Archive for the June 2013 Category


In writing this essay, I am speaking for a person born in 1918, one born in 1920, and myself, born in 1922.  So you see, there are no spring chickens among the three of us.  Not long ago, a question arose from the one born in 1920 of whether he would prefer to keep his mind about him as he entered his 90th year.  This gentleman, born in 1920, was quite firm in the belief that he wished to preserve his mind while he would do his best to take care of his body.

I have given this matter a good bit of thought and I have reached the same conclusion.  It is my belief that it is better to preserve one’s mind as opposed to preserving the body.  I am of the opinion that the body in people of our age is going to go any second.  As a matter of fact, all of us have noticed deterioration in the performance of our bodies.  In my own case, I measure how I perform on the stationary bicycle from one exercise to the next.  When there is deterioration, I am aware of a decline in my performance while exercising.

On the other hand, there is an argument to be made that when the mind goes, one will be unaware of deterioration in the mind or the body.  I suspect that has a lot of logic associated with it.  Given a choice, I believe that it is better to preserve the mind rather than the body.  The body can be helped by such things as walkers and wheelchairs.  The mind has no such fallback.

I presume that a disinterested observer would say that at our advanced age, “What in the hell is there to care about?”   But in point of fact, the matter has a good bit to concern all of us.  If you wish to evaluate the health of your mind and body as you turn into your upper 80s and lower 90s, I would recommend that it is significantly better to preserve the mind as opposed to the body.  The gods did not give us a choice in this matter so we are left on our own.  In my case, the body is wobbly but I am still able to write essays such as this one even as I enter into my lower 90s.  I do not believe that the world will be changed by my essays but as youngsters come along, they may be interested in what happens to both the mind and the body.

So mark me down as one who wishes to preserve the mind as opposed to the body.  I would be thoroughly delighted to have both my mind and my body working as they did a few years ago.  But the gods who control such matters apparently decided otherwise.  And the three of us are in a similar situation.  In my case, to use one example, I still get around the house.  When a wheelchair is offered to me at the Summit Medical Group which we patronize, I am quick to take it.  There is no excessive pride here.

There was an occasion when I parked my wheelchair outside of the examining room.  Apparently someone was looking for a wheelchair and took mine.  Stealing a wheelchair is at least a second- or third-degree felony.  I expect that George Zimmerman would be happy to have my problem on stealing wheelchairs.

In the final analysis, if there is a choice between preserving the mind or the body, I suppose that I have already made up my mind that preserving the intellect is better than preserving the body and this goes for all three of us old timers.  I wish that, as I said before, both of them could be maintained at a superior pace and not have it determined otherwise.   So it is that all of us must wait for the end.  I would prefer to return both my mind and body to their late 40s or early 50s, but that is not in the cards.  And so this essay being written on Sunday is an appeal to the gods to help me in my work.  I sincerely suspect that the gods will do no such thing.  And so we are left to do the very best we can.

June 30, 2013
Essay 756


Kevin’s commentary: I can think of seven hundred and fifty six pieces of evidence that suggest that Pop’s mind is still sharp.

I would have to agree with him on this front though; that it would be certainly better to lose the body if one of the two has to go first.  I wonder though, why chose early 50s for the body-return state, as opposed to earlier such as his 30s or so.  I wonder how far back he would have to roll in order to get his full head of hair back. Hopefully he can enlighten me.


This essay is being published on July 29th. I’m deciding that by the end of August, I will be caught up such that publish date and the day’s date are once again in synch. I’ve been delinquent the last few weeks due to server issues, general business, and most recently friends in town to celebrate my 23rd birthday. It was a heck of a weekend but it is time to buckle back down. We should be seeing multiple essays per day for the coming four weeks. Cheers!


You will recall – or I hope you will recall – that these are bits that come from my notepad and that there is no connection from one subject to another.  So we continue with the spirit of bits and pieces, odds and ends.  The first thought has to do with the cicadas.  It might be called the cicadas’ lovelife.  By this time, if you live anywhere around northern New Jersey, you will know that the cicadas have arrived.  They appear only once every 17 years.  Why the space from one generation to the next is hard to say.  But I must conclude that once in 17 years is plenty for me.  Cicadas make a loud noise that goes on from before daylight until after dark.  This takes a bit of time in that these are the longest days of the calendar year.

