Archive for July, 2014



The text of the address delivered by the Scarecrow of Oz to the members of the United Nations in the summer 0f 2014


Before I begin to insult the intelligence of the people of planet Earth, let me tell you that Oz did have its problems. Once ruled by four witches….two good and two bad…and governed by a humbug, the residents of Oz were not living on the same page. The long-suffering Munchkins, who always believed they got the short end of the stick, were small in number compared to the people of Emerald City who believed they were in charge. The constant feuding between these two peoples made it very difficult for the other inhabitants of Oz to live in harmony. The Winkies, Quadlings, Field Mice and the Porcelain people in the China Country had their differences, but only rarely took up arms to settle their differences. The same can’t be said for the Kalidahs, those monstrous beasts with bodies like bears and heads like tigers, and the Fighting Trees. They shared the same territory but could not live together. Their differences they said were too great so they fought…constantly. And lastly there were the Winged Monkeys, a most maligned people. Having lived under the cruel Wicked Witch of the West, they had no rights. They were forced to do her bidding. But once the Wicked Witch was liquefied, they emerged as the great peacekeepers of Oz, and to this day they continue to fight….using words, not weapons…to help the people of Oz resolve their differences.

Having spent the past two years as a visiting professor at Harvard, and having had the opportunity to travel the world and meet the people of earth, I have to admit that you are an embarrassment. You live on a beautiful planet. You have been blessed beyond belief. But still, after thousands of years you are still uncivilized.  You claim to believe in a God that is all good and all loving, but instead of honoring your God, you make a mockery of this eternal being by shedding blood in his/her name.

The current situation in your Middle East tells me how stupid you people are. A good number of you are siding with the Palestinians…for what you believe are good and just reasons, A good number of you are aligned with Israel….for what you, too, believe are good and just reasons. The Arab and the Jewish people are shedding blood over what…a piece of land in the desert?  The people in the region believe that they are doing God’s bidding. These people are fighting a war that is almost as old as mankind.  And why?  Is it because the Jewish homeland was carved out of that little piece of earth the Palestinian people believed was theirs and theirs alone?  Is it because the State of Israel has mistreated the Palestinians and denied them their basic human rights?

Are you people so blind to your history that you can’t see that it was your greed that caused today’s problems in the Middle East in the first place.  And I say it was greed because after reading your history books that’s all I come away with….greed, with a heavy dose of self-righteousness thrown in there for bad measure.

There is not a place on this earth that has not suffered because of your greed and this belief that one people have a supreme right over other people. You Americans, who fought for independence and in your own words declared that all people are created equal, are the same people that nearly put an end to the people who called your land their home for centuries.  What you did to the members of the hundreds of Native American tribes is unconscionable. You took their land because you wanted it. You made a mockery of their beliefs, destroyed their traditions and inflicted them with diseases that did what your guns couldn’t do.  To make amends you gave these once great people reservations to live out their lives.

Your partition of the United States of America is only one example of how the people of planet earth believe that the earth must be conquered and divided up.  It doesn’t matter that the great shorelines, the mountain ranges and the mighty rivers that you uses as boundaries were never intended to divide you, but rather to join you as one great people.

What happened in the Middle East is the result of your desire to slice up the world and for the most powerful nations to take possession of it, regardless of what people might have called that land their home.  The blame for what is happening today in the Middle East needs to be a shared blame.  It’s far too easy to blame the current parties involved in the conflict because there is a history of blame that needs to be shared by other nations.

(To read the rest of the Scarecrow’s address….)

Scarecrow part two



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Summer at Jones Beach

Jones Beach, circa 1956, with my sister, Patti, my mother, and the old thermos that weighed about 60 pounds before it was filled with ice and lemonade. My six-pack was a result of lugging that damn jug from the parking lot to the beach.

L. Frank Baum never mentioned seasons in The Wizard of Oz. Save for a brief snowstorm found in the movie, the land of Oz was postcard-perfect with a  bright yellow sun hanging in a bright blue sky. While risking my status as an Ozophile, I suspect it was summer all year long in Oz.

