Archive for April 2016


During my formative years, it was necessary to work. This was in the Great Depression which lasted from 1929 until war broke out in December, 1941. During that time, the place where one went to buy gas or to have a car lubricated was called a filling station. Later when wordsmiths took a leading role with the oil companies, there was an attempt to call filling stations, “service stations.” The curious point about this semantic change is that as time went on, the stations offered fewer and fewer services to the customer. At this writing, it may be true that only New Jersey provides an attendant to pump gas into your car. In the other states, car owners pump their own gas and do everything else.

Wiping off windshields, checking the air pressure in the tires or looking to see if the owner needs a quart of oil are lost arts. They simply are not done anymore, not even in New Jersey.

In those very difficult economic depression times, a job – any job – was a treasured possession. By making myself a pest around Carl Schroth’s Flying Red Horse Mobilgas station, the owner took me on full time in the summer and part time when school started. That was at age 15.

At that time, around 1936 or 1937, white wall tires were coming into vogue. If a young man did not have white sidewalls on whatever car he drove, it was believed that girls would ignore him. There may have been a lot of truth in this story of white sidewall tires opening the door to romance.

Schroth’s station was in Clayton, Missouri, the fanciest part of St. Louis and its suburbs. The people who patronized Carl Schroth were largely untouched by the Great Depression. Accordingly, those wealthy people drove Packards, Cadillacs, Lincolns and Rolls Royces. All of those cars were monstrous. Most of them had wheel wells in the front fenders to accommodate two spare tires. You must remember that many cars in those days had no trunk opening. In normal cars, the spare tire was attached to a holding device on the rear end of the car or in one or two cases, under the gas tank.

One of Schroth’s major customers, a Mr. Kukenmeister, owned two Rolls Royce touring cars. These were enormous cars. The year of manufacture was somewhere between 1929 and 1934. They had canvas roofs that could be folded back and placed on a space in back of the rear seat. And they each had six white sidewall tires which had to be cleaned spotlessly. When the weather was inclement, the cars had isinglass windows for all doors. There was a flap in the canvas below the isinglass where the driver could stick his arm out to signal turns. If his arm pointed down, the driver intended to make a left turn. When his arm pointed up, the driver intended to make a right turn. Putting the arm straight our meant the driver was slowing or was signaling a stop.

In those days, women seldom drove cars. Maybe a flapper might drive a little, but ordinarily, driving was left to the men or in the case of the two Rolls Royce touring cars, to chauffeurs.

The owner of the touring cars, Mr. Kukenmeister, was quite wealthy. Often he would drive one to Carl Schroth’s station with the second Rolls Royce being brought by a chauffer. They would wait for 1½ to 2 hours while the cars were lubricated and washed. The tops had to be brushed which took some time. Washing the cars was done by hand and with the owner standing nearby, much care had to be taken to avoid splashing the inside of the touring cars.

As the youngest member of Schroth’s staff, it fell to me to make the white sidewall tires sparkle and to clean the wire wheels. This was a formidable job. (See attachment) If the owner had scraped a curb, there would be a smudge on the whitewall tire which would be devilishly difficult to remove. When there were smudges, usually found on the tires on the right or curb side, steel wool would have to be employed. And we also had a copper wire brush that could be used on the worst smudges.

The wheels had to be cleaned between each spoke. A long brush was needed for the spoke wheels – all six of them on one car and six on the other. There were times when my hope would have been for the Kukenmeisters cars to go to the Shell station across the street.

The two well-mounted tires in the front fenders had to be taken off. And of course, these two tires had to be remounted. The 2001 Chryslers in use here have 17 inch tires. The Rolls Royce had tires of 19 or 20 inch diameter, which meant that there was a lot of scrubbing to do. But, a job was needed pretty badly, so the scrubbing took place. My memory tells me that there was no such practice as tipping for people working in the filling stations. In the final analysis, we were glad to have the job, even if it was a low level scrubbing position with no tipping.

From 1936 or 1937 to 1941 when it was my good fortune to leave the filling station business after a Monday to Friday job opened up with AT&T. It was also possible for me to work 10 hours on a Saturday and five hours on Sunday morning. This was at Harold Bauer’s Standard Oil Station on Hanley Road which was in another ritzy section of town. Harold took Sundays off and left the enterprise with an assistant named Mark. Mark took a dim view of me because, it might be supposed, AT&T was my main employer. Neither Harold nor Mark would ever permit me to drive a customer’s car around the driveway because they feared finding a grease spot on the customer’s upholstery.

There may have been a good reason to keep me out of being seated in a customer’s car. That reason was that both of them put me in charge of cleaning and re-lubricating the front wheel bearings on cars that came to Bauer’s for service. Bauer’s did not wash cars, so cleaning white sidewall tires was a thing of the past. But greasing front wheel bearings was probably a less pleasant job. This happened at 3000 mile intervals.

For one thing, the work had to be done outside in all kinds of weather. The wheel bearing job took place over a pit on the side of the station. There was no lift for this work outside. It was necessary to ease yourself down some steps at the front of the pit, and using a drop cord electric light, the work of greasing the underside of the chassis took place. Afterward, when the car was properly placed with a jack under one of the front wheels, it was possible to gain access to the front wheel bearings. First, the bearings had to be washed in gasoline or kerosene and dried and inspected for cracks. Then came the greasy part. The bearing would be placed in a special container filled with grease. When the top of the container was tightened, grease would be forced throughout the bearings and all its surfaces. Then the wheel had to be replaced. Very dirty work, but that is what had to be done. For 15 hours at Bauer’s, my pay was a big five dollars, but these were depression years and a half a sawbuck was very helpful.

Well, there you have a summary of my travails with white sidewall tires and front wheel bearings. Not very inspiring work, but it was a job.


There was one other fad among men around this time and that was wearing two tone shoes in the summer months. Many fellows wore two tone shoes from Easter till about October.

Generally speaking, the instep was white and had to be cleaned with a whitening paste or polish. There were two kinds of shoes worn by men. The most popular was the wing tip where the brown or black leather extended from the cap back to the arch, leaving the instep white. Less popular was the straight across cap over the end of the shoe. Brown was by far the most popular color with black being a distant second.

Getting the shoes shined was a bit of a project. Men, particularly young men, took a good deal of pride in having their shoes shined in those days. It was almost unheard of to get a haircut without a shoeshine. Many barber shops had two bootblacks working regularly.

Shining the shoes at home was far from easy. The wingtip shoes were much worse than the straight cap models. Trying to keep the brown or black paste and the brush off the white instep was almost impossible to do. On ordinary shoes, the paste is applied and brushing follows. After those operations take place, then the shoes are brought to a shine using a special cloth.

With two-tone shoes, the best that could be done is to apply the paste and to rub vigorously with the cloth on the brown or black leather. If the two-tone shoes were taken to a boot black, the owner would almost always be told to leave the shoes so that they could be worked on when the bootblack had a slack period. Whereas, shining regular one tone shoes in a barber shop, for example, would cost 25 cents or as much as 50 cents, working on two-tone shoes could cost anywhere up to two dollars or a few cents more. Remember now, we are talking about 1940 prices when the Depression was still with the American public.

When the young swain back in those pre-World War II days set out to impress a young lady, it was essential that his two-tone shoes be shined and that his white sidewall tires be white. There is no way to know now more than 63 years later, whether girls were properly impressed. As a completely unbiased, objective evaluator of mores, it is my impartial belief that young men who wore unshined shoes and/or those who let their white sidewall tires look unkempt, were courting romantic disaster. My two-tone shoes and my whitewalls were always spotless. After all these years, I don’t remember if those facts ever resulted in my hitting a home run in the romance department. It was my thought to give it my best effort.

Ah, but that was long ago. Today, young men pay no such attention to their shoes or to their tires. Perhaps this is progress, but as far as this impartial, objective, unbiased evaluator of public mores, the jury is still out.

December 27, 2003


Oh man, maybe Pop somehow missed the rise of metrosexuality but god knows my brother cared more about his collection of Nikes than he cared about pretty much anything else for a while there. And while the tires themselves are no longer particularly important, ornate hubcaps (rims) are a big deal to a lot of cultures. So in some ways, shoes and tires are definitely both still a big deal among the dating population.


My father bought a new 1914 or 1915 Mitchell touring sedan. The Mitchell had just come out. Pictures say it was a beautiful automobile, but my memory has no recollection of it at all. (see attachment) In my time, he drove straight six cylinder Studebakers. For a time, he drove a straight eight Packard. The term “straight” means the cylinders were placed in a row. In an engine with “V” in its title, the cylinders were placed in a “V” with four on one side and four on the other side.

The tappets on those engines had to be adjusted regularly which accounts for my being in our unheated garage holding a drop cord electric light so that my father could get the tappets in adjustment. That work had to be accomplished by my father in an ungainly posture using a valve tappet feeler gauge. It was not inspiring work, but anyone who ever heard an engine with unadjusted tappets, would know that something needed to be done.

My first car was a 1931 Chevrolet coupe which was a reliable car. (see attachment) My second car was a 1937 Chevrolet coach. It was called a coach because while it could seat five or six people, only two wide doors were provided. In other words, it was not a sedan which had four doors.

The main selling feature of the 1937 Chevrolet was it was the first car to have “knee action” in the front suspension which was supposed to deliver superior riding qualities. That car was pretty much a disaster with the engine needing frequent major repair work and with the “knee action” front wheels coming constantly out of adjustment.

But the subjects of this essay are essentially a 1931 Ford and South Wind heaters. Today, we obsess over car safety. There are seat belts and air bags, and gauges of every kind to say nothing about signs that tell you when a door is opened. But the manufacturers still are doing very little in terms of improved mileage.

But in the 1930’s there was not very much concern about automobile safety. Horsepower was important, particularly after Ford produced its first V-8 automobile in 1934. Now there is an interesting thought about Ford. For all the 1920’s, Ford had considerable success with its Model T cars. In 1930, Ford replaced the Model T’s with Model A’s. The Model A’s had regular three speed transmissions which replaced the antiquated transmission band systems in the Model T’s.

One of the Model A characteristics that would offend modern day car safety experts, is that the gas tank was located in the hood section directly in front of the windshield. It is fairly clear that in a front end collision, the gas tank would spill or that the tank would be found in the laps of the front seat passengers. It was a fire hazard in any case, but Ford built its Model A’s until 1935 when they were replaced by the V-8 models. The Model A’s were a big success for Ford.

The cars had a floating gas gauge in the tank that could be seen from the passenger compartment. Presumably, Ford located the gas tank more or less over the engine because they must not have trusted the pumps to pull the gas from a rear mounted gas tank to the engine in the front. In spite of the obvious hazards, Ford found itself with a runaway best seller. The Ford car that led the sales parade was a coupe with a rumble seat where the trunk should have been. (see attached) Rumble seats contributed greatly in the romance department, but it was not the driver who profited from this aspect of the Model A’s. It was one of his passengers.

While all these old cars were in existence, not one of them had a heater, unless you considered a casing over the exhaust system of the engine. The casing led to a hole in the firewall with the thought that as the engine warmed, the heat from the exhaust system would be caught and moved somehow to the passenger compartment. Such heaters were not reliable at all and usually produced smoke fumes. But that was all the heat there was.

In most cars, particularly those with no windows or with isinglass windows, passengers, other than the driver, would cover themselves with blankets or robes. Horsehair robes to cover the laps of passengers were quite popular. But no matter how you cut it, riding around in a 1920’s or a 1930’s model car on a cold day was not enjoyable – not at all.


Then in 1938, an outfit called South Wind Heaters developed what must be the forerunner of today’s auto heaters. The South Wind was mounted in the passenger compartment. It had tubes through the firewall where it tapped into the fuel supply of the engine. When a large button was activated in the passenger compartment, ignition took place in the South Wind and heat was generated. If the South Winds were carelessly installed, it could very well result in a fire in the engine compartment. Fires in the passenger compartment were unknown to most of us who worked around cars, but fires in the engine compartment were a problem. Carl Schroth, my boss on my first job, had a South Wind which worked well.

The South Winds are still around today, but rarely seen. They are offered by a Canadian seller of specialties for used (restored) car fans. The South Winds are offered as refurbished and the dealer says that they “have an Art Deco look that fits perfectly with old cars.” In any event, auto manufacturers soon figured out a way to tap into the radiator and the cooling system of the engine. Hot water heaters made the gasoline powered South Winds largely obsolete. That was a good development because the South Winds were expensive and dangerous.

Well, that is the story on older cars. It would be worth a lot of money to drive a Model A Ford today. Perhaps it would have more cachet than the foreign cars which seem to be crowding out American manufactured cars. But the car business has always had its dog-eat-dog aspects. It is simply worse today than ever before.

For an old essayist who had a lot to do with old cars and filling stations. Writing about them is an exercise in nostalgia. Those days were clearly not as pleasant as they seem now, but it is pleasant to bring back memories of more than 60 years in age.

Anybody for an unheated rumble seat ride? My bet is that it would be necessary to beat off young people who would compete to ride the romance seat in a 1931 Model A Ford. And maybe some of us oldsters would be among them.

December 28, 2003

Seems like there are a lot of attachments for this one! If Judy gets some time, perhaps she’ll be able to dig up a couple and I can post them here. As far as cars though, it’s pretty surprising how long it took manufacturers to figure out that gas tanks should be put far from zones that crush during crashes. You might excuse the Model A for the mistake, but even later cars like the Pinto were still experimenting with terribly placed gas tanks — the Pinto was famous for having its gas tank at the very very back of the car, so if you rear ended one it was likely to explode. Fun times.


Writing essays is often hard work mentally for me. But all things taken together, it is pleasant work, particularly when the essays are completed.

