Archive for June 2013


The title suggests that there are two principles involved in this humble essay.  The first is, of course, British Petroleum (BP), an organization that is now hip deep or chest deep in grave trouble.  The second principle is the dermatologist named Gruber, whom you will come to know before this essay is finished.

Taking the principles in order, we start with British Petroleum or BP.  Today is the 37th day of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  I have no intention of reciting to you all of the disabilities that flow from that catastrophe.  We start with eleven men being killed, which is an improvement, because a few years ago, BP was involved in a similar incident in which fifteen men were killed.  As this essay is being dictated, British Petroleum is now attempting to use a device called a “top kill” in the name of shutting off the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  It is generally believed by people in the field that the top kill method will have no more than a 60 to 70% chance of working.  And in the meantime, lives are being destroyed and it will be many years or generations before the gulf returns to normal.

And so we leave BP on the grounds that you will hear great volumes of information about BP on the news broadcast every evening.  Now if the top kill method has only a 60 or 70% chance of working, the thought is that the spill will go on indefinitely.  In that time, I am certain that you will hear more about BP than you may ever want to know.

Now let us turn to Gabriel George Gruber, M.D., a dermatologist of the first order who is associated with the Summit Medical Group here in New Jersey.  Because I am fair skinned and because I am bald, I need the services of a person like Gabriel Gruber on more occasions than I would have wished.  Over the fifteen years that I have been associated withnDr. Gruber, he has been very conscientious in treating my needs in the dermatology process.  During that time, Dr. Gruber has discovered five cancerous growths on my scalp that have required surgery.  I suspect that without Dr. Gruber’s devotion to his work I might be in more trouble than I am.

Now that I am in my high eighties, I have developed some growths on my arms and on my body.  Dr. Gruber has carefully inspected those growths and has pronounced them benign.  He has told me that if I wish to have them removed, it could be done.  But he strongly recommended against it.  I am not a movie star, so having a few growths on my arms or body would be no problem.  But then Dr. Gruber enunciated the basic principles of Gruber’s Law.  He said that if we did not disturb those growths, chances are that for the rest of my life they would not disturb me.  So it is that I have let the growths, small as they are, take place as I have no cosmetic reason to violate Gruber’s law.

Now if we take the case of British Petroleum, we have an instance of British Petroleum violating the Earth to a depth of 18,000 feet.  When they did that, a tremendous force of gases came up the pipes, killing the eleven men, destroying the rig, and sinking it along with BP’s reputation.

I understand the need for fossil fuels.  I must point out that the use of those products in the United States is out of proportion to our population.  If I am reliably informed, we consume about 20% of the world’s energy while we have only 3% of the world’s population.  So you see we have got a major problem.  But in supplying that need for our use, the oil companies have gone further from shore and have drilled in uncharted waters and at uncharted depths.  In the case in point, it would appear to me that British Petroleum would have been much better to have left things alone and to have avoided penetrating the Earth to a depth of 18,000 feet.  As Gabriel Gruber said, “If you don’t bother them, they probably won’t ever bother you.”  BP disturbed the Earth and it struck back with a vengeance.

When nature is offended, it strikes back with strong measures.  I would argue in the case in point that BP violated the law as promulgated by Gabriel Gruber.  It will be many generations before the Gulf of Mexico is ever returned to normal.  The message here is that if a law such as that enunciated by Gabriel Gruber is broken, don’t be offended by what comes next.



May 30, 2010

Essay 454 (again)


Kevin’s commentary: This essay seems to be an extension or further thoughts on a similarly themed essay which you can find here.


Those of you who have followed Ezra’s Essays know that during my childhood I was forced to attend religious services of the Protestant faith.  There were the Southern Baptists, the Nazarenes, the Pentecostals, and, finally, the Free Will Baptists.  In the last case, the Free Willers banned musical accompaniment to their hymn singing on the grounds that pianos and organs were not invented at the time of Jesus.  When I pointed out that the church members who attended that church came to it in buses, automobiles, and street cars which also did not exist at the time of Jesus, that more or less made me an instant pariah which was a situation that I happily endured.

But in point of fact, I managed to retire from church-going in my 13th year, which would have been around 1935.  1935 is a long time ago and I thought that by this time the memories of those church services would have long disappeared.  But the fact is that on many occasions, I find myself singing Protestant hymns.  Recently I have been singing or humming, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arm.” [Publisher’s note — the linked song is a version covered by David Crowder, an artist I enjoy — not the original]  The words go: “Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arm, safe and secure from all alarm…”  It is a simple melody that has existed in my alleged brain for more than 75 years.

On other occasions I am humming or singing or thinking about words to a song whose name I have forgotten.  But the song goes: “I go to the garden alone, when the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear… is the voice of God and God alone.”  When it comes down to actual cases, I don’t claim that I have ever been in communication with God.  There are plenty of preachers who claim that they are in regular dialogue with God.  They are the sort of preachers that I detested as a child.

Another song that I sing is “In the sweet by and by”.  The words that follow are, “We shall meet on that beautiful shore.”  I assume that the songwriter meant the shores of the river Jordan.   However, the river Jordan is in Israel, and this song is about heaven.  But this is a small detail for hymn singers such as myself.

Then there is a hymn called, “Revive us Again.”  Among its lines are, “ Hallelujah! Thine the glory.  Hallelujah! Amen.  Hallelujah! Thine the glory.  Revive us again.”  For many years, I thought that hymn said, “Grind the Glory” rather than “Thine the Glory.”  I was the son of farmers and grinding the glory sounded better to me than “Thine the glory.”   Today when I hum that song, I still say, “Grind the glory.”

Perhaps the most famous Protestant hymn is “Amazing Grace.”  It was written by a sea captain who was involved in the slave trade business and regularly called at a place called Takoradi in Ghana, which used to be called the Gold Coast.  He picked up his slaves and took them to this country or to the Arab nations for auctioning.  It was his contention that there was a terrible storm at sea in which he almost drowned.

I have no idea what happened to the slaves he had aboard his ship.  But at any rate he retired; he went back to England and became a full-fledged Christian and eventually a Bishop in the Anglican church.  His name was John Newton.  I have always had a suspicion about Mr. Newton and his story of being hit by a storm at sea that almost drowned him.  In any case, he wrote the lyrics  to a Scottish tune that he called “Amazing Grace.”  One of the lines is: “Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.”  I believe that the use of the word “wretch” is an inspiration that I cannot erase from my memory.  Is there a more expressive line in Protestant hymns?  I doubt it.  I know all of the words to “Amazing Grace,” which do not need to be repeated here.  But the line about the wretch is a total king maker for me, a non-believer.  I believe that I am the “wretch” that Newton had in mind.  I am completely fulfilled.

There are several other hymns that bounce around in my brain, which I will not trouble you with here because they might convert you into Southern Baptists or Pentecostals or Nazarenes or Free-Will Baptists.  I will save you from that terrible fate.  But I thought it was an essay to let the world know that while I enjoy my position as a non-believer in religious matters, the fact is that those hymns have stuck with me for more than 75 years or thereabouts.  Why this is true, I have no idea.  My next door neighbor who is a harpist of great renown.  She is now studying the association between music and memory at Cambridge.

