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For readers who have stayed with me through the first eight parts of the New York series, I hope I haven’t worn you out. New York is a very big town and most observers would say that I am very fond of it. I know when a snowstorm hits the city or when a train falls off the track, there can be considerable inconvenience. But when viewed from the standpoint of the long haul, it seems to me that the big city offers more excitement than any other place in the world.

I approached New York with the thought that I was going to enjoy it. The fact that all kinds of different ethnic groups are found in New York was encouraging to me. My parents were largely consumed by fundamentalist religious church services three times a week. My mother led the two in educational achievement having finished the “third reader”, which I suppose corresponds somewhat to the third grade in 1890 terms. In spite of their backgrounds, they never expressed a hateful word against another ethnic group. Rich people are not an ethnic group. And neither is the German Army. In his unschooled fashion, my father, the original Ezra, often said that, “Ever body needs a chance.” That is no misprint. I know the proper word is “every” body, but in his country way of speaking, he was saying the Negroes, Italians, Catholics, Jews, and as he called them, “Polacks,” and poor people also needed to have a fair chance. The fact that often my parents did not have a fair chance in the urban life of St. Louis made no difference. Ezra Senior said, “Ever body needs a chance.” That seemed like a decent philosophy to me.

And so I grew up not hating or disliking anyone due to his ethnic background. The thought that fundamentalist preachers said that Jews caused the death of Jesus Christ struck me as laughable. When someone comes along who has a different ethnicity from myself, I am always curious about that person and his background. That lack of hatred or dislike together with my curiosity about other races made life in New York a lot easier. It never occurred to me to avoid people wearing a turban as the Sikhs do – or someone with a yarmulke as observant Jews do. Admittedly, I never saw many people wearing kaffiyehs in New York, but if they wore one, my interest would be aroused. Rather than being put off or displeased by someone wearing a native form of dress or an expression of their religion, I would be encouraged to ask a few questions, if given the chance.

It seems to me that diversity is what New York is all about. We have diversity in other cities and other communities in this country, but here in New York, diversity is the accepted norm. There are some cities or some communities where one religious group dominates all the other people. Or where a political party has a strangle hold on the electorate. New York is a different breed of cat. Diversity is an accepted way of life in New York.

Perhaps I can illustrate the diversity using the owners of a nightclub and a pretty good place to eat dinner. The place I have in mind is on Second Avenue on the East side of the street near 48th Street. It is called “La Chansonette,” which means “The Little Song.” One used to go to La Chansonette to have a good dinner and to hear singer Rita Dimitri and one of her later husbands, Stanley Brilliant, who accompanied his wife on the piano or guitar and who would occasionally sing.

Rita had a French mother and a Greek father and grew up in France. At an early age, she became a popular musical comedy star in Europe, singing in several languages. In 1955, the producers of Cole Porter’s Can Can asked her to take the lead in the Broadway production of that musical. Now here is what the jacket cover of her album has to say about Can Can and later developments:

“Cast as the proprietress of a boite in Monmartre, Rita enjoyed her role so much she decided to try it in real life, off the stage. All she needed was a sponsor – and she found one in her unsuspecting husband, Stanley Brilliant. Stanley was a successful New York businessman who spent a substantial amount of time on his hobbies, the piano and singing folk songs with his guitar.”

Rita was of European ancestry with her French and Greek parents. Stanley was a Jewish real estate developer from Brooklyn. And they welcomed lesbian and gay couples to their cabaret. How’s that for diversity?!!

Rita often needled Stanley by referring to him as her seventh or ninth husband. Old Stanley insisted that he was only her fifth husband. The difference between the fifth husband and the seventh or ninth husband didn’t seem of any great moment. Rita was beautiful enough to have enticed seven or nine men into marrying her, but Stanley didn’t get to be a well-to-do New York businessman by making mistakes about the multiplicity of husbands.

In any event, they decided to build the type of restaurant that they felt was missing in New York. It was to be a small elegant club, with good food, music, entertainment and dancing. They decorated it in shades of elegant blue, lavishing original oil paintings on the walls, and placing silver candelabras on each table. The grand piano had antique finishing and was always decorated with red roses.

As you entered La Chansonette, the long bar was on the right. At the end of the bar, steep stairs led downstairs to the restrooms. A few feet beyond the bar, the tables were set up for dining and to hear the entertainment. Curtains were pulled in the dining area when Rita was performing so the place had an intimate feel to it. Stanley and Rita did not have a long commute to work as they lived in the apartments over La Chansonette.

At 10PM and again at midnight, the dance floor would be cleared, a spotlight would be turned on and Rita would take her place on the top of Stanley’s grand piano. It was pretty dramatic stuff, but then it must be remembered that Rita, a genteel buxom personality, would appear in dresses that would make the women in the audience gasp. For awhile, Rita also appeared in evening dresses with the back cut down to a little bit below the waist line. I never tried to figure out what held the dress on because I thought it would be unsportsmanlike for me to do so. Stanley thought all the speculation about his wife’s dresses was pretty funny.

At the time La Chansonette was going great, it was unusual to see gay and lesbian people patronizing straight nightclubs. They often had places that catered to their tastes and I am certain that they avoided most straight places in an effort to avoid calling attention to themselves. But Stanley claimed that they wanted to hear good music and enjoy good food as much as anyone else might want to do. So a few very good-looking men and women would often be found in the audience of
La Chansonette. There were never any untoward scenes. The fact is that Stanley and Rita made it known that gay and lesbian couples would not only be tolerated, but welcomed.

On one occasion, Stanley spoke to me after hours about a table in the corner occupied by two men and two women. Stanley said there was going to be no romance between any of the men and any of the women, because the two women were lesbians and the two men were gay. The two men had agreed to escort the two women to La Chansonette, but when the evening was over, according to Stanley, the women went home together and the two men did likewise. So a cabaret run by two people of Greek, French and Jewish backgrounds welcomed the diversity of four well behaved individuals who did not conform to the norms of the Christian Science Monitor or of Alabama or Mississippi.

Early in my visiting of La Chansonette, Stanley asked me what I did for a living. Of course, I told him I was with AT&T in the long distance and overseas telephone business. Old Stanley’s eyes lit up. It seems that Rita had been trying to call her mother who was visiting Greece. Unfortunately, her mother was not in Athens but in an out-of-the-way town. Stanley said Rita was feeling pretty discouraged after having failed to reach her mother in spite of several trans-Atlantic telephone calls. And Stanley said her sadness carried over into her singing.

So I said let me try to cheer my friend Rita up. It was no problem to reach the AT&T Evening Chief Operator for calls to Greece. We knew each other. She said she would work the call now. In two or three minutes, Rita’s mother was on the phone from Greece but she was talking to old Stanley. So we got the AT&T Evening Chief Operator to come in on the call and direct it to Rita and Stanley’s living quarters above La Chansonette. Stanley said after the call was completed that I had saved his life. I don’t know about that, but if it pacified Rita so that she wouldn’t be looking for a tenth husband, then my duty had been done.

As the years went on, I had many conversations with Stanley and Rita. They were good people who were doing what they liked best. As such, they were happy people and fun to be around. Unfortunately, time runs out on everybody at one time or another. Rita died in the past year or so. I suspect that she was pretty close to 80 years. When she appears before the pearly gates, that will be an appropriate occasion to wear her dress with the front side open to near the navel and the back side cut to below the waist line. St. Peter is entitled to a thrill once in a while, even if he was a Catholic saint.

I got into this discussion about Stanley and Rita because their marriage and business practices represented the essence of diversity – New York style. I am a little old to be going to cabarets with dancing and with women in evening gowns that would make this old soldier blush. But I’ll tell you this. Going to a diverse club like La Chansonette surely beats the evening prayer services at some of Missouri’s most upscale churches as well as a rip snorting Billy Graham revival meeting complete with sawdust on the floor. Maybe if Billy Graham saw Rita in her work clothes, he might take a more liberal or modern point of view.

If someone says that I am partial to New York City, I will save the cost of a trial and plead resoundingly guilty. It may not be that New York is absolutely wonderful; it just might be that some other places leave a lot to be desired. For example, try the cities in Islamic countries. Of all those cities, only Cairo has anything to offer. Even there, I stuck pretty close to the hotel with traffic congestion and threats against Westerners being what they were. And none of the Islamic countries offer any singing or dancing or any diversity. As a matter of fact, they are headed in the other way. And the food in those countries is rather regrettable.

Working for the long distance arm of AT&T permitted me to see all the major cities in this country as well as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. In the Army, I got to know a bit about Naples and Rome. When I had the Overseas job, there were lots of great cities to visit. London, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, Tokyo and Geneva. I was never comfortable in Berlin or Munich for reasons having to do with Army service. In a different way, I never fought to go to the countries that we used to consider as being behind the Iron Curtain. At the top of that list is Moscow itself, followed clearly by Beijing. On the other hand, I was completely at home in Sydney or Perth, Australia even though the Aussies thought my lack of interest in beer was basically treasonable.

So by virtue of being in the Army and by service with AT&T, I was most fortunate in being able to see big cities all over the world. It may be chauvinistic to say so, but New York is the most open and most diverse city that I have ever been involved with. I know Chicago and Kansas City are considered as broad shouldered towns, but New York has them beat when it comes to the diversity of its population and its outlook.

A small diversion having to do with the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance that is in the news recently. That phrase was inserted into the pledge in 1954 when this country was in its Joe McCarthy period. Congress rolled over just as it has done recently when John Ashcroft pushed the American Patriot Act through the legislative body. For all the years I was in school in Missouri, we recited the pledge as it was originally written. The intrusion of “Under God” cheapens it and makes it a pledge of religious belief. And politicians from both parties are

breaking their backs to defeat the two Ninth Circuit justices, Alfred Goodwin and Stephen Reinhardt, who had ruled that that phrase violates the separation of church and state in this country. When I see this kind of disgraceful performance by our elected officials, I am angered and I also weep for the concept of church-state separation. My belief is that New Yorkers believe in the doctrine of church-state separation. Once again, I find myself with New Yorkers as distinguished from the self righteous members of Congress.

Well, having settled that diversion let me move back to New York. After I moved to the suburban New York scene, my parents never visited me. They were old and not in the greatest of health. But if they had seen one of the headlines last week wherein Donna Hanover accused Rudolph Guiliani of “open and notorious adultery,” I am sure that my mother, if she were alive today, would tell me to leave this sinful city. I would tell her, if she were around today, that debates like this are part of the fun in living in a dynamic city. I have no dog in this fight, but if Donna takes the mercurial Rudy to the cleaners, she will earn my applause and she may not have to appear in the sequel to the “Vagina Monologues.” (Note: She did take Rudy to the cleaners.)

Perhaps I have harangued you too much about New York. Lots of my AT&T colleagues could not wait to tell it goodbye and good riddance. Obviously, I don’t feel that way about the big city. And the reason has to do mostly with acceptance of diversity. I know that New York is not perfect. Far from it. But taking one thing with another, New York suits me quite well.

You may recall one of my essays where as a young soldier I walked guard duty on Christmas with a dock walloper from Brooklyn. His name was Jack Botcowsky and he was quick to tell you that he was a Jew. If I had told Jack that a gay person from Bangladesh was blocking our path and was turning hand springs and thumbing his nose at United States soldiers, old Jack would say, “So what”, followed by a handshake among the three of us. Somehow that liberal viewpoint seems to typify many of the citizens who call New York home. I like it and have for many years.

July 8, 2002


I’m glad Pop’s father was as fair as he was. I think he successfully handed that mindset down the family line, for which I’m grateful. The treatment of gay and lesbian couples mentioned in the essay was surprising to me, even though it probably shouldn’t have been, just because I’ve grown up in a culture that largely treats sexual-orientation-based discrimination as harshly as race-based discrimination. So if even New Yorkers had to worry about that who they were seen going to clubs with, it’s hard for me to imagine the mindsets of the rest of the country. How many generations back do we have to step before we get to a time where interracial marriage was seen as deeply sinful? Thinking about it now, depending on where you look, I guess the answer could easily be zero. Hurray for the South.

