Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Ol' CBS and Those Great Free Samples

One of the few advantages I enjoyed as a boy growing up during the Great Depression was having a traveling salesman for a father. Not only did he usually have the latest issue of Famous Funnies or some other comic book for me when he arrived home on Friday evening but there were those great free samples that allowed me to go into business.
Granted, when Ol' CBS was selling soap for Lever Brothers there wasn't much of interest in his sample case. What kid cared about a bar of Lifebuoy or a box of Rinso? Not me, that's for sure. Things didn't improve when he decided to sell soup. Soap or soup, I just wasn't interested.
But then when I was about 13 life took a turn for the better. Ol' CBS went to work for a company selling a rubber product still available in drug stores today. It's purpose is the prevention of disease, or so they say. These little items are known as Trojans and as the word about his new job circulated around school I discovered that certain boys were interested in obtaining a few. That's when I decided to go into business.
My prices were good but even if they hadn't been it was easier for a boy in need to approach me than his neighborhood druggist. In those days druggists and grocers knew their clientele so word might easily have found its way to a parent. Certain activities were never discussed with parents for obvious reasons.
The news spread to nearby East High and soon business was booming. Ol' CBS must have wondered why his supply of samples was in constant need of replenishing but nothing was ever said about this.
But then just as I was ready to enter high school myself, disaster struck. Ol' CBS switched jobs again, this time going to work for Gillette. Akron, however, was populated by every ethnic group imaginable and boys of certain backgrounds found it necessary to shave every day. Buying Blue Blades and Gillette Thins from me at half price beat going to the drug store for them. So I still had a steady source of income even though the product I offered lacked the romantic appeal of my earlier offerings. But that's the way it goes and a businessman takes his profit wherever he finds it.
Fortunately I put aside about a dozen cigar boxes filled with razor blades because soon after this country entered World War II Ol' CBS gave up selling and went for the big money at Goodyear Aircraft. When I entered the Army I still was able to maintain the cash flow until I was ordered overseas and much of my supply of goods had to be left behind.
In looking back I realize that it was a good break for me when Ol' CBS went to work for Gillette. There would have been no market for my earlier product because the Army supplied them free of charge.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

An Overload of Work Hurts Blogging

Sometimes the workload gets a little too heavy and blogging has to take a back seat. It has happened before and for the past week it has been happening again. Oh well, that's life. Better to have too much to do than sit around bored with the things around you.
There's always time to be outraged by events over which you have no control, of course. All you have to do in order for your blood pressure to shoot off into infinity is watch the CNN news. Or any other news on TV.
There's that employee of the Justice Department who is using the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress. If she's afraid of incriminating herself, what crimes are being committed in what would more aptly be termed the Injustice Department?
Then there's the capture of fifteen British Marines by the Iranians. My question is why the British would venture less than two miles from Iranian waters when they know the boundary has been disputed for decades? Why not stay well away from the questionable area? The answer, I suppose, is because they're British.
And naturally the U.S. Navy has to get in on the act by staging provacative maneuvers in the vicinity. When diplomacy fails because you prefer cowboy mentality to common sense I guess you call on gunboat diplomacy in place of the real thing. With two more wars on our hands than can be successfully handled, why risk getting involved in a third?
I don't want to even think about the Bush Gang's attempt to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens while at the same time secretly working to turn Canada, the United States and Mexico into a single country. Or what about their sending two Border Patrolmen to prison for shooting a Mexican drug smuggler in the leg as he was fleeing? They granted immunity to the drug smuggler to testify against the lawmen. Then they do the same thing with a deputy sheriff because the Mexican government demanded it after he shot the tires out of a van containing illegal aliens on the run, slightly wounding a female illegal in the process.
Meanwhile, the gutless Democrats say nothing about the wrong people going to prison and are in cahoots with Emperor George in the amnesty fiasco. The time is long past when they worked on behalf of the American middle class and the underprivilaged.
It's amazing how the values of a country can be destroyed in six years.
But there has been one solitary piece of good news. Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams sat down at the same table and actually talked to each other so the sharing of government in Northern Ireland may actually come about. Eventually the six counties in the north will be united with the twenty-six that make up the Republic of Ireland. It's inevitable and would have happened seven decades ago except for one thing - the British. The people are OK but their government is evil.
With that off my chest it's time to get back to work. It's the last bastion of sanity in today's world.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Even If You Survive, Time Catches Up with You

