Archive for the Funny Category


My father, the original Ezra, developed a medical condition in his eyes called glaucoma during the early 1930’s when he was about 50 years of age. From everything that can be read and from advice from ophthalmologists, glaucoma typically makes its appearance around the age of 50 years.

Five children of my father survived to adulthood. I was the youngest surviving child. All the other four siblings developed glaucoma. And so as I got within hailing distance of age 50, it was my custom to see well respected ophthalmologists. My AT&T duties had me stationed in Washington, D. C. at that time. Just before I left Washington to return to New York, the ophthalmologist there told me that “incipient glaucoma” had begun to affect my eyes.

All five Carr children were painfully aware of what glaucoma had done to our father’s eyes. In unprofessional terms, glaucoma seals the drainage glands from the eyes. As a result, pressure will build up within the eye. If untreated, blindness is the inevitable result.

When my father contracted glaucoma, surgery on the eye was about the only way to relieve the pressure. Within a few years, my father’s eyes had scars from the many surgeries and by the time he passed age 60, he was approaching blindness in both eyes. As I visited the ophthalmologist

in Washington, memories of my father’s scarred eyes and his blindness haunted me. The Post brothers at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis preserved as much sight in my father’s eyes as long as it could be done. All of the Carr children are grateful to Laurence Post and to his brother, two fine ophthalmologists.

But the Post brothers had very few chemicals to control the pressure that glaucoma brings. By the time that my Washington ophthalmologist told me that my eyes had “incipient glaucoma”, there were several new drugs available to deal with pressure in the eyes. Surgery was a last resort. In effect, my father was born too soon.

When AT&T decided that they wished for me to come back to New York as the General Sales Manager, I soon went to see John Kennedy of the Short Hills Ophthalmology Group. Kennedy was a good man with whom I was quickly able to establish an effective rapport. At the time in 1969, my age was 47 years. As time went on and as the disease progressed, John Kennedy offered new prescriptions to keep glaucoma in my eyes under control.

By the early part of the 1990’s, John Kennedy said that he had dealt long enough with the pressures of his profession and elected to retire. In 1969, the Short Hills Ophthalmology Group consisted of Doctor Fonda, Doctor Ball and John Kennedy, all graduates of New York University. When Kennedy retired, he was replaced by Richard Robbins, another product of New York University. At the time, Robbins must have been under 30 years of age.

For a time, Robbins was able to keep the pressure in my eyes at acceptable levels even if the pressures were on the higher side. And then in the mid-1990’s came the development of cataracts on both eyes. There is no reason for me to suspect that the chemicals used to control glaucoma could have caused cataracts. There have been people who developed cataracts without ever having glaucoma, so I take a pass on that question. When Robbins informed me that the cataracts were “ripe,” we agreed to go ahead with surgery.

The first surgery was on the right eye and it proceeded even though pressure in the eye was high borderline. Later, Robbins said he had to perform some heroics as the operation took a bad turn, but recovery was fairly rapid and my sight was greatly improved.

A later operation on the left eye came out badly. There was great pain. Finally, Robbins suggested laser treatments to the left eye. He administered four or five of those treatments on separate occasions and all of them ranged from unpleasant to painful.

Robbins then sent me to Joseph Patti whose practice is limited to diseases and surgery on the retina and the vitreous. Patti operated on my left eye at St. Barnabus Hospital and for a time, there was improvement. But it did not last long. Patti was a good caring man.

So I wound up back with Robbins with the New York University credentials. There were more examinations and a trip to a Dr. Spaeth, a world renowned surgeon in Philadelphia who gave me no help at all, even after we waited for him for three hours. And so Robbins then suggested that what I desperately needed was a trabeculectomy. He said the man to perform such an extremely delicate operation was Ivan Jacobs of Watchung and Westfield, New Jersey. When I asked Robbins if he would trust his sight to Jacobs, he eventually said he would. It is my profound belief that he had heard about Jacobs and had never met him, so any assurances to me about Jacobs were uninformed.

So Jacobs began his trabeculectomy on my left eye. Somewhere during the operation, I overheard Jacob muttering to his helper that a choroidal hemorrhage had occurred. Later, when I was bandaged and sitting in Jacobs waiting room, he acknowledged that the choroidal hemorrhage had taken place. Jacobs distanced himself from the operation saying in effect, you win some and you lose some. I knew then that the sight in my left eye was gone and Jacobs didn’t seem to care. I saw him several times after the surgery and his cavalier attitude remained. It was my fault that I needed a trabeculectomy, was Jacob’s attitude. Everyone knows that surgical procedures don’t always come out successfully, but Jacobs in my estimation, was a monumental jerk.

I made several more visits to see a Dr. Green at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. Eventually, he told me there was no hope. At the end of this process, I asked Robbins for my records as I intended for his tenure to come to an end.

After I left Robbins’ care, he apparently turned his attention to female patients. From what we know now, Robbins allegedly fondled seven women while conducting routine eye examinations. He was indicted on February 4, 2003 and charged with nine counts of fourth degree sexual contact. If he is convicted, he could face up to 13½ years of jail time. I suspect that he won’t spend much time in jail, but at least these charges and this indictment will give him something else to think about as he examines future female patients. He may also think about his lawyer, Alan Zegas, who is in the top tier of criminal defense attorneys. His fees for a case of this sort are probably quite substantial.

Now that you have met Robbins and know about his indictment, it is of utmost importance that you should know what excuse Robbins offered for his conduct. When the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office sent a female officer to Robbins for an eye examination in the summer of 2000, he allegedly fondled her just as it is also alleged that he had done to other female patients. He was then presented with charges about his conduct. Robbins said that he fondled women not for any such thing as sexual excitement. That never entered his mind. He said his hand, or hands, were searching their chests for evidence of future eye problems. So you see, old Robbins was on the job looking for eye problems down the road. It is a source of great disappointment that the seven women who charge that he fondled them don’t see that brother Robbins had their best long term interests at heart.

Now I have recited my story of blindness in one eye resulting from the tender ministrations of Robbins to set up one overwhelming point. From one end to the other, Robbins and your faithful essayist were involved for about four or five years. During that time, he performed just about every conceivable ophthalmologic process on me including surgery. At no time, did Robbins ever put his hand or hands down the front of my shirt or blouse either inside or outside my attire. I even wore scoop neck tee shirts to entice him to look at my chest for signs of future eye problems. For this reason, Robbins was completely unable to diagnose that eye troubles, including blindness, awaited me. This was a complete dereliction of duty on Robbins’ part.

It is my proposition that after Robbins and his lawyer Zegas deal with the indictment of this past week for inserting his hand or hands down the front of dresses or blouses of female patients, either inside or outside the garments, that he face a more serious charge against him. That, of course, is his FAILURE to put his hands down the front of my shirt or blouse and as a result, he was completely unable to diagnose what lay ahead for me as I dealt with serious eye matters. There is no excuse for Robbins dereliction of duty in my case. My chest was exposed to view as I never wore a tie when Robbins was to be visited. He simply never explored my chest in search of future eye problems and for that, he must be held accountable.

E. E. Carr

A Post Script. I have been a patient of Dr. Eric Gurwin of the Summit Medical Group for the past eight years. There was a time under Robbins when the pressure in my eyes ran to 38-40 whatever the measurement for pressure is. The current pressure in my one remaining eye is now between 16 to 18, which is a monumental improvement. It is to be noted that Professor Gurwin has achieved this dramatic drop in pressure without ever examining my chest which, of course, is traditionally where future eye problems are found – according to Robbins.


Why even try? Why try to defend yourself from that position? All Robbins managed to do with his (hilarious) defense was insult the intelligence of everyone involved, including the women who he had already wronged. Way to go, dude.

Some good news: he was convicted.
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Paula T. Dow announced today the sentencing of Dr. Richard Robbins, age 40, of Short Hills, New Jersey. The sentence culminated a lengthy investigation that began in 2001 into the sexual abuse of female patients under Dr. Robbins’ care.

Earlier this year an Essex County Grand jury returned an indictment against Dr. Robbins, charging him with having committed the crime of criminal sexual contact upon six of his female patients, and an undercover female Essex County Investigator. The indictment spanned a period from March 1, 2000 through June 20, 2001, during which time Dr. Robbins touched the breasts of those females during the course of performing eye examinations at his former practice located in Short Hills, New Jersey. Dr. Robbins pleaded guilty on June 30, 2003 to seven counts of criminal sexual contact.

During the sentence, Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Robert Laurino told the court that Dr. Robbins had violated his Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm,” and breached the duty of care and trust he owed to his patients. Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Vena, in addressing Dr. Robbins prior to the imposition of sentence, noted that “the harm you caused was enormous.”

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Dr. Robbins permanently surrendered his license to practice medicine. He was sentenced to three years probation with mandatory counseling, and was subjected to numerous court costs and fees. He was also directed to reimburse the Prosecutor’s Office $2,085 for the costs associated with its investigation.

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Dow noted the courageous efforts of Essex County Investigator Janine Traccamore, whose service in an undercover capacity led to the arrest of Dr. Robbins. “She put herself in harms way to prevent other women from being similarly abused” Prosecutor Dow stated.


The morning newspaper in what I generally refer to as my home town was called The St. Louis Globe Democrat. The name of the paper is misleading in every respect. The Globe covered local affairs and rarely ventured into global concerns or even national concerns. Secondly, the Globe Democrat was the voice of the Bob Taft Republicans in eastern Missouri in that they opposed Franklin Roosevelt’s initiatives at every turn. They opposed the establishment, for example, of social security, just as they opposed the lend-lease program that enabled the British to survive the early stages of World War II. While the Globe Democrat had many shortcomings, it did have a lively sports section and it published daily a horoscope. I know nothing about the stars being in perfect alignment but when the whole episode about Larry Craig came to light, my personal stars must have been in complete alignment. The events surrounding Larry Craig cry out to every essayist and newspaper man: “please write about me.”

