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Revolution By Revelation

December 11, 2017

A few years back, I watched, shocked and approvingly, as Bill Cosby was taken down by a terrible sex scandal. And then, earlier this year, I was gleeful as similar revelations  toppled Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes at Fox.

And Roy Moore! Funny how the ones who stand behind the bible and wrap themselves in the flag are all too often the very ones doing naughty things back there.

But then Louis C.K., who I’ve always admired, gets called out for asking a series of women to watch him pleasure himself. And now there’s  Al Franken and Charlie Rose, men I’ve looked up to for over 30 years, being called out for harassing women who trusted them and generally acting like jackasses.

So with these past weeks, while joining in with the convulsive cultural reaction to these scandals, I’m also feeling kind of shell shocked. With Al Franken in particular, I’ve felt a sour pit in my stomach. I find myself more hurt watching him go down than with anyone else.

And with many of these men, the emotional waves that wash over me are first anger, then shame, and then compassion.

My anger is in the form of,  How could you be such a dickhead?!  What the hell were you thinking? I feel betrayed.

Fame, it seems, goes to the head. And for a man that often means both of them.

Then I feel shame at being of the same gender as Al, Louis and Charlie and all the rest: Within the larger culture of men, in one way or another, we all looked the other way. Now these men make us all look bad.

But I also find myself feeling compassion for these dudes. It’s easy for us to judge – a little too easy. Fame, as Bill Maher said, is a disease. Imagine if you were a  guy who had people constantly looking up to you with dilated eyes full of admiration and adoration wherever you went? Where young, sharp and beautiful women were eager just to get close to you so they could say they had. Wanting your autograph. Wanting a private word. Wanting just to touch you. And a few of them clearly wanting a whole lot more than that.

Over time, it might go to your heads, too.

Especially if a small number of your female admirers would clearly feel flattered if you made a move. So over time, you might think, She sure looks like she wants it. Maybe she wants me to try something. Maybe she’ll be disappointed if I don’t.

Yeah, she wants it.

Is this kind of rationalization, that leads to bad behavior, excusable? Of course not. Is it understandable? Yes. Add to this a cultural environment – still in existence in many arenas – where all this was simply considered one of the perks of the job, and you get a perfect storm of testosterone, lust and transgression.

In addition to all this, I’m left to wrestle with my own conscience. Maybe I should apologize to a lot of women for being a cad or a jerk more often than I care to recall.

But after all is said and done, I can’t change past actions. I can only change the present conversation: A conversation between men about what a man should, and should never, do.

I also find myself challenged now to look at my need (or desire) for heroes in my life. Men (especially) to fashion myself after. But these past few weeks my need for heroes has gotten a few swift kicks in the nuts. When a person I admire in public life falls from his pedestal, I’m left angry,  disappointed and disgusted. I can admire a person, but I keep getting reminded, rudely, not to assume that s/he’s any better than me.

I’m reminded of Sheldon Kopp’s admonition — “If you have a hero, look again: You have diminished yourself in some way.”

Now, as the monuments crumble, my view of the landscape becomes clearer.

But with fewer heroes, I feel more alone. And lonely, alienated, and left to my own devices: You mean I’m on my own?  No more father-figures or even older-brother-figures to look up to? You mean, I have to grow up? It’s all up to me now? Yikes!

And when it comes to the political sphere, increasingly now it’s looking like it’s all up to us. Like we’re entering a time where we need to  look to ourselves – and each other – for guidance and leadership.

In the meantime, I believe what we are witnessing, you and I, here during these chilly autumn months, is what may be the beginnings of the fall of man. And the first cracks in the very legitimacy of male leadership and authority itself.

This process is only being abetted by the dude in the White House with the singular talent at making male authority look bad in the eyes of women (and a lot of men as well). This blowhard may scare many of us, but he’s spitting in the wind of history.

Look – just over the past decade alone (ten short years) – our values have evolved. What was ok yesterday – schoolyard bullying; casual racial slurs; long jail time for pot smokers; boys-will-be-boys behavior; gay-baiting — are now sources of embarrassment and shame. This is where history is going, and, in this way, things may be improving.

