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I grew up being told that Real Men don’t cry.

So I am definitely not a Real Man.

My wife likes to tease me about how often I cry .  She says it dismissively, as if to say she isn’t going to worry too much about my state of mind just because there are tears streaming down my cheeks.

She’s not wrong.  Recently I cried three times in one day.  The first was while listening to a news report on NPR about a young American man who was being released in a coma after being held captive in Korea for two years.  He tragically died soon after he arrived back home.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine the mixed emotions his parents are experiencing.

The second was a story in the newspaper about a baby that was born unable to breathe on his own.  His mother would not accept that fate and insisted on several operations that even the doctors said were useless.  Years later, this young man was graduating from medical school and I cried tears of happiness.

Later that day, I was talking to my friend Jenny at Cafe Ristretto, her coffee shop and wine bar in Mount Vernon, about the mural that we are creating in my mother’s honor as part of our Rachel’s heART program.  I recounted that my Rachel lived through the Holocaust, never really had an education or much of a teen hood, started painting in her 80’s, and even sold one of her works at a LaConner gallery.

When I got to the part that my Mom died two years ago…..Jenny could see it coming and I started to lose it and couldn’t finish my story.

I walked outside to gather my composure and managed to get it together enough to go back in and tell Jenny the rest of Rachel’s amazing story—how she is smiling in heaven now knowing we are creating a wonderful work of art in my home county celebrating the contributions immigrants and refugees have made to making this a great country.

This is the second year that we are offering Rachel’s heART to teens at the Oasis Shelter in Mount Vernon.  It’s an art therapy program that encourages them to find creative ways of dealing with many of the challenging issues in their young lives.

We raised $2500 through a crowd funding program online which will help pay for the course and the subsequent mural.

The incredible Benjamin Swatez will teach the course again and the following week he will start on a very large mural on the huge wall on the south side of Cafe Ristretto facing the US Bank parking lot.

Ben has done art therapy with Syrian refugees in Amman, Jordan through Voices of the Children, a wonderful organization based in Mount Vernon.   The collaboration between Skagit kids and Syrian kids has resulted in a beautiful mural at Skagit College and an amazing one at the refugee camp in Jordan.  Ben has done art therapy with child sex slaves and child soldiers in Africa, and recently finished another big mural in Santa Cruz, California.

With the cooperation of the Mayor, the town business association, the bank and the coffee house, we are going to have a beautiful mural celebrating the likes of Albert Einstein, the Hollywood moguls, and the immigrant farmers and the migrant farm workers who have played such a significant role in the beauty and economy of the Skagit Valley.

Yesterday I got an email from a close friend who grew up in Mount Vernon but now lives in Denver.  He told an old high school friend about the mural and his friend went to the Oasis shelter to see what he could do to help.

When he saw the size of the wall, he got together with a buddy and offered a fork lift for the week as a donation.   More tears of joy!!!

I can’t even begin to imagine what emotions will be running through my heart and mind when the mural is finished but the word sob comes immediately to mind!

Father Treacy

How many times have we heard that age is just a number?

I used to consider that just a tired old saw and an irrational rationalization.

But I’ve become a true believer.

Last year I turned 70 and felt even better than I felt at age 47.

My hero Bob Skeele turned 90 recently and is still creative and warm-hearted and romantic and a beacon of light and wisdom in our community.

My new best friend Father William Treacy turned 98 last week and he celebrated with close friends and gave a beautiful speech that was heartfelt and reflected his incredible values. Father has inspired me to double down on my modest contributions to make the world a safer place for people no matter their country or their color or their spirituality.

I just saw a picture on the internet of National Basketball Association legend Jerry West at age 79. He’s even more handsome that he was back in the day as a player when I interviewed him as a young sports writer after a Knicks-Lakers game. He’s a highly respected basketball executive and now my Los Angeles Clippers have lured him away from the Golden State Warriors to raise their game to a higher level.

We all know that fate has a fickle finger and we can round a corner and get struck by lightning or get run over by a bus. Or have a little thing pop up on our chest that turns out to be malignant and shorten our life span.

