Stories and Anecdotes not Published Elsewhere
A Working Guide to Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchangers, Mc Graw-Hill, New York, 1990.
Tubular Heat Exchanger Inspection, Maintenance, and Repair, written with Carl F. Andreone, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1997.
The Ship, Xlibris, Philadelphia, 2007.
The Ride, Xlibris, Philadelphia, 2008, written under the pen name S. Israel.
Dog Stories, Xlibris, Philadelphia, 2009.
House of Mirrors, Amorous Ink, Indianapolis, 2011, written under the pen name S. Israel.
A Happy Life, Amazon.com, New York 2011.
An Old Timer’s Scuba Tales, Amazon.com, New York, 2012.
Love, Sex and Erotic, Amorous Ink, Indianapolis, 2012, written under the pen name S. Israel.
Murder at Plato House, Vanguard Media, 2012.
Old People, Amazon.com, 2013.
The Body in the Park, Outskirts Press, 2013.
Beneath the Surface, Outskirts Press, 2013.
2084 The Secularist Revolution, Outskirts Press 2014
Closed Feedwater Heaters for Power Generation: A Working Guide, written with Michael Catapano and Eric Svensson, McGraw-Hill Education 2014.
The Murder on the Mall Outskirts Press 2015
Old People 2nd edition, Outskirts Press, 2015
The Foothills Mystery, Outskirts Press, 2016
A Little Book of American Haiku, Outskirts Press, 2016
Short Stories and Sketches, Outskirts Press, 2016
Drugs and Death, Outskirts Press, 2017
Becoming American, Outskirts Press, 2017
100 Short Stories, Newman Springs Publishing, 2018
Old Times in Elizabethtown Outskirts Press, 2019
Dining Room Murders, Outskirts Press, 2019
Tales from my Boyhood, Outskirts Press, 2019
Stories and Anecdotes
A Bad Dream Come True
A Day in an Old Man’s Life
Milk and Honey
New Year’s Eve Party
Pets and Bacon
Searching for a Basselope
Spot and Me
Sir Thomas Cat, a Seal and me
Two Wise Gus at the Bagel Bakery
Tomorrow is Another Day
The Story Teller
A Fireside Story
Brother Kane Visits Brother Abel
Reading the New York Times
How to Tell Stories
The Story of Peter and the Wolf Used as Propaganda
Nuclear Plant Disaster
Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream
A Sad Story
A dog, a Cat, a Mouse and a Hippy
Growing Old in Boulder
You Have to Learn to Hate
A Bad Dream Come True
Like Rip Van Winkle, one night I fell into a year’s long sleep. My family’s and friend’s efforts to waken me were unsuccessful. The family called in physicians. But nothing they did helped. They decided to treat me like a man in a coma, and fitted me up with life-saving oxygen, a drip to feed me and means to attend to the inevitable biological waste. On occasion they had clergy pray for my recovery. The family joined in.
No one knew that I had an active dream life. Some of my dreams were so lifelike that they substituted for reality. In my dreams, I traveled, swam, rode bicycles, hiked, scuba dove and learned to speak Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Russian, Hebrew and Arabic. In one dream, I solved the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians and created the state of Palestine. In another I succeeded in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and getting the Iranian state to give up its weapons and engage with Israel and Saudi Arabia. I count these as good dreams.
Then I had a horrible dream. A wealthy loud-mouthed real estate operator ran a television program as a sideline. In his TV program he insulted guests and fired employees to delight viewers. He used coarse and intemperate language, and molested attractive women who appeared on his show.
This monster ran for the presidency against a flawed female candidate. All the polls predicted that she would win. But a late report by the FBI that her emails were being investigated, threw the election his way. He was elected by a majority of the electors in the electoral college but not by the popular vote, which he lost. But his party won control of the senate and house of representatives and had the support of the majority of the supreme court.
Once elected, he chose for his administration, like-minded people, and set about destroying the national safety net, breaking alliances, treating long-standing allies as enemies with disrespect and cozying up to dictators, autocrats, oligarchs and the president of what had been a bitter geopolitical competitor.
The occupant of the oval office was given to taking credit for accomplishments of his predecessors, lying, dismissing the constitution, especially its first amendment, denigrating his own justice department and asserting that the media was unfair, that it published fake news, and was the enemy of the country.
Because, he appeared to speak the street language of ordinary Americans and made unfulfillable promises, a base of followers supported him no matter what facts shed that he was damaging the country’s comity and its place on the world stage. He managed to attract the endorsement of evangelicals despite his publicly visible amorality.
His administration was chaotic. He hired like-minded people, fired of those who dared disagree with him, threatened those he hired and distrusted his coterie of supporters in the white house and congress. He either did not read or paid no attention to security briefings, asserting that he knew enough to solve problems without them.
He bragged unjustifiably and incessantly of his accomplishments on public forums and used public forums to insult people who disagreed with him. The congress supinely did not exercise its duty to check the president. With his party in control of the three branches of government, checks and balances were no more.
The bad dream went on for a long time. A bitter facet was that I had served in the military that had beaten the armed forces of dictators, who the president’s predilections resembled.
My family found medical assistance that succeeded in a long, slow process of returning me to the world. But the bad dream continued through the whole process. Finally, I was awake.
My children had installed a wall-mounted television on the wall facing my bed and placed a remote control on the night table next to it. But when I turned it on to news stations, one of them quickly switched to a channel that had a program about nature
I gave up watching television and asked for the daily newspapers that I used to read before my long sleep: the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Instead they brought me books like Mark Twain’s Roughing It.
I determined to turn on the TV when everyone else was asleep. I waited until after midnight, turned on the TV and pressed the mute and captioning buttons. I watched with slowly developing horror as I realized that my bad dream had come true.
A Day in an Old Man’s Life
Early in my life, my sister Ruth baby-sat me. She took on chores suitable for grown-ups even though she was just a little girl. My parents restricted her playtime activities because she had a heart murmur that resulted from scarlet fever. I loved her all my life and thought she was the smartest of my parent’s five children.
When I came into the world as the third son of my parents’ four children, my sister was sadly disappointed; she had hoped for a sister but accepted and cared for me. My oldest brother, a big strong boy, became my protector, taught me how to use tools, fought with other boy’s big brothers on my behalf and was generally the kind of big brother any kid would want. My next older brother, who had been a family favorite, resented my taking his place as the youngest son.
He teased me, made fun of my Hebrew name and frightened me. We did not establish a brotherly relationship until both of us were married adults with our own children. But establish it we did.
My mother gave birth to a fifth child, also a boy. On learning his gender, my sister broke into tears. When I came home from school and found her crying in our sun porch, I asked her what was wrong. She replied, “Your mother had another God damned boy.”
I loved the baby, thought he was beautiful, became his protector and friend. A friendship that lasted until he died. Now all are gone, and I wonder why I have survived to this very old age of nearly ninety-seven.
When I was young, every day was a new adventure. My life has been a happy one and I cherish the memories of venturing without fear, or perhaps venturing despite fears, marrying my beloved despite familial disapproval (she was my first cousin), and the children we produced, who were all healthy and bright, my five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
I survived combat during service in the navy in world war two, in which I had an honorable career. To the best of my knowledge I am one of two survivors of the ship’s original crew. I dream of my beloved most nights and am disappointed to wake and find she is not next to me. But the days and nights pass and each morning, despite aches and pains, I am glad to be alive.
The retirement home, in which I live, has a lap pool, and most mornings I swim before breakfast. I have a group of caregivers, who watch over me while I swim, take me to the breakfast room and get my breakfast, fix my lunch and get my dinner.
The other residents of this place are interesting, pleasant men and women, some of whom use canes and walkers or wheelchairs to ambulate. They come from a variety of backgrounds and places. Each could tell a fascinating story of his or her life.
My apartment is comfortably furnished with a grand piano that I can no longer play because of arthritis. The apartment consists of a living room, a dining room, a bedroom, and a den room that I used for an office until I retired just before going to hospital for a replacement bovine heart valve in June 2014. The operation was successful, and I continue to consult on an a hoc basis. I now use the office and computer to write books, short stories, communicate by email and pass the time posting on Facebook, twitter, and other venues. I also maintain a website to market my books.
Aside from reading as many books as I can lay my hands on, I occupy myself with writing. McGraw Hill published the three technical books in which I was either the sole author, or the lead one. I have written and either self-published or had commercial publishers publish books, such as Dog Stories, The Ship, The Ride, The Secularist Revolution, several murder mysteries, two books of short stories, and most recently Old Times in Elizabethtown a memoir of the New York State Adirondack Park village in which my wife grew up and my family spent much time. I wrote a private eye murder mystery that is currently undergoing publication
So, each day is a victory for me, the doctors, and the medications that keep me alive. I watch the news with horror and disgust with the poltroons currently running my beloved country. But as each day draws to a close, I comfort myself by thinking of what the country has survived and what may be a glorious future. I go to bed each night with hope and optimism. But I smile before closing my eyes over what a resident said one morning in the breakfast room, “Getting old sucks.”
The mail brought a free sample bottle of cannabis oil to the elderly man’s mail box. He read the label carefully, and the accompanying instructions for use to alleviate pain.
It said, “Suggested use Shake before use. Take two drops by mouth as directed by your healthcare provider.” Lower down the label said, “This product has not been evaluated by the FDSA. This product is not intended to diagnose treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
He wondered just what it was good for. No healthcare provider had prescribed it for him.
Having reached his nineties, he had suffered accidents and illnesses that left him with pain in various body parts. His most recent experience with a pain killer was with tramadol that his oncologist had prescribed to ease the pain of his prostate cancer. He had made the mistake of not inquiring about tramadol’s side effects, only to find that they were disastrous for him. He quit taking the pain killer after googling it, and finding that not only did it cause constipation, but that it was an addictive opioid. He decided to take high-strength Tylenol when he became uncomfortable.
The treatment and medications for his prostate cancer were successful and his pain abated. He no longer took pain medications. But he was curious about the cannabis oil. He googled it and found the following among several posts:
What Is CD? Everything to Know About the Weed Derivative Everyone’s Buzzing About
Is cannabidiol, or CBD, really the anxiety and pain-relief miracle the world has been waiting for?
By Meryl Davids Landau
Several weeks after a hysterectomy last spring, Bo Roth was suffering from
exhaustion and pain that kept her on the couch much of the day. The 58-year-old Seattle speech coach didn’t want to take opioid pain-killers, but Tylenol wasn’t helping enough. Roth was intrigued when women in her online chat group enthused about a cannabis-derived oil called cannabidiol (CBD) that they said relieved pain without making them high. So, Roth, who hadn’t smoked weed since college but lived in a state where cannabis was legal, walked into a dispensary and bought a CBD tincture. “Within a few hours of placing the drops in my mouth, the malaise and achiness that had plagued me for weeks lifted and became much more manageable,” she says. She took the drops several times a day and in a few weeks was back to her regular life.
If you haven’t been bombarded with CBD marketing or raves about it from friends, get ready. This extract—which comes from either marijuana or its industrial cousin, hemp—is popping up everywhere. There are CBD capsules, tinctures, and liquids for vaping plus CBD-infused lotions, beauty products, snacks, coffee, and even vaginal suppositories. Already some 1,000 brands of CBD products are available in stores—and online in states that don’t have lenient cannabis laws. This is a tiny fraction of what’s to come: The CBD market is poised to exceed $1 billion by 2020, per the Chicago-based research firm Brightfield Group.
He considered whether to take a few drops of the free sample. Then he said to himself Nah, who knows what side effects it could have? He shrugged his shoulders and put the sample bottle in the medicine cabinet among medications scheduled to be discarded. He thought to himself another scam. I won’t take anything not prescribed by a physician, and even when one prescribes something, I’ll check it out for side effects.
Other posts were less enthusiastic. Some warned against cannabis’s effects on young people, Others warned that smoking marijuana would lead to using other drugs.
It came as a surprise when he learned that one of his relatives smoked weed to ease a painful problem with one of her feet and that another had been prescribed cannabis oil for a condition about which he knew nothing.
The people of Colorado, where he lived, voted to legalize weed. But he had voted against it. He had seen the effects of alcohol and other substances on young people and feared that legalizing marijuana would harm young users and lead them to using hard drugs as some of the posts on Facebook and tweets in twitter had warned. But he was in a minority and soon the state was collecting taxes on its sale at many dispensaries.
Long ago he had given up drinking alcoholic beverages, except for an occasional beer with one of his children. The rest home where he lived had a liquor license. He was shocked to see many residents imbibe. But he did not comment, nor did he air his views on drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana.
He and his wife, who had smoked cigarettes in their teen years, and during his service in the navy had given up smoking cold turkey when they realized their second-hand smoke was harming their children. They decided to quit while watching their ten-year old son at a little league ball game.
He snorted, “I’m almost ninety-seven and haven’t been able to stand the stink of cigarette smoke since.”
Realizing that addiction to alcohol and other drugs was an illness, he did not criticize nor find users blameworthy. Who knows what struggles they went through? He asked himself.
He watched the news before going to bed. Having been born not long after the civil war and WWI, lived through the great depression, and served in WWII, and lived through the time of the police action in Korea and subsequent military actions, the disaster of 9-11, and the various responses, he was certain that there was little he could do to affect events, and that history would proceed whether good or bad.
He was an optimist and believed that human history had progressed, and that the world was more peaceful than it had ever been, despite everything that the news revealed.
He went to bed ruminating, I’ve read many books on history, listened to wonderful music, watched beautiful dances, spent hours hiking and climbing mountains, rode bikes over much of the country, scuba dove deep and shallow and all over much of the world.
I remember things like algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, and some chemistry. They were important in my career as an engineer but are useless to me now. I have two computers, a cell phone and other electronic gadgets on which I waste the precious few days I have left. My store of ignorance is unimaginably great, but not as great as that of some politicians who lead the country.
He fell asleep quickly and dreamed of his wife. Once he awoke to answer a call of nature and spoke aloud to his departed wife, “I’ll be with you soon sweetheart and lie next to you for all eternity.”
He fell back asleep quickly. He never used cannabis in any form.
Ben Davis, a WWII motor machinist chief was in the engine room when his LST was part of the assault on the Philippine prison island of Palawan. Not having seen the actual combat, he always felt a little guilty about wearing a battle star on his Pacific theater ribbon. But he lived with the guilt and proudly displayed his ribbons with the battle star.
As time passed, Ben’s primary sport was scuba diving. He dove in many places and had many scuba adventures. One of the was as a member of the Underwater Explorer’s Club (UNESCO), domiciled on Grand Bahamas Island. The club had its own training pool, where it taught novices and certified them.
Ben had been a member of the deep diving group, selected for their physical fitness to dive to 225-feet using compressed air, and to spend a night in an underwater habitat with his dive buddy Sam. When Nitrox became available to make deep diving safer, Ben and Sam were among the first to learn to use it.
At one point, two seedy characters were convinced that Ben and his dive buddy were either CIA or narcs after watching them work out. It was the source of much laughter for Ben, his dive buddies and other UNESCO members when Ben’s dive buddy Sam told how the seedy characters assured Ben and him that they were clean.
Time passed. Ben and Sam grew too old to dive. Sam retired to a retirement home in the bay area. Ben retired to a similar facility in Boulder, Colorado. Although he no longer scuba dove, Ben used the facility’s pool and swam half a mile most mornings.
His children and grandchildren were devoted to him and regularly dined with and visited him. Ben was an avid reader, whose oldest child Ernie furnished many of the books he now read. The books often triggered dreams for Ben, who went early to bed and rose early to swim.
It was on one such night that Ben dreamed a dream from which he woke suffused with guilt. He dreamed that he was in the UNESCO pool where a group was talking about a proposed scuba trip to Guadalcanal, an island that was one of the first to be attacked by U.S. Marines in WWII. As the talk went on, a woman asked Ben if he had ever been there.
He responded, “Brought a marine battalion in for the invasion.”
It was an outright lie. Ben had never been near Guadalcanal. His ship had not entered the Pacific Ocean until several years after the assault on Guadalcanal.
