Archive for the Local/New Jersey 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.


About four miles south of this house is a major highway. It is called Highway 22. If one were to leave this house and turn left upon reaching Highway 22, it would eventually lead to the Holland Tunnel and New York City. If, on the other hand, the driver were to elect to make a right turn, he would find himself eventually in Pennsylvania and Ohio and environs further west. In recent years, a new highway has been constructed that leads to the Holland Tunnel which was supposed to relieve the high-density traffic on Highway 22. That to a large extent has been accomplished, but Highway 22 still carries a major amount of traffic and it proceeds at high speeds.

On each side of Highway 22, there are small business establishments, set back about 50 feet from the highway. Generally speaking, those business establishments have graveled driveways on which parked cars may be placed. As a general proposition, I believe it is fair to conclude that these are the places for mid-to-low-level retail commercial establishments. Along Highway 22 you will find none of the high class stores that are on Fifth Avenue or Park Avenue in New York City. Because of the speed of passing automobiles, when one wishes to enter Highway 22 from one of these business establishments, it is a matter of proceeding to 50 or 60 miles an hour in a very short period of time. Because of the graveled driveways, this results in gravel being strewn behind the departing cars.

The business establishments along Highway 22 on this stretch of New York City suburbs are not of an elite character. There are pawn shops, stores that deal in pornography, discount tire manufacturers, and stores of a similar nature. About the only saving grace is that Highway 22 is the home of one car dealership selling BMW cars. That dealership is the jewel of the Highway 22 business empire.

Now you realize that for better or worse, my eyesight is completely and irretrievably gone. Nonetheless, if I were to conclude – as I probably never will – that I needed a fire arm to protect myself and my loved ones, I would head for the business establishments along Highway 22 because that is where I am sure there are dealers who will sell guns and ammunition. Upon reaching the parking lot of such a dealer in guns and ammunition, my wife would park the car and I would alight wearing my sunglasses and using my sturdy white cane. The sunglasses and the white cane are used to announce to the world that there is a blind man in their midst. I do not do this as a means of seeking pity. Of course not. I do it as a courtesy to people who can see, so that they will know that there is a non-sighted person in their midst. If I wanted pity, I would not go to a gun dealership on Highway 22 to find it.

Once the car is parked, my wife would come to the right side and I would extend the walking cane into the walking position. We would then enter the place that sold ammunition and guns. When we reached the inside of the gun dealership, we would attempt to find a clerk to help us.

Now as a general proposition, very often the clerks ignore me and speak to my wife as though I did not exist. The clerk, seeing the sunglasses and the white cane, might very well say to my wife, “Is this man mentally sane?”

Inevitably my wife would say to the man, “Talk to him. He can talk.” And so it would be that the clerk would ask me if I had ever been committed to a mental institution. I would tell him that of course that had not been part of my background. I would assure the clerk that I am not insane and that insanity is not a characteristic of the Carr family.

Then I would ask the clerk for a Glock automatic handgun and an extended ammunition clip of bullets to go with it. If I understand correctly, the Glock has ten bullets in the chamber plus one in the firing position. But the extended ammunition clip provides 20 or 30 more bullets to shoot. Now that we have established that I am not a recent graduate of a mental institution, the clerk and I might make a bit of small talk. He might ask me what use I intend to make of the Glock handgun. I would tell him that I intended to protect my wife and myself and more often than not would shoot at cans in the back yard for target practice. Now mind you, if I understand the law correctly, and I believe I do, that is the only question the gun dealership clerks can ask before selling a weapon and ammunition to customers. Whether the clerk believes that I can hit a can for target shooting is beside the point. I contend that I am not insane and the clerk is obliged to sell the gun as well as the extended ammunition clip to me.

That is the state of the record in every state in this great and glorious union. In the state of Virginia, which is not far from here, I conclude that people who sell guns with ammunition are not even obliged to ask the questions about insanity.

Obviously what precedes the subject of this essay is the ease with which Americans are able to buy guns. Some of those Americans are mentally incompetent. But that is not the concern of people who make ammunition and guns. Their intent is to sell as many guns as possible, even to the drug cartels in Mexico, because it looks a lot better on their bottom line.

As you are aware, last Saturday, January 8, there was a shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed and a number of others were gravely wounded. Among those killed was a nine-year-old girl named Christina Taylor Green as well as a federal judge. Among those wounded was an Arizona Congresswoman named Gabrielle Giffords. But this mentally unbalanced gunman was shooting without rhyme or reason and if he hit a nine-year-old girl or a 70-year-old jurist, so be it.

On Wednesday, January 12, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, went to Tucson to participate in a memorial service for those who were slain and those who were injured. Mr. Obama made a speech that was well received by observers covering the entire political spectrum. I listened to that speech and came away wondering why Obama did not mention the thought that an insane man or a mentally imbalanced person could buy a gun with an extended ammunition clip. As I have said, his speech was well received by all factions in the political spectrum but not so much by this old soldier.

The obvious fact is that a gunman used a Glock semi-automatic weapon to shoot his victims. But there was not a single mention of taking those guns away from the mentally incompetent, even from cowboys who love to “pack heat.” There is a very good reason why Obama left this out of his speech. He knows, as do most all other politicians, that to criticize gun ownership is to criticize the National Rifle Association. If such criticism occurs, the NRA strikes back and uses its enormous resources to defeat any such politician who has the intent to step out of line. Let me state this a little more clearly. The NRA is, in my estimation, a sinister force. According to the NRA, citizens may carry fire arms concealed or in the open. If the NRA had its way, every citizen of this country and perhaps the non-citizens as well would be armed. Any move by a politician to impose sensible limits on the use of guns arouses antagonism from the NRA. They will convert that antagonism into votes at the next election. To criticize the NRA is to jeopardize the source of your income.

Look at it this way. The past few years that the gun restrictions have been largely removed from legislation, there have been dozens of incidents in which people who are unbalanced mentally or who have a political agenda such as those who advocate jihadist thoughts, have committed mass killings. Here is a very very partial list.

You may remember Major Akbar at Fort Wood, Texas in 2005 who was blamed for the deaths of 13 killed and 31 wounded. In 2005 at a church service in Field, Wisconsin seven people were killed by a gunman. In Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania on October 2, 2006 a truck driver killed five school girls execution style in an Amish community. There were also six wounded in that attack. In Blacksburg, Virginia in April 2007 at Virginia Tech, there was a gunman who shot 47 people, killing 32. In Omaha, Nebraska in December 2007, there was a gunman who killed nine people and injured five during an attack at a shopping center in the mall.

This is only a tiny slice of the killings that have taken place in this country in recent years. Yet no politician known to me is willing to take on the NRA. This is left to a widow from Long Island named Carolyn McCarthy. Her husband was killed on the Long Island Railroad and her son was gravely wounded by an attack about ten years ago. Mrs. McCarthy has now become a Representative in Congress and has a bill that would make some very minor improvements in restricting the sale of extended ammunition clips. Peter King, a Representative also from Long Island, has proposed a bill barring the use of firearms within 1,000 feet of a federal official. As of this writing, the NRA had no comment. But when there is an election to be held, you may be sure that the NRA uses political muscle to defeat any politician who opposes its agenda.

And so it is that I mourn for the victims of the shootings in Tucson. But I must conclude that that is only the latest tragedy that we must deal with. We look at the killings in the United States and wonder what has happened to this democracy. And I too wonder. As a former soldier, I know a little bit about guns. I never owned one before I joined the army and I have never owned a firearm of any sort since leaving the army 65 years ago. There are those such as former Vice President Cheney and the Supreme Court Justice Scalia who consider it sport to murder an innocent bird. In this category, I have always been guided by the admonition of my father. When I was five or six years old, he told me that he would never kill a bird because “He loves his life as much as you love yours.”

Ah, but it will keep happening until a politician has the spine to oppose the NRA. Unfortunately the memorial speech at Tucson the other night by the President of the United States made no mention of the gun that killed Christina Taylor Green. We all knew that it was a gun that killed her but that was not mentioned in the tributes to the dead and injured. And so I conclude with four lines from the Australian composer Eric Bogel who wrote the anti-war song known as “The Green Fields of France.” It is also known as “No Man’s Land” and more popularly is called “Private Willie McBride.” Unfortunately these four lines summarize my view at this time.

Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

I suppose that I could play the recording of the song about Willie McBride to the fellow who wants to sell me a gun down on Highway 22. But I suspect that all he wants to do is ring up a sale in his cash register and not worry about what a blind person is going to do with the Glock semi-automatic that he sold me. And that, my friends, is the state of the record in this gorgeous country. Until we deal with the NRA, we will continue to find that the killings will go on, “Again and again, and again and again.”

January 15, 2011


Yeah, pretty much. I could date this essay as 2017 and freshen up the list of recent horrific shootings and nobody would be the wiser. Nothing meaningful has changed. Other first world countries do not struggle nearly so much with this.


Beady-eyed accountants may emerge from their grimy offices from time to time and lift their green eye-shades to contend that the Chicka-Carr combine has only five grandchildren. To that contention, I say “Bal-der-dash” and “Bah Humbug,” which are terms used with great effectiveness by John Major, the British prime minister who tucked his undershirt and his dress shirt into his boxer shorts. Actually by my count, there are nine such grandchildren. Because I have been elected to the Arithmetic Hall of Fame, there can be no dispute about the number of grandchildren. There are nine. And that is all there is to say about that.

The prevailing winds in this country start in the east and proceed toward the west. The same may be said about the sun’s progress as well. In the east, there are two grandchildren named Andrew and William Nollmann. The Nollmann boys understand all there is to know about sports. When I wish to know about Pete Reiser’s batting average with the Dodgers in 1948, both of them can reel that number right off the top of their heads. I believe that Pete hit .340 in that year. The Nollmann boys are preparing to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame after they finish college and start their careers in a Class C Baseball League.

In Texas there are three more grandchildren. Interestingly, those three grandchildren do not care a fig about sports or the results. The phrase “caring a fig” comes from another British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who uttered that expression on her wedding night to Dennis Thatcher, her British husband.

In that Texas family, there is Connor, who is a Dartmouth graduate and is now studying in Yokohama, Japan, to perfect his understanding of the Japanese language. His younger brother, Kevin, will soon be the high school debating champion for all of the great state of Texas. As everyone knows, Texas extends from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean in its east-to-west dimensions and from the Antarctic in the north to Peru in the south. And then there is a ten-year-old, Jack, who is my special and loving friend. When he was last here, his parents said that Jack and I were united by disability. Jack has a mild case of Down’s Syndrome and, as you know, my disability is that my visual acuity is zero. Jack Shepherd is an inspiration to all of us. That inspiration has been captured by his seventeen year old brother Kevin.

Colleges ask the applicant to “Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.” Kevin, without hesitation named his ten year old brother as that person. Kevin’s response about his brother is attached. From the viewpoint of his grandparents, we believe that it is a most moving tribute to his younger brother. And we contend that it is a professional piece of writing.

Now to move on, there are also Esteban and Fabian Hidalgo, who are the children of a Costa Rican couple. Jenny, the mother, helps Judy with housework and recently she has been introduced by Judy to office work such as filing and making sure that our accounts are entered properly in the book that we keep for that purpose. In my book and in the book of others, it is indisputable that the Costa Ricans are the hardest working people known to man. The Hidalgo boys are the children who won medals for their excellent play in a soccer tournament. Rather than keeping those medals for themselves, they presented them to me because I am their “Grandpa in America.” The Hidalgo boys now have a new

sister, Melissa, who is also included in this count. She is a beautiful 18 month old charmer.

The ninth grandchild in this story is Daniel Commodore who comes from Accra, Ghana. The last 14 months of my overseas tour with the American Army were spent at a major British base located just outside of Accra. Daniel’s father was a fisherman and his sister now runs a fish store in the city of Accra. Daniel can take a 500-pound seagoing creature and have it filleted and skinned in perhaps 20 minutes. When Daniel tells you that the fish is fresh, you can take it to the bank. If he says nothing, please avoid it. Daniel also says from time to time that when I approach his work station at the Whole Foods Market in Millburn, he often thinks of his own father, who is now deceased. I am deeply honored and flattered.

So there you have nine grandchildren by any count known to man. Even Donald Rumsfeld, who loves to use the word “metrics” for measurement, would agree that their number is nine. No more, no less.

The fact is that I am a very lucky person in that I have all these grandchildren and that we are on excellent terms with each other. I am delighted to see them explore the world as they grow a little older. Connor is in Yokahama, Japan, and the boys in New York may soon launch their Hall of Fame careers as baseball players after they finish college. I would not want to get into an argument with Kevin Shepherd, the champion debater in the great state of Texas, because he might eat me alive. The Hidalgo boys are fanatics on football, which in American terms is soccer. Already Esteban has told me about the next World Cup which will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, a place I know a little bit about. And then there is Daniel Commodore who is also a soccer fan. In the last World Cup, Costa Rica and Ghana advanced much further than had been predicted. If, in the next World Cup, Costa Rica meets Ghana, I suspect that I had better get out of town until the dust settles. And Melissa Hidalgo, at 18 months, is a beauty to behold.

Now the next thought has to do with old Jack Shepherd, whose real name is John Eamonn. His middle name, of course, is Irish, and is probably taken from Eamon de Valera, the first President of the Republic of Ireland. If this were a boxing match, I would say that Jack Shepherd is battling Down’s Syndrome and is winning by several points in each round. He is being mainstreamed in his school work and seems to be well liked by the other children.

When Jack was last here in New Jersey, I was feeling unwell. That unwellness lasted for the full summer of 2007. But old Jack stood near my seat and held my hands. I told Jack Shepherd that his holding my hands made me feel better. In the months since his departure to return to Texas, I continue to feel that way to this day. Jack has a long way to go and is carrying a bit of a burden. But in the end, Jack will succeed because he is everything a good decent guy should be.

There are two final thoughts that apply here. Grandparents should always pay attention to their grandchildren, because they will learn from them. And finally, and most importantly, every grandfather must see to it that his grandchildren are made to feel important. If you observe these two maxims, you are well on your way to being a proper grandfather.

By this time, I hope the green-eye-shaded accountants will now disappear into their grimy offices and remain silent. There are nine grandchildren and they are all my good friends. My metrics say that I am a very lucky man.

December 14, 2007


Following is Kevin Shepherd’s essay:
Countless people have influenced my character, but in the end my little brother has changed me the most, without ever intending to. He’s ten years old, and has Down syndrome, which causes mental retardation and low muscle tone throughout his body. As such, my relationship with him has always been far from traditional — I am of course his friend and role model, but I’m also often called upon to serve as Jack’s therapist, tutor, and occasionally even his translator. This relationship has changed me in more dimensions than I ever expected, radically altering everything from my sense of patience to the extracurricular activities in which I participate, from personal pride to an entirely new outlook on life’s challenges.

To help Jack develop normally, a veritable stream of therapists has been pouring into and out of my home for as long as I can remember. They leave daily assignments and activities for him. As nearly all of these require assistance and coaching in some form, the whole family is active in his various exercises. I’ve never been an exception; from the encouraging nine-year-old enticing his brother to crawl to him, to the seventeen-year-old promising rewards in return for Jack’s cooperation with teachers and parents, my continuous active involvement has helped shape his development.

Our relationship, however, is by no means one-sided. Even as I sit there every day, persuading him to continue blowing on various whistles to improve his oral motor skills, he teaches me the true value of patience and dedication to long-term goals. The muscles in his mouth facilitate his speech. If he can’t speak clearly, he won’t be understood; if he can’t be understood, he may well give up in frustration on speech as a form of communication. Thus, in some part, his very ability to communicate with his peers depends on me sitting down with him each day, and convincing him again and again to continue blowing his whistles. Not surprisingly, it then brings me tremendous pride to see his speech becoming sharper and clearer, and to know I’ve contributed to such a critically important part of his development as a person. As we work, Jack also teaches me about perseverance. Just a few months ago, I came across him sitting in the hall, trying over and over again to pronounce the “r” in “ear.” His small mouth and muscle tone make this nearly impossible. The whistles we blow help, of course, but can only do so much … watching him continually struggle against and overcome barriers that are literally encoded into his genes has taught me a new definition of determination, and a new understanding of adversity. Realizing that something as simple as blowing whistles can have a positive impact on someone else’s life heavily influenced my decision to join the “Garden of Friends” club at my high school. It’s a student-run outreach club for the school’s kids with disabilities; we see movies together, go bowling, have holiday parties, etc. I discovered a few meetings into my membership that I was the only “typical” boy who regularly attended, but it didn’t matter-in fact, it made it even more imperative that I stay in.

