Sunday, December 23, 2012


Pa Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Teach Your Children Well
It was no picnic to be a Catholic social worker for the city of Warsaw and serve in the Polish underground during World War Two, especially during the German occupation; but, such was Irena Sendler’s lot.  As head of the children’s section of Zegota, a dissident resistance organization, she was aided by a network of up to thirty others, and what she accomplished was nothing less than incredible.
Of course, that it was pure hell being Jewish in Warsaw during that time is a gross understatement. Soon after the Nazis invaded Poland in Sept 1939, they crammed more than 450,000 Jews, about a third of the population of Warsaw, into a three square kilometer section (about one third larger than the French Quarter) of the city and surrounded by seven foot walls, they awaited transportation to Treblinka and other extermination camps: ‘the ghetto’. By 1943 only 55,000 were left, awaiting the trip. Irena Sendler (code name Jolanta), as a nurse, had a special permit giving her access to the ghetto, allegedly to keep down the threat of typhus, tuberculosis and other diseases, that the Nazis believed would spread to the rest of the city if not kept in check.
By 1943 she and her aides had smuggled 2,500 babies and children out of the ghetto, furnished them with homes and falsified papers. The children were smuggled out in tool boxes, trashcans, potato sacks, suitcases, under the floorboards of ambulances and in coffins. They were given non-Jewish identities and placed in convents, orphanages, hospitals and with sympathetic families; Jolanta kept the names, and identities of the children that she had rescued hidden in jars, so that after the war she could reunite them with their families, most of whom never survived the camps. Accounts differ as to how the jars and names were secreted but one fact remains: on October 20, 1942 she was arrested by the Gestapo and questioned for that information. She was beaten severely, tortured and had both of her legs and feet broken from which she never fully recovered. She did not give the information ‘requested’. She spent the next sixty-six years on crutches, proving that no good deed goes unpunished. That’s the short version and I’m sure if this interests you you can find out more on your own.
Point is: here we are in February 2013 with Super Bowl on the 3rd, Mardi Gras on the 12th and Valentine’s Day on the 14th.   Presidents Day on the 18th and Purim on the 24th figure in there also. I’m here to tug on your coat tail with another date: February 15th.
On February 15th 1910 about 15 kilometers southeast of Warsaw the baby girl who became Jolanta, Irena Sendler (nee Krzyzanoska), the ‘angel of the ghetto’, was born; and now that date, February 15th, has become a holiday for me. Why? Because it symbolizes the fact that one person can make a difference by being brave, taking chances and being selfless. Making a difference.  
Most of us will never be called to make such a difference and more’s the pity, for - possibly - inside us all resides a hero. Someone who will go the extra mile no matter the personal cost; someone who realizes-- and here’s the rub — that if this good deed does not get done by them, that will not be done at all. Most of us will be content with minor inconveniences and never be called upon to make what you could call really hard choices, a sacrifice or risk our lives. Irena Sendler said that “Heroes do extraordinary things. It was no extraordinary thing that I did. It was normal”.  She said that she was taught that “if you saw a person drowning that you should jump in to save them even if you don’t know how to swim”. 
Okay, so here I’m supposed to extol the reader to cough up honor, integrity and a sense of what is right and good like a favored feline hocks up a hairball; as if it is something that gets turned on and off like a switch when, in fact, it’s not. It’s a life that has to be lived. We develop counter-heroic aversions that help us get by in life and as we age we become addicted to them; our mettle is rarely tested. Think about it; we seldom exercise or reach our potential.
It’s a rare person who has the ability to do the right thing under adverse circumstances; the rest of us simply don’t know how.  I think that in the adult generations – who turned a blind eye and heart to positive role models -- there is little hope. Perhaps the children. I know! What if when we’re around the young and impressionable we pretend that we are better people? Who knows? Maybe we can fool them into giving us a better world. Maybe we can inspire them. It’s worth a shot. Perhaps we could even fool ourselves into becoming heroes.
There are forces for good and forces for wickedness -- specifically in ourselves and in the world in general. We draw inspiration from the good things around us and from others that we see making a difference. For myself, I know that I really really have the best intentions to bring the best person that I can be to the surface of my being. I have been inspired. I don’t always put those inspirations into action. Inspiration without action becomes intention and I know the road that is paved with intentions.
 Evil has been kicking our asses for as long as memory; greed and hatred run rampant throughout the world as well as in people. That doesn’t mean that it has to stay that way.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Rhumba Man in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Rhumba Man
Shallow Water Oh Mama
“I’m the same old guy that I used to be, I haven’t changed at all,
The same old walk, the same old talk that can run you up the wall.
