RPG Digest

May 2020

 

Copyright 2020 by the RPG Partnership

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

 

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Link to online version: http://alstonbooks.xyz/

 

Appreciation

 

Thanks to all these talented writers who have contributed to every issue of RPG Digest with such enthusiasm. Enjoy this lovely spring photo from Betsy Breedlove. Special thanks to Herriet Henson for the final format/

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Springtime by Laura Alston. 3

Editor by E. B. Alston. 3

W. Somerset Maugham by Rita Berman. 4

When a Weed Is Not a Weed by Peggy Ellis. 6

Gamboling by Sybil Austin Skakle. 7

A Few Thoughts about Thinking by Randy Bittle. 7

God Fashioned the Ship of the World Carefully by Steven Crane. 7

Decisions by Tim Whealton. 7

A Faithful Friend by Patrice Wilkerson. 8

The New Normal by Marry Williamson. 8

Postcards from the Road, pt. 2 by John Burns. 9

The Abilene Paradox by E. B. Alston. 10

Aphrodite’s Ring by E. B. Alston. 10

Bad Decisions Make Very Good Stories. 10

I Don’t Like Joanne by Howard A. Goodman. 11

First Love by Goethe. 13

Sacrifice by Diana Goldsmith. 13

Marty’s Memorial by Sybil Austin Skakle. 14

Neologism Contest 14

Michelangelo by E. B. Alston. 15

RE: Person I Knew by Howard A. Goodman. 15

A Summer Memory by Sybil Austin Skakle. 15

My Very, Very Short Infatuation with Rose by E. B. Alston. 16

Hammer Spade and the Four Horsemen – Seralized Book. 17

The Diary of Samuel Pepys. 20

Life in Moccasin Gap by Brad Carver. 21

Contributors. 22

 

 

Springtime

Laura Alston

 

Heavy coats are being shed

As the days of spring stretch gloriously ahead.

Warm breezes caress upturned faces,

And we dream of faraway places.

It is springtime once again for us,

And in each day we will all trust

That flowers will bloom and new leaves will grow

While spring does the magic that we’ve come to know.

It is springtime inside of us too.

We embrace these days with their skies of blue.

We own happy and carefree thoughts

Now that spring fever has been caught.

Our footsteps will be quicker, don’t you agree?

Like birds in flight, we will feel free

Of winter’s chilly hold upon us each day

As with smiles and laughter we go on our way.

 

 

Editor

 

        We are making history. As I write this, the world is having a pandemic. The Coronavirus epidemic is number 21. The world as we know it has ceased to exist. These tragedies have been going on for a long time. Here’s the list.

 

1. Prehistoric epidemic: Circa 3000 B.C.

About 5,000 years ago, an epidemic wiped out a prehistoric village in China. The bodies of the dead were stuffed inside a house that was later burned down. No age group was spared, as the skeletons of juveniles, young adults and middle-age people were found inside the house. The archaeological site is now called “Hamin Mangha” and is one of the best-preserved prehistoric sites in northeastern China. Archaeological and anthropological study indicates that the epidemic happened quickly enough that there was no time for proper burials, and the site was not inhabited again. 

Before the discovery of Hamin Mangha, another prehistoric mass burial that dates to roughly the same time period was found at a site called Miaozigou, in northeastern China. Together, these discoveries suggest that an epidemic ravaged the entire region. 

 

2. Plague of Athens: 430 B.C.

Around 430 B.C., not long after a war between Athens and Sparta began an epidemic ravaged the people of Athens and lasted for five years. Some estimates put the death toll as high as 100,000 people. The Greek historian Thucydides (460-400 B.C.) wrote that “people in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head, and redness and inflammation in the eyes, the inward parts, such as the throat or tongue, becoming bloody and emitting an unnatural and fetid breath (translation by Richard Crawley from the book “The History of the Peloponnesian War”, London Dent, 1914). 

What exactly this epidemic was has long been a source of debate among scientists; a number of diseases have been put forward as possibilities, including typhoid fever and Ebola. Many scholars believe that overcrowding caused by the war exacerbated the epidemic. Sparta's army was stronger, forcing the Athenians to take refuge behind a series of fortifications called the “long walls” that protected their city. Despite the epidemic, the war continued on, not ending until 404 B.C., when Athens was forced to capitulate to Sparta

 

3. Antonine Plague: A.D. 165-180

When soldiers returned to the Roman Empire from campaigning, they brought back more than the spoils of victory. The Antonine Plague, which may have been smallpox, laid waste to the army and may have killed over 5 million people in the Roman empire, wrote April Pudsey, a senior lecturer in Roman History at Manchester Metropolitan University, in a paper published in the book  “Disability in Antiquity,” Routledge, 2017). 

Many historians believe that the epidemic was first brought into the Roman Empire by soldiers returning home after a war against Parthia. The epidemic contributed to the end of the Pax Romana (the Roman Peace), a period from 27 B.C. to A.D. 180, when Rome was at the height of its power. After A.D. 180, instability grew throughout the Roman Empire, as it experienced more civil wars and invasions by “barbarian” groups. Christianity became increasingly popular in the time after the plague occurred. 

 

4. Plague of Cyprian: A.D. 250-271

Named after St. Cyprian, a bishop of Carthage (a city in Tunisia) who described the epidemic as signaling the end of the world, the Plague of Cyprian is estimated to have killed 5,000 people a day in Rome alone. In 2014, archaeologists in Luxor found what appears to be a mass burial site of plague victims. Their bodies were covered with a thick layer of lime (historically used as a disinfectant). Archaeologists found three kilns used to manufacture lime and the remains of plague victims burned in a giant bonfire. 

Experts aren't sure what disease caused the epidemic. “The bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength [and] a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces (an area of the mouth), Cyprian wrote in Latin in a work called “De mortalitate” (translation by Philip Schaff from the book  “Fathers of the Third Century”, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix, “Christian Classics Ethereal Library,” 1885).

 

5. Plague of Justinian: A.D. 541-542

The plague is named after the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (reigned A.D. 527-565). Under his reign, the Byzantine Empire reached its greatest extent, controlling territory that stretched from the Middle East to Western Europe. Justinian constructed a great cathedral known as Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”) in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), the empire's capital. Justinian also got sick with the plague and survived; however, his empire gradually lost territory in the time after the plague struck. 

 

6. The Black Death: 1346-1353

The Black Death traveled from Asia to Europe, leaving devastation in its wake. Some estimates suggest that it wiped out over half of Europe's population. It was caused by a strain of the bacterium Yersinia pestis that is likely extinct today and was spread by fleas on infected rodents. The bodies of victims were buried in mass graves

The plague changed the course of Europe's history. With so many dead, labor became harder to find, bringing about better pay for workers and the end of Europe's system of serfdom. Studies suggest that surviving workers had better access to meat and higher-quality bread. The lack of cheap labor may also have contributed to technological innovation.

 

7. Cocoliztli epidemic: 1545-1548 

The infection that caused the cocoliztli epidemic was a form of viral hemorrhagic fever that killed 15 million inhabitants of Mexico and Central America. Among a population already weakened by extreme drought, the disease proved to be utterly catastrophic.  “Cocoliztli “ is the Aztec word for  “pest. “ 

recent study that examined DNA from the skeletons of victims found that they were infected with a subspecies of Salmonella known as S. paratyphi C, which causes enteric fever, a category of fever that includes typhoid. Enteric fever can cause high fever, dehydration and gastrointestinal problems and is still a major health threat today. 

 

8. American Plagues: 16th century

The American Plagues are a cluster of Eurasian diseases brought to the Americas by European explorers. These illnesses, including smallpox, contributed to the collapse of the Inca and Aztec civilizations. Some estimates suggest that 90% of the indigenous population in the Western Hemisphere was killed off. 

The diseases helped a Spanish force led by Hernán Cortés conquer the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán in 1519 and another Spanish force led by Francisco Pizarro conquer the Incas in 1532. The Spanish took over the territories of both empires. In both cases, the Aztec and Incan armies had been ravaged by disease and were unable to withstand the Spanish forces. When citizens of Britain, France, Portugal and the Netherlands began exploring, conquering and settling the Western Hemisphere, they were also helped by the fact that disease had vastly reduced the size of any indigenous groups that opposed them. 

 

9. Great Plague of London: 1665-1666

The Black Death's last major outbreak in Great Britain caused a mass exodus from London, led by King Charles II. The plague started in April 1665 and spread rapidly through the hot summer months. Fleas from plague-infected rodents were one of the main causes of transmission. By the time the plague ended, about 100,000 people, including 15% of the population of London, had died. But this was not the end of that city's suffering. On Sept. 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London started, lasting for four days and burning down a large portion of the city. 

 

10. Great Plague of Marseille: 1720-1723

Historical records say that the Great Plague of Marseille started when a ship called Grand-Saint-Antoine docked in Marseille, France, carrying a cargo of goods from the eastern Mediterranean. Although the ship was quarantined, plague still got into the city, likely through fleas on plague-infected rodents. 

Plague spread quickly, and over the next three years, as many as 100,000 people may have died in Marseille and surrounding areas. It's estimated that up to 30% of the population of Marseille may have perished. 

 

11. Russian plague: 1770-1772

In plague-ravaged Moscow, the terror of quarantined citizens erupted into violence. Riots spread through the city and culminated in the murder of Archbishop Ambrosius, who was encouraging crowds not to gather for worship.

The empress of Russia, Catherine II (also called Catherine the Great), was so desperate to contain the plague and restore public order that she issued a hasty decree ordering that all factories be moved from Moscow. By the time the plague ended, as many as 100,000 people may have died. Even after the plague ended, Catherine struggled to restore order. In 1773, Yemelyan Pugachev, a man who claimed to be Peter III (Catherine's executed husband), led an insurrection that resulted in the deaths of thousands more. 

 

12. Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic: 1793

When yellow fever seized Philadelphia, the United States' capital at the time, officials wrongly believed that slaves were immune. As a result, abolitionists called for people of African origin to be recruited to nurse the sick.

The disease is carried and transmitted by mosquitoes, which experienced a population boom during the particularly hot and humid summer weather in Philadelphia that year. It wasn't until winter arrived — and the mosquitoes died out — that the epidemic finally stopped. By then, more than 5,000 people had died.

 

13. Flu pandemic: 1889-1890

In the modern industrial age, new transport links made it easier for influenza viruses to wreak havoc. In just a few months, the disease spanned the globe, killing one million people. It took just five weeks for the epidemic to reach peak mortality.

The earliest cases were reported in Russia. The virus spread rapidly throughout St. Petersburg before it quickly made its way throughout Europe and the rest of the world, despite the fact that air travel didn't exist yet. 

 

14. American polio epidemic: 1916

A polio epidemic that started in New York City caused 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths in the United States. The disease mainly affects children and sometimes leaves survivors with permanent disabilities. 

Polio epidemics occurred sporadically in the United States until the Salk vaccine was developed in 1954. As the vaccine became widely available, cases in the United States declined. The last polio case in the United States was reported in 1979. Worldwide vaccination efforts have greatly reduced the disease, although it is not yet completely eradicated. 

 

15. Spanish Flu: 1918-1920 

An estimated 500 million people from the South Seas to the North Pole fell victim to Spanish Flu. One-fifth of those died, with some indigenous communities pushed to the brink of extinction. The flu's spread and lethality was enhanced by the cramped conditions of soldiers and poor wartime nutrition that many people were experiencing during World War I. 

Despite the name Spanish Flu, the disease likely did not start in Spain. Spain was a neutral nation during the war and did not enforce strict censorship of its press, which could therefore freely publish early accounts of the illness. As a result, people falsely believed the illness was specific to Spain, and the name Spanish Flu stuck.

 

16. Asian Flu: 1957-1958 

The Asian Flu pandemic was another global showing for influenza. With its roots in China, the disease claimed more than 1 million lives. The virus that caused the pandemic was a blend of avian flu viruses. 

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the disease spread rapidly and was reported in Singapore in February 1957, Hong Kong in April 1957, and the coastal cities of the United States in the summer of 1957. The total death toll was more than 1.1 million worldwide, with 116,000 deaths occurring in the United States.

 

17. AIDS pandemic and epidemic: 1981-present day

AIDS has claimed an estimated 35 million lives since it was first identified. HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS, likely developed from a chimpanzee virus that transferred to humans in West Africa in the 1920s. The virus made its way around the world, and AIDS was a pandemic by the late 20th century. Now, about 64% of the estimated 40 million living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) live in sub-Saharan Africa.

For decades, the disease had no known cure, but medication developed in the 1990s now allows people with the disease to experience a normal life span with regular treatment. Even more encouraging, two people have been cured of HIV as of early 2020. 

 

18. H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic: 2009-2010

The 2009 swine flu pandemic was caused by a new strain of H1N1 that originated in Mexico in the spring of 2009 before spreading to the rest of the world. In one year, the virus infected as many as 1.4 billion people across the globe and killed between 151,700 and 575,400 people, according to the CDC.

The 2009 flu pandemic primarily affected children and young adults, and 80% of the deaths were in people younger than 65, the CDC reported. That was unusual, considering that most strains of flu viruses, including those that cause seasonal flu, cause the highest percentage of deaths in people ages 65 and older. But in the case of the swine flu, older people seemed to have already built up enough immunity to the group of viruses that H1N1 belongs to, so weren't affected as much. A vaccine for the H1N1 virus that caused the swine flu is now included in the annual flu vaccine. 

 

19. West African Ebola epidemic: 2014-2016 

Ebola ravaged West Africa between 2014 and 2016, with 28,600 reported cases and 11,325 deaths. The first case to be reported was in Guinea in December 2013, then the disease quickly spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The bulk of the cases and deaths occurred in those three countries. A smaller number of cases occurred in Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, the United States and Europe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported

There is no cure for Ebola, although efforts at finding a vaccine are ongoing. The first known cases of Ebola occurred in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, and the virus may have originated in bats. 

20. Zika Virus epidemic: 2015-present day 

The impact of the recent Zika epidemic in South America and Central America won't be known for several years. In the meantime, scientists face a race against time to bring the virus under control. The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, although it can also be sexually transmitted in humans. 

While Zika is usually not harmful to adults or children, it can attack infants who are still in the womb and cause birth defects. The type of mosquitoes that carry Zika flourish best in warm, humid climates, making South America, Central America and parts of the southern United States prime areas for the virus to flourish. 

 

 

W. Somerset Maugham

A highly paid prolific writer

By Rita Berman

 

None of my favorite authors celebrate a birthday in May so instead here is W. Somerset Maugham whose long career as a writer, some 65 years, went from Victorian times to Post-second World War.

He wrote 78 books according to Jeffrey Meyers, (Somerset Maugham, a Life, published in April 200, by Vintage books).  Another biographer said Maugham had published 42 books, either way it’s a lot. He also had 27 plays produced and numerous short stories.  He was the most highly paid writer of his time, and his books are said to have sold close to 40 million copies throughout the world. He earned nearly 40 million pounds in royalties.

Maugham was born January 25, 1874, in the British Embassy in Paris, and died December 15, 1965 in the South of France.

 He trained as a doctor but never practiced medicine.  In addition to writing novels, art and travel books, autobiographies, and essays, he was a linguist and was a spy for Britain in World War I.

His reputation as a novelist rests primarily on four books:  Of Human Bondage, published in 1915, The Moon and Sixpence (1919) suggested by the life of Paul Gauguin, Cakes and Ale (1930) and The Razor’s Edge (1944) which is said to have been his best seller, according to wwww.britannica.com. His short stories have increased in popularity while some of his plays are now seen as dated. 

In his will Maugham stipulated that his executor should not authorize or assist any person who wishes to write his biography. He also asked his friends to destroy his letters, which they did not do.

 Morgan commented that, “Maugham who had spent most of his long life prying into the affairs of humankind, did not want his own affairs pried into.”

Jeffrey Meyers, in his extensive biography of Maugham’s works and life wrote that Maugham was generous with advice and criticism, with gifts and money. He gave all his manuscripts to relatives and friends, libraries and institutions, according to Meyers.

Ted Morgan’s biography, which was published in 1980, gives another interpretation of Maugham. Morgan described him as a “vindictive” individual.  “Those who disappointed him were summarily dismissed. He was also extremely judgmental and extremely thin-skinned.  No one escaped his barbs, and friends and acquaintances were constantly being excommunicated for small or imagined offenses.  At the same time the slightest criticism of his work could upset his writing schedule for a week.”

 

Early Years

 

Maugham’s father was a solicitor (lawyer) to the British Embassy in Paris.  Maugham was born in the British Embassy to protect him from later conscription into the French army.  He disliked the name “William” and encouraged his friends to call him, “Willie”.  He published as W. Somerset Maugham.

Maugham’s childhood was not a happy one.  As a toddler, he spent seaside holidays in Deauville in the summer with his mother and three older brothers.  In 1877 when he was three, his older brothers left for Dover College, in England.  His mother gave birth to a stillborn baby when he was five.  She had tuberculosis and the birth of a sixth son weakened her.  The child died the following day, on Willie’s 8th birthday.  A few days later, on January 31, 1882, his mother died.

A couple of years later his father died of stomach cancer, in June 1884, and the ten-year-old orphan was sent to England to be brought up by his uncle and guardian, The Vicar of Whitstable, and his German wife.

Maugham had a lonely life in the vicarage.  He viewed his uncle as a “penny-pinching, hypocritical vicar, a lazy man who made his assistants do all the work of the parish.” His aunt was a strict, unsympathetic woman who rarely left the house except to go to church or visit the shops.

Maugham had a stammer and this became intensified because of the coldness of his aunt and uncle. He was sent to King’s School in Canterbury, where he was seen as a foreigner and outsider.  He had no knowledge of games.  After leaving school he spent two years at Heidelberg University learning German. 

Returning to England he went to work in an accountant’s office but after a month entered St. Thomas’s Hospital as a medical student. After 5 years he qualified as a doctor but by then he had already begun writing. His first novel, Lisa of Lambeth was published in 1897, and he then abandoned medicine and went to live in Spain for a year.

