Archive for December 2012


Most of us use the door knob on frequent occasions and think nothing of it.  The purpose of this small essay is to give the proper praise to the door knob for the service that it has provided to humanity over the years.

Simply put, if there were no door knobs, it would be difficult to open doors and get from one room to another.  In and of itself, the fact that the door knob opens doors is worthy of great praise.  Never in the history of home building or in the history of poetry or essays has a tribute been paid solely to the lowly door knob.  This extremely modest essay will attempt to right that wrong.

As we have said, the door knob opens doors between rooms and to the outside world.  Without door knobs we would be confined to a small space without hope of escape.  Door knobs provide this service to mankind and it should be appreciated.  But opening doors is not the only function of door knobs.

There is an expression in some quarters that a person or a thing is as dumb as a bag of door knobs.  It may be that I have used that expression myself.  But from this time on, I will no longer use it.  Aside from the normal function of the door knob, it provides other services as well.

For those of us, sighted and non-sighted, the door knob is a convenient place to lean for support to progress from one room to another.  In my particular case, door knobs are essential if for no other reason than the fact that they can be leaned on.

Door knobs provide another service in that in the case of the non-sighted person, they tell the person how he is making progress.  In my own case, when leaving the room I reach for various door knobs to measure my progress.

But the utility of a door knob does not end there.  It is a convenient hanging device for everything from underwear to neckties. It is perfectly designed to fit a shirt collar.   I am not averse to unmentionable things in the female category but I suspect that bra straps are frequently placed over the door knobs.  I don’t condemn this use of door knobs but rather I sort of applaud it.

Now the utility of door knobs does not end there.  They are a convenient device for hanging “do not disturb” signs in a hotel.  Local advertisers often hire workers to hand their advertising signs on the door knobs such as mine.

I suspect that there are many other cases where the door knob provides essential services to mankind in general.  But once again, I appreciate this opportunity to speak in praise of the lowly door knob.  I might also ask, “Where would we be if there were no such things as door knobs?”  Aside from opening doors they provide a convenient place for looping shirts and bra straps and other unmentionable items as we dress and undress.  And so in the end I feel better because I have paid my long overdue tribute to door knobs.  I hope that they live forever.



September 13, 2011

Essay 582


Kevin’s commentary: I have a strange grandparent.

I have no idea how to tag this one.

Happy New Year’s, everybody.


I have no trouble with neologisms, clever sayings that make their way into the Anglo-Saxon language.  But I do have trouble with an affectation which is widely spread among all age groups who speak the American version of the English language.  The most recent such word is “awesome.”

I have always thought that our exploration of the moon’s surface was indeed awesome.  There are things on this earth that are also awesome.   The Grand Canyon comes to mind.  There are craters a mile deep and several miles wide.  That is awesome to me.  But that word has found its way into the Anglo-Saxon language that we speak and I find it being misapplied and misused.

For example, a few years back I was impressed by the manager of our local bank and I wrote a letter to the head man of J.P. Morgan Chase.  Interestingly, he and his assistant both replied to my letter of commendation.  Later when I had occasion to visit the bank, the manager told me that my letter was “awesome.”  If he had told me that it was very pleasant to receive recognition for the service that he had provided or that he was happy to advance services adequate for my use, I would have been greatly pleased.  The bank manager, who I think is a bit of a treasure, used the word “awesome.”  He was a man in his early thirties and I think that by this time should have known and used a more appropriate term.  I was happy to receive the compliment but I thought that the use of the term “awesome” was a bit much.

At the end of May, I made a small presentation to a fourth grade class,  at the conclusion of which I had the teacher ask if each child would come forward and shake my hand and tell me his or her name.  It was a gorgeous time for all, and when the hand shaking was completed, a youngster, perhaps ten years old, remarked that shaking my hand was “awesome.”  I am delighted that this youngster was impressed but I try not to let it go to my head.  I simply say that this youngster was ten years old and that shaking the hand of an old-timer like myself is not really awesome.  If the youngster concluded that shaking my hand was an awesome fact of life, I will accept it.

I had always reserved “awesome” for things such as the Himalayan Mountains or Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  But it appears that the word “awesome” might have a longer life span than I had anticipated.  I will not use that word myself and I will cringe a bit when it is used by others, even a ten-year-old boy.  If they want to call my handshake and my letter “awesome,” I will gracefully accept their opinion.

It could well be that my dislike of “awesome” is a matter of prejudice.  If that is the case, I freely admit it.  But I would also point out that a fellow of advanced years such as myself is entitled to prejudicial conduct from time to time.



May 31, 2011

Essay 555


Kevin’s commentary: I will happily file this one away under “objections to modernity” which is probably the most awesome category ever.

I feel like words to describe progressive levels of goodness should be excused from the more rigid conventions of language in that they vary deeply based on fads, maybe moreso than any other grouping of words, and certainly more than any other grouping of words that comes to me at time of writing this.

All I can tell Pop is that perhaps “awesome” will fall out of fashion soon.


All things considered, I was born in the year of 1922.  I had nothing to do with the date that I was born.  Those questions were settled by my parents.  As it turns out, I was born the seventh child to a family who tended to the fortunes of the Lilac Roost Farm.  It was a dairy farm so from the beginning I knew all about cows.

I did not mean to tell you about my birth.  As it so happens to a person born in 1922, he will arrive at the age of six in the year of 1928.  So my first proposition to the members of Mrs. Briber’s class would have to do with arithmetic.  I suppose that arithmetic or some variation is still being taught in the schools of our town.  Now take the current year of 2011, which should be written down as the top number, and underneath that with a minus sign should be written 1928.  And then there should be a line drawn under those two numbers.  If my memory is correct, if we subtract 1928 from 2011, the answer is 83 years.  This is not to tell you how old I am.  It is to tell you about Miss Brantley, my first-grade teacher who was the moving force behind this presentation.

The Clayton public school system was located in a suburban territory located right next to St. Louis.  At that time, St. Louis was the eighth largest city in the United States.  Also, at that time, there was no such thing as kindergarten and pre-K was simply out of the question.  And so it was I enjoyed my childhood, often helping my brothers and my father milk some cows.  When September came in 1928, I was enrolled in the first grade class presided over by Miss Brantley.

