Archive for the December Category


According to the Julian calendar, which I keep in my hip pocket at all times, today is Friday, December 2, 2011.  The latest news about Herman Cain, the Republican aspirant to the Presidency, is that he is going home tonight to keep a “date night” with his wife.  I expect that Herman will have a hell of a lot of explaining to do to his wife Gloria.

So far, there have been five allegations of sexual misconduct with at least two of them resulting in payments from the National Restaurant Association of $35,000 and $45,000 to the complainants.  In addition, there have been two other women who have claimed that Herman had sexually harassed them.  Finally, this week, a woman claimed that she was involved in what is called a purely sexual relationship with Herman for the past 13 years.  She did not receive a settlement from the National Restaurant Association but she has a record of phone calls showing that they exchanged calls, some as early as 4:00 o’clock in the morning.  The record is indisputable in that when a reporter called the number listed, Herman Cain answered.  So on this date night, as Herman calls it, it would seem to me as a person far removed from Republican politics, that Herman has a lot of explaining to do.

As things now stand on December 2, there are allegations involving eight women including the thirteen-year-affair which continued up until very recently.   It would be fair to guess that these eight represent only a sample and that when the full force of Herman’s stud farm comes in to view, there will be many more than just the eight.

I have only one solution that I could offer to Herman Cain.  It involves a Greenwich Village couple here in New York who became involved in a controversy about the female.  In the New York case, there was a woman who was engaged in financial difficulties, which seem to plague every one of Herman’s women too.  In the instant case, as the lawyers would call it, this New York woman elected to solve her problem by looking in the Greenwich Village phone directory and picking out a person who, she claimed, had harassed her.  Unfortunately the woman made a monumental mistake.

Sight unseen, she had picked out a person who was gay from the get-go.  He had belonged to several gay organizations and as far as is known, he was never involved with a female.  But he was forced to hire a lawyer and when the case went to trial, the defendant told the judge his story.  He explained that he had always been a homosexual and was never ever involved with members of the female gender.  The case came to an end when he told the judge that “I have never been involved with a vagina personally.”  When the judge heard this offering, he dismissed the case.  The person who was its author was freed to pursue his gay life style in Greenwich Village forever.  There is no record of any punishment that the female suffered.

My solution to Herman’s problem may not be popular with the religious right types of the Republican Party.  Although Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, is involved in rumors that he is gay, of course in keeping with the Republican symbolism of manliness, he would deny such an accusation.  But back to Herman, his real problem now is Gloria, his wife.  When she gets Herman alone tonight after their date night, she may rip him apart.  And deservedly so.

My solution is straight-forward.  Herman should claim that all of these allegations about sexual misconduct are plain hogwash.  Clearly and unquestionably he should adopt the line of the defendant in the Greenwich Village case.  Herman should tell his wife, “Unbeknownst to you, I have been gay all along, and more importantly, I have never met a vagina personally.”

For the better part of 20 years, I was involved in labor relations matters with the Bell System.  We never had a case as salacious as Herman’s Stud Farm.  So when a case comes along that involves a stud farm such as Herman’s, it arouses my interest and I am obliged to offer Herman the only defense that I can think of.  Herman has been married, so he says, for 42 years to Gloria, his beloved wife.  He must contend that in all of the 42 years, he has been gay in every case where amorous intent was involved.  That is his only way out of this melancholy situation.

But tomorrow or over the weekend I suspect that Mr. Cain will have a report on how he made out on his date night.  I hope that he will remember that in all of his dalliances with the extra females he should contend that “I have never been involved with a vagina personally.”  I realize that this may mark the end of Herman’s Presidential aspirations.  If he refuses my advice, he will incur the wrath of Gloria, his wife.  Instead, if he takes my advice, she may engulf him with sympathy.  She may engulf him with sympathy thinking that he, as a gay man, has put up with her for 42 years.

But the fact of the matter remains that I have nothing – nothing whatsoever – to do with the Republican Party.  I offer this advice out of the goodness of my heart, recognizing that my fellow human being, Mr. Cain, is in trouble.  Further, my hope is that there are certain Christian organizations who claim to repair gayness.  Several preachers have become patients at such organizations and report along with their discharge that they are free from sin and free from gayness.  As a personal matter, I believe that such reports are complete horse manure.  But my object here is to get Herman off the hook and it seems to me that claiming gayness is the only obvious defense.  Stay tuned for further developments in the case of the Herman Cain stud farm.

PS:  Sunday, December 4, 2011.  Yesterday, on December 3, Herman Cain announced that he was going to “suspend” all future operations of his campaign.  I do not really understand what “suspend” means.  But from the talk shows this Sunday morning, it would appear that Herman Cain’s campaign is dead, over, and finished.  Cynics among us, including myself and my wife, would have concluded that there were dozens of other people, mostly of the female gender, who were willing to come forward as time progressed.  In these circumstances, Herman thought that it was probably the best to throw in the towel and go back to his selling books.  I regret to see Herman leave the race because he provided the only comic material coming from the Republican side.  Republicans are very serious people who regard laughter and joy as anathema.  But Herman is gone now, and we have only our memories of him to sustain us.



December 4, 2011

Essay 598



Kevin’s commentary:  You know, there is very little I miss about the 2012 presidential race, but Herman Cain was one of them. What an amazing, ridiculous character. No news of him recently, which I guess means he’s handled things correctly. Still a bit of a shame.

More on stud farms here, though admittedly that essay is about real ones, not Mr. Cain’s.


You may recall from a reading of Ezra’s Essays that my eighth grade teacher was a buxom woman named Miss Maxwell.  She was the one who wore high-buttoned shoes and liked to read English poetry to us, much to the chagrin of all the boys of the class.  Miss Maxwell was very intent on teaching us about the particulars of English speech, such as nouns, adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, and even proverbs.  Those lessons more or less glanced off me without penetration.  So it is that I am not really a scholar of the English language.

But there are some thoughts that occasionally occupy what is left of my mind.  One of those thoughts has to do with the British practice of knocking a syllable out of certain words.  For example, an Englishman will pronounce the word “military” as “militry.”   There is another sound that accords with the spelling of military that is called “mil-i-tary.”  But I suspect that no respectable Englishman will ever say that he served in the “military” of the English nation.

