Archive for September 2016


As we have been told by scholars, history has a way of repeating itself. Today, we find the Bush administration beating the drums for war against Iraq. As always happens, Iraqi leaders are being demonized. Of course, demonizing Saddam Hussein is an easy thing to do. But beyond Hussein, this country and Britain have stooped to manufacturing “evidence” and outright lying. In his presentation to the United Nations Security Council on February 14, 2003, Hans Blix took an unprecedented step in accusing the American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, of using misleading information. The impolite word for what Blix had to say was lying.

There is the matter of aluminum tubes which the Bush people say are to be used to produce nuclear bombs. Everyone else says the tubes are for rockets. Bush’s people are claiming that enriched uranium is being imported from Africa to enable the Iraqi nuclear program to go forward. There is no record of African uranium being imported by Iraq. The inspector, Dr. El Baredi, says Iraq has no nuclear capability.

Then there is Colin Powell’s presentation to the Security Council on February 7, 2003 wherein he quoted extensively from British “intelligence” papers about Iraqs wartime capabilities. The fact is that the so called “intelligence” which the Brits used and which Powell included in his speech, were musings published in ordinary journals and periodicals and a professor’s work on the internet. Tony Blair’s people picked this up a couple of years ago, called it “intelligence” and Powell used it without checking its origins or validity.

The list of misleading information used by Powell goes on and on. There is the alleged link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden. Even last week starting on February 10, 2003, there was the Osama tape broadcast on Al Jazeera which Powell claimed showed a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Powell simply ignored the thrust of the tape which was to rouse Muslim adherents and to condemn infidels like Saddam Hussein. No one aside from Powell and some of his Bush administration compatriots ever thought of a link between Iraq and Osama. The rest of the world is laughing at the assertions of the United States.

And then there is Powell’s claim on behalf of the U.S. that mobile laboratories were being used by the Iraqi’s and his claim that an inspection site had been cleaned up shortly before the United Nations inspectors appeared. Hans Blix took the unprecedented step of skewering Powell’s claim and indeed, he referred to these unfounded claims as coming from the U. S. Secretary of State.

It is no wonder that Maureen Dowd in the New York Times of February 16, 2003 said Powell had been “filleted.” She used that term in reference to Dominique de Villepin the Foreign Minister of France, but it could also apply to Hans Blix’s destruction of Powell’s assertions.

And finally, what are we doing at this late date dealing with Osama Bin Laden? Bush said he was going to grab him “dead or alive” in 2001. Well, I guess Bush is going to have to invent some new cowboy talk to explain what we are doing listening to Osama some 18 months after the debacle of the World Trade Center.

My point in telling you about the American demonization of Iraq and inventing “FACTS” to support its story, is that this is much like an earlier war against Ethiopia. In 1935, Italy was the aggressor. They demonized the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, accusing him of uncivilized conduct. Italy rebuffed entreaties from the United Nations forerunner, the League of Nations. Benito Mussolini was the Fascist dictator of Italy and he wanted to show Adolf Hitler that he was an aggressive leader. Nothing could dissuade him from going ahead with the invasion of Ethiopia just as now, nothing can persuade George Bush that he should use caution in invading Iraq. Instead, Bush is as bombastic in 2003 as Mussolini was in 1934 and 1935.

There is one more parallel in the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy and the proposed Bush war on Iraq. Mussolini concluded that because he wanted war with Ethiopia, every Italian would fall in line and support the invasion.

Mussolini controlled the press which published only Fascist propaganda. The radio was the province of Count Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law. He had complete control of the government, just as Bush has in 2003. Telephones were monitored so in the end, Il Duce – the leader – which is what Mussolini called himself – began to believe his own propaganda. And he then concluded that the Italian people were behind his invasion of Ethiopia.

In point of fact, however, the invasion of Ethiopia was opposed by many in the Italian electorate. Going to war without the backing of the electorate was a very dangerous business in 1935 in Italy, and in 2003, it is also dangerous business for the United States.

There is an ancient maxim that those who ignore the mistakes of history are bound to repeat the same mistakes. You don’t go to war without the backing of the electorate. Look what happened to us in the Vietnam War. Bush has ignored that outcome even though he was of military age. He used his father’s connections to flee to the Texas National Guard and of course, he had nothing to do with that bloody conflict which cost 55,000 casualties among his countrymen. Bush is repeating the same mistake that Benito Mussolini made. But in spite of degrees from Yale and Harvard, there is no record that Bush has a sense of history or anything other than a very modest pedestrian intellect. We deserve better.

I might point out that in the Italian case, Mussolini was defeated in Ethiopia by British and South African forces in 1941. By 1945, he had not only lost his job but his life as well. I hope this is a thought that one day might occur to Bush.

Now in the event that you might think that Ethiopia in 1935 was an uncivilized country, it should be pointed out that its history extends back to the 10th Century B. C. when it was known as Abyssinia. The first king seems to be Menelik who was born to the Queen of Sheba. Is that old enough for you, Donald Rumsfeld?

Jumping ahead to the 19th Century AD, we find that England, France and Italy all had thoughts of co-opting the Ethiopian government because of its location next to the Red Sea. In 1889, another Emperor Menelik concluded a treaty with Italy at a town called Ucciali. Shortly after, a dispute broke out over Article 17 of the treaty with Italy saying that the Italian version of the treaty gave them a protectorate over Ethiopia. Menelik said the Amharic version of Article 17 said no such thing. So in 1895, the Italians invaded Ethiopia and were soundly beaten at a town called Aduwa on March 1, 1896. So Italy then recognized Ethiopia’s independence.

In 1930, Haile Selassie I became Emperor of Ethiopia. Italy again started to raise threats against Ethiopia and there was a clash at a town called Wal Wal on December 5, 1934. The clash ended pretty much as a tie. Mussolini then turned down all efforts at conciliation, from the other governments and from the League of Nations, and started a war on October 3, 1935. Using air power and machine guns, the Ethiopians were soon defeated. The Ethiopians used spears. In 1936, Haile Selassie fled the country and Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy, added Ethiopia to his title. In 1941, British and South African forces easily defeated the Italians. Ethiopia was free again and Haile Selassie returned to his throne in Addis Ababa. In 1945, Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy and Ethiopia, fled to Portugal as a former monarch.

I am always taken back by unthinking people who say that the dictator, in the case of Mussolini in 1935 or the President of the United States in 2003, knows more than ordinary citizens know and the electorate should fall in behind him and cheer him on. Such thinking, such ceding of logic particularly in the 21st Century, is astoundingly ignorant.

The thought that Bush, by virtue of his position, knows more than anyone else is clearly false. His unilateral prejudices about any European thought – read France, Germany and Russia – makes him spectacularly ill informed. Of late, he makes much of his relationship to Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy, and Aznar, Prime Minister of Spain. Aren’t they “Old Europe” also? Berlusconi may soon be out of a job as he must answer to serious fraud allegations about money laundering. Both the Italian and Spanish prime ministers are presiding over electorates with 75% against the war. Bush, who often points to these two men for his backing, is leaning on a very weak reed.

We have much to learn from “Old Europe.” Bush could profit most by the experiences of France, Germany and England in two World Wars. But Bush is uninterested. Among other facts of life that those “Old European” powers might teach Bush is to avoid the military industrial complex which so troubled Dwight Eisenhower. Today, that complex is represented by Cheney and Wolfowitz and other neo-conservative hawks who have nothing more in mind than lining the pockets of their wealthy compatriots with war-time profits. Bush is repeating the mistakes of our history since 1918.

Speaking of responses being astonishingly ill informed, brings me to a young man in Fishkill, New York and once again to Colin Powell. Matthew Purdy who writes the “Our Town” column in the New York Times, visited Fishkill, New York around Valentines Day, 2003. Fishkill is in “staunchly Republican Duchess County,” reports Purdy. In the White House Bar on Main Street he found John Beska who says, “I was in the Marine Corps. I’m for what ever the commander in chief says.” I wonder how many dead German and Italian and Japanese soldiers and sailors said they were for whatever Hitler, Mussolini or Hideki Tojo said they were for. If they could be resurrected from their battlefield graves, it causes me to wonder how many would say as John Beska said, “I’m for what ever the commander in chief says.” The lack of intelligence in that viewpoint is astonishing. Luckily, not all of his neighbors agreed with him.

Now we turn once again to Colin Powell who had my admiration when he was a voice of reason in the Bush Administration. He has now gone over to the Bush, Rumsfeld, Perle and Wolfowitz side, the military industrial complex, with the thought that peace and prosperity come mainly from bombing and bullying. Powell has no training as a diplomat. His career as a soldier conditioned him to believe that an order was to be carried out, without question. He simply started his diplomatic career as the Bush’s Secretary of State. He had no apprenticeship; he started at the top.

When a question was put to him shortly after the ruckus started at the United Nations concerning what he would do if he received orders from his boss to do something he disagreed with, Powell quickly answered, salute and go do it. The thought of resisting or arguing or resigning never seemed to enter his mind. If he found himself in fundamental disagreement with the White House, he would salute and perform the distasteful task. This is what I would expect of a soldier which Powell was all his life, but not of a diplomat. On hundreds of occasions, I was told as an enlisted man in World War II, soldiers don’t get paid to think. Just carry out the order. But diplomats must think and have resignation as their obvious alternative. Powell must know that saluting and carrying out the orders of a draft dodging president is another case of an unintelligent act.

In the Italian case in 1935, Mussolini wanted to show that he could be as tough as Hitler in Germany. That was his motivation. In 2003, we have Bush who has intended to take this country to war because Karl Rove has told him that the American people will not vote against a war time president. If you don’t believe that, kindly look at what Rove said as early as 2001 and again, may I direct your attention to Bush’s campaign to elect senators in 2002 from the Republican Party. In the latter case, for example, Bush campaigned against Max Cleland, a Senator from Georgia, who left three limbs in Vietnam and who voted for Bush’s tax reduction proposal. Bush, the hero who never left the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War, claimed that Cleland was unpatriotic because he saw nothing wrong with workers in the new Department of Homeland Security being unionized as is the case in the rest of the U. S. Government. So Cleland was defeated by an undistinguished clod hopper who now takes his place in the United States Senate.

Mussolini wanted to show that he could play with the big boys. Bush wants a war for the same reason and for oil and for his reelection. And in pursuit of that war, he has demanded that Colin Powell abandon his claim to integrity and engage in inept deceptions recognized by the other foreign ministers who sit on the United Nations Security Council. The White House dreams up these issues of the aluminum tubes and the alleged tie between Bin Laden and Hussein, for example, and demands that Powell must make a convincing case to the rest of the world. On Friday February 14, 2003, a columnist said that Hans Blix and the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, “filleted” Powell’s performance. Soon thereafter, White House sources said that Tony Blair would have done a much better job with Powell’s material. Is this a vote of confidence in the Secretary of State? Or does it mark the beginning of his forced departure from his job.

Powell is now a pitiful case. If he continues to take manufactured “evidence” to the Security Council to please the sycophants at the Washington Times, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Fox Broadcasting System, he will fail dismally and it will give his handlers in the White House another reason to shoot the messenger.

Powell argued with the hawks in the Bush administration last August that the dispute should be taken to the United Nations rather than starting a preemptive war. Denied of sustainable facts and with the White House offering fictional series of charges, the move to the United Nations seems poised to back fire which is another reason to fire the messenger.

A column by James P. Pinkerton in a current issue of Newsday, a New York paper, offers this sobering assessment of Powell’s dilemma. “Meanwhile as Powell struggles to pull himself and his policy out of the multilateralist mire, he might notice that some administration colleagues will be happy if he sinks and drowns.” And this was the man of immense prestige and integrity that Bush selected to be his Secretary of State. Now if he drowns, that’s fine with some of the Bush administration providing that others are satisfied that the messenger has been appropriately shot.

In the final analysis, the aim of Bush has always been to take the U. S. to war – nothing less – for his own personal enrichment and his re-election and to show that he can play with the big boys. His intentions are absolutely transparent. To claim that since he is the President, that he knows best and that we should all fall in behind him will lead us precisely in the direction of Mussolini’s Italy which became a third rate country in the industrial world after World War II. As I say, such thinking, particularly in the 21st century is monumentally and astoundingly dumb.

February 16, 2003

I think it’s a pretty fair assumption that when it comes to national security, the president absolutely does know better than the average citizen, because he’s kept constantly up to date on classified security data, and knows plenty of things average citizens don’t. Now, he can ignore those things, or he can be lied to, but ideally he should be one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on the matter. Of course, Bush was pretty tone-deaf on the subject, just like ol’ “build a wall” Donald Trump will be, but still his opinion should always be considered valuable — but not something for the whole country to immediately fall in line behind, especially when the opinion in question is obviously wrongheaded or politically motivated. Launching preemptive strikes against Iraq based on what he almost certainly knew to be lies is basically unforgivable. Moreover these troop movements and regime changes were incredibly short-sighted, and ISIS exists today in large part due to how we handled the Iraq war in the 2000s.


Being born in the American Mid-west, my native tongue is English spoken in broad, flat tones without regional accents. My English is not of the hard Boston variety, nor does it reflect the softer tones of Southern speech. Thus, the title of this essay in Mid-western speech would read, Tony Blair, Ed Carr and War, with the final R’s not being silent or elided.

Now I know full well that my use of the final R’s in English speech marks me as a peasant in the eyes of certain upper class Brits who are the Honorable Queen Elizabeth’s subjects. If history is a respectable guide, we fought a WAH back in 1776 to throw off the rule of upper class Brits. Now we have a fairly bright British Prime Minister who is widely called George Bush’s lapdog and who is known in upper class circles as Tony BLAH.

Unfortunately, this old essayist has no claim to academic excellence gained by attending an English college such as Oxford. As a matter of fact, I never was influenced by a college anywhere because I did not attend one. My schooling in Missouri, which I believe was first rate, demanded and encouraged me to sound out the words giving value to each of its letters. If the word had the letter “R,” it would be appropriately recognized and pronounced. So I am aghast at upper class Brits who drop the final “R” in Tony’s name, and in my family name and in the name of the projected hostilities with Iraq.