She was a kindly woman, as I recall it, with gray hair and a lovely demeanor.  On my first day in school, I felt the need to go to the bathroom.  Remember now that I could not read or write.  So I wandered down the hall until I came to a large opening and went in to see what bathroom facilities might exist.  In an instant, Miss Brantley had gathered me in her arms and led me out of the bathroom.  She explained that this was the girls’ bathroom and not the boys’ bathroom.  She took me next door and showed me that the boys’ bathroom had block letters pasted on the outside.  She had me trace the “B” in boys so I would know where I should go to the bathroom.  So now I know how the boys’ bathroom is spelled but I always check to this day to see whether I’ve got the right bathroom.

There is one other story about Miss Brantley.  Every morning we were happy to sing her a song.  The song was:

Good morning to you,
Good morning to you.
We’re all in our places
With sunshiny faces.
Good morning, Miss Brantley,
Good morning to you.

That is a lovely song that I have remembered all of these years.

It was Miss Brantley who taught me that when I had the answer to a question, I should raise my hand and then she might call on me.  This is a civilized way of doing things without kids shouting at the teacher that they have the answer.  But now an adjustment has to be made because I am blind.  That is why I wear these sunglasses and why I carry a white cane to let people know that I am blind.

Blindness is not catching.  In my case, it is a hereditary trait in my family.  My father was blind and I suspect that his father was also blind.  My older brothers were blind, and now for the past six years blindness has come to me.  Of course I am unhappy that blindness now has come to me but like all other blind people, I have to play the hand that I have been dealt.  Blindness does not detract from my friendships or from enjoying a good meal.  Simply put, it is a hereditary disease called glaucoma.  Now that you know about why I will not call on you if you raise your hand in response to a question I should ask, I will now tell you about how it is done in the American army.

Every morning in the army they would call the roll – they would say, “Joe Smith” or “John Jones.”  Now instead of answering by saying “Here,” the fellows I was with in the American army would say in a loud voice, “Ho!”    So today if you have any questions that you want to call my attention to, you should not raise your hands but you should say, “Ho!”  And I expect you to deliver the hos with a lot of enthusiasm and exuberance.

Well, so much for the preliminaries about what I wanted to say to you today.  Somewhere around the year 2000, it became obvious that men who fought in World War II were dying with great frequency.  There were some occasions when the death toll would be fourteen hundred every month.  So the Library of Congress asked some veterans including me to record our thoughts before it was too late.  So what I would like to read to you today are the thoughts that I recorded in the year 2000.  Rather than to tell the Library of Congress what I did during the war, I elected to tell them about four other soldiers who were known to me with whom I had a great friendship.  In order, they are Ashby Vaughan, Bernie Wheeler, Dave Weiss, and Don Meier.  All of those men were killed in action during the war.  I thought that rather than telling the Library of Congress what I did, the memory of these four guys should take priority over what I did in my army service.


Here is the story about the four men who were my friends and were killed in the war.

*PLAY VIDEO.* [Editor’s note — Judy, could I get a copy of this somehow? Do you still have it? The YouSendIt file service may be of help.]

Next Monday I believe that there will be no school.  There will be a holiday called “Memorial Day” on which we celebrate the contribution of men who died in service.  On Monday and for all the days thereafter, I hope that you will keep in mind the sacrifices made by Ashby Vaughan, Bernie Wheeler, Dave Weiss, and Don Meier.  I believe that truly we are all standing on the shoulders of those who were killed in fighting our wars.  When Monday comes, I hope that you will give some thought to the fellows that I have mentioned today.  They were brave men and, as I have said, they were good men.

As you can see, I remember the name of my first grade teacher.  I remember Miss Brantley, my first grade teacher, after all of these years.  I also remember Miss Jones, Miss Williams and her sister named Miss Williams, Miss Dawes, and others who taught me so many years ago.  I expect that over the years all of you will remember the names of your teachers here at Glenwood School.

Now before I go, I wish to call attention to the fact that there are some actions on the part of the Brownies at this school who honored me.  I think it was three years ago that my wife answered the door to find a youngster asking if a veteran lived in this house.  She told her that that was the case, at which the student from Glenwood School handed my wife a present.  This happened on two subsequent occasions.

I was absent for three years or more during my service with the American army.  I never expected to be thanked for that service.  Even my own family never thanked me, nor did I expect them to thank me.  Simply put, it was my duty to serve in the American army.  If I had failed to do that duty, my parents would be disgraced.  So I served my term of more than three years in the American army and thought not much about it.  But on those three occasions when the Brownies of this school called on me with presents that marked my service, I wish to tell you that I was humbled that the Brownies from this school had taken the occasion to thank me for that service which occurred about 60 or 70 years ago.

So we wind up where we started, with an arithmetic problem.  My service took place starting in 1942, and if you subtract that from 2011, it is about 69 years ago.  My wife did the arithmetic for this question, so I have no responsibility for its accuracy.

Again, I thank you for the invitation to speak to you as Memorial Day approaches.  And if you remember Ashby Vaughan, Bernie Wheeler, Dave Weiss, and Don Meier, I will be happy that you have done so.


May 27, 2011

Essay 552


Kevin’s commentary: The mental image of a bunch of little kids yelling “Ho!” at Pop to ask him questions is adorable, and I won’t hear anything to the contrary. The idea that Pop sang them a good morning song is a close second.

I hope to have a way to publish the video in question soon. I’ll put up a post to update readers on this occurrence, should this happen.


Over the past 50 years or more, I have been involved in various business opportunities but none presented as much of a shovel-ready opportunity as this one.  Because this opportunity has existed for more than 50 years, you will have to hear my story as I spin it out.

About 58 years ago in Chicago, my wife at the time, Eileen, and I became involved in an adoption procedure.  We were making some headway in the adoption procedure, which was sponsored by the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society.  They had indicated early in the game that they would be willing to give us a child.  And so it was in early December of 1953 that the Children’s Home and Aid Society told us that we could pick up the child on the following Thursday.  This notice was given to us on a Monday.

