Archive for the April 2010 Category

SLEEPING WITH SYLVESTER

Luncheons around this house consist primarily of foie gras and truffles. As I was consuming my sixth helping of truffles, news came over the radio and television that shocked me.  It seems that Larry King, the ace broadcaster on the CNN network who does wide-ranging interviews, is now being sued for divorce by either his seventh or eighth wife.  There are those of us who say that if you have had seven or eight wives, there is no point in counting any more.  But the news broadcasters like to get things right.

Apparently the beef seems to be that Larry King, who is 76 years old, was sleeping with his wife’s sister.  From what I can observe, Larry King is a busy man taping interviews with the likes of Levi Johnson, the young man who impregnated the daughter of Sarah Palin.  But the news about a man sleeping with a woman is old hat.  In the instant case, I have a more salacious story to offer you.  For the last 14 months of my service to the Army of the United States abroad, I regularly slept quite openly with a male soldier from St. Louis, with the Army’s approval.  His name was Sylvester Liss, a man who had achieved the rank of Buck Sergeant in the Army.

In Biblical times, Leviticus warned males such as myself, that sleeping with one another would lead to grave trouble and would prevent entry into heaven.  But Sylvester and I ignored the warnings of Leviticus and slept together for the better part of 14 months. Unfortunately, this is not a totally salacious story but it is one of the happenstances that occur in the American Army.

In 1944, when I was finished with my detached service in Italy, the Army sent me back to my original unit, which was the Air Transport Command.  The main base for African operations was located in a place called Accra, which is now the capital of Ghana.  At that time, the country was called the Gold Coast.  For much of the Second World War, our air force was forced to use a route across the Atlantic Ocean that contained many hops.  It was a lengthy route, but judging by the results, it eventually got the job done.

And so it was that when I left Italy to go to Accra, I wound up in a barracks called G-17.  From what I can retrieve from my faulty memory, there was a bed open near the exterior wall.  So it was assigned to me.  I suspect that the salacious nature of this essay will be doomed in view of the fact that it was a bunk bed and I wound up in the top bunk.  The person in the bottom bunk was a fellow from St. Louis, also a buck sergeant called Sylvester Liss.  It might be supposed that two fellows from St. Louis serving out their time in the army would have a merry time of it with felicitous feelings everywhere.  But that was not to be the case.

Sylvester Liss was a loud man who had opinions on nearly everything.  I soon came to be realize that he was a Neanderthal whose main strength was that he seemed to dislike almost everyone.  But we were stuck together and so both of us tried to make the best of it.

Our initial meeting had occurred as I was preparing my C-47 to return to the factory which built it in 1935.  I had been selected to be the aerial engineer on this flight.  As I was preparing the airplane for the long flight across the South Atlantic and over the jungles of South America, I got to know Sylvester Liss somewhat better and increasingly I disliked what I had seen.  Nonetheless, I knew that after we had delivered the airplane to the factory in California and I reached St. Louis, there would be a period of five days before I had to leave to return to my station in Accra.  I told Sylvester Liss that in those five days, if he wished to send an uncensored letter to his wife, I would be glad to mail it.  I also offered to go by his house to speak with his wife.  Alternatively, Liss may not have wanted his wife to know of his circumstances in the army, so I specified that in that case I would say nothing.  In the end, after a delay of three or four days, Sylvester Liss said that it would be appropriate for me to visit his wife and at this time he gave me her address.  The flight took place and at the appropriate time I called Mrs. Liss and told her that I would be willing to come see her.  She was quite warm and welcoming and so it was that on a cold December evening in St. Louis I went to see Mrs. Liss.

As it turns out, Mrs. Liss was somewhere around my age, which was then 22.  She was a very bright person. She was well-dressed and she was a resident in her parents’ home.  As I left the place where I found Mrs. Liss, I started to shake my head.  How could a good-looking woman with a great deal of common sense wind up marrying a burly worker who was a loud-mouth Neanderthal?  But I guess that questions like this have existed since the beginning of time and all that I could do was to simply ponder that age-old question.

