NEW YORK, May 8 – The crown of the Statue of Liberty, which has remained closed to the public after the September 11 terror attacks, will reopen on July 4, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced here Friday.

Going back to our lead piece in that Muse-Letter on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, we could not help but note our passionate and gushy prose in response to shutting down the crown of the Statue of Liberty. To wit:

“But if you shut down access to those distinctly American touchstones as a tactic in defense of fear, you start to shut down the valves that pump the heart blood to our way of life.”

Wow. That’s tellin’ ‘em!

We also acknowledged that our passion and gushing were perhaps driven by a secret crush we have always had on the Statue. We suppose it goes back to having grown up with it in our backyard, so to speak. And later in life, one of the first “serious” writing pieces we ever did, was a short story based on the statue’s caretaker at the time—Charlie DeLeo; “Keeper of the Flame”— who on a “dark and stormy night” ventured out to re-light the torch that had gone out upon being struck by lightning.

Hokey? A tad. Yet, based on a real man and a real incident.

Then there’s the mock piece, we did in a Muse-Letter on April Fool’s Day in 2006.

That’s cousin Frankie (on our father’s side) above as faux Congressman, Mike Dellovita (R-NJ), with his plan to rotate the statue so that it faces New Jersey half the time. It is after all, in New Jersey’s waters, “Dellovita” notes.

Finally, the famous Emma Lazarus poem The New Colossus appears as a permanent fixture within this website, which we have named in memory of an Italian immigrant Domenica Perro. Better known as grandma.

We have used this poem in teaching children of the power of poetry to transform us and make things happen. For as the story goes, Bartholdi’s statue, entitled Liberty Enlightening the World, had nothing to do with immigration. But in renaming her, Mother of Exiles, and making that link with immigration, Emma Lazarus, to quote her biographer Esther Schor:

“…identified the statue’s mission—and by extension that of America— as the provision of refuge for the oppressed… her sonnet provided the statue at last with a ‘raison d’tre…”

Jump-started by a poem Ms. Lazarus had to be coaxed into writing, money to fund the base, both public and private, finally began to pour in. And the statue was now given its rightful place in the harbor, welcoming those huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

And now in still another twist in the statue’s history, the masses will once again be able to huddle within its claustrophobic confines, while gasping their way up those 354 steps to the crown. All this, for but a sixty second view of Brooklyn (which stands in the way of Liberty’s intended facing; that being in the direction of France).

Having last made that climb some 16 years ago, we can’t wait to do it once more. Especially this time, without having to carry our son the whole way. Though now, he might just have to carry us.


Wall St. Messengers

They spoke in high praise of their “Johnsons,” alluding
To great length, circumference and curvature.
And they boasted as to what these members might do
If left to their devices—these bulls in hot pursuit.

Off by myself in the concave of a corner
Keeping the particulars of my penis discrete,
I a bear, in hibernation, knew I could best
Any of these dickheads in a game of chess.


A “How-to” on Speech Giving, or… Obama at Notre Dame

Despite the controversy leading up to Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame last month, to receive an honorary degree and deliver a commencement speech, we had no intention of watching it nor reading the transcript afterwards. We are still in “rhetoric burn-out mode” following the millions of words we had ingested— some toxic— during the odyssey that took us from the primaries last year, right through inauguration day.

Besides, Obama invariably gives a good speech, so what would be new here? It’s not as if the National Guard would have to be called in or anything like that.

The controversy, for those who might have just gotten back from a cruise through the Bermuda Triangle, (speaking of odysseys) is that Obama approves of a woman’s “Right to Choose.” Au contraire, the official Catholic position is “Pro Life.” Notre Dame is a very Catholic institution. Ergo, some folks, clerical and laity alike, were quite perturbed by the invitation that the college had extended to the President of the United States. And pretty vocal in their perturbation.

But when a friend, who is an atheist, a cynic and a self-described—only half facetiously—"Liberal bigot,” sends you an email that reads,"I'm not as you might guess a really big appreciator of speeches, but this one was dynamite” … attention must be paid.

So we read the speech in its entirety to see what made it, even by Obama’s standards, such a home run for our friend. And what we came away with—putting aside any personal politics and/or religious beliefs—were a dozen “rules” on How To Give A Great Speech:

1) Be humble and grateful for the microphone.

