To make a point, I was in a conversation recently with a friend waxing philosophic about a variety of different scenarios along the lines of “what would you do if?” We got on the topic of the granting of our final wish in the event we were convicted of a heinous crime (e.g., like calling Kate Upton “fat”) and were set for execution. What would we choose as our final experience before departing this earth? Most often this usually comes down to the granting of a final meal request. My friend knows all too well my passion for a perfectly prepared medium-rare Strassburger Steak, from the local New York family owned company that for five generations has been been supplying the region’s best steakhouses. I usually prefer to have Strassburger Meats prepared on my brother Erich’s high end grill in Douglaston or at Smith & Wollensky. Led by CEO, Suzanne Strassburger who also pens the Sirloin Report, the company known for its artisan meats is becoming increasingly well known for its all natural meats marketed as Suzy Sirloin which have allowed me to eat meat with greater frequency. I am now obsessed with their sliders and sausages which I prepare a couple of times per week in my own home. Frankly, they are addictive. If you order Suzy Sirloin once by calling (212) 876-2289, like me you will become addicted and incorporate it into a healthy diet.
Sensing this was a trick question, I offered that “if I was sentenced to death and was given one final wish before execution, I would either want a black and blue STRASSBURGER STEAK, a huge Idaho Potato smothered in creamy Organic butter with sour cream, chives and bacon and washed down with S.Pellegrino or Evamor Water and an endless bottle of Opus One or a simply one night with KATE UPTON.” My friend was shocked but nodded in agreement and said it is a toss up, between just the Strassburger Meats – Prime Steak and Kate Upton, without all the other fixings. I said true but you have to paint a picture and I did not get to go on about starting with Clams Casino or a Caesar Salald but with fresh Jersey Tomatoes nor did I reference whether Kate had to be fashionably attired, “Vogued out” or simply in her SI Swimsuit. Finally nothing herein is meant to imply that I see Kate simply as a piece of meat even if my final two choices come down to the leading American Bombshell versus the bestPrime in America in Strassburger Meats. In either case, I would go out with a smile on my face.
Celebrating America’s Evolution On Independence Day
Independence Day is a time of relaxation, reflection and indulgence. We build to a crescendo in our celebration much like an evening of fireworks commences first by the calm of setting up, finding a comfortable vantage point, laying down a blanket or lawn chair as you begin to think to yourself how lucky you are to be in this country and to have the time for this experience. Just as you begin to reflect on the history of our country, the sacrifices made to enable your life, it begins. The glimmer in the sky is broken first with a streaking burst of light, followed by a building but steadying flurry of sparks of various sizes to a colorful snap, crackle and pop over head leading ultimately to an unrelenting and perpetual multicolored blast in the sky that bedazzles your eyes and makes your head spin until a final crescendo leaves you with your mouth agape.
Regardless of what activities we choose to partake in individually and collectively, they are often preceded by thoughtful introspection about the history of our country, the meaning and responsibility of citizenship as well as solemn recognition for the citizens who have and will sacrifice to preserve and defend American ideals, on the battle field and in the market place of ideas, past, present and future.
Sustaining America is an ongoing process; a process which is reflected by the deliberate philanthropic acts of our societal, community and business leaders and children who dream without limitation on the possible. This is the fuel that perpetuates and turns the most noble of dreams into reality. This generation is engaged because of the forces of nature that remind us of the responsibility of our shared heritage as American citizens.
There are folks that have infused in me not only a greater sense of civic responsibility and an awareness of the interconnectedness of life on this planet. Many individuals of diverse perspectives and stations in life have made me realize that I am part of something far greater than me. From an existential standpoint that is certainly useful.
My sources of inspiration in this life have been both men and women. Hillary Rodham Clintonwas right in her instruction that ‘It Takes a Village’. I have and continue to be nurtured by a village of influential women who fill the blind spots in my life, mostly perhaps because I was open to their guidance. Women who continue to influence me now include photographer Donna Ferrato, founder of The Common Good, Patricia Duff as well as Mary Sliwa, a former corporate media executive and the long time Executive Director of the Guardian Angels who is now a strategist with the Moldaver-Chrebet Group at Morgan Stanley, a Barons 2012 top ranked financial advisor in this region of the country. But it was my very first my feminine hero, my mother born into this world as Virginia Bernadette Saunig who reminded me to channel my feminine side as much as the masculine and not allow the testosterone which would come to fill my veins to foreclose the possibility of reason and forging greater understanding and humanity. As a New Yorker, long before I knew what a Clinton was, I knew the eloquent New York Governor Mario Cuomo. His sense of fairness and calls for greater equity and a more humanistic society resonated with me as they did with my father. But how do we get there? This is the crux of the intellectual battle between liberals and conservatives, including those in my own family. Government cannot do it all, nor should it.
