October 2016


The Adult Has Left the Room



As the old metaphor would have it, there is often someone described as, “the adult, or the only adult, in the room.”


In the face of infantile behavior by those who have aspired to lead us, or events going haywire, or some existential absurdity threatening to send things careening into surreal territory, there no longer seems to be an adult in the room. Someone in control. Someone, or even something, that could restore a sense of order and rationality to the proceedings. And a sense of chaos abounds. And the blame game accelerates— full speed ahead.


At such times as these, those first couple of lines from Kipling’s If, come to mind:


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,


I could argue that Obama, like him or not, has kept his head about him. But for one thing, he is literally about to leave the room. For another, there’d been vehement disagreement on how well he has spent his time while in the room. Especially from those inflamed by the birther issue which has now been twisted in an attempt to douse it out, as though it never happened. Or blame it on Hillary. Shades of 1984. The book. Not the year.


Which is why I stay away from social media and sound bite tweets, and associate with those of intelligence and introspection, by way of this blog I call a Muse-Letter. Though readers they may not always agree with my take on what I see about me, reasoned adult discourse has always been welcomed. And has often followed. Thank you.


I remember the first time I directly experienced the ugliness of “social” media, via a “chat room” in 1995, when I applauded George H.W. Bush for his resignation from the National Rifle Association for their incendiary remarks labeling government agents “jack-booted thugs” who robbed citizens of their constitutional rights.


H.W. was a highly respected ex-president, and the rhetoric he was hearing from the NRA, was to him, over the line. And in a simple statement that seemed innocuous enough, I agreed. The vitriolic responses I got for applauding the ex-President for taking that stand, was shocking. I was taken aback. And it made me recall the refrain from Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man, that goes… “But something is happening here/But you don’t know what it is/ Do you, Mister Jones?” I sure didn’t. But do now. It was what you might call, the New Polarization of America. As opposed to the old polarization we had not seen since the days of the Viet Nam War. We now had a license to be as obnoxious and bombastic as we wanted to be, newly and anonymously expressed, through a distant keyboard.


My emphasis over the years has tended to be on cultural observations with a monthly nod or two to poetry, rather than on politics. Though political commentary these last couple of years, especially given this festering polarization and bizarre events about us, has almost been impossible to avoid. Somehow the whimsy of reflecting on the adult coloring book craze (FEBRUARY, 2016 MUSE-LETTER Thinking Inside the Box; Coloring Inside the Lines) or the fun in Parsing “Yogi-isms" (OCTOBER, 2015 MUSE-LETTER), are the sorts of things perhaps best put on hold for the moment. At least until this election is over. And I’ll spare the reader any detail of the joy I experienced in spending my 71st birthday six weeks ago, in a return to Disneyland—“The Happiest (and most crowded) Place on Earth.” (The Indiana Jones and Space Mountain rides however, still rock!).


As the election nears, Donnie Deutsch, a former ad man of renown in LA and now a cable personality who also has been doing political commentary, had a good line recently on the distinction between these two flawed presidential candidates: “Between untruthful and unstable, I’ll take untruthful.


If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,


I guess we’re entrapped in having to make a Hobson’s choice here. Yes I know, there’s someone named Gary Johnson out there, who already has three major gaffs under his belt exposing his fundamental ignorance on what is going on in the world. A tad too many tokes over the years?


I had just finished a piece that I was to include in this Muse-Letter entitled “Age, Aging and the Presidency.” Then Hillary went reeling from pneumonia or dehydration or a combo of both (I know the feeling…though not that of being under the scrutiny of conspiracy theorists as to the real cause of my lightheadedness), which rendered moot, some of the points in particular I was trying to make on aging and its impact on the presidency. For sure, it’s a job that can turn even a young man old.



So I canned it. I should have known better, what with today’s news cycle changing every twelve minutes, to try to come to any sort of conclusions before the month had run out, given the Alice in Wonderland nature not only of this campaign, but of the world at large. And sure enough, following the first debate, there was still another swing shift in the polls.


This all came soon after the bombings, which seemed to quickly fade into the woodwork. This time in New Jersey and in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. The latter hit extremely close to home, it being just a mile and a half from my apartment. It’s a place I pass by about twice a month at all times throughout the day, what with “my” subway stop on the F train being right there on that corner of 23rd St. and 6th Avenue.


Then the news got even more personal, when in an email one morning, I learned of the sudden death of a childhood friend living in Turkey. An apparent heart attack— his life had taken a bad turn on many fronts of which I was unaware. This would now mark the third friend, the third contemporary, who had passed away within the last five months.


