Whiskey in the White House – 1921

On January 16, 1920, the Prohibition Amendment banned the sale, manufacture and transportation of intoxicating liquors.   The only way to get alcoholic beverages was with a doctor’s prescription.  See e.g.  Crissinger – prescription    The President of the United States — Warren Harding — as a Senator from Ohio voted for Prohibition.  But he did so with a twinkle in his eye. . . .

Notwithstanding the dire strictures of Prohibition, the White House remained stocked with fine quality booze imported from Canada.  The President had help from his “Ohio Gang” — a fraternity of boyhood pals whom he brought to Washington to help run the country.   

Some years ago, I acquired a collection of spicy correspondence from Daniel R. Crissinger, a member of the Ohio Gang, which provides insight into the smuggling of booze into the White House.  The letters are dated from April to July 1921 and are directed to Orlando Rapp (“Orlie”) – another Ohio pal.  An example is a letter dated July 2, 1921 – “You have been wanting some Gordon gin.  I think it can be had here at $105 per case.”   

While the President’s name never comes up, you can bet that he was up to his corkscrew in complicity.  I have attached the letters.   Also attached is a 1924 doctor’s prescription for “sherry wine.”  And it is an “emergency.”  Mercy!  I hope the poor woman got her medicine. . . . . 

Crissinger 1  Crissinger 2    Crissinger 3  Crissinger 4  Crissinger 5 

Islam, Judaism and Christianity

Islam, Judaism and Christianity all trace their lineage to a common ancestor  — Abraham.  Abraham had two sons:  Isaac (by Sarah) and Ishmael (by Hagar).  Isaac begat the Line of David from which Jewish and Christian traditions derive and Ishmael was an ancestor of Muhammad — the Messenger of Islam.  

The Quran is interesting in that it adopts and references all of the prophets of the Old Testament.  Jesus is mentioned nearly a hundred times.  And Mary is the only woman mentioned in the Quran.  Islam accepts the Old Testament (especially the Torah and Psalms) as “The Word of God.”  Yet try and reconcile the Quran and the Bible theologically?  In most cases, it is a major chore.      

A common heritage, yet irreconcilable division.  Islam has 72 insular sects.  Christianity has its own islands of belief and Judaism has various divisions.  Despite common origin, there is distrust, misunderstanding and even violence — all in the name of religion.    While most Christian and Jewish traditions accept (or at least are tolerant of) other religions and denominations, the violence tends to be confined to Islam and is curiously sectarian in nature though much too is directed outwardly — toward Christians and Jews.

In my post of January 30th, I commented on the ecumenical role the Archangel Gabriel has played in various religious traditions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Bahai, etc.).   I wonder what Gabriel is thinking with all that’s going on in the world. . . . .    


Meeting with the Mayor

I have previously discussed how I tutor with the Chicago Lights Tutoring Organization (see posts of August 8 and 9, 2011, and January 26, 2012) and how I write plays for students to read.  (See  www.chicagolights.org)

Several weeks ago, I wrote a play for my student (Jordan) where he played an NBC co-anchor for the 10:00 pm news.  At the conclusion of the “broadcast,” he invited viewers to tune in next week for an interview with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  At the end of our session, Jordan asked if I would write a play where he interviewed the Mayor.  So I did.  I sent a copy to Chicago Lights’ administrators so they might use it with other students.  They liked it – and sent a copy to the Mayor’s office.  Long story short – the Mayor asked to meet Jordan and me.    

A few weeks ago, Jordan, his parents, the administrator of the Chicago Lights Tutoring Program and I spent about 40 minutes with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  He was a gentleman, didn’t rush us, showed Jordan around his office (and let Jordan sit in his chair – at his desk), and he read the whole play – interacting with Jordan.  Jordan read perfectly!!   The Mayor asked a lot of questions of Jordan and his parents.  And then he inscribed – and signed – Jordan’s copy of the play.  He signed mine too. 🙂   He liked a line from the play which went “There is no finish line for improvement.”  He told Jordan to listen for that phrase in the coming weeks since he said he would use it – and perhaps say “my friend Jordan says ‘there is no finish line . . . .'”  That, he said, might have reporters going “who is this ‘Jordan’ fellow“?    Pretty cool. . . .

To see a pic and 2 articles on the subject, check out www.chicagolightstutoring.org  And here’s a link to the Play:   Rahm Emanuel Play

Trouble Sleeping?

There appear to be three types of insomnia:  transient (occasional); acute (short duration); and chronic (long duration).  All result in sleep deprivation which can (after longer duration) have serious health consequences.   I fall asleep easily – and quickly – but there are times when I will wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.  thinking about this or that.  I’m familiar with the usual RX’s for getting to or back to sleep:  a cool room; no meal immediatly before bedtime; easy on the alcohol; no caffeine; no chocolate; a glass of warm milk; no afternoon naps; keep regular sleep hours; exercise but not before going to bed; read something boring – or soothing – before turning out the lights; and so on. 

However I have three further remedies that work for me that I’ve never read about.  They are:

1.  Clenching hands — When I wake up in the middle of the night, I sometimes find that my hands are clenched.  I simply unclench and lay them flat.  I suddenly feel relaxed;

2.  Deep breathing — I will breathe in through my nose, hold the breath and then exhale.  Slowly.  Deeply.   Through my mouth.  I get exhausted doing it.  After 7 or 8 times, it’s pretty much back to dreamland; and

3.  A pad of paper — I will often wake up thinking (you wonder – what could this man possibly be thinking?).  So I have a pad of paper by the bed.   And a flashlight.  I jot down whatever random drivle  comes into my small brain and I can then forget it.   zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. . . . .

