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More Mirth Wind & Ire

More Mirth Wind & Ire

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More Mirth Wind & Ire

340 pagine
3 ore
Nov 10, 2017


More Mirth Wind & Ire speaks to the reality that its predecessor, "Mirth, WInd, and Ire" did not and could not cover all the critical and social issues left unresolved by America and her law-makers over the last three to four decades. A book of essays that uses mostly local confrontations as case histories to illustrate national and international problems, "More Mirth Wind and Ire" changes two key elements from "Mirth, Wind, and Ire." First it presents the essays in a broader framework placed within the title subjects rather than within randomly chosen title subjects. Secondly, it offers the reader, or groups of readers, a discussion guide to help either think more critically about a subject or begin some action towards its resolution. The author offers himself and his multi-decade experience in the intergroup relations field as a teacher, guide, mentor, to those who wish to take a crack at problem resolution.

The beauty of the essay format is that each essay is short, compact, and complete. Thus the reader can put the book down at any point and pick it back up without the worry of remembering plot lines and characters. "More Mirth Wind & Ire" is meant to be an easy but thoughtful read.

Nov 10, 2017

Informazioni sull'autore

Born in Brooklyn, NY where trees actually grew, front yard and back and all along the streets. I grew up in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, walking to both elementary school and high school (PS 217 and Midwood High School). My footnote in Brooklyn history is that I was a member of the last 8th grade graduating class in Brooklyn. Jr. High Schools were the educational rage of the day. My early childhood was one of motion. I was born in Maimonides Hospital and was brought home to Prospect Place above the subway station. It was in walking distance of Prospect Park. Then in fairly quick succession we moved to the New Ponsit Section of Belle Harbor Queens, right across the Marine Parkway Bridge, a bridge I once bicycled across from my home to impress a red-headed beauty of my dreams (she was 12). I got a flat time and arrived looking like a grease monkey. But she did kiss me hello and goodbye at moment her older brother did not have an eye on her. From there is was back to Prospect Place and then around the corner to a larger, more modern apartment building 500 Ocean Avenue. It had a terrace from which one could see the Trolley Cars on Church Avenue and the occasional Organ Grinder with monkey in tow looking for money. My final destination, before leaving for college, was to Waldorf Court. A 1906 3 story house with basement on a dead-end street. Now more idyllic place for city life could be found. We could walk four blocks to Avenue H, the local BMT stop, and drop in at Lou and Al's Candy Store, which sold a limited amount of candy but lots of most anything else a kid could want. Here I learned about lime rickeys, cherry cokes, and egg creams. The house was sold at first for about 8 grand. We bought it for maybe 20, sold it for maybe 40, and find out did I that about 10 years ago it went for a million bucks! Graduating from Midwood in '60, I attended The George Washington University in the District of Columbia twice, BA and MA. My work life started like my childhood. I spent two and a half years in Johnstown, Pa and 1 1/2 in Boulder, Colorado, then 4 in Stamford, Ct before beginning a 33 year stint with the American Jewish Committee followed by a 2nd career of 8 years with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. My mother was one of those who believed that little pitchers should be seen and not heard. I've been writing then since I could hold a pen. I wrote probably 800 love letters to one girlfriend and finally had my first piece published in the 1970's by News Day Newspaper. And I haven't stopped since. Mostly an op ed columnist I've written from most of the major newspapers in the southeastern United States. I had four articles published in USA Today and a 3,500 word feature in the Sunday Magazine of the St. Pete News. I'm married, have 3 children, two grandchildren, and a cocker spaniel named Jax. That's all folks.

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Anteprima del libro

More Mirth Wind & Ire - Bill Gralnick


General Introduction

Welcome to More Mirth, Wind and Ire --- true recollections of mostly irritating social and political arguments that have been going on for longer than:

- Whether it’s Mrs. Alfano’s spaghetti sauce or Mrs. Ruggiano’s that’s better.

- Whether it’s Mrs. O’Reilly or Mrs. O’Hara who gets the blue ribbon for her corned beef and cabbage.

- Whether Mrs. Schwartz or Mrs. Goldberg turns out the best matzo balls.

- Whether we need two prizes because we can’t settle the first argument of whether those balls should be flakey or chewy.

The aforementioned arguments are of course never settled, but usually go on with good beer or livelier spirits --- a lot of it—here and there forever.

But to be clear, the issues presented in More Mirth, Wind, and Ire are weightier than the pithy items noted above, and affect many, many more people across the Joseph’s Coat that is America. Daily the media presents issues which produce within the recipient a haven’t-we-had-this-argument-before? reaction. The sad answer in many cases is, Yes we have --- and likely we’ll have it a few more times.