Jack affects far more than my sense of pride and the clubs that I join, and more than a new appreciation for perseverance. He’s given me the courage to not let slurs pass unchallenged. When others use the word ‘retarded’ pejoratively, I have no reservations about correcting them. From my friends to their parents, from my English teachers to my debate judges, when I hear that word, I let people know that I have a brother with Down syndrome, and that ‘retarded’ is not a suitable synonym for ‘bad.’ I’ve almost certainly lost debate rounds because I’ve challenged the judge on this beforehand, but those mild repercussions were more than outweighed when once, I encountered one of the offending judges in mid-conversation. He said, “that case was so … “, glanced at me, “… terrible”, he concluded, smiling. I had acted differently because of my experiences with my brother, and that judge had learned something from me. And from Jack. That’s the most I can ask for.

Kevin Shepherd, Dec 2007



I can’t believe I’m about to publish my college admissions essay on the internet. I’ve saved this essay for one of the very last to be published on this site for that exact reason. I guess I could skip it, but that feels like the sort of editorializing of Pop’s content that I’ve completely avoided since 2014, so I may as well see this through.

I don’t like it because to me it comes across as aggressively trite. I think I might have a particularly bad taste in my mouth about this essay because even ten years later I still remember obsessing over every sentence with mom over dozens of iterations, and I was never completely happy with the result. The output was this weird hybrid that sounded good to admissions people, I guess, but didn’t sound like anything that I (or mom, for that matter) would write normally.

What’s with that ellipsis in the middle of third paragraph? Who does that aside from tweens who think it’s an acceptable substitute for a semicolon? Why, come to think of it, are there three semicolons in 700 words? Why are a full 315 of those words stuck together in a mega-paragraph?

It was genuine, and I meant what I said in the essay, but reading it now it just feels exploitative. Like, “my brother has a disability and worked hard to compensate for that so let me into college please because ‘I learned about adversity’ from this experience.” I didn’t — and still don’t — understand adversity from a personal level. Even here, I describe witnessing adversity because that’s the closest I could get. That “perspective” on adversity itself wasn’t something that I consider an especially valuable school like Northwestern. I’m willing to immediately reprimand anyone who calls things “retarded,” sure, but “I guess this kid isn’t spineless” doesn’t seem like enough of a selling point to convince anyone to let me into their university.

I think the only redeeming thing here is that I did actually join up with Special Olympics once I was a student at Northwestern, and that turned out to be incredibly rewarding. It also felt like adding some sort of value to a community, instead of just performing duties incumbent on a brother, which I liked.

Anyway. I enjoyed Pop’s essay, and learning about two of my additional co-grandkids.

I hope to cross paths with Daniel Commodore sometime. Maybe he’ll google himself, wind up here, and say hello.


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.


Those of us who write essays recognize that when an essay demands to be written, it will be done. You may remember a recent essay called, “A Matter of Dignity.” In that essay, it recounted the story about how Matthew Pepe, my old friend who installs driveways and sidewalks, saw the problem of my taking the garbage containers to the street. On previous occasions, I had overshot and wound up in the street. On another occasion I found myself in front of a neighbor’s house. So that I could stay on course, Matthew installed two deflectors against the Belgian blocks which would return a different sound to my ears when tapped by my white cane. It is now a month or so since the two deflectors were installed, and I am happy to report that they are doing their job admirably.

There is another aspect to the story about Matthew Pepe. In the essay, “A Matter of Dignity,” I referred to Matthew’s immediate understanding of my dilemma of getting the garbage containers to the street. His understanding brought tears “to my useless eyes.” When the essay was finished, I composed this small letter to transmit it to Professor Pepe. Here is what my letter said:

After mailing the letter and essay, I more or less forgot about it because I knew that Matthew was hard at work pouring asphalt and concrete before the cold weather set in. Nonetheless, Matthew took the time to write me this poignant reply:

So you see, Matthew said that he had tears in his eyes as he read the essay. I am here to tell the world that no essayist gets better praise than that.

As I hope you can see, the Pepe family and that organization have my highest respect. They are good workman and they are friends. What more could anyone ask?

So this essay wrote itself. I merely arranged the sequence of letters. When an essay demands to write itself, it is best for the essayist to get out of the way. Which is what I am about to do.

November 25, 2006


Daww. Just another thing that made the Thanksgiving season of 2006 even better.


Those of us who have lost our sight frequently wrestle with the thought of our potential uselessness. It has always been so. In the Irish folksong, “Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye,” an Irish soldier who served with the British Army returns from a battle in Ceylon minus two limbs. The song’s lyrics say, “You haven’t a arm, you haven’t a leg, you’ll have to be put with a bowl to beg.” While Johnny retained his sight, I’m sure that his sense of uselessness dominated his thoughts. And so it is with those of us who have lost our sight.

Simply put, those of us who are blind are incapable of doing many of the things that we have done all of our lives. If we try to help around the kitchen for example, it is quite likely that we will cause more problems than if we sat on a chair and remained silent. The other day, for example, when I intended to deal with the electric stove top, the results were two burned fingers. And the dish in question never got stirred.

If I elect to help set the table, it seems to me that the glasses are always a gross impediment. Sometimes I knock them over. Retrieving plates for the next meal helps very little. I tend to knock over other dishes as I try to extract the plates. The point is that uselessness is always a consideration for the visually impaired.

Around the kitchen, I fold the paper bags the grocery store gives us so that they may be placed in a rack on the back of the kitchen door. I am able, with a high degree of fumbling, to fill the glasses with ice on most occasions. Leaving the kitchen, I am able to help my wife by going to the front porch and retrieving the newspaper. In that same spirit, there comes the matter of taking out the garbage from the garage to the street.

Taking out the garbage involves a total of four trips to the street. There is a trip the night before the garbage is collected and then there is the matter of retrieving the empty container the next day. This happens twice a week. Every other week, there is also a need to take out and retrieve a second container which holds the cans and bottles for recycling.

The driveway here from the back of the garage to the street is at least 90 feet long with Belgian blocks defining its edges. I find that I can make my way from one end of the driveway to the other by using my white cane to tap on the blocks. It is remarkable to me how easy it is to stray in a direction that I had never intended. Completely blind persons such as myself have no sense of direction. I have no idea whether I am walking east or west or north or south. It is for this reason that blind people tend to stick to walls that help guide them. In this case, I use my white cane to tap on the Belgian blocks to keep me on course for my eventual destination at the street.

A lot can go wrong in the 90 feet of driveway. On two occasions, I overshot the driveway and wound up well into the street. On another occasion I became turned around and wound up in front of the neighbors house going down the street. Unfortunately, the street is also lined by Belgian blocks. Remember, I told you that I have no sense of direction.

My solution to avoid wandering into the street was to install a metal device alongside the Belgian blocks that would return a different sound to my ears as I approach the street. For blind people, ears and hearing are extremely important. When the thought of installing metal devices in front of the ordinary Belgian blocks first occurred to me, my thoughts turned automatically to a gentleman I have known for dozens of years. That gentleman is Matthew J. Pepe.

In the 1960s, I owned a house in a town called New Providence, New Jersey. Somewhere along the line, the patio outside the recreation room split in the middle and sunk. As a result, when rain occurred, the sunken patio funneled the water into the recreation room. When that happened, I consulted with a neighbor, Nick DiNunzio, who suggested that the man to call was Matthew Pepe.

Mr. Pepe poured a new patio for me and things were well taken care of. From that time until now, all of my concrete work and driveway work have always been referred to the Pepe organization.

When I called Matthew Pepe and explained my current problem about the garbage containers to him, he understood immediately. When I demonstrated to Mr. Pepe how I tap the Belgian blocks on my way to the street, his only question was, “And you are dragging the garbage can behind you?” I assured him that that was the case. From that point on I left things totally in Matthew Pepe’s hands.

Within a week or so, Matthew Pepe returned with his two sons and with three other men who work for the organization. They installed two metal deflectors that when tapped would return a different sound to my ears. One two-foot deflector was installed about 25 feet from the end of the driveway and the other was installed about six feet from its end. On the occasion of the installation of the metal deflectors, I gave them a test hop. As I walked slowly down the driveway and hit the first deflector, my wife tells me that there were smiles all around in the Pepe group. When I hit the second deflector, their smiles turned into laughter and cheers of approval. My test was a complete success.

