Archive for the June Category


As nearly everyone in my circle of society friends knows, I will be celebrating my 90th birthday early in August.  In the last several months, my body has told me that I am not half the man that I used to be.  I don’t look forward, for example, to long walks but rather, the shorter the better.  I don’t go into certain stores because of the steps involved.  So I stay in the car.

It is a lot like the filly who had the racing world agog with her triumph in the Kentucky Derby a couple of years ago.  The Kentucky Derby is followed by two longer races.  The second race is the Pimlico and the third is the Belmont.  In the second race at Pimlico, the jockey aboard the filly fell behind and despite the urging of the whip, it became clear that the filly had run out of steam.   When he was interviewed after the race, the jockey said, “I tried as hard as I could, but I knew that with the longer distance I had no more horse.”  That description of “no more horse” seems to fit my case precisely as I approach the 90 year mark.  As a matter of fact, the phrase “no more horse” may apply to all of us who have reached the golden years.

I joked that this slow-down was in accordance with God’s plans and I assumed that after 90 years in this vale of tears I would not have the get-up-and-go and oomph that I used to have.  Now, I can still get from here to there, but it takes a hell of a lot longer than I would like for it to take and it is a lot harder.

And so, one day around the first of June of this year, Judy, my wife, took me to a meeting with Dr. Lloyd Alterman.  Dr. Alterman works for the Summit Medical Group and is an old friend.  As a matter of fact, Miss Chicka, my wife, knew Dr. Alterman before I did.  So from that fact it must be concluded that Dr. Alterman is a friend of the family.

Dr. Alterman works in the Summit Medical Group in a new wing of the building in Berkeley Heights.  I must say that it is a tortuous journey to find Dr. Alterman’s office.  But it is all worth while.  After the preliminaries were out of the way, I thought that it would be wise to tell Dr. Alterman what my complaint might be.  Among other things, I told him that I am running out of gas, to use one crude expression having to do with my fatigue and lack of endurance .  Things don’t come so easily any more because I have to work at them.  All of this I attribute to my ancient age.

So I told Dr. Alterman that after he looked me over and reviewed all of my records, he might say to me, “You are 90 years of age, so what the hell do you expect?”  Now mind you, these were my words to Dr. Alterman.

Dr. Alterman is a well respected physician and a conscientious fellow who then set to work reviewing all the records of recent blood tests.  From time to time he checked my pulse and blood pressure; using the stethoscope, he reviewed my breathing apparatus.

This review by Dr. Alterman was thorough and when he stated his conclusions, I put considerable faith in those conclusions.  But then Dr. Lloyd Alterman had this to say, after the medical results were read to me.  Dr. Alterman said – and I will quote, “Mr. Carr, you are 90 years old, so what the hell do you expect?”

Dr. Alterman had remembered those lines perfectly and repeated them back to me when he finished his work.  So I have taken note of the 90 years of age and have lowered my expectations accordingly.  And now, if any of the readers of Ezra’s Essays are so inclined, they may visit Dr. Alterman and hear what he has to say.  As far as I am involved, I consider him the finest internist in the business.  And when he tells me or anyone else, “You are 90 years of age, so what the hell do you expect?”, you should pay attention to what Dr. Alterman has to say.

As a matter of fact, I propose to copyright/patent this diagnosis of “You are 90 years of age, so what the hell do you expect?”  That is unless Dr. Alterman has beaten me to the punch!



June 7, 2012

Essay 666



Kevin’s commentary: The number of the beast! Truly a landmark essay. Also somewhat unique in that it has a whole second essay published to clarify a correction to this essay regarding horses.

Also, only on Ezra’s Essays can you find an essay entitled “Expectations” and know with at least relative confidence that the essay is probably about lowering them. My grandfather is a realist above all else. But it’s also worth noting that for a 90-year-old man who went blind very very late in his life, he is still quite sprightly in my opinion.



As most of you know, I am an astute observer of the language that was inherited by our ancestors, which had its origination first in the Saxon people and then in the English.  Perhaps this essay should be classified as an essayette.  But that is a concern for another day.