He awoke with a profound sense of guilt. He had spoken against people who falsely claimed heroic service and purple hearts and had condemned them on Facebook and other media. Now he had done the same thing in his dream. He never resolved his feelings about dream lying.
After a sleepless night on day one of the new year contemplating his successes and failures, Brett Stephens realized that his successes were mostly the result of good fortune and happenstance, but his failures resulted from his own faults. The thought was not conducive to a restful day.
He thought to himself I’m damned lucky that so many things went my way that I live a comfortable life and pay my bills. But things could just as easily gone the other way, and I would be a poor slob, looking for a handout.
He put the thought out of his mind and drove his new Mercedes-Benz to his dinner date with Marcia Phillips. He parked in the lot on Pearl Street and walked down to the Starbucks on the mall, carrying his cell phone and new tablet. Marcia was already there texting on her cellphone and typing away on her tablet, taking advantage of Starbucks free wi-fi.
Their greeting was muted as Brett fired up his tablet. They ordered coffee, which they set on the table next to their tablets. “Where would you like to have dinner?” Brett asked Marcia.
“Oh, anywhere that has free wi-fi,” she answered.
They ate at Panera. There was almost no face-to-face conversation between them; they were too busy texting and working on their tablets.
A shaggy bearded older man sat down at the table next to them. He interrupted their texting and typing on their tablets. “You don’t give a damn for each other,” he said loudly.
Startled Brett and Marcia looked up. “What the hell is your business about us?” Brett demanded.
“Well,” the stranger drawled, “It kinda upsets met
when two people who should be looking into each other’s eyes and having a face to face conversation are so involved with their devices and little screens that they hardly talk to each other.”
Brett and Marcia turned off their devices and looked at each other. Marcia took note of Brett’s broad shoulders, bright grey eyes and wavy black hair. She noticed that there was a stubble on his face and concluded that he had not shaved that day.
Brett eyed Maria as if he had never seen her before. His eyes rested on the bulge of her breasts and the place where she had missed applying lipstick to her mouth. He suddenly realized that her hair was dyed blond and in places showed the roots of her natural brown hair.
The stranger left his table. Marcia said, “Brett, do you think there’s anything to what that old man said?”
Brett did not have an answer. He responded, “Well, I suppose with all the gadgets and the internet there is a failure of communication of sorts.”
Marcia suggested. “Why don’t we try not texting or using our tablets and staying of Facebook, Twitter and the like and see what develops?”
Brett agreed. The result was increasing intimacy between the two that led to their living together. Friends missed their texts, posts and tweets. They speculated that Marcia and Brett had left Boulder for places unknown.
Living together exposed the human flaws in Marcia’s and Brett’s characters to each other. They split and went their separate ways. Each returned to texting and using their electronic devices. Their attempts at face-to-face interaction failed. Both were consumed by their failure. But they allayed their consciences by texting friends about their experiences.
When I rode my 10-speed bike from Trondheim, Norway to Paris, France a long time ago, I wandered around in Paris Streets while waiting several days to have my bike boxed for the journey home. Walking miles, to see as much of the city and its museums and other attractions, I sometimes traversed back streets. In one, a shabbily dressed man wearing an overcoat approached me. He took something out of the overcoat pocket, thrust it under my face and asked, “American. You want to buy some feelthy pictures?”
I laughed and turned down the offer, knowing that I would soon be home to my lovely wife and would need no such stimulation. Time passed and cinemas regularly showed sexually arousing motion pictures. After one visit to such a movie, my dear wife and I had had enough. We did not patronize any more such films.
Many years passed, and my sweetheart is no longer here. I waste lots of time on my computer, laptop, and tablet, mostly on the internet posting comments on Facebook, twitter and similar venues. I also use google a great deal to research information for the books and stories I write. It was on one such search that I inadvertently researched a site that provided sexually explicit videos at no cost.
Ever curious, I downloaded a video. I watched for a while, turned it off and concluded that I could write better sexually explicit stories. I wrote one and submitted it to a publisher of such stuff. That resulted in a contract to write an anthology of sexually themed stories.
The firm published poorly edited versions of both books. They did not sell well, and they terminated my contract to write other books such as mysteries. My children were disgusted with my sex stories and rebuked me for what I wrote.
Since then, I have written and had published three technical books and many non-technical ones, all shown on my website www.syokell.com. I continue to write books and short stories, some of which I have not yet published. But I add them as anecdotes on a page reserved for them on my website.
I will add this one sometime later. I hope viewers will enjoy it.
It was a dark and stormy night. The senate judiciary committee was holding a hearing that had gone on for days. The committee consisted of eleven Republicans and ten Democrats. Four were women, all Democrats. The Republicans and the Democrats on the committee were at their usual logger heads.
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary is one of the oldest and most influential public committees that discusses social and constitutional issues. It is responsible for the initial stages of the confirmation of all judicial nominees for the federal judiciary.
With the Executive branch in Republican hands, there was precious little oversight. In fact, the majority often caved to the wishes of the President, even when in their heart of hearts, they knew he was wrong or out of line with protocol. But politics is politics and the President’s supporters were firm and vociferous.
Some senators had served for more than four terms. Their thinking was sclerotic. One was old enough to be in his dotage. The odds of a women’s issue getting a fair hearing were close to 100 to one against.
The November elections were fast approaching. The Republican chairman did everything within the rules to complete hearings on the current nominee to the Supreme court, despite the senate’s Republican leader not having the committee to consider the previous President’s nominee because a presidential election was two-hundred forty-five days away.
The constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to vote, despite the obstacles Republican states placed before members of non-white minority ones who mostly vote Democrat. In the streets of America, young voters, fed up with old white men running the country registered to vote in larger numbers than in previous elections. More women were running for office in both parties than ever before.
Milk and Honey
Mary Zinn was a devout woman who diligently read her bible and attended church every Sunday. She had one son, Micah with her husband Amos who died soon after Micah’s birth. She paid attention to biblical recommendations found in her bible:
Genesis 43:11 “Then their father Israel said, ‘If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift – a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.’”
Exodus 3:6-8 “Then He said, ‘I Am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’”
At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So, I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.”
Proverbs 24:13 “My son, eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste.”
Matthew 3:1-4 “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is He who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for The Lord, make straight paths for Him.'” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.”
Revelation 10:7-11 “But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as He announced to His servants the prophets.”
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So, I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth, it will be as sweet as honey.” I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”
Given the biblical advocacy of milk and honey, Mary fed Micah as much honey as she could afford and when she could no longer nurse him, grade A milk from the nearby dairy farm.
But instead of responding to her ministrations, Micah suffered from colic to such an extent that Mary had many sleepless nights. She approached Dr. Russel Meyer, a specialist in children’s diseases and made an appointment to bring Micah to his office.
Various examinations found that the little boy was allergic to honey and that he was lactose intolerant. What was a religious mother to do? Could the bible possibly wrong for her son?
Despite Dr. Meyer’s findings she continued giving Micah honey. But she purchased special milk devoid of lactose. Micah grew up to be tall and scraggly. Like his mother he was a Bible reader. But he was not a believer. He searched for things in the Bible that were sexually exciting and reread the song of Solomon over and over,
His grandmother, also named Mary made twisted cakes soaked in honey. Each time he visited she insisted that he eat one. When he accommodated her wishes, his stomach swelled up and he was uncomfortable for days. Dr. Meyer had given him an emergency supply of antihistamine, and he dosed himself as soon as he left his grandmother’s apartment. Eventually his allergies were so bad that he gave up drinking milk and never again touched honey. And he joined the humanist society in his Colorado town.
New Year’s Eve Party
As was their custom, the Academy, a Boulder, Colorado retirement facility, had a New Year’s Eve Party with h’ors d’oeuvres, drinks, dinner and a band that played old tunes that could be danced to. The party was well attended. Unspoken in the minds of the oldest attendees was the thought Tomorrow will be January first. Will I live to see next January first?
The party was held in the Academy’s large chapel. Before its incarnation as the Academy retirement home, the building was a Catholic girl’s school, hence the name chapel. Printed lists assigned tables to attendees. But being feisty old folk, residents sat where they pleased.
The service was slow. Servers first went around with trays of h’ors d’oeuvres. Some servers brought drinks to the tables that attendees requested. Then there was a long wait until the servers brought salads. Another long wait followed while the servers cleared the salad plates, and then there was an interminably long wait until the servers brought the main course of shrimp and steak with vegetables.
Residents and their guests took pictures with their cellphones while waiting between courses. It was almost too long for some residents to wait for the desert cake, and some left before desert.
The music was so loud that it overwhelmed the hearing aids of some of the residents. But when it stopped, they clapped like everyone else. One resident was heard to say, “I clap whenever they stop playing.
The Academy scheduled the festivities to last from five pm to eight pm. But few residents stayed until the end to hear the strains of Auld Lang Syne. Mostly they watched a little television before turning in for the night.
In their beds, many of the older residents wondered Will I see another New Year’s party? There are no answers to such questions. Life goes on until it ends. Live it to the fullest to the last moment. Have no regrets; they accomplish nothing. Be glad for still being here. If you survive to the next election vote the rascals out and the good people in. Try to be content with your life. There is no other.
Pets and Bacon
Juanita and Miguel Rodriguez lived in a small house that Miguel built on a rocky piece of ground in a canyon outside of Boulder, Colorado that he bought with hard earned savings. During the construction, he was studying economics at the nearby Colorado University that eventually awarded him a doctorate.
First generation American citizens, they spoke a Mexican dialect of Spanish in their home, and English at school and in public. They adhered to their parents’ practice of raising their own food. In the rocky soil of the canyon where they lived, Juanita planted corn and beans, which she called maíz y frijoles. Juanita bought large bags of rice which she used to prepare their main dinner course of rice and beans (arroz y frijoles.)
Miguel built a henhouse where Juanita kept hens that provided eggs for their spare breakfasts. Juanita baked tortillas and other things from the corn which she hand ground into flour. They ate eggs and tortillas at most of their breakfasts, and sometimes had Mexican corn on the cob for dinner. But they had very little meat.
To add to their diet, Miguel bought two piglets that he planned to slaughter and make into bacon and pork when they grew to an appropriate size. The piglets, which were cute and intelligent, soon became pets that had the run of the house. Juanita named them Pedro and Inez. They grew quickly. Miguel had watched his father slaughter pigs and prepare bacon and pork for the family, so he knew how to do it. When he decided it was time to slaughter one. He. He asked Juanita, “Which one shall I do first?”
Juanita, who loved her pet pigs, was in tears. She asked Miguel, “Must we slaughter them?”
He replied in Spanish, “Las mascotas son mascotas pero el tocino es tocino” (pets are pets, but bacon is bacon.)
She replied, “Well, if you must slaughter one, you must. Inez is too cute, so do Pedro first.”
Pedro served his purpose. Miguel and Juanita enjoyed bacon and eggs for many breakfasts and ate pork with their rice and beans. Juanita reluctantly said goodbye to Inez when the last bit of Pedro was consumed.
They bought two little piglets to raise for the future. Miguel told Juanita said, “No mas mascotas.”
The new piglets lived in a pigsty Miguel built.
Searching for a Basselope
The Academy is a retirement home in Boulder, Colorado that caters to elderly people as they live out their sunset years. Boulder lies just east of the Rocky Mountains foothills.
Unlike most retirement facilities in the area, it has fewer than 75 apartments for residents able to fend for themselves, those who require little assistance in getting around, or ones whose spouses or partners can care for people who are not fully capable of caring for themselves. It is one of the best of its kind.
Carey Orbino, the Academy driver, was driving a busload of Academy residents to an outing at the Denver zoo. Aaron Wolle was riding shotgun to take care of rider’s needs. The Academy’s bus is an air-conditioned Mercedes, fitted with everything necessary for the safety and comfort of its passengers including wheel chair access and seats for the disabled.
Aaron took attendance to verify that all who had signed up in advance were present. His practice was to take attendance again before leaving the zoo for the return trip.
The ten residents who boarded the bus were Mary Wiggins, Lara Zink, Nancy Lemke, Patrick Lemke, Jon Olds, Mildred Schupper, Elliott Harris, Frank Spangenberg. They sat in a group leaving the seats behind them empty. and Jim Murrell and Frank Spangenberg sat side by side as did Mary and Lara, who had formed a close friendship. Nancy, who used a walker sat in the seat reserved for the disabled in the first row behind Carey Patrick sat in the aisle seat next to her.
Jim Murrell was a long-time Academy resident was a daily user of the Academy’s pool. Despite his age, his mind was sharp. A retired professor of history, he had a reputation of making acerbic remarks and a mordant sense of humor. He spent much of his time on the internet researching history. Sometimes he posted his views on Facebook and tweeted tweets on twitter. Jim was a devotee of Berkeley Brethed cartoons.
Frank Spangenberg, a former fry cook at a hamburger chain and recent resident sat next to Jim in hopes of establishing a friendship. He told Jim that he won the new Jersey lottery and used some of the money to send his daughter to college. When she chose CU, he bought a house Boulder to be near her, but that it had become too hard for him to keep up. So, he sold the house and moved to the Academy. When he told Jim that he was intimidated by some residents’ education and accomplishments, Jim made light of it, relieving Frank’s concern with the comment that they would all prefer being lucky to educated.
Frank asked Jim, “What animals are you interested in seeing at the zoo?”
With a straight face Jim answered, “A basselope. I sent the zoo an email, asking if they had one, but they didn’t respond.”
Spangenberg was surprised, “I never heard of basselopes. What kind of animal are they?”
“Don’t you view Facebook?” Jim asked him.
“Fry cooks can’t afford computers, so I haven’t gone on the internet and never went on Facebook. I never owned a personal computer and only recently got a cellphone.
“My daughter can hardly believe it. She bought me a new computer she says is a laptop. She set it up and got me a Gmail account. They tell me I have access to the internet as part of the fee I pay to the Academy. But I never had interest in it.”.
Jim said to himself, An innocent. Some broker with a high-speed trading algorithm is sure to take advantage of him.
He reassured him, “If you look at the book of residents the Academy hands out, you’ll see that several people who live at the place don’t have email accounts. That’s because they don’t have computers. They prefer snail mail communications. But most have cellphones, and I believe they can get on the internet with them.”
“Well, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but I suppose I have to try to learn some,” Frank replied, “I have to learn how to use the applications that are on my new cellphone.”
The bus arrived at the zoo and parked in the area. Reserved for vehicles with cards or license tags signifying disabled passengers.
Aaron took another count after helping passengers who needed assistance. He thought Frank was joking when he said, “Let’s go over to the basselope cage.”
He answered, “Sure, Frank. It’s on my list, as soon as we see the lions, tigers, gorillas, and
Satisfied, Frank walked with the rest of the group. After d visited most of what they came to see. Aaron started shepherding the group to the bus. But Frank was busily talking to a puzzled zookeeper about where the basselope cage was. She politely went along with what she thought was a gag and answered that they were getting it ready for a new basselope arrival.
On the return ride Frank sat next to Jim again. Enthusiastically, he told Jim that when they next visited the zoo, he would bring his camera and photograph the basselope. Jim did not know whether Frank was serious or making a joke. That is until Frank announced in all seriousness at dinner that night that he was going to photograph the basselope on their next visit to the zoo.
After dinner. Jim downloaded a Berkeley Brethed cartoon that had a drawing of a basselope. He photoshopped the cartoon, until he had a drawing only of Berkeley Brethed’s basselope. Under the drawing In bold block letters he printed BASSELOPE Next, he, enlarged, printed. and framed the sketch. Early next morning. he hung the framed sketch in the entranceway to the dining room.
As residents went to breakfast there was much laughter. Much of the giggles were at Frank Spangenberg’s expense. Frank took the laugher with good nature after he realized he had been had. Eventually, Frank became an avid user of Facebook, twitter, and similar venues.
