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Donald Trump and I have one thing in common: we both like to associate with “the very best people.”

But lately, I’ve been having better luck than Donald.

Here’s a list of some of Trump’s “very best people” and what’s happened to them in the first year of his presidency:

Reince Priebus -- White House chief of staff (resigned)
Rob Porter -- White House staff secretary (resigned)
David Sorenson – White House speechwriter (resigned)
Tom Price -- Secretary of Health and Human Services (resigned)
Stephen Bannon -- Chief strategist (mutually agreed departure)
Mike Flynn -- National security advisor (resigned and indicted)
Sean Spicer -- White House press secretary, White House director of communications (resigned)
Brenda Fitzgerald -- Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (resigned)
Taylor Weyeneth -- White House liaison to Office of National Drug Control Policy (resigned)
Carl Higbie -- Corporation for National and Community Service chief of external affairs (resigned)
Omarosa Manigault Newman -- Assistant; Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison (resigned)
Keith Schiller -- Director of Oval Office Operations (resigned)
Sebastian Gorka -- National security aide (unclear)
Andrew McCabe -- FBI deputy director (resigned)
Carl Icahn -- Special adviser to the president on regulatory reform (resigned)
White House Manufacturing Advisory Council (dissolved)
White House Economic Advisory Council (dissolved)
Anthony Scaramucci -- Director of communications (fired)
Derek Harvey -- National Security Council Middle East advisor (fired)
Michael Short -- Assistant press secretary (resigned)
Walter Shaub -- Director of the Office of Government Ethics (resigned)
Mike Dubke -- Director of communications (resigned)
K.T. McFarland -- Deputy national security advisor (reassigned)
James B. Comey Jr. -- FBI director (fired)
Angella Reid -- White House chief usher (fired)
Katie Walsh -- Deputy White House chief of staff (resigned)
Craig Deare --National Security Council senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs (fired)
Travis Kalanick -- Advisory council (resigned)
Sally Yates -- Acting attorney general (fired)
Rachel Brand -- Associate attorney general (resigned)
All members of Trump’s Arts and Humanities Council -- Paula Boggs, Chuck Close, Richard Cohen, Fred Goldring, Howard L. Gottlieb, Vicki Kennedy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anne Luzzatto, Thom Mayne, Kalpen Modi, Eric Ortner, Ken Solomon, Caroline Taylor, Jill Cooper Udall, Andrew Weinstein, John Lloyd Young (resigned)

And this is only a partial list … with many more to come, for sure. Trump’s staff is a joke, but so is he. Who would want to work for this man???

And so, with this disaster unfolding everyday in Washington, I try to combat negativity and sadness by surrounding myself with my idea of the “very best people.”

I’ve been spending a lot of time with these people –

LEONARD BERNSTEIN

A few weeks ago, the Tiny Goddess and I saw CANDIDE at the Los Angeles Opera, which I preceded and followed with a huge binge of Bernstein listening. When I grew up in the Fifties, Bernstein was “Mr. Music” in New York. He was already a double-legend, from Broadway and the New York Philharmonic. He was our “Lenny.”

I split my listening between the original Broadway cast album that I grew up on (with Barbara Cook and Robert Rounseville) and Bernstein’s complete, approved concert version (with June Anderson and Jerry Hadley.) Both are delightful. The original has an unsurpassed freshness, but the concert version has all the music.

The LA Opera CANDIDE was OK. The music was spectacular (conducted by our treasured musical director James Conlon, a New York boy himself—Irish, from Douglaston in Queens, like John McEnroe), the book was problematical as it has been since the show was written in 1956 by Lillian Hellman. All future books-tinkers—Hugh Wheeler, John Caird, etc. – haven’t the solved the problem of a story that galumphs from one episode to another and then just ends with an unearned “revelation.”

But, oh that music!!! Listen to this –

Bernstein conducting the Overture to CANDIDE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=422-yb8TXj8

Kristen Chenoweth’s remarkable “Glitter and Be Gay”— lyrics by Dorothy Parker
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnJIMSy-o4k

Quartet at the End of Act I
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQHAZrKBBqE

“Make Our Garden Grow” – conducted by Bernstein himself, with Jerry Hadley and June Anderson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgXMxhMhYm4

I remember how excited my parents were when they saw the original production of WEST SIDE STORY, and I remember sitting in front of the TV watching Lenny’s “Young People’s Concerts.” He was charismatic, enthusiastic, and brilliant. Like Gershwin before him, he embodied the musical soul of New York City.

I still think that WEST SIDE STORY is some of the greatest music ever written by an American composer.

