My Heart Belongs To…2020?

Well, 2020 has gotten off to a nifty start. The delusional, narcissistic, psychotic megalomaniacal fuckwad currently occupying the White House, is giving his equally psychotic Fundamentalist faux “Christian” supporters exactly what they want — bringing us to the brink of Armageddon and the Rapture. Does this make him the Second Coming he wants his brain-dead followers to believe he is, or the anti-Christ (the more likely choice).

And here on the home-front, my New Year, which got off to a rousing start with a great NYE party, was followed, a few days later, by my latest ambulance ride (my 3rd over the past year and a half). After a rather rough day, I was walking up the stairs, ready to fall into bed, when I stopped on the steps, unable to breathe, my chest pounding, and my left side in agony.

I couldn’t talk; couldn’t even keep my eyes open. I’ve had anxiety attacks before, but nothing that ever felt like this. The next hour or so is pretty much a blank. EMT’s arriving; questions asked; me trying to answer while gasping for air. My wife, Tanya (who had an ambulance ride of her own, at the end of November, which left her with fractured hip and pelvic bones), on her walker, standing over my somewhat crumpled body. Being carried out of the house on a gurney, placed in the ambulance and the ride to the hospital.

For the next six hours or so, I felt like a pin cushion, while waiting for the verdict. Was I having a heart attack, or was this simply the anxiety attack of all anxiety attacks? The tests came back saying my EKG and blood-work looked good, and it didn’t look like I was having a heart attack.

Just to be safe, however, the doctor wanted to keep me overnight, for “observation.” Here’s where one has to parse the terms, “being admitted” to a hospital, as opposed to “being held for observation.” If you’re officially admitted to the hospital as a patient, your insurance will cover it (or most of it, or, depending on the quality of your policy, some of it). However, if you’re only being held for “observation,” the insurance companies won’t kick in a dime.

But here’s an interesting thing about hospitals, and the insurance companies that our elected “representatives” allow to bilk the citizens of this country 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If anyone wants to know why so many Americans leave hospitals “against doctors orders,” consider this a pretty good answer. Saying insurance companies in this country have been given WAY too much power — yet again, corporate lobbying dollars buying our “representatives” on the Hill, as well as in state legislatures around the country — is like saying, “did you know every day of the week has the word “day” in its name?”

So, I was released — AGAINST DOCTOR’S ORDERS — with the suggestion I follow up with my cardiologist. As it happens, I don’t happen to have a cardiologist, so I had to find one through my insurance company. Interestingly, although I live in the second largest city in Maryland, very few local doctors take my insurance. But I managed to find one who did, and I will be following up on the 15th.

I was also told to “avoid stress.” Are they fucking kidding!!!

I’m a political junkie! As it is, due to the multitude of calamities which comprised the Hell that was 2019, I’ve already been forced to delay my long-planned podcast for more than seven months. And since I can’t stop laughing through the fart jokes, it’s not like I can use the Stephanie Miller Show as my only source of news. I’ve gotta have my Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell! And how can I not read The Daily Kos, The Raw Story, AlterNet, and (for my fellow entertainment industry folk) The Hollywood Reporter? I defy anyone (discounting the MAGATs, who don’t know how to read, and get all their news from our friends at Fux News) to read or listen to this stuff and not get stressed out.

So, what’s happening to help calm my aching heart and keep the stress levels low this week?

Oh, not much — Tangerine Man went and had the second in command of Iran offed, once again putting the United States in the position as world leader of assholiness, and handing the Middle East to his buddy, Vlad — the guy whose primary goals in life are a) destroying American democracy (whatever that is); b) rebooting the Soviet Union. And c) becoming the savior of Iran, Iraq and (may the great IS help us), Syria!

So naturally, Iran had to counter our “hit” with a little retribution of their own, followed by the “accidental” demolition of a Ukrainian passenger jet, which had just taken off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board, including Canadian, Ukrainian and even Iranian citizens.

I don’t know how much Putin is paying and/or blackmailing Twitler, McConnell and Graham with, but it does my pre-stressed heart no good to see the year 2020 starting off with this country doing a pretty fair imitation of Germany, circa 1933. This crap is not healthy for any of us.


Molestation — When Will Enough Be Enough?

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this blog for days. It’s not that I don’t know what I want to say. I’ve just been trying to think about how to make it cohesive, easily understood, and not written in a way that gets me pilloried by anyone who only reads part of this (although, I suppose I should be happy when anyone reads any part of my posts).

I wrote a blog back in June, 2016, after the political insanity and outright viciousness within the Democratic party during the primaries (from both Sanders and Clinton supporters) did something to my psyche, that awakened a memory I’d been suppressing for 50+ years.

Between the ages of five and seven, I was molested, repeatedly, by the older kid (male), who lived next door.

It started with two of them — the Protestant fuck next door, and his Roman Catholic buddy across the street. They both came from rabidly anti-semitic families (my family was part of an influx of newly middle-class Jews from NYC, to the suburbs), with the kid next door being the son of a member of the John Birch Society (an organization not particularly keen on anyone to the left of Attila the Hun). But the kid across the street declined to participate after the first time, so it was the guy next door who was the real molester.

After regaining these memories, I can’t begin to state the level of emotional trauma I went through. There was a point I even questioned my memories, my own sanity — did these events actually happen, or was my psyche just losing it.

