Archive for the July Category

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON THE MATRICULATION OF SERGEANT CARR

In this mailing, there is a report on the matriculation of Sergeant Carr as he spoke to the 23 members of Class 4B at the Glenwood School in Millburn/Short Hills.  When the festivities were done and I had said nearly all that I could say, I retired to write the teacher, the volunteer parent, and the students a thank you note for inviting me to address them on the occasion of Memorial Day, 2011.

Having completed those tasks, I more or less forgot about the encounter with the Glenwood School students.  I didn’t really forget about the students in grade 4B, but I filed it under the heading of pleasant memories.  For two or three weeks, I went about my business but did not give more thought to the Memorial Day holiday.

Then as July approached and school was being concluded for the year, I received a note from the teacher, Mrs. Briber, to which were attached 23 letters of gratitude for my visit.  I had no idea that my visit could have caused such consternation.  I am grateful nonetheless.  According to the letters, the students of the fourth grade in Millburn told me that they had remembered that on Memorial Day to give special consideration to my four comrades from St. Louis who were killed in action and never returned from the war.  Those four comrades were Ashby Vaughan, Bernie Wheeler, Dave Weiss, and Don Meier.  I must have made a bigger impression on the students than I thought.

As a matter of fact, attached are samples of the letters that were put together by a seventh grade student from the Summit Middle School named Esteban Hidalgo.  I am obligated to Esteban for his help in condensing the replies.  However, I wish to point out that if there are any complaints about the letters to me, they should be referred to Esteban Hidalgo.  I have his address if that is necessary.

One of the letters to me said that I should reply to him in writing.  As a matter of fact, I did not reply to this student because I had answered the question orally, which had to do with whether I was “scared” in combat.  I believe my answer was adequate in that I assured my listeners that I was indeed frightened.

The main thing is that the class of 4B in Millburn remembered on Memorial Day what a solemn occasion it is.  And more than that, a good many of the letters told me that they remembered Ashby Vaughan, Bernie Wheeler, Dave Weiss, and Don Meier.   When you come away from a little talk such as I made with all of that admiration plus a fruit basket followed by thank you letters, it doesn’t get any better than that.

And maybe for the first time, these ten-year-olds were exposed to the idea that Memorial Day is a solemn occasion.  By the time that the next Memorial Day appears, I will have my 89th birthday under my belt and, if asked, I know that my answer will be in the affirmative if they wish me to speak again.  That’s counting chickens before they are hatched when no one knows whether I will be around for the next Memorial Day.   So we will leave things as they are, with gratitude for the students writing methe letters that are attached to this essay.  And remember, any complaints should be referred to Esteban.

 

E. E. CARR

July 3, 2011

Essay 559

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Kevin’s commentary: I don’t have these letters, though I wish I did.

This essay is an expansion on THE MATRICULATION OF SERGEANT CARR, ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES

EXPIRATION BY DRIBS, DRABS AND OCCASIONAL DOLLOPS

According to a book that has been in my possession for many years, there are 47 synonyms for the death of a person.  My purpose here is to add, as unpleasant as it may seem, a 48th definition for the end of life.  It will go by the grand and eloquent title of “Expiration by Dribs, Drabs and Occasional Dollops.”

I realize that the readers of these essays are in what is generally called the advancing years and I tentatively apologize for the length of the title to this essay.  Mind you, I said that I tentatively wish to consider an apology for the length of the title to this essay.  The more I think about the length of the title, it reflects my thoughts and I hereby withdraw my tentative apology.  As the current usage of the language goes, it must be said that “It is what it is.”  I am not quite certain what the definition of “it” is.  But until I see Bill Clinton, I will let my statement stand.

So this is an essay about the end of life which some would view as a somber subject.  I take an opposing view and in this essay I will try to add a little smile to the grimness that accompanies an essay on the expiration of life.  I take this liberty to inject a bit of humor because the life I am speaking of is my own.  One of my former employers, Carl Schroth, would have called it “Yours Truly.”  Schroth is the man who put a piece of plywood in the front of his pants to alleviate a hernia.  When he waited on customers, he would thunk his pants and he would say, usually to younger girls, “How about them apples?”  I am not in Carl Schroth’s league.  My thoughts will be more pedestrian.