On returning to London he shared a flat in Victoria Street with a chartered accountant friend, Walter Payne, and settled down to write.  Troubled by his homosexuality, he tried to force an interest in women, and formed the habit of concealment.  Payne handled Maugham’s financial affairs and passed on the minor actresses, secretaries, and shop girls – as well as, perhaps young boys he had taken to bed (John Whitehead’s book, Maugham, A Reappraisal).

It was while Maugham was a medical student that Oscar Wilde was arrested for sodomy, and many homosexuals had fled to France for the Continent was more tolerant than England at that time.

Women in his life

 

In early 1907 Maugham began the first of four significant affairs with women. Violet Hunt, a novelist, was 12 years his senior, the daughter of a painter. They remained good friends after their affair fizzled out.  He portrayed her as Rose Waterford in The Moon and Sixpence. He had a brief affair with Sasha Kropotkin, daughter of the anarchist Prince Peter Kroptkin. 

By the age of 30 he had published several novels, a volume of short stories and plays that no manager wanted to accept.  He went to live in Paris for a year and met a young actress Sue Jones, who was unhappily married. They began a love affair that lasted for 8 years. Sue enjoyed sex and went to bed with any man she fancied. Maugham wanted to marry her but was troubled by her promiscuity and that all his friends had been to bed with her. She turned down his proposal and shortly after married the son of an earl.

In 1908 Maugham had four plays running in London simultaneously and moved with Payne to his upscale address in Mayfair where he bought a house in Chesterfield Street. His plays were so successful they were produced on Broadway and he traveled to New York to attend rehearsals.

Maugham met Syrie Barnado Wellcome in 1913 when he was still involved with Sue Jones. Syrie had been married when she was only 22 years old to Henry Wellcome, the founder of the Burroughs-Wellcome company.  He was 26 years older than her and she left him after five  years, alleging cruelty.  

Syrie became pregnant by Maugham in 1914, and Wellcome petitioned for divorce, citing Maugham as correspondent. The child was called Elizabeth, born illegitimately on September 1, 1915.  But Maugham wasn’t about to take on the role of doting father.  It was in 1916 that he and Gerald Haxton went off to the South Seas. Haxton became his secretary-companion –lover for 30 years until Haxton’s death.

Wellcome divorced Syrie in February 1916, leaving Maugham, who was still keeping up a front about his sexuality, to marry her on May 25, 1917, in New Jersey after his return to the States.  By then he had been recruited into the Intelligence Service and posted as a secret agent to Switzerland.

Moves permanently to France

 

An intelligence mission took him to Russia but the mission was a failure. He returned to England suffering from tuberculosis and spent several years in a sanatorium.  During this time he wrote  The Moon and Sixpence and some more plays  He moved permanently to France in 1926 and wanting to preserve his tax-free status could spend only a limited amount of time in England.

Syrie and Maugham lived together until 1926, when they divorced.  She and the child moved to Le Touquet, and Maugham resided on the French Riviera with Haxton as his secretary-companion.  He bought the Villa Mauresque in 1926 with 12 acres of land on the French Riviera. The two-storey building had central heating, seven bedrooms and four bathrooms and separate apartments for the servants. Except for five years during WWII this became his home until his death in 1965. He was more prosperous than Shaw, Kipling, Wells, Galsworthy and Wodehouse. The villa cost $20,000 a year for upkeep.

In the ten years following, Maugham spent time writing, traveling, and entertaining. Harold Nicholson, Cecil Beaton, Evelyn Waugh, and Ian and Ann Fleming were among the visitors.  When the first James Bond book was published Maugham wrote to Ian Fleming that he stayed up half the night reading it to the end.  Ian was Ann Fleming’s third husband. According to Jeffrey Meyers, Fleming was a dominant personality and had often told Ann, “I want to leave some kind of mark on you.” Alan Searle, Maugham’s lover claimed that Ian beat Ann when they were guests at the Villa.  After a while Maugham did not invite them back to the villa.  

When editing his second anthology, Tellers of Tales (1939), which comprised of 100 short stories from the United States, England, France, Russia and Germany, he made disparaging remarks about the other writers. For example, “Maupassant had a certain commonness in his nature,” while Chekhov’s  “mental capacity was meager.”  As for Henry James, according to Maugham, “His hallmark was triviality of theme combined with elaboration of treatment.”

In a long lifetime Maugham was friends with many writers, Henry James, H. G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, Noel Coward and Graham Greene.  He met up with D. H. Lawrence in Mexico City when Lawrence was looking for a warm climate to restore his health and peace of mind.

Lawrence thought Maugham was “A superficial, commercial scribbler who catered to the establishment.”  He bitterly resented Maugham’s popularity, and financial success. Maugham, on the other hand, considered Lawrence “A pathological case…. A half-baked conceited intellectual….from the working class.” When they reviewed each other’s books they were hostile.

A major theme of Maugham’s work was feelings. Unlike Jane Austen’s view of marriage as a desirable and necessary circumstance for women, and the implication that they lived “happily ever after”, Maugham presents unhappy marriages, death in childbirth, unfaithfulness, and suicides. He suggests that marriage can be sustained, as his was for 10 years, only by periods of separation and adultery.  In The Constant Wife he raises the question – should different standards of morality apply to husband and wife? Does she have the right to be unfaithful if her husband is? A question he posed, “Is it wrong for men to use their position to obtain sexual favors?” has now been answered by our legal system in 2020.

When World War II broke out he offered his services to the British government and was employed on propaganda work for several years.  He was still living in France at this time but with 500 other refugees managed to escape to England aboard a British collier. This adventure he described in his book, Strictly Personal, published in 1941.

Maugham was sent to America to improve Anglo-American relations by means of lectures and magazine articles. Once America entered the war after Pearl Harbor, Maugham resumed his own writing interests while living in South Carolina. After publication of The Razor’s Edge, Maugham learned that Haxton had tuberculosis. He died in November 1944 in a New York hospital at the age of 52.

Maugham returned to France when the war was over and was cared for by his old friend Alan Searle who took over Haxton’s role of secretary-lover. 

 

Underwent Rejuvenation Therapy

 

In 1938 Maugham entered the clinic of Dr. Paul Niehans, in Switzerland. Niehans had started his rejuvenation clinic in 1931 and his treatments became fashionable among Maugham’s rich and famous friends. Winston Churchill, the Duke of Windsor, Noel Coward and Rebecca West, as well as Konrad Adenhauer, Charles De Gaulle and Bernard Baruch, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson and Hedda Hopper, all sought to retain their youth by enduring the unorthodox therapy.

Niehans scraped cells from the still-warm flesh of lamb fetuses to revitalize human organs. He floated the cells in a serum and injected them into his patients. Maugham repeated the Cellular Therapy in his eighties in 1958, and again in 1962, according to Jeffrey Meyers.

The psychological impact of the treatment was strong. The exorbitant fees charged by Niehans had his gullible customers believing that it had to be worth it. After the therapy they were forced to give up drinking and smoking for three months. The injection of fetal cells caused such a physical reaction that patients needed several weeks to recover.  Maugham is reported to have said, “I don’t know that it’s worth a damn, and there’s always the risk that something as violent as this may kill one. But, at my advanced years, it seems a worthwhile risk, a good gamble.” 

When he was 70, Maugham reflected on the lack of attention by his colleagues and then he considered - what were the chances of any of his work surviving him, even for a brief period.

 Of Human Bondage, which is generally supposed to be his best book, he thought would likely be forgotten because of its length.  Perhaps one or two of his comedies, might secure him a few lines in the history of the English theater. A few of his best stories might survive in anthologies. “This is slender baggage,” he mused, “two or three plays, and a dozen short stories, with which to set out on a journey to the future, but it is better than nothing.”

By 1954, when he was nearly 80 years old Maugham got tired of having visitors. He said he worked better when he led a quiet and regular life. He always sat down to work in front of a blank wall, and set himself a regular number of daily words (1,000 to 1,500) and wrote for three or four hours each morning when he was at home. He wrote in notebooks, in longhand, and on the right-hand page opening. He edited in red ink and made revisions on the left hand page.   

Maugham thought that writing, like drinking was an easy habit to form and a difficult one to break.  “When you’re writing,” he remarked, “when you’re creating a character it’s with you constantly, you’re preoccupied with it, it’s alive, but when you stop writing and cut that out of your life, it’s rather a lonely life.”

As a writer who lived such a long life and was so productive, he straddled the Victorian period and the modernists. He claimed he needed in addition to his afternoon nap, only six hours of sleep.

 

Adopts his companion Searle

 

In 1962 Maugham had become obsessed with the idea that his daughter was going to have him certified as incompetent to handle his own affairs. A lawyer advised that if he had an adopted child the certification could be opposed. Three months after the announcement of Maugham’s adoption of Searle, his daughter challenged the adoption and Maugham’s lawyer countered that she was born out of wedlock and could not be legitimized.  However, the French court ruled that because both parties were British subjects, British law applied to them. Because her parents eventually married she was legitimate.  Maugham appealed the decision. Eventually Liza received $250,000 for her share of the sale of some paintings, and she renounced all other claims to the estate. 

Maugham’s attempt to adopt Searle had caused a rift with his daughter.  His will specified that Liza would get the property of Villa Mauresque but Searle would get the contents plus $50,000 and all of Maugham’s royalties during his lifetime, which would come to an estimated $50,000 a year. After Searle’s death the royalties would go to the Royal Literary Fund.

On his 90th birthday he was said to be still leading a calm, orderly and reasonably contented life.  He liked to read Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler

In his last year he became unpredictable, paranoid and sometimes violent. He was said to have senile dementia. He became as demanding and impulsive as a small child. Sometimes he threw his food on the floor. Searle complained that, “I have been shut up with a madman… his beastliness is beyond endurance.”  Still he hung on waiting for his inheritance.

Maugham died in December 1965. He had fallen in the garden on December 8, then on December 12 he tripped over a carpet and fell in front of the fireplace cutting his head. He went to bed, awoke during the night, got out of bed, and fell again. Alan Searle found him unconscious on the floor of his bedroom.

When he picked him up, Maugham said, “Why Alan, where have you been? I’ve been looking for you for months. I want to shake your hand thank you for all that you’ve done for me.” Those were Maugham’s last words. 

 He was taken to the Anglo-American Hospital in Nice, and slipped into a coma. On December 15, 1965 he died in the hospital but, because of a French law that required autopsies for hospital deaths, he was taken back to Villa Mauresque in an ambulance, and Alan announced on the 16th that he had died at home.

 Maugham had left instructions that he should be cremated and his ashes buried within the precincts of the King’s School – where he had been so badly treated as a youth. His ashes were buried at the foot of the Maugham Library wall, in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral.

He wanted no memorial service. There was just a simple procession of mourners led by his daughter Liza. Searle was not invited to the funeral.

Searle lived another 20 years and died of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 80. He never wrote a memoir of his life with Maugham and left everything to his boyfriends.

 

Stories and movies

 

After reviewing Maugham’s enormous body of work John Whitehead summed up in his final chapter that Maugham’s novels rank with those of Wells, Galsworthy, Forster, and Woolf, who each in his or her own way, made a substantial contribution to the fiction of their time.

 As for his short stories they do include a lot of third-rate stuff, according to Whitehead, but the eighteen stories with an Eastern setting stand up well to a comparison with Kipling’s Indian stories, and their permanence should be assured.

He never suffered from writer’s block.  He kept notebooks all his life. Among his notebooks were details about his travels to the South Seas and these would provide the raw material for short stories. Six of these stories explored the extremes of human emotion and behavior and were published under the title The Trembling of a Leaf.

One of the stories “Rain” was made into a play and also several film versions. In 1953 Rita Hayworth appeared as Sadie Thompson an American prostitute and Jose Ferrer as the missionary Davidson who tries to convert her – to his own downfall.

The Moon and Sixpence was published in 1919. Like Conrad, Maugham uses a first person narrator who participates in the action.  Strickland’s story and personality is revealed through the eyes of an observer. According to Whitehead the main theme of the story is the destructive effects of Strickland’s personality on others, the sacrifices people make for him. A movie was made of the book in 1942 with George Sanders playing Strickland and I think he conveyed Strickland’s rudeness to others very well.

Other films made from his books include his last major novel, The Razor’s Edge, that he wrote during World War II while he was in America. He was then 70 years old and used all his technical skills to persuade the reader to accept the story as truth.

In this story he used his own name, and recalls different incidents over the years based on what the other characters tell him.  Here the theme is the “making of a saint.”  20th Century Fox filmed The Razor’s Edge in 1946 with Tyrone Power as Larry Darrel, and Gene Tierney as the former fiancée who will stop at nothing to get him, even after she marries Gray Maturin. Anne Baxter played Sophie, a recovering alcoholic, about to marry Larry but she is brought down by the jealousy of Isabel. Baxter won an Oscar for her performance in this movie.

“Up At the Villa”, one of his short stories was made into a film in 2000 starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Sean Penn. It had been commissioned as a magazine story but never printed because the New York editors thought it too shocking, being about a woman who refuses a proposal from an older man, a long-time admirer and has a one-night stand with a young Austrian exile that ends in tragedy.

 

 

 

When a Weed Is Not a Weed

Peggy Lovelace Ellis

 

After 16 years of living back in my beloved mountains, I’m finally able to find a touch of humor about my thirty-three years, six months, one week, and three days of life in flat country.

Academe saturated the Chapel Hill block where Jim and I lived. Our neighbor next door was a big cheese on faculty at Duke and possessed the coveted Robert F. Kennedy Bust for a book he wrote on race relations. Across from him lived an equally big cheese on faculty at Carolina, being also the sixth most quoted organic chemist on the planet and in demand around the globe. A couple of houses up the street was an anthropology department chair at Carolina who had archaeological grants over a period of several decades and a résumé containing numerous pages of publications. Add to that a couple, both with PhDs, who went their separate ways each morning, one to NC State and the other to UNC-G. Also making their presence felt were a multi-published Latin American historian, a former mayor, a lawyer, and several doctors completing their residencies at Carolina’s Memorial Hospital.

Wouldn’t you think that, with all that education, they would have understood a weed is not always a weed? On the other hand, I with only a diploma from Blanton’s Business College knew it well.

Consider, for example, the vacant lot across the street.

I had taken it upon myself to beautify it because both the owner and the public works department ignored their responsibilities. I worked full time with my editing business and had the usual responsibilities of family, home, church, and lawn, so progress on my beautification project was slow. Naturally, when I undertook the scheme, the town people decided to mow their right-of-way occasionally, and there went my plants. After a couple of years, I got the front of the lot cleared and planted, so the mowers could see they no longer needed to exert energy. My plants were safe.

I planted evergreen seedlings that had invaded our lawn as well as cuttings I rooted of monkey grass and gold dust shrubs (okay, liriope and acuba, if you must be fussy about it), and various other bulbs and plants from my flower borders. However, probably the prettiest flowers over there were the wild violets I dug out of our lawn. Therein lies the reason for the neighborhood mirth. My otherwise intelligent neighbors completely failed to understand why the violets were weeds in my lawn yet across the street were beautiful flowers.

Then there’s honeysuckle. How can anything that fragrant be such a nuisance? Some people believe this fast-growing plant is the best there is to stop erosion. However, when it crept from the creek bank toward my lawn, I attacked that dratted weed with vigor, sneezing the whole time. One otherwise intelligent neighbor suggested it was a psychosomatic allergy and advised counseling, but I knew the truth of the matter. It was retribution. One of my most dreaded enemies had found the perfect way to punish me.

Now let’s talk about that most prolific Asian export known to mankind—the dandelion.

 “Asian?” you ask. Of course, it is. Anyone who has ever dug up one of those stubborn things knows the roots have their origins in China. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love yellow, period, but especially flowers. My primroses were the envy of the neighborhood, and I defy anyone to find daffodils that were prettier or had larger blossoms than mine. Furthermore, it was normal for strangers to invade our yard in late April and early May to gaze in awed wonder at my yellow hybrid azaleas. However, I drew the line at dandelions.

During those years when I took my trowel out each morning to continue my unending battle with those yellow-topped monsters, I found another plant that was just as obnoxious: wild onions. It was especially difficult to deal with them when they invaded my grape hyacinths. To this day, every time I see those odoriferous pests, I think back to my childhood and remember Mrs. Sawyer, my favorite substitute teacher.

Children being the way they are, however, my fondness for her did not stop me from joining my classmates in doing everything we could to annoy her. That often included eating wild onions at recess. Can you imagine how much onion odor 30 of Heaven’s little angels can breathe into the closed atmosphere of a classroom? After asking us to refrain, which plea we ignored, she found a solution that we thought was hilarious. She joined us in eating them.

Wild onions were fun in my misspent childhood, but annoying weeds in my adulthood.

Then came retirement and our move to the Highland Farms Retirement Community in Black Mountain, NC. Ah, the joys of retirement! Among other blessings of living here was that weeds would annoy me no longer. You see, the maintenance crew would deal with them.

I thought.

I was wrong.

Those yellow-topped monsters found me. Now I go out each morning and pinch off their heads.

At least wild onions haven’t found me.

Yet.

I’ll buy a trowel as soon as the Coronavirus releases me from captivity.

 

 

Lincoln’s Caustic Wit: Three or four days after the battle of Bull Run, some gentlemen who had been on the field called upon President Lincoln. He inquired very minutely regarding all the circumstances of the affair, and, after listening with the utmost attention, said, with a touch of humor:  “So it is your notion that we whipped the rebels and then ran away from them? “

 

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

—Lao-Tze

 

If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.     Samuel Johnson

 _____________________________________________________________________________

Gamboling

Sybil Austin Skakle

 

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, Oh, that ye would hear his voice! Psalm 95:7 (ERV)

 

The field where He led me is green

With tender, sweet, moist grass

For me to eat and enjoy.

He watches while I gambol,

Running, turning, jumping.

He delights in my joy.

