Archive for the 2007 Category


Beady-eyed accountants may emerge from their grimy offices from time to time and lift their green eye-shades to contend that the Chicka-Carr combine has only five grandchildren. To that contention, I say “Bal-der-dash” and “Bah Humbug,” which are terms used with great effectiveness by John Major, the British prime minister who tucked his undershirt and his dress shirt into his boxer shorts. Actually by my count, there are nine such grandchildren. Because I have been elected to the Arithmetic Hall of Fame, there can be no dispute about the number of grandchildren. There are nine. And that is all there is to say about that.

The prevailing winds in this country start in the east and proceed toward the west. The same may be said about the sun’s progress as well. In the east, there are two grandchildren named Andrew and William Nollmann. The Nollmann boys understand all there is to know about sports. When I wish to know about Pete Reiser’s batting average with the Dodgers in 1948, both of them can reel that number right off the top of their heads. I believe that Pete hit .340 in that year. The Nollmann boys are preparing to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame after they finish college and start their careers in a Class C Baseball League.

In Texas there are three more grandchildren. Interestingly, those three grandchildren do not care a fig about sports or the results. The phrase “caring a fig” comes from another British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who uttered that expression on her wedding night to Dennis Thatcher, her British husband.

In that Texas family, there is Connor, who is a Dartmouth graduate and is now studying in Yokohama, Japan, to perfect his understanding of the Japanese language. His younger brother, Kevin, will soon be the high school debating champion for all of the great state of Texas. As everyone knows, Texas extends from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean in its east-to-west dimensions and from the Antarctic in the north to Peru in the south. And then there is a ten-year-old, Jack, who is my special and loving friend. When he was last here, his parents said that Jack and I were united by disability. Jack has a mild case of Down’s Syndrome and, as you know, my disability is that my visual acuity is zero. Jack Shepherd is an inspiration to all of us. That inspiration has been captured by his seventeen year old brother Kevin.

Colleges ask the applicant to “Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.” Kevin, without hesitation named his ten year old brother as that person. Kevin’s response about his brother is attached. From the viewpoint of his grandparents, we believe that it is a most moving tribute to his younger brother. And we contend that it is a professional piece of writing.

Now to move on, there are also Esteban and Fabian Hidalgo, who are the children of a Costa Rican couple. Jenny, the mother, helps Judy with housework and recently she has been introduced by Judy to office work such as filing and making sure that our accounts are entered properly in the book that we keep for that purpose. In my book and in the book of others, it is indisputable that the Costa Ricans are the hardest working people known to man. The Hidalgo boys are the children who won medals for their excellent play in a soccer tournament. Rather than keeping those medals for themselves, they presented them to me because I am their “Grandpa in America.” The Hidalgo boys now have a new

sister, Melissa, who is also included in this count. She is a beautiful 18 month old charmer.

The ninth grandchild in this story is Daniel Commodore who comes from Accra, Ghana. The last 14 months of my overseas tour with the American Army were spent at a major British base located just outside of Accra. Daniel’s father was a fisherman and his sister now runs a fish store in the city of Accra. Daniel can take a 500-pound seagoing creature and have it filleted and skinned in perhaps 20 minutes. When Daniel tells you that the fish is fresh, you can take it to the bank. If he says nothing, please avoid it. Daniel also says from time to time that when I approach his work station at the Whole Foods Market in Millburn, he often thinks of his own father, who is now deceased. I am deeply honored and flattered.

So there you have nine grandchildren by any count known to man. Even Donald Rumsfeld, who loves to use the word “metrics” for measurement, would agree that their number is nine. No more, no less.

The fact is that I am a very lucky person in that I have all these grandchildren and that we are on excellent terms with each other. I am delighted to see them explore the world as they grow a little older. Connor is in Yokahama, Japan, and the boys in New York may soon launch their Hall of Fame careers as baseball players after they finish college. I would not want to get into an argument with Kevin Shepherd, the champion debater in the great state of Texas, because he might eat me alive. The Hidalgo boys are fanatics on football, which in American terms is soccer. Already Esteban has told me about the next World Cup which will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, a place I know a little bit about. And then there is Daniel Commodore who is also a soccer fan. In the last World Cup, Costa Rica and Ghana advanced much further than had been predicted. If, in the next World Cup, Costa Rica meets Ghana, I suspect that I had better get out of town until the dust settles. And Melissa Hidalgo, at 18 months, is a beauty to behold.

Now the next thought has to do with old Jack Shepherd, whose real name is John Eamonn. His middle name, of course, is Irish, and is probably taken from Eamon de Valera, the first President of the Republic of Ireland. If this were a boxing match, I would say that Jack Shepherd is battling Down’s Syndrome and is winning by several points in each round. He is being mainstreamed in his school work and seems to be well liked by the other children.

When Jack was last here in New Jersey, I was feeling unwell. That unwellness lasted for the full summer of 2007. But old Jack stood near my seat and held my hands. I told Jack Shepherd that his holding my hands made me feel better. In the months since his departure to return to Texas, I continue to feel that way to this day. Jack has a long way to go and is carrying a bit of a burden. But in the end, Jack will succeed because he is everything a good decent guy should be.

There are two final thoughts that apply here. Grandparents should always pay attention to their grandchildren, because they will learn from them. And finally, and most importantly, every grandfather must see to it that his grandchildren are made to feel important. If you observe these two maxims, you are well on your way to being a proper grandfather.

By this time, I hope the green-eye-shaded accountants will now disappear into their grimy offices and remain silent. There are nine grandchildren and they are all my good friends. My metrics say that I am a very lucky man.

December 14, 2007


Following is Kevin Shepherd’s essay:
Countless people have influenced my character, but in the end my little brother has changed me the most, without ever intending to. He’s ten years old, and has Down syndrome, which causes mental retardation and low muscle tone throughout his body. As such, my relationship with him has always been far from traditional — I am of course his friend and role model, but I’m also often called upon to serve as Jack’s therapist, tutor, and occasionally even his translator. This relationship has changed me in more dimensions than I ever expected, radically altering everything from my sense of patience to the extracurricular activities in which I participate, from personal pride to an entirely new outlook on life’s challenges.

To help Jack develop normally, a veritable stream of therapists has been pouring into and out of my home for as long as I can remember. They leave daily assignments and activities for him. As nearly all of these require assistance and coaching in some form, the whole family is active in his various exercises. I’ve never been an exception; from the encouraging nine-year-old enticing his brother to crawl to him, to the seventeen-year-old promising rewards in return for Jack’s cooperation with teachers and parents, my continuous active involvement has helped shape his development.

Our relationship, however, is by no means one-sided. Even as I sit there every day, persuading him to continue blowing on various whistles to improve his oral motor skills, he teaches me the true value of patience and dedication to long-term goals. The muscles in his mouth facilitate his speech. If he can’t speak clearly, he won’t be understood; if he can’t be understood, he may well give up in frustration on speech as a form of communication. Thus, in some part, his very ability to communicate with his peers depends on me sitting down with him each day, and convincing him again and again to continue blowing his whistles. Not surprisingly, it then brings me tremendous pride to see his speech becoming sharper and clearer, and to know I’ve contributed to such a critically important part of his development as a person. As we work, Jack also teaches me about perseverance. Just a few months ago, I came across him sitting in the hall, trying over and over again to pronounce the “r” in “ear.” His small mouth and muscle tone make this nearly impossible. The whistles we blow help, of course, but can only do so much … watching him continually struggle against and overcome barriers that are literally encoded into his genes has taught me a new definition of determination, and a new understanding of adversity. Realizing that something as simple as blowing whistles can have a positive impact on someone else’s life heavily influenced my decision to join the “Garden of Friends” club at my high school. It’s a student-run outreach club for the school’s kids with disabilities; we see movies together, go bowling, have holiday parties, etc. I discovered a few meetings into my membership that I was the only “typical” boy who regularly attended, but it didn’t matter-in fact, it made it even more imperative that I stay in.

