Stay Out of Highwood

Shortly after the movie Ghostbusters was released (1984), Donna, Lauren (age 8) and I were on a flight from LaGuardia to Chicago. We were sitting in my least favorite spot — the bulkhead (no leg room).  So we take off and we’re flying along when Donna announced that she was going to the bathroom.  Since we were sitting at the opposite end of the coach section bathrooms, the flight attendant said Donna could go up to first class.  

When she returned, she sat down and said “You will not believe who is sitting right in front of us!”  “Bill Murray!”   Now Lauren was keenly aware of Ghostbusters and she immediately had to go to the bathroom.  And she whisked through the curtains.  I could see her standing in the aisle – staring at the person directly in front of us (presumably Mr. Murray).  She giggled – went to the bathroom – and returned.  “He made a funny face at me!” she exclaimed.  Soon thereafter, she had to go to the bathroom again.  And again.  And again. . . . . 

After we landed and pulled into the gate, I asked if Lauren wanted his autograph.  Embarrassed, she said “no.”  We walked through the terminal toward baggage claim – with Bill Murray (now wearing a large floppy hat) a few feet ahead.  As we got to baggage claim, I told Lauren this was the last chance.  “Do you want his autograph?”  And she said “Yes.  But you go first.”  So I approached Mr. Murray – Lauren behind me – peeking out.  “Hello, Mr. Murray.  We are from Wilmette [where he grew up] and we are fans of your new movie.  May we bother you for an autograph?”  Bill Murray looked at Lauren behind me – grabbed her and picked her up and gave her a gentle shake “whatsa matter?  Can’t you talk?”   And Lauren melted.  

He signed a large card “To Lauren – Stay out of Highwood” [the place in our area known for taverns].  So far, she has.  I think. . . . .    

Patrol Boys

(An old favorite from 11/20/14)

When I was in 6th and 7th grade, I was a “patrol boy.” I was given a white Sam Brown belt (a 3″ white belt with an angled strap from one hip to the opposite shoulder). And I was given power. I was the capo di tutti capi (or one of them) for Lincoln School in Mt. Prospect. Donna was a patrol girl back in Rye, NY.

I stood at the street corner. When kids wanted to cross the street, I would thrust my arms out to the sides (“don’t go“). When traffic slowed, I would step into the street and shove my arm into the air – stop! And cars would slow and stop. It’s a patrol boy. Kids would cross. I would step back and motion the drivers with an “as you were” wave. 6th grade.

Today, you see crossing guards who are older than dirt. Some look old enough to be my grandfather (or grandmother). Now that’s old. Not as nimble as a patrol boy. They wear iridescent vests, reflective hats, and they carry a monster “STOP” sign. A few look like they’re geared up for a SWAT team. I remember seeing one old guy wearing a helmet.

I always wondered why the patrol boy era came to an end. Probably lawyers. And parents who worry about giving their child authority. Autonomy. Power. Risk. I frankly think it would be great if we could resume the patrol boy (and girl) era. Think about the sense of responsibility. Confidence. Growing up. Yes – I know it’s a different time. But it’s still the old protecting versus insulating children (see my offering of 11/21/13). We want to give children wings. And roots.


I suspect that most who receive my blog posts have roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition. As do I.  Fallen Lutheran.  Now – good Episcopalian.  I have previously discussed my journeys through the Old Testament (June 11, 2012) and the New Testament (November 10, 2013).  

But being a “believer” does not absolve one of questions on matters of faith.  I have them as I’m sure you do.  Some might ask if there is baseball in heaven (see 4/12/12).  Answer?  Yes – you’re pitching tomorrow.  I’ve wondered about golf in heaven . . . .  But seriously – my questions may have answers but I’ve never seen (or understood) them.  

Why is there so much inequity, violence and pain in the world?  We have the desperately poor, persecuted, disabled and troubled.  Yet we also have folks on the other end of the spectrum.  And many in between.   I am aware of Matthew 5:45.   But why? 

Do the poor and downtrodden find any favor with God even when they may have no – or shaky – belief?   Are we frail humans “graded” on a curve? 

