Archive for the July Category

LAMENTATIONS ON “I WISH”

I keep two identical dictating machines on my desk.  The left one is for dictations that I turn over to Mrs. Eva Baker for transcription.  The right one is for notes about future essays.  Recently I recorded some notes on the subject of lamentations which was a subject I wanted to do an essay on.  When my wife, Miss Chicka, read these notes, she concluded that they were worthy of an essay.  This morning, I listened to these notes.  I concluded that quite possibly that was true.

So herewith are the notes that I prepared for the subject of lamentations.  Incidentally, if you are looking for Lamentations in the Bible, it is in the back near Ezekiel.  If you go past Ezekiel, you’ve gone too far.  The route word for lamentations is of course “lament.”  In the following, I did not observe this rule because it seemed sad.  You will find some of my lamentations are quite cheery, for example, my wanting to play baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals.  I suspect that I should have written this essay much earlier, but these are a handful of my notes about the current state of my lamentations.

I wish that the physicians with whom I have appointments would meet their schedules.  I am revolted by physicians who show up 30 to 40 minutes late.  So I wish the physicians would be on time.  Given the state of my health these days, this has become a major concern.  If I am going to waste time, I would prefer that it would not be in waiting for physicians to keep their appointments.

When I am forced to wait 20 minutes or 30 minutes, I am angry.  I think of all the things I am going to say to these physicians, but I never say them.

 

I wish I had been a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.  In this case, I wish I had been a catcher for the Cardinals during their glory years, when they won a string of World Series.  I would have been happy to be a Major League catcher, but if it were for the St. Louis Cardinals, my hometown team, it would make me extraordinarily happy.

I wish to relive some of the days, for example, when I found out that I was going to work for the New York Telephone Company.  During those days, I found out that I was being promoted and that I was going to work for some wonderful gentlemen in the in the New York Telephone Company.  Working for the New York Telephone Company was a high point in my career.  I wish I could relive those days when I was younger and felt that there would be no limit to my achievements.

 

I wish that my grandsons will find prosperity wherever they turn.  There are five grandsons and I wish them all well.  Most of all, I wish for my grandsons to be happy.   If I had granddaughters, which I don’t have, I would wish the same thing for them as well.

 

Miss Chicka says that she wishes that she were four inches taller.  I have no control over such things.  I do not object to her wish for greater height.

 

I wish that the process of dying could be expedited without all of the pain and delay so that other people could get on with their lives.  I do not have a death wish.  When the end is inevitable, I am willing to accommodate it.  I realize that it is not under my control, but in keeping with the spirit of “I wish,” I wish it were under my control so that I could let other people get on with their lives.

 

I wish for my wife to always be happy at all times.

 

And I wish also that I could see once again.  This is not an obsession with me, as I had plenty of warning about my failing eyesight.  But nonetheless, it would be nice, extremely nice, if I could see once again.

 

I wish that I could have hit 60 home runs in the major leagues while I was a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.  But that of course never happened.  This is a trip to fantasyland but again as long as we are indulging in happy lamentations, this is my wish.

 

I wish that I could sing like Luciano Pavarotti.  But the fact is that I was a baritone and never even a soloist.

 

All my life I have been interested in railroads.  I wish, for example, that I could spend a good bit of time riding on the Illinois Central train called the “City of New Orleans.”  I always found railroads fascinating and I am sure that there are other trains that could compete with the City of New Orleans for my attention.  Let’s let it go by saying that I have always been a railroad buff.

 

My wish list is almost endless.  This will give you an idea of what I had in mind when I set out to write about my list of lamentations.

 

These are only a few of my lamentations after a long life.  For some reason or another, I have always been attracted to the word “lamentations.”  But in this case, these are only a few things that I lament, both happy and sad.

 

There are many more things that I could lament.  But I think this is enough to give you an idea of the notepad that yielded these lamentations.  So without further adieu, I leave you to your own lamentations with the thought that I hope they are as happy as mine have been and that you will live as long as you wish to live, and in good health.

