Archive for August 2012


This is a two part essay.  In the beginning it refers to While I am Here.  Finally, there is a comment about When I am Gone.

Within a month my 90th birthday will occur. I do not look forward to it with a sense of exhilaration nor do I look forward to that event with horror.  It is going to happen no matter what my thoughts are.

So in this essay I thought that I should record my thoughts as the inevitable end of life in this “vale of tears,” as my mother would say, reaches its climax.  In the first place, I am indebted to all of those hundreds who have enriched my life and made it easier.  For example, there has been the friendship of Frances Licht, Howard Davis and Tom Scandlyn.  It is hard to believe that Tom and Howard are more than two years older than even I am.  I am indebted to those of you who held the doors open for me as I stumbled in my blindness toward an entrance or an exit.  I am deeply grateful for all of the courtesies that have been extended to me, particularly in the last seven or eight years.

But more than anything else, I am indebted to Judith Chicka, my wife of more than 25 years, for her solicitude and putting up with a blind husband.  I have recorded my thoughts about Judy’s devotion to me in a separate essay.  And may I say at this point that her devotion to me – again, as quoted from the Bible – surpasseth all understanding.

Beyond that, I am grateful for the help and support of my children and of the men they have married and of the five grandchildren.  I believe at this point that I have thanked every possible person who has contributed to my enjoyment of life.

I view the end of this life in a pragmatic sort of way.  I know that for all of us born in the year of 1922 sooner or later there will be an end.  So what!  I view this end of life with equanimity.  I do not believe that I am going to enjoy endless happiness in a place called heaven.  Nor do I believe that I will spend eternal life being burned in what the Christians call hell.  My life, like everyone else’s, lasts until it ends.

For all intents and purposes, my life should have ended before my 21st birthday.  Beyond that, it should have ended before my 22nd birthday.  And by both of those events, it should have ended quite probably before my 23rd birthday.  This was due to the ravages of the Second World War.  So it is clear that for nearly 70 years, I have enjoyed the bonus of staying alive.  So nobody owes me anything.  During those extra 70 years, there have been times of happiness and heartbreak.  But now as we enter the final lap, I have a few thoughts to record here.

To those of you who have read these essays, now numbering almost 700, over the years, I am sure that you will recall that they have been written with no sense of foreboding about death.  But I do not believe in the doctrine of eternal life.  I believe that is total nonsense.  More than anything else, I hold with Ecclesiastes, the preacher, from the Old Testament, when he says, “There is a time to live and a time to die.”  My death has been put off for 90 years.  I am laughing when I say, “What else can a person expect?”

At this point, I wish to return to the theme of this essay, which is while I am here.  If I in my very small way can make any contribution to solving the mysteries of life, it is that the influences of religion be examined.  I realize that religion gives some of us a sense of comfort, particularly as the end of our lives may occur.  But at the same time I must argue that the sense of comfort is ill-placed and more than anything else serves to block progress in making lives here more endurable or more enjoyable.

My view of churchly affairs is, of course, that they contribute to comfort for the pious.  But at the same time, there is no denying that slavish addiction to religion based upon ignorance and addiction to hidebound bureaucracy has a prominent place in religious affairs.  For example, look at the practices of Bob Jones University which bars interracial dating.  And as for the hidebound bureaucracy, look at the Vatican which continues to insist that stem cell research is evil.  How stupid can human beings get?  I am fully aware that reading these words will enrage some, but objective observers have to give non-believers a chance to state their case.  It is my view that religion is the major obstacle to progress in the affairs of man.

In the case of ignorance, I must conclude that there are churches that in the Protestant tradition insist on the infallible word of the Bible to guide man’s affairs.  That plainly is not true.  In the former case of ignorance, the Protestants have wrestled with the idea that man’s fate is determined while he is still in the womb.  I have in mind the Presbyterian doctrine of predestination.  And as for the hidebound bureaucracy, it must be clear to everyone that the Vatican transferred pedophile priests from one church to another in an effort to save embarrassment to the Church.

At this point, I must concede that good also flows from the practice of religion.  But at the same time, I must insist that the drawbacks such as ignorance and hidebound bureaucracies have to be taken into account.  When that is done, I am more than content with my status as a belligerent non-believer.

I fully realize that this essay will not cause great mirth and happiness in the religious community.  But it is something that I wish to say while I am here.  Remember that it was Galileo who defied the Church in his insistence that the earth rotated around the sun rather than vice versa.  If I have nothing else to mark my time on this earth, it is that I hope that I have contributed toward the removing this sense of ignorance and slavish bureaucracy so that man may proceed to enjoy life in its fullest.  If I have contributed in any way toward these ends, I will believe that the time while I was here was well worthwhile.


July 4, 2012

Essay 675



Kevin’s commentary:

Fun Fact: This was actually going to be the first essay on this website, because it’s to me highly representative of the base idea that Pop communicates through what is likely dozens if not hundreds of essays. To me it seems that when Pop is writing, the most major themes are humanity, rationality and kindness; then variation is introduced through the filters which he observes which distorting that humanity. Religion is often one of these, politics are another, that sort of thing. Mix a discussion of these distorting influences in with personal anecdotes from 90 years of life, and you’ve pretty much the closest thing to a “standard” Ezra’s Essay as can be imagined.

The only reason this wasn’t the first essay on the site was simply that it is somewhat upsetting to me and I didn’t want to set the tone of the blog in an honestly morbid manner. This piece is of course not meant to be upsetting or morbid in the least; to the contrary I think his message here is uplifting, but it is nonetheless difficult sometimes to read essays wherein my grandfather writes about what he considers to be his imminent death. Cheery thoughts for a fourth of July, Ed.


For the past 12 or 15 years, I have been a friend of Gregorio Russo.  Gregorio works in the produce department of the Whole Foods Market.  In the former location of the Whole Foods Market, he was the first person who came into view as you entered the market.  Now that market has moved to much larger quarters and I have to search to find Gregorio Russo.  The old arrangement, from my standpoint, was much superior.

