Select Page
We Will See Soon Enough

We Will See Soon Enough

Regardless of how partisan things seem, Nancy Pelosi’s duties no longer run exclusively to the Democratic Party.

As Speaker of the House in an impeachment proceeding, she has a duty to every citizen of the USA to ensure that the constitutional requirements of an impeachment trial be carried out before she proceeds to the trial in the Senate. She is the lead prosecutor. She is an officer of that court.

It would be a dereliction of her duty, a violation of the Constitution, and an acquiescence to obstruction of justice to proceed with a trial knowing that the defendant is withholding witnesses and documents, and that the jury has predetermined a verdict of acquittal before the trial begins.

She must wait for the federal courts to enforce the Constitution. She must not compromise for anything less. She must put the spotlight on the head-on collision between fascist partisan politics and the clear violation of our Constitution, and have the Federal Courts confirm the Constitution and her protection of it.

The senators will take their oath “of objectivity” and for many the hypocrisy quite possibly can’t be stopped. (It might be fun if the prosecution asks Chief Justice Roberts, the judge in this case, for the right to voir dire the jury to determine if there is pre-existing bias, which should require disqualification of senators who have publicly stated that they have made up their minds and are working for the defendant.) No matter what, however, Pelosi must wait for the federal court’s rulings requiring the testimony of witnesses and production of documents.

Time is not the enemy of the country in all of this, but it is the enemy of an obstructionist defendant.

President Trump and Senator McConnell will show their hand if they lambast Pelosi for waiting for a court ruling, because they will show that the court and the delay is what they really fear.

They want to force a vote by a biased jury so they can declare victory in the President’s campaign. But if they are forced to wait, and they lose in the courts (as they will) before or even after the election, they will not be able to sweep their obstruction under the rug. It will be a historical record. It will be irrefutable.

No, time is not the enemy! Given the time and a chance to talk together, more people will have a chance to understand and get it right. Nixon was elected by every state of the union except Massachusetts. Two years later, he resigned when it became clear he was about to be impeached by a bipartisan vote.

So, in fact, time and the Federal Courts are Pelosi’s ally. The more she waits out the storm and requires that the Constitution be respected, the more President Trump and Senator McConnell will be punished for their stonewalling and other violations when the courts rule against them.

It is not about the election. It is about whether we can hold on to our Constitution and who we are as a country.

The question is: Does Pelosi have the guts to withstand the storm and represent all the people of the United States, not just the Democrats?

No guts, no glory, Nancy. Weakness won’t work. “Oh, say can you see?” We will see soon enough.

A Bathroom Museum and a Late Commitment to Christmas

A Bathroom Museum and a Late Commitment to Christmas

Perhaps because I am older, or perhaps because I am now a playwright and a recovering lawyer, I decided I would make a commitment to a more spiritual Christmas this year.

I committed to finding a passage out of the comfortable consumerism, “Jingle Bell Rock” on the radio, Alvin and the Chipmunks and the hula hoop, and into a less self-deceptive and more spiritually aware holiday.

My problem is I excel at self-deception.

In the past, I have always believed that I was sufficiently into the festivities to fool myself, and I would let the transformative spiritual moment gently pass.

No, in truth I am a wizard of self-deception.

I fool myself in little ways all year long as I artfully keep my “spirituality” — like my “modesty“ — at bay.

For example, I have a room right next to my study that contains the framed memorials of the important accomplishments (of which I am so very proud) from my life as a lawyer and playwright.

When I enter this room, I am reminded that I don’t take myself too seriously, because it also contains a sink, a toilet and extra toilet paper. But of course, it is not a private bathroom. If nature calls, our guests are forced to see what I am proud to believe I have made of myself, framed and on the walls when they lock the bathroom door behind them.

I have employed this same gift of willfulness and self-deception when I have prepared myself to let the holidays gently pass by each year.

But as I have said, I think things have changed now that I’m a playwright and recovering lawyer.

I have been forced to see things less as an advocate and more as an observer.

A judge or jury renders a verdict, but there is no redemptive celebration thereafter. Rectifying and resolving social wrongs, if that happens at all, offers no thought of spirituality and in my case, may regrettably explain the bathroom.

But as a playwright, I have come to observe that my plays are meaningless unless the actors commit to giving them life and the audience commits to embracing the performance and the work.

So I have observed that some ethereal things do not come to pass at all unless there is belief, commitment, and then action.

This year, I will find the time for that individual commitment and action on Christmas Day. After I celebrate the joy of being with my family, I will take a walk — perhaps just a little walk — out by myself alone and consider the universe, which I do not understand. I’ll stop for a moment and realize that even if I have no belief in a heaven or a hell, I accept that cold hand of “grace,” which is what so much of religion and spiritual faith is about. And then when I return back home, I’ll try not to see if anyone is locked and reading in the bathroom.

It is different now, but it remains the same

It is different now, but it remains the same

You can call it “fake news” or the subjugation of truth, but when confronted by self-serving diatribes and obstructionist partisan arguments, I saw several witnesses at the impeachment hearings persist and tell the truth — or at least preserve its credibility — no matter how difficult that was for them.

