In Memorium

We survived COVID. We kept to our running and biking and friendships. I skipped the Tuesday night Zooms because my days at work are filled up with Zoom calls and I didn’t have the patience for the one-at-a-time report-outs that Zoom requires and the inevitable lags and echos that disrupt the normal banter and cross-talk of our F2F conversations.

Finally, only a few weeks ago, we resumed our in person runs in the park. Our first Saturday run and coffee and the first Tuesday night run and pizza (although this time on a Monday night) since the pandemic began. I rarely stay awake past 8:30 and always run in the morning, but I made an exception to celebrate – and did a couple of miles with my running friends.

Jerry was my anchor. A wise, warm and generous man. We talked of business, books, politics and fitness. He had decades of successful entrepreneurial experience, which he shared freely. I could always count on him for wise advice on a knotty work challenge or client issue.

And although I don’t know them as well, his family is every bit as wise and warm as he is.

Not so long ago, I confided in Jerry that I was afraid to ride my bike outside. I want to. I used to love long bike rides, but now I’m afraid of an accident or a fall. No particular reason. Except maybe my Peleton obsession, which began on October 30, 2020, when my new Peleton bike arrived. I’m so strong and fast on the Peleton, but worry about the clipping and unclipping on a bike outdoors. I’m not graceful. What if my feet get stuck? What if I’m on a hill and a pack of racers comes from behind and swells past me?

Jerry said he’d take me on a ride. We’d go up Riverside Drive, across the GW bridge. We had a planned afternoon ride – just in the park on a weekday. I blocked it out on my calendar. But something came up.

Then, the accident. Jerry fell after a 63-mile bike trip, only blocks from his home. Fell. They put him in an induced coma. The Pizza Runners kept in touch with updates. When he gets out of the coma, I think we may have to wait months before going on that bike ride. He’ll need to recover.

Then, this morning I woke up to the devastating note from Ross. He’s not getting out of the coma. Too much bleeding; too much swelling. The brain is such an amazing organ. His especially. So far ranging, so perceptive. Such a truly good person.

Jerry, you brought joy, camaraderie and wisdom to our band of aging runners. Peace be with you and all those who loved you.

The Tyranny of the Past

Yesterday I spent a little time logging into what seems to have been an all-day conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Clubhouse. The discussion was, of course, prompted by the recent Hamas rocket attacks and the Israeli bombings that murdered hundreds of civilians. But it was really a lot of venting about the endless history of grievances. It seems there is no statute of limitations on any sentence that begins “What about…”

I was too unsure of myself to speak up in that forum. I’m hardly an expert on the situation. I had no Jewish education; in fact, I didn’t know our family’s proper last name until I was in my late teens or early twenties. Kutisker. Not Browde, which was an Ellis Island misspelling of Braude, my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Kutisker was my father’s last name. It was also the name on Nazi propaganda posters. “The Jew Kutisker…” with a photo of my great grandfather, who had been accused of financial crimes.

My family history is the classic Jewish Diaspora story. Flight from oppression and genocide; many dead, many others, like my father, who went through life with what I suppose might have been PTSD, which left him sometimes tone deaf to the suffering he inflicted on others.

But here we are now. Yesterday‘s conversation was frustrating to listen to. It’s not as if the state of Israel was founded on uninhabited territory. People lived there. People lost homes and communities. People who had had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

And here we are now, almost 75 years later, arguing on Clubhouse. One Palestinian woman protested that any time she criticized Israel, she was called “anti-Semitic.” “I’m Semitic too,” she said, her frustration mounting. Someone else corrected her, saying the term has now become widely understood to mean anti Jewish. Another woman kept bringing up 7 million. Yes 7 million Jews, And Armenians. And Cambodians. And the native tribes of North America. The history of our species is pretty abysmal when it comes to the sanctity of life.

But haven’t we evolved, learned the futility of hatred? Why not look forward? Why not ask what vision Palestinians and Israelis have for the future (taking the annihilation of each other off the table). What if you had to imagine an outcome that would enable every person to have equal human rights, equal self determination, equal access to resources and opportunities?

David Rock, who founded the Neuroleadership Institute, developed a great heuristic to explain core human needs. He calls it the SCARF model. Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. If we made the elements of the SCARF model our core values, wouldn’t we be able to come up with a humanistic solution?

Is this America?

