Sunday, September 13, 2009

Many years ago, when I migrated to Baltimore, I began to create a series of scrapbooks reflecting what was going on at the time. Today, I want to reconstruct some of a scrapbook I created in 1961.. maybe it will trigger some of your memories or at least give you a little insight about what it was like to live 48 years (!) ago.

01. Saying: He who buys what he doesn't need, steals from himself.

How does that relate to today's stimulus payments?

02. A cartoon by A. Toussaint of Belgium: A man in his shirt sleeves stands near an open door. Across the open door is his pants and shoes. Through the door, we see three ladies chattering away. The joke is.. he doesn't know how to cross the open door to get his clothes.

Today, he probably would say: "What the hell." and go across to get his pants without thinking twice about it.

03. A drawing by Leonard Vosburgh in "The Lords Baltimore." It shows a horse team rolling a hogshead of tobacco to a ship in early Maryland.

Rolling Road in Baltimore County was the main "highway" for rolling those hogsheads down to the Patapsco so they could be loaded on boats and ferried to the Chesapeake.

04. A beautiful black and white photograph: Baltimore's Washington monument in the evening, in a snow storm.

05. A newspaper account of crime in Baltimore: There was an outbreak of crime, some of them in broad daylight. In just one week:

A retired tailor was beaten and stomped to death in Mount Vernon Square.

A 16 year old was hit on the head with a thick board.

A motorist in a collision with a taxi, got out and hit the cabbie with a beer can.

A 46 year old man was beaten to death with a tree limb.

A policeman was hit with an empty can thrown by an 11-year old body.

An advertising collector was beaten and robbed by two teen-agers.

A 19 year old girl was thrown off the Orleans Street viaduct.

A purse-snatcher knocked a 63 year old woman to the ground and stole her purse with $12.

A policeman was cut with a knife while being ejected from a bar.

The police suggested that the assaults were the results of long daylight hours and fair weather.

06. A nice black and white photograph: Downtown Baltimore at Fire station #6.. about 1925. One of the store signs reads: Everything Electric Radio (Holmes Electric).

07. Newspaper article: An 8-foot high trash can, dubbed as "Cleanup Charlie" broadcast announcements every few minutes at Howard and Lexington Streets. Sharp-eyed members of the Women's Civic League watched the intersection from a second story window and pointed out litterbugs over a loudspeaker. "Charlie was on duty daily during "Cleanup Week."

08. Photo of a disaster: An apartment house being built in Lutherville collapsed in recent heavy rain and will have to be completely rebuilt.

09. Saying: A miser isn't much fun to live with, but he makes a wonderful ancestor.

10. Newspaper article: 600 French tourists will visit Baltimore.

Wait a minute, they came to our fair city because DC had no available rooms. At night, they will sleep in the Southern Hotel.. during the day, they will tour DC.

11. Letter to the Editor: What is wrong with Baltimore's Heritage that the French tourists have to tour DC and not our fair city? What about:

The Walters Art Gallery
The Cone Collection at the BMA
The home and grave of Edgar Allen Poe
St. Mary's Seminary
The Chapel at St. Mary's and the Battle Monument, both designed by Maximillian Godefroy
Betsy Patterson who married Jerome Bonaparte
The oldest school of pharmacy in the US
Dr. Pierre Chatard
Louis Pascault
Archbishop Ambrose Marchal
The widow Lacombe
J. Pinaud
Fort McHenry
Mount Vernon Place

12. Drawing: A little boy with a flower growing out of his navel. ?

13. Depictions of Baltimore's famous painted screens. It is impossible to see through a painting from outside.

A South Curley street house with painted screens on every window.
Twol screens by Frank Abremski for his house at North Ellwood Avenue.
Two Baltimore scenes custom painted for A. Aubrey Bodine, to reflect two of his famous photos.
A cool painting on a storm window at South East Avenue.
Swan depictions in screens at South Curley and South Chester.

14. Ocean City scenes: The Boardwalk is continuing from 19th to 26th street.

There was a major storm in March which flooded the city and destroyed a lot of property. The Jamaican, a recently completed luxury apartment hotel was completely destroyed. There is a picture of a house on steel stilts that survived.

15. Newspaper article: A 150-year old two-story log house has been renovated in York, PA and furnished with antiques. Usually, log houses are much smaller.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Odds and Ends

We'll be heading to Ocean City on Sunday, and I need to purge myself of some news comments that I have been saving up. You don't need to read this. I won't get mad.

01. Lester Young, "the President of Jazz" would have been 100 years old last week, if he had lived. He blew a very sweet sax. He died at age 49. (The army discharged him for using marijuana.. its just as well, because he refused to fire a gun and kill anyone.)

