Archive for the December 2010 Category


An outsider not familiar with Ezra’s Essays might have read the title of this essay and believed it referred to an international law firm.  That is not the case. The title reflects the fact that this is a country of immigrants.  At the moment none of my readers are native Americans such as Cherokee, Iroquois, and other such tribes. There is one reader named Sven Lernevall who is a citizen of Sweden.  Aside from Herr Lernevall, the rest of the readers of these essays are all the descendants of immigrants.  I freely admit that my ancestors came to these shores because it beat the place of their birth.  They were starving to death during the famine in Ireland.

In recent months or years we have been engaged in the pursuit of citizenship for two immigrants who wish to become citizens of this country.  As I related in an earlier essay, they waited for more than nine years to get a green card which entitled them to become permanent residents.  There will be a five-year wait from that time until they are granted full citizenship.  I hope to be around when that happens.

I cringe when politicians and other public figures proclaim that the United States is the creation of God and the greatest country in the whole world.  The fact of the matter is we don’t lead much of anything anymore.  A large part of the reason for our falling behind has to do with the state of the education of our children.  Our students are being badly outpaced by Asian and European students and we seem to be unable to fix that.  Much of Western Europe, for example, leads us in the production of college graduates.  A few miles east of here in Newark, New Jersey, the graduation rate from high school is an abysmal 11 or 12%.

Certainly in terms of infrastructure, this country is not the greatest in the world by any means.  Other countries have trains that run on time.  The Chinese tested a train just last week between Beijing and Shanghai whose speed reached 300 miles per hour.  The best we could do is the pedestrian route of the Acela which runs between Boston and Washington.  Judy and I have ridden that train and I suspect that the maximum rate of speed barely reaches 75 miles per hour.

It gets no better in the air or on the ground.  Our air transport system is overcrowded and now very expensive.  And our roads are not much better than they were 5 years ago.  Our bridges are sadly in need of repair and replacement.

Aside from not taking care of our educational needs and our infrastructure, we find that the right wing of our political system actively opposes immigration.  Many of them are intent upon finding illegal immigrants and sending them to locations where they may be deported.  This is a tragic situation.  It leads me to the belief that the genius of this country is that we have always taken refugees from around the world and turned them into industrious Americans.  The motto “E Pluribus Unum” which is “From many one” would apply to the United States.  While I deplore what the right wing of our political spectrum wishes to do to immigrants, I applaud what has been accomplished thus far by those immigrants.

For example, look at the restaurants.  Look at what the immigrants have done to introduce other Americans to their native cuisines.  In nearly every town, we can find Italian, Japanese, Chinese, French, Indian, Mexican and other restaurants offering food that has been produced by immigrant chefs.

Aside from the culinary arts, think about what we have gained musically.  There are as many variations in music as there are in restaurants.

For many years I have engaged in the delightful pursuit of where Americans trace their ancestry to.  I believe that I am not alone in thinking about ancestry.  Dr. Blaustein, from the title of this essay, is one who thought a good bit about the ancestry of Americans that he has run across.  For example he and I had a lively conversation about another doctor in the Summit Medical Group named Volpe.  Dr. Blaustein seemed to think that Dr. Volpe was German.  I have been a patient of Dr. Volpe and I know that his name is Italian.  But in any case this is a lively bit of speculation that I engage in regularly.

Now look at it this way.  If we had remained subjects of the English crown, the names of our neighbors would be Mr. Brown, Mr. Jones, Mr. Byfield, and the rest of the English names.  Beyond that, if we had remained subjects of the English monarchy, we would be eating absolutely tasteless food.  When was the last time that you heard a person say that he or she wanted to visit a new English restaurant?  Before I left employment with the Bell System, I had secretaries by the name Scheller, Giovi, and  Impellizari.  That would suggest German ancestors in one case and Italian in another.  So you see the “E Pluribus Unum” part at work.

Perhaps all of this could be expressed in the famous work by Emma Lazarus who wrote the poem that is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty.  The poem goes:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


We may have our arguments as Americans.  But this elderly Yankee hopes that the spirit of the poem by Emma Lazarus lasts forever.

Now as to the title, Michael Yanacone’s family came to this country from Italy where the name was spelt Iannaccone.  He is an expert at tuck-pointing of brick chimneys.  When we have a need for a Certified Public Accountant, we seek the advice of Andrew Yadamiec, who is the product of a marriage between a Polish person and an Italian.  The third person in the title is Howard Blaustein, a learned physician who specializes in diseases of the lungs.  And finally, Dave Muldowney, also a CPA, represents the Irish contingent.  So you see that we have been working at turning “E Pluribus Unum” into a reality.  And this country remains a nation of immigrants.  What could be better than that?



