Opinion

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A couple at an immigration rally in Huntington Station in July 2018. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Imagine if your week’s paycheck were hung on a hook from a high ceiling, dangling there within sight but not within reach, all because your boss wanted something the rest of the company said he couldn’t have.

The federal government has not had a spending bill pass the House of Representatives for approximately three weeks, and for that stretch of time, hundreds of thousands have been furloughed, been sent home or have had to work without pay as of press time. That includes thousands of Transportation Security Administration officers at airports and air traffic controllers. 

It’s hard to estimate how many Long Islanders have been affected by the shutdown, but they are certainly out there. Recently, the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced it would provide free pet food to government workers who couldn’t afford it due to the shutdown. Long Island Cares, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit food bank, said Jan. 4 it was reaching out to federal employees affected by the shutdown to provide food assistance.

This is the third government shutdown in the past decade and the longest running. There are 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay because of the shutdown, and experts have said there may be a multiplier effect the longer the shutdown goes on, considering the family members of those government workers going without pay. The problem may even impact the larger local economy, harming businesses whose customers must cut back on spending, along with the tourism and travel industries with reports that thousands of TSA officers are calling out sick rather than work without pay.

This latest shutdown has been caused by a laser-targeted policy decision, namely $5.7 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S. and Mexico border. This policy has been near-singularly championed by one official, President Donald Trump (R).

Trump got on national television Jan. 8 to explain to the nation his reasoning on why the U.S. needs a border wall. He made a number of points that have already been fact checked by other news organizations, but suffice it to say he claimed, “The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: Because Democrats will not fund border security.”

This is simply untrue. Democrats put up a $1.3 billion funding bill for border security measures, including additional surveillance and more fortified fencing. The president would not sign it. It didn’t fund a 2,000-mile border wall.

And that’s what it comes down to — a wall — whether the U.S. will spend billions of dollars on a wall.

This is hostage politics. The Democrats in Congress simply won’t support a wall. The exact specifications for the wall aren’t even set down on paper, and the president is asking the American taxpayer to foot the bill for something immigration experts have outright said will have limited effect on border crossings.

Long Islanders should tell our representatives like U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to pressure the president to end this dispute, otherwise the effects of a government shutdown will only multiply.

As a country, we have gotten over shutdowns before, and we will get over this one, but while we at TBR News Media feel it is imperative that the border be policed, we believe in bridges, not walls.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I have no doubt “Alice,” which is not her real name, is a dedicated dancer. I haven’t seen her perform, I haven’t read reviews of a show or even seen a sparkling résumé with copious awards. I also have no way, just by looking at her, of recognizing whether her movements are so refined and controlled that she clearly expresses the majesty of music through movement.

How do I know about her talent? A recent family acquaintance, Alice is a senior in high school who is applying to college. When I asked about her essay, she generously shared it. As a condition for reading her work and writing about it, I agreed to allow her to remain anonymous.

The college application process forces young adults to distill their lives onto the lines of a page. They have the unenviable task of sifting through experiences, memories, hopes and aspirations as they try to figure out what to include and what to exclude.

The latter is perhaps more challenging. Most of us could tell stories about our lives, mentioning the day of the week, the time of year, the names of other people on a trip to New Zealand or the food we ate that day. Those details could be relevant if they indicate something specific about the writer, or they could provide a dense fog through which a reader struggles to find a truth, passion or personal meaning.

Tempting as it might have been for Alice to mention her dancing success or memorable performances, she excluded those details.

Alice honed in on a sensory experience linked to her practices, performances and passion for dance: the smell of her shoes. Indeed, the first line of her essay draws the reader into her world immediately, suggesting that she’s worried about the foul aroma of her shoes spreading through her car.

Beginning an essay with a sensory experience generates an immediately relatable experience, even among those of us who have never stood under hot lights on stage and contorted our bodies in carefully choreographed productions. Readers, whether they are admissions officers, high school teachers or contest judges, have all had moments when they worry a smell can give us away. It doesn’t have to be an unpleasant scent, as we may have cooked a surprise dinner for our partner and don’t want that person to know about it until mealtime.