“Thank you so much to Father Jenkins for that extraordinary introduction, even though you said what I wanted to say much more elegantly.” (Laughter)

2) Expect the unexpected…which is really expected after all.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: “Abortion is murder! Stop killing children!

OBAMA: “We’re fine everybody. We’re following Brennan’s adage that we don’t do things easily. (Laughter). We’re not going to shy away from things that are uncomfortable sometimes.”

(Note the absence of a wiseass comeback to the heckler. Also we recall how graciously Bush had reacted when that guy started throwing shoes at him.)

3) Connect early and “lite” with the audience.

Noting Notre Dame’s elimination from the chance to go to this year’s NCAA tournament:

“So next year, if you need a 6’2” forward with a decent jumper, you know where to find me.” (Laughter and Applause)

4) Frame “The Main Theme.”

“For all the major threats we face in the 21st century…no one person, or religion or nation can meet these challenges alone

And yet, one of the vexing things for those of us interested in promoting greater understanding and cooperation…is the discovery that even bringing together people of good will…men and women of principle and purpose —even accomplishing that can be difficult.”

5) “Simplify complexity” using “Real Life Dilemma.”

“Those who speak out against stem cell research can be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parent’s of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships can be relieved.” (Applause)


“As I considered the controversy surrounding my visit here…I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away.”

“Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it—indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory— the fact is that on some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.

7) Offer an epiphany.

“A doctor said (to me) what bothered (him)…(was when) I said I would fight right-wing ideologues who would take away a woman’s right to choose’….He (the doctor) wrote, ‘I do not ask that you …oppose abortion, only that you speak this issue in fair-minded words.’ ”

“I did tell my staff to change the words on my website. And I said a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others, that the doctor extended to me.”

8) Compliment the audience: “For” and “Against” alike.

“Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words. It’s a way of life that has always been the Notre Dame tradition.” (Applause)

9) Give a final reminder of connections; “heavier” this time!

“…a group of Catholic churches in Chicago helped fund an organization… the Developing Communities Project, and we worked to lift up South Side neighborhoods…”

“…and at the time, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was the Archbishop of Chicago.” (Applause)

10) “Rally the troops.”

“…in a world of competing claims…have confidence in the values with which you’ve been raised and educated. Remember too, that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It’s the beliefin things not seen.”

“…this doubt should not push away our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, cause us to be wary of too much self-righteousness.”

11) Cite history as the “proof in the pudding.”

“There were six members of the Civil Rights Commission (appointed in 1954) …five whites and one African American; Democrats and Republicans; two Southern Governors…and your own Father Ted Hesburgh, President of Notre Dame…”(Applause)

“…President Eisenhower asked Father Ted how he was able to broker an agreement between men of such different backgrounds and beliefs. …Father Ted said…they discovered that they all were fisherman.” (Laughter)

12) Leave them with a line that re-echoes The Main Theme.

“Remember that in the end, in some way, we are all fishermen.”

(Click here for the complete transcript)

And there you have it. Classic. Or just one man’s opinion?

This is what Gian Maria Vian, the Editor of L’Osservatore Romano, the Newspaper of the Vatican had to say:

His speech at Notre Dame has been respectful toward every position. He tried to engage the debate stepping out from every ideological position and outside every ‘confrontational mentality.’ To this extent his speech is to be appreciated.

Given the source…given the issue…that’s about as good as it gets.


June Gigs

We’ve got a couple of readings coming up this month that are curiously contrasting in terms of formats and locations.

Once again, in our role as host for IWOSC Reads Its Own, a bi-annual event here in LA, we will have the opportunity, along with 14 fellow writers of diverse genres and styles, to provide a sampling of our work. Date, time and place are indicated on the program cover below.


Then a week later on June 14th, we will be appearing as the featured poet (i.e. a full 30 minutes at the podium) in a small town up in Northern California at… a deli! “I’ll take one long narrative, on ‘wry’— hold the metaphor…oh, and a side order of haiku.” Dessert? “Yeah, give me a villanelle ice cream koan.”

But in reality, this is not your father’s deli, as the flyer below might indicate.

This seems to be a flourishing time for live public readings of all forms of writing, in all sorts of venues. Soon we will be appearing at Costco’s. (To read Cheaper by the Dozen?)




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