Archive for the 2002 Category


If you were looking by some chance for a laudatory piece about George W. Bush, you will have to read Bill Safire or George Will or some other right wing writer or perhaps the Wall Street Journal editorial page. My reading on Bush after following his career since he became the Governor of Texas is that he is ignorant, a bully, a frightened person, an inadequate man who is unaware of recent human history and a complete captive of the conservative right wing of his party which happens to be a sinister force in American politics. That is a very baleful assessment of the current occupant of the Oval Office. And nearly every American will come to realize what a sorry man George W. Bush is.

The events of the past two weeks with the tragedy in Israeli-Palestinian relations has brought an even clearer picture of Bush’s failures and short comings. Until April 4th, Bush ignored events in the Israeli crisis. When he could no longer ignore the conflict in the Occupied Zones of the Palestine Authority, Bush repeatedly called on the American public and indeed, upon the whole world, to support Sharon and to condemn Arafat. When he sent Cheney to the Mideast in an utterly forlorn hope to rally Arab nations for the planned war against Iraq, Arafat was ignored and the Cheney mission became a complete failure. But nonetheless Bush continued to belabor Arafat while he praised and urged support for Sharon. Incidentally, Bush will not even grant Arafat a handshake. Yitzhak Rabin shook Arafat’s hand but Bush puts his hand in his pocket when he sees Arafat. Bush’s support for the bully Sharon has backfired. Arafat’s popularity is now at an all time high. Students rally and carry his picture and shout slogans in support of Yasser. Bush’s venture into the politics of the Mideast is now in total ruins. Bush has mortgaged his “War on Terror” to Sharon, the Butcher of Beirut.

One of Bush’s failings is his ignorance of the English language, his native tongue. When Bush attempts to deal with the most awesome of weapons, the nuclear bombs and missiles, he always adds a useless syllable. Thus, in Bush-speak, nuclear becomes NU-CU-LEAR. Even the right wing commentator Bill Safire chided him on this aspect of his English. And Safire is no dummy. Remember it was Safire who wrote one of the most inspiring lines in the English language for Spiro Agnew to say – “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

But leaving nu-cu-lear aside – Bush has for some days been unable to mouth the English word “NOW”! After piddling away months, Bush was finally moved to make a Rose Garden speech on Thursday, April 4, 2002 in which he proposed to Sharon that his forces should be withdrawn as soon as possible. At the very least, Sharon interpreted that to mean he could clobber the Palestinians until Friday, April 12 when Colin Powell would make his belated appearance in Jerusalem. Later, Bush amended his “as soon as possible” to read “without delay.” Sharon saw no difference between the two statements so he kept on having his tanks knock down fragile Palestinian homes with people still in them.

Now comes Colin Powell who has no diplomatic experience, but is still the Secretary of State. In all of Powell’s previous jobs, he has been known for extreme caution. Why do we need to do this at all, is Powell’s dictum. Well, Powell said “withdraw as soon as possible” and “without delay” meant pretty much the same thing “depending upon the construction” you may want it to have. But Bush, Powell and Bush’s mouthpiece Ari Fleisher would not utter the dreaded word “Now”! It just depended on the construction according to Powell. Finally, four days later, Condolezza Rice responded to the fury of the press and foreign allies by saying that “without delay means now.” Well now, that is done – or is it?

Here we are a week after the Rose Garden speech and Sharon has not responded to: one – as soon as possible, or two – without delay, or three – now. So Powell is now touring Arab countries and Israel in the hope that Sharon will decide to accede to one of the three constructions or wondering whether he will continue to bully his Palestinian neighbors by shooting and bombing them and then permitting no ambulances or hearses to pick up the wounded and dead. So much for Sharon agreeing to act in a humane fashion. Is it any wonder that Palestinian suicide bombing continues? The only question one could ask in the circumstances is why the other feckless Arab governments have not been there to oppose Sharon. The answer is NO GUTS. I could use another part of the male anatomy to express my opinion of Arab governments. But this is a piece I intend to send to Cardinal Law in Boston so I must keep it clean. The Spanish word is cojones. You can look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say.

Let’s return to my opening thought that Bush is among other things an ignorant man. By this time, his ignorance has been well established with the possible exception of mossbacks in the far right wing of the Republican Party. He may be admired by the likes of Jesse Helms and Senator Brownback from Kansas but here we are talking about Neanderthals whose thinking never progressed beyond the 1890’s.

Now, I said he is also a bully. If his alignment with Sharon is not enough to convince anyone, I submit his carrying out the death sentence against a female who pled with him after she had become a Christian. That would be Karla Faye Tucker.

Let’s see what another conservative, born-again Christian had to say on the subject of bullying a condemned prisoner. This excerpt is from the August 10, 1999 Houston Chronicle, which is deep in the heart of Texas. Bush was Governor and planning to become his party’s presidential candidate.

Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer criticized Gov. George W. Bush Tuesday for making fun of an executed Texas woman in an interview Bush gave to Talk magazine.

“I think it is nothing short of unbelievable that the governor of a major state running for president thought it was acceptable to mock a woman he decided to put to death,” Bauer said of Bush.

Bush is portrayed in Talk as ridiculing pickax killer Karla Faye Tucker of Houston for an interview she did with CNN broadcaster Larry King shortly before she was executed last year. Just before her execution day, Tucker appealed for clemency on the grounds that she had become a born-again Christian.

“’Please,’ Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, ‘don’t kill me.’”
The Houston Chronicle, August 10, 1999

Does anyone need any more convincing on the bully score?

Bush became the President of the United States under the most inauspicious circumstances. Later, we’ll see what Jeffrey Toobin has to say about Bush’s ultimate selection by the right wing vote of the United States Supreme Court. But here we are stuck with the clearly inadequate and intellectually stunted man. On April 8th of this year,
Dan Rather interviewed King Abdullah of Jordan. Abdullah’s native tongue is Arabic. Rather gave the King a vigorous series of questions with plenty of opportunities for Abdullah to stumble or to retreat into slogans of the street. In the end, Abdullah handled Rather – not the other way around. His responses were completely unrehearsed, not scripted. His English was perfect. His answers reflected thoughtful consideration. There were no circumlocutions.

His answers were prompt, supported by logic and convincing. Now compare that with the alleged leader of the free world, who stumbles as he speaks and deals only in platitudes which he repeats as gospel truth.

In the first place, when Bush speaks he never permits a one-on-one interview with a first rate journalist. Not with Rather, not with Jennings, not with Brokaw and certainly not with Jim Lehrer. So what we have to go on are set pieces like the Rose Garden speech of April or addresses to Congress where questions are foreclosed. In short, Bush is simply reading some one else’s thoughts and words. Reading, I said. Even in these addresses, watch Bush’s eyes. Don’t worry about the wrinkled brow; just watch the eyes. Even with a script which he almost always uses, Bush is unsure of himself and that is reflected in his eyes. What we have as President of the United States is a frightened man, frightened by his own intellectual inadequacies.

Compare him with Bill Clinton. Clinton knew his subject and welcomed exchanges and challenges. Clinton’s eyes told the story. His eyes glistened because he knew what he was speaking about and that his thoughts were backed by logic. A lost script would mean nothing to Clinton. Bush’s wrinkled brow and the helplessness in his eyes make it clear that he is a frightened man beset by his own intellectual inadequacies.

Before he became the head of the U. S. Government, Bush could allay his inadequacies by appealing to his parents and influential friends of George H. W. and Barbara Bush. As my mother would say in her country style, “Bush was 40 years of age before he ever done a lick of work.” He got into Yale and Harvard on his parents’ reputations. While there as a student, Bush certainly did not distinguish himself. According to him, he was a goof off. Somewhere in his later 20’s, the Vietnam War took place. Old Bush tried to escape it but wound up in the Texas Air National Guard. The Texas Air National Guard was not federalized and, of course stayed in Texas and saw no service in Vietnam. Records show that Bush’s attendance at National Guard duties was sporadic at best. He let Al Gore and John McCain fight the war.

There followed a series of ventures into the oil business, largely under the sponsorship of his father. The record seems to support the thought that each venture was a failure. After the oil business fiasco, the wealthy backers of his father thought that the chances of Major League Baseball coming to Texas would be enhanced by the Bush name. So he became an executive of the Texas Ranger baseball team. The same backers who shepherded him on the baseball team excursion, then proposed him for Governor of Texas, and the rest is history.

The point is that in Bush’s work history, he has always—always relied on his parents or their wealthy friends to sponsor him. He has absolutely no record of accomplishments which would expel his feelings of inadequacies. He is a man of stunted mental achievement so he cannot rely on his brain to do away with his obvious feeling of inadequacy. In the words of my friends from the South and Southwest, Bush is a “sorry” example of what a leader of the free world ought to show. Lillie Carr was right. In all those years, Bush “never done a lick of work.”

Bush’s personal inadequacies are reflected in the “I” syndrome. As recently as the current Israeli crisis, Bush said “I” warned the Arab governments to stay out of the conflict. He says “I” told the Israelis what to do. When he sent General Zinni to attempt to handle things in Israel, although Zinni had no diplomatic experience, Bush always referred to him as “my personal representative.” When Cheney made his failed trip to moderate Arab countries to get them to back a war with Iraq, Bush claimed that “I” had the Vice President make that trip. The fact is that the United States Government speaks for the people of this country, not Bush. Zinni represents the United States Government, not as Bush says “My personal representative.” Cheney may have been sent on his fruitless trip to talk to the Arabs, but in doing so he represented the
U. S. Government, not George W. Bush.

When Bush employs the “I” technique, it is simply to inflate a man who badly needs help. Bright and generous men – which Bush is not – always suggest that other people have a hand in determining the outcome of events. Bright and generous men use the “we” symbol rather than the “I” designation.

The “I” complex causes Bush to be bitten in the backside, sort of a boomerang effect. Bush recently made it clear that “I” warned Sharon to pull back his troops. Bush said “I” did it, not Cheney, not Powell, not Congress, but “I” gave him the ultimatum. Remember the “as soon as possible” or “without delay”? Well Sharon had a surprise of his own. He told Bush in so many words what he could do with his “I” ultimatum.

If Bush had paid attention at Yale, I suspect that he would have been introduced to some history of the world. Nobody ever accused Bush during his Yale and Harvard years of taking a month off or a period when the school was on vacation or certainly not a leave of absence for six months or an academic year to study what other people do and to invest in the history of other nations or cultures. Clinton did that at Oxford but Clinton is a name to be expunged from the U. S. Government. Bush by his own admission was barely a “C” student just getting by. Bush was able to do that because he was lazy and he came from a family of great wealth and prestige.

Let us say that a poor kid from the Bronx in New York City or, as it was called when I grew up there, Dago Hill in St. Louis, had a scholarship to attend Yale University, as unlikely as that really is. Do you think that such a young student would squirt away his one and only chance of an Ivy League education by becoming a “C” student? And do you think that such a youngster would fail to take advantage of trips to other countries that are often available to college students? The obvious answer is a resounding “No.” But Bush wasted his years there in two of America’s most prestigious universities.

With respect to foreign travel, Bush is still a non-entity when it comes to our closest neighbor and ally, Canada. Early in his administration, he said Mexico was number one – the most important neighbor to the United States. Again, his lack of historical context is amazing. In World War II, Canada was our greatest ally. On more than one occasion I have shared meals and cigarettes with Canadian airmen and soldiers. The Canadians went to war when Hitler ran over Poland on September 1, 1939 – more than two years before the U. S. entered the war.

Bush would never recognize this fact. Mexico never entered the fight against the Axis. On the contrary, Germany was wooing Mexico as an eventual means of launching an attack against the United States. I’m sure Bush is unaware of this piece of history. He simply knows that Mexico adjoins Texas. Canada does not adjoin the Great State of Texas and hence, it will be visited after Uruguay or Swaziland.

This week the Mexican Senate declared that the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, could not leave Mexico because he had been gone so much since his term began. Bush better send Carl Rove his political Guru to Mexico City to straighten the Mexican Senate out. So Mexico is our number one ally? So Mexico is our most important neighbor? Ole!

Now we turn to Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist who won a Pulitzer Prize which was announced only a day or two ago. As it turns out, Tom Friedman is a Jew. I don’t care what his ethnic background might be; he writes compelling stuff. I did want to point out his ethnicity because of the quote from the Times on April 3, 2002 that I am about to offer. Friedman said this:

“The other people who have not wanted to face facts are the feckless American Jewish leaders, fundamentalist Christians and neo-conservatives who together have helped make it impossible for anyone in the U. S. administration to talk seriously about halting Israeli settlement-building without being accused of being anti-Israel.”

Now to Friedman’s list we add Roman Catholics whose idea of good government only includes those who want to ruthlessly stamp out abortion and contraceptive advice. Bush just stopped a $38 million appropriation to improve the health of poor people around the world because Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican member of the House, wrote him that he suspected that some of the money might be used to support abortion clinics in China. Mind you, money had been voted on and the appropriation was made. But Bush responded to Smith’s letter with haste. He held up distribution of the funds which were intended to help poor people with health problems in various parts of the world. And they are still held up even now.

Let me add a thought on Christopher Smith before we go on. In his office, he keeps a large crucifix. It’s not one to be worn around the neck; it is standing or leans against the wall. It is a big piece of work. Cardinal Law would be happy to have it available to him when he next writes a letter to another diocese telling them that a convicted child molester would perform quite well if the new diocese would take him. Now let us suppose you are a Jew or a Muslim or even a hymn-shouting Protestant. And let us suppose that you are admitted to Smith’s office as one of Smith’s New Jersey constituents. What do you think your chances of success are with Representative Smith in whatever problem you bring to him? I now live in New Jersey and I would be forced to say something like from nothing ranging down to zero.

Let’s return to Tom Friedman’s quote. The feckless American Jewish leaders are personified by Norman Podhoretz who often speaks for the right wing Jewish community. He spoke a night or two ago and he supported Sharon’s efforts to eradicate the Palestinian people. He simply wanted war regardless of what it did to Israel’s long term chances of survival.

Now we turn to fundamentalist Christians and neo conservatives. The two are joined at the hip. They speak with one voice and that voice is anti-intellectual as personified by say Jesse Helms or the Jew hating Billy Graham. These people fervently back Bush not so much because he shares their values but because they see him as at war against the intellectuals who speak for universities and foundations and research entities. They are “againers.”

Now I said in the opening that Bush is a captive of the conservative right wing of the Republican Party which happens to be a sinister force in American politics. The fundamental Christians are well known to me as I had parents who attended a Nazarene Church. The hate that was preached was appalling. For example, fundamentalist preachers claim that Jesus Christ was crucified by Jews. That is an absolute lie. The man behind the crucifixion was an emperor in Rome named Pontius Pilate. When Billy Graham, who led Bush to the paths of Christian righteousness, spoke to Richard Nixon and voiced his hatred of Jews, the belief that Jews caused Jesus Christ to die more than likely was one of his bedrock beliefs. And the fundamentalists support Bush. And so does Billy Graham who now says he didn’t mean it and his son Franklin Graham, says it is immoral to tape a conversation between a preacher and one of his flock. Richard Nixon: some flock.

Friedman’s thoughts are particularly disturbing when it is applied to the conservative backing of Bush. You may recall a half pint born-again protestant presidential contender Gary Bauer, who now says that when Bush wants Sharon to stop intruding in the occupied territories, that “Attitudes are hardening on the right of the Republican Party about this.” “Attitudes are hardening” is a none-too-subtle threat aimed at Bush. As Friedman said, any criticism of Israel is taken by Bush’s conservative right wing as being anti-Israel in nature.

So much for the moment about Tom Friedman who is a prescient man. I have been pondering why in the week of Easter, Bush took a three day fund raising trip for Republican candidates for the Senate and House and that was followed by four days at the “Western White House.” While a war was going on in Israel, Bush treated himself to a taxpayer ride to Crawford, Texas but on the way he stopped at the infamous Bob Jones University in South Carolina. You will recall that Bob Jones University until recently banned interracial dating. Bush made such a rip-roaring speech during the campaign that he had to ask Cardinal O’Connor of New York to seek forgiveness for his intemperate remarks. His trip to the school on his way to Texas was largely uneventful, in any case, he did not ask O’Connor’s successor for forgiveness. Maybe he should have.

While we are on the subject of his being captured by the religious right of his party, consider this. When he signed the campaign reform bill, which he tried to defeat, he did it with only two witnesses. No press, no TV, no radio. In Washington, it was called the stealth signing. He did not invite the men who made it possible such as Russ Feingold and John McCain from the Senate and Chris Shays and Marty Meehan from the House. The word is that by inviting those people to see him sign the bill would have infuriated his right wing followers. We can’t have that.

When it was decided that the U. S. Government would transfer ownership of Governors Island in New York Harbor to the State of New York, he had only two Republicans, Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, at the ceremony. The two New York Senators, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were barred. How’s that for Chutzpah!

So I ask you. Is Bush the captive of the right wing of the Republican party? And by excluding the Republicans from attending the signing of the campaign reform bill, McCain and Shays, is he not showing you how small he can be? His inadequacies as a political leader are shown in big ways and in small ones.

Now today, April 10th, we had another example of Bush being the captive of the sinister wing of the Republican Party. Today Bush put on his doctor’s coat and announced with all of his background in medicine that he wants to “outlaw cloning,” so says the press. He squared off against 40 Nobel Prize winners who say the good to mankind is in cloning and stem cell research. Bush says it is a matter of science versus morality and he supports morality. Science can go soak its head in a bucket.

Previously, he had already limited stem cell research. Today he wants to “outlaw cloning” all together. While his religious followers may applaud this deplorable effort to thwart science, there are at least two things that make his decision disastrous. In the first place, almost every one knows of sufferers of Parkinson’s disease that could be helped by stem cell research. Many other diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, spinal cord injures, various cancers and neurological diseases and cardiovascular diseases could also yield to stem cell work. My brother and a neighbor died of Parkinson’s disease. But Bush comes down on what he calls “morality” and says cloning and stem cell research is not what his party is all about. I suppose it is “moral” to see people dying without the benefits that could flow from such work?

And secondly, it is absolutely clear that the United States will have lost the lead in this sort of work only to be replaced by foreign researchers who do not share Bush’s fake concern about “morality.”

If Bush had been concerned about morality, he would have permitted his handlers to see that all the votes were counted in Florida including the butterfly ones cast by elderly people in Palm Beach County who wanted to vote for Gore but who actually voted for Pat Buchanan due to a deeply flawed ballot. While you are at it see the New York Times of April 11 editorial entitled “The President’s Narrow Morality.” And when you read Jeffrey Toobin’s remarks at the end of the essay, let’s see who has the high ground on morality.

Well this is only a partial summary of Bush’s inadequacies and failings. As time goes on and other crises are brought to the Oval Office, I fear that Bush will bring this country closer and closer to the terror that he now campaigns against. By thumbing his nose at the Arab world, he makes it inevitable that Muslim people will always consider Israel and the United States as representing the things they hate. Under those circumstances, it becomes obvious that Muslim extremists will reach out to attack the United States and its citizens when traveling. Bush cannot cause the Arab people to disappear simply because they don’t share his fundamental Christian faith or because they are poor or because they use Friday as their Sabbath. Always remember the New York saying that “What goes around comes around.” Bush ought to remember that, even if New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for Gore.

If Bush had not entered the Presidency with such visceral hatred of Bill Clinton, he could have built acceptable relations with people of brown skin such as Arabs. But Bush came to office and surrounded himself with complete jerks such as John Ashcroft and Spencer Abraham and Gail Norton. The conservative wing was in control. The anti-intellectual phenomenon pervaded the Bush administration. Now he is surrounded by war hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz and the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld.

As a matter of interest, Ashcroft and Abraham were defeated in their bids to retain their Senate seats. Ashcroft is a hymn singing, born-again Christian that seems to have great appeal to Bush. Gail Norton is the protégé of the disgraced Secretary of the Interior, James Watt. Bush picks them right off the floor.

As I said, it need not have been this way but this is what happens when an inadequate man of very limited intellectual ability wins an election even though his opponents got a plurality of the vote. If I were a Christian, I might even be tempted to pray that the United States survives the term of Bush the Younger.

I want to close this essay with a thought by Jeffrey Toobin, a lawyer, author, and television guest on several shows and a leading commentator on the American political scene. As events unfolded in Florida after the 2000 election year, Toobin was a close observer. In his most recent book “Too Close to Call,” Toobin has these thoughts:

“(James) Baker’s cynical war on the recounts – which he fought in courtrooms, in television studios, and in the streets – was the best way to make sure that George W. Bush became president.”

“But still, the election of 2000 will not go away because in any real, moral, and democratic sense, Al Gore should have been declared the victor over George W. Bush – in the popular vote, in Florida, and in the Electoral College. No one seriously suggests that 3,407 people intended to vote for Patrick Buchanan in Palm Beach County; no one believes that thousands of black voters in Duval County had no preference in the race for President. The 680 questionable overseas absentee ballots identified in July 2001 by The New York Times assuredly, and improperly, went to Bush by a wide margin. If the simple preference of the voters behind their curtains was the rule – and it is supposed to be the rule in a democracy – then Gore probably won the state by several thousand votes, approximately the margin of the original network exit polls. Should Gore have won in a legal sense as well? He probably should have, and a Supreme Court opinion that is doomed to infamy denied him this opportunity, too.

In the cynical calculus of contemporary politics, it is easy to dismiss Gore’s putative victory. But if more people intended to vote for Gore than for Bush in Florida – as they surely did – then it is a crime against democracy that he did not win the state and thus the presidency. It isn’t that the Republicans ‘stole’ the election or that Bush is an ‘illegitimate’ president. But the fact remains: the wrong man was inaugurated on January 20, 2001, and this is no small thing in our nation’s history. The bell of this election can never by unrung, and the sound will haunt us for some time.”

Toobin’s account is pretty damning stuff for Bush. To all the things I said in the opening paragraph of this essay, one must add the “The wrong man was inaugurated on January 20, 2001” and the United States is paying heavily for that mistake.

If anyone contends that criticism of Bush is destructive of the “unity” we have found under his leadership since September 11th, consider these efforts by Bush that divide the American people:

1. The proposed war in Iraq that does not have popular support of American citizens and which may have a disastrous outcome for the United States.
2. Blindly backing Sharon when Palestinian camps are being cruelly destroyed. In this case, Arab hatred will be the outcome for hundreds of years.
3. Drilling in the restricted areas of Alaska – ANWR – which would yield a tiny amount of oil deliverable in no less than five years and more like ten years. Conservation in auto and truck construction alone could yield ten times the flow from Alaska and it would become available now. Bush sees political advantage because the least loved union in America, the Teamsters, might wind up being employed there.
4. Bush continues to insist on right wing ideologues to fill vacancies on high level court appointments. Pickering is now behind us; can Robert Bork or Kenneth Starr be right ahead of us.
5. Bush is pushing his concept of morality to the great detriment of the U. S. by opposition to stem cell research and the attempt to completely ban any form of cloning. People are going to continue to die while Bush is wrapped in the embraces of fundamentalist Christian churches and by his crude attempts to peel Catholic voters from the Democrats by contending that this is the new morality. It is nothing less than a return to the medieval practice of medicine.
6. In an attempt to attract Catholic voters, Bush backs “abstinence only” means to control teen-age emotions. This leads to banning all forms of abortion control which puts the United States back where remote areas of Africa now find themselves. Such cynicism. His own daughters would probably laugh at abstinence only programs among college kids.
7. This country suffered a grievous blow on September 11th. Bush has cynically advanced his “war on terror” which he thinks places him in the ranks of Lincoln and Roosevelt. While he makes great noises to promote his war, he personally takes off to his ranch in Texas and is seldom found “working” on Saturdays or Sundays. Over Easter with the Israeli crisis boiling, he took three days of Republican fund raising – all paid for by U. S. taxpayers – and four days at his home on the range. If he is going to have a war in his portfolio, he is failing to work at it. Sort of like he treated his educational experience at Yale.