My grandfather was 4’11” tall. From a shtetl someplace in Belarus. When he came to the United States, he worked as a Hebrew teacher, a milkman, a factory worker. He joined Workers of the World. He and his brother moved to Cleveland and got jobs in a plumbing supply company. And when World War 1 began, Grandpa refused to register for the draft. Not because he wasn’t willing to take on the danger, but because he believed he had more in common with fellow workers across the world than he had with those leaders who wanted to enlist young men to kill each other. He didn’t buy into the morality of fighting to the death against other working men, regardless of their nationality.

It was only a symbolic act. He was too short and wouldn’t have been accepted into military service anyway. But he wanted to make the point. He wanted to reject the war rather than wait for the war to reject him. The infraction landed him in jail for a year. He was fine with the jail sentence; he knew it was a consequence of his own actions and he was willing to pay the price. In prison he learned English and, at the suggestion of Emma Goldman, became a lawyer. He attended Fordham Law School as a special student, having never gone to high school or university. He graduated, passed the New York bar on his first try and set up his law practice.

He has always been my favorite member of my family; he was my hero, my teacher and my safe haven. He set the standard for courage.

So when I look at the sleazy lack of courage in the Senate today, I’m ashamed and disgusted. Who cares if you lose an election? Are you really willing to lie? Are you so corrupted by your privilege that you would abandon any pretense of a moral compass?

Being a senator isn’t the only job in the world. Surely you know how to do other things. And it’s hard to respect people who put their temp jobs ahead of principles.


Here are some of the many things about other people I don’t understand:

1. I hear people – mostly Christians, from what I can tell – talking about religious freedom. But as far as I can tell, they are the only ones who want to impose their beliefs on the rest of us. What’s the rationale? Wasn’t the separation of church and state a principle designed to protect people from different philosophical orientations from being dominated by any nationally ordained philosophy?

2. Why do the same people who believe that abortion is murder support unrestricted gun ownership, including assault weapons, and the death penalty? I can understand an objection to abortion, although I don’t see how small government claims the right to regulate what goes on inside a woman’s body. But I can’t understand people who believe in the sanctity of life believing that they should be armed to the teeth against those with whom they disagree.

3. Why do smokers not seem to recognize that throwing cigarette butts on the street is littering? And why don’t they get tickets for it?

4. Why do progressives not understand the alarm bells (irrational as they may be) that go off in conservatives’ heads when they hear the word “socialist?”

5. And why are those anti-socialist conservatives unable to distinguish between socialism, which is really about mutual interdependence, with fascist communism, where an autocratic leader controls all the mechanisms of production and is not accountable to the people? Churches are socialist – they pool money for the good of their communities. Medicare is socialist. The construction of roads; investments in research to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, and military support are all socialist inasmuch as they’re collective investments in what has been deemed the good of the broader community.


The flood of people speaking up about sexual assault and sexual harassment has been troubling me. I grew up with so much of it. I was such a trusting, naive child. Even into young adulthood. It was a joke. I was a classical guitarist – more or less accidentally. I was singing in coffee houses when I was in college and heard there was a guitar teacher at Mount Holyoke College. It was classical – and I had just started learning to play folk and blue grass. But what the hell, I signed up.

Something clicked. Having to practice the guitar was a perfect excuse for getting out of awkward social encounters, for blocking out my mother’s suicide threats. It was safe. Two hours of scales and arpeggios every day. So I got good at it fast (for someone who began an instrument at age 18).

It was a win-win for my two paradoxical needs: applause and isolation. So, 18 months after I started to study, I headed to the Aspen Music Festival. It was scary: I only knew about 4 short pieces on the guitar and the place was teeming with world class musicians among both the students and the faculty.

The classical guitar maestro was named Oscar Ghiglia – and we all worshiped him. It seemed the norm within classical music: Great teachers had utterly devoted students.

One afternoon, the third summer I was in Oscar Ghiglia’s master class, I was sick in bed and the entire class came to the place I was renting in Aspen Square. We hung out for a while, and when people left, Oscar stayed behind and literally jumped me. I was shocked, confused. I resisted at first but eventually gave in. But after that, when he would come banging on my door, I would bolt the door, lock myself in the bathroom and wait for him to go away.

Why didn’t I stop studying with him? Reasonable question. I wanted to get good. I wanted the approval. I went to Italy for another master class and competition. We had fist fights when I refused him, so he took away my scholarship.

Finally, the last straw came when he burst into my little room in Gargnano and forcibly raped me. “There, don’t you feel better?” he smirked as he rolled off me. It was September, 1980. My mother was dying of cancer – and his wife was visiting my mother. I told him if he ever touched me again, I would tell his wife, and I left town the next day.

I never talked about it with the other women who studied with him, but I can’t imagine that my experience was unique.

