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RPG Digest



RPG Digest

March 2021


Copyright 2021 by the RPG Partnership

All rights reserved


No portion of this work may be reproduced without prior written permission from


RPG Partnership

151 Quarterdeck Townes

New Bern, NC 28562


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Thanks to all these talented writers who have contributed to every issue of RPG Digest with such enthusiasm. Photos by Betsy Breedlove and P. L. Almanza



march cover breedlove.jpg

Table of Contents

It’s People Like You. 3

And for making me feel alive. 3

Update. 3

In London During the Blitz. 4

Introduction to 2021 Submissions. 8

March Thoughts. 10

Vine and Branches. 12

Someone asked the other day,,,,,,,,,,,, 13

An Adventure. 14

Tennessee Williams. 17

The Battle of the Lake. 21

Things/People/Places Left Behind. 21

Butterfly. 22

No Parent Left Behind. 23

Emergence. 23

Something to Ponder. 25

Diogenes the Cynic. 26

Hammer Spade and the Four Horsemen. 29

March Horoscope. 40

Men Say They Don’t Understand Women. 42

My Secret to a Long Life. 43

Say Hello to My Little Friends! 44

The Haymaker. 47

The Error of Our Ways. 48

The Say What Dept. 49

Loreley. 51

Laws Not Taught in Physics. 52

Motherhood. 53

Lexophile. 53

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 57

The Diary of Samuel Pepys. 57

Different Perspectives. 61

Contributors. 61


It’s People Like You

Laura A. Alston


It’s people like you who make this a beautiful world.

Your smile lights up your face and makes me feel warm

Even when it is in the deep of winter.

People are always drawn to your specialness.


It’s people like you who create a safe haven

Even when things are shaky and unsure.

You are a steadying force that’s always welcomed

In a world where chaos is often present.


It’s people like you who make life worthwhile.

You add color to an otherwise gray existence.

Thank you for all of your caring ways

And for making me feel alive





A lot has changed for me since December 31, 2020. I have moved into my retirement home in New Bern, NC. This is my second stint in New Bern. My first telephone company assignment was here 64 years ago. I was a lineman. I moved nine times for the phone company. Ended up in a corner office at headquarters in Wake Forest.

My most interesting location was Richlands, Virginia, a mountain town north of Bristol, TN/VA. The city of Bristol is in two states, ie: Twin Cities.  My house was on a mountainside 2258’ above sea level. The house behind mine was at 30’ lower elevation. Picture postcard sunrise views over the tops of mountains every cloud free day. I still communicate with friends at all locations.

I was active in the Lions Club at the time. When I was appointed Vision Chairman on the district board, I visited every Lions Club in Southwest Virginia. It was an experience I will never forget. After my speech in Wytheville, I was elected honorary member and given a Club Membership badge, which I still have.

I have outlived most of my friends from those days of yore. Paul Lallande, of Richlands is retired and traveling for golf constantly. Jerry and Betsy Breedlove are still active and I have been using her excellent mountain scene photos in the magazine.

Tim Whealton is still alive and kicking. I now live about 10 minutes from his home. Every Friday in Cove City, he and his cronies meet for a “bring something with you” lunch. I take Bojangle’s sweet potato pies for my contribution; they are a big hit with the country crowd.

The saddest note is that one of my very best literary friends, in addition to being my friend in every sense, Rita Berman has passed. I miss her every day. I plan to continue to use her voluminous store of commentary in the magazine.

At any rate, the magazine is back in business and I hope you enjoy this issue,


In London During the Blitz

Rita Berman


England declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.  I was seven years old, living next door to my grandparents in the East End of London when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made this announcement. As a child, I had no comprehension what this meant but soon I knew that war means violence, waves of planes flying overhead and dropping bombs and explosives.

My Grandfather, Barnett Mishkin had left Suvalki, Russia in the 1890s at the age of 17 to escape being conscripted into the Russian Army. His family had carried on the craft of blacksmiths for generations. After the assassination of the Czar there was much anti-semitism against Jews. Consequently some Jews fled to England, others to the United States or South Africa.

By 1911 in spite of uprooting himself to a new country, Barnett owned a blacksmithery/garage called Woodseer Garage Motors in the East End. When he was 23 years old he married Annie Fisher, another immigrant who was born in Duinsk, Russia. They had 10 children. The youngest, my Aunt Edith was born in 1921. Barnett’s Naturalization papers issued in June 1931 indicate that, after leaving Russia, he changed his name from Alter Mishinksy to Barnett Mishkin.

Photo 3.jpgSome of my mother’s brothers and her sister Edie also lived next door. I always felt my place in the family was “special,” for I was born in 1932, the first grandchild of Barnett and Annie Mishkin, and the first girl grandchild on my father’s side of the family. The Castlemans were also immigrants to England but it was my grandmother who came first by hitch-hiking on cattle trucks on the railway and later sending for her fiancée, Jonah Kesselman.

This is my personal history of life in London during the Blitz but I realize childhood memories may be misleading. We may think we “remember” certain incidents but actually all we are doing is recalling what we were told happened.  As a result, after repeatedly hearing the stories we may retell those stories as if we had been eyewitnesses. I will indicate the source of the story wherever possible.

After the declaration of war there was a period that became known as the “Phony War” that lasted about six months when no enemy action took place. Fearful of the unknown the English government began to prepare for a German attack. Because the city of London might be a prime target it was decided that in order to protect children they should be sent away to parts of the country that were safe areas. Children as young as five or six were relocated to stay with strangers.  The intentions were good but traumatic for the children and their parents.

In the beginning some children sailed to Canada, and for a while that was to be my destiny along with my brother. We had cousins on my father’s side of the family who had already gone to Canada and the report was they were happy there. But they were older than me, these boy cousins.  However, on learning that one of the Red Cross ships was bombed and children lost their lives my mother’s fear kept us in London.

I remember hearing the first air-raid siren.  I’m unsure as to whether it was a practice run or German planes were on their way, but it was an awful wailing noise. I have the impression that my mother was standing at the top of the stairs holding my brother when the siren sounded. We rushed out into the street to go to a public shelter. In the confusion my mother was still carrying my brother while I and my baby sister ran alongside of her.

After the German planes dropped bombs on London in earnest people began to get used to hearing the air raid siren followed by the sound of anti-aircraft guns. Some areas, like the underground stations were designated as bomb shelters.

In order to save lives the British government supplied shelters for the civilian population. There were two types - one called an Anderson shelter that was designed to be put in the garden and the other an indoor Morrison shelter, was built as a large cage with a metal top intended to be placed inside the house. Crouching or lying down inside the cage the occupant would thus be protected from bricks and debris falling down.  In some houses the dining table would have to be removed to accommodate the Morrison shelter.


Building a shelter

My parents decided they didn't want the Morrison shelter and it was agreed that an Anderson shelter would be put next door in my grandparents’ garden and all of us would go into it when the siren went. There was already a door in the fence that separated our back gardens and so we had easy access.

Several of my uncles dug a large hole for the shelter.  The top had a curved metal roof, like an arch. This roof had to be strengthened by covering it with various materials like earth and small rocks. So my uncles looked around for all sorts of containers in which to pack the earth and they took away my doll house.

It was only an orange crate that my mother had turned into a doll house for me. It had just two rooms. My mother had covered the walls with scraps of wall paper and glued linoleum tile on the floor of the house, so it looked like wood.  On the outside she had nailed some wire and made some little curtains that hung from this.  Small items of doll furniture were inside, some of them, for example a chest of drawers, were made from matchboxes glued together and covered with wallpaper.  It was all very simply done and I liked playing with it. But to my uncles it was a wooden container that they needed. 

After hearing the air raid siren my mother would take the three of us children into the Anderson shelter. Inside were four small bunks, narrower than a single bed.  We had to step down into the shelter and I don’t recall it having a door, but possibly it had a wooden shield that was placed in the opening once everyone was in the shelter.  We used flashlights for there was no electricity, no air conditioning.

On some nights there may have been 6 or more people in the shelter. We children were small so were probably put on the top bunks. The others sat crouched on the bottom bunks. It was dark, no fresh air, a group of people in a confined space at night waiting for the unknown.  Eventually, after some hours, maybe towards dawn, the all-clear siren was sounded and we left the shelter and returned home.     

This went on for weeks until my mother said she was fed up with spending the night in the uncomfortable shelter and preferred to stay in our house. When the siren sounded we took blankets and pillows and hid under the side-board and dining table. This was a large mahogany table that could seat 14 people with the leaves opened. Looking back I can understand my mothers’ fatalistic attitude but at the time, being a child, I just did what my mother told me to do.

My family stayed in London all during 1940 when the bombing was incessant as the Germans tried to crush England along with Europe. The wave of planes continued for 57 consecutive nights, and that period was known as the “Blitz”. Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament suffered damage as well as the ordinary homes.  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to the East End to see the bombing destruction for themselves.

In addition to bombs we were subjected to incendiaries and explosives. Later reports said that more civilians were killed in that time period than died in active service during that time. But the spirit of the Londoners remained high.

We got used to seeing barrage balloons floating up in the sky. These were used to prevent enemy aircraft from flying too low. My cousin Edward Goldsmith remembers sleeping overnight in our grandparents’ house on Terrace Road and waking one morning to see a huge grey shape outside the window. He said it was a barrage balloon which had winched down near the ground, perhaps to be re-inflated.

The sound of the ack-ack guns (anti-aircraft) was similar to thunder and later when I was an adult and heard thunder I would sometimes get a flash back to the bombing days. Everyone was issued a gas mask, in a cardboard box with a shoulder strap. Signs were posted on hoardings, buses, and trains warning people to be careful what they said, spies might be amongst us. I remember one was “Loose Lips Sinks Ship.” Another, seen on trains was “Careless talk cost lives.” 

In the early days of the war, my father, like many civilians became a member of the Home Guard.  This required him to go out in the night after the siren had sounded and stand in the street, or on the roof of a building, and watch where the German planes dropped their bombs.  He then reported this to the fire department.


Bombed out

It was my father’s parents who had their house and factory, on Finch Street in London, destroyed by a bomb.

They were among the thousands of people who were emotionally and financially affected by the bombing. They had uprooted themselves from their birthplaces in Europe, had made a new life in what to them was a strange land and now all they had was all gone. 

Their story, as told by my Aunt Mary Freed, is that as teens in the 1890’s my Grandfather Jonah Kesselman and Grandmother Rebecca Lea Opperman lived in adjacent villages in Poland. They were courting and were caught up by a war between Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The village of Brody was then in Poland but the border shifted west and it was later in the Ukraine along with Lvov a nearby large city.

My grandmother, went to England by hitchhiking cattle trucks on the railways. She got a job, saved money to buy a sewing machine, then started a business and saved even more money to buy a ticket for her fiancé Jonah Castleman to travel out in comparative comfort. She did all this before she was 18 years old. Jonah couldn’t read or write English when he came to England and never did learn it. They spoke Yiddish at home.  

Like many immigrants their Jewish names were anglicized by the immigration officers, so Jonah Kesselman became Joseph Castleman, as did Mishinsky become Mishkin. After Joseph Castleman married Rebecca they raised a family of six children and built a “cut-make-and trim” clothing business in which two generations worked.

Photo 4.jpgLuckily no one was in the house or factory area when it was bombed. I heard that they lost their furniture, clothes, and the factory machines.  What little was saved has been treasured. One item was my father’s Good Conduct medal that he was awarded at school, when he was a little boy. The medal called "The King's Medal” is dated 1913-1914, and is for "attendance, conduct, and industry" during the year. He had not missed a single day at school for the whole year.  My Grand-daughter Tess Berman Booker now has that medal.

Having no place to live, my grandparents and two of their unmarried children, Ray and Frank, moved into an upstairs flat on Brick Lane, E. 1. Next door was a movie theatre.  A long flight of uncarpeted stairs led up to the kitchen,

dining and living rooms. It was sparsely furnished. Up another flight and there were three bedrooms and the bathroom. From the back door of the kitchen you could step out onto a small balcony area; here my grandmother raised chickens.  One of them became like a pet and used to follow her around in the kitchen

Premises for the factory were found on Davis Avenue, still in the East End of London which was where many of the immigrants had settled. When I was older and on my way to visit the factory I would pass by a street called Fashion Street.  Here were small shops that sold the buttons and trimmings needed by the various factories in the area.     

Grandfather Castleman, my father, his sisters, and even the husband of one sister, all worked together making ladies coats. My father was the cutter-designer, and presser before he went into the Army. My grandfather was a machinist, as were my aunts who sewed the coat linings. Sometimes during my visit to the factory I would help turn the coat belts right-side out, but I had no ambition to work there. 

As a child I noticed that while Grandfather Mishkin and my uncles who worked in the garage had rough hands and dirty fingernails, Grandfather Castleman had white, soft hands. Their hands revealed the work they did.

I always enjoyed seeing my grandparents. After I left school and worked in London I would visit the garage and the coat factory as well as their homes.  My Grandfather Mishkin would greet me with a big smile on his face, wipe his moustache and give me a hearty kiss and a half-crown to spend. By contrast Grandfather Castleman, sitting at his machine, would be very reserved, no kiss, but he gave me a one-pound note, eight times more than the half-crown.         


Called Up

Shortly after Chamberlain’s declaration, my Uncle Woolfie Mishkin got married in October 1939, and volunteered for the British Army. His wife Cissie said he reasoned that the phony war period would end soon and then there would be compulsory conscription. By volunteering early he thought he could secure himself a better i.e., a safer position.  It didn’t turn out that way.  After joining up in November 1939 he was put in the Royal Corps of Engineers, and served overseas in Bombay and Ceylon. His main task was to establish, operate and maintain the wireless transmitters. It wasn’t until the summer of 1946 that he left the Army. Because the Germans still aimed London as their main target my mother decided that we should move south, hoping to be out of danger.  She found a house for us in Caterham, Surrey about 15 or 20 miles away. English people pronounce it “Catrham”, while Americans say “Caterham.”

By the time we moved the government was calling up every able-bodied man and my father was no longer working in the family factory or serving in the Home Guard.  He had been conscripted into the Army and assigned to the Royal Corps of Signals.

He was 38 years old, supporting a wife and three children, not a young man, but on examination was declared fit for service.  We laughed when he told us that inside his uniform a label read, "short and portly.”  Even today, I can remember his military I.D. number.

  After he joined the Army my mother received an allowance from the government which did not cover our expenses and she said it was my Grandfather Castleman who helped out by giving her twenty-five shillings each week.  

So the Army took my father, who was a tailor and cutter-designer of ladies coats, and turned him into a lorry (truck) driver.  He said he had not driven a car before and certainly had no experience with lorries, but he was sent to the motor pool, told to sit in a large vehicle and another serviceman instructed him on how to crank the engine and shift gears.  He was directed to drive three times around the motor pool, a special circular course and was then told he was qualified: "You are now a lorry driver."

My father couldn't believe it, but that was the kind of limited training the men were given in those days.  To get the ignition started my father said he had to crank a lever.   At first he did not use his hand the correct way and broke his thumb.  He learned how to drive at night in the black out.  “It wasn’t too bad when there was a moon”, he said.

 Women were also called upon to do their bit in war time. My Aunt Mary Mishkin, Austin’s wife, worked for the government during the war in a munitions factory. Mary told me that because she was too short for her machine she had to work standing on a box.  

Cissie Mishkin was also requisitioned for government service while living in Luton.  She made camouflage netting from November 1940 until July 1942 when she left work to give birth to her first child.



Introduction to 2021 Submissions

Peggy Lovelace Ellis


Throughout 2021, I plan to submit a series of short stories set in an imaginary town in the southwest mountains of North Carolina, in the greater Asheville area.

These stories originated as sketches for secondary characters in cozy mysteries. However, the characters convinced me each had a story to tell beyond the obvious basic identity information. The characters didn’t give me any peace of mind until I wrote their stories.

Crawfordville, a town of some 10,000 people, is a character. It introduces itself and gives some of its history, then introduces the first story. At the end of the story, Crawfordville makes a couple of comments about the preceding character and introduces the next story.

I hope you enjoy these simple—some not so simple—stories of


Life in a Small town






Hello, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Crawfordville. Honesty compels me to admit the author carved me out of her own head, and had plenty of wood left over. However, I’m real to the ten thousand or so people who live within my boundaries in the beautiful southwestern mountains of North Carolina. I sit on the jagged border connecting the Blue Ridge and the Smokey Mounties. Which mountain range I occupy gives rise to questions. An eternal debate. Some people describe me as sitting in the bottom of a teacup, the sides of the cup being these glorious mountains. I not only accept that—I rejoice in it. What better place could I be?

I came into existence in 1830 when Bill Crawford had a falling out with his family in Rutherford County and crossed a few mountain ranges to get away from them. Moving west seemed the sensible thing to do at the time, although he often questioned his sanity in that first year. He slowly cleared land and built a small cabin to keep out the winter cold.

After a long, lonely winter, spring finally arrived and, with it, a man named Henry Malloy. Fortunately, he also brought his wife Isabel and her twin sister Rosabel. In the fullness of time, Bill married Rosabel, and their children joined in the fun and games of Henry and Isabel’s children.

Other families moved into the area, and I changed from a thriving village to a town, duly named for its patriarch. Then along came the northerners trying to tell southerners how to live. That didn’t set too well with the men here. When the call to arms came in 1864, they loaded their muskets and tramped out of these mountains to join the fray. Those who came back found that Sherman’s men had destroyed the church and the courthouse, as well as other buildings, on their fire-setting rampage.