02. Somebody named "the great Zucchini" performed in DC last Saturday. What he did, I haven't the faintest idea.. but with a name like that it was probably wonderful.

03. Shoppers grocery shops in Maryland will no longer supply paper towels in their rest rooms. They feel this will help the environment. Instead, mechanical air blowers will dry your hands. Hey.. I've got news for you.. if you have ever been in a Men's Room you would know that men who don't see paper towels do not wash their hands. So, what would you rather have? A paperless environment or germ-infested hand shakes?

04. A company in Spain is making laptop holding bags that show front pages of newspapers as disguise. Urban camouflage!

05. An 87-year old is accused of killing a 91-year old fellow resident in a Columbia, Maryland senior citizen residence. The 87-year old beat the other to death with his fists. He was a former boxer.

My grandfather was forced to go into a nursing home when he was 86 years old, for his own protection. His children thought that he would burn his home down when he lit his pipe. The nursing home just happened to be in the house in which he was born.. in fact, his room was the room in which he was born. He liked to control TV in "his" common room in the building and another octogenarian resident didn't always like what he watched. He and my grandfather used to stand there arguing about TV, punching each other, like they used to do, 60 years earlier. Luckily, they were always stopped before they beat each other to death.

06. The Discovery Channel is starting a 5-year series called "Curiosity". Some of the episodes will be called: "Are we alone in the Universe?", "What is a virus?", "What is consciousness?", and other titles designed to bend our minds.

07. Cal Ripken, Jr's Number 8 is back at Camden Yards. Four guys had kidnapped it for a while.

08. Nicolas Sarkozy is getting ready to talk about a proposed carbon tax that would raise the cost of driving a car or heating a home in France. Will the French stand for more taxes? "Let them eat gas!"

09. A proposed tower building as tall as the Empire State Building has been circumcised in New York City. The City Planning Department ruled that 200 feet would have to be lopped off of the top of the building so that it would not upstage the city's long-reigning tallest building.

10. Bose has come out with the QuietComfort 15. It is a noise-cancellation headphone. Supposedly, for $300, you no longer have to hear "the rumble of the subway train, the rattle of the taxis..." as Stephen Williams of the New York Times reports.

11. Lang Lang, a 27-year old Chinese pianist is being called "Bang Bang" for his noisy rendition of one of Chopin's etudes.

12. A Republican candidate for governor of Idaho, Rex Rammell, heard someone talk about tags bought by hunters to allow them to shoot wolves. When that person also mentioned there should be tags for killing the President, Rammell said: "Obama tags? We'd buy some of those." He later told people that this was a joke.. and "besides, Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue tags in DC." Big joke, eh, Rex? What a jerk!

13. Along the same lines, the head of the Carroll County Republican Party has made it known that she is very upset that the name for September 11 was changed through Democratic efforts from Patriot's Day to A Day of Remembrance and Service. Huh?!

I am now an Independent and can look objectively at the utterances of both parties... but utterances like this one and the one before cause me to wonder what the devil is going on with the current members of the Party of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a uniter and not a divider.

14. Katharine Q. Seelye wrote about some statements that independents believe and disbelieve about Health Care Reform:

Independents believe these.. says Katharine:

The Federal Government will become directly in involved in making personal health care decisions for the public. (MYTH)

Health care will be rationed. (DEBATABLE)

Taxpayers will be required to pay for abortions. (MYTH)

Independents do not believe these.. says Katharine:

The Government will make the elderly decide how and when to die. (MYTH)

A public option will put private insurance companies out of business. (MYTH)

Illegal immigrants will be covered. (MYTH)

Regardless of the comments made by Rep. Wilson of South Carolina and FOX news, the items labeled MYTH above, remain MYTHS.

15. After all this, I will finish with what is supposed to be a joke.. but is probably a real situation, experienced by many husbands:

One day, a mild-mannered man decides that he is tired of his wife always bossing him around, so he decides to put his foot down and let his wife know, once and for all, who is in charge.

When he comes home from work that night he tells her:

"From now on, I'm the man of this home, and my word is law! When I come home from work, I want my supper on the table. Also, I want you to press a shirt and pants for me to wear tonight, because I am going out drinking with the boys. After that, I want you to draw me a hot bath. And after my bath, guess who is going to dress me and comb my hair?"

His wife replies: "The Undertaker!"


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some News for September 10th, 2009

Believe it or not, there was some news today, other than President Obama's speech.

01. A Quebec Canada man was sentenced to life in prison after his 19th conviction for drunken driving. Last year, he ran over a woman in a wheelchair.. on her birthday!