As scholars have contended, the loud noise made by the cicadas has to do with their search for a mate.  It is my belief that it is only the cicada who sings the loudest who has his choice of females in the case of male cicadas.  From what we are told by the scholars, apparently both the male and the female sing or chirp in the normal pursuit of things; it is the male who is the pursuer and the female who is the pursued.

From what I have observed, both the male and female cicadas sing from dawn to dusk.  If it is true that the male cicadas are looking for a mate, the female cicadas either join in the chirping and must wonder what it takes to cause their lovers to be quiet or, to put it rudely, to shut up.  From all that I have observed both the male and female cicadas are inclined to brag about they found the ideal lover.  It seems to me that while the lovemaking is going on, both the male and female cicadas love to brag about what is taking place.

I am not a scholar of the efforts of cicadas, but this year has raised a question in my mind as to why the cicadas keep on chirping even while the lovemaking is going on.  I realize that lovemaking among the cicadas has to last for 17 years.  This is no reason for the male and female cicadas to make their noises while they are pursuing their amorous adventures.

As you can see or read, I am not a scholar of the cicadas or of their lovelife.  It seems to me that once the cicadas have found each other, they chirp in excessive tones.  Is it the bragging of the cicadas by the male?  Or is it the fact that the female cicada has landed the best lover?  I do not know the answer to all of these questions but I will say that love among the cicadas is a subject that is of some interest to me.  If things break right, I will have the next 17 years to ponder this question.  If things proceed normally, I will give you an interim report as to how the cicadas make love without disturbing their chirping.  Very obviously, the cicadas, male and female, keep up the chirping while the lovemaking process takes place.  From time to time, scholars may reveal to me what the chirping means.  I will be the first to let you know how cicadas pursue amorous intentions without disturbing their chirping.  I believe that this is a public service which is of great benefit to my readers.


Now that we have dealt with cicadas, on to a second subject about which I know a bit more.  The subject in this case has to do with the Russian expression wishing long life on companions.  If I understand correctly, when Russians take leave of each other, they often use the phrase, “May you have a long life” or the equivalent thereof.

A long life is an admirable trait.  However, in actual practice, a long life will assure that the long lifer will contract all sorts of diseases and broken bones.  In the end, one of the diseases will kill him.  Those of us who have passed our 90th year may have something to say about the Russian expression wishing each other a long life.  I understand the sentiment wishing well to companions.  Hoping that one has a long life carries debits that make a long life not so desirable.  The Bible in Ecclesiastes seems to suggest that 60 years is the appropriate length of time for a man to exist.  They make an exception in these days in that Ecclesiastes says that in some cases life may last until the seventh decade.  In certain cases, which are rare, life may go on into the eighth decade.  From my own experience, I am a fan of Ecclesiastes.  I am also not a fan necessarily of long life.  For a long lifer, as he progresses in years, the number of ailments becomes formidable.  In the end, of course, one of those ailments will kill the long lifer.

I know very little about the first essay on this tape, which has to do with the love life of cicadas.  Unfortunately, as my life proceeds into the tenth decade, I find that life becomes less endurable.  One of the problems has to do with determining which disease or which ailment will kill me and other long lifers.

In any event, the Russian expression about wishing one another long life is a commendable one.  In many cases, such as my own, it is carried beyond what Ecclesiastes said should be the end.  But the long lifer can do nothing about it.  So I suppose the only recourse is to make the best of it while waiting for the end.  That is not always an easy prescription to follow but there really is no choice.



June 27, 2013

Essay 751


Kevin’s commentary:

This is a very special essay to me for a two reasons.

First, I got to be part of the editing process. I was given this set of essays while staying at Pop’s house this past weekend (this is being published on 7/1/13 — I am very behind, I know. We read them aloud once, then read through them again sentence by sentence, making subtle changes so that the essay read just the way he intended it to.  It felt great to be able to take this role because clearly these essays mean a lot to me and it was nice to share the editing experience with their author.

Second, it gave me a first-hand look at just how much effort goes in to each and every one of these essays. It is a multi-person process involving Judy, the transcriber, and of course Pop who devotes a serious amount of time to each one. These essays aren’t just recorded off the cuff and then distributed willy-nilly, though Pop’s writing style is so consistently strong that one might be inclined to think he just records as he talks and then moves on. The essays are brainstormed, drafted, outlined, recorded, transcribed, played back, edited and edited until satisfactory, and only then are they ready for distribution. Pop has the ability and is rightly proud of it to speak well with no notes and still create compelling material, as he did in his speeches while he was working with the labor union, but those skills are not alone responsible for the production of these thousands of words that you read here. Not even close. Here’s to many more!