Jack affects far more than my sense of pride and the clubs that I join, and more than a new appreciation for perseverance. He’s given me the courage to not let slurs pass unchallenged. When others use the word ‘retarded’ pejoratively, I have no reservations about correcting them. From my friends to their parents, from my English teachers to my debate judges, when I hear that word, I let people know that I have a brother with Down syndrome, and that ‘retarded’ is not a suitable synonym for ‘bad.’ I’ve almost certainly lost debate rounds because I’ve challenged the judge on this beforehand, but those mild repercussions were more than outweighed when once, I encountered one of the offending judges in mid-conversation. He said, “that case was so … “, glanced at me, “… terrible”, he concluded, smiling. I had acted differently because of my experiences with my brother, and that judge had learned something from me. And from Jack. That’s the most I can ask for.

Kevin Shepherd, Dec 2007



I can’t believe I’m about to publish my college admissions essay on the internet. I’ve saved this essay for one of the very last to be published on this site for that exact reason. I guess I could skip it, but that feels like the sort of editorializing of Pop’s content that I’ve completely avoided since 2014, so I may as well see this through.

I don’t like it because to me it comes across as aggressively trite. I think I might have a particularly bad taste in my mouth about this essay because even ten years later I still remember obsessing over every sentence with mom over dozens of iterations, and I was never completely happy with the result. The output was this weird hybrid that sounded good to admissions people, I guess, but didn’t sound like anything that I (or mom, for that matter) would write normally.

What’s with that ellipsis in the middle of third paragraph? Who does that aside from tweens who think it’s an acceptable substitute for a semicolon? Why, come to think of it, are there three semicolons in 700 words? Why are a full 315 of those words stuck together in a mega-paragraph?

It was genuine, and I meant what I said in the essay, but reading it now it just feels exploitative. Like, “my brother has a disability and worked hard to compensate for that so let me into college please because ‘I learned about adversity’ from this experience.” I didn’t — and still don’t — understand adversity from a personal level. Even here, I describe witnessing adversity because that’s the closest I could get. That “perspective” on adversity itself wasn’t something that I consider an especially valuable school like Northwestern. I’m willing to immediately reprimand anyone who calls things “retarded,” sure, but “I guess this kid isn’t spineless” doesn’t seem like enough of a selling point to convince anyone to let me into their university.

I think the only redeeming thing here is that I did actually join up with Special Olympics once I was a student at Northwestern, and that turned out to be incredibly rewarding. It also felt like adding some sort of value to a community, instead of just performing duties incumbent on a brother, which I liked.

Anyway. I enjoyed Pop’s essay, and learning about two of my additional co-grandkids.

I hope to cross paths with Daniel Commodore sometime. Maybe he’ll google himself, wind up here, and say hello.


The morning newspaper in what I generally refer to as my home town was called The St. Louis Globe Democrat. The name of the paper is misleading in every respect. The Globe covered local affairs and rarely ventured into global concerns or even national concerns. Secondly, the Globe Democrat was the voice of the Bob Taft Republicans in eastern Missouri in that they opposed Franklin Roosevelt’s initiatives at every turn. They opposed the establishment, for example, of social security, just as they opposed the lend-lease program that enabled the British to survive the early stages of World War II. While the Globe Democrat had many shortcomings, it did have a lively sports section and it published daily a horoscope. I know nothing about the stars being in perfect alignment but when the whole episode about Larry Craig came to light, my personal stars must have been in complete alignment. The events surrounding Larry Craig cry out to every essayist and newspaper man: “please write about me.”

My horoscope in this matter seems to remain in perfect alignment because of three developments of the past week. First there was the request of the Bush administration for another 192 billion dollars to continue the war in Iraq for another month or so, shortly followed by Larry Craig’s suit to overturn his confession about being gay and his announcement that he could not force himself to say goodbye to the Senate. Finally there was an announcement by the president of Iran about moral turpitude in that country.

Even the Globe Democrat would have had to depart from its coverage of local affairs to report on news of this monumental sort. It seems to me that these are events that change the history of mankind.

My personal belief is that the war in Iraq is a misbegotten adventure. We will soon have squirted away a trillion dollars of our finances and we have suffered the loss of 3,800 dead American soldiers. This is to say nothing of the 20,000 that have been wounded. On top of that there is the displacement of the Iraqi nation.

My proposal takes on all of the aspects of the George Marshall plan which restored Europe after the Second World War. I am proposing that we take the zillion dollars, including the most recent 192 billion dollar request, that we are going to squirt away on the Iraq war and simply buy both Iraq and Iran. They will become our possessions after we pay a fair price. The casualty lists that are published daily will soon disappear.

Now with respect to the second aspect of this proposal: we are assured by none other than Larry Craig himself that he is not gay nor has he ever been gay and that he will serve out his full term in the Senate, regardless of what his Republican colleagues have to say about him. There is abundant evidence that the senator from Idaho is in fact gay, and this old essayist says “so what.”

Finally, last week, the president of Iran announced to a jeering audience that there are absolutely no homosexuals in all of Iran. Simply put, there are no gay people or lesbians within the confines of the great nation of Iran.

Because we have bought Iraq and Iran, we have the freedom to rename them. I propose that they be renamed Iraqaho and Iranaho respectively. This would be in keeping with the name of the state of Idaho, which is stoutly represented by Senator Larry Craig. Senator Craig cannot say goodbye to the Senate, as he has now loudly proclaimed. So I now propose that he be appointed the permanent senator from the two new states that will be added to our federation. This may seem immodest but I would compare it to the Louisiana Purchase, which brought the south and the west into the jurisdiction of the United States. Besides, it stops the daily casualty lists and it gives Larry Craig something to do. If Larry Craig can master the name of Idaho, he ought to be able to handle the names of Iraqaho and Iranaho.

The Globe Democrat stopped publishing in 1956. I suspect that a story of these monumental proportions might even make its pages. I now leave you with the thought that it is time for me to go to work to get Iranaho and Iraqaho membership in the United Nations.

April 6, 2007


I really, really wonder how many acres of Iraq or Iran we could have gotten for the cost of the war if we somehow got them to agree to sell to us. I don’t know how acquiring them would stop the infighting but I think if you’re going to throw money at a problem it’d be good to make some permanent progress towards a solution. Purely from a cost perspective, if you spend a bunch of money to bomb some terrorists, generally speaking you’re just going to make a bunch of new terrorists so you haven’t accomplished a whole lot. But imagine if, instead of bombing them, we were just really shitty landlords. We’d piss them off, nobody has to die, and our bad-landlording would be significantly less likely to create new terrorists than killing them does.


Those of you who read these essays may recall one called “Thanksgiving 2006.” That essay recorded our joy at our ability to help two hardworking immigrants from Costa Rica. The cast of characters on the Costa Rican side included the parents, an eight-year-old boy named Esteban, a six-year-old boy named Fabian, and a five-month-old daughter named Melissa. Following that meeting on Thanksgiving day, their mother informed us that Esteban was praying for me to regain my eyesight. He was praying for his “Grandpa in America.”

