Archive for January 2013

ETERNAL LIFE

The title of this essay might lead some people to assume that in my later years I have succumbed to the teachings and the blathering of Christian preachers.  That clearly is not the case.  It is my intention in this instance to review what might take place if a few or many of us were subjected to the rigors of eternal life.

Let us take my own family for example.  I have reported in several essays that my mother was a snuff chewer.  I regard the chewing of snuff as being more than abominable.  Nonetheless, my mother and her sisters all chewed snuff.  At the same time, they decried the smoking of cigarettes.  But Christianity is full of contradictions such as this one.

To give us a starting point, my mother has been dead since 1961.  If the mathematicians around this house have it right, that would mean that she has been gone more than 52 years.  She was a religious woman and I assume that she is enjoying the benefits that go with eternal life.  By my calculations, my mother consumed at least two tins of Copenhagen Snuff each week. I leave it for the mathematically inclined to figure out how many tins she may have consumed during this short period of her eternal life.  If eternal life lasts for at least 20,000 years, it would be of interest to me as to how many tins of Copenhagen Snuff she would use by the end of her second millennium of eternal life.

When snuff is chewed, it is necessary to expectorate or to spit frequently.  Now, again for the mathematically inclined, how many spits would ensue in 20,000 years with her expectorating snuff chewing in eternal life?  I have not the vaguest notion of how this may be calculated.  I offer the mathematically inclined a chance to show their stuff.

It was my father’s intention to consume one cigar per week.  He picked up this cigar on Sunday afternoon after church and the mid-day meal.  Specifically in our household, the mid-day meal was called dinner, with the meal at the end of the day being called supper.  When I was a very small boy, we used to take the bands on the cigar and wear them for an afternoon or so as rings.  When I go to enjoy my own eternal life, I will have a supply of cigar band rings for my fingers.

Again, using my own family as a measure of eternal life, we must now turn to the oldest sibling who was named Verna.  One way or another, Verna had a penchant for stirring up arguments with her mother and with her other siblings.  Verna has been dead for about 20 years now.  Again for the mathematically inclined, if Verna could stir up a dispute with one of her siblings once a week, how many disputes would occur in 20,000 year of eternal life?

But then there was the fact that one of my older brothers named Earl was a master at settling these disputes.  At the rate of one dispute a week involving Verna, how many disputes could Earl have smoothed over in 20,000 years?  Again, I have no idea of what the total amount might come to, so I will accept whatever is suggested.

Another sibling was a fellow named Charles Haley.  When I left for the Army, he was called Haley; when I returned he was called Charlie.  Charles Haley in later life became very religious.  He attended a variety of churches.  When he became offended by the preachings of one pastor, he would abandon that pastor and move on until he found a new pastor more to his liking.  Now the mathematical question arises as to how many dust ups in 20,000 years would occur that were attributable to my brother Charles Haley’s indignation.

One of my sisters was named Opal.  As I have reported in these essays much earlier, Opal was a free spirit.  Among her accomplishments, she became a waitress at a saloon at the corner of North and South Road and Eager Road run by a fellow Joe Ganolla.  While at the saloon as a waitress, she figured out a way to play chords on a piano.  I believe that one of her favorite numbers was “Flat Foot Floogie with the Floy Floy.”  Poor old Opal has been in Heaven, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, for at least 30 years.

Again, for the mathematically inclined, if Opal performed that sterling aria at least twice each day for 20,000 years, how many performances of “Flat Foot Floogie with a Floy Floy” would she perform?  Again, I have no intention of checking up on the mathematics of my readers and I would not intend to do so under any circumstances.  Somehow or another, it would give me strength to go on living with the knowledge of Opal singing “Flat Foot Floogie with a Floy Floy.”

But now let us turn to the real meaning of eternal life.  John Newton was the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”  Newton was a slave trader for a good number of years until as he says he was involved in a storm at sea.  The boat was awash and he was barely saved.  From that experience, Newton got out of the slave trade business and entered the ministry in the Anglican Church.  I have always wondered about John Newton’s account.  Were there slaves on board in this terrible storm and what happened to them?  Newton has been dead for at least 250 years, so I have no great prospects of an answer from him.

But in any case, John Newton composed “Amazing Grace,” which contains some interesting thoughts about eternal life.  In about the third or fourth verse of that hymn are these words:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright as the morning sun
We will have more days to sing God’s praise
Than when we had first begun.

Clearly I am not a mathematician, which is all to the good.  But this song seems to suggest that eternal life lasts only about 20,000 years.  If eternal life only lasts 20,000 years, it is not, by definition, eternal life at all.  John Newton is dead and we have had no intelligible correspondence with Mr. Newton for 200 years.  Now we have computers of all kinds of descriptions.  Perhaps they could calculate the length of eternal life.  In the calculations that will be made in this essay, I would like to know whether eternal life comes to an end at 20,000 years.  That would be a long time for my sister Opal to sing “Flat Foot Floogie with a Floy Floy” in Joe Ganolla’s saloon.  So you see that my intentions are honorable in that I wish to limit the amount of time that my sister Opal has to sing that song.

I realize that this essay is a dream for those who are mathematically inclined.  Unfortunately I am not one of those with this disposition.  But for those of you who are mind readers and wish to play with numbers, I will be anxious in awaiting the results of your inquiries.  Only I would suggest that those of you who believe in eternal life might wish to reconsider your thoughts on the grounds of great boredom.

For myself, I will continue in my disbelief about religious principles and prejudices.  I will always bear in mind the thought that “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright as the morning sun, We will have more days to sing God’s praise Than when we had first begun.”  It seems to me that 20,000 years of eternal life is about all that any human being could really stand.

 

E. E. CARR

January 11, 2013

Essay 731

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Kevin’s commentary:

Some rough calculations, for fun:

Tins of snuff = 2x52x20k = 2,080,000

At 1.2 oz of snuff per can, roughly .2 oz per dip, we get about 6 dips per can.  Spitting after each dip means you’d spit roughly 12.5 million times.

Cigars = Disputes = Resolutions = 52x20k = 1,040,000

Pastors = 1.5/year (?) x 20k = 30k

Renditions of “Flat Foot Floogie with the Floy Floy” is 2*365*20k = 14,600,000 (ouch).

 

The logic on the 20,000 year limit is an issue though because at the end of 10,000 we have MORE days than when we started, so this would indicate that eternity is some figure above 20,000.

But it also suggests that eternity is either growing as some function of time, which is to say that eternity is X years right now, but after 10,000 years eternity will be X+10,000(z) years with z>1. Or Eternity is growing at a rate of time squared or something. It’s silly.

This is a bit counterintuitive. If we just assume eternity is infinite than you will have infinite years left at the 10,000 mark which is equal to the infinite years left that you had at the start, not greater, and if anything less… by 10,000 years.

But all that is moot because eternity in my mind doesn’t make sense because I don’t see how anything plans on persisting past the heat death of the universe which is a few hundred trillion years away.

