Archive for the 2012 Category


Recently I dictated an essay in praise of what I believe is a prefix in the English language. That prefix had to do with the word “non.” You will remember – or I hope you will remember – that I wrote in that essay that I was asked many years ago to identify my daughters. As a general rule, I said that this is “the non-adopted daughter.” I had no idea whether we had made my other child feel special but I hope that that was the case.

Since that time, I have given a bit more thought to the use of what I believe to be the prefix of “non.” In my estimation this word has been overlooked. All things considered, we should praise the use of the word “non.”

And so in my ruminations I have thought of a few other words that incorporate the prefix “non.”

I have already told you about my daughters and perhaps the place to start is to say “non-adopted.” This provides an even playing field.

In this great state of New Jersey, I used to have a driver’s license. I thought that when my driving career came to an end in 2004, I could simply remove that card from my wallet. Here in the great state of New Jersey that is not the case. You may find this hard to believe but I am required to carry a “non-driver’s” driver’s license. My old driver’s license was taken from me and had holes punched in it. My new driver’s license, or I should say non-driver’s license, was issued to me for the purpose of getting on airplanes, cashing checks, and in other instances where identification is demanded. If I may say so, this is the single biggest rip-off by the state government in the history of New Jersey. Currently my non-driver’s driver’s license has expired. As a means of protest, I do not intend to renew it at the price of $26. I suppose the idea is to prove that I am the person that I say that I am in the issuance of the non-driver’s driver’s license. But I have told the great fat man who is the governor of New Jersey, Mr. Chris Christie, what he can do with his non-driver’s driver’s license.

The third word involving the use of the prefix “non” is the word “non-sighted.” I am fully aware that non-sighted means blind. But it seems to me that the word blind is unforgiving and I hope that you will find it within your heart to make use of the word non-sighted.

There is one other word that is non-partisan. It is “non-essential.”

Then there is the word “non-fiction,” which I should have thought about long ago. In my case, I believe that it has been nearly 70 years since I have read a book of fiction. So the word “non-fiction” describes me very accurately.

There are other words such as “non-unique” which I find do not have many uses. But there is also the word “non-gay” which would have applicability here in the eastern provinces of the great and glorious United States. The word “non-gay” seems to strike a chord in my soul.

Then we come to the story of my life which could be called “non-rich.” I have never been a wealthy man such as Mitt Romney has been and I have never been a politician. But I believe the word “non-rich” is a lovely addition to the English language. There is also the word “non-existent.” I am not quite sure where that word would be used but I include it here because of my efforts to be all inclusive. I am sure there are one or two other words that fit into the “non” category.

Well, these are just transient thoughts about the great word “non.” It seems to me as an interested observer of the language of the Anglo-Saxons that the prefix “non” needs to be celebrated a bit more than it has been in the past. And so in this essay I have sought to praise the existence of the word “non.” I realize that there is some redundancy, but the word “non” is a significant word and should receive its full due.

It may not be the most exciting word in the English language but think of it in these terms. Where would we be if we did not have the word “non?” I shudder to think what would happen to our civilization if we were forced to try to find a substitute for the prefix “non.”

January 27, 2012


For the record, the word “nonexistent” gets used in fourteen essays, not counting this one, so he definitely can think of how that word might be used.

“Non” gets me thinking about language a little bit. Specifically I remember the (fictional!) novel 1984, where “newspeak” reduced the English lexicon dramatically. One of the biggest changes was halving the amount of adjectives by use of the prefix “un” — so instead of “good” and “bad” you had “good” and “ungood.” “Fat” and “Skinny” became “Fat” and “Unfat.” The prefix “non” can work sort of the same way — instead of Biological and Adopted daughters, for instance, you can have adopted and non-adopted ones, or biological and non-biological ones. Either way would make the language a little easier to learn, if perhaps in exchange for being a little less poetic. Dystopian connotations aside, I wonder if it’s such a bad idea.

In Chinese, for instance, each type of noun gets what’s called a “measure word.” If I’m trying to buy two bananas and three jackets from a department store, I’d need to tell the clerk not just that I want two bananas and three jackets, but two “slender objects” worth of bananas, and three “clothes pieces” worth of jackets. Papers are measured by the flat thing; chopsticks are measured by the special measure word for things that come in pairs. English has a few of these, of course — for example I might use measure words if I want to talk about a pride of lions or a murder of crows. But I don’t HAVE to — the phrase “I saw a few lions” wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. More commonly, I might use “pieces” of paper or “pairs” of jeans. By and large, though, the language either doesn’t use measure words or vastly consolidates them into a small number of very general purpose words like “some.”

All this to say that maybe simplification of language isn’t so bad — I don’t think we lose out on anything in English by not having a specific measure word for “belts”; I can just say I have three belts at home and everyone knows what I mean. In Chinese I have to let them know that I have three long-things worth of belts at home, and the “long things” measure word of course isn’t the same one that I’d use for counting bananas. Other languages like Spanish will add a gender to every single noun in the language, so in addition to learning that “papel” means “paper,” you also have to remember if it’s “EL papel” or “LA papel” and if you use the wrong one you sound like an idiot. Complications like gendering your nouns or assigning every type of noun its own special measure word serve no purpose other than to frustrate language learners. They contribute basically zero extra meaning.

English of course is a nightmare of exceptions, so standardizing those would probably be of a lot more use than just adding “non” to our adjectives, but any step in the right direction is okay by me.

The prior essay he mentions is here.


This essay is an exercise in my own personal nostalgia. It may well be that it will not resonate with many of my readers. But if you will stick with me for a few minutes, you may be enthralled and entertained. Or you may just be bored.

The Carr family had three of us who were inclined toward music. My two elder brothers showed no signs of ever appreciating music in any form. My elder sister of about 15 years my senior sang in the grand opera choruses in St. Louis. She took lessons from a woman named Mrs. Ettinger who loved German music. At a recital given by Verna, my sister, the whole program was devoted to German lieder or German music. I felt they were frightful. My sister Verna had a decent voice. It was wasted on German music.

