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THAT OLD TIME RELIGION

In ancient times, religious zealots such as myself would exile themselves to remote desert locations, away from secular and sinful cities, in the hope that a higher power would speak to them in an unmistakable voice of moral clarity. For the past few months, I have followed that ascetic trail blazed by our religious forebearers. I have attempted to avoid the temptations of Summit and Millburn, New Jersey. However, I did succumb, on only two occasions to the evil offerings of New York City where it is widely known that the Devil himself lives. His last known address was in Greenwich Village or on York Avenue at 87th Street. I have paid a heavy price for yielding to temptation by my visits to the Big Apple. And so I now find myself wringing my hands and staring at my shoes. I suppose this is the price of martyrdom.

When I emerged from my desert exile, I enjoyed an enormous belly laugh when that eminent theologian George W. Bush, said that Sharon was “a man of peace.” Jay Leno and David Letterman would pay enormous sums to have a joke writer supply them with lines that say Sharon is a “man of peace.” Always the comic, Bush uttered that line the day before he met the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia which greatly angered and offended his Saudi visitor. But he always does this. Remember his reference to his “crusade” in the Middle East? Well, old comedians never die it appears. When that line is repeated to survivors in Ramallah and in the Jenin Refugee Camp, I’m sure that Palestinians are rolling in the aisles with laughter.

Bush’s “Man of Peace” is matched by an ophthalmologist here in Short Hills. Last year, it is alleged, on solid grounds, that the ophthalmologist fondled the breasts of four women patients. The Essex County Prosecutor sent an undercover policewoman to him to have her eyes examined. She became the fifth woman he fondled. He contends that the fondling takes place in a search for future eye problems, so the five women ought to appreciate his concern for the future health of their eyes.

My belief is that the Short Hills ophthalmologist has as much chance of discovering future eye problems by his fondling as Sharon has of becoming a “Man of Peace.” It seems to me that their future achievements under these circumstances are exactly the same which is nada, nil, zero or something less than nothing. As a matter of interest, I am completely blind in my left eye as a result of the ministrations of this same Short Hills ophthalmologist. And he never looked at my chest for signs of upcoming eye trouble. That is a troubling oversight.

A further thought strikes me about Bush’s “Man of Peace.” Punishing the entire Palestinian people for resisting the occupation and for suicide bombing is a lot like wiping out the Catholic hierarchy because priestly abuse of children was wide spread. Bush may turn his “Man of Peace” loose on the Catholics when he is finished with the Palestinians.

Now while Bush’s faux pas is still current, we have Muslim apologists saying that in the Arabic language, Islam means peace. The Muslim translators should have gotten together with Bush on their definitions of peace. When the Palestinians invaded the Passover Seder meal in Natanya and killed 28 people, remember it was all done in the name of Islam, which means peace.

So you see between Bush and the Muslims, this old geezer is greatly confused. So far no unmistakable voice of moral clarity has spoken to me.

Not to be outdone in this duel of comedic endeavors, the Roman Catholic church had a meeting in Rome chaired by the Pope himself. The purpose of the meeting, which featured cardinals from the United States, was to determine what the Catholic stance should be with respect to priests sexually abusing children.

I am forced to ask you this question. The church has been around for perhaps 2000 years. Children have been attending school and mass at Catholic churches for the same period of time. An ordinary person would have to suspend belief to come to the conclusion that in the year 2002, the Pope would call a meeting to determine how the hierarchy of the Holy Roman Church should deal with priests who prey on children. And that’s only the beginning. There is no unanimity in the hierarchy on whether a priest should be chastised or punished if he is caught with a small boy in the priest’s rectory bed.

Some of the cardinals say if it happened a while ago, the church should forget all about it and wipe the slate clean. Others say if a priest slips his vows and makes only a pass at two or three children, and if he shows signs of redemption, he should be kept on. As my lawyer daughter who offers her theological thoughts under the signature of “The Attorney” says, “If a priest molests a whole choir full, then action probably ought to be taken”. Reading Archbishop Myers’ statement of April 29, 2002, it is far from clear that there is unanimity in the American Catholic view about punishment or chastisement. Myers is the Archbishop of Newark and is charged with drafting the statement to be offered to American bishops when they meet in Dallas in June of this year. Myers is an ultra right-winger who has made few friends here since arriving from Peoria, Illinois.

So you see that the great theologian Bush and Islamic leaders don’t come out at the same place when it comes to Peace. After 2000 years, Roman Catholics apparently don’t know which end is up and the Pope and his Curia are not giving the American branch of the church much help. I am using WD40 on my hands to try to prevent excessive chafing as the Catholic mess causes me to wring my hands even harder.

Late last week (April 26, 2002) Mike Barnicle, a well known columnist for the New York Daily News, appeared on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” program. Both men are Catholics. In a spirited colloquy, both men denounced the statement coming from Rome after the American Cardinals meeting saying that the hierarchy was “covering up.” The cover up had to do with homosexuality according to these two Catholics. The fear is that high level members of the hierarchy of the church will be exposed as homosexuals.

This is a very real fear. Even Monsignor Wilton Gregory, Chairman of the American Bishops Conference, says that Catholic seminaries are filled by gay priests. Gay seminarians go on to become priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes. In several studies published by respected journals, it is estimated that between 35% and 50% of Catholic priests are homosexual. And no one from the hierarchy seeks to deny those figures. Not Egan, not Law, not the Pope and certainly not Archbishop Myers of Newark.

Mary Murphy is a long time television reporter and commentator now working for Channel 11 in New York City. She is greatly respected. Mary is a Catholic who spent part of her honeymoon in Rome to sit in the audience to hear the Pope and to receive his blessing. She is a product of New York City’s parochial schools. In short, she is not a latecomer to the Catholic faith.

Mary Murphy has been following the story of gay priests for a year or so. In two interviews last week (April 26) Murphy had extended discussions with an ordained priest who appeared without hiding his identity. He simply had two frank discussions with Mary Murphy about homosexual priests. His estimates ran higher than the 35% to 50% of priests who are homosexual. This priest says pretty flatly that at least 50% of the priests he knows around New York City are gay.

When asked what contributed to this surprising figure, the priest said homosexual men, who wished to conceal their gayness, joined the priesthood to avoid answering the question about why aren’t you married. The priesthood takes care of that question very neatly.

The gayness of the priesthood has been going on for many years, perhaps for centuries. It is quite likely that homosexual men are now serving as bishops, monsignor’s, cardinals and perhaps as popes. What baffles me completely is the unrelenting assault on gays in the priesthood by high level church authorities. On Sunday, April 28, 2002 the number two man at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, Monsignor Eugene V. Clark, delivered a long homily attacking gays in every direction. His homily was so vigorous that his boss, Cardinal Egan, said that Monsignor Clark spoke only for himself. Clark’s diatribe was roundly denounced as gay bashing.

But Clark was not alone. One of the cardinals spoke from Rome and said that the United States Church should not ordain any more homosexuals and should “root out” the ones it has. So you can see why this old grizzled religious zealot is both confused and amused. If we are going to “root out” 50% of the U. S. priesthood, who will be left to bless new fire houses and pizza parlors?

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee has for years banned gay men and women marching under their own sign which identifies them as gay Irish men and women. How curious that the priests and hierarchy of the church seem to support gayness in their clergy – but certainly not in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Mychal Judge was a bit of a hero who gave his life in the World Trade Center debacle on September 11th. He was a firehouse Chaplain and he was gay. He seemed to be an alright guy by any measurement. Should Mychal Judge have been “rooted out”? I don’t think so.

The Roman Church is horribly out of touch with the real world as it exists in the 21st Century. The bishops, and cardinals, and the pope wearing their funny hats and medieval costumes don’t play well in modern circumstances. In the old days, the priests and the hierarchy could wear their bizarre hats and costumes and speak in Latin which may have awed and impressed peasants in the year 1002. It doesn’t play well today – but the church hierarchy has not tumbled to that obvious fact.

The Protestants, particularly the Fundamentalists, are not about to give the world stage to the Jews, the Muslims and the Catholics. In their unschooled and boisterous manner, several Protestants are demanding their time in the spot light.

In the civilized world, or in the totalitarian world, the absolute worst situation comes about when religion and politics are meshed. That is exactly what Bush is trying to do to please his conservative supporters. Consider the governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait where Islam is part and parcel of the ruling parties. Consider Spain, Ireland and Italy where no government can survive without the blessings of the Roman Catholic Church. Consider the government of India and Bangladesh where Hindu acceptance is required. And I suppose no government of Israel would survive without the blessings of the Jewish faith.

This is exactly where Bush is taking the United States Government. He has appointed born again Christians to important posts in his administration. Consider that Assemblies of God Evangelist masquerading as U. S. Attorney General who had a significant announcement recently. In a February, 2002 speech, Ashcroft proclaimed: “We are a nation called to defend freedom – a freedom that is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God.”

Frank Rich, the New York Times writer, says, “So much, then, for that trifling document that defines our freedoms, a.k.a. the Constitution. By wrapping himself in sanctimony as surely as he wrapped the Justice Department’s statue of Justice in a blue curtain, our Attorney General is trying to superseded civil law on the grounds that he’s exercising the Lord’s Will what ever he does.”

The former Vice President of N. W. Ayer, Howard Davis, who directed AT&T’s advertising efforts, is another native Missourian. Howard and I regard Ashcroft as the ultimate embarrassment to the State of Missouri. But as Ashcroft said on other occasions, God is guiding him. And Bush picked him as U. S. Attorney General and is promoting him as a star of the Administration. This non-believer finds himself in great need of prayer.

An important theological thought intrudes here. For centuries, Christians and particularly evangelical and fundamentalist Christians believe that Jesus was crucified at the behest of Jews. Never mind that Emperor Pontius Pilate was calling the signals from Rome. An article of faith with Christians is that Jews killed Jesus and let’s not deal with conflicting opinions. They did it and the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians find solace in the King James Version of the New Testament.

Now if Ashcroft and Bush believe that Jews killed Jesus, as they have to do, do you think that they understand that Ariel Sharon is a Jew? As a non-believer, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I am an interested observer only. But I doubt that dim bulbs like Bush and Ashcroft and their political cronies have made this connection.

Howard Davis and your essayist are greatly embarrassed that Ashcroft hails from Missouri, which is generally believed to be the reincarnation of the Garden of Eden.

Bush has a stalwart in the House from that center of culture, Sugarland, Texas. Tom DeLay, one of the sponsors of Clinton’s impeachment, is the star performer. Here are two paragraphs from Alan Cooperman, a staff writer from the Washington Post. He says:

“House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex) told Evangelical Christians last week (April 20, 2002) that only Christianity offers a reasonable answer to basic questions about the purpose of life. Speaking to about 300 people at the First Baptist Church in Pearland, Texas, on April 12, DeLay said that God is using him to promote a ‘biblical world view’ in American politics, and that he pursued Bill Clinton’s impeachment in part because the Democratic President held ‘the wrong world view’.” (italics mine)

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Christianity offers the only viable, reasonable, definitive answer to the question of ‘Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Does life have any meaningful purpose?’ DeLay said, ‘Only Christianity offers a way to understand the physical and moral border. Only Christianity offers a comprehensive world view that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world – only Christianity.”

So let us say you were a law-abiding Jew who lives in DeLay’s district in Texas. Do you think you would find a sympathetic listener in DeLay if you had a problem? Or, do you think he would inform you to drop your Jewishness and turn to Christianity? DeLay is the most important Republican figure in the United States House of Representatives. As I said in the case of Ashcroft, let us pray.

DeLay is joined by the Republican Majority Leader of the House, Dick Armey, who said on April 30, 2002 on the “Hardball” show, that Palestinians should leave the West Bank. He said that other Arab countries should give them some place in their deserts to establish their homeland. His apology later was unconvincing and demeaning. The Texans, Bush, Armey and DeLay, know how to fix all the problems of the Middle East.

Now we have a know-nothing clown from Oklahoma, Senator James Inhofe, a Republican, who took the floor of the Senate to announce that the September 11th attacks were retribution from God because God was not pleased with U. S. policy toward Israel. He said, “One of the reasons I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the U. S. A. is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israeli’s not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorists…” Obviously, this is a slam at Bush the Omnipotent Theologian who is allegedly guiding our Republican Government.

