Co-op City ~ What did you experience?

Last week I wrote about how Co-op City influenced and shaped who I am today.  The sheer amount of people who were interested in this discussion was mind boggling.   I was essentially inspired to add-on to the blog in order to bring to light some other realities of living in Co-op out of fairness for those of us who experienced difficulties of growing up in Co-op.

We were all sitting behind one of the “Triple Cores” I think it was Richie and Blanqui’s building on a laundry vent that we huddled together on in the cold of winter and of course the conversation was about when the hell we would get out of Co-op.

Co-op was an island that was wrapped by the city.  It was different from living in Manhattan or even living in the Bronx.  We could easily find ourselves in the Bronx but Co-op certainly was something different.  We had everything you would need all in shopping centers that we could easily walk to from any building.

With all that we had access to and all of the people we knew some of us wanted to escape.  I know I felt there was a world outside that I didn’t know or experience.  In my last post, I was thinking about the positive and peaceful aspects of Co-op relative to the world I experienced when I left.   That wasn’t to say that Co-op didn’t have its fair share of problems including hate.   My point was that there was more harmony and acceptance of a person for who that person was as an individual as opposed to because they were black, white or other.   This brings me to two short stories that I feel I should share on behalf of those who mentioned to me that I didn’t necessarily paint a clear picture.

While there were many time that we fought as kids and dealt with some issues related to being different, there is one story that I want to share that some of my close friends observed while I was at Truman high school and ultimately led me to leave Truman for a school in the South Bronx.  truman high

I don’t really remember what happened during the day, I think it was a normal school day and I was just doing my thing being the cool and most popular kid on the planet that I was (just kidding).   I walked out the back door of the school towards this long line of steps.  I saw some of my friends and waved to hook up with them.   The doors coming out of the school were big metal doors with a big long metal bar on the inside, a lot of kids would kick the bar to open the door, I guess it was the cool thing to do.    The door would fling open and make a loud noise.    That is what happened on this day.  I naturally turned around to look and within a few seconds I was surrounded by a bunch of guys. ( Note, the friends I was referring to that I was waving to and walking towards were all girls.)

They started pushing me around and tripping me.  I didn’t want any trouble and I just wanted to leave so I started to try to negotiate my departure.   Then it happened, I knew I wasn’t going to get out of this when I heard “You know.. your people made us slaves.”   I looked to my right and I saw a young man named Sean that I was an acquaintance with sort of friendly over the years, never any problems and he looked me back in the eyes dead on and said “I am sorry Howie.”  The girls ran up the steps and tried to intervene but it was too late,  I was trying to fight off 5 guys by myself and unfortunately for me I left my Chuck Norris instruction book at home.   I was getting kicked in the back while two of the guys were holding me up and I yelled ” I had nothing to do with slaves, I’m Jewish!!!”

“Oh that’s worse.. ”

I couldn’t shake them off and I think at some point Marilyn, Blanqui, and Helen (forgive me if I forgot someone) pulled me out of the fist storm I was in.   I wound up in the hospital that night with a fractured tail bone from them kicking the crap out of me.   I think the worst part for me wasn’t the beating, it was that Sean didn’t have it in him to stop them or help me.  I couldn’t win that fight but I wasn’t going to lose without trying.

Yeah, it sucked but I still don’t think it was a racial thing, I always felt it was just something else.   There are plenty of stories like this that we can share and talking about it is good but I would rather focus on the fact that the girls who were my best friends were also black, hispanic, white and other.


One of the other memories that I want to share with you is of a kid named KC in Section 5.

We had to sit in the car for hours to wait for a parking spot, sometimes we would fall asleep in the car double parked.  This night my mother and I were in the car.  We drove around for a while, you would drive in circles hoping that someone would leave.  We came down this street.

section5No place to park

On the right side, you can’t see it from here, there was or maybe still is a security booth.   I don’t remember what year they put it there but it was sometime around 1989.    So, mom and I were in the car and we saw a car speed past and turn right almost make a full 360 degree turn.  The gun shots went fast.. it was automatic and we didn’t even see it.   I can’t remember what time of night it was but it was early enough for a lot of people to be outside.

A crowd gathered around this young man home from college.  I think two people were shot and unfortunately I only remember the initials KC and the name Kevin.   I didn’t know him but we met his mother, she was holding her son dying in her arms.    The police came before the ambulance and the crowd yelled and screamed and pointed to the police 45th precinct if I remember right. “They went that way!!!!” pointing to the left up the street.   “Get them!!!”   The mother was holding her son in her arms with people screaming and I don’t remember what else was happening because I only remember his mothers face and the police driving the opposite way that the people told them to go.