My second sister, about seven years my senior, named Opal, wound up singing in Joe Donella’s saloon in Brentwood, Missouri. She learned a few chords on the piano, then more or less accompanied herself. Opal was a free spirit who wound up owning some racing greyhounds in Florida and Arizona.

In my own case, I would judge my musical talents as a singer as being mostly ordinary. I never had a solo part, but in retrospect the teachers at Clayton High School had no solo parts to offer. I was happy to sing a baritone part in an octet one time.

All of that brings me to Georgia Walker, a very attractive woman who was ten or twelve years my senior when I attended high school. That would mean that she was probably in her late 20s or early 30s during my career as a high school student. Miss Walker was devoted to her music and disliked anyone who sang off key. One of the reasons for this was that she taught us to sing a cappella, meaning without accompaniment. Singing in this fashion means that if one strays somewhat off key, it will soon be detected. It was about 75 years ago that Miss Walker was my musical teacher. I still remember her devotion to a cappella music and to this day I appreciate that musical form. We sang at various events and there was a spring concert.

At one point during my senior year, Miss Walker greatly embarrassed me – not intentionally. Miss Walker said that I always sang on key and that I was helpful in every respect or some such thing. She said this in front of the whole choir or chorus and at age 16 or 17, I was embarrassed. Actually she meant it as great praise. If I had been 10 or 15 years older, I might have asked Georgia Walker to marry me. I would probably have been turned down, but Miss Walker being unmarried, I believe she would have appreciated the compliment.

Clayton High School is located in a suburb of St. Louis and also employed a musical director for the band. This man was George Best. He made every attempt to demonstrate his superiority to Miss Walker. Most of the chorus or choir members in my class detested George Best. But he was a man and he seemed to have the hierarchy of the school in his corner.

Now there is a third person in this panorama who played in the band and was a disciple of George Best. He was a likeable fellow named Jack Martz. Jack did not play the trombone or the tuba. His specialty was drums. You may find this hard to believe but in one spring concert, perhaps in my last year of attendance, George Best designated Jack Martz to play a drum solo.

On this occasion all the parents were invited, so it was a full house. Jack started his drum solo temperately. But before long, old Martz began to flail away at his drums. My guess is that it took Jack somewhere between eight and ten minutes to finish the drum solo. The chorus, including myself, stood around on the raised platforms, not realizing that Jack Martz would go on so long in his solo rendition of drum work.

The fact of the matter is that I am getting a bit older and recently the thought of Georgia Walker flashed into my mind. She was a lovely woman, who would now be over 100 years old if she is still alive. With this being an exercise in nostalgia, I wanted to recall that wonderful woman.

At the same time my exercise in nostalgia also wanted to recall George Best. Mr. Best was an arrogant sort of person, particularly with respect to Miss Walker. George Best may have been an excellent teacher of the band but for my part, I detested him for his treatment of Miss Walker.

Similarly, there was Jack Martz, the drum soloist. Jack was a modest fellow who somehow attracted the attention of George Best. On the spring recital, Jack flailed his drums for the better part of ten minutes. There was no theme to the drum solo. It was just a matter of Jack using every ounce of energy including an intermittent ring of cowbells and triangles while the solo took place.

As I told you in the beginning, this was an exercise in nostalgia on my behalf. If you have stuck with me through this recital, you will recall my affection for Miss Walker, my distaste for George Best, and the amazement with which I watched Jack Martz play his drum solo. I hope that you will excuse me for yielding to my temptation to engage in this exercise in nostalgia. But if nothing else, it was Miss Walker who encouraged my love of music that has pleased and consoled me for the past 75 years.

At this late date, I am pleased to recognize her with these lines. She was a lovely woman. And as for George Best and Jack Martz, they are also a part of this old geezer’s nostalgia.

January 16, 2012


I wonder what memories will stick with me for that long. It’s hard to predict what your brain will choose to hold onto.


I have never been a member of the Roman Catholic Church. In whatever is left in my life, I do not expect to ever become a member of that faith. The leader of that faith calls himself a pope

When it comes to doctrine, I must cite my profound belief in principles. For example, I do not believe that there is any such thing as eternal life. I also do not believe that there is a heaven up there in the sky, nor do I believe that Satan presides over a realm wherein people like myself are condemned to spend eternity in torment. It is my view that when we live out our life span, death will occur and that basically is the end of it all.

Joseph Ratzinger, formerly of Munich, is the head man of the Roman Catholic faith. The views of Herr Ratzinger and myself, both veterans of WWII, cannot be reconciled. I would view Herr Ratzinger with more understanding if he were to provide a cogent and convincing account of why, during World War II, he joined the SS during his tour in Hitler’s German Army. As you may recall, the SS (Schutzstaffel) was in charge of wiping out Jews from the lands that Hitler’s Nazi’s had conquered.

During his years as Pope, Herr Ratzinger has not provided any explanation but has tended to glide over this significant fact as though it never happened.

Now we find that the Vatican has announced a crackdown on American nuns. The crackdown does not apply to Norwegian nuns, Costa Rican nuns, etc., but it is aimed solely at American nuns. It is for this reason that the title of this essay, “How Colossally Dumb Can You Get?” is applicable.

According to an announcement from the Vatican, it has launched a crackdown on American nuns. If my understanding is correct, when nuns enter their vocation, they take an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which accounts for the title of this essay. But now this business of obedience comes into play.

The news says that the Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of the 57,000 American nuns. This group is the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The Vatican sources say that the group is not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion, and women’s ordination in the Catholic faith. The eight-page statement was issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the same organization that has survived all of these years since the Inquisition. It was led for 25 years by none other than Joseph Ratzinger, who now styles himself as Pope Benedict XVI. He says that the American nuns are being led astray and must return to Catholic orthodoxy.

