Archive for the July 2006 Category


A good many of us music lovers are attracted to an art form called the spirituals. In former days, that art form was called Negro spirituals. But somehow, Negro fell into disfavor and it became awkward to call them colored spirituals, black spirituals, or Afro-American spirituals. So the compromise in the music world has now been to call them simply spirituals.

It would be very easy to remember the lyrics to this spiritual as every line is identical. The line is “Ain’t gonna study war no more.” That is the first line, as well as the second line, the third line, and the 72nd or the 94th line. When sung by a choir with a good base section, it is an entrancing piece of music. One line in this spiritual is distinguished from the others by emphasis on words. One line may emphasize “ain’t.” Another may emphasize “study,” and stretch that word over three or four notes. So while the lyrics may appear to be identical, when sung by a good choir under an artful director, each line would appear to stand by itself. It makes the performance of “Ain’t gonna study” a magnificent piece of music.

All spirituals tend to repeat the lyrics from one line to the next. In the example, “Better get a home inna’ that rock,” that phrase is repeated in three of the four lines in every verse.

While I am on the subject of “Better Get a Home Inna’ That Rock,” my fellow Missourian, Howard Davis who now lives in Manhattan, took an uncommon interest in the second and third verses. Those verses draw a distinct difference in the eternal treatment of rich men and poor men. The second verse go like this:

“Rich man died, he lived so well, don’t you see
Rich man died, he lived so well, don’t you see
Rich man died, he lived so well,
When he died he found a home in hell,
So you better get a home inna’ that rock, don’t you see.”

Contrast the rich man’s fate with that of the poor man. For the poor man, the song says,

“Poor man died, he barely got by, don’t you see,
Poor man died, he barely got by, don’t you see.
Poor man died, who barely got by,
When he died he found a home on high.
So you better get a home inna that rock, don’t you see.”

These lyrics are provided for Mr. H. L. Davis who will sing them at the upcoming Anglican Convention in London after a fortnight or two.

The art form of repeating one line after another may well derive from ancient chants, such as the Russian hymn, “Hos po dee po mil wee.” In a hymn that takes nearly four or five minutes to perform, these are the only lyrics. They are Russian in origin and are reproduced here phonetically. I believe they mean, “God be with you.” The lyrics are also delivered rapidly or slowly as a means of variation. Again, by putting the emphasis on different words in this hymn, it is a stirring piece of work.

There is one more spiritual that ought to be mentioned. It is “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”. The lyrics go like this:

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,
Nobody knows but Jesus,
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,
Gloria Halleluiah”

“Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down,
Sometimes I’m almost to the ground,
But oh yes, Lord.”

The chorus of “Nobody Knows” is repeated.

Paul Robeson, a bass-baritone, was the leading spiritual singer in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Robeson was a liberal who was grossly maligned by religious forces in the United States who attempted to call him a Communist. The fact that he was widely acclaimed in Europe during his exile only added fire to the Bible thumpers. By the time he recovered from defending himself, audiences here had lost interest and his career faded. What a shame!

Now there are some encouraging thoughts about spirituals and related hymns. My good friend Thelma Dupont, who worked with me in Ma Bell’s vineyard, tells me that some of the spirituals are sung in her Catholic Church. She mentions specifically, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord.” That is good news and I hope my friend Thelma encourages the organist to learn “Better Get a Home Inna That Rock, Don’t You See.”

Speaking of the Catholic faith, I attended a funeral for Rosemary Bannon in New City, New York, who had been murdered by her husband Lonnie Bannon. I believe I was the only non-family member attending that service in 1980. To kill a little time, the organist, who was located above us on a balcony, played “Amazing Grace.” That is a completely Protestant hymn and a nearly fell off my pew, but it was good news because that was my mother’s all time favorite hymn.

