TRUMP TV launches January 19, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 9, 2016

Contact: @TRUMP2020

NEW YORK – Live from the Winter Palace in Palm Beach, Florida, PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP convenes his Government in Exile on January 19, one day ahead of the felonious inauguration of Crooked Hillary Clinton.

The enthronement will highlight the launch of TRUMP TV, a 24/7 cable and satellite channel dedicated to the tens of millions of devoted Members of the Movement (MOMS) to Make America Great Again.

PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP and Vice President Ivanka TRUMP will be joined by his cabinet and First Lady Melania TRUMP at the Winter Palace, formerly known as Mar-a-Lago – which means “sea to shining sea” – for the swearing-in ceremony.

Also attending will be:

  • Secretary of State and Ambassador to Russia Sarah Palin
  • Secretary of Defense Chuck Norris
  • Secretary of the Treasury/TRUMP ORGANIZATION Donald J. TRUMP Jr.
  • Secretary of Commerce/TRUMP ORGANIZATION Eric F. TRUMP
  • Secretary of the Interior (Decorator) Tiffany TRUMP
  • Secretary of Transportation and Ambassador to the Court of St. James Barron W. TRUMP
  • Attorney General and Secretary of Rage Rudolph Giuliani
  • Secretary of Agriculture and Fast Food Chris Christie
  • Secretary of Labor Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher
  • Secretary of Health Dr. Mehmet Oz
  • Secretary of Education Jerry Falwell Jr.
  • Secretary of Energy Don King
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs Mike Ditka
  • Secretary of Homeland Security Clint Eastwood

“This is the most diverse cabinet in history,” the PRESIDENT-IN-EXILE-IN-WAITING DONALD J. TRUMP said Wednesday. “You have the woman, the black, the brown.”

The investiture broadcast, from the Grand Ballroom of the Winter Palace, will be followed by a televised cabinet meeting and a round of golf at the fabulous TRUMP International club in West Palm Beach.

The eight-hour special, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, will be a preview of the classy shows that will be the hallmark of TRUMP TV.

The 9 to 5 timeslot will thereafter be hosted by a rotating cast of A-list stars delivering the real news from such world capitals as TRUMP Tower in New York, TRUMP International Hotel in Washington, TRUMP International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, TRUMP International in Las Vegas, and TRUMP Doral in Miami.

From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP will host I Called It, a wrapup of the day’s breaking news previously predicted by PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP.

The rest of the TRUMP TV schedule:

6 – 7 p.m. – The Palin-Hannity News Hour: Straight talk on political disasters in Washington from Sean Hannity and the unfiltered worldview from Alaska from Sarah Palin, the Secretary of State and Ambassador to Moscow.

7 – 8 p.m. – Fire Away, with Wayne LaPierre: The executive director of the National Rifle Association (NRA) answers callers’ questions about protecting yourself, your loved ones and the Second Amendment, and how to form an armed militia in your community.

8 – 9 p.m. – Hunting Radical Islamic Terrorists with Rudy Giuliani: America’s Mayor and a brigade of militiamen crisscross the county, stopping and frisking suspected Muslims.

9 – 10 p.m. – Hunting Aliens with Sheriff Joe: Watch the famous Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio and his deputies accost suspected Mexicans and check their papers.

10 – 11 p.m. – Hunting Bad Hombres: Ann Coulter and other MOMS scour alien sanctuaries from East Harlem to East L.A.

11 – 12 p.m. – Border Wars: Armed militiamen patrol the Mexican border. See TRUMP TV’s Virtual Wall with Exclusive Border Cams from California to Texas.

12 p.m. – 1 a.m. – Hunting Big Game: Eric and Don Jr. shoot lions and tigers and bears around the world.

1 a.m. – 2 a.m. –Runway Confidential: PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP hosts a behind the scenes look at TRUMP Model Management. Adult content.

2 a.m. – 3 a.m. – Who Wants to Be a Billionaire: Real estate seminars with disciples of the boss, PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP.

3 a.m. – 5 a.m. – Real Time with PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: Get your phones and tablets ready as you watch PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP tweet live.