Gregorio was born in Italy, somewhere south of Naples.  He told me that when he left home to come to this country, his father offered only one piece of advice.  It was, “Don’t grow old.”  Gregorio arrived in this country during the Vietnam War and was promptly drafted.  I suspect that there were times when he thought about his father’s advice about growing old and wondered if his life during the Vietnam War would end much too soon.  But he survived that war and has gone on to become the senior worker in the produce department of the Whole Foods Market.  On many occasions after meeting Gregorio, I have told him about the imaginary bonuses that the American Army gave me.  Gregorio usually says that when he had a break in his work schedule, he would go down to see if the American Army had a bonus for him as well.  The fact is that I left the Army in November of 1945 and the American Army has unfortunately paid me absolutely nothing.  But it is fun to needle Gregorio on the subject of imaginary bonuses paid by the American Army.

Gregorio has told me about his father’s advice about not growing old.  As time has gone on, I have come to appreciate the wisdom of that advice.  For one thing, growing old is an expensive proposition.  For example, the handyman who runs Taylor Home Repair was here this morning.  He was called to nail down a rug that had threatened to trip me on two or three occasions recently.  This is only one occasion in which old age and  disabilities have prevented me from doing the small jobs that I used to do myself.  The fellow from Taylor Home Repair has to be paid.  So it is clear that growing old in defiance of the elder Russo’s maxim is expensive.  So Gregorio Russo’s father did not finish his sentence.  He should have said as his son departed for these shores that growing old would involve considerable expense.

There is a secondary consideration on the subject of growing old.  Aside from the fact that the repairmen must be paid, which I am glad to do, they tend to clutter up the house.  Their truck is usually parked in the driveway and accommodations such as offering coffee to the workmen are also involved.  Simply put, in the old days before age overtook me, I used to do this work myself and saved a respectable amount of money, which was unforeseen before I grew older.  But that is the price of growing old.  The men who come here to do these small jobs are inevitably very nice fellows.  But I would have preferred not to have called them.  That is not a choice.  So growing old is expensive and the workmen clutter up the house.  So if the father of Gregorio Russo is still alive somewhere in southern Italy, he should add this admonition to his advice.  He should say that growing old is inconvenient and expensive, and that the workmen invited to do the jobs that we used to do clutter up the house.

Now about the title of this essay which is “Too Soon Old.”  The rest of that maxim is, “Too soon growing old, too late growing smart.”  I assume at this point that you have been convinced not to grow older.  It is expensive.


July 18, 2012

Essay 677



Kevin’s commentary:  It seems to me like Pop befriends Whole Foods workers on a rather regular basis. Accordingly I feel that the barbershops, departments of motor vehicles, etc which he no longer patronizes are probably missing him in recent years. If, for whatever reason, a Short Hills Whole Foods employee ever makes his or her way to this blog, I encourage him to comment on this state of events, or on really anything at all.

I’ll also record here, for nobody in particular, that the rugs in Pop’s house are positively vicious, and that simply nailing them down is in many cases too good for them. Here I am specifically thinking of the red rug in the dining room, upon which I have been slipping more or less my entire life, despite possessing my full visual faculties.

Screw that rug.





Blog: Thoughts on the RNC

[NOTE: This is a blog, not an essay. The difference between the two is that essays are planned at length, dictated, given to Eva Baker for transcription, and then finally re-edited and mailed out to all his friends and regular readers in hard-copy.  This, conversely is just some thoughts on yesterday’s Republican National Convention that Pop happened to record in an email to me. Judy had mentioned to me previously that Pop was thinking about writing a small commentary on the RNC, and I encouraged him to do so and mentioned that Jen had specifically inquired about his thoughts on said convention. He winds up addressing the whole thing as a response to her.]


Hey Kevin,

This is a response to Jen whom I hope remembers me.1  First of all, I wish to inquire whether they have the same God in upstate New York as we have here in Northern NJ.  It seems to me that this is an important consideration because the convention is taking place during Hurricane Isaac.  It is clear as a bell to me that God is angry as hell about what the Republicans are up to.

So the first point is to try to find out what the republicans have done that pisses off God sufficiently that would cause him to bring a hurricane back to the gulf coast.

Now on to some thoughts about the request from Jen.  On Tuesday I had a long day and knowing what conventions are like, for the first time in several months, I headed for bed in prime time.2  This is to say that I did not witness the proceedings at Tampa because I was basically asleep.  It is clear to me that the reviews of the subsequent day with all of their flashbacks to the highlights of the convention are quite adequate.  So I will give you some thoughts off the top of my head, which as you may recall is very wavy.

In the first place, I have been watching conventions since 1928 when Herbert Hoover ran against Al Smith.  At that time, the big problem was that Al Smith was a Catholic.  My parents were fundamentalist Christians who thought that Catholicism was the very pit of evil.  In private dealings, it must be observed that some people would say very quietly to their cohorts that “You know he’s a Catholic, don’t you?”  I was six years old at that time but I remember the events quite vividly.

Now with respect to yesterday’s proceedings, it is my belief that Mrs. Romney’s speech was over-rehearsed.  So I join in Hana Davis’ estimation of her speech as “corny.”  Hana’s native language is Czech and German and she learned her English in Great Britain.  Hana is 92 years old and my evaluation is that you don’t mess with Hana Davis.  She said it was corny but when I heard the clips played today, I would say that Hana’s description of Mrs. Romney was more than generous.  In other words, Mrs. Romney delivered a over-rehearsed speech.  There was absolutely no spontaneity in her remarks.

The other big speech was Chris Christie, who had no New Jersey miracle to brag about.  Christie was his usual bullying self and I believe even his Republican audience sensed that quality to Christie’s remarks.

That is my reaction to yesterday’s proceedings.  Admittedly I have relied as I intended to on news clips and the testimony of Hana Davis.  They have always been reliable indicators of what is going on.

