Archive for the August 2010 Category


Ezra’s Essays have been distributed to the movers and shakers around the world for the past 13 years.  In all that time, there have only been a few occasions when the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays has been moved to make an award.  In the current case, the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays is moved to award the National Broadcasting Company the First Annual Trophy for Priggishness and Prissiness.  If you will stick with me for a few minutes of reading, I will reveal how this award came into being.

The story starts early in the summer of 2010, when the President of the United States ordered the establishment of a commission on why we are going broke.  Obviously, it could not be called the commission for why we are going broke, so the formal title is the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  When the commission was established, there were two principles named to head it.  One was Erskine Bowles, who had occupied a number of positions in Democratic administrations over the years.  He is well respected and is a gentleman to boot.  The other post went to Alan Simpson, who is a retired Republican senator from Wyoming.  I have always respected Simpson because I believe that he is basically honest, and he will tell you exactly why something took place without all of the Washington doublespeak.

As you might expect in a Commission conceived by Mr. Obama, his creation has no powers of subpoena and relies on the truthfulness of the people who appear before it.  If they speak untruths, the commission is largely powerless to subpoena them and subject them to any penalty.  The Commission is another effort by the current administration in bipartisanship.

Erskine Bowles, the ultimate gentleman, is skilled in the use of diplomatic language.  His counterpart, Alan Simpson, is quite the reverse.  Simpson is down to earth and given to colorful and earthy language to make his points.

The reason for the reward to NBC comes from a news report of August 26.  In an email originating with Alan Simpson to Ashley Carson, Executive Director of the National Older Women’s League, Alan Simpson compared Social Security to “a milk cow with 310 million tits.”  Well, the reference to “tits” flustered the moguls at the headquarters of NBC and it was ordered deleted from all news broadcasts later in the day.  Even Keith Olbermann, who is often guilty of using earthy language, has been barred from saying the word “tits.”  Perhaps because of the fact that older women were involved in this email, NBC thought that it was best to avoid mentioning the word “tits.”

I am also aware that in the American version of the English language, the word teats is often pronounced as “tits.”  But the fact of the matter is that Simpson wrote it in an email message.  I would have hoped that NBC would have reported the news without fear or favor.  But priggishness and prissiness took over the NBC executives at the top of the rock in New York City.  Simply put, they apparently ordered the deletion of the word “teats” from the broadcast that evening.  But significantly they provided no alternative.  Olbermann for example was in a position of using the word blank or saying the word teats.  To Olbermann’s credit and his boss’s dismay, he said the forbidden and harsh word “teats.”

Miss Chicka and the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays found the incident very amusing.  In Miss Chicka’s case, she was the daughter of the owner of the Jersey Dell Dairy Farm in western Pennsylvania.  In my own case, I was born on the Lilac Roost Dairy Farm in eastern Missouri.  Both of us knew that dairy farms come at the end of a long series of minor miracles.

It all starts with the cow who provides us with the milk we drink and the ice cream we gobble up.  It is a major miracle that cows eat green grass in the summer and brown fodder in the winter and turn it into white milk.  I am much more willing to believe this to be a miracle as opposed to Jonah in the whale or Joshua stopping the sun in its tracks.

The cows are unable to put the milk in convenient locations.  Every day the cows have to be milked, sometimes twice a day.  This was accomplished by, in the old days, a milker using a short-legged stool sitting beside the cow and grasping the teats and squeezing and pulling them.  He also would have a pail into which the milk would go.  When the man milking the cow achieves a certain rhythm, there is a zinging sound as the milk enters the pail.  This is a choreographed arrangement with the milker being perched on one side and then moving to the other side while carefully avoiding the cow’s hooves.   If she is disturbed, she may kick the man in the shins or knees with disastrous results.  One of my older brothers, who was not known for his veracity, told me that white milk came out of the two front teats and that chocolate milk came from the two rear teats.

Because I was small at the time when my brother informed me of how things are done in the milking process, I have now referred this chocolate milk question to James Reese, who holds a degree in animal husbandry from a prestigious university in Iowa.  The first question is, “If he is an expert on animal husbandry, whatever happened to animal wifery?”  So far, Mr. Reese has not responded to that question.  Nor has he provided a respectful answer to the dilemma about white milk coming from the front teats and chocolate milk coming from the rear teats.

If you were listening to the news broadcast on August 26 and heard the confusion about the great teat controversy. I am not at all surprised.  I believe that NBC richly deserves this Award for Priggishness and Prissiness.  Beyond all that, I hope that you have been reasonably informed on how the milk in your refrigerator starts out as green grass or brown fodder.  The facts in the matter are that female cows have a holding tank near the back part of their bodies into which milk is gathered and extracted through the teat arrangement.  As someone who comes from a dairy farm as Miss Chicka and I do, it is terribly distressing to know that NBC considered the appendages to the cow’s udder as horrid words.  Cows don’t wear brassieres, corsets or clothing that conceals their udders or their teats.  I suppose that they have been getting along reasonably well since the beginning of time under the current arrangement.  It is only the NBC executives at the top of the rock who wish to protect their listeners from horrid words.  The proprietor of Ezra’s Essays finds their conduct not only priggish and prissy but also a matter of udder ridiculousness.



August 29, 2010



Kevin’s commentary:

Okay a few things:

1) “The great teat controversy” would be an excellent name for a rock band.

2) Speaking of great teats, the French thought that that very same phrase would be a good name for a mountain range. “Hey Francois, what do you think of these mountains?” “Well, Gaspard, they look like big ol’ titties.” “Grand Tetons it is!”

3) Crude Frenchmen should be in charge of naming every new discovery from here on out. “Jacques, come quick! I found a new binary star system! What should I call it?” “They look like balls. They shall be ‘les testicules lisses brillants’!

4) I love that there has to be a commission for investigating why we have no money. I guess “we spend more money than we bring in” is too straightforward

5) I’m glad that Pop wasn’t the only sassy one in the Carr clan. The idea that part of the udder makes chocolate milk is something that I could easily see my mom telling me when I was a kid.




This may be a twice-told tale in that in 2005 I may have dictated an essay on the same subject matter.  But I have always held that the fun in story-telling belongs to the story teller.  It is a lot like prayer.  The person who prays feels good about himself when his prayer is finished.  Whether that prayer is ever answered or even heard is another matter.

In the case at bar, as the lawyers say, I am attempting to dictate this essay on the Sunday afternoon of August 15, 2010.  August 15th may not mean much to other people.  In purely personal terms, it is the day that I believe I got my life back.  Tony Haywood, the former chief executive officer of British Petroleum, who many years later expressed the same thought about getting his life back, should have been as fortunate as I have been.   In the event that you are not a history buff, I will inform you that on this day the Second World War ended in 1945.

At around noon time the battleship Missouri was moored in Tokyo Bay.  A Japanese diplomat in full ceremonial dress, top hat and all, climbed the rigging until he reached the deck of the Missouri.  My recollection is that the aged diplomat had trouble with one of his legs.  But as he climbed over the chain around the deck of the Missouri, he came to a table where he signed the piece of paper that told the world that the Japanese Empire had surrendered to the United States, thus ending World War Two.  General Douglas MacArthur was the master of ceremonies at this proceeding.

For all of the great cruelty that had marked our war with the Japanese, this was a very peaceful and civilized event.  I contend that it gave me my life back, which is a view that I have held for the past 65 years.

At the moment of the surrender of the Japanese, I was at my home in Missouri on a furlough from the United States Army Air Force.  I had completed 28 months of overseas duty including about 16 months in combat.  At the moment of the surrender ceremonies, I held orders from the Air Force sending me to a base in Greenwood, Mississippi to prepare for the final assault against the Japanese homeland.  It was widely estimated that the American assault on the Japanese homeland would cost us a minimum of one million casualties.  I fully expected to be among those casualties.

