Tag Archives: Sarah Schmerler

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–

How do I feel?

I do not feel real. There is a disconnect between my body, which does not feel good, and my mind, which does not feel good.

It is six in the morning. I am listening to Chopin’s Nocturnes; I am beginning to be not unhappy, but capable of realizing happiness will come.

My body feels as if it were hit by a Mack Truck—a brand new red truck exactly like the one friend Philip Moery and I saw just as it was driving off the assembly line lot–packing tons of raw power, initially a frightful yet beautiful sight.

All right, maybe the truck that hit me wasn’t red, but it still hurts.

Everything hurts.

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Amelia_Russo Office

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The fact that everything hurts is mitigated by the fact that I am no longer in excruciating pain the way I was two weeks ago.

The pills helped but not enough.

I took more pills and they did not help enough.

The pills caused my gastrointestinal system to go on strike—descriptions I will spare you.

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Yes, I realized my life had been saved as a consequence of the successful operation that not-so-appreciatively was making me wonder at my sanity to willingly submit to the aftermath of this surgery. Grappling two contradictory thoughts in my medicated head: The first was: I am glad to be alive. The second: I wish I were dead.

The glad to be alive prevailed throughout but sometimes only by a hair.

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Now, I am back at State College PA where I live. When I was in New York thinking about State College, I was in dread. The number of procedures required to get from there to here seemed overwhelming. Who, I wondered, was going to take apart my rear wheel drive scooter, my travel scooter, and my wheelchair and put them in the car?

At every step [sic] of the way, there were how-to-get-home questions ultimately only I could answer.

Dewy-eyed optimists might say that my problem solving was commendable because it was helping me reach my goal of saving my life.

Devastated, late in August, the problem-solving took on a distinctly unhappy feel. The problems had to be solved. I did not want to solve them. I had no choice.

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Upon arriving at State College, I was so relieved to be home. I had worried that everything with be dirty and a mess (on target), but it did not matter.

I no longer needed to receive permission to go to the bathroom and follow the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge rules requiring that I not bring my coffee from the common kitchen to my room.

Now, I can drink coffee as I type this and go to the bathroom without the nurse’s saying, “No.” No nurse. No No. Alone at last.

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Who am I alone? I am a 65 year old paraplegic (an active paraplegic) recovering from major surgery. It will take me two weeks more to recover to the point where I feel alive, an explication I will reserve.

I do not want to see other people. Slowly, I am emerging from this hermitage—going across the street for a quick Mediterranean plate with extra baba ganoush, inviting my friends to see me one-on-one and for a limited time only.

My body is not working well but is getting better. The key barometer to my well-being is the ability to transfer. Before surgery, I leapt out of bed and onto the wheelchair effortlessly.

Now, getting to the wheel chair is harder.

I do not fall.

I am weak.

While I am getting stronger, I really do not want to be outside home much until I master this key factor in being able to take care of myself, viz. transferring as effortlessly as before August 8.

It is happening.

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In some ways, I am surprisingly patient with myself.

Take for instance transferring from bed to wheelchair.

I methodically bend down and double check the wheelchair is locked in place.

When I put my left foot on the floor, preparing to swivel into the wheelchair seat, I check and double-check every move.

The consequences of falling; indeed, of falling frequently, is straight to the nursing home—the county home called Centre Crest; I do NOT want to go there.

Part of me is mindful of consequences.

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Before I discuss my emotions, which is the primary cause of my writing this posting:

The rank of football-rally-style cancer optimists is distressingly high.

Two apartment buildings where cancer patients recover or die are named Hope Lodge and Miracle House. I would prefer to have my conversations about hope and miracles with God and not  rely on some seemingly uplifting name to keep my spirits up.

This may be one of many unfair observations, which I will not spare you now or later.

Hope Lodge is run by the American Cancer Society and through its generosity provided my caregiver younger daughter Amelia had a place to stay when I was in the hospital and where she could be next to me when I returned to recover.

Hope confronting me everywhere….

One consequence of cancer survivor ebullience is the: Make every day count mantra.

The first every day I was somewhat functional upon my return, I had to fill out overdue forms–lots of forms from trying to obtain money to ensuring my continued employment.

