Archive for the Meta Category


A couple of weeks ago, my car was heading westward on a cold, bleak December afternoon when the sun was low in the sky. There was almost no way to block out the sun and still see to drive. The thought occurred to me that driving like this is no fun. And growing older is often also devoid of fun.

Growing older has diminishing returns as it relates to the enjoyment of life. Aches and pains and back problems are often the order of the day. When retirement loomed as AT&T began to prepare my pension, well wishers told me that these were the golden years. Don’t believe everything well wishers say.

It seems to me that everything that can be dropped will be dropped. But that is only the half of it. The dropped item then falls from the table or from the counter to the floor. In the kitchen here, there has always been a brown floor. Almonds and other nuts that fall to the floor as some of them do, are next to impossible to find. In the bathroom, there are pills with most of them being white. The bathroom floor is white or light almond tile. Again, impossible to find the dropped pill.

Speaking of pills, a system has been devised whereby as pills are consumed, the time of day is entered on a chart. Sometimes it is more convenient to make the notation before taking the pill. And with great precision, my former infallible memory often will not tell me whether the pill has actually been taken. There are other times when an entry on the chart is overlooked leading to the dilemma of whether the medication was or was not taken and entry on the chart was simply overlooked.

Old age memory is a volatile affair. My house shoes are usually left in one closet when clothes are changed. The other morning, the house shoes could not be located. The other closet was searched and no house shoes turned up. The dressing room was searched with similar results. The bedroom was examined, but there were no old, beat up house shoes. Then it dawned on me that because the shoes were beat up and were unsightly, that Miss Chicka, my wife, had taken them away to the trash.

As my steps took me in the direction of Miss Chicka, my thoughts had to do with remonstrating with her for doing such a dastardly thing to an old man, a patriot and a former soldier. As my steps took me down the hall, my feet came into view. The mystery of the disappearing house shoes was solved by me, a real Sherlock Holmes moment. The shoes were on a set of feet – namely mine!!!

My back has held up for more than 80 years, so it is entitled to be painful once in a while. There are occasions when the knees bark at me, but climbing steps can still be done, but not as gladly as when youth pervaded my being. The teeth are a bit of a problem as the insurer informed me that annual benefits had been used up by March, 2003. The one eye seems to be holding up well now that my ophthalmologic visits are no longer to the female fondler in Short Hills. It is possible to listen to music even at an advanced age, so my hearing is holding up. Recently, we are happily listening to male Welsh choirs. Nobody knows why Welshmen can sing such great harmony, but they do it every day.

Now that my step may be slowed a little, it would be greatly appreciated for Charles, the Prince of Wales, to lend me his footman who is responsible for opening the toothpaste and spreading it on His Majesty’s brush everyday. Even if it is disclosed that only this Irishman has a toothpaste spreader, it would be claimed as a reward for my passing into the years of puberty.

Before you ask, His Majesty Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, sings not a note, we are told. He seldom if ever visits Wales. Charles shoots birds and tries to romance that divorced woman who lives in a connecting, adjoining apartment to one of the Royal Castles. That is quite enough for the Prince of Wales.

Growing older is not all bad. On the plus side, my lifelong penchant for speaking my mind is now largely uninhibited. In my essays, there is no trouble about taking the Catholic Church to task. Jews do no escape my ire. There have been several letters to Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times about hiring such jerks as Bill Safire and David Brooks, apologists for the Republican Party. Of course, my main scorn is for Protestant Christians because those people are well known to me from my upbringing. And tormenting George Bush and his band of bandits is an especially rewarding theme that finds expression in my essays and in my speech. There is no longer an employer looking over my shoulder to say, “Tone it down.”

So growing old or older ain’t all bad. Growing older is not much fun. But on a clear day, this question must be asked, “What are the alternatives?” Until that question is adequately answered, there is not much choice but to look in the blinding sun on a winter’s day and to carry on.



