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Berger’s Burg: Writer fulfills Whitestone doc’s Ôhonest’ request

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And he hoped that some of the truth of the Bible would rub off on him. Costs began to mount, so after a service one Sunday, the minister asked the parishioner if he had taken a Bible. The parishioner denied doing so.Weeks went by and more Bibles were missing. The minister went to the parishioner and asked point-blank, "Have you been taking the Good Book from us?"The parishioner replied, "No, reverend. I'll swear to that on a stack of Bibles!"n all honesty and to be perfectly frank, this column is going to be about honesty. Why honesty, you honestly ask? To be perfectly frank, I recently visited the Whitestone office of dermatologist Dr. Leonard Rosmarin to have a wart removed. When he finished the procedure, he said, "Alex, you have written on just about every subject under the sun except one."I furrowed my brow and asked, "What may that be, pray tell?"The good doctor put down his scalpel, also furrowed his brow, and replied, "honesty.""Honesty? Do you mean the kind of honesty such as in non-veraciousness, untruthfulness and duplicitousness?" I questioned."Yes, yes and yes," he answered. "Someone should begin writing about the loss of honesty that exists in the world and it might as well be you.""On my honor, I will do it," I said, and I left his office not only wartless but also clueless on how to write such a column.Do I go to a reference library, or do I have to interview a corporate CEO, a weatherman, a stockbroker, a shady politician, a person preparing his income tax or even a used-car salesman? I pondered, cogitated and deliberated for days.I have always noticed that with a few people (Gloria is not among them, of course), truth is like a girdle and can be stretched a little, and exaggeration is just remembering big. But are the following lies: "Yes, you do look like you lost some weight"; "I really love this gift, Aunt Muriel"; "I think you would be better off if you bought two of these gizmos at $95 rather than $50 for one"; "If I may be honest with you, this is a fantastic opportunity and you should grab it"; and "You should have seen the size of the fish I caught last weekend"?I am aware that some men and women use lying as a last resort (with politicians resorting to it as a first aid), and Romeos (Alex is not among them, of course) who say they make love all the time are confirmed liars. But why is it that when a notorious liar dies, some mourners passing by his open casket say, "I still don't believe him!"University of Massachusetts professor Robert Feldman recently determined how pervasive lying actually is. He videotaped 121 pairs of graduate students who were told they were being examined to see how people react when they meet someone for the first time. Feldman's findings concluded that 60 percent of respondents lied at least once and told an average of two to three lies during the 10-minute conversation. His research noted that men, in general, lie to make themselves look good, while women try to make the person they are talking with feel better or more self-confident.Charles Ford, author of "Lies! Lies!! Lies!!!: The Psychology of Deceit" contends that lying is part of human nature and Professor Caroline Keating of Colgate University discovered that people who lie extremely well are those with leadership qualities. She notes, however, that her research doesn't necessarily mean that leaders tell more lies. It simply means that if they choose to tell lies, they probably would be very good at it.Thinking back over my life, I realized I once told a small fib when I was 17 years old while serving in the Air Force. It almost cost me my life. As a 5-foot-9, 118-pound bundle of acne and bravado, I convinced most of the airmen in my squadron that despite my bony appearance I was a great street fighter.I related tales of my fisticuffs prowess as a member of the notorious Manhattan Lower East Side gang "The Geronimos." I even said I was always assigned to fist fight the other gang's strongest representative in all our turf battles. Nobody wanted to mess with me.This ruse worked until Isaac Powell, a 160-pound, middleweight Golden Glove champion from Chicago, joined our unit. Now Isaac was a quiet and unassuming chap, but instigators talked about a "dream" boxing match between both of us for the right to be called the champion of our squadron. The talk vibrated throughout the barracks and reached crescendo level. Finally, a date was agreed upon by my supporters and Isaac's. I couldn't back out lest I be called a liar and, worse, a coward.The night before the bout, I couldn't sleep. My bed was soaked from my perspiration and it trembled from the pounding of my heart. To make matters worse, I didn't feel so good, either. Isaac, however, declined to fight me. He said I would beat him, and the bout was canceled. I never knew why Isaac withdrew, but in my heart I believe he did this to save me from annihilation. I was taken out of harm's way, I became Isaac's best friend and I never knowingly told another fib.George Washington said, "I cannot tell a lie." Jimmy Carter said, "I'll never lie to you." John Lennon sang, "All I want is the truth." In court, plaintiffs and defendants swear to tell the truth, and scouts take a loyalty oath and the military has an honor code. So, take it from Uncle Alex: The best policy is to tell the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar. And that's no lie! Honestly!Dr. Rosmarin, be perfectly honest Ñ how did I do?Reach columnist Alex Berger at timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 140.

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