Again, I believe that God has injected himself into Republican politics with his hurricane.  In point of fact, I believe that this event is what we should take away from the Republican convention.  In fact, all those faithful Republicans on the Gulf Coast are gurgling with hurricane overflow and can’t watch the convention because God turned off the electricity too.


PS:  Check out today’s editorial in the New York Times.  Judy will send it if you cannot get it.3

August 29, 2012

Blog #1


1. Perhaps Pop assumes that I only date people who have horrible memories?  This may or may not be an unreasonable assumption. Still, they met less than a month ago. She has certainly not forgotten him, but if she had it would count as particularly impressive that she asked to hear his thoughts on the RNC, I feel.

2. I feel that Pop is taking a page out of the Pope’s book, here.

3. I think he means this one, but I am not positive.




[NOTE: I’m breaking form and publishing order here because I felt this essay serves as a nice introduction to Pop’s thoughts on the Republican National Convention. This essay is almost exactly 1 year old; the message is still relevant. Hopefully this is not confusing. -Kevin]


Under ordinary circumstances, I am not involved with Republican politics.1  But the other night, there was a debate involving all of the Republican candidates for the Presidency.  The question was asked as follows: If you were presented with a proposal to take 90% of spending cuts and only 10% in tax increases, how would you vote?

One brave Republican candidate instantly raised his hand and said that he would not accept the proposition and that he would always vote against tax increases.  In a matter of moments, the remainder of the Republican candidates held up their hands and rejected the proposition as well.  This is preposterous.  The Republicans claim that they only want spending cuts and they do it to the derogation of small tax increases.  But in this case, the instincts of the herd prevailed.  When the first one or two raised his hand, the rest of them soon followed.  I am not surprised at the instincts of the herd being accepted.

In my view, based upon my knowledge of the Second World War, people with large earnings paid at least 91% of their salaries in taxes.2  No one is suggesting that the incomes of the greatest earners of this country are going to be taxed at anything of the sort.  But leaving out the question of whether the rich people will help the poor people, it seems to me that the instincts of the herd are being followed.

This is not unusual.  During my high school years, I attended an affluent high school in Clayton, Missouri.  It was attended largely by the offspring of the St. Louis professional class, doctors and lawyers who practiced in St. Louis and resided in Clayton.  As one might imagine, a good many of the professional class were Jewish.

When classes resumed after Christmas vacation, the wealthy kids returned to school and often compared how well they did in terms of receiving gifts.  I really do not know whether gifts are exchanged in Jewish families, but upon their return to school the Jewish kids would often show off their new wares also.  For the better part of the time I attended high school in Clayton, Missouri in the late 1930s, cashmere sweaters were all the rage.  But as soon as one child got a cashmere sweater, every other child would bug his parents until they bought him the same garment.  Cashmere comes from a certain type of sheep and I assume that after Christmas the sheep were shorn bald.  But the point in this exercise is that the other children in Clayton public schools simply followed the instincts of the herd.

Now as it happened, I was never able to afford, nor were my parents ever able to afford, a cashmere sweater.   My best recollection is that I wore an old sweater that had been handed down from my elder brothers.  But once again, the idea is not about cashmere sweaters so much as it is to tell you about the instincts of the herd.

In much later days in the 21st century, cashmere sweaters have been replaced by BMW automobiles.  It seems to me that when one student gets a BMW, the instincts of the herd will soon provide that other students will also have a BMW as well.  This is fine with me because I don’t drive or even ride in German automobiles.  Clearly, the instincts of the herd apply to the students of the 21st century.

Now there is just one more thought that follows about the instinct of the herd.  Because of the way that the world is configured, the Asian  markets involving the trading of stocks open on the previous evening of the American trading day.  If the Asian markets are down, you may rest assured that the European markets will also show a decline.  Later, when the hour of 9:30 AM arrives in New York, American traders will say, “The Asian markets were down and the European markets were down, therefore we must also open at a lower rate.”  Computer trading has made this tendency much more likely.  But in any case the idea here is that the instinct of the Wall Street herd applies not only to BMW automobiles or cashmere sweaters but also to the trading of securities.

And so this essay about the instinct of the herd comes about because of a mistake that I made in watching a Republican debate.  As a liberal Democrat or as we now call them a Progressive Democrat, I rarely watch developments in the Republican Party.  But in the final analysis, it was  instructive to have watched the hands in the air about the issue of ten to one spending cuts to tax increases.  Upon further examination, I believe that this essay is the only benefit that has flowed from the Republican debate.

In the future, I will confine my attention to Mrs. Bachmann and to Rick Perry, who are engaged in a debate as to who is the maximum Christian.  I believe that watching these two perform will produce varying shades of ribald laughter.  Perry for example does not believe in the theory of evolution and Mrs. Bachmann has confused the date of Elvis Presley’s death with the anniversary of his birth.  Boys, I will tell you this.  You do not get better entertainment from any set of politicians.


August 25, 2011

Essay #???



1. This seems like a lie. Having read all of 2012 and most of 2011, I reckon that somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-10% of Pop’s essays primarily concern Republican nominees for President. Lord knows how much he had to say about the Bush administration, but we’ll find out eventually — once we get far enough back in essays.

2. This, however, is true.  Looks like the all-time high was 94% for some time during the war, but it stayed well above 90 for several years. Source.


I am kinda liking this whole “footnote Pop’s essays” style of commenting. I will have to see how he feels about it. Meanwhile I have decided that my mother should buy her dad a cashmere sweater if he still lacks one. I would volunteer, but the fact has not changed that those suckers are expensive.




In this essay I am going to be talking only about pocket knives, as distinguish from knives that are meant to kill.  I suspect that this again is an exercise in nostalgia.

Looking back more than 70 or 75 years ago, there was a custom having to do with knives.  My father, for example, would go nowhere without a knife.  When he went to work, he had a heavy-duty knife that he carried in his pocket.  On Sundays when he went to church, he had a more fanciful knife.  But the point is that on no occasion was my father knifeless.