 

THE LANGUAGE ACCORDING TO MITT ROMNEY

Willard “Mitt” Romney is in a pitched battle during the Republican primaries with Newt Gingrich.  Newt Gingrich is a master at spinning a phrase in the English language.  Mr. Romney, on the other hand, does not know his backside from third base.  But two additions to the American language pronounced by Mr. Romney compelled my attention.

In the first instance, Mr. Romney has offered a full-fledged neologism.  Presumably this was when questions about citizenship for the aliens in our midst came up.  On several occasions Mr. Romney used the phrase “self deport.”  I suppose that he meant that whenever the alien in this country felt so much heat, he would go to the airport and “self deport.”  It has been a few days since I have heard Mr. Romney speak on this subject.  I suspect that his handlers have spoken to him about the term “self deport.”

Then of course there was the unfortunate case when Mr. Romney made a remark about poor people.  In effect, he said that we do not have to worry about poor people because they have a safety net.  Without a doubt the remark about poor people attributed to Mr. Romney was a major gaffe.  It took Romney two days to retrieve this error.  He told interviewers yesterday that when he spoke about poor people, he “misspoke.”  May I suggest that Willard Mitt Romney is totally at sea when it comes to speaking about poor people.  He understands absolutely nothing.  In my own case, I wish for Romney to hang around because he contributes much to the misspoken body of the English language.  He is a national treasure.

When Mr. Romney winds up and lets fly with his remark about “self deport,” that is richness beyond compare.  I suspect that before this campaign is done, there will be other examples of Romney “misspokes.”  The fact is that Romney is not a very good speaker and “misspokes,” as in “I misspoke yesterday,” will be a frequent occurrence.  The answer is that the Republicans should never let Mr. Romney depart from his script.  They should forbid questions from the audience.

On the other hand, upon consideration, I now take the viewpoint, “Let Romney be Romney.”   If we let Romney be Romney, the English language will be enriched.  The remark about “self deport” will only be a start.

 

E. E. CARR

February 4, 2012

Essay 633

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Kevin’s commentary: Oh man, this was before the 47% video. For those who are unfamiliar with the site, we have a whole category devoted to essays concerning Romney. For  more on self-deportation and other Romney-related news, check it out here! I particularly recommend this essay for more Romney-speak in particular.

 

A SORRY TALE OF TWO EGREGIOUS PISSANTS

This is the second case in which I have occasion to refer to pissants.  For those who did not see my earlier description of pissants, it should be remembered that pissants are living creatures.  They exist primarily in rural areas of this country.  They have no eyesight but their hearing apparatus seems to be in good order.  They travel in swarms.  Thus it is that when one pissant makes a discovery of either something to eat or a fresh place to swarm, the whole pissant swarm will soon descend.

My mother, a very religious woman, often used the term pissants to refer to inconsequential politicians whom she abhorred.  If my mother used the term pissant to refer to a politician, you may rest assured that the politician was as inconsequential as could be imagined.  In this essay, I intend to make reference to two politicians of considerable pissantery.  My mother has been gone since 1951 but if she were alive today I am certain that she would applaud the choice of labeling these two politicians as pissants.  The politicians are Lindsey Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina, and Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel.

Let us start with Lindsey Graham.  Most observers of the American political scene will recall that in the early part of 2013, the President  named choices for his new cabinet.  One of the choices that he has made is Chuck Hagel, the former senator from Nebraska who has been proposed as Secretary of Defense.

In personal terms, I have always been a Democrat.  Over the past seven or eight years, I have come to admire Chuck Hagel, who is a Republican.  He is a former soldier in the Vietnam War and I can think of no one more qualified to run the affairs of the Defense Department than Chuck Hagel.  In other words, he has my full approval to run that job.

But now we hear from the eminent pissant from South Carolina.  When Lindsey Graham speaks, it is always in a whiney tone.  In short, Lindsey Graham is a school-teacherish sort of person.

In the instant case, it appears that Chuck Hagel has made some disparaging remarks either about homosexuality or about the ability of Israel to defend itself.  Hagel is a blunt man.  I greatly appreciate his bluntness.  If you could lay out a measurement of Hagel’s bluntness, it would appear on the high end of the scale.  On the other hand, far removed from reality at the low end of the scale would come the whiney notes of Lindsey Graham.

In the current controversy, Lindsey Graham does not have enough manliness to say, “I oppose Chuck Hagel.”  Everyone knows that in the end Hagel will not have Lindsey Graham’s support.  But rather than saying he opposes Hagel, he hides behind descriptions such as, “The remarks Hagel has made in the past are very troublesome to me.”  In other words, it is clear that he intends to vote against Hagel.  He is trying to say to the public that he wishes to give Hagel a fair shake but he is troubled by remarks made at least 14 years in the past.

In personal terms, Graham is a man of 55 years.  He has never been married.  In a recent interview, he insisted that he is not gay.  Very well.  I take him at his word.  But this does not excuse the whiney tone he uses to make his announcements.  Now we are left to wait for the confirmation

hearings and the vote in the Senate that will take place before Chuck Hagel assumes his role as our director of defense.  It will probably be at least two months before the vote is taken confirming Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.  This assumes that he will not say, “To hell with this political business” including dealing with pissants like Lindsey Graham.  But mark me down as a Chuck Hagel supporter.  He may not come from a political party which I have admired, but nonetheless Hagel is a good man and should get the job.

Now that we have dealt with Lindsey Graham, let’s turn to the second pissant, who is the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Netanyahu is a blustery type who hopes that his listeners are blown away by his command of the English language.  Unlike his predecessors as prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu has had limited military experience.  But that does not keep Netanyahu, the pissant, from criticizing any move he does not approve of in the Middle East.  The Israelis have a lobbying organization in this country called AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).  Like Netanyahu, it is an aggressive organization.

The state of Israel was founded in 1948 during the presidency of Harry Truman.  As I understood it, the state of Israel was founded very much on the lines of the founding of the United States.  It was to offer the Jews and other refugees from the Middle East a place to come home to.  Nothing was ever said that it would be the Jewish state.  It was going to be a democratic state, which would obviously be influenced by Jewish interests.  But now Netanyahu insists that Israel be called the Jewish State.  I believe that if Harry Truman or Yitzhak Rabin were alive today, they would take great exception to Netanyahu calling it the Jewish State.

Now we go on to what I believe is Netanyahu’s pissantery.  The fact of the matter is that Israel exists only because of the backing of the United States.  As evidence of our sponsorship we have given the Israelis about $3 billion annually from the Treasury of this country.  It seems that that does not stop Netanyahu and the AIPAC organization from complaining or whining.  Over the years, I have made perhaps 15 visits to Israel.  The men I have met with in Israel are to be greatly admired.  There is a great contrast between the men I dealt with 25 years ago and the whinings of Benjamin Netanyahu.  When I say Netanyahu, I include his AIPAC organization as well.