No matter what war they served in most combat soldiers, particularly infantrymen, have memories of their own Band of Brothers. The title of that HBO series seems to express a universal feeling among those men, a feeling others who didn't shared the experience can't quite understand. There is a closeness that is different than that of any other bond.
My own Band, like all those dating back to World War II, is rapidly shrinking. A reminder of that came a few days ago when I sent the obit for Joe Medeiros to our platoon sergeant, Eddie Wolfe. Over the years I have written a great deal about Eddie. He was the bravest soldier I knew, the man I have always admired above all others. Had it not been for him I would not have written these words or any other words, ever.
Whenever I first think of Eddie a vivid picture flashes through my mind. He is running across an open field, zigging and zagging because German SS riflemen are firing at him. Eddie is running to the rear because our company commander has been mortally wounded and there are no medics with us. Eddie has set out to find them, bring them forward.
Other brave men might have done so because many were present. Only Eddie Wolfe did it. That was Eddie's way. Do what was needed. Don't wait to be told, don't waste time analyzing the situation, don't wait around for someone else to make a move, just do it.
Eddie was a hero but he never thought of himself as one. After seeing the book "Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War" he wrote: "I am flattered to be among the people you wrote about but somehow you made me out a hero when in truth I was just doing what I was taught to do in combat. Stodg, the truth is I was just as scared of dying as the next guy."
Of course he was. Had he not been his actions would not have been heroic.
Eddie Wolfe is old now, eighty-eight. Like the rest of us old guys he has been having problems. After receiving Joe's obit he wrote:
Stodg, Lately I have a lot of thoughts of my time with G Company and some of the guys in our little Band of Brothers in Hdq. Platoon. Time has erased most pictures of who was whom, but little Joey and you and a couple of others comes to mind. So now another has passed on, and time shortens for all of us. I am thankful that Joey made it for a long life, and that you and I have also done the same. So we have had our ups and downs. aches and pains, we are still around. Several months ago for an up and at 'em guy I had trouble breathing, shortness of breath, and losing weight. I went to a cardiologist and got the bad news. I had a heart problem. All kind of tests, short time in the hospital, and my life has changed. No lifting. No caffeine (my coffee now decaf. How can I wake up in the morning?). I am on medication, have gotten back to my old self, but some of the pleasures of life are gone. For a while my three daughters (all live in the area) made me feel like an invalid. They took out the trash, drove me around (my wife stopped driving), made certain that I did no heavy lifting, and had plenty of reading material just to take it easy. All in all I am blessed with my family. I hope you have done well with your book. I looked you up on the Web, and you certainly had a life. Thanks for keeping in touch, hope you are well so good night Stodg, and keep in touch.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spell Checkers and Hearing Checkers

After you've been around for a while you sometimes don't hear quite as clearly as you once did. That's usually because the other person mumbles, of course. After lunch today I said I'd like a cookie.
"What kind?" said Jackie.
"One of those fudge sticks. What other kind are there?"
"Ice floes?"
Well she didn't have to shout.
But this really is about spell checkers. If you do a lot of writing there are times when you type a familiar word and it doesn't look right. I don't mean one of those long words nobody ever uses in a conversation, just everyday words. You've typed one a thousand times before but it just doesn't look right. That makes you doubtful. This morning I typed desperate, a word I've used many times before. It didn't look right. Was it er or ar? I reached for my Webster's Instant Word Guide, a little book only four inches wide and not quite six inches high. No writer should be without one. So I was right. In other words I was wrong when I typed it.
Computer programs such as Word Perfect, Microsoft WORD and Lotus Smart Suite used by writers have spell checkers. Some misspellings are corrected the second you type them but then after you finish writing you click on the spell checker and it scans the entire document. That's fine if you watch carefully and tell the checker to ignore a lot of things. For instance, if you write, "That'll show 'em." the spell checker wants to change it to "That'll show me." A far cry indeed from what you wanted to say.
While good for many things, spell checkers are awful when it comes to names. In the series I write about Jack Eddy, one of the private eyes working for him is Chet Blinn. According to the spell checker he really is Chat Blink. The narrator of the series is Bram Geary. The spell checker insists he's Brim Gary. But the one who really takes a hit is Mabel Klosterman, a young woman in her mid-twenties who lives at the same boardinghouse as Jack and Bram.
Pudgy Mabel embarrasses easily, sweats a lot and giggles at all the wrong times. She'd be horrified to learn that the spell checker swears her name isn't Mabel Klosterman but Amble Lobsterman.
One switch the checker wants to make could cause real trouble. It contends that Mohican, the name of the Indian tribe, should be Mexican. That could cause a lot of scalping knives to be drawn in this country today. Just having me type it out caused James Fenimore Cooper to turn over in his grave.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

