Archive for the April Category

GREAT PARKING LOT IN THE SKY

As most of you know, I do not follow Republican politics very closely.  But this year there has been a major exception to the rule.  The Herman Cain/Michele Bachmann/Rick Perry enjoyment has been endless as the Republicans vie for their party’s nomination to run against Barack Obama.

The Republicans have been at it for several months now and the field has been narrowed.  It appears that the Republican challenger in 2012 will be Mitt Romney.  Mitt is, of course, not his real name.  I have been confused as to whether the word Mitt refers to a catcher’s mitt or a first baseman’s glove.  It turns out that his proper name is Willard.  That is a respectable name ranking alongside of such other names as Ezra.

We are now told that Mr. Romney is building a house in southern California that is extravagant, even for the social set that Romney comes from.  More than anything else, the house is distinguished by elevators that will bring his automobiles up to ground level.

I get along with a two-car garage which is attached to our house.  Mr. Romney seems to want to keep his automobiles below ground level, which would require the use of an elevator.

In the first place, there is a dispute involving the number of houses owned by Mr. Romney, which I believe comes to four or five.  In the Presidential elections of 2008, John McCain said that he couldn’t remember how many houses he owned.  We should all be so fortunate in our financial situations as to forget how many houses are owned.

Now that Mr. Romney has decided that he needs an elevator to bring his car to him, I am reminded of an incident that took place in St. Louis shortly after the Second World War.  In the St. Louis case, the theater district along Grand Avenue is apart from downtown St. Louis.  Parking has always been a problem.  But somewhere in the late 1940s, there was a solution.  It was called “parking in the sky,” a solution to overcrowded parking.  In the new situation, the cars were parked on top of each other rather than side by side.  St. Louisans were intrigued as the six story “parking in the sky” was constructed.

It was simply a steel structure, standing about six stories high.  As I recall it, there may have been two or three such structures.  When a customer entered the parking lot, his car would be placed on an elevator which would take it to the next vacant space in the “parking in the sky” garage.

The long and the short of it is that the “parking in the sky” became a cropper.  In some cases the attendant parking the car did not fully engage the emergency brake.  Then of course there was the problem of having a substantial number of patrons coming for their cars at once, after the theater had closed for the evening.  “Parking in the sky” was declared a major disaster soon after it had been built up as St. Louis’s expected bid to solve the parking problem of a major city.

Unfortunately Mr. Romney does not consult with me.  I could have told him about the “parking in the sky” experiment that was a failure in St. Louis more than 60 years ago.  But Mr. Romney has not consulted experts and prophets like myself.  But I presume that Mr. Romney’s builder has solved the parking problem by inverting the “parking in the sky” by putting the parking below ground level.  One way or another, when Mr. Romney or Mrs. Romney calls for their car, it would be slid onto an elevator with the engine running and the heating on and then delivered to Mr. Romney’s front door.

Mr. Romney claims that he only drives four cars.  He identified a Mustang and one other car as the cars he drives but he also said that Mrs. Romney drives “a couple of Cadillacs.”  That makes a total of four cars, which with the enormous house that is being built for him somewhere near San Diego would be no problem.  Somehow or another, Mitt Romney has decided that he needs an elevator in his garage.  I deeply regret the fact that most of us have so few automobiles that elevators are not required.  Very possibly Mr. Romney started thinking of adding to his fleet.

As you can see, I am not as informative as I would like to be on the subject of elevators for cars.  The St. Louis “parking in the sky” was nearly seventy years ago.  In future editions of Ezra’s Essays, I will try to determine how many cars Mr. Romney proposes to buy and how he proposes to elevate them, presumably from below ground to ground level.  But for the moment, I am stumped as to why a driver would require elevators when he would be parking at home.  And so with that thought, I will leave you hoping to be better informed about elevators for automobiles.

 

E. E. CARR

April 1, 2012

Essay 644

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In honor of tonight’s debate.  Big long essay coming next! Also, I may be wrong but I think Japan has also figured out a way to do the whole car elevator thing, because of a) space considerations and b) having been to Tokyo on a couple of occasions, car elevators strike me as exactly the sort of thing that the Japanese would enjoy.