Now if those persons of the military type hang around long enough, the chances are that at the end of life they may need a cemetery.  For no good reason whatsoever, the Brits will pronounce that word as “cemetry.”  I have no hope whatsoever of getting the British to pronounce all of the syllables in our common language.

But if you cross the Atlantic westward, you will find that Americans also mangle the language of the Anglo-Saxons that has been handed down to us.  The case I have in point involves the pronunciation of the word “been.”  For example we might say, “I have bin there.”  As a non-student of the English language, I would like to point out the proper word should be pronounced as “been” or, in the spelling as “bean.”  We typically say that “I have bin there” but we really mean that “I have been there.”

When there are young males carrying the names of Benjamin, it is appropriate to call them by their nicknames of Ben.  The proper sentences should read as follows: Ben (the nickname) has been(bean) there.  I am quite aware that the pronunciation of been (bean) might cause someone to accuse the speaker of snobbishness.  But if we are going to purify and glorify the English language, I would propose that there should be a distinction between “bin” and been (bean).  At my age it would not bother me if someone were to accuse me of snobbishness.  In the case of military and cemetery, I pronounce all of the syllables.  But here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we still say “bin” when we mean “been.”  Americans should be required to say, “I seen him when he done it.”  Perhaps that exercise will cause the word been to be pronounced as the British use it to become more acceptable.

If the English wish to pronounce military and cemetery as “militry” and “cemetry,” that is acceptable to me because I now understand what the Brits mean.  I would only hope that my countrymen would pronounce been as bean, which is the proper pronunciation.

Seriously, Miss Maxwell, my eighth grade teacher who was nuts about fairies and goblins and all of the things that English poetry provided, never tumbled to the fact that been (bin) was so mispronounced in American speech.  If we have no trouble pronouncing seen, why should we pronounce been as bin?  It would do my heart a great favor if Miss Maxwell were to say, “I seen him when he done it.” And “Ben has been here.”

I have no hope of changing the English pronunciation of military and cemetery.  But I hope that my fellow countrymen may encounter the word “been” and pronounce it as “bean” and pay no attention to snobbishness.  If that situation ever comes to pass, I am sure that Miss Maxwell will be pleased as will her erstwhile student Ezra as well.



December 31, 2011

Essay 609


Kevin’s commentary: This post is not to be confused with this one of a similar title. There are, in all of Pop’s essays, no less than four essays of approximately this title, which sometimes makes it hard to keep straight. I suggest that for his next essay regarding the language of the Anglo-Saxons, my grandfather should consult with the ghost of Miss Maxwell to divine some new titular phrasing.

To the matter at hand, Pop needs to use his time brokering a language exchange of sorts. We will adopt their pronunciation of “been” if they will acknowledge the 17th letter of the alphabet. Seems fair to me.


You may be excused if you do not recall exactly what you do were doing on the evening of August 4, 1959.  It was a Tuesday, but otherwise it was unremarkable.  I do not recall what I was doing that evening but I assume that I was working for the great AT&T organization and I worked until a few minutes after five o’clock.  We lived in New Providence, New Jersey at that time.  Getting home was not easy.  It involved a one-mile walk to the ferry terminal, whereupon the Lackawanna Ferry took us across the Hudson River to Hoboken, New Jersey.  At Hoboken, if things were in good working order, I could pick up a train that would carry me to New Providence, New Jersey which was about one hour away.  Upon arriving in New Providence, my wife and the two daughters would meet me and take me the last two or three miles to my home.  From beginning to end the transit time was about one hour and 15 to one hour and 20 minutes.

Upon arriving at my home, I assume that my wife and I consumed an alcoholic drink to celebrate my 37th birthday.  On that same evening, a new show opened on Broadway.  The show was not a threat to such productions as South Pacific.  It opened at a theater on 45th Street, then moved to another theater also on 45th Street, and finally it went uptown to the Carnegie Hall Playhouse.  It played at three theaters for a total of four months and 135 performances.

In those days, I attended the theater whenever there was a good production that fell within my financial restrictions.  I was not an all-out theater buff, but I enjoyed the productions that were offered in New York City.  The show that we are talking about was called “The Billy Barnes Revue.”  Apparently neither that title nor the reviews suggested that it was a “can’t miss” production.

Now at this point, this essay takes on the aura of mental telepathy.  The major song in “The Billy Barnes Revue” was sung by a woman who was the wife of Billy Barnes.  Her name was Jackie Joseph.  The song that she sang was, “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?”  She and Billy Barnes were making their first attempt to crack Broadway.  Apparently Billy Barnes was a notable figure in Los Angeles.  So it was that in 1959 he brought “The Billy Barnes Revue” to Broadway.

Curiously, you will notice that none of the theaters at which the revue played are actually located on Broadway.  Only a handful of theaters are literally located on Broadway with the rest scattered on such streets as 45th and 46th.

Now let’s get back to Billy Barnes and his wife, the soloist who sang the hit number of “The Billy Barnes Revue.”  The fact that the show moved its on-Broadway locations from one theater to another was probably explained by the fact that the only accompaniment for the singing voices was a piano.  There was no orchestra with all of the attendant woes of moving an orchestra from one place to another.  There was simply a piano.  So when moving day came, he had simply to determine whether the new theater had an in-tune piano to accompany the singers.

“The Billy Barnes Revue” played on Broadway for 87 performances.  I assume that Mr. Barnes could return to Los Angeles and tell the folks there that he had conquered New York.  To be more accurate, Mr. Barnes had succumbed to all of the influences on the side that helped make the attendance at a theater performance worthwhile but which investors hate.  Here is a list of producers in the production credits that must be accounted for when it comes time for a payoff.  There is a producer, George Eckstein, plus the associate producer, Bob Reese.  The book was by Bob Rodgers and the music and lyrics by Billy Barnes.  There was also a musical director named Billy Barnes of all things, and an associate musical director, Armin Hoffman.  Then there was the director Bob Rodgers, scenic design by Glenn Holse, writing by Peggy Clark, costume supervision by Peggy Morrison, and the Berman Costume Company.  You won’t believe this but there was a company manager, which everybody seemed to have.  That was Benjamin Rothman.  There were two stage managers.  They were Howard Ostroff and John Holden.  Lastly, the press representative was Samuel Friedman.

