Archive for the February Category


Willard “Mitt” Romney is in a pitched battle during the Republican primaries with Newt Gingrich.  Newt Gingrich is a master at spinning a phrase in the English language.  Mr. Romney, on the other hand, does not know his backside from third base.  But two additions to the American language pronounced by Mr. Romney compelled my attention.

In the first instance, Mr. Romney has offered a full-fledged neologism.  Presumably this was when questions about citizenship for the aliens in our midst came up.  On several occasions Mr. Romney used the phrase “self deport.”  I suppose that he meant that whenever the alien in this country felt so much heat, he would go to the airport and “self deport.”  It has been a few days since I have heard Mr. Romney speak on this subject.  I suspect that his handlers have spoken to him about the term “self deport.”

Then of course there was the unfortunate case when Mr. Romney made a remark about poor people.  In effect, he said that we do not have to worry about poor people because they have a safety net.  Without a doubt the remark about poor people attributed to Mr. Romney was a major gaffe.  It took Romney two days to retrieve this error.  He told interviewers yesterday that when he spoke about poor people, he “misspoke.”  May I suggest that Willard Mitt Romney is totally at sea when it comes to speaking about poor people.  He understands absolutely nothing.  In my own case, I wish for Romney to hang around because he contributes much to the misspoken body of the English language.  He is a national treasure.

When Mr. Romney winds up and lets fly with his remark about “self deport,” that is richness beyond compare.  I suspect that before this campaign is done, there will be other examples of Romney “misspokes.”  The fact is that Romney is not a very good speaker and “misspokes,” as in “I misspoke yesterday,” will be a frequent occurrence.  The answer is that the Republicans should never let Mr. Romney depart from his script.  They should forbid questions from the audience.

On the other hand, upon consideration, I now take the viewpoint, “Let Romney be Romney.”   If we let Romney be Romney, the English language will be enriched.  The remark about “self deport” will only be a start.



February 4, 2012

Essay 633


Kevin’s commentary: Oh man, this was before the 47% video. For those who are unfamiliar with the site, we have a whole category devoted to essays concerning Romney. For  more on self-deportation and other Romney-related news, check it out here! I particularly recommend this essay for more Romney-speak in particular.



For a good number of years, I have been pursuing the art of a wordsmith. But all of that has now gone by the wayside as we have seen the Republican primaries take place.

Much to my dismay, the aspirants to Barack Obama’s job have brought up a collection of terms of which I am only vaguely familiar.

A few years ago, I produced a small essay having to do with a woman in Greenwich Village who claimed that she had been raped.  In point of fact, she had gone through the East Village telephone directory and simply pulled out a name and charged him with rape.  As it turns out, this gentleman was a homosexual with a history that extended back more than 25 years.  When the case came to trial, the defendant offered an incontrovertible defense of his actions.  After his recitation that he had had no contact with any females in Greenwich Village, he went on to proclaim that “I have never met a vagina personally.”  Now I thought that his remark was so unusual that I devoted an essay to it.  Oh, by the way, the judge dismissed the case.

But that remark pales in comparison with the disclosures and arguments among the Republican aspirants to Mr. Obama’s job.  Apparently there was a provision in a proposed law in the great state of Virginia that persons who wish to have an abortion have to undergo an invasive medical procedure.  The proposed law does not state that only females may be the subject of this discriminatory fact.  Perhaps that is an oversight.

In all of the years that I have been writing essays, I have only referred to the vagina once in the case of the Greenwich Village man who was accused of raping a woman.  This is not a matter of squeamishness on my part, but if the contents of an essay or a letter do not require the use of that term, I see no reason to employ it.

But now the Republicans have ripped the seams off of our attempts at being rational and proper.  In the great state of Virginia a bill was introduced that provided that a woman could not undergo an abortion until she has had a trans-vaginal inspection of one kind or another.  I apologize for not getting the precise term.  When I go to writing about subjects such as this, words tend to escape me.

The Governor of Virginia said that he would sign the bill into law immediately.  Then he backed off and introduced a measure which would not provide for the intrusive nature of the female private parts.  As one female commentator testified, this would involve being completely undressed and having jelly on the outside of the woman’s body, and I suppose an x-ray of some kind or another.

In both cases, it would involve the female wishing to have an abortion becoming undressed to undergo a procedure that is not called for in her medical history.  The simple fact is that the Republicans, in their desire to do away with Roe v. Wade, are attempting to make it as difficult as possible for those seeking an abortion.  And of course those seeking an abortion are almost always females.  Furthermore, the women will have to pay for this unwanted and unnecessary procedure.

I have now been advised that the proper term that aroused my curiosity is a “trans-vaginal ultrasound.”  I suspect that most of the aspirants will be thoroughly inclined to have the woman humiliated.  But it is not my intention to get into the politics, particularly Republican politics.  From what I have observed, the Republican candidates will be submerged in holes that are so deep that they will never escape from them.

What I am commenting on is that the word vagina hardly ever was used by people such as myself writing essays or in normal conversation.  Ah, but that was yesterday.  While I thought that the homosexual man from Greenwich Village saying that he had never met a vagina personally was so unusual, it appears that now the Republicans are insisting upon this precise terminology.  But I suspect that my indignation will be acted upon in the voting booth by the females who are offended by the Republican’s proposed medical practices.

