are falling from my head…


Zachary Klein

zachWe’re approaching summer’s dog days and I’m feeling pretty mellow, so deciding what to write this week has been difficult. It’s always easier for me if I have a mad on and Germany’s attitude toward Greece jumps to mind. Or how ‘bout them sorry Sox? But mellow is rare, so I might as well see where it takes me.

We recently had a great time at Fenway Park. It was a beautiful night and, as I looked around the field, I realized how impressive a renovation had been done by Janet Marie Smith, the architect of Baltimore’s Camden Yards. Despite adding a significant number of seats and signage to the oldest field in baseball (1912), Ms. Smith somehow made the relic a much more welcoming place while keeping its traditional feel and atmosphere. (Not the ticket prices, though, which are the highest on average in Major League Baseball.) It was a fun night even with the Sox loss–to be expected this season.

And speaking of renovations, despite my writing partner, Susan’s send up of HOUSE HUNTERS in last week’s column, Sue (my wife) and I are gearing up for our own major league kitchen rebuild, replete with wall removals, open floor plan (NOT!), and granite vomitori—whoa—make that countertops. Reconstruction begins sometime in August and I’m fervently hoping that it takes a little less time and is much more successful than our Country’s. Not gonna bet on it though.

Ahh, betting. The Casino War still rages on in Boston. Although voted FOR by almost 60% and supported by rejecting another referendum which tried to overturn the first, a number of politicians are still trying judicial end runs–Including our mayor.

I understand the issues people have with gambling and have some mixed feelings myself. But voters, tired of seeing millions and millions of dollars flow to Connecticut’s casinos, spoke loudly and clearly TWICE. My biggest regret is that Boston won’t allow a den of inequity on one of the harbor islands. And not because The Donald is a bidding developer because he isn’t.catTrumpNo surprise, really. The “Athens of the East” clings to its puritanical ancestry despite our current liberal reputation. Clings to many anomalies. Just ask anyone of Color or eyeball the vast sea of White faces while catching a game at Fenway.

Not sure why, but somehow all that White makes me think of Greece. (I tried not to. Really.) Excuse me, but what two-faced crazy is running around in Germany’s head?

“London School of Economics and Political Science Professor of Economic History Albrecht Ritschl conducted research into how Germany was able to pay off its debts after the two World Wars. In particular, his re-interpretation of the scale of financial payments to, and debt forgiveness for Germany after World War II shed new light on the approach that modern-day Germany should take towards debt-ridden countries such as Greece. Ritschl looked in detail at the financial assistance that was paid to Germany after the war under the Marshall Plan, in which the US gave $17 billion – around $160 billion in today’s values – in economic support to help rebuild European economies. He showed that while the transfers were tiny, the cancellation of debts was worth as much as four times the country’s entire economic output in 1950 and laid the foundation for Germany’s fast post-war recovery.”

It seems pretty obvious the terms of Greece’s “bailout” will crush the poor and working people of that country—but fuck ‘em. Let’s make sure the greed-heads get the interest owed. Every goddam Euro.

And now you got me started. What’s with the response to the Iranian deal? This is a no-brainer but once again the human no-brainers are running their mouths. If Reagan’s administration had pulled this off, all the pols would be kissing his ass. Hell, Nixon cut a deal with China when Mao was still alive! Since it’s Obama’s administration though, both Democrats and Republicans are talking stupid. Batshit racists, whether they know it or not.

Sorry about that. I said no rants….

especially since this has been a fine week. Belated birthday dinner with a good friend, a rooftop dinner with other good friends, and a visit to the Boston’s Greenway’s amazing new installation by Janet Echelman, an aerial shape and color shifting translucent public art sculpture.Aerial






tumblr_nopdc9G41s1s5qhggo8_500(For more information about Ms. Echelman’s wonderful piece, including a time-lapse video of the installation check out You won’t be sorry.)

Thank you Big Dig for stitching my city back together and creating space near the ocean for beauty.

It never ceases to amaze me how little public art is offered in our cities compared to say, Mexico or France. But hey, that’s a topic for another week.

Told you I was feeling mellow.


The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. ~ John Milton



Zachary Klein

zachYesterday was Father’s Day and I enjoyed talking to my kids and getting their good wishes. But somewhere along the way I realized that I’m lucky. Jake and Matt are adults and able to understand the racism that exists in our country. I don’t need to sit them down and try to explain the underlying causes that produce nine slain Blacks at their own church. And my grandchildren are too young to understand much of anything since they’re 7½ months old, so Matt and Alyssa won’t be doing any explaining for a while.

But what about the parents who must try to make some sense out of this one and the other countless tragedies that routinely occur to Black people every day of the week in this country?