I know a person in New Bedford, Massachusetts who was convicted of drunk driving many times, and each time all it took to get his license back was a small bribe. This was a long time ago, so I hope this type of situation is a thing of the past.

02. The Mint will be issuing another special series of quarters. It will be called "America the Beautiful" and will feature famous National sites throughout the States and Territories. The complete series will consist of 56 coins that will be released about every ten weeks, starting in 2010. That means it will probably take around ten years to get a complete set.

03. If you eat a fast-food fish filet, you are probably now eating a fish called the Hoki, according to William Broad of the New York Times. (I must admit that Mr. Broad may be trying to fool us.. hoki = hoaky? But I'm probably wrong about that.) The hoki is described as a deep Pacific fish, swimming around New Zealand, and is very ugly, but tasty. The fish is supposedly taking the place of the rapidly disappearing Orange Roughy. Orange Roughy lives more than 100 years according to Mr. Broad, and reproduces very slowly. Hoki only lives 25 years and has a quicker rate of reproduction. One of my stocks, Yum Brands, likes the use of this fish.

04. I noticed that American Express is advertising that they have "the card that's ready for the unexpected." Today I was told, unofficially, that they have updated the cost of using their card to $400 a year. That is hard for me to believe... if it is indeed true. I use Visa or Discover and as of yet, they have not charged me a fee. However, I was also warned today to read my monthly statements very carefully. Someone also mentioned that Discover began to charge them a large fee because they had not used their card for some time.

05. A Bolivian man tried to highjack a plane at Mexico City's airport. He threatened to blow up the plane if Mexico's President did not talk to him about a coming disaster.. he said that he had seen the devil in the Mexican flag and knew that bad things were about to happen. Federales overpowered the man and led him off to jail.

06. Speaking of delusional thinking, Sarah Palin has written to the Wall Street Journal that "death panels" are still a concern for the elderly, regardless of what the Administration says.

07. Continuing on that theme, I read where the mayor of Glenn Beck's hometown of Mount Vernon, Washington, is about to give the "keys to the city" to their famous "home town boy." Quite an honor for a guy who has called President Obama a "racist." (Because of his statement, several big time advertisers have canceled commercials on his show, and as I said somewhere before, Ed Schultz says that his radio audience is now greater than Beck's TV show.)

08. The Hubble telescope is working great again and is sending back remarkable pictures. These pictures boggle my mind. I'm trying to remember who made the following statement, I think it was Goethe: "Only two things amaze me. The glorious heavens above and the wondrous earth below." This certainly is a great time to live for people who want to learn about the marvelous universe we live in.

09. Massachusetts lawmakers are struggling to find a way to get a quick replacement for the late Senator Kennedy. (Did I mention that Massachusetts is replete with signs that say "Ted, we love you and will miss you!" and others of a similar nature?)

10. Over 30 years ago, I read about a massive Manhattan, New York City, apartment complex. It was hard for me to imagine such a huge development. Three years ago, that complex of 110 (yes thats one hundred and ten) red-brick apartment buildings at Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town, was sold for $5.4 billion dollars. However, during this recession, the buyers are losing money.. more than half of its value. Sad. I hope they will get back to normal during 2010, when I feel sure this damnable problem time will end. A lot of people live in that complex and it would be a disaster if they had to move somewhere else.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Lots happening since I got home from Uncle Allen's funeral. My Toyota Camry was making noises that said it was on its last legs.. so I had to buy a new car. This was probably cheaper than throwing money down the old car money-pit. I bought a 2009 Toyota Rav4. Elaine helped me pick it out.

She wanted a gold colored one ("sandy beach metallic").. but they are only available on the beaches in Hawaii. But we did finally get a west coast color: "Pacific blue metallic." A very nice car, but we will have to get a ladder so Elaine can climb in. The name of the car (RAV) stands for "Recreational Activity Vehicle".. that means "small SUV".

In making the transition from old car to new car, I lost my Social Security identity pass. Under the Patriot Act, this is a major problem. I will have to find someone to sign me into the building and then I will have to spend hours convincing "Security" that I did not sell my pass to some terrorist.

Meanwhile, I learned today that my daughter was charged for her motel room in New Bedford, even though I had already paid for it. I can see this taking hours and hours of phone calls to straighten out.

Elaine received notice that the doctor who gave her one stitch to close a wound charged her insurance $2,ooo! I don't think that the insurance company will pay him, and Elaine may get the bill. More need for Health Care Reform.

I purchased four pairs of pants at Boscov's and lost the claim ticket for tailoring. Tailoring is necessary because pants makers now make their pants' lengths at the average length of American legs. I'm no longer average since I lost several inches in height as I have aged. So, in addition to the price of pants, I have to pay an extra $9 each to have them shortened. I told you that it's tough to get old, guys.