When this project started, I explained to Mathew Pepe that I needed to take the garbage containers to the street to overcome my sense of uselessness. Matthew understood me completely. He said simply, “It is a matter of dignity.” Matthew Pepe is no psychologist nor is he a psychiatrist. He and his sons are simply hard-working people who install driveways for a living. Pouring a new driveway is tough work. Certainly it is not a matter of shuffling papers in an office. It is backbreaking work.

So you see, while Matthew Pepe is not a psychologist, he instantly understood what I was trying to accomplish. Matthew and I have known each other for many years. He correctly concluded that what I was trying to do was to overcome my sense of uselessness. When he said, “it is a matter of dignity,” he was absolutely right. And when he said that, a tear or two developed in my useless eyes.

So you see, if you have a driveway or walkway to be constructed, the only place to go is to Matthew J. Pepe of New Providence. And if you are fighting a sense of uselessness, Matthew Pepe is the man to see. If he concludes that it is a matter of dignity, Matthew and his sons will take up your case.

October 15, 2006


This one made me happy. Pop always especially valued his interactions with people who do real physical labor for a living, so I’m sure that made the whole affair just that much more pleasing to him. I think that affection probably stemmed from his job at the filling station, where he learned about what it’s like to do exhausting work while being subject to all manner of customers’ whims. In that same vein, I bet that Pop was always nice to various customer service reps whenever he had to deal with them.


In my longer than expected life, I have never looked forward to the year end celebrations. The long American Depression kept Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations from being joyous occasions. In our family, at best, they were subdued. In effect, I enjoyed the holidays knowing that they would soon be behind me.

When Thanksgiving arrived this year, I thought it could be endured with a decent bottle of wine, lots of music, and not much fuss. But to my amazement, this Thanksgiving was perhaps the best one I have ever celebrated.

The story starts with my firm belief that the hardest working people in the world come from Costa Rica. They clean our house, they cut the grass and they plow the snow. If there are harder working people in the world, I would like to meet them.

We sensed that something was wrong when Jenny the housekeeper, had a “for sale” sign on her Toyota. That was just the beginning. In March or April of 2006, Jenny’s husband Ronald, had lost his job as a truck driver. The job loss occurred because Ronald could not get a New Jersey driver’s license because he is not yet a citizen. The normal wait for citizenship is at least 10 years. Ronald and Jenny are legal immigrants who have six years in on that 10 or 12 year requirement. Yet here in the great sweet smelling state of New Jersey, the authorities will not issue a driver’s license to someone who is not a citizen. So, as a result, Ronald lost his job as a truck driver. Over the summer he tried without great financial success to become a landscaper.

On top of this, the Cuban woman for whom Ronald worked had claimed to the Internal Revenue Service that he was a partner in her trucking business. This was done, of course, to reduce her tax burden. When we looked into this matter, we found that this ploy is now being used extensively, particularly where immigrants are concerned. Immigrants don’t hire lawyers and do not complain to the authorities out of fear of deportation. After discussions with Ronald and his wife, I am completely satisfied that he was a truck driver, no more, no less. He was never a partner with anybody. Nonetheless, the IRS treated him as a partner and soon he was confronted with an additional $5,100 tax bill.

Immigrants who wish to obtain citizenship in this country don’t challenge authority, particularly that of the federal government. Ronald and Jenny simply bowed their necks and agreed to pay the $5,100 amount in installments.

In the meantime, Jenny became pregnant with their third child. To eat, they were required to use their credit cards. As Thanksgiving grew near, they were about $10,000 in debt to the credit card companies who charge exorbitant interest rates. The going rate for a loan from the credit card companies is eight percent. It tops out at around 18%.

As events proceeded, it was clear to us, particularly to Judy, that Jenny was deeply troubled. On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Jenny said to Judy that they needed our help in borrowing $10,000. Jenny said that asking for our help was “the hardest thing I have ever had to do.” We knew that Ronald would have the Thanksgiving day holiday off so we arranged to meet them in the afternoon. Judy asked Jenny to bring the details from the IRS and from credit card statements with them. Through this entire affair, we understood that the banks would not make them a loan even though Ronald now has a new job.

When the two Costa Rican immigrants met with us on Thanksgiving afternoon, it became immediately clear that $10,000 would not cover what they owed the IRS and the credit card companies. They needed $15,000.

The long and the short of it is that we granted a $15,000 Promissory Note to the two Costa Ricans. Earlier they had said that they could repay as much as $1,000 per month. Our note specified repayment at half that amount to insure that they would not be forced back into the use of their credit cards with the attendant usurious interest rates. Furthermore, the interest charged by us was nada, which of course, is zero. We had no intention of profiting from the misfortune of the two Costa Ricans, who would at some time become citizens like ourselves.

After Jenny and Ronald signed a piece of paper for us, there was lots of emotion. Jenny called us their angels. She also said, “You will always be in my heart.” I suspect that once the banks had turned them down, they had no place to go except to us.

When the handshakes and the hugs were completed, the thought struck me that in all my now more than 80 years, this may have been the happiest Thanksgiving I have ever enjoyed. It is in keeping with the injunction from the Prophet Micah who said the Lord requires of thee to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly. By extending the loan to the hard working Costa Ricans, it occurred to me that we were obeying Micah’s injunction. It was an act of mercy just as it was an act that was just. And it was our duty to do that. But more than anything else, our treatment of the immigrant Costa Ricans provided a great joy to Judy and to myself. Speaking for myself, this may have been the happiest Thanksgiving I have ever had.

But the story doesn’t end there. You may recall from a previous essay that I take the garbage cans to the street twice a week. On Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving, the garbage collectors arrived as I was going out toward the street to retrieve the cans. The collector saw my white cane and realized that I was blind. He took the bag from the container and threw it into his truck and came back and asked if he could help me. I told him “No thanks. This is my job.” As he started to leave, I asked him to come back to shake hands. He removed his work gloves, we shook hands, and wished each other Happy Thanksgiving. I believe that that hard-working man has become a friend.

On the Friday following the Thanksgiving holiday, I again took the garbage containers to the street and left them there. On Saturday morning I went out to retrieve them. My new friend had removed the bag from the container, he had carefully placed the lid back on the container and left it in precisely the same spot where I had placed it the night before. As you know, sometimes the garbage cans are discarded carelessly. My new friend made sure that the garbage can with its lid on was in its proper place.

So between Jenny, Ronald and the garbage man, whose name I do not know, my Thanksgiving holiday was the happiest ever. With respect to the loan, Judy and I are completely confident that it will be repaid over time. And I expect, that those two immigrant Costa Ricans will become our friends for life. So you see Thanksgiving, 2006 was a day of great joy for us. What more can anyone ask?

November 25, 2006


Pop’s expectation was correct; they were indeed friends for the rest of his. You can read a follow up essay about them here. Per that essay, the two of them should have gotten citizenship in 2015, which I hope went smoothly — perhaps Judy knows.

It also strikes me that perhaps it’s for the best that Pop didn’t live to see the Trump administration, in particular for it’s virulent anti-immigrant stance, which I think that Pop would have found especially repugnant. What a nightmare.


For two or three years, it has been my intention to write an essay on poetry. If there is a human who knows less about the mechanics of poetry, it would be my pleasure to meet that person. Knowing almost nothing about how a poem is constructed does not bar me from commenting on the finished product any more than citizens are barred from comment and criticism of politicians who know nothing about how a good government should work.

If and when my pen takes paper to record my thoughts about poetry, it will be my contention that the best poetry today is written by lyricists who write poems that are meant to be sung.

Going a step further, it would be my contention that the best poet-songwriter these days is Eric Bogle, a native of Scotland who moved to Australia nearly 35 years ago. Bogle is a prolific author who sings the songs that he has composed including his lyrics.

In all likelihood, Bogle’s best known works are two anti-war songs having to do with the First World War. There is “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” a description of the sad adventures of an Australian soldier who was involved in the Battle of Suvla Bay in the Gallipoli region of Turkey. The second is formally called “No Man’s Land.” It is also known as “Willie McBride” and “The Green Fields of France.” That last title is a misnomer because the inspiration for the song came from a British military cemetery in Belgium. That is a small point of no consequence. The burden of the song is a strong indictment of war.

“And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” is a long song-poem which describes the enlistment of an Aussie soldier, the battle, his wounding, and, in later years, his thoughts as his old comrades parade on ANZAC (Australia-New Zealand Army Corps) Day in April. These four lines from “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” have stuck with me for years. The people of governments that promote war should be equally haunted. The lines are:

“Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I awoke in me hospital bed,
And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead,
Never knew there were worse things than dying.”

