Back To The Future

warrensanders

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — You know what I miss most from my younger days?

Going to this place they called a newsstand to purchase something I could hold in my hands. It was usually a sports magazine and the purpose was to check out the latest rankings in boxing, college sports, etc.

In the spirit of the times of yore, let’s review my rankings, post-debate, in the Democratic presidential field (all listed, and even those who missed the cut, are 110 percent better than what we have now):

1) Bernie Sanders (BernieSanders.com): I’m including that website – as I will for all – because my chosen candidate since last presidential election is mistakenly depicted as someone who wants to “give everything away for free” without a plan to pay for it. There is a plan. You’ll love it, trust me.

2) Elizabeth Warren (ElizabethWarren.com): Not much substantive difference between her and Bernie, and I’d vote for her in a heartbeat if it came to it.

3) Tulsi Gabbard (Tulsi2020.com): This is where there is a big gap between the top two and next group, where I saw a lot of people who would make quality cabinet members for Pres. Sanders or Warren. Among them was this 38-year-old Iraq War vet. Secretary of State Gabbard? I like it.

4) Kamala Harris (KamalaHarris.org): In real time, her verbal assault on front-runner Joe Biden seemed more calculated than off the cuff. Still, while I’d like to see her serve more time in the senate, I would pay good money for ringside seats to see this 54-year-old former prosecutor dismantle your president (not mine) in a debate. Attorney General Harris? I like it.

5) Eric Swalwell (EricSwallwell.com): A 38-year-old with a boyish smirk that reminds me of the kid no one really likes but who always wins the election for student council anyway. Still, he ranks this high because of he is the strongest of all the candidates on gun control, my long-standing No. 1 issue.

6) Cory Booker (CoryBooker.com): When Booker spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, I said to myself, “Self, this is a future president right here.” I still see it. I’m just not sure about 2020.

7) Jay Inslee (JayInslee.com): The Washington governor is a single-issue candidate. That single issue, though, involves trying to save us from ourselves on climate change. Some of the candidates want to save the country, Inslee wants to save the world. Cabinet seat? Please?

8) Julián Castro (JulianForTheFuture.com): Before the debate, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary was just one of those guys in the red shirts on U.SS. Enterprise who met a tragic fate early in Star Trek episodes. But he came prepared and vaulted himself into a position to sway what will be the vital Hispanic vote. Vice President Castro? Who knows?

9) Andrew Yang (Yang2020.com): Want an extra $12K per year? Yang is your guy. Like Sanders, there is method behind what sounds like madness and worth investigating. Since he has no real opinion on anything else, he’s not a viable president candidate, though.

10) Marianne Williamson (Marianne2020.com): Let’s be clear. I have as much chance of being elected president as she does, and she’d be the first one to tell you so. That was liberating enough for her to really say what needed to be said a few times. Before a rather bizarre Yoko Ono moment toward the debate’s end made this Oprah disciple the butt of day-after jokes, I was semi-impressed.

11) Joe Biden (JoeBiden.com): The presumptive nominee ranked behind Marianne Williamson? Yeah, right now, that’s the way it is. Consider it a wake-up call, my man. Nobody wants a guy named Joe to be ordinary.

12) Beto O’Rourke (BetORourke.com): The flavor of the month has lost its taste, and the well-meaning congressman whose claim to fame is a moral victory in a Senate bid against Ted Cruz didn’t seem to have much focus on the debate stage.

13) Tim Ryan (TimRyanForAmerica.com): In the debate, he sounded a lone resonating note that ignored applause-line topics that won’t amount to a hill of baked beans in the general election (LBGTQ rights, legalizing marijuana, prison reform, etc.). That note – winning back key swing industrial states like his own (Ohio) and ours (Pennsylvania).

14) Amy Klobuchar (Amy-Klobuchar.com): This well-meaning Minnesota senator is failing to distinguish herself.

 

15) Steve Bullock (SteveBullock.com): He wasn’t in the first round of debates, but that could add to his mystique as the new sheriff in town (he has the ideal name for it for a hero in a Western).

16) Pete Buttigieg (PeteForAmerica.com): How dare I, right? Well, I just dared. He brings a lot of good qualities to the table, but let’s turn those qualities into more experience on the national level and we can talk down the line.

17) Kirsten Gillibrand (2020.KirstenGillibrand.com): First of all, is that domain name even legal? Secondly, she was quite the annoying Ms. Budinsky for a while on the debate stage, but then something happened on the road to Rudeville. She made sense on a variety of issues.

18) Wayne Messam (WayneForAmerica.com): Interesting to note that Messam was just elected to his third term as mayor of Miramar, Fla., which has a larger population than Buttigieg’s South Bend, Ind.

