Walking On Water

Rock 2

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There was a lot to adore about Hank Cisco, who left us Tuesday in body but never in spirit.

What I will carry with me is his love of life, his natural instinct to be a friend without having to ask what he could do to help and, of course, his encyclopedia of sayings.

Odd thing about our friendship was that Hank and I didn’t really agree on much.

He was conservative, and an ardent supporter of the current president. I’m a Bernie Bro.

He liked Doris Day, I liked Stevie Nicks.

He thought Christopher Columbus got a raw deal, I thought he got too much credit and not enough blame for treatment of the natives.

He hung out with Frank Rizzo (and served as a pallbearer at his funeral). I hung out with Abbie Hoffman (but was not a pallbearer at his funeral, assuming he even had one).

And on it went.

“If two people agree all the time, one of them is unnecessary,” he would say.

Another gem, in the same spirit: “All sunshine makes deserts.”

And he was right.

Hank may not have agreed, but he never judged. I can respect that more than someone who has no opinion about anything at all, or who tells you what you want to hear just to shut you up.

We were both necessary in a balancing act that would shame The Flying Wallendas.

In these divisive times, when agreeing to disagree is off the table before two people even sit down, I try to keep his words – all of them — in mind.

Some of Hank’s sayings – like “don’t slug it out with a bum” or “I never lost a fight in the dressing room” — were self-explanatory.

And too true.

There is one – something about a mule going blind and holding the line – that I never quite got (and that’s fine).

Another that I wrestled with was: “If you want to walk on water, you better know where the rocks are.”

Not coming from a Catholic upbringing – something Hank reminded me of from time to time – any New Testament reference may as well be in Norwegian (whisper: I’m not much better with Old Testament references, either, as I adhere to the gospels of Dylan and Springsteen).

But, now, as I look ahead at life with Hank Cisco’s memory as an angel on my shoulder and not a friend in the flesh that I can share some Italian food and laughs with, it makes sense.

Complete and total sense.

Going on without Hank Cisco will be like walking on water.

But keeping his memory alive, just by asking myself what Hank would have done or by applying one of his pearls of wisdom, will help me find the rocks.

Hank was 96 when he passed away, well beyond when the doctors said he would.

I’m going to be 55 in March.

That’s a four-decade difference.

When you have a friendship with someone that much older, there is much to be gained, particularly for the younger friend.

But the odds are that you will have to see them buried.

It’s a leap a lot of people in my generation don’t want to take. They can’t help it with their parents and other older relatives, but they put on a coat of protective armor by not wanting to go there with their emotions otherwise.

It’s a choice that is both foolish and selfish.

We were friends for the last quarter century, from the time he brought boxer Michael Grant into the sports department to be interviewed and I drew the short end of the stick by not making myself scarce.

Hank thanked me for the article in his own Hank way – by sending enough food over to feed a platoon.

When I had a health scare back in 2005, Hank came to see me in old Montgomery Hospital. It was a quick visit (he did everything quick back then), but I never forgot it.

I made sure to return the favor when Hank was hospitalized, even toward the end. At one point, my mother was in Einstein at the same time. I left her room before visiting hours ended to stop into his, only to find such a mob scene – including sisters from Mother Teresa’s order (Missionaries of Charity) saying a prayer – that I practically had to take a ticket, like at a deli, to get in the door.

I was fearful that the end was imminent, but it was not the case. Hank was his normal jovial self, and insisted we take a picture with a big boxing glove that I was asked to sign for the second or third time.

After the room had cleared out, his daughter, Mary, came in and tossed him a bag of fast food that he promptly inhaled in about 12 seconds.

The next time, another picture.

Hank was turning hospital visits into events, but he was also aware of the end, and was at peace with it.

“I’m in the 15th round, Rock,” he said, shrugging his shoulders, before getting emotional while talking about John Doyle’s crew that had come to the hospital to film “The Hank Cisco Show” (I was a guest, and a guest host, many times).

Once Hank was placed on home hospice care, I stopped by a few more times, only to find him sleeping – and peacefully (a rare, but unique, sight).

When he awoke, and found out I had been there, he made sure to call and was still full of ideas of what I should or shouldn’t do about this or that.

Each time I hung up the phone, I knew it might be the last time we will speak.

And the last time was the last time.

Sad, yes, but also moments to treasure.

