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AND the winner is...

AND the winner is...
May 28, 2024 by Barry Eisenberg

There it was, that stiff cardboard Priority Mail envelope. It was tucked on a high shelf under a stack of books that hadn’t been touched for about 10 years. We are in the final stages of packing in preparation for our move next month, and as I lifted those books to put them in a box I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that envelope. I knew exactly what was inside. It was an impulse purchase I made many years ago, a tiny piece of paper about a half inch wide by a quarter inch high. Slightly thicker than ordinary copy paper, it had one hand-written word in black ink.

“The Scariest Thing That Happened Was Not What I Expected”

“The Scariest Thing That Happened Was Not What I Expected”
Mar 31, 2024 by Barry Eisenberg

I was sure the top three responses would be having surgery, starting chemo, and getting a confirmed diagnosis. But those were not the answers to the question I posed to the focus group I was leading, “What was the scariest thing that happened to you at the hospital?” The nine people seated in a circle around me were former patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), where I worked many years ago. After a slight pause and some nervous fidgeting, a woman sitting directly across from me raised her hand and tentatively said, “I’ll start.” As we all turned to her, she began with, “The scariest thing that happened was not what I expected.”

The Uninvited Guest

The Uninvited Guest
Feb 05, 2024 by Barry Eisenberg

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon some years back.  Calmly snuggled on the sofa, Tara and Ruby, our golden retrievers, were the epitome of contentedness. Then, boom! Out of nowhere, they lurched from their coma-like midday nap, flying over to a living room heating vent located at the baseboard. Their back hair bristled, and they couldn’t be more animated as they sniffed at the vent, powered by a frenzied id ordinarily reserved for mating episodes. Then, together, like an out-of-control freight train, they bolted for another vent in the dining room. Seconds after, they raced back to the living room vent. It was instantaneously apparent that something had gotten into the house. But what? No doubt some animal. With some trepidation, I headed toward the basement door.  

A Hearty Appetite for Life

A Hearty Appetite for Life
Jan 11, 2024 by Barry Eisenberg

Peter didn’t sip, he gulped. He didn’t eat, he devoured. Our long-time biking group would routinely stop for breakfast on our Saturday and Sunday rides. Peter would scan the menu, his radar-like detection zeroing in on selections called The Belly Buster or The Hungry Man Special. Turning to the waiter, he’d request with a smile, “Please make sure the home fries are well done and bring extra butter for the toast.” Peter’s appetite was part of his charm. And it wasn’t confined to food. He craved acquiring things, lots of things – shoes, clothes, bike accessories. He had quite the collection of fountain pens. Peter was lovable, the proverbial teddy bear, and the first to make himself the butt of the joke.

Giving Thanks to My Students

Giving Thanks to My Students
Nov 21, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

This is the time of year for reflecting on the things for which we are thankful. I am fortunate to have much to be grateful for, especially my loving family and good friends. This Thanksgiving, I’d like to express my gratitude to a group of people who are very special to me for their unwavering dedication to improving the world of healthcare. These are the wonderful students in the MBA in Healthcare Leadership, the program I oversee at SUNY Empire State University.

Impressions From My Summer in Israel

Impressions From My Summer in Israel
Oct 18, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

Our group was traveling on a narrow two-lane highway through a remote wooded area in the south-central part of Israel. I was sitting toward the front of our chartered bus. Up ahead, two soldiers stood on the side of the road.  As we neared them, the driver slowed, stopped the bus, and opened the door. The soldiers boarded in a way that seemed as routine as passengers hopping on a city bus anywhere in the United States. They nodded politely as they took seats in the front, just behind the driver. They were dressed in camouflage khakis, and draped across their chests were powerful looking submachine guns, which I soon learned were called Uzis. I had never before seen a soldier with a gun up close and it was mesmerizing. That was the summer of 1967.

My Mentor, Jim

My Mentor, Jim
Sep 17, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

My last email exchange with Jim Chesebro was in June 2019. He had sent me a note of congratulations about an article I had written. In that note he mentioned that he had recently retired. No way! This couldn’t be. Not Jim. Not with his relentless energy, his infectious joie de vivre, his passion to find meaning in the ordinary and demystify the momentous.  

She's Not a Number. She Counts.

She's Not a Number. She Counts.
Jul 31, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

It wasn’t until she said the word sister that she got my full attention. But it was more than just the word; it was what her sister was going through. The encounter occurred just a few years ago. A woman was seated on a small couch next to the chair I was heading toward. She sat quietly, staring straight ahead, blankly it seemed. She glanced up with an expectant look as I neared and gave me a small smile of acknowledgement as she realized I was not the person she was waiting for. I returned the smile. Then she turned away, her face resuming its vacant stare.