Conversely, how many generations forward do we have to step until the rest of the globe catches up to cities like New York and San Francisco, in terms of tolerance? And even for us here in SF, what’s the next step?

In any event, this series is certainly still going strong. I’ll be the first to admit that motif of “here’s a great person, here’s a fun interaction we had, and here’s how this person died or we lost contact” darkens the writing a little, but as my little brother likes to say, “there is a price to be paid” when reminiscing at Pop’s age.

Update: Judy was able to find a picture of Rita!


If my memory serves me correctly, the churches that my parents forced me to attend before my 14th birthday, were all pretty much united on the subject of women’s clothing. These were fundamentalist churches who had no concept of modern living or fashions.

All such churches said that their preaching was Bible based without the influence of latter day, modern days or progressive thought. Perhaps, their retrogressive view considered women as chattel which entitled the preachers, who were all male, and the elders of the church, who were also exclusively male, to specify women’s fashions. Preachers such as these, attempted to dictate styles for everyday wearing, not just for coming to church.

Most women in churches such as these wore dresses that came below their knees. All of them had necklines covered by tight fitting clothing. Christian women, at least those of mature age, would never consider blouses or sweaters or skirts for wear at religious services. It is my recollection, that these women favored long sleeved dresses in dark blue.

The preachers never complimented the women who came to church properly attired. No, they saved their ammunition for people who wore short sleeved dresses, with a tiny bit of skin showing around the neckline. Shorter dresses at the knees were greatly frowned upon. Sweaters and blouses and skirts were clearly the work of Satan.

All of this occurred in the late 1920’s up until 1936 when it came upon me that my stature was big enough to announce that church going was incompatible with my non-believing beliefs.

About this time, local radio stations would pick up broadcasts from fundamentalist preachers and air them over the radio, particularly on Sunday evenings. The radio preachers agreed with the preachers who harangued me prior to 1936, that women who wore modern clothing were on their way to Hell – and no one could help them. Can you imagine that some women wore shorts? Absolutely disgraceful. The one thing that was guaranteed to fire up these sort of fundamentalist preachers was a woman wearing slacks. The preachers called them pants, not slacks. It was their belief that pants were only to be worn by men. For a woman to wear pants was blasphemous. Who do they think they are? It is clear that wearing pants meant that women intended to displace men as the head of the households. That could not be.

There was never any discussion on whether the slacks were more comfortable or warmer in cold weather or whether slacks protected female modesty. They were evil, evil, evil and that was that.

Then along came World War II with its shortage of male manpower. Employers were more than happy to hire “Rosie the Riveter” and they considered slacks as part of the safety equipment for the job. Can anyone imagine Rosie on a construction job wearing a skirt or a dress?

World War II had its tragedies, of course. But it was a turning point of American customs, for the better. Arbitrary customs that had been enforced by the preachers was a thing of the past. And to this soldier from that conflict, the change was all for the good. It may have offended the antiquated religious views of some fundamentalist backwoods preachers, but modern dress for women was here to stay. It is to be applauded by everyone. And if a woman wants to wear slacks to church, she has my permission to go right to it.


Now we turn to the second half of this story to consider daylight savings time.

The idea originated in England and was the product of William Willet’s thoughts. During World War I, the United States adopted the idea on March 31, 1918. In 1919 when the war was finished, the law was repealed. In World War II, the system was re-established. Proponents of the law argued that it would provide more daylight hours for recreation. It was also alleged that it would permit children to go to school in daylight hours.

As for going to school before daylight time started, at least in my case, was a case of coming home in semi-darkness. My school days were over before daylight savings time started again after December 7, 1941. When daylight time was in effect, it appeared that school kids would start for school in semi-darkness. So it is a case of picking which evil of darkness you wanted.

My memory of coming home in winter after school while regular hours were in effect, is that my route led through the downtown section of Clayton, Missouri. At about one third of the three mile walk home, it was my custom to stop outside the Kronsberg Surveying and Blue Print Company. One of my older brothers was usually at work in that establishment. A knock on Kronsberg’s big plate glass window would tell my brother that his youngest brother was outside. When it was very cold, he would motion for me to come inside. In milder weather, he would come out to the sidewalk to greet me. At age eight or nine, it was my hope to grow up to be a surveyor like my brother Charlie. Of course, it never happened.

Now you may wonder about the inclusion of a Bits and Pieces thought about daylight savings time along with the first piece on women’s clothing. The thing they have in common is that the fundamentalist preachers delivered one sermon after another decrying daylight time. Several scriptural verses were cited to prove that daylight savings time was the work of Satan himself.

There is a scriptural injunction that claims that God made light and “it was good.” For men to toy with a subject as profound as light was blasphemy, no less. On top of all that, the idea came from Europe where God did not enjoy top billing with the governments there. So in addition to railing against short skirts and female slacks, this gave the hard right preachers another string for their bows. These fundamentalist preachers had a touch of hatred as they decried modern customs. But women wore slacks and observed daylight savings time along with everyone else, except in those few communities that refused to acknowledge that the new time was a fact of life.

As was said earlier, World War II was a turning point for many American customs. Some 60 years after the United States government reinstated daylight time, few complaints are heard anymore. Many of us have some reservations about turning clocks ahead in the spring and back in the fall, but there are other things that now concern us. It looks like daylight time is a fact of life and we’d better accept it, regardless of what the preachers say.

December 29, 2003


I feel like clergy get bored easily. Perhaps the Bible has instructions on what to do, if you’re a religious leader who feels like it’s time to spice things up a little.
1) Identify something that is different from how it was when you were a child. Technology, music, and fashion are generally good candidates.
2) Get yourself nice and worked up into a fit of moral outrage about this thing.
3) Convince as many people as possible that this new thing is sending people straight to hell.
4) As this thing gets gradually accepted by everyone anyway, insist on blaming this thing for any tragedy you like. Openly gay people causing hurricanes, miniskirts and video games causing school shootings, whatever you’d like.
5) Repeat.



I offer you this three part preamble to set the record straight and to prepare you for my thoughts on Yasser Arafat’s love life.

Writing about this subject comes naturally. My first name is Ezra who is generally described as the scribe of Jerusalem in what the Christians call the Old Testament. (See the Book of Ezra between II Chronicles and Nehemiah.) I write about the romantic side of Arafat because I have clearly inherited Ezra’s genes. There is no reason why an Irishman could not be the recipient of the genes of an ancient Hebrew scribe.

Some Right Wing Bush supporters may conclude that I choose to deal with the delicate side of Arafat because I am a liberal Democrat. All Bush supporters know for a fact that liberal Democrats are basically gay. Please take it from me. There are two wives and several thousand close female acquaintances spread across the globe who will testify that I am a vigorous, heterosexual man with no latent homosexual tendencies.

My Right Wing friends will probably take delight when I say that Arafat is a liar, a man who fails to deliver and a two faced imposter. I am glad to say that. To borrow a favorite phrase from Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Arafat is a cad. (long “a”). I’m not

sure what a cad does to bring infamy down upon his head, but if Mrs. Thatcher thinks he is a cad, then I will be the first to bow to Her Britannic Majesty.

Now having settled all that, we can proceed to Yasser’s love life.


Since the Israeli’s have decided to reoccupy the towns in the West Bank, I find myself thinking about Yasser Arafat. In this case, I am not thinking of his military strategy nor him hunkered down in Ramallah without electricity or running water. Basically, I find myself thinking of his headdress and its effect on his love life. In Arabic, it is called a kaffiyeh. Ordinarily, the kaffiyeh is worn when a man also wears the long gown, usually white, called a thwab. In the more orthodox offices in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Yemen, the kaffiyeh and the thwab are worn almost exclusively. In Egypt, Western clothes seem to be favored by 50% to 60% of workers in offices. In the rest of the Muslim countries in North Africa, Western clothing predominates.

Arafat seldom wears a thwab but he is never seen without his kaffiyeh. His usual dress is some sort of military outfit topped off by his kaffiyeh.

Arab men who favor the thwab baffle me. It is completely ungainly. It buttons high up on the neck, so it is a hot garment to wear. The thwab stretches from the neck to the shoe tops. In the desert where it is warm, dirt is kicked up with each step and a good bit of that has to settle on the hem of the thwab.

In the times that I have been in thwab-wearing countries, I have never used restroom facilities with a thwab-wearing Arab man. In short, I don’t know how they handle bodily functions such as using a urinal. The Pope often refers to the mysteries of life so I suppose this is a piece of information that non-Arab men will not be privy to in this life. But in Arafat’s case, this presents no problem. His main concern is his kaffiyeh which he must keep balanced on his bald pate.

The kaffiyeh consists of a square piece of cloth measuring about 52 inches to 54 inches along its edges. It is usually made of cotton and rayon. In colder months, it may be blended with some wool.

In summer months, the kaffiyeh has a sort of checkerboard pattern with alternating black and white squares being the standard. In winter months, most men wear a slightly heavier cloth with red squares alternating with white squares. The kaffiyeh is held on by two bands of black which are put over the cloth and pulled down on the head so that the kaffiyeh does not blow off in desert winds.

While nearly every other Arab man moves from the black and white kaffiyeh in summer to the red and white one for winter, Arafat always sticks with his summer head dress – all year long. It is doubtful that he has it dry cleaned, certainly not in Ramallah. If he has replaced the kaffiyeh with a new one, it can’t be discerned from television images or from newspaper photos. So Arafat watchers are left to conclude that the kaffeyeh you see today is he same one he has worn for a long time.

Arafat is in his early 70’s. He stands only five feet four inches tall and his physique is most often described as dumpy. In short, he is not the sort of man that movie producers cast in leading roles. In opera terms, he might be in the chorus, certainly not in the leading tenor role. He simply is not a romantic figure. On top of all that, he is pigeon toed.

He seldom shaves so we always see him with unattractive stubble adorning his face. It might be guessed that he should see a dentist. The thought that he seems to wear the same clothes, including the same kaffiyeh, might suggest that his personal hygiene is not so great. One might think that a bath or shower might be in order.

While we are on Arafat’s shortcomings, it is important that I again please my Bush supporters, and Right Wing conservative friends by stating that he is a liar, he doesn’t keep his word and is an all around low life. I thought all that went without saying, but a few of my friends would want me to again state the obvious, so here it is. They love to hear this tripe. In spite of all of his shortcomings, Sharon and Right Wing American conservatives have created so much sympathy for Arafat, that he (Arafat) now enjoys his greatest popularity. Students carry banners with his picture on them and often sing his praises. I think Sharon and U. S. Right Wing conservatives might want to study the effects of boomerangs. They certainly have one in this case.

In spite of all of Arafat’s failures, this essayist holds that truth in advertising must prevail and therefore, we should now address a glimpse of Arafat’s love life.

Several years ago when Arafat was only 25 or 30 or 35 years of age, he certainly would look better than he does today. For one thing, the subtraction of 30 or 35 years would still leave him at five feet four inches. But in this inquiry into fantasy, let us suppose that he had a certain charm which came from part of his up bringing in Cairo. Lately, when we come across Arafat, we find him in Ramallah or Bethlehem or Nablus, all West Bank towns.

Even though Arafat views himself as a revolutionary, nobody ever suggested that he led a celibate life. He was no cloistered monk. So one day in Ramallah, Arafat sees a beautiful Palestinian girl who has distained traditional Arab clothing and who wears what many Palestinian men would consider to be fairly revealing clothes. By revealing, I mean it is apparent that she is a woman, not a person in an old ankle length housecoat.

At this point, Yasser did not know her name or where she lived. So he summoned his most loyal aide and explained to him that he needed to know where she lived in preparation for further romantic expressions. So the aide staked her out and after a time, he was able to follow her home even though buses and streetcars were involved.

His instructions from Arafat were to approach her parents, now that he knew where she lived, and explain that he was charged with explaining what a nice fellow Arafat was. That is the way things are done in Arab society. After talking to her father on the telephone, he was admitted to her home. He found out that her father had four wives in the house. He owned a string of camels which he used in his business of conducting Holy Land tours for wealthy non-Muslims visitors. The father offered him some strong Arabic coffee and then sat back to listen to what Arafat’s aide had to say.