The base at Greenwood, Mississippi was to introduce us to the airplane that succeeded the A20 on which I saw service in Europe.  In Greenwood, we were to be instructed in the use of the A26, its successor low-level assault plane.

I had enlisted in the Army Air Force and I knew that I had to do my duty.  But I entered this phase, training to invade the Japanese homeland, with a sense of foreboding.  Flying at low altitudes, the determined opposition of the Japanese fighter planes called “Zeros” was far from an easy thing to do.  In fact, it might be considered suicidal.  And so it was that when the Japanese diplomat put his name on the proclamation offered by General MacArthur, I felt that I had really had my life back.

But that did not prevent the American military establishment from having a great reluctance to relieve those of us who thought that we had signed up to win the war and, now that that had been done, wanted to go home.  They wanted to hang on to us as long as possible because the more troops there are to command, the greater the need for Colonels and Generals.  If all of us went home, there would be no need for the Colonels and Generals to occupy a place on what the Army calls “the table of organization.”  In short, the big brass would be out of a job.

Therefore it was no surprise that the Army, in my case, saw things in a different light.  And so it was that I obeyed my orders to report to the base at Greenwood, Mississippi.  Getting there was not easy in that it involved a long 300-mile trip from St. Louis to Memphis, Tennessee on a bus.  At Memphis, I caught a train called the “Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad.”  Each day, or perhaps twice each day, the Y&MV would leave the station at Memphis and make one oval-shaped trip through various towns in Mississippi.  I had to be careful because one of those towns was named Greenville, whereas I was headed for Greenwood.  But in time I presented myself to the authorities at the Greenwood Air Base.  Curiously, the A26 bombers that we were to become acquainted with do not now appear in my recollection.  If not for the bombers, we had very little to do.  Most of us pestered the front office about getting out of the Army.  The Army pestered us about re-enlisting.

In its efforts to get us to re-enlist, I found that the enlisted men’s mess hall now provided two items to which I was thoroughly unaccustomed.  In the morning, for example, there were eggs.  I had been in the army for more than three years and had never seen an egg, fried, boiled, scrambled or whatever.  The ban on eggs seems to have occurred not only in the domestic market but in the overseas markets as well.

The evening meal, which was served starting at 4 PM, offered all kinds of steak.  Needless to say, in the past more than three years, I had never seen steak on any Army menu.  All of this – the eggs and the steaks – was part of an attempt to seduce us.  Those that the Army sought to re-enlist would enjoy steak and eggs forever.  But most of us said, “To hell with the steaks and eggs!  We want to get out of here!”

We had no bombers to get acquainted with, and we refused to do close-order drill.  We thought that we had done our part in winning the war and now it was time for the Army to step up and discharge us.  The din from the enlisted men evidently grew so loud that the commanding officer of the Greenwood base felt it was necessary for him to speak to the troops.

This officer was a Colonel.  Today I expect that the Greenwood base would probably be commanded by at least a Lieutenant-General or a major-General.  From what I have been told, we now have more Generals on our payroll than we had at the height of the war in Vietnam.

But in any case the Colonel, whom we had never seen before, gathered as many as the auditorium could handle.  I expect that there may have been five hundred people in the audience in the auditorium to hear the Colonel’s speech.  The idea of speaking to the troops was to persuade us to re-enlist as a patriotic duty.  Most of us had figured out that we had already done our patriotic duty and we were ready to go home now.

The Colonel got into his little spiel, trying to ignore the caustic comments that were coming from his audience.  The enlisted men in this audience were not in a mood to be seduced by the Colonel’s entreaties.  Finally, as the Colonel was winding down his pitch, he flubbed a line terribly.  I have forgotten what that line was.  Nonetheless, a GI in the audience stood up and said to the Colonel in a loud stentorian voice, “Hey, Colonel, why don’t you try that line in a prone position?”  Well, that brought the house down and there was no point in the Colonel having anything further to say.  He got off the stage as quickly as possible and there were no further meetings in the auditorium.  I suspect that he told the Generals above him that we had to be released or there would be a full-fledged revolt.

In short order, we began to get orders to report to bases near our homes for the purpose of discharge.  Today marks the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.  So this is a twice-told tale.  I hope that I have not bored you.  It is of great importance to me and to all of those who were in training with me to prepare for the final assault against Japan, to know that we indeed had our lives back.  Old Tony Hayward should have been so lucky.


Now we turn to what I consider probably another twice-told tale.  The events here took place in 1947 or 1948.  Four of us veterans met for lunch each day.  Generally speaking we ate in saloons which seemed glad to have the business even though we consumed no alcoholic beverages at all.  My recollection is that ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread were the usual offerings.  This is not exotic fare but all of us were thoroughly glad to be rid of involvement with the military establishments.  Eating in saloons was quick and provided opportunities for doing other errands after the sumptuous meal.

In this case, Lloyd Rockamann and Tom Laflin, who were among the regulars, had errands to do on which we did not wish to accompany them.  The other man, Gordon Gintz, said that he would go with me to do whatever I wanted to do after lunch.  This incident must have been in the springtime, in the General vicinity of St. Patrick’s Day and/or Lent.

Gordon Gintz was a fine person who was unschooled in the ways of the world.  Certainly classical music was not his bag.  So it was after lunch I said that I would like to go to the Aeolian Company to buy a record by James Melton, a popular Metropolitan Opera tenor at the time.

The Aeolian Company was a high-class establishment which had three Steinway grand pianos in its showroom, with the record department being in the back.  It seemed to me that the management of the Aeolian Company really wanted to sell grand pianos but offered records to accommodate those who were not interested in grand pianos.  Now remember, this was the season of Lent and of the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

Gordon Gintz knew vaguely of my interest in Irish music.  He had never commented one way or another on that interest and was merely accompanying me while I did this errand to buy the James Melton record.  My recollection is that this was in the era prior to vinyl records or the so-called long-playing records.  Records in that era were breakable and certainly provided no long-playing aspects.  But now remember that Gordon Gintz had no musical training and seemed to have no devotion to classical music or music of other kinds.  When I told the clerk at the Aeolian Company that I wanted a record of James Melton singing The Holy City, Gordon Gintz must have been impressed.

Now you remember that this was the season of Lent, and James Melton was a leading tenor at the Metropolitan Opera.  To acquire a record of Melton singing The Holy City was some sort of accomplishment on my part.  But while we were waiting for the clerk to locate the Melton record, Gordon Gintz said, “Jeezus Carr, why are you always buying Irish records?”

It did no good for me to explain to Gordon that The Holy City was about Jerusalem, not Dublin.  Here I am, 65 years later, recalling a remark made by Gordon Gintz in all innocence.  But I had to recite this tale because the title of this essay is “Rampant Nostalgia.”  If it is a twice-told tale, so be it.

There you have my recollection of the GI telling the Colonel to try it in a prone position and Gordon Gintz’s evaluation of my musical taste.  I suspect that these are twice-told tales but to an old codger such as myself, they are meaningful.  And more than anything else, we don’t have world wars ending very often.  It would be helpful if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were also in our rear-view mirror.

A final comment about serious musicians.  Apparently they do not like to be called by their nicknames, if they have any.  There was James Melton, not Jimmy Melton; Samuel Ramey, not Sam or Sammy; Luciano Pavarotti; and Placido Domingo, all insisting on music lovers using their full name.  I can’t say that I have any objection to this practice, and as long as it does not interfere with the nostalgic moment, I will salute it as it passes.

