Archive for December, 2021

Here’s Looking at You, World

Friday, December 24th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Post-op. Coffee and a buttered roll. I.R. Photography

Post-op. Coffee and a buttered roll.
I.R. Photography

“You were nearly legally blind in that eye and now you’re 20/20.”

     In fact, in both eyes. For the first time since, well, ever. Merry Christmas.

      The 20/20 score was reported to me by a technician who had just asked me to look at the eye chart and tell her what I could see with my left eye. I started at the bottom. I am one of the 2 million or so Americans who had cataract surgery this year. Virtually all the procedures were successful, as usual.      

     I can now write this column, look out the window, stare at the clock in the other room, just look without thinking about what I’m trying to see and I find it all just amazing because it is so commonplace today.

             You lay back on a table, stare without blinking into a bunch of bright lights (into a second bright light if you elect laser as well), they remove the cloudy lens in your eye and replace it with a new, clear one. Voila! Rest a bit, have some coffee, get dressed and go home. Take the eye drops as prescribed. Don’t drive immediately, but move about freely in the world.

        And boy is it a bright, colorful world. The impact was remarkable, especially for someone who had worn strong prescription eyeglasses since the first grade, from get-out-of-bed to go-to-bed. No more. I’m grateful.

        Indeed, it regularly amazes me how we take for granted so many scientific advances in our lives, barely give them a second thought much less a moment of gratitude, yet at the same time doubt or dispute science when it doesn’t fit our preconceived beliefs, often based on nothing but self-serving pronouncements from non- scientists. Only when the science hits home do some, reluctantly, notice what an incredible world we enjoy.

         This year, I had an inflamed gall bladder removed without surgeons having to open my whole midsection. I had lenses removed from each eye and replaced with new ones, with no pain or discomfort. Everything’s working fine.

          Not so in the Fifth Century B.C., when the first cataract surgery was performed without benefit of anesthesia or sterile conditions. A sharp needle was used to push the lens out of the viewing axis. It was called “couching” and the outcomes were terrible.

           This went on until 1747, when French surgeon Jacques Daviel actually removed a lens from an eye, using a special knife and spatula. Post-op was a cotton dressing soaked in wine placed on the eye and the patient resting in a darkened room for several days. Complications were common.

           Not until after World War II was the second half of the operation — placing a new lens in the eye — possible. Research in the 21st century has developed better lenses, safer techniques and the use of lasers for incisions. Today, the procedure is not only commonplace, but regarded by most people as routine. 

          And I see that as remarkable.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at





Really Old, Really Rich and Really Wrong

Sunday, December 19th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

A centuries-old horn stolen from Turkey, worth $3.5 million.

A centuries-old horn stolen from Turkey, worth $3.5 million.

  This is a story about how the rich often get special treatment from our justice system. There is also a footnote to the story which raises at least some hope that the rich-get-off-easy scenario may soon be amended.

     First, a favor for the rich guy.

     Michael Steinhardt, a billionaire who is used to having pretty much anything he wants, recently got an early birthday present from Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr.: A stay-out-of-jail card.

   The gift came with a message, a stern warning if you will: Tsk, tsk, Michael. You know better than that. Now round up all those weird old things cluttering up all your homes and give them back to their rightful owners. And don’t ever do that again. (Signed), Cy

    Steinhardt’s lawyer said his client, a hedge fund founder who has been accused of sexual harassment in the past, was “pleased” with Vance’s gift. Most rich people Vance lets off the hook usually are.

    As he prepares to retire, Vance provided one more piece of evidence confirming that his scales of justice are weighted heavily in favor of the rich.

Michael Steinhardt

Michael Steinhardt

  Steinhardt, described in news accounts as a philanthropist and collector of antiquities, was ordered to return some $70 million worth of those antiquities to their rightful owners. People from whom they were stolen, in other words. The people of 11 nations, actually.

   He was also told to refrain from this practice, or else. The “or else” part was not spelled out. Two days after Vance’s  announcement, Steinhardt celebrated his 81st birthday, presumably suitably chastised.

