Archive for the December 2007 Category


The Salvation Army, the Baptist Young People’s Union, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Luther League (Missouri Synod) have approved this essay only on the ground that I disclose that it is a political and not a baseball essay. But to make my point it is necessary to call on the practice of baseball as an analogy.

Until the mid 1950s, major league baseball regularly played double headers on Sunday afternoons. Before long, greed overtook the owners and that practice was largely stopped. Today, we find that double headers are rarely played and, if they are, two admissions are charged. Formerly when double headers occurred on the schedule, they were played with a half-hour intermission between the two games and the spectator could enjoy seeing two games for the price of one. Now, however, if there is a double header, the owners charge for an afternoon game and a second charge will be required for the evening game with a three- or four-hour intermission between the games.

Now let us say that a player is having a bad day and let us say that he is indeed playing a double header. In the first game, this unfortunate player will strike out five times. In the second game, he will foul out twice and be called out on strikes in his final time at bat. So for the day he will not have any hits in ten trips to the plate. In baseball terms, every commentator will tell you that he went “0-fer ten”. In proper English, the middle word “fer” is a corruption of the connecting phrase “for,” but it has been pronounced this way since Abner Doubleday invented the game.

It is most likely that a player who is having such a bad day a bat, will then have a terrible day in the field because he is thinking about his batting performance. A ball will go over his head and another ball will go through his legs. On another play he will throw to the wrong base and in another case he will overthrow the infielder. So you see, an “0-fer” is a terrible disease to acquire.

In the last few weeks, the Bush administration in Washington has gone 0-fer ten or 0-fer fifty, if a proper account is maintained. Here are three examples in which the administration was either struck out, called out or, if they were lucky, fouled the third strike into the catcher’s glove.

In the first instance, we have been told over the past year, primarily by our intellectual President, that Iran is a terrible threat to all of us. They have been developing, as he says, “nucular” weapons and fully intend to drop those “nucular” weapons right in the middle of Times Square. Now only two weeks ago, our lovable President informed us that we were flirting with World War III. All of this was done of course to persuade the American public to back a military operation against Iran. The modus operandi was remarkably similar to what had been employed when the Bush administration invaded Iraq. So you see, World War III was right on the horizon.

But then last week there came a National Intelligence Estimate, called an NIE, compiled by the 16 agencies in the United States government that are in charge of spying. Unanimously, the 16 agencies concluded that in 2003 – four years ago – Iran had stopped its nuclear program. In short, for more than four years Iran posed no nuclear threat to the United States or to anyone else. The indisputable fact is that they had stopped working on a weapons program that could threaten us, Israel, of any of the neighboring countries. When the NIE came to light last week, the first week of December, the wind went out of the sails of the Bush administration. All of the business about preparing for the Third World War became hollow. There was no Third World War, nor was there a “nucular” threat from Iran. So in effect after four years when the Bush administration should have known that Iran was not working on a nuclear weapons project, we were belatedly informed – not by the Bush administration but by the NIE – that Iran was not “the axis of evil” as they had been portrayed by Bush himself. There was no World War III on the horizon. In effect, George Bush, Richard Cheney, and the rest of the neo-conservatives had whiffed at the plate. Clearly, they had missed every pitch by a mile. And so every American is entitled to say that in the case of the non-nuclear threat from Iran, Mr. Bush was 0-fer for three or four seasons, and should be released outright.

Then we have the case of the missing tapes of torture. For years, the Bush administration, particularly the president himself, has insisted that we do not torture anybody. In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, the Bush people insist that waterboarding is not torture. Waterboarding induces a sense of drowning. A person with a heart condition could die before his torturers could stop the procedure. Ahhh, but Mr. Bush contends that this is not torture. If this is not torture, this old soldier must ask just what in the hell is it? Answering my own question, I say it is torture, pure and simple.

Bush’s nominee to succeed the late Alberto Gonzales as the Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Mukasey, twisted himself into knots before the Senate Judiciary Committee, trying to say anything but that waterboarding was torture. He did this for obvious reasons. The New York Times disclosed on December 18th that his predecessor, Gonzales, as well as David Arrington, Mr. Cheney’s Chief of Staff, among others, were aware of the destruction of the tapes and did nothing to stop it. Arrington has the job that Scutter Libby used to call his own. Mukasey knew that in the long run, there will be serious charges that waterboarding is indeed torture and that the people who conducted that exercise may well find themselves in jail.

Nonetheless, the tapes of the torture of those two or three prisoners have been destroyed and now investigations are underway by the Congress and by a joint CIA-Department of Justice probe. What this case calls for is an independent prosecutor. Can anyone expect that the CIA will investigate these charges honestly when they were the people who applied the torture and then destroyed the tapes? The answer is that this story is rigged. The fact is that the United States does torture its prisoners, which is a barbaric custom. It guarantees that our military personnel, when they are taken, will be treated exactly in that same way.

So we see the baseball analogy still applies in that, in the destruction of the tapes of the torture sessions, we have another instance of the administration striking out. In this case they did not even manage to foul off the ball. They simply were called out on strikes. So that’s two strikes.

Now finally we have had a speech by Mitt Romney, a presidential contender from the Republican Party. Mr. Romney is a Mormon and he was billed as having planned to make a speech explaining his Mormon faith. The fact is, he did none of that. He did not explain, for example, how the angel Moroni impregnated Mary, the mother of Jesus. Nor did he explain why the angel Moroni told Joseph Smith that in his back yard near Palmyra, New York, he would find golden plates that Mr. Smith, with the help of heaven-sent spectacles, would translate into the Book of Mormon. When Mr. Romney spoke, the rest of us were hoping to hear how in the world any sane man could believe in bizarre garbage such as this. Ahhh, but there was none of that. Instead, Mr. Romney spoke for about 20 minutes and the burden of the speech was as follows: “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” Most commentators, or nearly all of the commentators, on the evening news were as baffled as I was by Mr. Romney’s non-witty epigram. My freedom requires no religion at all. The women of Saudi Arabia under the Wahhabi influence in that nation enjoy all kinds of religion but they are not free to drive or even to leave the house without the permission of a man. Basically the widely hailed speech by Mitt Romney was a dud. Anyone who votes for Romney will be on his own to discern how the Angel Moroni impregnated Mary, the mother of Jesus. So here is another strikeout. In this case, the batter was simply called out on strikes before he left the dugout.

