Trying to Get Back in the Saddle (Again)

In case you are unaware, ROOM EIGHT NEW YORK POLITICS is nine years old this week. The first day of every spring ages us one year. I am sure many folks are surprised that we are still around. I am even surer that some folks don’t even know that we are still exist. Long gone are the glory days of political-blogging in this city. In the fall of 2008, one of my grad students claimed that this site got close to a million hits during one summer month that year. That was during Obama’s campaign year of hope and change. Today, things are different; quite different.

When Ben Smith and Gur Tsbar founded this site, the vision appeared to be this: folks who were very active in their communities (politics, civics, economics, social, cultural, et al) had a place where they could freely express their views on a wide range of topics and issues. The aim was for a “writers-colony” of sorts, whereby voters can be kept informed of the happenings and areas which mainstream-media-folks were reluctant to cover.

The last time I saw Ben Smith, he was interviewing President Obama at the White House. Ben is now the editing director at Buzz Feed. I guess he is too big for us mere mortals now. He doesn’t call anymore/LOL. Look; I am told Gur Tsbar still works at the New York Times. Between the two of them, their baby (Room Eight New York Politics) has been left to grow up on its own. The results are nearly always tragic whenever parents abandon their offspring; but often enough kids survive and thrive. At this moment, all I can say about Room Eight New York Politics ( is that we have survived. Gloria Gaynor must be proud.

I can also say: Thank God for Larry Littlefield. Without Larry’s prolific columns, rigor-mortis would have set in long ago; or maybe we are in the terminal phase right now. Dominque Carter and Judge Michael Boyajian are others who need commendations. They were well-needed late additions to the colony. Folks like Howard “Gatemouth” Graubard and myself, have long been relegated to occasional contributors; and that’s unfortunate. Howard is quite a historian relative to this city’s politics.

Most of the original writers from this colony have disappeared. Most of the others who came later on, have fallen by the wayside. Jerry Skurnik is still around and usually shows up at election time. Manny Burgos is probably lazing on some beach in Puerto Rico while counting the millions he made from his cartoons. Other contributors -like deceased Maurice Gumbs, for example- are probably looking down from the heavens, and definitely wondering what will this site become; when and if it finally grows up.

As for me, I tried to use my column to both edify and entertain. As a lifelong educator, I believe we have fallen short (in this country) relative to political-education. Most voters are woefully uninformed. And this is why we are in the mess we are in today. We can do so much better. And we can start by simply re-introducing intense civics to the public school curriculum. I suspect that there are too many folks who just don’t understand the term “civic-responsibility”. Barack Obama got a record number of votes when he won the presidency in 2008, but there were also a record number on eligible voters who didn’t even register -far less voted- that year.

More than a few of my fans from all over the world have contacted me to express concern over the paucity of my contributions these past few years. I think I do need to proffer a reason for this. Thirty-eight months ago, my wife was diagnosed with leiomyoma sarcoma (cancer), and this has really taken most of my mental energy since. Here we are today -after three surgeries, two rounds of radiation, and a second round of chemotherapy ongoing- and she is hanging-in; stronger than “Sloopie”.

Beyond all that, I was involved in an auto accident back in January of 2013, which in itself necessitated about 18 months of physical therapy. Sure enough I have written a few columns over that time; some of which I actually published here (and on Facebook). However, for the most part, I have aborted so many columns over this time, that the ‘Right to Life’ people now have my ‘wanted dead or alive’ picture on a milk cartoon. On the bright side though: a change is gonna come; and real soon.

In anticipation of Room Eight’s tenth birthday -and much to the chagrin of my detractors- I am going to do a series of daily columns for ten days in a row: covering the last ten days of March this year. I am trying to get back in the saddle again (so to speak). I really want to get back to a weekly column; preferably starting this spring. I hope this horse isn’t of the bucking kind. If it is, then I will fall; and also fail. And if this “ten-columns-in-ten-days” attempt doesn’t make it, then I don’t know what to predict for my Room Eight writing future. If it does, then do stay tuned-in folks. The best may be yet to come.