Fortunately, after posting the blog, I received a call from someone whose identity I’m still protecting. This person told me about the trauma and guilt they’d lived with for most of their life, because they had been witness to this motherfucker molesting several other neighborhood kids (in this case, girls). The trauma came because, as a five-six year old, they hadn’t done anything to stop what they didn’t even have the capability to realize was happening at the time.

Nevertheless, dealing with the trauma of my recalled memories, plus a few other major events going wrong in my life around the same time, I ended up spending 72-hours in a psych ward, on a suicide watch (an experience almost as traumatic as the molestation, which I also wrote about).

However, with the advent of the #MeToo movement, which I feel very much a part of, I’ve been very involved, as I have for most of my life, in fighting for the rights of women. I thought the rage I felt at what women have been, and are continuing to be put through (I’m talking to you, “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” the Republican members of the Senate, and the serial molester in the Oval Office), had to do with having been brought up by my feminist mother. Until recently, it never occurred to me there were deeper reasons, other than my love and respect for women, for my particular passion for this cause.

But social media can have a funny effect on one’s feelings. For example, while a number of women (minus one truly nasty person) truly supported my right to consider myself a member of the #MeToo movement, and while I understand that probably 98% (or more) of the sexual harassment, molestation and rape in this country is perpetrated on women, by men, still, I felt the boys and men who had suffered through these same things, were being given short shrift.

Granted, I have skin (pardon the expression) in this game, but over the past week or two — possibly because of the particularly disgusting treatment received by Dr. Blasey Ford, at the hands of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, that orange shit in the White House, and Mr. Kavanaugh himself — the fact there were boys and men who had suffered equally, was getting lost in the shuffle. I would also point out, being this is the (supposed) United States, while taking nothing away from any of the women who have shown courage in telling their stories, it’s no easier for men to tell theirs.

So, yeah — I was feeling the small percentage of men who’ve gone through these traumas, were getting lost in the shuffle, among the huge numbers of women who had.

Then, listening to women talk about how they had never told anyone, or honestly believed (at the time, anyway) they did something to deserve what happened to them, a thought occurred to me which hadn’t, before. What happened to me as a child, wasn’t my only experience with what could be deemed, at best, harassment, but also, molestation.

When I was 20 years old, and just starting my acting career, I spent a short period of time, working in the psychiatric department of a hospital in Queens, NY. Every morning, I would hop on the express subway from East 86th St., near my apartment, down to 59th St., where I would transfer to the RR or N line to Queens. When I was 20, especially clean shaven, I looked closer to 15 or 16 years old. And if you’ve ever taken a rush hour subway in NYC, you know what it feel like to be a sardine, packed in tin.

One day, as I was making my way downtown from 86th St., there was this very strange looking man standing in front of me. He was tall, dirty, with long, straggly hair, and an unkempt beard. If you’ve ever seen the album cover of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, that’s pretty much who I was facing.

In any event, “Aqualung” was kind of moving up and down, with a very strange expression on his face — to put it bluntly, he looked like he was cumming. Then, I realized I was feeling something I shouldn’t have been. I looked down, and realized this guy was rubbing his hand over my crotch. The subway was too packed for me to move, and I was beyond way too shocked to say anything. But as soon as we hit 59th St., I pushed my way out of that car — fast!

I’ve told that story over the years, thinking of it as a really strange, if very NYC subway, experience. In all the years since, it actually took until this very week for me to — or, maybe, accept is a better word — I’d been molested.

My second subway story was also kind of strange. On another day, I was one of only two passengers on this particular RR car, headed toward Queens. The only other passenger in the car, was an old man in a long, black trench coat. For anyone old enough to remember Artie Johnson’s dirty-old-man on the bench character from the 1960s sketch comedy show, Laugh-In, that’s about as close a description as I can give of this guy.

Anyway, as the subway pulled out of the 59th St. station, I was seated on one end of the car, the old guy at the other end, across the aisle. But as the subway started moving, so did the old man. First he moved halfway up the car, in my direction. Then, he crossed the aisle to my side of the car. Finally, on this otherwise empty subway car, he sidled up next to me. And by next to me, I mean he was leaning into me. As soon as we hit the first stop, Queens Plaza, I jumped off that train. Again, I thought it was just another typically bizarre NYC subway story.

The final story I want to recount regarding these events, may be the strangest. A number of years ago, my wife and I were driving cross-country. We’d either stay in cheap hotels overnight, or, if we had friends in the area, we’d crash with them. In one city, we crashed with a friend — a woman — who was kind enough to give us her bed, while she took the bed in her son’s room, since he no longer lived at home.

The following morning, my wife woke before I did, and went to take a shower. A few minutes later, I woke to find our host — nice person, but not someone I was sexually attracted to, in the least — in bed with me. To say it bluntly, I woke up to find her sucking my dick! That brought me to consciousness, really quickly. I stopped her, trying to be polite and not offend her, saying I didn’t think my wife would appreciate walking in on that. In truth, I was repulsed. But as we’ve all heard and read in so many variations, I was a guy, and she was a woman, so it had to be a misunderstanding. It couldn’t possibly be considered molestation…or, g_d forbid, rape!

I recount these last three stories, because up until this week, it never occurred to me what these events really were. I have no idea if it was denial, or because I was an adult male, or what. The point is, realizing all this regarding myself, I believe I now understand much more clearly, why, every time I hear a similar story from a woman who’s been put in a similar situation to those which I was, I go into something of a homicidal rage that’s not pleasant to feel, or be around.