December 4, 2010

Essay 516


Kevin’s commentary:

In this type of scenario I always think of three core problems.

First is the naturalization process which is both difficult and slow as all get out. This creates pressure on immigrants to come to the country illegally, which damages their reputation as a group and makes them unable to benefit from — and pay into — the system that is supposed to encompass everyone in the country.

Second is just plain xenophobia from American citizens.  The US isn’t the only country guilty of this, but it doesn’t help. I would propose making sure at least every medium-sized city in the states has a handful of good Thai, Indian, Mexican, Chinese, etc places. Evangelism via food seems like a surefire way of doing things.

Last is actually an issue inside the immigrant communities themselves, which increasingly cluster up, become insular, and refuse to really assimilate in the ways to which the American population is largely accustomed. This isn’t bad in a vacuum and actually makes a whole lot of sense but I feel like it still hinders progress on the xenophobia front.


Like most Americans, I have followed events in Washington, which are a form of theater.  Granted that it is a deadly theater, it is theater nonetheless.  When members of this Democratic administration try to explain what is being done, they overwork the words “looking forward.”  A few weeks earlier, they overworked the word “transparency.”  Robert Gibbs, who is the press secretary to the President, has a great affinity for the words “looking forward.”  And when Gibbs or the President uses “looking forward” and “transparency,” I tend to cringe.  Certainly they are better wordsmiths than that.

Now there is one other situation that is worthy of our attention.  It has to do with the word “right.”  In the earlier part of this essay, I mentioned the words “looking forward.”  Clearly no politician wants to say, “looking backward.”  So it is always looking forward.  In this case, the effort is always to be on the right side of things.

Let me give you a few examples.  In the morning after teeth are brushed, Miss Chicka and I generally weigh ourselves.  During this holiday season, the weight is not a good way to start the day.  Nonetheless, as I am about to step on the scale, Miss Chicka will usually say, “I will be right along.”  Certainly she could not say, “I will be left along.”

To go on, Americans are inclined to say that “we are well within our rights.”  They never use the phrase, “We are well within our left.”  It is always “We are well within our rights.”

When it comes down to conduct, we clearly tend to favor the phrase “right over wrong.”  I have never heard anyone say, “Left over wrong.”

Then when we are, for example, attempting to park the car, we pull up next to the car in front of us and start from the right position to back into the parking space.  Curiously, we drive on the right side of the road whereas in some other countries like England, the left side is used.

And then of course there is the division of our political system.  We have the right wing of the parties, which incidentally are considered more conservative than the left wing, which is liberal.

I am sure that many of the readers of these essays can think of terms having to do with rights.  If I were a lefty, like Margaret Murphy, I would believe that there is reason for the claim of discrimination.  If that is the case, I am certain that the politicians will claim that he or she is well within his/her rights.  Readers of these essays are invited to report cases in which the right will prevail over the left.

But usually we do not have an issue with respect to “looking forward.”  There is no such thing as looking backward, and certainly there is no such thing as looking leftward.

On this Christmas weekend, this is my contribution to the edification of Ezra’s Essays readers.  I know that this does not amount to much but remember, the author of Ezra’s Essays is an old man who can barely step on the scale to get weighed.  I am waiting for the call to say, “I will be left there in a minute.”  That will be the day that should be treasured by all students of the American language.

Finally, it seems to me that this world tends to favor those who are young, who are right handed, and who are sighted.  I can’t do much about youth, and I am right handed since my birth.  Furthermore, at this point, I am unable to do anything about being sighted.   But taking one thing with another, it follows that all of us including those who are sightless, southpaws and who are growing older must play the cards we are dealt.  That is the right way to look at things and the world will know that Americans are always looking forward, even if they can’t see.



December 24, 2010

Essay 521


Kevin’s commentary: Politicians look backward all the time, in order to criticize their predecessors. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

In other news, I love being right-handed.



From time to time there comes a moment when we can make someone else’s life a little bit more enjoyable.  Two Costa Rican immigrants have made several appearances in these essays.  They are Jenny M and Ronald H.  They are married, but in conformance with Costa Rican custom, Jenny retains her maiden name.There are three wonderful H children.  You may recall that in an earlier essay, their boys, Esteban and Fabian, won some medals for their soccer skills.  They elected to give those medals to me as their “Grandpa in America.”  Also, you may recall that Jenny is a housekeeper.

In recent days, there have been some developments that auger well for the H family.  After nine years of waiting, Jenny and Ronald finally received their green cards which entitled them to permanent residency in this country.  It also entitles them to get a driver’s license which opens up new job possibilities for both of them.