So you see there is some social underpinning for the matter of music and memory.  I will leave you with the thought of “Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.”  I take that personally as a full-fledged wretch, but I also doubt whether John Newton really endured the storm at sea which he said had saved him.  But who am I to say?  I enjoy the music and I enjoy the memories.  So I will go on humming or singing to myself hymns like “Leaning on the everlasting arm” and “Grind the glory.”



May 27, 2010

Essay 456


Kevin’s commentary:

The song that escaped Pop’s memory was called “In the Garden,” and is indeed quite pretty. Thanks to the magic of Google, I just spent the last hour or so listening to various hymns.  So I suppose now they’re a part of my memory as well, though they haven’t been drilled in there to the same extent that they have lodged in Pop’s mind. For the sake of full disclosure, the hymns which I’ve been listening to have primarily been covers as these tend to be of a substantially higher audio quality.

Still, though, there is certainly something to be appreciated.


As it has turned out with my having been born in the United States, my native tongue is the English language.  A good many years back, this language came from Saxon roots.  When it went to England, it became the Anglo-Saxon language.  Now of course it is simply the English language.

My comment here today has to do with two ancient usages of that language as well as a new addition to it.  It strikes me that the English language is now the lingua franca of the world and keeps on growing.  A great and good friend, Sven Lernevall of Stockholm, says that he regards the English language as a rich one.  If Sven says that our language is a rich one, I am inclined to agree with Mr. Lernevall.

At times like this, when the United States is in the midst of a mid-term political campaign, the language becomes even richer.  A good part of the time politicians invent new phrases which over time often become added to the language.  In the instant case, there is a woman in Nevada named Sharron Angle who is running against the majority leader of the United States Senate, Harry Reid.  I guess we will have to say Ms. Angle is given to making wild insinuations against our political system.  She has proposed doing away with Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs.

Harry Reid, the leader of the Senate, wanted to run against Sharron Angle, on the grounds that she would be the easiest to defeat because of the looseness of her intellect and language.  On the other hand, Harry Reid is so unpopular in the state of Nevada that at this late date he is slightly behind her in the polls.  If Ms. Angle is elected to the United States Senate, it will be a comedown of great proportions.  But on the other hand it will give satirists burgeoning material for their stories.  (Final tallies gave Reid a very slight edge.)

In the last few days, Sharron Angle has demanded of Harry Reid that he should “man up.”  I am at somewhat of a loss to know what “man up” means, but the innuendo is that it has sexual connotations.  Angle contends that Harry Reid, her opponent, is not man enough to be the leader of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate.  It also suggests that Harry Reid is not man enough to satisfy a woman.  I will not be able to comment on Harry Reid’s sexual performances.  The election is less than two weeks off.  Maybe after that time, “man up” may become an addition to the language or on the other hand it may just be forgotten.  In the meantime Sharron Angle is being copied by a good many of the right-wing commentators.  They would use their political prestige to accuse their opponents of not being “man up” to perform their duties.  I hope that Professor Lernevall will make note of this fact to see if it has added to the richness of the English language.

Now we move to a much more pleasant subject.  Since the 1960s, there is a well-known trio of folk singers called Peter, Paul and Mary.  They are identified as Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers.  All three of them sing, and Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey play guitars.  For the better part of 50 years, Peter, Paul and Mary have given me great pleasure.

I have a device that delivers a condensed audio version of the New York Times on five days of the week.  Miss Chicka is the governor of that device and every day she adds a song at the end.  These songs have usually stuck in my head as I go around thinking about them for days at a time.  As long as it is a Peter, Paul and Mary song, I find that experience quite welcome.  The current resident in my memory is a song called “I Can Hear the Whistle Blow a Hundred Miles.”  Mary Travers performs the lead role on this piece assisted by Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey giving soft vocal harmony throughout much of the song.

Mary Travers died recently after a long bout with cancer.  Her loss was devastating and I will miss her greatly.  In the song of “I Can Hear the Whistle Blow” her voice is pure and unadulterated.  There are no coloratura offerings in this piece; it is just plain old Mary Travers singing that song the way it should have been sung.

As the song draws to a close, there are these lines.

Without a shirt on my back,

Without a penny to my name,

Lord, I can’t go home this-a-way, this-a-way.

That record has been in our collection for perhaps 25 years.  One of the thoughts that haunts me is that Mary Travers is singing “this-a-way.”  It is highly reminiscent of my parents who spoke that sort of language.  They would add the “a” in “this-a-way” to a good many words.  They would say of politicians, “They can’t go on acting this-a-way” for example.  Or they would say to a son, “You can’t go staying out late at night this-a-way.”

That sort of speech has largely disappeared from the English language in recent years in this country.  But I think there is a lyrical and musical content to it and so I repeat, “Lord, I can’t go home this-a-way.”

Now we turn to another construction that seems to come from Appalachia.  People in that part of the country pronounce the word “can’t” as “cain’t.”  I don’t know why this is done but it seems to be a wedding of “can’t” and “ain’t.”   Bill Clinton, the former President, is now on the stump trying to elect more Democrats in this mid-term election.

Clinton is a native of the great state of Arkansas.  Very often in informal sessions, Clinton reverts to the Appalachian influence on the English language.  In a recent speech, Clinton said that having completed two terms as President, he “cain’t run anymore.”  My parents and their rural friends almost always pronounced “can’t” as “cain’t.”  I used to think that the use of “cain’t” reflected poorly on the speaker’s education.  But as time has gone on, I find more people using that expression, particularly Southerners such as Haley Barbour, the Governor of Mississippi.  I am left to say, “What the hell…”  It’s as good as “can’t.”  If I were to marry the Mary Travers lines from “whistle blowing,” I would say, “Lord, I cain’t go home this-a-way.”  That would seem to me to be an elegant phraseology.

My romance with the language of the Anglo Saxons has gone on for more than 80 years.  It is an interesting romance in that I find that as time goes on, I still find it absorbing.  That thought would apply to the use of both “this-a-way” and “cain’t.”

Now we have the new starter of “man up.”  If “man up” ever hangs around long enough to be a rival to “this-a-way” and “cain’t,” I will salute it at that time.  But in the meantime, mark me down as much preferring “cain’t” and “this-a-way” as distinguished from such small fry words as “man up”.  That adds nothing to the richness of the English language.



October 22, 2010

Essay 506


Kevin’s commentary:

Alas, Ms. Angle did not make it. So it goes.

In other news, I think “man up” is okay, though generally it is used to introduce a sexist statement. Nobody ever says that a female should “woman up” and go do something, because such phrasing would inevitably be followed by a stereotype and be frowned upon.


The title to this essay is a phonetic one as spoken by Americans.  Its real derivation comes from baseball.  If a hitter gets two hits in his four or five at-bats, he will announce that he had a “twofer.”  (If he was hitless in his times at bat, he would mournfully say, “I had an o-fer.”)  I am quite aware that in proper English the phrase should be “two-for-four at-bats” or “zero-for-four at-bats.”  But for all of the years that I have been involved in baseball, a two-hit game is called a twofer.

Now I have a twofer to offer you in this essay because it arrives at about the same time that my 88th birthday will occur.  The second part of the twofer is that the birthday coincides with five years of blindness.

These are not things that all of my readers should celebrate because I surely do not.  On the other hand, they are to be marked in my memory because of their longevity.

A twofer is a logical figure of speech because it refers to cases in which two items are given for the price of one.  In a double-header baseball game, we are able to see two games for the price of one.  Here in New York, there is a clothier named Joseph A. Banks who on many occasions will provide you with two suits for the price of one.  I won’t attest to the value of Mr. Banks’s suits, but it does show that the twofer is an accepted practice in American marketing.