But as we go forward, I would like for my readers to remember that it was the Republicans who brought you the trans-vaginal ultrasound inspections.  For my own part, I will automatically vote against any person who promotes the trans-vaginal inspection business.  I would hope that the sponsors, completely Republican, will soon be out of business.  But unfortunately that is up to the voters in this great American enterprise.  I may be out of step with those who speak of trans-vaginal inspections, but I doubt it.  In any case the trans-vaginal business has now provided a few new words for your vocabulary.

I long for the days of the past when we were surprised by the Greenwich Village man who said that he had “never met a vagina in person.” I liked it better when we were surprised by the use of the word vagina.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I suppose that we will have to be accustomed to the use of the word vagina in news reports, all of which will come to you courtesy of the Republicans aspirants to Barak Obama’s job.



February 24, 2012

Essay 638


It baffles me that Republican women exist.  Same goes for the fact that decisions that will only regulate women are decided overwhelmingly by men. Or that prominent politicians can throw around the term “legitimate rape” and not have their careers instantly obliterated.

There are a lot of things wrong here.

Pop’s essay “Reflections on the Wahhabi” covers more of this type of material. Ugh.


In recent weeks I have been listening to television and radio reports about something “going viral.”  I was having a hard time trying to realize what the phrase “going viral” meant.  My wife, who pampers me, explained that “going viral” simply meant that the report had gained a tremendous amount of circulation.  I could have figured this out by myself, but in my mind “going viral” had to do with a disease of some kind or other.

An hour later there was a commentator who said, “At this point in time, reports about a youngster having sexual relations with John F. Kennedy is going viral.”  I have no comment about whether the young woman had sexual relations with John F. Kennedy, because I was not there.  But in terms of the language of the Anglo-Saxons, it is my firmly held belief that the phrase “at this point in time” and the thought about “going viral” are less than stellar additions to the language of the Anglo-Saxons.

In time I hope that these youngsters and the commentators will outgrow the need to say “at this point in time” or “going viral.”  But my guess is that if I were to listen to reports on radio some ten years from now, they may still use those two terms.  Now at least I have registered my objection, for which I expect the full praise of English teachers around the world.



February 12, 2012

Essay 636


Kevin’s commentary:

These two phrases seem to have sparked particular ire in Pop, who revisits them both in an essay entitled “GOING VIRAL” written in May of this year. Occasionally Ezra’s Essays will repeat themselves a little bit but I find no harm at all in that.



It is common knowledge that as men grow older, their bodies perform less well.  That is of course a fact of life.  But medical science will not end until the ends of time are reversed.  Men of 75 or so will act as though time had not done its work of deterioration on their bodies.

All of this was brought to mind this morning when I heard a television commercial for a product called “Ageless Male.”  Medical science or perhaps I should say medical fiction says that, in support of the ageless male, those of us in the older category are in the process of having lower testosterone.  Presumably if one consumes the proper amount of the “Ageless Male” wonder drug, the testosterone will be restored and one will then be able to gambol freely with 20-year-old women.

Unfortunately I can see nothing of the wonders of the television age.  In this case, the Ageless Male product is made available to those who can read what the commercial set them up to read.  Unfortunately, they did not read it aloud so that I could hear it.  This is a goofy way to do business but I suspect that the owners of the Ageless Male product did not figure that many non-sighted people would be watching television this morning.

But the facts of the matter are that hucksters will not rest until the aging male has his pockets fleeced.  The ageless male syndrome goes back at least 40 or 50 years in my remembrance.  Those of you who keep track of such things may recall the introduction of Geritol to the American medical market.  For dozens of years I have wondered what the merits of Geritol might be.  So it was that upon my approaching the age of 90, I asked my wife, who was preparing a Walgreen’s order, to include Geritol on that list.  I had long since forgotten my request but in the past week Miss Chicka announced that the Geritol order had been filled.  I do not request that you take my word for the Geritol product.  I am sending herewith a photograph of the Geritol product that is in my possession.

geritol picture

 This is my first experience with the Geritol product.  In spite of the fact that Geritol has been on the market since at least 1952, it has escaped me.  When it was introduced, I seem to recall that at least one druggist in St. Louis sort of winked and said, “It will get you there and keep you there.”  So for at least the last 60 years, I have been Geritol-less.  When my bottle of Geritol arrived with the Walgreen’s order, Miss Chicka informed me that its main ingredient was iron.  I have a suspicion that the Ageless Male product is a take-off of the Geritol potion.

But here we are, after 60 years, still pursuing the same dreams.  We are still trying to turn back the hands of time.  And men will be fleeced by products such as Geritol and Ageless Male.  All of this may not be to the detriment of mankind. Perhaps it shows that the American male has not yet given up on the quest to turn back the hands of time.  They know that the hands of time cannot be turned back, but I take pleasure in watching the quest for the impossible dream.

You will notice that the Geritol bottle shows no sign of intake.  But I always remember the St. Louis druggist who said, “It will get you there and keep you there.”  Perhaps in future essays, I will report upon my consumption of my bottle of Geritol.

On the other hand, I have spent the last 60 years in wondering what in the world was the wonder of Geritol.  Perhaps I will preserve this bottle to show my friends and when the television commercials give me the address for the Ageless Male product, I will order it and give you a description of which is better at getting you there and keeping you there.



February 3, 2012

Essay 632


Kevin’s commentary: I am not sure I want to know where exactly Geritol gets and keeps old men. But if it is what I suspect then this is simply the next in a long line of essays about ED, an acronym that is particularly ironic given the author. Maybe I should retitle this blog Ed’s ED Essays. Kinda catchy right?