It seemed to us that this adoption was worthy of public notice.  After all, when children are introduced to the world, an announcement is received of that event.  And so on this Monday evening, my wife and I went to the great Marshall Fields store, which was the leading card-carrying business in all of Chicago land.  I thought that we could go to Marshall Fields, pick out a card, and then have dinner.  But this became an ordeal.  Both of us searched high and low for a card that would announce the adoption of a new child.  As luck would have it, my co-worker in the Chicago traffic office named Betty Kruchten was shopping on the same floor that held the card displays.  Betty Kruchten, good soul that she was, came over to help us search the displays for a card announcing the adoption of a child.  But the immutable fact was that there were no such cards and finally Betty Kruchten, my wife, and myself had to admit defeat.  There simply were no cards announcing the adoption of children.  And so it was for this reason that I wrote the announcement of the adoption of Ellen Maureen Carr by myself.

Now some 50 years later, a second incident took place that needed an announcement.  Again it was in December of 2005 when the surgeons and specialists of Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia finally delivered the news that my eyesight was gone forever.  I knew that this announcement was coming.  The people at Wills Eye Hospital tried every procedure in the book but at last they concluded that there was no hope, so I was sightless.

I took some comfort in the fact that finally, at last, the trips to the hospital for blindness in my left eye which happened in 1994 and then for my right eye, which happened in 2005, were coming to a conclusion.  I took joy in the fact that the physicians and surgeons and staff and any specialist staff would tend to leave me alone.  This is a hell of a compromise, trading one’s eyesight for the ease that comes with having no doctor’s appointment today.  But that is how I felt.  Later, I dictated the essay called “Sing No Sad Songs for This Old Geezer,” which had to do with my new total blindness.

So here we are with an adoption that needed to be announced and 50 years later having blindness that needed to be announced as well, and no cards to fit the occasion.  Surely and totally, this represents a made-to-order shovel-ready business opportunity.  Someone must step forward to grab the bull by the horns to announce such events as adoptions and blindness.  As it turns out, I have a nephew who owns a collection of card stores in Atlanta.  His name is James Edgar Carr, which might lead you to believe that he was named after me.  That is not the case, because he was named after my father in the middle name department.  I am going to offer this made-to-order shovel-ready project to James Edgar but if he turns it down, I will be pleased to auction it off, selling it to the highest bidder.

This is a can’t-miss opportunity.  I have been involved in the business world since 1935 when I took a position as a wiper of windshields at the Carl Schroth filling station in Clayton, Missouri.  Never before have I seen such a vacuum as the lack of cards for adoptions and blindness.  If I were a bit younger, I would take advantage of this vacuum myself.  But it is clear that such a vacuum does exist and must be filled by an announcement notice.

Now, look, I do not propose to take advantage of this opportunity that you must adopt a child.  Nor do I propose that you should lose your sight.  On the contrary.  It is a public service which will endear you to friends, relatives, and the business community.

I suspect that Betty Kruchten would leap at this tremendous business opportunity.  Betty is at least 100 years of age these days if she still exists.  If my nephew James Edgar turns the offer down, I intend to submit it to Betty Kruchten because it is a can’t-miss business opportunity.  Millionaires and billionaires would love to have the opportunity to print announcements of adoptions and blindness for the business world.  I offer this announcement as a public service, knowing that I am too old to do anything about it.  And it will save me from having to write my own announcements of these monumental developments in my humdrum life.

PS:  Miss Chicka, my wife, who drives the only automobile in the family these days, suggested the following.  A little more than seven years ago, I approached the round-about in front of the Short Hills Railroad Station.  Cars were coming at me from three directions.  I decided then and there that if I could make it home, I would no longer drive.  My driving career lasted from age 15 until age 83, which I would submit is plenty.  But the burden of Miss Chicka’s remark goes to an announcement of this development.  So you see that there are all kinds of developments that must be announced and as a result, this is a continuing golden business opportunity for risk-takers.



December 18, 2011

Essay 619


Kevin’s commentary: If only I had read this essay before taking a job at a startup out here in California.  Lazy blind people everywhere could buy my cards announcing their blindness. However my question is simply — how do I alert them as to the existence of this product? They won’t see it while walking around in the store. Some of them will have people with the, I guess, but many of them will just have dogs and canes and such. Clearly the card would just have to sing perpetually from the moment it was created until the battery died. It would be a big hit in department stores.



Three non-breaking news items have occurred in recent weeks and they constitute the essence of this essay.  In the past few weeks we have been met by an invasion of breaking news from Washington as well as from itinerant politicians.  All things considered, the breaking news has had its share of attention.  The burden of this essay is to prove that non-breaking news has its value as well.

This is a three-part essay.  The first two parts will deal with subjects which were raised in previous essays.  The third part will have to do with an undertaker whose desires to put my corpse away have yet been unmet.


Let us start at the beginning of the three subjects at hand.  You may recall that last year I wrote an essay having to do with the sale of the house next door.  You may also recall that attached to the “for sale” sign was an addendum that said, “I’m gorgeous inside.”  Now you will also recall that in my background I have had a period of bargaining with labor unions.  Immediately the sign on the addendum brings the thought that, “Yes, you may be gorgeous inside, but what about the outside?”  I suspect that the owner of the house for sale wanted to call attention to the beauty of the inside of the house as distinguished from the outside.  At the same time, the owner of the house had gone to great lengths to remodel the house, which resulted in what my sons-in-law have suggested was an abortion of the architecture.  But at any rate the house was offered for sale for a figure of close to two million dollars and placed on the market last year in mid-April.

Spring came and went, followed by summer coming into view, followed by fall.  The spring, summer, and fall were natural events and were not associated with the house next door.  These are natural events that occur almost every year, winter being followed by spring, being followed by summer, being followed by fall and winter again.

The fact is that the house with the gorgeous inside apparently did not move buyers.  In point of fact, there was one open house and then the house lingered on the market until nearly Christmas time, at which time it was withdrawn from the offering for sale.  This spring, on April 1st, the house was put back on the market.  After one month, there has been an open house and the house has not been sold.  And so, for better or worse, the house with the little less than a two million dollar price tag has not moved.  Apparently the owner thought he might have better results on the second time around.