Finally, the good news will not stop. Canon Howard Davis of the Episcopal Dioceses of New York now informs me that the official Episcopal hymnal has “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.” I assume that this inclusion is in accordance with the wishes of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Queen Elizabeth of Mother England. As I say, this is unanticipated good news.

Perhaps some of you may wonder why this old essayist has such an interest in spirituals knowing that he is a copper-riveted, diamond-studded non-believer. The fact is that spirituals are a magnificent art form, and they make for very pleasant listening as well. Just because I am fond of spirituals does not mean that I have pretensions of being a supervising management angel. I just admire the art form and the music that is derived therefrom, and it would please me greatly just to sing in the choir. So I leave you with the thought that “Jordan river, muddy and cold, chills the body, but not the soul.” Chorus: “Every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.” (REPEAT THESE CHORUS LYRICS AS OFTEN AS YOU WOULD LIKE.)

July 20, 2006

Kevin’s commentary: Pop definitely knew what he liked, musically speaking. Not one of those guys who’ll tell you “oh, I listen to everything.” He had his religious music and his Irish music and a few other types that he really liked, a generally poor outlook on modern music, and that was that.


During the late 1980s and the earlier part of the 1990s, my wife Judith and I rode on mountain bikes all over northern New Jersey. Our objective was to reach at least 100 miles per week. On most weeks, we met that objective. From time to time, we would stop to rest, usually in preparation for the final leg of the trip back to our house. Maybe it was the hand of providence, or maybe it was just an old man’s legs giving out, but from time to time we stopped in front of synagogues to take our break. We noticed that synagogues often had stone slabs set in their outside walls that carried a citation from the Bible. We learned a good bit about the Bible from reading the stones with the inscriptions on the various synagogues.

One of the Bible verses cited on a synagogue proclaimed, “And the bush was not consumed.” That is from Exodus 3, verse 2. We did quite a little bit of riding around the area of Westfield, which has a large synagogue, and the inscription there contains a verse from Micah: “And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” That is from a book that Micah wrote in the Bible. It is in the sixth chapter, sixth verse. Quoting the verse from Micah is more than likely what led to the double mistaken identities.

For years, we have dealt with the Short Hills Pharmacy here. The gentleman who receives the prescriptions, delivers them, and collects the cash is named Brian. Brian is a taciturn gentleman who has not much

to say. He is pleasant enough but small talk is not his idea of a way to pass time. On occasion, Brian will begin to speak about various things in town and when he does, I tend to pay attention. Brian had told me of a new store opening on Main Street in Millburn which handled Judaica. He said that he had visited the store on his lunch hour and had borrowed several books to read and he seemed to treasure them. So, for better or for worse, I assumed that Brian was Jewish because of his interest in Judaica.

Later on, in another conversation, I mentioned the inscriptions we had read on the synagogues, including the one from Micah. Brian said, “That’s very interesting because I was reading that very verse this morning before I came to work.” Apparently Brian seems to read from the Bible before he comes to work. My limited research tells me that Micah was a minor prophet who lived 2800 years ago. Nonetheless, Micah’s advice about loving mercy, doing justly and walking humbly is good advice for these days as well.

At this point, I was proceeding on the assumption that Brian was Jewish. Somewhere during these events, I presented a card to Brian for my pharmaceutical needs which had my full name on it. My first name is, of course, a Hebrew name, Ezra. Brian asked me if that was my card, and I said it was. As Brian and I knew, Ezra was a scribe in Jerusalem many years ago, who contributed a book to the Bible. The fact that he was a scribe also suggests that he could read and write, which was a major achievement at that time. There then followed a discussion about the fact that people are naming their male children Micah and Ezra these days.

All of this obviously led Brian to assume that I was Jewish because I had Ezra as my first given name. The fact of the matter is that I did not have the guts to tell Brian that I am a gentile Irishman. So I let the matter ride, hoping for a better day when I could disclose these enormous facts.

My hesitation to disclose my background to Brian was in accordance with the cautious advice of a neighborhood resident philosophical consultant, Mrs. Frances Licht. As it turns out, my true religious affiliation was disclosed not by me, but by my wife.