When I learned of the prayers for my eyesight to be restored, I wrote each of the boys a small letter and urged them to look for wives, particularly fat ones. As a man who has been around the block two or three times, I told the boys that fat girls like to eat at fancy establishments such as McDonald’s and Burger King. To cover the cost of such lavish entertainment, a small contribution was included in the letters.

The boys’ mother told us that they had read my letters and had prepared responses. When the boys’ mother delivered the responses to us, both boys had sealed the envelopes so that their mother could not see what

was included. While their mother was excluded from reading this correspondence, I will show it to you. Here is what the two boys wrote to me. (The front artwork is shown first, then the writing.)
Esteban, age 8

Fabian, age 6

So you see, these two youngsters understand social graces, even at their tender age. I must confess that I have been concerned about their search for fat wives. Perhaps that will be explained in future correspondence.

These two youngsters are being raised to be gentlemen. Gentlemen deserve to be treated with respect and with everyone’s best wishes. I am not a Russian, but I have been impressed by the practice of Russian choirs to end their performances with a hymn-like song called “Mnogaya Lyeta.” That Russian phrase translates in English to “long life.”

To all the immigrants who have made this country a great one, this old essayist wishes them long life. To the Costa Ricans who are patiently sweating out the snail like pace of our immigration bureau, I also extend the expression of long life to them. And finally to Esteban, Fabian and Melissa, children of would be American citizens, I hope that you enjoy not only great prosperity, but also “Mnogaya Lyeta.” That is the fervent wish of their Grandpa in America.

February 5, 2007


Read part 1 of “AN ADTOPED GRANDPA” here. Pop had a great relationship with these kids, and I like that he was way ahead of the “Immigrants make America great” sentiment that gets chanted at anti-Trump protests lately. Anyway this is adorable and Esteban gets full marks for creativity with his ending salutation, which wraps around his name like a horseshoe.

Interestingly, whatever drove Pop to tell these kids to get fat wives was somehow passed to my mother — see her comment.


Over a long span of years, I have been a son, a brother, a grandson, a husband, a father, a grandfather, an uncle, and a brother-in-law. Over that same span of years, I have been a filling station attendant, a soldier, a telephone worker, a union president, a lobbyist, and an international telecommunications representative. But one way or another, it has taken me more than 80 years to become an adopted grandpa.

My adopted grandsons are nine-year-old Esteban and seven-year-old Fabian. They, along with their ten-month-old sister, are the children of Ronald and Jenny, a wonderful lady who helps Judy with the house cleaning and now has assumed some duties in our little office. You may recall an essay written recently that described the prayers of Esteban who hoped that sight would be restored to his “American Grandpa.” I cannot speak for anyone on the Christian Holy Trinity as to whether the prayers worked or not. But Esteban’s prayers greatly affected me. But the prayers were not the end of it.

On St. Patrick’s Day evening, Jenny and her whole family were going to attend a dinner provided by another Costa Rican family. Jenny had been asked to drop by our house so that Judy, my wife, could present a playsuit to Jenny for her daughter Melissa as a St. Patrick’s Day present. On the ride to our house, Jenny reported that the two boys were talking softly to each other. Upon reaching our house, Jenny said that she told the boys that she would come in alone only long enough to receive the St. Patrick’s Day present for Melissa. Ah, but the boys had a different thought in mind. Esteban and Fabian told their mother that they would like to go with her and that they had “made a decision.” As far as I can tell, the boys did not disclose that decision to their mother. So the boys got out of the car and accompanied their mother into the Carr household. When they encountered your old essayist, they shook hands as gentlemen always do. And then each one of them produced a medal that he had won in a soccer playoff. Rather than keep the medals for themselves to show to their friends, those two boys presented me with their medals as their Grandpa in America. That was the boy’s big decision. I was basically speechless.

These two boys are the sons of immigrants from Costa Rica, where soccer, or football as it is called there, is the major sport. From all appearances, they have achieved an excellence in that sport that required their league to give each of them a medal. Rather than to keep the medals for themselves for bragging rights, those two boys presented the medals to me. It goes without saying that I was deeply touched. My admiration for their generosity is boundless. These boys are not the children of wealthy parents. Quite to the contrary. They are the children of two Costa Rican immigrants who are doing their best to find a foothold in the American economy. And to think that they thought of me at a time of great joy to them is a source of profound amazement. Any American female who does not grab those boys as husbands needs a sanity test. Those boys are generous to a fault.

So you see, being an adopted grandpa in America for Esteban and Fabian has rewards of all sorts. On the Monday following St. Patrick’s Day, those medals were taken to a shop in Summit, New Jersey to be put in a frame that could be placed on my desk. Whenever I touch and hold that frame, I will be reminded of the generosity of Esteban and Fabian, two magnanimous fellows. It goes without saying that Esteban and Fabian, who adopted me as their Grandpa in America, will make wonderful contributions to this country as they grow up. And I still shake my head when I am told that they had made a decision to award me their medals. So you see, being an adopted Grandpa in America has rewards that I never imagined. As those boys grow up, I hope that they become affluent soccer stars and then become president of the United States. This country could use a little generosity and thoughtfulness in its chief executive and those two young guys have it in abundance.

April 8, 2007
Essay 245
Kevin’s commentary: Perhaps if Connor or I had ever won any sports-related anything as children we might have followed the same path. Alas the sporting genes just never made it to the Shepherd clan. Ah well.

I’ve met the Jenny in question in this essay and maybe, briefly, seen the boys. I can attest to their mother being incredibly kind at the very least. She’s also very diligent at making sure that Pop has kept his whiskers neatly trimmed.


Bernice Hughes and Werner Friedli, two likeable people, have been waiting since 1944 for answers to their questions. At this late date, I am still unable to provide them with suitable answers. But I will offer their questions to you in the hope that you may have a suggestion or two. Let’s deal first with the question posed by Bernice Hughes.

In 1935 or thereabouts, a brick home was built on the next lot adjacent to my parents home in Richmond Heights, Missouri. That house belonged to Bernice and Orville Hughes. Orville was an accountant by trade. In December of 1944, Bernice asked me a question which I was unable to answer then and I decline to answer it today.

In 1944, I had completed my fifteen month detached duty with the U. S. Army Twelfth Air Force in Italy and I had returned to my original assignment with the Air Transport Command in Accra, the Gold Coast. That country is now called Ghana. One day in the fall of that year, Captain Bell, the chief flight line officer, told me that I was to be the Aerial Engineer on the oldest C-47 in the African and Mediterranean Theater. My crewmates and I were to take the old C-47 back to its manufacturer, the Douglas Corporation, for refurbishing to be used in a War Bond drive. The crew was sent to Naples, Italy, to take possession of the old plane and bring it to Accra to prepare it for the long over-the-ocean hops and over-the-jungle hop in northern Brazil. As best I could determine, that airplane was built in 1935 by the Douglas Corporation and was known throughout the aviation world as a DC-3. The DC-3 (C-47) was to aviators what the Jeep was to ground troops in World War II.

I was 22 years of age and was put in charge of preparing that airplane for its long voyage to its home. We fitted it with interior gas tanks for the long, long hops over the ocean and the jungles of South America. In early December, 1944, we arrived in San Bernardino, California.