Me, I go crazy trying to think of solutions to this curse. It’s impossible to outlaw hate so the haters keep hating and passing it down to their offspring. So I desperately imagine redesigning our states in ways that allow people who believe in integration to actually live in integrated communities. Where parents send their kids to schools that look like that old Coke commercial. Where the police don’t predictably shoot teenagers because of color.

A dream and not even a satisfactory one. This idea also creates states where people could simply live with their own kind. Would we call ourselves the United Reservations of America?

So let’s pretend that the vast majority of our population really wants an end to racism and everything it represents. What’s to do?

I suppose we can just limp along from one murder to another and accept that nothing of import will change. But I’m not built that way. I can’t sit idly by and watch the disintegration of my society without at least considering some alternatives to the status quo.

I’d start by demanding that all presidential hopefuls begin talking about the 46.5 million people who live in poverty with almost half of them children. Worse, 20.4 million people, were living in deep poverty which means they were living 50% below the poverty line that our government has established. Compared to non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics are more than twice as likely to live in deep poverty, and Blacks are almost three times more likely to live in deep poverty.

Now take a look at more numbers for minorities: Among racial and ethnic groups, Blacks had the highest poverty rate at 27.4 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.6 percent and Whites at 9.9 percent. (These numbers come from the 2013 census and I don’t believe it’s gotten any better.)

It’s damn hard to enjoy Father’s Day when so many kids (and their parents), are suffering in a land of plenty.

And even many of our best hopes aren’t talking the talk. I know Bernie Sanders, and a couple of other candidates have spoken some about this issue, but almost always under the rubric of the middle class. Always the middle class and “working people.” Of course we should redistribute wealth to help solidify both those groups, but I want to hear politicians speak about poverty. To take the issue head on and tell us their plans to eradicate it. As some before me, (Martin Luther King to name one) I too believe that it’s impossible to untangle poverty from racism—though there are more facets to racism than just hunger and hopelessness.

White America has always found a way to oppress then blame our victims. And within our boundaries victims are almost always minorities. We’ve done it historically, socially, and culturally so hard and for so long throughout our country’s entire history that it’s become a disease. I’m not talking about an emotional or cultural disease, but one that’s invaded the very being of White people.

This isn’t a metaphor but something I believe to be literally true. Epigenetics, (the study of the process by which genetic information is translated into the substance and behavior of an organism: specifically, the study of the way in which the expression of heritable traits is modified by environmental influences or other mechanisms without a change to the DNA sequence), probably explains an important underlying cause of our racism. In other words, who we are is a combination of our genes and the way the environment affects the expression of those genes. We are racially sick.

We are racist because we have swallowed our own myths about Black people so thoroughly they’ve become part of who we are—right down next to to our genes. We are racially sick.

I’m aware this also works the other way around: minorities have become infused with how their environment impacts them. But frankly, racism is a White peoples’ disease and, if we really want to get rid of our malady, our focus has to be on ourselves and all the institutions we as Whites have created. Until and unless we eradicate poverty and root out our own disease and the unhealthy racist institutions we have created—oppression and violence and blame the victim—will never end.

Difficult for a father to explain to his kids on Father’s Day. That all us White folks have an illness called racism, virtually all our institutions reflect this illness, and since I brought you into this world, you kids have it too. And it’s probably gonna take the rest of your lives, and beyond, to cure it if we, as a people, even bother to try.

And try we must because if we don’t confront our sickness we will forever be locked in a society that will continue to breed separate and unequal. Now that’s a tough tale to tell on Father’s Day.


I was intrigued when I first read about The Bridge, adapted from a 2011 Scandinavian series of the same name. Although the drama would have been a very different one if located on the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Canada, (which was first suggested) I was pleased it was half in El Paso, Texas, and then on the other side of the bridge and border Juárez, Mexico.

The show follows two detectives—Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) of the El Paso Police Department and Marco Ruiz (Demián Bichir), a Mexican homicide detective from Juárez—as they search for the killer of a body spanning both sides the border on the bridge.

I was especially pleased to see that when events took place in Mexico, Spanish would be used with English subtitles—something the movie Traffic pulled off with great success. Something that implies everything isn’t all white USA, all the time.

The other detail that caught my attention, though never explicitly stated, was the knowledge that critics had almost universally accepted that the U.S. detective, Sonia Cross, has Asperger’s Disorder, a condition that interferes with social interaction and non-verbal communication.

In Law & Order: Criminal Intent actor Vincent D’Onofrio played a detective that many people believed had Asperger’s, though the show or major television critics never mentioned it. So the notion that The Bridge would deal with this a bit more directly piqued my interest.