8. In foreign relations, Bush has made it clear that the U. S. needs no allies or friends and will go it alone. Remember the Kyoto Treaty. Now about the effort to create an international system of justice. Sixty nations have joined. The United States stands alone; Bush refuses to sign. Think also of treaties governing missiles. In that case, Bush asked Putin of Russia to join him in a handshake without a written record of any new treaty. Putin told Bush to get lost. These are only a few of the instances where Bush says he needs no allies or friends.

There are other examples where Bush in his forlorn effort to become the Right Wing President of the World is leading the U.S. on a destructive path. Unity occurs only when Americans blindly yield to the intellectually stunted bully from Connecticut who now bills himself as a Texan. We have to do better than George W. The United States deserves better.

April 10, 2002


The Trump comparisons make themselves too easy.
In other news I found it shocking now many of the people Pop talked about are still household names in politics. Schumer, McCain, Hillary — all of these politicians are still major players, fifteen years later. There’s gotta be a happier medium between “nobody has any experience” and “90% of incumbents get reelected.” Death or retirement shouldn’t be the default way to turn over the legislature; that’s always going to create a situation where the legislature is decades behind the times. Our current batch has zero idea how the internet works, for instance, and are more than happy to take Comcast’s money to fight against net neutrality because they literally couldn’t understand what implications that would have on the country even if they wanted to. I think term limits would solve this problem nicely, with the obvious catch being that the only body who could impose such limits would be the one which would directly suffer from it. So I’m not holding my breath.


In ancient times, religious zealots such as myself would exile themselves to remote desert locations, away from secular and sinful cities, in the hope that a higher power would speak to them in an unmistakable voice of moral clarity. For the past few months, I have followed that ascetic trail blazed by our religious forebearers. I have attempted to avoid the temptations of Summit and Millburn, New Jersey. However, I did succumb, on only two occasions to the evil offerings of New York City where it is widely known that the Devil himself lives. His last known address was in Greenwich Village or on York Avenue at 87th Street. I have paid a heavy price for yielding to temptation by my visits to the Big Apple. And so I now find myself wringing my hands and staring at my shoes. I suppose this is the price of martyrdom.

When I emerged from my desert exile, I enjoyed an enormous belly laugh when that eminent theologian George W. Bush, said that Sharon was “a man of peace.” Jay Leno and David Letterman would pay enormous sums to have a joke writer supply them with lines that say Sharon is a “man of peace.” Always the comic, Bush uttered that line the day before he met the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia which greatly angered and offended his Saudi visitor. But he always does this. Remember his reference to his “crusade” in the Middle East? Well, old comedians never die it appears. When that line is repeated to survivors in Ramallah and in the Jenin Refugee Camp, I’m sure that Palestinians are rolling in the aisles with laughter.

Bush’s “Man of Peace” is matched by an ophthalmologist here in Short Hills. Last year, it is alleged, on solid grounds, that the ophthalmologist fondled the breasts of four women patients. The Essex County Prosecutor sent an undercover policewoman to him to have her eyes examined. She became the fifth woman he fondled. He contends that the fondling takes place in a search for future eye problems, so the five women ought to appreciate his concern for the future health of their eyes.

My belief is that the Short Hills ophthalmologist has as much chance of discovering future eye problems by his fondling as Sharon has of becoming a “Man of Peace.” It seems to me that their future achievements under these circumstances are exactly the same which is nada, nil, zero or something less than nothing. As a matter of interest, I am completely blind in my left eye as a result of the ministrations of this same Short Hills ophthalmologist. And he never looked at my chest for signs of upcoming eye trouble. That is a troubling oversight.

A further thought strikes me about Bush’s “Man of Peace.” Punishing the entire Palestinian people for resisting the occupation and for suicide bombing is a lot like wiping out the Catholic hierarchy because priestly abuse of children was wide spread. Bush may turn his “Man of Peace” loose on the Catholics when he is finished with the Palestinians.

Now while Bush’s faux pas is still current, we have Muslim apologists saying that in the Arabic language, Islam means peace. The Muslim translators should have gotten together with Bush on their definitions of peace. When the Palestinians invaded the Passover Seder meal in Natanya and killed 28 people, remember it was all done in the name of Islam, which means peace.

So you see between Bush and the Muslims, this old geezer is greatly confused. So far no unmistakable voice of moral clarity has spoken to me.

Not to be outdone in this duel of comedic endeavors, the Roman Catholic church had a meeting in Rome chaired by the Pope himself. The purpose of the meeting, which featured cardinals from the United States, was to determine what the Catholic stance should be with respect to priests sexually abusing children.

I am forced to ask you this question. The church has been around for perhaps 2000 years. Children have been attending school and mass at Catholic churches for the same period of time. An ordinary person would have to suspend belief to come to the conclusion that in the year 2002, the Pope would call a meeting to determine how the hierarchy of the Holy Roman Church should deal with priests who prey on children. And that’s only the beginning. There is no unanimity in the hierarchy on whether a priest should be chastised or punished if he is caught with a small boy in the priest’s rectory bed.

Some of the cardinals say if it happened a while ago, the church should forget all about it and wipe the slate clean. Others say if a priest slips his vows and makes only a pass at two or three children, and if he shows signs of redemption, he should be kept on. As my lawyer daughter who offers her theological thoughts under the signature of “The Attorney” says, “If a priest molests a whole choir full, then action probably ought to be taken”. Reading Archbishop Myers’ statement of April 29, 2002, it is far from clear that there is unanimity in the American Catholic view about punishment or chastisement. Myers is the Archbishop of Newark and is charged with drafting the statement to be offered to American bishops when they meet in Dallas in June of this year. Myers is an ultra right-winger who has made few friends here since arriving from Peoria, Illinois.

So you see that the great theologian Bush and Islamic leaders don’t come out at the same place when it comes to Peace. After 2000 years, Roman Catholics apparently don’t know which end is up and the Pope and his Curia are not giving the American branch of the church much help. I am using WD40 on my hands to try to prevent excessive chafing as the Catholic mess causes me to wring my hands even harder.

Late last week (April 26, 2002) Mike Barnicle, a well known columnist for the New York Daily News, appeared on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” program. Both men are Catholics. In a spirited colloquy, both men denounced the statement coming from Rome after the American Cardinals meeting saying that the hierarchy was “covering up.” The cover up had to do with homosexuality according to these two Catholics. The fear is that high level members of the hierarchy of the church will be exposed as homosexuals.

This is a very real fear. Even Monsignor Wilton Gregory, Chairman of the American Bishops Conference, says that Catholic seminaries are filled by gay priests. Gay seminarians go on to become priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes. In several studies published by respected journals, it is estimated that between 35% and 50% of Catholic priests are homosexual. And no one from the hierarchy seeks to deny those figures. Not Egan, not Law, not the Pope and certainly not Archbishop Myers of Newark.

Mary Murphy is a long time television reporter and commentator now working for Channel 11 in New York City. She is greatly respected. Mary is a Catholic who spent part of her honeymoon in Rome to sit in the audience to hear the Pope and to receive his blessing. She is a product of New York City’s parochial schools. In short, she is not a latecomer to the Catholic faith.

Mary Murphy has been following the story of gay priests for a year or so. In two interviews last week (April 26) Murphy had extended discussions with an ordained priest who appeared without hiding his identity. He simply had two frank discussions with Mary Murphy about homosexual priests. His estimates ran higher than the 35% to 50% of priests who are homosexual. This priest says pretty flatly that at least 50% of the priests he knows around New York City are gay.

When asked what contributed to this surprising figure, the priest said homosexual men, who wished to conceal their gayness, joined the priesthood to avoid answering the question about why aren’t you married. The priesthood takes care of that question very neatly.

The gayness of the priesthood has been going on for many years, perhaps for centuries. It is quite likely that homosexual men are now serving as bishops, monsignor’s, cardinals and perhaps as popes. What baffles me completely is the unrelenting assault on gays in the priesthood by high level church authorities. On Sunday, April 28, 2002 the number two man at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, Monsignor Eugene V. Clark, delivered a long homily attacking gays in every direction. His homily was so vigorous that his boss, Cardinal Egan, said that Monsignor Clark spoke only for himself. Clark’s diatribe was roundly denounced as gay bashing.

But Clark was not alone. One of the cardinals spoke from Rome and said that the United States Church should not ordain any more homosexuals and should “root out” the ones it has. So you can see why this old grizzled religious zealot is both confused and amused. If we are going to “root out” 50% of the U. S. priesthood, who will be left to bless new fire houses and pizza parlors?

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee has for years banned gay men and women marching under their own sign which identifies them as gay Irish men and women. How curious that the priests and hierarchy of the church seem to support gayness in their clergy – but certainly not in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Mychal Judge was a bit of a hero who gave his life in the World Trade Center debacle on September 11th. He was a firehouse Chaplain and he was gay. He seemed to be an alright guy by any measurement. Should Mychal Judge have been “rooted out”? I don’t think so.

The Roman Church is horribly out of touch with the real world as it exists in the 21st Century. The bishops, and cardinals, and the pope wearing their funny hats and medieval costumes don’t play well in modern circumstances. In the old days, the priests and the hierarchy could wear their bizarre hats and costumes and speak in Latin which may have awed and impressed peasants in the year 1002. It doesn’t play well today – but the church hierarchy has not tumbled to that obvious fact.

The Protestants, particularly the Fundamentalists, are not about to give the world stage to the Jews, the Muslims and the Catholics. In their unschooled and boisterous manner, several Protestants are demanding their time in the spot light.

In the civilized world, or in the totalitarian world, the absolute worst situation comes about when religion and politics are meshed. That is exactly what Bush is trying to do to please his conservative supporters. Consider the governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait where Islam is part and parcel of the ruling parties. Consider Spain, Ireland and Italy where no government can survive without the blessings of the Roman Catholic Church. Consider the government of India and Bangladesh where Hindu acceptance is required. And I suppose no government of Israel would survive without the blessings of the Jewish faith.

This is exactly where Bush is taking the United States Government. He has appointed born again Christians to important posts in his administration. Consider that Assemblies of God Evangelist masquerading as U. S. Attorney General who had a significant announcement recently. In a February, 2002 speech, Ashcroft proclaimed: “We are a nation called to defend freedom – a freedom that is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God.”

Frank Rich, the New York Times writer, says, “So much, then, for that trifling document that defines our freedoms, a.k.a. the Constitution. By wrapping himself in sanctimony as surely as he wrapped the Justice Department’s statue of Justice in a blue curtain, our Attorney General is trying to superseded civil law on the grounds that he’s exercising the Lord’s Will what ever he does.”

The former Vice President of N. W. Ayer, Howard Davis, who directed AT&T’s advertising efforts, is another native Missourian. Howard and I regard Ashcroft as the ultimate embarrassment to the State of Missouri. But as Ashcroft said on other occasions, God is guiding him. And Bush picked him as U. S. Attorney General and is promoting him as a star of the Administration. This non-believer finds himself in great need of prayer.

An important theological thought intrudes here. For centuries, Christians and particularly evangelical and fundamentalist Christians believe that Jesus was crucified at the behest of Jews. Never mind that Emperor Pontius Pilate was calling the signals from Rome. An article of faith with Christians is that Jews killed Jesus and let’s not deal with conflicting opinions. They did it and the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians find solace in the King James Version of the New Testament.

Now if Ashcroft and Bush believe that Jews killed Jesus, as they have to do, do you think that they understand that Ariel Sharon is a Jew? As a non-believer, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I am an interested observer only. But I doubt that dim bulbs like Bush and Ashcroft and their political cronies have made this connection.

Howard Davis and your essayist are greatly embarrassed that Ashcroft hails from Missouri, which is generally believed to be the reincarnation of the Garden of Eden.

Bush has a stalwart in the House from that center of culture, Sugarland, Texas. Tom DeLay, one of the sponsors of Clinton’s impeachment, is the star performer. Here are two paragraphs from Alan Cooperman, a staff writer from the Washington Post. He says:

“House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex) told Evangelical Christians last week (April 20, 2002) that only Christianity offers a reasonable answer to basic questions about the purpose of life. Speaking to about 300 people at the First Baptist Church in Pearland, Texas, on April 12, DeLay said that God is using him to promote a ‘biblical world view’ in American politics, and that he pursued Bill Clinton’s impeachment in part because the Democratic President held ‘the wrong world view’.” (italics mine)

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Christianity offers the only viable, reasonable, definitive answer to the question of ‘Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Does life have any meaningful purpose?’ DeLay said, ‘Only Christianity offers a way to understand the physical and moral border. Only Christianity offers a comprehensive world view that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world – only Christianity.”

So let us say you were a law-abiding Jew who lives in DeLay’s district in Texas. Do you think you would find a sympathetic listener in DeLay if you had a problem? Or, do you think he would inform you to drop your Jewishness and turn to Christianity? DeLay is the most important Republican figure in the United States House of Representatives. As I said in the case of Ashcroft, let us pray.

DeLay is joined by the Republican Majority Leader of the House, Dick Armey, who said on April 30, 2002 on the “Hardball” show, that Palestinians should leave the West Bank. He said that other Arab countries should give them some place in their deserts to establish their homeland. His apology later was unconvincing and demeaning. The Texans, Bush, Armey and DeLay, know how to fix all the problems of the Middle East.

Now we have a know-nothing clown from Oklahoma, Senator James Inhofe, a Republican, who took the floor of the Senate to announce that the September 11th attacks were retribution from God because God was not pleased with U. S. policy toward Israel. He said, “One of the reasons I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the U. S. A. is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israeli’s not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorists…” Obviously, this is a slam at Bush the Omnipotent Theologian who is allegedly guiding our Republican Government.

Tom Paine’s Common Sense periodical says, “In other words, on September 11th, God allowed airlines to be piloted into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon because United States’s actions were not to His/Her liking. How else to interpret Inhofe’s words about a spiritual door being opened for the attack.”

When it comes to intellectual capacity, I am sure that Inhofe has a good future ahead of him as a rodeo clown who distracts bulls that want to gore thrown rough riders. Inhofe also claims that God (He or She) gave the West Bank to the Jewish people because Inhofe read it in the King James Version of the Bible. He is not a preacher; he is one of 100 Senators sitting at the top of the United States Government structure. So once again, let us pray.

Now we have Billy Graham who seems to have given us his twisted spiritual guidance for many, many years. After recordings of Nixon’s miserable thoughts came to light, the Right Reverend Billy Graham was recorded as saying some pretty prejudicial remarks about Jews. Billy at his advanced age offered sort of an apology. Doesn’t he know that the head man of the Christian faith was a Jew? Billy wasn’t up to a convincing apology so he turned the job over to Franklin Graham, his son and designated successor as the head of Billy Graham Enterprises. Now let us return to Frank Rich of The Times.

“His son and successor, Franklin Graham, soon rescinded his father’s mea culpa by asserting that the taped quotes had been taken out of context and meant to refer to ‘liberalism’, not Jews. The younger Mr. Graham’s disingenuousness is of a piece with Jerry Falwell’s and Pat Robertson’s pseudo apology for their televised remarks in which they tried to pin the September 11th attacks on the same all-purpose culprits (gays, feminists) whom some Catholic leaders now hope will take the fall for abusive priests and their enabling higher ups.”

This is probably enough to make my point that when politics are mixed with religion, democracy suffers. And it also suffers when religious matters are defended in legal terms rather than in moral terms. Religion has to do with faith; the lawyers have to deal with facts and reality. Let me give you an example of how legal practice clashes with moral concepts in our society of the 21st century.

We have here two young brothers, Robert and Phillip Young, who served as altar boys here in New Jersey. They contend – and nobody has denied their claim – that as “many as 15 priests and numerous church officials” abused them and forced them to engage in sexual acts between 1978 and 1983. At the time, the young brothers underwent this abuse, they were 12 to 17 year old boys. They were given two threats if they told about their treatment. They were told that no one would believe them if they implicated a priest, and they were told that the Church would excommunicate them. This last action carries several severe penalties. For example, an excommunicated member cannot be married by the Church. He may not receive communion. He may not be buried in so called “holy ground” at Catholic cemeteries. There are other penalties as well, but I suppose this is enough to give the reader an idea of the severity of excommunication.

All young children are intimidated by the threats of the clergy. The two young brothers had every reason to fear for their immortal soul. As a result, they failed to report the abuse to the authorities in time for legal punishment to follow. In New Jersey, where the Young brothers lived, the statute of limitation is two years, generally speaking. They were about six years late in filing their suit.

When the case was finally heard, the decision went against the young brothers on the grounds that they had not come in during the statute of limitations. In making this painful decision, which was delivered on
May 3, 2002, a Superior Court Judge had some searing words for the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever motivated the young brothers to file their suit – money or the exposure of a moral and legal wrong – the Church used “legal hard ball” to defend its interests, even though the “scourge of sexual abuse” was involved.

That is pretty strong language from a Superior Court Judge. The Judge went on to say, “Even though the Church was within its legal rights to defend itself, the Church’s position on this matter is at odds with its stance as a moral force in society. From where I sit, legal hardball doesn’t seem quite right.”

I think Superior Court Judge John Himmelbarger said it all. When religious matters are defended in legal terms rather than in moral terms, both the law and religion are demeaned.

Now if you want to read a little more about the Roman Catholic problems with moral issues, please read the Saturday May 4, 2002 Op-Ed piece by Bill Keller in the New York Times. It will be well worth your while.

So much for the transgressions of our religious establishment. Let us go back to the beginning. The United States Government started out as a secular government which wanted to do away with the excesses of King George the III. Well now we have a King George W. who wants to impose his own brand of bizarre Christianity upon the American people. And unbelievably, Jews by the thousands in the United States have cast their lot with him simply because he is backing a complete madman. Ariel Sharon is not called the “Butcher of Beirut” for nothing.

This is serious business. For many years, I have supported Barry Lynn who directs the efforts of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Curiously, Lynn is a preacher, but he runs a superb organization attempting to deal with the likes of Bush, Ashcroft, DeLay, Inhofe and their cronies who insist that this government reflect primitive Christian values. Any attempt to introduce multicultural values is rejected as unchristian. If it doesn’t fit with Tom DeLay’s “Christian World View,” it should be abolished and destroyed.

The main reason for my belief in non-belief has to do with Protestant preachers espousing their arrant nonsense, such as we find with the Texas politicians. As a child, I rejected their theology. As an adult, I simply hold them in contempt. How else would you deal with the likes of Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, George W. Bush, John Ashcroft and James Inhofe? They are dubious human beings.

(As I said, I have long supported Americans United for Separation of Church and State. If its efforts interest you, they can be reached at 518 “C” Street, N. E., Washington, D. C., 20002-5810.)

I know that religion provides a comfort to believers. I know that some who practice religion look forward to eternal life. And I know that many world figures, particularly politicians, believe that God has had a strong hand in their success.

For many years, I have come to the conclusion that in the field of human affairs, religion is not necessarily a unifying force at all. It is often a divisive force. Consider the Catholic-Protestant split in Ireland. Consider the case of Israel and the Palestinians where war is our current reward. Consider the situation in India where everyone has had a shot at war including the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Muslims, the Christians as well as the Animists. And if you give credence to Osama Bin Laden and some of his Arab followers, there is a Holy War going on against the largely Christian population of the United States. Religion has not unified any of these competing nationalities. On the contrary, it is often a divisive and a destructive force.

If I look in the Bibles of my parents for comfort on this score, I am rewarded by the words of Paul who seems to come out four square for good conduct and for slavery. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart as you would obey Christ.” Another Bible of my parents says, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ”. Both of these citations are from versions of the King James rendition of the New Testament. See Ephesians VI, Verse 5. (underlining mine)

When it comes to religious matters, I find myself convinced that my belief in non-belief is absolutely right for me. If it is alright with Paul, I hold that belief with fear and trembling. It sets me apart from clowns such as DeLay, Armey, Bush, Inhofe and Ashcroft. So let us pray.

May 2, 2002


I feel like the 2000s have been one case study after another in “obvious times that major powers are on the wrong side of history.” We just have seen this again with Trump pulling out of the Paris accord. We saw it plenty of other times with this shit in the early 2000s, with everyone who opposed gay marriage, last year for Trump voters generally, etc. Maybe it’s always like that; certainly pretty much all progress has had to come over the loud objections of the Delays and Inhofes of any era you choose. And it always seems to come from older generations, too — it seems like for every year you’re alive, the probably that you’re just utterly backwards with regard to social issues seems to skyrocket. That never seemed to impact Pop, though. Maybe when I get old enough I’ll remember writing this and stop being a stick in the mud about whatever clear progressive goal my generation is holding up at the time.


Jerusalem has been on my mind of late because of the bombings and other acts of warfare that have taken place there. At the outset, I must point out that I am not an active partisan in the dispute between the Israeli and Palestine sides. My instincts are to be with the Israelis. I know them better. They have welcomed me into their homes and offices. They have offered me the best food that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Nablus and Tiberias have to offer. They are good people – tough people but good people.

Arabs, on the other hand, were a different kettle of fish. When I worked in the Overseas Department of AT&T, I had occasion to deal with Arabs from Dakar, Senegal and Rabat, Morocco in the western part of the North African continent all the way through to Egypt in the east. I had no occasion to deal with Iranians or Iraqis. The people in Dakar were wonderful. They offered us some of the best lobster that I have ever eaten. But Dakar is a seaport and they have long dealt with foreign nationals. In the East, Egypt is a squalid place, but its people often seem to be kind. In all the rest of the North African continent, there was grimness. Joy was not to be had. So I am not a big booster of the Arab people. One of the only gestures of kindness was found in Algiers. We met with high ranking government officials in the Algerian regime shortly

after 44 American prisoners were released from imprisonment by the Iranians. As soon as the meeting started, I thanked the ranking minister for Algeria’s efforts to secure the release of the Americans. He replied, “It was my duty to do that.” He didn’t draw me out or seek to be more friendly. He simply said that he did what he did as a matter of duty. This same sort of arms-length relationship was found in Morocco, Algerian, Libya and Tunisia.

I cheered when Golda Mier and Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak had the premiership in Israel. I must say I gagged when Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon had that job. I cannot ever forget the hovels that serve as homes to displaced Palestinians. Their living conditions are abominable. Now that Sharon is head of government in Israel, I have great concern that he will drag the United States into war against the Arab nations. In that job, Sharon is an undisciplined war hawk who could easily cause the U. S. to find itself at war. The Arab League said on 3-28-02 that all its members would regard a United States attack on Iraq as an attack on the members of the Arab League. I suppose that means war.