The phlogiston theory is a superseded scientific theory that postulated that a fire-like element called phlogiston[ is contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion. The name comes from the Ancient Greek φλογιστόν phlogistón (burning up), from φλόξ phlox (flame). It was first stated in 1667 by Johan Joachim Becher , and then put together more formally by Georg Ernst Stahl. The theory attempted to explain processes such as combustion and rusting, which are now collectively known as oxidation.
Dave Stoller was a chemistry student at New York University. His professor told the story of oxygen and rusting and described the early theory of Phlogiston. The name intrigued Dave. When he returned home to Brooklyn on the subway, he kept thinking of the word.
I bet it could be the name of a soft drink that would sell as well as Coke or Pepsi or one of the others on the market, he said to himself.
That night he descended to his basement laboratory that he had started and equipped as a middle schooler. He filled a flask with carbonated water, added two teaspoons of sugar, thought for a moment and ran up to his mother’s store of spices and the like, and took a bottle of vanilla extract down to his laboratory.
He measured a tablespoon of vanilla extract and added it to the flask. The vanilla extract colored the mixture dark brown. After stirring the contents of the flask, he poured some into a small shot glass that he kept in his lab, took a mouthful and swished it around like a wine taster.
Delicious he said to himself, I’m going to market it.
He bought a case of bottles and a capping machine, set up glass funnels, filled and capped the bottles. Using his photoshop app on his home computer, he designed a label, printed it and labeled the bottles. The label said, Quench your fiery thirst with Phlogiston.
Dave was aware that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not examined his concoction. But he figured he could sell it unapproved to fellow students in Washington Square. He carefully recorded the composition of his concoction.
He packed a carton with a dozen bottles of Phlogiston. During lunch break he offered free bottles to fellow students. It being a hot spring day, it was received enthusiastically. With an older friend, Seamus McCarthy, he set up a small plant to produce the drink on a semi-industrial basis. They called the firm that they registered Phlogiston Inc. Word of mouth about phlogiston created a larger market than they anticipated. They planned to open a larger facility.
Major soft drink manufacturers tried to buy out Phlogiston Inc. One of their lawyers pointed out that the drink had not been vetted by the FDA. They notified the FDA that Phlogiston Inc was marketing an unapproved drink.
Inspectors from the FDA came calling. They issued a cease and desist order. But Dave’s partner Seamus knew the ways of officialdom and Phlogiston Inc. got off with off with a modest fine. The FDA approved Phlogiston, which soon after was labeled with its ingredients, which now included a preservative and instructions to keep it refrigerated.
After the approval, the same major soft drink firm that had snitched to the FDA bought Phlogiston Inc. and withdrew Phlogiston from the market. Dave, now a wealthy young man dropped out of NYU. Seamus and he parted amicably. No one knew whether money had changed hands when the FDA approved the drink.
Spot and Me
I was sitting in my comfortable chair, watching the terrible goings on my big screen TV, and thinking of the long and adventurous life that I had led with some regrets that it was nearing its end. My canine friend Spot was lying on the floor watching with me. He kept wagging his erect ears, first one, then the other. As I watched, it dawned on me that he was wagging them in Morse code, with the left ear wagging for dots, and the right one for dashes.
Having learned the Morse Code as a boy scout, and having relearned it in the navy, I began to understand what Spot was telling me. He said in Morse Code, “I thought you would never figure out what my ear wiggles mean. You know, we canines have much shorter lives than you humans have, and I figured I would be gone by the time you realized I was Morse Coding you with my ears. But thank the good Lord, you finally caught on.”
Then he wiggled, “Events in the world are terrible for humans, dogs, cats and the rest of the animal kingdom. Greedy people are destroying the earth and the oceans, changing our climate and doing so many harmful things. Why do you continue to aggravate yourself by watching that screen?”
I didn’t answer his question. Instead, I asked him, “When did you learn the Morse code, and when did you learn to read?”
He answered, “When your mom was teaching you to read, I watched and listened. So, I learned too. Then when you were in the boy scouts, I went through the boy scout manual and taught myself Morse Code. I figured that since I am not configured to speak, it would be the only way to talk with you. Finally, you caught on to what the wiggling of my ears means. Now we can talk.”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” I muttered.
“Oh, don’t say that,” Spot answered in Morse code, wiggling his ears furiously, “That’s blasphemous.”
I was shocked by Spot’s comment. I asked myself, “How did he ever learn about blasphemy?”
The new knowledge that I could communicate with Spot fascinated me. Communication using Morse Code is slow. But it was worth having patience to be able to get the canine view of world events. I asked Spot, “When did you learn about blasphemy?”
He responded, “Your mom is a regular Bible reader. When she reads it, she unknowingly reads it aloud. That’s how I learned so much about life and religion. Little did she know, that when she was training me during my puppyhood not to pee on or soil the carpet, she was home schooling you, she was also home schooling me.”
I accepted his explanation, realizing that many times I had watched my mom’s lips moving as she read from her Bible. I decided to learn from Spot as much as I could about the canine world. But doing so would require sensitivity. After all, he had internalized the human biblical view from my mom.
I decided to ask him about canine life. He was receptive. He said, “You should know that some of the food that comes out of the cans you spend so much money on is not very tasty. I gobble it down because I am hungry. Also, it smells bad.”
Then he told me about visits to the vet. “That woman has hands of ice. When she pats and scritches me, I shiver. And the deworming medicine she makes me swallow, makes me so sick that I can’t control myself. Even worse is the flea powder she sprays on me. I itch for days after; the only good thing about it is that I don’t have any wildlife biting me. And that collar with its tags, is a real pain.”
Then he thought for a while and asked me, “Why don’t you ever think of booties for me when we walk in the snow? I see that you have things on your feet. And I could use a sweater when it’s cold out too.”
These complaints hadn’t occurred to me. My mom was curious about my search for booties and dog sweaters. But I didn’t dare tell her that Spot and I were having conversations with each other. It would have freaked her out.
Once I asked Spot if he communicated with other canines. He sniffed and wiggled his ears in Morse code, “We communicate mostly by smell and marking our territory. Haven’t you ever seen my lift my leg and let out a stream? And when there’s a bitch in heat, I can’t wait to mount her. Sometimes, I have to fight off other studs. But I get my share. When that doesn’t work, I can always lick myself,” he told me.
Spot and I continued to communicate for the rest of his life. He was especially interested in the books that I read on politics, which I always read slightly aloud so Spot could hear what I was reading. His critiques were sometimes very sharp. Although my family was very conservative, it hadn’t occurred to me that they would transmit their conservatism to Spot. When the TV featured elections, he made many suggestions about who I should vote for and why. Spot sounded just like my dad and brothers.
Spot lived to be fourteen. In his later years, his ears were not always erect. But I understood what he was saying. He died wearing the booties and sweater I bought for him in his youth. He occupies an honored place in the pet cemetery where my other pets are buried in our back yard.
Each Sunday, the retirement home had a Champagne brunch for its residents. The brunch began at 11:00 am and lasted until 1:00 pm. It was the retirement’s home’s way of letting it’s servers sleep in or go to church Sunday mornings and to take the evening of since it served no dinner Sundays.
Residents either ate dinner in their apartments, drove to a restaurant or dined with family. The brunches offered a variety of choices, from light meals to full course ones. The home always offered a special. The one on offer today was Quiche Lorraine.
Sam Walters came down early and sat at a table for four. Soon Ellie Robins, Rob Fillow, and Fran Scott joined him. Each had a plate filled with food from the snack bar. As they ate before ordering, they talked about Saturday’s scrabble in which they all played, and Sam won. “Where did you come up with words like recondite?” Rob asked, “I challenged it, lost a turn, looked it up in the Merriam Webster dictionary and found that several definitions like:
Difficult or impossible for one of ordinary understanding or knowledge to comprehend, deep a recondite subject, relating to, or dealing with something little known or obscure such as a recondite fact about the origin of a holiday, and hidden from sight, concealed.
“I had an English teacher in elementary school, who had this enormous dictionary on a stand near her desk,” Sam answered, “Whenever we came across a word that was not in common use, or that we hadn’t seen before, she made us underline it in whatever we were reading, and then she made us write it and its meaning 10 times on a piece of paper. So that’s how I got my large vocabulary or lexicon if you like. Knowing the meanings of lots of words is only part of the battle in scrabble. Winning at scrabble requires strategies to keep your opponents from triple scores and seeing the opportunities for putting groups of words together. I rarely challenge words that are strange to me, but always look them up after the game is over.”
Ellie responded, “Go on Sam, your false modesty is not becoming. You just don’t want to brag that you’re the scrabble champion at this place.”
Sam blushed. He knew that Ellie was right. He tried to change the subject. But Fran Scott would have none of it. She insisted on turning to the day before’s scrabble game, in which she had scored a close second. “You just take advantage of knowing more words because you are always reading. I thought you were an engineer, but you’re always reading a history book or one that deals with politics.”
Sam answered defensively, “Engineers are not only numerate, but many of us are literate. And lots of us are educated in art, dance and music.”
Rob Fillow, who was also a retired engineer paid attention to his quiche Lorraine, asked the server to bring two strips of bacon, and said nothing about scrabble to the other three.
Brunch over, the four old folks went back to their apartments. Three of them napped in front of their TVs. Sam read a book on the Galapagos that his daughter-in-law had given him.
During my career as the vice-president of a firm that designed and manufactured pressure vessels and tubular heat exchangers for the process industries, I had many occasions to travel to Texas. Here are several incidents that might amuse or interest you.
I had dealings with other engineers in Houston. I stayed at the Shamrock Hilton (no longer in existence) because it had a 100-meter swimming pool. On one visit, the hotel’s regular rooms were solidly booked. They assigned me a three- room suite at no extra charge.
A meeting that was to have taken place the next morning after I arrived, was put off for a day because of a funeral for a colleague who died unexpectedly. I had plenty of work to do in my briefcase. But I decided to spend the early morning swimming. After an hour or so, I went back up to my suite, showered, toweled myself down and sat down at a table unclothed to do some work. Deeply involved in work, I was wearing only my eyeglasses.
I felt the presence of another person in the room and looked up. There stood a housemaid staring at me. I asked, “Can I help you?”
She responded, “I’m here to take care of the suite.”
Then she commented, “Woohee! You is the hairiest man I ever seen. You is so hairy I can’t even see your privates.” (I am quite hirsute.)
She finished her work and departed.
Invitation to Dinner at the Houston Engineer’s club
My colleagues invited me to dinner at the Houston Engineer’s Club. They knew that I had just been made chairman of the program committee of the Professional Engineers of Northern New Jersey. They told me that they would send a taxi to pick me up at 5:30 pm, and that the driver would know the way to the club.
Promptly at 5:30 pm the Taxi appeared with a smiling friendly driver. We drove for what seemed to be a long time. He stopped in front of what seemed to be a residential apartment house and said to knock three times on the door of apartment 3A. The taxi departed. I knocked.
A lovely lady dressed in a see-through negligee opened the door. She said, “You must be the gentleman from New Jersey that I’ve been hired to entertain. Come in and make yourself comfortable. You can hang your clothes in the closet.”
I apologized and said that there must be some mistake, left and walked until I found a pay phone stand. I called a taxi using a number pasted on the phone kiosk. When the taxi arrived, I told the driver to take me to the Houston Engineer’s club. The driver knew the way.
When I entered the dining room of the club, there sat my colleagues. They broke into Texas horselaughs, asking if I had enjoyed my trip to the club.
New Jersey’s Welders Can’t Weld Like Texans
My firm received a contract to build an extraction column from the vendor of agitated extraction columns. The column was forty-two inches in diameter and sixty feet high. It had a manway access at its base. Inside, it was designed with ring type supports for extraction trays. Each extraction tray had a removable manhole cover. The column was made of Hastelloy C, a metal that not all welders are qualified to weld.
We built the column and stamped it with the ASME and National Board stamps. Such stamping requires certified inspectors to examine all welds attached to pressure retaining parts. We shipped the column to the site, a wheat oil plant near Amarillo.
Shortly after the column arrived at the site and was erected, we received a phone call in which the caller said the welds of the support rings to the interior of the column were faulty and that Texas welders would grind out the faulty welds and repair them. We said not to touch the welds until one of us examined them. I flew to Amarillo, rented a car and drove to the site, changed into coveralls and had the maintenance people remove the manway access cover.
“You’re not going to crawl into that column, are you?” the site manager asked.
“That’s just what I’m going to do,” I replied, “and I’m going to examine every weld with fluid penetrant dye.”
While a group of maintenance people stood around, I entered the column, removed the manway covers from each tray and ascended to the top of the column. For a whole day, I examined every weld of the support rings to the column wall with fluid penetrant. There wasn’t a single bad weld.
When I came out of the column, I asked, “Which of you guys said the welds were faulty?” There was a lot of feet shuffling but no answer. One individual said, “We didn’t think New Jersey welders could weld Hastelloy C.”
I returned home to New Jersey and billed the facility for my time, the cost of travel, cost of car rental, meals and the stay at the motel. After some protest, they paid the bill in full.
The retirement home conducted a regular scrabble game each Saturday at 33:00 pm in its community room. Four players sat the table of the recent game. One was an elderly Scotswoman, who played regularly and rarely won. She could not remember how many tiles each player received, nor when she won the starting tile, where to start. The retirement home person who played in every game guided her.
A second player was a retired professional engineer, with a large vocabulary and sharp eyes, despite his nearly ninety-seven years. A third was a new resident in her eighties with a large vocabulary and experience with playing scrabble.
As the game progressed, the retired engineer used words that the other players had rarely heard, which led to unsuccessful challenges and loss of turns. That is until he used the word Eid, thinking of the Moslem holiday. The new resident challenged him. It was not in the scrabble book. However, Eide was. Its meaning in the scrabble dictionary was enhanced integrated drive electronics.
The old man lost his turn. He was disgruntled, played poorly and lost to the new resident. When he left the table, having placed second in the scoring, he was still disgruntled. He was used to winning and educating other players to words they did not know from his large lexicon. It was an unpleasant foible. But he enjoyed the other players’ reactions to words that they had not heard before.
He returned to his apartment where his caregiver served him dinner as he watched cable news on his big screen, wall-mounted TV set. The news contributed to his further disgruntlement
That evening, having been disgruntled by the day’s news, he wondered if there was such a word in the scrabble dictionary as gruntled. He looked it up on the scrabble dictionary app of his cell phone. To his surprise there was such a word with the meaning shown as adjective, humorous, pleased, satisfied, and contented.
As he switched the channel to a murder mystery, he laughed to himself. He patted the bulge on his stomach to which he thought his desert of ice cream contributed and said aloud, “Now I am gruntled.”
He went to bed early and dreamed of being gruntled.
In the bayous of Baton Rouge, Louisiana there is a swamp populated by alligators, snakes and other marshland wildlife. On its periphery live families of Armadillos. A pack of wild dogs, the descendants of pets set free or discarded by their owners, spends its time there when not investigating garbage cans of nearby homes for food.
Near the swamp lived Clarence (Tommy) Hazel, his wife and children Tommy Junior and daughter Hazel. Tommy was a former roustabout for an oil company. Hazel was a teacher who believed in home schooling her children.
Tommy maintained his ties with his former associates, despite his now having become a sales representative for various companies and various products. At Friday night beer parties, he bragged about having wrestled (he called it wrasseled) alligators in the swamp.
The principal of Heatco, Schmuel Yonkel, was visiting. Tommy and Hazel were hosting him. Heatco was a manufacturer of heat exchanger that Tommy represented in Louisiana and part of Texas.
When Schmuel brought a sickly puppy from the pack near the swamp to Tommy’s home, Tommy got his hunting rifle and dispatched the puppy. He told Schmuel, “You bring one of these home as a pet and next thing you know you have a pack. It’s dangerous for the kids.”
Schmuel, a dog lover was appalled. He said nothing to his host.
Tommy invited Schmuel to a Friday night beer party with workers on some of the oil rigs off the gulf coast. Many of the attendees thought Schmuel was an odd name, associated with an ethnic group that they despised.