Losing my older brother the day before his 59th birthday was the greatest tragedy of my life. He contracted some weird virus in the Army—my two smart Harvard educated nephews think it might have been an Agent Orange type of thing.

But the lesson is to wake up every morning, count your blessings for the time you have on this planet and marvel at the all of the amazing things that had to happen, be it black holes or a big bang, to make us as far as we know the most intelligent life in a vast universe.

We can give thanks to God or Yahweh or Mohammad or Jesus or Buddha or Jehovah or just plain cosmic coincidence but let us be mindful of Father Treacy’s teachings and respect all forms of life on a very special planet.

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They like to call me a gypsy because I move around a lot.  I reply that I’m a Bedouin because I like a nice tent.

They like to say I’m ADD because I’ve got ants in my pants and can’t sit still.  I’ve never really had a good rejoinder to that.

Until now.  Wait for it, because this is a colossal epiphany, world shattering in it’s implications.

ADD, for Attention Deficit Disorder, is inherently pejorative.  A disorder?  No, I do not have a disorder.  I am a Hunter-Gatherer!!!

I read an amazing book about evolution entitled Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari.  He makes a big point about how agriculture had a huge effect on Homo Sapiens, creating a much more sedentary lifestyle and changing the way the brain developed in certain ways.

My brain never took that evolutionary turn and I continue to hunt and to gather.  For instance, I love shopping at Costco.  You laugh, but I love motoring down those huge aisles, looking for I don’t know what because the stock is different every time and you never know what delightful bargain will pop up.

I love driving.  When I got my driver’s license at age 17, I knew my life was dramatically changed.  It’s about the only time I can sit still for a long period of time because the scenery around me is constantly changing and all of my senses are totally engaged.  I was a jaguar in a Jaguar.  OK, it was a Nash Rambler, but it still opened up new frontiers for me.

When I drive, I am watching the patterns of all the other drivers, looking for tendencies, looking for openings, watching out for weaknesses that could create trouble or opportunities for me.  Yes, the radio is on, but that’s just a soundtrack for my adventure.

I always take different routes because I don’t like routine and you never know what new opportunities will await you when you take the road not previously taken.  A park you didn’t know about, a cool house you’ve never seen before, a great little Mom and Pop grocery store.

Here’s what one expert says about this theory:

“The people that are covered by this theory have an ADD or ADHD personality. They do not have a disorder, but need to find their niche in our modern western society. A part of this adaptation is finding a career that suits their personalities and not, as is so often the case, fit themselves into a career considered a “good career” for the average individual.”

I found the perfect career for my particular personality.  As a filmmaker, every project is in a new place with new co-workers and very precise challenges.  The most difficult challenge for me personally is sitting still during the many pre-production meetings covering scheduling, props, wardrobe, etc.

The expert goes on to say…

“An important talent ADHD people have is the ability to hyperfocus. Hyperfocus is an intense form of mental concentration or visualization that focuses consciousness on something. It is like tunnel vision where the rest of the world is cut off, blocking out potential distractions. It is in this state that the ADD personality’s creative imagination is at work. Hyperfocusing can either be while thinking, or while engaged in some activity.”

My outlet was sports and that got me through high school.  I went from football to wrestling to baseball, then by the time I had walked home from a game or practice, I was pretty much exhausted and could at least had a chance to sit still long enough to do my homework.

When I’m filming, I am able to shut out the rest of the world and totally focus on the huge task at hand.   Bills don’t get paid, calls don’t get returned, even sports teams get ignored.  It was particularly a great challenge when I had five young kids, but fortunately I had a rock steady partner in that enterprise who kept the home fires burning whilst I was filming in Budapest or Zihuatanejo.

The great irony is that, as a television director, it’s very hard for me to sit still in front of the television.  It’s even harder to read a book but thankfully there are audio books that I can listen to in my car as I explore new horizons.

Of course I could never be a novelist but a column is the perfect length for my attention span.