You know, I don’t think I ever knew a version of Pop who had a filter on what he said or wrote. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that such a person is largely imaginary. Besides, in the days before the internet, it seems like an employer is unlikely to stumble upon anything that an individual has written that was not sent directly to said employer. Maybe people just gossiped a lot more in person, such that instead of fearing that a boss will Google you, you had to fear that he’d somehow know a friend of a friend who knew that you were an outspoken atheist, or something. Still seems like a much lower-risk proposition.


Quick meta post — Judy dug up plenty of essay attachments relating to recent essays(thanks!). I just added images, some music, and some text to the following essays:



On November 1997 I wound up being speechless and without the ability to write.  My total speech consisted of the words “thank you” and in writing I could only write a few spelled out numbers like “six” or “seven”.

After release from the hospital, I entered the speech therapy program at Kessler Institute headed by Shirley Morganstein.  Shirley searched for items that might arouse my interest.  There were quizzes from newspaper stories in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  These were followed by book reports from Jeff Shesol’s Mutual Contempt, the story of Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

One of the problems involving aphasia, which is what I have, is that words are uttered which are quite different or opposite of the real meaning the speaker

had intended.  In my case, I offered the opinion in a book report that LBJ was a “homosexual”.  I have no idea where that came from and for the record, LBJ was completely straight.   Maybe one of his helpers was gay (Walter Jenkins) but Johnson was completely heterosexual.

Mrs. Morganstein suggested in passing that I might try to write an essay.  As it happened, my next meeting with her was scheduled for December 8, 1997.  And so it was that the first essay was about humorous aspects of the war and what December 8 has meant for me over the years.  One way or another I omitted the fact that the original December 8 date was in 1943 when German forces combined to ground me for awhile.  Compared to that event, the remainder of the December 8 recollections are pleasant.

In any case, Shirley seemed to accept “December 8, 1997”, and suggested that I concentrate on essays.  Her thought was that if you hit on something promising, “ride it as hard as you can.”  And so I started to think about more essays.

It came naturally to me that there had been many incidents associated with overseas trips so I used them as a springboard.  All of these stories except one were written from memory so if there is any dispute, I can say you know how bad old folks memories may be.  In one case, the “Givens’ Newspeak”, I did have some contemporaneous notes dating to 1969.

In addition to the essays about overseas adventures, there are some other writings such as the Kunberger condolence letter, a note to Sven Lernevall and the letter to the Hutchinson News.

I enjoyed writing the essays.  They are not great enhancements to the American literature scene.   In point of fact, they are classroom assignments and are intended to be read and discussed in less than 30 minutes.  They simply suggest that with Shirley Morganstein’s help and with Judy’s helpful criticism, I can again write a little bit – which I could not do in November 1997.   And if the essays fill in some of the blank spots while I was gone so much in the service of the great AT&T Corporation, then that is an added benefit.

E. E. Carr

April 21, 1998


Where it all began.  This was an intro to the very first packet of essays that were produced. Turns out that I was indeed mistaken on the last essay — there are a dozen or more essays that predated the official distribution list I was using for numbering. Many thanks to Judy for the clarification. You’ll be seeing these earliest of essays next!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My essays, of which there are more than 750, were confined almost unanimously to the light-hearted variety.  Once in a while a more serious subject would creep in among the light hearted subjects.  But now we arrive at one that is a bit more serious in nature.  It has to do with those of us who have been classified in the Hospice category.  When one thinks of the Hospice category, he or she automatically assumes a sobering stance.  But this sobriety does not necessarily extend to everything in hospice.  Rules are made to be broken and at this time of life the snap-crackle-pop asserts itself with alarming regularity. 

There are many light hearted moments knowing that one will shortly be consumed in the clutches of deaths’ embrace.   For example, the limit on those of us who love ice cream is automatically lifted for those who are in the hospice category.  Furthermore, there are no warnings about driving carefully to avoid accidents or being careful crossing streets.  I would happily walk under a ladder but I would need an army of support to get there.

It may well be that these are the most carefree days in my adult life.  For example, this morning I found that I was relieved of collecting all of the information for the filing of income taxes.  No one tells me what time I have to go to bed; however, I am usually in bed sometime around 9:15PM.