SUMMERS AND/OR SOMMERS

I have consulted with grammar experts here and in New York City and the general conclusion is that the title to this essay is something like an adverb.  I was largely unschooled on the matter of grammar in the English language.  So if there is a mistake in the labeling of this title as an adverb, a verb or a proverb, I seek your acquiescence.  Perhaps you will understand a bit better if I explain the circumstances under which I grew up.

In our homes in Clayton and Richmond Heights, Missouri my parents and my siblings were always bi-lingual.  The siblings all spoke standard English whereas to my parents standard English was a second tongue.  My mother could speak standard English reasonably well.  On the other hand, my father spoke no standard English but instead used country-speak.  For all of his life of 77 years, my father spoke only country-speak.  With my mother and my siblings speaking both languages, he apparently had few difficulties getting along in life.

My father built the new house in Richmond Heights, Missouri.  It was a solidly built house with a few gimcracks in its structure.  In addition, about 30 feet behind the house, my father had constructed a two-car garage.  In a way, the garage testified to my father’s belief in strong materials properly assembled.  In the back of the garage there was a bench that stretched from one side to the other.  As might be imagined, it was a heavy-duty bench.  I believe that below the bench on the right side my father had constructed some drawers that could be pulled out.  Even when I was a grown man, there was no problem with sitting on my father’s bench at the back of the garage.  I of course did not sit there but this will give you an idea of the strength of the structures my father built.

In that same garage, on the rafters above, my father stored his saws.  There were rip saws and cross-cut saws as well as a two-man saw that we had used to cut up trees that we had felled.  So I believe that I have established the fact that my father constructed strong structures that were capable of lasting.  But when it came to speaking standard English, the old man was sort of thrown out at second base.

You may remember that in previous essays I have told you that my father had quit school at the age of sixteen or seventeen years, when he had progressed only to the “second reader.”  He like my mother attended country schools where at the beginning of the year they would give you a book or perhaps it was a notebook that was your curriculum for the whole year.  They didn’t say that one had completed the second grade or the third grade but rather they said that one had completed the second reader.

Between taking breaks for the planting and the harvesting of the crops as well as doing a little mining, my father had progressed only to the second reader when he finally gave up.  Surely there was evidence of his lack of education all through his life.  But he was a strong man who carried on despite his lack of education.

On many occasions my older sister Verna attempted to explain the ways of city people.  She would explain, for example, that the western-most state in the United States was pronounced as “Cal-i-forn-ya.”  My father simply dug in his heels and pronounced the state as “Cal-i-forn-nee.”  His name, the same as mine, was Ezra.  He and his friends as well as his wife pronounced that name as “Ezree.”  He was not a big man, probably weighing no more than a hundred and fifty or sixty pounds.  That was his maximum weight.

By the time that I came along, being the last child in the family, it was clear that he was going to play from the country-speak text book for the rest of his life and I accepted that.

In effect, my father and I were always strangers.  Yet there was love on both sides.  For example, in 1947 when I was an officer of the Telephone Workers Union, we were on strike against AT&T.  The strike went on for more than six weeks.  At the same time, my father had fallen out of a tree due to his blindness and fractured his skull.  When I went to visit him in St. Mary’s Hospital, he said, “Son, you’ve been without a paycheck for a long while.  I’ve got some money and I want you to have it.”  I did not take the money, explaining that I had saved up in anticipation of the strike.  But I told him that if I needed some money, I was be glad to know that it was available from him.

On another occasion, my father had his shotgun out to shoot at crows that were bothering my mother’s chickens.  On that occasion, when I was four or five years old, I must have mentioned to my father that he could shoot a bird.  Ezra Senior replied, “That bird loves his life as much as you love your own.”  I suppose that I shut up and didn’t ask my father to shoot any more birds.

But that is enough about my father’s outlook on life.  Let us now turn to the guts, if you will pardon the expression, of this essay.  The guts of this essay have to do with my father’s use of country-speak.  He spent a good bit of time in the garage behind the house.  He knew where everything was located; he knew the last time that he had oiled the tools.

