I don't know why just the right song seems so often to pop out of nowhere. I mean I hadn't thought of Satchmo (Louis Armstrong 1901-1971) for a good long time. Why then does it feels so absolutely normal, indeed predictable, as the first flakes of our first Nor'easter fell, the grand notes of Satchmo rising at the appropriate time for any snowstorm in the world.
I am standing at the window in my office, The Blue Room, staring out into the wintry scene now developing. There are still tufts of grass that snow has not yet covered, and though there is not at this moment enough snow to justify their presence, the snow plows are here in force with their glaring noises, and air of pomposity. This is the beginning of the blizzard which the avid weather girls now cover, for it is now the day for the cute jeune fille.
For now it is mandatory to deliver weather with sex appeal. They know nothing about weather except what they are told to read from a page. Their job is to make minimum mistakes and look like they are going to a cocktail party even though the time is 6 am.
In days gone by I would at this time of the morning (just about 9 am) be dressed in my adorable yellow all weather outfit, the outfit which when wet smells of dog. I had just enough time before school to make exuberant snow angels. My brother complained as his snow was not always neat as mine always was. I always had first dibs on the pure snow and never failed to make the boisterous model. The incidental fact that this irritated my brother was an extra benefit not to be underrated.
The snow is falling faster now but cannot beat the wild range of remembrances of snow days gone by. It seems to me my life was divided into just two days: winter with its promise of the bountious snow and ice skating on the local pond; summer with scorching temperature and pink bodies soon burnt to the consistency of French toast. Seen one snow day, seen them all, you might say, but you would be wrong, because each day of snow creates a different montage. They may look the same, but there are no two flakes in the universe that ever are the same.
My mother served as Grand Marshal of the snow parade. She knew where everything was to be found. "Yes, Jeffrey, check the hall closet under the green blanket". No request when it came to snow was too insignificant to produce the desired effect.
A lot of bubble gum could return a sled to service. How many mothers, particularly those of the millennium, could do as much?
She was young and vibrant then. Winter suited her, and Jack Frost nipped at her cheeks and created a thing of joy and beauty.
Although she had a job out of the house, she was always there to provide the breakfast she knew we would need. For once out of the house we were energy machines, paying no attention to anything but the snow which piled up outside our back door.
"Mind the ice!"
The trek to school -- for we walked everyday except the worst -- revealed new landscapes. Familiar objects were no longer familiar, but radically changed. The snow provided us with a whole new vista; one that we must touch, not just see. Otherwise, we wouldn't believe. And so the tracks of my mother's children went one way and another, thereby proving we were great explorers, not put off by the millions of pounds of snow falling from the unremitting gray sky. We defied it.
Neighbors we might not see for weeks at a time, we would take time to see as the snow fell and the blizzard blew. We all wanted to know what the old folks were doing (for any one above our tender age was certainly old no matter how young they might have been). These neighbors came out even as the first snow fell, so that they could clear the path the falling snow would obliterate in just minutes.
These folks would have to rely now on shovels and patience. Sometimes my mother would say "Knock on Mrs. Jenkins' door. Make sure she has heat and she is alright." In such ways my mother demonstrated what the word "community" really meant. Does anyone stop today to find out whether Mrs. Jenkins is comfortable at 88 and frail? Probably not. If she is lucky, someone from Community Services may take a moment to look in, but more often the line is busy. "If this is a life threatening emergency call 911."
I think Mrs. Jenkins preferred the red-cheeked banshees who sharply tapped the glass and rapped rat-tat-tat, smiling the broadest smile. She would have been delighted to invite us all in for cocoa with little marshmallows, which every marshmallow connoisseur knows are manifestly superior to their bloated bretheren.
I see a hearty traveler on the sidewalk walking diligently, no doubt to his perch in the great University which scoffs at the very idea of Nor'easters. After all, it has lived through centuries of snow and ice and wicked contours which soon become nothing but mud and housewives shouting with asparity, "Wipe your feet!"