There was also a weekend where two of my grandsons visited with me which provided an alarming amount of hilarity.  One instance of hilarity was prompted by the reading aloud of an essay which contained my own obituary written by me.  As you may know, writing ones obituary has long been the desire of every Irishman who ever set foot upon the earth’s surface.  Wouldn’t you like to write your own obituary?  My description of the death scene included many inappropriately clothed women, even more empty champagne bottles, and “$1,000 bills were sticking out of every pocket of Mr. Carr’s jacket and pants.”

Prompted by my good friend and fellow Missourian Howard Davis, this afternoon I started out to write my final thoughts on life.  But that does not seem to be possible.  It may well be that all those thoughts were committed to writing in the aforementioned 750 essays.  There is little left unsaid.  I am satisfied in the knowledge that my well honed philosophy of life has been communicated, my memoirs have been completed, and thanks to Kevin Shepherd, they are now available for all to read.

Perhaps one of the benefits of declaring that your life is coming to an end is the opportunity to say goodbyes to friends and family.  To quote William Butler Yeats… “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”  (Municipal Gallery Revisited)

If I were to leave this life tomorrow, it would be primarily with a giggle.

March 3, 2014
Essay 775 (?)
Kevin’s commentary: So, I did the digital equivalent of a back-of-napkin calculation to figure out just how prolific Pop has been since he started composing essays. By that, I mean I just ran a full word count of the entire Ezra’s Essays folder on my computer. There’s a chance that handful of essays got double counted (occasionally, the folder contains both early and final drafts of the same essay) but that shouldn’t throw the overall statistics off by much at all, especially considering that there are also a few essays that I don’t have electronic access to, and thus weren’t counted. These figures of course exclude my commentary.

All that out of the way:
Essay count: 775
Word count: 1,029,621
Pages: 3,569 at 288 words to the page
Characters: 5,741,988 (averaging six-letter words! Not bad!)

For those counting, this puts Pop just a few essays short of the length of the entire Harry Potter series (1,084,170 words) but easily outstrips the length of the King James Bible (~780,000 words). I suppose Pop took it upon himself to write his own Bible (and then some) upon rejecting the Christian one — sounds like a reasonable solution to me.

What I’m getting at is that a million words seems, well, sufficient. Nobody is going to accuse him of throwing in the towel at this point.

As a related issue, I consider myself exceptionally lucky that I have access to all of these writings. If I’m ever possessed by the desire to know exactly what Pop thinks about Dick Cheney, I can immediately pull up precisely 64 essays which mention the man. Perhaps excluding the progeny of the extremely famous, precious few people have access to anywhere near this volume of a relative’s archived consciousness.

Those interested in the obituary that Pop wrote for himself can read it here.

Finally, I have two pictures to share from the weekend mentioned in the essay, which I feel like the present and future readership of this site might appreciate.

The first is confirmation that Pop ain’t fucking around when it comes to Ben and Jerry’s:

















The second is a picture of Pop that I snapped while Connor was reading the obituaries essay. It makes me happy.


The surgeon who intended to repair my aortic valve late in 1997 advised me to stop my Coumadin intake five days before the procedure. On the fourth day, a stroke occurred. The stroke spared my limbs but left me with an active case of aphasia. The surgeon, who is a decent fellow, said that “We dodged a bullet.” He does not have aphasia. But in any case his statement came out as “We dodged a bullet.”

While I was still in the hospital recovering from the stroke, two women came by and told me that they were going to help me with my aphasia problem. They left sheets of paper and told me on one occasion to write down every vegetable that I could think of on this one sheet. The next day they came by and told me to write the name of every automobile I could think of. Then they said that in a day or two they would return and I would be asked to repeat, for example, the names of 20 automobiles in, say, 20 seconds and the same would apply to the vegetables. It turns out that those two women were hoping to establish a business to help aphasia sufferers. As soon as I could leave the hospital, I returned the papers and my wife contacted the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute.