When asked what he thought of western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi replied, “It would be a good idea.”

Maybe it’s an idea whose time has come.

Less and less now are we tolerating “Pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain”  politics. Because now we know what he may be doing back there.

Rip away the curtain, tear off the veil, and we may find ourselves in a state of permanent wince, which could be a good thing. Our waves of disgust are creating a slow tsunami of re-evaluation and change, one which could sweep everything in its wake.

It’s one that is already beginning to leave a cultural vacuum for the future to rush into.

And that future is female.

And Donald Trump and all he represents? It’s the wave of the past.

Actually, I don’t say that great change is coming and the future is female because I believe it to be true. I say it because it had better be.

I’m truly scared for this land and for this world. And for my own mental health, as the news tends to suck me down into a vortex of despair. I’m optimistic as a stand and a matter of survival: If enough of us believe in the possibility of a brighter future worth working and fighting for, maybe we’ll find the wherewithal to work and fight for it. Despairing, we’re done.

In the meantime, we should not underestimate the power of our collective revulsion.

There will be more of these reckonings. And as it turns out, the timing is exquisite; the justice poetic: At the apex of male authority, with the country and its entire social hierarchy headed by a man who exhibits many of masculinity’s worst attributes, we are witnessing the beginnings of its demise.

And how? By the act of women, one by one, simply stepping forward and speaking the truth.

This is revolution by revelation. Bloodless, yet devastating. And you and I are not only witnessing it; we are, each in our own way, participating.




After The Shock, A Humbling Lesson and a Hidden Jewel

November 16, 2016

I find myself, here a week after the election, grappling with having been dead wrong about so many things. I thought I understood politics; and my country. Wrong on both counts. I’m struggling to make the best of it, to understand what the lessons are. To look for hidden gifts.

I’ve come up with three: A feeling of belonging; a humbling lesson in humanness; and also something that brings me true hope, even excitement!

I’ll start with the belonging.

All around the city and elsewhere, people are hugging and consoling each other, like at a funeral.  Because we’re sensing we need each other now. It reminds me of this town after September 11th, only this time it feels as if we were surprise attacked by our own country. There’s that same sense of shock, a need to grieve, a spark of defiance. The same struggle to get our bearings, and to understand what we’re now going to have to get used to going forward.  The same trying to not get swept up in fear or paranoia.

It’s beautiful in a way (“Everything is cracked. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen). There’s this sense of unity, like we’re all in this together. Because we are.

And we, or at least I, find myself asking the same questions I asked after 9/11: Who are these people who would do this against, it seems, all decency, all reason?

Who indeed?


If I try to imagine being a white dude who’s more culturally straight and also less educated than I – the kind of dude who put Trump over the top – I can begin to sense what it’s been like for him the past 30 years. His status as chief bread-winner all but disappeared, and no one seemed to care. As a result of this and other changes, his position as head of the household evaporated, and there was only joy about it from the culture. His standing as majority stakeholder in the American dream (and the white male as the very symbol of the average American) has been diminished. All these changes were necessary, but no one seemed to notice the downside fell on him.

Then his job disappeared to someone in China or India, and he was told by his old company in the exit interview to be light on his feet and find another career. He soon learned this meant greeting customers at the local Wal-Mart. But his   Republican congressman assured him all this was good for business and the economy.

Then strangers who neither looked like him nor spoke his language started showing up all over his town, and they were there illegally, but if he complained, he was called a bigot.

And maybe he didn’t become clinically depressed or alcoholic, but he probably knew a few others like himself who did.

In the midst of all this, along comes a dude from out of nowhere, an alpha male who seems to possess everything he and his friends wished they had, who tells them, in language no damn politician had ever used, that they had a right to be angry. That he could make America (i.e., them) great again. And this guy touched them because he had listened to them when no one else was. Not the Democrats. Not the Republicans. No one but him.

And then, get this: This dude comes home from his first Trump rally, pumped up like he hasn’t been since he played football in high school. He tells his wife all about it, then with a wink invites her into the bedroom. An hour later, she says, “Well, I don’t know who this Trump guy is, but I’m sure liking what he’s doing for you!”