This Country is in Desperate Need of a Draft

No doubt about it, we need a draft. Not a military draft although that wouldn't be a bad idea. Make everyone share in the misery.
No, I'm talking about a political draft. The system is shot, broken, down the tubes, kaput. Can anyone remember when politicians began campaigning for the job of president two years in advance? I can't and I'm 81 years old. But this time they began the day after the election last November.
And what about the congressmen and senators? They, too, began campaigning for reelection that same day. They don't spend much time worrying about the nation's needs. They don't care much about the will of the people. They don't even consider putting in a full week of work. They care about holding onto their plush positions.
The truth is that anyone who wants one of those big jobs in Washington is unfit for it. Well, at least 95 per cent of them are unfit. So that's where the draft comes in.
Here's how the world's biggest lottery would work. Every man and woman from the age of 18 through 80 would have to register. Then they'd start that little machine that blows the Ping-Pong balls in the air and the person with the lucky number would be president for four years. Then they'd do it again for vice president. No possibility of a second term. But you say we might come up with even worse people than we've got now? Impossible.
Then each state would choose its senators and congressmen the same way. They would serve four years and work a five day, forty hour week with no extra pay for overtime. They could not serve a second time.
There would be no lifetime appointments to the supreme court or any other federal court. The judges would also be chosen by lottery but only lawyers would be eligible. Four years, that's all they'd have on the bench.
If you think this is ridiculous you're wrong. Sure, we'd come up with a few screwballs and a few people out for a fast buck, but how would that be different than what we have today? But there might be chaos in Washington? Isn't there now?
What about secretary of state and all those other jobs? Same system. The result couldn't be worse.
There was a time when a jury was selected by having the bailiff go out on the street and grab the first twelve people that walked by the courthouse. It seemed to work as well as the way it's done now. So why not come up with something similar for politics? Yes, the time has come to scrap the present system and start over.
Oh, and one more thing. All lobbyists would be shot on sight.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Bard of Akron Rears His Head Again

The March snow is quick to go
It lacks the power to stay.
So if the ground is covered now
It soon will melt away.

Eat your heart out, Shakespeare. The bard, who also reigns supreme in Barberton and Cuyahoga Falls, penned that little gem on March 1. So we had an inch of snow overnight but the sun came out on this St. Patrick's Day and now it's gone. The bard knows about such things. So even though the thermometer reads only 30 degrees the snow is no match for the March sun, which is nothing at all like the January sun.
Speaking of St. Patrick's Day, the bard inherited his awesome skill from his Irish great-grandfather, Peter Lynch. Peter was 18 when he left his beloved County Cavan on an August day in 1853. As an elderly man in 1909 he wrote the following in his notebook:

No more through Mt. Prospect shall I ever wander.
No more around the White Gate will I ever roam.
For soon I must close my sad eyes in death's slumber.
Far, far from Mt. Prospect, my dear native home.
Tis long years since I parted well nigh broken hearted,
My friends and relations so kind and so true.
The home of my childhood, tho humble yet happy,
Near the hawthorn hedges that surround Gawry Dher.
Right well I remember that grieving in August
That beautiful evening in the year '53.
The weeping and wailing of friends at leave taking,
Saying the Lord may be with you Acushla Macree.
Remember, my darling, the kind friends you're leaving,
Though your home may be far over the Western main.
And should fortune but favour your honest endeavor,
Then come back my dear Bochal to see us again.
Those friends are long dead and almost forgotten,
But never by me while life does remain.
For tears fill my eyes with my bosom oft heaving
When I think of those kind friends I'll never meet again.