As parents and teachers, it can be much more challenging to raise and school a kid like me, but it’s important to understand that it’s not a sickness and it’s not a disorder.  Yes, you can’t allow one or two kids to disrupt a class and destroy a planned lesson, but there are creative ways to channel that very active body and mind.

How about a stand-up desk for starters?  I listened to another great book with the premise that  “your chair is killing you”.  Let’s not assign such great value to stillness!

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Rachel

When I called my Mom to tell her that one of her paintings had just sold at a Gallery in La Conner, she was overjoyed.

Rachel was in her early 90’s and hadn’t started painting until she was in her 80’s.

Why?  A little thing called the Holocaust had basically robbed her of her childhood, especially in her teen years, when she was denied an education and had to heroically focus on getting all of the paperwork done to get her parents and younger brother the papers they needed to get to America before the scheisse hit the fan.

My mother’s heroics are documented in my Uncle Harry Rosenfeld’s wonderful memoire, From Kristallnacht to Watergate.  While Rachel had to help run her parents fur shop in New York, Harry, nine years younger, was able to finish his education and he eventually became Woodward and Bernstein’s editor at the Washington Post.

Rachel passed away two years ago, after having an incredibly productive life, and my siblings and I wanted to honor her life and legacy with an art therapy class for refugee kids.  I was introduced to a remarkable young man, Benjamin Swatez, who had just returned to the Skagit Valley from  the Za’atari Syrian refugee camp in Amman Jordan.

Benjamin has had a remarkable life for a man in his mid-thirties, having done trauma art therapy with child soldiers and sex slaves in Africa as well as kids in the slums of many Latin American countries.

Working with Voices of the Children, a non-profit organization based in Skagit Valley, Benjamin started designing a mural at Laventure Middle School in Mount Vernon and took it to Za’atari for those kids to finish and then reversed it, starting a mural in Za’atari that finished here in the Skagit Valley.  Those murals are now living in a museum in San Diego, California.

Last year, working through Voices of the Children, we launched Rachel’s heART at the Oasis Shelter in Mount Vernon and focused on trauma therapy through small art projects. My sister Janice and brother Peter and I used the last funds that Rachel left behind to fund the program.

After its resounding success, we decided to expand the program this summer which will result in a mural in downtown Mount Vernon celebrating the contributions that immigrants have made to this country, with tremendous support from Mayor Jill Boudreau and the Mount Vernon Downtown Association.

We are starting a fundraising drive this week through the Voices of the Children website, VOTChildren.org, and any contributions can be designated to Rachel’s heART and are fully tax deductible.

Mom was already smiling in heaven this week as the USO in Palm Springs created a poster including a picture of Rachel, a 90-year-old volunteer, putting a stitch in the 911 Flag that toured the country.  Rachel is now the Poster Child featured along with Bob Hope on a donated Mercedes Benz that is tooling around the desert.

An enduring mural in Mount Vernon celebrating the lives and contributions of immigrants like herself just may send her over the moon.

DONATE HERE: VOTChildren.org

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Okay, fasten your seat belts, because the gloves are coming off.

I don’t intentionally mix metaphors very often but here goes something:

I’ve delayed writing a column about the new President because I know that anything I write will scare off at least one-third of my readers.

And I was thinking that possibly Donald Trump cleverly created a character who would appeal to a large segment of Americans who were understandably sick and tired of the log jam in Washington and the Party Over Country mentality that has taken over the halls of Congress.

Also, I surmised that Trump, the former New York Democrat, Pro-Choice Clinton supporter would show his true colors after taking office.

WRONG!!!  This man is simply a clown and a bozo who will say anything he thinks his supporters want to hear.  He’s a salesman and he’ll look you in the eye and tell you how wonderful you are.  Behind your back, he will reveal his true feelings.

I held back even when he nominated an Education Secretary who doesn’t believe in public education, a Health Secretary who doesn’t believe in public health, and an Environmental Protection Agency Secretary who wants to dismantle the EPA.

But last week he did something that cannot be forgiven or even understood by anyone with a brain.  He claimed that President Obama ordered the Trump Tower to be wiretapped, which would have been a felony akin to Nixon bugging Democratic Headquarters.