Forms. Forms. Form

Every day I filled out forms I asked myself, not entirely ironically, whether I had survived cancer to fill out forms.

Yes, I realize that after I fill out enough forms, I can scoot to the florist on Allen Street and smell the yellow roses.

Inhale.

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I wrote a book about the importance of emotions while surviving cancerhttp://www.joelsolkoff.com/book-store/books/learning-to-live-again-my-triumph-over-cancer/

I know something about the subject.

This time, I prepared to protect myself emotionally and to provide my caregiver(s) with relief, orchestrating pleasant things to do.

Elsewhere, I may detail the preparations. Right now, trust me. I worked long and hard on emotional preparation.

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The big surprise to me is that I went crazy after the operation rather than before.

The craziness took the form my issuing barking mean and aggressive orders at my two caregivers, my daughter Amelia and my sister Sarah. I was polite to strangers.

The craziness reminded me of the time 20 years ago at the advice of the Chair of the Oncology and Chair of the Neurology Departments at the Chapel Hill Hospital for the University of North Carolina.

United in their decision both Chairs decided to put me on high doses of steroids to see whether they might restore my ability to walk. They did not think it would work and said so. However, steroids were the “miracle drug of the 1950s” and sometimes steroids have unanticipated positive consequences, so: “Why not? We have nothing to lose?”

Except my mind. I found myself saying terrible and abusive things—words I did not mean and knew I did not mean even before they formed on my lips, but words I was powerless not to utter because THE DRUG MADE ME DO IT.

Last week, I asked a secretary at the Department of Architectural Engineering whether she had a similar experience. “Yes, when my kids were born. I said awful things to my husband. Awful awful things.”

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Sarah_close

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The craziness appeared in the middle of the night as I was lying in my hospital bed, coughed, and my body felt as if it were split in two.

The craziness appeared as a wave—a fluctuating wave increasing in intensity until it reached a high and unpleasant peak before returning me two days later to reality shaken, not quite mindful of what I had said except that it was THE WRONG THING TO SAY.

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My sister Sarah told me on the phone on Thursday her feelings about me when I was crazy. “I knew that you were suffering. Yet you were mean and impossible to be around. I decided I never wanted to see you anytime again soon. If I saw you at your funeral, it would be too soon.”

Daughter Amelia asked: “Why were you so mean to me?”

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The expression I am in the dog house comes to mind.

  • I was crazy.
  • I was out of my mind.
  • I did not realize what I was saying when I said it and I did not mean what I said.
  • I had been through extraordinary pressure.
  • I went out of my mind.

My mind has returned.

Forgive me.

I am the brother and father you love.

Remember me?

FrankSinatra

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright © 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

The danger of “living wills”–a post surgical analysis

Of all my many preparations for surgery–including signing up for Premium Spotify [worth it]–creating a valid Living Will exercised far too much time.

I can and may list the valid rationale for having a Living Will, which here in Pennsylvania is called officially a Durable Power of Attorney.

Durable means (as lovers of the English language are encouraged to deplore) limited.

The person selected to execute my living will can only take care of my health care decisions–decisions I have listed in advance (see below) and which She, as it turns out, may only make following my explicit instructions (see below) and is not allowed to vary from my instructions at all.

My agent does not have authority to act for me for any other purpose unrelated to my health care. All of my agent’s actions under this power during any period when I am unable to make or communicate health care decisions have the same effect on my heirs, devisees and personal representatives as if I were competent and acting for myself.

To tell the truth, I would much rather watch a Shania Twain video than go through the gut-wrenching process of picking the person who will turn off the plug if I emerge from surgery a rutabaga.

Here is the video I would rather see than execute a Living Will.

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The problem with going into surgery which I knew would be successful (and indeed the surgery was successful) was encountering flak from a variety of sources.

One of these sources was my elder daughter  Joanna, who has two honor degrees in nursing and is convinced–perhaps rightly so–that she knows everything.

Joanna insisted that she be the one to pull the plug.

photo 2

In April I had had the foresight to executed a previous Living Will at my hospital bed, but once out of bed and back and forth to New York for reasons I will not explain (or may) I had to change the document.

For one thing, the April Living Will made the assumption that it was unfair to ask my daughters to perform such a task; my friends would spare them the guilt of pulling the plug. This assumption was wrong and in a way I cannot quite describe demeaning to them.