The President of the United States has a frosty relationship with Netanyahu.  It is sort of like Lindsey Graham whining that Obama does not treat him as a full-fledged equal.  In the final analysis, I hold that the state of Israel is a good one but clearly under the direction of Netanyahu, it interprets every movement in this country as a slight to Israeli influences.  Netanyahu is an expert in the gathering of these slights.  More than anything else, if the United States does not do very much what Netanyahu wants, he will complain.  In this regard, his complaints are of the nature of the tail wagging the dog.

There you have Lindsey Graham and Benjamin Netanyahu whom this essayist concludes are nothing more than pissants.  I suspect that if Harry Truman were alive today, or my mother, they would truly endorse my labeling of these two men as pissants.  Any proposition that will get the endorsement of Harry Truman and my mother is one that we should all take refuge in.

I am fully aware that my belief in the pissantery of Lindsey Graham and Benjamin Netanyahu will not change their conduct but it pleases me no end to have Lindsey Graham and Benjamin Netanyahu labeled as pissants.  Those two richly deserve such a designation.

 

 

E. E. CARR

January 11, 2013

Essay 730

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Kevin’s commentary: I do not actually know too much about Lindsey Graham. But Jen says he spends more time on TV than he does doing his job. She also notes that he seems to be the one who always seems to be interviewed for one thing or another, and that his views tend to be contrary to whoever is interviewing him. I certainly saw enough of the man during the whole Benghazi kerfuffle. So I heartily agree with the pissant designation.

In Netanyahu’s case I am unfortunately even less informed. I will have to study up before I pass judgement but in the interim I will trust Pop’s mother, who to the best of my knowledge was a sound judge of character.

 

SAINTLY THOUGHTS AND OTHER ECCLESIASTICAL MATTERS

I am quite aware that it is unseemly of me to dictate an essay on saintly matters and other ecclesiastical thoughts.  Be that it as it may, on this Yom Kippur afternoon that is where my thoughts are headed.

A learned gentleman once said to me that Catholic saints offer some specific qualities.  For example, this learned gentleman felt that there was a saint whose specialty was promoting peaceful deaths.  Most of us who have reached the declining years feel that there should be much interest in peaceful deaths.  Whether this saint will provide such peace is an open question.  However, this unnamed saint, whom I suspect is Saint Joseph, has been in the business of providing peaceful deaths for several hundred years.  The person who recommended this saint is aware of my age and disabilities.  As a matter of fact, he is my long-term cardiologist.

I have no trouble in accepting the advice of my cardiologist on saintly matters.  There are others who would express certain doubts.  For example, my cardiologist is a convert to Catholicism and treats saints fairly matter-of-factly.  I do not know whether he worships these saints.  He merely referred to them as part of his extraterritorial advice.  But in this case, of course, I suspect that because of my age, he thought it would be appropriate to make me aware of someone like Saint Joseph because he thought it would come in handy in the likely event that I would turn up my toes.

But it strikes me that providing a peaceful death is only less than half of the job that needs to be done.  The final hours are presumably the occasion when Saint Joseph or some other saint would interpose to grant relief to the afflicted person.  This is all well and good.  But I ask Saint Joseph or some other saint, “Where were you when I was going through the agony of operations and pills and extensive treatments and worry long before the final hour came?”  I mean no disrespect to those of saintly qualities but I would like to get my question answered of where you were during the agony that led to the final hour.

It seems to me that there is much to recommend in taking the advice of a Moslem cleric who said that from the day we are born, we have begun to die.  I am not a Moslem and have no intention of becoming one.  On the other hand, it seems to me that the wisdom of the Moslem advice has much to recommend it.  For example, I am now in my 90th year.  It feels fairly good or, as we put it, not ungood.  But the signs are everywhere.

While I was dictating this essay, the need rose to use the bathroom facilities.  I am fully cognizant of the fact that I am blind, but that is only part of the story.  The rest of the story is that I thought nothing in former days of getting to the bathroom and wondered why anyone would ask me about it.  In these days, however, getting to the bathroom is a bit of an accomplishment in that there are steps to walk and turns to be made and, above all, there must be adequate time permitted for the bathroom visit to forego accidents.  It simply takes me longer to get from here to there than it used to.

There is one other measurement which is largely finite.  In our basement gymnasium, exercises by Miss Chicka and myself take place on at least four days every week.   The measure of those results of our exercise date back to a year in the 1980s.  The exercise that is performed by myself today is a far cry from what it used to amount to.  As time has gone on, the deficits in the exercise routine have become a bit larger.  I am not ready to call for Saint Joseph or his ministerial operation but I know which way the signs are headed.

Finally, somewhere in the 1980s, Miss Chicka and I purchased bicycles.  That was a wonderful time in our lives because we rode all over northern New Jersey, hoping to achieve in one week 100 miles.  We did not always achieve 100 miles but we came fairly close.  But there was a sense of adventure about riding on unknown roads in the hope that we would eventually come to some location that we had some familiarity with.  At this juncture in life, my transportation is not a regular bicycle, but a stationery bicycle.  One of my other problems is aphasia resulting from a stroke and I very nearly called the stationery bicycle a “sanitary bicycle.”

Well, now look; I probably have taken much more of your time in reading about my lack of oomph in the exercise department.  But I did it for a specific reason, which is to illustrate that once the twenties are gone, we seem to live our lives in decreasing planes of accomplishment.  I am fully aware that I am not the man that I used to be even at age 75.  But as soon as a level of accomplishment is achieved, before long it is outdated.  All of which tells me that the deterioration problem will continue to take place and in the final showdown, I suspect that I will have to seek the comfort provided by Saint Joseph, who will provide me theoretically with a peaceful death.

But my point here is that providing a peaceful death is only half the story.  The rest of the story has to do with providing peace and comfort to those of us who are aging and who are aware of that aging.  In any case I appreciate your spending your time with me to discuss the slow decline in all of our performances.  It may also be that the Moslem cleric had something when he said that from the minute we are born, we have begun to die.  But as I look forward to the close of this essay I can still remember that I have still got my cardiologist who has told me about the wonders provided by one of the saints for a peaceful death.  If you wish to be introduced to my cardiologist, I will be happy to do so.  In the meantime, stay strong, take no wooden nickels, and look forward to the day when Saint Joseph will provide his ministerial blessings upon yourselves.

 

E. E. CARR

October 8, 2011

Essay 583

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Kevin’s commentary: mention of Pop’s cardiologist reminds me of the first essay on this site.

In other news I had no idea that my grandpa biked a hundred miles a week at anytime near the present. That’s quite an accomplishment. I would say right now I only bike about fifteen to twenty a week because that’s about how much you get when you multiply the distance between my home and my office by ten, then factor in some weekend excursions. So the truth is that I was being outbiked by a rather old man. I suppose this means that I should exercise more.