But the first part of this three-part essay is to inform my readers that, after a year and a half, the house remains unsold and that it is the first piece of non-breaking news that I have to offer.  So if one of my readers happens to have approximately two million dollars to buy this house, he will have the exquisite pleasure of living next door to me.  When the house finally moves on the market, that would constitute breaking news.  But at the moment, the house is in its second season for sale and nothing has happened sale-wise.  Accordingly that is the first piece of non-breaking news that I have to offer in this essay.


The second non-breaking news has to do with the outdoor toilet on the front lawn of the corner house directly across from our place.  You may recall that in a previous essay written last summer, I reviewed some of the sample offerings from outdoor toilet rentals.  There was one company that marketed its products under the heading of “Pointers and Setters” and another which was “Johnny on the Spot.”  From what we are able to determine, the outdoor toilet across the street on the front lawn is owned by the “Johnny on the Spot” providers.

The house on the corner with the outdoor privy on the front lawn was sold to the current owners for a price of two million dollars about five years ago.  It was advertised as the home “with five bathrooms.”  It was bought by a couple from Summit, New Jersey who had only one child.  The wife and the child would have a plethora of bathrooms to choose from.  The point I am making here is that this lovely residence has five bathrooms which would seem to be more than enough to satisfy this family and their guests.  But then last summer in July or August, the family must have decided that they needed radiant heating in the household.  The radiant heaters showed up with a crew of four or five men and brought the outside privy with them.  The outside privy or the “Johnny on the Spot” to be more specific, has remained ever since.  In spite of the fact that the house has five internal bathrooms, it now has a sixth bathroom or privy on its exterior.

The radiant heating installers have come and left.  Apparently the owner has decided that she needs a lot of other work to be done on this lovely residence and the outdoor bathroom remains.  Now bear in mind this neighborhood with houses ranging from the two million mark upwards reflects a degree of elegance.  Our house is older and does not reflect the degree of elegance of having bathrooms plus one outside bathroom to announce to the world.  But the non-breaking news is that after nine months the outdoor privy remains across the street on the front lawn.  The fact is that it gets plenty of use.  Every postman in the neighborhood stops by to use it.  All of the delivery guys make it a point to come by Long Hill Drive to relieve themselves.  There are not many hitchhikers in this territory but I suppose that if there were hitchhikers, they would use the bathroom as well.

The outhouse does not lack for maintenance features.  The owner of the outhouse comes by periodically to flush out the commodes.  As you can tell, cleanliness is a highly desirable feature here in the town of Short Hills.  But the point I am making is that this two million dollar house with radiant heating has five bathrooms and one outdoor privy.  If the indoor bathrooms are maintained as well as the outdoor bathroom, this house would qualify for a superior rating.

Now nine months or thereabouts have gone by since the radiant heating guys showed up last summer.  There is no indication that the outhouse will be removed soon.   Quite to the contrary, the indications are that the outhouse may become a permanent fixture on the front lawn of the corner house across the street.  The fact that the outhouse remains constitutes the second part of the non-breaking news from Long Hill Drive.


The third part of our non-breaking news has to do with an undertaker.  In 1994 Miss Chicka, my wife, and I visited a funeral parlor to attend the viewing of a colleague that we had worked with for several years.  Miss Chicka and I agreed, leaving the funeral parlor, that the viewing of a dead corpse is an uninviting custom.  So we set out to do something about it.  That afternoon on the way home we stopped to see Paul Ippolito who runs a funeral establishment in Summit, New Jersey, the next town over.  Ippolito quoted a price for removing our dead bodies when death overtakes us and transporting them to the cremation facility.  If my memory is correct, Ippolito quoted us a price of $1300 each.  Ippolito also specified that the money would be invested and that he hoped that the interest would be added to the account so that at the time of our demise there would be plenty of money to cover the retrieval of our remains and get us cremated.

Remember that that was in 1994 and this year we paid our taxes for 2011.  Apparently the money is going swimmingly and there will be enough for Paul Ippolito to remove the bodies and take them to the crematorium.  Each year, the people administering the burial fund advise us of how much we owe in taxes because of the interest that has been paid.  Whether or not this is a good deal remains to be seen but I have no inclination to try to figure that out.


The third piece of the non-breaking news is that Paul Ippolito has not been around to collect one or both bodies.  Ippolito seems to be a decent fellow and he has told us that he is a patient man.  Consequently the third piece of non-breaking news is that we are still here and Ippolito has not sprung into action to get both of us cremated.


So the fact of the matter is that there are three non-breaking news stories that exist here on Long Hill Drive.  There is the fact that the house which is so gorgeous has not been sold.  Secondly, the house across the street is now nearing its second year with the outdoor privy on its front lawn.  And thirdly, there is the un-breaking news that Paul Ippolito, the friendly undertaker, has nothing to do but to wait for us.


As I said at the beginning, it seems to me that along with the breaking news such as Osama being shot, we ought to have a category of the news which is non-breaking.  And so I have offered this three-part essay to demonstrate what a non-breaking news story would constitute.  All things considered, it strikes me that non-breaking news has many virtues and I would urge you to consider those virtues as you tend to the news of the day.



May 9, 2011

Essay 564


Kevin’s commentary:

I should very much like updates from Pop on these two bits of non-breaking news, now that more than a year has passed.

For my own part, my non-breaking news is that the heat in the home which I inhabit remains off, for mysterious reasons. Perhaps my landlord believes that a forty-degree home builds character. Thank god for space heaters.



As it so happens, I finished my glorious career in the Army of the United States, not the United States Army, in the great state of Mississippi.  I use that title, “the great state of Mississippi,” because it is always used by politicians.  In August of 1945, I had returned to this country after 28 months abroad and had received a thirty-day furlough from the Army of the United States.  At the conclusion of the furlough, I was to report to a town called Greenwood, Mississippi where we were to be prepared for the final assault on the Japanese homeland.  During that period in Greenwood, we were to be introduced to a new airplane called the A-26, which had replaced the A-20.  But the A-26 never appeared.  Earlier in August in that year of 1945, we had bombed Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, which caused the Emperor Hirohito to throw in the towel.  On August 15th or 16th, the diminutive emperor sent a crippled diplomat, top hat and all, to Tokyo Bay where he was forced to climb the rigging of the Battleship Missouri to sign a document presented by General MacArthur that concluded the war.  But as you know, military orders are orders and must be followed.  And so it was that at the end of August, I reported to a non-existent training for the A-26 based in Greenwood, which had no such airplanes in store.  They were never to appear, by the way.