It turns out that the beauty in question is the third daughter of the father’s second wife and her name is Qumrana. After a time, the father indicated that he was finished with this initial conversation, and Arafat’s aide departed and reported his new found information to his boss.

The trusted aide kept up his observance of the beautiful Qumrana and even had visions of cutting Arafat out and trying to win her for himself. He found out that Qumrana worked as a model at a fashion house devoted to clothing belly dancers. The place of employment is called

Mrs. Field’s Secrets of Desire. I know that is an unusual name all around, but my efforts to find out about that name have been amply rewarded.

A few years back when the owner of the belly dancers store was looking for a good location and name, she talked frequently to her sister who was then living as an unregistered immigrant in Newark, New Jersey, USA. Her sister had a maintenance job at the Short Hills Mall. She spoke very little English, which is why she was put to cleaning windows.

Her sister noticed that two new shops were being constructed next to each other at the Mall. One was a Mrs. Field’s cookie shop and immediately next to it was a new Victoria’s Secret emporium. Being unable to read English, she had only a vague idea of what these shops were intended to do. In fact, she concluded that the two stores were actually one store. When a clerk at Mrs. Fields was explaining a cookie recipe to a customer, she overheard her talking about a “cup” of this and a “cup” of that so she assumed that she was talking about women’s undergarments at Victoria’s Secret. Also, Mrs. Fields always keeps a plate of cookies on the display case in the hope of enticing passersby to have a free cookie and to buy her stuff.

The Newark Palestinian sister noticed that when a customer left Victoria’s Secret, they would almost always go by Mrs. Fields to take a free sample cookie. So she urgently told her sister that after a consumer bought a girdle in Victoria’s Secret store, for example, a reward of a toll house cookie was waiting for the customer at Mrs. Fields. That was the American marketing strategy: the package deal.

So her sister back in Ramallah followed the marketing formula given to her by her sister in America. If it is good enough for the Short Hills Mall, it ought to play well in Ramallah. He named her place Mrs. Fields Secrets of Desire and when a new veil or a new belly dancing dress was sold, she offered such a customer a large dollop of hummus, which is the other half of the package deal. And then she hired Qumrana as her model.

After Qumrana’s father had more or less dismissed Arafat’s lieutenant, Yasser went to work himself. Knowing the name of the father, he called in the Chaplain of Al Fatah, one of Arafat’s organizations, and told him that as Imam of the leading mosque in Ramallah, he ought to order Qumrana’s father to take himself and his wives on a Hajj. Every Muslim is expected to go to Mecca at least once while he is alive and touch the Kaaba (stone) which is at the center of their faith. The process is called a Hajj. Failure to do so results in banishment from Paradise.

So at the next Friday services at the mosque, in his homily, the Imam really leaned into backsliders who had failed to make the Hajj. He didn’t want any backsliding in the Mosque. Checking his records, the Imam knew that Qumrana’s father was so busy riding his camel and conducting his Holy Land tours that he had never made the pilgrimage to Mecca. In short, he was Hajj-less. And so under this pressure from the Imam, Qumrana’s father and his four wives and other children, decided that they had no alternative but to make the month long journey to Mecca, right now. Score one for Arafat!

While all of Qumrana’s parents and siblings were on their way to Mecca, Arafat had his trusted aide call on Qumrana to suggest having dinner with Yasser. She was not particularly interested in seeing Yasser for dinner, until she was informed that he intended to take her to Restaurant Arabian Nights where a sumptuous dinner would be offered. Qumrana also knew that most of the belly dancers at Restaurant Arabian Nights wore intimate apparel from her employer, Mrs. Field’s Secrets of Desire.

So she gave a reluctant “yes” to Arafat’s aide conditioned on the thought that real Arab men always wore a thwab. The kaffiyeh was a given. Without the thwab and kaffiyeh, she would stay home and eat a hamburger from McDonalds. Arafat’s aide said that Yasser would be dressed like a real Arab man on their date night.

Arafat and his aide showed up at Qumrana’s house right on time. The aide went in to fetch Qumrana. As they approached the restaurant, Arafat dismissed his aide and said to pick them up at eleven PM. He then turned and offered his right arm to Qumrana. His left arm carried the purse that thwab wearers are forced to use as there are no pockets in thwabs. Unfortunately, Arafat left his glasses at home to impress Qumrana with his youth, but near sightedness bollixed him up. He didn’t see a curb and in the process, he stepped on his unfamiliar thwab and fell headlong on the sidewalk. He purse came undone and its contents were spread everywhere.

Everyone knows that Arafat uses boosters in his boot heels to make him appear taller. But they come at a price. They shove the feet forward in the boots so that corns form on the top of all the toes. When Yasser’s purse spilled, among other items, was his life saver shaped corn pads. Being round they rolled for several yards. Qumrana noticed the corn pads and assumed that they were birth control devices with which she said quietly to herself, “How thoughtful”.

Inside the restaurant, the couple was seated at ringside seats where they could dine and witness the finest belly dancing show east of Cairo. Yasser spoke extensively in private with the headwaiter. Arab men do not defer to women. Maybe rarely, they might pay attention to women, but generally, Arab men make all the decisions. So it was that Arafat had the only menu and ordered for the two of them. With great ceremony he ordered Jordan River Sparkling Water to drink and imported Swedish Moose Shanks, with pungent sauce, for the main part of the meal. Throughout the meal, Arafat ordered more Jordan River Sparkling Water to be served to his date. When the belly dancers were performing, it was another bottle or bottles of Jordan River Sparkling Water.

During the sumptuous meal, Yasser kept his kaffiyeh firmly on his head which is one reason Margaret Thatcher calls him a caad. As they were winding things up, Arafat disclosed that he had a confession to make. The Jordan River Sparkling Water was really Bekka Valley champagne. And the imported Swedish Moose Shanks were really baby short ribs (from pigs) which came not from Bandhagen, Sweden, but from Arthur’s in Kansas City, the most famous rib place in America. Well, these are two grievous sins – alcohol and pig meat – that will keep the Muslim far from Paradise. Qumrana was devastated.

To make her feel a little better, Yasser attempted to explain the Catholic doctrine of “occasion for sin”. Let us say that a young man walks into a bar and has some beer. Then, under the influence of alcohol, he decides to attend a burlesque show where he meets a stripper and marries her. The church would say that walking into that bar was an occasion for sin.

Now let us say that an older parishioner wants to hear a sermon in

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. If he went last Sunday, April 21, 2002, he heard Monsignor Eugene Clark, the number two man at

St. Pat’s, lace into homosexuality for nearly an hour. His homily was widely criticized. Then let us say that this elderly parishioner sees a young man in a bar and attempts to fondle him. In that case, going to St. Patrick’s Cathedral would become an occasion for sin.

Having explained Catholic doctrine to Qumrana, Yasser said he was also a sinner just like Qumrana. They were in such deep theological trouble, he said that Qumrana ought to spend the night with him in his apartment at the Hotel Casablanca. Qumrana thought to herself that I’m damned in any case, so “Why not?”

Because the American Cardinals returning from Rome have requested a first look at the details of the love scene at the Hotel Casablanca, I will honor their obvious interest. I will say only that during this act of great passion, Arafat removed his thwab, which he disliked, but he kept his kaffiyeh on from beginning to end.

There came a time near daylight when Yasser tenderly asked Qumrana how she was enjoying herself. Qumrana replied, “It was alright I guess, but I couldn’t concentrate with your kaffiyeh tickling me”. When Yasser asked if he could see her again she answered, “Hell no. Put that in your kaffiyeh and smoke it”.

I have made several inquires into Yasser’s love life after this abrupt reversal and I have even called the Mrs. Field’s Secrets of Desire. However, since Sharon is punishing Ramallah endlessly, no one will talk to me about Arafat’s love life. So for the time being, I have no further information on Yasser’s amorous activities. Maybe next week after the American Cardinals come home.

I for one, believe that if the Israelis and the Palestinians meet say in front of a French arbitrator – he must be French – love will conquer everything. In the end, Yasser will go over to Jericho Street where Qumrana works and sweep her into his waiting arms. My nominee is the Frenchman Jean-Marie Le Pen, the perennial candidate for President of France.

Le Pen will make these wonderful things happen. Vive la amour!
April 25, 2002


I have no idea what compelled Pop to write this, but I’m glad he did. I very much hope that this is the only piece of romantic fiction about Yasser Arafat in existence, but unfortunately I know too much about the internet to believe that to be the case. That said, I intend on doing absolutely no further research into the subject.

I’ll also be the first to admit that it took me far longer than it should have to realize that Pop was just bullshitting with this one. It’s funny that someone who disliked reading fiction as much as Pop did would be so proficient at writing it.


Readers of these essays may recall a story I wrote about Howard Pappert, Dave Dietz and myself setting out to visit some countries behind what Winston Churchill called “The Iron Curtain.” Visiting communist countries in the 1970’s and 1980’s was not a pleasant task for those of us at AT&T who had the responsibility for keeping track of circuits, revenue and political developments in countries under Moscow’s controls.

Dave Dietz was a big fan of Swissair, the airline of Switzerland. The more I flew Swissair, the better I liked it. To mangle a thought, Swissair ran like a Swiss watch. But even better, the Swiss are known for their neutrality which gave them airline connections where other carriers such as those from the United States, were barred. Unfortunately, through bureaucratic bungling, Swissair stopped working permanently in 2001. What a shame.

My recollection is that the three of us met in Zurich to get to our first stop in Prague. At the time, that country was called Czechoslovakia. Now of course, it is known as the Czech Republic.

I suppose my mind unconsciously thought of the Czechs during their many prosperous periods in the 1920’s and 1930’s. That was a big mistake. First they had been ravaged by Hitler’s sinister forces and then the Czechs had then seen the tender mercies of Stalin and his butchers. My recollection is that our visit took place in 1983 when the Czechs were a largely beaten race. Where as the Czechs used to be known for precision in manufactured goods, they didn’t seem to care anymore. For example, the people who painted the interior of our hotel and the headquarters of the Czechoslovakian telecommunications building painted with no concern for borders. If the varnish on the doors was also found on the walls, so be it. If the paint on the walls was also found on the doorjambs, so be it.

I had no idea that things would be so bad. The taxi driver cursed his Russian-made car and asked if we wanted to buy some Czech currency. We did not. The people at the hotel, one of Prague’s best, didn’t much care. Guests meant more work for them.

All the while this discomfort was taking place, I had a vision of a great dinner with goulash. There weren’t many restaurants in Prague at that time that offered decent food. So we elected to patronize the hotel’s dining room. The waiter nodded when I ordered goulash. He was neither applauding my choice of goulash nor was he refusing to take my order. He nodded and shrugged his shoulders.

When the goulash arrived at our table, I did not recognize it. Ever the optimist, I said it is probably an old Czech recipe that will be delicious. My optimism was not rewarded. The goulash was abominable. So I said so much for dreams when one is behind the Iron Curtain.

Our next stop was Budapest. The Hungarians were a cheerful lot. They laughed and generally told the Russians to get lost. The women wore bright clothing, not the drab apparel that one associates with countries under Stalin’s influence. As I have often said, Hungarian women were the most vibrant of any European country during the period under Soviet domination.

Hungarian food was not the greatest, but it was served well and was usually accompanied by an orchestra or band in the restaurant. The Hungarians have my admiration. Not the least of which is my admiring them marrying good food with good music.

The day before we left, Dr. Ferenc Valter, who was the deputy director general of the P.T.T., met with us and offered a magnificent lunch. It was served with wine, which would be absolutely against the policy of AT&T in the states. Hungary is one of my favorites.

Small aside about serving alcohol on AT&T premises. I had three Swedes at a lunch in the President’s dining room in Bedminster. As far as I know, every Swedes starts off his lunch with a bottle of beer. When one of the Swedes made that request, I offered a lame explanation for AT&T’s no alcohol policy. The Swedes heard me out. After the meal, they told me that America is in the grip of far right Christians. All this mess over one bottle of beer? I agreed with the Swedes.