 

A LITTLE THISA AND A LITTLE THATA

Those of you with prodigious memories may recall that in 2009 there were three essays appearing in this space.  All of them had to do with Ben Bernie, the orchestra leader of the 1930s, 1940s and ‘50s.  When Ben Bernie led his orchestra through a medley of songs, he would often introduce it as “a little bit of thisa and a little bit of thata.”  You may also recall that Ben Bernie, who was a very popular fellow, would indicate approval of his orchestra’s performance by saying, “Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa.”

This essay is a collection of thoughts which probably do not merit a full essay.  The thoughts themselves are meritorious but they do not contain the heft and the significance of a full essay.  But I will try them on you in the hope that at the end you will say, “Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa.”

 

The first of these individual thoughts has to do with a term that is spoken generally by members of the Air Force.  It is the term, “roger.”  I served in the United States Army Air Force from 1942 to 1945.  Air crews generally use the term “roger.”  But now nearly 70 years later, I thought it would be a good idea to find out what “roger” meant.

Why that term of “roger” is used in the Air Force remains a mystery to me and to others who also flew.  But nonetheless, the term “roger” is meant to say to the speaker, “Your message has been received and understood.”  In the Air Force, messages tended to be terse ones.  There was no gabbing about girls or the insignificance of the commanding officer.  Messages were brief and were acknowledged by using the term “roger.”

There was an occasion when a crew of four of us brought home the oldest aircraft in the European theater.  There was a pilot, a copilot, a radio operator, and myself as the crew chief.  When we finally reached Natal, in Brazil, after the flight over the South Atlantic Ocean, we retired for the night, only to find in the morning that our airplane contained a worn engine to be taken to Akron, Ohio.  But this was war time and we understood those things, so we detoured on our trip.

After we left the engine at Warner Robins Field in Akron, Ohio, we flew southwest to San Antonio, Texas.  The Douglas Corporation had manufactured this airplane and it had delivered super service since 1935.  When we reached San Antonio, there was some confusion in that there were three landing fields nearly back to back.  This was a monument to Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House, who had procured these installations for Texas, his home state.

The pilot was given instructions from the tower to land on, let us say, 22 East.  As we made our final approach, the tower was practically screaming that we were landing at the wrong airport.  Apparently with three airports nearly back to back, this was not an unusual occurrence.  When the pilot received the message, he pulled up the aircraft and we made another turn.  On this occasion we landed at the proper airport.  But Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House, had nearly gotten us into serious trouble.

The point is we were saying “roger” in radio transmissions, but we had misunderstood which field they wanted us to land on.  But in the end we received and understood the message to land at the proper airport.

I am sorry to be so uninformative about the use of the term “roger” but I feel better because I have relieved my soul of this duty to tell the world what “roger” means.  I am unsure as to whether the Air Force still uses “roger” but I suspect that some 70 years later it is still in common usage.

 

So with that, we will proceed to the next story about thisa and thata.

The second essay has to do with the plethora of names that Americans use to designate their bathrooms.  My very limited research suggests that the word “john” is the leading euphemism for designating the bathroom.  While it is the leading euphemism for designating the bathroom, it has a close competitor in the use of the word “can.”  If I may recall my army experiences of years ago, the use of the word “can” probably exceeded the use of the word “john.”  Those who served in the American Navy will recall that the commode was called the “head.”  I did not serve in the American Navy so I am at a loss to tell you why it is called the “head.”

For some reason the American Army uses the term “latrine” to designate its bathrooms.  Latrine seems to me to be a French word, but nonetheless it is widely understood in the armed forces of the army that  “latrine” is the accepted term, which is blessed by the higher authorities in the American Army that all of us should salute that march off to use the “latrine.”

There was an occasion when I took a director of advertising in the Long Lines Department as well as a vice president of the advertising agency on a trip to Italy and Israel.  The advertising agency was N.W. Ayer.  When it came time for a break in the proceedings, Jake Habberfeld was in charge for the Israeli side of the arrangements.  Jake was the most gentlemanly of all of the contacts that I had overseas.  When Kim Armstrong, the director of advertising for Long Lines, indicated that she was unsure of where to go for this break, Jake Habberfeld stepped into the void.  Jake said, “Would you like directions to that certain place?”  Jake was a gentleman par excellence.  I had never heard the use of “that certain place” for this situation but when Jake Habberfeld used that term, it had my complete acceptance.  And with that thought about the euphemisms for bathrooms, we will then proceed with another matter having to do with thisa and thata.

 

The next thisa and thata has to do with lovemaking.  My parents were strict conservatives in the matter of lovemaking, which is to say that they never discussed it.  There was one occasion when I suggested to my mother that the word “sparking” had to do with lovemaking.  My mother was born in 1882 but she indicated that the word “sparking” had gone out of style some years ago.  I suppose that the proper replacement for “sparking” would be “necking.”  If any of the readers who have parsed these words can produce a better word than “sparking,” it will be a welcome addition.

 

At this point, I would like to turn to political matters.  Much has been made of the fact that in his appointments to the cabinet, Mr. Obama seems to have found more white males to name to the cabinet.  I do not believe that every racial group or gender is entitled to be represented in the cabinet.  It is my best view that the best person ought to be named to lead the department.

For some years, it has been assumed that Susan Rice, the Ambassador of the US to the United Nations, would assume the title of Secretary of State once Hillary Clinton retired.  When her name was floated a month or thereabouts ago, Lindsey Graham and John McCain said that she would have a rough time gaining confirmation for the Secretary of State job.  One of the characteristics of Barack Obama is that he backs down and will not fight for his nominees.  The head of the steel workers once said of Mr. Obama that he is “a poet and not a fighter.”  Susan Rice endured about three weeks or a month of speculation and it became clear that Obama did not intend to fight for her.  So she withdrew.  I do not know much about Susan Rice’s qualifications but she comes with a reputation for having sharp elbows.   It strikes me that a person with sharp elbows would not be a bad choice for leading our diplomatic efforts abroad.  While I do not know Susan Rice very well, I regret the fact that her name was floated so prominently and that the President, Mr. Obama, elected not to fight for her.

This may cast a shadow on Chuck Hagel, the man designated by Mr. Obama as his new Secretary of Defense.  Obama backs down to the likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham.  I intend to write to Obama a note praising him for his pusillanimity.

 

Now we proceed from pusillanimity to falling.  My most recent adventures in falling resulted in no broken bones, for which I am thankful, but did call to mind some 19th century expressions for pain.  Specifically, in trying to get up from this latest fall, my leg became twisted.  For three weeks or so, I had the definition of “all stove up.”  The description of “stove up” was immediately recognizable by my parents’ generation.  It has been many years since I have heard the words “stove up” entering into conversations.  Certainly it is never used by television announcers to describe soreness or discomfort.  So herewith I start a campaign to preserve the words “all stove up” as a national monument to those of us who get our legs twisted and our backs out of line.

