Archive for the July Category


You may recall that I sent you some essayettes in a previous mailing.  The essayettes were not long enough to be a full essay and so when they are gathered together I call them a polygamy of essayettes.  I will freely concede that the word polygamy is almost always used in conjunction with a practice of multiple wives which had the sanction of the Mormon Church.  It is my contention that the word polygamy could be used for other purposes.  It is a proper English word and I see no reason why it could not be used to identify several essayettes in addition to the practice of polygamy as it relates to multiple wivery.  This is the second time that this practice has occurred to Ezra’s Essays and so it is called Act Two.


The first essayette has to do with my father, Ezra Senior.  You may also recall that during his lifetime we were basically strangers.  This is not to say that there was any animosity between us.  But among other things, my father never abandoned rural ways and he was a thoroughly religious man.  But all things considered, I have come to appreciate the efforts that he made to keep the family alive during the depths of the Depression.

But my father, unschooled as he was, made two significant additions to the English language.  One addition is the wonderful phrase “I reckon.”  The second has to do with consuming a meal.

As I recall, my father, who died in 1958, often used the phrase, “I reckon.”  If he were asked about the square footage of his house, he would say that he reckoned it was so many feet.  If he were asked the distance between his home in eastern Missouri and his boyhood home, he would say, “Well, I reckon it is 200 miles.”  It has always seemed to me that the word “reckon” used in the sense that the old man used it was meant to say, “I believe.”  I deplore the loss of the use of the word “reckon.”  In point of fact, I would probably never ever use that word but I deplore its loss.  So you may consider this essay an attempt to bring back the word “reckon” into our normal conversation.  It is a lovely word that offends no one.

Now the second word used by my father is a bit more controversial.  If he were asked, for example, to have some dinner, he would likely say, “Thank you, I have already et.”  Know that Miss Maxwell, my eighth grade teacher, would have strangled at the use of this word.  But in retrospect, the conjugation of eating and “et” makes a good bit of sense.  But no one will use that word now that it is considered a country sort of term.

And so this polygamy of essayettes in the second act will start with “reckon” and “et.”  I do not expect that the English teachers at Harvard or any of the other Ivy League schools will call me to congratulate me on bringing back these two terms.  But they cause me to think about my father and that is a sufficient reason for me to like them.

Now we turn to the wine store salesman who had Miss Chicka and myself admiring his use of language.  A week or so ago, we were looking for some wine that we could serve to twelve people who were coming to this majestic mansion to celebrate my birthday.  As we toured the wine store, the salesman used the term “drinkability” for nearly every wine he had to offer us.  When we returned to our home, I asked Miss Chicka to look up whether or not drinkability was a proper term.  It was, if you consider it to be number three or four when the definitions are considered.  At this point, I give all of you permission to use the word drinkability as long as you give credit to “Gary’s Wine and Marketplace.”


I should have told you earlier that these essayettes have no relation to each other.  They are essays that come to mind but are not supportive of a full essay.


With that thought in mind, I believe it is time for us to consider “the dribbler.”  About five years ago, the house on the corner across from our house was sold to a developer who knocked the house down and built a large house on the corner that is reasonably attractive.  When the house was advertised, there was great emphasis on the fact that it contained five bathrooms.  If I may say so, there is little chance that the five bathrooms will ever experience excessive wear.  The husband, for example, seems to spend quite a bit of time away from home on the road.  There is a youngster, now in his teens, who grew up ringing the doorbells of neighboring homes and then hiding when people came to the door.  But this practice ended when I called him and his friend to the front porch of our house and gave them what is commonly known in Army circles as “an ass-eating.”  That was the end of the doorbell ringing.

Now this couple, who seem to have abundant means, has purchased a basketball net and backboard which is on their driveway outside the garage.  When the teenager is home, the neighbors know of his presence because he dribbles and bounces the basketball starting in the mid-evening hours.  Apparently this gives him a lot of satisfaction.  I am curious as to why he does not shoot at the basket; he just keeps dribbling the ball.  He simply loves to bounce the basketball on the asphalt driveway.  I know a few things about basketball and I can assure that this youngster continues to dribble the ball when he should be shooting at the basket.

