Archive for February 2013


You may recall that a few months ago an essay was dictated at this desk that had to do with Bishop Eddie Long who was pastor of the New Birth mega-church in Atlanta.  It seems as though Bishop Long had thousands of followers and they clung to every word that he uttered.  Not to tell you how smart I am, but I considered Bishop Long a mountebank.  In short, I thought that he was a fraud from beginning to end.  Now, like so many other pastors, Bishop Long has fallen into sexual impurities and has largely lost his congregation.  Like Ted Haggard, who ran a church in Colorado, the problem involves not girls but boys.  It seems as though Bishop Long has been involved with boys and has invaded their bodies in a sexual manner.  In simple terms, Long is a pederast.  There is no other word to describe what Long has been doing to these boys.  He is a pederast.  He may consider himself a Christian pederast, but in my thoughts, he is still a pederast.

Now, before I go further, I would like to comment that Bishop Long, like so many other preachers, always claims the title of Bishop.  Bishop Long and Bishop Haggard had no hierarchy of churches around them, so it is difficult to understand how they progressed from a plain preacher to bishop.  Ah, but I am not cognizant of all of the workings of church folks, and I probably have missed a few beats along the way, particularly with preachers who are pederasts.

But now we find that Bishop Long’s wife has become deeply annoyed with Bishop Long’s conduct.  I must say that my sympathies are entirely with his wife.  I cannot imagine being married to a pederast.

In the latest development in the story about Bishop Long and the boys he has humiliated, we find that he has told his church, or the few remaining church members, that he and his wife are “prayerfully” appealing to God.  You will note that Bishop Long made this statement and that his wife has had nothing to say in public about it.

It seems to me that every time a preacher or a politician descends into the infamy of sexual misconduct, he appears to call God into his corner.  That was true with the former Reverend Haggard, just as it is true of Newt Gingrich.  Gingrich has contended that, in spite of his serial adulteries, God has forgiven him.  There are no independent witnesses to God’s forgiveness.  You just have to take Newt’s word for forgiveness, just as you have to take the story about Bishop Long.

I am not involved with churchly affairs, having abandoned them at the age of six years.  Once again, a preacher when he gets into trouble calls upon God and says that he is “prayerfully” considering what to do.  I might suggest that if he had been in prayer, he would not have violated the innocence of the six boys that he has been accused of violating.  I have no communication with God, so I will have to guess what is going on inside the Bishop Long marriage.  I suspect that Mrs. Long is highly pissed off at the Bishop and has invoked the powers of divorce with respect to him.  I must say that she was provoked beyond what any woman should have to endure, and the sooner she rids herself of the lewd and saintly bishop, the better.

Now to turn to secular matters, I find that Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich had a mock television debate during which they tended to praise each other.  Now look, the facts are on this order.  Newt Gingrich has had three marriages, all of which were preceded by highly discussed dalliances.  His current wife, who is 22 years younger than he, is involved in the most recent marriage case.

In the case of Herman Cain, we know that at least five women have come to light who accuse him of adultery.  I would suggest that in Herman’s case we should stay tuned because more are on the way, which is why he dropped out of the Presidential sweepstakes on Saturday of this week.

Look at it this way.  In professional hockey in the National Hockey League, the contestants vie all year long to win a prize called The Stanley Cup.  In horse racing, there are many events where the winner is awarded a cup to signify his victory.  In auto racing, which I deplore, I gather that in some events a cup is awarded to the winner.

Gingrich and Herman Cain were involved for dozens of years in dozens of adulteries and other moments of sexual misconduct.  I would say that in all matters of decency, as the Gingrich and Herman Cain broadcasts draw to a close, the winner should be awarded the Philanderer’s Cup for his excellence in that pursuit.  But unfortunately Herman Cain has withdrawn from competition, at least in public, for his place as a philanderer.  So Newt will have to gird his loins and carry on himself in pursuit of the Philanderer’s Cup.  But he should remember that Herman Cain, who will be quick to capitalize on any miscues by the Newtster, is still in the wings.

I did not realize when I started this essay that it would take on such a sexual tone.  With Bishop Long and Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, the content was of a sexual nature.  I apologize for that. But I advise every reader of this essay to believe that Bishop Long has appealed to God’s better side, thus causing him to miss the divorce proceedings.  And as for Newt and Herman Cain, they were over the pale and cannot be rescued by any appeals to the supreme being, particularly from an infidel such as myself.  In that case, we will have to do the best we can.

PS: A thought occurred to me after the foregoing was dictated.  If the younger clerics of whatever faith are engaged in the buggering of youngsters, it follows that in time as they wait out their turns, they will be promoted to such awesome titles as bishop and archbishop.  Are we to believe that every bishop and archbishop of every faith is free from the sin of buggering youngsters?  Does it follow that when a cleric is promoted to the higher ranks, he automatically gives up the practice of buggering youngsters?  These questions, I believe, are divinely inspired and should be treated as national treasures.



December 8, 2011

Essay 615

Kevin’s commentary: Whelp, now my search history has “pedophile vs pederast” in it. Hope nobody ever goes poking around in there. For any curious, it seems like pedophiles simply want to diddle little boys. If they actually succeed in doing so they become pederasts.

Also clearly the logical conclusion here is that God has commanded said buggering of youngsters; this is the only logical conclusion because God is on the side of the Church and that’s what the Church likes to do. My favorite part through all this has been the Church’s tone of their apologies, which basically boil down to “gee we sure are sorry that we got caught” instead of “gee we are sorry for violating children.” Ugh.

So far as the Philanderer’s cup goes, I have already commented on it here.


In the spring of the year 2010, I found myself in the offices of my favorite internist on more occasions than I would like to recall.  I had no specific complaints, such as my foot hurting or my head hurting, but rather I told the internist that I simply felt lousy, lousy, lousy.  The internist did what internists have always done.  At first they order blood tests.  My blood tests showed that everything was normal.

So the internist referred me to a lung specialist.  I made two trips to the lung specialist, including a breathing test, and passed all of them.  But I still felt lousy.

So the internist then referred me to an allergist.  He prescribed a medication that relieved my breathing problems but stopped urination.  Given a choice between breathing and urination, I opted for urination.

It seems to me that there was one other referral made by the internist but I can’t remember what that one was.  Finally the internist must have suspected that at 88 years, I was responding to voices from outer space.  On that final occasion, the internist recommended that I should go see a psychiatrist.