And if these remedies don’t work, call me and I will start singing “Oh Shenedoah” (see post of August 14, 2011) .  That should do the trick. . . . .

Saturday Lunch

In my post of September 8, 2011, I commented that I usually feel like Diogenes searching for a decent lunch on Saturdays.  It’s often PB and J on pita or a tasteless frozen burrito (unless I dash out to Treasure Island to grab a few pieces of spanikopita).   However, on September 8th I shared a recipe for Saturday lunch that was cosmic.   It was a recipe that I stumbled on by pure accident due to a rare constellation of foods that happened to be in the frig, pantry and fruit bowl. 

Lately, I’ve been teeing up another easy Saturday lunch that is a “keeper.”  It is La Banderita tortillas with smoked salmon, Monterrey Jack cheese, fresh Hass avocado and Frontera Grill’s Salpica brand cilantro green olive salsa with roasted tomatillos.  Oh my. . . .

I toast the tortillas for a few minutes.  Remove, lay flat and layer some smoked salmon, a slice of Monterrey Jack cheese and fresh avocado.  Nuke it on “Reheat” for a bit, remove and slather with salsa.  I have died and gone to heaven.   For a dinner portion, you might use larger tortillas and add some grilled onions (see post of November 14, 2011) and fresh guacamole (avocados, squeezed limes, well-chopped cilantro). 

If you add a side of black beans and rice (brown rice is tastier) with a tad of salsa on top, and perhaps a glass or two of cabernet sauvignon (I am partial to Caymus), you will have an exquisite Sunday (or any day) dinner.  If you make it, invite me over. . . . . especially if you’re serving Caymus cab. . . . . 


Second City

In 1938, my father and his friend Bill S. took a driving trip to Mexico.  This was an unheard of expedition at the time for two twenty-something guys from Chicago.   Despite numerous car troubles (a Model A Ford), they nearly made it to Mexico City.  At that point, running low on money – and enthusiasm for confronting a chronically ailing car – they chugged back north. 

I have a wonderful vintage film (now on DVD) my father made this trip.  The amazing thing — it is in color.   One of the classic images of my father is him standing next to the famed Obispado in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.   Built in the late 1780’s, this Church building has served as a barracks, retirement home, fortress and now – a museum.

In the late 1980’s I began traveling to Monterrey on business.  I have been there often – visiting two or in a few cases three times a year.   Monterrey has become almost a “second city” for me.  I pretty much know my way around (though it is challenging) and I enjoy the wonderful restaurants, sites and people.  When there, I normally stay at the Quinta Real, a beautiful hotel in the San Pedro Garza Garcia neighborhood.  I have visited the Obispado — and have a wonderful picture of myself standing in the exact spot where my father stood seventy years before.

I have made good friends in Monterrey – Antonio G. and his family being chief among them.   He and his family have been to my home (for Thanksgiving one year) and my wife and I have been to his.   And there are so many more good friends there.   These are times of great difficulty for Monterrey but the City is good and its people are strong.  They will endure and surpass. 

So this guy. . . . .

So this guy walks up to a house and rings the doorbell.  A woman answers the door.

Ma’am, I’m a painter.  I will paint anything.”

The woman thinks. . . “Why don’t you paint my porch.   Paint it dark brown.” 

So the guy goes to work an a few hours later, he rings the doorbell. 

Ma’am, I’m all done.  By the way, it wasn’t a Porsche – it was a Mercedes Benz. . . .”

Drill or not drill. . . . .

I see six competing dynamics on the question of drill or not drill: 

1.  Environmentalists — They oppose every effort to drill, create nuclear power plants or improve on carbon emission power sources.  This insures America’s dependence on foreign oil. 

2.  Congress — Members of Congress tend to be doctrinairre, have little business experience and beholden to pressure groups.   Decisions are often made in an ideological (and informational) vaccuum. 

3.  Alternative Energy Sources — It’s well established that wind, geothermal and solar will never amount to more than 5% of America´s total energy requirement.        

4.  Dependency — America is in trouble.   We are heavily dependent on foreign oil.  We are paying more and more for gas and heating oil.   And the prospects for an interruption of our carbon fix is a daily worry.  

5.  American capability — The U.S. could be free of its dependency if it shifted to natural gas – a relatively clean (or at least cleanER) energy source.  America has a 150 years worth of natural gas reserves lying near the surface.  As to oil – we have substantial reserves which go untapped.  

6.  The Future — We need to examine alternative energy sources and employ them when and where feasible.  But wind and solar are not the answer (at least not in current configuration).  Nuclear is a viable option so long as safety is assured.  But for now, America is desperate.   Most Americans believe in water and energy conservation, recycling, reducing (eliminating) pollution, reutilization of goods, and so on.  With this positive base of consensus, it would seem logical to have constructive dialogue on the issues and consider compromise on moving forward.  

But it’s a hot button topic where I see intractable behavior on the part of environmentalists who refuse under any circumstances to consider or even discuss the most logical, economic and least harmful options.   And to me, this is where the problem comes in.