Archive for October 2012


A good many years ago my eldest brother married a woman named Rose Wilson. Rose may have been the kindest woman known to mankind. As my mother would have said, “She had a big heart.” Although I did not see much of Rose because of my living in Kansas City, Chicago, and New York, I had every reason to believe what my mother and so many others said about Rose Wilson Carr.

My brother died around the age of 60 and soon after Rose fell ill as well. During her terminal illness, Rose put her trust in the ultimate decider. As it turned out, when Rose and Charlie were still married, before Charlie’s death, there was a succession of churches that they attended. The fact of the matter is that my brother had a short temper, and if the preacher said something that Charlie disagreed with, he would then move to another church. But when Rose fell ill with what turned out to be her terminal illness, there was sort of a blessing here.

When I called Rose at the hospital in suburban St. Louis from my office in New York City, she reported to me that she had three churches praying for her continued life. It gave Rose considerable comfort to know that three churches were praying for her. Being a non-believer, of course I said nothing. My comments were to the effect that I knew she would get better. However, within a short time Rose died. Even with the three churches prayers and with Rose’s own prayers as well, the ultimate decider decided – if you believe in religious authority – to take Rose’s life.

My own guess is that Rose had a significant malfunction in one of her vital organs that may have been inoperable. In any case, the final illness of Rose Wilson Carr is the place where I ultimately decided to start this essay.

In this world there is an order of nuns that engages in perpetual prayer of the rosary. I believe that the Dominican nuns established this order perhaps 300 or 400 years ago. In the adjoining town of Summit, New Jersey there is a large convent which houses the local branch of the Dominican nuns. They engage in perpetual prayer and adoration, as I understand it, aimed at the ultimate decider in life, namely God or the Holy Ghost. You may recall an essay that I wrote after having read an obituary of a nun who had devoted her adult life to praying the rosary in the local branch of the Dominican nuns in Summit, New Jersey. The essay was a tribute to her sense of duty. After the essay was finished, I sent a copy to the nun in charge of this convent and I received a very lovely reply.

Finally, yesterday computers brought me the news that in New Delhi, India the monkeys were running amok. From all indications, their birth rates are greater than those of human beings. It has developed that some of the persons who worship these monkeys are confined to their houses while the monkeys have taken over their yards. New Delhi is the capital of India, a very important country, which makes it difficult for me to understand this news.

As it stands right now, I have only the news reports that monkeys in India have something to do with the soul when life is finished here. The monkey report was a new one for me in view of the fact that I thought that cows were worshipped in India. Now it turns out that both cows and monkeys are on the celestial level.

So here we have Rose Wilson Carr praying to the great decider as well as the Dominican nuns who are in perpetual prayer to the same God, as I understand it. And finally, according to believers in New Delhi, perhaps the ultimate decider worships a monkey. You may rest assured that a non-believer such as myself is thoroughly confused.

But there is one other entry that perhaps should be included here. It comes from the religion of the Mormons, also known as the Latter Day Saints. Last fall, a musical opened on Broadway called “The Book of Mormon.” One of the lead songs from this very melodic musical was called “I Believe.” The song goes as follows:

I believe that Satan has a hold of you.
I believe that the Lord God has sent me here.
And I believe that in 1978, God changed his mind about black people and you can be a Mormon, a Mormon who just believes.

So you see, the Mormons who have excluded black people from their membership for all these years, decided in 1978 that God indeed had changed his mind and he told his followers in Utah that they could admit black people without fear of grave sin.

I believe that these four cases of Rose Wilson, the nuns in Summit, the monkeys in New Delhi, and “The Book of Mormon” make my point. In the view of this complete non-believer, the ultimate decider is undecided. Much more than that, it has been my unshakable belief for many years that God, or whoever is the ultimate decider, is a product of man’s imagination.

In other words, there was no shouting down from heaven as to what should be contained in the Gospels. It was the Gospels that were written here on earth that created the so-called ultimate decider.

I am fully aware that my observations in this essay will not fit with the beliefs of many of my readers. But if those who believe can make up their minds about what they believe, I believe that I am entitled to state my own views. It is done without rancor. In substance, what I am saying is that the message did not come downwards from some celestial being, but rather it was man who invented God or gods with the intention to persuade others to believe what they had invented.

Well, so much for this essay that has been lurking in my mind for several years. I am glad that it is now dictated and will soon appear on paper. Finally, if you have the opportunity, please go see a performance of “The Book of Mormon,” so you can tell me about such lines as “God changed his mind.”

May 24, 2012
Essay 659


Kevin’s commentary: I’ve always liked when essays tie together so many seemingly unrelated things. The nuns in quesiton remind me of the Baba in India I once saw on television, who has kept one of his hands raised for fortyish years. To me it seems pretty crazy that somewhere in the neighborhood of a third of third of the world would probably feel that the nuns weren’t wasting their time but that the Baba was. I honestly can’t tell the difference. Same goes double for the regular Christians who make fun of Mormons (who are pretty damn cultish, let’s be honest) for their posthumous babtisms and stuff, but then turn around and consume what they believe to be the literal flesh and blood of a man who has been dead for several thousand years.  Most normal thing in the world.


This dictation is taking place on Sunday, September 2nd, which happens to be a Sabbath in the Christian faith. And so it is that I have a pair of Sabbath thoughts. One is of recent vintage and the other reaches back to, I believe, 1958. Let us take the one of most recent vintage.

Last week, the National Catholic Register had an interview with a prominent theologian of 78 years who offered this thought. His name is Father Benedict Groeschel. He belongs to the conservative Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, which he founded. What Father Groeschel had to say was simply stunning. He contended that relations between priests and male children were heterosexual and that in years past nothing was made of these relationships. Anyone reading what Father Groeschel had to say and preach would be thoroughly shocked. In effect, Father Groeschel contended that in a good many cases, a youngster seduced the priest into having a pedophile relationship.

According to the National Catholic Register, a youngster with a problem would go to a priest and before long a priest would be seduced into anal penetration of the boy. May I suggest that Father Groeschel is showing all of his 78 years by such a thought. Ten-year-old boys want to play games of baseball and basketball; seducing a priest of say 25 or 28 years is the last thing on their minds. But Father Groeschel insisted in his interview with the National Catholic Register that this was the case. It was the children who were at fault in the scandal involving pedophile priests. I have nothing to do with the workings of the Catholic Church, as is widely known. But my thoughts were aroused to the point of anger by Father Groeschel’s attempt to move the debate about pedophile priests from the priests to the children involved.

I have known about Father Groeschel for a good many years. As unlikely as it may seem, on Monday nights at 10 PM I watched a program on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The woman who ran the program was named Mother Angelica. She was a lively sort of person, well into her 70s, and she was a non-stop talker. During her talks, she would even show trinkets and pamphlets or books that might interest the Catholic faithful.

I never knew what Mother Angelica’s proper name was. I am guessing that she was probably of Irish origin. It was quite clear that when you thought of the Eternal Word Television Network, you automatically thought of Mother Angelica. In between selling the trinkets and the pamphlets, she would have a number of guests appearing on her program. Mother Angelica was a glib speaker who wandered from one subject to another but her audience followed right with her. There are some who would say that Mother Angelica was a BS artist. I believe that is an accurate description, and I should know about that because I am one myself.

Unfortunately, in about the year 2004 Mother Angelica suffered a severe stroke that left her unable to speak. Apparently her brain was so damaged that speech became impossible for her. From time to time, one of the EWTN staff would have lunch with Mother Angelica and report on her progress or non-progress.

When Mother Angelica was in full control of her thoughts, she would often have the then Father Groeschel as her guest. In those days, Groeschel talked in moderate terms. Occasionally, responding to Mother Angelica, he would display a flash of humor. So you can see how his remarks to the National Catholic Register would have turned this world upside down when he accused the youths of being the seducers of the pedophile priests.

On Mother Angelica’s program, Groeschel always appeared in a gray robe. I don’t know what the significance of the gray robe might have been, but it was always present when he visited Mother Angelica. I would suggest that when Groeschel had his robe cleaned, he must have taken leave of his reasoning power. I was amazed to see this man who was rational offer such a thought about the boys who were being abused in the pedophile scandal.

Now you may come to ask why a non-believer such as myself was watching the Eternal Word Television Network. I suppose that program offered comedic properties which tended to lighten when Mother Angelica with her glib patter was the hostess. On the other hand, in a more pragmatic manner, I was waiting for the eleven o’clock news. So between those two thoughts with some time to kill, I often came to rest on Monday nights watching the EWTN program. Seriously, since I have become blind, I have not listened to that program in seven years.

When Mother Angelica was hospitalized, her successor was a woman from Sarasota named Johnette. Her last name had its roots in the eastern European culture. Apparently the EWTN program under the new hostess was nothing like the program under Mother Angelica. Johnette was very serious. There was one occasion when she wanted to refer to Hell. Rather than using the word “Hell,” she remained silent and pointed downward. Even I got the message. There was an occasion when her son was killed in an automobile accident in Florida. He had been a soldier during the Vietnamese war and Johnette commented, “We prayed him through that war and now this happens!” It remains a mystery as to whether Johnette was thinking that God was punishing her.