Let us take the longevity of age to start with.  As it turns out, I have outlived my parents and all of my siblings in terms of the length of life.  There are two or three of my friends who have exceeded me in that department.  Howard Davis is now well into his 93rd year and Tom Scanlon recently celebrated his 90th birthday.  I am not quite sure how long my own life will last, but I only spend a very small amount of time thinking about it.  In the meantime, I salute Howard and Tom.

What I have learned about it is that life is not like an electric light switch that can be turned on and off.  It lets you down in stages so that in the end you are lucky just to keep moving.

There is much to be said for the light switch comparison.  It does not appear to be among the options granted to most of us.  So I suppose that we will have to be content with the gradual let down in our performance ratings and try to make the best of it.

Now on to the blindness issue which has hung around for five years.  Blindness in and of itself probably will not kill you.  If you make a mistake when walking and fall down some steps and break your neck, it might then kill you but that is the result of the fall, not of blindness.  I would not say that blindness has no painful features at all.  The pain arrives from the inability to do things that other people can do which are impossible for a blind person to accomplish.

When my case of blindness arrived back in 2005, in a perverse way I tended to welcome it.  This was not really a welcome to blindness but rather it was a welcome to the end of the tests and experiments that were taking place at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia and other institutions.  Not only were the treatments painful to a degree, but for the Philadelphia part, there was a 90-mile trip each way to get them accomplished.  So when the surgeon, Jay Katz, said that this was all they could do, I did not necessarily celebrate, but I was glad to be done with the extensive experiments to see what might happen to restore my sight.

Now five years later, a physician recently asked me about the blindness issue.  I told him that in the beginning, I regarded it as a challenge to be overcome.  Now, five years later, I regard it primarily as a pain in the ass.  Ass pains will not necessarily kill you, but they make life a little less worth living.

One thing I can state unequivocally is that blindness is not something that I would ever wish on any other living creature, including bats.

When blindness occurred back in my 83rd year, my wife Judith announced that from this time on she was going to be my eyes.  It turns out that she is not only going to be my eyes, but my right arm and everything else as well.  Kaye McCormick, a wonderful chief operator in Chicago, had a long life but at the end Kaye said, “There is no reason left for me to stay here.”  If I were alone, I would cheer heartily for the Kaye McCormick advice, “There is no reason left to stay here.”  But in the instant case, I have primarily my wife, who protects me.  Then there are my two daughters and two sons-in law and five grandchildren.  And there are several treasured friends who make life worthwhile.  All of them are a great source of joy to me.

So I have reason to hold off the Kaye McCormick advice for the time being.  In the final analysis, I don’t fear death.  What I do fear is the prolonged inactivity in a wheelchair or a bed that accompanies death.  If I could turn off the light switch short of wheelchairs and bed confinement, it would seem like a good deal to me.

Well, there I have troubled you with my twofer.  Again, I remind you that this is not an occasion for celebration.  It is only an occasion for me to mark in my diminishing memory that 88 years have passed and so have five years of blindness.  But even under those circumstances, there are songs to be sung and laughter to be enjoyed.  And more than anything, there is my wife Judith to whom I owe everything.

So I think I will probably stick around for a while and hope for a rally in the 9th inning to pull the game out of the fire.  I leave you with the thought that we should always stay strong as the advancing years take place.



July 14, 2010

Essay 472


Kevin’s commentary:

Man, and here I thought I was in for an essay all about baseball. I know far too little about the sport.  I suppose I also don’t know too much about what it’s like to be blind though, so I guess I learn either way.

So far as an update goes, three years have passed since this essay was recorded and I can confirm for all readers with relative certainty that being blind continues to be a pain in Pop’s ass. This is to alleviate any doubt that anyone may have about the matter.  What is also true is that things continue to be worth celebrating, experiencing, and sticking around for.


Luncheons around this house consist primarily of foie gras and truffles. As I was consuming my sixth helping of truffles, news came over the radio and television that shocked me.  It seems that Larry King, the ace broadcaster on the CNN network who does wide-ranging interviews, is now being sued for divorce by either his seventh or eighth wife.  There are those of us who say that if you have had seven or eight wives, there is no point in counting any more.  But the news broadcasters like to get things right.

Apparently the beef seems to be that Larry King, who is 76 years old, was sleeping with his wife’s sister.  From what I can observe, Larry King is a busy man taping interviews with the likes of Levi Johnson, the young man who impregnated the daughter of Sarah Palin.  But the news about a man sleeping with a woman is old hat.  In the instant case, I have a more salacious story to offer you.  For the last 14 months of my service to the Army of the United States abroad, I regularly slept quite openly with a male soldier from St. Louis, with the Army’s approval.  His name was Sylvester Liss, a man who had achieved the rank of Buck Sergeant in the Army.

In Biblical times, Leviticus warned males such as myself, that sleeping with one another would lead to grave trouble and would prevent entry into heaven.  But Sylvester and I ignored the warnings of Leviticus and slept together for the better part of 14 months. Unfortunately, this is not a totally salacious story but it is one of the happenstances that occur in the American Army.

In 1944, when I was finished with my detached service in Italy, the Army sent me back to my original unit, which was the Air Transport Command.  The main base for African operations was located in a place called Accra, which is now the capital of Ghana.  At that time, the country was called the Gold Coast.  For much of the Second World War, our air force was forced to use a route across the Atlantic Ocean that contained many hops.  It was a lengthy route, but judging by the results, it eventually got the job done.

And so it was that when I left Italy to go to Accra, I wound up in a barracks called G-17.  From what I can retrieve from my faulty memory, there was a bed open near the exterior wall.  So it was assigned to me.  I suspect that the salacious nature of this essay will be doomed in view of the fact that it was a bunk bed and I wound up in the top bunk.  The person in the bottom bunk was a fellow from St. Louis, also a buck sergeant called Sylvester Liss.  It might be supposed that two fellows from St. Louis serving out their time in the army would have a merry time of it with felicitous feelings everywhere.  But that was not to be the case.

Sylvester Liss was a loud man who had opinions on nearly everything.  I soon came to be realize that he was a Neanderthal whose main strength was that he seemed to dislike almost everyone.  But we were stuck together and so both of us tried to make the best of it.

Our initial meeting had occurred as I was preparing my C-47 to return to the factory which built it in 1935.  I had been selected to be the aerial engineer on this flight.  As I was preparing the airplane for the long flight across the South Atlantic and over the jungles of South America, I got to know Sylvester Liss somewhat better and increasingly I disliked what I had seen.  Nonetheless, I knew that after we had delivered the airplane to the factory in California and I reached St. Louis, there would be a period of five days before I had to leave to return to my station in Accra.  I told Sylvester Liss that in those five days, if he wished to send an uncensored letter to his wife, I would be glad to mail it.  I also offered to go by his house to speak with his wife.  Alternatively, Liss may not have wanted his wife to know of his circumstances in the army, so I specified that in that case I would say nothing.  In the end, after a delay of three or four days, Sylvester Liss said that it would be appropriate for me to visit his wife and at this time he gave me her address.  The flight took place and at the appropriate time I called Mrs. Liss and told her that I would be willing to come see her.  She was quite warm and welcoming and so it was that on a cold December evening in St. Louis I went to see Mrs. Liss.