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In preparing for August surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering with the Living Will, I thought I was just going through the motions.

Then. Joanna said, “[Expletive deleted] I am a nurse. If anyone should pull the plug it should be me. Anyway, I would not be pulling the plug. I would be telling someone else to pull the plug.”

Meanwhile, my friend Pinhas had complained that in April he had been made second in line to pull the plug and wanted to be first; plus, my April number one batter up was afraid she did not have the medical knowledge.

Finally, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center required (actually requested–it is optional) an updated Living Will plus other relevant documentation I will bother you with.

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My wishes. Clearly, some of my wishes did not matter at all. Others did, but not now–meaning not before August 8th and my kidney operation.

The primary reason I was filling out a Living Will was because I wanted to please the Administrators at the hospital where I was about to have surgery. If they saw that I was a responsible enough citizen to fill out the expletive deleted form, they would decide I was a right guy, guaranteeing some slack later when I behaved poorly–as I did.

I really and truly did not want anyone to take the document seriously. It was one of a list of items on my clipboard, the least important, and one that took up attention from more important things (which I will list for you eventually, but can be summed up with this video from Bessie Smith) :

Here is a salient excerpt from the Pennsylvania Living Will form, which is a lot simpler to fill out than you might expect:

I direct that my health care providers and others involved in my care provide, withhold, or withdraw treatment in accordance with my directions below:

  1. If I have an incurable and irreversible (terminal) condition that will result in my death within a relatively short time, I direct that:
    • I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment. ______ my initials
    • I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death. ______ my initials
    • I not be provided any comfort, care and relief from pain, including any pain reduction medication, if the effect would be to prolong my life. ______ my initials 
  1. If I am diagnosed as being in an irreversible coma and, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I will not regain consciousness, I direct that:
    • I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment. ______ my initials
    • I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death. ______ my initials
    • I not be provided any comfort, care and relief from pain , including any pain reduction medication, if the effect would be to prolong my life. ______ my initials 
  1. If I am diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state and, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I will not regain consciousness, I direct that:
    • I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment. ______ my initials
    • I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death. ______ my initials
    • I not be provided any comfort, care and relief from pain, including any pain reduction medication, if the effect would be to prolong my life. ______ my initials 

Regarding item 1, I answered: “I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment

Item 2, I answered: “I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death.”

Item 3. I answered: “I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment.”

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Time for another video:

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The PA Living Will form states what I told the form I wanted. Period. See:

“My agent’s powers include, but are not limited to:

“Full power to consent, refuse consent, or withdraw consent to all medical, surgical, hospital and related health care treatments and procedures on my behalf, according to my wishes as stated in this document…”

Other language makes clear: My Agent has no choice but to pull the plug because that is my wish as stated in this document.

The fact that none of my would be agents realized that they had no power at all to effect my major decisions was of no concern to them. What was of concern to them was my welfare. They love me. They want what is best for me. Instead, I had to spend time explaining this expletive deleted stuff to them and the more I explained the more frightened  they became until, naturally, a discussion began about my funeral. [I do not want a funeral; I want a Democrat elected governor of Pennsylvania next year.]

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Perhaps a photograph unrelated to anything might prove useful here:

fish

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Naturally, the situation became complicated. Naturally, for me. Naturally, for the situation.

I was preparing for an operation in New York on August 8th. Why was I worrying about a durable power of attorney in Pennsylvania when the operation was happening in New York AND Memorial Sloan Kettering requested I provide a valid New York State form?

Not the same form, of course. That would be too easy. The New York State form is entitled, “A Health Care Proxy.” The proxy delegates someone to be my health care agent: “In the event I have been been determined to be incapable of providing informed consent for medical treatment and surgical diagnostic procedures.”

Enter a useful attorney whom we will call Hadley V. Baxendale, a moniker he likes. Hadley had three recommendations:

1. Since I live in Pennsylvania and have been hospitalized several times in this Commonwealth, a valid PA Living Will is a good idea.

2. The New York form is limited in stating explicitly the powers an agent can have. Link the two documents for New York so the New York agent is required to follow the more detailed directives in the PA form–having the two notarized together which I did at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge where I temporarily stayed before and after the surgery. I handed that two-in one document in on Surgery Day to someone entirely covered in white who said, “Thank you. I will put it in your folder.”