I am safe, His forever.

 

 

A Few Thoughts about Thinking

Randy Bittle

 

Atoms and molecules are real.  Human consciousness is also real, but in a less physical and discernable way.  However, remember Descartes'  “I think, therefore I am.”  Being a thinking entity is your only certainty.  Your conceptualization of atoms and molecules will be less definite than awareness of self-existence.

Picture a tree in your mind while I envision a tree.  I would wager a large sum of money that your image of a tree differs from mine.  Except for a few relatives I pay to read my essays, none of you have seen the tree in my deceased grandmother’s former yard that I am remembering.  We share the concept of what a tree is, but the specific examples we envision from personal experience are distinctive.  By chance some of us may have seen the same tree and bring it to mind.  Even then, small differences will exist in our mental images.

Consciousness is unique inside each person, and every mind constantly fluctuates in awareness of thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensory perceptions.  Language allows us to communicate these constituents of mind.  Conversation, writing, and socializing inevitably distort to some degree the concepts we wish to convey, but nonetheless we do all we can to express ourselves and understand other people.

Generation gaps illustrate how people sometimes do not think the same.  Mention a turntable to an eleven-year-old and he or she will probably imagine some kind of table that turns.  Most children have no concept of a flat vinyl platter revolving with a diamond-tipped needle tracking through grooves on the platter’s surface to electronically reproduce encoded sounds.  That is one example of how differences in generational culture can broaden into gaps that separate people by age groups.

Another example of a generation gap is social media, which young people intuitively understand while interactively participating in data distribution.  Some of us older folks are a little less enthused about this latest communication craze and a little more guarded about dissemination of personal information.  Of course, in the first quarter of last century it was predicted that telephones and radios would never gain popularity, but look at the impact both technologies have had on social behavior.  Thoughts and emotions are individual, personal actions, yet we strive to share them with other people by any means available.

God Fashioned the Ship of the World Carefully

Stephen Crane

 

God fashioned the ship of the world carefully.

With the infinite skill of an All-Master

Made He the hull and the sails,

Held He the rudder

Ready for adjustment.

Erect stood He, scanning His work proudly.

Then—at fateful time—a wrong called,

And God turned, heeding.

Lo, the ship, at this opportunity, slipped slyly,

Making cunning noiseless travel down the ways.

So that, forever rudderless, it went upon the seas

Going ridiculous voyages,

Making quaint progress,

Turning as with serious purpose

Before stupid winds.

And there were many in the sky

Who laughed at this thing.

 

Decisions

Tim Whealton

 

Have you ever stopped and thought about decisions you made in the past? No, not the ones where you had to pick between good and bad but when you needed to pick maybe a little better over mostly good? Decisions that you could toss a coin and be just as effective as studying both outcomes for weeks. But whichever one you chose, the rest of your life would be totally different. Not worse or better, but different.

When I finished high school I had to choose between staying in my dad’s outboard motor shop or becoming a phone man. Outboard shops are charging $100.00 an hour now. Hmmm, oh well, phone man wasn’t all bad. Seems like there were some other big decisions going on about that time, too.

My grades were not good enough for a scholarship and I didn’t like school anyway but an even bigger decision was looming immediately for me. Yes marriage! I had a girlfriend and we had progressed past going steady to the fish or cut bait stage of life. Other friends were buying diamonds and getting engaged.

I kind of knew that she wanted to be engaged from the subtle hints. We would be looking at the river at night and she would say “look at the reflections, it looks like DIAMONDS!” Well you don’t have to hit me with a club. There was no rush but why wait? I sort of brought it up before I had the ring and then I had a problem.

 I didn’t really have a job or any money. My dad was disabled from a bad heart and could only work about two hours a day and my mom was earning the lion’s share of income by working as a nurse’s aide. That was a job she loved but didn’t bring in much money. Well necessity is the mother of invention and I needed to be inventive.

I sold my old outboard motor and fished eel traps to raise some cash. Finally I had a bankroll. Two hundred in cash. I had never seen that much cash. Before you laugh, this was 1969. Starting pay at the telephone company was $69 a week before taxes. It was a huge roll of small bills and it bulged my pocket. I went to downtown on a shopping trip. Bad idea to let her know I was going. More on that later.

I charged the battery in my car and rode over to New Bern (bad alternator) and started my casual stroll down the street to the Jewel Box. It was the fancy place where we had looked through the window every time we went to town. My dad had already told me that the ring would have to be ½ carat or the other women would make fun of it. No problem, I would just flash my bankroll as say, “Wrap it up!” No problem until I walked in and asked to look at the half carat rings. Holy Moly!  Those things were $500! When I asked to see the $200 rings you could see the look of disgust on the old man’s face. He said, “Sir, my diamonds come from the highest grade stock and I select them myself in Belgium. I don’t have anything that would be that small. Perhaps you could find something in costume jewelry that would suffice.”

That was it, I was defeated and deflated. It was a horrible feeling. I thought I was rich but I wasn’t even half rich. I would have driven myself home in disgust but my car wasn’t running. I started my walk back to the car to change over to the extra battery, but I realized Baxter’s was on the way.

Trying to cheer myself up I walked over to Baxter’s sporting goods. Cecil Harmon ran the old store. He was a big man with a cigar. The store was old but well stocked. They had the stuff you really wanted if you were a sportsman. I walked in and Mr. Cecil got up and said, “Come back here, boy, I got something to show you.”

I obeyed out of respect but I already knew that I was too poor to look at anything for sale. It was an honor to get invited to the back of the store though. It smelled like cigar smoke and bore cleaner. I looked at the workbench and it was filled with gun parts. I liked it a lot. Then Mr. Cecil reached in a box and pulled out a double barrel. He grinned as he handed it to me and said, “10 gauge magnum double.”

I probably trembled as I held it. I had grown up listening to the stories of 10 gauge guns. My grandad had a 10 Gauge Baker double. It had blown up and he cut the barrels to 11 inches for home defense. He called it his midnight reading companion. My dad always borrowed a 10 gauge for goose hunting and I had all the stories running through my mind of how he would bring out the highest goose when they flew over. Those were standard 10 gauge guns and this was a magnum. Even more shot and powder to make it go. I would be the ultimate duck hunter if it was mine.

But then reality set in. I had two hundred dollars and nothing else. Just to be polite I asked Mr. Cecil how much it was and he said $189. My heart started beating fast. I could sell my Remington for $50. No. I would still need that for dove season. The roll of bills in my pocket seemed like something foreign that needed to be gone all of a sudden but what would happen when I got back without a ring?

Well I knew one thing for sure; I didn’t have enough for a ring anyway so if I got the 10 gauge at least one of us would be happy. Then Mr. Cecil said “Aw heck, just make it 200 even and I’ll throw in two boxes of shells.” That did it! I would be crazy to turn down that deal. I headed home with the big 10.

Let’s just say that not everybody was as happy about the big 10 as me. As soon as I sold my Remington for $50 dollars I went back to town. I got explicit instructions to go to Mike’s to buy a diamond. His shop was tiny but well stocked. I told him what had happened and he laughed so hard he had to wipe his eyes. He pulled out a half carat ring and said, “Give me the fifty and pay ten dollars every month till it’s paid up. Four hundred and no interest if you make your payments on time.”

I asked what happens if I don’t and he said, “I’ll kick your ass.”

I loved Mike!

So was it a good decision? I’ll say it was. I shot it for years.

 

 

A Faithful Friend

By: Patrice D. Wilkerson

 

A true friendship is something I found to be hard to find

There were many years spent looking, so I decided to resign

I was unable to find someone who was honest and kind

Someone who would walk with a made up mind

I was unable to find someone who would listen when I was in tears

Someone who would help me to overcome my deepest fears

A friend to share all my lows and all of my highs

A friend who is thoughtful and very wise

Throughout all of my searching, I felt sad because I had no one

I had considered my search for a friend to be done

Until one day I decided to look a little deeper, so I raised my head to the sky

And that’s when I realized that it’s God who’s been there for me by and by

I know that He cares so much for me

And He truly loves me unconditionally

It’s amazing how I spent so long searching for someone who was right there in my heart

And I feel joy knowing that He and I will never part

For my faith tells me He will be with me until the very end

And I am so happy to call God my faithful friend

 

 

The New Normal

Marry Williamson

 In the space of a few weeks our world has changed. A global enemy in the shape of a virus has infiltrated our lives and we are learning to live with it.

So now we are in lockdown. We stay at home just venturing out to do some necessary shopping or getting some fresh air and exercise. Luckily we live in a semi-rural area and we can avoid the big supermarkets for most of our needs and buy fresh produce, bread, milk, meat and eggs from our local farm shop. Our local pub is closed, of course, but the landlord has started a delivery service. So we still have our usual Sunday roast. Our favourite cafe where we used to eat twice a week is offering the same service. We order and pay over the phone and the meals are left on our doorstep. It helps us out and they have some money coming in to tide them over the closures. We go for a walk once a day for some exercise staying 2 metres away from other people and spend hours on the phone or skype staying in touch with friends. We also send each other funnies and jokes to cheer each other up and keep laughing. After four weeks we are getting quite used to our new way of life.

And just as we had got used to our new normal there came the news that our Prime Minister had caught the virus and a week later that he was admitted into intensive care. This freaked us all out and filled everybody with a sense of doom. Luckily, he survived and is on the mend which lifted the spirits again.

This situation is bringing the worst but also the best in mankind. 

I won’t dwell on the greedy people who within days stripped the shelves of medicines, pain killers, antibacterial handwash, sanitiser, pasta, flour, rice, tins of food and weirdly, packs and packs of toilet rolls leaving nothing for the ones not so clued up and slower. I also won’t dwell on the profiteers who are selling items, no longer available in the shops, on e-bay at three, four and sometimes ten times the usual price.

On the other hand and on a more cheerful note it brought out the best in most. Pictures of rainbows, painted by children stuck indoors appeared in windows, along with posters thanking NHS workers and other workers who are keeping the country going. While walking out on our one allowed walk we meet people doing the same. Everybody keeps the prescribed distance and smiles. Complete strangers say, “Hello, stay safe, keep well and take care.”

Within days volunteer groups sprung up in our small town offering to get supplies for the old and vulnerable and collect prescriptions and medicines from the chemist. Our Health Service, the NHS is doing sterling work. Doctors and nurses are working long hours putting themselves at risk every day. Retired health workers have reported back to work.

A government call went out for volunteers, 250.000 were needed. Within days 750.000 had signed up.

Every Thursday evening at 8.00 pm we stand in our doorways, drives and open windows applauding and thanking all NHS workers, carers, volunteers, delivery drivers, refuse collectors, supermarket workers and basically everybody who risk themselves being out there to keep things going. Apart from thanking key workers I find it serves another purpose, too. Once a week we actually see our neighbours and check that everybody is ok. I live on a road where the houses are all detached so at least on a Thursday night standing at the gate at the end of the drive applauding the NHS and other key workers I can say hello to the other people in the road.

Among all the doom and gloom there are lots of other uplifting stories. What about Captain Tom, the 99-year old second war veteran, who walks every day several lengths of his garden with his Zimmer frame walker? He hoped to raise thousand pounds for the NHS workers receiving donations for every lap he traveled. So far he has raised an incredible nineteen million pounds and it is still growing!!

Now here is hoping that when we eventually go back to our old normal we will not forget how our new normal brought out the best in everybody and hopefully we keep being kind, helpful, caring and considerate.

 

 

 “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

– Abraham Lincoln

 

 “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”– Abraham Lincoln

 

An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.     Benjamin Franklin

Postcards from the Road, pt. 2

John Burns

 

In Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring Frodo tells the other hobbits (Merry, Pippin and Samwise) Bilbo's thoughts on 'The Road':  “He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step onto the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.' “

 

Card #5 Beach Trip

It’s early morning. Two hippies hitching a ride. My friend, Whitney, and I are traveling east to pick up his recently repaired motorcycle. And then off to the beach. A car pulls off the road. In the front seat are three people. Two men on either side of a woman. Leaning out the window the passenger says, “Get in. We’re going down the road.” So we pile into the back. The car drives toward the rising sun.

Quickly it becomes apparent that the occupants of the front seat are returning from a hard night of partying. The woman, flanked by the two men, cannot hold her head up. She’s either drunk, drugged or just so damn tired she can’t stay awake. Or any combination of those possibilities.

Her head keeps falling against the driver. Onto his shoulder. And he’s not happy about that.  “Wake up, bitch! Wake up!”“ No response. She’s out of it. Totally.  “Bitch, I said wake up!”

This goes on for a couple of miles. The shotgun passenger keeps trying to prop up the seemingly comatose woman. It’s not working. “Bitch! I said wake up!” Driver’s getting louder and more agitated.

He slams the car to a stop in the middle of the road.  “I said wake up, Bitch!” And with that he suddenly starts smacking her around. She’s out of it. He starts punching her.

Whitney and I are sitting in the back quiet as mice. Watching. Not saying a thing. I’ve got my hand of the door handle. This isn’t our fight. And he’s punching her pretty hard when the man riding shotgun turns to us and says, “I think it’s time for you two fellows to get out of the car. “

Indeed. We need no encouragement. We bail. An argument erupts between the two guys still in the car. Sleeping beauty is still out of it. Loud, hard words. Strong talk. We walk away from the car distancing ourselves from potential mayhem.

The passenger prevails and the car shifts into gear and, tires squealing, shoots down the road.

What can we say?  Damn, that’s different.

 

Card #6 Keeping My Feet

The brakes on the repaired motorcycle fell off on the beach road. Bad luck. Karma. Who knows? I can either ride home on the back with no brakes, or hitch a ride. I chose the latter option.

Leaving the beach is easy. Quick, though short, rides. On the mainland a pickup pulls over.  “Where you headed?”   And of the two possible routes he says that he’s taking the road less traveled. I get in the truck. A ride is a ride.

Somewhere down the road he pulls into a bar.  “Let’s have a drink.” Well, one drinks turns to two turns to three and we leave the bar in the early evening headed west. I’m feeling no pain.

Somewhere in the wilderness, somewhere between the bar and nowhere, the driver says, “This is as far as I go.” I hop out into the darkness, he turns north leaving me just down the road from a Dairy Queen which seems to be the center of the world for every teenager for miles around. A lot of traffic. But no ride.

A lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ as they drive by and spy me with my thumb out.  Horns blowing. Laughing, shouting, general country teen frolicking. But no ride. And it’s late.

The Dairy Queen closes. The kids go wherever they go. And everyone goes to bed. Whoa. It’s like three in the morning and dead as the grave in the dark. Only the light above a pay phone in the Dairy Queen parking lot can be seen.

I’m not getting a ride tonight. It’s really dark. And I’m not that far from home. So what do I do? Walking. It’s dark. If I had my backpack, I’d go into the woods, unroll my sleeping bag and go to sleep, but all I’ve got is the clothes I’m wearing and some pocket change. I try some sitting by the side of the road meditation. Not working for me. I wait for something to happen.

And it does. I get an idea. So I hustle over to the Dairy Queen parking lot to the pay phone. Yes, a pay phone, out there in the middle of nowhere. Insert my quarter and make a call to the only person I know who might be awake, Alan. You see he delivers morning newspapers and is fond of sleeping through the day. So he’s awake in the early morning.

I give him a call. Collect. He answers and I explain my situation which he apparently knows all about because Whitney has returned safely without me. Been askiing about me. Family has been asking too where the heck I am.

My savior! He’s doing nothing. Waiting for the sun to come up. He drives thirty miles to save me and I’m home in time to help him deliver the news.

 

Card #7 Bacon and Eggs

I rolled out of my sleeping bag at first light. Stuffed my pack and walked out of the woods to the Thruway. New York Thruway. I’d spent the night snugly sleeping in the wooded median of the highway. It’s a good place to sleep, no foot traffic in the middle of the road.

Crossing the concrete I stick out my thumb headed east. First car is a cop. County Mounty. Pops the siren, pulls over and arrests me for hitchhiking on his highway. It’s illegal to hitch a ride on the Thruway. Handcuffs. I’m dangerous. Back of the prowler. No escape. I’m off to see the Magistrate.

He lives in a cozy home in the county seat just a short drive down the road. As we drive up to his house he is just sitting down to a fine breakfast cooked up by Mrs. Magistrate. She’s busy in the kitchen. Eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, jelly. And coffee.

It’s Sunday morning, before church. We all stand around his breakfast table.  “What do we have here deputy?”  Hitchhiker on the Thruway.  “Is this true son?” The cuffs are off and I’m rubbing my wrists seemingly no longer dangerous: Yes, I cannot tell a lie. Hitchhiking.  “Okay. I pronounce you guilty.” My head hangs in shame.  “And I sentence you to leave the county.” His eggs are getting cold, his toast drying. Fat is congealing on his bacon.  “Deputy drive this boy to the exit on the Thruway closest to the county line. In the direction he is traveling and drop him off.”

 Case closed. Back to his eggs and bacon which smells really good. And coffee, too.

The deputy is not at all happy, but he follows orders and takes me back to the Thruway. He is silent, says nothing the whole trip until we stop near an access ramp.  “Get out. And stay off the Thruway”. He speeds off.

It’s Sunday morning and I’m not getting a ride from the ramp so I walk down to the Thruway and stick out my thumb. Gone in ten minutes.

 

Card #8 Wise Guy

Hitching a ride back to school.  Going west. I’m on a road that leads from one college to the next. My destination. A car stops just down the road. Lotsa rumbling exhaust. Hopped up car.

I scurry toward it and as I near, the driver pulls ten yards down the road. OK. I speed up thinking he’s got places to go.

As I near it the driver pulls ten yards down the road.

Well, enough of this. I stand, put my thumb out and listen to laughter as the car speeds off.

 

Card #9 Mama Mia

I’m in a car headed back to school. Caught a ride with fellow students returning after a weekend. Driver says, over his shoulder.  “We’re gonna stop for lunch. After we finish we’ll take you all the way. “

That’s good with me. I’ve no schedule, no appointments, just want to get home. So they stop at an Italian place by the road. We all pile out of the car, enter the restaurant, and fill up a booth. Orders are taken. I don’t order anything. I’m not hungry. And I’m on a tight budget. Scholarship with no wiggle room.