A Ham Steak and a Hot Mic

A Ham Steak and a Hot Mic
Jun 30, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

For the first time in a couple of years, my friend Norm and I were finally arranging to meet for lunch. He lives a couple of hours south of me. A google search for a restaurant in between us turned up Mastori’s, a large restaurant-diner. When I clicked on their website, I discovered it had closed, a casualty of the pandemic. This was sad news since Mastori’s had been family-owned and operated for 90 years and was a New Jersey fixture. Known for their savory cheese and cinnamon breads that were placed on each table, Mastori’s was a favorite for families, local politicians, and patrons who came from far and wide. Even President Gerald Ford dined there. I hadn’t been to Mastori’s in many years. But reading the notice of its closing brought me back to a terribly embarrassing experience on my first visit there, many years ago.

Flash

Flash
May 30, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

“The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and freedom.” Sharon Ralls Lemon

Eight years ago, when he was just five years old, our horse Flash became the newest member of our family. Little is more peaceful for me than spending time with him. I do love riding, but it’s also a joy just being with him, grooming, brushing, taking a leisurely walk side by side.

Coming to a Crossroad

Coming to a Crossroad
Apr 24, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

It all began with a small spot, a bit of missing paint barely an inch wide. I’m not sure how or when it happened, but a quarter-sized circle of paint had been scraped off the frame of my bicycle. I have been bike riding regularly for many years. I love it. And while this blemish didn’t interfere with anything mechanical, I thought I would get it touched up, just for aesthetic sake. I assumed a $5 tube of paint and 5 minutes of work was all it would take to have it looking like new. Well close to new, anyway.  

Building Better Lifeboats

Building Better Lifeboats
Mar 31, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

The harsh odor hit us like a ton of bricks just as the elevator door opened. I had never experienced anything like it before – an intense hyper-chlorinated sanitizing agent that was intended to neutralize the rankness of the hospital air, but instead the effect was compounded, burning my throat and eyes. I was there with Kevin, a fellow student whose eyes were also tearing up. Our escort, a facility manager, said quite straightforwardly, “You get used to it.”

The Optics of Etiquette

The Optics of Etiquette
Feb 27, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

Nestled on the bank of the Delaware River, Lambertville, NJ is such a charmingly scenic town. Local artists display their farm-scapes in art cooperatives. Antique shops overflow with history ranging from early American spindles to 1950s art deco pastel geometrics that appear simultaneously retro and futuristic. Topping off the allure are the wonderful restaurants, from D'Floret with their locally sourced vegetables to the Under the Moon Café and their scrumptious Argentinian meatloaf. One recent Sunday, Amy and I thought that a visit to Lambertville would be an ideal way to spend the afternoon. It was a mild winter day, perfect for brunch and a stroll. The Lambertville Inn is a real treat. The ground level terrace sits beside a serene canal and towpath, a peacefully picturesque setting shared amicably by bicyclists, hikers, and ducks. On this day we sat upstairs in the oak-adorned small dining room. But this story is not about the ambiance. Nor is it about the tantalizing fluffy three-cheese omelets or the heavenly seafood crepes. Or the attentive and friendly waitstaff.

Remembering My Mother

Remembering My Mother
Jan 29, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

In the late 1970s, I moved out of the apartment where I had lived with my parents for the previous 10 years. Amy and I had just returned from a month-long cross-country camping trip and were moving to Philadelphia together where I was to begin graduate school. At the same time, and finally empty nesters, my parents decided to leave Queens, NY as the sunshine and beaches of Florida beckoned. Soon after their move, during winter break, I flew down for a quick weekend visit. I took a late flight out of Philadelphia and arrived at around eleven p.m.

Shoes of Despair, Shoes of Hope

Shoes of Despair, Shoes of Hope
Jan 24, 2023 by Barry Eisenberg

The three students, around twelve or thirteen years-old, stood awestruck, silently staring at the shoes, hundreds of shoes, haphazardly heaped together. This was no ordinary collection of shoes. All were about 80 years-old and deeply weathered, their cracked brown leather preserved in their uncleaned and fraying state, their rigidity diminished from the passage of time and the weight of the mound. Some were low-top boots, some women’s pumps, but most were nondescript and undistinguishable as belonging to one gender or another. After a moment, one of the students expressed precisely what the viscerally charged moment called for, saying as much to himself as to the others, “I can’t believe actual people wore those, walked in them.”