For many years, there have been four pieces of exercise equipment which have occupied a prominent place in our basement gymnasium.  There is the Schwinn stationery bicycle.  Then there is a treadmill, a rowing machine, and finally, an upper body ergometer.  My wife keeps records about our performance and, as we have progressed over the years, my performance has steadily gone downhill.  This is not to say that there is cause for alarm.  It is a function, primarily, of the aging process.  Whereas on the treadmill I used to do 30 minutes at a 10% incline, I am now reduced to ten minutes, if I am lucky, at a 1% incline.  The pessimist will say, “What a terrible comedown!”  But the optimist will say that the old man is still exercising.  I elect to go with the optimist.

The fact is that this decline didn’t happen all at once.  It happened over a period of years, which gives me some hope that I may string it out for some time to come.  But that last thought is highly debatable.

But by any measurable means, my performance on the exercise machines has declined steadily over the years.  This is what I mean when I use the title “in dribs and drabs.”

As a matter of fact, about every 16 months I wind up in a hospital bed at Overlook Hospital.  The most recent occurrence was a subdural hematoma, which in common parlance would be blood on the brain.  That episode was an eleven-day affair and set me back in my quest to outdo my fellow exercisers by perhaps another six weeks.

As a matter of fact, I have been a patron of the Summit Medical Group for a good number of years.  They have specialists in every field, ranging from the scalp on the head to podiatry.  Recently, after an attack of arthritis, I presented myself to the bone specialist, who is commonly called an orthopedic surgeon.  He took one look at me and I pointed to where it hurt.  The physician more or less told me to “Get out of here,” because I was pointing to a spot on my back and he did not practice back repair.

In my most recent episode, I got tangled up in the kitchen when the alarm went off for the oven overheating, and wound up falling and hitting Miss Chicka’s refrigerator.

Without going through all of my trials and tribulations, as time has gone on there have been more illnesses and disabilities which have caused hospitalizations.  The title to this essay about occasional dollops refers to hospitalizations.

In the final analysis, the longer my life is preserved, the more ailments I seem to contract.  Now look at it this way.  The Bible says something to the effect that 60 years is an appropriate span of life for the normal human being.  It goes on to say that in some cases the span may be increased to the 70th year.  In very rare cases, the Bible holds that there could be an 80th year.  There should be no confusion between the Summit Medical Group and whoever controls the length of life’s span.

But significantly, as the Medical Group has worked to expand my life, certain disabilities present themselves.  For example, if I had been allowed to expire in my 82nd year, blindness would have been avoided.  Similarly, if I had had the decency to expire in my 88th year, there would have been no need to take me to the hospital for the fall which resulted in blood on the brain.

It all comes down to something like this.  A great and good friend, Tom Scandlyn, is a philosopher originally from Harriman, Tennessee and now a resident of Madison,New Jersey.  Tom is of my age group and, when asked how he feels, he has said, “It gets no easier.”  He says that the list of things that he can do continues to get shorter.  And I suppose that performing those tasks takes longer and longer.  So dying by dribs, drabs, and dollops is closely related to the thought that it gets no easier.

It had been my thought over the years that as the expiration of life approached, there would be a miracle and I would go away quickly.  I believe that the Bible describes this as “flying away.”  My neighbor, who was 30 years my junior, had a heart-related incident that took him away at the tender age of 55.  I wasn’t ready to go when my age reached 55 but taking one thing with another, the quick exit would seem to have its merits.  But that is not for me to decide, unfortunately.

What is left here is that as I approach my 89th year, I am dying slowly but surely by dribs, drabs, and dollops. I wish it were otherwise but that is not in my hands.  So I will continue to take my exercise because it prolongs the quality of life.  I will continue to go the Summit Medical Group for the very same reason.  What this all boils down to is that I am my own worst enemy.  The longer I postpone the inevitable end, the more illnesses I will acquire.  I have no intention of ending my life prematurely.