Well, as you can see, I am a veteran of watching the program on Monday nights. I enjoyed being entertained by Mother Angelica. I may assure you that she did not convince me to join the Catholic Church. I have not watched that programming for more than seven years. It may be that Groeschel was temporarily out of his mind when he said that the youngsters were to blame in the priestly pedophile scandal. Groeschel was hit by an automobile a few years ago during which he contended that he was so seriously injured that he was given the last rites of the Catholic Church. It may be that we are talking to the resurrected Groeschel as opposed to the Groeschel who appeared on Mother Angelica’s program.

In any case, after the interview was published, Father Groeschel must have been appalled. He issued an apology which was not really an apology. That man has a facile way of expressing himself. I fully expect that if he had told Mother Angelica that it was the boys who seduced the priests, Mother Angelica would have hit him over the head with one of the sacred lamps that she was attempting to sell.

Well, so much for the Groeschel affair. It was a sordid experience. Perhaps Father Groeschel will think twice in future announcements.


Now we turn to another matter having to do with the Catholic Church as well as with the United States Army. In 1958, the vicars in Rome who belonged to the Vatican announced that the mother of Jesus was a “perpetual virgin.” This is a preposterous thought in my estimation. But let us look at the facts.

Mary was the wife of Joseph. During their union, at least two children were born to this couple. There are several references in the Bible to a person named James who was the son of Mary and Joseph. Secondly she gave birth to Jesus. When the vicars in the Vatican say that Mary is a “perpetual virgin” they may not understand that marriage and giving birth to a child destroy all evidence of virginity. The question here is how the cardinals and other high prelates of the Church could make such a blunder. No man with half a brain could ever consider Mary a virgin. As a non-believer, I think of Mary quite warmly in spite of her being a perpetual virgin. I can think of some women who are the epitome of perpetual virginism.

My belief is that the people in the Vatican tried to outdo each other in their devotion to Mary. They took a married woman and began to try to top each other. So it is that in 1958, Mary was named a perpetual virgin. Not only that, but she was physically transferred to Heaven, where she sits presumably near the throne of God.

There is one other case involving adherence to the faith in trying to outdo each other. You may recall that on December 7, 1941, we were attacked by the Japanese. At the War Department, which preceded the Pentagon, someone had the wild idea that we had to distinguish the peacetime army from the one that would be assembled to fight the Japanese and the Germans. The process is very much the same in that one person’s ideas would be topped by someone else’s idea.

With all of this business about the peacetime army versus the newcomers’, the War Department decided with grand fanfare that the peacetime service for December 7, 1941 and earlier would be called the United States Army. After much deliberation, those of us who joined the army after December 7, 1941, were to be called – now get this – the Army of the United States. My service began after December 7, 1941. My discharge and all of my orders say that I was a member of the Army of the United States.

Significantly, the decision to dub Mary a perpetual virgin and the War Department debate about the United States Army versus the Army of the United States were made without female input. My guess is that the decision about Mary being a perpetual virgin and the decision to name soldiers such as myself as members of the Army of the United States might have had a different outcome if a woman had been present.

I know that there are those who look askance at my blending of debate over Mary’s virginity together with the United States brouhaha but that is what you get when you sit down to dictate an essay on a Sabbath morning.

Well, there you have my thoughts on this Sabbath morning. I assume that most of my readers will probably agree with my thoughts on the virginity of Father Groeschel. He deserves no sympathy. As for my thoughts on the perpetual virginity of Mary and the debate about what to call those who enlisted after December 7, I suspect that there may be more controversy. But be that as it may, what you see is what you get. And for better or worse, they are my thoughts on these two important matters. My 90th birthday is behind me, as is my time in puberty. Given those facts, I think it is time for an old geezer like myself to state what he considers to be the unvarnished truth.

Now if you wish to take exception to my thoughts, there is a website which can be reached at The editor of Ezra’s Essays will be glad to receive your comments. So I write the essays and give my readers a chance to respond. What could be fairer than that?

September 2, 2012
Essay 692


Kevin’s commentary: Loving the plug at the bottom there! Of course I welcome all commentary on the essays, and often discuss said comments with Pop.  This commentary, other people’s input, and his reactions to both are probably my favorite part of this entire blog.  Unfortunately for the sake of argument I can offer little to disagree with Mr. Carr here; I think he’s spot-on on all counts. Though I definitely didn’t see the latter half of this essay coming.  The thought that they were trying to pin the molestation charges on the children is sickening. And regardless of the existence of Jesus’s brother, I have always been of the opinion that the entire Christian religion has formed itself around a lie about an affair that got WAY out of hand.  Eventually someone will invent a time machine and bring a video camera back to the year of our lord, and we could see for sure. That’d be nice.




The title for this essay is Arguendo.  It is a Latin phrase.  It means for the sake of argument.  This is not an essay about Latin phrases but rather it is an essay about music.  Arguendo, I would contend that the best poetry is written by the lyricists who write the words to the music that we sing.  In this case of course I am speaking of civilized music, which excludes such things as hard rock, metal works, or something of that sort.

Unfortunately, lyricists always wind up in second place because the songs are identified by the writers of the music rather than by the writers of the lyrics.  But I will say once that arguendo, the best poetry being written these days comes from the men and women who write the lyrics to the songs we sing.

For a number of years, I have thought that one of the very great lines appears in the chorus of a song written by Terence Winch called When New York was Irish.  It has to do with those from abroad who are now making their home in this country.  The lines from the chorus are:

They were ever so happy, they were ever so sad
To grow old in a new world through good times and bad…

Those of us who are the descendants of English-speaking people are fortunate.  When our ancestors left what used to be called the British Isles, they were going to a new world where the language was familiar.  I realize that there were certain prejudices about those who spoke the English language with an Irish, Scottish or Welch accent.  After a hundred or perhaps a hundred and fifty years, those prejudices have about run their span of life.  But think of those who came from non-English speaking countries who had not only to master life in the new world but a new language as well.   Ah, but this is getting away from poetry.

Perhaps for example the lyrics to “When New York Was Irish” will give you a hint of the poetry that was involved.  Here are the lyrics to Terrence Winch’s “When New York Was Irish.”  (


I’ll sing you a song of days long ago
when the people from Galway and the County Mayo
and all over Ireland came over to stay
and take up a new life in Americay.


They were ever so happy, they were ever so sad
to grow old in a new world through good times and bad
all the parties and weddings, the ceilis and wakes
when New York was Irish, full of joys and heartbreaks.
Back to the verses:
We worked on the subways, we ran the saloons
we built all the bridges, we played all the tunes
We put out the fires and controlled City Hall
we started with nothing and wound up with it all


You could travel from Kingsbridge to Queens or mid town
from Highbridge to Bay Ridge,
from up town to down
from the East Side to the seaside’s
sweet summer scenes
we made New York City our island of dreams.


I look at the photos now
brittle with time
of the people I cherished when
the city was mine
O, how I loved all those radiant smiles
how I long for the days when we danced in the aisles.


They were ever so happy, they were ever so sad
to grow old in a new world through good times and bad
all the parties and weddings, the ceilis and wakes
when New York was Irish, full of joys and heartbreaks.

The hope here is that you will agree that the lyrics from “When New York Was Irish” represent an example of good poetry.  Now, because I write these essays, I must say that the lyrics, particularly in the chorus, are examples of fine poetry.


Now we turn very briefly to the title of this essay.  For some time when I had the labor relations responsibility for AT&T, a lawyer was assigned to me.  His full name was Hilliard William Willard Caning.  His main stock in trade was that he held a degree from Harvard Law School.  I doubt that he ever considered poetry as one of his accomplishments.  But what this shows is that the author of Ezra’s Essays learns from others.  Now if William Caning has a degree from Harvard Law School, I would suggest that the title “Arguendo” ought to command attention and respect.  While Bill Caning probably knew nothing about poetry and music, some thoughts from many years ago provided the title for this essay.  We should not be critical of poetry that comes from H.W.W. Caning via the Harvard Law School.

Particularly I hope that you enjoy the poetry of “When New York Was Irish.”  As for me, I will always remember “growing old in a new world.”  It may be that my ancestors who made the trip had exactly that feeling.

A final note about the reference to ceilis in the lyrics: ceilis, a Celtic word, are happy occasions, a party with music, dancing, and often storytelling.  The lyrics, as you can see, are tied in to ceilis and wakes.  The Irish are distinguished by their enjoyment of wakes.  They may be the only specimen of mankind to enjoy wakes.  But there it is.  So I leave you humming “growing old in a new world” as an example of poetry that is elegant and happy.



October 15, 2012

Essay 705


Kevin’s commentary:  In this essay pop makes it clear that those who write lyrics are the premier modern-day poets. Using my astounding powers of deduction, we can thus assume that Pop would probably enjoy rap music, in that it tends to be extraordinary lyrics-focused and what’s more the lyrics rhyme.