    This “punishment” for aggressively seeking, purchasing and possessing 180 pieces of stolen property was the culmination of a four-year investigation by the Antiquities Trafficking Unit of the Manhattan prosecutor’s office. It involved investigators and officials in the following countries: Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Turkey, a veritable Who’s Who of places one might shop for antiquities. And Steinhardt was a frequent shopper. He also apparently knew where to find the good stuff.

Cy Vance

Cy Vance

In a prepared statement, Vance said: “For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe. His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to showcase and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection.”

       Despite all those traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers and tomb raiders with whom Steinhardt did business, Vance said he decided not to prosecute Steinhardt in order to return the stolen subject to their rightful owners as quickly as possible.  Suddenly, time is of importance with these extremely old treasures.

    Vance also said he wanted to protect the identity of witnesses around the globe. Future tipsters. So thoughtful. 

     In comparison, studies of his office’s prosecution rates show that low-level offenders (people in possession of less-pricey stolen property, for example) from Manhattan represent a significantly higher population of Rikers Island in New York City, than similar miscreants from Brooklyn, which has a significantly higher population of all types. Hey, if you do the crime in Manhattan, Vance says you gotta pay the time.       

    Then there are Vance’s past decisions not to prosecute movie producer Harvey Wasserman on sexual harassment charges, or to charge Donald or Ivanka Trump on the usual fraud stuff. People who care about ethics in government have also criticized Vance”s practice of accepting campaign donations from lawyers and law firms whose clients had dealings with his office. The connection between money and influence is, well, elementary.

       Now for the hopeful news in this story, the footnote. 

        This is Vance’s swan song in Manhattan. He’s retiring. That means the new, eager DA will get to work with New York Attorney General Letitia James on putting Trump and his cohorts behind bars on a variety of tax fraud charges. 

       James decided not to run for governor and to focus on the continuing Trump prosecution she has been working on with the Manhattan DAs office. She’s already forced Andrew Cuomo to resign as governor because of sexual harassment allegations. Nailing Trump would make her a political rock star as well as establishing a different, more balanced, atmosphere in the Manhattan DA’s office.

        Maybe Vance finally decided this was one political favor to a rich friend he couldn’t deliver. And maybe all those museums that slapped Steinhart’s name on galleries because of his “generosity“ need to take it down. At least his ego will pay a price.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at



Pizza, Sinatra, Fairy Tales and Hope

Monday, December 6th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Deep dish vegetarian pizza. Well done.

RJ Photography.                                     Deepdish vegetarian pizza. Well done.

   “Fairy tales can come true. It can happen to you. If you’re young at heart. For as rich as you are, it’s much better by far …”

     Sinatra was in fine voice as I opened the door to Pizza Plus to pick up our regular order: A large, deep-dish vegetarian pizza, well-done, light on the cheese, with fresh garlic instead of onions. 

      It’s always the same pizza. It’s almost always Sinatra. I am a fan of structure, routine, tradition, whatever you want to call it. Something to look forward to. I think it builds memories, something to look back on. 

      On this particular pizza day, the Sinatra song playing took me way back to 1954. That’s when I graduated from the eighth grade. Our graduating class sang the song, in excellent harmony as I recall, as part of the commencement ceremony. 

  We even remembered the slight pause at the end of the song.

      That reminiscence took me back to the teen years that followed in Bayonne, N.J., and the memory-building hours spent in ice cream parlors, soda shops, candy stores around town. Diners, too. And the music on the juke boxes. The kind of music that’s always playing when I pick up my pizza in Pine Bush, six decades and 65 miles removed.

        The trip down memory lane also reminded me that the pizza place was actually an old-fashioned ice cream parlor when the building first opened some time in the 1980s. A little synchronicity, no?

         Warm memories and continuity are reassuring, especially in a society that appears to have lost its way. Remember, it wasn’t always like this. It won’t always be like this. Hang in. Enjoy the moment. And do what you can to make things better. (more…)