Alice goes on to describe how the smell reflects the hard work, pain and beauty connected with her dancing. We all have seen the bright light moments when people perform, whether they’re dancing ballet, catching a ball on a Major League Baseball field or sharing a poem they’ve written.

These moments and concerns in between the performances occur more frequently and capture more about Alice’s inner thoughts and drive. The smell becomes an unpleasant but hard-earned badge of honor.

Alice goes on to describe how these shoes mirror her participation in a pursuit that requires her to reach a level of perfection she suggests the body doesn’t achieve naturally. She adds an awareness of the individual nature of the performance, coupled with the fact that she’s never alone, surrounded by others whose feet have the same smell.

Through descriptions like these, Alice is revealing fine details of what she’s doing, the by-product of the effort she exerts and the shared sense of purpose she has with her fellow dancers.

College essays require a mental perspiration akin to that which affected Alice’s shoes. Through those efforts, however, writers not only reveal more about themselves, but they also create lasting impressions for readers searching for evidence of commitment and passion.

Nancy Pelosi

By Leah Dunaief

This new year may come to be known as the Year of the Older Woman. That was my thought as I read The New York Times article by Jessica Bennett, “I am (an older) woman. Hear me roar.” The story goes on to cite Nancy Pelosi, Glenn Close and Susan Zirinsky, the newly named head of CBS News, among others, as examples of powerful women over 60 in the spotlight.

IT’S ABOUT TIME.

Pelosi survived a serious challenge to her leadership from the energetic freshmen Democratic members, to once again become speaker of the House of Representatives. That makes her the most powerful elected woman in the United States. Pelosi is 78. Long-serving Representative Maxine Waters (D-California), is the first woman, and incidentally the first African-American, to chair the Financial Services Committee. Waters is 80. Donna Shalala (D-Florida) is the oldest freshman in the House. Shalala is almost 78. 

Zirinsky, who worked at CBS in almost every conceivable news position for 40 years, is not being shunted into retirement. Instead she is now the first woman to head the prestigious news division. She is also the oldest person to hold that position. Zirinsky is 66. Glenn Close, regarded as an underdog in the best actress in a motion picture, drama category of the Golden Globes, beat out four younger women. Close, long a favorite actress of mine, is 71.

How much of this has been as a result of the #MeToo tsunami? Older men have long held power into their 70s and 80s. But some of them have been spectacularly toppled: Charlie Rose is 77 and Les Moonves, newly ousted from CBS Corporation, is 69. So age, of in itself, has not been seen as a barrier to power, but gender has. Those fallen men have vacated positions at the top that now can be filled by equally qualified women. Christiane Amanpour, who will be 61 this week, has replaced Rose on PBS. 

Gender coupled with age was always toxic for female advancement, but not in every culture. Native Americans, I believe I recall, would admit only post-menopausal women to the highest circles of power within their tribes. Slowly the rest of our country seems to be realizing the value of older, and presumably wiser, women for positions of leadership. This is most encouraging for the women over 50, of whom there are more than at any time in our U.S. history. And why shouldn’t they have the same opportunities at leadership and power as men? They are healthier, working longer and earning more than ever.

Well, in fact, it seems like they are advancing. In the words of Susan Douglas, a professor of communications at the University of Michigan, according to The Times, “a demographic revolution” is occurring. 

More women are working into their 60s and beyond, and are being appreciated for their talents and experience. In the late 1980s, some 15 percent were still working. Today it is nearly one-third of those 65-69. Those 70-74 and working have jumped from 8 percent to 18 percent. The Times article goes on to point out that working longer is more common among women with higher education and savings. Presumably some are in the workforce by choice and are valued there.

This all reminds me of an exchange that occurred shortly after we started The Village Times, our first newspaper, in 1976. I was 35-years-old, with more gray hairs than now, and hiring staff, when a man came to interview for one of the positions. 