As it turns out, Mrs. Liss was somewhere around my age, which was then 22.  She was a very bright person. She was well-dressed and she was a resident in her parents’ home.  As I left the place where I found Mrs. Liss, I started to shake my head.  How could a good-looking woman with a great deal of common sense wind up marrying a burly worker who was a loud-mouth Neanderthal?  But I guess that questions like this have existed since the beginning of time and all that I could do was to simply ponder that age-old question.

So I returned to Accra and Sylvester Liss and we maintained our chilly relationship for the rest of our time there.  Mrs. Liss had written Sylvester a letter from which he showed me two or three lines that thanked me for coming to see her.  If Sylvester ever thanked me for going to see his wife, I cannot now recall that.  Let us say that he did express some gratitude.

At the time that these events were taking place in 1944, it is my general belief that the general public assumed that everyone in the army or in the naval service regarded the other members as good buddies.  May I assure you that that was not necessarily the case.  The men who were involved in the Second World War were fulfilling their patriotic duty, but in no way did they dismiss their prejudices before they enlisted in the military.  In my case, I did not like loud-mouth Neanderthals like Sylvester, but we had to put up with him until the peace accord was signed and eventually we could all go home.  In other words, what I am trying to say is that everyone in the military forces was not best buddies of the man standing next to him.

After the war, I returned to St. Louis and I presume that Sylvester Liss returned to his job making Budweiser beer in St. Louis also.  In that whole span of time of more than 65 or 70 years since then, I never called Sylvester and he never called me.  And I assume that we were both happy with that arrangement.  The point once again is that because men share the experience of military service, it does not make them best buddies or even half-best buddies.  In the case of Sylvester Liss, even though we slept together for 14 months, I cannot say that I had any great affection for him.

One other occasion comes to mind here.  As we were preparing to leave the Twelfth Air Force, an arrangement was made for some of us to spend a week in the capital of Eritrea, called Asmara.  That was one of the territories that had been conquered by Mussolini.  I went to Asmara with Ted Werre and Ralph Tuttle as my companions.  Happenstance tended to bring us together.  During that week of sort of furlough, we had several laughs together but that did not make us life-long friends.

Following the war, in about 1948, I acquired a beat-up De Soto sedan and set out with my new wife to tour the country.  When we reached the Dakotas, I went out of my way to look up Ted Werre.  We found him in a wheat field.  The greetings were quite warm but it was fairly clear that Ted Werre wanted to get back to his work of tending to his wheat field and he did not really care how far out of my way I had come to visit him.

On another occasion, I was in Chicago on union business and I called Ralph Tuttle to see how he was doing.  Ralph was cordial enough but it was clear that he was not going to join me to have a drink or two; mostly he wanted to get on with his life.

So you see, when men are thrown together, as in the case of the military services, they tolerate one another’s faults but do not necessarily become best buddies.  In my own case, I suppose that I would make the world’s worst American Legionnaire.  Often they are far from best buddies.  For example, I was sleeping with Sylvester Liss in the upper bunk and he was in the lower bunk and for 14 months, we maintained a very chilly relationship.  The chill was broken on pay day when the ration cards for beer were distributed and, in a moment of weakness, I had agreed to give my ration card to Sylvester Liss.  I don’t regret that move because I don’t care for beer, but I would not want it to be misinterpreted as a sign of great buddyship.  So sleeping together does not demonstrate great affection.

In the case of Larry King, who is alleged to be sleeping with his wife’s sister, about all I can say is that I don’t watch CNN and if he is sleeping with the wife’s sister, he must be commended for keeping it all in the family.



April 15, 2010

Essay 448


Kevin’s commentary: I’ll be the first to admit that I subscribed at least in part to that particular fallacy. The media has certainly given me cause to believe that all soldiers are friends forever, but upon actually stopping to think about it that notion is pretty absurd. Some people just don’t get along. Moreover especially when it comes to people of different ranks, I believe that being friendly with one another is frowned upon.

Google tells me that old Sylvester has been dead for three years now. In fact, he died right about two weeks before this essay was drafted. I wonder — did Pop somehow learn of this, and that was his reason for writing it? Maybe Syl’s ghost stopped by New Jersey on its way up to heaven and reminded Pop that he existed.


Ezra’s Essays have been distributed to the movers and shakers around the world for the past 13 years.  In all that time, there have only been a few occasions when the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays has been moved to make an award.  In the current case, the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays is moved to award the National Broadcasting Company the First Annual Trophy for Priggishness and Prissiness.  If you will stick with me for a few minutes of reading, I will reveal how this award came into being.

The story starts early in the summer of 2010, when the President of the United States ordered the establishment of a commission on why we are going broke.  Obviously, it could not be called the commission for why we are going broke, so the formal title is the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  When the commission was established, there were two principles named to head it.  One was Erskine Bowles, who had occupied a number of positions in Democratic administrations over the years.  He is well respected and is a gentleman to boot.  The other post went to Alan Simpson, who is a retired Republican senator from Wyoming.  I have always respected Simpson because I believe that he is basically honest, and he will tell you exactly why something took place without all of the Washington doublespeak.

As you might expect in a Commission conceived by Mr. Obama, his creation has no powers of subpoena and relies on the truthfulness of the people who appear before it.  If they speak untruths, the commission is largely powerless to subpoena them and subject them to any penalty.  The Commission is another effort by the current administration in bipartisanship.

Erskine Bowles, the ultimate gentleman, is skilled in the use of diplomatic language.  His counterpart, Alan Simpson, is quite the reverse.  Simpson is down to earth and given to colorful and earthy language to make his points.

The reason for the reward to NBC comes from a news report of August 26.  In an email originating with Alan Simpson to Ashley Carson, Executive Director of the National Older Women’s League, Alan Simpson compared Social Security to “a milk cow with 310 million tits.”  Well, the reference to “tits” flustered the moguls at the headquarters of NBC and it was ordered deleted from all news broadcasts later in the day.  Even Keith Olbermann, who is often guilty of using earthy language, has been barred from saying the word “tits.”  Perhaps because of the fact that older women were involved in this email, NBC thought that it was best to avoid mentioning the word “tits.”

I am also aware that in the American version of the English language, the word teats is often pronounced as “tits.”  But the fact of the matter is that Simpson wrote it in an email message.  I would have hoped that NBC would have reported the news without fear or favor.  But priggishness and prissiness took over the NBC executives at the top of the rock in New York City.  Simply put, they apparently ordered the deletion of the word “teats” from the broadcast that evening.  But significantly they provided no alternative.  Olbermann for example was in a position of using the word blank or saying the word teats.  To Olbermann’s credit and his boss’s dismay, he said the forbidden and harsh word “teats.”

Miss Chicka and the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays found the incident very amusing.  In Miss Chicka’s case, she was the daughter of the owner of the Jersey Dell Dairy Farm in western Pennsylvania.  In my own case, I was born on the Lilac Roost Dairy Farm in eastern Missouri.  Both of us knew that dairy farms come at the end of a long series of minor miracles.

It all starts with the cow who provides us with the milk we drink and the ice cream we gobble up.  It is a major miracle that cows eat green grass in the summer and brown fodder in the winter and turn it into white milk.  I am much more willing to believe this to be a miracle as opposed to Jonah in the whale or Joshua stopping the sun in its tracks.

