Wear a Mask, or A Prison Uniform.

Time to act out like ACT-UP did against the AIDS Epidemic?

When I see a person without a mask within 6 feet of me or anyone else, I want to spray them in the face with disinfectant. Kind of like using Mace against a violent, life-threatening criminal.

I know that might constitute an assault, but, I reason, so is the maskless menace breathing potentially deadly pathogens into the air in my direction. “The freedom to extend your arm, stops where my nose begins,” I remember as a criminal law mantra from law school. That principle applies perfectly here.

So, what can we do in “self-defense?” What’s the appropriate action for victims of the maskless morons to take? Do we need our own “Stand Your Public Health Ground Law?” If shaming doesn’t work, especially when dealing with a selfish jerk, what can we do to proactively protect ourselves and the health of the people we love?

I was confronted with that conflict head-on, while my granddaughters, my son, his wife and mine, were all having a wonderful, socially distanced birthday celebration at a beautiful beach on the Sonoma Coast. For context, its’ important to note that when I am in the presence of our 3 granddaughters — ages 11, 9, and almost 5 — I am in state of bliss. Few things can loosen that circle of love. Even Donald Trump, the most dastardly of dastards, becomes a child’s silly ditty: “Donald Trump is a horse’s rump; he belongs in a garbage dump.” Ok. My ditty — but my grandchildren giggle with glee when they hear it. Still, my mood of joy for those three girls remains uninterrupted.

So there we were, all playing on the beach, sculpting Sand Cats, and replicas of Hogwarts and Stonehenge (the girls love cats and Harry Potter, and their mother is an Anthropologist) when an oblivious old coot comes walking directly toward us on the beach — maskless, mirthless and clueless as to the danger he was breathing with him. He had barged into my bliss, momentarily catching me off guard, unable to bark out “Where’s your fucking, Mask, loser?” because my granddaughters were right there, and he was suddenly upon us.

He barely avoided us, and I looked after him in disgust, wanting to run up behind him, knock him over, and push his face into the sand. But of course, I didn’t. My granddaughters were watching, and I kept my anger in check and repressed my strong desire to go all “Johnny Brooklyn” on him. Impressionable ears were listening carefully. We complained a bit about him getting too close for comfort, but then resumed our play in the sand, and running from the ice cold waves chasing us back.

“I felt his breath on me,” my oldest granddaughter said, and I immediately regretted not punching the maskless moron in the nose so he couldn’t breathe on anyone. I rationalized my response by complimenting myself on not making a scene, when I felt that was exactly what I should have made.

As we were leaving the beach, giddy from getting to spend an entire day with each other, masked and socially distanced on one of the most spectacular beaches in all of California, three unmasked teen-aged boys approached us on a narrow path back to the parking lot. The tallest of the three, walking in front, saw all of us, with our faces covered, and momentarily pulled up his tee shirt to cover his mouth and nose, then dropped it down when his peach-fuzz faced friends blithely refused to cover theirs. We stopped and stepped aside — not quite 6 feet — to let them pass.

“You inconsiderate little pricks, cover your faces,” a voice inside me said, but that’s where it stayed. My granddaughters were watching, and I didn’t want to model bad behavior, even though they had just witnessed it by the three-skin faced stooges.

If I were alone, would I have done more than give an icy “you maskless moron” stare to the oblivious old coot or the Teenage Mutant Maskless Turds? In a State Park or city or county or town where mask-wearing is mandatory during this COVID Pandemic, don’t law abiding citizens have the right to enforce the law? To demand compliance? To shame the shameless bastards? To kick sand in their uncovered faces?

If I were a member of a Public Health Police Force, I’d hand out stiff fines to every violator, and arrest those arrogant asses who claim they “don’t believe in masks,” or they “need to breathe oxygen,” as if the air in a mask is methane. Until that time comes, I’m shopping for some new masks or tee-shirts that scream: “Wear Your Fucking Mask,” “Cover Your Mouth AND Nose,” or “Your Breath Is Killing Your Mother.” I’m also contemplating carrying a disinfectant filled spray-bottle to mark off my six-foot territory the way a cat sprays to claim its turf. I’m deciding on designing these spray bottles to look like a Corona Virus, with each orange spike capable of spewing Lysol or bleach.