In recent months, I have been writing essays about politicians. That is sordid business. So now I am going to give myself a treat by writing about people I like, including our old friend, Shannon P. Catt.

Just as a start on friendly feelings and people I like, when I look toward New York City, Guido Bocciola the owner of L’Aiglon Restaurant comes to mind as a first class friend. The same goes for Jorge Alonso, his Cuban born bartender, and Roger Delacriox, the Frenchman who became Guido’s partner after a time. L’Aiglon has been gone from the scene after the AT&T Company took it over probably 20 to 25 years ago so they could build a new Taj Mahal on Madison Avenue. It has been a long time, but I still miss Guido and the people who worked at L’Aiglon. They were very good to me.

When New York City enters my imagination, I often think of that Hungarian born entertainer, George Feyer. Simply put, I think George Feyer was probably the finest entertainer ever to sit at a piano. I knew George Feyer from the 1950’s until the 1980’s when age more or less interrupted his career. He was a special friend.

Now rounding out this trio about which I intend to write at the start, is Shannon P. (Pest) Catt, a fellow who called this house his home for nearly 15 years. As the title of this piece suggests, Shannon and the rest of the people who lived in this house were special pals.

Guido, George and Shannon are dead now. It is time for this old essayist to recognize their contribution to the happiness of my wife and myself. If Guido and George were here now, they would follow my remarks about Shannon very closely to get a foretaste of how they will handle the laudatory stuff that will come their way as soon as I tell you about our old pal, Shannon.

When Shannon died in December 2000, Judy and I had a notice of “In Memoriam” published in The Item of Millburn, New Jersey. (It is attached.) The first sentence of that memorial piece identified Shannon as, “A beloved lap cat who gave his family love and devotion without reservation for nearly 15 years.” You see, regardless of Shannon’s posturing, he was totally a lap cat. At an old chair out by the garden, he was a lap cat. On the back porch and in the kitchen, he was looking for a lap to crawl onto. In the living room or the recreation room, he held true to form even watching silly commercials on the television set. Upstairs he was working on Judy who was using her computer or he was on the top of my desk, walking on the paper that I was writing on saying, “I want to be held.” In the bedroom, he had the whole king sized bed to get snuggled in. The reason I go to such lengths to establish that he was a notorious lap cat has to do with his view of himself.

Shannon never ran away, but he pursued Zelda, a female cat up the street. He was proud, perhaps to the point of being vain about it. He strutted, he posed and he looked down upon lesser mortals who were not of feline bloodlines. Society started with Shannon at the top rung. He viewed the world as his oyster. He was a man about town. I believe that if the old song and dance man, Maurice Chevalier, were a cat, he would be Shannon. Or to put it another way, Shannon considered himself to be the Maurice Chevalier of the feline world.

But that was only the half of it. To the rest of the world, human, feline and canine as well as other wild animals, Shannon wanted to assume the persona of a fierce fearless fighter. His swagger was something to see. He bore the scars of battle proudly. On his photograph, you will notice that the tip of his right ear is missing a piece. I believe that old Shannon clearly regarded himself as the Rocky Marciano of the cat world. The comparison to Maurice Chevalier and Rocky Marciano were well deserved tributes in Shannon’s eyes. When there were no female cats around, Judy and I would exclaim about his muscles and speed and we would also comment favorably on his handsomeness. It made no difference that this praise was coming from humans; Shannon welcomed the attention, but he regarded the adulatory remarks as being his long delayed due. As fierce as he was, Judy and I wanted to stay on Shannon’s good side.

Shannon has been gone now almost 17 months. After his death, we could have left him at the Summit Dog and Cat Hospital where Doctor Dorney and his veterinarian daughter, Doctor Kay, promised to look after Shannon until the crematory came around to pick him up. We said absolutely not. His body was in a cardboard box which we drove to the Abby Glen Memorial Park in Lafayette, N. J., some 35 miles from here where the crematory was located. It was a cold, snowy, December day. We waited till the Abbey Glen people did their thing and at the end, we came home with Shannon’s ashes in a metal container. Although the old guy is gone, we can’t keep his memory from our minds.

When I shaved, I used an electric razor. It makes a small noise but that was enough to cause old Shannon to come running to the bathroom. He would leap to the counter top where he could watch me in the full length mirror. Alternatively, he would turn his back to the mirror and look at me. I always pretended to give him a shave while the razor made it’s buzzing sound.

When Judy was working on her computer, Shannon would nose around until she got the thought in her mind that he should be picked up where he could see the screen and the keyboard. Sometimes he failed to nose around; he just leapt to Judy’s lap. One way or another, Judy worked around Shannon so everyone was happy.

Shannon was a good leaper. When he wasn’t leaping up in the bathroom to get a shave or to the computer, he would jump to the top of my desk. If I were writing, which is what I do at the desk, old Shannon would inch closer until his front paws were halfway down the page I was writing on. I used to think if he is that hard up for affection, maybe I’d better hold him, which I did.

He often would wait until one of the cars was parked in the garage. As the door opened he would leap up to the floorboards and begin to walk around being careful to look out all the windows. He was not afraid of cars as Judy had suggested early in his life here, that we take him to the post office and other errands so that he would not associate the car with going only to see the veterinarian. He liked the new Chrysler 300M’s.

Shannon’s penchant for entering parked cars got him in some serious trouble. One Friday afternoon, I came home and unloaded the car in the garage. I slammed the door. Well we didn’t see Shannon on Friday night nor did we see him on Saturday. We looked everywhere but not in the garage. Sunday came and went with no cat so we assumed he had run away from home. We were out of places to look.

Monday was a rainy day. Ray Gallo, a painter, was working on the house in the bedrooms. When he arrived, I intercepted him to tell him he should bring his station wagon into the vacant space in the garage. As the painter was unloading his equipment, he asked me why I kept a kitten in my relatively new Cadillac. The kitten was Shannon, of course.

I suppose on Friday afternoon, he had crawled into the car and I unwittingly slammed the door. When I took old Shannon from the car, there was no wet spot or anything else. I don’t know how that happened. I fed him and told him how sorry I was. Old Shannon just went about his business that rainy Monday with no recrimination against me. I learned a lot about forgiveness from that episode.

In the living room, when I sat down and put my feet up on a hassock, old Shannon would come in and walk on my legs until he found a spot to lie down and snooze for a while. I was glad to have him.

In the rec room, Judy and I have large chairs where we read and watched television, particularly the news at 10PM. Shannon would come down to see what we were doing. First, he would get on my lap for his pets and he might even hang around for a few minutes. Then he would go to Judy’s chair and stretch out long ways beside her and relax. Judy’s large chair was where Shannon slept until about 2AM or 3AM, with which he would come upstairs and sleep in the big bed. We ordinarily start for bed a little after the 11PM news comes on. If Judy hung around her chair too long, Shannon would let her know, by body language, that he was ready for his first shift in bed. When we left the rec room, old Shannon didn’t say good night or anything else. He fussed around until he got things in the chair the way he wanted them, and then it was off to sleep. We always said “Good Night” to Shannon; he never returned our greeting.

Shannon had an egalitarian trait. If we were out by the garden, on the porch, in the kitchen, in the living room or in the rec room, Shannon always seemed to make sure he spent time with each of us. It was no accident; I am certain he had it planned in his mind. That was one more reason to like the old guy.

For more than 30 years, I kept a garden which measures about 25 feet each way. There was an old collapsible rocker lawn chair that had been there for years. When I tired of spading or hoeing or harvesting, I would sit in that old chair for a breather. Shannon would almost always miraculously appear from nowhere to sit on my lap. If he was lolling in the shade by the garage, Judy would often say, “Shannon, Pop is taking a recess,” and here he would come for laptime and petting. Sometimes around June or July when the plants grew to around twelve inches, he would hide in their shade. When recess time came, the plants would shake and old Shannon would emerge sometimes with leaves on his head.

Our advisor on cat conduct, Gayle Woodman, said that from what she saw of Shannon, he would never leave home. And why should he? He had a big buffet in the basement, with water and a toilet, and illuminated by a 25 watt bulb day and night. In the kitchen, he had dry snacks and water so all his basic needs were cared for. Judy kept perhaps a dozen or more cans of cat food in reserve for future feedings. She contends that she would hold up a can of cat food and tap its sides with her fingernails and that Shannon would indicate “OK” or “to hell with that stuff!” So no wonder he wouldn’t leave home with all that service.

Judy also used my bench for brushing Shannon. Sometimes she would put him on the bench, but if she was not prompt about it, he would leap from the basement floor to the top of the bench. As Judy brushed him, old Shannon would sort of doze off still standing on his feet. He greatly liked to have Judy brush him.

Shannon and I had a period or two of illnesses. On one occasion, he had to have an abscess removed from his lower body. Oh man, he was a sore old guy. We have a large plastic tray around here. I suppose its intended use is for serving several drinks or for meals, but it was pressed into service when Shannon was sprung from the hospital. Judy put several towels on the tray for Shannon to lie on. At the hospital, the Vet put Shannon on our litter bearing food tray so he did not have to stretch himself. On the way home, I held the tray as level as I could to prevent pain to the old cat. At home, I sat in my chair with my legs up on the hassock and Judy brought the tray next to my lap. Shannon quickly got the idea. He left the tray under his own power and settled down on my legs which was one of his all time favorite lounging spots. When he eventually wanted to get up, Judy brought the tray along side my legs and Shannon transferred apparently with minimum pain. Until he recovered, the tray was his elevator.

I was simply returning Shannon’s favor. There were at least three occasions where I had been laid up and had to take bed rest for a few days. On each of those occasions, Shannon would come lie beside me in the bed for an hour at a time. He would stay with me as sort of a guard for most of the day. I was comforted to know that Shannon was looking out for me. So the litter bearing tray was well deserved for a faithful friend.

During my stays in Overlook and Morristown Hospitals, I eventually achieved private rooms. They all had bulletin boards for birthday and get well cards. Shannon’s picture, the one with the mangled ear, was tacked on all those boards. I wish he would have been permitted to see me.

We rarely go out on Saturday evenings for dinner. Instead we dine on fresh fish and a bottle of good wine while we listen for a couple of hours to CD recordings. This way we can dine and hear good music. Well, old Shannon liked to hear the concerts, particularly in cold weather. Not long after the first notes of the music were heard in the house, old Shannon would show up to be held and snuggled. After he finished with me, he would go to Judy who held him upside down like a baby and people would take turns scratching his belly. What a life he had and good music to go with it. He never showed interest in our food or wine, so I suppose it was the snuggling and the good music that entertained him on Saturday evenings.

One more final memory sticks out in my mind. The first winter he lived here, that was 1986-87, there was quite a bit of snow. When I would try to shovel it or snow blow it away, I found old Shannon, trying to catch snow flakes as they fell. He was only eight months old and had never seen snow, but I’m here to tell you, he really gave those falling snowflakes a strong workout.

During much of Shannon’s life, Judy and I took vacations in the winter months. The idea was to kill January, the cruelest month. At the beginning, Shannon stayed at home with Gayle Woodman visiting him twice a day to feed him and to comfort him. There were times when ice on the roads made Gayle’s job difficult.

So Gayle concluded that with us gone, Shannon was lonesome. She ought to know as she is around animals all the time. So she proposed that Shannon should stay while we were gone with a friend of Gayle’s, Sage Lewis Jones. In military terms, he would be attached to Sage for rations and quarters.

Sage was very good to Shannon and the arrangement worked very well. He even slept on her bed. Old Shannon had girl friends all over.

So you see, Judy and I carry strong memories of Shannon some 17 months after his death. It all started at the Summit Dog and Cat Hospital early in May of 1986. At that time, the Dorneys, who ran the Hospital, took in strays collected by the animal control officers of surrounding towns. Judy said that what this house needed was a cat so we went to see Mrs. Dorney who sort of played matchmaker between the cats and their prospective human owners or servants.

Mrs. Dorney kept the stray cats in cages. Families were kept together if there was a family. Shannon was there with his mother and some of his siblings. As we looked over the cats, this one guy acted as though he wanted to mix it up with me. It was a gross mismatch because his weight was less than a pound, mainly because he had only been in this world only about a month. But he said to me, “Put’em up Buster.” So we told Mrs. Dorney that we’d like to look at this budding Rocky Marciano. We moved to another room and this cat, soon to be named Shannon, wanted to play. So there after a few minutes, the die was cast. We wanted to take this less-than-a-pound kitten home with us.

Mrs. Dorney said we’d have to get clearance from her husband, the Vet. When Dr. Dorney weighed our cat, he said that no cat could be placed until it weighed at least a pound and our guy was short a few ounces. So we agreed to wait until the Friday before Memorial Day, 1986 to go back to see about the cat. We told Mrs. Dorney that his name was going to be Shannon. She was surprised that we had picked out a name so soon, but the Irish name perhaps pleased her as the Dorney clan probably traces its ancestry to the Emerald Isle.

So on that Friday before Memorial Day, Shannon got weighed and passed the one pound test and I held him in my hands – not my arms – as we headed for Judy’s car. As we left the hospital, one of the teen-age staff members said to Shannon, “I hope you have a nice life.” I told her that’s what we planned to give him.

Judy drove a German made BMW at the time. I apologized to Shannon for the rough riding BMW and explained that later, he could ride in my bump eating Cadillac all he wanted.

When we got Shannon home, he pretty much acted as though he was at ease. He explored all the tight spaces behind furniture, not to hide, but simply for the sake of exploration. A few days after he arrived here, we almost lost him in a foolish move. We took him to the garden and let him walk around. The tall grass tickled his belly and he was intrigued as to why that was the case. Remember, he had never been outside before. In an instant, he went through our neighbor’s picket fence. He was not leaving home; he was just exploring. Judy called him and went to pick him up. She got no resistance from Shannon and we were much relieved to have him back in our care.