The cows are unable to put the milk in convenient locations.  Every day the cows have to be milked, sometimes twice a day.  This was accomplished by, in the old days, a milker using a short-legged stool sitting beside the cow and grasping the teats and squeezing and pulling them.  He also would have a pail into which the milk would go.  When the man milking the cow achieves a certain rhythm, there is a zinging sound as the milk enters the pail.  This is a choreographed arrangement with the milker being perched on one side and then moving to the other side while carefully avoiding the cow’s hooves.   If she is disturbed, she may kick the man in the shins or knees with disastrous results.  One of my older brothers, who was not known for his veracity, told me that white milk came out of the two front teats and that chocolate milk came from the two rear teats.

Because I was small at the time when my brother informed me of how things are done in the milking process, I have now referred this chocolate milk question to James Reese, who holds a degree in animal husbandry from a prestigious university in Iowa.  The first question is, “If he is an expert on animal husbandry, whatever happened to animal wifery?”  So far, Mr. Reese has not responded to that question.  Nor has he provided a respectful answer to the dilemma about white milk coming from the front teats and chocolate milk coming from the rear teats.

If you were listening to the news broadcast on August 26 and heard the confusion about the great teat controversy. I am not at all surprised.  I believe that NBC richly deserves this Award for Priggishness and Prissiness.  Beyond all that, I hope that you have been reasonably informed on how the milk in your refrigerator starts out as green grass or brown fodder.  The facts in the matter are that female cows have a holding tank near the back part of their bodies into which milk is gathered and extracted through the teat arrangement.  As someone who comes from a dairy farm as Miss Chicka and I do, it is terribly distressing to know that NBC considered the appendages to the cow’s udder as horrid words.  Cows don’t wear brassieres, corsets or clothing that conceals their udders or their teats.  I suppose that they have been getting along reasonably well since the beginning of time under the current arrangement.  It is only the NBC executives at the top of the rock who wish to protect their listeners from horrid words.  The proprietor of Ezra’s Essays finds their conduct not only priggish and prissy but also a matter of udder ridiculousness.



August 29, 2010



Kevin’s commentary:

Okay a few things:

1) “The great teat controversy” would be an excellent name for a rock band.

2) Speaking of great teats, the French thought that that very same phrase would be a good name for a mountain range. “Hey Francois, what do you think of these mountains?” “Well, Gaspard, they look like big ol’ titties.” “Grand Tetons it is!”

3) Crude Frenchmen should be in charge of naming every new discovery from here on out. “Jacques, come quick! I found a new binary star system! What should I call it?” “They look like balls. They shall be ‘les testicules lisses brillants’!

4) I love that there has to be a commission for investigating why we have no money. I guess “we spend more money than we bring in” is too straightforward

5) I’m glad that Pop wasn’t the only sassy one in the Carr clan. The idea that part of the udder makes chocolate milk is something that I could easily see my mom telling me when I was a kid.




My breakfast was interrupted this morning by a report from Washington that Peter Orszag, the Budget Director for President Obama, had fathered a baby child out of wedlock.  He reports that the little child, a girl, is a beautiful creature.  It was also confirmed that during the pregnancy of his girlfriend, Mr. Orszag was romancing another woman, which resulted in their engagement.  My question is, who changed the rules so that someone could impregnate one woman and simultaneously proceed to get engaged to another woman.

I should have listened carefully to the rest of the report from Washington which included the statement that Mr. Orszag had been “engaged in a committed relationship” with the mother of his child. My question has to do with what in the hell does being involved in a committed relationship have to do with making this woman pregnant without the benefit of marriage.  Orszag said nothing about marrying this woman.  Indeed, he is engaged to an ABC reporter who may expect to receive the same cavalier treatment as this unfortunate lady who became pregnant.

In my humble opinion, being “engaged in a committed relationship” does not excuse the failure to buy birth control equipment if those two had no intention of marrying.  Can Mr. Orzak or the mother of his child, tell me what being engaged in a committed relationship has to do with producing a child outside of wedlock.

You may recall an essay I have written recently wherein my father dealt with the question from a young man about the pregnancy between the young man and his girlfriend.  My father said, “Be a man. Marry that girl today.”  I know those are stern rules, but it seems to me that if you want to play games, at least you should buy birth control equipment.  On the other hand, if the woman is your love in life, it would seem to me that now, with her pregnancy, would be as good a time to marry her as any.

As I grew up, there was no such thing as being engaged in a committed relationship.  Committed relationships usually resulted in marriage.  Committed relationships did not result in the woman being stuck with a baby who had an absentee father.

Curiously, the same citation about being in a committed relationship was used by the great stud of Wasilla, Alaska.  His name, I believe, is Levi Johnston and, from all I can gather, his sole claim to fame is that he impregnated the governor of Alaska’s daughter.  News reports claim that Levi Johnston explained on his Facebook page that he was in a “committed relationship” at the tender age of 17 years.  When it turned out that the “committed relationship” had resulted in a pregnancy, Mr. Johnston dropped out of school, tried to become an electrician’s apprentice, and ultimately failed to marry the governor’s daughter.  Unhappily, he was fired from his electrician’s job because of his failure to have a high school diploma.  But in the end, Mr. Johnston “knocked up” the governor’s daughter and declined to marry her.   The resulting child has now celebrated her first birthday, and Levi is making a living by running down his prospective mother-in-law.  He also has posed for nude photos in Playgirl Magazine.

This is one hell of a note, to compare the actions of Peter Orszag, the President’s Budget Director, with the great stud of Alaska.  But there it is.

Peter Orszag and Levi Johnston are not alone in changing the rule of “being a man.”  Apparently John Edwards, who was a senator from North Carolina and who was a vice presidential candidate in the 2004 election, had also fathered a child out of wedlock.  But at least Edwards did not claim that he was in a committed relationship.  I doubt that Edwards would admit that he was in a casual relationship but the facts seem to support the idea that he was also in a committed relationship because the affair had gone on for quite a while.  The inescapable fact is that a child was born and it is now fatherless.  The secondary fact is that the marriage of Edwards and his wife appears to be on the rocks.

I suppose that you may have been hearing about the sexual conquests of Tiger Woods, the golfer.  His marriage is also on shaky grounds, but in his many conquests, I have no report that Tiger Woods ever claimed that he was in a “committed relationship”.  Apparently Tiger wanted to diddle every female in sight, including cocktail waitresses and people of that sort.

There is one other citation having to do with the pregnancy of a female in New York City who had been befriended by Jose Reyes, the stellar shortstop of the New York Mets.  Once the child was born, Reyes bragged about faithfully visiting her when he is in town.  The fact that he is a Dominican citizen probably keeps him away for most of the year, and that child is growing up fatherless.

I know that when men and women get together, there is a high probability that over time sexual activity will take place.  I understand that, and I have nothing against such activity.  But what grates against my nerves is the excuse that “we were in a committed relationship.”  Does being in a committed relationship bar the use of birth control equipment?

I know that there are thousands of cases where the relationship between a man and a woman results in a pregnancy.  My question today has to do with who changed the rules.  Does being in a committed relationship relieve one of the burdens of fatherhood?  I don’t believe so.  If you’re going to play with fire, expect to get burned occasionally.

Well, that is my moral mission for today.  I was raised by the stern rule of my father who said on occasions such as this one, that when pregnancy occurs, the male member must stand up and “be a man.”