And while I like all the seasons of the year best, I usually like the one I’m in at the moment the best of all.

Even though I “grew up” (and the jury is still out on that one) at a time when home air conditioning was a pipe dream and the single fan we had in our house had been wired by Benjamin Franklin and it  turned every room in our house into a convection oven making it nigh impossible not to wake up in a puddle of sweat, summer was… a season of the mind. And when you’re a kid, summer is a mind-bending experience that might begin on June 20 and end on September 20, but in your mind, summer could not be found on any calendar because it resided in your heart and mind.

Growing up on the south shore of Long Island in what can only be described as the back lot of a 1950’s sit com like Leave It To Beaver or Father Knows Best, childhood was protected under the Constitution in that all kids were created to have endless fun at minimal cost. Back when I was one of the Boys of Summer on Lincoln Street  childhood was a safe place to be. Abductions?  You’ve got to be kidding. The only abductions were those at the hands of the aliens we saw in a matinée at the Bellmore movie theater.

There might have been 24 hours in a day back then, but for us, there were no hands on the clock. In fact there were only four times: breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime. In the blink of an eye we would wake up and be out playing baseball in the lot on Clark Street. After playing 37 innings we’d run over to the Whiteman’s house where we’d drink out of the hose and collapse on the front lawn. Two minutes we’d be back to play another 15 innings, much of it arguing whether the ball was fair or foul or if the base runner missed the base…which wasn’t hard to do because the base was usually an old ice cream bar wrapper.

And then it was a mad dash home where we would more than likely slap together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and meet up at some designated spot where we would plot the rest of our afternoon, making sure we included time to trade baseball cards. One afternoon a week we’d ride our bikes to the library where we would take out four or five books to read in the afternoon under the tree that was part Cronemeyer and part Begley. Back then our reading list more often than not included an ample supply of Hardy Boy books.

With our lunch digested we’d commence to play some form of street ball, stoop ball, tag, red light/green light or statues where the person who was it would take you by the arm, spin you around and then let go, at which time you’d fall and freeze into a statue. (Today that game would be banned by the AMA and most American mothers).

The later part of the afternoon was either taken up with a street softball game in front of the Whiteman’s house on Conway Street, playing a baseball card game or playing the classic game Go to the Head of the Class. Once the games ended it was on our bikes to the candy store for a cherry coke and some pretzels before taking a hike in Takapusha Park.

If time allowed we’d hit the sprinklers because no one had a pool, above ground or built-in. And then like magic we’d all disperse for dinner, only to appear a short while later ready to take on the mysterious part of summer when the sun would slowly set and the moon and stars would appear.  After-dinner activities were usually less structured and most of the time spontaneous. We all thought we had died and gone to heaven when someone in the neighborhood got the delivery of a major appliance because the box it came in amused us for hours, being everything from a fort to a rocket ship, and lasting until we eventually destroyed it by rolling in it.

Sunset meant the start of night games, one of our favorite being an alien based game where we would dive on the lawns to avoid being hit by the beams of a car coming down Lincoln Street.

Exhausted, but totally exhilarated we’d all be called in and the once noisy Lincoln Street would grow silent. In bed I would listen to the sound of crickets and watch the sky fill up with stars and lightning bugs.

And then to sleep and perchance to dream amazing dreams.

The 2014 Lincoln Street Boys of Summer Award: There wasn’t a kid on Lincoln Street who didn’t get the most out of summer, but one boy in p[articular stands out because not only did he squeeze out every last drop of fun from summer, he was the very definition of summer.  Bobby Gardali’s face should be in the dictionary next to the definition of summer.  He was loud, he was brash, and he put his all into everything we did. He was a smart kid. Smart enough to realize who he was and what he wanted and didn’t want out of life.  He took a path less traveled. At an age when most people settle down, he picked up the fiddle and started to learn how to play. He is a life-long learner and there is very little he hasn’t read. And if you like photography, you should see his photos.  He is a real boy of summer.

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