Once guys like these felt heard, no amount of reasoning was going to change their  minds. Instead of being disdained Trump instead heard their cries, and once he had, they were his. All our preaching and mocking of him and his followers only served to solidify their loyalty.

We – I – failed to listen to, or attempt to empathize with my fellow citizens, and instead I did to them exactly what I accused them of doing: I “other’d” them. Marginalize them. I shunned and secretly felt superior to them, and for decades now. I called them idiots and bigots, and I wasn’t the only one.

It didn’t work out too well.

The past election has been a bitter lesson in empathy for me. It’s helped me realize that unless all of us are taken care of here, none of us are safe.

But it’s hard to empathize with people one feels superior to.

And this is where I need to be honest: I mean really — is the way I and my friends have regarded Trump and his followers really much different from the way they seem to regard Muslims, Mexicans and immigrants? Am I better than them, or am I just sanctimoniously occupying the opposite side of the same coin?


So, when I begin to wake from this partisan political trance, and try to shake myself free of my disgust, I can admit that Donald Trump has done something astonishing.

For in his victory lies a hidden jewel for us all: He has proven that the future of political power in this country is guaranteed to no one. Not to the Clintons. Not the conservative Republican establishment. And not to The Donald either. No one. Some of us may be repulsed by him, but we simply cannot afford to ignore what he made plain last week. The establishment of both parties, who’ve been so cocksure of themselves, have now begun to feel what may only be the first tremors of the accumulated outrage of millions of people who are fed up and hungry for change. I know I am. Aren’t you? We straddle the entire political spectrum from far right to populist to far left. One doesn’t have to be a Trump supporter to know the system is rigged. Or to want politics-as-usual disrupted.

And he has done just that.

For if we take a good look right now, we will see that Donald Trump has inadvertently cracked opened a door nobody else even knew was there.  And the door he opened, once you and I recognize it, is a door to this:

Everything is up for grabs.

Because the gateway he revealed to us all is not just one between celebrity and politics; it’s a door of possibility: Between fantasy and reality; between imagination and manifestation. And no matter how dark or disdainful we may think he is, there may now be a portal – or quantum tunnel — opened between you, me and the levers of power. Between our desire to create the future and our ability to do so.

Last I looked, Twitter and other social media were not exclusive outlets for celebrity billionaires with household names. Anyone who’s savvy, charismatic, and knows how to attract media attention, can get ours, overnight.

There are many of us who can walk through this door now if we dare. Maybe you know such a person yourself. Maybe it’s you.

Donald The Disruptor is showing us we can do the same. That we may not like his brand of disruption should not keep us from recognizing how quickly and effectively it can be done.

I believe there’s a great awakening happening.  And like all awakenings, this is showing itself to be a rude one. And, just maybe, revolution is coming. Whose revolution? What kind? That’s up to all of us. In the meantime, let’s not blind ourselves with narrow-minded partisan muck. Let’s walk through the door of possibility together.


August 13, 2014

Dear Robin,

You were probably the brightest star in our generation’s galaxy, a supernova always shining somewhere in the sky. You were perhaps the only man in the cosmos who could make the good Lord giggle.

Today I was walking around in a state of shock. I felt close to you, and loved you as much as I could any man I hadn’t personally met.

My very image of reality is shaken like a photo taken from a train. Sure, stories of depression, alcohol and cocaine abuse, rehab and 12 Step groups, that’s almost normal for a celebrity. But actually choosing to end it all? With all you had inside you? That’s just heartbreaking.

And it leaves me to wonder: With a mind that could out-ricochet a bullet in a mine shaft, were all your frantically-snapping synapses mere devices to divert your attention from a bleak inner abyss?

It’s as sad as it’s scary. What other demons lurk beneath the surface of any public figure? Or in people I personally know? Or in me?

What agonies are we hiding from each other in plain site?

We live – I live attempting to enjoy the everyday ups and downs of life, and I have had so many joys I’m writing a book to celebrate. But sometimes the veil lifts, and I am suddenly naked and hollow before a relentless, bitter wind that in too short a time blows us all away.

The truth is, it’s hard just to be alive sometimes, especially if you keep yourself awake through the process. It’s scary and it hurts, and Robin, it seems you just couldn’t take it anymore.