 

So let us assume that my father could not locate a very small rattail file which had somehow been misplaced.  This did not happen very often because my father insisted that everything had a place and that it was up to the person that removed objects to replace them in the proper place.

If a tool was misplaced, while he was looking for the tool, my father would say, soto vocce (softly), “That (rattail) file must be here summers.”  I suppose that if a grammarian tried to decipher my father’s use of language, it would mean, “That file must be somewhere in here.”  But that is not what my father said.  He said, “That file must be in here summers.”  I am reliably informed by my wife Miss Chicka that if my father had uttered those words in western Pennsylvania, they would be recognized instantly.  I also suspect that my older friends, such as Howard Davis and Tom Scandlyn, would also recognize the word “summers or sommers” instantly.

The wonderful thing about country-speak is that it has no grammar to it and spelling is quite optional.  If a man wishes to say “summers” or “sommers,” either spelling would be eminently acceptable and the rest of us would know exactly what he had in mind.

Well, then, this is your lesson in country-speak for today.  It might be said that this is my sermon on country-speak as we start the month of April.  I suspect that this has made you wiser and improved your outlook on life.  Always remember that “That file must be in here sommers.”   Either spelling will produce the same result.  And I must say that I am glad to have been raised in a home that was bi-lingual.

 

E. E. CARR

April 2, 2012

Essay 645

 

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Kevin’s commentary:

I am immediately curious as to why a blind man was climbing a tree in the first place. Pop, if and when you see this, let me know if you do much tree-climbing these days. I know you like your maple tree very much — do you think you could climb it?

For another essay about Country Speak, read Licking, also published recently.

For my part, I am jealous of Pop’s “multilingual” upbringing. Despite my father being from Dallas and my mother being from New Jersey, I was not raised hearing the garbled versions of English that is routinely produced by denizens of either of these locations. If not proficient in country-speak, I feel that I should at least be able to manage a decent Texan accent… but no, I was raised in Austin, where I would be sure to get no exposure to such a thing. It’s all quite sad, really.

 

DON’T FORGET YOUR CHANGE

In Missouri where I come from, we don’t like fanciful titles or road signs.  The main highway leading from St. Louis to Clayton, Missouri, my home town, is called Clayton Road.  It is so called because it goes to Clayton.  Similarly, in the suburbs of St. Louis there was a road called North and South.  You will be amazed to know that it actually ran north and south.  It was my fortune to have worked at a filling station located where those two roads met.  On the northeastern corner, there was a Mobil gas station run by a fellow named Carl Schroth.  On the southeast corner, there was a Shell station run by a fellow named Gordon Kohlbry.  Obviously we wanted to sell as much gasoline as possible and so we were sort of rivals.  But in fact the people at the competing stations were quite friendly.

But I am getting a bit ahead of my story.  In the afternoons around 4:00 or 4:15 PM, an open backed pick-up truck would appear on North and South Road.  The pick-up truck was populated by the driver and a fellow who sat in the back of the truck.  It was the job of the fellow in the back to determine how many newspapers to drop off at the corner of Clayton and North and South Roads.  This was a cold job because in the first place heaters came along much later in life.  But heaters really had nothing to do with it.  The fact is that the sides of the rear of the pick-up truck were totally exposed.  For example when they reached the corner of North and South Road and Clayton Road, newspaper deliverers would throw off the number of newspapers that they hoped to sell that day.  If the newspaper vendor stationed at that corner thought he could sell more papers, he would give a signal of some sort and the additional papers would be thrown off the following day.

Faithfully around 4:00 PM, a fellow on a bicycle riding westward on Clayton Road would appear.  I came to know him quite well while I worked for Mr. Schroth.  His name was George Sam Pollard.  Sam would ride up and park his bicycle.  Then he would take the papers that had been dropped off at the corner and cut the small wire that held them together.  In those days, newspapers were sold at the rate of two cents per copy.  A driver riding by the corner of Clayton and North and South Road might see the yellow box where Sam Pollard stored his papers.  He would honk at Sam and Sam would scurry across either North and South Road or Clayton Road to deliver the paper.  Sam wore a changer on his belt so that he could pick out the number of coins for the change.  I never specifically pinned Sam Pollard down but I suspect that most of his customers gave him a nickel or a dime and waited for their change.  This of course was in the middle to late 1930s.