In any case, no reputable gun dealer would sell me a pistol and if I wished to step in front of a train, somebody would have to drive me to the train station and lead me to a spot between the rails.  So ending my life prematurely is out of the question.  And I am therefore left with the thought that life will disappear by dribs, drabs and dollops.  In the meantime, I am of good cheer and I join the rest of my aged friends in waiting for the end.

 

E. E. CARR

July 9, 2011

Essay 562

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Kevin’s commentary: More on falling here and here. More on ageing in the age category.  It is sad, but it occurs to me that there are probably weeks where Pop exercises more than I do. He certainly exercises more than my father, who is thirty years his junior. This is all to say that Pop is doing pretty darn well, considering the circumstances. Still though, essays like this which end on the sentiment of just waiting for death are always extremely sobering. I wish this were not his outlook but who am I to tell him how he is supposed to feel.  And true to his promise, the essay made me grin, so I guess he’s doing exactly what he set off to.

IT HASN’T HAPPENED YET

In the spring of the year 2010, I found myself in the offices of my favorite internist on more occasions than I would like to recall.  I had no specific complaints, such as my foot hurting or my head hurting, but rather I told the internist that I simply felt lousy, lousy, lousy.  The internist did what internists have always done.  At first they order blood tests.  My blood tests showed that everything was normal.

So the internist referred me to a lung specialist.  I made two trips to the lung specialist, including a breathing test, and passed all of them.  But I still felt lousy.

So the internist then referred me to an allergist.  He prescribed a medication that relieved my breathing problems but stopped urination.  Given a choice between breathing and urination, I opted for urination.

It seems to me that there was one other referral made by the internist but I can’t remember what that one was.  Finally the internist must have suspected that at 88 years, I was responding to voices from outer space.  On that final occasion, the internist recommended that I should go see a psychiatrist.

It was difficult to find the office of the psychiatrist but eventually it was located.  The first visit was getting to know each other.  The second visit had to do with getting down to business.  By the time the third visit took place, I had come to the conclusion that there was no point in seeing the psychiatrist any more.  Apparently, he had come to the same conclusion.

But he did offer this one gem that has stuck with me ever since my visit.  I told the psychiatrist, among other things, that I had the feeling that I was taking cold that would lead to pneumonia, or that I was falling.  The psychiatrist answered by saying, “It hasn’t happened yet.”

I believe that I had told the psychiatrist that for the first 70 missions that I flew in World War II, I wore my parachute harness which was a bit of a bother.  On the 71th mission, we were shot down and it was necessary to use that parachute harness finally.  I told the psychiatrist that my fear of catching cold and falling down was well founded just as the fear of being shot down justified my wearing that parachute harness for the first 70 missions.

The psychiatrist was never a soldier and therefore never appreciated my thought about wearing the parachute harness.  Instead, he simply repeated to me in connection with my current concerns, “It hasn’t happened yet.”

I made three trips to the psychiatrist’s office and came away with one thought in my pocket.  That thought was, “It hasn’t happened yet.”  As time goes on, when I have a fear of falling or being hit by a missile or being struck by thunder, I can always recall that it hasn’t happened yet.  While I did not think much of going to the psychiatrist, I find that his advice that it hasn’t happened yet was well founded.

So I offer this thought to you.  If you go through life saying that it has not happened yet, you will save yourself trips to the hard-to-find psychiatrist’s office and the money you save will be devoted to other matters that you enjoy.  I am happy to be of service to my readers in this regard.  Remember that when you suspect danger, you should always repeat the thought that it hasn’t happened yet.  I find myself quoting those lines repeatedly these days and in fact it seems to work.  So remember it hasn’t happened yet, and for all we know it may never happen.