My horoscope in this matter seems to remain in perfect alignment because of three developments of the past week. First there was the request of the Bush administration for another 192 billion dollars to continue the war in Iraq for another month or so, shortly followed by Larry Craig’s suit to overturn his confession about being gay and his announcement that he could not force himself to say goodbye to the Senate. Finally there was an announcement by the president of Iran about moral turpitude in that country.

Even the Globe Democrat would have had to depart from its coverage of local affairs to report on news of this monumental sort. It seems to me that these are events that change the history of mankind.

My personal belief is that the war in Iraq is a misbegotten adventure. We will soon have squirted away a trillion dollars of our finances and we have suffered the loss of 3,800 dead American soldiers. This is to say nothing of the 20,000 that have been wounded. On top of that there is the displacement of the Iraqi nation.

My proposal takes on all of the aspects of the George Marshall plan which restored Europe after the Second World War. I am proposing that we take the zillion dollars, including the most recent 192 billion dollar request, that we are going to squirt away on the Iraq war and simply buy both Iraq and Iran. They will become our possessions after we pay a fair price. The casualty lists that are published daily will soon disappear.

Now with respect to the second aspect of this proposal: we are assured by none other than Larry Craig himself that he is not gay nor has he ever been gay and that he will serve out his full term in the Senate, regardless of what his Republican colleagues have to say about him. There is abundant evidence that the senator from Idaho is in fact gay, and this old essayist says “so what.”

Finally, last week, the president of Iran announced to a jeering audience that there are absolutely no homosexuals in all of Iran. Simply put, there are no gay people or lesbians within the confines of the great nation of Iran.

Because we have bought Iraq and Iran, we have the freedom to rename them. I propose that they be renamed Iraqaho and Iranaho respectively. This would be in keeping with the name of the state of Idaho, which is stoutly represented by Senator Larry Craig. Senator Craig cannot say goodbye to the Senate, as he has now loudly proclaimed. So I now propose that he be appointed the permanent senator from the two new states that will be added to our federation. This may seem immodest but I would compare it to the Louisiana Purchase, which brought the south and the west into the jurisdiction of the United States. Besides, it stops the daily casualty lists and it gives Larry Craig something to do. If Larry Craig can master the name of Idaho, he ought to be able to handle the names of Iraqaho and Iranaho.

The Globe Democrat stopped publishing in 1956. I suspect that a story of these monumental proportions might even make its pages. I now leave you with the thought that it is time for me to go to work to get Iranaho and Iraqaho membership in the United Nations.

April 6, 2007


I really, really wonder how many acres of Iraq or Iran we could have gotten for the cost of the war if we somehow got them to agree to sell to us. I don’t know how acquiring them would stop the infighting but I think if you’re going to throw money at a problem it’d be good to make some permanent progress towards a solution. Purely from a cost perspective, if you spend a bunch of money to bomb some terrorists, generally speaking you’re just going to make a bunch of new terrorists so you haven’t accomplished a whole lot. But imagine if, instead of bombing them, we were just really shitty landlords. We’d piss them off, nobody has to die, and our bad-landlording would be significantly less likely to create new terrorists than killing them does.


Those of you who read these essays may recall one called “Thanksgiving 2006.” That essay recorded our joy at our ability to help two hardworking immigrants from Costa Rica. The cast of characters on the Costa Rican side included the parents, an eight-year-old boy named Esteban, a six-year-old boy named Fabian, and a five-month-old daughter named Melissa. Following that meeting on Thanksgiving day, their mother informed us that Esteban was praying for me to regain my eyesight. He was praying for his “Grandpa in America.”

When I learned of the prayers for my eyesight to be restored, I wrote each of the boys a small letter and urged them to look for wives, particularly fat ones. As a man who has been around the block two or three times, I told the boys that fat girls like to eat at fancy establishments such as McDonald’s and Burger King. To cover the cost of such lavish entertainment, a small contribution was included in the letters.

The boys’ mother told us that they had read my letters and had prepared responses. When the boys’ mother delivered the responses to us, both boys had sealed the envelopes so that their mother could not see what

was included. While their mother was excluded from reading this correspondence, I will show it to you. Here is what the two boys wrote to me. (The front artwork is shown first, then the writing.)
Esteban, age 8

Fabian, age 6

So you see, these two youngsters understand social graces, even at their tender age. I must confess that I have been concerned about their search for fat wives. Perhaps that will be explained in future correspondence.

These two youngsters are being raised to be gentlemen. Gentlemen deserve to be treated with respect and with everyone’s best wishes. I am not a Russian, but I have been impressed by the practice of Russian choirs to end their performances with a hymn-like song called “Mnogaya Lyeta.” That Russian phrase translates in English to “long life.”

To all the immigrants who have made this country a great one, this old essayist wishes them long life. To the Costa Ricans who are patiently sweating out the snail like pace of our immigration bureau, I also extend the expression of long life to them. And finally to Esteban, Fabian and Melissa, children of would be American citizens, I hope that you enjoy not only great prosperity, but also “Mnogaya Lyeta.” That is the fervent wish of their Grandpa in America.

February 5, 2007


Read part 1 of “AN ADTOPED GRANDPA” here. Pop had a great relationship with these kids, and I like that he was way ahead of the “Immigrants make America great” sentiment that gets chanted at anti-Trump protests lately. Anyway this is adorable and Esteban gets full marks for creativity with his ending salutation, which wraps around his name like a horseshoe.

Interestingly, whatever drove Pop to tell these kids to get fat wives was somehow passed to my mother — see her comment.


In a previous essay, I commented on missing people. In this case, I will try to comment on a very few missing words from our vocabularies these days. This exercise is called “Country Speak.”

I call this essay “Country Speak” because the words that are missing from urban areas are found most often in the vocabulary of rural speakers. Words that no longer have meaning in urban areas are still retained in country speak, that is, the language spoken by rural residents. Let me give you a few examples.

When my father, who came from the farthest reaches of civilization in Illinois, died, my belief is that the certificate of death read, “died of natural causes.” That was quite acceptable to me because my father had always worked outside, supervising a dairy farm, climbing trees and mowing lawns and working in a brick refractory, jobs that required physical labor. By the time that he died at 77, he had exhausted his supply of energy I suppose. My mother, who also was a practitioner of country speak, said of his death, “I reckon he was plumb wore out.”

Translated into modern usage, my mother was saying by her use of the word “reckon” that I think or I believe this to be the case. When she said that he was “plumb wore out,” she meant that he was completely exhausted or entirely worn out. It seems to me that the use of the word “reckon” ought to have more currency than it enjoys today. As for “plumb wore out,” I believe that there are adequate substitutes but in any event I believe that my mother’s statement captured the day. It was a statement in pure country speak that set the record straight. My father was simply worn out and so he died. I reckon that all of his children and friends were sorry to see him go, but that’s what happens when you are “plumb wore out.”

There is another word that I would like to see used more often, and that is “yonder.” That word can be used to indicate a town down the road apiece or it can be used to indicate a pasture in the neighboring fields. Yonder is a term that is often used by poets and hymn singers, but unfortunately it is not used much by those of us who speak modern English.

Another term that is not in common usage these days is “joshing.” “Joshing” is no more than kidding or joking among one’s fellow contemporaries. It might be said that I was only joshing with him, meaning that my words were not to be taken seriously. They were all in fun. I regret the passage of “joshing” as a term of kidding because there is a degree of affection associated with it. One does not josh with someone unless he is friendly with him. But the word “joshing” in these days does not enjoy wide currency.

Finally there is the word “lick.” In country speak, “lick” is a blow or a strike. If a ball player hits the ball out of the ball park, he may be said to have “hit that ball with a good lick.” If a boxer hits another boxer on the chin and knocks him out, it will be said in country speak that “he hit him a good lick.” I am fairly certain that you have heard the phrase “give it a lick and a promise” for a job poorly done. That must refer to an ineffective lick in any case. Country speak uses lick to this day and uses it effectively. All things being equal, I believe that “lick” ought to be part of our vocabulary today.

The examples that I have used thus far in country speak will come as no surprise to a friend of mine named Thomas Warren Scandlyn, originally of Tennessee. Tennessee is well known because it makes Jack Daniels whiskey, it is the home of Elvis Presley, and it produced T. Warren Scandlyn. I suspect that those words used in the foregoing statements were entirely known to Tom Scandlyn and my belief is that he might even use them today.

Now we go on to Hurley Fitzwater, who was a preacher in a neighboring town. Hurley’s claim to fame was that he was a practitioner in the art of country speak and that he had received a call from God which he answered by becoming a preacher in a small church in Brentwood, Missouri. Hurley had no seminary training of any kind. He simply got the call from God and stood up and started preaching. It was about that simple.

In my father’s declining days, he summoned Hurley to his bedside and asked Hurley to make a few remarks at the funeral which he knew would occur before long. Now remember, my father’s testimony, which he is no longer around to refute, was that he asked Hurley to make a few comments at the upcoming funeral. As far as I know, he had no intention of Hurley doing any more preaching, other than a comment or two.

Nonetheless, at the funeral I noticed a lectern being rolled over in front of the coffin. In a short time Hurley Fitzwater stood behind that lectern and delivered a sermon that must have taken perhaps a half an hour. The title of the sermon was “There – – – The Sun Will Not Shine.” There was a pregnant pause between “There” and the rest of the sentence. But the pregnant pause produced nothing but bafflement.