Unless someone can correct me, I heard that he died.   I don’t know what happened to him though from an authority of any kind.   I just remember what I saw.   He was black and the people who shot him were black.   I don’t think that mattered much to me or mom we cried just like everyone else.

As others I am sure could tell you Co-op had a fair share of problems especially when the young man from Howard Beach 1986 was attacked and ran from some white men out into a street and was killed.   It was an unfortunate series of events including street fights and unprompted attacks of which I can’t easily quantify.

I have a lot of memories from my youth in Co-op but in my mind’s eye and from my perspective there was more love, peace and understanding from Co-op City and no known boundaries on friendship unless people created those boundaries themselves.    Sure, I experienced hate and there were questions about culture but it was more subtle and more often than not children knew about cultural differences and consideration early on.

Later when I went to school in the South Bronx I first experienced a lot of hate or disinterest but within a short period of time, I was accepted for being Howie.

What did you experience? 

Meet in the middle


When I was a child my mother put this picture on the refrigerator, it is simple and telling.   I put this picture up at work as a constant reminder of the benefits and challenges of working with others.

Regardless of who is at fault or the challenges we face it is my hope that our politicians and leadership realize this simple message.   We can all benefit from being less stubborn and through the realization of working together move forward and live well.


Thanks mom ..

Making Sense of a Crazy World ~ Holiday Edition~Co-op City Reflection

Co-op City.. 15,372 residential units in 35 high-rise buildings and 7 townhouse clusters.  Co-op City has approximately 50,000+ residents.  I grew up in building 34 apartment 3D as in David, which is what my mother would say.   Growing up in Co-op I was exposed to a lot of people.  Co-op really represented America in so many ways but most of us in my age group just didn’t understand or weren’t even aware of it.  It is amazing how Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Black, White, Spanish, Irish, English, Irish etc lived together.

In high school my best friends were ethnically diverse, religiously diverse and socially diverse.   My building is shaped like an X and if you can imagine as you approach the center of the X on the right and left side of you the building would be lined with chairs and people. Co-op Building X I found this image on David Chesler’s site

So, the people would be sitting in chairs from one end on the right to the other end on the left.  Just sitting outside and enjoying conversation or appreciating the day.   They would talk about all of the things you would expect , politics, life, death.   I learned about the Holocaust from survivors sitting in this very spot.   I learned about love of America from the veterans that fought in WWII and other wars.

“Oh Howie.. What a handsome young man.. come here, let me see you…”    I didn’t know it at the time but I would learn more about people in those moments than I would even have expected.   It created a foundation for my belief in people and my love for America.   It didn’t matter if people were of different ethic background, all of them as adults were engaged and I was blind to most of the hate.

Segue ~

Jon Stewart last week made a series of jokes about the “War on Christmas”  where he makes fun of the fact that people are upset about the holiday being attacked and watered down by the politically correct.   The real problem is that we are going from “We the people…” to “Me the people…” and that is the root cause of all of our symptoms.

Every year during Thanksgiving and Christmas we worry about helping people eat or providing clothing to the needy but the rest of the year we somehow blow these people off.   We are worried about ourselves individually and about how we feel about things from our individual perspective.  It is pervasive and wrapped into the very fabric of our behavior including professionally and politically.

It undermines our ability to make sane and rationale choices on what we spend our time on.  Last week, I spent time arguing about why someone being gay has nothing to do with work.  I guess because in Co-op when people identified themselves as gay most of us just said “ok” and moved on with whatever thing we were doing.   It wasn’t a big deal.   Being different wasn’t a big deal, it didn’t mean that we had to be extra sensitive.

Being Jewish wasn’t a novelty.   I lost some good friends when the 5% movement became popular  but most of the kids that went that route eventually came around to realizing that nothing is an absolute and that every white man wasn’t evil.


Co-op wasn’t perfect but looking at it now from where I stand culturally, it makes sense that everyone was treated equally and that people weren’t given an edge or treated like that needed extra help.   I have proof too.. I could name plenty of people who I grew up with that contributed to our world and didn’t let who they are be a barrier to what they wanted to achieve.


We didn’t have to drown in someones religion or philosophy and we didn’t have to suffer because someone put their religious or social burden on our back to carry.

Maybe someone should do a study on Co-op City 1970-1990 and see what they did right and share it with the world.  All I know is that the world I live in today is foreign to me.  I don’t care about most of the things that people care about in terms of differences concerning gender, race, sexual preferences, personal choices or economic status.

It can’t always be about YOU and what YOU want and how YOU feel.  Our future depends on people respecting each other and learning from our lessons and our history.

To all my friends and family in Co-op.. thank you for those experiences and the blessing of your differences and your love to find the ties that bind.  Happy days to you no matter what holiday you are celebrating..




I don’t know what to write.