Final thought.  After the experience with the psychiatrist, I had some problems that required me to visit a neurologist.  The first thing she did was to order a blood test during which it was disclosed that on one hand, the level of vitamin B-6 was high at five times the upper limit.  On the other hand, the level of vitamin B-12 was quite low.   When I made adjustments for these two vitamins, the experience of feeling lousy, lousy, lousy disappeared.  In the end, I suspect, that the best advice I can give anyone is to go see their neurologist before seeing any psychiatrist.

 

E. E. CARR

July 1, 2011

Essay 560

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Kevin’s commentary: In a rare twist ending, Pop totally got pneumonia here in 2013. So it has happened. And now it’s okay again. I’m not sure of the philosophical implications of its happening, but especially in conjunction with the parachute scenario maybe an essay entitled “It happened, but all is well” is in order.

 

YOUR LYING EARS

A few years back, there was a popular television program called “You Bet Your Life.”  Groucho Marx, the wise-cracking brother from the Marx brothers, was the master of ceremonies for this program.  There came an occasion when Groucho Marx, in response to a question from one of his participants, asked, “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”  That occasion took place perhaps 40 years ago and in the meantime television has moved on to reality shows and things of that nature.  In any event, “You Bet Your Life” was an entertaining program.  Groucho Marx was an entertaining host.

Now all these years later, we have an essay which I have concluded should be entitled “Your Lying Ears.”  I do not mean this in a derogatory sense at all.  But there are occasions when a listener will cherry pick responses from those who are questioned until he has the answer he wants.  In this essay, I want to call on Dave Muldowney, a certified public accountant; John Denver, the popular song writer; and, finally, Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense.  I hope that those three fellows might illustrate what this essay attempts to prove when it suggests that we all are tempted by happy words that constitute lying ears.

 

The first reference would be to Dave Muldowney, who will illustrate what I am trying to say about your lying ears.  Dave is a long-time friend who has been a certified public accountant for a number of years in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.  About five years ago, Dave discovered that macular degeneration had set in on his eyesight and he was forced to give up his practice as a public accountant.  Nonetheless Dave still goes to the office and tries to read the newspaper with what is remaining of his eyesight.  As Dave explained it to me, he can see nothing in front of him but fortunately he has some peripheral vision.  It is not enough to drive a car but it does permit him to show off while climbing the 18 steps to his former office.

Now that he has lost his sight, Dave tells me that he has questioners who want to know how much he can see and whether he is feeling alright.  So on the occasion when I last saw Dave, we had a longer conversation about the state of his eyesight and how he feels about his reduced status as visitor to the office where he used to be a principal.

Now you see, I am referring to a discussion between two blind men.  Dave tells me that when a questioner asks him about how he feels about his reduced status, he answers something to the effect that “It’s OK.”  Similarly, he answers questions about his health by saying that it is all right.  But in a discussion between two blind men, Dave threw the shackles off.  He told me that there were days when he resented the questions about his health and the status of his former eyesight.  But those answers were not exactly what he told his questioners.  When a sighted person left a conversation with Dave Muldowney, I am certain that the sighted person would say that Dave is in good shape and surviving blindness as well as could be expected.

But in our conversation Dave told me about the occasions when someone moved a chair without telling him and caused him to stumble.  I have the same trouble with someone rearranging my toothpaste or the furniture.  But in the final analysis, when Dave is questioned by his children and friends, they may come away with an impression that is not perfectly accurate.  That is quite alright with Dave, as it is alright with me.  It all works out when two blind men, such as Dave and myself, can have a frank discussion with no holds barred.  And so you see that your lying ears after a discussion with Dave Muldowney or myself might lead you to a conclusion that is not entirely appropriate.  If that is the case, both of us would be sorry about that conclusion.  But it may be where both of us wanted to lead you.  So much for Doctor Muldowney, who by the way is a great conversationalist.

 

The second citation of “Your Lying Ears” has to do with John Denver.  As a matter of fact, John Denver was born Henry John Deutschendorf.  When he moved to Denver, he adopted the name of that town as his surname.  Denver was a magnificent composer of songs that had a slightly country taste to them.  One of his songs, at the end of his career, was called “Some Days Are Diamonds and Some Days Are Stones.”  Here are some lines from the first verse.