Now I am not a bible scholar of any kind whatsoever but I had never heard a quotation from the bible alleging that there was no place that the sun did not shine. My instinct is to believe that Hurley made up this Biblical quote. Hurley spoke for a good amount of time in pure country speak. While I enjoyed Hurley’s use of country speak, the rest of my family and myself were entirely baffled as to what the sermon was about. It simply made no sense to any of us and now, forty-eight years later, as I reflect on that sermon, I can make no more sense of it today than I did in 1958. When my mother and brothers and sisters died, Hurley was not invited to their funerals. Poor old Hurley shot his wad with the sermon at my father’s funeral but I must tell you that I greatly enjoyed his use of country speak to deliver it.

Well, there you have just a few examples of country speak. It is important to separate country speak from ancient English such as “thine,” or “art.” Country speak is an entirely different language from ancient English and it should be recognized as such. It could be said that when my ears hear a good example of country speak, I reckon I suffer a strong lick to my soul. So be it.

April 23, 2006


Tom actually wrote a response to another essay on country speak, several years later.
See also, for the curious, Military Speak and Black Speak, also from 2012.

In other news the internet seems to validate Pop’s usage of “give it a lick and a promise,” a phrase I’d never heard before. I’m not sure I could pull off using it around the office, but I’m curious if anyone would understand it if I did. It seems to me that it’d make most sense in the context of a repair job or something — say you were supposed to fix the engine but ran out of time, maybe you’d give it a swift kick and hope for the best.


…And Both of You Ought to Get to Know Frances Day

A few essays back, I gritted my teeth and closed my eyes and dictated an essay about the most bitter woman I ever knew in my life. That woman was my boss’s secretary. You may recall that she is the one who told me, when I quit smoking, that I would be smoking again before the week passed. It has now been more than 50 years since I quit smoking and I wrote the essay to commemorate that fact. If Rita is still alive, I would like her to see it.

The woman in question was Rita Snedicker, a secretary in the offices of the headquarters of AT&T Long Lines in New York City. Rita was a heavy smoker herself, and there was no mistake about that. The lines in her face told the world that she was a heavy smoker. On top of that, Rita had been born with one leg shorter than the other and she walked with a limp. She lived with her bachelor brother in New Jersey and, as far as I know, Rita never married and I suspect that her boyfriends were few and far between. What I am suggesting is that Rita had plenty of reasons to be bitter and she carried it off with great aplomb. She seemed to dislike everyone.

Now the scene shifts to the Division Five headquarters of Long Lines in Saint Louis back in 1941. When I was hired, I became aware of an Engineer named Rolland Crow. Rolland had a certain expertise with open wire lines which are mounted on telephone poles.

When I returned to the St. Louis office after more than three years in the military service, AT&T was preparing to replace its open wire lines with a coaxial cable plowed beneath the surface. To the extent that AT&T replaced its open wire facilities with cable, Rolland Crow’s expertise became much less important.

Shortly after I returned to AT&T, I was given a desk in the engineering department not far from where Rolland Crow held court. Rolland actually held court because at lunch time he played chess at his desk with other people and seemed to enjoy beating them. Tiger Woods says that he likes not only to beat his opponents but to “kick their butts.” This was the attitude displayed by Rolland Crow. It was not enough just to win the game; his opponent had to be annihilated as well.

The fact that Rolland’s expertise was no longer in such great demand did not help his attitude. I soon came to learn that Rolland hated physicians. The source of the dislike had to do with an illness of his wife’s. As you know, physicians call their group of patients a “practice.” On many, many occasions Rolland would say about those physicians, “When are they going to quit practicing and play the game for keeps?” Whether Mrs. Crow’s physicians were adequate or not is not for me to say, but I suspect that the greatest physicians would not meet Rolland’s standards. He hated them all.

Throughout all of this period of years, Rolland used to dictate on one of the original Dictaphones which used a wax cylinder. Most of the other engineers and lesser folks would simply write out their letters or comments in longhand and give them to a stenographer in the typing pool and in a day or so the letter would be returned. But that is not the way Rolland did things. He dictated on this ancient Dictaphone with the wax cylinder, which gave him the prerogative of complaining about it not being returned soon enough and also gave him a reason to growl that the stenographer had missed a word.

Aside from those facts, it should be observed that Rolland dictated into this ancient machine in such a loud voice that the rest of us in that department had trouble concentrating. When I left St. Louis in the summer of 1951, Rolland was approaching retirement and as far as I can remember he still used his wax cylinder Dictaphone.

There is one other indication of Rolland’s dislike of other people. When one of the bosses or, particularly, one of his wife’s physicians became sick, Rolland would say, “I hope it’s nothing trivial.” Rolland was, as you can see, an equal opportunity disliker or hater, if you will. He simply disliked almost everyone, or at least that is the impression he gave.

Being a young member of the engineering staff, I was taught to look up to the engineers. But Rolland was a difficult man to be around. More or less, old Rolland exuded dislike and hatred for just about everyone. His remark about “I hope it’s nothing trivial” seemed to encapsulate the essence of Rolland’s personality.

A lot of time has now gone by since I first knew Rolland in 1941 and I suspect that he is no longer with us. It was an object lesson for me to know Rolland because it taught me what not to do. And if I were a physician in the St. Louis area, I would tell Rolland and his wife to go look for some other doctor rather than to saddle me with their loathsome spirits.

Rolland was a bitter man who would make a perfect companion for Rita Snedicker. He worked in St. Louis and she worked in New York, so they never had a chance to meet. But if they had met, I would say it was a match made in heaven: the most bitter woman and the most bitter man that I have known in all of my years of working experience.

Both Rolland and Rita by now have probably gone to their heavenly reward. Perhaps they will meet there and enjoy life for all eternity, bitching and moaning from morning until evening.

By now I suspect that all of you have had your full share of negativity about Rolland and Rita. Let us turn now to a happy woman who will provide a bit of inspiration.

In February, 1998, I was a patient in the Morristown Hospital awaiting an operation to repair my aortic valve. The diameter of the older valve that I had from my birth had shrunk from the size of a quarter, which it should be, to the size of a dime. Breathing during exercise became very difficult. So something had to be done. In this case, as in all such cases, the chest is opened and a new valve, this one from a pig, is inserted in place of the old valve. There were comforting words from the surgeon, who told me that if the pig valve failed over the next several years, they would happily replace it free of charge. I was not particularly comforted by this disclosure.

The night before the operation, I had a conversation with my fellow Missourian, Howard Davis. For reasons that are now unknown to me, this conversation led me to write a letter to the editor of the Hutchinson News. The subject of my letter, which was printed in an extended weekend edition, had to do with women and young girls meeting almost every troop train that passed through Hutchinson, Kansas. They boarded the train to pass out apples and cookies. On two occasions, on my way to an army camp at Las Vegas, New Mexico, I was on such a troop train that passed through Hutchinson around midnight. Even though the hour was late, those women and girls got on the train and passed out the cookies and the apples and tried to cheer us. I appreciated that very much.

The editor of the Hutchinson News printed my story and a woman named Frances Day called me to tell me that she knew those women. I was thoroughly delighted to know that someone who had knowledge of meeting the troop trains was still alive and would be willing to meet me. My wife and I flew to Wichita and then drove up to Hutchinson, which was a big division point on the railroads. My belief is that the division point belonged either to the Missouri Pacific, the St. Louis-San Francisco, or the Santa Fe Railways. In any case, Hutchinson was a major railway division point.

Arrangements had been made to meet Frances Day, who had written me the letter, and her husband. We met them and enjoyed lunch with them. Frances appeared in her wheelchair, which her husband, Bill Day, took from the rear of their van and wheeled into the inn. Frances and Bill Day were delightful people and we promised to keep in touch with them. Many of these promises to keep in touch don’t really work out, but in this case it did. I was obliged to Frances for representing the women who met those trains in Hutchinson during the war and it was a pleasure to meet Bill Day, who was also a gunner in the American Air Force.

Upon returning home, we began to send essays to Frances and Bill Day. As time went on, we found out a little more about the Days. Frances suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. She plays the piano and sings at a home for the aged and sings at church as well. She has borne her burden of less-than-spectacular health with good grace. Her husband Bill has had a stroke in recent years. Both of them are wonderful people.

After we began to send essays to Frances and Bill Day, each one was marked by a return postcard. The postcard gave us news of what was going on in Hutchinson, but most of all it was meant to thank us for sending each issue of the essays. We have the most recent postcard, which tells us that Frances and Bill Day are approaching 80 years and are thankful that they are still at home together.

So here is a girl who went from handing out cookies and apples to the troops during World War II to singing in church and playing for old folks, much of the time in recent years from a wheelchair. I believe it is an inspiring story and one that I wish I had known about in previous years so that I could have quoted it to Rita and Rolland. The postcard from Frances tells you all you need to know about their outlook on life. When I have said in previous writings, “Don’t look at what you have lost but at what you have left,” that is the essence of what Frances and Bill Day are doing. And so you see, this story, which started out on a morbid note, actually has a happy ending. If any of you are wandering around western Kansas and decide to go to Hutchinson, it will be my pleasure to introduce you to Frances and Bill Day. Judy and I were inspired by our visit and by our correspondence with them, and I think that you will be too.

July 18, 2006


Not sure I ever expected to hear Pop describe someone as a “hater” but hey, the shoe clearly fits. That said I think it’s probably fair to cut a little slack to someone whose wife is chronically ill. If someone close to you is being hurt by something serious like that, it can definitely change your personality and make you more on-edge for long periods of time. It’s not an excuse to be an asshole to everyone, of course, but it might explain some of the other behavior.

The part about making friends with the Days made me smile. Plus it answers a very tiny mystery, namely who the “Day” column belongs to on the original distribution list for mailing the essays. Said distribution list suggests that a total of 492 essays were sent out to the Days — it seems like that friendship definitely lasted!


