Archive for the 2003 Category


My father, the original Ezra, developed a medical condition in his eyes called glaucoma during the early 1930’s when he was about 50 years of age. From everything that can be read and from advice from ophthalmologists, glaucoma typically makes its appearance around the age of 50 years.

Five children of my father survived to adulthood. I was the youngest surviving child. All the other four siblings developed glaucoma. And so as I got within hailing distance of age 50, it was my custom to see well respected ophthalmologists. My AT&T duties had me stationed in Washington, D. C. at that time. Just before I left Washington to return to New York, the ophthalmologist there told me that “incipient glaucoma” had begun to affect my eyes.

All five Carr children were painfully aware of what glaucoma had done to our father’s eyes. In unprofessional terms, glaucoma seals the drainage glands from the eyes. As a result, pressure will build up within the eye. If untreated, blindness is the inevitable result.

When my father contracted glaucoma, surgery on the eye was about the only way to relieve the pressure. Within a few years, my father’s eyes had scars from the many surgeries and by the time he passed age 60, he was approaching blindness in both eyes. As I visited the ophthalmologist

in Washington, memories of my father’s scarred eyes and his blindness haunted me. The Post brothers at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis preserved as much sight in my father’s eyes as long as it could be done. All of the Carr children are grateful to Laurence Post and to his brother, two fine ophthalmologists.

But the Post brothers had very few chemicals to control the pressure that glaucoma brings. By the time that my Washington ophthalmologist told me that my eyes had “incipient glaucoma”, there were several new drugs available to deal with pressure in the eyes. Surgery was a last resort. In effect, my father was born too soon.

When AT&T decided that they wished for me to come back to New York as the General Sales Manager, I soon went to see John Kennedy of the Short Hills Ophthalmology Group. Kennedy was a good man with whom I was quickly able to establish an effective rapport. At the time in 1969, my age was 47 years. As time went on and as the disease progressed, John Kennedy offered new prescriptions to keep glaucoma in my eyes under control.

By the early part of the 1990’s, John Kennedy said that he had dealt long enough with the pressures of his profession and elected to retire. In 1969, the Short Hills Ophthalmology Group consisted of Doctor Fonda, Doctor Ball and John Kennedy, all graduates of New York University. When Kennedy retired, he was replaced by Richard Robbins, another product of New York University. At the time, Robbins must have been under 30 years of age.

For a time, Robbins was able to keep the pressure in my eyes at acceptable levels even if the pressures were on the higher side. And then in the mid-1990’s came the development of cataracts on both eyes. There is no reason for me to suspect that the chemicals used to control glaucoma could have caused cataracts. There have been people who developed cataracts without ever having glaucoma, so I take a pass on that question. When Robbins informed me that the cataracts were “ripe,” we agreed to go ahead with surgery.

The first surgery was on the right eye and it proceeded even though pressure in the eye was high borderline. Later, Robbins said he had to perform some heroics as the operation took a bad turn, but recovery was fairly rapid and my sight was greatly improved.

A later operation on the left eye came out badly. There was great pain. Finally, Robbins suggested laser treatments to the left eye. He administered four or five of those treatments on separate occasions and all of them ranged from unpleasant to painful.

Robbins then sent me to Joseph Patti whose practice is limited to diseases and surgery on the retina and the vitreous. Patti operated on my left eye at St. Barnabus Hospital and for a time, there was improvement. But it did not last long. Patti was a good caring man.

So I wound up back with Robbins with the New York University credentials. There were more examinations and a trip to a Dr. Spaeth, a world renowned surgeon in Philadelphia who gave me no help at all, even after we waited for him for three hours. And so Robbins then suggested that what I desperately needed was a trabeculectomy. He said the man to perform such an extremely delicate operation was Ivan Jacobs of Watchung and Westfield, New Jersey. When I asked Robbins if he would trust his sight to Jacobs, he eventually said he would. It is my profound belief that he had heard about Jacobs and had never met him, so any assurances to me about Jacobs were uninformed.

So Jacobs began his trabeculectomy on my left eye. Somewhere during the operation, I overheard Jacob muttering to his helper that a choroidal hemorrhage had occurred. Later, when I was bandaged and sitting in Jacobs waiting room, he acknowledged that the choroidal hemorrhage had taken place. Jacobs distanced himself from the operation saying in effect, you win some and you lose some. I knew then that the sight in my left eye was gone and Jacobs didn’t seem to care. I saw him several times after the surgery and his cavalier attitude remained. It was my fault that I needed a trabeculectomy, was Jacob’s attitude. Everyone knows that surgical procedures don’t always come out successfully, but Jacobs in my estimation, was a monumental jerk.

I made several more visits to see a Dr. Green at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. Eventually, he told me there was no hope. At the end of this process, I asked Robbins for my records as I intended for his tenure to come to an end.

After I left Robbins’ care, he apparently turned his attention to female patients. From what we know now, Robbins allegedly fondled seven women while conducting routine eye examinations. He was indicted on February 4, 2003 and charged with nine counts of fourth degree sexual contact. If he is convicted, he could face up to 13½ years of jail time. I suspect that he won’t spend much time in jail, but at least these charges and this indictment will give him something else to think about as he examines future female patients. He may also think about his lawyer, Alan Zegas, who is in the top tier of criminal defense attorneys. His fees for a case of this sort are probably quite substantial.

Now that you have met Robbins and know about his indictment, it is of utmost importance that you should know what excuse Robbins offered for his conduct. When the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office sent a female officer to Robbins for an eye examination in the summer of 2000, he allegedly fondled her just as it is also alleged that he had done to other female patients. He was then presented with charges about his conduct. Robbins said that he fondled women not for any such thing as sexual excitement. That never entered his mind. He said his hand, or hands, were searching their chests for evidence of future eye problems. So you see, old Robbins was on the job looking for eye problems down the road. It is a source of great disappointment that the seven women who charge that he fondled them don’t see that brother Robbins had their best long term interests at heart.

Now I have recited my story of blindness in one eye resulting from the tender ministrations of Robbins to set up one overwhelming point. From one end to the other, Robbins and your faithful essayist were involved for about four or five years. During that time, he performed just about every conceivable ophthalmologic process on me including surgery. At no time, did Robbins ever put his hand or hands down the front of my shirt or blouse either inside or outside my attire. I even wore scoop neck tee shirts to entice him to look at my chest for signs of future eye problems. For this reason, Robbins was completely unable to diagnose that eye troubles, including blindness, awaited me. This was a complete dereliction of duty on Robbins’ part.

It is my proposition that after Robbins and his lawyer Zegas deal with the indictment of this past week for inserting his hand or hands down the front of dresses or blouses of female patients, either inside or outside the garments, that he face a more serious charge against him. That, of course, is his FAILURE to put his hands down the front of my shirt or blouse and as a result, he was completely unable to diagnose what lay ahead for me as I dealt with serious eye matters. There is no excuse for Robbins dereliction of duty in my case. My chest was exposed to view as I never wore a tie when Robbins was to be visited. He simply never explored my chest in search of future eye problems and for that, he must be held accountable.

E. E. Carr

A Post Script. I have been a patient of Dr. Eric Gurwin of the Summit Medical Group for the past eight years. There was a time under Robbins when the pressure in my eyes ran to 38-40 whatever the measurement for pressure is. The current pressure in my one remaining eye is now between 16 to 18, which is a monumental improvement. It is to be noted that Professor Gurwin has achieved this dramatic drop in pressure without ever examining my chest which, of course, is traditionally where future eye problems are found – according to Robbins.


Why even try? Why try to defend yourself from that position? All Robbins managed to do with his (hilarious) defense was insult the intelligence of everyone involved, including the women who he had already wronged. Way to go, dude.

Some good news: he was convicted.
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Paula T. Dow announced today the sentencing of Dr. Richard Robbins, age 40, of Short Hills, New Jersey. The sentence culminated a lengthy investigation that began in 2001 into the sexual abuse of female patients under Dr. Robbins’ care.

Earlier this year an Essex County Grand jury returned an indictment against Dr. Robbins, charging him with having committed the crime of criminal sexual contact upon six of his female patients, and an undercover female Essex County Investigator. The indictment spanned a period from March 1, 2000 through June 20, 2001, during which time Dr. Robbins touched the breasts of those females during the course of performing eye examinations at his former practice located in Short Hills, New Jersey. Dr. Robbins pleaded guilty on June 30, 2003 to seven counts of criminal sexual contact.

During the sentence, Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Robert Laurino told the court that Dr. Robbins had violated his Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm,” and breached the duty of care and trust he owed to his patients. Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Vena, in addressing Dr. Robbins prior to the imposition of sentence, noted that “the harm you caused was enormous.”

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Dr. Robbins permanently surrendered his license to practice medicine. He was sentenced to three years probation with mandatory counseling, and was subjected to numerous court costs and fees. He was also directed to reimburse the Prosecutor’s Office $2,085 for the costs associated with its investigation.

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Dow noted the courageous efforts of Essex County Investigator Janine Traccamore, whose service in an undercover capacity led to the arrest of Dr. Robbins. “She put herself in harms way to prevent other women from being similarly abused” Prosecutor Dow stated.


When a man, such as myself, reaches the seventh decade of life, his friends and relatives congratulate him warmly and ask about his state of health. They seem to really want to inquire how long do you think you may stick around.

When the eighth decade turns over on the speedometer, the efforts of friends and relatives become a little more pointed. They are concerned because the old timer may not eat as much as he did at age 30 or they may read road signs that they believe the older person can no longer see. And if in conversations with a slightly younger person, if the name of a politician or a physician does not roll off the tongue, the younger person may diagnose Alzheimers.

Wile the elderly person may appreciate the solicitude of his younger friends and relatives, there is an element of wonder about why you are still hanging in there. In my case, it seems to me that assuring the inquirer that every body part is working and that a change in subject might be appropriate. All done with a laugh, of course. The laughter may be forced but it is preferable to a discussion about the imminent demise of the decrepit elderly person, namely me.

When people close to me ask about how my fortunes are succeeding, it has an unintended effect on me. Tor all these years, the end of life has been a subject that has been rarely considered. Surely, Miss Chicka and I visited Paul Ippolito, one of Summit’s leading undertakers, to enter into a pre-paid arrangement to have our bodies promptly cremated. At heart, our visit to the Ippolito establishment was done primarily because of a proposed champagne party that we proposed to sponsor once Ippolito had done his work. First comes Ippolitto’s ministrations, then the reception, not the other way around.

But entering into a prepaid arrangement for disposition of our bodies does not constitute grounds for saying that we have a death wish. It is simply and purely a business arrangement made while our minds were unclouded by any other thoughts. Now the kicker is that the prepaid arrangement pays a 5% interest premium to us every year, so it is a prudent investment as well. Sorry, only one to a customer.

Many people think that my mother gave me her build and her sense of Irish humor. For that I am grateful. On the other hand, Lillie, my mother, was engrossed by the idea of death and the thought in her mind, that she would be rewarded unendingly in a place called Heaven. Her favorite hymn was “Amazing Grace.” Running a clear second was the hopeful hymn called, “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be.” She envisioned a place high up in the sky with no sin and no sickness and with angels with wings where their shoulder blades should be. She always said, “That is where I am going when my work on earth is finished.”

