New Trump, New Year

This New Year’s we say goodbye not just to 2019 but to the second decade of the 21st century.

It seemed not that long ago when the biggest worry we had was the alleged Y2K crisis.  Who knew that 20 months after celebrating the new millennium, 9/11 would turn our world upside down.

And so, with 20% of the century now gone, what is the health of America?

Scanning negative headlines everywhere, the future seems bleak.

Like a vision from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come from Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, I can’t help but picture a headstone reading:  The United States,


But just like Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation, America can turn it around.

Imagine President Donald J. Trump waking up on New Year’s Day a changed man, compassionate and decent, delivering a speech for the ages, words to unify all Americans.

“My fellow Americans,

For these past three years, I have not been the best person I could have been.

Ever since November of 2016 when I was shocked to learn that I had won the presidential election, I really had no idea what to do next.  My team and I were completely unprepared for those results; our pollsters had Hillary Clinton winning by three million votes.

Since I did not want to come across as someone incompetent, especially since so many believed in the brilliant billionaire businessman they saw on television who hosted “The Apprentice,” I did not want to let citizens down.

From my childhood, when my father sent me to military school, his only child of five for whom he did such a thing, I have felt insecure.  That is why I boast, berate and shout to cover up my inadequacies.

But once the House of Representatives passed those two articles of impeachment, it made me reflect on what type of legacy I want to leave behind.

Just as I am the first president ever to be impeached in his first term, I could become the first president who performed amazing deeds in less than a year.

As of today, I am disabling my Twitter account.  The juvenile name-calling stops now.  Restoring the honor of the office of the presidency is a prime priority.

Dishonesty and misinformation will no longer thrive; the Trump Administration will be known for truthfulness and transparency.

I will rebuild our relationships with our allies and strengthen our human rights concerns with our foes.

I will model bipartisan Congressional relationships by working alongside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The Trump presidency will welcome those people from other countries who are seeking a better life in America.

I admit that climate change is real, so I will re-affirm the United States’ commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.

I will embrace not insult the free press, and as a sign of my pledge, will host regularly scheduled press conferences.

And, if after 10 months of Trump 2.0, you wish to reelect me, I would be honored to continue as president for another four years, remembering always that I serve at the pleasure of all Americans.

The enemy is not the person who disagrees with you or votes for someone else, not the person whose religious or ethnicity is different from yours.  No, the enemy is intolerance of those who are unlike you.  That is not America.  We are stronger because of our diversity.

I welcome each and every one of you to remember the words of President George H. W. Bush to be a ‘kinder, gentler nation,” as well as President Kennedy’s proclamation, ‘ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.’  May God bless America.”

I know, I know, like Dickens’ story, it’s a work of fiction.  This is never going to happen.   However, if it did, what a wonderful world this would be.  Happy New Year.

Christmas Songs You May Have Never Heard but Should

Of all the magical aspects to the holiday season, from classic movies to family recipes to neighborhood outdoor decorations, the one that enthralls me the most is the music.

I probably have close to 90 Christmas CDs.  As much as I love the pantheon of carols such as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” I also treasure more obscure singers, songs and arrangements that bring fresh sound to these old chestnuts.

“(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays” by Perry Como.  Look for the less heard 1959 stereo version.  While the 1954 original is solid, this one soars.  It starts out slowly with a plaintive Como nearly singing a cappella as the background singers later come along with an orchestral sound that gets the heart pumping to a rousing woodwind-driven crescendo.  If you don’t have goosebumps by the end, you probably don’t have a pulse.

“Here Comes Santa Claus” by the Mills Brothers.  The combination of the men’s harmonies matched to the simple instrumentation is foot stomping.  And when lead singer Donald says “now listen children” you feel he is talking to you.  I only wish it was longer than 1:48.

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” by the Blind Boys of Alabama and Taj Mahal.  Next to Bing Crosby’s traditional version, this is the best rendition of the song due to its gospel-like arrangement.  You won’t believe it is the same song once you hear this.

“Children Go Where I Send Thee,” a traditional spiritual sung by Peter, Paul and Mary backed by a chorus from 1988’s “A Holiday Celebration with the New York Choral Society” that aired on PBS.  It is one of those songs where each lyric is added to the previous one similar to “The 12 Days of Christmas.”   Listen for Mary when she growls “itty bitty baby.”

“Brazilian Sleigh Bells” by Ferrante & Teicher, the popular piano duo of the 1960’s.  Strictly instrumental, this high-flying, full-throttle arrangement is sure to boil your hot cocoa.

“Silver Bells” by Tony Bennett and the Count Basie Orchestra.  The easy phrasing of Bennett matches the famous Basie sound.  You can almost imagine yourself walking outside looking at decorated storefronts—that is, if you can find any.  Notice how Bennett sings “silver bells” to the beat of the instruments, then when he repeats the phrase, sings it ahead of the instruments.  Only a master crooner can do that.

“Good King Wenceslas” by Mel Tormé.  This swinging arrangement will move you to dance not sit while listening.  With the dulcet sounds of Mel, and a bit of scatting thrown in, you can’t go wrong.

“Christmas Blues” by the Ramsey Lewis Trio.  A steady beat that makes a perfect soundtrack for trimming the tree, the song proves one doesn’t need more than three masterful musicians to produce a multi-textured sound.

Even songs that I don’t care for, when arranged with a certain tempo and orchestration, can be like hearing the songs for the very first time.

“Mele Kalikimaka” by Seth MacFarlane.  The original Crosby tune never was one of my favorites, but this rendition has a swinging tempo.  Arranger Joel McNeely does a masterful job creating a sound that is both retro yet fresh.

“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” by John Driskell Hopkins and the Joe Gransden and His Big Band is a revelation. The salsa beat arrangement is contagious.  Each Christmas I find one song that I just have to play every day and this is the one for me.

No matter what you listen to, I hope you do hear the Christmas spirit that is within you and those around you.

Season’s Greetings.