One Sunday morning recently, there was a series of reports about mosque bombings in Iraq. One sect would try to bomb out the other sect. John Warner, the senior senator from Virginia and the head of the Armed Forces Committee in the Senate, got things terribly confused. Warner, who is a mature man, confused sectarian with secular. They have opposite meanings, of course, but on two occasions Warner referred to the violence in Iraq as being secular rather than sectarian. Perhaps his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor impaired his mental capacities.

That put me to thinking about some of the people I had known during my career with AT&T, as a filling station attendant and as a soldier. Some of those people also had a tendency to screw things up when they pronounced a word.

In 1937, I finally found a job at age 15 with Carl Schroth, who managed a Mobil gas station at the corner of Clayton Road and North and South Roads in Clayton, Missouri. Carl was a veteran of the First World War and he invariably referred to himself as “yours truly.” Being new in the business world, it took me a while to figure out who yours truly was. It was simply old Carl Schroth.

Carl needed a truss or so he said. Rather than buy a truss, Carl put a plywood board down the front of his pants. In this filling station, we served some of the most exclusive residents of St. Louis County, who lived in large homes and drove expensive automobiles. They represented the cream of St. Louis society. Sometimes when Carl would go out to wait on a female customer, he would thunk his board in the front of his pants and would say to the female customer, “What do you think of that?” I suspect that the female customer did not think much of “yours truly’s” performance.

Carl was a good guy who wrote me an effusive letter when I enlisted in the US Army. There were several peculiar aspects about working for Carl Schroth. For example, he had a safe sunk in the floor under the desk in his office. After I went to work for Carl, I wondered why I had not been paid. It turned out that Carl’s employees were expected to go take money out of the safe in the floor and leave a note saying “Charlie Kosta took $12 today” or something of that sort. I never was a fan of that arrangement, but that was the way that Carl did business so it soon developed that when I needed some money, I would go withdraw it from the safe in the floor and leave a note there.

Carl Schroth also taught me about con jobs. Sometimes when I was scheduled for a day off, he would say, “Eddy, you’re too valuable a man to be walking the streets, so I want you to come to work tomorrow.” And I fell for it, at the start. So I got very few days off. Fact is – if you wanted to keep your job during the Depression – you went to work.

There is one other incident that has remained with me since probably 1938. Lake Forest is an exclusive community about a mile from Schroth’s filling station. It has very large homes and the people there drove Packards and Cadillacs, and had chauffeurs and maids. On one occasion on a very snowy night we were called to pull a large car out of a ditch in the Lake Forest subdivision. The driver had had perhaps a bit much to drink and had wandered off the road and had become stuck. When Carl told the driver of the car that it would cost him $12 or $15 to get pulled out on a Saturday night, the driver of the car agreed. When he was winched out of his position down in the ditch, he tried to stiff Carl. He said that he didn’t have $12 or $15 and that he would only give Carl $8 or $10. There were three of us there: Carl Schroth, Charlie Kosta, and myself. None of us believed that this gentleman was as broke as he claimed. When it was finally determined that this man wanted to cheat us, Carl simply reached into the car and released the emergency brake. Charlie Kosta was on one side of the car, Carl was on the other, and I was at the radiator in front of the car. Without a word being said, Carl and Charlie began to push the car right back into the same hole from which it had been pulled. When I discovered this was taking place, I joined in that effort. This is called restoring the status quo ante.

We got into our tow truck and drove off. The driver of the car had to find another tow truck operator late that night, which I doubt that he could have done. Presumably he went back to his host’s house and slept there, but that was no concern of ours. We had been stiffed and we had our revenge.

After I went to work for AT&T in St. Louis, there were two or three characters who made an impression on me, and not a very good impression. The first was George Knickerbocker who persisted in pronouncing every letter in the word “miscellaneous.” George pronounced that word as “mis – kell – aneous.” He is also the man who invented the term “pestimistic.” He simply inserted a “t” where none should have existed.

Close by was a fellow named Ken Greenleaf. Ken always pronounced the word “architect” as though the emphasis was on the first four letters. He pronounced that word as “ARCH – itect,” not as “ark-itect.” Ken also became angry one time and wrote a letter to “the editator” of the  St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Near George Knickerbocker’s desk sat a milquetoast named George Kern. Kern had very slim shoulders and a very slight build, but all during the 1930s and 40s, George Kern had been a member of the National Guard, working toward the 20 year retirement plan. The only thing imposing about George Kern was his mustache, which was sort of like that worn now by John Bolton, the Ambassador to the United Nations. It was full and bushy. George was a complete and absolute milquetoast if there ever was one. Yet all during his service with the National Guard, he had become a lieutenant or a captain or something like that. For AT&T, George was simply a low level clerk. At the end of World War II, George presented himself upon his return from military duty as a Brigadier General in the US Army. I suspect that if the Germans had known that George Kern was one of our Brigadier Generals, they would have died from laughter.

About a year after I went to work for AT&T, World War II came along and I enlisted in that effort. One of the fellows I met in Africa was named Merle Yocum. His wife’s name was Elmira. They were Iowa hog farmers. It always struck me that Iowa hog farmers ought to have proper names such as Merle and Elmira.

Elmira had a desire to keep Merle up to date so she sent him the newspapers from their local press. Military etiquette demanded that anyone receiving a newspaper should leave it in the latrine where it could be read by other soldiers. The Merle Yocum newspaper was read extensively, particularly when some of the hogs became, I believe the word is, “in foal,” which means that the hogs are going to have some little piglets. We followed the hog’s pregnancy with great anticipation, all thanks to Merle and Elmira Yocum. By the time we read the news, those piglets were out of the diaper stage, I suppose.

My last assignment overseas after coming out of combat was at an airbase in Accra, which is now the capitol of Ghana. It was a British base which the Americans used for their air transport command operations. Soldiers who worked at this base were like soldiers throughout the world. They tended to demean other soldiers by telling them that they were ugly and unattractive to females. There is no harm meant whatsoever; it just simply flows with being a soldier that other people are not to be praised.

Ordinarily when a soldier is told that he is ugly, he will respond by saying, “You’re not so pretty yourself,” or things of that nature. In one group of American soldiers, there was a man who had come to this country relatively recently. He was of Russian origin. I do not remember his name, but for purposes of this essay let us call him Ivan. Ivan did not understand the nuances of the English language, having only recently been introduced to it. There was one occasion when Ivan was told that he was ugly and instead of responding as the ordinary American soldier would do, he attempted to use an American expression that he had mangled, much as John Warner mangled the secular/sectarian reference. When Ivan was told that he was ugly, he replied, “You don’t like my face, piss on it.” This occurred while two men were on a workstand several feet above the ground working on an engine. They came fairly close to falling off from laughter after Ivan’s remark.

I had not thought of the incident involving Ivan for 60 years or so, but credit John Warner with bringing it back to mind.

Now we move to two individuals, one of whom was the meanest man I ever knew in the Bell System and the other was probably the dumbest person I have known in my life. Let’s take the meanest man first. The Bell System, when I was hired, was basically an organization of electrical engineers. They had the mistaken belief that electrical engineers could perform any function with great distinction. Consequently, they assigned engineers to run the personnel department, the public relations department, and so forth. My recollection is that perhaps some of the accountants were also engineers. They did not try to perform legal functions, which were reserved for lawyers.

The meanest man I ever knew was Henry Killingsworth. He was the executive in charge of the Long Lines Department where I worked. Long Lines had to do with interstate calling and international calling as well. Killingsworth was mean for the sake of being mean. He was a small man in stature. Perhaps that may have accounted for his meanness. There are two examples that I will cite for Henry Killingsworth.

At Christmas time it was the custom for the head of the Long Lines Department, a Vice President of AT&T, to write a letter to all employees wishing them happy holidays and expressing hope for the future. That was not Henry Killingsworth’s style. He used the Christmas letter one year to record the thought that “We have to take up the slack in the trace chains” from now on. This meant that everybody had to work harder and Henry Killingsworth reserved the right to pay them less. To write a letter at Christmas time saying that we had to take the slack out of the trace chains infuriated all of us. Taking the slack out of the trace chains refers to a plow being pulled by a team of mules or horses. We were working as hard as we could and Killingsworth’s letter simply brought to mind visions of a slave master whipping his employees.

Henry Killingsworth had a mean streak that was quite wide. On one occasion in St. Louis, two executives who had wood-paneled offices with secretaries, angered him. When we moved from St. Louis to Kansas City as part of a big reorganization, Henry Killingsworth saw to it that these two people, Bill Haywood and Chester Hotz, were punished. The secretaries and the wood-paneled offices disappeared. They were placed out in the bull pen at steel desks. Clearly their careers were over and they were men in their forties. Parenthetically, it should be noticed that both Haywood and Hotz died from heart trouble within 18 months after their demotions.

There was a gentleman in New York City who worked for Long Lines named Larry Pierce. Larry was a commander in the American Legion and each year he sold poppies on Memorial Day. Killingsworth required Larry Pierce to come to him every year to seek permission to sell the poppies. In any other case, Pierce would be told to go ahead and sell the poppies and don’t bother with coming to ask the big boss. But the big boss had to have Larry Pierce come in and plead with him.

During the time in question, there were nuns who sat at the top of the subway steps which were located within the Long Lines building. The nuns bothered absolutely no one. They simply had a basket into which contributions could be made and the most I ever heard them say was a murmured “Thank you.” The nuns were absolutely harmless.

On this occasion, when Larry Pierce went to see Killingsworth about selling his poppies for Memorial Day, Killingsworth heard Larry Pierce out and then said “Hell, no” to the idea of selling poppies. Then he added, “And while you are at it, get rid of those God damned nuns.” So you see, I believe I am right in stating that Killingsworth was an abominable person, given to bullying and destroying other people’s happiness.