-Eric Bogle

The Aussie soldier lost both legs when he said, “Never knew there were worse things than dying.” I suspect that thought has crossed the minds of many ill people for whom medical science offers no cure or even temporary relief from pain. In some cases, dying would be a release from constant pain. Only the state of Oregon recognizes this miserable situation, but the Bush Administration seems determined to wipe this right off the books and make assisted suicide a major crime. How stupid. We spare household pets the pain of suffering, but such a release is denied to humans. Again, how stupid.

Bogle’s second well known song is his visit to the graveside of Private William McBride, presumably a Scottish soldier killed in the First World War. The first verse sets the stage.

“Well how do you do, Private Willie McBride,
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside,
And rest for a while ΄neath the warm summer sun,
I’ve been walking all day and I’m nearly done.

I see by your gravestone you were only 19,
When you joined the great fallen in 1915.
I hope you died well and I hope you died clean,
Or young Willie McBride was it slow and obscene.”

Further on there are these lines:

“But here in this graveyard
It’s still no-man’s land,
The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand,
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man,
To a whole generation which we butchered and damned.
For young Willie McBride it’s all happened again and

The chorus is the refrain:

“I hope you died well and I hope you died clean,
Or Willie McBride was it slow and obscene.”

Bogle offers two prescient thoughts here as they relate to lives drawing to a close. The first is the idea that “never knew there were worse things than dying.” The second is the “hope you died well and I hope you died clean or was it slow and obscene.”

From my own point of view, the thought that human suffering comes about because of a god or a saint prescribing it is rejected out of hand. The supernatural forces that reside somewhere above the clouds is a figment of an overactive imagination. Simply put, as we grow older, our bodies seem unlikely to fight off diseases and ailments that were of no consequence early on. This must be a matter of natural progression from birth to death. But natural progression moves often in cruel ways. Part of the cruelty is that fatal diseases haunt older people. It is not a matter of an ailment taking us away as Bogle says, dying quickly and cleanly, but a matter of imposing a burden for such a time that people will conclude that we didn’t know there were worse things than dying.

A few examples might make the point. For more than 50 years, the Vincendese family has owned and operated Berkeley Hardware in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. The man primarily responsible for its success is Angelo Vincendese, better known as “Lefty.” For the half century that Lefty has been my friend, he has been a dynamo. As he has approached 80 years, he has slowed down and needs some days off. Krones disease has caught up with Lefty. When Judy asked Lefty last week how he was feeling, Lefty gave her a pragmatic answer. He said, “I will never feel well again.” The last thing Lefty would ask for is your sympathy or pity. Lefty’s suffering is such that he must think Krone’s is worse than dying.

There are two of our neighbors who lost their husbands to Parkinson’s Disease. It wasn’t quick and it was not clean. Those brave women tended to their husband’s medical condition for more than three years. As life draws to a close, nature picks on the vulnerable in a cruel and vicious manner.

Two other examples come to mind. One was an atheist, the other a nun. In 1948, when Henry Mencken was a successful and a powerful figure in the publishing business, he suffered a debilitating stroke. Mencken was the bane of preachers and politicians and those who promise you some sort of eternal ecstasy provided you died first. In the years following the stroke, Mencken was unable to write. His mental processes were so afflicted that he could not compose a story or an essay, much less a book. And this was the man whose prose was the gold standard in American literary circles. He lingered for six years before death finally released him. During that time, he must have thought that perhaps his crippled condition made death an attractive alternate.

On the other side of the coin is Mother Angelica, a Catholic nun who was the driving force behind the Eternal Word Television Network. Mother Angelica was the chatterbox of EWTN. There were times when she lectured on her personal guardian angel. She gave him a name and called on him to help her out of tight spots. Why she had a male guardian angel is beyond me, but she called him “Stoney” as in a stone wall. In all seriousness, she told her TV viewers that they could also have a guardian angel – if they really believed. Mother Angelica’s pleas fell on deaf ears.

Mother Angelica must have spent an enormous amount of time before the TV cameras. She was the sales person for selling religious knick-knacks and trinkets such as a plastic heart of Jesus. She was a very busy woman. Three or four years ago, she disappeared from EWTN’s studios. After a long delay, the network announced, without saying so, that she had suffered a stroke that robbed her of the ability to speak.

She may be nearing 80 years, but in the end, she is denied the opportunity to broadcast as Mencken was denied the opportunity to write again. The atheist and the nun. Nature moves in cruel ways. Mother Angelica lives in a Catholic facility and is waiting for God to call her home. In the meantime, she must curse her inability to speak. Remember, some ailments are worse than dying.

There is one other example involving the televised broadcasts of a Presbyterian Church in Summit, New Jersey. We watch the broadcasts until the choir has sung. One of the points in the service at this church is a few minutes devoted to “Joys and Concerns.” An assistant preacher asks for congregants to stand and announce a joy or a concern. On the joy side, someone may announce the arrival of a baby. Ah, but on the concern side, people will ask for prayers for a terminally ill cousin. On some occasions, prayers are asked for a person who must undergo an operation.

The concerns outweigh the joys regularly. Those who ask for prayers may want to avoid the inevitable. No one in this Bible believing church has ever asked that prayers be said for someone to have a speedy, dignified death as in Bogle’s “No Man’s Land”. No one!

Now to close the circle, age and glaucoma have caught up with my eyesight. If all goes well, there will be a delicate operation to drill a hole in my one eye that will permit the aqueous fluid to drain. I have not requested prayers of any kind because of my fear that the prayers would go to the god or saint who ordered me to become afflicted with glaucoma in the first place. Glaucoma is an insidious inherited disease. In my case, it was inherited from my father. Gods, saints, prophets and ascetic worshippers had nothing to do with it.

As difficult as it seems, there may be a bright side to my diminished eye sight. It is clear that when it is necessary to go from one place to another, poles, doors and walls intrude and are hit. There was an occasion when a step was missed resulting in a fall. But think what has been learned that will benefit religious organizations for centuries.

Joseph Ratzinger, the German soldier who became the current Pope, has launched a vigorous drive to root out homosexuals from Catholic seminaries in the United States. Curiously, Ratzinger, who headed the Vatican office of the Inquisition before his elevation, has not moved to separate priests who may be gay. The fury is directed at his seminaries but nothing has been said about the graduates of those seminaries who may be gay. It may have to do with the shortage of priests or it may be a matter that God and the German Pope can come to an agreement on later. In the meantime, no word at all about pedophiles. Is the Pope confused between being gay and being a pedophile?

For all those religious organizations that require male celibacy, one of the products of my limited eyesight may provide a heaven-sent answer.

You may recall an essay from this corner about Saddam Hussien’s jockey shorts. As a result of that essay, I now wear Saddam’s style of jockey shorts. When a man or a seminarian or a religious cleric wears jockey shorts, they must be worn properly to adorn the front of the male body. With my lack of sight, I have discovered that it is disastrous to put the shorts on backwards. But if the German Pope is serious about his new crusade against American seminaries, he can order all seminarians to wear their jockey shorts backward.

There is one more thought to offer in the drive to stamp out gayness in American seminaries. That is to put the shorts on turned inside out. It has the same effect as wearing the shorts backward.

Clearly, the Ed Carr innovations for the use of jockey shorts will be a godsend to those who wish to stamp out gayness in American seminaries. In all modesty, I expect to be decorated for my profound contribution to celibacy in seminaries. Perhaps a robe or a ring would be appropriate.

Well so much for male underclothing. Dealing with the ailments that overtake us at a vulnerable time is not an inspiring subject. It is simply a matter of pragmatism. It happens and nothing is gained by pretending that it is not the case. The sad fact is that Lefty, the hardware store owner, may never feel well again and it happened as he approached 80 years. If the situation becomes so serious, there is always refuge in Eric Bogle’s words, “Never knew there were worse things than dying.”

A final thought. Males seem to contract ailments that last a long time. The wives who take care of them are brave and seem more than willing to make the sacrifice to care for their men. From all of the men, a rousing salute is indeed in order, as well as – “Waltzing Matilda, you’ll come awaltzing Matilda with me.”

October 23, 2005


Real cheery one there, Pop. But I guess that’s kind of the point — there’s a class of things out there which can’t be made nice by trying to have a positive outlook, or by praying about them, or by really anything. There are some indignities that have to be borne slowly or painfully. I think that the ‘worse than death’ part may still be an exaggeration in many of the cases he described above, however. For sure there’s something cruel about a career writer being rendered unable to write, but that doesn’t mean that death would have been the preferable result to Mencken’s stroke. I get that if you’re in some sort of true prolonged agony, there are circumstances where death potentially seems more appealing than life, but there’s to me a pretty wide gap between that and just being majorly inconvenienced.