As life unfolded for me, none of Lillie Carr’s confidence in a heavenly after life ever made sense to me. My disbelief started at age six when my mother proposed to “save” me, among other thoughts, for a better life after death. And my disbelief has now lasted more than 75 years.

In 1943, German ground forces (The Wehrmacht) and German Air Forces (The Luftwaffe) managed to destroy two of the planes on which I was a member of the crew. In the first shoot-down, there was a lonely period of four days in the sands of the Libyan and Egyptian frontier before rescue came. In the second case, the Germans took me prisoner and it was necessary for the Italian Partisans to come to the rescue. From beginning to end, about seven weeks elapsed in this episode which started at the prison camp at Rimini, Italy.

Now the point in pointing to my unfortunate experiences in 1943, is that at no time did my thoughts ever wonder to being a casualty of war. Whereas my mother would have wrung her hands and would have gotten a preacher to help her pray, my thoughts were exclusively devoted to how am I going to get out of here. Obviously, the thought that soldiers were regularly shot occurred to me, but visions of heaven never came into my mind. My sole occupation was how do I get out of here. On no occasion did I ever ask to see a chaplain from either the United States or the German Army.

My mother would never have understood my mind set, so I can’t ever recall discussing the subject with her.

August 24, 2003


This is not where this essay originally ended. From here he uses “Aside from the well meaning inquiries about my health and longevity, it appears to me with events in Iraq, Israel and Afghanistan taking the turn they are, that death is a popular subject in the Middle East” to segue into a discussion of martyrdom and virgins in paradise. The essay stops midway through one of these thoughts, so the entire section is omitted here because it’s been discussed at length in these essays. I think he just found this sort of claim to be a special kind of absurd, perhaps due to its unique combination of sexism and specificity.

People who tease old people (or anyone, really) about Alzheimers are assholes, full stop. Not much else to say there.


Last year, the United States Congress voted to declare the year 2003 the “Year of the Blues.” This took place while unemployment benefits ran out, while the U. S. was snarling at Iraq, while most of the Congress was seeking re-election and while the economy was limping along. But in the end, as someone who grew up on the banks of the Mississippi where that kind of music was born, it is nice to see a year devoted to that distinctly American art form, The Blues.

The title of this essays comes from a song composed along with the lyrics, by William Christopher (W. C.) Handy, the premier song writer of The Blues. In this case, the song is about Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee which was the main entertainment and music street in that whole town. If someone wanted to be entertained or wanted to hear the Blues, the only place to go was Beale Street. Similar streets and neighborhoods existed in other towns on the Mississippi such as New Orleans and St. Louis.

As Woodrow Wilson was about to complete his presidential term in 1921, red hot religious conservatives coming from the southern wing of the Democratic Party conspired to foist Prohibition on this country. It was supposed to uplift our conduct, bring us closer to God, make us better citizens and greatly improve our spiritual values. In short, Prohibition was a completely religious exercise.

When Prohibition became effective, all forms of alcoholic beverages allegedly disappeared. The term “allegedly” is used because every town and community had its speakeasies, bootleggers or its moonshiners. Those citizens who had the urge to drink – and the means to pay for it – usually did not die from dehydration. Booze could easily be provided for those willing to pay for it.

Prohibition was a sham of the first order and its first impact was on poor people, usually black, such as those who worked in and patronized establishments along Beale Street and similar streets in other towns, particularly on the Mississippi River. So W. C. Handy wrote his song which proclaims:

“I’m goin’ to the river, maybe by and by,
Yes, I’m goin’ to the river, maybe by and by,
Because the river’s wet, and Beale Street’s done gone dry!”

The criminal gangs who tried to control the flow of alcoholic beverages to large cities under Prohibition resulted in such gangs as the Purple Gang in Detroit or the Machine Gun Kelley gang in Chicago. They often carried sub-machine guns and they were not bashful about killing other people who got in their way. The Valentines Day Massacre in Chicago was one example of the work of a gang in the days of Prohibition. Cops and law enforcement authorities were compromised. When a speakeasy operated in New York or Chicago, on a busy downtown street, it had to have the endorsement of police and legal authorities. Some speakeasies actually advertised so finding them should have been easy for even an unlettered cop.

The active corrupt involvement of police and legal authorities is only half the problem. Prohibition came at enormous medical expense to drinkers who drank the concoctions of bootleggers and moon shiners. Such people operated in back alleys or in the rural hills with no attempt at sanitary provisions. If their moonshine caused people to have convulsions or go blind, there was no one to complain to when you drank during Prohibition. You took your chances, often with disastrous results.

Prohibition comes to mind because it was the first organized attempt in modern times by the Federal Government to sponsor a completely religious activity. As such it was the first time that the church-state boundary was breached in the 20th century. Prohibition was an absolute disaster. It compromised the government just as it turned cops and legal authorities into law breakers. It was a sham – nothing less. It yielded gang killings and deterioration of health in drinkers. It could also be observed that before Prohibition ended, the stock market collapsed in 1929, which led to the Great Depression which followed.

The irony is that in 2003, researchers agree that moderate drinking, such as a drink every night, is as important in preventing heart attacks as exercise. But in 1921, the people pushing Prohibition thought heart attacks were largely the work of divine providence or of Satan himself.

The lesson about Prohibition piercing the church-state boundary has not been learned by the current occupants of the White House. Their pursuit of religious endeavors to support their political agenda is astounding. There are some in the Administration who see no sign of the church-state division being breached again even though the Bush Administration is arm pit deep in religious activity. And I am here to tell you as a survivor of Prohibition, of the Great Depression and
World War II, the effort to breech the church-state wall will end in disaster just as disaster was visited upon my countrymen by Prohibition.

The rot caused by crossing the church-state line is not confined to the lonely cop on the beat. Far from it. Juries and prosecutors are involved as well as members of Congress. In the “Great Experiment” of the 1921-1933 period, the rot caused by Prohibition reached the White House. The United States President who presided over the start of Prohibition was Warren Gamaliel Harding, a man of absolutely no distinction. His administration was riddled by charges of corruption, much of which flowed from Prohibition. His administration was probably the most reviled in American history up to that point. Prohibition may not have been involved in Harding’s dalliances with Carrie Phillips and Nan Britton, but if he had confined himself solely to his mistresses, he may have avoided the opprobrium that he so richly deserved. Harding died in 1923 after only two years in office and Calvin Coolidge succeeded him. You may remember the colorless Coolidge as the man who coined the phrase, “The business of America is business.” Coolidge turned over the presidency to Herbert Hoover of Depression fame. Coolidge went back to obscurity in Vermont. He was unlamented by the American electorate.

The point here is simple and chilling. When the church-state line is crossed – particularly for religious reasons as was the case in Prohibition – nothing but disaster awaits. In the current Bush administration, religion abounds. Evangelical Christianity is the predominate creed. Bush has surrounded himself with religious zealots who claim there is no such division between church and state. In short, we would become Arab Kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia. The Attorney General Ashcroft is a leading proponent of this distorted view. But perhaps he did not have much convincing to do with Bush who, during a 1999 Republican primary debate, when asked to name his favorite POLITICAL philosopher said it was Christ.

What I am leading up to is that the Bush people ignore at their peril the disaster that was Prohibition. In their religious zealotry, they are doing it all over again with sexual mores. The New York Times had an editorial on January 12, 2003 entitled, “The War Against Women.” I hope you take the time to read the “War Against Women” editorial as well as the “Federal Funds to Build Churches” and “The Bully at the Table.” They are attached to this essay. Every American who supports the idea of separating the church from the state, as Thomas Jefferson did, must be appalled and disgusted by Bush’s insistence that this American government should be modeled after the Mideast Muslim dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where there is no barrier between church and state.

Consider these thoughts sponsored by the Bush administration.
1. It is intent upon eviscerating the right of a women to make her own child bearing decisions. Abortion would be outlawed by the roll back of Roe vs. Wade.
2. A major attempt has been made to deny contraceptive information to men and women. The right wing conservatives say contraceptive information is the work of the devil. Again, I ask you to read “The Bully at the Table.”
3. There is a major assault on sex education for young people. The administration is offering “abstinence only” as its policy for sex education. This is not a policy; it is a religious superstition.
4. Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey is one who is leading an assault on condoms claiming that tiny pores in condom walls permit such things as the AIDS virus to pass through. Most scientists will tell you that condoms lead the way, if not the only way, in preventing transmissions of the AIDS virus. The pore theory is junk science and Smith knows it.
5. As Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union speech, it is his wish that all cloning be barred. I wonder how many Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients and those suffering from spinal cord injuries will join in that call?
6. Bush administration stalwarts want not only to stop abortion procedures, but they wish also to ban the use of the oral contraceptive, RU 486. Can thought police be far behind?
7. Bush’s first step when he assumed office was to stop any reference to abortion in family planning sponsored by the United States in foreign countries. I suppose family planning must be built around John Ashcroft’s abstinence only idea. Tell that to teenagers in Africa or in the United States.
8. Aside from the assault on women, Bush now plans to allow Federal housing money to be used to erect buildings in which religious services take place. This makes the assault on the church-state wall complete.

The foregoing is an impressive list. If it all comes to pass, we will be returned to colonial times and the Federal Government will become a theocracy on the order of Iran, Saudi Arabia, or the Sudan. Is that what we want?

In his recent State of the Union speech, Bush took notice for the first time of the AIDS epidemic sweeping Africa. I am struck by the thought that when he did send a representative to Africa in December, the aide, Robert Zoellich the Trade Representative, told his African audiences that he had come to talk about Trade, not about AIDS. There is absolutely no sincerity in the Bush proposal to do something about AIDS in Africa. There are no votes there.

Furthermore, the thought of the three boys in Newark who were starved, sexually abused and abandoned, will not leave my mind. And I hope you remember it also. One of the brothers died and his corpse was hidden for a substantial period of time.

The mother of the three boys was Melinda Williams. In all, she had five children. When Melinda left to serve a jail sentence, the boys were placed in the custody of a cousin, Sherry Murphy. Sherry abandoned the boys until they were accidentally found weeks later. Sherry also had five kids.

Now think about this. Today in 2003, 70% of all the birth records in Newark show that the father is unidentified. In short, he is not around and has abandoned the new mother. While you are thinking about the 70% figure, think also that between the two cousins Melinda and Sherry, ten kids were born.

Now I’d like for New Jersey Representative Christopher Smith to tell all of us how Bush’s war on abortion, contraception, condoms and sex education fit into this picture? There is no record that either of the two women ever underwent an abortion procedure, so they are on solid ecclesiastical ground with Chris Smith. And obviously, they used contraceptive measures sparingly, if at all. Perhaps if Attorney General Ashcroft were here in Newark to whisper total abstinence to these two hot blooded females, they would have joined him in church services instead of procreating with the various fathers of their children.

The point is obvious. For political reasons only, the Bush people are joining religious conservatives in a head-in-the-sand attitude. And in the bargain, they are obviously and clearly bringing the church in as a dominant partner to the Federal Government. I object. If there is a stronger way to register my opposition, I would like to find that way.

Bush’s attempt to breech the church-state barrier will result in another disaster as it was in the first case, Prohibition. Lives will be ruined. Back alley clinics will spring up to handle, or mangle, women’s pregnancies. And what ever happened to the dictum that knowledge is power. Not when it comes to sex education if Bush has his way.