It is a wonder to me, after so many years, and so many deserts of mud, especially those creating themselves particularly for my birthdays, that these housewives did not become murderous. A kind of patience, restraint, even sainthood was expected. It was the hallmark of the lady of the house that she did not, as a matter of course, take a rifle off the wall and blow the encyclopedia salesman to kingdom come. We knew they were capable of it; their restraint, therefore, was heroic.
As we neared the school, I sometimes thought of my paternal grandfather, Walter. He was the dark horse of the family. A contractor, he helped build the local schoolhouse... grand in a full display of continental brick work. You see my grandfather, Germanic to the core, liked things that last. And so today, when he is hardly even a memory to anyone, that brick schoolhouse he built stands solid, as good today as on its inauguration. Yes, he was a dark horse. His metier was doing, not talking, and I admire that trait today more than I can say.
I think another word is owed to Grampy. He would sit in my grandmother's kitchen each day... his chair never touched, much less sat in by anybody else. Each day after four would see him in his special chair. It was not patriarchal. It was made of aluminum, with a seat easily cleaned. This chair was as important as the Pope's, and was the scene of far more judgments rendered ex cathedra.
Brief, laconic, rendered with a certainty that must be God-like... Grampy dictated the course of world events. There was nothing shy about his delivery. There was nothing shy about where he stood. And if he liked you, you got a double portion of his favorite potation. I often tried to advise his guests that one such drink was enough, but they never believed me until it was too late.
I would arrive in this scene of unadulterated family about the time my uncles appeared (for sometimes they worked for my grandfather and sometimes they did not); no one ever questioned my right to be present; no one hesitated to make some deflating comment if they thought that perhaps I was gaining an unfair advantage. Of course I was, and I dished back just as good as I got, probably even better.
The snow continues to fall. The weather girls are making one silly comment after another. Do we really need to know the temperature in Springfield, Massachusetts, or how many tree branches have fallen off in Arlington? So much information, so little that's important.
I prefer my grandfather's way of handling it. He'd listen, he'd grunt, and everyone knew precisely what that grunt meant. No one outside this careful circle ever learned how to interpret what to us was so clear and manifest.
I had one more trek to make, "But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep." The snow might abide... the drifts might grow... 'til my trusty bicycle was forced into the middle of the roads... dangerous as the sun fell low on the horizon. I was going home, and though I didn't necessarily know it everyday, it sometimes did occur to me that all the to'ing and fro'ing, all the high flying and the low flying, were nothing compared to a single word just four letters long, "home". It is a pity that I learned this lesson so late in life. Perhaps we all must be significantly detached before we see what we had, what we have lost and can never regain.
And so, in my mind's eye I see myself and think on this, my 70th birthday, how fortunate I have been. I have kept more promises and traveled more miles than most. "You'll never know how many dreams I've dreamed about you." It has all been a long, long time.
It is hard not to be seized by the wintry scene playing out before me. It is the cause of so many reflections. But when you add Satchmo to the mix, it is overwhelming indeed. That is why I have chosen "It's Been a Long, Long Time" as the music for this article. Written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, it was released in 1945. You cannot get through it without the insistant tug of memory, because that after all is the important thing... the thing that defines you... and you must not resist it.
About the author Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Over the past 50 years and more, Dr. Jeffrey Lant has written 61 books and thousands of articles on a wide variety of topics. He is the greatest lyric writer of his age. Don't just read the books and articles, enter into their flow, for they will touch your heart if you allow yourself to have a heart.
To see Dr. Lant's complete ouevre, go to www.drjeffreylant.com. You will be reminded of just how powerful the English language can be.
Don’t make New Year’s resolutions for yourself… make them for others. It’s easier, more fun, less trouble.
It’s the time of the year for the obligatory New Year’s
resolutions. You know, what I mean:I plan to go on a diet and become chic and svelte by Valentine’s Day.
I will go to the gym every other day, so help me
Hannah. Muscles and enticing curves, or bust.
I will eschew the delights of eating one sugar-soaked
Little Debbie after another.
I will… but you get the idea.
There is something abhorrent about admitting
that you are imperfect. I don’t like it at all.
New Year’s resolutions imply that you have somehow
fallen beneath the high standard of perfection, that
there is something not quite right about you, a nagging
something that needs instant attention.