After a positive conversation in my office, I was about to hire him when he paused, then asked, “Are you the boss?” When I told him that I supposed I was, he looked confused, then explained, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize. I couldn’t work for a woman boss.” With that he stood, picked up his coat and hurried away. I didn’t even know enough then to be flabbergasted.

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We, the taxpayers of Suffolk County, believe that as a whole we’ve been pretty good in 2018. Many of us have been busy working long hours, sometimes in multiple jobs, to make ends meet and provide for our families given the high cost of living on the Island. Suffolk police report violent crime and hate crimes are down — we’ve been doing our best to behave. 

This holiday season we’re asking you, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), to double, no, triple check the list we know you’ve been diligently drafting up in Albany as to who’s been naughty or nice. We understand that you have nearly 20 million residents to look out for, but we have a holiday wish list we’d like you to consider before announcing your budget for the 2020 fiscal year: 

● Increase state aid to our public schools. School taxes make up the largest portion of our property tax bills. President Donald Trump’s (R) Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is about to hit this April, which limits homeowners to a $10,000 deduction of their state and local property, income and sales taxes. By increasing school funding, it will hopefully help keep future school budget increases low. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. File photo by Erika Karp

● Consider proposals to reconfigure Long Island Power
Authority. Long Islanders pay among the highest rates in the Northeast for their electricity; and any reorganizational measures or changes that could bring relief would bring financial relief. 

● In the alternative, push through legislation that would
allow municipalities and school districts who lose a tax base from utilities, such as LIPA, to access reserved state funds to
offset the impact on Suffolk taxpayers. 

● Provide more state funding and grants for alternative
energy. Our environment is sensitive from being on an island, and increasing our renewable energy resources would help
ensure clean water to drink, safe land to live on and, hopefully, lower costs of producing electricity. 

● Lay out state funding for sewers on Long Island. Many of our downtown areas are hurting financially, as business districts are struggling to consider growth without sewers. In addition, providing grants to help homeowners with the costs of transitioning from old-fashioned cesspools to modern systems should improve the area’s water quality.

● Set aside more money to repave and reconfigure our heavily traveled state roadways, such as Route 25 and 25A. Driving along these congested roadways brings several perils, including large potholes, inadequate street lighting and sections that flood in heavy rainstorms. Funds could be used to re-engineer troublesome spots that repeatedly cause accidents and repave sections that are in disrepair. 

In addition, we understand that you have plenty of elves, your fellow elected officials, who can help enact changes and allocate funds to help make the rest of our holiday wishes come true: 

● Start construction on the Rails to Trails project from Wading River through Mount Sinai. The project is much anticipated, but some funding and consideration must be made for neighboring property owners who want privacy of their homes and yards. 

Sure, we have quite the holiday wish list this year. But we hope you can see the gifts we’re asking for will benefit all.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

As we marinate in the warmth of the holidays, we have a chance to spend time with friends and family.

We’ve chosen most of our friends ourselves. OK, maybe that’s not exactly true, as we inherit friends from our parents when we’re young: “Oh, why don’t you play with Timmy, who is the son of my best friend whom I met when I was your age”; and from our children when we’re older: “Hey, dad, can you hang out with Allisa’s parents while we wander through Great Adventure theme park.”

Despite the somewhat limited pool of people from which to choose our friends, we often pick those people who share similar values, a sense of humor or a tolerance for politicians.

We don’t have the same luxury with our families. We have nutty family members who say and do all kinds of things that make us cringe, that cause us to laugh long after the events are over or who simply make us scratch our heads.

We often think it’s the other family members who are the oddballs but, in truth, we’re all pretty strange.

Long before people voted each other off shows or islands in situations that seemed completely contrived in reality TV shows, family members confronted the awkward moments when they saw each other, year after year, at holidays, birthdays, special occasions and, perhaps, uncomfortable or less-than-ideal moments.