Bouncing the basketball on the asphalt driveway gives off a dull thud.  Our home is about 300 feet away from the dribbler and we can hear when he is at work.  The same is true for his next-door neighbor.  But this teenager is content simply to bounce the ball on the asphalt driveway.  Apparently he never shoots the ball at the basket.  I suspect that his father has never told him that in a basketball game one must score some points.  Scoring points involves putting the ball through the net.  But this young man seems to be very much content to simply bounce the ball which tells me that “the dribbler” is at work.

As far as I know, there are no college scholarships available for dribblers.  They are reserved for those who can score the most points in a basketball game.  At this point, I should consider myself fortunate in that he is no longer ringing my doorbell.  I know where this youngster lives at various times of the day and know his parents have illuminated the back yard with floodlights.  This makes it easy for the dribbler to practice his art unattended by anyone else.


I think I told you at the beginning of the essayettes that they were totally unrelated to each other.  It seems to me that the dribbler is unrelated to everything, so I close the second act of the polygamy of essayettes on this high note.  And remember the younger Ezra, age 90, still being attracted to the words “reckon” and “et.”  It seems to me that you can’t get any better than that.



July 4, 2012

Essay 674



Kevin’s commentary:

Perhaps after this blog is finished, I will endeavor to create a dictionary of all of the various words and phrases that Pop has highlighted over the years.

Now, this style of essay (tagged on this site as Multi-Essay — view all of them here) has got me wondering what Pop’s essay ledger looks like. He always speaks of clearing it out and moving things off of it. How many potential essay ideas float around there at a time? How often do essays get scrapped as opposed to compiled into multiessays? We may never know. Unless Pop decides to respond to this, I suppose.

I also pity the poor child who makes the mistake of “ding-dong-ditching” my grandfather. I feel like getting caught by him would be a rather unpleasant experience.


In 1969, I was enjoying my life as a lobbyist in Washington for the great AT&T Company.  As summer was about to turn into fall, the great AT&T Company decided that my talents were needed back in New York.  Time was short as my two children were required to return to school.  When I came from Washington to look for houses in the New York area, I gravitated to a town called New Providence where I had lived for 11 years before.  New Providence is a lovely town.  As it turned out, in August of 1969 there were no houses for sale that suited us.  And so it was that a middle-aged female realtor showed me a house in Short Hills.  That house was located in Millburn Township, which has a superior school system and was also on the Lackawanna Railroad which provided reliable transportation to my office in lower Manhattan.  And so it was that I bought this house for $69,000.

When we moved into this house, I noticed a sickly maple tree in the back garden.  One way or another, I decided that the maple tree had to live and I devoted time and the efforts of forestry companies to see to it that the tree lived.  Two of them told me that the tree should be destroyed.  I said, “No way.”

I cannot say that the tree thrived.  The tree survived though, growing into a small maple tree in our back yard.  That was acceptable to me.  But as life has gone on, the maple tree has been subjected to root watering and feeding in an effort to promote its growth.  Unfortunately the squirrels in the neighborhood have taken, over the years, to climbing that tree in an effort to reach the back porch roof.  The squirrels launch themselves from the limbs on that tree toward the back porch roof.  That tends to denude the maple tree, and I am left with the hope that in future seasons that maple tree will recover.

The fact is that over the years, the squirrels still use that tree as a launching pad to reach the back porch roof and the bird feeder.  I suppose that over the years I have devoted as much as $3,000 to preserving the life of that tree.  It is still not a robust specimen.   One way or another that tree has become my tree.  So the little maple tree was treated again by the Stonehouse Tree Service this spring.  The squirrels still use it as a launching pad, which denudes the tree.  For the 43 years that I have owned this house, my maple tree has always come back.  For the past ten years it has also served to hold the hummingbird feeder.  The two hummingbirds that we support seem to join me in the desire to keep the little maple tree alive.  No one should go against the wishes of hummingbirds.

I know that the maple tree will not last forever.  But I also know that I am determined to keep that tree alive while I am still here.  I think it is fair to conclude that the sickly maple tree in the back yard signifies my desire to hold onto my life until it is time to go.