Well, so much for Henry Killingsworth. Now we turn to another Vice President, named Ben Givens. Ben started as an assistant vice president and after a time in a reorganization he was upgraded to a full vice president. He served in what we called the “Washington office,” which was our official terminology for the AT&T lobbying effort. I worked for Ben Givens for three and a half years, and during that time Givens never gave me any instruction whatsoever. There were other vice presidents from New York who came to Washington to talk to me because of my previous labor work, who asked me to accomplish certain things, but Givens was not among them. In any event, Givens was given to malapropisms. For example, he always referred to rare items as “iters collectums.” During the time that I worked for Givens in Washington, there was a saloon known as Duke Zeibert’s, which was supported raucously by Redskin football fans. I once wandered in to Duke Zeibert’s to see what the excitement was all about and ordered a luncheon meal. It may have been among the worst I ever endured in Washington. Duke Zeibert’s was a saloon, no more no less, which appealed to Redskin fans who apparently knew absolutely nothing about cuisine.

In any case, when Ben Givens referred to that saloon, he made hash out of its name. He called it “Zoot Diebert’s” and some other combinations that brought to mind the idea of “iters collectum.” After I returned to New York, I had occasion to pass through the Washington office and went in to talk to Givens to pass the time of day. Givens’s wife had died about a year earlier and on this occasion he went over to the far wall of his office where a picture was mounted on the wall which measured perhaps two feet by three feet. Givens was also a golfer who seemed to believe that all of the people that we were lobbying in Washington were equally nuts about golf as he was. He played at the Congressional Country Club, which he viewed as the epitome of all golfing establishments in this country. Givens told me that on either the eighth or the ninth green at the Congressional Country Club, his recently departed wife would put in an appearance. He pointed to the picture on the wall and said that she appeared to him as an apparition of about that size. He said that they talked to each other about how he was doing and what was happening to the furnishings in the house and apparently the two must have enjoyed a very real conversation. My eyes were rolling while Givens related the story of his conversations with his departed wife. In the end Givens retired and, of all things, became a bishop in some sort of Protestant church. He lived to be ninety years old, at which time he died and so he and his wife can now enjoy their conversations in person rather than at the Congressional Country Club.

We will close this essay with a couple of stories involving reminiscences from the American Army. Not long after I had enlisted in the Army, I was sent to the Embry-Riddle School for Aeronautics in Miami. Because of the urgent need to train many of us as aerial engineers, we were assigned to both day and evening classes. During the day we would march around a little bit, and at about three thirty or four we would start our work as aerial engineers in training. Because we were working in the dark after the sun went down, we had to make accommodations for that fact. At that time of course every airplane was driven by propellers which were mounted in front of the airplane itself. To see if the engines were operating properly, it was necessary to start the engines and to “run them up” to see how their performance was doing. This posed a problem in safety which our instructors were always careful to point out to us. One instructor in my group told us that if we backed into a rotating propeller, it would make “hamburger meat” out of you. I had no intention of sticking my backside into a rotating propeller, but I thought that the hamburger meat was a tautology of considerable importance. And so for more than 60 years, I have always endured the thought that one should not square off with an airplane propeller because it would make hamburger meat out of you.

All of us survived the training on the night shift without being made into meatloaf.

Early in my career as a soldier, there were endless days of marching back and forth on a dusty field in Las Vegas, New Mexico – not Nevada. The field was dusty, the barracks were dusty and so was the mess hall. In any case, there was a person who had identified himself as a former member of the United States Army who was assigned to help train us in our marching. He instructed us on forward marching, on marching to the left and right, and on such things as oblique marching. Somewhere along the line, this drill instructor became confused and I spoke up in an effort to help him with his work. The drill instructor absolutely leveled me with his retort, which has stayed in my memory since the summer of 1942. The drill instructor said to me, “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking.” I am here to tell you that indeed soldiers do not get paid for thinking. They get paid to go do what they are told, and what they are told is usually some directive from a politician.

Colin Powell is perhaps among the prime examples of the “you don’t get paid for thinking” dogma. Colin Powell knew that the adventure into Iraq was absolute folly yet he kept his peace and did as he was told. Powell could have resigned in protest or he could have leaned all over Bush in an attempt to avert this disaster in Iraq. Yet, Powell went along and the most dramatic thing that he said was the story about the Pottery Barn rule that if you break it, it is yours. And so you see that my admiration for generals in the American Army is very limited.

Indeed and in fact, soldiers don’t get paid for thinking. They get paid for carrying out orders, including those that result in their deaths. I regret that these are the facts that cannot be changed.

A final note here. For the last 13 or 14 months of my overseas tour, I was serving in Accra in what used to be called the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast is now called Ghana. They ran off their British conquerors and they are now on their own. Most of the people in the section of Accra where I served spoke the Ga language. It seems to be a happy language. I learned only one phrase. It is “i-ee-ko.” It was years before I found out that “i-ee-ko” means well done. On the other hand, the Ghanians actually use it as a greeting. They would walk by our barracks where the natives were working and would shout “i-ee-ko” and the fellows who were working around the barracks would respond with the same remark.
“I-ee-ko” is a gentle reflection of the Ghanian people. I am sorry that I learned no more than that small phrase. But it served me well when three refugees from Ghana appeared in our local market. We all regard each other as friends and indeed Daniel Commodore, his English name, said that when I come around, he feels like his father is visiting. I regard Daniel’s remark as the highest compliment available.

Well, these are reminiscences from a long career and they were triggered by John Warner not knowing the difference between sectarian and secular. I enjoyed recalling some of these events because most of them were pleasant. The Killingsworth expressions were abominable, as he was. I suppose it is true that old men like to reminisce. It seems to me that that’s what memories are made of. So I enjoy recalling the incident about the Russian soldier who was told that he was ugly just as I enjoy recalling Merle and Elmira Yocum’s pig farm. These are not monumental thoughts of course, but they please me, which is, in this case, all that is necessary.

March 18, 2006


My favorite Killingsworth essay is here. I wonder if one of his decedents will find this site someday. If by some SEO miracle this happens, feel free to leave a comment!

Man, so many of the quotes referenced here come up or are more fully investigated in other essays, but short of appending a big list of related essays in the comments, there’s not a great way to easily navigate you around. I think that after all these are done, I’m really going to rethink site navigation as a whole to make it more useful.


It is a matter of great regret that none of you knew George Knickerbocker, my pre-World War II St. Louis colleague at AT&T.

George insisted in pronouncing every letter of every word in spoken English. For example, miscellaneous on George’s tongue came out as MIS-KEL-AN-EOUS. Old George did not stop there at all. As in the case of the title of this piece, George would invest in intrusive letters where none previously existed and so PESSIMIST became PES-TI-MIST. George must have made a profound impression upon my young mind in that his speaking quirks have been remembered for 63 years.

George’s thought about pestimism comes to mind as we are to consider the nomination of Harriet Miers to become a justice of the United States Supreme Court. We have been assured by no less than the Ultimate Commander in Chief of the Whole World that Ms. Miers is the single most qualified candidate out of nearly 300,000,000 Americans. Because she stands alone at the top of the heap, our Ultimate Leader, after reviewing the dossiers of nearly every American, 1) picked his own personal attorney who comes from, 2) you won’t believe this – from Texas, and 3) belongs to a church that believes every word in the King James Bible is the inerrant word of God, including such miracles as Joshua stopping the sun as it rotates around the earth. Galileo has been in the eternal torments of hell for several hundred years now because of his silly insistence to the Inquisition of the Catholic Church that it was the earth rotating, not the sun. That’s what you get for challenging an infallible belief of God’s vicars on earth. Same for birth control and the morning after pill.

All of this turmoil has caused me to think first about Lillie Carr, my mother, as the first part of a Tinkers to Evers to Chance triple play. The second put out by Johnny Evers at second base involves fundamentalist or primitive churches. The third put out involves Ms. Miers’s ability to write sentences that educated people are capable of understanding.

Lillie always belonged to fundamentalist or primitive churches. She believed what the illiterate preachers sermonized about. Obviously, it was in the financial and ecclesiastic interests of the preachers to paint a picture of gloom and disaster with the thought that only Jesus or the Holy Ghost could offer refuge. These preachers viewed themselves as Christian soldiers fighting against the sinfulness of the multitudes. To hear their sermons, the sinners always seemed to be winning.

Actually, to protect their own investments in the ministry, they were to use George Knickerbocker’s words, the voices of pes-ti-mism. They were determined to keep imminent disaster in the forefront of the minds of the worshipers and to frighten them every Sunday.

In the past ten months, the earth has withstood a tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the violent earthquake in Pakistan. Lillie was an avid reader of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. After reading of these disasters, she would have proclaimed to everyone within listening distance that the world was coming to an end because of its sinfulness. Franklin Graham, Billy’s goofy son, said recently that God himself had taken revenge on New Orleans because of – you guessed it – its sinfulness. And so Lillie and the dreadful Franklin Graham and others of that ilk are our league leading Christian pes-ti-mists. They thrive on disaster and gloom.

When the Post Dispatch raised its price from two cents to three cents, Lillie incorrectly assumed the end of the world was at hand. But she was not alone. If you were to undergo simulated water torture treatment by listening to extemporaneous testimony in such primitive churches, you would find that the end of the world was a pre-occupying thought in most minds.

And all that brings us to the Valley View Christian Church of Dallas. In the year 2005, or the year 5766 as the Hebrews count, one might imagine that human intelligence would progress in some degree. But not at Valley View Christian Church, an organization that seems to desire to return at least to 2000 years ago when Biblical characters produced dragons with multiple heads and large numbers of horns. Ms. Miers and her erstwhile boyfriend, Nathan Hecht, are prominent members of Valley View.

The website of Valley View Christian Church is a tour de force in regressive thinking. The website lists ten bedrock beliefs which seem to be binding on all its members including the Ultimate Commander of Everything’s personal lawyer and her unmarried male friend who is a judge in the Texas Superior Court.

