Thursday, March 31, 2005

Old Jack Ketch

Michael Schiavo hired Ronald Cranford, M.D., a neurologist, to examine his estranged wife Terri a few years back, and he kept him on as one of Terri's physicians. Dr. Cranford's testimony led to the judgment that Terri was in a "persistent vegetative state." It is now widely reported that Dr. Cranford has been a long-time "right-to-die" activist, associated with the Hemlock Society (peopled by such folks as Derek Humphry and Jack Kevorkian) and "Choices In Dying" (successor to the Euthanasia Society of America). He calls himself "Dr. Humane Death." This report put me in mind of an excellent article on this "movement" of four years ago, which mentions Dr. Cranford, as well as a verse from the archives on the original "Dr. Death.".
* * * * *

Life is death and death is life:
Hug the children, kiss the wife,
Gather round the kin and friend,
Seal the will and make an end.
Now, for all the world a wretch,
Hand your hat to old Jack Ketch.

Call the guy from Michigan—
Surgeon, healer, handyman,
Gray and speckled, mean and lank—
Bid him bring his CO tank,
(Who in Dearborn would have thought,
What combustion here has wrought.)

Check the settings, fit the cask,
Pull the lever, don the mask,
Breathe the fumes of sweet exhaust;
All the world goes dim and lost.
Now, upon the couch you stretch,
Grasp the hand of old Jack Ketch.
Bulging eyes and ringing ears
(Devils of these hundred years);
Rapid pulse and vertigo
(Adolf, Idi, Uncle Joe...);
Pounding heart and throbbing head
(Hundred million people dead).

Twitching frame and bluish lip;
Close the lids and loose the grip.
All the world is short of breath,
Choking in the age of death:
Now, upon the couch you stretch,
Die in arms of old Jack Ketch.
(Stop the lever, pop the cork,)
(Raise a glass to Doc Kevork.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Truth Is

"Truth is a power, however, only when one requires of it no immediate effect, but has patience and figures on a long wait. Still better, when one does not in general think about its effects but wants to present truth for its own sake, for its holy, divine greatness. . . . As already said, one must have patience. Here months may mean nothing and also years. And one must have no specific aims. Somehow, lack of an agenda is the greatest power. Sometimes, especially in recent years, I had the sense that truth was standing as a reality in the room." -- Romano Guardini, Catholic theologian, writing in 1945, in his twelfth year living under Nazi rule.

In an age of rampant agendas and poison ideologies, this seems worth noting.

(Thanks to Rev. Richard John Neuhaus)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Traffic Report, Monday, March 28, 2005

Your humble Contributor far afield these days in his traditional post-Easter trip. He has now found an ether suitable for posting in a sunny bistro, empty but for his own enigmatic person. Sunny, yes -- but, it has not been so until lately. Let's listen in.

Wendy: Oh, bother! I can't keep my hair in order.

Gail: Do tell! A kerchief is positively useless!

Reighne: Now ladies -- these are just two of the ancient elements -- air and water. How could they possible trouble you?

Wendy: Easy for you to say -- you have only to run a comb across the few strands of your head to set them straight again.

Reighne: My, my! No need to be uncivil. But -- now that you mention it -- the strand's the thing, don't you agree?

Hale: Quite right!

Sandy: What, ho, ladies and gents! Goodness, ladies -- why, the melancholic affectations?

Wendy: Well, if you must know, we are enduring the onslaught the Reighne and Hale.

Reighne: [chuckling] I ask you, Sandy, have you ever known Hale to come down hard on anyone?

Sandy: Perish the thought: no more than Gail so much as stirring a leaf.

Hale: And, hasn't Reighne the sunniest of dispositions?

Sandy: Of course.

Gail: But, it does seem that the labor and time at our coiffures has come to naught by some unknown disturbance, accompanied by ambient moisture. I'm for repairing to the cottage.

Sandy: Well, I should hope not. Surely, the calmness of the parlor becomes tedious even to you. Therefore, tie back your locks or let them go -- at your pleasure -- but, by all means, let's go out and meet Myrtle.

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Bad Habit Is Hard To Break

File this under "Has Been A Nun."

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Like The Sun From Out The Wave

"God paid a ransom to save us from the impossible road to heaven which our fathers tried to take, and the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for us with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God." -- Peter 1:18-19

“They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”

-- G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

In a sense, it is easy to be an "Easter " person. Glory. Joy. Sadness forgotten.

But the joy has no depth, no substance, unless we remember that there is no Easter without Good Friday. Without the misery of Hell, we have no glory of Heaven.

We cannot fool ourselves that life is all Easter Sundays. The Good Fridays will come to us. As a wise priest once said, if you haven't seen Good Friday yet, if you haven't yours yet, don't worry, it will find you. But the glory of Easter, the abiding joy that exists even in the face of suffering and death, is what transcends the Good Fridays of our existence.

Christ's Resurrection is not a metaphor. It is not a myth borne of group hypnosis. And it is not just emotional anaesthetic to help us believe in a loving world of round edges and happy endings. Easter celebrates a historical fact that provides a new and permanent way of seeing the world and making sense of the whole sweep of history and of our own, individual lives.

As Chesterton notes, the Death and Resurrection of Christ ended the old world with brilliant and Satan-crushing finality, and opened the door to a mind-shattering new eternity. Christ, in his Resurrection, brings us to the threshold of hope, to a wondrous new Eden.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Motor Cross

The days of metal long since passed,
And level dashes rounded out
To sloping vinyl frontages,
And cushioned for the crash.

To where the Lord cannot abide,
But there, below and in between,
Beside the coins and polished knobs
And tray collecting ash.

And, there, he hangs in tarnished pain,
The useless magnet at his feet,
Until the driver takes a turn
And spins him to his wreck.

On plastic lays the Savior's head --
The weak adhesive given out --
To where the driver shifts his eyes
And hopes to resurrect.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Post Judgment

GREER: Pontius! Good to see you.

WHITTEMORE: Caiaphas. How are you doing?

GREER: I'm allright. Whew! Wall to wall. Plus, I've had my normal docket. We had to cancel the cruise, and, boy were things frosty at home. But, I think I can we can finally get away for a little bit.

WHITTEMORE: Great. Not around here I hope.

GREER: No. God, no. I have a friend with a villa on St. Croix. The season's slowing down, so it should work out fine.


GREER: Hey, listen, thanks for covering for me on the case.

WHITTEMORE: Hey, it was nothing. Washed my hands of it.

GREER: Well, I still appreciate it. You don't know how hard it was to keep a straight face on the bench for some of this. A "Congressional subpoena" no less. Then, some gal from the Adult Protective Service with a stack of affidavits. God, we were cracking up in chambers. I had my clerk special order a "Denied" stamp.