So as you can see, getting a production on Broadway was an expensive proposition.  When it comes time for the receipts to be counted, every one of the people mentioned in the foregoing paragraph has to be paid first.  If there is anything left over, it is distributed to the investors in the production.  Judy and I invested in two productions, as I recall it around $5,000 each.  From that investment, we received a payout of nearly $300.  So the moral of this story is that if you have money to invest, do not put it on Broadway.

During its run in New York, playing at three separate theaters none of which were actually located on Broadway, I was unaware of the existence of the Billy Barnes production.  There is so much going on in the theater business in New York, that it is not unusual that a production such as “The Billy Barnes Revue” could have come and gone without attracting my attention.

But it is unusual that I was unaware of the lead song, “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?”  I simply did not become aware of that song until this year, when mental telepathy came into being.  Some time in December of 2011, I asked my wife who tries to keep track of my failing memory whether she had ever heard a song with the title, “I Must Have Stayed Too Long at the Fair.”  Miss Chicka replied that she was vaguely aware of such a song but, more importantly, she recalled a nursery rhyme that seemed to fit the bill.  The nursery rhyme is as follows.

Oh dear, what can the matter be?

Dear, oh dear, what can the matter be?

Oh dear, what can the matter be?

Johnny’s so long at the fair.

It was a nursery rhyme that apparently was in the same school of thought with “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?”

With that, Miss Chicka using her terrific computer found a song that answered the description.  It was “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?”  Apparently perhaps even a dozen performers have recorded that song and I knew nothing about it.  The main performer of that song was Barbra Streisand.  I do not care for Miss Streisand’s music.  But then we found a recording of that song by the Midwest Vocal Express.  It is sung in the barbershop style, which means close harmony, and it is performed a cappella.  That is, of course, without accompaniment.

I believe that that [sic] song, “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?” is a marvelous composition.  I also believe that the performance of that song by the Midwest Vocal Express is superb and it is for that reason that it has been recorded here, and a copy of it is furnished forthwith as well as the lyrics.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as we have.

One final thought.  For anyone who is of Social Security age, I suspect that the thought must go through all of our minds about staying too long at the fair.  My great and good friend, Kaye McCormack, the Chicago chief operator, at the end of her life told me, “There’s no reason left to stay here.”  Kaye died not long after she wrote that note.  So I suspect that every old timer must ask the question about whether he has stayed too long at the fair.

In my own case, I must assume that I have stayed much much too long at the fair.  Even the Bible suggests that a person who reaches 80 years is long past due.  At this point, I hope to make 90 years some time this summer.  I will continue to subscribe to the philosophy of an old friend, Howard W. Pappert.  Howard says that old timers would “go as long as they can, as hard as they can.”  I can’t go as long as I used to nor can I go as hard as I used to.  But I am still in there trying.  If indeed my life lasts to 90 years, which will occur hopefully some time this summer, I will say that I have stayed at the fair long enough and anything else will be a bonus that I don’t deserve.  But I will take it.

PS: The lyrics to “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?” are furnished for your enjoyment.  Knowing the age of my readers, I would suspect that this is an occasion calling for bifocal glasses.  In any event, we hope that the song pleases you as much as it has pleased us.

The lyrics are the product of the work of Esteban Hidalgo, a thirteen year old who is our production assistant.  Any criticism of the lyrics should be directed toward Esteban, not toward the author of Ezra’s Essays.



December 29, 2011

Essay 608


Music and Lyrics by Billy Barnes

I wanted the music to play on forever
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
I wanted the clown to be constantly clever
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
I won a blue ribbon how proud I was there ,
But I couldn’t find anybody to care;
The merry-go-round is beginning to taunt me,
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
There is no more to win and there is no one to want me,
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
Oh, mother dear, I know your very proud,
Your little boy in blue jeans is so far above the crowd;
No, daddy dear,
You never could have known
That I would be successful, yet so very much alone…
How I wanted to win all the fabulous treasures,
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
I wanted to dance on the merriest measures,
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
I found it was easy to capture success,
But now I’d be willing …
To settle for less,

Now I’d settle for less,

The lights of the midway are fading above me,
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
Wherever I roam,
To the people who love me
Yes I stayed too long at the fair.

Too long at the fair,

Farewell fair


Kevin’s commentary: You can find Streisand’s version here. This essay made me seriously regret never having been to a Broadway show though, which is something I feel like I should probably do at some point in my life. Not that I’ve ever had any particular love for theater, but I did spend many a weekend in highschool running around the state with thespians-to-be, and I always enjoyed watching them compete. This was of course for speech and debate tournaments, of which I attended dozens (hundreds?) because I am a nerd.

Anyway, this was the first I’ve heard of Esteban. Perhaps I should make him a moderator or copy editor of this website.


You may recall that a few months ago an essay was dictated at this desk that had to do with Bishop Eddie Long who was pastor of the New Birth mega-church in Atlanta.  It seems as though Bishop Long had thousands of followers and they clung to every word that he uttered.  Not to tell you how smart I am, but I considered Bishop Long a mountebank.  In short, I thought that he was a fraud from beginning to end.  Now, like so many other pastors, Bishop Long has fallen into sexual impurities and has largely lost his congregation.  Like Ted Haggard, who ran a church in Colorado, the problem involves not girls but boys.  It seems as though Bishop Long has been involved with boys and has invaded their bodies in a sexual manner.  In simple terms, Long is a pederast.  There is no other word to describe what Long has been doing to these boys.  He is a pederast.  He may consider himself a Christian pederast, but in my thoughts, he is still a pederast.

Now, before I go further, I would like to comment that Bishop Long, like so many other preachers, always claims the title of Bishop.  Bishop Long and Bishop Haggard had no hierarchy of churches around them, so it is difficult to understand how they progressed from a plain preacher to bishop.  Ah, but I am not cognizant of all of the workings of church folks, and I probably have missed a few beats along the way, particularly with preachers who are pederasts.

But now we find that Bishop Long’s wife has become deeply annoyed with Bishop Long’s conduct.  I must say that my sympathies are entirely with his wife.  I cannot imagine being married to a pederast.

