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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Letter to Two Papers, Our Time Warp, Santa's Belt and The Night Before Christmas at Mar-a-Lago

Season's Greetings to All of Our Readers 

                      Christmas Eve Edition      

I Write Letters

Here's the text of a letter which I've sent to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post.  Hope that at least one of them prints it.

When the democratic process malfunctions, that is, when the people make poor decisions, they may get more than they bargained for. The French Revolution in the final decade of the Eighteenth century, the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the rise of Hitler in Germany in 1932 illustrate this. None of these “popular” changes in government ended well. Essential to the democratic process working as it should, ”in the interest of the people,” are a free press, a well-educated citizenry and respect for a legitimate opposition. Their absence can lead to a malfunction of the democratic process which is what occurred in these examples. This is what we are dealing with today in the United States. 

That is why I am proud to be a Democrat, recognizing the Democratic Party’s understanding of the democratic process, a concept which the President and the Republican Party fail to grasp.

Jack Lippman

Living in a Time Warp

We live in the Twenty-first century.  At least that’s what a glance at the calendar indicates.  In “senior” or “over-55” communities, many of which we have down here in Florida, most folks are still living in the Twentieth century!  Take a look at the entertainment provided in their “clubhouses,” the music they listen to and even the kind of restaurants in which they eat.

Too-Jays, a delicatessen chain, has 27 restaurants in South Florida.  There are numerous other purveyors of pastrami, corned beef, chopped liver and other delicacies, loaded in great quantities between two slices of crisp-crusted yet soft rye bread served with a side of cole slaw or half sour pickles here in the Sunshine State.  But clearly, this is a Twentieth century thing for the Twentieth century people inhabiting much of Palm Beach, Dade and Broward counties.  T'ain't so elsewhere.

The last time I was up in New York, it was difficult to find such delicatessens in the “hipper” regions of lower Manhattan.  There remained a few on the lower East Side and on the upper West Side, but they are far outnumbered by Twenty-first century eateries specializing in Japanese, Indian or Thai cuisine or a mélange known as Asian Fusion.  Strictly Chinese restaurants have become rarities in the Twenty-first century except in South Florida, and even there, they are gradually disappearing.  Long time favorites such as the Carnegie Deli and the Stage Deli are history in the Big Apple, but there is an acceptable delicatessen called the Stage Deli in Naples, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where there also are many retirees living in the last century.

Rodgers with either Hart or Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, the Gershwin Brothers, Irving Berlin and all the other stalwarts of the Broadway Musical scene in the Twentieth century survive in Florida on innumerable stages, far more than on the Great White Way.  Retirees flock to hear singers who offer “tribute” performances dedicated to, or are attempted imitations of, Sinatra, Streisand, the Beatles, the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys and others who hearken back to the days when Rhythm and Blues gave birth to Rock ‘n Roll. Hip-hop, even the intellectualized version presented in Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” have yet to penetrate South Florida’s retirees, who still flock to revivals of “Fiddler on the Roof.” 

The appeal of such nostalgia seems to be useful to seniors in postponing the prospect of growing older, which would come with accepting the fact that the Twentieth century is history.

Armed with Twenty-first century technology, many retirees with Twentieth century habits still limit using their costly “smartphones” to just making telephone calls, and many still have the simpler clam shell type phones which can’t do much more than that.   And if they need a ride somewhere, they are often more likely to call a cab, or try to hail one if they are in a big northern city, rather than order a ride via Uber or Lyft which Twenty-first century people do.

Yes, this even extends to the way they dress.  In the Twentieth century world of South Florida, many men still wear white sneakers (usually New Balance) whereas those elsewhere, living in the Twenty-first century, wear sneakers featuring all of the colors of the rainbow.

Yes, we are living in a time warp down here in Florida, where the Twenty-first century is on the other side of the horizon for many of us, even though the calendar says that right now, it is almost 2018.

At this season each year, Jackspotpourri includes our favorite Christmas story, "Santa's Belt."  Hope you enjoy it again or for the first time.

Santa’s Belt  

Jack Lippman

It was that time of the year when things were getting hectic at the North Pole.  Santa and the elves had been working overtime to make certain that everything would be ready to go on Christmas Eve.  After all, children of all ages throughout the world were waiting for Santa to bring them the gifts which they had been wishing for, gifts to make their dreams come true.

“Rufus,” Santa called out.  “Are all of the presents ready to load into my bag?  Have our helpers down on Earth, the toy manufacturers, gotten their toys and games ready for the kids?  And how about the parents?  You know, they all have to do their part too!  Hey, we only have a few days left!”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Claus,” Rufus replied.  “There won’t be any foul-ups this year.  The toys are all ready to go!”