Unrelatedly I like essays with pictures in them, though they are of no benefit to Pop. Spices up the blog a little bit.


Pop’s response:

Hey Kevin

I fully expect that when you read this essay you were probably anticipating an essay about dicks and snakes.  That is the furthest thing from my mind in view of the fact that I have taken up the Seventh Day Adventist religion.  Under the rules of that religion, which is closely allied with Joseph Ratzinger’s church, we are forbidden to think about dicks and snakes because it will lead to eternal damnation.  I hope this comment will satisfy your curiosity until I finish my bottle of Geritol.

Ezra – Pop

Hey Kevin

I fully expect that when you read this essay you were probably anticipating an essay about dicks and snakes.  That is the furtherist thing from my mind in view of the fact that I have taken up the Seventh Day Adventist religion.  Under the rules of that religion, which is closely allied with Joseph Ratzingers church, we are forbidden to think about dicks and snakes because it will lead to eternal damnation.  I hope this comment will satisfy your curiosity until Ifinish my bottle of Geritol.

Ezra – Pop


Rhode Island Red

From the beginning to the end, this essay embraces about 85 years of the life of the author.  On the other hand, this essay embraces perhaps 40 years of the life of the red rooster that is the title of this piece.

During the last half of the 1920s, my father was employed by the Evens and Howard Brick Refractory Company in Brentwood, Missouri.  I am not sure why this is the case but brick refractory refers to bricks that are intended to be used in high-temperature situations such as the inside of a kiln.  In any event, the Evens Howard operation became bankrupt about 1930.  At first the employees were laid off but it soon developed that they would never go to work again at that factory.  From about 1925 onward, the Carr family had resided in Richmond Heights, Missouri.  The lot was only 50 feet wide but it was about 220 feet deep.

In 1929 when my father was laid off, there were no such things as insurance programs to ease the unemployed into reemployment.  He was simply out of a job.  The point is that with my father being laid off, there was absolutely no money coming in to the Carr household.  My four siblings were a good bit older than I was and contributed some money.   Between their contributions and whatever temporary work my father was able to pick up, the family survived.  But it was a precarious existence.

Somewhere in 1930, my mother conceived the idea that it would be helpful to the family’s finances if she had a hen house to keep chickens in.  The chickens would lay eggs and from time to time they would provide a meal or two.

Now in point of fact, if a person decides that he or she wishes to keep chickens, it is also incumbent upon the owner to provide the minimum of one rooster per 15 or 20 chickens.  I am not capable of describing here all of the love lives that take place when a rooster is brought into the chicken house.  However, I recall that the rooster’s sexual appetite was largely insatiable.

When my mother decided to go into the chicken-raising business, she had her choice of several different breeds.  But in the end she was always attracted to a breed called “Rhode Island Reds.”  They were supposedly good egg-layers and they would provide a nutritious meal from time to time when eaten.  The series of roosters that were brought in to tend my mother’s flock of hens were also proud creatures to the point of my deciding that they were egomaniacs.  I have long thought that there was nothing quite as proud as a rooster of the Rhode Island Red species.

For the next several years I helped my mother tending to her flock.  Among my duties was to clean the roost, which was not only unsightly but unsanitary as well.  Early in the game, I saw that when my mother wished to provide to us with a “nutritious meal,” she would use her skirts to isolate the hens and would then grab the hen by the legs and wring its neck.  I never wanted to see the death of a chicken.  I thought it was an absolutely hideous exhibition of brutality.  For that reason, I refused to eat the so-called “nutritious meal.”  So it is that from age 7 or 8, I never consumed a chicken leg or a chicken wing or any other part of a chicken.  And that prohibition continues until this day.  But while I was refusing to touch that cooked chicken, the rooster was still parading around the chicken house with its comb erect and was ready to fight anyone who disturbed him and his hens.

Now we shift to a scene that took place in the mid 1970s.  On this occasion, my employer, the AT&T Corporation, had assigned me to overseas duties.  I greatly enjoyed working with all of the people who were responsible for providing international telephone service between those countries and the United States.

My first trip to Rome took place shortly after it was liberated in 1944.  At that point, I was an American soldier.   I next saw Rome in the mid 1970s as an employee of the AT&T Corporation.

On my first trip to Rome, I stayed at the Hotel Excelsior, located on the Via Veneto.  It turned out that the Excelsior was a commercial hotel not much to my liking.  On inquiry, I soon determined that two blocks east of the Excelsior was a quieter hotel located at the top of the Spanish Steps.  My recollection is that there are about 19 or 20 of the so-called Spanish Steps.  However, on or at the foot of the Spanish Steps is a lovely café or nightclub called the L’Arciliuto.  Upon inquiry, I located a fellow named Enzo Samaritani.  It turns out that Enzo was the owner and entertainer at L’Arciliuto.  He was not only the player of the piano but he sang a good many songs of his own composition.  Over the next few years, I saw Enzo frequently.  On one occasion, he took me to the basement of his establishment and withdrew a large spike, dating to the 15th century.  He presented it to me.  It had an honored place in my home until 2008, when I presented it to the owners of a restaurant here called Basilico.

