Dr. Joe

Christmas Gifts


Thoughts from Dr. Joe

Frankie V was a bad dude. He was a Caporegime, a captain in the most powerful crime family of the North Bronx. As a ‘made man’, an honor bestowed upon a Mafioso of full Sicilian decent, he had a promising career in the La Famiglia. Frankie could snap his fingers and ten gangsters would jump!

I’ve known a lot of tough guys in my life but nobody was meaner than Frankie V. Regardless, everyone has a weakness, the one thing that will bring you down to your knees. For some people it’s love, others money. But for Frankie it was empathy; he had a soft spot in his heart. During Christmas, Frankie would distribute liquor to the men in the neighborhood, radios and toys to the kids and frozen turkeys to the mothers. Frankie was jacking trucks loaded with food and household goods en-route to the city from La Guardia Airport. He was a modern day Robin Hood.

Christmas is about gifts; always has been! It’s difficult to embrace the deeper meaning of the season and the association of gifts with that meaning. Meaning is found in the story of the first Christmas and the first gifts that abound from that occurrence. The ‘Christmas Story’ itself is a gift. Look what it gave us! Well…there you go!

A Jewish teenager, Mary gave the first Christmas gift. Her Christmas present was the willingness to bring heaven down to earth. She gave the world unconditional love.

Mary’s fiancé, Joseph gave faith. He believed there was a Divine Plan to their predicament. It was faith that gave us this story?

The Child brought forgiveness and salvation. The angels gave reassurance! “Fear not for behold we bring you tidings of great joy,” they proclaimed.

The shepherd boy gave his favorite lamb to the baby. The innkeeper’s wife gave a place for the homeless family to stay and a blanket to wrap the new mother and her baby. The drummer boy gave a melody that would dwell in our hearts. The kings gave wonder, acceptance, and courage. They offered wonder by surrendering logic, and common sense. Accepting the impossible, they suspended skepticism long enough to double-cross the insane King Herod, who frantically searched for the child who would change the world. With courage, the Wise Men helped the young family escape to a haven in Egypt.

Let me get back to my story about Frankie V. I left for college in 65’ and the Corps in 69’. During those years he’d send envelopes with a 100 bucks and a paper signed Frankie. Frankie became Consigliore, the advisor to the Mob. Years later while visiting my parents at Christmas I was hanging out with the Bronx Boys in front of Puglia’s Deli. I saw a Cadillac cruising the streets making periodic stops along the avenue. A man would exit the car and place packages on the doorsteps. I was curious; I walked over; it was Frankie V.

Yeah! Christmas is about gifts; gifts that transform the mundane into the miraculous, gifts that nurture the souls of both the giver and receiver. They are gifts of Spirit, and are part of the drama of the first Christmas Story. A story about a frightened teenage girl, her bewildered sweetheart, the Child, the angels, the shepherd boy, the inn-keeper’s wife, the drummer boy, the Magi, and the screaming King Herod all pitted together on that one magical night.

On December 19, 1977 Frankie V was spreading the magic of Christmas in the Bronx the only way he knew how. I peaked into the car, “Hey Frankie… Merry Christmas,” I said. “Joey Boy where ya been,” he answered. “I been around Frankie.” He took out a wad of bills; ripped off some hundreds and placed them in my hand. “Merry Christmas Joey!”

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“Standing on Shoulders”


Thoughts from Dr. Joe

I’ve kept a journal since 1961. However, since my children were born, I now tell the story of their lives. Each day I run my fingers through the pages to see how far they’ve journeyed. What tales will I pen that might be instrumental in their lives? In my life, I’ve found that stories of extraordinary people can be significant.

Last week I spoke with Peter Bachmann the headmaster of Flintridge Preparatory School. He was more remarkable than any words of mine could make him. I wrote about him in my girls’ journals. I thought I’d share a little bit of him with you. I wanted to know the essence of a man who worships at the alter of a 45 cent book purchased in 1970 and whose reverence for life, ideas, books, and conversation is sacrosanct.

With the precision of a surgeon he dissects man’s perennial search attempting to answer the timeless question, ‘What makes life significant?’ What does Mr. Bachmann see in the words of the dead poets that enable him to mentor his students toward the ‘Good Life?’ Although the classic writers have been gone for hundreds or thousands of years they live in him and he becomes the conduit as he gives his students the powers of reasoning and understanding.