With the end of the War of Northern Aggression, my people picked up the pieces of their lives and looked to the future. They erected a statue in the square to commemorate those who had fallen in battle, and they helped newcomers settle in. They rebuilt the Baptist Church on the lower end of the square and the courthouse along one side. A man who wore his collar backwards moved here and before many months passed, an Episcopal Church graced the upper end of the square. That took some getting used to by the old-timers, but they managed.

After the turn of the twentieth century, my boundaries continued to broaden. More and more people learned of the beauty of these mountains, which, at some point along the way, became known as the Great Smokies. I don’t know much about that since nobody asked my opinion. I don’t mind, you understand. When all’s said and done, besides surrounding me with unmatched beauty, these mountains give me great protection. Still, it would have been nice to be asked. Oh well, back to my story.

When the supposedly “war to end all wars” came along, more of our young men went to battle, this time in far off France. Most came back, but we’ll never forget the ones who didn’t. The rector of the Episcopal Church built a memorial plaque listing the names of all the war dead, with space for later additions. Humans being the way they are, there surely would be more wars. Unfortunately, the space was needed. World War Two, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, Beirut, two wars in the Gulf, and the continuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan all provided names.

Over the years, the one-room school building was added onto, then some new ones built. Prosperous farmers built larger barns. People moved from my heart into houses on my fringes. Other people converted the residences around the square into businesses, and life in general was good.

Like many small towns, life here centers on church and school activities. People gather on the square to visit or in the diner to eat. I’m a peaceful place, all things considered, but once in a while someone gets rambunctious. That’s why we have a police department. The county sheriff’s office is here, too. Oh, I’m not perfect by any means. Neither are my people. They complain about the same things as people in other towns—rising taxes and crowded schools, for instance. Of course, our young people, being perfectly normal, complain there’s nothing to do. They’re wrong, as you probably realize. Besides the school athletics and other enterprises, we have a bowling alley, theater, skating rink, and a swimming pool in the public park. Also, there are fairs and festivals throughout the year. So, we’ll blame their unhappiness on youth.

I’ve continued to grow and expand in both acreage and population. Many of my people have gone away to college, but most have come back to add their bit. Over the years, newcomers have added considerably to our community once the locals learned to accept them.

I’m happy to report that, although the Malloy name has died out, one of old Henry’s female descendants moved here a while back. She lives in the family home place, bless her. I still watch over two members of old Bill Crawford’s family, too.

In these early decades of a new century, I believe it’s time to tell the stories of some of my people. They’re not extraordinary or famous. They don’t go to exotic places to find their mates or fulfill themselves, whatever that means. For the most part, they’re content and lead active, productive lives. You’ll find this to be true as you read these stories.

You’ll meet Mattie, the daydreaming waitress at the diner, and Uncle Josh Crawford who questions the death of his Janie. Susan whose past merged into her future, and Nancy, a single mother with a major decision to make. Mrs. Malcolm outwits her son-in-law, Hannah receives guidance from her deceased husband, and Mrs. Jackson finds a rainbow after receiving devastating news. Caitlin befriends a ghost, Sally tangles with a fugitive, and Kate relishes the memory of her husband, regardless of others’ opinions. Then there’s Catherine, the other surviving Crawford, and her little mystery at the library, and so many others.

I hope you enjoy my people as much as I do. Even though they differ on various other subjects, they agree on one thing. I’m the greatest place in the world.

As you visit me in these stories, perhaps you’ll come to realize that I do exist somewhere other than in the author’s imagination.

When next we meet, I’ll introduce you to Uncle Josh Crawford, the last male with the name of my founder. He’s celebrated ninety some birthdays and tells anyone who will listen that he’s the great, great, great, great grandson of the founder of “his” town. I’m not sure about the number of greats he claims, but if it makes him happy, who am I to disagree?



March Thoughts

E. B. Alston


How an old mind wanders! Two literary giants named John: John Updike and John Milton. Time flies. The author of Rabbit Run, John Updike, died 13 years ago. I don’t read many novels but I did read about half of Rabbit Run in the 60s. Would that I could write with the effortless ease that his work reveals. I understand that the appearance of effortless ease on any endeavor is a result of much hard and dedicated practice. His next famous book, The Witches of Eastwick, came out in 1984. He wrote sixty books in all and was a longtime contributor to The New Yorker magazine where he wrote countless book reviews. I liked his book reviews better than his books. His critics, who I think were jealous of his writing skill, complained that his reviews were too something, they couldn’t quite put their finger on. His command of the language had few parallels.

One who was his equal, in my opinion, was William F. Buckley, Jr., who for a number of years used a new word that he had never used before in his columns. He used some pretty strange words, always correctly, by the time I guess he ran out of usable strange words.

When Updike’s book, The Coup, came out, Buckley wrote an accolade to Updike naming him as his successor to the title of American Fountainhead of Recondite Words. Updike used harmattan, disphoretic, toubab, laterite, suras, euphorbia, extollation, jerboa, cussabe, sareba, bilharzias, pangolins, hyraxes, pestles, phloem, xylem, eversion, goobers, marabout, xerophytic, oleograph, cowries, chrysoprase, henna, scree, riverine, adsorptive, haptic, burnoose and sesquipdaliam in The Coup.

Throughout his life, Updike believed that the world was a lovable place. I agree, but it is also a duller place with him gone from our midst.

December of 2020 marked the 420th anniversary of John Milton’s birth. I read Paradise Lost when I was 19 and in mechanic school in the Army. I read most of it hiding on a creeper underneath an army two and a half ton truck and the rest when I was supposed to be learning how to work on the trucks. Milton was more interesting to me at the time than turning wrenches and getting grease on my uniform. My uniforms were clean when I went to the mess hall for supper. I agreed with Samuel Johnson when he wrote how glad he was that Paradise Lost was not any longer than it was.

Paradise Lost definitely affected my view of life. The only part I remember well enough to paraphrase is when Satan saw Adam and Eve making love in the Garden of Eden he became jealous of their supreme joy. Satan hated them because he could not share their happiness. As a result of his disapproval of their joy, he plotted to deprive them of what he thought was undeserved pleasure by tempting them to disobey God.

Paradise Lost was not the only thing Milton wrote but it is his best work. He wrote a lot of forgettable poetry and tracts. He sided with the Republicans when they deposed and executed King Edward. He even wrote a tract justifying regicide. He soon grew weary of Oliver Cromwell’s government and complained that tyranny by religious bigots was no more preferable than tyranny by royalty. His fame allowed him to keep his head after the restoration and Edward II generously gave him an annual stipend.

Milton believed that the virtuous Christian hero shuns glory, sensual satisfaction, pagan learning and poetry. He also claimed that he spoke for the entire human race against the foes of liberty.

Here are a few lines from Paradise Regained,


But he though blind of sight,

Despised and thought extinguished quite,

With inward eyes illuminated,

His fiery virtue roused,

From under ashes into sudden flame,

And as an evening dragon came,

Assailant on the perched roosts,

And nests in order ranged,

Of tame villatic fowl; but as an eagle

His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.

So virtue giv’n for lost,

Depressed and overthrown, as seemed,

Like that self-begotten bird

In the Arabian woods embossed,

That no second knows nor third

And lay erewhile a holocaust,

From out her ashy womb now teemed,

Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most

When most unactive deemed,

And though her body die, her fame survives,

A secular bird ages of lives.


John Milton



His famous contemporary, Samuel Johnson, didn’t like Milton personally or his politics, but said Milton’s work constituted “a full display of the united force of study and genius and the poet, whatever be done is always great. Paradise Lost is among the finest productions of the human mind.”



Vine and Branches

Sybil Austin Skakle


Spirit flows through many branches

On My Lord's vine. Through

thin, cellular cambium and

between xylem and phloem

to form new tissue.

Its leaves receive rain

and sunshine and by


produce chlorophyll

to nourish the vine.

Roots are supported.

Tiny leaf stomata

use carbon dioxide and

Release oxygen for all life.

Branches are important

but must be connected

lest they die.

There is only one Vine. Its

Omnipotence taps eternity.

Its branches produce fruit

to nurture others.

*John 15:1-8

Someone asked the other day,,,,,,,,,,,,

Submitted by Peggy Ellis


1.     'What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?*

2.     'We didn't have fast food when I was growing up.” I informed him. All the food was slow.

3.     “C'mon, seriously. Where did you eat?'

4.     “It was a place called 'home,” I explained!

5.     “Mom cooked every day and when Dad got home from work. We sat down together at the dining room table, & if I didn't like what she put on my plate, I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.”

6.     By this time, the kid was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer serious internal damage, so I didn't tell him the part about how I had to have permission to leave the table.

7.     Here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I though his system could have handled it: Some parents NEVER owned their own house, wore Levis, set foot on a golf course, traveled out of the country or had a credit card. My parents never drove me to school. I had a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed, (slow).

8.     We didn't have a television in our house until I was 10. It was, of course, black and white, and the station went off the air at 11, after playing the national anthem and a poem about God. It came back on the air at about 6 a.m. And there was usually a locally produced news and farm show on, featuring local people.

9.     I never had a telephone in my room. The only phone was on a party line. Before you could dial, you had to listen and make sure some people you didn't know weren't already using the line.

10.  Pizzas were not delivered to our home... But milk was & so was bread.

11.  Newspapers were delivered by boys on bicycles. My brother delivered a newspaper, six days a week. He had to get up five AM every morning.

12.  Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the movies! There were no movie ratings because all movies were responsibly produced for everyone to enjoy viewing, without profanity or violence or most anything offensive.

13.  If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don't blame me if they bust their gut laughing.

14.  Growing up isn't what it used to be, is it?




15.  My Dad is cleaning out my grandmother's house (she died in December) and he brought me an old Royal Crown Cola bottle. In the bottle top was a stopper with a bunch of holes in it. I knew immediately what it was, but my daughter had no idea. She thought they had tried to make it a salt shaker or something. I knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to 'sprinkle' clothes with because we didn't have steam irons. Man, I am old.

16.  How many do you remember?

17.  Head lights dimmer switches on the floor.

18.  Ignition switches on the dashboard.

19.  Pant leg clips for bicycles without chain guards.

20.  Soldering irons you heat on a gas burner.

21.  Using hand signals for cars without turn signals.


Older Than Dirt Quiz:

Count all the ones that you remember, NOT the ones you were told about. Ratings at the bottom.


1.   Candy cigarettes

2       Coffee shops with tableside juke boxes

3       Home milk delivery in glass bottles*

4       Party lines on the telephones*

5    Newsreels before the movie*

5       TV

6       Test patterns that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning. (there were only 3 channels!! If you had a TV!!

7       Pea-shooters

8       Howdy Doody

9       45 RPM records

10    78 rpm records

11    Hi-fi records 33 1/3 rpm

12    Metal ice trays with lever

13    Blue flashbulb

14    Cork popguns

15    Studebakers

16    Wash tub wringers

17    If you remembered 0-3 = You're still young

18    If you remembered 3-6 = You are getting older.

19    I might be older than dirt but those memories are some of the best parts of my life.

20    Don't forget to pass this along!!

21    Especially to all your really OLD friends!



An Adventure

Marry Williamson


 These are weird times. We are still in lockdown and cannot go anywhere. Certainly no holidays any time soon. This winter we are all hunkered down and don’t venture too far from home. Christmas and New Year was a different experience from the usual big parties, lunches and dinners. With no holidays on the horizon any time soon it is no wonder our thoughts are going out to holidays from the past. The following is a true account of one such adventure of exactly 50 years ago.

When I got on the train at Victoria that August evening in 1970 I had no idea what a traumatic few days I was going to have. I was going to visit a Dutch friend who was living in Athens to learn Greek in preparation of meeting her future Cypriot in-laws whom she wanted to impress. (It worked because her and her Cypriot husband are still happily married after 50 years and living in Nicosia). I had started the previous year at Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch company, in London and because money was tight I had done extensive research into the cheapest way to get to Athens and had come up with the ‘Europabus’ This coach travelled from Brussels to Athens stopping twice overnight in cheap hotels.

One night in Munich and one night in Skopje in the former Yugoslavia but now Macedonia. The first leg from Victoria station to Dover late in the evening for the night ferry crossing the Channel to Ostend was uneventful enough as was the crossing itself. The trouble really started in Ostend the following morning.

I found a waiting coach with a big notice on the windscreen. ‘Europabus - transfers to Brussels’ and a rather large blonde jolly lady with a clipboard waving people on board. “Come on, come on, we don’t have all day”.

Nobody checked names. Only later, after the coach had started on its journey, the big jolly lady got out her clipboard and a pen and started a roll call.

When she had finished a girl about my age stood up and said “you did not mention me”. “Nor me” I said. “Nor us” said two middle aged ladies.

It transpired that the four of us were on the wrong coach but, as the BJL said, it did not matter as she was going to the same station only via another route. This other route meant stopping at least four times to pick up more people and, of course, when we got to Brussels our coach had already left.

Winging its way to Munich (the first night stop) without us. Obviously Europabus did not believe in checking passengers. You were either there or you weren’t.

“Not to worry” the BJL said. “I will get you on a train to Munich and you can pick up the Athens coach tomorrow morning.

“Who is paying for the train?” we asked.

“Europabus” she said. “Your bus ticket will cover it”.

We believed her and trouped behind her into the station. I fleetingly wondered that if Europabus’ cheap ticket covered a comfortable train journey why wasn’t everybody doing it but we were swept along in the BJL’s wake to some office on a platform where a small man in an enormous official looking hat sat very much looking like an angry gnome. The BJL started explaining our problem and how we simply had to be put on a train to Munich. He said that we were not his problem and that we had to buy a ticket like everybody else.

All this was in Flemish and I could not help myself and chipped in.

Big mistake. “Oh good” the BJL said “you speak Dutch, you explain your problem to this gentleman. I simply must get back to my travellers” and off she went.

I took a deep breath and told the gentleman in the big hat what had gone wrong and after cogitating for a few moments he suddenly pointed to a train on the next platform and said: “that’s the train you want but watch it, German guards will take over at the border and you have to change trains. My new travelling companions who had understood nothing of this exchange thought I was very clever speaking Dutch and they were to be more impressed later on when we ran into trouble at the border as predicted by the chap in Brussels. Meanwhile we made ourselves comfortable on the train.

So far, so good. Until we got to the border. A very officious looking German guard in an immaculate uniform came in barking something about ‘fahrscheine’ which, of course, we did not have. Only Europabus tickets. I dredged some school German up from somewhere and tried to explain but he was not amused and when the train stopped at the station of some town, the name of which I cannot remember and where we had to change trains for Munich, he marched us off to the station master’s office. He pushed us inside railing on about ‘ohne fahrscheine’ and ‘wollen nach Munich ohne fahrscheine’.

The station master sat at a very grand looking desk and stared at us over a pair of horn rimmed spectacles and spoke no English. I repeated our misfortunes in what I knew was terrible German but impressed the others and luckily he understood.

He kept saying “wie sollst zahlen?’ (who is paying) and I kept saying Europabus. In the end he shrugged his shoulders, said something like “ach, verdamt noch mahl” and said that if we ran we could just catch the Munich train from platform four.

At the same time he grabbed a tannoy and I heard an announcement to the guard of the Munich train to wait for 4 ladies. I had to shout to the others who had not understood what was going on to get into gear and run.

The Munich train was full. In fact it was not just full but overloaded. We had to sit on our luggage in an aisle. We shared our bit of floorspace with two American backpackers doing “Europe on one dollar a day”. (it was 1970). The two middle aged ladies were bearing up very well.

On hindsight they were not that old, perhaps late 40’s but when you are 24 even 30 looks middle aged. We all swapped travel stories and adventures. The two Americans had a couple of bottles of wine with them (surely they were spending more than one dollar a day) which they were quite happy to share.

We got to Munich very late and as we did not know where our party was we checked into the nearest and cheapest hotel we could find within walking distance hoping that we could somehow claim it back from Europabus. The next morning we got up very early and met up in the foyer. The receptionist told us that the bus station was just round the corner. The hotel did not do breakfast so we bought some sandwiches and coffee from a stall at the station and settled down to wait for our bus.

After a time two coaches appeared. One was called something like ‘Gruner Reisen’ and the other to our great relief said in big letters ‘Europabus’. The two drivers got out and disappeared. A bit later the Gruner Reisen driver re-appeared with a courier type lady with a clipboard.

The German coach started to fill up and after about half an hour left the square. Meanwhile things started to happen around the Europabus. A courier appeared, complete with a clipboard and a large drooping moustache and people started to arrive. Mainly men with dark moustaches and loads of luggage. Bags, packs, sacks, blankets tied in bundles, baskets, all sorts.

We went over and asked the courier: “Europabus?”

“Yes” he said. “To Athens?” “No” he said. “To Istanbul, the Athens bus just left but no matter, you can come with me. Is allright”.

He shouted something into the coach in Turkish and all the moustaches grinned at us through the windows. One man got out, took our bags and stowed them into he hold. We were almost manhandled into the coach and we took off.

To cut a long story short. We were not being abducted. It turned out the Istanbul coach was carrying guest workers back to Turkey for the holidays and was following the same route as the Athens coach as far as Belgrade (now in Serbia) and was stopping for lunch at the same cafe. He assured us that we would have enough time to swap coaches. We told him of our tribulations of the previous day and he translated them for the benefit of the other passengers who found it all very hilarious.

It broke the ice and we were made extremely welcome and everybody was keen to share their food, sweets, coffee and even a bottle of raki with us. They thought we were crazy Englanders and we provided lots of fun for everybody. We had such a good time that we were sorry that we were not going to Istanbul. In Belgrade the Turkish courier took no chances and took us personally to the lady with the clipboard who we had seen loading the German coach earlier in Munich.