5 a.m. – 6 a.m. – Unclassified with Julian Assange: A daily look into the crookedness of the Clinton White House with the WikiLeaks whistleblower.

6 a.m. – 6:30 a.m. – Preparing for the Apocalypse with A-list preachers and prophets.

6:30 a.m. – 7 a.m. – Wake up with Ivanka and Melania: The Vice President and the First Lady lead you in morning exercises.

7 a.m. – 9 a.m. – Thank you, Mr. President – Get your day started and your credit cards ready at a one-stop shop for TRUMP hotels, resorts, golf courses, signature clothing, accessories, home furnishings, fragrances, books and much, much more.

Weekend programming will include:

  • Morning Prayer: Un-separating Church and State with Secretary of Education Jerry Falwell Jr.
  • Dining Out with Chris Christie: The Secretary of Agriculture and Fast Food follows the feast from farm to fryer.
  • Miracle Cures with Secretary of Health Dr. Oz.
  • The Case for Concussions with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Iron Mike Ditka.
  • Back Alley Bare-Knuckle Boxing hosted by Secretary of Energy Don King.
  • Martial Arts for the Criminally Insane hosted by Secretary of Defense Chuck Norris.
  • Dirty Harry Film Festival hosted by Homeland Security Secretary Clint Eastwood.

***

TRUMP Productions is now hiring for TRUMP TV at all levels of management and production.

Employees are required to volunteer for service to the upcoming launch of the TRUMP PARTY and the TRUMP 2020 campaign.

A lifetime confidentiality agreement will be signed and a legally binding loyalty oath taken on the date of employment.

Ode to a pastrami on rye

I’ve been thinking about pastrami since I read recently that the Carnegie Deli is closing.

I have history with pastrami and the Carnegie.

I grew up in a New York where every Jewish neighborhood had at least one deli, when the words deli and takeout were synonymous. Now, there are reportedly fewer than 20 in the five boroughs.

In my New York, as in Herb Gardner’s wonderful 1962 play A Thousand Clowns, delis provide sustenance to the soul of the city.

“Irving R. Feldman’s birthday is my own personal national holiday,” declares Murray Burns, the play’s free-spirited protagonist. “He is proprietor of perhaps the most distinguished kosher delicatessen in this neighborhood and as such I hold the day of his birth in reverence.”

And no food says New York like pastrami. Not a Coney Island hotdog. Not a folded slice of greasy pizza. Not a New York steak, which isn’t called a New York steak in New York.

Pastrami is the fatty flavor king of the Jewish deli. Corned beef? A timid cousin. Brisket? Wishy-washy. Tongue? Feh!

It’s a pastrami sandwich George Costanza turns to when he discovers the orgasmic qualities of mixing food with sex and finds a woman to complement his appetite when she purrs: “I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats.”

Milton Berle spoke for all of us when he said: “Anytime a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies.”

That joke required no further commentary when Woody Allen had Annie Hall order “a pastrami on white with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato.”

Given opportunity and mentoring, newcomers to the city can become associate members of the tribe, enthusiasts of the pleasures of pastrami.

Russell Baker, originally from tiny village in the mountains of Virginia, seemed to stamp his New York passport with pastrami references in countless Observer columns in the New York Times.

In one:

“That racket on the roof is too much,” said Mitgang, a connoisseur of Times Square pastrami houses who is not accustomed to the sweet country sound of rain on a tin roof.

In another:

“Why don’t we, just once, order the salami and eggs?” asked Mitgang after five consecutive days of pastrami on rye.

About ten blocks from the old Times Building was the Stage Deli. Opened in 1937, it was known for drawing celebrities.

And, sure enough, when I went there for the first time, when I was a copyboy at the Times in the mid-1960s, I was seated next to Tom Poston, the deadpan comedian from The Steve Allen Show.

The Stage named sandwiches after its famous patrons. When I returned many years later, all its 24 triple-deckers carried a nametag – from Alec Baldwin (brisket, corned beef and Swiss cheese) to Julia Roberts (chicken salad, hard-boiled egg, lettuce and tomato) to Barbra Streisand (pastrami, turkey, roast beef and Swiss cheese).

The Bill Cosby included tongue.

