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Friday, April 7, 2017

Barry's Original Coming Out Message

Okay you guys, what I’m about to share will shock men everywhere and likely, break a lot of women’s hearts too. For years, I’ve represented myself as a macho pop star. A guy’s guy. A manly man. But the truth is…wow, this is really hard to say. C’mon Barry, you can do it! Deep breaths. Oh my gosh, I’m sweating. Gross. Okay, okay. Here goes nothing…I’m…gay. I know, right? It’s like hearing Clint Eastwood is gay. Or Chuck Norris is gay. But it’s true, you guys. I am. Have been for, like, ever. Brace yourself ladies because I’m married too. To my manager, Garry. Please don’t cry. I never meant to lead you on, but the truth is, while you thought I was busy slaying chicks or repairing my pickup truck or karate chopping cinderblocks, I was actually telling my plastic surgeon, Jeremi with an “I”, to give me the “Chipmunk stuck inside a wind tunnel”. That’s right, this isn’t my real face either. I’ve had a little work done—but only to my cheeks…and eyes…and nose…and chin…and forehead. But that’s it! Promise. I know, this is a lot to take in. One minute you’re under the impression that I’m just this fantastically talented, manly megastar with perfectly natural looks and then pow! You hear, “Barry Manilow is gay” and suddenly your world is turned upside-down.

I would have come out sooner but I didn’t want to disappoint my legions of fans around the world. Apparently everyone is totally fine with openly gay artists, and has been for years. Who knew? Not this Silly Billy. Garry and I don’t do much internetting or newsman watching.

Oh man. What a relief! It feels good to finally let you guys in on my big secret. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to my Baby Grand to rewrite “Mandy” the way it was supposed to be—“Andy”.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Real Cost Of That Fancy Bar Mitzvah

Sometime between the cocktail hour and the four-course dinner, the noise blasting through the floor-to-ceiling amplifiers and jostling for food became too much. I needed some fresh air, so I grabbed my kappa maki, prepared just moments earlier by the on-site sushi chef, and headed towards the refurbished freight elevator. This was the trendy downtown loft space where The Benji Goldstein Bar Mitzvah extravaganza was in full swing. I began to snake my way through the DJ’s chorus line of professional dancers, a crowd of kids surrounding a magician and another mob anxious for their fake tattoos. Then, I had to get past long lines forming behind a caricature artist and photo booth. I felt like Andy Dufresne on his way out of Shawshank when my eleven-year-old daughter excitedly approached me, riffling through a monogrammed party favor bag. “Dad, check out this candy box!” she eagerly announced.  “Oh look, a snow globe, and a S'well water bottle, and personalized flannel pajama bottoms!” I forced a smile, but the lure of fresh air and some quiet, away from the 10-piece orchestra, made feigning enthusiasm tougher than usual.

A block away, I could still hear the muted reverberations of KC and the Sunshine Band as I mulled over a conversation I’d had earlier that day. A dear friend revealed that she’d be sending her five-year-old daughter to a public school (not a Jewish day school, as expected) realizing there was no way she could afford the $20,000 annual tuition bill. To the school’s credit, this figure was discounted from the usual $30,000 tuition bill. Even so, it was too expensive for a single mom, so a public education would have to do.

It’s a narrative that’s become all too familiar. Parents who appreciate the value of their children being immersed in a Jewish social life, tradition, culture, history and literature, but simply cannot afford the cost. And make no mistake, a modern orthodox lifestyle comes at a hefty cost. Between exorbitant school fees, housing in “Jewish neighborhoods”, summer camp fees, Kosher food (especially during Passover), High Holiday seats and so on, a couple must earn at least $250,000 per year (that’s the top 3 percent of earners in this country) to remain members of the club. For single parents, the financial burden is even more crushing. As for wanting to retire at a reasonable age, take a vacations or make those necessary home improvements, forget it—unless, of course, your family has the means to make these issue disappear. But I digress.

Some have turned to Hebrew-immersion charter schools, deciding that Hebrew language and culture education (despite it not being a Jewish education) is a viable secondary option. The effectiveness of these schools in keeping kids connected to their Jewish identities remains to be seen, but given the dearth of available options, the outcomes can hardly be criticized. 

So there I was, taking a breather from a $50,000 celebration of a Jewish milestone—complete with replica metallic Star Wars figurine centerpieces— when the imbalance of it all struck me hard. As a capitalist, my instincts are to support people spending their money as they see fit. As someone concerned about Jewish continuity, I realized my capitalist approach leaves many Jewish kids behind. Kids who are no less predisposed to leading proud Jewish lives and representing themselves and their communities in a positive light. Religious identity should never come down to “Haves vs. Have Nots” but clearly, it has.

With intermarriage steadily rising, along with Jewish day school fees, we have a choice: Enjoy top grade sushi at a Bar/Bat Mitzvah that costs more than the average American earns in a year, or help a Jewish kid stay Jewish. We may have to contend with less impressive parties, but at least there’ll be more of them to attend.

This kid has the right idea.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ladies and Gentleman, We're Commencing Our Decent

I flipped the page of my son’s storybook and asked him to read the next line out loud. He refused, so I begrudgingly read it for him, “You get what you get and you don't get upset” it read. This was the mommy character’s response to her entitled little shit-of-a-daughter, Pinkalicious, demanding yet another pink cupcake. “Thank goodness” I thought to myself, “finally that doormat-of-a-mother decided that negotiating with cupcake-obsessed terrorists was a bad idea.” Her words reminded me of a different phenomenon happening now. One where its the adults, not the children, being told “You get what you get and you don't get upset”.

Recently Delta announced its latest “innovation” called Basic Economy. You know, for those who believe Economy isn’t quite basic enough? The alleged motivation behind this new sub-class is to compete against ultra low cost carriers. So Delta has decided to roll out even more discounted fares, which aren’t eligible for any sort of ticket changes (even for a fee), won’t allow advance seat assignments, and don’t allow carry-on bags either. So this low-cost option is out of the question for couples or families who want to be assured they'll sit together when flying. Also, because anyone not flying on a Basic Economy ticket has the right to arrange a seating assignment in advance, in all likelihood the passengers traveling on the cheapest tickets will be stuck in the worst seats on the plane. So those with insufficient means will indeed get what they get, and if they get upset…they know where the airplane door is. Oh, it gets better too, because those nefarious, mustache-twirling villains at Delta must’ve gathered to discuss how they could take a horrible idea and make it even worse. That’s when Delta decided to cut elite benefits on Basic Economy fares even further, by making them ineligible for complimentary upgrades. This isn’t just a Delta initiative either. Other big airlines consider Basic Economy such a good idea that they’re following suit. So you know what, forget what I wrote earlier about Basic Economy simply being a way of poaching Spirit or Frontier customers. The truth is, airlines are just squeezing more money out of each customer by essentially “threatening” them with no seat assignments. Carriers can simultaneously take your privileges away while pointing to your Basic Economy seat—which just so happens to be crazy glued to the godamn wing of the plane. This feels like part of a broader zeitgeist shift in which “we the people” must function at the whims of executive orders and corporate edicts without so much as a peep.  

Welcome to the “you get what you get” era. Feel free to leave your rolling suitcase behind, along with your dignity.