When I was a driver for U.S. Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias’s (R-MD) during the Watergate proceedings, news and politics were different than today. Credibility was everything.

On TV, Walter Cronkite delivered the truth on the CBS Evening News. He was voted the most trusted man in America.

The newspapers never had that power of personality, but they doggedly stood behind their stories, even when they relied upon undisclosed sources like “Deep Throat.” They knew they were at risk every day.

Credibility sold the news, and advertising, and paid for heavy overhead and lots of investigative reporters.

Today, news sources on the web do not need credibility. They have followers instead.

They are also not at risk because they have few, if any expenses, and are often not even identifiable. Social media is flooded with unverifiable news sources, some of which are paid for by our enemies as they seek to disrupt our country’s elections.

Senator Mathias was from Frederick, Maryland — farm country — two hours west of DC. He was fiercely loyal to his city and his state. He cherished his reputation for integrity and his nickname, “The Conscience of the Senate.”

It was different back then, but it is still the same.

I was driving Mathias when he was summoned by President Nixon to an afternoon rally the next day. Mathias was to be filmed beside Nixon for the evening news that night. Mathias had, in essence, been summoned to give the President an unspoken endorsement in Maryland’s Washington suburbs, in Mathias’s home state.

Maryland is an overwhelmingly Democratic state. Mathias was no fan of Nixon and Nixon knew it, but Nixon was a Republican and so was Mathias.

Credibility was everything to Mathias but he couldn’t say “no” to the president without punishment from his party.

I picked the Senator up at his home that morning and we headed to his scheduled meetings.

The first thing he said to me as he got into the car was, “looks like that tread on the left rear tire is thin.”

After the morning meetings and before lunch, I offered to take the car to get the tire checked, but Mathias said he wanted me inside to record his speech on the handheld tape recorder I always carried with me for such occasions. He made sure he was never misquoted.

After lunch, as he got into the car he pointed and asked me, “You think it looks like that tread is dangerous?”

I insisted that I get the tire checked immediately so we would be on time for the rally.

The Senator thought for a judicious moment. “I think you are right, Bob. Let’s get it looked at.” But as I turned into a filling station he quietly said, “I have always bought my tires up at the Goodyear store in Frederick.”

By the time we got back to Washington, the rally was over. As I let him out of the car that night, he asked me to remind him to send his apologies to the White House.

To maintain credibility in the face of power, persistence may not always offer the opportunity to speak the truth. But at least it’s a statement on its own: the resistance is a placeholder for the truth, and it retains our gravity.

It is different now, but it remains the same.

An Offer and Acceptance

An Offer and Acceptance

Last Friday, I skipped lunch and went back to my Boston hotel room to watch Congressman Elijah Cummings’s funeral on TV.

Thirty-five years ago, when he was still a lawyer, we had a case together. I was representing a modular building company and he was representing one of the prominent African American churches in Baltimore, which had contracted with my client to buy and construct a building for Baltimore city primary school students.

Elijah and I met on the top floor of the church overlooking North Avenue where the ministers’ offices were located. He came over, shook my hand, and said, “I do a lot of criminal law and you know a lot more about business law than I do. Can we agree to work to make this fair for both sides?” I shook his hand and agreed that would be our objective.

The contract negotiations and construction took some time. As the building went up, there were adjustments to the plans and “change orders,” as there always are in construction cases, but we were candid with each other and each time we got it right.

Years later, I was at the Democratic convention in Boston and he saw me and came over and with a big smile he said: “Yeah! We learned to work well together didn’t we?” We both laughed.

I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and one of my favorite places is an old rusted fountain dedicated to John F. Kennedy. It no longer works but still has his quotes chiseled on its sides.

My hotel was in Harvard Square, so after the funeral I walk down to the fountain and read the quotes again:

“Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us — and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state, and local, must be as a city upon a hill — constructed and inhabited by men aware of their grave trust and their great responsibilities.”

Next to the forgotten monument was a sign that said: “No Skateboarding.”
No one was there except a skateboarder, practicing and re-practicing his art, and me.

It occurred to me that there are always laws which will be broken but we all, somehow, are subject to a deeper code. This was what Elijah understood.

Thousands of people, whether in the church or on TV, watched Elijah’s funeral. They watched and listened and were there because Elijah was an example of something we seem to not be able to forget.

Although in our daily lives and in our politics and governance it is sometimes lost, it is there in that handshake, that eye contact, that second thought that reminds us that it is as constant as gravity.

I saw Elijah on and off after that, in airports or at campaign events. He had become my Congressman. We would smile or wave. We were not friends, but we had once come to an understanding because he had offered up his vulnerability so that I could offer mine. And we could trust each other just long enough to do something right.

Good Advice, But It Was Too Late for Lear

Good Advice, But It Was Too Late for Lear

So his fool tells King Lear: ”Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.”