Families provide us with opportunities to test ourselves and our theories without worrying about losing a job, losing a friend or losing our minds. We can challenge ourselves and our families with ideas percolating in our heads, but that may not be exactly what we believe.

Our families receive the best and the worst of our impulses, as we step forward to help each other, but also encourage independent growth and development.

As older members of families, we hope to lead not only by our words but by our examples. Failing that, however, we hope that our spouses, children, parents and siblings can see us for the range of our contributions to the family, and not just for that ignominious moment that we’d just as soon forget.

Families offer reality checks on the myths we create for ourselves. “No, Dan, you didn’t win that horseback-riding ribbon because you had such a great ride. You fell off the horse and the judges felt sorry for you when you landed in horse manure. Good try, though.”

These moments when families hold up mirrors to us can help ground us, keeping us from becoming too proud or mighty. On the other side, however, when we’re feeling down, families can serve as the perfect counterweight, suggesting that we have succeeded in more difficult circumstances and that they are certain of a positive outcome, even if we harbor significant doubts.

Movies about families often run the gamut of emotions, from slapstick, to comical, to serious and even bruising, as rivalries that run amok can become the origin of dysfunction even when we step away from these familial contacts.

Certainly, therapists often start and end with the family dynamic, drawing an understanding of habits we may not know we have until we look back at the lives and roles that brought us to this point.

At their best, families can inspire and encourage, while suggesting that we can and should believe in ourselves while we pursue our goals. Ultimately, families who demonstrate unconditional love and support, even if they do laugh at us periodically, set the kind of example that makes the accomplishments of the next generation possible. Here’s to everything we give, get and laugh about from the people we call family.

TBR News Media held a free screening of its first feature film, 'One Life to Give,' at the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University in June. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Leah Dunaief

By Leah Dunaief

The end of the year has snuck up on us. Have you noticed that the pace of the passing years seems to have accelerated? This is our last regular issue for 2018, and it seems fitting to take a bird’s-eye look at where we’ve been and what lies ahead.

Most immediately coming are the next two issues of special note, that of Dec. 27 and Jan. 3. The first is People of the Year, and we call it our only all-good-news issue. This is the 43rd year we are honoring outstanding residents for going that extra mile and thereby helping to make our hometowns the special places they are. In doing so, they quietly elevate the quality of our lives.

We solicit nominations for this issue from you, our readers, community leaders and neighbors. The editorial board meets with focus groups in the last quarter of the year over breakfast or lunch to discuss nominees and to further inform us of what is happening here, sometimes quietly, sometimes not so much. It is a treat for us to interact with the community on such a pleasant mission. We also get suggestions via emails, texts, phone calls and even an occasional petition; our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts are available, too.

We then take those names back to our conference room and amid lively discussions, select those whose stories we print in the People of the Year issue. Sometimes the ones that don’t fit become feature stories we run in the new year. I have been told that there are collectors who have all 43 issues. What a shelf life!

The second, the Year in Review, is new this year and is done in pictures in a kind of Life magazine treatment. It is on special white stock to help enhance the photo reproduction and is in full color. Life magazine — for whom I worked when in my early 20s and is no more — eat your heart out! A chronology of the way we were, we suspect that it, too, will have a long shelf life. 

Some special offerings of this past year certainly should include our first full-length movie, “One Life to Give,” which was screened in June at the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University to a full house of more than 1,000 viewers. The story follows the early years of the Revolutionary War, specifically through the lives of Nathan Hale and Benjamin Tallmadge, and the start of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring that was headquartered in Setauket. 

I am pleased to be able to tell you that we have filmed a sequel, called “Traitor,” that takes place four years later. It is now 1780, and with great luck the Patriots have captured British spymaster, John André. Again Tallmadge is central to the plot that reveals the discovery of Benedict Arnold’s betrayal and the ultimate fate of André. It will be screened in the spring and you will all be invited.