May I make this point eminently clear? If the Catholics or any other religious group wishes to have an internal squabble, that is quite all right with me. In all of the years when I have been a non-believer, I have never ever attempted to convert someone to my beliefs or lack thereof. But this squabble is different because it involves nuns.

In the actions of the Vatican, Ratzinger is attacking the most noteworthy practitioners of the Catholic faith, which brings to mind the question, “How colossally dumb can you get?” Ratzinger has pitted the nuns and his idea of Catholic orthodoxy in a battle which he seems to think he will win. My own view is that Ratzinger is thoroughly out of date in that in the long run the nuns will prevail. Justice is on their side.

I am not given to religious disputes on either one side or the other. But in this case, the ham-handed Ratzinger is attempting to destroy the nuns and their good works. I repeat, how dumb can you get? In 1965, there were 185,000 nuns in the United States. Today that number is down to 57,000. Who would enter a vocation in which the likes of Herr Ratzinger is in charge?

I have located the headquarters for the Women’s Religious group and have written them offering my support. If they need a few dollars, I will provide that as well. As far as Herr Ratzinger goes, I must say that the Second World War has not ended. If I were to give Herr Ratzinger any advice at all, it would be to lay off the nuns who are doing a wonderful job. Secondly, he should concentrate on trying to straighten out the pedophile priests in his ranks. And with that, my sermon from the mount is herewith ended.

April 20, 2012


I like that Pop defends the nuns — reminds me of the woman in the lobby of his old AT&T building that Killingsworth threw out. Gotta stand up for the nuns.

Anyway yes, it’s incredibly dumb to target the people who are really at the front lines of your organization, especially when everyone else (aside from the preachers) is basically just management. Sometimes, church leadership should align with the people who are actually spreading your faith, instead of trying to push everything from the top down.


This essay has to do with while I am here and secondly, when I am gone.

An Australian composer of great note recently produced a memorable work which he called, “While I Am Here.” His name is John Munro. He is originally from Scotland and has long since assumed Australian citizenship. After listening to John Munro’s epic piece about “While I Am Here,” my thoughts ran to a prose piece which for want of a better title is called “When I Am Gone.” John Munro’s piece is written in poetic form while my piece is in my own pedestrian prose. Needless to say, it may be more interesting to listen to the Munro piece than to my story of “When I Am Gone.”

In the Munro piece, along about the fourth line from the top, there is a reference to doing “the best you can.” My mother did not have a copyright on doing the best you can but she claimed authorship of that title in my estimation in August of 1942 when her youngest child departed for the American Army. So let us deal first with the Munro piece. As I said, near the beginning of John Munro’s lyrics appears the line about doing the best you can. This triggered a thought that has been with me for more than 70 years.

On the morning that I left to join the American Army in August of 1942, there was a memorable exchange between Lillie Carr, my mother, and myself. I knew that my mother harbored ill feelings about the way that the English treated the Irish during their 800 years of occupation. But there was an uprising by the Irish on Easter Day in Dublin in 1916. As usual, the Irish were decimated and their leader, James Connolly, was so wounded that he could not stand. The Brits ordered Connolly’s execution. He could not stand so they shot him in the chair where he was sitting. Or if you believe another story, Connolly was shot while lying down.

My mother and her sisters felt very strongly about their Irish ancestry. One of them, Aunt Nora, used to play a game with me when I was a small child. As soon as she came into the house, Aunt Nora would say, “Boy, what would you be if you were not Irish?” I knew the answer. It was, “I would be ashamed.” But from James Connolly’s execution in 1916 until her death in 1961, the feeling my mother had for the British Empire could be categorized largely as hatred.

Our home in Richmond Heights, Missouri was constructed largely through the efforts of my father. The two-car garage was separated from the house by about 25 feet. This was the custom in those days, having to do with engine fires. In front of the garage was a concrete slab which was for maneuvering to get the cars into the garage. As I was leaving for the Army, my mother accompanied me to this concrete driveway. At that point, when it came time to say goodbye, my mother issued the usual warnings about writing home often. Then she began to talk about the dangers I would face. Her four brothers were in the First World War and were subjected to gas attacks by the Germans.

I attempted to soothe my mother’s fears by telling her how much help we would have in fighting the war. I told her about the Canadians and the Frenchmen. I told her about the Norwegians and the Danes, and mostly about the Poles. She had warm feelings for the Poles because their help was greatly appreciated by my parents when they were running the Lilac Roost Dairy Farm. And then inexplicably I said that we would have the help of Great Britain. My mother would have none of this “Great Britain” stuff. Immediately, she said, “You mean the English?” I must have shrugged my confirmation of her thoughts about the English. Immediately, she said to me, “Son, in that case you will have to do the best you can.” With that, she turned on her heel and retired to her kitchen. I knew at that point that the interview was ended.

I could not figure out how I could have made such a blunder. But there was only one thing to do, which was to walk the half mile to the streetcar stop where I would board the Kirkwood-Ferguson streetcar. It took about two hours for the streetcar to reach Jefferson Barracks after about three transfers. All the way from beginning to end, I was cursing myself for mentioning England to my mother. She came to see me at Jefferson Barracks before I was shipped to basic training. It was the last time I saw her for nearly two and a half years.

So aside from the Munro piece having to do with “While I Am Here,” when I play that piece I always have a feeling of poignancy about the phrase “doing the best you can.” My mother did not invent those lines about doing the best you can, but she used them with great effectiveness on the day that I departed our home to join the American Army.

Now that we have tended to the “While I Am Here” story, I am ready to turn to my thoughts about what I would miss when I am gone. It is obvious that I will miss my friends and my relatives. There are my wife, two daughters and their husbands, and five grandchildren. One of my essays, called “Love Her, Love Her, Love Her,” was written as a tribute to my wife. But I am determined not to fall into the trap of identifying which friend or which relative I will miss the most.