It was difficult to find the office of the psychiatrist but eventually it was located.  The first visit was getting to know each other.  The second visit had to do with getting down to business.  By the time the third visit took place, I had come to the conclusion that there was no point in seeing the psychiatrist any more.  Apparently, he had come to the same conclusion.

But he did offer this one gem that has stuck with me ever since my visit.  I told the psychiatrist, among other things, that I had the feeling that I was taking cold that would lead to pneumonia, or that I was falling.  The psychiatrist answered by saying, “It hasn’t happened yet.”

I believe that I had told the psychiatrist that for the first 70 missions that I flew in World War II, I wore my parachute harness which was a bit of a bother.  On the 71th mission, we were shot down and it was necessary to use that parachute harness finally.  I told the psychiatrist that my fear of catching cold and falling down was well founded just as the fear of being shot down justified my wearing that parachute harness for the first 70 missions.

The psychiatrist was never a soldier and therefore never appreciated my thought about wearing the parachute harness.  Instead, he simply repeated to me in connection with my current concerns, “It hasn’t happened yet.”

I made three trips to the psychiatrist’s office and came away with one thought in my pocket.  That thought was, “It hasn’t happened yet.”  As time goes on, when I have a fear of falling or being hit by a missile or being struck by thunder, I can always recall that it hasn’t happened yet.  While I did not think much of going to the psychiatrist, I find that his advice that it hasn’t happened yet was well founded.

So I offer this thought to you.  If you go through life saying that it has not happened yet, you will save yourself trips to the hard-to-find psychiatrist’s office and the money you save will be devoted to other matters that you enjoy.  I am happy to be of service to my readers in this regard.  Remember that when you suspect danger, you should always repeat the thought that it hasn’t happened yet.  I find myself quoting those lines repeatedly these days and in fact it seems to work.  So remember it hasn’t happened yet, and for all we know it may never happen.

Final thought.  After the experience with the psychiatrist, I had some problems that required me to visit a neurologist.  The first thing she did was to order a blood test during which it was disclosed that on one hand, the level of vitamin B-6 was high at five times the upper limit.  On the other hand, the level of vitamin B-12 was quite low.   When I made adjustments for these two vitamins, the experience of feeling lousy, lousy, lousy disappeared.  In the end, I suspect, that the best advice I can give anyone is to go see their neurologist before seeing any psychiatrist.



July 1, 2011

Essay 560


Kevin’s commentary: In a rare twist ending, Pop totally got pneumonia here in 2013. So it has happened. And now it’s okay again. I’m not sure of the philosophical implications of its happening, but especially in conjunction with the parachute scenario maybe an essay entitled “It happened, but all is well” is in order.



This essay pivots on the origin of a popular folk song written in 1835 called “Kathleen Mavourneen.”  Like many Irish people and the world at large, I had long assumed that “Kathleen Mavourneen” was the epitome of Irish folk music.  The word “mavourneen” is an ancient Gaelic word for “my darling.”  The name Kathleen is a long-established female Irish name.  So I was proceeding under the assumption that Kathleen Mavourneen is about as Irish as a song could be.

The trouble started when I attempted to lift a line from “Kathleen Mavourneen.”  Facts are facts.  I have no trouble when it comes to the prose department.  But when it comes to poetry, I am a complete strike-out.  Even worse are those cases in which the poetry is set to music.  I haven’t the faintest clue as to setting a poem to music.

And so it was that I set out to unravel the mystery of a line from “Kathleen Mavourneen.”  I believe the line in question happens in the second verse.  Here is the line that set off this story about being self-mystified: “The lark from her light wing the bright dew is shaking.”  As a straight factual matter, I am completely unable to write poetry such as the story of the lark in the morning.  All things considered, I think it is fair to say that I am not a poet.  Prose gives me no problem at all, but poetry is more than I can handle.

For years, I have been singing and humming and buying records of the song “Kathleen Mavourneen”, including the reference to the “lark in the morning.”  Finally, at this late stage in my life, I looked into who wrote the music and the words to that wonderful song.  I hoped that the author would be someone named O’Flaherty or Dennis Sullivan or some such Irish person.  But as it turns out, the music to “Kathleen Mavourneen” was written by a fellow named Frederick Crouch.  According to Crouch, he opened the mail one day in 1835 to discover a poem called “Kathleen Mavourneen.”  And so he set to work to provide the music for these wonderful words.

The words were sent to Crouch by Mrs. Julia Crawford.  About the only saving grace is that her maiden name was Cavan, which of course is a county in Ireland.  So perhaps she had some Irishness in her background.  There is a debate at this late date that the lyrics were provided by a woman named Marion Crawford.  Time has passed and at this date, I am unable to determine with finality, the identity of the lyric writer.  But I assume that either Marion or Julia wrote the lyrics to Kathleen Mavourneen.  Further study of this debate might turn up the idea that Marion and Julia are the same person, but I cannot state this at this time.  So let us put this matter to rest with the thought that the lyrics to Kathleen Mavourneen were written by a woman named Mrs. Crawford.

The point that I must make clear is that the both the music and the words came from English authors. Specifically they did not come from Irish authors.  How such a situation exists baffles me to this day… But nonetheless the words and the music are supplied by English authors.  And so it is that 165 years later, this essay was produced in the title of “Upon Being Self-Hoodwinked.”

We know very little about Mrs. Crawford except her maiden name was Cavan and she was English who used the British postal system to send the words to Crouch.  There is no record that Mrs. Crawford ever was in the Emerald Isle.

Now as for Crouch, he was a colorful and prolific character.  He was born in 1803 and lived for more than 80 years.  During his lifetime Crouch, the composer, managed to acquire five wives.  The indications are that he was not a bigamist but rather he acquired the wives one at a time.  That is only the beginning.  Along with the five wives, the biographers say, Crouch fathered 27 children.  In those days it must have been that composing music was a lucrative profession to support such a family.

Composer Crouch, we now learn, lived in England until around 1850, at which time he set sail for America and wound up in California.  So in sum and substance the composer and the lyricist for “Kathleen Mavourneen” apparently never set a foot on Irish soil.  How the two of them could have produced a beautiful Irish folk song is beyond me.  But boys and girls, if we like it or not, these are the facts.