Take as example the chorus to Drake’s “Best I Ever Had”:

Baby you’re my everything, you’re all I ever wanted
We could do it real big, bigger than you ever done it
You be up on everything, other hoes ain’t ever on it
I want this forever, I swear I could spend whatever on it
Cause she hold me down every time I hit her up
When I get right I promise that we gone live it up
She make me beg for it, till she give it up
And I say the same thing every single time
I say…
You the fuckin’ best
You the fuckin’ best
You the fuckin’ best
You the fuckin’ best
You the best I ever had,
Best I ever had
Best I ever had
Best I ever had
I say you the fuckin’…

Pure poetry, right? He rhymes “it” with “it” three times, following it with the all-too-original harmony of “up” three times. Anyway, if anybody knows any Irish rappers give me a heads up and I will forward their efforts to Pop; I think they will be the most appealing of all.


Late in 1945, the American Army very reluctantly agreed to my obtaining an honorable discharge.  I was a simple Buck Sergeant which means that I had no place at the table with Generals and Admirals.  But the war was over and American women loudly proclaimed that they wanted their sons, husbands, their boyfriends, and their casual acquaintances to come home.  On the other hand, the Army, particularly the higher ranks, needed some soldiers to command.  The war was finished in August of 1945 and the Army diddled around for three more months until November, when I was among the first troops to be discharged.  I must say that the Army of the United States as well as the United States Army did not cover itself with glory in the discharge of the troops who had won the war.

I went back to work for AT&T but soon became engaged in union activities.  Those union activities included preparing speeches and delivering them.  I spent the next six years delivering speeches on behalf of the Federation of Long Lines Telephone Workers.  In 1951, AT&T decided that I should become a member of its management.  Shortly after that event, I had the job of Labor Relations Manager.  Like my work for the union, this involved handling grievances at the top level, arbitration cases, and annual bargaining efforts for management with the union.

Throughout my career with AT&T, I was often called upon to make presentations and speeches.  Recently someone asked me how many speeches I had delivered.  I calculated that the number came to almost 1,500.

Later in life after I retired, I had a stroke which involved damage to the brain.  As a means of repairing that damage, I was told to write essays.  This essay is my 704th attempt at repairing the damage to my brain.  I think there are naysayers who will contend that after 703 essays, my brain is in no better working order than it was at the beginning.  But in the spirit of charity, I will let those remarks pass me by.

The point in reciting all of my efforts at speech-writing and various compositions is that it took me all of these years to discover that the schwa was an integral or perhaps the most important part of the American lexicon.  I could try to explain to you the schwa.  But I suspect that I would mangle it and therefore I would turn to the experts on the schwa.  Here is what the experts say about the schwa.

What is the most commonly used vowel sound in the English language? You might quibble over ‘a,’ ‘e,’ or ‘i,’ but to find the answer you have to look beyond the five commonly accepted vowels (or six if you include ‘y’) to a little-known vocal utterance called schwa.

Schwa is defined as the toneless, neutral vowel sound found in the unstressed part of a word. The ‘e’ in happen is an example of schwa, as is the ‘a’ in affect (which could be why affect and effect are so commonly mixed up). The International Phonetic Alphabet writes schwa as ə, like an e that came to a stop halfway through a somersault (the ‘e’ in somersault is a schwa, by the way).  So any vowel sound that comes as ah, eh, or uh is more than just slacker speak, it’s a legitimate part of the spoken language.

Source: Small Bright Pebbles website

You see that the schwa plays an important part in the American lexicon.  I regret that it took me so long to find out about the schwa.  In point of fact, it was only after my 90th birthday had occurred that I discovered the existence of the word schwa.

Now that you understand the importance of the schwa, I will put it to a bit of a test.  Howard Lawrence Davis is a preacher’s son who comes from such towns as White Water and Defiance in Missouri, his final destination being Yorkville, New York.  Howard is a learned man who speaks the French language even when the House of Representatives changed the name of French fries to freedom fries.  It takes a great man to do that.

As it turns out, Howard L. Davis is not the only person to come from the so-called “show me” state.  Indeed, the author of Ezra’s Essays was born in Missouri and lived there until the age of 28 with time out for military service.

Now we come to the crux of the problem.  Mr. Davis may well have known about the influence of the schwa in the lexicon of American speech.  In spite of many years of close association between Davis and myself, I never heard him ever refer to the schwa.  It could be that he was keeping that secret from me.  But the test really comes with the pronunciation of the state that we both call home.  Mr. Davis commonly refers to Missouri as “Mizoura.”  On the other hand, I refer to the name of that great state as “Mizouree.”  In this case, Mr. Davis is using the schwa to change the name of our glorious state to reflect a softer pronunciation.

Such a pronunciation is quite all right with me because I know that the state has had mixed emotions as it developed.  There are southerners who prevail in the lower half of the state, while northerners prevail in the north and will pronounce the name as “Mizouree.”

But the burden of this essay is that it has taken me a few months beyond my 90th birthday to discover the existence of the schwa.  Now that I have discovered that existence, I feel greatly liberated.  If some of the natives of Missouri pronounce the name as “Mizoura,” it will arouse no consternation on my part.  I am simply happy that the schwa has now come into my life and will very likely proceed in the years and decades that are to come.  So I leave you with the thought that we should all shout, “Up with the schwa!”  Even I as a naysayer would contend that such a shout is in order and that, furthermore, I would say, “Why not?”


October 15, 2012

Essay 704


Kevin’s commentary:

I find it saddening that the word “schwa” does not have a schwa in it. It should be schwə or something.

I am also curious whether or not the schwa can be fairly replaced by “uh” in common writing or if there are subtle differences. Fortunately I have a friend who is extremely invested in this sort of thing and I am pretty confident that she can give me the answer.

Finally I would like to know how Pop’s father, with his country dialect, would pronounce the name of the state in question.  “Mizoura” just sounds like such a southern-gentlemanly word, I can’t help but assume that this was my great-grandfather’s default as well.



This essay is being dictated on the Friday evening of September 14.  At the moment, I am in a thoroughly somber mood.  The somber mood comes from having listened to the broadcast from Andrews Air Force Base, which was the site of ceremonies honoring the four dead Americans who perished recently in Libya.

If I may say so, at the possible expense of bragging, the American military is superb at welcoming home its fallen heroes.  It may be that this expertise comes from continued practice.  Military music has many critics.  I am not one of them.  There were three musical selections that were played for the ceremony.  I suppose that this band would be considered a brass band in that there were no instruments such as violins or violas.

When the airplane rolled to a complete stop, there were four hearses with open doors waiting for the transfer of the fallen diplomats.  Of course the band played “Nearer My God to Thee.”  Next they played “America the Beautiful.”  Finally, they played “Going Home.”  Before the airplane bearing the bodies came to a complete stop, tears filled my eyes.  Those tears did not leave until well after the ceremonies were completed.

I defy any thinking human being to remain unmoved by a ceremony such as this.  I have been a crier at ceremonies such as this for our soldiers as well as for British soldiers and a few French and Polish soldiers as well.  Am I given to blubbering when such a ceremony takes place?  Of course not.  When I think of those that are left behind, tears always fill my eyes.  There are wives who are now widowed.  There are fatherless children who will grow up not knowing the strength of a father’s hand.  There are parents who raised this child to maturity who will miss him more than anyone can imagine.  There are siblings who will remember jokes they played on each other as well as the affection they shared with their brother.  And there are thousands of people who will miss the warm smiles of the one who lies in that casket.

The four diplomats who came home today were not known to me at all.  Yet I feel tremendous warmth for those who gave their lives on foreign battlefields such as Libya.

At this juncture, I am an old man with my 90th birthday behind me.  My recollections go back to the Second World War when the Americans suffered something more than 400,000 casualties.  When I traveled to foreign lands, I often made it a point to go by a military cemetery.  My visits were not confined to American military cemeteries.  Often I would sit on a stone slab and wonder what had been gained or lost by the sacrifice of these brave men.  I am not given to melancholy.   I did this as a tribute to those who gave their lives in defense of liberty.

Now to bring it a bit closer to home.  From 1942 until the end of 1945, I served in the United States Air Force.  There were not all that many funerals that took place because when a warplane is shot out of the sky over enemy territory, there is no one to retrieve the bodies.  I can understand that our enemies would not be anxious to provide a fitting resting place for our airmen who had been shot down.  That simply goes with the territory.

And to draw the noose a little tighter, when faced by the prospect of death, my recollections are that I said to myself, “Good Jesus, so this is where it comes to an end, in this forsaken place.”  I did not of course – did not – appeal to some celestial being such as God to save me.  For all I knew, God or the Holy Ghost may have held the Germans in great favor.  As far as I could tell, no one else in that situation was fearful of some punishment from God or one of His subordinates.  Under attack, the ordinary human being, be he American or British or French or German, fought as hard as he could to preserve his life.  More than anything else, this attitude tended to confirm my thoughts about my religious non-belief.

I grieved for those who had been shot down and did not fill the bunks in our tents or barracks.  But the grief of any soldier has to be kept under control because tomorrow he may be the soldier who has to conduct an air raid in enemy territory.  It is quite likely that there should be no grieving because tomorrow it may be me.

But I am always moved by ceremonies such as we witnessed today.  The old Protestant hymn “Nearer My God to Thee” is well known to many of us who were subjected to religious ceremonies during our childhood.  I often recall that the band aboard the Titanic played that hymn as the waters came to flood the Titanic.