I’m simply disheartened today. Hurt that you would choose to end yourself.

Robin, on Monday you robbed us of you, but only after having given us so much. You were like the one friend who could always cheer us up. For this we remain so grateful, and so sorry that in the end, we couldn’t do the same for you.

The Man From Beacon

January 29, 2014

Down with the cult of personality!”  shouted the old bearded man.

And with that, the crowd stopped applauding him.

He had just given a free concert at South Street Seaport and we were wild with grateful appreciation and love for the man. But Pete Seeger didn’t want that. What he wanted was for us to love the songs, and the sound of our own voices singing them. To feed off the communal power they infused in us, and to channel the passion of possibility they sparked in us. He wanted us not to listen to him, but to sing with him. He wanted us to appreciate and applaud ourselves, and to know our ability and birth rite to control our destiny, to revolutionize the reality that was foisted upon us like a decree. To take over. 

In spite of his wishes to not be any kind of hero, I will never forget him, and will always love him. I will always be grateful to his spirit that still for me serves as a living inspiration to who we all are, and what we are capable of when we break out of our individual prisons and find freedom by throwing our lot in with the whole rainbow race.

Me, I’m still hopelessly an individual. And I still love the idea of the cult of personality (as long, that is, as that cult is formed around my personality!)  I will probably die never beginning to measure up to this great man. But having inhabited the same world and much of the same time as he, I’m better for it, and will always have before me the horizon he stood at like a Beacon (the name of the upstate town he lived in) , beckoning us forward to what we still, God help us, we still can do together.

He will be missed.



Year- End Update (or Scuba Living)

January 1, 2014

This is a quick hello. A way to come up for air. How long have I been under?

First off, I miss you terribly. Miss talking to you, and sometimes hearing back from you. This blog has also been a way for me to take stock of myself and take a deeper cut from wherever I stood right then. A way to mark the moment, imbuing it with an extra layer of meaning, as if what I do, think and feel matters. Otherwise, the days wash by and all I get is wet.

I don’t know what to say about the past year. For me, parts have been not quite what I expected or hoped for. One of those How-to-make-God-laugh years (you know, by telling Him your plans?).

What was good was that I began two very worthwhile creative projects that feel like culminations of lifelong passions. One is a film documentary on men {working title: Brooklyn Men}. On this, I found a collaborator, a terrific young man (any guy under 40 is young to me) who volunteered to handle the tech end. We got seven interviews completed, with all sorts of different men, young and old; tame and wild (actually none of the former).

The second project is the book I quit this blog to focus on. One that reveals parts of me – a whole spectrum of experience – I’ve kept hidden from the world for too long. And I’ve interviewed some extraordinary people for it. Now on my second draft, I feel like I’m doing something brave and adventurous.

But then life intervened around summertime. First off, my practice started to demand more of my attention. Who knew, back when I started practicing 25 years ago, that one would need to continuously revise and reinvent one’s internet marketing strategy to keep people coming through the door? And the way such a successful online strategy actually works, changed from the time you began reading this post. So I’m trying to keep up. 

Also, my tech guy entered a personal rough patch, and this resulted in me redirecting more of my energy to the book. I’ve started about half a dozen books in my life, and have completed none of them. This time I’m committed to do so.

But hey, kids, that’s not all!

As the weather grew colder, I came down with the bronchitis I often get. Damn! Three weeks of coughing, shortness of breath, antibiotics. But then, some weeks later, it returned, only with worse symptoms: headaches along with a persistent fatigue. More antibiotics. Slowly the symptoms lifted…except for the fatigue. And then some more terrible headaches.


I’d feel better, work a normal day, but then my body would balk.  The past several weeks I’ve slept 8-10 hours a night.

And then there was this strange and painful swelling around my knee.

One day last week, Shelley and I were talking about these symptoms and suddenly it hit me: I went north three times during the fall. Twice upstate, and once to…northern Connecticut.

Holy shit.

So I went for a blood test and in a few days I’ll know if I have Lyme disease. I almost hope I do, because then this will all make some sense, and I can get treatment. Because if I don’t, I donno what the hell is going on.