Notes:  Jerusalem is a holy city to the Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims.  The events described herein happened in 1948.  Little did I know that 30 years later I would begin traveling to Jerusalem for business reasons.  That happened on at least twelve or more occasions.  During those visits I became very friendly with Jake Haberfeld, Aryeh Ron, and Gideon Lev.  By the time I retired, I considered them among my closest friends.



August 15, 2010

Essay 484


Kevin’s commentary: I hope that I am not burning through the “favorite” tag too quickly. I don’t want to cheapen it, but there have been so many great essays in 2010 that I can’t help but apply it liberally. For my part, I’m looking forward to reading these tales again in a different light when I get to 2005.

It also occurs to me that I would very much like an essay entirely committed to the food that Pop was served while he was enlisted. I realize that he does not talk about the war on general principle but there’s a chance that railing against the grub he was served may sneak under that radar. Here’s hoping.



Yesterday was August 22, 2010.  In the op ed column of The New York Times, there were great editorials from Frank Rich, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, and Nicholas Kristof.  In addition to those columnists, there were essays in The Washington Post.  The reason that these essays and editorial comments were written has to do with the proposal by a Muslim cleric.  His name is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.  It is the proposal of the imam that he would renovate a 15-story structure in lower Manhattan, about two blocks from Ground Zero.  The structure would include a mosque.  The building would also serve as a community center and has several other features, none of them having to do with the religion of Muslims.

The proposal of Imam Rauf has set the right-wing Republican hearts aflutter.  The bulk of the fluttering is by Republicans such as Newt Gingrich.  Why all of this is taking place is difficult for a person in my position to understand.

The purpose of the structure is to promote harmony and understanding among the faithful in the city of New York.  Imam Rauf was a favorite of the Bush administration and now has become a favorite of the Obama administration.  During the last stages of the Bush administration, Imam Rauf accompanied Karen Hughes, a State Department official, in her efforts to explain the foreign policy of the Bushies to the Muslim world.

But the point is that in building his mosque, which is really a restoration of a pre-existing building, Imam Rauf is intent upon promoting understanding and peace among the various faiths in New York.  I may be taken in but from what I understand, Imam Rauf is not a flame-thrower.  He seems to be a man of peace.  The State Department in both the Bush and the Obama administrations has sent him on trips around the Muslim world to make it clear that this country is not at war with the Muslim faith.  As a matter of fact, at this very moment the Imam is on such a trip in an effort to help this country.  But this means very little to the bombastic Newt Gingrich.  He contends that it is like painting a swastika on the side of the building housing Holocaust artifacts.

The President of the United States, Mr. Obama, started out a week or so ago to explain what was happening in New York.  In all likelihood, it would have been better had the President said, “This is a local matter and the federal government does not need to get involved in it.”  But on the contrary he did get involved and, before long, he stuck his foot in it.

When Obama started out to explain what was taking place in New York, he cited the constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion in this country.  That’s great stuff and I fully agree with him.  The following day Obama, in his desire not to be controversial, supplemented the previous day’s statement about the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion.  He now said that Imam Rauf had taken into account that he is building his new mosque only two blocks or so from the World Trade Center.  Mr. Obama also said that he had not commented on the wisdom of building a mosque on this particular site.  Presumably Mr. Obama would be more pleased if Imam Rauf were to build his new mosque on the Battery or in mid-town New York.  But the fact of the matter is that this country guarantees freedom of worship – or non-worship.  New Yorkers are free to worship or not worship uptown or downtown.

Now, when it comes to the location of the proposed mosque, it should be noted that the area surrounding the World Trade Center is far from being sacred ground at all.  For many years, my offices were at 32 Sixth Avenue, 195 Broadway, 140 West Street and then at 5 World Trade Center.  Every day I walked through that area of ground and saw really nothing sacred about it.  Apparently the mosque is to be constructed a block or so from my old offices at 140 West Street, where I worked for the New York Telephone Company.  If it had been constructed when I worked for the New York company, I believe I would have said, “So what?” as most New Yorkers have said.  But when it comes to the sacredness of the area surrounding the mosque, Mr. Obama should review his facts a little more carefully.

There are in this neighborhood of the proposed mosque, a selection of porn shops and I am told that two establishments even closer to Ground Zero, offer lap dances.  I am not really a connoisseur of lap dancing.  I assume that it borders on prostitution.  If lap dancing ever becomes sacred, I would like to know who blessed it.

In New York, a resident would consider someone from two blocks away as sort of a foreigner.  New York is an extremely tolerant place and I am truly sorry that the President elected to stick his foot into the controversy.  But I got into this essay because of the dispute about the mosque, and its religious, cultural and political considerations.

Yesterday after reading the op eds in The New York Times and The Washington Post, I had conversations with Howard Davis, my old-time friend who lives in Yorktown.  I also had a conversation with my daughter and her husband, who live in the upper reaches of Park Avenue.  Curiously, they were not excited at all about the controversy involving Imam Rauf’s mosque.  As New Yorkers, they may even say, “What the hell? What else is new?”  In the final analysis, Imam Rauf’s mosque will have to be debated on dozens of zoning boards that are building permit issuers.  The structure in all likelihood will see its completion five or more years in the future.  And all of that assumes that it will actually occur.

As most of my readers know, I am not associated with any religion.  I am not a Catholic or a Protestant or a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or anything else.  This fact permits me to comment on the proposed mosque without fear or favor.

My final thought, after having read all of the editorials, is simple and straightforward.  Certainly in this country there should be freedom of religion.  My only comment is that all of the arm-waving by the religious leaders would be greatly appreciated if people such as myself were to have a constitutional amendment guaranteeing freedom from religion.  I am reasonably certain that no politician would ever take up the cudgels on my behalf to establish that we all have a freedom from religion.  But in the final analysis, I am willing to live with our current constitution which guarantees freedom of religion.  I guess that I am moved to say, “What could be fairer than that?”



August 22, 2010

Essay 490


Kevin’s commentary: Oh gosh, this was a huge debacle in late 2010. I’d written it off immediately as “obviously they should be allowed to build there” and hadn’t thought more of it, but it really was interesting in retrospect. It revealed a lot about to what extent the population actually cares about things like the first amendment. Not surprisingly, oftentimes the answer was “we like the first amendment, so long as it does not protect something we find objectionable.” This is of course problematic. I hope the mosque gets built. I will have to check up on it soon.


I hope that I do not have to establish my bona fides with respect to music.  I was raised in the suburban area of a musical town where there were symphonies, operettas, a grand opera, and recitals of all kinds.  The name of the town was, of course, St. Louis.  It may not rank with New Orleans in terms of music but music was always a part of our lives in St. Louis.  I offer this thought not only to establish my bona fides but also to demonstrate that I am a lover of music, not someone who says, “Turn that thing off!”

I cannot say that I can get emotionally wrapped up in symphonic music, but I find it acceptable.  The arias from operas and operettas have always had a sense of great interest to me.  The songs from Broadway shows have also entranced me.  In spite of my views about religion, I find the music of the churches fairly elegant.  I find myself humming or even singing a few lines from hymns that were sung some 75 years ago.  The only hymn that I draw the line on is a stupid one about “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.”  When I was asked to join a chorus of children to sing that hymn, I finally took my leave of organized religion.

So if it is established that I am a lover of music, I am here to tell you that the loudspeaker music in our grocery store, for example, is fairly offensive.  When I go to the offices of doctors, which happens more often than I would like these days, the entertainment there comes from television, and it is largely revolting.

As you know, I go back a long way.  It seems, however, that in recent years the music and the entertainment are offensive to any person who is moved by a decent song or orchestral work.