So I returned to Accra and Sylvester Liss and we maintained our chilly relationship for the rest of our time there.  Mrs. Liss had written Sylvester a letter from which he showed me two or three lines that thanked me for coming to see her.  If Sylvester ever thanked me for going to see his wife, I cannot now recall that.  Let us say that he did express some gratitude.

At the time that these events were taking place in 1944, it is my general belief that the general public assumed that everyone in the army or in the naval service regarded the other members as good buddies.  May I assure you that that was not necessarily the case.  The men who were involved in the Second World War were fulfilling their patriotic duty, but in no way did they dismiss their prejudices before they enlisted in the military.  In my case, I did not like loud-mouth Neanderthals like Sylvester, but we had to put up with him until the peace accord was signed and eventually we could all go home.  In other words, what I am trying to say is that everyone in the military forces was not best buddies of the man standing next to him.

After the war, I returned to St. Louis and I presume that Sylvester Liss returned to his job making Budweiser beer in St. Louis also.  In that whole span of time of more than 65 or 70 years since then, I never called Sylvester and he never called me.  And I assume that we were both happy with that arrangement.  The point once again is that because men share the experience of military service, it does not make them best buddies or even half-best buddies.  In the case of Sylvester Liss, even though we slept together for 14 months, I cannot say that I had any great affection for him.

One other occasion comes to mind here.  As we were preparing to leave the Twelfth Air Force, an arrangement was made for some of us to spend a week in the capital of Eritrea, called Asmara.  That was one of the territories that had been conquered by Mussolini.  I went to Asmara with Ted Werre and Ralph Tuttle as my companions.  Happenstance tended to bring us together.  During that week of sort of furlough, we had several laughs together but that did not make us life-long friends.

Following the war, in about 1948, I acquired a beat-up De Soto sedan and set out with my new wife to tour the country.  When we reached the Dakotas, I went out of my way to look up Ted Werre.  We found him in a wheat field.  The greetings were quite warm but it was fairly clear that Ted Werre wanted to get back to his work of tending to his wheat field and he did not really care how far out of my way I had come to visit him.

On another occasion, I was in Chicago on union business and I called Ralph Tuttle to see how he was doing.  Ralph was cordial enough but it was clear that he was not going to join me to have a drink or two; mostly he wanted to get on with his life.

So you see, when men are thrown together, as in the case of the military services, they tolerate one another’s faults but do not necessarily become best buddies.  In my own case, I suppose that I would make the world’s worst American Legionnaire.  Often they are far from best buddies.  For example, I was sleeping with Sylvester Liss in the upper bunk and he was in the lower bunk and for 14 months, we maintained a very chilly relationship.  The chill was broken on pay day when the ration cards for beer were distributed and, in a moment of weakness, I had agreed to give my ration card to Sylvester Liss.  I don’t regret that move because I don’t care for beer, but I would not want it to be misinterpreted as a sign of great buddyship.  So sleeping together does not demonstrate great affection.

In the case of Larry King, who is alleged to be sleeping with his wife’s sister, about all I can say is that I don’t watch CNN and if he is sleeping with the wife’s sister, he must be commended for keeping it all in the family.

 

E. E. CARR

April 15, 2010

Essay 448

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Kevin’s commentary: I’ll be the first to admit that I subscribed at least in part to that particular fallacy. The media has certainly given me cause to believe that all soldiers are friends forever, but upon actually stopping to think about it that notion is pretty absurd. Some people just don’t get along. Moreover especially when it comes to people of different ranks, I believe that being friendly with one another is frowned upon.

Google tells me that old Sylvester has been dead for three years now. In fact, he died right about two weeks before this essay was drafted. I wonder — did Pop somehow learn of this, and that was his reason for writing it? Maybe Syl’s ghost stopped by New Jersey on its way up to heaven and reminded Pop that he existed.

INCIVILITY AND A FEW CASES OF CIVILITY

As a general principle, when someone greets me, I not only return their greeting but may ask about how they are feeling as well.  When someone writes me a letter, I feel commanded to write a letter in return if that is what is required.  But as you can see from the title about incivility, that is not always the case.  Let me give you a few examples.