But what could that be?
Like you, I look in the mirror of a morning and, despite
advancing age, I see nothing but the spitting image of
one who is, indeed, the fairest of them all. It affronts me
to think otherwise.
Thus, while wishing to do my bit to uphold the
traditions of Auld Lang Syne and making resolutions,
I find it hard to do so… as I have nothing to improve
and everything to enjoy.
Hence this modest idea: give up resolution making for
yourself… and focus your full attention upon the others,
lamentable, imperfect, with a pressing need for overhauls
small and large.
Draw up a list of persons known to you with glaring,
Do not stint. Remember, you are performing a useful
act, a noble act, and act of kindness and empathy. As
such, let yourself go… think of your aging peers and their
shocking habits… of your relatives who have outlived the
excuse of “puppy fat.”
Think of your loud, too boisterous, ear-splitting friends…
and the motor-mouths whose decided opinions on
everything under the sun are, perhaps, de trop.
Think of the always-late delivery boy and those
with too many unattended felines in a confined
space and the olfactory discomfort thereby occurring.
Think, I say, think of prevaricating politicians…
and those with nookie on their minds and an acute
inability to contain it. Look around you and weigh in
with a will…for you have many resolutions to craft
and far too little time in which to offer them. Timing
is everything, after all, and New Year’s resolutions
in March seem, well, tardy. Act now.
Now write the New Year’s resolutions — for others.
This part could be troublesome and demands your
full attention and craft. Resolutions must be simple,
straightforward, honest and at least potentially do-able.
Thus, calling your insufficiently loved and abundantly
padded brother-in-law fat just won’t do. Try this instead:
New Year’s resolution of brother-in-law Bob:
To lose 15 pounds by month’s end.
And then your signature and the date.
Keeping your resolutions short, sweet, and to the
point is de rigueur.
Mail the resolution… email the resolution. Only
ensure that your kind thought for their betterment and
perfection reaches them early in January.
Imagine how grateful, how pleased the recipient will be when
he of pronounced embonpoint receives this missive and its
kind and thoughtful message becomes apparent.
Send your New Year’s resolutions even to those near and
dear who share your abode and are bosom buddies and
dear companions on your earthly journey.
The temptation, even for those expert and experienced
in providing life enhancing New Year’s resolutions for others,
will be to personally deliver, message upon hallmarked silver
salver, your resolutions to the people near at hand, spouse,
children, impecunious sons in law, etc. You will think of
their profoundly grateful responses, you will think of
the affection and love in their eyes. You will hear with
delight words so lavish and abject that even that practised
purveyor of the obsequious Uriah Heep would be put to
shame. No, you do not want to miss a moment.
But you must.
For your recipient will need a moment or two to
compose himself and, no doubt, let fall the grateful
tear, that you should care so much and have gone to so
much bother on their behalf. Allow them a moment
of reflection in privacy, as they think how grateful, how
very grateful, they are to have such a one as you in
their (otherwise imperfect) life.
Savor this moment, glass of grog at hand for
you have done the very best of deeds. Sing under your breath
this little-remembered chorus from Robert Burns’ immortal
annual anthem of maudlin sentimentality, Auld Lang Syne:
“We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.”
And now, gratitude, indeed.
As I was finishing up this practical report, there
was a knock at the door… then the telephone rang…
then I noticed a decided up tick in my email.
I was not surprised… I was expecting such a deluge.
After all, I had contacted many with a hearty abundance
of resolutions, necessary, specific, in depth, all
resoundingly honest to a fault. Now, no doubt, the expected
responses, the epistles of gratitude and fulsome thanks
were at hand.
Ou la la!
Imagine my surprise upon reading the first of these
New Year’s Resolution of Dr. Jeffrey Lant…:
signed your loving sister
Then the one signed by my (concerned) brother, my
(worried) father, one jointly signed by my (still affectionate)
niece and nephew, my (who-else-could-tell-you?) best friend,
my (long suffering) partners… even my (silent-until-now) driver
and his wife.. .and all the very many others.