The same old face, the same old smile, the same old baby blues.
And I’m still doin’ the Rhumba, Baby, I’m still the man for you!”
If you are reading this, TEOTWAWKI didn’t happen; consequently, we‘ve another new year before us-- to make as good as we can-- with the grand notion that what we do will make an iota of difference in the unraveling of our fates. To give voice to the axiom that nothing’s in our control isn’t what any of us wants to hear, and far be it for me to go there. Alternatively, I’m going to go with a time honored tradition of espousing New Year’s Resolutions—you know—rollin’ like a big dog over my faults and swearing that this year I will mend my evil ways. Let’s get right to it.
Maturity: : I resolve that people doing dim-witted things, making bad choices and going around working people’s nerves will not jerk my chain. I won’t go to a tense place and wish that they would stick their head in a commode and save the world buckets of grief. I will strive to remember that some folks have had head injuries, oxygen deprivation or synapse malfunctions causing them to act out all of their inner ignorances. I’ll be kind. No one needs to see their stupidity reflected in my eyes or demeanor.  I’m bigger than that, just like you are, right?
Organization: as in to oversee the coordination of the various aspects of my life. To realize that I cannot bring home everything that strikes my fancy and expect to have them stay in some orderly fashion. I cannot remain Old MacDonald with a book book here, some kitchenware there, put the piano there, art supplies here and sure, if it follows you home you can keep it and hey, there’s an empty spot on the wall; we need more pictures!. I resolve to admit that my world is in a finite space and in a reality based lifestyle there should be no clutter and a place for everything and everything in its place. Now, where did I leave my keys?
Patience. I want to learn patience and I want to learn it right now!
Moderation: For decades I have believed that I should practice moderation and instead behaved like: “too much of everything is just enough too much of everything is just enough too much of everything is just enough and, anything worth doing is worth overdoing!”  I have essentially taken moderation in moderation.  “P’raps jus’ sw’one mor marga-marga-margareenie”, I’ll have that last piece of chocolate cake, make mine a double, and another espresso. More cheese Mom! I can sleep when I’m dead! While you’re up, get me a beer, willya? Are you gonna eat that? Yum, I smell bacon! I need more shoes! Officer, was I really going eighty-five? Full speed ahead and one toke over the line, Sweet Jesus”. Now, is that any way to live? Hmmmm, I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Understanding: Phrases like “they’re just kids, maybe they’re having a bad day, and/or I guess they don’t know no better” are going to pour from me like cheap wine at a sorority soiree, I swear. “it’s a free country, I see their point and/or forgive them for they know not what they do” is going to sail from my lips like wind driven frigates. I’m going to swallow my impatience concerning imperfection; I’m going to bite my tongue until it bleeds before I criticize someone’s inconsideration; I will epitomize all that’s good and kind in an empathetic…. and….. hell, I’ll make Saint Francis look like Assisi!  So, go ahead, blast your cacophonic music, cut in front of me, don’t use your turn signal, tip badly, scream at eachother, throw up in my doorway, spit and litter and honk your damn horn when you can see that the traffic’s goin’ nowhere; it’s okay. Really. I won’t mind if you speak before you think, if you’re grouchy and take it out on me or if your views on sports, politics, religion and sex may not agree with mine but you’ll have to tell me because you just had one Honey Boo Boo  cocktail too many. I absolve you of any blame. Let you children run amok, blow your cigar smoke in my direction, rain on my parade….
Optimism: Yes, everything is gonna be fine this year, I just know it! Just Ducky! We’ll get the winning lottery number, hit the jackpot, fall in love and win the Superbowl! The grass will be greener, we’ll take more time off, make sweet memories and our hair will be perfect! There’ll be pep in our step, gut in our strut, a gleam in our eyes that comes from inner peace and our pockets will be full of Benjamins.  Our skin will be clear, our muscles toned, our children gifted and no shame in our game. Don’t stop me now, I’m on a roll,
we’ll all be Sunshine Supermen, our stride will glide, the road will rise up to meet us and we’ll get fries with that shake! We’ll be cookin’ in high cotton, risin’ up singing with the sun in our face and the wind at our back and if I get any more optimistic I’m gonna get a friggin’ ulcer.
The Reality: I’m still doin’ the Rhumba, Baby, (can’t seem to quit), so, who am I kidding? It’s taken me years of practice to get to this point; why mess with perfection?