Tom Paine’s Common Sense periodical says, “In other words, on September 11th, God allowed airlines to be piloted into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon because United States’s actions were not to His/Her liking. How else to interpret Inhofe’s words about a spiritual door being opened for the attack.”

When it comes to intellectual capacity, I am sure that Inhofe has a good future ahead of him as a rodeo clown who distracts bulls that want to gore thrown rough riders. Inhofe also claims that God (He or She) gave the West Bank to the Jewish people because Inhofe read it in the King James Version of the Bible. He is not a preacher; he is one of 100 Senators sitting at the top of the United States Government structure. So once again, let us pray.

Now we have Billy Graham who seems to have given us his twisted spiritual guidance for many, many years. After recordings of Nixon’s miserable thoughts came to light, the Right Reverend Billy Graham was recorded as saying some pretty prejudicial remarks about Jews. Billy at his advanced age offered sort of an apology. Doesn’t he know that the head man of the Christian faith was a Jew? Billy wasn’t up to a convincing apology so he turned the job over to Franklin Graham, his son and designated successor as the head of Billy Graham Enterprises. Now let us return to Frank Rich of The Times.

“His son and successor, Franklin Graham, soon rescinded his father’s mea culpa by asserting that the taped quotes had been taken out of context and meant to refer to ‘liberalism’, not Jews. The younger Mr. Graham’s disingenuousness is of a piece with Jerry Falwell’s and Pat Robertson’s pseudo apology for their televised remarks in which they tried to pin the September 11th attacks on the same all-purpose culprits (gays, feminists) whom some Catholic leaders now hope will take the fall for abusive priests and their enabling higher ups.”

This is probably enough to make my point that when politics are mixed with religion, democracy suffers. And it also suffers when religious matters are defended in legal terms rather than in moral terms. Religion has to do with faith; the lawyers have to deal with facts and reality. Let me give you an example of how legal practice clashes with moral concepts in our society of the 21st century.

We have here two young brothers, Robert and Phillip Young, who served as altar boys here in New Jersey. They contend – and nobody has denied their claim – that as “many as 15 priests and numerous church officials” abused them and forced them to engage in sexual acts between 1978 and 1983. At the time, the young brothers underwent this abuse, they were 12 to 17 year old boys. They were given two threats if they told about their treatment. They were told that no one would believe them if they implicated a priest, and they were told that the Church would excommunicate them. This last action carries several severe penalties. For example, an excommunicated member cannot be married by the Church. He may not receive communion. He may not be buried in so called “holy ground” at Catholic cemeteries. There are other penalties as well, but I suppose this is enough to give the reader an idea of the severity of excommunication.

All young children are intimidated by the threats of the clergy. The two young brothers had every reason to fear for their immortal soul. As a result, they failed to report the abuse to the authorities in time for legal punishment to follow. In New Jersey, where the Young brothers lived, the statute of limitation is two years, generally speaking. They were about six years late in filing their suit.

When the case was finally heard, the decision went against the young brothers on the grounds that they had not come in during the statute of limitations. In making this painful decision, which was delivered on
May 3, 2002, a Superior Court Judge had some searing words for the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever motivated the young brothers to file their suit – money or the exposure of a moral and legal wrong – the Church used “legal hard ball” to defend its interests, even though the “scourge of sexual abuse” was involved.

That is pretty strong language from a Superior Court Judge. The Judge went on to say, “Even though the Church was within its legal rights to defend itself, the Church’s position on this matter is at odds with its stance as a moral force in society. From where I sit, legal hardball doesn’t seem quite right.”

I think Superior Court Judge John Himmelbarger said it all. When religious matters are defended in legal terms rather than in moral terms, both the law and religion are demeaned.

Now if you want to read a little more about the Roman Catholic problems with moral issues, please read the Saturday May 4, 2002 Op-Ed piece by Bill Keller in the New York Times. It will be well worth your while.

So much for the transgressions of our religious establishment. Let us go back to the beginning. The United States Government started out as a secular government which wanted to do away with the excesses of King George the III. Well now we have a King George W. who wants to impose his own brand of bizarre Christianity upon the American people. And unbelievably, Jews by the thousands in the United States have cast their lot with him simply because he is backing a complete madman. Ariel Sharon is not called the “Butcher of Beirut” for nothing.

This is serious business. For many years, I have supported Barry Lynn who directs the efforts of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Curiously, Lynn is a preacher, but he runs a superb organization attempting to deal with the likes of Bush, Ashcroft, DeLay, Inhofe and their cronies who insist that this government reflect primitive Christian values. Any attempt to introduce multicultural values is rejected as unchristian. If it doesn’t fit with Tom DeLay’s “Christian World View,” it should be abolished and destroyed.

The main reason for my belief in non-belief has to do with Protestant preachers espousing their arrant nonsense, such as we find with the Texas politicians. As a child, I rejected their theology. As an adult, I simply hold them in contempt. How else would you deal with the likes of Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, George W. Bush, John Ashcroft and James Inhofe? They are dubious human beings.

(As I said, I have long supported Americans United for Separation of Church and State. If its efforts interest you, they can be reached at 518 “C” Street, N. E., Washington, D. C., 20002-5810.)

I know that religion provides a comfort to believers. I know that some who practice religion look forward to eternal life. And I know that many world figures, particularly politicians, believe that God has had a strong hand in their success.

For many years, I have come to the conclusion that in the field of human affairs, religion is not necessarily a unifying force at all. It is often a divisive force. Consider the Catholic-Protestant split in Ireland. Consider the case of Israel and the Palestinians where war is our current reward. Consider the situation in India where everyone has had a shot at war including the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Muslims, the Christians as well as the Animists. And if you give credence to Osama Bin Laden and some of his Arab followers, there is a Holy War going on against the largely Christian population of the United States. Religion has not unified any of these competing nationalities. On the contrary, it is often a divisive and a destructive force.

If I look in the Bibles of my parents for comfort on this score, I am rewarded by the words of Paul who seems to come out four square for good conduct and for slavery. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart as you would obey Christ.” Another Bible of my parents says, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ”. Both of these citations are from versions of the King James rendition of the New Testament. See Ephesians VI, Verse 5. (underlining mine)

When it comes to religious matters, I find myself convinced that my belief in non-belief is absolutely right for me. If it is alright with Paul, I hold that belief with fear and trembling. It sets me apart from clowns such as DeLay, Armey, Bush, Inhofe and Ashcroft. So let us pray.

