Monthly Archives: January 2017

Is it okay to associate with disreputable people?


is it okay


And passing on from there Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax-collection house, and says to him, “Follow me.” And rising he followed him. And it happened that, as he was reclining at table in the house, look: Many tax-collectors and sinners came and reclined at table with Jesus and his disciples. And, seeing this, the Pharisees said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?” But he heard them and said, “The hale do not have need of a physician, but rather those who are ill. Go then and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’; for I come to call not the upright, but sinners.”.

Matthew 9:10-13

Now a certain one of the Pharisees requested him to dine with him, and entering the Pharisee’s house he reclined at table. And look: There was a woman in the city who was a sinner, and knowing that he is reclining in the home of the Pharisee, and bringing an alabaster phial of unguent. And standing behind, weeping at his feet, she began to make his feet wet with her tears, and she wiped them off with the hair of her head, and fervently kissed his feet and anointed them with unguent. But, seeing this, the Pharisee who had invited him talked to himself, saying, “This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and of what sort this woman who touches him is, for she is a sinner.” And in reply Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” … And turning to the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your home, you did not give me water for my feet; but she washed my feet with her tears and wiped them off with her hair. You gave me no kiss of friendship, but she from the time I entered has not ceased fervently kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil; but she anointed my feet with unguent. By virtue of which, I tell you, her sins—which are many—have be forgiven, because she loved much; but one to whom little is forgiven loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” And those reclining at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman: “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” thee; go in peace.

Luke 7:37-50

The New Testament: A Translation, by David Bentley Hart


This is the meal equally set—this is the meat for
natural hunger;
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous—I
make appointments with all;
I will not have a single person slighted or left away;
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited;
The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited—the venerealee is invited:
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I become so for your
If you remember your foolish and outlaw’d deeds, do you think
I cannot remember my own foolish and outlaw’d deeds?
If you carouse at the table I carouse at the opposite side of the
If you meet some stranger in the streets and love him or her, why
I often meet strangers in the street and love them.

Why what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you then that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than you?
Or the rich better off than you? or the educated wiser than you?

(Because you are greasy or pimpled, or were once drunk, or a
Or that you are diseas’d, or rheumatic, or a prostitute,
Or from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no scholar and
never saw your name in print,
Do you give in that you are any less immortal?)

Walt Whitman, “A Song for Occupations”


Recall Christ, brother of rejected persons—brother of
slaves, felons, idiots, and of insane and diseas’d

Walt Whitman, “Think of the Soul”




In my senior year in high school, I took an IQ test administered by a graduate student at Boston University. A question on the test, which he administered orally, was why should one not associate with disreputable people? I answered that I did not agree with the premise.

Some fifty years later, I still feel the same way.

I have learned a great deal from, and my life has been enriched by, people of all levels of intelligence, backgrounds, occupations, persuasions, personality types, idiosyncracies, and life situations.

I have given rides and handouts to just released ex-convicts; associated with people whose opinions and/or behavior could be considered immoral, criminal, improper, antisocial, deviant, clueless, or odd by others; have never chosen my friends according to their political or religious views.

The driving force, in my own experience, behind making acquaintances and forming friendships has been: how is that person disposed towards ME? Do they wish to associate and communicate; do they desire or need human contact? Then, I find that it behooves me to respond affirmatively. I am a priori willing to accept anyone as a friend.

I have benefited, immeasurably, from such associations.   These people have taught me so much or, to put it the other way around, I have learned so much from them.

I see no reason to change.

And, I am amazed and gladdened by the innate goodness and sincerity of so many people who are prone to neglect and sometimes scorn or to being rejected by polite society.


Roger W. Smith

   January 2017

Roger W. Smith, review of “Trump: The Art of The Deal” by Donald J. Trump




The attached downloadable PDF file contains a book review by Roger W. Smith of Donald J. Trump’s bestseller Trump: The Art of the Deal.

The review was written in May 1988 as a journalism school assignment.

(My favorite phrase — of my own, that is — in the review was one I used to describe Trump and his book: “relentlessly prosaic.”)

“the greatest country in the world”


Last night, I watched a recently released film about the editor Max Perkins and the writer Tom Wolfe, who had a close professional and personal relationship.

The film, The Genius (2016), has gotten mixed reviews. I liked it.

Anyway, there is a scene in the film where Wolfe (played by Jude Law) is returning from a trip to Paris. He is greeted as he disembarks from the ocean liner by Perkins (played by Colin Firth).

Perkins offers to pay for a taxi. “No,” says Wolfe, rambunctiously. [I am paraphrasing.] I want to walk the streets of New York again! The greatest city in the greatest country in the world!”

This reminded me of something.