We had last communicated a couple of months ago during the thwarted coup in Turkey where he had lived for a couple of decades at least. He assured me that he was fine and had no thoughts of ever returning to the states. He viewed the U.S., if not as equally chaotic, it hardly stirred in him, the sort of emotions that God Bless America elicits when sung in the seventh inning of every one of the Yankees’ 81 home games. This ritual in honor of the military, invariably transports me from a mode of escape and entertainment into the stark reminder that we are now, and forever, at war. So in a sense, I get where my friend in Turkey might be coming from. May he rest in peace.


Amidst such an array of bad stuff going down, there is the sense for me, and it seems like for many others, that the adult has left the room. Though hope springs eternal as I enter the counter-season of (cliché alert)… the autumn of my years; that an adult will once again return to what now can only be described as (metaphor alert)… a romper room.









                                                                   —Ron Vazzano






Rembrandt’s Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver



Recently I had the pleasure of being introduced to a painting that I had not been familiar with, which was on display at the Morgan Library on Madison Avenue here in midtown Manhattan. Entitled Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, it was completed by Rembrandt when he was just 23 years old and has long been considered his first masterpiece.


Further notes taken from Morgan’s website on this masterpiece:

“The painting demonstrates many of the characteristics that would come to define Rembrandt’s style: dramatic lighting, a rhythmic harmony of composition, and his exceptional ability to convey the emotional drama of a scene. Long held in a British private collection, the painting will be shown in the United States for the first time at the Morgan.”

The inspiration for the work comes from the biblical narrative in Mathew 27 3:5, wherein Judas, full of remorse for his betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, returns that money to the chief priests and elders. And then goes off to hang himself.



It inspired a brief poem, a variation on this theme, which I jotted down while on the premises.

                                                        Fifteen Pieces of Silver

                                                        You were sorry. But not that sorry.
                                                        And kept half for yourself
                                                        before you disappeared.


                                                         They never found a body.
                                                         Just a tree with a noose.
                                                         You were sorry. But not that sorry.


                                                          What the hell. What’s the use.



                                                                                                            —Ron Vazzano





A Return to The Diary of Anne Frank



It’s not often you get to reprise a rewarding and emotional life experience with a span of 43 years in between.


In January of 1973, I was fortunate to be cast in a production The Diary of Anne Frank by “The Heights Players,” in Brooklyn Heights, where I was living at the time. Still going strong, they bill themselves as “Brooklyn’s oldest self-sustaining community theatre, celebrating its 59th season.”


Following a year of acting classes, it was the first time I had ever appeared on stage. At the time, there were visions of transitioning into a career as a professional actor, dancing in my head.


Was I any good? In my head, I was excellent! An incredible performance! In the local paper that reviewed the show, which I still have, I provide… “fine acting as Mr. Van Daan, (Mr. Frank’s) sniveling counterpart.”


Cool. I remember as a method actor, really working hard on that sniveling. And thankfully, it being back in the days of low tech, no video exists on YouTube or elsewhere to shatter any illusions regarding just how convincing or not that sniveling really was. All that remains, in addition to that yellowing review, is the program and the poster, also still in my possession, which was rather starkly designed lest anyone miss the point that this play was serious business.



And now I have been asked by a theater group based in the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, to participate in a dramatic reading of this timeless play at the end of this month. And I will get to return to the part of Mr. Van Daan—43 years later.


If I was too young for the role then, I’m too old for the role now. Though as a reading, age specificity gives way to vocal characterization and interpretation. The young woman who will be reading the part of Anne Frank is not fifteen years old either. But it will be costumed, and the actors will not simply be standing at a podium reading their lines.


I have caught past full scale productions by this group, comprised mostly by actors with professional experience, and expect that this project will exhibit every bit of the quality I’ve witnessed there before.


Why this play? At this time? It is being done in conjunction with a synagogue that is presenting dramatizations that capture historical moments within the Jewish experience. And when that is the objective, you’d expect The Diary of Anne Frank, a classic in that vein, to be included.


Born in 1929, it is easily conceivable that at age 87, Anne Frank would still be alive. (My mother just passed away at age 96). Instead, as the most well-known victim of the holocaust, she died at 16 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany in 1945.


I am honored to be part of this project.


Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church
7 West 55th Street


October 28, 2016 Friday at 7pm
October 30, 2016 Sunday at 2pm


Entrance is free of charge





Quote of the Month


“I intend to live forever, or die trying.”


                                      Groucho Marx                   





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