A TREATISE ON STROKES AND SEIZURES | An Informal Examination of Memory Loss vs. Aphasia

It is not my penchant to read Lancet or the New England Journal of Medicine and similar publications from cover to cover. In those august publications, scholars, clinicians, professors of medical science and physicians explain and debate matters of interest to the medical community. Significantly, journals of that sort almost exclusively state the case for the professionals in the field. While those views are examined at length, it is odd that the one major component in this mix is often overlooked and perhaps, ignored. That would be the patient.

To remedy part of this oversight, an essay called “The Effects of Aphasia” was prepared here in November, 2002. Its purpose was to offer the views, the experiences and the conclusions of a man who, at that time, had had a five year encounter with aphasia.

If Representative Tom DeLay or Senator Physician Bill Frist had cited my essay when they jammed the unconstitutional legislation through Congress in a Sunday midnight session on the Terri Schiavo matter, they would have been on much sturdier grounds rather than the grounds they used which consisted solely of impenetrable smoke and severely distorted mirrors. The courts have subsequently shown that to be the case.

Now that my views on aphasia have been circulated, it seems appropriate to offer my empirical views on the differences between aphasia and random memory loss. The layman’s definition of aphasia is the loss or impairment to use words. There may be those who will argue that the “loss or impairment” is a consequence of random memory loss. With all due respect, the argument from this corner is that while loss of memory may possibly have some effect on the ability to use words, random memory loss is a failure separate and distinct from aphasia. Before any of my readers call the cops to have me committed to an Alzheimer’s treatment facility, it should be remembered that this is an empirical study based upon my experiences as a patient and what are considered to be my rational conclusions. So put down the phone and hear me out.

The Ed Carr doctrine relies heavily on the belief that strokes cause aphasia and that subsequent seizures are responsible for random memory loss. Let me give you one example as to why it seems to me that my conclusion is warranted or perhaps, inevitable. If my experience is so singularly different, what could possibly account for such exclusivity? My belief is that others who have experienced strokes followed by seizures have had experiences similar to mine.

Ever since the stroke of November, 1997, as one small example, it has been difficult for me to recall and to retain the word “cardiologist.” My notes had to be consulted today before that word could be written. At the Summit Medical Group, if someone encounters me in the parking lot of the main building and asks, “Where are you going?”, my answer is to point across the street to where the heart specialists are in residence. My wife who knows of my aphasic condition will say, “Oh, to the cardiology group.” My affirmative nods make it appear that the word “cardiology” was known to me all along. If, however, a stranger sees me alone and asks about my destination, pointing across the street is my eloquent and usually only answer. THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS APHASIA! The word “cardiology” ordinarily eludes me, even though Andrew Beamer had been my cardiologist for a long period of years and is regarded by the Carr family with considerable admiration.

In the late 1950’s, Tom Scandlyn joined the AT&T labor group. He has been my friend and associate for all the subsequent years including 2005. Tom retired around 1982. There was a party at a restaurant near the Somerville Circle in suburban New Jersey. As a long term friend of Tom, it was my pleasure to attend that function and to wish him well. My wife says she clearly remembers my attending that festive occasion. Today, there is no recollection of that party anywhere in my mind. On the other hand, years before Tom was known to me, he married a gentle lady physician known as Naomi Green. Over the years, there may have been four or five occasions when Naomi Scandlyn had reason to meet with me. Yet Naomi’s maiden name is readily available in my memory, but memories of attending Tom’s retirement party and meeting Naomi there seems forever lost. THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS RANDOM MEMORY LOSS. It has to do with a loss of memory of an event that happened long before there was a stroke or seizures became a factor.

We know that some strokes such as mine cause a lesion in the brain which leads to aphasia. That seems to be settled belief. On the other hand, random loss of memory of attending functions, of meeting people and forgetting directions to well known locations, seems to me to be attributable to seizures – separate and apart from not being able to recall well known words. As soon as my bona fides are stated for advancing these thoughts, there will be other examples which may tend to prove the Carr doctrine.

What normally would have been my early college years were spent working and serving an enlistment in the American Army in World
War II. Thus, my academic record is unblemished by attendance at any college, university or medical school. First Aid classes were never compelling to me. If a soldier, theirs or ours, was hit by enemy or friendly fire, bleeding may well have resulted. That is about the extent of my early medical knowledge. Since leaving the Army, my association with the medical arts has been extensive and exclusively empirical.

My 48 year work history was marked by jobs in which the ability to speak without notes was paramount. Reading previously prepared position papers is largely unheard of in labor negotiations, lobbying and in international relations. The subject has to be mastered and must be presented convincingly. In musical terms, the response must be delivered a capella. Obviously, memory is the crucial ingredient in those processes. Doing all this presented no problem to me as my memory served me well during my working years.

My neurological history looks like this:

July, 1992 – Transient Ischemic Attack
November, 1997 – Stroke
August, 2002; June, 2003; May, 2004 – Seizures
June, 2004 – Partial seizure without hospitalization

The first two seizures were caused by inadequate blood flow which was corrected by a pacemaker in June, 2003. The third seizure may be attributable to a drug which caused an electrolyte imbalance. The partial seizure was corrected by increased Dilantin (anti-seizure medication) intake.

It is my belief that my loss of memory became apparent after the first seizure. It may be a guess, but remembering a negative such as loss of memory is smokey work. For purposes of discussion, my belief it that memory loss did not occur after the stroke. It happened after the seizures.

Aphasia has been a consideration since the 1997 stroke. As time has gone on, aphasia has abated substantially. For example, in the first three years, it was largely impossible for me to recall the word “persimmon.” Even when my wife gave me a clue by identifying their type as “Hachaya,” my score would be no better than 50 percent. In the last year or two, my brain can think of “Simmons” as in mattresses. The rest of the word now comes fairly easily.

The word “aphasia” can be recalled only between 50% and 60% of the time when it is needed for speaking or writing. And this is more than seven years after the stroke.

You know about my problems with “cardiology.” There is no latent fear or distaste for anything the cardiologists have ever done to me. Earlier we said that Andrew Beamer has been my long time cardiologist whom the Carr family regards as a friend. It is not caused by anything Andrew Beamer has ever done. Aphasia in itself prevents me from calling the word “cardiologist” to mind. So go figure!

A third word that takes two out of three falls from me is “glaucoma.” This is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery. Shortly after 1930, my father was diagnosed with glaucoma. By the time he reached 60 years, he was blind. His five children all inherited glaucoma. In my own case, the ailment or disease caused me to lose my left eye in 1994. The remaining eye has been in a hazardous position for about four or five years. Glaucoma is a word known to me from my early childhood, yet it has fallen victim to aphasia. Eric Gurwin, who has spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about my remaining eye, is my ophthalmologist. He is sufficiently busy trying to save my remaining eyesight, that he is spared the fact that my mind is impaired in speaking the name of my problem. Eric Gurwin is a good man. His efforts seem to be succeeding.

These examples are intended to be illustrative as there are several other words that are difficult to bring to mind. Aside from words, there are difficulties with doing small math problems in my head. Finding words in dictionaries and names in telephone directories remain an annoyance. “M’s” and “N’s” tend to get confused so if my search takes me to “NINO,” it may be my misfortune to find myself looking in the “M’s” for “Nino.” It is not a particularly pleasant ailment, but it can be lived with.

The crucial point here is that in my mind, there is a complete composite image of the cardiologist, of the ophthalmologist who speaks of glaucoma and of the produce section of grocery stores where persimmons are kept. These facts have not been forgotten. All that is known to me. But aphasia often prevents me from giving voice to the appropriate word.

In the previous essay on the effects of aphasia, there is a recounting of the heat in the Intensive Care unit of Overlook Hospital. Even with a stroke being less than 24 hours behind me, the ward had become overheated. At that time, “warm, cool and thermostat” were completely beyond my recall, but the problem was clear to me. Borrowing a pencil and a scrap piece of paper from a nurse, a crude picture of a thermostat was drawn. At that point, acting became my role. If the imaginary needle was pointed to the left, there were shivers. To far to the right an imaginary sweat would appear. The nurse got the picture and showed me where the thermostat was hung on the wall. Knowing about warm, cold and thermostats was clearly in my mind. Those words were known to me. Giving voice to the words was my new problem.