Both Mr. Crouch and Mrs. Crawford were not Irish but rather they came from England which had had its foot on Ireland’s neck for 850 years.  And so it is that I have enjoyed the words and the lyrics to “Kathleen Mavourneen” for more years than I can remember.  But I must conclude, as the title to this essay states, that your Uncle Ezra was self-hoodwinked.  If all of the self-hoodwinked mysteries turn out as well as the story about “Kathleen Mavourneen” we should have more of them.

Always remember as you go forward to ponder this beautiful song, how did composer Crouch find time to father 27 children?  And none of them were produced from a union of Mrs. Crawford and composer Crouch.  From this time forward, I will think about those 27 children instead of enjoying the music to “Kathleen Mavourneen.”



April 28, 2011

Essay 547


Kevin’s commentary: Read more of Pop’s thoughts on this song and its background here. Also, I wonder if my grandfather struggles with poetry because he doesn’t read enough of it. Poetry is, after all, usually fictional or at least not literally true or directly informative in the way that Pop would prefer to have his literature. It’s possible that he writes it off in the same way he writes off fiction. I am surprised that his English-major daughter has not chastised him on such a practice, if it were the case, in the many years since her graduation.


There are several conditions and practices in the world that authorize men to have multiple wives.  In the western world where Christianity prevails, we limit one man to one woman at a time.  A knock on Mormonism is that for years the Mormons insisted that their followers could have multiple wives.  It seems that Orrin Hatch, for example, the Senator from Utah, contends that he is a product of a Mormon marriage wherein he was the son of the number two or three or four wife.

In the interests of equality, it would be significant for me to find out if there is a religion that practices multiple husbands.  Certainly there must be some hot-blooded women who could handle two or three husbands at a time.  Currently that is against the law in the United States but I see no reason why the issue of multiple husbands could not be explored.  It has always been my interest in seeing that females were accorded equal opportunity.

The purpose of this essayette is to explore the possibility of multiple husbands for women, much as the Muslims provide multiple wives for their adherents’ marriages.  I do not expect that this thought of multiple husbands will sweep the country but in the interests of fairness, what could be wrong with looking into the possibility that some women desire and prefer multiple simultaneous husbands?  Yes, I know about the right-wingers who contend that a marriage should be between one woman and one man.  But I dismiss the thought processes of right-wingers.  As a matter of fact, they have no thought processes.

So this essayette is provided simply for the purpose of exploring the possibility that somewhere, some time, somehow there may be a religion or a practice that authorizes multiple husbands for women.  If love is a wonderful thing, what could be wrong with one woman having multiple husbands?  So I will leave you with those thoughts, recognizing that not many people will follow such a practice, but in any event I think it is worth considering.



August 3, 2011

Essay 569

Kevin Shepherd:

I wonder how many husbands Pop thinks that Judy ought to handle. I do wonder though, if there’s ever been a matriarchal culture where this was standard practice. Surely there has to be at least one?

Also, read more about Pop’s thoughts on this subject here.


A few years back, there was a popular television program called “You Bet Your Life.”  Groucho Marx, the wise-cracking brother from the Marx brothers, was the master of ceremonies for this program.  There came an occasion when Groucho Marx, in response to a question from one of his participants, asked, “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”  That occasion took place perhaps 40 years ago and in the meantime television has moved on to reality shows and things of that nature.  In any event, “You Bet Your Life” was an entertaining program.  Groucho Marx was an entertaining host.

Now all these years later, we have an essay which I have concluded should be entitled “Your Lying Ears.”  I do not mean this in a derogatory sense at all.  But there are occasions when a listener will cherry pick responses from those who are questioned until he has the answer he wants.  In this essay, I want to call on Dave Muldowney, a certified public accountant; John Denver, the popular song writer; and, finally, Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense.  I hope that those three fellows might illustrate what this essay attempts to prove when it suggests that we all are tempted by happy words that constitute lying ears.


The first reference would be to Dave Muldowney, who will illustrate what I am trying to say about your lying ears.  Dave is a long-time friend who has been a certified public accountant for a number of years in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.  About five years ago, Dave discovered that macular degeneration had set in on his eyesight and he was forced to give up his practice as a public accountant.  Nonetheless Dave still goes to the office and tries to read the newspaper with what is remaining of his eyesight.  As Dave explained it to me, he can see nothing in front of him but fortunately he has some peripheral vision.  It is not enough to drive a car but it does permit him to show off while climbing the 18 steps to his former office.

Now that he has lost his sight, Dave tells me that he has questioners who want to know how much he can see and whether he is feeling alright.  So on the occasion when I last saw Dave, we had a longer conversation about the state of his eyesight and how he feels about his reduced status as visitor to the office where he used to be a principal.

Now you see, I am referring to a discussion between two blind men.  Dave tells me that when a questioner asks him about how he feels about his reduced status, he answers something to the effect that “It’s OK.”  Similarly, he answers questions about his health by saying that it is all right.  But in a discussion between two blind men, Dave threw the shackles off.  He told me that there were days when he resented the questions about his health and the status of his former eyesight.  But those answers were not exactly what he told his questioners.  When a sighted person left a conversation with Dave Muldowney, I am certain that the sighted person would say that Dave is in good shape and surviving blindness as well as could be expected.

But in our conversation Dave told me about the occasions when someone moved a chair without telling him and caused him to stumble.  I have the same trouble with someone rearranging my toothpaste or the furniture.  But in the final analysis, when Dave is questioned by his children and friends, they may come away with an impression that is not perfectly accurate.  That is quite alright with Dave, as it is alright with me.  It all works out when two blind men, such as Dave and myself, can have a frank discussion with no holds barred.  And so you see that your lying ears after a discussion with Dave Muldowney or myself might lead you to a conclusion that is not entirely appropriate.  If that is the case, both of us would be sorry about that conclusion.  But it may be where both of us wanted to lead you.  So much for Doctor Muldowney, who by the way is a great conversationalist.


The second citation of “Your Lying Ears” has to do with John Denver.  As a matter of fact, John Denver was born Henry John Deutschendorf.  When he moved to Denver, he adopted the name of that town as his surname.  Denver was a magnificent composer of songs that had a slightly country taste to them.  One of his songs, at the end of his career, was called “Some Days Are Diamonds and Some Days Are Stones.”  Here are some lines from the first verse.