For the readers of, Mirth, Wind, and Ire please also note there’s a change in how materials are presented in this follow-up edition:

Topics are presented in three macro topic arenas instead of the last edition’s more micro ones. Here we will use the categories taken from the title: Mirth, Wind, and Ire --- each with its own introduction, and containing content relative to that section’s category --- Mirth – Wind – or Ire.

And the literary ride begins with Mirth because it takes a bunch of humor to deal with the cultural crankiness searching for clarity during America’s last 30-40 years. A case could also be made for putting the humor at the end, sort of a literary dessert, or a present for doing the work which precedes it; however, ending on a high note might make readers forget the low ones.

Another addition --- hopefully again as a defense against ending on a high note --- is the addition of a discussion guide.

Mirth, Wind, and Ire ended with an offering of a fix for America’s bickerings. In this follow-up edition readers are offered a series of questions designed to focus them on the nuances of the issues and maybe, either singly or in groups, discuss local and national paths for moving forward. In sum, More Mirth Wind and Ire is more of a challenge than its predecessor.

Now let’s get to it.

Section One: Mirth

It isn’t looking for mirth; it’s letting it find you.


The ancient, holy Jewish books known as the Talmud say that, All of life is but a pool of mud without study. Double dittos if you add humor.

It would seem that one of the arrows in life’s quiver of survival has been humor. As story-telling evolved, scientists and researchers could get glimpses into its existence. We don’t know who was an early Woody Allen or Mel Brooks, but we know they were there. Mel Brooks in The 2000 Year Old Man was asked how early man amused himself. Brooks replied: By hitting a rock with a stick. Carl Reiner said, How could that be amusing? Brooks responded, That already was a lot of fun. Otherwise there was absolutely nothing to do back then! Pardon the few liberties I’ve taken with the quote.

The Greek and Roman Gods played tricks on one another, like letting the Lions eat the Christians. Funny --- no? The forums and circuses and king’s courts had clowns and jesters and magicians. Shakespeare not only wrote funny lines, he wrote at least 10 whole comedies. He was arguably the Neil Simon of his day. It seems long ago our forbearers understood the need for humor to balance the vicissitudes of life.

Even the Bible(s) have humor. We don’t exactly see the Hebrew Scriptures as a laugh a minute read, but in between the wrathful lessons taught by an impatient God, there was humor. Doesn’t the Bible tell us that when God told nonagenarian Sarah that she would have a baby that Sarah laughed? If she laughed it must have been funny, yes?

Remember Laverne and Shirley skipping to, Schlemiel, Schlimazel,…….? Well according to Florida Rabbi Norman Lipson that famous and funny Yiddish concept of schlemiel and schlimazel came from 11 Kings.

As for the Christian Scriptures, one wouldn’t expect the story of one sent to earth by his father to bear the sins of the world to be a laugh a minute tale either. I mean there was the dragging of a wooden cross through the streets while wearing a crown of thorns, and then suffering the crucifixion, one of the most horrible tortures of the time. And yet research shows many books written about the humor in Christian scriptures.

Professor Robin Gallaher Branch wrote an article in 2013: On the Lighter Side of the Bible. Dr. Branch is one smart lady with a PhD in Hebrew studies and a Fulbright Fellowship awarded in 2002. She writes about a verse that took her by surprise and made her laugh out loud. It went: Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret…… She says that humor is a fundamental sub-theme in both testaments and cites as back-up Ecclesiastes 3:4: A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

There’s the famous discussion between God and Moses when it’s discovered that while Moses was upstairs making a visit to God and collecting his gift to the people, those very same people were worshipping idols. In this back and forth, Dr. Gallaher points out that neither will claim the people Israel, each referring to them as your people. Rita Rudner it isn’t, but it’s cute.

She also finds laughter in Jonah’s time spent in the belly of the beast. That one eludes me as does her conclusion that because crowds of 5,000 people followed Jesus often forgetting to eat and drink that he must have been fun to be around. But then again no one has offered me a Fellowship and I’m from Brooklyn where humor is caustic, sarcastic and rarely subtle.

Rev. James Martin, SJ has authored, Between Heaven and Mirth — Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life. This tome’s thesis is that humor and laughter have a central place in the expression of faith. He quotes Reinhold Niebuhr: Humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer. And St. Thomas Aquinas: Joy is the noblest human act.

His book is full of stories like this one. A monk enters a very strict monastery. His spiritual leader says to him, Understand. You have liberty to speak only two words and only every five years. If you understand that you are welcome to stay. The novitiate nods in assent and begins his life’s work.

Five years pass and his superior comes to him with praise and says, You may speak two words now if you wish. The monk says, Food cold.

Another five years passes and he is again called forward for his two words, which are bed hard.