It’s either that, or unleashing my inner Johnny Brooklyn on the maskless morons moving in self-centered concentric circles among us — regardless of age or gender — and the results won’t be quiet nor pretty, but they might just dramatically reduce COVID infection rates, and ignorance if we act out like ACTUP did against AIDS. Those might be just the tactics needed to get through to the dumb-as-fuck dunderheads who need to simply choose between putting on their mask or a prison uniform, for all the deaths and illness they’ve callously caused.

Silence, Violence & Abuse.

Jim Jordan: Silent on Sexual Violence.

Until the jacketless jackass Jim Jordan showed porno films before AG Barr’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, I thought Donald Trump was Joe Biden’s best weapon for winning the Presidency and for the Democrats sweeping both House of Congress in 2020.

Jordan’s junk film could not have been more self-destructive then if it were a grainy, hand-held video of former Ohio State Wrestling team Physician Richard Strauss sexually abusing nude wresters, while jittery Jim, the Assistant Wrestling Coach with a gym locker right next to Strauss’, stood by in silence. This time, the hyperactive hypocrite was hysterical about other forms of violence, that weren’t sexual.

As usual (except when it involved his legal duty to protect college wrestlers from a sexual predator), Jordan overdid it. Not only had he violated House rules by not pre-clearing the vile video with the Committee Chair 48-hours in advance, but he let the jerky, terribly pasted together piece of propaganda play on and on like some pre-pubescent version of the “Blair Witch Project.” Even Barr’s eternally bored-looking, bulbous face, oozed more boredom than ever as the repetitious visions of violence, by unidentified actors, only revealed the transparency of Trump’s stunt man’s latest stunt. The dry run for an uncut Trump Campaign video was backfiring almost as badly as Trump’s bullying, tear-gas drenched trek to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, where he bobbled a Bible for a phony photo-op.

Turns out, we’ve seen this show many times before. We’ve seen it with Trump’s 20,000+ lies over the past four years; we’ve seen snippets of out-of-context violence show up in an amateurish Trump ad entitled “Joe Biden’s America;” we’ve witnessed a “Call 911” screed aimed at scaring senior citizens — who are more terrified of dying of COVID — over “defunding the police,” a phrase and policy which Biden rejects as strongly as he rejects violence. Even Fox News’ Chris Wallace accused Trump of lying about Biden’s position on the police funding issue, in a recent televised interview. None of those lie-laden messages, have done anything to raise Trump’s popularity. In fact, they’ve had the opposite effect: every national poll and every swing state polls shows Trump’s approval numbers dropping precipitously when it comes to handling race relations, “law & order,” issues of trust, and on his abject failure to confront the COVID pandemic.

In fact, at virtually the same moment Jordan’s was opening his trench mouth to flash Congress his violence-laden porn flick, the highly respected Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that a masked White Supremacist — known as “Umbrella Man” and a member of the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood — was caught on film smashing windows and committed acts of violence during Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis, following the murder of George Floyd. A Minneapolis Police Sgt. reported on the White Supremacist provocateur’s acts of violence in an affidavit:

“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” Sgt. Erika Christensen wrote in a search warrant affidavit filed in court this week. “Until the actions of… ‘Umbrella Man,’ the protests had been relatively peaceful. The actions of this personcreated an atmosphere of hostility and tension…. this individual’s sole aim was to incite violence.”

Umbrella Man didn’t show up in Gym Jordan’s video orgasm, nor did the unidentified federal secret police caught on cell-phone cameras beating up a peaceful Navy Veteran with police batons, or rounding up unarmed mothers, and forcibly throwing them into black, unmarked vehicles in Portland. Could the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood have other Bro’s operating in Portland, Seattle or Louisville? How do we know who the members of the “unidentified” federal agents are operating in DC, or Portland or any other City?? Are the federal “secret police,” members of White Supremacist, Anti-Semitic militias of wannabe Stormtroopers? Mercenaries moonlighting from ICE or the Bureau of Prisons to do Bill Barr’s dirty work?