When you ask how I’ve been here without you,

I’d like to say I’ve been fine and I do.

We both know the truth is hard to come by.

If I told the truth, that’s not quite true.

It might be noted that Denver wrote that song sometime after his wife filed for divorce.  It is not entirely a pleasant thought.  More than anything else, it illustrates the point that what you hear is not actually what is meant by the person being questioned.

Shortly after the song “Some Days Are Diamonds and Some Days Are Stones” was published, Denver took the delivery of a new airplane which he had just purchased.  In the process, he flew the airplane into the ground and was killed.  I suspect that his age was less than 40.  But in the end, what Denver was saying was that “That’s not quite true.”  Well, here is a second case in which the person questioned answers in a misleading fashion.


Last week was the occasion of the retirement of Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense.  Gates had a long and distinguished career, winding up as the Secretary of Defense for both the Bush and the Obama administrations.   In his final press conference, Gates felt more or less free to say what he had known all along.  In answer to a question, Gates said, “Governments lie to each other regularly.”

The fact of the matter is that we knew this about the Afghans, the Pakistanis, and many other governments, but coming from Robert Gates, it established the point that you shouldn’t believe what your ears are telling you.


So there are three cases involving Dave Muldowney, John Denver, and Robert Gates.  I do not suggest that only these three men give caution against having your ears lied to.  For starters, I will cite the case of the maid at the Sofitel Hotel in New York who claimed that she had been raped by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund.  Cyrus Vance, the New York prosecuting attorney, thought he had a big one on the hook.  But as it turns out, Cyrus Vance II is the one who has been impaled.  For the ten days it lasted, there were laughs for everybody.  In the end, it appears that Strauss-Kahn may well be a free man and may even wind up as the President of France.

But it does illustrate the point that your lying ears can get you into serious trouble.   And so the warning about your lying eyes also extends to your lying ears.  That is to say that your ears may be no more reliable than your eyes.



July 1, 2011

Essay 561


Kevin’s commentary: The phrase “on the occasion when I last saw Dave” stands out to me here, because — as a conversation between two blind men — it could not be further from the truth. But to say that ‘seeing’ someone is linguistically the same as meeting or interacting with them makes me wonder: should Pop and his blind compatriots start saying things like “on the occasion when I last heard Dave?” I feel like the answer is probably no, but the subject is worthy of a little thought.

P.S. Gates is now TWO secretaries ago! Time flies. I remember that mom used to give me quizzes on our government when I was a teenager and I remember being stumped when the Defense Secretary turned out to be no longer Rumsfeld.

Jesus, I hated Rumsfeld.



This morning’s New York Times had a long story coming from Kansas City having to do with the ultimate in revivals.  It described a “perpetual religious revival” which seems to be attracting a large number of followers.

Unfortunately the sponsors of the perpetual revival entitled their efforts as the International House of Prayer.  For this they have been taken to court because of the play on words involving the International House of Pancakes.  If I had my way, I would vote for the pancake people.

The revival phenomenon seems to be confined to the Protestant faith.  As you may recall, I spent my first thirteen years being dragged to church services – the Baptist, the Pentecostal, the Evangelical, and, finally, a branch of the Baptist faith which eschewed all kinds of musical accompaniment.  Needless to say, I loathed every hour that I spent listening to the blatherings of those Protestant preachers.  The end of the line approached while I was attending the “Free Will Baptist” Church.  The preacher asked that I join a children’s choir singing, “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.”  I decided that this was the end of my association with religion and informed my parents and the preacher.  This did not go over particularly well, but the preacher and my parents accepted it as inevitable.

Before continuing with the subject of revivals, there needs to be some differentiation among the variety of Protestant faiths.  In some branches of the Protestant faith, revivals are an important segment of the worship service.  In the more sophisticated circles of Protestantism, such as the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians, revivals are largely unheard of.

Now in the Protestant faith, there is more than one definition of revival.  There are those who believe that at the end of time, Jesus will revisit the Earth and people will leave the graveyards and flock to his side.  The report in The New York Times about the International House of Prayer group in Kansas City subscribes to this belief.  They are preaching the philosophy that prayer will lead to the end times which they hope will occur rapidly.  They believe that Jesus will return to the Earth resulting in the depopulation of our graveyards.

I do not subscribe to this apocalyptic view.  I had thought that this view was scores of years out of date.  But according to the story in the Times of this morning, apparently there are those who believe that with prayer, the end of the world will occur and Jesus will return.  At that point, people will leave their graves.

As I have said, I do not believe in that view at all.  On the other hand, there is a second definition of revival which involves periodic revitalization of the faith.  Apparently going to church every week is not enough for those worshipers with religious fervor.  From time to time, in the evangelistic branches of Protestantism, revivals are held.  It usually is one week in length.

Now I have seen the results of revivals and I will try to give you a view that is as unprejudiced as I can make it.  In the Protestant faith there are a collection of preachers who style themselves as the “evangelistic preachers.”   They go from one revival to another.  Their sermons preach an apocalyptic view of why we must all be saved.

In the churches that I attended and which I loathe, for a revival, churches were decorated.  When the revival started, the ordinary preacher who usually presided over ceremonies introduced the evangelistic preacher with great ceremony.  At that point the preacher would take a back seat and leave the proceedings to the evangelistic preacher.  The evangelist preacher generally was a master at exciting the crowds.  By the time he had finished his sermon, there were people standing in the aisles praising Jesus.  There were others who were so overcome by emotion that they lay on the floor.  As a general rule, the evangelistic preachers would conduct their ceremonies over a one-week period.  I might observe that at the end of that week, the religious fervor had tended to subside and it was time for the evangelistic preacher to go somewhere else.

W.C. Handy, the prominent composer of blues music, referred to this phenomenon.  In one of his lyrics, probably in The Beale Street Blues, Mr. Handy said that “sinners would be sweating like a sinner on revival day.”  I am at a loss to know what a sinner would be doing in a church service but that is what Mr. Handy wrote.

When the revival week was finished, the church would return to normal and the decorations would be removed.  From time to time, people would comment on the wonderful revival that they had witnessed.  But it has always baffled me that church goers attending weekly services would require a revival to make them shout in praise of the deities.  In any case, the evangelistic preachers had a good thing going from town to town and eating chicken prepared by members of the congregations.