After a few sessions, the speech therapist advised me to start writing essays as a means of restoring some of the loss in my brain. It so happened that the first essay was due on December 8, 1997. It also so happens that in 1943 my airplane was shot down on December 8th over Northern Italy. Furthermore, ten years later on December 8th in Chicago it was our good fortune to adopt a two-and-a-half-month old baby girl. And finally, on December 8, 1956, her sister was born. And so my first essay had to do with those events.

While we dodged bullets, as I freely concede, aphasia has hung around for all of the ten years since the stroke. Even today, I cannot name the stationary bicycle that I ride in our gym in the basement without first recalling the Seagal Stationery Store in Summit. I cannot pronounce the word persimmon without thinking first of the Simmons Mattress Company. And the word Bacitracin will not come to my lips until I think of my parents saying that Herbert Hoover was going after things bass-ackwards. Beyond that, there are word substitutions. For example, when my wife went to mail our income tax to the Internal Revenue Service, I asked her if she had mailed our umbrella. To the extent that I can do it, I find these lapses into aphasia humorous.

While the speech pathologist got me to start writing essays, I have not quit. As I dictate this little article, to my right are ten three-inch binders holding essays that I have produced over the past ten years. My estimate is that 200 or more have been written as a means of dealing with aphasia. There are people who ask how I think of subjects to write about. My grandson says that the essays are memoirs of my long life. I find that when I am engaged in my bathroom, subjects come to me almost automatically. I write about people I have known, humorous events during my service in the United States Army, my family who had religious quirks, and dozens of other subjects.

As the son of Irish antecedents, I find the British monarchy hilarious beyond belief and a splendid source for my essays. For example when the Prince of Wales decided to share quarters with Camilla Parker-Bowles before they were married, Queen Elizabeth insisted that he construct another bedroom next to his official residence at Clarence House. The Queen politely ignored the fact that they had been lovers for at least 30 years during their marriages to other people. But the Queen was determined to preserve British dignity at any cost.

Clearly, there are many cases of aphasia that are much more severe than the one I have. My recovery from aphasia was not helped by the onset of glaucoma, which blinded me totally at the end of October, 2005. When I could read and write, I could absorb information from the written page. Now I must rely entirely on my ability to hear. But the essays have not stopped. I now have a recording device into which I am dictating this article. The cassettes from the device are transcribed by a lovely lady who lives about eight miles from here, who then sends the finished product back by email. At that point, my wife Judy and I go to work correcting and polishing the essays. It may seem like a cumbersome procedure, but it works.

In the previous paragraph, I had difficulty trying to recall the word glaucoma. I know that word inside and out because glaucoma blinded my father as it did my elder brother. Yet due to aphasia, there are many instances where the name glaucoma either will not come to my mind or refuses to be pronounced.

I am not a physician or a psychologist or a member of any of the professions that treat aphasia in a clinical manner. I am simply an 85-year-old geezer who worked for AT&T for 43 years and who found the time to volunteer for the United States Army Air Corps when World War II started. If I had any advice to offer to other aphasia sufferers, it would be for you to consider writing essays. My essays are distributed to about 25 or 30 people, who from time to time encourage me by their responses. When I fail to write essays, my vocabulary shrinks.

So you see, it is important for me to keep on writing essays. Not everyone considers them literary gems, but when it comes to battling aphasia, they seem to get the job done. Aphasia may have closed one door in my life, but it opened another one involving essays. In the final analysis, every person must play the hand he is dealt, even though he may have to dodge some bullets while doing so.

January 16, 2008
Essay 284
Kevin’s commentary: I’m always a fan of these meta essays. Also, as I go back in time, I realize that Pop has been using the umbrella example to demonstrate his affliction for a long time. This would indicate to me either that it was the most egregious word substitution or there simply aren’t that many to choose from in the last few years — each option of course being very good news to me. I hope that 2014 brings at another crop of new essays.

Honestly I think I’m incredibly lucky to have access to this large of a body of work regarding my grandfather. I live a long way from New Jersey and our chances to have conversations in person are somewhat limited. Essays are of course not a perfect substitute for that but this is a way for me to have at least a short conversation, even if it’s one way sometimes, with Pop every day. Kinda cool!