The 15th year brings this utterance: AC broken.

Comes year 20 and again the ritual unfolds. No longer is a novitiate, the now monk in good standing, brought forth for his two words, he says, I’m leaving! His superior snaps, Why I’m not at all surprised. You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here!

Ba da boom.

Fr. Martin, I think comes closer to the mark than Dr. Gallegher. It isn’t what’s funny in the Bible(s). Rather it’s without the ability to draw license for joy or mirth out of those books life would be dour indeed, and of course less healthy.

The research on health and humor is voluminous. Humor seems to be some emolument that keeps our hearts, minds, and body lubricated and working. Humor plays a role in the aging process. People who enjoy life, enjoy their partners, enjoy their friends tend to live longer than those who don’t. Healthier then to be a comedian than a Calvinist. Maybe it speaks to why Mel Brooks is 90, Carl Reiner 88; that George Burns lived to 100 years of age and Milton Berle not too much less than that. It isn’t looking for mirth; it’s letting it find you.

Woody Allen, now in his 80’s: It’s not that I’m afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it arrives. And again, I don’t want to be immortal when I die. I want to be immortal because I don’t die. I don’t want to die in people’s minds; I want to die in my apartment.

So let’s understand as we start. More Mirth Wind and Ire will mostly be soundings on the social and political ills that plague us, ills that like plagues keep showing up. More Mirth Wind and Ire points to the depressing fact that no matter how long we keep at it, and even in chasing our tail we can’t catch it, The reality is that the solutions we’re chasing are more important than our tail --- and we’re still not putting into it the energy that even our pets put into the hunt for that proverbial appendage.

Thus we lubricate with mirth at the beginning because I can’t offer a libation. Even if I could, it would soak your reading device or book.

And now a little mirth.

Charlie Brown -- My Now and Forever Hero

Everyone walks into that closet before they leave the house.

Good grief -- when this was written in the year 2000, Charlie Brown had just turned 50.

For old and new fans of Charley Brown creator Charles Schultz, that was and is wonderful news. For me it prompts melancholy reflection because I identify strongly with Peanuts --- and particularly Charlie Brown.

There are untold numbers of pieces from the Peanuts comic strip that became part of my life. In high school when I invariably got a crush on the girls who had boyfriends who were ready, willing and able to crush me, Charlie Brown would have had empathy. I became him and the girls became his famous pined-after, little red-haired girl.

At one of my little red-headed girl’s homes, where I had been invited to a pre-date dinner, a house so large that it has dozens of doors lining the hallway by the front door, I tried to be egalitarian by not letting the butler show me out and in turn missed the front door… and walked right into a closet. How patiently he waited and how cool he was when I emerged. He seemed to say: Don’t worry, Charlie Brown. Everyone walks into that closet before they leave the house.

On a return visit, he was similarly and blessedly circumspect. This time I walked from bathroom to dining room with my fly open. Having finally zipped it at the table, I didn’t notice until it was too late that I had zipped the tablecloth into it. Noticing it came when I got up to leave the table and began taking the table cloth --- and my place setting with me. He smiled and looked away.

Then came the time I agonized for weeks about asking a cheerleader to the prom. When I finally got the nerve up she said, How sweet. I wish you had asked sooner. I just yesterday accepted a date.

Repeat after me: Good Grief!

Much of my social life was typified by my Lucys putting down the football for me to punt, promising they wouldn’t pull it way yet again, and then of course doing exactly that with me landing on my head, or heart, or….well you know where else….just like Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown won me an unofficial prize for Mail the Postman Most Enjoys Delivering. In a relationship with someone who manipulated me like a marionette, I would cut out Peanuts cartoon strips and paste them on the backs of my letters to her. By my count it was in the several dozens.

E-mail doesn’t afford that type of creativity which permits a person to make a young fool of himself. She of course was unmoved. However, the mailman once told me that he looked forward to my letters and spoke of them to her, her mother, and all his fellow postmen.

Is lose the girl, win the postman a victory?

For someone about to receive an honorary doctorate, I probably shouldn’t be telling you this much about myself, but there’s so much more I’d need a book to fit it all in. For instance, after parties at the fraternity house I was seen more than once ‘perching’.

Perching is what Snoopy did when he was going through his vulture phase. It involved squatting Asian-style, rump between heels, rolling one’s shoulders far forward, then elevating the head with eyes peering straight forward. Snoopy and I would just sit. And peer. And say nothing.

This I used to do next to the stone lions in front of the Capital Hilton two blocks from the White House. What’s amazing is that neither of us ever got shot. Good grief (again.)! I shudder at the memory. There’s a reason such behavior is called sophomoric… It comes with drinking enough to numb the mind along with the cold.