P.S. It was hard to know how he wanted these to be published on the site because it wasn’t totally clear whether they should have been one or two essays, so this is the format I chose and of course it is subject to change upon review.



Vladimir Putin, the head man in Russia, took his wife out to attend a ballet performance.  At the intermission, he was asked by a reporter, first, how he enjoyed the ballet and, secondly, if he was going to become divorced soon.  In a display of modesty for Vladimir Putin, he announced that he was indeed seeking a divorce from his wife who was standing by his side.

Most of the divorces in this country take place in a fit of anger.  But Mr. Putin was very matter of fact about his divorce.  There was no discussion about why the Putins had taken this course of action.  I suppose that these are subjects that the prevailing winds in Moscow tend to avoid.  The remarkable thing about it is that most divorces take place as a result of anger.  What is perhaps reassuring in the Putin divorce is that it is taking place in a sea of civility.

The fact of the matter is that Vladimir Putin and his wife appeared in public to announce a very painful decision that they did intend to be divorced.  I sincerely hope that Mrs. Putin is monetarily covered adequately in the divorce settlement.  But no matter how this is sliced, the fact is that Vladimir Putin and his wife appeared jointly at the ballet performance and announced that they were indeed heading for the divorce court.  Perhaps the Russians are setting a model for future divorces.

I do not know whether there is another woman involved or whether Mrs. Putin has her eye on a settlement.  Both matters are beyond my inquiry.  So I will let it go with the thought that Vladimir Putin invites his wife to attend a ballet performance with him and uses that event to announce that he intends to divorce her.  Perhaps the Russians have something here.  If everything is going as smoothly as it seems to be, I would say, “Hurray for Vladimir Putin and his wife ending their marriage in a sea of civility.”  If that is true, I applaud the Putins.  But if it is not true, as many facts from Russia seem to be, I apologize.  But it may be a model for those who do not love their spouses anymore. May I state that this seems to be a matter of great civility with both sides attending a performance of the ballet to announce that she was being pushed.  Who would have thought that the Russians would ever be full of civility in matters of the heart?

June 11, 2013

Essay 750


The various commentaries on countries is one of the things that I can never quite figure out with some of Ezra’s Essays. For instance there is nothing that strikes me as surprising when it comes to Russians displaying civility.

If we believe the Kremlin then the whole thing was not staged, but let’s be honest here it seems like if it weren’t staged then he would not have answered.


On my desk I have a tape recorder into which I dictate notes about future essays.  It is an audible tape recorder in view of the fact that I can no longer see to write and writing is incomprehensible to me.  After I have dictated a series of comments into my notepad, I usually publish them under a title such as Bits and Pieces or Odds and Ends.

The occasion for this essay came about on Memorial Day of 2013.  One of my grandsons, who runs the blog that publishes these essays, sent me  greetings on Memorial Day wherein he commented that my thoughts were probably of all of the companions whom I had known and who are now gone.  Actually, I was thinking about those who were killed in action.

Kevin, who is the grandson in question, made me think once more about those days in the American Army.  When someone is really dedicated to trivia, he may look up an essay I wrote several years ago which contends that we all missed our fallen comrades who also served by thoughts of home and getting out of the American Army.  These were the main motivating factors as we progressed toward victory in Europe and then victory over the Japanese.  Because I wrote an essay much earlier, some of these comments may seem a bit redundant.  On the other hand, there is a recollection of mine that has to do with human failings.  When I arrived back at the place from which I had departed for combat with the Twelfth Air Force on detached duty, I found that my companion in the bunk bed was a fellow St. Louisan.  He slept on the bottom bunk and I slept on the top bunk.  Before World War II, he worked for the Budweiser Corporation manufacturing beer.  As probably is the case in most instances, the man whose name was Sylvester Liss, had developed a paunch on him.  This is because the Budweiser Corporation offered sips or slugs of their products as the men worked.