In the great game of baseball, three strikes and you’re out. Well, three people have taken three strikes and so the side is retired. And so as your life progresses, I hope that World War III does not happen to you, nor do I wish that you should ever be non-tortured, as the Bush administration says, and I hope that in the end, you will be able to figure out what in the world Mr. Romney’s non-witty epigram was all about. Perhaps, dear readers, only the Angel Moroni could explain all of this. I want to be first in line to hear what he has to say.

December 9, 2007
Essay 276
Kevin’s commentary: When you’re young and just learning to write, teachers often have a go-to form for essay writing. They say you should start with an introduction, move to three body paragraphs, and then conclude the body paragraphs in a way that references the introduction. It clearly is a writing style that is not fit for every scenario, but it is nice to see that it suits this essay so well.

The essay had predictive power, too. It held that someone who has a terrible time at bat will go on to produce a bad showing in the field later that game. After being elected twice — a double header, certainly — the administration followed up with poor performance clear to the bitter end.


The title of this piece is French, of course. It means “cry of the heart” in English. It must be assumed that the cry of the heart arises from anguish and distress which causes one to cry out. In this essay, I am going to attempt the impossible. It is to place this French thought in communion with an English poem by Robert Browning.

For the better part of 2,000 years, the French and the English have lived next door to each other but their relations have been cool, to say the least. There are some French who say that the English have become the poodle for the current administration in Washington. The French have responded to this arrangement by becoming partners with the Germans, their adversary in two world wars. I suppose that this is a case where “never the twain shall meet,” but I will make a valiant try for this French thought to snuggle up to the traditional coolness of Her Majesty’s government.

Aside from the cry of the heart, the second part is a poem by Robert Browning which goes in part as follows:

“Come, grow old along with me,
The last of life, for which the first was made.”

My debate and the reason for this essay is the line about “the last of life, for which the first was made.” It seems to me that “the last of life” may well be the time when human beings suffer the most. Aside from human suffering, there is also the dismissiveness that goes with advanced age. This may be an impossible task to reconcile the thoughts of the French “cri” with the sentiments of the British, but I will do the best I can.

My argument basically goes to the sentence about “the last of life, for which the first was made.” My wife and I are patrons of the Summit Medical Group which practices medicine in Berkeley Heights, not in Summit anymore. For more than 50 years, it has been my observation that the people who patronize the Summit Medical Group are older or elderly. I am not quite sure what the difference is between older or elderly, but it has a rhythmic rhyme to it, so there it is.

As people grow older, that is “the last of life,” they are afflicted with ailments of every kind. Starting at the top, there is squamous cell carcinoma which attacks the scalp. There are pacemaker problems which regulate the pumping of blood by the heart. Moving further down the body, there are all kinds of gastric problems, followed by the disabilities of enlarged prostates and hysterectomies. Then there are the fragile hips, bad knees and the edema that strikes the legs of the elderly, causing them to swell. And finally, of course, at the bottom of this list are the ingrown toenails. And to think that I have listed only a few of the thousands of things that might afflict the human body at the last of life.

Clearly those ailments which would have been thrown off by younger people strike the old and elderly. They are vulnerable to diseases of every kind. As they advance in years and illnesses, I suspect that it is common for the elderly to give thought to which of the ailments will eventually carry them away. Any person who gives no thought to these possibilities is simply whistling past the graveyard. So in the beginning, the problems of health and welfare cause us anguish and distress which lead to a cry of the heart. As you can see, so far I am happy to keep the French and the English talking with the hope that, in the following paragraphs, things may warm up.

The second aspect of “the last of life, for which the first was made” has to do with what I will call its dismissiveness. I define dismissiveness when younger people dismiss the thoughts and the actions of their elders. For example, the people who advertise, particularly on television, aim their advertisements at the youngsters between the ages of 18 and 34. I suppose that is why you see so much rock and roll music and the silly situation comedies that choke the advertisements and the television screens. It makes business sense, because the 18-to-34-year-olds will be around for a while, while the elderly have only the funeral parlor in their futures. I completely understand that point of view as a business man.

Here is another case that cries out for it’s dismissiveness. It is the race for the Republican nomination for president of the United States. John McCain, the Senator from Arizona, who spent five and a half years in a North Korean prison under torture, is dismissed by the younger media and candidates as too old to take the oath of President. McCain is 72 now and if he serves a term he will be approaching 76 or 77. Two terms would take him, probably, to his 80th birthday. But I am not a Republican and I have no intention of meddling in their affairs. But no matter how you cut it, this is another case of dismissiveness totally on the ground of age. McCain is older and may be wiser than the younger folks, but he is dismissed simply because of his age. McCain is entitled to a “cry from the heart.”