Our efforts have not been helped by Bush sending the retired Marine General Zinni to attempt to mediate between the two sides. Following that, Bush sent Vice President Cheney to deal with the Israelis but he had nothing to do with the Palestinians. And then Secretary of State Powell made his famous telephone call to Arafat telling him what he was to say to his own people. In short, the Zinni, Cheney and Powell combine simply buttressed Sharon’s hand and made him even more belligerent.

It goes without saying that I find suicide bombing and martyrdom totally repugnant concepts. On the other hand, dealing with Sharon would cause me to do some strong things. Finally, the Americans have shortchanged themselves. When George H. W. Bush was President, he appointed Dennis Ross as mediator for the Israeli crisis. When Clinton succeeded Bush, Ross served eight years in that administration. But this Bush wants to rid himself of anything having to do with Clinton. In the end he has made a grim mistake. Ross is a Jew and a nominal Republican who has more than 12 years experience in dealing with the Israeli – Palestinian problem. He is a pro. So instead of Ross, we have Zinni, Cheney and Powell. The pros aren’t welcome in this administration.

Now having said all that, it is time to proceed to more pleasant things, like my relationship with the Essay Director and the Jerusalem Israelis who became my dear friends.

To deal with the effects of a stroke in 1997, Shirley Morganstein, a director at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, suggested that I try my hand at writing essays. The suggestion was outstanding as was nearly everything else Shirley suggested. Shirley scheduled a half hour session on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. This schedule applied from about the middle of November, 1997 until the end of January, 1998.

Early in this arrangement, Shirley was occasionally impatient with me when I failed to grasp some of her instructions. It wasn’t that I was not paying attention or daydreaming. In point of fact, stroke victims often do not understand the latter part of two and three part instructions and give up. On other occasions, the stroke sufferer will have an idea or thought in his head, but will be unable to make it come out of his mouth or from his pen.

After we started on essays on December 8, 1997 I began to write about my travels on behalf of the United States Army and the AT&T Corporation. The description of foreign customs and cultures seemed to intrigue Shirley. I worked hard to supply her with three new essays every week. It was probably by far the best therapy that could have been provided. I think my breakthrough with Shirley occurred when I gave her an essay about Poland. The Soviets who built the Forum Hotel in Warsaw insisted that it be a world class hotel. It was far from that. But in any case the Russians provided shoeshine machines in the elevator lobby of every floor. What got my attention was a sign in Polish, French and English posted in a prominent place on each machine. The sign said “Do not attempt to shine both shoes at once!” Shirley thought the story about the shoe shine machines and the sign that went with them was pretty hilarious. I didn’t know it at the time, but half of Shirley’s ancestors came from Poland. Later, knowing nothing about the other half of Shirley’s ancestry, I wrote about Rumania. As it turned out, the other half of her traced its ancestry to Rumania. For years, I had a Rumanian doll in peasant finery on my shelf. It came from Bucharest. Also, there were two embroidered miniature Polish flags in a frame that had caught my eye many years earlier. I presented Shirley with one of the flags and the Rumanian doll. She put them on a shelf in a prominent place in her office where she said, she could see them often. I am delighted that Shirley has two objects that remind her of her ancestry.

Shirley, of course, was Jewish. She told me about sitting Shiva for one of her relatives. Our occasional discussions about religious matters were pleasant and informative to me. She never inquired about my faith or lack thereof. She was a live and let live sort of person. I did enjoy telling her in an essay about one of my experiences with John Solomon, an Australian who was loaned for two or three years to the telephone administration in Papua New Guinea. John was our escort while my colleague and I were in Port Moresby and surrounding territory.

John Solomon was named for an uncle who was born in 1922, the same year of my birth. When the elder John Solomon tried to enlist in the Australian Armed Forces in 1939 and 1940, he ran head on into institutional racism. Simply put, the Aussies did not want Jews in the Armed Forces and if the truth were known – they didn’t welcome them as fellow Aussies either.

John Solomon made three attempts to join the Australian Army and was rejected each time. From what his nephew said, the authorities did not use subterfuge to cover their religious discrimination. They simply said that Jews were not accepted as part of the Australian Army.

So John Solomon had a new thought. On his fourth attempt to enlist, he said his name was John Sullivan. Australia is full of Irishmen because after England lost the American colonies, they had no place to ship their long term prisoners. So in spite of the long sea voyage from England to Sydney, Australia, the prisoners were shipped to the land Down Under. Irishmen had a prominent place in English prisons. And in the 200 years since Irish prisoners were shipped to Australia, their rate of producing offspring has been prodigious.

So the recruiters said to the alleged Irishman (nee Solomon) that he would be welcomed into the Australian Army. As the war developed, heavy fighting came to what is now known as Papua New Guinea. American and Australians and New Zealanders who fought there remember that as a dreadful place. Along with many other soldiers, John Solomon was killed in 1944 at the tender age of 22. In accordance with the regulations of the Australian Army, he was reburied in a well-kept military cemetery along with the other dead from the battle for Papua New Guinea. His grave was marked by a stone cross with the name “John Sullivan.”

When Australia found that its all British Christian population was insufficient to carry them into the space age, they began to accept new immigrants. In the late 1950’s and 1960’s, it became possible to have, for example, an Italian meal prepared by an Italian chef in Sydney. The attitude of the Aussie officialdom started to change, I believe in the 1950’s. Jews were accepted as part of the new landscape in Australia although their numbers remain fairly small.

The surviving members of John Solomon’s family called upon the Australian Army to recognize that it had buried a soldier under an assumed name. This struggle started in the 1940’s and continued until the early 1980’s. Finally, the Aussies conceded that John Sullivan was indeed John Solomon. The nephew of John Solomon took me and my colleague, Ron Carr, to the cemetery and showed us his grave. It was now marked by a Star of David tombstone. We went to a maintenance shed and saw the former cross with the name Sullivan that had marked his grave for nearly 40 years. Ron Carr and I rejoiced with our guide, the younger John Solomon.

Shirley seemed to follow this story with considerable interest. Knowing Shirley, a mix-up like this would evoke her empathy regardless of the racial or religious affiliation of the principals. In this case, I believe she was cheering for the situation to turn out right. In the end, it did.

When I started this essay, it was my intention to write about three Israelis who contributed much to the enjoyment of my life for the 15 or 20 years prior to 1985. But I got sidetracked a little with Shirley Morganstein, but what the hell, Shirley and the three Israeli’s share the same Jewish faith and I am absolutely positive that they would welcome her into their ranks. They might even elect her Queen of Jerusalem.
So now we will start with Aryeh Ron, Gideon Lev, and Jake Haberfeld, all residents of Jerusalem.

Aryeh Ron is the Israeli name that the former Leo Ritter of Vienna assumed when he came to what was then called Palestine. He arrived in Palestine not long after the Nazis took over in Austria.

In the Israeli telephone administration, when I knew them, they were all workers. They did not have squadrons of employees attending to every specialized task. As it turned out, Aryeh would leave his other duties and come to meet me every time I showed up at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The two of us became good friends. He saved my professional life on one occasion.

The Israeli Administration was the first to join in promoting Teleplan, the American venture to cut surcharges when calling back to the United States. They had invited the General Managers of all the leading hotels in Israel to hear me make my pitch. The sign in the hall of the hotel said that Mr. Carr was going to present a “lecture” that afternoon. About 30 hotel General Managers showed up in one of the large meeting rooms of the Jerusalem Hilton.

In anticipation of the meeting, I had sent a large collection of graphs and handouts to Jerusalem for the participants. This was an important meeting because we hoped that Israel would become the first Teleplan country. But as the time for the meeting drew near, there were no graphs and handouts so I prepared to do without them. Actually, we started the meeting when the door to the meeting room burst open and in came a sweating Aryeh Ron carrying this enormous load of material. Well, the long and the short of it is that Israeli customs had decided that the packages posed a security risk. All that morning of the meeting, Aryeh Ron had been in battle with Israeli bureaucrats trying to get the shipment released. Finally, he threatened to go to the Minister of the Israeli government for customs with the thought that the Americans would not be very happy to lose this material, particularly when the hotel industry in Israel would stand to lose if the American failed to make a deal. That did the trick and he arrived at the Hilton Hotel at the final moment. We got the contract with the Israeli Hotel Association, the first Teleplan contract. And my friend Aryeh Ron had made it all possible.

There were several occasions when Aryeh and I had a chance to spend perhaps an hour or two together. On one such occasion, Aryeh told me about how the Nazis acted when they came to Vienna, his hometown, in the latter half of the 1930’s. His name then was Leo Ritter and he was identified as a Jew. I believe he and I are about the same age so from age 14 to perhaps 18 or 19, he had to contend with the Nazis. On two or three occasions, the Nazis had residents bring toothbrushes to a meeting point in their district. They were then instructed to use the toothbrushes to scrub the sidewalk.

At that point, the Nazis wanted to be rid of the Jews. Concentration camps came a year or two later. In any case, Aryeh took the hint and decided to leave Austria. He lent his support to Zionist causes so it was natural for him to go to Palestine. Hebrew was a new language for Aryeh but he said he soon mastered it. And he changed his name from Leo Ritter to Aryeh Ron.

Before long, a beautiful young lady showed up in Palestine. She spoke German. She told Aryeh of her trepidation about learning the Hebrew language – which is not easy. Old Aryeh told the fair young maiden that if she went out with him, she would learn Hebrew in record time. I don’t know if that was true, but I know that they married and had a family. I went out with them for a Sabbath meal, and after 35 years or so, they seemed like a very happy couple.

There is another occasion when we spent a whole day in Aryeh’s company. We started early in the morning in Jerusalem and drove east to the Dead Sea, then north to Jericho, along the border with Jordan to the Sea of Galilee where we saw the Golan Heights which Israel and Syria had fought over. Aryeh seemed to keep close tabs on his watch. So that afternoon, we headed west to Haifa where Aryeh knew a man who permitted us to enter the University of Haifa canteen where we shared Israeli orange juice. As we left, Aryeh said that if anybody in the United States asked where I had gone to school, I should say the University of Haifa. For twenty years I have been waiting to use that line, but so far no one has asked.

After the orange juice, it became clear why Aryeh was keeping close tabs on his watch. As I soon found out, his daughter lived in Haifa and she had a six year old daughter who got out of school at 5 PM. Aryeh parked the car and sort of trotted toward a group of people standing on the sidewalk. In an instant his granddaughter left the people on the sidewalk and sprinted toward him. The hugs and kisses started to flow with great abandon. That encounter was worth the long trip to Israel.

I haven’t seen Aryeh in perhaps 18 years. His company has changed hands and of course, it is largely impossible to find out anything from the current administration of AT&T. Aryeh Ron is one of my closest friends. I admire him and maybe someday I will see him if not in Jerusalem, perhaps in Vienna.

Now we turn to Gideon Lev. Gideon became the President of the Israeli International Communications Corporation. He was a big man, perhaps six feet two inches weighing somewhere around 250 pounds. When Gideon talked, other people listened. When he walked, other people got out of his way. He was not mean or mean spirited. He was just a big man, clumsy at times, but a person who wanted to advance Israeli causes. I believe Gideon came from Poland. He was an early devotee of Zionism and as a result, he emigrated to Palestine. For all his pluses and minuses, I liked Gideon and count him as a good friend.

On one occasion, I had been in Rome and planned to leave early on Friday morning for Tel Aviv. At the time, the Israeli people I dealt with were in negotiations with the Italians. It was headed toward great unpleasantness. I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis. Well to start with, there is a two hour difference in time between Italy and Israel. The plane was slightly delayed so when I left the plane and found Aryeh Ron at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, he said that we had to make tracks to get to Jerusalem. Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, of course. So Israelis knock off work at noon on Friday and return Sunday morning.

I found Gideon and Jake Haberfeld in the dining room of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It may have been 1:30 PM when I finally arrived. Friday luncheon was largely over but that did not deter Gideon. While the waiter was reluctant to take our order, Brother Lev found the head waiter and one of the hotel’s administrators, and made it pretty simple. Meeting with me was important to the Government of Israel and if the King David’s management became an obstacle, old Gideon was prepared to roll all over it.

We had a lengthy meeting. The food was served by the headwaiter himself. The food in Jerusalem was never something to brag about, but as I recall it, we enjoyed what the headwaiter served us. The fact that the hotel dining staff lost part of their weekend was sort of a patriotic contribution, if you believe Gideon.

Gideon distinguished himself in the eating department on one other occasion in Paris. As the English say, at table, Gideon left a lot to be desired. When the food was set in front of Brother Lev, he seemed to want to make it disappear as quickly as possible. Forget this business of chewing your food 15 or 30 times. That wasted time. I suppose that given the speed at which he ate, his food may have been chewed one or two times at best.

In Paris we were about eight at breakfast. Gideon and Jake Haberfeld represented Israel. There were perhaps two French men with the rest being Americans. I sat next to Gideon. He ordered two poached eggs along with whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs. But no ham or bacon. When the poached eggs were set in front of Gideon, he lifted each one on the toast and stuffed the egg in his mouth. He didn’t eat the toast – just the eggs. I was astounded but I should not have been because I had seen him eat before. Needless to say, Gideon finished long before any of the rest of us did.

Gideon Lev may not have conformed to good social behavior, but he was a fine negotiator who was like Jake Haberfeld, always fair. I found a lot to like about Gideon. He had a good sense of humor. But most of all, if for some reason I needed someone to share a foxhole with me, I would be delighted to jump into that hole with my good friend Gideon Lev. Provided there was any room.

Now that we have spoken about Shirley Morganstein, Aryeh Ron and Gideon Lev, there is only one more Star of David to account for. That missing Star of David is Jacob Haberfeld who is remembered by me as one of my best friends ever.

I’m guessing but it appeared to me that Jake may have been my senior by eight to ten years. He started life in Warsaw, Poland and seemed to have developed a keen interest in the Zionist movement among Europe’s Jews. So in 1936 or 1937 he pulled up his stakes in Poland and cast his lot with the Zionists in Palestine. Jake never talked about himself but from his friends, I gather that he played a prominent role in establishing Israel as the Jewish homeland.

As one approaches Jerusalem from the west and southwest, the roads run uphill. On either side of the road are dozens of tanks, all destroyed. The tanks were used by the Muslim defenders of Jerusalem in 1948 and in subsequent years.

Each one had to have been destroyed by Israeli infantrymen. The old tanks are still parked along the sides of the highway as reminders of the price that Israel paid for its existence. Independent observers have told me that Jake Haberfeld had much to do with the establishment of the State of Israel. I never heard about that from Jake. He always took the view that we’ve got enough to deal with in the here and now without retrieving past history.

I had formal and informal dealings with Jake for more than eleven years. There were occasions when he was required to reply negatively to an AT&T proposal. When he finished his explanation for declining our proposal, I would often say that old Jake was right again. He was never belligerent because logic was often on his side. He was a very skilled defender of Israeli interests. When I encountered a refusal from Jake, which happened rarely, I was never offended. Jake’s explanations always made sense.

Late in the 1970’s, Israel and Italy reached an agreement to build a cable between a location in Italy named Palo and Tel Aviv which came to be known as the Tel-Pal Cable. Not long after the inauguration of that cable, the Italian administration was taken over for a time by very unreasonable people. The people that we had dealt with for years were thrown out. The Israelis felt that the newcomers were deliberately excluding them, and they were right. AT&T had a lot more clout with the Italians than the Israelis did. On several occasions we used our influence with the Italians to extract information that was helpful or vital to the Israelis. One of those occasions occurred when I was late in arriving from Rome to Jerusalem. I have earlier recounted that episode when Gideon Lev held the dining room open on a Friday afternoon, the start of the weekend, to serve us.

In a different conversation with Jake some months later, again at the King David Hotel together with Mrs. Haberfeld, Jake seemed puzzled by my description of what had recently occurred in Rome. Finally, Jake turned to his wife and the discussion that ensued had to do with the new Italian director having a Jewish name. Both agreed that the Italian I had questioned was a Jew. All ethnic considerations aside, I told the Haberfelds that the Italian in question was crude, bombastic and wanted to take revenge upon everyone who had worked with the Italian administration prior to his arrival. That included me. Unfortunately, I have long since forgotten that man’s name but in any case, Jake and Sarah Haberfeld said he was a Jew in an Italian suit. I took their word for it.

On another occasion, John Wieters, the Israeli country manager and I were in Jerusalem. As we were taking our leave from Jake and his staff, Jake said privately to me, that we should save room for some desert after our evening meal because he wanted me to come to his apartment. He said also that I should bring John Wieters with me.

As I’ve said many times over, the food in Jerusalem leaves much to be desired so it was no trouble for John and me to skip desert. Now we come to a slight difference in the way things are done in Israel as opposed to Europe, for example. Most telephone administrations in Europe maintain fairly large motor pools. There would be well dressed chauffeurs to drive you to your destination. Chauffeurs and waiters are accorded professional status in Europe, a quite different distinction from this country. But the Israelis have no motor pool and no chauffeurs – and they get along quite well.

Before Jake picked us up, John Wieters had managed to get some flowers for Sarah Haberfeld. At the appointed hour, Jake drove up in his car at the King David Hotel and we started to his home. His car was not a new one but it got the job done. When we arrived at Jake’s apartment I was happy that I had elected, at the last minute, to wear a sweater under my jacket. The reason was that it was a cool night and Jake’s apartment was unheated. I suppose most of the apartments of that time were also unheated so the Israelis simply put on more sweaters.

The evening passed very pleasantly with the Haberfelds telling us about how Israel was doing. They told us a little about how they had come to abandon Poland and set out for Palestine. Jake drove us back to our hotel. When we were alone, John said that he had looked back at the history of the dealings with the Israeli administration and that our visit to the Haberfelds home had never happened before. I was flattered.

On another occasion, I was accompanied by Howard Davis, the account executive of N. W. Ayer Agency who did our advertising. Jake came to Tel Aviv to meet us. Howard is the son of a circuit riding Methodist preacher in Missouri. I’m not sure that Jake was aware of Howard’s relation to the hierarchy of the Methodist Church, but he took us to a restaurant that offered seafood, which is sort of a rarity in Israel. Not only did they offer seafood, but the main item featured on the menu was St. Peter’s fish, which comes, if my memory is half way right, from the Sea of Galilee. According to Christian tradition, Jesus Christ caught St. Peter’s fish in that sea. In latter days that fish is called tilapia. Now having said all that, I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish. But Howard said the fish was delicious. I agreed.

When I retired on September 1, 1984 I was awakened at about 7AM by a call from Jake to wish me a happy first day of retirement. This was in addition to a note he had written. I was very touched by his wishes for a happy retirement.

As the 1980’s turned into the 1990’s, Jake continued to work as an advisor to the Israeli submarine cable company. I’m not sure that the Israeli administration has a pension plan so people work well into what would normally be retirement years. One day, probably in 1995, I heard from a round about way, that Jake had died. I called Jerusalem for details but didn’t seem to get anywhere. Perhaps a month after Jake’s death, I got a call from Yitzhak Haberfeld, Jake’s son, who was studying for an advanced degree at the University of Wisconsin. Sarah Haberfeld had unfortunately been debilitated by Alzheimers Disease. Rather than institutionalize her, Jake tried to take care of her himself. I suppose it was more than Jake could handle. He died of a heart attack. Speaking to Yitzhak was a lot like speaking to Jake. I was delighted to receive that call.

It would be possible to go on even further about things big and small about Jake Haberfeld. I think it is fair to say that I admired him greatly and I am proud to say that he was one of my best friends ever.

I am glad that I finally got around to writing about the Four Stars of David. The three men in Jerusalem became very close friends. I learned a lot from all of the Stars of David.

This is a particularly poignant time in the history of Israel. History can’t be changed now but I greatly wish that Yitzak Rabin was the Premier instead of Ariel Sharon. And I wish that the George W. Bush administration had not let things progress to the perilous point at which we find them today. And indeed I wish that Dennis Ross would be restored to guide the United States interests instead of war hawks who now surround the U. S. presidency. If nothing else makes sense, Sharon’s statement of yesterday puts things in crystal clear perspective. Sharon said Israel would have to take leave of the position of the United States having to do with the Middle East. Sharon said that the U. S. is interested only in its projected war with Iraq whereas Israel is interested in dealing with the Palestinian issue. Bush has the facts exactly backwards. I don’t admire Sharon, but that statement makes it clear that Israel comes in second best after Iraq with the Bush presidency. Unfortunately, the American people will have to pay for this most unfortunate mistake.



I am not a Jew although I hope you have seen where my strong sentiments lie. My ancestors fled the Great Hunger in Ireland in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Some people refer to that period as the Potato Famine. It was more than just potatoes; it involved hunger by a large part of the Irish population. My parents never met a Jew before they came to St. Louis shortly after the 20th century began. Growing up, I had no preconceptions or prejudices about the Jewish faith. I’m very glad about that because it saved me a lot of wasted time disliking or hating the Jewish people. My mother had two overwhelming dislikes. The first was the German Army because they had gassed two of her brothers in the First World War. The second was the English. A lot of the resentment against the British came directly from the Great Hunger in Ireland.

But I had a shot at becoming a Jew. When I enlisted in the United States Army in the summer of 1942, each soldier was issued dog tags which became useful when a body had to be identified. The tags were worn around the neck, hence the name dog tags, and had to be worn at all times. If the owner of the dog tags died, one of the tags was attached to his coffin. Some bodies, such as in the Air Force, were never recovered so the tags more or less went to waste.

As part of the enlistment process, we were asked by the soldier who was in charge of making the indentation on the tags what our religious preferences might be. The Army offered three designations: P for Protestant; RC for Roman Catholic; and J for Jew. I told that soldier who was charged with making the dog tags that I was not identified with any of the choices he had offered. I more or less suggested “None of the above” for my dog tags. The maker of the dog tags was a big man and he was a Buck Sergeant. He looked at his imprint device and the next letter was “P.” He informed me, “Soldier, you are a Protestant.” And so I missed my opportunity to claim Jewish identity. That’s what happens when you are a slow thinker.

Now a final-final thought about the crisis that has struck the Israeli-Palestinian situation this week of Passover and of Easter. I am largely convinced that all the bloodshed might have been avoided had Sharon not pushed Israeli settlements into Gaza and the West Bank. There are now some 250,000 to 300,000 Israeli inhabitants in settlements in Palestinian Territory. Those settlements rub salt in the wounds of the Palestinians. It tells them they are impotent and are not to be regarded as full human beings. Sharon’s people say God gave all of Palestine to the Jews. I don’t buy that. If God or Allah or whatever gave the land to the Jews, I am sure he would have chased the Palestinians into the sea, even though they have lived on that land for 2000 years. Of course, that did not happen.

But I despair of making headway for my thoughts. I am sobered by the thought that my belief is in non-belief. Neither fish nor fowl. So I suppose my views probably count for nothing. Maybe next year, but not now.

After all these years, it never dawned on me to point out to Jacob, Aryeh and Gideon that my first given name is a Hebrew one. Ezra has a full book in what Christians call the Old Testament. It can be found between II Chronicles and Nehemiah. The fact that I failed to point this out to my friends in Jerusalem simply confirms that I must be a mighty slow thinker.