E. E. CARR
May 2, 2002

~~~

I feel like the 2000s have been one case study after another in “obvious times that major powers are on the wrong side of history.” We just have seen this again with Trump pulling out of the Paris accord. We saw it plenty of other times with this shit in the early 2000s, with everyone who opposed gay marriage, last year for Trump voters generally, etc. Maybe it’s always like that; certainly pretty much all progress has had to come over the loud objections of the Delays and Inhofes of any era you choose. And it always seems to come from older generations, too — it seems like for every year you’re alive, the probably that you’re just utterly backwards with regard to social issues seems to skyrocket. That never seemed to impact Pop, though. Maybe when I get old enough I’ll remember writing this and stop being a stick in the mud about whatever clear progressive goal my generation is holding up at the time.

FOUR STARS OF DAVID

BUSH & SHARON – THE HAMHANDED EFFORT TO GET THINGS RIGHT
Jerusalem has been on my mind of late because of the bombings and other acts of warfare that have taken place there. At the outset, I must point out that I am not an active partisan in the dispute between the Israeli and Palestine sides. My instincts are to be with the Israelis. I know them better. They have welcomed me into their homes and offices. They have offered me the best food that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Nablus and Tiberias have to offer. They are good people – tough people but good people.

Arabs, on the other hand, were a different kettle of fish. When I worked in the Overseas Department of AT&T, I had occasion to deal with Arabs from Dakar, Senegal and Rabat, Morocco in the western part of the North African continent all the way through to Egypt in the east. I had no occasion to deal with Iranians or Iraqis. The people in Dakar were wonderful. They offered us some of the best lobster that I have ever eaten. But Dakar is a seaport and they have long dealt with foreign nationals. In the East, Egypt is a squalid place, but its people often seem to be kind. In all the rest of the North African continent, there was grimness. Joy was not to be had. So I am not a big booster of the Arab people. One of the only gestures of kindness was found in Algiers. We met with high ranking government officials in the Algerian regime shortly

after 44 American prisoners were released from imprisonment by the Iranians. As soon as the meeting started, I thanked the ranking minister for Algeria’s efforts to secure the release of the Americans. He replied, “It was my duty to do that.” He didn’t draw me out or seek to be more friendly. He simply said that he did what he did as a matter of duty. This same sort of arms-length relationship was found in Morocco, Algerian, Libya and Tunisia.

I cheered when Golda Mier and Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak had the premiership in Israel. I must say I gagged when Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon had that job. I cannot ever forget the hovels that serve as homes to displaced Palestinians. Their living conditions are abominable. Now that Sharon is head of government in Israel, I have great concern that he will drag the United States into war against the Arab nations. In that job, Sharon is an undisciplined war hawk who could easily cause the U. S. to find itself at war. The Arab League said on 3-28-02 that all its members would regard a United States attack on Iraq as an attack on the members of the Arab League. I suppose that means war.

Our efforts have not been helped by Bush sending the retired Marine General Zinni to attempt to mediate between the two sides. Following that, Bush sent Vice President Cheney to deal with the Israelis but he had nothing to do with the Palestinians. And then Secretary of State Powell made his famous telephone call to Arafat telling him what he was to say to his own people. In short, the Zinni, Cheney and Powell combine simply buttressed Sharon’s hand and made him even more belligerent.

It goes without saying that I find suicide bombing and martyrdom totally repugnant concepts. On the other hand, dealing with Sharon would cause me to do some strong things. Finally, the Americans have shortchanged themselves. When George H. W. Bush was President, he appointed Dennis Ross as mediator for the Israeli crisis. When Clinton succeeded Bush, Ross served eight years in that administration. But this Bush wants to rid himself of anything having to do with Clinton. In the end he has made a grim mistake. Ross is a Jew and a nominal Republican who has more than 12 years experience in dealing with the Israeli – Palestinian problem. He is a pro. So instead of Ross, we have Zinni, Cheney and Powell. The pros aren’t welcome in this administration.

Now having said all that, it is time to proceed to more pleasant things, like my relationship with the Essay Director and the Jerusalem Israelis who became my dear friends.

DIRECTOR OF ESSAYS – SHIRLEY MORGANSTEIN
To deal with the effects of a stroke in 1997, Shirley Morganstein, a director at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, suggested that I try my hand at writing essays. The suggestion was outstanding as was nearly everything else Shirley suggested. Shirley scheduled a half hour session on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. This schedule applied from about the middle of November, 1997 until the end of January, 1998.

Early in this arrangement, Shirley was occasionally impatient with me when I failed to grasp some of her instructions. It wasn’t that I was not paying attention or daydreaming. In point of fact, stroke victims often do not understand the latter part of two and three part instructions and give up. On other occasions, the stroke sufferer will have an idea or thought in his head, but will be unable to make it come out of his mouth or from his pen.

After we started on essays on December 8, 1997 I began to write about my travels on behalf of the United States Army and the AT&T Corporation. The description of foreign customs and cultures seemed to intrigue Shirley. I worked hard to supply her with three new essays every week. It was probably by far the best therapy that could have been provided. I think my breakthrough with Shirley occurred when I gave her an essay about Poland. The Soviets who built the Forum Hotel in Warsaw insisted that it be a world class hotel. It was far from that. But in any case the Russians provided shoeshine machines in the elevator lobby of every floor. What got my attention was a sign in Polish, French and English posted in a prominent place on each machine. The sign said “Do not attempt to shine both shoes at once!” Shirley thought the story about the shoe shine machines and the sign that went with them was pretty hilarious. I didn’t know it at the time, but half of Shirley’s ancestors came from Poland. Later, knowing nothing about the other half of Shirley’s ancestry, I wrote about Rumania. As it turned out, the other half of her traced its ancestry to Rumania. For years, I had a Rumanian doll in peasant finery on my shelf. It came from Bucharest. Also, there were two embroidered miniature Polish flags in a frame that had caught my eye many years earlier. I presented Shirley with one of the flags and the Rumanian doll. She put them on a shelf in a prominent place in her office where she said, she could see them often. I am delighted that Shirley has two objects that remind her of her ancestry.

Shirley, of course, was Jewish. She told me about sitting Shiva for one of her relatives. Our occasional discussions about religious matters were pleasant and informative to me. She never inquired about my faith or lack thereof. She was a live and let live sort of person. I did enjoy telling her in an essay about one of my experiences with John Solomon, an Australian who was loaned for two or three years to the telephone administration in Papua New Guinea. John was our escort while my colleague and I were in Port Moresby and surrounding territory.

John Solomon was named for an uncle who was born in 1922, the same year of my birth. When the elder John Solomon tried to enlist in the Australian Armed Forces in 1939 and 1940, he ran head on into institutional racism. Simply put, the Aussies did not want Jews in the Armed Forces and if the truth were known – they didn’t welcome them as fellow Aussies either.

John Solomon made three attempts to join the Australian Army and was rejected each time. From what his nephew said, the authorities did not use subterfuge to cover their religious discrimination. They simply said that Jews were not accepted as part of the Australian Army.

So John Solomon had a new thought. On his fourth attempt to enlist, he said his name was John Sullivan. Australia is full of Irishmen because after England lost the American colonies, they had no place to ship their long term prisoners. So in spite of the long sea voyage from England to Sydney, Australia, the prisoners were shipped to the land Down Under. Irishmen had a prominent place in English prisons. And in the 200 years since Irish prisoners were shipped to Australia, their rate of producing offspring has been prodigious.

So the recruiters said to the alleged Irishman (nee Solomon) that he would be welcomed into the Australian Army. As the war developed, heavy fighting came to what is now known as Papua New Guinea. American and Australians and New Zealanders who fought there remember that as a dreadful place. Along with many other soldiers, John Solomon was killed in 1944 at the tender age of 22. In accordance with the regulations of the Australian Army, he was reburied in a well-kept military cemetery along with the other dead from the battle for Papua New Guinea. His grave was marked by a stone cross with the name “John Sullivan.”

When Australia found that its all British Christian population was insufficient to carry them into the space age, they began to accept new immigrants. In the late 1950’s and 1960’s, it became possible to have, for example, an Italian meal prepared by an Italian chef in Sydney. The attitude of the Aussie officialdom started to change, I believe in the 1950’s. Jews were accepted as part of the new landscape in Australia although their numbers remain fairly small.

The surviving members of John Solomon’s family called upon the Australian Army to recognize that it had buried a soldier under an assumed name. This struggle started in the 1940’s and continued until the early 1980’s. Finally, the Aussies conceded that John Sullivan was indeed John Solomon. The nephew of John Solomon took me and my colleague, Ron Carr, to the cemetery and showed us his grave. It was now marked by a Star of David tombstone. We went to a maintenance shed and saw the former cross with the name Sullivan that had marked his grave for nearly 40 years. Ron Carr and I rejoiced with our guide, the younger John Solomon.

Shirley seemed to follow this story with considerable interest. Knowing Shirley, a mix-up like this would evoke her empathy regardless of the racial or religious affiliation of the principals. In this case, I believe she was cheering for the situation to turn out right. In the end, it did.

ARYEH RON NEE LEO RITTER OF VIENNA
When I started this essay, it was my intention to write about three Israelis who contributed much to the enjoyment of my life for the 15 or 20 years prior to 1985. But I got sidetracked a little with Shirley Morganstein, but what the hell, Shirley and the three Israeli’s share the same Jewish faith and I am absolutely positive that they would welcome her into their ranks. They might even elect her Queen of Jerusalem.
So now we will start with Aryeh Ron, Gideon Lev, and Jake Haberfeld, all residents of Jerusalem.

Aryeh Ron is the Israeli name that the former Leo Ritter of Vienna assumed when he came to what was then called Palestine. He arrived in Palestine not long after the Nazis took over in Austria.

In the Israeli telephone administration, when I knew them, they were all workers. They did not have squadrons of employees attending to every specialized task. As it turned out, Aryeh would leave his other duties and come to meet me every time I showed up at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The two of us became good friends. He saved my professional life on one occasion.

The Israeli Administration was the first to join in promoting Teleplan, the American venture to cut surcharges when calling back to the United States. They had invited the General Managers of all the leading hotels in Israel to hear me make my pitch. The sign in the hall of the hotel said that Mr. Carr was going to present a “lecture” that afternoon. About 30 hotel General Managers showed up in one of the large meeting rooms of the Jerusalem Hilton.

In anticipation of the meeting, I had sent a large collection of graphs and handouts to Jerusalem for the participants. This was an important meeting because we hoped that Israel would become the first Teleplan country. But as the time for the meeting drew near, there were no graphs and handouts so I prepared to do without them. Actually, we started the meeting when the door to the meeting room burst open and in came a sweating Aryeh Ron carrying this enormous load of material. Well, the long and the short of it is that Israeli customs had decided that the packages posed a security risk. All that morning of the meeting, Aryeh Ron had been in battle with Israeli bureaucrats trying to get the shipment released. Finally, he threatened to go to the Minister of the Israeli government for customs with the thought that the Americans would not be very happy to lose this material, particularly when the hotel industry in Israel would stand to lose if the American failed to make a deal. That did the trick and he arrived at the Hilton Hotel at the final moment. We got the contract with the Israeli Hotel Association, the first Teleplan contract. And my friend Aryeh Ron had made it all possible.

There were several occasions when Aryeh and I had a chance to spend perhaps an hour or two together. On one such occasion, Aryeh told me about how the Nazis acted when they came to Vienna, his hometown, in the latter half of the 1930’s. His name then was Leo Ritter and he was identified as a Jew. I believe he and I are about the same age so from age 14 to perhaps 18 or 19, he had to contend with the Nazis. On two or three occasions, the Nazis had residents bring toothbrushes to a meeting point in their district. They were then instructed to use the toothbrushes to scrub the sidewalk.

At that point, the Nazis wanted to be rid of the Jews. Concentration camps came a year or two later. In any case, Aryeh took the hint and decided to leave Austria. He lent his support to Zionist causes so it was natural for him to go to Palestine. Hebrew was a new language for Aryeh but he said he soon mastered it. And he changed his name from Leo Ritter to Aryeh Ron.

Before long, a beautiful young lady showed up in Palestine. She spoke German. She told Aryeh of her trepidation about learning the Hebrew language – which is not easy. Old Aryeh told the fair young maiden that if she went out with him, she would learn Hebrew in record time. I don’t know if that was true, but I know that they married and had a family. I went out with them for a Sabbath meal, and after 35 years or so, they seemed like a very happy couple.

There is another occasion when we spent a whole day in Aryeh’s company. We started early in the morning in Jerusalem and drove east to the Dead Sea, then north to Jericho, along the border with Jordan to the Sea of Galilee where we saw the Golan Heights which Israel and Syria had fought over. Aryeh seemed to keep close tabs on his watch. So that afternoon, we headed west to Haifa where Aryeh knew a man who permitted us to enter the University of Haifa canteen where we shared Israeli orange juice. As we left, Aryeh said that if anybody in the United States asked where I had gone to school, I should say the University of Haifa. For twenty years I have been waiting to use that line, but so far no one has asked.

After the orange juice, it became clear why Aryeh was keeping close tabs on his watch. As I soon found out, his daughter lived in Haifa and she had a six year old daughter who got out of school at 5 PM. Aryeh parked the car and sort of trotted toward a group of people standing on the sidewalk. In an instant his granddaughter left the people on the sidewalk and sprinted toward him. The hugs and kisses started to flow with great abandon. That encounter was worth the long trip to Israel.

I haven’t seen Aryeh in perhaps 18 years. His company has changed hands and of course, it is largely impossible to find out anything from the current administration of AT&T. Aryeh Ron is one of my closest friends. I admire him and maybe someday I will see him if not in Jerusalem, perhaps in Vienna.

MAN MOUNTAIN GIDEON LEV
Now we turn to Gideon Lev. Gideon became the President of the Israeli International Communications Corporation. He was a big man, perhaps six feet two inches weighing somewhere around 250 pounds. When Gideon talked, other people listened. When he walked, other people got out of his way. He was not mean or mean spirited. He was just a big man, clumsy at times, but a person who wanted to advance Israeli causes. I believe Gideon came from Poland. He was an early devotee of Zionism and as a result, he emigrated to Palestine. For all his pluses and minuses, I liked Gideon and count him as a good friend.