Who can forget the clarion call of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address when he stated “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”? President George H. W. Bush’s inaugural address invoking the vision of a “thousand points of light,” however truly laid down the gauntlet for service in clear terms:
“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light…We all have something to give.”
Points of Light Institute which was formed during “41’s” term as President is now the largest non-profit volunteer network in the world, led by visionary CEO Michelle Nunn, a truepioneer in the service movement. Under the Points of Light umbrella is the Hands on Network comprising the largest volunteer network in America. As theface of volunteerism in America, the CEO, the daughter of a prominent U.S. Senator, who emerged from the shadows of volunteering in soup kitchens, seems to have a Zen thing when it comes to the role of giving back as central to a more holistic and balanced life. In her words “Being of service to others and making a difference, being connected in the community, is one of the best ways that you can have a meaningful life.”
The youth services volunteer enterprise honored Gary Knell, President and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR) and Lauren Bush Lauren, Co-Founder and CEO of FEED Projects, for their outstanding leadership in youth service. Lauren Bush Lauren impressed with a, dare I say it, Kennedy’esque speech on the import of giving back. Nuni Montaigne and Sonya Bernstein were presented with the Inaugural Silda Wall Spitzer Children for Children Award by John Hays of Christie’s. The Hasbro Community Action Hero Award was given to Zachary Certner, Nina Mahalingam, Maryam Farooq, William Lourcey, Nimansha Jain, Cassandra Lin, five inspiring young people for their exemplary service to their communities.
GenerationOn’s Executive Director, Concetta Bencivenga, who recently joined the organization after years in Philadelphia at the Please Touch Museum and an adjunct professor at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, along with Rachel Shuster closed out remarks to the gathering before master thespian Stephen Lang served as auctioneer in place of long time generationON supporter John Hays of Christies who had other duties this evening
“Our view, first articulated by Silda Wall Spitzer when she started our predecessor organization, Children For Children, is that if you instill youth service at a very young age, it is far more likely to take hold and be a large part of what children are, and what they become”, stated Kevin Arquit before quickly adding, “Our view is not that children should volunteer and engage simply because they have to, or because it is the “right thing to do.” The success of our organization is found when a child volunteers simply because it is a large part of who they are. And the ultimate payoff that results from having an engaged, motivated population of children is virtually limitless.”
Silda Wall Spitzer emphasizes that instilling a greater spirit of societal participation does not just lead to healthy well adjusted children but creates better citizens as studies show that:
“these children vote more and become more responsible, productive and collaborative members of the communities in which they live and work”.
Speaking of a man who knows a little something about growth and value, in the words of Arquit’s generationOn Board Co-Chair, Dave Barger, CEO of JetBlue, one of America’s most revered brands:
“At its heart, GenerationOn is about educating youth to be part of the community. Being involved with such an organization is incredibly rewarding, but we do it because it’s part of our DNA and we want to build a better society.”
Barger who supports PENCIL in leading the fight to transform education, and whose face adorns ads at local MTA bus stop in my own neighborhood, adds:
“For kids, Independence Day means summer vacation and being away from school. In reality, summer is an important time to get ready for the school year. Organizations like GenerationOn and PENCIL are hard at work when students are away, essentially preparing the theater for the curtain to go up in the fall.”
“Giving back to the community in which we operate is important for us culturally. Supporting Play Rugby USA in directly enables me as CEO of Perseus to support the community in which we operate by developing youth through rugby. It reminds us that what we do is important for our customers and within our industry, but we can have a direct impact locally. Our business operates globally and youth development is a global objective of Play Rugby USA in tune with the game of rugby played in 160 countries around the world. Rugby has given me many opportunities at a personal level and naturally I want to see the next generation of young Americans develop skills in leadership, team-work, discipline and community.”
Mary Fetchet, the co-founder of Voices of September 11th, offered earnestly how she and her team at Voices have been “Building Bridges” since tragedy struck on 9/11:
“After the death of my son on 9/11, I co-founded Voices of September 11th to support all those affected, commemorate the nearly 3,000 lives lost and promote reforms to make our country safer. Despite an unimaginable loss, the 9/11 families have demonstrated great strength, resiliency and compassion, creating philanthropic efforts in memory of their loved ones that benefit others. As Americans we are fortunate to live in a democratic society that provides an opportunity for each of us to make a difference in our communities and the world.”