But among the-nose-in-the-air Britons, there is an equally disturbing habit of dropping vowels on the tail end of words to make them sound elegant, I suppose. Much is being made of MILITARY planning and preparations these days. According to some television commentators and high flown English politicians, we should know that when the British Army sets about preparing itself for WAH, it is making MILITRY preparations. My limited education said that MILITARY has four syllables and my dictionary – woops, that’s another failure right there! That should read DICTIONRY, which I should have known.

George Bush has made a few speeches about defending American territory from invading Iraq troops. Bush likes to paint himself as a Texan, which he is not, but in view of his love affair with Tony Blah, he should be defending American territry including his adopted Texas accent. Of course, if Bush and Tony Blah don’t pull off their wah which they say has been forced on them by that well known villain Saddam Hussein, perhaps a lot of American and British soldiers will wind up in the graveyard, otherwise known as the CEMETRY.

Do the upper class Brits have any plans to return the elided vowels from the end of words like the ones discussed in this piece? If they have any plans to return them to general use, I have heard nothing of it.

All that leads me to a reporter-commentator who works for CNN and who uses the name of Christiane Amanpour. Her accent is so upper class British, even though one of her parents came from Iran, that I am always a half sentence behind her. She dazzles me with Blah making militry plans to defend our territry so we can all stay out of the cemetry. Very quickly I am lost when she makes her TV reports.

Ordinary English men and women don’t speak as Madame Amanpour speaks. For quite a while during World Wah II, it was my fortune to work with English troops and the British Royal Air Force. I can’t recall any problems in dealing with them face-to-face or over aircraft radios. But they spoke standard English and there were few if any questions. But those Tommies and the flyers with the RAF were several steps removed – below – the elevated upper class roots of Christiane Amanpour. If one of her kind was directing AH (air) operations, perhaps the conflict would still be going on.

Before I leave the elevated atmosphere of upper class British speech, I should also ask our British allies what the hell ever happened to the letter “R” in the middle of a word. When a broadcast comes from London, there often is a reference to TUHKEY and there is also great concern about a race called the KUHDS. They even refer to BUHDS flying about. By the end of the broadcast, I can say that it is my belief that the upscale British announcers are talking about Turkey, the Kurds and birds. I am at a loss to explain to you why Bush’s fast friends in England go with a 25 letter alphabet. I suppose that’s why they are upper class and the rest of us are peasants.

This essay closes with a reference to Time Magazine which used to publish a tribute to the Irish which always appeared in the edition closest to St. Patrick’s Day. It was written by T. E. Kelem in a review of Brendan Behan’s “Borstal Boy.”

“The English language brings out the best in the Irish. They court it like a beautiful woman. They make it bray with donkey laughter. They hurl it at the sky like a paint pot full of rainbows, and then make it chant a dirge for man’s fate and man’s follies that is as mournful as misty spring rain crying over the fallow earth. Rarely has a people paid the lavish complement and taken the subtle revenge of turning its oppressor’s speech into sorcery.”

As an American of Irish ancestry, I looked forward to Kellem’s annual tribute which was to me a wonderful piece of writing as well as a welcome to Spring. It makes the upper class British attempts to bastardize the English language by dropping vowels and final “R’s” an exercise in crass juvenility. My Donegal ancestors would roll in the aisles if they were told that my name is now Cah and that we are now preparing for another wah to be co-authored by Bush’s sometime pal, Tony Blah.

Rule, Brittania! Brittania rule the waves! Britons nevah, nevah will be slaves. (Slight apologies to James Thomson, 1700-1748, from his play “Alfred”, Act II, Scene 5. Thomson was an Englishman.)


Several years ago, my medical moguls had me placed in the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City for nearly two weeks. I think they were trying to remove the carnality from my heart. From the name of the hospital, it might be assumed that the hospital would be a bastion of Protestant culture and devotion. That was not the case at all, if one were to judge by the nurses who attended to my needs. Most were from Ireland with many coming from County Donegal. It must be assumed that they were Catholics, not Protestants at all.

They soon recognized that my surname came from that part of Northwest Ireland occupied by County Donegal. I had been told by John Walsh, the Director of the Irish-American Institute, that Carr is a common Donegal name. It is also spelled as Kerr, but Kerr and Carr are pronounced much the same.

One or two of the nurses saw me exercising in the halls and said they had an ancient saying to recite to me. The little saying goes something like this:

Donegal, Donegal,
Where the people eat the praties (potatoes),
Skins and all!

I told them that the Donegal poem or saying was light years ahead of any English poetry that had ever been read to me. That made all of us feel better.

My experience with the Irish nurses at the Presbyterian hospital is recited because it brings up another friendship with another Donegal fellow who seems intent on retiring from the U. S. Postal Service soon. His name is Tom Kerr. Our surnames are spelled differently, but as I said, are pronounced in the same way.

I got to know Tom a few years ago in the Short Hills, New Jersey Post Office where he works. Before I knew Tom, I often dealt with
Jim McBride on postal matters. As my good Irish girl friend from Chicago, Ann Hincks, would say, Jim McBride was “one of the boys from home.”

As I got to know Tom Kerr, it became clear that he was a County Donegal man so we had much to talk about. Tom does his job with a good sense of humor, which is to be expected of any Irishman. When we converse, it is quiet conversation without histrionics. In short, it is the conversation of two friends of Irish-American citizenry who trace the roots of our families to their ancestry in County Donegal where the praties are eaten, skins and all!

Shortly before Christmas 2002, I happened to be in the Post Office with my wife Judy Chicka. While Judy was finishing her transaction with George Dlugos, a colleague of Tom Kerr and a good guy, I wandered over to a spot a few feet away from Tom. At that time, in a louder than usual voice, I said, “Mr. Kerr, I’ve got one thing to say to you.” George looked up from his dealings with my wife fearing, I suppose, that a dispute or a fight would take place.

Instantly, Tom Kerr said in stentorian tones to me, “Mr. Carr. I also have one thing to say to you.” By this time, I suppose other people were quite sure that a dispute was about to happen.

When Tom finished his statement, both of us said in unison, “Merry Christmas” and shook hands. No disputes; no fights; just two old Irish guys wishing each other Merry Christmas.

If Bush and Saddam Hussein were Irish, maybe the world would be a more peaceful place and there would be more laughter and enjoyment.

We can’t close this essay without a reference to Irish poetry which is an integral part of Irish culture. The English who imposed their will on Ireland for hundreds of years, never understood the Irish. Even today, the Northern Irish question demands Tony Blair’s attention as he tries to serve George Bush with respect to Iraq. One of the conservative or reactionary English authors, tried to capture the English sentiment about the Irish in his “Ballad of the White Horse.” The writer was Gilbert Keith Chesterton, 1874-1936. He wrote:

“For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.”

Lord Chesterton was nuts and that is a charitable assessment. He says, for example, that all our songs are sad. That is not true about a Doctor Johnson and his motor car. During Ireland’s War for Independence which finally produced a treaty in 1922, the Irish Republican Army had very little compunction about commandeering someone’s car for their use. In this case, it happened to a Protestant doctor, Doctor Johnson, an English sympathizer, who was not a popular figure with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The fourth verse of the song about taking Doctor Johnson’s car away goes like this:

“What will my loyal brethren think
When they hear the news,
My car has been commandeered
By the Rebels (IRA) at Dunluce.”

“We’ll give you a receipt for it,
All signed by Captain Barr,
And when Ireland gets her freedom, boy,
You’ll get your motor car.”

The honorable Lord Chesterton may think “Johnson’s Motor Car” is a sad song, but most Irish people think it is funny, pleasant and entirely merry. So much for Lord Chesterton.

Now for a man contemplating retirement, it is to be hoped that there will be plenty to eat. On the other hand, there is a Gaelic saying:

“When the food is scarce
And you see the hearse,
Then you will know,
You died of hunger.”

Another Gaelic piece of wisdom goes like this:

“Outside the dog
Books are man’s best friend.
Inside the dog,
It’s too dark to read anyhow.”
(see attached translation)

I suspect that Lord Chesterton would not be amused by such use of the English language. But Tom Kerr might understand Gaelic wit better than the Lord who says all our songs are sad.

Finally, all that brings me to a thought about Tom Kerr’s retirement. And that calls for a contribution from one of the great Irish poets, William Butler Yeats, 1856-1939. Yeats was born in England but elected to live his life in Ireland. In his “The Municipal Gallery Revisited,” he has a comment about friendship. The final words in the seventh stanza of that poem say:

“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.”

And so as my name sake Tom takes his leave from the United States Postal Service, I believe it fair to say that his many friends, his glory, as Yeats says, wish him well. And as for me, I hope Tom’s future is filled with merry songs, regardless of what Lord Chesterton had to say.

March 7, 2003

Maybe, right before an Englishman with an upper-class accent passes away, he lets loose a giant “ARRRRRRRR” sound like a pirate to catch up on a lifetime of Rs withheld.

I’m glad I got to visit Donegal when my family went to Ireland last year to scatter Pop’s ashes. Incredibly friendly people and beautiful scenery. Would highly recommend.


For readers who have stayed with me through the first eight parts of the New York series, I hope I haven’t worn you out. New York is a very big town and most observers would say that I am very fond of it. I know when a snowstorm hits the city or when a train falls off the track, there can be considerable inconvenience. But when viewed from the standpoint of the long haul, it seems to me that the big city offers more excitement than any other place in the world.

I approached New York with the thought that I was going to enjoy it. The fact that all kinds of different ethnic groups are found in New York was encouraging to me. My parents were largely consumed by fundamentalist religious church services three times a week. My mother led the two in educational achievement having finished the “third reader”, which I suppose corresponds somewhat to the third grade in 1890 terms. In spite of their backgrounds, they never expressed a hateful word against another ethnic group. Rich people are not an ethnic group. And neither is the German Army. In his unschooled fashion, my father, the original Ezra, often said that, “Ever body needs a chance.” That is no misprint. I know the proper word is “every” body, but in his country way of speaking, he was saying the Negroes, Italians, Catholics, Jews, and as he called them, “Polacks,” and poor people also needed to have a fair chance. The fact that often my parents did not have a fair chance in the urban life of St. Louis made no difference. Ezra Senior said, “Ever body needs a chance.” That seemed like a decent philosophy to me.

And so I grew up not hating or disliking anyone due to his ethnic background. The thought that fundamentalist preachers said that Jews caused the death of Jesus Christ struck me as laughable. When someone comes along who has a different ethnicity from myself, I am always curious about that person and his background. That lack of hatred or dislike together with my curiosity about other races made life in New York a lot easier. It never occurred to me to avoid people wearing a turban as the Sikhs do – or someone with a yarmulke as observant Jews do. Admittedly, I never saw many people wearing kaffiyehs in New York, but if they wore one, my interest would be aroused. Rather than being put off or displeased by someone wearing a native form of dress or an expression of their religion, I would be encouraged to ask a few questions, if given the chance.

It seems to me that diversity is what New York is all about. We have diversity in other cities and other communities in this country, but here in New York, diversity is the accepted norm. There are some cities or some communities where one religious group dominates all the other people. Or where a political party has a strangle hold on the electorate. New York is a different breed of cat. Diversity is an accepted way of life in New York.

Perhaps I can illustrate the diversity using the owners of a nightclub and a pretty good place to eat dinner. The place I have in mind is on Second Avenue on the East side of the street near 48th Street. It is called “La Chansonette,” which means “The Little Song.” One used to go to La Chansonette to have a good dinner and to hear singer Rita Dimitri and one of her later husbands, Stanley Brilliant, who accompanied his wife on the piano or guitar and who would occasionally sing.

Rita had a French mother and a Greek father and grew up in France. At an early age, she became a popular musical comedy star in Europe, singing in several languages. In 1955, the producers of Cole Porter’s Can Can asked her to take the lead in the Broadway production of that musical. Now here is what the jacket cover of her album has to say about Can Can and later developments:

“Cast as the proprietress of a boite in Monmartre, Rita enjoyed her role so much she decided to try it in real life, off the stage. All she needed was a sponsor – and she found one in her unsuspecting husband, Stanley Brilliant. Stanley was a successful New York businessman who spent a substantial amount of time on his hobbies, the piano and singing folk songs with his guitar.”

Rita was of European ancestry with her French and Greek parents. Stanley was a Jewish real estate developer from Brooklyn. And they welcomed lesbian and gay couples to their cabaret. How’s that for diversity?!!

Rita often needled Stanley by referring to him as her seventh or ninth husband. Old Stanley insisted that he was only her fifth husband. The difference between the fifth husband and the seventh or ninth husband didn’t seem of any great moment. Rita was beautiful enough to have enticed seven or nine men into marrying her, but Stanley didn’t get to be a well-to-do New York businessman by making mistakes about the multiplicity of husbands.

In any event, they decided to build the type of restaurant that they felt was missing in New York. It was to be a small elegant club, with good food, music, entertainment and dancing. They decorated it in shades of elegant blue, lavishing original oil paintings on the walls, and placing silver candelabras on each table. The grand piano had antique finishing and was always decorated with red roses.

As you entered La Chansonette, the long bar was on the right. At the end of the bar, steep stairs led downstairs to the restrooms. A few feet beyond the bar, the tables were set up for dining and to hear the entertainment. Curtains were pulled in the dining area when Rita was performing so the place had an intimate feel to it. Stanley and Rita did not have a long commute to work as they lived in the apartments over La Chansonette.

At 10PM and again at midnight, the dance floor would be cleared, a spotlight would be turned on and Rita would take her place on the top of Stanley’s grand piano. It was pretty dramatic stuff, but then it must be remembered that Rita, a genteel buxom personality, would appear in dresses that would make the women in the audience gasp. For awhile, Rita also appeared in evening dresses with the back cut down to a little bit below the waist line. I never tried to figure out what held the dress on because I thought it would be unsportsmanlike for me to do so. Stanley thought all the speculation about his wife’s dresses was pretty funny.

At the time La Chansonette was going great, it was unusual to see gay and lesbian people patronizing straight nightclubs. They often had places that catered to their tastes and I am certain that they avoided most straight places in an effort to avoid calling attention to themselves. But Stanley claimed that they wanted to hear good music and enjoy good food as much as anyone else might want to do. So a few very good-looking men and women would often be found in the audience of
La Chansonette. There were never any untoward scenes. The fact is that Stanley and Rita made it known that gay and lesbian couples would not only be tolerated, but welcomed.