Those questions aren’t paranoia, but prudence; nor, do they excuse outright acts of violence by a few outliers from legitimate and peaceful demonstrators. The State’s Attorney’s of Baltimore and District Attorney of Philadelphia — the highest law enforcement officials in those cities — shared those concerns, in an Op Ed which appeared in the July 23 issue of the Washington Post:

We were elected to prosecute violations of the law in our cities. We strongly believe that the actions in Oregon are illegal. Should the president proceed with his plan in our cities, his agents will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby for Baltimore City and DA Larry Krasner for Philadelphia went on:

“Desperate times produce desperate measures. President Trump, sliding in the polls, flailing as covid-19 cases surge, has sought a distraction by sending federal law enforcement officers into Portland, Ore. Scarier to us than even the Orwellian sight of federal agents in military fatigues assaulting citizens and bundling them into unmarked vehicles is that Trump has spoken of sending federal agents to Baltimore and Philadelphia.”

The tough law and order stand of those local law enforcement officials, echoed the words of Oregon’s State Attorney General who filed suit against the Trump Administration’s illegal actions:

Should Trump send federal agents who engage in the same illegal vigilante activities, unlawfully assaulting and kidnapping people, they will face criminal charges from our offices”

No elected official of either party, in any town, city or State in the country condones acts of violence against people or property. Most are careful to distinguish peaceful, non-violent protest from acts of vandalism. Most respect the constitutional rights of their citizens expressing their right to free speech and go to great lengths to protect them. Many of the leaders of the cities and States targeted by Trump and Barr are Black, Latino or women, a fact of contemporary political life brought home during the COVID pandemic, as those communities were left to largely fend for themselves. Those hard-hit communities are not alone in the nation’s worst public health crisis in a century: the entire country is consumed with worry over mass death, as the 150,000th American died from COVID this week.

And it’s precisely because of that overwhelming focus, and how badly Trump has bungled the response to the pandemic, that the public isn’t buying the fraudulent cure he’s trying to sell on handling peaceful protest, race relations, violence, or just about anything else.

New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz writes in a July 27 Intelligencer article entitled “Trump’s Portland Policy Isn’t Backfiring The Way He Intended”:

“Trump’s culture war histrionics only reinforce the impression that he isn’t taking the coronavirus seriously…and he has done little during his first term in office to associate himself with orderliness…To the contrary…Trump has done just about everything in his power to make voters see him as an agent of chaos.

The most fundamental flaw in Trump’s gambit, though, is the brute fact that he is the sitting president. It is very difficult to persuade voters that putting you in the White House will end civil unrest when you are currently in the White House and there is civil unrest.”

Not even a double dose of Hydroxychloroquine or a big gulp of bleach will cure that.

Tony, We’ve Got Your Back. Now, Unmask the Pathogen President.

Dr. Tony Fauci, testifying on the COVID Pandemic before a Congressional Hearing.

I tried to warn you, Tony.

Three months ago — almost to the day — I wrote an article urging you to speak the unfettered truth about how Donald Trump was incompetently mishandling the federal response to the COVID 19 Pandemic, resulting in record-breaking infection and death in the United States.

Instead, you made the General Mattis mistake; you figured that, based upon the strength of your own character, you could change things from within, ignoring the wise counsel of the writer Rick Wilson, that “Everything Trump Touches, Dies.” Now, it’s your turn to be dirtied and discredited by the Garbage Pail-in-Chief, a pernicious pathogen of a President.

I tried to warn you to step out and bring the Science-denying sociopath down. You didn’t listen. Now, he’s coming for you.

You’ve been Director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases since the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, and the only believable spokesperson in the Trump Administration on the COVID 19 pandemic.

Your fashion-consumed colleague Dr. Deborah Birx, the Administration’s Corona Virus Response Coordinator — a job she has flamboyantly failed at — crushed her own credibility by telling the Christian Broadcasting Network the preposterous lie that “The President is so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data.”

Unlike “Ambassador” Birx, who comes across like a wealthy dilettante, bemoaning being unable to host “dinner parties for 20 yet,” because of social distancing, you are a down-to-earth, likeable 79-year old, highly educated Italian public health professional from Brooklyn — still bearing scraps of your Brooklyn accent.

Who couldn’t like a regular guy who played basketball in High School, rooted for the Yankees despite growing up on Brooklyn Dodger turf, had a Zoom talk with the Warriors’ Steph Curry, and wears a Washington National’s mask to Congressional Hearings?

That training in street toughness, highlighted in a New Yorker article by Michael Specter, and entitled, “How Anthony Fauci Became America’s Doctor,” should have made you fight more furiously, against the anti-science prejudice and profit-over-patients Darwinism infecting the Trump White House. Unfortunately, like the good point guard you were on your high school team, you chose to stay in your lane and be a team player, when it was the team itself that was utterly corrupt, immoral and incompetent to the marrow of its bones.