Aside from that experience, I know nothing to speak of admirably about “the great state of Mississippi.”  It has been, I believe, 66 years since I have been there and I do not yearn to go back there.

Now comes news that on November 8, which is Tuesday of this week, Mississippians will be asked to vote on a measure that will change the constitution of the great state of Mississippi.  Here is what they will vote on, which includes an explanation furnished by the great state of Mississippi:

On November 8th, 2011, Mississippi voters will decide whether to add an amendment to the Mississippi State Constitution.  The text of the ballot referendum will read:

Initiative #26 would amend the Missisippi Constitution to define the word “person” or “persons”, as those terms are used in Article III of the state constitution, to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.

The language of the proposed new Article III, Section 33 would be as follows:

Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”

Passage of this initiative, which seems likely, could have a profound effect on civil liberties, both in Mississippi and nationally.

I am not a Rhodes Scholar and I have no credentials in the profession of legalistic interpretations.  But it is quite clear that Mississippians are going to be asked to take the law back to prehistoric times.  A close reading of the ballot measure would disclose that anyone involved in an abortion would be guilty of murder.  That of course is my interpretation and I have found few people who would disagree with that.  Joseph Ratzinger, who is the current Pope, has said that he would like to take the Church back to the second century of the Common Era.  Why he chose the second century is a mystery.  In any event, it is clear that the German Pope would like things the way they were more than 2,000 years ago.  Mississippi has gone even further than the Pope has.  I gather that a close reading of the ballot measure would relay the idea that anyone associated with an abortion in the great state of Mississippi was guilty of murder.  Haley Barbour, the Governor of Mississippi, is not entranced by this ballot measure.  He has said that he will vote against it.  Over the years, I have had no reason to agree with Haley Barbour but in this case I do find myself in agreement with the great governor of the great state of Mississippi.  You will note that in the explanation, no exceptions are provided for rape or incest or the life of the mother.  Once the egg is fertilized, the die is cast and people who toy with that procedure will do so under the penalty of murder.

The election will take place on Tuesday, which is two days from now, and I will try to amend this essay with the results of the voting.  But I believe that all of you know where your Uncle Ezra comes from.  It is my view that women should be free to govern their own destinies.  I cannot understand the attempt by religious authorities to impose greater burdens upon the female race.  Women bear the children and keep track of how the household is running.  I should think that that is enough but in this vote Mississippi wishes to impose another burden upon them.  It goes without saying that Mississippi together with its neighboring state of Alabama has degraded the American society.   This same ballot measure has been defeated on two occasions, as I understand it, in the state of Colorado.  I understand that there are those who continue to try to get states to put it on a ballot in the hope that somewhere it might succeed.

In the end I hold the view that a woman must have control over her own body and no religious authorities or legal authorities should intrude upon that right.  But as of this moment, we will await the outcome of the balloting in the great state of Mississippi.

There is one final thought before the end results of the balloting are to be announced.  I reported to Greenwood, Mississippi around the first of September in 1945.  The army at that point was most intent upon keeping as many as soldiers as it could through re-enlistment.  On one occasion the Colonel who commanded Greenwood required us all to attend a pep talk in the theater which must have held perhaps a thousand men.  In the midst of the pep talk, the colonel got so wound up that he was confused and a GI in the audience stood up and yelled, “Colonel, why don’t you try it in a prone position?”  From that point, the Colonel had lost his audience and the war being over, we had no problem with ignoring military discipline and yelling at him.  I suppose that was not a high mark in his career as an army officer.

There is one other thought that I feel compelled to report to you.  When my orders finally came through to report to Scott Field, Illinois I went to the local railroad station and caught the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad to go to Memphis.  At Memphis there was a bus of antiquated design to take us the final 300 miles to St. Louis, my home.  The bus was crowded and a young woman occupied the aisle seat next to me.  She was a talkative sort and soon she disclosed that she had been raised on a farm in Mississippi and was now going to St. Louis to be a whore.  I thought that this was very interesting and before long she disclosed that the bus, as antiquated as it could be, had a rest stop in a town called Blytheville, Arkansas just before it crossed into the state of Missouri.  She said that the bus would be there about 15 minutes and that if we had the desire to consummate our love-making, there would be time to do it.  I am certain that all of my readers would like to know that I did not take her up on her offer.  As a matter of fact, my new wife was waiting for me at the bus depot in St. Louis.  So I refrained from dealing with the prospective whore from Mississippi.  But she was a nice conversationalist who helped to pass the time on a long bus trip that was punctuated by the squeaks and groans of the bus.

Until the results of the voting on the ballot measure prescribing murder for those involved in abortions are announced, perhaps on Tuesday evening, I intend to let this essay rest.  But it is clear that while Joseph Ratzinger, the current Pope, wishes to take us only back to the second century, the measure that is being voted on will take us back to prehistoric times.  Let us hope for the best.

This is an update on the Mississippi personhood debate.  After I had dictated the foregoing essay, I found out that Haley Barbour has voted in favor of the personhood amendment.  Haley was always a troglodyte in my estimation so this is becoming to him.  The personhood amendment, however, was voted down by the people of Mississippi by a vote of 58 to 42.  I hope never to hear of it again.



November 7, 2011

Essay 607


Kevin’s commentary: Given that this anti-abortion bill has built in for provisions for human cloning, I am convinced that Mississippi actually exists in some impossible intersection of the future and the stone age. I posit that the great state of Mississippi change its motto to the “anytime but the present” state.

P.S. read more about this particular vote and how it wound up failing here.


Those of you who have been reading my essays over the years, know that spirituality is not a function, major or minor, in my life.  But music that celebrates spirituality is something that I treasure.  I treasure it for the music, not for the spirituality.

I am fully aware that some people, perhaps most people, are inspired by the music’s spirituality.  But in this case, my inspiration comes from the music alone.