I had a long time relationship with an outstanding therapist: Ralph Colp, Jr., MD. (In my parents’ generation, one would have been ashamed to admit that one even saw a therapist.) He was a cultured and scholarly man with admirable personal qualities. Among other things that made him stand out, he himself had been analyzed by Freud’s personal physician.

Credentials notwithstanding, he was somewhat taciturn, chose his words carefully, didn’t say things just to hold forth, indoctrinate, or impress. I guess that’s partly why I seem to remember almost word for word practically everything he ever said.

He once said to me — apropos what topic I can’t recall — “Let’s face it. America is the greatest country by far. No question.” It wasn’t jingoism on his part. What he meant was that America was the greatest country in the world to LIVE in.

Sometimes someone will say something to you that’s obvious, as plain as the nose on one’s face, and yet you’ve never quite thought of it, at least in not quite that way. I had often entertained unpatriotic thoughts in my teens and young adulthood, because of resentment over things such as the Vietnam War and hatred of politicians such as Presidents Nixon and Johnson, But Dr. Colp’s remark struck me then as true and has stayed with me.

Jingoism aside, we do live in the greatest country on earth, by Jove. We are so lucky to. It’s a blessing that is often taken for granted.


— Roger W. Smith

   January 26, 2017



See also:

“Tribute to Ralph Colp, Jr., MD”

Roger W. Smith, ‘tribute to Ralph Colp, Jr., MD”

Edvard Grieg, solo piano music


Ensom vandrer (Solitary wanderer)

from Lyric Pieces, Book III, Op. 43


I hjemmet (In my homeland)

from Lyric Pieces, Book III, Op. 43


Erotikk (Erotikon)

from Lyric Pieces, Book III, Op. 43


Til våren (To spring)

from Lyric Pieces, Book III, Op. 43


Solveigs sang (Solveig’s Song)

from Piano Pieces after Original Songs, Op. 52


Heimweh (Homesickness)

from Lyric Pieces, Book VI, Op. 57


Takk (Gratitude)

from Lyric Pieces, Book VII, Op. 62


Hjemad (Homeward)

from Lyric Pieces, Book VII, Op. 62


Tungsinn (Melancholy)

from Lyric Pieces, Book VIII, Op. 65


Bryllupsdag på Troldhaugen (Wedding Day at Troldhaugen)

from Lyric Pieces, Book VIII, Op. 65


For dine føtter (At your feet)

from Lyric Pieces, Book IX, Op. 68


Bådnlåt (At the cradle)

from Lyric Pieces, Book IX, Op. 68


Sommeraften (Summer’s eve)

from Lyric Pieces, Book X, Op. 71


Efterklang (Remembrances)

from Lyric Pieces, Book X, Op. 71


The Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), himself a pianist, wrote hundreds of piano works, ranging from his well known Piano Concerto in A minor to a plethora of works for solo piano.

The works for solo piano are essentially tone poems, and Grieg is a master at painting scenes from daily life and depicting universal emotions that one can feel — it’s as if something auditory can be visualized or experienced with other senses (e.g., tactile).

I have posted here 14 of my personal favorites, focusing on pieces that exemplify Grieg’s genius for capturing a mood or depicting a scene. It seems to me that he comes close to being unrivaled in this respect. He does the same thing, by the way, in his lieder.


— Roger W. Smith

   January 2017




The Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes has recorded Grieg’s piano works, including his Lyric Pieces. Many of them are on YouTube.

“God’s in His heaven”


The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world

— Robert Browning, “Pippa Passes” (1841)

Trump vis-à-vis Hitler


“Anyone who thinks Trump is Hitler never studied European history.”

comment posted by a reader of an op ed piece, The New York Times, May 9, 2017



An acquaintance of mine posted a comment on Facebook last evening — following up on comments arising from a blog post of mine yesterday — saying that Donald Trump is “worse” than Hitler was. He then followed up with the comment that there are “many parallels” between Trump and Hitler.

He means it; he was not trying to be cute.

I was astonished by such a comparison having been made. After a brief check of the Times, however, I learned that others have been saying the same thing.

Another Facebook commentator, responding to the first person’s comments, wrote:


“And more recent history, Milošević: not only narcissism, popularism, support of white nationalists, but disturbingly parallel in terms of the belief in ridiculous conspiracy theories.

“Have you read Mein Kampf? Distorted, disordered thinking, stream of consciousness writing. If Hitler had twitter, he would tweet like this man [Trump]. And if this man could write (a book for himself rather than paying someone to write for him), his writing would likely be similar to Hitler’s.

“Except, Hitler had ‘grander’ visions … this man is indeed an idiot who has no thought beyond ‘winning’.”



After pausing to catch my breath, I would be inclined to say:

There may well be something to these comparisons in alerting us to current political developments in the USA and Western Europe, where the politics represented by figures such as Trump and Marine Le Pen in France, both of whom only recently did not seem to be taken that seriously, are in the ascendancy.