Ah, but I am running astray here because what I really wanted to talk about was the Hotel Hassler at the top of the Spanish Steps.  It was a quiet hotel where almost everything worked to perfection.  My only complaint was that over the years when I presented myself to the front desk clerk, he would determine that I was unaccompanied.  Accordingly, he assigned me to a room with a single bed.  I stayed at the Hassler on many occasions for perhaps the next several years.  In all of that time, I never enjoyed the luxury of a double bed.  The fact that I put up with the single bed business is testimony to the fact that the Hassler was a quiet hotel that tended to all of my needs, such as same-day laundry service.

As might be expected, a good many of my evenings were spent at the bar of the Hassler Hotel.  At the time, I was a devotée of Black and White Scotch Whiskey.  As I entered the bar room, the bartender would place a bottle of Black and White on the ledge in front of him.  Before I told him that was what I wanted, which he knew already, he had prepared me a drink.

On most visits to Rome, my ordinary routine would be to have a drink at the Hassler Bar before having dinner at Trastevere.  Then I found it enjoyable to visit Enzo Samaritani at the L’Arciliuto before retiring.  This made my visits to Rome very pleasant.

In one of my early visits to the bar at the Hotel Hassler, I noticed that behind the bartender was a shelf of glass which contained exhibitions of Roman artwork.  Prominent among the pieces displayed was a pitcher.  The pitcher was in the form of a rooster with his beak being of course where the water disgorged.  When I visited the bar at the Hassler, it brought back several pleasant memories from my childhood in Missouri.  Upon examination, I determined that the pitcher was in the form of a rooster which was apparently of the Rhode Island Red species.

On one visit to the bar room at the Hassler, I mentioned this to the bartender.  At that point, I gave no more thought to the rooster on the shelf.  I expect that my intention was to think of a meal that I was going to have at a place called Trastevere, which means “across the Tiber River” and is located near the Vatican City.  I must point out that the Vatican City has no restaurants of its own that I can think of.

The next morning when it was necessary for me to check out, the clerk said that he had a package for me.  I was running a bit late so I took the package with me, thinking that I would open it on the way to the airport.

The airport in Rome, called Fiumicino, stood a distance from the town.  When I unwrapped the package that was given to me as I checked out, I discovered that it was the rooster from the bar that I had so admired.  At that time on international flights, passengers were requested to appear at the airport an hour in advance of the flight.  That gave me plenty of time to call my secretary in New York and dictate a response to the gift that had been given to me as I left the Hassler.

And so now we go to the final stage of the residence of the Rhode Island Red rooster at our home in Short Hills.  I suppose that the rooster thought of it as a demotion but in any case he was displayed prominently on a shelf in our bar room.  He did not have as many admirers as he had in previous days when he ruled the roost in Rome, but his future was assured.

Neither the rooster nor myself nor my wife realized it, but we are growing a good bit older.  During this process of growing older, we have undertaken the desire to place our treasured belongings in homes where they will be well cared for.  For example, my large collection of books has been distributed to university libraries.

And so it was that one evening recently my wife suggested that the Rhode Island Red rooster should be given to a young couple in New Providence who have just started an establishment called Paolo’s Kitchen.  Paolo’s Kitchen is not a restaurant.  It is simply a place where magnificent food is produced.  Even the Romans would admire Paolo’s Kitchen.

And so the Rhode Island Red rooster begins the next phase of his travels through life.  Life started in Rome and is now continuing in a town called New Providence in New Jersey.  As a curious coincidence, Rome and New Providence, New Jersey are among my favorite towns.  New Providence is the town that I lived in for about 11 years when I first came to work in New York.

I know that Paula and her husband Paolo will provide a good home for the Rhode Island Red rooster.  And so that matter is settled as to the future of the Rhode Island Red rooster.  It gives me great peace to know that he has a place of honor in his new home where the offerings of Paolo’s kitchen are available to him.


February 24, 2012

Essay 637


Kevin’s commentary: The first and most important subject upon which I tend to disagree with Pop is the legitimacy of fiction as a literary genre. A very, very close second is his stance on chicken, which is perhaps one of my favorite foodstuffs and which he will not touch with a ten-foot pole.  Then again I never had to watch any get throttled to death in my backyard. Still, though. Since I hate seafood, maybe from now on I will claim that my mother tortured oysters or something on our porch during my developmental years.


EEC Response to Kevin’s commentary:
Good Jezzus – This kid says that his idea of heaven is eating a chicken sandwich while reading a novel.  Both of these propositions are thoroughly revolting.  Good Jezzus, Good Sweet Smelling Jezzus


Clarifying note from Kevin: while perhaps not heaven, this sounds like an excellent way to pass an afternoon.


As most of you are aware, I spent a good part of my time with the Bell System in the field of labor relations.  The management of AT&T, principally Verne Bagnell, decided in July of 1951 that I should become a management employee.  There were two moves in the future to Kansas City and then to Chicago, at which point I was promoted to a job in New York to be the Assistant Labor Relations Manager.  As it turns out, in the first half of 1955, I wound up sitting on the management side of the table rather than on the union side where I had sat previously during bargaining sessions.  This table was located in the 25th floor conference room at 32 Sixth Avenue.

After a time, we began to make preparations for 1956 bargaining.  Every bargaining session requires a note taker.  My recollection is that in 1956, the note taker was one Albert W. Kunberger.  This was not a glamorous job because the notes were to be taken in longhand.  They did the best they could to capture the essence of the conversation that was taking place as the union and the company sparred.  So this was my introduction to Albert W. Kunberger.

Al was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.  He took great pains to announce that this was not Penn State.  It was the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school located in Philadelphia.  As it turns out, Philadelphia was Al Kunberger’s home town.

