Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Love In The City


We are raised in evolved societies, where the needs and dangers of our natural instincts are balanced by traditions and rules that we follow, to a greater or lesser extent. Society gives us approved practices, which embody the expressed values of the society, and it also gives us tolerated practices, which, while they might not express the directly approved values, give room for the reality of the needs and desires of life as we live it. People are different, people conform in different ways, and tolerating differences is key to maintaining tranquility. Formal and informal, the approved and the tolerated, both need to exist.

And so, we come to love and marriage. Both love and marriage exist in all societies, I think, and sometimes they coexist in the same relationship, and often not. And beyond love and marriage, there is also sex, which can coexist or not with L and M. We know the varieties and the examples; it's fun to reiterate them, but that's for another place. Right now, this introductory perspective will serve simply to introduce one interesting and illuminating article from the New York Times.

For Sale: The ‘Sexiest’ Hourly Rate Hotel in Manhattan

The owner calls the Liberty Inn “the cleanest short-stay hotel in town.” But in a changing neighborhood, “a hotel like this doesn’t make sense,” he says.

“There’s something cute and different about each room,” said the owner, Edward Raboy. Some rooms have lip-shaped headboards.



The article says that,

“Its website bills its rooms as the “most sexiest” in the city, and for nearly 50 years it has provided sanctuary for bouts of afternoon passion, clandestine affairs and lunchtime quickies.”

There is no mistaking the purpose of the Liberty Inn. The rooms are made up to enhance the experience. The owner says: “'There’s something cute and different about each room, and we have people who take to certain rooms and keep requesting them,” he said. 'We’re trying to induce people into a good time here. We don’t follow them into their rooms, but we understand what they’re doing in there.'”


This is not the love your mother told you about, or that you read about in the official literature offered in school. It is definitely in the realm of the “tolerated,” and adheres only to the informal rules of our society, not the formal ones. Forbidden pleasure, some say, is the sweetest pleasure, and it can't be forbidden unless there are rules.

So, yes, it is a titillating article, and most people will reflect in their own forbidden loves, and most will also reflect that there were too few of them.

But that's not my point. What hit me over the head about this article comes right at the end. The reporter has just been reporting, not taking a stand, letting the place and the owner express themselves in a matter of fact, you judge what you want to, kind of way. Not exactly selling it, just presenting it.

...a ceiling mirror accented with cloud drawings. Purell packets sat on the night stand. A sign by the door read: 'ALWAYS Turn Knob on Lock to Prevent Mistaken Entry!'

A black stump-like object sat against a wall. I soon discovered that it unfolded and realized it was the Liberator, a wedgelike apparatus that helps lovers contort into imaginative positions. The room was pristine, but I discovered one scrawl of passion on the Liberator’s surface: a faint handprint.”

And then, at the end of the article, comes a final sentence that just knocks you out. The author, Alex Vadukul, has stationed himself outside the hotel, watching people come and go, some confident, some timorous.  And then he says,

As I kept watching the afternoon couples emerge back into the tumult of the city, I realized they were all holding hands.”

I don't know about you, but when I read this, my heart melted.


Budd Shenkin

Monday, October 24, 2022

My Colleagues Respond To The Case Of Draymond Green


Two of my friends responded to my take on The Draymond Situation with different views, both well expressed. Neither agrees with me, in the main, and both make persuasive arguments.



You are an admirable human being, in the extreme, an impediment to understanding this matter, as I see it.   There is a perhaps apocryphal story about Freud's giving a lecture and being repeatedly interrupted by a young colleague, who argued at every turn.  Freud finally threw him out, but a colleague, who was the young man's analyst, complained, explaining the man's behavior in terms of Oedipal dynamics bring ascendant in the course of the young's man's analysis and thus explaining the man's behavior in terms of paternal transference to the master.  

Freud replied: "Nonsense.  The man was rude." 



Thank you, Bob, for putting this in far more succinct terms than I could have; my reaction to Budd’s thoughtful, kindly, broad and forgiving expiation is pretty much exactly the same as yours.