For all the years Shannon lived here, he more or less came and went as he saw fit. I cut a hole in the garage door to accommodate a cat entry system. The door to the house in the recreation room had a bungee cord attached to it so that Shannon could come into the house from the garage. So as Gayle Woodman says, why should a cat like Shannon ever leave.

Well, good things don’t last forever. In the fall of the year 2000, Shannon seemed to miss a beat. He wasn’t his old self, so we took him to see Dr. Dorney. The Vet said that Shannon was an “elderly gentleman” which told us that he didn’t have much longer to be with us. Shannon’s health would stabilize for a few days and he would eat better than he had. And then, his health would decline.

In December 2000, we again visited Dr. Dorney to see what we could do. We told Dr. Dorney that Shannon appeared to be on his last legs. When the Vet took Shannon into the examining room, Shannon leapt down from the table and pranced around. Some last legs. At the conclusion of that examination, Dr. Dorney said he strongly suspected that cancer was working on the old cat. He referred us to a hospital in the far northern reaches of New Jersey, the Veterinary Referral Center in Little Falls, New Jersey. That town is a long way from Short Hills and is getting close to the New York border. That Center had the most sophisticated diagnostic tools available on the East Coast or anywhere else. We were to see Dr. Renee Al-Sarraf. She is one of two oncology specialists in New Jersey.

This was late in December. So we bundled Shannon up in a blanket and towels and drove for what seemed to me to be an endless distance. The Veterinary Referral Center is a tough place to find but after two or three tries, we found it. The Vets there were very nice to Shannon and to us. They told us that the hair on his belly would have to be shaved for a test, which they did.

After a time, they brought Shannon back from their workroom and the news was pretty bad. The diagnosis was pancreatic cancer which had spread to his liver. They made it clear that this condition would not improve and that if Shannon were kept alive for any length of time, pain would be his fortune. The people at the Center were very decent and compassionate. They would have preferred to deliver good news, I am sure, but we had a feeling that cancer was working on our old pal.

We didn’t get lost coming home, but the distance from Little Falls to Short Hills is pretty substantial considering the traffic. What Judy and I failed to realize was that Shannon had gone perhaps four hours or more without a bathroom break. On the way home, proud old Shannon couldn’t wait any longer and he got the blanket and my trousers wet. I petted him to let him know that it was our fault for overlooking his needs.

Shannon tried the best he could, but the cancer was gaining on him. He slept in our bed for long periods at a time. When he didn’t get up from the bed for quite awhile, we made the decision to carry him to Dr. Dorney expecting that visit to be his last. Dr. Dorney and his daughter, Dr. Kay, also a Vet, said that we were right about Shannon’s sufferings. It was bad now and it would get worse. So the Dorneys euthanized Shannon. He died in a peaceful way. His life ended in the same Hospital with the same Vet as at the beginning of his life.

Like many animals, Shannon knew it was his time to go. Don’t ask me how they know, but they do. If we had let Shannon out of the house after his Little Falls diagnosis, I am fairly certain that he would have disappeared to die. Animals are like that.

So Shannon knew it was his time. The Dorneys agreed. And we had no choice but to accept the inevitable. We think Shannon was a mighty fine fellow who brightened our life for nearly 15 years. Judy and I are indebted to Shannon for all the cheer and love he gave to us.

He lived a fairly long life for a cat. We drove his body to the crematory because he would have done the same thing for us. Upon our return from that cold December trip, we had the local paper publish a notice of his passing. It says that this old “lap cat gave his family love and devotion without reservation for nearly 15 years.” There followed the fourth and final verse of the “Minstrel Boy,” a traditional Irish rouser.

In a previous essay, “On Mortality,” I said that “For Shannon, I will share the ‘Minstrel Boy’ as his epitaph as he is a good Irish cat. He is a good and loyal companion.” That essay was written on May 22, 2000 when Shannon was still very much alive. Now nearly two years later, I think that he ought to be memorialized also with the traditional Irish song of parting. When Irishmen and Irishwomen meet at homes or in bars, they often sing at the end of the evening, “The Parting Glass.” There are two verses. The first one goes this way:

O all the money that e’er I spent
I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
Alas, it was to none but me.
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall.
So fill to me the parting glass
Goodnight and joy be with you all.

Shannon was mighty fine company. So after you’ve sung the “Minstrel Boy” and “The Parting Glass,” perhaps you’d like to salute old Shannon for a life well lived.

May 10, 2002


The idea of taking pets on errands to get them comfortable with cars seems brilliant — I wonder why I’ve never heard of other people doing that? Our dogs definitely knew when it was vet o’clock and Bridget in particular was good at running and hiding behind the couch when she figured out what was going on. Taking her to the post office with us sometimes could have done a lot to build trust!

Anyway, this is one of the sweeter essays on the site, and I really enjoyed it. Just a man reminiscing about his cat; I don’t have much else to add.


In December, 1987 it was necessary to perform a coronary artery bypass graft involving four vessels on the author of this essay. The surgery was performed at New York Presbyterian Hospital and was accomplished by a mixed Jewish and Irish team followed by recovery where I was attended to by some of New York’s finest Catholic nurses. I have to remind myself that the whole function took place in a Presbyterian Hospital. I suppose that if anything untoward happened to me, such as death, I would be covered across the board as I prepared to enter Paradise. In this respect, I favor the Muslim martyrdom approach which rewards martyrs with fine wine, winsome girls and Cuban cigars. Ah, but recovery was soon achieved so I will have to think longer about the Muslim rewards of martyrdom.

Since my discharge from what is referred to in Cardiology-speak as CABGx4, exercise has been my constant companion. Walking, bicycle riding, a treadmill and an indoor bike, a rowing machine and extensive work on this half acre lot gives plenty of exercise. As winter gives way to spring, my wife, the lovely Miss Chicka, and I often walk four miles on our street which carries light traffic.

So it was this week that about a half mile into our walk, we passed an elderly gentleman using a cane with four legs on its end who made it clear that he wanted to converse with us. He was well dressed and was simply standing in the street in front of a very fine home about four or five blocks away from our home. So we crossed the street to converse with the man. He soon told us that he was recovering from a broken hip which I suppose accounted for the cane or walker. As part of the little conversation, he said he was 78 years old. Remember that.

It was obvious that he had some trouble speaking and I noticed that he was drooling slightly. When he tried to tell us of his other problem, he said he had forgotten the name of the disability. To prod his memory and with the thought that he was showing slight drooling, I said maybe the word he was looking for was “stroke.” The gentleman said, “Yeah, Yeah, That’s the word. That’s what I had.”

So now old Ed Carr gets a little snookered. I said that he shouldn’t worry about the stroke as I was getting along pretty well even though two strokes had been in my medical history. And I told him that this summer, I expect to turn 80 years of age. Without batting an eye, he said he couldn’t believe my age, as I “was a young, vigorous, good looking guy.” While I was eating up this compliment, fully deserved I might add, the man said he was about to turn 80 himself on his next birthday. So 79 would be his next anniversary, according to the Treaty of Geneva. Earlier he had said he was 78 years old. I let that one pass because I know how a stroke can injure or destroy one’s mathematical expertise. And what difference does it make if he is 79 or 80 or 81 years of age.

After a while, Judy and I excused ourselves and resumed our walk. The old gentleman wished us well and in return he was told to “stay strong” which is what I generally say when finishing letters or in ending conversations. Our friend said he would stay strong.

That encounter set my mind to enumerating the various effects that stroke victims are likely to encounter. I’m not much of an example to tell anyone how to avoid a stroke having had one in 1992 and a second severe one in late 1997. So about all this poor example can say is eat right, don’t smoke, get some exercise and hope for the best. So all that can be done is to give the reader a thought or two about the effects of a stroke assuming you are so unlucky as to have had one.

My stroke experience started on a Saturday evening after all the work and exercise had been completed. I shaved and took a shower in preparation for dinner and a good bottle of wine. When I emerged from the shower and tried to get the towel behind my back to dry there, the left arm failed to work properly. The arm didn’t bend and the hand could not grasp the towel. There was no pain at all. Nothing like having a tooth extracted or falling down and spraining a wrist. Nothing. When the failure persisted for two or three minutes, it seemed to me that a stroke had taken place. So Judy called the Emergency Room at Overlook Hospital and by the time we drove there, Dr. Slama from the Summit Medical Group was on his way to the hospital soon to be joined by a neurologist, also from Summit. After perhaps 24 hours, Slama and his neurological partner concluded that my problem was a TIA – a Transient Ischemic Attack. Hospitalization at Overlook lasted seven or eight days. During that time, I had a steady diet of Coumadin, the drug that prevents clots from forming which block passageways to the brain. After perhaps 36 hours, the arm and the hand returned to normal operation. Upon discharge, there was a meeting with cardiologists, neurologists, nurses and Summit Medical Group’s representative to Overlook Hospital at which time I was given a “Medic Alert” tag for my wrist and told that Coumadin would be required for the rest of my life. That seemed like a fair enough arrangement to me.

So from July, 1992 when the TIA occurred, I often found myself in the lab at the Summit Medical Group to draw blood to determine the Coumadin content in the blood. This occurred every two to four weeks. Drawing blood was not a happy experience, particularly when the phlebotomist was a little clumsy. But that was not a big deal. I was still alive and stroke free.

That situation went on until December, 1997. In tests during the Fall of 1997, my regular cardiologist Andrew Beamer, told me that my aortic valve was greatly restricted. Normal ones have an opening approaching the size of a quarter. Mine had shrunk to less than the diameter of a dime so it had to be fixed. I had trouble breathing particularly after exercise. So arrangements were made with the Mid-Atlantic Surgical Associates in Morristown with a fellow that Andy Beamer recommended. His name is Albert Casale. Casale gave me almost two hours in the pre-operative interview. He explained how he had to avoid the by-pass grafts as he opened my chest for another major operation. Avoiding the grafts is no small accomplishment when the surgeon is using an electric saw to open the chest. Al Casale is a very skilled surgeon and a regular guy. I like him.

Coumadin inhibits work on the heart because of the non-clotting effect on blood. So in accordance with standard instructions for aortic valve operations, I was instructed to take no Coumadin for the five days prior to the planned surgery. On the fourth day without Coumadin, Judy and I spent four or five hours raking leaves and carting them to the street from our large backyard. I was to enter the hospital for surgery the next morning.

After the work in the yard, I took a shower and the bed had to be made. While we were trying to get the bedclothes in place, Judy looked at me and announced that I was having a stroke.¹ My attitude was: “Who? Me?” I had no pain that I can recall but I suppose I must have been so uncoordinated that Miss Chicka gave her instant diagnosis and seemed to brook no questions or dissent. When the Rescue Squad came to the house, along with the Overlook Hospital Emergency representatives, they quickly agreed with Miss Chicka’s diagnosis. So it was off to Overlook Hospital for a more than two week period of recovery.

After about eight or nine hours in the Emergency Room, I found myself in a small ward with several other stroke victims – most of whom were much worse off than I was. The next morning, a therapist or nurse came to my bed with a little jar of pudding which she fed me. I did not know it at the time, but this was to determine whether the stroke victim could swallow or could swallow without complications. My swallowing seemed alright and I then began to petition for the right to use the bathroom. Soon that privilege was granted and then the hospital found a private room that made things somewhat easier.

This stroke seemed to do nothing in terms of damage to any of my limbs. The effects were concentrated in my brain. On many-many occasions, I have said that when a thought forms in the stroke victim’s brain, it is very difficult or impossible to make that thought come out of the mouth or to the hand so that it can be written. This is called Aphasia. The morning after the stroke occurred I could only say “Thank you” and somehow I could write my name and print “six” and “seven.” Printing those numbers was the old draftsman at work. It got better after awhile, but I was concerned that it would be necessary for me to use “Thank you” as my entire English vocabulary.

Now here is a thought if you know anyone suffering a stroke. Two or three women who were on the staff of the hospital visited me quite often in my room insisting that I agree to use their rehabilitation services. Among other things, they gave me word exercises and told me that I would have to memorize names of things and spit them out in 30 seconds or less on demand. If I could do this feat, it meant I had recovered from the stroke. One example had to do with vegetables. Another had to do with makes of automobiles. I had to think up the names of cars when I could barely call my own name, and recite a list of 20 car makes in 30 or 35 seconds. People suffering from Aphasia have a particularly difficult time recalling nouns, hence the veggies and cars.

By this time, Judy and I had already determined that these women were charlatans and that the Kessler Rehabilitation Center would have me as a patient. Even when the women were told that fact, they kept on insisting that I use their services, much to my annoyance. So if you know a stroke patient, advise them not to agree to a therapist who just happens to find his or her room at the hospital. If the patient is in the New York or Philadelphia general vicinity – GO TO KESSLER. Got that? Go to Kessler. Or alternatively, go to see Dr. Martha Taylor Sarno of the Rusk Institute located at 400 East 34th Street in New York City.

And if the patient had a stroke like mine affecting only the brain and not involving the arms and legs or other parts of the body, when you get to Kessler ask to see Shirley Morganstein, Director of Speech Therapy. Perhaps she will again prescribe essay-therapy, as in my case. Writing essays has been the absolutely most effective rehabilitative practice to come to my attention. At first, it ain’t easy. Be prepared to sit at your desk or table when in search of a word, the brain goes blank; it just goes on strike. In such a case like that look for synonyms or wait it out or go on to a different part of the essay, if that is possible.

Writing essays is not a one time complete fix. I find that without brain exercise, it tends to become flabby and slippage occurs. See my next paragraph, for example, on the ability to handle math problems. And so four and one half years after the stroke, I still try to write essays not necessarily because I love my words and prose, but rather because of the need to exercise what passes for a brain in my head. If it is not kept at work, it slips and deteriorates. But one more time, essay writing takes a lot of work. As I say, it ain’t easy, but I’m here to tell you that it is worth the effort. The alternative to this sort of work is not attractive at all.