It was jolting to be sure to learn that so many felt
so strongly there was so much of me to enhance and correct.
But these messages, profoundly honest, stimulated
the only New Year’s resolution I shall make this
year: to love them all, warts and all, and be
profoundly glad I have them in my life.
Happy New Year, 2017!
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
About The Author
2017 brings Dr. Lant to seven decades of a successful writing career. He is, he likes to say, in the prime of his prime. Thus does the "scribbling" life he commenced at age
5 continue. Over fifty books. Thousands of articles. Untold radio and television programs;
worldwide recognition and enthusiasm, all of which culminated in the publication of
his autobiography, "A Connoisseur's Journey, being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck and joy". It was a book that screamed "classic!", and he has
delighted in the several awards that followed.
To get your copy go to www.drjeffreylant.com. You will also want to check out Dr. Lant's complete oeuvre found in the Dr. Jeffrey Lant Store
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. The first time I heard her introduced as Secretary Clinton, I knew that she had a huge problem, and nobody was there to advise her about it. Secretaries are, after all, people who take dictation, and that was just not the right image for the hotshot, glass-ceiling-breaking, “I’m smarter than you are Hillary Clinton.”
By the way, the first woman in the cabinet, Frances Perkins (1933), was called Madam Secretary, but it always sounded pompous and out of touch – the way Secretary Hillary turned out to be – and was seldom used thereafter.
On November 9th, 2016 Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham, one of Hillary’s most fervent supporters, floated another “poor little Hillary” column. She was the best. She was the noblest woman of them all. And she lost because a few tardy supporters were late picking up their mochas and the polls closed on them, and on America.
I don’t want anyone to doubt any of my words, so let me say it smack up front: people like Yvonne Abraham make me run for my nausea capsules. Any pretense she ever had of an impartial look at the subject of Hillary and company was made a mockery. I’ve been reading Miss Abraham’s effusions now for over a year. Trump is the big bad guy who rapes and uses bad words… tsk tsk.
There has never been, nor will there ever be a word of censure from Miss Abraham for Secretary Clinton, though many are needed. Now get this… Miss Abraham is from a foreign country, I think they call it Australia… a liberal nation which just voted against gay marriage, and is one of the least progressive places on Earth. Don’t let that “Waltzing Matilda” stuff fool you.
Why Hillary Clinton lost
I’m the kind of guy she should have wrapped up months ago. But she didn’t. Every time she pursed her lips, it reminded me of my third grade teacher, that is instead of expressing disappointment about some student and his work, she pursed her lips and we’d all stand abased and miserable. Hillary was an Olympic class lip purser.
Or consider how often Hillary muffed the opportunity to give a needy person a hug. Hillary loved humanity, but hated people. You will find with difficulty any photograph in the Clinton record that shows she actually liked anyone. In fact, I think Madam Secretary was just the reverse of Will Rogers, who never met a man he didn’t like. Hillary never liked anyone, except the ones who praised her, and it showed. Anyone that is, except the girls of Wellesley College, who thought Hillary was just swell.
Now, I’ve worked in one of the Seven Sisters colleges. I was the assistant to the president. And I want it to be clear: I no longer believe that segregating women’s colleges do what their leaders purport. That is, to produce women who are competitive to men in the real world.
Seven Sisters executives, who idolize Secretary Hillary, truly believe that the education they provide makes their women students competitive and indeed superior to men. Who can believe this schmaltz, given Hillary’s abject election fiasco?
Hillary should have known… you can’t win the presidency of the United States and write off Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa… get the picture? Hillary literally insulted the people of each of those states, and not just on one occasion either. In her mind, she checked her electoral college math and said, “I can get away without talking to these rubes.” Her decision to avoid these places to the max possible told me everything I needed to know about her Wellesley education, and just how superficial and unrealistic it was.
Somebody should have told those girls that the real world is a miasma filled with people you could never take home to mother. By the way, the smarter girls know this already. At Radcliffe, where I worked, the women were totally committed to getting a Harvard degree, not a Radcliffe diploma. This was a point of view administrators found hard to accept. What was wrong with Radcliffe? Just this: it wasn’t Harvard.