The first belief of the Valley Viewers is that the King James Bible is the only infallible, inspired, and authorized Word of God. It is the final authority on all matters of faith and Christian practice. Another “We believe” holds that Jesus “came to the world to die for our sins and was bodily raised from the dead,” presumably to some sort of heaven.

Now here are two more “we beliefs” that shut out all other faiths from frolicking in the green pastures of heaven. “We believe that full immersion under water is the prescribed mode of baptism….” And the final “We believe” says righteous people who attend Valley View “will spend eternity with God in heaven and those not forgiven will be eternally separated from God in hell.”

According to the creed at Valley View, every person who has not undergone full immersion baptism, for one example, is headed for the eternal tortures of hell. My guess is that perhaps 98% of the human race will not qualify for heaven under the code of Valley View. Jews, Catholics, Lutherans and other Protestant faiths, Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems, et al. are headed to hell. Non-believers will be first in line at the gaudy gates of hell. One consolation would be that hell would permit more free thinking than an eternity at Valley View. Why would any bright person want to spend an eternity with the dullards of Valley View?

Of course, no person in his right mind would believe all this sacred garbage. But there is at least one person who calls George Bush the “most brilliant person I ever met” who wallows around in this ecclesiastical dump every week. That, of course, is Harriet Miers.

Can you imagine her ruling on litigants appearing before the Supreme Court who are Catholics or Jews or Moslems or Anglicans or – banish the thought – non-believers in any religion? Her Valley View beliefs would require Justice Miers to condemn them all to hell.

Bush nominated Ms. Miers to the Supreme Court as a cynical gesture to his right wing religious base – and it has backfired. It has backfired because they have seen the quality of her intellect as reflected in her writings. First, there are the adoring, mushy notes to Bush telling him he is wonderful. Then there is the unseemly use of the childish word “cool” in her love notes. Come on Harriet, grow up! You are not a teenager in bobby sox.

Then we have the collection of incoherent thoughts published by David Brooks, the designated hitter of the White House who writes for the New York Times. Try this one on as a sample of Ms. Miers’s linguistic talents:

“Disciplining ourselves to provide the opportunity for thought and analysis has to rise again to a high priority.”

You got that? Explain that to me.

There are two Costa Ricans in this town. One does landscaping. The second cleans houses. They are dependable and likeable. They work hard and are lovely people. But in the final analysis, they are unsuited to be our mayor or our municipal judges. They are superb at what they do. At the same time, as likeable as they are, they should not be pushed to positions clearly above their heads, as in the case of Harriet Miers.

Harriet is an overachiever when it comes to proofreading and filing. Sending her to the Supreme Court would be a gross injustice to the court, to the legal profession and to all Americans.

Once again, Bush should have his head examined for putting this load on a clearly unqualified candidate. Only his arrogance can explain why he wants to see Ms. Miers undergo the meat grinder Senate confirmation hearing. In addition to his other obvious failings, perhaps Bush is now unmasked as a masochist. If George Knickerbocker is still alive, it would be of considerable interest to hear him take a stab at pronouncing masochist.

October 16, 2005

PS: To prove that this material is not made up, there is attached the beliefs of Valley View Christian Church and the David Brooks column. As a Jew, Brooks is one of those people who must be “separated from God” and spend eternity in hell. And he is a conservative Republican. There is one consolation in that Brooks is an erudite fellow who will provide sparkling conversation as we spend an eternity in hell.


That column is a winner. Pop chose a pretty charitable quote to include here; he could have done way worse.

Some other choice quotations:
“We have to understand and appreciate that achieving justice for all is in jeopardy before a call to arms to assist in obtaining support for the justice system will be effective. Achieving the necessary understanding and appreciation of why the challenge is so important, we can then turn to the task of providing the much needed support.”

“More and more, the intractable problems in our society have one answer: broad-based intolerance of unacceptable conditions and a commitment by many to fix problems.”

Brooks concludes that although she writes about interesting subjects, “she presents no arguments or ideas, except the repetition of the bromide that bad things can be eliminated if people of good will come together to eliminate bad things.” I am immediately reminded of one of my favorite Onion columns, “Somebody Should Do Something About All the Problems.”


It is widely believed by high school English teachers and prissy editors that spit is a horrid word. Before you consider joining the cabal condemning that descriptive word, it might be well to recall that it was used most effectively by a Vice President of these United States.

When he used spit in a ringing declaration, there were only 48 states that comprised the United States. There are some teachers and prissy editors who say that the addition of two more states continues to make spit a vulgar word to be avoided by citizens who aspire to appear in the society pages of our leading newspapers and glossy magazines. The contention in this corner is that if no other word can carry the message so effectively, then spit is not only acceptable, but prudent and wise as well. Does anyone believe that genuine virile men would say “expectorate”? Maybe those “girly men” so adored by Arnold Schwarzenegger might do so, but beware of them. People who chew tobacco don’t expectorate; they spit.

The exact quotation referred to in the title of this piece came from John Nance Garner who was our Vice President from 1933 until 1941 under Franklin Roosevelt. Garner was a 65 year old Texan when he was elected to the Vice Presidency. He was not fond of FDR. It was believed that he had a difficult time being civil to Mrs. Roosevelt, FDR’s wife. Eleanor was not your home-on-the-range Texas cowgirl. She was a New York sophisticate.

Garner was Speaker of the House of Representatives when, in the election of 1932, he was more or less drafted to be the Vice-Presidential candidate. He was often acerbic. He thought the Vice Presidency was a step down in terms of power from his post as Speaker of the House. His view of the Vice Presidency was made quite clear when he said –

“The Vice Presidency ain’t worth a bucket of warm spit.”

This old essayist admires everyone – politicians, preachers, physicians – who can state a case in one pungent sentence. Garner made his announcement during my tenth year of enjoying democracy in the style of Missouri. Seventy three years later, John Nance Garner remains in my memory as a clear thinking Texan.

Compare Garner’s quote with one made by the current Commander-in-Chief who, on September 20, 2005 in Gulfport, Mississippi, said the following:

“We look forward to hearing your vision, so we can more better do our job. That’s what I’m telling you.”

“Hearing your vision” is often difficult to do unless he has a “more better” ear than the rest of us have. Garner wins this debate with a vote of 100 to nil, as the Brits say.

The most recent manifestation of “hearing your vision” is the Chief Executive’s nomination of his personal lawyer to be a member of the United States Supreme Court. Harriet Miers may be wonderful, but she has never been a judge of anything. She is the personal lawyer to our fabled Commander-in-Chief, who says she is “wonderful.”

If we are going to send people to be justices of the U.S. Supreme Court because they are “wonderful,” why did we fail to nominate Lawrence Welk, who always pronounced that word as “wunner-ful”?

Ah, but Ms. Miers has for many years written sycophantic messages to our Ultimate Commander. When he was Governor of Texas, she wrote to say he was “the best Governor ever…and deserving of great respect.” There is a cascade of Miers’ adoring notes. One says, “Texas is blessed” to have its lovely governor. Her admiration extends to the Chief Executive’s wife. They are, in Ms Miers words, “cool.” She counsels the daughters to realize that they have “cool” parents.

Now get this. Ms. Miers has told David Frum, a former speechwriter in the White House, that Mr. Bush is “the most brilliant man she has ever met”.

You got that? Bush is brilliant, outshining the morning star. And he is cool, cool, cool.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary weighs in on sycophancy. A person of this stripe is “a servile, self seeking flatterer and an obsequious flatterer.”

And the Commander of the entire world wants to make her a justice of the United States Supreme Court. It is impossible to make up stuff like this. Only in America!

Drew Sheneman, the cartoonist for the Star Ledger in New Jersey, said it all in the October 12, 2005 issue:

When the Ultimate Commander in the White House spoke of “Hearing visions,” it is my belief that he had my ophthalmologist and me in mind in as much as the two of us need to talk about vision – namely mine.

The real purpose of this small essay is to borrow Garner’s observation about the Vice Presidency to use it to describe the state of my eye sight or vision. Over the summer months, my sight has gone backward. Ominously, the intraocular pressure has risen to threatening levels. The ophthalmologist is working as hard as he can so that my sight may be stabilized. For selfish reasons, it is hoped that he will succeed. None-the-less, the view of this patient, who is the only one who matters, is that when my eyesight is compared or contrasted with the general population, it might be said that it is like Garner’s “Ain’t worth a bucket of warm spit.”

In considering how well or how poorly a fellow in my glaucomic condition may be, there is the element of relevance and perspective. There is no two ways about it. My eyesight is blurred and reading poses a problem. Driving a car is completely out of the question as it has been for 15 months. But when you wrestle with the issue of relevance and perspective, perhaps thousands or millions of blind people would buy my diminished eyesight instantly. There are those who say “in a heartbeat,” but that phrase has the making of a tired cliché, so the word will be “instantly.”

There are a few more maneuvers remaining yet to be performed on the one eye that is left. We will see if they yield anything, but the point to be borne in mind is that thousands or millions of unsighted persons would consider my diminished sight with great envy. That lesson will never be forgotten.

Speaking of lessons, there may be a cynic out there who is stocking up on these essays on the ground that there may not be many more, thus driving the price up. Such get rich quick artists should be ignored.

There is another lesson to be dealt with here. The Allergan Corporation in Irvine, California makes Lumigan, one of my primary medical treatments for the remaining eye. When their website is accessed, there is a jingle that will persuade every citizen to use Lumigan, whether or not it is needed. It goes:

“Precious is your sight,
Use Lumigan every night.”

To all my fellow Americans, old Rudyard Kipling couldn’t have said it better. And to think that as an eight or nine year old, the youth choir director at a St. Louis Baptist church was told – by me – what he could do with a hymn that proclaimed:

“Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
I’ll be a sunbeam for him.”