One of the most striking episodes came when an evangelistic preacher, accompanied by a woman, appeared at a church that I was attending at the time.  The woman asserted that she had in fact visited Hell and took perhaps 30 minutes to describe the horrors that it contained.  I was nine or ten years old and I rejected the thought out of hand.

It now appears that the International House of Prayer is a logical successor to the evangelistic preachers who travelled from town to town.  In hindsight, I must say that I admired the ability of the evangelists to excite a crowd but I was unmoved by their appeals for piety on my behalf.   I have no view on the end of times except to denounce it as a complete fraud.  If the preachers want to engage in perpetual prayer, that is alright with me because it will keep them out of trouble.  But I must say before the end of this essay, that I hope the lawsuit by the International House of Pancakes has a happy ending.



July 10, 2011

Essay 563


Kevin’s commentary: When it comes to end-of-the-world philosophies, I’ve always found this wikipedia article particularly fun: Looks like we’ve got a bit of a reprieve — despite eleven predictions of the end of the world since 2010, there are zero at time of press for 2013. Sigh. I always feel kinda bad for the people who really buy into that garbage, and sell their homes and stuff. And all the general hysteria of the past few years seems to be culminating in a breed of Americans called the “preppers” who make it their main concern to always be prepared for the apocalypse. They have meetings and forums and stores and folk heroes and the whole shebang. I think there’s even a reality show now. This should surprise no one.



Those of you who parse these pages of Ezra’s Essays will recall the name of Sven Lernevall.  Mr. Lernevall is an accomplished fellow who speaks his native tongue of Swedish.  Also he and his wife Ella speak flawless English.  Interestingly, the accent that he brings to the English language is of the American variety.  I had thought that, being a European, his accent would be more British than American but that is not the case.

Mr. Lernevall was born six months after my birth in 1922.  Because he is younger than me, I have taken it upon myself to be sort of his elder brother.  I have warned him about the danger of smoking too much and hanging around with loose girls.  That is the function that every older brother must perform for those who are younger.  Sven is now at 88½ years of age, which makes him six months younger than I am.

Upon the occasion of my 89th birthday, Sven sent me the following email.  Here is what it said:

“As I am a little younger than you, Ed, I look upon you as an example of how an old man can take care of his life.  Not many people of your age are so happy as you, writing essays and so on.  And I admire the way that you deal with your sight handicap.  More action than lamentation.  I Guess that’s the guts of an American soldier.”

In no way do I deserve all of the praise that Sven has brought to me in his birthday message.  But as always, there are jewels in what Sven has to say.  Remember that English is his second or third language when he says “More action than lamentation.”  That tells you a little bit about the depth of Sven’s intellect.  And finally there is the line about the “guts of an American soldier.”  From my writings, Sven knows about my service in the American military.  I do not worship the military of this nation or any other.  But when war comes, as it did in the case of World War II in 1941, there is no choice but to deal with it.  I hope that in my service to the American military, we earned the high praise that Sven has heaped upon it.  From my standpoint, I did what I had to do with respect to being a soldier, and as soon as it was possible, I abandoned that career once the war was finished.

But there are thoughts that go with Sven’s offering of “the guts of an American soldier.”  I have given a thought to that line on this very rainy afternoon during the stock market plunge.  My service was not outstanding.  I did what needed to be done, and as soon as possible I told the Army goodbye.  I always bore in mind the corporal’s comment during my basic training, when he told me, “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking.  You get paid to do what you are told.”  That may be pretty good advice for all of us.

But as long as Sven has brought up the subject of the American soldier, I have three comments that are of some significance here.  In the first place, I enlisted in the American Army as a means of protection for the United States of America.  I had hoped that, when the war was done, we would bring justice to those who had sown terror upon our troops and upon occupied nations.  So the first comment is that I believed and hoped that my presence in the American military would bring terror to the hearts of our enemies.

Secondly, I hope that the enemies of the United States will treat our prisoners as well as all of those in the occupied territories with great compassion.  I saw what was done to the Italian people after they switched sides and came to us.  They were starved and beaten and treated cruelly by the Germans.  So my second point is that I hoped that our enemies would treat our prisoners and the citizens in the occupied territories with a degree of compassion.

Finally there is the matter of hope.  I thought that my service would bring hope to all of those who were oppressed in the war, with the thought that they would live to see a better day.  I know that the victims of the Holocaust must have given up hope because no one seemed to come to their rescue.  But when the final accounting is made, I would want my service to bring hope to our prisoners of war and to those who are oppressed by occupying forces.

Well, so there are three of the varying thoughts about terror, compassion, and hope.  My service to the American military ended in 1945, which is now the better part of 65 or 70 years ago.  But when Sven speaks of the American soldier, I realize that he does this out of admiration, which I greatly appreciate.  Perhaps this small essay in response will make it clear that my service was intended to bring terror to our enemies, compassion to our prisoners of war and those who are oppressed, and hope to everyone who is downtrodden and under the heel of the conqueror.  My thoughts have not been expressed in elegant terms.  But I left the American army in 1945 and only at this late date do I have Sven’s message.  I hope that my response is adequate, even if it is inelegant.



August 11, 2011

Essay 570


Kevin’s commentary:  I don’t think this was a particularly inelegant essay. It occurs to me to ask, though – if these were Pop’s three goals going in, how effective did he consider himself at meeting them on the way out? I know Pop won’t write about the war so that might make this a tricky question to answer, but I hope nevertheless that he will give us some understanding of how things looked from the immediate other side of the conflict.


Everyone knows that I am not a man of great wealth.  The fact that I worked for 43 years for AT&T will tell you that I am not a man of considerable means.  But nonetheless I smoked cigarettes for 16 years, starting at age 16.  Finally I quit smoking cigarettes or, as my father put it, sucking cigarettes at age 32 in 1954.

It used to be that the cigarette companies had us all conned.  Every night, for 15 minutes we would listen to Fred Waring and his wonderful choir of Pennsylvanians.  Fred Waring’s program was sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes.  It was a case of the tobacco manufacturers of cigarettes trying to persuade us that they were benevolent fellows.

I was smoking at the time I joined the American Army and continued for quite a while thereafter.  During the Second World War, it is my recollection that at the PXs where soldiers bought their cigarettes, the cost was five cents a pack.  I’ll repeat: five cents a pack.  That low cost almost made it imperative that there was nothing to do but smoke a cigarette.