There may be instructive parallels with 1930’s-style Fascism.

Historical analogies can be useful.

But, in the case of such claims, it is necessary to maintain a truly historical perspective; to avoid “reverse presentism,” so to speak (interpreting current developments in terms of past ones); to maintain some degree of objectivity and balance.

I believe that the left has become unhinged over the Trump candidacy and election and has lost all sense of proportion and reason.



Donald Trump has been called “a monster” by another one of my close acquaintances.

And, God knows what else (by others).

Trump does not have an appealing personality in many respects. (I can hear Trump haters saying to me, “you just discovered that?”)

I have not studied him closely, nor would I be qualified to develop a psychological profile.

But, he appears, more often than not, to be

an egomaniac

a male chauvinist

a groper, at least – I don’t think his several accusers, who all of them tell pretty much the same story, are making it up; I don’t believe his denials

an adulterer; probably — it would appear, undoubtedly — at various times in his life — a philanderer (in which categories I would suspect that he would be found to have a lot of company if a modern day Kinsey Report were compiled and published)

crude — at least sometimes; coarse and vulgar

given to puffery, braggadicio, and egregious self-promotion

given to distortion and playing loose with the facts when it suits his own purposes, in his public pronouncements

stiffs businessmen and women whom he or his firm has dealings with

his firm scammed students of the bogus Trump University

has to be the center of attention and has always acted as if he was God’s gift to mankind and womankind

espouses truly reprehensible policies

wants to dismantle Obama’s signature achievements

insults, trashes, or smears political rivals and those he disagrees with

can be demeaning to persons and groups who have suffered or appear disadvantaged

intellectually shallow



Are there any pluses?

is not an intellectual or an Einstein, but seems to have a quick grasp of issues and exhibits problem solving skills

does seem to have an ability to get things done

says what’s really on his mind instead of hiding behind politico-speak

he does have business experience and savvy, and he has shown an ability to cut through red tape and deliver results



Politicians then and now have exhibited a wide range of traits and abilities (name your own), including:

high minded








highly intelligent

borderline stupid

and so on






Pol Pot

Idi Amin

not Donald Trump



It would take quite a lot of butchery from our new president – he would have a long way to go — to match the track records of the above named historical figures and be classed among the worst of recent history’s tyrants.

An old friend of mine, whom I like and admire, marched with her extended family in an anti-Trump protest in Washington yesterday (January 22, 2017) and proudly posted a photo on Facebook.

One of her friends posted as follows: “Give me a break, _______. Trump hasn’t done anything yet and you guys are protesting. This is ridiculous.”

Well put. (Although I do not feel that protestors do not have the right to engage in a “counter inaugural” and to demonstrate on this or other occasions.) Hitler has a track record whereby history has indicted him. Trump’s remains to be seen.



I wonder. Is the left most incensed about Trump the “sexist pig”?

If so, I wonder why more fuss wasn’t ever made and as much outrage shown over:

JFK (had White House interns procured for him — one recently wrote a book about it that was respectfully reviewed; and, his girlfriend, the moll Judith Exner)

Ted Kennedy (Chappaquiddick)

Bill Clinton (Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and countless others; probably Denise Rich, to whose husband Clinton issued a scandalous eleventh hour pardon; apparently forcing himself upon Juanita Broaddrick)


— Roger W. Smith

    January 23, 2017; updated May 9, 2017



Addendum: The following is my response to a reader of this post who criticized it.

My comments:

Your feelings are shared by many of your and my relatives and friends and are well expressed by you.

A couple of comments by way of explanation.

I do not necessarily think Trump is great businessman, and he certainly is not a genius. I have read articles over the years critical of his business dealings and articles which point to weak links and question the financial soundness of businesses and holdings in in his corporate empire. I was trying to point out that, when assessing Trump in the round, he does appear to have business acumen and some of the mental abilities that go along with that.

As far as the implication that I am wasting my time writing about Trump goes, I think that the anti-Trump hysteria (as I view it) is symptomatic of something deeper and is an illustration of a zaniness on the left these days when it comes to things that offend them, Trump being their current bête noire. Which Lionel Shriver talks about. See:

I don’t like it when I see intolerance from either side, and when the public is in a frenzy, I find often find myself questioning it.

I could probably explain myself better if I took the time. But, one should not be faulted for writing what one honesty thinks, or for having an opinion that does not accord with others’. Nor is it a waste of time to point out what seem to be excesses by liberals.