Budd, I think we should start with your first point, “You’ve always thought he was a thug; I disagreed with that, and still do.”  Your reason is that he’s not a “classic thug”, but rather “very, very talented and intelligent”.  I’ve never thought a thug had to be a dolt, nor lacking in talent; he needs only to either lack a moral compass, or impulse control, or both. A guy is a thug if he volitionally harms, intimidates, abuses or endangers others, when he knows better, but either doesn’t care, rationalizes his brutish behavior, or is just so egoistic that he doesn’t consider anything beyond his own emotional needs at any given moment.  To me, this “defense” of Draymond explains why you like him, but doesn’t make him anything less of a thug.

Of course, if what I’ve just said is right, it’s even more true that his “world-class defense” and his “inventive and astute offense” and his “exceptional leadership and emotional acuteness” are even less relevant or exculpatory. You like him because it’s enjoyable to watch him play (at least when he’s not tripping someone, pushing them over when they’re in a vulnerable position, or kicking them in the balls). I like watching him play, too.  But he’s a thug.

Yes, he’s an incorrigible whiner on calls. That, I agree, is indeed “regrettable”, because it diminishes him as a basketball player. Few know this other than very elderly, diehard Bullets/Wizards fans, but the great Wes Unseld – a man of absolutely sterling character otherwise – bitched about every call against him for his entire career, and that was similarly “regrettable”. But I don’t think his rude, unpleasant and inappropriate mistreatment of referees is what makes him a thug. It’s the reckless endangerment of others, the constant and humiliating dirty play, the practiced and phony immediate outreach to his victims to help them back up (as though it was all a mistake). This guy not only should know better, he does know better. But he either doesn’t care or thinks it’s okay, but it’s neither.

You are making a good point about the Warriors standing for something better than thuggishness. That, too, has made many of us who love the game enjoy/root for the Warriors. Steve Kerr!  Steph Curry! Klay Thompson! Jordan Poole!  And so many of the support players, too – they’re good people, and it’s easy to like them. But if the Warriors stand for anything higher or more noble, then they need to get rid of Draymond Green.  He’ll always be a thug, but if they go excusing and forgiving him (as you have), then they stand for nothing at all except winning – just like everybody else.  (I’m sure Detroit fans loved the Isiah Thomas-Bill Laimbeer-Dennis Rodman-Rick Mahorn teams. Bad people, all, but they’re fans loved them because they won, which ought not to be the test, right?) 

I get that there’s another side to this guy, the one you like (and perhaps even admire). But in the end, he’s a professional, a grown man, not a hot-headed kid who needs to “mature”. He is now fairly judged by his behavior, as are we all, and he’s had a long, ugly career of dirty play that too many have been willing to ignore for way too long. The punch on Poole means he shouldn’t be in the league anymore in my view, and if that’s too harsh, then, at least, he shouldn’t be on the Warriors anymore.

I remember making the decision at the Humane Society of the United States that we would give Michael Vick a second chance, hoping that some good would come from his heinous story by working with him to speak with inner-city kids about the evils of dog-fighting. Most of our colleagues in the animal welfare and advocacy movement never forgave us for offering Vick that second chance, because his crimes were just too awful to excuse. I don’t think Draymond falls in that category. Even the sucker-punch on Poole wasn’t in the same moral realm as electrocuting and torturing innocent animals. But Draymond’s long history of dirty play has to count, too,  and I just don’t see how you can forgive him at this point.

The guy’s a thug.


Sports are kind of amazing. They are as full of complications and interpretations as all of life, except with a score. Use the law to adjudicate situations? (both Bob and Rick are attorneys)? Think of teams as family, and use individual and family therapy models? Think about teams as families, or as formal associations? Put winning first, or individual authenticity?

It's all there, if you think about it. We'll never know for sure, but as time goes on, our judgements will sharpen. Understand sports, understand life.

Budd Shenkin

The Case Of Draymond Green

This is what I wrote to my friend Rick, on the Case of Draymond Green.

Rick, you deserve a response in our now increasingly long-standing controversy over Draymond.

It's taken me some time to come to terms with it, and I still really haven't.  You've always thought he was a thug; I disagreed with that, and still do.  Unlike classic thugs, he is very, very talented and intelligent.  His defense is world-class; his offense is inventive and astute.  His leadership and emotional acuteness are both exceptional.  Without him, the Warriors struggle.