Another first for us this past year was the Cooks, Books & Corks event at the Bates House off Main Street in Setauket. Many local authors came with their books for sale, and many local restaurants came with their specialties for tasting on a sweet summer evening. There was wine and unending good food for both the body and the mind. Our engaging headline speakers were Guy Reuge from Mirabelle Restaurant, internationally famous naturalist Carl Safina and the inspirational dean of the School of Journalism at SBU, Howard Schneider. The event raised money to fund a journalism intern next summer. In answer to the many times we have been asked, yes, we are planning to do it again.

A new print offering this past year was the sleek Washington’s Spy Trail booklet. In 1790, Washington took a slow, ceremonial coach trip along what is now 25A, from Great Neck to Port Jefferson, to honor the Setauket spies who had contributed so much to the victory of the colonists. The booklet marks the route, which this year sports road signs, with information about various points of interest along the way. We will again be publishing the story with updates.

I am running out of space, but there was a lot more that we innovated this past year with much more to come in 2019. Meanwhile thank you for your participation. We could not do any of this without you.

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Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset is the only state-supported school in Suffolk County for more than 50 preschool children who are deaf or profoundly hearing impaired. It has become apparently clear to us the state assistance it does receive doesn’t seem to be nearly enough.

As a parent pointed out, Cleary’s full-time students ages 3 to 7, despite being young, are keenly aware that they are different from their peers. While facing the challenges of learning how to overcome hearing loss, often in combination with visual impairments and other disabilities, they are separated from peers.

This is a classic case of separate but not equal. Cleary School for the Deaf was forced to take down its 30-year-old wooden playgrounds and has taken to GoFundMe to raise the money needed to replace them.

Young children have a natural desire to want to run, jump and play outside. A playground provides them with the opportunity  not only to get exercise and build gross motor skills as they try to negotiate the monkey bars, but a chance for social interaction as well. In taking the risk of asking another child to play, they learn how to negotiate making friends and, unfortunately, deal with rejection. It can also be a chance to be creative by playing make believe.

Parents researching various preschool and kindergarten programs have every reason to want to know what activities and resources will be available to their children — including what opportunities will be available for play.

Katie Kerzner, principal at Cleary, said she’s already faced the difficult questions from parents such as “Will my preschool or kindergarten-aged child have the same opportunity as those at public schools? The opportunity to play on a playground?”

The answer, we all know, should be an unequivocal “Yes.” Unfortunately, the future isn’t so clear. The state-supported school’s staff say enrollment has boomed in the last five years and state aid isn’t keeping up.

Parents of Cleary’s students have launched a GoFundMe campaign in an effort to raise the funds necessary to build a playground. In addition, the school hosted fundraising breakfasts and raffles while local businesses and community members have stepped forward to help, but it’s not yet clear if their fundraising efforts will be enough.

New York State officials need to get on this, provide support and do more. It’s not right to have children who already feel different as they fight to overcome disabilities left out on a fundamental part of growing up.

Our Long Island schools, both public and state-supported, need to receive their fair part of state funding. It’s a battle cry we hear from teachers and school administrators at the start of every budget season in January. This time, we’re sounding the rally cry early for Cleary and its students.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Old school. It’s a phrase that suggests someone, like yours truly, does something one way, even if there might be an easier, more efficient or modern alternative method for doing things.

Take reading a book. My teenage children think nothing of doing their assigned reading for classes on electronic devices.

That just doesn’t work for me. For me, reading has
always been a multisensory experience. I enjoy finishing a page and flipping to the next one, anticipating the next set of words even as I know how many pages are left in the book by the size of the stack to the left and right.

When I was young, I used to figure out the exact middle of a book. I had an understated celebration when I reached the midpoint, even though the prologue, or introduction, often tilted the balance slightly.

Of course, I could do the same thing with an electronic version of a book.

And yet it’s just not the same for me. I also liked to see the names of the people who read the book in school before me. These students had perused the same pages, found the same shocking revelations and associated with the characters as they moved through the same year in their lives.

When I reread a chapter, searched for symbols or literary devices, I could recall exactly where on a page I might have seen something.