The Stage started going downhill in the ’70s, when it became known as a hangout for gangsters.

After that, the Carnegie, a block north on Seventh Avenue, was top banana in Midtown.

My first taste of the Carnegie came on a pilgrimage to my hometown shortly after 9/11. After the long drive from southern Ontario with my wife and daughters, it was comfort food – pastrami, corned beef, rye bread, knishes, pickles and deli mustard.

A couple of years later, doing a story for the travel pages of the National Post, I sat down for lunch with Sandy Levine, the Carnegie’s bald, beefy proprietor.

At noontime on a winter weekday, the restaurant was packed, all 160 seats occupied with chazzers chomping on the Carnegie’s trademark overstuffed sandwiches – a full pound of meat between slices of thin rye bread.

“Betcha I’m the only one in here from New York,” Sandy confided at our table in the middle of the small dining area – I held my tongue – then set out to prove his point.

He turned to a young couple at a table over his right shoulder: “Where you from?”

“New Orleans,” they said.

He hollered to another couple: “Where you from?”

“Michigan.”

People started shouting – “Texas” … “North Carolina” … “San Francisco.”

The demonstration appeared to support the idea of the Carnegie as a tourist trap, where rubes forked over big bucks – $13 then, $20 now – for a grotesque sandwich.

“The somewhat catty truth about the Carnegie Deli is that it is one of those New York destinations that actual New Yorkers visit once or twice and then frequently decide they have had enough of,” the Times wrote in its story that the restaurant is closing Dec. 31.

It also slipped in the line that the Carnegie “has been putting out cardiologically perilous fare since 1937,” piling on decades of heartburn and heart-attack jokes leveled at the city’s Jewish delis.

With the Stage having shuttered in 2012, Midtown will be a deli wasteland, pastrami out of fashion, gone in a world of takeout sushi and Szechuan.

I knew it was coming. As I wrote in my novel:

I picked up pastrami, rye bread, knishes, pickles and a cheesecake at the Carnegie Deli on my way back to Park Avenue. “When you said you’d take care of dinner, I thought you meant you’d take me out to a nice restaurant,” Jeannie said as I unpacked the food in the kitchen. “I haven’t eaten this stuff in … I don’t know how long.”

“It’s good for you.”

“I hope you packed your Nexium.”

USA conquers NATO allies

I viewed the Ryder Cup this weekend through the lens of Trump’s America.

Twenty-four rich white men playing golf on a private course.

No Muslims, no Mexicans, no blacks.

Thousands chanting U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! Cheering the misfortunes of the foreigners. Heckling the losers.

The result: America first, NATO allies last.

Patrick Reed, a chubby Texan who flaunted his fine play like a crazed Sasquatch, led the Americans over the Europeans throughout the three days at Hazeltine National Golf Club outside Minneapolis.

“A hero for our country,” declared teammate Jordan Spieth.

“Hopefully, we made every American proud,” said Phil Mickelson.

This American, from his refuge north of the border, watched the proceedings on NBC.

Some observations:

  • The cancelation of the biennial event in September 2001, right after 9/11, bumped the Ryder Cup into even-numbered years. Thus, a golf competition hyped as a clash between Old World and New World cultures, is played at a U.S. venue at the height of election fervor every four years.
  • The Americans are the red team. Republican red. Red states. Better red than dead.
  • The Euros are the blue team. Blue EU flag. Seven of its 12 players are Brits. What happens when Britain Brexits?
  • During commercial breaks, there are a couple of Trump ads, none for Clinton. What does that say about the perceived audience?
  • Then again, there’s also a Jeep commercial, with Cat Stevens singing, “If you want to sing out, sing out, and if you want to be free, be free …” It concluded with the message: “What unites us is stronger than what divides us,” a minor twist on the Clinton campaign slogan Stronger Together.
  • NBC announcer Dan Hicks informs us the next Ryder Cup will be in “Paris, France.” Thanks for the clarification, Dan. I thought it was in Paris, Tennessee, home of the world’s biggest fish fry and a replica Eiffel Tower.
  • His partner, Johnny Miller, exhibits a firmer grasp of geography after a Sergio Garcia putt circles the cup and fails to drop – “that went around Spain and ended up in Portugal.”
  • Ads on a grandstand at Hazeltine are for Omega, Mercedes and Samsung. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
  • A TV commercial for Mercedes, the Third Reich’s preferred carmaker, features the soundtrack of Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem.
  • Hicks refers to young Euro star Thomas Pieters as “the Belgian bomber.” Inspired by ISIS?
  • NBC announcer Mark Rolfing says, “I would think Europe has to make some kind of a statement.” Deutschland uber alles? Liberté, égalité, fraternité? The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain?
  • The loudmouths in the galleries must be graduates of the Jesse Ventura School of Boorishness, betraying the term “Minnesota nice.”
  • The German and Scandinavian roots of many Minnesotans do not translate into fans cheering for Dusseldorf’s Martin Kaymer or Swede Henrik Stenson. Assimilation conquers multiculturalism. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
  • At the closing ceremony, a U.S. military color guard lowers the EU flag while a military band plays Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.
  • I thought the European national anthem was Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole … Ole, Ole.