I am happy to report that at this early stage of the summer of 2012, it seems to be doing quite well.  But I know, as does this maple tree, that sooner or later its time will be up.  Perhaps this is in keeping with the words of Ecclesiastes from the Bible, who holds in the second verse of his admonition that there is a time to be born and a time to die.  I know that the tree will not last forever, but I hope that it does not die before I am gone.  And if this qualifies me as a tree hugger, I will say that that is quite right and I am happy in that description of me.


July 4, 2012

Essay 676


Kevin’s commentary:

Turns out Pop is a hippie. Who woulda guessed?

Seriously though, visiting my grandparents is always fun because of the crazy amount of wildlife in their backyard. One usually does no associate New Jersey with wildlife, but between the birds and the squirrels and the chipmunks the yard is basically teeming with various fauna. Hell, I didn’t even know fireflies existed till I spent my first night at Pop’s place, I’m pretty sure. I haven’t seen them there recently though, which is unfortunate. Nevertheless I’m of the opinion that fireflies are great and will always remind me of my childhood.

I suppose it’s then fair to conclude that I’ve also spent a decent amount of time around the maple tree in question, but I am not sure I ever noticed that it was special. I feel that this is probably a good thing — if it were noticeably decaying, I may have said something about it. As I don’t normally comment on trees, the fact that I never had anything to say about this one is likely a testament to the amount of care it has received.

Pop’s response:

Hey Kevin,

The maple tree in question has a mission in life – it holds the hummingbird feeder and the wind chime.

The little maple tree says it is in good health these days.  That little maple tree and I thank you for your generous comments.

Ezra – Pop


I believe that it is time for us to have another adventure in country speak.  Country speak is a variation of the English language.  It is a language unto itself.  The subject for today’s lesson in country speak is “lick.”  That word is hardly ever conjugated because to do so would lead you astray.  If you were to find a dictionary that includes the word “lick,” you might find along about the fourth or fifth definition it is “to strike a blow” or “to strike something.”  My experience is totally on striking a blow, which is called “a lick.”  Also there is a variation on licking a stamp or “taking a licking” as from one’s parents.

In the winter of 1929, my father was laid off from his job at the Evans-Howard Refractory Company.  It made heavy-duty pipes and the bricks that would be used in kilns and high-temperature situations.  Being laid off in 1930 was a major proposition.  There simply were no jobs available anywhere.  As winter approached, my father took the back seat out of his Studebaker and we drove to a nearby wooded area where there were trees to be felled.  Each day my father picked me up after school and we would go to the wooded area to cut the trees for use in heating our home.

Winters in eastern Missouri are not to be trifled with.  We needed coal to heat the house.  In palmier days, my mother would simply stop the Polar Wave driver and tell him that he should bring a load of coal.  But these were not palmier days.  There was a depression on and if we did not find a means to heat the house, I suppose that we may have had cases of frostbite.

So every day after school, my father would bring by the school a change of clothes and we would go to the wooded area.  Once a tree is felled, it is necessary to cut it into lengths of about two feet.  My father would produce a two-man saw and we would cut it into appropriate lengths.  Then it was necessary to split the wood.  My father and I had a large series of wedges that were used for splitting the wood.  I must say that while I would have preferred to have been somewhere else, splitting the wood with an eight-pound mallet gave me a head start on developing a pair of shoulders.  My father used a twelve-pound mallet but eight pounds was quite enough for me.

Now we come to the conclusion of country speak.  My father used country speak exclusively.  When there was a difficult piece of wood to be split, my father would say, “I reckon you better give that another lick.”  When used in this sense, a “lick” referred to another blow.

We don’t often hear the words “lick” or “reckon” these days.  But I see absolutely nothing wrong with their use in saying, “I reckon you better give that one another lick.”

Burning the wood in a furnace had some advantages and some disadvantages.  For example, the ashes of the burnt wood were much lighter than those of coal.  On the other hand, the fire built of wood would tend to, as my parents would say, “peter out” before daybreak.  But I was the person who had to haul the ashes out of the furnace to take them to a walkway that we had constructed to get to the streetcar.  If I had my choice, I would say to use the wood to heat your home because that produces a lighter ash content.

And don’t forget the term “licking.”  It was most often heard as “If I got a licking at school, I could expect another licking at home.”  So you see, there are several reasons to use the word lick, exclusive of just country speak.