The orders for the four-man crew specified that we were to have a layover of five days before we started the journey back to Accra. That accounts for the fact that I spent some time at home that December. I am now able to confess that I did not mention my arrival at my parents home because I was confused. By the time my confusion lifted, I had spent almost two weeks at home instead of the five days specified by my orders. The war went on and no one seemed to notice my absence.

About half way through my home made furlough, Bernice invited my parents and me to have dinner at the Hughes’ home. Apparently Bernice had saved her ration stamps because she was able to put a large cut of roast beef on the table. Orville stood up and in traditional fashion, carved the roast beef for each plate. As I recall it, there were the usual mashed potatoes with a boat of gravy, but being as the dinner was held in December, there were no green vegetables. It was meat and potatoes and that’s all there was. The gourmets would have to look elsewhere for excitement.

Not long after the plates were put in front of us, Bernice unleashed a stunner for this young soldier. Bernice asked, “How many Germans have you killed so far?” I gulped a few times and wished that I was somewhere else far from the Hughes’ residence. But Bernice was not finished because she pressed on about whether the Germans were hit in the head or the heart or some other vital organ. I was completely stunned and Bernice never got an answer from me.

In all of the years since I was involved in combat, that question has been deliberately avoided. It pains me even now to recall that question. Among combat fliers, that question would never have been asked and would have been avoided at all costs.

In any case, I stumbled through the rest of the meal and was glad to retire from Bernice Hughes’ hospitality. Some sixteen years later in 1961, my mother had died and I was again back in St. Louis for the funeral. Prior to the funeral, there is a process called “viewing” which is an obscene custom. While the viewing was taking place, a gentleman in his late 50’s or early 60’s came over to me and introduced himself as Orville Hughes. We exchanged pleasantries for several minutes. He was interested that I was now working in New York and I was interested in where he had moved from the house next door to my parents to some other suburban location. In the ten or twelve minutes of the exchange of pleasantries, I made it a point not to ask where Bernice was. She may have been dead, or having another child, but I had every intention of not inquiring as to her whereabouts. I did not need another interrogation by good old Bernice. So you see, for the last sixty some years, Bernice’s questions have gone unanswered. And I propose to keep it that way.

Now let us turn to Werner Friedli’s question. When I took up residence in Accra, my barracks had the designation of G17. All of the inhabitants in that barracks slept in two-tier bunk beds. My downstairs partner was Sylvester Liss, who had worked at the Budweiser plant in St. Louis. We slept at one end of the row of beds, while Werner Friedli and Steve Thorin slept at the other end.

Werner Friedli was a man who commanded respect. He was tall and agile and was about 13 to 15 years my senior. Most of the men that I soldiered with were in my age group. I was surprised to find that Werner Friedli, a 35 to 37 year old, had been snatched by the draft. Friedli came from Chicago and he projected a professorial image. I liked Werner, but I really did not know much about him. Half-way between our two bunk beds was an aircraft electrician. On several occasions the electrician would brag about his wife’s mammary equipment. He called her breasts “boobs” and “jugs.” He bragged so much about the size of her bosom that Werner Friedli, the professorial type, was finally forced to ask the electrician: “Can you tell me what you can do with big boobs or enormous jugs that is different from what could be done to smaller boobs and jugs?” The electrician was as stunned as I was at Bernice’s question at the dinner party. He had nothing to say. And I am pleased to announce that his diatribes on his wife’s physique were ended. Werner Friedli performed a much needed damper to the electrician’s zeal.

So you see that war does not answer every question. Since 1944, Bernice and Werner have been waiting for answers to their questions. Werner Friedli’s put down of the electrician was one of the high points of my military career. And my avoidance of Bernice’s questions have pleased me greatly for more than 60 years. I can’t ask for more than that from an undistinguished military career.

May 13, 2007
Essay 253
Kevin’s commentary: I don’t expect that Pop could answer the question even if he wanted to. It must have been absolute chaos in a tailgunner’s seat.

Now here’s a more interesting question about midair refueling — how does it work without anything exploding? I was always taught that while refueling a car, it should always be off, presumably because leaving it on poses some danger. But if you’re switching the fuel line from the main tank to a second tank, mid flight, does that ever pose a problem? Then, as a two-part question: first, did you ever do a mid-air refueling from one flying plane to another; and second, how on Earth does such a process not produce sparks that would blow one plane to hell?


The Salvation Army, the Baptist Young People’s Union, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Luther League (Missouri Synod) have approved this essay only on the ground that I disclose that it is a political and not a baseball essay. But to make my point it is necessary to call on the practice of baseball as an analogy.

Until the mid 1950s, major league baseball regularly played double headers on Sunday afternoons. Before long, greed overtook the owners and that practice was largely stopped. Today, we find that double headers are rarely played and, if they are, two admissions are charged. Formerly when double headers occurred on the schedule, they were played with a half-hour intermission between the two games and the spectator could enjoy seeing two games for the price of one. Now, however, if there is a double header, the owners charge for an afternoon game and a second charge will be required for the evening game with a three- or four-hour intermission between the games.

Now let us say that a player is having a bad day and let us say that he is indeed playing a double header. In the first game, this unfortunate player will strike out five times. In the second game, he will foul out twice and be called out on strikes in his final time at bat. So for the day he will not have any hits in ten trips to the plate. In baseball terms, every commentator will tell you that he went “0-fer ten”. In proper English, the middle word “fer” is a corruption of the connecting phrase “for,” but it has been pronounced this way since Abner Doubleday invented the game.

It is most likely that a player who is having such a bad day a bat, will then have a terrible day in the field because he is thinking about his batting performance. A ball will go over his head and another ball will go through his legs. On another play he will throw to the wrong base and in another case he will overthrow the infielder. So you see, an “0-fer” is a terrible disease to acquire.

In the last few weeks, the Bush administration in Washington has gone 0-fer ten or 0-fer fifty, if a proper account is maintained. Here are three examples in which the administration was either struck out, called out or, if they were lucky, fouled the third strike into the catcher’s glove.

In the first instance, we have been told over the past year, primarily by our intellectual President, that Iran is a terrible threat to all of us. They have been developing, as he says, “nucular” weapons and fully intend to drop those “nucular” weapons right in the middle of Times Square. Now only two weeks ago, our lovable President informed us that we were flirting with World War III. All of this was done of course to persuade the American public to back a military operation against Iran. The modus operandi was remarkably similar to what had been employed when the Bush administration invaded Iraq. So you see, World War III was right on the horizon.

But then last week there came a National Intelligence Estimate, called an NIE, compiled by the 16 agencies in the United States government that are in charge of spying. Unanimously, the 16 agencies concluded that in 2003 – four years ago – Iran had stopped its nuclear program. In short, for more than four years Iran posed no nuclear threat to the United States or to anyone else. The indisputable fact is that they had stopped working on a weapons program that could threaten us, Israel, of any of the neighboring countries. When the NIE came to light last week, the first week of December, the wind went out of the sails of the Bush administration. All of the business about preparing for the Third World War became hollow. There was no Third World War, nor was there a “nucular” threat from Iran. So in effect after four years when the Bush administration should have known that Iran was not working on a nuclear weapons project, we were belatedly informed – not by the Bush administration but by the NIE – that Iran was not “the axis of evil” as they had been portrayed by Bush himself. There was no World War III on the horizon. In effect, George Bush, Richard Cheney, and the rest of the neo-conservatives had whiffed at the plate. Clearly, they had missed every pitch by a mile. And so every American is entitled to say that in the case of the non-nuclear threat from Iran, Mr. Bush was 0-fer for three or four seasons, and should be released outright.