As those who’ve been there during these times can attest, were I within striking distance of, for example, a Chuck Grassley or Orrin Hatch, especially while they were questioning Dr. Blasey Ford, or even making their disgusting, misogynistic comments about her (and all the women victimized by men) to the press, I would happily take a baseball bat, and break every fucking bone in their worthless bodies.

The final story I want to recount in this saga, kind of goes in a different direction. I want to preface this by saying how incredibly grateful I am, to have had the parents I was blessed with. I believe it was their deep love, care, concern and respect for each other, that helped my brothers and I become the men we are.

When I was 29, I was performing in a show at a regional theatre. When working away from home, it’s natural to bond, and spend time with your cast-mates and crew. But at this particular theatre, there was a young lady working in the box office, who I would speak with regularly. She was cute, sweet as could be, and the mutual attraction was fairly obvious.

So one night, after the show, I asked if she’d like to go to a nearby diner and get something to eat. She said she’d like that very much. So off we went to grab a meal. Over dinner we talked about a myriad of subjects — me, what it was like being an actor; her, why she enjoyed working in a theatre so much. We told each other a little about our lives. She was only 19 or 20 at the time, and had graduated a very strict, all-girls Catholic school. I told her about my life and aspirations, and we got to know each other a little more.

Afterwards, she drove me back to my hotel, where I asked if she’d like to come up to my room, which she did. We talked a little more, before we started kissing. The kissing developed into more intense kissing, followed by a bit more than kissing, ending up with us naked on my bed.

This is where the story becomes kind of an inversion of the usual way this would go. I was on top of her, ready and more than willing to proceed. But I looked at her face, and could tell there was something wrong, so I stopped. I didn’t know if she was scared, felt she wasn’t ready for this step, or whatever. So I asked her what was wrong. She told me she really liked me, and wanted to, but was also scared, and not sure if she was ready to take this step. So I got off her and said, “then we don’t have to do this.”

Here’s the part that freaked me out. It seems she felt, since she’d gotten me “excited,” and we’d gone this far, it wasn’t fair to me, and she didn’t think she had the right to stop at this point. To say I was totally shocked by that comment would be the ultimate understatement. I mean, this was the 1980s, for crissakes!

I held her for a minute, looked at her and said, “listen to me. It doesn’t matter how excited I am. I could be halfway inside you. If you decide you’re not ready or don’t want to do this, you say, no — and I stop! No questions, no arguments, no nothing. And, I added, this didn’t apply to just me — it applied to anyone.” Her response stunned me — she asked, wouldn’t it make me mad? Wouldn’t it make any guy mad?

I responded with, if I was the kind of person who got angry over something like that, then I have the right to not see, or go out with you again. I’d be a dick if I did, but you never have to do anything you don’t want to do, or are not ready to do. And if anyone ever tries to make you think you have to, or you owe it to them for some sick reason, fuck them (I know, ironic choice of words)! And get away from them, immediately!

What was unfathomable to me at the time — and still is, all these years later — was the fact I had to explain this to her. How did we get to the mid-1980s, with women, even young ones, not understanding they have the right to control what they do, and don’t do, with their bodies. The fact that, to a frightening degree, that lack of understanding still holds true today, is something I cannot comprehend.

In any event, I held her for a while longer, we talked some more, and she left. We remained friends for the run of the show, but the relationship never gained any traction after that, mostly, I think, because she was embarrassed. But I have never forgotten that night, and will forever be grateful to my parents for helping make me the kind of person who reacted the way I did.

It is often said, as justification by men who believe women exist to service them — people like the orange pig whose name I refuse to say, the Brett Kavanaugh’s, and their ilk, “a hard dick has no conscience.” That’s very convenient thinking if you’re an over-entitled, spoiled, narcissistic, misogynist. But that hard dick is attached to a human body, with, hopefully, a brain attached. One that understands right from wrong. Unfortunately, as we have seen all too clearly in the year 2018, that is far from the case.

A Different Story, Inspired By the Events of September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001 marks a date most of us will never forget. There’s no need to repeat the sights, sounds and heartache of that day, when so many, far more eloquent than I, have done so since that tragedy. I don’t even want to discuss the politics of that date, and the days following, most of which has also been reported, over and over, fairly thoroughly.

For me, September 11th started a few years or so before the actual event. That’s the story I have never talked about publicly before today.

Sometime in 1998, my wife and I were informed the rent on our tiny, 12′ x 17′ studio apartment on the upper-East Side of Manhattan, was going to be raised to $1200, a figure we simply could not accept. So, like many New Yorkers in the same boat as us, we decided it was time to look for someplace else to live.

We started the hunt in Hells Kitchen, an aptly named neighborhood, stretching from around 34th to 59th Streets, on the very west side of the City. In an effort to make the area sound a tad classier, real estate brokers called the neighborhood, Clinton. How better to justify the exorbitant rents.

At this point, for those who’ve never lived in NYC, I should explain how the game of renting even the shittiest apartment, worked back then (I say back then, as it’s the last time I had to deal with it).

A number of years earlier, the owners of apartment buildings in NYC realized they could make a killing by having a second party — usually a friend or relative — open an apartment rental agency, which would then represent all the apartment buildings owned by friend or relative #1. That way, you couldn’t rent directly from an apartment building’s owner. You had to go to the agency “repping” a building (or, more often, buildings).

Why would they go through this charade I hear you ask. Simple, a rental agency’s fee for “finding you” an apartment was, legally, anywhere from 15-25% of a year’s rent. To be fair, most agencies charged 15%. So to rent an apartment in NYC, you had to come up with first and last months rent, plus a 15% fee to the rental agency (more often than not, owned by the owner of the buildings you were looking at).