Food is served, pizza is being eaten, I’m drinking water. When Mama comes out of the kitchen, “How are you boys? Enjoying your food? Well, look at you.” She means me.  “Why aren’t you eating?”  “Oh, I’m not hungry.”  “But there’s always room for a little more. You need to eat. Look at you. So skinny.”  “I really can’t afford to eat out.”  “No, no, no. That will never do.” And with that she disappears into the kitchen.

Everyone at the table is eating pizza, pasta, beer. Italian. When Mama returns to the table carrying a BIG bowl of spaghetti with lots of meatballs. Talking directly to me:  “Here. Eat.” Thank you, but I really can’t afford to eat out.  “You can’t afford not to. It’s on the house.” Mama says, “Eat!”

What can I do? If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody going to be happy, so I eat. And I eat it all along with the bread she brings to me. Embarrassed, but well fed. Very much so.

We leave and I tell Mama thanks.  “You come back any time. Mama will take care of you.”

Into the car and back on the road. I’m back at home in an hour well fed.

 

The Abilene Paradox

E. B. Alston

 

In 1988, a management expert named Jerry B. Harvey wrote a book called The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management. That book became a hot topic among the management training types at the phone company. Its premise was that groupthink is a serious handicap when groups of managers make collective decisions. The higher the level of the management group, the more disastrous their decisions can become.

I think this is what is happening to our nation’s political leaders.

The iron realism that ultimately drives business decisions tempers the tendency to groupthink. In order for a business to succeed, it has to make a profit. At the telephone company, we had to make a profit and the phones had to work. That principle saved the phone companies a lot of grief. At least it did until President Carter “fixed” the phone business by deregulating it. Politics destroyed the finest telecommunications network in the world.

I quote the title example of groupthink in Harvey’s book:

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominos on a porch until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene (53 miles away) for dinner.

The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.”

Although he has reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinking that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group the husband says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.’

The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is bad. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?”

The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic.

The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.”

The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.”

The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted to take. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably on the porch but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.

Think about the times in your life when something like this has happened. A group of which you are a member decides to do something that no individual in the group wants to do.

In this country’s politics, the only iron discipline driving political decisions is the elected officials’ urge to get re-elected. Everything else is funded by your tax money and they are spending your money to buy your votes. The Abilene Paradox is at work in full force in DC and in our states’ capitals.

 

 

My 4-year old son asked me in the car the other day. “Dad what would happen if you ran over a ninja?”  How do I respond to that?
 I wonder whether cops ever get pissed off when everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.


Aphrodite’s Ring

E. B. Alston

 

Aphrodite’s mischief sent

Queen Helen to a continent.

 

Where freedom’s glory was not for all

Where tyrants rise, and thrive and fall.

 

The king was wont to know his bride

Would always be close by his side.

 

The ring was very, very old.

Twas made of fine Egyptian gold.

 

Twas coveted by descendents of

The queen and king of all thereof.

 

Heaven’s wise ones gave the clue.

The ring was found when time was due.

 

The ancient gods of old will know

That Aphrodite made it glow.

 

MMCDXC

 

 

Bad Decisions Make Very Good Stories.

I love you with all my belly. I would say heart, but my belly is bigger.

 

Love is a lot like a backache. It doesn’t show up on x-rays but you know it’s there.

 

Women are a lot like phones. They love to be held and talked to but if you press the wrong button, you will be disconnected.  

 

The first principle is you must not fool yourself-and you are the easiest person to fool. Physicist Richard Feynman

 

People don’t necessarily want or need to be done unto as you would have them do unto you. They want to be done unto as they want to be done unto   ― Roy Blount Jr.

 

I am often asked:  What are Southern women like?  That is a question that many people feel entitled to an answer to. But I cannot speak with authority — not with authority as it is known in the South — about Southern women. I am acquainted with no more than two-thirds of them, and several of those I haven’t seen in some time.   ― Roy Blount Jr., What Men Don't Tell Women

Any given generation gives the next generation advice that the given generation should have been given by the previous generation but now it’s too late.  ―Roy Blount, Jr.

 

If a cat could talk, it would say things like 'Hey, I don’t see the problem here. ― Roy Blount, Jr.

 

Even intellectuals should have learned by now that objective rationality is not the default position of the human mind, much less the bedrock of human affairs.  ― Roy Blount Jr., Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South

 

 

I Don’t Like Joanne

Fiction by Howard A. Goodman

 

It was the map that had brought it all crashing back—a Google Map of a section of Philadelphia known as Fernhill. Fernhill wasn’t his neighborhood, yet its name was uncannily similar. The home of his parents, the home around which he had discovered his universe, was located in the Fern Rock section, less than four miles to the northeast of Fernhill, yet seemed to him an eternity away. In the early Sixties Fernhill had been a destination, the section of Philly he commuted to each weekday for the six months of his first  “co-op” assignment during his early college years.

The moment he came face to face with the map he decided impulsively that he needed to return, to see it all again, to feel what could only be felt by being immersed in it. Perhaps by doing so he could mend the one unresolved issue about his life that had plagued him since he’d left his home town.

He told his wife he was flying up to Philly to meet up with old friends, to ride the buses, streetcars, trackless trolleys, and subways that had occupied much of his interest during his youth; that he’d be away two days at most. Early that week he booked his flights on-line, and on Saturday his wife drove him to Raleigh Durham International.  “Have fun,” she said, leaning over to plant a peck of a kiss on his left cheek. He smiled wanly, exited the car, and collected his carry-on from the back seat.

Upon landing at PHL he claimed his reservation for a rental car, navigated out of the airport, and took Interstate 95 north, eventually meeting up with the Schuylkill Expressway, skirting the river’s western bank until he reached the exit for the Roosevelt Expressway.

On his way to Broad Street he passed through Fernhill, exceedingly close to the location that was his fundamental reason for returning here. But the lingering buzz from his plane ride made it difficult for him to focus. He decided to postpone his visit until the following day, Sunday.

He drove north along Broad Street, and soon he was nearing the section that had been the world of his childhood. Impetuously, he decided he wanted to re-experience the storefronts that made up the two-block long retail shopping district known as Broad & Olney, from within the sanctuary of his car. Specifically, he wanted to see if any of the businesses he knew had survived the years of his absence.

Waiting for the traffic signal to change, he glanced right toward the first landmark, the Olney Transportation Center, on the southeast corner. The very first thing he noticed was the absence of any semblance of charm. The streetcars he knew had been replaced by buses.

Hanscom’s Bakery, the anchor tenant within the terminal and perennial magnet for both commuters and walk-ins—its prominent sign gone. He noted, too, that the face lift undergone by the exterior of the transportation center—stretches of sheet metal painted blue—looked cheap.

He crossed Olney Avenue, and at the risk of presenting an obstacle to the traffic behind him he began to taxi very slowly up the curb lane of the 5600 block of Broad Street. Beginning at the northeast corner he began to realize he was in for a rude awakening. Whelan’s Drugs—gone. Next door, the storefront that had been home to Jarman’s Stationery—shuttered. These were great stores, he mused. What had time done to them?

Linton’s Restaurant, where orders of casual food emerged from the kitchen via a conveyor belt—vanished from mid-block, a sporting goods store in its place. At Chew Street, Buten’s Paints was now home to a wireless cellular store. One too many in his opinion.

The 5700 block of Broad appeared no less worn. On the prominent northeast corner Esquire Drug had been reborn as a daycare center. He recalled visiting the drug store’s lunch counter quite often as a teenager with emerging independence, to receive a dose of masochism from a very pretty but less than angel-tongued waitress, who often berated him for taking too much time deciding what to order. Several doors up the block, Furlow’s Five and Ten—replaced by a nondescript discount store offering ‘deals.’

The Esquire Theater was no longer a theater, shuttered, though there was some scant evidence it had been home to a more recent storefront, a fried chicken take-out joint. He twisted his head in disbelief. Considering the makeup of the population who live around here now, he wondered, how could they not support a fried chicken joint?

The only business remotely familiar to him was the Chinese Restaurant next to the Esquire Theater. In his day he had known it as The Canton; in its present incarnation it bore the name, Happy Garden. He shrugged. What difference would a name change make? It’s still a Chinese restaurant. Time marches on, he concluded, trampling nearly everything in its path.

His eyes drifted from the storefronts to the people shuffling along the sidewalk, the new tenants of his old neighborhood. Nearly without exception, each was engaged with a cell phone, conversing directly with their devices as they strolled along, or connected by a pair of earbuds or a Vulcan looking device clipped to an ear.

How ironic, he reflected, the very instrument these people quickly adopted as their status symbol had ended up enslaving them all over again. He noticed others plodding along, wearing expressions that bordered on hypnotic, disengaged.

He experienced his greatest shock as he neared Grange Avenue. Even before he reached the intersection he was aghast to discover the transit company’s architecturally significant, two-story buff brick and concrete administration building—the anchor of the southeast corner since his earliest recollections—gone.

He shook his head. Not a trace of the grand old building remained as testimony it had ever existed. He hoped someone had posted a photograph of it on the Internet. He figured the storefronts that had replaced it, cheap in appearance, had been the reason for its demolition.

On the northeast corner the Heidelberg Reformed Church building, still there and as Gothic as ever, had been born again as Philippian Baptist Church. He turned right, altogether disappointed with the shabbiness that had settled upon Broad & Olney’s retail district.

Taxiing slowly east, he passed his former elementary school, now a boarded shell. As he descended the stepped hill, the widening panorama of Fern Rock Yard—northern terminus of the Broad Street Subway—filled the windshield. The subway yard had fascinated him throughout his growing years. It still did.

He parked his car along the curb of 11th Street, got out and walked around to the sidewalk. As he had done countless times as a child, he stepped up to the wrought iron fence and peered between its rungs down at the branches of tracks, which led from the maintenance facility and converged to just two near the entrance to the tunnel portal, two stories below.

He noticed, too, the absence of the huge smokestack of the power plant. Even the subway cars he’d known had been replaced. After a while he made an about face and scanned the row houses on the opposite side of the street, widened by the confluence of 11th Street with Marvine. He narrowed his focus to the second one from the corner—the one that had been his home for twenty-two years.

His initial impulse was to cross over, to climb the steps to the landing, then several more to the concrete porch, then three more steps to the front door. To ring the bell, be invited inside by the current owner, to reacquaint himself with its rooms through the perspective of a mature, distanced adult. Yet at the same time he was terrified of being disappointed, of meeting with a hostile reception, of being mistaken for a bill collector.

Suddenly, he felt as though he had overstayed his welcome. His childhood home and Fern Rock Yard, though significant, were not the reason for his visit. He slipped back into his car, glimpsed the clock on the dashboard—4:00. Again behind the wheel, he waved goodbye to the icons of his childhood years.

On impulse he drove back up Grange Avenue, passing the iconic, two-story Westbrook Publishing Company, the hydraulic drone of whose printing presses lolled him to sleep for many a summer when the windows to his bedroom were open.

He reacquainted himself with the storefronts that had once occupied the basements of the end homes lining either side of the street—Gordon the Dentist and Hankin the Tailor; then past 12th Street Gelman’s Food Mart and Kailer’s Pharmacy.

A half block further up Grange, Van’s Barber Shop and the office of Leon Cohen, MD. Without exception, every one of them had been eradicated. At 13th Street he passed his elementary school again, rather the three-story building it had once occupied. When he reached Broad Street, after waiting for the traffic light to favor him he turned left and began to explore what remained of the businesses along the west side.

The Quonset roofed building that had once been home to Penn Fruit Supermarket had been subdivided into smaller shops—an African hair braiding salon and a payday loan store appeared to be viable businesses; the rest were shuttered. Madway’s Hardware, its interior walls once lined with an unforgettable set of paintings, The Evolution of Tools—empty.

Further south, near Chew Street his most favorite, a Horn & Hardart Retail Store—replaced by a pawn shop. This came as no surprise to him. In the early 1990s he recalled hearing that the nearly 100 year old company had ceased operations in Philly and New York, a victim of a fickle public’s insatiable migration to fast food.

By now hunger had claimed him. He made a U-turn, heading north on Broad, glimpsing the properties on either side until he reached 66th Avenue. Unprepared for anything familiar to him, he was delighted when the Oak Lane Diner beckoned, as it had decades ago.

Its exterior virtually unchanged, it was nestled on a wedge shaped property defined by the acute intersection of Broad Street with Old York Road. Its stainless steel fascia was as bright and timeless as ever. He found a parking space on the tiny lot, and he made his way along the sidewalk to the steps leading up to the front entrance.

A hostess, middle aged, dark haired, menus cradled in her arms, was waiting alongside the cash register. She smiled at him.  “Kalosírthes,” she said, and he recognized she was speaking Greek.  “Welcome home,” she repeated in English, and he immediately thought, if only she knew. The hostess led him to a booth along the front, with a sweeping block-long panorama of Broad Street.  “Ef-ha-reesto,” he replied.

Unprepared for such a response, the hostess turned back to him.  “You are Greek? “

 “Jewish,” he replied.

The hostess’ expression turned sad.  “For so many years, “ she said,  “our most loyal customers. “

A waitress approached and set down a glass of ice water and a basket of freshly baked rolls. Now seated, he put on his reading glasses and began to study the menu, which went on for pages and pages.

The waitress returned to his booth.  “Are you ready to order?”

 “Yes, “ he said.  “I’ll have the veal cutlet, with French fries and onion rings—oh, and a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder.”

When he came here for Sunday dinner with his parents and brother, he’d without fail choose that same selection time after time. His father, who had leaned toward entrees of broiled seafood, was mortified at his cholesterol-saturated choices.  “It’s good, Dad,” he’d reply in his own defense. He stopped short of saying,  “You should try it.”

While he waited for his soup to arrive he panned the view outside the window. Up here in East Oak Lane, he observed, Broad Street seems to have been spared much of the urban decay that had taken place barely one mile to the south.

<> 

Later, in the solitude of his hotel room his thoughts turned again to his old neighborhood, of the Broad & Olney retail district he knew, how it had deteriorated as though the succession of proprietors had let down their collective guard in a big way. Or like he, had simply grown old and sold or shuttered their businesses. He’d heard of neighborhoods resurrecting themselves out of the ashes of their decay to become viable, attractive again—but never of one returning to exactly what it had been before.

He wasn’t interested in trendy new shops; he certainly didn’t have any use for a hair braiding salon or a payday loan store; he just wished Broad & Olney could have remained closer to the way he’d remembered it.

He yearned to be able to once again sit in the Esquire Theater and watch a movie, blanketed in darkness; to perch once more on a stool at the counter of Linton’s, order a burger, French fries, and a coke, and wait with excitement for his platter to appear on their signature conveyor belt; or to cross Broad Street to the Horn & Hardart Retail Shop and return to the home of his youth with chicken croquettes, Cole slaw, and French rolls.

For this he blamed the hundreds of residents who’d panicked when the surrounding neighborhoods began to “change,” those who could afford it fleeing to the lure of Philly’s northern suburbs. Now time and neglect had taken away all that he’d loved. Perhaps, he reasoned, by some natural law a shopping district is permitted to experience one and only one heyday. Thank goodness, he reflected, the Oak Lane Diner had survived.

He sat passively on the side of the bed, gradually letting down his emotional guard, waiting for more memories to creep out from behind their hiding places. He was tempted to begin exploring his sole purpose for making this trip but quickly decided he needed be at the place where it all happened. He brushed aside his memories, still painful, and prepared for bed.

<> 

Sunday morning, during a breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage patties, hash browns, and hot tea at the same booth in the Oak Lane Diner he reflected on the first day at his first real job, a co-operative assignment, a mandatory requirement of his curriculum beginning in his sophomore year at Drexel Institute of Technology.

He had been assigned an employee number—OP96337—embossed on the round, metal-framed ID badge provided to him, to be worn at all times while on the premises—an entirely new experience, the feeling of belonging to something other than his family.

He recalled the unsettled feeling that had overtaken him upon meeting his supervisor. But by the end of the week that discomfort had faded considerably as the routine of his workday began to set in.

Soon he became immersed in other new experiences—dressing in a suit each weekday, eating lunch in the company cafeteria, the feeling of being under the wing of an enormous enterprise, of being even a minuscule contributor to the development of a telemetry transmitter designed to survive aboard a rocket or satellite. Yet none of these experiences clawed at him more than the one that had compelled him to return.

He paid for his meal, returned to his rental car, and headed south on Broad Street. Six minutes later, he turned west onto Cayuga Street, negotiating the three blocks to the entrance to the Roosevelt Expressway where he nudged the car left onto the entrance ramp.

Despite the lack of a map or GPS he still remembered the route as if it were yesterday. All the while distant shards of the tasks he’d performed during the six months of his first co-op assignment continued to illuminate his memory.

At Wissahickon Avenue, barely exited from the expressway his eyes panned across the windshield. Suddenly, to his right, unmistakably, there it was! He slowed down as he approached his target.

The single-story brick factory building was an artifact of an age that had drawn to a close while his attention and whereabouts had been drawn elsewhere —a time when vacuum tubes were yielding to transistors. Above the continuous row of windows a flaccid, drooping banner whimpered,  “For Lease. “

He nudged the rental car over to the curb. It was still hours before he had to be at PHL for his return flight. He killed the ignition and stared out the windshield, panning the old factory building, which stretched continuously for two blocks along Wissahickon. A moment later—still unprepared to feel the sting of the most intimate memory it held for him—he opened the door, careful to avoid approaching traffic, stepped out, and circled around to the sidewalk.

He trodded over to a concrete knee wall that framed a small parking lot. Facing the old building he took a seat atop the wall, close to the section of the building where he’d worked during his initial co-op assignment. Only now was he brave enough to begin focusing on the most compelling reason for his visit—one he’d never confessed to another person.