Another effect of my stroke is its continuing effect upon my ability to handle mathematical problems. The other day at the bank, I gave the teller a $100 check to cash so that we could send $50 to a grandson for his 17th birthday. I also specified that I needed five one dollar bills in this transaction. The teller gave me the $50 bill, two $20 bills and a five and five ones. I knew that she was right because I saw her use her computer to see if the amount came to $100. But I was buffaloed. All the way to the car it seemed to me that I was missing something. I guess – guess – that the $20 dollar bills may have registered in my brain as $10 dollar bills. In the privacy of the car, I counted out the $100 that the teller had given me. But here I am four and a half years after the stroke largely unable to do small sums quickly. Think of this. In the 1960’s and 1970’s before hand held calculators were invented, I used to figure my New Jersey, New York State and New York City income taxes, all at once. Nobody said it was an easy task, but the job got done. In 2002, it would be largely impossible to handle that job. So math is a problem even figuring out my gas mileage. And when I am asked for my Social Security Number or my phone number, I sometimes go blank.

A second effect of strokes, at least in my case, has to do with the alphabet. Reading the alphabetized heading on the classified section of the phone directories is a struggle. Finding a name doesn’t come easily. When I read the stock tables, I look at where my stocks appear each day hoping that they have not moved. If, as has happened in the past, a merger occurs and the stock listing is moved, its one more struggle to figure out the alphabetical listing. I don’t own that many stocks and some of them are listing heavily to starboard – Lucent, for example. But the New York Times prints the tables so that the stocks can be found – after years of practice – in the proper places. If they were listed in some other order, it would take me a lot longer to read about stocks.

Another effect of the stroke in my case, has to do with the absolute inability to bring a name to mind. I sat here this morning unable to call the name of the Kessler Institute which I attended for rehabilitation services. Judy finally told me what it was. For several months and years, I could not recall the word “persimmon.” There are dozens of names like that as well as people and place names that may not come to mind easily. So I keep a booklet by the chair where I read that is filled with names that at one time I have forgotten. My latest entry is mysterium iniquitatis which the Pope said described the current travail of the priests and bishops in his flock. The translation is Mystery of Evil. I’m not so sure that this whole sorry mess is a mystery to anyone except to the hierarchy of the church.

On other occasions, I can recall names and conversations that took place 60 or more years ago. On the “We Have a Boy” essay, there are two routing slips posted on the letter that Ed Carr was the boy in question. Those routing slips contain about 22 names and the memo was written more than 60 years ago. I can recall every one of those men whose names appear on the routing slips but of course, I had the slips to remind me. I can recall their faces and many of their characteristics.

And then there is the problem that a sentence can be started either in speaking or in writing, without knowing how that sentence may be finished. I used to think in full paragraphs when delivering a speech or in bargaining proposals or in dealing with government bureaucrats. Now often when I start a sentence, it is a matter of considerable interest to see how the sentence is completed. Sort of a thrill a minute.

Of course, the foregoing areas of concern make the speaker or the writer a little hesitant to go forward. But at the end of the day, the ability to laugh at oneself is a saving grace. One way or another, things will work out so despair is out of the question. If that elderly gentleman on our street can jump from age 78 to 80 years of age, I would mark that off to good luck or the mystery of evil. But he exuded good cheer and it was pleasant to talk to him.

I wrote this little essay fearing that some may not want to hear of this old soldier’s troubles. That is not the point. The essay has been constructed so that a stroke sufferer or people close to her or him may have an idea of what to expect when the stroke becomes history. Immediately after the stroke, it would have been helpful to me to have an idea of what sort of problems might come into view down the road. And it would have been helpful to know that there are ways around the failure to bring to mind the name of an object. I use synonyms quite often. Sometimes a foreign thought takes a great purchase on my brain so much so that other thoughts are lost. Let’s say that “sugar” for example, gets stuck in my brain. In time “sugar” will go away. Patience is needed and I don’t have much of that virtue but as I say, with a little bit of luck and good rehabilitation work, and writing lots of essays, as well as a good sense of humor, it will all probably work out at the end of the day.

So as I told that gentleman on our street, he should stay strong. And he should not hang around out in the street. But at 79 or 82 years of age, I suppose he can do anything he wants.

April 13, 2002

Note¹: Ms. Chicka recalls that, at the writer’s insistence, we were really in the process of flipping the mattress, not simply making the bed.


The family saying is that Shepherds never suffer in silence — maybe it should be amended to include the fact that Carrs tend to soldier through. Pop coped admirably with a lot of really awful hands, late in life, and his attitude generally matched what he described above. He’d do what he needed to do to keep going as best he could. I wonder if he ever stopped considering the essays a form of exercise, or if the distinction between a hobby and exercise simply failed to be meaningful after a while.


Bush and Cheney loudly proclaim that they are oilmen. How could they in one week alienate the Arabs and Venezuela, our third largest supplier of oil?

George W. Bush, The Israelis and the Venezuelans As I write this in mid-April, 2002, the crisis in the Mid-East has been going on for some time. Until April 4th of this year, Bush elected to ignore the fighting going on between the Israelis, the Palestinians and lately, Lebanese forces in Northern Israel. When Bush finally spoke up on April 4th, he demanded that the Israelis withdraw from their invasion and he demanded that the Arab states stop terrorism. Both sides told him to get lost. The Israeli Army continued its complete destruction of Palestine homes and infra-structure and the Palestinians kept up the suicide bombings.

Bush then sent Colin Powell to the Mid-East where he was greeted by an insult from the Moroccan King (Why are you here? Why aren’t you in Jerusalem?), and a complete refusal from Sharon to pull back his army. For his part, Arafat said that he was going to resist as long as Israeli forces occupied Palestinian territory. And Powell was in the country when a new suicide bomber took his toll on a civilian target. On the way back to the United States, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stiffed him and failed to see him. But Bush, the President with a pygmy sized brain said when Powell returned to Washington, that the Powell mission was quite a success. He was not joined in that assessment by Powell.

All of this followed the seven or eight country visit to the Middle East in March by the estimable oil man, Dick Cheney. Cheney was humiliated when he asked for Arab support in the proposed invasion into Iraq. All the countries he visited told him, “Hell No.” It takes an enormous amount of ignorance or hubris to ask Arab countries for their support in helping to destroy another Arab country. Ignorance and hubris come in large quantities in the Bush crowd.

All the while, Bush has issued countless statements urging support of Sharon while condemning Arafat. Well, for sake of argument, let’s just say that Arafat deserves all the vitriol that Bush has unloaded on him. What this says to the world is that the United States and Israel are joined at the hip. American policy is Israeli policy and vice versa. Bush has mortgaged the United States foreign policy to the arms of Sharon, who is not called the “Butcher of Beirut” for nothing.

Arabs will never forget the cruelty visited upon them in their miserable camps this year. Houses knocked down with occupants still inside. Civilians shot for the crime of looking out windows.

Now I ask, does anyone think that anyone in the whole Middle East would have a kind word or thought about the United States? And when the Arabs wake up, does anyone think that they will cheerfully continue to supply us with oil?

While all this was going on, Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State, Otto Reich, is meddling in Venezuelan politics. Needless to say, he is an unreconstructed right-winger who was a recess appointment by Bush. He was turned down by the Senate. The Venezuelan president was overthrown this past weekend, April 14th by elements in the Venezuelan Army. In two days, the president, Chavez, returned to power and the Army ran for cover. During this whole mess, Otto Reich said he was in touch with the insurgents. When the insurgents put their new President Pedro Estanga Carmona in power, he immediately moved to stamp out the National Assembly and the Supreme Court. In U. S. terms, the National Assembly is equivalent to the United States Congress.

Reich told Estanga Carmona that dissolving the National Assembly and the Supreme Court would be “a stupid thing to do.” So Reich views himself as a patron of the insurgency. What Reich overlooks is that by destruction of a president elected in a democratic election, the Bush administration is in clear violation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter – which Colin Powell had much to do with as recently as last Fall. The Bush administration thought Chavez was not on their side so obviously, he has to go and let’s not worry about democratic principals.
Today, April 17, the New York Times reports that Otto Reich has now claimed that Cubans had tried to kill opponents of Chavez. When Reich was asked through a spokesman for proof of these assertions, it turns out there is none. When Reich was asked today April 17, for an interview by the Times, he refused. Draw your own conclusions.

Well, the long and the short of it is clear. The Arabs will be angered at us for many generations. The Venezuelans, who control a good part of the world’s oil, will always regard the United States as interlopers who are ready to overturn their democratically elected government.

So if the Arabs and the South Americans elect to sit on their oil, it becomes clear that Crawford, Texas or Brooklyn, New York must now take the place of Saudi Arabia in terms of furnishing us with oil.

And one further thought. We are not finished with terror in this country. If I thought the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were things of the past, I would sleep easier. But to the extent that Bush deliberately arouses Arab anger, it is entirely possible that more strikes – against the American homeland – may occur. That is why I am appalled at Bush’s mortgaging the future of this country to a completely destructive mad man such as Sharon.

Bush has so provoked and angered Arabs and other like-minded people, that retaliation against the American homeland or on an American traveler becomes an inevitability. Given Bush’s propensity for poking the Arabs in the eye, my belief is that September 11th was not an end of terrorist violence in this country. The Arabs are prideful men as we are. In my estimation, they are not done, particularly as long as they are needlessly provoked by the amateurish Bush.

    Alice in Wonderland

This is Alice in Wonderland stuff and hard to accept. Yesterday,
April 18, 2002, Bush met the press and announced that Powell’s trip was a considerable success. Among other accomplishments, he said Powell had laid out a “vision” for peace in the region. Remember, his father had trouble with the “vision thing,” but of late, the junior Bush uses it a lot. As if that is not enough of a fairytale, Bush said Sharon was in compliance with his (Bush’s) pull-back schedule – a complete lie – and that – get this – Sharon is a “Man of Peace.” He also says that in spite of his words on April 4th, he understands now why Sharon wants to continue to punish the Palestinians.

I hope you stayed with me as we zoomed around the curves. What Bush said yesterday is a complete reversal of his earlier demand on April 4th, two weeks ago that Sharon pull his Army back, without delay.

If Bush had produced his miraculous stuff say a century ago, there would have been no need for Alice in Wonderland to have been written.

    Bush’s Mouthpiece, The Canadians, The Mexicans and Nada

In the past week or so, Ari Fleisher the Bush mouthpiece, has tried to replace the term “Suicide bombers” with a new construction, “homicide bombers.” I have no faith that Fleisher is ever telling the truth. Recall him – and later Bush – blaming the whole Mid-East war on Clinton? Both had to eat their words.

So I went to see what led the Bush mouthpiece to substitute the word “homicide” for suicide. I have pondered over Fleisher’s semantic choice of words and it leads me to conclude this is a difference without a distinction.

Suicide – an act or instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally especially by a person of years, of discretion and of sound mind.

Homicide – (a) a person who kills another, (b) killing of one human being by another.
Source: Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1973

The new construction came originally from Sharon’s people. Some other people around Bush have tried the new term out. For better or for worse, it is gaining no currency at all. No other commentators have picked it up so the “homicide bombers” seems headed for early oblivion which is probably what it deserves.

While Bush’s mouthpiece was trying, without success, to peddle his “homicide bombers,” he had nothing to say about four Canadian soldiers killed by a 500 pound bomb dropped by an American pilot. Fleisher had nothing to say.

The day after this “friendly fire” tragedy, Bush made five speaking appearances and in none of those exchanges, did he ever express the sorrow of the United States. Canadian papers exploded. Finally, someone got to Bush and he belatedly called the Canadian Prime Minister to express American regrets.

Bush has yet to visit Canada, our closest friend and ally. He has called Mexico our closest friend. In what Bush calls his “War on Terror,” the Canadians put 900 troops under the command of the United States. The four that were killed were part of that contingent.

Our close friends in Mexico have not joined in Bush’s call for a wide coalition. They sent no troops. No aircraft. No naval support. The Spanish word is “Nada” – nothing.

Now you tell me, who is the most friendly country to the United States? It’s not Mexico. And in World War II, Mexican support for the U. S. came out to “Nada.” Our best friend? Bush thinks so.

APRIL 19, 2002


I wonder what Pop thought about all the remote control war happening in oil-rich countries right now. Drones and satellites against radicals and bombers. That’s certainly what this has come to, yet even despite possessing every advantage (but the homefield one) I don’t see us closing out this campaign anytime soon.


On Friday, after the big Christmas 2002 snowstorm had passed, the people at the opticians called to say my new eye glasses were ready to be picked up. Standing across the busy street waiting for the light to change, a man came up behind me and said, “How about the weather?” As I turned around with the thought in mind to say, “It’s ok now that the snow is out of here”, the words never left my tongue. The man behind me was talking on his cell phone and in point of fact, no question had ever been addressed to me.

As a writer of occasional essays, an event of this kind would probably be the subject of a short note in my files with the thought that someday it might be well to write about cell phone usage in public. For more than five years now, short notes such as this to remind me of events that could be a subject for essays have found a home in my files for future essays. Many of these notes would not support a full essay, so it was my intention to include them in a collection to be known as “Bits and Pieces.” These short essays would stand alone and would not be related one to another. As one “Bits and Pieces” story ended, there would be a line under it and then there would be a new story or essay with a different title.

My first “Bits and Pieces” essay was to start with my recollection of a lovely woman who worked with me in Chicago. This lady had apparently seen hundreds of movies and often, she would answer questions by quoting a line from a movie as though it were her own. No attempt at attribution would be made. And some of her responses were quite enigmatic and puzzling.