Leaving Budapest, we next went to Warsaw. The Poles are tough people and very likeable. As in most Eastern European countries, we stayed fairly close to the hotel when it came time to eat. And when it came time to dine, there were women who pulled up a chair and proceeded to proposition us. I suppose they would also have eaten too, but we called for help in chasing the women away, so they went unfed by us. Prostitution was rampant around hotels in central Warsaw. The same could be said for the unauthorized exchange of zlotys for dollars.

We stayed at the Forum Hotel which the Communist regime proclaimed to be the newest and best hotel in Eastern Europe. The weather was warm, but if any air-conditioning was part of the best hotel claim, it was not apparent to us. But the Communists had imported shoe-shining machines which they installed in the elevator lobby of every floor.

The whirling cloth discs that shined your shoes were found on each side of the machine about twelve inches off the ground. To shine a shoe, the patron would stand on one foot and thrust the other shoe into the whirling discs. Then of course, he would stand on the newly shined shoe and thrust the other unshined shoe into the machine. To be sure that patrons observed proper safety rules there was a large sign on each machine which stated in English, French and Polish, “DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SHINE BOTH SHOES AT THE SAME TIME.” I suppose some Commisar had decided that shining both shoes at the same time was a dangerous exercise.

Wherever we went in Warsaw, we heard the thought that Poles are like radishes. Red on the outside, but that is as far as the Red can go. I like the Poles. They are a brave people who made it clear that their enemy was old Ivan.

Our next stop was Bucharest. What a dreary city that was. The food was forgettable, lines at streetcar and bus stops seemed to go on forever, yet the dictator Nicholas Ceausescu was building an enormous series of buildings to house his government and himself. The Romanian people were a beaten lot. Again, as we had seen in other Eastern European countries under Russian domination, prostitution and money changing schemes were everywhere.

On the Saturday morning before we boarded an Aeroflot flight to Moscow, I sat next to a fellow who had a cigarette in one hand and a cigar in the other. He would alternate puffs on the cigarette with puffs on the cigar. When I pointed this fellow’s conduct out to Dave Dietz, he said simply, “That man can’t wait to get his life over with.” I have never seen that kind of smoking before or since.

When we arrived in Moscow, we were met by an English-speaking fellow from Boris Chirkov’s staff. Chirkov was the Director of the Russian PTT (Post, Telephone and Telegraph) we had come to see.

This young fellow was our constant companion. When he disclosed that Saturday, the day of our arrival was also his wedding anniversary, we insisted that he go home to take care of business. But first we had to go by a florist so that his wife would have some flowers for the occasion. He was a nice young man, but all of us felt that we were being followed.

On Sunday we were joined by an older English speaking man, also from Boris Chirkov’s staff. He had tickets to the circus where he said he liked to take his grandchildren. The Moscow circus was great stuff. This gentleman seemed to take great pleasure in seeing three Americans enjoy themselves so much.

This fellow was about the same age of Howard Pappert and myself. He was an engaging man. During the Sunday afternoon at the circus, he said that he had served in the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is called in Russia. He asked if some of the three Americans had been in that war. Howard had been in the Navy in Pacific operations. I, of course, served in the Army Air Corps – later the Army Air Force – in foreign service.

The Great Patriotic War is regarded as being of the utmost seriousness to perhaps every Russian. The fact that Howard and I served in that war made an impression on our circus host. At the time we had no idea of the seriousness which Russians attach to that war. Clearly, he reported that to his boss, Boris Chirkov, which resulted in some pretty good treatment as we will see a little later on.

A word or two about the National Hotel located across the street from the Kremlin. It dated at least from the 1917 era when the Communists came to power. It showed its age with elevators that occasionally worked. The bathrooms suggested that not many people took baths regularly because of the primitive fixtures in the room. The baths were unheated. Guests were given a cube of soap measuring about 1½ inches each way. By the third day, my cube of soap was pretty much a memory, but there was no replacement.

I had a large sort of a suite with a grand piano in the living room. The piano covered a large hump. When I inquired about the hump, it was explained that the chandelier from the room below me had its shaft anchored in the hump. Similarly, the chandelier in my room over the piano penetrated my ceiling and presumable, it was anchored in a large hump in the room directly overhead. When I found that out, I stayed away from the piano and the chandelier.

The dining room was something to behold. The headwaiter carried a large red book that was about an inch in thickness and was given to diners. But as it turns out there was no veal cooked in vodka. Nor was there any beef stroganoff. This was an exercise in futility. In the end, the dining room had only a boiled chicken and some other mystery dish. So I told Dave Dietz and Howard Pappert that I would try room service. Little did I know that there was no such thing as room service.

There was a very stern woman who sat near the stairway or elevator lobby on each floor. Her duty was to collect keys when guests left their rooms and return them when they returned. One way or another, she came to see what my problem was when I found there was no room service. She was a tough customer, but using my hands, I told her of my hunger. In a short while, one of the bar maids showed up with a large slab of cheese, some Russian brown bread and a warm bottle of beer. So I made out better than my two colleagues who had to wrestle with a dubious chicken in the dining room. While I ate, I stared at the grand piano in my living room with the chandelier anchored in the ceiling. This was some way to pass a Saturday night in Moscow.

We were set to meet Comrade Chirkov at about 8:30 on Monday morning. The distance from the National Hotel to his office was only a five minute walk. When we entered the large meeting room, Chirkov greeted us properly. He was accompanied by seven or eight other people. We quickly sensed that those other people were not necessarily members of Chirkov’s staff. In all likelihood, they came from the NKVD, which is the political police. When we got into discussion about circuits between the Soviet Union and the United States, the NKVD people had nothing to say. On the other hand, when the subject of urban beauty came up, Comrade Chirkov announced, in broken English, that Moscow and particularly the Kremlin complex “were the most beautiful city in the world.” At other points where agreement seemed to be in doubt and where Chirkov or one of his deputies would offer an alternative, Chirkov would say that it “was his Socialist duty” to support the USSR point of view.

We did not become angry or annoyed because we thought Chirkov was simply showing the NKVD that he was an ardent Communist. We did become unhappy because a suicide bomber had entered a Marine barracks in Beirut the night before our meeting, and 250 United States Marines were killed. The Soviet side seemed to say that’s what the United States gets when it becomes involved in other people’s affairs.

The meeting lasted about three hours. The Russians seemed torn between wanting to be friendly and showing their sense of “Socialist duty.” We finished before noon and shook hands and started to walk toward the staircase to go to our hotel. As we stood up, Chirkov came to me with his female translator, to ask if I had really been in the Great Patriotic War. I told him that Howard Pappert and I had spent more than three years in that endeavor. Chirkov’s translator made it clear to us that Chirkov had a great regard for veterans of the Great Patriotic War. The remarks of Chirkov and his translator were made beyond the hearing distance of the NKVD. Perhaps, they had gone when the subject of the war came up.

One of the members of Chirkov’s staff was the fine gentleman who had taken us to the Moscow Circus the day before. I am positive that he had told Chirkov about the involvement by Howard and by myself in World War II.

When we left the meeting room, we had no plans but to rest until the next morning when we were to catch a Swissair flight to Zurich. During that Monday afternoon, the young man who had met us on Saturday came to our hotel and told us that Boris Chirkov was arranging a dinner for us that evening. We told this young fellow that we would be delighted to have dinner with our USSR compatriots.

This invitation was completely unprecedented. None of the few AT&T people who had ever been in Moscow had ever received such an invitation. From discussions with other American telecommunications carriers and with the British and French carriers, they had never had a meal with the USSR officials. In this case the Director of Telecommunications for the USSR, Boris Chirkov, was to be our host. All of that was unheard of before our visit.

I ascribe Chirkov’s desire to host a dinner to his profound respect for veterans of the Great Patriotic War – World War II. And secondly, Chirkov had a burning thirst to know about New York and the United States. I’d say Boris was inspired about 50% for the war and 50% for New York. The rest of the United States was incidental to New York, if I read Chirkov’s thoughts properly.

The dinner was held in a restaurant-nightclub setting. While we were eating, the floorshow took place. It was much like the Moscow Circus with jugglers, sword swallowers and trick bicycle riders. The meal was interesting because the main dish involved beans or lentils. I am a pushover for beans and lentils. So I thought that the meal was quite good.

At dinner, Boris displayed a much better command of English than he had shown during our earlier meeting. When he needed help on an English word, the young man who had met us on Saturday helped out. Boris peppered us with questions about the war and about New York and the rest of the United States. Boris brought about five men with him and none were the NKVD representatives we had seen in our morning meeting. Whereas in the morning meeting, Boris who often said he was “doing his Socialist duty,” none of that entered his conversation at dinner.

I am certain that when we told our host at the Moscow Circus of our World War II connection, he had told Boris Chirkov before we showed up for our Monday morning meeting. But in the hospitality department, old Boris was not finished with us. We had an 8AM flight from Moscow that took us first to Warsaw and then on to Zurich. Naturally, it was a Swissair flight. Boris said he and the nice young man from Saturday would pick us up in front of the National Hotel at 6AM. Our hosts were right on time.

We arrived at Sheremetyevo airport in about 30 minutes. Boris took us up to a bar adjacent to the Swissair gangway. The young Russian man from Boris’s staff took care of everything for us including passport control, currency control and validation of our flight. Clearly, Boris was an important person in the USSR. It was now 6:45AM and Boris took us to the bar and ordered brandy for all five of us – three Americans and two Russians. We had at least two or perhaps three brandies. Boris and his helper had an arrangement with the doorkeeper on the Swissair flight to call us at the last minute, which he did. We told Boris and his assistant that we had enjoyed their company and hoped to see them in the United States. That was music to old Boris’s ears.

In point of fact, when we were seated on the Swissair flight, all of the three Americans were anxious for the take off and to bid old Mother Russia goodbye. We were given extra ordinary friendly treatment by Boris Chirkov and his staff, but Russia and Moscow were depressing places. Goods available to Russian citizens were probably no more than 35% of the goods available to citizens in Western European countries. We were ready to go to Zurich.

Leaving the National Hotel at 6AM, we had no breakfast, of course. When we boarded the Swissair flight, we had a sufficient supply of brandy in our systems. As soon as the flight was airborne, the steward came around to tell us that breakfast could not be served until we departed from Warsaw – and in the meantime, wouldn’t we like to have some brandy? Because we were clearly on our way out of the USSR, all three Americans said, “Of course.” The breakfast that was served between Warsaw and Zurich was scrambled eggs and they were delicious.

Early after satellite service was introduced to the world, Boris made it his business to gather that service into his official duties and to become the expert on satellite telecommunications in the USSR. That was a very fortuitous move by Brother Chirkov because satellites obviated the need for cable and open wire. More importantly, it gave Boris a reason to travel to the United States and it provided him with a much greater income after the old USSR came apart. When the Russian government came apart, all kinds of states told Mother Russia to get lost and became independent. I’m thinking of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Estonia and all the many others.

In Moscow, a kind of cowboy atmosphere prevailed. There was no tomorrow and there were few controls. Whereas in the past, the USSR controlled nearly every move its citizens made, now the lid was off and there were no more controls. Some people floundered and lost all hope because there was no overwhelming central government to control what they did. Other people – like Boris Chirikov – used his government position to set himself up in business – the satellite business.

In this atmosphere of no controls, Boris Chirkov thrived. He was calling the shots and he had no concern for his old Communist bosses. This was every man for himself and Boris was getting his share or more.

Quite soon after our trip to Moscow, I heard from Boris that he and two other people would be in Washington. At the time, I was to attending a meeting in Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. I flew back to New York accompanied by a case of recently harvested pineapples. Then it was back to Newark Airport to get the shuttle to Washington where I had told Boris’s female translator that I would meet them at my favorite restaurant in Washington, the Cantina d’Italia. I took a pineapple with me to present to the Russians.