Quite to the contrary, I believe that what I will miss the most will be music. Reviewing these thoughts that accompany this essay, it seems to me that music that tells a story with a good melody and harmony is essential to producing a good song. I suspect that Miss Ashbaugh, our grade school choral director, and Georgia Walker, our high school director of music, must have made a bigger impression upon me than I had thought before.

In the early days, I used to escort my elder sister when she sang in the chorus in the St. Louis Grand Opera. From attending the Grand Opera, I learned to appreciate a piece of music. I do not consider the music of the rock and roll variety to be good music. There is a performer here named Bruce Springsteen who shouts the lyrics to all his music. I do not consider that music acceptable. Naturally I have a soft spot in my heart for tunes with an Irish background, another soft spot for spirituals and a further soft spot for opera arias.

There is an accompanying CD to this essay which includes a small sample of some of the songs that I will miss. When I joined the Army, I was probably humming “Whispering Grass” which is included in this very limited selection of tunes. If I were to send you every song that I will miss, the list would be endless. The songs included here have been chosen selectively to give you a flavor of what I will miss.

The point I am attempting to make is that when I am gone, I will miss good music tremendously.

So this essay has two unrelated points to it. The first is the inspiration of John Munro when he wrote his song “While I Am Here” with reference to the old phrase of doing the best you can. The second part would be what I will miss when I am gone.

I saw my cardiologist a few days ago and he assured me that I will be around for a while in spite of my Methuselah-like age. Well, there you have it about the whiles and the whens. I am delighted that John Munro has composed this piece and I am also delighted that his efforts have led me to this period of contemplation about what I will miss when I am gone.

It has been a great pleasure to dictate this essay because it deals with music. If there is a higher calling than producing a great piece of music, it remains for me to discover it. And so I hope that you have enjoyed this essay about music as much as I have.

July 16, 2012


I wonder if Judy could get me a tracklist for that essay — I’d post it here!

Here’s a song by Munro on Campbell, who indeed was shot in a chair at Kilmainham Gaol. I visited recently and saw the grounds where it happened!


As I sit down to dictate these lines, it is a cold morning in January. With a prayerful thought, January will soon be over. This essay will not be a religious one. Worse than that, it will combine the third rail of all essays in that it will comment upon politics and religion.

The title was carefully chosen by the author, namely me, to illustrate a point which will pervade this whole essay. I suspect that a good many of my readers are aware of the old Protestant hymn called “Amazing Grace.” It was written by John Newton, who was engaged in the slave trade until a storm wrecked his ship and he survived. He evidently believed that it was a miracle that he survived, which he attributed to the intervention of God. There is no evidence about the slaves who were presumably enchained below decks. Their fate is unknown. But before his life was done, Newton gave up sailing in the slave trade business and became an Anglican bishop.

The name of Newton has a special significance tied to this essay. After Mr. Newton reached dry land and was toweled off, he set about becoming a preacher. In time, he reached the exalted title of bishop in the Anglican Church. At some point or other, Bishop Newton took a Scottish tune and penned the lyrics to his now famous hymn of “Amazing Grace.”

The first lines are instructive as they relate to this essay. Those lines are:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

The significance of these lines is that Newton referred to himself as a wretch. Newton wrote the lyrics almost 300 years ago. In so doing, he may have foreseen the events that have taken place in the Republican primary elections this year. In this case, a fellow named Newton has fulfilled all of the requirements of wretchedness that could be asked for.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would hardly ever listen to the Republican debates in a primary election. My heart is not with the Republican Party. During the Republican debates, my thoughts are on such matters as those of celestial ones. But they would hardly ever qualify as the subject of another essay. But the current Newton richly deserves an essay not only about his politics but about his philandering.

As I said earlier, I am not given to listening to Republican debates. Even at my advanced age with all my disabilities, I have better things to do. But in this case I am struck or I should say thunderstruck by the temerity of the latter-day Newton (Gingrich) to claim that God has laid his hand on him and has forgiven him.

The current-day Newton Gingrich has a long history, including being asked to leave the speaker’s role in the American House of Representatives. But in the meantime the current Newton has been engaged in other extracurricular activities. Simply put, he is a philanderer par excellence. This current Newton has been married on three occasions. On one occasion, we are told that he told his wife that he intended to divorce her while she was in the hospital recovering from a serious illness. His current wife, who is 22 years his junior, spent six years in an affair with Mr. Gingrich. This made his second wife very angry and at the moment she is lashing out at Gingrich.

Now here is what attracts my attention. As you might say, it also disturbs me. Newton Gingrich proclaims that he has apologized to God and that God has forgiven him. There is no correspondence on this subject because we presume that God does not ever write letters or emails. All we have to go on is that Newton claims that he has been forgiven. There is no third party to verify such events.

In the recent past, there have been occasions when the pastors of mega-churches have strayed into homosexuality. In the recent case of Bishop Eddie Long, it appears that he is being divorced because his wife contends that he has become involved with young boys. I suspect that in the case of Mr. Long and Ted Haggard, also the proprietor of a mega-church, there will be a period of disappearance from the public scene. At the end of that disappearance, the preachers will apparently return to the limelight and contend that God has forgiven them and that they are ready to resume their preacher duties.

Perhaps it is unseemly for a non-believer like myself to comment on celestial matters. But I am thoroughly curious about how Newt Gingrich learned that he was forgiven by God. Do you really think that a person as busy as God would take time to review a philanderer’s case simply because he has been Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States? I don’t know.

Somehow or other, preachers and politicians stray from their marital bonds. In almost all cases, they take a bit of time off and return to the public scene claiming that God has forgiven them. I realize that in some instances I am a disputatious individual. But in the Gingrich affair,
Newt proclaims that God has forgiven him and has apparently extracted no penalties.