In the latest development in the story about Bishop Long and the boys he has humiliated, we find that he has told his church, or the few remaining church members, that he and his wife are “prayerfully” appealing to God.  You will note that Bishop Long made this statement and that his wife has had nothing to say in public about it.

It seems to me that every time a preacher or a politician descends into the infamy of sexual misconduct, he appears to call God into his corner.  That was true with the former Reverend Haggard, just as it is true of Newt Gingrich.  Gingrich has contended that, in spite of his serial adulteries, God has forgiven him.  There are no independent witnesses to God’s forgiveness.  You just have to take Newt’s word for forgiveness, just as you have to take the story about Bishop Long.

I am not involved with churchly affairs, having abandoned them at the age of six years.  Once again, a preacher when he gets into trouble calls upon God and says that he is “prayerfully” considering what to do.  I might suggest that if he had been in prayer, he would not have violated the innocence of the six boys that he has been accused of violating.  I have no communication with God, so I will have to guess what is going on inside the Bishop Long marriage.  I suspect that Mrs. Long is highly pissed off at the Bishop and has invoked the powers of divorce with respect to him.  I must say that she was provoked beyond what any woman should have to endure, and the sooner she rids herself of the lewd and saintly bishop, the better.

Now to turn to secular matters, I find that Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich had a mock television debate during which they tended to praise each other.  Now look, the facts are on this order.  Newt Gingrich has had three marriages, all of which were preceded by highly discussed dalliances.  His current wife, who is 22 years younger than he, is involved in the most recent marriage case.

In the case of Herman Cain, we know that at least five women have come to light who accuse him of adultery.  I would suggest that in Herman’s case we should stay tuned because more are on the way, which is why he dropped out of the Presidential sweepstakes on Saturday of this week.

Look at it this way.  In professional hockey in the National Hockey League, the contestants vie all year long to win a prize called The Stanley Cup.  In horse racing, there are many events where the winner is awarded a cup to signify his victory.  In auto racing, which I deplore, I gather that in some events a cup is awarded to the winner.

Gingrich and Herman Cain were involved for dozens of years in dozens of adulteries and other moments of sexual misconduct.  I would say that in all matters of decency, as the Gingrich and Herman Cain broadcasts draw to a close, the winner should be awarded the Philanderer’s Cup for his excellence in that pursuit.  But unfortunately Herman Cain has withdrawn from competition, at least in public, for his place as a philanderer.  So Newt will have to gird his loins and carry on himself in pursuit of the Philanderer’s Cup.  But he should remember that Herman Cain, who will be quick to capitalize on any miscues by the Newtster, is still in the wings.

I did not realize when I started this essay that it would take on such a sexual tone.  With Bishop Long and Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, the content was of a sexual nature.  I apologize for that. But I advise every reader of this essay to believe that Bishop Long has appealed to God’s better side, thus causing him to miss the divorce proceedings.  And as for Newt and Herman Cain, they were over the pale and cannot be rescued by any appeals to the supreme being, particularly from an infidel such as myself.  In that case, we will have to do the best we can.

PS: A thought occurred to me after the foregoing was dictated.  If the younger clerics of whatever faith are engaged in the buggering of youngsters, it follows that in time as they wait out their turns, they will be promoted to such awesome titles as bishop and archbishop.  Are we to believe that every bishop and archbishop of every faith is free from the sin of buggering youngsters?  Does it follow that when a cleric is promoted to the higher ranks, he automatically gives up the practice of buggering youngsters?  These questions, I believe, are divinely inspired and should be treated as national treasures.



December 8, 2011

Essay 615

Kevin’s commentary: Whelp, now my search history has “pedophile vs pederast” in it. Hope nobody ever goes poking around in there. For any curious, it seems like pedophiles simply want to diddle little boys. If they actually succeed in doing so they become pederasts.

Also clearly the logical conclusion here is that God has commanded said buggering of youngsters; this is the only logical conclusion because God is on the side of the Church and that’s what the Church likes to do. My favorite part through all this has been the Church’s tone of their apologies, which basically boil down to “gee we sure are sorry that we got caught” instead of “gee we are sorry for violating children.” Ugh.

So far as the Philanderer’s cup goes, I have already commented on it here.


Two deaths took place yesterday, December 18.  Because the Earth turns from east to west, the first death took place in North Korea.  The dictator there, Kim Jong-il, aged 69, died.  The civilized world was not impressed by the passing of the North Korean dictator.  As might be expected, the North Koreans have required public weepers for the passing of their dictator.  They claim that he was beloved.  Few of us in the civilized world believe that to be the case.

This date also was marked by the death during the night of my wife’s favorite aunt, Mary Chicka, aged 90.  Mary lived in western Pennsylvania in a town called Latrobe, which you may recall was the home of many heavy industries such as the railroads.  Aunt Mary graduated from high school and then secretarial school.  Along the way, Aunt Mary was also busy with work on her brother’s farm.

As Judy remembers it, before Aunt Mary went to work each day, her job was to put the milk into glass bottles for delivery to the customers.  Judy also remembers that after the bottling operation was complete, there were several cats waiting to be served their breakfast.  They were polite cats who merely gathered outside the milkhouse door until Mary came to them to serve them their milk.  Mary had a continuing interest in the welfare of animals.

During her lifetime she became the favorite aunt of my wife Judith.  There was an occasion a few years ago when Aunt Mary was able to visit us in New Jersey.  From that brief exposure, I liked Judy’s Aunt Mary very much.  The only drawback had to do with her rooting for the Pittsburgh Pirates in baseball instead of the New York Mets or the St. Louis Cardinals.  Because Aunt Mary was a genuinely decent person, I tended to overlook those deficiencies.

A few years back, Aunt Mary went to a person who carved headstones and specified that her headstone would read “Aunt Mary Chicka” because in fact everyone that she knew called her Aunt Mary and so it became the inscription on her tombstone.

Mary never married.  She lived alone in the town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania until about three years ago when dementia and Alzheimer’s began to sneak up on her.  From that point on, she was in two nursing homes, which seemed to work out as well as could be expected.