19) Joe Sestak (JoeSestak.com): Once upon a time — in a galaxy far, far away — I sat in on an editorial conference with Sestak during one of his failed bids for the senate. A former three-star Navy admiral, he called me “sir” – twice. That earns him a spot on this list.

20) John Hickenlooper (Hickenlooper.com): Pres. Hickenlooper? Try saying that out loud. You can’t? Neither can I. It’s a shame, because he is tough on gun control (see website).

Missing the Cut: John Delaney (JohnKDelaney.com); Bill de Blasio (BilldeBlasio.com); Seth Moulton (SethMoulton.com); Michael Bennet (MichaelBennet.com).

This Column ran in The Times Herald on July 7.

Searching for the Reconnection

Sonny

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The year was 1911 – you know, when America was supposedly “great.”

A fire inside the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in the Greenwich Village section of New York City left 146 garment workers dead in a what remains not only Gotham’s worst industrial disaster but one of the worst in our nation’s not-so-great history.

Eyewitness accounts to this horrific event detail how dozens of the victims leaped to their deaths from the building’s eighth floor (it became increasingly obvious that the fire ladders of the time period couldn’t get to them).

The victims sometimes reportedly landed so hard that they left indentations on the sidewalk below.

There were a lot of commonalities between the workers. Most were young woman between the ages of 14 and 23. And almost all were Italian or Jewish, having recently arrived as first-generation immigrants during the height of immigration for both ethnic groups.

tff-sidewalk

The joint tragedy was not an aberration, as the American experience for Italian and Jewish citizens has always been connected, through good times and bad.

Scholars have even speculated that at least some of the crewmen traveling with Christopher Columbus were Conversos (Jews who converted to Christianity) escaping the persecution of the Spanish Inquisition.

But the true parallel American experience for both groups began when they immigrated here by the millions – through Ellis Island and other ports of entry – between the end of the Civil War and the start of World War I.

Both faced prejudices, based on fear and superstition, not unlike those now aimed at Hispanics and Muslims.

Italians and Jews debunked those myths by fighting, and dying, in the wars that made this country an international power and by achieving success in all professional fields of endeavor.

From living in neighboring city ghettos — and other cultural similarities — both groups had been allies since banding together for changes in working conditions in the wake of the tragedy of 1911.

From physical appearance to wearing our hearts on our sleeves to talking with our hands, we have been kindred ethnic spirits – not only on a large scale but more interpersonal ones.

For me, it was an ideal fit when coming to work in Norristown many moons ago.

I grew up with an Italian stepfather and, by extension, had a third wing of relatives – and cousins to play with – who were Italian. At school, a large number of my non-Jewish classmates were full or half-Italian.

I always said that if one room had all Jewish people in it and the other all Italians, I’d be at ease in either – although I’d probably have a better time, truth be told, in the Italian room.

After all, as Tony Soprano once put it, in his own “Tony” way, Italians are “Jews with better food.”

So why not opt for the room with the better food?

But something has going terribly wrong on my return trip to the buffet table.

ItalianStarofDavid

I would have to watch what I say, lest I not get a return invite – or worse.

We may have been born in America as conjoined twins, but politics have separated us.

The other day, while adding yet another person wanting to settle a political debate with a duel in the town square to my expanding Facebook blocked list, it struck me how many former paisans I have lost since the commencement of what I consider a cold Civil War in America.

And I’m really trying to find out why Jews generally go to the left and Italians to the right when in the political arena.

Ethnicity plays a vital role in elections, all the way up the ladder from local to state to national, almost as much as factors such as economic status and geography.

Yet, the correlation between ethnicity and political leanings is just not talked about – or seriously studied — as much as, say, skin color or blue-collar vs. white-collar.

With Jews, the 70-30 Democratic tendency has not wavered much for decades.

For Italian-Americans – once about 50-50 — it now sits at about 70-30 in the other direction.

And it leaves me perplexed.

The same people jumping from that burning building in 1911 have seen their ghosts land in different places almost 11 decades later.

Example: Even though your president (not mine) is from New York City, he got destroyed there in the 2016 election. The only borough he won was Staten Island, which has a large Italian-American voting contingent.

I just don’t get the disconnect.

The common explanation – “because we love our country” – is a nice try, but it doesn’t fly, sorry.

We love our country, too, but our hearts are broken right now.

And love is a prerequisite of a broken heart.

I honestly can’t say why more Italian-American hearts aren’t broken as well.

Some are, don’t get me wrong. I have close Italian friends who are even more liberal than I am (Bruce Springsteen is half-Italian, and has lost fans because of his liberal stances).

Nonetheless, a curiously high number remain staunchly loyal to your president (not mine).

I’d love to discuss it — without a threat of a shootout at high noon — over a dish of “better food.”

Maybe, one day, it will be possible again.

 

 

 

 

Moved By A Movie — Twice

Bernie and Elton

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I don’t often go to the movies anymore.