This memory stood apart from all his others, as though it had belonged to a special, distinct part of him, his coming of age. It did not involve his day-to-day tasks, or the camaraderie he’d formed among the engineers and technicians, or the wave of satisfaction he’d felt in making his debut at a professional workplace.

Rather, it concerned something else, a lingering memory far more deep, of an administrative assistant—secretary, as they were labeled back in those days—who worked in the department to which he had been assigned, and over the course of his assignment the horrendous 'thing' he had developed for her. While staring at the building he whispered her name, one he had never misplaced. Joanne. Joanne Fryce.

Like fireworks the image of Joanne illuminated every crevice of his mind’s eye. He feasted first on her lovely pouty face, then her brown hair—real brown hair, not brownish or chocolate-brown or reddish-brown—brown, and with a slight natural wave reminiscent of the Forties. Often, she’d arrange it in a style pulled back high and terminating in a bun, though his favorite days were those when she wore it down to her shoulders, because of the way her brown hair framed her face.

In the early Sixties, a time when most women were not nearly as obsessed against carrying a few rounding pounds, Joanne was an enigma—trim, with a stunning yet refined figure. From what he could make out, her persona was neither parochial nor cheap, a view he’d carried of most other shiksas he’d met during the course of his assignment.

But at the same time he’d been made painfully aware that Joanne carried a demeanor of aloofness, bordering on unapproachable. She virtually ignored everyone around her, with the exception of her boss, Mr. Ames, and a few of the secretaries from neighboring departments. Early on, as if to validate his observation one of the technicians who worked in his department had made it known to him that Joanne was a  “barracuda. “

Maybe she’s just shy, he’d speculated in her defense, or naturally reserved. Yet when he was in her view she never offered him more than a shard of simple recognition, and that led to his discomfort in spontaneously offering greetings to her.

Indeed, this had been his very first encounter with real adult attraction and infatuation—the kind that was supposed to lead to something fulfilling—romance, courtship, marriage. Though he’d received much encouragement from his raging hormones and the indefinable instinct that compels boys to chase after girls, he remained frozen, incapable of bringing himself to act on his feelings.

To defend against his runaway desire he had adopted a posture of trying to convince himself Joanne meant nothing to him, of wanting nothing to do with her. His rationale, one that had been brought forward from his early upbringing, drew many justifications. He reasoned that she wouldn’t be at all interested in or attracted to him for any number of reasons, the most current being his latest outbreak of serial acne.

During a moment rare with creativity, seated at his desk with nothing in particular to do—fully aware that Joanne was at her desk less than twenty feet from him—within the space of five minutes, he penned a jingle on his yellow notepad.

 

 “I don’t like Joanne.

Joanne Fryce, that is,

She isn’t very nice, that is.

I don’t like Joanne.”

 

He beamed, instantly proud of his accomplishment. He tore off the sheet of paper from the pad, folded it, and tucked it in his wallet. For the remainder of his co-op assignment the jingle would play in his head day and night. Yet his repetitive chant proved no match against the unbridled desire he continued to feel for Joanne.

It struck him with even more impact than when as a kid, in the driveway behind his Marvine Street home he’d gotten smacked squarely across the spine by a stickball bat, temporarily blinding him. Surely, he reasoned, for the very first time in his life he was dealing with something far greater than puppy love.

Toward the north end of the old building he spotted the guard shack through which he had entered and left each workday. He was met with the memory of one of the uniformed security guards opening a box of pizza being delivered, gingerly lifting the edge of the pie to inspect for the presence of contraband documents. He smiled at his recollection, but just as quickly his smile faded.

He lifted himself from the knee wall and turned toward Wissahickon Avenue. Several yards ahead he was reunited with an icon long forgotten—a Route XH bus lumbering to a stop at the curb nearby. His memory jolted, his thoughts immediately returned to Joanne. He waited for the bus to clear the stop. Then, as though physical contact would somehow enhance his memories, he stepped up to the sign pole, reached out, let the fingers of his left hand encircle it.

The physical connection served to press for an answer to the question that had evaded him for an eternity—what would have happened if he’d been man enough to approach Joanne when at this very spot fate handed him the opportunity?

One afternoon following work, he had approached the bus stop from the guard shack. To his surprise he discovered Joanne, wearing a tan raincoat, several passengers ahead of him in line waiting to board the XH bus when it arrived. He’d never before seen her waiting here; perhaps she was a bit late in leaving work that day.

When the GM  “Old Look “ bus finally pulled up, barely four feet behind in the line of riders waiting to board he watched as Joanne ascended the three steps, dropped her fare into the collection box, then ambled down the narrow center aisle.

            When it was his turn he tossed his fare into the box without even looking down and began to pursue her. Midway down the aisle he hesitated, waiting while she chose the aisle-facing bench seat immediately past the center doors of the bus. His immediate desire was to exploit fate by claiming the seat next to her, still empty.

But when the moment came his need for self-protection eclipsed his desire. A blanket of moist, cloying heat was quick to envelope him. Without even turning to make eye contact he continued on toward the rear of the bus, settling into the last forward-facing twin seat. Even before the bus started to pull away he began to steal glimpses of Joanne, then allowed himself the risk of studying her for seconds at a time—her regal profile framed by brown hair drawn upward into a bun.

Joanne sat quietly, introspectively, perhaps daydreaming, her gaze directly across the aisle of the bus. He wondered what she could possibly be thinking; certainly not of him. Suddenly, an assertive facet of him, seldom heard, jumped in: There’s still time to stand up, it said, to move toward the front, make contact with her. But that facet was quickly squashed by the usual one: Now that I know Joanne takes the bus I’ll be better prepared next time.

Seven minutes later, when the XH bus arrived at the Erie Avenue station of the Broad Street Subway he watched as Joanne stood up, turned away, immediately feeling regret as she exited through the center doors. He tried to follow, only to lose further sight of her in the random eddies of the rush hour masses.

During the subway ride up to Fern Rock it occurred to him the fleeting moments spent during that bus ride were collectively the most he’d ever been granted in which to gaze at Joanne.

As he stepped off the subway car onto the platform of Fern Rock Station he felt exhilaration at having been that close to her for that long. But gaze was all he’d done. During the three-minute walk to his home his exhilaration quickly deflated.

In the sanctuary of his room he conceded he’d blown it. He reflected on why he hadn’t seized the opportunity to claim the empty seat next to her. Certainly, sitting alongside Joanne, striking up a conversation with her during that seven minute ride would have been infinitely more satisfying than stealing glimpses of her from several yards away.

The litany of tired excuses began to flood his brain with the same clarity, as though he’d invented them just yesterday—the fact that he was intimidated by her looks, her aloofness; his hollow feeling of not knowing how to strike up a conversation without exposing his unease; his utter lack of self-confidence; how he too easily let his ultimate avoidance mechanism—breaking into a spontaneous sweat—control him. His reverie dissolved.

<> 

After his first co-op assignment concluded he returned to the classroom, and during his next two semesters he often thought of Joanne, conjuring her image whenever he felt he was about to lose it forever. In his next assignment, a year older and a bit worldlier, maybe he’d have the courage to act on his longing for her.

His return to 4800 Wissahickon brought him to a different department, one having to do with upgrades to military radar systems. To his delight he discovered Joanne was still there. He spotted her occasionally, as lovely as ever. But she reacted as though he were a stranger, barely acknowledging the greetings he offered as he passed her along a hallway or in the cafeteria downstairs. By now he could accept that to her he was little more than a stranger.

After his second co-op assignment ended, he never saw Joanne Fryce again. Yet for the concluding semesters of his senior year distance and lack of weekday sightings were no deterrents to his thinking, his fantasizing of her, about that fruitless bus ride, about what might have come if he had only taken the next step.

With mellow sadness he turned from the bus stop pole to face the old factory building for a moment, then retreated quietly to his car.

In the spring of 1965, within the span of two weeks he graduated and made his fiancée his wife. His years as a resident of Philadelphia had come to an end. He returned only sporadically, for no more than two or three days at a time, mostly to visit his parents, who had sold their row home in Fern Rock and moved to an apartment in suburban Melrose Park.

Behind the steering wheel again, he panned the old multi-block long factory building—the icon of his most intense adult infatuation—one final time. He keyed the ignition and took the wheel in his hands. When the traffic cleared he made a U-turn and negotiated the circuitous path to the entrance to the Roosevelt Expressway, carved from a corner of Fernhill Park.

Heading south toward Philadelphia International, he suddenly realized that after all these years it might have afforded him some degree of closure, some satisfaction, to know what had become of Joanne.

Aboard the aircraft, once he’d located his seat and settled in, detached from everything around him and blanketed by the mounting pitch of revving turbines he leaned back, closed his eyes, and he began to whisper his mantra.

 “I don’t like Joanne.

Joanne Fryce, that is,

She isn’t very nice, that is...”

The initial jerk of the plane separating from the Jetway caused him to bolt upright in his seat. He twisted his head.  “Enough!” he uttered, as though he’d meant to ditch his emotional baggage at the gate. His outburst drew the attention of the passenger seated next to him. For the two days of his visit he’d seen enough, remembered enough, and certainly felt more than enough.

It had all occurred so long ago, by now too petrified to reshape. Even if offered the impossibility of a second chance to return to those days, he knew his ordeal would play out the same as it had before. He managed a grin, contemplating the possibility that Joanne really was a barracuda and could have made his life with her a living hell.

When he felt the plane tilting up toward the sky he forced his lingering memories to go silent, shifting back into reality mode to prepare for his return home to the life he’d briefly left—one that had seldom energized him, had never offered him cause to know real passion. The life he’d quietly accepted by default nearly four decades ago.

 

First Love

Goethe

 

Oh, who will bring me back to the days

So beautiful, so bright!

Those days when love first bore my heart

aloft on pinions light?

 

Oh, who will bring me but an hour

Of that delightful time,

And wake in me again the power

That fired my golden prime?

 

I nurse my wound in solitude,

I sigh the livelong day,

And mourn the joys, in a wayward mood,

That now are pass'd away.

 

Oh, who will bring me back the days

Of that delightful time,

And wake in me again the blaze

That fired my golden prime?

 

 Sacrifice

 Diana Goldsmith

 

His life was fairly routine. He lived with his mum and dad in a small house which his dad and uncle had built in Nazareth in Palestine. Joseph, his dad, was a master carpenter and had his workshop attached to the house. Mary was a loving and gentle mother who looked after the needs of the family.

Jesus had brothers and sisters too but as he was the eldest it was his job to supervise them.

However this wasn't difficult because when they would do anything naughty he only had to look at them and it was as if he could see into their very souls!

When he was about twelve he went with his parents to Jerusalem for the Passover and this was just before his bar mitzvah. He loved going to synagogue with his dad and brothers and hearing the wise words of the Rabbi. In Jerusalem there were the nation's most learned teachers of the law. They often taught in the courtyard outside the Temple sharing the scriptures from the first five books of Moses. Then they would take questions from the men who made up their audience. Jesus listened but also asked pertinent questions. The teachers and congregation were astounded at the knowledge and understanding he had. He got so engrossed that he had not noticed his dad leaving! The family had to come back and collect him later!

On becoming an adult, Jesus became a carpenter. He had been learning the trade from Joseph, his father, and he took over when Joseph was a very old man, and on Joseph's death became the proprietor apprenticing his younger brothers. That way Mary his mother was provided for.

He had a great faith in God and led his family in grace at meals. He performed the Passover and the other celebrations. Often he would go for solitary walks to find a quiet place to pray. He was moved when he saw the needs of people and then he would spend even longer praying sometimes through the night.

He appeared to be a man apart with more than an ordinary gift for being able to see into men's minds and know what they were thinking. However this meant that he led a rather solitary life not having close friends of his own. He didn't take a wife and so he had no children. Mary felt pain over this but his brothers and sisters married and had grandchildren for her. However Jesus was her first born.

He had a cousin called John who also spent time studying the scriptures. He felt called to call people to repentance and baptism. He performed this in the river Jordan.

Jesus went to be baptized by John and he then handed over the carpentry business to his brothers and became an itinerant preacher and teacher. He sacrificed his family life to follow what he felt he was called to do by God.

He then chose men to be his disciples. They were a motley bunch of men not ones who would naturally have formed a close knit band of men. There was Matthew who worked for the Inland Revenue collecting taxes, not a popular occupation and Mark, a studious young man who would have made a good reporter. He just stuck to the facts. Then there was James who was a feisty man known as the son of Thunder! Peter was also a fisherman whom Jesus told later would become a fisher of men. His brother Andrew also decided to follow Jesus. Simon was from a group of very religious men called zealots. In fact Jesus called twelve men to be his close followers. Not all of them were loyal as he was to find out as the one who had volunteered to look after the finances of the group, namely Judas.

Iscariot was more interested in lining his own pockets. They all made the sacrifice of earning a living to relying only on what the grateful recipients of miracles or others who appreciated his teachings gave to them. It was a very meagre amount and a hand to mouth existence.

Sometimes they were so hungry they had to glean in the fields to fill their bellies!

During the next three years Jesus taught the disciples and the crowds about the kingdom of heaven. He healed people from physical and mental illnesses in a miraculous way. The number of his followers increased and often there were crowds pushing and shoving just to get near him. One amazing miracle he performed was when a crowd of over five thousand men let alone the women and children in families who had gone to hear him were fed! His twelve followers passed around a basket each. This in itself was a miracle because it had all started with Jesus asking his disciples for some food but they had forgotten to bring a picnic for them. There was nowhere to go and get some food. They felt foolish but a little boy offered to share his lunch of a couple of small fish and five small rolls with Jesus. Jesus then saw that most of the crowd hadn't come prepared either so he gave the blessing over the food and broke the rolls up into twelve, one for each disciple. He then told each disciple to take his basket to each group. As people took a piece of bread and fish, more fish and bread filled its place. In the end everyone had their fill. Amazing!

There were other supernatural miracles that he performed such as healing deaf blind and lame people. He turned water into wine at a wedding. He even raised his friend Lazarus to life after he had died. More people followed him, some really deciding to repent and change their lives. However the religious leaders were jealous and could or would not believe. They were always asking trick questions to trip him up. He however used to answer them by asking them another question which they couldn't answer.

In the end, it all culminated with an arrest at Passover. But then there were various kangaroo courts where false allegations were made. Jesus seemed to take all the abuse and the beatings. Even his close friends and disciples deserted him with Judas betraying him and Peter denying he'd ever known him.

The people were given the choice of releasing Jesus and crucifying a murderer but they decided to do the opposite. So, Barabbas was set free and Jesus crucified suffering the most inhumane and painful death that the Romans had devised for the worst criminals.

However Jesus wasn’t a criminal but sacrificed himself, dying alone on a cross on the day we call Good Friday! He died for all humanity to reconcile us to God which meant that the sacrifice was, of course, worth it.

This however wasn't the end of the story because Jesus was resurrected after three days. He appeared to his disciples except Judas who committed suicide after his betrayal, but also to many others.

The greatest sacrifice was that God sent his son Jesus to die for all because only he being sinless could take away our sins.

 

 

Marty’s Memorial

Sybil Austin Skakle

Southern Village United Methodist Church

September 3, 2009

 

Expecting music, I arrived early

Parked and entered the empty

Unlighted church building. The

Man, at the sanctuary entrance never spoke

I saw Emily standing outside beyond

The front entrance waiting for other

Chapel Hill Village Revue members

A woman approached us to say

 “Marty’s service is to be in the Memorial Garden “

Emily and I found seats in the shade

Of one of two canvas shelters with two

Other early arrivals. Up front

sat three of Marty’s family and on the side

Empty chairs and a bench with food.

Recorded music began, others arrived

One female celebrant hurried for more folding chairs

And another white-robed pastor began the service

We sang  “All Creatures of Our God and King “

Rev. McManus spoke of Marty’s life and witness

Offered us sprigs of rosemary for remembrance

From a basket which hung over her arm

 “Crush it in you palms, “ she instructed

We walked forward to place bruised rosemary

Atop ashes of Martha Elizabeth MacElree Bowser

Who died August 2009 at 95 years of age

And those of her husband Lloyd Allen Bowser,

who died 18 years earlier in New Jersey.

Prayers of committal, of thanksgiving and the

Communal prayer-  “Our Father, who art in Heaven… “

We sang  “Be Still My Soul “ before we left that place

With the scent of rosemary and memories of

Lovely, gallant, loyal Marty Bowser.

She lived and sang to bring others joy.

 

 

Neologism Contest

 The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.

 1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs (editorial note. Special significance these days)

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle , olive-flavoured mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.), emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon , a Rastafarian proctologist

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

 

 

 

Michelangelo

E. B. Alston

 

Michelangelo is the world’s greatest artist. I prefer Raphael because he was a better painter and his favorite subject was Venus. He possessed a pleasant personality and everybody loved him. He also died young after a wild night with his mistress. I like Titian, too, among the renaissance artists. But “Angelo” was the greatest. Sculpture was his favorite medium and he was an accomplished architect. But his art is his claim to fame.

Historian Will Durant said of Michelangelo, “We cannot know what God is, nor understand a universe so mingled of apparent evil and good, of suffering and loveliness, destruction and sublimity; but in the presence of a mother tending her child, or a genius giving order to chaos, meaning to matter, nobility to form or thought, we feel as close as we shall ever be to the life and mind and law that constitute the unintelligible intelligence of the world.”

Michelangelo also wrote poetry. I bet you didn’t know that. This was written when he was seventy-five years old. He was working on his last major project, the paintings in the Vatican portraying the Martyrdom of Saint Peter and the Conversion of Saint Paul.

 

Now hath my life across a stormy sea,

Like a frail bark, reached that wide part where all

Are bidden, ere the final judgment fall,

Of good and evil deeds to pay the fee.

Now know I well how that fond phantasy,

Which made my soul the worshiper and thrall

Of earthly art, is vain; how criminal

Is that which all men seek so willingly.