March 28, 2002


After I wrote the Four Stars of David essay, three thoughts about Jake Haberfeld occurred to me, which I would now like to add to the record.

In the essay, I labeled the section having to do with Jake as “Gentleman Jake Haberfeld.” He was all of that. On one occasion in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, I was joined by a woman who was a Director in the AT&T Long Lines Advertising Department. I was simply trying to educate the advertisers about Israel. When the time came for lunch, Jake gently inquired of the woman, “Would you like to go to that certain place?” She barely knew what to say to this very polite request. In the first place, the female in question was on her third husband. She had been around the block more than once. Secondly, in the United States, someone would have said the John is down this hallway – find it yourself. Ah, but Jake was all gentleman with his inquiry about that “certain place.”

Before all the troubles started in Israel, we met Jake for another meeting in the early 1980’s. In opening the meeting for the U. S. side, I jokingly said to Jake that it would be fine with us if Israel took over in Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai, Syria and Lebanon so long as Miami Beach would be returned to American hands. I am assuming that everyone knows that Miami Beach is populated primarily by Jewish residents. Jake immediately replied, “That’s one of the problems with the Americans. They always want a package deal.” I was laughing so hard that it was impossible for me to respond. Touché Jake.

At another meeting with just Jake and myself, Jake presented me with a small oil lamp. Before candles and electricity came along, the ancient people in the Middle East used oil lamps. The oil lamp he gave me had been used in Palestine in ancient times. It came with a certificate of antiquity from the Israel government. Jake insisted that his gift was nothing, really. That oil lamp was as far from nothing – as Jake said it was – as it could be. It is a treasure and for the past 25 years, it has had an honored place in this house on the mantel in the living room. Nothing indeed – my foot.

These three foregoing thoughts came to me a day or two after I finished the Stars of David essay. I thought it would be well to add them to give the reader a fuller picture of Jake Haberfeld. He was some kind of guy.



The phrase “whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs” threw me for a loop, because “Paris Hilton” generally refers to a person instead of a place.  I was briefly forced to consider what egg garnish the celebutante would favor so strongly that Pop would refer to it while reminiscing about old friends.

“I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish” made me smile. I hadn’t heard about any of this before, so now I suppose this particular piscine knowledge has now been transferred. Thanks, Pop.

All the talk about “I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis” and similar statements sounds so spy-like to me. I know they’re probably not, and that the information was probably just related to telephony, but I guess there’s not really a way to be sure. I wish he had gone into it more! I regret not asking him if he had more contact with the FBI than he brought up in his essays.


I suppose it would be well to write this essay in a bit of a hurry. The reason has to do with the grim reaper mowing down people who served in the military services in World War II.

Two years ago, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs reported that World War II veterans were dying at the rate of 1500 per day. Yesterday, November 18, 2002, the same source reported that currently the rate of deaths among World War II veterans has now reached the 1800 per day mark. That is a very rapid increase. If I fail to finish this little essay, all readers may assume that I am being fitted for angel wings and a size XXX white toga and large sandals suitable for flying.

Harry Livermore observed my mathematical abilities from 1952 until 1955 and he seemed to conclude that I did not have any such ability. Now that I have had an opportunity from November, 1945 until November, 2002 to think about this problem of mathematics, it is concluded that I spent 39 months (three years and three months) in the service of the United States Army Air Force. The Army claimed that 28 of those months were spent overseas. The other 11 months were spent in being trained in Florida and New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, in a furlough after the Japanese were defeated, and finally, in getting out of the Army.

In the essay “They Never Betrayed Me,” I recounted my experience on detached service with the 12th U. S. Army Air Force which lasted somewhere around 12 months. This essay is to relate my experience as an Aerial Engineer in the Air Transport Command in Africa with trips to India and other places, which accounts for the remaining 16 months of overseas service. I have used the extensive graduate services of the Mathematics and Calculus Departments of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to compute these mathematical totals, just to make certain that they meet with Mr. Livermore’s approval.

As I write these lines in November, 2002, the talk of war against Iraq and the ill defined war on terror has intruded on our thoughts. After my recent essay on war in Italy (September 1, 2002), I had planned to deal with other subjects in forthcoming essays. But the current talk about war has brought back some thoughts about December 7, 1941 and the World War II years. In one series of thoughts, I have tried to recall the loneliest places that any soldier ought to be asked to inhabit. I can think of at least five such places in my own experience, but more about that later.

When war came to the United States on December 7, 1941, most of us were enjoying a Sunday, a traditional day off. At that time I had recently turned 19 years of age and I needed to work to pay off a loan on my 1937 Chevrolet, to pay board, and to keep the car running and to support my romantic endeavors.

Since September of 1941, I had been employed by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in its Midwestern headquarters at 1010 Pine Street in St. Louis. At the beginning, the pay was $17 per week. Saturday work at AT&T was largely unheard of in 1941 as we were slowly emerging from the Great Depression. So I found a job in Harold Bauer’s Standard Oil filling station to occupy my weekends. Harold’s station was in a ritzy section of Clayton, Missouri at the corner of Hanley Road and Wydown Avenue.

Harold’s customers brought him many Cadillacs, Lincolns and LaSalles to work on. Every time one of the customer’s cars was to be moved, it was required that a seat cover on the upholstery be in place to keep it clean. On many occasions, the designated driver of customer cars was Dick (last name unknown now) because he stayed away from the grease rack and therefore, had little chance of depositing grease spots on customer’s upholstery.

On Saturdays, I worked a ten hour day, mostly on the grease rack lubricating chassis and greasing front wheel bearings which had to be done every 3000 miles in those days. This was dirty work which made me ineligible to drive customer cars. On the other hand, if a grease spot were found in a customer’s Cadillac, I could claim complete innocence.

On Sundays, I came to work at 8AM and left at about 1PM. The pay was not so great, but in that era, work was to be taken wherever it showed up. On top of that, Harold Bauer was a good man to work for. For all the years I knew him, he enjoyed a reputation for complete honesty and decency.

On December 7, 1941 after I had finished for the day, I went across Hanley Road to a drugstore for a sandwich. Then it was to North St. Louis to see a Polish girlfriend (Louella Tomeczek) and to join with her sister and my friend, Harley Wantz, for a walk. All four of us were standing under a large outdoor billboard sign advertising fresh fish. An excited man came along and said that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. That was the first we knew of it.

All of us knew that we had been in intensive negotiations with the Japanese. The American Secretary of State Cordell Hull, had thought that the crisis was probably below the boiling point. Communications in that era were much slower than today. Somehow, the Japanese had kept its large armada hidden for the long trip across the Pacific. We did not know the full extent of our losses at Pearl Harbor for a few days. But in any case, people of my age knew that life for us from this day forward would be changed dramatically. At 19 years of age with no dependents, I was fodder for the American Army.

There was at this time a group of three nations calling themselves the “Axis Powers.” Germany, with Hitler was the Axis Powers’ guiding light. He dominated Italy with Benito Mussolini. The third member was, of course, the Japanese with Hideki Tojo as its Prime Minister. So shortly after December 7, 1941, the Allied Powers consisting primarily of members of the British Commonwealth and the United States and others, were forced to fight a two front war in Europe and in the Pacific.

And then there was the German thrust into Russia known then as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This also figures in our story, specifically as it relates to Basra, Iraq where Russian troops came to pick up American weapons – particularly the Douglas A-20 Attack Bombers and C-47 Cargo Carriers. Basra is back on the news today. The Russians loved the A-20 because it was a tough airplane. The Soviets liked to catch German air troop carriers, and to use the A-20 propellers to chop the Nazi planes until they were unflyable.

In getting supplies to our Allies and to our troops, we were very fortunate to have had the British Empire with its far flung holdings in Africa and India. We were also fortunate to count among our assets, Pan American World Airways. Pan Am had pioneered routes in South and Central America as well as in Africa and in the Orient. United States forces quickly moved to capitalize on those assets.

The first objective of U. S. forces was to support Allied efforts in North Africa and in Europe. Further down the line was the effort to confront the Japanese. It goes without saying that getting war equipment from the United States to Great Britain was greatly impeded by bad weather across the North Atlantic and by the presence of German submarines. So the U. S. forces, in the early years of the war, ordinarily elected to take the long way around through Central and South American, to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic and then to Africa. At Accra, Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) one route led north to the North African and European fighting and the other led eastward through Yemen to Assam in India and then on over “The Hump” to American and British forces battling the Japanese starting at Kunming, China.

In the final analysis, this is the story of the Air Transport Command of the United States Army. It also involves the Air Ferry Command, which along with the Air Transport Command was headed by a four star general, H. H. “Hap” Arnold. This essay intends to give the reader an idea of the places that were used in an effort to supply troops and airplanes in the war against the Axis Powers. And as promised, it will deal with some of the loneliest places in the world to station troops.

This may sound like a travelogue, but in the last 15 or 16 months I spent overseas, it turned out that I had an opportunity to visit nearly all the African and Indian bases of the Air Transport Command, all the way from Miami to Assam, India. It was a lot of flying, but after 58 years or more, it makes for a few memories, some pleasant and some not so pleasant.

I have no familiarity with what was done in the Pacific Theater. I am assuming that Hawaii became our jumping off point in that theater, but the war ended before I ever got there, so this is an account primarily about the Atlantic operations.

I have no idea of how long the road from the U. S. to Kunming, China might be. I suspect it is several thousand miles. But it had to start someplace and that someplace was Miami, Florida. During the war, Miami was an around-the-clock operation. Once supplies were assembled in Miami, they were put aboard the work horses of the American Air Force, the C-47’s or as it was known in civilian days, the DC-3’s. The “D” stood for the Douglas Aircraft Company. The “C” in both cases stood for “cargo.” These were twin engine aircraft with a top speed of 230 miles per hour. It carried a load of 13,000 pounds and its service ceiling was 24,000 feet. Its range was 1350 miles. The C-47’s often had interior gas tanks in the cabin which tended to limit their hauling capacity but which greatly increased their range.

Helping out was another Douglas aircraft called the C-54 which was a four engine plane. It came along later than the C-47. The C-54 carried almost 30,000 pounds and had a maximum speed of 275 miles per hour. The service ceiling was 22,500 feet and it had a maximum range of 3900 miles. It was a clearly superior aircraft to the C47, but it was late arriving on the scene because it had not been produced before the war. Finally, the C-47 could get into small fields where the C-54 could not operate. This makes me sound like a cheer leader for the old C-47 – which I was and which I am today.

Also, in regular service across the Atlantic was the Consolidated C-87 which was the B-24 bomber converted to a cargo carrier. It wasn’t much of a cargo carrier, but it had a range of 2100 miles and a top speed of 300 miles per hour. It was used largely for trips between Miami and Accra and Dakar, Senegal and sometimes to Roberts Field near Monrovia, Liberia.

On the eastern side of the Atlantic, the primary landing was at Accra, Ghana which was the Gold Coast when I was there. If a cargo was headed for the North African or European theater, pilots occasionally would use Dakar, Senegal as their entrance to Africa. If Accra was out of commission, pilots would also use Roberts Field in Liberia.

Leaving Miami, the first stop on the long trip was Borinquin Field in Puerto Rico. My atlas tells me that this old regular Army base was located near the town of San Antonio. In recent years, the base has been renamed. It is now the Ramey Air Force Base.

The first time I ever saw Borinquin Field, was on my way back to the States aboard the oldest C-47 in the European Theater. The plane was to be taken to San Bernardino, California to be refurbished for a war bond drive. The flight had originated in Italy. I had been overseas for nearly 22 months and was the Aerial Engineer on the flight back to the U. S. This was my first look at a regular Army pre-war air base. It came as a very large surprise that the hangar floors were waxed. In wartime, that could never happen, but in this pre-war air base, we found out that the floors were waxed to provide a better dancing surface for parties! The radio operator and I came close to falling over when we received this news.

I went through Borinquin two more times going to and from Africa. The floors stayed waxed and this old time Army base operated something like clockwork. Now let us start at Borinquin and work our way south and east on our way to Africa and other eastern points.


The first stop in South America is Georgetown in what used to be called British Guiana. In recent years, the name of the country has been changed to Guyana. When I was flying, we had three Guiana’s reading from left to right, British Guiana, Dutch Guiana and French Guiana. Today we have, in the same order, Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana.

The base at Georgetown, as I recall it, was fairly close to the town. It had been hacked right out of the jungle. As in all tropical locations, it was mandatory that Americans and Europeans sleep under a mosquito netting in an effort to avoid being bitten by Anophelese mosquitoes which carry malaria. I had two bouts with malaria in Africa and I knew that it could often disable a man for months with high fever. The only treatment was quinine which caused an enormous loss of balance and dizziness.

The cure was almost as bad as malaria. On one occasion in Africa when I was laid up with malaria, I attempted to go from my bed to the john. If I had been dead drunk it would have been better for me because, for example, I could not negotiate an 8’ – 10” archway. The sides of the archway kept getting in the way. Negotiating the door to the john was equally frustrating. Now you may say why not use a bed pan. Forget it. The U. S. Army did not believe in them. According to the commanders in the Medical Corps, a good soldier ought to walk to the john. That’s fine with me provided the walls of the ward and the hallway and of the john would not move around.

So, I was a firm believer in mosquito nets. But in Georgetown, there were one or two drawbacks to the use of mosquito nets. Its name – or their name – was lizards. During the night, lizards would come out to play. I suppose some of them stayed in the barracks all day long only to come out after dark.

Lizards were generally considered harmless by the natives. I went through Georgetown three times. I never completely bought that “harmless” story. In the Army, we did not have house shoes that one might use for padding around the house. We went barefoot or we would put our feet in our unlaced work shoes. Unfortunately, the lizards liked to hide in everyone’s shoes so the first rule is to bang your shoes upside down before inserting the feet. There isn’t enough room for a person’s foot and a lizard in a GI shoe, so bang the shoe on the ground before putting it on.

Now the lizards had one other trick. They would hide in the rafters or on the walls and late at night, they would leap on the mosquito netting. Of course, the man in the bed would be awakened with a start when a full grown lizard would land on the netting. I suppose lizards may grow to perhaps one or two pounds, but netting is a fragile product aimed at letting air flow through. It isn’t meant to be lizard proof, but for the past 58 years, I have always recalled the famous Georgetown, Guyana, British Guiana lizards. And all things considered, I am in no hurry to go back to good old Georgetown.

The route from Borinquin Field in Puerto Rico to Georgetown, British Guiana was over open water. In those days, you made it or you did not. There were no rescue vessels standing by. From Georgetown, ideally the next stop would be at Natal, Brazil. This was a hazardous journey of almost 1500 miles over dense jungle. If a plane lost power, the jungle would literally swallow the aircraft and it would be almost impossible to locate the wreckage.

If a pilot thought it was improvident to make the Georgetown to Natal flight, he could stop over at Belem, Brazil which is about halfway. Or he might wish to use Forteleza which is about 350 miles above Natal.

Brazil is a BIG country. During the war years, its president was Guitillio Vargas who was sort of a benign dictator. United States troops were welcomed by the Brazilians. Obviously, we brought U. S. dollars which the Brazilians needed and wanted, but on the other hand, Brazilians are a warm people. I liked them.

Almost everyone passing through Natal or Belem bought boots. In malaria ridden countries, they replaced leggings which were often required after sundown. Aside from that, boots from Natal and Belem were easy on the feet and lasted a long time.

Now while I am high on boots, the reports on the Brazilian nylon stockings which GI’s sent home to their wives and girlfriends were unimpressive. The women reported that Brazilian nylons lasted only one or two wearings. The other commodity sold in Natal and Belem was perfume. Reports from the women in the U. S. were not encouraging. So I stayed with the boots.

Natal sticks out further toward Africa than any other location in the South Atlantic. Flying from Natal, the next stop eastward was Ascension Island, one of the loneliest places in this world. Ascension belonged to the British. I believe they used it in colonial days to exile prisoners, particularly political prisoners. It was a lonely, lonely spot but the weather was usually mild and often warm. Many times an overcast settled over the island.

Ascension is a tiny spot in the South Atlantic. At most, the island is about three to five miles long and about one mile in width. In the middle of the island was a rather large volcano. The landing field had to be drilled and dynamited out of this inhospitable place. I don’t believe it is an exaggeration to say that when a plane landed on this one way strip, it had no more than six to eight feet on either side of the wing tips. Absolutely no room for error.

This involved some precise navigation to find Ascension. While crews were absorbed in finding the island, German submarines would, from time to time, surface and send radio signals that would lead our crews wide of the path to Ascension. Unfortunately, room for navigational error was extremely limited, so if you missed Ascension, you wound up in the South Atlantic Ocean. The Army had a little couplet about this situation.

It went: “When you miss Ascension – Your wife will get your pension.” Two or three things were wrong with that couplet. Most of us were unmarried in the 1942-1945 period and there was no such thing as an Army pension, unless the soldier had served 20 years. If one of us were lost at Ascension or anywhere else, I assume that the Army insurance would pay off to the wife or parents. The maximum coverage was $10,000 for which a hefty premium was charged. I carried $3,000 or $4,000 for awhile, but the premium was such that in my later months in the Army, I dropped it all together. It was term insurance and it was very difficult or impossible to convert to long term coverage, so I cancelled it. No payoff for my wife which I did not have at that time either.

Everything at Ascension had to be flown in or brought in by an occasional freighter. There was a large amount of volcanic ash on the island. The men stationed on Ascension tried to grow vegetables hydroponically. It was a noble experiment, but the radishes and green onions I ate were largely tasteless.

Those men on Ascension as well as the transients passing through, ate every type of food that could be reconstituted in the war years. Perhaps it satisfied the need for food in the body, but I’m here to tell you, that in my three trips to Ascension, the food was basically tasteless. And the Army did not seem to care. Their attitude was that no one was shooting at soldiers on Ascension, so quit griping and be happy. For myself, I was happy every time our plane took off from that little island.

One last thought. On one trip through Ascension, I met a mechanic who came to our plane. He told me that his first tour overseas was in the Aleutian Islands, a remote treeless spot with no one around but Eskimos. So he put in at the end of his tour there for a transfer. His new assignment was Ascension Island. Talk about being snake bit. That fellow had snake bites all over his unlucky body.

Leaving Ascension and heading east north eastward, we next come to Accra. It is in Ghana now, but when I was there, the country was called the Gold Coast. There may have been gold there at one time, but by the time I showed up in 1944, it was the stuff of old time story tellers.

Ninety to ninety-five percent of the flights heading eastward or northward came from Ascension to Accra. In a 1980 Atlas, it is stated that Accra had 340,000 residents. It is the capital of Ghana. Accra is populated primarily by blacks with an overlay of British colonialism. When I was there, there were only a few hotels and eating establishments that were by common consent, white only. The Church of England had a pretty good representation in Accra bringing salvation to the natives. The natives were basically wed to ancient tribal rituals and did not warmly welcome Christianity which they identified with white people. The last 16 months of my overseas service, were spent headquartered in Accra and working out of the airport there.

Accra was a British military base which we shared. This is one of the many bases and routes that Pan American World Airways established. On days off, of which there weren’t many, I would try to go to a small restaurant run by English people who seemed to have a tie to the YMCA. I never saw any natives there, so I assume it catered to whites only. It may have had a religious component to it, but that did not interest me at all. I went to this out-of-the way place because they had eggs served over easy or sunny side up. Accompanying the eggs were British baked beans and toast and tea. For me, my dining at this obscure restaurant outside Accra was nothing less than a banquet. I suppose being in the Army and eating the cooking of British and American cooks could do that to a man. Here I am in 2002 some 58 years removed from that little place in Accra that served eggs, and I can still taste how good they were. But, in fact, I always liked eggs.

As a town, Accra was pretty much the same as any other African city. Walking through the city was a bit of an exercise because of the swarming crowds. All things considered, the local people were friendly. For reasons unknown at this late date, American soldiers were often referred to as “Joe” by the natives. By the same token, we would usually refer to an unknown native as “Joe.” There was no animosity in the greetings of “Joe” on either side. On the other hand, British troops were angered by being called “Joe”. They would say to the native that while you may not know my name, at least you can call me Lance Corporal, Corporal or Sergeant. For all the years that Great Britain had dominion over the Gold Coast and many other countries, they always asked for formality in their dealings with the natives. Even if I am forced to say so myself, the natives seemed to respond better to the informalities of the American troops.

The Army food at Accra was unadventurous, which is to say it was not so good; hence my trips on my days off to eat eggs at what seemed like a YMCA. We slept in bunks with one on top of the other. All the furniture as well as the shutters were made from mahogany. I believe my barracks was called “G-17.” I have no idea why I remember that after all these years. I am guessing now at this late date, but I believe there may have been 18 to 20 double header bunks in our end of the barracks, meaning that up to 40 men slept there. The other end of G17 was home to perhaps 40 other American troops. Mosquito netting was required. After sundown, soldiers covered every part of their bodies with boots, leggings and long sleeve shirts to foil the mosquitoes.

Every barracks had a houseboy, a carryover from the British Army traditions. The houseboy in our end of Barracks G17 was Mobo. He spoke English well enough so that he could carry on a limited conversation with the American troops who called the G17 barracks their home. The currency at that time was denominated in Gold Coast pounds which, or course, were based on the British currency system. Each week every person in the barracks would give Mobo a shilling or two shillings for his services. I think at this late date, that two shillings came to about 50 cents. For Mobo, this was a good living and he fiercely protected his job.

For a short time, I was the Line Chief on the Accra Airport midnight shift. Every morning, as many as 40 to 60 planes would leave Accra on their way to deliver supplies to the fighting in North Africa, Europe or the Chinese theater. My job was to run the engines on these planes up, make sure they were able to fly and taxi them from the work area to the departing terminal. At the terminal, I was responsible for inspecting the planes to see that they were in flying condition. By 8AM when my tour ended, I would then go to the transient mess hall where it was believed that breakfasts were better than at the regular mess halls. I’m not so sure that was the case. Maybe it was an illusion, but 8:30AM usually found me at the transient mess hall.

When I returned to G17, old Mobo would have my bed ready for me and he would have made up the beds around my own and would have done his sweeping to avoid bothering me as it was pretty tough to sleep during daylight hours. I always made sure Mobo was taken care of financially for the thoughtful service he gave me. I suppose when the Americans left the Gold Coast–Ghana after hostilities ceased, Mobo was probably a much lonelier man. His service in G17 made him an envied wage earner among his compatriots. Mobo was a good man.

One more thought about G17 barracks. The 40 men in our end of that barracks were matched by a similar number in the other end. They had a houseboy just like we had Mobo. Where we met was in the bathroom which was located between the two wings. The water there was generally unheated which made it a little tough for shaving. No one expected warm showers so there were no heart breaks there.

There were probably 8 to 10 commodes in concrete cubicles without doors. The Brits built the barracks for use by American troops and they built it to their specifications. As far as I can remember, when I was lodged on British Army or Air Force bases, there were no doors on the part of the bathrooms where the commodes were placed. I have no idea what the Brits have against doors for commodes, but it seems to me this would have been a superior reason for fighting the Revolutionary War as distinguished from the Tea Tax that George III tried to impose.