If you figure a small studio apartment (like ours) went for around $1200 a month at the time, that means to rent it, you needed to come up with $2400, plus a non-refundable agency fee of $2160. That’s a total of $4560 before you movie in. But that’s not all — most agencies wanted you to prove you earned at least 52 times your monthly rent — in this case, $62,400, per year. And if you happened to own a dog, as we did, there would also be a non-refundable pet fee ($500), plus, in some cases, you actually had to pay an additional rent for the dog (cats, you could sneak in).

If you work on Wall Street, that number might sound minuscule. But if, like my wife and I (and thousands of others), you’re an actor, never knowing when your next real job will appear, it means you’re also waiting tables, doing clerical work in an office, or something to help you survive. In that situation, you usually won’t have pay stubs, or a tax return proving you earn at least $62,400 a year. To get around this obstacle, what many of us did back then was, forge the documents.

So, for all this, what were we shown (and by “shown,” what I mean is, if an agency has an apartment you want to see, you leave them your driver’s license, or a credit card, they hand you a key, and you go look)? More studios apartments, only in these places, you had little innovations like the tub also serving as your kitchen table (you just pick the top off, and bathe). We were shown shithole after shithole, some claiming to have been recently remodeled — maybe a new fridge, or stove — more often than not, it simply meant a new paint job.

Being a tad frustrated, we were talking to another actor friend one day, who said, you need to come look at Jersey City! Jersey City? You mean, like, across the Hudson…in Jersey?

You have to understand, to me, a native New Yorker, New Jersey might as well have been another planet. If someone told you they lived in New Jersey, the immediate response was, what exit? Again, for those unfamiliar with the east coast, Jersey is known for it’s exits along I-95 and the Garden State Parkway. New Yorkers did not cross the Hudson.

But, being desperate, we decided, what the hell. What we didn’t know was, there was a subway we’d never heard of (or bothered to notice), called the PATH, running from Herald Sq. (in front of Macy’s), running down to Greenwich Village, and then under the Hudson, to Jersey City. At the time it cost less than the subway, and was a lot cleaner. So, surprisingly, we were off to a good start.

The trip ended with the second stop in Jersey City, at Grove Street. It had taken about 20 minutes from Herald Sq., which was kind of amazing as it took us a 15-minute walk from our studio on the very East Side, to even get to the subway going downtown. Being so close to the City, Grove St. was kind of a shock, as, at the time, it had much more of a small-town feel. But, there was a pizzeria and Duncan Donuts right there at the PATH station, which we found somewhat comforting.

Anyway, a two-minute, block and a half walk down Grove Street, took us our friends’ building. He was living in a studio there, as well. But when he opened the door and we looked in, what we saw was a cavern! This studio was HUGE! We could easily have fit three of our studios into his. He had high ceilings, and it was bright. So I asked, how much are you paying for this? $500 a month, came the answer. After I picked my jaw off the floor, I asked if there happened to be any other apartments available in the building. So, my friend looked out his rear-facing window, into a small backyard, where a family was having a barbecue. He opened the window, and shouted down, “Hey Moustafa, you have any apartments available?” As it happened, he did — a 3-bedroom on the top floor.

My wife and I almost choked, knowing there was no way we could afford a 3-bedroom, but our friend said, what the hell, you can at least take a look. So we did. When Moustafa, the landlord, opened the door, we both almost passed out. The room we saw — a combination living-dining room — was huge. It had new carpeting, and recessed lighting in the ceiling. On the other side of the room, was the kitchen. Not a narrow, NYC kind of kitchen you couldn’t fit two people in, but a real kitchen! Tons of shelf space, and — oh my g_d! — a dishwasher!

The first bedroom was also off the living room. It was a pretty fair-sized bedroom, almost the size of our entire studio, overlooking Grove Street. But it also had a closet running the entire width of the room. Then, we proceeded down the hall. The first thing we noticed was a cubbyhole for a stackable washer-dryer. We didn’t have a washer dryer, but this freaking apartment had a place for one. Movinging further down the hall, we came upon a very nice bathroom — full tub, toilet, sink with vanity — no kitchen table. And roomy. Okay. Beyond that were two doors. We went through the one on the right, first. The second bedroom was bigger than the first, and, like the other, had a closet running across the entire width.

But the most incredible part came when we looked out the window. There, stretched before us, was the entire skyline of NYC, with the World Trade Center prominently visible in front of us. We just stood there a moment, looking — kind of like tourists seeing Manhattan for the first time.

Then we went into the third bedroom. It was huge. I mean, really big, with high ceilings, and the same breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. But i this room, the closet was different. Instead of running along the entire wall, this bedroom had a seven foot-deep, walk-in closet, with racks and shelving on both sides. But, no, that wasn’t it for this room. We had one more surprise in store. This bedroom had it’s own bathroom! A second, full, master bathroom. And, holy shit!!! The tub had jacuzzi jets!

By this point I was salivating. But I knew this was also the point where the fantasy would come crashing down. So, not really wanting to hear the answer, I asked Moustafa, how much the apartment rented for? He said, I’m asking $1200 a month. Before I could say a word, my wife turned to me and said, “but we said we didn’t want to pay more than $1100.” Before I could say, are you out of your fucking mind, Moustafa said, “I like you two. I’ll give you the first year for $1100 a month.” I turned to my wife and said, “write him a check.” I was not about to let this palace get away. So I started to take out all the forged paperwork I’d created to prove we made enough to afford this place. Moustafa just shook it off. I don’t need to see all that — I trust you.