But be that as it may, this essay is about the term “lick.”  It seems to me that there is some poetic line saying, “I reckon you better give that one another lick.”  As I told you, I understand country speak precisely but if terms like this keep showing up, I may even try to use country speak once in a while.



July 18, 2012

Essay 679


Commentary today has been outsourced to a 92-year-old man named Tom Scandlyn. View his reply to this and other “country speak” essays here.

For my part, after the recent writings I expected this essay to be a good bit more vulgar than it was. I am not sure if I am relieved or disappointed, though I may actually lean somewhat toward the latter.


The network news broadcasts and the politicians are attempting to determine what was meant by Mitt Romney’s saying that he had retired retroactively.  I fancy myself a wordsmith but I am thoroughly baffled by the use of the term “retired retroactively.”

The case in point involves Mr. Romney filing papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission in late 2002.  Most papers identify Mr. Romney as the Chief Executive Officer of the Bain Corporation.  They also say that he is President and has two or three other titles such as founder or whatever.  In other words, there is no doubt whatsoever that Mr. Romney was the stud duck of the Bain Corporation.

Now the dispute is that Mitt claims that he retired in 1999.  But the facts do not bear this out.  They say that he was the Chief Executive Officer through 2002. The poor Republican spokesmen were left to dangle on a limb when the Republican National Committee said that it was all easy to explain.  They said that Mr. Romney retired retroactively.

Now let’s take a case in point.  In 1984, I concluded that the Telephone Company could do without me and I officially retired.  There was a going-away party which I believe I attended.  From that point on, I had nothing, absolutely nothing to do about affairs in the Telephone Company.  That is the way that retirements work.

When our great and good friend Frances Licht decided that she had had enough of working in a brokerage, she announced that on a certain day she would retire.  On that occasion, management gave her a dinner and presented her with a magnificent watch.  The fact of the matter is that once the dinner had been completed and the watch presented, Frances Licht wished the brokerage well but she did not go to work there anymore.  And she did not claim that for the three years after her retirement she was involved in the affairs of the brokerage.

This business about retroactive retirement has a great drawback.   Suppose that a man and a woman were involved in a torrid love affair that resulted in the production of a child.  Do you think that the male lover could claim that he had nothing to do with that child because he had retired retroactively?  Hey, man, I don’t think that passes the smell test.

Well in any event, the Republican spokesmen are rapidly trying to change the subject whenever retroactive retirement is broached.   Now I will say one thing.  Retroactive retirement adds a new touch to the English language.  Politically, I believe that Mr. Romney is having a great struggle to straighten this out.  But as a wordsmith, I am thoroughly delighted with that oxymoronic statement.


July 18, 2012

Essay 680


The first of two Romney essays for the night.

Off the bat, here’s some interesting news about Romney from today — some pretty intense ‘hackers’ (who actually broke into an accounting office) apparently got hold of his tax returns, and they’re holding em ransom for bitcoins. Pretty crazy stuff.

Should make this more interesting!


This essay has to do with the Supreme Court of the sweet-smelling United States of America.  I have been a court watcher for many years and I have come to the conclusion that no one should ever contend that the Supreme Court is being worked to death.  Quite the opposite is true.

The Supreme Court seems to set its own schedule, which includes three months of vacation during the summertime.  When the Soo-premes meet in session, it starts in the early part of October and ends in the month of the following June.  For that reason, I would assume that no one could ever truthfully claim that the Supreme Court was being worked to death.  When they are meeting, the Supremes take only 80 cases or thereabouts to settle during a term.   This means that thousands of cases of law suits never make it to the top level.  This does not seem to bother the Supreme Court of the United States.

Now here is a case that should have been brushed aside and never thought of again.  When the Supreme Court ended its session last Thursday, it rendered a verdict in a case that was totally undeserving of its attention.  But be that as it may, the Soo-premes waded right in and let the world know that justice prevails here in the United States.

So that no one can accuse me of bias, I am going to read into this record what The Washington Post had to say about this particular verdict.  (Published 6-28-12, written by Michael Ruane and Robert Barnes.):

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a federal law that made it a crime to falsely claim being awarded a top military honor, saying the law smacked of an Orwellian Truth Ministry and threatened free speech.