Nope, not even the lure of the taste of popcorn mixed with the taste of Raisinets can pry me away from being able to choose from a menu of at-home snack choices and the autonomy of the remote control.

Plus, if a flick provokes me to extreme laughter – or tears (Sofia jokes that “every movie” makes me cry, and she is close) – I am free to be me.

While I do still go to the movies from time to time to see something I just can’t wait on, what I don’t often do is go to the movies twice in one week – let alone see the same film twice in that time span.

Until that “Sopranos” prequel comes out next year, Vegas odds placed it as an extreme longshot.

But anyone who plunked down the money on the 250-1 chance that I would do so beforehand cashed in big recently.

The movie that got me out there twice in less than seven days?

“Rocketman,” the biopic about Elton John.

I wouldn’t say Elton John is at the top of my list of favorite acts. Maybe Top 25 (although there has been a resurgence lately, pushing him into the 18-20 range).

But, once upon a different time in Gordonville, he was it.

No. 1 with a bullet.

Before Bruce Springsteen. Before Bob Seger. Before even The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.

In the early 1970s, my family tree had a lot of those “long-haired freaky people that need not apply” (as described in the song “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band), so I was introduced to rock and roll a little sooner than my friends who were still singing the theme from Batman around the schoolyard.

Once I heard “Bennie And The Jets” on the radio, I wanted in.

My first purchase was Elton John’s first Greatest Hits album, and the first cut was one I had not personally heard before on AM Radio, as it had predated what was being played in 1973-74.

It was “Your Song,” which featured direct lyrics like “my gift is my song and this one’s for you,” and may have been the first song to ever strike a chord in deep my soul.

The next in my collection was a double-album –“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – meaning twice the fun.

Like many of the others that followed in quick succession, it came complete with a readable lyrics booklet.

I was struck to soon learn that someone besides Elton John had the job of just writing the lyrics that captured an imagination that was ripe for the taking for a kid from a broken home whose best skill was daydreaming.

That lyricist was Bernie Taupin, with whom I always identified ever since (I consider myself a self-renowned lyricist of about a zillion songs myself).

When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was Bernie Taupin.

Still is.

When I read that Taupin’s role in John’s career was going to be a big part of “Rocketman,” it got me out of my viewing comfort zone (while the other two-thirds of my family were seeing “Aladdin” in an adjacent theater).

When Sofia had a slumber party a few nights later, I returned with the better half for a second viewing that was just as powerful for me – and her — as the first.

As much as I saw my scribe-like self in the way Taupin was portrayed – always at the ready to write out lyrics as moved by the creative spirits that cannot be explained – I also saw a bit of myself in some of John’s character.

This included a hot temper and a doting maternal grandmother, which I had as well.

In the climactic scene, Elton John was faced with a 5-year-old version of himself – little Reggie Dwight (his real name) – and bends down and hugs him, teaching the viewer the lesson that we all need to embrace who we really are to be at peace with ourselves.

For me, seeing “Rocketman” twice in less than a week was a lot like that scene.

It was a chance to go back and embrace a lot of who I was in a different time and place, where his music was a salve in a lot of wounds for a lonely kid who had some of his albums in one house (apartment, actually) and different ones at the other.

His gift was his song back then.

And it was for me.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on June 29, 2019.

Bias Keeping Flyers Grounded

Finns-celebrate

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It’s almost hard to think back to 2006, considering it is the year before my life changed forever with the birth of Sofia.

It is equally hard to believe — or conceive — that an NHL team that wants to stay relevant would close off part of the hockey-playing universe “just because.”

Not saying that is the case with the Flyers, in regards to drafting players from Finland, but the evidence is mounting.

Finland is a country of about 6 million people (a lame reason often given why they can be more humane to each other on social issues, but I digress). Despite this, it is becoming known “the best hockey country in the world,” much to the chagrin of our friends up in the Great White North.

In last weekend’s NHL Draft, the Flyers continuing their steak of not drafting a player from Finland since 2006 (Joonas Lehtiuvori).

Given the talent coming out of that country, it is an almost impossible feat to accomplish, and yet they have managed to do it.

Since that time, the Finns have won three golds at the Under-20 World Tournament. In the Under-18 tournament, where most of the draft-eligible players have been displaying their games for scouts, they have two golds, two silvers and three bronzes in that time frame.

Yeah, you’ll find a Finnish veteran on their roster, via trade, from time to time, but it’s not the same thing as growing your own talent.

Just scan the rosters of the league’s elite teams, and you will find what they have that the Flyers (no Stanley Cups since 1975 and six losses in the finals since) do not.

You win with Finns.

The Flyers don’t win, and the bias is obvious.

I’m sure they don’t just dislike Finns off-hand, but there seems to be some general fear that their players maybe won’t adjust to playing in smaller rinks with more physical play, or that they won’t be willing to come here on two-way contracts, meaning apprenticeships in the less-glamorous minor leagues.