Then we have the case of the missing tapes of torture. For years, the Bush administration, particularly the president himself, has insisted that we do not torture anybody. In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, the Bush people insist that waterboarding is not torture. Waterboarding induces a sense of drowning. A person with a heart condition could die before his torturers could stop the procedure. Ahhh, but Mr. Bush contends that this is not torture. If this is not torture, this old soldier must ask just what in the hell is it? Answering my own question, I say it is torture, pure and simple.

Bush’s nominee to succeed the late Alberto Gonzales as the Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Mukasey, twisted himself into knots before the Senate Judiciary Committee, trying to say anything but that waterboarding was torture. He did this for obvious reasons. The New York Times disclosed on December 18th that his predecessor, Gonzales, as well as David Arrington, Mr. Cheney’s Chief of Staff, among others, were aware of the destruction of the tapes and did nothing to stop it. Arrington has the job that Scutter Libby used to call his own. Mukasey knew that in the long run, there will be serious charges that waterboarding is indeed torture and that the people who conducted that exercise may well find themselves in jail.

Nonetheless, the tapes of the torture of those two or three prisoners have been destroyed and now investigations are underway by the Congress and by a joint CIA-Department of Justice probe. What this case calls for is an independent prosecutor. Can anyone expect that the CIA will investigate these charges honestly when they were the people who applied the torture and then destroyed the tapes? The answer is that this story is rigged. The fact is that the United States does torture its prisoners, which is a barbaric custom. It guarantees that our military personnel, when they are taken, will be treated exactly in that same way.

So we see the baseball analogy still applies in that, in the destruction of the tapes of the torture sessions, we have another instance of the administration striking out. In this case they did not even manage to foul off the ball. They simply were called out on strikes. So that’s two strikes.

Now finally we have had a speech by Mitt Romney, a presidential contender from the Republican Party. Mr. Romney is a Mormon and he was billed as having planned to make a speech explaining his Mormon faith. The fact is, he did none of that. He did not explain, for example, how the angel Moroni impregnated Mary, the mother of Jesus. Nor did he explain why the angel Moroni told Joseph Smith that in his back yard near Palmyra, New York, he would find golden plates that Mr. Smith, with the help of heaven-sent spectacles, would translate into the Book of Mormon. When Mr. Romney spoke, the rest of us were hoping to hear how in the world any sane man could believe in bizarre garbage such as this. Ahhh, but there was none of that. Instead, Mr. Romney spoke for about 20 minutes and the burden of the speech was as follows: “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” Most commentators, or nearly all of the commentators, on the evening news were as baffled as I was by Mr. Romney’s non-witty epigram. My freedom requires no religion at all. The women of Saudi Arabia under the Wahhabi influence in that nation enjoy all kinds of religion but they are not free to drive or even to leave the house without the permission of a man. Basically the widely hailed speech by Mitt Romney was a dud. Anyone who votes for Romney will be on his own to discern how the Angel Moroni impregnated Mary, the mother of Jesus. So here is another strikeout. In this case, the batter was simply called out on strikes before he left the dugout.

In the great game of baseball, three strikes and you’re out. Well, three people have taken three strikes and so the side is retired. And so as your life progresses, I hope that World War III does not happen to you, nor do I wish that you should ever be non-tortured, as the Bush administration says, and I hope that in the end, you will be able to figure out what in the world Mr. Romney’s non-witty epigram was all about. Perhaps, dear readers, only the Angel Moroni could explain all of this. I want to be first in line to hear what he has to say.

December 9, 2007
Essay 276
Kevin’s commentary: When you’re young and just learning to write, teachers often have a go-to form for essay writing. They say you should start with an introduction, move to three body paragraphs, and then conclude the body paragraphs in a way that references the introduction. It clearly is a writing style that is not fit for every scenario, but it is nice to see that it suits this essay so well.

The essay had predictive power, too. It held that someone who has a terrible time at bat will go on to produce a bad showing in the field later that game. After being elected twice — a double header, certainly — the administration followed up with poor performance clear to the bitter end.


The title of this piece is French, of course. It means “cry of the heart” in English. It must be assumed that the cry of the heart arises from anguish and distress which causes one to cry out. In this essay, I am going to attempt the impossible. It is to place this French thought in communion with an English poem by Robert Browning.

For the better part of 2,000 years, the French and the English have lived next door to each other but their relations have been cool, to say the least. There are some French who say that the English have become the poodle for the current administration in Washington. The French have responded to this arrangement by becoming partners with the Germans, their adversary in two world wars. I suppose that this is a case where “never the twain shall meet,” but I will make a valiant try for this French thought to snuggle up to the traditional coolness of Her Majesty’s government.

Aside from the cry of the heart, the second part is a poem by Robert Browning which goes in part as follows:

“Come, grow old along with me,
The last of life, for which the first was made.”

My debate and the reason for this essay is the line about “the last of life, for which the first was made.” It seems to me that “the last of life” may well be the time when human beings suffer the most. Aside from human suffering, there is also the dismissiveness that goes with advanced age. This may be an impossible task to reconcile the thoughts of the French “cri” with the sentiments of the British, but I will do the best I can.

My argument basically goes to the sentence about “the last of life, for which the first was made.” My wife and I are patrons of the Summit Medical Group which practices medicine in Berkeley Heights, not in Summit anymore. For more than 50 years, it has been my observation that the people who patronize the Summit Medical Group are older or elderly. I am not quite sure what the difference is between older or elderly, but it has a rhythmic rhyme to it, so there it is.

As people grow older, that is “the last of life,” they are afflicted with ailments of every kind. Starting at the top, there is squamous cell carcinoma which attacks the scalp. There are pacemaker problems which regulate the pumping of blood by the heart. Moving further down the body, there are all kinds of gastric problems, followed by the disabilities of enlarged prostates and hysterectomies. Then there are the fragile hips, bad knees and the edema that strikes the legs of the elderly, causing them to swell. And finally, of course, at the bottom of this list are the ingrown toenails. And to think that I have listed only a few of the thousands of things that might afflict the human body at the last of life.

Clearly those ailments which would have been thrown off by younger people strike the old and elderly. They are vulnerable to diseases of every kind. As they advance in years and illnesses, I suspect that it is common for the elderly to give thought to which of the ailments will eventually carry them away. Any person who gives no thought to these possibilities is simply whistling past the graveyard. So in the beginning, the problems of health and welfare cause us anguish and distress which lead to a cry of the heart. As you can see, so far I am happy to keep the French and the English talking with the hope that, in the following paragraphs, things may warm up.

The second aspect of “the last of life, for which the first was made” has to do with what I will call its dismissiveness. I define dismissiveness when younger people dismiss the thoughts and the actions of their elders. For example, the people who advertise, particularly on television, aim their advertisements at the youngsters between the ages of 18 and 34. I suppose that is why you see so much rock and roll music and the silly situation comedies that choke the advertisements and the television screens. It makes business sense, because the 18-to-34-year-olds will be around for a while, while the elderly have only the funeral parlor in their futures. I completely understand that point of view as a business man.