At lunch, there were four Russians: Chirkov, his translator and two assistants. The owner of Cantina d’Italia was known to me only as Joseph for many years. He came around to see how I was getting along with the Russians. Old Boris was feeling his oats and asked Joseph for a little bit of this, a little bit of that and a little bit of something else. Joseph very diplomatically explained to Boris that he had a menu for that purpose. Boris could pick out anything on the extensive Cantina menu, but Joseph said his chef was busy and couldn’t spare the time to make a little bit of this and a little bit of that. The thought finally struck me that in the USSR, the waiters tell you what they can serve that day. As in the case of the National Hotel Dining room, menus don’t mean much. Perhaps it was possible that Boris had never seen a Western menu before, particularly when the Chef could deliver on any dish listed in the directory.

Boris’s English was improving rapidly and I did not see why he needed his translator anymore, but I said nothing. When I presented the pineapple to the Russians, they had no idea how to eat it. Joseph showed how to cut it, but they said they wanted to take it back to their hotel and eat it later. I am certain that this was the first pineapple ever eaten by this group of Russians.

Boris was absolutely not bashful. I had a car to take me back to the Washington airport. When Boris urgently asked me to go to Rockville, Maryland so that he could buy Russian books unavailable in Moscow, I said take me to the airport first and then the driver could take them the 15 or 20 miles to Rockville. I only did this as my “democratic duty,” to paraphrase Boris’s exclamations.

After that, I heard from Boris perhaps a little too regularly. As I said, he was not bashful. Shortly before I retired, Judy and I met Boris and Yelena Kapustina, his translator, and took them to Gage and Tollner, an old restaurant in Brooklyn. Going over the Brooklyn Bridge was a sight that the two Russians had seen in photographs in Russia. They seemed to be thrilled.

At dinner, the pianist played “Moscow Nights” for our guests. They sang along. When it came time to order, Yelena (Helen) Kapustina, the translator, said there are so many wonderful dishes, what shall I order? Just to be helpful, I said the American lobster could be found no where outside the North American continent and lobster happened to be one of Gage and Tollner’s signature dishes. I should have kept quiet. The lobster was presented to Yelena who had no idea about how to eat it. The cracker and the narrow forks were unknown to her. But she was game. The waiter and I helped her with cracking the lobster, but my heart tells me that she would never order broiled lobster again if she had the choice. For me, after that episode, I retired from suggesting food to order in restaurants.

On the way back from Brooklyn, our two Russian guests asked to see 42nd Street and also Broadway. They had read about those locations and they were thrilled to ride on those streets. So you see, I am not the only one who wanted to come to New York. Those two Russians were having the time of their lives in the Big Apple.

Sometime after the Gage and Tollner meal, Yelena painted a picture of the Kremlin and presented it to me. I know that with the NKVD listening, Boris said the Kremlin was the most beautiful sight in the world. I would not necessarily go that far, but the painting has hung in my recreation room for many years. It is one of my favorites. It goes along with Vladamir Lazarev, the Russian dancer who sold three of his paintings to me, so those Russians can paint and they are very fond of New York.

As time went on, I heard from Boris quite regularly. I suppose about every other month, I would find myself in Manhattan to take Boris and different female translators to lunch. I don’t want to sound catty, but Boris and his female friends showed up as though they were dressed for a picnic. On one occasion when Howard Pappert and I took Boris to lunch, reservations had been made at La Caravelle or a similar upscale restaurant. Boris showed up with no tie and a sort of jump suit. Howard or I explained to the headwaiter what we were faced with. He said he would take us anyway. He seated us in an obscure place. I was thankful for the headwaiter’s courtesy. On that occasion, Boris was carrying a fur coat for his wife bought while in Hawaii. As you can see, the old Comrade was doing well for himself.
In the fall of 1985, Boris called and said he would be in New York on a Saturday night. He said he would be staying in the headquarters of the Soviet Mission to the United Nations. That building was somewhere in the upper 60’s on the east side of Manhattan. My daughter, Maureen, and her husband Walter Nollmann, were invited to have dinner with us and Boris Chirkov on that occasion in Short Hills. I drove into Manhattan to pick up Walter and Maureen who lived on 86th Street east of Fifth Avenue. We then drove to the Soviet Mission.

Boris was not standing in front of the building, so Walter said he would go into the building and try to find him. I parked in front of the Mission while Walter was gone. In about five to ten minutes, Walter came back with Boris in tow. On this occasion, Boris was dressed like a Beau Brummel. It was obvious that with my car in front of the Mission for as much as ten minutes, some intelligence people would become aware of it.

When Boris arrived at my house, he inspected every room from the attic to the basement. He asked questions of Walter, a fellow engineer, about the construction of the house. Perhaps in the USSR, a Commissar would live in such a house. It was pleasant for Boris to show so much interest in the house.

My thought about having my car in front of the Soviet Mission and about the idea that American and other intelligence forces would have an interest in it was to be rewarded. About a month to six weeks after Boris came to Short Hills for dinner, I walked by the front door of my house which has a mail slot cut into it. I saw a small card on the floor. It was so small that I could have easily overlooked it. When I picked it up it was from the F. B. I. Without calling me, an agent had showed up and after finding that I was out, left his card with a note on the back. Here is what the note had to say.

So I called the number Tom Hand, the FBI agent had left. Hand said that he wanted to talk to me in person. No subject was mentioned and he did not want to speak over the telephone. The next morning, Agent Hand appeared at my front door and I invited him in. I was still drinking coffee in those days, so I offered some instant, decaffeinated coffee to the FBI agent. He accepted my offer.

At the outset, Tom Hand said that I was not in any kind of trouble. They simply wanted to talk to me. I was dubious about his reassurance about not being in trouble. We sat in the living room on two chairs facing each other. Judging from remarks by Hand, the FBI wanted to know if the man we met on that Saturday night at the Soviet Mission was a new NKVD operative being inserted into the United States. I was struck by the thought that the FBI saw my car about six weeks ago. In that length of time, a new NKVD agent could have started cells in four or five different cities. But I suspect that the FBI people in New York who saw my car had to contact Washington who then had the Newark office call on me. Quick response time apparently has never been an FBI virtue.

I responded to Hand’s questioning in an open fashion. In the first place, I told Hand that my meeting with Chirkov was normal and was well within limits. My title was Director for AT&T. His title was Director for USSR telecommunications. So we had a meeting of Directors. I also pointed out that on that trip, I had similar meetings with directors and other officials in Prague, Warsaw, Bucharest and Budapest. I told Agent Hand that is what I did for AT&T.

I went to my office in the house and retrieved Chirkov’s calling card as well as some of the minutes that we had composed about the Moscow meeting. My point with Hand was to impress upon him that Chirkov was a bonafide Director of the USSR telecommunications efforts. He always said he was a Communist, but if he was doing any spying on the side, it was not apparent to me.

Tom Hand listened to me. I told him what we had for dinner on that Saturday evening and about Boris inspecting the whole house. Before Hand ever asked the question, I told Tom that Boris had never made any sort of suggestion that I would sell out the United States. On the contrary, he viewed me as a patriot because of my service in WWII. When all this occurred, I had been retired for about a year or more. Retired employees have no influence on events at AT&T. That has always been the case.

Tom Hand was a gentleman. I thought he was convinced that Chirkov was a telephone man and nothing more. In two or three weeks, I answered the door to find Tom Hand standing there. Apparently, FBI agents try not to use the telephone. He came in and told me that everything I had told him about Boris Chirkov had checked out and the incident was closed. He thanked me and I shook his hand. As I say, Tom Hand was a gentleman.
* * * * *
My point in telling you about Boris Chirkov and Yelena Kapustina is that they wanted to come to New York much as I had done a good many years earlier. They had much greater obstacles to overcome, but one way or another, they did it. I believe it fair to say that New York entranced them. Actually seeing the Brooklyn Bridge and 42nd Street and Broadway was a dream come true. I was glad to have a part in making that happen.

When people of my age think of Russia, they often think of Joseph Stalin and the head of the spy network, Lavrenti Beria. But there is more to Russia and Russians than that. Often, Russians will make generous efforts at friendships when they know that their gestures will not be rebuffed. I have made it abundantly clear that I have no desire to live in Russia or any of the Eastern European states. In none of those countries could 42nd Street or Broadway exist. But there were evidences of genuine friendship with the Russians, with or without the attraction of New York.

After we had had dinner at Gage and Tollner in Brooklyn, Yelena went home and painted a picture of the Kremlin for me. I was deeply grateful. When the Russians celebrated the October Revolution, which actually occurred in November, the Russian Army handed out medals for Veterans of the Great Patriotic War. Somehow, Boris got one and presented it to me – in New York, of course. In anticipation of my becoming an angel, I gave it to Kevin Shepherd, one of my Texas grandsons. I have not heard from Boris for six or seven years. By this time, he may have enough capital to by Enron, Arthur Anderson and WorldCom as well.

It was a pleasure to know the Russians. I was moved by their desire to share in the New York experience. In New York, it takes all kinds to create the magnificent mosaic that is New York, New York. The Russians I knew fit that New York mosaic quite well.

July 27, 2002


I keep all of these types of artifacts in Austin, in a strong plastic box. Next time I’m home (probably in May for my little brother’s graduation), I’ll find the medal in question and post it on the site.

Also, I find the shots against Arthur Anderson in this essay in the last to be a lot of fun: not only did both my parents work there, but when it spun its consultancy off into Accenture, my brother worked there too — and my uncle was a partner there, and one of my cousins works there presently. I’m one of the few Shepherds who seems to have avoided the business, and I’m pretty glad to have done so. Most management consulting seems kinda miserable, honestly. Hopefully it at least affords the opportunity to have four brandies before breakfast while on the job.

Oh and PS, at 19 pages I think this is the longest Ezra’s Essay that I can remember. He had a lot to say about Russians! As someone who traveled as frequently as he did, and to countries of as much interest as Russia held, something tells me this wasn’t Pop’s only run-in with the Feds.


If you will lend me your eyes for a few moments, I will try to give you a nickel’s worth about aphasia and several dollars’ worth about the realities of being a soldier. My thoughts about the realities of being a soldier have been rolling around in my mind and have been keeping me awake at night. So something has to be done and that accounts primarily for this essay.

Let us turn to the aphasia part of this equation. Aphasia is a stroke-induced ailment that causes one to forget nouns. For example, in preparing to write this essay, I somehow lost the word aphasia even though it is one of the subjects of this essay. On other occasions, I frequently forget the name of glaucoma, the ailment which blinded my father, my brother, and now myself. It is a matter of calling the names to mind. For example, I can tell you that Tom Brokaw, who called my generation the greatest generation, worked for NBC and appeared on the 6:30 PM national telecast. While I can tell you all about what Tom Brokaw did, I often cannot call his name to mind. This ailment tends to become dangerous when I fail to call the name of a prescription drug to mind. I might say that it is in the tall green bottle or the tall white bottle, but that is not much use to the pharmacist who dispenses it. I am simply unable to speak the name.

In my own case, aphasia was the result of a stroke that I had in 1997. A stroke affects the brain. It is not necessarily a heart-related matter at all. In my case, I was spared the loss of movement in my limbs, but the net result was aphasia. The surgeon who had planned an aortic valve replacement, said that we had dodged a bullet by having control remain in my limbs. Nevertheless, he is not the guy who suffers from being unable to call nouns to mind as a result of aphasia.

To correct the effects of aphasia, I had treatment for three months at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation under the care of Shirley Morgenstein. As the work with rehabilitation proceeded, Shirley suggested that I should write essays as a means of rehabilitating my brain. Now some 200 essays later I am still at it.

There is one rule that I have always tried to observe. In all of the essay writing that I have done, I have never commented on the deprivations of the great American Depression, which affected so many of us. I have never commented on the divorce which took place 23 years ago. And I have only written an essay on one occasion having to do with the brutalities associated with combat warfare. In that case, I wrote an essay called “They Never Betrayed Me.” It had to do with my experience of December 8, 1943, after being shot down in northern Italy, being a POW, and being rescued by the Italian Partisans. It was the Italian people who never betrayed me in the escape from the German prison. I wrote that essay some 60 years after the event as a means of telling my daughters and their husbands and their children about what had happened so long ago. It was also a piece intended to keep my five grandsons from being seduced by the lure of military life.