 

Finally it seems to me appropriate to say a few words having to do with wounded animals.  I am well aware of the fact that a good many men cite their skill in hunting as evidence of their masculinity.  But if you will pardon an intercession on behalf of the animals, I would like to say a few words.  Men who go hunting have no real reason to do so because of hunger.   The population in this country is well fed to the point of obesity.  So we are left with the thought that men hunt for “sport.”  This is a one-sided sport where the evidence is all on the side of the hunter.

Let us take Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court Justice, who loves to hunt birds.  I have no use for Antonin Scalia because he intervened in 2000 to give us nothing less than George W. Bush when he decided that the tally count in Florida had gone far enough.  As any person associated with flying will tell you, the take off is the crucial concern when it comes to aerial flight.  Birds who are disturbed tend to flutter and cluster in an effort to gain altitude to run away from the hunter.  It is at this particular moment that Scalia and the rest of the hunters pull the trigger.  If this was a fair fight – which it is not – the birds would have a means of retaliating against the hunters, including Scalia.  The fact of the matter is that the birds are defenseless against the hunter, who has a high-powered shotgun to knock them down and kill them.

In all of the games that we play in this country, there is always a defense and an offense.  Let us take the issue of basketball.  If one of the teams scores a goal, the ball then belongs to the other team to see whether it can score a goal.  In terms of American football, a touchdown is scored and the ball is then awarded to the other team to see whether it can score or not.   In baseball, each team has the opportunity to go on offense when the other team is on defense.  This is the essence of sportsmanship.  When Scalia and all of the other hunters, using their high-powered shotguns or perhaps rifles go to work, it is nothing but a miscarriage of justice.  There is no sport involved here.

I repeat that there is no reason for going hunting to kill innocent animals.  But I am far behind the times and I suggest that hunting seems to be well ingrained in the American spirit of sportsmanship.  In the final analysis, it seems to me that when one side is armed with nothing but cunning and speed and the other side has a high-powered rifle or shotgun, there is no contest whatsoever.  But if you wish to keep score here, mark me down on the side of sparing defenseless animals.

I have never owned a gun.  During the Second World War, the American Army loaned me a gun which had to be returned as soon as my service was curtailed.  Aside from that incident, I have never owned a gun and I never plan to own a gun.  It seems to me that my fellow Americans are distraught at having an administration that does not encourage the use of firepower.

 

You will notice that in this essay I have said nothing about the tragedy of the killing of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut.  That is a subject for another debate.  At this point I am so distraught that even after a month has passed I have no stomach for addressing the events at Newtown.

There you have a collection of thisas and thatas.  These are in harmony with old Ben Bernie’s orchestra which would play a medley of foxtrots, waltzes or swing ballads or whatever, with the idea that by the end of the medley you would have heard a little bit of everything.  So I leave you with the hope that you will say, in accordance with Ben Bernie, “Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa.”

 

E. E. CARR

January 11, 2013

Essay 732

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Kevin’s commentary: This one was quite the multi-essay. With so many posts about language especially I feel like I should at some point make a separate dictionary, of words and phrases that Pop has called to special attention in his essays.

The one that really stuck out to me this time was hunting, for a few reasons. I saw a video recently where a guy in Africa hunted an antelope or something by running it down. Turns out humans are really good at distance running, and animals aren’t, so he just chased after this animal for like eight or so hours until it finally had a heat stroke and collapsed. Was crazy to watch… but the reason it comes to mind here is that it was a fair fight. Whoever could run farther would win. It’s about as far from what is now ‘normal’ hunting as is possible, though.

GUY D’

As most of you know, I worked for the AT&T Company for a long time.  During the last seven or eight years, my duties were with what was then called the Overseas Department.  Basically this had to do with telecommunications outside of the United States.  It was an assignment that brought a great personal satisfaction.  It involved a lot of traveling.  I always found that the traveling tended to satisfy my curious mind and was really rewarding.

Early in my time in the Overseas Department, I ran across an erudite fellow who had spent his school years in Italy.  His full name was Guy D’Urso.  Not long after I arrived in the Overseas Department, I had a new secretary.  She always referred to Guy as Mr. Dee-ur-so.  The name was pronounced simply as Durso, but this exotic woman, who was very nice, apparently could not put her arms around the name D’Urso.  So he became Mr. Dee-ur-so.

Once I found out that Guy D’Urso had spent the early part of his life in Italy, my curiosity was intrigued.  As many of you know from reading Ezra’s Essays, I spent a good part of the war years of World War II in Italy.  Subsequently my travels often took me to Italy.

Guy grew up in what was called the heel of Italy.  Italy is shaped like a long high heeled boot with the heel being where D’Urso grew up around Bari and Taranto.

As I settled in to my new duties in the Overseas Department, I found that Guy D’ was an engaging fellow.  When I talked about Italy, Guy knew exactly what was being spoken of.  Beyond that, Guy was a well-traveled fellow who had an engaging sense of humor.  So it was that I often found myself wandering over into the engineering department to spend a few minutes with Guy D’Urso.

Now comes a long interruption in the relationship between Guy D’Urso and myself.  When AT&T elected to move its offices to Bedminster, New Jersey, both Guy and I moved where AT&T had sent us.  After a time, specifically in 1984, my long career came to an end and I retired.  One way or another, I found out that Guy D’Urso had eventually taken up residence in Toms River, New Jersey.  By this time, the date on the calendar would read 2012.

As most of you are aware, Hurricane Sandy came ashore in the vicinity of Toms River.  The devastation there was more than merely significant.  Homes were destroyed and futures were lost.  In spite of the fact that retirement in 1984 was in my past, I kept thinking of the number of my friends, including Guy D’Urso, who had settled in Toms River, New Jersey.  And so, after a time, I called Guy D’Urso’s number, which rang repeatedly.  Obviously, there was no one there to answer.  After a couple of weeks I tried the number once more and found myself talking to Guy’s wife.  In a short time, Guy himself was on the phone.  We more or less renewed acquaintances, very much as we had done when we were both working for AT&T.

Now there is one development that took place sometime in the early 1980s.  Guy D’Urso found himself working for a colleague of mine named Bob Newman.  When Newman retired, somewhere around 1980 or 1981, there was of course a going-away party for him.  I was happy to attend that farewell party.  Also attending was a fellow named Earl Schooley,   who had been a vice president of AT&T.  Bob Newman had worked for Earl Schooley and I had known Schooley when both of us worked in St. Louis.  Earl Schooley was a free soul who loved to kid about everything.  During the Newman party festivities, during which I also spoke, there were numerous references to Missouri and particularly to my home town of Clayton, Missouri.  Although Schooley was a native of a town called Bonne Terre, Missouri one way or another he took it upon himself to declare himself also a resident of Clayton, Missouri.

Now as it developed, Guy D’Urso while attending his school duties in Italy had written an essay.  The essay won a prize at a regional competition.