When the American troops reached Paris, it was widely reported – including the reports of Ernie Pyle – that they were identified as Americans because they were smoking Camel cigarettes.  On a soldier’s pay these days, it would be very difficult to sustain a modest smoking habit.

Here is the cost of cigarettes these days.  In New York, a package of cigarettes will cost you $12.50.  In New Jersey, the price is $8 per package.  In Illinois, the cost is $10.25, in Hawaii $9.73.  In Missouri, my home state, the cost of a package of cigarettes is $5.89.  At the bottom of the scale, there is West Virginia, which is $4.84.  Remember, these are the prices of one package of cigarettes – not a carton – just one package of cigarettes.  (Source: Nic Turiciano, Price of cigarettes by state, 2012)

In New York, where the price of a pack is $12.50, the cost of a single cigarette is 53 cents.  In New York, a carton of cigarettes would be $125.  So you can see why cigarette vendors keep their supplies locked up when customers appear.

Based on the foregoing prices, it would seem to me that only wealthy people could consume cigarettes.  The cost increase from World War II, for example, comes about because of increased taxation with the plain attempt to make the cost so excessive that people would stop using them.

I have not consumed cigarettes since 1954 so I had gotten out of date on what they might cost.  In 1951, I was part of a five-member bargaining team to deal with AT&T Long Lines on a new contract for its employees.  Even at AT&T, one of the most conservative companies, the people who made up the meeting room always left a few cigars and two or three packages of cigarettes.  There was an occasion when Vernon Bagnell, the Vice President of Personnel, cursed himself because he was indulging in “this filthy habit.”  If I had had the guts to do it, I would have challenged Mr. Bagnell for the two of us to stop smoking on that occasion.  But I did not do it.

At the time that people smoked, there were all kinds of accessories that made it easy to accommodate them.  For example, there was an ashtray which I received as a gift from the Swedish government that probably weighed somewhere between four and five pounds.  It was a beautiful sort of sculpture.  When I quit smoking, it went for naught.

During the years of my smoking, there were all kinds of accompaniments.  For example, the single best lighter in the whole world was the Zippo.  Zippos could be bought at the PX for about a dollar or a dollar and a half.  On the other end of the scale, there were lighters made by Ronson which were elegant.  They probably cost eight to ten dollars.  I recall one that had a cigarette lighter at the top and in the middle it opened up to conceal eight or ten cigarettes on the left-hand side and eight or ten on the right-hand side.  It made an elegant showpiece but in point of fact the cigarettes were removed from the original package and tended to lose freshness by the end of smoking the cigarette case.  The result would be harshness coming from stale cigarettes.

It appears now at age 90 that I must have escaped lung cancer, which is the bane of cigarette smoking.  As I said, I quit in 1954 but during the years when I smoked, there were plenty of burns on furniture and tablecloths and I do not ever wish to go back to that time.

There is one aspect of cigarettes having to do with advertising.  Every restaurant, for example, had its own match cover.  There were even those who collected match covers.  For a long while as my career at AT&T came to an end, I used to always take a match cover so I could remember the name of the restaurant and how much I was charged so that I could enter it on my expense account.  As you might imagine, I always brought home a collection of such match covers.  When I had saved a large number of match covers, I offered them to one of my grandsons who was then about 15 or 16 years old.  His mother intervened on the ground that the grandson might set fire to the whole house.  This would be self-defeating, for if the fire consumed the house, it would also consume the match covers.

I do not wish to make light of smoking.  Too many friends of mine in the end battled lung cancer.  It is a dreadful disease.  But in my own case, it appears that my quitting smoking in 1954 saved me from that ailment.

Now as for Vernon Bagnell, the Vice President of AT&T, he was the most dreadfully dull person I have ever known.  Bagnell had kept on smoking and in about 1957 he ran for a commuter train and suffered a heart attack.  But I always go easy on Vernon Bagnell because he is the guy who promoted me from a member of the union bargaining team to a management position.  Granted that the management position was about as low as one could get, but it was a management position nonetheless.  I regret that Vernon Bagnell was a casualty of heavy smoking.

But as the title suggests in this essay, it would take a man with much greater means than most of us have to keep on smoking at the rates published herein.  If I were a woman in search of a husband, I might look for a man with cigarette stains on his fingers and who has nicotine on his breath.  Such a man, once married, would probably not last very long, I believe.  The prospective bride might have to nurse him through his illness that would soon follow.  You must know that to smoke at the rates that are charged these days, one must be very affluent.  If rich widowhood is in her plans, this may be the thing to do.

Now at this rate I believe that I have told you all there is to say with respect to smoking.  I have been free of cigarettes for a good bit more than 50 years.  And I would not ever consider lighting up a cigarette.


There is one more consideration that now comes to mind.  There was a woman named Rita Snedicker who was the secretary to my boss.  On the day that I announced that I was no longer a smoker, Rita Snedicker  said it was her bed-rock belief that within a day or two I would be back smoking again.  That was in 1954.  Rita had all of the earmarks of a veteran smoker.  Her skin was wrinkled.  I had no inclination to cuddle up with old Rita.  But in point of fact, she disappeared from the scene and I can report that I no longer suck cigarettes, as my father said.

There are those of you who may recall an incident over the past four or five years when Mayor Bloomberg of New York decreed that there would be no more smoking in bars.  The bar owners said that this would put them out of business.   But as it turned out, no such thing has happened.  Patrons still patronize the bars.   The fact of the matter, as it turns out, is that the ban on smoking in bars has been a great success.  The bartenders and waitresses are not breathing in second-hand smoke.  I would say that we all owe a great debt of gratitude to Mayor Bloomberg.  Now, if he can do the same thing for the gun problem, he ought to be beatified.

This little essay came about as a result of my astonishment at the prices that are being paid for cigarettes these days.  With the drop in demand for cigarettes at these prices, my guess is that the cigarettes will be stale by the time they finally reach the consumer.  If so, that will be a boon to mankind.  But the fact of the matter is that it would take a much wealthier person than myself to smoke these days.  I am glad – even deliciously glad – that that [sic] period in my life has come to an end and that I am still hobbling around in my version of dancing.