On Monday, July 26, the board of directors of the British Petroleum Company, known now as BP, met to consider the fate of Tony Hayward, its Chief Executive Officer.  I think that it was a foregone conclusion that BP had to separate itself from the honorable Dr. Tony Hayward.

In the British way of doing such things, they are polite about such matters.  They don’t just fire a man, as would be the case in this country.  But rather they give him what is known as “the sack.”  No two ways about it, Tony Hayward was fired or, in more polite terms, given the sack.  He is no longer the chief executive officer of British Petroleum as of October 1st.   But having been sacked, he will be involved in a joint venture in Russia having to do with one of BP’s holdings.  Whether he gets to keep his $6 million salary is another matter unaddressed.  I suspect that he will have to take a pay cut.

Tony Hayward holds all kinds of degrees from Glasgow University including a Ph.D.  That was not enough for him to avoid some egregious gaffes.  In the beginning, he assured the American public on television that the leak in the oil line in the Gulf of Mexico was a small matter and would be taken care of very promptly.  That of course did not happen and at the current reading it is the 99th day of the spill.

Then it was decided by Mr. Hayward and his bosses that a public relations campaign should be undertaken with Hayward as its main spokesman.  I dictated an essay not long ago complimenting Hayward on his diction of the English language.  But in that television campaign, Dr. Hayward also said that he wanted his life back.  Somehow he forgot about the eleven men who were killed in the explosion while they were drilling his well.

In further television comments we were told that there were a variety of measures to kill the well.  As you will recall, none of them succeeded.  Hayward was eventually called before a committee of Congress and mostly avoided answering their questions.  On the Saturday after his testimony, as soon as the Congressional hearings were finished,  Hayward hurried home to be involved in a yacht race involving his own boat.  This did not receive favorable attention here or in Great Britain.  For all of his academic achievements, Hayward had no real sense of how the average man felt about his company.

Now in the 99th day of the spill, it appears that there is a cap that seems to be holding the oil flow back.  But that was not enough to save Tony Hayward’s job.  My guess is that Tony Hayward just doesn’t get it.  He seems to be oblivious to the consequences of the oil spill, particularly as they relate to what his boss calls “the small people” around the Gulf of Mexico.  But Tony Hayward is a man who owns a yacht that seems not to be interested in such small things as the suffering of the people who fish for a living around the Gulf.

So come October 1st, Tony will be gone and will be succeeded by a man named Bob Dudley, who sports a degree from Mississippi State University.  Some time ago, American voices replaced Tony Hayward in the television commercials that were designed to convince us that the oil spill was beneficial to all of us.  Once Dudley was identified as the new chief executive officer, he began to pronounce the word “oil” as it should be pronounced.  Prior to that time, he pronounced the word as something resembling “all.”  But now that he has been promoted come October 1st, he has gotten the message and he pronounces the word oil in a proper fashion.

I have no intention of hitting a man when he is down, but if any man ever asked to be kicked, it was Tony Hayward.  The yacht racing incident put a cap on a long series of his executive gaffes.  My guess is that when he arrives in Russia, he might be inspired to look for a different job.  But now we have Bob Dudley, the Mississippi State graduate, running BP and we have no choice but to hope for the best.

And as for Tony Hayward, you might say that this Midwestern American still admires his diction when he uses the English language, but there is very little else to admire in this whole catastrophe.



July 27, 2010

Essay 478


Kevin’s commentary: He’s an ass and it bugs me that he’s going to be set and content for the rest of his life. I imagine that by this point the guy has more than he could conceivably spend. Ugh

I think this may be the last Hayward essay, but for those just tuning in, this essay certainly is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Pop’s opinions on this particular issue. View the rest here:

GIVING A (Insert Adjective) RAT’S ASS



For the past three weeks, a drought has descended upon my being which renders me largely incompetent to write essays.  I trust that the drought is not a permanent condition but is a transient affair.  In the long time that I have been writing essays, droughts have appeared from time to time. 