You can mark me down as a doubter of the first order. Newton claims that the pressures of life in Washington were so great that as a patriotic duty he strayed from his first two wives. Now I know that the preceding sentence doesn’t make sense, but it is all that we have.

As things now stand, Newt Gingrich claims that he has been forgiven by God. Would it be sacrilegious to question those forgivenesses? My bafflement is quite sincere. But until I can see some more proof of God’s forgiveness, I will remain a full-fledged skeptic. I believe that in the case of Newton Gingrich, he has been a wretched man since he appeared on the American political scene. And it will take a lot more than Newt’s own testimony that he has been forgiven to convince me.

So now we see that some three hundred years apart, we have examples of wretchedness. I suppose now that the latter day Newton, given his political ambitions, may very well run for Pope. Upon his election to Pope, I will find time to praise his thoroughgoing wretchedness.

January 27, 2012


Was not expecting a Newt essay when I opened this one tonight. Well executed, though.


Willard “Mitt” Romney is in a pitched battle during the Republican primaries with Newt Gingrich.  Newt Gingrich is a master at spinning a phrase in the English language.  Mr. Romney, on the other hand, does not know his backside from third base.  But two additions to the American language pronounced by Mr. Romney compelled my attention.

In the first instance, Mr. Romney has offered a full-fledged neologism.  Presumably this was when questions about citizenship for the aliens in our midst came up.  On several occasions Mr. Romney used the phrase “self deport.”  I suppose that he meant that whenever the alien in this country felt so much heat, he would go to the airport and “self deport.”  It has been a few days since I have heard Mr. Romney speak on this subject.  I suspect that his handlers have spoken to him about the term “self deport.”

Then of course there was the unfortunate case when Mr. Romney made a remark about poor people.  In effect, he said that we do not have to worry about poor people because they have a safety net.  Without a doubt the remark about poor people attributed to Mr. Romney was a major gaffe.  It took Romney two days to retrieve this error.  He told interviewers yesterday that when he spoke about poor people, he “misspoke.”  May I suggest that Willard Mitt Romney is totally at sea when it comes to speaking about poor people.  He understands absolutely nothing.  In my own case, I wish for Romney to hang around because he contributes much to the misspoken body of the English language.  He is a national treasure.

When Mr. Romney winds up and lets fly with his remark about “self deport,” that is richness beyond compare.  I suspect that before this campaign is done, there will be other examples of Romney “misspokes.”  The fact is that Romney is not a very good speaker and “misspokes,” as in “I misspoke yesterday,” will be a frequent occurrence.  The answer is that the Republicans should never let Mr. Romney depart from his script.  They should forbid questions from the audience.

On the other hand, upon consideration, I now take the viewpoint, “Let Romney be Romney.”   If we let Romney be Romney, the English language will be enriched.  The remark about “self deport” will only be a start.



February 4, 2012

Essay 633


Kevin’s commentary: Oh man, this was before the 47% video. For those who are unfamiliar with the site, we have a whole category devoted to essays concerning Romney. For  more on self-deportation and other Romney-related news, check it out here! I particularly recommend this essay for more Romney-speak in particular.



I am quite aware that it is unseemly of me to dictate an essay on saintly matters and other ecclesiastical thoughts.  Be that it as it may, on this Yom Kippur afternoon that is where my thoughts are headed.

A learned gentleman once said to me that Catholic saints offer some specific qualities.  For example, this learned gentleman felt that there was a saint whose specialty was promoting peaceful deaths.  Most of us who have reached the declining years feel that there should be much interest in peaceful deaths.  Whether this saint will provide such peace is an open question.  However, this unnamed saint, whom I suspect is Saint Joseph, has been in the business of providing peaceful deaths for several hundred years.  The person who recommended this saint is aware of my age and disabilities.  As a matter of fact, he is my long-term cardiologist.

I have no trouble in accepting the advice of my cardiologist on saintly matters.  There are others who would express certain doubts.  For example, my cardiologist is a convert to Catholicism and treats saints fairly matter-of-factly.  I do not know whether he worships these saints.  He merely referred to them as part of his extraterritorial advice.  But in this case, of course, I suspect that because of my age, he thought it would be appropriate to make me aware of someone like Saint Joseph because he thought it would come in handy in the likely event that I would turn up my toes.

But it strikes me that providing a peaceful death is only less than half of the job that needs to be done.  The final hours are presumably the occasion when Saint Joseph or some other saint would interpose to grant relief to the afflicted person.  This is all well and good.  But I ask Saint Joseph or some other saint, “Where were you when I was going through the agony of operations and pills and extensive treatments and worry long before the final hour came?”  I mean no disrespect to those of saintly qualities but I would like to get my question answered of where you were during the agony that led to the final hour.

It seems to me that there is much to recommend in taking the advice of a Moslem cleric who said that from the day we are born, we have begun to die.  I am not a Moslem and have no intention of becoming one.  On the other hand, it seems to me that the wisdom of the Moslem advice has much to recommend it.  For example, I am now in my 90th year.  It feels fairly good or, as we put it, not ungood.  But the signs are everywhere.

While I was dictating this essay, the need rose to use the bathroom facilities.  I am fully cognizant of the fact that I am blind, but that is only part of the story.  The rest of the story is that I thought nothing in former days of getting to the bathroom and wondered why anyone would ask me about it.  In these days, however, getting to the bathroom is a bit of an accomplishment in that there are steps to walk and turns to be made and, above all, there must be adequate time permitted for the bathroom visit to forego accidents.  It simply takes me longer to get from here to there than it used to.