As I sat on election night watching the returns pour in, I thought many things, one being H.V. Kaltenborn (1878-1965). Kaltenborn was in 1948 arguably the most well-known correspondent, the most well-known radio commentator. He also hated Harry S. Truman, the president. And he let his dreams of a Truman crash overcome any logic he had on the situation.
And so, he, along with Col. McCormick (1880-1955), another Truman hater, of the Chicago Tribune, produced the two biggest bloopers ever. One by Kaltenborn, one by McCormick.
Kaltenborn’s goof went like this. In his distinctive voice, he said “President Truman is ahead in the popular vote by 1 million, but will certainly lose the presidency”… “Now President Truman is ahead in the popular vote by 2 million, and will certainly lose the presidency”. He reiterated his increasingly out of touch view over and over again on election night until it became a joke. It was Kaltenborn’s last great moment, and his career tumbled after that.
Col. McCormick’s goof was when he released for the Chicago Tribune the most notorious headline ever: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
Truman so liked the Kaltenborn goof that he turned it into a winning line that showed just how out to get him smart people like Kaltenborn really were. And as for Col. McCormick, he probably hoped that only a copy or two were released. But here it is, a better part of 100 years later, and every political jockey knows it and laughs at it and Col. McCormick.
The equivalent anecdote for 2016 will be about how CNN commentators cute Jake Tapper and cuter Anderson Cooper goofed. These guys and their whole damn tribe literally couldn’t believe that Hillary Clinton was going to lose. Tapper came across as a boy who expected to be whooped if he didn’t support the house line, but he didn’t know what the house line was; Cooper looked clueless as he stood there with his hands in his pockets hour after hour. In other words, they were prepared to discuss a Clinton victory, and nothing else. Some jounalists!
But of course, the biggest whopper of all was the Huffington Post (and their ilk), which predicted Hillary’s eminent election at 98%. They’re still eating crow, and will for donkey’s years.
So here’s the question: every newspaper in the land, with only one exception, endorsed Hillary. Hundreds of millions of dollars was spent on ads of the tsk tsk variety. Madam Hillary was exposed to the nation in every way, every day, not just for weeks, but months. Hillary was the subject of tens of thousands of favorable newspaper and magazine articles, and radio and television pieces, not to mention on the internet.
So, Madam Yvonne, riddle me this: after this barrage of favorable content, how can you have the unmitigated gall to say “It is worth noting the woman we passed on”. She was a bad candidate who ran because the nation “deserved her”, and because she would not do the necessary to become president. She wanted the goal, but not the endeavor.
Now hear this, all you opponents to the president-elect. At no time during the election cycle was he the beneficiary of positive, witty content. At no time was he anything other than Al Smith’s “Happy Warrior”. He liked the battle. He fought the battle. And to the consternation of every media person like you in the nation, he won the battle.
Now answer me this: can you see Madam Hillary issuing as her first major policy statement, a decision to remove 3 million or more aliens from our midst? Frankly, she wouldn’t have had the guts, and the nation sensed it.
The nation knew, even if all the Yvonne Abraham’s didn’t, that we needed a new direction, a house cleaning of mammoth proportions. Oh yes, we need one more thing too, and that is a censure of these silly articles by the likes of Madam Secretary Yvonne. She should stick to Australian politics, not that she understands anything about it… just that it wouldn’t take as much time and space.
And for all of you proper young ladies at Wellesley College, listen up. You are not learning how to compete with men in an abusive world. You are instead, merely learning how to write a charming address that bears no relation to reality. That is Madam Clinton’s legacy, and it is a very costly one indeed.
Note: you will probably recognize the opening line of this article as one taken from “Casey at the Bat”, written in 1888 by Ernest Thayer.
“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
but there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out”
Secretary Clinton should have read it before she played in the big leagues.
About the author
Dr. Lant is the author of 57 books that you can find at www.drjeffreylant.com. His most recent is “Guaranteed Millionaire”, a book that shows you in detail how to become a millionaire.
Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Harvard educated, started writing for publication at age 5. Since then, he has published over 1,000 articles and 63 books, and counting.