It was usual at the beer parties for attendees to brag about their accomplishments, which were few, and to engage in foot and arm wrestles. Too much laughter, Joe Mudd challenged Schmuel to an arm wrestle. He flexed his biceps and asked Schmuel, “Want to try me?”
Schmuel was a quiet spoken man. He was wearing a long-sleeved shirt unlike the others who wore mostly skivvy tops that exposed their arms. He nodded.
Joe and Schmuel sat at one of the picnic tables. Attendees jeered at Schmuel with cries of “Show him Joe”, and “Them guys only wrassle with money.”
The party goer’s offered bets on Joe Mudd. There were no takers. Tommy kept quiet and did not bet. He had seen Schmuel lift enormous weights during his visits to the Heatco factory in New Jersey.
Joe Mudd and Schmuel Yonkel grasped each other’s hands tightly. Joe exerted his best effort to put Schmuel’s arm down. But it remained upright. Beads of sweat covered Joe’s forehead. With a smile and a grunt Schmuel brought Joe’s arm down flat to the table.
Gasps of surprise filled the air. Some party members toasted Schmuel with beer. He downed a beer and asked, “Anyone else want to try?”
There were no takers. Joe Mudd had beaten every one of them and they wanted to avoid the embarrassment of losing to one of that kind.
Tommy spoke up, “Schmuel has scuba dove all over the world. I believe he has done some deep diving with Nitrox and stayed overnight in an underwater habitat.”
Many at the party dove off the oil rigs at the mouth of the river. Two of them offered Schmuel the chance to dive off an oil rig with them. “Let’s see if he really has the balls to dive off an oil rig,” was the surreptitious idea.
Next morning, wearing a borrowed tank, face mask, weight belt and regulator, Schmuel and the other two dove off an oil rig. Schmuel was happy under water. When one of his companions got entangled on a cable, he slowly finned over to him and released him.
“How’d it go?” Tommy asked.
“Nice dive,” Schmuel answered. Lots of fish around the rig because of the garbage thrown overboard.”
No one said anything about Schmuel’s releasing a fellow diver entangled on the rig. It would have been an embarrassment. Schmuel did not mention it. He returned to New Jersey.
When his wife Edna asked about the trip, all he said was, “The usual, except I got to dive off an oil rig.”
Edna said nothing. She knew of Schmuel’s diving and other athletic activities and was concerned that their children would follow in his footsteps.
Tommy eventually ran for congress from his district. He ran as an independent. It would have made no difference to the voters which party he ran on if he chose to run for a party. After all he was a good old boy and a Baptist.
When Tommy arrived in Washington, the dominant party’s leader talked about draining the swamp. But Tommy laughed to himself. He knew there would always be packs of wild dogs, alligators, snakes and armadillos in and around the swamp, which had been there as long as he could remember. He saw little difference between the swamp in the bayou and the one in Washington.
Schmuel joined a protest group that resisted draining New Jersey’s Great Swamp of the Passaic River to provide ground for an airport. The Passaic River’s Great Swamp was not drained and remained a sight-seeing destination. The great swamp in Washington remained undrained. New residents replaced and added to its population. Elections came and went with their accompanying rhetoric. Except for a core of voters in one of the principal parties, voters paid no attention to politicians who promised to drain the swamp.
Sir Thomas Cat, a Seal and Me
Thomas Cat and I were sitting on benches near the pier watching a group of seals in the sun. It was a favorite place of ours on sunny days. We watched for a while in silence as they went in and out of the water. We watched mother seals nurse their babies on the pier.
Sir Thomas and I rarely spoke to each other, despite my understanding of Cat, and his understanding of English. We had different political opinions about dogs and cats. It was simpler just to remain silent.
But on this occasion, Sir Thomas Cat spoke to me. “What do those fat monsters eat that keeps them so fat and happy?” he asked, and why do they nurse their babies on the pier?
“Mostly fish, I suppose,” I answered, and added, “I guess they eat some crustaceans too. But I’m not sure about that. I also read somewhere that when they are hungry, they may eat each other’s young if they can steal one that’s not nursing.”
“Disgusting, if true,” Sir Thomas responded, “No cat in his or her right mind would eat a neighbor’s kitten. It just goes to show you how uncivilized some species are.”
“Well don’t lions, tigers, leopards and other jungle cats eat each other’s young?” I asked.
Sir Thomas glared at me. “Don’t you realize that they only eat the young of other species of cat?” he asked and commented, “You don’t know much about us do you?”.
“I suppose not,” I said, confessing my ignorance.
Sir Thomas added, “Most jungle cats don’t prey on other cats. Their principal diet is one or another of the ungulates,” he educated me. “They live in herds, and we keep the herds healthy by eating the sick and injured ones.”
He kept staring at the seals. When one came up on the pier out of the water, Sir Thomas decided to get closer to satisfy his curiosity about what the seal was eating. I warned him, “Sir Thomas, curiosity killed the cat.”
He sniffed and responded, “But satisfaction revived him.”
He went right up to the seal’s mouth. The seal opened wide. Perhaps he thought Sir Thomas was a dentist. Sir Thomas slid into the seal’s mouth. The seal closed his mouth and Sir Thomas slid down into the seal’s stomach. Soon there were yowls of distress as Sir Thomas screamed in Cat and English, “Let me out of here. It stinks. And there are still half-digested live fish swimming around. It’s disgusting.”
I took pity on Sir Thomas, went over to the seal and pried open its mouth. “Climb out,” I said, holding the seal’s mouth open.
Soon after a bedraggled, Sir Thomas popped out of the seal’s mouth. I asked Sir Thomas, “Curiosity satisfied?”
He responded, “You are so cruel. Why’d you let me go into that seal’s mouth?”
When I answered that I could not stay his curiosity, he simply swished his tail and glared at me. When we arrived home, he refused to sit in his usual place on my lap and purr. I gave him a dinner of meow mix, figuring he had more than enough fish for the day.
Hortense Zillow grew up on a dairy farm Near Vestal, New York. She lived an isolated, loveless life. Her stone-faced father, Rufus, treated her mother, Martha, much like the cattle in his dairy herd. Hortense often wondered if her birth was the result of her father’s raping her mother. Martha was always subservient to Rufus, but never smiled or spoke unless she was spoken to.
Rufus resented the time Hortense spent at school, grumbling that girls did not need an education, because all they needed to know was how to cook, milk the cows, clean, sew and submit to their husbands. Nevertheless, Hortense graduated from Vestal high school
Her father punished Hortense for becoming attached to individual cows, growling that they were only good for giving milk and, that when they could no longer be freshened, the glue factory. She watched the freshenings impassively while Rufus complained about the fees the bull’s owner charged.
Rufus allowed Hortense one indulgence: her cat, Princess. He indulged Princess because she was a fierce predator of rats, mice, and other undesirable rodents, even praising Princess when she brought the body of a rattlesnake.
As his herd grew, Rufus felt the need for more help with the farm-work than Hortense could provide. After he contacted a shady firm that brought illegal immigrants over the southern border. Jose Iglesias, a Salvadoran, who spoke no English, appeared.
Jose knew what to do without being told and Rufus was satisfied with Jose’s work. But one day ICE agents appeared at the door and arrested Jose and Rufus. Rufus collapsed with a heart attack and died on the spot. Martha, unable to deal with the situation, took a handful of pain killers. Now Hortense was an orphan, the sole possessor of the farm and herd of cattle.
With no experience in managing the farm, Hortense was dumbfounded by her situation. In desperation, she contacted the assistant principal of Vestal high school who had often lent a sympathetic ear when she was sent for discipline for missing classes. He understood that her absences were due to her father’s keeping her home to work on the farm. He had no specific advice but suggested she contact a former student who was now a successful realtor of farm properties. That led to the sale of the dairy farm to former residents of New York city, retired stockbrokers David and Marcie Cohen, who had long dreamed of exiting the rat race of New York stock broking for a simple rural life.
As part of the sales contract Hortense agreed to live on the farm for five years to teach the Cohens about dairy farming. The Cohens agreed to a generous salary, in addition to Hortense’s room and board.
Hortense was relieved that her life would be stable for at least five years. But she was in a quandary about how to invest the proceeds of the sale. She thought first of Tioga State Bank. Which Rufus had patronized and damned every time he borrowed from the bank. But the interest rate on deposits was low. Hortense believed he money was safe but prudently deposited only half in the local bank and half in the Bank of America branch in Ithaca.
Things moved along smoothly for the dairy farm. Marcie Cohen named every cow and treated it as pet. With Hortense’s knowing how to manage the dairy and Marcie’s and David’s financial expertise the farm prospered. But, despite the Cohen’s becoming friendly with neighboring farmers and participating in the Cornell Cooperative Association’s program, farm life started to pall on the Cohens. They spent more and more time in their apartment on East 89th street, which they had maintained as a retreat from country living. Aware of their disenchantment, Hortense became concerned for her future. She worried about what she would do if the Cohens decided to sell the farm and return to New York.
She voiced her concern to David, “You and Marcie seem to have lost your enthusiasm for farming. If you sell the farm, I don’t know where Princess and I will live, and the interest on my money in my two banks will not be enough to support us. I don’t know if I can get a job, since most of the dairy farms are having trouble making ends meet, and farming is all I know.”
He understood and sympathized with her concern. “Yes, we are thinking of selling the farm and returning to New York,” he said, “Tell me, what did you do with the proceeds of the sale of the farm to us?”
Hortense told him about her splitting the proceeds between the two banks.
“Prudent,” he said, “But no way to maximize your income. Even investing in CDs will not provide you with enough to live on. Would you object to my investing a small portion of your money in a start-up firm that some associates of mine have begun? I have to warn you that all start-ups run the risk of failure, and that any money I invest on your behalf could be lost.”
Hortense took a chance. She authorized David to invest $10,000 of her funds in the unnamed start up. He asked her, “Have you ever used marijuana?”
“No,” she responded, “My father wouldn’t let me smoke for fear of starting a fire. And he never allowed liquor or tobacco in the house, let alone an illegal substance like marijuana.”
“Well,” David replied, “Let me show you this on my computer.”
He brought up a map that showed nine states and the District of Columbia where recreational marijuana use is legal, and 29 states that permit medical use. Then he said, “A group of my ski buddies were together in Aspen, Colorado, one of the states where the electorate voted to legalize it. Most of them got so stoned that they didn’t know what they were doing. But one stayed sober long enough to write down their agreement to form a firm to be called The National Stoners. The idea was to buy up small growers in states where growing weed is legal and consolidate them into a national distribution organization. I think the National Stoners will be very successful and that a modest investment of $10,00 dollars could bring substantial rewards.”
Hortense replied, “Modest? That’s five percent of my money.”
“But think of the possible reward,” David said, “you might triple your money.”
Hortense reluctantly agreed. Little did she and David expect the stock price to rise from its four-dollar opening price to forty-five dollars within a month. Hortense, thrilled by being richer by close to half a million dollars, urged David to invest more or her funds in National Stoners. But he passed on some old stockbrokers’ wisdom, “Nobody,” he said, “ever got poor taking a profit.”
With Hortense’s permission he sold her shares just before National Stoners’ stock collapsed to its offering price after the Attorney General spoke out against what he called the unconstitutional legalization by some jurisdictions of a harmful substance that is federal proscribed.
Hortense was a simple unsophisticated country girl. She did not know how to deal with her sudden wealth. She turned again to David Cohen for advice. “I listened to you and now I am rich. But I am concerned that keeping all my money in my two banks isn’t a good idea. What would you suggest?”
“You’re right,” David answered, “I suggest you keep a modest amount of money, say ten or twenty thousand dollars in the Tioga State Bank, close out the Bank America account and buy an annuity from Met Life or other insurance company. My friends at Fischer Investments publish a guide that you should read before buying an annuity. But given, your lack of investing knowledge, I think an annuity would be your best bet.”
Hortense downloaded the Fischer guide, studied it and followed David’s advice. But she had another problem: where to live when the Cohen’s sold the dairy. She voiced her concern to David.
He responded, “The value of the property is not very high. The stable and milking parlor are old, deteriorated, and outmoded. So, we are selling the herd which is the real value of the dairy.”
He thought for a moment, then asked, “Would you like to continue living in the farmhouse?”
It was the only place Hortense had ever lived. She answered, “Yes. Will you sell it to me?”
David’s broad smile was a relief. He responded, “I intend to sell the land, stable and milking parlor. But I will split off the farmhouse and gift it to you.”
Hortense did not understand the meaning of gifting. She asked, “What will be the price?”
David laughed. “Zero,” he said, “It’s just a gift to show our appreciation for your patience in teaching us how to farm.”
Hortense was astounded but happy. She made plans to use some of her funds to modernize her and Princess’s home.
After she took possession, she hired Jock Simpson, a local carpenter, to install new kitchen cabinets picked from a catalog and bought from the RCW firm in Pennsylvania. She hired George Carlson, a local plumber and former high school classmate, to install a new Samsung, French-door refrigerator, a kitchen sink, with disposal, Whirlpool Electric range and overhead microwave oven, and Whirlpool dishwasher, all bought at Lowes. She also bought and had Carlson install a modern Whirlpool clothes washer and drier in an alcove off the kitchen that had previously been used as a root vegetable storeroom. And she arranged to have ductwork installed to accommodate the Carrier air conditioner, placed on a concrete pad outside the kitchen.
To provide for the electrical needs of her new appliances and air conditioner, Hortense contracted with Sparky Electrics to bring the electrical system up to modern code standards and to install a fiber optic system that would give her access to the internet in most rooms of her home. She bought a large flat screen Sony television that she had installed on a wall of the living room?
With all the activity, Hortense was too busy to pay much attention to Princess, other than to provide a new basket with a cushion for her that occupied a prominent place in front of the seldom-used living room fireplace. Princess, who had not been spayed because Rufus thought it was a frivolous expense and simply killed the kittens that Princess bore, came into season. From a loving quiet pet, she turned into a raging beast that Hortense kept house bound despite her anguished wailings.
But love, or the need to reproduce, found a way. When Hortense opened the door to receive a delivery, a scraggly, underfed, feral tomcat ran between her feet and found his way to Princess. Hortense prepared another basket and bedding for the tomcat, which she named Dasher.
Dasher thrived under Hortense’s care. His coat grew silky. He no longer looked skeletal. But he backed away each time Hortense tried to pet him. Six weeks later five cute kittens appeared. Hortense did not have the heart to follow Rufus’s example. She named the four female kittens Sweetie, Sugar, Salt and Pepper. Hortense called the fifth kitten, Junior. She arranged to have the vet who had cared for the cattle examine and inoculate the cats against disease. She rejected his suggestion to spay the females and neuter Junior. Her living room now had seven baskets of cats with more likely in the future.
Despite the house being centrally air conditioned, Hortense had Sparky Electrics install a large ceiling fan in the living room. She knew that no matter how thoroughly she cleaned the living room and how carefully she tended the cat litter, the smell could become unbearable.
David and Martha Cohen visited to see how Hortense was doing. When the found that Hortense’s living room was a hangout for cats, David conceived a cruel joke. He had local artist and sign painter make a welcome sign to be hung over Hortense’s front door that read, Welcome to Hortense’s Cathouse. He bought and presented Hortense with an elaborate mailbox that had the same name and arranged for it to be installed. And he bought and presented Hortense a light fixture to be installed above her front door with four red glass panels.
In her innocence, Hortense did not understand that cathouse had any meaning than a place where cats were kept, nor did she know the significance of a red light over a front door. It came as a surprise to Hortense when many cars parked in front of her home, and their drivers rang the doorbell and asked to see the ladies. She recognized some of the men as employees of the two banks she had dealt with. Others were storekeepers with whom she was familiar. A pastor and a priest of the local catholic church also rang her doorbell with the same question.
She was delighted that there were so many cat lovers, invited them in and offered Princess’s kittens to one and all. But she was surprised at the disgruntlement the callers showed. Only one, a local farmer, took a kitten.