There are three entries in the discussion of today.  The first is the wide-spread phrase, “falling in love.”  A question that must be asked is why the “falling” part is involved in “falling in love.”  I have no objection one way or the other.  As a curiosity, I would like to know why the phrase “falling in love” is used so often.  The phrase “falling in love” is also used in conjugations such as “I fell in love with her.”  Again, I have no quarrel whatsoever with “falling in love,” but my curiosity will not be satisfied until I know what “falling in love” might mean with the falling part.

But I do not expect that anyone will come up with a phrase that is better than “falling in love.”

There is another phrase having to do with falling.  As we age, falling becomes a greater concern.  After the fall is completed, it becomes difficult to stand upright again.  But again, my curiosity is aroused by the term, “falling down.”  There is no such thing as falling up.  I know that in American speech and perhaps in British speech as well, “falling down” is a common use of that phrase.  May I assure you that just plain falling is good enough for those of us who write essays and falling in actual fact is a serious matter.

The third item for your consideration has to do with the phrase, “I have a bone to pick with you.”  In the past week I had a conversation with a physician I have known for many years and I used that expression, “I have a bone to pick with you.”  This was a joking situation but why is it that we say, “I have a bone to pick with you?”  If you are looking for answers, there are none.  I merely pose the question with the thought that someone who reads these essays may respond.

There we have three curiosities about “falling in love,” “falling down,” and “a bone to pick with you.”  If anyone who reads these essays has a comment on these questions, your Uncle Ezra would be more than happy to receive them.



June 7, 2012

Essay 667


Kevin’s commentary:

I’ve always thought the most interesting part of “falling down” is that the vast majority of the time it applies to living things, and is almost exclusively used for people. Timmy fell down. The bottle did not fall down. It is bizarre to me that adding the direction — the ONLY direction in which things tend to fall, mind you — somehow works to insinuate agency on the part of the faller?

Unfortunately I may offer no explanations for the latter two, except that perhaps “falling” was selected for “falling in love” because it implies a very definite change of state and is a rather active verb. It also takes place suddenly, as love oftentimes does.

Pop’s response:

Hey Kevin,

This has to do with your commentary on falling, which was covered in a recent essay.  There is one other comment that I would like to offer and it has the approval of the United States Congress.  I overlooked this comment by mistake when I wrote this essay.

Earlier this year Barney Frank, the well respected congressman from Massachusetts, announced that he would not run for re-election.  He said that at age 66 or some such number, he had fallen in love and wanted to spend more time with Jim, his companion.  Barney Frank is one of the highlights for many years of the congressional operation.  His intellect is razor sharp.  If he says that he has fallen in love, I wish him the absolute best.  I will be interested to see if any children emerge from this union.





Over the years, readers of these essays will recall my references to my friend in Sweden, whose name is Sven Lernevall.  You will be surprised to know that one of Sven’s friends is a slightly younger person named Christer Flink.  My understanding is that when Sven reached the age of retirement, he was succeeded in Televerket by Christer Flink.  Sven and Christer have been around for a while and it was my great pleasure, and the pleasure of my wife, to entertain them in this house when they visited in the United States.

Christer is a young fellow somewhere in his seventies.  He has always retained the ability to talk in a straightforward manner in both Swedish and in English.  And so it is that the title of this essay springs from the brain of Christer Flink of Sweden.

This essay came up when my wife informed me that we had to mail a check to the Internal Revenue Service for the estimate of our next quarter earnings.  There is no such thing as the honor system.  Rather the IRS stamps its feet and demands its money as soon as I get it.  So it was in this atmosphere that Miss Chicka recalled the words of Mr. Flink.  Apparently it is obvious that the Swedish taxing authorities have essentially the same philosophy used by the American authorities.

So it is that the words of Christer Flink were recalled this morning.  My recollection is as clear as a bell on this quotation.  And of course it gave rise to the title of this essay.  There was an occasion a few years ago when Christer Flink said that the government has two questions: “how much money do you have? And when can we come and get it?”  The fact of the matter is that I appreciate direct talk such as exemplified by the title of this essay.  But it is clear on this date in June that I am responding to the U.S. government’s efforts to “come and get it.”

Christer and Sven are two great friends.  I will tell you that they don’t make them like that any more.