Fetchet and the team of thoughtful and earnest patriots she leads at Voices of September 11th are “Building Bridges” 365 24/7 so it is rather ironic that they give awards of a similar name. Honored for their principled and yeoman work on the 9/11 Memorial & Museum were Christopher Del Pozzo and Kevin P. Murphy of Lend Lease, one of the world’s leading project management and construction companies. Composer, David Friedman and soloists Amanda Nisenson, Joan Carlo and Matt Thomas along with Cellist Nada Radulovich provided a spirited evening of entertainment that was literally transcendent.
FINANCIAL SERVICES CARES GALA – AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
Don Distasio, CEO of American Cancer Society, Eastern Division, has developed a reputation as one of the most effective CEO’s in the charitable arena. Under the leadership of the cancer survivor, cancer rates have dropped dramatically. Due to his implementation of a plan to fight cancer through research, education, advocacy and services to patients and families, “the American Cancer Society is now the most comprehensive cancer fighting organization in the world. It is the only full service 24/7 around the clock Cancer resource available to those battling any kind of cancer” reminds the man who has spent the last 40 years working to build the character and effectiveness of the only employer he has ever known. “Your journey begins by going online to Cancer.org or just call 1-800-227-2345.”
If Distasio’s reputation as a cancer fighter make him Batman, then in John Thiel he has clearly found Robin. Thiel is as respected in the Cancer Community as he is a leader at Merrill Lynch/Bank of America. When I asked Thiel about America’s birthday, Thiel who had many of his firms competitors in the house, by his own invitation, reminded me that the “American Cancer Society is in the business of birthdays –“We are here tonight to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.” Distasio took a moment to add that “we are very proud of our mantra of saving more lives and creating more birthdays. The simplicity of that is amazing but also quite true.”
ACE 20th ANNIVERSARY
ACE celebrated 20 years of empowering the homeless and improving communities with a festive gala at world famous auction house Sotheby’s on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. ACE founder, artist, community builder and model of urban heroism, Henry Buhl, along with ACE Executive Director Jim Martin took the stage at Sotheby’s to highlight the progress of the program over its 20 year history. Nothing could be more “Fresco by Scotto” than Emcee and Good Day NY co-host Rosanna Scotto who notably serves as President of “Schmoozing” at her aptly named family restaurant. Socialite Tinsley Mortimer and Mary Sliwa, the former corporate media executive and long time Executive Director of New York based Guardian Angels and now a strategist with the Moldaver-Chrebet Group at MorganStanley, a Barron’s #1 ranked Financial Advisor in New Jersey, were among the guests.
Jessye Norman’srendition of God Bless America literally brought forth tears.2012 honorees were Jessye Norman, Russell Simmons and Newmark Grubb Knight Frank – Retail. ACE also honored supporters Tony GoldmanSteven Tanger (CEO of Tanger Outlets),Cynthia Wainwright and Denise Rich.
Countess Luann de Lesseps from The Real Housewives of New York City was joined by bombshell cast mates Heather Thomson, who is more Berkshires than Hamptons, and glamorous, Aviva Drescher. The trio provided rather stunning evidence ofa range of diversity in elegant and sophisticated feminine beauty that turned heads all night. Talented Vietnamese concert pianist Chau-Giang Thi Nguyen (Cho-San),who is embraced widely by the creative community for the purity of her spirit and her immense talent, seemed to be comfortable back in familiar surroundings having relocated back to Manhattan from her frolic out west where she collaborated with Hollywood royalty.
Allison Whipple Rockefeller, National Audubon’s Women In Conservation, Founding Chair; New York State Parks Commission Member, confers her perspective on Independence Day:
“The Fourth of July means so much to me because it brings floods of American families and friends together- outside- in parks across the country. The Fourth reminds me that no other nation on earth had given its most beautiful places, its national parks, forests and wilderness, to its citizens. These, in Europe and elsewhere, were preserved for the king and the aristocracy. Here, the nation’s most beautiful places belong to the American people. Citizen ownership of parkland was an uniquely American concept and it has served as a model to the rest of the world. Parks owned by the people: another great American idea.”
“Horticulture is tied up with the entire history of the US—think of the farmers who opened the western frontier, Jefferson’s adoption at Monticello of viniculture, the Victory Gardens that helped win WWII. Urban farmers, green roofs, and sustainable, small-scale agriculture informed by organizations like the Horticultural Society of New York is the next chapter in that history of growing American independence, and American interdependence.”