He asked her: “did you not miss four passengers?”

But she said “well, they were already missing in Brussels. How was I to know that they were waiting on the square in Munich?” which I suppose was quite reasonable.

She was nothing like the BJL or the friendly Turkish courier but a rather sour faced, put upon, harassed German lady. As her coach had arrived before us and they all had their lunch we had no time to eat and we were herded onto the German coach rather sharply and set off immediately waved enthusiastically goodbye by our Turkish friends. The rest of the journey was uneventful.

Of the hotel in Skopje I remember very little, except for the little boys begging outside the hotel and running alongside the coach for a bit. We got to Athens without any more mishaps and my friend Johri was waiting for me as arranged which was just as well because I realised immediately that in Greece I was totally illiterate, not knowing even the alphabet.

The lovely Dutch couple that she was staying with were very kindly putting me up for a few days. I had a bit of a fright when we got off the town bus near their home in the suburbs of Athens and saw the road block in front of the pretty cul de sac complete with a Greek guard decked out in the nice uniform of white tights, short skirt and pompoms on his shoes. He also worryingly had a machine gun and a belt of ammunition slung round him.

Johri said something to him in Greek and we were let through. It turned out President Papadopoulos, who had chucked out the King of Greece in a military coup some years earlier was their neighbour.

After a few days in Athens we travelled around the Pelopenesus, sometimes catching a coach, sometimes hitchhiking, staying in Youth Hostels - one of which, in Delphi, consisted of just a few beds on the roof of a cafe. On the journey back by Europabus doing the same route in reverse nothing exciting happened at all.



Tennessee Williams

A prize-winning playwright.

By Rita Berman


Thomas Lanier Williams was born March 26, 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi.   He did not adopt the name Tennessee until late in the 1930’s. 

Began attending the University of Missouri in 1929 but in 1931 when he was in his third year of college at the University his father said he could no longer keep him in college and he was given a job in a branch of the International Shoe Company earning sixty-five dollars a month.

He began writing at night, completing one story a week and mailing it out to the Story magazine. After learning he had a heart condition he resigned from the Shoe Company.  It was in 1934 when in Memphis that he realized he had an attraction to writing for the theater. Also an attraction for young men.

In 1938 he graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  That was the same year that he published his first short story under his literary name, Tennessee Williams.

His first national recognition came in 1939 when he received a citation for a related group of one-act plays, American Blues, in a group Theatre play contest. His first commercial production was Battle of Angels (1940) which closed in Boston after a losing struggle with censorship and its own inadequacies. He spent six months in 1943 as a contract writer for MGM, during which time he wrote an original script, The Gentleman Caller, which he eventually turned into a play. The Glass Menagerie.

Biographies are my favorite genre of reading, autobiographies are even better by offering the life, as well as the work, of that individual from their perspective.    

I recently read Williams’ autobiography Memoirs that he began in 1972 when he was 60 years old. I understand why it caused such a sensation and bad reviews when it was first published in 1975.  It is a rambling mixture about past and present, a form of stream of consciousness writing, describing his sexual life of hookups and lovers, drinking and drugging, naming friends, actors and actresses who starred in his plays but very little on the actual writing of the plays that led him to be recognized as one of the world’s greatest playwrights.

In his foreword he admits “I undertook this memoir for mercenary reasons.  It is actually the first piece of work, in the line of writing that I have undertaken for material profit.”  

He wrote that the first time he received money for his writing efforts was in 1939 when he was employed as a feather picker on a squab ranch.  A telegram from the Group Theatre in New York informed him that he was awarded one hundred dollars for his one-act plays called American Blues.  For Williams that was a huge piece of encouragement and boost of morale in his pursuit of being a writer.

Later, when he was living in the attic of the family residence in a suburb of St. Louis, he learned he was the recipient of a thousand dollar Rockefeller grant, and was urged to catch the first Greyhound bus to the city of New York.  

In his memoir Williams recalled his riotous weekends in Havana with a friend and the time he meet Fidel Castro.  He was introduced to Castro by Ernest Hemingway whom he had met through the British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan.  To his surprise he found Hemingway was the exact opposite of what he had anticipated.  “I had expected a very manly, super-macho sort of guy, very bullying and coarse spoken. On the contrary Hemingway struck me as a gentleman who seemed to have a very touchingly shy quality about him.”

The day that Tynan and Williams went to the palace Castro was having a cabinet session at the time and they waited, sitting on the steps outside for about three hours, until the door was thrown open and they were ushered in. According to Williams, when Tynan introduced him Castro said, “Oh, that cat,” meaning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which surprised me – delighted me, of course. I couldn’t imagine the generalissimo knowing anything about a play of mine.” 

In his book he briefly touched on his goal in writing informing that, in an essay to one of the printed editions of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  he wrote he was attempting to, “just somehow to capture the constantly evanescent quality of existence.  When I do that, then I have accomplished something, but I have done it, I think, relatively few times compared to the times I have attempted it.”

For a number of years he wrote steadily, averaging rather more than a play a year. They include:  A Streetcar named Desire (1947); Summer and Smoke (1948) the Rose Tattoo (1951) Camino Real (1953) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) Orpheus Descending (1957) Suddenly Last Summer (1958); Sweet Bird of Youth (1959); Period of Adjustment (1960) The Night of the Iguana ((1961); The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here ((1963) Slapstick Tragedy (1966). Many of his plays were later made into movies.

His greatest commercial and critical successes were The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Night of the Iguana, according to The Readers Encyclopedia of World Drama, (1969). The editors noted “there is a thematic similarity in most of Williams’ work. From the beginning of his career he was preoccupied with the man or woman who by virtue of being different can (in fact, must) stand outside and see the world clearly – which, for Williams, means to see the horror in it).  His characters are never at home in the world, since they are usually running to or from something.

An article in the said Williams tackled topics previously considered taboo “rape, sordid family secrets, lobotomy, homosexuality, cannibalism.”

In 1947 he was hoping to get Elia Kazan to be the director for Streetcar Named Desire, and eventually Kazan signed a contract.  Later Williams got a wire from Kazan saying he was sending to him a young actor to read the part of Stanley.

The young actor was Marlon Brando, “just about the best-looking man I’ve ever seen,” recalled Williams.  The part of Kowalski was the first important part Brando ever performed on stage, all the rest have been on the screen. In the movie of Streetcar Named Desire, released in 1951, Vivien Leigh played Blanche DuBois and Brando Stanley Kowalski. “Marvelous performances in a great movie,” wrote Williams, “only slightly marred by Hollywood ending.” 

Because the play’s themes were controversial changes were made for the movie version to comply with the Hollywood Production Code. The movie drew very high praise and was the fifth biggest hit of that year.  It won four awards at the 24th Academy Awards.  Vivien Leigh won Actress in a Leading Role, and Brando received the first of four Academy nominations for Best Actor. 

In his book, Williams wrote that when people asked him, which is his favorite among those he has written, he would either say, “Always the latest,” or “I succumb to my instinct for the truth and say it must be the published version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof received the Critics Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1955. It became his biggest and longest-running play. Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie and Paul Newman as Brick starred in the MGM 1958 movie version and it was highly acclaimed and nominated for several academy Awards including Best Picture.  Taylor and Newman both received Oscar nominations for their performances.

In 1976. A television version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was produced starring Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner and featuring Laurence Olivier as Big Daddy and Maureen Stapleton as Big Mama.

With the passing of time the sexual innuendos that had been muted in the 1958 movie were returned to the adaptation produced on television by American Playhouse in 1984.  This version starred Jessica Lange, Tommy Lee Jones, Rip Torn, and Kim Stanley. Stanley won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Special.

Williams drew from his family relationships as inspiration for some of his plays. The Glass Menagerie, (1945) was developed from a 1943 short story and had a long Broadway run.

The Glass Menagerie is about a young man named Tom, his disabled sister, Laura, and their controlling mother Amanda who tries to make a match between Laura and a gentleman caller. Rose, Williams’ sister was the source for Laura.

Between 1948 and 1959 Williams had seven of his plays produced on Broadway and by 1959 he had earned two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, three Donaldson Awards, and a Tony Award.

In spite of his success and recognition as a great playwright Williams felt insecure and moved often in order to stimulate his writing.  He wrote, “Only some radical change can divert the downward course of my spirit, some startling new place or people to arrest the drift, the drag.”

Although he continued to write every day, the quality of his work suffered from his increasing alcohol and drug consumption, and a variety of illnesses.  In 1963 he was depressed over the death of his partner Frank Merlo.  Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Williams’ new plays became box office failures and his last play, A House Not Meant to Stand was produced in Chicago in 1982 and ran for only 40 performances. 

The novel he wrote, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1950) was adapted into a film in 1961 and again in 2003.

At the end of his book, Memoirs, Tennessee Williams had written he hoped to die in his sleep, “when the time comes, and I hope it will be in the beautiful big bed in my New Orleans apartment.“ Sadly that was not what happened.  He died at the age of 71 in New York City on February 25, 1983.  The medical examiner reported that Williams had choked to death from inhaling the plastic cap of a bottle while he was trying to ingest barbiturates.

In his will written in 1972 Williams had requested that he be buried at sea in the Caribbean, close to where the poet Hart Crane had died.  But this request was ignored and his brother Dakin Williams arranged for him to be buried at Calvary Cemetery, in St. Louis, Missouri where his mother is buried.

He left his literary rights to the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.  When his sister Rose died in 1996 after many years in a mental institution she bequeathed $7 million from her part to the Williams estate to the University of the South as well. 

Posthumous recognition includes festivals in New Orleans and St. Louis, Missouri, commemorating his work. The Tennessee Williams Theatre in Key West, Florida is named for him. In 1995 the United States Post Office issued a special edition stamp in his name as part of their Literary Arts Series.

At least eight biographies have been published about Williams, the most recent being by John Lahr in 2014 (W.W.Norton & Co). This is a sequel to the biography by Lyle Leverich that was published in 1995 and received reviews that praised it for the details and quoting from correspondence and the insight provided by Lahr a theatre columnist.

A couple of quotations from Williams give pause for reflection.

 “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” Blanche from Street Car Named Desire.

“Time doesn’t take away from friendship nor does separation.” Williams’ book Memoirs.

“There is a time for departure even when there is no place to go.” Camino Real.



“Maturity is a high price to pay for growing up.” Tom Stoppard


“Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach.” Heineken ad


The Battle of the Lake

Submitted by Peggy Ellis


There were three kingdoms, each bordering on the same lake. For centuries, these kingdoms had fought over an island in the middle of that lake. One day, they decided to have it out, once and for all.

The first kingdom was quite rich and sent an army of 25 knights, each with three squires. The night before the battle, the knights jousted and cavorted as their squire's polished armor, cooked food, and sharpened weapons.

The second kingdom wasn't so wealthy and sent only 10 knights, each with 2 squires. The night before the battle, the knights cavorted and sharpened their weapons as the squire's polished armor and prepared dinner.

The third kingdom was very poor and only sent one elderly knight with his sole squire. The night before the battle, the knight sharpened his weapon, while the squire, using a noosed rope, slung a pot high over the fire to cook while he prepared the knight's armor.

The next day, the battle began. All the knights of the first two kingdoms had cavorted a bit too much (one should never cavort while sharpening weapons and jousting) and couldn't fight.

The squire of the third kingdom couldn't rouse the elderly knight in time

for combat.

So, in the absence of the knights, the squires fought. The battle raged well into the late hours, but when the dust finally settled, a solitary figure limped from the carnage. The lone squire from the third kingdom dragged himself away, beaten, bloodied, but victorious.

It just goes to prove, the squire of the high pot and noose is equal to the sum of the squires of the other two sides.



Things/People/Places Left Behind

Sybil Austin Skakle


At this time of my life, I am the only sibling still living. It is lonely not being able to ask: “Do you remember?” Very few friends from my youth remain. Those who are able to remember well when we were young together are few. However, I recently spoke by phone to a young man I have never met in person.  I could tell him about his family, whom he never knew. I knew them personally before he was born. It thrills me that my information is still important to someone.

Things? I don’t miss things. I enjoy the plants I have, books, music, and like Daddy used to say, “I have enough clothes. I will never wear them out!”

There are people I no longer see often. Five years ago, I came to Carol Woods. My circumstances changed. So have my contacts changed, but not drastically. While my two older sons live in North Carolina, I do not see them or the one living in Connecticut often. It is not caused by the pandemic lockdown of 2020- 2021. That’s the way life is. When I think of my relationship to my own and husband’s parents, distanced as we were, we only saw them once or twice each year. 

I still enjoy one friend, only a month older than I am, even though it only an occasional phone visit. Willie Mae Jones moved to North Carolina from Louisiana in 1990s.  Our friendship began at the old Chapel Hill Senior Center, then on Elliott Road in Chapel Hill. She lived in Durham but came to Chapel Hill to the center. One day, she followed me out of a meeting we both attended. At the curb, she asked, “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to see Margaret, a friend of mine in a nursing home in Carrboro.”

“May I go with you?” she asked.

Thus, began our friendship and our adventures: Washington, DC by train, while she coached me in singing some of the songs, we would sing in a Chapel Hill Village Revue show. She had asked me to join the group. We were on our way to a program, Close-up in the Capitol City, where we were able to attend debates and witness decisions made by our legislators that influence our lives. Then they were talking about cigarette smoke. A long time ago. Right?

Willie Mae and I befriended a young Alaskan fellow we met at breakfast one morning In Seattle, Washington, where we attended a national study group offering. We have the jade stones he gave us for remembrance. She and I traveled to Branson, Missouri by bus, to enjoy the shows and sights. And, even though she had just returned from a trip around the world, she volunteered to go with me to San Diego, California for a National Disciplined Order of Christ Retreat. We attended a memoir writing class at Lake Junaluska and stopped at Billy Graham’s Training Center for more study with them. 

Tour, named Golden Isles of Georgia by bus, was our last trip together, when I was recovering from an emotional trauma and Willie Mae coming to terms with the loss of her sight by macular degeneration.  

Willie Mae cannot show up in my life as she once did. Nor, I in hers. She is in assisted living now. It has been years since we celebrated our birthdays at Red Lobster. But we cherish our telephone conversations. Her retirement community is Duke Forest, mine Carol Woods. Our hearts are forever joined by memories and by love. Memories and love bind us together and we talk about the time when our purpose here is over and we will be together and have all we ever need.  

Places I have lived are part of my story. I do not miss them. I enjoy my memories of those places and those people of my past. Now, I enjoy people I meet, the adventures that beckon me, and anticipate Eternity.




Sybil Austin Skakle


Love is a butterfly

Which gently alights

To charm our eyes

Then flies away

To leave us knowing

God is here!



A professional is someone who does their job when they don’t feel like it. An amateur is someone who can’t do their jobs when they do feel like it” James Agate


No Parent Left Behind

From the Internet


Notes written by parents in an Alabama school district. Spellings have been left intact.  

1. My son is under a doctor's care and should not take PE today. Please execute him.

2. Please exkuce lisa for being absent she was sick and i had her shot.
3. Dear school: please ecsc's john being absent on jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and also 33.

4. Please excuse gloria from jim today. She is administrating.
5. Please excuse roland from p.e. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and       misplaced his hip.

6. John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.

7. Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part.
8. Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.
9. Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side.
10. Please excuse ray friday from school. He has very loose vowels.
11. Please excuse Lesli from being absent yesterday. She had diahre dyrea direathethe shits.
12. Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea, and his boots leak.
13. Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.
14. Please excuse jimmy for being. It was his father's fault.
15. I kept Billie home because she had to go Christmas shopping because i don't know what size she wear.
 17. Sally won't be in school a week from friday. We have to attend her funeral.
18. My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She spent a weekend with the marines.
19. Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well.
20. Please excuse Mary for being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps.
21. Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover.
22. Please excuse Brenda. She has been sick and under the doctor.
23. Maryann was absent December 11-16, because she had a fever, sorethroat, headache and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, fever an sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn't the best either, sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot last night.




Randy Bittle


Emergence is an aspect of reality that is a bit difficult to understand, but it is essential to a full comprehension of reality.  I will attempt to explain it here by example and analogy.  I hope my readers will attempt to grasp the concept of emergence and apply it when trying to understand the realities that surround us.  A one or two line definition cannot sufficiently express the concept of emergence, so bear with me as we explore the concept through the following examples and analogies.

Let’s begin with the layers of emergence in the English language I am using to express these ideas.  The fundamental building-blocks are letters of the alphabet, from which words emerge, from which phrases emerge, from which sentences emerge, from which paragraphs emerge, from which the completed essay emerges.  These layers of emergence are essential aspects of the reality of the ideas I try to express in words, sentences, and paragraphs.  Knowing the letters of the alphabet alone is insufficient for comprehension of the concepts, although the letters are the foundations without which nothing is expressed.

Words emerge from combinations of letters.  Only certain combinations of letters will form words, and the meaning of each word (combination of letters) is unique to the context of what I write and what you read.  Letters are important.  Take the ‘r’ out of the word “through” and you get “though,” a word with a different pronunciation and different meaning.  Take the ‘o’ out of “though” and you get “thugh,” a combination of letters that is not a word and has no meaning.  Words emerge from acceptable patterns of letters combined in accordance with the conventional rules of the language used.