 

E. E. CARR

August 13, 2013

Essay 762

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Kevin’s commentary: I just read this essay three times in a row. I have concluded that Pop enjoys throwing curveballs with his essay titles. For instance, the last essay published on this site entitled “please, give me vote” made me expect a political essay, perhaps about gerrymandering. Pop’s political essays tend to be very lighthearted. So that one was a surprise when it turned out to be a discussion of end-of-life decisions.

For “lamentations,” I braced for one of his harder-to-read essays. What I found instead was a candid look into Pop’s dreams and wishes, many of which are selfless.  These were almost entirely all new to me, and I am so glad to see them written down.  I think the sixth was my favorite. The fifth is the only one with which I take any issue, not because of the spirit of the wish but rather with the phrasing, which implies that Pop is preventing people from “getting on with their lives.” Maybe my glasses are a little rosy but to me, I can’t think of one person who is in any sort of rush to get on with an Ezra-free life. So my corresponding wish would be that he goes a little bit easier on himself in the months ahead.

“Lamentations” also makes me think about the concept of regret. In my generation it is in vogue to say that one has zero regrets in life. Next time it makes sense to do so, I’d encourage you to ask someone around my age to see how they answer. Partially I guess that it’s a comfort thing — that people’s regrets tend to be very personal, and asking someone to share theirs is tantamount to asking them to exposing their weakest moments. Partially it’s laziness, in that “I don’t have any” is a much easier answer to give than an honest one. But largely I think it’s a response to the self-esteem culture that we’ve been raised in, which (correctly) identifies that dwelling on your regrets and faults is a quick way to get yourself very depressed. I think that gets taken too far sometimes though. We always hear to “always remember your dreams” but to “never regret anything” which oftentimes are conflicting statements because in reality many dreams don’t get recognized. I’m moved by the fact that as Pop, who has at the time of writing this cleared his 91st year, thinks broadly about his “lamentations,” being a baseball star comes in right off the bat, so to speak. He’s probably held that dream for over three times as long as I’ve been on this Earth. I think that’s amazing.

I’m considering making an “all-time-favorite” tag just for this post. If I wind up doing it, I think I’ll limit that tag to applying to 3 or 4 essays per year of authorship. In the meantime I would love to see more introspective essays like this one.

 

“AIN’T NOTHIN’ YOU CAN DO” — GUY CLARK, SONGWRITER

For the past three weeks, a drought has descended upon my being which renders me largely incompetent to write essays.  I trust that the drought is not a permanent condition but is a transient affair.  In the long time that I have been writing essays, droughts have appeared from time to time. 

The title of this essay comes from a song written by Guy Clark, called “Sometimes I write the songs; sometimes the songs write me.”   In the lyrics to that song, Guy Clark makes it clear that when a drought lands upon your soul, there “ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.”  For a songwriter like Guy Clark, this is a serious consideration in view of the fact that he writes songs for a living.  If he writes no songs, he suffers a reduced or non-existent income.  So when a drought-like situation occurs to a songwriter, it is a matter of great concern.  In my own case, the drought-like situation has far fewer consequences.  But this case, it causes me to wonder about whether I will ever write any more essays.  The fact that I am writing one here is a testament to the fact that the drought has let up a bit.

I like Guy Clark and I subscribe to his philosophy that when a drought descends upon your soul, your ability to make words into an essay or a song is severely hampered and there “ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.”

During the time when this drought has descended upon my soul, several events that offer likely material for an essay have developed.  On one hand, we have, for example, the case of Anthony Weiner.  He is a former Congressman from New York who has now launched upon a campaign to make him be mayor of New York City.   If I may say so, Mr. Weiner is emotionally incapable of being a dog catcher in New York.  From what we have seen over the past couple of months, it is clear that Mr. Weiner is an emotionally distressed individual.  The last thing we need is an emotionally distressed individual running the affairs of the greatest city in the United States.  But be that as it may, Mr. Weiner is hot on the campaign trail, even though it is clear that he is an emotionally disturbed individual.