June 7, 2012

Essay 669

Kevin’s commentary:

Since I’m posting two right now (this and one on country speak) we are now basically all caught up from the lull in posts! Tomorrow is a brand-spankin’-new essay of Pop’s which is probably in my top five for 2012.  It’s called “Silver Dollar Blues” and is all sorts of great.



The title of this essay may arouse some question.  This essay is about the Welsh people who are my fellow Celts.  It is also about a boxing term having to do with throwing in the towel.  When there are two fighters involved in a boxing match, there are occasions when one fighter may have beaten his opponent thoroughly.   His handlers in the corner should recognize this in an effort to avoid permanent damage, perhaps to the brain.  Once the beating becomes so thorough, his handlers in the corner will take a white towel and throw it into the ring.  This is the signal for the referee to stop the match.  I am not a fan of boxing because of the brutality involved.  Throwing in the towel is one attempt to make the sport slightly more humane.

Now for the rest of the title.  You may recall that England occupies the prime place on the island that we have come to call Great Britain.  But there are other peoples involved here.  There are the Scots, who reside in the northern part of England, and the Welsh, who reside in the southern part.  For many years, the English have dominated the lives of the Scottish people and the Welsh people, as well as the Irish people.  The fact is that the English are of Saxon heritage, while the Scots, Welsh, and Irish belong to a group called the Celts.

A good many wars have been fought between the Saxons and the Celts.  It was in the year 1250 that treaties were entered into in the case of Scotland and Wales which have been modified over the years.  During these years, the Scots have managed to free themselves of English rule to a large degree.  The Irish finally concluded their wars with the Brits in 1922.  Ireland is free of British rule except in six counties in Northern Ireland.  But the Welsh do not seem to be putting up a battle these days.  In this regard, they are distinctly different from the Scots and the Irish, their fellow Celts.

My attraction to the Welsh people has to do with their songs.  As a matter of fact, Wales is called “the land of song.”  In all the world, there are no better choruses than male voices in Wales.  Perhaps the Russians may dispute that statement, and I will grant to them that their male choirs are superb.

Now that we have established that Wales is “the land of song,” let us shift gears to my school years in the 1930s in Missouri.  As far as I know, none of the teachers of music in the Clayton public school system which I attended, were of Welsh origin.  None the less, two of the staples of the music department in the Clayton public schools involved Welsh songs.

The first is the widely known “All Through the Night.”  You may remember the first lines are:

Sleep, my child, may peace attend thee

All through the night.

I have been so attracted to the use of the phrase “attend thee” that for years I have been trying to work it into one of these essays.  Now that is one of the songs that were sung happily by the choruses at my school.

The second Welsh tune was called “Men of Harlech.”  This is a lusty marching song meant to call men into battle.  Its first lines are:

Men of Harlech,

Honor calls us.

No proud Saxon

Ere befall us.

The Saxons, of course, are the English, who have been the major opponents of the Celts.  Over the years since I left the public schools in Clayton, Missouri, both songs have stayed with me.  And over those same years, the Welsh have kept singing.  In recent years, for example, I have bought the recordings of a choir that is identified as the Risca Male Chorus.  Risca is a town north of Cardiff, which I believe is a coal-mining town.

Presumably the men of the choir work all day, perhaps in the mines, and in the evening gather to sing songs.  The Risca choir is a well-disciplined group.  Their attacks are flawless.  Their harmony is excellent.  All of that is a tribute to their director, Martin Hobson, who is a no-nonsense fellow and who comes from the town of Risca.  One of the songs sung by the Risca Choir is called “We’ll keep a welcome.”  It was written during the Second World War and was a song to the Welsh Fusiliers, a regiment in the British Army.  Aside from the quote “may peace attend thee,” the fact that the Welsh used the phrase “We’ll keep a welcome,” are two grand additions to the English language.

Now as it turns out, the Welsh have appointed a member of the choir to be a recording secretary.  And naturally I soon set out to contact this recording secretary.  Our first exchanges were harmonious but then a deep-seated glitch developed in our relations.  That seems to have been when I asked the recording secretary when and if the choir had plans to record “The Men of Harlech.”  I thought it was a very safe question, one that would arouse no controversy.  In my view, “The Men of Harlech” was the second national anthem of Wales.