There seemed to be an unending number of callers, especially when the light over her door glowed at night. And she noticed that a car was frequently parked across the road.
One night, after she had turned off the door light, fed the cats and gone to bed, Hortense heard a loud banging at her front door. She donned a robe and slippers to investigate. To her shock and surprise, there stood two investigators from the Broome County Sheriff’s Special Investigating Unit with a warrant to search her premises.
Confused, she asked, “What is this all about?”
One officer gruffly responded, “We have surveilled your premises and suspect you are operating a brothel, you know, a cathouse, with a brazen sign that reads Welcome to Hortense’s Cathouse and a red light over your front door.”
Confusion turned to amusement. Hortense began to laugh so hard that tears rolled down her cheeks. “Yes,” she said, “This is a cat house. I have two adult cats living here and four of kittens. There were seven of them, but a farmer took one.”
She asked the investigators, “Would either of you like a kitten? They have all been treated by a vet and have their shots, so you wouldn’t have to do more than feed them. You can even have their baskets too.”
The officers were unbelieving. They searched every room and space before leaving. Neither responded to Hortense’s offer. Unfortunately for the officers a reporter for the Binghampton Press and Sun Bulletin had shown up along with a photographer.
Next day a headline appeared in the paper:
Broome County Sheriff’s Special Investigating Unit Exercise Warrant to Search Premises of a Cat House and Finds Cats
The reporter had fun writing the story, illustrated with her photographer’s color pictures of the mailbox, the red light over the doorway and the welcoming sign. The story was copied and appeared on newspapers and the media.
Hortense was bombarded with requests for pictures of the cat house and the cats so often that she closed all her media accounts. She changed the fixture over her doorway to one that had green side-plates. Hortense and her family of cats lived happily in the cat house.
Two Wise Gus at the Bagel Bakery
Ray Polis and Rick Farmer met for breakfast each morning at Boulder’s Bagel Bakery. Both men were widowers and ate out rather than making meals at home. Ray’s favorite breakfast was a toasted onion bagel with cream cheese and lox to go with a container of coffee. Rick’s breakfast was a toasted bialy with a side of cream cheese and lox with capers.
As they sat down at a table with their breakfasts, Ray said to Rick, “I was thinking…”
Rick interrupted with, “You don’t want to do that. It wears down your brain. And thinking can keep you awake at night.”
“Wise ass,” Ray said, “Do you want to know what I was thinking about?”
“Yeah,” Rick said, “I just like to yank your chain. So, what were you thinking about?”
“I was thinking about the politicians who run our country,” Ray replied.
“Oh, heavy stuff,” Rick said as he munched his bagel and sipped his coffee, “S, what were you thinking about them?”
“Well, “Rick said, “First, I think they are not the brightest bulbs in the lamp. Second, I think most of them enjoy benefits that the ordinary public citizen does not get. Third, I think most of them are under the influence of lobbyists hired by big corporations to pass laws that favor the interests of the corporations instead of the people they were elected to represent. Fourth, I think that many of them are corrupt. Fifth, I think they do not believe in the free press, nor do the truly uphold the constitution that they swear to defend when sworn in, and the only one of the bill of rights they truly back is the second amendment, and that’s because the NRA is their source of money when they run for reelection.”
“So, what can you do about it?” Ray asked.
“Move to Canada,” Rick responded, “Or maybe to socialist Denmark or one of the other Scandinavian socialist countries.”
“Are you serious?” Ray asked in surprise, “Who will be my breakfast partner if you go?”
“Is that all you can think about?” Rick asked.
“Well, you know us old guys don’t like it when they have to change their habits,” Ray responded.
“It was only a thought,” Rick said, “I don’t have it to go elsewhere. Besides, the Canadians are too nice for a guy who grew up here.”
“Whew,” Ray said, “I thought for a while that I would have to eat bialys besides bagels.”
“That’s the most important thing you can think of?” Rick asked, “No wonder your pants are tight. No, I’m seriously thinking of joining a protest group.”
“There are plenty in Boulder,” Ray said, “take your pick.”
“But they are all so radical, and I’m a registered Republican, and have been for a lot of years,” Rick commented.
“So, you think Republicans can be “stupid lamp self-aggrandizing, beholden to lobbyists, untrue to their oaths, support the NRA when they defend the second amendment?” Ray questioned.
“Yes, I do,” Rick answered, “But I also think there’s not a dimes worth of difference between the parties.”
“Seems to me I heard that before from a rich Texan with big ears. And he didn’t succeed with his third party,” Ray replied.
The bagel bakery owner came over to their table. “Didja see what those crazy college kids did last night?” he asked holding a copy of the Camera newspaper.
Almost with one voice the two Wiseguys asked, “What did those crazy kids do now?”
He showed them the picture on the front page. “Locked themselves in a chain around his house, carrying signs calling him racist, bigot, fascist, Nazi the caption said.
“So, what were the protesting?” Ray asked.
“The university wants to limit the number of bears served during ball games at Folsom field.
“I Think I’ll move to Canada or Scandinavia,” Rick grunted.
“Seriously?” Ray asked.
“Nah,” Rick answered, I think I’ll just change my voter registration to Independent.”
“Like me,” Ray commented, “and what about joining a protest movement?”
“Too old,” Rick answered, “who wants to chain himself to a fence at this age? I’ll just post nasty things about politicians in Facebook, Tweet my opinions, watch the Rocky’s and the Broncos, sometimes the Buffs, basketball, hockey, sit back and drink beer.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Ray said.
Bagel and Bialy gone, second cup of coffee drunk, comics in the Camera read, the two old Wiseguys left.
I visited Gettysburg during a bicycle tour. to Augusta, Georgia to visit with and ride bicycles with my son who had a degree in forestry. He was working for Georgia-Pacific company
When you are bicycle touring, time is not important. I spent several days in
Gettysburg after spending some time at Harper’s Ferry, where John Brown attacked the arsenal and was eventually captured. Gettysburg is essentially a civil war cemetery (or as southerners say of the civil war, “The war between the states”).
I broke into tears as I visited the burial ground. I wondered why it is always young people that older ones convince to fight the wars that result from their disagreements. Knowing that boys as young as fourteen killed their cousins in the opposite army was devastating. As I had done in my youth, I bought flowers to put on the graves of men and boys who died in the civil war years before my family immigrated to the United States.
At night, I walked among the graves with a searchlight, reading the tombstones. As tears rolled down my cheeks, a spectral voice asked me, “Why are you crying?”
I looked around to see who had asked the question. No person was visible. I asked, “Who, and where are you?”
The voice answered, “I am the ghost of a fighter to end slavery.”
Another spectral voice answered, “And I am the ghost of the secessionist who killed him. We are here until the nation becomes whole again.”
There were two ghostly sighs and a comment from one ghost, “Oh! It will take forever before we are free from this graveyard.”
The first ghost asked me, “Which of your ancestors lost his life here? Perhaps I know him?”
I answered, “None. My ancestors came from Russia in the early twentieth century to be free of the czar and his regime.”
“Then why are you crying?” the ghost asked.
I answered, “I cry for all the young who fought and fight the battles of the older generation that convinces them that losing one’s life in battle is glorious martyrdom.”
The two ghosts responded in unison, “Ah, but that is against tradition and the way of the world, despite its godliness.”
Then the Secessionist ghost asked, “So, what are you doing to end this ongoing wrong besides crying for us?”
I did not know how to answer. The media had labeled my activism in anti-war activities as radical, un-American, unpatriotic, and communist. I did not believe I was any of those. But much of the population did.
I went back to my quarters. Next morning, I continued my bike ride, pausing at every confederate monument to the generals who had led children to senseless murder over a political disagreement, convinced there is no justice in the world.
Reading the New York Times
After a sleepless night interspersed with periods of bad-dream filled sleep, Oscar Kahn awoke with red eyes. He picked up his copy of the New York Times that lay on his front steps. The news was grim, filled with stories about political chicanery, murders, and the doings of dictators around the world.
Oscar decided to eat his breakfast in front of his large-screen TV. He set a portable table in front of his arm chair and loaded it with orange juice, a dish of oatmeal and a mug of coffee with sugar and cream.
Before drinking the orange juice, he turned on the TV. He flipped from channel to channel to watch the news. It was as grim as the pages of the New York Times, emphasized by the graphics that repeatedly said Breaking News. He muted the sound and turned on closed captioning.
After a while he had more than enough. He switched to a children’s program station and came across The Muppet Show.
The antics of miss Piggy and Kermit, the frog and old codgers Statler and Waldorf in the opera box set him to laughing. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s experiments with Beaker had him chuckling, and Rizzo the Rat and Sam the Eagle set him to thinking of people he knew.
He thought to himself This program is presumably for children. But there are subtle underlying messages for adults.
Watching the Muppet Show changed his outlook. He told himself, Not everything is as grim as the media makes it. And sooner or later another group of rascals will occupy the oval office, the senate and the house. Perhaps a younger generation than the superannuated generation running things will do a better job.
And there have been dictators and tyrants throughout history. But the world has also made progress. Serfdom in Russia and slavery no longer exist in most of the world. And colonialism has more or less been defeated. Maybe the world is not as grim as it appears in the media.
Oscar ate a light supper, spoke to his daughter on the phone, talked with his grandson, read last Sunday’s New York Times magazine section listened to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik on his CD player and went to bed.
Before he turned out the light and shut his eyes, he said to himself. Tomorrow is another day. Things may be better in the wide world.
He slept soundly with only pleasant dreams.
Today is the first day of Spring-the vernal equinox, which means that the daylight is as long as the darkness. We tamper with the natural order of things by invoking Daylight Savings Time in this state of Colorado and this city of Boulder.
Spring heartens the weary and sad. Crocuses reward us with their smiling faces. Daffodils will soon sprout. Pussy willows show their fuzzy buds. Birds come back to nest in the trees that have little green buds. Worms in the trees provide meals for nutcrackers. Did I just hear the rat-a-tat-tat of a nutcracker seeking breakfast?
Soon butterflies will be flitting from flower to flower, and bees busily pollinating gardens and making honey. The elderly residents of this retirement home will be wearing their warm weather clothes and dining out doors on the patio.
Many will wear spring smiles instead of their gloomy winter faces. The members of Wicken in this town of many faiths, some of which are far removed from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or Hinduism, will hold their spring rites. The few onlookers will shrug and depart.
With the advent of spring, Coloradans look forward to a sleepy summer of watching the Rockies and hoping for the best, bicycle riding, skate boarding, hiking, the last days of the ski season, and beer drinking. Many will spend their time on the mall enjoying the displays of flowers, people watching and having lunch with friends at outdoor tables and admiring the winter’s crop of newborns as their parents wheel them by in strollers.
The performers on the mall will soon be returning, to play music, walk a tight rope, and one who squeezes himself impossibly into a plastic box. They will all solicit contributions from onlookers.
The young men and women who police the mall, make sure the spare-changers are not too aggressive. They calm arguments that erupt and arrest the occasional lawbreaker, all with grace.
Spring brings the promise of new life and hope for the future.
The Story Teller
Long before the Chinese invented movable type, and long before German inventor Johannes Gutenberg reinvented it, the tales of our history and forebears were the province of story tellers. These tale tellers, mostly men, were separate from scribes who laboriously wrote on parchment and civilizations that used cuneiform tablets, on which commercial affairs were chiseled.
Story tellers passed on the history of tribes, and eventually of nations. It was the common thing for a tribe to sit at a fire and listen to the story teller’s tales that depended on his memory. The story teller often lost historical accuracy. The stories the story teller told became the tribe’s history. The tribe’s members accepted the stories as history.
With the advent of movable type and the widespread availability of paper, authors no longer confined their writing to religious texts and bibles. First novels appeared in various languages. Authors wrote and had published short stories. Critical reviewers critiqued what the authors wrote, publishing their criticisms in magazines and book reviews.
Story tellers continue to tell stories around campfires, to children at bedtime and to whatever other venue is available. Able Raconteur is a story teller. He tells stories to children sitting in circles in classrooms and libraries. He tells stories to old folk in retirement homes. He tells stories to friends siting around campfires, and he tells his children bedtime stories.
Abel Raconteur has long held the chairmanship of the literature department of the university that is the main source of income for the town where he lives. Being widely read, he has accumulated many books of short stories and Greek and Roman mythology tales. He tells his audiences these stories from memory rather than reading them aloud.
But he loves to tell stories he invents the most. Abel invents stories of heroic adventurers, sea stories, dystopian stories, ghost stories, love stories, and stories about events in exotic places.
Abel was telling his son Ulysses and his daughter Electra night time stories in the living room before they went to bed. He said, “I’ve told you stories that Danish author Hans Christian Anderson wrote. But his stories are not always suitable for bed time.
“Yeah,” Ulysses said, “Like Little Red Riding Hood.”
Abel answered, “Charles Perrault, a Frenchman wrote story. Didn’t I follow it up by telling you that wolves are not usually dangerous to people, and that they live in packs devoted to each other? And didn’t I tell you that our dog, Spot is a descendant of wolves?”
“Yeah, daddy,” Electra said, “Useless just forgets. You did tell us about how people domesticated wolves a long time ago and that they became our dogs.”
“Stop calling me Useless,” Ulysses demanded of Electra.
He turned to Abel, and asked, “Why did you and mom name me Ulysses? The kids in school tease me, and when the teacher tells them that Ulysses Grant was the general who defeated Robert E. Lee during the civil war, it doesn’t make any difference. The kids still think Ulysses is a funny name. So why did you name me Ulysses?”
“Well, we thought of calling you Odysseus which was his original Greek name, but we thought it would be harder for you than the Latin version which is Ulysses. One day I’ll tell you the story of how Odysseus was a great general in Greece’s war against Troy, the story of the odyssey and the siren and much more.”
He turned to Electra and said, “Your name is also of Greek origin. It means Bright One. Some say it means Amber, so take your choice. When I get around to it, I will tell you two some of the stories of Greek and Roman mythology.
“But right now, I want to tell you some of the one-hundred sixty-eight stories that Danish author Hans Christian Anderson wrote or possibly one from a different time.”
“Oh, are you going to tell us the Hansel and Gretel story about the wicked witch and the trail of breadcrumbs?” Electra asked.
“The brothers Grimm wrote that story,” Abel answered. They had an appropriate name, because most of their stories are grim.”
“Was the story of Gluck and the Golden River and his mean brothers one of the stories the brothers Grimm wrote”, Ulysses asked.
“Nope,” Abel answered, John Raskin, an Englishman wrote that one.”
“How do you know so many stories and so much about them?” Electra asked Abel.
“Well, I am head of the literature department at the university. And I have access not only to their library, but the libraries of the universities and colleges with which they share access, and I have a readers ID card in the library of congress,” Abel answered.
“Wow! Ulysses exclaimed, “You sure know a lot of stories.”
“Well, before you two hustle off to bed, I’m going to tell you a story that I learned long ago,” Abel told his children.
His wife, Cassandra, overhearing his conversation with his children, came into the room with a tray of cups of apple cider and cookies, passed them out and sat down to listen.
Abel began, “Once upon a time two children named Ulysses and Electra lived with their parents Abel and Casandra.”
“Oh! This is a story about our family,” Electra exclaimed.
“Not at all,” Abel responded, “This is just a story about a family that had the same names as our family.”
Casandra raised an eyebrow. Ulysses frowned. Electra giggled. Abel went on, “The family were literate and read many Greek writings.”
“You mean like Plato and Cicero?” Ulysses asked.
“Yup, that’s exactly what I mean, “Abel answered
“So, go on and tell the story, “Casandra said.
“No more interruptions. OK? Abel asked.
The three listeners nodded. Abel continued, “The family, who lived in Athens in the third century BC, was interested in the views of the seventy year-old Socrates. Socrates thought very little of the Gods the citizens worshipped, and he was not a proponent of democracy.
“Two of his students, Alcibiades and Critias had twice overthrown Athen’s democracy and begun a reign of terror, in which they deprived thousands of people of their property executed many and banished others from the city-state.”