I learned a great deal from being around Hank Cisco.

He lived life to the fullest, dawn to dusk and beyond. He saw each day as a gift, and treated it as such.

Even when he had health setbacks, he set goals to come back and get himself back into circulation (and on NASDtv).

He had enough reasons to quit, but he was always looking forward.

When he was made a widower a few years back, I stopped by his house on Powel Street to see how he was doing and to take him out to lunch.

Before I knew it, he was make me pasta for the lunch.

He showed me a lot of memorabilia during that visit, revealing a side I hadn’t seen before.

But nothing can top actual memories.

With those, with Hank Cisco, I have many.

There is sunshine in the desert.

And if one of us was unnecessary, it was me.

The column appeared in The Times Herald on Jan. 17, 2020

News Turns To A Snooze

joe-scarborough-trump-journey-groupie-resistance

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — As I attempt to age as gracefully as possible for an otherwise graceless person, I have increasingly become a creature of habit.

One of those habits to turn on the TV every morning – sometime after the weekday alarms screeches at 6:30 — to watch “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. I don’t even really like the show, or the hosts and regulars (other than brilliant Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson), but I watch anyway.

Much to my disgust, Joe and the crew tend to belabor two issues ad nauseam: The Democratic race for the nomination and the ongoing ineptitude of your president (not mine).

The psychobabble seems like a colossal waste of breath, considering the primary season is in its infancy and your president (not mine) is never ever going to be impeached.

If I hear the words “Mayor Pete,” followed by a long and drawn out discussion by a panel of “experts” about his electability – all while they skirt the obvious issue, unfair or not – I may hurl the remote at Joe Scarborough’s smug mug.

Why, then, do they spend so much time cherry-picking a poll that shows Bernie Sanders up a point and Elizabeth Warren down two – all while doing a poor job of suppressing a clear pro-Joe Biden agenda – or giving too much attention to some late-night Twitter post that would make a middle school grammar teacher wince in pain?

Easy answer. It’s easy. It’s right there, with low hurdles to scale.

Better than anything else on, all things considered, but far from good enough.

The thing is, I’m a news junkie. It’s why I majored in journalism (along with not having to take many math or science classes).

I’m naturally curious, and some would say I’m really just a total gossip. I plead partially guilty, but with an explanation. I’m really just in search of information – even if I’ll do little to nothing with it, like a fisherman tossing his catch back into the water, once I reel it in.

Which brings us back to the facts, or lack thereof.

These days, the whole earth can shake itself out of existence while I’m sleeping. Excuse me if I like to know what happened overnight.

CNN? No better than MSNBC (especially at night). It tries to get both sides of the story so perfunctorily that neither side is satisfied. I know I don’t want to hear another discussion on climate change as if it is open for debate, especially as it ignites forest fires in Australia and California with the verve of a serial arsonist.

The few remaining friends I have on the right don’t want any human interest story, like the border camps, told with any bit of sensitivity.

And don’t even mention Fox News. I’m OK with trying to stomach a little bit of the opposing viewpoint before wanting to vomit, but independent fact checkers have issued reports on the network’s accuracy that make the ones I used to bring home look like those of a Rhodes Scholar.

The sad truth is that I can find out more about what it is really going on with the local news from 6-6:30, followed by the national news from 6:30-7, than all day on any supposedly superior all-news network.

Newspapers have morphed into digital entities, but a second mortgage is needed to get around the pay walls needed to get what you need.

That leaves fly-by-night sights that may or not follow the ye olde rules of actually putting people on the record, as opposed to being anonymous, and having at least two sources.

All the conjecture leaves us, in this advanced day and age, prone to be less informed than we’ve been in the industrial age.

The only option is television, and the flaws are obvious.

Yes, the wall-to-wall coverage of our recent near flirtation with igniting World War III was relatively well-done, but so much more has been going on – locally, nationally and internationally – that much of it falls through the cracks.

And it happens at our own peril.

The more the masses are numbed up with dumbed-down messaging, the easier it is to go on electing sociopaths with the hellish belief they are heaven sent.

While we were looking at polls that really don’t matter until a week or two before voters in Iowa leave the wheat fields and reading too much into unreadable tweets, the wheel in the sky keeps on turning for a frightening tomorrow.

Example: Did you know that, since late December, more than 500 earthquakes have hit Puerto Rico. That’s the same Puerto Rico still waiting on $18 billion in aid from hurricane damage incurred two years ago?