Over the centuries, sacred music has been written by composers of the first rank, Bach, Beethoven, etc.  I enjoy that music but in the final analysis, it may be a bit too fancy for me.  In my case, I’ve always had a affection toward what are now called spirituals.  Those spirituals used to be called “Negro spirituals.”  One of the commentators dubbed them “Afro-American spirituals;” the cadence just did not ring true.  On other occasions they referred to them as “black or colored” spirituals.  But in this essay, I am going to revert to the term Negro spirituals, which is much more authentic in my estimation.

This morning, out of the blue, came thoughts about a Negro spiritual that I have not heard for maybe 50 years.  The spiritual is named “And He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word.”  It is a sad spiritual in that it refers to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Negro spiritual music often is celebratory.  In this case, the spiritual is, I suppose, about the manliness and bravery of Jesus as he was about to be crucified.

The lyrics to this sad spiritual refer to “Herod’s bar” meaning the bar of Roman justice.  Herod was the Roman ruler of Palestine at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. I understand that Herod was born a Jew.  This song is best sung by a male choir without accompaniment, that is to say, a cappella.  Since I have thought of this spiritual this morning, it will not leave my brain.  Miss Chicka’s computer was able to locate the lyrics to “And He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word.”  As far as I know, no one has claimed authorship to the music or the lyrics.

Without further ado, I would like to acquaint you with this old spiritual.  I wish that you could hear it sung by an unaccompanied male choir such as the Morehouse College Choir.  But if anyone is interested in hearing the music and has a computer, it is available by title from or just Google the title, “He Never Said A Mumblin Word.”   There are six verses.  Here are the lyrics:


They led Him to Pilate’s bar
Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word
They led Him to Pilate’s bar
Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word
They led Him to Pilate’s bar
But He never said a mumblin’ word
Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word


They all cried, “Crucify Him”…

Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word
They all cried, “Crucify Him”…
Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word
They all cried, “Crucify Him”…
But He never said a mumblin’ word
Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word


3.  They nailed Him to the tree…

4.  They pierced Him in the side…

5.  He hung His head and died…

6.  Wasn’t that a pity and a shame…

Each of the foregoing verses ends with the line, “He never said a mumblin’ word.”

As I have said on many occasions previously, the music of Negro spirituals is repetitious but inspiring to me.  If you have a computer and you go to “Negro,” you can also obtain the lyrics.

I certainly realize that not everybody in the world shares my taste in music.  Negro spirituals stem largely from slavery that white people imposed upon the Negro race.  They sing of their despair and their hopelessness.

In any case, I hope that your musical horizons have been enhanced by my telling you about “And He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word.”  But I warn you that when you listen to this music, you will find yourself humming it for days on end.  And if you hum this music, you will find a kindred soul in the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays.  Perhaps the time will come when we will be able to hum it together.



January 16, 2011

Essay 541


Kevin’s commentary: A capella music is something I have generally avoided since graduating from college, where it was inescapable. This version of the song has minor accompaniment and sounds a whole lot like something Sufjan Stevens would write.


The Lillie in the title of this essay is my mother, to whom you have been introduced before.  Lillie was born in Pope County, Illinois on the banks of the Ohio River in a community called Lusk.  It was not a town at all.  It was simply a landing spot for the folks who traversed across the Ohio River from Kentucky and came to rest in this spot in Illinois.  In due time, Lillie met my father, Ezra Senior, and moved to Clayton, Missouri.  As time went on, my father became the superintendent of the Lilac Roost Dairy Farms in Clayton.  Between the two of them, eight children were produced.

Lillie was a country girl.  After she moved to St. Louis, she adopted a few of the sophisticated ways of the big city.  But on thoughts spiritual, she retained her views as a country person.  For the bulk of her life, Lillie could see signs that the end of the world was quickly approaching.  She was born in 1882 but that made small difference to Lillie.  The fact that the world had not collapsed in 1882 years was of no significance.  Perhaps the rest of her family was immune to the signs of the end of the world approaching.  I of course was among those who were disbelievers.  But all of that changed over this weekend.

By this time you may have come to realize that the St. Louis Cardinals, a baseball team, has won the World Series.  I had an uncle by marriage who pronounced that name as World Serious.  Nonetheless, it was done in a most remarkable fashion.  The St. Louis Cardinals were down to their last strike in the ninth inning of the sixth game, which would have sent them home for the year.  Again, the Cardinals were down to their last strike in the tenth inning of the sixth game, this being an extra-inning game.  As life would turn out, the Cardinal third baseman hit a home run in the 11th inning, thus prolonging the series into the final seventh game.  Taking one thing with another, the Cardinals won the final game, which allowed them to be called the World Series Champs for 2011.

My mother knew nothing, or virtually nothing, about baseball.  I know that she decried the playing of major league baseball on Sundays.  But that was the most lucrative time for the local teams, the Browns and the Cardinals, to play their games, so they played them.  While Lillie was largely ignorant of the standings of major league baseball, I assume that she must have paid attention in October of 1926 when the Cardinals defeated the highly-favored New York Yankees to take their first World Series title.  As I have related before, that is my first memory of anything in this world.  My brothers, who were 11 and 12 years or more older than I was, became so excited with the Cardinal victory and they made such a ruckus that the memory has stayed with my mind for all of the ensuing 85 years.

But this year was different. Late in the season, the St. Louis Cardinals found themselves about ten games behind the Atlanta Braves for what is now called the wild card slot which goes to teams having a superior second place finish.  This is done for the purpose of furnishing four teams to play in the playoff series.

But the Cardinals overcame that disadvantage and went on to win the World Series in the most improbable manner.  They were down to their final strike in the ninth inning and down to their final strike again in the tenth inning of the sixth game.  But they did not count on the Cardinal third baseman who hit a triple in the ninth inning and another Cardinal batter hit a home run in the 10th inning to give the victory to the Cardinals in the sixth game of the World Series this year.  The seventh game was won handily by the Cardinals.

For all of these years, I had been a disbeliever in the Supreme Authority from above.  But now my mind has had its share of doubts and I come down on the side that maybe Lillie had something right all along.  No baseball club has ever been down to its final strike on at least two occasions and then gone on to become the world’s champions.

On top of that, in October of 2011, the east coast was enduring a snow storm, which is highly unlikely before Halloween. This is October 29 and we are enduring a snow storm that may eventually dump six to seven inches upon our heads.