At the time 75 or more years ago, knives were a welcome thought on the American scene.  Work knives were actually used in the performance of my father’s duties.  At one point, there were such things as “Boy Scout knives” that had various blades and would also include a corkscrew.  When it came to knives that were carried on dressed-up occasions, knives were often worn on key chains in full view.

In this day and age, if an airline customer with a knife would attempt to board an airplane, the knife or knives would soon be discovered, either through a pat-down or through some sort of x-ray device.  But knives have all kinds of utility.  They could cut string, or they could be used to peel an apple.  On the subject of knives, I was more or less neutral.  I recognized their utility but carrying a knife in my pocket tended to wear the pockets out.  But if my father or other gentlemen of his age carried knives, either the work-a-day knives or the Sunday knives, or if they attached them to their key chains, they thought that this was a sprightly accessory.  But as time has gone on, knives have lost their value.

As I said at the beginning, this is an exercise in nostalgia.  Nostalgia has to do with my father, who would go nowhere without his knife.

That includes the work-a-day knife or the Sunday knife.  And so I conclude that in these days of pat-downs, knives are out of the question.  They were appropriate for my father, who lived a long time ago.  My father and I were never pals.  But from time to time, I remember him fondly.  And the thought this Sunday morning turned to my father and his knives.  I suspect that if he were to leave the house without his knife, it would have been an occasion for distress.

Perhaps knives were a part of my father’s generation.  For all intents and purposes, I have not been involved in the knife culture.  But that does not prevent me from writing a small essay on my father and his love of knives, either the work-a-day models or the Sunday show-off models.



February 12, 2012



In my work as an investment banking intern I have had no less than three occasions where I have needed a knife, primarily to open boxes of printing materials. I’ve had to borrow the company’s shoddy little boxcutter and it brings me great shame; clearly I should just have my own handy at all times.

Because seriously if a banker needs one once every three weeks or so, I can imagine that real professions have even more need for them.



Over the years I have introduced you, my readers, to the various members of my family.  In total, there were eight children.  Martha and Ruth, born in 1920 and 1924, were probably stillbirths.  That was a subject that the children were never encouraged to ask about.  Also in 1924 there was the death of my brother, who was 11½ years old.  He died from pneumonia and appendicitis, both of which would pose no problems for physicians today.  Of the remaining members of the family, I suppose that in retrospect I have devoted less time to my eldest brother, Charles H., than to any of my other siblings.  On this occasion, I will try to even up the sibling count.

That would mean that my brother is a secondary issue.  The primary issue in this essay has to with music and particularly railroad music.

If my memory is correct, I spent the last half of the 1960s in Washington, D.C.  My brother Charles H. had a daughter who lived in Virginia with her husband and two small children.  On one occasion, Charles H. and his wife Rose, together with his daughter and son-in-law, visited with us in our home in Bethesda, Maryland.  I suspect that this is where Charles H. made up his mind to send some ancient phonograph records to me.  Those phonograph records, recorded around 1920, are the subject of today’s essay.

Before we get to the music, there is the matter of the title of this essay.  When I left for the army in 1942, my eldest brother was called Halley.  Apparently upon his birth, Halley’s Comet appeared in the sky and my grandmother recommended to my mother that this should be his name.  And it was done as my grandmother recommended.

So I left to pursue my soldierly duties in 1942 in the belief that my brother’s name was Halley.  Upon return from the Army in 1945, I found that Halley had morphed into Charlie.  And so it was that the surveying firm located in Clayton, Missouri was called the Charles H. Carr Surveyors.

Now as to the second part of the title to this essay, Charles Halley frequently referred to me as “Little August.”  I suspect that Charley used that title to refer to me because I was born in the month of August.  But in retrospect, Charlie himself was born in August and I suppose he referred to me as Little August which means that he must have been Big August.

Now I had very little cause to complain about Charley’s changing his  name from Halley because until I joined the American Army, my parents and siblings referred to me as Junior.  This of course was because I was named after my father.  When I returned from my Army duties, I took great delight in watching my siblings and their mates trying to call me Ed or Eddy.  They simply did not believe that Junior was the appropriate title for a soldier.  Today I carry on discussions and correspondence with one of my nephews who always addresses me as Uncle Junior.  When I send things to Robert J. Carr, I always sign them as coming from Uncle Junior.

As far as I know, my brother Charlie had no musical talent.  Perhaps I should say that he never showed it to me.  Probably he took after my father, who used to shout the words to the hymns rather than singing them.  Charlie, in addition to his expertise as a surveyor, was also a craftsman.  Sometime after Charlie’s visit, there arrived at our home in Bethesda a wooden box.  Charlie had constructed this wooden box to hold photos and several pieces of what I would call priceless Americana.

At this point, there should be one more intrusion.  Around 1900, my father worked as a fireman for the Illinois Central Railroad.  That railroad started in Chicago and ended in New Orleans.  This was in the days of steam engines.  The duty of the fireman was to shovel enough coal into the furnace to cause the steam engine train to run.  My father seldom talked about his railroad days.  I suspect that one of the reasons was that he viewed it as a failure in that he didn’t stick around long enough to become an engineer.

The fact is that in 1900, ordinarily it would take a person spending 15 years as a fireman before he was promoted to engineer.  Ezra Senior decided to look for greener pastures and he found them in preparations for the 1902 World’s Fair in St. Louis.  I know that the Fair didn’t open until 1904, but that was a small triviality.  So my father had quit railroading at an early age and, after he worked on the World’s Fair, he found work at the Lilac Roost Dairy Farm.  After a time, he became the superintendent of the Lilac Roost operation.

This apparently was a prestigious position which my father celebrated by buying phonograph records, which were new at the time, perhaps to celebrate his most recent success.  He also bought a machine to play the records on.  It was called a Victrola.  It was manually operated with a crank which caused the records to spin.  As I recall it, the records were played one at a time.  When one record was finished, it was necessary to replace that record with another record.  In the early days of recording, there was no such thing as long playing records.