I was very fond of Al Kunberger and after the bargaining session was completed, kept in touch with him over the years.  While Al attended an Ivy League school, he was not what one may call an Ivy Leaguer.  Al was used to hard work; whatever needed to be done always got done if it were given to Al Kunberger.

Al Kunberger came from a German family who lived in Philadelphia.  They operated a bakery in the Grays Ferry section of town.  Bakers arise very early so that when the morning light dawns they will have their products ready for consumption.  I have never been a baker but, from hearing tales by Al Kunberger and from our friend Frances Licht, being a baker is not an easy occupation.

The Kunberger Bakery was a “must stop” establishment for residents in the Grays Ferry area.  Residents recall stopping at Kunberger’s Bakery after Sunday mass at St. Gabriel’s to enjoy cinnamon buns and sugar cookies.  This was a prominent place in Philadelphia history and residents fondly recall their visits to the bakeshop.

While Al was attending the University of Pennsylvania, he also found time to mind the Kunberger Bakery in the afternoons.  Apparently the Kunberger Bakery was located in a section of Philadelphia that embraced several schools.  Before Al assumed his responsibilities in the bakery shop, his father apparently had started a tradition.  In essence, he sold day-old or two-day-old products at a large discount.  And so it was that when Al Kunberger was tending the store, if a youngster appeared at his counter, he would order some “stalies.”  The word “stalies” applies to baked goods that are one or two days old.  Apparently the Kunberger Bakery did a large business in selling stalies.  So when Al Kunberger was on duty, he would ask the youngster whether he wanted the fresh doughnuts or the staley kind.  This apparently happened during the Depression and it was obvious that we did everything that had to be done to get through the Depression.

Years passed and Al and I took different routes until sometime in the 1970s.  On that occasion, I was appointed the Director of Overseas Service.  I found that one of my divisions  was being handled by none other than Al Kunberger, who was in charge of service to the Americas.  And so we resumed our friendship after a period which I suppose would be called the interregnum.

In 1984 I announced that I had had enough of telephone work and I retired.  On at least three occasions, Al Kunberger would gather some of his staff, all of whom I knew, and we would have lunch together.  Having lunch with me was not the most elegant thing that Al Kunberger could do while he was still working for AT&T.  When I retired from AT&T, there were no hostilities expressed but certain figures higher up in management knew my inner feelings.  But Al Kunberger was my friend and he disdained those feelings of certain management personnel.  The lunches were very enjoyable to me because I had an opportunity to meet some old friends, but mostly to renew again my acquaintance with Al Kunberger.  More than anything else, it showed me that Al Kunberger still had the guts that I had ascribed to him many years ago.  He did not care what the upper management may have thought about me.  If I were his friend, and I was, Al would thumb his nose at what upper management may have thought.

Unfortunately after I retired, I received the sad news that Al Kunberger was afflicted with bad health.  Within a short time, Al died.

Many years ago, I should have paid a tribute to Albert W. Kunberger in these essays.  But better late than never.  The thought that had lurked in my mind had to do with stalies.  We visit the bakery shop here at least once a week and I find that consumption of day-old or two-day-old bakery goods is beneficial to my well-being.

So let this small essay stand as a tribute to Albert W. Kunberger, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, and the gentleman who introduced me to the word “stalies.”  Al was a Catholic and I do not know whether or not his branch of the religion believed in eternal life.  But if eternal life is in the picture, I am sure that Al would be smiling at me for having written this story about stalies.  I am only sorry that the essay about stalies did not happen while Al Kunberger was still alive.  It got done later rather than sooner.  But if your taste runs to day-old or two-day-old bakery goods, be my guest, because that is the way to enjoy stalies in their full flower.



February 13, 2012

Essay 637



Kevin’s commentary: I like the flow of this one. Labor relations to two-day-old bread. Ooh, and “interregnum” was a new word for me. I’ve always found that I like a piece of writing much more when I have to look up at least one word in it… nice to learn something. Reading David Foster Wallace, as I’ve been doing a bit of recently, is perhaps an extreme example of this.

It occurs to me that perhaps I could write more insightful commentary if I were to upload essays before 1:30am as is happening now, but the fact is that very rarely is content added to the site outside of the hours of 11:30 PM PST to 2:00AM PST. And by ‘very rarely’ I mean “it has happened exactly twice.” I make heavy use of WordPress’s “say this story was published yesterday” feature.

Oh, and tonight’s theme is another single-person-focus night. Cool.




Dear Brothers and Sisters: The scriptural text for this morning’s sermon is taken from Genesis 4 verses 8 and 9.  These verses say as follows:

And Cain talked with Abel, his brother.  It came to pass when they were in the field; Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.  The Lord said unto Cain, “Where is Abel, thy brother?”  And he said, “I know not.  Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The foregoing lines are taken directly from my mother’s Bible.  But they must be taken with a warning that comes from the Gershwin-Heyward production of Porgy and Bess.  In that production, which is the most well known American opera, there are these lines:

The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible

Ain’t necessarily so.


So we have a dilemma at the outset as to whether the words about Cain slaying Abel should be believed.  But because these words come from my mother’s Bible, I am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.  On the other hand, I hold an entirely different view of the remarks made by Cain when he said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  My view is that indeed in a civilized society, we are all the keepers of our brothers.

From my viewpoint, there is unalloyed joy that flows from the keeping of our brothers.  In this case, I am speaking of a man and his wife.  I will include her as a brother.