So that is one case I could have used to write an essay but the drought that descended upon my soul has prevented me from doing so.

A second case comes to mind that also occurred while I was suffering from the drought situation.  The mayor of San Diego whose name is Bob Filner, has a penchant for violating the code of conduct that should prevail between the male and female persons.  For example, there were several occasions when he and the rear ends of his female help came into contact.  There were other cases when he had his hands up between the legs of a female who worked for him.  As a matter of fact, there are eight cases of females saying that Mr. Filner was guilty of some sort of offense upon their persons.  In one instance, he applied a headlock on one of his female workers.

So this is a second case where I could have, absent a drought, launched into an essay about the shortcomings of the mayor of San Diego.  But as luck would have it, I did no such thing, preferring to wait for some juicier details.

The third case involves George Zimmerman, the defendant in the trial that was broadcast over all of our television stations recently.  I have a reasonable understanding of the law and I conclude that Mr. Zimmerman literally got away with murder.  It is clear that part of the law is vague, leaving six women on the jury which acquitted Mr. Zimmerman to take matters into their own hands because they had no precise definition of what he had done.  But believe me ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Zimmerman got away with murder.

Well, here are three cases that I should have turned into essays.  On the other hand, I am quite certain that Mr. Weiner will be back in the news, perhaps as soon as this week.  Similarly, for the likes of Bob Filner, the mayor of San Diego, I place no trust in the two-week period that he claims he is undergoing intensive therapy to keep his hands off of females.

Mr. Zimmerman on the other hand has been stopped for speeding in Texas.  He showed his firearm to the policeman who let him go with a warning.  Like Mr. Weiner and Mayor Filner, I have no faith that George Zimmerman will exist quietly with the rest of us.

As things now look, I believe that this drought will soon pass and I will be back in the essay-writing business.  But as Guy Clark wrote in his song, when a drought happens, “Some days you write the songs; some days the songs write you.”  Unfortunately I am not a songwriter but I wish I were.  But if Guy Clark can survive dry spells, I am certain that before long the dry spell will pass and Mr. Weiner, Mr. Filner, and Mr. Zimmerman will be brought to account.

Before I launched into Weiner, Filner, and Zimmerman, I had one other big failure in an effort to break the drought.  That involved writing about something that I knew.   So it was that I came to write about my blindness.  As happened on at least two or three other occasions, the blindness story cannot be condensed into one essay.  It would take several volumes.  So I failed.

And so in the final analysis, you have the notorious three and my effort to deal with blindness.  Unfortunately, none of these essays ever resulted in my producing plausible material to break the drought.  In this essay, I believe that I am back on track.

 

E. E. CARR

July 27, 2013

Essay 758

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Kevin’s commentary: Pop is highly prolific. If you’re ever bored while you’re waiting for new essays I would encourage you to read the 250+ that already appear on this website. If you’ve done all that, then the good news is that I post a new one every day! All this to say that while shortages of new material are unfortunate, Pop certainly deserves breaks sometime and I know as well as anyone that writers’ blocks can be difficult to overcome. That said, I’m particularly glad to see that he’s beginning to write again.

OBSCENITIES NATURALLY

As I was growing up, there was one article of faith that had to be observed by my mother and by myself.  It had to do with the St. Louis Post Dispatch.  The Post Dispatch was an afternoon paper, of which there are very few left.  When one of the older children appeared after work at our home in Richmond Heights, Missouri, my mother would ask, “Did you bring the paper with you?”

The St. Louis Post Dispatch, edited by Joseph Pulitzer, was an independent newspaper.  It was often called The New York Times of the Midwest.  I studied that newspaper from stem to stern.  It was a liberal newspaper but it spoke the truth.  For example, mine owners in southern Illinois had an atrocious record for safety.  The Post Dispatch regularly campaigned against them and eventually had the laws changed.