So here we were, with each of us thinking the other was Jewish. On at least two occasions, I congratulated Brian during the High Holy Days and wished him a happy Hanukah. Brian did not use those occasions to tell me that he was not Jewish but rather Brian accepted my congratulations and wished me well. So you see, no one or everyone was at fault in this failure to communicate.

I am not sure exactly how this has worked out but after I lost my sight, my wife Judith has more or less attended to the drugstore and she seems to make Brian forget his taciturnity and speak in greater volumes. Recently, Brian stated to my wife that he was not Jewish at all. My wife stated to Brian that I was not Jewish either. I have no idea what all this means except that it was the verse of a minor prophet who wrote some words that are inscribed on a stone slab on a Westfield synagogue. When I recently visited the drugstore after an absence of several months, Brian and I shook hands. He greeted me warmly, so I suggest that we continue on good terms, even though we are just two ordinary gentiles.

Nonetheless, it was our reading that brought us together and I am pleased to call Brian my friend even though he is just a fellow gentile. He may even be an Irish gentile, but I have not had the courage to ask him about his surname. Again, following the advice of the neighborhood resident philosopher, I believe at this point, it would be wise to let matters rest right where they are.

July 18, 2006

Kevin’s commentary: A refreshing twist on the normal stories about the atheists who are waging a “war on Christmas” which I’m sure we’ll be hearing about again in a few months. I like the idea that Pop and this guy went around wishing each other a happy Hanukah, not because that made sense to either of them, but rather because they though it made sense to the other party.


Among the news items that were offered today on July 13, 2006, was the auction of the plays of William Shakespeare. Apparently Mr. Shakespeare had thirty five plays that were included in a volume called “The Folio.” It was auctioned today and the winning bidder was a gentleman who offered five million dollars for the entire collection.

Now let us turn to my portfolio of essays. In this case, there are more than 200 essays in their original wrappings in the bookcase to my right. They may not be worth five million dollars but I am open to offers of something less than that amount. All of this really is a setup for saying how these essays came to be written and distributed.

The process of producing an essay starts with an idea. I do not know why this is true, but a large proportion of my inspirations occur while I am in my bathroom. A while back, for example, I produced a series of essays that were entitled “Thoughts While Shaving.” Incidentally, now that I am non-sighted, I am saving a fortune by not turning on the lights when I enter the bathroom to shave. It makes no difference to me whether the lights are on or off, or whether the sun is shining or not shining. I use an electric razor which involves no great effort to shave the face. The man I admire, however, was my father who used a straight razor even during his thirteen or fourteen years of blindness. It is amazing that he did not slice off his nose or his ears.

Ideas for essays also come to me while I shower. For years, when I was sighted, I kept a Staples notepad in the top drawer of the cabinet in my bathroom where I would jot down these ideas. Many of the ideas came to me at night and seemed of great importance when I wrote them down. However, the next morning when I read them, they made much less sense or no sense at all. But in any case, for better or for worse, the bulk or the preponderance seem to originate in the bathroom.

In former days, I would sit down at a table or a desk and I would write out the essays in longhand. This process allowed me to correct my mistakes or to make additions as I went along. Ordinarily I would make those additions in red pencil so that my wife Judy, who typed the essays, could see the changes. But non-sightedness brought a new dimension to this essay-writing process.

The New Jersey Commission for the Blind brought me a dictating machine which I am delighted to have. It produces cassette tapes. Prior to the cassette tape machine, I used several handheld cassette machines that were not particularly satisfactory. All things considered, the use of this sturdy old fashioned desk model Panasonic tape recorder is an improvement. It is several cuts above the Dictaphone wax cylinder used by Rolland Crow which was discussed in a recent essay.

