Archive for the Response Category


Those of you who read Ezra’s Essays may recall an essay on Ben Bernie. He was a popular orchestra leader from the 1920s through the end of the 1950s. When he was pleased with the performance of his orchestra, he would say, “Yousa, yousa, yousa.” And when he was going to play a variety of tunes, he would refer to them as “thisa and thata.” On several occasions I have borrowed “thisa and thata” from Ben Bernie and I when my work pleases me, I say, “yousa, yousa, yousa.”

A Little More Country Speak
As my readers are well aware, I am literate in country speak, the language of rural America. I became proficient in country speak because it was the native language of my parents. After I finished the recent essay on my father, Howard L. Davis, my Missouri friend, reminded me of an expression that was very common in usage to my father. That is the term “directly.” When it was used by country speakers, the term “directly” meant that “I will attend to this in a short while.” I know that the word “directly” implies that the matter will be taken up immediately. For better or worse, that is not the way it was used by country speakers. For them, it meant that the matter was under consideration and would be acted upon shortly, but specifically it did not imply immediate action at the moment. So if a country speaker tells you that he will get to the matter directly, it means that he will attend to it in a short while.

While we are on country speakers, I am still mystified by an expression used by my mother. When something was absolutely worthless, she would say that “it is not worth a row of pins.” As an alternative, she might say that what is being proposed is “not worth two hoops.” I had to make a guess as to the spelling of hoops, as it could be whoops or just plain hoops (loud yelling). But remember when politicians promise you something, it may not be worth a row of pins or it may not be worth two hoops or a hill of beans.

Another aspect of country speak had to do with anticipating such things as time off from work or schooling. For those who wished for the weekend to get here immediately, the country speakers would say, “You are wishing your life away.” That line turns up in the Eric Vogel piece called “If Wishes Were Fishes, We’d All Cast Nets in the Sea.” I have been guilty of wishing my life away on numerous occasions but my troubles mean nothing as compared to those of the swindler Bernie Madoff. Facing a life sentence of 150 years, I suspect that old Bernie is intent upon wishing his life away.

Double-Duty Months
It has always seemed to me that February is the proper size for any month. It contains the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, and Groundhog Day, and it lasts only 28 days. However, the men who arranged the calendar provided us with two double-duty months which are lamentable. These are December and January, which in my long life seem never to end. Then there is July and August. Those months with their hot and humid weather seem to go on forever.

On top of all this, bankers and brokers can hold on to your money a few extra days without paying interest.

If I ever get around to running for President of this great country, part of my campaign will be based upon February as the ideal month. It will give me great pleasure to see the bankers and brokers squirm while I ask them what their justification is for holding on to the profits without paying interest for as many as three extra days.

The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Poorer
Jenny, a wonderful woman who helps Judy with the housework here, has a problem that should never have happened. Jenny is a Costa Rican who, with her husband, has waited at least six years for the issuance of a green card from our Immigration Department. They live in a never never land, unable to open bank accounts because under the Patriot Act, only citizens can do that. The Patriot Act is a product of the far right wing of the Republican Party and is lamentable in the extreme.

Jenny’s husband is unemployed because he was a truck driver who could not get a license under the Patriot Act. He then took up construction work and no one needs to tell you what has happened to construction in New Jersey. There are three children ranging in age from three to twelve years. But altogether they are a wonderful family and I am dedicated to helping them whenever it can be done.

Last Sunday, which would have been August 3rd, all five of them attended a Catholic church in Summit, New Jersey. This happened in the afternoon because that is when the masses are conducted in Spanish. Jenny’s husband is not facile with the English language. Because it was raining and there was an umbrella to be dealt with, for one reason or another Jenny left her purse in the car. In New Jersey, there is a cottage industry in destroying and stealing cars by people who ride the train westward from Newark, then get off in more affluent towns of the New Jersey suburbs. In this case, Jenny more or less is the sole support of her family of five people. Seeing the purse, the thieves broke into the car and stole the purse. Because they could not start the car, apparently they attempted the destruction of the inside of the car. Again because of the Patriot Act, Jenny was carrying her valid Costa Rican passport. That is now in the hands of the thieves.

I wrote an essay a few days ago about the Costa Ricans being the hardest working people known to me. Jenny and her husband, Ronald, are all of that. But with Jenny losing her purse and her passport and whatever money was there, she is simply out of luck. So it is that I say that the rich get richer and the thieves do their thing and the poor people get poorer. The saving grace is that Jenny, who resides in Summit, New Jersey, reported the problem to the cops. For once the cops were most sympathetic and have promised to run the thieves down. That may not be possible but at least the cops understood the problem.