Let me start at the beginning.  But we will concentrate largely on grocery stores and physicians’ offices, a department store, and the music that has come to be identified as “elevator music.”  I first started going to a grocery store around the year of 1928.  The store was run by John Gualdoni, a magnificent fellow who helped the Carr family through the depression.  In that store in that era, the Gualdoni market in Brentwood, Missouri offered absolutely no entertainment whatsoever.  The exception might be the insults that were hurled from two clerks, Bob and Louie, and the butcher.  I thought that their ribbing and sense of humor were great stuff.  I really looked forward to going to Gualdoni’s market because it entertained me greatly.  At that food store, there was no need to have a distraction such as television, which did not come along until 24 years later.

Now, however, when I go shopping with my wife twice each week, I am assaulted by a noise that teenagers seem to think is music.  Curiously, the teenagers who seem to dominate the music charts are not in evidence at the Whole Foods Market.  The music is insistently upbeat, provided by the management I suppose, in an effort to get their clerks to bustle with enthusiasm.  It has precisely the wrong effect on the shoppers, who are a sophisticated bunch.  I believe that it can be stated that teenagers with their miserable taste in music are not found in a store such as Whole Foods that charges substantial prices for its products.

This upbeat music, with all of its hustle and bustle, simply causes me to say, “Let’s try to get the hell out of here as soon as possible.”  If the store wanted to provide music for its patrons, it might pick selections that had a dreamy quality to them.  Such dreamy music might encourage patrons to hang around and find something else that they did not need but would buy anyhow instead of rushing to get out of the store.  I am at a loss to know who selects the music that is played on the loudspeakers at the Whole Foods Market, but I can tell you that it is basically abominable.

Periodically the music is interrupted by someone saying that an incoming call is on line one or two or whatever.  Why Whole Foods chooses this means of communication with its employees and its customers is a mystery to me.  The employees drop whatever they are doing to listen to the loudspeaker announcement which says that there is a call from someone for the fish counter or produce or whatever.  In short, Whole Foods, which is a thoroughly upscale market judging by its prices, plays downscale music over its loudspeakers.  If they had selected a tape of decent music, patrons might well be encouraged to look over the rest of their products and not be in such a hurry, as I am, to get out of the store.

Going back to the old days, occasionally I found myself in a dentist’s office.  In that bygone era there was no television of course and the only distractions were news magazines of ancient vintage.  The fact that one could hear the drilling on the teeth of other patients was not really encouraging.

In the current era, however, it would be unthinkable for a physician to open an office and not provide some entertainment to soothe his prospective patients.  The dentist that I have patronized for many years is a devotee of the morning talk and game shows, as are his helpers.  He and his assistants are also interested in the sob stories that are part of television programming during the daytime.  They know of my dislike for television and usually turn the sets off.  One of the sets is kept on in the front office so the cashier can tell the dentist and his assistant what they have missed.  So you see, physicians and dentists feel obliged to provide us with entertainment while we visit them.  I really wish that they would not do that, because my intent is to get my body or my teeth fixed.  The distractions just prolong the agony.  Even our handyman, who is based in the home repair business, keeps a radio at his side as he works.  He is a red-hot Republican of the right wing.  I can’t imagine that he would appreciate a piece of music.  There is nothing that I can do about it.

If I may offer a solution to the problem of being entertained, it would be the Nordstrom model.  Inside the main entrance of the Nordstrom store, there is a grand piano.  From time to time, a pianist plays music, mostly from Broadway show tunes.  Rather than chasing me out of the store, I have found that on at least two occasions, I have hung around the store to hear the tunes and wound up buying something I didn’t know that I needed.  I know that not every store can afford a pianist with a large repertoire but at this point I go firmly on record to state that, if we cannot have the Nordstrom model, then our alternative is absolute silence.

And may I add, “What is wrong with silence or a reasonable facsimile thereof?”   My belief is that if John Gualdoni, our grocer of many years ago were to enter his store and find upbeat music, someone would probably be shot.  I have no problem with being entertained.  As a general principle, music is high on my list of entertainment sources.  But shopping and visits to the physician’s office are not where I would ever go to be entertained.  If we cannot do it in the Nordstrom model, then may I suggest that silence is indeed golden.



August 21, 2010

Essay 488


Kevin’s commentary: I very much enjoyed this essay, though I have no doubt that Pop would find my taste in music similarly abominable. It moves quickly and in some cases does not feature live instrumentation.  Then again, what is playing in Whole Foods is likely to not be the music I’m listening to. Probably it is what we call “top 40” music, meaning that is in the top 40 of the “billboard” charts which basically just track pop and hip hop music. This is the type of music that my younger brother will listen to for hours on and, and the same type of music that my poor parents have been strongarmed into listening to by that very same sixteen year old, because they’ve been parenting for a long time and the fight over the radio is simply one they are no longer willing to have.


One other thought struck me as I was reading this essay, namely the one about the dentist’s office. I had an orthodontist in Texas whose lobby had no less than 3 separate gaming consoles. Frustratingly said orthodontist was ruthlessly efficient in terms of managing his staff and patients so I never had to wait more than five minutes for my appointment. Conversely at my eye doctor I routinely wait 30, 40 minutes with the only entertainment being a looping video of all the horrible eye diseases that I might contract.

Pop’s response:


Pop and I want to know what kind of music you listen to?  Is it Sound Art?



My response, which I never wound up sending to them but they can see here:

No, it is not sound art. I am not even sure what Sound Art is, to be honest. I listen to a blend of music which pulls mainly from electronic, indie, and rock influences. Most of this music is upbeat, which is why I suspected that Pop would not like it.  I am going to think about an artist that I like that my grandfather might also like, but it may take me some time.

P.S. this essay is why the “objections to modernity” tag is one of my favorite ones.  This is an Andy Rooney essay if ever there was one.


The dramatis personae of the following essay will cause historians to rate it as a tour de force or as a complete omnibus essay.  The dramatis personae include Levi Johnston, the Wasilla, Alaska stud who impregnated Sarah Palin’s daughter, and Sarah Palin’s husband who claims Eskimo ancestry in his parentage.  Moving in a southward direction, the next people to appear belong to a major league baseball club in New York called The Metropolitans or, in short form, the Mets.

Moving further southward, there is a golf course in Florida where it is alleged that one of the Mets southpaw pitchers made love to a woman who originally claimed rape and then, after an exchange of money, said it was all consensual.  Finally we move southward to the great country of Venezuela, where there are two pitchers who play for the New York Metropolitans.  One is a southpaw named Johan Santana and a right-handed closer named Francisco Rodriguez, better known as K-Rod.

I forgot to mention that in the progression through New York, living with K-Rod, there is an unmarried woman who is the mother of their  children.  Also residing in that house in New York is her father.  In the newspapers, he is referred to as the children’s grandfather or the father of K-Rod’s common-law wife.  I assume that by this time you are as confused as I am.  But let us not let that confusion interfere with the magnificent tale that I am about to unwind for you.

The story starts in Wasilla, Alaska wherein resides Levi Johnston, the stud who is credited with impregnating the daughter of the former governor and her husband.  Governor Palin’s husband participates in the annual dogsled race in Alaska and he is the gentleman who says that his ancestors include Eskimos.  I do not know enough about Eskimos to make a judgment in that case so I am willing to concede the point.  Whether he is to be called the grandfather of his daughter’s lovechild has not really been settled by the press associations.

In any event, a week or so ago Levi Johnston, the great American stud, announced that he was going to run for mayor of the great city of Wasilla, Alaska.  Significantly, this is precisely where Governor Palin’s political career began.