As older folks progress into their elder years, I suspect that nearly all of them will have experienced dismissiveness at one time or another. I now believe that it is an invitation to be dismissed by younger people when one cites in a letter or in a telephone conversation, the years that one has been patronizing a certain corporation. For example, returning to the Summit Medical Group, they not only know my age but they also know of all the disabilities that have afflicted me. When I wrote to the chairman of the organization, a Mr. Mintz, he politely refused to answer my letter. After two months or so, I wrote a second letter and attached the first letter to it and expressed the thought that it must be the United States Postal System which had refused to deliver my first letter. Obviously, sarcasm had something to do with that second letter. After a time, Mr. Mintz still dismissed me by refusing to pick up his pen and paper and write a letter. He had one of his so-called “patient relations” people call me to discuss my problem. Basically one of my grave problems was the speed bumps that the Summit Medical Group had installed in its parking lot, which were excessively high and provided no slope to approach their top. I suspect that if an obstetrician were having trouble with persuading a new baby to emerge from the womb, he might have suggested or prescribed that the mother-to-be should be driven over Mintz’s speed bumps in an effort to speed delivery. My discussion with the patient relations lady, who was very nice, resulted only in her forwarding my letter to the person in charge of maintaining the parking lot. I could have written to that person in the beginning some months ago, but my foolish excesses said to write to the top man to get the speed bumps fixed. Ahhh… but Mr. Mintz wanted to preserve his channels of communication within the Medical Group and so far, four months after the first letter, he has not really answered me. This is a case of dismissiveness. Am I entitled to a cri de coeur?

There are all kinds of cases where the younger folks tend to dismiss the petitions and the needs of their elders. There are telephone calls that are unreturned. And when the gestures of the elderly are made to the younger ones, there is no reciprocation. I understand why this is taking place. In all likelihood, as a younger man I was guilty of the same offence of dismissiveness. I hope that my elders, if there are any, will forgive my transgressions.

So you see, we have here a second case for a cry from the heart. First there were the health problems and now we have the dismissiveness that attends the elderly as well. So it is clear that this is another reason for a cry from the heart.

Finally, the ultimate in dismissiveness came about as a result of the disastrous war that we had declared in Iraq. France and Germany declined our request to send troops there to the slaughter. For this, Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, dismissed them as “old Europe.” On the other hand, there was Poland, which contributed about 1,000 troops, and was rewarded when Rumsfeld called it the “new Europe.” May I say that if you have a choice between Paris and Warsaw, please take Paris every time.

Finally, when the decision was made to attack Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld and his chief assistant, Paul Wolfowitz, were told by the General Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the United States Armed Forces, that it would take a lot more soldiers to pacify Iraq than to invade it. For his trouble, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz effectively fired General Shinseki. And when General Abizaid, the Commander of all the forces in the Middle East, expressed less than great glee about the so-called “surge,” he was also forced into retirement. These two elder soldiers were dismissed by the younger President and his neocon advisors. Shinseki and Abizaid are entitled to a cry of the heart.

Robert Browning is a poet of English origin and I understand that every poet needs some license to stretch a word here and there to make it rhyme or to make some sense of it. But as I pondered that poem, the silliness of the offending lines which I have cited made me anguished and distressed. And so it was necessary for this essay to be written to suggest that there was a cry of the heart from this old essayist.

Now as to the relations between the English and the French, I am an impartial observer. The French are French and the English are Anglo-Saxons and this old American with Celtic roots looks at the problem between the English and the French with a considerable amount of amusement. It is my judgment that if John Bull were ever to succumb to ardor and passion which might lead him to the fault of making love to Lili Marlene, their romantic overtures might be drowned in the chilly depths of the English Channel, as they have been for the last 2000 years.

I said at the outset of this essay that getting the frogs of France to love the English limeys was an impossible task. I may have failed, but at least I tried.

December 24, 2007
Essay 280
Kevin’s commentary: Do they French and the Irish have any history together, I wonder? You don’t hear too much about the Irish fighting anyone but the British. Perhaps this is because I took Asian history instead of European history in school, so consequently most of my knowledge of the history of the UK comes from Irish folk music. This music is invariably about war death, and the British are to blame for most of it.

Back on point, I’d agree that there’s definitely an amount of dismissiveness and even discrimination that impacts the elderly. Certainly, as Pop says, a lot of marketing is directed to young people these days. To that I’d say that Pop is just listening to the wrong channels. My girlfriend often watches a network called “HLN” which only has one show, which is called Mystery Detectives. It plays Mystery Detectives 24/7 and the only commercials it runs are for facelifts, medication and hip replacements. So there is certainly marketing for the elderly out there, if you know where to look. Secondly I’d question why Pop even wants to have to listen to commercials which could potentially apply to him — I happily dismiss any bit of marketing that I can identify as not being potentially useful to me. If nobody was trying to sell me things that I’m interested in, I could tune all advertisements out en-masse even more than I already do. I feel like that’d be wonderful.

As final thoughts, a) It is worth noting that elderly voters are one of the most valuable groups to politicians in America (old people vote), b) age-based discrimination is terrible, but for a job like the presidency, it might be a good screening. We got a Pope who was so old, the Catholics couldn’t hold midnight mass at midnight. God knows what the equivalent problem would be for an 80-year-old president, but it might be a doozy.

More on the Browning poem here:


In the last four years of my career with AT&T, I was a Director of Correspondent Relations. The word “correspondent” is an anachronism. It goes back to the days when people wrote to each other and before the use of the telephone. Nonetheless this job required that I should visit other telephone companies around the world and in so doing, I made many warm friends. Sven Lernevall in Stockholm with whom I still correspond by e-mail, not by telephone, is one of them. Another was Jake Haberfeld who was the number two person in charge of telecommunications for the State of Israel. Early in life, Jake had left his home in Poland to become one of the first settlers in what was to eventually become the State of Israel. If there ever was a gentleman’s gentleman, it was Jake Haberfeld.

Somewhere around 1981 or 1982, I invited Kim Armstrong, the newly appointed Director of Advertising for AT&T Long Lines to accompany me on a trip to Italy and Israel. The idea was to acquaint her with the people to whom she would be advertising and my ulterior motive was to encourage her to spend more on advertising Overseas Telephone Service. When we reached Israel, Jake was his usual charming self. When we broke for lunch, Jake said to Kim, “Would you like to visit that certain place?” So I explained to Kim that my friend Jake was referring to the toilet, also known as the water closet, the can or the john. And so from that incident, I developed an interest in euphemisms of all sorts.