On one occasion, I had been in Rome and planned to leave early on Friday morning for Tel Aviv. At the time, the Israeli people I dealt with were in negotiations with the Italians. It was headed toward great unpleasantness. I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis. Well to start with, there is a two hour difference in time between Italy and Israel. The plane was slightly delayed so when I left the plane and found Aryeh Ron at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, he said that we had to make tracks to get to Jerusalem. Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, of course. So Israelis knock off work at noon on Friday and return Sunday morning.

I found Gideon and Jake Haberfeld in the dining room of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It may have been 1:30 PM when I finally arrived. Friday luncheon was largely over but that did not deter Gideon. While the waiter was reluctant to take our order, Brother Lev found the head waiter and one of the hotel’s administrators, and made it pretty simple. Meeting with me was important to the Government of Israel and if the King David’s management became an obstacle, old Gideon was prepared to roll all over it.

We had a lengthy meeting. The food was served by the headwaiter himself. The food in Jerusalem was never something to brag about, but as I recall it, we enjoyed what the headwaiter served us. The fact that the hotel dining staff lost part of their weekend was sort of a patriotic contribution, if you believe Gideon.

Gideon distinguished himself in the eating department on one other occasion in Paris. As the English say, at table, Gideon left a lot to be desired. When the food was set in front of Brother Lev, he seemed to want to make it disappear as quickly as possible. Forget this business of chewing your food 15 or 30 times. That wasted time. I suppose that given the speed at which he ate, his food may have been chewed one or two times at best.

In Paris we were about eight at breakfast. Gideon and Jake Haberfeld represented Israel. There were perhaps two French men with the rest being Americans. I sat next to Gideon. He ordered two poached eggs along with whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs. But no ham or bacon. When the poached eggs were set in front of Gideon, he lifted each one on the toast and stuffed the egg in his mouth. He didn’t eat the toast – just the eggs. I was astounded but I should not have been because I had seen him eat before. Needless to say, Gideon finished long before any of the rest of us did.

Gideon Lev may not have conformed to good social behavior, but he was a fine negotiator who was like Jake Haberfeld, always fair. I found a lot to like about Gideon. He had a good sense of humor. But most of all, if for some reason I needed someone to share a foxhole with me, I would be delighted to jump into that hole with my good friend Gideon Lev. Provided there was any room.

Now that we have spoken about Shirley Morganstein, Aryeh Ron and Gideon Lev, there is only one more Star of David to account for. That missing Star of David is Jacob Haberfeld who is remembered by me as one of my best friends ever.

GENTLEMAN JAKE HABERFELD
I’m guessing but it appeared to me that Jake may have been my senior by eight to ten years. He started life in Warsaw, Poland and seemed to have developed a keen interest in the Zionist movement among Europe’s Jews. So in 1936 or 1937 he pulled up his stakes in Poland and cast his lot with the Zionists in Palestine. Jake never talked about himself but from his friends, I gather that he played a prominent role in establishing Israel as the Jewish homeland.

As one approaches Jerusalem from the west and southwest, the roads run uphill. On either side of the road are dozens of tanks, all destroyed. The tanks were used by the Muslim defenders of Jerusalem in 1948 and in subsequent years.

Each one had to have been destroyed by Israeli infantrymen. The old tanks are still parked along the sides of the highway as reminders of the price that Israel paid for its existence. Independent observers have told me that Jake Haberfeld had much to do with the establishment of the State of Israel. I never heard about that from Jake. He always took the view that we’ve got enough to deal with in the here and now without retrieving past history.

I had formal and informal dealings with Jake for more than eleven years. There were occasions when he was required to reply negatively to an AT&T proposal. When he finished his explanation for declining our proposal, I would often say that old Jake was right again. He was never belligerent because logic was often on his side. He was a very skilled defender of Israeli interests. When I encountered a refusal from Jake, which happened rarely, I was never offended. Jake’s explanations always made sense.

Late in the 1970’s, Israel and Italy reached an agreement to build a cable between a location in Italy named Palo and Tel Aviv which came to be known as the Tel-Pal Cable. Not long after the inauguration of that cable, the Italian administration was taken over for a time by very unreasonable people. The people that we had dealt with for years were thrown out. The Israelis felt that the newcomers were deliberately excluding them, and they were right. AT&T had a lot more clout with the Italians than the Israelis did. On several occasions we used our influence with the Italians to extract information that was helpful or vital to the Israelis. One of those occasions occurred when I was late in arriving from Rome to Jerusalem. I have earlier recounted that episode when Gideon Lev held the dining room open on a Friday afternoon, the start of the weekend, to serve us.

In a different conversation with Jake some months later, again at the King David Hotel together with Mrs. Haberfeld, Jake seemed puzzled by my description of what had recently occurred in Rome. Finally, Jake turned to his wife and the discussion that ensued had to do with the new Italian director having a Jewish name. Both agreed that the Italian I had questioned was a Jew. All ethnic considerations aside, I told the Haberfelds that the Italian in question was crude, bombastic and wanted to take revenge upon everyone who had worked with the Italian administration prior to his arrival. That included me. Unfortunately, I have long since forgotten that man’s name but in any case, Jake and Sarah Haberfeld said he was a Jew in an Italian suit. I took their word for it.

On another occasion, John Wieters, the Israeli country manager and I were in Jerusalem. As we were taking our leave from Jake and his staff, Jake said privately to me, that we should save room for some desert after our evening meal because he wanted me to come to his apartment. He said also that I should bring John Wieters with me.

As I’ve said many times over, the food in Jerusalem leaves much to be desired so it was no trouble for John and me to skip desert. Now we come to a slight difference in the way things are done in Israel as opposed to Europe, for example. Most telephone administrations in Europe maintain fairly large motor pools. There would be well dressed chauffeurs to drive you to your destination. Chauffeurs and waiters are accorded professional status in Europe, a quite different distinction from this country. But the Israelis have no motor pool and no chauffeurs – and they get along quite well.

Before Jake picked us up, John Wieters had managed to get some flowers for Sarah Haberfeld. At the appointed hour, Jake drove up in his car at the King David Hotel and we started to his home. His car was not a new one but it got the job done. When we arrived at Jake’s apartment I was happy that I had elected, at the last minute, to wear a sweater under my jacket. The reason was that it was a cool night and Jake’s apartment was unheated. I suppose most of the apartments of that time were also unheated so the Israelis simply put on more sweaters.

The evening passed very pleasantly with the Haberfelds telling us about how Israel was doing. They told us a little about how they had come to abandon Poland and set out for Palestine. Jake drove us back to our hotel. When we were alone, John said that he had looked back at the history of the dealings with the Israeli administration and that our visit to the Haberfelds home had never happened before. I was flattered.

On another occasion, I was accompanied by Howard Davis, the account executive of N. W. Ayer Agency who did our advertising. Jake came to Tel Aviv to meet us. Howard is the son of a circuit riding Methodist preacher in Missouri. I’m not sure that Jake was aware of Howard’s relation to the hierarchy of the Methodist Church, but he took us to a restaurant that offered seafood, which is sort of a rarity in Israel. Not only did they offer seafood, but the main item featured on the menu was St. Peter’s fish, which comes, if my memory is half way right, from the Sea of Galilee. According to Christian tradition, Jesus Christ caught St. Peter’s fish in that sea. In latter days that fish is called tilapia. Now having said all that, I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish. But Howard said the fish was delicious. I agreed.

When I retired on September 1, 1984 I was awakened at about 7AM by a call from Jake to wish me a happy first day of retirement. This was in addition to a note he had written. I was very touched by his wishes for a happy retirement.

As the 1980’s turned into the 1990’s, Jake continued to work as an advisor to the Israeli submarine cable company. I’m not sure that the Israeli administration has a pension plan so people work well into what would normally be retirement years. One day, probably in 1995, I heard from a round about way, that Jake had died. I called Jerusalem for details but didn’t seem to get anywhere. Perhaps a month after Jake’s death, I got a call from Yitzhak Haberfeld, Jake’s son, who was studying for an advanced degree at the University of Wisconsin. Sarah Haberfeld had unfortunately been debilitated by Alzheimers Disease. Rather than institutionalize her, Jake tried to take care of her himself. I suppose it was more than Jake could handle. He died of a heart attack. Speaking to Yitzhak was a lot like speaking to Jake. I was delighted to receive that call.

It would be possible to go on even further about things big and small about Jake Haberfeld. I think it is fair to say that I admired him greatly and I am proud to say that he was one of my best friends ever.

I am glad that I finally got around to writing about the Four Stars of David. The three men in Jerusalem became very close friends. I learned a lot from all of the Stars of David.

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a particularly poignant time in the history of Israel. History can’t be changed now but I greatly wish that Yitzak Rabin was the Premier instead of Ariel Sharon. And I wish that the George W. Bush administration had not let things progress to the perilous point at which we find them today. And indeed I wish that Dennis Ross would be restored to guide the United States interests instead of war hawks who now surround the U. S. presidency. If nothing else makes sense, Sharon’s statement of yesterday puts things in crystal clear perspective. Sharon said Israel would have to take leave of the position of the United States having to do with the Middle East. Sharon said that the U. S. is interested only in its projected war with Iraq whereas Israel is interested in dealing with the Palestinian issue. Bush has the facts exactly backwards. I don’t admire Sharon, but that statement makes it clear that Israel comes in second best after Iraq with the Bush presidency. Unfortunately, the American people will have to pay for this most unfortunate mistake.

E. E. CARR
3-28-02

AN AFTER THOUGHT OR TWO

I am not a Jew although I hope you have seen where my strong sentiments lie. My ancestors fled the Great Hunger in Ireland in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Some people refer to that period as the Potato Famine. It was more than just potatoes; it involved hunger by a large part of the Irish population. My parents never met a Jew before they came to St. Louis shortly after the 20th century began. Growing up, I had no preconceptions or prejudices about the Jewish faith. I’m very glad about that because it saved me a lot of wasted time disliking or hating the Jewish people. My mother had two overwhelming dislikes. The first was the German Army because they had gassed two of her brothers in the First World War. The second was the English. A lot of the resentment against the British came directly from the Great Hunger in Ireland.

But I had a shot at becoming a Jew. When I enlisted in the United States Army in the summer of 1942, each soldier was issued dog tags which became useful when a body had to be identified. The tags were worn around the neck, hence the name dog tags, and had to be worn at all times. If the owner of the dog tags died, one of the tags was attached to his coffin. Some bodies, such as in the Air Force, were never recovered so the tags more or less went to waste.

As part of the enlistment process, we were asked by the soldier who was in charge of making the indentation on the tags what our religious preferences might be. The Army offered three designations: P for Protestant; RC for Roman Catholic; and J for Jew. I told that soldier who was charged with making the dog tags that I was not identified with any of the choices he had offered. I more or less suggested “None of the above” for my dog tags. The maker of the dog tags was a big man and he was a Buck Sergeant. He looked at his imprint device and the next letter was “P.” He informed me, “Soldier, you are a Protestant.” And so I missed my opportunity to claim Jewish identity. That’s what happens when you are a slow thinker.

Now a final-final thought about the crisis that has struck the Israeli-Palestinian situation this week of Passover and of Easter. I am largely convinced that all the bloodshed might have been avoided had Sharon not pushed Israeli settlements into Gaza and the West Bank. There are now some 250,000 to 300,000 Israeli inhabitants in settlements in Palestinian Territory. Those settlements rub salt in the wounds of the Palestinians. It tells them they are impotent and are not to be regarded as full human beings. Sharon’s people say God gave all of Palestine to the Jews. I don’t buy that. If God or Allah or whatever gave the land to the Jews, I am sure he would have chased the Palestinians into the sea, even though they have lived on that land for 2000 years. Of course, that did not happen.

But I despair of making headway for my thoughts. I am sobered by the thought that my belief is in non-belief. Neither fish nor fowl. So I suppose my views probably count for nothing. Maybe next year, but not now.

After all these years, it never dawned on me to point out to Jacob, Aryeh and Gideon that my first given name is a Hebrew one. Ezra has a full book in what Christians call the Old Testament. It can be found between II Chronicles and Nehemiah. The fact that I failed to point this out to my friends in Jerusalem simply confirms that I must be a mighty slow thinker.

E. E. CARR
March 28, 2002

ADDENDUM

After I wrote the Four Stars of David essay, three thoughts about Jake Haberfeld occurred to me, which I would now like to add to the record.

In the essay, I labeled the section having to do with Jake as “Gentleman Jake Haberfeld.” He was all of that. On one occasion in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, I was joined by a woman who was a Director in the AT&T Long Lines Advertising Department. I was simply trying to educate the advertisers about Israel. When the time came for lunch, Jake gently inquired of the woman, “Would you like to go to that certain place?” She barely knew what to say to this very polite request. In the first place, the female in question was on her third husband. She had been around the block more than once. Secondly, in the United States, someone would have said the John is down this hallway – find it yourself. Ah, but Jake was all gentleman with his inquiry about that “certain place.”

Before all the troubles started in Israel, we met Jake for another meeting in the early 1980’s. In opening the meeting for the U. S. side, I jokingly said to Jake that it would be fine with us if Israel took over in Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai, Syria and Lebanon so long as Miami Beach would be returned to American hands. I am assuming that everyone knows that Miami Beach is populated primarily by Jewish residents. Jake immediately replied, “That’s one of the problems with the Americans. They always want a package deal.” I was laughing so hard that it was impossible for me to respond. Touché Jake.

At another meeting with just Jake and myself, Jake presented me with a small oil lamp. Before candles and electricity came along, the ancient people in the Middle East used oil lamps. The oil lamp he gave me had been used in Palestine in ancient times. It came with a certificate of antiquity from the Israel government. Jake insisted that his gift was nothing, really. That oil lamp was as far from nothing – as Jake said it was – as it could be. It is a treasure and for the past 25 years, it has had an honored place in this house on the mantel in the living room. Nothing indeed – my foot.

These three foregoing thoughts came to me a day or two after I finished the Stars of David essay. I thought it would be well to add them to give the reader a fuller picture of Jake Haberfeld. He was some kind of guy.

E. E. CARR
4-2-02