Did you know that, just on New Year’s Day, there were 45 non-suicide gun violence deaths across America? Including suicides by gun, there were 177 deaths.

Speaking of suicides, did you know that there were 228 suicides by police officers in 2019 in what has become a silent epidemic?

Veterans? Try a suicide rate of 17 per day.

Did you know that Philadelphia had 356 homicides last year, just nine short of one per day? You can say you are safe here in the suburbs, but this is the city you border and crime knows no boundaries.

Did you know that hate crimes have increased dramatically since a certain someone who calls himself your president began campaigning in 2015 with divisive rhetoric?

I shouldn’t just dwell on the negative, as there are positive stories every day – from simple acts of human kindness to medical advances to big bad athletes going out of their way for a sick child — that get buried under the if-it-bleeds-it-leads approach that goes a notch underneath the analysis of paralysis of politics and of an orange nitwit that the lack of real journalism left us with.

Rant over.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Jan. 12, 2020

A Right Turn Down A Wrong Road

Rally Heads

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It’s that time of the year again.

Time for New Year’s resolutions.

With five-plus decades on the planet, I have been through them all – losing weight, gaining muscle, not losing my mind (as much) during Eagles games, gaining perspective, etc.

This year, I’m shooting for something a little bit different.

Instead, I’m going to see how the other half lives. I’m going to give it a go as a conservative.

No worries, fellow liberals, I’ll be back in time to vote against their president (not ours) in November.

New Year’s resolutions only last as long as the first whiff of a real Philly cheese steak (not what is passed off as such out here in the suburbs).

But, in the intervening months – or weeks, days or minutes – let’s see how it goes.

It is certainly a simpler lifestyle having this view, one where I can just line up all the talking points in a row and dutifully march in line behind them.

Example: Anything nasty their president (not ours) has done up until this point, before becoming president and since, can easily be explained away.

He was chosen by God.

Who can argue with that, right?

It implies he is not only absolved of all sins – past, present and future – but that all decisions are blessed by the almighty.

Sure, there is no tangible evidence to back this up. Usually, people who claim to be messengers from God are tossed into asylums, not the Oval Office.

And if any lefty wants to get into details about what he has done wrong, the new me can just say it’s all fake news and/or a witch hunt that’s all orchestrated by the same mainstream media that helped invent his campaign in the first place.

What about all the mounting evidence of incompetence, and incoherence, let alone evidence for impeachment?

No worries.

Deflect and distract.

Fight any forms of nuanced thinking.

That’s their job, not mine.

Don’t tread on me? Hell yeah, I’ll even buy that flag and plant it in my turf.

I’m the true patriot here.

Show empathy toward others, I’ll promptly call you a snowflake (while crawling toward my own safe space for being called a “deplorable” or if you recently wished me “happy holidays” instead of a “Merry Christmas”).

If they persist with their elitist check mates, I’ll lob a “What about Obama?” hand grenade.

When they ask for specifics, I’ll just double down and say “all of them.”

And then, when all else fails, there is the old standby: Benghazi, with a side dish of Benghazi and a desert of even more Benghazi.

Top it off with a “lock her up.”

See how easy this is?

See how much fun?

The next mass shooting? I’ll just shrug it off, callously, and say it could not have been stopped – even if there is evidence that it easily could have been with a routine background check, or waiting period, on the assailant.

Greta Thunberg? Ha. Too small to make a difference. Plus, isn’t she autistic or something like that there?

Plus, she’s Swedish, not American.

Plus, there is the old standby of waiting on a deep freeze and cracking wise about Al Gore (even though a cold snap in our little corner of the world is not reflective of all that is happening elsewhere).

Knowing that everybody plays the fool – sometimes – I can just say all the science isn’t in, or go to the slight moderation that there is no proof that the scourge is man-made. After all, there is always a crackpot contrarian at some third-rate unaccredited college still saying that the earth is flat or that there is not proof that tobacco causes lung cancer, right?

If those dogs won’t hunt, I’ll channel the mind of the average conservative who knows, full-well, that climate change is real.

“Doesn’t matter to me,” I’ll say. “By the time the planet is unlivable, I won’t know the difference because I’ll be dead.”

And that’s it, right there, in a nutshell.

