Saturday, August 23

Cereal on bananas or Up the Down Staircase

Cereal on bananas or Up the Down Staircase

 Bel Kaufman died on July 25, 2014. She was 103. Born in Germany and raised in the Ukraine she learned English at age 12 and emigrated to the United States. She graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College and earned a master’s degree in English from Columbia University.

The New York City Board of Examiners consistently refused to give her a license to teach because of her Russian accent. She worked for years to overcome this and ultimately got her license. On the side she worked as a writer. In 1965 she published a novel that became a major film and turned her into a celebrity: Up the down Staircase, - “a portrait of a young city school teacher battling a soul-crushing bureaucracy and a blizzard of inane rules.”

Each of us likely has an up-the-down-staircase impulse that surfaces from time to time. Just something that says go against the grain. For me the impulse is to put cereal on bananas
The bananas on cereal rule learned as a child is not embedded in concrete.

Cereal on bananas

A little extra fruit.

Cereal on bananas - Up the Down Staircase

Saturday, July 26

Equal Opportunity, voters and polling

On this day in 1948, July 26, President Harry S Truman
signed Executive Order 9981, desegregating the military of the United States. This bold stroke accomplished two major feats: it opened the door for African-Americans to advance in the military in multiple new ways and it helped President Truman at the polls in November. The desegregation order and later the civil rights platform adopted at the 1948 Democratic convention helped Truman win large majorities among black voters in the populous Northern and Midwestern states and may well have made the difference for Truman in states such as Illinois and Ohio.

This bold stroke was taken by President Truman because he believed desegregation was a moral issue. His chances of winning the 1948 election were considered by practically everyone - except the President himself - to be less than nil.  Many officials in his administration had already lined up new jobs and it is said that even Mrs. Truman doubted her husband would win. So certain were they that the race was over by September, the polling services stopped polling. They would never make that mistake again.

Wednesday, July 16

How to Be an Asshole

The London Review of Books, July 17, 2014 issue, arrived this week with four books given prominence on the front page. “How to Be an Asshole,” reviewed by Sheila Heti, was number four. I doubt anyone could turn himself into  body orifice, but, what the heck, I’ve read books on everything else, why not a “how to be” an “ass” (if not an asshole) and aggravate family, loved ones, friends, neighbors and the old man next to you on the public bus going to pick up his unemployment check. I could hardly contain myself long enough to tear off the plastic wrapper and see man’s guide on how to aggravate and torment.

It turned out that “how to be an asshole” was merely an editor’s slug line to capture attention. Ms. Heti reviewed “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., by Adelle Waldman.  (Windmill, 244 pp.) Nathaniel is a struggling writer trying to exist in Brooklyn while waiting for the miracle call from a publisher that something he has written is going to be published and please find an advance check enclosed. He is running one night to a party and encounters a woman he once dated.
“She tells him he is an ‘asshole’ for his behavior after her abortion in the wake of one of their trysts. (He phoned only once in the weeks after the operation, a quick check-up.) He’s annoyed by her accusation, and defensively soothes himself as he walks away: ‘She could have called him,’ he thinks.” This qualifies, surely and unequivocally, as either “ass" or “asshole” attitude and behavior.

The review (by a woman – Ms. Heti) goes on for approximately five and a quarter 14” columns and tells us it is important that a woman (Ms. Waldman) write about a man and his relationship with a woman named Hannah (not the one of the abortion) but who in the end settles on Greer “about whom there are many negative things” but whose story will “sell for six figures.”  Hannah’s won’t: “She lacks charisma, is morally cautious, has an average body.”

Maybe Nathaniel is, after all, capable of being an orifice.

Thursday, July 10

Come to Boston

Joan Baez's rendition of "Please Come to Boston" (a major hit by Kenny Loggins back in the seventies)  has always been one of my favorites and I took her advice recently and went up to Boston. I flew on Jet Blue airlines. This was my first experience with this line and it was a good one. Ticketing, checking my free bag, boarding, departing and arriving on schedule was smooth and efficient. I will use that line again whenever I can. After landing in Boston I went to New Hampshire to visit a sister and do a bit of looking around. Two of my sons and a D-I-L met me and we shopped at the Merrimack 80 Premium Outlet near Nashua.
Two sons and a D-I-L

Two sons and no relation.