3. Hadley said, “There is room in the PA form for additional instructions. Let me begin by asking you the following questions.” I minded answering each question. The Aristotelian/Talmudic logic behind legal–especially good legal–thinking drives me crazy. So, I had to answer how much of a vegetable I was willing to be before I was willing to have someone pull the plug. What percentage of postoperative disability I was willing to take. And other tranquil questions designed to put me in the mood for surgery.

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Time for another song.

http://youtu.be/QwIYrx6Bqe0

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The upshot was that because they were actually present and available my younger daughter Amelia and my sister Sarah Schmerler were designated NY Health Care Agents for me.

Amelia first. Sarah if Amelia were unavailable.

Both spent my operation time weeping at the old Whitney Museum just before Renzo Piano creates his magic and builds a New Piano Whitney. I have seen a photograph of the two together waiting in front of a sign explaining Piano’s future vision, but can not find the photo. Alas.

This is unfortunate because I could then explain that while each were waiting with their iPhone ringers on in case a major medical decision was required in their capacity as my Agents, Dr. Russo figured out how to close the wound all by himself.

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One more song and then a conclusion (I hope). Brief (I hope).

http://youtu.be/uOQwdRMTKEk

 Certainly, having a Living Will is an excellent idea. It is not an excellent idea when you are going into the hospital and have an excellent chance of survival. Then, having intense discussions about your wishes if you are incapacitated beyond redemption takes on an unfortunate side trip past where you want to be and what you want to talk about with your loved ones.

Here is a photo of my sister Sarah getting in shape to be my alternate Health Proxy. Did the enormous time involved in, for example, notarizing the Pennsylvania document in PA and two days later notarizing the New York document (with notarized PA) document attached and also notarized–gathering two witnesses each time. My appreciation to my Rep. in the Pennsylvania House Scott Conklin for making his office available for that purpose. [The Democrats could win the governorship with the right team. Conklin ran for lieutenant governor in the last election and lost. I hoping that he will run as a running mate with Allyson Schwartz and win.] {Whoops. I got off subject.}

A non-partisan thanks to Lorrainne Katt, Manager of the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge where I lived with Amelia, my daughter, as my caregiver. Lorraine in short order assembled a notary, another witness and signed the document herself.

sarahclimbs

This is Amelia several months ago drinking happily in Spain.

Ameliadrinks

Amelia arrived in New York on Monday evening in time for the rules instruction at Hope Lodge where she took up residence as my health care provider that evening. The next day we…The following day, a meeting with Dr. Paul Russo, my surgeon, a wonderful physical therapist, and an intense examination to make sure I would not die under the knife–intense.

Then…Thursday brought the surgery. Would never have discussing all the paperwork have helped me through time that followed the operation. Absolutely.

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Another unrelated photo courtesy of the Morgan Library and Museum:

Mozart

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A man’s gotta do what a man’s got to do.

I am thinking of me in this role. Filling out a Living Will is certainly a grown up thing to do. It is not a good idea to leave family and loved ones guessing about one’s intentions. The best way to do it is when there are no health issues involved. At nearly 66 years old, I should have been grown up enough to fill out the farm during a pacific time when asking family and loved members their thoughts did not bring out the intense emotion this exercise did.

Perhaps, the lesson of the angst of the Living Will taught me how to be a grown up. Perhaps.

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright © 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Before Arlo Guthrie sings all the words to Alice’s Restaurant, I would like to thank Law Depot www,lawdepot.com This online service provides forms that fit the requirements of the PA Living Will form and NY’s Health Care Agent form. Each can be easily modified or modified only to include names and addresses. A great service.

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How a 10 cent increase in the minimum wage put me on page one of the Centre Daily Times

Note: Sunday, September 9, 2012, State College, PA 5:57 PM, EDT.  My friend Philip Moery is fond of quoting William Faulkner’s observation, “The past is never dead.  It’s not even the past.” This observation became trenchant yesterday when I received a post from Scott W., who, like me, is a member of a lively discussion group on politics. Scott W. sent group members an article for comment entitled, “Why the Minimum Wage Doesn’t Explain Stagnant Wages.”