And so, after this delay, we now reach the music which is the main burden for this essay ever to have been written.


There are a total of five recordings having to do with train wrecks and a doleful song called “In the Baggage Coach Ahead.”  In that recording, apparently the singer laments the fact that his wife has died and that her remains are being carried by the baggage coach ahead.

So this is doleful music but hang on.  Apparently it was what my father enjoyed as he recalled his railroad days.  I deeply regret that the final song, called “The City of New Orleans,” was recorded after his death.  That song is a much happier song than the six ancient recordings.

As we opened the box that Charlie had sent us from his home in University City, Missouri, it was obvious that he had taken all precautions to see to it that the records arrived in Bethesda, Maryland in the same condition that they had left his home in University City.  On a curious note, I have preserved that box that the records came in.  The records arrived about 45 years ago and I have no intention of losing the box that they arrived in.  Maybe that gives you an idea about Charlie’s Carr’s craftsmanship.

You will notice that each of the records selected by my father had to do with train wrecks.  When steam engines were used to pull trains, the fireman sat in the front cab of the engine across from the engineer and if there was a wreck, he would inevitably be a casualty.  I do not know whether this is what drove my father to buy train wreck records, but it is the only logical explanation that has ever come to mind.

Now, on the CD that accompanies this essay you will find these songs.  The first recording is of “The Wreck of the Number Nine.”  The second is “The Wreck of the Royal Palm.”  The third song is “The Wreck of the Southern Ninety-Seven.”  This is followed by “The Wreck of the Old #5,”  “Jim Blake” and “In the Baggage Car Ahead.”  Finally, there is Willie Nelson’s recording of “The City of New Orleans.”   I believe that I have listed the songs more or less in proper order.

Now before we get to listening to the music, the artist is Marion Try Slaughter, also known by his stage name of Vernon Dalhart.  According to his biography, he selected those names because they were the names of two neighboring towns in Texas.  Mr. Slaughter/Dalhart was born on April 6, 1883 and he lasted until September 15, 1948.

Apparently Mr. Dalhart played his own guitar and from time to time you will hear some intrusions by a harmonica.  I am convinced that Dalhart had the harmonica in front of his lips and played it when there was an interlude in his music.  On top of that, you will also notice that from time to time, Mr. Slaughter/Dalhart whistles.

As improbable as it seems, Mr. Dalhart also appeared in operas.  According to his biography, he appeared in “H.M.S. Pinafore” and the Puccini opera, “The Girl of the Golden West.”  I am a fan of opera and I believe that this is a performance that I would like to hear.  In substance, I do not believe that Mr. Dalhart was much of an opera singer.  But who is to say?

And so for the moment we will then go on to the final song called “The City of New Orleans.”  Naming trains after cities was a glorious quest, but I believe that it came along after my father left the railroading business.

But in this case the singer is Willie Nelson who is widely known, mainly for country music.  If I were asked, I would say that this song, “The City of New Orleans,” is the greatest railroad song that ever lived.  But no one has really asked me.  And so I leave you to enjoy the six old-time songs as well as “The City of New Orleans.”

Now a final thought about my brother, Charles Halley Carr.  I can’t really hold that I saw much of Charlie as I was growing up.  He was about 14 years older than I was and he married at an early age.  I might also tell you that he was a good guy and that he was bald-headed and that he liked to smoke cigars.  I part company with Charlie on smoking cigars.

Well, that is the story about the ancient phonograph records that Charlie Carr sent to me.  As I said, the box that they came in still remains in my possession.  Perhaps if a music lover, particularly of railroad music, turned up, I might let him admire the box.  In the final analysis, this is the first time that the recordings bought by my father around 1920 have ever appeared as a group.

My father was a religious man who believed in the after-life.  Perhaps he is up there among the clouds and he would appreciate hearing the melodies of “The Wreck of the Royal Palm” or of Jim Blake who thought, “Tell my wife that I will meet her in heaven; don’t wait for the fast express.”  I am sorry that I did not have the opportunity to play “The City of New Orleans” for my father or for Charlie.  It might have counteracted the dour recording climate produced by the train wreck records.  But in any case, I am pleased that these seven songs are together again and I hope that my father has been honored by this collection of music.  My brother Charles Halley has also been honored for delivering the records to me in that magnificent hand crafted box.


March 17, 2012

Essay 640



Family night.

The Wreck of the Number Nine —  Whelp. Trainwreck music.

The Wreck of the Royal Palm. — couldn’t find it; maybe Judy will send it.

The Wreck of the Southern Ninety-Seven — looking for better quality.

The Wreck of the Old #5 — can’t find

Jim Blake —

In the Baggage Car Ahead —  (Legitimately really sad)

The City of New Orleans — As Pop says, much nicer.



At the moment, we are concerned – or at least the Republicans are concerned – with the outcome of the presidential nominating process.  The early leaders in the Republican primary contest have largely dropped out, leaving only four people.  There is the favorite, Mitt Romney.  He is being challenged closely by Rick Santorum.  Then we have the perennial candidates like Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.  We would all like to think that we are living in enlightened times.   But if you listen to the blathering of Rick Santorum, there is doubt.

From what I have gathered, Rick Santorum has warned us that, “Satan has us squarely in his cross-hairs.”  There have been several occasions on which Santorum has made this remark.  I suppose that under any Santorum administration, we should all forego contraceptive devices and other worldly pleasures.

But I am not so much worried about the current campaign.  What I am worried about is the idea that Satan still lives.  More than anything else, Rick Santorum is a Catholic.  We would have expected these remarks to come from some back-woods Baptist who believes that Satan is just around the corner or in every pool hall in the United States.

Are we left to believe that Satan has been granted eternal life?  May I ask, does anyone fear to meet Satan somewhere along the road?  As you can see, I had long since dismissed the idea of a Satanic preacher greeting us in the so-called afterlife.