I am told that Levi expects a heavy turnout in the election by high school dropouts, of which he is one.  Presumably they would all vote for Levi.  Secondly, there may be a large number of studs who have impregnated Wasilla females.  I assume that Levi can count on their votes too.  Then there are those who, as Levi has done, posed nude for Playgirl Magazine.  I assume that Levi can count on their votes as well.  The other females with whom Levi has had dalliances also constitute another voting bloc.  So you can see that there is a large body of support for Levi’s political ambitions.  He may be aiming, once he attains the age of 35, to become one of Alaska’s senators.

So we started with Levi and, more importantly, Todd Palin, the husband of the former governor and the man who claims Eskimo ancestry.  So much for the Alaskan contingent of the dramatis personae.

Now we move to K-Rod, the Met’s Venzewalen closer.  As I told you, he is the father of two infant daughters, presented to him by his common law wife.  What this means is that, much as in the case of Levi Johnston, he has neglected to marry the mother of his children.  And, as I said earlier, residing in the same household is the so-called common-law wife’s father, who plays a pivotal part in this sordid story.

Last week, we found that the common-law wife’s father was brutally beaten by none other than the closing pitcher for the Mets, K-Rod.

The New York Mets announced earlier this week that K-Rod was placed on their suspended list, which means that he will not enjoy the income from his $11.5 million annual salary.

Apparently K-Rod has a short fuse because in his tenure with the Mets, which started only this spring, he has punched the bullpen coach in the nose, for which he was mildly reprimanded.  K-Rod is the closer for the New York Mets, which means that he pitches in tight ballgames in the ninth inning.  So I suspect that he is a high-strung sort of man.

There is a waiting room that is provided by the Mets for the wives and relatives of the ballplayers.  Late last week, it appears that K-Rod, the magnificent closer who really isn’t all that magnificent, confronted the father of his common-law wife outside that room.  There was a dispute followed by which K-Rod, the 28-year-old pitcher, proceeded to mangle the head and torso of the father, a fifty-plus year-old man, in a fistfight.  In the process, K-Rod tore the ligaments of his pitching hand.

When news of the attack on the father of the so-called common-law wife became known, the New York Mets suspended K-Rod for two games and then they found that the police were involved.  After the fight, apparently K-Rod had spent the night in a holding cell and the following morning he was charged by the authorities with three misdemeanors.  At that point, the New York Mets felt that the two-day suspension was not enough and they suspended his contract.  If they had the courage to do it, the Mets would like to void his contract, but that would take a tussle with the players’ union.

So K-Rod, as a result of his fight with the father of his common-law wife, has submitted to an operation on his pitching hand for torn ligaments.  The surgeons hope that his hand will be healed in time for spring training, which will take place starting in February of 2011.  In the meantime, K-Rod has announced that he would be willing to undergo anger management training.  But that did not impress the New York Mets management.  They disqualified him for the rest of the season.

So what we have here is a 28-year-old athlete beating up on a mid-fifty year-old gentleman, the result being that his common-law wife got a restraining order to lock him out of the house, which prevents him from seeing his daughters.

K-Rod would have been so much better off had he changed his way to becoming a lover as Levi Johnston has done.  He has a role model in his fellow Venezuelan, Senor Santana, who had an encounter with a female on a golf course.  As far as I know, golf courses are not lighted so that the encounter with the right-hander and the sweet female took place in darkness.  It is true that the woman claimed a rape and that after the lawyers became involved and money was exchanged, she loudly pronounced to the world that the sexual encounter was consensual.

The New York Mets did nothing about Senor Santana’s encounter on the golf course and his salary of something on the order of $17 million a year is still intact.  I am quite certain that K-Rod, now that he has had time to think about it, will agree that he should have become a lover rather than a fighter.  K-Rod has lost his income and he has been locked out of the house.  This is just punishment for beating up on an older person.  And on top of all of that, when he appeared at the Mets ball game, he was roundly booed.

I did not intend for this omnibus essay to be a moralistic one.  Obviously, it is not.  More than anything else, it might be called a political one.  I have told Levi Johnston about the events involving K-Rod.  In his campaign for Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Levi has taken my advice and has had campaign literature now being printed.  One of the pieces of literature is a bumper sticker.  It will not say that you should vote for Levi Johnston. PERIOD.

With the K-Rod fiasco in mind, Levi has asked his printer for bumper stickers that say, “Vote for me because I didn’t beat up on the Eskimo father of my lover from whom I am getting no love at all.”

I realize that this is very long to be read from a bumper sticker and will probably cause traffic accidents.  And I acknowledge that it would take an automobile with tremendous bumpers or a bus to accommodate this sticker.  But I believe that the launching of a new political career for Levi Johnston, the stud of Wasilla, Alaska, makes it worth the effort.

Now that K-Rod has been locked out of the house, he can move to Wasilla, Alaska and join the throngs that will cast votes for the honorable Levi Johnston in the coming elections.  All the appearances are that K-Rod will not be pitching in a major league ball game for awhile.  So he might as well use his talents on behalf of a fellow stud.  K-Rod being a Venezuelan, Levi can also hope for the Venezuelan vote in Wasilla, Alaska to be cast in his favor.  Do you think K-Rod or Levi would know the lyrics to “Happy Days Are Here Again”?



August 20, 2010

Essay 487


Kevin’s commentary:

Why isn’t he “F-Rod”? I feel like I’m missing something.

Also, this essay describes an incredible clusterfuck which I am sad to have missed the first time around. How did I miss this?!

I look forward to reading essays from longer and longer ago, as they will contain similar incredible events of which I have little to no memory.


Eric Bogle is a prolific songwriter who started his life in Scotland in a town called Peebles.  At age 25, he took off for Australia and has long since become a citizen there.

Bogle composed a song which is really a poem to recognize the existence of a love affair wherein the husband eventually died.  It contains these lines:

I can’t give you silver,
Can’t bring you gold,
Can’t stop the world from turning,
Or you and I from growing old.

And so it was that I was thinking of the Bogle song last week only to learn about the death of three people that I had known quite well.  The first gentleman was 79; the second was 85; and the third man, Jim Horney, was born only days distant from my own birthday.  Jim Horney enjoyed a wonderful life with his wife Joy but in the end, as it must for all men, his life ended.  Jim was one of the most decent and honest people I have ever known in my life.

Now it has always been contended that when his time comes to go, every Irishman wants to read his own obituary.  I am not so sure that this is a good idea, and in my case it is impeded by the fact that I can’t see.  If I wrote my own obituary, I would try to jazz it up to the point of unbelievability.  But in point of fact I am not going to write my own obituary.

If that job ever is required to be done, I hope that it is performed by what the chairman of BP calls the “small people.”  Early in my career, after I returned from service with the Army of the United States, I found myself with the responsibilities of a union officer.  In short order I became the president of that union and then won election to the bargaining committee to deal with AT&T management.  At that time, AT&T had construction gangs all over the country who did the hard work of driving tractors and digging trenches for cables.  For many years, AT&T had deducted $7 each week from the wages of those men.  They called it the “board and lodging equivalent.”

When I was elected to the bargaining committee, I more or less made it known that I would not sign a contract on behalf of the union that continued the board and lodging equivalent deduction.  When people in the management or non-management ranks of AT&T traveled, they would turn in their expenses and expect to be fully reimbursed.  There was no board and lodging equivalent deduction.  But from the construction gangs who did the hard work, AT&T deducted $7 per week.  In the company’s final proposal, I noticed that provision was eliminated so the construction gangs won one.  They could say goodbye to the board and lodging equivalent, which was a bastardly arrangement.

