Friday, December 28, 2018

End Peace - 1982

How can you just abandon
Such strong feelings?
Am I that weak?
Or are you too strong?

I look at what we had and wonder-
Will I ever feel that much again?
Are there really other eyes out there-
That sparkle like yours-
Or shine like mine?
I really don’t think so.

Turn it over and look
at the other side.
It was worth the changes,
the joy or pain.

I can never forget the way my heart 
pounded at our first kiss,
And how time stopped 
when I first entered you.
But now we are closed to one another,
And time goes on?

For Leslie Billmire Huettner
1949 - 1989

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve - from "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith

If you can read this portion of a chapter from Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” without choking up, then you are probably not living. One of the most poignant portions of a book filled with such moments, this is a tale that should be read each Christmas. To me it is the equivalent of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens; only shorter; as most things are. 

In this brief glimpse into the lives of the Nolan family on Christmas Eve are all of the same lessons contained in Dicken’s classic holiday tale. The realities which we live are largely of our own making. And, just as Jacob Marley forged each link of his own damnation in “A Christmas Carol”, we are all capable of undoing those links as well. As you read this, remember that about the tree-seller.

There was a cruel custom in the neighborhood. It was about the trees still unsold when midnight of Christmas Eve approached. There was a saying that if you waited until then, you wouldn’t have to buy a tree; that “they’d chuck ‘em at you.” This was literally true.

At midnight on the Eve of our dear Saviour's birth, the kids gathered where there were unsold trees. The man threw each tree in turn, starting with the biggest. Kids volunteered to stand up against the throwing. If a boy didn’t fall down under the impact, the tree was his. If he fell, he forfeited his chance at winning a tree. Only the roughest boys and some of the young men elected to be hit by the big trees. The others waited shrewdly until a tree came up that they could stand against. The littlest kids waited for the tiny, foot-high trees and shrieked in delight when they won one.
On the Christmas Eve when Francie was ten and Neely nine, mama consented to let them go down and have their first try for a tree. Francie had picked out her tree earlier in the day. She had stood near it all afternoon and evening praying that no one would buy it. To her joy it was still there at midnight. It was the biggest tree in the neighborhood and its price was so high that no one could afford to buy it. It was ten feet high. Its branches were bound with new white rope and it came to a sure pure point at the top.

The man took this tree out first. Before Francie could speak up, a neighborhood bully, a boy of eighteen known as Punky Perkins, stepped forward and ordered the man to chuck the tree at him. The man hated the the way Punky was so confident. He looked around and asked;
”Anybody else wanna take a chanct on it?”

Francie stepped forward. “Me, Mister.”
A spurt of derisive laughter came from the tree man. The kids snickered. A few adults who had gathered to watch the fun, guffawed.

“Aw g’wan. You’re too little,” the tree man objected.
“Me and my brother — we’re not too little together.” 

She pulled Neely forward. The man looked at them — a thin girl of ten with starveling hollows in her cheeks but with the chin still baby-round. He looked at the little boy with his fair hair and round blue eyes - Neeley Nolan, all innocence and trust.

"Two ain't fair," yelped Punky.
"Shut your lousy trap," advised the man who held all the power in that hour. “These here kids is got nerve. Stand back, the rest of youse. These kids is goin’ to have a show at this tree.”

The others made a wavering lane. Francie and Neeley stood at one end of it and the big man with the big tree at the other. It was a human funnel with Francie and her brother making the small end of it. The man flexed his great arms to throw the great tree. He noticed how tiny the children looked at the end of the short lane. For the split part of a moment, the tree thrower went through a kind of Gethsemane.
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” his soul agonized, “why don’t I just give ‘em the tree, say Merry Christmas and let ‘em go. What’s the tree to me? I can’t sell it no more this year and it won’t keep till next year." The kids watched him solemnly as he stood there in his moment of thought. "But then," he rationalized, if I did that, all the others would expect to get 'em handed to 'em. And next year nobody a-tall would buy a tree off of me. They’d all wait to get ‘em handed to ‘em on a silver plate. I ain’t a big enough man to give this tree away for nothin’. No, I ain't big enough. I ain't big enough to do a thing like that. I gotta think of myself and my own kids." He finally came to his conclusion. "Oh, what the hell! Them two kids is gotta live is this world. They got to get used to it. They got to learn to give and take punishment. And by Jesus, it ain’t give but take, take, take all the time in this God-damned world.” As he threw the tree with all his strength, his heart wailed out, “It’s a God-damned, rotten, lousy world!”

Francie saw the tree leave his hands. There was a split bit of being when time and space had no meaning. The whole world stood dark and still as something dark and monstrous came through the air. The tree came towards her blotting out all memory of her having lived. There was nothing – nothing but pungent darkness and something that grew and grew as it rushed at her. She staggered as the tree hit them. Neeley went down to his knees but she pulled him up fiercely before he could go down. There was a mighty swishing sound as the tree settled. Everything was dark, green and prickly. Then she felt a sharp pain at the side of her head where the trunk of the tree had hit her. She felt Neeley trembling.
When some of the older boys pulled the tree away, they found Francie and her brother standing upright, hand in hand. Blood was coming from scratches on Neeley’s face. He looked more like a baby than ever with his bewildered blue eyes and the fairness of his skin made more noticeable because of the clear red blood. But they were smiling. Had they not won the biggest tree in the neighborhood? Some of the boys hollered “Hooray!” A few adults clapped. The tree man eulogized them by screaming;

“And now get the hell out of here with your tree, you lousy bastards.”
Francie had heard swearing since she had heard words. Obscenity and profanity had no meaning as such among those people. They were emotional expressions of inarticulate people with small vocabularies; they made a kind of dialect. The phrases could mean many things according to the expression and tone used in saying them. So now, when Francie heard themselves called lousy bastards, she smiled tremulously at the kind man. She knew that he was really saying, Goodbye – God bless you.”