After some interrogation, the clerk agreed to release my altered pants to me. He was telling me that in the "old days" when Boscov's was super busy, I would not have been able to get my pants without receipts. He said that a couple of years ago, the men's clothing section had 5 employees. Now they have 2 1/2. (I didn't ask him if the 1/2 person was a "little person.")

I talked to a lady in Hagerstown, Maryland, who makes "comfort dolls". These are dolls given to children who are in accidents, have to appear in court, or are in the hospital. The dolls calm the kids down and make them feel better. This lady wanted to know if we (the TRIAD group) wanted to learn how to make the dolls.. if not, she volunteered to make them for us. I will discuss this at the next TRIAD meeting.

I purchased another HP black ink cartridge.. they seem to run out after just a few pages.. and will now be able to print my eulogy of Uncle Allen. I will send copies to Allen's family survivors.

I finally got my Federal Income Tax Refund and now it is time to send it back for estimated taxes.

Elaine and I got haircuts today. Kim does my haircuts and also trims my beard. If she gets caught trimming a beard, she can get fined. Apparently, you have to have a special license to do mustaches and beards and the "beard police" can make it difficult for you.

We ate lunch today at the Frisco Pub. I had a local craft brew, spicy crab soup and a delicious Polish dog. Elaine had a soda, the crab soup, and the most delicious clam strips I've had since I used to buy them from vendors at Horseneck Beach, in Massachusetts.

Once when I was in college, I got a political appointment for the summer at Horseneck Beach. Along with a bunch of other guys who were pretty muscular, we had the job of digging out houses buried under the sand dunes during the hurricane of 1938. This was twenty years later, and there were still a lot of buried houses. I was surprized to learn that people in 1938 used the same plastic-like-type tablecloths that we were using. These cloths were the best survivors of the storm.

Anyway, after lunch, after getting Elaine in the car and getting ready to put her wheelchair in, I forgot to lock the chair legs and when I turned my back, out of the corner of my eyes, I saw something black start to speed down the hill. It was the damn wheelchair! Luckily, so far, it had just missed by inches all the other parked cars and was about to travel out into heavy traffic... summoning my hidden superman strength, I ran as fast as I could and rescued the chair in the nick of time. And guess what, even with all that exertion, I did not get a heart attack.

I have been reading that the best form of exercise is sudden exertion. That is the way humans have managed all these many years.. quiet times, with sudden spurts of energy when needed to avoid predators and to catch prey. So, I had my good exercise today. And, I gave a lot of healthful entertainment to the bystanders.

Learning about my new car has been fun. I also managed to wedge my cell phone in the back door of the car. I didn't notice it, but the car kept up a loud whistle until I figured out what was wrong. Elaine also made some noise when she hit the car's "panic button" on the key I gave her. She was inside, and the car was outside.. and when she pushed it inside, all Hell broke loose outside in the highest decibels. It probably hit "high C".

I got a call tonight that my caller ID told me was "Pizza Sam". I answered the phone with "Hey, I can't wait to hear this one." The man on the other end said, "My name is Sam Piazza, and I am calling to ask for your help on a special project." It was a legitimate call and I was embarassed to tell Sam that I misread his last name on the caller ID.

This morning, I made twenty or so calls, most requiring a call back. Since we have "call waiting" whenever someone calls back and we are on the phone already, a loud beeping and static is generated on the line to let us know... then, we are supposed to say to the party we are talking to, "excuse me, I have another caller on the line." I find this rude and discourteous... as though the person you are talking to is not as important as the new caller. I hate this feature, but it is "bundled" and I am told I can't drop it without dropping caller ID.

I think that "caller ID" is the greatest telephone innovation ever.. it has saved me so many times from having to answer telemarketers, scam artists and crashing bores. I highly recommend it.

I will now end this crashing bore of a blog. Just wanted to keep you up to date on some of the ordinary things we are doing these days in beautiful downtown Westminster Maryland.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Religious Tolerance?

On the Teaching Tolerance website, Thom Ronk cites a quote by Jonathan Swift: "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another." Unfortunately, I think this is true in many cases.

I've already mentioned a book that someone sent me, that purports to give people a reason to live a good life. Sounds OK to me, but when I opened the book at random, I came upon some words that said in effect: "If you do not believe what I believe, even though you have never heard of what I believe, because you lived on a tropical island somewhere... you will burn in the everlasting fire of hell!" Give me a break! What kind of belief is that!

Why do the Sunnis hate the Shiites, and vice versa? Isn't it the same religion? The same religious book? Or am I missing something?