I urged you to use your enormous credibility and popularity: last month’s Sienna College Poll had you clobbering Trump 67%-26% on the question of trust with the American public. Your approval rating is even higher today, as Trumps sinks into the sewer from where he was spawned. I begged you to forcefully expose the lies and intentional falsehoods by Trump and the always bizarre Alex Azar, an oleaginous former Big Pharma executive, which resulted in thousands of unnecessary COVID deaths — including a beloved member of my family, and a younger, former colleague. It’s still not too late, Tony, to use the force of the facts, of your character and your moral and popular standing, to save lives before the number of COVID deaths in this country tops 200,000.

It’s time for you to resign in protest and expose all of the lies, stupidities and criminal negligence of the Bleach Belching Imbecile in the Oval Office. I’m sure the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, funded by Mike Bloomberg, would continue to fund your important work, and Joe Biden’s campaign would give you a big enough megaphone to get your public health messages out to millions of Americans. You could do a COVID Zoom conference call with Biden each day, and the whole world will be watching. And, unlike Trump, Biden will listen and understand the urgency to act.

You have far more power today — with nearly 50 years of solid scientific, public health work in your corner. And you have far, far more, widespread public support now during this COVID pandemic than you have had at any time in your distinguished career.

As far back as Easter Sunday — a date Trump pulled out of one of his orifices to have all churches “beautifully open,” — you told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union:

“Obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. But, there was a lot of pushback about shutting things early in the outbreak.”

At that point, three months ago, the United States had just surpassed 20,000 COVID-related deaths. Today, we’re approaching seven times that number, and you still haven’t told us about the pushback against shutting things down. It’s time to blow the whistle, Tony.

No one else has the enormous capacity, knowledge, record of accomplishment, depth of expertise, passion for public health, and track record in getting a huge bureaucracy to move into action as you do, Tony. But now, the deadly virus of Trump’s venality, ignorance and vituperation, have been turned on you. And even a surgical mask & gobs of hand sanitizer won’t keep those grotesque germs away.

It is no longer possible for you to stay where you are, to do, as you told the New Yorker, everything possible to stop the worst from happening.” The worst of the COVID pandemic is happening despite your best efforts, because Trump and his evil enablers have taken the ball out of your hands, and put you on the bench.

They are coming for you, Tony, but we have your back, if you’ll let us. You once asked the key question about the Reagan Administration’s glacial response to AIDS, “Why wasn’t the Administration moving faster?” as Michael Spector wrote in the New Yorker.

You’ve struggled mightily to raise this question everyday from inside the Trump Administration, but they don’t want to hear your truth anymore. Instead, they’ve chosen to trash you. Get out now. Your team is US, not them.

Beyond the Gym: Rediscovering Nature & Peeing in the Woods.

During almost four months of Sheltering-In-Place to contain the Corona Virus in Northern California, I’ve rediscovered natural wonders, like watching wildlife as I walk alongside a riverbank, or the simple joy of peeing in the woods.

I didn’t plan to uncover these unparalleled delights. Like most remarkable moments of epiphany, they revealed themselves spontaneously.

With gyms and virtually every form of recreation locked down during California’s comprehensive COVID closures, walking or hiking on wooded trails or along rivers was one of the few, and healthiest, options available. I found renewed pleasure in walking outside, and didn’t miss the boundless boredom of the treadmill. For years, I found it ludicrous to look at a lock-step line-up of aging Boomers, earphones hugging their heads, running nowhere as fast as they could, frantically trying to outrace death.

Even before the pandemic put pumping iron on pause, gym membership, for me, was teetering on a very narrow beam. When I lived in San Francisco and was a member of a 24-Hour Fitness near the Embarcedero — where many of SF’s homeless came to shower — I watched in amazement as one fully clothed homeless guy jumped into the hot tub, convincing me it was time to change gyms, before he could change his clothes.

Moving up to Napa County, I first joined a very classy health club in St. Helena, and then a déclassé club in Napa City. The déclassé Club — which should have been its name — met my low expectations when I noticed all the expectorating old men were using the showers as their personal spittoons. I quit the club and it went out of business a short time later.