Ulysses interrupted, “Dad,” he asked, “Is this going to be a story about politics?”
Abel answered, “In a way it is. The purpose of my story is to contest Ecclesiastes 1.9 that states, ‘The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.’”
He went on, “The citizens of Athens tried Socrates for impiety by failing to acknowledge the gods the city acknowledged, introducing new deities, and corrupting the youth.
“At his trial, the majority of male citizen jurors, who were chosen by lot, voted that he was guilty of both charges.
Abel, who had drawn a lot that made him a juror, voted not guilty. Ulysses had not drawn a lot. But he agreed with Abel’s vote.
The jury sentenced Socrates to death by requiring him to drink a poisonous beverage made from hemlock. Socrates drank the beverage and died.
“Subsequently, Plato wrote about the accusations, the trial and Socrates death. The purposes of this story are several fold: 1. To tell you that even people of great knowledge and wisdom can be evil as Socrates surely was in encouraging Alcibiades and Critias in their reigns of terror; and 2. To point out to you that there have always been tyrants who did not have their people’s best interests at heart; and 3. to encourage you not to take Ecclesiastes 1.9 as a guide, because democracy has evolved from the dark times, and has frequently won over tyranny.
“I believe it will win again, despite the current world’s descent into authoritarianism. Eventually the world’s citizens will awake to the loss of their freedoms and throw the despots out, much as they did Hitler and Mussolini in an earlier time. I also think that the religious bigotry of many in America will come to an end in the future.”
Cassandra interrupted, “And will my warnings meet the same reception as those of my namesake when I caution the public against white supremacists and the revival of the Ku Klux Klan?”
Abel did not know how to answer Cassandra. He mumbled some words about the current administration’s love affair with autocracies, theocracies like that of Iran, kingdoms like Saudi Arabia, and injustice in Israel. Ulysses and Electra rubbed their eyes and went to bed. They were disappointed in Abel’s story.
A Fireside Story
Abel Raconteur, his wife Cassandra and children Ulysses and Electra sat around a campfire in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. They had hiked in from the train stop at Elk Park. As was his custom, Abel began a story, “When I was a boy . . .”
Ulysses and Electra rolled their eyes. “Not another when I was a boy story,” Ulysses said.
“This time you’re right Useless,” Electra said.
“Mom, Dad, tell her not to call me Useless”, Ulysses complained.
“Electra,” Cassandra began.
“OK, OK, No more calling him Useless,” Electra said.
Abel continued, “An old man lived alone in a little house down the street. Nobody paid him much attention as he worked in his garden. Until that is, he planted cabbage, carrots, onions and other vegetables and instead of flowers in his front garden.
“His neighbors were appalled and tried to reason with him. But no matter what they said, he just smiled and went about his business.
“The yenta who had her nose in everybody’s business rang his doorbell to tell him how he was making all his neighbors uncomfortable with a vegetable garden in his front garden.
“He invited the yenta in for a cup of tea and cookies. Surprised, she accepted. ‘So,’ he said. ‘you don’t think that cabbage, carrots, onions and other vegetables are pretty? And did you know that I also plant potatoes, radishes and strawberries too?’
“Well, she said, “Most of us on this street plant flowers and shrubs in our front gardens to make this an attractive street. Why must you be different?
“He responded, “When I was a boy, we were very poor. It was my mother’s vegetable garden that fed us. No matter how hard my dad worked, he never brought home enough pay to buy more than some milk, occasionally some eggs, and at rare instances some chicken. He often spent his free time fishing in the brook near our shack to put some protein on the table. But it was my mom’s garden that was our main source of food, and the strawberries she grew that was our usual desert.
“The yenta said, ‘But you have enough to live on. I understand that your house is paid for and you have a substantial bank account. So why do you need to grow vegetables and strawberries in your front garden instead of shrubs and flowers.?’
“Another cup of tea and some more biscuits. The old man asked.
“Thank you, he Yenta said, sipped the tea and ate a cookie.
“Did you know that not far from here are hungry African-American and Hispanic people, who barely have enough to eat, he asked.
“Well, they surely aren’t in our neighborhood, so I don’t think about them, the Yenta answered.
“I think about them, and I think about being hungry as a boy. So, I invite them to come and pick the things I grow so their children will have enough to eat. They work so hard and do their best to educate their children. It does my heart good to be able to help even as little as I can. When I see them come to pick the vegetables and strawberries, it reminds me of my own youth.
“The yenta left, dissatisfied and told all her neighbors about the old man’s peculiarities. But some began to think of their poorer neighbors. Soon there were many vegetable gardens in the neighborhood. But they were all in the back yards. It became common to see African-Americans and Hispanics come by with shopping carts to pick the vegetables and fruit. But they always stopped at the old man’s front garden first.
“He smiled as they picked.
“So that’s tonight’s story from when I was a boy.”
Cassandra kissed her husband. Ulysses and Electra crawled into their tent. Ulysses said to Electra, “I’ve never been hungry like those kids. Have you?”
“No,” she answered, “But I think dad was trying to tell us something,”
Ulysses agreed. They turned out their flashlights, crawled into their sleeping bags and fell asleep.
Brother Kane Visits Brother Abel
Ulysses and Electra Raconteur awoke on a Saturday morning, looked out the window and saw their uncle Kane pull up in his shiny new Mercedes. “What do you think he brought us this time?” Electra asked her brother.
“I hope it’s a new computer game,” Ulysses answered.
“Oh, you and your computer games,” Electra responded, Let’s hope he brought something more useful.”
“Like what?” Ulysses asked.
“A couple of new tablets for you and me,” Electra answered.
“Cool!” Ulysses responded, I could use a new tablet. My old one is out of memory.”
“It wouldn’t be if you didn’t load it up with all that junk,” Electra sniffed.
“Junk!” Ulysses exclaimed, “Every app is useful.”
“Useless,” Electra commented.
“I told you not to call me that,” Ulysses demanded.
“I meant your apps,” Electra replied.
Kane descended from his Mercedes. As Ulysses and Electra greeted him with hugs, he took out two cloth bags, each of which held a new tablet and handed them to his nephew and niece. Abel came out to greet his brother with a hug. He said, “Hi big brother. What brings you to these parts today?”
“I am working to shepherd my sheep into a new investment program, “Kane replied, “and I wanted to give you the first shot at it.”
Cassandra came out of the house, kissed Kane and asked, “What new scheme have you come up with? Should I warn Abel that you are about to kill his peaceful professorship and story-telling career?”
“My dear,” Kane answered, “You have no idea about what I have in mind. “I’m going to offer Abel, first dibs on a new investment that will make him rich enough to retire and spend the rest of his life writing and telling stories. So, warn him. But I can assure you he won’t listen.”
“My fate,” Cassandra responded.
Kane explained his scheme to Abel over the breakfast that Cassandra served. Abel listened carefully. Then he responded, “Kane, this scheme of yours seems to me to be nothing more than a Ponzi scheme.”
“Well,” Kane replied, “You may think it has dome aspects of a Ponzi. But I am offering you the first crack at it, so you can get out early and retire on your proceeds.”
“You’re killing me with kindness,” Abel said, “But I think, I’ll listen to Cassandra this time, and say no.”
“Your choice,” Kane answered.
He finished his breakfast, kissed Ulysses and Electra, hugged Cassandra and Abel and drove off. When the authorities got wind of Kane’s scheme, many victims had lost their life savings. His stable of lawyers managed to get him off with a fine and no jail time.
“When the news came out, Cassandra told Abel, “For once you listened. I no longer feel bound by my namesake’s disastrous career.”
Cassandra Raconteur heard her husband Abel, wandering around in the middle of the night when she felt that his warm presence was gone from their bed and woke up. She walked into the kitchen and saw Abel sitting at the table with a mug of tea, holding his head in his hands. “Abel dear, couldn’t you sleep. Is something bothering you?” she asked putting a warm hand on his shoulder.
“Sweetheart,” he answered, “I had a nightmare, in which you predicted the events that were going to take place, but nobody listened to you.”
“I’m not named Cassandra for nothing,” she answered sitting down beside him.
“But you’re not Greek and this is America, Abel responded.
“So, do you want to tell me about this nightmare of yours, or do you just want to suppress it as you do with most of your nightmares?” Cassandra asked.
“Rather than telling it to some shrink, who charges $200 dollars for a forty-five minute hour, I’ll burden you with it,” he said, “But I hope it is not too upsetting.”
“Don’t worry about upsetting me,” Cassandra said, “just tell me about your nightmare.”
Abel began his story, “Well it all began with the election of our first African American and the two terms he served. While I disagreed with many of his actions, I thought that by and large he was a good president, even though his successor and many conspiracy theorists denied his birth in the United States, and some Republicans did everything the could to frustrate his agenda.”
“That’s old news,” Cassandra said.
“Let me go on,” Abel responded and continued, “In my dream a loud mouthed, crooked real estate dealer in his late seventies, who ran a television show in which the principal attraction was his firing people, won the nomination for the Republican candidacy in the presidential election. He was noted for his nastiness and for accusing fellow Republican candidates of weakness and incompetence, and for libeling his Democrat opponent in and out of debates.
“That’s where you came in. You warned against the devastation to our country if somehow he won the election. But nobody listened.
“he guy was elected and quickly began breaking his campaign promises and tearing down the good things his predecessor had done. But things got worse. He was reelected.
“In his second term he got the congress and states to hold a constitutional convention. The constitution that resulted restricted of freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion, and it made insulting the president a crime. Although the president was not called the kink in the new constitution, here was lese majesty enshrined in the new constitution.
“Even worse, it required federal office holders to be a member of a Christian faith. And it allowed the president an unlimited number of terms.
“Before you knew it, we were living in a dictatorship with the loud mouthed, crooked old real estate dealer the dictator and his family running his regime. He had the support of the evangelist and know-nothing communities.
“All during the constitutional convention, you went on social media and warned against the destruction of democracy and the onset of dictatorship. But like your namesake, nobody paid attention.
“I woke up shivering wondering if the end of freedom and democracy is on its way.
“So, I made up my mind to propagandize my students and urge them to become political activists for our constitution and to get my colleagues on the faculty to do the same.
“Talk of a dystopian nightmare,” he said, shivering and sipping his tea.
Cassandra comforted Abel telling him that left of center activists were already combatting the current president and his team, and that she did not need to issue any warnings because a majority of the nation opposed the current administration and a co-equal third of the government was of the opposite party.
Abel was not comforted. He asked Cassandra, “But what if?”
Reading the New York Times
Each morning the New York Each morning the New York Times and other Each morning the New York Times and other newspapers are delivered to the doors of the residents of the Rest Place, a retirement facility in Boulder, Colorado.
Some residents subscribe to the Daily Camera, a local paper; others subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. For those residents who do not subscribe to any newspaper, the Rest Place keeps a rack of daily papers in the lobby. A local free newspaper also provides copies of its weekly, which are kept on the front desk.
The Rest Place has a take-it-yourself breakfast set up in its dining room that’s available from 7:00 am until 9:30 am. Lunch, served by young servers is at noon. The Rest Place serves dinner four days a week, beginning at 5:00 pm. On Thursdays, there is a buffet, and on Sunday mornings the Rest Place has a champagne brunch. There is no dinner service Sunday nights except for the few residents incapable of managing.
In the spring, summer, and early fall service is available on the patio, where adjustable umbrellas shield the diners from the sun.
The Rest Place has a gym and a twenty-five yard lap pool. Some residents use one or the other before breakfast.
Elderly resident Steve Yablow, a widower, swam most of a half mile before breakfast six or seven days a week. He was certain he had reached his advanced age as a result of regular exercise throughout his life. After his swim or workout, he opened his copy of the New York Times as his caregiver brought him his breakfast.
His habit was to read the front page, turning to continuing pages hen a story interested him. By the time his caregiver brought him his mug of decaf and a muffin, he had read much that interested him, read the columns and the editorials. Nothing much in the paper escaped him. He continued his reading when he returned to his apartment where he sat in the living room facing his large screen television, which he switched on and off between news stations. Whenever, pundits were on a news program to share their wisdom and insights, he turned off the TV. He thought most TV hosts and their guests spoke what he called flap-doodle and their views and so-called expertise were a waste of time to watch and listen to.
He came across an article about anti vaccination protests that stemmed from an on-line attribution of autism in children to vaccination by a woman named Jenny McCarthy. The article explained that children unvaccinated with the usual spectrum of vaccines put other children at risk. The article went further explaining that authorities in many places were not permitting unvaccinated children to attend public schools. It further detailed religious and cultural objections to vaccination.
Steve thought back to his childhood. He had caught measles from his younger brother, with lasting negative results that still affected him in his old age. And he remembered the scares about Infantile Paralysis that had parents keeping their children out of swimming pools and the ocean and horror stories about iron lungs.
There is more damned foolishness in this world than any reasonable person would believe, he said to himself and remembered reading about Dr. Immanuel Pfeiffer who argued that smallpox was not contagious and visited the Boston smallpox hospital and came down with smallpox.
We did the right things for our children he said to himself, despite all the brouhaha, they grew up healthy. And I’m glad my grandchildren and great grandchildren are vaccinated, he said to himself.
He put the paper away and napped.
How to Tell Stories
Professor Abel Raconteur, famous for his story telling, was conducting a class in how to tell stories. On the screen at the front of the room, he projected from his laptop the elements of story-telling:
- First lines
- The tale
- Conclusion, moral or surprise.
He said, “The art of telling stories is ancient. Stories told our history until early civilizations created written languages carved into clay tablets and hieroglyphs. With the creation of papyri and the use of parchment, scribes wrote down religious texts, most of which stemmed from verbal recollections and myths told to tribal believers. Students of Greek and Roman history are familiar with the myths and the writings of wise men and poets of the times.
But after the Chinese invented movable type, followed by its later invention in Germany printed matter became readily available. However, most people could not read, and story tellers were much in demand. Today story telling is a useful supplement to the technical world’s effects on people. It is the art of story telling that this class is about.
Then he elaborated on each projected item, beginning with purpose.
“Before telling stories,” he began “you must know the purpose. Ask yourself, ‘Am I trying just to entertain my audience? Or am I trying to educate them or moralize? Or is my purpose political propaganda?’”
“Governments have long used stories to propagandize their citizens. Example are the Soviet Union’s musical story of Peter and the wolf, in which Peter represented the Soviet entity and the wolf represented the capitalist nations, Hitler’s fable about Aryan purity that led to the holocaust and presumably to World War two, and in Japan, the fables of racial purity and American weakness which led to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and ultimately to the atomic bomb, and destruction and occupation of Japan’s major cities,” he said.
“Telling stories for entertainment is what I do best,” he said, “but sometimes I tell stories to educate my audience about history or ancient myths. Despite government offers of remuneration, I absolutely to tell government propaganda stories.”
“To tell a story,” he continued, “you must know who your audience is. It would be ridiculous to tell a fairy to elderly seniors in a retirement home, just as it would be silly to tell a group of five-year-olds, the story of the latest political scandal.
“With regard to the protagonist, since he or she is who leads the story, the protagonist’s character must be fleshed out, perhaps with the details of birth, childhood and other places lived, activities, philosophical outlook, friendships and current status.
“The circumstances in which the story takes place comes next. This might involve a detailed description of the location. For example, if the story takes place in a living room, it is appropriate to describe it in detail.
“The opening line of your story sets the telling. An example is as follows In the town of Rock Hill, Colorado, two miners competed for mines with veins of silver. That immediately lets your audience know that the story is about silver mining and the competition between two miners.
“Then it is time to tell the story.
“The story’s conclusion is the end of the tale. If the story has a moral or a surprise for the listener, this is where to locate it.”
The students, who had taken notes on their tablets and cell phones filed out. Abel Raconteur was about to leave for home when student Marie Quizner approached him. “Professor Raconteur, I have written a short story and wonder if you would critique it,” she asked.
“Is it suitable for the ears of my wife and children?” he asked.