I am always struck by the thought that the moving urgency behind the suppression of sex education and the outlawing of abortions and contraception, are Catholic ultra right wingers together with the most retrogressive members of Protestant Evangelical calling. For the Catholics, Archbishop Joseph Myers of the Newark Diocese says the faithful are doing God’s work in this endeavor. For the Protestants, the leading lights are Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and TV Evangelist Joe Dobson.

Until recently it was my impression that these two groups of Catholics and Evangelical Protestants actively hated each other. The Catholics claim that their church is the only true church and all other Christian churches are imposters. The Protestants who draw their name from Martin Luther who protested against the Catholic Church, have derided Catholic thought and practices for all of my long life time. To see these two groups find common ground is an unparalleled exercise in regressive politics because politics is what this is all about.

The striking thing is that these two groups are seeking to use compulsion, not persuasion, in their endeavors. They wish for Congress and the President to outlaw abortions and contraception and sex education. And they believe the same Supreme Court which installed Bush in the presidency, will enforce the compulsion that they envision. If Suzy Smith, a non-believer, wants to have a pregnancy ended, what harm comes to the most ardent religionists? Those religionists, through compulsion, wish to order the lives for all the rest of us. I object.

These same two groups are also gung ho for Bush’s war on Iraq. Never mind the rationale; just go bomb ‘em. Reports in the news media clearly state today, February 2, 2003, that the military forces of the United States will unleash 3000 precision guided bombs on Iraq to “demoralize” its citizens and lead them to abandon the fight for their country. It is clear to me that these 3000 precision bombs only start at 500 pounds. Some weigh much more. When the bombs are dropped and Iraqi citizens are becoming “demoralized”, it may be that thousands will be killed. Men, women and children. Our bombs may be precision guided but they don’t know if they are killing a man or a mother or a school full of children. When did we develop this vicious hatred for the Iraqi people?

Now I ask you this question. Why is it legal and an occasion for Bush to put on his John Wayne act to wipe out thousands of Iraqi women and children, but a woman who is the victim of rape in this country cannot get an abortion? Where is the logic in that? I suppose it comes under the heading of why we must wipe out Iraq but North Korea, with its NUC-YU-LAR bombs are not a matter of crisis, according to Secretary of State Powell.

Now I move on to an allied thought. When black people were subjected to the conditions of slavery, they were judged by Southerners to be inferior people. Some still think that. If you don’t believe that statement, look at the 1948 campaign of Strom Thurmond, the Presidential candidate of the Dixiecrat Party. And if you don’t want to see what Old Strom said about the inferiority of black people, you may refer to the recent leader of the Republican Party in the Senate, Trent Lott, who in December, 2002 embraced the whole agenda that Thurmond ran on.

But the supposed inferiority of blacks is only half the story. The drive led by right wing Catholics, such as Archbishop Myers, and ultra right wing Evangelical Protestants, seem to actively embrace the idea of the inferiority of women. They must be prevented by compulsion from having an abortion even in the case of rape or incest. And they should be barred from the use of RU-486 as well as sex education. I believe that this makes a pretty compelling case for the ultra right wingers led by George Bush to consider that women are an inferior brand of humanity. Women can’t make choices. It is done for them by a religious-political decision.

There is sort of a Trifecta here. First there is the suppression of women on the ground that they must be inferior to men. Secondly, the ultra right wingers want the U. S. to bomb Iraq back to the Stone Age. And thirdly, there is an unquestioning desire to invoke the death penalty on just about everyone arrested by a cop. The likes of Trent Lott, Jeff Sessions, the Republican Senator from Alabama, Strom Thurmond, and John Ashcroft are part and parcel of this Trifecta along with the fearless George Bush and Richard Cheney. When Bush claims that his administration will protect this country, I am forced to point out that when Vietnam occurred, Bush used his father’s political connections to flee to the Texas National Guard. Cheney sought and got five deferments so he never served anywhere. Some fearless leaders we have here leading us into battle.

This essay started with a thought or two about Prohibition. It seems to me that during Prohibition, Southern Christians drank hillbilly moonshine. They did not let Prohibition stop them. Now, if Roe vs. Wade is rolled back and abortion is outlawed, I suspect that Catholic girls as well as ultra right wing Protestants will seek out and find abortionists to perform their work, often in unsanitary conditions, regardless of what New Jersey Representative Chris Smith has to say. Sadly, many of them will not survive.

All of the effort to return the United States to colonial times as it relates to abortion and sexual education and mores, and the slaughter of women and children in Iraq is done while proclaiming the extraordinary love of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Oh boy, let us pray.

Regrettably, we don’t have anyone now to write a song about “Beale Street Done Gone Dry” as it relates to the war on women, on Iraq and on compassion for men, innocent or not, convicted by judges and juries, often with no evidence or tainted evidence. I suspect that if W. C. Handy were alive today he would write a dirge aimed at George Bush. But Bush is completely ignorant of music, so the point would probably be lost on him. On the other hand, the black race has been humiliated beyond comprehension, yet they produced men and women like W. C. Handy, who found humor and hope in their moments of despair. There is no humor in what George Bush is offering the American public, especially women. Maybe there is some hope if we could find another W. C. Handy to tie it in a small ball such as he did with Prohibition in “Because the river’s wet – but Beale Street done gone dry.” Maybe when the Congress voted to make 2003 the “Year of the Blues,” they may have known something was coming along to warrant such a description.

January 29, 2003


“It’s a shame that meaningless acts about recognizing such-and-such week/month/year are some of the only things congress is consistently capable of passing” was my first thought when I started reading this essay, so I sought out to prove myself wrong. Even though I knew we have a house that is explicitly dedicated to thoughtless obstructionism, I still figured congress must be doing something useful. So I went and looked at all the legislation passed this season. Turns out we’ve only passed 244 bills into law since this session started in 2015. Looking through the first 100 of them, I count 32 — that is, a full third of their activity — bills were entirely focused on renaming one building or another.
For example, HR 5208 passed a few months ago: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3957 2nd Avenue in Laurel Hill, Florida, as the “Sergeant First Class William ‘Kelly’ Lacey Post Office”.

These types of laws are all well and good but for them to represent a full third of our congressional activity paints a pretty gloomy picture.

That said, I suppose that if the choice for how congress spends its time is “rename stuff” versus “build toward a Christian theocracy” then hey, might as well recognize William Lacey.


Being born in the American Mid-west, my native tongue is English spoken in broad, flat tones without regional accents. My English is not of the hard Boston variety, nor does it reflect the softer tones of Southern speech. Thus, the title of this essay in Mid-western speech would read, Tony Blair, Ed Carr and War, with the final R’s not being silent or elided.

Now I know full well that my use of the final R’s in English speech marks me as a peasant in the eyes of certain upper class Brits who are the Honorable Queen Elizabeth’s subjects. If history is a respectable guide, we fought a WAH back in 1776 to throw off the rule of upper class Brits. Now we have a fairly bright British Prime Minister who is widely called George Bush’s lapdog and who is known in upper class circles as Tony BLAH.

Unfortunately, this old essayist has no claim to academic excellence gained by attending an English college such as Oxford. As a matter of fact, I never was influenced by a college anywhere because I did not attend one. My schooling in Missouri, which I believe was first rate, demanded and encouraged me to sound out the words giving value to each of its letters. If the word had the letter “R,” it would be appropriately recognized and pronounced. So I am aghast at upper class Brits who drop the final “R” in Tony’s name, and in my family name and in the name of the projected hostilities with Iraq.

But among the-nose-in-the-air Britons, there is an equally disturbing habit of dropping vowels on the tail end of words to make them sound elegant, I suppose. Much is being made of MILITARY planning and preparations these days. According to some television commentators and high flown English politicians, we should know that when the British Army sets about preparing itself for WAH, it is making MILITRY preparations. My limited education said that MILITARY has four syllables and my dictionary – woops, that’s another failure right there! That should read DICTIONRY, which I should have known.

George Bush has made a few speeches about defending American territory from invading Iraq troops. Bush likes to paint himself as a Texan, which he is not, but in view of his love affair with Tony Blah, he should be defending American territry including his adopted Texas accent. Of course, if Bush and Tony Blah don’t pull off their wah which they say has been forced on them by that well known villain Saddam Hussein, perhaps a lot of American and British soldiers will wind up in the graveyard, otherwise known as the CEMETRY.

Do the upper class Brits have any plans to return the elided vowels from the end of words like the ones discussed in this piece? If they have any plans to return them to general use, I have heard nothing of it.

All that leads me to a reporter-commentator who works for CNN and who uses the name of Christiane Amanpour. Her accent is so upper class British, even though one of her parents came from Iran, that I am always a half sentence behind her. She dazzles me with Blah making militry plans to defend our territry so we can all stay out of the cemetry. Very quickly I am lost when she makes her TV reports.

Ordinary English men and women don’t speak as Madame Amanpour speaks. For quite a while during World Wah II, it was my fortune to work with English troops and the British Royal Air Force. I can’t recall any problems in dealing with them face-to-face or over aircraft radios. But they spoke standard English and there were few if any questions. But those Tommies and the flyers with the RAF were several steps removed – below – the elevated upper class roots of Christiane Amanpour. If one of her kind was directing AH (air) operations, perhaps the conflict would still be going on.

Before I leave the elevated atmosphere of upper class British speech, I should also ask our British allies what the hell ever happened to the letter “R” in the middle of a word. When a broadcast comes from London, there often is a reference to TUHKEY and there is also great concern about a race called the KUHDS. They even refer to BUHDS flying about. By the end of the broadcast, I can say that it is my belief that the upscale British announcers are talking about Turkey, the Kurds and birds. I am at a loss to explain to you why Bush’s fast friends in England go with a 25 letter alphabet. I suppose that’s why they are upper class and the rest of us are peasants.

This essay closes with a reference to Time Magazine which used to publish a tribute to the Irish which always appeared in the edition closest to St. Patrick’s Day. It was written by T. E. Kelem in a review of Brendan Behan’s “Borstal Boy.”

“The English language brings out the best in the Irish. They court it like a beautiful woman. They make it bray with donkey laughter. They hurl it at the sky like a paint pot full of rainbows, and then make it chant a dirge for man’s fate and man’s follies that is as mournful as misty spring rain crying over the fallow earth. Rarely has a people paid the lavish complement and taken the subtle revenge of turning its oppressor’s speech into sorcery.”

As an American of Irish ancestry, I looked forward to Kellem’s annual tribute which was to me a wonderful piece of writing as well as a welcome to Spring. It makes the upper class British attempts to bastardize the English language by dropping vowels and final “R’s” an exercise in crass juvenility. My Donegal ancestors would roll in the aisles if they were told that my name is now Cah and that we are now preparing for another wah to be co-authored by Bush’s sometime pal, Tony Blah.

Rule, Brittania! Brittania rule the waves! Britons nevah, nevah will be slaves. (Slight apologies to James Thomson, 1700-1748, from his play “Alfred”, Act II, Scene 5. Thomson was an Englishman.)


Several years ago, my medical moguls had me placed in the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City for nearly two weeks. I think they were trying to remove the carnality from my heart. From the name of the hospital, it might be assumed that the hospital would be a bastion of Protestant culture and devotion. That was not the case at all, if one were to judge by the nurses who attended to my needs. Most were from Ireland with many coming from County Donegal. It must be assumed that they were Catholics, not Protestants at all.

