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, October 30, 2009

Losing Independence?

Any halfway intelligent person could make out a good case claiming I'm nutty as the floor sweepings at a Planter's factory. Then the defense would have its turn and I'd convince the judge and jury that I was the only sane person in the room.
OK, maybe not the judge. They live in a world of their own.
The point is, I've entered yet another stage of life. My entire existence has consisted of moving from one compartment to another, slamming the door behind me as I leave one and enter the next. I often think back to one of those earlier stages, but they're over with, finished, kaput. "Allus kaput," how often I heard that during one of those earlier phases.
As yet I have not come up with a new name for this latest step. Seizure Stage has a nice ring to it but lacks mass market appeal. I'll work on it.
Many people know I haven't been at the top of my game for a couple of weeks. Not that the top of my game at 84 amounts to a helluva lot. But during those recent days every ailment I've had in the 21st century came back. A Homecoming celebration of sorts. Like any similar gathering, one new wrinkle was added to make it memorable. A trial run was conducted Monday while I was typing some bit of fluff. Suddenly a pair of vise grips took me by the shoulders, lifted me in the air and dropped me again. What happened? I had no idea, but it was startling. I looked down and around to see if I had been smoking a pipe and it now was in the initial stage of igniting me. I hadn't had a pipe in my mouth, but I had just Lost Time.
Jackie took my blood pressure: 81 over 40 something. Low blood pressure brings on hallucination.
Then yesterday morning I was loafing in my living room chair as Jackie prepared to go to the drug store. I asked her to get a package of those cheap buns with gooey icing because nothing else sounded good. She went down the hall to get her coat and purse, then stood in front of me and said they were called sticky buns. I heard that, sticky buns. The next thing I knew she was holding one of my arms, which had been swinging wildly in the air. She said my face had been distorted, although I'm not sure how she could tell the difference.
Jackie called my favorite doctor and he returned the call on his new i-phone. I'm sure of that because we had been playing with it Tuesday when I went in for my monthly shot of joy juice that offsets the effect of a tumor on the pituitary gland that has been there for many years. Jackie was somewhat perturbed because she thought I should be asking medical questions and instead the doc and I were shooting at each other with various weapons on the i-phone.
So yesterday he said, "We can do two things. We can put him in the hospital for ten days to two weeks and run a lot of tests. Will he agree to an operation?"
He had to ask but already know the answer, "No."
"OK, I'll write a prescription for anti-seizure medicine and he can come see me again in a week."
So that's the way they left it, but I sure hope he has the i-phone ready to play with. Unless he has an even newer toy by then.
For obvious reasons I won't be driving a car anytime soon. Some people who don't know better will say that means a loss of independence. Nonsense. A car is handy at times but it owns you, not vice versa. You want independence, watch the last few minutes of the movie Elmer Gantry. He had everything, was on top of the world, but lost it all.  With only the shirt on his back and a cheap suitcase in hand containing all his worldly possessions, Elmer (Burt Lancaster) walked off into the sunset with a big grin on his face. That's independence.
Whatever, I suppose some people think I should take life more seriously. Why, when it's so humorous and filled with all these many unexpected twists and turns? Not a single one of us is going to get out of it alive. Eat, drink and make merry; it all comes out the same in the end. As the drunk said as he stood up at our table a week before D-Day: "You who are about to sigh, I dalute you." It's the only way to live.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Out of action - temporarily, I hope

Thanks to a Perfect Storm, medical variety, I have been on the ropes lately. Hope it ends soon and I can be back to blogging and writing. Thanks for the kind words and comments. - Dick

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ever get more than you asked for?

I sometimes recall driving across France in the summer of 1985. As tends to happen in July, the windshield grew buggy after a couple of hours so I pulled up at what appeared to be an auto supply store in a small town. I was hoping to buy a bottle of window cleaner but the woman behind the counter had no idea what I was asking for. After several minutes of motioning as if I were cleaning a window, arm waving and talking the woman may have decided I was a nut and called the manager.
We went outside, I showed him the dirty windshield and did more motioning until his face lit up and he began nodding his head and giving me directions. In French, of course, accompanied by some pointing and waving of his own.
I got behind the wheel while he opened a garage door. He then went to the middle of the street and stopped traffic in both directions so I could back up and enter the garage. Inside a mechanic was working on a large Mercedes. The manager gave him instructions and he walked away somewhere, then returned with two buckets of water, one soapy, the other clear.
He then washed and rinsed the windshield. After that he stepped back, sighted along where he had worked, shook his head and started over. Following several cleanings, rinsings, dryings and sightings he was satisfied. Never, not even on a new car in a showroom, was a windshield so spotless.
A little embarrassed by having taken him away from his work on the Mercedes, I got out my wallet. The manager shook his head, said, "No, no," opened the garage door again, went to the middle of the street and blocked traffic so I could back out. As we drove away he stood watching and waving his hand.
After all these years I'm still embarrassed by it even though I know they do things differently in France. No halfway jobs there. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