Here is another case that cries out for it’s dismissiveness. It is the race for the Republican nomination for president of the United States. John McCain, the Senator from Arizona, who spent five and a half years in a North Korean prison under torture, is dismissed by the younger media and candidates as too old to take the oath of President. McCain is 72 now and if he serves a term he will be approaching 76 or 77. Two terms would take him, probably, to his 80th birthday. But I am not a Republican and I have no intention of meddling in their affairs. But no matter how you cut it, this is another case of dismissiveness totally on the ground of age. McCain is older and may be wiser than the younger folks, but he is dismissed simply because of his age. McCain is entitled to a “cry from the heart.”

As older folks progress into their elder years, I suspect that nearly all of them will have experienced dismissiveness at one time or another. I now believe that it is an invitation to be dismissed by younger people when one cites in a letter or in a telephone conversation, the years that one has been patronizing a certain corporation. For example, returning to the Summit Medical Group, they not only know my age but they also know of all the disabilities that have afflicted me. When I wrote to the chairman of the organization, a Mr. Mintz, he politely refused to answer my letter. After two months or so, I wrote a second letter and attached the first letter to it and expressed the thought that it must be the United States Postal System which had refused to deliver my first letter. Obviously, sarcasm had something to do with that second letter. After a time, Mr. Mintz still dismissed me by refusing to pick up his pen and paper and write a letter. He had one of his so-called “patient relations” people call me to discuss my problem. Basically one of my grave problems was the speed bumps that the Summit Medical Group had installed in its parking lot, which were excessively high and provided no slope to approach their top. I suspect that if an obstetrician were having trouble with persuading a new baby to emerge from the womb, he might have suggested or prescribed that the mother-to-be should be driven over Mintz’s speed bumps in an effort to speed delivery. My discussion with the patient relations lady, who was very nice, resulted only in her forwarding my letter to the person in charge of maintaining the parking lot. I could have written to that person in the beginning some months ago, but my foolish excesses said to write to the top man to get the speed bumps fixed. Ahhh… but Mr. Mintz wanted to preserve his channels of communication within the Medical Group and so far, four months after the first letter, he has not really answered me. This is a case of dismissiveness. Am I entitled to a cri de coeur?

There are all kinds of cases where the younger folks tend to dismiss the petitions and the needs of their elders. There are telephone calls that are unreturned. And when the gestures of the elderly are made to the younger ones, there is no reciprocation. I understand why this is taking place. In all likelihood, as a younger man I was guilty of the same offence of dismissiveness. I hope that my elders, if there are any, will forgive my transgressions.

So you see, we have here a second case for a cry from the heart. First there were the health problems and now we have the dismissiveness that attends the elderly as well. So it is clear that this is another reason for a cry from the heart.

Finally, the ultimate in dismissiveness came about as a result of the disastrous war that we had declared in Iraq. France and Germany declined our request to send troops there to the slaughter. For this, Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, dismissed them as “old Europe.” On the other hand, there was Poland, which contributed about 1,000 troops, and was rewarded when Rumsfeld called it the “new Europe.” May I say that if you have a choice between Paris and Warsaw, please take Paris every time.

Finally, when the decision was made to attack Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld and his chief assistant, Paul Wolfowitz, were told by the General Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the United States Armed Forces, that it would take a lot more soldiers to pacify Iraq than to invade it. For his trouble, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz effectively fired General Shinseki. And when General Abizaid, the Commander of all the forces in the Middle East, expressed less than great glee about the so-called “surge,” he was also forced into retirement. These two elder soldiers were dismissed by the younger President and his neocon advisors. Shinseki and Abizaid are entitled to a cry of the heart.

Robert Browning is a poet of English origin and I understand that every poet needs some license to stretch a word here and there to make it rhyme or to make some sense of it. But as I pondered that poem, the silliness of the offending lines which I have cited made me anguished and distressed. And so it was necessary for this essay to be written to suggest that there was a cry of the heart from this old essayist.

Now as to the relations between the English and the French, I am an impartial observer. The French are French and the English are Anglo-Saxons and this old American with Celtic roots looks at the problem between the English and the French with a considerable amount of amusement. It is my judgment that if John Bull were ever to succumb to ardor and passion which might lead him to the fault of making love to Lili Marlene, their romantic overtures might be drowned in the chilly depths of the English Channel, as they have been for the last 2000 years.

I said at the outset of this essay that getting the frogs of France to love the English limeys was an impossible task. I may have failed, but at least I tried.

December 24, 2007
Essay 280
Kevin’s commentary: Do they French and the Irish have any history together, I wonder? You don’t hear too much about the Irish fighting anyone but the British. Perhaps this is because I took Asian history instead of European history in school, so consequently most of my knowledge of the history of the UK comes from Irish folk music. This music is invariably about war death, and the British are to blame for most of it.

Back on point, I’d agree that there’s definitely an amount of dismissiveness and even discrimination that impacts the elderly. Certainly, as Pop says, a lot of marketing is directed to young people these days. To that I’d say that Pop is just listening to the wrong channels. My girlfriend often watches a network called “HLN” which only has one show, which is called Mystery Detectives. It plays Mystery Detectives 24/7 and the only commercials it runs are for facelifts, medication and hip replacements. So there is certainly marketing for the elderly out there, if you know where to look. Secondly I’d question why Pop even wants to have to listen to commercials which could potentially apply to him — I happily dismiss any bit of marketing that I can identify as not being potentially useful to me. If nobody was trying to sell me things that I’m interested in, I could tune all advertisements out en-masse even more than I already do. I feel like that’d be wonderful.

As final thoughts, a) It is worth noting that elderly voters are one of the most valuable groups to politicians in America (old people vote), b) age-based discrimination is terrible, but for a job like the presidency, it might be a good screening. We got a Pope who was so old, the Catholics couldn’t hold midnight mass at midnight. God knows what the equivalent problem would be for an 80-year-old president, but it might be a doozy.

More on the Browning poem here:


In the last four years of my career with AT&T, I was a Director of Correspondent Relations. The word “correspondent” is an anachronism. It goes back to the days when people wrote to each other and before the use of the telephone. Nonetheless this job required that I should visit other telephone companies around the world and in so doing, I made many warm friends. Sven Lernevall in Stockholm with whom I still correspond by e-mail, not by telephone, is one of them. Another was Jake Haberfeld who was the number two person in charge of telecommunications for the State of Israel. Early in life, Jake had left his home in Poland to become one of the first settlers in what was to eventually become the State of Israel. If there ever was a gentleman’s gentleman, it was Jake Haberfeld.

Somewhere around 1981 or 1982, I invited Kim Armstrong, the newly appointed Director of Advertising for AT&T Long Lines to accompany me on a trip to Italy and Israel. The idea was to acquaint her with the people to whom she would be advertising and my ulterior motive was to encourage her to spend more on advertising Overseas Telephone Service. When we reached Israel, Jake was his usual charming self. When we broke for lunch, Jake said to Kim, “Would you like to visit that certain place?” So I explained to Kim that my friend Jake was referring to the toilet, also known as the water closet, the can or the john. And so from that incident, I developed an interest in euphemisms of all sorts.

In this essay, I will try to make try to make a pass at a few obvious ones. I am in no position to make a study of all euphemisms, but in this short essay I will attempt to mention a few. Already we have the toilet which is known as the WC, the boy’s room, the girl’s room, the powder room, the restroom, the can or the john. I suspect there are other names. In the American army, the toilet facilities are called “latrines.” It always seemed to me that latrine is a French word and should be preceded by either the connecting phrase of “la” or “le.” But I have no influence with the brass that directs the fortunes of the United States military. So it is latrine, take it or leave it.