WHITTEMORE: [chuckles] I'll bet. I heard "de novo" "due process" "right to life" "starvation" "Americans with Disabilities Act", and I was thinking, "yadaydaydayda". I almost told these guys to get on the court calendar for July.

GREER: [chuckles] Hey, by the way, how many people with PVS does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

WHITTEMORE: [chuckles] I think I've heard this one before.

GREER: [chuckles] Hey, are we gonna see you down at the club tomorrow?

WHITTEMORE: Unless something blows up again... sure.

GREER: You know, Herod can play. Let me see if I can find a fourth and we'll hit 18. Say, around 8 or 9?

WHITTEMORE: Sounds good. I haven't played in a month, though, and my game sucks.

GREER: Right -- you're just gonna take my money. This is all I have [pulls out pocket full of coins].

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Paper Cup

Take the cup.
Pull it down between your fingers.
Fill it up.
Draw until it’s spilling over.
Lift it to your parted lips.

Knock it back.
Tip until the rim is swollen.
Crush it flat.
Let it pass into the woven basket.
Know the hour of sleep has come.

And not thy will but mine be done.
Stop the tap.
Stare into the spotted mirror.
Turn the knob.
Peer into the darkened hallway.
See the whorls of knotted oak.

Hit the switch.
Hear the sound of dust and murmur.
Take a step.
Feel the grain of flesh and weakness.
Know the hour has finally come.
And not my will but thine be done.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

They Eat, They Drink

Strange to note that the climax of the long saga of Terri Schiavo seems to be tracking Holy Week -- the days beginning Palm Sunday, through Holy (or Maundy) Thursday, Good Friday, to Easter, which most Christians churches observe (though, the Orthodox church, often, at a different time, because of the way they calculate Easter -- a moveable feast -- on the calendar.)

The "Schiavo Bill", passed by Congress very late on Sunday morning, has already been dubbed the "Palm Sunday Compromise" by those who, in addition to being movers and shakers, are also apparently namers. Great forces are at work, on both sides, over one woman, who, by any estimation, is absolutely helpless before them; mute; without a remedy, herself, in a land overflowing with remedies; with nothing to eat and nothing to drink in a land of plenty.

For Christians marking it, Holy Week is a doleful time. In a sense, as the week progresses, it becomes increasingly foreboding and desparate -- suggestions of treachery and of death coming. There is a revealing, final meal -- then, nothing more is consumed. Instead, comes anguish, betrayal, lack of due process -- if you will -- torture, infamy, and suffering. Through this, the victim is largely, strangely mute and yielding. At the point of death, he says, "I thirst."

Your humble Contributor -- whose spiritual resume reads like a postal employee with a drinking problem, many personal grudges, and a penchant for firearms -- nonetheless holds a little booklet of readings for this week. And, what is remarkable to him is not so much the theme of the Christian scriptures, but that of the Jewish scriptures.

Consider this reading for today, from Psalm 55 (in the feminine gender):
My foes are speaking evil against me.
"How long before she dies and her name be forgotten?"
They come to visit me and speak empty words,
their hearts full of malice, they spread it abroad.

My enemies whisper together against me.
They all weigh up the evil which is on me:
"Some deadly thing has fastened upon her,
She will not rise again from where she lies."
Thus even my friend, in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread, has turned against me.
Or, this reading from Isaiah 21:
A cruel sight, revealed to me: the traitor betrays, the despoiler spoils. My mind reels, shuddering assails me; My yearning for twilight has turned into dread.

They set the table, spread out the rugs; they eat, they drink.
Maybe it means nothing. Maybe Terri Schiavo feels nothing. Maybe her hunger and thirst consume her and break her down in dread, emptiness, and desparation. And, maybe no-one will ever know.

Or, maybe, like the week, it resolves in hope, fullness, and remedy.

Why The Caged Bird Sings

An old priest once told me this story.

One day, a man came across a young boy carrying a banged up birdcage. Inside the cage were two small birds.

“Where’d you get the birds?” the man asked.

“I caught ‘em,” the boy said.

“Really? What are you going to do with them?”

“I don’t know,” said the boy. “Play with 'em, I guess. Shake the cage, dangle a string through the bars, tease ‘em, feed ‘em worms, I don’t know.”

“What are you going to do with them once you get tired of them?” asked the man. “You can’t play with them forever.”

“When I get tired of 'em? I don't know. I guess I’ll feed ‘em to my cat. He likes birds.”

The man asked, “How much do you want for them?”

The boy looked surprised. “What do you want these birds for, Mister? They’re nothing special. They ain’t worth anything.”

“How much do you want?” the man repeated.

The boy was still surprised. “Look, they’re just field birds. They ain't good for nothin'. They can’t sing. You can’t eat ‘em. They ain’t even pretty to look at. You don’t want these birds.”

The man repeated: “How much do you want?”

The boy eyed the man closely, and said, “How much you got, Mister?”

The man looked at the birds for a moment, then took out his wallet and handed the boy all the money in it – he wasn’t sure how much. Then, he bent down to lift the cage as the boy counted his money.

He walked into an alley between two buildings, and set down the cage. He knelt, opened the cage door, and tapped on the bars, hoping the birds would fly away.

Monday, March 21, 2005

School of Miracle Work, Spring Exam

Hereunder has acquired a copy of the spring exam administered to the Mystic University School of Miracle Work graduate students, just before they left for Easter Break. Let's hope they studied for it.

Please address one of the following three situations.

1. A small, insignificant tribe of people known as the Israelites were, until recently, enslaved in Egypt. As a class project, you have visited seven plagues upon their Egyptian masters, until their leader -- we'll call him "Pharaoh" -- is personally afflicted and finally sees this as a divine augur of the Cat god that he should cut his losses and let the miserable tribe go free. You believe your work is done here, and you give the bedraggled Israelites Spock's universal space-time-continuum high sign --"Live long and prosper" -- then, send them on their way.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to consult MapQuest,and the tribe now finds themselves on the wrong side of the Red Sea. Meanwhile, Pharaoh has come to his senses and, boy, is he ticked. He's sent his army, loaded to bear, in hot pursuit of the wandering tribe, with orders to cut down every man, woman, and child among them. The tribe is armed only with a few sticks, a bottle or two of Manischewitz, and some leftover Passover matzo.

Your task is to save the Israelites from the Egyptian army, preferably by parting the Red Sea long enough for this slow-moving bunch to cross to the other side, but not so long that the Sea doesn't fall back upon Pharaoh's army, none of whom can swim, especially in heavy combat gear.

2. The Philistines are lording it over your tribe in a big way -- killing, raping, pillaging, burning -- you name it. Your guys are no match for them. Things look bleak.