When I emailed my thoughts on “The Men of Harlech” to the recording secretary, there was suddenly a frigid atmosphere in our relations.  I had thought that one of the crown princes in the English hierarchy was called the Prince of Wales.  But apparently all of this camaraderie between the English and the Welsh people did not apply in my case when I asked for the recording of “The Men of Harlech.”  The answer that I received when I asked the question about their plans to record that song was, “No comment.”

All of this brings up the thought that the Welsh must have thrown in the towel with the Brits because there is no other way to read this.  But it is clear that the best Welsh choir in Wales will not record “The Men of Harlech.”  I suspect that the reason has to do with a line that occurs early in that song, i.e., “No proud Saxon ere befall us.”  This suggests that if an Englishman were to be taken by the Welsh, perhaps they might treat him roughly.  But as far as I am concerned, the English and the Welsh settled their differences with a treaty in about the year 1250.  It seemed to me that in that line about “no proud Saxon ere befall us,” perhaps the Welsh would have taken their prisoner and taught him to sing.  As far as I know, there are no English singing groups quite like the Welsh men’s choirs.

This happened maybe two years ago and I have heard nothing from the recording secretary in the interim.  Also in that interim, no recordings by the Risca Choir have ever been made of “The Men of Harlech.”  And so I am left to conclude that the Welsh have thrown in the towel to the Brits on the subject of that song.  I suspect that if the Welsh that escaped the English influence were turned loose, they might sing that song with great gusto.  But as things now stand there is no recording of “The Men of Harlech” by the Risca Choir.  Furthermore, I suspect that there will never be a recording of that song by the Risca Choir.

And so I am left with some inferior recordings made by other choirs singing “The Men of Harlech.”  That song goes back more than 80 years to my school days so I will pray that the Risca Choir may some day change its mind and record “The Men of Harlech.”

Why “The Men of Harlech” and “All Through the Night” were a major part of the repertoire of the Clayton public school system is a mystery to me.  But I am delighted that those two songs have a place in my mind that will never be erased.  So I will say now, “Sleep, my child.  May peace attend thee all through the night.”  But remember that Welsh men’s choirs are simply the best.  If the recording secretary of the Risca Choir ever changes his mind, and if a recording of “The Men of Harlech” is in the works, I will be a thoroughly happy man.



June 7, 2012

Essay 668


One of Pop’s longer essays.  The first of many to come regarding chorus music, and of several that mention the political history of the United Kingdom, a subject which still manages to rile him up.

For the lazy, here’s a youtube link to “Men of Harlech” —

Note that that’s the edited version. But some cursory google research reveals that many different lyrics were set to this tune. I can’t find a recording of the one that Pop seems to be remembering, but it looks pretty universally like the line he remembers is likely to be this: “Men of Harlech! Honor calls us // no proud Saxon e’er appalls us. // On we march! What e’er befalls us // never shall we fly.” It’s worth also mentioning that the middle english definition of ‘appalls’ means ‘to make pale.’ So there’s that.

Even better, though, are some of the other lyrics that various Welsh have put onto the song.

One version opens like this:
Men of Harlech! In the hollow,
Do ye hear, like rushing billow
Wave on wave that surging follow
Battle’s distant sound?

‘T is the tramp of Saxon foemen,
Saxon spearmen, Saxon Bowmen
Be they knights, or hinds, of yeomen,
They shall bite the ground!
Loose thy folds asunder
Flag we conquer under!

This is clearly the best version of all, because it features the most Saxon-killin’. I’ll have to make sure it comes to Pop’s attention. Check out other versions here (unfortunately not screen-reader friendly).


Sunday mornings around this household are a leisurely affair.  They consist primarily of my having my weekly cup of decaffeinated coffee but mostly of listening to the talk shows which dominate Sunday morning television.  Obviously I cannot see the images on the screen but I follow the dialogue with considerable interest.

Last Sunday, which was June 2, was no exception.  We watched the Chris Matthews program at ten o’clock followed by, as always, Bob Schieffer’s program.  At the eleven o’clock hour, we hear snatches of Fareed Zakaria, who is a learned gentleman.  Most of the eleven o’clock hour goes to a program by Howard Kurtz, who is an acerbic commentator on the American press.  The program by Howard Kurtz is most interesting to me because he calls a spade a spade, which is done all without ranker.