It’s kind of like I’m being told, there is no point in even discussing Trump or any issues that might arise because of the controversy over his candidacy and election and revelations regarding him; that I am not allowed to even think or write about him, unless my view conforms and supports others’. But, for example, as was the case with my previous posts about the Billy Bush tape and the “Hamilton” cast’s remarks made to Vice President elect Pence, there were issues that arose that, aside from the news flashes, are worthy of consideration and, in my case, of reflection upon broader issues and concerns. Why should I steer away from controversial topics for fear of being disagreed with?

Many people became disillusioned with the Great Soviet Experiment, but were afraid to say anything. George Orwell saw that what was supposed to be an egalitarian, liberated society had actually become totalitarian and repressive, and wrote about it. I feel, as Lionel Shriver recently wrote, that “the left in the West [has] come to embrace restriction, censorship and the imposition of an orthodoxy at least as tyrannical as the anti-Communist, pro-Christian conformism [we] grew up with.”

Criticisms of Trump notwithstanding, it is not a waste of time to weigh in on such issues. They often arise when the person attacked is among the least popular and most reviled.

more religious music


More wonderful religious music has been added here.


Mozart, “Maurerische Trauermusik” (Masonic Funeral Music), K. 477


Mozart, “Ave Verum Corpus,” K. 618


Mozart, Agnus Dei, from Missa Brevis in F, K. 192


Mozart, Laudamus Te, from Great Mass, K. 427


Mozart, Lacrimosa, from Requiem Mass, K. 626


Bach, adagio, from violin concerto in E Major, BMV 1042


– posted by Roger W. Smith

re Melania’s outfit and its designer


“There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as ‘moral indignation,’ which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue.”

— Erich Fromm, Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics



New First Lady Melania Trump wore a beautiful outfit at her husband’s inauguration yesterday.

It was designed by fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

I thought she looked stunning and was reminded that Donald J. Trump’s third wife is (in my humble opinion) a beautiful woman, but that was the extent of my thoughts. I have little interest or zero expertise in subjects such as fashion or glamour.

But, within hours, a story about the outfit appeared in The New York Times:

“Melania Trump, Wearing Ralph Lauren, Channels a Predecessor: Jacqueline Kennedy”

by Vanessa Friedman

The New York Times

January 20, 2017



A digest of the article:

“On Friday, Melania Trump wore a powder-blue cashmere dress and matching bolero jacket by the designer [Ralph Lauren] as her husband, Donald J. Trump, was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Though Mr. Lauren’s designs have been worn by first ladies from Betty Ford to Nancy Reagan and Michelle Obama, the reference this time was clear: Jacqueline Kennedy. From bouffant to mock turtleneck collar to light pastel shade.

“Mrs. Trump has said that she looks to Mrs. Kennedy as a role model, and at least as far as her image goes, it seems she is taking that literally. … It was, in other words, a very considered choice. ….

“It remains to be seen whether there will be repercussions for Mr. Lauren, since he has just become the most high-profile designer to break with peers who previously said they would not dress Mrs. Trump. But just minutes after the news broke that she was wearing the brand, disgruntled customers posted numerous messages on Twitter saying they would no longer shop at Polo Ralph Lauren. [italics added]

“A spokesman for Mr. Lauren explained the decision as being guided by his respect for the office. In a statement, he said: “The presidential inauguration is a time for the United States to look our best to the world. It was important to us to uphold and celebrate the tradition of creating iconic American style for this moment.”



My take on all this:

If I were a fashion designer and had the opportunity to design an outfit for an inaugural, I would jump at the opportunity. It would not matter how successful, famous, or rich I already was.

If I were a baseball player, I would want to play for the Yankees and appear in the All Star Game and the World Series.

If were an opera singer, I would probably want to perform at the Met.

And, so on.

Why should Ralph Lauren pass up such an opportunity?

Why should he have been or felt compelled to have a statement issued in his defense?



Something quite similar seems to have happened yesterday with respect to the 16-year-old singer with a beautiful soprano voice, Jackie Evancho, who sang the national anthem. It is a notoriously difficult song to sing. I thought she did very well.

Ms. Evancho has been the target of virulent criticism over her decision to perform at the inauguration and was branded a “traitor.” Other performers and groups, such as the Rockettes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, underwent similar criticism and were subject to similar pressure.



Apropos all this, points made by novelist Lionel Shriver in her op ed piece

“Will the Left Survive the Millennials?”

The New York Times

September 23, 2016

are highly relevant.

To quote from her incisive – thoughtfully written and judiciously framed, yet hard hitting — piece, which seems not to have received the attention it deserved:

“Among millennials and those coming of age behind them, the race is on to see who can be more righteous and aggrieved — who can replace the boring old civil rights generation with a spikier brand.

“When I was growing up in the ’60s and early ’70s, conservatives were the enforcers of conformity. It was the right that was suspicious, sniffing out Communists and scrutinizing public figures for signs of sedition.