These amorous thoughts which were so lightly dressed—

Where are they when the double death is nigh?

The one I know for sure, the other dread.

Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest

My soul, that turns to His great love on high,

Whose arms to clasp us on the cross are spread.

 

Rome 1542 C.E.

 

 

RE: Person I Knew

Nonfiction by Howard A. Goodman

 

It has often been said that Bill Evans was one of the most influential jazz pianists of all time. I wish to point out that his influence extended not only to many of the jazz pianists who followed in his wake but to his listeners as well.

In the preface to his book, How My Heart Sings, concert pianist/author Peter Pettinger shares his near-encounter with the late jazz master, explaining he was so in awe of Evans that he declined to actually consummate a meeting. I’d like to share a similar experience, though some of the specific details have by now yellowed with time.

In the spring of 1967, as a graduate student at Penn State I learned that Bill and his trio at the time were going to appear for a concert on campus one Saturday evening. Immediately, I scoffed up a pair of tickets at the Student Union even before asking my wife, Rita, if she wanted to go. The price of the tickets included admission to a workshop to be conducted by Bill on Sunday at noon.

Rita was not a jazz fan by any measure but agreed to accompany me to the concert, perhaps to mollify me for agreeing to take Bridge lessons with her. The auditorium was small, nearly intimate—a simple stage elevated a foot or two above a hardwood floor populated with several rows of folding chairs. Rita sat to my left. A parabola of white acoustic panels lined the rear and sides of the stage.

Eventually a young woman, perhaps an employee of the university’s student services department, appeared at the front of the stage to act as MC. From the tone of her words, I gathered she did not have a clue whom she was introducing.

Onstage, the pianist, then in his gaunt, slicked-back phase and wearing his trademark black-framed glasses, made his appearance through a doorway in one of the acoustic panels at stage right just after his bassist and percussionist, and he claimed a modest bow. In taking his seat, he disappeared behind the grand piano, out of view of most of his audience. Without a preamble, the trio launched into its first number, and I into a musical high.

As to the program for the evening, my memory does not serve me well. But I do recall an arrangement of Richard Rodgers’  “Spring is Here”. And one of Bill’s signature tunes,  “Waltz for Debby” though not the arrangement whose melody I had committed to memory from the vinyl album which bears the same name.

At intermission, after the applause had died down Bill stood up, turned, and moved toward the rear of the stage but couldn't locate the doorway in the reflector panel through which he had entered. As he fumbled, the woman who had served as MC opened the door from behind the panel and led him offstage. The next sound to emanate from the auditorium was the collective sigh of relief of those of us who made up the audience.

The second half of the concert continued as the first, the trio moving through the selections without any discourse, each number separated only by the audience's handmade display of appreciation. After the final number, the small but dedicated audience stood and applauded, and as the musicians exited the stage, our acknowledgment gradually synced into collective clapping repeated at equal intervals. To our delight, the trio returned onstage to perform a bonus number, “Walkin' Up”, I believe.

Later, at a coffee shop for something to eat I remarked to Rita,  “I wish I could play one tenth as good as he does.” She smiled, and she said,  “When you're done with school and back at IBM, we can buy a piano and you can learn.”

Sunday morning over breakfast in our efficiency apartment, I mentioned the workshop. Rita insisted I go because she understood what Evan’s playing meant to me. It was then I made the most feeble of excusesI told her I didn't want to leave her alone. But the fact is, the real reason I decided not to go was that I shared the very same feeling of awe that pianist/author Pettinger had expressed—I was terrified of meeting “The Man.” What would I say to himthat I’m one of his biggest fans? How many times has he heard that before? Who am Ia student of engineering, a previously apathetic pupil of the piano currently with no instrument at my disposal to reinforce what I might learnto take up his precious time?

Rita and I finally did purchase a piano in 1976, after we had moved out of an apartment and settled into our first home in Poughkeepsie. However, it wasn't long before novelty turned to neglect, and the pecan finished Baldwin Consolla became relegated to little more than a piece of furniture against an interior wall in the living room, with two of our three kids dabbling in lessons. For the remaining years of our life together, Rita became no more of a jazz devotee than I a Bridge player.

It wasn't until 1996, a year after I lost her, that I suddenly and inexplicably became reattached to the piano. During quiet times, as I struggle to learn several of Evans’ transcribed arrangements, I often wonder whether I would have made more of the pianoand myselfhad I had the courage that spring Sunday to come face to face with  “The Man with the Glasses. “

Today I still can't pinpoint the date of that Penn State concert with any certainty, and unfortunately even Pettinger’s meticulous accounting did not shed any light on it. Yet I remain ever grateful for my one precious near-encounter. Thanks, Bill. Rest in peace.

 

 

A Summer Memory

Robinson’s Medicine Show

Sybil Austin Skakle

 

During the 1930s, when I was a little girl, something different happened one summer in Hatteras village. Dark -skinned men appeared and put up a wooden stage and tent in the Hatteras school yard. The only dark-skinned people I knew were Tom Angell and Lou, a woman Mr. Dolph Burrus hired to come across Pamlico Sound to live with my friend Marian’s family, to take care of her sick mother. Tom Angell, a resident of Hatteras, before I was born, was brought to Hatteras by the Angell family as an eight-year-old boy and became their heir. 

Mr. Robinson may have slept somewhere else, or in the tent, but the dark-skinned young men slept in Daddy’s shop, which stood outside our white picket fence and between our homeplace and the Hatteras Methodist Church parsonage. There were no beds, so they must have slept on pallets on the floor. 

Out in the yard with our dog Peggy, I talked through the white-washed, picket fence to Snookums, whom I watched tap dance and sing in the show the evening before.  Snookums began to practice:  “Climb upon My Knee Sonny Boy,”* a song I had heard in a movie show I saw at Mr. Elsworth Burrus’ Pavilion. Our dog Peggy stood next to the fence and howled and howled. Snookums and I laughed. 

That evening and for a few evenings following, after men folks finished their day’s work and women completed theirs, villagers gathered in the school yard to watch and listen to Mr. Robinson hawk his medicine and sell boxes of taffy. Every box of taffy held a prize. This taffy was different from candy in Daddy’s store, but it was the prize inside the box that I wanted. After he sold all he could, the show began. The young performers sang and danced and I stood chewing taffy, listening.  

One morning I awoke, looked out the upstairs bedroom window to find the school yard empty of the stage and tent. I was so disappointed. That evening, at suppertime, I learned why the show left Hatteras. A village man did not like that they were in the village. He lodged a complaint to Dr. Kenfield, who acted as a magistrate for our village. We had no police of any kind then. Mr. Robinson, my friend Snookums, and the others went away and the evening became the same as before. 

Robinson Medicine Show would visit other villages and provide a break in routine for other men, women and children. Mr. Robinson would sell his salves and wonderful, curative brews, amid laughter, tap dancing, and joyful music. Other children would enjoy the taffy and prizes.

    We named the puppy Daddy brought home to us from Elizabeth City Snookie, after my friend Snookums. Daddy was trying to comfort us, after Brother Shanklin, backing the car out of the garage, ran over and killed Peggy. However, Snookie never knew his namesake; never had a chance to sing with him as Peggy had. 

 

*Sonny Boy

 

Climb upon my knee, Sonny Boy,
Though you're only three, Sonny Boy,
You've no way of knowing,
There's no way of showing,
What you mean to me, Sonny Boy.
When there are grey skies,
I don't mind the grey skies,
You make them blue, Sonny Boy.
Friends may forsake me,
Let them all forsake me,
I still have you, Sonny Boy.

You're sent from Heaven
And I know your worth,
You've made a Heaven
For me, right here on Earth
When I'm old and grey, dear,
Promise you won't stray, dear
For I love you so, Sonny Boy.

You're sent from Heaven
And I know your worth,
Why, you made a Heaven
For me, right here on Earth.

And the Angels, they grew lonely,
And they took you for their only.
Now I'm lonely too, Sonny Boy.

 

Songwriters: Al Jolson / B.G. Desylva / Lew Brown / Ray Henderson

Sonny Boy lyrics © Ray Henderson Music Co., Inc

            Al Jolson sang this song in The Singing Fool, the first talkie, released in 1928.

           

            I must have been five or six when I saw the movie, The Singing Fool, in which Al Jolson sang  “Sonny Boy, “ at the Hatteras Pavilion. I cried and cried when the little boy died. I memorized the song and still remember the words.

When Larry Parks played Al Jolson in The Jolson Story, which was showing in Elizabeth City in March 1947. Don and I, newly married and students at Carolina on spring break, were in Elizabeth City, awaiting transportation across Pamlico Sound on the Cathleen, with Uncle Horton, who was her captain. We sat through the movie twice that evening. Cliff gifted me the VCR tape of The Jolson Story.

 

 

My Very, Very Short Infatuation with Rose

E. B. Alston

 

 “Waiting” is the word that fully defines my brief relationship with Rose. I first set eyes on her in Ruby Tuesday’s at Northgate Mall. I was having a late lunch alone one afternoon when she walked right up to my table and asked if I would mind if she joined me for lunch. You can be sure I didn’t mind. Picture this; shoulder length black hair flipped up at the ends, brown eyes, a stunning body in a white turtleneck sweater, a tight fitting above the knee red skirt, black hose and heels. And, she was smiling at me.

Now I need to tell you that if Rose had walked into WC’s country restaurant in Roxboro at noon dressed like that, all conversation among the men would have ceased at once and it would become so quiet that all you heard would be the sound of her heels clicking across the floor.

I invited her to join me.  “Certainly, Miss, my name is Gilbert Smith.”

 “Pleased to meet you, Gilbert. I’m Rose Harkness.”

 “Rose, what possessed you to join me for lunch? There are other tables available.”

 “I really hate to eat by myself, especially when there’s a sexy hunk like you eating alone. I decided to take a chance and went for it.” She smiled a sweet smile.

Nobody had ever called me a sexy hunk, or even just a hunk. Actually no woman this attractive had ever spoken to me before. So Rose and I had a very nice lunch together. She was friendly and an excellent conversationalist. I told her about myself and she told me about herself. When the checks came, she insisted that she pay for her meal. I asked if I could call her and maybe go out sometime.

            Her reply was, “Please do, Gilbert, I would love to.”

Wow! Double wow! You can imagine the thoughts racing through my head the next few days. I decided to go first class.

            I called her to reveal my plan.  “I can get good seats for the North Carolina Symphony concert Saturday night in Raleigh. Would you like to go?”

             “Why yes, Gilbert, I’d love to.”

Then I fired the other barrel, “How about dinner at Second Empire before the concert?”

 “Oh, yes, Gilbert! I have always wanted to go there but you’re the first one to ever asked me.”

Triple wow! I got the tickets. They set me back $90.00 but our seats were in the middle of row F in the orchestra section. The dinner at Second Empire would probably be a little more, maybe $125.00, but this was one gorgeous chick.

I was to pick her up at 5:00 pm on Saturday afternoon and got there a little early. When she let me into her apartment, she was still in her robe. And then, the ordeal began. After doing her hair, she had trouble selecting a blouse. Then she tried eight skirts before she decided on the first one and tried on four types of panty hose. But the shoes were the worst. She must have had more shoes than Imelda Marcos because she tried on hundreds. I thought about going upstairs to help her decide, rather than her putting on a pair and coming down for me to look at them then going back up to select another pair but I decided not to hoping she’d eventually get tired of coming down and going up the stairs. By the time she was ready, the symphony was well into their first number.

We had dinner at Golden Corral and saw a very stupid movie. I was out $90.00 and would have to make reservations at Second Empire using an assumed name for the rest of my life. But, I had to admit she was one gorgeous woman. When I took her home she invited me in but I was out of the mood and went home.

She called me at work on Monday and suggested that we meet for lunch the next day back at Ruby Tuesdays. I told her that my lunch hour was from noon until 1:00 and that I had to get back to work on time. She assured me that she would be there.

Well, she wasn’t. I just barely got back to work on time without having eaten any lunch. On Thursday, I got a three-page letter from her complaining about my leaving before she arrived and chided me for “obsessing” about schedules  “like all men do”, and that I needed to just relax and go with the flow. She also mentioned that “she might have had a virus” but didn’t say anything about being sick.

You can imagine the reply that immediately began forming in my head. I could mention all the money, the embarrassment about missing the reservation at Second Empire, the rotten movie, but then I had a flash of inspiration. I went to a florist, bought one rose, brought it home, took it out of the box and laid it on top of the refrigerator until Sunday. Then I put it back in the box and wrote, “Because These Wither, “ on the card and mailed it to her.

On Thursday I got her terse reply. The letter said, “Your weed has withered but your Rose has popped her fuse!”

 

 

 

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. –Maya Angelou

 

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. – Abraham Lincoln

Hammer Spade and the Four Horsemen

Chapter Twelve

Dave and Jim’s plane passed north of the city on its way to the military airport where they would land. As they looked out upon one of the most beautiful bays in Algeria, they could see the Sheraton Oran hotel towering over the city about a mile from the famous Kasbah.

Tomorrow they were supposed to meet their contacts at the Sheraton.

Alain Binoche told them to take rooms at the Hotel Colombe, an older hotel within walking distance of the Sheraton.

A military driver in an unmarked vehicle picked them up at the first airport and took them to the Oran Es Sénia Airport (مطار السانية / وهران). They walked into the lobby carrying their luggage and marched straight to the taxi stand where they hailed a cab to take them to the Hotel Colombe.

 

 

They met Alain Binoche and Georgi Dimitrov in the Sheraton coffee shop at ten. The meeting did not begin well.

After introductions, Binoche made a vehement, self-important speech about how the West had lost its way and the Four Horsemen was formed to get it back on track.

“We could not find your names on any of the passenger lists of flights arriving yesterday,” Binoche said suspiciously.

Dave was ahead of him. “We didn’t fly in under our names.”

“Then how can we know that you are the men we wish to meet?” Georgi asked.

“Because we are here,” Dave retorted.

“But you could be spies,” Alain shot back.

“We are spies,” Jim replied. “I thought that was why we’re here.”

“You’re spies and conspirators too,” Dave added. “Or we’re in the wrong place with the wrong people.”

Alain and Georgi had a conversation in French, speaking as if Dave and Jim were not present. This annoyed Jim.

“Show us your identification,” Alain demanded.

Dave and Jim produced their passports. Alain studied them and passed them to Georgi. Georgi nodded his head in approval. “These are the best fake passports I’ve seen.”

“Then we have no choice but to assume you are who we think you are,” Alain added superfluously.

“Right,” Dave agreed.

“The blood of Charles de Bourbon flows in my veins,” Alain announced proudly.

“So you’re royalty,” Dave remarked dryly.

“I realize that you Americans possess little respect for royalty. No matter. I didn’t want Americans,” Alain said with a sneer. “Americans have no finesse. Americans only know how to bomb and shoot. But Lord Phillip insisted that we recruit Americans.”

“Bombing and shooting worked in 1944,” Jim retorted.

“Bah! We would have thrown the Nazi yoke off without American or British help.”

“Yeah, right,” Dave replied. “We didn’t come all this way to argue. What do you want us to do?”

“I am the Red Horseman. My charge is to foment war with the aim of purifying the West of its depravity and helplessness before the march of progress.”

“How do you plan to do that?” Dave asked.

“My plan is to gather all discontented Arabs into an army of millions who wish to erase the stain of their humiliating defeat by my ancestor, Charlemagne, at Tours.”

“So you plan to use your ancestor’s enemies to purify what Charlemagne fought to save.” Dave observed.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Alain retorted.

“There are a lot of discontented Arabs out there who would love to destroy the West, but how in the world do you plan to entice them to do it under The Four Horsemen banner?” Jim asked.

“We have heard of a man who is eager to be our ally and our instrument in achieving our goal. He lives in the Ahaggar mountains northeast of Tamanghasset. He is said to command the allegiance of millions of warriors who long to do battle against the West.”

“Is he coming here to meet us?” Dave asked.

“No. He disdains cities as cesspools of evil and corruption.” Alain paused, gave a sly smile, and added, “We have heard that he is an enemy of the Algerian government and his coming here would create much alarm among the locals. We want you two to go to him and assess his suitability for the task I have assigned to him.”

“What’s his name?” Jim asked.

Larbi Aama Tahar M’hidi. He is an Imazighen chieftain whose people have fiercely maintained their independence since Carthaginian times.”

“Imazighen?” Dave asked.

Yes,” Alain replied. “The Ancient Greeks called them Libyans. They migrated into North Africa early in the first millennium B.C. and at one time their range extended from Egypt to the Niger Basin.”

“And you think these primitive tribesmen can defeat Europe?” Jim asked skeptically.

“Motivation is the key,” Alain replied crustily. “Motivation can move mountains.”

“But machine guns, artillery and napalm can stop the most motivated men,” Dave reminded him.

“But you forget, if the motivated men have modern armaments, they will prevail against a soft, civilized populace.” Alain looked at his watch and had another rather long conversation with Georgi in French.

“Lunch time,” he announced. “We shall meet you two back here in three hours.”

“Could we meet somewhere more private?” Dave asked. “I hate to talk about starting wars in public places.”

Americans! Bah!” Alain sneered. “It is always best to discuss such matters in public places. It looks suspicious when such discussions are held in private. We French are sophisticated. It is so like Americans to hide. We will meet you here at three p.m.”

As they strode out of the restaurant, Alain made a snide remark in French to Georgi. Georgi laughed. They left the bill for Dave and Jim to pay.

“Can you believe this guy?” Jim said.

“Pompous jerk!” Dave blurted out.

“This guy couldn’t rob the library in Cove City, North Carolina,” Jim observed.

“This is one big waste of time,” Dave agreed. “We’ve got three hours to kill. Let’s visit the famous Kasbah.”

 

 

The Kasbah turned out to be a labyrinth of lanes and dead-end alleys flanked by picturesque houses. Its original purpose was to be a citadel for a last ditch defense of the city. They got lost twice, but the sea provided orientation. There were no places to eat, so they returned to the Sheraton for lunch. Then they toured the Cathedrale de Sacre Coeur and the Palais de la Culture before they returned to the Sheraton.