In this essay, I will try to make try to make a pass at a few obvious ones. I am in no position to make a study of all euphemisms, but in this short essay I will attempt to mention a few. Already we have the toilet which is known as the WC, the boy’s room, the girl’s room, the powder room, the restroom, the can or the john. I suspect there are other names. In the American army, the toilet facilities are called “latrines.” It always seemed to me that latrine is a French word and should be preceded by either the connecting phrase of “la” or “le.” But I have no influence with the brass that directs the fortunes of the United States military. So it is latrine, take it or leave it.

Children have their own euphemisms for certain bodily functions. There is the “potty,” just as there is pooping, also known as “poopoo,” and peeing or “peepee.” Mothers are to be commended for steering their children through the difficult training years.

When it comes to dining, the act of eating is often called, “feeding your face.” Another euphemism about eating is that “we had a bite to eat.” I suspect that no person in the world has ever settled for only a bite to eat. But it is a nice sentiment.

Where alcoholic beverages are involved, there are terms such as, “had a few too many” or if there were more than a few, it might be said that the drinker was getting “sloshed.” Somewhere between “having a drink” and getting “sloshed,” we have pie-eyed and tipsy, among many others.

When one has too many “bites to eat,” he may add weight to his frame. There are all kinds of euphemisms which hold that a man is “chubby,” or in the case of the female that “she is pleasingly plump.” In point of fact, they may be simply obese or overweight. A very thin woman or other persons might be called “only skin and bones.” In the cases of weight on the human frame, there may be no melodious sounding euphemisms at all.

In the sports world, euphemisms abound endlessly. Taking only baseball, which I understand, we have, for example, the home run. There is nothing wrong in the world with calling a ball hit out of the park a simple home run. But broadcasters and print journalists tie themselves into knots using the word blast. It can be a “two-run blast” or it can be an “upper deck blast.” In the last year or two, the sportscasters have resorted to the phrase “going yard” for hitting the ball out of the park. As a purist who has spent nearly 80 years enjoying baseball, when someone says “going yard,” there is a grinding noise in my mind. May I suggest that home run is quite enough.

In the intimate relations between the sexes, there are several euphemisms. The Bible refers to the man, after having sexual relations with a female, as “knowing her.” In another case in I believe, Leviticus, males are warned not to “lie” with each other. The various versions of the Bible were written years ago and it would have been hoped that better euphemisms would have made their appearance, but obviously, they have not. In view of the nature of my psyche, I will refrain from quoting the euphemisms for intercourse between men and women, except for one from the Ga language which is spoken in Ghana. In that instance, sexual intercourse is referred to as “jig” or “jigjig.” Upon hearing a lively tune, for example, it would be highly inappropriate for one of the former British “masters” of Ghana, to say to a comely female that he would like to “jig” with her. Jigging, and jigjig are different from our understanding of dancing.

I know, as a man of some experience, that “jigjig” has many corresponding phrases in every language. But in my lofty position as an essayist, I will refrain from mentioning them.

There is one other matter having to do with death. One of the euphemisms is “passed away.” In many cases, this term is reduced to simply “passed.” For example, I asked a person some time ago about another person whom I had not seen for many years. It was reported to me that “she had passed.” I concluded that she had died.

Then there is the situation that offers the euphemistic phrase upon the death of a spouse that he or she “lost” his or her mate. Actually, when reduced to the bare essentials, no one “became lost,” but there had been simply a death in the family. Human nature apparently seeks to avoid discussion of death in any form.

As I am dictating this essay, it is a few days before Christmas. At this time of year, the euphemisms abound with respect to the celebration of Christmas and then New Years. I won’t bore you with such euphemisms because you know them already.

Euphemisms are found in the written and spoken word. I suspect that if one tried to locate all the euphemisms in the English language, the list would be endless. And so I leave you with a thought about Jake Haberfeld, which is where this essay was started. Jake’s wife contracted Alzheimer’s Disease and he was determined in his love for her, to care for Mrs. Haberfeld. She died after a time, and the toll of taking care of his wife imposed a major burden on Jake’s health, and he died long before his time. Jake will be missed and this old essaying will always remember the phrase about, “that certain place.”

With all of the euphemisms that are not included here, it is obvious that somewhere down the line when more of them appear to this aphasia riddled mind, another essay on euphemisms will appear. I suppose that you can take that thought and “put it in the bank.”

December 22, 2007
Essay 279
Kevins’ commentary: “That certain place” sounds like a Japanese euphemism to me for some reason — probably because it is SO polite that it winds up being completely vague.

Also I’d like to point out that in an essay about euphemisms for both sports and sex, Pop missed a golden opportunity to explore sports-based sex euphemisms like “2nd base” and the like. Can’t get ’em all, I suppose.


Larry Craig, the simply superb and sweet-smelling Senior Senator from the great state of Idaho, has been in the news recently and has caused me to rethink my thoughts about homosexuals. As many of you know, I did not attend an Ivy League college. In point of fact, I didn’t attend any college. I spent those formative years working in filling stations, followed by a job as a draftsman at AT&T, which was quickly followed by service in the United States Army. I thought that with this background I was fully acquainted with the seamier sides of life. When it came to homosexual men, they were referred to as “queers.” Today, those people are called gays. When I began to come to New York in 1948 and thereafter, I became acquainted with gay men who struck me as unusually talented. They were artists, writers, and people who ran excellent restaurants. I had no prejudice ever against gay people. But now, as it turns out, I knew very little about their practices.

Earlier this year the simply superb Senator from Idaho was arrested in a Minneapolis airport restroom because he had propositioned an undercover cop. The cop testified that Senator Craig occupied the next stall and signaled with his feet and hands that he wished to have a homosexual encounter. In my naiveté, I had assumed that for two gay men to accomplish their work, they would both occupy the same stall. Now in my declining years, I find that this is not necessarily the case at all.