On one occasion, Stanley spoke to me after hours about a table in the corner occupied by two men and two women. Stanley said there was going to be no romance between any of the men and any of the women, because the two women were lesbians and the two men were gay. The two men had agreed to escort the two women to La Chansonette, but when the evening was over, according to Stanley, the women went home together and the two men did likewise. So a cabaret run by two people of Greek, French and Jewish backgrounds welcomed the diversity of four well behaved individuals who did not conform to the norms of the Christian Science Monitor or of Alabama or Mississippi.

Early in my visiting of La Chansonette, Stanley asked me what I did for a living. Of course, I told him I was with AT&T in the long distance and overseas telephone business. Old Stanley’s eyes lit up. It seems that Rita had been trying to call her mother who was visiting Greece. Unfortunately, her mother was not in Athens but in an out-of-the-way town. Stanley said Rita was feeling pretty discouraged after having failed to reach her mother in spite of several trans-Atlantic telephone calls. And Stanley said her sadness carried over into her singing.

So I said let me try to cheer my friend Rita up. It was no problem to reach the AT&T Evening Chief Operator for calls to Greece. We knew each other. She said she would work the call now. In two or three minutes, Rita’s mother was on the phone from Greece but she was talking to old Stanley. So we got the AT&T Evening Chief Operator to come in on the call and direct it to Rita and Stanley’s living quarters above La Chansonette. Stanley said after the call was completed that I had saved his life. I don’t know about that, but if it pacified Rita so that she wouldn’t be looking for a tenth husband, then my duty had been done.

As the years went on, I had many conversations with Stanley and Rita. They were good people who were doing what they liked best. As such, they were happy people and fun to be around. Unfortunately, time runs out on everybody at one time or another. Rita died in the past year or so. I suspect that she was pretty close to 80 years. When she appears before the pearly gates, that will be an appropriate occasion to wear her dress with the front side open to near the navel and the back side cut to below the waist line. St. Peter is entitled to a thrill once in a while, even if he was a Catholic saint.

I got into this discussion about Stanley and Rita because their marriage and business practices represented the essence of diversity – New York style. I am a little old to be going to cabarets with dancing and with women in evening gowns that would make this old soldier blush. But I’ll tell you this. Going to a diverse club like La Chansonette surely beats the evening prayer services at some of Missouri’s most upscale churches as well as a rip snorting Billy Graham revival meeting complete with sawdust on the floor. Maybe if Billy Graham saw Rita in her work clothes, he might take a more liberal or modern point of view.

If someone says that I am partial to New York City, I will save the cost of a trial and plead resoundingly guilty. It may not be that New York is absolutely wonderful; it just might be that some other places leave a lot to be desired. For example, try the cities in Islamic countries. Of all those cities, only Cairo has anything to offer. Even there, I stuck pretty close to the hotel with traffic congestion and threats against Westerners being what they were. And none of the Islamic countries offer any singing or dancing or any diversity. As a matter of fact, they are headed in the other way. And the food in those countries is rather regrettable.

Working for the long distance arm of AT&T permitted me to see all the major cities in this country as well as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. In the Army, I got to know a bit about Naples and Rome. When I had the Overseas job, there were lots of great cities to visit. London, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, Tokyo and Geneva. I was never comfortable in Berlin or Munich for reasons having to do with Army service. In a different way, I never fought to go to the countries that we used to consider as being behind the Iron Curtain. At the top of that list is Moscow itself, followed clearly by Beijing. On the other hand, I was completely at home in Sydney or Perth, Australia even though the Aussies thought my lack of interest in beer was basically treasonable.

So by virtue of being in the Army and by service with AT&T, I was most fortunate in being able to see big cities all over the world. It may be chauvinistic to say so, but New York is the most open and most diverse city that I have ever been involved with. I know Chicago and Kansas City are considered as broad shouldered towns, but New York has them beat when it comes to the diversity of its population and its outlook.

A small diversion having to do with the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance that is in the news recently. That phrase was inserted into the pledge in 1954 when this country was in its Joe McCarthy period. Congress rolled over just as it has done recently when John Ashcroft pushed the American Patriot Act through the legislative body. For all the years I was in school in Missouri, we recited the pledge as it was originally written. The intrusion of “Under God” cheapens it and makes it a pledge of religious belief. And politicians from both parties are

breaking their backs to defeat the two Ninth Circuit justices, Alfred Goodwin and Stephen Reinhardt, who had ruled that that phrase violates the separation of church and state in this country. When I see this kind of disgraceful performance by our elected officials, I am angered and I also weep for the concept of church-state separation. My belief is that New Yorkers believe in the doctrine of church-state separation. Once again, I find myself with New Yorkers as distinguished from the self righteous members of Congress.

Well, having settled that diversion let me move back to New York. After I moved to the suburban New York scene, my parents never visited me. They were old and not in the greatest of health. But if they had seen one of the headlines last week wherein Donna Hanover accused Rudolph Guiliani of “open and notorious adultery,” I am sure that my mother, if she were alive today, would tell me to leave this sinful city. I would tell her, if she were around today, that debates like this are part of the fun in living in a dynamic city. I have no dog in this fight, but if Donna takes the mercurial Rudy to the cleaners, she will earn my applause and she may not have to appear in the sequel to the “Vagina Monologues.” (Note: She did take Rudy to the cleaners.)

Perhaps I have harangued you too much about New York. Lots of my AT&T colleagues could not wait to tell it goodbye and good riddance. Obviously, I don’t feel that way about the big city. And the reason has to do mostly with acceptance of diversity. I know that New York is not perfect. Far from it. But taking one thing with another, New York suits me quite well.

You may recall one of my essays where as a young soldier I walked guard duty on Christmas with a dock walloper from Brooklyn. His name was Jack Botcowsky and he was quick to tell you that he was a Jew. If I had told Jack that a gay person from Bangladesh was blocking our path and was turning hand springs and thumbing his nose at United States soldiers, old Jack would say, “So what”, followed by a handshake among the three of us. Somehow that liberal viewpoint seems to typify many of the citizens who call New York home. I like it and have for many years.

July 8, 2002


I’m glad Pop’s father was as fair as he was. I think he successfully handed that mindset down the family line, for which I’m grateful. The treatment of gay and lesbian couples mentioned in the essay was surprising to me, even though it probably shouldn’t have been, just because I’ve grown up in a culture that largely treats sexual-orientation-based discrimination as harshly as race-based discrimination. So if even New Yorkers had to worry about that who they were seen going to clubs with, it’s hard for me to imagine the mindsets of the rest of the country. How many generations back do we have to step before we get to a time where interracial marriage was seen as deeply sinful? Thinking about it now, depending on where you look, I guess the answer could easily be zero. Hurray for the South.

Conversely, how many generations forward do we have to step until the rest of the globe catches up to cities like New York and San Francisco, in terms of tolerance? And even for us here in SF, what’s the next step?

In any event, this series is certainly still going strong. I’ll be the first to admit that motif of “here’s a great person, here’s a fun interaction we had, and here’s how this person died or we lost contact” darkens the writing a little, but as my little brother likes to say, “there is a price to be paid” when reminiscing at Pop’s age.

Update: Judy was able to find a picture of Rita!


It must be supposed that lots of people want to establish their credentials, perhaps to impress other people or to solicit business for their enterprises. In the top drawer of my desk, there is a collection of calling cards with all sorts of abbreviations representing the higher credentials of the owners. There are M.D.’s by the dozens. There is a medical technician who lists B.S., and R.V.T. after his name. He was not asked what the “B.S.” stood for. There is a D.O. and several R.N.’s and B.S.N.’s. The fellow who took the veins from my legs for the heart by-pass operation is listed as PA, no periods and no exclamation points. Joe Patti, an ophthalmologist, says he is an M.D. and a P.A., with periods. One fellow is a DPM and a FACFAS. He is in podiatry work. Ophthalmologists list F.I.C.S. after their listing as M.D.’s. Others list F.A.C.S. after their name. Neurologists don’t seem to belong to a higher society; hence, no initials. A fellow who used to run the Hungarian telecommunications service in Budapest is called “Dr. Techn.” And that is only the English version of his calling card.

On the other hand, there are Sal Manto, who sells Mercedes cars, and Rich Wilson who sells fine wines. They do not list any organization to which they have been elected or appointed. They are good men. The brevity on their calling cards is well received.

But if this plethora of credentials should overwhelm you, we have the military services coming to your rescue. Typically, when a high level officer completes his hitch, that former soldier or former naval officer seems to always keep his rank and to add a symbol of retirement after signing his rank and name. Typically, these lofty officers sign their names to pieces they have submitted to newspapers and magazines, as “Col. Joe Blow (Ret.).” Now that is something that deserves a comment from an old enlisted man, namely me.

Since the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq by United States forces in 2003, newspapers and television news programs seem to have sought out all kinds of high level military people for their commentary. Most of these former military people had generally completed their service many years ago, but they are still commenting. It must be assumed that retired generals and colonels are easier to acquire as opposed to active high level officers whom we must assume are too busy to write op-ed pieces or to talk to television news programs. Presumably, when a general or a colonel begins to collect his pension, he or she may now be looking to say what he thinks of the current situation. Perhaps the commentary is submitted in exchange for a fee. But because the piece is signed by an admiral or a general who speaks from retirement, don’t take his comments to the bank just yet.

There are several cruel ironies here. In the Army, one does not become eligible for a normal service pension until 20 years of service have been delivered. Now if we have a West Pointer, for example, he or she will reach the 20 year mark at about the age of 42 years. There aren’t many prospective candidates who will present themselves to the non-military job market at age 42 saying that their previous experience was in directing close order drills or in killing people. At his point, the Army can do anything it wants with the 42 year old soldier who has served long enough to qualify for a pension, but not long enough to be a general or an admiral, for example. If he is wounded from previous combat, the Army can say it doesn’t want cripples to be on the roster, so the relatively young man is told that his military career is finished.

Similarly, if there is a report of conduct unbecoming an officer, or if his or her superiors simply don’t like the officer, he or she can be told to prepare for the final formation to mark an officers retirement. As far as is known, there is no appeal from such a rejection, unless the officer has friends in high political office, in which case, he or she may be permitted to hang on until another opportunity for separation occurs.

As military careers work out, there are very few generals and admirals at the 42 years of age mark. Generally speaking, those jobs come when the military lifer reaches the age of 50 or beyond. The rank of general is what the people such as the West Pointers are aiming at. At age 42, some are not even full colonels. The rank of general is a distant hope, so they usually try to stay in military service hoping for a latter day promotion.

So here are the bed rock facts. The Army can terminate an officer’s career any time it wants to. There is no such thing as a “no cut” contract in the military. As you can see, the Army holds all the cards. If an officer expresses an opinion that the top brass disagrees with, that officer will be let go at the first opportunity. So the man or woman who has 20 years invested in the military and who has years to go to reach higher rank, simply remains silent or he espouses the current line of the incumbent administration – even if it is a total lie. In Iraq, for example, where we are suffering grievous losses, the officers in the plus 42 year gap are forced to remain silent or to proclaim that losing more than 1,060 soldiers is mighty good news.

The best example is Colin Powell, the current Secretary of State, who retired as a general. When it was time in February, 2003, Powell was sent to the United Nations Security Counsel to state the case about why the U.S. should go to war over the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq allegedly had. As time went on, Powell and the Bush administration have been repudiated on nearly every point he made. But Powell stated the case even though he would soon come to realize that it was totally false. But as a soldier, he stated not what he knew, but the prejudices of George Bush and his neo-con advisers. Ladies and gentlemen, that is whoredom at its finest.

While we are discussing debauchery, attention must be paid to a former hero, John McCain, the Senator from Arizona and the man who was held for five years in North Korea prisons. In the 2000 primary campaign where he was pitted against George Bush, his opponent circulated two malicious rumors. The first was that McCain’s years in prison had caused him to be irrational. The second was – and this was in segregationist South Carolina – that McCain had fathered a black child. For all the intervening years, McCain had loathed Bush. The reasons for his disdain are understandable to any rational person. Now we find McCain embracing Bush in the 2004 campaign. It goes without saying, that whoredom is far from dead.

It was said a page or two back that this situation is freighted with cruel ironies. Two obvious ones are the degradation of Powell and McCain. A second one has to do with what the talking heads have to say. In normal circumstances, the generals and colonels have very little to say about anything other than the party line. On those occasions when Colin Powell has ventured an opinion about the non-existence of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) or any other subject that failed to conform with Bush’s neo-con line, he has been hauled up short and forced to issue a “clarifying statement” which takes him into compliance with administration policy. Powell disbelieves that Iraq ever had WMD, but he states that fact at his peril. And he does not have the integrity or the guts to resign.

So to all the readers of these irreverent essays, when you read an “expert” opinion by a general or a colonel who has (Ret.) after his name and rank, deal with it with a great deal of skepticism.

Two interesting thoughts occur here about the quality of statements from lesser ranking members of the military. In the first case, newspapers and television news programs all seem to believe that there is a direct association between a top general, for example, and believability. It is for this reason that only on rare occasions will a piece be signed by a Lt. Col. (Ret.). Presumably, the testimony of a lieutenant colonel is worth less than the testimony of a general, or what is known in military terms as a full bird colonel. Newspaper and TV commentators have yet to seek comment from majors, captains and lieutenants. As a member of the Army of the United States in World War II, please be assured that wisdom does not reside exclusively in the brains of eagle colonels and the four classes of general. On many occasions, men of lesser ranks have expressed ideas that far outweighed those expressed by the top brass. There were many men who entered the service with no inclination whatsoever to make it their life’s work. Their views were not hidebound and are, in my opinion, superior to the thoughts emanating from the generals who sometimes carried swagger sticks.