Esteban is 12 years old and Fabian is a nine-year-old.  These days it appears that getting through grade school is made easier by owning a computer which assists in producing a better grade of homework.  The situation at home being what it was, acquiring a computer was far out of the reach of these two boys.  Their mother insists that both boys do their homework and get good grades.  They live in Summit, New Jersey, which has a superior school system.  I would not wish to bring home a less than stellar grade and present it to their mother, Jenny.  Jenny is the cop on the beat when it comes to the education of her children.  We say, “Hurrah for Jenny.”

And so it was that Miss Chicka and I were privileged to help these children of immigrants.  Because Esteban is in the sixth grade, he seemed to need a computer quickly.  Miss Chicka had located a good computer and with the few dollars that Esteban had saved, we made up the rest and presented the computer to old Esteban.  As soon as Esteban got the computer, he sat down to compose a thank you note.  Here is what he said.

Hi, Ed and Judy.

This is Esteban.  I wanted to say thank you soooooo much for getting me the laptop.  It is helping me so much and making life easier. Thank you again and God bless you.

Signed: Esteban

When the post Thanksgiving sales came, we thought it would be a good investment to get his brother a computer so that the two boys would be on even terms.  When the computer arrived here, Esteban escorted Fabian into the house.  Fabian saw the name Toshiba on the box.  He did not fully realize what he was doing as he opened the box.  When the laptop computer appeared in all of its wrappings, Fabian’s face was wreathed in beatific smiles.  And here is what Fabian wrote as a thank you note when he got home.  It read:

Thank you Ed and Judy for this computer.  I love it.  It is so awesome.  I love this baby.  Thank you very very very very much.  You guys are the best people in the world!

God bless you guys.

Signed: Fabian H


The worries of the world are many.  Some of the political fighting makes me wish that I could bang some heads together.  But when two young boys are made happier by the presentation of laptop computers, and write thank you notes in appreciation, Miss Chicka and I feel entitled to pat ourselves on our backs.

At least we feel that we have made a difference in these young boys lives.  They are the kind of children that will grow up to be fine citizens of this country.  If they are made happier in the bargain, so much the better.



December 6, 2010

Essay 517


Kevin’s commentary: I read this essay to Jen, and she simply remarked “you come from good people. Something happened to you since then, clearly, but you COME from good people.” I couldn’t agree more. This essay made me very happy when I read it the first time and successfully cheered me up when I re-read it just now. Generosity is in short order these days it seems, and when it appears it certainly merits back pats.


Let us assume that I am an historian and that the date is in the year of 2510.  If my arithmetic is correct, that would be about 500 years from now.  I believe it would be fair to say that such an historian might conclude that the times in which we are currently living were a time of one war after another.

My recollection is that this century of war for the United States started in 1917.  That war was called the First World War.  The United States was involved for two years, ending on November 11, 1918.  The President of the United States at that time was a fellow from New Jersey named Woodrow Wilson.  Mr. Wilson proclaimed that this was the war to end all wars.  If he were around to read this essay, I believe he would say, “Holy mackerel! Was I wrong!”

For the United States, there was an interval of peace lasting from 1918 to December 7, 1941.  Coincidentally, that was the time of the Great American Depression.  On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  That was on Sunday.  On Monday, Franklin Roosevelt, who was then the President of this country, declared war on the Axis powers.  Those powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan.  The Second World War lasted until August 15, 1945.  I remember that date fairly well because my first marriage took place on the following day.  In the Second World War, approximately 400,000 American lives were lost.  As a matter of interest, it took more than 50 years from the conclusion of that war for a monument to be built in Washington, DC.  I viewed that monument on a rainy day in November, 2003, and I concluded that it was not a superior monument.

Five years after WWII concluded, the Korean War started.  Harry Truman was the President at that time, and he called it a police action.  I do not have access to the exact figures of the losses of American lives in the Korean War but I believe that it was on the order of 54,000.

The next war happened in the 1960s, and it took place in Vietnam.  More than 58,000 American lives were lost in that war.

In August, 1990, the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait.  George H.W. Bush was the President at that time and he arranged for a coalition of troops to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.  In short order, the Iraqi troops were routed and sent back on their way to Baghdad.

After the Kuwait invasion, a few years passed until September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked, which led to our invasion of Afghanistan.  Now, nine years later, that war in          Afghanistan is still under way.  It is the main reason for the title of this essay, which is, of course, “Making Progress.”

Donald Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense during the George W. Bush administration and he made loud noises to the effect that there were many more inviting targets in the country of Iraq.  Bear in mind that Iraq had nothing to do with the bombing of the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.  It is as though in the Second World War we had an   argument with Germany and therefore attacked Canada.  The Iraqi war has now wound down.  At least 4,500 American lives were lost.  My best     estimate of the losses of American lives in Afghanistan is now on the    order of 2,000.