Children have their own euphemisms for certain bodily functions. There is the “potty,” just as there is pooping, also known as “poopoo,” and peeing or “peepee.” Mothers are to be commended for steering their children through the difficult training years.

When it comes to dining, the act of eating is often called, “feeding your face.” Another euphemism about eating is that “we had a bite to eat.” I suspect that no person in the world has ever settled for only a bite to eat. But it is a nice sentiment.

Where alcoholic beverages are involved, there are terms such as, “had a few too many” or if there were more than a few, it might be said that the drinker was getting “sloshed.” Somewhere between “having a drink” and getting “sloshed,” we have pie-eyed and tipsy, among many others.

When one has too many “bites to eat,” he may add weight to his frame. There are all kinds of euphemisms which hold that a man is “chubby,” or in the case of the female that “she is pleasingly plump.” In point of fact, they may be simply obese or overweight. A very thin woman or other persons might be called “only skin and bones.” In the cases of weight on the human frame, there may be no melodious sounding euphemisms at all.

In the sports world, euphemisms abound endlessly. Taking only baseball, which I understand, we have, for example, the home run. There is nothing wrong in the world with calling a ball hit out of the park a simple home run. But broadcasters and print journalists tie themselves into knots using the word blast. It can be a “two-run blast” or it can be an “upper deck blast.” In the last year or two, the sportscasters have resorted to the phrase “going yard” for hitting the ball out of the park. As a purist who has spent nearly 80 years enjoying baseball, when someone says “going yard,” there is a grinding noise in my mind. May I suggest that home run is quite enough.

In the intimate relations between the sexes, there are several euphemisms. The Bible refers to the man, after having sexual relations with a female, as “knowing her.” In another case in I believe, Leviticus, males are warned not to “lie” with each other. The various versions of the Bible were written years ago and it would have been hoped that better euphemisms would have made their appearance, but obviously, they have not. In view of the nature of my psyche, I will refrain from quoting the euphemisms for intercourse between men and women, except for one from the Ga language which is spoken in Ghana. In that instance, sexual intercourse is referred to as “jig” or “jigjig.” Upon hearing a lively tune, for example, it would be highly inappropriate for one of the former British “masters” of Ghana, to say to a comely female that he would like to “jig” with her. Jigging, and jigjig are different from our understanding of dancing.

I know, as a man of some experience, that “jigjig” has many corresponding phrases in every language. But in my lofty position as an essayist, I will refrain from mentioning them.

There is one other matter having to do with death. One of the euphemisms is “passed away.” In many cases, this term is reduced to simply “passed.” For example, I asked a person some time ago about another person whom I had not seen for many years. It was reported to me that “she had passed.” I concluded that she had died.

Then there is the situation that offers the euphemistic phrase upon the death of a spouse that he or she “lost” his or her mate. Actually, when reduced to the bare essentials, no one “became lost,” but there had been simply a death in the family. Human nature apparently seeks to avoid discussion of death in any form.

As I am dictating this essay, it is a few days before Christmas. At this time of year, the euphemisms abound with respect to the celebration of Christmas and then New Years. I won’t bore you with such euphemisms because you know them already.

Euphemisms are found in the written and spoken word. I suspect that if one tried to locate all the euphemisms in the English language, the list would be endless. And so I leave you with a thought about Jake Haberfeld, which is where this essay was started. Jake’s wife contracted Alzheimer’s Disease and he was determined in his love for her, to care for Mrs. Haberfeld. She died after a time, and the toll of taking care of his wife imposed a major burden on Jake’s health, and he died long before his time. Jake will be missed and this old essaying will always remember the phrase about, “that certain place.”

With all of the euphemisms that are not included here, it is obvious that somewhere down the line when more of them appear to this aphasia riddled mind, another essay on euphemisms will appear. I suppose that you can take that thought and “put it in the bank.”

December 22, 2007
Essay 279
Kevins’ commentary: “That certain place” sounds like a Japanese euphemism to me for some reason — probably because it is SO polite that it winds up being completely vague.

Also I’d like to point out that in an essay about euphemisms for both sports and sex, Pop missed a golden opportunity to explore sports-based sex euphemisms like “2nd base” and the like. Can’t get ’em all, I suppose.


Larry Craig, the simply superb and sweet-smelling Senior Senator from the great state of Idaho, has been in the news recently and has caused me to rethink my thoughts about homosexuals. As many of you know, I did not attend an Ivy League college. In point of fact, I didn’t attend any college. I spent those formative years working in filling stations, followed by a job as a draftsman at AT&T, which was quickly followed by service in the United States Army. I thought that with this background I was fully acquainted with the seamier sides of life. When it came to homosexual men, they were referred to as “queers.” Today, those people are called gays. When I began to come to New York in 1948 and thereafter, I became acquainted with gay men who struck me as unusually talented. They were artists, writers, and people who ran excellent restaurants. I had no prejudice ever against gay people. But now, as it turns out, I knew very little about their practices.

Earlier this year the simply superb Senator from Idaho was arrested in a Minneapolis airport restroom because he had propositioned an undercover cop. The cop testified that Senator Craig occupied the next stall and signaled with his feet and hands that he wished to have a homosexual encounter. In my naiveté, I had assumed that for two gay men to accomplish their work, they would both occupy the same stall. Now in my declining years, I find that this is not necessarily the case at all.

My naiveté also led me to wonder about a story concerning the Minneapolis airport. I understood that, since the Craig incident, the restroom authorities were considering lowering the barriers between the stalls down to ground level. In my innocence, I wondered what this would accomplish.

Well, as it turns out, lowering the barriers between the stalls would tend to decrease the great sin of onanism. If the testimony in the case against Senator Larry Craig is correct, the gay men would hold hands under the barrier between the stalls and would then commit the great sin of onanism. The female CNN announcer on television explained that this sin is “having sex with yourself.”

Obviously, in addition to the sexual content of this exercise, there are gymnastic requirements as well. Why “having sex with yourself” must be performed in a men’s restroom while holding hands with another gay, is a mystery to me as it could be performed in the privacy of one’s own home. As Larry Craig, when he was arrested and charged said, “I am not gay; I have never been gay.” Obviously, I am ill equipped to answer questions about gayness.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, there is a citation from Genesis 38, verse 9. My cursory reading of this section of the Old Testament discloses that Onan had an older married brother. One way or another, the brother was killed and Judah, his father, had ordered Onan to marry the widow, as was the custom. Onan said, pardon the expression, to hell with that. He then, according to the sacred scripture, “spilled his seeds upon the ground,” just as the CNN announcer described it three or four thousand years later. If my understanding is halfway correct, Onan had sex with himself. The so-called seeds were of course the sperm which fell “upon the ground.”

My belief is that if the sweet-smelling Senior Senator from Idaho were acquainted with this citation from the Old Testament, he would forsake the gay life and seek a Congressional seat from Greenwich Village in New York, even through he says, “I am not gay; I have never been gay.”

There is one significant favorable development in the Larry Craig case in that, the stall used by the great Senator, has now become a major tourist attraction. It is not the Taj Mahal, of course, but it memorializes the Old Testament and the grave sin of Onanism.