My naiveté also led me to wonder about a story concerning the Minneapolis airport. I understood that, since the Craig incident, the restroom authorities were considering lowering the barriers between the stalls down to ground level. In my innocence, I wondered what this would accomplish.

Well, as it turns out, lowering the barriers between the stalls would tend to decrease the great sin of onanism. If the testimony in the case against Senator Larry Craig is correct, the gay men would hold hands under the barrier between the stalls and would then commit the great sin of onanism. The female CNN announcer on television explained that this sin is “having sex with yourself.”

Obviously, in addition to the sexual content of this exercise, there are gymnastic requirements as well. Why “having sex with yourself” must be performed in a men’s restroom while holding hands with another gay, is a mystery to me as it could be performed in the privacy of one’s own home. As Larry Craig, when he was arrested and charged said, “I am not gay; I have never been gay.” Obviously, I am ill equipped to answer questions about gayness.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, there is a citation from Genesis 38, verse 9. My cursory reading of this section of the Old Testament discloses that Onan had an older married brother. One way or another, the brother was killed and Judah, his father, had ordered Onan to marry the widow, as was the custom. Onan said, pardon the expression, to hell with that. He then, according to the sacred scripture, “spilled his seeds upon the ground,” just as the CNN announcer described it three or four thousand years later. If my understanding is halfway correct, Onan had sex with himself. The so-called seeds were of course the sperm which fell “upon the ground.”

My belief is that if the sweet-smelling Senior Senator from Idaho were acquainted with this citation from the Old Testament, he would forsake the gay life and seek a Congressional seat from Greenwich Village in New York, even through he says, “I am not gay; I have never been gay.”

There is one significant favorable development in the Larry Craig case in that, the stall used by the great Senator, has now become a major tourist attraction. It is not the Taj Mahal, of course, but it memorializes the Old Testament and the grave sin of Onanism.

Now let’s turn to the gentleman from Christopher Street in New York City. Christopher Street is located in Greenwich Village. Greenwich Village is widely known as the home of gay people in New York City. There are gay bars, gay restaurants, and gay art galleries throughout what in New York is called “the Village.” During my many years in New York, I made Greenwich Village my home. But I would not want you to conclude that this makes me a gay person. My motto is, “I am not gay; I have never been gay.”

Earlier this year, we learned that a New York City woman in her late thirties discovered that she was pregnant. Later we learned that she simply opened the telephone book and picked the name of a person who lived in the village and declared him to be the father of the unborn child. This gentleman resided on Christopher Street in the Village.

As these things go, there was a need to have a legal tangle. The gentleman from Christopher Street had to hire a lawyer to defend himself.

As it turns out, the gentleman from Christopher Street was in his late forties and had lived an exclusively gay lifestyle all of the years of his adult life. He had a male roommate, which was a long-standing arrangement. When the paternity case came to trial, his lawyer was able to demonstrate conclusively that in his adult life, his client had always led a gay lifestyle. When it came time for the gentleman from Christopher Street to testify, he told the judge, “Your Honor, in all my life, I have never met a vagina personally.” That statement rings with Churchillian eloquence. And it came not from a politician or professor, but from a simple soul from the Village in New York. Shortly thereafter, the judge threw the case out of court and the gentleman from Christopher Street was fully exonerated. Nonetheless, he was presented with a $3,400 bill from his lawyer. The pregnant female had no financial resources, so there was no possibility that he could recoup his losses from her. Apparently he smiled and went home to his apartment to enjoy his gay lifestyle with his partner. He now has a good legal story to tell at cocktail parties.

I don’t know what these two cases are meant to demonstrate, but on the other hand, they give an essayist an opportunity to use such pungent phrases as “having sex with oneself” and a man who has never met a female sex organ in person. For an old geezer such as myself, this is quite enough.

December 22, 2007
Essay 278
Kevin’s commentary: News to me. I thought that the under-stall gap was used for things much dirtier than holding hands while both parties jerk off. I mean it’s almost definitely used for all sorts of things, I guess, I just never had thought of that one. Cute. I wonder, when you’re both done, do you come out and introduce yourselves? If not, who leaves first? What’re the rules around this type of thing?


If one were inclined to study a map of the United States, he would discover that in the middle Western part, there is a river that flows from the north and winds up in New Orleans. That of course is the mighty Mississippi, which was celebrated in 1927 by Jerome Kern’s production of Showboat. In that stage play, the most moving song is sung by a bass, and is named, “Ol’ Man River”. You may recall his partner Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics about the river are, “he jes keeps rollin’, he keeps on rollin’, rollin’ along.” On its way to New Orleans, the Mississippi passes St. Louis. Further downstream, near the confluence with the Ohio River, comes a town called Cape Girardeau.

Missourians generally refer to that town as “the Cape”. Cape Girardeau enjoyed great prosperity as the West was being settled. In that era, heavy freight was carried on river boats that regularly stopped at the Cape to unload their cargoes for southern Missouri, Arkansas and the West. With the coming of railroads, highways, trains, large trucks and even airplanes, the prosperity of Cape Girardeau tended to diminish. Some freight still moves up and down the Mississippi and there are boats that carry tourists to and from New Orleans that sometimes stop there. But the halcyon days of Cape Girardeau are in the past.

In a few moments, we will return to Cape Girardeau, but for now the discussion turns to the grandchildren of the Chicka-Carr family. There are five grandchildren, all of the male persuasion. Their parents are affluent beyond the wildest dreams of the parents of Judy and myself. Those grandchildren know that college, of course, naturally follows after completion of high school graduation. It is not a question of whether to attend college, it is a matter of which college. Can the parents of those grandchildren handle an Ivy League tuition fee? Of course! My delight is to see how far, educationally, the family has traveled. My father attended on occasion, between crops, a country school where he finished the second reader. He quit school at age 16 or 17. I had no hope whatsoever of attending college but my two daughters are college graduates who married men having the same educational level. My father would be stupefied to learn how far his great grandchildren will go educationally.