Now getting the ideas on to the tape is not an easy process. In all of the essays that I have written through dictation, I only had one where a second recorder was used for the purpose of reminding me of notes that I needed to include. It finally struck me that the use of the second recorder was more trouble than it was worth. And so now, I try to put my thoughts together and dictate them in a coherent fashion without the use of notes. One of the drawbacks about this form of dictation is that often I will have an idea where the main punch line will not occur until the fourth or fifth paragraph. By the time I reach that point in the essay, I may have forgotten what I intended to say. I used to worry about forgetting those thoughts but now I have a little bit more confidence with the thought that the forgotten words will sooner or later return to my brain, at which time I will continue to do my dictation.

There is one factor that may be helping me now. During the time when I could see, I was near-sighted. This meant that I never ever read a speech. I would prepare the speech and reduce it to notes that were largely stored in my head. If I ran into trouble, I might reach in my pocket and pull out my notes. But in all of the hundreds of speeches that I made while I worked for the union and for the Bell System, I never ever read a speech. Reading a speech is an absolute turnoff. When the audience notices that the speaker is reading from a speech, they turn their attention to crossword puzzles and letters that they intend to write when they are free of the meeting. Sometimes they read newspapers. In my own case, I always thought to myself, “why don’t you give me the speech; I will read it when I have a chance, and we will save all of this wasted time.” On the other hand, when an audience sees that you are speaking a cappella, without a script or elaborate notes, they instantly pay attention. Perhaps it is to see whether you make a mistake or not, but more than likely it is to listen to your thoughts.

In all of my speech-making, rule number one was to prepare thoroughly and to see if my thoughts could withstand challenges. Perhaps that trait has served me well in going from the handwritten word to the dictated word.

When the essay is dictated in draft form, my wife Judy takes the cassettes to a lovely lady, Mrs. Eva Baker, in New Providence, New Jersey, a town eight miles to the west. Mrs. Baker transcribes the script and transmits it back to us using e-mail. When time permits, Judy reads the script to me from the computer screen and we do the best we can to polish it and to correct errors.

Please believe me when I tell you that polishing the script and correcting the errors is very hard work. Obviously everything must be done in my head. It is difficult to imagine what the script will look like after it has been polished and corrected. While I could still see, I could easily review each line and each paragraph. But in the current situation, I am unable to do that. So everything must be done completely in my head. I am becoming a little bit more comfortable in this format, but I must tell you that when I am finishing with a session of polishing and correction, the sweat from my armpits goes down to my hands. As I say, it is hard work.

Once the script has been polished and corrected, Judy runs the appropriate number of copies, staples them, puts them in envelopes, and delivers them to the Short Hills Post Office. With a little bit of luck, they soon appear in your mailbox.

As I continue to use the dictating machine, its virtues become apparent. In some respects, it may even be better than having the former written material. But all things being equal, I would prefer to have the old method of writing the script in longhand, correcting it in red pencil, and having the chance to review it four or five times before giving it to Judy for typing. For reasons unknown to both Judy and myself, we have never numbered the essays. Judging by the size of the binders, I assume that there are more than 200 of them. They are copyrighted material, which when turned over to an auctioneer should bring a minimum bid of two and a half million dollars. Many of the receivers of the essays are former employees of AT&T and I believe that they all must have two and a half million dollars to devote to the Carr Portfolio. But who knows? I may find a wealthy stockbroker or a real estate agent who would willing to offer a bid in excess of $2.5 million. In any case, I hope that you enjoy reading them.

Now a final thought. Mike Scaniello remodeled the bathrooms here a few years ago. In view of the thought that essay ideas come to me while I shave and shower, I have asked Mike to produce plans for doubling the size of my bathroom. I believe that a bathroom twice as large as the one currently being used would produce twice as many giant sized ideas for essays. It all seems logical to me. So Mr. Scaniello, please do your thing.