Why do the Catholics hate the Protestants in Ireland, and vice versa? Isn't it the same religion? The same religious book? Or am I missing something?

Years ago, the TV program Star Trek had an episode I found very interesting. The people in this portion of the galaxy were bi-colored. One half of their bodies was white, the other half was black. Most of these people hated each other and continually fought. When asked why they fought each other, they were told "Can't you see? It's perfectly clear. They are different from us and obviously inferior." Captain Kirk said: "Wait a minute, you look alike to me." The answer was: "But, are you blind? Don't you see that their colors are on the opposite side of their bodies from ours!"

A few years ago, the little girl next door came home from her first day in the second grade. My wife asked her how she liked her new teacher. The little girl said: "Miss Elaine, she's black."

"Yes, but is she nice?"

"Miss Elaine, she's black."

"But do you like her?"

"Miss Elaine, she's black."

What is this little girl learning in Sunday School... or at the kitchen table?

As an empath, I get a sick feeling in my stomach when supposedly religious people talk trash about people they don't like, or who are different from themselves. Some even bad-mouth President Obama. Is he a bad man? Why compare him to a maniac like Hitler?

And why do supposedly religious people forward demeaning and false emails about the President and his Administration? It is so easy to do a fact check these days.. why not do that first?

I detect an underlying racism in most of these utterances of the so-called religious right. I hope I am wrong, but I don't think so. I would hope that our country has progressed a bit since the days before the Civil War. It is discouraging to me to see a "closet racist" point to their cheek when talking about a black person.. although at least it is a little better than using the "n" word.

And yet.. there are religious and non-religious people I know who do truly love their neighbors and are tolerant of others who are different from themselves and try to lead ethical lives. Isn't this what it really means to be a human being?


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Hodge Podge for Saturday September 5th, 2009

While on my train ride to Massachusetts last week, I read quite a few newspapers and a few things caught my interest. I want to share them with you.

01. The ratio of civilian contractors to military personnel is higher now in Afghanistan than it has been anywhere else, in any other war. Check out the following approximate percentages:

World War I: 5%
World War II: 10%
Korea: 25%
VietNam: 15%
Balkans: 50%
Iraq: 50%
Afghanistan: 70%

Source: Congressional Research Service.. by the New York Times.

Well, at least our soldiers don't have to pull KP anymore or clean latrines.

Although it might anger some of my contractor friends, I would like to say that even though my experience with contractors in the Federal Government was cordial, I did feel that what they were doing could probably be much cheaper done with Government employees. For example, one project that my Branch was responsible for concerned 10,000 elderly people. I felt that one programmer in my Branch could do the job on a PC and complete it in a couple of years.

I was overruled. The job was contracted out as a large-scale computer job and when I last checked, years later, the job is still in existence, not quite completed.

02. Dr. Mark B. McClellan, former Medicare administrator under George W. Bush, has proposed promoting personal health by taxing sugary soft drinks.

Right now, I am trying to buy a Toyota Rav4. This is a small car, but is considered a "mini SUV". Being an SUV, it has giant cup holders like all SUV's. I read somewhere that SUV's that do not have giant cup holders do not get sold. People need a place to put their "supersized" calorie-loaded cokes and pepsi's. (The Toyota Rav4 has added inserts to put into the giant holders, so that us guys who drink "undersized" fluids won't have our drinks rattling around as we drive. They have also added water bottle holders in the side doors. Nice touch!)

A few years ago, I sold my Coke stock... bad move. However, I did keep my Pepsi stock. In spite of the Recession, Pepsi has continued to send me small quarterly dividends. I do not drink sugary soft drinks myself, and neither does Elaine, unless she needs a swift caffeine "fix".

03. I see where a one-story 3,100 square foot building in the Clinton area of Manhattan (10th Ave at 52nd St) is on the market for $3.8 million. It offers a potential income of $75,000. from billboards and has 18,912 square feet in "air rights". (What does that mean? Can't airplanes fly over it? Can the building be built into a skyscraper? Not a very high one I would guess. If they just relied on the billboard income, it would take about 50 years to break even.)

04. Two of the three largest U.S. tobacco companies have filed suit to block marketing restrictions in a law that gives the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco. The tobacco makers of Camels, Newport, and others claim that the law (The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act) severely restricts the few remaining channels open for them to communicate with adult tobacco consumers. They claim that they won't even be able to use color lettering in their ads.

Too bad, guys! I think that the ads should be outlawed completely. Most ads that I have seen (like the suggestive Joe Camel and others) are made to appeal directly to those of our population, namely the young, whose medula oblongatas have not yet matured and who cannot see far enough into the future to visualize their painful throat and lung cancer deaths.