As it turns out, I have a part-time job at Penn State‘s virtual reality laboratory for the construction industry where I am paid a minimum wage out of funds provided by Experience Works,  a U.S. Department of Labor program for disabled and elderly individuals.

As my sister Sarah Schmerler points out, brevity is not my strong suit. I will delay additional comments on  the subject until you have the opportunity to read the story which appeared on page one–indeed the event taking place on a slow July news day, it was not only an above-the-fold front page story, it was the lead story in the Centre Daily Times published in State College PA. The occasion was the increase in July 2009 to $7.25 cents an hour. Reporter Nick Malawskey asked me how I felt about earning an additional 10 cents an hour. Below is the story as published.

While interviewing me, I told Nick about that marvelous song, “7 1/2 cents” from the musical comedy The Pajama Game. The Pajama Game, which first appeared on Broadway in 1954 and became a Doris-Day-starring movie in 1957–a movie I vividly remember but understandably before Nick’s time. After the article appeared, I emailed Nick the MP3 of “7 1/2 cents” which I had purchased on iTunes, but sadly the Centre Daily Times’ email system limited the bandwidth of emails to reporters. What with one thing and another, Nick never had the opportunity to hear the song.

For your  pleasure, here is Doris Day on YouTube:

The following is the lead story that appeared on Friday, July 24, 2009 of the Centre Daily Times (known locally as “The CDT“). Readers are encouraged to subscribe to the hard-copy version of the CDT not only to learn when, if ever, I receive another 10-cent an hour increase in pay. Also, the CDT has been covering in detail the aftermath of the child molestation scandal at Penn State, the largest employer in the county. This scandal has thus far hit Centre County with greater force than a 9.o earthquake on the  Richter Magnitude Scale.

After the article, see Afternote.

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Friday, Jul. 24, 2009

MINIMUM WAGE

Workers praise 10 cent increase

Nick Malawskey

STATE COLLEGE — While most companies are scaling back on annual raises this year, about 15 million Americans will receive at least a small bump in pay today when the federal minimum wage increases to $7.25 an hour.

In Pennsylvania, the wage increase will amount to only 10 cents an hour for the roughly 200,000 people who earn the standard. That’s because Pennsylvania raised its minimum wage above the federal standard to $7.15 per hour two years ago.

But those living on the margin say every little bit helps.

In Centre County, the region’s largest employer — Penn State — said the increase will affect about 240 of its part-time workers.

They include Joel Solkoff, who works part-time at the university through Experience Works, an employment training program for older or disabled Pennsylvanians.

“I guess there are two sides to it,” said Solkoff, a 61-year-old technical writer. “One is that any increase in income, especially if you make as little as I do, is appreciated.”

Solkoff, who is disabled, uses his monthly earning to supplement his Social Security income while building skills he hopes will land him a permanent job.

“The other aspect of it is that one hopes that the work that you’re doing will be appreciated,” he said. “And the encouragement that comes from getting a little more money in your paycheck is very much appreciated. It serves as an inducement for me to continue doing this, so I can get out in the marketplace and find a job that gets me off Social Security.”

Penn State said the wage hike will increase the university system’s payroll costs by only about $15,000 a year.

Relatively few county workers are affected, with most convenience and retail stores reporting they already pay workers more than the minimum wage. The county’s second largest employer, the State College Area School District, said none of its 1,100-plus workers will be affected.

Still, not everyone welcomes the increase.

“Wage hikes always cause a spike in the unemployment rate, and with the country in the middle of a recession, businesses are already struggling to make ends meet,” said Kristen Lopez Eastlick, a senior research analyst at the Employment Policies Institute in Washington, D.C. “The economy will continue to hemorrhage entry-level jobs unless legislators stop this summer’s minimum wage hike from happening.”

Despite the increases, the federal minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation.

David Passmore, with Penn State’s Workforce Education and Development program, said the gap between average and minimum wage pay of nonsupervisory workers has grown remarkably since the 1970s.

“When you take in the erosion of purchasing power through inflation, the so-called ‘real’ minimum wage has declined by one-third since 1968,” he said in an e-mail.

Passmore said the effects of an increase in the minimum wage are often complex.