And that is how we left the city of my birth, and moved across the Hudson, to Jersey City, and an incredible apartment with the most amazing view of Manhattan you could ask for, with the World Trade Center prominently featured.

One of the more unexpected, and kind of breathtaking things we learned, on days the Hudson got fogged over, the WTC seemed to disappear. Then, as the fog lifted, like Brigadoon, it would magically reappear. It was cool, beautiful and, at the same time, somewhat eerie.

After having lived in Jersey City for a year or so, my wife found a day job at a financial institution with offices in the WTC. It was an incredibly short, if crowded commute. Two stops on the PATH train, ending right underneath the twin towers. Two-minute walk to the PATH. Five minutes underground. That was her daily commute.

During the year, we had also gotten ourselves a roommate, which helped cut our expenses. The second bedroom, next to ours, we turned into our home office, where I worked, when not teaching or acting in the City. It was truly ideal.

But all of that changed one unbelievable day in the year 2000.

Tanya, my wife, and I spent the entrance to the new millennium with my family in Norfolk, VA. My brothers, Richard and Ethan, were then running 2nd Story Theatre, a non-profit stage company the three of us had started, number of years before. It was a nice way to ring in the new year, and we had a wonderful time.

Back home, I was working on the script for a television pilot, my friend Joe and I were writing. Things were looking very up. Then, as so often happens, we lost the funding for our pilot.

At this point, I should mention — I have a certain degree of psychic ability. I have no control over it, but sometimes I know things are going to happen before they do. It also helps me read people — who they are, their thoughts and dreams, and, sometimes, their intent. The one person I’ve never been able to use this gift to help, is me. When it comes to predicting my future, I haven’t got a clue.

I mention this because, one night, a few months into the new year, I had what I can only describe as the most vivid dream of my life. In the dream, I saw the southern tip of Manhattan immersed in smoke. I didn’t know if it was from a bomb, an earthquake or something else. But in the midst of all this smoke and destruction, the most frightening aspect was, the twin towers of the World Trade Center were no longer there. They, along with pretty much everything in the area, were destroyed.

I woke up with a start, my breath coming in heaves. The first thing I did was look out at the window, to ensure myself the twin towers were still there. But I couldn’t shake the dream/vision I’d just had, and felt nothing other than a complete and utter sense of danger.

I slowly walked into our home office where Tanya was working on the computer. As usual, she greeted me with the loving smile that always melts my heart. But this time, I couldn’t push back the dream I’d just had. So I pulled another chair up to the desk, took Tanya’s hands in mine, and told her about my dream. I finished by saying something I hadn’t really known I was thinking. What I said was, “I don’t think we’re safe here, anymore. I think we have to get out of here.”

There are people who would have looked at me as if I was crazy. There are those who would have said, “are you insane? Our entire lives are here. Our careers are here.” And who would have been able to blame them?

But that’s not Tanya’s and my relationship. Our love, and our understanding of each other goes much deeper than that. having heard me out, she looked at me quite seriously, and said, “then I think it’s time we leave.”

A few days later, I received a call from my brother, Ethan. He was calling on behalf of himself and Richard. And the timing of what he had to say simply fit the moment, perfectly. “Rick and I are totally burnt out running the theatre. Is there any chance you and Tanya would be interested in moving down here and taking over the theatre for us?”

Exactly 60 days from the date of my dream, an army of our friends came over, and helped us pack a truck being supplied by one of our friends. We put all our belongings in the truck, and whatever was left, into our car, and left our beautiful Jersey City apartment, for a new home in Norfolk, VA, an apartment we’d never seen, which my brother, Richard, had rented for us.

When we got to Virginia, and went over to the theatre, a loft on the 2nd Story of a building (thus the company name), we found a company in total disarray. Grant applications had not been finished, loose contracts lost us the next play scheduled in the season, and the script for the play after that, was not only unfinished, what had been written was a disaster. The final blow our first week there, was finding out our landlord was cancelling our lease, leaving a theatre company with no home.

We did our best, managing to find a new space, which turned out to be temporary and changing the name of the company to the Actors Repertory Theatre.  We managed to produce the East Coast premiere of a wonderful play, Supernormal Clutches, which Tanya co-starred in, and I directed. But after a series of further disasters, we decided our only choice was to relocate ourselves, and the company. So we moved to Frederick, MD, Tanya’s hometown, northwest of Washington, DC.

As we were working to get ART up and running in Frederick, Tanya took a temp job, to help keep us afloat until we were back in production. That was where she was on the morning of September 11, 2001. I woke that morning, to a shaky call from Tanya, who told me to turn on the television — quickly. Five minutes later, with the first WTC building already in smoke and flames, I watched as a plane rammed into the second twin tower.

The rest of that story is known by everyone, especially our friends who were nearby, or helping as first responders. Tanya came home a short while later. Her temp job had let her go, because they didn’t approve of her reaction to what she’d witnessed — the destruction of a building which, up until we’d left Jersey City and Manhattan less than a year and a half earlier — where she’d worked. Had we still been there, Tanya would have been arriving at the WTC subway stop, under the twin towers, just as the first plane hit.

In the years since, Tanya has said (on multiple occasions), my dream probably saved her life. No question life would have been much different had we stayed.

