of California describing how to use a software product when the software had not yet been completed
My first task of the day was to report to my boss the late Sidney Zion, co-editor of Scanlan’s Monthly. Instead of going to the magazine’s office, located between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, I got off the subway at Eighth Avenue and climbed the steps to the bar. Sidney appeared, first thing in the morning (11 A.M.) for his first scotch on the rocks.
Sidney, formerly a legal reporter for The New York Times, was my boss because only he was allowed to write checks.
Sidney’s co-editor Warren Hinckle, III, who had turned Rampart’s Magazine from a Catholic school publication into the Bible of the 1960s counterculture, was so notoriously a spendthrift he had to ask Sidney to write checks for his many expensive story ideas and ventures.
Warren was the most brilliant editor I ever worked for. (I have worked with many brilliant editors). With rare often disquieting exceptions, Sidney did little work.
Warren ran the magazine. Running the magazine was often a complicated affair because Warren lived in San Francisco where he had an office and staff —flying into New York once a week. My first experience with a FAX was the now primitive contraption that tied the two offices together sending editorial material and nonsense back and forth from coast to coast.
Let us start with the advertisement that begins this posting: Think twice about Germany. The third issue of Scanlan’s, for which I co-authored with Warren the cover story on Russian Pornography, had an editorial “THAT LUFTHANSA AD.”
The editors explained:
“Since Scanlan’s charges money to print letters to the editor (write us a letter and we’ll send you the rates), we make things more or less even by buying advertising. Our back cover last month carried an ad for Lufthansa, the German airlines—but not from Lufthansa.
“Some ads we buy because the editors like them and think they make interesting reading….Other ads we buy for other reasons, as you will see. One such ad appeared last month on our back cover. And for that story we take you to Advertising Age, the weekly newspaper of the advertising industry.
“NEW YORK, April 1—Second thoughts about the new Lufthansa German Airlines’ ad theme, ‘Think twice about Germany,’ appears to be in order.
“Scanlan’s Monthly’s April issue carries what at first glance appears to be a Lufthansa ad, but at second glance turns out to be a doctored version.
“The back cover ad of Scanlan’s substitutes two photos for the gemuelich scenes carried in the original Lufthansa ad, by D’Arcey Advertising. One of the pictures in the spurious ad shows a nude woman, hands bound behind her, about to be thrashed by a soldier while a cameraman records the scene. The second picture shows Wehrmacht officers giving the ‘Heil, Hitler’ salute.”
Thus endeth the editorial.
Subsequent Ad Age reports, read by the Scanlan’s staff avidly, reported the agency pulled its expensive campaign, one executive complaining about Scanlan’s “They did not even bother to show it to us first.”
A lasting consequence of Warren and Sidney’s stunt is today all advertising contains a copyright line, not then considered necessary because no publication ever had the effrontery to BUY advertising.
After revealing one of my first tasks on the job was to deliver by hand the check to the man who doctored the ad, the best way to proceed is to show how buying ads was possible.
What follows are photographs of the covers of each of the eight monthly magazines (with short descriptions of each) Scanlan’s produced before it went bankrupt and I was left unemployed.
Scanlan’s Monthly 3, May 1970, from my personal collection
Table of Contents
Copyright 2014 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved. As for the copyright status of bankrupt Scanlan's Monthly itself, the author welcomes comments from well-credentialed copyright attorneys.
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.”
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: https://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.
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.
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.
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!