There is one other measurement which is largely finite.  In our basement gymnasium, exercises by Miss Chicka and myself take place on at least four days every week.   The measure of those results of our exercise date back to a year in the 1980s.  The exercise that is performed by myself today is a far cry from what it used to amount to.  As time has gone on, the deficits in the exercise routine have become a bit larger.  I am not ready to call for Saint Joseph or his ministerial operation but I know which way the signs are headed.

Finally, somewhere in the 1980s, Miss Chicka and I purchased bicycles.  That was a wonderful time in our lives because we rode all over northern New Jersey, hoping to achieve in one week 100 miles.  We did not always achieve 100 miles but we came fairly close.  But there was a sense of adventure about riding on unknown roads in the hope that we would eventually come to some location that we had some familiarity with.  At this juncture in life, my transportation is not a regular bicycle, but a stationery bicycle.  One of my other problems is aphasia resulting from a stroke and I very nearly called the stationery bicycle a “sanitary bicycle.”

Well, now look; I probably have taken much more of your time in reading about my lack of oomph in the exercise department.  But I did it for a specific reason, which is to illustrate that once the twenties are gone, we seem to live our lives in decreasing planes of accomplishment.  I am fully aware that I am not the man that I used to be even at age 75.  But as soon as a level of accomplishment is achieved, before long it is outdated.  All of which tells me that the deterioration problem will continue to take place and in the final showdown, I suspect that I will have to seek the comfort provided by Saint Joseph, who will provide me theoretically with a peaceful death.

But my point here is that providing a peaceful death is only half the story.  The rest of the story has to do with providing peace and comfort to those of us who are aging and who are aware of that aging.  In any case I appreciate your spending your time with me to discuss the slow decline in all of our performances.  It may also be that the Moslem cleric had something when he said that from the minute we are born, we have begun to die.  But as I look forward to the close of this essay I can still remember that I have still got my cardiologist who has told me about the wonders provided by one of the saints for a peaceful death.  If you wish to be introduced to my cardiologist, I will be happy to do so.  In the meantime, stay strong, take no wooden nickels, and look forward to the day when Saint Joseph will provide his ministerial blessings upon yourselves.



October 8, 2011

Essay 583


Kevin’s commentary: mention of Pop’s cardiologist reminds me of the first essay on this site.

In other news I had no idea that my grandpa biked a hundred miles a week at anytime near the present. That’s quite an accomplishment. I would say right now I only bike about fifteen to twenty a week because that’s about how much you get when you multiply the distance between my home and my office by ten, then factor in some weekend excursions. So the truth is that I was being outbiked by a rather old man. I suppose this means that I should exercise more.



As most of you know, I worked for the AT&T Company for a long time.  During the last seven or eight years, my duties were with what was then called the Overseas Department.  Basically this had to do with telecommunications outside of the United States.  It was an assignment that brought a great personal satisfaction.  It involved a lot of traveling.  I always found that the traveling tended to satisfy my curious mind and was really rewarding.

Early in my time in the Overseas Department, I ran across an erudite fellow who had spent his school years in Italy.  His full name was Guy D’Urso.  Not long after I arrived in the Overseas Department, I had a new secretary.  She always referred to Guy as Mr. Dee-ur-so.  The name was pronounced simply as Durso, but this exotic woman, who was very nice, apparently could not put her arms around the name D’Urso.  So he became Mr. Dee-ur-so.

Once I found out that Guy D’Urso had spent the early part of his life in Italy, my curiosity was intrigued.  As many of you know from reading Ezra’s Essays, I spent a good part of the war years of World War II in Italy.  Subsequently my travels often took me to Italy.

Guy grew up in what was called the heel of Italy.  Italy is shaped like a long high heeled boot with the heel being where D’Urso grew up around Bari and Taranto.

As I settled in to my new duties in the Overseas Department, I found that Guy D’ was an engaging fellow.  When I talked about Italy, Guy knew exactly what was being spoken of.  Beyond that, Guy was a well-traveled fellow who had an engaging sense of humor.  So it was that I often found myself wandering over into the engineering department to spend a few minutes with Guy D’Urso.

Now comes a long interruption in the relationship between Guy D’Urso and myself.  When AT&T elected to move its offices to Bedminster, New Jersey, both Guy and I moved where AT&T had sent us.  After a time, specifically in 1984, my long career came to an end and I retired.  One way or another, I found out that Guy D’Urso had eventually taken up residence in Toms River, New Jersey.  By this time, the date on the calendar would read 2012.

As most of you are aware, Hurricane Sandy came ashore in the vicinity of Toms River.  The devastation there was more than merely significant.  Homes were destroyed and futures were lost.  In spite of the fact that retirement in 1984 was in my past, I kept thinking of the number of my friends, including Guy D’Urso, who had settled in Toms River, New Jersey.  And so, after a time, I called Guy D’Urso’s number, which rang repeatedly.  Obviously, there was no one there to answer.  After a couple of weeks I tried the number once more and found myself talking to Guy’s wife.  In a short time, Guy himself was on the phone.  We more or less renewed acquaintances, very much as we had done when we were both working for AT&T.

Now there is one development that took place sometime in the early 1980s.  Guy D’Urso found himself working for a colleague of mine named Bob Newman.  When Newman retired, somewhere around 1980 or 1981, there was of course a going-away party for him.  I was happy to attend that farewell party.  Also attending was a fellow named Earl Schooley,   who had been a vice president of AT&T.  Bob Newman had worked for Earl Schooley and I had known Schooley when both of us worked in St. Louis.  Earl Schooley was a free soul who loved to kid about everything.  During the Newman party festivities, during which I also spoke, there were numerous references to Missouri and particularly to my home town of Clayton, Missouri.  Although Schooley was a native of a town called Bonne Terre, Missouri one way or another he took it upon himself to declare himself also a resident of Clayton, Missouri.

Now as it developed, Guy D’Urso while attending his school duties in Italy had written an essay.  The essay won a prize at a regional competition.