Over the years, it has been my intent to remind the grandchildren that there are poor people in the world. Accordingly, for example, at the year’s end, I had dealt with Heifer International in Arkansas which provides farm animals to needy tillers of the soil. On several occasions, we have ordered goats because they are hardy animals who give milk and who will eat almost anything. But one year we gave them a water buffalo, which was described as a mighty animal engine to work on a farm. The whole idea in contributing to this organization, which enabled them to buy the animals and to distribute them, was to remind the grandchildren that there are people in this life who are much less fortunate than they are.

Over the years, the grandchildren have been told that they have contributed toward the purchase of goats and sheep and water buffalos etc. As the year 2007 draws to a close, in consultation with Judy, my wife, a decision was made to replace the farm animals with a product that comes from – don’t be surprised – Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Aside from caring for the less fortunate, it seems to me that there is a corollary responsibility to care for the United States. And so it was decided that the most poignant reminder of that duty might be a replica of my dog tags that I wore during World War II, from 1942 until November of 1945. I wanted the boys to know that patriotism demands sacrifice. And I wanted them to know that our freedom is something to be guarded jealously.

One way or another, Judy with her internet sources soon located a company in the Cape that provided exact replicas of World War II dog tags. I had no idea that a company would be in that sort of business, because the people to whom they would sell the dog tags are either dead now or soon will be. Most of us are well into our 80s or into our 90s. Manufacturing dog tags for people of that age is like manufacturing hub caps for 1947 Chrysler De Sotos or the ill-fated Crosley subcompact cars. A marketing executive would have told you that there either was no market or there will soon be no market. But nonetheless the people in Cape Girardeau were as nice as they could be and they produced exact replicas of the dog tags worn by this old essayist during World War II.

As you will note from the attached letter addressed to each of the recipients, there are two Costa Rican boys who call me their “Grandpa in America” as well as Daniel Commodore, a gentleman from Accra, Ghana. The Hidalgo boys won medals for their excellent play in a soccer match, which they presented to me. Those medals have been framed and hang near my desk where I can touch them. Daniel Commodore says that when I walk toward his work station at the Whole Foods Market here in Millburn, he often thinks of his own father. I am deeply honored and flattered.

And so it is that the dog tags have been distributed to the eight recipients with the fervent desire expressed in the letter that this old soldier hopes that they will never have to wear dog tags of their own. The boys can wear these dog tags or they can put them in the top drawer of a dresser or they may carry them in their pocket. But no matter what they do with them, they should know that this old soldier hopes that they should never have to wear their own dog tags.

If you read the letter written to the boys, you may discover that in 1942, I was a volunteer to serve in the United States Army. Of all the things associated with my service in the American Army, I am most proud of the fact that I volunteered. My parents disliked losing their last son to the Army but in their hearts they knew that it was the honorable thing to do. Some 65 years after my enlistment, I remain pleased to know that I did whatever I could do voluntarily. That takes nothing away, absolutely nothing, from people who were drafted. In my case, however, I felt a need to volunteer.

And so Army Serial Number 17077613 remains in retirement where it may continue to rest in peace forever.

December 9, 2007


Connor Shepherd Andrew Nollmann
Kevin Shepherd Will-yam Nollmann
Jack Shepherd Esteban Hidalgo
Daniel Commodore Fabian Hidalgo
Melissa Hidalgo

Señorita and Gentlemen –
In 1942, when a soldier entered the service of the United States Army, he was issued two identification tags to be worn around the neck at all times. The reason for issuing two such tags was that if a soldier were lost and his body were recovered, one tag was to remain with the body and the second was to be attached to the body bag or to the coffin. When an old soldier explained that rationale to me, I was impressed and realized that this was serious business. Soldiers have no reverence for what the Army has to say, and so it is in this spirit that soldiers universally referred to those identification tags as “dog tags”.

When I was discharged from the American Army in November of 1945, I had completed an enlistment of more than three years with 28 months being spent overseas. I wore my dog tags every step of the way. Recently, Judy found an internet provider who offered replicas of the original dog tags worn in the Second World War. The rubber silencers included here were completely unknown during my service.

And so I am offering you a replica of my dog tags to remind you of a principle or two. The first principle is that you should pay attention to what your parents tell you. But you should always have considerable doubt about what other people have to say. You must question whether it has the ring of truth to it. And secondly, hardly ever believe what you are told by the United States Army. This is eminently true when soldiers such as General Petraeus and General Colin Powell are prostituted by the political establishment.

These dog tags, which I would like to present to you, are authentic replicas of the ones worn by the soldiers in World War II. There is a notch on the corner of the dog tags. Nobody knows why it exists. The rest of the tag reflects my personal data. First comes name and home address. Zip codes came at least thirty years later. The “T43” is to designate that I had a tetanus shot in 1943. The “O” is my blood type and on the other side there is a “P.” When I enlisted, only three choices of religion were offered. There was RC for Roman Catholic, P for Protestant, and J for Jewish. When I told the sergeant in charge that I subscribed to none of the above, he arbitrarily assigned me the designation of “P” because I protested.

My serial number has some significance. The first numeral is one. This designates that I was a volunteer enlistee. Soldiers who were drafted were given “3” as their first numeral. About the only thing that was advantageous was that when pay day came, we volunteers were paid before the draftees.

The second digit, a “7”, indicates that I enlisted giving a middle western address in the United States. The remaining numbers are simply the serial number the Army assigned to me.

When I was finally discharged from the Army in November of 1945, I put the dog tags in a box in my dresser and for sixty some years they have resided there. I thought that this would be an opportunity for me to distribute the dog tags among my grandsons to encourage the principles that I outlined at the beginning. Again, those principles are: question everything that you are told by your elders, except by your parents, and believe almost nothing when it comes from the American Army.