Lehtiivori might be an example of that. After being drafted, he remained in Europe before coming across the pong and playing 98 games with the Adirondack Phantoms over a span of a season and a half before returning to Europe, where he still plays for pay.

It’s hard to believe that one experience left such a sour taste in the mouths of management that they have passed it along though several regime changes since 2006.

The only common ground between these front offices is no Stanley Cups and not drafting any players from Finland.

 

Every Day Is Father’s Day

MVP

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Only a few Father’s Days ago, I spent the occasion at an 8-hour dance recital just to watch Sofia perform for, maybe, a grand total of eight minutes.

I accepted it as my lot in life.

Sofia was my own personal Tiny Dancer, and I figured this was how it was going to be – waiting all day with a growling stomach, clinging to a bouquet of flowers while racing other dance parents for ideal seats.

At the time, she was the kid – “that kid” — in her first year of 8-U Rec softball that sometimes needed 10-12 pitches (from a coach) before she hit the ball four inches.

I braced myself to become a dance dad and not a sports dad, as she was more in her natural habitat in ballet shoes than spikes.

We fostered her overall creative side with piano lessons, art camps/classes, etc.

Softball was just something cute she did, usually with yours truly serving in some sort of coaching capacity, as she enjoyed being part of a team and accessorizing, via headbands and wristbands.

And it was all fine with me.

It would run its course and we would look back one day and laugh.

As long she did well in school and maintained “angel on earth” status with the Mount Rushmore of teachers she had in the early grades, all was good.

I could not have been more proud.

At least that is what I thought.

Guess where I spent this past Father’s Day?

I’ll make it easy.

It was not at a dance recital.

It was not at a piano recital, either.

We were in gritty Gloucester City, N.J. – literally in the shadow of one of the bridges — for a travel softball tournament.

And not as spectators – well, mama was a tense spectator while I was in the dugout as a low-on-the-totem-pole coach who keeps the scorebook.

Sofia was on the field.

For those of you not familiar with this world of travel tournament softball, the pace of the game puts it several notches above neighborhood Rec leagues.

Players have to audition for teams in mid-summer and, if they earn an invite, they practice year-round in indoor facilities.

I’m not going to say Sofia is a superstar at this level, because she is not – not yet, anyway – but she meets the commitment level needed for travel ball.

She played left field and batted ninth in both games Saturday. She made a nice running catch and lined a single in the first game, a 7-4 loss to the second-ranked team in South Jersey. That performance earned her a chance to be a game captain in the second game, a terse 7-7 tie in which she stole a base and scored a run after getting hit by a pitch (her specialty).

On Sunday, Father’s Day, she was moved up a spot in the batting order, but we were promptly eliminated, 10-0.

Still, in the midst of this early morning drubbing, it hit me as she rifled a throw from deep left field to the cutoff at shortstop, how much she has developed her softball skill set in such a short amount of time.

And she has done it her way.

Sofia still dances – just not at a school that holds recitals on Father’s Day (eye roll) – and we limit her ballet classes to one long night a week to allow for softball practice, schoolwork and her litany of other secondary activities (Girl Scouts, 4H, school choir, etc.)

In the spring, Sofia also played for her school’s softball team, starting every game at her preferred position, catcher, and was named as an All-Star at year’s end.

It was not uncommon for her to go right from a school game or practice to a workout with her travel team, Velocity.

I could take all the credit for not giving up on her, but the truth is that she never gave up on herself and is eternally coachable, meaning the arrow is still pointing way up.

And no, I have zero delusions that she will be one of those young women on TV playing for UCLA or Oklahoma in the College Softball World Series.

Sofia was never going to be dancing at Julliard, either.

She is what I said I always wanted, an all-around kid.

This is not to be confused with me thinking Sofia is perfect, because she is not. She is the princess of procrastination. She is not quite as compliant with authority at home as she is with teachers, coaches, dance instructors, etc.

And she is bit too addicted to social media.

But Sofia is a young lady of many deep passions.

Beyond softball and dance, she is turning into a mini-me with her love for music (I wish she’d let me show her how similar my bands are to hers, but I’m not giving up). She enjoys going to museums, art and historical, especially if they are about ancient Egypt.

Sofia will soon return to her beloved creative arts camp – well-prepared with a purple streak in her air — to indulge herself in all it has to offer (except sports, as the kids there are, uh, not too athletic).

As parents, all we can do is let our children engage with the world, and embrace their passions with both arms.

In her case, she might need three.

Sometimes, it’s her mother helping her rake in the overflow.

Sometimes, it’s me.

That’s just what fathers do.

It is my lot in life — a life where every day is Father’s Day.

No matter where I am spending it.

This column  first appeared in The Times Herald on June 23, 2019.