“Read it and then decide,” she responded, handed him a printed out version and left.
Professor Raconteur read the printed out text: This is a story for mature people. However, it has some historical material that may interest high school and college students.
Sammy Small grew up in Brooklyn. He and his brother Mick played baseball with their father on Brooklyn’s sandlots. He was good friends with Isaac Kahan,a Jewish boy. What they had in common was and interest in math and the study of French. Isaac taught Sammy a combination of French and Yiddish which resulted in the oft repeated sentence “Je pence azoy” meaning I think so.
Sammy loved his quiet sister Lucy and her ability in math. His brother Mick, he got along with but just. Sammy and his friend Isaac were friends with a group of other boys with whom they played almost daily games of Chinese handball. Whenever a dispute arose about whether a ball was “In” or “Out”, Sammy was the peacemaker who convinced the disputants to play a do over. It was part of his temperament to remain calm and to think things out.
After graduation from James Madison high school, Sammy entered Brooklyn College’s pre-law school with the intention of pursuing a career in environmental law. But what he proposed world events disposed and World War II in Europe and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor led to Sammy’s being drafted along with his brother Mick.
Although his friend Isaac managed to go to naval officers training and become commissioned, Sammy turned down a similar opportunity saying, “I’m no different or better than ordinary GIs or grunts, and I don’t want to give orders that could put one’s life in danger. He remained an infantryman private first class after completing training and promotion from recruit.
The army sent him to the European theatre where he became a lineman stringing communication lines from the front back to the officers in charge. Sammy was caught up in the unit that served in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
The Battle of the Bulge, also called the Ardennes counteroffensive took place over the period December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945. It was the last major German offensive operation on the western front during the war. The German army launched the offensive in the heavily forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg to stop the allies using the port of Antwerp hoping to split the allied lines and force the allies to negotiate a peace treaty favorable to the axis powers.
Because of allied overconfidence and poor aerial surveyance, the German army completely surprised the allies, launching the attack during poor weather conditions that grounded the superior allied air forces. American units withstood the worst of the attack that took place on a weakly defended sector. However, the Germans sustained heavy tank and aircraft losses.
Sammy was carrying out his lineman duties when he suffered a wound from German rifles. Battalion medics rescued him. The army flew him to the seventy-seventh evacuation hospital in England.
While Sammy was there, he spent time renewing his boyhood love for math. That led to his doing a statistical analysis that showed little difference in the likelihood of his sustaining a second wound if he returned to his unit a week earlier than planned. He asked to go back to his unit a week sooner than planned.
The army medics granted his request. He was soon back at his job of stringing communications wires from the front line to headquarters. A German sniper shot him. The army again evacuated him to the seventy-seventh evacuation hospital in England. Sammy now had two purple hearts.
The war ended with the German surrender. Sammy, returned to his unit and contacted his brother Mick, whose blond hair and blue eyes had him passing as the child of German immigrants. Mick used the deception to advantage and enjoyed the favors of frauleins. Sammy was not enthusiastic about his brother’s behavior.
The war ended. Peace prevailed. Sammy and Isaac took advantage of the G.I. bill and continued their studies, with Isaac earning an engineering degree from New York University and Columbia University’s awarding Sammy the Juris Doctor.
Both men married and raised families. But they did not reestablish their friendship until Isaac read a story in the New York Times about an environmental lawsuit that ended in victory for Sammy.
Isaac contacted Sammy. They reestablished their friendship that lasted until Sammy’s last year.
Abel Raconteur told Marie Small that he thought her story was well told and suitable for the audience to which she addressed it. He asked her, “How did you learn all the details about which you wrote?”
Marie responded, “Sammy Small was my grandfather. He did not talk much about his service, so I looked into its history. My uncle Mick helped out. My husband Jack Quizner thought I should write the story.
The Story of Peter and the Wolf Used as Propaganda
Abel Raconteur tried to educate his students in how political entities use stories as propaganda. He chose Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf to illustrate his theme. Here is what he said, “In 1941 Basil Rathbone recorded Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf Opus 67(Russian Пе́тя и волк», translation “Pétya i volk written in 1936. It is supposed to be a symphonic fairy tale for children. However, the Soviet Union used it as a propaganda device in which Peter stands in for the Soviets and the wolf for capitalists.
“Rathbone tells a children’s story while the orchestra illustrates it. In the story, Peter who is a young Soviet pioneer, living at his grandfather’s home in a forest clearing goes out into the cleared ground leaving the garden gate open. The duck that lives in the yard plumps into a nearby pond. The duck has an argument with a small bird that asks, “What kind of a bird are you if you cannot fly?”
“The duck responds with, ‘What kind of a bird are you if you cannot swim?’
“Peter’s cat sees his chance, but Peter warns them and the bird flies to the top of a tree and the duck swims to the middle of the pond.
“Peter’s grandfather tells Peter that he should not be out in the meadow alone. He asks him, ‘What would you do if a wolf came out of the forest?’
“Peter responds with, ‘Boys like me are not afraid of wolves.’
“His granddad takes Peter back into the house and locks the gate.
“Just then a big, grey wolf comes out of the forest. Peter’s cat climbs a tree, but the wolf chases the duck, who has jumped out of the pond and swallows the duck whole.
“Peter gets a rope and climbs over the garden wall into the tree. He asks the little bird to fly around the wolf’s head as a distraction. That works and Peter lowers a noose that catches the wolf by its tail. The wolf’s struggles tighten the noose the Peter has tied to the tree.
“Hunters come out of the woods to shoot the wolf that they have been following. But Peter gets them to take the wolf to a zoo in a victory parade. Peter and the Wolfe was first performed for the Young Pioneers during May Day celebrations that included Peter, the bird, the hunters leading the wolf, the cat and the grumpy old grandfather who asks, ‘What if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf? What then?’
“The story ends with Rathbone telling the children, “If you listen very carefully, you’ll hear the duck quacking inside the wolf’s belly because the wolf had swallowed her alive.
“Prokofiev gave each character its own orchestral instrument: the bird a flute; the duck an oboe; the cat a clarinet that played staccato in a low register; the grandad a bassoon; the wolf three horns; Peter by the string quartet; the hunters shooting by the kettle and bass drums.
“Rathbone’s recounting of the story made it wildly popular in the United States, especially among communists and their fellow sympathizers who understood the Soviet Union’s underlying propaganda value.
“But many Americans were innocent of the political meaning and just enjoyed the story and the music.”
Margie Budinova was born and raised in the Czech town of Ostrava. Margie was quick witted and talented in mathematics. She did well in her studies, becoming especially fluent in German and English. On graduation from high school, she studied mechanical engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Zittau/Görlitz, Germany where the tuition was free. She met classmate Heinz Bacher in her advanced calculus class.
Margie and Heinz became more than close friends because of their common interests. They met often in Zittau’s Mocca bar to share cocktails and conversation. Eventually they shared a flat. And slept together. When Margie became pregnant, Heinz insisted on an abortion. Margie, a devout Catholic was appalled. She broke off her relationship with Heinz, gave birth to a son and handed the baby to a nearby orphanage. She never saw her child again.
Devastated by giving up her child, Margie dropped out of school and emigrated to the United States. She found a small apartment in Brooklyn and contacted an employment agency. All they had to offer was work as a live-in maid in the home of a Jewish family, the Gundersons, with four children, headed by Max and his wife Rachel.
Margie knew very little about Jewish culture. It was a surprise to her that the family was little different than their Christian neighbors. When Max spoke Yiddish to Rachel, Margie understood what they were saying because of Yiddish’s similarity to Plat Deutsch. But Max and Rachel spoke Yiddish only when they did not want their children to understand what they were talking about. Otherwise they sounded just like other Americans.
The Gundersons gave Margie a small room off the hall that lead to the children’s bedrooms, the communal bathroom, and the master bedroom that had its own bathroom with shower and other facilities. Margie continued paying rent on her apartment, not knowing how long her job would last.
To her surprise, she received a text on her cell phone from Heinz Bacher. It was straightforward and simply said, “I have immigrated to Brooklyn and would like to see you.”
She did not know how to answer. His having fathered the child that she gave up did not make him high on her list of people she wanted to see. But then she remembered the good times in Zittau/Görlitz and the warmth of his body as she slept next to him. She responded, “Come see me.”
She texted him the address of the Gundersons. He visited.
Rachel Gunderson was not enthusiastic about Heinz’s visit. She made sure to tell Margie that when her boyfriend visited, the door to Margie’s room must stay ajar.
On his first visit Heinz spoke about the revival of German pride, exemplified by the Alternative for Germany (AfD). He asked Margie, “How can you work and sleep in a Jewish Household?”
Margie who grew up without an anti-Semitic bone in her body responded with, “How can you ask such a question? Wasn’t it enough that the Nazis murdered more than six-million people?”
Heinz responded, “Well, not all their ideas were wrong.”
Margie thought for a bit, then said, “Heinz, You and I have different views of life. The Gundersons treat me with respect and kindness. That they are Jews doesn’t bother me. They are as American as anyone else. And their oldest boy has joined the marines. Perhaps we should no longer see each other.”
Heinz left disgruntled.
There was much excitement in the Gunderson household when they got the news that Max Gunderson’s cousin Joseph Gunderson was emigrating from Russia to the United States and would relocate to Brooklyn to be near his relatives. When he arrived, the family saw a polished, well-dressed man with a charming smile and a command of English. Max said, “Of course you’ll stay with us until you get settled.”
Cousin Joseph agreed. The Gundersons gave him their marine son David’s bedroom into which he moved. What the Gundersons did not realize about cousin Joseph was that in Russia he was well known as a ladies man and had many affairs with willing women. He cast a speculative eye on Margie. It did not take long for them to become more than friends. To Margie it was a relief to go to bed with a vigorous young man. She had felt deprived and dissatisfied with using stimulating devices.
But Joseph was curious. He asked her about her background. When she told him about her studies at the University of Applied Sciences in Zittau/Görlitz, he asked, “Would you like to go on with your study of mechanical engineering?”
Margie answered, “Study in the United States is not free as it is in Zittau/Görlitz and I barely get by as a housemaid to the Gunderson family. So, how can I think of continuing as a mechanical engineering student. I have my undergraduate degree from the University of Applied Sciences in Zittau/Görlitz, but it seems to have made no difference when I applied for engineering jobs in the United States.”
“Would you like to get a graduate degree in a country where tuition is free?” Joseph asked.
Margie responded, “It is a dream that I’m afraid will remain unfulfilled.”
“Not So,” Joseph said, “I have contacts with people at the Technion in Haifa Israel. I’m sure I can get you a place. It would mean that you would enter Israel as a Czech citizen and give up your efforts to become an American citizen.”
Margie took advantage of Joseph’s offer. Before she knew it she arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. She had no knowledge of Hebrew or Arabic. But fortunately, many signs were also in English. Margie’s only experience with Jews was the Gunderson family, and they were as typically American as Christians. She had little experience with people of color, Hispanics, Asians or other members of the polyglot nation.
The Technion had its own Ulpan (Hebrew: אולפן) An ulpan is an institute for the intensive study of the Hebrew language. “teaching”, or “instruction”. (Hebrew: אולפן). The word means studio.
People at the Technion helped Margie to find living quarters in a secular neighborhood. She had passed through an area of haredim when she visited Jerusalem and had been called whore in Yiddish because she was not wearing a head covering and her arms. She pretended not to understand. Once her understanding of Hebrew was reasonably good, she could not understand how the Israeli government depended on what she though was a backward bunch of people living in the past. And she was aware that they had more children than most other Israelis.
Margie also taught her self some Arabic. She sympathized with the displaced Arabs and the poor people in Gaza. But she hadn’t come to Israel to deal in politics. She was happy in her little flat because she dreaded the steep Carmelite.
With the passage of time the Technicon awarded Margie the Master of Mechanical Engineering flowed by a doctorate. Margie took a job with Mobileye who sent her to New York. She could now afford a studio apartment in Brooklyn. One of the first things Margie did after getting settled was to phone the Gundersons. They invited her and Joseph Gunderson to dinner, where the conversation was all about her having won her Master and PhD at the Technion and he job at Mobileye.
Max Gunderson aske Margie if she intended to apply for American citizenship. She responded with, “The current administration is so awful that having American citizenship is no longer desirable. And things in Israel are very confused, with the prime minister under indictment for fraud. I think I’ll just stay a Czech citizen for now.”
Joseph Gunderson eyed Margie speculatively. He said, “I have a studio apartment in the Park slope area, not far from where you ;ve. We could visit and stay one night at your place and one night at mine.”
Margie responded, “Joseph, it is not that I am ungrateful for your getting me into the Technion. But while I was studying there, I met an Israeli engineer. We became friends, the lovers. I will see him on my periodic visits to Israel. Who knows. I may become an Israeli wife. But I will retain my Czech citizenship.
Joseph responded, “Well, it is a large ocean and there are many other fish in it.”
They went out to dinner at a kosher restaurant.
Lai Hing Guie’s grandparents supported Chan Kai Shek and the Kuomintang. After Mao’s communist forces beat them, and their retreat to Formosa, now called Taiwan, her grandparents, devout Baptists managed to get away to the united States. They settled in Palo Alto; a suburb of San Francisco inhabited by other immigrants from their province of Guizhou (Canton).
Měiguó chūshēng huáyì (a term for natural born American citizens of Chinese descent, excluding first generation immigrants) Lai Hing grew up speaking the English she learned in elementary school. But in her home, the family spoke the Cantonese dialect. The family dined out in Palo Alto’s Chinatown and sometimes traveled to one of San Francisco’s Chinatowns for Sunday morning Dim Sung.
Lai Hing was a good student torn between studying Chinese history and engineering. After graduating from high school, she entered the University of California in Berkeley, majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in Chinese history.
In her Chinese history studies, she became especially interested in the Christian missionary movement that led to her family’s adherence to the Baptist church. The more deeply she studied the more she wondered how a small number of Jews could have had such a large effect on the world’s history. There were many Jewish students in her classes, who competed successfully with Chinese-American and Japanese-American students in her engineering classes, especially in advanced math classes. A few wore scull caps, but most were secular.
Lai Hing, who had been a devout Baptist and grew up regularly attending Sunday school, attributed it to their being descendants of Jacob who, with the help of his mother, Rebekah stole his brother Esau’s blessing. In her mind, Esau’s descendants were the base of the president’s supporters. She reviled the president and the people who had voted for him. She left the Baptist church, much to her parents’ distress and professed atheism.
Some other students of Chinese ancestry in her classes spoke Mandarin. Thy looked down on the Cantonese speakers. Lai Hing decided to learn Mandarin. She enrolled in a Babel course of Mandarin. Learning was easy for Lai Hing. She already knew the ideograms. Al she had to do was to learn to speak in the appropriate way and to learn Chinese Mandarin culture. Very quickly she became proficient in Mandarin.
Lai Hing’s proficiency in math and other engineering studies, earned her first a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree, then a Master of Mechanical Engineering and finally the university awarded her a doctorate. She took a position with Saama, an artificial intelligence start up. The family decided to visit China to celebrate.
Lai Hing’s family had traveled to China as tourists, visiting many historic sites and walking on the Great Wall. But they had had difficulty in making themselves understood because all the officials spoke Mandarin and the few citizens that would interact with them spoke their own dialects. Now she told her family that they should make another visit to China, where she would act as their interpreter speaking Mandarin to officials and the Cantonese dialect to the people in their ancient province.
Shortly after their arrival, the Chinese government arrested Lai Hing, confined her in Beijing and accused her of spying on behalf of the United States. The Chinese did not confine her family but held their passports. Wei Guie, Lai Hing’s father visited the United States Consul’s offices to seek help. The administrator gave him the names of Chinese lawyers who could take on the task of defending Lai Hing.
Eventually her case was tried. The government used as evidence Lai Hing’s fluency in Mandarin and her family’s speaking only Cantonese, and her employment with Saama. Despite her lawyer’s best effort, she was convicted as a spy and sentenced to five years of hard labor.