January 30, 2013

Essay 746


Kevin’s commentary: had no idea that Pop was a smoker for so long. I guess I thought it was just a wartime thing. I have a lighter or two of his but I never put two and two together that he was a long-time smoker.  Come to think of it, I don’t actually know if I was the grandson in question in the essay. I’m pretty sure I’m not, but it’s entirely possible that Spooky Suze intervened before I even got to see them.


This essay is about the man who works at a feed store in eastern Kansas. It comes to me from a woman who was born in Olomouc in the Czech Republic.  Since her birth, she has migrated first to England and then to New York.  So you see, there are international implications to this simple essay.

As you can understand, I have to get into the act here.  In July of 1951, my employer, the AT&T Company, decided to offer me a promotion.  The catch was that it would require me to move from St. Louis, my home, to Kansas City.  I argued very slightly with the vice president, who offered me the job, but in the end I took the position.  But if my memory is anywhere near accurate, I believe the pay at the new position was $450 per month.  That is not a princely sum, but in 1951 it was adequate.

I went to a bank which was patronized by my employer and asked for a loan.  It seems to me that everybody who worked at the bank had the title of vice president.  In my case, this vice president looked at my earnings and said that he would reluctantly grant me a mortgage.  And so it was that I bought my first house in a town called Prairie Village, Kansas.  The name of the town is not as formidable as it may seem in that it was only about eight miles from my home to my office in Kansas City.  However, the word prairie in the title of my new home was quite accurate.  My new home was located on what had been a prairie before.

When the residents began to move into this new neighborhood, there were a few inconveniences.  Actually, there were no deli’s, no drug stores, and no A&P Markets, but there was a feed store.  For those of you who are not familiar with feed stores, they sell feed for animals such as horses and dogs.  When I moved into that house, I did not have a horse.   But there was a feed store which offered its services to those who needed feed for cattle and dogs.

I lived in the Prairie Village home for two years, for which I paid $15,000.  When I sold it two years later, I was lucky to get $15,000 in spite of all the improvements I had made.  But that is the way of corporate life in a large company such as AT&T.


Now we shift to the person who told me this story.  Her ancestral home is in the town of Olomouc, which is in the Czech Republic.  She migrated first to England and then to the United States.  The lady who told me this story lost her father in the Holocaust that Adolph Hitler and the Nazis inflicted upon the world and it came to be called World War II.

So as an essay writer, it seemed to me that this incident involving the feed store clerk had an element that must be remembered.  This incident did not take place in my former home of Prairie Village.  It took place in a town very near Prairie Village, Kansas.  The man in question at the feed store was apparently an employee.  He was not the owner of the feed store.  For purposes of reference, he was indeed a black man.  For better or worse, he was the fellow, as many black men were, who did the heavy lifting.  And in a feed store, there was plenty of heavy lifting to do.

As you might imagine, this gentleman at the feed store followed the election of President Barack Obama.  When it came time for Mr. Obama to start his second term in office, the man at the feed store thought it should be recognized.  And as a Democrat who knows a little bit about life in eastern Kansas, I think so too.

As the time drew near for Mr. Obama’s inauguration, the man at the feed store did some inquiries, asking if there were any plans for flags on buildings to commemorate the second term of Mr. Obama.

Now the fact of the matter is that Kansas is a rock-ribbed Republican state and is well on its way toward becoming prehistoric.  The governor of Kansas is Sam Brownback who used to be a senator.  For example, when it comes to abortions, Sam Brownback and the Republican administration are in the vanguard to stamp out any hint of abortions.  It is the intention of the Republican Party under Sam Brownback to take Kansas backwards in time.  Curiously, when I lived in Kansas I did not realize that there was a propensity for going backwards as we progressed.  Remember, this is the state that had a doctor who performed abortions murdered.

Well, to get back to the story, the man at the feed store found that there was no enthusiasm for decorating the buildings in a town in eastern Kansas.  So this clerk at the feed store who does the heavy lifting proceeded to buy American flags that he attached to telephone poles.  Who can say anything negative about the American flag?  But as inauguration day approached on Monday of last week at the feed store, he placed the flags on the telephone poles in this small town in eastern Kansas.

Now if I had returned to this small town in Kansas, I would feel obliged to ask what we were celebrating.  Now remember, this is rock-ribbed Republican territory.  If I were told that the flags were to celebrate the second inauguration of Barack Obama, I would be thrilled and excited.  In this backward-looking section of the United States, it is a phenomenon of the greatest importance to recognize the second inauguration of a Democratic president.  And to make matters a bit more poignant, he is also a black man, as is the case with the clerk at the feed store.

I am certain that the town fathers of this small town in eastern Kansas would be aghast to be asked to pay for the flags.  So the man at the feed store paid for them himself.  And if the town looked more festive on that January day, it must be attributed to the efforts of the man at the feed store.

This is a very small incident in the affairs of the United States of America.  But coming as it was at the inauguration of a black man as president, the efforts by the man at the feed store take on greater significance.  For myself, I am more than happy that the man at the feed store provided the flags to decorate the town.  If I knew him, I would offer to pay for the cost of the flags that he used to decorate the town.  While I cannot pay for the flags, I will tell him through the grapevine that I need to write this essay so that his efforts should not go unrecognized.  If I ever run across this fellow at the feed store, I will make sure as an old Democrat and as a member of the American Army to hug him vigorously.

So that is the story of the man at the feed store.  It gives me great pride as an essayist to recognize someone who takes the bull by the horns and does something.  Mr. Obama will not be eligible to be inaugurated anymore.  But I am certain that the man at the feed store will find other events that need to be celebrated.  And he should know that there are people in far off New Jersey who applaud his efforts.  So it is that this essayist says to the man at the feed store, “Go get ‘em.”



January 30, 2013

Essay 735


Kevin’s commentary: This essay made me smile more than any has for a few weeks. I particularly liked “is well on its way toward becoming prehistoric” as a turn of phrase. I think the main evidence for this claim is that a town there had feed stores but did not have a deli, which is to say that in that town it was easier to get animal feed than it was to get a sandwich. This is roughly how things were long long ago.

Now the obvious question is how Pop came to be acquainted with this Czech woman — hopefully we can get an answer to that soon.

Also, this essay reminds me of just how crazy inflation is. Right now I have to pay about $925 each month to rent a single room in the house of a bitter Chinese man who refuses to turn the heat on in February. It strikes me as very odd that were he to make the same figure today, 1951-Pop would have had to work two full months and spend money on nothing else, just for that privilege.