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Gunrunner - Prelude to Fast and Furious

There are very few people who have not heard of John Dodson or the “Fast and Furious” program. But what many people don’t know is that this program was begun during the Bush administration in 2006* as “Project Gunrunner”, which was pretty aptly named, as that was the true purpose of the program; to run guns. The link between these two programs is clear; the United States is engaged in an effort to destabilize foreign governments. We have seen this in Iraq, and also Mexico.

In  May of 2007  I was on my way home from work in Hickory, travelling South on I-77 and passing through Mooresville, N.C. At the time Blackwater was working for the Federal Government in the capacity of providing “support” to the troops in Iraq. Their excesses are widely known and chronicled. But some of the things they were involved in were not related directly to the War in Iraq. Running guns was one of those activities.

It was Memorial Day Friday and it seemed as if everyone had hit the road for the 3 day weekend. I was driving a company provided pick-up truck and thinking about the weekend when I got rear ended by a guy in a BMW. Somehow, in spite of all the traffic, he managed to get around me after hitting me, so that his car was in front of mine on the shoulder when the State Police arrived 20 minutes later.

During that time I was offered cash to take care of the damage and I noticed that the driver was intoxicated. I explained to him that it was a company vehicle and the decision was not mine to make. He then proceeded to show me his identification and asked if I had heard of Blackwater. I replied that I had but that it did not alter the fact that he had hit my vehicle and that no amount of cash; or muscling; would alter that fact.

When the Trooper arrived I explained what happened and that the other driver was drunk and had offered me money if I would allow him to leave the scene. The trooper then went to interview the other driver and what happened next still has me shaking my head in wonder.

He showed the trooper some identification which he had not shown me and the whole atmosphere of the situation changed. The officer was joking and laughing with the other driver and they both went to his trunk, which the driver proudly opened, displaying an array of automatic weapons and high capacity ammunition clips. No boxes, just loose weapons and cartons of ammunition. There were about 20 weapons in all. But it gets even better.

Within a few minutes the trooper was joined by another and they began to play with some of these weapons; unloaded; by the side of the road. The troopers seemed to give no thought to the fact that they were handling these weapons, marking them with their own fingerprints. What a bizarre sight this must have been for all who passed by in their cars. I’m sure they thought they were witnessing a big time “bust.” After all, that’s what should have happened. But wait, it gets better still.

At one point the other driver; who was very well rehearsed in all of his dealings with me; somehow convinced one of the troopers to show him what kind of ammo he used in his state issued 9 MM. The officer actually unholstered his weapon and ejected the clip. Removing a round he passed it freely to the other driver for inspection. At this point I was apoplectic. But there was clearly nothing that I could do about it.

Returning home I related the experience to my wife, as well as a friend who was Lieutenant on the police force in my town. He was hocked beyond belief; as every protocol known to law enforcement had been violated by the actions of the troopers who were clearly enamored of the mysterious other driver. When I asked him what he thought I should do about it all; I did have the man’s name and address etc; he told me quite seriously that the best thing I could do about it was to keep quiet.

Two weeks later my boss called me into his office and thanked me for the $1,200 dollar check which he received as payment for the bumper.

*As related by Agent John Dodson - ATF
He worked on the Fast and Furious project.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

"The Tree I'll Be" by me

Recycle me.
I'll be the worm who returns 
using all that I've learned.
Never making any sound;
waiting for the spring.

Nurture me.
As I become the tree,
a spirited green canopy.
A shaded restful place to be; 
a place where laughter rings.

Remember me.
I wasn't always what you see,
I used to be humanity,
Now Ive found humility;
the most important of all things....

Monday, December 17, 2018

See Naples and Die.....


In Naples you left the Fleet Landing and the first thing you saw was the Castle, which was really the jail and police station. Very imposing. Used to have a moat but was now just a deep grass swale. So, you still had to enter the Castle by drawbridge to cross the swale. Midevial style.

Outside were the hookers; pretty rough looking hookers. They straddled customers on mopeds right in the open. Or else they huddled around trash can fires in the dampness which is Naples in the fall, winter and spring. So they became known as the Campfire Girls. And all of this took place under the watchful eyes of a Priest who stood on an opposite corner in the Park across the street. All night.

The Priest was counting "heads" to make sure he got his cut. Seriously, the girls all gave to the Church and he used to absolve them every morning in return. Great system! Everyone of them a virgin..... the Priest told me so! There were also the he-she's to look out for! They'd call you Joe and swear they were named Josephine. Meantime;  biceps like a fucking weightlifter!

December 16, 2018
See Naples and die ..

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Doctor Cried

The Doctor cried.
It meant so much 
that he could weep
when somebody died.

He could still feel 
something deep,
something unseen, silently
hurting him inside.

It meant so much to see him weep
because he really tried.
And for every life he could not save -
the Doctor cried.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Silent Guns

Cannons; old and silent; 
just as they should be,
pointed only at the sky,
for old folks memories.

Or pounded into plowshares,
as foretold in days of yore;
relics of a remedy 
we don't use anymore.