Just for kicks, they suggest that you send your best guy against their best guy, and, the side of whoever wins gets to slaughter the other side, plus 50% of the gate. Unfortunately, their best guy -- we'll call him "Goliath" -- is about 100 cubits high and is armed to the teeth. Put it this way -- he would make a tag team of the Hulk and the Rock look like a pair of snivelling pipsqueaks.

Understandably, you have no volunteers -- except a kid who has tagged along with his older brothers. This kid -- who's about seven years of short of lawfully drinking Mogen David -- spends most of his time tending sheep. He says he's handy with a slingshot.

Your task is to help the kid take down Goliath in a single stroke without taking so much as a scratch himself.

3. You work for 535 of the most egotistical, bombastic, and irascible folks known to man. As a general matter, they are moved only by large monetary contributions, fully-funded junkets to tropical places, and photo opportunities. For weeks, this crowd been debating and maneuvering and filibustering a variety of legislative initiatives that concern just short of 300 million people in the most powerful nation on earth. Now, they've gone home --hundreds and thousands miles away -- for a two-week vacation, and, finally, you can breathe easy and get those Easter eggs for your nieces and nephews painted.

Meanwhile, an insignificant, brain-damaged woman in a hospice in Florida is dying because her estranged husband, who has a new family, decided that she should have no more food or fluids. Her parents and siblings want her to live and are willing to care for her and to pay for this care for so long as she lives. They have nothing to gain by this, except the marginal life of their daughter and sister, and they have incurred great cost in trying to save her life. The husband, however, will receive his estranged wife's estate when she dies.

Unfortunately, the parents and siblings have lost almost every hearing and appeal and now have no more options. The woman has not had food or fluids in a couple of days. After three days, she will begin a rapid physical decline. In ten days, she will be dead.

Your task is to bring a sufficient number of the 535 most egotistical, bombastic, and irascible folks known to man back from their vacation, after just two days, late on a Sunday night, to pass a bill intended just for this single, insignificant, brain-damaged woman, to give her family one more chance to save her life.


Note: extra credit will be given for option No. 3, since it is the most difficult task.

Good luck, and enjoy your break.

Car Spree: Part II

Check out the ending in last comment . . .

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Sporting Admonition

As spring breaks o’er the horizon,
our minds are stirred from their winter slumber
to thoughts of re-creation,
In keeping with the gentler clime of this verdant season.

We are called, as it were, by the lengthening of days
to pursue sports of the earth reborn:
Whither the pristine greens and tees of the links,
filled with idle banter, manners, and birdies,
Or the dust and grit of the ballfield,
sparked by the crack of fired hickory and
the pop of horsehide on burnished leather.

And though some argue the former's virtue,
few debate that the latter pursuit is the nobler,
by merit and by nature.
For, while one is not without its traps and hazards,
the other tests the mettle of its players
with each pitch, each hit, and each catch.
And, where the course meanders and slopes
in uneven pars and yards,
The diamond shines in exact symmetry and geometry
of line, angle, and plane.

Still more, it is marked by mystical triads:
three bases, three strikes, three outs;
the earthen and linear trinity of battery and batter interposed;
the latter progressing towards his destiny by three steps—
in the hole, on deck, at bat;
And, all of these bound and animated by perfect squares of three—
nine innings, nine players.

Indeed, we might compare the gallant batter,
who grabs a handful of dirt, spits defiantly, and digs-in at the plate,
facing a fierce-eyed, well-armed pitcher,
who fires a stitched and scuffed missile,
hurtling at break-bone speed, amid the din of an unruly crowd,—
Compare him to the genteel golfer,
who steps lightly from his cart,
brushing lint from his starched slacks,
picks from among his duffled and muffled clubs,
and addresses a passive, dimpled ball,
fretting over some small leaf or twig in its path, all in hushed silence.

Friends, this is the silence of walking sleep,
of soft footfalls and strokes on tidy, luscious lawns,
pocked only by small sods making space for little divots:
A silence broken only by the occasional oath
and the whirring of electric motors along ways fair and wide
and paths paved and easy.
These handicapped hackers are left to lift the pin for the slowly rolling ball
and to shag the sliced drive at dogleg's turn.
Yet, should we, the waking, not walk the line,
beat the throw, stretch the hit, cover the bases,
and, at length, come home?
Should we not barter spikes and banish plaids?
Trade putts for slugs, bags for baggers, and holes for homers?

Awaken, then, the vernal calls you! Arise from your hibernal bed!
Revive the Babe, rouse the Man!
Pull on the stockings, gird the jersey, and don the cap (to doff it hence).
Then seize the bat and swing it mighty.
For, the equinox is upon us, and the day is at hand!
Yonder breaks the bursting sun, burning mists above
the field of battle,
the batting field of mythic feats.
Awaken, friends, awaken from your dreams!
Arise and face the op’ning day!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Feast of St. Joseph

Hard to think of a better name for a guy than Joe.

Think about it. A Joe is a regular guy: nothing fancy, nothing spectacular (apparently). Just a decent, down-to-earth guy. There when you need a hand or a friend. Steady. Welcome. Regular. A Joe's very presence is often healing; his bearing, strong; his skill, athletic; his sense, down-home literary.

Not all Joe's are saints: true, a few have gone bad; but, note that they usually go by their last names, so shameful is their disgrace. No-one's ever heard of a "bad Joe" or an "irregular Joe". This is no coincidence. Most Joes are known, like the original Saint, as patrons and protectors of families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), travellers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers and working people in general. Who's left? Not many.

Sure -- the elite love to demean Joe by giving him the dismissive surname -- Blow, Bloggs, Doakes, and Sixpack. Yeah, well... when was the last time a Distinguished Professor of Eclectic Studies named Theodore stopped to help you change your tire?

Don't get me wrong--there are other wonderful names. But, as wonderful as they are, they all have their flaws. Richard, for example, suggests nobility and courage; but, how does one wear that name nowadays? Well, there's Rick? Calls to mind the illustrious Mr. Springfield. How about Rich? Little there. One's last choice, then, is Dick. 'Nough said.

And, John -- magnificent name. Plain -- maybe too plain. Common -- though, not in same solid, comforting way of Joe. Moreover, John's associations are unseemly.

And, take Harry (please). The very name conveys action and urgency -- like something is about to happen. Unfortunately, it's often a happening we don't relish.

What? Ned? Can someone tell us where "Ned" comes from? It would seem more prudent not to inquire. Ted, you say? Don't get some of us started.

Clive? Well, of course, it suggests a certain wisdom and generosity. But, it doesn't translate well in the States.

Sadly, the troubling associations continue. Rob? That's easy. Bob? Helplessly tossed by the waves. Bill? Something else to pay. Fred? Flinstone comes to mind. Pat? Too soft.

No. When you get right down to it, there's just nothing like a Joe -- just nothing like a good cup of coffee.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Car Buying Spree?