For a Presidential aspirant to contend that Satan is a real creature is nothing less than mind boggling.  Here is a man who, I believe, has graduated from law school.  For him to contend that Satan has us in his cross-hairs is a bit more than this mind can assimilate.

All of the old questions arise as to whether Satan is too old to stoke his “fiery furnaces.”  And again the question arises as to how Satan lives when all of the other Biblical characters seem to have passed on.  The Republican primaries are not noted for their intellectual achievements.   But here we have a former Senator with a law degree contending that Satan has all of us in his cross-hairs.  For some reason, Santorum says that the residents of the United States have been singled out.

May I make a suggestion?  I would suggest that the idea that Satan has us in his cross-hairs would have an opposite effect.  I suspect that it will increase the incidence of non-belief more than religiosity.  For us at this late date to live our daily lives in fear of a Satanic preacher is more than the normal mind can comprehend.

So I would suggest that in the Republican primaries, the end result might be a great increase in the belief in non-belief.  I would have no objection to this outcome, but I am sure that it is not what Santorum has in mind.  In the unlikely event that Santorum becomes our next President, please head for the hills before Satan grabs you in his fatal embrace.


March 9, 2012

Essay 640


I was under the impression that all angels are immortal, an Satan is a fallen angel, so nominally he should be immortal too.

My question is why he is still portrayed as some sort of adversary to God, who is pretty much by any definition omnipotent. Omnipotent people shouldn’t have enemies or adversaries because they can just make any enemies they have disappear. So either God is not omnipotent, that is not strong enough to rid himself of satan, or God is content with Satan exactly the way he is (because God would have made him be something different, otherwise). The former one seems conceptually impossible but the latter makes sense if you think about it — Satan punishes those who commit evils. Which means he’s doing exactly what he should be doing, and God is a-ok with that.

So why, then, are Christians so mad with the guy?




I have never been known for clear thinking on ecclesiastical matters.  As a matter of fact, I am perhaps the last one to catch on to the fact that God is a Republican.  I could have deduced that from my own reasoning, but a cloud of uncertainty hung over my identifying the Republican Party and God.  All of that is gone now and I am here to say that without doubt, God is a Republican.  I could have and should have come to this conclusion much earlier but at least I have finally gotten it right.  The simple fact is that God is a Republican.

For the eight years that it took for George W. Bush to serve out his term, he made several references to God.  I should have known that his God-like references were inspired by the Holy Spirit.  But my mind refused to recognize the obvious.  During the 2004 campaign, George Bush made a speech to all the students of the Bob Jones University in South Carolina and seemed to wallow in righteousness there.  As an aside, Bob Jones University forbids interracial dating and it is obvious that dating between sexes is not contemplated by the Bible and thus is suspect.  I should have known that God is a Republican for the obvious reason that when George W. Bush elected to run for the Presidency, he claimed that the inspiration for such a move came solely from God.  Clearly the last person that God and George W. Bush would consult would be a non-believer like me.  But that does not alter the fact that it is clear that God is a full-fledged Republican.

All doubt was removed as I listened to the entreaties by the Republican candidates for the nomination in 2012.  It is clear from the utterances of such stalwarts as Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and several others that they had the endorsement of God himself.  I believe that there was one occasion or perhaps more when Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, offered to pray for his nomination.  It is absolutely clear that Mrs. Bachmann is on the right side of this election which has celestial overtones.

Then there was the interesting case of Herman Cain, who was known previously for his involvement in making pizzas.  Herman Cain is blessed with a fine baritone voice, which he uses to sing spiritual songs.  It might also be noted that it is claimed that Mr. Cain was involved with several women simultaneously.  I am certain that these dalliances with these females come under the heading of righteous conversions.

Then there is the case of Rick Santorum.  Mr. Santorum is a former Senator from the great state of Pennsylvania.  He is also the advocate of boisterous Catholicism.  He points proudly to his six or seven children.  This establishes the fact that there were few instances when Mrs. Santorum used birth control.

Mr. Romney who will probably emerge as the nominee for the Republican Party has said very little on the religious front.  But his views are well-known and you may rest well-assured that Mr. Romney welcomes God into the ranks of the Republican Party.

This leaves two contenders for the Republican nomination.  For all intents and purposes Ron Paul is not a contender on the side of religion.  On the other hand, Newt Gingrich apparently has regular conversations with celestial powers.  He claims that God has forgiven him for the three divorces that have occurred.   Apparently God does not issue vouchers when a divorce is forgiven but in any event Newt Gingrich must be in constant communication with the top person in the universe because of his indiscretions in marital relationships.

I would have known that God is a Republican if I had studied the writings or warnings of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.  One or both of these pastors claimed that the manifestation of the hurricane that nearly killed New Orleans resulted from the nakedness of the female breasts during the Mardi Gras parade that year.  It now becomes clear to me that the candidates for the Republican nomination would not have undertaken such a major operation without approval of God.  And it should have been clear to me that Hurricane Katrina, which almost wiped out New Orleans, was a result of the showing of the female breasts during the Mardi Gras parade that year.  I don’t know how I could have been so dumb.

Now in the Republican chase for the nomination, Ron Paul has made so little noise that you might suspect that he is not a Christian at all.  Mr. Paul claims that he is a libertarian, which goes to explain his lack of action on the religious front.  Mr. Romney could probably be excused because he spent a year in France whipping up support for the Mormon Church.  Mr. Romney spent his year abroad seeking converts to the Mormon faith.  I would suspect that very few French are Mormons because of their desire to drink wine.  Wine of course is forbidden to Mormons.  But we must point out that God has election returns at his fingertips and he knows that Mormons are only a small part of the American electorate.

One more thing comes to mind having to do with language.  I suppose that when God speaks with Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or any of the Republican candidates, the language that is used is English.  Two thousand years ago, the proper language was Aramaic.  I am wondering now who will take credit for teaching God English so that he can support Republican candidates.  The Republicans, as you will recall, are dead set on everybody learning English.