Secondly – at this late point in this essay on military discipline, it will be noticed that all my references have been to officers. There are those who say officers do the thinking while enlisted men do the dying. If you look at the casualty lists from the disaster in Iraq, it would seem that enlisted men and women are dying at about 300 to one officer’s death. So in the four or five wars since my war, the facts on the ground haven’t changed. Sometimes enlisted men are called “dog faces.” In every war, dog faces do the dying.

In case there is any mistake, my service was as an enlisted man, Army serial number 17077613. If someone should call me a dog face, they would be told, “Yes, that’s right.”

In the previous pages, everything that was said about officers of a lesser rank such as captain or major, as distinguished from colonel and general, applies also to enlisted men. In between dying, enlisted men often have ideas that are far better than the ideas of the so called “Field Grade Officers.” Just because a soldier holds no commission, is no reason to believe his thoughts are without merit. Ah, but that is how the grand army of this country treats them. And so we are left to run on an army of “yes” men who would not dare to tell the administration that their ideas are worthless and will result in soldiers being killed. The Bush administration seems to think there are plenty of enlisted men who will be glad to get killed.

Did we have plenty of troops for the Iraq occupation? Bush and Rumsfeld say “absolutely.” They say that if more troops are needed, all the commanders in the field have to do is ask for them. In truth, the first one to ask for more troops will find an exit being prepared for him as in the case of General Shinseki or General Zinni. Even a lowly dog face might be able to tell the world that more troops in Iraq were desperately needed long ago. But dog faces don’t count and dog faces don’t write op-ed pieces saying that they are retired.

As a matter of fact, most enlisted men, whether retired or not, do not submit articles signed with their rank and the “Ret.” label. That is a shame. The colonels and the generals have nearly worn out the R, e and t letters on their computers and typewriters. As a matter of fact, surviving enlisted men – the dog faces – outnumber the colonels and generals by a factor of probably 4000 to one. Accordingly, it is herewith proposed that all of us have a suffix to add to our names, much like the doctors whose cards are in my desk. And the addition should not be (Ret.).

Not many of us hung around the Army to rack up 20 years or more for a pension. When whatever action we were in was finished, we got out as fast as we could. In my own case, my enlistment lasted three and one-half years. And it ended with Army pleas to join the Reserves or the National Guard. There was no intention on my part whatsoever to have anything to do with any military organization, including the American Legion.

So very few of us old dog faces can use the suffix, “Retired” after our name and rank. But that is absolutely not a problem. Virtually all of us received honorable discharges to end our military careers. Popular demand now proposes that all of us should have a suffix to anything we write, whether it is a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece. That gives the piece gravitas.

So Sergeant Carr of the Army of the United States (AUS) herewith proposes that henceforth, all dog faces add the AUS or USA to pieces submitted for publication, followed not by “Retired” (Ret.) but by “Honorably Discharged.” This is a little long, obviously, but abbreviations exist for a reason. So all of us may sign with rank, name, either the USA or AUS, followed most importantly, by “Hon. Dischgd.”

This will make our credentials equivalent to doctors, technicians, car salesmen and wine sellers and almost equal to the head man of the Hungarian Telecommunications Authority. Finally, at long last, we have the means to deal with the (Ret.) syndrome.

Now that this major problem is settled, it is hoped that all of us – dog faces and civilians and majors or captains – will feel better, which will result in a spring in our steps and a large smile on our faces.

Sgt. E. E. Carr
AUS (Hon. Dischgd.)

September 23, 2004


Re: Whoredom, watching Ted Cruz kiss the Trump ring has gotta take the cake. Trump accused Cruz’s father of being involved with Lee Harvey Oswald — among tons of other disparaging remarks about Cruz himself — and yet months later Cruz is phonebanking for the guy.

I like the idea presented here though, that the people who have gotten furthest up the chain are increasingly incapable of thought that diverges from the party line, since those go hand in hand. And even once you retire, that mindset has been so beaten into you that you’re never going to question what you’re told, or at least never publicly question that since your brain has become hard-wired to balk at the prospect.



This is a small St. Louis story which comes from a news release from Washington. In 1764, Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau, French explorers and fur traders, established a town on the west bank of the Mississippi River and named it after one of the French monarchs, Louis XV. You will be surprised to know the name of the town is St. Louis as in the St. Louis Blues.

By the year 1800, German immigrants began to come to St. Louis and they quickly outnumbered the French. By 1900 or thereabouts, the town was considered German and in large measure, remains that to this day, particularly when the environs are considered.

Germans had to have their beer gardens and the major one of them was run by a man called Chris Von Der Ahe. To promote his beer garden, Chris established a professional baseball club around the year 1884 which he called the St. Louis Browns. The nickname of the Browns came from the uniforms that Von Der Ahe’s employees wore in his elaborate beer garden. The Browns played in the American League, the so called “Junior circuit” with the National League being the “Senior circuit.”

Over the years, the Browns passed to the Ball and DeWitt families after Chris Von Der Ahe died. In 1922, they came within one game of winning the American League pennant, but in those years, there was no “Wild Card Team,” so the Browns simply went home after the season. From that point on, their efforts for the next 20 years were met with no success at all. In large measure, baseball people more or less felt sorry for the Browns.

While the Browns were basically failures at professional baseball, two other St. Louis industries were meeting with great success from the 1890’s to 1950 or 1955. First was the beer brewing business and second was the shoe industry.

After the war, we were very lucky to rent a flat on Wyoming Avenue in South St. Louis. The aroma of beer and yeast were in the air at all times as that flat was with walking distance of three breweries. There was Alpen Brau Brewery, the Greideick Brothers Brewery, and the Falstaff Brewery. In the end, the Budweiser brewery took over all the other plants in St. Louis, including the three within smelling distance of our flat on Wyoming Avenue.

Shoes were also a big success in St. Louis. There was the Endicott Johnson company and the International Company with their Buster Brown shoes for youngsters leading the way in sales all across the United States. My sister had a secretary’s job at Endicott Johnson and it seemed in 1938 to offer life time employment.

And so there was the little poem about the breweries, the shoe companies and the Browns. It went –

First in booze,
First in shoes,
And last in the American League.

St. Louis, I believe, now has only the giant Budweiser plant in South St. Louis. The shoe companies have long since gone. And the Browns, in a shameful deal, were sold to some outsiders in 1953 and are now the Baltimore Orioles. So no more booze or shoes or the American League.

Ah, but St. Louisans should take heart. An announcement last month from law enforcement authorities in Washington has named St. Louis as the “most crime ridden city in the country.” Think of that! It’s not last in the American League or any other league any more. St. Louis actually leads the league. Think of that!

Can you imagine how this makes the authorities in Newark or Chicago’s South Side or Brownsville, Texas feel as they see the mantle of leadership go to St. Louis? The same feelings of dejection must also be felt in Los Angeles and New Orleans. It is quite plausible that St. Louis ought to be the most crime ridden city on the North American continent. If that is true, the St. Louisans would have to beat Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Mexico City, but I am quite confident that my old home town can easily handle these Mexican upstarts.

I am an old man and for decades I have been burdened with the thought that St. Louis was last in the American League. But no more. Newark, and Chicago’s South Side and the seamy side of Miami and all those other fleshpots in Los Angeles and New Orleans will now have to look up to St. Louis as the leader when it comes to being the most crime ridden city in the country. That, my friends, is an accomplishment worth waiting a lifetime for.

“St. Louis Woman,
With her diamond rings,
She led that man around,
By her apron strings.”

Thanks to W. C. Handy

Once in awhile, if you stick around long enough, you may get lucky. For example, when the stock market was booming, AT&T spun off Lucent in 1996. That was sort of a lucky gift. As were Lucent’s two for one stock splits in April, 1998 and January, 1999. All those new shares started off at $29 and grew over time to somewhere around $60. So it is quite clear that many of us were very lucky to receive these gifts from a never ending boom in the stock market.

It doesn’t help my premise that Lucent not long ago seemed headed for a rate of less than one dollar per share. It has picked up recently, being traded at about $1.50. But that is a diversion. I am just going to concentrate on being given Lucent shares as a lucky gift.

Aside from personal luck, countries can be lucky also. Before World War II, the international language – lingua franca – was French. Many European countries spoke French as a second language. The Russians and the Poles regarded French as the language of sophisticated citizens. It was widely spoken in other European countries including Scandinavia.

But then came World War II. English started to replace French. In any case, the possessions of the British Empire made English the language of choice in India, Hong Kong, Nepal, Egypt, East and West Africa and many other countries. There are some cases in Nepal or in Ghana or Nigeria where English is used often to the exclusion of the native tongue because the language of the country is not adaptable to the commercial needs of the post World War II world. And there are many cases where the natives of one part of the country are unable to speak to their countrymen from other sections of the country, so speaking English is the solution.

In the early 1970’s when I took up duties of dealing with all the communications companies around the world, there were a few countries where we required a translator. One of the first lessons we learned was not to ask the American Embassy in such a country to recommend a translator. Uniformly, they offered someone from the Embassy staff who very often tried to take over the negotiations with the foreign telecommunication company.

In a high percentage of the cases, someone from the foreign administration spoke English and translated for the rest of the delegation. In most cases, the English speaker was the head of the foreign delegation. This was the case in many of the Arab countries with whom we negotiated. As a general rule in Arab countries, a government official was responsible for telecommunications policy because such policy was a government rather than a private function. On one occasion in Algeria, the leader of the Algerian delegation was a cabinet minister in that country. His native tongue was Arabic. Our meeting took place shortly after Algeria had successfully worked to gain the release of the American hostages who had been held for many months in an Iranian prison. When I spoke at the outset of the meeting, I thanked the minister for Algeria’s efforts on behalf of the American prisoners. His reply was simple and straightforward. He said, “It was our duty. We were glad to be of help.” I was deeply impressed by his thought that it was a matter of duty to the Algerian government.

One place we never had trouble was in the Scandinavian counties. In meetings, the Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Finns kept us on our toes with their responses. In Sweden and Denmark particularly, our counterparts felt free to joke with us in English. My retirement from AT&T took place 18 years ago, but I am still in contact by e-mail and written correspondence with two good Swedish friends. The dialogue is in English although I have a Swedish-English dictionary around for ready reference.

The point I am trying to make is that the world came to us where the English language is concerned. The Europeans, the Asians and many of the Arab countries mastered the English language. Sad to say, the Americans have not mastered theirs. That is why I said at the outset of this mini-essay that we are very lucky people. Indeed, the world came to us on the subject of language. We are very fortunate.

Winston Churchill once said the United States and Great Britain were completely united, divided only by our common language. If we can communicate with our French and German neighbors, and with our Arab and Asian friends, perhaps in time, if we are again lucky, we may even be able to communicate with our friends in old Blighty. Rule Brittania! Britania rules the waves.

Last November, I wrote an essay on the effects of aphasia which often follows a stroke. The idea was to list some of the effects of problems that aphasia sufferers might encounter.

As time goes on, it seems that the effects of aphasia tend to diminish. In my case, I have accommodated the thought that the effects of aphasia will be with me for the rest of my life. Rather than being distraught about that turn of events, I laugh at some of my errors in speech and it seems that the name of a person or a thing which will not come to mind at the moment, will appear effortlessly later in the day. Aside from laughter at my failings and patience in waiting for a word to show up, it helps to write essays and letters to exercise my brain, which is what the therapist at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation ordered in the first place.

Now here are three of my recent verbal faux pas which tell me that aphasia is hanging on in my mind. Happily, each case of misidentification became an object for laughter rather than for distress. All of them involve my wife Judy which may suggest that she enjoys the laughter as much as I do.

In the first case, I meant to tell Judy that it was my intention to eat some “amazons.” The word that was missed was “almonds.” Where that monster river in South American or the on-line book seller came from is anybody’s guess. I long since quit trying to figure that sort of stuff out. Perhaps a neurologist or even a psychiatrist might offer an explanation, but I would say after seeing two neurologists, their explanation would be no better than mine. So save your money and come see me. My rates are quite reasonable, but I don’t see HMO patients.

A second word substitute came when Judy started to leave the car in a rain storm. With great solicitation, I asked her if she had her “envelope” with her. Obviously, my intention was to ask if she had an “umbrella.” There was no envelope to be mailed. That word intruded just as Amazon intruded in the almond incident.

Then there was a case when Judy brought up one of my shirts on a hanger from the basement laundry. Judy usually contends that her hangers are not promptly returned, so as soon as she handed me the shirt, I asked her if she would like her “pliers” to be returned. Where did “pliers” come from? I have no idea. Rather than try to figure it out, it seems better to laugh at it.

Well, here are three indications of word substitutions that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject being discussed. But that is the nature of aphasia and it hangs around for a long while. By all means, don’t click your tongue and feel sorry for me. I have never felt sorrow for myself and indeed, these verbal mishaps are the subjects of fun and laughter. The question is, what will I say next?

So if we are ever speaking, and I make a reference to something as foreign as Amazons, or envelopes or pliers, or whatever, please point it out to me so that we both can have a laugh.

March 3, 2003


St. Louis had its title stripped by Detroit! Memphis and Oakland are also hotly contesting the title. Urban poverty can produce some pretty intense cycles of violence, and our society hasn’t found (or attempted to find?) a viable solution for that yet. But don’t worry guys, the manufacturing industry is going to come back to Detroit and everything will be fine again — all the politicians still tell us so.


In the international telephone business in the 1970’s and 1980’s, it was a delight to visit correspondents in Montreal, London, Paris, Rome and even Johannesburg. Those were the easy ones with good airline connections, good hotels and food to please any palate. Among the tough ones were countries in Africa and the eastern European states generally called, “Behind the Iron Curtain.” They had to be visited and negotiated with also.

When dictators called the shots from Moscow and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR) had dominance over Eastern European affairs, a visit to the Iron Curtain countries was marked by its joylessness. It more or less ranked with visits by white Americans (read heathens) to Saudi Arabia and the Moslem countries which look toward Mecca for their spiritual inspiration. The best that I could tell, the people in all those countries lived a life of drudgery except for the obscenely wealthy minority. Once inside those countries, I looked forward to the hour where a plane or a train would take me to Western Europe or back to the United States.