Words are then arranged into phrases.  In English, the arrangement of words helps determine the meaning.  “Bob sees Sue” has an entirely different meaning than “Sue sees Bob.”  Even though the words used are the same, the order of words in the phrases differ and thus the meaning differs.  Meaning emerges from letters combined to form words which are arranged in phrases.  I hope you are beginning to see how emergence works to embed meaning into language using letters, words, and phrases.  Emergence of meaning continues as phrases are combined into sentences, and then sentences into paragraphs.

Letters are constituents of words, words are constituents of phrases, phrases are constituents of sentences, and sentences are constituents of paragraphs.  Each emerges from patterns of its constituents according to accepted rules of arrangement.  We seldom are aware of the individual letters of words, but without them there would be no words.  From the relational patterns of letter groupings, words with meanings emerge.  Complex repeatable patterns of fundamental units are characteristic of emergence.  Let’s look at emergence in physical reality.

Every stable atom is made entirely of electrons, protons, and neutrons, whether it is an atom of gold or an atom of iron or an atom of hydrogen.  Each kind of atom has its own unique pattern of electrons, protons, and neutrons.  The properties of each different kind of atom emerge from the relational patterns of the number and arrangements of electrons, protons, and neutrons inside them.  Molecules are made of atoms combined together by rules of chemistry, and thus molecules are just more complex arrangements of electrons, protons, and neutrons.

Water, table salt, gunpowder, and all other groupings of atoms into molecules are just complex combinations of electrons, protons, and neutrons.  I hope you can see how various properties of collections of atoms forming molecules emerge from repeatable patterns of electron, proton, and neutron configurations.  Emergence plays an essential role in physical reality just as it does in the realm of language and the expression of ideas as described earlier in this essay.

All multicellular living organisms have foundational patterns of genetic DNA molecules that guide the ongoing molecular activity of which life consists.  The same distinct units of gene molecules in DNA that make up a hydrangea also make up human DNA.  The difference between a hydrangea and a human is merely the variation in number and arrangement of the same units of gene molecules of DNA.  All multicellular lifeforms emerge into existence in accordance with the information encoded in DNA, which is expressed by the rote molecular activity of life.  This process is extraordinarily complex, and the finished product of a living being cannot always be easily traced back to the foundational genes that make life possible.  Computers that quickly process large amounts of data help scientists trace the building-block genetic effects of DNA on complex emergent properties of living beings.  Life emerges from information encoded in DNA.

The final example I offer to demonstrate the principle of emergence is human consciousness.  The physiology of the brain is a sophisticated arrangement of neurons, synapses, and neurotransmitter molecules.  From these parts consciousness arises.  Consciousness is an emergent phenomenon not reducible to the sum of the parts, although the parts are essential for emergent consciousness to exist.  You cannot trace thoughts and feelings with precision by examining the firing of neurons which stimulate neurotransmitter activity in synapses.  The whole of consciousness is more than the sum of the physiological parts.  Ultimately the brain is nothing more than electrons, protons, and neutrons that make up the neurons, synapses, and neurotransmitters from which consciousness emerges.

I hope you have enjoyed these examples of emergence and realize why a simple one or two line definition of emergence is impossible.  You have to approach an understanding of emergence by example and analogy.  Emergent properties are not often realized by examining component parts alone.  Emergence usually occurs when the whole seems to be more than the sum of the parts.  Relational patterns above the component level reveal emergent properties.  This is essential to comprehending reality.  Keep it in mind when evaluating the reality that surrounds you.



Something to Ponder

George Carlin


George Carlin's wife died early in 2008 and George followed her, dying in July 2008. It is ironic George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's - could write something so very eloquent and so very appropriate. An observation by George Carlin:


The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.



Diogenes the Cynic

Compiled by E. B. Alston


Diogenes was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. He was born in Sinope, an Ionian colony on the Black Sea coast of modern-day Turkey, in 412 or 404 BC and died at Corinth in 323 BC.

Diogenes was a controversial figure. His father minted coins for a living, and Diogenes was banished from Sinope when he took to debasement of currency. After being exiled, he moved to Athens and criticized many cultural conventions of the city. He modelled himself on the example of Heracles, and believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory. He used his simple lifestyle and behavior to criticize the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt, confused society. He had a reputation for sleeping and eating wherever he chose in a highly non-traditional fashion, and took to toughening himself against nature. He declared himself a cosmopolitan and a citizen of the world rather than claiming allegiance to just one place. There are many tales about his dogging Antisthenes' footsteps and becoming his "faithful hound".

Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar, or pithos, in the marketplace. He became notorious for his philosophical stunts, such as carrying a lamp during the day, claiming to be looking for a man (often rendered in English as "looking for an honest man"). He criticized Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates, and sabotaged his lectures, sometimes distracting listeners by bringing food and eating during the discussions. Diogenes was also noted for having mocked Alexander the Great, both in public and to his face when he visited Corinth in 336 BC.

Diogenes was captured by pirates and sold into slavery, eventually settling in Corinth. There he passed his philosophy of Cynicism to Crates, who taught it to Zeno of Citium, who fashioned it into the school of Stoicism, one of the most enduring schools of Greek philosophy. No writings of Diogenes survive but there are some details of his life from anecdotes, especially from Diogenes Laërtius' book Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers and some other sources.

In Athens, according to one story, Diogenes went to the Oracle at Delphi to ask for her advice and was told that he should "deface the currency". Following the debacle in Sinope, Diogenes decided that the oracle meant that he should deface the political currency rather than actual coins. He traveled to Athens and made it his life's goal to challenge established customs and values. He argued that instead of being troubled about the true nature of evil, people merely rely on customary interpretations. This distinction between nature and custom is a favorite theme of ancient Greek philosophy, and one that Plato takes up in The Republic, in the legend of the Ring of Gyges.

Diogenes arrived in Athens with a slave named Manes who escaped from him shortly thereafter. With characteristic humor, Diogenes dismissed his ill fortune by saying, "If Manes can live without Diogenes, why not Diogenes without Manes?" Diogenes would mock such a relation of extreme dependency. He found the figure of a master who could do nothing for himself contemptibly helpless. He was attracted by the ascetic teaching of Antisthenes, a student of Socrates. When Diogenes asked Antisthenes to mentor him, Antisthenes ignored him and reportedly "eventually beat him off with his staff". responded, "Strike, for you will find no wood hard enough to keep me away from you, so long as I think you've something to say. Diogenes became Antisthenes' pupil, despite the brutality with which he was initially received. Whether the two ever really met is still uncertain, but he surpassed his master in both reputation and the austerity of his life. He considered his avoidance of earthly pleasures a contrast to and commentary on contemporary Athenian behaviors. This attitude was grounded in a disdain for what he regarded as the folly, pretense, vanity, self-deception, and artificiality of human conduct.

Diogenes Searching for an Honest Man, attributed to the stories told of Diogenes illustrate the logical consistency of his character. He inured himself to the weather by living in a clay wine jar belonging to the temple of Cybele. He destroyed the single wooden bowl he possessed on seeing a peasant boy drink from the hollow of his hands.

He then exclaimed: "Fool that I am, to have been carrying superfluous baggage all this time!" It was contrary to Athenian customs to eat within the marketplace, and still he would eat there, for, as he explained when rebuked, it was during the time he was in the marketplace that he felt hungry. He used to stroll about in full daylight with a lamp; when asked what he was doing, he would answer, "I am looking for a human." (Modern sources often say that Diogenes was looking for an "honest human", but in ancient sources he is simply "looking for a human" – "ἄνθρωπον ζητῶ". The unreasoning behavior of the people around him means that they do not qualify as human.) Diogenes looked for a human being but reputedly found nothing but rascals and scoundrels. to Diogenes Laërtius, when Plato gave the tongue-in-cheek definition of man as "featherless bipeds," Diogenes plucked a chicken and brought it into Plato's Academy, saying, "Behold! I've brought you a man," and so the Academy added "with broad flat nails" to the definition. 

In Corinth, according to a story which seems to have originated with Menippus of Gadara, Diogenes was captured by pirates while on voyage to Aegina and sold as a slave in Crete to a Corinthian named Xeniades. Being asked his trade, he replied that he knew no trade but that of governing men, and that he wished to be sold to a man who needed a master. Xeniades liked his spirit and hired Diogenes to tutor his children. As tutor to Xeniades's two sons, it is said that he lived in Corinth for the rest of his life, which he devoted to preaching the doctrines of virtuous self-control. There are many stories about what actually happened to him after his time with Xeniades's two sons. There are stories stating he was set free after he became "a cherished member of the household", while one says he was set free almost immediately, and still another states that "he grew old and died at Xeniades's house in Corinth." He is even said to have lectured to large audiences at the Isthmian Games.

Although most of the stories about his living in a jar are located in Athens, there are some accounts of his living in a large jar near the Craneum gymnasium in Corinth:

A report that Philip was marching on the town had thrown all Corinth into a bustle; one was furbishing his arms, another wheeling stones, a third patching the wall, a fourth strengthening a battlement, every one making himself useful somehow or other. Diogenes having nothing to do—of course no one thought of giving him a job—was moved by the sight to gather up his philosopher's cloak and begin rolling his tub-dwelling energetically up and down the Craneum; an acquaintance asked, and got, the explanation: "I do not want to be thought the only idler in such a busy multitude; I am rolling my tub to be like the rest."

Diogenes and Alexander: It was in Corinth that a meeting between Alexander the Great and Diogenes is supposed to have taken place. These stories may be apocryphal. The accounts of Plutarch and Diogenes Laërtius recount that they exchanged only a few words: while Diogenes was relaxing in the morning sunlight, Alexander, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, asked if there was any favour he might do for him. Diogenes replied, "Yes, stand out of my sunlight." Alexander then declared, "If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes." "If I were not Diogenes, I would still wish to be Diogenes," Diogenes replied. In another account of the conversation, Alexander found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, "I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave."

Death: There are conflicting accounts of Diogenes' death. His contemporaries alleged he had held his breath until he expired; although other accounts of his death say he had become ill from eating raw octopus; or to have suffered an infected dog bite. When asked how he wished to be buried, he left instructions to be thrown outside the city wall so wild animals could feast on his body. When asked if he minded this, he said, "Not at all, as long as you provide me with a stick to chase the creatures away!" When asked how he could use the stick since he would lack awareness, he replied: "If I lack awareness, then why should I care what happens to me when I am dead?" In the end, Diogenes made fun of people's excessive concern with the "proper" treatment of the dead. The Corinthians erected to his memory a pillar on which rested a dog of Parian marble.

Diogenes is my favorite Greek



Hammer Spade and the Four Horsemen

E. B. Alston

Chapter Twenty-Eight


A rooster’s crow woke them. After an old fashioned tub bath in the washroom, they reported to the mess room where they had met Smithson and Ferretti the evening before. Light was streaming into the room’s row of windows facing east. There was nothing ready, no coffee, no tea, just the room and tables with empty beer tankards where they had left them when they went to bed.

While they were checking the cabinets for a coffee maker and coffee, a woman entered the room.

“Who are you?” she asked in a heavy English accent.

“I’m Tim Walton and this is Jerrel Oldhaus.”

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“We’re meeting with Kael Smithson and Paolo L. Ferretti,” Tim replied.

“Oh,” she said. “Kael must be using this room for one of his silly conferences.”

Jerrel laughed. “You’re not taking this as seriously as Kael is.”

She looked at Jerrel as if she was sizing him up. “You’re an American.”

“Yep, and you’re an Englishwoman.” Jerrel stated the obvious with a crooked grin.

“I am, and I am proud to be one,” she replied. She stood up straight and tall. She was as tall as Jerrel. “I am Lady Twyla Wingate,” she announced, “eldest daughter of Lady Ethelean and Lord Henry Wingate.”

“I’ve never met a real aristocratic lady before,” Jerrel replied. “You’re a mighty fine looking English Lady, too.”

Tim suppressed a laugh. Jerrel was making points.

She smiled. “You’re a Southern man. Your voice contains a subtle, yet, unmistakable passion. An American Yankee would not possess the manners or the passion of a true Southern gentleman.”

“Naw,” Jerrel agreed. “Their mamas didn’t teach them any manners.”

She obviously approved of his answer. “How long will you be visiting Kael?”

“I don’t know, maybe a couple of days,” Jerrel replied.

“After your meeting is over this evening, I invite you to sit with me for late tea in the castle sitting room,” she said with a smile. “You can tell me more about what a fine looking lady I am. Robert will come for you at eight.”

“Who’s Robert?”

“Robert is our butler.” She paused. “We may share a bottle of wine after the tea is gone.”

“I’ll be ready,” Jerrel replied with a grin.

Lady Twyla turned without saying another word, and walked away swinging her hips as she left.

“She ain’t bad,” Jerrel said with a grin. “Wonder how aristocratic English women are in bed?”

“Jerrel,” Tim said, “you are the luckiest man I know. We ain’t been in Ireland twenty-four hours and you’ve already got a date.”

“When you’re hot, you’re hot.”



Kael and Paolo wandered in looking like death warmed over.

“You two sure look chipper this morning,” Kael said.

“The rooster woke us up,” Tim said.

“You’ve cleaned up. Where’d you do that?”

“In the washroom at the end of the hall.”

“There’s a washroom here?”

“Yeah,” Jerrel replied, “It’s got lion foot bathtubs, old fashioned commodes, sinks, and mirrors.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“How’d you find this place?” Tim asked.

“I live down the road about a mile.”

“So you know the Wingates?”

“I’ve known them all my life.”

“What kinda folks are they?” Tim asked.

“They’re a reclusive family. They don’t cause anybody any trouble but they don’t go out and mingle with the locals much, either.”

“We met Lady Twyla this morning,” Jerrel said.

“Where?” Kael asked.

“Right here.” 

“She came in here with you?” Kael asked in surprise.

“Yeah,” Tim replied, “And Jerrel’s got a date with her tonight.”

Kael laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Jerrel asked.

Kael couldn’t believe his ears. “You are kidding, aren’t you?”

“No,” Tim replied. “She asked him to have tea with her at eight.”

Kael found this hilarious.

Jerrel was offended. “She’s a nice woman.”

“She is a real catch,” Kael replied with a smirk.

“What do you mean?” Jerrel asked.

“I’ve never heard of her going on a date.”

“That means she’s a nice woman,” Jerrel replied defensively.

“They say Lady Twyla still sleeps in the same room with her mother,” Kael got out between guffaws. 

“So?” Jerrel asked. He was getting angry that Kael thought this was so funny. “Maybe she doesn’t like to sleep by herself.”

“I also heard she writes letters to her father every day.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Jerrel asked. “She honors family bonds.”

“He’s been dead for twelve years,” Kael eked out between spates of laughter. By now, Tim and Paolo also thought it was pretty funny.

“Are you trying to turn me against her?” Jerrel asked. “Why she’s a fine looking aristocratic lady.”

“Oh, no,” Kael replied. “I urge you to keep your rendezvous with the beautiful Lady Twyla. And we want to hear all about it tomorrow morning.”

Tim changed the subject. “We’re hungry. What’s the plan for breakfast?”

“We’ll breakfast at the Rainbow in Armagh.”

These men don’t act like vicious conspirators Tim thought, as they got into Kael’s Vauxhall to go to breakfast in a restaurant two miles from where Kael lived.

Tim and Jerrel were hungry and the Irish breakfast was good. Kael was a popular customer and several men stopped by their table to pass the time of day with him. He introduced Tim and Jerrel as visiting American tourists. It was ten by the time they returned to Gosford Castle. This time Kael and Paolo removed two file boxes from the back of the Vauxhall and carried them into the meeting room. When they were inside, he removed four thick accordion folders and handed one to each of them.

“Paolo and I are in charge of Death, the rider of the Pale Horse. Our immediate task is to identify a way to poison large numbers of people. After we determine the method, we are to meet in Casablanca, Morocco, in three months and give our report to Lord Phillip.

“We have done quite a bit of research looking for poisons that are potent and dilute quickly into public water supply sources. It must be tasteless and clear and it must be compact so that a few ounces will render a whole reservoir deadly to anyone who drinks the water.”

“What about cholera?” Tim asked.

“Cholera is too well known and too easily detected. Anthrax is also too common and commonly understood. We must identify a new poison that acts quickly, before scientists can counter its effects.”

“This could take a while,” Jerrel said skeptically.

“We think we have found one.”

“Where?” Tim asked.

“New Guinea.”

“New Guinea’s nothing but a big tropical swamp,” Jerrel said.

“Right. It is a fetid laboratory of vegetation, strange animals, insects, birds, and people. There are tribes who have not yet been contacted by modern man.”

Tim raised his eyebrows. “So, you’re about to assign us to travel to New Guinea to discover some sort of poison!”

“We have narrowed your search to a particular location where a strange-looking plant produces a clear resin which is reputed to be deadly.”

“What kind of plant?” Jerrel asked.

“Paolo and I have named it the Michelin Pineapple. The drawing we saw in the British Museum looks like the Michelin tire man with pineapple leaves where his head ought to be. It has a greenish purple color and it grows in only one place on earth.”

“Must be in some impenetrable swamp,” Jerrel said.

“No, it grows on a mountain called Mount Wilhelm in Papua, New Guinea.  It is a tropical, mist-covered limestone mountain peak 4,884 meters high. We want you to go there and locate the plant. Then you must obtain a sample of the poison, test its lethality and, if it is as potent as advertised, bring back samples.”

“You are assigning me and Jerrel to do that?” Tim asked skeptically.

“That is exactly what we want you to do,” Kael replied.

“Will one of you go with us?” Jerrel asked.

“Hell no!” Kael replied, his geniality having disappeared at the prospect of doing real work. “Lord Phillip did not tell us to go anywhere or do anything. He ordered us to get it done. You two are our instruments to accomplish Lord Phillip’s directive. Besides, we must stay here where we can recruit other revolutionaries.”