Now, I am about to transgress that rule once again by writing about the realities and the brutishness of warfare. Violating a rule twice in 65 years would seem to me to be acceptable behavior.

What set me off were the six or seven generals who demanded the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. All of these generals were retired, of course. While they were active, if they had ever asked for Rumsfeld’s resignation, they would have been cashiered immediately. They knew that, and so they kept their remarks to themselves until they retired. The burden of what the generals had to say about Rumsfeld had to do with the whole Bush administration which started the war in Iraq. It was the view of these generals that the war was ordered by people who had never served in the military forces, including Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez, Rice, Wolfowitz, and all the rest of the neocons. It is easy for those sitting in Washington to send an army to invade Iraq because it is not their lives that they are putting on the line.

The quote that is the title for this essay comes from what they have had to say. The retired generals have said that the Bush administration sent people to war to get killed but they had never been sobered by the requirement to “bury the dead”. They never experienced war and the attendant duty to take care of its obvious aftermath. I am here to tell you about the realities having to do with the death of soldiers. And I am here to tell you about burying the dead.

From this point on, this essay will probably be a grim one for many readers. It is my intention to talk about the death of soldiers and it will not be a pretty scene. It is unreal to assume that, in every case, soldiers die from a dime shaped bullet hole to the heart and that they fall to the ground in a position where the Army Graves Registration Unit can pick them up and put them in coffins. The fact of the matter is that soldiers are killed in the most grisly of circumstances. Today in Iraq we see the effects of roadside bombings that separate men from their senses. They lose their eyesight and their ability to reason. So far we have lost 2,450 men in Iraq being killed with more than 18,000 being injured. The casualties have suffered gruesome injuries.

Kindly remember please that the statistics published by the American military are subject to great doubt. It is not in the interest of the American military to tell you how many people have been killed and how many have been injured in a sad fashion. It is in the interest of the American military to minimize the deaths and the injuries. Simply put, don’t trust the military when it comes to publishing details about deaths and injuries.

I was never in the infantry where the bulk of deaths and injuries occur. My service was in the Air Force and I will use that as a means of describing the deaths of airmen. When a mission is mounted against the perceived enemy, only a small minority of the wounded ever return to base. As a general rule, those on the mission suffer their injuries over enemy territory and do not return to their bases. Their deaths may occur by anti-aircraft fire or by fire from opposing fighter pilots. They may be captured and lose their lives in prison camps. All that we have to go on here is that those who are missing will be an empty cot in the tent or in the barracks. When a man has been missing for a short time, you know that he is not returning when people from the headquarters come to collect his personal effects from his footlocker, if he has a footlocker.

For those who return wounded from a mission, there are grim realities. These are the realities that the generals did not mention in their effort to unseat Donald Rumsfeld. Nonetheless I am sure that they are cognizant of these injuries. I am going to be talking here about airmen who participate in raids over enemy territory. Before leaving on any mission, every airman must don a parachute harness. The parachute harness is like a pair of overalls in one respect in that it is stepped into with the harness being anchored at the crotch level and then thrown over each shoulder. There are devices, latches if you will, to hold the harness together. Many airmen, particularly pilots, prefer to use a seat parachute pack attached to the harness. The seat harness covers the buttocks and indeed, it is sat on. Many of us, me in particular, used a chest pack parachute that must be attached to two receptacles near the top of the harness. The main thing about the chest pack is that it must be attached properly or the parachute will open downward rather than upward. Furthermore, the chest pack must be remembered before jumping out of the airplane whereas those with the seat parachutes do not have such a concern.

When enemy fighters try to disable one of our aircraft, they usually go after the tail gunner and then the side gunners. Once they are put out of commission, the plane is largely defenseless to attacks from the rear and from underneath. Injuries from 30 caliber or 50 caliber bullets to the aerial gunners are hideously gruesome. Either the 30 caliber or the 50 caliber can make a hole in a man’s midsection much bigger than the size of a fist. When a plane arrives back at the base from which the mission started and there is an injured airman or airmen aboard, there is the problem of removing the injured man. In most cases, however, if an airman takes 30 or 50 caliber bullets in his chest or stomach area, he will probably be cut in half. As I said, 30 caliber and 50 caliber bullets just tear holes all the way through a man’s midsection or through his chest area.

Now I return to the theme of this essay, which is “they did not have to bury the dead.” Removing the remains of an airman who has been hit by anti-aircraft or fire from an airborne machine gun is a delicate operation because the lower part of the body is still attached to the upper part through the parachute harness. It is not uncommon to see a man’s lower parts dangling, being held on only by the parachute harness which passes through his crotch area. I know these are grim and gory details, but the neocons who ordered this invasion of Iraq, Bush, Cheney, et al., should think about things such as this. Removing a man who has been killed by machine gun fire from the rear cockpit of an airplane, for example, is a gory and messy piece of work. It is not a case of a single small bullet hole through the heart at all. It is simply a man being cut in half with all of the attendant details.

I regret to tell you these details, but these are the actual facts of war. There is no gainsaying that the war is making, as Bush says, “great progress.” The fact of the matter is that George Bush has never seen what war has done to his troops. Neither has Cheney, neither has Rumsfeld, neither has Gonzalez, and neither has Madame Rice or anybody else among the neocons. It is my recommendation that people of this sort who directed this war against Iraq be required to bury some of the casualties that have occurred. It is my estimate that once the people who ordered this war in Iraq get their hands bloody from a dead soldier, they might have more reluctance in the future to order any invasion. It is one thing to sit in Washington and send airmen to bomb Iran or Iraq. It is quite another thing to lift an airman out of the rear cockpit of the airplane with his two halves coming out being held together largely by a parachute harness.

Well, you see, the retired generals have obliged me to break my promise of never discussing the combat phases of my war experience. It is only the second time. If my recollections, which are grim, were to become known in the upper reaches of this administration, it would be welcomed by me. In the instant case, Bush now contends that the war will go on at least through the rest of his term, which takes us to somewhere into 2009. By that time, there may be another 2,500 dead and another 15,000 wounded. May I ask, is this in the interests of the United States? Of course it is not! Do you feel one bit safer because of these casualties?

As you can see, the generals set off an angry response that I have been harboring for years, since the Iraqi war started. I grieve for every American and Iraqi death. I grieve for the deaths of our allies in this misadventure. While I grieve at the deaths and the injuries, Bush rides his miserable bicycle and worries not at all. Well, I shouldn’t say “worries not at all;” he dreams up ventures such as wiretapping and collecting data on telephone calls made by American citizens, and threatening to bomb Iran.

This essay started out with my recollections of aphasia and it ended up exactly where I knew it was going, which is a grim recital of deaths that occur to soldiers. As such it is merely an exercise in the realities of warfare. If you are upset by this recitation of the realities of warfare, please don’t harbor resentment toward me but rather toward the people in Washington who ordered the misadventure into Iraq. For the deaths and the gruesome injuries to American soldiers, this administration must be held accountable and the fact that it is going to go on for years to come is a travesty of the first order. If you are aroused and angered, as I am, please tell your representatives or your senators about your anger and let them know that killing and torture by Americans is not in our best interests. Absolutely not at all.

May 17, 2006
Essay 190


For new readers, it’s probably worth mentioning that this particular type of essay is atypical. Pop generally enjoyed writing about language, culture, and current events. This incident must have royally pissed him off, since nothing short of that would cause him to revisit war memories.

Now that we’re once again in the election season, this essay makes me think back to John McCain, who is still in the senate trying to (among other things) protect American soldiers from torture. He’s of course far more familiar with the realities of war than most of his colleagues; he’s buried the dead. I only hope that however this next election turns out, we’re not left with another commander in chief who deploys troops first and asks questions later.

Obituary: Ezra Edgar Carr passed away on June 11, 2014

Ezra Edgar Carr passed away at his home on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.

Ed was born in Clayton, Mo., in 1922; he was the youngest of eight children, five of whom survived childhood. As a child, he was so shy he was once sent to the Missouri School for the Deaf under the mistaken impression that he could neither hear nor speak. After high school, he went to work for Schroth’s filling station, and then to AT&T as a draftsman.

At age 19, Ed enlisted in the Army Air Corps in WWII and served as a gunner and an aerial engineer, flying in A20’s and C47’s. During his two tours of duty in North Africa and Italy, he was shot down twice. One of these incidents resulted in him being held in an Italian POW camp, from which he escaped. He returned to AT&T after the war with no great fondness for the way the Army treated enlisted men.

Ed was soon elected the president of the local CWA union and after a national bargaining session for the union, was quickly promoted to AT&T management where he eventually led the AT&T bargaining team on the other side of the table. His negotiating acumen and diplomacy led to Ed’s representing AT&T to the US Government in Washington, D.C. and then to telephone companies and foreign governments around the world as Director of International Operations.

The hallmark of Ed Carr was his uncanny ability to make friends everywhere, be that with the staff at the local supermarket or with dignitaries around the world.

In the 1950s, he and first wife Eileen welcomed two daughters, Maureen and Suzanne. He had already developed his lifelong love of books and music, and would walk lower Manhattan on his lunch hour, looking for out-of-print books by favorite authors HL Mencken or AJ Liebling or collecting Clancy Brothers or Bud & Travis albums. A shameless literary thief, Ed told his two little girls that he was responsible for the immortal New Yorker cartoon “Hello, I am a pelican, my beak can hold more than my bellycan.” He also invented a unique method of distributing Fig Newtons that left his cookie pile double that of either girl.

The 80s and 90s brought retirement, marriage to soulmate Judy Chicka, and the arrival of five treasured grandsons. Ed and Judy traveled extensively and rode their bicycles over northern New Jersey. In the last 15 years, Ed battled the effects of a major stroke and then blindness, but never lost his biting wit. He dealt with these challenges as best he could, fighting aphasia by writing hundreds of essays, collected at He surely would not have survived these last years without the devoted care and advocacy of Judy.

A fierce Irishman, Ed would often recall telling his mother Lillie that he was leaving to fight in WWII and that he would be fighting alongside the (distasteful) Brits. “Well,” his mother said, “then you must do the best you can.” And so he did, his whole life.

Ed is survived by beloved wife Judy Chicka, daughters Maureen (Walter) and Suzanne (Carl) and grandsons Connor, Kevin, Andrew, William and Jack. Thanks to his many friends, doctors and health aides for their attentive care in his last years.

When Irish people take leave of each other, they often have a glass to mark the occasion. A few lines of this Celtic thought from an Irish farewell song.

“For all that I have done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall,
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.”
-Irish Traditional

The linked essays above represent some of my favorites on the site so far. I have about two hundred and twenty others. You can find them all in a giant list of favorites here. A less-terrible way to browse these should be available soon.

Read the original obituary here.
Read Pop’s thoughts on obituaries here, including a go at his own written in 2008, which I’ll paste below for convenience with the date replaced:

Mr. E. E. Carr cashed in his chips on June 11. The chip-cashing occurred in a bawdy house in Millburn, New Jersey. His body was found by several mistresses in a palatial suite on the 20th floor, surrounded by empty champagne bottles and dishes that had held caviar and foie gras. Evidence of rampant lovemaking was everywhere. When the undertaker arrived, he discovered that $1,000 bills were sticking out of every pocket of Mr. Carr’s jacket and pants. A waiter reported that Mr. Carr had tipped him $5,000 for providing his final meal, as it turned out. Mr. Carr also said to some of his guests of the female gender that he shouldn’t drink all that champagne but in the final analysis, he said that this was the way to go. He will be terribly missed by his dozens of loving mistresses and preachers of all sects.

His estate is estimated to be worth nearly a billion dollars, which will be used to establish upscale bawdy houses in all of the major cities in New Jersey and in his native Missouri.


Hundreds of years before I became an essayist, there was a grand summit meeting held on the grounds of what would eventually become the Buckingham Palace in London. It was attended by all of the reigning gods, kings, archangels, head rabbis and prophets, as well as by the leading preachers and politicians of the day. The grand summit conference also included the ancestors of Vice-President Dan Quayle, Yasser Arafat and O.J. Simpson. Basically the outcome of the grand summit conference was that it was decreed that henceforth November would always automatically follow October. There would be no April or May late in the year because November presaged the onset of winter.