Josh Klukie: Warrior

The picture above is from Graeme Smith, who supplied this caption: “Here’s a photo I took of Klukie in September 2006, during Operation Medusa. He was a good guy.”

In my last piece, on Josh’s life and death, I included a couple of quotes and a nice passage from Smith’s Oct. 2, 2006 story in the Globe and Mail.

I sent Graeme an email, with a link to my blog. Besides the photo, he replied with a kind note and told me he is still in Afghanistan, doing political analysis for the United Nations in Kabul.

A soldier’s story

Ten years ago, I was running the desk at CBC Newsworld in Toronto when word came that another Canadian soldier had been killed in Afghanistan.

Handling such news had become routine by 2006. Yet, for me, this time was different. I knew the soldier.

Private Josh Klukie, 23, had gone to school with my daughter Jodie, grades seven and eight, during the years we lived on Lake Superior, outside Thunder Bay. They’d been good friends.

I phoned Jodie in Vancouver. She told me she knew Josh was in the army but they hadn’t spoken in years. Still, the memories of their friendship, their shared love of sports, were fresh, the news saddening.

The Josh we remembered was smart and handsome, a good student, a good athlete, quietly self-confident, a sweet guy.

I wondered why he had chosen to join the army. (While reminded that most of the Canadian casualties in that war were from small towns, three from Thunder Bay alone that year.)

This week, as Thursday’s anniversary of Josh’s death approached, I phoned his mother in Thunder Bay. I’d never met Carol Klukie, but she remembered Jodie fondly. We talked for half an hour or so about Josh, the youngest of her three sons.

Josh was sixteen when his father Reg died in 1999. It hit him hard, knocked him off balance.

After high school, he took the paramedic course at Confederation College in Thunder Bay. He lived with his mother. “He and I were close,” she says. “We had a special bond.”

But, when he couldn’t land a job as a paramedic, Josh enlisted in the Canadian Forces.

“He came home one day and said he’d joined,” Carol recalls. “It just knocked my socks off. I was very, very upset.”

Josh went off to basic training at Saint-Jean, Quebec. “He got right into it, he loved it,” his mother says.

For the next couple of years, he was stationed in Canada and came home regularly on leave. In August 2006, he shipped out to Afghanistan.

“It just floored me,” Carol says. “I didn’t raise my son to go to the armpit of the world to get himself killed.”

Josh wrote home, real letters. “He was old fashioned that way.” His mom sent him letters and packages of treats – gum, candy, salve for sore feet. The last package and letter came back unopened.

On Sept. 29, 2006, Josh stepped on a bomb buried in a dusty track while on foot patrol with the 4th Platoon, Bravo Company, First Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.

“The blast threw Klukie about 50 meters off the road,” Corporal Mike Blois told Graeme Smith of the Globe and Mail in Kandahar. “He landed in the vineyard. I think he must have hit one of the walls. He was laying on his back when the American medic and I found him.”

The corporal continued: “You could tell he couldn’t hear anything, but he could recognize me, you know. I was looking right at him. He couldn’t say anything. I was just telling him to keep fighting, you know, keep fighting, keep fighting.”