The flashing of exploding shells,
the whistles and the thuds,
have all been replaced by fireworks;
the only tragedies being the duds.

Ah! If dreams were but reality,
and it were up to me?
There'd be no guns pointed at them,
and none pointed back at we!

Photo by Tina Weil Lampropoulos

Friday, November 16, 2018


This is the season of my discontent.
Lying in the cold, wondering where the summer went...
Was there not a spring? 
Has Autumn all been spent?
You'll have to grant me pardon now if I seem discontent.

This is the worst of times, when better times have gone,
deserting me and hurting me, leaving me alone.
Did I give offense?
Pray! Say! Tell! what I did so wrong,
to incur the wrath of colder times, when better times have gone?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


I go through spells-
My body screams and moans at times,
at other's  my heart yells-
there's pain in every cell.
I keep no secrets from you,
I go through spells.

I still have dreams-
In which I twist and writhe, until it seems 
that I must die, 
undoubtedly I have arrived at the Gates of Hell.
I can't deny, even to myself,
I go through spells.

But I have hopes-
That someday I'll arise, and when opening my eyes,
painless, blue and sunny skies will greet my days.
Though I say this with conviction, I know the lie I tell.
There's no escaping from it, 
I go through spells.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Points of View

"I don't like your point of view.
I can't change minds, so I'll change you."
That's pretty much what's it's all about,
it's just what both sides do.

You say you don't like my opinion.
I think your facts are all pure fiction,
hid behind your bombast diction.
Bogus - quite like you.

We never stop to consider
the verbal barrages we deliver
as nothing more than common litter;
temporary - as the dew.

Words unleashed as deadly arrows
cut just as quickly to the marrow.
It could be "we" who's hurt tomorrow;
take care in what we do.....

Photo of Salton Sea in California.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Losing me.....

I'm not half as funny as I used to be,
"Just not quite me",
some might say.

But, I'm not twice as loony as I ought to be,
due to some things, you see
which came my way.

I just try and take it day by day,
and still have my say,
and often do.

The hardest part to do is to hang on to you,
and then ask you to
not slip away......

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Last Word to My Father

Would that I could,
but can't so I won't
It's not like I don't want to,
it's simply that I don't

meet your expectations,
so, i had to stop from trying.
It's the only way I had to cope,
and keep myself from crying.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"One Righteous Man" by Arthur Browne (2015)

This book is a by product of Langston Hughes unpublished biography of Samuel Battle, New York City's first African-American policeman. Hughes was working on a number of projects at the time he accepted this assignment to co-author Samuel Battle's autobiography in the late 1940's.

The author, Arthur Browne, gives all credit to Mr. Hughes where applicable. He has also created a multi layered story of the history of racism in the ranks of Civil Servants in the last days of the 19th Century as well as into the 20th.

Racism wasn't confined to the South as you may have been taught in school. It was rampant in the North as well. Sometimes more oblique ways perhaps, but at other times it was as brutal as the lynchings were.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of reading this was  authors skillful weaving of the history of those times along with Samuel Battle's own story.  It gives great depth to the the narrative. It helps the reader in understanding the systemic racism Mr. Battle was forced to tackle in order to be what he aspired to be. It is also a great history of  one particular street in Harlem which was like a "Doctor's Row", in that many of the most educated  and affluent of the ciiy's African-Americans lived there. 

Today there is a small plaza dedicated to him outside City Hall. But, in reality, no plaza could ever be large enough to hold the spirit of Samuel Battle. This is the story of that man. It is also the story of his vision and how he achieved it.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Another Birthday!

Looks like another birthday,
another year slipped by.
I'm closer to the end
but not prepared to die.

There's too much left to read and write,
and letters left to send.
I want to stick around awhile
and see how this play ends!

Friday, October 5, 2018


Books on shelves lining walls, tucked in nooks and filling stalls.
One day they'll be gone, so we'll all be reading from our phones.

I miss the paper, miss the smell, of books and ink and words which tell
stories, poems, and news as well. I fear they'll soon be gone.

I love the feel of turning pages, traveling back through distant ages,
reading wise words from the sages. And all things written down.

Knowledge came in stages, and I fear that without pages
It will all be subject to changes. Things of import, ought be writ in stone....

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Poor Pumpkin

The pumpkin looks quite nervous.
And he has good reason why.
It's his first time in this position,
and he's really very shy.

But the other cause of his distress-
and when I tell you this you'll cry-
He's heard Thanksgiving's coming,
and he's heard of pumpkin pie!

Poor pumpkin, poor pumpkin,
Makes you want to cry.
Poor pumpkin, poor pumpkin,
Bound for pumpkin pie!

Poor pumpkin, poor pumpkin,
Nothing he can do.
Poor pumpkin, poor pumpkin,
Glad that I'm not you!

Photo plagirized from a post by Batton Lash.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

My Finest Hour

This is my worst hour of the day
Waiting here in bed for the pain to go away,
waiting for the meds to work, and keep the beasts at bay,
It helps to know that this is - the worst hour of the day.

I always have believed that life is sweet and sour.
It's never been more true before than in this most painful hour.
Simply to get through it - imagination I must scour
for the tiniest grains of anything, to keep from being dour.

It's not just words on paper now; I often write on screen;
its the one place I can turn and write; with some things left unseen.
But I must never trod the path to become petty or be mean,
You know I'm simply not the type who wants to make a scene.