As you may recall, Benito Mussolini was the dictator of Italy for a good number of years.  During those years Mussolini had decided to invade Ethiopia.  In time, he had more or less conquered that country. As it turns out the prize for winning the competition among Guy’s peers was a one week trip to the capital of Ethiopia, called Addis Ababa.  This of course became a subject of conversation in the presentations at the Bob Newman retirement party.  When my time on the speakers’ platform drew to a close, I was to introduce Guy D’Urso, who was the main emcee of that proceeding.  I asked Guy, as I left the speakers’ platform, “If the first prize was a week in Addis Ababa, what was the second prize?”

At that point I walked off the podium and Guy D’Urso was introduced.  Without hesitation, Mr. D’Urso said that the second prize was two weeks in Clayton, Missouri, the home town of both Earl Schooley and myself.  The laughter was uproarious.

Over the years I had forgotten that incident but when Guy mentioned it in our conversation about the hurricane, it all came back to me.  A lot of water has gone over the dam since 1976, when I first met Guy D’Urso.  I am happy to announce that my wife, Miss Chicka, and myself were happy to make contact again with Mr. D’Urso.

For my own part, whenever I had the time I used to wander around the offices of AT&T, frequently dropping in to converse with Guy D’Urso.  He is a brilliant fellow and he has the ability to leave you with a warm feeling and smiles all around.  Men like that are few and far between.  Guy is now 83.  When we had our recent discussions, Guy and I traded war stories about the aging process.  But in both cases, it was done with great good humor and with our saying something along the lines of “What the hell are you going to do about it?”

As always, I emerged from that conversation smiling.  If a man has the ability to make you smile through a conversation, he is a person to be treasured.  And Guy D’Urso is that sort of a person.



December 7, 2012

Essay 721


Kevin’s commentary: Let’s hope that Mr Dee-ur-so can find his way to this site eventually, or at least that he got a copy of this particular essay. It’s always amazing to me how Pop manages to get in touch with so many of his old friends, especially without the use of any web-based networking services like Facebook. Maybe it just seems to me like Pop has reconnected with a lot of his friends when in reality it’s very few, percentage wise, but he just met and befriended a hell of a lot of people over his 90 years. This seems rather more likely.


The dual titles to this essay span a period in time of more than 2500 years.  Cherish the children is a maxim from Confucius.  Unfathomable was enunciated this week in Newtown, Connecticut by Don Lemon, the indefatigable announcer for CNN on weekends.  As you may have guessed, the title has to do with the recent massacre that took place in Newtown and resulted in the death of 26 victims, or if you count the mother of the shooter, 27 victims, and if you count the shooter himself, 28 victims.

The shootings took place exactly one week ago today.  This morning television broadcasters showed a program at 9:30 at the firehouse near the Newtown school.  As each name was read, the fire bell was rung with a very solemn tone.

I cannot imagine what the parents of the 20 slain first-grade students are going through.  I am a parent myself of two daughters whose life has reached the midpoint, which is to say that 50 is viewed in the rear-view mirror of their lives.  I can only imagine the agony if one of my daughters had been killed in a senseless act such as the recent Newtown massacre.

I am certain that a good many memories would come to my mind as I reviewed their lives.  One memory has to do with my older daughter.  There was a time when she was eight years old.  That was in the third grade at the New Providence, New Jersey public schools.  I was off from work that day and around 3 PM I sauntered out into the front yard so that I could see Maureen, alias Blondie, returning from her work at the school.  At about that time, Clara Dinunzio came home.  She and her husband Nick were good friends.  And so it was that while I was waiting, I wandered across the street to talk to Clara Dinunzio.   A short time later, I looked up the street and saw Blondie marching toward us.  During her school years, Blondie was a clothes horse.  She always tried to present herself in the most favorable light, which I greatly approved.  As Blondie marched down the street, her school books under her arm, she met up with Clara Dinunzio and myself.

Clara and Blondie entered into a discussion of which the conclusion was, “The third grade is very hard.”  That of course was an expression from Blondie.  When the two of us had concluded our discussion with Clara Dinunzio,  I held Maureen’s school books in one arm and she held my hand while we crossed the street, looking both ways.  You may say that all of this was inconsequential.  But to a father such as myself, the sight of Maureen walking down the street to meet Clara Dinunzio and me still is a vivid memory.

Now as to the other daughter, named Suzanne, alias Spooky Suze, there came a time when their mother and I and the two daughters decided to take a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia.  Both girls were delighted with the costumes that the waitresses in Williamsburg wore.  At this point, I believe that Spooky Suze was about six or seven years old.  As we were looking around Williamsburg, I noticed that Suzanne was missing for a time.  When she returned, my younger daughter presented me with a small bell.  It was her very first purchase, I believe, with her own money and I was overwhelmed to receive that little bell.  That bell, almost fifty years later, stands on a bookcase where I keep my books.  It is a place of honor.

The third memory that comes to mind has a bad connotation to it.  It occurred on the evening after John Kennedy was assassinated.  On that date, both of my girls were still in the lower grades of grade school.  At the time, I was working for the New York Telephone Company and I was eating in a deli on Broadway in New York City just south of the headquarters of AT&T at 195 Broadway.  When I left the deli, I noticed that the people on the street were in animated conversation.  It turned out that the news had just come from Dallas that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.  That was on November 22, 1963.

As I recall it, AT&T and the New York Telephone Company declared the following two days as days of mourning.  The railroad schedules had a degree of confusion in them because everyone wished to go home at the same time that day.  When I reached my home in New Providence, NJ the four of us had dinner.  I sat in the living room and told the girls about the terrible news.  They were seated one on each knee.  They took the news about the assassination of John Kennedy with great solemnity because they knew that their father was in a very solemn mood.