As time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that if the partners to a pregnancy claim that they were in a committed relationship, the old rules no longer apply.  But figuring out such stuff as this is above my pay grade and I will simply wait to see who gets ensnarled in the pleasures of love.  But no matter how you cut it, these fatherless children may eventually figure out that they have been abandoned, primarily by their fathers.  That, in my humble estimation, is a problem that society ought to avoid at all costs.



January 7, 2010

Essay 431


Kevin’s commentary: I mean, I think there’s a false dichotomy here. The choices aren’t “be married or be an absentee father.” I think if one is really in a “committed relationship” in the real sense of that word — not the politician’s sense, clearly — then there is no problem. It is entirely possible to be a caring and loving father to a child without being married to that child’s mother. I know a few such couples and I don’t find any shame in it.

My qualm would rather be with people using that phrase as a euphemism for “we weren’t using birth control” because that’s absolutely stupid, as Pop eloquently noted.


Last Saturday, August 28, Glenn Beck, the Fox broadcaster, held his much-heralded event in Washington on the Mall. He says that choosing the 47th anniversary of the “I have a dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King was an accident on his part. He claims that he did not know that on August 28, 1963 Dr. King delivered his famous speech in exactly the same location he had chosen for his rally last week. If you will excuse me, I will suggest that Glen Beck is a consummate liar. He had to know because the people who gave him the authority to hold his rally obviously would have told him that this was the anniversary of the King speech.

But be that as it may, Beck advertised his event as a religious one rather than a political one. The theme of the meeting was to “turn back to God.” Clearly and unequivocally he thought that turning back to God tells us that we had looked the other way or turned our back on God, which of course is the source of all the troubles that we have been experiencing. I suppose that when we turned our back on God, we invaded Iraq for example. On the other hand, George Bush was the President of the United States who made that decision to invade Iraq. He claims to be a very religious man who received counsel directly from God that he should run for the Presidency. As in the case of Beck, I consider Bush a hypocrite and a full-fledged liar.

To help reinforce the theme of the meeting, turning back to God, Brother Beck invited the former governor of the great state of Alaska to be his keynote speaker. Apparently she was eager for the challenge and for forty minutes or thereabouts she lathered the crowd with her version of turning back to God. For whatever it is worth, I consider Mrs. Palin to be a hypocrite as well as one who is unschooled in the ways of the world. She considers that people who have attended schools such as Harvard or Yale and the Ivy Leagues as somehow undesirable. It could be said that the title of undesirable might also apply to Mrs. Palin.

But the theme of the conference from Glen Beck and Mrs. Palin was turning back to God. As I said, this is a declarative statement that leaves no room for nuance or invitation. It suggests that our troubles flow from turning away from God.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on religious matters, so I will offer a few observations. When the audience is told that we must turn back to God, it seems to me that several supporters of God will be greatly offended. For example, there are those who consider themselves red hot Christians who will deny, with a great stamping of feet, that they ever turned their backs on God. I am personally acquainted with some of those religious enthusiasts who would be greatly offended to be told that now they must turn back to God. Some of my acquaintances border on zealots and they would deny that there is any reason to turn back to God because they never abandoned him in the first place. So the theme of the conference involving those two, Mrs. Palin and Glen Beck, becomes very confusing because of this contretemps of turning back to God.

Secondly, in those who subscribe to the faith of the Jews, it would seem preposterous for an Alaskan Christian and a Mormon such as Beck, to say to the Jews that they must turn back to God. The Jews have been at this religious business for a whole lot longer than the Christians and the Mormons have. I believe that it is utterly silly to tell them that they should now turn back to God. My guess is that few Jews went to the rally last Saturday.

The third point would have to do with the growing number of Muslims in this country. If I understand their rituals, they prescribe prayer on five separate occasions on each day. And then Friday, their holy day, they are exhorted by their imams so it seems to me that they are a very religious people.

And finally, there are the non-believers, of which I am one. Based on the council of Sarah Palin and the Fox News broadcaster Glen Beck, who turned back to God, I would contend that all of us are unconvinced by a speech given by Sarah Palin, and the meeting of Glen Beck. The speech and the meeting by Glen Beck would in no way convince me to abandon my beliefs which Beck and Palin would consider the beliefs of infidels. If those two consider those of us who are non-believers to be infidels, I want to be among their number.

If Beck and Palin conclude that their turn back to God meeting in Washington has resulted in an outpouring of religious belief, I would suggest that there seems to be no revival spirit among the people I have seen recently. America has not been converted into a nation of zealots as a result of Beck’s rally in Washington. Those who are not addicts of the Fox Broadcasting Company will still regard Beck as an untrustworthy performer. And as for Mrs. Palin, there is a very interesting and long article in Vanity Fair this month. Among other things, the article contends that Mrs. Palin is un-God-like in her conduct in Alaska. The article says that when Mrs. Palin has a dispute with her husband, they throw canned vegetables at each other and make liberal use of the “f” word connected to “you.” It could be that Mrs. Palin would be well advised to turn to God herself.

It is also of interest that Kathleen Parker, a Republican writer for the Washington Post, has concluded that returning to God is the twelfth step in the rehabilitation of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. It appears from Ms. Parker’s article that Glen Beck has had his problems with alcohol.

Well, there you have my views on the grandiose meeting in Washington sponsored by Glen Beck with the featured speaker being Mrs. Palin. A week later, nobody seems to have remembered what that meeting was called for. But my own view is that when people such as those two tell us that we must all turn back to God, they are nothing more than charlatans and deserve to continue to be ignored.

And in the meantime, I can’t imagine that devout Christians, devout Jews, or devout Muslims are going to be thrilled by Sarah Palin and Glen Beck telling them that it is time to turn back to God.



September 6, 2010

Essay 494


Kevin’s commentary:

I’m sure more people would have found this offensive if there was anyone left who actually gave a damn about the opinions of either of these two. Even most republicans have by this point recognized that he is a screaming nutjob manchild and she’s simply a moron.


I have been writing these essays for the last 16 years. It all started with an injury to my brain which impaired my speech as a result of a stroke in 1997. I started writing these essays and somehow after 764 such essays, I have still continued. As a matter of fact, I seem at this late date in my life to enjoy writing essays.

As a general, almost exclusive rule, the subjects have been selected by myself. Rarely, the readers of these essays made suggestions or requests for an essay on a specific subject. One such request was from my old friend Harry Livermore who asked for an essay about his recently departed wife and the nature of our relationship over many years. Now the owner and operator of the website Ezra’s Essays has made another request.

In the beginning, there was no title to these essays. For example, my next-door neighbor Irving Licht, referred to them as “Ed’s Stuff.” At this point, for the past three years or thereabouts, the material that has appeared in 764 essays is called “Ezra’s Essays.”

The term that my grandson, the owner and operator of Ezra’s Essays, used when making his request was the term “grub.” I was unaware that my grandson was acquainted with the term grub. But he is a worldly fellow. For example, in Ireland and England, bars are called pubs. From that term, we have the food served there which is called “pub grub” So Kevin is in good company in asking for an essay on grub. Following are some anecdotes that apply to grub, primarily dealing with my association with grub served by the United States Army.