Admittedly, this will be a self-serving sort of post that is counting on the goodwill and the expertise of Hereunder fans (you know who your are!). I'm venturing into the shadowy underworld of buying a car--a minivan. The Dodge Caravan we've had, alas, has been tempermental from the outset--time to trade her in! No regrets.

I'm thinking about going to, one of those no-haggle places. (Admit it, the last place any of us wants to be is across the desk from a car salesman in a Hawaiian print shirt, who will go check with his "hard-nosed boss," just one more time for Joe Consumer, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah . . . ) --yeah, right. Is anybody really there behind the door. And if so, what do they talk about in those tete-a-tetes?)

So, if anybody out there has any sage advice or cautionary tales for this intrepid would-be car buyer (yes, even at trust no car salesman) please post comment soonest!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Feast of St. Patrick

Girl, are ye online?

I am.

Well, now, I couldn't tell -- I saw somethin' like a shamrock pop up, like.

Sure, that's me icon for the day. I put it up there for the Poor Relations in America.

Is that the way?

'Tis. Y'see, they taught it would be great fun to chat, like, on St. Paddy's day. And, sure, they tink Ireland's filled with nothin' but shamrocks.

Do they?

They do. And, a course, the Poor Relations from down the road have gone over just for the week, just to celebrate the Day. They say the Yanks make much more of it over there than here. Sure, one said that he'd seen more leprechauns in one day there than he'd seen in a lifetime in Kerry. And, everywhere ye turn another St. Patrick comes stroling along with his miter and his crozier and so forth. Sure, they said, it's just like Tir na n'Og.


And, here's meself, all alone. Himeself is off with that crowd of his in Dublin. So, God save me, I went down to that new Italian place in town for bit of dinner.

Ah, now, ye're pullin' me leg.

Not at tall, not at tall. Sure, I ate somethin' they call 'ling gweeny', as tasty as you like. Den, the proprietor comes over an' says, "Do ye know that St. Patrick was Italian?" An', I says, "What on earth are ye talkin' about?"

He says, "Sure, he came straight over on a boat from Rome. They say the Pope himself sent 'im an' told 'im to go over and straighten out those wild Irish. An' he said, 'Not on your life, Holy Father -- sure, if Caesar himself couldn't bring dem to heel, your humble servant's not likely ta succeed -- sure, even your own holy person would have great trouble with that lot. Sorry, Father, I'm not your man.' But, in the end, off he went.'"

Sure, that can't be right.

Well, tink about it for just half a moment an', sure, y'know it must be false. For, if it were true, den me own boy Sean would be call "lueegee" or somethin'. Sure, we be eating pasta instead of praties. We'd all have our skin burnt, like, in what they call a "tan". An', a course, there wouldn't be a drop of tea to be found over all of Ireland.

Not at tall.

So, I set him right on that.

Good girl. Now, what's that music, like, I hear playin?

Oh, that just Himself with his playboys on the pipes -- streamin' in from Dublin. Sure, I wish he'd put as much energy into keeping the place in good repair.

But, sure, he's a fine, musical man.

That he is.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

And Not A Drop to Drink

Terri Schiavo is a 41-year old woman who is brain damaged and who some doctors say is "in a persistent vegetative state." For this reason, her husband has decided to remove the tube that gives her food and water.

Terri's parents went to court to try to stop her husband. Florida's legislature has passed laws to stop her being starved and dehydrated to death. At each turn, the state courts in Florida ultimately have denied efforts to keep her alive. Today, a judge in Florida again ruled that the tube keeping Terri alive should be removed.

It appears that, unless the U.S. Congress can act in the next three days, before they leave town for Easter recess, Terri will surely die. She is quite unlikely to survive until Congress returns from its break.

Terri's parents do not seek "extraordinary" means to keep her alive. They simply want her to get food and water. They also believe that physical therapy will help her eventually to swallow on her own. Other doctors believe that, with help, Terri might recover.

Terri's husband, who has been living with his girlfriend long enough to have two children by her, claims that he loves Terri and that Terri told him she did not want to be kept alive, even by routine feeding and hydrating methods. He has no evidence of this -- no living will, no documents, no notes, no witnesses, no nothing.

There are other elements of this case that raise questions. According to Wesley J. Smith, a lawyer who has researched this case exhaustively:

* Terri's husband told a jury in Terri's 1992 malpractice trial that Terri would live a normal life span. Get it? The long her life expectancy, the bigger the jury award.

* Once Terri won a $1.3 million verdict, Terri's husband paid off his hired gun and also put 300 grand in his own pocket, but he never began rehabilitation for Terri. In fact, the evidence is that, at first, Terri's husband tried to save the $750,000 initially put aside into Terri's treatment fund. He immediately put a "Do Not Resusitate" card on his wife's chart -- the better to kill her with. He would not even permit Terri to be given antibiotics to fight infections. In fact, in the five years between 1993 and 1998, he spent only $50,000 on her.

* Once Terri's parents began to put up a fight, Terri's husband spent most of the $750,000 allegedly put away for Terri's treatment has been spent on lawyers to lead the charge to expedite Terri's demise. About $450,000 of the "Terri Fund" has been paid to Terri's husband's lawyers. Another $200,000 went to expenses not intended to ensure Terri's continuing survival. But still her parents fight to keep her alive. So much for the argument that Terri's parents sought custody to "get the money" for themselves. There is no money. In fact, her father has depleted his own retirement fund trying to keep her alive.

So it comes down to Congress. Democrats in Congress, with a couple of exceptions, and even many Republicans, will not sound even a dry cough to ensure that Terri gets help. More-sanctimonious-than-thou Robert Byrd, easily one of the crassest politicians in Washington, but someone who, at least, would kick a bottle of Poland Spring with the toe of his shiny Bruno Maglis to a drunken, cotton-mouthed bum sprawled on the sidewalk, cannot raise the energy to support legislation that might keep Terri alive. And so, very soon, without a hoarse whisper from the most powerful legislative bodies in the world, Terri will probably die.

It's enough to drive you to drink.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Giving It Up

This is a season of sacrifice, and your humble Contributor has joined, with his usual fervor, in this penitential period.

From his Spartan practices in years past, many expect he has been surviving these last five weeks on little more than a few crumbs of stale bread and a few sips of lukewarm water each day -- all with a seemingly happy demeanor. It is true that a fast of this severity would be typical and even welcome in these quarters. But, this year-- after some soul-searching -- your humble Contributor decided to take it up a notch.

No, not self-flagellation -- except in a figurative sense -- for like most penances, the underlying thing is left standing -- chastened, to be sure, and sorely tried -- but still intact. No, he sought a more draconian denial -- one that would shake and, perhaps, bring down the very foundation of the unholy edifice itself. Therefore, he resolved to give up all artifice, all falsity, all bullying, skullduggery, and underhandedness; every from of deceit, conceit, contumely, calumny, chicanery, perjury, and treachery -- that is to say, every tool or trait of a person successfully engaged in the law.