Picking up Smith’s story in the Globe:

Pte. Klukie’s friends say he was a big, well-built soldier in peak physical shape, who dreamed of joining the elite JTF2 special forces. But the blast that went off under his feet was probably enough to destroy a vehicle, never mind a man.

“He was breathing,” Cpl. Blois said. “He had a pulse. His eyes were moving … He looked right at me. It was just weird. He couldn’t talk.”

This quiet, desperate scene lasted maybe three minutes, Cpl. Blois said. “… I grabbed him by the shoulder, I’m like, ‘this is nothing Josh, this is nothing.’ He just looked at me, smiled, and that was it. He died right there.”

Josh’s hitch would have been up the next month. But he had started the paperwork to reenlist.

“He told me this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life,” Captain Piers Pappin, the platoon commander, told Smith. “It was good for me to hear, because he was one of those soldiers who was going places, for sure.”

Carol was at work at a law office in Thunder Bay when she read a small item on her computer that a Canadian had been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. There were few details. The soldier was not identified pending notification of next of kin.

She got a call. An army officer and a padre showed up. “I was stunned when they told me.”

The military stepped in to guide her through the whirlwind that followed: The flight to CFB Trenton to meet Josh’s coffin; the procession on the stretch of the 401 known as the Highway of Heroes to the morgue in Toronto; the flight to Ottawa and drive to CFB Petawawa for a military service on the home base of the Royal Canadian Regiment; the flight back to Thunder Bay for the funeral at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

Large crowds turned out along the route from Trenton to Toronto, as well as at Petawawa and the church.

“The outpouring of people blew us away,” Carol says. “I felt almost uplifted, knowing he was home.”

Pappin, her son’s commander, and others from his unit have kept in touch. This weekend, Carol is getting together with a few of Josh’s friends to reminiscence and remember.

A novel appeal

It’s been a strange time, living in two worlds.

I’d wake up to another steamy day in southern Ontario, to news of Trump inciting nascent assassins, and Michael Phelps winning gold medals.

Then, I’d return to working on the novel – and it’s a snowy Christmas Eve in Toronto, a crazed, drunken ex-NYPD detective is in the house, spilling his guts about rape and murder.

I was rewriting a novel I started in 1995 and thought I finished in 2010.

I’m done. Wrapped it up in about a month, which may sound impressive until you consider Frederick Forsyth wrote The Day of the Jackal from scratch in 35 days.

Working every day, sometimes eight, ten hours, I did more than tweak. I chopped large sections and added many new scenes.

What’s the book about? An aging newspaperman’s quest to solve the mystery of a missing woman, a woman who told him a shocking story when they met once, briefly, decades earlier. It is also about life, death, seeking justice, seeking love, being Jewish, and baseball.

The biggest change in the rewrite was moving the narrator, Charlie White, from an unnamed city in the northeastern United States to Toronto.

Why? Because as an American in Canada, Charlie will always think of himself as a visitor, an outsider, as I have.

Given the choice between being a Canadian immigrant or an expatriate American, I choose the latter.

I’m an expat. I like the word. Sounds like Hemingway in Paris. Of course, he eventually came home and blew his brains out.

I’ve also changed the title. It was Charlie’s Rules, words that still have a place in the narrative. I may have been inspired by such titles as Sophie’s Choice and Portnoy’s Complaint. I don’t recall.

But the new title, The Hudson Rivers, helped me set a new tone from the first new sentences.

Charlie lives in Moore Park, on Hudson Drive, where Linda and I moved in together the year before we were married. The Hudson Rivers was the name of my team in a wintertime tabletop baseball game I played with friends.

The new title and setting also guided me to stuff I’ve chewed on for the forty years I’ve lived here.

I often wonder why Toronto became a major city. There are no rivers big enough to float a dinghy, no Thames, no Seine, no Hudson. No landmark bridges. What other major city has no bridges to treasure?

But Charlie is not anchored to Toronto. His investigation takes him to many of my favorite places: San Francisco, New York, Boston, Washington, Sanibel Island, Florida, and Kennebunkport, Maine.