The court invalidated the Stolen Valor Act, under which a California man, Xavier Alvarez, 54, was convicted for claiming falsely in 2007 that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor.

But Alvarez’s attorneys convinced a lower court that his untruths were protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. And Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed in a 6 to 3 decision.

“Lying was his habit,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote of Alvarez. He “lied when he said that he played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings and that he once married a starlet from Mexico.”

And he lied “in announcing he held the … Medal of Honor,” Kennedy wrote. “None of this was true. For all the record shows … [the] statements were but a pathetic attempt to gain respect that eluded him.”

But they are not illegal, he concluded.


So it is obvious that Mr. Alvarez was a complete liar.  Even I, who has been known for being a champion BS artist, would never go so far as Alvarez did.  But can you imagine that the Supreme Court took up this case and let the others dangle out there into obscurity?  As I have said, the Supreme Court takes only about 80 cases each term for a determination.  I suspect that Mr. Alvarez was happy to avoid being classified as a felon.  But if you will pardon me for this thought, this case is the gnat that was adjudicated while the elephant went undecided.

Now look here, I am a realist aside from being a BS artist.  I understand that former soldiers may exaggerate their accomplishments from time to time.  But in this case, it is not clear that Mr. Alvarez ever served in the military.  But if he did, the Soo-premes have made it clear that lying about one’s record in the military has the approval of the Supreme Court of the United States.  When the Soo-premes elected to decide such a matter while ignoring thousands of other deserving decisions, it might cause some of us to demand our money back.

Now to be perfectly frank, this old soldier was unaware that there was a law entitled the Stolen Valor Act.  So I suspect that we all learned a little something because of the ruling by the Supreme Court.  Now if Mr. Alvarez got away with claiming that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor, are there any restrictions that would still warrant the attention of the Soo-premes?  Suppose that I were to claim that I was a presidential contender.  Do you think the Soo-premes would honor such a contention?  I don’t know.  And what would happen to tearful entreaties involving “alienation of affection suits?”

Well, as you can see, this old soldier understands those who may exaggerate their claims of battlefield valor.  But boy, oh boy, I could never imagine someone claiming to have been awarded the Medal of Honor.  In the Jewish language, there is a term, “chutzpah.”  But in claiming to have won the Medal of Honor, which was fallacious at best, we can say that “chutzpah” does not even come close to recognizing the self-exaggeration.

In the Supreme Court decision, there were three dissenters.  For all of their terms, I have never been in any great agreement with Samuel Alito, Anthony Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.  But in this case, I may concede that the dissenters might have a point.


July 4, 2012

Essay 673



Kevin’s commentary: I’m actually not clear on why Pop used the Soo-preme spelling here. I feel like it’s somewhat of a tossup between a joke that I’m missing, and him just being weird.  Other not-sure-if-puns include the phrase “Soo-premes waded in” but I feel like that one’s a stretch at best.

I can vouch for Pop’s claim that he is a BS expert. I think my favorite example is that he used to tell mom’s old boyfriends that he was a champion long-jumper. I suspect this was mainly to see how mom would deal with it in front of said boys. Like, when Pop claims that, does one run (and jump) with it, say “oh don’t worry about that, he just lies for no reason sometimes,” or what?  He was particularly good at messing with the man who would eventually become my father, who to his credit stuck around this weird-ass family long enough to do so.



This is a two part essay.  In the beginning it refers to While I am Here.  Finally, there is a comment about When I am Gone.

Within a month my 90th birthday will occur. I do not look forward to it with a sense of exhilaration nor do I look forward to that event with horror.  It is going to happen no matter what my thoughts are.

So in this essay I thought that I should record my thoughts as the inevitable end of life in this “vale of tears,” as my mother would say, reaches its climax.  In the first place, I am indebted to all of those hundreds who have enriched my life and made it easier.  For example, there has been the friendship of Frances Licht, Howard Davis and Tom Scandlyn.  It is hard to believe that Tom and Howard are more than two years older than even I am.  I am indebted to those of you who held the doors open for me as I stumbled in my blindness toward an entrance or an exit.  I am deeply grateful for all of the courtesies that have been extended to me, particularly in the last seven or eight years.