It were as if a great painter had cast aside his brushes and palette, and abandoned his art to a digital and monochromatic sparsity -- relying only upon his fingers and one small jar each of black and white pigment. Banished would be the lovely landscapes, fairly bursting with color and intensity -- the gracefully sloping hill; the majestic, cascading cedar; the sparkling and fluid stream; the bright and varied sky -- indeed, the artful advocates' very depiction of squalor and degradation. Replaced with, at best, a scale of gray.

Now, since that ashen Wednesday, clients have flown south to escape the chilling effect, billable hours rest in the single digits (on one hand), hourly rates have plummeted to the value of the kina. He might have at least collected the two dollars for a notarization had he not asked for proof of identity. Face it: the easy wink and nod have given way to a steady-eyed, tic-less countenance.

But, the end is in sight. Come Easter Monday, your humble Contributor sees himself restored inside the hallowed well of the court and holding forth thusly:

"Your Honor, nothing could be further from the truth! My client has been grossly maligned, by this, this -- just a moment, your Honor, I have take this call... No. No. Tell him that the offer is an insult and an outrage. Tell him we're taking this one to the mat. And, tell the client to wire another 50k."

Monday, March 14, 2005

This Stands In Place Of A Post

This nearly empty space stands in place of a post one of our esteemed other Contributors might have made, had he made one.

Their very silence is a testament. For, words could not express the words they might have employed. And, oh!, what they might have said! Each syllable would have dripped liked honey -- though, actually, that simile wouldn't apply here, since they would not have been speaking, or even writing in the traditional sense -- but, in any case, they would have been as sweet as some nectar or other.

Gentle visitors, close your collective eyes and imagine what might have been. Yes. Do you see it? The telling phrase... The beautiful yet abject adjective... The proverbial adverb... The enticingly dangling participle... The giggling gerund... The catastrophic apostrophe... The slender, elegant hyphen... The slap dash... The hilariously misplaced semi-colon... And, of course, the sublime and ultimate question mark?

All of this and more or less -- what might have been.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Party At The Poor Relations

Party at the poor relations last night.

Is that so?

Sha. Sure, they're in a sad, awful set of circumstances now. Come down a few notches from their days in the capital. They've settled in a state named for the Blessed Mother herself; but, sure, the land is more desparate barren and tyrannical, like, than ever.


'Tis true. God forgive me, but I says, Not much good the Blessed Mother's name has done for those over there. Himself says "Sure, it's no different than purgatory." And, sure, I says to Himself, After seein' the lot of those poor relations, I'm done complainin' about our own situation. Den, he says, "As well you should be done complainin'." Well, I had to crack his pole for that one. Still, 'tis true.

Ah, but, y'know, they're still great ones for trowing a party.

Is that the crowd from the Hill?

'Tis. Sure, most of them -- the regulars, y'know -- were there. The place was packed like cows in a pen before milkin'. A great throng it was, from the babies to the old ones, with plenty in between. An' half of them in parlor singing the old songs. Himself was singing the loudest, though he's a voice like a crow.

An' one of the Hill boys was on the piano. He'd play only so long as they had some porter in front of 'im. But, no sooner was the glass empty than the music'd stop. Then, they'd send someone, quick as you like, to fill the glass again, and he was back into "The Rose of Tralee."


Well, an' they say he plays for those country singers in Tennessee, if y'like, at what they call the Ol' Opry. Y'know, the ones who yodel enough to set your hair standin' on end. By God, what those Yanks do to perfectly good reels and airs.

An' how about that other one -- the man with the tail of a pony.

Oh, sure, he wouldn't miss it for the life of 'im. Sure, we met him coming with great armloads of porter, an' whiskey and ale to boot. His own wee ones joining in the load.

Is that the way?

'Tis. An' don't let those gray hairs fool you: he's every bit the trouble he was as a lad. Sure, they all have gray hairs now, but they still have the look of hooligans just after or just before doing some mischief.

Well, did you close out the party?

Oh, no, not at tall. Faith, I can't keep up with 'em. An' not a drop of tea to be found. Nothing but somethin' they called "ice tea".

God spare us!

Sha, it's a strange a thing as you've ever seen -- tea as cold as a bitter chill -- not fit for drinkin' at tall, at tall.

But, I'm sure they were up half the night, singin' and carousin' and wakin' the dead. Tree or four in mornin', I'd say, before they chased out the last of them, den tried to clean up the great mess of bottles before the garda came 'round.

An', sure, Himself was in no position to drive -- half-punched with the poteen, with the car seat full back, singin', full-troated like, "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" -- an' meself behind the wheel the whole time.

Ah, but, he's a fine, lovely man.

That he is.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Putting Words In Your Mouth

Lyrical ideas have dominated my thoughts for a long time.

Or perhaps I should say that ideas about lyrics have dominated my thoughts for a long time.

Popular music is a compelling expression of many things, among them, emotion, culture, and wit. The best music marries the music itself with lyrics of beauty, strength, cleverness, or humor. I hope to look at these types of lyrics in the future.

But for today, I am interested in bad lyrics. But not just bad lyrics -- rotten lyrics. The worst lyrics you can possibly imagine. Not just nonsense lyrics of the Maresy Doats variety. Like them or not, songs like that are almost tolerable since they do not presume to take themselves seriously. The really horrible songs, however, employ lyrics that combine self-satisfying gravity and importance with ridiculous sentiment and just plain awful word choice.

I hope to roll out a few of the best, by which I mean the worst, songs I have come across in my many decades of musical enjoyment, and I hope you will join in with your own.

My first nominee is “Jesse’s Girl,” written in 1981 by rock “star” and sometime soap opera “actor” Rick Springfield. The lyrics to this song are so bad, they will make you laugh. When you are not laughing, you likely will be retching. Take a look.

Jesse's Girl

Jesse is a friend
Yeah, I know he’s been a good friend of mine
But lately something’s changed that ain’t hard to define
Jesse’s got himself a girl and I wanna make her mine

And she’s watchin’ him with those eyes
And she’s lovin’ him with that body, I just know it
And he’s holding her in his arms late, late at night
You know I wish that I had Jesse’s girl
I wish that I had Jesse’s girl
Where can I find a woman like that

I play along with the charade
That doesn’t seem to be a reason to change
You know I feel so dirty when they start talkin’ cute
I wanna tell her that I love her, but the point is probably moot
Cos she’s watchin’ him with those eyes
And she’s lovin’ him with that body, I just know it
And he’s holding her in his arms late, late at night

You know I wish that I had Jesse’s girl
I wish that I had Jesse’s girl
Where can I find a woman like that
Like Jesse’s girl
I wish that I had Jesse’s girl
Where can I find a woman
Where can I find a woman like that

And I’m lookin’ in the mirror all the time
Wonderin’ what she don’t see in me
And I’ve been funny, I’ve been cool with the lines
Ain’t that the way love supposed to be
Tell me
Where can I find a woman like that

You know I wish that I had Jesse’s girl
I wish that I had Jesse’s girl
I want Jesse’s girl
Where can I find a woman like that
Like Jesse’s girl
I wish that I had Jesse’s girl
I want, I want Jesse’s girl

Copyright © 1981 Rick Springfield, RCA Records

First off, I include the copyright only out of sense of propriety, since it is beyond comprehension that anyone would steal these lyrics or falsely claim their ownership.