As you can see, the news that God is a Republican has finally become evident to this non-believer.  Everyone else knew that God was a Republican and I suspect that that [sic] news was kept from me because of my religious views.  But now everyone knows and I cannot wait to hear the confidences explained to God by the operatives of the Republican Party.  So I will await the developments in November, realizing that the righteous path is always the path of the Republican Party.  I do not know how I could have been so ignorant over the years.



May 5, 2012

Essay 651



God/Satan theme for the day.  I’m actually really looking to pushing into the Bush administration years, just to see the sheer volume of essay criticizing him.

As for who taught God English, I suppose the only logical answer is Joseph Smith, who traded god a dictionary when he received his golden plates.



Those of you who follow the news from abroad or, more specifically, from Vatican City may be aware that the Pope’s butler is in a heap of trouble. Apparently the Pope’s butler, who has access to the body of His Holiness, was alleged to be the person who has leaked salacious gossip to the Italian press.  If my understanding is halfway correct, the Pope directs an army of high-level workers in Vatican City.  There are those who think that with the ecclesiastical calling of the Pope and his brethren, there would be no gossip.  But apparently that is not the case at all.

But now let me give you some background which comes from years of watching developments inItaly.  As anyone might suspect, the staff at all levels in Vatican Cityare Italians.  This is fine with me, but there is no love lost between the Italians and the Germans.  And His Holiness happens to be German.  I am a pious observer in that I was the recipient of hospitality and warmth on the occasion of my escape from the German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.  If anyone is interested, those events were recorded in an essay called, “They Never Betrayed Me.”

But that was nearly 70 years ago and we have a new crop of prelates manning the forts in the Vatican City.

Now, as a matter of full disclosure, in my estimation the Vatican City/state is not a city or a state at all.  It is merely the headquarters for the Roman Catholic faith.  Somehow, the United States treats Vatican City as though it were a full-fledged state.  It even appoints an ambassador there.  If I were President, which I am not, one of my first moves would be to incorporate whatever we had to do with the Vatican into the job description of the Ambassador to Rome.

But the facts are, basically, that the full staff of the Vatican is populated by Italians.  This seems to me to be just fine, in that I am not a Catholic nor am I Italian either.  However, in recent weeks the press has noticed clear signs of infighting among the officials of Vatican City.  I hesitate to mention this to my readers, many of whom are Catholics, but what takes place in the Vatican is not necessarily all a matter of love and happiness.  Apparently there is a title of Secretary of State in the Vatican which is a powerful position but also one in which a good bit of controversy resides.  In recent months, it has become clear that someone inside the Vatican is feeding stories to the press which are critical of other people, including the Secretary of State and the Pope as well.

As it turns out, I know a little bit about Italian affairs. What we have here in the Vatican is an organization presided over by a chairman, the Pope.   One way or another Joseph Ratzinger, who was the head man of the former office of the inquisition, welcomed all of the cardinals to Rome when there was a Pope to be picked.  As I said, I am not a Catholic but I said at the time that it would be my guess that Ratzinger would wind up being the Pope.  And in fact that is exactly what happened.  It was a lot like the situation in 2000 when George W. Bush asked Dick Cheney to help him find a vice president.  You may be surprised to know that in the end, Mr. Cheney offered himself as the very best bet to be the vice president. I suspect that the same thing happened when the Cardinals were in Rome to pick the next Pope.

But it is clear now that tranquility does not obtain in the affairs of Vatican City.  There are jealousies.  No matter how you cut it, there was a mole at the highest level inVatican City.

This may account for the recent attacks on American Catholic nuns.  The nuns, who go by the name of “women religious,” are an organization of some 60,000 and they are an easy target for the prelates who govern the affairs of Vatican City.  They are accused of being sufficiently irreligious because they are not following the dictates of the Vatican right down to the last tee.  It seems to me that when there is a controversy, rather than dealing with the controversy, the tendency is in Vatican City to attack someone else.  Sinners like myself are accustomed to being so attacked.  But for the love of Mike, I cannot figure out why Ratzinger and the rest of the high muckety-mucks of the Catholics would go after American nuns.

This is a moving story and I suspect that several more chapters are left to be laid out.  The mole, as we understand it, now appears to be the Pope’s butler.  Apparently he has saved some letters or correspondence which reflect poorly on such people as the Vatican Secretary of State.  But this is an unfolding story and unless someone tries to stop it, I suspect it will be sort of a salacious story as well.

This essay has gone a bit off track in view of the fact that the author intended for it to question whether the Pope had worn a tee shirt, shorts, and flip-flops.  When I could see, I never saw the Pope in anything but ceremonial garb.  Apparently he has a personal butler who is in charge of picking out his garb for the day. What I was wondering was whether the Pope, who is Joseph Ratzinger, ever permitted himself to wear tee shirts, short shorts, and flip-flops.  I know a little bit about the weather inRomeduring the summer months and it can be quite warm.  Judging by photographs of the Pope, he always seems to have a heavy robe around him.  Now I would like to ask a very impertinent question.  Does the Pope sweat?  If he wears those elaborate costumes during the summer months in Rome, he must sweat.  On the other hand, the Pope may have a de-sweating device concealed under those monstrous robes.

Now that the butler to the Pope has been identified as the mole, do you think that he will be purged?  If he is so purged, is there an ecclesiastical penalty that goes with his purging?  Would he be required to spend an inordinate amount of time in Purgatory before he reaches the heavenly gates?  These are questions to be answered.  We do not know the answers at the moment.  But I am studying them.

Now as we wind up this essay, I am struck by the same thought that must have occurred to theologians at the time of the Protestant Reformation.  On this occasion, my thoughts go back to October 31, in the year 1517, when Martin Luther found that the Pope was selling indulgences, which exonerated people from sin.  If I may be excused for this thought, it seems to me that there are those in the Vatican who somehow never became aware of the Protestant Reformation which took place more than 500 years ago.  They don’t want to recall Martin Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses” that were nailed to the door of a church at Wittenburg.