How do we celebrate? In the words of Billy Joel, “A bottle of red, a bottle of white, perhaps a bottle of [Wolffer Estate] Rose instead? We’ll get a table near the street, in our old familiar place, you and I face to face” in Sag Harbor, South or East Hampton or Bridge whether at 75 Main, Savanna’s, The Palm or I will meet you any time you want at Wolffer’s Estate Restaurant. From the vineyards in Sagaponack I will lift a premium glass of Long Island wine and salute those of you who make being an American and a New Yorker, and in the summer months, dare I say it a New York [Long] Islander, simply the greatest thing I will ever be in this life.
To be a Point of Light in America’s evolution, you need not be an electrician to help illuminate the bulb to keep us moving forward in “the light.”
*NOTE: An edited version of this post appears in Social Life Magazine (Hamptons) July issue in my Society column.
Social Life Magazine - July 4th Independence Day Issue
In taking a shot at a Jersey Girl on the eve of a funeral service in her honor,Schmuley exhibited only his own moral irrelevance as a spiritual man relative to the moral clarity of a suited man, who happens to sit in New Jersey Governor’s office — on top of a big pair of balls no less. The Rabbi may want to remember that, in the words of Tony Montana (Scarface): “Amigo, the only thing that gives order is balls. “ Governor Chris Christie has them. The Rabbi clearly does not. He joined the chorus of the small minded for political gain. Rabbi Famewhore should have remained silent and observed the love given by Kevin Costner at her service.
Are those who go through the journey of and through ‘the dark night of the soul’, who suffer from addiction, and who meet their maker sooner than expected somehow less worthy of honor, humanity or dignity? Let me assure you, they are no less worthy. You need not be a rabbinical scholar or study the Torah to know that. In this world, we crush, kill and destroy with a vengeance but love, adore and admire with reluctance. My friends that must change. Houston was in effect gunned down on the battle field of life. Would she be more worthy of dignity had she died in an unrighteous war, gunned down in the hills of Afghanistan? Governor Chris Christie’s courageous and righteous decision to honor Whitney Houston who was arose from humble gospel singing Newark roots to international prominence, was not only bold and brave but also exhibited moral clarity whereas the ‘Publicity Mad and Egomaniacal Rabbi Schmuley Boteach’, the allegedly spiritual man, offered precisely the opposite, verbal DREK or what some might consider pseudo intellectual indifference. You expect more from those who pose as learned men of the cloth but then again you understand when said individual is one who morally pontificate’s for profit and aspires to the halls of Congress. Many of our prized and forgotten citizens can use a little more love free of rationalized judgments, especially those of an opportunistic rabbi, one whose favorite charity seems to be himself.
Life’s too short to even care at all Ooh
I’m losing my mind losing my mind losing control
The fishes in the sea they’re staring at me
A wet world aches for a beat of a drum
If I could find a way to see this straight
I’d run away
To some fortune that I
Should have found by now
I’m waiting for this Cough Syrup to come down, come down
Life’s too short to even care at all
I’m coming up now coming up now out of the blue
These zombies in the park are looking for my heart
A dark world aches for a splash of the sun
-Young the Giant, “Cough Syrup” 2011
The last couple of years have challenged the American spirit in ways most of us have never would have imagined. The pain and suffering out there across America is palpable and real, leaving many of us reaching for more than cough syrup. For once perhaps the drama of the political rhetoric of our leaders does not even begin to address the depth and severity of the pain, insecurity and despair that many citizens feel across our land. Regardless of the prescriptions and solutions they offer to what ails us, to restore life I am no longer waiting for their cough syrup to come down.
Around me I have witnessed the supreme and strong, falling down, hopefully only intermittently, but still not sure. Yet, in the souls of many of my fellow Americans, however wounded or uncertain they may be, I see the ‘eye of the tiger’ looking only for a basis to rise again or maybe I am just looking in the mirror. In the words of Vince Lombardi:
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up. The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.”
“If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
Knock me down enough I say and all you are doing is training me in how to get up more proficiently. Let us give praise and thanks to those who have knocked us down for they will only make our victory even sweeter, in the end. This is the character of our people. It is written into the American DNA, yours and mine. Rest assured, the final bell has not yet rung, we will be prepared to rise and do battle in 2012. A little angel is gonna whisper in your ear: “get up you sonofabitch cause Mickey loves you”.
Cut me Mick I ain’t done fightin’ yet. This is not a time for platitudes or making cliched resolutions to toast at midnight but rather a calling to be resolute in all that we do. To all of you I hope and pray you find your splash of the sun in 2012. May you basque in it for the remainder of your days. It’s time we stop waiting for the cough syrup to come down. If we have to, maybe the answer is that we make our own.