As many of you know, for several years my wife and I have been involved in the fortunes of an immigrant couple.  They are hard-working and totally honest.  My joy flows from the fact that as time has produced some drawbacks, my wife and I have been able to help this couple.

The wife does housework for a number of people.  Her husband is a truck driver.  As the year 2011 drew to a close, it appeared that she would need an operation on her back which could be quite extensive and expensive.  Fortunately, when she showed the MRI to a chiropractor, he told her that there was no need for surgery at all.  He could take care of the problem.

In the case of the husband, it developed that he had a basal cell carcinoma on his forehead.  The attempts to remove this form of cancer were not fruitful.  We were able to introduce him to my specialist (MOHS surgeon) and in a few weeks’ time the problem will be cured.

The fact of the matter is that people who do housework and local truck drivers don’t earn an enormous amount of money.  Certainly they earn less than Mitt Romney makes.  In the bargain, this couple has three children whom they are trying to educate in the schools of Summit, New Jersey.  Summit is not necessarily one of your low-cost towns.  As a matter of fact, it is a high-cost city in which to live.

The end of the story is that we have been blessed, I suppose, and are able to help with the high cost of health care for this uninsured couple.  That is the reason that I call this an unalloyed joy to know that our resources are able to help this deserving couple who really have no place to turn.

And so I am delighted to report that it gives my wife and me unalloyed joy to be able to help someone who needs help fairly desperately.

So this sermon started out with a reading from Genesis that progressed to a real-life example as to whether or not we are all keepers of our brothers.  I would argue most forcefully that indeed we are all keepers of our brothers.  I realize that this is not the case, particularly from watching the Republican primary candidates.  But there are good people in this world aside from the Newt Gingriches who will agree with me that we are all in this together and that we must all be keepers of our brothers.

Ordinarily at the end of a sermon, or somewhere before the end, there is a collection plate which will be passed from one person to another.  This is a sermon that you get for free.  There will be no collection basket.  The only thing that I want you to carry away from this sermon is that indeed we are all keepers of our brothers.  That is more than true for those of us who are more fortunate.

Having heard the sermon and its adaptation to people who need a bit of help, there now arrives the time for the postlude from the organ.  The pastor at this point may invoke a blessing on the crowd.  I am not skilled in the way of pastorship.  As the organ plays, I would hope that you will take with you the simple thought that we are all responsible for our brothers’ welfare.

And now for Cain and Abel: I hope that my parishioners will also take with them the thought that “The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible ain’t necessarily so.”  DuBose Heyward wrote those lines and they were set to music by George Gershwin.  If you have any complaints about the sermon, which I believe was celestially inspired, or about those lines, then take your complaints to the lyricist, Mr. DuBose Heyward.  I believe that he died a few years back.  If there is no response, I will not be surprised.  But in the meantime, I want you to think about the keepers of brothers when you are asked, “Are you your brother’s keeper?”  The answer should be, “You bet your backside I am!”



February 3, 2012

Essay 630

Postscript: When I repeated this story to my lawyer who is a staid fellow, he corrected me.  He said that the proper form would be, “You bet your sweet ass I am.”  He and I have been arguing about words for years, but I enthusiastically accepted his correction.



Kevin’s Commentary: Here’s the Porgy and Bess Wikipedia link, for those curious.

This is one of several of Pop’s essays which remind me somewhat of Kurt Vonnegut’s writings. For instance, in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, the protagonist gives a baptismal speech for newborn twins: “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

Vonnegut did plenty of compelling writing along these lines, and honestly I think Pop would enjoy it except that he has completely and utterly written off fiction, because he feels there is nothing to learn from it. This is perhaps the singular point on which I disagree with my grandfather most. And I think if he were to ever foray back into fiction, which seems deeply unlikely, Vonnegut would be a great place for him to start. Slaughterhouse Five would be an obvious but perhaps poor first choice given the war background. Maybe Sirens of Titan or even shorter essays like Harrison Bergeron, linked here, might be more appropriate. But from the looks of things, it’s all moot, which is unfortunate.


In this essay I am going to be talking only about pocket knives, as distinguish from knives that are meant to kill.  I suspect that this again is an exercise in nostalgia.

Looking back more than 70 or 75 years ago, there was a custom having to do with knives.  My father, for example, would go nowhere without a knife.  When he went to work, he had a heavy-duty knife that he carried in his pocket.  On Sundays when he went to church, he had a more fanciful knife.  But the point is that on no occasion was my father knifeless.

At the time 75 or more years ago, knives were a welcome thought on the American scene.  Work knives were actually used in the performance of my father’s duties.  At one point, there were such things as “Boy Scout knives” that had various blades and would also include a corkscrew.  When it came to knives that were carried on dressed-up occasions, knives were often worn on key chains in full view.

In this day and age, if an airline customer with a knife would attempt to board an airplane, the knife or knives would soon be discovered, either through a pat-down or through some sort of x-ray device.  But knives have all kinds of utility.  They could cut string, or they could be used to peel an apple.  On the subject of knives, I was more or less neutral.  I recognized their utility but carrying a knife in my pocket tended to wear the pockets out.  But if my father or other gentlemen of his age carried knives, either the work-a-day knives or the Sunday knives, or if they attached them to their key chains, they thought that this was a sprightly accessory.  But as time has gone on, knives have lost their value.

As I said at the beginning, this is an exercise in nostalgia.  Nostalgia has to do with my father, who would go nowhere without his knife.