05. The Chicago-based Mercy for Animals organization has issued an undercover video shot at an Iowa chicken hatchery. The video shows unwanted male chicks being tossed alive into a grinder. Apparently, this is common industry practice. (Where is Sinclair Lewis when we need him?)

06. If you have a spare $8.75 million, you can buy Bernie Madoff's Long Island beach home. The ocean-front location is spectacular, but the house is kind of small for a millionaire. Also, there is no garage and no walk-in closets. The home was seized by the U.S. Marshals Service and they have put the property on the market to pay back some investors. Go to for a slide show of the house.

07. A giant identity theft ring, run by a man from Waldorf, Maryland, has been broken up. There were hundreds of victims, including the wife of Ben Bernanke. The gang of ten people would obtain bank information from stolen wallets and purses and a "bewigged" member of the gang would go to the banks and clean them out.

08. There was a recent cartoon by Horsey in the Providence Journal that showed a Fox Newsman interviewing a middle-aged gentleman carrying a sub-machine gun, and wearing two pistols in holsters. The interviewer asks: "What message are you trying to send by bringing guns to a Presidential event?" The armed man replies: "Guns are chick magnets."

Hecklers at AARP Meetings

Yesterday, Elaine and I attended our monthly AARP Chapter meeting. On display was a letter to one of the Carroll County newspapers complaining about AARP and telling everyone to cancel their memberships because of AARP's supposed support for "death panels". The writer said that he had attended one of our meetings where two ladies from AARP had said certain things that he did not like. Reading his letter, it seemed to me that he must have attended a different meeting than I did.. or, he heard things there that I did not hear.. but I must admit, I did not have my hearing aid in at the time and may have missed something.. but I doubt that.

I attended two recent AARP Chapter meetings in which two ladies spoke. At one meeting, the two ladies did represent Maryland AARP and they proposed that the attendees examine all Health Care proposals and decide about the issues. They hoped, but did not push, that people consider that Heath Care Reform is needed. At the meeting, there was one gentleman who asked obnoxious, and, in my opinion, dumb questions. If the writer of the letter to the editor was this gentleman, I would ask him: Why did he partake so freely and greedily of the free lunch provided to him by AARP? Why did he interupt the speakers so rudely? Why didn't he walk out in protest? Why had we never seen him at an AARP meeting before? Why does he like Medicare so much when it is a "public option" program? Does he honestly think that "death panels" could ever exist in the U.S.? Was he appointed by his organization to come and heckle the speakers?

At the second meeting, the two ladies did not represent AARP, but rather the Emergency Preparedness department of Carroll County (a Republican lead County in Maryland). They were trying to inform the attendees about available emergency facilities in the County. At that meeting as well, there was one gentleman who asked obnoxious and dumb questions. One could tell that he was not listening closely enough and had his mind set that these were enemies to his way of life. (This was not the same gentleman from the prior meeting.) If the writer of the letter to the editor was this gentleman I would ask him basically the same questions: Why did he partake so readily and greedily of the lunch provided to him by AARP? (he was later part of musical entertainment) Why does he like the "public option" Medicare so well? Why was he so rude to the young ladies? Why does he think that "death panels" could ever exist in the U.S.? Is he a member of the same group as the heckler from the earlier meeting?

Once again, we have had to put up with loud-mouthed, mis-informed meeting disrupters. Fortunately, in this case, only one person in each meeting made a jerk of himself.. that is only 1% of the attendees. Free speech is wonderful and I am all for it.. but sometimes I wish that these loud persons would get a soap-box to stand on and spout off in a public park where those that want to hear them could and those that do not want to hear them would be able to walk away.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Eulogy for Allen T. Vaughan, Sr

This is a written text related to the eulogy that I presented on September 1, 2009 for my Uncle Allen Vaughan, at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Padanaram, MA and then added to at the Century House in Acushnet, MA. I give a lot of eulogies in my senior citizen organizations, and I seldom break up. I did break up while doing this one. I loved my uncle Allen.
Last week, two of my heroes died.. one was named Kennedy; one was named Vaughan. Today, I want to talk about one of them.

Allen T. Vaughan came from a line that stretches back to eleven members of the Mayflower Pilgrims, with the straightest line directly to William Bradford, the Governor of the Plymouth Colony.

He was the 15th child of Arthur and Alice Vaughan. He was the "baby" of the family.

Sometimes he was a little bad as a kid. Once, at the age of 7, when his teacher left the room, he and another kid climbed on top of their desks and began to yell out every naughty word that they had ever heard. The other kid got down in time, but Allen got caught.. and got punished. (In the over 70 years that I knew Allen, I never once heard him curse!)