I believe it is probably fair to say that the thieves who stole Jenny’s purse and who trashed the inside of the car are probably poor people themselves. But being poor does not bring one the entitlement to bring harm to others. On the other hand, this all happened while Jenny and her family were attending the mass at the local Catholic church. You may draw a lesson from this incident about church going, but it will probably be the wrong one. For myself, a non-church going person, it might be said that I have tried to avoid attending a mass at the local Catholic church to avoid burglaries. But I suspect the local clergy would roundly condemn that viewpoint. However, it might be said that in the end the rich get richer and the poor get shafted.

August 2, 2009
Essay 405
Kevin’s commentary: This was horrible news to read. I’ve learned a lot about this family from more recent essays; they seem like wonderful people. Pop and Judy have helped them over and over again, and it seems like they truly deserve it.


Editor’s note: This is a response (written 12/17) to my commentary on this essay. This was the commentary —

A moving piece, to be sure. I wonder though — the toilet might have been the last thing Pop saw, but I wonder about some of the other absolutes. What’s the prettiest thing that he remembers seeing? The ugliest? Has the memory of how any objects look faded away? Is there anything in particular that he has no idea what it looks like, or anything that he couldn’t possibly forget even if he wanted to? Hopefully he’ll see this and answer a question or two.

Read more of Pop’s thoughts re: toilets (because why wouldn’t you want to do that?) here.


Hey Kevin –

I saw the questions after the Ode to a Commode and this is my answer.

I hope you will excuse the thoroughly disjointed response that I am about to make.  Early in life I realized that glaucoma runs in the Carr family.  And I knew that if I lived long enough, it would blind me.  The fact of the matter is that I did live long enough to be blinded by glaucoma.  My elder brother Charles Halley, died earlier in his sixtieth year so he was no one to judge when I would become blind.

On the other hand, the third brother in line was Earl and he became blind somewhere in his seventh year.  I lost one of my eyes to a trabeculectomy in 1994.  I believe it was the left eye.  My right eye held out and gave me sight until 2005, which would have been my 83rd year of life.

However, in that year, the lights went out.  I had plenty of warning that this would happen so I was not unduly surprised.  In the beginning I regarded the loss of sight as a challenge.  But as time went on, the loss of sight has turned out to be a large pain in the ass.

I do not recall many of the procedures that took place prior to my loss of sight.  Perhaps this is a mechanism that prevents unpleasant subjects from coming up.  In any case, the loss of sight has turned out to be a monumental problem and becomes more so each passing day.

For example, one of the problems has to do with balance.  I am unable to see shifts in the road which would cause me to lose balance.  If you want to experience this, you can close your eyes tightly and try walking across the room.  The other issue is concentration.  If I am walking from my chair in the living room to my chair at the kitchen table, I cannot daydream or lose any concentration.  My mind must be on the subject of balance and direction from point A to point B.  there are landmarks along the way such as a familiar object that will remind me that I am on the right or wrong path.

One thought as we go forward is that it does not matter how many times I get from point A to point B, the challenge still exists every time I stand on my feet.  I fear for the day when I am no longer able to stand.

Now to get to your questions.  What I am about to answer will be a disappointment because I do not recall what was the prettiest thing I ever saw.  Time has eroded that memory.  Things that go through my mind are the first appearances of my daughters, old Blondie and Spooky Suze.

I have seen a lot of things in my travels throughout the world but none of them are overwhelming memories at this time.  They simply exist and I can do nothing about them.

Now as for the ugliest thing I ever saw, I simply do not remember, and that is a good thing.

Things I have forgotten:  I have forgotten the local roadways and towns.  If Judy mentions a specific house that is being torn down or remodeled, I cannot picture it.  She might start by saying, “Do you remember that old cemetery on Springfield Avenue in New Providence?”  The answer is that, mostly, I do not.  For example, I have forgotten what downtown Millburn and downtown Summit look like.

Things I have no idea what they look like:  our Honda Accord.

Things I could not forget even if I wanted to (which I don’t)…Shannon, our beloved cat.

As for the issue of blindness, it is not a matter of the world going dark so much as it is a matter of looking and seeing absolutely nothing.  Tonight I went to the front door not to look out, but to feel the rush of fresh cold air on my face.

During the Second World War, we were opposed by Adolph Hitler.  I would not wish blindness to befall Mr. Hitler who has gone to the ages.  But the fact of the matter is that as much as I disliked Adolph Hitler, I would never want blindness to come to him.  I believe that sentiment describes my feeling about blindness.