They soon recognized that my surname came from that part of Northwest Ireland occupied by County Donegal. I had been told by John Walsh, the Director of the Irish-American Institute, that Carr is a common Donegal name. It is also spelled as Kerr, but Kerr and Carr are pronounced much the same.

One or two of the nurses saw me exercising in the halls and said they had an ancient saying to recite to me. The little saying goes something like this:

Donegal, Donegal,
Where the people eat the praties (potatoes),
Skins and all!

I told them that the Donegal poem or saying was light years ahead of any English poetry that had ever been read to me. That made all of us feel better.

My experience with the Irish nurses at the Presbyterian hospital is recited because it brings up another friendship with another Donegal fellow who seems intent on retiring from the U. S. Postal Service soon. His name is Tom Kerr. Our surnames are spelled differently, but as I said, are pronounced in the same way.

I got to know Tom a few years ago in the Short Hills, New Jersey Post Office where he works. Before I knew Tom, I often dealt with
Jim McBride on postal matters. As my good Irish girl friend from Chicago, Ann Hincks, would say, Jim McBride was “one of the boys from home.”

As I got to know Tom Kerr, it became clear that he was a County Donegal man so we had much to talk about. Tom does his job with a good sense of humor, which is to be expected of any Irishman. When we converse, it is quiet conversation without histrionics. In short, it is the conversation of two friends of Irish-American citizenry who trace the roots of our families to their ancestry in County Donegal where the praties are eaten, skins and all!

Shortly before Christmas 2002, I happened to be in the Post Office with my wife Judy Chicka. While Judy was finishing her transaction with George Dlugos, a colleague of Tom Kerr and a good guy, I wandered over to a spot a few feet away from Tom. At that time, in a louder than usual voice, I said, “Mr. Kerr, I’ve got one thing to say to you.” George looked up from his dealings with my wife fearing, I suppose, that a dispute or a fight would take place.

Instantly, Tom Kerr said in stentorian tones to me, “Mr. Carr. I also have one thing to say to you.” By this time, I suppose other people were quite sure that a dispute was about to happen.

When Tom finished his statement, both of us said in unison, “Merry Christmas” and shook hands. No disputes; no fights; just two old Irish guys wishing each other Merry Christmas.

If Bush and Saddam Hussein were Irish, maybe the world would be a more peaceful place and there would be more laughter and enjoyment.

We can’t close this essay without a reference to Irish poetry which is an integral part of Irish culture. The English who imposed their will on Ireland for hundreds of years, never understood the Irish. Even today, the Northern Irish question demands Tony Blair’s attention as he tries to serve George Bush with respect to Iraq. One of the conservative or reactionary English authors, tried to capture the English sentiment about the Irish in his “Ballad of the White Horse.” The writer was Gilbert Keith Chesterton, 1874-1936. He wrote:

“For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.”

Lord Chesterton was nuts and that is a charitable assessment. He says, for example, that all our songs are sad. That is not true about a Doctor Johnson and his motor car. During Ireland’s War for Independence which finally produced a treaty in 1922, the Irish Republican Army had very little compunction about commandeering someone’s car for their use. In this case, it happened to a Protestant doctor, Doctor Johnson, an English sympathizer, who was not a popular figure with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The fourth verse of the song about taking Doctor Johnson’s car away goes like this:

“What will my loyal brethren think
When they hear the news,
My car has been commandeered
By the Rebels (IRA) at Dunluce.”

“We’ll give you a receipt for it,
All signed by Captain Barr,
And when Ireland gets her freedom, boy,
You’ll get your motor car.”

The honorable Lord Chesterton may think “Johnson’s Motor Car” is a sad song, but most Irish people think it is funny, pleasant and entirely merry. So much for Lord Chesterton.

Now for a man contemplating retirement, it is to be hoped that there will be plenty to eat. On the other hand, there is a Gaelic saying:

“When the food is scarce
And you see the hearse,
Then you will know,
You died of hunger.”

Another Gaelic piece of wisdom goes like this:

“Outside the dog
Books are man’s best friend.
Inside the dog,
It’s too dark to read anyhow.”
(see attached translation)

I suspect that Lord Chesterton would not be amused by such use of the English language. But Tom Kerr might understand Gaelic wit better than the Lord who says all our songs are sad.

Finally, all that brings me to a thought about Tom Kerr’s retirement. And that calls for a contribution from one of the great Irish poets, William Butler Yeats, 1856-1939. Yeats was born in England but elected to live his life in Ireland. In his “The Municipal Gallery Revisited,” he has a comment about friendship. The final words in the seventh stanza of that poem say:

“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.”

And so as my name sake Tom takes his leave from the United States Postal Service, I believe it fair to say that his many friends, his glory, as Yeats says, wish him well. And as for me, I hope Tom’s future is filled with merry songs, regardless of what Lord Chesterton had to say.

March 7, 2003

Maybe, right before an Englishman with an upper-class accent passes away, he lets loose a giant “ARRRRRRRR” sound like a pirate to catch up on a lifetime of Rs withheld.

I’m glad I got to visit Donegal when my family went to Ireland last year to scatter Pop’s ashes. Incredibly friendly people and beautiful scenery. Would highly recommend.



This is a small St. Louis story which comes from a news release from Washington. In 1764, Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau, French explorers and fur traders, established a town on the west bank of the Mississippi River and named it after one of the French monarchs, Louis XV. You will be surprised to know the name of the town is St. Louis as in the St. Louis Blues.

By the year 1800, German immigrants began to come to St. Louis and they quickly outnumbered the French. By 1900 or thereabouts, the town was considered German and in large measure, remains that to this day, particularly when the environs are considered.

Germans had to have their beer gardens and the major one of them was run by a man called Chris Von Der Ahe. To promote his beer garden, Chris established a professional baseball club around the year 1884 which he called the St. Louis Browns. The nickname of the Browns came from the uniforms that Von Der Ahe’s employees wore in his elaborate beer garden. The Browns played in the American League, the so called “Junior circuit” with the National League being the “Senior circuit.”

Over the years, the Browns passed to the Ball and DeWitt families after Chris Von Der Ahe died. In 1922, they came within one game of winning the American League pennant, but in those years, there was no “Wild Card Team,” so the Browns simply went home after the season. From that point on, their efforts for the next 20 years were met with no success at all. In large measure, baseball people more or less felt sorry for the Browns.

While the Browns were basically failures at professional baseball, two other St. Louis industries were meeting with great success from the 1890’s to 1950 or 1955. First was the beer brewing business and second was the shoe industry.

After the war, we were very lucky to rent a flat on Wyoming Avenue in South St. Louis. The aroma of beer and yeast were in the air at all times as that flat was with walking distance of three breweries. There was Alpen Brau Brewery, the Greideick Brothers Brewery, and the Falstaff Brewery. In the end, the Budweiser brewery took over all the other plants in St. Louis, including the three within smelling distance of our flat on Wyoming Avenue.

Shoes were also a big success in St. Louis. There was the Endicott Johnson company and the International Company with their Buster Brown shoes for youngsters leading the way in sales all across the United States. My sister had a secretary’s job at Endicott Johnson and it seemed in 1938 to offer life time employment.

And so there was the little poem about the breweries, the shoe companies and the Browns. It went –

First in booze,
First in shoes,
And last in the American League.

St. Louis, I believe, now has only the giant Budweiser plant in South St. Louis. The shoe companies have long since gone. And the Browns, in a shameful deal, were sold to some outsiders in 1953 and are now the Baltimore Orioles. So no more booze or shoes or the American League.

Ah, but St. Louisans should take heart. An announcement last month from law enforcement authorities in Washington has named St. Louis as the “most crime ridden city in the country.” Think of that! It’s not last in the American League or any other league any more. St. Louis actually leads the league. Think of that!

Can you imagine how this makes the authorities in Newark or Chicago’s South Side or Brownsville, Texas feel as they see the mantle of leadership go to St. Louis? The same feelings of dejection must also be felt in Los Angeles and New Orleans. It is quite plausible that St. Louis ought to be the most crime ridden city on the North American continent. If that is true, the St. Louisans would have to beat Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Mexico City, but I am quite confident that my old home town can easily handle these Mexican upstarts.

I am an old man and for decades I have been burdened with the thought that St. Louis was last in the American League. But no more. Newark, and Chicago’s South Side and the seamy side of Miami and all those other fleshpots in Los Angeles and New Orleans will now have to look up to St. Louis as the leader when it comes to being the most crime ridden city in the country. That, my friends, is an accomplishment worth waiting a lifetime for.

“St. Louis Woman,
With her diamond rings,
She led that man around,
By her apron strings.”

Thanks to W. C. Handy

Once in awhile, if you stick around long enough, you may get lucky. For example, when the stock market was booming, AT&T spun off Lucent in 1996. That was sort of a lucky gift. As were Lucent’s two for one stock splits in April, 1998 and January, 1999. All those new shares started off at $29 and grew over time to somewhere around $60. So it is quite clear that many of us were very lucky to receive these gifts from a never ending boom in the stock market.

It doesn’t help my premise that Lucent not long ago seemed headed for a rate of less than one dollar per share. It has picked up recently, being traded at about $1.50. But that is a diversion. I am just going to concentrate on being given Lucent shares as a lucky gift.

Aside from personal luck, countries can be lucky also. Before World War II, the international language – lingua franca – was French. Many European countries spoke French as a second language. The Russians and the Poles regarded French as the language of sophisticated citizens. It was widely spoken in other European countries including Scandinavia.

But then came World War II. English started to replace French. In any case, the possessions of the British Empire made English the language of choice in India, Hong Kong, Nepal, Egypt, East and West Africa and many other countries. There are some cases in Nepal or in Ghana or Nigeria where English is used often to the exclusion of the native tongue because the language of the country is not adaptable to the commercial needs of the post World War II world. And there are many cases where the natives of one part of the country are unable to speak to their countrymen from other sections of the country, so speaking English is the solution.

In the early 1970’s when I took up duties of dealing with all the communications companies around the world, there were a few countries where we required a translator. One of the first lessons we learned was not to ask the American Embassy in such a country to recommend a translator. Uniformly, they offered someone from the Embassy staff who very often tried to take over the negotiations with the foreign telecommunication company.

In a high percentage of the cases, someone from the foreign administration spoke English and translated for the rest of the delegation. In most cases, the English speaker was the head of the foreign delegation. This was the case in many of the Arab countries with whom we negotiated. As a general rule in Arab countries, a government official was responsible for telecommunications policy because such policy was a government rather than a private function. On one occasion in Algeria, the leader of the Algerian delegation was a cabinet minister in that country. His native tongue was Arabic. Our meeting took place shortly after Algeria had successfully worked to gain the release of the American hostages who had been held for many months in an Iranian prison. When I spoke at the outset of the meeting, I thanked the minister for Algeria’s efforts on behalf of the American prisoners. His reply was simple and straightforward. He said, “It was our duty. We were glad to be of help.” I was deeply impressed by his thought that it was a matter of duty to the Algerian government.

One place we never had trouble was in the Scandinavian counties. In meetings, the Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Finns kept us on our toes with their responses. In Sweden and Denmark particularly, our counterparts felt free to joke with us in English. My retirement from AT&T took place 18 years ago, but I am still in contact by e-mail and written correspondence with two good Swedish friends. The dialogue is in English although I have a Swedish-English dictionary around for ready reference.