Allen grew into a tough city kid. In fact, his nickname was "Popeye." I grew up in the house with him and he wanted me to be tough too.

Years ago, one could walk through the city without fear, and kids were allowed to go around unchaperoned. When I turned 5, someone took me by the hand and escorted me the 8 blocks to the Harrington Elementary School for Kindergarten. The next day, I was on my own. Along the way, two bullies, Walter and Richard, jumped me and beat me up. I ran home crying.

I told Allen what had happened and he told me that I had better be brave and fight back next time, or he would have to beat me up too. I know now that he would not have done that, but at the time, I was more afraid of what Allen would do than I was of what the bullies would do. However, I was small and needed help, so when Allen left the house, I went into his room and looked around for a weapon of some kind. I found a ballpean hammer.

The next day, I stuck the hammer in my knickers and went to school. Sure enough, Walter and Richard showed up and started to punch and kick me. I was on the ground with Walter punching me while Richard kicked at my head, when I reached into my knickers and took the hammer and hit Walter squarely in the forehead. Walter and Richard ran away crying and never bothered me again.

That night Allen asked if I had taken care of the bullies. I said "yes" and he said he was proud of me.. but I never told him I had the help of his ballpean hammer. (Many years later, around the age of 60, Walter died, and I was told that as he lay in his coffin, one could make out the outline of a round dent in his forehead. Over the years, I had been too ashamed to tell Walter that I was the one who had "bopped" him so long ago.)

In 1945, when Allen felt that he had sowed all of his "wild oats", he met a beautiful young girl named Doris Mulcairns, and decided to settle down. They got married and started this beautiful family that you see before you. Allen and Doris were married 64 years! How many people can say that in this day and age?

Over the years, Allen became a musician. He taught himself to play the organ and the harmonica. He often serenaded his fellow "Council on Aging" members and people confined to nursing homes. Just last week, as sick as he was, he played 20 songs for the people in the nursing home where he was recuperating.

Allen became a quite a comedian. I loved his jokes. Once, he visited us in Baltimore and we went to a famous restaurant (Peabody Book Store, an old Speakeasy) and when the owner asked if anyone wanted to entertain, he got up and sang numerous verses of "Enery the 8th, I am, I am". He also told lots of jokes to the diners. They loved it. Several of my fellow workers from Social Security were there and they asked me to invite Allen back because he was so much fun.

Once I heard Henny Youngman do a standup joke routine and I wondered why he had stolen Allen's jokes.

Allen became a "fixer." I brought him a big problem to solve.

During the Korean War, I was about to be drafted into the Army. I wanted to get into the Air Force. However, the quota was filled. Allen told me not to worry. He sat down with one of his buddies, who just happened to be the Air Force recruiter. They looked at all of the lists of new recruits that came almost daily across the desk in the New Bedford office, until they found one that had someone with the name of Vaughan on it.

They took that list and typed my name under that name and sent it to Air Force headquarters with a note that there had been a mixup with names. It worked. Both of the Vaughan boys on the list were allowed to go to Basic Training for the Air Force. Thank you, Allen!

Allen became a craftsman. At my house, the basement is my domain. In a corner of the place, I have lots of New Bedford whale artifacts, crafted by Allen. I also have some of this creations in a display case. One might call this location, the Allen T. Vaughan Museum.

Once when I had taken my family on a visit back to New Bedford in our small Volkswagen Rabbit, Allen told me he had a gift for us. I expected a small box of New Bedford memoribilia. Instead, he handed me a 6 foot long exact replica of a whaling harpoon. I loved it, but it did pose a problem. How would I get a 6 foot long harpoon home in a 4 foot wide car which was already filled with a wife, luggage and children?

We solved it somewhat by letting my two daughters ride home on the train. My wife and son and luggage and harpoon all squeezed into the car. The tip of the harpoon stuck out about three feet into the traffic, which was alright until we got to New York City. NYC is full of wiseguys, and every car that passed us would yell at us: "Hey.. Captain Ahab!" or "I love your spear!" or other "choice" phrases. But we made it through.

We decided to make it a 2-day trip, so we stopped at a motel. It was a 2-story place with stairs leading up to a balcony surounding a swimming pool on 4 sides. I did not want to have the harpoon stolen, so I carried it up to our room which was on the second floor. As I topped the stairs and turned, I bumped into a maid who had her arms full of sheets and towels. She screamed when she saw this man holding a long spear and everything went over the railing and into the swimming pool.

We finally made it home and decided to make a place of honor in our house for Allen's harpoon. We hooked it up to a brass chain and hung it on the wall of our paneled den. Underneath the harpoon, we placed shelving and on the top put our prized possession, the last goblet of a set of finely etched glassware we had received years earlier as a wedding gift. The etching was of a (New Bedford style) sperm whale and was beautifully executed.