Well, as thoughts of the movie quoting woman filled my head, it was inevitable that my mother, who considered going to “picture shows” as a sinful evil causing the American public to stray from righteousness, would come into my mind. That was only one item on my mother Lillie’s forbidden list. Dancing, card playing, Sunday ball games, whiskey drinking, cigar smoking are a few more that were considered as the obvious work of Satan. Of necessity, it seemed that my background or experience with movies was a natural to go with the Chicago lady who responded to questions by using a line from a movie. So my mother became a sort of “Bits and Pieces” issue.

Then, before anyone could put the fire out, the Chicago movie lady caused me to write about one of her fellow workers who had her hair done each week. When she emerged into public view after what must have been three or four hours at the hairdresser, she was a sight to see. Her hair was almost always piled on top of her head to a height of a least three to five inches. There were arches and tunnels through her blond Swedish hair that made Cy Hill, my engineering friend gasp. He considered it not as an artistic triumph of hair styling, but as an engineering masterpiece.

So the thoughts of little essays under the heading of “Bits and Pieces” will have to wait for another day. This one involves the previously mentioned women. I believe it is reasonable to call it “Three Interesting Women.”

Because Lillie, my mother, was older than the other two women, it is proposed that we start with her.


For purposes of honesty and integrity, it is necessary for this essayist to reveal that he has a long standing aversion to the products produced by the world wide movie industry. It is impossible for me to fanticize that some of the plots described to me are worth my while. The advertisements shown on television only increase my animosity. In short, a decent book is 1000 times more enjoyable to me than any movie.

Two thoughts go into my attitude on motion pictures. In the first instance, my parents attended fundamentalist churches like the Pentecostal or the Nazarene or of the Free Will Baptist variety. It would be more appropriate to describe them as primitive as distinguished from fundamental. Among other things, my parents, particularly my mother, tried to ban the children from card playing, drinking, dancing and going to what were called in the 1930’s, “Picture Shows.” Similarly banned was cigar smoking and watching ball games on Sundays.

In the second instance, her bans were observed in the breech once the older children had jobs. My older sister was a regular member of a bridge club that met in our house when it was my sister’s turn to hostess the event. My other sister became a singing waitress in a road house or saloon or tavern run by Joe Gonella in Brentwood, Missouri. My two elder brothers liked bridge and poker and – heaven forbid – they drank whiskey and even worse, they actually danced with girls.

But those older siblings were somewhere between eight and fifteen years older than the youngest member of the family, namely me. So the bans on any type of enjoyment eventually fell on me. While the other Carr children were off on their absolutely sinful ways, it was left to me, a youngster of less than 13 years, to survive my mother’s attempts to make a pietist out of me. The proper phrase should be “to pietize me”, but Webster insists on other terms. She did not succeed in that endeavor to make a holy child out of me, as the thought that I should become a preacher was rebuffed – by me.

At age 12 or 13 years, there was no urge for me to take up dancing, card playing, going out with girls or drinking whiskey. On the other hand, the wealthy kids who attended the Clayton, Missouri Public Schools with me often discussed motion pictures that they had seen at the Shady Oak Theater in Clayton. There was nothing for me to contribute in such a discussion because at age 13 years, a picture show was on my forbidden list. It might be supposed that I devoted my attention to books and baseball as a means of making up for my deficiencies in the entertainment field.

During my 13th year which occurred in 1935, a stroke of genius embraced me. From reading the St. Louis Post Dispatch, it was clear that a new film called, “The Sign of the Cross” was attracting big crowds to theaters in St. Louis. Its release was timed to occur at Easter. So my treasury had a few dollars from cutting grass and baby sitting. My proposition to my mother was that any trip to see a picture show would be financed by me. If anyone was going to hell, it was clear that I would pay that price. You must remember that at age 13, I was in my seventh year of complete religious disbelief, so hell had no fury for me.

Secondly, my mother was told that this was a picture show about Jesus. As far as I know, very few, if any, depictions of Jesus had ever been filmed by Hollywood. My effort were assisted by my sinful brothers who seemed to assure our mother that seeing “The Sign of the Cross” might bring me back to righteousness. They knew me better than that; it was simply a sales pitch to permit me to go see the film at the Shady Oak Theater. So after a time, Mrs. Carr reluctantly said go ahead. She was yielding to the inevitable because she knew in a short time, her last child would certainly become involved in the “ways of the world.”

It would be nice to inform you that the 1935 film “The Sign of the Cross” was a blockbuster. It most assuredly was not. It was an overwhelming 2½ to 3 hour bore. The words I heard in the Shady Oak Theater that day were the among the same ones that I had rejected in my forced encounters with preachers and Protestant religious thought. It might be believed that that first experience turned me off movies forever. In any case, it did not help Hollywood’s cause with me.

My next encounter with movies came during the war in Africa and Italy. Once in a while, the Army branch in charge of morale, would ship us a light hearted film. At the beginning, they shipped us war films which were laughed out of existence. They simply had no relevance to soldiers in combat situations. Later, they sent us some sophomoric films about romance among the high school set. Many of the men told the base communication’s officer that they would much prefer writing to the folks back home as distinguished from another moon-spoon-jitterbug movie. So they were simply shut down. So my GI experience as far as movie watching was a big zero.

After the United States Army reluctantly released me in November, 1945, no movie theaters had me as a customer. There were two major league ball clubs in St. Louis. There was a well know outdoor theater where light opera was presented during the summer months. In the winter, there were hockey games and the Grand Opera Association of St. Louis which offered three productions per year. And there were books and a first class newspaper. So there was no need to look for a picture show, so thoughts of movies never entered my head.

During the war, other soldiers had said that Boston was a good town. Being a “good town” may have been favorable eating establishments. Or it might have been a good bar scene. Or it could have been willing females. So never take the word of a soldier. Go see for yourself. And so the summer of 1948 found me in Boston during a very uncomfortable, humid heat wave. Remember, there was no such thing as
air-conditioning then as we know it today. Hotels responded by providing windows that could be opened. Restaurants had large fans, but it was still hot.

In the midst of a hot humid afternoon, a Boston theater appeared with the promise of being air-cooled. That term probably referred to tubs of ice with fans blowing over them. The picture being shown was the “Babe Ruth Story.” So to escape the humid heat, it seemed that an afternoon with the Babe was our best bet. The movie did nothing to change my view of the offerings of Hollywood. The theater though offered some relief from the heat, but not much. Before long that Boston experience will be 55 years old. It must have satisfied my curiosity about movies because in the intervening 55 years, there has been no temptation on my part to attend a showing of any of the latest Hollywood extravaganzas. As far as motion pictures are concerned, I’ve seen all I care to see. So for the rest of my life, it will be books, newspapers and some essays. Perhaps my mother was on to something when she barred me from seeing picture shows. But remember, it all started with “The Sign of the Cross.”

It was a very different situation with a very nice woman I worked with in Chicago. She must have seen every movie that was released during her working life, including the “The Sign of the Cross.”


For a two year period and starting in 1953 when I was involved with the Chicago #2 Traffic Office, AT&T and the Illinois Bell Telephone Company provided operators who handled long distance calls. Local calls were handled exclusively by the Illinois Company.

In those days, a customer who wished to make a long distance call would dial “211” and a light would be illuminated on the switchboard in front of a long distance operator. All the operators were women at that time. She would answer the signal by asking what number in the distant city you wished to call. If she had a direct unused circuit in front of her, say for a call from Chicago to Milwaukee, she would go into that circuit and the call would be immediately completed. If she had no direct circuit in her switchboard in front of her, say in the case of a Chicago to Reno, Nevada call, she would dismiss the customer. When she reached the called party in Reno, she would call back the originating Chicago customer and tell him to go ahead with his call. Remember, all this was before long distance toll dialing by customers.

Getting the right number of operators into the right positions on the switchboard was an exacting science. All the assignments were broken down into 15 minute segments. The idea was to leave operators in a position for as long as they were not needed in another position, say during the busy hour. In that case, the operator might be asked to move to another location for all or part of the busy hour. Every operator knew exactly where she was going to be at any time of the day because she received a “trick card” at the beginning of her shift which told her where she would be for the duration of her shift.

It is clear that “Trick Card” has picked up some unsavory connotations in recent years. But in the 1950’s, it was the backbone of the system which told operators where to work and for how long. The assignment of operators to work the switchboards was the function of Force Clerks who reported not to Chief Operators, but to the District Superintendent of the Traffic Office. That tells anyone of the importance of the function. The work of the Chief Force Clerk and her staff was complex. It would be difficult for me to remember that their work was ever overturned or even amended. When the Chief Force Clerk would show her work to me every week, I would clear my throat and pretend that I understood it. Before long, she would have my approval. In point of fact, unless you did the work yourself, there was no way for an outsider to improve upon the final result, much less to criticize it.

The Chief Force Clerk, when AT&T asked me to take over the Chicago #2 Office, was a very nice lady who went by the name of Rosalie Larson. If one wishes to engage in polite circumlocution, it might be said that
Miss Larson was of Swedish extraction. The people of Chicago are plain spoken. No fancy stuff for them. Rosalie and many thousands of other Chicagoans were usually identified as Swedes, just as another large group of Chicagoans were identified as Poles. Everyone understood that people such as the ones we are talking about were Americans; the ethnic identification, when necessary, simply made it easier to identify the person under discussion. It was like saying that woman over there in the red blouse. The ethnic identification was just that simple.

Before my thoughts are overlooked or forgotten, Chicago and its people are favorites of mine. It is a first class town peopled by first class citizens. I liked that place so much that a baby Chicago girl was adopted into our family. Soon, she will celebrate her 50th birthday.

Now, back to Rosalie. For reasons unknown to me, Miss Larson apparently spent her off hours in movie theaters. Remember, this was in the 1953-1955 span of years when there was no such thing as a rented movie. If you wanted to see a movie, you went to the theater and paid at the box office to enter the theater.

Rosalie saw so many movies that other AT&T traffic employees would ask her opinion as to what film they should see. Her breaks and lunch hours were punctuated by requests for a review of a movie that Rosalie had seen. Rosalie was an accommodating reviewer of movies. If she ever chased a movie buff away, it was probably while she was wrestling with a weekly force program.

It seemed to some of us that Rosalie spent so much time in movies that she consciously or unconsciously began to talk like characters she had seen. On one occasion that comes to mind, she apparently was asked if she had ever married. Rosalie was an attractive woman and the question was a fair one. Before anyone ever heard of “Ms,” Miss Larson responded by saying, “I called him my husband.” So when someone mentioned the remark to me, it seemed that Rosalie had been married – but who knows? Another person in the office said that the husband line came from a year old film. When it came time for me to report to my next job in New York, I had no idea about the husband – or the lack thereof – in Rosalie’s life. There was no point in wondering about these complications; that’s just the way Rosalie talked.

On another occasion, Rosalie said something to the effect that a certain man was “the other half of the apple” to a certain woman. When this statement was presented to me for discerning its meaning, it seemed to me that perhaps – when an apple is broken in half longitudinally, that only those two apple halves will ever fit together again. That was only my guess.

My father had strong arms from firing on the Illinois Central Railroad as a young man. He often took an apple, larger ones preferred, held it in his hands with the stem sticking upward, and twisted the left half in one direction and the right half in the other direction. And invariably, the apple came apart in two halves. My father always carried a pocket knife. It would have been much more simple to cut the apple in half, but perhaps he wanted to let the children know that he could break an apple in two. In any case, that is where my expertise about apples fitting back together came from. Pretty dubious expertise, I suppose.

As far as anyone could figure out, Rosalie’s line about “the other half of the apple” had to do with a cleaved apple. None of us knew any more than Rosalie’s response. In the interest of fair reporting, it should be noted that at least one of the folks in the Chicago #2 Office said it also came from a movie.

Well there you have it. Rosalie was a nice person who occasionally resorted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer forms of speech. Knowing nothing about movies, it seemed to me that such movie-speak while enigmatic, was pretty colorful stuff. And I never did figure out if Rosalie ever married – or remarried – as the case may be.

Now we turn to a colleague of all of us in the Chicago #2 Office who employed the most innovative hair dresser in Chicago, or as Bertie MacCormick, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune would say, “In all Chicagoland.”


This lady was a fun loving woman who had her hair done once each week. Like Rosalie, Dorothy Anderson was a Swede and perhaps she spent as much on her hairdresser as Rosalie did on movies.

There was considerable interest on Mondays when Dorothy would appear in the office with her latest hairdo creation. As a general observation, it seemed to me that her hair was always on top of her head. There were arcs and spirals and tunnels and round things like spoked wheels all over Dorothy’s head. As was said earlier, Cy Hill, a hard bitten engineer used to marvel at how the hairdresser had fixed Dorothy’s hair to defy gravity. Cy Hill had no hair that anyone could discern so I paid a diminished amount of attention to him.

Cy and some other male cynics who admired the innovations of the hairdresser, nevertheless contended that there was no way for Miss Anderson to recline peacefully, or un-peacefully, in a bed. They argued that the creations on top of Dorothy’s head were so important to her that she must have slept in an upright position in a chair or in a similar device. I took no clear position on this delicate subject. But it seemed reasonable to me that when single men debated about taking her out on a date, the problem of preserving the engineering marvels atop Dorothy’s head would become a significant issue. I listened to the cynic’s discussion, but I had nothing of import to add, publicly. Such a discussion would have run afoul of my mother’s forbidden list.

It has been nearly 50 years since Dorothy attracted all the attention of everyone at the Chicago #2 Traffic Office. If somehow we should meet today, you may be sure that it would be necessary for me to review her latest hair creation. Cy Hill is gone now, but Dorothy ought to have a latter day creation to honor the old engineer and the other interested male cynics.