In an e-book, every page is the same. None of the pages is slightly darker, has a bent corner where someone might have stopped, or has a slightly larger “e” or a word that’s printed above the others on a line. The virtual pages are indistinct from each other, except for the specific words on the page or the chapter numbers.

I suppose people like me are why a store like Barnes & Noble can still exist, despite the ease and low cost of uploading books. And, yes, I understand when I travel how much lighter my suitcase would be if I uploaded 100 books without lugging the weight of the paper. I also understand that e-books are more environmentally friendly. Once a paper book is produced, however, it no longer requires constant battery recharging.

Passing along books read by earlier generations connects us to our parents and grandparents. We can imagine them holding the book at a distance as their eyes started to change, falling asleep with the book in their laps, or sitting on the couch until late at night, eager to finish a book before going to bed. We can also picture them throwing a book that frustrated them across the room or out the window.

Among the many Titanic stories that sticks out for me is the tale of Harry Elkins Widener, a 27-year-old book collector who boarded the ill-fated ship with his mother and father in Cherbourg, France. Legend has it that he died with a rare 1598 book, “Essays” by Francis Bacon, that he had bought in London. Harry and his father died aboard the ship, while their mother survived the sinking. After her son perished, she donated $2 million — an enormous sum in 1912 — to Harvard to construct a
library which is still on the main campus.

While I’m sure it’s possible to pick a random section of an e-book, I have grabbed books from a shelf and leafed to a random page, trying to figure out where in the story I have landed.

I am delighted to hold children’s books, including many of the Dr. Seuss collection. Also, I remember my children searched each page of “Goodnight Moon,” by Margaret Wise Brown for the mouse. There’s probably a mouse in the virtual version and touching it may even make the mouse grow, scurry across the virtual page or offer lessons about rhyming couplets.

Still, for my reading pleasure, I’m old school: Hand me a book and I’ll carry around a friend.

Evelyn Berezin

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Two exceptional people, Edmunde Stewart and Evelyn Berezin, died this past week, one day apart. The funeral for one was at Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket on Monday, for the other at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City on Tuesday. Although quite different, they were both well known for their talents. I was privileged to know them as friends. Their deaths leave a void for the world and a hole in my heart.

The first was a Scotsman, an orthopedic surgeon who lived for many years in Old Field and whose office was in Port Jefferson. He was 80 years old, and during his half-century of medical practice, he touched the lives of thousands of people. Educated well, he came to the United States to cap off his training, fell in love with one of the first women he met at Stony Brook — and Scotland’s loss was our gain. She was there, at his bedside all those years later, when, struggling to breathe, he finally succumbed to COPD.

Edmunde Stewart

The second was born in the East Bronx and was 93. She was one of three children raised in an apartment under elevated railroad tracks. It was so small that the uncle who boarded with them, while he finished medical school, had to sleep on a mattress under the dining room table. She was bright enough to finish high school at 15 and attended Hunter College at night while she worked. Unusually tall for her generation, she lied about her age in order to get her job. Under a World War II City University program that allowed women to study calculus and other specialized subjects at an all-male school, she then transferred to Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and ultimately earned a degree in physics from NYU in 1946. Needless to say, she was in a distinct minority in her classes.

He, when not practicing medicine, and as a passionate lover of horses and riding, participated in the Smithtown Hunt for many years and on many wild rides through the neighborhoods. He cut a fine figure in his scarlet hunting jacket at the head of the pack. And he probably broke every bone in his body at least twice in his many falls, always with good humor during the phone calls as he related the latest mishap to his wife on his way to the hospital.

Evelyn Berezin

The other left NYU just shy of a doctorate in 1950 and ultimately found a job in 1951 with the Electronic Computer Corporation, a shop of engineers in Brooklyn. In between she married a tall Brit named Israel Wilenitz, who was a chemical engineer. She figured out how to design various computers including one that made range calculations for the U.S. Defense Department, another that kept accounts in business offices and one for an airline reservations system for United Airlines. She also built and marketed the world’s first computerized word processor. She went on to found her own computer company with two male colleagues, which was located in the Hauppauge Industrial Park, and eventually was bought out by Burroughs Corporation. For fun she loved attending cultural events, especially the American Ballet Theatre in New York City where she held a subscription. Recently she joined us with a subscription to the Metropolitan Opera.