“Now the role of oppressor has passed to the left. …

“As a lifelong Democratic voter, I’m dismayed by the radical left’s ever-growing list of dos and don’ts — by its impulse to control, to instill self-censorship as well as to promote real censorship, and to deploy sensitivity as an excuse to be brutally insensitive to any perceived enemy. There are many people who see these frenzies about cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces as overtly crazy. The shrill tyranny of the left helps to push them toward Donald Trump. … people who would hamper free speech always assume that they’re designing a world in which only their enemies will have to shut up. But free speech is fragile. Left-wing activists are just as dependent on permission to speak their minds as their detractors.

“In an era of weaponized sensitivity, participation in public discourse is growing so perilous, so fraught with the danger of being caught out for using the wrong word or failing to uphold the latest orthodoxy in relation to disability, sexual orientation, economic class, race or ethnicity, that many are apt to bow out.

“… How is this happening? How did the left in the West come to embrace restriction, censorship and the imposition of an orthodoxy at least as tyrannical as the anti-Communist, pro-Christian conformism I grew up with? … Protecting freedom of speech involves protecting the voices of people with whom you may violently disagree.”



So true. It used to be that if you had had left wing leanings — if, perhaps, God forbid, in your idealistic youth, you had flirted with Communism; if you could be labeled a Pinko — you might very well lose your job. This was in the 1950’s, the era of McCarthyism, witch hunts, and the Red Scare. I remember that time dimly (having been in my childhood).

Now, the witch hunters have in their sights “innocent bystanders,” so to speak, such as Ralph Lauren and a sixteen-year old singer named Jackie Evancho, who get caught up in the tidal wave of anti-Trump frenzy.

People have a right to their opinions — including vehemently anti-Trump ones – and have the right, in America, at least; thank God – to express them.

In my childhood, when we got into arguments with playmates, we would say, “It’s a free country!” – meaning, I can say whatever I please (barring something over the top, such as a personal slur or an obscenity, which, as children, we would not have thought to use anyway, nor had consciousness of as being something one might be guilty of using).

People also have a right to practice an avocation as a designer, performer, or whatever without fear of retaliation because of the taint of “political incorrectness.”


— Roger W. Smith

   January 21, 2017

A Plan to Destroy Fifth Avenue


Fifth Avenue, Midtown; photo taken by Roger W. Smith at noon on a weekday

Below: Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan on a weekday afternoon in February 2017. This is “traffic bedlam”? (See commentary below.)

Fifth Avenue 12-56 p.m. 2-17-2017.JPG


Below: Fifth Avenue near 50th Street at 2:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 27, 2017. Same comment as above. (Traffic engineer needed?)

Fifth Avenue 2-15 p.m. 4-27-2017.jpg


Below: Fifth Avenue at 34th Street, 1:59 p.m., Monday, May 8, 2017. Traffic flowing just fine on a weekday and is in fact light.

Fifth Ave at 34th St 1-59 p.m. 5-8-2017.JPG


Below: two photos of pedestrians on Fifth Avenue in Midtown near 42nd Street and in the 60’s just north of 59th Street. “One of the world’s densest concentrations of humanity”?

Fifth Avenue 2-03 p.m. 11-29-2016.JPG


Fifth Avenue 3-11 p.m. 12-20-2016.JPG




“A Plea for Fifth Avenue” by Janette Sadik-Khan (former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation), op-ed, The New York Times , January 9, 2017



This op ed should be retitled: “A PLAN to DESTROY Fifth Avenue.”

It is a horrible piece, founded on plain bad thinking. It doesn’t take a traffic engineer, city planner, or urban studies professor to see this.

If Jane Jacobs could read this piece, she would be rolling over in her grave.

Below are the points made by Ms. Sadik-Khan (in boldface), followed seriatim by my commentary.


— Roger W. Smith

   January 2017; updated April 2017



To quote from Ms. Sadik-Khan’s New York Times op ed piece. (Her words are in boldface, followed by my comments.)


“President-elect Donald J. Trump, lives in New York City, on Fifth Avenue.”

So what? Fifth Avenue has been a Manhattan thoroughfare over 150 years; Donald Trump’s presidency will last at most for eight years. Fifth Avenue is approximately 135 city blocks — or just under seven miles — long from south to north. Donald Trump’s residence, Trump Tower, is situated on a single block between 56th and 57th Streets.


Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan is “home to one of the world’s densest concentrations of humanity and traffic bedlam.”*

Except for the fact that a few sections such as streets in the vicinity of Trump Tower have been closed to traffic, causing traffic problems (and a block long stretch of the avenue having been closed to pedestrians on the block where Trump Tower is located),* traffic on the avenue usually flows smoothly, as I have observed for years — there is hardly ever “traffic bedlam.” Yes, there is often a dense concentration of humanity on some parts of the avenue, such as near Rockefeller Center and Grand Army Plaza, but wide sidewalks make the avenue very walkable, and there is nothing like the congestion, pedestrian wise, that one often experiences in Times Square.