I have often thought that “America The Beautiful” would make a superior anthem to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

When the band strikes up “Going Home,” it strikes me that it would take a brave man or a not-connected man to ignore that melody.  The words are:

Going home, going home,

I’m just going home.

It’s not far, just close by,

Through an open door.

Mother’s there waiting for me…

At this point, I cannot recall all of the lyrics.  It seems to me that the beautiful melody was the product of a Czech composer.  The music was written by Antonin Dvorák (1841-1904).  It is based on the Largo movement from the New World Symphony.

Dvorak was a man after my own heart.  He combined the effects of symphonic music with his interest in Negro spirituals.  When Dvorák took a job in this country, he insisted that it should not interfere with his interest in and study of Negro spirituals.  I find those spirituals entirely moving.  Good for Antonin Dvorák.

As I have said, I am thoroughly proud of the United States military who welcomed home the bodies of the four diplomats who were slain in Libya.  This was a noble occasion.

At the very moment that these four were being returned, Mitt Romney was engaged in a political rally which he deemed to be more necessary than observing the rites for the fallen diplomats.  Romney has been off his game for a while.  This was an ignoble gesture.  It tended to send the message that Romney thumbed his nose at the ceremonies for the four slain diplomats who were brought home.  But as I said, Romney has been in a slump these days.

By dictating these lines, my mood has tended to improve.  And when I think of sticky situations involving military combat, my thoughts always come back to Harry Livermore, my great and good friend.  Harry was a religious man.  His religion was in one place and his desire to win the war was in another place.  Harry is gone now but I always think of him when situations such as those faced by the diplomats in Libya are involved.

So these are my thoughts on this somber afternoon.  I do not wish to transfer my troubles to you.  You have plenty by yourself.  But I did want to record my thoughts, which explain why I cry at military ceremonies, particularly when the military band plays, “Going home, going home, it’s not far, just close by through an open door.”



September 14, 2012

Essay 695




Kevin’s commentary:

Loved this one. September was a heavy, heavy month this year. And now to hear Romney freak out about the rhetoric used by Obama when his own actions… ugh. It’s just frustrating.

Some pretty big changes to the site today. Pictures were added to the essay “Can you read this upside down,” as well as a fuller version of the lyrics to Pop’s dirty ditty. Previous Pop comments from email conversations have also been added to the “Kevin’s commentary” section of earlier posts. Nearly every post from this past week now has a response from Pop to my commentary, and in almost every case they are fantastic. The meaning of Num Num Speck is revealed, for instance. Go check it out!


[Note from Kevin — This is the continuation of this essay, entitled Setting a Nose Alight, about Pop’s time with the labor union. It had these following two lines under the title:]

from Charles L. Brown

Former Chairman of the Board of AT&T, Circa 1956


Earlier this year, one of my daughters pointed out that the practice of labor relations filled a prominent place in my life and that I have never really written about it.  I suppose I should plead guilty as charged.  Indeed the practice of labor relations filled an important part of my life from the time I received my discharge from the American Army at age 23 until my appearance as a lobbyist in Washington, DC at age 44 years.  From start to finish, my career as a union representative lasted six and a half years.  My career as a company representative lasted for a total of eleven years.  As you can see, the company career in labor relations lasted almost twice as long as my work for the union.

Earlier in these essays, I wrote an essay called “Setting a Nose Alight.”  That was the title on my career as a union representative.  Now my eleven-year career as a company representative is one whose title should be “Can You Read This Upside Down?”  By the time this essay is finished, I hope to make sense of the second title as the first has already been revealed.


My career as a company representative in labor relations started in 1955.  On that occasion, I was promoted from my job in Chicago to an office on the 25th floor of 32 Avenue of the Americas in New York City.  Soon I was to learn of the complete domination of affairs in the Long Lines department of AT&T by a small fellow from rural Georgia who went by the name of Henry T. Killingsworth.  I would have much preferred an essay to utilize the chronological timeline.  But Killingsworth, this small-statured man, was larger than life.  He simply dominated most actions that were taken in the Long Lines department of AT&T.  The facts are that this domination should have produced good results.  Quite to the contrary, his domination led to grave weaknesses in his selection of personnel and their actions.

You may recall in these essays that Killingsworth in a Christmas letter stated that “next year we are going to have to take the slack out of those trace chains.”  This had to do with cotton planting in southern Georgia, which is usually performed with a pair of mules and the planters are black men.  So in this Christmas letter, Killingsworth was offering the thought that next year we would all have to work as hard as those who were planting cotton with the use of a pair of mules.

Killingsworth was also an intruder on the sale of paper poppies.  In one of my essays, I mentioned that the person who sold the poppies in our building on Memorial Day was obliged to get Killingsworth’s approval before the sale.  When he asked for Killingsworth’s approval, he was told, “Hell, no, and while you are at it, get rid of that God-damned nun who is begging in the lobby.”  That nun was totally inoffensive.  She simply sat by the entrance to the subway with a basket on her lap.  The fact is that before that episode was finished, the poppies were sold and the nun remained at her chair at the top of the subway steps.


On another occasion, I entered the sacred hallows of Killingsworth’s office.  There was a labor relations problem and I was accompanied by George Sparks, the Vice President of Personnel.  When Killingsworth asked a question, he received an answer from George Sparks.  Instantly, Killingsworth turned to me and said, “You don’t believe that, do you, Ed?”  This was the very first time that I ever knew that Killingsworth knew my name.

I hope that you will recall that in my contract bargaining with the union, the issues were never settled until about three or four o’clock in the morning.  Because I had come from the union, Killingsworth seemed to take a delight in tormenting me.   This was doubly so when I had been up all night settling a contract.  When bargaining was completed, I knew enough to go by my office before going home as I suspected that Killingsworth would be calling me.  He did that on two occasions, telling me that it looked to him as if we had given the company away.  We had done no such thing.

When Killingsworth was finally removed from dominating the affairs of the Long Lines division, there were cheers from every direction.  Following one bargaining session after he was removed, I went by my office, having spent the entire night without sleep, as a means of wrapping up a new contract.  I knew that Killingsworth was gone, but I answered the phone at about eight in the morning to hear the voice of the new vice president of Long Lines congratulating me.

I came close to swallowing the telephone.  Killingsworth’s replacement was a gentleman from Colorado named Lowell Wingert, who was a gentleman, a gentleman’s gentleman.  I explained to this fellow that on these occasions after bargaining was completed, Killingsworth usually called me to denounce me for “giving the company away.”  This gentleman’s gentleman said that there would be no more of that sort of thing.

When I expressed some doubt as to the identity of the caller, thinking that it may be a cruel joke, Lowell Wingert offered to come by my office to prove that it was he who made the call.  Significantly, I was not summoned to his office on the 26th floor; it was Wingert who offered to come by my office. He was a good and great gentleman.

Unfortunately there were those in the company who tried to emulate Henry T. Killingsworth.  When I took up my duties in 1955, I soon recognized that the vice president in charge of personnel was one of those who tried to emulate Killingsworth.  His name was Jack Marsh. I was struck by Marsh’s obesity at our first meeting.  Later on when we were required to stay overnight in a hotel, one way or another Marsh and I shared a room with twin beds.  During the evening, Henry T. Killingsworth called Marsh.  I went to the living room of the suite but I could not escape the words of Jack Marsh saying, “Yes, Killy.  Yes, Killy.”

In many respects, Jack Marsh recalls Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, in my mind.  He was exceedingly fat and he was a bully to boot.  On this particular morning when he went to dress, he could not bend over far enough to put his socks on his feet.  He grabbed a sock and tried to catch his foot in the sock.  This was the only way he could poke his foot in the sock.

In other respects, Jack Marsh tried to emulate Henry Killingsworth.  As might be supposed, I had nothing but utter contempt for Mr. Marsh, the personnel vice president of the Long Lines department who outranked me by at least two or three full grades.


With that preamble, I expect that we are now prepared to go to work.  The labor relations manager was a fellow named Dick Dugan.  A purist in the language, Dick always emphasized that the second syllable in his name took precedence.  Dick Dugan was a prince of a fellow.  He had an engaging sense of humor.  However, about six months after I came to New York in 1955, Dick Dugan was tapped for an assignment that eventually led to the presidency of one of the Bell System affiliates called Cincinnati and Suburban Bell.  At this point when Dick Dugan exited the Long Lines scene, my duties increased.  I was handling all of the third-level appeals on grievances as well as running the yearly bargaining teams.

At this point we had to stand by for another intrusion by Henry Killingsworth.  According to the beliefs of Killingsworth, a good man could do any job.  And so it was that Killingsworth brought in some of his “stars of tomorrow” in an attempt to run the labor relations job.  I never believed in the thought that a good man could do any job.  For example, a man with a low boiling point could never be a good labor relations manager.  He simply has to absorb a good bit of abuse that has been piled up by representatives of the union.  Similarly, there are those of us who might be called the liberal arts majors who could never succeed in the accounting department or perhaps even in the engineering department.  But that was all underbrush to Killingsworth’s belief that a good man could do any job.