Well, there you have the story of three women who impressed me back in the 1950’s and, in the case of my mother, back in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Whatever happened to my friends Rosalie and Dorothy is unknown to me as we enter 2003. I hope they are happily retired, going to the movies and to the hairdresser or what ever their latter day penchant might now be.

As for my mother, it was not in the cards for me to become a preacher as she had hoped and wanted. On the other hand, speaking of cards, during my more than three years in the American Army, I never ever sat at a poker table or in any other card game. When we were given ration cards for beer from the British run shops (NAAFTI), which were like the U. S. Army PX’s, I always gave my beer rations to someone else. Please don’t consider these acts as a return to righteousness on my part. I was just doing what came naturally to me. Card playing comes in as low as movies with me. I guess the proper word is nadir. And after trying to like beer, it just didn’t become the “other half of the apple.” As for cigar smoking, perhaps five or six cigars found their way into my lips. I hated every puff of every cigar I ever smoked.

So I hope my long departed mother will now view me in a more sympathetic light in view of my thoughts about card playing, movies, dancing, beer drinking and smoking cigars. I believe that my credentials for sainthood are well established and clearly beyond questioning. Perhaps the Protestants will now compose a new eight part hymn or an oratorio to sing my praises far and wide. I might even sing the baritone or bass part of such a hymn of praise.

December 31, 2002


Sorry for the break in essays! It’s been a crazy work week.

I can’t help but feel that Ed didn’t really give movies a fair shot. For a man who disliked both fiction and Christianity, The Sign of the Cross may have represented a poor introduction to the medium. Though, thinking about it, even now I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a movie that Pop would have enjoyed more than a book, so maybe he had it right after all.

Also noteworthy: I’ve been eating apples incorrectly all along. Gotta start just tearing them apart, I suppose.


In the spring and summer of 2001, the former AT&T Long Lines Headquarters building at 32 Sixth Avenue in New York City was sold to the Rudin Corporation. I had a vested interest in the lobby of that building because that is where a plaque commemorating the memory of those serving in World War II is located. Three of the men who worked with me in an office in St. Louis are memorialized because they lost their lives in combat. A fourth man, who also lost his life at Iwo Jima and who was a close associate in St. Louis, is missing from that plaque for bureaucratic reasons.

I started calling and writing letters to see what I could do to save that plaque. Curiously, no one in AT&T seemed interested in moving that plaque to the new company headquarters in Basking Ridge or to Bedminster, New Jersey. This was a piece of history, but the people at AT&T had other fish to fry. One of my letters paid off. That was the letter to Bill Rudin, the CEO of the Rudin organization. He said the plaque would be cared for and given its deserved place of honor. When I visited 32 Sixth Avenue, Bill Rudin did exactly what he said he would do. The plaque is well lighted and the obstacles that had been placed in front of the plaque when Long Lines owned the building were gone. I have written Bill Rudin to tell him that the plaque is better displayed than at any time in its history.

Unknown to me, Bill Rudin suggested to Warren Hegg, who is associated with the Veteran’s History Project, that perhaps I had a story to tell about World War II. The History Project is an effort to tell the history of the people who served in World War II. Warren called me and in a few days he sent his son Ryan, to meet me at my home. I told Ryan about my involvement in the war and gave him some photographs and other exhibits that he could use in making a digital recording of my thoughts.

The Veteran’s History Project is dedicated toward preserving stories of service for future generations. All of this work is intended for use by the United States Library of Congress. And so now I have a four or five minute digital recording of my story about the plaque at 32 Sixth Avenue in New York.

On June 6, 2002, the Veteran’s History Project sponsored a big celebration aboard the carrier Intrepid. There were some interesting speakers and the whole program went off well and it ended at 12 noon, when they said the festivities would cease.

On the way to the Intrepid, my wife asked me if I had ever attended another veteran’s affair. She said she couldn’t recall that happening. I said that in the 57 years I have been out of the service, this was my first involvement with a veteran’s group. I forgot that in 1946, I had attended an organizing meeting for the American Veteran’s Group, but I didn’t find it appealing, so I left. And so for all intents and purposes, the meeting aboard the Intrepid was my first involvement with old soldiers since 1945.

Everything in the program on June 6 went well but I felt somewhat embarrassed by references to how much other people owed the old soldiers and sailors. This takes nothing away from all the veterans who did a good and valorous job in World War II. They did all of that. I simply had a sense of slight embarrassment. The reason for my concern is that I did what was expected of me. I was 19 years old with no dependents. I didn’t see any reason why I should not be part of the war effort. In short, I enlisted because it was my duty to do so. No more, no less.

The enlistment came in the summer of 1942. My views have not been altered by time. In 1942, I thought it was my duty to enlist. Now sixty years later, I still feel the same way. When I had a young and growing family, it was my duty to feed them, to provide them a good place to live and to make educational opportunities available to them. It was my duty to attend to my parents when they became ill at the end of their lives. It was my duty to attend their funerals. There is no need to sponsor parades for people treating their families fairly. That is a duty. I look at my duty to my family and to the United States as being identical. So nobody owes me anything.

Maybe it would be good to be a hero and have admirers tell you how great you are. But I am afflicted with the words from an oft-told story where the man says, “I seen my duty and I done it.” Grammatically, that may be improved upon but the sentiments pretty much fit me exactly.

June 9, 2002


I wonder if there’s any chance of Judy still having a copy of that recording. If she does, I’ll make sure to update here!


You may find it hard to believe, but late in 1977, a bill was being prepared to be offered to the Assembly of the New Jersey Legislature, that would require men dating women to declare their intentions, in writing, early on in the romantic process. So if a young man saw a nice looking young lady, and if he invited her to share a hamburger and a coke with him, he would be obliged, under the proposed bill, to give her a statement of his intentions. If it was marriage, that would be one intention. If he just wanted to see how many hamburgers she could eat, that would be a different intention. If on the first date, he planned to take her to the back seat of his car or to a highway motel, that, of course, would be a different intention. And remember that all these intentions were to be properly presented IN WRITING.

For all the years I worked in New York, I read the New York Times and the Herald Tribune in the morning and the World Telegram and Sun on the return trip to New Jersey after work. If time permitted, I read the Newark Star Ledger after dinner.

Somewhere along the line, the Tribune folded and about the time the AT&T Company moved its main base of operations from New York City to New Jersey, the World Telegram and Sun quit publishing.

With moving to New Jersey and with the diminished number of newspapers available, I began to pay more attention to the Star Ledger. It covered all kinds of local news and it had a big bureau in Trenton, the state capital. So now residing in New Jersey and working in New Jersey, I paid more attention to what the Star Ledger had to say.

The story about requiring men to state their intentions in writing appeared for no more than two days. Then it disappeared and politicians were reluctant to acknowledge that the story ever existed.

As I say, all of this flap was reported in the pages of The Star Ledger. I was used to bizarre antics coming from the Assembly and often from the Senate in the New Jersey Legislature, but this proposed bill sort of staggered me. I was long past the age where it might be applied to me, but I worried about its effects on romance in the Garden State.

Curiously, all of this comes to mind at this late date because of the aborted candidacy of Essex County Executive James Treffinger in his quest to unseat Senator Robert Torricelli. Treffinger was doing quite well in his U. S. Senate bid during the first four months of 2002. He had endorsements from nearly all the County Chairman of the Republican Party and he had a large war chest he could rely on as he went to battle Torricelli.

But April was his cruelest month. There were allegations that a sewer contractor, the Gunite Corporation, was kicking back some of its income from the Treffinger-awarded sewer repair and installation contracts. It is alleged that Gunite was kicking back a large portion of its fees to the Treffinger political organization.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a caterer who supplied Treffinger’s political organization with booze and food, was accused of not billing for its services to Treffinger’s political organization. Allegedly, the caterer came out ahead by being awarded contracts for feeding people at institutions in Essex County.

The heat on Treffinger grew so hot that even the Bush administration sent in the Feds to search Treffinger’s house and offices and to seize everything that might prove useful in any future prosecution.

So the Republican County Chairmen started to bail out until they were all gone. Worse, they began to call for Treffinger to drop his bid to be the next Republican Senator from New Jersey. At the time of the abandonment by the County Chairman, Treffinger was light years ahead of the three other contenders. With the handwriting on the wall, on the sidewalk, on the front door of his house and offices, Treffinger said that in the interest of “party unity,” he would withdraw from the Republican primary to unseat Torricelli.

Well, now you see that all of this is subject to connection, as the lawyers say. The leading candidate to succeed Treffinger as Essex County Executive had been a woman named Marion Crecco. To make the race for the County Executive post, Ms. Crecco says she was encouraged by Republican bigwigs. And so she dropped out of any race for her seat in the New Jersey Assembly.

This is hard to believe, but as soon as Treffinger gave up the ghost, Marion Crecco announced that she was no longer interested in the County Executive’s job and backed out of the race leaving it to two Democrats, Tom Giblin and Joe DiVencenzo, to contest for it.

As far as anyone knows, Crecco was not involved in awarding contracts to the sewer contractor or to the caterer who never billed for his booze and food. But nonetheless, she backed out of the race and has remained silent for about three weeks. This is absolutely unlike Madame Crecco. In all her career, Crecco has never been so silent as she has since abandoning her run to be the next Essex County Executive.

While she was running for the Essex County job, she loudly proclaimed her support for total abstinence in sexual affairs. That, of course, is one of King George W’s mainstays in his assault on welfare programs. What the Essex County Executive has to do with total abstinence is a mystery to everyone. But as a fervent Catholic, Marion Crecco wanted to add total abstinence on to sewer and catering contract work in the County Executive’s office.

Can you imagine a young man, all white, in a button down shirt and a three piece suit, carrying a briefcase going to the streets of Newark or East Orange for the purpose of convincing young, black New Jersey citizens, men and women, that total abstinence is the only way to go? Can you imagine that? Marion Crecco can and I suppose Bush and Ashcroft can. But not many people in the real world can imagine such a thing.

This penchant for permitting her religious views to intrude on her political duties led someone, whom I strongly believe to be Marion Crecco, to propose her bill in 1977 to have men of all ages state their intentions as they invited women to go out with them. It was entirely like Crecco to consider such a cockamamie piece of legislation. Unfortunately, I lost the clipping as it circulated around the office, so I have to rely on my memory. It must have been Crecco or someone just like her, because no one else would propose such a silly law.

As soon as it was proposed, Republican legislators killed this bizarre idea to have men of all ages state their intentions in writing before engaging in romantic endeavors. The embarrassment was sufficiently great so that Republican moguls said it didn’t really happen. But I’m here to tell you that it did – in 1977 – and I saw it in disbelief with my own eyes – in The Star Ledger.

I have tried to imagine how Crecco’s bill would have applied to me. As a late teenager, I drove a 1931 Chevrolet coupe. It had a little trunk in back instead of a rumble seat. At best it could hold three people with the driver having to maneuver the gear shift lever around the middle person. Crecco’s law was not aimed at people who drove 1931 Chevy coupes. Before long however, I sold the coupe and bought a 1937 Chevy coach. A coach looked like a sedan but it had only two wide doors instead of the four doors found on sedans.

Now with a commodious back seat, I suppose the proposed New Jersey law would gather me in. At the time in the 1937 – 1941 era, there were two ballrooms in St. Louis, Tune Town and the Cherokee Ballroom, where famous bands played. I suppose that if I were required to state my intentions toward young women in writing, perhaps it could be written that I intended to take them dancing at the Cherokee Ballroom. But everyone knows that I was a lousy dancer, so my statement of intentions would be immediately suspect. Particularly since I now had the 1937 Chevy with the commodious back seat.

Carrying a pad of paper and a pen would pose other major problems. Before the war, there were no ball point pens. The only writing instruments were pencils which had to be sharpened. I didn’t have a pencil sharpener in the 1937 Chevy. Alternatively, men particularly would carry fountain pens which would write for a while until the ink gave out. In that event, the fountain pen would have to be filled from an ink bottle. My Chevy had no provision for an ink bottle or an ink well. Fountain pens would also often leak after they were placed in a shirt or suit pocket so a young swain would be embarrassed to call for his girl with a large blue stain on his shirt or suit.

Now these are not excuses to get around giving these fair maidens a statement of intentions. Then there is the issue as to whether the man should have a copy of his statement to the girl. At the time I was a man about town, the only way to achieve a copy was through the use of carbon paper which is messy and hard to store. And carrying a pad of paper into which the carbon paper could be inserted, was expensive. In older cars, there were no such things as map pockets in the doors, so carrying the paper would become a large burden. I suppose she would have to carry these supplies in her lap.

Again, I’m not offering excuses but any objective observer can see that carrying an ink bottle or ink well, together with a pencil sharpener, erasers and a pad of paper and carbon paper would probably kill any chance of romance right out of the gate.

I suppose the Crecco bill was well-intentioned. Perhaps nervous and untrusting mothers might endorse it with some enthusiasm. On the other hand, the proposed bill never disclosed the ultimate goal it had in mind. Simply getting young men to state their intentions in writing would accomplish very little. If, for example, the proposed bill was aimed at unwanted pregnancies, its sponsor should know that drug stores, taverns and even filling stations sold products that would accomplish those aims. (Or maybe Ms. Crecco doesn’t know.)

Never stated in the abandoned piece of legislation was the thought that the intentions of the men should be stated once or hundreds of times. Suppose before the first date, I declare my intention to marry my date. Can she sue me for breach of promise if I eventually marry someone else? Suppose my intentions at the outset are entirely honorable. And let us suppose that as the man gets to know the prospective lovely a little better, that she turns out to smack her lips when eating, chews gum and rides motorcycles. Can he then take back his earlier statement of intentions or is he stuck with them forever?