Actually I happen to feel better the past couple of days, as if maybe whatever it is, is lifting. (Though people warn me that Lyme can “hide” a while. Alas, no rest for the catastrophizing.)

But there’s a lesson in this. My body and mind have been at odds, with my mind insisting on cutting time to the bone, barely a moment each day to brush my teeth and shower, kiss Shelley goodbye, run to the train, work on the train,  see clients/do errands/work on the book/work on the website/exercise/meet with my men’s team/eat with Shelley and debrief our days/see my shrink/prepare for the next day/gulp down 3 meals/then get almost enough sleep if I have the time. Saturday? Errands. Sunday? Do everything I didn’t get done during the week.

But my body has a mind of its own. It’s saying – yo! What you think I am, 40? I NEED MORE DOWN TIME. And if you won’t give it to me, I’ll steal it and down you’ll go!

And so it has.

And that’s why I’ve felt with this fatigue like I’ve been scuba diving through the past month: Breathing and walking in a slow motion dream-like state under water.  I found myself thinking, So this is what it feels like to grow old, eh? An encroaching, insidious decline of vitality, a reduction in mobility and narrowing of view, as if the circumference of my days is growing smaller. Often recently, I’ve come home, collapsed and plopped like a lox on the couch, and watched too much television and felt like a person only less so.

It scares me to think that this may have been a dress rehearsal for future decrepitude, a preview of how windows (of energy, mobility, opportunity) may inexorably be closing as my time goes on. And this forces me to think how to make the best of the time remaining, and how to focus my reduced beam of energy like a laser to cut through the day’s fat and do only what’s essential. 

These are skills I may need when I’m 74 or 84 and beyond. Life may grow smaller, simpler.

Hey I know this isn’t what you expected or signed up for when you started reading this post, is it? Now you know how I feel about 2013.

But actually I’m not as downcast as I sound. I’ve got far too many blessings for that!

Meantime, Shelley has really hit her stride as a retired person, knitting me a gorgeous matching wool scarf and hat just in time for winter.

This past year we chose to enjoy a staycation, booking a small hotel in midtown right next to where my grandmother lived when I was a child. One day I’ll tell you how Shelley and I spent that time, and what we discovered about the city.

Thanks again for listening. I’ll be back again another time.  

Happy New Year!

What It Feels Like To Be In The Times…Again

October 13, 2013

Whoa — what a ride! Today’s article on Shelley and me in the NY Times is almost overwhelming. Thrilling of course, and a bit more flattering than I deserve, but it also includes an embarrassing piece of misinformation (at least in the print edition). 

The Times covered our wedding in the Vows section seven years ago because they liked the story of a psychotherapist that was also a dating coach finding the love of his life. 

The current piece is an update that includes our roller-coaster ride with her health, and to follow up on our marriage seven years down the line.

And it’s true, like the piece says, that I focus more now on couples counseling (although I still do a lot of date coaching) but I wish they had mentioned my website — so I’ll mention it now! .  

I’m also glad they mention some of my ideas about what makes for healthy relationships, like the importance of a support system, and of being grateful for one’s blessings, and of not taking each other for granted. 

Speaking of which, I’m so grateful this piece really gives Shelley her due, as this woman has inspired me to no end from the day I met her.

The embarrassing part was the article’s subtitle in the print edition, no doubt put in there by an editor, which could give the impression we were in worse financial straights than we were or are.   (Jane Gordon, the author, gets it right in the piece, however).  Further, Shelley’s heart is not actually weak. She has CAD: Coronary Artery Disease, which means that some arteries around her heart are blocked — hence the stents. But her heart itself is fine — which is why we can dance together to 60’s rock (with a little Lady Gaga thrown in). Anyway, these are small prices to pay for such a lovely article! 

And am I really that philosophical?

Well, let me think about that. Let’s see…on the one hand… 

Finding True Blood

September 10, 2013

My family has always been pathetically small. Today, besides Shelley and my two step kids (it seems to be a wide step) I feel close to my brother Richard and one of his three kids; plus one cousin who falls flat on his face somewhere on the autism spectrum; another cousin in Florida, one in Michigan, and two female cousins whom, if I never called, I would never hear from.