Back a few years ago, my wife and I were attracted to an organization called Wegman’s Market.  The main attraction for me was that Wegman carried a fresh supply of scallions.  In my humble opinion, a meal without a scallion is wasted.  And so it was that we drove 18 miles each way to Bridgewater, New Jersey to shop at Wegman’s.  That organization was established in Rochester, New York a good number of years ago by the Wegman family and has now grown into a major grocer.

During our visits to Wegman’s, which occurred perhaps once a month, we became acquainted with Richard Lee.  Mr. Lee was a native of China and he spoke fractured English.  But nonetheless, Richard Lee was very helpful to us and he was thoroughly friendly.  When there were specials being held back in the back room, Mr. Lee would retrieve them for us and he was always in search of the freshest produce.  I forgot to mention that he worked in the produce department.  For my money, Richard Lee was a gem and if I were the boss I would search for more Richard Lees.

Now it has been my custom for more than 60 years when somebody performs a service that is valuable to me to make a note of it.  And I often call it to the attention of the boss of that person.  I think that is the civil thing to do and I am pleased to do it.

Now in the case of Mr. Lee, I thought it was worth a letter to Danny Wegman, the head of the Wegman organization in Rochester.  And so it was in November of 2004 that I wrote to Mr. Wegman to tell him what a valuable employee Mr. Lee was to his grocery store.  I also sent a copy of that letter to the manager of the Bridgewater operation.  Now remember that was in November of 2004.  

Time passed and there was no indication that Danny Wegman had ever told Mr. Lee about that letter nor was there any indication that the manager of the Bridgewater store had done so either.  When I wrote the letter, I made a copy for Richard Lee with the thought in mind that his niece could read it to him.  I suspect that Richard Lee does not read much English.  And so it is now that six years have passed and Mr. Wegman has not seen fit to call my letter to the attention of Richard Lee.  The fact that he is a Chinese immigrant may have something to do with it but I suspect that Danny Wegman does not want to become involved in such petty matters.  In my book, that is a case of gross incivility.  Absolutely gross incivility. 

Now we will go further into another grocery store chain.  This one is called Whole Foods.  It is run from Austin, Texas and now has branches throughout the eastern part of the United States.  All things put together, it is an admirable organization.

After we had shopped at Whole Foods for some years, I became impressed with a woman named Helen Serpico, who was the manager of the Millburn store.  Helen was on top of the ball at all times and seemed to work endless hours.  So in comformity with my thought that such diligence ought to be recognized, I wrote to the president of the Whole Foods Corporation in Austin, Texas to tell him about Helen Serpico.  The date of my letter was November of 2003.  I am not very good at arithmetic but it seems to me that in November of this year we will have waited nearly seven years for a reply.

In the meantime, the people at Whole Foods have promoted Helen; she now has a job that even takes her overseas. But has my letter ever been acknowledged?  The answer is no.  I would settle for a nice note that said, “Thank you for your interest,” or some such thing as that.  There was nothing forthcoming from the executive offices of the Whole Foods Corporation.  But I am satisfied to know that Helen Serpico now has a better job.

Now I suppose that reading the foregoing paragraphs you may come to the conclusion that I have a disaffection for grocery chains such as Wegman’s and Whole Foods.  That is far from the case.

When it comes to incivility, I have another case in point here.  In September of last year, I had an illness that hospitalized me for 13 days.  At the conclusion of that confinement, there were four physicians who seemed intent upon getting this old codger well. They were the internist, the lung specialist, the cardiologist, and the urologist.

So in accordance with my long-standing rules of the road, I wrote to the president of the Summit Medical Group to call attention to the service that these four physicians had rendered to me during my confinement.  I did not expect the president to dance a jig but I had hoped that he would first pat those four physicians on the back and/or write me a note acknowledging that I had written him.  I have no indication that he ever patted the four physicians on the back.  I took care of that, however, by sending them a blind copy of my correspondence with the president, for which in the subsequent visits to those four specialists, I was thanked in great abundance.  Apparently physicians don’t get thanked very often and in a case such as the Summit Medical Group the fact that someone gives them an “attaboy” to the big boss is greatly appreciated.  So in the end I am sitting well with these four physicians but I have no idea what the big boss ever thought.