Mr. Bachmann graduated from the University of California, Berkeley majoring in American History. He received his masters also in history from the University of Virginia. He has taught at Prep since 1980 and has been the headmaster since 1991. In 1986 he inherited the ‘Great Books’ course at Prep.

Bachmann’s journey began when his father, Bach enrolled at the University of Chicago in 1930. There, Bach met Robert Hutchins who said, “We are here to learn how to think. Your teachers will be the authors of the great works of the West, they have taught previous generations and they will teach you for the rest of your life.” Hutchins mentored Bach who passed on the love to his son. Mr. Bachmann then molded a pedagogy professing that education should not only prepare one for a profession; it should also prepare one to exist responsibly within a democracy and within one’s private life.

Mr. Bachmann and I spoke at length. He was excitable! Jumping from idea to idea he grabbed his book, “Standing on Shoulders,” quoting from the text supporting his views that learning is a great conversation about the ‘Good Life.’ I could only assume we’re all searching for what constitutes such a life.

“You have to lean back to spring forward,” he said. “What do you mean,” I inquired. He continued, “Before athletes leap forward they lean back for momentum. Learning is similar; you lean back into the great ideas of the past and then jump into the future.” “Hummm,” I thought! “That what Prep’s all about,” he said.

I still didn’t get this guy! What made him so mythically wonderful? On page 14 of his book “Standing on Shoulders,” I found the answer. “I found my North Star,” he wrote. It was an epiphany! In 1970 he saw both path and destination in one vision. The chicken scratch in the margins of his 45-cent book, “The Tempest” became his journey to Ithaca. Constantine Cavafy reminds us that although the goal is Ithaca, it is the journey that sustains us. “I would absorb the wisdom of Shakespeare, seeking by the end of my life to become the text,” he penned.

The dead poets are alive when their thoughts lie within us. They give the world shape and meaning and answer the ancient Greek aphorism, “Know thy self.” That’s Mr. Bachmann’s “North Star.” That’s our Ithaca; it’s the journey’s end!

The wisdom of the ages is acquired by giving that insight to another. In 1974 Bachmann wrote, “That fall I became a teacher!” His students now stand on his shoulders.

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Cast a vote for Kaitzer

 

Tomorrow is Election Day!  I encourage you to give one of your votes to Kaitzer.

 

Kaitzer has a superior intellect and the capacity to reason.  She is a problem solver.  Her analytical skills will help the district surmount the challenges that wait.

Her experience in the business at hand, education, is unparalleled.  LCUSD needs and educator on the board!  She is the only educator.

She brings people together and will be the catalyst bridging the gap between district, administrators, teachers, students, and parents.

The education of children should not be taken lightly.  We need longevity of experience; the end result is wisdom.  A substantive background is essential.

She is honest, trustworthy, and worthy of the public trust.

Of course I am voting for Kaitzer!  I do so with a solid rationale.

 

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Cast A Vote for KAITZER

Tomorrow is Election Day!  I encourage you to give one of your votes to Kaitzer.

 

Kaitzer has a superior intellect and capacity to reason.  She is a problem solver.  Her analytical skills will help the district surmount the challenges that wait.

Her experience in the business at hand, education, is unparalleled.  LCUSD needs and educator on the board!  She is the only educator.

She brings people together and will be the catalyst bridging the gap between district, administrators, teachers, students, and parents.

The education of children should not be taken lightly.  We need longevity of experience; the end result is wisdom.  A substantive background is essential.

She is honest, trustworthy, and worthy of the public trust.

Of course I am voting for Kaitzer!  I do so with a solid rationale.

 

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Kaitzer 4 School Board

Kaitzer’s motto is from the words of Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, and a life by what we give.”  Consequently she exemplifies a life of service, sitting quietly in the background changing lives and circumstance.

She offers what the district needs.  She is the only educator in the running!  Since the board develops policy, I find it essential that one of its members be an experienced educator.  Katizer brings 25 years of educational experience: teaching from pre-k through the graduate level, administrative experience as a school director, in addition she has opened 4 schools in Los Angeles.  She has sat on and chaired local, state, and national committees consulting on a myriad of educational issues.  Her education is inclusive of cognition, educational Philosophy and learning theory.  Kaitzer can take educational concepts and describe their implementation and how they will apply in the classroom.  She is an intellect with the ability to reason, therefore a consummate problem solver.

She is honorable, a person of her word, a consensus builder, and one who will bring people together.   At the end of any political process, we get what we deserve. LCUSD deserves Kaitzer and I encourage you to vote for her.

 

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