June 2008

To the Editor:

After a career in public service, I regretfully say, I would not do it again.

Philosophy and point of view led me to doing good instead of doing well, so I never expected to become rich. But now that I’m in my 10th year of a frozen judicial salary — less than summer students are being paid at law firms — I have concluded that whatever I may have accomplished for the public, I have wasted 25 years of my life by serving on the bench.

Emily Jane Goodman
New York, June 23, 2008

The writer is a New York Supreme Court justice.



Early man had to understand their dreams too. Without the evolved and evocative language of today. Without paintbrushes or water colors, or camera’s — their dreams haunted them. early man took to the walls of their caves, processing this world that is beyond all of us. 









In the search for meaning, in the long drives through the desert – ducking between dunes and camels and downed soviet cargo planes, with the sun that always seems to set, and the sudden and bright changes of the landscape where moments ago there was nothing; there are the endless streams of blurred neon lights – all anxious to sell us something, make there presence me know, illuminate the darkness. The darkness here being more metaphoric that we care to let on, but there are stars in the skies here; they twinkle when they can, and most of us watch them. We think, or wonder, or dream, or speak on, gas planets and the exploding cosmos, and we begin to conclude – this is what makes us human.


There are equalizers here, this is the desert. A fine place to renounce. Renounce faith, or wealth, or friends and family, it is the ultimate in the ascetics. It is a dreary spooky silence there, where there is only sand. But this is so easily lost, so easily forgotten in a few kilometers and a few robotic R&B pop songs later. And where there is nothing there is this, but this is human too, this is our own sort of temple to the essential characteristics of what separates us from our primate cousins. We have been with the naïve primates deep in the jungles of Namibia. We loved when those cute little things inspected us, as something they understood to be similar, though decidedly less hairy; because those monkey wanted their children to see us, not because of the linens, but because they understood that we were related, but we are humans and they are monkeys, and Adam Smith thought about that sort of thing all the time, and concluded the defining element of man was our proclivity to truck, barter, and trade.


We are merchants. We are consumers. We are passively engaged in the market almost every moment of every day; except when we are there, way out there in the desert. Far away from the camels and the cars, the marketplace drifts away like the shifting dunes. And then we cease to be human. But before we are there, we are here: Dubai. A modern Babylon, confused and opulent, godless and deeply faithful, but above all; above being the center of the world, the center of private concentrations of wealth, this is a city of temples to our deepest desires. They stand in the desert, cooled and designed to maximize foot traffic – of course that this is the mall. Any mall anywhere, this is the mall. But these malls are different than the malls of southern California, or of Vermont, or of Alabama. They are different because they do not seek to distract from the realities of suburban life. They are not refuges of branded goods like they could be in India or Argentina. These malls are the celebration of what it means to be alive. They are our definition. They are this and only this, and this is only us; and we are only human; and humans are only that.


We may be more than this, but only in our finer moments, and the difference between the customer and seller is only the difference between the sides of the one Dirham coin.


Let this idea wash over us. Let the Brazilian tongs mush against the Israeli tomato inside of the Indian wok. Let the car with parts from around the world that gets assembled in Mexico before shipped out the United Arab Emirates be understood as the beginning of our fundamental connection to everyone and everything. Let this begin to fuse the seems of the intrinsic connection that every action, every marketplace transaction, every personal interaction is what this world is. Nothing more. Nothing less.


So there are the liberal arts students who talk about multinational corporations being profit seeking and nothing else. But there are the top Indian graduates who want tnothing more than a secured three year contract when they get out of school with the various Microsoft campus’s throughout their country. The nucleus around which we orbit is the same. it is the spirit; it is the essence; and beyond that is undefined.


Today we were in the Mall Of Emirates. And so was everyone else. It is very hot, and very glaring and white. And we ate at Paul, our favorite little bakery near the St. Germaine; but it isn’t a little neighborhood bakery. It is a global enterprise that commodifies our croissants and pours a nearly perfect restrictor. We thought it was funny, to be there or to be here; with the same good bread. But that couldn’t be that funny, because by now we should be okay with things like this. Today we had some company and we flicked around the big pink pages of the newspaper; but mostly we wondered about everyone and if they were all as happy as us. They must have been – this is the zenith of our existence.




 I remembered the way a phantom pilot had talked about how bueatiful the surface-to-air missiles looked as they drifted toward his plane to kill him, and remembered myself how lovely .50-caliber tracers could be, coming at you as you flew at night in a helicopter, how slow and graceful, arching up easily, a dream, so remote from anything that could harm you. It could make you feel a total serenity, an elevation that could put you above death, but that never lasted very long. 

                    — Michael Herr, DISPATCHES




Oh good morning – good morning our only friend, good morning Bonsai tree. We slept under your budding branches last night and dreamt of an fresh water lake trapped underneath miles of ice in Antarctica, we dreamt of desert sickness and feared there was a worm alive inside of us, one that had grown to grotesque proportions, and then we dreamed about a tree, not you Bonsai; it was a sad sort of tree, but there was not to much gravity and we could leap from sad and miserable branch to sad and miserable branch. But we woke up, and we saw you, and our back felt good because we slept on the floor. We felt lean this morning, lean like twisted trunk – we felt lean and energetic, like your newly budding branches.


It is good time to be slow, this early, and so there is only soft music, and tea, and a water bucket. We give you a good cold drink. Long, lengthy, languid, lavish, and filled with love. You were dying when came to rent a bed in this eight floor condo with perfect appliances. You were dying when we stood on the balcony and watched the golf course emerge in the sunrise with a sprinkler system and sand traps, but it took a while to pay attention. You (Bonsai) would have died, but we watched that golf course, and thought how stupid it was that there were sprinklers, but we did not think too much. The line up of sports cars was below us, and the parade of women hopping in and hopping out, and then there was a trip, and then a book, and suddenly there was only you.


So it is slow, and this is early, and your grayish horned roots dig deeper than the pot allows, but we let it flood. Till the pot runs over and we feel you gasping, and we look at every branch, and take our scissors and clip the little dead growths, and we pet those broad leaves up top. And if it is not to early we will sing something we pretend to be a hymn, but ends of sounding more like a chant. You are good tree bonsai.




* Shorty is a mets fan

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