Lai Hing’s case became a cause celebre in the negotiations between the Chinese and American governments. To smooth the negotiations, the Chinese release Lai Hing, returned her passport and the passports of her family on compassionate grounds and forbid them from ever entering China again.
The family flew home. Lai Hing went to her new office at Saama, where she was welcomed as an American hero.
During my long career in engineering, I became a consultant to nuclear power companies. Although most of my work had to do with closed feedwater heater, the nuclear engineering groups often asked for my expertise on other matters related to the design, construction and operation of nuclear power plants.
It was on a visit to a coastal nuclear power plant that I found that the string of feedwater heaters, pumps and reactor was located in the basement with the steam surface condenser on the top floor. I asked myself, What would happen if a tidal flow surge filled the basement room with seawater?
I knew the answer. The plant would be devastated and there would be a nuclear disaster. I made my views known loud and clear. Nobody listened. I felt like a modern day Cassandra. The few who responded said that it would be too costly to design the plants with the reactors, pumps, and feedwater heaters on a higher floor out of the way of a seawater surge.
I continued offering my expertise on both fossil and nuclear power stations. But in the back of my mind was always thought that a nuclear disaster would strike one day, and that all the efforts to contain it would be costly and mostly unsuccessful.
Then on March eleventh two-thousand eleven, the Tohoku earthquake struck followed but the tsunami that overwhelmed the protective sea wall. The reactors automatically shut down their fission reaction. But the waters from the tsunami put pit put out of commission the emergency generators that should have provided power to operate and control the pumps required to cool the reactor. That led to three nuclear meltdowns , hydrogen-air explosions and the release of radioactive material from units one, two and three from March twelfth to the fifteenth. The loss of cooling also raised concerns about the spent fuel pool of reactor four, but which fortunately did not boil down to threatening levels.
Investigations showed that the cause of the accidents had been foreseeable and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) had failed to take appropriate The Fukushima disaster was the most significant nuclear incident since the 26 April 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the second disaster to be given the Level 7 event classification of the International Nuclear Event Scale.
There is an ongoing intensive Fukushima disaster cleanup program to both decontaminate affected areas and decommission the plant, which the plant management estimate will take some 30 or 40 years. A frozen soil barrier has been constructed in an attempt to prevent further contamination of seeping groundwater, which is slowing down the amount of contaminated water that is collected. TEPCO estimates that the barrier is reducing water flows by about 95 tonnes a day compared to 2016. The water collected is treated and all radioactive elements are successfully removed, except for tritium.
My warnings that came true earned me considerable additional consulting engagements. It was a small comfort.
Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream
The retirement home where I live is the Academy in Boulder, Colorado. It is one of the best of its kind but very expensive. Each Sunday morning at eleven am, the Academy serves a champagne brunch. After an earlier snack, I am in the dining room bright and early. After treating myself to smoked salmon of a few shrimp, some vegetables, nits and crackers, I usually order the same thing: a small orange juice, two fried eggs, potato chips, and a hot chocolate with whipped cream accompanied by a chocolate chip cookie. That once-a-week indulgence goes on winter, summer, spring and fall.
I wipe the whipped cream mustache away and return to my apartment for nap, to read the Sunday, New York Times and watch the awful news on my large screen television. During baseball season, I watch the Colorado Rockies games. During foot ball season it is the Broncos games that I watch.
As dinner hour approaches, I go out with my son Larry, his wife Rita and, when they are available my granddaughters Stephani and Katie. Larry brings me home early, helps me prepare for bed, and soon I am fast asleep ready for the next morning’s swim in the Academy lap pool and Monday breakfast.
As they say in Germany, “Also geht es.”
A Sad Story
In 1929 Israel Yankel and his buddies, Stanley Brill, Stanley Schneider and a few other kids spent their summer vacation in the weed grown lota on the south side of Church Avenue between Albany Avenue and forty-econd street. The weeds in the lots were so high that the boys could not vw seen by anyone the sidewalk, Being hidden in the weeds made it the perfect place to play cowboys and indians, cops and robbers, and allies and Germans.
All the boys had cap pistols with which the shot each other as their games required. For each game they would choose who played cops, who played robbers or who were the cowboys and who the indians. But when it came to allies and Germans the hatred for Germans that followed their parents‘ hatredwas so fierce that only one boy, Fred Harris would play the part of a German soldier.
Fred’s true name was Fritz Paradies. But he called himself Fred Harris, and that is the name his mother used when she signed him up for elementary school. Fred’s mother, Caroline, was the widow of German soldier Heinz Paradies, who lost his life in the trenches of the Western front.
After the war ended she became involved with Mark Harris, an American seargant. They married and Mark brought his wife and her young son to Brooklyn where he grew up. Caroline had applied for American citizenship and was undergoing the long process of study leading to it. Mark intended to adopt Fritz but hadn’t got to it.
Fritz continued in school as Fred Harris. In the summer games he was the only boy who willingly took the part of a German soldier. He sported a disabled Mauser pistol that Mark had brought home as a souvenir.
But unadopted Fred Harris was unhappy, especially when the other kids called Germans Dutchmen and sang the song Kill another Dutchman. Kill another Dutchman. One mor leess will do no harm. So kill another dutchman kill another Dutchman.
He was unable to convince the other kids that Germans are not Dutchmen, and tha German soldiers had served with bravery and honor. The other kids thought he was weird for always playing a German soldier in their gamed.
Fritz became so depressed that he thought of ending his life. He wrote a note that said in German Mein Name ist Fritz Paradies. Mein Vater starb als Soldat. Meine Mutter hat einen amerikanischen Soldaten geheirate. Der Krieg ist verloren. Der kaiser dankte ab. Ich werde alles beenden. (My name is Fritz Paradies. My father died as a soldier. My mother married an American soldier. The war is lost. The Kaiser absconded. I intend to end it all.)
Fritz put the suicide note in his personal diary and stowed it in his desk. Every so often he would take the note out and contemplate it. When school opened in the fall and the summer games in the weeds on the Church Avenue lots ended, Fritz found that he had a new man teacher, Mr. Lederer.
After the daily recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and the pledge of allegiance, Mr. Lederer launched into an encomium for his father. He spoke of how his father, who had been an infantry captain defied the Huns who were murdering innocent people and sneered at the Kaiser and his military staff.
It devastated Fritz. After school let out he looked into the Harris garage and found a half-inch thick coiled rope. He took the often looked at note from his diary, put it into an envelope which he sealed and marked Mutter. He carried the coil of rope to a tree, made a noose at its bitter end and threw the noose over a limb. Then he climbed the tree, fastened the rope above the noose, donned the noose, pulled it snug and jumped.
When his mother missed him for dinner she went looking only to find his lifeless body swinging in the wind. The envelope addressed to her lay on the ground near the tree. Caroline read the note with horror and guilt.
The police came and cut Fritz down. The Brooklyn daily Eagle had a column about boys’ games. Caroline buried her son in a non-consecrated grave in the cemetery where Mark Harris’s family and ancestors were intered.
Next summer, when the kids played allies and Germans, none would play Germans. They gave it up in favor of cops and robbers.
In the late spring, summer and early fall, many performers come to the Boulder, Colorado mall to entertain residents and visitors. The Boulder police deal gently with the spare changers, and ticket bicycle riders who ride their bikes on the mall instead of walking them. The restaurants open their outdoor facilities and people watch what is going on while they dine.
Among the things that go on are a woman who plays an upright piano, violinists squeaking out classical pieces and rag tunes, a man who folds himself into a plastic box and slack rope walkers. Each one has a hat or violin case to collect donations from the onlookers.
One of the oddest things to see is a beat up old wagon in which lies a dog named Marty, on top of whom lies a cat named Scratchy on top of whom lies a mouse named Mousey. Seated next to the wagon is a bearded, middle-aged hippy, smoking a corn cob pipe. Some residents were certain that it was not tobacco in the pipe but weed. But once marijuana for recreational use became legal, no one cared.
I had lunch at what used to be the Brooklyn Bakery – I don’ remember what its new name was. Seated at an outdoor table, with my copy of a free newspaper, I glanced up often at the sweet young things passing by in short shorts. I was more interested in parents with the recent crop of babies.
A youngster approached the wagon with the dog, car and mouse and asked the Hippy, “Aren’t dogs and cats supposed to be enemies? And aren’t cats supposed to catch mice?”
The hippie answered, “Well, son, that’s the conventional way things are done. But we four are all friends. We eat together, play together and sleep together.”
“Where do you live?” the boy asked.
“We have a trailer in the trailer park where the Hispanics live. Sometimes, I can barely pay the rent. So why don’t you ask your momma to contribute. I’ll bet she’s never seen a dog a cat and a mouse so happy with each other.”
“I’ll ask, but my mom says to stay away from bums.”
The hippie drew himself up indignantly and said, “Tell your mom I am not a bum. I have a doctorate in English literature from UC Berkeley.”
The boy went to his mother and they had a long conversation. He came back and asked the hippy, “My mom wants to know what a man with a PhD in English literature is doing sitting on the mall with a weird bunch of animals and asking for donations?”
The hippie answered, “Tell your mom that I am living out English literature,” he said.
The boy came back and dropped a ten-dollar bill in the wagon.
Growing Old in Boulder
I grew up in the east Flatbush and Flatlands sections of Brooklyn. From the time I was about nine, I exercised vigorously every day, mostly playing games that required lots of running around, learning to box and swim and swimming. The physical activity and time I spent outdoors that my parents thought were good and natural stood me in good stead when I joined the navy after the Japanese attacked our fleet at Pearl Harbor. The navy sent me to the reserve battalion of midshipmen at the naval academy, where being physically fit was a plus. The navy commissioned me an ensign. The night of my graduation and commissioning as an engineering officer, I married my beloved wife Edie. The engineering assigned me as the engineering officer of a Landing Ship Tank (LST) that saw combat in the Pacific theater.
After the war ended, no matter where we lived, I resumed my daily workouts, encouraged by Edie who was also an outdoors person and physically fit. During the time we lived on the east coast, scuba diving and bicycle riding were regular activities including many long distance bicycle rides and a solo coast-to-coast ride on a ten-speed bike to celebrate my fifty-ninth birthday.
A second career as an engineering consultant began after selling my first business manufacturing pressure vessels and heat exchangers to a mini-conglomerate. One day, my son Mike suggested that it would be just as easy for me to consult if I moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he and my younger son Larry lived. We sold our New Jersey home and bought a ranch house in Boulder. Mike was right. Consulting while living in Boulder continued without interruption.
The inhabitants of Boulder are known for the physical fitness and outdoor activities. On the whole, they are among the most physically fit in the nation. We fit right in. The town held a foot race called the Bolder Boulder each year. I ran it twice. Edie walked it.
My first Colorado bike ride was to Golden where my nephew Steven and his wife lived. It was about thirty miles each way and on the way back, I hit a rail and took a header, getting gravel in my backside. Before returning home I visited the emergency room for repairs.
There was a bicycle ride called the Morgul Bismark, about thirty three mile and hilly. I rode that on my ten speed bike and later on my 18-speed mountain bike solo and with my son Mike.
Mike had built a house in Sunshine Canyon, and I rode up to visit and on to Estes Park. He and I rode up the Lefthand canyon/Lee Hill ride together. Weekends I often started the day with a rid up the Flagstaff Road to the summit where I sat and looked out over the plains. Om one such ride, a tourist asked me if I had ridden my bike up from Boulder. When ai told him I had, he asked me how old I was. I was sixty-five at the time. He cautioned me about having a heart attack.
When I was sixty-eight, Mike and I rode a loop around the south island of New Zealand. That was during the first gulf war.
During these years, I continued scuba diving with my dive partner George Guie. Mike continued rock climbing, bought a boat, sailed it across the Atlantic, bought a bigger newer bowt and sailed it across the Pacific. Larry skied every moment he could, and June hiked with her dogs and friends. It seemed like we could go on doing these things on forever. But the passage of time brings with it growing older.
My beloved wife Edie suffered from vascular dementia. Mike helped me sell our home and move into the Academy retirement home, where at first, I continued to ride one of my bikes, then put it away, gave it away and confined my activities to swimming in the Academy pool.
Mike’s rock-climbing buddies quit the sport as they aged. He still climbs but far less often. Larry still skies, despite some health problems. June still walks in the California woods and mountains. But I am now nearly ninety-seven and use a walker. No longer are physical activities other than swimming feasible for me. And my children are all slowing down.It has been a great voyage to grow older in Boulder.
A principal cause of death in the elderly is falling. That’s why so many elderly people use canes, walkers and wheelchairs. At the retirement home, where I live, most of the residents use the services of caregivers, some of whom are on the facility’s staff and other provided by outside companies.
I was waiting for my caregiver to come with my to Sunday brunch with my family, and trying to slip into my shoes, when I stumbled and landed on my bottom with a thud. Soon after my caregiver arrive and found me on the floor. With her help, I managed to get into my living room chair. I decided against my daily swim, took off my swim suit, dressed and returned to my living room chair where I read the newspaper and watched the news on my big screen TV.
Despite having a pain in my backside, I met my family for brunch. We ate and talked. It was the best part of my day. For the rest of the day, and in the future, I will be very careful not to do things that lead to my stumbling. Soon, it will be my 97th birthday. With a little luck, the help of my various doctors and the medicines they prescribe, I might vote in the next presidential election. You can guess for whom I will vote and the party he or she belongs to.
 Cary Orbino and Aaron Wolle are Academy employees
 The names of the residents in this story are fictitious.
 A woman who meddles in the business of others; a busybody; a female gossip monger.
You Have to Learn to Hate
Lonzo was the third child of three, born eight years after his sister Janet. His mother had been satisfied with having a son and daughter, Mark and Janice. But his father Samson missed having a little one to play with and convinced his wife Edna. She agreed and Lonzo was born in Paterson, NJ the large town nearest to their home in Fair Lawn.
Having been convinced to have another little one, Edna chose the name Lonzo Jayson. Her other children were growing up so fast that Lonzo became her favorite. Lonzo was a serious child who seemed to have a sense of awe about the world into which he was born. After seeing trains on the nearby tracks Lonzo was enamored of them, Mark took him to watch the trains after dinner most evenings. That ended when a locomotive engineer offered to have Lonzo ride with him. Mark handed Lonzo up to the engineer. The noise of the engine terrified Lonzo and he broke into tears. That ended watching the trains.
While Mark and Janice were in their nearby elementary school, Edna, took on the role of a devoted home owner in their small, happy home. She was vacuuming the carpet on the stairs from the first floor to the bedroom floor when the vacuum slipped and pulled her down. She bounced on her bottom down the stairs. The result was a herniated disc that led to a milogram, a trip by ambulance to the New York Medical center where she stayed for sixteen weeks while being treated conservatively.
During that period, Samson was forced to place Lonzo in a child care nursery. Each morning, when he dropped Lonzo off was filled with tears and Lonzo’s begging not to leave him. Samson did not know what else to do. He was the vice president of a start-up that required his efforts to succeed. He tried hiring a housekeeper. But the one the employment agency provided was harsh to Mark and Janice, cooked meals that were far too salty. Samson fired her when Mark asked him if Janice couldn’t prepare the meals saying, “Janice is a better cook than that grouchy old hag. And she’s always telling us what to do.
Lonzo made one good friend at the day care center, an African-American boy. They became best buddies. He had never learned to hate. Samson and his three children visited Edna in the hospital. The rules did not permit parents to take children to patient floors. Edna was on the sixteenth floor. Samson picked up Lonzo, put him on his shoulders and walked up the sixteen flights.
Edna was delighted to see her family, especially her little Lonzo. She gave him a hug, turned to Janice and instructed her on how to prepare the turkey for the forthcoming Thanksgiving dinner.
Lonzo told his mom, “Mom,” he said, “I hate that place dad takes me to before he goes to work. I have only one friend, Jeremy.”
He did not mention that Jeremy was black because it made no difference to him. No one had taught Lonzo to hate.