And so with Dick Dugan’s leaving, I found myself reporting to a new boss named Paul Gaillard.  Paul had no training in labor relations and tried to smooth that over by tending to agree with his superiors in the labor relations battles.  The director of the Long Lines bargaining unit was a female named Elaine Gleason.  She extended normal courtesy to Paul Gaillard and he mistook it as a sign that she was yearning for a man.  Accordingly, he set out to seduce her.  My guess is that Gaillard never succeeded in his quest to relieve Miss Gleason’s virtues.

At the end of the year, Henry Killingsworth was of the opinion that his means of bringing in the stars of tomorrow was a tremendous hit.  He then offered Paul Gaillard to a program that rotated promising stars among the various companies in the Bell System.  Though all of my compatriots believed that Paul was a floor-flusher and had no real substance, he was accepted into that rotating program at Killingsworth’s insistence.  At the end of two years the Northwestern Company simply fired Gaillard.  He was not offered back to Long Lines or did he suffer a reduction in rank; he was simply fired.

Killingsworth next named John Eide to succeed Gaillard.  He was the son of the president of the Ohio Bell Telephone Company.  Almost immediately  John Eide was dispatched to spend a year at Harvard, supposedly studying management techniques.  While Eide was gone, a young fellow named Tom Scandlyn was brought in to fill the vacancy left while Eide attended Harvard.

To his great credit, Tom Scandlyn recognized that a lot had preceded him and that he needed help from professionals to establish his position as a spokesman for AT&T in labor negotiations.  I first met Tom Scandlyn in 1958.  The year I spent with Scandlyn as my boss was entirely productive.  When in contract bargaining, the union representatives tried  to humiliate Tom and I was quick to come to his defense.

But at the end of the year, Tom Scandlyn left and was eventually rewarded with a vice-presidency.  It was at that point that John Eide returned to the scene.

The contrast between Eide and Tom Scandlyn could not have been more dramatic.  Whereas Scandlyn was humble, John Eide was arrogant.  After all, he had been to Harvard so the rest of us peons should do as he directed us.

The Bell System’s image of its male employees was that they were clean-cut and eager to accommodate.  John Eide was a pain in the butt.  His clothes were frequently in disarray and he suffered from a runny nose.  Because he carried no handkerchiefs, his nose was not blown.

There came a time when it was necessary to go to Chicago to handle a grievance matter.  The night before the meeting Eide announced that he was going to Cicero, which is a section of Chicago.  Cicero is the meanest and toughest section of Chicago and I would not have gone there under any circumstances.  So I went to bed and Eide departed for Cicero.  At around two in the morning, my phone rang and it was Eide saying he was in trouble because he had bought so many drinks, he could not pay for them.  He wanted me to come to Cicero to rescue him.  I told him that was clearly out of the question.  I called the manager of our hotel and found out that Eide had used a credit card.  The hotel was willing to advance him the money he needed to be put on his credit card.  The manager of the hotel agreed to summon a cab to go to Cicero to pick up John Eide.  The cost of the cab was, of course, Eide’s responsibility.  When the meeting with the union took place in Chicago, Eide showed up ten or fifteen minutes late looking like a drunk, which he was.


Now we fast forward a little bit to a bargaining situation at which we reached a crucial point.  Tony Seghy, the number two man in the union, was from Cleveland.  That was also Eide’s home town.  And at a crucial point, Eide privately called Tony Seghy and offered to pitch in the company’s position in exchange for future favors.  This violated the most cardinal rule of labor relations.  I of course did not know of this telephone call until later in the morning.

Tony Seghy was as outraged as I would have been, were I in his shoes.  He immediately reported this to Elaine Gleason, his boss, who went instantly on the phone to Bill Whittaker, the vice president of personnel of AT&T Long Lines.  Whittaker had succeeded George Sparks.  Whittaker called Eide to his office and determined that the report was true.   He then went to Killingsworth and told him that he wanted Eide fired and that he could never work for him again.  That is precisely what Whittaker should have done.

Instead, Killingsworth hemmed and hawed and transferred Eide back to a traffic position.  Whittaker demanded in the strongest terms that I be promoted to the job that Eide had.  This was the same position that George Sparks had also had when he recommended me for that promotion.  Killinsworth said no.  Much to his credit, Bill Whittaker said that he would no longer bring in people to be my boss.  From that time forward, I was a division-level manager and would report to a vice president.  And for a number of years that is the way the organization operated.

John Eide continued to go downhill and sometime in the late 1970s he committed suicide by inhaling the fumes of his motor vehicle.  Somewhere around 1960 or 1961, the management of AT&T finally learned that Henry Killingsworth was an impediment to the progress of the Long Lines department.  Whereas at the Long Lines department he was in charge of about 20,000 employees, he was moved to headquarters at 195 Broadway where he was given a job where he had a secretary and two other employees reporting to him.  He started off this new assignment by telling his three employees that they must work much harder.  Apparently Killingsworth had not abandoned the idea of taking the slack out of the trace chains.

Around 1962 or thereabouts, I was transferred to the general headquarters of AT&T and was given the job of handling the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who were threatening to invade the Bell System.  The Teamsters viewed the communications workers as an easy target.  Not long after I arrived, I received a phone call from a news reporter who claimed he was looking for the man who had been placed in charge of the anti-Teamster effort.  I told the caller, who later turned out to be a Donald J.R. Bruckner, that I was the guy.

For the next year or thereabouts, I sent Bruckner my theories of what the Teamsters were up to.  He was always punctilious about protecting my identity.  Bruckner was the labor relations editor for the Chicago Sun Times.  He was a fine fellow and he and I enjoyed several lunches together.

Later on in my assignment as the anti-Teamster director, the vice president of the New York Telephone Company in charge of labor relations there was aroused by the accuracy of Bruckner’s reports.  There was one occasion when Ken Whalen, the vice president of labor relations in the New York Company, came to my boss’s office.  That was Stanley G. Erickson.   Ken Whalen was more than interested in the accuracy of the reports of the Teamsters that he had read in the Chicago Sun Times.  The three of us were standing near an entrance to Erickson’s office and Whalen asked how this reporter, Don Bruckner, could get such accurate information.  I interrupted by singing a little ditty called, “I used to work in Chicago.”  Actually the ditty was an off-color one.  It got the job done.

At that point, Ken Whalen knew that I was the source of the newspaper reports.  Within a short while, Whalen picked up other duties and opened a spot for me at the New York Telephone Company.  I was given a promotion, which Long Lines had denied me, and I was paid an appropriate rate which gave consideration to the depressed pay rate at Long Lines.

The culture at the New York Telephone Company could not have been more different from the culture at the AT&T Long Lines department, particularly under Henry Killingsworth.  They were willing to listen to reason and they backed my efforts to overhaul their labor relations department.  I must laud the New York Company environment and express my great admiration.  The two years that I spent at the New York Telephone Company were among the happiest of my 17 years of labor relations experience in the Bell System.

One of the reasons for my happiness had to do with my secretary.  She was Lorraine Grant when she accepted the job working for me.  Before long, Lorraine Grant became Mrs. Murray.  It was a delight to work with Lorraine Grant and the rest of the folks at the New York Telephone Company.

As a matter of interest, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters had internal troubles involving their president, Jimmy Hoffa.  All things considered, the threat from the Teamsters to enter the telephone business disappeared.  I suspect that their effort to invade the telephone business was one reason and the failures of Jimmy Hoffa were another.  And so we end this threat by the Teamsters, but in effect, it was the Teamsters who got me the promotion that AT&T Long Lines had so long denied me.  Finally, justice at last.

At this point I believe that I have fulfilled at least in part my daughter’s request that I tell her about that segment of my life that had to do with labor relations.  For a young man such as myself, 17 years of such experience was entirely rewarding and demonstrated the depths to which some human beings can dive.  On the wrong side of history there was of course none other than Mr. Henry Killingsworth.  For my money, he was a villain par excellence.  He established the bar for inappropriate management policies.  Unfortunately his influence extended for many years in the people he promoted.  Jack Marsh, the obese fellow, and John Eide were two of his emulators.  The fact is that I kept my sense of humor throughout all of those 17 years.  My sense of humor has made it possible for me to enjoy my 43 years of work for the Bell System.


There is a degree of difficulty in condensing those 17 years into a piece for an essay.  I could have written a good deal more but I believe that the essence of what transpired in this long career is reflected in this essay.

This morning when I was looking for the name of Lowell Wingert, my wife was searching through my files.  There were many memorable moments.  For example, there was the remark by Henry Joyner about one of the union representatives.  Henry said very calmly that this young fellow was more than annoyed; he was “sorer than a boiled owl.”  That was a Henry Joynerism.  And it cannot be topped.

There was also an occasion when the AT&T bargainers included Charles L. Brown, who went on to become the Chairman of the Board of AT&T.  On this occasion, Charlie and I were seated together on the company side of the bargaining table.  The union sat on one side with its eight representatives and the company sat on the other with a lesser number of representatives.

On this occasion, Charlie Brown mentioned to me that the union representative directly opposite him was attempting to read his notes.  This woman was a robust specimen who came from Philadelphia and had a reputation for being one of the nastiest representatives of the union.