As a footnote, it occurred to me that I should recognize three other physicians who have helped to me over the years.  The first was a dermatologist; the second was a neurologist; and the third was an ophthalmologist.  When I saw the skin doctor last week or so, he thanked me profusely.  In this case I did not bother to hide the fact that I was sending copies to the physicians in question.  I simply said, “I am going to send a copy of this letter to the three physicians.”  I am glad that I did this because the president of the Summit Medical Group seems to have no inclination to pat people on the back.  That is not my style.

Finally, in the history of incivilities, we come to the pants maker who is Williamson Dickie.  When I bought my last pair of blue jeans, which I think were not really blue but blue gray so I am told, I wrote to the president of that corporation to tell him how much I liked his product.  I told him that they fit well, wore a long time and had plenty of belt loops, and in the area of the crotch department, I told him that they were long.  Having a long crotch may not mean much to other people, but in the case of blue jeans the purpose of that garment is working people.  Having a restricted crotch defeats the whole purpose and the unrestricted crotch is another major advantage in wearing Dickie clothing.

I wrote that letter to the CEO of the Dickie Corporation in December of last year.  So far there has been absolutely no acknowledgement.  Other people to whom I have written have almost always sent at least an acknowledgement of my communication.  But not the head man of the Dickie Corporation.

On the other side of the ledger, my efforts in letter writing have been amply rewarded.  For example, Ted Sorenson, who was John Kennedy’s advisor, wrote me a letter that was very touching in response to my letter.  The head man of Chase Bank, Mr. Jamie Dimon not only wrote me a letter but had his assistant call me at nearly seven o’clock in the evening to tell me that the letter was coming.  Then the head of the Verizon Corporation, Ivan Seidenberg, answered my letter and saw to it that some of his best help was available to make an adjustment in our telephone service.  And then there was the case of Blake Nordstrom, the man I wrote to tell him that when he stamped the instructions on the back of tee shirts, a blind person could not find the rear end of the shirt.  There are other examples of cases in which I have received very favorable replies and I believe this makes Danny Wegman and the president of Whole Foods and the new director at Summit Medical Group look uncivil and also rude.  I am a big boy and I guess rudeness will not kill me.  But I certainly wish that other people had the attitude of Jamie Dimon and Blake Nordstrom.

Curiously, while Wegman’s and the Whole Foods Corporation and the Summit Medical Group have treated my letters with a degree of contempt, we – my wife and I – still patronize those organizations.  We shop at Whole Foods twice a week; we make more trips to the Summit Medical Group than I would like, and if there were a Wegman’s store near us, we would certainly use it.  So, in the end, while they are rude and insensitive, we have no desire to punish them.

In the final analysis, we have waited for a reply from Wegman’s for nearly six years, and the same is true in the case of Whole Foods.  I don’t know what the moral of this story is, except that if you treat me rudely I will be back on your doorstep.  But when push comes to shove, all of the organizations that treated me rudely still offer excellent products.  And so we still patronize them.  If someone could come up with an organization that answered letters promptly and which also treated us warmly and produced good products, perhaps we could be seduced.  But that hasn’t happened.

I leave you now to go look in my mail box to see whether we have an answer from any of the three people I have identified as being rude and insensitive.  My guess is that there will be no mail from any of them.

 

E. E. CARR

April 19, 2010

Essay 449

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Kevin’s commentary: Most jobs are thankless ones. I feel like this is particularly true for jobs in the service industry, which is perhaps a little ironic because it’s full of people who are, well, serving you. I dunno. Anyway I like that Pop has no hesitation in reaching out to the highest levels of a corporation to praise someone at the lowest one. At one point when I was applying to jobs, he even wrote to the head of a major bank to recommend me. I suppose a lot of these letters go ignored, but I see no reason why they should, considering that all these companies have communication departments. So what the hell?