When you ask how I’ve been here without you,

I’d like to say I’ve been fine and I do.

We both know the truth is hard to come by.

If I told the truth, that’s not quite true.

It might be noted that Denver wrote that song sometime after his wife filed for divorce.  It is not entirely a pleasant thought.  More than anything else, it illustrates the point that what you hear is not actually what is meant by the person being questioned.

Shortly after the song “Some Days Are Diamonds and Some Days Are Stones” was published, Denver took the delivery of a new airplane which he had just purchased.  In the process, he flew the airplane into the ground and was killed.  I suspect that his age was less than 40.  But in the end, what Denver was saying was that “That’s not quite true.”  Well, here is a second case in which the person questioned answers in a misleading fashion.

 

Last week was the occasion of the retirement of Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense.  Gates had a long and distinguished career, winding up as the Secretary of Defense for both the Bush and the Obama administrations.   In his final press conference, Gates felt more or less free to say what he had known all along.  In answer to a question, Gates said, “Governments lie to each other regularly.”

The fact of the matter is that we knew this about the Afghans, the Pakistanis, and many other governments, but coming from Robert Gates, it established the point that you shouldn’t believe what your ears are telling you.

 

So there are three cases involving Dave Muldowney, John Denver, and Robert Gates.  I do not suggest that only these three men give caution against having your ears lied to.  For starters, I will cite the case of the maid at the Sofitel Hotel in New York who claimed that she had been raped by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund.  Cyrus Vance, the New York prosecuting attorney, thought he had a big one on the hook.  But as it turns out, Cyrus Vance II is the one who has been impaled.  For the ten days it lasted, there were laughs for everybody.  In the end, it appears that Strauss-Kahn may well be a free man and may even wind up as the President of France.

But it does illustrate the point that your lying ears can get you into serious trouble.   And so the warning about your lying eyes also extends to your lying ears.  That is to say that your ears may be no more reliable than your eyes.

 

E. E. CARR

July 1, 2011

Essay 561

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Kevin’s commentary: The phrase “on the occasion when I last saw Dave” stands out to me here, because — as a conversation between two blind men — it could not be further from the truth. But to say that ‘seeing’ someone is linguistically the same as meeting or interacting with them makes me wonder: should Pop and his blind compatriots start saying things like “on the occasion when I last heard Dave?” I feel like the answer is probably no, but the subject is worthy of a little thought.

P.S. Gates is now TWO secretaries ago! Time flies. I remember that mom used to give me quizzes on our government when I was a teenager and I remember being stumped when the Defense Secretary turned out to be no longer Rumsfeld.

Jesus, I hated Rumsfeld.

 

REVIVAL DAYS

This morning’s New York Times had a long story coming from Kansas City having to do with the ultimate in revivals.  It described a “perpetual religious revival” which seems to be attracting a large number of followers.

Unfortunately the sponsors of the perpetual revival entitled their efforts as the International House of Prayer.  For this they have been taken to court because of the play on words involving the International House of Pancakes.  If I had my way, I would vote for the pancake people.

The revival phenomenon seems to be confined to the Protestant faith.  As you may recall, I spent my first thirteen years being dragged to church services – the Baptist, the Pentecostal, the Evangelical, and, finally, a branch of the Baptist faith which eschewed all kinds of musical accompaniment.  Needless to say, I loathed every hour that I spent listening to the blatherings of those Protestant preachers.  The end of the line approached while I was attending the “Free Will Baptist” Church.  The preacher asked that I join a children’s choir singing, “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.”  I decided that this was the end of my association with religion and informed my parents and the preacher.  This did not go over particularly well, but the preacher and my parents accepted it as inevitable.

Before continuing with the subject of revivals, there needs to be some differentiation among the variety of Protestant faiths.  In some branches of the Protestant faith, revivals are an important segment of the worship service.  In the more sophisticated circles of Protestantism, such as the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians, revivals are largely unheard of.