What a difference a word makes

Today over at that excellent site,, James Lincoln Warren wrote how one word can make all the difference in the military. This is all too true, as I learned at the age of 18 when I was a radioman in a rifle company in Europe back in 1944. I was not thrilled with the job because the radio weighed 38.8 pounds and that was on top of the 65 or more I was already carrying. With that kind of load it wasn't easy to follow my system for staying alive: move fast, keep low, stay mobile. Hit the ground and roll? Forget it with that thing strapped to your back.
A big offensive by three infantry divisions was planned so the night before our battalion's code name was changed from Apple to Queen. The battalion commander was Apple 1, his executive officer Apple 2, Easy Company Apple 3, Fox Company Apple 4 and my company, George for G, was Apple 5.
By morning I had forgotten we no longer were Apple. For weeks we had gotten four hours of sleep on a good night, none at all on some. We had eaten nothing but field rations intended for short term use. We had hiked countless miles, fought in major battles and in general lived worse than any dogs. I should be worrying about Apples and Queens?
The time for the offensive arrived and passed and we were still there on the Line of Departure. To find out what was going on I followed orders and time after time called, "Apple 1, this is Apple 5. I have a message for you. Over." Nothing. Dead silence. An hour went by and nearly another when half a dozen majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels arrived. They did not have nice things to say to me.
Why, I have often wondered, if they were so smart did it take them two hours to get to the source of the problem? The offensive was a complete failure and they probably blamed me for that too. I had two words for them, but kept them to myself.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How the government handles health care

In its unbounded determination to make a new man of me the VA has decided to give me a free hearing aid. This may be related to my saying, "What?" a dozen or so times during yesterday's routine visit to my primary care doctor at the Akron VA Clinic.
If the VA succeeds in its quest it could cause problems. Jackie has often said she will not tolerate having a new man around the place. She claims to have had it up to her ears with men. While she didn't specifically exclude me from this statement I'm sure she meant to.
I'm hoping this hearing aid will not mean a compulsory yearly examination of my ears. They gave me an expensive pair of glasses, then insisted I have a check-up every 12 months. Oddly enough, my eyes have improved every year. During the most recent exam I mentioned that I spend the entire day working at a computer. They gave me a second pair of special glasses that make it easier but don't work anywhere else.
The VA gave me an expensive, deluxe model rollator so I would walk more and it would be easier. It's easier but I don't walk more. It's nice, though, to always have a seat with me and I like to play with the brakes. It needs brakes because you walk like a man of 20 and reach a high rate of speed.
I also get any prescription drug on the market for a nominal fee. If I don't have the nominal fee the VA gives them to me for free. When I got out of the hospital after a heart attack five years ago I was given a list of new prescriptions to take to a drug store. It set us back $375. From the VA it's $64.
Got a flu shot at the clinic yesterday. No charge. I was given five pages of lab test results to give to the Medicare doctor. No charge. I get my toenails trimmed every three months. No charge. The list of other benefits would fill pages and there is no limit to the number of procedures on one visit to the clinic.
Did somebody say the government doesn't know how to run a health care program?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Life's Disappointments

Certain things that happen along the bumpy road of life are really disappointing. Like not finding a cherry in your serving of fruit cocktail. Or flopping down at your seventh grade desk in the morning only to find that the pretty girl in the next row is skipping school that day. Digging a near-perfect foxhole at the close of a dreary day, covering it with logs and dirt, leaning back contentedly while examining your handiwork and then hearing the cry, "On your feet, we're moving out in five minutes!"
This day has been free of disappointments, at least so far, and that's the best time to think about other days when that was not true. When everything is going wrong and the world lies heavy on your shoulders there's not much joy in remembering days when the bird of paradise dropped a load on your head. No, bad days are best recalled on good days.
Some people say disappointment and hardship build character. I say the hell with that idea, I'm enough of a character as it is. When you've been beaten into the dirt you don't want some guy hitting you over the head with a shovel and saying, "This is making a better man of you."
On the other hand, having it too easy isn't good for a person, especially a young person. If you always have a cherry in your fruit cocktail you don't fully appreciate the joy of finding one there. This is true, especially for other people. Myself, I've had more than my fair share of bad days and disappointments so you can yell, "On your feet, we're moving out in five minutes!" till your lungs burst because I ain't moving anywhere. Not even if the pretty girl in the next row never shows up again.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