Now, in between all of the wars, there were the adventures of Ronald Reagan.  When he was President, he sponsored a warlike attitude from this country toward Nicaragua.  Fortunately few American lives were lost in that adventure.

So I believe that it is entirely reasonable for that historian of 500 years from now to conclude that this period in which we are living was essentially one of war.  In my own case, I am more than able to recall the Second World War.  In that conflict, for the first 18 or more months, the progress was all backwards.  France, Poland, the Czech Republic, and myriad other places were overrun by the forces of Adolf Hitler.  In the Pacific, the news was no better.  There, the Japanese overran the Philippines and took a big bite out of China.  I am sure that you will recall the Bataan Death March.  My efforts in that war had to do with North Africa and Sicily and then Italy.   When it came to making progress, we were able to say that various towns are now in Allied hands and that the German forces had been beaten back.

In June of 1944, the landings in Normandy took place.  May I assure you, that was a bloody affair.  Once the landings had occurred, the Allied forces liberated one town after another and the American public was assured that we were indeed making progress.  The same is true of the segment of the war in which I was involved, Italy, and before that there was the invasion of Sicily and the North African campaign.  In all of those cases, the American public could look at a map and see that towns previously held by the Germans were now in fact safely in American hands.  That meant clearly that we were making progress.

In the Pacific, our strategy was to take one island after another until we eventually arrived at the island of Japan itself.  One of the major battles involved Iwo Jima, where the Japanese had to be slaughtered individually.  In that battle, incidentally, my great and good friend Donald Maier took off his helmet to wipe his brow and a Japanese sniper killed him.

So much for the history of World War II.  Since that time, our efforts in warfare have become less definitive.  In the invasion of Iraq, for example, in the past ten years we have been told that the war is going well and that we are “making progress.”  When American forces were involved in the war in Iraq, we came close to wearing out the reports of “making progress.”

The same would apply to the war in Afghanistan as well as the other conflicts, including Iraq.  Now, after almost seven years in Iraq and nine years in Afghanistan, the commander of that theater, General Petraeus, as well as a host of visiting U. S. politicians assure the public that we are “making progress.”  It seems to me that if we are making all this progress, we ought to be able quite soon to withdraw our troops and bring them all home.  Obviously, this old soldier views the reports of “making progress” dubiously.

While we are making progress, according to the generals on the ground and in the Pentagon as well as politicians, we are told that we should be patient and that we should send more troops into the maws of battle so that they could be killed and promote our safety.  Again, as an old soldier, I don’t believe that sort of thing is worthy of any consideration.

I conclude that the historian in 2,500 would be correct when he assesses this period of our time as a war of 100 years.  And even more, to bring it back to real time, I believe that the announcements by our generals and politicians about making progress are thoroughly without foundation.

There are five grandchildren, all male, in this clan.  If one of them were to tell me that he intended to become a member of the American armed forces, I would feel obliged to ask him how American democracy would be advanced by his taking a bullet in the Middle East.   If taking such a bullet in the head is conducive to the promotion of our well-being, it is lost on me.  Perhaps it must be that taking such a casualty would be a reason for the politicians and generals to promise that the Carr grandson had contributed to our making progress and was therefore a bit of a hero.  I would tell the Carr grandchildren that we don’t need these kinds of heroes.

What I am really getting around to is to say that when war is involved, don’t believe what the generals tell you or much more so, what the politicians have to say.  When they tell you that we are making progress, my hope is that you tell them that such reports are fraudulent and that they should get lost.



December 19, 2010

Essay 519


Kevin’s commentary: I think there is very little chance that any of the grandchildren are ever going to enlist. I think the closest to that point would have been my older brother at age ten or so, when he wanted to be a fighter pilot until he learned that that would probably involve killing people, so he changed his mind. Now he finds people to write Twitter content for companies in Japan. Close enough. Come to think of it, he’s actually expanding back into the states. Making progress.

On a more serious note it has been hard to make real progress with many of these wars because they have had bogus intentions. For example, one would be hard pressed to make progress on eliminating weapons of mass destruction from Iraq, because they didn’t have any.

D.A.D.T. – R.I.P. ~~

In the year 1867, the Marquess of Queensberry published some rules concerning the sport of boxing.  I am told that the fellow who has the title of marquess ranks below a duke and above an earl in the British peerage.  The rules contained the essentials of good sportsmanship.  There was to be no hitting when the referee separated the two fighters, there were to be no rabbit punches to the foe from the back, and if a man were to be knocked down, he was given ten seconds to regain his footing and to clear his head.  These rules of sportsmanship have been followed ever since they were introduced in 1867.  But as we now find out, the Republican Party does not play by those rules.