However, at eleven AM last Sunday, instead of Howard Kurtz, the broadcast on CNN was a live performance of the celebration of the Queen of England’s 60 years on the throne.  As we were often reminded, this was her Diamond Jubilee commemorating 60 years on the throne of England.  Perhaps at this point, I should mention two things.  First is that the author of this essay is an American whose ancestry is Irish and who thinks that the treatment of the Irish by the English for 800 years was nothing less than horrific.  The second is that the phrase “on the throne” means for all of those who speak the English language that it refers to the use of a commode in a sitting position.

But now, back to the live broadcast of the ceremonies honoring Queen Elizabeth of England for her 60th year of ruling.  I watched the program out of curiosity.  In former days, when Britain ruled the waves, the Queen of England would have met her subjects on her 60th anniversary by standing on the bow of a battleship such as The Invincible or The Intrepid.  But these are not the former days.  Instead, the Queen was allowed to float down the Thames on a barge while all of her admiring subjects stood on the river banks and waved to her.

As we were often told during this broadcast, the weather was less than balmy.  The temperature, as she floated down the river on the barge, was on the order of no more than 40°F.  But for the better part of five hours, the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, stood on the front end of the barge and waved to her subjects.  To use a word of English construction, this was a balmy exercise.  It made no sense, but in my estimation very little that the English monarch does makes any sense.

But now a sad note appeared.  When he completed his barge ride down the Thames, the Duke of Edinburgh seemed to have contracted a urinary infection.  His ancestry is Greek, of course; the Greek temperatures at this time of year are a good bit happier.  But maybe the Duke of Edinburgh knows something that we did not know.  The ceremonies are supposed to last for four days but he was hospitalized after the first day.  This means that he will miss the last three days of the grand celebration.  Again, I say that he knew something that we did not know.

Before the Queen’s ride on the barge was completed, a bolt from the blue stiffened my spine.  An English Queen is celebrating her 60 years on the throne and in this same year I will be celebrating my 90th birthday.  Those events were clearly heaven-sent.  We don’t make these things up.  Somehow the Queen of England and my birthday are clearly juxtaposed and entwined like the red rose and the bramble.  This is what gave rise to my comment at the beginning of this essay about being dumb.  I had overlooked this joint anniversary with the Queen of England and for that my dumbness must be widely celebrated.

I am so happy that the former Princess Elizabeth has been promoted to be the Queen because until 1917 she was not a Windsor at all.  In 1917 her parents changed their name from the German-sounding title of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.  It was of course ungainly for the British to have a Queen with a German name, particularly during World War I.  So now she is a Windsor and my admiration for her is unbounded.

As this is being dictated on Thursday, I am assuming that the royal celebration has now ceased.  I do not have the current word on the condition of the Duke of Edinburgh, her husband.  I will bring that information to you as soon as I find out, taking time to confirm its accuracy.

Well, now to make up for my absolute dumbness, I am proposing the following formulation to cement English and American ties.  The first move would have to do with Buckingham Palace, the home of the Queen.  The Queen has a mean, nasty brat of a daughter named Princess Anne, who has a fleet of large dogs.  One report I read recently said that when Princess Anne visited her mother, she brought her dogs with her and, unfortunately, they had bowel movements on the lawn of Buckingham Palace.  Now if we can find a space on the lawn of Buckingham Palace that is free of dog poop, I would propose, in the interest of English and American solidarity, to make love to the English Queen on the lawn.  The frolicsome ceremonies could take place while the audience could view the proceedings via BBC and international television.  Furthermore, to cement the ties between England and the United States, I would then propose to repeat the performance at Yankee Stadium, using the lawn behind second base.

This is a monumental turn of events with the Queen’s anniversary and my 90th birthday happening so close to each other.  I can only conclude that it is a heaven-sent event.  As such, I think it should be treated with great reverence.

So now I leave you to prepare for the invitation to Buckingham Palace, which I believe will be winging its way across the Atlantic in a matter of minutes.  On behalf of American manhood, I hope to be up to the job that lies ahead of me.  As I prepare for that task, I will repeat the words, “Rule Britannia; Britannia rules the waves.”



June 7, 2012

Essay 665



I told you he was vulgar. I don’t really even know what to do with this one, except click the “favorite” button with gusto.