For a good number of years in her later life, Mary had the great good fortune to be associated with Mrs. Connie Schober.  As a matter of fact, Connie did an excellent job of handling Aunt Mary’s affairs when she was no longer able.  When Mary was in the nursing homes, it was Connie who frequently visited her and took her to lunch.  We are deeply indebted to Connie for the devotion that she showed to Judy’s Aunt Mary.

At the same time, we also wish to pay tribute to Janet Smith, her niece by marriage, who was frequently at Aunt Mary’s side in the nursing home.  We are deeply indebted to Janet for the solicitude that she showed Aunt Mary.

The commentators on television and the writers for such publications as The New York Times will not notice the passing of Mary Chicka.  I expect that their concentration will be devoted to the passage of Kim Jong-il, the North Korean dictator.  But taking one thing with another, it strikes me that Mary Chicka was a beloved figure whose worth to the world was infinitely greater than that of the dictator of North Korea.  It will be lonely going forward for my wife but Mary lived a long life.  She held off death until her 91st year and now we must face the future without Aunt Mary.  But in the final analysis, death must come to all people, including the North Korean dictator and to Mary Chicka.  There is no denying the Grim Reaper when he comes to do his work.

And for myself, I can only respond in the way of old soldiers.  When one of my comrades passes and leaves a terrible void, I reach for my white cane, stand at attention, and salute while saying, “Well done, Aunt Mary Chicka.  Well done indeed for a life well lived.”



December 19, 2011

Essay 607


Kevin’s commentary: I thought this one was really touching, and I wish I could have met her.


My parents had eight children, five of whom grew to maturity.  Only one of them was troubled by vindictiveness to a degree of unpleasant hatred.  If a major league hitter knocked out four balls out of five, it would be considered a phenomenon.

Now consider this: I was in the American Army for a few months beyond what we often called a hitch, that is, three years.  I fervently wanted the war to be over with us on the winning side, but all things considered I did not hate the Japanese, the Italians, or the Germans.

If you are a careful reader of Ezra’s Essays, you may discover that some years after the war, Howard Davis and I were wandering down a street in Munich when our thirst demanded that we have a beer.  During this encounter, we ran into a German soldier who only a few years earlier would have tried to kill me.  Similarly Howard and I would have been inclined to kill this German soldier, but that was years ago.  The point that is obvious here is that a good many of us, including myself and Howard, are not afflicted by the sin of hate.  For better or worse, I am not a hater.  And I do not like to be around people who are haters.

In 2003, George W. Bush ordered the invasion of the sovereign territory of Iraq.  We had absolutely no reason for invading that country.  I came as close to hatred as I can come.  In pursuing the ends of that war, it was disclosed that Richard Cheney was the mover and shaker of the battle cries.  I dislike Cheney almost to the point of my feelings about Antonin Scalia, the man who inflicted George W. Bush and Richard Cheney upon the American public.  As for Bush himself, I thought of him as a complete dunce.  He did not inspire my dislike of him to approach the level of hatred as did Antonin Scalia and Dick Cheney.  I suppose the burden of this thought is that even complete dunces such as George W. Bush would influence those haters like Dick Cheney to get this country into impossible situations.

And so it is that as time has progressed, I find myself watching the current so-called debates among the Presidential hopefuls on the Republican side.  There have been perhaps six or seven such debates and I come away with the unshakable belief this is a collection of abject haters.

They hate everything that Barack Obama has done.  And now, when Newt Gingrich pokes his head out above the rest of them, they have extended their hatred towards good old Newt.  If good old Herman Cain were back in the race, I suspect that if he maintained an advantage, their hatred would go to the pizza king.  Simply put, the Republican aspirants for Barack Obama’s job seem to me to be a collection of haters.
Curiously, one of the lead haters is a female who uses the name of Michele Bachmann.

Only Michele has introduced a bill in Congress, where she is a Representative, to ban the so-called “Obamacare,” which is really the health bill, and secondly, Mrs. Bachmann wishes to repeal the Dodd-Frank bill that would save investors in banks and the stock market from being thoroughly cheated.  No one has raised an objection to Mrs. Bachmann’s militancy so I suspect that they are all in favor of it.  The thrust seems to be that anything that thwarts Barack Obama is commendable.  And the more hateful it is, the better they seem to like it.

Even a Republican such as Mitt Romney is on record as saying that he would, on his first day in office, repeal health care.  The fact of the matter is that the bill that passed into law in the last year or so was copied from a bill that applied to the citizens of Massachusetts.  So in effect, Mitt Romney clearly demanded that his own legislation be outlawed.  This can only be explained by Romney’s sheer hatred of Barack Obama.

Then we have the example of Rick Perry, the grand and glorious governor of the great and glorious state of Texas, who is on record as saying that if Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, ever showed up in Texas, he would be treated “pretty ugly.” This is a threat against a senior public official.  I believe that it is actionable, if the Attorney General were to decide to do something about it.  But Mr. Holder, the Attorney General, is not only a gentleman but he has no desire to engage in things of dubious prosecutorial value.


And so at this point, we will have the first election to pick a candidate from these hopefuls, which will take place in the great state of Iowa.  Iowa is a lovely state which is being profaned by the antics of the Republican hopefuls to replace Barack Obama.

I understand that in a primary fight, excesses will be taken.  But in the contest involving the Republican primaries of this year, it seems to me that it is marked primarily by abject hatred with the provision that the hatred be directed towards Mr. Barack Obama.

Now consider this.  The leader of the Republicans in the United States Senate has said on multiple occasions that his primary purpose is to run Barack Obama out after he completes one term.  Mitch McConnell is not there to lead the Republican forces in honest debate.  He is there solely for the sake of supporting whatever Obama proposes.  And if I were the President – which I am not – I would charge Mitch McConnell with dereliction of duty, which is a treasonous offense.  Mr. Holder, the Attorney General, is not inclined to do so.

The fact is that in the first two years of the Obama administration, he saved the American automobile companies from becoming extinct.  Obama has guided us through troubling times starting in 2008 which kept us from having a depression rivaling that of 1929.  In addition, he got rid of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which was a plague on the American military forces.  Beyond all of that, it was in Barack Obama’s administration that Osama bin Laden and some 22 others in the hierarchy of the Al-Qaeda operation were killed.  But all of those accomplishments are for naught.  The Republican Party in this day is consumed by hatred.  I regret to reach that conclusion.  It is inevitable.