The point I am trying to make is that the world came to us where the English language is concerned. The Europeans, the Asians and many of the Arab countries mastered the English language. Sad to say, the Americans have not mastered theirs. That is why I said at the outset of this mini-essay that we are very lucky people. Indeed, the world came to us on the subject of language. We are very fortunate.

Winston Churchill once said the United States and Great Britain were completely united, divided only by our common language. If we can communicate with our French and German neighbors, and with our Arab and Asian friends, perhaps in time, if we are again lucky, we may even be able to communicate with our friends in old Blighty. Rule Brittania! Britania rules the waves.

Last November, I wrote an essay on the effects of aphasia which often follows a stroke. The idea was to list some of the effects of problems that aphasia sufferers might encounter.

As time goes on, it seems that the effects of aphasia tend to diminish. In my case, I have accommodated the thought that the effects of aphasia will be with me for the rest of my life. Rather than being distraught about that turn of events, I laugh at some of my errors in speech and it seems that the name of a person or a thing which will not come to mind at the moment, will appear effortlessly later in the day. Aside from laughter at my failings and patience in waiting for a word to show up, it helps to write essays and letters to exercise my brain, which is what the therapist at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation ordered in the first place.

Now here are three of my recent verbal faux pas which tell me that aphasia is hanging on in my mind. Happily, each case of misidentification became an object for laughter rather than for distress. All of them involve my wife Judy which may suggest that she enjoys the laughter as much as I do.

In the first case, I meant to tell Judy that it was my intention to eat some “amazons.” The word that was missed was “almonds.” Where that monster river in South American or the on-line book seller came from is anybody’s guess. I long since quit trying to figure that sort of stuff out. Perhaps a neurologist or even a psychiatrist might offer an explanation, but I would say after seeing two neurologists, their explanation would be no better than mine. So save your money and come see me. My rates are quite reasonable, but I don’t see HMO patients.

A second word substitute came when Judy started to leave the car in a rain storm. With great solicitation, I asked her if she had her “envelope” with her. Obviously, my intention was to ask if she had an “umbrella.” There was no envelope to be mailed. That word intruded just as Amazon intruded in the almond incident.

Then there was a case when Judy brought up one of my shirts on a hanger from the basement laundry. Judy usually contends that her hangers are not promptly returned, so as soon as she handed me the shirt, I asked her if she would like her “pliers” to be returned. Where did “pliers” come from? I have no idea. Rather than try to figure it out, it seems better to laugh at it.

Well, here are three indications of word substitutions that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject being discussed. But that is the nature of aphasia and it hangs around for a long while. By all means, don’t click your tongue and feel sorry for me. I have never felt sorrow for myself and indeed, these verbal mishaps are the subjects of fun and laughter. The question is, what will I say next?

So if we are ever speaking, and I make a reference to something as foreign as Amazons, or envelopes or pliers, or whatever, please point it out to me so that we both can have a laugh.

March 3, 2003


St. Louis had its title stripped by Detroit! Memphis and Oakland are also hotly contesting the title. Urban poverty can produce some pretty intense cycles of violence, and our society hasn’t found (or attempted to find?) a viable solution for that yet. But don’t worry guys, the manufacturing industry is going to come back to Detroit and everything will be fine again — all the politicians still tell us so.


If a writer is going to write essays, which I try to do sometimes, ideas are needed. In the beginning, these ideas usually take the form of short notes for my files. Later I may turn some of these short notes into essays. On the other hand, many of these notes will not ever become a full essay for one reason or another. That is the risk that essayists have to take.

But that leaves the question about what to do with those notes that are not now envisioned as future essays. The notes seemed important at the time they were written and some still are. Perhaps the solution lies in the creation of a “Bits and Pieces” essay wherein several subjects may be addressed without there being a relationship between the subjects. When a series of comments are made about one subject, there will be an indication that it is finished and a new subject is about to be addressed.

There are several notes for essays in my files which may be worth considering for the “Bits and Pieces” series. Perhaps it is possible that one of these short comments may be turned into a full essay at a later date. I hope so. And so with that sort of equivocating background, let us turn to the first of what may turn out to be an essay on “Bits and Pieces.”


When it fell to me to report for work in February 1953 to the AT&T Chicago Division Traffic organization, a long time employee mentioned Gorgeous Gloria. It was not clear to me what Gorgeous Gloria was supposed to be. Before long it developed that an operator in her mid-20’s named Gloria Browne was the famous Gorgeous Gloria of all Chicagoland.

When meeting Ms. Browne, it was not clear to me why she was called Gorgeous Gloria. In my humble estimation, Ms. Browne presented an acceptable or a nice appearance, but gorgeous would not ever come to my mind. Harry Livermore, the Chicago Traffic Manager and I roomed together at the Webster Hotel on the Near Northside. My belief is that Mr. Livermore joined me in my assessment of Ms. Browne’s pulchritude or lack thereof.

So the obvious question became why was Ms. Browne called Gorgeous Gloria. As Brother Livermore and I soon found out, Ms. Browne bestowed the title on herself. In conversations, Ms. Browne would refer to herself not as “me” or “I,” but in the third person singular. If she were asked “Where did you buy that blouse?” she would say something like, “Gorgeous Gloria found it at Marshall Fields.” If she were asked “What are you going to eat in the cafeteria?” she may reply that, “Gorgeous Gloria is going to eat a hamburger.”

When I wrote my most recent essay about the lady who responded to some questions by quoting lines from movies and the woman with the most extravagant hairdo’s in all Chicagoland, Gorgeous Gloria slipped my mind for a day or two. So Gloria Browne now becomes the first story in the “Bits and Pieces” series. That fact alone reflects great glory on Gorgeous Gloria.

As far as anyone could tell, Gloria Browne was of sound mind. In the opinion of most men around the Chicago Traffic operation, Gloria vastly overvalued her attractiveness and sex appeal. But what the hell; if Gloria thought of herself as gorgeous, who is to say she is wrong? Not me! And more to the point, who else leads off the “Bits and Pieces” series? Gorgeous Gloria Browne, that’s who.

If I knew where Gloria might be, I’d send her this essay and say it came from a long time admirer. She would probably say Gorgeous Gloria gets hundreds of letters like this from hundreds of secret admirers. So let us start off proceedings in the New Year of 2003, by ordering up a large bottle of expensive French champagne. I suspect that Gorgeous Gloria only drinks expensive bottles of the finest French champagne. That’s what being gorgeous is all about.


According to a Hammond Atlas, the airline distance from New York to San José, Costa Rica is about 2200 miles. Leaving the United States going southward, we come to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and then to Costa Rica which is just above Panama and South America. That is quite a distance for a small country with a population of perhaps less than 5,000,000 citizens. In terms of size in square miles, Costa Rica is about 2½ times the size of New Jersey, slightly larger than Denmark and slightly smaller than West Virginia.

The question that comes to my mind is how does this small country produce so many hard workers? The landscaper who takes care of this property has probably 20 full time employees. Without being pushed, he says his worker from Costa Rica is clearly his best.

When the house needed to be painted two or three years ago, a contractor was hired who told me that his workers would provide a first class job and do it with no delay. As it turns out, that contractor hires nothing but Costa Rican painters. Their work was excellent. We couldn’t get them to go home because they worked till darkness set in. When they were also asked to repaint the baseboards in the kitchen, an indoor job, they jumped on it without complaint. Naturally, they worked on Saturdays. When they asked me if they could paint on a Sunday, the question astounded me. They painted till sunset occurred.

All the while the painters were here scrapping and painting, they were a cheerful group of four men. In short, it was a pleasure to have the Costa Rican painters here. Previous painters were often difficult to deal with and certainly did no work on weekends. The Costa Ricans were miles ahead of American painters.

One hot day when the Costa Ricans stopped for lunch, my wife Judy took them a root beer float. Unfortunately, there is no good translation for root beer float from English into Spanish. When the root beer bottle was shown to them, they quickly understood that “beer” meant “cervesa,” but why would this nice lady put ice cream in “cervesa”? Our problem was not helped at all when my Spanish dictionary showed nine definitions of “root.” None the less, the Costa Rica painters consumed the root beer floats and pronounced them “espléndido.” They brought the mugs back to the house and would have washed them if we had let them. These fellows were great emissaries for their country. When it is time to paint again, they will be invited back.

Another example of Costa Rican drive is exhibited by Jenny, a young woman who cleans our house. She is dependable, likable and trustworthy. When she shows up, there is a monstrous flurry of work until she finishes some two and a half or three hours later. The alleged master of the house (me), goes out on the porch or in the back yard till Jenny is finished.

Jenny’s husband drives a truck. They are saving to buy a starter home in a good school district. It is a great pleasure to see a woman like Jenny and her husband planning for their future and future of their two boys. It’s hard work, but Costa Ricans will gladly do it. Whatever they have done to get ahead, it appears to me that they have earned it. And she is still working on her English which is improving rapidly.

It is a pleasure for me to write about people earning and working their way up the ladder of success. It is a source of regret to me that the Costa Ricans’ willingness to work did not come to my attention sooner. But now that it is known to me, I say “Arriba (up, over, above) Costa Rica.”


During the Second World War, one of our adversaries was the Japanese Empire. In the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese Navy tried to sink our ships using submarines and airplanes as well as pounding from battleships. If my memory is correct, they named all their ships with the name “Maru” preceding a second name such as “Fury” or “Cyclone.” “Maru” means “peace” or “peaceful” according to some authoritative sources, but no one has ever identified me as an expert on naval warfare or on the Japanese language. So I have relied on outside experts.

Because the Japanese language was beyond my comprehension some years ago, it has been my fate to rely exclusively for more than 50 years on the services of Lieutenant Harry A. Livermore, Jr. of the United States Navy and a member of the crew of the Aircraft Carrier “Ticonderoga.” Lt. Livermore has explained the strategy for naval warfare so well, that the intricacies of war at sea are now second nature for me. The same goes for the Japanese language.

During the latter stages of the war with Japan, the Japanese military authorities developed a weapon that they thought could turn the tide for them and guarantee victory. That weapon was the Kamikaze aircraft. In many respects it was no different philosophically from the suicide bombers we see today in the Mideast.

The Kamikaze planes were single seat craft and were loaded with explosives and not much gas as it was to be a one way trip. Having a Kamikaze pilot return to his home base would be a dishonor of the highest order. The point of the whole Kamikaze program was to fly the Japanese craft into American ships with the intention of sinking them. Lt. Livermore has explained to me that the Kamikaze program was named by the Japanese as “Divine Wind,” just as their ships were named such things as “Peaceful Fury” or “Peaceful Cyclone.”

Before the Kamikaze pilots took off on their final mission, they were anointed by Shinto priests who bestowed Emperor Hirohito’s blessings upon them. From what has been learned since the war ended, there was a waiting list to sign up for Kamikaze training. Perhaps these people must have thought that Hirohito could get them into the Japanese equivalent of Paradise. Without having contact with the spiritual world, their fate is completely unknown to me. Their fate may be known to
Lt. Livermore, however, but he has been very close mouthed about this question.