Every week I write this blog to address mostly work related concepts.   Every once in a while when something important comes up or I am feeling that I want to go into something more personal I write about it.   I mostly have written with the idea that I am contributing to in my own way to help people.

A few weeks ago I wrote about our family friend Rebecca.   I was moved by how many people responded to that post and how people reached out to me.   I am not sure about how others write but I find myself backspacing and writing over what I say often because I am concerned that I am not getting my thoughts out effectively.   When it comes to writing for business, it isn’t hard to put the words down because I am addressing things that I consider logical or factual.  It is difficult with emotional concepts though and frankly I am a sensitive person.

Today is different.  I have backspaced a few times but I am just writing out what I am thinking here without major concern.  I normally think about what I will write about during the week and I will talk about concepts or concerns with close friends.   I try to share with purpose.  I was thinking this week about how cloud computing has taken a turn for the worse.  I read those information weekly trade magazines all the time and I get a mailbox full of those different IT magazines.   You know the ones with the articles that are hidden advertisements with a hint of honesty thrown in for good measure.     I was then thinking about writing about how all these holidays are bullshit and frustrating especially since I live towards the south and most people down here don’t understand much about Jews.   Those were some of the things until yesterday.   I normally write on Sundays it is a good close to the end of the week and beginning of the next.   Today is Saturday but I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to have nothing to write about so I am writing today.

Yesterday morning we got a phone call from our bank that our credit cards were used in California and somewhere else.  Of course it was a very nice robot call “You have an account that has suspicious activity, if you are *** please hit the number 1.”  Great!  Well at least I am thankful for the protection, it was only a few months ago that someone broke into my car while my family was at a park and took my wife’s purse.  Now we will have to go through the drill of getting new cards and billing and…… then in the early afternoon while I was contributing to a work related discussion on how my company is moving paid time off around it happened.   It was the same thing as 9-11 to me, I could only watch in horror.   Then all of the social channels lit up like fire and the media storm started.  For me the first thing I had seen was 10 children were killed and then some how it turned to 20 people and then 27.   Facebook was swelling with posts that forced it to stream like water.   Then I lost my words..

Death comes for us all, one way or another.  My son just asked “who is G-d’s mother?”  and “What if he didn’t have one?”  as I am I writing this.   He doesn’t have any idea of what happened yesterday, we didn’t tell the kids.. yet.    So, this morning I am reflecting on the conversation I had with my friend Frank the other day about death.   I am thinking about all the things that were important to me in the morning as opposed to all of the things that are important to me today.   Our world is ending in 2012, we have not evolved we have revolved.  We forget everything history teaches us and for all of our technology and our sophistication we are ignorant adult children.

  • Our government has us in debt.
  • Our politicians are all liars and out for themselves individually.
  • Any honest Journalist is pushed out of the news business.
  • Our children can’t play outside.
  • We are robbed while we work, play and live and don’t know it until someone lets us know.
  • Everything that is built and sold is crap.
  • All of the technology I own is not finished.
  • My clothes were made by slaves.
  • There is still genocide.
  • We are more threatened today by nuclear and chemical attacks then ever before in history.
  • We live in fear.
  • We don’t have work.
  • We are fighting wars that we can’t and won’t win.
  • Our children… OUR CHILDREN are killed.

The list can go on and on.   I am an American and I am angry and I am hurt and I am frustrated and I don’t even know what to do about it because everywhere I look people are corrupted by fear and politics.   2012 is the end, it has to be because what we are doing as a society isn’t working.   I have no idea what is next and I guarantee that the families of the children in Connecticut don’t know either.


Dispatches from the Front: 5 December 2012

Christmas Day is 20 days from now.  I wish for you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.  It is a very special time of the year when even salty old dogs like me enjoy the magic the season brings.  What is your favorite Christmas holiday song?  My wife’s favorite is “Silent Night”.

Although I enjoy Faith Hill’s version of “Where are you Christmas”, ever since that period on active duty where I spent five consecutive Christmas holiday’s deployed, my favorite has been, “I’ll be home for

Christmas”.   Thank you for your friendship and goodwill during the past

year. I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a New Year full of happiness and prosperity.


It is cold here now.  Attached, you will find a couple of photos of the Hindu Kush Mountains that completely surround us.  With the snow on them, one could say they are pretty.  I guess there is beauty in hell.

However, bad people constantly shoot rockets and mortars at us from those hills so they will never be pretty to me. The photo of the vehicle, MRAP, is to show their tremendous size.  I honestly do not know if those vehicles are the correct solution to the IED threat.  I do know MRAPs are used throughout this Theater. I am grateful our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard men and women who ride in them are safer during the accomplishment of their missions while in

harm’s way.  