But more than anything else, I am indebted to Judith Chicka, my wife of more than 25 years, for her solicitude and putting up with a blind husband.  I have recorded my thoughts about Judy’s devotion to me in a separate essay.  And may I say at this point that her devotion to me – again, as quoted from the Bible – surpasseth all understanding.

Beyond that, I am grateful for the help and support of my children and of the men they have married and of the five grandchildren.  I believe at this point that I have thanked every possible person who has contributed to my enjoyment of life.

I view the end of this life in a pragmatic sort of way.  I know that for all of us born in the year of 1922 sooner or later there will be an end.  So what!  I view this end of life with equanimity.  I do not believe that I am going to enjoy endless happiness in a place called heaven.  Nor do I believe that I will spend eternal life being burned in what the Christians call hell.  My life, like everyone else’s, lasts until it ends.

For all intents and purposes, my life should have ended before my 21st birthday.  Beyond that, it should have ended before my 22nd birthday.  And by both of those events, it should have ended quite probably before my 23rd birthday.  This was due to the ravages of the Second World War.  So it is clear that for nearly 70 years, I have enjoyed the bonus of staying alive.  So nobody owes me anything.  During those extra 70 years, there have been times of happiness and heartbreak.  But now as we enter the final lap, I have a few thoughts to record here.

To those of you who have read these essays, now numbering almost 700, over the years, I am sure that you will recall that they have been written with no sense of foreboding about death.  But I do not believe in the doctrine of eternal life.  I believe that is total nonsense.  More than anything else, I hold with Ecclesiastes, the preacher, from the Old Testament, when he says, “There is a time to live and a time to die.”  My death has been put off for 90 years.  I am laughing when I say, “What else can a person expect?”

At this point, I wish to return to the theme of this essay, which is while I am here.  If I in my very small way can make any contribution to solving the mysteries of life, it is that the influences of religion be examined.  I realize that religion gives some of us a sense of comfort, particularly as the end of our lives may occur.  But at the same time I must argue that the sense of comfort is ill-placed and more than anything else serves to block progress in making lives here more endurable or more enjoyable.

My view of churchly affairs is, of course, that they contribute to comfort for the pious.  But at the same time, there is no denying that slavish addiction to religion based upon ignorance and addiction to hidebound bureaucracy has a prominent place in religious affairs.  For example, look at the practices of Bob Jones University which bars interracial dating.  And as for the hidebound bureaucracy, look at the Vatican which continues to insist that stem cell research is evil.  How stupid can human beings get?  I am fully aware that reading these words will enrage some, but objective observers have to give non-believers a chance to state their case.  It is my view that religion is the major obstacle to progress in the affairs of man.

In the case of ignorance, I must conclude that there are churches that in the Protestant tradition insist on the infallible word of the Bible to guide man’s affairs.  That plainly is not true.  In the former case of ignorance, the Protestants have wrestled with the idea that man’s fate is determined while he is still in the womb.  I have in mind the Presbyterian doctrine of predestination.  And as for the hidebound bureaucracy, it must be clear to everyone that the Vatican transferred pedophile priests from one church to another in an effort to save embarrassment to the Church.

At this point, I must concede that good also flows from the practice of religion.  But at the same time, I must insist that the drawbacks such as ignorance and hidebound bureaucracies have to be taken into account.  When that is done, I am more than content with my status as a belligerent non-believer.

I fully realize that this essay will not cause great mirth and happiness in the religious community.  But it is something that I wish to say while I am here.  Remember that it was Galileo who defied the Church in his insistence that the earth rotated around the sun rather than vice versa.  If I have nothing else to mark my time on this earth, it is that I hope that I have contributed toward the removing this sense of ignorance and slavish bureaucracy so that man may proceed to enjoy life in its fullest.  If I have contributed in any way toward these ends, I will believe that the time while I was here was well worthwhile.


July 4, 2012

Essay 675



Kevin’s commentary:

Fun Fact: This was actually going to be the first essay on this website, because it’s to me highly representative of the base idea that Pop communicates through what is likely dozens if not hundreds of essays. To me it seems that when Pop is writing, the most major themes are humanity, rationality and kindness; then variation is introduced through the filters which he observes which distorting that humanity. Religion is often one of these, politics are another, that sort of thing. Mix a discussion of these distorting influences in with personal anecdotes from 90 years of life, and you’ve pretty much the closest thing to a “standard” Ezra’s Essay as can be imagined.