This is the first time within the memory of those living around us that we have ever encountered a snow storm before Halloween.  Ordinarily in this part of New Jersey, balmy weather exists until nearly Christmas time.

But that was yesteryear and this is today.  So in the final summation of this essay writer, who has been around for nearly 90 years, this is a fortuitous series of events.   Fortunately yesterday we had the Cardinal victory in the World Series which was of course a miracle in itself.  Then today we woke up to find we are being subjected to an early season snow fall.  Between these two monumental events, we can only conclude that Lillie was right all along.  This may very well signal the end of the earth.

According to a spiritual, “there’s gonna to be fire next time” as distinguished from the floods of Noah’s time.  I do not know whether it is going to be a fire or floods, because I will leave that to the preachers who are in daily communication with God.  I do know that the juxtaposition of the Cardinal victory and the premature snow fall clearly marks this as the prospective end of the world.  Even an infidel such as myself would know what is taking place.

So my mother, Lillie, had it right all along.  She knew almost nothing about baseball but she alleged that the spirits up above us work in mysterious ways.  When the Cardinals were down to their last strike in the ninth inning and again in the tenth inning, and when a snow storm appears in New Jersey before Halloween, there can be no doubt about it.  These events presage the end of the world.  And I leave you with the thought that I will be shopping for a fireproof suit tomorrow morning.

There is one sorry historical note with respect to the arrival of November first.  According to my calendar, it will be at least five months before a meaningful major league game is played again.  This will be a long, long winter without baseball.  But as I grieve for the start of the next season, I will always remember that in the 2011 season, the St. Louis Cardinals were the World Champs.  That is about as good as it gets.



October 29, 2011

Essay 605


Kevin’s commentary: Two things strike me here. The first is that it apparently only takes me four generations to hit the 1800s, which is amazing. I have never known any of my great grandparents and I am somewhat envious of those who get that chance. Unfortunately, Pop’s mother did not see fit to live to the age of 108, which would have been requisite for me to get to see her. Perhaps Pop can lecture her on this fact in Heaven.

The second thing that strikes me is that I was never able to understand the enthusiasm and devotion surrounding sports at all, much less baseball, until relatively recently when I discovered a competitive video game by the name of Starcraft. Together these two thoughts that this essay inspired in me have combined in my head, which has left me picturing what it might be like to explain Starcraft to Lillie Carr.  I feel that such a task would probably be beyond me, even though I was able to somewhat explain the game of “Farmville” to my other 90-year-old grandparent (“it is a game that aspires to let players pretend to be farmers, played on ‘Facebook’ which is a website that lets you air your personal business to the whole world”).


If I were to eat a meal at a local restaurant and leave after the dessert course was served without paying, I am certain that the owners of the restaurant would be all over me before I reached the door.  If I were to say to the owners in that case, “I have been reliably informed that deficits don’t matter,” the owners would still insist on payment for the meal just consumed.  Nonetheless, for eight years this country was governed by a Vice President who insisted that deficits don’t matter.  I am here to remind the former Vice President of this country that deficits do matter.

During the Bush-Cheney era, the United States started two wars, one in Afghanistan and the second one in Iraq.  On top of that, the surplus that had been turned over when Bill Clinton left office was dispersed in a series of tax cuts.  The wars were put on the tab furnished by the Chinese and Japanese.  Now we are finding out from the Tea Party people, for example, that there is a movement towards a balanced budget.  The Tea Party people are aghast at the debt that we have run up.  I am sorry to inform the Tea Party people that the debt was incurred during the Presidency of George Bush and the estimable Richard Cheney, Vice President.

For some time, I have put a note on one of my dictating machines which I use to remind me of future essays.  For two or three years, one of my notes has said, “Deficits Don’t Matter.”  I have resisted writing that essay, waiting for a more appropriate time.  Right now seems to be the appropriate time.

This past summer, Richard Cheney produced a book which he claims to have written.  When a book is being produced, the author goes around the country to drum up sales.  In the interviews that I have heard with Mr. Cheney, I was repulsed as always by his defense of the Iraq war and his support of “enhanced interrogation.”  No matter how you cut it, this so-called “enhanced interrogation” is a form of torture.  Here is Cheney, probably the most reviled Vice President in our history, touting not only the war in Iraq but also the use of torture.  Unfortunately, the book by Cheney is listed as the third best seller at the end of Septmber by The New York Times.  Obviously I do not intend to read the book that Cheney has written.  I would recommend that it not be read by anyone else.

Here we are trying to muster up the finances to pay for our existence and at the same time we are reminded that Cheney used to tell us, “Deficits don’t matter.”  In my humble opinion, deficits do matter.  And if you wonder why we are in these financial straits, you must recall the start of two wars and the concomitant tax cuts.  This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.  But Richard Cheney goes on his merry way, caring not at all for the wars that were conducted by his administration, and still proclaims that the Iraq war was justified and that torture is an appropriate interrogation technique when we have prisoners.  As is well known, Cheney took five deferments; he did not have to serve during the war in Vietnam.  If he had served, he would understand that torture is not a one-sided game.  It can be practiced by both sides.

But in the final analysis, I have been able to remove this from my dictating notepad.  I have managed to dictate this essay without boiling over.  If in this life or in any future life, I could be assured that I would never be troubled by the likes of Richard Cheney, I would accept that guarantee full-heartedly.  But the fact of the matter is that for eight years of the Bush-Cheney administration, we still have to listen to the former Vice President.  I can assure you that when he wants to justify the Iraq war or the Afghanistan war and torture, my blood pressure races toward the boiling point.  But now that the book has been written and the interviews conducted, I look forward to peace untroubled by interruptions from Richard Cheney, the most reviled of American Vice Presidents.



September 26, 2011

Essay 601


Kevin’s commentary: Here on the edge of the dreaded Fiscal Cliff, this essay is as topical as ever. And it serves as a wonderful reminder of how positively terrific it feels to not have to deal with Cheney’s crap anymore.

Oh, and for the first time in a while, I’ve added a new category tag — Bush Administration. I suspect it will be getting plenty of mileage in the essays to come, as I work my way back in time.

I didn’t publish any essays over break, so today I’ll be putting up six, then using WordPress to make the site pretend that they were published earlier than they actually were.  It’s a marathon!