Our best times together were probably on her back deck in Poquott, where she served us elaborate brunches of French toast, bagels and lox from the famous Russ & Daughters on the lower East Side of Manhattan and regaled us with historic events she had witnessed during her long life. She had something interesting to say about every subject, past and present, and was totally engaged in current events right up to the end. The last time I called her, she told me she had to get off the phone because she was watching “60 Minutes.”

He was also my orthopedist and shared with me a precious bit of wisdom: “You Americans feel that there should be a cure for every pain that you may feel. But the body isn’t like that. Pains, minor pains, are a part of life and can be borne without rushing into surgery to have them fixed, which is a risky thing to do in the first place.”

They were companions and their lives were an inspiration for me. I am diminished by the loss of my dear friends.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Over the years, I’ve seen many ways of decorating for Christmas although they are variations on the Rudolph, Santa, Frosty, Nativity themes.

This year, perhaps we could use some modern iconography to celebrate the themes and elements that are parts of our lives. Here are my top 10 suggestions for new Christmas iconography — without any connection to a religion:

10. Déjà Santa: Perhaps, in addition to Santa on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, eager decorators should add another Santa, pulled by a similar-looking group of reindeer behind the leader in an homage to the sequels that have become routine in our lives, from Wall Street to Main Street to “Rodeo Drive, baby” — yes, that’s a reference to the movie “Pretty Woman,” which in case you haven’t heard or seen the ubiquitous ads is now a Broadway musical. By the way, I read recently that “Dear Evan Hansen” will become a movie.

9. Cellphones: Somewhere on lawns throughout America, oversized cellphones could become a part of the decorative landscape. In addition to a mother and father cellphone, little cellphones could congregate around a cellphone Christmas tree, with little wrapped apps under the tree just waiting to integrate into the world of the little cellphones.

8. Ice-cream Cones: Ice-cream stores seem to be springing up everywhere, with the scent of malted cones wafting out of their doors and up and down streets, beckoning to those whose stomachs anticipate the inextricably intertwined link between sugar and celebrations. Let’s also celebrate all the mix-ins and candy toppings which have become the main course, pushing the ice cream deep beneath a pile of multicolored candy toppings or shoving a small melting pile to the side.

7. Gyms: Yes, I know Olivia Newton-John and her generation celebrated “getting physical,” but with the abundance of ice-cream stores, we could use more time at gyms, which are often conveniently located next door to ice-cream shops.

6. The Intrepid Weather Person: We’ve watched as weather reporters race off to find the defining images of storms of the century, which appear to rip through the country almost every year. Let’s install on our lawns a windblown weather person, holding a microphone that threatens to fly out of his or her hand.

5. A Collection of Marchers: Not since the 1970s have this many people come out with a wide range of signs in support of or in opposition to someone or something. How about some marchers with “Go Santa” or maybe just “I believe in something” signs for the modern decorated lawn?

4. The Constitution: More than ever, a document ratified 230 years ago has kept the peace. The Constitution seemed to anticipate modern imbroglios. Perhaps an enormous Constitution, or even a list of amendments, could glow on a lawn.

3. A Grand Stage: Everyone seems well aware of the cellphones pointed at them, recording their celebrations and pratfalls. People crave their five minutes of fame: Why not give them a stage on a front lawn?

2. The Driverless Car: Yes, it’s finally here, a car that drives and parks itself. A modern lawn could celebrate the long-discussed innovation with a car that pulls away from a decorated curb, circles a small block and reparks itself. I would watch the car the way I used to watch model trains.

1. The Hashtag: What was once a tic-tac-toe board or an extra button on a phone has become a calling card for self-expression. Let’s add colored lines and lights to our #moderncelebrations.      

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