“In Pennsylvania, it is estimated that 8.9 percent of the workforce were affected by a minimum wage increase in 2009 amounting to 7.8 percent of wages,” he wrote. “At the same time, the minimum wage increase is estimated to have brought about an 0.37 percent increase in production costs (fuel, capital, labor) and a 0.25 percent decrease in Pennsylvania employment.”

Solkoff has a different perspective.

“Minimum wage is supposed to guarantee that those people on the lowest part of the ladder will be given a wage that is minimally fair — high enough to support life and so on,” he said, adding that in his case, it will help pay the rent, buy a few extra cups of coffee at Webster’s — and, he said, help support the economy.

“That’s going to be economic stimulus money that I will be helping the economy out with,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not saving that 10 cents.”

Nick Malawskey can be reached at 235-3928.

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Afternote: During the Carter Administration (where I earned considerably more than minimum wage), I served as Special Assistant to Deputy Secretary of Labor Robert J. Brown for whom I wrote several speeches on the minimum wage. Jimmy Carter would never have been elected President without the support of George Meany, President of the AFL-CIO. For those who remember the power of organized labor to affect national policy, George Meany remains sui generis. In writing about the minimum wage, I was loyal to Meany’s insistence on the significance of the minimum wage in preserving a floor for a national standard of living and for defending other legislation such as the Davis-Bacon Act providing a more-livable “prevailing wage” which helped  women and men working on federally funded projects become members of the middle-class as a result of their hard work. [Permission to use Time Magazine’s marvelous cover is requested.]

Even with the best of intentions, Walter Shapiro, whom last I heard was a columnist for USA Today, originally brought me in to the Labor Department to write a minimum wage speech for Secretary Ray Marshall. With the assistance of Tom Connoly, my drumming instructor, who also is helping me organize my files, I plan to locate the speech Walter and I wrote on the minimum wage which resulted in unanticipated consequences. Don’t leave this site; a copy of the speech with a story to go with it will be coming soon.

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Countdown over: Amelia’s graduation ceremony was very wet; may end with my joining the Smyth County Moose Lodge

Soaking wet, Amelia Altalena Solkoff graduated with honors in Spanish at the University of North Carolina, Ashville (UNC-A). UNC-A ran an awful graduation ceremony. When I get rich, I will provide UNC-A with funds for rainy day graduations.

Asheville CITIZEN-TIMES previews the graduation ceremonies that have now taken place:

ASHEVILLE — Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles will speak at UNC Asheville’s graduation ceremony in May.

“Bowles served as President Clinton’s top assistant and was tapped by President Barack Obama to tackle the nation’s budget woes. He also spent five years as president of the UNC System.”

http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012304170019

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Then, on May 6, 2012 The CITIZENS-TIMES report on the event:

“UNCA’s rainy spring graduation : As soon as UNC Asheville students got to the quad for the spring graduation commencement, the rain started to pour Saturday. 5/5/12 – Erin Brethauer ([email protected])”

See video; hear rainhttp://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012305060044

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Amelia at Celebratory Meal # 3 (of 4) THE BIG ONE
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At Celebratory meal # 4.

Joanna and Amelia’s mother Diana Bass

 

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At Celebratory meal # 1.

Our daughter Joanna Marie Solkoff, who graduated with honors in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently studying to be a nurse. Accompanying Joanna is Jade Phillips, a rock and refuge shown together at my apartment at State College, PA in March:

 

 

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Sarah Schmerler, Robert Simonson, and Asher Simonson during a brief dry spell at the graduation ceremony

Sarah is my sister (https://www.artnews.com/author/sarahschmerler/). Robert Simonson is my brother-in-law (http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Simonson/e/B001K8HFEA/ref=sr_tc_2_rm?qid=1337188291&sr=1-2-ent). Asher Benvenuto Simonson is my camera-shy only nephew; he is nearly 11.

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Asheville, NC 7:19 PM. May 4, 2012 [official Star Trek holiday celebration; see Wikipedia.].

I am ensconced in a disability room at the Asheville NC Extended Stay America motel.

This is directly down the road from the University of North Carolina Campus where Amelia graduates tomorrow at 9 AM.

Relatives, loved ones, friends, and the like are preparing to come to my hotel to engage in a Jewish celebration of Sabboth and undoubtedly much mischief.

When I have time, I promise to TELL ALL. Including photos.