The events of that day, ended up changing the lives of millions of people. Not just those who perished that day, their families, and the entire City of New York. Not just the people who died when the plane hit the Pentagon and their families, and not just the people of flight 93, who crashed their plane in Shanksville, PA, to save others, and their families. It affected all Americans, and eventually hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, as well.

But for Tanya and I, while we feel the same anger, sadness, and sense of loss felt by all Americans, there is also something else. A feeling of gratitude that, for whatever reason, some power — whatever you want to call it — I find no need to define it, warned us well in advance, and saved us. It allowed us to share the strange ride we’ve taken ever since.

It was something special, and it kept us together.



So This Is 2018

The following is not exactly what I had envisioned for my second blog of 2018, which was meant to be my first. Most confusing.

When 2016 ended, I was profoundly happy. The end of a godawful shitty year, filled with the deaths of heroes and legends, culminating in the election (selection?) of one of the most vile, contemptuous, corrupt and totally incompetent fools to ever sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.

Not exactly a promising way to ring in 2017. Enough shit tossed about from day one, to make one long for those good old days of 2016.

Which brings me to January, 2018 (I’ve often found, glossing over miserable times can often be an excellent way to deal with them… by not dealing with them. As anyone who reads my blog knows, 2017 falls into that category.

On a positive note, my wife and I, accidentally stumbled upon a new medical practice we liked. The fact we found it by my contracting the flu was not exactly how I would have chosen to find a new practice, but, hey, what the hell. So, being long overdue for a physical, I set one up.

One week later, as my new primary care physician is giving me the overdue physical, she looked up at me and, pointing to my crotch says, “are you aware you have a hernia?” “Uh, no,” was my pathetically lame response, followed by a hopeful, “but it’s nothing I need to take care of right now, is it?” She looked at me with one of those, “Oh, you poor schmuck,” looks, and said, “I tell you what, let’s send you to a surgeon and see what they think.”

After getting a referral from my father-in-law, I made an appointment with a surgeon who specializes in hernias. On the appointed day, there I stood being examined by the surgeon, who’s now handling my lower extremities with doctorly detachment. After a few good feels — on his part — the surgeon looked up at me, and without missing a beat, says, “are you aware you have two hernias?”

So there I am, standing, pants down in front of this surgeon who’s performed thousands of hernia surgeries (his words). This is my second opinion, and he’s telling me I’ve got a spare hernia? But not a good spare, like “Hey! Great news! You may have lost a tire, but we just discovered you have a spare, so this won’t cost you shit.” Naturally, having already endured two surgeries in the past five years, I had to ask, “So, ummm — is this something I need to take care of like now, or do I have some time? So this doctor, the man who’ going to be slicing and dicing around my groin says, “No, there’s no rush. Not as long as you take care of it in the next three months or so.”

For anyone reading this who isn’t a member of my family, you’re probably wondering, WTF is he talking about, and what’s the big deal over a little surgical procedure. Well, here it is — I was born with a congenital heart defect that kept me in and out of hospitals, between the ages of one and a half, and four and a half, traumatizing me for life…at least, so far. Hospitals, needles — pretty much anything having to do with medical procedures freaks me out.

As it happens, my case was written up in medical journals for being the only case in recorded medical history — at least, through the 1950’s — to “spontaneously” recover from the condition I was born with. What that means in doctor talk is, they can’t explain it. It also made my father something of a psychic for not only telling my mother all along that I’d be fine, but, due to the history of the heart trouble on my medical record, the military would never be able to draft me. And that’s exactly what happened when I turned 18, which was also toward the end of the Vietnam War. 4F, baby!

Flash forward to February 12th — surgery day. I arrive at the surgical center around 7am. Within the next 45 minutes, I’m lying on a hospital bed, multiple needles in my arm. My surgeon comes in to say, hi, as does the anesthesiologist. Next thing I know, I’m being wheeled into the operating room, where they’re playing some godawful music. They asked me if I had a request, so, naturally, I chose The Beatles. Instead, the bastards knocked me out and started the surgery.

That was the last thing I remember, before coming to in the recovery room. The doctor had told my wife, Tanya, the surgery would take around 75 minutes. I’m told they actually finished and had me in recovery, in an hour. I wouldn’t know as I was whacked out on Demerol & (one) Oxycodone. What I do remember is the pain. There was lots of it.

At this point I was incredibly groggy, so no one thought anything about the fact my voice was more of a croak, as opposed to my usual dulcet tone. Unfortunately, as time went by, my voice got worse, not better. As the days wore on, there were times I could speak a little. The problem is, when I did, I either sounded like Mickey Mouse, or reverted to the croak.

There was also one other problem. I couldn’t eat, or drink, without gagging and choking. My first visit back to the surgeon, so he could check my progress, was interesting. While the hernia scars were doing well, my voice freaked him out. He told me he’d never seen this happen to anyone, and didn’t understand what happened to me. My primary care doctor referred me to an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist, so I set up an appointment for February 27th, two weeks after the surgery.

On the appointed day, I went to the ENT, hoping he could find a solution to my problem. After numbing my nose, he stuck a long thin tube with a camera on the end, up my right nostril, and back down my throat. After taking a good look, he told me my left vocal chord was paralyzed. He also explained how, without trying, when he put the little ball that emits the gas which knocked me out for surgery, the anesthesiologist inadvertently dislodged something, which probably hit my vocal cord, creating the paralysis. He also told me, in all the years he’d been in practice, I was only the second case of this he’d seen.