“What about guides and interpreters?” Tim asked.

“We have retained an Australian guide who is familiar with the country.”

“Can he speak the native language?”

“He’s fluent in Melanesian Pidgin, the lingua franca of New Guinea, and he speaks some of the native tribal dialects.”

“Where will we meet him?” Jerrel asked.

“Papua, New Guinea,” Kael replied.

“What’s his name?” Tim asked.

“Rough Hardison.”

“Sounds about right,” Jerrel muttered.

“When?” Tim asked.

“Ten days from now. We have no time to lose.”

Paolo spoke. “Kael, it is time for lunch.”

“So it is,” Kael agreed. “Shall we return to the Rainbow?”

“I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else,” Jerrel said with muted enthusiasm.

Kael ignored the sarcasm.



After returning from lunch, they spent the afternoon poring over maps of New Guinea, planning travel, making equipment lists, and discussing methods of testing the poison. Kael thought testing it on native tribesmen would be the fastest and surest way to do an accurate test.

“So you’re ordering us to murder the natives?” Tim asked.

“What of it? They’re just ignorant primitives. Their life span is short anyway. They die for us to serve a greater cause,” Paolo replied.

Tim and Jerrel looked at each other but said nothing else.

“We must be hard if we are to succeed,” Kael explained. “Lord Phillip made it abundantly clear that the deaths of those who stand in our way are inconsequential. They are mere collateral damage in our mission to cleanse the world of incompetents.”

They returned to the Rainbow for supper. On their way back to the castle, Kael handed Tim a book published in 1965 titled, I Come from the Stone Age, by explorer Heinrich Harrer.

“Read this,” he said. “It will prepare you for traveling into the darkest corners of New Guinea.”

Kael and Paolo waited with them in the meeting room, drinking warm beer, until Robert, clad in full formal livery, arrived to escort Jerrel to his rendezvous with Lady Twyla.



Robert escorted Jerrel to the other end of the castle, where Lady Ethelean and Lady Twyla lived in splendid medieval isolation from the cares and woes of modern life. Robert led him through the main entrance of the castle down a wide hallway, flanked by portraits of distinguished-looking men from long ago. Robert paused and knocked at a set of heavy double doors between two sets of medieval armor.

A woman’s voice from within said, “You may enter.”

Robert opened the door and ushered Jerrel inside, then led him to an elaborate old chair in which Lady Twyla sat, in an empire-style gown, a diamond necklace, bracelets, and rings on all her fingers. The dim light was kind to Lady Twyla. She was quite beautiful. She rose to greet Jerrel with a smile.

“Welcome, Mr. Oldhaus.”

“Good evening, Lady Twyla,” Jerrel replied. He had never seen a woman decked out so fine.

“Would you enjoy a tour of the castle before we begin?” she asked.

“Sure,” he replied.

She took his hand and led him on a tour of every room, including her mother’s bedroom, where Jerrel noticed there were two beds. He duly admired the main dining room; the library, which contained thousands of leather-covered books; the smoking room and the upstairs sitting room with French doors opening out onto a stone balcony.

By the time they returned to the guest sitting room, Robert had laid out hot tea and sweet cakes on a silver platter placed on an ornate coffee table. He had pulled up a matching chair opposite the one Lady Twyla was sitting in when Jerrel arrived. Jerrel took his seat across the table from Lady Twyla.

Conversation was awkward at first with Jerrel trying to act according to what he thought the dictates of the circumstance demanded. He sipped tea and nibbled cakes while she droned on about her illustrious family history. Then she asked about his background.

“I was born and grew up in Missouri in what you would call a rough family. After I finished high school, I joined the Marines where I learned to be an aircraft mechanic. I also learned to shoot rifles. When I got out of the Marine Corps, I stayed in the Cherry Point, North Carolina, area and got a job working in airplane maintenance. I joined the North Carolina National Guard where I made the rifle team.”

“Do you enjoy shooting rifles?”

“I love it!”

“Have you won anything in competition?”

“I set a record at the national matches that stood for ten years.”

“I like competitive men,” she mused.

“I hate to lose at anything I do,” he admitted.

“What else have you done?”

“I learned to fly and built my own airplane.”

She smiled. “You are a most interesting man.”

“I’m not too sure about that. I can’t be still. I have to be doing something interesting all the time.”

“How very American you are. I have always admired Americans for their ‘get up and go’, as you say it.”

She rang the bell for Robert. When he appeared, she asked him to remove tea and bring the wine. Soon he returned with another tray containing six dusty bottles of wine and two glasses.

She smiled at Jerrel. “We have talked enough, Mr. Oldhaus. It is now time for our evening to begin.”

She dismissed Robert and told him she would not require his services until tomorrow. Robert closed the door as Lady Twyla popped the cork on a 200-year-old bottle of wine.




Chapter Twenty-Nine


The rooster woke Tim up at the crack of dawn. Jerrel had not returned at midnight from his meeting with Lady Twyla. When Tim checked Jerrel’s room, he was in his bunk sound asleep. Tim got his toiletries bag and clothes and went to the bathroom. Jerrel was still asleep when he returned. It would be two hours before Kael and Paolo arrived so Tim took a walk around the castle grounds. When he rounded the corner at the rear of the castle, he almost bumped into Lady Twyla.

“Good morning, Mr. Walton,” she said cheerfully.

“Good morning,” Tim replied. “Beautiful day.”

“Yes, isn’t it?”

“Jerrel’s still asleep.” Tim answered an anticipated question.

She smiled. “He deserves to rest.”

“I guess you two had a pleasant evening.”

“Oh, yes, we did. It was a wonderful evening.”

“What time did he get in?”

“I suppose four, maybe five. We didn’t count the hours.”

Tim guessed they must have hit it off really well. “I thought I’d wake him at nine-thirty.”

“You are very kind,” she replied with a smile. “When will you two leave?”

“I’m not sure. Tomorrow, maybe.”

“I’ve invited him to dine with us tonight.”

“I’m sure he’ll enjoy that.”

“I hope so. I know that I will,” she added with a sly smile. “May I join you on your morning walk?”

“Sure, it’s your place. Do you always get up so early?”

“Always. This is my favorite time of day. But I usually walk in the orchard.”

“Why did you change?” Tim asked, thinking she had hoped to meet Jerrel.

“Robert told me that the air conditioner drips on my Rolls when the humidity is high.”

“Did it?”

“I haven’t checked.”

“Where’s it parked?” Tim asked. He had never seen a Rolls-Royce close up.

“In the garage over there.” She pointed to a stone building sitting in a grove of oak trees fifty yards behind the castle.

“Will you walk with me to check on it now?” she asked.

“I’ll be glad to. I’ve never seen a Rolls up close.”

She turned, and they followed a curved stone walkway to an imposing two story building.

She opened the heavy, squeaky, wooden door. The morning sun streamed through big casement windows onto the stone floor. To their right, Tim saw a new-looking, white Rolls-Royce Phantom. Lady Twyla drove about town on fancy wheels. Tim saw another automobile in the dim light as they approached her car.

“What’s that?” he asked pointing at the older car.

“It’s Papa’s 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith.”

“I’ve seen a car like this in a movie,” Tim said.

“One like it was used in the movie, Johnny Dangerously. You may sit in it if you like.”

Tim wasn’t about to pass up that opportunity. He looked the old car over before he sat behind the steering wheel. Meanwhile, Lady Twyla checked to see if the air conditioner had dripped on her new car. The old car was as immaculate as the new one. The odometer read 14,758.3 miles. He did a quick calculation. This car had been driven an average of 202 miles a year since it was new.

After Lady Twyla was satisfied that there were no drips on her car, they returned to the castle.

When they parted, she said, “Remind Jerrel that Robert will come for him at six.”

After Lady Twyla left, Tim went inside. Kael and Paolo hadn’t arrived and Jerrel was still asleep in his room.

Tim shook him. “Time to rise and shine.”

Jerrel turned on his back and rubbed his eyes. “What time is it?”


“Are they here?”

“Naw. You gonna live?”

“Maybe. I had a hard night.”

“Must not have been very hard. Lady Twyla is already up, chipper as a chipmunk.”

“That’s because I did all the work.”

“She told me to remind you about tonight.”

“I know. Robert’s coming to get me at six. When’re we leaving?”

“I guess tomorrow.”

“Good. I gotta get some rest.”



Kael and Paolo arrived at ten. They went to the Rainbow again. By now Tim and Jerrel were treated like regulars. After returning to the room, they completed the plan for Tim and Jerrel’s expedition to New Guinea to locate the mythical super poison of the “Michelin Pineapple” plant that was guaranteed to cleanse the world of incompetents. Tim thought Kael and Paolo ought to be the first victims. Robert arrived at six on the dot that evening to take Jerrel to his rendezvous with Lady Twyla.



The following morning, Tim spent a couple of hours reviewing the plan with Kael and Paolo while Jerrel got a few extra hours of sleep. Lady Twyla stuck her head inside the room to invite Jerrel and Tim to breakfast in the castle and take them to the airport in her Rolls. Kael thanked her, and, after he and Tim finished, he and Paolo wished them success in locating the plant of death. Then the Kael and Paolo went off to the Rainbow for breakfast. 

Robert escorted Tim and Jerrel to a dining room that seated twelve. Tapestries covered the walls and windows were framed in cashmere drapes. Tim thought the table must weigh a ton. Lady Twyla arrived last, and she, Tim and Jerrel dined English style on Churchill china using antique silver.

After breakfast, they loaded into the Rolls Royce and traveled to Eglinton Airport in fine style. The airport had a special lane for Rolls-Royce automobiles. The baggage handlers treated them with great respect when they unloaded and checked in.

Tim left for the gate to give Jerrel and Lady Twyla privacy to say their goodbyes.

 Jerrel seemed subdued when he joined Tim. “You okay?” Tim asked.

“Yeah. Just tired.”

“Are you gonna miss Lady Twyla?”

“Yeah. She’s a nice woman.”

“You sure made a hit with her.”

“She’s a nice and lonely woman without much of a life. She’s sick of lowlifes hitting on her all the time and nobody interesting has come her way.”

“Maybe you brightened her life a bit.” Tim said.


“Did she brighten yours?”

Jerrel answered with a satisfied grin. “Who else do you know that’s made out with the daughter of a duchess?”

Tim picked up a copy of the London Times. The headline read, “50,000 women warned that their breast implants could explode.”

“Sometimes we get too much information,” he observed philosophically.

Jerrel picked up another part of the paper, and that headline read, “Man killed during a drug deal gone wrong.” He looked at Tim. “Does that mean the world would be a better place if the drug deal had gone right?”

“Looks like things are as bad over here as they are back home,” Tim said.

Their flight was called and they boarded the plane for Heathrow Airport.

“What do you think about this thing?” Jerrel asked Tim.

“I think it’s a big farce and our government is overreacting.”

“You know, Smithson and Ferretti didn’t act like any revolutionaries I’ve ever heard of.”

Tim shrugged. “I think they’re just playing at being a revolutionary. They’re scared stiff of this Lord Phillip.”

“If they were really serious, at least one of them would be going with us to New Guinea.”

“Yeah,” Tim agreed. “They’re too lazy.”

“And we met in a free room a mile from where Smithson lives. That is not the way to do this.”

“It’s a good way to get caught.”

“If I was assigned to do this, the first thing I’d try to do is bribe a low level Russian biological warfare expert. They already know how to accomplish what Smithson and Ferretti are supposed to do. I wouldn’t send two strangers off to the wilds of New Guinea, at huge expense, looking for a needle in a haystack.”

“Yeah,” Tim laughed. “We might have been counter spies.”

“We might,” Jerrel agreed.

On the last leg of their flight to Raleigh-Durham Airport, Tim asked Jerrel, “What do you think Jim’s up to right now.”

“He’s complaining about something and telling somebody the right way to do it.”

“The guy he’s paired with is a tough dude.”

“I heard that too. Maybe Jim’ll learn something from him.”

“Maybe. Is Lady Twyla gonna visit you when this is over?”

“She talked about it.”

“Your Explorer ain’t exactly a Rolls.”

“I’ll get it washed before she comes. She won’t know the difference.”

Tim laughed. “She’s an aristocrat. You could take her to Byrd’s restaurant in Kinston for one of their million dollar biscuits.”

“Good idea. I think I will.”

“I bet she would be the first aristocrat that ever dined at Byrds.”




Chapter Thirty


Jason Sparks met them in Tim’s shop the day after their return. He listened to their comments about the seeming lack of focus they observed in Smithson and Ferretti, and their suggestion that those two were incapable of causing serious damage to anybody. He agreed with Jerrel’s comment about accessibility of Russian Biological Warfare agents, but his official position was that this plot had to be treated with utmost seriousness.

“Your logic makes sense,” he said. “But this mysterious mastermind, Lord Phillip, might be a totally different piece of work. He may know something Smithson and Ferretti didn’t know, and you two don’t know. He might have something up his sleeve that nobody has ever thought of and the danger to Western Governments would be extreme.”

After two days of discussion and several calls by Sparks to his headquarters, the plan stayed essentially the same as the one Smithson and Ferretti had developed. Tim and Jerrel were to travel to New Guinea and locate this rare, weird-looking, super poisonous plant, and bring back samples of its poison. The plan varied in only one way from the plan Smithson and Ferretti had developed. The poison would be delivered first to the laboratories of Homeland Security, instead of Ireland.

Sparks’ parting advice was, “For what it’s worth to you two, in this case, it is better to be safe than sorry, especially considering what is at stake.”

They had several phone conversations with Rough Hardison during the week before they left. He had a businesslike approach, which they appreciated after their meetings with Smithson and Ferretti.

When they brought up the need for firearms, he was blunt. “Shotguns are what you need. The jungle is too thick for any long range shooting, plus nothing in that jungle is big enough to require a rifle to kill. You will need to have a pistol and a sharp machete with you at all times.”

“Can you furnish them or should we bring something?” Tim asked.

“It would be better if I rented them. They won’t be collector grade, but they’ll work. You wouldn’t want to take anything any good where we’re going anyway.”



Hardison met Tim and Jerrel at the customs gate in Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby, New Guinea. He was a typical Australian bushman in his safari hat, sixteen-inch leather boots, and military khakis.

Rough was a big, blonde man with a Clark Gable mustache and a ruddy complexion. He coached them through customs and helped them carry their luggage to a Land Rover, after which he drove them to the Hideaway Hotel, in Port Moresby.

After checking in, Rough issued them their weapons. He handed Tim a rough-looking, well-used High Standard twelve gauge pump shotgun, a Webley top-break forty-five pistol, and a razor sharp machete.

While Tim examined the shotgun, Jerrel laughed. “Top grade stuff, ain’t it?”

Jerrel frowned when Rough handed him an even more decrepit-looking Stevens model 67E, another Webley, and a machete.  Then Rough took them to the Roundhouse Restaurant, where he ordered the prawn and squid special.

“Better eat up,” he advised. “Tomorrow we leave for the bush and you won’t see a decent meal until we return.”

Jerrel was surprised. “We’re not taking food with us?”

“We’re walking in with one backpack apiece. With ammo, utensils, toiletries, first aid supplies, and three changes of clothes. You won’t have room for much else.”

“What’ll we eat?” Tim asked.

“We’ll live off the land,” Rough replied.

Tim was astonished. “Live off the land?”

“Don’t worry. It’s the tropics. There’s plenty to eat just lying around, if you’re not too particular.”

Tim and Jerrel ordered the biggest steak on the menu.

After their food arrived, Jerrel asked, “What about the natives?”

“We might meet tribes that have never seen a white man.”

“I heard there are cannibals and headhunters here,” Tim said.

“Yes, there are.”

“Will we meet any?”

“In all probability,” Rough replied.

Jerrel stopped chewing and asked, “Will they want to eat us?”

“They say Europeans taste too salty.”

“Who do they prefer?” Tim asked.

“Polynesians,” Rough replied with a wry grin. “Better lifestyle.”

“What do they taste like?”

“The cannibals say they taste a lot like pork.”

“When are we leaving?” Jerrel asked.

“Tomorrow at daylight.”

“Are we driving?”

“There are no roads from here to the place we’re going. We’re taking a two-day boat ride. The boat will drop us off at Lae, about two-hundred route miles from the place we’re headed. Then we’ll take the Highland Highway to Kundiawa. We’ll walk the rest of the way.”

“What’s the name of the place we’re going?” Tim asked.

“The Mount Wilhelm area.”

“How far will we hike?” Jerrel asked.

“It’s about 25 miles as the crow flies, but our route might be three times as far through some of the most rugged terrain in New Guinea.”



At daybreak, they boarded a white Lutheran Shipping combination ferry and coastal transport. They located an unoccupied spot on the port side upper level of the ship to pile their gear and sit. At noon, the ferry docked at Abau to discharge and pick up passengers and freight flown in to the airport. They went ashore briefly to buy lunch from food vendors set up in booths for ships’ passengers.

The ship put in for the night at Basilaki Island, located at the eastern end of the New Guinea mainland. They took rooms in the Chico Hotel.

They departed at daybreak from Basilaki Island. The ship docked at Gurney mid-afternoon. The Gurney Airport, which was the only reason for the town of Gurney to exist, is on the northern end of Milne Bay. The U.S. Army and the Royal Australian Air Force built it during World War II. It had a single 6,000-foot runway. Gurney didn’t have a hotel, so, that night, Tim, Jerrel and Rough, slept in sleeping bags on the deck of the ferry.