It doesn't really take much time to write these silly poems and songs.
And doesn't matter anyway, I don't have to wait too long.
In about an hour, while still feeling less than  strong
I'll be wondering, deep inside, how things ever went this wrong...

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


I live as the Sun rises,
no big chances, no surprises.
When darkness falls I close my eyelids;
It's then that my dream calls.

I dream not just of the demons;
they no doubt lurk within;
But ruminate on sunny skies,
a place where light begins.

I recall my past with joy, but then
my future comes to play;
as a spectre overtaking
all brightness from the day.

But it always ends when I awake,
and this I swear, is true.
As I run in fear from darkness
I always run to you....

Monday, September 24, 2018

Three Old Books

These three old books among the ones on my bedroom dresser are a bit more precious than the others. Taking them from left to write - pun intended - they are the 1921 edition of HG Wells "Outline of History" , Bassett's "Short History of the United States from 1492-1920", and lastly a seriously overdue copy of the 1943 Second Edition of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith, printed on recycled paper for the War Effort.

The first two were my Mom's and came from James Madison High School. The HG Wells book was my first introduction to Comparative Religions, as Wells was very well versed in the subject. Also, the book has my Mom's signature in the cover page along with a note from me about my intention to pass this on to my daughter and keep it in the family.

Bassett's also came from Madison and my Mom. Apparently she didn't return the books she liked..... This book is invaluable when studying American history. With the rapid turn of events since 1920 most newer books have to cut some things out, leaving unanswered questions about events which have become less important with the passage of time. But there are nuggets of information and long forgotten facts to be gleaned from it.

The third book is one which I read about once a year and it can still bring me to tears, or make me laugh out loud, depending on which chapter I'm reading. The trials and tribulations faced by the Nolan family are timeless. By the way, I did pay for the book, simply to keep it forever. I have newer versions of it which I give away, but this old tattered copy is the one I read.....

These three books can keep me entertained for hours at a time when I am delving into history, or, in the case of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" , I can emphasize with the problems and joys of an Irish immigrant family which is very much like the story of my own family on my paternal side.

The point is that these books are akin to nourishment for me. They give me insights, facts, and joy. My Mom's two books will be passed on to my daughter, marking three generations who will have taken some valuable insights from them. All three have been with me for many years. The first two are family, as I never recall them not being around. The third one is adopted, or abducted, depending on your point of view.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Mystery of History

The mystery of history;
the Who, the How, the Why;
the mistakes they made so long ago
are hard to rectify.

One side claims it went this way,
the other side disagrees.
And when the dust has settled down,
it sets on you and me.

I hate yours and you hate mine,
on this we both agree.
But I don't think it's worth killing for,
and I hope that you wouldn't kill me!

The mystery of history;
the Who, the How, and Why;
the mistakes they made so long ago,
are enough to make you cry.....

Photo by Wm. S. Williams
PFC August 1918
Hindenburg Line - St. Quentin

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Poetic Progression

This started as an exercise in taking something I wrote at 8 years old. Apparently I also rewrote it when I was 14. So, I wanted to see how I would express the same sentiment now, 50 years later. It seems that I ramble a bit more than I did when I was 8, but I suppose that's not necessarily a bad thing....?

The sky is blue
This is I see
I love you
And you love me.

Later on, at 14, it came out like this;

In the sky of royal blue
A love so true I see..
Shall I join her in that hue,
Or bring her love down to me?

Friday, September 7, 2018

Skybox - The Chrysler Building and Mary Bourke White

Until today I had never really seen this photo. I'd looked at it. But I'd never really "seen" it. Here's why.....

First off is that I had never noticed the snow. Look at the ledges and rooftops below. They are coated lightly with snow. Not very important in terms of the photo itself, but very interesting to know in order to "place" yourself with the photographer and, in as much as possible, feel what she felt while taking the photo. In this case, in spite of a lack of wind being evident, at the 61st floor she would have felt very cold.

The second thing which caught me by surprise is that she is not kneeling at all. She is standing in a little pit, somewhat akin to the "apple box" on stages where cue cards were once used. There is another name for it, but it escapes me at the moment. I had always read the captions which invariably stated she is kneeling. And, at first glance, it does look that way.

But, armed with modern technology; as we all seem to be; when you blow the photo up a bit you notice the pit and see that her right leg is bent, indicating she is standing on something, with her left half clearly below the surface of the eagle.

So, now I needed to know if there was, or still is, a tunnel leading from the inside of the roofs parapet to the opening on top of the eagle. Apparently though, some questions are destined to remain unanswered.

I called the management company in Dallas; 90 per cent of the property is owned by Abu Dhabi; and they connected me with the property in New York. Tishman-Specter owns the other 10 per cent and is the active manager of the property at 405 Lexington Avenue.

Not only did the building employee I spoke with at the Chrysler Building have no knowledge of the photo, she couldn't have cared less about even trying to understand my question. Contrasted with the employee in Dallas, who had likewise never seen the photo, but bought it up on her computer to gain a better understanding of the topic at hand, the employee in N.Y. was alternately uninterested and even a bit hostile!

Finally I got connected to Maintenance. When I was a  Estimator I always looked for the lowest employee in the Maintenance Dept. Many times they have been there the longest and have a reverence for the history of the building where they spend about 1/3 of their lives. Unfortunately, in this case, that was not the case.

In addition to the lack of any knowledge about the subject in Maintenance, security also prohibits them from discussing any structural aspects of the building. So  that was that.