Fifth Avenue is not “home to one of the world’s densest concentrations of humanity.” Factually inaccurate. Maybe Calcutta.

* This was a problem in January 2017 when this post was written. With Trump having moved to Washington, pedestrian and vehicular traffic on Fifth Avenue near Trump Tower now flows well. Some side streets are still closed off.


“Fifth Avenue’s five lanes run past landmarks like the New York Public Library, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, as well as numerous cathedrals of commerce, tourism and high-end retail. Because the avenue is such a popular destination, retail floor space there rents for $3,000 per square foot a year, the highest price in the world, more than double the cost of similar space along the Champs Élysées. It seems appropriate that gold is a popular color for building facades on Fifth.”

So what? Landmarks make the avenue special. Expensive retail shops give it a feeling of luxuriousness. Yes, Fifth Avenue is a premium locale, Manhattan’s priciest and most exclusive avenue, with expensive properties. Is that a bad thing? People of modest means or less than high class status are by no means barred from it.


“Fifth Avenue at 56th Street is the site of Mr. Trump’s apartment in Trump Tower, which has rapidly turned into a fortress of Secret Service agents and heavily armed police officers surrounded by curious tourists, camera crews and protesters. They join the usual shoppers, workers and other pedestrians on what were already crowded sidewalks, and often spill into the street. This has significantly slowed traffic, and security concerns have forced the closing of side streets.”

This is too bad. But is the solution for this inconvenience to restrict access to the avenue even more? When and to what end, I ask. What will this accomplish? The solution proposed is right out of  Part III of Gulliver’s Travels (“A Voyage to Laputa”; the opening chapters of same).


“While Mr. Trump has said he will move into the White House, his wife and youngest child plan to wait until at least the end of the school year. During the campaign, Mr. Trump was known for flying home late at night so that he could wake up in his own bed, and he has said that he plans to return to the city frequently. If he chooses to stay even part of the week in New York, Trump Tower will become a de facto presidential residence and seat of global power.”

More power to him (and Madame Trump). For this, the traffic czars want to restrict traffic access to Fifth Ave?


“The motorcades and security restrictions that will result will permanently paralyze the city’s streets. The swearing-in hasn’t even happened, but the swearing has already started: New Yorkers want their Fifth Avenue back.”

Ditto. I don’t like the disruption of traffic and pedestrian flow caused by Trump Tower’s being the home of the newly elected president. Let’s hope they don’t “permanently paralyze the city’s streets.” Is she thinking of shutting the City down?


“As much as Mr. Trump’s election is a historic moment, it also provides an extraordinary opportunity to reclaim Fifth Avenue as a pedestrian street, free of private vehicular traffic but shared with mass transit. The change, which should span the stretch of the avenue from Central Park to the Empire State Building at 34th Street, would create a truly American public space: an entirely new civic platform at the nation’s new center of political gravity.”

Aha, here’s what she wants! To get rid of traffic on Fifth Avenue and recreate on one of the world’s great avenues a so called “public space”! Her zany proposal, if implemented, will ruin the avenue and destroy its character, for sure. Look what the traffic engineers have already done to Times Square and other parts of the city, such as Herald Square. (See photo below of miserable people in the horrible, ugly “public space” that now graces — meant sarcastically — the epicenter of Times Square.)

Who says (why in God’s name does she?) that Fifth Avenue has to be “reclaimed?” As if we were in the South Bronx of the 1970’s.

“[R]eclaim Fifth Avenue as a pedestrian street.” What? It’s already a great pedestrian street. (See photos below.) It’s not in need of “reclamation”!


“A natural comparison would be with car-free Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. Creating public plazas out of streets physically embodies democracy in cities. It gives people room to reflect on their civic institutions instead of being herded along — as they currently are around Trump Tower.”

“Creating public plazas out of streets physically embodies democracy in cities.”

Highfalutin psychobabble. NONSENSE masquerading as wisdom.

“It gives people room to reflect on their civic institutions instead of being herded along — as they currently are around Trump Tower.”

“Herded along”? I can walk just fine on Fifth Avenue, thank you very much, without any one redesigning it for me. It’s a great street to walk on. So much fun. Wide sidewalks. No impediments, save for the barriers and police presence between 56th And 57th Streets, which I myself don’t like, and which are quite recent. Because of this, this nutty “savant “wants to shut down fifteen more blocks of the avenue (to traffic).

“Room to reflect on their civic institutions”? That’s a good one. Is this what the people in the photo below of Times Square’s truly horrible public space are doing?