The next morning they sailed to Lae, two-hundred and forty five miles northeast. The boat sailed through the night, arriving at Lae at daybreak.

Lae is the capital of Morobe Province and the second-largest city in Papua, New Guinea. It is located east of the Markham River Delta and at the start of the Highlands Highway. Overlooked by Mount Lunaman to the southeast, Lae is the largest cargo port in the country. The highway is the main land corridor from the coast to the central highlands, where the mythical poison plant was supposed to grow. Rough rented a well-used seventies vintage Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

They rented a room at the Lae International Hotel on 4th Street where they took the last civilized bath they would have until they returned. The hotel restaurant didn’t look appealing so they dined on taro, sweet potatoes, and earthen baked pork at a local restaurant called the Bosavi.

“It wasn’t bad,” Tim observed on the way to the Wagoneer.

“I thought it was pretty good,” Jerrel replied. “Rough, what does Bosavi mean? Is it somebody’s name?”

He laughed. “Bosavi is the name of a big woolly rat.”

“So, in English, we dined at the Woolly Rat Restaurant,” Tim said.

“Yes,” Rough replied.

“It was still pretty good,” Tim said.

“We gonna eat any big woolly rats on the trail?” Jerrel asked.

“Not if we can find a pig before we starve,” Rough replied.

“What’s out there?” Tim asked.

“Taro roots, bananas, sweet potatoes, sago from palm trees, a kind of wild asparagus called pit-pit, coconuts are everywhere and there’s a wild chestnut, but it doesn’t taste like any chestnuts you’ve eaten. We can buy rice and bread in the villages.”

“Sounds like it’ll go well with woolly rat,” Jerrel said with a laugh.

They loaded into the Wagoneer and headed north on the Highlands Highway along the most pothole infested road they had ever seen.

    It was dark by the time they arrived at Nadzab, the first settlement on their route. It was more of a location than a town. In September 1943, the New Guinea campaign between the U.S. Army and the Japanese Army began. After a parachute drop at Nadzab, the U.S. won a ferocious battle. 

Rough bartered with a local family for two chickens, some eggs, sweet potatoes and a small bag of rice. That night, they dined upon chicken roasted over an open fire, fried sweet potatoes and boiled rice chased down with fresh coconut milk.

“You know,” Jerrel observed after they had cleaned up, “that was better than what we had at the Woolly Rat.”

Tim and Rough nodded in agreement.



March Horoscope

Courtesy of


Welcome to 2021! What a cycle we've had so far as we leave the year of 2020's massively world-shifting “Great Conjunctions,” entering a spirituality insightful year ahead. There is a rambunctious tonality from the very beginning as Saturn and Jupiter have entered Aquarius for good, giving us a taste of the new age ahead.

It can feel like there is little to nowhere to hide at times as the overall transits reason between the emphasis of strength in numbers versus your personal need for security. A mighty square between Saturn in technically savvy Aquarius and Uranus roaming through willful Taurus can trigger some tense moments and bring along some powerfully dramatic change. The influence of this transit spans specifically on February 17, June 14, and December 24; however, this energy resonates throughout the year's events.

There can be both internal struggle and community strife to contend with. There is a tug-of-war between one's own ego and the idea of what things are transforming towards. Saturn's purpose is to build, but in this case, the Tower must fall in some capacity. Structures that no longer serve the masses will ultimately crumble. There is a possibility for civil unrest in many ways via these transits as Uranus is the ultimate radical who invites chaotic change and sudden actions. Be open to many unplanned surprises on all fronts. The lighter side of this aspect is finally receiving that loan or payout you've been waiting on. This can also bring in competent community leaders with a major message. Either way, there is a radical change in the sky—and our lives—whenever electric Uranus and authoritative Saturn connect in the cosmos. This year also holds three Mercury retrograde cycles, all in air signs, which are highly potent as the north node of destiny speaks to us through Gemini's humorous wit. In general, these are timeframes where communication, technology, data, mail, and mass transportation can be slowed down in some way. It is especially important to note who you meet or who reaches out to you when the trickster planet goes retrograde, as this is often an unresolved issue that needs to be taken care of in order to move forward.

The first of Mercury's retrograde cycle enters shadow in the sign of Aquarius on January 15, stations and moves retrograde on January 30, and continues until stationing direct on February 20, clearing shadow on March 13. This can be a redoing or rewinding cycle of looking at your more innovative qualities and can even lead to many creative enhancements for the greater good.

The second transit shadow begins on May 14 and leads to a station retrograde on May 29. The trickster planet remains in this editorial zone until going direct on June 22, and finally clearing shadow on July 17.

The final of this swift planet's retrograde cycles occurs in Libra, entering the shadow zone on September 6, stationing retrograde on September 26, and transiting direct on October 18 and leaving shadow on November 2. This will be a more relationship-based cycle influenced by the Venusian planet of love. There can be a lesson regarding romantic communication and information uncovered during this cycle.

The lunar waves continue to reflect the north node's presence in Gemini and the south nodes cleansing release in fiery Sagittarius. The first eclipse activity of the year begins with a total lunar eclipse in the sign of the Centaur that can test your boundaries in some capacity. The cycle reflects the past in many ways and can feel like you need to revisit certain elements of your life in order to move forward. This can also affect travel and opens up your mind to more esoteric subjects.

On June 10, an annular solar eclipse in communicative Gemini can feel like a fresh breath of air or at least leads to great clarity around partnering and looking at life from different sides of the coin. Throughout the year, there's a major theme of duality and being able to balance out the original visions through one's ability to discern and sort out the details. Jumping to conclusions is a possibility, especially during dispute settlements. However, in general, there is a keen ability to connect through extremely wise and honest conversations.

The world is met with some more grounding eclipse energy on November 19 with a partial lunar eclipse transiting through the solid sign of Taurus. Some will feel delighted to have this energy around, especially earth signs or signs with a strong need to plan ahead. This is a lunar energy to vibe with here, which will set you up for some nice influences for long-term investing, love, and money-related affairs in the future—especially for April, May, and the later months of 2022.

This year holds out strong with a beautiful total solar eclipse in Sagittarius on December 4, sparking passion through our ninth house of knowledge, continuing education, and spiritual expansion. All in all, this year reflects us all through clarifying astrological alignments requiring us all to move to the beat of our own drum.

March begins with Mercury retrograde in full swing, so you may feel as if you are wading through quicksand. Why isn't my crush texting me back? Did my boss get that work email? Try not to overthink such questions. It's not you; it's the cosmos aligning against you. Don't lose hope, all things pass with time. Enjoy your favorite form of self-care or a sex marathon to get you through the month.

March Overall: It's March, and spring is coming. We are still in the midst of a Mercury retrograde — your exes are crawling out of the woodwork, emails are getting lost, and work commutes may take forever. On Wednesday, March 4, Mercury enters logical Aquarius. This doesn't cancel out the retrograde, but thanks to the efficient air sign, its effects lighten.

The next day, on Thursday, March 5, lover planet Venus enters sensual Taurus. Everyone is feeling lazy in love in the best way possible. There are no complicated dates on the calendar, and no fights or arguments to be had. Instead, stay in either by yourself, with a crush, or with your partner and snuggle in bed with plenty of snack breaks.

There's a full moon in meticulous Virgo on Monday, March 9. Everyone's attention to detail skyrockets, which is great for ensuring work emails and texts go to the right person during Mercury retrograde. However, Virgo's fastidious energy can also bring out your anxious and paranoid side. Self-soothe with meditation, journaling, and make sure you get plenty of rest. Thankfully, the next day, on Tuesday, March 10, Mercury retrograde ends and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Communication flows easier.

Our intuition is heightened and even the most pragmatic signs feel a little teary-eyed and emotional.

Messenger Mercury is busy and moves into dreamy Pisces on Monday, March 16. Our intuition is heightened and even the most pragmatic signs feel a little teary-eyed and emotional. It's a great time to connect on a deep level with a lover. Bold Aries season begins on Friday, March 20. This time also represents the Spring Equinox, which means fresh starts, new growth, and beginnings. However, for those fresh starts to take place, you must let go of what's not serving you anymore. That could mean an unhealthy relationship or old ways of thinking.


When task maker Saturn enters futuristic Aquarius on Sunday, March 22, we all look to our professional lives and set goals to accomplish this year. During the new moon in Aries on Tuesday, March 24 set intentions and create clear career goals. The ritual of intention setting is extremely powerful. See you in April!



Men Say They Don’t Understand Women

Sybil Austin Skakle


“I think I finally understand her.”

He spoke of my younger sister.

Was he surprised that she let him go?

Dynamics of relationships change.


He and I had celebrated 90th birthdays,

And were visiting on the telephone.

She had died on her 28th anniversary to

Other than him, father of their four sons.


He’d married another over 30 years ago.

Love learns to release, to let go.

Some time it happens by divorcing.

It was not that love had died.


She never stopped loving him.

Now I knew that it was true

That neither did he stop loving her.

Why do men find women baffling?


If we were braver and talked more

Revealed who we are to the other,

Do you think it possible that both

Might understand the other?


My Secret to a Long Life

Serious humor by Howard A. Goodman


I’ve reached the age now where people, particularly younger ones, ask me. “What’s the secret to your longevity?” I’m not really THAT old, and I don’t think it’s really a big secret. And I’m fairly certain others my age have already discovered it, though perhaps they haven’t seen fit to communicate it to anybody else, nor commit their recipe to the written word.

So please allow me a few paragraphs herein to memorialize my recipe. Stated concisely, my secret to a long life is simply this: Always remain in a state of anticipation of something pleasant. As long as you have something to wait for, to look forward to, a hope to cling to, to long for, there is a better chance your life will continue unthreatened by the grim reaper.

As but one modest example, perhaps unknowingly eBay created more than just an online auction. Whenever you order something from eBay, particularly something that will arrive from overseas, there is created a time period during which your anticipation of receiving that item to arrive instills in you a stronger will to live. After all, why would you order the item if you did not expect to live long enough to hold it in your hands?

When the item finally arrives, if it is true to its online description you cherish it. But that typically lasts no more than a few days. Following that, the thrill of receiving and having it fades rapidly and the item is soon forgotten, relegated to a bookcase, shelf, or drawer. So now I hope you see what I see: it is the anticipation of receiving the item, not the actual receipt itself, that keeps you hanging on.

Last year, when my wife and I separated and I moved into these digs, my son Scott, who’s always been a sort of father figure to me, began to urge me to purchase a handgun for my personal protection. Up to this point I was never a gun person but saw the wisdom in his words, despite the fact that every time I gazed at a bullet I saw the image of a lawyer on either end of it.

I then applied online for a permit, and so my period of anticipation began. During that time I began to shop for the perfect handgun for me. It became an exciting learning adventure while my period of anticipation continued. Weeks went by. Then months. Finally, after I had all but forgotten I’d ever applied, I received an email, notifying me that my permit had been approved and was waiting at the Wake County sheriff’s office on South Salisbury Street in downtown Raleigh, urging me to make an appointment to pick it up.

While waiting in line on the sidewalk, I met a few other citizens, all wearing COVID masks and looking like bank robbers. Like me, they were all first timers. When it was my turn to step inside the lobby of the building, after identifying myself to the kind lady behind the glass, I received my permit package and brought it home.

As to the handgun, I eventually settled on a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9 mm Luger pistol. At the gun shop in Wendell, this particular model felt good in my shaky hand. And it was made in ‘merica. And it happened to be on sale! That was six months ago, my period of anticipation long past. Today, my Smith & Wesson lies in a drawer, nearly forgotten, but still available should I need it. I just hope my steadily advancing age does not cause me to forget which drawer.

So, whether it’s the anticipation of waiting for that special thingee you purchased on eBay to arrive, or sleeping with that attractive lady/gentleman from down the street (which, by the way is pretty much all I can do anymore; still...), to help achieve a longer, happier life you should always strive to remain in a state of anticipation of receiving/acquiring/attaining/achieving something pleasant.

Say Hello to My Little Friends!

Tim Whealton


This started with my Mother. She was always in the kitchen and a fantastic cook but she would never tell you she could boil water. Late in life she started trying to make a biscuit that she had enjoyed as a child. She grew up on Lukens Island at South River in Carteret County. It was called a freckled biscuit. The yeast was from a sour potato and when baked it would form big brown spots on top. She tried lots of recipes but never found the one that tasted like the ones from her childhood.

Before she died in 1989, I was in a duck camp on the Outer Banks and copied a recipe that was written on the wall. It was in Julian Hamilton’s camp. It looked simple but Mr. Julian said “It ain’t much good unless the right person makes’em” Well I discovered that the “right person” is the one that’s willing to keep at it till they get good rolls. If you are lucky enough to be from Down East (East of North River!) or visit there you will probably have tasted a Down East Light Roll.

Pilgrim’s Rest FWB Church in Cedar Island has a long history of yeast rolls and feeding visitors. They usually have a dinner after church on the first Sunday. Nice little get away, some good handmade food, beautiful un-crowded beach,  natural beauty that takes your breath away and you rarely hear a sermon on gluttony.

If you want to be known as a cook, this will do it. You can serve whatever else but if you have a pan of good light rolls, the meal is a success. If there are any left-over (highly unusual) you can freeze them and take them out one at a time and microwave them for 1 minute. You can also grind them up for filler in stuffed clams or dressing.   

Yeast are amazing little animals. There are over 1500 different types. They have caused a lot of misery and fun since the time of Noah. Noah has the distinction of being the first person to get drunk in the Bible. It still happens with boat builders to this very day!

Yeast are a lot like us it seems. When there is nothing going on they are real couch potatoes. They don’t do anything for anybody. But when you get them wet, warm and give them something to eat they really get going!

First they start to reproduce. They are very adept at this. They can do it by themselves or with a partner! (Told you they were amazing!) Either way they make more yeast and those baby yeast make more both ways too. Soon if the food, water and warmth hold out you have a yeast explosion! The Lord did say “Be fruitful and multiply!”

Well, all that reproducing has a few side effects. First they make alcohol. They start converting the sugar to alcohol and the party starts! Just like some people they can’t seem to stop and they make alcohol until it kills them. That’s somewhere around 12% for most yeast but some of the little drunkards can live above 20%! I can remember a few from Bridgeton in the old days that could do it! That would be good news if we were making wine or whiskey but it is the side effect we are seeking. Seems all that eating and swimming in alcohol makes them pass gas and that is just what we need for a big soft yeast roll.

Bread has to have some way to form bubbles inside the dough and yeast gas is just wonderful. It has a pleasant smell (don’t say it) and the bubbles push the dough apart and make it rise. We use other forms of gas in other breads. Baking powder is a chemical that releases gas when mixed with something wet and again when the temp goes above 140 degrees. Great for a quick biscuit but lacking flavor and smell.

A mostly forgotten way to get biscuits to rise is an old southern recipe called the beaten biscuit. The dough is mixed and then beat with a board till it forms blisters. These blisters are what raises the dough. This biscuit is more like a cracker than what we call a biscuit but they are very good. Most need 100 sharp whacks to blister. Reminds me of when I was a student at Bridgeton School.

Our Bible makes many references to unleavened bread. This was not preferred bread but done in remembrance of when they had to leave Egypt and didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise before baking. Our Civil War soldiers and pioneers carried a bread called hardtack that was similar. Without much room they wanted the most calories they could fit in the available space (I do the same with my stomach!). When I started learning how to make bread, I frequently made a version of hardtack when I killed my yeast or didn’t let them get going long enough. Hopefully my mistakes will teach you an easier way. Jesus baked bread too. He baked it on the beach for breakfast for the disciples after they fished all night. He still offers it.

 So how do you care for yeast? Once you realize they are alive it isn’t too hard to understand. First thing is the temperature. Too hot and they die, too cold and they go to sleep. You have probably already guessed what they like, yep 98.6 works and a little warmer. Usually if you make the water the same temp as baby milk your yeast will be happy. And just like a baby, don’t warm yeast in a microwave! If it’s too hot for comfort on your wrist cool it first.

Next we add the sugar. If the sugar is too concentrated it will kill the yeast! That’s why pancake syrup can sit on the counter. It’s also why honey will never spoil. Nothing can live in honey because it’s too sweet! A little trick I use is to never stir the sugar when I dump it in the water. Enough will dissolve in the water to feed the yeast and what’s on the bottom will sweeten the dough. I allow my yeast to work longer before mixing the dough than most cooks. Seems to give more flavor.

After the yeast have started well and there is a layer of foam on top it’s time to make some dough! (Rahab in the Bible made her dough at night) Remember yeast don’t like anything cold so pop that bag of flour in the microwave for 2 minutes first. Then you can pour the flour directly into the yeast mixture. Add the salt and whatever type of oil or fat you like. I like bear lard but light tasting olive oil or grapeseed oil will work just dandy. If using hard fat like lard it should be warmed first. If you don’t it will slow down the yeast.

If you notice the recipe, it calls for more salt than most. I don’t know if it balances out the extra sugar but it just works. I don’t remember making any that even tasted salty but this is a framework recipe that you will adjust so make it your way!

I use Kitchenaid stand mixers and have worn out more than one. They are great for bread and lots more. With the dough hook I watch the dough mix. Now comes the part that will take a little experience. I don’t know if it’s variations in flour or what but you can measure perfectly and get different dough. Watch the dough form and you are looking for a ball of dough that will ALMOST clean the sides of the bowl. Nothing wrong if it cleans but the dough will be a little stiff. If it doesn’t form a ball you add a little flour while it’s mixing. If it is really stiff and the mixer is grunting you add a little water. It will take several minutes of mixing before you will know if it needs more.