One day, Sylvester was asked why he never washed his hands after handling his genitals.  He replied with a succinct phrase.  It was, “Because I didn’t piss on them.”  That will give you an idea of how Sylvester and I got along before the close of the war.  Sylvester and I saw very little to agree on.  Some people thought that he was a nice fellow but he never appealed to me because he was quite rough on the edges. All things considered, I slept on the other bunk and Sylvester enjoyed the luxury of the bottom bunk for about sixteen or seventeen months.

While we both lived in the same town of St. Louis, Sylvester and I never ever made contact once peace was restored and we all went home.

Most soldiers in World War II had been drafted.  Sylvester was one of them.  There were several of us who were volunteers.  In the end, we viewed our duty as one of winning the war and returning to civilian life as quickly as possible.  I doubt that there were many, or perhaps none, who hit it off so well in my experience that they became life-long buddies.  Much more typical was the experience of Sylvester Liss and myself.  We did our service and, in spite of the fact that we lived in the same town, we never spoke again.

Last week a woman at the Summit Medical Group thanked me for my service in the Army, saying that she had surmised, based upon my age and looks, that I was a survivor of World War II.  She thanked me for my service, which I greatly appreciated.  If I were doing an inventory of being thanked, it would include only my grandson, this woman at the Summit Medical Group, my cardiologist Dr. Beamer, and for two or three years, Girl Scouts who came around on Veteran’s Day to bring us small gifts in recognition of our service.  Specifically and precisely, none of us ever joined the military with the purpose of being thanked.  It was a case of duty, nothing less.  As soon as that duty was over, I suppose that nearly every soldier regarded it as a job well done and best forgotten about.

While I appreciated the remark of Kevin, my grandson, I do not see that he owes me any thanks whatsoever.  My service in the American Army came out of a sense of duty.  Duty is not always the most pleasant thing to do, but it is there and in my circumstance, I believe that it was necessary to fulfill that duty.

So there you have it about my being thanked for service 70 years ago.  I greatly appreciate being thanked but that is not the reason that I joined the American Army.  And so it comes down to this.  Nearly all of my comrades who served in World War II were there out of a sense of duty.  While I remember those who were lost, I try not to think about them anymore.  I assume that they are safely in Heaven, or some such place, and that it is up to us to go about our business and daily lives.

There is one exception to the rule.  When I started to work for the AT&T Company, there were four of us who occupied a corner of the office on the eighth floor at 1010 Pine Street.  They were Ashby Vaughn, Bernie Wheeler, David Weiss, and, if you will include an exception to reside in that corner, there was also Don Meier.  Bernie Wheeler and Dave Weiss were lost early in the war.  Ashby Vaughn was a casualty in the Battle of the Bulge, which took place in, I believe, 1944.  In 1945, Don Meier, who was on Iwo Jima, paused to wipe the sweat off of his brow and in the space of an instant Don Meier was killed by a sniper’s bullet.  I do not know why I remember those four guys as distinguished from all of the others that we had lost.  But say what you will, for me, remembering someone on Memorial Day is a feat of recollection and always embraces those four guys.  Certainly I remember all of the people in the American Armed Forces who were lost but I try not to think about them because that is the price of democracy.

This essay has gone on longer than I had intended it to.  But it is the first essay that I have written in about six weeks.  I would beg your pardon because I am working in unfamiliar territory.

I do not know whether Sylvester Liss, my old bunk-mate, survived the post-war period, or do I intend to make inquiries.  He had a lovely wife whom I met when I was home on furlough, but I would argue that my attitude is probably the attitude of many soldiers or the majority of soldiers who simply wanted to win the war and go home.  As for Sylvester Liss, I remember him primarily for his roughness and the thought that “I do not wash my hands because I did not piss on them.”  Sylvester will always live in my memory because of that maxim.



June 13, 2013

Essay 749


Kevin’s commentary: Man, and here I was all ready with my “multi-essay” tag when I saw the title but then it was actually pretty straightforward and not meandering at all. But I can’t really be disappointed because the essay features me and that’s always the best kind of essay, right?


Regarding the underwear, though I always wash my hands, I have given it some thought. I wake up and shower, and then put my unmentionables into a sterile cotton garment which is then covered by yet another garment. I work at an office and don’t really have cause to sweat because San Francisco is perpetually chilly. Really what’s down there is probably one of the cleanest parts of me at any given time. I should really be washing my  hands BEFORE I go to avoid contaminating That Which I Did Not Piss Upon with the same hands that handle, say, my filthy cell phone.