Bernstein conducting the Symphonic Dances from WEST SIDE STORY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srb2EyvTSGw&t=7s

Reri Grist sings “SOMEWHERE” from the original WEST SIDE STORY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80-DtChQ39U

and for good measure

Tony Bennett and Bill Evans – “SOME OTHER TIME” from ON THE TOWN
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql6tDJacCRY

LEBRON JAMES

In my house, we spend a lot of time watching NBA basketball. Long ago, I turned the Tiny Goddess into a basketball fan (see my blog http://peterseth.com/blog/107-she-likes-basketball.html) and now we’re in the middle of a difficult season. The post-Kobe Lakers are rebuilding, and the blown-up Clippers are reeling. I don’t think there will be any playoff games in LA this year.

So we watch everyone else—on TNT, ESPN, NBA-TV, and ABC. (Every morning, one of my jobs is to “Tivo” the games for that night.) And because he’s the game’s biggest star and greatest player, and the Cavs are on TV all the time, we get to see a lot of LeBron James.

We’ve been watching LeBron for a long, long time. He has been a star since 2003 when at the age of 17 when he went directly from St. Vincent–St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio to the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers as the next “sure thing.”

A “sure thing” is what he has proven to be. He has won three NBA championships (two with Miami and one with the Cavaliers, Cleveland’s first major sports championship in more than fifty years), four NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, three NBA Finals MVP Awards, two Olympic gold medals, an NBA scoring title, and the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. He has been selected to 14 NBA All-Star teams, 13 All-NBA teams, and six All-Defensive teams. He is also the Cavaliers' all-time scoring leader, the NBA All-Star Game career scoring leader, and the NBA career playoff scoring leader.

Even in defeat, LeBron is a champion. Last year, even though the Cavs lost in the Finals to the Golden State Warriors in five games, James averaged 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists to become the first player to average a triple-double in the championship round.

In the fifteen years that we’ve been watching him, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player play as hard—and unselfishly—for as long as LeBron. Kobe played as hard, but he was a ballhog and by the end of his career was holding the Lakers back. LeBron is, by some measures, better than ever. (For the record, Kobe shot about 45% from the field for his career; LeBron is shooting 50%.) On a night-to-night basis, Russell Westbrook plays each game with greater maddog intensity, but he doesn’t elevate his team the way that LeBron does. And we’ll see if Westbrook can keep going as hard for fifteen seasons, the way that LeBron has.

It’s been a tough year for the Cavs—the departure of Kyrie Irving to the rival Boston Celtics, injuries, internal dissension, the trade for Isaiah Thomas, the unloading of Isaiah Thomas and recent wholesale change in lineup—but LeBron always carries himself well. It remains to be seen whether the new Cavalier moves, adding George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Rodney Hood, will get the Cavs back to the Finals (I don’t think anybody is beating Golden State this year), but it will invigorate a lackluster team and give LeBron fresh new troops to lead. Their first convincing win against Boston on Sunday was certainly a big message to the rest of the league: “Batman” is back with a new set of “Robins.”

LeBron has a house in Brentwood, so there is talk of his coming to the Lakers or the Clippers at the end of his career. LeBron seems to want an active career in the media after basketball, so why not start early out here in “The Entertainment Capital of the World?” I wouldn’t mind.

Michael Jordan has six championship rings and never lost in a Finals. LeBron has three rings but has lost five Finals. Nonetheless, if I had one player to start my Dream Team with, it would be LeBron.

LeBron’s Top Ten Dunks
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnhi_fMEftI

LeBron’s Ten Impossible Dunks
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5HLanjqj9E

LeBron James – Career Highlights
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vre_nWbPxk 

LeBron James – “Savage Moments”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-jVCiJ0DY0

 

MY WIFE

I spend more time with my wife than with any other person. Now that the kids are out of the house, it’s just the two of us. And since she stopped working in an office four years ago, I get to be with her all the time. Aren’t I lucky?

All men marry “up,” but no one more than me. The TG and I just celebrated our 46th Anniversary. I’ve loved her for 46 years, and I love her now more than ever because she now also “Nana.” Nothing pleases me more these days than seeing her walk with Calder: my two Blondies.

Lately, she has been participating “The 30/30 Project,” a poetry marathon where she writes thirty poems in thirty days. It’s a fundraiser for the Tupelo Press, a non-profit literary press.

She’s written novels, non-fiction, and short stories before but poetry is a fairly new endeavor for her. (And a brave one, at that: poetry is perhaps the freest and most challenging form of all.)