I hope you keep these dog tags for a while, and specifically it is my hope that you never never have to wear military dog tags of your own.

Postscript: The Nollmann and Shepherd young men are our grandchildren. The Hidalgo boys are the children of Costa Rica immigrants. Those boys have adopted me as their “Grandpa in America”. They are the ones who won metals because of their soccer excellence and made a gift of those metals to me. Daniel Commodore comes from Accra, Ghana, and works at the seafood counter in the local Whole Foods Market. He said on one occasion that when I approach his counter, he thinks of his own father. I am honored and flattered. The final fourteen months of my service in the American Army were served in Daniel’s hometown. Now with respect to Señorita Hidalgo, it should be stated that dog tags are a masculine memento which are not proper for a beautiful young child. In place of dog tags, when the time is right, a suitable feminine memento will be offered to Señorita Melissa.

Connor’s Commentary: When I received these tags, I remember being interested by Pop’s comment that nobody knew what the notches were for. Consulting the internet, the prevailing theory seems to be that the notch was employed in the use of the “Model 70 ‘Addressograph'” machine, a tool of the WWII-era Medical Department. The tool basically made a rubbing of the dog tag and put it onto paper, and the idea with the notch was, it held the tag in the machine and made sure it wasn’t upside down. For pictures you can check out

I keep Pop’s tags in my apartment, but I am careful never to wear them in case I am hit by a bus or asteroid or something and my remains are identified as Ezra. E. Carr Jr., born 1922, which I imagine would be confusing for the coroner.


Richard Cheney is the rotund and sparsely beloved Vice President of the United States. The civilized world regards him with no affection whatsoever.

During the last week of November, Mr. Cheney had a bout with atrial fibrillation. This is a cardiac condition that, if left untreated, could result in grave damage to the heart muscle and perhaps injury or death to the person who owns that heart muscle. Atrial fib is a common occurrence among cardiac patients. Once it is properly diagnosed it can be remedied by having a cardiologist apply an electric current to the heart and shock it back into its proper rhythm. To the person who owns a heart with atrial fib, the sensation is that of an engine missing fire on several cylinders and perhaps backfiring on some of the others. All things considered, atrial fib is not a desirable condition.

Mr. Cheney has had several bouts with atrial fib. The latest diagnosis was made and, after he was transported to a hospital and given the shock treatment, the rhythm in his heart was restored. From that point forward, we are told that his heart purred like a three-cylinder engine or like a Lawn Boy power mower. According to White House sources, the same people who brought you weapons of mass destruction and “mission accomplished,” Mr. Cheney went home from the hospital, shaved, and appeared in his office at his usual 7:00 AM starting time. It is quite likely that Mr. Cheney appeared at his office to guard against Congressman Henry Waxman making further inroads on the Valerie Plame CIA outing case. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald had promised Waxman that he would give him the papers in that case. But we find now that Cheney and the White House have blocked that move.

In any case, Mr. Cheney, with his heart rhythm fully restored, resumed thinking about the war in Iraq. You may recall that at the beginning, Mr. Cheney assured us that we would be welcomed as liberators and further down the line, he counseled us that the insurgency was in its final throes. I suppose that a person in his position, with all the pressures on him, is entitled to make a few monumental mistakes. However, when Mr. Cheney entered the vice presidency, he found that the Bush administration started to pee away trillions of dollars that the Clinton administration had in the Treasury. Mr. Cheney assured the rest of us, including the financial community, that “deficits don’t matter.”

At the outset, I believed Mr. Cheney implicitly. I concluded that if deficits don’t matter, my quarterly payment of income tax to the government would fall in that category of non-applicable deficits. At the beginning, the Feds were polite to me, pointing out that if I did not make my contribution, they would be unable to pay salaries to the President and the Vice President and to members of Congress. The people at the Internal Revenue Service were not enthusiastic about my reference to Mr. Cheney’s “deficits don’t matter.” In the end, they proposed to send the FBI and the CIA to Short Hills to have me flown to Syria or Egypt, where waterboarding is merely the start of an “enhanced interrogation procedure.”

When my real estate taxes came due here in Millburn Township, I asked the tax collector, Jerry Viturello, “If deficits don’t matter, why am I making this payment to you?” He replied that if I failed to make the payment, the Millburn cops would be there shortly to have me thrown out on White Oak Ridge Road, a very busy street.

So you see that if deficits don’t matter, it must apply only to big shots, such as Mr. Cheney and his cohorts. After having been rebuffed by the federal government and by the Millburn tax collector, I called my old friend Jake Birdsall, who is the resident philosopher in the city government of a town called Peculiar, Missouri. Jake is a gravedigger by trade, but he lectures at the Peculiar County Community College on philosophy. I told Jake, the philosopher/gravedigger, all of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Cheney’s belief that deficits don’t matter. Almost immediately, Jake offered his cogent viewpoint to me. Jake said, “Any man who says that deficits don’t matter is as full of spit as a Christmas goose.” Obviously, I had to sanitize the operative word in the early part of that sentence because my essays are used as textbooks in the Peculiar County Seminary. We can’t have prospective men of the cloth uttering vulgarities that have been with us since the beginning of time. So the final word is that, as Jake framed it, “Anyone who says that deficits don’t matter is as full of spit as a Christmas goose.” Jake also pointed out that deficits have consequences, terrible consequences.

We are learning about those consequences right now. The value of our dollar is so low that we will soon be down there with the Mexican peso. The British pound that used to trade at one dollar and a half now costs us two dollars. The European Euro which opened at about seventy cents now takes a dollar and a quarter to buy one. The Canadian dollar, which in my lifetime has never exceeded seventy-two or seventy-three cents, is now worth ten or fifteen cents more than the American dollar. Jake the philosopher, is absolutely correct about Mr. Cheney being as full of spit as a Christmas goose. He is even more correct when he says that attitudes like Cheney’s are utter madness. Every time we buy gasoline, wine, cheese, or any other commodity, those consequences are obvious.