As you may recall, Benito Mussolini was the dictator of Italy for a good number of years.  During those years Mussolini had decided to invade Ethiopia.  In time, he had more or less conquered that country. As it turns out the prize for winning the competition among Guy’s peers was a one week trip to the capital of Ethiopia, called Addis Ababa.  This of course became a subject of conversation in the presentations at the Bob Newman retirement party.  When my time on the speakers’ platform drew to a close, I was to introduce Guy D’Urso, who was the main emcee of that proceeding.  I asked Guy, as I left the speakers’ platform, “If the first prize was a week in Addis Ababa, what was the second prize?”

At that point I walked off the podium and Guy D’Urso was introduced.  Without hesitation, Mr. D’Urso said that the second prize was two weeks in Clayton, Missouri, the home town of both Earl Schooley and myself.  The laughter was uproarious.

Over the years I had forgotten that incident but when Guy mentioned it in our conversation about the hurricane, it all came back to me.  A lot of water has gone over the dam since 1976, when I first met Guy D’Urso.  I am happy to announce that my wife, Miss Chicka, and myself were happy to make contact again with Mr. D’Urso.

For my own part, whenever I had the time I used to wander around the offices of AT&T, frequently dropping in to converse with Guy D’Urso.  He is a brilliant fellow and he has the ability to leave you with a warm feeling and smiles all around.  Men like that are few and far between.  Guy is now 83.  When we had our recent discussions, Guy and I traded war stories about the aging process.  But in both cases, it was done with great good humor and with our saying something along the lines of “What the hell are you going to do about it?”

As always, I emerged from that conversation smiling.  If a man has the ability to make you smile through a conversation, he is a person to be treasured.  And Guy D’Urso is that sort of a person.

 

E. E. CARR

December 7, 2012

Essay 721

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Kevin’s commentary: Let’s hope that Mr Dee-ur-so can find his way to this site eventually, or at least that he got a copy of this particular essay. It’s always amazing to me how Pop manages to get in touch with so many of his old friends, especially without the use of any web-based networking services like Facebook. Maybe it just seems to me like Pop has reconnected with a lot of his friends when in reality it’s very few, percentage wise, but he just met and befriended a hell of a lot of people over his 90 years. This seems rather more likely.

CHERISH THE CHILDREN AND/OR THE UNFATHOMABLE

The dual titles to this essay span a period in time of more than 2500 years.  Cherish the children is a maxim from Confucius.  Unfathomable was enunciated this week in Newtown, Connecticut by Don Lemon, the indefatigable announcer for CNN on weekends.  As you may have guessed, the title has to do with the recent massacre that took place in Newtown and resulted in the death of 26 victims, or if you count the mother of the shooter, 27 victims, and if you count the shooter himself, 28 victims.

The shootings took place exactly one week ago today.  This morning television broadcasters showed a program at 9:30 at the firehouse near the Newtown school.  As each name was read, the fire bell was rung with a very solemn tone.

I cannot imagine what the parents of the 20 slain first-grade students are going through.  I am a parent myself of two daughters whose life has reached the midpoint, which is to say that 50 is viewed in the rear-view mirror of their lives.  I can only imagine the agony if one of my daughters had been killed in a senseless act such as the recent Newtown massacre.

I am certain that a good many memories would come to my mind as I reviewed their lives.  One memory has to do with my older daughter.  There was a time when she was eight years old.  That was in the third grade at the New Providence, New Jersey public schools.  I was off from work that day and around 3 PM I sauntered out into the front yard so that I could see Maureen, alias Blondie, returning from her work at the school.  At about that time, Clara Dinunzio came home.  She and her husband Nick were good friends.  And so it was that while I was waiting, I wandered across the street to talk to Clara Dinunzio.   A short time later, I looked up the street and saw Blondie marching toward us.  During her school years, Blondie was a clothes horse.  She always tried to present herself in the most favorable light, which I greatly approved.  As Blondie marched down the street, her school books under her arm, she met up with Clara Dinunzio and myself.

Clara and Blondie entered into a discussion of which the conclusion was, “The third grade is very hard.”  That of course was an expression from Blondie.  When the two of us had concluded our discussion with Clara Dinunzio,  I held Maureen’s school books in one arm and she held my hand while we crossed the street, looking both ways.  You may say that all of this was inconsequential.  But to a father such as myself, the sight of Maureen walking down the street to meet Clara Dinunzio and me still is a vivid memory.

Now as to the other daughter, named Suzanne, alias Spooky Suze, there came a time when their mother and I and the two daughters decided to take a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia.  Both girls were delighted with the costumes that the waitresses in Williamsburg wore.  At this point, I believe that Spooky Suze was about six or seven years old.  As we were looking around Williamsburg, I noticed that Suzanne was missing for a time.  When she returned, my younger daughter presented me with a small bell.  It was her very first purchase, I believe, with her own money and I was overwhelmed to receive that little bell.  That bell, almost fifty years later, stands on a bookcase where I keep my books.  It is a place of honor.

The third memory that comes to mind has a bad connotation to it.  It occurred on the evening after John Kennedy was assassinated.  On that date, both of my girls were still in the lower grades of grade school.  At the time, I was working for the New York Telephone Company and I was eating in a deli on Broadway in New York City just south of the headquarters of AT&T at 195 Broadway.  When I left the deli, I noticed that the people on the street were in animated conversation.  It turned out that the news had just come from Dallas that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.  That was on November 22, 1963.

As I recall it, AT&T and the New York Telephone Company declared the following two days as days of mourning.  The railroad schedules had a degree of confusion in them because everyone wished to go home at the same time that day.  When I reached my home in New Providence, NJ the four of us had dinner.  I sat in the living room and told the girls about the terrible news.  They were seated one on each knee.  They took the news about the assassination of John Kennedy with great solemnity because they knew that their father was in a very solemn mood.

Now if my daughters had been the victims of a shooting such as that in Newtown, CT, these are the sorts of memories that would com flooding back.  To lose a child in such a senseless manner would be more, I believe, than I could bear.  Here we are exactly one week after the shooting with the burials having taken place much of this week.  If it were possible, I would love to put my arms around each of the parents.  I would probably find myself speechless.  What can you say that would comfort a parent who has lost a small child in such a senseless manner?

I find no comfort whatsoever to rely on spiritual matters.  I do not believe that there are spirits looking out there in the atmosphere who have a bearing on the actions of men.  The central question would seem to be if the killings of these small children take place under the auspices of a just and loving God.  The answer from this quarter is a resounding no.  There is no God.  Any attempt by theologians or church goers to say that sooner or later God, whoever he is, will explain it all to us and make it appear reasonable.  There is no such thing.  It was a demented character who had access to guns who committed these murders.  Any attempt to explain this act using a resort to spirituality is totally senseless.