In the year 2000, there were two main Republican contestants for the presidency.  One was George W. Bush and the other was John McCain.  McCain was doing quite well until the contest reached the southern state of South Carolina.  At that point, the forces of George W. Bush quietly accused McCain of having fathered a black child.  In point of fact, the McCains had adopted a child from Bangladesh who had a dark complexion.  A second charge brought by the Bush forces was that McCain was unstable due to his long imprisonment in the North Vietnamese jail called the Hanoi Hilton.  This argument is much more difficult to deal with because McCain, over the years has shown erratic behavior and, for all I know, there may be something to the charge of long imprisonment affecting one’s mental stability.

In the year of 2008, McCain was the Republican nominee for President.  There came a time when McCain offered to suspend his campaign and demanded a conference in Washington to discuss the financial situation including the banks, Wall Street and the declining value of the stock market.  When the conference was held, McCain did not make a case for his own campaign but rather sat largely silent, while the proceedings took place around him.

Now in 2010, we find that McCain has stripped his gears about gay servicemen.  Ever since the 2008 campaign, McCain has let it be known that he favored repeal of the law called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  But when that issue came up for a vote this past weekend of December 18, it developed that McCain turned out to be a violent proponent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Here’s another case of McCain’s erratic behavior.  But fortunately other Senators had better heads on their shoulders and voted by 65 to 33 to abandon the don’t ask/don’t tell policy.

While McCain embraced the continuation of the don’t ask/don’t tell policy, he was also forced to accept the doctrine of unit cohesion.  As an old soldier, I assure you that the talk about unit cohesion is a large component of the product of a bull’s bowels.  But there was McCain with some of his Republican comrades, asking our soldiers who are gay to not disclose that fact because it would interfere with unit cohesion.

On a personal note, I am, as many of my readers are, a veteran of World War II.  That war was probably the most significant one that the United States has ever been engaged in.  As to the claim of damage to unit cohesion if a gay solder were involved, it would come as great news to me.  I served more than a hitch in the Army of the United States.  And I also assume that I served with gay soldiers as well as straight soldiers.  I could not tell the difference.

One had to be very careful in stating that last fact.  Soldiers who were in the Army on December 7, 1941, were entitled to be called members of the United States Army.  Those of us who were enlisted and drafted after that date were called members of the Army of the United States.  I hope that this distinction is as clear to you as it has never been to me.

As an enlisted man, I slept in barracks and often in tents.  From time to time, we had a base that offered showers.  When showers were available, it was not that often.  I undressed my frame and presented my nude body to the showers at the same time with other men undergoing the shower ritual.

Perhaps this should not be disclosed but in the interests of honesty, I am here to tell you that in all of the sleeping and the showers, I did not encounter one single proposition from another soldier.  I assume that, given the law of averages, there were gay men in the ranks that I served with.  But if that is the case, I did not have sex appeal enough to cause them to proposition me.

But over this past weekend, the don’t ask/don’t tell policy was abandoned.  During the time that it has been in place, which amounts to 17 years, more than 14,000 service men and women have been dismissed as a result of their disclosing their sexual preferences.  I assume that some of them were given dishonorable discharges.  How cruel.  Now the Secretary of Defense says that he will start the process of lifting the ban on our troops.  He suggests that it may take as much as a year to be fully accomplished.  Again, speaking as an old soldier, I can’t imagine how anyone could take a year to simply lift the ban on gay troops.  But the Secretary of Defense has to live with the John McCains of this world and in time, decency will prevail.  But the fight is not over.

I gather that some politicians are asking for separate showers and sleeping arrangements for the gay soldiers.  In time, we will probably look back on this 17-year period in our history and say, “How shameful!”  The thought suddenly occurs to me that I should assure the readers of these essays that I am not a gay person.  Also I am not a lesbian person.  I advocate doing away with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law as a matter of common decency.  In battle, there is no such thing as unit cohesion.  Every soldier or sailor does what he can do as a matter of self preservation.  The enemies of the United States do not ask whether they are being shot at by a gay or a straight soldier.  The shot from a gay soldier is just as penetrating as a shot from a straight soldier.

And so I rejoice with those who respect decency in our armed forces. When soldiers and sailors of the United States military are no longer burdened by the stupidity of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and by the burden of unit cohesion, they will be a superior force.

I suspect that the Marquess of Queensberry would now approve of the Congressional gift of this past weekend.  He would be pleased to know that “don’t ask/don’t tell” and the unit cohesion business are on their way into oblivion.  This is a triumph that all men of good will should applaud.  The Marquess can now Rest In Peace.