Even Senator Lugar from Indiana, who used to be considered the most reasonable of men, has been taken in by the hatred that is endemic in the Republican Party.  Most of us have thought that Lugar was a man with honor but apparently, with hatred being in the ascendancy, this is not the case.

But now let me tell you exactly where this climate of hatred could lead.  It will lead toward some poor bastard with a long-range rifle led by the National Rifle Association, attempting to take Barack Obama out of the picture.  The fact that he has a wife who is an accomplished person and two small daughters is secondary.  This climate of hatred will lead toward taking Barack Obama out of the American political scene with no questions asked.  He will be dead.  At that point, the gaseous elephant in the room will have belched and will have passed his gas.  But the Republican aspirants for Barack Obama’s job will say, “Who, me?”  The fact is that this climate of hatred will inspire some nut to do what he thinks is his patriotic duty and kill Mr. Obama.

This is in the great American tradition of killing our presidents or would-be presidents, and leaders.  It started with Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, his brother, and it includes Martin Luther King.  Is this in the best tradition of American political discourse?  Of course not.  But that is where this climate of hatred espoused by the people seeking to replace Mr. Obama will lead.

Southerners dominate the Republican Party – Shelby and Sessions from Alabama, two senators from South Carolina and the two from Mississippi.  And of course there is Haley Barbour who has a dominant hand in Republican affairs.  Now given that background, there is one more fact to relate here.  Barack Obama is a black man.  Actually he is not a black man so much as he is a mulatto.  But I am sure that according to the southerners, one drop of black blood colors all the rest.  Do you think that the factor of race has anything to do with the outrage that Republicans now feel?  My own feeling is that racial hatred has much to do with the Republican feeling about Barack Obama.

I had hoped never to have to deal with this subject, but the facts dictate otherwise.  I truly regret the circumstance and what it means for the United States.

I am not given much to prayer.  But in this case I must say that I will pray for the republic.



December 18, 2011

Essay 605


Kevin’s commentary: over a year later we’re still going strong on the “Obama hasn’t been assassinated” front. And we’re still in a situation where the GOP is much better at rallying itself to what it dislikes than it is at rallying around any policy of its own. I guess that’s what you get when your party is an unholy marriage of greed, religion, and ignorance (looking at you, 1%, Evangelicals, and the Tea Party) that utterly lacks positive common ground. They can only agree on their dislike of the Obama administration and it is losing them elections. I’m fine with this.


A few weeks back when Herman Cain was still in the race for the Presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain sat down for what was laughingly called a debate among themselves.  Actually it was not a debate at all but a mutual admiration society.

Given the facts of the matter about their past philandering, it struck me that if this were a horse race, it would be called the race for the Philanderer’s Cup.  In professional hockey, the contestants vie for a prize to be awarded to the champions of the hockey league called the Stanley Cup.  In yacht racing, there are an abundance of awards, all named after cups, such as the South Hampton Cup or the Brighton Cup.

So when Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain bare their records of serial philandering and engage in a debate or a love match, it strikes me that the world should know that this is a contest that should be named the Philanderer’s Cup.



December 4, 2011

Essay #613

Kevin’s commentary: back in highschool, I was on the debate team.  Two of the debaters on the local circuit were dating, and if memory serves they would always just refuse to debate each other, because it didn’t make sense. They were on the same side, so to speak. So instead of spending the round saying “well my boyfriend did make some great points, but here are even more points!” they just flipped a coin and were done with it. I feel like some politicians could learn from them.


As an essayist, I welcome all words that will fit appropriately in my essays.  There are several million people who write better essays than I do, including Christopher Hitchens.   Hitchens is in love with the words he writes and the longer and more obscure terms suit him greatly.  My essays are less esoteric and deal with the real world as I find it in my later life.

You may recall that I write essays as a means to repair the damage to my brain caused by a stroke in 1997.  According to the official historian, Jenny Masis, this essay is number 612 since I embarked upon the brain repair department.  It also means that I have been writing essays for nearly 14 years and if the truth were known, the essays are a good bit of work but I find them rewarding as well.

Jenny Masis is the person who cleans the house every two weeks but who is also under Judy’s guidance the official filer and the apprentice at computer work.  When Jenny tells you that this is the 612th essay that has been written at this desk, you may take it to the bank.  In all of those essays there are two words that have never been used and they are probably never to be used as long as I am in charge of my mental faculties.  Those words are “proactive” and “surreal.”  Let us take each one of them individually and reveal my reasons for disliking them.

Let us start with “proactive.”  The dictionary says that “proactive” means taking action and making changes before they need to be made.  The synonyms are “sensible” and “reasonable.”  My comment on “proactive” is that there is a redundancy here.  The first syllable is “pro” which means in advance of things and active, which means that some corrective action should be taken.  If we come down to the real reason why I dislike “proactive,” it is that it was used repeatedly by one of my colleagues at AT&T.  He was a preacher’s son from Iowa, and considering that I knew this person more than 25 years ago, I still regard him as a colossal horse’s ass.  The fact that he used “proactive” turned me off that word and ever since, I have seen no reason to put that word into my vocabulary.

Now we turn to the word “surreal.”  The dictionary definition of the word “surreal” is “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; unbelievable, fantastic, etc.”

The synonyms for “surreal” are as follows: strange, funny, weird, unreal, idiosyncratic, etc.

I have a lot more sympathy for the word “surreal” than I do for “proactive.”  But my lack of enthusiasm is encouraged by the fact that “surreal” has a dream like substance to it.

I have been non-sighted or blind for more than six years.  I find that getting along as a non-sighted person in the sighted world has a surreal characteristic to it.  Taking a shower without ever seeing the soap is a surreal experience.  The same goes for walking up and down steps.  I am able to take care of all of my personal needs, for example, needing occasional help.  I am able to dress myself.  Admittedly, I don’t try any Windsor knots in my neckties.

When it comes to operating in the dark, as blind people are required to do, I find that there is a dream like quality to life lived in darkness. Perhaps the only advantage that arises from the darkness is when the electricity fails.  In that circumstance, I am able to navigate a good bit better than sighted persons.  But that is no recommendation for people to become un-sighted or blind.