In any case, high etiquette demanded that newspapers from home be left in the commode section of what the Brits call the “Loo.” Newspapers were never delivered by air. Once perhaps every month, a boat would pull into Takoradi, which served as Accra’s harbor, and unload cargo from the States including newspapers. It was considered a very rude offense for a recipient of a newspaper not to pass it along to fellow soldiers. This was accomplished by leaving it on the floor outside or near the door-less commodes.

There was one fellow from Iowa named Merle Yocum. His wife back in Iowa was named Elmira. She sent the country papers to Merle which we all enjoyed. These were rural papers full of news about pigs and cattle and farmers. There were stories, for example, that Joe Jones had a cow who was carrying a calf. There were also stories about pigs being bred. Whenever a new shipment of newspapers from rural Iowa arrived, many of us would be all over Merle Yocum to know if Joe Jones’ cow had delivered or if he had a new litter of pigs. Iowa wasn’t my home, of course, but I enjoyed those papers – as well as papers from other parts of the country – a great deal. They sort of kept us in touch with what our fellow Americans were doing and even though I never saw a paper from my hometown, they seemed to make us feel better. So remember, always leave the newspaper in the john; some other lonely soldier may want to see it.

We will take our leave of Accra and head northward up the west coast of Africa. The first stop is Roberts Field outside the capital city of Monrovia in Liberia. Liberia, as most everyone knows, was founded by former slaves in the United States after President Lincoln declared emancipation. The Liberians use the dollar as their currency and English is widely spoken.

Roberts Field is where airplanes would land if Accra were fogged in, for example. As I recall it, the United States installation at Roberts Field did not have a mess hall as such. Food was served out of doors, as far as I can remember. Picnic tables were placed outdoors under thatched roofs in the dining area. I went through there twice and we always ate outdoors under the thatched roofs. I suspect that there must have been a more permanent dining hall, but I never saw it.

Monrovia, when I was there, seemed like a fairly gentle place. Since that time however, Liberia has fallen on hard times and a brutal internal war seems to be the fate of Liberians for the last several years.

Continuing north, the next major base is Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. Dakar was the main seaport of Western Africa during the fighting in North Africa. When I went over by ship in January, 1943, I landed in Dakar. When we came ashore, many people were waiting for us to ask where we had left from and where we were going after we left Dakar. It is fairly obvious that the questioners had a considerable number of spies in their midst. In later years when I went back to Dakar on telephone company business, the accommodations and the food were well done, particularly the lobsters that were served at lunch. I liked Dakar in 1943 in spite of the presence of spies everywhere around the docks. And even now – 18 to 20 years later after my last AT&T visit, I still recall the grilled lobsters offered for lunch. Our hosts were always Muslims so no wine was served, but the meals there were very good. Remember, that was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s which is a long cry from being there in war time in 1943.

The base for Americans was 25 miles away from Dakar in the interior. It was called Rufisque and it had nothing but red, red clay all around. Not long after I showed up, some other soldiers were getting up a football game. The captain of the team was a fellow who owned a football which I supposed he had brought from the States. It was a tackle game and naturally, there were no pads or other football paraphernalia.

I wandered in late and found that the owner of the football had designated himself quarterback. His friends populated the backfield and the two end positions. The only spot for me was in the line. As it turned out, there was a tremendous mismatch. My opponent was Dean Coddington who had played for the Chicago Bears as a 255 pound tackle. I had no previous football experience and weighed in at about 155 pounds.

You may recall my saying that Rufisque was in red clay country. Furthermore, in this game – as it was in the 1940’s – players played both ways, on offense as well as defense. When I lined up against Coddington, he proceeded to rub my face in that red clay. I suppose the game went on for an hour or so, by which time I had had my fill of Coddington, of red clay and of football. When the call came for me to join the 12th U. S. Air Force in combat, I was ready to leave Rufisque, Senegal. Right now!

Now on our tour of Africa, we come to perhaps two of the loneliest spots anywhere on this planet. From Dakar flying north and northeast, we come to Atar, Mauritania. And then after a few more hours of flying time, we arrive in the absolute westernmost place in Algeria called Tindouf. Atar and Tindouf qualify as two of the most miserable places on this earth. They, of course, are in the Sahara Desert. The wind blows there constantly, carrying with it dust and sand particles. These particles get in your ears, in your hair, in your nose, and in your mouths and even in your eyes. Folks, I’m here to tell you that the wind in Atar and Tindouf is completely miserable.

In the mess halls, such as they were, the wind blown dust got into the food. At night when people were trying to sleep, they’d wake up to find a crust around their mouths and noses. The wind never let up. The latrines were built outdoors, obviously without running water. One lesson that had to be learned when you first went to these two places was NEVER to stand on the downwind side of another soldier. Never, never.

I went through these two places on two occasions. It was my misfortune to spend a night in Atar and then in Tindouf. Lonely, lonely, lonely. But there are two more in Sudan just like them. We’ll get to them in a little while.

Flying north northwestward out of Tindouf, we come to Marrakech in central Morocco. Marrakech is in the mountains and it should be a beautiful city. Winston Churchill used to come here in Winter and Spring to escape London’s chills. I was in Marrakech on three occasions. On two of those visits, I went into the city for dinner. We should have stayed at the Army base. Americans were in bad repute from earlier in the war when we helped overthrow Admiral Darlan, the Nazi puppet who headed the French government after Germany’s victory over France. In any case, the two restaurants made it clear that they were doing us a big favor by serving us. Such a shame in such a good looking city like Marrakech.

If one wished to head to the North African campaign, Marrakech could be skipped. Flying north northeastward out of Tindouf, our next stop was at the edge of the Great Western ERG. This is not going to be helpful, but an erg is a Greek word meaning work. So you see, in English, we were at the Great Western Work. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

The name of the town that we used as an airbase was Colum Bechar in Algeria. In recent maps it is called simply Bechar. It is on the edge of the desert near Morocco and is distinguished mainly by one thing – oranges. Big oranges with thick skins and absolutely delicious. They were better than any oranges I had ever tasted. And they were easy to peel.

Flying eastward from Bechar, the next stop was Tripoli in Libya. Early in the North African fighting, the British engaged German forces in Libya. Later, with Americans driving from the west and with the British Army driving from the east, the Germans were driven out of Libya. Libya was the crown jewel in Benito Mussolini’s dreams of African Empire. Tripoli was the capital city.

Tripoli is the place for transfer to the war in Europe. German forces gave up at Cape Bon in neighboring Tunisia in the May of 1943. Tripoli served the Air Transport Command as its base for shipments and ferry service of aircraft to the European theater. It is a short hop from Tripoli to the Italian mainland.

A year or so ago in 2001, I found a box with some medals and other things associated with the war. One of those things was my 1942 Zippo lighter. For some reason, that box had a ticket permitting me to enter the mess hall at Tripoli. Actually, that base was in a suburb called Tripolitania. As Army mess halls go, Tripolitania was a bit better than average, but I am now at a loss to remember why soldiers had to have tickets to eat Army food. I gave the tickets and my old Zippo lighter to my grandson Kevin, whom I have designated as the Official Family Historian. He doesn’t smoke and from what I hear, he doesn’t eat Army food.

From Tripoli, the next stop was Benghazi in Eastern Libya. Benghazi was the taking off point for the initial raid on the oil fields at Ploesti, Rumania. The only thing in my mind at this late date is that the air base there was named Wheelus. Cairo, our next stop, had an Army General Hospital named Wheeler. It took me several decades to get these two names fixed in my mind.

Cairo, Egypt was a very important base for both the British and American war efforts. As a result, it had tons of generals and colonels and other military brass. I genuinely liked Cairo mainly because the Egyptians seemed to welcome us. In the latter stages of the war, the Egyptians would come up to us on the street and offer to take us to our destination. Very often, they would stop to see a fellow who sold printings or sand sculptures. In 1980 many years after I left the Army, the guides, as they were called, were still at work leading wealthy Americans to bargains. I was still a sucker and bought some paintings but 20 years later, the paintings are really not so bad.

The Army warned us about eating in Cairo because the food may have been handled by unclean hands. When we could escape the U. S. Army, the meals I had in Cairo were not so bad according to my often faulty memory. But whatever the food contained, it was no match for the warmth the average Egyptian showed toward us.

Leaving Cairo and heading southward in our tour of Central and North Africa we come to the capital city of the Sudan, Khartoum. If the desert wind blew hard at Atar and Tindouf, it blew just as hard in Khartoum. And the wind still carried desert sand and dirt. It got into the food and on our faces when we tried to sleep. Khartoum is an Arab city. It runs to Arab rhythms with prayer coming in at five times a day. Of course, not everyone prays five times, but it is clear that Allah was not being asked to make the American soldiers any more likeable. I was in Khartoum three or four times and went into the city on one occasion. Once was enough for me.

The American soldiers – as well as the British soldiers – seemed to be regarded as infidels. Together with the sand and the bleak landscape, Khartoum was a good place to stay away from. But at least Khartoum had the accoutrements that go with a city of some size. There were British merchants left over from before the war, so some things could be found in town. But bad as Khartoum was, it was at least 100% better than the next two places, also in Sudan, that were the postings of American soldiers.

Leaving Khartoum and flying westward, the first of these desert outposts is reached in western Sudan and it is called El Fasher. New atlases call it Al Fasher, but in my Army days it was always El Fasher. I am not an Arab and so I am constitutionally incapable of saying that “Al” should replace “El,” so it will always be El Fasher in my mind.

If El Fasher was out of commission because of a sand storm or some other atmospheric condition, we were to land at what we called El Genina on the Sudanese border with Chad. If the town still exists, and modern atlases do not show it on the Sudanese map, it is eight or ten miles from the easternmost Chadian town of Adre.

El Fasher, El Genina, Atar and Tindouf together with Ascension Island are to my mind the loneliest places in the world. And the four Arab towns have unfavorable climate conditions. In El Fasher and El Genina, the wind blows constantly carrying dirt and sand. To a large extent, transients through those two wide places in the road often depended on boxed Army rations to avoid the possibility of sand in the mess hall food. I really felt sorry for the men who had to work there and the men who ran the mess halls in those two places.

As you might imagine, the sand and dirt in the air was bad news for aircraft engines. As the Aerial Engineer, I always encouraged pilots to minimize ground warm-ups. At the first opportunity, I put shrouds around the engines to try to keep the sand and dirt out of them.

There is one other distinguishing thought that comes to mind about El Fasher and El Genina. The first time we landed at both places, Army ground personnel such as mechanics came to meet us wearing what we thought were white coveralls and white work clothes called fatigues. In the American Army, fatigues and coveralls were always olive drab. There were no such things as white work clothes. Finally, I asked a mechanic at either El Fasher or El Genina why he wore white work clothes when everyone knows that being an airplane mechanic involves dirty work. The mechanic explained to me that when he first came to this desert spot, his work clothes were indeed olive drab, just like every other mechanic in the American Air Force. However, he said that when the Arab women washed their work clothes and hung them on a line to dry, it was only a matter of time before they took on a gray or even a sort of white appearance in the desert sun. He also explained that the laundry was picked up and delivered by Arab men who took it to their wives. The wives were never seen by the GI’s at El Fasher or El Genina.

So I decided then and there, to stay away from desert spots where it was hard to breathe and where airplane mechanics wore gray or off white work clothes.

We are on the home stretch on our tour of Central and North Africa. Leaving the desert of Sudan and flying westward over Chad, we come to Maiduguri, Nigeria. Maiduguri is basically a Moslem City, but taking one thing with another, it is light years ahead of Khartoum, El Fasher and El Genina. There was a town at Maiduguri with lively commercial transactions. The local people seemed pleased to have us. I suppose part of that may have been the impression that American troops were loose spenders. But in my case, the attitude in Maiduguri was 180 degrees different from the towns in Sudan, another Muslim country. The Sudanese assumed American troops were Christians and that meant problems.

But what set Maiduguri apart and more or less advanced it to the head of African cities was eggs. That’s right – eggs. In the Air Force base at Maiduguri you could ask for eggs in the transient mess and they would be provided on the mess hall line. I went through Maiduguri perhaps three times and that was in late 1944 and 1945. Now, close to 60 years later, I can still recall those fresh eggs which were found no place else in African mess halls run by the U. S. Army. So you see, I am consistent. I liked the eggs in the YMCA room at Accra and I liked the Army eggs at Maiduguri, Nigeria.

There is one more stop before reaching our taking off place in Accra, Ghana. Flying westward, the next stop is Kano, Nigeria. Kano is now the seat of fundamentalist Muslim culture in Nigeria. There, the authorities have ordered the Muslim Sharia laws into effect which provide, among other things, the stoning to death of women involved in extra marital affairs. The men involved in such affairs are never arrested or even questioned. I only went into Kano once. It struck me as an African city where Muslim clerics had a lot to say about what went on. It was a thriving place, but largely unattractive and so on subsequent trips, I never left the air base.

And so now we return to Accra, Gold Coast which was the hub of African operations for the U. S. Army. The trip that I suggested around North and Central Africa covers an enormous distance. However, by flying out at dawn or before, it is possible to make sometimes more than just one stop in the bases I have described. One of the big obstacles in African flying when I was there, was the complete absence of flood lights to light the runways. In effect, we were ordinarily limited to daytime flying. When there were matters of some urgency, airplanes could land and take off using their own wing lights. Pan Am pilots who flew the Ascension Island – Accra route often landed in Accra just at daybreak, but in the absence of combat conditions, it was much, much better to wait for daylight.

As you can see, the Americans and the British together with Pan American Airways had done an enormous amount of work in the so called “Dark Continent.” As it turns out, it was essential to our success in North Africa and in the European combat operations.


War Against Japan

But Accra also had an ancillary purpose. Early in the war against the Axis Powers, it seemed clear that Japan would have to be attacked from China. Later, of course, when Allied Forces were successful in the island campaign advancing from one island to another closer to Japan, there was not the urgency to mount an attack from China. In the meantime, however, there were substantial Allied Forces at work in Burma, Laos and western China. To support this effort, the supply chain stretched across the Atlantic, through Africa, through Yemen into India at Karachi and ending in the Assam Province which adjoins Burma.

This is a lot of territory. If we come eastward from Accra all the way to Khartoum, the next stop is in Aden, Yemen. American soldiers were more or less barred from Aden. And that did not bother me at all. I was glad to be on my way to Karachi, India. After the war, India let the Muslim part of their country go and Pakistan was created. But during the war years, India was the main target.

Karachi is the main seaport in that western part of India. I went through there on two occasions during the war and found it to be a Wild West sort of city. In short, almost anything was accepted in Karachi including kidnapping and murder. Even the British who had long ruled India were wary of Karachi.

I have told about this little song on several occasions. The Brit who taught it to me called the city “KEE-RACHI”

When you go to Kee-rachi
Keep your money in your shoes,
Because the Kee-rachi women
Sing the Kee-rachi blues.

I took my hints from British colleagues and mostly stayed at our base far from what the Brits called “Kee-rachi” snake pits.

In 1983 on my way from Paris to Beijing, Air France had a short layover in Karachi. I had no desire to leave the airport to go to the city. From what I learned, Karachi was not improved over the war years.

From Karachi the next stop is about 900 miles away in Āgra. Āgra, of course, is the home of the magnificent Taj Mahal which was built between 1631 – 1645 as the tomb of Shah Jahan’s empress. Shah Jahan must have thought a lot of that woman – his wife – as he made the Taj Mahal an enduring monument that has lasted 350 years.

The other fact about Āgra is that the citizens there have an inordinate affection for gold. Women wear gold earrings and nose pieces as well as rings and bracelets. Men wear gold rings. One way or another, they produce a golden thread that is used to sew garments on the outside where it can be seen. All American soldiers and air men wore shoulder patches on the left shoulder of the uniform. In many shops in Agra, those U. S. patches were faithfully reproduced using gold thread. I found them attractive, but I bought them as souvenirs, not to be sewn on a uniform. It is quite likely that a by-the-book Army officer would order a GI such as myself to get rid of such un-GI symbols of gold thread shoulder patches. Some 58 years later, I have some of those patches in my file cabinet, never worn on a uniform.

The people in India often spoke English due, of course, to England’s rule over them. Communicating with Indians was thus made much easier. In Agra, it was easy to deal with Indians in what was largely a commercial town. Perhaps because American troops spoke our version of English, we seemed to get along well with the Indians. Like anyone else, the Indians seemed to react well when treated with respect by American troops. It is unfortunate that some troops – particularly from the rural South of the United States – regarded the Indians as gooks and put them down because of their Hindu religion. I got along very well with Indians and they were often helpful to me.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, it fell to me to make a few trips to Bombay and New Delhi. I enjoyed them a great deal although there was an occasion when my AT&T colleague Howard Pappert took an Indian couple to one of the finer restaurants in Bombay. They were the Ramaswamis.

Mrs. Ramaswami was the wife of a treasured Indian colleague with whom we had dealt for years. At dinner she sat to my right. She wore a diamond ornament on both sides of her nose. I began to wonder whether the nose was punctured to accommodate the diamond ornament or whether it was simply pasted on. I would like to report to you the outcome of my wondering, but I left India no wiser about the nose doo-dad. And to his everlasting disgrace, Howard Pappert, who had India as one of his responsibilities, could offer no help. Howard’s attitude was that I should not wonder about such things but here I am almost 20 years later and I am still wondering.

Leaving Agra to embark upon the last leg of Air Transport Command flights in India, the next stop is in India’s far eastern Province of Assam. It is a flight of about 1000 miles which tells you that pre-war India is a big country. The base in Assam was at Shillong. It was all business at that air base as we transferred cargo and new planes to the crews who flew what was called “The Hump” into Kunming, China. Some of the mountain ranges between Shillong and Kunming were as high as 25,000 feet with raging winds. I never flew “The Hump,” but I had the utmost respect for those who did it.

Assam was as we would now say, “Out in the boonies.” It was a primitive place and the object for us was to deliver whatever we had brought and to get out of Assam as soon as possible. All over India, irreverent GI’s from Assam would tell you that “My ass-am dragging”. In that Indian province, that is about the best joke that GI’s could make. It was not a particularly lovely place.

Now that we have dealt with Africa and Yemen and India, perhaps we ought to say a few words about trips from Accra to Johanesburg (Jo’burg) with a return through Nairobi.

Before World War II, Belgium was a big colonial power. They had possession of an extremely rich country in Africa which they called the Belgian Congo. Today, with the Belgians being kicked out, that country is called Zaire. In the Belgian Congo days when I was there, there were two main cities. One was Leopoldville, named after the Belgian king. It is now called Kinshasa. Now the Belgian king had a wife who was named Elizabeth. You may be stunned to know that the Belgians called that big city at the southern of the Congo – Elizabethville. It is now called Lubumbashi. The Belgians were greatly unloved by the natives because of cruel treatment. At the end of the war when native uprisings occurred, no one raised a finger to help the Belgians who had drained the Congo’s resources for more than 100 years. They were simply thrown out and told to stay away.

The object in going first to Leopoldville and then south to Elizabethville, was to get to Johannesburg in South Africa. Because of the unrest, I never left the two airbases in the old Belgian Congo, but Jo’burg was a different story. The people there were divided between the old line “Dutch” who had fled Europe many years earlier, and the English who more or less governed things. In all candor, the so called Dutch were more German in origin and their support for World War II was lukewarm. The English were completely in the war. I flew with squadrons of the South African Air Force stationed in Foggia, Italy and they were virtually all from the British side in South Africa.

Jo’burg was a delightful spot for those of us who had been to the horrors of Europe and then to the backwardness of Central and North Africa. The food was good and we were treated sort of like visiting royalty. That is saying something for an American GI. I only made one trip to Jo’burg during the war years, and I remember it to this day.

In the 1980, my AT&T colleagues and I made another trip to South Africa. At about that time, the whites were losing their mastery over the country. What we saw was a deterioration of the life that had caused everyone to envy South Africa in the ‘40’s. In 1980, I recall seeing natives building cooking fires on the downtown sidewalks and using the gutter for personal matters of hygiene. I greatly regret Jo’burg being subjected to such uncivilized conduct.

Leaving South Africa during the war years brought about a long flight to Nairobi, Kenya. In World War II, Kenya was a British possession and things worked well. Nairobi had largely been untouched by the fighting in North Africa and Europe. The English more or less used Nairobi as a rest and recovery location. After a long time, it seemed to me that the food and the services that Nairobi provided were first class. Which is to say GI’s like myself were astounded to see people enjoying themselves in a city that was pretty close to first class.

In recent years, Nairobi has largely run aground. Reports from my colleagues going there have to do with pick-pocketing and violence. It is out of sorrow that it is necessary to scratch Nairobi from the list of places to be visited.

I sincerely hope that my readers have stuck with me as I recounted memories from World War II which included Central Africa, North Africa, East and West Africa, South Africa, Yemen and India.

I enlisted in the United States Army more than 60 years ago. I had no idea that Army service would take me to so many places in Africa, in Europe and in India. It is nice now to put my feet up and ponder some of the things that GI’s saw including the most lonely places known to man: Ascension Island, Atar, Mauritania; Tindouf, Algeria; and El Fasher and El Genina in the Sudan. But more than anything else, it is a most pleasant thought to know that this old GI will not be going back to those miserable forsaken places. Not now, not ever.

Taking one thing with another, as Henry Mencken used to say, I consider myself very fortunate to have seen so much of the world. My service extended from my 19th year until my 23rd year. At that time of my life, I simply wanted to be a soldier; hence my early enlistment rather than waiting for the draft.

The fact that it was my good fortune to visit many countries has aroused a life long interest in foreign affairs. On many occasions when a news commentator says that the next story comes from Algeria or Mauritania or the Sudan, causes me to still think, “Hey, I was there once.” So in spite of the hardships and inconveniences and lousy food and sleeping with sand on the pillow, I consider myself a lucky man. The Army service instilled a desire to know more about some of the places that I have written about in this essay. I did not join the Army to see the world, but in fact, I suppose I did see quite a bit of it. And to top it all off, we know that World War II vets are dying at the rate of 1800 per day. I am sure that I won’t live forever, but I’m doing my best to do so.

November 28, 2002


The wing positioning of the C-47 is completely different from today’s passenger planes, and the angle of the plane’s body when it lands seems like it would leave pilots staring up at the sky instead of looking at the runway.

As for the rest of this essay, it is sort of incredible how a man from such humble beginnings would get to see so many different places. I usually hear the phrase “Join the army, they said — see the world, they said” as a joke more than anything, to describe some recruit who gets stuck in the middle of nowhere in the US. Pop had the distinction of seeing all sorts of nowheres in Africa and beyond. Perspective is invaluable, even if it’s just “Hey, I was there once.” I hope to be as well-traveled as Pop, but ideally under much more pleasant circumstances.

Officially the longest essay on this site, and one of my favorites. Microsoft Word clocks it at 10,000 words exactly.
Cheers, Pop.


Writing essays is often hard work mentally for me. But all things taken together, it is pleasant work, particularly when the essays are completed.

In recent months, I have been writing essays about politicians. That is sordid business. So now I am going to give myself a treat by writing about people I like, including our old friend, Shannon P. Catt.