December 19, 2010

Essay 518


Kevin’s commentary: This is a pretty cut-and-dry “wrong-side-of-history” scenario that these DADT proponents found themselves in, and continue to occupy today primarily through protesting gay marriage. The worst is to see it coming from other marginalized groups, like blacks, who were fighting for equal marriage rights and other civil rights for themselves so recently. The only hope here is that eventually all the bigots will have died off or their children will stop believing their bullshit and society can continue to  advance.




I have no intention of misleading the readers of Ezra’s Essays into believing that this essay has anything to do with the current law that forbids members of the military services from disclosing their sexual preferences.  Quite to the contrary, this essay has to do with Miss Chicka, my wife, and with blindness. 

Apparently there is a belief in the uninformed public that blindness goes with dumbness.  I would like to take fairly vigorous exception to that mistaken belief.  But the belief exists, as we may find out in the following essay.

For many years the Summit Medical Group has attended to our medical needs.  That group was named after the town in which it was located, namely Summit, New Jersey.  But about five years ago, the medical group began to get itchy feet and elected to move to a town two towns west of Summit called Berkeley Heights.  When the Summit Medical Group exercised its magic in Summit, New Jersey, it had a four-story building plus an annex.  All of the specialties were housed in those two buildings.  But now in their new quarters, which really aren’t that new anymore, they have a campus-like setting.  Rather than ascending or descending to find the offices in the old building, it is now a matter of determining in which building the specialty is located.  Given a choice – and I had no choice whatsoever – I would have preferred the older four-story building.

In any case, in the new campus-like setting, which has several stories, there is a considerable amount of walking to do.  When the office that will perform the specialty is located, the client such as myself will present himself to a clerk standing at a station and announce that he or she is here to see a certain doctor.  The clerk will look at her list to determine whether this person has indeed an appointment.  He is then told to take a seat, provided he answers certain questions.  The questions are not hard.  They want to know what is the state of your insurance, including a back-up carrier etc. and whether you still live at the address they have on their records.  There was an occasion when I presented myself to the clerk and she then proceeded to ask Miss Chicka where we lived and what kind of insurance we had.  Mind you, I was standing there mute, listening to this exchange, knowing that in the end Miss Chicka would throw a haymaker.

On this first occasion, the clerk outside of the examining room was fairly into her routine while asking Miss Chicka about me.  The haymaker came when the clerk wanted to know where Miss Chicka’s husband lived.  Miss Chicka answered, “Why don’t you ask him?  He can talk.”

Apparently the Summit Medical Group did not learn its lesson with this exchange.  There was another occasion when I had an appointment with Dr. Gruber, my long-time dermatologist.  When we were admitted to the examining room, one of the functionaries came in to talk to Miss Chicka in preparation for the visit of Dr. Gruber.  She was a nice enough person, but she asked such questions as, “Has he been here before?”  I sat mute, knowing that another haymaker was in the works.  As a matter of fact, I had been seeing Dr. Gruber for perhaps 20 years or so.  Nonetheless, Miss Chicka refused to answer any more questions and said as follows, “Why don’t you ask him?  He can talk.”  The nurse or some other functionary was taken aback when she found that indeed old Mr. Ezra could talk a bit.  My talking had to be sandwiched in with laughter as I indeed began to speak.

The clerks and nurses and doctors now know that they are to address their questions to me to avoid the wrath of Miss Chicka.  So I say one of the drawbacks to blindness now is that I am denied the ability to hear Miss Chicka say, “Why don’t you ask him?  He can talk.”

This essay is a sort of a triple header in that it involves not only the medical but the legal profession as well.  For 40 years or a little more, I have been dealing with a lawyer in Summit, New Jersey named Cary Hardy.  He is a personable fellow who is what I consider to be reasonably accurate in legal opinions.  I have no trepidation about disagreeing with him if that happens to be the case.  But about two years ago, I calledCaryto make a change in my will.  In an earlier essay, you may have come to know about Jenny Masis who cleans our house every two weeks and whom Judy has brought along as a filer and introduced to the computer.  The essay that you are reading at this moment was duplicated and mailed by Jenny.

I called Cary Hardy for the purpose of leaving some of my very vast fortune to Jenny upon my death.  I thought that this could be taken care of with the addition of one single paragraph.  I should have known much better than that.  Somehow or other the small request reverberated throughout the entire will and so it was necessary to reproduce the whole works.