In short order, it will be six and one-half years since the surgeons at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia told me that unfortunately they could do no more to bring back my eyesight.  I was not surprised by this announcement because glaucoma quickly wraps its grimy arms around the eyes of members of the Carr family.  Secretly I did not welcome the news but I accepted it matter-of-factly because it meant no more trips, of which there were hundreds, to the eye physicians.  Shortly after reaching home from my last trip to Philadelphia, I wrote the story called “Sing No Sad Songs for this Old Geezer.”  That was my first attempt at telling my friends and casual acquaintances that I disliked pity and all of the unhappiness that goes with that term.

Dr. Beamer, my cardiologist, said to me a week or two ago that I had “accepted blindness” and that I had “moved on.”  That is pretty much exactly what I had in mind.  For example, I find that I like to go to the Whole Foods market and to a restaurant here in Millburn because they never consider pity as the base to our relations.  The exchanges in both cases are fairly ribald, which again, suits me well.

Obviously I am not happy with being blind, but I am continually reminded that perhaps there are others who are much worse off.  Aside from the blindness issue, I suppose I should be concerned with the fact that age, now in my 90th year, is creeping up on me.

When I joined the American Army and left to report to Jefferson Barracks, I made a fundamental mistake in that I told my mother that I would be fighting on the same side as the British, and she should not worry about me.  My mother hated everything that England stood for.  She told me at that point, “Son, in that case you must do the best you can.”  Those were her last words of the interview on the driveway which concluded with my leaving my home to catch the streetcar to go to Jefferson Barracks.

Surrealness did not make allowances for the inclusion of reality as doing the best you can. But in any case, what I conclude here is that the word “surreal” is a fairly nice word but I do not ever intend to use it in writing an essay or even in writing an email.  If any of you are in need of a word to adorn your literary efforts, you have my permission to use “surreal” with great abandon.  On the other hand, “proactive” is a different situation and for the better part of 30 years I have disliked the fellow who used it endlessly.  “Proactive” and “surreal” are, in baseball terms, free agents and they will never appear in anything that I write.  This is merely an attempt to get on the record the fact that both words are up for grabs because I will never use them again.



December 4, 2011

Essay 612


Kevin’s commentary: In point of fact, I went to the folder on my computer where I keep the entire archive of Ezra’s Essays and searched the whole thing for the word “proactive.” It appeared three times. Once in 2005, in an essay called “POTPOURRI OF THOUGHTS Medit 11,  6-5-05,” then again in 2009 in a word entitled “THREE LITTLE WORDS” which is incidentally the title of a very nice little song by an artist named Frankmusik. More on topic, both of these former two essays use the word “proactive” only in the context of this previous colleague of Pop’s, and his overuse of this word. Pop has been campaigning, in essay form, against the word “Proactive” for eight and a half years. That’s dedication. Hell, that’s proactive dedication.


This essay has to do with a vegetable or a weed that appears in the springtime and is uncultivated.  It grows along hedge rows and along the highways and when it reaches maturity, it is quite poisonous.

Also this essay is an exercise in nostalgia.  It has to do with my mother, who departed this “vale of tears” some 50 years ago.  Lillie Belle Carr had strong feelings about a number of subjects.  She hated, for example, the English.  I believe her hatred was cemented by the English massacre of Irish patriots at the General Post Office in Dublin during the Easter holiday of 1916.

Lillie also had very strong religious convictions.  She thought that dancing and card playing were the works of the devil.  While I do not share my mother’s beliefs on this subject, I have been throughout my life a lousy dancer and card playing is above my pay grade.

Lillie had some other religious beliefs that, for example, banned the wearing of gold ornaments.  So my father, who wanted to show his love for his wife, continued to buy gold watches and other trinkets that fastened onto the clothing.  It was also a cornerstone of Lillie’s religious beliefs that no woman should ever be caught wearing trousers.  Hillary Clinton, who is the current Secretary of State, would be judged by Lillie Belle as not worthy of entry into the kingdom of heaven.

So this essay is an exercise in nostalgia about my mother.  I hope that you will continue to read this essay not because it is a great literary work but because among other things you may find out about polk salad.  Two of my readers, one born in 1918 and the other in 1920, from the Mid West and the Mid South respectively, are readers who, I suspect, after they read this essay, will call me to tell me that they know all about Polk salad.  Chances are that they will know a good bit more than I do because my information only comes from having remembered the name and the details have been filled in by the internet.

Back to the growth of this weed or vegetable called polk: I am told that it will grow, if it is not cut down, to a height of four or five feet.  If eaten at that stage, it will cause violent reactions because it is basically a poison.  When the plant matures, it has berries on it that are red in color.  This makes them very attractive to the birds.  I am also told that when birds consume a diet of Polk berries, they will become in effect drunk.  Perhaps this accounts for the fact that in early summer birds are found with their necks broken after having flown into window panes or other solid objects.

As spring showed its first signs of warmth, Lillie, my mother, would be out on a hilltop near our house harvesting polk salad.  Now I should interrupt to point out that the word “salad” in our household was considered an effete term, tied mainly to meals served in big city restaurants.  But nonetheless, this weed or vegetable gathered early in the springtime, was called Polk salad.

You will also notice that in the title there is a spelling of “salad” that is different from what we are accustomed to.  According to the internet, which is the final arbiter in matters of this sort, it could be called either polk salad or poke salet.  I am neutral on this subject because I was never a consumer of polk salad or poke salet.

I am told that polk salad tastes a good bit like spinach.  Like everything else in our household, polk salad was fried.  According to those who were connoisseurs of polk salad, the best means for producing the finished product was bacon grease.  I am not a cook, of course, but I suspect that it is no wonder that I became a vegetarian because of the cooking of my Irish mother.  Simply put, it was atrocious.  But as I said, this essay is an exercise in nostalgia.  I can still see my mother on a hillside near our home harvesting Polk salad.  In all honesty, I can’t remember exactly what Polk salad tastes like but if it is cooked in bacon grease, I will happily forego that experience.