Just as a start on friendly feelings and people I like, when I look toward New York City, Guido Bocciola the owner of L’Aiglon Restaurant comes to mind as a first class friend. The same goes for Jorge Alonso, his Cuban born bartender, and Roger Delacriox, the Frenchman who became Guido’s partner after a time. L’Aiglon has been gone from the scene after the AT&T Company took it over probably 20 to 25 years ago so they could build a new Taj Mahal on Madison Avenue. It has been a long time, but I still miss Guido and the people who worked at L’Aiglon. They were very good to me.

When New York City enters my imagination, I often think of that Hungarian born entertainer, George Feyer. Simply put, I think George Feyer was probably the finest entertainer ever to sit at a piano. I knew George Feyer from the 1950’s until the 1980’s when age more or less interrupted his career. He was a special friend.

Now rounding out this trio about which I intend to write at the start, is Shannon P. (Pest) Catt, a fellow who called this house his home for nearly 15 years. As the title of this piece suggests, Shannon and the rest of the people who lived in this house were special pals.

Guido, George and Shannon are dead now. It is time for this old essayist to recognize their contribution to the happiness of my wife and myself. If Guido and George were here now, they would follow my remarks about Shannon very closely to get a foretaste of how they will handle the laudatory stuff that will come their way as soon as I tell you about our old pal, Shannon.

When Shannon died in December 2000, Judy and I had a notice of “In Memoriam” published in The Item of Millburn, New Jersey. (It is attached.) The first sentence of that memorial piece identified Shannon as, “A beloved lap cat who gave his family love and devotion without reservation for nearly 15 years.” You see, regardless of Shannon’s posturing, he was totally a lap cat. At an old chair out by the garden, he was a lap cat. On the back porch and in the kitchen, he was looking for a lap to crawl onto. In the living room or the recreation room, he held true to form even watching silly commercials on the television set. Upstairs he was working on Judy who was using her computer or he was on the top of my desk, walking on the paper that I was writing on saying, “I want to be held.” In the bedroom, he had the whole king sized bed to get snuggled in. The reason I go to such lengths to establish that he was a notorious lap cat has to do with his view of himself.

Shannon never ran away, but he pursued Zelda, a female cat up the street. He was proud, perhaps to the point of being vain about it. He strutted, he posed and he looked down upon lesser mortals who were not of feline bloodlines. Society started with Shannon at the top rung. He viewed the world as his oyster. He was a man about town. I believe that if the old song and dance man, Maurice Chevalier, were a cat, he would be Shannon. Or to put it another way, Shannon considered himself to be the Maurice Chevalier of the feline world.

But that was only the half of it. To the rest of the world, human, feline and canine as well as other wild animals, Shannon wanted to assume the persona of a fierce fearless fighter. His swagger was something to see. He bore the scars of battle proudly. On his photograph, you will notice that the tip of his right ear is missing a piece. I believe that old Shannon clearly regarded himself as the Rocky Marciano of the cat world. The comparison to Maurice Chevalier and Rocky Marciano were well deserved tributes in Shannon’s eyes. When there were no female cats around, Judy and I would exclaim about his muscles and speed and we would also comment favorably on his handsomeness. It made no difference that this praise was coming from humans; Shannon welcomed the attention, but he regarded the adulatory remarks as being his long delayed due. As fierce as he was, Judy and I wanted to stay on Shannon’s good side.

Shannon has been gone now almost 17 months. After his death, we could have left him at the Summit Dog and Cat Hospital where Doctor Dorney and his veterinarian daughter, Doctor Kay, promised to look after Shannon until the crematory came around to pick him up. We said absolutely not. His body was in a cardboard box which we drove to the Abby Glen Memorial Park in Lafayette, N. J., some 35 miles from here where the crematory was located. It was a cold, snowy, December day. We waited till the Abbey Glen people did their thing and at the end, we came home with Shannon’s ashes in a metal container. Although the old guy is gone, we can’t keep his memory from our minds.

When I shaved, I used an electric razor. It makes a small noise but that was enough to cause old Shannon to come running to the bathroom. He would leap to the counter top where he could watch me in the full length mirror. Alternatively, he would turn his back to the mirror and look at me. I always pretended to give him a shave while the razor made it’s buzzing sound.

When Judy was working on her computer, Shannon would nose around until she got the thought in her mind that he should be picked up where he could see the screen and the keyboard. Sometimes he failed to nose around; he just leapt to Judy’s lap. One way or another, Judy worked around Shannon so everyone was happy.

Shannon was a good leaper. When he wasn’t leaping up in the bathroom to get a shave or to the computer, he would jump to the top of my desk. If I were writing, which is what I do at the desk, old Shannon would inch closer until his front paws were halfway down the page I was writing on. I used to think if he is that hard up for affection, maybe I’d better hold him, which I did.

He often would wait until one of the cars was parked in the garage. As the door opened he would leap up to the floorboards and begin to walk around being careful to look out all the windows. He was not afraid of cars as Judy had suggested early in his life here, that we take him to the post office and other errands so that he would not associate the car with going only to see the veterinarian. He liked the new Chrysler 300M’s.

Shannon’s penchant for entering parked cars got him in some serious trouble. One Friday afternoon, I came home and unloaded the car in the garage. I slammed the door. Well we didn’t see Shannon on Friday night nor did we see him on Saturday. We looked everywhere but not in the garage. Sunday came and went with no cat so we assumed he had run away from home. We were out of places to look.

Monday was a rainy day. Ray Gallo, a painter, was working on the house in the bedrooms. When he arrived, I intercepted him to tell him he should bring his station wagon into the vacant space in the garage. As the painter was unloading his equipment, he asked me why I kept a kitten in my relatively new Cadillac. The kitten was Shannon, of course.

I suppose on Friday afternoon, he had crawled into the car and I unwittingly slammed the door. When I took old Shannon from the car, there was no wet spot or anything else. I don’t know how that happened. I fed him and told him how sorry I was. Old Shannon just went about his business that rainy Monday with no recrimination against me. I learned a lot about forgiveness from that episode.

In the living room, when I sat down and put my feet up on a hassock, old Shannon would come in and walk on my legs until he found a spot to lie down and snooze for a while. I was glad to have him.

In the rec room, Judy and I have large chairs where we read and watched television, particularly the news at 10PM. Shannon would come down to see what we were doing. First, he would get on my lap for his pets and he might even hang around for a few minutes. Then he would go to Judy’s chair and stretch out long ways beside her and relax. Judy’s large chair was where Shannon slept until about 2AM or 3AM, with which he would come upstairs and sleep in the big bed. We ordinarily start for bed a little after the 11PM news comes on. If Judy hung around her chair too long, Shannon would let her know, by body language, that he was ready for his first shift in bed. When we left the rec room, old Shannon didn’t say good night or anything else. He fussed around until he got things in the chair the way he wanted them, and then it was off to sleep. We always said “Good Night” to Shannon; he never returned our greeting.

Shannon had an egalitarian trait. If we were out by the garden, on the porch, in the kitchen, in the living room or in the rec room, Shannon always seemed to make sure he spent time with each of us. It was no accident; I am certain he had it planned in his mind. That was one more reason to like the old guy.

For more than 30 years, I kept a garden which measures about 25 feet each way. There was an old collapsible rocker lawn chair that had been there for years. When I tired of spading or hoeing or harvesting, I would sit in that old chair for a breather. Shannon would almost always miraculously appear from nowhere to sit on my lap. If he was lolling in the shade by the garage, Judy would often say, “Shannon, Pop is taking a recess,” and here he would come for laptime and petting. Sometimes around June or July when the plants grew to around twelve inches, he would hide in their shade. When recess time came, the plants would shake and old Shannon would emerge sometimes with leaves on his head.

Our advisor on cat conduct, Gayle Woodman, said that from what she saw of Shannon, he would never leave home. And why should he? He had a big buffet in the basement, with water and a toilet, and illuminated by a 25 watt bulb day and night. In the kitchen, he had dry snacks and water so all his basic needs were cared for. Judy kept perhaps a dozen or more cans of cat food in reserve for future feedings. She contends that she would hold up a can of cat food and tap its sides with her fingernails and that Shannon would indicate “OK” or “to hell with that stuff!” So no wonder he wouldn’t leave home with all that service.

Judy also used my bench for brushing Shannon. Sometimes she would put him on the bench, but if she was not prompt about it, he would leap from the basement floor to the top of the bench. As Judy brushed him, old Shannon would sort of doze off still standing on his feet. He greatly liked to have Judy brush him.

Shannon and I had a period or two of illnesses. On one occasion, he had to have an abscess removed from his lower body. Oh man, he was a sore old guy. We have a large plastic tray around here. I suppose its intended use is for serving several drinks or for meals, but it was pressed into service when Shannon was sprung from the hospital. Judy put several towels on the tray for Shannon to lie on. At the hospital, the Vet put Shannon on our litter bearing food tray so he did not have to stretch himself. On the way home, I held the tray as level as I could to prevent pain to the old cat. At home, I sat in my chair with my legs up on the hassock and Judy brought the tray next to my lap. Shannon quickly got the idea. He left the tray under his own power and settled down on my legs which was one of his all time favorite lounging spots. When he eventually wanted to get up, Judy brought the tray along side my legs and Shannon transferred apparently with minimum pain. Until he recovered, the tray was his elevator.

I was simply returning Shannon’s favor. There were at least three occasions where I had been laid up and had to take bed rest for a few days. On each of those occasions, Shannon would come lie beside me in the bed for an hour at a time. He would stay with me as sort of a guard for most of the day. I was comforted to know that Shannon was looking out for me. So the litter bearing tray was well deserved for a faithful friend.

During my stays in Overlook and Morristown Hospitals, I eventually achieved private rooms. They all had bulletin boards for birthday and get well cards. Shannon’s picture, the one with the mangled ear, was tacked on all those boards. I wish he would have been permitted to see me.

We rarely go out on Saturday evenings for dinner. Instead we dine on fresh fish and a bottle of good wine while we listen for a couple of hours to CD recordings. This way we can dine and hear good music. Well, old Shannon liked to hear the concerts, particularly in cold weather. Not long after the first notes of the music were heard in the house, old Shannon would show up to be held and snuggled. After he finished with me, he would go to Judy who held him upside down like a baby and people would take turns scratching his belly. What a life he had and good music to go with it. He never showed interest in our food or wine, so I suppose it was the snuggling and the good music that entertained him on Saturday evenings.

One more final memory sticks out in my mind. The first winter he lived here, that was 1986-87, there was quite a bit of snow. When I would try to shovel it or snow blow it away, I found old Shannon, trying to catch snow flakes as they fell. He was only eight months old and had never seen snow, but I’m here to tell you, he really gave those falling snowflakes a strong workout.

During much of Shannon’s life, Judy and I took vacations in the winter months. The idea was to kill January, the cruelest month. At the beginning, Shannon stayed at home with Gayle Woodman visiting him twice a day to feed him and to comfort him. There were times when ice on the roads made Gayle’s job difficult.

So Gayle concluded that with us gone, Shannon was lonesome. She ought to know as she is around animals all the time. So she proposed that Shannon should stay while we were gone with a friend of Gayle’s, Sage Lewis Jones. In military terms, he would be attached to Sage for rations and quarters.

Sage was very good to Shannon and the arrangement worked very well. He even slept on her bed. Old Shannon had girl friends all over.

So you see, Judy and I carry strong memories of Shannon some 17 months after his death. It all started at the Summit Dog and Cat Hospital early in May of 1986. At that time, the Dorneys, who ran the Hospital, took in strays collected by the animal control officers of surrounding towns. Judy said that what this house needed was a cat so we went to see Mrs. Dorney who sort of played matchmaker between the cats and their prospective human owners or servants.

Mrs. Dorney kept the stray cats in cages. Families were kept together if there was a family. Shannon was there with his mother and some of his siblings. As we looked over the cats, this one guy acted as though he wanted to mix it up with me. It was a gross mismatch because his weight was less than a pound, mainly because he had only been in this world only about a month. But he said to me, “Put’em up Buster.” So we told Mrs. Dorney that we’d like to look at this budding Rocky Marciano. We moved to another room and this cat, soon to be named Shannon, wanted to play. So there after a few minutes, the die was cast. We wanted to take this less-than-a-pound kitten home with us.

Mrs. Dorney said we’d have to get clearance from her husband, the Vet. When Dr. Dorney weighed our cat, he said that no cat could be placed until it weighed at least a pound and our guy was short a few ounces. So we agreed to wait until the Friday before Memorial Day, 1986 to go back to see about the cat. We told Mrs. Dorney that his name was going to be Shannon. She was surprised that we had picked out a name so soon, but the Irish name perhaps pleased her as the Dorney clan probably traces its ancestry to the Emerald Isle.

So on that Friday before Memorial Day, Shannon got weighed and passed the one pound test and I held him in my hands – not my arms – as we headed for Judy’s car. As we left the hospital, one of the teen-age staff members said to Shannon, “I hope you have a nice life.” I told her that’s what we planned to give him.

Judy drove a German made BMW at the time. I apologized to Shannon for the rough riding BMW and explained that later, he could ride in my bump eating Cadillac all he wanted.

When we got Shannon home, he pretty much acted as though he was at ease. He explored all the tight spaces behind furniture, not to hide, but simply for the sake of exploration. A few days after he arrived here, we almost lost him in a foolish move. We took him to the garden and let him walk around. The tall grass tickled his belly and he was intrigued as to why that was the case. Remember, he had never been outside before. In an instant, he went through our neighbor’s picket fence. He was not leaving home; he was just exploring. Judy called him and went to pick him up. She got no resistance from Shannon and we were much relieved to have him back in our care.

For all the years Shannon lived here, he more or less came and went as he saw fit. I cut a hole in the garage door to accommodate a cat entry system. The door to the house in the recreation room had a bungee cord attached to it so that Shannon could come into the house from the garage. So as Gayle Woodman says, why should a cat like Shannon ever leave.

Well, good things don’t last forever. In the fall of the year 2000, Shannon seemed to miss a beat. He wasn’t his old self, so we took him to see Dr. Dorney. The Vet said that Shannon was an “elderly gentleman” which told us that he didn’t have much longer to be with us. Shannon’s health would stabilize for a few days and he would eat better than he had. And then, his health would decline.

In December 2000, we again visited Dr. Dorney to see what we could do. We told Dr. Dorney that Shannon appeared to be on his last legs. When the Vet took Shannon into the examining room, Shannon leapt down from the table and pranced around. Some last legs. At the conclusion of that examination, Dr. Dorney said he strongly suspected that cancer was working on the old cat. He referred us to a hospital in the far northern reaches of New Jersey, the Veterinary Referral Center in Little Falls, New Jersey. That town is a long way from Short Hills and is getting close to the New York border. That Center had the most sophisticated diagnostic tools available on the East Coast or anywhere else. We were to see Dr. Renee Al-Sarraf. She is one of two oncology specialists in New Jersey.

This was late in December. So we bundled Shannon up in a blanket and towels and drove for what seemed to me to be an endless distance. The Veterinary Referral Center is a tough place to find but after two or three tries, we found it. The Vets there were very nice to Shannon and to us. They told us that the hair on his belly would have to be shaved for a test, which they did.

After a time, they brought Shannon back from their workroom and the news was pretty bad. The diagnosis was pancreatic cancer which had spread to his liver. They made it clear that this condition would not improve and that if Shannon were kept alive for any length of time, pain would be his fortune. The people at the Center were very decent and compassionate. They would have preferred to deliver good news, I am sure, but we had a feeling that cancer was working on our old pal.

We didn’t get lost coming home, but the distance from Little Falls to Short Hills is pretty substantial considering the traffic. What Judy and I failed to realize was that Shannon had gone perhaps four hours or more without a bathroom break. On the way home, proud old Shannon couldn’t wait any longer and he got the blanket and my trousers wet. I petted him to let him know that it was our fault for overlooking his needs.

Shannon tried the best he could, but the cancer was gaining on him. He slept in our bed for long periods at a time. When he didn’t get up from the bed for quite awhile, we made the decision to carry him to Dr. Dorney expecting that visit to be his last. Dr. Dorney and his daughter, Dr. Kay, also a Vet, said that we were right about Shannon’s sufferings. It was bad now and it would get worse. So the Dorneys euthanized Shannon. He died in a peaceful way. His life ended in the same Hospital with the same Vet as at the beginning of his life.

Like many animals, Shannon knew it was his time to go. Don’t ask me how they know, but they do. If we had let Shannon out of the house after his Little Falls diagnosis, I am fairly certain that he would have disappeared to die. Animals are like that.

So Shannon knew it was his time. The Dorneys agreed. And we had no choice but to accept the inevitable. We think Shannon was a mighty fine fellow who brightened our life for nearly 15 years. Judy and I are indebted to Shannon for all the cheer and love he gave to us.

He lived a fairly long life for a cat. We drove his body to the crematory because he would have done the same thing for us. Upon our return from that cold December trip, we had the local paper publish a notice of his passing. It says that this old “lap cat gave his family love and devotion without reservation for nearly 15 years.” There followed the fourth and final verse of the “Minstrel Boy,” a traditional Irish rouser.

In a previous essay, “On Mortality,” I said that “For Shannon, I will share the ‘Minstrel Boy’ as his epitaph as he is a good Irish cat. He is a good and loyal companion.” That essay was written on May 22, 2000 when Shannon was still very much alive. Now nearly two years later, I think that he ought to be memorialized also with the traditional Irish song of parting. When Irishmen and Irishwomen meet at homes or in bars, they often sing at the end of the evening, “The Parting Glass.” There are two verses. The first one goes this way:

O all the money that e’er I spent
I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
Alas, it was to none but me.
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall.
So fill to me the parting glass
Goodnight and joy be with you all.

Shannon was mighty fine company. So after you’ve sung the “Minstrel Boy” and “The Parting Glass,” perhaps you’d like to salute old Shannon for a life well lived.

May 10, 2002


The idea of taking pets on errands to get them comfortable with cars seems brilliant — I wonder why I’ve never heard of other people doing that? Our dogs definitely knew when it was vet o’clock and Bridget in particular was good at running and hiding behind the couch when she figured out what was going on. Taking her to the post office with us sometimes could have done a lot to build trust!

Anyway, this is one of the sweeter essays on the site, and I really enjoyed it. Just a man reminiscing about his cat; I don’t have much else to add.


In December, 1987 it was necessary to perform a coronary artery bypass graft involving four vessels on the author of this essay. The surgery was performed at New York Presbyterian Hospital and was accomplished by a mixed Jewish and Irish team followed by recovery where I was attended to by some of New York’s finest Catholic nurses. I have to remind myself that the whole function took place in a Presbyterian Hospital. I suppose that if anything untoward happened to me, such as death, I would be covered across the board as I prepared to enter Paradise. In this respect, I favor the Muslim martyrdom approach which rewards martyrs with fine wine, winsome girls and Cuban cigars. Ah, but recovery was soon achieved so I will have to think longer about the Muslim rewards of martyrdom.

Since my discharge from what is referred to in Cardiology-speak as CABGx4, exercise has been my constant companion. Walking, bicycle riding, a treadmill and an indoor bike, a rowing machine and extensive work on this half acre lot gives plenty of exercise. As winter gives way to spring, my wife, the lovely Miss Chicka, and I often walk four miles on our street which carries light traffic.

So it was this week that about a half mile into our walk, we passed an elderly gentleman using a cane with four legs on its end who made it clear that he wanted to converse with us. He was well dressed and was simply standing in the street in front of a very fine home about four or five blocks away from our home. So we crossed the street to converse with the man. He soon told us that he was recovering from a broken hip which I suppose accounted for the cane or walker. As part of the little conversation, he said he was 78 years old. Remember that.

It was obvious that he had some trouble speaking and I noticed that he was drooling slightly. When he tried to tell us of his other problem, he said he had forgotten the name of the disability. To prod his memory and with the thought that he was showing slight drooling, I said maybe the word he was looking for was “stroke.” The gentleman said, “Yeah, Yeah, That’s the word. That’s what I had.”

So now old Ed Carr gets a little snookered. I said that he shouldn’t worry about the stroke as I was getting along pretty well even though two strokes had been in my medical history. And I told him that this summer, I expect to turn 80 years of age. Without batting an eye, he said he couldn’t believe my age, as I “was a young, vigorous, good looking guy.” While I was eating up this compliment, fully deserved I might add, the man said he was about to turn 80 himself on his next birthday. So 79 would be his next anniversary, according to the Treaty of Geneva. Earlier he had said he was 78 years old. I let that one pass because I know how a stroke can injure or destroy one’s mathematical expertise. And what difference does it make if he is 79 or 80 or 81 years of age.

After a while, Judy and I excused ourselves and resumed our walk. The old gentleman wished us well and in return he was told to “stay strong” which is what I generally say when finishing letters or in ending conversations. Our friend said he would stay strong.

That encounter set my mind to enumerating the various effects that stroke victims are likely to encounter. I’m not much of an example to tell anyone how to avoid a stroke having had one in 1992 and a second severe one in late 1997. So about all this poor example can say is eat right, don’t smoke, get some exercise and hope for the best. So all that can be done is to give the reader a thought or two about the effects of a stroke assuming you are so unlucky as to have had one.

My stroke experience started on a Saturday evening after all the work and exercise had been completed. I shaved and took a shower in preparation for dinner and a good bottle of wine. When I emerged from the shower and tried to get the towel behind my back to dry there, the left arm failed to work properly. The arm didn’t bend and the hand could not grasp the towel. There was no pain at all. Nothing like having a tooth extracted or falling down and spraining a wrist. Nothing. When the failure persisted for two or three minutes, it seemed to me that a stroke had taken place. So Judy called the Emergency Room at Overlook Hospital and by the time we drove there, Dr. Slama from the Summit Medical Group was on his way to the hospital soon to be joined by a neurologist, also from Summit. After perhaps 24 hours, Slama and his neurological partner concluded that my problem was a TIA – a Transient Ischemic Attack. Hospitalization at Overlook lasted seven or eight days. During that time, I had a steady diet of Coumadin, the drug that prevents clots from forming which block passageways to the brain. After perhaps 36 hours, the arm and the hand returned to normal operation. Upon discharge, there was a meeting with cardiologists, neurologists, nurses and Summit Medical Group’s representative to Overlook Hospital at which time I was given a “Medic Alert” tag for my wrist and told that Coumadin would be required for the rest of my life. That seemed like a fair enough arrangement to me.

So from July, 1992 when the TIA occurred, I often found myself in the lab at the Summit Medical Group to draw blood to determine the Coumadin content in the blood. This occurred every two to four weeks. Drawing blood was not a happy experience, particularly when the phlebotomist was a little clumsy. But that was not a big deal. I was still alive and stroke free.

That situation went on until December, 1997. In tests during the Fall of 1997, my regular cardiologist Andrew Beamer, told me that my aortic valve was greatly restricted. Normal ones have an opening approaching the size of a quarter. Mine had shrunk to less than the diameter of a dime so it had to be fixed. I had trouble breathing particularly after exercise. So arrangements were made with the Mid-Atlantic Surgical Associates in Morristown with a fellow that Andy Beamer recommended. His name is Albert Casale. Casale gave me almost two hours in the pre-operative interview. He explained how he had to avoid the by-pass grafts as he opened my chest for another major operation. Avoiding the grafts is no small accomplishment when the surgeon is using an electric saw to open the chest. Al Casale is a very skilled surgeon and a regular guy. I like him.