Charlie said that she had been reading his notes upside down.  I knew this to be the case because I could see her moving her lips.  Apparently as she tried to read Charlie’s notes, she would enunciate the words.  Charlie Brown was a gentleman in every respect.  He put up with this as long as he could until he took a tablet of paper and in large block letters he wrote, “Can you read this upside down?”  With Charlie sitting next to me, I knew what was happening.  When the woman representative of the union reached those lines, she repeated them sotto voce, under her breath, and she suddenly realized that those lines were aimed at her.  Her face reddened and she threw up her arms, as if to say, “It wasn’t me.”  But the fact is, it was her.  I will always treasure that moment when Charlie Brown stopped the reader of his up-side-down notes.  It was a classic.

Charlie Brown is dead now.  I miss him.  He was on two of my bargaining teams.  During those years, I believe that he was widowed.  He was intending to go to Spain.  When the bargaining was taking place here in Greenwich Village in New York, he and I set out to find some Spanish restaurants so he could practice his Spanish.  Charlie and I became good friends.  It distressed me to learn that later in life, after his retirement, Alzheimer’s Disease crept up on him.  Charlie was a gentleman’s gentleman.

There is much more to say on the subject of labor relations but I believe that this essay plus one with the title “Setting His Nose Alight” should be the extent of my involvement in the labor relations field.

My observation after all of these years in the labor movement and in civilian life is that insecure men are often tyrants.  On the opposite side, secure men are rational in their approach to life and their decisions are well founded.  As an example, I cite Henry Killingsworth, the grand villain, and his acolyte Jack Marsh as those who were insecure in life.  On the other hand, I would cite Charles Brown, Henry Joyner, Lowell Wingert and multitudes of others who are comfortable in their own skins and see no reason to punish those who are their subordinates.  Tom Scandlyn and I remain friends to this day.  Unfortunately, many of those who are insecure wind up in positions of great authority.

But I tend to take comfort from two communications which are in my possession.  In 1964, after my encounter with Ken Whalen of the New York Company, I went to take up my duties in that company.  Shortly after it was announced in the newspapers that I had been promoted to the New York Company, a message arrived from Elaine T. Gleason, my old adversary when I was bargaining for Long Lines.  If I can locate it, I will include it here.  In effect, Elaine said that the affairs of the New York Telephone Company were in good hands.  I appreciated that immensely.


And finally, when I announced that I was leaving the Bell System to take up retirement after 43 years of service, there was a message from my old friend Charlie Brown.  He was then Chairman of the Board of Directors of AT&T and I appreciated his taking the time to communicate with me.


We have reached the end of this long essay and the observations that I offered earlier.  When one takes up employment with a large corporation, one can expect that there are those with reason who will treat him decently.  One must also expect that when a man is afflicted with insecurity, a tyrant is produced.  In my case, I had a little bit of both.  Taking one thing with another, the good guys in the telephone business and in the labor field greatly outnumbered those with tyrannical concerns.

When I started this essay, I believed that it would pivot primarily on the personalities that I encountered along the way.  That is exactly the way that it has turned out.  Again, I must say that the good guys far outnumbered those with evil intent.  I am greatly sorrowed by the fact that those with evil intent still exist.  But that is the way it is.  You pays your money and you take your chances.



September 20, 2012

Essay 697


There is much to address here.
A) AT&T had a chairman named Charlie Brown. Good grief!
B) Pop’s memory is fantastic
C) Given B), I hereby request the full lyrics to “I used to work in Chicago”
D) It’s great to see Tom’s name come up! He’s a cool guy and a reader of these essays. Not long ago, he wrote this response to Pop’s essay about country speak.
E) I do hope that Pop finds Elaine’s letter. Or more technically that Judy finds it, unless Elaine had the habit of writing in Braille. I’m not even sure if Pop reads Braille, come to think of it.
F) I think I have to give Killingsworth a little bit of slack. I mean, the man was never had any choice but to become “Mr. Killingsworth” which, let’s face it, is such an obvious villain name that comic books might even reject it for being too obvious. Seriously, they’d introduce the ‘Killingsworth’ character and all the readers would plant their foreheads squarely in their palms and wonder how on earth his arc would play out. So yeah, he was just living up to his name.



Pop came through with the lyrics!

Hey Kevin 

You inquired about the lyrics to that beautiful hymn, I used to work in Chicago.  Ordinarily at this time of night I am doubled over in praise of Jesus, but a do recall one or a partial verse of I used to work in Chicago.  It goes on this order

        I used to work in Chicago in a department store,

        A lady came in and asked for some screws

        I asked her what kind at the door

        But screws she said and screw her I did

        So I dont work there anymore.

All of the rest of the lyrics are of this mildly vulgar nature.  Let me know if your heart has been uplifted by this recitation.


And then —

Hey Kevin 

Further thoughts on verses to I used to work in Chicago.

I Used To Work In Chicago
(Everyone sings words in capital letters. Tune is similar to “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”; the underlined word are the words that change from verse to verse.)


A young man came in for some paper
he wanted, a ream
he got


A young man came in for some jewelry

he wanted, a pearl necklace
he got

And similarly:
Carpet he wanted, shag he got
Ruler he wanted, my 12 inches he got
Nail he wanted, screw he got
Fishing rod he wanted, my pole he got
Meat he wanted, sausage he got
Beef he wanted, porked he got
Coffee he wanted, my cream he got
Helicopter he wanted, my chopper he got
Camel he wanted, hump he got
Stamps he wanted, licked he got
Fuck he wanted, fucked he got


As nearly everyone in my circle of society friends knows, I will be celebrating my 90th birthday early in August.  In the last several months, my body has told me that I am not half the man that I used to be.  I don’t look forward, for example, to long walks but rather, the shorter the better.  I don’t go into certain stores because of the steps involved.  So I stay in the car.

It is a lot like the filly who had the racing world agog with her triumph in the Kentucky Derby a couple of years ago.  The Kentucky Derby is followed by two longer races.  The second race is the Pimlico and the third is the Belmont.  In the second race at Pimlico, the jockey aboard the filly fell behind and despite the urging of the whip, it became clear that the filly had run out of steam.   When he was interviewed after the race, the jockey said, “I tried as hard as I could, but I knew that with the longer distance I had no more horse.”  That description of “no more horse” seems to fit my case precisely as I approach the 90 year mark.  As a matter of fact, the phrase “no more horse” may apply to all of us who have reached the golden years.

I joked that this slow-down was in accordance with God’s plans and I assumed that after 90 years in this vale of tears I would not have the get-up-and-go and oomph that I used to have.  Now, I can still get from here to there, but it takes a hell of a lot longer than I would like for it to take and it is a lot harder.

And so, one day around the first of June of this year, Judy, my wife, took me to a meeting with Dr. Lloyd Alterman.  Dr. Alterman works for the Summit Medical Group and is an old friend.  As a matter of fact, Miss Chicka, my wife, knew Dr. Alterman before I did.  So from that fact it must be concluded that Dr. Alterman is a friend of the family.

Dr. Alterman works in the Summit Medical Group in a new wing of the building in Berkeley Heights.  I must say that it is a tortuous journey to find Dr. Alterman’s office.  But it is all worth while.  After the preliminaries were out of the way, I thought that it would be wise to tell Dr. Alterman what my complaint might be.  Among other things, I told him that I am running out of gas, to use one crude expression having to do with my fatigue and lack of endurance .  Things don’t come so easily any more because I have to work at them.  All of this I attribute to my ancient age.

So I told Dr. Alterman that after he looked me over and reviewed all of my records, he might say to me, “You are 90 years of age, so what the hell do you expect?”  Now mind you, these were my words to Dr. Alterman.

Dr. Alterman is a well respected physician and a conscientious fellow who then set to work reviewing all the records of recent blood tests.  From time to time he checked my pulse and blood pressure; using the stethoscope, he reviewed my breathing apparatus.

This review by Dr. Alterman was thorough and when he stated his conclusions, I put considerable faith in those conclusions.  But then Dr. Lloyd Alterman had this to say, after the medical results were read to me.  Dr. Alterman said – and I will quote, “Mr. Carr, you are 90 years old, so what the hell do you expect?”

Dr. Alterman had remembered those lines perfectly and repeated them back to me when he finished his work.  So I have taken note of the 90 years of age and have lowered my expectations accordingly.  And now, if any of the readers of Ezra’s Essays are so inclined, they may visit Dr. Alterman and hear what he has to say.  As far as I am involved, I consider him the finest internist in the business.  And when he tells me or anyone else, “You are 90 years of age, so what the hell do you expect?”, you should pay attention to what Dr. Alterman has to say.

As a matter of fact, I propose to copyright/patent this diagnosis of “You are 90 years of age, so what the hell do you expect?”  That is unless Dr. Alterman has beaten me to the punch!



June 7, 2012

Essay 666



Kevin’s commentary: The number of the beast! Truly a landmark essay. Also somewhat unique in that it has a whole second essay published to clarify a correction to this essay regarding horses.

Also, only on Ezra’s Essays can you find an essay entitled “Expectations” and know with at least relative confidence that the essay is probably about lowering them. My grandfather is a realist above all else. But it’s also worth noting that for a 90-year-old man who went blind very very late in his life, he is still quite sprightly in my opinion.