I do not have a formal education, rather an informal one.  The shaping of my language and my outlook on life from an early date have been influenced by such publications as the St. Louis Post Dispatch.  This was the article of faith to which I referred earlier.

Generally speaking, the newspaper was called The Post.  It was rarely ever called The Post Dispatch but was simply called The Post.  Because it took its cue from The New York Times, there was very little frivolity in its pages.  But one thing is quite certain: it did not permit even small obscenities like “damn” or “hell” to appear in its printed copy.  After all, it took its cue from the New York Times which printed only “The news that is fit to print.”  Because I was raised to think that proper newspapers refrained from such things as cursing, I have been astounded by the trends in the young people in their speaking and in their writing.

The subject today is two very mild expressions of off-color speech.  They are “bullshit” and “being pissed off.”  These are widely used expressions.  “Bullshit” is an expression of disbelief in whatever is being said.  “Being pissed off” has to do with being mildly angered at the turn of events.  In the St. Louis Post Dispatch, for example, and in The New York Times those two expressions will never see the light of day.  I will venture to say that at this writing on July 27, 2013, the New York Times would contain no expressions such as “bullshit” or “being pissed off.”

Now as for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, it has been converted by its new owners, who reside in Iowa, into a local newspaper with national news being covered by newswire services.  The Post Dispatch does not have a Washington bureau, for example.  I suspect that the Post Dispatch does not even maintain a bureau in Chicago, which is only 300 miles distant from St. Louis.  It is, as I say, a local newspaper.   I very much dislike seeing a former august publication such as The Post Dispatch being converted into a localized paper.

These days, it is fair to say that “bullshit” and “being pissed off” would raise no eyebrows even when used in polite company.  I am capable of much more salty language than “bullshit” and “being pissed off.”  When I read books that appear in audio form, I am amazed at the number of times that the “f” word appears.  I am accustomed to male speech.  In the American Army during World War II, there were liberal uses of obscenities.  I never overworked the “f” word as I have seen in recent readings.  I take no offense at writings in which the “f” word appears.  I gather that it is a sort of thing that younger people use regularly.  So I am willing to let it go as a custom of younger people.

But one phrase has me buffaloed.  It is the term “cluster fuck.”  I retired from the American Army before there were cluster bombs.  I must assume that the obscenity in question refers to a projectile that, when dropped from an aircraft or fired through the air, releases explosive fragments over a wide area.  Those bombs hold clusters that are dropped in situations where repeated explosions are desired.  All that I can really gather from the word in question is that “cluster fuck” means multiple f… ups.  It replaces the older term used by my generation meaning “f’ed up beyond all recognition” or FUBAR.  I am not now an expert on this subject as you can see.  Perhaps during my military career I would have been able to give a better definition.  But that career ended in 1945.

In summary I will say that the speech of young people and the speech that I find in publications, specifically books, make liberal use of the “f” word.  As I say, I am no pussy in using the “f” word but I insist that it must be used judiciously and in the proper context.

No matter how you cut it, the “f” word or any other obscenities find no place in the former St. Louis Post Dispatch or in the New York Times.  As I said, I am not a pussy but the use of profane language and perversions such as repeated references to the “f” word leave me a bit stunned.  But I am an old man and life must go on.  If young people misuse this language, I will have no choice but to listen to them.

In the final analysis, I always hold out the hope that the New York Times will remain as the paragon of proper journalism.  So far, it has done exactly that.  I would be surprised if I picked up The New York Times and found the expression “bullshit” or “being pissed off.”  But I do not use The Times to further my education.  That is all done now.  I do wish to express your indulgence in my informal education.

The New York Times and the St. Louis Post Dispatch certainly shaped my outlook on life during my formative years.  For that, I am eternally grateful.  I will continue, perhaps, to use mild expressions such as “bullshit” and “being pissed off” as I go further down the road.  But referring to that word having to do with clusters is a bit more than I can stand.  So I will leave it alone, hoping it will die a natural death.