She’s almost halfway through. Here are her first seven poems. Read the others on https://www.tupelopress.org/the-3030-project/

 

DAY 1

A Lesson / by Buffy Shutt


Sexton poisoned
QuYuan drowned
Hart Crane jumped
Plath gassed.
A poet’s life span is 59.6 years
Non-fiction writers 70.6.
You will make all your poetry non-fiction.


DAY 2

Twenty-Three Ways of Looking at January / by Buffy Shutt


I bought a gun today and
Placed it in the hand of a 9th grader in Kentucky.
The reporter rushing to the school reports
Her son is the shooter.
Eleven school shootings in twenty-three winter days.
Cafeteria, parking lot, school bus, high school, college.
Dallas, New Orleans, Winston-Salem, San Bernardino, Seattle.
Shootings don’t bother us on the front page much anymore.
We track them, if we do, on the chyron
Gliding across our screens with other scores.
This morning my neighbor came over.
She has miscalculated and needs
A gun for a Nebraska elementary school.
I hand her one before we have our coffee.
*
DAY 3

Public Domain / by Buffy Shutt


I own them. I don’t own
A house, a car, a cat.
I woke to them New Year’s Day.
Permission expired, forfeited, expressly waived.
Wow— all mine to use.
I dance around my Ikea kitchen — much to do.
I spin the handsome revolutionary in my Lazy Susan— he falls into the flour.
I stand the poet and the supernaturalist next to the coffee grinder, which needs cleaning.
I pour the two painters into my best salt and pepper shakers.
The less lauded of the couple except for her cookies trembles inside the cold oven.
In my fake red Le Creuset pot, I simmer the poet who killed herself.
The World War I poet, I place under my pillow.
My domain.
My Ántonia.
I own my words
Though no one hears them, no one reads them.
I own my face; this side of the mirror is mine.
Walking into this New Year I figure no one
Will remember me after 95 years
Or 120 years whichever expires first.
My domain.
Note: On January 1, 2018 many artists’ work came into the public domain including these artists referenced above: Che Guevara, René Magritte, Alice B.Toklas, Willa Cather, Pierre Bonnard, Siegfried Sassoon, Anna Wickham, P.D. Ouspensky, M.P. Shiel.
*

DAY 4

The Barn Door / by Buffy Shutt


He walks in the woods
Not looking
Carefully. A weekend woodsman
A city sculptor
Finds an old barn door
Drags it back
A precise gutter in the new snow trails him.
He throws it against the side of the house.
Startled by the thunk
She hides her work.
Peering out
Sees him roll his shoulders
Moves back A breath.
Two artists in Arcadia
Sharing three small drafty rooms
Held aloft—suspended by
Held tongues that
Smother, dishearten, sabotage
Compliment.
He offers his plan.
She turns to him, worrying her wine with inky fingers.
Hammer in a nail for every fight
Pull it out when we make up.
She sees what he doesn’t.
The door will be full of holes.
Thirty-eight days later
Back in the city
Back to their area code
Back in the separate spaces they can’t afford
Her back to the February sun
His lawyer calls her.

DAY 5

Eat This Marriage / by Buffy Shutt


I want to eat this marriage for lunch.
I want to hang it birdhouse high— hidden, wooden.
I want to stop-up my nostrils to kill the smell of this marriage.
I want to strangle this marriage by holding my breath.
I want to hear the sound of this motor turning off, little by little silent.
I want to put the tip of my tongue in your pocket to take to work
And wait for you to bring it back home tonight.

DAY 6

Three Hundred Jars of Jam / by Buffy Shutt


I want out.
I am at the bottom.
Scraped and scraping the last of the jam out of the
Three-hundred-fifteen jars I have bought for you.
I am not mad. I am emptying my pockets, not slamming the door.
I will grow another heart between my legs.
Pink, drummable, pouty.
It is a risk, this dream to be the last lost sock.
Five loads each week, twenty a month, two-hundred-forty a year
Six thousand times I’ve pushed the dial on three different washers.
Don’t stand there one eye greener than the other
Don’t cut those onions into thin half moons
Don’t play Sinatra and Amy Winehouse and waltz me around
Don’t put your lemon-scented palm against my face
Don’t ask me to decide tomorrow.
I want to take big strides, test out with no one
Waiting for me.
I want, want out of one and into one new
I want to know if I still have time
I want out.
*
DAY 7

The Stop Before / by Buffy Shutt


I have this friend—an-honest-to-God hashtagmetoo. No bullshit.
She shouts and flings herself around and no one wants to be with her.
I ride on the bus with her but get out before our stop.
We work at the same place, but I don’t want to be seen coming in the door with her.
She never asks why.
She is inside her rage—she deserves her rage, earned it.
I am lost in mine too, but mine seems small next to hers
And I want to slap her for that.

##