Now, before we get started, you should be aware that at the time I served my enlistment in 1942 through the end of 1945, the Army had a school called the Cook and Baker School. It really made no difference what a recruit’s civilian occupation might have been. When the Army needed someone to be a cook or a baker, it would issue a requisition to the rest of the United States Army. Whether the recruits liked it or not, there would soon be a new class of cooks and bakers. The result was that there was a great sameness and dullness to the cooking done in the United States Army.

The Army specialized in dullness and as a result, the food or grub that appeared on Army menus was distinguished by its sameness and its dullness.

The Army did not use much local produce. It relied heavily on products that could be used in the event of war. For example, there were no fresh potatoes, but rather, the Army relied upon such stuff as potato flakes, which tasted almost nothing like a real potato should have tasted. In the end, as I said, there was a great sameness to the Army cooking. No one strayed from the recipes provided by the Cook and Baker’s School. As a result, a meal served in France or Italy would taste very much like a meal served in Louisiana or on Iwo Jima.

I entered the Army at age 19. I was accustomed to the cooking of my mother. She learned to cook using a wood fired stove in the rural setting of Golconda, Illinois. Her two main dishes were navy bean soup and the baking of bread. So I was not a gourmet when I entered the Army. Also I was not a gourmet when the Army finally released me in 1945.

When I entered the Army, it was at Jefferson Barracks, the southern-most tip of the city of St. Louis. Jefferson Barracks was the first post established west of the Mississippi in the 18th century. The cooking at Jefferson Barracks was a good deal better than I had thought it to be. But it was a lot better than the cooking of my mother, which is not saying much. But the whole episode at Jefferson Barracks only lasted about ten days. I was then designated to go to Las Vegas, New Mexico for my basic training.

Las Vegas, New Mexico is a training field, during which we marched from one end to the other with dust all around us. The food there was absolutely terrible. I suppose I should say that the grub there was absolutely terrible. Several nights of the week we were fed sliced sausage which, if you will pardon the expression, looked a lot like a horse’s penis. Soon the GIs named the dish we were served as “horse cock.”

Eventually the officer in charge of providing the enlisted men’s food in Las Vegas, New Mexico, was court-martialed because he was cheating on what he had actually spent for food. I might say that the horse cock was untasty and should not have been served to anyone. But the United States Army does things in its own way.

Soon I was transferred to a training base in Coral Gables, Florida where the meals were again standard Army fare. It seemed to me that standard Army fare consisted of spoonable dishes which could be ladled out to the soldiers passing in line during the meal period. This was in Coral Gables, Florida. There was not much difference between the meals we were served in Coral Gables and the meals that were served elsewhere in the Army. The Army made certain that no one would brag about the cooking of an Army meal. Before long, I found myself on a troop ship from Charleston, South Carolina, to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The food on the troop ship was more than abominable. It was atrocious. For one thing, they had more troops on this unescorted vessel than should have been permitted. But battles were raging in North Africa and it was important that we appeared on the Allied side of the battlefield.

During the war I was involved in the North African campaign. But the grub was pretty much identical to the grub served throughout the United States Army. The point that I am making is that with the influence of the Cook and Baker School and the drafting of the people to attend those schools along with reliance on such things as fake potato flakes, there was no individuality. I am certain that there were local foodstuffs that could be used to spice up the food. That was never ever done. I do not know this for a fact but I suspect that meals fed to soldiers such as myself were probably planned in Washington. There was as I say no individuality in the preparation of Army food.

The same was true generally of the Italian campaign. The Italians are great innovators of food but none of that ever appeared on an Army base. We simply stuck to the Cook and Baker School and the menus that were prepared there.

Speaking of spoonable dishes, if someone serving in the food line became angered or even as a joke, he would seem to take some delight in plopping a load of the main meal in an inopportune place on the mess kits that were being offered to him by the soldiers. I remember that the Army loved to serve canned sliced peaches. On many occasions, the man behind the serving counter would miss and the offering of food, such as it was, would end up among the peaches.

Anyone who claimed that he could identify the ingredients of the food must have been a master salesman. There were no such things as cakes. There was no such thing as a fresh vegetable. When someone would ask a soldier coming out of a mess hall what he had had to eat, he would probably say something about, “It was another case of mystery meat.” In fact, the people who controlled what we were fed may have been in the United States in Washington and we were in Italy or elsewhere. That made no difference. We were fed the same old menus and the men who were behind the counters in the mess halls still loved to put the day’s main dish into the peaches.

When I left combat, I reported to my original assignment, which was in Accra, the Gold Coast. That country is now called Ghana. Again there was a prohibition, apparently, on using local produce including eggs. There was an occasion when, on my one day off from the flight line, I took an Army bus toward downtown Accra. On that occasion, I saw the equivalent of a YMCA. I had heard that they had real eggs. So I got off the bus and offered myself to the administrations of the noble YMCA. Miraculously, there appeared eggs by the carload. We on the base, say five miles outside of Accra, were eggless. But here was the YMCA offering eggs of any sort. They could be fried, scrambled, or poached or whatever. But the United States Army had none of it. On my days off, I would usually find the time to take a United States Army bus to downtown Accra and have a meal of eggs. The Army forbade us to eat any of the meat because of sanitary conditions. We were pretty much confined to eggs. But as a vegetarian, I have no objection to that prohibition whatsoever.

On more than one occasion, I passed through the town of Dakar, Senegal. They had wonderful lobsters in Dakar. None of them ever appeared on an Army menu. I suppose that they simply relied on what they were taught at the Cook and Baker School with the directives coming from Washington. The point here is that there was dullness and sameness to the food served in the Army mess halls throughout the world.

Now however we turn to a brighter side of the grub served in the United States Army. The war ended for me on August 16 when a battered old Japanese major domo climbed the rigging on the Battleship Missouri and signed a peace treaty with the United States.

By this time I was in Greenwood, Mississippi. The idea at that point was to train for an assault on the Japanese home islands. We were supposed to get a new airplane called the A-26, which was bigger than the A-20s that we had flown all over Europe. There were no A-26s anywhere, so there was nothing to practice. But that did not stop the United States Army from making an investment in food in an effort to keep all of the soldiers from being released. Miraculously there were eggs which were offered in any fashion desired: scrambled, poached, etc. And in an effort to keep the soldiers happy, there were steaks at every turn. The Army had concluded that if these soldiers were well fed, they might re-enlist at a greater rate. For myself, the idea was to get out of the United States Army and leave those memories behind me. I attempted to leave on about September 1 and I did not secure my release from the United States Army until November 8, 1945. The period in Greenwood was marked by steaks and eggs. Those people in the government who controlled the menus were going nuts.

Well, that is the story that my grandson Kevin had requested. Both locally and abroad, the cooks and bakers and other personnel in the mess halls were all trained at the Cook and Baker School run by the United States Army. Individuality among cooks and bakers was a forbidden subject I suspect.

Now let’s talk about how this food was presented to the soldier.

There is a distinction between how Army grub was served in this country and how Army grub was served to the soldiers abroad. In the case of the domestic grub, trays were usually provided which I assume dishwashers, using a dishwashing machine, took over after the grub was consumed. But overseas, it was served in the GI’s mess kit. Grub served abroad, once it had been consumed, or even ignored, became the responsibility of the individual soldier or GI to deal with. In most cases, there were three large containers of boiling water as the mess hall was entered. Sometimes the Army used barrels as containers. The barrels had previously held engine oil but had been properly scrubbed before being used for water. Following the meal, the soldier would take his mess kit and try to knock off all of the remaining particles of food into a garbage can. Once this had been achieved, the GI would then approach the boiling container of water and plunge his mess kit together with the knife, fork, spoon and cup into the boiling water. Once this had been accomplished he would move on and plunge his mess kit into the second large container of boiling water. Finally, there came the rinse cycle in which the GI would plunge his mess kit and accessories into the boiling water again. This was followed by the GI waving his arms about him as he attempted to dry off the mess kit.