I also note that Mr. Springfield’s search for a woman like Jesse’s is very likely to be made more difficult by a past that includes having written lyrics like these. And while he tells us that he’s “been funny” and “cool with the lines” with Jesse’s unnamed girl, I have a feeling that a guy with a gift such as his for turning a phrase is more likely to have been Strange-funny than funny of the “haha,” charm-the-clogs-off-my-best-friend’s-girl sort. I have no difficulty in believing that Mr. Springfield spends lots of time looking in the mirror; unfortunately, whatever else Jesse’s girl does not see in him, she does not see a poet.

Not to put too fine a point on it, these lines -- “You know I feel so dirty when they start talkin’ cute, I wanna tell her that I love her, but the point is probably moot” -- are probably the worst and stupidest couplet in the history of the English language. These lines manage to be simultaneously illogical, silly, offensive, and voyeuristic. I will put those 25 words up against any other 25 words in the history musical lyrics as a measure of sheer idiocy.

As Yeats could have told Mr. Springfield, “Hearts are not had as a gift. But hearts are earned.” Unfortunately, I have a feeling that these two poets run in different circles.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Danny Boy

Today is the anniversary of Danny's birthday. He would have been standing in front of the candled cake, seventeen years old. Instead, his buddies came by the house to see his parents and his brother and sisters -- a wonderful family. Nothing better than friends who won't forget you.
Your humble Contributor hasn't forgotten Danny -- we watched our nephew grow from birth to the brink of manhood. We remember him, and our thoughts from the Fall of '03 when he suddenly left us.

Dan's friends wrote some interesting things about him on the poster board at his wake. Here are a few.

"Keep it Poppin'"

Dan made things happen. It seems like, not long after he started walking, he was driving around the front yard in a mini-ATV -- he couldn't have been three yet. Any motorized thing that moved. Anything that could be dismantled. A tape recorder. What have you.
He was technically gifted -- the kind of guy you would hire to test your security-- bang on it until he broke in. Yes, he hacked the school computer system; but, he lived beyond -- one step ahead. It was almost as if he had to squeeze in a lot in a short time.
"Always Had Something Up His Sleeve"
Dan was the chief of good-natured mischief.
During his last summer, down at the lake, he had my wife, his aunt, flustered as the pontoon boat putted along then sputtered and stalled, then started, then putted, then sputtered, then stalled -- himself in the back, pinching and unpinching the fuel line. Or, his infamous remote-watch: TV's flickering on and off as if visited by a ghost. Not to mention the apocryphal stories on his pranks involving other modern machinery.
Dan reminded us that what we thought was orderly and controlled maybe was not -- a student of chaos.
"The Best Smile"
Dan had two smiles: one that was wide, unlimited, joyful; one that was a little ironic -- like he had something up his sleeve (which he did) or maybe had things figured. Not much slipped his attention. In my occasional, disguised phone calls, I knew that fooling Dan was the acid test. I don't think I ever fooled him.
"The Nicest Kid I Know"
This was Dan's secret nature -- he certainly didn't call attention to it; but, everyone experienced it. I recall especially how good and generous he was to his cousins -- they looked up to him figuratively and literally.
"You Raised A Wonderful Son"
This is hard for parents of a son fifteen going on twenty-one to see. But, it was evident to many others.
"I Wish I Could Have Told You..."
The shortest verse in the gospels may be the most telling. Lazarus died. Jesus couldn't make it in time. When he did arrive, he came to Lazarus' tomb, and he was greatly troubled. "He wept." And, the people said, "See how much he loved him."
It's so apparent that Dan was loved; but, none of us could make it before Dan died. Each of us would want to say something to him: to remind him of something; to encourage him; to apologize for some real or perceived wrong; to thank him; to forgive him; to tell him to "keep it poppin'" until we meet again.
We should go ahead and tell him in our hearts. We believe in the communion of saints -- a union of those struggling to get there and those who have already arrived. He's not here, but he's not gone. Talk to him.
"I'm Praying For You"
Psalm 34 tells us that the Lord is close to the broken-hearted. Since he's close, we should pray to him for Dan -- that he's at peace -- and pray for his family and friends that they be at peace. If we do this, we can transform a loss into a gain.
We believe that life is the journey not the destination. If you believe that this is the destination, then you're bound to be disappointed. In the end, it doesn't matter whether the journey is long or short, as long as you get there. The destination, heaven.
What Maureen Said

Dan's littlest sister, Maureen -- very little next to Dan -- said two interesting things. The first she actually sang -- a polka tune that goes, "in heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here" -- a tune that Dan certainly taught her, but which is theologically unsound. The second came when she saw people crying all around, and she said, "Don't be sad. Danny's with God's son and that' s God. Danny's in heaven." Another psalm tells us, "out of the mouth's of babes...." As we get older, things get far too complicated. We need to strive to embrace Maureen's wisdom.

Mean time, here's to you, Danny boy.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A Slice of Sertillanges

In need of some quick reading the other day, I picked up a book off a nearby shelf entitled "The Intellectual Life," by A.D. Sertillanges. Feeling the intrepid reader despite its formidable title (fools rush in . . . ), I opened it toward the back to a rather compelling discourse about the necessity of stopping one's research--the endless gathering of just one more piece of information-- in order to set to the task of writing and presenting one's thoughts to the public. Writing forces one to think precisely and take some risk in putting it before the minds of others, he says. (His words are eloquent--though mine are not--and he has much to say about style, in that section: Avoid artifice. Let words be tied to the writer's deeper intent.) Unfortunately, I don't have the book in front of me now, or else I would quote from it. If you find a copy, it might be worth a read . . .

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


A shrunken, shriveled man stands below the dais
With the few and frail survivors,
The tufts of his crown tossed in the wind.
His right arm is marked
With the sign of David.
(Remember, O most gracious virgin)
(Never was it known)

Someone is saying, "We must never forget...
We must remember forever...,"
The words whisked and flipped in the air.
His mottled ears recall
The sound of wailing.
(Mother of the word)

Someone is lighting the memorial flame,
As the words of the speaker disperse,
The wick whipped and twisted by wind.
His sunken eyes recall
The sight of smoking.
(To you we come)
(Before you we stand)

Someone is singing an ancient prayer;
With the pellets of rain falling,
The heads of the crowd bowed in vapors.
His pocked nose recalls
The smell of burning.
(Despise not our petition)
(Despise not)

He offers what is broken.
(Zion, Virgin, Mother
Of the world; incarnate
But, remember...
Rebuild her walls;
Restore her ruins.

