Thursday, June 12, 2014



   My brother and I hit the hustings for the first time in 1961 on behalf of Lefkowitz, Gilhooley and Fino. I was six, my brother eight and we spent hours, maybe days, standing on the corner in front of Daley's Saloon brandishing hand-made signs for the ticket and singing the ubiquitous jingle of the campaign:

How can you miss
With a ticket like this
Lefkowitz, Gilhooley and Fino

You'll be safe in the Park
Anytime after dark
Lefkowitz, Gilhooley and Fino

I supported this trio because my brother said we should and I have no idea why he felt that way. Perhaps it was because of the steady stream of sound-trucks belting out that jingle throughout the City, but I don't remember either of us having any particular ax to grind with Mayor Wagner. Indeed, I am surprised to discover that Lefkowitz was a Republican and I suppose I can no longer claim to have never backed one. For my part, I was happy to do my older brother's bidding and happier still to be standing by the swinging, saloon doors of Daley's, a place of nearly overwhelming mystery, redolent of stale beer, fresh pee and soggy sawdust on the tile floor, just visible through the murky, afternoon bar gloom. After a week of this we tired of campaigning and opted instead for the more immediate satisfaction of preparing hot mustard and Tabasco sandwiches for the neighborhood drunk. It's safe to say we were more astonished by how little effect these had on our victim than Lefkowitz's loss that Fall.

Around the time of my ninth birthday in the Spring of 1964, the Johnson – Goldwater contest had pretty well wound my entire elementary school up to a fever pitch. The candidates enjoyed a fairly even split among the student body and we busied ourselves with pasting Johnson bumper stickers on our book-bags, trading campaign buttons and arguing vociferously about The Bomb. When Bobby Rayburn made some disparaging comment about Lyndon Johnson's ears or nose one afternoon, I felt compelled to defend the President and a scuffle ensued. A teacher pulled us apart, took us to the gym and forced us into a few rounds of regulated fisticuffs with gloves on. My nose was bloodied and my enthusiasm for campaigning never recovered. Knowing what I know now of Lyndon Johnson, I'm not sure his honor was worth my shedding blood for. Certainly his nose and ears were not.

I've never been interested in the slightest in running for office. And, at least since 1964, I've felt no desire to actively campaign for a candidate. I'd like to think that politics wasn't as nasty and deceitful back in the day as it has proven to be of late, but I know that's not true. My grandfather, a self-described Republican progressive Governor, Senator and Ambassador, was far enough to the right to ban the use of the Roosevelt name within his house. My great-Grandfather, a diplomat, enraged over a tiff with his boss, switched parties and campaigned against his own father in the 1896 Presidential campaign. 

   It's hard to imagine that Lefkowitz, Gilhooley and Fino were up to the sort of dirty tricks, bald-faced-lies and misinformation we all take for granted in politics today. Not with that happy, catchy jingle pouring out of every radio. But then again, they lost.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cialis, When She's Ten Feet Tall

“One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small”

   And far from not doing much of anything at all, a third pill may very well cause minor gastric hemorrhaging, impaired breathing, loss of appetite, night sweats, convulsions, unwanted facial hair, sudden vision loss, diarrhea, chest pains, nausea during sex, seizures, swelling of the face, neck and lips, TB, Lymphoma, Hepatitis B, sudden cardiac arrest and death. Not to mention everybody's personal favorite, the priapic erection lasting four hours or more!


My demographic has snuck up on me over the last fifteen or twenty years, coinciding roughly with the advent of TV pharmaceutical advertizing on a scale that might put Coke and Pepsi to shame. Come to think of it, I don't recall the last time I saw a Coke commercial; maybe they run those on MTV or Comedy Central along with condom and acne ads. On MSNBC, CNN, HBO, PBS, FOX and any other channel that presumes to cater to those older than eighteen, however, the prevailing sponsors seem to be engaged in a race to the graveyard.  While we were giggling at the image of Bob Dole's passionate embrace of the incipient Viagra years ago, lobbyists got hot and bothered, networks succumbed to Pharma's blandishments and spewed their nocturnal emissions over TV's turgid waters, spawning the horrors we suffer through today. Indeed, watching TV in mixed company can be pretty uncomfortable, particularly if children are about and one might have to answer the question, “ Daddy, what's vaginal lubricant?” or, “ Mommy, can we ask my doctor if I'm healthy enough for sex?”

   My brother and I recently found ourselves cataloging and comparing aches, pains and procedures – an irresistible and time-honored part of the aging process – using my father's precipitous decline as some sort of predictive benchmark. Where once we might have pondered where Dad was at our age in terms of ambition, opportunity or success, we now might look for clues as to when to expect debilitating arthritis, hammertoes, melanoma, colonic polyps and stroke. Some of this angst is natural, traits being genetic and hereditary, but a good portion of it can be blamed on the media. And the great irony, of course, is that notwithstanding my own relentless pain – I pretty much have to ask Suzanne to open jars for me now – I have absolutely no intention of ever asking my doctor about Celebrex, Humira, or any other televised wonder-drug whose side effects might include sudden death or oily discharge. They've lost me for good and may as well put my portion of their ad money into R&D.

   I had a doctor some years back who prescribed two familiar drugs and baby aspirin as a daily regime. It's been my good fortune, thus far, not to have seen ads for these. The prescriptions were prophylactic, he said, based more on my father's history than on any real or present danger in my own case. It was a moment of transmutation, akin to being told I needed bifocals, and I resisted. I had the scrips filled and put them in a drawer for two weeks. One day I bought a weekly pill box at the Dollar Store and arranged the three pills in that. At some point I began taking them. If the pill box is not in plain sight on the kitchen counter every morning, though, I can't be expected to remember. Which points up another potential problem.......

   What day is it today?