A few weeks later, at 3 am, we heard a loud crash. When I investigated, I found that Allen's harpoon had broken loose from the chain and had fallen down and harpooned the sperm whale in the goblet! When I called Allen and told him about it he was sympathetic, and a week later, the mailman brought me a package from Allen. In it was another hand-crafted harpoon, but this time it was only 10 inches long!

In Allen's later years, he felt something lacking in his life and began the studies that led him to join the Catholic religion. I'm sure that his faith helped him weather this final illness.

There are not many people in this world who everybody likes... Allen Vaughan was one of those people, a likeable, humorous, giving person. There is a word in German and Yiddish to describe those rare individuals like Allen. The word is "mensch" and Allen was a "mensch." Our lives are so much richer for having known him.

Farewell, my uncle, my brother, my friend, and my hero!

New Bedford, Massachusetts Trip Aug/Sep 2009

On Monday, my daughter, Diane, accompanied me on a train trip to New Bedford to pay our respects to my uncle, brother, friend and hero, Allen T. Vaughan, Sr.

Although it was a sad time, we had an enjoyable trip on Amtrak to Providence, RI, where I walked the half-mile downhill to the Avis Rental office. I drove back in some kind of Japanese car (not Toyota like mine) and picked up Diane, carefully avoiding all the problem areas there are for motorists in Providence, and we zoomed to North Dartmouth, MA, to a new Best Western motel. Although new, it only rated 2 stars on the internet. But it was relatively clean and kind of quiet when you left the AC fan on.

We drove to the Saunders Funeral Home in New Bedford, for Uncle Allen's "viewing".. I hate that usage.. people do come to "view" the person who has passed on, but I like to think that they are really "paying their respects" to the family of the deceased and to the memory of the person who no longer is with us bodily.

Allen looked very peaceful and not at all "ravaged" by the ordeal of the last few weeks. Allen was 89 years old, but looked a lot younger.

At the funeral home, we paid our respects to Aunt Doris and the whole family that came into existence because of the marriage of Allen and Doris 64 years ago. A beautiful family.

Several of my cousins showed up, all of the aunts and uncles are gone now. Almost all of the Vaughan cousins are still alive. I think only one has passed away, but I could be wrong about that. We talked a lot and laughed a lot, and that would have been the way Allen would have wanted it.

Aunt Doris asked me to deliver the eulogy at the mass the next morning, so I pumped some of the cousins for stories about Allen, and they had some good ones that even Aunt Doris had not heard about. I had some stories myself to tell.

The next morning, we met at Saunder again. (Incidentally, the Saunders undertakers knew the Vaughan family very well, and even have a framed copy of one of the Vaughan Funeral Parlor bills from 1909. The cost of an average funeral at that time was $66. Times certainly have changed.)

We were asked to provide a ride for Aunt Doris' brother, Freddie Mulcairns. Fred is now 94, and his family did not want him to have to drive for long distances. Fred has good hearing and eyesight and has never had an accident in 78 years of driving! (Fred had lots of great stories to tell us on the trip to the church and again to the military cemetary.)

We attended a mass (Allen was a convert to Catholicism) and I had my chance to deliver the eulogy. I give a lot of eulogies here in Maryland because I am involved with so many senior citizen groups and I usually do not break up. This time I did.

Small world? During the eulogy, I mentioned how Allen had interacted with people here during a trip to Baltimore. After the service, the priest talked to me about Hausners and Peabody's Book Store. He said he spent a happy 6 years in Baltimore while he learned to become a priest.

After the mass, we were treated to lunch at the Century House, a nice catering place in Acushnet. After eating, I was given an opportunity to speak again and tell the "rest of the story"... those happenings that I didn't have time to cover earlier at the church. (I will write up my remarks on another blog entry so that my other children who couldn't go to the funeral will be able to read them. They also loved Uncle Allen.)

We traveled to Cape Cod, to the Bourne Military Cemetery, where a full military service was held for Allen, who served in World War II.

After all this, we had supper at Davy Jones Locker in New Bedford. Then we retired early so that we could get an early morning start the next day.

Unfortunately, our early start was not early enough. We got caught in a massive traffic jam going into Providence and almost missed the train. We left the car off at Avis and had to run the half mile (uphill) to the train station. We made it by just a few minutes.

The train ride back was pleasant and Emily and Lily met us at the train station and gave us a ride to our homes.

All in all, it was a sad, but pleasant, trip. I was very pleased that my daughter, Diane, was able to accompany me.

Farewell, Uncle, Brother, Friend, and Hero: Allen T. Vaughan, SR.