If there had been no recollection of thermostats, or if there had been no memory of my cardio-vascular problems, or if there was no recall of glaucoma, that would have been a matter of memory loss. The point here is that all these conditions are more than well known to me. They were not forgotten. Finding the words to give voice to the problem is a matter of aphasic considerations.

Now let us move on to a few examples of memory loss. Why one memory may be recalled instantly and another forgotten completely is something for clinicians to ponder about. Lisa Coohill, M.D. at the Summit Medical Group, who has kept seizures on the defensive in my case, is appointed my chief ponderer. For example, she may ponder about my remembering a drunken GI diving through the window screen between the bunks or Werner Friedli and Steve Thorin in Africa back in 1944, and yet a few more recent events have disappeared from my memory. And so that is why this section is called random memory loss.

Two or three examples may establish my point. In the AT&T Overseas group, there was a lovely woman who lived in Greenwich Village. She was known as Jane DeCosmo and as far as anyone knew, she had never married. Our offices were first at 32 Sixth Avenue, then at #5 World Trade Center and then in New Jersey. Jane would often buy pastries in the Village and bring them to her co-workers. Jane was a very likeable person.

After AT&T moved to New Jersey, she was forced to use a railroad and a taxi to get to work. After retirement, Jane was confined to her apartment in the Village by a debilitating ailment. She sent word that she preferred to receive no visitors to see her in her weakened condition. All of this is known to me because Judy, my wife, is impressed that now, there is no memory of any kind in my mind of Jane’s illness and later, death. Jane DeCosmo was enjoyable to be around. My files are filled with letters that were written on occasions of anniversaries, promotions and bereavements including some to Jane. Unhappily and unfortunately, my memory of Jane seems to have stopped before she became ill. Forgetting Jane’s final struggle is not a matter of aphasia; it is a matter of random memory loss. And it is sad, sad business.

Then there is Walter Fennessey who was responsible for dealing with telecommunication’s authorities in the sub-Sahara countries. On a cold day in January in New Jersey, Walter seduced me by talk of palm trees and the warm climate in his “countries.” Walter knew that my Army service had taken me to many of the countries he called his own. So it made me very happy to ask Walter, “When do we leave?”

It was a ten day trip to five countries. On a Saturday evening we were the dinner guests of the Director General of the Ivory Coast Telecommunication’s Directorate. The first course was exquisitely done lobster. That course reflected echoes of classic French cuisine. Surely, the next course would be dessert. Not so fast. The lobster was only an appetizer. The next course was frogs. Not frog legs; the whole frog. This was African cuisine. After the frogs, our host asked if we had ever eaten monkey paws. We punted. Maybe next time. That dinner gave Walter, a garrulous Irishman, a conversation-piece for quite a while. My Celtic background compelled me to mention the frogs – and the near escape from monkey paws – several times to gourmet observers. Also to non-gourmet observers.

An essay was composed here some years after the trip. It was read by Walter’s granddaughter to her fourth or fifth grade class in school. Walter sat in the back of the room and enjoyed it immensely.

Walter died at much too early an age. Judy, my wife, and this old African traveler went to the funeral parlor to sit with Walter’s family. According to Judy, Walter’s family treated me with great friendliness and courtesy as though they had always known me. And my memory retains not a hint of that evening with the Fennessey family. Again, that is not a case of aphasia; it is a clear case of random memory loss.

At my request, Judy has written of six or eight other incidents where parties were attended or where people were met and which arouse no memory of any kind on my part. One of the incidents involved house-hunting in the St. Louis suburbs, my hometown. None of them even come close to ringing a bell. In a way, my reaction is one of unhappiness and perhaps even some sorrow. In any case, all of these incidents have to do with random memory loss, not aphasia.

There is one other factor that needs to be cited here. My career at AT&T started as a draftsman which led to my being promoted to work on cable route maps, which is a form of cartography. So maps are very familiar territory to me. My Army flying days taught me to study the ground so that if the plane were forced down, we might have a better idea about where to walk or where to run away from. So knowing the location of things has always been important to me.

For seven years, my journey to work took me on several state and federal highways in New Jersey and New York. For an extensive period of time, there were mountain bikes that took Judy and me all over Northern New Jersey. Yet, when Judy mentions a place where we have been, it is much more than likely to draw a vacant stare from me.

When someone makes reference to our national highway system, it is sometimes a blank to me. If someone were to ask me to describe the routes taken in going to work, they would be sorely disappointed in my response. In my view, forgetting directions such as this is a matter of memory loss – not aphasia.

My driving career of 68 years ended over the July 4th weekend in 2004 because of diminishing eyesight. The inability to find my way in even slightly unfamiliar territory was also a factor. To top it off, there was hesitation in remembering where controls such as the switch to turn on the headlights was located. Clearly, it was time to retire before someone was hurt.

Finally, my date of birth was 1922. For those who contend that life begins at conception, 1922 may also be my DOC as well as my DOB. This of course, is undocumented, hearsay evidence. Those points are injected here in the event my future political plans call for me to run for the United States presidency. They are also injected here as a response to anyone who says my occasional loss of memory is a product of advancing age.

While memories of the events surrounding the deaths of Jane DeCosmo and Walter Fennessey may have escaped me, for example, details of much earlier Army life are still vivid such as the drunken GI plunging through a screen. While the facts surrounding Tom Scandlyn’s retirement party are now gone, my memory of introducing Charlie Brown, AT&T’s chairman, some years later are still with me in considerable detail.

Why one memory is retained while another is forgotten is a matter that will be left to the professionals. My argument remains however, that random memory loss is just that and not a product of aphasia.

This has been a prolonged recitation of my memory woes, but there is great confidence that random memory loss is not a function of aphasia. They are two different breeds of cats.

The delightful part of this proposition is that it has always been my intention to look at what is left to me as opposed to what has been lost. Using that philosophy, my fortune is that even with some memory loss, words of speeches made as long as 55 years ago come back to me and occasionally keep me awake. When such a speech intrudes on my mind, it must be recited from beginning to end before sleep occurs. Poems and the lyrics of songs are easy for me to recall and give me great pleasure. Citations from books read many years back, particularly those of Henry Mencken and A. J. Liebling, are usually easy to remember. I also remember what I had for dinner last night, and the fact that turbot (my favorite) has not been available at the market for a long time. So there is no need to look in the yellow pages for an Alzheimer’s treatment facility.

This essay comes about from observers confusing aphasia, which afflicts me, with random memory loss, which is also familiar territory. It was my intent to demonstrate empirically, that these factors are two different matters. It is my argument that the debate about these matters is not a distinction without a difference. Strokes produce aphasia. Seizures produce random memory loss. My only concession is that one may lead to the other, but my belief is firm that we are dealing with two different disabilities.

Finally, it is my hope that if you haven’t had a medical or spiritual conversion experience from reading this essay, at least you may think a little differently now about aphasia and random memory loss. Back on page two of this work, where you were urged to hear me out without

calling the cops, that advice was offered in the hope that you found reading this treatise to border on being worthwhile. There is a move, sponsored mainly by me, to get the Carr doctrine upgraded to dogma. Anyone who doesn’t accept the dogma in all respects will be the target of a fatwa from Ahmed Chalabi of Iraqi fame. And remember, the word is cardiology, not chiropractic, or chiropodist or chiromancy, which has to do with reading of palms.

March 30, 2005


It’s interesting here that for the purposes of the essay, he was able to remember the act of forgetting about all these incidents. I’m guessing Judy helped quite a bit with this one. And that’s kind of the scary part, isn’t it? Unless someone else prompts you, you have no real way of remembering what you’ve forgotten. So if it’s something that you did alone, or did with someone who you’re no longer in touch with, you could not only lose entire swaths of memory, but also be totally oblivious to the loss. Left to its own devices, your mind slowly churns memories from fresh and sharp into unknown-unknowns. God knows you’ll never forget the words to television jingles or songs you hate, though.

If that wasn’t bad enough, memories tend to degrade and change each time they’re accessed; every time you remember the same incident, you’re not remembering the original thing itself — rather, you remember the last time you remembered it. So you’re constantly playing telephone (or Chinese Whispers, for international readers) with your own brain. Consequently, some of the things you remember most clearly may be the most distorted.