He tweeted it early one morning, and would not reveal his sources.  He wouldn’t walk it back, even when nobody else in his own Administration would support his allegations.

The liberal press had field day after field day about this story, ad nauseam, as if there was nothing else happening in the World of any importance, such as events in the Middle East where Isis is on the run.  Trump stood by his story but would not give details.

Finally, confronted by German reporters after meeting with German Chancellor Merkel, he confessed that his source was a “very very smart lawyer” who presented the allegations early in the morning on Fox News Channel.

Turns out that very very smart lawyer is a crack-pot 9/11 Conspiracy nut, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who just happens to live at Trump Tower.  When asked to substantiate the allegations, Fox News wisely disavowed the story.

But Sir Donald still would not back down.  And to make matters much worse, Trump’s embattled Press Secretary erroneously implicated Great Britain as well, infuriating one of our oldest and greatest allies.

Now I am truly scared.   At the end of the day, what is the most important characteristic you want in the so-called Leader of the Free World?

Judgement!  You want the person who has the nuclear codes at his/her fingertips to have very good judgement.

What you absolutely do not want is a person who hears something from a questionable source and tweets a response that will alienate our enemies and even our friends. You don’t want someone who will over-react to unsubstantiated claims and, worse case scenario, send a nuclear bomb towards North Korea.

If Trump really had reason to believe that the Obama Administration illegally bugged the Trump Tower, all he had to do was reach out to the FBI or NSA or many other agencies that were a phone call away to find out if there was even a glimmer of truth to these charges.

But the President just could not control his impulse to Tweet and Tweet he did.  And now, when everyone in the World has said he was wrong, he will not cop to it and he will not apologize to the former President or the American public.

Why?  Because not only does he suffer from very poor judgement, but he also is the Poster Boy for Narcissism and Hubris.  He simply cannot admit a mistake.

I realize that none of this will bother his hard core supporters, the ones who are drawn to him because they are Steve Bannonites: racists nationalists,  anti-Semites,  and White Supremacists, or malcontents who blame the government for their own failures.  (And by the way, the only people on this continent who have a claim to truly belonging are Native Americans but I don’t see any Native brothers and sisters rallying around David Duke and his chums.)

I am optimistic by nature—recent trends to the contrary—and I’m hoping that those thoughtful independents who voted for him because they felt there had to be a change in the culture in Washington will now admit that this man is very very DANGEROUS and not just laughing stock.

I doubt he’ll be impeached, although there is a remote possibility that the Russian Connection or business conflicts of interest will give the Republican representatives who care about country more than party a reason to throw the bum out.

There’s even a chance he’ll get sick of all of this and step down.  He’s famous for delegating and I’m guessing he still loves the spotlight, but not all of the hard work and incredible responsibility that goes with the job.

More likely, he will stay in office, the midterm election in 2018 will further gridlock Congress, and the thoughtful Independents will have to figure out another way to change this incredibly destructive course we are headed down.

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It was a wonderful Chrisnukkah weekend!

I’d been dreaming of a white Chrisnukkah, and my dreams came true.  Soft snowfall, then ice, then slush, then slippery roads, one car towed out of a ditch and bone chilling cold—all totally worth it to wake up Christmas morning with blues skies and a blanket of white outside our house.

The theme for the Damski clan this weekend was a celebration of an Interfaith holiday.  This was only the fifth time in the last 100 years that the first day of Hanukkah fell on Christmas Day.  The next time it happens will be 2024.

That resonates well with a blended family with a very Jewish father and a very Catholic mother.

While my kids were still arriving from Los Angeles and Portland, my yearly Blues Jam for Kids got the weekend off to a rousing start Friday night—a great turnout upstairs at the Conway Muse, with wonderful local musicians backing up headliner Teague Kernan from San Francisco.

The event started early as Karaoke King Daniel Demann coaxed shy young singers up to the microphone. Three-year-old Natalie Wagner made her debut and bravely sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star into the mic.