So much for Mr. Cheney, his atrial fib, and Jake’s assessment of his financial acumen.

At the moment there are two other individuals of American renown who come to mind at this sitting in the first week of December. The first is Senator Larry Craig, the Senior Senator from the great state of Idaho. I am sure that you are aware that Senator Craig has confessed to and tried to “unconfess” the act of making a homosexual pass at an undercover officer in a Minneapolis airport men’s room. When he tried to “unconfess” that act, he merely intensified the efforts of the Boise Idaho Statesman, a newspaper, to investigate whether he was in fact a homosexual. Please bear in mind that this corner here has no debate about homosexuality. They can lead their gay life and I can lead mine without interference from anyone. The point is that Senator Craig has uniformly voted against every bill that would even remotely benefit gay people. Simply put, Craig is a hypocrite in the extreme.

Now Craig has stirred up a hornet’s nest, and the newspaper from the capital city of Idaho has produced at least four or five men who have told the newspaper that they had sexual encounters with the great and glorious Senator Craig. They not only told of those encounters but they described the details, which would not make the approved reading list in the Peculiar County Seminary. In point of fact, Craig has been caught dead to rights. All of this simply goes to show that Jake, the gravedigger/philosopher, was absolutely right when he said, “Actions have consequences.” In the Craig case, those consequences might involve his departure from public life earlier than the January 2009 date that he had proposed.

There is one other thought about a man who has stirred up the newspapers and is now suffering the consequences. That of course would be Rudolph Giuliani. Mr. Giuliani, who is the reputed leader among voters for the Republican nomination for President in 2008, is in fact a sordid spectacle among New Yorkers who can remember his term in office. While he was in office, he had an affair with his so-called “public relations director,” whom he installed in a high-level position in the New York City Visitor’s Bureau. She remains there today. But beyond that, Mr. Giuliani entered into an affair with a woman who had a summer house in the Hamptons. The affair went on for quite some time and she is now his third wife.

Under the police laws of New York City, the mayor and his wife and children are entitled to round-the-clock protection by the police department. Mr. Giuliani has now stirred up the New York Daily News, a Republican paper, to the point where it is reporting on all of the events that took place during the grand affair with the current Mrs. Giuliani. Having twenty-four-hour protection by the New York City police department is not without some cost. While Mr. Giuliani was snuggling and cooing with Mrs. Nathan, his mistress, in her condo in the Hamptons, the New York City police detectives who accompanied him were collecting regular and overtime pay. According to receipts, those same cops were treating themselves to man-sized steaks and chops.

Obviously, the New York city police department became involved in substantial expenses while they were guarding Mr. Giuliani while he billed and cooed with Mrs. Nathan in the Hamptons. To cover these expenses, the costs were assigned to obscure New York City departments. For example, the Loft Commission had more than its share. The Loft Commission, I suppose, has to do with regulations concerning building lofts. Now that these expenditures have come to light, there is a scent of blood in the water. Rudy’s explanation for these expenses is thoroughly lame. He contends that the New York police department is slow in paying its bills but that the Loft Commission, for example, is quick to pay its bills. Hence he had the expenditures sent to that commission with the people who run lofts eventually trying to collect their money from the police department. Ray Kelly, the current Police Commissioner in New York, says that this is preposterous. Equally preposterous is Giuliani’s claim that it was the police department, not himself, that suggested round-the-clock protection for Mrs. Nathan shortly after this sordid affair began.

The point that is being made here is the same one with respect to Cheney and deficits and with Senator Craig and his hypocrisy. In the first place, “you don’t stir up a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” Mark Twain made those remarks in the year 1900. They are as appropriate today as they were then.

Beyond buying ink by the barrel, there are consequences. Giuliani’s poll readings have been taking a beating in the race for the Republican nomination for the presidency. When the full extent of Giuliani’s gaffs become obvious to the rest of the United States, it is my belief that he will have a difficult time in becoming the Republican nominee for the presidency.

Before this essay ends, it should be pointed out that while he was romancing Mrs. Nathan, Giuliani held a news conference during which he fired his wife. Donna Hanover heard the news and was stupefied. But in fact he shed her as his second wife and took on the twice-divorced Mrs. Nathan. Losing a wife as lovely as Donna Hanover is another consequence of his actions.

Two other thoughts come to mind here. One involves the former police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, who is now under a sixteen-count indictment from the federal government. If there is a more disreputable character in this saga, it would be Bernie Kerik. But he has endorsed Mr. Giuliani’s story of assigning expenditures to an obscure commission within the city government. Curiously, the Comptroller says it just ain’t so.

Secondly, Mr. Giuliani has earned the endorsement of Pat Robertson, the preacher who says that he regularly talks to God. At the time of the September 11 disaster, Pat Robertson announced that God permitted the destruction of the World Trade Center because New York City permitted homosexuals to live their lives without discrimination from the authorities. According to Robertson, that’s why the World Trade Center was knocked down and why the Pentagon had its damage too.
Mr. Giuliani has gladly accepted the endorsement of Pat Robertson and even went to his headquarters in Virginia to get it. Does this man’s pandering have no limit?

There you have, in the cases of Cheney, Craig, and Giuliani, three instances where consequences have mattered. For every action, there is a reaction, which is the principle that brother Newton proposed at the beginning of time. Upon closer examination, this old former soldier and essayist must conclude that all three of those clowns are indeed as full of spit as a Christmas goose.

December 3, 2007
Essay 275
Kevin’s commentary: In an essay full of awful people, I’m glad we got to be introduced to the philosodigger/graveosopher. He seems like a great dude and I would have been happy for him to take over the the job of pretty much any politician mentioned above.