But I did learn lots about the building's history. How it went from about 28 stories to its final height -  briefly eclipsing the Woolworth Building as the tallest in the world.  it

It was a short reign, as the Empire State Building opened shortly after, within about a year.

One of the things I learned was that the building never had any real connection to the auto company. It did rent a showroom on the ground floor, but basically Mr. Chrysler built the thing so that his kids would have "something to be responsible for." There was also once a Cloud Club up by the Observation  floor and some hidden apartments for the executives.

Margaret Bourke-White actually lived on the 61st floor; where she took the iconic photo in 1934. Her employer, Time  Inc. had to co-sign for her as the policy at that time was not to rent to a woman. They charged her $387.92 a month in rent. She was also prohibited from using the terrace, as women might be prone to "emotional distress". It was a rule she never observed, nor was it ever enforced against her.

When the building first opened in 1931 you could go up to the 71st floor Observatory for 50 cents and see almost 100 miles in any direction. That was actually at the base of the spire. I understand you can still  tour the building, but not to the extent which was once possible.

So, though my initial question about the "box seat" in the eagle remains unanswered, I had a real good time.....

Monday, September 3, 2018


How deep is the ocean
from the top to the bottom?
From where the water is fresher
to where things are forgotten?
Where old ships and sailors
lie in cold sand - never rottng...
How deep is the ocean
from the top to the bottom?

How high is the sky
until you finally reach heaven?
Is it five miles or more-
is it further than seven?
How long to get there -
I go to sleep at eleven.
How high is the sky
until you finally reach heaven?

Friday, August 24, 2018


Every photo that you post takes me somewhere,
to the places which I no longer go.
That is why I so often come here,
and  thought I'd write this down to let you know.

A picture's worth a thousand words,
but words have their merit, too.
And though subject to interpretation,
I like to think that all I see and read is true.

Everyday is like another journey,
I never know what we'll say and do.
And though I can never really be there,
it's nice that I can tag along with you.....

Thursday, August 23, 2018

What I Did On My Summer Vacation - 1965

This is the story of a summer adventure I had at the age of 10 and a half years old.  It has nothing to do with rowboats.  I was on the roof of 1310 Avenue R., in Brooklyn, New York, where my family lived in an apartment on the 2nd floor.

It was not unusual to go up and sit on the roof; or “tar beach”, as it was known back then; to get some sun without going actually going to the beach, which was less than 1 mile from our apartment. But there was something about the roof that drew me. Maybe it was the privacy, or the smell of the roof itself, with its tar seams emanating that special odor familiar to all who have lived in large apartment buildings.

The radio reception, 7 stories above ground, was excellent; as was the view. You could look North and see the skyline of Manhattan, or Southwest to see Coney Island. It was a fantastic place to be young on a hot summer day; and with the music from my 6 transistor radio; life was complete. And, that’s when I noticed the planes.

We lived about  20 miles from JFK airport in Queens. As I lay there I noticed; seemingly for the first time; that all the planes were headed towards one place to the Southeast of us. And that place was JFK. This caused my 10 and a half year old brain light up like one of those idea bulbs in the cartoons! So, with the Beatles singing "Ticket To Ride" playing on my radio, I knew what my mission was. I would ride my bicycle to the airport.

My bicycle, at that time, was an old single speed, foot braked Huffy with balloon tires. Not the best conveyance for the journey I was about to undertake;  but as the sailor said, “Any port in a storm.” And so, with that bit of reasoning in my head I gathered up my things, radio included, and headed down to the first floor where my bicycle was stored in what was called the “carriage room.” The carriage room was a place where the building’s residents stored their baby buggies, bicycles, and just about anything else that you didn’t want to lug up and down to your apartment.

Unchaining my bicycle I wheeled it out into the bright sunlit day, hopped aboard, and pedaled South down East 14th Street towards Sheepshead Bay. From there I knew that I could access the Belt Parkway and head towards the airport. When I got to the Parkway I realized, seemingly for the first time, that I would have to ride on the thin shoulder of the Parkway to accomplish my goal. It seemed a bit risky, with cars flying past me at 60 miles an hour; several even honked; but I was determined.

More than that; I was committed; as only a10 and a half year old can be, to ride that bike to the airport. It would be a major component of my summer vacation. This would be the subject for the ubiquitous “What I Did with My Summer” composition required of all students each year when school resumed in September. In short;  I was on a mission.

Getting to the Parkway was easy enough; I knew the streets of my neighborhood like the back of my hand. It was only when I had ridden a few miles on the Parkway that I began to realize the journey which lay ahead  of me was not going to be as easy as I thought. There were actually parts of the road which had no shoulder at all;  and I found myself dangerously squeezed between the high speed traffic and a chain link fence! At other points I was forced to ride my bike in the grassy, and also sandy, strips which ran alongside of the highway. This was hard going on a bicycle with balloon tires and no gears. But I pushed on.

By the time I got to Plum Beach; where my family used to go for cookouts in the summer; I knew I was going to make it. And, within about 45 more minutes I was there! The planes were coming in low and loud as I arrived. The noise was deafening, but my pulse was pounding with excitement at what I had accomplished. In my mind, not even Marco Polo had ever faced the challenges which I had overcome on my journey, and I wanted to share that joy.

So, I called home, using the  dime which my parents always insisted my brother and I carry in case of emergency. It was taped to the back of one of my Dad’s business cards and only to be removed for that one important phone call; presumably to be made only if I had been kidnapped or killed.