Some seventy years later, we now have the unforgettable Lumigan jingle. That jingle ain’t worth half a bucket of warm spit. It goes without saying that the first line of that jingle – “precious is your sight” – is absolutely true. Take care of your eyes. They can’t be replaced. But my adamant rejection of the sunbeam hymn remains unchanged. Hymns like that are instant atheist makers.

Writing this little essay about a grim subject gave me an opportunity to tell you about Garner’s bucket, the importance of relevance and perspective as well as a jingle and a hymn. It is hard to believe so much was crowded in this small space. It is my fervent hope that you will not only sing of the virtues of Lumigan, but that every faith, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Rotarians, Pagan or Jew, will be truly “A sunbeam for him.” When it comes to offertory hymns, only a back sliding infidel would say it ain’t worth a bucket of warm spit.

October 10, 2005


Tragically, the Lumigan site no longer features the jingle in question. On the plus side, it offers this excellent side effect on the front page: “LUMIGAN® 0.01% may slowly increase the growth and thickness of eyelashes.” I find some humor in the idea that this drug is going around giving luxurious lashes to people with eyesight problems. Who needs mascara? Just get glaucoma instead, and Lumigan will get those lashes nice and plump. I should write them a new jingle.


There is general agreement that Floyd Abrams is the foremost lawyer in this country on the issue of free speech. Earlier this summer, the New York Times hired him to represent Judith Miller, one of its reporters who had become ensnared in the outing of Valerie Plame, the undercover CIA agent.

Abrams lost the Miller case, but he usually wins a high percentage of the issues he takes to court. Earlier this year, Abrams published a book having to do with his court cases pivoting largely on the issue of free speech. It is called Speaking Freely, Trials of the First Amendment.
(Viking Penguin, New York, NY ©2005)

Reading Floyd Abrams’ book set me to thinking about two arbitration cases that had some quotes that hang around in my memory. Obviously, those arbitration cases did not compare in any way with the significance of Abrams’ court cases. But they had a light moment or two that should be recorded.

For an eleven year period, my work in the Bell System had to do with labor relations at AT&T Long Lines, the corporate headquarters of AT&T and the New York Telephone Company. These two arbitration cases involved employees of Long Lines in Atlanta and in St. Louis.

During the Depression, there were several management employees at Long Lines who developed a dictatorial style. A mistake could cost a job at a time when there were no jobs around. Somehow, two of the dictators were Charles Jeep of St. Louis and Grey Madry of Atlanta who were both Division Accounting Managers.

Jeep in St. Louis had an exit from his office so that he could avoid walking through his Accounting Department. He was roundly feared and disliked, but he always seemed to avoid trouble with the union.

On the other hand, Jeep’s counterpart in Atlanta not only had a dictatorial style but carried a chip on his shoulder about Yankees. For Madry, the Civil War was nowhere near finished.

Two cases arose in Atlanta during my tenure as Labor Relations Manager. My recollection is that employees were paid once each week by a check. Mack Harris was a male clerk who had no future in the Accounting Department, but Intelligent Design assigned him to the posting of ledgers in the Atlanta Accounting Department.

Customarily, when Mack Harris was paid, he would cash his check at a department store or more likely at a saloon and prepare for his evening activities. As soon as the currency was in his hands, Mack would remove his shoe and stuff a twenty dollar bill in the toe.

This was a well thought out precaution. Harris would take the rest of his pay and proceed to become drunk and disorderly. This drunkenness usually earned him a night in jail. The following morning he would appear before a judge and be fined at which point, he would have the $20 from his shoe tip to pay his fine. All of this court procedure caused Accounting Manager Madry to fire Mack Harris.

In this case, my recollection is that the Atlanta Accounting clerks were paid on Friday afternoon for their work of the previous week. So Harris filed a grievance which led to an arbitration case held in Atlanta.

During the arbitration case, Harris was clearly just a country boy who seemed to mean no one any harm. Your old essayist is a pushover for country boys who are just trying to get along in the big city. Harris was friendly and it may be suspected that he would do whatever he could to help his friends and foes alike.

So a large hotel room was booked with enough room for long tables facing each other to accommodate the union and the company representatives. An arbitrator was selected by both parties and a court reporter was hired to record the testimony.

While the arbitration proceeding was being established, Grey Madry was told to spend his time at the Central Area Headquarters in Cincinnati. The arbitrator soon caught on that the Company’s most important witness would not be appearing. He must have thought, “How strange.”

With Madry out of sight, the unpleasant job of representing the company fell to Jim Horney, and Accounting Representative from Cincinnati. What a thankless task to dump on Jim Horney, one of my best long term friends.

My recollection is that Jim Horney led off the witnesses. It was at this point that all of us began to question whether the court reporter could hear well enough to do his job.

For those of us with some military background, instructions are given with words to clarify letters. For example, A is Able; B is Baker; C is Charlie; D is Dog; E is Easy and F is Fox, X is X-ray; and Z is Zebra, etc. If the control tower wants an airplane to land on runway 32B, the pilot will be told he is clear to land on 32 Baker. These words were standard throughout the American Army.

When Jim Horney sat down in the witness chair, the court reporter swore him in and asked for his name. Jim replied, “James D. Horney”. His name was clear to everyone but the court reporter who asked him to repeat what he had said. On perhaps the third or fourth try, Jim used his Army background. Jim said, “My name is James, D for Dog, Horney.”

The “D for Dog” must have opened the court reporters ear canals because when the transcript of the day’s proceedings appeared the next day, it said, “The witness, James Dog Horney, was sworn and testified as follows.”

An accommodation was worked out with Mack Harris getting his back pay and being warned by the arbitrator to control his drinking and to avoid jail. No one alive now knows whether that ever happened.

Grey Madry had to be moved or preferably put on pension which may have happened. Before the Mack Harris’ case, one of Madry’s clerks had a baby. She lived a considerable distance from the office. Her name was Retha B. Queen. When Mrs. Queen told her boss that she could not work evening overtime as she was needed at home to care for her new baby and husband. Madry replied that in his scheme of things, there “Would be no time for frivolities as home life.” Madry still believed in the divine right of kings. Putting him out to pasture had to be done as soon as possible. Once Madry was gone, Retha B. did her duties for several years.

The second arbitration case involves Floyd Evans of St. Louis, a very bright country boy. Reporting to Floyd, were several Line Inspectors working out of AT&T’s St. Louis District Plant Office. The Line Inspector’s job was pretty much a prize. The inspectors worked alone and each had a small pick up truck for his use. The idea was to walk every foot of pole line or cable line looking for anything that could be fixed before trouble developed. But the key here is walking and inspecting. Every pole had to be inspected. The open wire on the pole had to be inspected. The markers on the cable sections had to be inspected to see if the gas pressure was within limits. Again, the Line Inspector would not know of potential troubles unless he walked his territory.

Unfortunately, there was a Line Inspector who did not do his job. He simply did not walk the pole or the cable lines. It seems he was found most often in his truck, sometimes asleep. This happened nearly 50 years ago, so one way or another, his name has now escaped me. Let’s call him John Jones.

The conduct by Jones could not be accepted by his boss, Floyd Evans, so he first suspended him and sometime later dismissed him. The president of the Long Lines telephone union when Jones was fired was Ed Ward. A few years earlier, the job of union president in St. Louis belonged to me. Ed Ward was a fire eater who had to be controlled. But now, Ward was the president of the St. Louis local who hated everything AT&T did. The hatred oozed out of Ward’s skin.

So Ed Ward pushed the grievance for John Jones and in 1959, it went to arbitration in St. Louis.

The arbitrator and the court reporter were picked. They were
no-nonsense men so proceedings moved right along. AT&T’s first witness was Floyd Evans. Floyd talked country as some people speak French or Spanish. My parents were country people who often mangled the English language. Floyd, like my parents, often articulated the word “cain’t” when he meant “can’t.” But never, never, think that a man who speaks country is dumb. Floyd could think extensively. His words may seem strange, but he was a very bright man.

Floyd was AT&T’s first witness. After the usual sparring between attorneys, Floyd was asked why he fired John Jones. Remember, that the first responsibility of a Line Inspector is to WALK and to INSPECT.

Floyd thought very little of John Jones’ walking and inspecting ability. He said that Jones was fired because “John Jones has set in that truck so long till his legs is growed together.”

As we were preparing for the case, Floyd had offered this evaluation to me. It seemed to me that Floyd’s observations were a succinct evaluation of Mr. John Jones’ worth to the company. It was my opinion that Floyd should testify exactly as he had spoken to me. So when Floyd testified about Jones’ legs being “growed together,” a smile may have crossed my face. But the arbitrator seemed to find the testimony fascinating. He started to smile and had to hide his face until his judicial demeanor returned.

The arbitrator came from New York City where he was a law professor at NYU. He was a very bright fellow, but his pronunciation of English words identified him as a native New Yorker. For example, the word “never” had a soft ending as in “nevah.” If he drank beer, perhaps he would order a “Millah beeah.” Floyd’s testimony opened up a new vista for the arbitrator. My guess is that the arbitrator used Floyd’s description of “his legs is growed together” in all his classes and outside speeches. He should have paid us just to hear the country testimony by Floyd Evans.

The game could have been called as soon as Floyd offered his testimony about Jones’ work. Nonetheless, it went on for another day or two. In short order, the arbitrator ruled that John Jones’ dismissal was appropriate.

So that is my contribution to go with Floyd Abrams’ book. It seems to me that Madry’s exhortation that “we don’t have time for frivolities such as home life” ranks well up there as exhortations go. But for me, Floyd Evans’ response was the gold standard. “John Jones has set in that truck so long ‘till his legs is growed together.” That says it all.