After you have decided that the dough is well mixed and has the stiffness you want it needs to rest. Now the yeast are alive and mixed into the dough. You find a warm place and cover the bowl (Yeast don’t like a draft or people looking at them). The yeast will start to rise and in about an hour the dough will be doubled in size. To get better flavor and texture you can punch down the dough to the original size.

Now it’s time to store the dough in the fridge or make rolls. Your hand size will make it easy or hard to push the dough out in the right size for your rolls. Generally a ball about the size of a golf ball will make a nice roll. I will place mine in a baking dish with sides that has been greased. Then I let them sit for 15 minutes in a warm (not on) oven. They will rise again! At this point they are tender and can’t be handled. I will turn on my oven to 330 degrees and let them bake until I see the tops just start to brown. I don’t preheat my oven but I do protect the bottom of my roll pan with a layer of foil on the bottom rack. That will keep the bottom of the pan from frying the rolls before the tops brown. We are now at the critical stage! Don’t even think of doing anything else!!!

Turn on the broiler and get on your knees in front of the oven. The rolls are done but we want to lightly brown the tops. The difference between light brown and burnt is 10 seconds under the broiler! Open the oven door and look, have your oven mitts on. If not brown enough (Use a flashlight, the oven light isn’t reliable!)) close and count to 10 and repeat. When they are ready remove and brush on melted butter (be generous!). When you take them out but before you get off your knees it’s a good time to pray.



Variety is the spice of life and your yeast dough will prove it. After you punch it down it can be rolled about ½ “ thick and cut into doughnuts to fry in hot oil (325degrees). It can be rolled out and spread with a mixture of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, then rolled and cut 1” thick. Bake like above and glaze for awesome cinnamon rolls. Rolls can be stuffed with sausage, cooked egg and cheese for breakfast or any crabmeat mixture you like for a seafood treat that always pleases. I like to dust these with Old Bay.

Delay of Game!

Many cooks make their dough and store it in the fridge. When they are ready they pinch off the rolls and put them in a warm place to rise and then bake. This is great if you are camping or going somewhere to cook. I will frequently mix dough at night and leave on the counter in a very deep greased pot. It won’t climb out and in the morning all I do is pinch off the rolls and let them rise in a warm oven usually 30minutes and bake. Great for a hunting breakfast and the extra ones can go it the hunting coat for lunch. A lot of old time cooks made dough once a week and pinched off rolls every day. After a few days the yeast are getting tired so don’t go more than a few days. If your fridge is too cold they might not survive so you might have to experiment.


Your type of oven will dictate your method. Ovens heat objects two ways. First is direct or infrared heat. The glowing element sends out light that heats what it touches. This will be the inside of the oven and the bottom of your pan. If you notice most recipes say to preheat your oven. If you don’t, your food will burn on the bottom before it’s done. This is because the infrared light striking the bottom heats the pan bottom before the hot air in the oven can brown and cook the food. That hot air is the convection heat that is evenly distributed inside the oven. It is the second way an oven cooks.

Gas ovens have the burner beneath the oven and the infrared is much more contained. If you have been cooking much you probably like a gas stove and oven. I like the ones with a broiler on top so I don’t need to move the hot pan to the bottom or lie on my stomach to see it broil on that bottom compartment.



Electric ovens

With the electric elements exposed the electric oven will need an expert but it really isn’t much trouble. You just need a little understanding. I use and intermediate diffuser to block most of the infrared heat. Either a large cookie sheet on the bottom rack or a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil will work. It slows down the heat and makes it more even. Try different things and find out what works best for you.



2 cups warm water

6 cups bread flour

2 tsp salt

2 packages dry highly active yeast (bread machine yeast)

½ cup sugar

½ cup oil (or warm bear lard)


Dump sugar in water but don’t stir, add yeast and cover in a warm place for 20 minutes. It should develop a foamy top.

Mix flour, salt and oil into the yeast mixture till it forms a plastic looking dough ball. Add flour or water as needed to get it as desired.

Place in a tall greased bowl or pot and let it sit in a warm place till it doubles. Usually an hour with hyper yeast. Keep it covered.

Press it down and pinch off rolls about the size of golf balls in a greased baking pan with sides. Leave some space (3/4”) between and spray with melted butter or butter flavor pam lightly. Place in a warm oven and let them rise without disturbing.

Bake at 330 degrees till the first sign of browning, then broil on high for 30 seconds or so to get the desired brown. Remove and brush on a coat of butter and pat yourself on the back.



The Haymaker

Diana Goldsmith


I was the youngest of seven

Some thought it was heaven

Not if you have six brothers

I wanted to be like the others.


My Ma and Pa were content

I never heard an argument

They worked very long hours

Yet still had time to pick flowers.

In the kitchen at the big house

Ma would cook a pie with the grouse

Sometimes we were given what was left

Keeping the workers happy stops theft.


Pa was a game keeper for his Lordship

On a Sunday in church  we would worship

Wearing our best clothes, boots and a hat

After lunch we all would read, play or chat.


My brothers worked on the big  farm

Learning various skills would do no harm

They earned enough money to each marry

So I was one of the bridesmaids for Harry.


Luke, George, Robert, Matthew and Peter

I longed to be wed myself to Bob, a beater.

I was shy and he didn't know how I felt

So I prayed really hard by my bed as I knelt.


Please, dear Lord cause us to meet.

So at harvest time on the wagon seat

Next to Bob I was not daring at him to  look.

As we cut the hay and made it into a stook


He turned to me and we did kiss each other

He asked for my hand from father and mother

We made our vows and at the altar did pray

And I thanked  the Lord for the maker of hay.



The Error of Our Ways

Mistakes are the engine of language's evolution

Johnson, Learning from Our mistakes


Children will not only inherit the world, but shape it. Especially in their linguistic mistakes. For example, a child collecting different kinds of animals in a video game: "I got a new specie!”, he cries. The source of the mistake is obvious. The child has heard the slightly rarefied word "species” and assumed it was the plural of something called a specie. Children do this kind of thing all the time as they learn language; generalizing from things previously heard and rules previously mastered is the only way they can progress with such speed. In most cases, errors disappear on their own.

Yet tempting, specie-type mistakes happen not just among children, but their parents too. Some survive, and even thrive, until they displace an old form and become the new standard. Few English-speakers today know it, but there was once no such thing as a pea. People ate a mass of boiled pulses called pease. But just as with specie, at some point English people mis-analysed pease as a plural, and the new singular pea was born. The same thing happened with cherry, from the Norman cherise, and caper (the edible kind), from the Latin capparis, both singular.

Another kind of confusion happens at the beginning of words. People once worked with a protective bit of clothing called a napron. But enough heard it as “an apron” that apron eventually sup­planted napron completely. Other words beginning with vowels and preceded by “an” went through the same process: nadder became adder and nauger, auger (a tool for boring holes). In other instances, an n was added, not subtracted, by a mis­take in the opposite direction: a newt was once a ewt, and a nickname was once an eke-name. (Eke is an old word for “also”) Not all such forms survived: while neilond, nangry and nuncle appear in older English texts, they never did replace island, angry and uncle.

Foreign borrowings are also a source of error-induced change. The French la muni­tion was misunderstood by English-speak­ers with shaky French as Vammunition, giving rise to the English word. English- speakers are not the only people who do this kind of thing, nor is French the only victim. The Arabic al-, meaning "the”, has been taken as an integral part of words borrowed from that tongue. So European languages are filled with alkali, algebra and the like. It is as if English had swallowed la munition whole as "lamunition".

Sometimes borrowings are mangled not because their structure is misun­derstood, but their meaning. A chefde cuisine, as it was originally adopted from French, was boss of the kitchen. Chef still means "boss" in French, but the English eventually took a chef to be a cook. Pariah trod a similarly improbable path: the word means "drummer” in Tamil, be­coming the name of a downtrodden ethnic group which often performed ceremonial drumming. That "downtrod­den” element of the meaning then be­came the only one in English.

The "pariah” example is instructive. This isn’t so much a word born of a single clear-cut mistake, as one that emerged from a gradual transformation: from drummer to outcast drummers to out­cast, each step is short and intelligible. Only to Tamils might the English sense of "pariah” seem wrong. In English, “out­cast” really is its meaning.

Every word is changing a little bit, all the time. Look at a few lines of Middle English, and it is nigh impossible to find words that have not altered in spelling, pronunciation, meaning, grammar—or all four. Consider Old English, and those rare examples become nearly zero. Even Shakespeare requires some practice to understand fully.

Many of the tweaks that have made those bygone Englishes into modern English could be seen as an “error” of some sort. Some such changes were systematic: all words with the same vowel gradually being pronounced with a different one, say. Others have affected just one word at a time, and so tend to be too subtle to catch the eye.

The naprons of the world are notable, then, not because they are exceptions, but because they are instances of a com­mon phenomenon—language change through “error"—that happened conspic­uously enough to make a tidy example. But modern English is deformed Old English and degenerate Middle English. In other words, like any living language, it is "error” all the way down. (Adapted from an article in The Economist, February 2, 2019)



The Say What Dept.


His computer crashed at 08:23 a.m.  Many important not-backed-up documents lost. While he was in the first stages of accessing his loss, somebody mentioned a gadget that was simple to use, lightweight, cheap, incredibly reliable, with a built in delete function and could handle any language. When he asked what that was, they replied, “A pencil.”


When the permit to enlarge their cemetery was not approved, the village of Sarpourenx, France, passed an ordinance forbidding its citizens to die. “Offenders will be severely punished,” the ordnance said.


 “Art is moral passion married to entertainment. Moral passion without entertainment is propaganda and entertainment without moral passion is television.” Author Rita Mae Brown


“If the world should blow itself up, the last voice would be that of an expert saying it can’t be done.” Peter Ustinov


What a put-down! “To hardly know him is to know him well.”


A renaissance scholar has identified the model who posed for Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa portrait. She was Lisa del Gherardni, wife of wealthy Florentine businessman Francesco del Giocondo. The sitter's identity was ascertained at the University of Heidelberg in 2005 by a library expert who discovered a 1503 margin note written by Agostino Vespucci. The painting was for their new home. There has been a lot of speculation about the identity of the model for the Mona Lisa, Mona was a common contraction of Madonna at the time, and some ill-informed speculators thought she might have been Da Vinci’s lover. Da Vinci wasn’t interested in girls.


A Japanese swimsuit model was acquitted of breaking into her ex-boyfriend’s apartment when she demonstrated to the court that her breasts were too big to allow her to go through the hole in the wall the intruder used to enter the ex’s apartment.


New definition of poor: “I’m broker than a West Virginia tooth fairy.”


The Relevant Church in Ybor City, Florida, issued a 30-day sex challenge for married members of the congregation. Members were supposed to fool around at least once every day-with their spouses-in an effort to reduce divorce rates. Methodists are definitely not with it!


Some remarkable statistics about Antarctica: It’s bigger than the United States and Mexico. It has 11,000 miles of coastline. The coastline is twice as long during winter. Ice at the South Pole is two miles thick. Antarctica contains 70% of the world’s fresh water. If all that ice melted, the oceans would rise 200 feet and the first 14 floors of the Empire State Building would be under water.


The so-called health food experts may be seeing the light…finally. After telling us, at one time or the other, that everything from avocado to zucchini is bad for us, now the nutrition experts are telling us avoid too much meat and fish and don’t eat anything made in a chemical factory. “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” they advised according to This Week Magazine.


“Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others cause happiness when they go.” Oscar Wilde


Albright College psychologist, Susan Hughes, did a study on men and women kissing. She says that kissing transfers a lot of germs around and “Men tend to think kissing should lead to sex no matter what. Women use kissing as a way of assessing a man’s worthiness through biochemical signals and hints about his emotional make up.” Wow! Dumb us. We thought women wanted sex too.


Bookseller magazine has listed their selection of the oddest book titles of all time. They are: Are Women Human, How to Write a “How-to” Book, Cheese Problems Solved, I Was Tortured by the Pigmy Love Queen and its sequel, Go Ahead Woman, Do Your Worst.  


We saw a list of Geraldo Rivera’s favorite books. They include Tarzan of the Apes, (Edgar Rice Borroughs) The Lord of the Rings, (J.R.R. Tolkein) The Naked and the Dead (Norman Mailer) and Seven Pillars of Wisdom (T. E. Lawrence)  We are impressed.


We didn’t make any of this stuff up.




Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)


I wist not what it is that daunts me,

And makes me feel erie and low:

A legend, it troubles , it haunts me,

A legend of long, long ago.


The air chills, day is declining,

And smoothly Rhine's waters run,

And peaks of the mountains are shining

Aloft in the setting sun.

A maiden of wondrous seeming,

Most beautiful, see, sits there;

Her jewels in gold are gleaming,

She combs out her golden hair.

With a comb of red gold she parts it,

And still as she combs it she sings;

As the melody falls on our hearts, it

With power as of magic stings.


With a spasm the boatman hears it

Out there on his little skiff:

He sees not the reef as he nears it,

He only looks up at the cliff.


The Waters will sweep, I am thinking,

O'er skiff, ay, and boatman ere long;

And this is when daylight is sinking,

What Loreley did with her song.




Laws Not Taught in Physics

1. Law of Mechanical Repair – After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you’ll have to urinate.

2. Law of Gravity – Any tool, nut, bolt, screw, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible place in the universe.

3. Law of Probability – The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

4. Law of Random Numbers – If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal; someone always answers.

5. Variation Law – If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now.

6. Law of the Bath – When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone will ring.

7. Law of Close Encounters – The probability of meeting someone you know INCREASES dramatically when you are with someone you don’t want to be seen with.

8. Law of the Result – When you try to prove to someone that a machine won’t work, IT WILL!!!

9. Law of Bio-mechanics – The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

10. Law of the Theater & Hockey Arena – At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle, always arrive last. They are the ones who will leave their seats several times to go for food, beer, or the toilet and who leave early before the end of the performance or the game is over. The folks in the aisle seats come early, never move once, have long gangly legs or big bellies and stay to the bitter end of the performance. The aisle people also are very surly folk.

11. The Coffee Law – As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

12. Murphy’s Law of Lockers – If there are only 2 people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

13. Law of Physical Surfaces – The chances of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on a floor are directly correlated to the newness and cost of the carpet or rug.

14. Law of Logical Argument – Anything is possible IF you don’t know what you are talking about.

15. Law of Physical Appearance – If the clothes fit, they’re ugly.

16. Law of Public Speaking — A CLOSED MOUTH GATHERS NO FEET!

17. Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy – As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it, OR the store will stop selling it!

18. Doctors’ Law – If you don’t feel well, make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there, you’ll feel better. But don’t make an appointment and you’ll stay sick.



My Career of Choice

Sybil Austin Skakle


Had I not had impaired hearing

Been too early a mother,

I might have been other than

Who I was when they were boys.

Yes, a mother, but different from

The one who stayed home

To cook and to clean.

Things they felt deprived of

They might have had them.

I would not have been present

To cook, sew, clean, read,

And cut sweaty boys' hair;

To drive them to baseball games:

Sandlot, Little League, Pony league.

I hope they know that I am

The richest woman in the world!

I am fulfilled, because

Three handsome, healthy, sons,

Whom I adore, are

Good and honorable men.





Lexophile describes those that have a love for words, such as "you can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish," or "To write with a broken pencil is pointless." 

An annual competition is held by the New York Times to see who can create the best original lexophile.  This year's winning submission is posted at the very end.        


·       No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

·       If you don't  pay your exorcist, you can get repossessed.

·       I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down.

·       I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

·       Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?

·       When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

·       When chemists die, they barium.

·       I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

·       I changed my iPod's name to Titanic.  It's syncing now.

·       England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool. 

·       Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

·       This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I'd swear I've never met herbivore.

·       I know a guy who's addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.

·       A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

·       When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.

·       I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.

·       A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

·       A will is a dead giveaway.

·       With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

·       Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

·       Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He's all right now.

·       A bicycle can't stand alone; it's just two tired.

·       The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.

·       He had a photographic memory but it was never fully developed.

·       When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.

·       Acupuncture is a jab well done. That's the point of it.

·       Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.




From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza


Cauliflower Cheesy Soup

Cauliflower Cheese Soup.jpg 


4 thin slices bacon, cut into small bits

1 white onion, finely diced

1 head cauliflower, broken into small florets

1/2 teaspoon Cajun spice, or more to taste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (I never use salt of any kind)

8 cups (2 quarts) low-sodium chicken broth

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk (I use skim)

1 cup half-and-half

3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese, plus more for serving

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus more for serving



In a large pot, fry the bacon pieces over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain the bacon on a paper towel and set aside. Pour off the grease and return the pot to the stove.

Add the onions to the pot and cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cauliflower, sprinkle with the Cajun spice and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cook, stirring, until the cauliflower starts turning golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture slightly, or all the way if you prefer. (Or use a regular blender; just don't fill too full.)

In a separate saucepan or skillet, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk to form a paste. Pour in the milk, then continue cooking until it thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the half-and-half.

Pour the white sauce into the soup. Turn the heat to medium high and bring back to a boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, stirring in the cheese and sour cream until the cheese is fully melted. Stir in the parsley.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with a little extra cheese, a sprinkle of bacon and a sprinkle of parsley.

Chunky Monkey Breakfast Bread


Chunky Monkey Bread.jpgIngredients:

2 pkg Crescent Rolls

1 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

2 Bananas

1 cup Light Brown Sugar

3 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1 cup Sweet Cream Butter – Quarters



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bunt pan.

Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl. Slice the bananas in to 1/4 wheels. Set aside.