That includes the work-a-day knife or the Sunday knife.  And so I conclude that in these days of pat-downs, knives are out of the question.  They were appropriate for my father, who lived a long time ago.  My father and I were never pals.  But from time to time, I remember him fondly.  And the thought this Sunday morning turned to my father and his knives.  I suspect that if he were to leave the house without his knife, it would have been an occasion for distress.

Perhaps knives were a part of my father’s generation.  For all intents and purposes, I have not been involved in the knife culture.  But that does not prevent me from writing a small essay on my father and his love of knives, either the work-a-day models or the Sunday show-off models.



February 12, 2012



In my work as an investment banking intern I have had no less than three occasions where I have needed a knife, primarily to open boxes of printing materials. I’ve had to borrow the company’s shoddy little boxcutter and it brings me great shame; clearly I should just have my own handy at all times.

Because seriously if a banker needs one once every three weeks or so, I can imagine that real professions have even more need for them.



Those of you who have followed Ezra’s Essays know of my interest in language.  For example, on several occasions I have pointed out that my parents spoke “country speak.”  When I go to the physician’s office, he speaks “doctor speak.”  That will give you an idea of what is in store in the following essay.

My military service took place between 1942 and 1945.  If my mathematics are generally correct, that would make it on the order of nearly 70 years ago.  But I suspect that the speech patterns of the American military have changed very little since my departure.

When I try to analyze the speech patterns of the American military, it would seem to me that there is a prevalence of the use of the letter “h” in the commands that are given.  For example, there is the perfectly ordinary word of “attention.”  But in my military experience of somewhat more than three years, I have never heard that word pronounced as anything but “attench-hut!”  Clearly pronunciation of this word as “attench-hut” did not scare the Germans or the Japanese.

It was used both here in the States and abroad.  On two occasions I remember that it was determined by the military brass that the enlisted men’s sleeping quarters ought to be inspected.  On those occasions the inspecting officer, usually a second lieutenant, would appear at the door of the tent or, if there was one, of the barracks, and call attention to himself by saying, “attench-hut!”  It might be observed that those “inspections” did not take place very often because the inspecting officer was made aware of the hostility of the men who happened to be in the tent or barracks.  In effect, he was told, “Take your attench-hut and please get out of here.”

And now we move on to the cadence counters, who are usually reserved for basic training.  It may well be that cadence counters are used for big parades but unfortunately, or fortunately, I had no part in big parades.   The cadence counters will do anything to avoid saying, “Left, right” or “One, two, three, four.”  That would seem to be the ordinary speech pattern for cadence counters.  But they had their time-tested method and to this day it continues to baffle me.

When the troops are lined up, the first step always takes off with the left foot.  This is followed by taking a step with the right foot.  In military speak, this is known as “forward harch.”  When they have moved forward in the harching, there may come a time when the drill instructor wants them to turn to the left.  He might say, “To the left flank – harch.”  In this construction, the letter “h” replaces the letter “m.”  In other words, military speak requires the use of mispronunciations which are not hard to figure out.  But why they are used continues to be a mystery to me, even after this long passage of time.

Ordinarily a cadence counter would say “Left, right, left, right” but in fact the cadence counter will always say, “Hut, hoop, hip, haw”.  Now I know that the cadence counter could have said, “One, two, three, four” or even “Left, right, left, right.”  The fact is that we won the war (the Second World War) using this method.  When something works as well as “Hut, hoop, hip, haw” works, there is absolutely no reason to change it.

I would not want any of my readers to conclude that I am a big fan of the American military.  Quite the opposite is true.  Like millions of other men, we did our time, won the war, and then got out and told the military establishment what they could do with their method of speaking.  But now after nearly 70 years as a student of speech, I wonder what in the hell the world thinks “Hut, hoop, hip, haw” is all about.  It could well be that this was the secret to our defeating the German and Japanese armies.  But I doubt it.

Perhaps the main thing that I learned in my experience in the Army came from a Corporal who was trying to show us how to get through basic training.  We had mastered the “forward march” business as well as the “left flank” business.  Then we tackled the business of oblique marching.  The cadence counter was a regular Army Corporal who was not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  He became confused as he tried to tell us about the oblique marching, which amounted to a 45 degree angle.  I said, “I think I can help here.”  At that point, the Corporal cut me off and in so doing instilled the words that inspire me to this very day.  He said, “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking.  You get paid to do what you are told to do.”

And so we marched to the sounds of “Hut, hoop, hip, haw.”  That is what I had been told to do.  I am still alive at the age of 89 years and six months so something must be working.  And at this point I have told you all that I can think of about military speak.  I do not intend to re-enlist so that I may bring you up to date on the latest version of military speak.  But if any of my readers wish to re-enlist for the purpose of broadening our knowledge of military speak, I wish them well.



February 3, 2012

Essay 631



I can think of few things that would irritate my grandfather quite as effectively as being told to stop thinking so much. I suspect that it is due to this and this alone that Pop opts not to rejoin the military to this day. I am confident that out of all the blind 90-year old men in the USA, he would be the best pilot. Clearly, the air force is missing out in 2012.


According to my notepad, I had wanted to dictate an essay entitled “In Praise of Running Water and Flushing Toilets.”  Further down on my notepad, I discovered an entry called “In Praise of the Forgettery.”  These are different subjects but because I make the rules around here, it seemed to me that the two of them should be combined into one essay.