Behind the Iron Curtain, it seemed that people had lost their zest for living. They went through the motions but their hearts were not in it anymore. Before World War II, for example, products from Czechoslovakia were celebrated for the precision involved in their manufacture. In the visits to Prague in the 1970’s, the citizens didn’t seem to care anymore. Doors didn’t fit and paint was sort of slopped on walls in a “don’t care anymore” fashion. That sort of attitude seemed to prevail in Moscow, Bucharest, Sofia and Belgrade, for example, in addition to Prague.

There were two countries that seemed to defy the Soviet yoke. In Poland, we were told that Poles were like radishes: red on the outside but not on the inside. The women wore bright colors and dressed as if they cared. In Hungary, the Russians had never managed to suppress the music that seemed to go with dining in Budapest. As I have written before, Hungarian women were the most radiant of all the women in Europe. I will always remember the Poles and the Hungarians for their courage and their desire to enjoy life, regardless of what Ivan had in store for them.

I was most fortunate to know one of those Hungarians who enjoyed life himself and who caused others around him to enjoy their lives as well. That friend was George Feyer whom I have called probably the best entertainer ever to sit on a piano bench. I reached that conclusion after listening to George Feyer for the better part of 25 years in three different hotel settings.

George Feyer lived a long and productive life. It is hard to say how much happiness he brought to others who heard him in person or on his phonograph records. He died last October at the age of 93 years. The New York Times gave him two columns for his obituary. I hope that in his retirement before his death, he hummed or sang or played, “Plaisir d’Amour,” a song I must have asked him to play 50 times while he worked at the Carlyle, Stanhope and Waldorf-Astoria Hotels. After you read a summary of George’s life published by Space Age Musicmaker, I will tell you a little more about George and “Plaisir d’ Amour.”

Here is what the Space Age Musicmaker had to say when George Feyer died.

George Feyer
• Born 27 October 1908, Budapest, Hungary
• Died 21 October 2001, New York City, New York
George Feyer is best known as one of the archetypal cocktail pianists of the Manhattan nightclub scene. His apparently bottomless repertoire, light and appealing piano style, and charming cosmopolitan personality made him a staple at the Hotel Stanhope’s lounge for many years. He recorded a number of albums of Broadway and continental standards over the years, most notably a string of “Echoes of …” albums for Vox in the mid-1950s.
Feyer was a classically-trained pianist–trained in the toughest “old world” way. His mother tied his legs to the piano bench to force him to practice. Despite this negative reinforcement, he became a proficient student, and attended the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where he studied alongside Georg Solti, who would become a world-famous conductor. He went on to the Budapest Conservatory, where he studied with the likes of Ernst von Dohanyi and Zoltan Kodaly.
Unlike Maestro Solti, however, after graduation Feyer didn’t head for the concert hall. Instead, one of his first jobs was as the accompanist to silent movies. He and his partner, a drummer, began getting jobs on the side as a combo, and before long, they were touring some of the best hotels and clubs in Europe.
Feyer returned to Hungary when World War Two broke out. After Germany established a puppet regime in Hungary, Feyer was put into a forced labor brigade. After being moved to various factories in Germany, he ended up in Bergen-Belsen when it was liberated by the Allies. He returned again to Hungary and married his first wife, but they soon left for Switzerland when the Soviets began setting up their own Communist puppets.
They spent three years in Switzerland, then emigrated to the U.S. in 1951, joining Feyer’s brother in New York. It didn’t take long for Feyer to break into the music business in New York–he was appearing at Gogi’s within a few months, and had a steady series of gigs at clubs such as Delmonico’s, before settling into a 13 year stint at the Hotel Carlyle in 1955.
Feyer and the Carlyle became closely linked in the public’s eye. The hotel set up a separate piano lounge for him, then hired a Hungarian decorator to do it up in Feyer’s native country’s style. Audiences loved his clever commentaries, nimble playing, and occasional cabaret-style singing. His success led to a contract with Vox Records, which released at least ten albums featuring Feyer and his combo. Unlike his live performances, though, these are pleasant but unexciting, lacking perhaps their variety and spontaneity.
Feyer never claimed to be a particularly original stylist. He once wrote,
If there is any originality in my arrangements, it lies in the fact that they do not try to be original. They are based on the eternal laws of music, which apply equally whether you play classical or popular, Mozart or Jerome Kern, Brahms or Johann Strauss.
Yet his musical style aside, there was something special about his performances. New York Times critic John S. Wilson wrote of him in 1980: “He literally plays his audience, which invariably includes longtime fans, fitting in a remark to a table on the left, acknowledgement of a request from a far corner, drawing his listeners in with an anecdote, a recollection, or an Ogden Nash poem, and creating an ambiance that is informal but delicately controlled.”
Feyer’s departure from the Carlyle is something of a legend in New York cabaret circles. He left for his usual summer vacation on Nantucket in August 1968. The Carlyle hired Bobby Short as a fill-in. When Feyer came back, the Carlyle’s new management curtly told him his services were no longer needed. “I took the most expensive vacation of them all,” he later commented. Bobby Short is still playing at the Carlyle today.
Feyer bounced back quickly, moving to the Stanhope’s lounge for twelve years, then spending his last few years of active performing at the Hideaway Room in the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Feyer retired in 1982 after his first wife’s death, though he appeared at private parties and rare hotel engagements, mostly as favors to friends. For many years, up to just weeks before his death, he put on a weekly show to entertain patients at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
• An Evening at the Cafe Carlyle with George Feyer, Cadence CLP-3051/CLP-25051
• Echoes of Spain, Vox VX25070
• Echoes of Paris, Vox VX25200
• Echoes of Vienna, Vox VX25250
• Heavenly Echoes of My Fair Lady, Vox VX25340
• Echoes of Broadway, Vox VX25350
• Echoes of Latin America, Vox VX25370
• Echoes of Hollywood, Vox VX25400
• Echoes of Budapest, Vox VX25450
• Echoes of Italy, Vox VX25620
• Memories of Viennese Operettas, RCA Victor LSP1862
• Memories of Popular Operas, RCA Victor LSP1926
• Music for a Mellow Mood, RCA Record Club Exclusive RCACSP119
• Today’s Hits, Tomorrow’s Memories, RCA Victor LSP2051
• Echoes of Mr Fair Lady, Decca DL74041
• I Still Like to Play French Songs, Decca DL74333
• But Oh! Those Italian Melodies (I Still Like to Play French Songs the Best), Decca DL74411
• Latin Songs Everybody Knows, Decca DL74420
• Golden Waltzes Everybody Knows, Decca DL74455
• Nightcap with George Feyer, Decca DL74625
• Piano Magic: Hollywood, Decca DL74647
• New Echoes of Paris, Decca DL74808
• Echoes of Love, Decca DL74858
• Echoes of Romance, Decca DL74902
• Echoes of Childhood, Decca DL74907
• George Feyer Plays Jerome Kern, Omega OVC-6015 (reissued as The Essential Jerome Kern)
• George Feyer Plays Cole Porter, Omega OVC-6014 (reissued as The Essential Cole Porter)

Somewhere in the late 1950’s, I had an arbitration case which was held in the Carlyle or a nearby hotel. Arbitration hearings are exhausting work as you appear before the arbitrator from say 9:30AM until 4:30 or 5PM in the afternoon. That’s only half the story. Getting ready to go back to subsequent hearings before the arbitrator involves extensive preparation which takes up the evening hours until 9PM or later. With much of this work falling on me, I elected to stay in New York rather than to take the 90 minute or two hour subway and train trip to suburban New Jersey.

During the evening after the arbitration hearing was finished for the day, I wandered into the Carlyle lounge and sat on a stool at the bar. Before long a very pleasant fellow came by and said “Hello.” There followed a general discussion in which my newfound friend said he had to leave to get back to work, which was playing the piano. Of course, my newly acquired acquaintance was George Feyer.

Feyer was so unassuming that he stopped to say hello to a stranger sitting at a bar in a lounge where he was working. I was impressed then and also when I read about his accomplishments as a musician.

When I had a crowd of people, say after an arbitration hearing or at the end of bargaining, I would always find a reason to take them to hear my Hungarian friend. George always had time to come to our table and was a gracious conversationalist. On other occasions when I was alone or with one other person, we would have longer talks, particularly when he learned that I had been to Budapest, his hometown.

George knew that sooner or later, I would ask him to play what I always thought was a French song, “Plaisir d’Amour.” When I got looking into that song, it appeared that lots of Europeans had tinkered with the lyrics. The song was written by Jean-Paul Egide Martini (1741 – 1816), an organist and composer from Germany. Right at the outset you can see the contradictions. The first two names of the composer are French. The third given name and the surname are Italian. And he is described as a “composer and organist from Germany.”

The song which celebrates the “Joy of Love” seems to have the composer Martini using French lyrics to his music. The original text in French means “Love’s pleasure lasts but a moment; love’s sorrow lasts all through life.” Those sentiments were quoted by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian (1755-1794), a French writer of fables in his work, “Celestine.”

But then an Englishman Roy Jeffries got into the act and changed the lyrics to reflect a very sad song. Charlotte Church, another English speaking person, published her version which seems fairly close to the original lyrics, but Madame Church introduces an “ungrateful Silvie” to the verse. Where did this Sirvie come from? The Italians seem fairly content to change the spelling from “Amour” to “Amor” and let it go at that.

One night at the Stanhope Hotel, I had a chance to have a discussion with George Feyer about “Plasir d’Amour.” He told me the meaning is that, “The pleasure of love lasts for the moment; the sentiment of love lasts forever.” George spoke six or seven European languages. If he said that is what it means, it is good enough for me and I hope that English speaking people would kindly butt out.

George was a good man who had tasted what the Germans had to offer in the Bergen-Belsen prison. He found out what Russians had to offer when Hungary was forced to accept Soviet puppets. Feyer knew what slavery meant under those two systems. I am delighted that he was able to break free and come to freedom.

The last time I saw George was in May, 1982 when Judy and I had two Swedes we were entertaining. That was at the specially constructed Hideaway Room at the Waldorf-Astoria. The special construction was a small intimate room for George Feyer. He was charming to the Swedes as he had been to all my guests, foreign and domestic, and to my self.

Obviously, I think George was one of the great ones. To give you an idea of his consideration of others less fortunate than he, I call to mind his concerts at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. When his wife was diagnosed at that center in the late 1970’s, without any publicity George appeared each week at Sloan-Kettering to entertain patients. I saw George all the while he was going to Sloan-Kettering and I knew nothing about it. Even after his wife died, the concerts continued until a few weeks before his own death. The fact that he avoided publicity about these efforts is typical of the man George Feyer was.

George made at least 27 recordings. Some of them include his rendition of “Plaisir d’Amour.” We have a good number of those recordings. When I listen to them, it’s not the English or Italian or German lyrics I hear; it’s George’s thought that “the sentiment of love lasts forever.”

I was a very lucky man to know George Feyer. I believe he was probably the finest entertainer ever to sit on a piano bench.

July 4, 2002


I listened to quite a bit of George Feyer music before publishing this essay. I found this set of songs to make particularly good background listening. Reading these essays always makes me think I should spend far more time exploring my city than I do; after work I often head straight for home. Perhaps it’s time to stop and smell the roses — I’m sure there are just as many talented people in San Francisco now as there were in New York so many years ago.

Per Judy, Feyer’s obituary is below:

October 25, 2001
George Feyer, Cafe Pianist And Entertainer, Dies at 92

George Feyer, a gifted pianist and delightfully versatile entertainer who charmed Manhattan cafe society at the Carlyle, Stanhope and Waldorf-Astoria hotels for three decades, died on Sunday at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. He was 92 and lived in Manhattan.

Mr. Feyer mixed an education in classical music with a love of pop, then added a dash of his Maurice Chevalier singing voice and a spicy pinch of topical comment to concoct an entertainment cocktail to amuse his sophisticated audiences.

George Lang, the New York restaurateur and a Hungarian like Mr. Feyer, said Mr. Feyer fused “styles, periods, stories and humor” to create an effect not unlike that of Victor Borge. “He was the master of this,” he said. “There is no one like him anymore.”

In a review in The New York Times in 1980, John S. Wilson commented on Mr. Feyer’s intimate, polished style: “He literally plays his audience, which invariably includes longtime fans, fitting a remark to a table on the left, acknowledgement of a request from a far corner into his performance, drawing his listeners in with an anecdote, a recollection or an Ogden Nash poem and creating an ambience that is informal but delicately controlled.”

Among Mr. Feyer’s witty specialties was linking pop lyrics to classical tunes, mixing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” for example. But one of his worst experiences became a New York legend. When he took his usual vacation on Nantucket Island in 1968, Bobby Short replaced him, beginning a fabled, uninterrupted run at the Carlyle. The management had changed, and the move turned out to be permanent. “I took the most expensive vacation of them all,” Mr. Feyer said to Mr. Lang. However, his career continued at the Stanhope and Waldorf-Astoria.

Mr. Feyer was born in Budapest on Oct. 27, 1908. His mother, a piano teacher, tied his legs to the piano bench to force him to practice, Mr. Feyer’s son, Robert, said. Mr. Feyer nonetheless went on to become a brilliant student at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, where one of his classmates was Georg Solti, the conductor, who became a lifelong friend. He then disappointed teachers and others who expected him to follow a classical career by turning to pop music after his graduation in 1932. His son said his decision was treated as a minor scandal at the time.

One of his first jobs was playing the accompaniment for silent movies, but he soon graduated to nightclubs. He and his partner, a drummer, began working around Europe. In Paris one of their fans was the exiled Duke of Windsor; he liked accordion music, and the two drew straws to see who would learn to play the instrument. Mr. Feyer won; the drummer had to learn the accordion.

At the outbreak of World War II, Mr. Feyer returned to Hungary to be with his family. The Nazis put him on forced labor details, then imprisoned him in Bergen-Belsen for the final year of the war.
He returned to Budapest after the camp was liberated and married Judith Hoffman. He first played in an officers’ club of the Allied armies, but left for Switzerland as the Soviets gained control of Hungary, remaining there for three years.

After Hungary revoked the Feyers’ passports and Switzerland would not let them become permanent residents, the couple, who by then had a son, found themselves stateless. In 1951 they went to New York, where they joined Mr. Feyer’s brother, who had become a United States citizen.