I needed no encouragement whatsoever to believe in what the men at the bottom of the economic ladder had to say.  I was one of them.   I trusted them and I believe that they trusted me.

I am very pleased to report that, after passage of my duties into management ranks, that sentiment still pertains.  I am happy to identify myself with the people at the bottom of the economic stack because, among other things, it gives me great comfort to be so associated with them.

Now if there is any truth to the thought that every Irishman wants to read his own obituary, I would hope that my obituary would be the result of the works of working people in the grocery stores, the fish markets, and the restaurants that we patronize.  Paul Byfield, Owen Gaynor, Garth Symons, and his brother Alrick Symons are always happy warriors.  They would lend a spirit of joviality to my obituary.  As I have said earlier, the Jamaicans are the happiest people I ever knew.  Jamaicans work in the produce department.  When I need to be cheered up, I often go to the market and engage in a conversation with a Jamaican.  Those Jamaicans would write a superb obituary on my behalf and you would laugh as you read it, even if there was an exaggeration or two here and there.

There is also the produce man of sixty some years who came to this country from Italy.  He is also a man who gets his hands dirty.  He is my longtime special friend.  But Gregorio Russo is a proud man and I believe that his contributions to my obituary would be reasonably pungent.

Then there is Tony, whose last name translates into Goodrich, in the fish market.  Tony would add some zest or some marinade to my obituary and I believe that he would treat me very kindly.

Upon leaving the produce and fish departments, there are two women of African ancestry.  The first one knows of my penchant for licorice.  She always greets me with a cackle and demands to know when she is going to get her licorice pie that I foolishly once promised her.  The second person, named Judy, is a bright decent person.  Judy does not hassle me about licorice pies.  I believe that Jackie and Judy would treat me very kindly in my obituary, although Jackie will still be demanding her pie.

At the restaurant we patronize, the wait staff is Ecuadorian.  As I have done in all my other contacts with working people, I make it a point to know their names and to shake their hands.  I try to make sure that no hand at the grocery store remains unshaken, at least by me.  The same is true of the restaurant, from the headwaiter, Cesar, to Vincent, a busboy.  Those people are the salt of the earth.

The owners of the restaurant are two refugees from Imperia, Italy and they get their hands shaken as well.  Their contribution to my obituary might take on a musical reference or two.

It has always been my custom to shake the hand of everyone who does the heavy lifting and to call them by their name.  I started out in life as a heavy lifter myself.  It seems to me that shaking the hands of the people who work with their hands may make them feel better about their worth and about their status, especially if they are immigrants.  It costs nothing for me to shake their hands and to speak their name.  Once those hands have been shaken, I must say that I feel better for it.

So before I am done, I wish to open my obituary to a large contingent of working people who, I believe, will treat me very fairly.  At least I intend to take my chances with those people who do the heavy lifting.  The language in the obituary may not be as eloquent as Winston Churchill might have produced, but it will be entirely genuine and there will be elements of hilarity.

I would like to see the obituary that they have produced and I will bet that the title will be “He Always Shook My Hand.”  If that is not the case, I will evoke the memory of Finnegan in the James Joyce poem.  He rose from his bier and said to the assembled mourners, “What the hell! Do you think I’m dead?”  As a matter of fact, Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey may have been involved here, but Finnegan clearly rose from the dead.

I am not so sure that reading one’s obituary is a great idea.  But now that I have been thinking about it, I believe that there is considerable merit.  If I am in a position to do so, I will interrupt the proceedings to make the nouns, verbs, and adjectives a little stronger here and there.  But in the final analysis, there is not one thing wrong with shaking a few hands, particularly of those who do the heavy lifting.  And while we are doing the hand shaking, please remember that we are all growing older.  As Eric Bogle has written:

I can’t give you silver,
Can’t bring you gold,
Can’t stop the world from turning,
Or you and I from growing old.


If we are going to get older, as is true in my case, and if we are going to die, as will happen to all of us, I believe that it is a good idea to make the best of it by shaking a few hands before we go.



August 7, 2010

Essay 483


Kevin’s commentary:

I suppose it’s time to get out and start shaking some more hands. Also, if you haven’t read this essay yet you should do so because it’s related to this one and it’s one of my favorites.

Now Pop, since I know you read this commentary sometimes, I’d like to get a straight answer: why has there been no pie procured for said lovely lady? She’s been waiting a long time. I am not sure if licorice pies even exist or if Judy would have any idea how to make one, but I say you two go for it anyway. Or maybe Pop himself should bake it with Judy in a more supervisory role. That could make for an interesting confection indeed.



This essay should be read after another essay called “In Memoriam: Abelino Mazariego.”  I don’t usually write essays that are to be consumed one after the other.  I like my essays to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, the thought being that they can all stand on their own feet.  In the instant case, however, I am still angry about a murder in Summit, New Jersey, an adjoining town, a week or so after it happened.

The case of the senseless murder of Abelino, the dishwasher and cook at an Indian restaurant in Summit, has haunted me.  Several developments have taken place which I will now address.  You will find that there is additional information about Abelino’s murder, some of which may seem contradictory to the “In Memoriam” essay.  These are the latest developments.

If you have read the essay called “In Memoriam: Abelino Mazariego,” you will know that late in July, Abelino was murdered as he sat on a park bench.

Apparently Abelino had finished work for the week on a Saturday evening.  As you know, restaurant workers put in long, long hours.  I suspect that in the case of Abelino, he was responsible for doing the dishes and providing help in the kitchen.  A day would normally last between eleven and twelve hours.

It seems that when his work was finished for the week, the boss of the Indian restaurant Dabbawalla paid him $640 in cash.  He left the restaurant and walked across the street to a small park.  Unconfirmed reports say that he bought a slice of pizza to enjoy as he sat on a bench after his day of work.  In short order, a total of 14 teenagers came to the park.  One of them engaged Abelino in conversation.  People who have seen photographs taken by one of his assailants say that Abelino looked relaxed and feared nothing at the time.

Unbeknownst to Abelino, a person in the gang walked behind him and picked up Abelino’s tee shirt to cover his face.  At that point, one of the people who had been questioning Abelino struck him with the full force of his being.  Before long, Abelino was attacked by one other teenager with blows to the head.

Whereas I had reported in the original essay that those three were being accused of manslaughter, I am delighted to find that the charges have been increased.  Those three now are charged with felony murder, which carries a much stiffer sentence than the manslaughter charges would have required.  In addition, two other teenagers who acted as lookouts were also charged with aggravated assault, which in itself is also a serious crime.  The rest of the gang of fourteen have not been charged, at least so far.

To add insult to a fatal beating, when Abelino was taken to Overlook Hospital, a male nurse in the emergency room stole $640 from Abelino’s body.  That nurse has now been charged with robbery and fired.

In sum total, this incident changed more than a dozen lives.  Abelino, as we know, is now dead.  His wife has four fatherless children.  Three of his assailants are now being charged with murder.  Two other assailants are being charged with aggravated assault.  And finally there is the nurse charged with robbery, making a total of more than a dozen persons.

This case has kept me awake at night because it is so senseless.  No one can explain how, on a hot July evening, some teenagers were intent upon taking someone else’s life and bragging about it.  There is no death penalty in the state of New Jersey but, on the other hand, I assume that the teenagers and the male nurse will have some anxious moments before they are finally sentenced.  This of course assumes that they will be convicted of the crimes as charged.

Well, this is the end of my two-part essay.  The second came about because there were so many changes in the original essay that I thought it would be best to just do a new one.  Under ordinary circumstances, it is my thought that I should think of a beginning and an ending to the essay.  When I started this essay, I was not so sure how it would end.  But now I believe that because two essays have been devoted to the murder of Abelino, I can sleep better.