Let us start with running water and flushing toilets.  If my memory is reasonably correct, I have lived in only one home that did not have running water and flushing toilets.  Later, there were two adults and five children, I might also review that there were inordinate waits to use the flushing toilet, of which there was one.  That brings me to the period between 1942 and 1945, when I was a soldier in the American Army.

A few years back I dictated an essay having to do with the five loneliest spots in my military career.  They were Ascension Island; Atar, Mauritania; and Tindouf, Algeria.  And then there were two locations in Southern Sudan named el-Geneina and el-Fasher.

Ascension Island belonged to the British and its main recommendation was that it was in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.  But until the war, that is the Second World War, nobody ever went there.  When the war happened, it turned out that the only way we could get the supplies to the fighting fronts in Italy and China was the southern route.  That route started in Miami and the next stop was Bourincon Field, Puerto Rico.  The next stop was Georgetown, Guyana, which is now an independent nation.  Then it was on to Natal or Belém, Brazil.  From that point on, there was first the ocean hop between the town of Belém and Ascension Island and following that the next take-off would lead you after another ocean hop – you hoped – to Accra in Ghana.  From Accra the supplies would flow northward to the Italian theater and eastward to India and “over the hump” to the Chinese theater, where for some time we had hoped that the Japanese could be defeated with supplies flowing from India.  That was later supplanted by the MacArthur doctrine of island hopping.

At any rate the point is that Ascension Island was not only lonely but the water resources were few and far between.  At the station on Ascension Island, it was necessary to boil sea water.  As you can imagine, there were signs up everywhere saying not to waste water.  Before the war was done, I spent three separate nights on Ascension, either coming from or going to Africa or Brazil.

There was a second set of problems associated with the Sahara Desert and drinking water there.  At the western edge of the Sahara, there was a town called Atar in Mauritania.  It is often spoken of with its companion town of Tindouf, Algeria.  In those two desert towns, water was a commodity of great value.  I passed through Atar and Tindouf on at least three occasions.  I did not presume to take a shower there.  Our army presumed that transients such as myself had access to showers elsewhere, which meant that the permanent party at those two locations took a shower infrequently and the transients were largely out of luck.

The same rule would apply at el-Geneina and el-Fasher.  Where the water came from in these desert locations as well as at Atar and Tindouf was a mystery to me.  At these two southern Sahara locations, the same rule applied with respect to transients taking showers.

So you see, my experience at Ascension, Atar, Tindouf, el-Fasher, and el-Geneina leads me to this day to prize water in the highest possible category.

My research discloses that when the toilet in the United States is flushed, it uses at least one gallon of water.  We are extraordinarily fortunate in having water at our command.  In Europe, for example, flushing toilets use perhaps at least half that amount as compared to the United States.  I still cringe when I see water being wasted.  There is a home here in Short Hills which was watering the lawn late into January.  And using my thoughts about the five loneliest towns in the world, this is wastage beyond description.

Well, we are lucky in having water to waste.  But it may not be ever so.  In my own case, I am on the side of water conservation in the hope that water will still be there to flush the toilets of tomorrow.

Well, that seems to take care of the water problem.  Now let us turn to the second part of this essay, having to do with praise for the forgettery.


It seems to me that during the era of the McCarthy hearings, the prominent senator associated with McCarthy appeared at a hearing and, when asked a crucial question, he said that he did not remember.  One of the gentlemen asking the questions said in effect that his forgettery was working overtime.  I have remembered that remark for the better part of 50 years.  And it seems to me that those of us in the advanced age category can praise the presence of the forgettery in our minds.  There are promotions for example that we did not get but as time passed, we forgot about that sort of thing.  We have our forgettery to be praised for the forgotten promotions.  Likewise, we have our forgettery to thank for the women over the years that we did not make love to.

In current day terms, I suspect that Mitt Romney can hope that his remarks about the poor people at the bottom of the safety net will please be subjected to the forgettery process among the American electorate.  Also, perhaps our collective forgettery will blot out the mis-spoken “self deport.”

I suppose that one of Romney’s main opponents, Newt Gingrich, has much to file in the forgettery process.  But beyond the usual give and take with political charges, there was Mr. Gingrich’s belief that we should establish a colony on the moon as a means of beating the Russians, who would make the same attempt.  I do not know of any Russian attempt to establish a colony on the moon.  And I suspect that as time passes, Mr. Gingrich would be happy to put this in his forgettery file.

So there you have this double-edged story on forgetteries.  In my own case, I would like to forget the experience of spending lonely nights at Ascension, Atar, Tindouf, el-Geneina and el-Fasher.  And if providence is good to us, we may soon forget the wild charges of Newt Gingrich and his fellow aspirants to the Republican Party in pursuit of Barack Obama.

And so we cometh to the end of this combination essay in praise of running water and flushing toilets as well as the existence of the forgettery.  It may well be that you will put this combination essay in your forgettery file.  If that is the case, I will understand your sentiments.


February 4, 2012



Posted because I can’t tease you with that intro post and then not at least publish the essay in question. Here, as with the previous essay, we encounter the problem that Pop has had a regular readership for a dozen years which is at least passingly familiar with him and his previous exploits, and he writes knowing that this is the case. It is possible that some readers will be confused when Pop references previous work in this fashion, and it is equally possible that they can just deal with it, because I can’t think of a better order in which to upload these. Perhaps I will endeavor in the future to hyperlink them all together, like Wikipedia.