The House I Grew up in

bernie's houseAbout a month ago Grace Camblos, a biographer, photographer, and author, invited me to participate in a four week memoir writing class.  One of the “prompts” she gave to us was to write about, “The house I grew up in.”

I remember it well. The address was 144-15 33rd Ave., Flushing, Long Island, NY. We moved there in about 1938. It was a two-story house with a finished attic and basement and was the third of three houses on the block. They were the first of many, built by Abraham Levitt, who went on to develop Levittown on Long Island and in Pennsylvania.

I was 14 in September of 1942 and I just got back from eight weeks at Camp Man, the Queens County summer Boy Scout camp, at Ten Mile River in upstate New York. It was a Monday morning and the High Holidays had just begun.  My grandmother’s room was just next to mine at the head of the stairs. I got dressed and was heading off to school — to Fieldston. As I passed my Mema’s room, her full-time nurse came out and said, “I can’t revive her.” We went into her room and turned her over so she was face down with her head to the side. I climbed on top of her and rhythmically pressed down on her rib cage administering artificial respiration 1940’s style, that I learned how to do as a Boy Scout.There was no resistance, no push back. Her body did not respond to the pressure. I could not revive her. Reality struck. I felt the difference between life and death. I felt it in my hands.

Continue reading “The House I Grew up in”

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The Cost of War

We all know that war and any other aggressive action, by its very intent, causes damages and destruction. It is likely to cause death, damage, destruction, injury and disability to the “enemy” — and to ourselves and our own forces as well. Moreover, each action always involves time, energy, resources and funds — all of which could have been used for something else. It is essential to understand and plan for the resources required before taking any action.

Moreover, any action will almost certainly provoke a “retaliatory response” requiring additional resources to react to it. There is an almost instinctive, virtually automatic, retaliatory reaction to any initial aggressive act — meet aggression with aggression. Frequently it leads to an escalation of the conflict. Robert McNamara was Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. His important post-Vietnam advice was — understand your enemy before engaging in hostilities and taking any action. Add to that the likely collateral damage and the potential for unforeseen and unintended consequences and the additional cost of providing compensation and restitution for any damages and injury caused, certainly to one’s own forces, and perhaps to others as well. All those factors contribute to “The Cost of War.” Be mindful of them. Continue reading “The Cost of War”