 

E. E. CARR

July 27, 2013

Essay 759

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Kevin’s commentary: I hope I didn’t inadvertently prompt this essay when I used the phrase in question to describe the multiple issues surrounding any encounter between the media and Levi Johnston, who is an idiot.  Perhaps my language should be somewhat cleaner for publications such as these.

I am confused though — it seems like the Times cannot help but further Pop’s education, as it contains knowledge which he did not have previously. Perhaps he means something different with that phrase.

 

THE DOCTRINE OF UP

This essay, which I hope you will read, has its genesis in a remark made to me by a nursing aide who attends to my needs at night.  This lady, who was born in Ghana, said to me, “Would you like for me to cover you up?”  She could have said, “Would you like for me to cover you?”  She elected to say, “Would you like for me to cover you up?”  This set in motion several thoughts having to do with the Doctrine of Up.

I have been writing essays for 16 years.  It started in an effort to recover my powers of speech after a stroke.   The stroke did not bother my limbs but unfortunately it left me with what I have long called “a galloping case of aphasia.”  Aphasia is not a hurtful ailment.  Its main effect is that when I try to speak, the words come out wrong or there are no words at all.  To combat this, I write essays.

That is enough about my troubles with aphasia.  I wanted to give you an idea of why I write essays at all.  During my long bout with aphasia, Shirley Morganstein, the Director of Speech Therapy at the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute, suggested that I should write essays.  The first essay was scheduled for December 8.  That is a momentous day for the Carr family in that one daughter was adopted on that day and the other daughter was born on that day, December 8.  And finally, in 1943, German gunners downed the airplane in which I was a member of the crew.  So you see that December 8 is a significant day in my memory.

And as it turns out, Shirley Morganstein has become a great friend of my wife Judy and myself.

Well, so much for my troubles with aphasia.  My only thought here was to give you an idea of why I write essays at all.  In the 16 years that I have been writing essays, their number has grown to 754.  I had no idea that 754 subjects would ever come to mind.  But over the years, many subjects have come to mind and I have responded to them just as I am responding to the aide’s remark.

But in this long history of my essay writing, I have never given thought to the Doctrine of Up.  It simply has escaped my attention altogether.  Up consists of only two letters which play a disproportionate part in American speech patterns.  As soon as the caregiver offered to cover me or cover me up, my thoughts went to where else the word up appears.

Immediately I thought of three baseball terms.  One is at the start of the baseball game when the umpire orders the batter to “batter up.”  Anyone worth his salt as a pitcher will tell you that the “change up” is a major part of pitching.  Now we turn to some more baseball terms in that when the game slows down, the umpire orders the next prospective hitter to “batter up.”

Then there is the matter of “speaking up.”  When someone mumbles a reply to a question, I am inclined as are most people to tell him to “speak up.”  These are some basic thoughts that I had in mind.

Now we go to other thoughts having to do with the use of the term up.  One of them is “heads up.”  Heads are usually up but when someone wants to call attention to a significant item, he will use the term “heads up.”   It is also used to warn somebody of an upcoming issue or change.

Then we have the culmination of an affair which results in a “break up.”  It could be argued that when an affair comes to an end, the title should be a “break down.”   We are now wed to the term of “break up.”

I used to be a filling station attendant and in that capacity I was from time to time also called upon to deal with automobiles that had “seized up.”   This usually occurred when the driver ran out of antifreeze in his engine and it wound up seizing up.  I hope you noticed that I got two more ups in that one sentence.

Now we turn to a common phrase which is used more than anything else as a greeting.  It is “what’s up?”  In effect, the speaker is asking the recipient to tell him what is new but he uses the term “what’s up?”  The frequent use of this term has resulted in the contraction “sup.”