Gotta run.

Amelia, the evening before graduation ceremonies, helps me unload my car.

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There is candle lighting in my room: “Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”

 

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Flashback: Two days earlier

Michelle, front desk clerk Best Western Grand Venice Hotel, Hagerstown, NC, prepares to put my travel scooter into the trunk so I am ready to drive south for hundreds of miles.

Michelle is my candidate for Best Western employee of the year.

 

 

As we all know, commencement is not a beginning, it is an end.

On the road again:

May 3, 2012 Hagerstown, Maryland,  Best Western Grand Venice Hotel, 11:55 AM

8 AM today ready for breakfast at the free bar on the second floor

The route from Downtown State College, where I live, to Ashville North Carolina, where Amelia will be receiving her diploma on May 5th at 9 AM at the University of North Carolina in Asheville is 571 miles–a 9 hour and 40 minute drive, longer than I have driven in over eight years.

Yesterday, I left State College after my friend Pinki Heyn helped load the Enterprise Rental Car driven by Dawn, a new management trainee, who brought me to the rental office for the ritual filling out of the forms and paying the money. After picking up a suit (which I have not worn in 7 years), several starched shirts, and clean clothing, I left town at 5 PM and drove the astonishingly beautiful Route 99 to Route 70 to Hagerstown, site of the Battle of Antietam, the first Union victory, giving  President Lincoln the credibility required to issue the Emancipation proclamation. More on Emancipation later in the trip.

I now have traveled 158 miles of a 571 mile trip. Amelia called anxiously trying to rush me. Whose celebration does she think this is?

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Amelia in my arms before age one–the rest of the crew will be described later.

 

Last year, before reaching her current level of maturity, Amelia prepares to run with the bulls

 

 

 

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This Amigo TravelMate will take me to Amelia’s graduation (photo by Andrea Gatzke).

A Commencement Speech I Approve Of

I have been led to understand that…you are going to graduate. Well, my strong recommendation is that you don’t go. Stop! Go on back to your rooms. Unpack! There’s not much out here. Chekhov tells the story of the traveler faced with three roads… If he takes the one to the right, the wolves will eat him up. If he takes the one to the left he will eat up the wolves, and if he takes the one to the center he will eat himself up.

The point is we don’t want you out here very much. We on the outside see graduation as a terrible event–the opening of an enormous dovecote from which spring into the air tens of thousands of graduates. What is particularly disturbing is that you all come out at the same time—June—hordes, with your dark graduation cloaks darkening the earth. Why is it that you can’t be squeezed out one at a time, like peach pits, so that the society can absorb you without feeling suffocated?

My own profession is being, swamped with writers coming, out of college, despite the conditions out here that no one reads. Indeed, my friend Kurt Vonnegut was saying the other day that the only solution to ·the moribund state of publishing would be to require all of those on welfare that before receiving their welfare checks, they must hand in a book report.

So go back to your dorm rooms and stay. True, there may be some practical problem. The deans may come tapping at your door like hotel concierges wondering about checkout time. Tell the dean through the door that you don’t think you should go out into the world with a C- in Economics 10. Great damage can be caused to the economic structure, and probably already has, by Harvard men out there who earned a C– in Economics 10; you must tell the dean you don’t want to compound such a situation.

The dean will say that he needs the room for the junior who is going to become a senior–the process must go on. Tell him there’s no reason why the juniors can’t stay juniors, the sophomores, sophomores, and the freshmen, freshmen. Tell him to stop the process. Why should the process go on? The Harvard Lampoon has had, in its century of operation, 100 different editorial boards. Has it improved? Probably not. Why not keep the same one?

Besides, we are told all the time what a marvelous institution Harvard is. Benjamin DeMott once likened Harvard to the continent of Europe: “Either you’ve been there or you haven’t,” And you’ll all remember the Boston dowager who said of a nephew: “He doesn’t go to college, he goes to Brown.” Why do they tell us such things if they don’t want us to stay? So tell them you’re convinced. You’ve decided to stay. You’re not going to budge.

After a while the dean will go away. Deans always go away. They go away to ponder things. They will assume that your parents will finally force the issue. They’ll want you home. But I am not so sure. I have the sense that parents would rather not know what’s being sent home to them these days from the college–not unlike receiving  a mysterious, package tied with hemp, addressed in rather queasy lettering from Dutch Gularia.