The aircraft carrier Ticonderoga was in the far reaches of the Pacific shooting down Japanese airplanes and trying to sink their ships. Unfortunately, on January 21, 1945, off Formosa (now Taiwan), two Kamikaze fighters flew through withering fire from the Ticonderoga and hit it. There was a massive hole in the flight deck and many sailors lost their lives from that attack.

As I have said in some of my essays, war is not a game. People get hurt and some of them die. And most of the dying is done by young men with a whole life ahead of them.

It is my pleasure to report that Lt. Livermore survived the Kamikaze attack and after the Japanese surrender on the Battleship Missouri, he returned to work for the AT&T Company in New York. Now he is retired in Florida. With the North Korean problem coming to the fore, I have asked Mr. Commander in Chief Bush, to restore Harry’s rank and send him to the Korean Peninsula to guide our operations there.

Somewhere around 1951, AT&T sent the former Lt. Livermore to Kansas City. The big bosses at AT&T also decided in 1951 that there was a job for me in Missouri’s westernmost big city. With various moves happening, it took until Mother’s Day in 1952 for me to go to work in the Kansas City Traffic Office with Harry Livermore being the boss of the operation.

To make a long story a little shorter, working for Harry Livermore was a great pleasure for me. He ran a happy Traffic office. There was no carping or back biting. On top of being happy in my work, Kansas City was a good place to live. The people there are genuine and plain spoken. If a person from the Kansas City region makes a promise, you may be sure that he will keep that promise. At least that’s the way it was in the early 1950’s.

But good things come to an end after a while. Somewhere in the Fall of 1952, Harry was promoted to the Division level job as Traffic Manager in Chicago. That was good for Harry, but not so great for the rest of the Kansas City operation.

Within a few weeks on a Sunday morning, Harry came to my house and asked me to come to work for him in Chicago. There was no hemming or hawing. I was ready immediately to leave for Chicago, which happened on February 1, 1953.

One way or another, while searching for a permanent place to live, Harry and I took a two room suite at the Webster Hotel on Lincoln Parkway in the Near Northside of Chicago. We got along very well. Harry did not snore much and he discovered that putting peanuts in the refrigerator made a nice hors D’oeuvre. I reserved an opinion on that subject.

Almost everyone smoked in the 1950’s. In our suite at the Webster Hotel, when the last cigarette was smoked, the packages would be crumpled into a small ball and would become a source of athletic entertainment and achievement. Over our door to the hallway, was a screenless transom which could be opened to varying degrees of wideness. With one person in the bedroom and the other man in the hallway, the balled up cigarette package would be pitched through the transom with the door closed. The fellow receiving the throw would not know when it was thrown or whether it would be to his left or right. The object, of course, was to catch the thrown cigarette package ball. While we were on the honor system about catching the ball, as soon as the ball was pitched through the transom, the pitcher would run for the door and open it to see if the catcher really did catch the ball. When our neighbors alighted from the elevator and occasionally saw our game of pitching the ball through the transom, we were helped by the liberal view of the Chicago Police Department on minor crime. They did not send the paddy wagon for us.

There is one other story on which Harry Livermore considered me as a practitioner of shady play. In this case, the balled up cigarette package was again being used. Our living room at the Webster was quite large probably 12 feet across and perhaps 18 feet long. Harry was sitting on a divan at the far end of the room. Across from him was a window that was opened to a height of two or three inches.

Standing at the entrance to the room some 18 to 20 feet away, I told Brother Livermore that it would be possible for me to pitch the ball out that window. Harry immediately took the bet saying no one could do such an impossible feat. Now remember, my offer was to throw that ball out that window. Nothing was said – at least by me – of the window opening being only two or three inches or of my distance from the window.

With the bet firmly in hand, I simply walked over to the window and opened it to seven or eight inches, and while standing next to the window, the cigarette package ball was thrown out on Lincoln Parkway.

As you might imagine, old Harry screamed bloody murder. Foul play was all Harry could say. It has been 50 years since my triumph of cigarette package ball through an open window in the Webster Hotel. When talking to Harry over all those years, he still accuses me of enticing him into a nefarious betting operation. As always, I claim complete innocence, and rightly so.

It has been my pleasure to know Harry for more than 50 years. We have never had a cross word, if you exclude the cigarette ball out the window episode. Harry originally comes from Nebraska where he was born in 1915. That makes him nearly 70 years of age or thereabouts. I hope he lives to see his 100th birthday. If he does achieve that goal, however, I am absolutely sure that he will still be protesting my brilliant move to throw the cigarette package ball out on Chicago’s Lincoln Parkway.

So this is the first “Bits and Pieces” essay. My hope is that you enjoyed your visit with Gorgeous Gloria and with the hardworking Costa Ricans and finally with Harry Livermore, the Ticonderoga survivor. Writing this inaugural edition of “Bits and Pieces” has been a pleasure for me as it brought back some favorite recollections. And I have finally figured out what to do with the notes that populate my files.

The “Bits and Pieces series may run intermittently for quite a while. It will be fueled by headlines in the newspaper and by quotes from highly placed government officials. But, it is a matter of great dismay to this old essayist that Gorgeous Gloria is no longer a source for future essays. Gloria is well into her retirement years. If I run across her, she will be asked to go to Florida to work her remaining magic on old Harry Livermore. Who knows what might happen. My money is tentatively on Gorgeous Gloria Browne. In racetrack terms, my bookie rates Gorgeous Gloria’s charms at odds of 7-5 or higher. As they say at Hialeah, you can’t cash in a winning ticket unless you bet. So folks, get ’em down early before the first race starts.

January 4, 2003


There are four of these in a row, so buckle up for plenty of mini-essays! I happen to love ’em, myself.  Kinda funny to see Jenny mentioned in this essay, since she went on to be such a big part of my grandparents’ lives. I wonder if this is her first appearance in an essay — with all the chronological messing about that I’ve done on this site, it’s hard to be sure.

Birthday Post!

July 24, 2003

My dear Spockling Churchwallop:

As you can see, I began to prepare for your birthday back on February 15, 2003. Since that time, you have changed your name and it seems that an English accent has come over you. You are going to be referred to in newspapers as Churchwallop – nee Kevin Shepherd. That “nee” business has to do with high class females who take a second name or a second or third husband.

Now before we get into the currency, I have a map of Africa from a Hammond Atlas and the Foreign Exchange lists published in the New York Times. Now on the map, you will notice that every country in Africa was under domination by a European power. The map is wrong on one point, as Egypt was a British possession. When I arrived in Dakar in French West Africa in February, 1943, this was the layout of countries. Incidentally, Dakar is now in Senegal, a free nation.

The money issued by the various government entities reflected the ownership of the country by European governments. Nearly every country has now won its freedom.

I traveled all over Africa and Italy and into the Indian sub-continent. In all those travels, I never set out to collect money as souvenirs. At the end of a trip, money left over would be put aside with the thought that the money could be used on my next trip to that location. When I finally came home in July of 1945, this is the money left over. And now it is yours.

Now for a little arithmetic lesson. In every case today, except for Britain, the Euro and Special Drawing Rights (SDR), the dollar is worth more than the foreign currency. The British pound used to be worth around $4.50 to $5.00. I ought to know because I got paid in pounds for a long time. Now the pound is down to about $1.70 which is a long way from $5 when Great Britain was riding high.

The Euro is a currency invented only two or three years ago in Europe. Not every European country subscribes to the Euro. As you can see, the English have kept their pound, Sweden has kept its krona and Norway has kept its krone. In the beginning, the governments in Europe wanted to keep the Euro even with the dollar, but as you can see, it has edged 15c or 18c ahead of the dollar.

The SDR (Special Drawing Rights) has to do with governments taking money out of the system. Let’s don’t mess with it here.

Using the “Foreign Exchange” from July 16, 2003 from the New York Times, let’s have a little arithmetic lesson. If I were going to Canada, I would go to the foreign desk of my bank which is the Chase Manhattan Bank, and I would give the bank $100 U. S. currency. For that, the bank should give me $139.53 in Canadian currency. On the other hand, if a Canadian wanted to visit the U. S., he would have to plunk down $139 in Canadian currency to get $100 in U. S. dollars.

Are you with me so far?

Now if I wanted some English currency to go to London, my bank would take my $100 in U. S. money and would bring me 62 pounds and 72 pence.

If it fell to me to go to South Korea, my $100 U. S. dollars would bring me 117,855 South Korean won. So stay away from countries where their currency is less than a penny in American dollars.

If you want to do some more arithmetic, perhaps your Dad can help. Don’t let him say that he has something urgent to do just because he can’t figure out all these numbers.

Spockling, these bills are so old that nearly all of the countries have been replaced so there is no published rate for conversation to dollars. Basically, this is the money I used as a soldier about 60 years ago.

Also, you will find some current dollars for your use in purchasing cigars or ear and nose rings for your birthday. We like big, fat, Italian stogies. Judy and I say “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. Also, Nick the Chipmunk, and the birds at the feeder all wish you a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

I want to thank you for your letter when I was being a patient for the Pacemaker insertion. It was good to get your letter which told me to get well. Now as you can see, I got well just as you said. My identification bracelet from the hospital is enclosed to show you I am finished.

When you have had a chance to look at these bills, perhaps you could write us a letter and tell us how you are going to keep them. Do you plan, for example, to show them at school? Or when you go to Sunday school, do you want to display them? If you get a chance to preach, can you say that this currency comes from wicked countries? That’s what I would say.

Well, Kevin (Mr. Churchwallop), That’s about it for a teenage birthday. Judy and I wish you well because we think you are a nice fellow who can write (very) decent letters. Write to us.

So stay strong always,

*Pop’s signature*


I got this letter from Pop when I turned thirteen, and I’m posting it on my twenty-sixth birthday. I remember reading this letter the first time and then opening the box it came with, which contained dozens of little bags filled with the pocket change of defunct countries and currencies. Getting that box was eye-opening for me — I knew that Pop had been in the war, but I had no idea that during the war and his AT&T years afterward, Pop had been to more countries than I’d been to cities. “Well-traveled” didn’t even begin to cover it. It made me more interested in his stories, his essays, and all the artifacts that went along with them. I consider myself very lucky to have been the grandkid who he chose to give so much of his these amazing things to, and it’s entirely possible that this site indirectly exists due to the increased curiosity in Pop’s life that this box precipitated.

I have no real explanation for “Spockling Churchwallop,” a name that I chose when signing up for my first hotmail address. I’m glad we all kinda just let that die, and that subsequent letters didn’t carry on the moniker.

Unrelated: Isn’t it cool that this letter is also from 2003, which means it fits right in alongside the other 2003 essays I’ve been doing! So convenient. Thanks very much to you, Judy, for sending it to me again today.


At this late juncture in a long life, it must be observed that this country in 2003 is much more divided now than at any time in my memory. The bulk of the blame goes to George Bush whom the Supreme Court anointed as president. Bush caters to the basest elements of the Christian faith. When he signed the bill recently on so-called partial birth, his audience included Jerry Falwell, the most obnoxious preacher in captivity anywhere. Along side Falwell was Cardinal Egan of New York who has barely escaped so far, the law in Boston which resulted in the resignation of his former boss, Cardinal Law. There were two strident right-wing radio personalities reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh in the Bush photograph. In another photo opportunity, Bush was surrounded by Congressional legislators which caused the Newsweek writer Anna Quindlan to observe that there was not a womb in the house. In all of Bush’s bowing to his religious supporters, there were no African-American people, no Jews or representatives of the Hindu or Muslim faiths. This, my friends, was a show exclusively for his right wing Christian followers. And this was the candidate who preached that he would unite fractures in the American body politic.