I do not pretend to be an expert in the horse race industry in this country.  As I have reported before, I have only been to two horse races in my life and they were, more than anything else, boring.  Perhaps if I were a bettor, I would be a bit more interested.  But I am not a bettor.

This is an essay about the English language.  If my understanding is correct, when a race horse reaches the end of the line, people who know more than I do will assess whether or not he should be “put out to stud.”  Being put out to stud must be an enjoyable retirement for those who are so designated.  A horse that is put out to stud eats his grass and occasionally he has a filly to be serviced.  He will retire and will enjoy intercourse with the fillies that are brought to him.  He will not even have to go looking for the fillies but rather, they will be brought to him.

My interest here is that for the male horse, this retirement is called being “put out to stud.”  For the female horse or filly, the term is called “servicing.”  I have never seen these descriptions attached to any other facet of the English language.  On occasion I have seen a person with a high opinion of himself being called a stud duck.  That is an excessively laudatory term.

The conclusion of this very small essay is to determine why a race horse at the end of his career would be put out “to stud.”  Of equal importance is why, when a filly is brought to him, he is asked to “service” her.  I know almost nothing about horse racing.  But leaving that aside, I am curious about why male horses are put out to stud and female horses require being serviced.

As I have said, I am not an expert on horse racing or the breeding operation that goes with horse racing.  I assume that it is of crucial importance to both the males and the fillies as to what happens after their careers are over.  I suspect that if they are not put out to stud or to be serviced, they may well be slaughtered.  I am not a meat eater but I gather that there are people in this world who treasure horse meat.  I find the implications of eating horse meat revolting.  But that is because I am primarily a vegetarian.

That is all I have to say about being put out to stud and about a female horse being serviced.  My efforts here are totally on behalf of the English language.  I have no desire to meddle with or tamper with horse breeding.  And as you can see, I do not eat horse meat.  So we will come to rest on being put out to stud and the requirement of the male horse to service the female horses.

This all came about because I knew a fellow in the America Army named Gertner from Indiana who called those who sought positions of authority “stud ducks.”  Well, if any of you know about studs and about servicing, I would like to hear from you.  As my friend Sven Lernevall said, “English is a rich language.”  My intent here is merely to add to the richness of our mother tongue.



October 11, 2012

Essay 703


Kevin’s commentary: Yeah, I don’t know anything about horses either. I guess I could make some stuff up, and how “to stud” a horse comes from the Greek legend of a god/horse named “Stud” which just had sex with damn near everything, and then all his kids won bunches of races. That sort of thing. But basically I’m at a loss.

I also wonder why so many vegetarians call themselves vegetarians but still consume fish. Perhaps Pop believes fish are vegetables. Maybe since he is blind, Judy just tells him that they are vegetables and he is none the wiser. If this is the case I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news for my grandpa, when he reads this and realizes he’s been a carnivore all along.



Contemplating the essay that I am about to write, I have come to the conclusion that more than anything, it is about curiosity.  The curiosity is my own.  For many years, I have wondered about the Jordan River and whether or not it really rolled.  But there are some things to take care of before we get to the rolling of the river.

In the last half of the 1970s and on into the early part of the 1980s, in pursuit of the business interests of the AT&T Corporation, I made at least 12 to 15 trips to Israel.  It was in that period that the Jewish state was becoming firmly established.  Also in that period, there was a certain gung-ho attitude about the Israeli people.  They were not bound by the traditions of the past but were doing things that, if they worked, were quite good enough.  If they did not work, they would try something else.

It was in this period of time that the Israelis reached a deal with the Italians to construct a cable between Tel Aviv and some point on the Italian mainland.  It was also during this period that the Italians had an entity called Italcable.  The Italians decided that the shares in Italcable should be sold and it became a business rather than an entity of the Italian government.  The Israelis came to distrust the new owners of the other half of the cable.  Because I had several reasons to deal with the Italian telephone company, I was asked by the Israelis to pose several questions to the Italians which were of vital interest to the Israelis.  This was all on the up and up, but I agreed to do this because of my great interest in the fortunes of the Israeli telephone company.  When I got an answer from the Italians that I thought would be of interest to the Israelis, I often made Tel Aviv and Jerusalem my next stop.  And so in a large measure, this accounts for my making so many trips to Israel.  My recollection is that the cable between Tel Aviv and the terminus in mainland Italy was eventually completed.  It had several stops along the way due to bureaucratic infighting but eventually the cable was put into operation.

During my trips to Israel, I was always met at the Tel Aviv Airport by my great and good friend Aryeh Ron.  Perhaps those of you who have been readers of Ezra’s Essays will recall Aryeh Ron, who had a maiden name of Leo Ritter.  About 1938 in Vienna, Leo Ritter was ordered by the Nazis to go home and bring his toothbrush back to scrub the sidewalk.  As you can imagine, Leo Ritter (Aryeh Ron) was a Jew.  He took the hint and left Vienna for the Palestinian territory in the Middle East.  When he arrived he had to master the Hebrew language.  In addition, Aryeh Ron also mastered English as well.  There were times when he and I had long talks about life under the Nazis and about life in his new home of Israel.  As I have said, particularly in my essay called “The Four Stars of David,” Aryeh Ron was one of my closest and best friends.

Now we get to the curiosity part.  On this trip, I was alone in arriving at Lod, the airport that serves as the only airport for international travelers.  Lod was a very small town located near Tel Aviv.  At this point, I should mention that the Israelis had no motor pool.  I believe that when Aryeh Ron met me, he did it in his own car.  Motor pools in the Israeli communications authority were a long way down the road.

On the way to Israel coming from some place such as Rome, I began to think of the religious significance that Christians attach to the River Jordan.  There are several songs, particularly Negro spirituals, that speak of crossing over Jordan.  From a religious standpoint, crossing over Jordan will cause the faithful to wind up in Heaven.  But in actual fact in the Middle East of today, if the Jordan River is crossed, one will find himself in the Kingdom of Jordan.

When Aryeh Ron picked me up at the luggage counter, I asked him if we could go by the Sea of Galilee that followed the Jordan River down to the Dead Sea as well as going to Jerusalem.  This was the long way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but Aryeh Ron welcomed the opportunity to show me the Jordan River.

My curiosity came from the words of the ancient Negro spiritual called, “Roll, Jordan, Roll.”  In my trip with Aryeh, I wanted to see whether in fact the Jordan River was a rolling river.  A rolling river is one with a certain amount of depth.  I had assumed that a rolling river would have a sufficient depth to cause waves to crest.

I had in the back of my head the Mississippi River as well as the Missouri River.  I also was thinking of the Merrimac River of Missouri.  Clearly, the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Merrimac Rivers were rolling.  They were mostly rolling toward the Gulf of Mexico where they joined the ocean.  I did not expect to find the Jordan River to be anything like the Mississippi River but I was curious as to how this river presented itself.

When we reached the Sea of Galilee and turned south toward the Dead Sea and Jerusalem, I saw mainly a meandering river which seemed to lack any suggestion of depth.  In my own mind where I kept the thought, I thought that comparing the Jordan River to the Mississippi or Missouri River was more or less a farce.  It appeared to me that there were times when even I could have waded across the Jordan River.  I am not a swimmer and I would attempt no such thing.  But it presented itself as a wade-able river.  As it approached the Dead Sea, the thought of wading across the river was ever more constant.

As for the rolling part, it must be stated that the Jordan River with its lack of depth provided no hint of rolling.  At that point it was more or less a river or a stream that flowed between Israel and Jordan.  But I am not here to argue about the width and depth of rivers in the Middle East.  Nor am I here to argue about crossing the Jordan, which will land you in the kingdom of Heaven.  It is my belief that those who fantasize about the River Jordan with its entry to Heaven are pure romanticists.

In point of fact, the people who produced Negro spirituals were slaves.  Anything that took their mind off of their conditions of employment was strictly applauded.  But that was yesteryear.  I can assure that at this time, the River Jordan is not much more than a stream which has no ability to roll or to flood anything.  It is simply a stream which appears to be at some point wade-able.  But if the songwriters who were slaves wanted to say that the Jordan River was something that they could look forward to because it represented entry into Heaven, I would say they ought to be applauded for their belief.  Whether that belief was true or not is beside the point.  That is what they believed and it is fine with me.


This business of whether the Jordan River actually ever rolled has existed since the first Negro spiritual reached our ears.  Later, Vincent Youmans wrote a song called, “Without a Song” which was included in a 1929 musical called “Great Day.”  One of the lines from the song goes:

I’ve got my troubles and woe

But sure as I know,

The Jordan will roll.

The composer was Vincent Youmans.  The lyricists were Billy Rose and Edward Eliscu.  That song, “Without a Song,” is still sung today and is a standard in American musicology.


There is one other thought that has to do with the pronunciation of the name Jordan.  A good many of the singers, usually black, pronounce the word Jordan as Jerdan.  Why Jordan became Jerdan is still a mystery to me.  I suspect that if the Jordan River actually rolls musically, the fact that the name is pronounced as Jerdan is not of any consequence.