During the period of the 1920s, there was a resurgence of thought pioneered basically by Southerners.  It resulted in the banning of the sale and use of beer.  The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol and came to be known as the Prohibition Act.  Prohibition was widely flouted.  It resulted in people making their own home brew, just as it promoted the making of bootleg whiskey.  This encouraged so-called rum runners who brought whiskey into this country in violation of the law.  The law took effect in about 1920 and it lasted until 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt became our President.

At this late date, I will concede and admit that at the tender age of 10 or 12 years I also broke the prohibition law.  And I was very happy to do it.  Here are the circumstances that led to the breaking of the prohibition law.  My mother had a sister named Nora.  Nora ran a rooming house in downtown St. Louis, very near to the Mississippi River.  Nora and her sister, my mother, were polar opposites in their outlook on life.  Nora was a happy go-lucky person, whom I suspect had been married at least once or twice and who had probably conducted some affairs.  But no matter how you cut it, I liked Nora as an aunt.

Perhaps three or four times a year, we were invited to have “dinner” at Nora’s home.  You will recall that in my parents’ lexicon, there was breakfast, there was dinner at around noon time, and the final meal of the day was called supper.  On the occasions that we were invited to have our dinner at Nora’s home in the rooming house, I prepared myself for the worst gustatory experience of my life.  The reason for the apprehension about dining with Nora had to do with her delight in serving ducks and geese.  She often kept the prospective meal in her back yard and I grew very fond of them and regarded them as pets.  She would only keep one or two ducks or geese in her back yard.  They seemed to be affectionate pets.  I could not get over the thought that we were dining on a goose that I had petted very recently.  On top of this, I do not like any fowl at all.  My mother raised chickens.  I deplored the thought that some of them would be slaughtered when Nora came to our house.  The fact of the matter is that I have never enjoyed the eating of fowls.  Birds and geese, robins and ducks are to be enjoyed with the eyes; they are not to be, in my estimation, the subject of eating.

Nonetheless, after church services we dined with my Aunt Nora on perhaps three or four occasions per year.  As I told you a little earlier, Nora was a free-wheeling sort.  In her basement¸ she always kept the  fermentation of her next batch of beer.  From time to time, I was encouraged to have a sip of Aunt Nora’s beer.  I was revolted by it.

On the other hand, because Nora and her husband regarded us as guests, I was sent to the corner of Chouteau Avenue where a man who ran a small eatery also had a beer supply.  I have never been a drinker of beer.  At the age of 7 or 8 or 10 years, I considered the corner speakeasy brew considerably better than Nora’s home brew.

When I left Aunt Nora’s place, I was given a container called a pail.  I am guessing that it held perhaps one gallon.  I would take the pail to the rear door of the speakeasy, where an attendant would fill the pail with his own version of home brew.  Now for lexicographers, the word pail seems to have disappeared from the language we now speak.  In my rum running phase of life, the pail was the instrument which carried the home brew from the small eatery on Chouteau Avenue back to Nora’s house on about Seventh Street in St. Louis.  The truth is that I greatly enjoyed the trips to the small restaurant where beer could be bought during the era of Prohibition.

When dinner was served at Aunt Nora’s house, I would concoct all sorts of excuses for my lack of appetite.  Actually I filled myself as best I could with the heels of bread covered with margarine.  It was not much of a meal but it sure beat eating the ducks and geese.

So you see that I have a record of violation of the law going back perhaps 80 years.  I cannot tell you that I regret breaking the Prohibition law because in truth I enjoyed breaking the law.

There are a couple of other aspects having to do with Aunt Nora.  I suspect that Aunt Nora had no religious convictions at all.  In later days, she would be called an agnostic or perhaps even a non-believer or an atheist.   But Nora was Nora.  You could take it or leave it as you saw fit.  Nora, by the way, was the person who usually addressed me as “boy,” followed by, “What would you be if you were not Irish?”  The answer to that question was, “I would be ashamed.”

But the incident that I wish to relate to you now had to do with a church service.  Near her home in St. Louis, close to what used to be called the Free Bridge across the Mississippi, there was an evangelistic church.  To put it bluntly, the church services were of the “holy roller” type.  On one occasion, Nora took my mother and me, of all things, to this church service held in the afternoon on a Sunday.  When the preacher began his incantations, there were women who stood up and yelled about their satisfaction with Jesus.  As the service continued, the incantations from the audience grew more intense.  Further along, one of the celebrants would stand up, raise her hands and then fall to the floor.  Supposedly this is where the name of the holy rollers came from.  They would writhe on the floor.  The preacher would walk among the writhers.  On one occasion, someone from the audience tried to help the roller on the ground to her feet.  The preacher said, in loud tones, “Leave her where Jesus flang her.”

I suspect that my Aunt Nora was viewing this as pure entertainment.  My mother was revolted to a degree, despite the fact that she was a very religious person.  But in any case, for the next 80 years or so the thought of “Leave her where Jesus flang her” has always been my thought about religious services.

In 1933, the Prohibition Act became a thing of the past.  When I took my pail of beer back to Nora’s home, I was no longer considered a law breaker.  Ever since 1933, I present myself to the world as a law abiding citizen who hates the consumption of ducks and geese, but who loves the thought of “Leave her where Jesus flang her.”



December 14, 2012

Essay 723


Kevin’s commentary: For starters, flang is not a real word but it’s a great one.

Secondly I’m throwing the “favorite” tag on this essay primarily because of the amazingness that is Pop/Nora exchange. Unfortunately said exchange holds that  I should be half-ashamed because I suspect I’m only about half-Irish, having been diluted by my father’s side of the family. God knows where they came from, but I would think that they’re just standard Euro-mutts like the rest of the whiteys in this country.

Even being half (or more) Irish though, I feel like it’s not enough to “count,” so to speak. If I see an obviously Irish dude on the street I’m not going to tell him “aye, mate!” or whatever the Irish (pirates?) say to one another. I won’t feel any cultural bond. Which is fine, I guess — I have never really missed my “cultural heritage” but I do drink plenty of Guiness, like the Clancy brothers and Tommy Makem, and enjoyed a free (to me) secondary education. Close enough?