Now all this effort to legislate romance occurred before women were equal in the eyes of the law. In retrospect, it seems to me that fair maidens should also declare their intentions as they departed for a night of hamburgers and dancing. I am sure my mother and perhaps my father would have liked to know if a young heiress had designs upon the last of the Carr boys. It would have eased their minds and my mind as well.

As I have said repeatedly in this essay, as a young man the farthest thing from my mind would be to make excuses for not fully supporting the intent of the Crecco bill. If this bill had been proposed in 1937 instead of 1977, and if Hitler, Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito had been aware of it, they may have been reluctant to take on the Americans who had such superior moral fiber.

Well, in the end, I’m sorry that James Treffinger got his foot caught in the sewer and caterer contracting mess, but on the other hand, it brought Marion Crecco back to mind. If her bill had applied to me, I would be the first one to equip my 1937 Chevy with a strong reading lamp. And I would have my ink well or ink bottle together with my pad of paper and the carbon paper so that I could reel off a copy of my intentions in long hand. No mimeographed forms for me; long hand with a carbon copy for me and for her mother. Boys – that is the American way to do things. Long live Marion Crecco.

E.E. Carr
May 14, 2002

“Before the war, there were no ball point pens” what? Really? Wikipedia seems to agree, but I had no idea that they were so rare before then. I, too, wonder about the execution of this bill. If this is a legal stipulation, I wonder what the consequences would be of breaking the law here? And if the consequences were severe enough, surely the male in this equation would want some recourse against a female who had a bad date, and happened to “lose” the sheet where the man declared his intentions so as to get him in trouble. Who knows, maybe she used it for her gum wrapper. But if the man was to have recourse, of course the intention slip would need to be collected by a third party, which would have been very troublesome back then. With the advent of email, though, I could just see a BCC to the Department of Justice be appropriate, as you emailed you intentions to your date. Or hell, the NSA has a copy anyway. Maybe it’s time to bring the bill back now that technology can support such an endeavor.


No essay on Bush would be complete unless it included a thought or two about the Assemblies of God follower in Bush’s cabinet, John Ashcroft. He believes that God’s hand is on his shoulder in every move he makes.

Ashcroft – The Ultimate Embarrassment
John Ashcroft, Bush’s selection for the United States Attorney General, comes from Missouri, which is the home state for the estimable Howard Lawrence Davis and also for the writer of these thoughts. Ashcroft is the ultimate embarrassment to those who call the “Show Me” state home. He has no – repeat no redeeming features.

The April 15, 2002 issue of the New Yorker has a lengthy story about Ashcroft which is a particularly devastating piece of work. Ashcroft lost his bid to get a second Senate term in the 2000 elections. He was defeated by the widow of the former Governor, Mel Carnahan. She was running in an election for the first time. The Jeffrey Toobin story in the New Yorker is a must read.

I suppose most Americans and much of the rest of the civilized world now understands that Ashcroft spent $8,000 to cover one breast of a statue that sometimes is in the background when he speaks on television in Washington. I suppose that $8,000 would pretty much buy all the bras in the New York’s Victoria’s Secrets stock but Ashcroft had no interest in brassieres. He had a curtain erected to obstruct the view of the statue breast which in his Assemblies of God mind, would lead straight to hell. Do you remember Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” where the letter “P” stands for pool and of course, kids who hang around pool halls are headed straight for hell? Well, Ashcroft didn’t want a naked statue breast to torment him and cause him to lose his salvation.

Ashcroft has a dislike for dancing, liquor and gambling of any sort, saying that those activities are the Devil’s work. When he was inaugurated as Governor of Missouri, he refused to dance at his inaugural party. Evil, he says. When he took office, he banned all alcoholic beverages from the Governor’s Mansion. I wonder if cough syrup would be included.

Finally, Phyllis Schlafly the president of the ultra-right wing Eagle Forum had a conference where Ashcroft was speaking. She intended to raffle off a book by – you guessed it – Rush Limbaugh. She said, “When one of the cute little girls I had selling tickets asked Ashcroft to buy one, he looked like we had done something obscene.” No dancing, no liquor, no gambling and no naked statue breasts. Like I said “P” stands for “Pool” and that spells trouble for River City.

In 1994 which was a big Republican year, Ashcroft won his first Senate bid. Before Ashcroft was sworn in, a group of his family and friends gathered at a house near the Capitol. In a book Ashcroft wrote, he said that before he was inaugurated in the Missouri Governor’s post, he was anointed with oil as the ancient kings of Israel, David and Saul, had done. (Governor of Missouri doesn’t quite rank with Kings of Israel.) Now came trouble because Ashcroft could find no oil in his Washington D. C. house. Then one of his friends or family rummaged in the kitchen and produced some Crisco. The group gathered around Ashcroft and prayed and Ashcroft was properly anointed with Crisco, with apologies to David and Saul, to start his Senate term.

I hope you see why old Missourians are embarrassed to see that Ashcroft is an important member of Bush’s cabinet.

A number of Ashcroft’s initiatives have been completely reversed as was the case in which he tried to make physicians in Oregon subject to severe Federal penalties if they participated in the state’s voluntary death provision. In that case which came down on April 17, 2002, he had his head handed to him.

This man needs to be put into an asylum, yet it is reliably reported that he is growing in Bush’s favor. It is almost enough for me to start praying.

Lillie Carr and Never Ending Hatred
Speaking of praying, my mother was a very religious woman who attended Protestant fundamentalist churches all her life. Ashcroft in his Assemblies of God faith is also of that Pentecostal stripe.

My mother ordinarily was a reasonable woman until it came to the German Army and the British government and people. The German part of this entry (#1) came about because the Kaiser’s Army gassed two of her brothers in World War I. The second part of this entry (#1a) went back some 800 years or more.

In the situation in Israel, I see a distinct parallel between the way the British treated the Irish and the way Israel now treats the Palestinians. My mother was born in this country. Her parents were brought here at a very early age from Ireland. On no occasion, did an English cop strike her or order her back into her house. But by virtue of her ancestry, she hated the English. She never referred to them as British; it was always the English. The hatreds of the past were greatly exacerbated by the hunger that over took Ireland in the 1840’s and 1850’s when England took food from Ireland’s harvests and shipped it to England leaving the Irish with no means to survive. The British upper class will have trouble overcoming their forgetfulness on this sordid affair of history.

After several hundred years of occupation, the Great Hunger simply caused the Irish to take strong measures. Some left the country. Others starved to death. Others took to violence.

My mother was born in April, 1882, almost exactly 120 years ago. She and her siblings and her parents were consumed with hatred for the English. She had eight children, five of whom grew to adulthood. The four of my oldest siblings grew to hate England perhaps as much as my mother did. I escaped because I had seen during the Second World War, that British soldiers and airmen were capable of great gallantry and bravery. After the war, I had occasion to visit England many times and it seemed to me that the Brits ran a civil society. So as I said to one of my correspondents, I am at peace with the British nation. But not my parents and not my siblings.

The crime that English occupiers charged the Irish with was resisting the occupiers. When the Irish found that the English were not going back to their home island, they resorted to stronger means of protests. Sound familiar, as it relates to the Palestinian Authority? And when stronger measures were not strong enough, the Irish bombed and shot English soldiers. Sound familiar? So the Brits hung Irish patriots from bridges over rivers. When the aged and infirm James Connally was condemned to death by an English court, he was shot (executed) in an armchair, as he was too weak to stand on his own feet. And so in the Palestine situation, we find many people willing to become martyrs by sacrificing themselves in a violent fashion. Not much different from the Irish. As the English executed Irish patriots, more Irish men and women rose to take their places. The Israeli’s already have found this to be the case with Palestinians.

When faced with an overwhelming foe, as in the case of the Israeli Army, and when faced by an enemy mad man as in the case of Sharon, I believe that suicide bombers are inevitable. Not desirable, but inevitable. This is no brief for Arafat. He is a liar and a man who fails to carry out his word. Granted all that, but he is the recognized head of the Palestine Authority and whether you like him or not, the road to a truce runs through Yassar Arafat.

As I wrote a friend who supports Sharon and Netanyahu:

Beyond that, Israel will be hated – hated – hated for thousands of years by Arabs. They live in an Arab sea and the Arabs have more babies and money. I have never seen such a death wish by a country that prides itself on smarts. If at some time due to a depression or to anti-Israeli sentiment in the United States which would result in a diminishment of subsides to the Israeli’s, they would be largely finished. The Israelis are working hard under Sharon to increase sympathy for the Palestinians with a corresponding drop in affection for Israel.

I might point out that after years of occupation by the English, the Irish hatred runs so deep that in World War II, the President of Ireland Eamon de Valera, kept Ireland in a neutral state. He did not join the war against Hitler largely because England was involved. My mother who saw her brothers go to the first World War and saw her last son enlist in the American Army in World War II, would not have disagreed with de Valera’s decision.

And so I return once again to the theme that Bush is pleading for misfortunes to come again to this country. Israel and the U. S. are joined at the hip when it comes to opinion in the rest of the world. The Bush-Sharon follies is causing great anguish and hatred in many parts of the world, not just in the Arab states. There will come a time, when angry partisans will attempt to wreak horror on the United States and its traveling citizens.

The Old Testament and Jacobs Ladder
Aside from all the other humiliations that the Israelis have demanded from the Palestinians and in addition to occupying their land, there is the so called “settlements” issue. In Palestinian territory, the Israel’s have established permanent settlements with schools, highways and all the other infrastructure that goes with a modern cities. Now as many as 300,000 Israelis live in these settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

The Israelis say that this is all part of God’s plan. In the Old Testament in the Book of Genesis, Jacob dreamed of having a ladder reaching all the way to heaven. As I understand it, this was a dream, but Israelis now consider it a reality. Jacob contended that Angels of God were using his imaginary ladder both in ascending and descending from heaven. Then Jacob said he got a message from the Lord. The Lord said, “The land on which thou liest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed.” (See Genesis, XXVIII, verses 12, 13 and 14.)

So it is on this imaginary ladder of Jacob that Sharon’s followers claim that God gave them the land on which they have built their settlements. This has nothing to do with logic or deductive reasoning. It is the stuff of a four thousand year old fairy tale. And people are being killed over such a fairy tale? What a shame. What a crime. Even my mother would have great trouble choking this one down.

Lagniappe; A Little Extra
Bush and Ashcroft are depressing subjects. As I said earlier, they have no redeeming qualities. So I thought I’d close this essay with a little more pleasant subject. In Louisiana, that little something extra is called “lagniappe.” When a bartender makes you a drink, he often has something left over. He doesn’t throw it away; he saves it. When you have taken two or three sips from your drink, he then pours the rest of it in your glass. That’s lagniappe. When the man who owns the ice cream store makes a large cone and then slips the little girl a cookie or an all day sucker, that lagniappe. So here is a little lagniappe to purge my mind, and yours, of those obscene windbags, Bush and Ashcroft.

In many previous essays, I have explained how I started to write essays, largely due to the instructions of Shirley Morganstein of the Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation. Now Kessler is about four years in my past. To keep my brain at work, I still write essays.

Now an added thought intrudes here. Apparently, I have all these thoughts and memories locked somewhere in my mind. Once I record them in an essay, they are released and I seldom, if ever, recall them again. When I read some of my earlier essays having to do with some experience of mine, I almost always think that I am hearing of it for perhaps the first time. Rereading my earlier essays is an exercise of surprises. I say “Oh yes, I remember that” or “That sounds like something I did.”

I have no idea what causes this phenomenon, but in a way, I am now wedded to my older essays as a means of jogging my memory. In effect, my mind must be purging itself when an essay is to be written.

I suppose the object of this game is to so purge my mind that when I give up the ghost, go to my maker or cash in my chips, my mind will have no further thoughts or memories. It will be as devoid of memory as in the case of the American Cardinals who are meeting in Rome this week. Perhaps Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson ought to be brought in now to consult about this problem. It must have some Protestant theological implications that will occupy the minds (?) of these three scholars. Graham doesn’t care for Jews as evidenced by his conversations with Nixon – all recorded. Falwell dislikes “Queers.”. Robertson and Falwell have said that God permitted or encouraged the attacks on September 11th. Perhaps those fellows may conclude that if I returned to their faith and adopted all their insane prejudices, my problem will disappear just as night follows day. Amen! Let us pray.

E. E. Carr
April 19, 2002


Pop never did wind up running out of essay material, due in large part to the crazy political problems of the 2000s, many of which are still not quite sorted out. He also started writing more and more about language, which is basically an inexhaustible well. In other news, I’d never heard the word “lagniappe” before — so thanks for that, Pop!



I offer you this three part preamble to set the record straight and to prepare you for my thoughts on Yasser Arafat’s love life.

Writing about this subject comes naturally. My first name is Ezra who is generally described as the scribe of Jerusalem in what the Christians call the Old Testament. (See the Book of Ezra between II Chronicles and Nehemiah.) I write about the romantic side of Arafat because I have clearly inherited Ezra’s genes. There is no reason why an Irishman could not be the recipient of the genes of an ancient Hebrew scribe.

Some Right Wing Bush supporters may conclude that I choose to deal with the delicate side of Arafat because I am a liberal Democrat. All Bush supporters know for a fact that liberal Democrats are basically gay. Please take it from me. There are two wives and several thousand close female acquaintances spread across the globe who will testify that I am a vigorous, heterosexual man with no latent homosexual tendencies.

My Right Wing friends will probably take delight when I say that Arafat is a liar, a man who fails to deliver and a two faced imposter. I am glad to say that. To borrow a favorite phrase from Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Arafat is a cad. (long “a”). I’m not

sure what a cad does to bring infamy down upon his head, but if Mrs. Thatcher thinks he is a cad, then I will be the first to bow to Her Britannic Majesty.