In the last few months here in the great luscious garden state of New Jersey, we find that teachers are retiring in droves or perhaps flocks.  They are retiring at this time because they sense that shortly their benefits may be curtailed or removed through the generosity of the new governor, Chris Christie.  This is probably a good bet in view of the fact that Governor Walker of Wisconsin is leading the charge among Republican governors to skewer state employees.  Other Republican governors, particularly Chris Christie in New Jersey, are hot to do the same thing.

Why the governors announced the intent upon punishing teachers is beyond me.  In recent weeks, I wrote an essay the burden of which was that if we diminish teachers, we are shooting ourselves in “both feets.”  Several months have passed since that essay was distributed, but at this moment I can only say that my thoughts are the same.  By destroying teachers, the governors are indeed shooting our youths and the future of this country in “both feets.”

Here in New Jersey we have Chris Christie, a bully for a governor who is being touted as the next president of the United States.  He contends that in 2012, he will not necessarily be ready but he leaves open the idea that in future elections, say 2016, he will be ready.  If we elect Chris Christie to the Presidency, it will be a monumental mistake on the order of the ascendancy of George W. Bush.

Some of the teachers are retiring to enjoy some of “those golden years” that have been talked about so much.  As someone who has experience with “those golden years,” I take the liberty to inform teachers that the golden years are not that great after all.  I know that students such as myself shouldn’t be talking back to teachers, but in this case I suspect that I know more than they do.


There are millions of ailments that afflict teachers and other oldsters in their declining years.  To choose only one of them, there is the matter of strokes.  Strokes are usually followed by seizures, both of which will impede the memory process.  I should point out that strokes and their following seizures have to do with the brain and not with the heart.

All of this results in an affliction called aphasia.  Aphasia means that you cannot call names to mind, particularly nouns.  And in other cases, when the proper name does not come to mind, the stroke sufferer will make a substitution which he or she never intended.  Perhaps some of you will recall an essay done three years back having to do with mail.  On this occasion my wife, Miss Chicka, had gone to the post office to mail our tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service.  When she entered the car, I asked her, “Did you mail the umbrella?”  Obviously, umbrellas had nothing to do with the whole procedure but those word substitutions happen frequently.  Even though I am 13 years down the line from my stroke, those word substitutions still plague me.  Perhaps I should not use the word “plague,” because some of the substitutions have a degree of humor in them.

Recently one of the Carr daughters saw an advertisement for fancy cheesecakes produced on the West Coast.  She had a collection sent to me.  The cheesecakes, which were extraordinarily delicious, stuck in my mind as  “camel’s hair” and were pronounced as such.  Camels have very little to do with producing cheesecakes but unconsciously that is what I have said.  It has become ingrained in my memory bank, so that when I ask for cheesecake, I have to repress the thought of saying “camel’s hair.”

The next item has to do with an exercise program wherein I ride my stationary bicycle, ordinarily for fifty minutes four days a week.  In the 13 years since the stroke occurred, I have never been able to say the name “stationary” without thinking of a store in Summit, New Jersey owned by people named Siegel who sold stationery.  In recent days, I have found that there is an urge to use the word “sanitary bicycle” instead of “stationary bicycle.”  If there is a hidden meaning in all of these phrases, I would like to know about it.  Now let’s go on to another one.

I am perhaps the world’s greatest consumer of scallions.  In some circles, they are called green onions, which is what I called them until I moved to New Jersey.  After the scallions are bought at the grocery store, they have to go through a process in which I personally cut the bottoms off and the tops and strip some of the coarse growth on the outside.  In the last day or so, I asked Miss Chicka when I returned from the grocery to give me the cashews so that I could work.  And if somebody can tell me the connection between cashews and scallions, I would be a very eager listener.

Then there is the case of drumsticks.  They are a very small ice cream confection that had their start in the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.  When an ice cream seller discovered that he had no more cones, he asked a fellow concessionaire if he could wrap his ice cream in a waffle.  And thus was born the idea of drumsticks.  I eat more than my share of drumsticks because they are good but not necessarily because they are fun.  The same with the camel’s hair.  I do not usually use the substitute word for drumsticks.  Rather I come up with something on the order of “that little ice cream cone.”   And this morning, when I wanted to ask for milk chocolate, I called it MaryJane.

So there you have a sample of the golden years wherein aphasia may await you.  Naturally I hope that such an ailment never comes your way.  But if it does, laugh a little bit because aphasia will not necessarily kill you and it might give you a few laughs.

Now the second thing, aside from aphasia, in those golden years has to do with arthritis.  Those of us who have wandered into territory unanticipated by the Bible in terms of age, are often afflicted with arthritis.  It is a miserable condition and is relieved in my case by riding the stationary or sanitary bicycle.  I have consulted some of the finest physicians who practice in the field of orthopedics and they are uniform in telling me that there is no shot or no pill that will cure arthritis or even relieve it.

On an allied subject, it may be that my problems with aphasia are spreading to my consultant, Miss Chicka, who in searching for the word orthopedics produced the word orthodontist.  I did not know aphasia was a contagious disease, but obviously it is.

I am distressed to learn that so many teachers are leaving their profession before their time.  I understand that they must do what is in their best interests.  But here we are in these trying times trying to balance state budgets on the backs of school teachers.  When we attack teachers, we are destroying future generations for the sake of salving the feelings of politicians such as Governor Walker of Wisconsin and Christie here in New Jersey.  This is completely backwards.  That is what the Republican governors seem intent upon doing.  In the long run, we will all suffer from their attempts to use the teachers as scapegoats.

But in any case, teachers who are now retiring have my best wishes and my hopes that they will avoid aphasia and arthritis in their golden years.  Aphasia and arthritis won’t kill you, but they will make life unpleasant when they appear.



March 6, 2011

Essay 537


Kevin’s commentary: I wonder how much Miss Chicka charges for her consulting services, and how Pop affords them. Does he get a discount when she makes mistakes? These are important questions.

Oh, and drumsticks are freaking incredible. I had no idea Pop liked them but I am henceforth assuming that I am genetically predisposed to enjoy them. Maybe they’ll make a camel-hair-flavored version for him sometime soon.

Read more of Pop’s thoughts on Christie here and here, and read about the shooting one’s own feets essay here.