Are those who find religion on their deathbed truly forgiven of murderous crime or hateful behavior?

God is Divine – yet He changes His mind (e.g. Exodus 32:7-14).  Why? 

With so many religions, how can (and why do) some claim they are right and the rest of the world is wrong on matters of faith?  It seems that the only reason we each believe as we do is that fickle “lottery of birth” (see 4/9/15).  We had no choice. . . . . 

I would be interested in your questions.  Comments.  Or answers.


The Queen of Diamonds. . . .

The Manchurian Candidate.  The 1959 book by Richard Condon.   A 1962 movie of that title (released at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis).  With a remake in 2004 . . . . . 

Major Bennett Marco, Sergeant Raymond Shaw and the rest of their infantry platoon are captured in 1952 – during the Korean War.  They are transported to Manchuria where all are brainwashed to believe that Shaw saved their lives in combat.  Shaw upon his return to the States is awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage. 

Years later, Marco – also back home – begins suffering a recurrent nightmare.  Of Shaw murdering two of his colleagues under the watchful eye of Chinese and Soviet intelligence officers.  Marco learns that another soldier from the platoon is suffering the same nightmare.  And Marco begins to investigate . . . . .

Marco learns that the Communists have been using Shaw as a sleeper agent – an assassin — who is subconsciously activated by the Queen of Diamonds.  Shaw’s handler turns out to be his mother – Eleanor.  The goal is to have Shaw assassinate a Presidential candidate – and to advance a puppet dictator — Senator Johnny Iselin.  Marco meets with Shaw.  Plays the Queen of Diamonds and gives Shaw instructions.  In the end, Shaw ends up killing his mother, Iselin and himself. 

In today’s political climate – with both candidates having such close sub rosa ties to Russia – one has to wonder.  Perhaps one is activated by Queen of Spades.  And the other by the Joker . . . . .   

Lady Be Good

I’m not talking about the 1924 Broadway show that featured music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. I’m talking about a B-24D Liberator that vanished after a bombing run over Naples during World War II. That fateful day was April 4, 1943.

When I was a kid, my parents subscribed to LIFE Magazine – the weekly news journal that was published from 1883 to 1972.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on LIFE when it walked in the door.  Simple kid that I was – I loved the pictures.  And the armchair adventure.  And I remember with clarity a day in 1960 when I learned that a mysterious B-24 Liberator that had been spotted a year before deep in the Sahara had been identified as the Lady Be Good.

The Lady Be Good on that early April day – was staffed by a newbie crew of nine – just one week off the boat.  Their first mission was a big one.  A night bombing run over Naples harbor.  The Lady Be Good took off with 25 other bombers from Soluch Field in Libya.  Near Benghazi.  Most of the bombers returned to base within a few hours — because of high winds.  But the noble Lady pressed on.  And ended up dumping her bombs in the Med.  And the Lady with its nine souls – began the return trip – alone.  In the black of night, the plane overflew the base and continued on.  Deep into the Libyan Desert.   The pilot believed the desert below was the ocean.  So they continued.  Until they ran out of fuel.  And the crew bailed out. . . . . .

In February 1960, the U.S. Army visited the plane and conducted a formal search for the remains of the crew.  Eight of the nine were found.  And in August 1994 the remnants of the plane were removed from the site.  Only one member of the crew – S/Sgt. Vernon L. Moore of New Boston, Ohio – was never found.  His body still rests – where it fell – 73 years ago. . . . .  

Burning Leaves

For millennia, folks have been burning garbage and “stuff” with relative impunity.  The smoke was often choking.  And sometimes toxic.  

But. . . . as a kid, I remember my father – and other men in my neighborhood – raking leaves in the fall.  And ushering them out to the street – at the curb – and lighting them up.  Saturdays and Sundays in October were the optimal days for raking, gathering and burning leaves.  And the distinct smell of burning leaves was overpowering.  And – from my recollection – not so unpleasant.  Everyone burned their leaves.  I mean what were families supposed to do with them?  My dad would stand – smoking his pipe – and talking with the other men.  As the leaves burned. . . . .   