I told you at the beginning that this essay had to do with, basically, my curiosity.  As we finish this essay, I am no closer to learning why historically the Jordan River is suspected of rolling.  But no matter what the outcome of the rolling part, I as always enjoyed my day with Aryeh Ron.  I explained to Aryeh early in the trip that I wanted to see whether the River Jordan actually rolled.  Aryeh said that if that river was wet, that was all that mattered.  Now that I have had 30 more years to think about this conclusion, I agree that if the river is wet that is all that is needed.  So it is that I say, “Roll, Jordan, roll…I want to go to Heaven when I die, so roll, Jordan, roll.”



October 11, 2012

Essay 702


Kevin’s commentary: First and foremost, Judy requested that I add this link to the essay — it is the song Roll Jordan Roll. The baritone specifically has a hell of a voice. Worth checking it out for him alone!

Second, I had no idea what at “motor pool” was.

Third, Pop’s description of the Jordan reminds me somewhat of the Rio Grande, which Texas history teaches children is some huge majestic affair but in reality is muddy and full of awful chemicals. Also it is narrow enough that stones may be thrown across it to Mexico, which I know because I’ve done so.


You will recall that these are individual subjects that have absolutely no relationship to each other.  With that forewarning, we will begin a new venture into the world of polygamy which I am determined to rescue from the Mormon Church.


First there is the bladder scanner.  This subject is considered by some to be a bit gamey.  The urologists have a radio device which sends shock waves toward the bladder and returns an assessment of how full the bladder is.  I have had my wrestling with urologists so that I am reasonably familiar with the instruments they use.  If we have bladder scanners, why do we not have a device called a gutometer.  There are occasions for example when we eat too much.  It may be a bit more than our intestines can handle.  If we had a gutometer, it would be easy to see how much we had overeaten.  Similarly, if we had undereaten, the gutometer would record the fact that your intestines or guts need some sustenance.

On several occasions, I have been confronted by physicians at the Summit Medical Group and have asked them about a device such as a gutometer.  Some of the physicians think that I am joking.  They universally tell me that there is no such thing as a gutometer, nor is anyone trying to develop such a device.  I am sorry to report this failure on the part of the American medical community.

Now we go to just a small incident having to do with a fellow who is a well-known urologist. There was an occasion when I had an appointment with him when I overheard a conversation between this doctor and a woman.  I was amazed to find that there was a woman addressing the doctor on the subject of her son.  It seems as though her son, who was 26 years of age, was still a virgin.  This woman was seeking the help of a urologist to do something about her son’s virginity.  As far as I could determine, this woman wanted the doctor to do something about “unvirginizing” her son.

Apparently the son had very little to say about this matter.  The mother wanted him to be “unvirginized.”  The doctor was in the position of being asked to arrange something that was probably not lawful.  I cannot tell you how this conversation ended because I was summoned to the examining quarters.  But I can guarantee you that the doctor would have had some amazing thoughts to relate.


The next essayette involves the emergence of left-handers.  When I attended high school and even after that when I played baseball in the Army, virtually all of the players were right-handed.  That was so much so the case that when a left-hander appeared, he was almost always called “Lefty.”  During my career in the Army, when there was a baseball game to be played, the Quartermaster who was in charge of the balls and gloves had only gloves to fit the left hand.  On one of the teams that I played for in the Army was called “The Overloaders.”  This name came from the practice of overloading the American war planes with either bombs or cargo.

When I was recruited to join The Overloaders, my natural position was catcher.  But The Overloaders had a left-handed former pitcher from the Boston Red Socks minor leagues doing the catching.  So I was sent to second base.  The catcher used a first-baseman’s mitt; he had it manipulated in such a fashion that he could catch the ball with his right hand.

But when I hear of baseball games being played these days, it appears to me that a good many of the players are left-handed.  My question is obvious.  Where did all of these left-handers come from?  Clearly there would be no point in this day and age of calling them “Lefty.”  I am a traditionalist when it comes to baseball.  But I am glad now that the lefties are sharing in the glory that comes from playing baseball.


Now we turn to diagramming a sentence.  Can anyone tell me what the virtue is in diagramming a sentence?  My eighth-grade teacher, Miss Maxwell, was nuts about diagramming sentences.  Does anyone do that anymore?  In the final analysis, what in the world can diagramming prove?  I spent a year under Miss Maxwell’s tutelage.  I cannot say that I am a better man for it.  She held other views.  She held that diagramming sentences would make us all heroes.  As always, Miss Maxwell had it backwards.  Diagramming sentences may have given her a personal thrill but to the people she taught, it was agony in the extreme.


Now we go to a phrase that has its origins in Ghana.  This phrase could be of great use to American politicians.  The phrase in question is, “Softly, softly, catch monkey.”  It implies that a human being should walk up behind a monkey and, keeping his silence, could catch him.  It fell to me to serve for 16 or 18 months in the country that was called “The Gold Coast,” which is now the modern country of Ghana.  In the seventy years since I departed from the Army of the United States, the phrase “Softly, softly, catch monkey” has continued to stick with me.

I do not know of any occasion when this admonition should apply to me.  Nonetheless I think it should apply to American politicians.  I am often threatening to call politicians such as Paul Ryan to tell him that he should remember “Softly, softly, catch monkey” which may be useful to him in his future endeavors.


The next item in this polygamy of essayettes has to do with a medical condition.  On my way overseas, I came from the dusty hilltops of Las Vegas, New Mexico with a case of what is called dust pneumonia.  That did not stop the Army from putting me on a troop train from Las Vegas to Charleston, South Carolina.  By the time the train reached El Paso, I needed medical attention.  The doctor who came aboard to treat me used a new remedy called sulfa.  This was in 1942.  Sulfa was new on the market.  It was used primarily in the treatment of venereal diseases.

When the Army put me on the troop train, I had been away from any female companionship for months.  I arrived at Stark General Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina and could not speak because of the pneumonia.  They started to treat me at Stark with the treatment that had been provided me and clearly concluded that I belonged on the venereal disease ward.  As I remember it, my fellow patients were very kind to me.  Most of them were black and worked as stevedores in the Army.

In a matter of days, the sulfa seemed to work and my voice returned.  I was able to tell them that my malady was dust pneumonia.  I disliked leaving my good friends in the venereal disease ward.  They were fine fellows.  But then it was a matter of boarding a ship to head for Dakar in Senegal.  I suppose the conclusion of this case is that one should never jump to a conclusion, particularly in the case of sulfa being administered.


There is one more thought in this collection of essayettes.  Now that it is fall, my thoughts turn to mincemeat.  At this time of year when I was a child, we were often served, as a great desert, mincemeat.  Mincemeat is a mixture of currents, raisins, sugar, apples, citrus and citrus peels, candied citrus, spices and suet.  When October arrives, it is time for mincemeat to make an appearance.  My desire for mincemeat lasts only shortly.  By the time November 1st arrives, I will have had my affair with mincemeat finished.  But as always, I look forward to having my first taste of mincemeat.

The next entry will be called pub grub.  In Ireland and England, there is a great fascination with having a snack at a pub.  I have had two experiences, one in Ireland and the other one in England.  If there is a more unimaginative meal than the offer to a patron, it is in the experience of pub grub.  It comes at the bottom line of dining in this world.

Well this polygamy of essayettes has now gone dry as my notepad has been emptied.  When next my notepad fills up and I feel an urgent need to relieve myself of a polygamy, I intend to write another polygamy of essayettes.  For the time being, there is no more notepad.  So I leave you with the thought, “Softly, softly, catch monkey.”  That phrase has lasted me for nearly 70 years and it is to be taken seriously by all of those who read these essays.


October 4, 2012

Essay 701

In addition to “softly, softly, catch the monkey,” another favorite phrase of Pop’s, I believe, is “Numb Numb Speck.” He wrote this on the bottom of my one of my mother’s painstakingly-typed pages of her novel about mystery-solving twins that she began to write as a girl. I am not even sure if I am spelling that phrase right, or if Pop even remembers the incident in question, but it is a story that my mother still tells bitterly and frequently. Of course he is also a huge proponent of “on with the rat killing,” as well as the phrase “vale of tears.” Maybe he should write essayettes about some of these other phrases.

A second thought strikes me as I read these essays, namely that Pop should get in the habit of always carrying a pen and paper around. On an earlier occasion, his quietness in school as a boy got him mistakenly sent to an institute for deaf children. Then apparently later in life, pneumonia prevented him from speaking properly to help the army diagnose him properly. It seems to me that in both these instances, Pop would have been well served to have a means by which he could write about his current status to his various overseers.

There are two more brand new essays to be released shortly. Pop continues to crank out essays at an impressive pace. For my part I have been distracted by travel to and from Austin, contracting a cold, and securing gainful employment. But the update pace shall again resume as normal.

Pop’s response:

Hey Kevin,

Now that I have passed my 90th birthday, I finally feel free to disclose to the world that “Num Num Speck” is a deity in charge of injuries that come from roller skating mishaps.  Your mother had no reason to growl at me as I performed my ritual prayers in accordance with the directions from Num Num Speck.  It is Num Num Speck who will provide me with eternal happiness.  What can be wrong with that?