When I appeared to sign the will, Cary Hardy took me into his conference room with one or two of his assistants to witness what I was signing. Cary went through the will item by item and when he was finished with a page he would say, “Initial here.”  In fact,Cary would take the forefinger of my right hand and place it where I was to make my initial.  I hope that you are sticking with me as I disclose the inner workings of the legal profession.  Obviously in rereading my whole will, Cary had a good bit of talking to do.  As it progressed, I noticed that Cary was talking louder and louder.  Finally, about half way through the reading of the will, Cary stopped and said, “Why am I talking so loud?  Your trouble is with your eyes, not your hearing.”

There is one other interesting incident having to do with my lack of sight.  It involves Ed Rodgers, a wonderful manager of a branch of the Chase Bank.  When Miss Chicka and I went to see Ed about opening a savings account, Ed asked to see my driver’s license which he is required to do under the state of New Jersey law.  Miss Chicka started to laugh and said to Ed Rodgers, “Do you realize that you just asked a blind man for his driver’s license?”  Ed started to smile, and Judy said that it was the first time she ever saw a black man blush.

Actually, I have a license issued by the Motor Vehicle Department which attests to the fact that I am blind but nevertheless, I am required to carry that document in my wallet.  It is carried so that when some authority such as a cop or a bank official asks me to show my driver’s license, I can reach into my pocket, produce my wallet and ask such official to page through it until he discovers my blind driver’s license.  Once I had the blind driver’s license, I felt infinitely more secure in traveling the highways of this blessed state of New Jersey.

As a matter of fact, I would not recommend blindness to any other living creature.  But the fact is that even in blindness, there can be a bit of humor here and there.  Miss Chicka’s haymaker, Cary Hardy’s talking louder and louder, and Ed Rodger’s asking for my driver’s license are sources of considerable amusement to me.  I suppose this goes to prove that even in the glummest of situations, old geezers such as myself find a little bit of humor to giggle at.

I realize that the opening lines of this essay might have led one to believe that I was going to deal with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the government.  But that is not the case, even though my strong feelings are that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy should never have been hoisted upon our military personnel.  The sooner that it is repealed, the better I will like it.   Ah, but this essay really has to do with providing a little bit of humor from blindness.  But always remember, if you come by this house in Short Hills, don’t begin to question Miss Chicka about my condition.  She may land a haymaker right between your eyes.



December 7, 2010

Essay 515


Kevin’s commentary:

While I would actually like to read an essay about Pop’s thoughts on DADT, this essay was fantastic.

It strikes me that under some occasions, if the other party does not know Pop’s name, it may make sense to approach Judy to ask about Pop. Referring to someone as simply “sir” is going out of fashion and perhaps Pop would not know that he was being addressed. However in a doctor’s office or similar, when they clearly know his name, I can see how this would be a frustrating exercise. When I worked with athletes in the Special Olympics back at Northwestern we would occasionally encounter the same issues; people would ask myself or any adults around questions about the athletes, who in 90+% of cases were perfectly well-equipped to answer the questions themselves. It’s some combination of people assuming the worst and always looking for the easiest way of doing things.

About the blind drivers license, I wonder: does it have braille on it? Nobody who carries one has any idea what they look like unless someone else has described it to them. So if a policeman is rifling through Pop’s wallet, presumably Pop can’t even tell the guy what to look for.  A bit of a strange piece of plastic.



In 1970, a book written by Robert Sherrill was published with the title, “Military Justice is to Justice as Military Music is to Music.” More than anything else, Robert Sherrill had few things complimentary about justice in the American military system. As a matter of fact, he excoriated what is called the justice system in the American military.

That book was written forty years ago, but I believe that it is still in my library. Mr. Sherrill is completely accurate when he tangles with the justice system in the American military. In my own military experience, I can not ever recall an enlisted man being declared not guilty in a court martial case. The reason for a court martial is simply to determine the length of the sentence. So while I agree with Mr. Sherrill in his excoriation of the American military justice system, I do take exception to the title which says that American military music is as bad as the justice system. I don’t believe that such a conclusion is warranted.

There are five military songs known to me having to do with the American Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. I will attempt to rank them, starting at the bottom. My service had to do with the United States Army and its Air Corps at the beginning. Later that was changed to the Air Force and in 1947 under the Presidency of Harry Truman it was changed to the US Air Force and the Army no longer had anything to do with the Air Force.

Let’s start at the bottom. The lyrics of the song about the Air Force go as follows:

Off we go, into the wild blue yonder,
Flying high, into the sun.
Here they come, zooming to meet our thunder,
At ‘em boys, give her the gun.
Down we dive spouting our flames from under,
Off with one hell of a roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame.
Nothing will stop the US Air Force!