His unhappy story was one told by many Irishmen during those years of British oppression. Conditions are far better, although not perfect, in the old country today. Peter Lynch lived another 13 years after writing the words above. He died late in 1922 at the home of my grandfather, James T. Lynch in Muncie, Indiana.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Homosexuals in the US Army? Why Not?

I'm going to have to quit watching the TV news. Every day there's something that makes my blood pressure jump off the scale. Now it's General Peter Pace, the Army's head honcho, saying homosexuality is immoral and it would be wrong to allow gays to openly serve in the military.
I guess that means Canada, Britain, Israel, Germany and a host of other countries are dead wrong. But when I was in the Army during World War II I served with several men everyone knew were homosexuals. One of them was in my company during basic training and in the shower room there were always jokes about not dropping your soap. He joined in. It was fun, everybody enjoyed themselves, nobody gave a damn.
Then I knew a couple while in combat. They could shoot just as straight as anyone else. Guys you'd want with you when the shooting starts.
Why is it that so many Americans feel just the way this pinched-faced Pace does? Beats me because you don't find that attitude in most countries. Well, you did in Nazi Germany. The Nazis purged homosexuals at every opportunity. Some in this country would like to do the same. I'll never understand why unless those people have secret doubts about their own sexuality.
Back in WWII, blacks were treated the same way. Couldn't allow them in with white guys, couldn't let them serve in the infantry divisions. The Navy only let them serve as cooks and waiters for the officers aboard ships. Take a look at the infantry divisions and those ships today. And women - at the time of the First World War they weren't even allowed to vote. At least the country has shown improvment in those respects.
One evening in Marietta, Ohio Jackie and I stopped for a drink in what turned out to be a crowded gay bar. We were greeted like long lost friends. Far more warmly than we would have been in any other bar I can name.
Some people think gay men don't like women. What utter nonsense. During our years in Muncie our favorite hangout was a place with a restaurant on the lower level, a gay bar on the main floor, the one you entered from the street. The owners were gay. One was the host, the other the cook. The waiters were gay as were most of the bar's customers. Not all, though, and those who were not were shown the same respect they would have received anywhere in town.
Jackie was treated like a princess. I was going to say queen but thought better of it. The guys in the bar would have thought that was hilarious. They were as fine a group of men as you would find no matter where you went. Without reservation I would say we were among the kindest, most gentle and thoughtful men I have encountered anywhere. Or tough, if the need to be that way arose. One of those closest to us died after we moved to Akron. We drove 250 miles to attend his funeral. We wouldn't have done that for someone we felt was immoral.
Do you know what I think? I think the US Army needs a different man in charge.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Joe Earned His 63 Bonus Years the Hard Way

It didn't make the headlines and it wasn't on the TV news but another old soldier, one who did more for his country than most Americans, recently stood his final roll call. Joe Medeiros was a quiet man with a slow smile when I first met him on a Normandy battlefield. Our platoon sergeant, Eddie Wolfe, was accustomed to saying, "You're a good boy, Joe," but after a few weeks of bitter combat he had to admit, "I guess you're not a boy any more."
Joe was a 19-year-old rifleman when he waded ashore with the 4th Infantry Division on D-Day so the odds against him reaching 82 were long. But he did. He was a year older than me so we were just a couple of young guys caught up in a slaughterhouse. Just making it one day at a time was all we could do so we would have laughed if someone had said, "Don't worry, you'll both be around for another 62 or 63 years."
Joe and I shared a foxhole some nights, would talk a little but not too much because there wasn't a whole lot to say. We got to know each other well so I feel bad about spelling his name Medaros in the book Normandy 1944. My excuse is that I couldn't recall ever seeing his name written down.
Joe wouldn't have minded my mistake, I'm sure of that. He never uttered one word of complaint, at least not in my presence, and he certainly had just cause to complain because he had been handed the rottenist job of all. Deliver direct fire upon the enemy, that was the assignment, and don't do it from a plane or an artillery position well to the rear but instead the hard way, close up and face to face. Joe didn't take pleasure in the job because under normal conditions he wouldn't have been a killer. He may even have remembered the commandment that says Thou Shalt Not Kill and doesn't include any qualifiers.
Those who read the aforementioned book may recall an incident when Joe and I were sitting close together with our legs dangling over the edge of our foxhole. A stray artillery shell came in and exploded a short distance away. A large shell fragment passed between our heads and left a tiny red line on Joe's upper lip, just a nick like you'd get from a razor or a paper cut. The fragment was long and jagged and it passed between our heads vertically. Had it done so horizontally one or both of us would have been killed, probably decapitated. Joe touched the cut and after that you could no longer see the red line. We grinned at each other but neither of us said a word because near death experiences were too commonplace to merit talking about.
Then there was the day a bunch of letters fell out of a German's pocket as he was shot several times. We stayed there for a short while so a photo in one of the envelopes was passed from man to man. In it the man lying dead close by was shown with his wife and two young daughters. Eddie Wolfe understood some German so he read the commonplace letter aloud. At the bottom of the page one of the girls had added a note asking her father to hurry home and telling him she loved him.
Eddie reached for another letter but Joe said, "Don't read any more, Eddie."
That's the way Joe Medieros was. Quiet, thoughtful, sensitive. In later years he had two daughters of his own. I'm sure he never mentioned it to them or anyone else, but I'll bet there were times when he looked at his little girls and remembered that other young girl who asked her father to hurry home. Knowing Joe, I'm certain of that. It's just the way he was.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Remember the Hoosier Hot Shots?