But this was big; and I mean big! I had traveled almost 20 miles on a balloon tired, one speed Huffy, with only a transistor radio for company, and no money, except for that dime. I could have bought a soda, or a candy bar. But I didn’t. I called home to share my accomplishment with my folks. As they were both home, I assume this was on a weekend.

I dialed our home number with the greatest of expectations. Surely my journey would be lauded as the greatest achievement since Columbus had discovered America. My Mom answered the phone, and unable to contain myself I blurted out, “Guess where I am?” Mom didn’t want to play this game, instead insisting that I tell her where I was,  and what all that noise was. I told her, with great pride, that I was at the airport, and moreover, that I had made the journey by bicycle on the Belt Parkway.

I think she shrieked. At any rate, the next voice I heard was that of my father. He was furious with me, taking me to task for going further than I was allowed to go on my bicycle. He then proceeded to dress me down as being the most stupid human being alive for taking such a dangerous journey, fraught, as it was with peril. It was "a miracle that I had not been killed" making the journey.

I was then instructed to "get back on my bicycle and come home immediately." And to make matters worse, I now owed my parents the dime, which I had misused by calling them for a non-emergency. That dime would be taken out of my next week's allowance and replaced. It was years before I realized the idiocy of their reaction.  But, I’m still real proud of that bike ride.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Einstein and Spinoza

Note: This is a repost from 2011.

Einstein's religious beliefs were a direct result of his love of Spinoza'a ethics in dealing with the dual questions concerning God and Free Will. Baruch Spinoza, like Einstein, was Jewish.

He was a philosopher in 17th Century Amsterdam, where he was ex-communicated for his belief in Causal Determinism. (I did not know that the Jewish faith did ex-communications, having only heard previously of the practice in conjunction with the Catholic Church.)

Causal Determinism is the belief that the existence of a superior being reveals itself in the harmony of nature and the natural order of all things. Einstein was interested in Spinoza as a way of reconciling science with his own religious beliefs.

I think that Einstein would be in agreement with the words of the late Pope John Paul II when he said, "Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes."

I think he would have accepted that. I know that I do. It assumes the worst of both religion and science, while at the same time recognizing the strengths that each of the two bring to the human condition. In other words, it is a position of moderation.

In November of 1920, Einstein traveled to Spinoza's home in Leiden, Amsterdam for a visit. He even signed the guest book. The signature beneath his is that of Harm Kamerlingh Onnes, the nephew of the famed physicist, who accompanied him on the trip to Leiden.

The visit so moved Einstein that he later wrote a poem about Spinoza, titled, "On Spinoza's Ethics." I have reprinted the poem here, first in German, and then followed by the English translation. I have credited both translations to their sources at the end of each translation.

The two lines in italics are ones which Einstein wrote and then put a line through, replacing them with the lines immediately following. I have included them here simply because anything Einstein thought, or wrote, must be important in some way, even if I do not fully understand it.

The Latin phrase in the third line of the second verse translates as "For God's sake." Einstein uses the phrase here to call out Spinoza's aversion to faith alone, noting that the philosophy of amor dei "leaves him cold."

Zu Spinozas Ethik

Wie lieb ich diesen edlen Mann
Mehr als ich mit Worten sagen kann.
Doch fürcht' ich, dass er bleibt allein
Mit seinem strahlenen Heiligenschein.

So einen armen kleinen Wicht
Den führst du zu der Freiheit nicht
Der amor dei lässt ihn kalt
Das Leben zieht ihn mit Gewalt

Die Höhe bringt ihm nichts als Frost
Vernunft ist für ihn schale Kost
Besitz und Weib und Ehr' und Haus
Das füllt ihn von oben bis unten aus

Du musst schon gütig mir verzeih'n
Wenn hier mir fällt Münchhausen ein
Dem als Einzigem das Kunststück gedieh'n
Sich am eigenem Zopf aus dem Sumpf zu zieh'n

Du denkst sein Beispiel zeiget uns eben
Was diese Lehre dem Menschen kann geben
Mein lieber Sohn, was fällt dir ein?
Zur Nachtigall muss man geboren sein
Vertraue nicht dem tröstlichen Schein:
Zum Erhabenen muss man geboren sein.

Written circa 1920.
Transcribed from ms. facsimile, Albert Einstein Archive, 31-018

On Spinoza's Ethics

How I love this noble man
More than I can say with words.
Still, I fear he remains alone
With his shining halo.

Such a poor small lad
Whom you'll not lead to freedom
The amor dei leaves him cold
Mightily does this life attract him

Loftiness offers him nothing but frost
Reason for him is poor fare
Property and wife and honor and house
That fills him from top to bottom

You'll kindly forgive me
If Münchhausen here comes to mind
Who alone mastered the trick
Of pulling himself out of a swamp by his own pigtail

You think his example would show us
What this doctrine can give humankind
My dear son, what ever were you thinking?
One must be born a nightingale
Trust not the comforting façade
One must be born sublime

©2007-2008 English translation by Jonathan Ely

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Happy Birthday Uncle "I"

Today, Irving Henkin, my great Uncle, would be 123 years old. But he took the place of 2 absent grandfathers, so I credit him with 2 lifetimes. I have never been to his grave, and though I light the Yahrzeit for him each year, to me it's more akin to a birthday candle. In my heart he's never really passed and I speak with him often.  Here is a bit about him from something i wrote in 2009.