The corner of North and South Road and Clayton Road was a fairly busy intersection traffic-wise.  But Sam Pollard seemed to be able to dodge the traffic and to deliver the St. Louis Post Dispatch to his customers.

But as time went on, Gordon Kohlbry, the owner of the Shell station, determined that Sam Pollard would make a good employee.  And so he hired Sam.  The going rate at that point was about $15 per week.  Over time, Sam became my friend.  Sometime in 1940, I elected to go to work for another gas station called Williams Friendly Service.  Unfortunately that was the end of our friendship or, I should say, the friendship had a long pause.

Now I do not like stories that have no ending.  Unbeknownst to Sam or me, we went our separate ways and both of us became involved in the war that took place in 1941.  From 1940, I had simply lost track of Sam Pollard.

As it worked out, the fortunes of Sam and myself were quite similar.  Apparently Sam had gone to work for AT&T in Baltimore.  I suspect that this was after World War II was finished.  At the same time, my career with AT&T resumed when I was released from military service in 1945.  Now if we can take a break from 1940 until the latter part of the 1960s, the story will resume.

It turned out that Sam Pollard and I found ourselves working for AT&T in Washington DC.  We were in separate organizations of AT&T but I was amazed to find that Sam Pollard and I had followed essentially the same career paths.

To add a little bit of luster to this story, Miss Chicka, my wife, found herself reporting to Sam Pollard before my arrival.  And so it was that one day I happened to discover that there was a person working for AT&T in a different location by the name of Pollard.  I have forgotten the circumstances but in any event we looked each other up or maybe I looked him up and sure enough, it was Sam Pollard, the fellow that sold newspapers.  Interestingly, Miss Chicka did not know of any such prior meetings between Mr. Pollard and myself.  Although we did not keep it a secret from her, it was only after she arrived in New York that I found out that she had been acquainted with Sam Pollard.

So life takes some funny twists and turns.  I believe that it was in the late 1960s that Sam and his wife – her name was Florence – came to our house for dinner.  It was a distinct pleasure to talk to Sam once again.

Now as to the title of this essay, when Sam delivered his two-cents newspaper to his customers, they would pay for it with a nickel or a dime.  My belief is that they rarely told Sam to keep the change.  I know it was the Depression era, but a young man scurrying across the streets to bring them a newspaper ought to be rewarded.  But apparently that was not the case.

But once again what this recounts is that Sam Pollard and I lost track of each other again.  I hope that he is well and if he were to come around to this part of New Jersey, I would look forward to entertaining him.

Now as a matter of fact this essay came about because in addition to Sam Pollard, it has occurred to me that change – quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies and half dollars – is a rare commodity these days.  I suppose that the advent of credit cards has made change obsolete.  I know that in our local travels, Miss Chicka has change in the glove compartment of our car.  When there is an occasion such as parking meters, she will take the appropriate amounts to insert in the meter.

I used to carry the change in my front right-hand pocket.  There were times when the pocket became so heavy that I would go to a restaurant and trade in four quarters for a dollar bill.  But those days are no more.  If I am interpreting news reports correctly, it appears that the penny will  soon depart forever.  Now the pennies cost more to produce than the one cent that they represent.  As a matter of fact, I miss the change in the right front pocket of my trousers.  These days I have no reason to carry change but nonetheless the change in my pocket seemed to represent a degree of prosperity.  I know that you don’t get wealthy by having a lot of change.  But the fact is that a handful of change in my pocket brings on an aura of prosperity.

Well there I have told you a story of change.  I told you a story about Sam Pollard and about having change in my pocket.  There is one more thought that I wish to leave with you.

Our great and good friend Mrs. Frances Licht has an illuminating story that has absorbed me for a number of years.  Apparently her father ran a bakery in the community of North Adams, Massachusetts.  At the same time there were some Hebrew scholars of a very orthodox sect who as they began their scholarly studies, liked to have some baked goods.  Mrs. Licht, who was then Frances Kaplan, has informed me to my great consternation, that when these scholars purchased something which required some change, the change was always to be laid on the counter.  This was to avoid any contact between the holy scholars and Mrs. Licht.  Mrs. Licht is an attractive woman.  But I suppose that those Hebrew scholars did not wish to take a chance on any enticement from a female.