Mr. Feyer’s first booking was at the celebrated Gogi’s La Rue, and he quickly moved on to Delmonico’s and other clubs. He spent 13 years at the Carlyle, which created a room for him, going so far as to hire a Hungarian decorator. He then spent 12 years at the Stanhope before going to the Waldorf-Astoria, where he played in a small, secluded, elegant room called the Hideaway.
He made many recordings, mainly on the Vox label in the mid-1950’s, his son said. His “Echoes” album series included “Echoes of Paris” and “Echoes of Broadway.”

“If there is any originality in my arrangements, it lies in the fact that they do not try to be original,” he wrote in an essay. “They are based on the eternal laws of music, which apply equally whether you play classical or popular, Mozart or Jerome Kern, Brahms or Johann Strauss.”

When his wife died in December 1982, Mr. Feyer stopped working full time. He continued to play at private parties and hotels and clubs in vacation spots, particularly in Palm Springs, Calif., where his second wife, the former Marta Kleyman, owned a home. In addition to her and his son, who lives in San Francisco, he is survived by three grandsons.

Almost until the time of his death, Mr. Feyer performed weekly for patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. His son said that after his dismissal from the Carlyle, he never set foot there again.


When I was in New York City for union bargaining in 1949, 1950, and 1951, I found myself being drawn to Greenwich Village. In many cases, food and drinks were cheaper there than in midtown. The place had a small town feel to it. If you ate at a restaurant two of three times, chances are the waitresses or the cashier would recognize you and say hello. In contrast, if you went into the Child’s Restaurant at Broadway and 42nd Street, you would probably never be recognized. Of course, Child’s was a lot bigger, but the friendliness found in the Village was conspicuously missing in much of midtown and uptown.

The Village in those days consisted of many small shops and restaurants. Big chains were unheard of in the area around Washington Square Park. In the small clubs, entertainment acts headed for the big time were always found. And acts that were headed downward would play the small clubs to earn a payday with the hope that they would be seen and sent back to the big time clubs and network radio. Remember, television was in its infancy in the latter part of the 1940’s and the early part of the 1950’s.

Greenwich Village in many respects was a different city from the rest of New York. It was a place where people lived. It was a place where people cared about their surroundings. This is a pure guess, but I’d say the average income of Village residents in the days we are speaking of was considerably less than the residents in apartments buildings on Park or Madison Avenues, for example.

The people were friendly. The shopkeepers acted as though they wanted your business. And most importantly, there were few, if any, barriers in dealing with other residents of the Village in terms of national origin or in terms of sexual orientation. I soon learned that if, for example, the Pakistani man standing near you was also gay, that did not keep him from being friendly. And it certainly meant that he would do nothing to convert you to his beliefs. He lived his life and you lived yours and everyone got along.

In the Army, there were all kinds of people from Iowa farmers to welders from Maine. In Africa and Italy, I met all kinds of people who were different from U. S. soldiers. Before I joined the Army in 1942, I had pretty much stayed fairly close to the Midwest and St. Louis. Those places were basically German and adventuresome folks had to look hard for something inspiring and interesting to do. St. Louisans were basically decent people but they often concentrated on church, family and children. Most creative endeavors were frowned upon. When the St. Louis Cardinals were winning pennants, many St. Louisans deplored their playing baseball on Sundays. So turning me loose in Greenwich Village was a liberating move.

When I first came to New York in 1948 or 1949, going to the Village had a mystical ring to it. It was not forbidden space but it might be compared to going to Harlem, many years later. It seemed to be an out-of-the way place with many nightclubs and saloons being entered after walking down a long stairway into what seemed like a cellar. But the fact is that nearly all the people were friendly and no one seemed inclined to cheat the customers. While I liked all of New York, I came to be genuinely fond of the Village. Let me introduce you to a few people who worked in the Village and who became my friends as time went on.

When I came back to New York on a permanent assignment in 1955, I stayed at the Grosvenor Hotel on Fifth Avenue and either Ninth or Tenth Streets. When I started to work on my first day on the labor relations job, I noticed several taxis in front of the Grosvenor. I was going to walk to 32 Sixth Avenue, a distance of about 1.5 miles, so I did not need a cab. The next morning, the same thing happened. When this old country boy asked the doorman why he had so many taxicabs lined up, he told me they weren’t there for walkers like me, but were intended to take school children, who lived full time in the Grosvenor, to school. The doorman said there were some good public schools in the Village, but these children were attending private schools so they rode in taxicabs. I was impressed and astounded. The more I thought about it, the more I said, “Why not?” But I did think that if I ever drove up to the Forsyth Grade School in Clayton, Missouri in 1930 in a taxicab, I probably would have been declared insane. But going to school in a taxicab – what class!

When I came to New York permanently, I was making the princely sum of $750 per month. My pay was the product of the Killingsworth-Marsh effort to minimize salaries. Killingsworth was the President of Long Lines and Marsh was his Personnel Vice President. On the other hand my boss, Dick Dugan, knew what was going on and told me that I should not be cutting corners on food and other living expenses while staying at the Grosvenor.

All of this led me to an older eating establishment on Washington Place between Sixth Avenue and MacDougal Street. It was the Coach House which I soon found out, offered absolutely the best black bean soup and corn sticks in all of New York or in the rest of the world, for that matter. I sat down to my first dinner in New York to a succulent hamburger. I still ate meat in those days, but it only cost $1.50 to $2.00 per serving – and it was delicious.

The owner of the Coach House was Leon Leonidis who learned his craft in Greece. He could bake and butcher and he could cook. Leon’s staff was exclusively black men except for the cashier, who was a black woman. The waiting staff at the Coach House made people feel at home and anticipated the wishes of its customers. Paul, the headwaiter, became a close friend. When foreign visitors came to New York, I almost always introduced them to the black bean soup and corn sticks at Leon’s establishment. But the Coach House had much more to offer than soup or corn sticks.

Some where in the mid 1980’s, Leon said he and Paul and the rest of the staff needed to have some time off. In point of fact, they closed the Coach House. I had been their customer for almost 30 years. When the Coach House closed, that was a lamentable day. I’m afraid we won’t see its likes again.

When in 1955, it was determined that bargaining sessions would no longer be held on company premises but rather, would be held in a hotel. The hotel selected was the Number One Fifth Avenue Hotel at the corner of 8th Street. You may recall from one of my earlier essays in the New York City series that Jack Marsh, the Personnel Vice President picked that hotel because it sounded expensive and it was his intent to break the union financially. Marsh did not realize that the union’s office was in the Village on University Place at about Ninth Street, so union representatives could stroll to the bargaining sessions with lots of time to admire the scenery.

The Number One Fifth Avenue had electrical problems which made air conditioning impossible to install anywhere above the first six or eight stories. On top of that, the hotel resisted installing self service elevators until the 1980’s. That meant operators for the two manual lifts for the daytime and evening shifts, which must have been an expensive operation.

Before bargaining began, the company team moved into the hotel and stayed there until bargaining was finished. This meant a stay of from six to eight weeks each time a contract was bargained.

The bar was air-conditioned while our rooms were not. Simply put, that meant we spent much of our waking hours in the Number One bar. It was a very hospitable place with John and Louis, the bartenders and Bob the cashier providing us with gossip and good camaraderie. The maitre’ d was Carlo. Carlo had an unpronounceable Italian name, so when he first went to work in Geneva, he saw a large electric sign advertising the casino at Monte Carlo. Carlo said that from that time on, he had people call him Carlo. He was a good man.

Bob the cashier, was for all intents and purposes paralyzed. Using a cane, the length of his step was about six inches. He could not bend over nor could he turn his head. Life had dealt old Bob a cruel, cruel blow but for the most part, he made the best of it. Bob wanted to be like other men. So one evening he saw me coming down to the lobby after his own bar had closed. He insisted that we ought to have a drink together. I said, “Absolutely.” Getting Bob into a cab was some experience. The same could be said for the two of us standing at a bar west of Sixth Avenue in the Village. But it was of great importance for Bob to view himself as a man rather than as a cripple. After we had a drink or two, I hailed a cab and the whole routine of getting him into his seat was repeated. I was glad that I could be part of Bob’s effort to view himself as a normal man. Old Bob went to work six days a week and put in a full eight-hour shift. He had my admiration – all of it.

The bartenders at Number One had some interest in opera. John and Louis were both born in Italy. Aside from their bartending duties, I used to ask both of them for translations of lines I had heard in opera. They often disagreed on the precise translation of a text but when I referred to “In Questa Tomba Oscura” from Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, they both agreed it translated to “In this dark tomb.”

John and Louis were good, hardworking men who never cheated a drunk who showed up at their bar. Somewhere along the line, John gave me an Italian quotation that has served me well for the past 48 years. John attributed this saying to his parents. It was that, “It is better to be alone than in the company of fools.” Sometimes it is also said that we should also avoid the company of pigs. I have heard variations about fools, and pigs, but it all boils down to the same equation.

The Number One bar has now been closed for a long time. John and Louis have disappeared, probably to other bar tending jobs. But I still remember that it is better to be alone than in the company of fools or pigs. Good advice.

After the sun went down, the Number One bar became a nightclub under the direction of a very bright gentleman named Bob Downey. Bob was an excellent piano player. His forte seemed to be in accompanying singers, mostly females. Downey cultivated newspaper people who wrote about entertainment. On Broadway, it must have become known that exposure at the Number One cabaret and bar would be beneficial to one’s career. So soon after the Broadway theaters closed for the night, at least one or two female singers would come by to give an unrehearsed recital. Bob Downey was always good to these aspiring actresses/singers. Obviously, they were using Bob for the publicity it would bring them. And that often happened. On the other hand, Bob was using the singers from new shows on Broadway to draw a crowd – and it succeeded in both directions.

There was an occasion when the musical “Irma La Douce” opened on Broadway. “Irma” is set in Pigalle in Paris and is not intended for viewing by Sunday-school attendees. For example, some of the characters are pimps and tarts – but very nice pimps and tarts. The show opened in New York in September, 1960 with an English woman, Elizabeth Deal, playing Irma and an Aussie, Keith Mitchell, playing the male lead. The show was a great success, but after appearing in Irma for perhaps two years, Elizabeth Seal wanted to leave to pursue other lead female roles. That set off an uproar with half a dozen actresses/singers showing up for Downey’s after theater performances in an effort to succeed Miss Seal.

My favorite was a French woman who laid on the top of Downey’s grand piano. The top luckily was down. Before long, she rolled on around the piano top to accentuate the French song she was singing. Old Downey knew he had a good thing going and told her American audiences in the Village were wild about her singing and would she please do an encore or two. Well, she emoted on top of Downey’s piano turning and rolling one way and then the other. The newspapermen gave her a big story and she was hired as one of Elizabeth Seal’s replacements. As long as Bob Downey played at the Number One cabaret and bar, he always seemed to have aspiring actresses/singers for his late night performances. But none gave out emotion as much as the lady who rolled all over Downey’s grand piano.

After a time, Bob Downey returned to his home port of Buffalo for family reasons. I visited him twice in Buffalo where he had an operation in a hotel much like the one he had at Number One. Aspiring singers must have been sorry to see Bob Downey leave the Village. I’m sorry to say that no one ever took his place. Bob was a fine musician and even he will admit that attractive singers rolling around on his piano top lent a lot to the music he was playing.

A few blocks west of the Number One Hotel was a place called Bianchi and Margherita Restaurant which said on its menu, that they served “Opera a la Carte.” The restaurant occupied premises on West Fourth Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The food they served was basically Italian, and it was pretty good. But the point in going to Bianchi and Margherita was to hear singer’s performing selections from opera in an informal setting.

Bianchi and Margherita occupied ground floor premises in an old four or five story flat. There was a bar on the right as you entered and a piano was on the left opposite the bar. I started going there in the mid to late 1950’s when people smoked lots of tobacco. At the end of the bar, stood Bianchi who rang up sales on his cash register. He rarely left the cash register and showed little emotion in dealing with customers or with Margarita, whom I presume, may have been his wife. Bianchi was all business.

Margherita was a different story. When I knew her, she was in her late 60’s or early 70’s. But she was determined to be the femme fatale or the seductress. Perhaps 30 years earlier, she could have been all that but as her age advanced, her voice cracked and the evening dresses she wore made me feel sorry for her. She was a good sport who did not have a complete grasp of English after many years in this country.

Fred was the head bartender who made everyone feel at home. From time to time, Fred was assisted by a basso who could deliver a rousing rendition of “In Questa Tomba Oscuro” from Beethoven’s opera, Fidelio. Singing is a tough job. It may yield inspiring results to the singer, but most often, the singer had better find a job to pay the bills. I am sorry that’s the way things work in this country. As a result, lots of aspiring artists abandon their careers because they need a guaranteed income.

Several young people worked at Bianchi and Margherita’s in the evening while they sought singing engagements to further their careers. There was the Astoria Hotel on Broadway in the 70’s which catered to aspiring actors and singers. It was better than the YMCA, but not a great deal better. At least three of the waiters at Bianchi and Margherita’s stayed there. It is a sad sight to see someone reach the point where he or she faces reality and gives up the dream of succeeding in the theater or in a singing career. But people still come to New York in the hope that lightning will strike and they will become stars. Not many make it, but that doesn’t keep people from trying.

All that brings me to Joe D’Amico who often greeted people as they entered the door at Bianchi and Margarita’s, who served drinks and dinners and who sang in a robust baritone voice. I got to know Joe well. Aside from his singing at Bianchi and Margherita’s, Joe recorded three albums. He was a professional singer, but like so many others, he never had an opportunity to be a headliner on radio or television or in the big nightclubs in New York.

Joe was born in Rosiaria de Santa Fe in Argentina of Italian parents. He returned with them to Catania, Italy at age seven. Joe came to the United States at age 20. He performed with the London Opera Company in the Northeastern states of the U. S. After he was drafted, Joe won an All-Army Talent Contest. That meant a transfer to Special Services where he performed for troops in all sectors of Western Occupied Germany. I tell you all this to establish the point that Joe was a polished, professional performer. He was good looking and had a very pleasing personality, but in the end, Joe like millions of others never made it to the top rungs of professional success. So he stuck with Bianchi and Margherita hoping that one of the opera producers or show business people would discover him and send him on his way. He was a major talent that was unfortunately overlooked.