July 13, 2006
Essay 204
Kevin’s commentary: And here I am, giving them all away for free. A few things stand out to me from this one. First, I really enjoyed the idea that speeches were prepared and given “to see if my thoughts could withstand challenges.” So often a person speaking is convinced that he is absolutely correct — after all, he’s so good at his thing that he’s been asked to speak about it! The ideas of being welcome to challenges and the subsequent implication that Pop might actually change his mind about something if enough evidence is offered to the contrary are both rare qualities in a person.

This essay also gives a needed window into exactly how much effort has gone into each of these. I’ve published 515 essays. Conservatively, if each essay takes 90 minutes to think about and prepare, half an hour to finalize and deliver, and 90 minutes to revise, then I have processed 1,750 hours worth of effort in the course of publishing these essays. Conversely I’ve probably only spent about 200 hours publishing them. On my end an essay usually takes between 15 and 35 minutes to read, comment on, categorize and publish. If the essay supplies music to listen to or a question to research it may take more than that, and essays in the short category sometimes take less, of course.

In any event I hope that Pop considers himself to be a rather prolific writer and I hope he is proud of the fact that the quality of his essays did not decrease with age, blindness, or any number of things that might be expected to produce a drop in value. Clearly a lot of effort was exerted to bring these essays into existence and I’m thankful for it.


My essay writing these days has now reached somewhere in excess of two hundred. In perhaps four or five of those essays, I have commented about women. That is not a surprising development in view of the fact that my mother was a woman, my wife is a woman, my daughters are women, my sisters were women as well as my aunts and my nieces. During a long career with AT&T, I was associated with thousands of traffic operators in St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. Throughout my career as a working person, women, including my secretaries, have been there to help me. Whatever success I may have achieved is attributable largely to women.

You may recall an essay I wrote some time back which started with the first verse of “The Waggoneer’s Lad.” The verse goes:

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

My problem has to do with the final line in that first verse. There may be husbands who demand that their wives be slaves, but in the final analysis, it appears to me that there are simply not enough husbands to go around. If we were speaking about the era of World War II, it would be easier to understand in that more than 400,000 men lost their lives in that war. These would have been 400,000 potential husbands and fathers. But in the ensuing years of perhaps five or six decades, there seem to be women of all kinds who are not finding the husbands to wed. I am not in the matrimonial business but I mourn for the thought that there are so many loving women who would like to be wed and are unable to find a willing and acceptable suitor.

Perhaps it is like “The Waggoneer’s Lad” says in the first line, that hard luck is the fortune of all womankind. That is not the way it should be. Everybody should have a chance at happiness and I deeply regret that so many women are denied that opportunity. If that makes me a bleeding heart liberal, so be it.

So you see that as time goes forward, my sentiments are entirely in favor of womankind, which is not only wise but equitable as well. In time, it is my hope that we can do something about the unfairness toward women suggested by “The Waggoner’s Lad.” If we can bring democracy to the Middle East, we surely ought to be able to provide a level playing field for the women of this county.

July 23, 2006
Essay 202
Kevin’s commentary: I don’t think it makes him a bleeding heart liberal, it just makes him a feminist. That’s a good thing. Absolutely nothing in this essay is unreasonable. That said, things are consistently moving in the right direction lately.


The title of this piece is not intended to annoy or provoke a negative response from the American medical profession. Quite to the contrary. These pieces, having to do with medical conditions, are offered in the hope that they may add to the knowledge of what is known about the body. In effect, these essays deal with the effects of conditions as they relate to a patient. The researchers have had much to say, as have had the pundits in academia. The pharmaceutical industry has not been reluctant to offer its thoughts. Doctors from time to time have also contributed to the body of knowledge having to do with medical practice. What is missing here is a response by the patient. Somehow, the patient seems to have been overlooked in this debate. So these essays go to the point of trying to explain the effects of the conditions that are associated with strokes, seizures, and blindness.

