Friday, September 30, 2016


Just wonderin’…

Who would want all those lamps?

When I was a kid, I’d sometimes watch a daytime game show. Many times the prize would be so many dollars’ worth of Quoizel Lamps. I’d think to myself “Who would want all those lamps? Don’t they already have lamps?” I could understand advertisements for things that got eaten, or used up like toilet paper, or even wrecked, like a car. But lamps? 

Even today, watching shows like “How It’s Made” I wonder who would want all those pocket knives, or wristwatches, or surf boards, other doo-dads. Don't surfers already have surfboards? I don’t need them, how come they make so many of them?  Dumb of me, I know, but the consumption of such things, I call them “things you didn’t know you didn’t need,” is still a mystery to me. It’s a good thing that there aren’t too many others like me, otherwise our economy would stagnate.

By very strange coincidence, my stepdaughter works for Quoizel and has done so for over twenty years. Good company – they make a lot of lamps.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Just wonderin’…

Remember the party standby, deviled eggs? Just plain deviled eggs. Today, according to a recent issue of Saveur magazine, they marinate the whites in soy sauce and raspberry vinegar - just for fifteen minutes, mind you - and then fill them with the yolks that were combined with lump crab meat, avocado, and apple.

Chefs are getting inventive. Food is getting fancy. I suppose that’s a good thing, yet I wonder what “comfort food” will be to generations to come.

Friday, September 16, 2016


This is a brief piece I wrote for the Southern Writers series in our community magazine. O. Henry sure was an interesting character, and I enjoyed researching his life as much as I enjoy reading his work.

William Sidney Porter

Many people remember O. Henry around Christmas time, thinking of his classic short story The Gift of the Magi, but this writer was much more than the author of that one prominent piece. O. Henry was the pen name of William Sidney Porter, born in Greensboro, North Carolina, in September 1862.

A voracious reader from the start, Porter was a sketch artist and draftsman, a ranch hand and cook, a teller and bookkeeper, singer and musician, and a licensed pharmacist who also wrote articles and short stories on the side.
It was his job at a bank in Austin, Texas, that got him in trouble: he was suspected of embezzling funds and adjusting the books and was fired. A while later, the Feds audited the bank’s books and, long story short, they called for his arrest, he took off for New Orleans and then Central America, and, because the wife he’d left in Texas was dying, he went back and faced his sentence. Porter had had many stories published under a variety of pennames, but it was while he was in prison that he became known as O. Henry, the name he was using most often.

Porter, O. Henry, was a master of the twist at the end of the tale. In The Gift of the Magi, his short story most likely read by everyone during their school years, husband and wife sacrifice their one prized possession to get the other something to enhance that prized possession. In The Ransom of Red Chief, the kidnappers pay the boy’s father to take him back. In many stories, someone does a kind deed to help another, and then winds up suffering for it. In others, the person doing the good deed, though he was formerly a criminal, is let off because of the deed.

In his short lifetime, Porter died at 47, he wrote hundreds of stories. Many were originally published in collections of his works such as “Cabbages and Kings.”  His more famous stories are usually included in American short story anthologies, and in high school English texts as great examples of irony.

Two interesting notes:

In Honduras while evading his prison term, in one collection of stories he wrote, Porter coined the phrase “banana republic, now defined as “a small nation, especially in Central America, dependent on one crop or the influx of foreign capital.”

And, like the S in the name of Harry S. Truman, the O in O. Henry is a compromise of sorts, and just stands for itself.

Friday, September 9, 2016


A Screenshot of what was our old high schol

I am not a fan of most free verse, but this one literally caught my eye on The Writer’s Almanac because I could take most of it in in one look. It struck a familiar note.

The High School Band in September

On warm days in September the high school band
Is up with the birds and marches along our street,
Boom boom,
To a field where it goes boom boom until eight forty-five
When it marches, as in the old rhyme, back, boom boom,
To its study halls, leaving our street
Empty except for the leaves that descend to no drum
And lie still.
In September
A great many high school bands beat a great many drums,
And the silences after their partings are very deep.

I know we weren’t up with the birds, but in my freshman year of high school, whenever it was that we had to practice for a parade, we too had to march from the high school down the block to the small playing field that was surrounded by houses. Boom, boom, boom. The next year we were in the new high school, a mile away and much closer to where I lived, with extensive playing fields for our marching. I've written about Being in the Band and marching at football games.

I had to refresh my memory and take a look at that old high school on Google. It’s now an elementary school (I knew that.) but from the air it looks like it had extensive renovation, and a lot of old homes were sacrificed for its expansion. The houses in the back gave way to the expanded building and a paved play area. The old field is still there. Where there were houses across the street from the front of the school, there is now half a block’s worth of playing field. Nice.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Monterey, California - 2001
Does the tide know what year it is?

On March 6th of this year, The Writer’s Almanac featured this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (And can’t you just hear a child, about to recite one of Longfellow’s poems, give the title and the poet’s whole name: “…by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.” They are so proud to have memorized his whole name, much less the poem.) I’d never before had the pleasure to read this poem of his. It speaks to me of the relentless passage of time and tides. It could speak of any time, even today, except for that one word, hostler, that gives it a place in a time long ago.

 The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
     And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
     And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
     And the tide rises, the tide falls.