Then, he might offer
A proper holocaust.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Honor of Don Castagnari

Don Castagnari lit his cigar, puffed several times, then took it from his mouth and looked at the glowing end. Before him sat Luigi "The Lip" Pigini.

"Lip, I asked you to come in because -- go ahead, have a cigar -- because I need you to do a piece of work for me."

The Lip took a cigar and sniffed the length of it. "Of course, boss ," he said, patting his pockets for a lighter, "Uh..., may I ask who dis guy is."

The Don puffed slowly. "Roselli. Enrico Roselli. He spent a long time in the pen down in Alabama of all places. God knows how he got pinched down there. Anyhow, he got out, and now he's back."

The Lip eyed the lighter at the Don's right hand. "Roselli...Roselli.... I don't know da name, boss."

"He's old news. Small time. Used to do some work for Gabbanelli and Giustozzi."

"Okay," said The Lip, alternatively mouthing the unlit cigar and regarding it with feigned satisfaction.

"He's been back for a while now, but he hasn't come in to see me." Castagnari leaned forward in his leather chair. "It's a matter of honor, Lip. A man comes back after many years away, then doesn't come to see me." He shook his head. "It's disrepect."

"Absolutely," said The Lip. "Boss, you want I should use concertina wire for this."

"No," said The Don, "You can use a concertina, but don't pop him. I'll give him a pass this time. Just put the squeeze on -- somethin nice, like, maybe, a Palermo polka."

"Uh, boss, no disrespect, but how about a Siracusa sonata. Sounds kinda, you know, melodeon."

"Whatever. Just make sure his, shall we say, 'bass keys' don't work for a while."

The Lip gripped his cigar between his fingers. "Ha! Dis guy'll be singin real high."

The Don exhaled a long stream of smoke. "Yeah. Like a soprano."

"Boss," The Lip laughed, "You kill me... I mean figurative like." Then, he quickly kissed The Don's ring and exited.

The Don looked at his cigar and sighed. "You can't find good buttons anymore."

For a complete listing of terms, see here, and for brands, see here.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Hepcats & Hubcaps

Last night, your humble and hep Contributor, not averse to lifting a few and shaking to some good sounds, found himself on cloud 9 in the middle of a crazy bash. True -- it is like what you call a penitential season -- but, hey, we had like a dispensation cause it was for charity, daddy-o.

The tunes came from the "Hubcaps" -- and what a classy chassis they were -- hopped-up, chrome-plated hot-rods all the way. And, they were cookin' -- fired-up and flat out. Let me tell you these guys couldn't be hipper if they got hip-replacements -- which was coming just down the pike for some of these big daddies. They did have one dolly who still looked sharp: played the sax and, man, could she wail.

The whole crowd was hoppin', especially our table. We were hanging with some cool cubes and some boss babes that would razz your berries. I'll tell you what, it was an excellent gig -- everything was a big tickle, and everyone was fractured. Not a party pooper in the bunch. We were in fat city.

We took off our peepers and put on our shades and hit the floor. We were like blind. But, hey, no sweat: the bops still hopped, the gully's still hullied, and the bug still jittered. Soon, the fuzzy dice began to fly, along with some vinyl. But, it was cool. The hepcats and clydes at the next table were just havin' a blast and getting a little kookie. And, the word from the bird is, we were flipped, too.

But, the table behind us was bad news. Nothing but grody greasers, wet rags, nerds, and spaz's. Nowheresville. A cat from the cool table walked by the uncool table, and one of the greasers started hassling him and rattling his cage for no reason, and the cat said, "Hey, don't have a cow!" And, the greaser said, "Oh, yeah? How 'bout a knuckle sandwich?" Then, the cat got frosted and said, "Buddy, you cruisin' for a bruisin." It looked like they were gonna starting poundin', when some big cubes jumped in and told them to cool it.

Next thing, your hep Contributor saw one of the Poor Relations swinging on the floor, and he ran over and said, "What's buzzin, cuzzin?" Classic.

Pretty soon, the Hubcabs -- fine machine that they are -- starting gearing down, and we knew it was time to split. But, we walked away with an extra pair of fuzzy dice. Lucky. Dig?

Acknowledgements to Slang of the Fifties.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Model Daily Menu and Regimen

Many visitors complained about our apparent glorification of the doughnut and other unhealthful habits. Thus chastened, we have dusted off this daily regimen that served us so well as recently as the last century.

6:30 Rise & Wash Up

6:40 Morning exercise (Low-impact, mild aerobic)

7:00 Breakfast:
Nonfat, plain yogurt w/ wheat germ
Whole wheat muffin
Prunes (unsweetened)
Cup of hot water

8:30 Watch PBS quilting show
Glass of water

9:30 Snack:
Wheat bran & sunflower kernels
Glass of Water

10:00 Walk (3 miles w/ weights)

11:00 Glass of water

12:00 Lunch:
Mashed lentils and greens in whole wheat pita
Beet chips (unsalted)
Kiwi fruit (note: pick seeds from teeth)
Glass of water
(Finish remaining yogurt-germ)

1:30 Review Whole Earth catalog
Glass of water

2:30 Glass of water

3:30 Snack:
Black beans & cabbage squares
Glass of water
(Finish leftover yogurt-germ before dinner)

4:00 Afternoon exercise (Pilates)

5:00 Glass of water

6:00 Dinner:
Organic pinto beans
Fresh kale
Coarse cornmeal mash
Dates (unsweetened)
Hot water seasoned w/ allspice
(dipose of remaining yogurt-germ)

7:30 Glass of water

8:30 Watch PBS nature show
Glass of water

10:00 Evening exercises (Yoga positions)

10:30 Bed

10:45 Toss & turn

11:00 Rise & pace about (mild aerobic)

11:15 Evening snack:
Cinnamon rice cakes (2)
Glass of skim milk

11:30 Bed (toss & turn)

11:40 Evening snack (second):
Cinnamon rice cakes (5)
Skim milk shake w/ carob & frozen tofu

11:50 Bed (toss & turn)

11:55 Rise, dress, & go out

12:15 Late-night snack:
7-Eleven foot long chili dog
Large bag pork rinds
32-ounce Big Gulp Cola
Watch Hawaii Five-O re-run

1:00 Late-night snack (second):
El Grandé beef & bean burrito
7-Eleven super-large nachos
Schlitz Malt Liquour (quart bottle)
Large bowl rocky road ice cream
Pack of Lucky Strikes
Watch Gomer Pyle, USMC and Green Acres re-runs

2:05 Maalox & bed

* Adapted from Eat Regular, Be Regular (Jan Zafloski, Whole Life/Whole Grain Books, 1993) and The Gastronomically-Correct Diet (Belinda Garbanza, Pita Press, 1994).