Coumadin inhibits work on the heart because of the non-clotting effect on blood. So in accordance with standard instructions for aortic valve operations, I was instructed to take no Coumadin for the five days prior to the planned surgery. On the fourth day without Coumadin, Judy and I spent four or five hours raking leaves and carting them to the street from our large backyard. I was to enter the hospital for surgery the next morning.

After the work in the yard, I took a shower and the bed had to be made. While we were trying to get the bedclothes in place, Judy looked at me and announced that I was having a stroke.¹ My attitude was: “Who? Me?” I had no pain that I can recall but I suppose I must have been so uncoordinated that Miss Chicka gave her instant diagnosis and seemed to brook no questions or dissent. When the Rescue Squad came to the house, along with the Overlook Hospital Emergency representatives, they quickly agreed with Miss Chicka’s diagnosis. So it was off to Overlook Hospital for a more than two week period of recovery.

After about eight or nine hours in the Emergency Room, I found myself in a small ward with several other stroke victims – most of whom were much worse off than I was. The next morning, a therapist or nurse came to my bed with a little jar of pudding which she fed me. I did not know it at the time, but this was to determine whether the stroke victim could swallow or could swallow without complications. My swallowing seemed alright and I then began to petition for the right to use the bathroom. Soon that privilege was granted and then the hospital found a private room that made things somewhat easier.

This stroke seemed to do nothing in terms of damage to any of my limbs. The effects were concentrated in my brain. On many-many occasions, I have said that when a thought forms in the stroke victim’s brain, it is very difficult or impossible to make that thought come out of the mouth or to the hand so that it can be written. This is called Aphasia. The morning after the stroke occurred I could only say “Thank you” and somehow I could write my name and print “six” and “seven.” Printing those numbers was the old draftsman at work. It got better after awhile, but I was concerned that it would be necessary for me to use “Thank you” as my entire English vocabulary.

Now here is a thought if you know anyone suffering a stroke. Two or three women who were on the staff of the hospital visited me quite often in my room insisting that I agree to use their rehabilitation services. Among other things, they gave me word exercises and told me that I would have to memorize names of things and spit them out in 30 seconds or less on demand. If I could do this feat, it meant I had recovered from the stroke. One example had to do with vegetables. Another had to do with makes of automobiles. I had to think up the names of cars when I could barely call my own name, and recite a list of 20 car makes in 30 or 35 seconds. People suffering from Aphasia have a particularly difficult time recalling nouns, hence the veggies and cars.

By this time, Judy and I had already determined that these women were charlatans and that the Kessler Rehabilitation Center would have me as a patient. Even when the women were told that fact, they kept on insisting that I use their services, much to my annoyance. So if you know a stroke patient, advise them not to agree to a therapist who just happens to find his or her room at the hospital. If the patient is in the New York or Philadelphia general vicinity – GO TO KESSLER. Got that? Go to Kessler. Or alternatively, go to see Dr. Martha Taylor Sarno of the Rusk Institute located at 400 East 34th Street in New York City.

And if the patient had a stroke like mine affecting only the brain and not involving the arms and legs or other parts of the body, when you get to Kessler ask to see Shirley Morganstein, Director of Speech Therapy. Perhaps she will again prescribe essay-therapy, as in my case. Writing essays has been the absolutely most effective rehabilitative practice to come to my attention. At first, it ain’t easy. Be prepared to sit at your desk or table when in search of a word, the brain goes blank; it just goes on strike. In such a case like that look for synonyms or wait it out or go on to a different part of the essay, if that is possible.

Writing essays is not a one time complete fix. I find that without brain exercise, it tends to become flabby and slippage occurs. See my next paragraph, for example, on the ability to handle math problems. And so four and one half years after the stroke, I still try to write essays not necessarily because I love my words and prose, but rather because of the need to exercise what passes for a brain in my head. If it is not kept at work, it slips and deteriorates. But one more time, essay writing takes a lot of work. As I say, it ain’t easy, but I’m here to tell you that it is worth the effort. The alternative to this sort of work is not attractive at all.

Another effect of my stroke is its continuing effect upon my ability to handle mathematical problems. The other day at the bank, I gave the teller a $100 check to cash so that we could send $50 to a grandson for his 17th birthday. I also specified that I needed five one dollar bills in this transaction. The teller gave me the $50 bill, two $20 bills and a five and five ones. I knew that she was right because I saw her use her computer to see if the amount came to $100. But I was buffaloed. All the way to the car it seemed to me that I was missing something. I guess – guess – that the $20 dollar bills may have registered in my brain as $10 dollar bills. In the privacy of the car, I counted out the $100 that the teller had given me. But here I am four and a half years after the stroke largely unable to do small sums quickly. Think of this. In the 1960’s and 1970’s before hand held calculators were invented, I used to figure my New Jersey, New York State and New York City income taxes, all at once. Nobody said it was an easy task, but the job got done. In 2002, it would be largely impossible to handle that job. So math is a problem even figuring out my gas mileage. And when I am asked for my Social Security Number or my phone number, I sometimes go blank.

A second effect of strokes, at least in my case, has to do with the alphabet. Reading the alphabetized heading on the classified section of the phone directories is a struggle. Finding a name doesn’t come easily. When I read the stock tables, I look at where my stocks appear each day hoping that they have not moved. If, as has happened in the past, a merger occurs and the stock listing is moved, its one more struggle to figure out the alphabetical listing. I don’t own that many stocks and some of them are listing heavily to starboard – Lucent, for example. But the New York Times prints the tables so that the stocks can be found – after years of practice – in the proper places. If they were listed in some other order, it would take me a lot longer to read about stocks.

Another effect of the stroke in my case, has to do with the absolute inability to bring a name to mind. I sat here this morning unable to call the name of the Kessler Institute which I attended for rehabilitation services. Judy finally told me what it was. For several months and years, I could not recall the word “persimmon.” There are dozens of names like that as well as people and place names that may not come to mind easily. So I keep a booklet by the chair where I read that is filled with names that at one time I have forgotten. My latest entry is mysterium iniquitatis which the Pope said described the current travail of the priests and bishops in his flock. The translation is Mystery of Evil. I’m not so sure that this whole sorry mess is a mystery to anyone except to the hierarchy of the church.

On other occasions, I can recall names and conversations that took place 60 or more years ago. On the “We Have a Boy” essay, there are two routing slips posted on the letter that Ed Carr was the boy in question. Those routing slips contain about 22 names and the memo was written more than 60 years ago. I can recall every one of those men whose names appear on the routing slips but of course, I had the slips to remind me. I can recall their faces and many of their characteristics.

And then there is the problem that a sentence can be started either in speaking or in writing, without knowing how that sentence may be finished. I used to think in full paragraphs when delivering a speech or in bargaining proposals or in dealing with government bureaucrats. Now often when I start a sentence, it is a matter of considerable interest to see how the sentence is completed. Sort of a thrill a minute.

Of course, the foregoing areas of concern make the speaker or the writer a little hesitant to go forward. But at the end of the day, the ability to laugh at oneself is a saving grace. One way or another, things will work out so despair is out of the question. If that elderly gentleman on our street can jump from age 78 to 80 years of age, I would mark that off to good luck or the mystery of evil. But he exuded good cheer and it was pleasant to talk to him.

I wrote this little essay fearing that some may not want to hear of this old soldier’s troubles. That is not the point. The essay has been constructed so that a stroke sufferer or people close to her or him may have an idea of what to expect when the stroke becomes history. Immediately after the stroke, it would have been helpful to me to have an idea of what sort of problems might come into view down the road. And it would have been helpful to know that there are ways around the failure to bring to mind the name of an object. I use synonyms quite often. Sometimes a foreign thought takes a great purchase on my brain so much so that other thoughts are lost. Let’s say that “sugar” for example, gets stuck in my brain. In time “sugar” will go away. Patience is needed and I don’t have much of that virtue but as I say, with a little bit of luck and good rehabilitation work, and writing lots of essays, as well as a good sense of humor, it will all probably work out at the end of the day.

So as I told that gentleman on our street, he should stay strong. And he should not hang around out in the street. But at 79 or 82 years of age, I suppose he can do anything he wants.

April 13, 2002

Note¹: Ms. Chicka recalls that, at the writer’s insistence, we were really in the process of flipping the mattress, not simply making the bed.


The family saying is that Shepherds never suffer in silence — maybe it should be amended to include the fact that Carrs tend to soldier through. Pop coped admirably with a lot of really awful hands, late in life, and his attitude generally matched what he described above. He’d do what he needed to do to keep going as best he could. I wonder if he ever stopped considering the essays a form of exercise, or if the distinction between a hobby and exercise simply failed to be meaningful after a while.


Bush and Cheney loudly proclaim that they are oilmen. How could they in one week alienate the Arabs and Venezuela, our third largest supplier of oil?

George W. Bush, The Israelis and the Venezuelans As I write this in mid-April, 2002, the crisis in the Mid-East has been going on for some time. Until April 4th of this year, Bush elected to ignore the fighting going on between the Israelis, the Palestinians and lately, Lebanese forces in Northern Israel. When Bush finally spoke up on April 4th, he demanded that the Israelis withdraw from their invasion and he demanded that the Arab states stop terrorism. Both sides told him to get lost. The Israeli Army continued its complete destruction of Palestine homes and infra-structure and the Palestinians kept up the suicide bombings.

Bush then sent Colin Powell to the Mid-East where he was greeted by an insult from the Moroccan King (Why are you here? Why aren’t you in Jerusalem?), and a complete refusal from Sharon to pull back his army. For his part, Arafat said that he was going to resist as long as Israeli forces occupied Palestinian territory. And Powell was in the country when a new suicide bomber took his toll on a civilian target. On the way back to the United States, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stiffed him and failed to see him. But Bush, the President with a pygmy sized brain said when Powell returned to Washington, that the Powell mission was quite a success. He was not joined in that assessment by Powell.

All of this followed the seven or eight country visit to the Middle East in March by the estimable oil man, Dick Cheney. Cheney was humiliated when he asked for Arab support in the proposed invasion into Iraq. All the countries he visited told him, “Hell No.” It takes an enormous amount of ignorance or hubris to ask Arab countries for their support in helping to destroy another Arab country. Ignorance and hubris come in large quantities in the Bush crowd.

All the while, Bush has issued countless statements urging support of Sharon while condemning Arafat. Well, for sake of argument, let’s just say that Arafat deserves all the vitriol that Bush has unloaded on him. What this says to the world is that the United States and Israel are joined at the hip. American policy is Israeli policy and vice versa. Bush has mortgaged the United States foreign policy to the arms of Sharon, who is not called the “Butcher of Beirut” for nothing.

Arabs will never forget the cruelty visited upon them in their miserable camps this year. Houses knocked down with occupants still inside. Civilians shot for the crime of looking out windows.

Now I ask, does anyone think that anyone in the whole Middle East would have a kind word or thought about the United States? And when the Arabs wake up, does anyone think that they will cheerfully continue to supply us with oil?

While all this was going on, Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State, Otto Reich, is meddling in Venezuelan politics. Needless to say, he is an unreconstructed right-winger who was a recess appointment by Bush. He was turned down by the Senate. The Venezuelan president was overthrown this past weekend, April 14th by elements in the Venezuelan Army. In two days, the president, Chavez, returned to power and the Army ran for cover. During this whole mess, Otto Reich said he was in touch with the insurgents. When the insurgents put their new President Pedro Estanga Carmona in power, he immediately moved to stamp out the National Assembly and the Supreme Court. In U. S. terms, the National Assembly is equivalent to the United States Congress.

Reich told Estanga Carmona that dissolving the National Assembly and the Supreme Court would be “a stupid thing to do.” So Reich views himself as a patron of the insurgency. What Reich overlooks is that by destruction of a president elected in a democratic election, the Bush administration is in clear violation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter – which Colin Powell had much to do with as recently as last Fall. The Bush administration thought Chavez was not on their side so obviously, he has to go and let’s not worry about democratic principals.
Today, April 17, the New York Times reports that Otto Reich has now claimed that Cubans had tried to kill opponents of Chavez. When Reich was asked through a spokesman for proof of these assertions, it turns out there is none. When Reich was asked today April 17, for an interview by the Times, he refused. Draw your own conclusions.

Well, the long and the short of it is clear. The Arabs will be angered at us for many generations. The Venezuelans, who control a good part of the world’s oil, will always regard the United States as interlopers who are ready to overturn their democratically elected government.

So if the Arabs and the South Americans elect to sit on their oil, it becomes clear that Crawford, Texas or Brooklyn, New York must now take the place of Saudi Arabia in terms of furnishing us with oil.

And one further thought. We are not finished with terror in this country. If I thought the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were things of the past, I would sleep easier. But to the extent that Bush deliberately arouses Arab anger, it is entirely possible that more strikes – against the American homeland – may occur. That is why I am appalled at Bush’s mortgaging the future of this country to a completely destructive mad man such as Sharon.

Bush has so provoked and angered Arabs and other like-minded people, that retaliation against the American homeland or on an American traveler becomes an inevitability. Given Bush’s propensity for poking the Arabs in the eye, my belief is that September 11th was not an end of terrorist violence in this country. The Arabs are prideful men as we are. In my estimation, they are not done, particularly as long as they are needlessly provoked by the amateurish Bush.

    Alice in Wonderland

This is Alice in Wonderland stuff and hard to accept. Yesterday,
April 18, 2002, Bush met the press and announced that Powell’s trip was a considerable success. Among other accomplishments, he said Powell had laid out a “vision” for peace in the region. Remember, his father had trouble with the “vision thing,” but of late, the junior Bush uses it a lot. As if that is not enough of a fairytale, Bush said Sharon was in compliance with his (Bush’s) pull-back schedule – a complete lie – and that – get this – Sharon is a “Man of Peace.” He also says that in spite of his words on April 4th, he understands now why Sharon wants to continue to punish the Palestinians.

I hope you stayed with me as we zoomed around the curves. What Bush said yesterday is a complete reversal of his earlier demand on April 4th, two weeks ago that Sharon pull his Army back, without delay.

If Bush had produced his miraculous stuff say a century ago, there would have been no need for Alice in Wonderland to have been written.

    Bush’s Mouthpiece, The Canadians, The Mexicans and Nada

In the past week or so, Ari Fleisher the Bush mouthpiece, has tried to replace the term “Suicide bombers” with a new construction, “homicide bombers.” I have no faith that Fleisher is ever telling the truth. Recall him – and later Bush – blaming the whole Mid-East war on Clinton? Both had to eat their words.

So I went to see what led the Bush mouthpiece to substitute the word “homicide” for suicide. I have pondered over Fleisher’s semantic choice of words and it leads me to conclude this is a difference without a distinction.

Suicide – an act or instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally especially by a person of years, of discretion and of sound mind.

Homicide – (a) a person who kills another, (b) killing of one human being by another.
Source: Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1973

The new construction came originally from Sharon’s people. Some other people around Bush have tried the new term out. For better or for worse, it is gaining no currency at all. No other commentators have picked it up so the “homicide bombers” seems headed for early oblivion which is probably what it deserves.

While Bush’s mouthpiece was trying, without success, to peddle his “homicide bombers,” he had nothing to say about four Canadian soldiers killed by a 500 pound bomb dropped by an American pilot. Fleisher had nothing to say.

The day after this “friendly fire” tragedy, Bush made five speaking appearances and in none of those exchanges, did he ever express the sorrow of the United States. Canadian papers exploded. Finally, someone got to Bush and he belatedly called the Canadian Prime Minister to express American regrets.

Bush has yet to visit Canada, our closest friend and ally. He has called Mexico our closest friend. In what Bush calls his “War on Terror,” the Canadians put 900 troops under the command of the United States. The four that were killed were part of that contingent.

Our close friends in Mexico have not joined in Bush’s call for a wide coalition. They sent no troops. No aircraft. No naval support. The Spanish word is “Nada” – nothing.

Now you tell me, who is the most friendly country to the United States? It’s not Mexico. And in World War II, Mexican support for the U. S. came out to “Nada.” Our best friend? Bush thinks so.

APRIL 19, 2002


I wonder what Pop thought about all the remote control war happening in oil-rich countries right now. Drones and satellites against radicals and bombers. That’s certainly what this has come to, yet even despite possessing every advantage (but the homefield one) I don’t see us closing out this campaign anytime soon.


On Friday, after the big Christmas 2002 snowstorm had passed, the people at the opticians called to say my new eye glasses were ready to be picked up. Standing across the busy street waiting for the light to change, a man came up behind me and said, “How about the weather?” As I turned around with the thought in mind to say, “It’s ok now that the snow is out of here”, the words never left my tongue. The man behind me was talking on his cell phone and in point of fact, no question had ever been addressed to me.

As a writer of occasional essays, an event of this kind would probably be the subject of a short note in my files with the thought that someday it might be well to write about cell phone usage in public. For more than five years now, short notes such as this to remind me of events that could be a subject for essays have found a home in my files for future essays. Many of these notes would not support a full essay, so it was my intention to include them in a collection to be known as “Bits and Pieces.” These short essays would stand alone and would not be related one to another. As one “Bits and Pieces” story ended, there would be a line under it and then there would be a new story or essay with a different title.

My first “Bits and Pieces” essay was to start with my recollection of a lovely woman who worked with me in Chicago. This lady had apparently seen hundreds of movies and often, she would answer questions by quoting a line from a movie as though it were her own. No attempt at attribution would be made. And some of her responses were quite enigmatic and puzzling.

Well, as thoughts of the movie quoting woman filled my head, it was inevitable that my mother, who considered going to “picture shows” as a sinful evil causing the American public to stray from righteousness, would come into my mind. That was only one item on my mother Lillie’s forbidden list. Dancing, card playing, Sunday ball games, whiskey drinking, cigar smoking are a few more that were considered as the obvious work of Satan. Of necessity, it seemed that my background or experience with movies was a natural to go with the Chicago lady who responded to questions by using a line from a movie. So my mother became a sort of “Bits and Pieces” issue.

Then, before anyone could put the fire out, the Chicago movie lady caused me to write about one of her fellow workers who had her hair done each week. When she emerged into public view after what must have been three or four hours at the hairdresser, she was a sight to see. Her hair was almost always piled on top of her head to a height of a least three to five inches. There were arches and tunnels through her blond Swedish hair that made Cy Hill, my engineering friend gasp. He considered it not as an artistic triumph of hair styling, but as an engineering masterpiece.

So the thoughts of little essays under the heading of “Bits and Pieces” will have to wait for another day. This one involves the previously mentioned women. I believe it is reasonable to call it “Three Interesting Women.”

Because Lillie, my mother, was older than the other two women, it is proposed that we start with her.


For purposes of honesty and integrity, it is necessary for this essayist to reveal that he has a long standing aversion to the products produced by the world wide movie industry. It is impossible for me to fanticize that some of the plots described to me are worth my while. The advertisements shown on television only increase my animosity. In short, a decent book is 1000 times more enjoyable to me than any movie.

Two thoughts go into my attitude on motion pictures. In the first instance, my parents attended fundamentalist churches like the Pentecostal or the Nazarene or of the Free Will Baptist variety. It would be more appropriate to describe them as primitive as distinguished from fundamental. Among other things, my parents, particularly my mother, tried to ban the children from card playing, drinking, dancing and going to what were called in the 1930’s, “Picture Shows.” Similarly banned was cigar smoking and watching ball games on Sundays.

In the second instance, her bans were observed in the breech once the older children had jobs. My older sister was a regular member of a bridge club that met in our house when it was my sister’s turn to hostess the event. My other sister became a singing waitress in a road house or saloon or tavern run by Joe Gonella in Brentwood, Missouri. My two elder brothers liked bridge and poker and – heaven forbid – they drank whiskey and even worse, they actually danced with girls.

But those older siblings were somewhere between eight and fifteen years older than the youngest member of the family, namely me. So the bans on any type of enjoyment eventually fell on me. While the other Carr children were off on their absolutely sinful ways, it was left to me, a youngster of less than 13 years, to survive my mother’s attempts to make a pietist out of me. The proper phrase should be “to pietize me”, but Webster insists on other terms. She did not succeed in that endeavor to make a holy child out of me, as the thought that I should become a preacher was rebuffed – by me.

At age 12 or 13 years, there was no urge for me to take up dancing, card playing, going out with girls or drinking whiskey. On the other hand, the wealthy kids who attended the Clayton, Missouri Public Schools with me often discussed motion pictures that they had seen at the Shady Oak Theater in Clayton. There was nothing for me to contribute in such a discussion because at age 13 years, a picture show was on my forbidden list. It might be supposed that I devoted my attention to books and baseball as a means of making up for my deficiencies in the entertainment field.

During my 13th year which occurred in 1935, a stroke of genius embraced me. From reading the St. Louis Post Dispatch, it was clear that a new film called, “The Sign of the Cross” was attracting big crowds to theaters in St. Louis. Its release was timed to occur at Easter. So my treasury had a few dollars from cutting grass and baby sitting. My proposition to my mother was that any trip to see a picture show would be financed by me. If anyone was going to hell, it was clear that I would pay that price. You must remember that at age 13, I was in my seventh year of complete religious disbelief, so hell had no fury for me.

Secondly, my mother was told that this was a picture show about Jesus. As far as I know, very few, if any, depictions of Jesus had ever been filmed by Hollywood. My effort were assisted by my sinful brothers who seemed to assure our mother that seeing “The Sign of the Cross” might bring me back to righteousness. They knew me better than that; it was simply a sales pitch to permit me to go see the film at the Shady Oak Theater. So after a time, Mrs. Carr reluctantly said go ahead. She was yielding to the inevitable because she knew in a short time, her last child would certainly become involved in the “ways of the world.”

It would be nice to inform you that the 1935 film “The Sign of the Cross” was a blockbuster. It most assuredly was not. It was an overwhelming 2½ to 3 hour bore. The words I heard in the Shady Oak Theater that day were the among the same ones that I had rejected in my forced encounters with preachers and Protestant religious thought. It might be believed that that first experience turned me off movies forever. In any case, it did not help Hollywood’s cause with me.

My next encounter with movies came during the war in Africa and Italy. Once in a while, the Army branch in charge of morale, would ship us a light hearted film. At the beginning, they shipped us war films which were laughed out of existence. They simply had no relevance to soldiers in combat situations. Later, they sent us some sophomoric films about romance among the high school set. Many of the men told the base communication’s officer that they would much prefer writing to the folks back home as distinguished from another moon-spoon-jitterbug movie. So they were simply shut down. So my GI experience as far as movie watching was a big zero.

After the United States Army reluctantly released me in November, 1945, no movie theaters had me as a customer. There were two major league ball clubs in St. Louis. There was a well know outdoor theater where light opera was presented during the summer months. In the winter, there were hockey games and the Grand Opera Association of St. Louis which offered three productions per year. And there were books and a first class newspaper. So there was no need to look for a picture show, so thoughts of movies never entered my head.

During the war, other soldiers had said that Boston was a good town. Being a “good town” may have been favorable eating establishments. Or it might have been a good bar scene. Or it could have been willing females. So never take the word of a soldier. Go see for yourself. And so the summer of 1948 found me in Boston during a very uncomfortable, humid heat wave. Remember, there was no such thing as
air-conditioning then as we know it today. Hotels responded by providing windows that could be opened. Restaurants had large fans, but it was still hot.