For me this lifetime, family has been a DIY kind of thing. I’ve made it up as I went along.

I remember one warm spring Sunday in New Jersey, I must have been about thirteen or so. We were visiting our relatives – my aunts and uncles and cousins. Joyce and Gary were about my age; Joey was around Richard’s age. We always liked hanging out. Looking back, we all were hanging around Gary, a charismatic kid who was, although only six months older than I, the closest I ever had to a big brother.

That night, before we had to leave and go back to Long Island, someone – Joyce I think – suggested we go to a Met game together that spring. And as I was sitting in the back seat while dad was driving along the LIE, I felt that cozy Sunday family embrace turn to shivers as we crossed the border into Great Neck, where Monday morning would mean the bus to Junior High and a social minefield of privileged, entitled jocks and locker room bullies, not to mention hundreds of girls studiously ignoring me.

And that moment in the back seat I was wrenched by a prolonged pain of nostalgia for what never was: a family that would make a point of having fun together and that would have each other’s back and be a buffer against the cruel world.

I knew something was amiss the day I stood on the corner of Baker Hill Road and Colgate with David Kapalko, and he was talking about his grandfather.

“He did a lotta cool things” David declared. “He told us of how he once flew a plane upside down!”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah – pretty cool, huh?”

“Nah, sounds like your grandfather was a big liar!”

Next thing I knew I was on the business end of a hundred sudden knuckles raining down upon my head at once.

I was stunned.

“What was that for?” I asked.

Kapalko gave me an are-you-from-Mars? Look. “Because you called my grandfather a liar.”

I stumbled back home that day pondering this…You mean when somebody insults a member of your family, you’re supposed to fight them?  This was a new concept – one that had never been taught to me. In a family, you’re supposed to stick up for one another? Not in my family.

It was never spoken – the deepest family mores are always transmitted silently – but we were always supposed to be a group of individuals. We weren’t completely on our own, but there was no sense of team. And a protective feeling? Or sticking up for one another, or the sense that we were on one another’s side? These things were just not there.

Joyce and Gary never did come to town for a ball game. In a few years, Cousin Gary would join the Hari Krishnas. And me, I’d be in legal hot water at college, because we’d taken over the Administration building in a protest, and the cops came and arrested all of us. When our parents were called to a meeting by the school’s president, they all lambasted him for busting their kids. All of them except my dad, who told him to keep us all locked up and to throw away the key.

Ah, but there at Queensborough Community, I had met Judi and Oded. We were each estranged from our strange families, and we quickly became each other’s refuge.

And the day I had them over to meet dad and Richard, and they sat there, as young lovers do, in each other’s arms, and later that night, after they’d left, and my father instructed me to never let them back in the house, for they had been far too affectionate with each other, and he didn’t want Richard, who was 12 at the time, to see this, that was the day I realized I was living in my father’s house, and not my own, and this was when I began to plot my escape.

We were all of us then – at least those I came to know — on our own, together. All of us,  refugees who’d found each other and started our own family. We called each other brother and sister, and we damn well meant it. Everyone else in the world called us hippies. We didn’t mind. We were home.

Nowadays I have a client who’s about 23 years old. Her parents sent her to me to fix her, but she was never broken to begin with, just different, different from them. She also came from suburbia and also was privy to its biggest gift — the certain, empirical knowledge of what money cannot buy. In time, and partly with my help, she woke up to realize any craziness she’d exhibited had been the result of trying to survive within a crazy family culture.

And in time, she also has found her way. Today’s cultural descendents of hippies are called Burners, and she has just returned from her first Burning Man gathering. And this edgy, arty, partially drug-induced, and radically off-the-grid culture has become her refuge. Soon she may leave town forever and take off for parts unknown, secure in the knowledge that wherever she goes, she will find brothers and sisters along the way, and they will take her in.

I know the feeling. And for some of us these days, family is more than something you’re born into, the prey of fate. It’s something you make up as you go along. It is said that blood is thicker than water. But in this world we’ve been thrown into, finding communities of common values that we hold in our core can be like finding our own blood flowing in those around us.



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