Now having settled all that, we can proceed to Yasser’s love life.


Since the Israeli’s have decided to reoccupy the towns in the West Bank, I find myself thinking about Yasser Arafat. In this case, I am not thinking of his military strategy nor him hunkered down in Ramallah without electricity or running water. Basically, I find myself thinking of his headdress and its effect on his love life. In Arabic, it is called a kaffiyeh. Ordinarily, the kaffiyeh is worn when a man also wears the long gown, usually white, called a thwab. In the more orthodox offices in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Yemen, the kaffiyeh and the thwab are worn almost exclusively. In Egypt, Western clothes seem to be favored by 50% to 60% of workers in offices. In the rest of the Muslim countries in North Africa, Western clothing predominates.

Arafat seldom wears a thwab but he is never seen without his kaffiyeh. His usual dress is some sort of military outfit topped off by his kaffiyeh.

Arab men who favor the thwab baffle me. It is completely ungainly. It buttons high up on the neck, so it is a hot garment to wear. The thwab stretches from the neck to the shoe tops. In the desert where it is warm, dirt is kicked up with each step and a good bit of that has to settle on the hem of the thwab.

In the times that I have been in thwab-wearing countries, I have never used restroom facilities with a thwab-wearing Arab man. In short, I don’t know how they handle bodily functions such as using a urinal. The Pope often refers to the mysteries of life so I suppose this is a piece of information that non-Arab men will not be privy to in this life. But in Arafat’s case, this presents no problem. His main concern is his kaffiyeh which he must keep balanced on his bald pate.

The kaffiyeh consists of a square piece of cloth measuring about 52 inches to 54 inches along its edges. It is usually made of cotton and rayon. In colder months, it may be blended with some wool.

In summer months, the kaffiyeh has a sort of checkerboard pattern with alternating black and white squares being the standard. In winter months, most men wear a slightly heavier cloth with red squares alternating with white squares. The kaffiyeh is held on by two bands of black which are put over the cloth and pulled down on the head so that the kaffiyeh does not blow off in desert winds.

While nearly every other Arab man moves from the black and white kaffiyeh in summer to the red and white one for winter, Arafat always sticks with his summer head dress – all year long. It is doubtful that he has it dry cleaned, certainly not in Ramallah. If he has replaced the kaffiyeh with a new one, it can’t be discerned from television images or from newspaper photos. So Arafat watchers are left to conclude that the kaffeyeh you see today is he same one he has worn for a long time.

Arafat is in his early 70’s. He stands only five feet four inches tall and his physique is most often described as dumpy. In short, he is not the sort of man that movie producers cast in leading roles. In opera terms, he might be in the chorus, certainly not in the leading tenor role. He simply is not a romantic figure. On top of all that, he is pigeon toed.

He seldom shaves so we always see him with unattractive stubble adorning his face. It might be guessed that he should see a dentist. The thought that he seems to wear the same clothes, including the same kaffiyeh, might suggest that his personal hygiene is not so great. One might think that a bath or shower might be in order.

While we are on Arafat’s shortcomings, it is important that I again please my Bush supporters, and Right Wing conservative friends by stating that he is a liar, he doesn’t keep his word and is an all around low life. I thought all that went without saying, but a few of my friends would want me to again state the obvious, so here it is. They love to hear this tripe. In spite of all of his shortcomings, Sharon and Right Wing American conservatives have created so much sympathy for Arafat, that he (Arafat) now enjoys his greatest popularity. Students carry banners with his picture on them and often sing his praises. I think Sharon and U. S. Right Wing conservatives might want to study the effects of boomerangs. They certainly have one in this case.

In spite of all of Arafat’s failures, this essayist holds that truth in advertising must prevail and therefore, we should now address a glimpse of Arafat’s love life.

Several years ago when Arafat was only 25 or 30 or 35 years of age, he certainly would look better than he does today. For one thing, the subtraction of 30 or 35 years would still leave him at five feet four inches. But in this inquiry into fantasy, let us suppose that he had a certain charm which came from part of his up bringing in Cairo. Lately, when we come across Arafat, we find him in Ramallah or Bethlehem or Nablus, all West Bank towns.

Even though Arafat views himself as a revolutionary, nobody ever suggested that he led a celibate life. He was no cloistered monk. So one day in Ramallah, Arafat sees a beautiful Palestinian girl who has distained traditional Arab clothing and who wears what many Palestinian men would consider to be fairly revealing clothes. By revealing, I mean it is apparent that she is a woman, not a person in an old ankle length housecoat.

At this point, Yasser did not know her name or where she lived. So he summoned his most loyal aide and explained to him that he needed to know where she lived in preparation for further romantic expressions. So the aide staked her out and after a time, he was able to follow her home even though buses and streetcars were involved.

His instructions from Arafat were to approach her parents, now that he knew where she lived, and explain that he was charged with explaining what a nice fellow Arafat was. That is the way things are done in Arab society. After talking to her father on the telephone, he was admitted to her home. He found out that her father had four wives in the house. He owned a string of camels which he used in his business of conducting Holy Land tours for wealthy non-Muslims visitors. The father offered him some strong Arabic coffee and then sat back to listen to what Arafat’s aide had to say.

It turns out that the beauty in question is the third daughter of the father’s second wife and her name is Qumrana. After a time, the father indicated that he was finished with this initial conversation, and Arafat’s aide departed and reported his new found information to his boss.

The trusted aide kept up his observance of the beautiful Qumrana and even had visions of cutting Arafat out and trying to win her for himself. He found out that Qumrana worked as a model at a fashion house devoted to clothing belly dancers. The place of employment is called

Mrs. Field’s Secrets of Desire. I know that is an unusual name all around, but my efforts to find out about that name have been amply rewarded.

A few years back when the owner of the belly dancers store was looking for a good location and name, she talked frequently to her sister who was then living as an unregistered immigrant in Newark, New Jersey, USA. Her sister had a maintenance job at the Short Hills Mall. She spoke very little English, which is why she was put to cleaning windows.

Her sister noticed that two new shops were being constructed next to each other at the Mall. One was a Mrs. Field’s cookie shop and immediately next to it was a new Victoria’s Secret emporium. Being unable to read English, she had only a vague idea of what these shops were intended to do. In fact, she concluded that the two stores were actually one store. When a clerk at Mrs. Fields was explaining a cookie recipe to a customer, she overheard her talking about a “cup” of this and a “cup” of that so she assumed that she was talking about women’s undergarments at Victoria’s Secret. Also, Mrs. Fields always keeps a plate of cookies on the display case in the hope of enticing passersby to have a free cookie and to buy her stuff.

The Newark Palestinian sister noticed that when a customer left Victoria’s Secret, they would almost always go by Mrs. Fields to take a free sample cookie. So she urgently told her sister that after a consumer bought a girdle in Victoria’s Secret store, for example, a reward of a toll house cookie was waiting for the customer at Mrs. Fields. That was the American marketing strategy: the package deal.

So her sister back in Ramallah followed the marketing formula given to her by her sister in America. If it is good enough for the Short Hills Mall, it ought to play well in Ramallah. He named her place Mrs. Fields Secrets of Desire and when a new veil or a new belly dancing dress was sold, she offered such a customer a large dollop of hummus, which is the other half of the package deal. And then she hired Qumrana as her model.

After Qumrana’s father had more or less dismissed Arafat’s lieutenant, Yasser went to work himself. Knowing the name of the father, he called in the Chaplain of Al Fatah, one of Arafat’s organizations, and told him that as Imam of the leading mosque in Ramallah, he ought to order Qumrana’s father to take himself and his wives on a Hajj. Every Muslim is expected to go to Mecca at least once while he is alive and touch the Kaaba (stone) which is at the center of their faith. The process is called a Hajj. Failure to do so results in banishment from Paradise.

So at the next Friday services at the mosque, in his homily, the Imam really leaned into backsliders who had failed to make the Hajj. He didn’t want any backsliding in the Mosque. Checking his records, the Imam knew that Qumrana’s father was so busy riding his camel and conducting his Holy Land tours that he had never made the pilgrimage to Mecca. In short, he was Hajj-less. And so under this pressure from the Imam, Qumrana’s father and his four wives and other children, decided that they had no alternative but to make the month long journey to Mecca, right now. Score one for Arafat!

While all of Qumrana’s parents and siblings were on their way to Mecca, Arafat had his trusted aide call on Qumrana to suggest having dinner with Yasser. She was not particularly interested in seeing Yasser for dinner, until she was informed that he intended to take her to Restaurant Arabian Nights where a sumptuous dinner would be offered. Qumrana also knew that most of the belly dancers at Restaurant Arabian Nights wore intimate apparel from her employer, Mrs. Field’s Secrets of Desire.

So she gave a reluctant “yes” to Arafat’s aide conditioned on the thought that real Arab men always wore a thwab. The kaffiyeh was a given. Without the thwab and kaffiyeh, she would stay home and eat a hamburger from McDonalds. Arafat’s aide said that Yasser would be dressed like a real Arab man on their date night.

Arafat and his aide showed up at Qumrana’s house right on time. The aide went in to fetch Qumrana. As they approached the restaurant, Arafat dismissed his aide and said to pick them up at eleven PM. He then turned and offered his right arm to Qumrana. His left arm carried the purse that thwab wearers are forced to use as there are no pockets in thwabs. Unfortunately, Arafat left his glasses at home to impress Qumrana with his youth, but near sightedness bollixed him up. He didn’t see a curb and in the process, he stepped on his unfamiliar thwab and fell headlong on the sidewalk. He purse came undone and its contents were spread everywhere.

Everyone knows that Arafat uses boosters in his boot heels to make him appear taller. But they come at a price. They shove the feet forward in the boots so that corns form on the top of all the toes. When Yasser’s purse spilled, among other items, was his life saver shaped corn pads. Being round they rolled for several yards. Qumrana noticed the corn pads and assumed that they were birth control devices with which she said quietly to herself, “How thoughtful”.

Inside the restaurant, the couple was seated at ringside seats where they could dine and witness the finest belly dancing show east of Cairo. Yasser spoke extensively in private with the headwaiter. Arab men do not defer to women. Maybe rarely, they might pay attention to women, but generally, Arab men make all the decisions. So it was that Arafat had the only menu and ordered for the two of them. With great ceremony he ordered Jordan River Sparkling Water to drink and imported Swedish Moose Shanks, with pungent sauce, for the main part of the meal. Throughout the meal, Arafat ordered more Jordan River Sparkling Water to be served to his date. When the belly dancers were performing, it was another bottle or bottles of Jordan River Sparkling Water.

During the sumptuous meal, Yasser kept his kaffiyeh firmly on his head which is one reason Margaret Thatcher calls him a caad. As they were winding things up, Arafat disclosed that he had a confession to make. The Jordan River Sparkling Water was really Bekka Valley champagne. And the imported Swedish Moose Shanks were really baby short ribs (from pigs) which came not from Bandhagen, Sweden, but from Arthur’s in Kansas City, the most famous rib place in America. Well, these are two grievous sins – alcohol and pig meat – that will keep the Muslim far from Paradise. Qumrana was devastated.

To make her feel a little better, Yasser attempted to explain the Catholic doctrine of “occasion for sin”. Let us say that a young man walks into a bar and has some beer. Then, under the influence of alcohol, he decides to attend a burlesque show where he meets a stripper and marries her. The church would say that walking into that bar was an occasion for sin.

Now let us say that an older parishioner wants to hear a sermon in

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. If he went last Sunday, April 21, 2002, he heard Monsignor Eugene Clark, the number two man at

St. Pat’s, lace into homosexuality for nearly an hour. His homily was widely criticized. Then let us say that this elderly parishioner sees a young man in a bar and attempts to fondle him. In that case, going to St. Patrick’s Cathedral would become an occasion for sin.

Having explained Catholic doctrine to Qumrana, Yasser said he was also a sinner just like Qumrana. They were in such deep theological trouble, he said that Qumrana ought to spend the night with him in his apartment at the Hotel Casablanca. Qumrana thought to herself that I’m damned in any case, so “Why not?”

Because the American Cardinals returning from Rome have requested a first look at the details of the love scene at the Hotel Casablanca, I will honor their obvious interest. I will say only that during this act of great passion, Arafat removed his thwab, which he disliked, but he kept his kaffiyeh on from beginning to end.

There came a time near daylight when Yasser tenderly asked Qumrana how she was enjoying herself. Qumrana replied, “It was alright I guess, but I couldn’t concentrate with your kaffiyeh tickling me”. When Yasser asked if he could see her again she answered, “Hell no. Put that in your kaffiyeh and smoke it”.

I have made several inquires into Yasser’s love life after this abrupt reversal and I have even called the Mrs. Field’s Secrets of Desire. However, since Sharon is punishing Ramallah endlessly, no one will talk to me about Arafat’s love life. So for the time being, I have no further information on Yasser’s amorous activities. Maybe next week after the American Cardinals come home.

I for one, believe that if the Israelis and the Palestinians meet say in front of a French arbitrator – he must be French – love will conquer everything. In the end, Yasser will go over to Jericho Street where Qumrana works and sweep her into his waiting arms. My nominee is the Frenchman Jean-Marie Le Pen, the perennial candidate for President of France.

Le Pen will make these wonderful things happen. Vive la amour!
April 25, 2002


I have no idea what compelled Pop to write this, but I’m glad he did. I very much hope that this is the only piece of romantic fiction about Yasser Arafat in existence, but unfortunately I know too much about the internet to believe that to be the case. That said, I intend on doing absolutely no further research into the subject.

I’ll also be the first to admit that it took me far longer than it should have to realize that Pop was just bullshitting with this one. It’s funny that someone who disliked reading fiction as much as Pop did would be so proficient at writing it.