When Anna Quindlan says there was “not a womb in the house,” it might also be pointed out that no veteran sits at the highest levels of government, let alone a combat veteran. What Bush knows about war must have come from movies. He doesn’t read books or newspapers, so his idea of combat comes from Hollywood, I suppose. Sad, sad business.

Interesting one! Not a real essay from the looks of things — I wonder if this was the start of another piece, a letter, or what. God knows what Pop would have to say about Trump. Maybe he’s a unifier, in that people of both parties are starting to see his insanity for what it is, and come together in opposition?

S O D – O – M Y

Once in a great while, the United States Supreme Court issues a decision that causes a good deal of public controversy. At the end of its 2002 – 2003 term in June, a six to three ruling was published having to do with sodomy. It ruled against a Texas statute barring sodomy.

This essay is not devoted to the intricacies of sodomy. Quite to the contrary, it intends to deal with the bleatings of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court jurist, with Pat Robertson, the television evangelist and a string of other characters who hold that miscreants violating the Texas law against sodomy ought to be severely punished.

This old essayist, a straight man with no deviances except glaucoma and baldness, believes that the ruling striking down the Texas statute was long overdue. The debate about that ruling is what this essay is all about. But the title of the essay posed a great problem.

In the Spring of this year, it seemed to me that the antics of Rick Santorum, the junior Senator from Pennsylvania, deserved some comment. Santorum is the third ranking Republican in the Senate, so some people actually listen to his words even though what passes for thought with Santorum is really an illusion. He has no original thought processes of his own, as far as I can see.

In the Spring the Supreme Court of the United States was considering Lawrence et al. v. Texas involving imposition of the Texas law barring sodomy. Santorum got into the act late in April, 2003 with the thought that he deplores homosexuality and he also deplores the privacy doctrine established by the Supreme Court in 1963, which struck down a ban on the use of contraceptives, even by married couples. Santorum wants everyone to play by his antediluvian rules which would not only do away with contraceptive devices but with Planned Parenthood and similar organizations as well. Because of Santorum’s quaint views on sexuality, it was first proposed to call this essay, “More Catholic Than The Pope.”

A little later in the Spring, on June 26, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on Lawrence et al. v. Texas which struck down the Texas laws on sodomy. This set off a monstrous firestorm by right wing conservatives. The ruling came out as a six to three vote. Conservatives had reckoned that the vote would be at least five to four to uphold the Texas law. The response of conservatives when the ruling came down was marked, as you might imagine, by excesses. A member of the Family Research Council said that the court would now not even bar sexual relations “between a mother and an adult son.” In other instances, the conservatives said that under the new Supreme Court ruling, people had the right, among other things, to be involved in bestiality. That struck me as silly in the extreme. Perhaps the right wing folks envisioned sexual relations between humans and bears or horses or between humans and ducks and dogs. Several commentators invoked bestially as one of the drawbacks to the new Supreme Court ruling striking down the Texas sodomy law. I still had no title for this essay. I really could not use the title of “Don’t Be Beastly” for the serious essays that I might attempt to write. I thought then that Pat Robertson might provide an appropriate title.

In the middle of July, 2003, we have a comment from Pat Robertson to which we must all pay close attention. Pat runs the Christian Broadcasting Networks 700 Club which is a device for calling attention to himself and for his own fundraising purposes. Less well known is Pat’s partnership with Charles Taylor, the dictator of Liberia, in mining operations for diamonds and gold. Pat has offered millions of words on the “700 Club” broadcasts, but he has yet to say a word about his partnership with Dictator Taylor. As you might imagine, Robertson is one Republican who is anxious for United States troops to impose order in Liberia which Bush seems reluctant to do.

This past week, Robertson started a 21 day “Prayer Offensive” directed at the Supreme Court because of its ruling on the Texas sodomy law. On one of his broadcasts, good old Pat said that the ruling “has opened the door to homosexual marriage, bigamy, legalized prostitution and even incest.” I’m lost. What does a law striking down sodomy in Texas have to do with bigamy, or homosexual marriage or legalized prostitution or incest? I’m afraid old Pat has involved a string of non-sequiturs here.

But that is beside the point. The object of the 21 day “Prayer Offensive” is to get three of the six Justices of the Supreme Court who had voted to ban the Texas law, to retire or to resign or perhaps to die. I suspect that Pat and his followers can pray as hard as they can for the next three weeks and the vote on the Supreme Court will not change. The Supreme Court Justices are in adjournment until October.

I couldn’t change the title to a “21 Day Prayer Offensive” because Robertson made no sense. And so, by default, it has been elected to call this essay SOD-O-MY. The hyphens are mine to make it easier for full fledged right wing conservatives to spit out the word sodomy. So SOD-O-MY it is.

My Merriam-Webster dictionary gives a very chaste definition of sodomy. It says, “Copulation with a member of the same sex or with an animal: unnatural copulation with a member of the opposite sex.”

As I said, this is a very chaste definition of sodomy. It is one that could be used in monasteries or in a nunnery or possibly in a home for retired Protestant preachers. Without arguing the point, I suspect that millions, or perhaps billions, of happily married people and lovers throughout the world may practice “unnatural copulation” and do so with innocence and great joy. So much for the Merriam-Webster Company which publishes dictionaries in Massachusetts, the home of the Red Sox, book banning and Cardinal Law.

What we have here are two gay men named Tyron Garner and John Geddes Lawrence. These two men lived together in Houston in an apartment. There is no evidence whatsoever that these two men engaged in blatantly homosexual behavior in public. All things considered, they went to work every day and shopped for groceries the way everyone else does. Their main offense was that they were gay and the Texas authorities set out to punish them. Being gay in Texas is an occasion for calling the cops.

In 1998, the cops broke into the Garner-Lawrence apartment and arrested the men in their bedroom because they were allegedly “performing a homosexual act.” Obviously, the arrests happened in Texas so they were convicted. They elected to appeal the convictions to higher Texas courts which, as you might expect, upheld the law. In 2003, some five years later, it wound up in the Supreme Court.

In spite of all the fuss made by Texas legal authorities, Garner and Lawrence were only fined $200 with no jail time. It might be argued that their case was a matter of much adieu about nothing.

Newsweek Magazine in its July 7th issue, says the Supreme Court decision was really just catching up to public opinion. In 1986, only 17 years ago, the Court in Bowers v. Hartwick, had upheld a Georgia anti-sodomy law. At that time, 25 states had such laws. Some 17 years later in 2003, only four states banned sodomy between homosexuals. Curiously, there are nine other states with laws that are rarely enforced, barring sodomy between any sexual partners, whether married or not.

Now we return to our hero Senator Rick Santorum who was active in the run-up to the June decision. He was the subject of an article by Cathy Young in the April 28, 2003 edition of the Boston Globe. Cathy Young quotes Santorum as follows: “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.”

Among other similar statements, Santorum goes on to say that he has “nothing against anyone who is homosexual,” but he has a great problem with gays acting on their sexual orientation. In short, Santorum says homosexuality is alright provided it is kept invisible. In the same interview with Ms. Young, Santorum believes the state should be able to jail people for having the “wrong kind of sex” in their bedrooms. Santorum has not told us what is the right kind of sex. Would it have to do, for example, with priests taking advantage of altar boys?

Finally, he tells Ms. Young that he sees nothing wrong if states should ban birth control. He explicitly believes that it is the proper role of government to curb “individual wants and passions.” Remember, we abandoned the title for this essay called, “More Catholic than the Pope.”

And of course, Santorum deplores the right-to-privacy doctrine established by the Supreme Court in the 1963 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling, striking down a ban on the use of contraceptives even by married couples.

That’s what Rick Santorum thinks, and remember, he is the #3 Senator among Republicans in the Senate. While he may be the third ranking Republican in the Senate, most observers consider Santorum as something lighter than a light weight.

In the history of the English language there is a perfect term to fit Santorum and his light-weightedness. It refers to an insect, an ant, who flits from one object to another and never ever makes an impact. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the proper term in this case is pissant or piss ant or piss-ant. They say such an insect or person contributes nothing of importance, an insignificant person.

My mother, who was born in 1882, used pissant regularly. And she was a genuinely religious person. She used it to describe someone who today would be called a complete jerk. I believe pissant and jerk accurately describe the junior senator from Pennsylvania, the Honorable Rick Santorum.

The decision in June when the Supreme Court ended its session for this year, has stirred up impassioned protests from the right wing. The New Yorker Magazine in its July 7, 2003 issue commented on the fuss as follows:

With surprising firmness, the Court struck down the remaining laws against sodomy thus bringing the United States to where Canada was a generation ago. Those laws in Texas and other states, had rendered it a crime, until last Thursday, to make love in the way that, for anatomical reasons, are gay folks’ sole option. It was a strong, solid decision, six to three, with only the hard core right – Antonin Scalia, joined by William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas – dissenting. In his dissent, Justice Scalia accused his colleagues of having ‘signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda.’ And what is that so-called agenda? Daisy chains on the church steps? Compulsory drag shows at school assemblies? ‘Eliminating the opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct’ seems to be Scalia’s own definition? No, it is worse than that. Just like in Canada, some of these people want to get married.”

So gay marriage is somewhere at the root of right wing objections to the Court’s ruling? Hard to believe, but that is one of the main objections causing all the agony.

So let’s see what Scalia had to say in his impassioned dissent. On Page 21 of Scalia’s dissent, Scalia says, “State laws against bigamy, same sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices.” Bowers was the case in 1986 when the Court upheld Georgia’s anti-sodomy law.

Notice that Scalia said “adult incest” and “bestiality.” And now do the conservatives wish to outlaw fornication, masturbation and adultery? And Nevada, a Bush stronghold, has legalized prostitution in several cities. Does that have to go as well?

On page 25, Scalia adds to the list of crimes by saying, “States continue to prosecute all sorts of crimes such as prostitution, adult incest, adultery, obscenity and child pornography.” I am a careful reader of the New York Times and the Newark Star Ledger and the Boston Globe when I can get it. I can’t ever recall someone being charged with adult incest, adultery and obscenity. Maybe in the New York–New Jersey area, we must live in a virtual snake pit and we have to thank Scalia for bringing these matters to our attention. And once more, I am troubled by Scalia’s pointing to “adult incest.” If two 15 year olds are involved in an incestuous relationship, does that mean they are not involved in Scalia’s prohibition against “adult incest”? What is adult incest? Is it the sainted Rudy Giuliani being married to his cousin?

On page 26, Scalia throws a blanket over all sin by preaching against, “fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality and obscenity.”

On page 27, Scalia again rails against, “adultery, fornication, adult incest” and laws permitting homosexual marriage.

Scalia is absolutely right. Now that he was on the losing end of the Lawrence decision, I must say that I now have an urgent desire to fornicate with a beast, such as a New Jersey bear. If the bear wishes to marry me, that would cause me to be guilty also of the crime of bigamy and polygamy. Scalia is right again. But if the bear were a male, perhaps that would be the first same sex marriage to take place in New Jersey. Just like Scalia said. I hesitate to make this confession, but I am quite certain that Scalia will feel better knowing that a New Jersey liberal has capitulated to his dire warnings. And once the bear and I are married, we probably will indulge in adult incest. Scalia was right on every count.