For many Americans, the arrival of November is bad news indeed. It brings on a miasma that causes dropsy, sleepiness and nervousness. Within my experience, when October slides silently and seamlessly into November, the illness of miasma always arrives. Fortunately, it lasts only for perhaps five months. In any case, the debilitating illness starts as the final out is made in the current World Series. Once that final out is accomplished, every baseball fan knows that there will be no Major League Baseball on a regularly scheduled basis until five months hence. Baseball games are not played in November, December, January, and February. There are exhibition games in March, but that counts for very little. So there is a long period of unhappiness that must be endured until the first balls are thrown at the beginning of the new baseball season starting on or about April 1 of the succeeding year.

I have endured this terrible ailment for about 80 years. In 1926, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series that provided me with my very first memories. As a four-year-old St. Louis boy, I was wondering why my older brothers were dancing around the house and yelling. It turns out that in the seventh game of the World Series played in New York, Jess Haines was the Cardinal pitcher. His special pitch was a knuckle ball which is not thrown with the knuckles but with the finger tips. By the seventh inning of that seventh game, Jess Haines’s fingertips were worn to nothing but bloodiness. With the bases loaded with Yankees, Rogers Hornsby, the St. Louis second baseman and manager, summoned Grover Cleveland Alexander from the St. Louis bullpen. Alexander was known as a man who seldom passed up a drink, and he had pitched the sixth game, which was a victory for the Cardinals. He had no idea whatsoever that he would be called upon to relieve in the seventh game. Nonetheless, Alexander was summoned to the mound, and was facing the feared Yankee slugger, Tony Lazzeri. It is widely believed that Alexander, when he entered the game, was suffering from a delicious hangover. Be that as it may, Alexander struck out Lazzeri and then went on to pitch the eighth and ninth innings, which cemented the first World Series victory for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now if you come from St. Louis, as I do, or surrounding territories, you will realize that baseball is a religion to most Midwesterners. In subsequent years when the Cardinals appeared in the World Series in 1928, 1930, 1931, and 1934, the students in the Clayton Public Schools were summoned to the gymnasium to hear radio broadcasts of the games that were then being played. In those days, of course, the games were played in the afternoon and the whole World Series was completed shortly after the first week of October. Today, with the intrusion of television, the games are played at night, often in frigid weather, and are rarely completed before the end of October. But for the students around St. Louis, learning could be postponed until they heard the broadcasts of the contests or the World Series involving the Cardinals. By doing so, a religious obligation was observed.

Now we come to the 2007 World Series. The contestants were clubs from Boston and Denver, in which I have no everlasting interest. But the World Series is an influence in my life. I can still remember the jubilation that took place in the 1926 World Series, when the Cardinals defeated the vaunted Yankees.

But when the final out was recorded in the World Series of 2007, it occurred in only the fourth game of that series. The World Series could have continued at least three games longer, but the Boston club made a sweep of it and took their trophy and went home. Perhaps that was a blessing because the players might well have suffered from frostbite had the games continued. All of this meant that the last outs were recorded earlier than expected and that the miasma that accompanies me in my winter solstice would arrive earlier. Now when nighttime comes, there are no baseball games to listen to. I make an attempt to listen to basketball and hockey games, but I find myself going to bed early because my interest is sliding.

These last two years, my New York grandchildren have subscribed for me to a satellite radio which sits on the table next to my chair in the living room. On that radio I am able to listen to out-of-town baseball broadcasts that are of great interest. For example, the Philadelphia commentator is Larry Andersen, an old relief pitcher. Andersen comments upon the strategy of the games and he gives you an unvarnished view of not only his home team but also the visiting teams. When the New York Mets played in Pittsburgh, the Pirates were in last place and it was reflected in the comments of their announcers who seemed bored and wanted the game to end as soon as possible.

In Houston, when the Mets visit there, there are endless comments about which church group is attending the game that night. Apparently the Houston Astros make an attempt to sell their tickets to Christian groups. As far as I can determine, the attendees at the games are limited to groups of the Protestant faith. There are no representatives from the Catholic Church or from the Jewish faith. The Houston Astros are a sad team and by not subscribing to attendance at the games, the Roman Catholics and the Jewish worshipers are showing excellent taste.

In any case, my satellite radio has provided me with many memories. In addition to being able to follow the game, it brings back my younger days when there was no such thing as television. In St. Louis, there was only Johnny O’Hara on radio station WIL, and France Laux on KMOX, who provided the broadcasts. I believe I join with many others who contend that radio reports are superior to those that are offered on television. And so I am indebted to those future Major League grandsons for their contribution to my summertime enjoyment.

This is being written during the first week of November, which is when my case of miasma has me in its grips. This comes about from the fact that I know it will be five months before the St. Louis Cardinals or the Mets or the New York Yankees begin their regularly-scheduled games. This agony has gone on now for 80 years, since 1926. There is no relief for the pain it causes. But I try to reason with myself that come next April the agony will be over. And so we make it from one winter to the next.

The fans of the Chicago Cubs give me hope. They have not celebrated a World Series victory of any kind since 1908. If my mathematics are correct, that will provide the fans of the Chicago Cubs with 100 years of shut-outs. If the Chicago Cub fans can hang on for 100 years, the least I can do is wait until next April. At that time, an umpire will yell, “Play ball!” and the first pitch of the new season will begin. At that moment, my agony will be lifted and there will be seven months of joy that will surround me. I suppose that five months of agony to be followed by seven months of joy is a pretty fair trade-off. In any case, I will mark off the days on the calendar until spring arrives in these parts.

Finally, a word or two about the title which is, of course, “The Hot Stove League Blues.” That term comes from people sitting around places such as hardware stores in the winter time with their feet up on a railing around the wood stove, trading stories about possible baseball trades and firings. It has been a long time since we have heated our stores with wood-burning stoves, but nonetheless the term remains in constant use today. So when somebody tells you about the Hot Stove League blues, you will always know that he is referring to a wood-burning stove around which people are trading stories and living in the hope that the cold weather will soon go away, that spring will arrive, and that there will soon be an umpire saying, “Play ball!”

November 7, 2007
Essay 268
Kevin’s commentary: Pop should be thankful for the onset of TV, if televising the games has made the baseball season several weeks longer! Also, he should investigate the possibility of a southern-hemisphere baseball league; maybe they have one with a season that runs on an opposite schedule.


The title of this essay is lifted from the lyrics of a duet sung by Chita Rivera (Thelma) and Mary McCarty (Matron Mamma) in the original 1975 Broadway production of Kandor and Ebb’s musical, “Chicago.” (See attached lyrics.) It ran on Broadway for 936 performances. After an absence of perhaps twenty years, it was revived and the revival lasted at least five more years. Clearly, “Chicago” was a superior musical.

The “class” that the actresses are singing about has nothing to do with race or wealth. It has to do with those who distinguish themselves by classy acts rather than those who engage in deplorable conduct. For example, Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Senator John Edwards, is battling cancer and she is clearly a class act. Ann Coulter, Hillary and Bill Clinton are something less than a class act. Thomas Jefferson was a class act, particularly when he is compared to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Joe DiMaggio was a class act, as compared with Roger Clemens, the man who says that he does not remember taking growth hormones. I hope these examples make it clear about the class that is referred to by this song from “Chicago.”

There are three or four testosterone-laden politicians who might demonstrate the antithesis of class. Let us start with the former Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer. When Mr. Spitzer hired a prostitute from the Emperor’s Club and paid her several thousand dollars, that was an act of class. He didn’t pick up a woman off the streets and pay her $20 or less. No, Mr. Spitzer went first class.

In his final encounter with the denizens of the Emperor’s Club, he engaged a room at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. When I worked in Washington during the 1960s, the Mayflower on Connecticut Avenue was in its dotage. It was a hotel for older, genteel people, and was past its prime. In recent years, the Mayflower has been refurbished and the rooms there start at about $400 per night. At least that is what Mr. Spitzer paid for the room that he enjoyed. Mr. Spitzer also told his ladyfriend Kristen that she could help herself to the mini bar or she could call room service. Again that was a class act. When the whole affair with the Emperor’s Club was brought into the spotlight, Mr. Spitzer promptly resigned. Another act of class.

Then Eliot Spitzer had to face his wife and his three daughters. May I say that there is no way that a man in Spitzer’s position can act with class when confronted with the need to make amends to his wife and children. Spitzer did the best he could. But in the end, the two years of his governorship of New York will be regarded as anything but a class act.

Now that we have dealt with the miseries of Eliot Spitzer, it is time for us to move to his successor. In New York state there is a Lieutenant Governor who succeeds the Governor when a resignation occurs. In this case, the gentleman who succeeded Spitzer is a legally blind man named David A. Paterson, who has spent many years working his way up the ladder in the New York State legislature. When Mr. Paterson was introduced to the legislature, he demonstrated a ready wit and was rewarded with a standing ovation from the senators and representatives of New York State. So far, so good.

But then came the naked truth about his conduct. According to Mr. Paterson’s own testimony, there was an estrangement in his marriage to Mrs. Paterson a few years ago. During that estrangement, Mr. Paterson bedded down with a wide assortment of ladies who constitute the higher strata of the female gender. Some of the women who shared a bed with Mr. Paterson were state employees, who might endanger Mr. Paterson if he sought higher office. This is neither here nor there, but during the estrangement, Mrs. Paterson had affairs of her own. But with respect to the new governor, perhaps he should be saluted for his accomplishments in bed even though he is legally blind.

But this is a story about class. According to the new governor, David Paterson, he invariably took the women who supplied him with the ultimate in friendship to the Days Inn Motel on the west side of Harlem in Manhattan. Days Inn is a chain of motels that are the successors to tourist cabins on obscure highways that served the meandering males of perhaps forty or fifty years ago. I can assure you that the room rate at Days Inn is nowhere near the $400 that Eliot Spitzer paid in Washington. At the most, I suspect that Governor Paterson probably spent $100 to $150 to provide a room for himself and his good friends.

Going to a Days Inn is not an act of class by any stretch of the imagination. It is something like going to a cafeteria as distinguished from dining at The Four Seasons Restaurant. The French have a word for this conduct. It is déclassé. Translated, the word means no class at all. But aside from engaging all of his paramours in the Days Inn, the marriage counselor who brought the Patersons back together recommended that he take his newly rejuvenated wife back to the scene of his trysts. Whether this was an act of class remains to be seen.

It also turns out that Governor Paterson used a credit card belonging to his campaign fund to pay the hotel bill for himself and his paramours. Simply put, Governor Paterson paid for his love-making using the contributions that were intended for his re-election. By doing so, Governor Paterson distinguished himself as a man of no class at all. Belatedly, he has repaid these hotel expenses to his campaign.

Now we come to the former governor of New Jersey known as James E. McGreevy. Apparently when McGreevy was the Mayor of Woodbridge, New Jersey, before he became governor, there was a time when he was furnished with a chauffeur, a benefit largely unenjoyed by the mayors of all of the other towns in this state. But according to McGreevy’s own book and according to the chauffeur himself, he drove the Mayor of Woodbridge to his important appointments.

Now this is where the taffy gets sticky and will soon wind up in somebody’s brush mustache. The chauffeur has told the press that he was one third of a ménage à trois. The other two thirds of the ménage à trois were supplied by Mrs. McGreevy and by the Mayor himself. According to the chauffeur, when the three of them got together they had what they called “a Friday night special.” The account given to the newspapers is fairly graphic. Significantly, it has been confirmed by none other than the former Mayor of Woodbridge and the former Governor of New Jersey, James E. McGreevy. The “Friday night specials” involved the chauffeur making love to Mrs. McGreevy while the Mayor looked on. Mrs. McGreevy denies any such activity but we have the testimony of the chauffeur and the former mayor and governor. So, please take your pick.

The significant point in this essay is that following the Friday night specials, or perhaps even preceding them, the three of them fed themselves at a chain called T.G.I.Friday’s, which I believe means thank goodness it’s Friday. The T.G.I. Friday’s eateries are one step above a Salvation Army handout. In retrospect, perhaps I am not being fair to the Salvation Army.