“What do you think of Georgi?” Jim asked.

“He’s dead weight. I can’t believe he actually likes the pompous Monsieur Binoche.”

“They are an odd pair. Whoever selected them to be a team, doesn’t know much about team compatibility.”

Their discussion was interrupted by the return of Alain and Georgi, who walked in while having another conversation in French. This went on for five minutes before they acknowledged Dave and Jim.

“You will fly to Tamanghasset in southern Algeria tomorrow,” Alain began, “You will rent a vehicle and drive to Larbi Aama Tahar M’hidi’s camp that lies in the shadow of Mount Tahat in the Ahaggar mountains. You will stay in his camp as long as it takes to assess his capability to perform the mission we have chosen him to complete. After you have done so, you will fly back here and we shall meet at this place in twenty-eight days. You will give me your report then.”

“Have you arranged for an interpreter?” Dave asked.

“An interpreter? Do you not speak their language?”

“No, we don’t. We need a translator and a guide.”

“Americans!” Alain spat out disgustedly. It was obvious that he hadn’t thought of it.

“Do you speak their language?” Jim asked.

“No. I am not required to speak other languages.”

“Can Georgi?” Dave asked.

Georgi shook his head.

“Then we must have an interpreter and guide,” Dave said.

Alain and Georgi had another conversation in French. After much nodding and gesturing, Alain stood up and marched away without saying another word.

“How’d you get in on this?” Jim asked Georgi.

“I was ordered to join this movement and to assist them in completing their revolutionary mission.”

“Are you a revolutionary?” Dave asked.

“Yes, I am,” he replied unconvincingly.

“You don’t act as if you have revolutionary fervor,” Jim observed.

“Alain is the revolutionary. I assist him.”

Alain’s return interrupted their conversation. “An Algerian named Cheb Cheriet will meet you at the gate when you land in Tamanghasset. He will have transportation and he will be your guide and interpreter. Is there anything else, American?”

“I think one of you ought to go with us,” Dave said.

“No,” Alain replied haughtily, “We are not soldiers. We are generals. Generals do not stoop to menial work.”

“Okay,” Dave replied evenly, “We’ll meet you back here in twenty-eight days.”

 

 

An hour before sundown Dave and Jim’s plane landed at Airoport Tamanrasset. Tamanghasset was located in a desert valley west of the Ahaggar mountain range. It was the hottest, most desolate place they had ever seen.

As instructed, a shifty-looking Algerian met them and said he was Cheb Cheriet. He helped them carry their luggage to a dusty, beat up Toyota van that may have been white when it was new a generation ago.

Dave instructed Cheriet to drive them to a local hotel. Cheriet drove north and east toward some low mountains instead. They were uneasy by the time Cheriet stopped on a steep slope where the road ended. Cheriet ordered them to get out of the van, but they refused.

“Take us to a hotel,” Dave ordered.

Four rough-looking Algerians carrying AK-47s appeared.

“Follow me,” Cheriet ordered.

They reached for their luggage.

“Leave it,” Cheriet said.

“This looks real bad,” Dave muttered to Jim under his breath.

“It sure does,” Jim agreed.

They got out of the van and the men prodded them up the mountain until they came to a small cave opening. The men wordlessly prodded them with their rifles to get on their knees and crawl inside the cave. Then the men rolled a big rock into a depression in front of the cave opening, blocking the entrance. A few minutes later they heard the van drive away.

The cave had an open crack at the top that let the late afternoon sunlight in, allowing them to see. It was roomy with a flat space the size of a large room and a thirty-foot ceiling, and it was hot.

Everything happened so fast, and was so well planned, that Dave and Jim hadn’t had time to think or even be afraid.

“Dave, I don’t like being a secret agent anymore,” Jim said.

“Me either,” Dave agreed. “They had this planned out to a ‘T’.”

“I wonder if Monsieur Binoche set us up.”

“Maybe,” Dave grunted while he put his shoulder to the rock trying to move it. It didn’t budge. Then both braced themselves and tried to move it with their feet but it didn’t move an inch.

“It’s in that hole at the door,” Jim said. “If it was flat, we could roll it away.”

They tried to push the rock away twice more before they gave up.

“We’re trapped,” Dave said.

“Reckon they’ll come back later to get us?”

“You mean like we were kidnapped for ransom?”

“Yeah.”

“We better not count on it,” Dave said with resignation. “They didn’t leave any food or water.”

“Looks bad don’t it, Dave?”

“Yeah,” Dave agreed. “It looks pretty bad.”

“Wonder why they didn’t search us?” Jim asked.

“Maybe they forgot.”

“Probably,” Jim agreed.

Dave took out his cell phone and turned it on. “No signal,” he said despondently.

“Well, Dave, we’ve got our money, our passports and cell phones. They’ve got our pistols, rifles and all our gear.”

“And we’re trapped in a hot cave under an Algerian mountain.”

“My first venture into the glamorous and exciting world of espionage ain’t looking too good,” Jim observed.

“No, it doesn’t,” Dave agreed.

The cave slowly became dark as the sun went down. They spent the rest of daylight looking for another way out of the cave. There were four promising-looking holes in the cave walls but darkness prevented their exploration. Having nothing else to do, they went to sleep.

 

▲▼▲▼▲

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

Jim woke first with an eerie feeling that they were not alone. The sun was high enough for light to enter the crack in the cave roof. He was hungry, thirsty and hot. When he glanced around the cave, he saw in the dim light what looked like a pile of rope a few feet from one of the holes through the rock. To his shock and dismay, the “rope” began to uncoil and move his way. A few seconds later, a twenty-foot snake had come within striking distance of him and Dave, who was still asleep.

The snake hissed. When Jim sat up, the snake hissed again, and continued to hiss what sounded like, “Follow me,” in a hiss/whisper. The snake turned as if to crawl toward one of the openings. When Jim didn’t follow, the snake stopped, turned to face him, and hissed the command again.

Jim punched Dave. “Dave, wake up.”

Dave opened his eyes, rubbed them, and looked around. “What for?”

“You ain’t gonna believe this, Dave, but that humongous snake over there has told me to follow him.”

Dave rubbed his eyes again and looked in the direction Jim had pointed. He sat bolt upright. “It is a snake!”

“I said it was a snake. He told me to follow him.”

“A talking snake? You’re crazy, Jim.”

As if in response to Dave’s remark, the snake faced them, rose up to a man’s height and hissed, “Follow me,” again.

“We’re both crazy, Jim. I thought that snake told us to follow him.”

“He did, Dave, and I’m gonna follow him.”

The snake turned and began crawling toward the hole. Jim moved after him. Dave stood up, shrugged, and followed. “Might as well,” he mumbled. “Better than being slow-cooked here.”

They crawled into the hole behind the snake and began to “snake” down a long, crooked corridor through the rock. Sometimes a crack above lit the tunnel, sometimes it was pitch black. The snake would hiss every few seconds to indicate the direction they should take. They passed many side passages and carefully bypassed several holes as they followed those now benevolent hisses. The passageway first became cooler and then started to warm up again. They crawled through an underground pool where they stopped to drink and cool off. Finally, after a particularly crooked passage with turns left, right, up and down, they saw daylight ahead. As soon as they exited the hole in the side of the mountain, the snake slithered away.

“We’re on the south side of the mountain,” Dave observed. “We have just crawled all the way through that mountain.”

They looked below and saw the city spread out. It was just before sundown when lights were being turned on.

Jim opened his cell phone. “It works. Who should we call?”

“I don’t know. Not Alain for sure.”

“Yeah,” Jim agreed. “He might be the one who set us up. Colonel Masterson?”

“Not yet. Let’s walk down to town, find us an English speaker who will take us to a restaurant and hotel. Then we’ll talk things over.”

They struggled for two hours climbing down the mountain. After they reached the city, they joined the crowd of pedestrians. Every few yards one of them would ask, “Does anybody speak English?”

Thirty minutes later, they heard a woman’s voice say, “I do.”

They stopped and looked in the direction of the voice and saw a well-tanned blonde angel dressed in a skirt, blouse and heels. They hurried toward her as if they thought she was a mirage.

Dave got to her first, stopped and offered his hand. “Dave Quigley. And are we glad to see you!”

“Cleopatra Kerr,” she said as she shook his hand.

Then Jim came up, shook her hand and said, “You are a sight for sore eyes.”

Cleopatra listened to their sad story—they left out the part about the talking snake—and hailed a cab. She spoke to the driver and accompanied them to the L'Hotel Tahat a Tam.

“Don’t complain,” Cleopatra said on the drive to the hotel. “It’s the only hotel in Tamanghasset.”

The cab driver dropped them off in front of a one-story reddish adobe building with a sign in Arabic. She helped them check in and took them to the restaurant. After they were seated, Cleopatra helped them order breakfast, which they devoured ravenously.

“Where are you from?” Jim asked.

“Salt Lake City.”

“What in the world are you doing here?” Dave asked.

“I’m working on my doctorate in Arabic languages. I was visiting the Tamanghasset area on a field trip with another student. He disappeared two days ago. I was on my way back to my room from the local police station.”

“Were they any help?” Jim asked.

“They were polite but didn’t seem to be overly concerned.  People disappear all the time here. Most are kidnapped. Some are sold as slaves.”

Cleopatra was unusual in that she had not panicked and kept her wits about her.

“What are your plans now?” Dave asked.

“I’ve contacted the American Embassy in Oran. They’re working on it.”

“Was he your boyfriend?” Jim asked.

“No. He was a fellow student, but I feel responsible for him anyway. He was bad about going off on his own looking for excitement.”

“We haven’t fared very well ourselves,” Dave admitted. “We were caught flatfooted like a couple of yokels. We need an interpreter and a guide. Are you interested?”

“I can help with the language but if you want to go outside Tamanghasset, I won’t be much help.”

“You’ve got a lot of nerve coming way out here,” Jim said.

She smiled. “I love it. I love the primitive environment, the rustic living conditions and the food.”

“Will you work for us?” Dave asked.

“What’s the pay?”

“A hundred a day and all the sand you can eat.”

“Sure. What will I do?”

“We’re on our way to the fortress of Larbi Aama Tahar M’hidi that lies in the shadow of Mount Tahat in the Ahaggar Mountains.”

“Why on earth are you going there? It’s hotter and more desolate than Tamanghasset.”

“We’re on a top-secret mission of worldwide importance.”

She laughed. “I bet. Here in southern Algeria?”

“It is. We need to rent a vehicle and provision up to travel to his camp.” Jim said.

“Are you armed?” she asked.

“We were. But an Algerian named Cheb Cheriet stole all of our stuff.”

“Cheb Cheriet!” she exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Dave replied. “You know him?”

“Yes, I know him!”

Dave and Jim looked at each other. “Small world, ain’t it?” Jim said ironically.

“Who are you working for?” she asked.

“A Frenchman named Alain Binoche.”

“That’s why,” she said.

“Why, what?” Jim asked.

“He despises Frenchmen.”

“But we ain’t Frenchmen,” Dave pointed out.

“Who hired him to be your guide?”

“The Frenchman,” Jim said.

“Do I have your permission to contact Cheb on your behalf?” she asked.

“Be our guests,” Dave said. “We don’t have many choices and if you can get our gear back, there’ll be a nice bonus for you.”

“How much?” she asked.

“Two-thousand,” Dave replied.

“I’ll be back,” Cleopatra said. Then she went outside and hailed a cab.

“Ain’t that a hoot?” Jim growled. “This guy stole our stuff and left us to slow-cook to death in a cave. Now this honey- blonde co-ed from Salt Lake City’s gonna get our stuff back? Dave, this is weirder than a talking snake.”

Dave shook his head and ordered a warm beer. Two hours later, Cleopatra and Cheb Cheriet walked into the restaurant. Cheriet greeted them with a sheepish grin and told them he had their luggage and gear outside in the van.

Then he proceeded to apologize profusely for his actions the day before. He ended his speech with an explanation of his hatred of Frenchmen. “Frenchmen are pigs! They murdered my parents and my sister during the revolution. They deserve to die horrible deaths.”

“You wouldn’t like Alain Binoche,” Jim said.

“Would that he had come in your places!” Cheriet exclaimed as he banged his fist on the table.

“When he hired you, did Binoche tell you what he wanted you to do?”

“Binoche didn’t hire me. He called the national police headquarters and told them he needed an interpreter for two men who would arrive by plane from Oran.”

“Binoche was kind of short on details,” Dave said. “What we need is an interpreter and a guide. We were sent to contact Larbi Aama Tahar M’hidi at his camp near Mount Tahat in the Ahaggar Mountains.”

Cheriet threw up his hands in amazement. “Does he want you to visit the Gates of Hell also? He has sent you into the jaws of the Beast. Aama Tahar is a devil! Even the government is afraid of him.”

“I’ve met with devils before,” Dave said. “We want to visit his camp.”

Cheriet stared at Dave in disbelief. Then he wiped the sweat off his forehead and stared at the floor for a few minutes.

“I will do it, but you must pay me more than that pitiful interpreter’s fee.”

“How much?” Dave asked.

“A hundred American dollars a day.”

“Done,” Dave agreed. “Does that include your van?”

“There are no roads to Aama Tahar’s camp. You must procure camels or a cross-country vehicle.”

“Can we rent such a vehicle here?” Dave asked.

“If I rent one, I cannot say where we are going in it,” Cheriet replied.

“You mentioned camels,” Jim interjected. “Would camels be better than a four-by-four vehicle?”

“You would be better off in a vehicle,” Cheriet replied. “Camels have terrible dispositions, they smell bad and they spit on you at every opportunity.” He paused and grinned. “But if you run out of food you can eat them.”

“We’ll go with the four-by-four,” Dave said. “When can you get the vehicle and be ready to leave?”

“Tomorrow at noon I will pick you up here.”

“What do you say, Jim?” Dave asked.

“I say let’s go,” Jim agreed. “I can’t wait to meet a man named Aama Tahar.”

Cleopatra laughed out loud. She had listened intently to their conversation with Cheriet. After he left, Dave asked her what she thought.

“I want to go with you,” she said brightly.

They were dumbfounded. “Are you sure?” Dave asked. “This is going be a very rough trip. We are meeting brigands who have resisted civilization for five thousand years.”

“Yeah,” Jim added. “Even the Romans failed to tame them.”

“I want to go,” she insisted. “You owe me. If it wasn’t for me you’d still be wandering around town looking for help. Besides, you shouldn’t completely trust Cheriet.”

“But he returned our stuff,” Jim objected.

“Only because I agreed to split the two thousand dollars you promised me if he returned your equipment.”

They were quiet while they digested that piece of chicanery.

“She’s right,” Dave agreed. “It’s going to be very rough, Cleopatra. You’re a pretty woman. Who knows what evil Aama Tahar will do when he sees you with two infidels?”

“I can handle myself,” she said confidently. “I’ve been here almost a year and nobody’s shut me up in a cave yet.”

Dave ignored her slight. “What about your classmate?”

“He’s on his own,” she replied.

“I’m game,” Jim said. “We need somebody we can trust who speaks the language.”

Dave thought about it and finally agreed. “You ought to carry a gun. Can you shoot?”

“I was the Utah collegiate smallbore champion in 2003,” she replied.

“Dang it all, Dave,” Jim exclaimed. “Cleopatra is the perfect woman!”

 

Continued Next Month

 

 

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys

 

9th. I rose early this morning, and looked over and corrected my brother John's speech, which he is to make the next opposition. [Declamations at St. Paul's school, in which there were, opponents and respondents.] I met with W. Simons, Muddiman, and Jack Price, and went with them to Harper's and staid till two of the clock in the afternoon. I found Muddiman a good scholar, an arch rogue; and owns that though he writes new books for the Parliament, yet he did declare that he did it only to get money; and did talk very basely of many of them. Among other things, W. Simons told me how his uncle Scobell [H. Scobell, clerk to the House of Commons.] was on Saturday last called to the bar, for entering in the journal of the House, for the year 1653, these words:  “This day his Excellence the Lord G. Cromwell dissolved this House; “ which words the Parliament voted a forgery, and demanded of him how they same to be entered. He said that they were his own hand-writing, and that he did it by rights of his office, and the practice of his predecessor; and that the intent of the practice was to let posterity know how such and such a
Parliament was dissolved, whether by the command of the King, or by their own neglect, as the last House of Lords was; and that to this end, he had said and writ that it was dissolved by his
Excellence the Lord G.; and that for the word dissolved, he never at the time did hear of any other term; and desired pardon if he would not dare to make a word himself what it was six years
after, before they came themselves to call it an interruption; that they were so little satisfied with this answer, that they did chuse a committee to report to the House, whether this crime of Mr. Scobell's did come within the act of indemnity or no. Thence into the Hall, where I heard for certain that Monk was coming to London, and that Bradshaw's lodgings were preparing for him. [John Bradshaw, Serjeant-at-Law, President of the High Court of Justice.] I heard Sir H. Vane was this day voted out of the House, and to sit no more there; and that he would retire himself to his house at Raby, [Son of a statesman of both his names, and one, of the most turbulent enthusiasts produced by the Rebellion, and an inflexible republican. His execution, in 1662,
for conspiring the death of Charles I. was much called in question as a measure of great severity.] as also all the rest of the nine officers that had their commissions formerly taken
away from them, were commanded to their farthest houses from London during the pleasure of the Parliament.

 

10th. To the Coffee-house, where were a great confluence of gentlemen; viz. Mr. Harrington, Poultny, chairman, Gold, Dr.Petty, &c., where admirable discourse till 9 at night. Thence with Doling to Mother Lam's, who told me how this day Scott was made Intelligencer, and that the rest of the members that were objected against last night were to be heard this day se'nnight.