~~~

The phrase “whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs” threw me for a loop, because “Paris Hilton” generally refers to a person instead of a place.  I was briefly forced to consider what egg garnish the celebutante would favor so strongly that Pop would refer to it while reminiscing about old friends.

“I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish” made me smile. I hadn’t heard about any of this before, so now I suppose this particular piscine knowledge has now been transferred. Thanks, Pop.

All the talk about “I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis” and similar statements sounds so spy-like to me. I know they’re probably not, and that the information was probably just related to telephony, but I guess there’s not really a way to be sure. I wish he had gone into it more! I regret not asking him if he had more contact with the FBI than he brought up in his essays.

FURTHER THOUGHTS IN PRAISE OF NON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E. E. CARR
January 27, 2012

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

The prior essay he mentions is here.

A TREATISE ON WHILES AND WHENS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E. E. CARR
July 16, 2012

~~~

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

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

FROM THE FRIENDLY WHITE HOUSE TO YOUR HOUSE

If you were alive in January of 2001, you may recall that George W. Bush ascended to the Presidency of this country. He got there by virtue of the ugly fact that the Supreme Court was counting the ballots. At the conclusion of the ballot count, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia issued his ruling that George W. Bush was the supreme leader of this sweet-smelling country and was free to proceed to his inauguration. He also stipulated that this ruling would not be a precedent for future rulings. This is preposterous because the Supreme Court issues rulings that are supposed to be precedents for every case that follows. But not in this case which led to George W. Bush assuming the presidency of this country.

Shortly after George W. Bush assumed the Presidency, he discovered much to his horror that there was a surplus in the Treasury of this country. This mortified Mr. Bush. He instructed the Treasury Secretary and the rest of his Cabinet that such a situation was intolerable, and that the surplus in the Treasury was to be pissed away at the earliest opportunity. So the tax rates of this country were immediately reduced with the provision that in ten years’ time they would revert to the levels under the Clinton administration and the Bush tax decrease would go away. That was the proposition. It was to be a temporary tax decrease resulting in less money coming into the Treasury for a period of ten years.

To do his part in disposing of the Treasury surplus, Mr. Bush first declared war in Afghanistan and secondly, he decided that it was time to invade Iraq. So here we were, early in the last decade, with two wars on our hands and all of this was to be accomplished with the decreased revenue from the income tax. As Mr. Bush correctly concluded, at the end of ten years, this matter would have to be settled by his successor, thereby leaving Mr. Bush largely blameless.

In December of 2010, the Bush tax cuts were set to expire. At that point, Mr. Obama was our President. Because of the great depression that had occurred in this country starting in 2008, Mr. Obama did not want to impose any new taxes on the middle class. Accordingly, he proposed that those with incomes of $250,000 or less could keep the Bush tax rates. For those with incomes in excess of $250,000, the tax rates would simply revert to the tax structure that applied under Mr. Bush’s predecessor, Mr. Clinton.

But the Republicans claimed that this was a tax increase on the millionaires and proceeded to fight Mr. Obama. There was even a proposal put forward by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York that the Clinton tax rates would apply only to those with incomes of $1 million or more. That of course was unsatisfactory to the Republicans. As everyone knows, there are a lot more middle- and lower-income people in this country than there are those who have incomes of $1 million or more. But as we are finding out, much to our dismay, Mr. Obama had no wish to take on these wealthy Republicans. The proper term for Mr. Obama was that he caved. In spite of the lost revenue that should have been collected from those in the upper brackets, Mr. Obama let the millionaires keep their lower Bush tax rates and he threw in a sweetener. The estate tax exclusion would change from $2 million to $5 million, which means that wealthy individuals can pass on more of their wealth to their heirs.

The developments on the tax rate structure set my heart aflutter. I thought that Obama had the right instincts when he proposed that people with incomes of $250,000 or less could keep the Bush tax rates and that those with larger incomes would simply revert to the tax rates that applied during the Clinton administration. This would have been a pushover because there are so many more middle- and lower-income people than there are millionaires. But Obama did not wish to take on this fight which could have been so easily won. As I said earlier, Obama caved.

On December 9, 2010, I managed to still my heart flutters and compose a letter to Mr. Obama which was delivered by email. I had chosen email because it is faster than the so-called “snail mail.” I made all of the arguments as to why Obama should have fought this one out, and I concluded with the phrase, “Mr. Obama, in view of your capitulation, it would seem appropriate for you to resign.” I thought that by asking for Obama’s resignation, I would arouse a bit of interest in White House circles. But it didn’t even cause a ripple.

The email was sent on December 9 and I heard nothing for three months. Finally, on March 16, a gap of three months, an email arrived at our house which constituted a reply to my letter. The email from Washington that addressed me as “Dear Friend” rather than “Dear Mr. Carr,” thanked me for writing. There was a statement about why Mr. Obama had chosen this course of action and the kicker was that in the year 2012, Mr. Obama would make a valiant effort to re-establish the tax rates that applied during the Clinton years. That, of course, is unadulterated hogwash. In a Presidential election year, which would be 2012, I will be astounded if Obama ever approaches this subject of restoring the Clinton tax rates. But the main thing that I took away from the beginning and the body of the letter had to do with people in Washington referring to me as “Dear Friend” and saying, “Thank you for writing.”

But now we come to the most interesting part. Instead of including a complimentary close at the end of the letter, the letter was simply signed, “Sincerely, The White House.”

Since my retirement more than a quarter of a century ago, I have been absent from the business world. I was astounded to find that so many changes had taken place during my absence. During my long years in the telephone business, I was careful to address answers to the person who had written to me. That no longer seems to be desirable. In this case the words “Dear Friend” seem to suffice. What if I were a tea party type who hated the Democratic Party and all that it stands for? Do you think those people in Washington would have replied to me calling me a dear friend? But I was most impressed by the fact that at the end of the letter it said, “Sincerely, The White House.”

From this time forward, I intend to imitate what the White House has taught me. My next letter, if there is one, may be addressed to “Dear Friends in the White House.” This will save me from trying to determine which person is currently the President.

Now, when it comes to the complimentary close, it is my intention to sign the letter, “Yours truly, from The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.” As you can see, those people in Washington have taught me a brilliant lesson about letter-writing. How out-of-date it would be to sign my future correspondence, “Yours truly, Ed Carr.” The proper form, as I now understand it, is to say, “Yours truly, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.”

Corresponding with the President, it would be presumptuous of me to refer to him as a “dear friend.” If the administration sends a letter that ends with the complimentary close of “Sincerely, The White House” I am obliged to use that form of address in future correspondence. Any future correspondence from me will be addressed to the White House rather than to an individual. I now know that addressing a letter to an individual is completely out of date. Now if I were to take the “Dear Friends” quote seriously, I might find the form of address that suggested a great friendship. In formal correspondence, I might refer to “Dear White House.” Once the dear friendship had been established and matured, I might forget the “House” part and refer to those in Washington as “White” or, better still, “Dear Whitey.” I suspect that the latter point leaves much to be desired.

But I am enamored with the idea of signing my letters, “Yours truly, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.” If those people in Washington can sign their correspondence as “Sincerely, The White House,” I see no reason why I should not adopt that form of complimentary close. As a means of identifying the house from which the letter originated, I could say, “Sincerely, from the Blue Gray House on Long Hill Drive, right next to the house that was advertised on the For Sale sign as ‘I’m gorgeous inside’.” As a further means of identifying the house that originated this letter, for the last year I might also have specified that it came “From the house across the street from the Johnny-on-the-Spot in the front yard.” I offer these geographic references so that there is no mistake about the house that originated the letter.

So you see that a gristled old reprobate like myself can really learn something at this late stage in my life. I had not realized that I was so far out of compliance with basic standards in letter writing. But there are some things that must be taken into account as I become more accustomed to the new rules.

Suppose that love should strike my heart and I were to write a love letter to a young woman of 75 or so. I could not address her as “Dear Friend” nor could I use the complimentary close as dictated by the White House of “Sincerely, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.” So you see, there are many things to be worked out but I am confident that they can be overcome. I am deeply grateful for this discovery of the “Dear Friends” and “Sincerely, The White House” lessons that have come to my attention before I cash in all my chips. So boys and girls, always remember you’re never too old to learn a little something.

E. E. CARR
March 19, 2011

~~~

The point is taken, but I’m not sure there’s any better way for them to have signed it. Clearly Barack wasn’t responding himself, and he’s the one you wrote the letter to. They could have signed it “Doug Smith, Mail Room Staff” or even “Form Letter G” but I think “The White House” is a better alternative. By same token, “yours truly, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive” is a perfectly acceptable closure and should be leveraged frequently, even if that particular house is no longer in play.

Many people often confuse national debt and the budget deficit. Clinton was running surpluses to budget, which of course Bush vigorously reversed. Occasionally people hear about that and think that somehow under Clinton, the USA didn’t owe any other countries any money, which naturally wasn’t the case; I’m positive Pop knew this, but future readers might not, so it seems like it’s worth clarifying.

Also odd: I could SWEAR I’ve already published this one. But all my searches for terms it in don’t turn up any results. Somehow if both WordPress and Google’s searches are failing me, apologies for the double post. More likely I just read it but never published, but man. Feels strange.

PISSANTRIES, POLITICS, AND A GORGEOUS MISTRESS

I generally keep my notes for future essays in my head but in some cases on an old dictating machine on my desk. Two of these notes appeared simultaneously and I thought that there were enough similarities that they could be married together. The first essay has to do with the ancient word for an insect, “pissant.” That explains the first word in the title. The second word, “politics,” is also related to the pissantries. The third entry in the title is “a gorgeous mistress” named Kimberly Bell, who was the mistress of Barry Bonds, the home run king, for many years. I will take each subject separately but from time to time you may see how they have become married.

The word “pissant” is an older term which refers to an insect. The insect is an ant that seeks the feet of humans and animals. The word “pissant” is far from a vulgarism. It is a living creature, just as bedbugs and gnats are living creatures also. Pissants dart from one section of the body to another and are generally just plain miserable. They are hard to swat and the pressure from the swatter is sufficiently great to move them to safety.

As I have related in earlier essays, my parents were quite religious. But they had frequently identified politicians who were bothersome as pissants. Unfortunately, that word is no longer in common usage because of the advance of insecticides that destroy the pissants in their nests. And so we see that the pissants became largely worthless creatures who now no longer bother us, but who have also disappeared from the latest dictionaries.

During the last few months, there have been inaugurations of several Republican governors in the Midwest and now one in Maine who have qualified for the title of pissant extraordinaire. Apparently these governors have made compacts which they have set out to rule the bargaining rights for state workers. They have set out to achieve these ends by all means fair or foul. In the state of Maine, the new governor there has declared that a mural in the state labor department is offensive to him and must be moved. Yet the mural, consisting of perhaps 13 panels, depicts workers in Maine building boats, fishing, and doing all of the other things that require labor in the state of Maine. The panels have existed for some time but now the new governor has decided that he is an art critic who wants them moved or put in storage. His complaint is that when businessmen come around to the department of labor, they will conclude that the panels prejudice the department against business.

In the Midwest, we have such governors as Scott Walker in Wisconsin and the governor of Ohio named John Kasich, who have passed legislation denying state workers the ability to bargain their wages. As someone who knows a little bit about labor relations, I view this as a temporary situation because given a bit of time these governors will be recalled or defeated in the next election. But these governors clearly qualify as pissants. If my parents were alive today, which they are not, they would identify these governors as clear examples of pissantries. They are making buzzing sounds as pissants do. The results of their labor are nil. These governors, including the Midwestern ones and the one in Maine, deserve to be terminated like bedbugs or gnats. But their time will come in recalls or in elections.

Well, so much for pissantries and politics. It is now time to turn to Kimberly Bell, who was Barry Bonds’ mistress for several years. I suspect that some of my readers may wonder who this Barry Bonds is. I will tell you.

Barry Bonds is the son of Bobby Bonds. Both of them were famous baseball players. Barry Bonds, according to baseball records, is the greatest home run hitter of all time. I dispute that, as do many others, because it is reasonably clear that Bonds had the help of steroids as he compiled his home run record. But then as his playing career drew to a close around 2007 or 2008, Barry Bonds was implicated in a steroid scandal involving not only himself but a star swimmer in the world Olympics. The swimmer was a female and, at the time, she admitted her use of steroids and was sent to jail for a short period of time, say two years. But old Barry Bonds wanted once to tough it out and in the process lied, or so it is alleged, to a grand jury about his intake of steroids. And that is what the trial that is taking place as I dictate these lines on March 24, 2011 is all about.

Bonds contends that he took no steroids but that his trainer gave him a combination of flax seed and another thing called Cream. The federal government has witnesses who will testify that they have seen Bonds injecting himself or having a trainer perform that service. At this early point in the trial, it would seem to me that the evidence against Barry Bonds is reasonably overwhelming.

But hovering in the background is a witness for the federal government who will deliver, it is alleged, some damning evidence. We all know that Barry Bonds’s feet jumped by two or three sizes and that the muscles in his arms expanded greatly during a winter off-season when he said that he was not taking steroids and the government said that he was. But regardless of his arm measurements and muscles and the size of his feet, we now come to Kimberly Bell, whose testimony will be extraordinary.

It is an established fact that Kimberly Bell was the mistress of Barry Bonds. There seems to be no dispute on this point. On the other hand, Miss Chicka, my wife, contends that Barry Bonds had a wife as well as the gorgeous mistress. I contend that a man can have a mistress regardless of his marital status but there are those who contend that mistresses apply only when there is a marriage involved. I regard this question as being a pissant one which shall give me the license to say that these two essays are married. In any case, we know that Kimberly Bell was a long-time mistress of Barry Bonds. During that association, there must have been occasions when sexual relations took place. Now we are told that Kimberly Bell is prepared to testify in this federal trial that she is certain that Bonds took steroids because the size of his testicles shrunk. I am not an expert on these matters but I advise all of my readers to pay close attention to the reports from San Francisco having to do with Barry Bonds’s testicular size.

When Kimberly Bell testifies and states that the size of Barry Bonds’ s testicles has shrunk, the defense attorney defending Mr. Bonds should have a field day. In the first place, he will probably taunt the government for not calling Barry Bonds’s wife to testify about the size of his genital equipment. We can believe that the wife had known Barry Bonds longer than the mistress had, and thus a good comparison of before and after taking steroids would be available. But Mrs. Bonds, if there is such a person, is not on the witness list for the government.