Happy New Year!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Xmas 2012

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Dead Flowers
Roses On Your Grave
            When I was younger I used to read the obituaries in the newspaper and wonder, upon reading about someone who died at twice my age, whether they realized, at my age, that they would be living, that comparable day, with more time behind them than what was left in front of them. That changed when my mother died.
            My mother was the last of her generation to die; her family, friends, husbands and lovers had all circled the drain and left without her. She was buried next to her younger sister in a small cemetery somewhere in the boondocks of New Jersey. The funeral was poignant, sad, insightful and a little bizarre; you had to be there.
After a cruise through her small town haunts she was “laid to rest”; a phrase that I have still not figured out. I mean what else are you going to do when you’re deceased and buried; call the gang over for pizza and beer?
            After being dropped into that final fissure, a few moments of silence and privacy were granted her children; and I stood trying to read, with furtive glances, my siblings countenances. I wondered if they had come to the same conclusion that I had: we’re next. We are now the older generation; we have had the children, they will have children and we will, sooner or later, follow the family tradition of decrepitude and death. Sobering to recall, but, that was when I realized that, from that point on; I’d have more days behind me than in front.
            Obituaries look different to a person who consistently sees their age category amongst the dearly and recently departed: “how come he died so young or was he very old? Is the body still warm or is it very cold?” Sometimes I wake up in the night and perceive the abyss and I am saddened beyond comfort.
            Oh, I know that Lord willin’ and if the creek don’t rise that I’ve still got some decades ahead and good ones too; I have a healthy strong body and an alert and inquisitive mind, knock on wood. Come any given morning, I’m good to go; I’ve got plans and goals, but there’s not enough hours in the days or days in the week to get all the things that I want accomplished accomplished. Therein lies the rub. Every moment is precious and becomes more precious as time goes by and I want to do everything at once and as my bucket list gets longer and longer, I know that there’s only one thing for Christmas that I truly need: money. Yep money; lots and lots of money. I don’t want pie in the sky when I die; I want it now. Greenbacks. Bucks. Dough. Geedis. Bread. Moolah. I want coin. I want juice. I want some long green. I’m not the greedy; I’m the needy! I want my cake and I want to eat it too. Y’erd?
            I know, I should have thought about that years ago, but, I didn’t. I didn’t because I was busy growing into the person that I’ve become. Going through good times.  bad times, low times and high times; cramming as much of a life as I could into the seconds of my life as I lived it. Scheming schemes that didn’t work. Hatching plans that didn’t fly. Loving the right people, places and things and fucking up. Loving the wrong people, places and things and moving on. Taking advice, advantage and adventure down strange and wonderful life-paths; blowing every cent that I ever laid my hands on, with no regrets. And, I’m not about to slow down; especially if I can get Santa to bring me a five pound box of Benjamins.
            I know, I know, “money can’t buy happiness”; which is also a phrase that never settled well with me. Whoever said that obviously didn’t know where to shop! I want more than I can spend and I promise that I will spend it freely. I deserve it because there’s no one out there offering me… immortality.
With immortality I could work, save and spend forever; AND, I would always have time to repeat the cycle: work, save and spend ad infinitum. I swear I could go on everlastingly if but allowed.
            I feel like a character in The New Wizard of Oz, traveling with Dorothy, the guys and that little dog too. I’m going to see The Wizard for some life extension; I already have the heart, brain and courage. Listen: that’s me singing:
I would be an avid reader,
converse with royal leaders
 without formality.
I would climb every mountain
and I’d drink from public fountains
 for some immortality”.
“I would serve my lovers potions,
I’d even swim the oceans;
Shun immorality.
I would visit every nation,
I could learn to speak Croatian
With some immortality.”
You get my drift? Sure, but what are the chances? About as likely as mining chocolate on Mars. Wait! That’s still a possibility, right? Yeah, immortality would take a Wizard. Oh, I forgot: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” I’m screwed ain’t I?
So, after reviewing my situation, it turns out that I have to resign myself to having to leave this world that I have come to love; at some point. And as for having money; well, I guess poverty must also run in my family. A patron, sponsor, benefactor…. Better known as fat chance. The lottery, racetrack, casino… I’m a lousy gambler. Inheritance?  When my father died he left me his hat and a bag of pennies. When Mom died all she left me was alone. I guess my epitaph will be “He wanted to; he REALLY wanted to. He tried; he REALLY tried.”