Thanks to cable’s “On Demand,” I’ve been able to binge on the first season for the past two weeks and, at first, was pretty disappointed. The plot seemed clichéd, albeit with occasionally a bit more subtlety. We discover, for example, that Marco Ruiz, the Mexican detective, slept with one of the other major characters because she returns his forgotten wallet to Sonia instead of watching them writhe around in a bed. But high ranking Mexican police officials are portrayed as completely indifferent to the multitude of missing woman in Juárez, only interested in closing the book and getting rid of the U.S. detective.

How many television shows have that one good detective up against an uncaring bureaucracy? Women as bloody victims are, in and of itself, a major cliché.  Even the oddly complicated shotgun partnership between Sonia and Marco learning to work together is something we’ve seen before. Many times.

Furthermore, at first, Sonia’s “Asperger” character was so over the top it defied belief—not that someone on the spectrum would behave as she did, but that she could have managed to become a detective. As a mitigating factor, the police chief was also her rabbi, so to speak. As time goes on, we realize that the gentle coaching he gives as supervisor and mentor is the result of some mutual history.

Perhaps, though, my biggest annoyance was what I was initially most interested in: the use of the Tex/Mex border town as the locale. Rather than allowing viewers the opportunity to actually experience and realize the changing demographics of our country, I wondered if the show permitted people to write off the socio-economics and changing demographics as limited to only where the rubber meets the road. That is, just the towns directly on each side of the line.

But I was caught up in my binge so I kept watching. And ended up very, very pleased that I did.

The second half of the season turned The Bridge around. The writers softened Sonia’s symptoms to a place where it was actually possible to imagine her as working her way up the ranks while still struggling to solve both the mystery at hand along with the mystery of human interactions. At the same time, Marco’s easygoing, but virtuous cop became more complex in the face of his imploding marriage and family. Despite a few missteps, Demián Bichir’s acting and compelling face has jumped from the screen and has been superb.

Even more importantly, for me anyway, I’ve come to see the real value in using the Tex/Mex border towns. Imagine if you will two giant funnels, each located in one country and tubed together with the other. Mexico’s funnel gives the viewer a realistic look at those who have gone through the torturous travel of crawling toward its skinny pipeline—defying dessert heat and unscrupulous bribed “transporters,” only to arrive in a town that cares nothing for their well-being. We all know the sentiments and attitudes that waft through our funnel, even though we try to block it as best we can. And woe to those who manage to squeeze through the tube. I find it passing strange that we diligently work to jail or deport people who risk everything imaginable and survive hell to simply better their lives and those of their children while, at the same time, we barely slap the wrists of those who have actually crippled our economy and the day-to-day lives of millions of our fellow citizens. Really, who are the “illegals” living here?

Bottom line: I’ve re-learned a lesson that I should have remembered. Sometimes it takes more than a show or two, or even a season or two, for an ambitious attempt at a series to find its legs. Art ain’t art with one stroke of a brush. (Unless you’re already really, really famous.)

I recently read that FX (the show’s network) has signed up for a second season of 13 episodes. If The Bridge continues its creative development and doesn’t regress into stereotypes or overly traditional plot lines, the view has the potential to be really special.

Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview – nothing more constraining, more blinding to innovation, more destructive of openness to novelty. Stephen Jay Gould




I recently had the good fortune of spending time with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since today is a celebration of his life and accomplishments, I believe it appropriate to publish the interview. We met in Providence, Rhode Island, in a quiet room off the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel. Only about 5′ 6½” his stocky build lent size and gravitas to his presence.  He wore a dark brown suit with a thin tie and settled into the couch with a contented sigh.

MLK:  “Good to be here. Don’t get around much anymore.”

ME:  “Dr. King, I was surprised you asked to meet me in Providence.”

A small smile danced across his face.

MLK:  “I knew it wasn’t terribly far from your home–mine either.

ME:  “You know, I was pretty nervous thinking about talking to you. I feel I’m in the presence of a truly great human being.”

MLK:  “I hope you aren’t nervous now. As you can see, we both have two arms and two legs.

ME:  “Dr. King…”

MLK:  “Martin, please.”

ME:  “That might be tough, sir.”

A flicker of annoyance flashed in his bright brown eyes.

MLK:  “This interview isn’t going to last very long if you insist on calling me ‘sir.’ I much prefer to be seen as a person, even a dead person. I’m getting tired of being a larger than life figure.”

ME:  “Okay, s.., excuse me, Martin, but speaking of larger than life, what do you think about your monument?”

MLK:  “I’ve always thought of myself as a kinder and friendlier looking man than the one made from that stone. I appreciate the thought and effort, but find the strife it’s caused from its conception onward…”

ME:  “Pretty ironic.”

MLK:  “Very much so. I’d rather my legacy be framed in social progress.”

ME:  “In your wildest imaginings, did you ever think this country would have a Martin Luther King holiday?”