Let’s go back to the cross examination of Kimberly Bell. It would be very interesting to know how she had determined that Mr. Bonds’s testicles had shrunk. For example, did she take measurements before and after steroid use was attributed to Mr. Bonds. The defense attorney might inquire of Miss Bell how the size of Mr. Bonds’s testicles compared to other persons, male, that she had observed. This all goes to the point of whether the witness was an expert on the size of male testicles. Then the witness might be asked to provide the jury with the current size of Mr. Bonds’s testicles. She may also be asked whether the shrunken testicles occurred quickly or whether it was a matter of gradual disappearance. But throughout his cross examination the defense attorney is always at question for failure to produce Mrs. Bonds, if there were one. It would seem to most observers that his wife would be in a better position to testify as to the size of this equipment over a long period of time than his mistress.

But the fact of the matter is that the government is going to rely upon the testimony of Kimberly Bell. Because she was merely a mistress of Barry Bonds, it may cause some on the jury to question her value as a witness. Nonetheless, I am advising my readers that they should follow the daily reports from San Francisco to see how the cross examination of Miss Bell proceeds. For all I know, we may get a high definition exhibit of Mr. Bonds’s private parts.

I would make a prejudiced juror in this case because I do not believe that Barry Bonds is entitled to be called the home run king. That title belongs to Henry Aaron, who compiled his record with the Milwaukee Braves and then the Atlanta Braves. He used no steroids. Aaron is a gentleman who was moved to congratulate, not very warmly, Bonds when Aaron’s home run mark fell to second place. Henry Aaron is a credit to the game of baseball. Barry Bonds is a predator in the records of our national pastime.

Well, there you have my thoughts on pissants and politicians such as the governors in the Midwestern states and Maine, as well as my thoughts on the testimony of Kimberly Bell. I regret that I did not become a lawyer. It might have offered me the opportunity to cross examine Kimberly Bell. I would suspect that the lawyer who does the cross examination will remember it for the rest of his life and use it in after-dinner speeches for many years to come. But more than anything else, my notepad is empty and my brain has been relieved of carrying these two potential essays around. That in and of itself makes writing these two essays more than worthwhile. To think that I have informed my readers about pissants and Kimberly Bell’s testimony fills me with joy unending.

E. E. CARR
March 27, 2011

~~~

This one has a sister essay from about a month later that’s also worth a read.

An interesting fact about pissants (which are just wood ants) is that they get their name from their smell; their nests smell like urine, due to the construction material and the formic acid that the ants produce. Incidentally, the resemblance to these ants was what inspired the name of the “Formics,” which are the evil aliens in everyone’s favorite Mormon Sci Fi book, Ender’s Game. (Turns out that ol’ Orson Scott Card is a direct descendant of Brigham Young himself, who knew?). Anyway that series is pretty terrible but it does involve a space war against what I’m now realizing is a race of scientifically advanced pissants, which adds a fun spin to the series.

I regretfully have nothing to contribute regarding the size of Bonds’s testicles, but I think it’s pretty screwed up that he’s allowed to keep the home run record.

THE KING WHO STUTTERED

Over the recent Christmas holidays, my daughter and her legally-wedded husband went to a movie which must have had to do with George VI of England who stuttered. Apparently my daughter was impressed by the film, which my mother would have called a “picture show.” Eva Baker and Frances Licht, who are associated with these essays, also saw the movie and were favorably impressed by it.

My mother’s belief has always been that picture shows are the consummate work of the devil, which accounts for the fact that I did not see a picture show until I was 13 years of age. At that point, “The Sign of the Cross” was being shown at the Shady Oak Theater in Clayton, Missouri. I persuaded my mother to permit me to see that show on the ground that it contained religious content. It was an atrocious film and for the rest of my life I have avoided movie theaters. Nonetheless, my daughter and her husband thought that the film about George VI was impressive and for that reason Suzanne, the daughter, made a request of me. Rather than interpreting her thoughts I simply offer her email for your consideration.

Suzanne’s email request for an essay January, 2011.

Pop and Judy –
Yesterday Carl and I went to see a movie. We rarely do this, but it was a holiday, so we did. We went to see “The King’s Speech” which is about the stuttering problem that King George VI had and his relationship with an unorthodox speech therapist. The relationship had to be kept hidden at first. It was actually well done as a movie.
What struck me about the movie that I thought would be of interest to Pop was the depiction of the importance of radio in the lead-up to WWII (George VI had to make speeches to rally England, of course, so being a “stammerer” was quite a problem), and the introduction of news reels in the late 30’s. In the movie, everyone in England was basically glued to their radio as George VI announced the declaration of war on Hitler, as Hitler refused to relinquish Poland.

I said to Carl on the way home that it was sad that in less than a century we’ve gone from radio/newsreel/TV broadcasts of major events that the whole country collectively sees and experiences together — to today, when the news is splintered into internet and cable TV news and everybody gets their news their own way at the time they choose. That led us to speculate about the news reels that were shown in theatres. Did everybody see them in the late 30’s? Once a news reel of Hitler came out as he invaded one country and then another, would most everybody be in a movie theatre in the next week or so to see it, or would just a few people in the US see it?

Pop, how about an essay about living in the US and the run-up to WWII – news reels, what you remember about it, what was the prevailing opinion in Missouri about what was happening in Europe and how did people get their news.

That is my request for 2011.

-Suze

As a preliminary to my response to my daughter’s request, there are some points that need to be made. If there is any one else in this world who is less of an authority on movies and pictures shows, I would like to meet him. I believe that I own that title exclusively.

A second point that must be made at the outset is that the generation to which my daughter belongs is unacquainted with the thought that there was a time in this country when there was no television at all. None! Furthermore, there were no computers and ipso facto there was no such thing as email and internet. None! This may be hard to choke down, but as we used to say in the Army, “Them are the facts.” No television, no computers, no email, no internet.

Our means of communication were local radio, national radio, newspapers, and news magazines and the local and long distance telephone system. There was no such thing as saying, “I saw it on television last night.” Charles Osgood appears on a CBS television program on Sunday mornings and always uses his long term radio sign-off, “I’ll see you on the radio.” But Osgood was not around in the pre-war period that we are talking about. And so, let us proceed to parse Suzanne’s email with the hope that in the end it will make a bit of an essay.

At the outset, there seems to be a misconception that newsreels were a major source of information for the American public. While I was not a theater goer, I believe that is hardly the case. If I understand the concept of newsreels, they are short features of news reports shown between films. It must be remembered that in the pre-war period, those newsreels had to be shot by hand, developed, and then distributed. My guess is that the newsreels that you might have seen at your local theater reported events of perhaps two weeks prior. Also, it is my belief that newsreels had to show such things as successful bombings and the stance of our troops in victorious poses.

May I suggest that nowhere was the Bataan death march or any similar event shown on a newsreel. That would have been a downer and I suspect that downers were not the subject of newsreels. My belief is that newsreels were designed to give the audience a pumped-up feeling that everything was right in this world. For the first two years of World War II, there were very few things American audiences could feel encouraged about.

So the net result is that newsreels had their place in the theater between the major attractions as a source of information. They were not intended as a major source of news. I would have considered them unreliable and late in arrival.

Our main source of information came from the radio and from newspapers. Curiously, the news on the radio was usually confined to a fifteen-minute segment which had few commercials in it. What we got was 14½ minutes of news rather than the current situation where we cannot tell what is news and what is advertising. The news, in my recollection, came on at 6:00PM. It was often followed by orchestras such as Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

There was no such thing as “all the news all the time” stations. We had entertainment and at 6 PM or thereabouts we had the news for 15 minutes. It is possible that there was national news on for 15 minutes followed by local news resulting in a half-hour news broadcast. But of that I am not quite so sure. The reader here must remember that in those days of 1942 until August of 1945, I was not a resident of this country. By enlisting in the United States Army, I found myself in Africa, Sicily, and Italy.

It was the custom of the broadcasting companies in this county to station correspondents in many of the major capitol cities where news events were to be anticipated. The foremost correspondent abroad belonged to CBS. He was Edward R. Murrow and was stationed in London throughout the war including the “blitzkriegs” of the German Luftwaffe. When correspondents could not get their reports to the United States, they would use Murrow to establish that link. Murrow was a jewel as it relates to the news during the war.

But during my overseas service, when noontime approached, we would search for a radio receiver that could pick up the news broadcast from the BBC in London. I can remember with great clarity that the programs usually started with a signal followed by an announcer saying, “London calling.” The BBC broadcast had almost no propaganda and no commercials. It told the news as it was, good or bad. As a result, the troops paid a great deal of attention to what the British Broadcasting Corporation had to say. If there are any kudos to be passed out for the run-up to the war in Europe, it must go to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Now we advance to the question asked about the prevailing opinion in the great and glorious state of Missouri. For many years, probably starting in the 1920s, a major voice in the run-up to the war were the reports in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. When I was overseas, my mother read those dispatches faithfully in the hope that she would find my name in them. But that was not the case. The Post Dispatch had bureaus in Washington and published reliable news during the period when Hitler was invading several countries and when Tojo, the head man in Japan, was doing the same in the Far East. The Post Dispatch did not hide the facts from the people. In the early part of the war, we were losing. It was after this time in early 1942 that I joined the American Army. There was no good news during those days, and I suspect that my parents may have believed that their youngest son was going away for good. But the fact is that the mainstay we were able to rely upon were the newspapers such as the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

I gather that there were other newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune run by Bertie McCormick, who published glowing reports of our successes or near successes. But that was not the style of the Post Dispatch or the New York Times. So in retrospect, I must conclude that the main source of news came from newspapers and radio.

Prior to our entry into the war, a group of senators led by Robert Taft of Ohio seemed determined to keep us from engaging in that conflict. Taft, for example, was wildly opposed to the “lend-lease” program which released destroyers from the United States to Great Britain to help in their defense. But I must conclude that the general outlook in Missouri was that there was a job to do in the war, and that we should set about doing it promptly.

On the other side of the ocean in Great Britain, the Prime Minister was a gentleman named Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain and Taft were two of a kind. History will record that Chamberlain made a trip to Germany and came back with a document that he said would guaranteed “peace in our time.” The ink was hardly dry on that piece of paper when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia.

Finally we turn to the question about the generational divide. There is some debate as to whether we are better informed today than we were in the run-up to World War II. The recent disclosures in the private dispatches from our diplomats as demonstrated by Wikileaks would lead me to conclude that in many cases, we are being hoodwinked. But before the Second World War, most Americans could trust what appeared in reputable newspapers such as the New York Times and the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow. I cannot say the same thing for the news that appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

In all likelihood, we must be better informed today than we were back then. On the other hand, if you want a biased opinion today, on the Republican side you must tune in to Fox News. If you wish to have a biased opinion in favor of Democrats, you must tune in to MSNBC.

St. Louis, which was a sophisticated town, had the Post Dispatch, as I have mentioned. We had the National Broadcasting Company appearing on the KSD station of the Post Dispatch. Then we also had the Columbia Broadcasting System outlet on station KMOX. If the American Broadcasting System (ABC) existed at that time, I am unaware of it. Mind you, I am speaking as a person who has long ago kissed the 80th birthday mark goodbye. It seems to me that between KSD, KMOX, and the Post Dispatch, we were reasonably well informed.

But if I massage this question a bit, does anyone believe that the Bataan death march would be included in the news broadcasts of the current era? And that was not the only example of thoroughly unpleasant news.

But again, I am a biased reporter. You realize that at this juncture in my life, I cannot see a damn thing. Accordingly, all of the information I receive has to come through my ears. May I assure you that the oral presentation ain’t so bad. This is precisely where I started in the years before television intruded on our lives. For a St. Louis native, that would have been around the period 1948 to 1950 when television came into being there.

With my sight being the way it is, I now receive my news orally and I am not here to complain about it. Now I do not recommend that all of you lose your sight so that you may enjoy oral presentations of baseball games and the news of the world. I am here to say that television has added a new dimension to our lives. But on the other hand we were getting along quite well without it.

In conclusion, my hope is that Suzanne’s email has been sufficiently parsed, and that you have some idea of the feelings of the American public as World War II approached.

Now as to the story about King George, I must add that the inspirational speeches were made by the Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The King often was found at flower shows and receiving Boy Scouts and wholesome things of that nature. The job of informing the British public and inspiring them was left almost exclusively to Winston Churchill. King George was regarded as a nice person but when compared to Churchill, he was clearly the second, or third or fourth banana. During that time, I was serving with British troops in Italy and Africa. I believe that I am correctly assessing their views on the Royal Family. The King’s job was to visit military hospitals and occasionally say a few words to the British public. Before and during World War II, George the Sixth was more of a bit player than a person of significant influence. And as for newsreels, my belief is that they had limited newsworthy qualities during that trying period.

Unfortunately, I dictated this essay on the same day when the killings were taking place in Tucson, Arizona. All of this accounts for my making hash of this essay. Next time, I will try to do a bit better, providing we don’t have more murders by deranged people with guns.

E. E. CARR
January 8, 2011

~~~

I don’t think this was a botched essay whatsoever. It’s interesting to encounter another medium that Pop was deliberately closed off to, though. No fiction, no movies, very little internet. Clearly his strategy worked for him, but it’s hard to imagine being isolated from so much content for no convincing reason.
I think the 24-hour news cycle probably does more harm than good. Presenting news only when newsworthy things happen, in my estimation, makes the news more reputable. As it is, it’s constantly full of meaningless fluff content, and news channels grow ever more indistinguishable from entertainment channels. Fox and CNN are the worst offenders. Fox is just a joke, whereas CNN pretends to be a news channel but is basically just theater; it hires talking heads to come say insane things, then reacts to those things.