British TV and Eating Habits

A couple of young British actors, Jenny Funnell and Moira Brooker, were on PBS last evening during a showing of a rerun of an As Time Goes By reunion. They were here to encourage viewers to subscribe to PBS, something that seems to happen six or more times a year. Listening to their stories of behind-the-scenes events was interesting, but it was a refence to having lunch in the studio canteen that caught my attention. Apparently the entire cast ate beans on toast every day.
Beans on toast seem to be a British favorite. In the old Inspector Morse series, Sergeant Lewis frequently hoped they would stop somewhere for beans on toast. In the new series in which Lewis has been promoted to inspector he has not mentioned this delicacy, perhaps because he now is the boss and can decide to stop for them whenever he likes.
I have no idea what type of beans are served with beans on toast but I have an idea they are not good old Boston baked beans. This suspicion in based on the fact that when it comes to eating, the British haven't a clue. They do many things well in England. Eating is not one of them.
However, they make TV shows, both dramas and comedies, far better than is done on this side of the Atlantic. Why this is true escapes me. Perhaps it is because they film about half a dozen episodes and call it a year. If the show proves popular they do another six the following season. In this country they make anywhere from 13 to 39 episodes a year. That doesn't allow enough time for writers to come up with crisp new ideas.
In a poll among British TV viewers, As Time Goes By ranks No. 29 on the list of 100 all-time best comedies. It should be much higher than that. The opinions of viewers rarely amount to much so polls are meaningless in my opinion. No one asked for my opinion, of course, which is concrete proof that polls don't mean a thing. If you have never watched As Time Goes By, try to see it and you will find I am right. The stars are Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, enough in itself to make the show a winner, but Funnell and Brooker plus Phillip Bretherton play wonderful roles as well. It definitely rates higher than No. 29. I'd place it No. 1, but nobody asked.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I don't get it

Remember when certain things happened with public officials and they tried to keep it hidden? It was generally agreed that the cover up was worse than the original offense. How much better it would have been if the perpetrator had just come out and said, "I goofed and I'm sorry." More often than not the cover ups involved sex, but with Richard Nixon the result may have changed the course of history.
The point is, they never learn. Now it isn't break-ins or sex, it's pictures - 21 photographs showing Americans abusing prisoners in Afghanistan. A Federal appeals court said they should be released. Now Congress is about to pass a law keeping the photos hidden.
Some people say releasing them would endanger American soldiers and other government employees. Come on now, does keeping them hidden when everyone knows they exist keep them safe? No matter how bad they may be, and apparently they are pretty bad, imaginations will make them even worse. The cover up won't work. They seldom if ever do. We'd be better off to show them, apologize the way we keep apologizing for bad behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan, and get it over with.
Along with the Afghan photos, the residents of Okinawa want the government of Japan to force the United States to reduce the number of its troops there. Again, bad behavior is the reason.
It's nothing new, unfortunately. When I was a military policeman after the end of World War II in Europe my unit had to investigate some of the 500 rapes by Americans reported yearly. The worst cases I saw personally involved groups of men banging on doors of houses and demanding that all the females be sent out. One of those cases was in Belgium, an ally. It was hurtful to hear a man say it was better under the Germans because at least they were gentlemen.
Is there an answer? Perhaps a crash course in proper behavior for all American troops. I don't know if it would help or not, but I'm sure that covering up bad behavior only makes it worse.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Popular stuff quickly dies

Too busy on a couple of major projects to spend time blogging, but I was thinking how fast a popular saying can become obsolete. When I was a kid back in the 1930s an oft-heard one was, "Now you're cooking with gas." It meant you were right up to date, really getting somewhere, moving ahead in the world. No more carrying coal or wood to feed a stove. Now you just turned a handle, struck a match, held it over the jets and up shot the flames. You were cooking with gas.
Life is easy today. People don't seem to realize that, but it's true. Back then you used a push mower to mow the lawn. You washed clothes on a washboard or, if you were really prosperous, with a washing machine that still required a lot of physical work. No clothes driers so you hung everything out on a clothesline to dry. On rainy Mondays they had to be hung in the basement. No wash-and-wear clothing so everything had to be ironed. Lucky women had a Hoover or Eureka but most used a broom and dustpan to clean the floor. They scrubbed floors on hands and knees. After every meal they washed and dried the dishes by hand.
In cool or cold weather you fired up the furnace and kept it going by heaping on coal at regular intervals. You carried out the ashes when they began to pile up. You emptied the water container under the ice box, but very carefully so you didn't end up making a mess.
There was much more, of course. The mother had the worst of it but there was plenty to do for the father and the kids. Keeping a house running smoothly meant hard work. Does anyone darn socks today? Does anyone alter clothes so someone else can wear them? Probably not too many.
Time to get back to work while I'm still cooking with gas.