To think that the Mayor of Woodbridge and the future governor of New Jersey would celebrate the end of the work week by repairing to a low-class eatery like T.G.I. Friday’s is an act of no class at all. The love-making part of this sordid tale is one thing which draws no comment from this old essayist. However, repairing to the T.G.I. Friday’s eateries is an act of no class whatsoever.

Now if you wed the conduct of Governor Paterson and the Mayor of Woodbridge, it might say that Governor Paterson went from his Days Inn room to a feast at the T.G.I. Friday’s establishment. But even I, a grizzled old observer of human conduct, cannot believe that a man who rents a room at Days Inn would compound the mistake by taking his paramours to the T.G.I. Friday’s eateries.

Well, there you have my thoughts on former Governor Spitzer as well as the former governor of New Jersey, Mr. McGreevy and the current governor of New York, Mr. Paterson. Now let us turn to the current governor of this glorious state. It seems that love-making is in the air in New Jersey and New York.

When McGreevy resigned from the governorship of New Jersey, he was succeeded by the President of the New Jersey Senate, named Richard Codey. For two years, Mr. Codey guided the state and was very popular. But then along came Jon Corzine with wheelbarrows full of cash and pushed Mr. Codey back to the Senate. As soon as Mr. Corzine took over the governorship, it developed that he was having a long-standing affair with a woman named Katz, who was also the chairman of the union committee that negotiated with the State. In other words, Corzine was making love to his union counterpart, from whom he was expected to get the best possible terms for the new labor agreement. When the Corzine/Katz affair ended, Governor Corzine, in an act of class, paid off a $450,000 note on Mrs. Katz’s real estate holdings and it seems that he also agreed to pay tuition for her children. Whether this was a classy act or not, I will leave it for my readers to decide.

Jon Corzine clearly muscled Richard Codey out of the governorship because he believed that the governorship of a state like New Jersey could propel him to the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. But that was not in the cards. In the meantime, Mr. Corzine suffered a terrible automobile accident and now finds himself faced by a $4 billion deficit in the budget of this great state. I would say that Corzine has not had a day’s luck since he decided to leave the U. S. Senate and push Codey aside.

Well, so much for the sordid affairs of the governors of New York and New Jersey. With their non-class acts in mind, I almost called this essay “Jesus Christ, Ain’t There No Decency Left?” another line from the same duet. I hope I have made my point that there are, in this world, class acts and some that fall far short of being classy.

For my own part, I have nothing but the highest regard for the City of Chicago, where I worked for two years, and for Kandor and Ebb’s musical named after the largest settlement in the State of Illinois. My belief is that Chicagoans are generous to a fault, particularly when a two-and-a-half-month old baby girl was adopted by this old essayist. Chicago also distinguishes itself as a class act when it does not interfere with somebody else’s enjoyment. That is your business, not anyone else’s. Again, there are four lines from a little song sung by a character in “Chicago” named Roxie. The lines read like this:

“You can like the life you’re living,
You can live the life you like.
You can even marry Harry
And fool around with Ike.”

Chicagoans would giggle at the thought that somebody was fooling around with Ike and they would consider it only the business of the participants. They would not pass a law barring fooling around. Chicagoans tend to their own business and have no desire to infringe upon the rights of others. In the final analysis, the Broadway play, “Chicago” is an earthy, broad-shouldered production which matches entirely my view of that great city. The play and the city are complete class acts.

Now as for the principal characters in this essay, I have absolutely no intent whatsoever of piling on Eliot Spitzer. When it comes to straightening out his family matters, I wish him well. As for Governor Paterson, I sincerely hope that he moves from the Days Inn to a hotel or motel that offers room service. James E. McGreevy is locked into a miserable battle with his former wife over the custody of their child. The battle has become prolonged and if I may say so, it is not a class act at all. Mrs. McGreevy wants every last speck from her former husband’s bones. When their daughter in future years reviews the events between her parents, she will probably say, “Ain’t there no decency left?”

And so I leave you with the thought that a visit to Chicago might improve everyone’s outlook on life, and if you have an opportunity to see Kandor and Ebb’s “Chicago,” I am certain that you will enjoy it immensely. And if you should fall in love with the Chicago Cubs, I will do my best to understand that situation. My old friend James Reese, formerly of Chicago, loves the Cubs and he is a class act. So rooting for the Cubs is a respectable endeavor.

March 31, 2008
Essay 302

Commentary: Contrary to Pop’s opinion, I think it makes a big difference whether the mayor of Woodbridge ate at TGI Friday’s before or after his weekly cuckoldings. If it was before, that’s really icky and lecherous, like the awful $14 hamburgers and weird novelty drinks were part of some twisted routine of foreplay. But if it was after, that seems okay. They all just wanted to unwind after an exciting night.

Lyrics to “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CLASS” from Chicago
Whatever happened to fair dealing?
And pure ethics
And nice manners?
Why is it everyone now is a pain in the ass?
Whatever happened to class?
Whatever happened to, “Please, may I?”
And, “Yes, thank you?”
And, “How charming?”
Now, every son of a bitch is a snake in the grass
Whatever happened to class?
Ah, there ain’t no gentlemen
To open up the doors
There ain’t no ladies now,
There’s only pigs and whores
And even kids’ll knock ya down
So’s they can pass
Nobody’s got no class!
Whatever happened to old values?
And fine morals?
And good breeding?
Now, no one even says “oops” when they’re
Passing their gas
Whatever happened to class?
Ah, there ain’t no gentlemen
That’s fit for any use
And any girl’d touch your privates
For a deuce
And even kids’ll kick your shins and give you sass
And even kids’ll kick your shins and give you sass
Nobody’s got no class!
All you read about today is rape and theft
Jesus Christ, ain’t there no decency left?
Nobody’s got no class!
Every guy is a snut
Every girl is a twat
Holy shit
Holy shit
What a shame
What a shame
What became of class?


Simply put, I expect to be denounced and excoriated for the essay that is to follow.  I am at a loss to tell you if being denounced is a greater penalty than being excoriated.  But I can guarantee you that neither one is pleasant.  As long as I am not castigated, I believe I can withstand denunciation.

A few years back in mixed company, I overheard a lovely woman saying that she expected to change her name.  I took this to mean that she intended to be married.  But this essay has a contrarian view on changing your name, hence the excoriation and the denunciations that are to be expected by this humble author.

Perhaps I am overcompensating for views expressed by an ancient folk song of American origin.  The folk song is called “The Wagoneer’s Lad.”  In these essays I have quoted the first stanza on two previous occasions.  It reads:

Hard luck is the fortune of all womankind,
They are always controlled, always confined,
Controlled by their parents until they are wives,
And slaves to their husbands for the rest of their lives.

When the lovely woman expressed the view that she wished to change her name, a thought or two ran through my head and still remains there.  Generally speaking, men at the time of marriage are older than their prospective wives.  There can be an age differential of perhaps 20 years in some cases.  In that event, if the woman looks far enough ahead, one might conclude that her fortunes will include widowhood before she takes her leave of this earth.  But brides regularly accept this proposition.

As men age, their propensity for gaiety is diminished.  Their medical needs are greatly increased.  If I may be permitted a personal observation, it is that women age much better than men.  I know that this is subject to ridicule but that is how it seems to this old geezer.  And when men age, usually ungracefully, they demand more and more from their wives.  The demands are rarely ever spoken about; the wives see that their husbands are in need.  When that happens, the women are quick to respond to that need.

When you reduce the whole debate about changing your name, it seems to me that women always come out on the short end of the stick.  Perhaps that is what the songwriter meant when he said, “Hard luck is the fortune of all womankind.”  I know that there is the issue of protection and security in marriages and that is not at all to be discounted.  But on the other hand, there is much to be said for a woman retaining her independence.

Are single women happier than married women?  My guess is that, on balance, most married women would say that they are happier than their spinster sisters.  And do I expect that there will be any decrease in the desire to change a woman’s name?  Obviously, I believe that the answer is, finally, no.  But I thought it was worthwhile to get my views on record in spite of the denunciations and excoriations that will inevitably follow.

In my own case, I am fully aware that as I age, there are many more of my personal requirements that must be met and my wife seems quite responsive in doing so.  But that does not alter the fact that in meeting the needs of older men, women seem to me to be cheated.  My wife meets my needs with great good cheer.  I expect that is more than I would do if the situations were reversed.  But the facts of the matter remain, that women still want to change their names.  I can’t do anything about that except to point out the unfairness of it all to women.

So if excoriation and denunciations wait around the corner, I am ready to accommodate them.  But I still think it was worth this essay to point out the unfairnesses that are the lot of married women.  I rest my case and await the denunciations that might well follow.



February 4, 2010

Essay 437


Kevin’s commentary:  I don’t see any need for denunciations here. I think women endure a lot worse unfairnesses than this particular one, however.

That said it can still be a pretty big frustration. I think even many women who don’t want to change their name ultimately wind up doing so for convenience. For instance, my mother wanted to remain a Carr and did so for many years, but once she had my older brother it became a problem with the various schools and extracurricular activities. I believe that several of such organizations thought she was a nanny or something instead of his mother.


Like most Americans, I have followed events in Washington, which are a form of theater.  Granted that it is a deadly theater, it is theater nonetheless.  When members of this Democratic administration try to explain what is being done, they overwork the words “looking forward.”  A few weeks earlier, they overworked the word “transparency.”  Robert Gibbs, who is the press secretary to the President, has a great affinity for the words “looking forward.”  And when Gibbs or the President uses “looking forward” and “transparency,” I tend to cringe.  Certainly they are better wordsmiths than that.

Now there is one other situation that is worthy of our attention.  It has to do with the word “right.”  In the earlier part of this essay, I mentioned the words “looking forward.”  Clearly no politician wants to say, “looking backward.”  So it is always looking forward.  In this case, the effort is always to be on the right side of things.

Let me give you a few examples.  In the morning after teeth are brushed, Miss Chicka and I generally weigh ourselves.  During this holiday season, the weight is not a good way to start the day.  Nonetheless, as I am about to step on the scale, Miss Chicka will usually say, “I will be right along.”  Certainly she could not say, “I will be left along.”

To go on, Americans are inclined to say that “we are well within our rights.”  They never use the phrase, “We are well within our left.”  It is always “We are well within our rights.”

When it comes down to conduct, we clearly tend to favor the phrase “right over wrong.”  I have never heard anyone say, “Left over wrong.”

Then when we are, for example, attempting to park the car, we pull up next to the car in front of us and start from the right position to back into the parking space.  Curiously, we drive on the right side of the road whereas in some other countries like England, the left side is used.

And then of course there is the division of our political system.  We have the right wing of the parties, which incidentally are considered more conservative than the left wing, which is liberal.

I am sure that many of the readers of these essays can think of terms having to do with rights.  If I were a lefty, like Margaret Murphy, I would believe that there is reason for the claim of discrimination.  If that is the case, I am certain that the politicians will claim that he or she is well within his/her rights.  Readers of these essays are invited to report cases in which the right will prevail over the left.

But usually we do not have an issue with respect to “looking forward.”  There is no such thing as looking backward, and certainly there is no such thing as looking leftward.

On this Christmas weekend, this is my contribution to the edification of Ezra’s Essays readers.  I know that this does not amount to much but remember, the author of Ezra’s Essays is an old man who can barely step on the scale to get weighed.  I am waiting for the call to say, “I will be left there in a minute.”  That will be the day that should be treasured by all students of the American language.

Finally, it seems to me that this world tends to favor those who are young, who are right handed, and who are sighted.  I can’t do much about youth, and I am right handed since my birth.  Furthermore, at this point, I am unable to do anything about being sighted.   But taking one thing with another, it follows that all of us including those who are sightless, southpaws and who are growing older must play the cards we are dealt.  That is the right way to look at things and the world will know that Americans are always looking forward, even if they can’t see.



December 24, 2010

Essay 521


Kevin’s commentary: Politicians look backward all the time, in order to criticize their predecessors. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

In other news, I love being right-handed.