"It's Not My Job"

"It's Not My Job"
Dec 15, 2022 by Barry Eisenberg

This past summer, I flew to Atlanta for a consulting project at a hospital. I hopped in a cab at the airport and headed directly to the hospital. As the driver entered the hospital’s long circular driveway, I gathered the documents I had been reviewing and put them back in my briefcase. The hospital, a tall, gleaming building, had recently gone through a makeover. I admired the flower beds adorning the walkway with a vibrant display of lavender and pink, bringing life to a building associated with illness. As I got out of the cab, I noticed that the woman exiting the cab in front of mine seemed to be struggling. A second later, I saw why – she was pulling crutches from the back seat. I walked over as she was regaining her stability and offered to help. What happened next is, well, you can’t make this stuff up.

 

A Drink of Water

A Drink of Water
Nov 03, 2022 by Barry Eisenberg

I had just finished giving a presentation to students at the SUNY College of Optometry in New York City and I went to say hello to a colleague who is a member of the faculty and service chief of one of the college’s clinics. As I got into the elevator, a family entered just behind me – a husband and wife and their two young boys, who looked to be about six and nine years old. I noticed that the boys were wearing identical heavy, black-framed glasses with lenses that had a deep tint and prism-like appearance. The whole family had such a pleasant vibe about them, and the parents and I exchanged a friendly smile.

Steering Toward a Future We May Not Be Ready For

Steering Toward a Future We May Not Be Ready For
Sep 23, 2022 by Barry Eisenberg

Imagine you are driving on a narrow, unlit, one-lane rural highway. It’s late at night and you are the only one on the road. It’s so dark that you’re not comfortable driving at the 50-mph speed limit, opting to cruise between 40-45-mph. As you approach a bend to the left, a four-foot-high brick median appears, separating your lane from that of the oncoming traffic. Just as the road straightens, an on-ramp appears on the right. You glimpse a single headlight emerging from the darkness on the on-ramp. A motorcycle. Judging from your respective speeds, you are sure that you can pass it ahead of the merge point. Just to play it safe and create a cushion, you speed up. But much to your surprise, the motorcycle abruptly speeds up as well. Maybe the driver didn’t see you? Maybe he was accelerating to get ahead of you? The motorcycle enters the roadway a mere twenty feet ahead of you. You are going too fast and he’s not accelerating enough to prevent a catastrophe. Panic sets in. Your foot jams on the brake. Your heart races. You’re faced with a horrific choice, a potentially deadly choice – either veer into the brick wall or slam into the motorcycle from behind. You have a split second to decide, less actually. What would you do if you were in that situation?

A Rose by Any Other Name is… Max?

A Rose by Any Other Name is… Max?
Aug 09, 2022 by Barry Eisenberg

As I was tossing a package of frozen peas into my shopping cart in a supermarket last week, I heard a familiar voice from the other end of the aisle, “Hi Barry.” I looked up and immediately recognized the person, the mom of one of my children’s friends from when the kids were young. We talked for a few minutes, catching up on our families. She knew the names of everyone in my family, and even asked about the pets… by name! But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember her name or the name of anyone in her family. I’ve always struggled to remember names – a seemingly incurable affliction!

In Today’s Performance, the Role of …

In Today’s Performance, the Role of …
Jul 21, 2022 by Barry Eisenberg

In 1954, Shirley MacLaine, then 20 years old, was hired as a member of the chorus of the Broadway show “The Pajama Game.” She was also an understudy for Carol Haney, the star. A couple of months in, Ms. MacLaine was about to resign so she could audition for another show, Cole Porter’s “Can-Can,” where she thought she had a better chance of breaking out of the chorus: “I had my notice in my pocket, ready to turn it in. The subway got stuck in Times Square, so I was twenty minutes late for my own half-hour call … and when I got to the theatre it was ten minutes before the curtain was going up! … So I stuffed my notice back in real quick.” Then this happened: “When I arrived at the St James, across the stage door stood Jerry Robbins, Bob Fosse, Hal Prince, etc. ‘Haney is out,’ they said. ‘You’re on.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing … the producers gave me the understudy job, but I never had a rehearsal. I had thought Carol would go on with a broken neck. But Carol had sprained her ankle, so …” And the rest, as they say, is history. Last month, I was at a Broadway show featuring someone whose story may prove similar, so you might want to remember her name: Audrey Cardwell.