The title of this essay comes from a song written by Guy Clark, called “Sometimes I write the songs; sometimes the songs write me.”   In the lyrics to that song, Guy Clark makes it clear that when a drought lands upon your soul, there “ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.”  For a songwriter like Guy Clark, this is a serious consideration in view of the fact that he writes songs for a living.  If he writes no songs, he suffers a reduced or non-existent income.  So when a drought-like situation occurs to a songwriter, it is a matter of great concern.  In my own case, the drought-like situation has far fewer consequences.  But this case, it causes me to wonder about whether I will ever write any more essays.  The fact that I am writing one here is a testament to the fact that the drought has let up a bit.

I like Guy Clark and I subscribe to his philosophy that when a drought descends upon your soul, your ability to make words into an essay or a song is severely hampered and there “ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.”

During the time when this drought has descended upon my soul, several events that offer likely material for an essay have developed.  On one hand, we have, for example, the case of Anthony Weiner.  He is a former Congressman from New York who has now launched upon a campaign to make him be mayor of New York City.   If I may say so, Mr. Weiner is emotionally incapable of being a dog catcher in New York.  From what we have seen over the past couple of months, it is clear that Mr. Weiner is an emotionally distressed individual.  The last thing we need is an emotionally distressed individual running the affairs of the greatest city in the United States.  But be that as it may, Mr. Weiner is hot on the campaign trail, even though it is clear that he is an emotionally disturbed individual.

So that is one case I could have used to write an essay but the drought that descended upon my soul has prevented me from doing so.

A second case comes to mind that also occurred while I was suffering from the drought situation.  The mayor of San Diego whose name is Bob Filner, has a penchant for violating the code of conduct that should prevail between the male and female persons.  For example, there were several occasions when he and the rear ends of his female help came into contact.  There were other cases when he had his hands up between the legs of a female who worked for him.  As a matter of fact, there are eight cases of females saying that Mr. Filner was guilty of some sort of offense upon their persons.  In one instance, he applied a headlock on one of his female workers.

So this is a second case where I could have, absent a drought, launched into an essay about the shortcomings of the mayor of San Diego.  But as luck would have it, I did no such thing, preferring to wait for some juicier details.

The third case involves George Zimmerman, the defendant in the trial that was broadcast over all of our television stations recently.  I have a reasonable understanding of the law and I conclude that Mr. Zimmerman literally got away with murder.  It is clear that part of the law is vague, leaving six women on the jury which acquitted Mr. Zimmerman to take matters into their own hands because they had no precise definition of what he had done.  But believe me ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Zimmerman got away with murder.

Well, here are three cases that I should have turned into essays.  On the other hand, I am quite certain that Mr. Weiner will be back in the news, perhaps as soon as this week.  Similarly, for the likes of Bob Filner, the mayor of San Diego, I place no trust in the two-week period that he claims he is undergoing intensive therapy to keep his hands off of females.

Mr. Zimmerman on the other hand has been stopped for speeding in Texas.  He showed his firearm to the policeman who let him go with a warning.  Like Mr. Weiner and Mayor Filner, I have no faith that George Zimmerman will exist quietly with the rest of us.

As things now look, I believe that this drought will soon pass and I will be back in the essay-writing business.  But as Guy Clark wrote in his song, when a drought happens, “Some days you write the songs; some days the songs write you.”  Unfortunately I am not a songwriter but I wish I were.  But if Guy Clark can survive dry spells, I am certain that before long the dry spell will pass and Mr. Weiner, Mr. Filner, and Mr. Zimmerman will be brought to account.

Before I launched into Weiner, Filner, and Zimmerman, I had one other big failure in an effort to break the drought.  That involved writing about something that I knew.   So it was that I came to write about my blindness.  As happened on at least two or three other occasions, the blindness story cannot be condensed into one essay.  It would take several volumes.  So I failed.

And so in the final analysis, you have the notorious three and my effort to deal with blindness.  Unfortunately, none of these essays ever resulted in my producing plausible material to break the drought.  In this essay, I believe that I am back on track.