My last gym was a gleaming, light-filled spotless place — part of the In-Shape Health Club franchise that opened in Napa with two swimming pools, one indoors and one out. Yet, even such a pristine place, couldn’t work out the rank rattiness of gym rats. A sparkling locker room quickly lost its luster, with wet towels left lumped in piles, and sinks filled with shaved hair follicles. I got tired of complaining about cleanliness: why didn’t they enforce the rule about no shoes in the steamroom? Why was the pool so dirty? Why were kids under 16 permitted in the Jacuzzi when the sign clearly said “NO.?” Why were lethargic, lard-like “water walkers” allowed to clog up the clearly marked “lap swimming lanes?” The only consistent “NO”, was that NO ONE enforced the rules.

Nor did anyone keep after the germ-generating jocks to wipe down machines as a courtesy to others, re-rack weights, or to pick up their own mess. I got tired of telling people, “your mother doesn’t work here.” After the pandemic hit, I had pathogen-packed nightmares, with mask-less musclemen panting, grunting and vaulting virus in my direction. The idea of becoming a crazed Covid Cop did not appeal to me. I was looking to reduce stress, not produce more of it.

I was enjoying my hikes in nature so much more than I ever enjoyed the gym. Unlike many fellow Corona Virus hibernators, I hadn’t gained one single pound during the closedown. So, even when the State permitted health clubs to have a limited opening, I cancelled my gym membership — the first time in more than 40 years I would be without one, something unthinkable before COVID. I was $110 per month richer, and happy to spend it on some good Napa wines. I didn’t want any more worry of wiping down every piece of equipment both before and after use.

I was free. Better yet, the outdoors were free from disinfecting wipes.

There was, however, one fundamental problem with returning to nature. After hiking for 90 minutes or two-hours, I usually needed to pee. Public restrooms were out, since most were shuttered, and those that weren’t, should have been. With the Corona Virus lurking on every touchable surface, the last thing I wanted to do was brush against a surface that others might have touched. I know I’m clean, but what are you, to paraphrase PeeWee Herman — a perfect quote for quarantine times.

At first, I abstained from drinking any water for an hour before hiking, hit the bathroom before bolting out, and dashed home when my bladder began to beckon. But, regularly hiking together with my partner for the first time in years, I enjoyed our outings more and more. I wasn’t so eager for them to end, and she was better at “holding it,” than I.

So, last month, on a beautiful trail along the Napa River, I did what I had not done in decades. I peed outside. I knew I wouldn’t make it all the way home, so I spotted an off-the-trail spot, out of the sightline of other hikers & bikers, unzipped my safari shorts, and did what came naturally. It was glorious. I urinated on some rocks, not wanting to damage any plants or trees.

I glanced over my shoulder, expecting to be busted by Officer Lockstock, the corpulent cop in the Tony Award winning show “Urinetown”, who arrested people not paying to pee. No one. No bikers, no hikers. No one. I was free to pee for free. So exhilarating.

This week, on a magnificent trail in South Napa with a canopy of Eucalyptus trees, I had to go again after hiking for nearly three miles. I picked the perfect spot, behind a huge Eucalyptus, with a tree-trunk four times my size. This time, there was a slight, delightful breeze, and the gentle zephyr entered my open zipper, making me want to pee in the woods for worlds without end. I was, like a young boy, liberated from the gym, and free to pee outdoors again.

A Father’s Day Story of Love & Betrayal.

Since my father died on May 27, 1993 — my wedding anniversary–Father’s Day has always been painful. I watched him die a difficult, drawn-out death from a carnivorous cancer which started in his prostate and spread to his spine, paralyzing him. I read him the sports section everyday for the last two weeks of his life, quoting every line of each Yankee box score, and telling him the horse-racing results from race-tracks around the country. Baseball and horse-racing were my father’s passions. He had watched Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio & Mantle play ball in the Bronx, and had winning tickets on other thoroughbreds named Affirmed, Secretariat, Native Dancer, and Seattle Slew.

A few weeks after my father’s death, my friend Jim Morgo invited me to join him at Yankee Stadium on Father’s Day. He had prime box seats behind the Yankee dugout for a Yankees/Red Sox game. Jim knew I loved the Yankees as much as he adored his beloved Red Sox, especially watching them play at the Stadium. What better way to feel closer to my father, I thought, than to be in the surroundings where we spent our sweetest hours together.