I have no academic credentials that would enable me to explain the causes of these reactions. I can only relate to the effects of what has taken place in my own case. It is my hope that this information will add to the body of knowledge about these three conditions. They are written in a conversational style which I suspect some of you may welcome as a departure from the highly technical clinical studies that are offered to physicians. The longest word in these essays has to do with a medical procedure called a trabeculectomy. But that word is a commonplace among ophthalmologists.

The story should start probably in 1987 when I had a coronary artery bypass graft performed by Dr. Eric Rose at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. There were no aftereffects from that operation. In 1992, there was a transient ischemic attack (TIA) that left my left arm limp for about 36 hours. That started my regimen of taking cumadin at a level of around five milligrams per day.

At the end of 1997, it was determined that I needed an aortic valve replacement. The surgeon recommended that I discontinue the use of cumadin in preparation for that operation. He suggested, “Lay off for five days.” However, on the fourth or fifth day I had a stroke. Fortunately the stroke did not affect my limbs but it did leave me with a substantial case of aphasia.

In the ensuing years there were three or three and a half seizures, with the last one occurring in May of 2004. As you will note if you read these earlier essays, the effects of the stroke and of the seizures were to wipe out significant pieces from my memory.

After the stroke of 1997, I became a patient at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation here in northern New Jersey. As a means of exercising my brain, Shirley Morgenstein, the Director, suggested that I should write essays. Some 200 essays or more have now been written on various subjects and the collection here comes from the output of these adventures into prose.

Going down the line, there are four essays having to do with blindness. For better or for worse, my family has been afflicted with glaucoma, which resulted in blindness to my father and to my elder brother and now to me. In the first essay called “Fading to Gray,” written about 18 months before blindness finally occurred, you will note the inevitability that blindness posed in my case. The ensuing essays were called “Sing No Sad Songs for This Old Geezer,” which was intended to announce the fact that I was now blind to my friends and associates. At the six-month mark of my blindness, there was an essay called “Are You Going to Believe Me or Your Lying Eyes?” That of course is a remark by the famed comedian Groucho Marx. As I completed the first full year of blindness, I dictated the essay called “It’s Only the First Inning.”

Again, I hold no brief for explaining what causes strokes or seizures or blindness. These essays are offered simply to reflect the views of a patient. It is my hope, obviously, that they may offer in some way a contribution to the body of knowledge about these three conditions.

And so, I have answered my own question, that is the title of this piece. I have asked the patient and these six essays represent his response.

Finally, I wish to state that my medical problems have been well taken care of by caring physicians. First there was Eric Rose, whose CABG operation is now approaching the completion of its nineteenth year. That may be a record for CABG operations and I am grateful. Then there are the ophthalmologists such as Eric Gurwin of the Summit Medical Group and Jay Katz of the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. I have great respect for both of these men. Then there is Andrew Beamer, a cardiologist who is not only a fine and decent fellow but a good friend. Many others in the Summit Medical Group have kept me alive and kicking as I enter my 85th year. And at last, there is Richard Robbins, an ophthalmologist who was prosecuted for fondling seven women. He made two mistakes: he fondled a lady cop and he contended after this broke in the papers that in touching the woman’s chest he was searching for signs of future eye problems. Even I know that signs of future eye problems are found on the scalp not on the chest. I offered to testify at Robbins’ trial but was turned down by his attorney. In any case, the point is that I have great respect for the medical community and for the work it does. I suspect I would not be here if it were not for that.

July 26, 2006
Essay 205
Kevin’s commentary: The following essays to be posted to this site will be the ones referenced in this essay. I know “Sing no sad songs for this old geezer” well; it is an Ezra’s Essays classic. I do not believe I have read “It’s Only the First Inning,” among some of the others mentioned, so I look forward to those.

I’m reminded of a quote here, by a man named Charles Bukowski. He titled his book “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” Pop has seen a hell of a lot, so to speak, of fire. Blindness in one’s old age, strokes, seizures, aphasia — not easy things to brush off. But he hasn’t really complained, just as his father didn’t complain.