I realize that this is a disjointed response.  But I also believe my remarks on Adolph Hitler sums up my feelings about blindness.  It started off as a challenge but it ended long ago with my thoughts that it is now endurance.

I realize this is disjointed response to your question Kevin, but it is the best I can do for now.   As you can tell, Judy has helped me with this exercise and I would suggest that as things go forward, she is your best resource as to how I am doing.

There are several hundred other thoughts about the drawbacks of blindness which I do not wish to recall at this time because they are depressing.  Those are all good questions, Kevin, and they are worth thinking about.



Kevin’s commentary on the commentary:  I wasn’t disappointed in this whatsoever. The only shame is that Pop doesn’t know the beauty of his Bump Enhancer. For our readers who are interested in Shannon, this is the only picture of her that I have access to at this time.  I feel like Pop probably had a lot in common with that cat. Quiet and attentive.

This isn’t an official essay but it’s still a favorite. I’ll have to ask  more questions in the future!


As a general proposition, by the time my essays have been dictated and reread twice in the proofreading process, I grow sick of them and want them to be completed and mailed.  In the last series of essays, I thought that two or three of them were worthwhile.  One of them had to do with my daughter and her child, my grandchild, lecturing the Texas football team about the use of the word retarded.  Another had to do with the owner of a hardware store here in Berkeley Heights called Lefty.  And finally there was an essay about Vicks.  Vicks is a magic formula that can be spread on your chest or even swallowed when a cold appears on the horizon.

When these essays had been received by readers, several called me with comments.  I thought that they would comment on the forgoing three essays.  But uniformly I was completely mistaken.  The essay on my siblings clearly caused the most comment from my readers.  Mind you, I use the word comment rather than praise.  There may have been praise, but the basic response had to do with comments.

My readers largely took the essay on my daughter’s speech to the Texas football team as well as the story about Lefty, the hardware owner, in stride.  What they wished to comment on was the essay called “Pondering Family Matters.”

You may recall that my younger daughter had mentioned to me that she knew quite a bit about my parents but that she knew very little about my siblings.  And so, to satisfy my daughter’s curiosity, I attempted to write the story of my siblings, of which there were seven in number.  My daughter, for whom the story was written, said that she now understood a bit more about me and my family, and coming from her I thought that was fairly high praise.  But the comments coming from other readers who know nothing of my siblings were a surprise to me.  Apparently they found that essay of some “interest”.  I am at a complete loss to tell you why this is the case, but in the final analysis, a good many readers told me that this was one of the most “interesting” essays that I had written recently.

As you will recall, I write these essays because of a stroke-induced case of aphasia, which prevents my ability to call nouns to mind quickly.  In writing and/or dictating these essays, I try to pay particular attention to three rules which keep me away from forbidden subjects.  The forbidden subjects are the divorce of 1983, my combat experience in the Second World War, and, finally, the Depression of 1929.

I found that in writing the essay on pondering family matters, I was perilously close to violating my rule on the Depression.  The three prohibited subjects that I have mentioned are still too painful for me to recall and I wish to avoid them in their entirety.  But in the essay on pondering family matters, there really was no choice.  The Carr family, at least in my generation, was raised in the era of the 1929 Depression.  I am glad that this essay is now behind me, because I find that there was no therapeutic value in dipping so close to the brim of the Depression of 1929.  What is ironic to me is that here we are, nearly 80 years later, enduring the same sort of circumstances that took place in 1929.  Banks are closing, people are out of work, and there is general unhappiness among the citizenry.

But the point in this essay is that I am thoroughly and totally surprised by the interest that it has caused among my readers.  For the twelve years that I have been writing essays, I have not necessarily avoided mentioning my siblings, but I have not looked for ways to include them in the essays.  The facts of the matter are that there really was no choice in that the Depression was upon us and we could do very little about it.

At the moment, it appears that we can do very little about the current recession or depression, trying as hard as President Obama is to make it go away.

At this point, all of my siblings have died and are presumably angels.  I have only a few nieces and nephews left.  There is one nephew mentioned in the essay who is a callow youth of 74 years.  Bob Carr’s parents were Josephine Mollenbach and my brother Earl Carr.  From time to time, Bob and I talk.  As a matter of interest to old essay writers such as myself, it was Bob Carr who contributed the title of that essay and the birth and death records.  He remembers all of the family mentioned in the essay and I suppose he has some opinions.  But regardless of his opinions, good or bad, Bob concluded in our most recent conversation that “everyone got an honorable mention.”  In point of fact, that is exactly what I intended to do.  Whatever animosity there might have been in years past has long since gone away.