There is also a memorable visit to New York for a funeral, and a confrontation with his prime suspect in a hotel bar in Pittsburgh, at the outset of a cross-country road trip.

The last time around, I generally killed a litre of red wine writing into the wee small hours. Charlie still drinks – not as much – but I don’t anymore.

Charlie doesn’t curse as much as he did – or I do – either.

He still has sex with his ex-wives. But, this time, we do not share the explicit details.

Typing sober may have had something to do with these alterations.

The one thing I didn’t change is Charlie’s age. I leave it vague, but it’s clear he is in his sixties, as I am – for three more months, anyway.

I value his life experience, and mine, though I know this puts me at a disadvantage in trying to get the book published.

In my last effort, I was told flat out by a literary agency that it would not represent a first-time author of my declining years. No one would even read the manuscript.

They wanted fresh young writers – you’d call them prospects in baseball – with the hope for a lifetime of sales, not geezers taking a first shot.

(I just came across a website called Bloom, promoting writers over 40. I can’t find one called Wilting.)

If you’ve read this far, if you are one of my faithful “followers” or just wandered into this site, I need your help.

I suck at self-promotion. It gives me the willies.

So, if you know anyone who happens to be a literary agent or in publishing, or have a third-cousin or a friend from elementary school who knows an agent or is in publishing, please forward this piece and my contact info: kenbecker@rogers.com

Thank you.

***

Postscript: I have passed the manuscript on to my best proofreader, Linda, who always catches my typos, and my other unpaid editor, Judy.

In the meantime, I may start posting stories on this site again. Need to keep the old fingers nimble.

A novel interruption

It’s been exactly one year since I published my first piece in this space. Since then, there have been 78 posts.

It’s time to pause. Time to stop taking notes while watching news and sports on TV, dissecting the coverage and the politics.

I’ll continue to start my day with the New York Times, and check out the Washington Post, CBC News, ESPN and other bookmarked sites.

In the coming weeks, I’m sure I’ll watch the Republican and Democratic conventions, as well as the Rio Olympics and my customary menu of baseball and golf.

I may post the occasional piece — if the subject is irresistible.

But I’m getting back to a novel I started in 1995 and thought I finished in 2010. Total rewrite. Could take awhile.

One scene, written with an assist from my cousin Brian, a rabbi, has survived in every previous draft.

I’m not certain it will make the cut this time. So, I offer it here:

On April 22, 1994, I went to synagogue for the first time since my bar mitzvah. I’d buried my father in West Palm Beach earlier in the day, flew home, and took a cab from the airport to Temple Aleph Gelt. Friday night services had just ended when I talked my way in to see the rabbi.

“I’m Rabbi Black,” he said. Sincere. Sweet. A kid. A mark. We were in a large boardroom. He motioned me into a chair. I looked him over. Dark curly hair, olive skin, full lips, puppy-dog brown eyes, a teen idol in a stylish pinstriped suit.

“Are you Jewish?” I asked.

“Of course, I’m Jewish,” he said with a wary smile.

“I don’t mean to be a wiseass. It’s just that I didn’t know Jews were called Black. Jews of color are usually Greene. Like Shecky Greene.”

“Well,” he said, “my father was Black. My grandfather was Black.”

“They were Negroes?”

“No, they were white.” He was playing along.

“I’m White,” I said.

“I can see that.”

“No, I mean my name is White. Charlie White. My father was White too. He’s dead.”

“I’m sorry to hear that – z ikrono l’bracha.”

“On Wednesday.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“My father died on Wednesday. On a golf course in Florida. He had a stroke hitting a five-wood on a par-three.”

My father’s funeral was in a tacky chapel that blended seamlessly into the abomination that is South Florida. My father loved it, of course, since everyone in the identical red-tiled houses of Shangri-La By the Sea – thirty miles from the ocean – came from the same Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods.

When I visited, which was as seldom as possible, I marveled at the goniffs who managed to drain the Everglades, cover it with concrete and Bermuda grass, fill the strip malls with kosher delis and Chinese restaurants, and entice millions of refugees from the Northeast to retire in the ideal habitat for alligators and other swamp creatures.