View from 9th floor, Hilton Hotel at Logan Airport
Part of service area at Logan.
Rain clouds.Red Sox game delayed. 
Raining on the parade.

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Sunday, June 29

Looking for love

Moving up the Lane

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk looking out the window for the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes team to come down the Lane and give me a check for a million dollars, or $5,000 a week for life, or whatever they have promised me and a few million other gullible fools who open their e-mails. 
Suddenly, a Great Egret was looking in my front window and walking around my yard. I ran to grab my camera and call my wife to see this large, white eloquent bird with a yellow beak before he disappeared. I went into the yard and took several pictures of this beautiful bird in ours and two other adjoining front yards. It was exciting to watch this bird, especially when he stopped to look with love in his eyes at a metal replica of his species standing in the adjoining neighbor’s garden. When he decided there was no future for him with the replica he moved on. 
In a second yard a couple of small grandchildren came out of the house and startled the Great Egret. He took flight across the street and a few seconds later, still airborne about six feet off the ground, he headed for a golf course that wraps around our house.

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Thursday, June 26

A Hundred Years Later

This Saturday, June 28, 2014 is a most significant date in world history: the 100th anniversary of an event leading thirty days later to World War I, also called the Great War, the European war, and many other such titles. 
If we look only at books on the history of World War I which we are likely to read because English is our native language, we have 5,962 books published in the United States and another 1,295 in England to choose from.  (Figures courtesy of
Think about it. An average of 73 books has been published in the English language each year over the last 100 years dealing with World War I. Talk about a growth industry.

It all started on a Saturday in Sarajevo, June 28, 1914, when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie, were assassinated by a young Serb, Gavrilo Princip. He was one of five Serbs and one Bosnian Muslim, all under the age of 20, who set about the assassination that day. The political objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary's south-Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. The assassination led directly to the First World War when Austria-Hungary subsequently issued an ultimatum against Serbia, which was partially rejected. Austria-Hungary then declared war, marking the outbreak of the war on July 28, 1914.
Before long all of Europe was at war with one nation or the other. Sides were chosen based on self-interest, earlier treaties and opportunities perceived. Stalemate eventually set in. It was only when the Unite States threw its hat in the ring and brought its manpower, industrialization, and money to the conflict that the balance shifted and the war to end all wars was ended.
Many historians and scholars hold to the view that World War I led to the Second World War; that issues raised between 1914 and 1918 were never fully put to rest and another war was inevitable.  This debate goes on today and you can pick it up among the 7,257 books available in English on
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Monday, June 23

Life's little pleasures

I am a few ticks north of 80 and continue to have new and pleasurable experiences from time to time. Today is a good example of what I am writing about. I had my first salon pedicure courtesy of my two oldest sons and first daughter who gave me a Father’s Day gift certificate at a local salon.
For about the last 50 years or so I have used shipyard pipe cutters to nibble away at my toe nails to keep from ruining pairs of Gold-Toe socks and be able to get my feet into my shoes. I’ve also gone to a podiatrist a few times, but those trips were usually first for a foot problem/checkup with a quick clip, file and out the door thrown in. 
I don't know why I never had a pedicure before. People have been doing it for over 4,000 years. To me it was something real men did not do: go into a beauty salon. Even to day I do not like having my hair cut in a salon. In South Carolina, you have to be a licensed barber (usually male) to shave a man's neck with cream and a razor. I fear I am digressing or as we say, chasing rabbits. Back to my toe nails. 
As the years went on my toe nails grew hard and thick. I told my family thick toe nails meant massive brain power. My late wife said it was more likely I was thick-headed than smart.  

Pedicurist chair 
At the neighborhood salon today, an efficient lady named Theresa had me sit in a specially designed pedicure chair with an attached granite tub and fiberglass footrest. The tub was a jet whirlpool. Talk about fancy seating. Such chairs, I later learned, cost retail about $3,900. I stuck my feet into the whirlpool filled with warm water and a soap that made it all look like a cauldron of bubbling warm pink grapefruit juice. After a suitable soak she went to work and cut, trimmed, sanded, filed, creamed and massaged my feet. It was truly a pleasurable experience and one I intend to go back for.
Meanwhile, thanks kids. It is a superb gift. 

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