An update on the family would seem to be in order here.  Verna Eva never realized her dream of becoming an opera singer.  She sang solos around the St. Louis area.  While she had a nice voice, I suppose that the professionals did not treat it as of their quality.  Verna married twice and in the end outlived both her husbands.

The second child of Ezra and Lillie Carr was Charlie.  As time went on, Charlie quit his job with his original employer, Emil Kronsberg, and established the Carr Surveying Company, which I presume was quite successful.  Earl Carr worked for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and for a good many years, was the top salesman on their staff in the St. Louis area.

Opal Carr was a tragedy, but in the end she seemed to be doing pretty much as she wished to do, that is, pursuing the racing of her greyhounds.  As time went forward, Opal communicated less and less with her siblings and I learned of her passing, alone in a trailer, some time later.  I deeply regret not being in a position to help Opal through what I assume were difficult times.  I am sorry that Opal’s life took the course that it did, but at this point all I can do is to express my great regret.

In my own case, I worked four years in filling stations, and then got a job as a draftsman with AT&T in St. Louis.  I spent 43 years with the Bell System and achieved a modest amount of success in rising to the Director level, first with the New York Telephone Company, then with AT&T, and, finally, with AT&T Long Lines in its headquarters in New York City.

Bob Carr read my intentions with great precision.  It was my intention to conclude the discussion on family matters by giving everybody an honorable mention.  They were all good people doing the best they could under very trying circumstances.  In the final analysis, what more can we ask?



January 3, 2010

Essay 430


Kevin’s commentary: I just spend quite a while reading the nine-page essay in question but I am not to 2009 yet so I will refrain from posting it for the time being.

That said, it was very good.  In that essay he expressed several of the same thoughts expressed here — namely surprise that his siblings could ever make for interesting essay topics. Given the wide variety of things that Pop seems to like to write about you would think that very little would qualify as too uninteresting to write about, and if that category did exist his siblings certainly would not belong there. But then, the huge age gap probably made his family dynamic very different than what I am used to, so I have no idea.  Still though, they seemed like very interesting people, as did Mr. Bob Carr, who hopefully Ms Chicka would be willing to put me in touch with.



Jacob Cohen was a well-known personality who once offered the thought that “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor; and believe me, rich is better.”  I hope that there is no disagreement from my readers as to the wisdom of Mr. Cohen’s remarks. The fact is that the honorable Mr. Cohen was known as a comedian who worked using the name Rodney Dangerfield.  Unfortunately, Mr. Cohen/Dangerfield died in 2004, which denied the world of his further wisdom.

In my own case, I have never been successfully accused of being rich.  I spent my work years laboring for a firm that provided me with enough income to be considered basically middle class.  All things considered, I have no illusions about being a rich man.  If I come out even at the end of life’s game, I would consider it a great success.

That is not the view of politicians on the right side of our political spectrum.  Specifically they are Republicans who are masquerading under the title of conservatives.  Conservation is nowhere in their thoughts.  They wish to enrich themselves at the expense of the public, passing legislation that requires the rich to pay minimum taxes to the federal government.

I have been an observer of the American political system since 1928.  In all of those years, I have never seen attempts by one party to rig the bidding so that it preserves their richness and condemns other folks to poverty.  There is no attempt at equity in the year 2011.  There is a completely bald attempt to fix it so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Amidst all of these transgressions, I find that the editorial on December 30 in The New York Times summarizes my thoughts more succinctly than I can. Besides, the editorial writers for the Times are much better writers than I am.  Here is the editorial of December 30, 2010.


Deficit Hypocrisy, New York Times editorial.  December 30 2010.

Deficit Hypocrisy

It was not long ago that Republicans succeeded in holding unemployment benefits hostage to a renewal of the high-end Bush-era income tax cuts and — as a little bonus — won deep estate tax cuts for America’s wealthiest heirs. Those cuts will add nearly $140 billion to the deficit in the near term, while doing far less to prod the economy than if the money had been spent more wisely.

That should have been evidence enough that the Republican Party’s one real priority is tax cuts — despite all the talk about deficit reduction and economic growth. But here’s some more:

On Dec. 22, just before they left town for the holidays, House Republican leaders released new budget rules that they intend to adopt when they assume the majority in January and will set the stage for even more budget-busting tax cuts.

First, some background: Under pay-as-you-go rules adopted by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in 2007, tax cuts or increases in entitlement spending must be offset by tax increases or entitlement cuts. Entitlements include big health programs like Medicare and Medicaid, for which spending is on autopilot, as well as some other programs for veterans and low-income Americans. (Discretionary spending, which includes defense, is approved separately by Congress annually.)