July 27, 2013

Essay 758


Kevin’s commentary: Pop is highly prolific. If you’re ever bored while you’re waiting for new essays I would encourage you to read the 250+ that already appear on this website. If you’ve done all that, then the good news is that I post a new one every day! All this to say that while shortages of new material are unfortunate, Pop certainly deserves breaks sometime and I know as well as anyone that writers’ blocks can be difficult to overcome. That said, I’m particularly glad to see that he’s beginning to write again.


In writing this essay, I am speaking for a person born in 1918, one born in 1920, and myself, born in 1922.  So you see, there are no spring chickens among the three of us.  Not long ago, a question arose from the one born in 1920 of whether he would prefer to keep his mind about him as he entered his 90th year.  This gentleman, born in 1920, was quite firm in the belief that he wished to preserve his mind while he would do his best to take care of his body.

I have given this matter a good bit of thought and I have reached the same conclusion.  It is my belief that it is better to preserve one’s mind as opposed to preserving the body.  I am of the opinion that the body in people of our age is going to go any second.  As a matter of fact, all of us have noticed deterioration in the performance of our bodies.  In my own case, I measure how I perform on the stationary bicycle from one exercise to the next.  When there is deterioration, I am aware of a decline in my performance while exercising.

On the other hand, there is an argument to be made that when the mind goes, one will be unaware of deterioration in the mind or the body.  I suspect that has a lot of logic associated with it.  Given a choice, I believe that it is better to preserve the mind rather than the body.  The body can be helped by such things as walkers and wheelchairs.  The mind has no such fallback.

I presume that a disinterested observer would say that at our advanced age, “What in the hell is there to care about?”   But in point of fact, the matter has a good bit to concern all of us.  If you wish to evaluate the health of your mind and body as you turn into your upper 80s and lower 90s, I would recommend that it is significantly better to preserve the mind as opposed to the body.  The gods did not give us a choice in this matter so we are left on our own.  In my case, the body is wobbly but I am still able to write essays such as this one even as I enter into my lower 90s.  I do not believe that the world will be changed by my essays but as youngsters come along, they may be interested in what happens to both the mind and the body.

So mark me down as one who wishes to preserve the mind as opposed to the body.  I would be thoroughly delighted to have both my mind and my body working as they did a few years ago.  But the gods who control such matters apparently decided otherwise.  And the three of us are in a similar situation.  In my case, to use one example, I still get around the house.  When a wheelchair is offered to me at the Summit Medical Group which we patronize, I am quick to take it.  There is no excessive pride here.

There was an occasion when I parked my wheelchair outside of the examining room.  Apparently someone was looking for a wheelchair and took mine.  Stealing a wheelchair is at least a second- or third-degree felony.  I expect that George Zimmerman would be happy to have my problem on stealing wheelchairs.

In the final analysis, if there is a choice between preserving the mind or the body, I suppose that I have already made up my mind that preserving the intellect is better than preserving the body and this goes for all three of us old timers.  I wish that, as I said before, both of them could be maintained at a superior pace and not have it determined otherwise.   So it is that all of us must wait for the end.  I would prefer to return both my mind and body to their late 40s or early 50s, but that is not in the cards.  And so this essay being written on Sunday is an appeal to the gods to help me in my work.  I sincerely suspect that the gods will do no such thing.  And so we are left to do the very best we can.

June 30, 2013
Essay 756


Kevin’s commentary: I can think of seven hundred and fifty six pieces of evidence that suggest that Pop’s mind is still sharp.

I would have to agree with him on this front though; that it would be certainly better to lose the body if one of the two has to go first.  I wonder though, why chose early 50s for the body-return state, as opposed to earlier such as his 30s or so.  I wonder how far back he would have to roll in order to get his full head of hair back. Hopefully he can enlighten me.


This essay is being published on July 29th. I’m deciding that by the end of August, I will be caught up such that publish date and the day’s date are once again in synch. I’ve been delinquent the last few weeks due to server issues, general business, and most recently friends in town to celebrate my 23rd birthday. It was a heck of a weekend but it is time to buckle back down. We should be seeing multiple essays per day for the coming four weeks. Cheers!