My father, who had owned a jewelry store in Flushing, moved a thousand miles to lose money at gin rummy and golf, complain about too much fat on the pastrami and too few pieces of barbecued pork in the pork fried rice. This went on for the ten years he lived in West Palm Beach, before he was struck dead on the twelfth hole at Royal Palms Golf and Country Club.

“I don’t believe I’m following you, Mr. White.” Rabbi Black said.

“Doesn’t matter. He’s still dead.” I paused and attempted to appear lost in thought, or grief.

The kid rabbi waited me out. When I didn’t say anything he offered, “Have you come here to seek counsel, or perhaps to say kaddish for your father.”

“No, that’s not it,” I replied. We were seated at one end of a long, well-polished table, fourteen high-backed chairs along either side.

“All right, Mr. White,” he started again, “what can I do for you?”

“I want to damn someone,” I said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Somebody just died and, before it’s too late, I want you to make sure he goes straight to hell.”

“You want your father …”

“Not my father.”

“Who?”

“A criminal who was never punished for his crimes. He died tonight. That’s what they say, anyway. Me, I’m not so sure. Could be a trick.”

“Trick?”

“Yeah, to make sure he beats the rap.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Look, I came here tonight because I’m a Jew. I didn’t know where else to turn. I’m facing a crisis of faith and, although I haven’t been to synagogue in more than thirty years, since my bar mitzvah, I’m still a Jew and I need your help.”

“But we don’t do that, Mr. White,” the kid said.

“Do what? Help Jews in need?”

“No, we don’t damn people. We don’t conjure curses. We also don’t believe in hell.”

“Who’s we?”

“Jews.”

“What do you – we – believe in.”

“We believe in God. We believe in study, and good works, and good deeds, living a worthy life.”

“So what happens after you die?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you think happens after you die?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“No.”

“What kind of man of faith are you?”

“An educated one.”

I smiled. He seemed to have won the argument, if you could call it an argument. I really liked this kid. I knew nothing of his – my – religion and wanted to hear more. He no longer seemed impatient with me. Maybe his rabbinical curiosity got the best of him. “Who is it you want to curse?”

“Richard Nixon,” I said, barreling ahead, “and there’s not much time. The son of a bitch just died.”

The rabbi chuckled. “A worthy endeavor,” he said, pausing as if to consider the challenge. “But since Tricky Dick wasn’t Jewish – at least I don’t believe he was …”

I shook my head.

“Well, then, I don’t see where he falls within our, er, jurisdiction – even if you and I had the power to curse him in death.”

I was running on instinct and adrenaline. This sounded like a technicality.

“Look,” I pleaded, “he was an off-the-wall anti-Semite – even if he did hold hands with Kissinger, who, as you know, is more German than Jewish – so he, Nixon, is – was – an enemy of the Jews. Don’t we have the right to curse our enemies?”

He appeared to politely consider this before saying: “I’m sorry, Mr. White, but I can’t help you. But your questions warrant study. That’s what we do, we rabbis, we study. And I will study your, er, dilemma.”

He stood. I stood. He extended his hand. I shook it.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said, “If you’d like to call me Monday, maybe I will have enlightened myself and can pass on to you what I have learned.”

“I appreciate that,” I said, suddenly exhausted and wanted to go home. “But I fear that by then the bastard may have slipped into heaven.”

He laughed. “Sorry, Mr. White, but you have a rather cartoonish Christian notion of life and death – the soul slipping out of the body, ascending to the clouds and beyond, St. Peter at the gate, admitting people as if he were a ticket-taker at Disneyland. We Jews believe in an all-powerful God. If He can create the world, and perform miracles, he can certainly schlep Richard Nixon out of heaven and deposit him in a more appropriate hereafter.”

He appeared pleased with himself and seemed to take genuine delight from our meeting. I gave high marks for his scholarly performance skills.

“Thanks, kid,” I said.

He shot me a stern grownup look. “You may call me rabbi, or Rabbi Black, or Mr. Black, or Ian.”

“Ian? Ian Black? Are you sure you’re Jewish?”

I never talked to the kid again. It was also the last time I set foot in a synagogue.