In any case, my mother and my father were great consumers of Polk salad.  They hated to see the time when the salad became sort of poisonous.  At that point of course, my mother quit gathering and making the polk salad.  We were left to eat her cuisine, which was influenced by her Irish upbringing.  At this point, I must say that the Irish are great people, making good poets.  Their use of the English language is remarkable.  But on the other hand, I will say that Irish cooks as well as English cooks are unworthy of the name of “cooks.”  Or perhaps I should say “good cooks” because there aren’t many.

There is no rational explanation as to why my thoughts have turned to polk salad at this moment.  But I suspect that I will hear, sooner or later, from a fellow raised in Harriman, Tennessee, as well as from another oldster who spent time in such towns as Defiance, Missouri, before I am finished.  An essay which recalls my mother and Polk salad, and that prods the memories of two oldsters can’t be all bad.

This essay about polk salad came to me out of the blue.  I have no rational reason for remembering polk salad.  I suspect that if I were served a portion of it having been cooked in bacon grease, I would spurn it.  But if you are interested in polk salad, the internet has a great volume of information to feed your fancy.  As a matter of information, Judy, my wife, had never heard of polk salad.  I will request her never to provide such a concoction to me; at my advanced age I am not sure that I could take the challenge.  But at this point I am at peace with myself because I have told you and all my readers everything I know about polk salad.  That provides a sense of great accomplishment for an old timer such as myself.



December 15, 2011

Essay 616


Kevin’s commentary: I had never heard of polk salad either, I’m sad to say. My mother apparently refrained from ever making it for me, probably because her father dropped the ball in harvesting and boiling a semipoisonous plant in bacon grease.

The internet, incidentally, seems to be of the opinion that frying it up in bacon grease is actually the only/best way to serve polk salat, so it wasn’t just an idiosyncrasy of Pop’s mother.  I wonder what the threshold is for determining when the plant has become too poisonous to eat. I feel like this would be an important thing for Pop to remember if he ever goes and attempts to harvest more of the stuff, if the nostalgia strikes him hard and he decides he simply must get ahold of some.


In these days of the winter, I find that my mind produces some random thoughts.  They don’t go together.  Rather they are individual thoughts that strike me from time to time.  As the title of this essay suggests, there are some bad thoughts, and quite separately, there are good thoughts.

One of the least praiseworthy thoughts that I have is connected to the Presidential debates of the Republican primaries.  I have no interest in the Republican Party except for its comic value.  It was a great crime for Herman Cain to drop out of the primaries because he provided the most intense laughter of all the candidates.  He was of course followed very closely by Michele Bachmann.  What in the world the former Senator Santorum from Pennsylvania is doing in this race – losing – is beyond me.

But these random thoughts have to do primarily with the great state of Texas.  It seemed to me when the debates were in full flower that the leading contenders were gathered in the middle of the pack with the lesser candidates being spread to the sides.  When Rick Perry had the lead in the polls, he of course occupied one of the center spots.  Now I am not a great student of the great state of Texas.  Texans can come and go as long as they leave me undisturbed.  The remarks about Texas braggadocio are legion and require no input on this occasion.  But I must say that if I were a student of Texas and of Republican politics, it is quite likely that I would get a Ph.D. in Republican history.  Now, for example, when Rick Perry is asked a question, he will invariably start his answer by saying, “In Texas, we do thus and such.”

For example, when he was asked some time ago whether Darwin’s theory of evolution is taught in Texas schools, he replied that both evolution and creationism are taught.  I suspect that Perry may have thought that this was a trick question.  But he handled it with his usual aplomb.  When asked about the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution in Texas schools, Mr. Perry had a ready answer.  He said you could believe in evolution or, better still, you could believe in creationism.  They provide a choice in Texas schools.  The fact must be that in the Texas school system, they really don’t care for students learning the theory of evolution.  They want their students to become evangelical shouters in the name of creationism.

So this is my bad thought as referred to in the title.  Rick Perry has been outdone by the antics of Herman Cain and now he hopes that “he will attract sympathetic viewers on the rebound.”  I am sorry to say to the honorable Rick Perry that I do not see that he will ever attract a sympathetic viewing on the first or second or third or fourth or fifth round.  Mr. Perry is a colossal dunce.

But now let us go to some bright random thoughts that occur to this restless mind.  Recently my wife and I had lunch in a local restaurant here in Millburn, New Jersey.  Although Miss Chicka uses her maiden name, I can assure you that we are legally wed.

Sitting at a table near us were four people who were discussing events in a foreign tongue.  Eventually I figured out that the tongue was Portuguese.  When it came time to leave, I spoke the word “obrigado” within the hearing of the people at the next table.  This caused the other patrons to switch to English and say, “That guy understands Portuguese.”  Well, the fact of the matter is that I do not understand Portuguese but there is one word that I am fond of lately.  That word is “obrigado” and it means thanks.  In all of my travels, I have yet to encounter a more delicious word than “obrigado.”  There was a time when I had learned to count in Portuguese but those counts are now long gone.  As a matter of interest, I might tell you that the words in Portuguese for one, two, and three are very close to those in Italian or Spanish.  But beyond that I will not tempt fate at this moment.

So we have the beautiful word of obrigado which represents the good in this title and we have Rick Perry, the great governor of the great state of Texas, as the bad example.  If I ever get my Ph.D. in Texas history from Perry’s saying “In Texas, we do thus and such,” I will accept that degree by simply murmuring “Obrigado” to the professor who hands me that piece of paper.

So this restless mind has produced a bad thought about Rick Perry and a very grateful good thought about the Portuguese word “obrigado.”  On this Monday morning of leaden skies, I believe that I will quit while I am ahead of the game.



December 5, 2011

Essay 614


Kevin’s commentary:

Man, I wish Chinese had words that were as pretty as “Obrigado” but unfortunately they do not. Chinese is much prettier written than spoken, however. Calligraphy as art is a really cool concept actually, but that’s neither here nor there.

On the other side of this essay, I’m proud to announce that I am no longer residing in the great state of Texas, where Mr. Perry has been my governor for a rather long time. 12 friggen years, in fact. Now I’m in a place that elects much more respectable figures to public office, such as Austrian movie stars.

The U.S. political scene would be hilarious were it not so important.