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Secret Life of Accordions

Some years ago, Gary Larson, the creator of "Far Side", drew a wonderful cartoon in two panels: in the top panel, a happy deceased appears at the pearly gates, where an angel hands him an instrument, saying, "Welcome to Heaven. Here's your harp;" in the bottom panel, an unhappy deceased enters the unquenchable fires, where a devil hands him an instrument, saying, "Welcome to Hell. Here's your accordion."

Your humble Contributor is feeling very welcome anymore, now that one of the other Householders has taken up the accordion.

Specifically, it is a Princetti circa 1958, which belongs to one of the other Poor Relations, who made a name for himself in 1961 with his interpretation of "Lady of Spain" for an audience of whoever happened to be visiting on a Sunday afternoon or those gathered at the 'old folks home' (a term now offensive to all but those whose currently live in old folks homes). Alas, he has not put the squeeze on lately; so, he generously offered it as a loaner, along with the music for "Carnival of Venice" and sufficient dust to trigger an asthma attack.

Princetti -- the name strongly suggests an Italian make (apparently, the preeminent homeland of concertinas on up) -- and, perhaps, one of the better makes of accordion (if that comparative may be used to describe this free-reed).

Perhaps it is unfair that this boisterous, bellowing, mellifluous instrument has been associated with Gihenna. After all, one cannot listen to Frankie Yankovic and His Yanks without a faint stirring of something good in his heart. Think about it: would the most keilbasa-hardened polka-palooka not be brought to tears by "Who Stole The Keeshka?" Indeed, recall the moving poetry the accordion has inspired.

The truth is that accordions have become, once again, chic. This might have started when "Weird Al" postmodernized cousin Frankie's melodies. Now, secret accordionists are emerging from the closet and asserting their pride. The search is now on for the "hottest accordionists", who fairly channel Lawrence Welk, and there's a waiting list for the accordion fantasy cruise. The more cultured among us might visit the Cleveland Accordion Museum.

Gentle visitors, it simply may be time to re-assess the spiritual status of the accordion.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

City Desk Vignette

In the 11th hour, feeling rather desperate (and the cyberpressure of Hereunder clan loyalty through the ether) we reach into the hat and offer . . .

“Grady here!”

The nightside city editor barked his greeting into the phone. As he listened, his bushy eyebrows knit together like two woolly bear caterpillars in a clinch.

“Oh, for the love of Pete!” he said, now arching his eyebrows so they peeked over the top of heavy black-frame glasses. Grady’s spectacles set on his brow like a permanent scowl. He slammed down the phone.

“Jack Carper’s just got himself into a fender bender at 14th and Tambour. Nobody hurt. Go rescue him, would you?” Grady had said this over his shoulder to a lanky young man with blond hair, who had been sitting two desks away reading that day’s paper. The clatter of reporters typing at keyboards quickened in waves. Copy editors called out short directives and exchanged guesses and taunts over that night’s communal crossword puzzle.

Night cops reporter Tom Masland pulled on his camel coat. It was a slow night. Heck, he said to himself, I’ll walk the five blocks to Tambour Avenue.

“And make sure you take that bottle away!” Grady shouted after him.

Only then did the layout editors look up from their work in unison. Their four pairs of owlish eyes locked together for an instant. The page one editor opened his mouth as if to speak, then stopped short. They turned again to slapping down rulers on their page dummies to line up space for the first edition stories.

Masland arrived at the busy commercial street to see the rush-hour traffic routed around a police car, its lights flashing, and Jack’s huge powder blue Lincoln Continental propped askew on a curb. Its hood was only slightly marred by the street lamppost that had snapped at the base and lay across the windshield.

“Tommy! Glad it’s you. I can’t drive. I feel a little shaky,” Jack confided. His eyes were bleary, but a sheepish smile lit his ruddy complexion.

“The police are going to take away my driver’s license, Tommy! Can you believe it. These new cops. They don’t know who I am, do they Tommy?” Jack winked.

“I dunno, Jack. Let’s hope for the best. Got your keys?” Tom smiled and held out his hand. Two city workers with heavy leather gloves had just eased the lamppost off Jack’s car. The police waved off the reporters.In the car, Jack, a small, energetic man when sober, grew melancholic. “You know, Tommy. I’ve been in the newspaper business a long time. But I’m not too sure why. I’ve never had a normal life, regular hours--a happy marriage,” he mused.

“If I were you Tommy," Jack said, leaning closer with a confidential air. "I would go into intelligence--they are first with the news!”

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

In Limine

There he is –
The man who cleans the threshold,
Working the brass footplate.
I should cry, but I cannot.
He is a brown, broad-faced
Mustachioed man,
Wearing a light blue shirt
(His name—Salvador—sewn on)
On his knees this morning,
His rough hands polishing.

He wraps a soft cloth
Around a thin trowel
To reach the inverted edge
Of the tarnished tread.
He is an obstacle to entrants,
An oddity to those outside.
I should cry, but—
There he is, again, at lunch —
His shoes off, arms outstretched;
His wife brushing morsels
From his mouth;
Her hair pulled back, her feet
Swinging from the high bench;
His little boy laughing,
Hanging from a low branch.

Here I was, out for some air,
Watching the man at rest;
Then, back to the top floor,
Squinting through the gray blinds,
Drawn against some foreign,
Malevolent eye.
And he, back at the threshold,
Polishing the bright brass.
I should cry.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Traffic Report, Monday, February 28, 2005

February was gone before your humble Contributor fully realized that it was here. Then, he recalled that this forsaken and foreshortened month was named for Februus, the Roman god of death. This may explain some of your humble Contributor's more moribund posts, hereunder.

But, then again, Februus was also god of purification. Of course, this is yet another indication of the early Popish moving in on heathen turf, since Lent typically begins in February. But, some of our gentle visitors have reported experiencing a certain catharsis after viewing the relative tragedy and emptiness of these pages. A few report that it only made them shiver.

If only Augustus had left the month alone and not stolen a day to add another to his own month. To be sure, history has shown August to be august; but, how frustrating for the overwhelming majority of humanity never having whiled away the day on February 30th. One might daresy that most of us would leap at this opportunity -- but, ultimately, fall just short.

Nonetheless, we enter March with a kind of martial confidence. As it if were - as it once were -- the beginning of the year. Julius Caesar changed all of that, moving the new year back two months, deep into winter. And, look where that got him.

Just beware the Ides. It too brutal -- dude.