I would do anything in the world to bring Abelino back to life because he was my kind of guy.  He was a hard worker with four children who washed dishes and sometimes cooked.  But I guess Abelino was fated always to wind up on the short end of the stick.  But at least I feel better by dictating this essay to let my readers know of my anger.

Summit, New Jersey is an affluent town.  The teenagers who participated in this murder did not even bother to steal Abelino’s cash from his body.  That was left to the nurse at Overlook Hospital.  I hope that you share my sense of outrage at what we have done to an immigrant from El Salvador.  And I hope that you share my views on what we have done to Abelino.

I don’t guarantee, now that this essay has been dictated, that I will sleep tonight but I am fairly certain that, with the assailants being charged with murder and aggravated assault, it appears that justice is on the way.  At this point, I hope to see that justice is rendered to the people who killed Abelino, to the persons who acted as lookouts, and, finally, to the nurse who stole Abelino’s cash.



August 2, 2010

Essay 479


Postscript:  Colin Crasto is the chef and manager of the Dabbawalla restaurant.  I am reasonably certain that Colin Crasto picked up the tab for Abelino’s funeral expenses.  On August 10th, Judy and I had the opportunity to have lunch at Dabbawalla restaurant and while we were there, we expressed our profound sorrow at his loss.  I am pleased to report that our meals were excellent and if you are in the neighborhood of Summit, New Jersey, and would like an unusual meal, Colin Crasto will provide it.  The address is 427 Springfield Avenue and the phone number is 908-918-0330.


Kevin’s commentary: Vicious and utterly unnecessary. I will never understand.


Here is one article on the murder case in Summit.  The people of Summit really turned out for Mazariego – at the funeral and at a memorial service.

The second article is about the actual sentencing which occurred on March 8, 2013.

You and Pop think so much alike on this and so many other issues.  It is remarkable.  Pop and I notice it often.  A couple of years ago I even started writing you a letter on this subject.  Someday I will find time to finish it.  in the meantime, keep up the posting.  We check them every day.



Under ordinary circumstances, the day at this house begins with a loud thud made by the storm door on the front porch. The loud thud has to do with the delivery of two newspapers rolled up and inserted into a plastic bag. If I am lucky, the newspapers will be placed to the side of the door against the railing. But I am not always lucky and so it is that the newspaper delivery man stands a few feet away and pitches the paper up toward the front porch. Sometimes the paper does not reach the front porch and falls on the steps. In that case I have to summon Judy, my wife, to go searching for it.

The question might be asked, what I am doing reading two newspapers, The New York Times and The Star Ledger of New Jersey, when I am blind. The answer is that I read the newspapers out of habit and while I can no longer see, my wife reads selected articles to me. Because we have passed the age of puberty, my wife reads the obituary columns on the ground that old folks die and we might know some of them. Last week there was an obituary for Sister Mary Anthony Tickerhoff. Here is what was said.

Sister Mary Anthony graduated high school and went on to complete one year of college before entering the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, on July 2, 1943. She made her first vows on Feb. 13, 1945 and final vows on Feb.13, 1948. In the monastery, she held the offices of novice mistress, bursar, councilor, librarian, sacristan, infirmarian, chantress, cook, kitchen supervisor, supervisor of maintenance staff, gardener, and bee keeper.

When Miss Chicka read the obituary for Sister Mary Anthony Tickerhoff and mentioned the dates in 1943, my interest was aroused. A few months earlier in 1943, I had my first taste of combat in the North African theater during World War II. Beyond that, I was interested in all of the jobs she held, including cook and bee keeper. Apparently the Dominican Order of Nuns who inhabit this monastery are self sufficient and seem to provide for themselves.

When I first came to New York, I rented a farm in New Providence, which is the immediate town west of Summit, New Jersey. Summit at that time was much more sophisticated than New Providence and so a good part of our time was spent in the confines of Summit, New Jersey.

As soon as I moved here in 1955, which is now 55 years ago, I became aware of the monastery on a large piece of property on the south end of the business district in Summit. Being of curious mind, I inquired as to what was going on at the monastery. It was explained to me that the Dominican Order of Nuns prayed the Rosary 24 hours per day. That is not to say that all of them prayed the Rosary; it is to say that at least one person was in the sanctuary or at the altar praying the Rosary at all hours of the day. I assume that Sister Tickerhoff took her turns at praying the Rosary and then went on to perform all of the other duties mentioned in her obituary.

I do not understand the significance of the Rosary, but I gather that it is of great importance to the people of the Catholic faith. While I may not understand the prayers of the Rosary, I do understand devotion to duty. Sister Tickerhoff apparently never left the premises of the monastery in Summit until, late in life, she entered a nursing home. She served at the monastery in Summit from 1943 until her death recently in the nursing home. Those with religious feelings will say that Sister Tickerhoff was a servant of God. I am not qualified to judge anyone on that score, but I will say that Sister Tickerhoff spent 67 years praying and serving her God. I applaud that as a full-fledged devotion to duty. And on top of that, she served as a cook and a beekeeper.

The monastery still stands on the corner of Springfield Avenue and Morris Avenue where it has stood for the 55 years that I have been in New Jersey. We frequently drive by that location. In the future I am going to make certain that the windows of the car are clearly rolled up to avoid attracting some of the monastery’s bees. I think that that is the least thing I can do to celebrate the life of Sister Mary Anthony Tickerhoff. Perhaps we should all to say to Sister Mary Anthony, “Well done, Sister Mary Anthony, well done!”

August 30, 2010

Essay 492


Postscript: It should be pointed out that the Monastery where Sister Mary Anthony served is only two blocks away from the park where Abelino Mazariego, the Salvadoran dishwasher, was murdered by an assault by five youngsters. Hers was a life well lived. By the time the law gets finished with the young men who did the beating, their lives may be worthless.

September 9, 2010

Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary
543 Springfield Avenue
Summit, NJ 07901-4498

Sisters of the Monastery:

In 1997, I had a stroke that spared my limbs but left me with a case of aphasia. The speech therapist at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation advised me that writing essays might exercise that part of my brain that had been injured by the stroke. Now, after thirteen years and some 500 essays, I found myself writing about the obituary of your Sister Mary Anthony Tickerhoff.

The essay pleased me and I hope that it pleases the residents of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary as well. I send it with admiration for the work that you are doing.

(orig. sgnd.) E. E. Carr

Enclosure (1)

Following is the response which I received from the nuns at the Monastery when they received the essay about Sister Mary Anthony. I am humbled by their response.

response 1


Kevin’s commentary:

And now my life is in some small way connected to a beekeeping, cake-baking nun from New Jersey who was born during WWI and died three years ago. Maybe I’ll run into a relative of hers sometime, and he or she will have no idea that this kid from Texas knows that his or her aunt, or godmother, or whatever made a killer fruit preserve. We live in a funny world; between the internet and airplanes, it seems like .

Nevertheless she seemed like a wonderful woman, and I’m glad that Pop took the time to write to her Monastery and have that exchange.

There are a few more pictures here.


As everyone knows, I hope, I am a student of politics, particularly at the national level. For a time of about four years, I had the opportunity to be a lobbyist for AT&T in Washington. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to meet Senator Claude Pepper from Florida during that time. But as age has descended upon my shoulders, I have come to appreciate a remark that Senator Pepper made as his life was drawing to a close.

Claude Pepper was a lively person with a good deal of wit. He was born in 1900 and died in 1989, which will tell that he enjoyed or endured a long life span. As his life drew to a close, the witty Senator Pepper once observed that he no longer bought green bananas, because he did not necessarily expect to live long enough to eat them when they were ripe. I suppose that old codgers such as myself have come to appreciate the remark about green bananas as enunciated by Claude Pepper.