These are my musings exactly one week after the Newtown massacre that occurred.  I would give anything to have avoided this day.  If my daughters had been involved in such a situation, I would have been remiss in my duties if I had not offered myself to the assassin in the hope that he would stop shooting after he had slain me.  But life goes on.  The only hope that those of us who deplore guns have is that some sensible legislation results from the massacre.  But I doubt that will happen.  The gun loving Republicans in both chambers, the Senate and the House, will not give Mr. Obama any hint of accomplishment.  For those of us on the other side, we hope to keep the Newtown massacre fresh in our memories so that some meaningful legislation could come from it.  I am gloomy about such an accomplishment but I always have some kind of hope.

The Carr daughters have produced a total of five grandchildren.  The daughters and their husbands and the children are in good health.  I am not sure whether the Carr daughters remember the incidents that are the theme of this essay.  But I am certain that the daughters and their husbands will continue to cherish the children and that the massacre in Newtown will continue to present us with an unfathomable mystery.  At this point, we can only hope for the best.

 

E. E. CARR

December 21, 2012

Essay 724

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Kevin’s commentary:

I’ll have to remind mom to read this one asap. I think it’s very sweet that you’ve held onto the bell all those years.

Otherwise, I think I have already made my points in other commentaries with regard to atheism and needing to value this life more when there is no consideration of the afterlife.

It’s important in the gun control debate to try to understand what the other side is hearing. Watchers of Fox news have no idea what the administration is actually saying… it’s easy to just call them insane but the truth is that they have no idea what’s happening, so their elected representatives are in office to defend their ignorant fears that the government will come steal all their guns. It is upsetting.

 

THE ABOMINABLE MONTHS OF THE YEAR

For all of my long life, I have detested months that have 31 days in their duration.  At the moment, we are enduring the grim days of January in the new year.  When two months of 31 days follow each other, that is the cruelest time of year for every creature known to me.

July and August are 31-day months when the weather is warm or hot.  At least July and August have the saving grace of occurring during the baseball season and they are the location of the birthdays of my wife and myself.  So in fact I can live with July and August, even though they are 31-day months, which means that the banks and the investment houses can keep our money a day or two longer before returning the meager interest to us.  So in my case, I can survive the grimmest months of the summer because of the presence of baseball broadcasts.  I enjoy baseball’s pennant races and some of the trades that occur at that time of year.

But July and August are one thing.  When we reach the end of the year, we are confronted with the grim prospects of another pair of 31-day months known under the Julian calendar and perhaps under the Georgian calendar as December and January.  The weather is cold at this time of year in the northern hemisphere.  Bad news abounds everywhere. There are slips and falls, and complaints about inadequate heat are joys to the gas companies’ ears.  December is long and grim, ending in the Christmas season.  I am fully aware that there are those who take great delight in the coming of the Christmas season.  Unfortunately the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays is not among those who find delight in Christmas.  Beyond that, in the instant case, the end of December in New Jersey was marked by a snowfall that measured somewhere between 24 inches and 32 inches.  Immediately following hot on the heels of the long month of December is January, an equally grim month.  January is cold and long, and the days are short.

So I am proposing a means of keeping track of the passing of time that will not accord with the Julian or Gregorian methods now in use.  From all that I can gather in my research, the debate about the Julian and Gregorian systems had to do with the timing of Easter.  I cannot say that Easter brings joyful tidings to this old beat-up body.  Sometimes Easter comes early and sometimes it comes late, and often the women have to dress in their finery to greet Easter on a cold day.  But I am proposing a means of taking care of the long months.  It will probably not meet with the approval of the banks and holding companies.  But after their performance in recent years, they deserve to be held to account.

As I have said, there are two methods of keeping time in centuries called the Julian and Gregorian calendars.  The first was named after Julius Caesar and the second was named after a pope, both of whom presumably were Roman Catholics.  I am proposing that we do away with the Julian and Gregorian calendars and instead employ a method named after my father to be known as the Ezraine system of counting our days.

Actually the Ezraine method should have the word Senior in its title so that it would not be confused with the presumptions of a youngster such as myself.  I wish to point out that the method of Ezraine Senior occurred to me during the recent great snowfall when the ground and the highways were covered with pure white snow.  Snow whiteness of the ground leads me to believe that my method of counting our days is not only immaculate, but was perfectly conceived.  I believe it is fair to say that this was an immaculate conception.

What I am proposing in the Ezraine Sr. system of accounting for our days is that every month would have no more than 28 days.  Obviously I have taken my cue from the month of February, which has only 28 days.  During the month of February, there are faint signs of spring. We know that at the end of February, baseball players report to training camps.  From time to time there are warm days in February when we can see that springtime is not far off.

The main inducement is that February has only 28 days, which should be the model for every month in the year.  And if the banks and investment houses have to pay off their customers three days early, I would say, “More power to the people!  The hell with the banks and the investment houses!”

I am aware that if every month had only 28 days, there would be some days left over.  I am proposing that the leftover days be gathered in a bunch and should be celebrated by calling them the month of “Ezraine Junior”.  Further, I am proposing that this new month occur in October or late September, which would mark the end of the baseball season.

The month of Ezraine Junior was named after the Bible scribe of Jerusalem who was named Ezra.  It seems to this observer that for all of the previous centuries, the Julian and Georgian calendars celebrated the Roman Catholics.  Giving a shot to the Jews seems only fair to this observer who is neutral on all religions.

That is my contribution to the advancement of civilization.  The idea for every month having 28 days occurred to me on a snowy day when the ground and all the buildings were covered in white.  Thus the proposal has the background of being conceived in innocence and immaculately.

I now ask you who in this world could be opposed to the Ezraine Senior method of counting our centuries?  The obvious answer is only the bankers and the investment houses that plunged all of our prosperity into the ditch as recently as two years ago.  Don’t worry about the banks and investment houses as they are instruments of Satan.  I can only say in all honesty that the Ezraine Senior method of keeping track of centuries strikes me as entirely holy.  And I ask you, who can be opposed to holiness?

 

E. E. CARR

January 4, 2011

Essay 522

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Kevin’s commentary:

Would the baseball season be extended into the Ezraine Junior month? That’s really the key question there. I think a very short extra month could be rather nice, actually. Maybe it’d be a holiday month where everyone is required to stay home and watch baseball. Or listen to baseball as the case may be.

UPON BEING TIRED AND FEARED

This essay is being written for those who trace their birth to nearly pre-historic times.  Specifically, it is being written for those of us who have passed the age barrier of 80 so long ago that it must be viewed in the rear view mirror of our lives.  Facts are facts and no magic hoopla can destroy their existence.  We are aged but there is a certain joy that comes from our memories.

The joy of this memory traces to 1927, or 84 years ago.  On that occasion the American composer Jerome Kern wrote a stage play with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.  It was named “Showboat” but in point of fact was more of a commentary on the history of race relations in the American south rather than on the entertainment business.  There is liberal use of the “n” word in the original manuscript, fitting the speech patterns of the day.  Since that time, the “n” word has become “darkies,” eventually winding up with the term of “Afro-Americans.”