I tend to think it would be nice if for one day in the fall, everyone could spoon some dead leaves out to the street.  And burn them.  Like the “good old days” (did I really say that?).    I don’t need a “bad for the environment” speech.  Or “think of what it did to your lungs.”  Or “aren’t there regulations?”  Just think about sharing an indelible olfactory moment of those autumn afternoons long ago . . . . .   

Boko Haram

In my post of June 12, 2016, I commented that much of the problem in Islam can be traced to Saudi Arabia.       

Previously (December 9, 2012), I discussed tribal dynamics in Nigeria:  Ibo (nearly all Christian); Hausa (nearly all Muslim); and Yoruba (divided roughly 60% Christian and 40% Muslim).  While the Yoruba and Ibo get along pretty well (regardless of religious persuasion), it is the Hausa who cause much of the trouble in Nigeria.  Hausa are mainly uneducated.  They are Muslim in the Saudi (Wahabi) model.  And it is the Hausa – who (with Saudi influence) sponsor Boko Haram.

The boys of Boko Haram (means “Western education is forbidden“) are the Hausa hit men in Nigeria.  Since its founding in 2002, Boko Haram has executed tens of thousands of innocents and displaced 2.3 million.  While they are equal opportunity killers (butchering Christians in the north of Nigeria), the vast majority of their victims have been Muslim. 

The Bible is on my nightstand.  So is the Quran.  I’ve read both cover to cover (see 6/21/15).   I believe that Al-A’raf (Surah 7) foretells the prospects for those who join – or sponsor – Boko Haram.  ISIS.  Al-ShabaabAl-QaedaHamas.  Taliban.  And the others. . .     

179. We have destined for Hell multitudes of jinn [devils] and humans. They have hearts with which they do not understand. They have eyes with which they do not see. They have ears with which they do not hear. These are like cattle. In fact, they are further astray. These are the heedless.    


Does anyone hitchhike anymore?  I can’t remember the last time I saw someone standing on the side of the road.  Arm extended.  Thumb pointed up.   When I was at Augustana College in Rock Island, when I wanted to go home, my options were to take the train (to the tune of twenty bucks) or hitchhike.  I nearly always chose the latter option. 

My modus operandi was to Magic Marker a sign “Augie Student to Chicago.”  And on the back “Augie student to Mt. Prospect.”  And I’d stand on the street outside my dorm.  Hold up the sign.  And stick out my thumb.  And always got a ride.  And I lived to tell the tale. 

The first rides would usually cart me off to Interstate 80 and drop me off.  There, I’d stand at the entrance ramp looking forlorn and holding my sign.  And I was always picked up.

Once (Scout’s Honor) a big tractor trailer stopped.  I hustled up and climbed in.  The driver said “I’m sick and need to sleep.  If you wanna drive, I’m going to Route 47.”  Soooooo I traded places with the driver.  He shifted a few of the floor gears and off I went piloting this big rig.  The driver conked out instantly leaning against the door.  At Rte. 47, I slowed to a stop.  The driver took over and I hopped out, walked to the down ramp and held up my sign. 

Hitchhiking was so popular back in the day that Marvin Gaye wrote a song with the title “Hitch Hike.”  The song was released in 1962 in Gaye’s “That Stubborn Kinda Fellow” album.  In 1965 the Rolling Stones released their own version.  Listening to this music does bring back memories. . . . .


On Being a Lawyer

(A summer repeat from 12/26/2011)


D o

N o t

F i n d

E v e r y

D e t a i l

N o t a b l y

E x c i t i n g.

C o u r t r o o m

L  i  t  i  g  a  t  i  o  n

N o n e t h e l e s s

D e m o n s t r a t e s

U n a d u i t e r a t e d

S a t i s f a c t i o n

A d v e n t u r o u s

S t r a t e g i e s

A r g u m e n t s

S i d e b a r s

L e n g t h y

B r  i e f s

W i n d y

T a l k

A n d

M e


By Scott Petersen

As originally published in the Journal of the American Bar Association (February 1979)