At least once a year, every August since I was 10 years old, my father was given use of the field box owned by the Pershing Square Building Corporation, his employer. Six days a week, every week, for 35 years, my father labored in the bowels of their building at 100 East 42nd Street, operating the old steam boilers, to make sure the lawyers and accountants who worked on the upper floors were comfortable.

My father knew I loved watching double-headers, and that none of the corporate executives who had first dibs on the tickets, wanted to sit in the sweltering sun on an August Sunday to watch two baseball games. For me, six solid hours of baseball was a double treat. The world consisted of nothing but baseball all day, and I had my father all to myself.

The seats I sat in on that first Father’s Day I was fatherless, were only a few rows behind where my father and I sat, year after year, inning after inning. I looked around the Stadium imagining I saw him everywhere. There he was, getting a beer, or mopping the sweat off his brow with a clean, white handkerchief. Each time I spotted an old guy with a beer belly, I thought of my father hauling his paunch up and down those flattened Stadium steps to “hit the ‘head,” as he said.

Maybe coming to Yankee Stadium so soon after my father’s death was not such a good idea, after all. I was grieving him deeply, quietly. Being there, so close to where he and I shared so many perfect moments, made me melancholy. I was in the final months of my work in Mario Cuomo’s Administration, and was depressed over conversations I knew were going on between Cuomo, George Steinbrenner, Rupert Murdoch and NYS’ Commissioner of Economic Development Vincent Tese, to move the Stadium out of the Bronx and put it on the site of the West Side Rail Yards, in mid-town Manhattan. How dare they even think about doing that, I thought. My father is here.

I sat there, drinking in the Stadium’s atmosphere, memories swirling around me like one of those tiny dust tornadoes that swept across the infield every so often. I looked at the majestic white facades towering over right field and realized what a place of peace this was for us from an otherwise chaotic life. To remain silent while the old Stadium’s future was being decided would have been to commit a sacrilege against the memory of my father.

I knew how forcefully committed the Governor was to economic development, and how the sinister George Steinbrenner was threatening to move the Yankees to New Jersey if he didn’t get a brand new ballpark in Manhattan, where he could build high-priced skyboxes for corporate oligarchs. I knew that Rupert Murdoch was exploring the possibility of building a sprawling entertainment center, including TV studios, on the site of the new Stadium. And I knew that somehow, I had to find a way to stop this from happening.

That “way” came within days of my Father’s Day visit to Yankee Stadium. I came across a copy of a scheduled secret meeting between the Governor, Steinbrenner, Murdoch and Tese with a two-word topic: “Yankee Stadium.” I knew I had to act quickly to create a public outcry to save the old Ballpark. With the forces of money and political power in New York aligned against the House that Ruth Built, I took the only route left open: I leaked the information about the “secret” Yankee Stadium meeting to New York TimesSportswriter, Richard Sandomir.

The following day, June 30, 1993, a front page story by the Times’ Ian Fisher carried a headline announcing: “Fearing Move by Yankees, Cuomo Explores Idea for a NewStadium.” The Governor was livid, and was convinced that Sandy Frucher, a former top official in the Administrations of both Gov. Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo, was the source of the leak because Frucher worked for Olympia-York, a company with an interest in the Rail Yards. Sandy insisted it wasn’t him, and he was right. I was the “source close to the Governor” the New York Times quoted throughout the story.

The uproar caused by the Times story stopped the proposed move of Yankee Stadium to Manhattan, literally, in its tracks. And it bought the old Ballpark a reprieve of another 15 years, and kept the Bronx Bombers in the Bronx.

For me, I wasn’t proud of causing Mario Cuomo and Sandy Frucher some agita, but I also wasn’t about to let my pride, or anything else for that matter, get in the way of fulfilling a promise to my father: to keep the old Ballpark alive, long after he was gone.

Invisible No Longer.

We knew George Floyd before he was suffocated to death under a White cop’s knee.

We’ve seen him dozens of times on television in the faces of the Black men, and women, who were killed because of the color of their skin. 

We’ve seen him thousands of times in books, newspapers and photographs of Black men hanging from trees, or telephone polls or scaffolds; thousands upon thousands of Black men, invisible to the law.

The great writer, Ralph Ellison, saw George Floyd clearly, long before George Floyd was born, and murdered.