And our very own Mayor Ramon Hayes played two incredible holiday solos on the piano.

Each guest brought an unwrapped gift for a kid up to 12 years old and these were delivered very early Saturday morning to La Conner’s Dick Nord and his 14 Santas at the Skagit Valley Gardens.

Their organization is called The Forgotten Children’s Fund and every Christmas Eve for many years they have been distributing gifts to kids all over Washington State.  This year’s volunteer Santas fanned out along the I-5 corridor and made deliveries to 137 families from Whatcom County to Everett.

This charity is unique in that it is operated entirely by volunteers and is part of a larger group that services about 700 families statewide.

Saturday evening we went to His Place Community Church in Burlington to enjoy upbeat Christmas music as guests of Ramon and Heidi Hayes.  Ramon, on piano, and Heidi, on bass guitar, are part of a fantastic band and they rocked  out in front of a full house of congregants who very much see Christ as a part of Christmas.

Sunday morning we opened presents and then Father William Treacy and Sister Emma, his caretaker, joined us for Christmas dinner.

My kids were blown away by how sharp Father Bill is at age 97.  He is still a master storyteller and we were on the edge of our seats hanging on every word.

When he was a young priest from Ireland in a strange land, the way he handled being away from his family for the holiday was to save a bunch of mail and open it on Christmas Day.  This year, he opened a letter from a very close friend named John who was now living in Bend, Oregon. Written on his deathbed, the letter started “If you are reading this, I’m in the arms of Jesus”.

They had been friends for 60 years, since the man, then Protestant, told Father he wanted to become a Catholic.  When the day came for the conversion, the man didn’t show up and disappeared.

Two years later, Father ran into him crossing a street and the man confessed that his parents were very upset and he couldn’t go through with it.

They became close friends nonetheless and stayed in touch all these years, even as the man moved from Seattle to Bend.  John did become Catholic and Father Treacy baptized his children.

Sister Emma also had our rapt attention as she told us a wonderful story.  She was born in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, to German parents.  Her father was drafted to join Adolph Hitler’s Million Man Army to invade Russia and he was captured immediately.  Hitler declared the thousands of his soldiers who were captured in Russia were of no consequence to Germany.  If you’ve read much Dostoevsky, you know what their lives were like in Siberia.

Young Emma settled in Garmisch Partenkitchen, near Munich in Bavaria.  One day an older, raggedy looking man with a beard, showed up at their house.  It turned out it was her father, who somehow miraculously escaped the Gulag and found his family.

He had been away more than 7 years, which meant his wife had the right to remarry, but she wouldn’t think of it, and in fact, she became pregnant again soon after they reunited.

When asked how he escaped and how he found his relocated family, he would only smile, taking his secret to the grave.

We dropped Father Bill and Sister Emma back at his house at the former Treacy-Levine Center by Lake McMurray.  It’s a little difficult for Father, and me as a board member of the Treacy-Levine Center, to see that the sign in front reads Camp Korey now, but we are also grateful that we sold to an amazing organization.

Camp Korey gives sick children an opportunity to have the best summer of their lives no matter what their affliction.

And Father Treacy will be allowed to continue to live there as long as he wants and continue to preach his message that people of different faiths and different backgrounds can find common ground as this past weekend proved in so many ways.

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A modern day diaspora is the American family, scattered to the winds.

The extended family has become so much more extended.

This becomes particularly clear at Thanksgiving and Christmas, when families try to reunite, against all odds.

Just doing an anecdotal survey of my own friends and acquaintances, I found a friend from La Conner whose daughter is in New Zealand, another friend originally from New Zealand  who now lives in California and has relatives everywhere from Auckland to Austin, Texas, many of my childhood friends from New York now living in Florida.

What happened to that It’s A Wonderful Life world I grew up in?  I grew up in Long Island, my parents had a jewelry store in walking distance from my high school, my grandparents lived in New York city, 20 miles away, my Uncle moved to New Jersey for a little breathing room but still was driving distance away from all family events.