[James Harrington, the political writer, author of  “Oceana, “ and founder of a club called The Rota, in 1659, which met at Miles's coffee-house in Old Palace Yard, and lasted only a few months. In 1661 he was sent to the Tower, on suspicion of treasonable designs. His intellects appear to have failed afterwards, and he died 1677. Sir William Poultny, subsequently M.P. for
Westminster, and a Commissioner of the Privy Seal under King William. Ob. 1691. Sir William Petty, an eminent physician, and celebrated for his proficiency in every branch of science. Ob.
1687. Thomas Scott, M.P., made Secretary of State to the Commonwealth Jan. 17th following.]

 

13th. Coming in the morning to my office, I met with Mr. Fage and took him to the Swan. He told me how he, Haselrigge, [Sir Arthur Haselrigge, Bart. of Nosely, co. Leicester, Colonel of a
regiment in the Parliament army, and much esteemed by Cromwell. Ob. 1660.] and Morley, [Probably Colonel Morley Lieutenant of the Tower.] the last night began at my Lord Mayor's to exclaim against the City of London, saying that they had forfeited their charter. And how the Chamberlain of the City did take them down, letting them know how much they were formerly beholding to the City, &c. He also told me that Monk's letter that came by the sword-bearer was a cunning piece, and that which they did not much trust to: but they were resolved to make no more applications to the Parliament, nor to pay any money, unless the secluded members be brought in, or a free Parliament chosen.

 

16th. In the morning I went up to Mr. Crewe's, who did talk to me concerning things of state; and expressed his mind how just it was that the secluded members should come to sit again. From
thence to my office, where nothing to do; but Mr. Downing came and found me all alone; and did mention to me his going back into Holland, and did ask me whether I would go or no, but gave me little encouragement, but bid me consider of it; and asked me whether I did not think that Mr. Hawley could perform the work of my office alone. I confess I was at a great loss, all the day after, to bethink myself how to carry this business. I staid up till the bell-man came by with his bell just under my window as I was writing of this very line, and cried,  “Past one of the clock, and a cold, frosty, windy morning. “

 

17th. In our way to Kensington, we understood how that my Lord Chesterfield [Philip, second Earl of Chesterfield, born. 1634, ob. 1713.] had killed another gentleman about half an hour
before, and was fled. I went to the Coffee Club and heard very good discourse; it was in answer to Mr. Harrington's answer, who said that the state of the Roman government was not a settled
government, and so it was no wonder that the balance of prosperity was in one hand, and the command in another, it being therefore always in a posture of war; but it was carried by
ballot, that it was a steady government, though it is true by the voices it had been carried before that it was an unsteady government; so to-morrow it is to be proved by the opponents that the balance lay in one hand, and the government in another. Thence I went to Westminster, and met Shaw and Washington, who told me how this day Sydenham [Colonel Sydenham had been an
active officer during the Civil Wars, on the Parliament side. M.P. for Dorsetshire, and governor of Melcombe, and one of the Committee of Safety.] was voted out of the House for sitting any
more this Parliament, and that Salloway was voted out likewise and sent to the Tower, [In the Journals of that date Major Salwey.] during the pleasure of the House. At Harper's JackPrice told me, among other things, how much the Protector is altered, though he would seem to bear out his trouble very well, yet he is scarce able to talk sense with a man; and how he will say that  “Who should a man trust, if he may not trust to a brother and an uncle; “ and  “how much those men have to answer before God Almighty, for their playing the knave with him as they did. “ He told me also, that there was 100,000£ (($20,287,000 2020 dollars)  offered, and would have been taken for his restitution, had not the Parliament come in as they did again; and that he do believe that the Protector will live to give a testimony of his valour and revenge yet before he dies, and that the Protector will say so himself sometimes.

 

18th. All the world is at a loss to think what Monk will do: the City saying that he will be for them, and the Parliament saying he will be for them. 19th. This morning I was sent for to Mr. Downing, and at his bed side he told me, that he had a kindness for me, and that he thought that he had done me one; and that was, that he had got me to be one of the Clerks of the Council; at which I was a little stumbled, and could not tell what to do, whether to thank him or no; but by and by I did; but not very heartily, for I feared that his doing of it was only to ease himself of the salary which he gives me. Mr. Moore and I went to the French Ordinary, where Mr. Downing this day feasted Sir Arth. Haselrigge, and a great many more of the Parliament, and did stay to put him in mind of me. Here he gave me a note to go and invite some other members to dinner to-morrow. So I went to White Hall, and did stay at Marsh's with Simons, Luellin, and all the rest of the Clerks of the Council, who I hear are all turned out, only the two Leighs, and they do all tell me that my name was mentioned last night, but that nothing was done in it.

 

20th. In the morning I met Lord Widdrington in the street, [Sir Thomas Widdrington, Knight, Serjeant-at-Law. one of Cromwell's Commissioners of the Treasury, appointed Speaker 1656, and first Commissioner for the Great Seal, January, 1659; he was M.P. for York.] going to seal the patents for the Judges to-day, and so could not come to dinner. This day three citizens of London went to meet Monk from the Common Council. Received my 25l. due by bill for my trooper's pay. At the Mitre, in Fleet-street, in our way calling on Mr. Fage, who told me how the City have some hopes of Monk. This day Lenthall took his chair again, [William Lenthall, Speaker of the Long or Rump Parliament, and made Keeper of the Great Seal to the Commonwealth, ob, 1662.] and the House resolved a declaration to be brought in on Monday to satisfy the world what they intend to do.

 

22nd. To church in the afternoon to Mr. Herring, where a lazy poor sermon. This day I began to put on buckles to my shoes.

 

23rd. This day the Parliament sat late, and revolved of the declaration to be printed for the people's satisfaction, promising them a great many good things.

 

24th. Came Mr. Southerne, clerk to Mr. Blackburne, and with him Lambert, lieutenant of my Lord's ship, and brought with them the declaration that came out to-day from the Parliament, wherein they declare for law and gospel, and for tythes; but I do not find people apt to believe them. This day the Parliament gave orders that the late Committee of Safety should come before them this day se'nnight, and all their papers, and their model of Government that they had made, to be brought in with them.

 

25th. Coming home heard that in Cheapside there had been but a little before a gibbet set up, and the picture of Huson hung upon it in the middle of the street. [John Hewson, who had been a
shoemaker, became a Colonel in the Parliament Army, and sat injudgement on the King: he escaped hanging by flight, and died in 1662 at Amsterdam.] I called at Paul's Churchyard, where I bought Buxtorf's Hebrew Grammar; and read a declaration of the gentlemen of Northampton which came out this afternoon.

 

26th. Called for some papers at Whitehall for Mr. Downing, one of which was an order of the Council for 1800£. per annum, to be paid monthly; and the other two, Orders to the Commissioners of Customs, to let his goods pass free. Home from my office to my Lord's lodgings where my wife had got ready a very fine dinner--viz. a dish of marrow bones; a leg of mutton; a loin of veal; a dish of fowl, three pullets, and a dozen of larks all in a dish; a great tart, a neat's tongue, a dish of anchovies; a dish of prawns and cheese. My company was my father, my uncle Fenner, his two sons, Mr. Pierce, and all their wives, and my brother Tom [Ob.1663]. The news this day is a letter that speaks absolutely Monk's concurrence with this Parliament, and nothing else, which yet I hardly believe.

 

28th, I went to Mr. Downing, who told me that he was resolved to be gone for Holland this morning. So I to my office again, and dispatch my business there, and came with Mr. Hawley to Mr. Downing's lodgings, and took Mr. Squib from White Hall in a coach thither with me, and there we waited in his chamber a great while, till he came in; and in the mean time, sent all his things to the barge that lays at Charing-Cross stairs. Then came he in, and took a very civil leave of me, beyond my expectations, for I was afraid that he would have told me something of removing me from my office; but he did not, but that he would do me any service that lay in his power. So I went down and sent a porter to my house for my best fur cap, but he coming too late with it I did not present it to him: and so I returned and went to Heaven, [A place of  entertainment, in Old Palace Yard, on the site of which the Committee-Rooms of the House of Commons now stand it is called in Hudibras,  “False Heaven, at the end of the Hall. “] where Luellin and I dined.

 

29th. In the morning I went to Mr. Gunning's, where he made an excellent sermon upon the 2nd of the Galatians, about the difference that fell between St. Paul and St. Peter, whereby he did prove, that, contrary to the doctrine of the Roman Church, St. Paul did never own any dependance, or that he was inferior to St Peter, but that they were equal, only one a particular charge of preaching to the Jews, and the other to the Gentiles. 30th. This morning, before I was up, I fell a-singing of my song,  “Great, good and just, “ &c. and put myself thereby in mind
that this was the fatal day, now ten years since, his Majestydied. [This is the beginning of Montrose's verses on the execution of Charles the First, which Pepys had probably set to
music:--

Great, good, and just, could I but rate

My grief and thy too rigid fate,

I'd weep the world to such a strain

That it should deluge once again.

But since thy loud-tongued blood demands supplies

More from Briareus' hands, than Argus' eyes,

I'll sing thy obsequies with trumpet sounds,

And write thy epitaph with blood and wounds.

There seems now to be a general cease of talk, it being taken for granted that Monk do resolve to stand to the Parliament, and nothing else.

 

31st. After dinner to Westminster Hall, where all we clerks had orders to wait upon the committee, at the Star-chamber that is to try Colonel Jones, and to give an account what money we had paid him; but the Committee did not sit to-day. [Colonel John Jones, impeached, with General Ludlow and Miles Corbet, for treasonable practices in Ireland.] Called in at Harper's with Mr. Pulford, servant to Mr. Waterhouse, who tells me, that whereas my Lord Fleetwood should have answered to the Parliament to-day, he wrote a letter and desired a little more time, he being a great way out of town. [Charles Fleetwood, Lord Deputy of Ireland during the
Usurpation, became Cromwell's son-in-law by his marriage with Ireton's widow, and a member of the Council of State. He seems disposed to have espoused Charles the Second's interests; but had not resolution enough to execute his design. At the Restoration he was excepted out of the Act of Indemnity, and spent the remainder of his life in obscurity, dying soon after the
Revolution.] And how that he is quite ashamed of himself, and confesses how he had deserved this, for his baseness to his brother. And that he is like to pay part of the money, paid out
of the Exchequer during the Committee of Safety, out of his own purse again, which I am glad on. I could find nothing in Mr. Downing's letter, which Hawley brought me concerning my office; but I could discern that Hawley had a mind that I would get to be Clerk of the Council, I suppose that he might have the greater salary; but I think it not safe yet to change this for a public employment.

 

 

The Painted Door

E. B. Alston

 

He came one day to stay; we knew not whence he came.

No hint of who did he betray, no one had heard his name.

He came with brush and paint, wearing a paint-stained cap.

He looked so very, very quaint, like a wise old chap.

He asked to paint a scene on the side of a building in the town

His demeanor was most serene, Mister McGowan gave a frown.

McGowan was a crusty gent; he was quite quick to sue.

He never wasted one red cent. He always got his due.

“What’ll it cost?” McGowan asked. “Nothing,” replied the painter.

“To do this awesome task?” “You’ll not be the gainer?”

The old man smiled mysteriously. “Go on ahead,” McGowan said.

“Paint away old man, I agree, you can paint the whole thing red.”

So he gathered brush and paint and scaffolds tall. He painted the long, long day,

Upon the tall, wide wall he painted scenes both sad and gay.

People came from far and wide to see him paint the wall.

They looked and then they cried, its beauty held their souls in thrall.

By setting sun the work was done, ‘twas done as it could be.

The people came and looked as one, ’twas beautiful to see.

The heavens shone upon the wall and leaves were bold and true.

The trees were very, very tall, the lakes were very blue.

The lions looked so very real and snakes crawled upon the ground.

Where children quietly kneel with flowers all around.

Maidens slept innocent upon the grass, Young men played in bright sun.

No sounds of guns, no motive crass, nothing spoiled their fun.

He wrote a note on bottom right, ‘twas there for all to see

It said to live right both day and night and blessings fall on thee.

He picked his brush up just one more time; on the wall he drew a door.

It was painted most sublime. He opened it and smiled and said, “Goodbye for evermore.”

 

GA/07

 

 

Life in Moccasin Gap

May 2009

Brad Carver

 

            I went by to visit my Uncle Harvey the other day. Harvey just turned seventy-six years old, so for his birthday, Aunt Maggie gave him a real nice toupee – which she knitted herself.

            Looks like he’s wearing a Doyle. Every time I see him I just want to set a glass of tea on his head, sweet tea, of course. This is, after all, North Carolina. Sweet tea is our table wine. It should be illegal to serve unsweetened tea in the South.

            If I ever run for office, that will be my first piece of legislation, to make unsweetened tea illegal in North Carolina. It starts to become un-sweet somewhere around the middle of Virginia.

            We do a lot of things different here in North Carolina, like put slaw on a hotdog. That’s ‘slaaaaw’, not slaw. You have to drag it out so folks ‘round here can understand what you’re talking about.

            We also say ‘naw’ instead of ‘no’. I remember Grandma saying, “Naw, we don’t do drugs around here. We take medication.” Okay.

            When I was in Chicago I asked for a hotdog with slaaaw and the lady thought I was crazy. She said, “Slaw on a hotdog? I’ve never heard of such nonsense.” But she made me one anyway. She put a big scoop of slaw in the middle of the hotdog bun and charged me fifty-cents extra for it.

            Then she made one for herself and tried it. And she loved the way it tasted. Now she has a sign on her hotdog stand advertising that they are the only place in Chicago that serves “slaw dogs.”  She’s making a killing. Thanks to me, people in Chicago now know what a hotdog really tastes like.

            Something else they don’t understand up North is a banana sandwich with mayonnaise. Those people don’t know how to eat up there. They ought to be put away. How did they ever win the war?

            I’m afraid to tell them about the half of cantaloupe with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle. They might think I’ve gone off the deep end. A lot of people think that sounds disgusting. All I can say is try it you’ll like it. Vanilla ice cream and cantaloupe go together like a redneck girl and a tube top.

            There are a lot of Southern foods I won’t try. For example, I won’t try chitterlings or chittlins as we call them around here. I can’t stand the way they look and I can’t stand the way they smell when you’re cooking them.

            I won’t try mountain oysters because there are some parts of a pig that you just shouldn’t eat. Who was the first person to eat mountain oysters and what made him try them? I’m guessing he lost a bet.

            And to think, as a child I used to love pickled pigs feet. I used to get them out of a glass jar at the store on the corner. They were right beside the pickled eggs and pickled sausages.

            The corner store is the country version of 7-11. My dad used to hang out there and drink red eye. That’s a beer with tomato juice. I don’t know why they would ruin a good beer that way.

            Everything was better when it was pickled. We pickled Grandpa when he died. And speaking of death, I could never understand people who came to a funeral, looked in the casket and said, “He looks good.” He’s DEAD. He can’t look good if he’s dead. No one ever said he looked good when he was alive, they would just say, “He looks old.” He was 93 when he died. Of course he looked old. He was old.

            I used to love going to funerals because after the funeral we’d go to the deceased person’s house and there would be lots of food. We always ate well when someone died in Moccasin Gap.

            I have eaten a lot of things down here that I wouldn’t eat otherwise, like the stuff they put in Brunswick stew.

            When they used to fix stew in Moccasin Gap in those big black kettles out behind the store they would put in it whatever they found in the woods nearby, like squirrel, possum, rabbit and beaver.

            They taste fine in a stew with hush puppies but if they were served to me on a plate, I wouldn’t touch it.

            The Pizza Place in Moccasin Gap has a beaver pizza. It’s their biggest seller.

            If you ever want to try some real food, the kind of food that will put hair on your chest regardless of what sex you are, come visit us here in Moccasin Gap. We’ll fatten you up, get you drunk on shine and send you on your way happy. We’re just that way ‘round here.

            Have a good day now, you hear.

 

 

Irish Confession...

 I went into the confessional box after many years of being away from the Catholic Church.

Inside I found a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap. On one wall, there was a row of decanters with fine Irish whiskey and Waterford crystal glasses. On the other wall was a dazzling array of the finest cigars and chocolates. When the priest came in, I said to him,  “Father, forgive me, for it's been a very long time since I've been to confession, but I must first admit that the confessional box is much more inviting than it used to be.” “ He replied, “You moron, you're on my side.”

 

Contributors

 

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 Inez, 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 Your.

 

Rita Berman: was born in London, England and now lives in Mebane, N.C. 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com. His latest book, More Colors Through My Mental Prism is also available.

 

John Burns:  As a graduate student I could not afford to run the electric baseboard heater furnished by my landlord. Fortunately, my death was never recorded and I was able to earn my degree once I thawed out. “

 

Brad Carver: was a regular columnist. His book, Daddyhood, was published in 2007. Brad was a humorist, and friend who lived in Semora, North Carolina.  This is a reprint from November 2012. He is now deceased and I still miss him.

 

Peggy Lovelace Ellis, has been a freelance editor for 48 years, and a published author for considerably less. 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 2017) and 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 with his wife 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.    

 

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.

 

Patrice Wilkerson is a MBA graduate who loves writing about the Lord.  She has been writing poetry since she was 8 years old and loves to inspire others through words.  She’s written a collection of poetry entitled, “Through It All, I’m Going to Make It” in which she published in 2010.  She is also co-owner of Wilkerson’s Business Support, LLC, based in Roxboro, North Carolina.  Wilkerson’s Business Support, LLC has the expertise and resources to provide small businesses and individuals in the Roxboro, NC area with administrative support. We can help with special projects for business owners who do not have the time or resources to perform administrative management tasks themselves. Please check out her website

 http://www.patricewilkerson.com/

 

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

 

 

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me. –Erma Bombeck

 

The only mystery in life is why the kamikaze pilots wore helmets. – Al McGuire

 

 Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal. – Albert Camus

 

 “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography. “– Ambrose Bierce

 

Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time, to figure out whether you like it or not.—Virgil Garnett Thomson

 

I’ve gone into hundreds of [fortune-teller’s parlors], and have been told thousands of things, but nobody ever told me I was a policewoman getting ready to arrest her.

—New York City detective