Now that I have made my abject confession, my spirits are greatly improved and I can tell you what other right wing critics have had to say.

Neil Lewis of the New York Times did a round-up of responses by some outspoken right wingers. Jay Sekulow (Chief Counsel to the American Center for Law and Justice), a group founded by Pat Robertson, says that the affirmative action and the anti-sodomy decision by the Court “reflect a political approach to the law that we deplore. It was a grand slam homer for the other side”. When the right wingers complain about a “political approach to the law”, they have it backwards. Don’t they remember the Supreme Court ruling that gave George Bush the Presidency by a 5 – 4 vote and some mystical justification by their hero, Justice Scalia?

Neil Lewis quotes the affable Jerry Falwell as saying that, “This is probably as bad a day as the court has had on social issues since Roe v. Wade. They put the right to privacy ahead of respect for community standards for morality that have prevailed for many years.”

At least Falwell did not immediately complain about bestiality, fornication and adult incest. Is he a closet liberal now?

Then Neil Lewis quotes Ken Connor, President of the Family Research Council as saying the decision was “a classic judicial activism arrogance.” He quotes Connor as saying that the decision, “Opens the door to bigamy, adult incest, polygamy and prostitution.” Sound familiar? And then he quotes Connor as saying that the decision opened the door to sexual relations “between a mother and an adult son.” That’s what Connor said. On one hand Connor railed against bigamy, polygamy and prostitution, and then he turned to a mother having relations with an adult son. What about a teenager? And what about an illicit relationship by a father and a daughter? Is Connor unconcerned about juvenile incest?

Then there is a final word from Jerry Falwell. He says that the courts may now approve bestiality, prostitution and the use of narcotics. When I made my confession about messing around with beasts, I forgot to mention that since the Texas law on sodomy was struck down, I had smoked dozens of marijuana cigarettes and had popped about 150 narcotic painkillers. All because of striking down the Texas law. That is what did it.

Before we close up shop, we must hear from the Attorney General of the Great State of Alabama, William H. Pryor. His nomination to the Federal Appeals Court has set off a storm of editorials about his views on religion and the law. In a recent brief, Pryor argued that sex between homosexuals would open the door for legalized, “necrophilia, bestiality and even incest and pedophilia.” I am greatly pleased that he opened up a new front with his assertion that necrophilia and pedophilia and bestiality would result if homosexuals made love. (Small note. My chaste dictionary says that necrophilia is, “obsession with and usually erotic interest in or stimulation by corpses.” Remember, you heard the warning here first.)

All of the right wingers cite bestiality as one of the outcomes of the Court’s June decision. As a practical matter, if the beasts were bears or buffaloes, how would an ordinary low life reprobate like me tell the difference between male and female beasts? Or are the conservatives saying that liberals like me would take a unisex approach? I will have to do some more research before I am able to take full advantage of the freedom now found under the Supreme Court’s decision.

Finally, we come to Bill Frist, the Republican leader in the Senate. He is so aroused about the Supreme Court decision that he wants to see a Constitutional Amendment against gay marriage. Very few people have responded to Frist’s efforts, but he thinks it of great import to guard against gay marriage such as obtains in that suburb of Hell, Canada.

In the final analysis, Frist ought to know that this country was founded on the principals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Being married to an amiable spouse would seem to fit under what our founding fathers had in mind. Frist should read the Declaration of Independence. If homosexual couples wish to avail themselves of those rights, who is Bill Frist to tell them nay. My hope is that his constitutional amendment dies a sudden natural death.

My feelings on this whole question of sodomy agrees with that of the New Yorker Magazine where they say that the law in the United States is now similar to Canada after the lapse of a generation. It is about time. And on the greatly feared issue of gay marriage, it will have absolutely no effect on anyone except the gay couple. If gays and lesbians want to establish their relationships through marriage, they have my best wishes.

Now before we close up the SOD-O-MY essay, there is one other urgent matter to deal with. On July 14, 2003, Pat Robertson appeared on his 700 Club broadcast with eyes tightly closed and with his fists clenched to announce his 21 Day Prayer Offensive. While you have been reading SOD-O-MY, time is slipping away from us. The 21 day Prayer Offensive will soon run out of time.

I believe there must be some divine inspiration to Robertson’s Prayer Offensive because it expires on August 4th, which happens to be my birthday. Robertson’s people tell me the August 4th termination date was not an accident. Pat himself found a citation in the Book of Ezra which requires the prayer offensive to reach its climax within the first four days of harvest time, which is, of course, August. My first name is that of the Old Hebrew scribe of Jerusalem. Obviously, this is a matter of Biblical prophesy. I find that inspirational just as Scalia’s reading of the law now permits me to engage in previously forbidden conduct with bears or orangutans. We all have Texas to thank for giving us the Lawrence case.

July 24, 2003


It never ceases to amaze me how Republicans can be simultaneously so in favor of “small government” but also so tenacious at trying to regulate people’s bedrooms. Also, the sexual slippery slope arguments are always just so excellent — all roads lead to gay sex with animals.

It’s been pretty soundly established that some of the loudest anti-gay-rights voices over the years have come from deeply closeted people. I wonder if the dudes who somehow find excuses to shoehorn bestiality into all these discussions are similarly closeted? I can honestly say I don’t think nearly, nearly as much about sex with animals as all these legislators seem to.

These are the same guys and gals currently freaking out about transgender people and bathrooms. Are they all just horribly repressed? It would be sad, except they have power, so it’s scary.


Perhaps it is fair to say that every essay writer – or the writer of any commentary – will encounter items not long enough for an essay, but which are still appropriate for some recognition and some observations. Some of these left over thoughts may be a remark or it may be a slightly longer series of developments or events.

And so to acknowledge these odd pieces, this old essayists has already published three “Bits and Pieces” stories covering a wide variety of subjects. Currently, my desk is overflowing with odd items which need to be recognized. It is proposed to lead off “Bits and Pieces – Part 4” with a little baseball story which came back to me after a reminder from a nephew who still resides in the suburbs of St. Louis, the home territory for the Carr clan. It is called, “I’m Everybody”.


On Sundays in Spring, Summer and Fall, there were some young ballplayers who comprised a team in a semi-pro league which played in Fairgrounds Park in St. Louis.

Most times we were not paid. In those cases where the players were paid, they would receive at most about five dollars for a game or games on Sunday afternoons. The fact that it was called a “Semi-Pro League” was as much for the players to brag about as it was to play for pay like the major and minor league ballplayers did. The time was 1939, 1940 and 1941 when this country was deep in the grasp of the Great Depression. At the time, I worked in filling stations in suburban St. Louis. In most work weeks, as the youngest attendant, it fell to me to put in 6 or 6½ days per week. Whenever I could get off on Sunday afternoons, it was my intent to play baseball.

The owner of the club that I hooked up with was Gus Borbein who operated the Borbein-Young Auto Parts Service in North St. Louis. Gus was a rough hewn character who was not always aware of the rules of polite society. Gus was an action figure. Subtlety was nowhere in his make-up. If a play went against his team, Gus would stand up and shout. He did not say, “Kill the Ump,” but his language and gestures left no doubt about his feelings. Generally speaking, Gus gave his players $5 for a game or games on Sunday afternoon. There were weeks when he told us that he had had a bad week, so his players played for less than $5 or nothing at all. That $5 salary may seem like chump change today, but at the time my salary at the filling stations averaged less than $18 per week. So the money earned from Gus Borbein’s ball club was very welcome.

There were no fancy uniforms. Some of us had uniform tops left over from high school clubs. The point to be made here is that there were no uniform shirt fronts to sew the name of our team on as the St. Louis Cardinals or Browns had. In short, the announcer who shouted our names and positions into a megaphone would use whatever name the owner of the club gave him.

Gus liked to emphasize that he had all kinds of automobile parts. So one week we might be introduced as the Borbein-Young Leaf Springs. The next week, it might be Inertia Starters. The announcer balked when Gus wanted us to be introduced as the “Lock Nuts,” which were new at that time.

Now we come to France Laux, the sports announcer for radio station KMOX. Laux and Johnny O’Hara, from station WIL, would often interview players and record their voices for use on later radio broadcasts. In the case of France Laux, he would feature such interviews on his program called “Stars of Tomorrow,” I believe.

His interviews were all pretty much the same. He might say, “Here’s a good looking ballplayer. Let’s find out who he is.” The ballplayer was asked to remember a couple of lines like, “Hello everybody. My name is Joe Jones.” I never thought anyone could mangle those two lines, but our center fielder could – and did.

The centerfielder was a ball hawk and a pretty good hitter. My recollection is that he was Vernon Ludloff. When France Laux turned on his recording machine, he said to Vern, “And who is this star of tomorrow?” Vern replied in a loud voice, “Hello Vern Ludloff. I’m everybody.” Laux laughed so hard that I don’t remember if they ever did it over.

This incident, now over 63 years old, was of no great consequence, but it supplied me with a title of a Bits and Pieces essay. After all these years, I still snicker when the thought enters my mind, “I’m Everybody!”


This old essayist does not consider himself an expert on the various religions that are practiced throughout the world. On the other hand, a good bit of the music that has been composed has some reference to religion. It seems to me that such music is pleasant to hear even if one does not agree with the religious lyrics.

But there are two entries that have no use whatsoever for music in any form. It is opposed on religious grounds. The ban applies to every kind of music be it rock and roll, jazz, opera or dance tunes. It may be that dancing to music presents two mortal sins in the two faiths in question. The first is the Taliban in Afghanistan. The second is the Wahabi sect which prevails in Saudi Arabia. These are very stern faiths. Hatred seems to be an integral part of both the Taliban faith as well as in the Wahabi sect.

Both of these faiths consider music of any kind as evil as adultery or adherence to Christianity or the Jewish religions. This sort of evil often calls for the death penalty.

Now in some cases where music is played with unintelligible lyrics and with the male performer being nude to the waist, and with no form to the so called music – there is a tendency to agree with the Taliban or with the Wahabis. But to say all music is beyond the vale and will cause adherents of the Islamic faith to spend eternity in hell is quite incomprehensible to those of us who love music.

Have they ever heard a composition by Verdi or Rossini, or by Rodgers and Hammerstein or by Gershwin? I suppose that sort of Western music is considered decadent and evil in Afghanistan and in Saudi Arabia, so kill the musicians and send them to hell! It may be that John Ashcroft would feel at home in both places.

If the Jews would join in singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers” in Afghanistan or in Saudi Arabia, it might provoke some interesting results. Or perhaps, if the Baptists and Catholics would join in chanting, “Kol Nidre” on the eve of Yom Kipper, it is possible, but not likely, that the Arabs in question might develop a burning desire to go to Jerusalem. And if the Episcopalians can forget their debate over a homosexual bishop in New Hampshire, they could join in the songfest as well. My mother would insist on singing every verse of “Amazing Grace” to everyone, Jew, Christian and all the varieties of the Islamic faith. But being executed is a terrible price to pay for a little music.



There’s something pretty adorable about the “I’m everybody” line. Maybe he was just being profound! Or maybe he was setting himself up for stardom by casting himself as the everyman. But most likely he just got nervous on the radio — makes a good story either way.