Think about it. Traffic runs one way on Fifth Avenue (downtown, from north to south). This was the result of making Manhattan’s avenues one way in the 1950’s to improve traffic flow. There are ample sidewalks on either side of the avenue, which give pedestrians the opportunity to not only stroll the avenue and people watch, but also to look at and perhaps visit the shops and institutions which they pass. For example, I like to walk past the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets and admire its beauty and grandeur (people are always congregated on the library steps and in front of the building, enjoying the sun in the summer time, taking photos, enjoying a coffee), past department stores such as Lord and Taylor’s at 38th and Fifth Avenue, and so on.

Fifth Avenue is a great street to walk on, plain and simple. But what does Janette Sadik-Khan, who is anti-automobile, propose doing? Shutting down three lanes of the avenue, which would be exclusively for pedestrians. Why? Who wants to walk in the MIDDLE of the street, and who said there wasn’t already a place to walk?


“Unlike Pennsylvania Avenue [in Washington, DC], however, Fifth Avenue is a vital transit conduit for 38 bus lines carrying tens of thousands of people every day across Manhattan and to and from the other boroughs. Reserving two lanes for their use (and for the motorcades) would allow the other three to be dedicated to pedestrians.”

As I have said above, traffic flows fine right now on Fifth Avenue, at most times; obviously, it flows better at some times than others. There was severe traffic congestion for a day or two right after Trump was elected when demonstrations were taking place in front of Trump Tower, and there may be congestion — near, say, Rockefeller Center — around Christmastime, but even that is occasional. There are nice wide sidewalks already for pedestrians to walk on!

I have always liked the fact that, in cities, there is a mixture of pedestrians, automobiles, buses, and subways. It means one has a choice of how to get around. (I actually take a perverse pleasure in jaywalking and dodging cars.)

I like the traffic on Fifth Avenue. While strolling on the broad sidewalks north of 59th Street (cobblestone on the west side of the avenue) — with Central Park to one’s left; or, conversely, on the other side of the street, luxurious apartment buildings — I like to mix with the pedestrian throng while at the same time viewing the cars and buses as they rumble down the avenue. There’s something pleasant about realizing that not only is it a beautiful avenue, but that it also serves a purpose as an efficient conduit for north-south traffic.

I rarely drive or ride in a car when in the City. I love being a pedestrian because of the peaceful feeling, the exercise, the opportunity one has to view, at a leisurely pace, any and all sorts of interesting places and commercial establishments. Fifth Avenue is already great to walk along. So now we have to create three dedicated pedestrian lanes. For what? So that people can walk in the avenue. Who wants to walk there? What’s wrong with the good old sidewalks? They do attract a lot of pedestrians, which make them even more fun to stroll on. But, pedestrian traffic is almost never impeded, for any reason whatsoever – except for the situation in front of Trump Tower, which is not the result of Fifth Avenue being Fifth Avenue.


“Commercial traffic has already long been banned from Fifth Avenue, and deliveries by truck could continue at enhanced delivery zones on side streets during set times of the day. As for taxis, the city can make accommodations for passenger drop-offs, but prevent cabs from cruising along empty for blocks on end.”

What, in the name of God, is an “enhanced delivery zone”?

Why harass cab drivers? It’s tough enough for them to make a living, and it’s very hard to hail an unoccupied cab in the City.

Ban cars and taxis from a stretch of Fifth Avenue. Why? Every time this sort of thing is done, it creates more congestion on the other avenues which flow from south to north or in the other direction.


“This isn’t just a feel-good experiment in civics, nor is it a public transit boondoggle.”

Says who? The clueless author of this article, that’s who.


“Streets that accommodate more people are also better for business.”

Really? My wife likes to drive to shop at a fancy store on Fifth Avenue on off hours when traffic is light and parking is available. How will deliveries be made to these retail establishments?


“In a similar project I helped introduce in 2009, in the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, seven blocks of Broadway in Times Square were closed to traffic, and two traffic lanes were removed between Columbus Circle at 59th Street and 17th Street, a distance of more than two miles.”

I have already noted that Times Square is unpleasant to hang out in because of the changes made by Mayor Bloomberg and his traffic commissioner, Ms. Sadik-Kahn. The public spaces, to put it kindly, are horrible. Don’t take my word for it. Go there sometime, if you can.


“New Yorkers in cars and cabs are quick to adapt to change, and drivers easily found alternate routes.”

Wishful thinking, Ms. Sadik-Khan is totally anti-car and is in la la land, so to speak, as regards transportation realities. It’s the polar opposite of (insofar as Ms. Sadik-Khan is anti-car), but the same high handed, autocratic “we know what’s best for the public” attitude that the urban designers who were totally anti-pedestrian, of the 1950’s had.

Drivers in NYC are always looking for alternate routes. Why foist on them the burden and aggravation of having to look for more?