Now in the Protestant faith, there is more than one definition of revival.  There are those who believe that at the end of time, Jesus will revisit the Earth and people will leave the graveyards and flock to his side.  The report in The New York Times about the International House of Prayer group in Kansas City subscribes to this belief.  They are preaching the philosophy that prayer will lead to the end times which they hope will occur rapidly.  They believe that Jesus will return to the Earth resulting in the depopulation of our graveyards.

I do not subscribe to this apocalyptic view.  I had thought that this view was scores of years out of date.  But according to the story in the Times of this morning, apparently there are those who believe that with prayer, the end of the world will occur and Jesus will return.  At that point, people will leave their graves.

As I have said, I do not believe in that view at all.  On the other hand, there is a second definition of revival which involves periodic revitalization of the faith.  Apparently going to church every week is not enough for those worshipers with religious fervor.  From time to time, in the evangelistic branches of Protestantism, revivals are held.  It usually is one week in length.

Now I have seen the results of revivals and I will try to give you a view that is as unprejudiced as I can make it.  In the Protestant faith there are a collection of preachers who style themselves as the “evangelistic preachers.”   They go from one revival to another.  Their sermons preach an apocalyptic view of why we must all be saved.

In the churches that I attended and which I loathe, for a revival, churches were decorated.  When the revival started, the ordinary preacher who usually presided over ceremonies introduced the evangelistic preacher with great ceremony.  At that point the preacher would take a back seat and leave the proceedings to the evangelistic preacher.  The evangelist preacher generally was a master at exciting the crowds.  By the time he had finished his sermon, there were people standing in the aisles praising Jesus.  There were others who were so overcome by emotion that they lay on the floor.  As a general rule, the evangelistic preachers would conduct their ceremonies over a one-week period.  I might observe that at the end of that week, the religious fervor had tended to subside and it was time for the evangelistic preacher to go somewhere else.

W.C. Handy, the prominent composer of blues music, referred to this phenomenon.  In one of his lyrics, probably in The Beale Street Blues, Mr. Handy said that “sinners would be sweating like a sinner on revival day.”  I am at a loss to know what a sinner would be doing in a church service but that is what Mr. Handy wrote.

When the revival week was finished, the church would return to normal and the decorations would be removed.  From time to time, people would comment on the wonderful revival that they had witnessed.  But it has always baffled me that church goers attending weekly services would require a revival to make them shout in praise of the deities.  In any case, the evangelistic preachers had a good thing going from town to town and eating chicken prepared by members of the congregations.

One of the most striking episodes came when an evangelistic preacher, accompanied by a woman, appeared at a church that I was attending at the time.  The woman asserted that she had in fact visited Hell and took perhaps 30 minutes to describe the horrors that it contained.  I was nine or ten years old and I rejected the thought out of hand.

It now appears that the International House of Prayer is a logical successor to the evangelistic preachers who travelled from town to town.  In hindsight, I must say that I admired the ability of the evangelists to excite a crowd but I was unmoved by their appeals for piety on my behalf.   I have no view on the end of times except to denounce it as a complete fraud.  If the preachers want to engage in perpetual prayer, that is alright with me because it will keep them out of trouble.  But I must say before the end of this essay, that I hope the lawsuit by the International House of Pancakes has a happy ending.

 

E. E. CARR

July 10, 2011

Essay 563

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Kevin’s commentary: When it comes to end-of-the-world philosophies, I’ve always found this wikipedia article particularly fun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events. Looks like we’ve got a bit of a reprieve — despite eleven predictions of the end of the world since 2010, there are zero at time of press for 2013. Sigh. I always feel kinda bad for the people who really buy into that garbage, and sell their homes and stuff. And all the general hysteria of the past few years seems to be culminating in a breed of Americans called the “preppers” who make it their main concern to always be prepared for the apocalypse. They have meetings and forums and stores and folk heroes and the whole shebang. I think there’s even a reality show now. This should surprise no one.