Remove the rolls from cans, slice each into 4 pieces, roll each piece in the cinnamon mixture. Place roll pieces into the bunt pan.

When you have a single layer of pieces of rolls sprinkle half of the chocolate chips and half of the bananas wheels over the rolls.

Repeat with remaining crescent roll pieces, bananas and chocolate chips. In microwave safe bowl melt the margarine. Stir in the remaining cinnamon and sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Pour over the rolls in the bunt pan.

Bake covered with foil for 30 min. Remove foil and continue baking for 25 minutes. Remove from oven allow to sit for 5 minutes. Flip on to a large plate. Slice or pull apart.



Strawberry Muffin Breakfast Cookies



1 (7 oz) packet of Strawberry Quick Muffin Mix

1/2 cup rolled oats

Strawberry-Muffin-Breakfast-Cookies.jpg1 (5.3 oz) container of Greek Strawberry Nonfat Yogurt (stir well as the fruit is on the bottom)

1 egg



Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the muffin mix and oats. Add in the Greek yogurt and egg, and then mix well.

Using a cookie scoop, drop generous 2 tablespoon mounds of the muffin cookie batter at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until baked through and the edges are slightly golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, & then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

These breakfast cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.



A Pirate Walked into a Bar


The bartender said, "Hey, I haven't seen you in a while. What happened? You look terrible."

"What do you mean?" said the pirate, "I feel fine."

"What about the wooden leg? You didn't have that before."

"Well," said the pirate, "We were in a battle, and I got hit with a
cannon ball, but I'm fine now."

The bartender replied, "Well, OK, but what about that hook?
What happened to your hand?"

The pirate explained, "We were in another battle. I boarded a ship and
got into a sword fight.  My hand was cut off. I got fitted with a hook. I'm fine, really."

"What about that eye patch?"

"Oh," said the pirate, "One day we were at sea, and a flock of birds flew
over. I looked up, and one of them crapped in my eye."

"You're kidding," said the bartender. "You couldn't lose an eye just from
bird crap."

"It was my first day with the hook."


The Diary of Samuel Pepys


24th. Up, and made myself as fine as I could, with the linning stockings on and wide canons that I bought the other day at Hague. Extraordinary press of noble company, and great mirth all the day. There dined with me in my cabbin (that is, the carpenter's) Dr. Earle [John Earle, Dean of Westminster, successively Bishop of Worcester and Salisbury. Ob. 1665.] and Mr. Hollis, the King's Chaplins, Dr. Scarborough, [Charles Scarborough, M.D., principal Physician to Charles II., (by whom he was knighted in 1669,) James II., and William III., a learned and incomparable anatomist.] Dr. Quarterman, [William Quarterman, M.D., of Pembroke College, Oxford.] and Dr.Clerke, Physicians, Mr. Darsy, and Mr.Fox,[Afterwards Sir Stephen Fox, Knight, Paymaster to the Forces.] (both very fine gentlemen) the King's servants, where we had brave discourse. Walking upon the decks, where persons of honour all the afternoon, among others, Thomas Killigrew, [Thomas Killigrew, younger son of Robert Killigrew, of Hanworth, Middlesex, Page of Honour to Charles I., and Groom of the Bedchamber to Charles II. whose fortunes he had
followed. He was resident at Venice, 1651; a great favourite with the King on account of his uncommon vein of humour; the author of several plays. Ob. 1682] (a merry droll, but a gentleman of great esteem with the King,) who told us many merry stories. At supper the three Drs. of Physique again at my cabbin; where I put Dr. Scarborough in mind of what I heard himsay, that children do, in every day's experience, look several ways with both their eyes, till custom teaches them otherwise. And that we do now see but with one eye, Our eyes looking in
parallel lynes. After this discourse I was called to write a pass for my Lord Mandeville [Eldest son of the Earl of Manchester.] to take up horses to London, which I wrote in the King's name, and carried it to him to sign, which was the first and only one that ever he signed in the ship Charles. To bed, coming in sight of land a little before night.


25th. By the morning we were come close to the land, and everybody made ready to get on shore. The King and the two Dukes did eat their breakfast before they went, and there being set some ship's diet, they eat nothing else but pease and pork, and boiled beef. Dr. Clerke, who eat with me, told me how the King had given 50 £. ($2028.74) to Mr. Shepley for my Lord's servants, and 500£ ($101,435.00) among the officers and common men of the ship. I spoke to the Duke of York about business, who called me Pepys by name, and upon my desire did promise me his future favour. Great expectation of the King's making some Knights, but there was none. About noon (though the brigantine that Beale made was there ready to carry him) yet he would go in my Lord's barge with the two Dukes. Our Captn. steered, and my Lord went along bare with him. I went, and Mr. Mansell, and one of the King's footmen, and a dog that the King loved, in a boat by ourselves, and so got on shore when the King did, who was received by General Monk with all imaginable love and respect at his entrance upon the land of Dover. Infinite the crowd of people and the horsemen, citizens, and noblemen of all sorts. The Mayor of the town come and gave him his white staffe, the badge of his place, which the King did give him again. The Mayor also presented him from the town a very rich Bible, which he took and said it was the thing that he loved above all things in the world, a canopy was provided for him to stand under, which he did, and talked awhile with General Monk and others, and so into a stately coach there set for him, and so away through the towne towards Canterbury, without making any stay at Dover. The shouting and joy expressed by all is past imagination seeing that my Lord did not stir out of his barge, I got into a boat and so into his barge. My Lord almost transported with joy that he had done all this without any the least blur or obstruction in the world, that could give offence to any, and with the great honour he thought it would be to him. Being overtook by the brigantine, my Lord and we went out of our barge into it;, and so were on board with Sir W. Batten [A Commissioner of the Navy, and in 1661 M.P. for Rochester.] and the Vice and Rear-Admirals. At night I supped with the Captn., who told me what the King had given us. My Lord returned late, and at his coming did give me order to cause the marke to be gilded, and a Crowne and C. R. to be made at the head of the coach table, where the King today with his own hand did marke his height, which accordingly I caused the painter to do, and is now done as is to be seen.


26th. My Lord dined with the Vice-Admiral to-day, (who is as officious, poor man! as any spaniel can be; but I believe all to no purpose, for I believe he will not hold his place;) so I dined with the commander at the coach table to-day, and all the officers of the ship with me, and Mr. White of Dover. After a game or two at nine-pins, to work all the afternoon, making above twenty orders. In the evening my Lord having been a-shore, the first time that he hath been ashore since he come out of the Hope, (having resolved not to go till he had brought his Majesty into England, I returned on board with a great deal of pleasure. The Captain told me that my Lord had appointed me 30£ out of the 1000 ducats which the King had given to the ship.


27th (Lord's day). Called up by John Goods to see the Garter and Heralds coate, which lay in the coach, brought by Sir Edward Walker, King at Armes, this morning, for my Lord. My Lord had summoned all the Commanders on board him, to see the ceremony, which was thus: Sir Edward putting on his coate, and having laid the George and Garter, and the King's letter to my Lord, upon a crimson cushion, (in the coach, all the Commanders standing by,) makes three congees to him, holding the cushion in his arms. Then laying it down with the things upon it upon a chair, he takes the letter, and delivers it to my Lord, which my Lord breaks open and gives him to read. It was directed to our trusty and well beloved Sir Edward Montagu, Knight, one of our Generals at sea, and our Companion elect of our Noble Order of the Garter. The contents of the letter is to show that the Kings of England have for many years made use of this honour, as a special mark of favour, to persons of good extraction and valour, (and that many Emperors, Kings and Princes of other countries have borne this honour), and that whereas my Lord is of a noble family, and hath now done the King such service by sea, at this time, as he hath done; he do send him this George and Garter to wear as Knight of the Order, with a dispensation for the other ceremonies of the habit of the Order, and other things, till hereafter, when it can be done. So the herald putting the ribbon about his neck, and the Garter on his left leg, he saluted him with joy as Knight of the Garter. And after that was done he took his leave of my Lord, and so to shore again to the King at Canterbury, where he yesterday gave the like honour to General Monk, who are the only two for many years that have had the Garter given them, before they had honours of Earldome, or the like, excepting only the Duke of Buckingham, who was only Sir George Villiers when he was made Knight of the Garter. [A.D. 1616.]


29th. Abroad to shore with my Lord, (which he offered me of himself, saying that I had a great deal of work to do this month, which was very true.) On shore we took horses, my Lord and Mr.Edward, Mr. Hetly and I, and three or four servants, and had a great deal of pleasure in riding. At last we came upon a very high cliffe by the sea-side and rode under it, we having laid great wagers, I and Dr. Mathews, that it was not so high as Paul's; my Lord and Mr. Hetly, that it was. But we riding under it, my Lord made a pretty good measure of it with two sticks, and found it to be not thirty-five yards high, and Paul's is reckoned to be about ninety. From thence toward the barge again, and in our way found the people of Deale going to make a bonfire for joy of the day, it being the King's birthday, and had some guns which they did fire at my Lord's coming by. For which I did give twenty shillings among them to drink. While we were on the top of the cliffe, we saw and heard our guns in the fleet go off for the same joy. And it being a pretty fair day we could see above twenty miles into France. Being returned on board, my Lord called for Mr. Shepley's book of Paul's, by which we were confirmed in our wager. This day, it is thought, the King do enter the City of London.

30th. All this morning making up my accounts, in which I counted that I had made myself now worth about 80£ ($16,230.00), at which my heart was glad, and blessed God.


JUNE 1, 1660. At night Mr. Cook comes from London with letters, leaving all things there very gallant and joyful. And brought us word that the Parliament had ordered the 29th of May, the King's birthday, to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny, and the King's return to his Government, he entering London that day.


2nd. Being with my Lord in the morning about business in his cabbin, I took occasion to give him thanks for his love to me in the share that he had given me of his Majesty's money, and the Duke's. He told me he hoped to do me a more lasting kindness, if all things stand as they are now between him and the King, but, says he, "We must have a little patience and we will rise together; in the mean time I will do yet all the good jobs I can." Which was great content for me to hear from my Lord. All the morning with the Captain, computing how much the thirty ships that come with the King from Scheveling their pay comes to for a month (because the King promised to give them all a month's pay), and it comes to 6,538£., and the Charles particularly 777£. I wish we had the money.


3rd. Captaine Holland is come to get an order for the setting out of his ship, and to renew his commission. He tells me how every man goes to the Lord Mayor to set down their names, as such as do accept of his Majesty's pardon, and showed me a certificate under the Lord Mayor's hand, that he had done so. At sermon in the morning; after dinner into my cabbin, to cast my accounts up, and find myself to be worth near 100£. for which I bless Almighty God, it being more than I hoped for so soon, being I believe not clearly worth 25£. when I come to sea besides my house and goods.


4th. This morning the King's Proclamation against drinking, swearing, and debauchery, was read to our ships companies in the fleet, and indeed it gives great satisfaction to all.


6th. In the morning I had letters come, that told me among other things, that my Lord's place of Clerke of the Signet was fallen to him, which he did most lovingly tell me that I should execute, in case he could not get a better employment for me at the end of the year. Because he thought that the Duke of York would command all, but he hoped that the Duke would not remove me but to my advantage. My letters tell me, that Mr. Calamy [Edward Calamy, the celebrated Nonconformist Divine, born 1616, appointed Chaplain to Charles the Second 1660. Ob. 1666.] had preached before the King in a surplice (this I heard afterwards to be false); that my Lord, Gen. Monk, and three more Lords, are made Commissioners for the Treasury; that my Lord had some great place conferred on him, and they say Master of the Wardrobe; and the two Dukes do haunt the Park much, and that they were at a play, Madam Epicene, [Epicene, or the Silent Woman, a Comedy by Ben Jonson.] the other day; that Sir Ant. Cooper, [Afterwards Chancellor, and created Earl of Shaftesbury.] Mr. Hollis, and Mr. Annesly, late Presidents of the Council of State, are made Privy Councillors to the King.


7th. After dinner come Mr. John Wright and Mr. Moore, with the sight of whom my heart was very glad. They brought an order for my Lord's coming up to London, which my Lord resolved to do tomorrow. All the afternoon getting my things in order to set forth to-morrow. At night walked up and down with Mr. Moore, who did give me an account of all things at London. Among others, how the Presbyterians would be angry if they durst, but they will not be able to do any thing.


8th. Out early, took horses at Deale.


9th. To White Hall with my Lord and Mr. Edwd. Montagu. Found the King in the Park. There walked. Gallantly great.


11th. With my Lord to Dorset House to the Chancellor. [Dorset-House, in Salisbury Court, at this time occupied by the Chancellor, once the residence of the Bishops of Salisbury, one of whom (Jewel) alienated it to the Sackville-family. The house being afterwards pulled down, a theatre was built on its site, in which the Duke of York's troop performed.]


13th. By water with my Lord in a boat to Westminster, and to the Admiralty, now in a new place.


15th. My Lord told me how the King has given him the place of the great Wardrobe.


16th. To my Lord, and so to White Hall with him about the Clerk of the Privy Seale's place, which he is to have. Then to the Admiralty, where I wrote some letters. Here Coll. Thompson told me, as a great secret, that the Nazeby was on fire when the King was there, but that is not known; when God knows it is quite false.


17th (Lord's day). To Mr. Messinn's; a good sermon. This day the organs did begin to play at White Hall before the King. After dinner to Mr. Messinn's again, and so in the garden, and heard Chippell's father preach, that was Page to the Protector.




“A platitude is simply a truth repeated until people are sick of hearing it.” Stanly Baldwin


Different Perspectives

E. B. Alston


Over coffee she told me, "I feel bad."

How could SHE ever "feel bad?”

Dark hair. Brown eyes,

Red sweater, pleated white skirt, heels.

Just seeing her walk by

Makes me feel good.

She might be sick.

But she certainly wouldn't feel bad!





P.L. Almanza: lives in Hamlet, North Carolina. She has been writing stories since she was four years old. Her first book, The East Side Killers came out in April 2014. Her cookbook, Family Meals and Desserts, came out in the summer of 2015. She is currently working on two new cookbooks 


E. B. Alston: Author, columnist, literary critic, and sometimes poet. His work has been published in various newspapers, telecommunications trade magazines, and books. He is the Managing Editor of the magazine.


Laura A. Alston: lives and writes in Henderson, North Carolina. Her first book, My Pet Rocky Renee, was published in June 2010. In addition she has published Too Many Goodbyes, You Gave me Wings and a book of her collected poems, From My Heart to Yours


Rita Berman: Now deceased-sadly. I miss her. She was born in London, England. Her business, travel, and writing advice articles have been published in more than 500 diverse newspapers and magazines in the United States and Gt. Britain. Her reference book, The A-Z of Writing and Selling,  was a Writer's Digest Book Club selection for September 1981.  Her other books, available on are Still Hopping, Still Hoping, (2012), The Dating Adventures of a Widow, (2013), The Key, (2014), Parallel Lives, (2016), Ariana Mangum's Books and Columns (2017),and Military Wives and Widows Tell Their Stories, (2018).


Randy Bittle: is a self-taught independent philosopher who is still learning.  He has two books, both collections of essays, available on His latest book, More Colors Through My Mental Prism is also available.


Peggy Lovelace Ellis: is a freelance editor  and a published author. Over the past 25 years, she has published regularly in such magazines as Good Old Days, Reminisce, Reminisce Extra, Rock and Gem, Aquarium, True Story, Splickety, Woman’s World, Highlights, and Righter Monthly/Quarterly Review. She publishes in the Divine Moments series, Merry Christmas Moments (November 2017and The Right Words at the Right Time (forthcoming). She has compiled and edited three anthologies for her writers’ group: Challenges on the Home Front World War II (Chapel Hill Press, 2004, Lest the Colors Fade (Righter Books, 2008), and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories (Righter Books, 2010). Each contains her short fiction, memoirs, and research.


Diana Goldsmith: Diana has been attending and now runs a shared learner’s ‘Writing for pleasure’ group for the past 8 years.  She is an avid reader especially historical crime and loves Anne Perry’s books about Victorian England. She lives in Chard, Somerset, UK.


Howard A Goodman: A veteran of corporate society his entire working life, Howard discovered his passion for writing—an occupation that had lurked subliminally in his subconscious—thanks to the grim reality of suddenly being forced to make a major mid-life career transition. Though he didn’t grow up in the South and is not particularly partial to grits, Howard considers himself a Southern author of sorts. In contrast to those who spin tales of being raised dirt-poor on a tobacco farm, Howard's focus is on the lives of corporate professionals and their families—the thousands who flocked to the upscale cities and towns surrounding North Carolina’s high-tech Research Triangle Park—the Neo-Southerners. Howard resides in Cary, North Carolina


Sybil Austin Skakle:  grew up in Hatteras, NC, born January 10, 1926, was a hospital pharmacist for 23 years, has published poetry, Searchings, 2001; a memoir, Confessions of an Outer Banks Filly, 2002; another memoir Valley of the Shadow, 2009. Her work has appeared in periodicals and numerous poetry and prose anthologies, four of which were published by The Chapel Hill Writers’ Discussion Group. She has been a member of Friday Noon Poets for more than thirty years.    


Marry Williamson: lives in Chard, Somerset, England. She was born in the Netherlands and moved to Britain in 1966. She worked for an Anglo-Dutch company in London. In 1999, Marry and her husband retired and moved to Chard, Somerset. Her hobbies are writing, reading, bird watching, and exploring ancient monuments. She is a member of a local writers’ group in England.


Tim Whealton: writes a regular column from New Bern, NC. He is a gunsmith whose shop is in Cove City, North Carolina. His book, According to Tim was published in 2013.