In the midst of a hot humid afternoon, a Boston theater appeared with the promise of being air-cooled. That term probably referred to tubs of ice with fans blowing over them. The picture being shown was the “Babe Ruth Story.” So to escape the humid heat, it seemed that an afternoon with the Babe was our best bet. The movie did nothing to change my view of the offerings of Hollywood. The theater though offered some relief from the heat, but not much. Before long that Boston experience will be 55 years old. It must have satisfied my curiosity about movies because in the intervening 55 years, there has been no temptation on my part to attend a showing of any of the latest Hollywood extravaganzas. As far as motion pictures are concerned, I’ve seen all I care to see. So for the rest of my life, it will be books, newspapers and some essays. Perhaps my mother was on to something when she barred me from seeing picture shows. But remember, it all started with “The Sign of the Cross.”

It was a very different situation with a very nice woman I worked with in Chicago. She must have seen every movie that was released during her working life, including the “The Sign of the Cross.”


For a two year period and starting in 1953 when I was involved with the Chicago #2 Traffic Office, AT&T and the Illinois Bell Telephone Company provided operators who handled long distance calls. Local calls were handled exclusively by the Illinois Company.

In those days, a customer who wished to make a long distance call would dial “211” and a light would be illuminated on the switchboard in front of a long distance operator. All the operators were women at that time. She would answer the signal by asking what number in the distant city you wished to call. If she had a direct unused circuit in front of her, say for a call from Chicago to Milwaukee, she would go into that circuit and the call would be immediately completed. If she had no direct circuit in her switchboard in front of her, say in the case of a Chicago to Reno, Nevada call, she would dismiss the customer. When she reached the called party in Reno, she would call back the originating Chicago customer and tell him to go ahead with his call. Remember, all this was before long distance toll dialing by customers.

Getting the right number of operators into the right positions on the switchboard was an exacting science. All the assignments were broken down into 15 minute segments. The idea was to leave operators in a position for as long as they were not needed in another position, say during the busy hour. In that case, the operator might be asked to move to another location for all or part of the busy hour. Every operator knew exactly where she was going to be at any time of the day because she received a “trick card” at the beginning of her shift which told her where she would be for the duration of her shift.

It is clear that “Trick Card” has picked up some unsavory connotations in recent years. But in the 1950’s, it was the backbone of the system which told operators where to work and for how long. The assignment of operators to work the switchboards was the function of Force Clerks who reported not to Chief Operators, but to the District Superintendent of the Traffic Office. That tells anyone of the importance of the function. The work of the Chief Force Clerk and her staff was complex. It would be difficult for me to remember that their work was ever overturned or even amended. When the Chief Force Clerk would show her work to me every week, I would clear my throat and pretend that I understood it. Before long, she would have my approval. In point of fact, unless you did the work yourself, there was no way for an outsider to improve upon the final result, much less to criticize it.

The Chief Force Clerk, when AT&T asked me to take over the Chicago #2 Office, was a very nice lady who went by the name of Rosalie Larson. If one wishes to engage in polite circumlocution, it might be said that
Miss Larson was of Swedish extraction. The people of Chicago are plain spoken. No fancy stuff for them. Rosalie and many thousands of other Chicagoans were usually identified as Swedes, just as another large group of Chicagoans were identified as Poles. Everyone understood that people such as the ones we are talking about were Americans; the ethnic identification, when necessary, simply made it easier to identify the person under discussion. It was like saying that woman over there in the red blouse. The ethnic identification was just that simple.

Before my thoughts are overlooked or forgotten, Chicago and its people are favorites of mine. It is a first class town peopled by first class citizens. I liked that place so much that a baby Chicago girl was adopted into our family. Soon, she will celebrate her 50th birthday.

Now, back to Rosalie. For reasons unknown to me, Miss Larson apparently spent her off hours in movie theaters. Remember, this was in the 1953-1955 span of years when there was no such thing as a rented movie. If you wanted to see a movie, you went to the theater and paid at the box office to enter the theater.

Rosalie saw so many movies that other AT&T traffic employees would ask her opinion as to what film they should see. Her breaks and lunch hours were punctuated by requests for a review of a movie that Rosalie had seen. Rosalie was an accommodating reviewer of movies. If she ever chased a movie buff away, it was probably while she was wrestling with a weekly force program.

It seemed to some of us that Rosalie spent so much time in movies that she consciously or unconsciously began to talk like characters she had seen. On one occasion that comes to mind, she apparently was asked if she had ever married. Rosalie was an attractive woman and the question was a fair one. Before anyone ever heard of “Ms,” Miss Larson responded by saying, “I called him my husband.” So when someone mentioned the remark to me, it seemed that Rosalie had been married – but who knows? Another person in the office said that the husband line came from a year old film. When it came time for me to report to my next job in New York, I had no idea about the husband – or the lack thereof – in Rosalie’s life. There was no point in wondering about these complications; that’s just the way Rosalie talked.

On another occasion, Rosalie said something to the effect that a certain man was “the other half of the apple” to a certain woman. When this statement was presented to me for discerning its meaning, it seemed to me that perhaps – when an apple is broken in half longitudinally, that only those two apple halves will ever fit together again. That was only my guess.

My father had strong arms from firing on the Illinois Central Railroad as a young man. He often took an apple, larger ones preferred, held it in his hands with the stem sticking upward, and twisted the left half in one direction and the right half in the other direction. And invariably, the apple came apart in two halves. My father always carried a pocket knife. It would have been much more simple to cut the apple in half, but perhaps he wanted to let the children know that he could break an apple in two. In any case, that is where my expertise about apples fitting back together came from. Pretty dubious expertise, I suppose.

As far as anyone could figure out, Rosalie’s line about “the other half of the apple” had to do with a cleaved apple. None of us knew any more than Rosalie’s response. In the interest of fair reporting, it should be noted that at least one of the folks in the Chicago #2 Office said it also came from a movie.

Well there you have it. Rosalie was a nice person who occasionally resorted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer forms of speech. Knowing nothing about movies, it seemed to me that such movie-speak while enigmatic, was pretty colorful stuff. And I never did figure out if Rosalie ever married – or remarried – as the case may be.

Now we turn to a colleague of all of us in the Chicago #2 Office who employed the most innovative hair dresser in Chicago, or as Bertie MacCormick, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune would say, “In all Chicagoland.”


This lady was a fun loving woman who had her hair done once each week. Like Rosalie, Dorothy Anderson was a Swede and perhaps she spent as much on her hairdresser as Rosalie did on movies.

There was considerable interest on Mondays when Dorothy would appear in the office with her latest hairdo creation. As a general observation, it seemed to me that her hair was always on top of her head. There were arcs and spirals and tunnels and round things like spoked wheels all over Dorothy’s head. As was said earlier, Cy Hill, a hard bitten engineer used to marvel at how the hairdresser had fixed Dorothy’s hair to defy gravity. Cy Hill had no hair that anyone could discern so I paid a diminished amount of attention to him.

Cy and some other male cynics who admired the innovations of the hairdresser, nevertheless contended that there was no way for Miss Anderson to recline peacefully, or un-peacefully, in a bed. They argued that the creations on top of Dorothy’s head were so important to her that she must have slept in an upright position in a chair or in a similar device. I took no clear position on this delicate subject. But it seemed reasonable to me that when single men debated about taking her out on a date, the problem of preserving the engineering marvels atop Dorothy’s head would become a significant issue. I listened to the cynic’s discussion, but I had nothing of import to add, publicly. Such a discussion would have run afoul of my mother’s forbidden list.

It has been nearly 50 years since Dorothy attracted all the attention of everyone at the Chicago #2 Traffic Office. If somehow we should meet today, you may be sure that it would be necessary for me to review her latest hair creation. Cy Hill is gone now, but Dorothy ought to have a latter day creation to honor the old engineer and the other interested male cynics.


Well, there you have the story of three women who impressed me back in the 1950’s and, in the case of my mother, back in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Whatever happened to my friends Rosalie and Dorothy is unknown to me as we enter 2003. I hope they are happily retired, going to the movies and to the hairdresser or what ever their latter day penchant might now be.

As for my mother, it was not in the cards for me to become a preacher as she had hoped and wanted. On the other hand, speaking of cards, during my more than three years in the American Army, I never ever sat at a poker table or in any other card game. When we were given ration cards for beer from the British run shops (NAAFTI), which were like the U. S. Army PX’s, I always gave my beer rations to someone else. Please don’t consider these acts as a return to righteousness on my part. I was just doing what came naturally to me. Card playing comes in as low as movies with me. I guess the proper word is nadir. And after trying to like beer, it just didn’t become the “other half of the apple.” As for cigar smoking, perhaps five or six cigars found their way into my lips. I hated every puff of every cigar I ever smoked.

So I hope my long departed mother will now view me in a more sympathetic light in view of my thoughts about card playing, movies, dancing, beer drinking and smoking cigars. I believe that my credentials for sainthood are well established and clearly beyond questioning. Perhaps the Protestants will now compose a new eight part hymn or an oratorio to sing my praises far and wide. I might even sing the baritone or bass part of such a hymn of praise.

December 31, 2002


Sorry for the break in essays! It’s been a crazy work week.

I can’t help but feel that Ed didn’t really give movies a fair shot. For a man who disliked both fiction and Christianity, The Sign of the Cross may have represented a poor introduction to the medium. Though, thinking about it, even now I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a movie that Pop would have enjoyed more than a book, so maybe he had it right after all.

Also noteworthy: I’ve been eating apples incorrectly all along. Gotta start just tearing them apart, I suppose.


In the spring and summer of 2001, the former AT&T Long Lines Headquarters building at 32 Sixth Avenue in New York City was sold to the Rudin Corporation. I had a vested interest in the lobby of that building because that is where a plaque commemorating the memory of those serving in World War II is located. Three of the men who worked with me in an office in St. Louis are memorialized because they lost their lives in combat. A fourth man, who also lost his life at Iwo Jima and who was a close associate in St. Louis, is missing from that plaque for bureaucratic reasons.

I started calling and writing letters to see what I could do to save that plaque. Curiously, no one in AT&T seemed interested in moving that plaque to the new company headquarters in Basking Ridge or to Bedminster, New Jersey. This was a piece of history, but the people at AT&T had other fish to fry. One of my letters paid off. That was the letter to Bill Rudin, the CEO of the Rudin organization. He said the plaque would be cared for and given its deserved place of honor. When I visited 32 Sixth Avenue, Bill Rudin did exactly what he said he would do. The plaque is well lighted and the obstacles that had been placed in front of the plaque when Long Lines owned the building were gone. I have written Bill Rudin to tell him that the plaque is better displayed than at any time in its history.

Unknown to me, Bill Rudin suggested to Warren Hegg, who is associated with the Veteran’s History Project, that perhaps I had a story to tell about World War II. The History Project is an effort to tell the history of the people who served in World War II. Warren called me and in a few days he sent his son Ryan, to meet me at my home. I told Ryan about my involvement in the war and gave him some photographs and other exhibits that he could use in making a digital recording of my thoughts.

The Veteran’s History Project is dedicated toward preserving stories of service for future generations. All of this work is intended for use by the United States Library of Congress. And so now I have a four or five minute digital recording of my story about the plaque at 32 Sixth Avenue in New York.

On June 6, 2002, the Veteran’s History Project sponsored a big celebration aboard the carrier Intrepid. There were some interesting speakers and the whole program went off well and it ended at 12 noon, when they said the festivities would cease.

On the way to the Intrepid, my wife asked me if I had ever attended another veteran’s affair. She said she couldn’t recall that happening. I said that in the 57 years I have been out of the service, this was my first involvement with a veteran’s group. I forgot that in 1946, I had attended an organizing meeting for the American Veteran’s Group, but I didn’t find it appealing, so I left. And so for all intents and purposes, the meeting aboard the Intrepid was my first involvement with old soldiers since 1945.

Everything in the program on June 6 went well but I felt somewhat embarrassed by references to how much other people owed the old soldiers and sailors. This takes nothing away from all the veterans who did a good and valorous job in World War II. They did all of that. I simply had a sense of slight embarrassment. The reason for my concern is that I did what was expected of me. I was 19 years old with no dependents. I didn’t see any reason why I should not be part of the war effort. In short, I enlisted because it was my duty to do so. No more, no less.

The enlistment came in the summer of 1942. My views have not been altered by time. In 1942, I thought it was my duty to enlist. Now sixty years later, I still feel the same way. When I had a young and growing family, it was my duty to feed them, to provide them a good place to live and to make educational opportunities available to them. It was my duty to attend to my parents when they became ill at the end of their lives. It was my duty to attend their funerals. There is no need to sponsor parades for people treating their families fairly. That is a duty. I look at my duty to my family and to the United States as being identical. So nobody owes me anything.

Maybe it would be good to be a hero and have admirers tell you how great you are. But I am afflicted with the words from an oft-told story where the man says, “I seen my duty and I done it.” Grammatically, that may be improved upon but the sentiments pretty much fit me exactly.

June 9, 2002


I wonder if there’s any chance of Judy still having a copy of that recording. If she does, I’ll make sure to update here!


You may find it hard to believe, but late in 1977, a bill was being prepared to be offered to the Assembly of the New Jersey Legislature, that would require men dating women to declare their intentions, in writing, early on in the romantic process. So if a young man saw a nice looking young lady, and if he invited her to share a hamburger and a coke with him, he would be obliged, under the proposed bill, to give her a statement of his intentions. If it was marriage, that would be one intention. If he just wanted to see how many hamburgers she could eat, that would be a different intention. If on the first date, he planned to take her to the back seat of his car or to a highway motel, that, of course, would be a different intention. And remember that all these intentions were to be properly presented IN WRITING.

For all the years I worked in New York, I read the New York Times and the Herald Tribune in the morning and the World Telegram and Sun on the return trip to New Jersey after work. If time permitted, I read the Newark Star Ledger after dinner.

Somewhere along the line, the Tribune folded and about the time the AT&T Company moved its main base of operations from New York City to New Jersey, the World Telegram and Sun quit publishing.

With moving to New Jersey and with the diminished number of newspapers available, I began to pay more attention to the Star Ledger. It covered all kinds of local news and it had a big bureau in Trenton, the state capital. So now residing in New Jersey and working in New Jersey, I paid more attention to what the Star Ledger had to say.

The story about requiring men to state their intentions in writing appeared for no more than two days. Then it disappeared and politicians were reluctant to acknowledge that the story ever existed.

As I say, all of this flap was reported in the pages of The Star Ledger. I was used to bizarre antics coming from the Assembly and often from the Senate in the New Jersey Legislature, but this proposed bill sort of staggered me. I was long past the age where it might be applied to me, but I worried about its effects on romance in the Garden State.

Curiously, all of this comes to mind at this late date because of the aborted candidacy of Essex County Executive James Treffinger in his quest to unseat Senator Robert Torricelli. Treffinger was doing quite well in his U. S. Senate bid during the first four months of 2002. He had endorsements from nearly all the County Chairman of the Republican Party and he had a large war chest he could rely on as he went to battle Torricelli.

But April was his cruelest month. There were allegations that a sewer contractor, the Gunite Corporation, was kicking back some of its income from the Treffinger-awarded sewer repair and installation contracts. It is alleged that Gunite was kicking back a large portion of its fees to the Treffinger political organization.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a caterer who supplied Treffinger’s political organization with booze and food, was accused of not billing for its services to Treffinger’s political organization. Allegedly, the caterer came out ahead by being awarded contracts for feeding people at institutions in Essex County.

The heat on Treffinger grew so hot that even the Bush administration sent in the Feds to search Treffinger’s house and offices and to seize everything that might prove useful in any future prosecution.

So the Republican County Chairmen started to bail out until they were all gone. Worse, they began to call for Treffinger to drop his bid to be the next Republican Senator from New Jersey. At the time of the abandonment by the County Chairman, Treffinger was light years ahead of the three other contenders. With the handwriting on the wall, on the sidewalk, on the front door of his house and offices, Treffinger said that in the interest of “party unity,” he would withdraw from the Republican primary to unseat Torricelli.

Well, now you see that all of this is subject to connection, as the lawyers say. The leading candidate to succeed Treffinger as Essex County Executive had been a woman named Marion Crecco. To make the race for the County Executive post, Ms. Crecco says she was encouraged by Republican bigwigs. And so she dropped out of any race for her seat in the New Jersey Assembly.

This is hard to believe, but as soon as Treffinger gave up the ghost, Marion Crecco announced that she was no longer interested in the County Executive’s job and backed out of the race leaving it to two Democrats, Tom Giblin and Joe DiVencenzo, to contest for it.

As far as anyone knows, Crecco was not involved in awarding contracts to the sewer contractor or to the caterer who never billed for his booze and food. But nonetheless, she backed out of the race and has remained silent for about three weeks. This is absolutely unlike Madame Crecco. In all her career, Crecco has never been so silent as she has since abandoning her run to be the next Essex County Executive.

While she was running for the Essex County job, she loudly proclaimed her support for total abstinence in sexual affairs. That, of course, is one of King George W’s mainstays in his assault on welfare programs. What the Essex County Executive has to do with total abstinence is a mystery to everyone. But as a fervent Catholic, Marion Crecco wanted to add total abstinence on to sewer and catering contract work in the County Executive’s office.

Can you imagine a young man, all white, in a button down shirt and a three piece suit, carrying a briefcase going to the streets of Newark or East Orange for the purpose of convincing young, black New Jersey citizens, men and women, that total abstinence is the only way to go? Can you imagine that? Marion Crecco can and I suppose Bush and Ashcroft can. But not many people in the real world can imagine such a thing.

This penchant for permitting her religious views to intrude on her political duties led someone, whom I strongly believe to be Marion Crecco, to propose her bill in 1977 to have men of all ages state their intentions as they invited women to go out with them. It was entirely like Crecco to consider such a cockamamie piece of legislation. Unfortunately, I lost the clipping as it circulated around the office, so I have to rely on my memory. It must have been Crecco or someone just like her, because no one else would propose such a silly law.

As soon as it was proposed, Republican legislators killed this bizarre idea to have men of all ages state their intentions in writing before engaging in romantic endeavors. The embarrassment was sufficiently great so that Republican moguls said it didn’t really happen. But I’m here to tell you that it did – in 1977 – and I saw it in disbelief with my own eyes – in The Star Ledger.

I have tried to imagine how Crecco’s bill would have applied to me. As a late teenager, I drove a 1931 Chevrolet coupe. It had a little trunk in back instead of a rumble seat. At best it could hold three people with the driver having to maneuver the gear shift lever around the middle person. Crecco’s law was not aimed at people who drove 1931 Chevy coupes. Before long however, I sold the coupe and bought a 1937 Chevy coach. A coach looked like a sedan but it had only two wide doors instead of the four doors found on sedans.

Now with a commodious back seat, I suppose the proposed New Jersey law would gather me in. At the time in the 1937 – 1941 era, there were two ballrooms in St. Louis, Tune Town and the Cherokee Ballroom, where famous bands played. I suppose that if I were required to state my intentions toward young women in writing, perhaps it could be written that I intended to take them dancing at the Cherokee Ballroom. But everyone knows that I was a lousy dancer, so my statement of intentions would be immediately suspect. Particularly since I now had the 1937 Chevy with the commodious back seat.

Carrying a pad of paper and a pen would pose other major problems. Before the war, there were no ball point pens. The only writing instruments were pencils which had to be sharpened. I didn’t have a pencil sharpener in the 1937 Chevy. Alternatively, men particularly would carry fountain pens which would write for a while until the ink gave out. In that event, the fountain pen would have to be filled from an ink bottle. My Chevy had no provision for an ink bottle or an ink well. Fountain pens would also often leak after they were placed in a shirt or suit pocket so a young swain would be embarrassed to call for his girl with a large blue stain on his shirt or suit.

Now these are not excuses to get around giving these fair maidens a statement of intentions. Then there is the issue as to whether the man should have a copy of his statement to the girl. At the time I was a man about town, the only way to achieve a copy was through the use of carbon paper which is messy and hard to store. And carrying a pad of paper into which the carbon paper could be inserted, was expensive. In older cars, there were no such things as map pockets in the doors, so carrying the paper would become a large burden. I suppose she would have to carry these supplies in her lap.

Again, I’m not offering excuses but any objective observer can see that carrying an ink bottle or ink well, together with a pencil sharpener, erasers and a pad of paper and carbon paper would probably kill any chance of romance right out of the gate.

I suppose the Crecco bill was well-intentioned. Perhaps nervous and untrusting mothers might endorse it with some enthusiasm. On the other hand, the proposed bill never disclosed the ultimate goal it had in mind. Simply getting young men to state their intentions in writing would accomplish very little. If, for example, the proposed bill was aimed at unwanted pregnancies, its sponsor should know that drug stores, taverns and even filling stations sold products that would accomplish those aims. (Or maybe Ms. Crecco doesn’t know.)

Never stated in the abandoned piece of legislation was the thought that the intentions of the men should be stated once or hundreds of times. Suppose before the first date, I declare my intention to marry my date. Can she sue me for breach of promise if I eventually marry someone else? Suppose my intentions at the outset are entirely honorable. And let us suppose that as the man gets to know the prospective lovely a little better, that she turns out to smack her lips when eating, chews gum and rides motorcycles. Can he then take back his earlier statement of intentions or is he stuck with them forever?

Now all this effort to legislate romance occurred before women were equal in the eyes of the law. In retrospect, it seems to me that fair maidens should also declare their intentions as they departed for a night of hamburgers and dancing. I am sure my mother and perhaps my father would have liked to know if a young heiress had designs upon the last of the Carr boys. It would have eased their minds and my mind as well.

As I have said repeatedly in this essay, as a young man the farthest thing from my mind would be to make excuses for not fully supporting the intent of the Crecco bill. If this bill had been proposed in 1937 instead of 1977, and if Hitler, Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito had been aware of it, they may have been reluctant to take on the Americans who had such superior moral fiber.

Well, in the end, I’m sorry that James Treffinger got his foot caught in the sewer and caterer contracting mess, but on the other hand, it brought Marion Crecco back to mind. If her bill had applied to me, I would be the first one to equip my 1937 Chevy with a strong reading lamp. And I would have my ink well or ink bottle together with my pad of paper and the carbon paper so that I could reel off a copy of my intentions in long hand. No mimeographed forms for me; long hand with a carbon copy for me and for her mother. Boys – that is the American way to do things. Long live Marion Crecco.

E.E. Carr
May 14, 2002

“Before the war, there were no ball point pens” what? Really? Wikipedia seems to agree, but I had no idea that they were so rare before then. I, too, wonder about the execution of this bill. If this is a legal stipulation, I wonder what the consequences would be of breaking the law here? And if the consequences were severe enough, surely the male in this equation would want some recourse against a female who had a bad date, and happened to “lose” the sheet where the man declared his intentions so as to get him in trouble. Who knows, maybe she used it for her gum wrapper. But if the man was to have recourse, of course the intention slip would need to be collected by a third party, which would have been very troublesome back then. With the advent of email, though, I could just see a BCC to the Department of Justice be appropriate, as you emailed you intentions to your date. Or hell, the NSA has a copy anyway. Maybe it’s time to bring the bill back now that technology can support such an endeavor.