Now if my daughters had been the victims of a shooting such as that in Newtown, CT, these are the sorts of memories that would com flooding back.  To lose a child in such a senseless manner would be more, I believe, than I could bear.  Here we are exactly one week after the shooting with the burials having taken place much of this week.  If it were possible, I would love to put my arms around each of the parents.  I would probably find myself speechless.  What can you say that would comfort a parent who has lost a small child in such a senseless manner?

I find no comfort whatsoever to rely on spiritual matters.  I do not believe that there are spirits looking out there in the atmosphere who have a bearing on the actions of men.  The central question would seem to be if the killings of these small children take place under the auspices of a just and loving God.  The answer from this quarter is a resounding no.  There is no God.  Any attempt by theologians or church goers to say that sooner or later God, whoever he is, will explain it all to us and make it appear reasonable.  There is no such thing.  It was a demented character who had access to guns who committed these murders.  Any attempt to explain this act using a resort to spirituality is totally senseless.

These are my musings exactly one week after the Newtown massacre that occurred.  I would give anything to have avoided this day.  If my daughters had been involved in such a situation, I would have been remiss in my duties if I had not offered myself to the assassin in the hope that he would stop shooting after he had slain me.  But life goes on.  The only hope that those of us who deplore guns have is that some sensible legislation results from the massacre.  But I doubt that will happen.  The gun loving Republicans in both chambers, the Senate and the House, will not give Mr. Obama any hint of accomplishment.  For those of us on the other side, we hope to keep the Newtown massacre fresh in our memories so that some meaningful legislation could come from it.  I am gloomy about such an accomplishment but I always have some kind of hope.

The Carr daughters have produced a total of five grandchildren.  The daughters and their husbands and the children are in good health.  I am not sure whether the Carr daughters remember the incidents that are the theme of this essay.  But I am certain that the daughters and their husbands will continue to cherish the children and that the massacre in Newtown will continue to present us with an unfathomable mystery.  At this point, we can only hope for the best.



December 21, 2012

Essay 724


Kevin’s commentary:

I’ll have to remind mom to read this one asap. I think it’s very sweet that you’ve held onto the bell all those years.

Otherwise, I think I have already made my points in other commentaries with regard to atheism and needing to value this life more when there is no consideration of the afterlife.

It’s important in the gun control debate to try to understand what the other side is hearing. Watchers of Fox news have no idea what the administration is actually saying… it’s easy to just call them insane but the truth is that they have no idea what’s happening, so their elected representatives are in office to defend their ignorant fears that the government will come steal all their guns. It is upsetting.



Anyone who wishes to extol the virtues of medicine as practiced by the United States Army is clearly out of his mind.  This encompasses active military service as well as the Veterans Administration.

My experience of a little bit more than three years in the American Army would seem to suggest very vociferously that anyone who appears at “sick call” has to prove overwhelmingly that he is not malingering.  There was a case for example when I had worked all night and I was five minutes late appearing at the sick call window.  The two registrants of the sick call told me that I must go away.  It made no difference whether I was sick or not.  The fact of the matter is that I could not reach sick call on time because of transportation difficulties and my inability to walk.  When the two fellows at sick call told me that I was too late, I started toward the door with the intention of walking to the hospital, but then I collapsed.  With that, the two people who had turned me down promptly produced a jeep to take me to the hospital.

It is the basic premise of anyone who is conducting a sick call that anyone who presents himself must be malingering.  This is quite backwards.  I would never have gone anywhere near the sick call apparatus unless I needed it.

Being admitted to the Army hospital was an experience in itself.  When the physician, who was usually a captain, made his morning rounds, we were expected to stand at the foot of our bed waiting for him to question us.  The fact of the matter is that some of us were too sick to stand.  There was no such thing as intensive care, at least for those of us who were enlisted men.  We were put into large wards.  Most of us wished to avoid as much contact with the medical establishment as possible.

The reason for my collapse at the sick call mentioned earlier had to do with a raging case of malaria.  Upon reaching the hospital, the only treatment in those days was to take large quantities of quinine.  Quinine makes one terribly unsteady.  It destroys any sense of balance.  Since leaving the Army, I have told every physician never to give me quinine.

But in the Army, no accommodation is made for a soldier who has lost his sense of balance.  In trying to get to the latrine, as it is called, it is not unreasonable to find one or two soldiers who have fallen short of their goal of reaching the urinal.

All things considered, I have a very low opinion of medicine as it is practiced in the American Army.  My experience with medicine as practiced in the American Army is that there is a lingering fear on the part of the administrators that they are dealing with malingerers.  There may be a malingerer here or there but as a general rule soldiers get sick from time to time and they try to avoid submitting themselves to the medical practices of the American Army.  The fact is that no one enjoys going to sick call.  It is to be avoided as much as possible.  But the Army takes the opposite view that most of the people who present themselves at sick call are malingerers.

It has been alleged by some independent observers that the Veterans Administration has a much improved system of handling sickness among discharged soldiers.  My experience with a Veterans Administration hospital will tell you that that is not true in any fashion.  The practice of medicine, in my case, was suboptimal.

Shortly after my discharge from the Army, I encountered a case of pneumonia.  I thought that the proper thing to do was to take my case of pneumonia to the Veterans Administration.  That was a bad move.  I am here to call you that the practice of medicine in the Veterans Administration is no better than it is in the military services.

The burden of this essay is that if you get sick, do yourself a favor and do not ever approach the military authorities in search of a cure.  It could very well be that advances in medical practice are now reflected by improved practices in the hospitals and in the Veterans Administration.  However, I would give you this one piece of advice.  If you get sick, find a competent physician to treat your problems.  Never turn over your problem to the military authorities.  Unhappily, those are the facts.  And it should just start with staying away as far as possible from the sick call as practiced by the American Army.



December 30, 2012

Essay 729


Kevin’s commentary: this is upsetting. For a country that claims to love its military and where everyone “supports the troops” it more often than not seems like we sure as hell don’t. Ugh.