 

 

“I’M GORGEOUS INSIDE” -Ellen Konik

My wife comes from the fabulously wealthy town of Lycippus, Pennsylvania.  I believe that she owns a controlling interest in that town and the surrounding territories.  While I have known Miss Chicka for a number of years, she has never mentioned that she ever served in the American military.  Those of you who have served in the American military know that there is a great premium placed on “policing the area.”  Policing the area merely means that candy wrappers, gum wrappers, and cigarette butts are to be picked up off the ground and disposed of properly.

Last Sunday, April 18, Miss Chicka was standing in our front doorway, staring out the storm door.  She noticed that a candy wrapper was being blown across our yard toward the neighbor’s yard.  True to her military traditions, Miss Chicka bounded out the front door and down the steps to retrieve the candy wrapper.  The prevailing wind at that time was from south to north, which meant that the candy wrapper was being blown from our property on to the property of the neighbor known as Mr. Feldman.

My wife is not known for her visual acuity but on this occasion once she approached the loose candy wrapper in the winds blowing at that time, she also noticed that the Feldman house had a “For Sale” sign on it.  This was a curious piece of work in that the Feldmans bought that house from our great and good friend, Frances Licht, only in September of 2007.  Apparently they intend to unload that property, having lived in it about two and a half years.

The Feldmans have remodeled that house.  While the remodeling was taking place, they moved out to a place in Millburn, New Jersey for one year.  The better part of two years was spent in remodeling the house.

Perhaps I should explain about our relationship with the Feldmans.  When they arrived on the scene, they seemed to be having a party with the in-laws.  I asked Judy if she would take an expensive bottle of champagne to the Feldmans as a welcoming present.  Judy did that and met the family, including the grandparents.  Since that time, there has been no – no or none – communication between the Feldmans and the Carrs or anyone else in this neighborhood as far as I know.  There was no thank you note for the champagne.  The fact that I spent nearly thirty bucks for it testifies to my stupidity.

During the time the Feldmans have lived there, there have only been two contacts with them.  During the remodeling process, which took the better part of two years, the junk from the house was piled in the back yard without using a Dempsey dumpster.  I feared, as did the neighbor to the north, Janet Rubin, that this long-standing pile of trash would accommodate rats.  And so it was that I called Mr. Feldman to express my thoughts on that subject.

The Feldmans had no land telephone, using only the cell phone that Mr. Feldman brought with him from his former residence in Brooklyn, New York.  The conversation with Feldman was rational, and he agreed with all of the points that I had made.  He wound up telling me that before it was done, I would be proud to live next door to his back yard.

I might tell you that we were able to contact Feldman on his cell phone only because Miss Chicka had managed to weasel it out of the contractor, who used it to contact Mr. Feldman to get instructions on the remodeling.

A second conversation with Mr. Feldman took place some time later, when his contractor left a hose turned on and I called him to tell him that the water was going down his basement window.  It turns out that Mr. Feldman was not in residence here, but someplace in Miami, Florida.  He agreed to get somebody over to the house to turn the water off.

On one other occasion, when Miss Chicka and I were outside, Mr. Feldman was playing soccer ball with his two daughters.  Judy went to stand on the corner of their yard to ask him if he like to met her husband.  Mr. Feldman never interrupted his game, and when it became apparent that he had no intention of doing so, Judy left.  So as a result, I have never met the Feldmans during their tenure here on Long Hill Drive.  The Feldmans wished, I guess, to maintain their privacy and I respect that.  However, I wish that they would take care of their back yard to make me proud of it.  During the remodeling process, the Feldmans had a hot tub installed outside of their house in the back yard, which, I must tell you, did not make me feel proud in any shape or form.  I simply wondered what in the hell they were doing with a hot tub located outside their house.

So as you can see, I have no inside information as to where the Feldmans intend to move if they are successful in selling their property.  I have let the Feldmans go their own way and if they wish to have no contact with their neighbors, I suppose that is the way it is going to be.

What intrigued me was the fact that when Miss Chicka looked up from retrieving the candy wrapper, she noticed an entry on the “For Sale” sign that was significant.  As most of you know, “For Sale” signs have spaces for additional information.  In this case, however, the additional information said “I’m gorgeous inside.”  Ellen Konik, who is in charge of selling the house also seems to have written these lines.