Now let’s turn to the gentleman from Christopher Street in New York City. Christopher Street is located in Greenwich Village. Greenwich Village is widely known as the home of gay people in New York City. There are gay bars, gay restaurants, and gay art galleries throughout what in New York is called “the Village.” During my many years in New York, I made Greenwich Village my home. But I would not want you to conclude that this makes me a gay person. My motto is, “I am not gay; I have never been gay.”

Earlier this year, we learned that a New York City woman in her late thirties discovered that she was pregnant. Later we learned that she simply opened the telephone book and picked the name of a person who lived in the village and declared him to be the father of the unborn child. This gentleman resided on Christopher Street in the Village.

As these things go, there was a need to have a legal tangle. The gentleman from Christopher Street had to hire a lawyer to defend himself.

As it turns out, the gentleman from Christopher Street was in his late forties and had lived an exclusively gay lifestyle all of the years of his adult life. He had a male roommate, which was a long-standing arrangement. When the paternity case came to trial, his lawyer was able to demonstrate conclusively that in his adult life, his client had always led a gay lifestyle. When it came time for the gentleman from Christopher Street to testify, he told the judge, “Your Honor, in all my life, I have never met a vagina personally.” That statement rings with Churchillian eloquence. And it came not from a politician or professor, but from a simple soul from the Village in New York. Shortly thereafter, the judge threw the case out of court and the gentleman from Christopher Street was fully exonerated. Nonetheless, he was presented with a $3,400 bill from his lawyer. The pregnant female had no financial resources, so there was no possibility that he could recoup his losses from her. Apparently he smiled and went home to his apartment to enjoy his gay lifestyle with his partner. He now has a good legal story to tell at cocktail parties.

I don’t know what these two cases are meant to demonstrate, but on the other hand, they give an essayist an opportunity to use such pungent phrases as “having sex with oneself” and a man who has never met a female sex organ in person. For an old geezer such as myself, this is quite enough.

December 22, 2007
Essay 278
Kevin’s commentary: News to me. I thought that the under-stall gap was used for things much dirtier than holding hands while both parties jerk off. I mean it’s almost definitely used for all sorts of things, I guess, I just never had thought of that one. Cute. I wonder, when you’re both done, do you come out and introduce yourselves? If not, who leaves first? What’re the rules around this type of thing?


A few years back, Tom Brokaw, the NBC anchor, wrote a book in which he called the survivors of the great American Depression and of World War II the “greatest generation.” That was a very generous comment by Tom Brokaw, which we may or may not have deserved. But nonetheless, that greatest generation is now well into its eighties. Having seen the great American Depression and World War II, I suspect that there are a few things left for those of us in that generation to be surprised about. There are few things left for us to consider as unseemly or vulgar, we’ve pretty much seen it all.

In my own case, the American Depression and the combat phases of World War II were so debilitating that I have yet to write about them. For me, there is no happiness in recalling the deprivations during the Depression or the wounds and deaths and suffering of the combat phases of World War II. I simply find it very difficult to think about those things and certainly to write about them.

So it would seem that those of us in the so-called greatest generation have been, in the New York phrase, “around the block a few times.” But in the past few weeks, I have heard advertisements and a newscast that cause me to believe that in my trips around the block I have not seen everything there is to observe.

Consider for example the extensive advertising that is taking place on television for erectile dysfunction or, as the television announcers like to refer to it, “E.D.” I suppose I ought to be flattered by the pharmaceutical companies bestowing my nickname on this medical condition. In point of fact, however, in barracks, tents, locker rooms, etc., the subject of erectile dysfunction is rarely if ever raised. For all intents and purposes among the “greatest generation”, E.D. is a non-starter. It is not discussed or dissected. It simply does not rise to a level of discussion among my generation.

One advertisement promises help lasting for “36 hours,” for “whenever the time is right.” Good gracious! Most of the greatest generation would instinctively know when the time is right. And they would also know that erectile dysfunction is not a subject for endless discussion. And so I come to the conclusion, “Are we prudes simply because we refuse to wallow in discussions of this medical condition?” My belief is that we are not prudes; we are simply above that level of discussion.

The other afternoon I was listening to a newscast on television that turned to a commercial which ended in the expression, “Have a happy period.” I was totally astounded to find that the television advertisement had to do with menstrual periods. If there was ever a subject completely forbidden among the greatest generation, it would be that one. Again I ask, “Are the greatest generation’s members prudes because they are reluctant or refuse to discuss that female condition.” Most of the men, as I recall it, are gentlemen who absolutely refuse to touch that subject and so my answer would be that the members of the greatest generation are not prudes but gentlemen.

And finally, I hear from television sources that Laura Bush, George’s wife, is taking off for Arab countries to inform them that breast cancer is deadly. Arab men have a different view of their women than the rest of us have. They regard their women as property. It is for this reason that they cloth them in burkas that reveal very little of the female figure or hair. I am at a loss to tell you why looking at a woman’s hair excites anyone. But apparently the Arabs are carried away by passions that they do not understand. But in any case, here we have the First Lady of the United States traveling six or seven thousand miles to tell the women of the Arab countries that they should have mammograms and examinations for breast cancer. I suspect that her entreaties will fall largely on deaf ears. In the first place, decisions in life in the Arab world are made by men, not by women. And secondly, there are few women, I suspect, that would tell their husbands that they are going to take off their clothes for a male doctor. Do not forget that the Arab society is one where they even deny that they have any homosexuality. The Arabs have a long way to go before they will become interested in a Christian woman coming from six or seven thousand miles away to lecture them on breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a horrid disease which we all deplore. But Mrs. Bush did not need to travel six or seven thousand miles to address the Arab women. If she would leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and walk a few blocks toward the RFK stadium, she would find black women by the thousands who are uninsured and who are unable to visit a doctor to check on the condition of their breasts. I suspect that the leading figures in the Arab cultural world are aware of the lack of insurance among poor women in the United States. They may extend typical Arab courtesy to Mrs. Bush when she shows up, but as soon as she leaves, things will return to their normal state of affairs. In the meantime, the Arab men who make the decisions will be asking, “Why did you come six or seven thousand miles when you could find all kinds of deplorable medical conditions within a few blocks of the White House?”

In the final analysis, if Mrs. Bush wishes to address the high incidence of deaths among Arab women from cancer of the breast, that is probably all to the good. I would simply comment that she could have accomplished the same purpose among the poor female population of Washington, D.C. or of Dallas, Texas, or any other city in this country. Aside from that, the members of the so-called greatest generation are stunned and surprised to see intimate personal medical conditions advertised on television. In our day, conditions such as erectile dysfunction were never discussed among polite society or even soldierly society. It is all well and good to know everything about those conditions, but my point is that open discussion rarely if ever took place.

So finally I would answer the basic question of whether or not the members of the greatest generation are prudes by saying absolutely not. But we are surprised, even dismayed, to find intimate medical conditions being advertised on television. Does our dismay make us prudes? I believe not.

October 28, 2007
Essay 267

Kevin’s commentary: Wel

In an essay called “CRI DE COEUR” written just two months after this one, Pop claims that all advertising these days is directed at 18-30 year olds, and that not very much advertising time is spent on his generation. However here he says that the amount of E.D. advertising is ‘extensive.’ To my knowledge, there are not a lot of 20-year-old guys coming down with E.D.

I’d also posit that there are probably still a good amount of advertisers who reach the elderly via TV, knowing that in many cases young people don’t watch traditional television at all. I have not had consistent access to a cable television in my residence since I left Austin for college, and I don’t think my issue is particularly unusual.