Been busy gathering material and doing a little research for a story on an old friend, Gabe Ward. Gabe was one of the three original members of that zany bunch of musicians known as the Hoosier Hot Shots. If you're my age or anything close you remember hearing them on radio. If you're a Baby Boomer you may recall them from the 20 movies they made. If you're even younger than that, look them up on Google. You'll find about 290,000 entries. Pretty good considering the last of them, Ol' Gabe, died 15 years ago.
Gabe's life was like something straight from a Horatio Alger book - the tale of a young man who worked hard, lived the clean life, married a good woman and lived happily ever after. Well, at least until he was 87. Gabe started to work in a factory when he was 13. Made $6.50 a week and gave all but $1 of it to his mother. A relative gave him an old clarinet but Gabe - whose real name was Charles Otto Ward - didn't pay much attention to it until he found that playing it could earn him a credit in school.
One day he was called out of class at Elwood (Indiana) High School because Bill Whitehurst had broken his arm that morning. Bill played clarinet in another zany group, Ezra Buzzington's Rube Band. He was the only one that played the melody, the others being too busy having fun. So young Otto, soon to become Gabe, was quickly taught the band's songs because it had an engagement to play at the Classic Theatre in Elwood a few hours later. That evening Gabe was playing the melody and even doing a few solos on stage. It was the beginning of a long career that didn't end until the day he died 69 years later. Too much happened during that time to begin to tell it here, but one of the highlights was making a number of movies starring a handsome young singer name Ken Curtis.
Never heard of Ken Curtis? Then how about Festus Hagan, that scroungy character in Gunsmoke? One and the same guy. Gabe remembers when Curtis spent his free time on the movie sets learning oddball regional dialects, something that paid off for him many years later.
The last letter we received from Gabe was written two days before he died. He wasn't expecting it, was still planning for the future. Gabe was a prolific writer of letters and over the years they included some wonderful stories and a few pretty profound remarks. Here's a couple:
"Some say death and taxes are the sure things. I'd like to add to that by saying, 'The only constant thing is change. It happens to all of us all the time and for sure.'"
"What we do is what we are and it's mostly our fault if we don't just do it."
Wise words expressed in downhome Hoosier fashion, and that was Gabe's way.
Well, I didn't really get around to saying much about the Hoosier Hot Shots. Maybe another time. For now I'll just settle for 300 records, 20 movies, hundreds of radio shows and stage appearances throughout this country and even in Europe. Not bad for three young guys from the flatlands of Indiana.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Write Tight - Like Bob's Old Boss