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Festivus For The Rest Of Us
Happy December. This month is rife with religious holidays. First and foremost, you’ve got Christmas; and, in America, it’s a really big whoop because it is traditionally the largest capitalistic moneymaker ever invented or imagined. It’s when symbiotically everybody makes money because everyone is spending money. Be that as it may, we also have (although not nearly as lucrative or as ludicrous):  Eid al-Adha for one (look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls); also Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Solstice and the big one: TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it.) TEOTWAWKI is supposed to happen on December twenty first; believe it or don’t.
For all our candles, trees, dreidels, gifts, good wishes and presents, with TEOTWAWKI, guess who won’t be living here anymore come New Year’s Eve? And, those of us who have seen the movie ‘2012’ know that, resistance is futile and our precious lives have all been for naught.  All of a sudden it will be December and we’ll think: “wasn’t something else gonna happen this month? Oh yeah, the friggin’ planet’s gonna  explode like a poodle in a microwave!”  We’ll crank up the old PC and have Netflix send us over a copy of the $megagazillion$ movie that predicts our demise this year and it’ll scare the pants off ourselves again, we’ll get an ulcer, stay awake nights for the month of December  and count down from one to twenty-one. Because, you know, it just might happen, eh? All those things that we did and all those things that we didn’t do will haunt our fitful dreams like the Night Of The Living Dead; our regrets will sit like Hitchcock’s Birds  waiting to get a piece of Tippi Hedrin. Think Jack Nicholson in The Shining: (“Heeeer’s Johnny!!) Think Freddy Krueger.
What was it that you forgot to do? Really work for peace on Earth, good will toward men? Who was it that you put off telling how much you care? Too late now; you’re hanging crepe instead of mistletoe. Christmas cards are a waste of time and stamps. Better put up your tree early, it might be the only thing left standing in your shell of a home. Bend over, put your head between your knees and kiss your sweet patooty good-bye. Lights out; nobody home.
On a site called they list the 28 Inconvenient Truths about “TEOTWAWKI”  (amazingly, spell-check doesn’t challenge that as a word), number one is: “Not everyone will survive. Ouch”
Or not. Just kidding! It’s all a big cosmic joke of a hoax! December is going to come and go and the President will fix the economy, women’s rights will be secured and we’ll all have all the healthcare we can possibly want. The planet will not be warming, our coast will stop eroding, your gay BFF will get married, stop smoking and switch to a plant based diet. We won’t have to fear crime, inadequate education or bad hair. Everything will be alright. We’ll stop killing eachother, our food sources will not be genetically engineered and love will stay. That’s as sure as a bear being Catholic and the Pope s**tting in the woods.
The truth is that the end as we know it is already here and it was heralded by the reincarnation of George Carlin in the body of an orangutan appearing as the messiah.  It began with the appearance of granite countertops, brassieres straps becoming a fashion statement and handheld electronic devices being ‘smarter’ than the humans  attached to them. It had its birth in the stalling of our evolution via such arcane practices as prejudice, sexism, ageism, racism, self destruction and homophobia. It arrived with the baggage that you can’t rid yourself of. Too late, Sparky, we’re gone pecans now. You had your chance to change the world and what did you come up with? A hallmark card that apologizes for you being an asshole? (yes, there is one!)  . Halfhearted recycling?
Armageddon was impelled like a tide driven ship by our cruelty to the animal population, the tendency to settle our differences with violence and to blame someone else when something goes awry that we shoulda saw coming. It was encouraged by our total lack of respect for the planet that we live on. Now that we see 12/21/12 coming, is it time to petition the lord with prayer? Good luck on that one.
It’s a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into; Welcome to Dystopia. So, what do we do now?
Well, here’s how it goes for me: 6:50 AM the cat wakes up and charges through the house, waking up the dogs. 7:00AM Girlfriend rises and lets the dogs out, starts the coffee and her ablutions. I, traditionally beg for “Ten more minutes” sleep. 7:30/8:00 we’re on the porch or back in bed reading newspapers, drinking coffee, eating cookies and commiserating. I make the day’s lunch and fruit smoothies and we’re on our way to the park with the dogs and then off to work. Six days a week. On the seventh day we don’t usually get past the commiserating part until much later.
We work, we play and immerse ourselves in our lives. We’re planning trips, movies and get-togethers with friends. I have music, art and literature in my life. Above all, I have love and romance.
So, if you think that something as silly as the world ending is going to disrupt my sleep, my coffee, my job, my life, my loves and drinking beer at Liuzza’s At The Track in the evening; you’re crazier than I am. I’m going to treat TEOTWAWKI like I do every other unsubstantiated catastrophic life-threatening misfortune. I’m going to ignore it.