Pepper was born in Alabama and soon found himself living in the state of Florida. As you may know, Florida is an elongated state with a great variety of inhabitants. Miami on the southern end is a bustling, reasonably sophisticated city. Orlando, one of the main cities of the middle of the state, is a hub of right-wing philosophy. Further to the north in the panhandle, the inhabitants generally reflect the point of view that makes them allegedly similar to the inhabitants of Alabama. Politicking down in Florida is a tricky business in that one must need to know what would play well in Homosassa in the north and then to Miami in the south.

In any event, Claude Pepper was elected to the United States Senate in 1936. He served there until 1950 when he was opposed by George Smathers and was defeated. During the campaign for Senator Pepper’s seat in the Senate, it is alleged that Smathers made the remarks below in a series of meetings in the backwoods sections of Florida. Smathers and Pepper have over the years neither conceded that the remarks were made nor that the story is a hoax. I have no way of knowing whether Smathers made the remarks. In any event, it is a pretty good story which I will relate in a minute. I hope that you will remember that these remarks were made to backwoods types in northern Florida, not to the sophisticates of Orlando or Miami. If Smathers made the remarks, and I suspect that he did, he was perfectly attuned to the political tastes of his constituents in the panhandle.

Here is what Smathers is alleged to have said about Senator Pepper.

“Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law. He has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage practiced celibacy and are you aware that Claude Pepper vacillated one night on the Senate floor?”

I guess the appeal to the yahoos of the northern Florida precincts was successful because George Smathers defeated Claude Pepper. Pepper’s career did not end there in that later on he became a member of the House of Representatives in Washington. I simply thought that the Smathers denunciation of Claude Pepper is classic and should serve as an inspiration to politicians of the current era.

Later on, when Claude Pepper was reaching the end of his life, he made the remark about the green bananas. I have known that remark for many years and I find myself in the final years of my life tending to live for the day or for the hour rather than making long-range plans. In former days I would find myself figuring out which suits I was going to wear in the following week with what shirts. I don’t wear suits and shirts much anymore and I do not plan that far ahead. And so it is that in these latter stages in my life, I take comfort from what Claude Pepper said a good many years ago about green bananas. And I also take a good bit of comfort from the remarks of George Smathers who accused Claude Pepper of some atrocious acts.

Perhaps if Barack Obama runs against Sarah Palin in 2012, he may well use some of the alleged speech that George Smathers made in 1950. Or perhaps Sarah Palin will use the Smathers speech to further defame Mr. Obama. I suspect we will have to wait and see.


August 29, 2010

Essay 491


Kevin’s commentary: Pop is always such a cheery fellow, don’t you think? His essays about aging just make it so difficult to have to wait to get old the, er, old-fashioned way.

My advice would be to keep buying the green bananas, both because optimism is good and because Judy might enjoy them.



When I entered the high school in Clayton, Missouri in January of 1936, I was asked a question about my course preparation.  The basic premise was that if you were going on to college, Clayton High School would equip you to handle college work.  If you were not going to college, you were assigned to courses that had a general appeal.  I had no hope whatsoever of going to college, so I wound up in the general category.

Among the courses offered in the general category were shop and mechanical drawing.  This was no real drawback to me because I liked working with my hands, and for the first time I had access to a lathe.  I stayed with the mechanical drawing for four years and it eventually was the underpinning for my getting a job with AT&T, where I stayed for 43 years.

The teacher in the shop work was named Sam Hall.  He was a tall lanky fellow who liked absolutely no nonsense from his students.  Sam Hall simply would not put up with horseplay.  This was fine with me because I was intent upon learning something.  Early in the course with Mr. Hall, we were obliged to make a hall tree.  A hall tree is a simple device that rests upon a platform and at the top has either arms or hooks on which a garment or a hat may be placed.

Each day we only spent one hour with Mr. Hall.  It was an enjoyable hour even if the teacher was strict and brooked no nonsense.  As I said, early in our adventures in the ways of shop, there was a project to make hall trees.

At that time in 1936, it was assumed that everybody wore a hat and in the wintertime an overcoat.  Current houses ordinarily have a closet near the front door in which the coats of visitors may be placed.  But in 1936 prior to the popularity of closets, there was a “hall tree” placed in the hall outside of the living room.  That tree was used to store the outer clothing of the visitors to the home.

Building a hall tree is not a magnificent engineering achievement.  First is the use of a lathe to construct the tree part of the hall tree.  Then lumber is assembled in a rough form and is turned into the base.  I can still remember the instructions about using a plane on what would become the base.  It went something like, “Plane a flat surface smooth and true, and mark it one.”  Then the wood was to be turned over and the same procedure followed.  It was, “Plane an edge, smooth and true and mark it two.”  Over a period of time, the parts, such as a trunk and a base, were assembled and put together.  Then came the staining process, and my first project in shop was then completed.

I took the hall tree home to my parents and they used it for many years.  My mother went out of her way to point out to visitors that the hall tree had been constructed by her youngest son.

One way or another the years passed, and the hall tree disappeared and no one seemed to know where it had gone.  And so if we fast forward from the 1936 time period to a period some sixty years later, we can make an astonishing discovery.

For many years, Judy and I have kept a metal hall tree in our gymnasium in the basement to hang sweatshirts and that sort of thing on.  The hall tree was old when I found it and over time it became unstable and it was decided that it should be replaced.  I did not think that hall trees would be easy to find.  But Judy, my wife, who is an inveterate on line shopper, located a hall tree at the Target store.  When it was delivered and we assembled it, there was a note permanently attached which said that it was a “product of Vietnam.”  I suppose that there are some who would say that Vietnam was our enemy and that the hall tree should be destroyed.  I take an opposite view.  The way to make friends is to converse with people and to trade with them.

The hall tree has been here for perhaps four years, and performs admirably well.  At the end of each arm at the top of the hall tree, the Vietnamese have placed a bit of a cup that tends to prevent the garment or cane from slipping off.  The hall trees that Mr. Hall instructed us to build had no such device.  And so it is that I am pleased to report that the Vietnamese hall tree is in daily use and I find many reasons to praise it.   It is clearly superior to the one I built under the direction of Sam Hall.

And as for Sam Hall, the shop teacher, I would be pleased for Mr. Hall to see the Vietnamese hall tree.  I am reasonably certain that Mr. Hall would praise the workmanship of a hall tree that was constructed so many miles from our home.  Mr. Hall also would find reason to praise the sturdiness of the hall tree and to admire the fact that it is in daily use.

As this essay has proceeded, it is clear that it is nothing more than another exercise in nostalgia.  I like hall trees and, as it turns out, I liked Sam Hall as well.  When I feel or touch the Vietnamese hall tree, I think back to the days of January 1936 when Mr. Hall instructed us to build a hall tree that we could take home at the end of that year.  I again submit that this is truly an exercise in nostalgia.  If anyone wishes to use the Vietnamese hall tree, I will be delighted to explain its function and its care.  I believe that everyone should have a hall tree, either in the living room or in a hall adjacent thereto.

As for this essay, it gave me a chance to remember Sam Hall and the project of constructing a hall tree which occurred in January of 1936.

You can’t do better than that!



August 15, 2010

Essay 485


Kevin’s commentary: Stories like this tend to make me feel pretty useless. My generation had shop classes, I guess, but they were in middle and high school and I sincerely doubt that many if any of my friends could assemble something like a hall tree today and have it turn out well. We’re great at Googling things, though… we would no doubt have a great set of instructions to botch in no time flat.