Write tight, that's the goal of every newspaper reporter, or should be. Some do, some don't. Writing tight means tell the story, tell it well and do it in as few words as possible.
Clark Gable made the point in a horrible old movie titled "Teacher's Pet." It was horrible because the journalism teacher was Doris Day. Gable was a typical hard-nosed city editor of that era. For some long forgotten reason he slipped into Day's classroom and took a seat at the rear. Day gave the class the details of an event and told her students to write the story in 500 words.
Gable decided to do it along with the others. He gave his completed story to Day and she said something like, "This is perfect, but it's only 350 words." Gable replied, "I thought that was the idea." Now he was the teacher telling Day how it was done in the real world. He had written tight.
So did Bob's old boss in a great Help Wanted ad in my old newspaper, the Star-Press in Muncie, Indiana. Jackie, who reads every word in her hometown paper, even the classified ads, pointed it out to me. Aside from a phone number the entire ad read:
Bob had a job
Bob lost his job
Call for Bob's Job

Now that's writing tight. An entire story in a dozen words. In his role of city editor, Gable would have loved it.
It reminds me of another story, of course, one that probably made the rounds of every newsroom in the country back in the olden days.
There was a cub reporter who wasn't writing tight. His wordy stories aroused the ire of his city editor on numerous occasions until finally the cub was told he was going to have only one more chance to do the job right. Otherwise he'd be applying for Bob's Job. His last chance to write a tight story was an assignment that took him to a prison for the criminally insane. An inmate had escaped, fled the area and raped a woman. The cub reporter returned to the newsroom and, remembering the words of the city editor, wrote his tight story: Nut Bolts and Screws.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Hundred Blogs and Counting

This is blog number one hundred since I cranked out the first one 11 months ago. That's a pretty fair number and yet it is small compared to the 250 columns along with a number of other newspaper stories as well as short mysteries I used to write every year.
Those hundred blogs were not my total output of words. of course. During those months I also had three books and two short stories published. Five other short stories were written and accepted and will soon be in print. Not bad for an 81-year-old guy.
It may have nothing to do with blogging but I'm glad I'm 81. I'd hate to be any younger the way things are today in this country and the rest of the world. The past was better, at least in my opinion, but the only part of it I miss were the years working for newspapers before computers came along.
It was great fun. Every day was different, every day was exciting, every day was noisy. Yes, those old-time newsrooms were smoke-filled, hectic, frantic and alive with the sounds of clattering typewriters, telephones ringing, reporters and editors shouting back and forth, bells ringing on wire service machines, containers filled with finished stories shooting up tubes to the composing room and in the distance the clickety-clack of linotype machines and the humming of the presses.
Walk into a newsroom now and it's like entering a library back when libraries were quiet. Reporters sit in cubicles working on silent computers, the linotypes are gone, even the presses are missing at some newspapers. And reporters don't call back and forth to ask a question or answer one, city editors no longer shout for a reporter or several of them to make it snappy and file their copy, no one even yells for a copy boy to pick up a story or bring another cup of coffee. And no one dares light a cigarette, of course. I recall a day when City Editor Jack Richman had one in each hand and another burning in his butt-filled ashtray. He was furious when he realized he didn't have a hand free to blue-pencil someone's copy.
Another reporter, Roy Bigger, and I sometimes had lunch with the owner of a downtown jewelry store. He'd always say he couldn't comprehend what it must be like to work the way we did - start every morning with nothing, work all day and then end up again with nothing.
But we had a newspaper in hand and having played a role in getting its pages filled was great fun.
Writing blogs isn't quite the same, but nothing is or ever was quite the same as that way of life. So it's gone forever now and that's just the way it goes.
A hundred of my old blogs on the wall, a hundred of my old blogs, if one of those blogs should happen to fall, ninty-nine of my old blogs on the wall, ninety-nine of my old blogs . . . oh, the hell with it.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

How Many REALLY Support the Troops?