This was an elementary system of washing mess kits. It led to several cases of dysentery. You may be interested to know that the word dysentery was never used by American soldiers. They always referred to dysentery as a case of “GI shits.” I suppose that this had to do with the severity and longevity of the dysentery. How this term came about is beyond me. But it was always a matter of the plural form of the GI shits.

You may be interested to observe what a mess kit looked like in the era of World War II. When the mess kit was opened up, one section was reserved for the main course and perhaps some fake vegetables. The top of the mess kit served as a means of conveying some sort of dessert, usually canned sliced peaches. I expect that the right side of the mess kit also served to provide a place for bread if there was any.


Well now we have covered the entire assembly of the serving of the dull and unappetizing food through the washing of the mess kits which often resulted in dysentery. At this point, I must quit dictating this essay because it has made my thoughts of eating much less enjoyable.

Incidentally, the use of the word “grub” for food has survived since the 1650s, almost four centuries, so it appears that grub will be us, perhaps permanently.

In any event, when we were finally released from the Army, I returned home from Greenwood, Mississippi, intent upon resuming the life that had been interrupted three and a half years earlier. Well, that is my story about the grub that we were served during the period of my enlistment in 1942 – 1945. It is not an exotic or inspiring story. Perhaps the highlights were the court martial of the officer who was knocking down on the enlisted men’s mess funds at Las Vegas, New Mexico. But if anyone thought of joining the Army in hope of fine dining, that hope was absolutely destroyed.

So it is that this is my story on behalf of Kevin Shepherd, the subject of dining or, as Kevin puts it, grub in the Army. I realize that it has not been an exciting essay. Given the material that I had to work with, the grub in the American Army, you can understand the difficulties that I had to endure. I hope that this conveys my thoughts about the sameness and dullness of the food in the Army. I suspect that there is not a whole lot of difference with what is happening today. Incidentally, the Cook and Baker School is a thing of the past because the Army now has local people to feed the troops. It is a move that should have been taken several years ago. So with that thought in mind, we bid farewell to Army grub. It is not very inspiring. But Army grub was not inspiring either.


September 10, 2013

Essay 765


Kevin’s commentary: Well I suppose I now have another reason to never enlist, not that I needed one. I thought this essay was one of the funniest in a while, honestly, and I had a great time reading it. It seems like Pop may have had a little bit to get off his chest when it came to Army food, which an assumption I feel that I am safe to make considering the heft of this essay. Hopefully writing this could be at least a little cathartic for him.

Seriously though, I was floored by some of the information in this one. No eggs? No potatoes? When I think of food that doesn’t spoil and can be transported anywhere, potatoes are probably food #1 on that list if we don’t count manufactured goods. Eggs are a close second because they last a heck of a long time and as far as I know, there’s not a country in the world that lacks chickens at this point.

I believe that a few years ago Pop gave me a gift of one of his old MREs, or “meals ready to eat.” It came in a tight, vacuum-sealed, tan plastic bag. I think it contained jambalaya. It looked like this:
MREs 001

The jury is out when it comes to whether or not a MRE was better than horse cock, but hopefully it would be at least a little preferable. My final Army-grub question is this: when were MREs served vs mess hall food? For missions that would last multiple days, maybe?

Aside from that, I can happily say that I now know all I need to about food in the Army.


On Monday, July 26, the board of directors of the British Petroleum Company, known now as BP, met to consider the fate of Tony Hayward, its Chief Executive Officer.  I think that it was a foregone conclusion that BP had to separate itself from the honorable Dr. Tony Hayward.

In the British way of doing such things, they are polite about such matters.  They don’t just fire a man, as would be the case in this country.  But rather they give him what is known as “the sack.”  No two ways about it, Tony Hayward was fired or, in more polite terms, given the sack.  He is no longer the chief executive officer of British Petroleum as of October 1st.   But having been sacked, he will be involved in a joint venture in Russia having to do with one of BP’s holdings.  Whether he gets to keep his $6 million salary is another matter unaddressed.  I suspect that he will have to take a pay cut.

Tony Hayward holds all kinds of degrees from Glasgow University including a Ph.D.  That was not enough for him to avoid some egregious gaffes.  In the beginning, he assured the American public on television that the leak in the oil line in the Gulf of Mexico was a small matter and would be taken care of very promptly.  That of course did not happen and at the current reading it is the 99th day of the spill.

Then it was decided by Mr. Hayward and his bosses that a public relations campaign should be undertaken with Hayward as its main spokesman.  I dictated an essay not long ago complimenting Hayward on his diction of the English language.  But in that television campaign, Dr. Hayward also said that he wanted his life back.  Somehow he forgot about the eleven men who were killed in the explosion while they were drilling his well.

In further television comments we were told that there were a variety of measures to kill the well.  As you will recall, none of them succeeded.  Hayward was eventually called before a committee of Congress and mostly avoided answering their questions.  On the Saturday after his testimony, as soon as the Congressional hearings were finished,  Hayward hurried home to be involved in a yacht race involving his own boat.  This did not receive favorable attention here or in Great Britain.  For all of his academic achievements, Hayward had no real sense of how the average man felt about his company.

Now in the 99th day of the spill, it appears that there is a cap that seems to be holding the oil flow back.  But that was not enough to save Tony Hayward’s job.  My guess is that Tony Hayward just doesn’t get it.  He seems to be oblivious to the consequences of the oil spill, particularly as they relate to what his boss calls “the small people” around the Gulf of Mexico.  But Tony Hayward is a man who owns a yacht that seems not to be interested in such small things as the suffering of the people who fish for a living around the Gulf.

So come October 1st, Tony will be gone and will be succeeded by a man named Bob Dudley, who sports a degree from Mississippi State University.  Some time ago, American voices replaced Tony Hayward in the television commercials that were designed to convince us that the oil spill was beneficial to all of us.  Once Dudley was identified as the new chief executive officer, he began to pronounce the word “oil” as it should be pronounced.  Prior to that time, he pronounced the word as something resembling “all.”  But now that he has been promoted come October 1st, he has gotten the message and he pronounces the word oil in a proper fashion.

I have no intention of hitting a man when he is down, but if any man ever asked to be kicked, it was Tony Hayward.  The yacht racing incident put a cap on a long series of his executive gaffes.  My guess is that when he arrives in Russia, he might be inspired to look for a different job.  But now we have Bob Dudley, the Mississippi State graduate, running BP and we have no choice but to hope for the best.

And as for Tony Hayward, you might say that this Midwestern American still admires his diction when he uses the English language, but there is very little else to admire in this whole catastrophe.



July 27, 2010

Essay 478


Kevin’s commentary: He’s an ass and it bugs me that he’s going to be set and content for the rest of his life. I imagine that by this point the guy has more than he could conceivably spend. Ugh

I think this may be the last Hayward essay, but for those just tuning in, this essay certainly is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Pop’s opinions on this particular issue. View the rest here:

GIVING A (Insert Adjective) RAT’S ASS