This is a ridiculous song. Let’s take the last sentence to demonstrate what I have in mind. The song says, “Nothing will stop the US Air Force.” What about Japanese Zero fighters or the German fighters called the Messerschmitt 109? And how about the anti-aircraft artillery found in both armies? All of them can stop the Air Force. It first came into being during the patriotic fervor after the Pearl Harbor attacks. As far as I know, it is still the official song of the Air Force. In the rank order of military songs, the Air Force anthem deserves to be ranked at the very bottom. It should be pointed out that my service in the military was in this same Air Force.

Now we turn to the somewhat better song having to do with the United States Marines. The lyrics are:

From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli,
We will fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean,
We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.

The Marine song is stirring and it makes a lot more sense than the Air Force song. Accordingly, I find it a fairly decent piece of music.

Now we move on to the United States Navy. The song that is associated with the Navy is called “Anchors Away.” The lyrics are:

Anchors away, my boys, anchors away.
Farewell to college joys, we sail at break of day.
Through our last night on shore, drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more.
Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

I cannot say much about the college joys. This sounds more like a song to be sung at a college football game. Nonetheless, it is probably a good bit better than the Air Force song.

Now we turn to the Army. This song has to do with the field artillery.

Over hill, over dale,
As we hit the dusty trail,
And the caissons go rolling along.
In and out, hear them shout,
Counter march and right about,
And the caissons go rolling along.

And the second verse is:

Then it’s hi! hi! hee!
In the field artillery,
Shout out your numbers loud and strong,
For where e’er you go,
You will always know
That the caissons keep rolling along.

As I progress through the lyrics of these songs, I believe that I am tending to agree with Mr. Sherrill’s assessment. In any case, the caissons are simply chests into which the artillery shells are placed to be towed to the place where they will be fired. In the olden days, horses would be used to pull the caissons to the place of firing.

Now in the case of the next line about shouting out the numbers loud and strong, that sentence would not pass the test that my eighth grade teacher, Miss Maxwell, would have used. She was a bear on proper grammar. She would have said that the words ought to be, “Shout out the message loudly and strongly.” But the fact is that Miss Maxwell was never in the field artillery unit of the American Army.

Finally we come to the hymn associated with the United States Navy. The popular name for the hymn is “Eternal Father.” Its lyrics are:

Eternal father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the ocean wide and deep
Its own appointed limits keep.
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!

In later years, the Navy acquired an air force and a new verse was added, ending in “For those in peril in the air.” In terms of military music, the Navy hymn is a runaway winner.

Its history is of some interest. The original words to “Eternal Father” were written by the Reverend William Whiting of the Church of England. He resided on the English coast near the sea and had once survived a serious storm in the Mediterranean. In the beginning, it started out as an old hymn; in 1861 music was added. As things now stand, “Eternal Father” is greatly favored by the Royal Navy of the British Commonwealth and since has become part of the French naval tradition.

And so you see, my view of that hymn seems to be shared by the English and the French as well as the Americans. The three of us do not find commonality on many other questions, but on this hymn there seems to be a degree of unanimity.

While persons of my belief might disagree with the theology, the lyrics, of the song, my sole thought is in its musicality. To hear the Navy hymn sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or by the Sea Chanters or any other male group is a moving experience for those of us who love music. I deeply regret that Fred Waring is not alive to add his Pennsylvanians to record the Navy hymn.

Well, that is my story about military music. A good part of the music is reasonably dubious. But in my estimation, it is all saved by the grace of “Eternal Father.”

But in the final analysis, American military music has a message. Some of it good, and some of sophomoric. To know that I have saved Sherrill’s book about military justice and military music says something about me. If that book were written today, 40 years later, I wonder how in the world anyone in our military could add a musical verse or two about the glories of fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. That would make American military music abysmal. Significantly, no American song writers have undertaken the task of celebrating our adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. That says something.

But when push comes to shove, American military justice is probably as bad as it was when Sherrill wrote his book in 1970. As for music, I can always remember that the caissons keep rolling along and in an emergency you can whip out a verse or two of “Eternal Father.”

Eternal father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the ocean wide and deep
Its own appointed limits keep.
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!

I think that those are majestic words and they tend to save the reputation of American military music.


December 24, 2010

Essay 520


Kevin’s commentary: Did you know the second biggest air force in the world behind the United States Air Force is the United States Navy? I guess that’s what we get for spending more on our military than the next several countries put together.

Here’s the full version of “Wild Blue Yonder,” the Air Force song. It’s… yeah, it kinda sucks.

It should come as no surprise that Pop likes the Navy hymn best of all because he is, generally speaking, a fan of that style music. We actually listened to a Welsh hymn together on his 90th birthday, if memory serves.