Well, I have told you what I can remember about Sam Pollard and about the effect of credit cards on change and, finally, about Frances Licht.  It seems to me that that is a full helping for one essay.  And so I will leave you with a thought expressed many years ago, “Don’t forget your change.”

 

E. E. CARR

April 30, 2012

Essay 650

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Kevin’s commentary: I look forward to one day having as life as full of strange coincidences as Pop’s has been. Although in this instance I feel like facebook and the like may take some of the surprise out of things, because they let you see which of your old friends are where at any given time.

Is it weird that to me the coolest part of this essay was the idea that “keep the change” used to actually mean something? Like, telling someone to keep the change implied some legitimate generosity back in the day. Today, sure it’s nice to let a store keep the change, but since I’ve been alive amounts less than $1 have generally mattered very little.  Likewise the idea of a nickel or dime being able to actually purchase something is utterly foreign. Maybe my grandkids will think the same of $1 and $5 bills.

 

SO ENDETH THE LONG NIGHT

As you know, baseball is played largely in the summertime.  The greediness of the owners has extended the baseball season until November arrives.  I deplore all of that.

But to get to the point of this monumental essay, it has been the better part of four or five months since a Major League Baseball game has been played.  But now, the long night endeth.

Here in suburban New York, I am pleased with the start of the 2012 baseball season.  I am able to report to you that the New York Mets won their first four games and that they have suffered no defeats.  In itself, that is a great accomplishment because the Mets have been known to stumble and fumble.

But things are looking up.  I am pleased to say that the 2012 baseball season has begun.  And it gives me endless pleasure to know that the New York Mets are undefeated in their first four games.  And a new baseball season has commenced.  From the Mets’ point of view, I think they ought to declare this the end of the season and proceed into the World Series.  But that of course is not the way it is going to work.

In every year, there is the very long hiatus for lovers of baseball between the end of one season and the start of another.  There used to be a song that we sang in grade school called, “Welcome sweet springtime, We greet thee with joy.”  I do not recollect the rest of the lyrics to that song but if springtime brings the start of another baseball season you may mark me down as being very grateful.

 

E.E. CARR

April 9, 2012

Essay 647

 

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Occasionally Pop likes to write exceptionally short essays. Oftentimes Pop likes to write about baseball. As you may have already deduced, I figured this was a nice example of both. Also, the second essay that I’ll be posting tonight concerns baseball, and I’m in a mood to create themes. We had language day and singular-person-focused day; now it’s baseball-and-baseball-analogy-day.

Yeah it’s a bit of a stretch, I’ll get better at this, I promise. Or just abandon the ‘theme’ idea altogether. We’ll see.

On a side note, for my part  I am approximately as interested in sports as Pop is in the salvation of his eternal soul. My brothers are pretty much the same way, and though Jack will more or less watch anything, I suspect that at some level Ed is disappointed that one of his daughters produced basically a buncha nerds. His other two grandkids are rather sportsy though, so I guess it balanced out in the end.

TIM TEBOW’S TRAVAILS

I hope and pray that you will recall an essay in the last mailing having to do with a professional quarterback who contends that he is a virgin.  I have nothing against professional football players, particularly quarterbacks, who contend that their virginity is intact.  But taking one thing with another and with the state of the record being what it is, I seriously doubt that any professional football player, particularly in New York, will be able to conserve his virginity for any appreciable length of time.

Perhaps you will recall that the Denver Broncos decided when they signed Peyton Manning that they no longer needed Tim Tebow.  So he was auctioned off and the Broncos not only received some players in exchange for Tebow, but he collected $2.5 million which Tebow contended he was owed if he were traded.

Last week the honorable Mr. Tebow was introduced to some sports fans in the New York area and he was booed.  I suspect that the reason he was booed had to do with his preserving his virginity.  There is no doubt about his football skills, so that leaves only one possibility and that, of course, is his virginity.