They’d much rather you stay here. When a mother is asked about her son at the country-club dance she can always say: “Why John’s off at Harvard.” There’s something quite grand about that certainly compared to: ”Well, the last time I saw him he was throwing a frisbee in the backyard.”

If your parents insist you pack up and come home, there are always measures. If you’re chemistry major, tell them that you’ve become very attached to something in a vat of formaldehyde. If you’re in pre-law, tell them that you’re thinking of bringing home a tort. Your parents will probably have forgotten what a tort is, if they ever knew, and it sounds so unpleasant–something that your Mom wouldn’t want to have stepping suddenly out of a hall closet. Surely, there is hardly an academic field of one’s choice which does not have a nightmare possibility with which to force one’s parents to pony up enough to allow nearly a decade of contemplation in one’s room.

You’ll remember the King in Alice in Wonderland. When asked: “Where shall I begin?” the King says, “Begin at the beginning and go on until you come to the end; then stop.” What I am suggesting is that you stop at the beginning, stop at your commencement. It’s not very interesting to stop at the end–l mean everyone does that. So stop now. Tell them you won’t go. Go back to your rooms. Unpack!

–George Plimpton, Harvard University, June 1977

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The reason we moved to North Carolina, where my daughters graduated from its fine public university, is that Kathleen Atwater, then manager of Northern Telecom’s technical writing, hired me, moved my family to Durham, and arranged for the company to buy our DC home if we could not sell it.

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Peterson_(author) “…In 2003, he was convicted of murdering his second wife, Kathleen …” Alava shalom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honorifics_for_the_dead_in_Judaism

זיכרונה לברכה
zikhronah livrakha of blessed memory.]

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 The party is over, but I linger on in Asheville after everybody left.

The graduation was on Saturday. On Saturday at 5:15 PM we had a celebratory dinner at a classy Spanish restaurant. Asheville becomes more charming every day. On Sunday morning, my sister Sarah Schmerler, her husband Uncle Robert Simonson, and my 10.5 year-old nephew Asher left to return to Brooklyn, NY. Also that morning I had breakfast with my former wife Diana Bass, my elder daughter Joanna and her friend Jade Phillips, and Amelia. Joanna and Jade left to the airport to fly to Los Angeles where Jade’s mother lives, before…Diana drives off to her home in Durham. Amelia lingers an extra day and morning and is now with her mother camping on the Outer Shores of NC. Wonderful ferry ride. wonderful world.

And I returned to the Extended Stay Hotel here in Asheville at Kenilworth Knoll where the helpful staff help me with my disability gadgets. Here is Extended Stay Wendy helping with a light-weight wheel chair I am experimenting with.

 

 

As I pack my car to leave North Carolina, I TEMPORARILY interrupt this posting using this photo of Amelia and me in the Spanish restaurant in Asheville celebrating her graduation on graduation day. Think of this as not only an ending but a beginning for me to write more.

 

The End. REALLY.

Somethings naturally come to an End. The countdown to Amelia’s graduation from college has come to an end. She graduated a week ago today. This posting is mostly over. Yes, there are details to be taken care of such as the deep skinny on Graduation Meal celebrations 1-4.

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As I write this from Marion, VA still miles away from home at the Budget Inn (not affiliated with anything) across the tertiary road from the beautiful Walker Mountains, the details of the end have not been codified. Last night, for example, I was invited to join the Moose. Come next month’s check, I plan to join the Smyth County Moose chapter where I had friend okra for dinner last evening. My Moose card will get me in any Moose hall in the country.

–Joel Solkoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister

 

 

 

Sarah Schmerler held by brother Joel Solkoff, circa 1970

 

[Note: I am in the process of creating a carbon dating system attached to my scanner. Until perfection, this photograph assumes that the date is 1965 because:

  1. Sarah was born in 1963.
  2. I am not wearing a beard which I began growing in the fall of 1965 thus throwing me off the Columbia fencing team.
  3. Oscar A. Schmerler, Sarah’s father is shown here vigorous and full of the philosophy of Martin Buber which so influenced Sarah’s world view  (not to mention large doses of teleology at an early age).]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More to come…