I am 72 years old today and one step further into my next life. No not the afterlife… the next step and the opportunity of freedom which that entails. As it’s my birthday, I hope you’ll allow me this time to reflect…

I decided to start this blog several years ago to chronicle what would happen to me in retirement. I loved the practice of law, but concluded that there is a time to retire before you get in people’s way and can’t find the bathroom. I wanted to stay a little bit ahead of that curve so I got out early.

I already knew that eccentricity and determination always trumps a loss of intelligence. So this was my chance to be free to try something entirely different, but I still was not free of trepidation. Delusions of grandeur are a wonderful thing until you start to think you might act on them.

Delusions of grandeur are a wonderful thing until you start to think you might act on them. Click To Tweet

Nonetheless, I first decided I would become a “political force” as a Democrat in an entirely gerrymandered Republican district because I was very concerned about how we, as a country, were being divided by political forces and I was going to change that. This was Trump country. I raised more money than all my Republican opponents combined and knocked on almost 7000 doors for more than a half a year. I was resoundingly defeated and Trump became our president.

Because I obviously had learned nothing about impossibility, next I decided I would become a professional playwright. I bought a Shakespeare coffee mug and applied to the Yale Drama school, fully believing that I would be the oldest applicant ever accepted to Yale’s drama school. I succeeded only in becoming the oldest applicant ever rejected by Yale’s drama school. Nonetheless, I had decided this is what I wanted to do.

Obviously I had to rethink this thing again, with just a little more of my failing intelligence. So I applied to the Commercial Theater Institute (CTI) of New York for a class in producing theater. I had a plan. When the first morning of class broke up the students got lunch and inevitability they talked about what plays they were considering producing. When it came to my turn to talk I informed them I wasn’t considering producing anything. I wanted them to produce me. It worked. The impossible happened. A young producer agreed to read my work, liked it and arranged for professional staged readings in San Francisco and later in New York.

Because I had excelled in something I didn’t want to do and I had completed an introductory class in it, I applied for an advanced class in producing at the prestigious O’Neill Conference in Waterford Connecticut. I got in and there I met Sue Conover Marinello, who produced my play Onaje with great success last year in New York, and Christian De Gré Cardenas of Mind the Art Entertainment who has an amazing history of producing and also writing the music for a number of amazing operettas in New York. Both became friends.

After Sue Conover Marinello’s production of Onaje in New York, Mind the Art commissioned me to write the libretto for an operetta, Vox Populi, a comedy about the seventh deadly sin of pride, for Christian’s music. Last month, Christian and I completed the operetta in San Miguel Mexico.

Because Onaje had done so well, Sue convinced Kevin R. Free, the wonderful NYC director, to read the script. Kevin had fresh and original insights which lead to my reworking the script and his commitment to direct its next production.

The blog has become a happy travelogue. It is a history of mistakes and opportunities. It has taught me that even though I may not succeed in any of this, I’ve lost the fear of failure and each day is more fun than the last. The next step into a new thing is the hardest thing I ever do but it is getting easier with age.

Maybe an Old Dog Can Learn a New Trick… Maybe

Maybe an Old Dog Can Learn a New Trick… Maybe

I’m trying to teach an old dog a new trick: “patience.” But “impatience” has been one of that old dog’s primary character traits. I am that old dog.

After my play Onaje received its wonderful reviews in New York last October, I was impatient to immediately take it “off-Broadway,” but I was advised because New York is so expensive (The New York Times reported last Sunday that the brilliant and very controversial new Slave Play has spent $3.4 million to get to previews on Broadway) to be patient and watch “good things happen” before the next step.

I was patient and great things happened. Kevin R. Free, the gifted New York director, read the script and was interested but he told me, ”You missed an opportunity.” Dan, Onaje’s father, is African American, and his counterpart, Richard Middleman, Jr.’s father, is white. Both were fellow crabbers and friends down at the docks. Both have been missing their sons because of what happened “that night” so many years ago. What did that do to their friendship? Isn’t that question at the heart of this play?

It was as if Kevin had X-rayed the play and found the missing piece that lifted the play from specific to universal, and I had found a friend and hopefully the dream director who knew the script at least as well as I did and perhaps better. It was the same play but, looked at from a different angle, it was no longer just about Onaje— it had become about “American Terrorists,” the Klan as a destroyer of families.

I immediately started to rewrite so that I could send the new draft to Kevin. He like the rewrite and agreed to direct it in the future, but he wanted to have a table reading of the new script. I, of course, became impatient but I am learning ever so slowly that collaboration offers a kind of maturation and focus.

The play is getting stronger. Kevin’s agent, John Essay, and our producer, Sue Conover Marinello are working together and looking at budgets, venues, and theater opportunities.

The table reading has been set for October. We are off to the birth of a new and much more powerful play that will hit the stage soon but, of course, never soon enough for me. The actors will assemble at the Opera Center on Seventh Avenue in the next few weeks and we will hear a deeper and richer story come to life and I will grow wiser and benefit from learning to become more mature and, patient… Maybe.