Theme of the night is the United Kingdom and its affairs. That’ll be all.


The title of this essay comes from a song in the stage production of Camelot.  It opened on Broadway in December, 1960.  That means that the production of the Broadway play is now 50 years old.  When I hear the songs from that show, in particular as performed by Samuel Ramey, it brings back memories that are at least a half century old.  Nonetheless, I have lifted a title from one song called “How to Handle a Woman.”  I believe that it is a fitting tribute to Miss Chicka, my wife, who fully deserves this praise.

By the time that I had arrived on this earth, six children had been born to the Carr family ahead of me.  That meant that the arrival of a new child was old hat.  There was no gathering of females to say, “Look at him smile,” etc.  The only reason to marvel at the birth of this new child, namely me, was its weight.  I have been led to believe that the weight at the time of my birth in 1922 was something on the order of ten pounds.  But that is nothing to get excited about and so my parents, I suppose, would say, “Oh yes, we had a new baby.  So what else is new?”

I make this point to show that gushiness does not come easily to my mind.  As a matter of fact, that emotion is largely non-existent.  And so when I tell you that this essay is a tribute to Miss Chicka, my wife, you will know that it has been given a lot of thought.  And all those thoughts comprise the reason for the title of this essay, which is “…Love Her, Love Her, Love Her.”

Miss Chicka and I have been married for 25 happy years now.  We were not teenagers when we exchanged those vows before the mayor of Millburn, New Jersey.  Because we were not teenagers, old age has crept up on me in the form of disabilities.  And in the terms of disabilities, it has affected Miss Chicka as well by introducing her to cancer.  But this is not intended to be a play-by-play announcement of the course of our long marriage.  For the play-by-play, you will have to go elsewhere.  This essay as I said earlier is meant as a tribute to the constancy of Miss Chicka’s devotion to me.

When I look at the list of my failings over the past 25 years, it would make it appear that Miss Chicka has spent a good part of her life in hospital waiting rooms, waiting to hear at least in two cases whether her husband was going to survive.  As a point of fact, like an old penny, I have survived.  That survival is due greatly to the efforts of Miss Chicka.

As most of you know, seven years ago glaucoma decided to exercise its grim wiles on my eyes and since 2005 I have been completely blind.  More than that, old age has begun to creep up on me as I near the age of 90.  As I abandon the tasks that I used to do easily, such as taking out the garbage, those tasks have been willingly assumed by none other than Miss Chicka, my wife.  I used to set the table and butter the toast.  Buttering the toast is now beyond my reach because when I locate the butter I lose track of where the toast is located.  I made two or three attempts to continue this work but found that sloppiness was the net result.

As I have grown older and been able to do less in the way of keeping the household running, Miss Chicka has taken over those jobs with absolutely no complaint.  It gives me sort of a helpless feeling to know that my wife is performing the tasks that I should be doing.  But Miss Chicka does those tasks without complaint and seems to say that this is all part of the bargain of marrying you.

And so this essay is intended as a salute to my wife for doing more than her share of the responsibilities of the marriage.

Now we come to the title of this essay which puts in words the emotions that are felt here.  Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe are a product of the Broadway stage.  In 1962 when they wrote “Camelot,” there was one song that captured my fancy and still does some 50 years later.  That song is “How to Handle a Woman.”  In tribute to Miss Chicka, my wife, I would like to borrow some of the lyrics to “How to Handle a Woman.”  I do so because Lerner and Loewe are professionals and this essay deserves a professional touch.

As I recall it, “Camelot” is about King Arthur, his wife Guinevere, and Merlin the magician.  As it happened, Lerner and Loewe picked a baritone who rendered the song in question on the stage using a monotonous tone.   They should have chosen someone like Ezio Pinza or the great bass Samuel Ramey.  But fortunately while Lerner and Loewe overlooked outstanding basses and baritones, Samuel Ramey did record “How to Handle a Woman.”  Its lyrics are these:

How to handle a woman?
There’s a way,” said the wise old man,
“A way known by ev’ry woman
Since the whole rigmarole began.”
“Do I flatter her?” I begged him answer.
“Do I threaten or cajole or plead?
Do I brood or play the gay romancer?”
Said he, smiling: “No indeed.
How to handle a woman?
Mark me well, I will tell you, sir:
The way to handle a woman
Is to love her…simply love her…
Merely love her…love her…love her.”