September 15, 2005


In the guy’s defense, his position probably shouldn’t have existed in the first place. Generally if something goes wrong with a line, people make that known to AT&T, and then AT&T comes and fixes it. Having someone identify potential risk areas, or even having them out there patrolling, only has the potential for speeding up the company response to the problem if there’s an imminent threat to the line, or if somehow the inspector comes across the damage before someone tells AT&T there’s a problem. Maybe something about the infrastructure was different back then, but it seems like sleeping in a truck is roughly as helpful as inspecting miles and miles of lines.

Also they clearly should have started paying Harris on, say, Tuesday morning. I have to applaud his foresight, though.

FROM VAUDEVILLE TO MLK, JR. | Meditations 16, Anonymous Verses

Vaudeville is now largely dead having been a victim of first radio comedians and later, the comedies appearing on television. In the Catskill Mountain of New York, where many of its patrons are Jewish, there still are “tummlers” who tell Yiddish jokes and who good naturedly insult guests.

My recollection of vaudeville goes back to the Garrick Theater in St. Louis prior to the start of World War II. One standard vaudeville joke had a man with a cigar saying he had told a female, “If I don’t get what I am here after, you will be here after I am gone.” In the days before television, that line was greeted by hearty laugher from the basically male audience.

Many of us regret the passing of vaudeville, but this Meditation is not about its unfortunate demise. It is more about the hereafter as reflected by ecclesiastical figures in the news these days. You’ve heard about the Reverend Pat Robertson’s statement on behalf of the U.S. Government that Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, should be assassinated. Well, there was more, starting with Bill Frist, who is a big shot leader of the United States Senate.

Verse 1: Frist the Theologian
By training, Bill Frist is a heart surgeon. He claims to have transplanted several hearts. An urgency of one kind or another led him to Republican politics where he is now the majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

Frist has always done everything the White House demanded. And so a few weeks back it came as a surprise for Frist to make a semi-break with the Supreme Commander – Bush, not God – on the issue of stem cell research. He stated the obvious that our present policy would leave us far behind in the effort to cure ailments such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord cases. Frist called the White House with the hope that they would not be too angry with him for his proposal that we ought to work on stem cells beyond what Bush had said were the limits.

Then Frist took part in a televised broadcast to churches which was right out of the neo-conservative Republican playbook. Activist judges, abortion, same sex marriages and the like. He was dead set against all of them.

Before that, Frist had lent his medical knowledge to a TV examination of Terri Schiavo whom he declared as certainly not in a vegetative state. The autopsy proved otherwise and Frist said he had made no diagnosis of her condition in spite of the TV record of his action.

By now, it must be clear that we are dealing with a dishonest politician. Frist, who is a Southern Baptist, espouses as all his brethren do, that everyone who intends to go to heaven, must be born again. Yet for political purposes, he adopted the Catholic doctrine that life begins at conception. My suggestion to Frist is that he should simply claim that all applicants to heaven should have undergone not only the born again requirement, but the conceived again experience as well. This is called, in Southern Baptist circles, playing God across the board.

Now we find that Frist, in a bow of obeisance to Bush, has announced that he too believes in Intelligent Design. Gravity, for example, got that way because it was the product of Intelligent Design. Before ID, things could not be held down due to the absence of gravity, hence the surfeit of paper weights.

So you can see that the pious such as Bill Frist would have us making vegetative state individuals live forever with the belief in being conceived again all in the name of some anonymous Intelligent Designers. It is no wonder that my hopes for angel wings seem out of the question until all this is settled. One thing that can be settled now, is that Bill Frist is an opportunist and among the most stupid of all politicians. It wouldn’t surprise me if he will do well in the Republican presidential race.

Verse 2: Standing Shiva
Among those who subscribe to the Jewish faith, there is a lovely tradition that needs greater acceptance and encouragement. Upon the death of a member of the family, the survivors gather for a seven day period of mourning. Friends are encouraged to join in this ceremony by meeting with the family and recalling pleasant memories of the departed one. The process is called a “Shiva.”

The colloquial term for this ceremony is called “Sitting Shiva” primarily because the participants sit in a home to recall pleasant memories. As this custom is adopted by the Gentile population – or at least this one Gentile essayist – it must undergo one basic change which will probably be acceptable to Jewish clerics. The Gentiles, at least in my case, will not be Sitting Shiva, but rather, Standing Shiva.

There is a reason for this revised designation which it is hoped will not offend any of my Jewish friends. Upon my departure to heaven where angel wings will be installed on my back using Phillips head screws, instructions have been left to my survivors that a small party should be held. It will be a one afternoon affair as contrasted with the Jewish seven day period of mourning.

Everyone will be asked to appear say between 2PM and 4PM, which means that there will not be sufficient seats for everyone, thus my mourners will have to stand. A second thusly is that the Shiva will become a Standing Shiva. It seems to me that pleasant memories can be recalled standing up as well as sitting down. On the other hand, at that point, my views may well be ignored.

We are not done yet. If the cost of living stays in the same general ball park, it is planned to offer the mourners a glass or two of champagne on the ground that a drink of that bubbly stuff will encourage positive recollections as distinguished from dire memories. This may look like the mourners are being bought off, but my wife, the estimable Miss Chicka, will have additional supplies of champagne to dispel any thoughts of corrupting the audience in my favor. Taking a page from the Bush campaign, each mourner will be asked to sign a pledge before being admitted to the Shiva that each utterance will start with, “That Ed Carr was a great guy.”

Standing on both feet, drinking the best extra dry brut champagne may be the best innovation in history to come along for what would normally be a doleful time. Remember, this innovation was NOT brought to you by Christian doctors, preachers and monsignors. It is brought to you by a non-involved, non-believer who believed that going out in style called for a toast or two of dry brut champagne which is the only way to go.

Verse 3: Ray Charles’ Mistake
Ray Charles was an excellent entertainer. His style was all his own. He died earlier this year after having reached his seventies. If you have forgotten him, he was a blind piano player-singer. He also fathered 12 children by eight different women, which is an accomplishment by itself.

Not long before he died, Charles told Ed Bradley from 60 Minutes, that his blindness detracted only about one percent from his enjoyment of life. A large, rousing dissent arises from your ancient essayist. In the days of my soldiering, about every GI would say that Ray Charles is politely full of spit. Sorry to say, soldiers talked like that.

When your eyesight is compromised, walking becomes a chore watching out for cracks in the sidewalk or holes in the road. There are times when it is difficult to see if the road is cleared of traffic. Curbs are a menace. When your vision is limited, it is difficult to find your way when paths diverge. The situation at night is considerably worse as there is no structure for orientation. Nighttime may result in walking into telephone poles and all kinds of obstructions.

People with compromised sight tend to walk tentatively. In the world of boxing, when a fighter is on his heels, as distinguished from his toes, it is likely that disaster awaits him. People with compromised vision tend to walk on their heels because of their fear of taking the wrong path and/or because of fear of running into an obstacle.

Indoors, there are all sorts of things that may be knocked over by not being seen. Salt shakers, small potted plants and fine glassware only starts the list.

This is not to say that people with compromised eyesight have no reason for not continuing to live and to enjoy life. Of course not. On the other hand, it says that adjustments have to be made which can be done. But they are adjustments that people with ordinary sight don’t have to make.

There are two points to be made. The first is that people with compromised sight seek no sympathy. One way or another, they will endure. The second point is that Ray Charles, who said that complete lack of sight only detracts one percent from the joy of living, was in the words of old GI’s, completely full of spit. Now if Ray Charles were to talk about his exploits with women, we would all listen and pay attention. Twelve children by eight women – or was it twelve women and eight children – whatever – that is indeed impressive. Ray Charles should have stuck to music and women and forgotten about enjoyment of life. Finally, Ray Charles told Ed Bradley that “You can only make love to one woman at a time.” We wonder what that was all about.

Verse 4: Sunday Segregation
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis on April 28, 1968 by James Earl Ray. Sometime before his untimely death, Reverend King once observed that 11AM on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week. Indeed, it is.

When politicians campaign, they embrace brotherhood of all kinds. When preachers enunciate their sermons, one would think that love of ones fellow man was an idea endorsed by everyone. When the Army sets out to recruit African American youth, one might believe the Army is a benevolent place of love and understanding. George and Ira Gershwin had it right when they wrote, “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess.

In New Jersey where this is being written, there are no laws of segregation. People can pick their churches or charitable organizations or political parties. Taking one thing with another, those New Jerseyans seem inclined to associate with others who are similar to themselves.

That is a shame for white people. They miss out on all the good fun and ironic humor of the African Americans who work with them or who serve them. It is a grave mistake to conclude that the good natured African American is unaware of the prejudice taking place all around him in his daily life. Those who find themselves entangled with the police know that there is no such thing as innocence until proven guilty. Those folks know that their job mobility is often foreclosed and that they often work for a lower wage than their white counterparts.

In this general neighborhood, there is a church service on one day of the year that brings together two black Baptist churches and a white Presbyterian establishment. That happens on Dr. King’s birthday. That is good as far as it goes, but it does not alter Dr. King’s observation that 11AM on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in the week. Maybe it will get better – and maybe it won’t. But my long held conviction is that being friendly with – and showing respect for African Americans – will bring a greatly increased joy to life. It is one more way to honor Doctor King’s life and accomplishments.

August 27, 2005


Pop’s Shiva did in fact take place in a restaurant in the afternoon, and if memory serves, it featured champagne. I’m pretty sure we sat down, though, but still — pretty darn close.

As far as blindness goes, I’d hazard that losing one’s sight at age seven is a lot different from losing it at age 85. I’d imagine that if you ask someone who has been blind for decades and decades how much of a problem blindness poses to their daily life, they are likely to downplay that percentage, because they don’t remember it any other way. By that same token, losing a key avenue for perceiving the world at age 85 would almost always weigh very heavily on that person.