MLK:  “Of course not, although being assassinated helped, I suppose. But at the time of my death, my approval rating was around 30 percent.”

ME:  “You kept track of approval ratings?”

MLK:  “Ahh, another shock to your fantasy about Saint Martin? As a writer who came along after me once wrote, ‘The medium is the message.’ While I don’t entirely agree with that message, it was important to understand how others saw me if I wanted my words and actions to mean something.”

ME:  “Why only 30 percent, though?”

MLK:  “I’m tempted to suggest that you ask the respondents, but I’ll give it a try. It was a moment in time when traditions were being challenged. When the vast majority of Americans were confused, upset, and bewildered by what was taking place around them. Stokely had rejected my non-violent approach toward change by calling for Black Power and aligning himself with the Panthers. So there was real fear among White people about Negro leaders.  But I think what angered many people in 1968, including allies and friends, was my linkage of civil rights, the Vietnam war, support of unions, and a guaranteed income for everybody as the way to end poverty.”

ME:  “Do you feel your non-violent approach was vindicated by the election of a Black President. Progress as a result of your efforts?”

King smiled widely before he spoke.

MLK:  “It’s certainly progress but needs to be understood within a larger context.”

I nodded for him to continue.

MLK:  “In the long run, the most important aspect of Obama’s presidency may be less that he is a Negro than the coalition he put together to be elected. I believe he was able to mobilize the constituencies needed to work for significant and progressive change. I’m hopeful that coalition will continue to act in concert. People of color, as we’re now known, young people, White people, women, unions, Gays.  All were instrumental in Obama’s election.”

It took me a moment to realize the sound coming from the couch was laughter.

MLK:  “Which is why those groups are so angry with him.  He surely isn’t a progressive.  Which is also why people who believe in real progress must understand that change comes from the ground up and not top down.”

ME:  “You sound like a member of the Occupy Movement.”

MLK:  “I really don’t belong to groups anymore.”

ME:  “But it does sound like you support their cause though many people criticize their lack of organization, that their outdoor compounds were just magnets for drug addicts and the homeless.

MLK:  “Causes is more accurate. And I do believe if they are to become relevant organizational development is essential, but the other criticisms–those sadden me. Homelessness in a land of this wealth? Drug addiction without real treatment alternatives? A justice system that metes out different punishments for drugs that White and Black people use? Worse–a country that turned its mentally ill onto the streets by closing down homes and institutions while spending billions for multiple wars? Those are tragedies and that’s why the broadest possible progressive coalition–including addicts and the homeless–is needed to foster real change.”

ME:  “People point to the election of President Obama as evidence that we, in the U.S. live in a “post-racial” society.  What’s your take?”

King’s bulky body shook and this time there was no confusion about his laughter.

MLK:  “From where I listen, the words often used are ‘level playing field.’ That, and ‘post racial’ are ways to ignore the injustice that runs rampant throughout this society. Simply look at life expectancy: white males live about seven years longer on average than Black men. White women live more than five years longer than their Black counterparts. Although researchers have suggested that genetics accounts for the differences in health and not health care access, that notion has been debunked. Wages? As recently as 2010 median annual earnings of Black men were 74, 75 cents to a White male’s dollar. Less than the Constitution’s original 3/5ths valuation.

I began to ask another question but King shook me off.

MLK:  “The issues facing our country are deeper than simply race–though race is certainly not simple. The issue of color is interwoven with economics and economics affect more than just people of color. It affects the White woman and her children who live in a holler without clean water, or no water at all, the laborer whose pensions have been destroyed by the upper class even as the upper class generates enormous amounts of money for itself, the government worker who no longer has the right to collective bargaining, the middle class who struggle to pay exorbitant college tuition. I could continue.

ME:  “You seem pretty up to date on what’s taking place here.”

MLK:  “I have plenty of time on my hands.”

ME:  “So if you were able to return would you still be as committed to non-violence given everything you just described?”

MLK:  “Absolutely. Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. It doesn’t require murder. A society formed from blood inevitably leads to more blood. We need nothing else than to look at history for confirmation.”

ME:  “Most people don’t believe this world capable of non-violence. To use your words, ‘we need nothing else than to look at history for confirmation.'”

King smiled.

MLK:  “You’ve lost your nervousness. Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

ME:  “You didn’t have a chance to climb the stairs.”

MLK:  “The assassination just strengthened my belief that a society built upon blood never leaves that blood behind–which makes it so important that change is engendered non-violently.”

Dr. King stood and I popped off my chair.

MLK:  “I’m not interviewed much these days. Thank you.”

ME:  “Are you kidding? This was an honor.”

MLK:  “No, my friend, it was just an interview.”

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
Martin Luther King