Every Sunday my father’s parents from Manhattan picked up my mother’s parents in the Bronx and drove out to our house in the suburbs.  From Brooklyn came Uncle Izzy and Aunt Freida, from lower Manhattan came Aunt Fanny and Uncle Moishe.  The men played pinochle in the living room while the women crowded into the small kitchen preparing a brunch that would feed an Army.

Attendance was not required for my brothers and I, who were allowed to go out to play ball, as long as we hugged everyone coming and going.  My sister was drafted to be the hausfrau and dutifully served and helped to clean up.

This was a consequence of the great Jewish diaspora, and each one of those family members came from a different part of Europe and only us kids were American born.

But this was happening all over the United States, from the Manhattan to Mudville, where families lived in walking distance from each other and often passed family businesses down from one generation to the next.

Take my family now.  Please!  (Bad joke—couldn’t resist).

My brother lives and teaches in Savannah, Georgia, my sister is a realtor in Palm Springs, my nephews are in Florida and New Jersey and San Francisco and Palm Desert and Los Angeles.

My uncle and aunt live in Albany, New York, and their daughters, my cousins, live in Boston, Chicago and New York City.

My wife’s Grandfather was a lawyer in her home town of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  His two sons went into the family law firm and married a pair of sisters, whose parents owned the local hotel.

Their granddaughter still runs the law firm, but much of the family is scattered.  Atlanta, Santa Fe, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Los Angeles.

So what caused this great disbursement of the American Family?  Was it the availability of a college education that would not only lure kids away from where they grew up, but also present a world of opportunities that would make the family business less appealing???

Was it cheaper air travel?  I didn’t fly in a plane until I was 17 years old but my kids flew from Southern California to Martha’s Vineyard before they could walk.  My youngest son fell in love with New York City as a 10 year old and only applied to New York University when it came time to think about college.  His brother was nearby at Art School in Brooklyn.

Is it the American Dream, amplified as television and the internet came into our lives, letting us know that there is a world out there and we are welcome to it.  Seeing that my Uncle Harry barely escaped Nazi Germany and became the editor in charge of the Watergate investigation for the Washington Post must have helped encourage the crazy notion that a young reporter in New York could head out West to become a Hollywood director.

For all of these factors, people grew up with different expectations, Great Expectations.  The world was round and the old home town just didn’t have the same magnetic pull anymore.

So the Day Before Thanksgiving becomes the biggest travel day of the year and the Christmas break gets longer and longer as people have farther and farther to go to be with their loved ones.

Most of us would say it’s worth it, but just having spent two challenging visits to Los Angeles International Airport, I’m so happy to report that this year most of the Damski family will be spending Hanukah and Christmas in the Great Northwest!

For the rest of you, if you still live within driving distance of grandma and grandpa, or your kids and grand kids, enjoy your holiday and count your blessings.

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Maybe The Donald isn’t as crazy as some of us think he is.

In fact, maybe he’s crazy like a fox.

At this point he knows he’s going to lose and I’m guessing he’s totally fine with that.

He’s loved his time in the spotlight.  He loves knowing his name is being bandied about throughout the Wired World, even if much of the conversation is less than flattering.

Narcissus move over: Donald Trump is the new poster boy for attention seeking.

But it’s one thing to crave the spotlight, and a very different matter to actually serve in one of the most difficult and demanding jobs in the modern world:  waking up everyday to the responsibilities and constraints of being the President of the United States.

My guess is that it occurred to Trump that as the leader of the Free World, he would probably have to exercise a little more tact, if not outright diplomacy.   You might THINK it would be a good idea to limit the influx of Muslims and Mexicans, but you probably shouldn’t alienate millions of people around the world with such rash, xenophobic public statements.

I’ve been toying with a fun conspiracy theory that Trump all along wanted Hillary to win the election.  He’s supported her in the past, they haven’t been historically that far apart on policy, and maybe he thought Hillary would be a much better choice for America and for Big Business than Ted Cruz.

The Donald was quoted as saying in the 90’s that if he ever ran for office, it would be as a Republican because Republicans were so stupid.  Look it up!