The new Republican rules will gut pay-as-you-go because they require offsets only for entitlement increases, not for tax cuts. In effect, the new rules will codify the Republican fantasy that tax cuts do not deepen the deficit.

It gets worse. The new rules mandate that entitlement-spending increases be offset by spending cuts only — and actually bar the House from raising taxes to pay for such spending.

Say, for example, that lawmakers want to bolster child credits for families at or near the minimum wage. One way to help pay for the aid would be to close the tax loophole that lets the nation’s wealthiest private equity partners pay tax at close to the lowest rate in the code. That long overdue reform would raise an estimated $25 billion over 10 years, but the new rules will forbid being sensible like that.

Even worse, they direct the leader of the House Budget Committee to ignore several costs when computing the budget impact of future actions, as if the costs are the natural course of politics for which no payment is required.

For example, the cost to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent would be ignored, as would the fiscal effects of repealing the health reform law. At the same time, the new rules bar the renewal of aid for low-income working families — extended temporarily in the recent tax-cut deal — unless it is fully paid for.

House Republicans obviously believe they have a good thing going with voters by sanctifying tax cuts and demonizing spending. That’s been their approach for 30 years after all, and it unfailingly rallies their base.

The challenge for President Obama and Democratic lawmakers is not to get drawn into that warped mind-set. They need to present an alternative, including investments — in energy, technology, infrastructure and education. They also need a plan for long-term deficit reduction that recognizes what the Republicans ignore: Never-ending tax cuts make the deficit worse. Prudent tax increases need to be part of the solution.


The New York Times has done a formidable job in gathering all the facts. Regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, I do not see how you can argue with the conclusion.  The Republican politicians are aiming to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.  They are abiding by the dictum laid down by the former Vice President Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter.”  May I say to Mr. Cheney and his ilk, “The hell they don’t!”

My thoughts were set off by the recollection of Mr. Cohen/Dangerfield’s observation that “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor; and believe me, rich is better.”  Unfortunately, I have never been a rich man so I will have to take Mr. Cohen/Dangerfield at his word.  You may also recall that this same fellow is the comedian who said, “I don’t get no respect.”  Mr. Cohen/Dangerfield is gone now, but I would give him all kinds of respect for his observation that rich people have a better go of it in this life than those of us who have to get by on more modest means.



January 4, 2011

Essay 523


Kevin’s commentary: I am curious what Pop would do with more money if he had had it. He doesn’t strike me as the type who is given to frivolous spending, and he already seeks out unorthodox purchases. For instance, for a birthday I once received a card saying that he had donated a water buffalo to a poor village in Asia in my name. One of the cooler presents I’ve ever gotten.

Oh, and I read this article the other day. Apparently since 2009, 93% of income growth has been for the 1%. I realize that I am from a family that probably belongs to this latter category or close to it, but this is nevertheless pretty darn messed up. I am not sure how sustainable these patterns are for the country.


Tom Scandlyn Response: Country Speak

[Note from Kevin — Tom, a 92-year-old friend of Pop’s for many years, wrote this after reading “Black Speak” but his response primarily concerns essays about “Country Speak,” of which I published an example very recently. Alternatively, view all of Pop’s essays on language here.]


In math sigma means the sum of. The limits for the sum of are noted at the two arms of sigma.

The sigma for each human includes each and every event from birth to the current moment for each human. Events include physical, mental, and emotional encounters during each and every increment of time between the sigma limits. Thus, no two sigmas can be alike even for identical twins.

The greater the number of events sigmas have in common, the more the ability to communicate effectively is enhanced. When language is not shared, communication becomes difficult and reduced to gestures, drawing and other non-verbal aids. The sigmas of countries interact similarly.

Image of EEC's Sigma


Your hundreds of essays reveal much about you and touch on many events of your sigma; thus, creating linkages with the sigmas of those who read them.

For example, I was born and raised to adulthood in a country speak part of the country. So your essays about country speak create links with me and bring floods of memories of my early life.

I enjoy and appreciate your essays and read them at the first opportunity after they arrive. Thank you for sharing them with me. Regards and good wishes always,

Tom Scandlyn, August 31,2012



Kevin’s commentary: It is odd to comment on a comment, I feel. However I like the idea of publishing this style of long-form comment in the same way that blog posts may be published. So if you have those, please shoot ’em over to kevin.g.shepherd[at]gmail[dot]com.