In his remarkable book, Invisible Man (Random House, NY, NY, 1952), Ellison chillingly depicted how White people looked right through Black men, and saw only what they wanted to see, for whatever purpose they found gratifying.   

Ellison describes it through the eyes of a college-bound, young Black man, herded into a wealthy, elite White club, to provide the inebriated rich, powerful men of a small community with some entertainment:

“  All of the town’s big shots were there in their tuxedos, wolfing down buffet foods, drinking beer and whiskey and smoking black cigars.  It was a large room with a high ceiling.  Chairs were arranged in neat rows around three sides of a portable boxing ring.  The fourth side was clear, revealing a gleaming space of polished floor.”

Ellison’s educated main character was invited to the elite gathering by the White Superintendant of Schools to be honored for his scholarship, and was told he would be able to deliver a speech.  But, first, he, and nine other young Black men had to perform.

“In those pre-invisible days, I visualized myself as a potential Booker T. Washington…I suspected the fighting might detract from the dignity of my speech.  We were led out of the elevator through a rococo hall into an anteroom and told to get into our fighting togs.  Each of us was issued a pair of boxing gloves and ushered into the big mirrored hall…”

“We were a small tight group, clustered together, our bare upper bodies touching and shining with anticipatory sweat, while up front the big shots were becoming increasingly excited…  Suddenly, I heard the School Superintendent, who told me to come, yell, ‘Bring up the shines, gentlemen!  ‘Bring up the little shines!”

“We were ordered to get into the ring…All 10 of us climbed under the ropes and allowed ourselves to be blindfolded, with broad bands of white cloth…I felt a sudden fit of blind terror …I stood against the ropes trembling… it seemed as if all nine of the boys had turned upon me at once. Blows pounded me from all sides…A glove connected with my head, filling my mouth with warm blood…”

 “Everybody fought everybody else…I heard one boy scream in pain as he smashed his hand against a ring post…The (White) men kept yelling: ‘Slug him, black boy! Knock his guts out!  Uppercut him!  Kill him!  Kill that big boy!’  When the bell sounded, two men in tuxedos lept into the ring and removed the blindfolds…”

The White men—bankers, lawyers, judges, doctors, fire chiefs, teachers, merchants and pastors—all dressed in tuxedos, now arranged for the second act of the evening’s entertainment:  two Black “boys” would fight it out, before all would get some money.

I saw the howling of red faces crouching tense beneath the cloud of blue-grey smoke…I wanted to deliver my speech more than anything because I felt that only these men could judge truly my ability…A blow to my head as I danced about sent my right eye popping like a Jack-in-the-Box and settled my dilemma…I wondered if I would now be allowed to speak…”

The tuxedoed White men stopped the fight, but only because they wanted to see one more show.  They rolled away the portable boxing ring, and set up a small square rug in the vacant space surrounded by chairs.  An emcee gave the signal for the young, Black men to “come and get your money,” a collection of gold, coins and a few crumpled bills tossed in the middle of the rug.

As told, we got around the square rug on our knees.  ‘Ready, Go!’ the emcee said. I lunged for a yellow coin lying on a blue design of the carpet, touching it …A hot, violent force tore through my body, shaking me like a wet rat.  The rug was electrified…my muscles jumped, my nerves jangled, writhed…Suddenly, I saw a boy lifted in the air, glistening with sweat like a circus seal, and dropped, his wet back landing flush upon the charged rug, heard him yell, and saw him literally dance upon his back, his elbows beating a frenzied tattoo upon the floor, his muscles twitching like the flesh of a horse stung by too many flies… his face was gray and no one stopped him when he ran from the floor, amid booming laughter.”

To ground himself against the electric shock, the young, college-bound Black man, grabbed the wooden leg of a chair being stradled by a laughing, corpulent, drunken White man and tried to topple his tormentor onto the electrified carpet.  The fat, rich, White man kicked him viciously in the chest and back onto the charged rug.

“ The chair flew out of my hand, and I felt myself going…  It was as though I had rolled through a bed of hot coals.  It seemed a whole century would pass before I would roll free, a century in which I was seared trough the deepest levels of my body to the fearful breath within me, and the breath seared and heated to the point of explosion.  It’ll all be over in a flash, I thought…  It’ll all be over in a flash.”

Life was over in a flash for George Floyd, and it seems as if several centuries of hate and abuse have exploded before our eyes, no longer invisible.  And, Black men and women are demanding to be seen.