The only reason this wasn’t the first essay on the site was simply that it is somewhat upsetting to me and I didn’t want to set the tone of the blog in an honestly morbid manner. This piece is of course not meant to be upsetting or morbid in the least; to the contrary I think his message here is uplifting, but it is nonetheless difficult sometimes to read essays wherein my grandfather writes about what he considers to be his imminent death. Cheery thoughts for a fourth of July, Ed.


For the past 12 or 15 years, I have been a friend of Gregorio Russo.  Gregorio works in the produce department of the Whole Foods Market.  In the former location of the Whole Foods Market, he was the first person who came into view as you entered the market.  Now that market has moved to much larger quarters and I have to search to find Gregorio Russo.  The old arrangement, from my standpoint, was much superior.

Gregorio was born in Italy, somewhere south of Naples.  He told me that when he left home to come to this country, his father offered only one piece of advice.  It was, “Don’t grow old.”  Gregorio arrived in this country during the Vietnam War and was promptly drafted.  I suspect that there were times when he thought about his father’s advice about growing old and wondered if his life during the Vietnam War would end much too soon.  But he survived that war and has gone on to become the senior worker in the produce department of the Whole Foods Market.  On many occasions after meeting Gregorio, I have told him about the imaginary bonuses that the American Army gave me.  Gregorio usually says that when he had a break in his work schedule, he would go down to see if the American Army had a bonus for him as well.  The fact is that I left the Army in November of 1945 and the American Army has unfortunately paid me absolutely nothing.  But it is fun to needle Gregorio on the subject of imaginary bonuses paid by the American Army.

Gregorio has told me about his father’s advice about not growing old.  As time has gone on, I have come to appreciate the wisdom of that advice.  For one thing, growing old is an expensive proposition.  For example, the handyman who runs Taylor Home Repair was here this morning.  He was called to nail down a rug that had threatened to trip me on two or three occasions recently.  This is only one occasion in which old age and  disabilities have prevented me from doing the small jobs that I used to do myself.  The fellow from Taylor Home Repair has to be paid.  So it is clear that growing old in defiance of the elder Russo’s maxim is expensive.  So Gregorio Russo’s father did not finish his sentence.  He should have said as his son departed for these shores that growing old would involve considerable expense.

There is a secondary consideration on the subject of growing old.  Aside from the fact that the repairmen must be paid, which I am glad to do, they tend to clutter up the house.  Their truck is usually parked in the driveway and accommodations such as offering coffee to the workmen are also involved.  Simply put, in the old days before age overtook me, I used to do this work myself and saved a respectable amount of money, which was unforeseen before I grew older.  But that is the price of growing old.  The men who come here to do these small jobs are inevitably very nice fellows.  But I would have preferred not to have called them.  That is not a choice.  So growing old is expensive and the workmen clutter up the house.  So if the father of Gregorio Russo is still alive somewhere in southern Italy, he should add this admonition to his advice.  He should say that growing old is inconvenient and expensive, and that the workmen invited to do the jobs that we used to do clutter up the house.

Now about the title of this essay which is “Too Soon Old.”  The rest of that maxim is, “Too soon growing old, too late growing smart.”  I assume at this point that you have been convinced not to grow older.  It is expensive.


July 18, 2012

Essay 677



Kevin’s commentary:  It seems to me like Pop befriends Whole Foods workers on a rather regular basis. Accordingly I feel that the barbershops, departments of motor vehicles, etc which he no longer patronizes are probably missing him in recent years. If, for whatever reason, a Short Hills Whole Foods employee ever makes his or her way to this blog, I encourage him to comment on this state of events, or on really anything at all.

I’ll also record here, for nobody in particular, that the rugs in Pop’s house are positively vicious, and that simply nailing them down is in many cases too good for them. Here I am specifically thinking of the red rug in the dining room, upon which I have been slipping more or less my entire life, despite possessing my full visual faculties.

Screw that rug.