It has been by view that a house consists of the inside and the outside.  However, in the Feldman case, they intended only to advertise the inside as being gorgeous.  I must say that after the remodeling had taken place in their home, some of my friends commented that the outside was “bizarre.”  I am not in a position to comment on the exterior of their home, but from what I am told, it is largely a monstrosity.  To think that the house had recently been remodeled!  So I suppose with the outside of the house being a monstrosity, the only saving grace is that the interior should be gorgeous.

I suspect that any prospective customer who would buy the Feldman house would reduce the size of his offer substantially.  After all, the Feldmans themselves say that only the inside is gorgeous.  What about the outside?

The idea that you could have a house in which the inside was described as gorgeous led me to think about other merchants in Millburn who would have a similar situation.  Let us take the mythical Millburn Florist for example.  The mythical Millburn florist might say, “Our flowers are thoroughly wilted and shopworn, but you should buy them because they are gorgeous on the inside.”  Somehow that doesn’t strike me as much of an argument.

Now let us say that we are the owners of a fancy well-to-do Millburn restaurant.  We might say that our offerings are mangy and very expensive but you should buy them because once they are eaten, a gorgeous feeling will overtake your mouth and esophagus.

Then let us say that Paul Ippolito, our local undertaker, should adopt the Feldman principle.  He might advertise that no matter how disheveled you look when the burial ceremony is to take place, once you are in his newly modeled coffin you will feel gorgeous inside.  Again, I am not much taken with that thought.

And, finally, there is the thought that Millburn has, in my estimation, never had a respectable brothel.  About the closest thing we have to a good brothel would be Martini’s Restaurant, which offers speed dating where men and women can sit together for five or ten minutes and see if they wish to go on from there.  The owner of Martini’s must contend that there is no need for a brothel because once you have eaten some of his food, you will feel gorgeous inside and forget your sexual desires.

It may well be that the idea of advertising that gorgeous feelings will flow from your being involved in a transaction in which the exterior means nothing and the interior means everything, but it is doubtful.  I have been around advertising for a long time and I doubt that this will take place.  In any case, I would like to be an onlooker in the bargaining that takes place when a prospective buyer shows up and sees that only the inside is advertised as gorgeous.  All I can tell you is that the world has taken some funny turns here lately, but if this is a profitable one, where only the inside is advertised as gorgeous, I remain to be impressed.

 

E. E. CARR

April 25, 2010

Essay 450

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Kevin’s commentary: Looks like the house never sold. More on that here and here. Of course, those are updates from years in the future. View the sequel to this essay here.

Also, I would like to observe that perhaps Pop attracts mediocre neighbors in the same way that I attract mediocre landlords. If this is true, I am going to just make the assumption that I have cursed genes and let it rest at that.

Oh, and finally I would request a 2013 update on this particular house.

 

FOND MEMORIES OF WILL-YAM

During this last week in March, the elder Carr daughter left her abode in Manhattan and came to see Judy and myself.  She was accompanied by the afore-said Will-Yam who is her son.  I know a good bit about Will-Yam in that I watched Maureen, better known as Blondie, progressing through all of the stages of pregnancy, which I also did for her elder son.   When Maureen would come to visit us in Short Hills, they would ride the Lackawanna train and I would pick them up at the Millburn station.  Well, the net effect is that I have known Will-Yam even before he was born.

The visit this week evoked a few memories of Will-yam that should be recorded.  One of my earlier recollections has to do with Will-Yam riding a tricycle in our basement.  He was slim enough to peddle the tricycle behind the furnace.  No one had ever gone there before.  He emerged intact.  He thought that was great sport.  There were occasions when I had a big board that I used to show Will-Yam and his brother Andrew how to bore a hole.  Andrew was greatly interested in the drill; Will-Yam was diffident except when it came to be his turn.  On those occasions it was hard to retrieve the drill from Will-Yam in that he was drilling holes all over that little board.