Oh, great! I felt so special. I was the one in a million.

He also told me, in the one case he’d seen, the vocal chord healed itself. It took around six weeks, but he figured the same would probably happen for me. So we set another appointment six weeks later.

Every morning I woke up, hoping this would be the day my voice came back. And every day, I opened my mouth to try and speak. And every day, either nothing comes out at all, or it’s back to Mickey and/or the croak.

I primarily make my living as an actor, so this was getting a little nerve wracking. Day by day, as my voice stayed the same — non-existent — I grew more and more despondent. I had these pictures in my head of never getting my voice back, never being able to act again. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. To be perfectly honest, it was freaking me out.

In the middle of all this, the anti-gun march on Washington, led by the Parkland students, was scheduled to take place. People came from all over the country to voice their anger about our government’s refusal to do anything to stop the epidemic of mass shootings. I was determined to be one of them. Stephanie Miller, who hosts my favorite progressive radio show (comedy and tragedy, all in one neat little package), was coming in from L.A. to support the kids, and march with the “Steph-Heads,” of which I was one.

I was determined to meet, march with, and have my first opportunity to chat with Stephanie, the woman whose show, has helped me maintain some degree of sanity, through the reigns of Georgie Bush, through the Obama presidency, and now, with “He Who Must Not Be Named, haunting the oval office. Tanya was worried I wasn’t up to it, and determined to impress that upon me. I promised her that if I felt any pain whatsoever, I would stop, and come home. So, I went. But when my one opportunity to talk to Steph arrived, all I could do was type a message on my phone, thanking her.

At this point, I was beyond the six-week mark, with no improvement to my voice. So back to the ENT, who once more runs the camera tube up my nose, and back down my throat. As expected, the doctor told me there was no change (duh), and we’d reached the “what’s next” mode.

The doctor told me what he’d like to do is a minor surgical procedure, in which he inserts a gel into my throat, which will allow my vocal chords to meet, thus allowing me to talk semi-normally. The downside of this is, the gel only lasts three to six months. But the hope is, during that time, the gel will help my vocal chord actually heal, giving me my voice back. Oh, joy.

Wanting to cover all bases, I asked him, “well, just for argument sake, what happens if this doesn’t work.” His reply: “Well, if that’s the case, we have to start talking about more invasive surgery. But let’s wait and see how we do with this surgery.” He gave me the name and number for his “surgical scheduler,” and told me to call and set up a date for the surgery. As I have no voice, and the more I try to speak, the worse it gets, Tanya made the call — calls, actually. Depending on your point of view, that’s where it got really funny, or really ironic.

Tanya places the first call, only to find out, the scheduler is out, and will remain so for at least a couple of weeks, because she has no voice!

Not to be deterred, and as tenacious as she is brilliant and beautiful, Tanya got hold of the doctor’s assistant, trying to impress upon her the need to get a surgical date as quickly as possible. I have now been without a voice for more than two months. What started out as something we thought would be short-term and, at times, kind of funny, has now gotten far more serious. The doctor’s assistant told Tanya the doctor had a date available within two weeks. Only thing is, before officially putting me on the surgical schedule, she had to get the okay from Georgetown University Hospital, where the “procedure” will be taking place, that they had an available operating room.

Every day last week, Tanya called. No news yet was the response. So here I sit, telling the story the only way available to me at the moment. How long before the surgery? How long until I get some semblance of my voice back? And what happens if this surgery doesn’t work? These are the questions running through my mind, every single day. It’s been enough to make me nostalgic for the fun of 2017…almost. So there you have it.

To quote the words of Stephanie Miller, “happy 2018, everybody!”



WTF Is Going On!

I have what is probably a rhetorical question, but one I feel the need to ask anyway. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON??? From the entertainment industry — heavyweights like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Bill Cosby Louis C.K., just to name a few. The list of politicians from both sides of the aisle starting with President Cheetolini, Judge and Republican senatorial candidate gag!), Roy Moore, Anthony Weiner (nope — too easy), Bilbo O’Reilly, the late Roger Ailes, and on and on and…As Al Pacino rightly said in the film, And Justice For All, “there’s something really wrong here!”

I refer, of course, to the epidemic of molestation, rape, flashing and all other forms of unwanted sexual activity, forced on women in this, our sad and sick excuse for a culture. And before anyone, especially if you’re a white male, tries the “women do it to men, too,” routine, yes, that’s true. And it’s every bit as egregious a crime as the other way round. But let’s get real — the scale is probably tipped at 95% to 5% (and that’s being generous) toward men sexually harassing women.

Go ahead — speak to any five women you pick off the street, and ask them if they’ve ever been harassed, molested, raped, flashed, whatever. I’m willing to bet the answer is yes, with at least four out of the five. I honestly don’t think I know a woman — from my mother on down to my wife and daughter, who haven’t escaped some form of this epidemic. It’s sad, it’s disgusting, it’s sick, and it’s criminal. Unfortunately, for all too many women, this is the norm. As my sister-in-law told me, “we expect it.”

What’s even worse, though, is the fact this criminal behavior is still being tolerated. Fans of the entertainers, and supporters of the politicians whose misdeeds have been outed, will go to almost any length to excuse the criminal acts being perpetrated by these deviants (Bill Cosby can still sell out a live show)!