Jerome Kern’s music is elegant.  It comes to fruition near the end of the show in a solo performed by a bass singer.  That of course is “Old Man River.”  It might be observed that the song of “Old Man River” written in 1927 still brings the house down today when it is performed by a competent bass singer.  Unfortunately, solo parts for bass singers are extremely limited.  There are millions of solo parts for sopranos, and nearly as many for tenors.

Those who sing in the lower registers, such as altos and baritones, find that the music for solo parts is quite limited.  And the most limited of all are solos for those singers who have a familiarity with the low C range.

This is a great misfortune for Americans.  On the other hand, Russian composers find solo parts for their bass singers with some frequency.  Unfortunately, I do not speak Russian except for the word “da,” meaning yes, so I am at a loss to follow the music.

But in “Showboat,” Hammerstein constructed a tribute to the hopelessness of the black workers.  “Old Man River” made this hopelessness powerful.  There is one final verse that sums it all up as “Old Man River” begins to draw to a close.  Here are the phrases.

I gets weary an’ sick of tryin’…

I’m tired of livin’ but feared of dyin’,

But ol’ man river, he jes’ keeps rollin’ along.

 

That is the burden of this essay.  For those of us who have lived for 80 or 90 years, it is my conclusion that there are occasions when such a person says, “I am tired of living.”  Whether that person might also say, “I’m sick of trying,” might also be a bit of a stretch in my imagination.  I would not doubt that in periods of illness it would be quite possible for the aged person to say, “I am tired of living and sick of trying.”  That is entirely feasible to me.  But for the moment, I suspect that most of us would say that “I am not sick enough of living to end it all.”

There are so many things that used to come automatically which now are a trial to old timers such as myself.  Getting my stretch socks on sometimes leaves me breathless.  The fact that I can’t drive anymore makes me amenable to the idea that I can understand others who are sick of living and tired of trying.

And so this is an essay about understanding the feelings of those who are not necessarily exhilarated by the prospect of more life to live.  For the record, it should be stated that I am not necessarily tired of living or sick of trying.  On the other hand, I can understand those who are of that opinion.  But when push comes to shove, and we forget about being tired and being sick, we cannot forget American and Western European composers are publishing few songs for those who sing in the bass register.  And that is a crime.  I know that tenors always get the girl, who is usually a soprano.  But it is high time that a baritone or a bass gets in line.

 

E. E. CARR

May 31, 2011

Essay 556

PS:  If you want to hear the best recording of “Old Man River,” try Samuel Ramey.

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Kevin’s commentary: Wow.

Singing low takes more breath, yeah? So singing like that requires a positively obnoxious lung capacity. Seriously though, wow.

 

MOLASSES MOBILITY

Upon reflection, it may be that this essay should be properly entitled “Molasses Immobility.”  But we will get to that question a bit later.

It may well be that readers of Ezra’s Essays are unfamiliar with the term molasses.  I always try to be helpful in these circumstances and here is what a reference source has to say about molasses.

Sweet and thick, molasses is what is left when sugar cane or sugar beets are processed to make refined sugar.  It has a full flavor, dark roasted and tangy.  There are three types of molasses.  The first is light molasses, second dark molasses, and finally black strap.  Light molasses comes from the first boiling, while dark molasses comes from the second boiling and the third is black strap which comes from the third boiling and is thick, dark, and bitter.

I became aware of molasses as soon as I could walk or toddle.  My recollection is that my father kept a jar of molasses on our kitchen table.  It was a useful jar in that during the Depression it was sometimes the only dessert that we had.  The dessert consisted of a piece of white bread, I believe sometimes called Wonder Bread, which in good times was covered with some margarine.  My recollection also is that margarine came as a colorless substance.  There was a yellow dye which came with the margarine that could be used to make it appear as though the bread was buttered.  But in fact it was only colored margarine.  It is also my recollection that flies had a considerable attraction to molasses.  If the jar was left open an instant too long, a fly would get his legs caught in the sweet syrupy concoction which was fatal to the fly.  In spite of the warnings about eating black strap molasses, it is my impression that my father greatly favored black strap, which he said contributed to muscularity and long life.  I had my doubts about the latter.

I have told you about the various kinds of molasses in order to illustrate a point.  It turns out that as one increases in the age department and is also afflicted by a case of peripheral neuropathy, walking becomes a bit difficult.  Whereas I used to think that walking several miles was unremarkable, now I find that getting from my chair or bed to the bathroom is regarded as a great feat.  It finally struck me recently that walking under these circumstances is like trudging through molasses.  It is not enough to stop you completely but it is an impediment.  Perhaps the easiest way to explain this is to say that a person walking through sludge would be similar to one marching through molasses.  Basically speaking, this is a matter of the aging process and is no cause for great alarm.  It is simply like dying in installments.

My father would be happy to know that molasses has brought back memories of him.   He was a proud man who labored every day of his life with his hands.  I have no great attraction for molasses.  I thought it was a useful metaphor for describing what it is like when a youngster of my age attempts to get from one place to another.

We ordinarily shop at a place called Whole Foods, which features organically grown produce.  They have all kinds of highly-sophisticated syrups for pancakes but none that are really designed for Wonder Bread.  As a matter of fact, they don’t carry molasses at all.

So as you can see, this is another chapter in the aging process of Ezra.  But I remind you that six years ago I wrote an essay distributed to all of you entitled “Sing No Sad Songs for This Old Geezer.”  Now I am trudging through the sludge of molasses as I attempt to go from one place to another, but I treat it more as a matter of amusement than of tragedy.  So if any of you are inclined to buy some molasses of the various boilings, I will help you eat it.  I think that is a pretty safe bet because in this part of the country when molasses is mentioned, the response is, “You said what?”  For old times’ sake, I might like to have a taste of molasses on Wonder Bread covered with margarine with the yellow pill to make it appear like butter.  But I am willing to subdue my craving for molasses and merely use it as an excuse to write this essay about walking as though feet were encumbered by trudging through the hazards of molasses.

I leave it to my readers whether this essay should be called “Molasses Mobility” or “Molasses Immobility.”  It is a question that we should refer to the Congress of the United States.  Perhaps they could settle this question, despite the fact that they seem to be unable to settle anything else.

 

E. E. CARR

November 20, 2011

Essay 594

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Kevin’s commentary: I actually just learned about the process of dying margarine yellow within the past week. I went twenty-two years without knowing that that was a thing that happened, and now here I am learning about it twice in a week. I think there’s a name for that type of phenomenon, and it has to do something with probabilities and the brain’s propensity to seek patterns but hell, I’m happy to just call it ‘odd.’

In other news, the phrase “[Aging] is simply like dying in installments” belongs on a motivational poster somewhere.