HUBCAPS AND NECKTIES

Before I get to the meat of this essay, I must introduce you to my sister Verna, who was the eldest person among the Carr siblings. Verna was proper in all respects. Perhaps she got this from her mother, who wore dresses that buttoned up to the neck. In any case, Verna, who was 15 years my elder, contended that she had assisted at my birth. I do not recall that incident but if Verna says so, you can take it to the bank.

Now, with respect to Verna, in the late 1920’s, she acquired a stenographer’s job with the Endicott Johnson shoe company in St. Louis. That was at the time when there was a slogan called “First in Booze, First in Shoes, and Last in the American League.” The reference of course was to the St. Louis Browns who were the paupers of the American Baseball League. There was no doubt that St. Louis, which had a plethora of breweries and shoe manufacturers, was first in shoes and booze.

In any event, Verna not only kept herself neat and proper, but insisted upon that conduct among her colleagues. For example, she would come home from work decrying that another stenographer who worked with Verna had her slip showing all day long. For Verna, this was a grave offence. A much graver offence had to do with the exposure of the bra straps. Somehow or other, every woman was expected to conceal the bra straps beneath her underclothing and never reveal them to the outside world. This was an anomaly of the first order in that Verna came from a rough and tumble family, but there was Verna, singing in the church choir without her bra straps or her slip showing, leading the righteous to their good deeds of the day.

Now let us turn to the main subject of this essay about hubcaps. I will try to marry Verna’s modesty somewhere along the line with hubcaps. The early model automobiles all had their wheels fastened to the brake drums of the car through the use of lug nuts. As I recall it – and I am an expert on the subject of changing tires – there were always five lug nuts that held the wheels in place. Sometime in the late 1930s but certainly in the post-war models of automobiles, it was considered a grave sin to have the lug nuts showing where the wheels were fastened to the brake drums. So the automobile manufacturers provided hubcaps to conceal where the lug nuts were attached to the wheels.

The hubcaps started out as small gadgets about ten inches in diameter but then proceeded quickly in the after-war years to great expanses of covering. They were held on, as I recall it, almost exclusively by tension between the hubcap and the wheel rim.

Let me point out that hubcaps were purely decorative devices. They served no other function except to conceal the lug nuts that held the wheels in place. Now if my elder sister Verna could have had a hand in this, she would have used hubcaps to cover the bra straps and/or the slips showing from under the dress.

As I dictate these lines, the image of Thelma DuPont comes to mind. Thelma is a long-time friend of mine who shares some of my views on the origin of the species. I suspect that Thelma and some of her compatriots such as Margaret Murphy would have welcomed a hubcap to cover up the exposure of bra straps and the under slip showing beneath the dress.

In former days, there was a large cottage industry, usually located on rough streets, that specialized in retrieving hubcaps that had been jarred loose by the ruts in the street. Remember the hubcaps were not held on by a nut but rather by the friction between the hubcap and the wheel rim. Sometimes the hubcaps would be collected by boys who took them to dealers. The boys could expect a return of four or five dollars for each hubcap. The hubcaps could be resold by the dealers who would expect perhaps as much as $20 for each errant hubcap.

But then in the 1980s a disaster struck hubcaps. From that time forward, hubcaps were deemed non-essential to the operation of the automobile and were disposed of. So it was that the cars that were purchased in the 1980s and subsequent models simply had the lug nuts attaching the wheels to the brake drums. The lug nuts were exposed for all the world to see. My sister and my mother would have been aghast at this development because everyone knows that under coverings should be concealed. But for the past 25 years, hubcaps have been a collector’s item. They were decorative devices that were deemed unessential to the operation of the automobile and which added to the cost.

During my long career as a filling station attendant, it was always my practice when changing a tire to put the lug nuts in the upturned hubcap. The new wheel was mounted upon the car brake drum. Five lug nuts would be retrieved and would be screwed on the lug. Then the hubcap would be replaced by putting it against the wheel cover and hitting it with the heel of the hand to force it into place. Hubcaps were not to be struck with rubber hammers because that might dent them. They were to be placed against the wheel cover and gently put in place by hitting them with the heel of the hand as the main enforcer.

Well, as you can see, hubcaps were simply decorative devices which toward the end of the game became quite elaborate. They served no useful purpose other than to conceal the lug nuts which held the wheels onto the brake drums. Now if Verna had found such a device to conceal bra straps and hanging slips, she would have whispered to her friends about the new concealment device. But hubcaps are one thing, and slips that show as well as bra straps are quite another. And if every woman concealed her bra straps and did not permit her slip to show beneath her dress, what would there be to gossip about?

Now let us turn to neckties, which are the other subject of this essay. In my retirement, I have been necktieless for several years. On ceremonial occasions day and night I submit to having my neck adorned by a colorful tie. On retirement, the necktie count on my dresser wardrobe door had at least 80 neckties. Time has gone on and I have given them away, assuming that anyone who took the ties would have some use for them. Like hubcaps, neckties are, in my estimation, merely decorative devices. They do no harm except when they get caught in a squeezing machine. For a good many years I avoided the four-in-hand neckties, favoring bowties. But the bowties were a thing of the past when the war ended in 1945.

So in substance, neckties and hubcaps are simply decorative devices. They do no great harm. They might bring pleasure to the owner of the hubcaps or neckties. And there are occasions which I suppose a male on the make may use neckties to entice a female into conversation. But all things considered, it was nice while we had hubcaps and I suppose neckties are still with us. They do no harm and so I am happy to have them. They give pleasure to those who wear them and to those who in the case of hubcaps still own them.

So this is my story about Verna, hubcaps, and neckties. Verna is gone now for many years but the same may be said about hubcaps. From what I hear, neckties are following the same path to oblivion but it will take longer. Hubcaps and neckties were harmless devices which would not violate the oath of Hippocrates who said to physicians, “Do no harm.” I enjoyed hubcaps and neckties and now that Verna is gone, I must say that I might have enjoyed her too.

E. E. CARR
April 4, 2011

~~~

I just wish that Pop had encountered spinners when he still had sight. Hubcaps didn’t disappear, they just evolved into something even sillier.

FURTHER PONDERINGS

From time to time I find myself pondering about events of long-forgotten years. Perhaps this is the mark of an aged mind but I tend to view it in a positive sense in that I apparently still have a mind that is capable of pondering.

One of my recent essays had to do with ponderings of the sort that I am attempting to wrestle with today. And so here are some subsequent ponderings that are absolutely innocent in purpose and which will not affect the outcome of world events.

For example, I often wonder about what has happened to words in the English language which have tended to fall into disuse. One word in particular comes to mind, which is “hussy.” As far as I know, “hussies” refers to females and is usually accompanied by an adjective called old or brazen. I don’t believe that in my study of the English language I have ever heard somebody refer to another female as a young hussy but perhaps Ann Coulter would qualify. Generally speaking, it seems to me that all hussies are old or brazen. They are not desirable people who seem to be poking their fingers into other people’s business. On the other hand, I have heard some people refer to other women as hussies who don’t deserve that appellation. But that is really beside the point. My question is why the term hussy is falling into disuse these days. It may be a case where the world has moved on and has found new terms to define females who have objectionable traits. But my question is innocent. I simply want to know whatever happened to the word hussy.

As you can tell, none of these ponderings are connected one with another. They are all independent ponderings. In that spirit, I now turn to the sport of badminton. My foggy memory tells me that at one time the Olympic games included competition for badminton metals.

During the 1930s and 40s and even into the 50s, many homes were equipped to play badminton with a set of small rackets together with a shuttlecock. The shuttlecock looks like half a small rubber ball with feathers attached to the flat part. When the ball was struck, the shuttlecock would fly quickly until it lost its momentum, with which it would then attempt to float to the ground, using the feathers that it came equipped with. Aside from the rackets and the shuttlecock, there was a small net and in many cases people would simply bat the shuttlecock back and forth without worrying about who was ahead or behind. But again if my memory serves me correctly, Asian players such as the Japanese excelled at badminton. Again I am left to ponder whatever happened to the game of badminton. It was a game that could be played by young and old, and I still remember the joy of watching the shuttlecock when, struck firmly with the racket, it went floating into the sky and then floated gently to the ground.

There is a further matter of pondering about why dentists and barbers traditionally take Wednesdays off. I know that they have demanding jobs but people would like to get their teeth fixed on a Wednesday just as people would to get their hair cut as well. It seems to me that the dentists and the barbers could operate short-handed on that particular day, simply to cover the office. But that is not the case. When barbers attend barber’s college and dentists attend dentistry schools, are they instructed that they should take Wednesdays off? I have no idea why barbers and dentists take a day off on Wednesdays. If any of you can help me with my work on this monumental subject, I will appreciate your assistance.

Now we come to my ponderings on male facial hair. Specifically, my pondering leads me to wonder how men decide what kind of a mustache they will produce. One of the most famous mustaches in the world was the one worn by Adolph Hitler, which was sort of a rectangle beneath his nostrils. I did not care for Adolph Hitler, and I cared even less for his mustache. But my pondering leads me to wonder why a man would have this small block of hair below his nostrils on his upper lip.

If I could grow a mustache, which I can’t, I think I would favor a small line above my upper lip. That used to be favored by Spanish movie actors. I stand in awe of how the razor is manipulated on the upper lip to avoid cutting the nose and the mouth and yet produce a nice-looking mustache. But the Carr family was always fair haired and could produce no mustaches of any kind, and so I let that subject pass out of my realm
of thought.

Why men grow muttonchops and handlebar mustaches is something that I really do not understand. Neither do I understand men such as my Uncle George Carr, who grew a brush mustache on his upper lip which was untrimmed. When a liquid is drunk, the hairs on the mustache become soaked and must be dried by putting the lower lip over the top lip to suck them dry. This is a fascinating sight for children to watch but I am now of the belief that it is unsanitary and not very pretty.

A pondering that goes back to World War II has to do with the use by GIs of addressing each other as “Joe” or alternatively as “Mac.” When a GI would approach another person to whom he had not been introduced, but to whom he needed to speak, he would almost inevitably address him as “Joe” or “Mac.” For example, if I were working on an airplane, particularly in a location foreign to my home field, and I needed to borrow a tool from the tool-crib, I would address the GI who ran the tool-crib as “Joe” or “Mac.” I have no idea where these names came from, nor do I know where the term “tool-crib” came from either, but those terms were in common usage during the 1940s when World War II took place. I want to emphasize that there was no hint of condescension when a man referred to another GI as “Joe” or “Mac”; it just meant that the two had not been introduced. In any case, it seems to me considerably better than “Hey you.” A GI who would say “Hey you” might soon find himself flat on the floor with some of his teeth missing. But again if there are any lexicographers out there in this vast audience of mine who recall the words “Joe” or “Mac” or “tool-crib,” I would be glad to hear from them.

My ponderings have led me to wonder about why women wear black dresses on festive occasions as well as in a time of gloom. When I worked, if one woman saw another woman wearing a black dress during the daytime, she would often say something like, “Do you have a heavy date tonight?” At perhaps 70 or 80% of the cocktail parties I ever attended, the women usually showed up in black dresses, which they would describe as “simple.” Cocktail parties were happy occasions.

At the same time, when a woman would attend a wake or a funeral, she would find that the black dress was a requirement. Perhaps there are those who will argue that the black dress that could be worn to the cocktail party as well as to the funeral parlor was a matter of good economics. On the other hand, I can understand a black dress at a funeral or the viewing, as it is sometimes called, but on a joyous occasion such as a cocktail party, I am at a loss to know why the women appear in black dresses.

Finally, whatever happened to women’s hats? There was a time when any woman who wished to go to a function of one kind or another in the evening would wear a hat. Some were very small bonnets that had to be held on with hairpins and there were others that were wide brimmed in the fashion worn by Mexican bolero players. Ordinarily when women came to work, at least with AT&T, they tended not to wear a hat but when evening came, if they had a date or if there were a cocktail party to be attended, the women would retire to their lockers and don their hats. I wonder about whether that custom still exists. But like it or not, that does not keep me from pondering.

There is one additional final thought that I wish to ponder about. That is: when people who live absolutely alone and visit their own bathrooms, do they always close the door? As far as I can tell, there has never been a survey of this subject and I suspect that perhaps there will never be such a survey. But that fact does not keep me from pondering about it.

Well, there you have my set of ponderings for the moment. All of them are innocent ponderings and will not have any effect whatsoever on the fortunes of this once great country. There are those who would argue that ponderings such as the foregoing ones are evidence of advancing age and perhaps losing one’s mind to dementia. On the other hand, I would argue with some vehemence that they are the products of a curious mind which has a period to go before the closing bell is rung. I have been pondering such as those reflected in this essay for most of my life, and unfortunately it has turned out that my ponderings have produced very few answers. But if my current ponderings form the basis for an essay here and there, I would conclude that that is a reward in itself.

E. E. CARR
November 29, 2008