As 1977 approached, AT&T had moved its headquarters to various locations in New Jersey. By that time, I was spending much of my working hours in Europe and the Orient, so I was not around when Bianchi and Margherita’s gave up the ghost. Not long ago we went to West 4th Street and found where the cabaret-restaurant used to be. It is now a laundry and no one there remembers the pleasant nights at Bianchi and Margheritas.

After all these years, two thoughts still stick with me. As Joe D’Amico was preparing his third album, he told me with considerable excitement and pride in his voice, that he had musical arrangements for his newest album. It was no longer just Joe and a piano player and a guitar; for this one he had arrangements. I suppose that the album had to be plugged by people with contacts. Joe did not have many of those people. What a shame.

On another occasion, I found out where Joe’s mother lived in Rome. Through an arrangement with the Italian telephone authorities, I was able to get her number and to have a call set up for early evening. We had to use a phone booth near the men’s restroom because Bianchi would never permit his phone to be used for frivolous purposes. Joe did not know about the arrangement for his mother to call. When I sent him to pick up the phone, he did so with a sense of disbelief on his handsome face. After talking to his mother, Joe thanked me profusely.

I’m sorry to say that I no longer know where to find Joe D’Amico. He was a fine singer and a very good man.

The title of this essay is “A Picture on the Wall and Music in the House.” We’ve had quite a discussion of music with Bob Downey and Joe D’Amico. It’s time now for truth in titles, so we’ll talk a little bit about how I came to know a fine Russian artist and how I bought some of his works.

The title of this essay comes from an expression by Phillip Murray who was a power in American Labor circles. When the AFL (American Federation of Labor) joined with the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) to form the AFL-CIO, it soon selected Phillip Murray, the former president of the CIO to head the combined union. In dealing with coal operators in his native Scotland, Murray told the bosses that the people in the pits didn’t aspire to great wealth. He said, “All we want is a decent place to live, with a rug on the floor, a picture on the wall and with some music in the house.” After two or three years in New York, I yearned to have an original oil painting to hang on my wall of our house. We had plenty of music in the house and a rug on the floor, but what we were missing was a painting.

Every year around Memorial Day and Labor Day, outdoor art festivals took place in Greenwich Village. The artists showed their paintings and sculptures on the east side of Sixth Avenue starting at about West 3rd Street extending up to Waverly Place. Often some art work would also be shown on MacDougal and Sullivan Streets and sometimes the artists would sneak their work into Washington Square Park.

The festival lasted about three weeks. Painters hung their works on fences and sat on folding chairs to answer questions and to drum up sales. When the festivals were in operation, I spent many lunch hours and early evening hours admiring the paintings.

I started examining the paintings in 1955 when AT&T was paying me a very modest sum. I couldn’t qualify for food stamps, but I had no money to waste. I looked at the paintings hanging on the fences and yearned to have a real painting as Murray would say, “To hang on my wall.” My mind was set on an impressionist street scene painting by Vladamir Lazarev which had a price tag of $300, as I remember it. With a growing family and a house to be bought, this was a major purchase. I saved for two years until I had enough for the Lazarev painting.

The painting is of a street in Monmartre in Paris. There is snow on the ground. It gives impressionistic artists great glee to paint snow scenes. Impressionistic paintings are meant to be viewed from 15 feet to 20 feet away. In close quarters, I found that lens manufacturers make a reverse magnifying glass which allows impressionistic paintings to be viewed from close range. Painters use such a device as they are painting their works.

Lazarev commandeered the fence on the east side of Sixth Avenue near Washington Place. Lazarev and his American born wife sat or walked near his work. Vladamir had limited English skills but even with Mrs. Lazarev absent, his vocabulary was sufficient to make me believe that he was a first class piece of work. When his wife was around, Vladamir let her do the talking, but she was a pleasant woman, so I enjoyed both of them.

Vladamir was a disciple of the famous French impressionist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. The painting I had lusted over was a Monmartre street scene. Lazarev clinched the sale when he pointed out houses owned by famous artists and singers. I don’t remember their names anymore, but Vladamir knew them all and their houses are in the painting.

As I got to know the Lazarevs, I enjoyed tutorials from them. Impressionist painters usually paint outdoor scenes. The Monmartre street scene with the snow was clearly in the impressionist tradition established by Camille Corot.

Lazarev was in his fifties when I met him in 1955. He came from Rostov-on-Don in the Crimean region of what we knew then as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. When the World’s Fair was held here in 1939, one of its attractions was the Don Cossack Choir and Dancers. The choir and dancers made several appearances in New York theaters as well as in theaters across this country to earn capitalist dollars. Then they settled down to appear at the World’s Fair. Lazarev was a dancer with the Don Cossack Dancers. When the Fair was over, Lazarev defected to the United States. He supported himself by painting and by dancing at the Russian Tea Room located near Carnegie Hall.

I visited him a few times at his studio at 41 West 8th Street in the Village. Directly above his apartment was the roof of his building. He used it for a studio. Vladamir and his wife knew I didn’t have all the money in the world, but they spent time with me at lunchtime and after dark, explaining about painting and about dancing.

Now that I had one of Lazarev’s paintings, I began to lust for one he had painted of Don Quixote with Pancho. It is also an impressionist painting which borders on the dramatic side. AT&T was paying me a little better in the 1958–1960 period, so I made a pass at the Quixote painting. I found out that it had been sold. The Lazarevs knew I was disappointed, but Vladamir said, “I will do one for you and it will be better than the first one.” So he went up to his roof top studio and in two or three weeks, he told me to come get it. I think the price was around $350, but it was well worth it.

I went to Washington from 1966 through the summer of 1969. When I returned to New York, I found another Lazerev painting that appealed to me. That would have been in 1970 when Vladamir was somewhere beyond 65 years of age. And he was still dancing at the Russian Tea Room.

But good things come to an end. Whereas 8th Street formerly had small shops, landlords raised rents and forced the small merchants out. What had been a very nice, old fashioned jewelry store was replaced by an Orange Julius fruit drink stand. All along 8th Street, long time residents were forced to move because they could not pay the new higher rents. The Lazarevs were among its victims. He lost his studio. He continued dancing until he was nearing 70 when the Russian Tea Room was closed for an extended time for renovation. I am sorry to say that I lost track of the Lazarev’s after they were forced to move. He was a hard working man. Vladamir and his wife were very good to me when I was trying to feel my way in the art world.

The moral of this story about Greenwich Village is that good people come in all sizes and in all occupations. The Lazarev’s were good to me and I learned a bit about painting and dancing. Unfortunately, I can do neither. I hung around Leon Leonidis and his waiters at the Coach House and I’m sorry to say I can’t make black bean soup or cornsticks the way they used to do them.

At the Number One Fifth Avenue bar and cabaret, Bob Downey, the Maitre D’ Carlo, bartenders John and Louis and the cashier Bob were good men. I enjoyed all of them. A few blocks to the West was Bianchi and Margherita’s place with Fred, the bartender and my good friend Joe D’Amico and other artists.

In the telephone business, I certainly did not make enough money to rival the deal makers on Wall Street. That is quite alright. I made enough money to get along fairly well and my life was filled by music and art. In the long run, I am a happy man. I will soon be at the age where life insurance tables run out so I suppose I’d better find Joe D’Amico or Aldo Bruschi to play at my farewell appearance. Before I go, I will pick out the music for them. Voga E Va would be a good farewell song and Joe and Aldo know it well. And so do all the sopranos Aldo has trained since 1960.

July 3, 2002


If memory serves, the first painting mentioned in this essay now hangs in Austin, Texas in the company of my parents. I’ll have to grab a picture of it next time I’m home.

Judy was able to find the menu and the map that went along with this essay. Many thanks to her!


Mr. Howell Raines
Editorial Page Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, N. Y. 10036-3959

Mr. Raines:

The Editorial Page of the New York Times is one surprise after another. In the first instance, I now look to the Editorial Page for my sports news. That’s where I found comment on Latrell Sprewell’s outrageous conduct earlier this month and today, I came across “Leaning on Patrick Ewing” – on Christmas Day, no less.

Now Mr. Raines, I am forced to ask you whether the Editorial Pages and the Sports Pages of the New York Times ever consult each other. If you had asked about the Patrick Ewing case, I suspect that nearly every sports writer in the Metropolitan area, and beyond, would have told you that Mr. Ewing would be better off as a second banana rather than carrying the whole load. When Don Nelson came here some time ago, he offered the same thought. For his trouble, Mr. Nelson was run right out of the Knick’s coaching job.

Mr. Raines, this has been the case since Mr. Ewing came here more than twelve years ago. He can’t carry the whole load. I’m sorry to suggest that you on the Editorial Board are just now tumbling to that fact that Mr. Ewing is not going to win the championship by himself. My point is that this piece of news is late by about 10 years.

Now about Mr. Sprewell. I agree with your coming down on the side of the suspension and the violation of the “good moral character” as well. Again, Mr. Raines, I wish that you had spoken to any member of your sports writers who regularly report – or fail to report – on the conduct of some of our most well known athletes. If you had spoken to a cross section of the New York Times sports writers, I’m sure there would not have been an element in the Editorial on the Sprewell case of “How Long Has this Been Going On.” It’s as long as your arm.

How about Tito Wooten coming home from Philadelphia on Sunday, December 7, 1997, to punch out his girl friend. He said that one shouldn’t let personal things interfere with a professional contract to play football.

How about the Nebraska halfback, Lawrence Phillips, who dragged his girl friend down three flights of stairs by the hair. He got a new contract to play for the Miami Dolphins.

We’ll leave his New York Giant teammate alone because after he assaulted three girls in his college years, he seems to have done better this past year.

Now how about Charles Barkley who threw a man through a plate glass window this year.

Or Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76’ers who turned up with a concealed gun during a 90 mile per hour chase by cops?

What about Robie Allomar who spit into an umpires face?

And Will Cordero, formerly of the Boston Red Sox, who confessed that he had been beating his wife for years.

Mr. Sprewell deserves none of our sympathy but there are dozens of others in major league professional sports who could have been included in your Editorial on Latrell Sprewell.

Finally, Mr. Raines, after you have dealt with the Sprewell’s of the world, you may wish to deal with one of America’s more unpleasant little secrets. There is the matter of illegitimate children, children whose father’s make anywhere from $1 million to several times that much in professional sports.

Leave out all the other calculations about illegitimacy for the whole of American society. Let’s just take two examples from NBA professional basketball.

Portland guard Kenny Anderson, from right here in Queens, seems to have set out to assault a local record. Kenny is 27 years old. His first child happened in high school. Then there was the girlfriend at Atlanta where he went to college. Since then, Anderson has fathered five more children, two of whom he claims by his wife. In an interview with the Times, Anderson says that with the demands of the NBA, he is not really around to “deal with all the problems of fatherhood.” Translation: He doesn’t keep in touch at all. Mr. Anderson takes home from his Portland contract and his shoe contract over $8 million per year.

Exhibit B is Minnesota guard, Stephen Marberry, the pride of Coney Island, N. Y. Mr. Marberry is only in his second year, so his earnings will rise after the next year. He is 21 years old and seems to have acknowledged that three children are his, without benefit of wedlock. Translation: He sees them not at all. Mr. Marberry is paid by the Timberwolves contract and by the pact he has with the sneaker maker some $4 million per year.

There are many, many cases of child abandonment in professional sports. Former girl friends have gone to newspapers and to law enforcement agencies to shame the payment of children’s expenses. It shouldn’t have to be that way.

As I said, it is one of America’s unpleasant secrets. It’s one of America’s below-the-scope of the radar. It is down here where we may not want to see it.

In the final analysis, a case could be made against your “Leaning on Patrick Ewing” on the grounds that it is late. By the same token, an Editorial or a series of Editorials might very well have some impact on illegitimacy in professional sports. What is wrong with calling attention to sports heroes who fail to support their children on pay of millions of dollars per year? And what would be wrong about urging the owners of those pro teams to straighten out their employees under the “good moral character” of the standard NBA contract? And finally, the fans might have something to say about all this as they pay greatly inflated prices for their seats.

If the Times would lead such an effort, I’m sure that many children would thank you. And if the Times were to associate itself with such a project, it would rank high in the annals of professional sports history. Give it a try. It’s well worth the effort and the Sports Section would not mind your leading the way.

E. E. Carr
Essay #13 (Old Format)


The past several essays, especially these letters and “The Pastiche” focus a lot more on children and child abandonment than any of his later essays seemed to. I wonder if he perceived the situation as improved, or if he felt that he’d said all that he had to say on the matter.


In a recent editorial, I criticized – very mildly – his belated discovery that Mr. Latrell Sprewell has been up to no good by choking his coach. The fact that his coach is patently awful doesn’t mean that he is a candidate for garroting.

Today, I find an editorial that seems to say what needs to be said. It has to do with “The Family Truck.” (See Editorial on December 10, 1997.)

While Mr. Howell Raines lards his piece with statistics that have to do with carbon emissions and other erotica, I have other objections.

Yes, they don’t have to meet the fuel standards applying to each manufacturer. They are trucks. Don’t you understand?

Yes, they are exempt from the $36,000 luxury tax, even though many trucks cost more. Don’t you see that they are trucks?

Well in addition to Mr. Raines objections, I have at least two more. When the lights shine from the rear into my car, they are blinding because they are mounted so high. And when one of the new trucks is met, the effect is the same. A good many trucks seem to have the Range Rover complex. They let nothing stand in their way – they just roll over it with headlights all ablaze.

Now, my second objection is that I can’t see through those trucks. If I try to back out next to a Range Rover or whatever, there is no hope unless the driver approaching takes pity on me. I can’t see. When I am frequently between two trucks, it looks like a small canyon to me. I can’t see right or left.

I had hopes that there would be a phase during which the appeal of the trucks would die out. Now, it looks as though the reverse is true – trucks have about overtaken cars.

So Howell Raines, get on your horse and chew on those family trucks. I’m floundering in a sea of Trail Blazers, Range Rovers, Mountaineers, Jeeps and Durangos. Just don’t tell me that I have to join them.