Remember when half the cars on the road sported yellow magnets saying Support the Troops? You don't see many these days. That's OK because at best it was a superficial manner of showing support.
Years passed, people quit supporting the war, most of them chose to not even think about it. That's OK too, but no one should have stopped supporting the men and women risking their lives in that misbegotten affair that has turned into a civil war. Supporting them, however, does not mean sending even more to die and it certainly does not mean forgetting the seriously wounded when they are returned to the States. Apparently most Americans have forgotten, though. Otherwise there would be a continuous uproar about the recent disclosures regarding conditions at Walter Reed Hospital. So many are coming back horribly wounded - flown in at night so no one will see - that they have to be warehoused in holding units. The condition of those units is deplorable. The Washington Post brought it to the attention of those who might care.
It's outrageous. Absolutely disgraceful. So they've fired a general and a few other heads may roll and Congress is going to hold hearings. While they're holding those hearings FEMA will be assessing the damage from the Alabama and Georgia tornadoes. This country would be far better off if there were fewer hearings, fewer assessments and far more action.
Conditions really hit the skids at Walter Reed when the Idiot in Chief and his second in command decided that privatizing the care of the wounded should be a moneymaker for someone. So that someone, the CEO of the lucky firm that got the job, turned out to be a former executive at Halliburton. What a surprise that was. His company is the same one that was so slow in getting ice to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
A while back, prior to privatization, there were 300 federal employees at Walter Reed. Now there are 60. The ones who took their place don't seem to be doing much of a job so maybe the man ultimately responsible for the mess will award the CEO a medal. "You did a helluva job," he'll probably be told as it's pinned on his chest.
Allowing someone to turn a profit off the care of wounded veterans is a national disgrace. So where's the outcry from all the people who placed Support the Troops magnets on their cars? Are they too busy thinking about the next NASCAR race or the latest gossip concerning Anna Nicole Smith to pay attention?
This may be a capitalistic country but shouldn't the line be drawn somewhere? When a government sends men off to war isn't it the job of that government to care for those that come back minus a leg, an arm, their eyesight? Not, I guess, if there's money to be made.
Perhaps those in charge of the privatized company at Walter Reed are fine, compassionate people but is there anyone so naive as to believe this country doesn't contain others who are not fine and compassionate? People who would say, "Hey, this is a real money machine so keep those wounded coming."
Yes, this privatization of caring for veterans is indeed a national disgrace. So why is it that I can't hear many voices crying out in protest? Is it just that nobody gives a damn? After all is said and done, waving a flag as soldiers march off to war is more fun than seeing the shattered bodies that return. No fun at all in that so it's more comfortable to just turn away and not look. But whether anyone looks or not they're still there. Still there waiting for enough of those people that bought Support the Troops magnets to rise up and demand that conditions be changed for the better. Is that likely to happen? I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, March 02, 2007

So He's a Mormon - So What?

This isn't a very nice story so I probably should be ashamed to tell it. It goes back fifty years, though, so why not?
My first wife was a Mormon. She and all the others in her church denied this but they read the Book of Mormon and did everything else the Mormons did so in my book they were Mormons. The official name of the church was a real mouthful: The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, or something like that.
They had all kinds of rules that nobody paid any attention to such as not being allowed to drink anything hot or anything cold which certainly limited the options of a man with a thirst. The fact was I broke about every rule in their book.
So one day I overheard a couple of whispered phone conversations and learned that on Sunday I was to be left alone in the house so that Brother Hammond and Brother Mitchell and Brother Somebody Else could come by and convert me. That was fine with me but it called for a few preparations on my part.
On the way home from work on Saturday night I bought a six-pack of Hudepohl beer and a small packet of White Owl cigars - panatellas with a candela wrapper. On Sunday morning I neglected to shave. After being left alone in the house I put on the dirty work clothes I had taken off the night before. Then I stood looking out the window. Sure enough, a car pulled up out front and Brother Hammond and Brother Mitchell and Brother Somebody Else got out. I lit up a White Owl, hurried to the kitchen and popped the top on a can of Hudepohl.
I was a gracious host. Offered everybody a cigar. Offered everybody a can of beer. Let them know I was a downhome sort of guy by uttering a few words not normally heard in church.
They left after three minutes.
When they were gone I realized I should feel guilty. I didn't. Half a century later I know darn well I should feel guilty. I don't.
So the moral of the story is this fellow Mitt Romney is running for president and people say he can't win because he's a Mormon. Now I can't stand the sight of him with his perfect haircut and a face that makes it clear he wouldn't say shucks if he had a mouthful. I wouldn't vote for him if he was running against Attila the Hun. But what has his being a Mormon got to do with anything? Isn't this a land of religious freedom? Apparently not. That's too bad.
I know I shouldn't, but every time I see Romney on the tube I wonder what he'd say if I offered him a White Owl and a can of Hudepohl. Now that is important, at least in my book.

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