~~~

This is probably one of my favorite multi-essays on the site. I enjoy how much it reveals about how things were, and how they changed.

Anyway, now for some answers based off of a few minutes of internet research:
First, the “closing on Wednesday” thing seems to have a number of causes. Apparently in much of the South, for instance, Wednesdays were popular days for Bible study and big community events like auctions. More broadly, many merchants worked very long days on Saturdays, so they all chose to take half-days on Wednesdays to even out the work week, which makes sense. It’s kind of like just transferring your Saturday afternoon to a more financially appropriate part of the week. That said, in a town of 3 dentists, if two 2 dentists takes Wendesdays off, the third becomes very incentivized to stay open on Wednesdays. Unless you have some sort of collusive agreement, it seems like the market has evened out this trend quite a bit — I’ve actually never encountered a doctor or dentist closed on a Wednesday in my life, as fas as I know.

Second, badminton is definitely still a thing. It’s an Olympic sport!

Third, I think black dresses are reliable and always acceptable, so they’re a good default in the same way that men default to suits. We wear suits to both funerals and cocktail parties, too!

Fourth, I for one don’t see the point in closing the bathroom door if you’re home alone. Why bother?

DISPARATE PONDERINGS

The title to this essay, “Disparate Ponderings,” may well reflect the influence of the New York Times editorial pages upon my brain. The ponderings in question really have to do with remembrances of years past. There are six thoughts in this essay and I hope that some of them will remind old-timers of the days before television and e-mail ever existed.

One of my recent ponderings had to do with female girdles. It seems to me that in years past whenever a female reached the age of puberty, she was obliged to buy herself a girdle. The Sears Roebuck catalogue, published annually each fall, was avidly read by the females as well as the males in our household. I can assure you that Sears had girdles galore. There were long ones and short ones, as well as black ones and flesh-colored ones. What baffled me then in the old days was why a young woman weighing no more than 110 pounds would need a girdle. Yet it seems to me with my faulty memory as a guide that every young woman looked forward to the day when she could order a girdle. In those days, women wore silk stockings with a seam up the back. It is hard to believe but there was a time in this country when there were no panty hose. I suspect that girdles were worn for the sake of keeping the silk stockings anchored so that they did not fall down around the ankles.

But the Second World War seemed to have altered everything. There was a shortage of rubber, and silk stockings were a thing of the past. Your old essayist cannot say that he misses girdles or silk stockings, but it is pleasant to ponder the fact that in the age before television came along there were such things. Sears Roebuck has fallen on hard times and, as an economist, I would suggest that it has much to do with the demise of the practice of women wearing girdles.

Now that we have settled the issue of girdles, another question arises about “Do you remember?” There was a time during the 1930s when athlete’s foot was a matter of serious medical concern. During my years in high school, when the boys would take showers following the gym classes, athlete’s foot was a common occurrence. It is not clear to me what causes athlete’s foot but I can tell you that it existed and that once someone had acquired it, it was difficult to rid oneself of it. During my high school years, I had at least two or three cases of athlete’s foot, which had to be treated with a liquid I remember as Camphophenique. Athlete’s foot was so common that advertisements for its cure appeared in almost every newspaper in a small ad at the foot of the newspaper. The pictures in those ads showed athlete’s foot at its worst, with cracking and peeling of the skin around the toes.

I am not here to proclaim that athlete’s foot was an ailment affecting only youngsters but as I also recall there seemed to be no athlete’s foot in the United States Army, where men traipsed in and out of showers at all hours of the day. This of course assumes that one saw service in a location where there were showers. There were occasions when men did not remove their shoes and socks for a few days at a time, yet my recollection is that no one ever seemed to complain of athlete’s foot. I suspect that athlete’s foot went the way of rheumatism, which has now been replaced by the more upscale term of arthritis.

Now that we have disposed of girdles and athlete’s foot, we must turn our attention to Charles Atlas, a gentleman who promised to turn “98-pound” weaklings into 210-pound behemoths. During the years of the Depression, many magazines were adorned with the advertisements of Charles Atlas. There were half pages and full pages, and each one of them showed a man with bulging muscles who contended that he used to be a 98-pound weakling. I never knew anyone who was taken in by the Charles Atlas advertising, but it was good entertainment during the Depression when there was no television or email.

I suspect that Charles Atlas was a man who sold barbells and other weightlifting equipment. That statement is totally unsupported by fact and it flows only from my memory that some of the people who posed for Charles Atlas advertising seemed to be carrying barbells. How it was that he changed a 98-pound weakling into a 210-pound behemoth never was clear while I was reading those magazines, and it remains unclear to this day. Yet there is a certain nostalgia about recalling Mr. Atlas because his advertisements were so widely printed that almost everyone in this country knew who he was. Perhaps your preacher might not have known who Mr. Atlas was, but I suspect that 95% of his congregation would know a good bit about Charles Atlas. I never heard Mr. Atlas being interviewed on radio and it is clear that no one ever referred to him as Charlie Atlas. And so it is up to us old-timers to remember that
Mr. Charles Atlas ever existed.

Now we turn to another pondering that took place during the Depression years. During those years, there was a great drought that settled all over the Mid West and into the plains states, so that the skies were virtually cloudless. From time to time, I assume wealthy advertisers would hire small aircraft to write their messages in the sky. The messages were brief, but they were quite effective, judging by the number of people who seemed entranced by them as the skywriter went about his work.

Skywriters always flew single-engine airplanes, which were of course propeller driven. They must have carried a tube of white exhaust that, when released, could linger in the sky for several minutes. Naturally, I was entranced by skywriting. It seems to me that letters such as “e,” “f,” and “t” should have been the easiest to write. The more difficult letters would be the letters “s” and “b.” My memory is that it would take perhaps ten to fifteen minutes for a skywriter to write his message in the sky. They only wrote the name of the product, and there was great excitement among the viewers after the first letter or two appeared as to what the message would eventually read.

My last exposure to skywriting came, I believe, in the early 1960s, when my family accompanied me to the New Jersey shore. On a cloudless day, a skywriter would appear and would write a message for the benefit of weekend viewers. There was even a romantic occasion when a skywriter wrote “love U” for the benefit of some love-struck youngsters.

No matter how you cut it, I was a draftsman who had a great interest in the formation of letters, here on the earth as well as in the sky. My regret is that I never had the opportunity to ride aloft while the letters were being written. One of my companions as a child always hoped that the skywriter would misspell a word. To the best of my knowledge, that never happened. All the words were correctly spelled and I regret to this day that skywriting is a function of a long-forgotten era.

Now that we have disposed of my pondering about skywriting, let us turn to a pondering about a wonderful entertainer named Burl Ives. Ives was a singer of folk songs who, like many other singers of folk songs, played a guitar. He was the son of a farming family from Jasper County, Illinois. Jasper County is far removed from the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and other environs. But in the end, Ives eventually made it to New York where, in 1940, he was given his own radio program. His voice was absolutely distinctive. Fortunately, my ponderings have been helped along because I have several recordings which I have made into compact discs which offer such selections as “Blue-Tail Fly” and “I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” I am happy to report that folk singing is a vibrant art that has survived the assaults of rock music, hip hop, and other attacks on mankind.

Ives died a few years back at the age of nearly 90. I suspect that a good many of my older readers will recall him fondly. I certainly recall him fondly and my ponderings take me to the point of inquiring, “Where will the future Burl Ives come from?”

There is one other pondering that takes me into the field of religion where I am usually reluctant to go. In this case, however, it is a matter of economic circumstances having overtaken the teachings of a church.

For many years, the Roman Catholic faith has taught the evils of artificial contraception. Simply put, they dislike every form of birth control. The only exception came during recent years when the Vatican reluctantly approved the use of “natural birth control,” which seems to exist only during the time of the infertility of the female. I suspect that there are thousands of unplanned pregnancies that happened with the use of the so-called “natural planning.” My belief is that natural planning worked perfectly if one or both parties were sterile. But be that as it may, it appears that the economic circumstances of the 21st century generally require those who engage in sexual intercourse to use birth control. When one thinks about the cost of raising a child and putting him through college, sometimes at the expense of $50,000 per year, most people will conclude that fewer children are better than many.

Perhaps these economic circumstances came along a little late because your old essayist is the seventh child of an eight child family. But I was born in 1922 and today things are much different. There is a medical group that we patronize that has many nurses who have graduated from Catholic schools. As a general principle, it seems to me that those nurses are producing only one or two children per couple. One nurse had her second child not long ago and proclaimed that “This is it!” These are healthy young women who, I suspect, are not going to live the rest of their married life in celibacy. And so it is that the Popes over the years who have denounced the evil effects of birth control now find their parishioners practicing that art. With the cost of raising a child, particularly for those who plan to send their children to college, I can only say that this is a logical improvement.

Well, there you have six cases of disparate ponderings. Perhaps it can be argued that my ponderings reflect a wandering mind. Naturally, I would not agree with that conclusion but I would argue on the other hand that my ponderings recall an era when life was simpler and perhaps more rewarding. Any man who contends that my pondering about girdles for example is evidence of a disturbed mind will most likely never recall the use of girdles. Whatever my ponderings reveal about my inner soul is probably irrelevant. At my age I am very happy that I have enough cerebral power left to think about things such as girdles, athlete’s foot, Charles Atlas, skywriting, Burl Ives, and birth control. I would argue that men who have those kinds of ponderings ought to be celebrated with caviar, foie gras, and the clinking of champagne glasses.

E. E. CARR
August 16, 2008

~~~

These type of essays do a number on my search history. In one tab I have a whole set of pretty horrible images of Trench Foot (they definitely had that in war, even if athlete’s foot wasn’t a thing), and in the next there are all these hokey old ads for a bodybuilder man. Incidentally the Charles Atlas company, insofar as it still exists, seems to have not updated their advertising since the campaign that made them so famous. It’s a pretty incredible throwback to go to his site.

Girdles and skywriting are both common, too. Skywriting is pretty typical at big events like airshows, and girdles go by “Spanx” now but it’s the same deal. Another fun set of search terms, by the way, is “Spanx” followed by “Burl Ives.” I like to think that somewhere out there is a VERY confused advertising robot who very much would like to figure out what I’m trying to buy, but can’t at all piece together what these terms have to do with one another.