Shutting down a stretch of Fifth Avenue to vehicular traffic will force a spillover of traffic to avenues further east, such as Park, Lexington, and Second Avenues, which are already clogged.


“The expansion of rapid bus networks in the city and the opening of the Second Avenue subway mean that there are more alternatives than ever to driving in Midtown Manhattan. Turning Fifth Avenue into a bus- and pedestrian-friendly corridor can be the next step: It would not only solve the problem of the Trump Tower jam but also encourage more people to walk, use the growing bike share system and enjoy the better bus service.”

In other words, let’s get rid of cars, which will supposedly force people to walk, ride bicycles, or take the subway. A utopian, impractical scheme. I myself prefer to walk or take public transportation. But, as Jane Jacobs wrote in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, “automobiles are hardly inherent destroyers of cities”; they are not bad. Many people prefer them. Others need to use them. And, cars and vans are an efficient way to make deliveries.


“… [T]his transformation of Fifth Avenue may be that sweet spot where urbanism, transportation engineering, democracy and politics can align.”

This is purple prose and pure nonsense. Pray that her loony idea never comes to fruition.



P.S. An op ed page should be a place for divergent opinions. But, really, what were the New York Times editors thinking when they published this piece? Does it echo their thinking? I have a sneaking suspicion that it does. Social engineers are always trying to retool institutions, overhaul codes of behavior, alter public spaces, and so forth, supposedly for our “betterment,” ignoring accumulated wisdom, common sense, and the experience of life as the benighted masses actually live and experience it.


— Roger W. Smith

   January 18, 2017





The Times Square public space


those horrible Times Square seating areas.jpg

(Internet photo)



Below (also depicted above) are photographs of the Times Square public space taken by Roger W. Smith. It was virtually empty on midday on a recent February 2017 afternoon. The temperature was in the mid 40’s. It’s truly ugly and I wonder if the few people there are “reflect[ing] on their civic institutions.”




Also below is a photo by Roger W. Smith of another one of the urban “oases” (read, eyesores) created by Ms. Sadik-Khan: the Garment District seating area at 40th Street and Broadway. Hardly anyone is there, and the seats are empty. It serves mainly to create another traffic obstruction.


Garment District seating area, February 2, 2017 (photo by Roger W. Smith)



Below are photographs of Fifth Avenue taken by Roger W. Smith in the early afternoon on Saturday, February 4, 2017. Take a look. Where are the “traffic bedlam” and the crowds? “[H]ome to one of the world’s densest concentrations of humanity and traffic bedlam”?





I took the attached photo of Fifth Ave near 79th St. yesterday afternoon at around rush hour:

Where is the heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic that the traffic engineers have been writing jeremiads about? They want to solve the “problem” by shutting part of the avenue down.



Fifth Avenue, January 2017 (photograph by Roger W. Smith)

– Roger W. Smith, email to a friend, February 1, 2017




Fifth Avenue, 12:25 p.m.; August 20, 2018

I took the above photo on Fifth Avenue in the 40’s at midday on a Monday afternoon in August 2018. Where is the traffic jam? The truth is that traffic usually flows very well on Fifth Avenue, which runs in one direction, downtown, from north to south. No traffic crisis requiring the intervention of city planners.

“your last ride”


Three months ago, I took a one week trip by train to the Midwest to attend a cultural event in Milwaukee. I had never been to the Midwest before (except for a one day business trip).

I spent time in both Milwaukee and Chicago.

I had always wanted to see Chicago. An acquaintance of mine who traveled a lot in his business career told me that it was not a particularly interesting city.

I found that it was a great place to visit. Milwaukee was less interesting, but pleasant.

Anyway, what I wish to mention in this post is that I met a fellow on the train who is in his early 40’s. We struck up a friendship over a long conversation during breakfast in the cafeteria car. We have managed since to keep in touch.

He has a day job, but has aspirations to become a writer. He is desirous of feedback from me about his writing and advice about how to start a blog.

We tried to touch base over the holidays but kept missing each other. He lives in Ohio, but he has family in New York City and visits here often.

I got a phone call from him today. During our conversation — pleasant as usual — we inquired about one another.

I told him that I was doing very well absent the usual problems that seem always to crop up in one’s life, like burdocks. You can’t be rid of them, it seems; there’s never any respite.

He laughed, in his usual good natured way. His reply was: “When you no longer have problems, you’re ready for your last ride.” He said this was how a friend of his put it.

Having problems, he said, is part of life; it means that you are ALIVE.

I loved the way he put it. “Your last ride,” to the cemetery. It may be a common expression, but I had never head it before.

Last ride. Problems are a part of life – intrinsic. Having and experiencing them mean that you are not, by the grace of God, dead.

I loved the thought and the choice of words.


— Roger W. Smith

      January 14, 2017