Issac was later known as Irving - due to the tall tales he told we sometimes called him Uncle “Lie”- but he was always Uncle “I” as far as I was concerned. 

He was born, alternately, depending upon whom you asked, in Vineland New Jersey, Philadelphia, or New York City. Everyone agrees that it was on Aug 15th- but the year varies- 1893, 1895 or 1898 - take your pick. He was old enough to collect Social Security when I was 5 but worked until a year before he died in 1975. And he was too young to serve in World War I- registering in August of 1918, just 3 months before the Armistice. He probably was trying to avoid detection as an illegal for fear of being sent back to the "old" country. His father had crossed the ocean to escape Europe and Irving had no desire to retrace “Pops” steps – he didn’t want to go back - as a deportee or a soldier. 

He apparently worked for the American Railway Express Co and later went into the Garment Industry as a buyer of furs. He used to bring me samples and to this day I can tell real from fake chinchilla, mink, sable, rabbit and even lamb. We had raccoon tails by the armload and attached them to the handlebars of our bikes and the backs of our hats, and even flew one from the antenna of the old Plymouth. 

When I was younger, he would take me, and later, when I was older, I would meet him at the furriers where he worked on 7th Ave in the Garment District. The cutters, the tailors and sewing operators all treated me royally and I was fascinated by this aspect of my Uncles life. 

Although he was already 60 when I was born, for 20 years he took me every Sunday to the beach in the summer, movies in the winter, and ice cream sodas and walks on Friday nights. He always regaled me with the stories of all the people he had met in his business as a furrier and how everyone knew him all over the city. 

The Friday night walks were the most special times I spent with Uncle “I”. In spite of his age he never failed to make that 1 hour trip each way to watch the news, eat dinner and "talk" a walk with me. By "talk" a walk- I mean that we would talk and walk. We would go to the candy store on Kings Hwy and 15th Street and he would buy me an ice cream soda and afterwards give me a Standing Liberty or Benjamin Franklin half dollar. And when "magic time" was done I would walk him around the corner to the Quentin Road entrance of the BMT for his 1 hour train ride back to Manhattan. They said he had no where to go, but I know better- he came to see me. 

He took me to baseball games at the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium, to the circus at the Old Madison Square Garden, and to Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas Show. He was Jewish to the core, but the blue lit Nativity scene, complete with real Camels on stage - made him weep from the majesty of it. He knew every doorman, every usher, and every cabbie. We would go to the Stage Delicatessen on 7th Avenue and he knew all the comedians, actors and characters there, including the owner, Max. 

We would miss parts of first acts trying to get to our seats as he stopped to acknowledge greeting after greeting, mostly from the people that worked in the places we visited, but sometimes people in the audience would call out to him, as if they desired his recognition, as well as to just say hello. He was a shy and gentle man, yet he seemed well liked and commanded some degree of affection and respect wherever we went. 

He would go to Las Vegas every year to feed the slots and bring home the old solid silver Morgan Dollars from the 1880’s and the Peace Dollars from the early 1930’s. He never won, but he’d save those last 2 dollars for my brother and I. 

Occasionally, he would stay over, especially if a game had gone into extra innings or overtime, depending on the season. He would sleep in my bed and I would take a folding cot in between my bed and my brothers. I would cover it with blankets and sheets and get underneath, pretending that this was my submarine. When I emerged I was always confronted by the sight of his teeth in a glass on my desk. 

I still recall how, at least once every summer at Rockaway Beach, he would duck into a bar for a beer to catch the game and a peek at the baseball score. He didn’t smoke or drink but he would order a beer and bum a cigarette. He’d smoke it without inhaling, enjoying a moment of male camaraderie. It always seemed so mysterious to me, this bachelor world he lived in- hotels and restaurants. It was glamorous on the one hand, and lonely on the other. 

If I characterize this part of Irving’s’ life as mysterious, it is probably because I never once went up to his hotel room. I suppose he considered it improper or ill advised to take a child up to his room with him. But he gave the most important gift of all to me. His time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Inspiration by Trinity

Green on blue or
blue on green?
Is what you drew
what I am seeing?

Curves and lines
are clues to find
what might be happening
in your mind.

Where I see water
you see sand-
Where i see ocean
you see land.

I'm not right and
you're not wrong,
It's different words
but just one song.....

My granddaughter, Trinity, did the painting and I wondered what made her see what she saw. And this is what I saw. There's a lesson here....

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

"We Without You" - (Couldn't Be )


I know you've thought of walking away
I've thought of walking too.
But what would we gain if we both walked away?
You all alone and
Me without you?

So, what do you say we just
Cut it in half?
Split all the bad stuff in two?

I could never take it
if you walked away
there couldn't be a "we" without you...

Just take a bit of time and
figure it out.
You'll figure it just as I do.

I could never make it,
I could only fake it.
There couldn't be a "we" without you.

There wouldn't be a "we" without you...

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Kids and Trees

If you look closely that is not a picture of two apple trees. But with their brown trunks and green branches laden with fruit, they could be.

This was a goodbye gift from our "cross the street" neighbors, Thomas and Kerri McLeod and their 2 sons, Hudson and Owen. I posted the other day about cat sitting their wildcat, Bauer, while they are in the process of moving. Anyway, back to this painting.

Ok, it's not a picture of two apple trees, but it is kind of a picture of Hudson and Owen, and so either way they're both pictures of growth. The trunks are actually their feet, firmly planted; while the branches are their fingers reaching for the sky and bearing fruit as they grow.