E. Carr
December 16, 1997
Essay #12 (Old Format)

Yeah, I don’t know what editorial he’s looking for here. Maybe Judy can help out! If she can shed light here, I’m happy to update.
The essay made me think of an article I read recently about how gas price is so cheap that cargo ships are going the long way around Africa instead of taking the Suez canal right now because gas is so cheap. Similarly, I think when gas prices spike, we see less SUVs, but right now we’re in another truck renaissance.


If a writer is going to write essays, which I try to do sometimes, ideas are needed. In the beginning, these ideas usually take the form of short notes for my files. Later I may turn some of these short notes into essays. On the other hand, many of these notes will not ever become a full essay for one reason or another. That is the risk that essayists have to take.

But that leaves the question about what to do with those notes that are not now envisioned as future essays. The notes seemed important at the time they were written and some still are. Perhaps the solution lies in the creation of a “Bits and Pieces” essay wherein several subjects may be addressed without there being a relationship between the subjects. When a series of comments are made about one subject, there will be an indication that it is finished and a new subject is about to be addressed.

There are several notes for essays in my files which may be worth considering for the “Bits and Pieces” series. Perhaps it is possible that one of these short comments may be turned into a full essay at a later date. I hope so. And so with that sort of equivocating background, let us turn to the first of what may turn out to be an essay on “Bits and Pieces.”


When it fell to me to report for work in February 1953 to the AT&T Chicago Division Traffic organization, a long time employee mentioned Gorgeous Gloria. It was not clear to me what Gorgeous Gloria was supposed to be. Before long it developed that an operator in her mid-20’s named Gloria Browne was the famous Gorgeous Gloria of all Chicagoland.

When meeting Ms. Browne, it was not clear to me why she was called Gorgeous Gloria. In my humble estimation, Ms. Browne presented an acceptable or a nice appearance, but gorgeous would not ever come to my mind. Harry Livermore, the Chicago Traffic Manager and I roomed together at the Webster Hotel on the Near Northside. My belief is that Mr. Livermore joined me in my assessment of Ms. Browne’s pulchritude or lack thereof.

So the obvious question became why was Ms. Browne called Gorgeous Gloria. As Brother Livermore and I soon found out, Ms. Browne bestowed the title on herself. In conversations, Ms. Browne would refer to herself not as “me” or “I,” but in the third person singular. If she were asked “Where did you buy that blouse?” she would say something like, “Gorgeous Gloria found it at Marshall Fields.” If she were asked “What are you going to eat in the cafeteria?” she may reply that, “Gorgeous Gloria is going to eat a hamburger.”

When I wrote my most recent essay about the lady who responded to some questions by quoting lines from movies and the woman with the most extravagant hairdo’s in all Chicagoland, Gorgeous Gloria slipped my mind for a day or two. So Gloria Browne now becomes the first story in the “Bits and Pieces” series. That fact alone reflects great glory on Gorgeous Gloria.

As far as anyone could tell, Gloria Browne was of sound mind. In the opinion of most men around the Chicago Traffic operation, Gloria vastly overvalued her attractiveness and sex appeal. But what the hell; if Gloria thought of herself as gorgeous, who is to say she is wrong? Not me! And more to the point, who else leads off the “Bits and Pieces” series? Gorgeous Gloria Browne, that’s who.

If I knew where Gloria might be, I’d send her this essay and say it came from a long time admirer. She would probably say Gorgeous Gloria gets hundreds of letters like this from hundreds of secret admirers. So let us start off proceedings in the New Year of 2003, by ordering up a large bottle of expensive French champagne. I suspect that Gorgeous Gloria only drinks expensive bottles of the finest French champagne. That’s what being gorgeous is all about.


According to a Hammond Atlas, the airline distance from New York to San José, Costa Rica is about 2200 miles. Leaving the United States going southward, we come to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and then to Costa Rica which is just above Panama and South America. That is quite a distance for a small country with a population of perhaps less than 5,000,000 citizens. In terms of size in square miles, Costa Rica is about 2½ times the size of New Jersey, slightly larger than Denmark and slightly smaller than West Virginia.

The question that comes to my mind is how does this small country produce so many hard workers? The landscaper who takes care of this property has probably 20 full time employees. Without being pushed, he says his worker from Costa Rica is clearly his best.

When the house needed to be painted two or three years ago, a contractor was hired who told me that his workers would provide a first class job and do it with no delay. As it turns out, that contractor hires nothing but Costa Rican painters. Their work was excellent. We couldn’t get them to go home because they worked till darkness set in. When they were also asked to repaint the baseboards in the kitchen, an indoor job, they jumped on it without complaint. Naturally, they worked on Saturdays. When they asked me if they could paint on a Sunday, the question astounded me. They painted till sunset occurred.

All the while the painters were here scrapping and painting, they were a cheerful group of four men. In short, it was a pleasure to have the Costa Rican painters here. Previous painters were often difficult to deal with and certainly did no work on weekends. The Costa Ricans were miles ahead of American painters.

One hot day when the Costa Ricans stopped for lunch, my wife Judy took them a root beer float. Unfortunately, there is no good translation for root beer float from English into Spanish. When the root beer bottle was shown to them, they quickly understood that “beer” meant “cervesa,” but why would this nice lady put ice cream in “cervesa”? Our problem was not helped at all when my Spanish dictionary showed nine definitions of “root.” None the less, the Costa Rica painters consumed the root beer floats and pronounced them “espléndido.” They brought the mugs back to the house and would have washed them if we had let them. These fellows were great emissaries for their country. When it is time to paint again, they will be invited back.

Another example of Costa Rican drive is exhibited by Jenny, a young woman who cleans our house. She is dependable, likable and trustworthy. When she shows up, there is a monstrous flurry of work until she finishes some two and a half or three hours later. The alleged master of the house (me), goes out on the porch or in the back yard till Jenny is finished.

Jenny’s husband drives a truck. They are saving to buy a starter home in a good school district. It is a great pleasure to see a woman like Jenny and her husband planning for their future and future of their two boys. It’s hard work, but Costa Ricans will gladly do it. Whatever they have done to get ahead, it appears to me that they have earned it. And she is still working on her English which is improving rapidly.

It is a pleasure for me to write about people earning and working their way up the ladder of success. It is a source of regret to me that the Costa Ricans’ willingness to work did not come to my attention sooner. But now that it is known to me, I say “Arriba (up, over, above) Costa Rica.”


During the Second World War, one of our adversaries was the Japanese Empire. In the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese Navy tried to sink our ships using submarines and airplanes as well as pounding from battleships. If my memory is correct, they named all their ships with the name “Maru” preceding a second name such as “Fury” or “Cyclone.” “Maru” means “peace” or “peaceful” according to some authoritative sources, but no one has ever identified me as an expert on naval warfare or on the Japanese language. So I have relied on outside experts.

Because the Japanese language was beyond my comprehension some years ago, it has been my fate to rely exclusively for more than 50 years on the services of Lieutenant Harry A. Livermore, Jr. of the United States Navy and a member of the crew of the Aircraft Carrier “Ticonderoga.” Lt. Livermore has explained the strategy for naval warfare so well, that the intricacies of war at sea are now second nature for me. The same goes for the Japanese language.

During the latter stages of the war with Japan, the Japanese military authorities developed a weapon that they thought could turn the tide for them and guarantee victory. That weapon was the Kamikaze aircraft. In many respects it was no different philosophically from the suicide bombers we see today in the Mideast.

The Kamikaze planes were single seat craft and were loaded with explosives and not much gas as it was to be a one way trip. Having a Kamikaze pilot return to his home base would be a dishonor of the highest order. The point of the whole Kamikaze program was to fly the Japanese craft into American ships with the intention of sinking them. Lt. Livermore has explained to me that the Kamikaze program was named by the Japanese as “Divine Wind,” just as their ships were named such things as “Peaceful Fury” or “Peaceful Cyclone.”

Before the Kamikaze pilots took off on their final mission, they were anointed by Shinto priests who bestowed Emperor Hirohito’s blessings upon them. From what has been learned since the war ended, there was a waiting list to sign up for Kamikaze training. Perhaps these people must have thought that Hirohito could get them into the Japanese equivalent of Paradise. Without having contact with the spiritual world, their fate is completely unknown to me. Their fate may be known to
Lt. Livermore, however, but he has been very close mouthed about this question.

The aircraft carrier Ticonderoga was in the far reaches of the Pacific shooting down Japanese airplanes and trying to sink their ships. Unfortunately, on January 21, 1945, off Formosa (now Taiwan), two Kamikaze fighters flew through withering fire from the Ticonderoga and hit it. There was a massive hole in the flight deck and many sailors lost their lives from that attack.

As I have said in some of my essays, war is not a game. People get hurt and some of them die. And most of the dying is done by young men with a whole life ahead of them.

It is my pleasure to report that Lt. Livermore survived the Kamikaze attack and after the Japanese surrender on the Battleship Missouri, he returned to work for the AT&T Company in New York. Now he is retired in Florida. With the North Korean problem coming to the fore, I have asked Mr. Commander in Chief Bush, to restore Harry’s rank and send him to the Korean Peninsula to guide our operations there.

Somewhere around 1951, AT&T sent the former Lt. Livermore to Kansas City. The big bosses at AT&T also decided in 1951 that there was a job for me in Missouri’s westernmost big city. With various moves happening, it took until Mother’s Day in 1952 for me to go to work in the Kansas City Traffic Office with Harry Livermore being the boss of the operation.

To make a long story a little shorter, working for Harry Livermore was a great pleasure for me. He ran a happy Traffic office. There was no carping or back biting. On top of being happy in my work, Kansas City was a good place to live. The people there are genuine and plain spoken. If a person from the Kansas City region makes a promise, you may be sure that he will keep that promise. At least that’s the way it was in the early 1950’s.

But good things come to an end after a while. Somewhere in the Fall of 1952, Harry was promoted to the Division level job as Traffic Manager in Chicago. That was good for Harry, but not so great for the rest of the Kansas City operation.

Within a few weeks on a Sunday morning, Harry came to my house and asked me to come to work for him in Chicago. There was no hemming or hawing. I was ready immediately to leave for Chicago, which happened on February 1, 1953.

One way or another, while searching for a permanent place to live, Harry and I took a two room suite at the Webster Hotel on Lincoln Parkway in the Near Northside of Chicago. We got along very well. Harry did not snore much and he discovered that putting peanuts in the refrigerator made a nice hors D’oeuvre. I reserved an opinion on that subject.

Almost everyone smoked in the 1950’s. In our suite at the Webster Hotel, when the last cigarette was smoked, the packages would be crumpled into a small ball and would become a source of athletic entertainment and achievement. Over our door to the hallway, was a screenless transom which could be opened to varying degrees of wideness. With one person in the bedroom and the other man in the hallway, the balled up cigarette package would be pitched through the transom with the door closed. The fellow receiving the throw would not know when it was thrown or whether it would be to his left or right. The object, of course, was to catch the thrown cigarette package ball. While we were on the honor system about catching the ball, as soon as the ball was pitched through the transom, the pitcher would run for the door and open it to see if the catcher really did catch the ball. When our neighbors alighted from the elevator and occasionally saw our game of pitching the ball through the transom, we were helped by the liberal view of the Chicago Police Department on minor crime. They did not send the paddy wagon for us.

There is one other story on which Harry Livermore considered me as a practitioner of shady play. In this case, the balled up cigarette package was again being used. Our living room at the Webster was quite large probably 12 feet across and perhaps 18 feet long. Harry was sitting on a divan at the far end of the room. Across from him was a window that was opened to a height of two or three inches.

Standing at the entrance to the room some 18 to 20 feet away, I told Brother Livermore that it would be possible for me to pitch the ball out that window. Harry immediately took the bet saying no one could do such an impossible feat. Now remember, my offer was to throw that ball out that window. Nothing was said – at least by me – of the window opening being only two or three inches or of my distance from the window.

With the bet firmly in hand, I simply walked over to the window and opened it to seven or eight inches, and while standing next to the window, the cigarette package ball was thrown out on Lincoln Parkway.

As you might imagine, old Harry screamed bloody murder. Foul play was all Harry could say. It has been 50 years since my triumph of cigarette package ball through an open window in the Webster Hotel. When talking to Harry over all those years, he still accuses me of enticing him into a nefarious betting operation. As always, I claim complete innocence, and rightly so.

It has been my pleasure to know Harry for more than 50 years. We have never had a cross word, if you exclude the cigarette ball out the window episode. Harry originally comes from Nebraska where he was born in 1915. That makes him nearly 70 years of age or thereabouts. I hope he lives to see his 100th birthday. If he does achieve that goal, however, I am absolutely sure that he will still be protesting my brilliant move to throw the cigarette package ball out on Chicago’s Lincoln Parkway.

So this is the first “Bits and Pieces” essay. My hope is that you enjoyed your visit with Gorgeous Gloria and with the hardworking Costa Ricans and finally with Harry Livermore, the Ticonderoga survivor. Writing this inaugural edition of “Bits and Pieces” has been a pleasure for me as it brought back some favorite recollections. And I have finally figured out what to do with the notes that populate my files.

The “Bits and Pieces series may run intermittently for quite a while. It will be fueled by headlines in the newspaper and by quotes from highly placed government officials. But, it is a matter of great dismay to this old essayist that Gorgeous Gloria is no longer a source for future essays. Gloria is well into her retirement years. If I run across her, she will be asked to go to Florida to work her remaining magic on old Harry Livermore. Who knows what might happen. My money is tentatively on Gorgeous Gloria Browne. In racetrack terms, my bookie rates Gorgeous Gloria’s charms at odds of 7-5 or higher. As they say at Hialeah, you can’t cash in a winning ticket unless you bet. So folks, get ’em down early before the first race starts.

January 4, 2003


There are four of these in a row, so buckle up for plenty of mini-essays! I happen to love ’em, myself.  Kinda funny to see Jenny mentioned in this essay, since she went on to be such a big part of my grandparents’ lives. I wonder if this is her first appearance in an essay — with all the chronological messing about that I’ve done on this site, it’s hard to be sure.