Vindication 2009

Dear Michael,

Over the weekend our team met with Beth to review her findings and recommendations for the Millennium Village Project in Micheweni District, and we are all confident that we have identified the best possible path forward to fully launch the MVP in Micheweni District.

First though, I want to stress that Beth did an extraordinary job on this project, bringing a depth of insight, cultural sensitivity and pragmatism to the task and earning universal praise from the government of Zanzibar, the United Nations and several of the world’s leading development experts. In fact she far exceeded our own very high expectations.

Based on Beth’s report and our experience launching projects involving multiple high-level stakeholders, we propose to move forward to establish the Ivo di Carneri Foundation’s Public Health Laboratory as the operating NGO on the ground. They will handle all the project administration and provide technical backstopping in the health sector.

The PHL’s longstanding relationship in Pemba, its experience in managing large, globally funded projects, its strong administrative organization and, most importantly, its strong reputation with both the Zanzibar government and the people of Pemba will allow us to move much more quickly to achieve our shared objectives: to help the people in the village of Kiuyu Mbuyuni begin to climb out of extreme poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Technical backstopping and guidance will be provided by the MDG Centre in Nairobi, with operational oversight from Millennium Promise. The MDG Centre, headed by Belay Ejigu Begashaw, one of the world’s leading agronomists, is home to a team of scientists and policy experts, all of whom are Earth Institute employees.

Project governance would be handled by a high-level steering committee, comprising you; Belay Begashaw, Director of the MDG Centre; Lorenzo Savioli (founder of the PHL and the head of neglected tropical diseases at the WHO), John McArthur, CEO of Millennium Promise; and me.

The advantage to this arrangement for KPMG is that you avoid the burden and expense of managing a new NGO from New York or London; you can accomplish much more by leveraging an experienced team of administrators who know how to get things accomplished in Pemba; and you will have an infrastructure on the ground to support your people if you decide to send volunteers to help with some of the project work, such as small enterprise development.

Therefore I suggest the following next steps:

  1. We immediately develop an MoU between MP, EI and the MDG Centre, PHL/IdC and KPMG spelling out the roles and responsibilities of each party
  2. We revise the newly hired Team Leader’s contract to have him report to Belay Begashaw and Steve Wisman (director of operations for Millennium Promise) through the PHL (He should begin work on October 19th with a week-long orientation with Belay and his team in Nairobi)

I have asked Beth to continue work as a consultant on this project for at least one more month to ensure that we are able to fully capitalize on the great work she has done so far and the strong relationships she has built within Tanzania and Zanzibar.

I look forward to seeing you later this month in Barcelona and hope that by then we are able to celebrate the signing of an agreement enabling us to achieve our shared vision: working side-by-side with the people of Micheweni District to escape from extreme poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Warm regards,


Just Another Sunday Run

I got great final advice from my coach, John Henwood, yesterday. In fact, it’s the same advice he’s given me for years. But this year, I think I’m ready to really heed it: Keep to your goal pace. Don’t let yourself speed up. And what if you find yourself running too fast? Slow down (duh). Easier said than done.
I took two days off from work to rest up – and I’m already stir crazy. I’ve checked the hourly forecast, I’ve pinned my bib on my shirt, I’ve lined up my GUs and my UCAN. I’ve checked my work email several times (and it’s only 8:40 am). I’ve done the crossword puzzle.
Now what?
Now it’s time to remind myself that every run is another adventure. That’s all. It’s not my profession and, despite my type A tendencies, it doesn’t go on my “permanent record” (whatever that is) any more than the sweet potato I ate for dinner last night. Except, of course in the spiritual sense that everything we do, everything we think, every intention is a cause. And every cause generates an effect. The effect of running? Happiness. Health. An evocation of simplicity, of being part of nature, one of the many species in the park. Raccoons, hawks, sparrows, cardinals, dogs, cats, humans, ferrets, squirrels.
That’s the part I like the best. And the sensation of running – when it’s going well and my gait feels smooth and unfettered. I used to feel the same way about singing and, less frequently, about playing classical guitar. Those moments that Otto Scharmer of MIT describes as “presencing.” He defines it as “a movement where we approach ourselves from the emerging future.”

Bib Number 717

The New York Marathon always feels like the last event of the year. Even though two more months of running will follow, the buildup to the race, the park filled with runners – even in the dark of early autumn mornings – feels like a great culmination. Afterwards, the park empties out. People take to the treadmills or even take a few weeks off from running.