I never thought that the day would come that I would even remotely consider quoting, listening to or making statements in support of Miley Cyrus ‘art form’ and that is itself not my being dismissive. I simply did not think she had anything of import to speak to my generation. Miley Cyrus’ latest creation is a rather effective pairing of a remix of her 2010 song Liberty Walk with footage from the Occupy Wall Street protests. It makes a statement.
I am not saying that Miley Cyrus’ Rock Mafia will replace my affinity for rock legends like Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Queen or the Smashing Pumpkins anytime soon. Hannah Montana, however, brought her Party in the USA straight to the OWS movement with the opening statement on her video that: “This is Dedicated to the thousands of people who are standing up for what they believe in.” Sure I noticed that the teen idol was adorable, insightful and funny playing Justin Bieber while hosting Saturday Night Live, but as a middle aged man though I did notice she seems to be growing into a rather fine looking young woman, it did not occur to me that she would be capable of this type of artistic expression. Nevertheless, from a civic minded perspective, her exhibition of a social conscience at a time where far too many are afraid to undermine their stature with the powerful, in any way, is refreshing.
I am not sure whether to be surprised that many mainstream media analysts have offered their hip, snarky critique aimed at dismissing the relevance of Miley Cyrus’ latest creation. As some mainstream media pundits ponder the sincerity of the ’slick corporate pop star’s’ controversial expression of solidarity with the Occupy movement, most failed to comprehend that the uprising in this country has been brewing for some time and that Cyrus has been in tune with it as this song was written a year for the uprising at Zuccotti Park. The simple lyrics to Liberty Walk very much match the bubbling soul of a nation that was rising to the surface despite efforts to snuff it out. The Occupy movement did not rise up in a vacuum. In the Post 9/11 world as rather clearly laid out in the Zeitgeist movie, the culture of distraction has been intentionally ratcheted up in high gear in America for the sole purpose of holding back the inevitable, stifling dissent with the hope of turning more of the dumb down masses into obedient sheeple, even as the Zeitgeist was shifting in America.
Ms. Cyrus deserves credit for standing on the right side of human history, regardless of what you think of her art form and regardless of the contempt for my . As was stated in the comments section on a rather odd, strangely Propanda’ish piece in the Village Voice:
“I’m no Miley Cyrus fan, but to my mind it’s a bit elitist to even criticize this video.”
I concur with that statement. Accordingly, I give her credit for taking a stand. Notably, as stated by one thoughtful individual who commented on the Village Voice piece:
“The only thing I’d like to question here is the move to examine the song via Cyrus’s possible sincerity, because ultimately, I think the question is besides the point, and would guess that 95% of that co-option of dissent was totally sincere; as was, say, the Third Eye Blind song ['If there ever was a time'] and Jay-Z’s Occupy All Streets t shirts. And while Miley Cyrus may not personally profit from this song, it remains opportunistic when considered structurally, as an attempt (albeit totally sincere) by—whatever you want to call it: the culture industry, the 1%, Disney, etc.—to enter a space from which it had been deliberately excluded.’
So many mainstream artists, who are well paid contributors to the culture of distraction, have literally NOTHING of import to say. And that says more about where those selfish whores stand. Obviously they want to continue to get paid. I do, however, expect more critical analysis from the Village Voice than to dismiss her as an artistic simpleton whose creations in this case were likely motivated by rather ‘vague, ill informed leftist beliefs.’ Norman Mailer would have wiped his rear end with that piece of mainstream propaganda and told the writer to go f$#!k yourself, likely right to his face. My critics be damned, even the Young Manhattanites. If most of the people who read this page truly understood how deeply corrupt the unholy alliance is between Wall Street and Government, there would be people hanging in the streets of Lower Manhattan and Police would be storming the Capitol in Washington, D.C. with riot gear to rip the immoral charlatans from their smug indifferent perches of power where they piss all over the hopes and dreams of the American people.
Too many Illuminati Artists dare not criticize the very corporate elites who enable or fund their continued existence with their elaborate networks. The rise of the Police State is the civil rights issue of our time but some folks like Jay Z have nothing to say because he is an insider with the very people that this movement attacks. He is too freaking busy gettin paid to say jack shit. So even as she brings her Party in the USA to the Occupy Movement, Miley may wish to note that while many have their hands up, it is not because “a Jay Z song is on.” Miley Cyrus may be opportunistic but she may also have bigger balls than a whole class of Illuminati Artists who linger in silence. TUPAC would never have been as silent as Jay Z which tells you all you need to know about the dark agenda of the forces pulling the strings behind the scenes.