He loves the spotlight and he saw an opportunity when about 20 other Republicans threw their hats into the ring, and he probably thought it’s a long shot, but what the hell!  It will make great television.

When the two most qualified candidates, Jeb Bush and John Kasich, didn’t POP on television, the race was blown wide open and Trump started to get the sense that he could actually win this thing.

He wasn’t wrong.  Early in the race, he actually had a fighting chance because he had a solid base of support and all he had to do was tone it down a bit knowing that his passionate supporters wouldn’t blame him for reaching out to more voters.

Instead, he went off the rails, acted like the class clown, constantly said things that were guaranteed to turn off women and minorities, and despite Hillary’s own weaknesses as a candidate, the Trump Express never left the station.

Then the evidence of his blatant misogyny started to leak out and I believe Trump made a decision: I’m not going to kowtow to the voters, I’m not going to listen to my handlers who want me to act more presidential, I’m going to be myself.

My guess is that when he really thought things through, moving into the White House really was incredibly prestigious but not really a job he was suited for.

The new theory going around is that Trump knows he’s going to lose and he is going to create his own Trump News Network which will be a great place for his disappointed followers to continue to vent their frustration that the American Dream just hasn’t worked in their favor.

I understand why there are so many disaffected Americans and I’m not surprised that Bernie Saunders garnered the support he got from those feeling that something radical had to be done to keep the already enormous income gap from getting even wider.

But I always thought it was ironic that blue collar Americans chose for their Washington Outsider a man who was born with many millions, doesn’t pay taxes, hires illegal aliens, outsourced many jobs, and has acted like an entitled spoiled rich kid his whole life.

All I can do is hope that four years from now, we will all have learned from this ludicrous spectacle that is damaging American’s reputation abroad.  Maybe this will be a wake-up call that we need to stop treating the political process as a sporting event and we need to elect moderate, sensible people who put Country over Party, so that we can actually have a Congress that is effectively looking after All Americans.

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Love my job but sometimes it requires tough sacrifices.

Unexpectedly, I find myself in Winnipeg directing a movie I’m very excited about.  But Monday was an important Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah—the eve of the year 5777 in the Jewish calendar, and it was the day of the first service to ever be held in our new Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Bellingham.

Turns out we were filming a few blocks from one of the biggest synagogues in Winnipeg that day and during our lunch break, I decided to make a short visit to the Shul to talk to God to give thanks for the wonderful life I am having and to say hello to my parents and grand-parents and older brother.

As I approached, there were some extremely decked out congregants just arriving and I felt a little schlumpy in my Levis and black short-sleeved Polo shirt (although it did have a collar!).

I approached a stout man in a yarmulke who was surrounded by uniformed Winnipeg police officers and I explained that I was filming in the neighborhood and just wanted to step inside to say some prayers and he told me I couldn’t go in.

He said that I wasn’t a member of the congregation and didn’t have a ticket.  A ticket!  He indicated the small group of bored off-duty cops behind him and said that for all they knew, I could be a security risk.

The cops looked embarrassed.  I mentioned that churches welcome all who want to worship there, and the fellow said, “Funny, it’s true, we’re the only ones who do this.”

Now I get that there have been some horrible attacks on synagogues around the world, and even one close to where my family in Los Angeles lives just a few years ago, and even our synagogue in Bellingham has a plainclothes security man.

But I also think there needs to be room for discretion and I would have gladly submitted to further interrogation and even spouted some Hebrew prayers and part of my Bar Mitzvah tora portion.

And as for the ticket, it is true that many non-observant Jews only attend services for these High Holy Days and for special events, and most congregations require that yearly dues are paid before getting tickets.

But again, discretion should be applied so that non-members and out-of-towners like myself are welcomed with open arms, lest we feel they are missing the point about what attending a place of worship is really about.

And then there was the issue of my casual clothing.  Maybe I would have been allowed in if I were wearing an expensive suit.