If you fall into this category, you are worse than an enabler — you are complicit in allowing these acts to continue. I don’t give a flying fuck how a woman is dressed (or not), even if she’s in a mini-skirt that lands just below her crotch — that does not mean she’s fair game, easy, or “asking for it.” No matter how provocatively you think someone is dressed, shut the fuck up, and keep your hands off! (Speaking of which, women, please don’t “slut shame” each other. That just adds fuel to an already raging fire.)

Last week, Stephanie Miller, the doyenne of fart jokes and progressive thought on radio (and television, via Free Speech TV), dedicated about 98% of her show to discussing this epidemic. Interestingly, every female guest on the show — and this includes regulars Frangela (aka Frances Callier and Angela V. Shelton), and  producer Vanessa Rumbles — as opposed to a group of women specifically selected to bolster the argument — have experienced some form of sexual harassment. For many of them, this was not a one-time thing, but something they’ve had to endure throughout their careers.

Now, if one is of an inquisitive nature, one might ask, “well, why haven’t they reported this to someone?” Who? This is not about sex, folks — this is about power! Men exercising power over the powerless. While I can’t speak to the extent of this atrocity in politics, I have, in my 42-year career in the entertainment industry, continuously seen and heard about the men in lofty positions, using their power against women (and men) — people who are simply trying to make a living in their chosen profession.

Regular readers of my blog may know, I’m somewhat prejudiced in this matter, having myself been molested by neighbor boys, as a child. But that aside, what most women have to endure on a daily basis is insane. It makes me ashamed of my own gender, and so very grateful to have been brought up by my feminist mother.

The one positive light I see at the end of this tunnel is, when one woman breaks the silence, and has the courage to stand up and say, “fuck you! I’m not taking this shit anymore,” and names the person (or persons) who molested them. It helps other women gather the courage to do the same, clearly demonstrated this past week as dozens of women began to share their stories about molestation and abuse from powerful men in Hollywood and the political arena.

As I type, a group which includes some of Hollywood’s most powerful women, including Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Natalie Portman, Kathleen Kennedy, and Amy Pascal, has been formed to help combat these atrocities. They hope to come up with code of conduct that will, hopefully, be adapted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Would that both political parties have the courage to do the same (somewhat difficult whilst a serial predator sits in the White House).

In the meantime, it would be nice if all men remembered that caring and acting for the benefit of others, includes keeping your unwanted fucking hands off women. No actually means NO! And, unless you’re in a consensual  situation, the use of power and coercion to get your way, is not very nice. In fact, it’s criminal!

If you are a victim of sexual abuse, or need information on how to prevent it, click here and visit Rainn, a national group offering assistance and support, as well as information about getting involved in preventing these crimes.

A Few Thoughts On The Aftermath of Las Vegas

I’ve been trying to figure out how to best express my feelings about what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday, and have found, I can’t. My feelings are jumbled, emotions a mess. However, I would like to say the following:

Fuck you Cheetolini, you miserable, worthless piece of shit! Fuck you Sarah Huckleberry Saddlebags, you lying moron! Go fuck yourselves Pat Robertson, Alex Jones, and every asswipe pundit on Faux News, as well as every supposed pundit or news reporter who, yet again, are bending over and taking it up the ass to express how “presidential” Cheetolini is being!

Fuck you every single member of Congress (both houses), who steadfastly refuse to do anything to stop this epidemic of mass shootings because your hands are so deeply in the pockets of the NRA and gun manufacturers, you don’t give a shit how many human lives are taken, so long as your own pockets are lined with this blood money (especially you Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Jason Chaffetz, you unmitigated scumbags!) It’s too fucking early to talk about it? ‘The issue is not guns, but mental illness — we have to deal with that,’ from the cocksucking piece of shit who helped Drumpf push through a bill overturning President Obama’s — you remember; the black guy — ban against the mentally ill being able to get guns!!!

A giant FUCK YOU to the members of the Supreme Court who have conspired to keep this shit going, by based decisions on their right wing political affiliation, rather than constitutional law. And while I’m at it, a special FUCK YOU to the NRA and gun manufacturers, whose only goal is to sell more assault weapons in order to line their own pockets, with no concern whatsoever for how they’re used.

Oh. And FUCK YOU Bilbo O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, you fucking opportunists!

An additional fuck you to the members of the corporate news media, who are too cowardly to call this shooting exactly what it is — TERRORISM! And fuck you every single person offering their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families, while participating in allowing these kind of things to continue happening. Fuck you to every asshole who’s said, “don’t politicize this,” then immediately turned around and politicized “this!” And fuck you, every other politician, pundit, so-called “religious leader,” or individual who has, or is using the Second Amendment (incorrectly) to justify this prick’s right to own 42 weapons of mass destruction, and uncountable rounds of ammunition!!! How convenient to quote a portion of the Second Amendment while leaving out the part that says, “A well regulated MILITIA, being necessary to the security of a free State.

Every single one of you scumbag motherfuckers are complicit in the murder and wounding done to every person who was shot in Las Vegas (and Sandy Hook; and Aurora, Colorado; Fort Hood, Texas, Pulse Nightclub in Orlando; Virginia Tech, and every other mass shooting in this country since the turn of the millenium). The victims of these shootings had the constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! This does NOT include having their rights ended by a bullet shot by some psychopathic terrorist making a complete mockery of the Second Amendment.

And to anybody who wants to take issue with what I’m saying, FUCK YOU!!! You post ANY COMMENTS trying to justify this in any way, your cretinous remarks won’t see the light of day, so don’t even bother. You want to challenge my thoughts, do it elsewhere!

This rant, and expression of disgust, outrage and pain, is mine! Don’t fuck with it!