On the 18th of December, I will be at my 1/2 mark.  Time still passes much too quickly even in hell.  Consolidating the daily situational reports of the past 24 hours of kinetic events draws a physiological toll and worries me a bit. The figures on deaths, loss of limbs and other serious wounds, to all sides, has crept into and affected the dark and black section of my heart.  I have learned to hate the Taliban and all who support them.  Hate is not healthy for it negates the ability to forgive. The Taliban seriously just need killing.  Unfortunately, we will not be able to kill enough of them to allow the current Afghan military and police force to protect the peoples of this geographical area before the United States and Coalition Partners depart these miserable lands.  I did not call Afghanistan a country, for the tribes in the hills do not recognize Afghanistan as a nation state.  That is both bad and good.  The bad part has to do with the party line “strategic objectives” that justified the US and ISAF to come to these lands in the first place.  Bottom line, my opinion and my opinion only, those objectives will not be accomplished.  Unfortunately, the loss of National Treasure combined with the fiscal costs of this and the Iraq war has contributed to the fiscal disaster facing our Nation.  In the end, those costs will be for such little good or strategic gain.  The good news is that these mountain tribes are the true strength of the peoples within these lands.  Since recorded history, no power, either inside or outside, has ever subjugated or ruled the mountain tribes collectively.  Neither will the Taliban. 


There was a recent nasty multiple car-bombing on a forward operating base not far from here.  So compared to the men and women lying in the field hospital beds a few hundred yards from where I am typing this note, all is well.  I am in need of nothing.  I am healthy.  I am happy.



Over the years, I have traveled in sixty-five countries, led men in combat, been shot at and cut with a knife, but I have never been alone because of the reason Christmas is celebrated; I remain grateful for the Lord’s Grace and His Son. There is no finer gift to receive than that.

Merry Christmas! 



Semper Fidelis,


LOST -Line of Sight Tasking and Result

ImageThe last thing you did may have been the first thought in someone’s head and the last thing on your big list of things to do.

“If you thought you were busy now, just wait.”

What the management books or leadership books have a hard time conveying is something beyond a process.  The tacit knowledge that makes successful people actually successful is where a lot of the magic lives.   Reading most of these books gives the reader some good ideas on the process but not always the methods employed to create that success.   Enough on this..  back to the point.

LOST – Line of sight tasking causes stress, anxiety and can make some feel overwhelmed.   Managers can forget what tasks they put out and the result is a loss of tasking and accountability.   Recently, I have thought of this as in relation to a math or science problem.   If a manager tasks 15 people by line of sight, he or she can achieve their ultimate goal.   The manager can still have a mission, vision, goal and objective, critical success factors and an end state in mind.   This manager can be successful but there is a cost.   Lets look at this from the perspective of a math problem.

The problem to solve is: (3+4i)+(8-11i)

The answer is: 11-7i

as opposed to 

The problem to solve is (3+4i)+(8-11i) and.. Remember, with complex variables, keep like terms involving i together….

Multiply i and 4

Multiply i and 1

The i just gets copied along.

The answer is i


4*i evaluates to 4i

3+4*i evaluates to 3+4i

Multiply i and 11

Multiply i and 1

The i just gets copied along.

The answer is i


11*i evaluates to 11i

8-11*i evaluates to 8-11i

To add the polynomials 3+4i and 8-11i we try to add or combine terms in one polynomialwith any like terms in the other polynomial.

3 + 8 = 11

4i + -11i = -7i

The answer is 11-7i

(3+4*i)+(8-11*i) evaluates to 11-7i

The final answer (almost!) is


Now, let’s simplify the i‘s to get our final answer:
The i in -7i cannot be simplified, so just leave it as is.

The final answer is


It is pretty ironic that I am using this as an example since I consider myself Dyscalculia.   Getting to the answer or knowing the answer or getting the result is only PART OF THE PROBLEM.   We have to be able to understand how we got to the answer and further what steps = tasks we took to get there.

What if I were to say to solve this problem (3+4i)+(8-11i) but the “order of operations” is by line of sight management.  “I need you to start with 3+8.”  Could you get to the right answer?  Sure, I bet you could.. might take longer.  How do you know you have the right answer?  How could someone help validate your logic?  How could people duplicate your efforts?

If we take a logical and thought out iterative approach to project and task management there is time to check our work.   Line of sight tasking creates memory loss.  No one really knows what happened last or what is coming next.

The thing about feeling overwhelmed in project management and feeling stressed is to get a hold of the big picture. The problem is that anxiety and stress related to line of sight tasking doesn’t really come from the person that is creating the tasks. It comes from the people that are on the receiving end. Somehow people that are creating the tasks are of the mindset that if you believe it, you can achieve it.

Consider this when you are working on your next project.