When Samuel Ramey or any other good professional singer reaches those lines, “Love her, love her, love her,” I can only say, “Amen.”  Hey man, I am doing my best to do that.



June 12, 2012

Essay 670



I would agree with Pop here, particularly in the sentiment that he probably would not be alive today if not for Judy Chicka. All Shepherds, Carrs, and Nollmanns owe her quite a bit. It almost goes without saying, but the fact that she’s not a blood relative doesn’t change things for a second; she is as much family as anyone could be. Why she chose this particular family to become a part of, on the other hand, is honestly pretty baffling. In any event, I can attest that my grandmother is a wonderful woman, and I was very glad to discover at least one of Pop’s hundreds of essays was devoted primarily to that fact.

Note: Edited 8/31/12 with some edits that Pop made to this essay.


There are a few languages that I am conversant with.  One is country speak which has an essay or more dedicated to it.  The other is black speak.  Black speak is the language used by those who trace their ancestry to Africa.  I am conversant with both of these mutations of the English language but I never use country speak or black speak because it would not sound right coming from me.

Black speak is a colorful variant of the English language.  One of the speakers of black speak is Jackie, a clerk at the Whole Foods Market in northern New Jersey.  I would say that I have known Jackie for ten or twelve years and throughout that time she has been an exuberant practitioner of black speak.  It is also clear that Jackie speaks her mind.  You may recall the incident when a Jamaican clerk, Alrick, identified my new sneakers  as “pimp shoes.”  When I asked Jackie for her opinion, she was the one who said that I should take the shoes home, remove the laces, and cut the shoes into small pieces.  Then she advised that I should throw the pieces to the far corners of the earth.  So you see, Jackie speaks her mind.  If I have not yet pointed out my feelings about Jackie, she is one of the most likeable persons in the world.

The way the Whole Foods Market is organized is that every clerk seems to have a responsibility not only for keeping the stock on the shelves but also they are expected to produce a profit.  So the Whole Foods Market consists of dozens of profit centers.

Jackie does not suffer fools gladly.  For example, there was an occasion recently when a customer searched the aisles for some merchandise which he could not locate.  In her straightforward fashion and in black speak, Jackie told the customer, “If you don’t see it, we ain’t got it.”  To Jackie, that was simply a statement of the obvious.  Whether the potential customer took it that way remains to be seen.

But no matter how you cut it, Jackie has been a friend of mine for several years.  I do not see that relationship changing anytime in the future.  I am sorry that I do not have a surname for Jackie, but I am sure that she has one.  I do know, however, that she does not drive.  So it is up to her to reach the Whole Foods Market on public transportation.  I would not be surprised but that Jackie has given the drivers eloquent instructions in black speak on where to let her off the bus.

A second example of black speak has to do with a reference by Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech he made at Oberlin College in June of 1965.  This was also probably used in the speech he made later on the Mall in Washington to several thousand supporters.  In the speech at Oberlin and again in the speech on the Mall, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. quoted a preacher who had once been a slave.  After 1865 he was free.  According to Dr. King, the former slave preacher used these words to describe his current condition.

Lord, we ain’t what we oughta be;

We ain’t what we wanna be;

We ain’t what we’re gonna be;

But thank God we ain’t what we was! “

Oberlin College, June, 1965

I would say only, “Boy, oh boy, that was an indictment of slavery and it also recorded his exuberance on the end of slavery.”

There are other examples of black speak which I am sure that you have heard from time to time.  Black speak is not an officially recognized member of the speaking fraternity.  But it exists and how it exists.  It seems to this observer of the English language that if there are expressions that convey the meaning of the speaker as clearly as do Jackie and the slave preacher, we ought to give cognizance to that method of speech.

I understand black speak but I never use it because, as I said, it would sound artificial coming from me.  However, black speak is an efficient way of expressing the views of its speakers.  I am proud to call Jackie  my friend and I wish I had known the black speaker who used such eloquence to state that “We ain’t what we was.”  They don’t make them like that any more.



June 18, 2012

Essay 671


I somehow doubt that I am alone in my desire to see Pop write a short essay in country or black speak. I’ll put in a request.