I guess that’s why we’re all photographing every second of our lives these days. Fear Of Missing Out is a pretty well documented neurosis in my generation, but until now I hadn’t thought of its applications to one’s own past.


In a recent essay, you were introduced to Shamrock, a wayward cat who came to live with us. In the first day or so, Shamrock designated certain chairs as his exclusive property. His domain included the porch, the basement and the garage. With all of his kingly attributes, it was inevitable that he would be called “The Stud Duck.”

That appellation was first suggested to me by an earthy soldier from Indiana who became my friend when we served in Africa. This soldier spoke English in a manner that would make you recall Herb Shriner, a popular radio entertainer of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Shriner and this Indiana soldier could mispronounce words that gave them new or improved meaning. One word occasionally used by the Indiana GI was CATS-AS-STROPHE. For my money, it is a great improvement on the root word “CATASTROPHE.” It is simply an improvement, not a neologism.

CATS-AS-STROPHE is the sole word in the English language that could describe the calamitous nature of the duress endured by your old essayist at this moment. The reason for this anxiety has to do with my invitation to Charles, the Prince of Wales and to his new wife, who will wed on Saturday, April 9th. The term “new wife” is used advisedly as Camilla, the Prince’s Consort, have played house since 1970. There are those who would say they have very little to discover about each other after 35 years of hand holding.

It was my intention to invite the Prince and his wifely consort to have their wedding dinner here in Millburn, New Jersey. They are to be wed at noon. With the five hours difference in time, they could easily be here by dinner time. We had planned to hold the wedding dinner in the Fore Seasons restaurant only two miles away from our house. The Fore Seasons establishment is on a public golf course next to the East Orange water reservation. In former days, the restaurant was used as a clubhouse for the golfers. A few years back, John Marrone started a restaurant in the wood frame club house. The chef describes the menu as “Continental with an Italian flair.”

Now that our daughters have married and moved out, there are several bedrooms where the Prince and Mrs. Prince can spend their wedding night with us on Long Hill Drive. We might invite the neighbors to meet the newlyweds.

Things were going swimmingly until Karen Monroe, a Manhattan lawyer got into the act. In effect, Ms. Monroe contends that our restaurant, Fore Seasons, is a gross impingement on a completely different establishment in Manhattan called the Four Seasons. Ms. Monroe demands that the name of our Millburn place be changed, followed by a destruction of menus, advertising and promotional material as a fore runner to a letter of compliance. In effect, Ms. Monroe, the Four Seasons lawyer demands complete surrender.

John Marrone says it will be costly to accommodate Ms. Monroe and besides, there is almost no likelihood that the frame golf course restaurant on a lonely road in New Jersey will cause any damage to the Midtown Manhattan establishment.

Now let us suppose that a male resident of New York City should suggest to a female that he would like to take her to dinner at the Fore Seasons on Saturday evening. The female would expect the host to pick her up in a taxi and then to proceed to the Four Seasons restaurant in mid-Manhattan. Instead, he shows up in a rented car and heads for the Holland Tunnel and proceeds westward for 22 miles to Millburn, New Jersey. She may assume that unruly conduct may be in her date’s mind. When they reach the Fore Seasons establishment, on lonely Parsonage Hill Road, she is relieved but she will be put off by the Fore Seasons place that only charges $26 for a sirloin steak, whereas the Four Seasons charges $55 for the same steak. At the Fore Seasons place, the steak comes with a potato and a wholesome vegetable. At the Four Seasons place, there is likely an extra charge for the potato and the vegetable. So financially the New York swain is ahead but he still has to settle with the car rental company.

So the New York female may feel disappointed about her visit to the public golf course restaurant. On the other hand, a romantic fellow from west of the Hudson may ask his female friend to accompany him to the Four Seasons restaurant. Being from these parts, she automatically assumes he means the Fore Seasons restaurant. When he heads for the eastbound lane of the Lincoln Tunnel, she may contemplate escaping at the first stop sign. However, when they reach the Four Seasons place in Midtown Manhattan, she is impressed as he gives his car to an attendant to park. Mark off $40 right there.

Upon entering the restaurant, they find the steak is $55 per copy, however, the Caesar salad at $36 is a bargain because it serves two. The wine list starts at $100 and proceeds upward. At the end of the evening, the New Jersey romantic must borrow some money from his girl friend to avoid having the cops called.

So you see, there is great merit in Ms. Monroe’s claim that the golf club Millburn Fore Seasons’ name “constitutes unfair competition in violation of the Lanham Act.” My Short Hills residence has been here for 35 years. Every night, as sleep evades me, my thoughts are on the Lanham Act and the club house Fore Seasons Restaurant. Every school child knows there is great confusion when the terms fore and four are involved. My thoughts turn to the four leaf clover or the four-way stop sign.

The lady lawyer, Ms. Monroe, claims that using Fore Seasons is an infringement on the Four Seasons trademark rights. It is eminently clear that the females in the two foregoing examples were not so much concerned with the Lanham Act. By crossing the Hudson River, those ladies were much more concerned by a possible violation of the Mann Act. Ms Monroe ought to get her priorities in order.

When word leaked out to Prince Charles, he had been painting his castle called Clarence House. He came down the ladder and cleaned his hands with turpentine on a silk towel to hear the breaking news. Camilla came up from the basement where she had been working on the plumbing. It seems that the sewer pipes had clogged and Camilla was using a plumber’s snake to open a drainage hole.

Charles’s secretary and his several assistants, told the soon to be married lovers that my invitation was not to the Four Seasons establishment, but to a wood frame clubhouse constructed in 1926 on a public golf course in a deserted section of Millburn, New Jersey. Charles and Camilla had expected to have dinner with me at a building designed by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe. They were further put off by the Fore Seasons’ place being described as a restaurant with only two star prices.

The kicker came when Charles’ secretary read a Zagat review of the Manhattan restaurant. It said:

“Nothing speaks class and power better then the spectacular (and spectacularly pricey) Midtown landmark, Philip Johnson’s grand monument to NYC. Where the superlative continental cuisine is simply done, service is on the money and the wine list is wonderful; in sum, it’s an experience in luxurious dining that everyone should enjoy once.”

When Charles and Camilla heard the Zagat review, they instructed the secretarial staff to tell me that they wanted to have their wedding dinner at the Four Seasons and that they would be glad to take me up on using one of our spare bedrooms.

Charles and Camilla travel with a large staff including secretaries, footmen and sergeant-at-arms. The CATS-AS-STROPHE is that with steaks going for $55 and Caesar salad at $36, my social security check won’t come near covering the bill. So word has been sent to the soon-to-be-newlyweds that it is going to be the Fore Seasons clubhouse restaurant or nothing. Camilla, who has some Scotch ancestors, will convince Charles that the $26 Fore Seasons’ steak is just as good as the $55 steak at Four Seasons – and she will point out they will save on room rent by staying here.

Now obviously, it would be a major blow to Anglo-American relations if Charles and Camilla turned down our invitation. But that is only a minor consideration. Every English speaking person must be gravely concerned about Ms. Monroe’s invocation of any title having the word FORE in it, as an infringement on the Four Seasons Restaurant’s trademark. Without a doubt, Ms. Monroe would ban about one hundred English words starting with fore in her attempt to protect her relationship to that restaurant in Midtown Manhattan.

Think of this sort of thing. If you missed a few mortgage payments, the bank would try to fourclose on your loan. Men who pave the streets would, under Ms. Monroe’s idea, report to a four-man. Fore-see would become four-see just as fore­-play would become four-play.

Americans! We can’t let this lady lawyer wipe out hundreds of years of progress in developments in the English language all for the benefit of a pricey restaurant in New York City. When Charles and Camilla are finally properly wed, they will join us in rebuffing this assault on our common language.

Ms. Monroe’s time would be better spent if she encouraged Merriam and Webster to show CATS-AS-STROPHE as an official word in their dictionaries. If Ms. Monroe started to use that Indiana terminology, the Ed Carr’s would invite her to the blast off for good old Charles and his Consort, Camilla – at the Fore Seasons Restaurant in New Jersey. On that occasion, she can discuss the Lanham Act and the Mann Act endlessly with Charles, the Prince of Goofiness. He will be enthralled.

March 16, 2005


When I read the title and first sentence, I was pretty sure this was going to be about poor Shamrock’s death. So the content was a pleasant surprise.
For the curious, the Fore Seasons appears to be no more. The website has been taken down and the phone number has been disconnected. I guess their continued existence was just too much for the Four Seasons to bear.