I have usually forgiven him his trespasses.  I think his aggressiveness in making his case with referees is regrettable, but he's often right on the facts, maybe usually so.  But his almost uncontrollable insistence that they be more accurate has been immature.  Their job is very hard, and as long as they are not biased, one has to accept that they are doing the best they can.  One has to learn to forgive parents, too, because regrettably, they are just human.  One also has to learn simply to restrain oneself, even if the understanding part may be elusive.  Just dial it back; you have to learn that.

The Warriors have fancied themselves, most times justifiably, I think, as advanced in their understanding of the human state.  They forgive, they support, they understand, they make allowances, they include the whole team from the dude who rebounds the balls for the shooters in practice to the owner; everyone gets heard.  They don't use punishment much as a primitive tool, they are not authoritarian.

But Draymond, it has to be recognized, has an anger problem.  When do you make him address it, even if it puts the coherence of the team in danger?  They have said they have been reluctant to make him change, in deference to the greater good of the team, and his value as a leader, fearing that to dial back the excesses would make him dial back the good as well.  The Warriors, at this point I think it can be said, have overdone their restraint.  They let him go too far.

When do we understand, and when do we condemn?  When are we outraged? 

I think everyone at this point is walking on eggshells.  Draymond has apologized, but he hasn't said he has a problem and has to change.  The Warriors have fined and admonished, and it seems they have not played him as much as he would have probably demanded if not for this incident.  And they took advantage of the situation to extend Poole and Wiggins and not him -- they dipped into the pot but he came up empty.  The Warriors had probably wanted to do this anyway, but in his wounded state, Draymond now can't really protest.  Forget keeping him out of games on suspension, he's taking his licks.  They have indicated that they are willing to use their position of strength to abase him a little, and to threaten to go without him, and they are forcing him to confront the fact that maybe he needs the Warriors more than they need him.

Draymond has been far too full of himself.  Draymond hasn't been able to confront his demons.  Now he will be forced to.  It's late for him to do this, but now he most likely will have to.  One wonders what TNT will do; they are no doubt reassessing.  This major transgression is sinking in.  He has been tattooed in a way not to his liking, and it's probably indelible. 

I think the Warriors are smart enough to see that they can't simply go on as though nothing has happened.  The season might be imperiled.  It might mark a premature end to the run.  They probably think they have been too permissive and understanding, and they have probably done this in service to their own success.  They can't think that the only problem is the son, and that the parents are blameless.  Draymond's punishment will be the quiet work they put in with the younger members of the team, the time and effort they give them, the hopes they start to pin on them, the rope they give Draymond to work his way back into being a different part of the team, rather than it's driver who holds the reins.

Myself, I'm disappointed in him.  I see more clearly the part of him that is a bully, that is brutish, that is physically intimidating.  There is a part of sports that does that -- I never liked it much myself, but then I'm a lot smaller.  It's a temptation for a big guy, and the big guys joust among themselves.  Sometimes the smaller guys fight back by being skilled and maneuverable, and sometimes they are pests.  But whatever Poole did or said, this cannot be the answer.

There is always the fight between the top guys and the younger challengers, those who demand respect at the top of the hill and those who won't give it, and challenge, often with their mouths.  You see it all over.  We're coming for you, say the challengers.  You haven't won anything yet, say the established.  That's eternal. 

And, finally, I'm tempted to make an even wider extrapolation.  We always see, in history and in current events, the war between brute force and an agreement to abide by fair laws.  Maybe it's too much of a stretch, but I'm always tempted to think that personal relationships and world relationships are fractals, that the same rules apply.  And in that wider expanse, I never back might over right.  So, with Draymond, just like everyone else, I have to reassess. 

I just hate to see this guy I have so admired get caught in his excess.  We'll just have to see which side wins.  I hope for the best, but it's up in the air as of now.  We'll just have to see.  He was always on the edge, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  Angel and devil, one on each shoulder.

Anyway, that's how I'm thinking about it. 

Meanwhile, what was it that Poole said or did? 



Budd Shenkin