I do not know why, when I started out to write about the question of whether the Pope ever wears tee shirts or flip-flops, I was distracted to a discussion of other matters.  I can only conclude that this is a matter of divine intervention and I am simply the instrument through which this divine intervention has occurred.  If that is the case, I would submit to the head man that he had better keep me around for a while so that more divine interventions may be brought to the attention of the readers of Ezra’s essays.



May 28, 2012




Pop follows Vatican affairs more closely than most Catholics I know. I have begun to suspect that he does this simply so that he does not miss out on a good opportunity to mock them.


The title of this essay suggests that it will be about the Catholic Church.  At the outset, it should be stated that the author of this essay, who is also the editor of Ezra’s Essays, is not a Catholic and has no intention of becoming one in the near future.  But in this essay, I am pleading for justice to aging Catholics of great rank in the church.

Those of you with long memories may recall the Second World War, which took place between 1939 and 1945.  The United States was involved in that war from December 7, 1941 through August 16th of 1945.  On the German side the war ended in May of 1945 with the defeat of what Hitler called The Third Reich.  Japan, the third member of the Axis powers, held out until August 16th of 1945.  For Italy, the second member of the Axis powers, the war ended sometime in 1944.  In point of fact, the Italian army was never considered a military machine.  One can say in laughter about war that the Italian Army was, more than anything else, a laughable army.

Towards the end of that war, the Germans were desperate for manpower.  Hitler presided over the drafting of 16-year-old youths as the war drew to a close.  One of the youths drafted was a fellow named Joseph Ratzinger.  As many of you know, I was also in that war on the American side.  My service was inAfrica,Sicily, andItaly.  When Herr Ratzinger was drafted, the war was taking place inGermany.  The facts of the situation are that Joseph Ratzinger served in the German army and I was a soldier in the American army inItalyorNorth Africa.  It is entirely unlikely that Herr Ratzinger and I knew each other or even traded shots at one another.

As time went on, Herr Ratzinger and I both tended to age a bit.  But age is a welcome addition in the Catholic Church.  Late in his seventies or very early 80’s, Herr Ratzinger was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.  With that, Herr Ratzinger had proceeded to dizzying heights in his career.  My life’s venture was more prosaic in that I retired at around the age of 62 to become a world-famous essayist.

But at age 62, Herr Ratzinger was considered by the Catholic Church as a mere rookie.  After a time he was promoted to the rank of cardinal.  Then in his late seventies or early eighties, he became the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.  I might comment at this point that in the service of the Church, a person of 65 years is considered a youngster.

But now we fast forward to the Christmas season of the year 2011.  At this point, Herr Ratzinger, who is now the Pope, had to preside over the Christmas mass which has traditionally been said at midnight.  In deference to the Pope’s age, themidnightmass was recited at10:00 PMrather than atmidnight.  I can imagine that the saints as well as the Holy Ghost looked askance at what was taking place inRome.  Themidnightmass was taking place at10:00 PM instead of midnight.

I know of no real provisions for recitation of the mass at midnight.  I would suggest that no rule of the Catholic Church was breached by the recitation of the mass at10:00 PM.  By custom, the mass has come to be celebrated atmidnight.  But I see no reason why this was a scandalous event.  It took place at10:00 PMin deference to Herr Ratzinger’s desire to go to bed.  Now look here.  I was in the same war with Herr Ratzinger and I am about four years older than he.  I can assure you that I have no desire to stay up until midnight for a religious ceremony, or anything else of a religious nature.

I am aware that Roman Catholics throughout the world will be outraged when I say that I see nothing wrong with the Pope turning in two hours earlier.  After all, he is an old man who is a veteran of the German army.

I believe that as such he is entitled to a full night’s sleep.

I never thought that in my long life I would come to the defense of a former German soldier.  Long after the war, I met at least two German soldiers and they were quite likeable.  I have no idea whether Herr Ratzinger would fall into this category.  But I am prepared to say that as an old man, which Herr Ratzinger is, he is entitled to sleep.  Beyond that, I would believe that a young Cardinal, monseigneur or some other official, would be a perfectly satisfactory substitute for Catholics who wished to stay up until midnight.  I am assuming that such a person is old enough to know where the bodies are buried but will be on the shady side of age 70.  Perhaps a young Cardinal age 75 to 78 could be found to recite the midnight mass on Christmas eve.

In the end I suppose that Catholics all over the world will take sides on this question, but I am also assuming that the bulk of them will join me in saying that Herr Ratzinger is entitled to a 10:00 PM mass as opposed to a midnight mass.  For the record, I have never met Herr Ratzinger.  But knowing about the physical deficiencies that accrue with age, it is my tendency to wish him well.  And as for myself, I never thought that I would be required to come to the defense of a German soldier.  Ah, but the Lord must work in mysterious ways.


January 27, 2012

Essay 629




It’s the site’s first Pope Day, ladies and gentlemen! Pop has actually written so much about the Pope that there will have to be a second day devoted to his Holiness in the near future — there are two more from 2012 alone.  I think perhaps my grandfather hopes that if he writes enough about the Pope, God will hear it and communicate Pop’s opinions to said Pope via the red phone or whatever the Pope uses to talk to God.

(Semirelatead nerdy Chinese sidebar — the character for “King” is wang: 王 where the top tier represents Heaven, the bottom Earth, and the middle the lord who acts as the intermediary that ties them all together through the vertical stroke.  As I was writing that snarky bit about the phone just now, it struck me that this Chinese idea of king describes pretty much exactly what the Pope is supposed to do, so I did a quick check on the Chinese word for Pope (“religious emperor,” no shit) and lo and behold there it was. It’s the bottom part of the second word: 教皇.  I felt pretty proud about predicting that.)

And now a second thought occurs to me, namely that I could not be doing a worse job of making this site screen-reader friendly if I tried. God knows what Pop’s software is going to do when it finds Chinese characters. I’ll investigate.