Now we introduce a bit of vulgarism.  It comes from the American Army.  When an airplane failed to show up at the appointed hour, or when a person in the Army failed in his duty, it was ordinarily called a “f… up.”  I hope that you understand that I am using “f” in respect for my elders, of which are few and far between.  Generally speaking, in the armed forces when I served during World War II, there were several instances of people who were called “f… ups.”

Now before I forget it, there is a term for people who drink a bit too much and are required to “throw up.”  “Throw ups” come before a hangover, but it should be noted that throwing up is a lot better than throwing down.  There is no such thing as throwing down if my memory is correct.

Now we turn to the suggestion offered by Miss Chicka who says that there were people who were “lit up” like a Christmas tree.  This is a commendable one.

Now what about the familiar term called “pick up.”  One is to pick up an item.  Another is to have a chance encounter with a member of the opposite sex and pick her up.

With the effect of Christian Mingle in our minds as we try to escape television advertising, there is the term “match up.”  One of the Christian Mingle ads contends that this lovely women met her husband at a “match up” sponsored by Christian Mingle and now they have a child and will live happily ever after.  Ah, but let us go on with our story of ups.

What about the term “toss up.”  It is used in a baseball game or it could be used in a political sense in that we don’t know which person will win.  A “toss up” is a formidable contender in the up series.  Baseball also has “pop ups.”

There is also an item called a “set up.”  It could be used for drinks which are served or it could be used in a political sense when one party sets up another.  A “set up” is a significant term in the up field.

When I decided that I had had enough of work at AT&T, I announced that my retirement would take place on July 4, 1984 because I was privately “fed up.”  However, I must say that since 1984, the pension checks from AT&T have arrived regularly but curiously they have never contained an upwards adjustment.

Now we come to a term that is “tied up.”  I will not get to this matter, for example, because I am “tied up” right now.

There is the term when people who are demanding attention from the viewer called “listen up.”  On Monday morning of this week, we received over all of our television and radio stations the notice of a tornado bearing down on this county where we live.  At that point I really intended to “listen up.”

Have you used the term of “lighten up?”  In this case, the speaker is telling the listener to “lighten up; it is not all that bad.”

In addition to the forgoing, there are other “ups” such as, “back up,” “check up,” “fess up,” and “show up.”  I suspect that this is not the end.

 

I suppose that I could have called a lot more of the up things to mind, but frankly I am getting a bit tired.  But before I go, I wanted to call your attention to the fact that writing essays is a lonely business.  I suppose that I ought to know after 16 years of writing essays.  It demands total concentration, particularly in my case, since notes are of no value to me since I can’t read them.  Blind people have to master the art of keeping several things in order in their heads.  But writing essays is a lonely business wherein interruptions are to be greatly avoided. 

However, in this case I made a great exception.  The exception had to do with a visit of my daughter and her husband and their sons who entered into this business about the “up” affair vigorously. One of the contributors was indeed the proprietor of the Ezra’s Essays website.  Finally, now that everyone else has been taken care of, there was my own modest contribution as well.  In this one case we have discussed, the up business had a lot of company and it was welcome company.  Ordinarily I do not suffer intrusions by guests or other people who wish to contribute to my essay writing.  I wanted to acknowledge the contributions of the Shepherd family to this essay.

Well, at this point I believe that we have covered several of the up possibilities that would occur in normal speech.  To tell you the truth, I am a bit tired of the up contributions to the American language.  And I think it is now time for me to shut up and close up this essay on the Doctrine of Up.

 

E. E. CARR

July 4, 2013

Essay 754

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Kevin’s commentary: If I say I really liked this one, does that make me biased? Probably. But still, so far as language essays go, this one was — while certainly not comprehensive — quite in-depth.  Brainstorming them with Pop was quite fun and my mother and brother were naturally rather good at it, as the English majors they are. I would recommend that he take additional essay ideas to the Shepherds in the future if he looks to extend the length of any of his notes.