In this last week before the marathon, I vacillate between anxiety and excitement. I store up excuses for not making my goal time. I imagine my best training run as the marathon and regain my optimism for a while. I worry about bathrooms. I worry about starting too fast. I worry about my patellar tendonitis and my plantar fasciitis. And then I remind myself that it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the experience.

Plus, each step you run strengthens the neural connections. Each long run makes you a better runner. And the best run I had this fall (so far) was the half marathon I did purely as a training run. My goal was to make sure I didn’t get faster than 9:15 pace. The first mile was so packed, it wasn’t a problem. But then I kept speeding up and consciously having to hold myself back. I took my time at water stations and really drank the water.

After 9 miles or so, I realized I was averaging just over a 2:00 pace – around 9:10. I felt great, so I though, what the hell – go for under 2 hours. So I picked it up a little and did 1:59:53.

I have to remind myself as I head out for my last abbreviated long run.

My bib number is roughly 30,000 lower than usual. I qualified for Local Competitive for the first time in my life. That means I’ll be in the front of the race – Wave One – with people who will run the marathon in under 2:30. The slow people in Wave One will finish in 3:30. If I have an AMAZING race, I might finish in 3:59:59, but more realistically, 4:10 – which would still be an 11 minute PR.

Who cares, though? Really. At the hard parts I’ll call to mind every person I care about and imagine that I am running for them to be happier, healthier. I’ll run as a celebration of the fact that I am able to run. My idealism will keep me going when my legs get wobbly.

Last Run of 2014

What a year this was! I ran 1802 miles with no major injuries, no major illnesses. I don’t even remember a bad cold in 2014. Even better were the PRs I set. Of course the bar I had set for myself wasn’t all that high, so maybe I just needed a couple of injury free years and some consistent training. But whatever it was, it worked. Cut a few seconds off my 4-mile time in the only 4-miler I ran. Then came a series of 10k PRs. In April I cut 3:05 off my previous PR, then cut another 34 seconds off at the Oakley NY Mini and another minute off my PR at the Queens 10k, which I wasn’t really racing. It was supposed to be the beginning of a long training run. But because I wasn’t nervous and worked up about doing “well” in the race, I just tucked in behind some guy and ran. At mile 5 I looked at my watch and realized I could PR. I stopped dead in my tracks wondering if I should just slow down so I didn’t wreck my long run or if I should go for it. I went. Came in 3rd in my age group.

Then there was the Brooklyn Half. It was the weekend of my 40th college reunion, and I wanted to drive up to South Hadley, Massachusetts in triumph. The two previous attempts at that race were utter disasters, so I wasn’t quite sure what would happen this year. Except that I was really prepared. All I wanted was to break 2 hours for the first time in my life. And I did. 1:58:39.

Doctors Who Understand Runners

A few weeks ago I slept wrong and woke up with a crick in my neck. Just the normal nagging pain that would, in the past, be gone in a couple of days. I went to the chiropractor – my fave practice, Duke Chiropractic on East 38th Street. They worked on my neck several times. But the pain kept getting worse. First it was just pins and needles down my left arm; then it was non-stop muscle pain and weakness.

I asked my orthopedist about it and he said to stick with the active release (at the chiropractor) unless the pain got to be too much. A couple of days later – having just started a new project that requires a 3-4 hour round trip commute to the client carrying my laptop – I was done with it. I went to see a neck specialist in my orthopedists office. She was great.

The practice – Empire State Orthopedics – is staffed by doctors who really get runners. So when Dr. Bergang walked in, she looked at my chart and asked me how many miles I ran a week.

“Around 40,” I said.

“OK, tell me the truth,” she said. “If I were to tell you to cut out the running for a while, would you do it?”

I hesitated. I’ve had to take time off from running at times. But in the past, I stopped running because running wasn’t an option: I had a stress fracture, whooping cough or something other condition that made the choice for me. But my arm doesn’t hurt when I’m running and aside from the numbness and pain in my arm, I’m in great shape.

“So, that’s a no?” she asked, smiling.

“Well, I’d stop if it hurt more running. But it doesn’t.”

Dr. B wasn’t perturbed. “I can deal with a challenging patient,” she said.

And off she sent me for an X-ray. Result? Arthritis in one vertebrae in my neck. Looked like the last one, just above the shoulders. She explained how nerve impingements work and how she would treat it: steroids for six days and a mild muscle relaxer at bedtime. I’m just finishing up my third day on the program. I still have pins and needles pretty much non-stop when I sit at my computer, when I first get out of bed and anytime I change positions. Ran 13 miles or so today, and maybe there’s a connection…But surely there are more stretches I can do.