After being castaway, I texted my good friend, Gordon Sinclair, an award-winning columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press, to vent.  Gord was also uneasy with the ticket thing, and added “As for wearing jeans, I know what Jesus would say about that.  Another Jew who doesn’t have a ticket.”

As I walked back to the set, I remembered what I have often said:  “You can talk to God from anywhere!” and I took the opportunity of a beautiful fall day in one of my favorite cities to express my love for my family and friends and my gratitude for the wonderful life I am having.

As for the stout man in the yarmulke, hopefully he will have an epiphany and ask for forgiveness for his sinful behavior next week at Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement.

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As it’s the first week of the school year, I’ve prepared my essay on How I Spent My Summer Vacation:

Just as we were finishing up our new little house on Bow Hill, I decided that now was the time to get a dog. A retriever, of course, one that I can play ball with.

I told my good friend Dr. Jerry Eisner that my only hesitation was that as soon as I got a dog, I’d get a job and then who’s going to watch the new addition when I’m off shooting a movie in Schitt’s Creek or wherever.

Jerry, with his usual wisdom, says “Wouldn’t you rather have both (a job AND a dog) than neither!”

A few visits to the Skagit and Whatcom shelters and of course NOAH, but no perfect matches. Too many onerous declarations on their cages that this dog doesn’t get along with people or cats.

Then the phone rings and it’s a producer friend and he wants to know if I’m available RIGHT AWAY to direct a Hallmark Movie in Canada. He’s based in Vancouver and that’s convenient and what the hey, sure I’ll do it.

Oops, no crews available in Vancouver, now known as Hollywood North, so off I go to Ottawa, where they’ve put together an inexperienced but eager local group with some imports from Toronto.

My leading lady is Ashley Williams, who is also the co-executive producer with her husband Neal Dodson. They are a dynamic duo, and they have this adorable toddler named Gus.

Now you’ve all heard tales of directors falling in love with their leading lady, but I fell in love with her kid. Gus is the most curious little man I’ve ever met and we hit it off instantly. Probably out of respect to my age, he immediately dubbed me “The Man” and this kid isn’t even two years old yet.

I would carry Gus around and he would point at objects and say “What’s that?” and I would say what it was, “a green truck” or “a dishwasher” and he would repeat the word back to me.

Ashley and Neal told me that when we were apart, Gus would often say “where’s Mel?”, and we would sometimes Skype each other when I was on set with his Mom and Dad and Gus was back at the condo with Michael, his nanny.

Ashley’s mom was played by Marilu Henner, who is one of the most interesting people I have EVER met. If you think this is hyperbole, check out her piece on 60 minutes: she is one of the very few people on the planet who have total recall of every day of their lives.

“Okay, September 5th, 1959, what day of the week was that?”, I ask. Marilu hesitates for three seconds and says “a Saturday”. And of course, it was a Saturday, it was one of the great moments in history—the day of my Bar Mitzvah!!!

This woman was unstumpable and I’m sure she knows unstumpable is not a word.
Oh, and she’s a terrific actress, and extremely recognizable going back to her days on the sitcom Taxi, and best of all, very gracious to all of the people who recognized her and approached her wanting to take a picture with her.

Ashley’s big sister Kimberly is married to country music star Brad Paisley who happened to be playing at the summer Bluesfest in Ottawa when we were there. As Brad’s guests, we got to hang out on the back of the stage while he performed for 25,000 adoring fans, talking to his Dad at times, taking photos, just loving watching a concert from a different perspective.

After an intense three-week shoot in the beautiful little town of Almonte, we had a wrap party and I got to hold my new best pal Gus Dodson again and was trying to make eye contact with him for an emotional goodbye for now, but Gus just kept looking over my shoulder at anything around us, asking “What’s that?” “A martini”, I would answer, or “An inebriated electrician”.

I jetted back to Vancouver on a very short post production schedule due to an upcoming October 1st airdate. And then I got to move into my new home on Bow Hill with the most amazing view of Chuckanut Bay and the San Juan Islands.

And now to find the perfect dog!

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You can watch Love on a Limb on the Hallmark Channel.

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