I could go into being pro-life while being fine putting babies in cages.

I can just say they are “illegal” (when they are the children of parents seeking asylum in a country where the path to citizenship for brown people is vastly different than it was for white people during the industrial revolution).

Beginning in 2020, for as long as I can take it, I am going to be the synonym of being conservative, despite Bible quotes to the contrary.

I’m going to be selfish.

If all is good for me in my stock portfolio, all is good in the ivory tower.

Can I pull it off?

No, sigh, I can’t.

Upon further review, forget it.

As easy as life would be to trade being kind and sensitive for being blissful and blind, I don’t want to live that way for even a millisecond.

I’m good the way I am.

Happy 2020.

This column ran in The Time Herald on Jan. 1, 2020

Vick In The Thick Of It (Again)

Michael Vick

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Love and hate.

Two powerful words that are as used and abused as much as any in the English language.

For example, you don’t’ really love the food at a certain restaurant, and you don’t really hate when people act rude in public.

Love and hate has to be more personal.

I hate Neo-Nazis, for example.

I love my family, my friends, and the music that has been the soundtrack of my life.

I love dogs (cats, too, but particularly dogs).

And I love the Philadelphia sports teams, but the Eagles top the list.

This brings me to the great quandary, and controversy, still swirling around one Michael Vick, the former NFL quarterback.

While Vick made his name with his game with the Atlanta Falcons, the quarterback became a lightning rod when his role in a dog-fighting ring was exposed.

He went to jail for 21 months, and his name – as it should have been at the time — was mud.

Vick served his time, and was signed by the hometown Eagles.

That’s when things got pretty interesting.

Some fans turned in their green gear. Their love for dogs was so powerful that they could no longer root for a team that could employ such a person.

Others, figuring he wasn’t going to play much anyway, tried to shrug it off.

Myself, a lifelong Eagles fan? To say I wasn’t happy about it at the time would be an understatement.

For one, just from a football perspective, they needed a fourth quarterback on the roster like I needed a fourth hole in my head.

Plus, well, look what he did those poor dogs.

After one year here of saying the right things, while not really coming across as being overly convincing, Vick ended up not only being a standout on the field for the Birds in his second season, 2010, but a genuine good citizen off of it.

When he led an amazing comeback win in the Meadowlands, the one that ended on DeSean Jackson’s walk-off punt return, it kind of personified his comeback to being a productive and law-abiding citizen and family man.

Vick has since retired, gone on to be a better citizen than many others — including Donovan McNabb (two DUI arrests in Arizona, one of which caused an accident).

Vick has worked for the cause of animal rights while also establishing several charitable foundations for at-risk youth.

Vick has been a positive role model to those who have done wrong and now try to do right, showing that a life can be turned around.

For that, he was named an honorary captain for the upcoming – and relatively nonsensical – Pro Bowl on Jan. 26 in Orlando.

Firestorm instantly ignited. It was 2009, the year the Eagles signed him, all over again.

In my inbox, I received e-mails from Change.org (they have me on file for being a crazy radical who has signed petitions in the past).

One asked for my support in removing Vick as a captain.

The other was to support keeping him.

Even though a pickup game in the park between middle-school kids is more interesting than the Pro Bowl, the question was fairly significant.

And it has some resonance this time of the year, where families put aside differences and New Year’s resolutions are made.

Which petition did I sign?

The choice was pretty easy.

Keep him as captain, I said, lest we ski down an endless slippery slope – putting us into a gray area of serious issues of black and white and selective forgiveness – that we don’t want to get into but probably should.

In a country where the system of crime and punishment is broken (recidivism rate of almost 77 percent within five years of being released), Vick should be heralded as a success story of how it should work.

But, because his victims were dogs – and I love dogs, too – Vick is judged more harshly than if he, say, committed a violent crime against even a woman or child.

We live in a country where someone who bragged about fondling women was elected president, and where charges of sexual child abuse against Catholic priests and those using the football brand of Penn State – get swept under the rug.

People get all weak in the knees over stories about the few white supremacists who changed their ways so much that they want to remove their swastika tattoos.

But a black man in a white man’s world? Not a chance.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, to his credit, has refused to yield to the pressure to remove Vick as honorary captain.

Good for Goodell.

How about you?

It is a true question of love and hate, and it’s a chance to let love in and let it win.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Jan. 5, 2020.