Coming to New York from a college career at the University of Florida, followed by a tour of one short year as the Denver Broncos quarterback leaves much to be desired.  Mr. Tebow must recognize that now he is in the big time and the booing has to do with his coming of age rather late.  There have been other athletes in the pro football ranks who have proclaimed their advocacy of Christianity.  But Mr. Tebow not only proclaims his advocacy of Christianity but he has coupled that with the claim that he is a virgin and will remain so until his marriage.

I am an old-time watcher of professional football who has lately fallen out with that sport.  My memory goes back to a team called the St. Louis Gunners which played professional football of a minor league variety shortly before or shortly after the Second World War.  Those fellows were rough and tough and not a single one of them ever proclaimed that he was a virgin.

The training camps for the 2012 season will soon be underway.  In the last part of August, the regular season will begin.  As I have said on earlier occasions, pro football does not interest me anymore because of the roughness and cruelty of the games.  I hesitate to call it a sport.  The New Orleans Saints had their coach suspended for a year without pay because he provided a bounty system which encouraged his players to maim opposing players.  But when Mr. Tebow takes the field, I will feel an obligation to listen to the games.

Now that brings us to the heart of what I wish to say in this essay.  Coming from Denver to New York must be a traumatizing experience for Mr. Tebow.  He not only has to satisfy the desires of millions of sports fans in the New York area, but he has to do it while preserving his virginity.  I refuse to believe that Mr. Tebow’s virginity will outlast this coming season.  My belief is that every rabid female New York Jets fan will figure out a way to relieve him of his vows.  And I must say that in my heart I am on the side of those conniving females.

But that leaves those of us who cannot see with a bit of a dilemma.  I believe that before the 2012 season is over, Mr. Tebow will have compromised his status as a virgin.  But for those of us who cannot see, I wish to enjoy the instant that his virginity is relieved.  He has preserved his virginity for at least the first 24 years of his life.  When a rabid female New York Jets fan takes his virginity from him, of course we cannot witness that act because of our blindness.  We will have to rely upon our ears to decide whether the act has been completed.

What this essayist would like to know is, “When he is relieved of his virginity, will it make a loud popping sound?”  After 24 years will the surrender of his virginity be much like opening a bottle of champagne?  Or perhaps will it be something akin to opening a can of sardines?  I hesitate to write these words but will the relief of his virginity occur in closed silence?  Would the world hear of Mr. Tebow’s satisfaction when he has learned that he has lost his virginity?  Maybe sighs and groans will accompany this feat.  Those of us with no eyesight would like to be in on the enjoyment.

This is only the second essay and Mr. Tebow has not played a regular season game for the New York Jets.  I suspect that at least one of the three or five essays to be written about Mr Tebow will have to do with the loss of Mr. Tebow’s virginity.  When the regular season begins, I expect that additional volumes may be called for.

I realize that we have devoted two essays to Mr. Tebow’s claim of virginity.  It seems to me that this is a worthwhile investment in view of the fact that no other professional football player in the National Football League has proclaimed his lack of involvement with sexual matters.  And remember that Mr. Tebow is only in his second year in the League.  But when the season opens in August, it is quite certain that there will be further developments in Mr. Tebow’s desire to hold onto his reputation in spite of the entreaties of New York Jets female fans.

When I started this essay, I was among those who thought that Mr. Tebow’s claim of virginity was a bit of a hoax.  Now as we finish this essay, a change has come over me.  I want Mr. Tebow to maintain his virginal status for ever and ever.  Right now I can see headlines in the New York papers saying that “The New York Jets have won the Super Bowl with their virgin quarterback.”  That may be the ultimate achievement for all of mankind.

E. E. CARR

April 19, 2012

Essay 648

 

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Occasionally, Pop will be compelled to spend an entire essay just on one person. I’m posting two of such essays tonight, one rather funny one about a certain Christian quarterback, and another about his wife. While the latter is much sweeter, this one features a deeply inappropriate simile involving sardines that made me cringe a little. Accordingly, picking a favorite for the night was probably a closer race than it should have been.

In other news, the very same Tebow apparently lost a game in stunning fashion to the New York Giants today, which I heard about in real-time this afternoon and which is why I suppose I had him on the brain.