Then there was the occasion of Thanksgiving.  As most people know, I am a vegetarian who eats only vegetables and fish, no meats and no fowl.  Will-Yam had demanded to know why I did not eat a turkey like his mother and father ate.  He seemed to regard it as an un-American act.  So a story was necessary to allay his fears.  I explained to Will-Yam that when this country was discovered in 1492, the cranberry trees grew very close to the ocean.  When the cranberries ripened, lobsters would emerge from the water and climb the trees.  The lobsters would gorge themselves on the ripe cranberries and in so doing they would lose their balance and fall off the cranberry trees and hit their heads, thus killing themselves.  The American Indians would gather the dead lobsters as a means of preserving sanitation.  They also ate them.  So, I explained to Will-Yam that all I was doing was honoring a custom that went back to 1492.

Will-Yam did not seem to embrace my account of history.

There was another time when Will-Yam attended the Day School in Manhattan.  On one occasion when I was in New York, I picked up Will-Yam at school and started to walk the several blocks in New York to his apartment.  He had a purpose in mind.  He took me by a furniture store that had a magnificent chess table on display.  Somehow or another, old Will-Yam, aged five or six, knew about that table and he wanted me to see it.  He took me into the store and showed it to me.  I admired it and I thought it was a lovely piece of work.

I believe that on the occasion when we viewed the chess table, I  also tried to confuse Will-Yam about where he lived.  But even at that young age, Will-Yam would not be confused about where his apartment was.  As we stood on the street corner, I explained to a New York City cop that Will-Yam was abducting me.  The New York City cop said something like, “That’s all right.  Write me a note when you get to the place where you are going to be held.”  The policeman, Will-Yam, and I all enjoyed the big joke.

Will-Yam’s parents are good cooks.  In Will-Yam’s room he had a set of utensils and dishes that mimicked his parents’ set.  They were play dishes of course, but nonetheless old Will-Yam was learning to cook at an early age. So on one occasion, Will-Yam invited me to his restaurant and stirred the imaginary dish that he was serving and I ate it in an imaginary way.  When I finished the imaginary dish, I turned the bowl  over and put it on the top of my head.  I thought that was the proper thing to do.  However, Will-Yam thought that that was atrocious.  When his father came home from work, he could not wait to tell his father, Walter, what Pop had done.  In other words, old Will-Yam ratted on me.  That’s all right in that I forgave him for his transgression.

I will try to save you from the futile expression, “How time flies!”  It was my privilege to observe Maureen’s pregnancy and then to be there shortly after Will-Yam appeared in this world.  That was approximately 17 years ago.  In the meantime, old Will-Yam has grown into what I am told is a strapping six-footer who loves to play lacrosse.  My guess is that Will-Yam, in spite of his being my grandson, has turned out to be a good kid.

It is trite to say that time flies, but that is pretty much the case.  But when the results are a good-looking fellow who is well-educated and has attained the age of 17 years, I can only say that it was well worth while.  I know that my memories of Will-Yam may not be interesting to all of you. But they are to me and I am the writer of these essays, so that is pretty much all that counts.

I hope that this recounting of Will-Yam’s growth brings back memories of your own.  All I can tell you is that children don’t remain children very long.  That should come as no surprise to any of you.  All of my five grandsons are good fellows.  Will-Yam is no exception but he has been tainted by my story of the lobsters climbing the trees when this country was discovered.  My guess is that he may well have repeated this story to his teachers, which should have earned him an A+.

Now, about the pronunciation of Will-Yam’s name.  As he was starting to talk, old Will-Yam insisted on putting the accent in his maiden name on the second syllable.  He has outgrown this now, and goes by the name of Will.  But my memories are long, and I very much liked the name of Will-Yam, with the accent on the second syllable.  I hope that this straightens out the message, “Fond memories of Will-Yam.”

 

E. E. CARR

April 2, 2010

Essay 447

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Kevin’s commentary:  Growing up so far away from New Jersey meant that Pop had significantly less opportunities to attempt to sabotage my developing brain as a child. This is something I regret somewhat, because he seems to have been pretty good at it.

Now as for the pronunciation, I am curious whether it was more of a “Yam or