Just like Charlie Brown, I was often the seeker of advice, and which much of it seeming to parallel Charlie Brown’s encounters with Lucy in her 5-cent psychiatry booth.

He complained one day that he couldn’t take his mind off the little red-headed girl. She leaned over and smacked him on the head. Ow. he cried. Why did you do that?

With the wisdom that comes of certainty Lucy replied: It took your mind off the little red-headed girl, didn’t it?

On those mornings I would rather have stayed under the bed than in it, I recall Rerun’s response to Lucy. She said, You have to get out from under the bed. You need to go to school to learn things.

Rerun’s response? I think I’ve learned all I need to know to stay under a bed.

It was Charlie, however, who owns the signature line of my life. I was awful in math and math-based sciences. In my academic career I flunked 5 math courses.

Sometime during that stretch of torture by mathematics, Charlie Brown said this: I’m at my best when things are just a matter of opinion. True that is to this writing.

Fifty years. Good Grief.

Cockeye and Joe

But it worked; she lived until 97.

So-called because he was wickedly cross-eyed, I never knew Cockeye’s name --- and because it was so very long ago, I’m not even sure that his brother’s name was Joe.

But I’m certain the world in which both lived and worked has changed dramatically

Cockeye and Joe were the corner drug store pharmacists in a world rarely found in America anymore. It wasn’t just that they knew customer names, but also knew family histories, who was sick --- and who had filed that totally unjustified (or totally justified depending on which family they were talking to) law suit. They remembered to ask if the scabs from the bicycle accident your kid had were healed, or that if you needed a roof repair their brother-in-law’s 2nd cousin twice removed was the person to call.

It was a neighborhood and world six city blocks in length and 1 ½ in width. Every necessity a person needed in the 1950’s and early 60’s could pretty much be found in the neighborhood. Rarely did one drive to the store; one usually walked and carried home whatever it might be bought, often with children in tow acting as grocery Sherpas. Nor did anyone ever say they were going to the stores even though I can’t ever remember just going to or being sent to just one of them. It was always, I’m going to the store. Well I can, but that will come later.

Within the boundary of my growing up area there was:

- The Irish bar (The Leprechaun, of course).

- The bank.

- The vegetable man (not store, but man).

- The butcher.

- The baker (no candle-stick maker).

- The grocery, actually two: Bohack’s (for Jews and other ethnics) on Foster Avenue and the A&P at the other end, Avenue H (for Gentiles), both of which featured sawdust on the floor and grocers in full-length aprons.

- The hardware store --- Title’s, also run by brothers, one named Alvin and both of whom seemed to see quite well.

- The notions store (I still don’t get why such stores were called that) which was called Mrs. Goldstein’s, not The Notion’s Store).

- A candy store that like all New York candy stores sold a little candy and lots of other things, mostly uneatable and even unchewable like Spaldeens, the pink, rubber balls that were the staple of our lives, and of course had a soda fountain. The candy store had a name, I’m sure, but as a destination it was Lou and Al’s --- two army veterans who ran it as a safe-haven in a rough spot for kids like me. Gang members’ money was welcome, but one didn’t fool around with Lou, Al or their patrons and for almost all of my recollection there was never any shop-lifting or vandalism, until the day it went up in flames. Local suspicion? Insurance fire. It was Brooklyn, remember?

It was only when my parents were on vacation and my grandma came to stay with my brother and me that I ever went to one store instead of several. Grandma was the last of the great penny-pinchers. She bought only what was needed and only bought it a moment or two before it was needed – like stockings, and there-in is a Notion’s Store story.

Grandma was an amputee; she had a leg removed because of cancer. Talk about advancement in medicine. The cancer was on her heel and they amputated her leg almost to the hip. But it worked; she lived until 97.

Because she had one leg she wore only one nylon stocking. Because of the wing nut and bolt on her wooden crutches, when we were not being careful or had to bring the crutches close in to get through a small space, she would put a tear in the one nylon she was wearing.

Nylons as they were called (never stockings or Nylon stockings) were sold however in boxes of two. My grandma was a stubborn and certain woman so on her command off I would go to Mrs. Goldstein with instructions to buy one nylon. Back I would then come with the answer that if Mrs. G. only sold one she’d have no use for the other and back I would go then to buy the box of two. Why didn’t grandma pack an extra? ‘Don’t know. Nor was she the type that you asked such things.

But back to Cockeye. How he got through pharmacy school was a mystery, re-enforced every time I went to pick up a prescription. In order to double-check that he was giving me the right bag, he’d hold it up at about a 45 degree angle to his shoulder so he could read it. My assumption was that his brother did the pill counting and liquid pouring, or so I hoped.

It was decades until it dawned on me that it must have been a huge challenge

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