“And is my sleigh ready?  Are the reindeer in good shape?”

“Don’t worry, Santa,” Rufus reassuringly replied.  “The sleigh has been repainted, the runners greased and the harnesses repaired.  And the reindeer are just fine.  Comet and Cupid are over their colds and the others have even gotten used to Rudolf, who wasn’t even in that poem about us.  Even Donder and Blitzen have calmed down.  Santa, you must stop worrying.  Everything is going to be fine!”

It had been three years since Rufus had been promoted to the position of Chief Elf in Santa’s workshop.  Of course, he had been helping out there for many years but only recently had Santa learned of Rufus’ prior experience working closely with Merlin the Magician centuries ago.  Some of Rufus’ innovations, obviously learned from that apprenticeship with the ancient wizard, had greatly increased the efficiency of Santa’s operation.  For example, it was Rufus who had developed the mathematical formulas which, when put into practice, enabled Santa to defy mere physical laws and be in many different of places at the same time.  Rufus had solved the problem of running out of toys with a procedure which in effect, cloned one toy from another, so Santa’s bag was never empty. And of course, he used a lot of old Merlin’s techniques to ease Santa’s trip up and down chimneys throughout the world, without his red outfit ever getting dirty.  Finally, it was Rufus who convinced Santa to include intangible things such as peace, love, brotherhood and wellbeing among the gifts he left on Earth for those who deserved them.

It was just a few nights before Christmas when Rufus encountered Santa in a state of real panic.

“Santa, what’s the matter?  Why are you holding your waist like that?”

“Can’t you see, you darn fool!  I’m holding my pants up!  If I let go, they’ll fall down.  It happened this morning.  My suspenders snapped and I don’t have a belt big enough to fit around me to hold my pants up.  Rufus, they keep falling down and if we can’t fix them, how can I go out on Christmas Eve?  Rufus, do something to help me!  You must!”

“Now, Mr. Claus” the elf answered, holding back a snicker.  “I can see how this happened.  Come to think of it, I should have seen it coming and done something about it.  I’ve watched the way you’ve been eating all of that delicious food Mrs. Claus prepares for you.  Pies and cakes, chickens and steaks, soups and puddings, pizzas and knishes, pasta and dumplings and on and on.  I’ve seen you put away enough for an army at one sitting and top it off with a banana split and a chocolate bar.   What did you expect?”

“Stop your preaching, Rufus!  What would your Merlin do?  Come on.  Think of something so that I don’t disappoint all the children who’ll be waiting for me on Christmas Eve!  I can’t go out there with my pants falling down!”

“Santa, I don’t think suspenders will do the job for you any more because of the pear shape you’ve developed!  We must to get you a belt big enough to hold up your pants!”

“What do you think I’ve been doing all day?  I’ve been looking for one and there just aren’t any made that big.”

Rufus thought for a minute and stroked his chin.  He then turned his eyes upward and look toward the stars, fixing them on the constellation Orion the Hunter.  In an instant, using a mystic incantation remembered from his days with Merlin, he turned himself into a thunderbolt and flew up into the heavens directly at the strip of stars which formed Orion’s belt.  Grasping as many as he could, Rufus flew back to Earth and fashioned a belt from them for Santa.  The old man, finding for the first time since his suspenders had snapped that he was able to keep his pants up, was ecstatic.   


                  Star map showing the constellation, Orion the Hunter

A few nights later, Santa was able to travel his appointed rounds delivering gifts to children of all ages throughout the world.  As he headed back toward the North Pole, he smiled up at the constellation Orion the Hunter, whose belt, as you can see on any clear evening when you look up in the sky, consists of only three stars, which was all that Rufus left up there.  

Circling the Earth, Santa made a promise to go on a diet.  He had learned his lesson. Soon, recognizing the welcoming lights of the workshop far below, the reindeer guided the sleigh into a slow descent and the jovial old man once more waved his hand to the world, crying out, “Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night, especially to you, Rufus!”

The Night Before Christmas at Mar-a-Lago

And as a final holiday gift, here's Frank Cerebino's wonderful take-off on "The Night Before Christmas" as it appeared in the Palm Beach Post on Dec. 24.  (If you live in South Florida, you could do a lot worse than subscribing to the Post, either on-lilne or in its traditional "paper" version.  I do.) 

Prepare to laugh at what is probably a unique version of the truth and the funniest thing you've read this year!   JUST CLICK RIGHT HERE FOR SOMETHING I AM SURE YOU WILL FORWARD TO MANY OF YOUR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES!



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Jack Lippman 

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