It should be noted that a few of those apples are Thomas and Keri's fingerprints. The two red patches between the base of the trees are Bauer's paw prints, completing this unique family potrait, which was immediately hung on the wall where you first enter our house. Cool gift, huh?

Here's a final shot of the whole tribe in front of the now empty home.  Its not really empty you know. No home which has ever been lived in really is. They're all still filled with the memories that lived there....

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Ice Cube

I dropped a big old ice cube
Watched it begin to slide.
I said, "Hold on there Mr. Ice Cube,
there's no place that you can hide."

He said, "No prisons held me yet, sir!"
and he said it so cold and snide.....
that I scooped up that big old ice cube
And in the sink he died.

Now, if there's any lesson
to be gleaned from this account,
I really can't think of one-
Though I've applied a huge amount

of reasoning and cunning,
I used all the guiles at my disposal.
But in the final running
I found no merit in my proposal.

So, it's simply a tale I'll tell late at night,
whilst sitting alone on the shelf.
Don't  criticize me, sir, I've earned the right!
To be talking this way to myself.....

Friday, August 3, 2018

Cat Sitting Bower

Our neighbors, Thomas and Keri, are moving. We've watched their family grow for the past 8 years or so and they'll be taking 2 sons with them that didn't come with the house - Hudson, aged 5, and his brother Owen, aged 3, soon to be 4. Bower, the cat, will also be moving with them.

But, there's about 3 months between closings and Bower will be homeless. So, he'll be living on our porch where Midnight, Baby Cat and Goldie all used to squat.

Bower has a real cool history. He's about 8 and has had shots and all the other things which housecats get to help them live longer than any of my strays could have ever hoped for. And, he's no stranger to the outdoors.

He was born on  a farm and though he knows how to kill, he also knows when to run away, split, scram, be invisible and all the other tricks associated with having 9 lives and making them last!

He's also no stranger to our porch, as he has been coming over daily for about 5 years at this point for treats. He's even walked through our house looking for Goldie after he'd been gone several days and Bower became convinced that Goldie was our secret pet cat and not a real stray at all!

Oh, and did I mention that, like most cats, he's a bit paranoid.

After Goldie passed away I vowed not to care for any more strays. Due to my allergies they need more than I can give them; like a permanent home.

So, this will be like having the best of both worlds for about 3 weeks. Then, just like the rest, he'll move on. The big difference is that this time the story ends well....

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Flavia - A Sketch From the Past

This drawing was done by my friend Flavia in Taromino on Sicily in the early 1980's. She did this on a sketch pad sitting on the wall by the beach. Being a raven haired, dark eyed, young woman, to me she was the epitome of the artist, capturing the light while at the same time capturing my heart.

Flavia was just 17, you know what I mean? I was almost 10 years her senior,  so we weren't lovers or anything like that. We were just two people trying to talk in different languages, never really getting past looking into one another's eyes and the pages of the dictionary. And that was fine with me. Now, Platonic love can either break your heart or inspire a poem, a song, or just a memory. In this case I got lucky - I got the memory.

Her family was very courteous and nice to me, insisting that I eat with them while in port. This was their family vacation, a month which they spent at the beach after slaving away in Palmero all year. I was there for a week on the Mississinewa, an oil tanker of about 30, 000 tons displacement, and was their guest nightly at the hotel they were quartered in. I had become a friend of their daughter and that was reference enough for them.

Neither my lack of Italian, nor the limited English they possessed, kept the conversation from flowing with the wine over dinner. With the aid of the by now venerated dictionary, there was much to talk about. Through that we spoke of politics, the American President, my travels, the fathers work as a banker and Flavia's ambitions to become a successful commercial artist. Mama just smiled and indicated that I should eat more. I would bring some small gifts each night as a token of appreciation for their hospitality.

Flavia had never been to America, or NYC, and did the drawing from her head. She asked me if it was fairly accurate.  I told her it was perfect. And then, as if it were nothing at all she gave it to me.... and I still have it. From her head to my heart.... and I can still feel the warmth of the Sicilian sun and the breeze as we sat on the wall about 40 years ago....

Monday, July 30, 2018


Art is like the wheel; revolving.
As with life; it's all evolving.
Too much trouble, trying to solve
the mysteries that surround me.

And if for a moment, stuck in time,
my views were yours, and your views mine,
would we still search for the signs
of who we were meant to be?

So, continue on and on, we must
repeat mistakes, shake off the dust.
Then get back up, before we rust
as ships sunk in the sea.

With all the things dividing us
It may be hard to focus,
but, try remembering what once was
the world we'd hoped to see....

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Memories Behind Me

I used to work right here.
Or at the plot table in the rear.
It was a feeling held so dear,
which I somehow still recall....

In the recesses of my mind,
there are places where you'll find-
the memories left behind,
are not that far at all...

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Pictures in the Rain

Some painters use oil on canvas,
And then they rise to fame.
But I can't paint to save my ass,
So, I take pictures in the rain.....

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Nature's Daughter

She's still there
When the birds come for water.
Standing tall and proud
I call her Natures Daughter...


She's stood there for some years,
since the day when Sue first bought her.
And though she's never had a name before,
I call her Natures Daughter.

Monday, July 9, 2018

"Waiting" by me

She's waiting
on the pier - there
by the shore.

She's waiting,
like so many
times before.

And when the night falls
she'll hide her pain -

But, tomorrow
she'll be back again
once more.

"What the hell am
I here for?"