Groundhog Day

In my post of March 20, 2014, I talked about testifying in parole hearings on murder cases that I tried when I was a States Attorney (prosecutor) at 26th & California.  Every three years, I was asked to testify in the 1976 case referenced in that post.  What’s left of the family would show up.  Very emotional. 

Ernie S. stabbed Susan H. to death in the fifty hundred block of South Ellis.  She was stabbed in a kitchen.  Ernie S. ran out.  Susan sat down at the kitchen table.  Bleeding out.  Her screams brought two friends who were upstairs.  Beat cops arrived and scooped her up and raced her in the squadrol to the hospital.   No time for an ambulance.  But Susan was DOA.   Ernie S. got 100 to 300 years after a 2-1/2 week jury trial.  The  U.S. moratorium on the death penalty (for which he would have been eligible) did not end until June 1977.  Interestingly, Ernie had done the same thing the week before to Jasmin G – a nursing student (Jasmin lived).  Some years later, he escaped from a prison van and ran into Joliet West High School and dragged a 14 year girl – Kristine D. – out of a classroom.  He did stuff to her in a stairwell.  He was recaptured.  But Ernie has wanted out.  

Sooooo, because the sentence was “indeterminate,” every two or three years I went back to testify that Ernie S. should never see the light of day again.  Some folks will say “ohhh – just let him goHe’s a victim.”  Just wait.  Until it’s their child.  Grandchild. Susan’s grief-stricken parents both died – within months of each other – a few years after Susan’s murder.

On March 24, 2016, the Parole Board voted 12-0 to deny parole.  They agreed on a 3 year “set.”  Ernie went before the Parole Board in 2019. And they let him go. . . . . Under Illinois wonderful “No Cash Bail” statute, I’m sure Ernie would get a slap on the wrist, a stern “don’t do that again” – and released. Again. And again. And again. . . . . .

Freshness Dates

[A repeat from May 5, 2019] How did my generation (and those before) ever survive without freshness dates.  Those dates that counsel that food is “best by” or a store must “sell by” or you have to “use by” — a certain date.  How did I live?   I will tell you how . . . .

My father would take a sniff of the carton of milk that had been in the refrigerator since before I was born – and say “it’s okay. Drink it.” And I would.  I remember going to my grandmother’s apartment once.  She made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.   I took a bite and started chewing.  I looked at the sandwich and then at my grandmother.  Mouth open.  About to heave the whole thing onto the table.  She picked up the peanut butter.  Waved it under her nose.  And made a face.  “It’s rancid” she said [I swear those were her words].  “Okay – spit it out.”  And I did. My cousin Wayne came over to our house one day.  I was perhaps seven or eight.  He went into the frig and pulled out the orange juice.  Poured a glass.  “Ouch!” he said.  “This stuff is baaaadddd.”  My father took a whiff and said “it’s just a little over the hill.”  “Over the hill” as in enough botulism to wipe out the entire State of Pennsylvania.   I’d been drinking it sporadically for the last few weeks.  Or months. 

I’m sure my experience is not unlike many of those reading this post.  We’ve become a nation of wimps.  Allowing the “freshness date” to dictate whether a food is good.  Or not.   What about letting the old sniffer make that determination?  But for the fact that I have granddaughters (who will never know the meaning of the word “rancid” or “over the hill” except as it applies to me), I might be using the “sniff test” to determine what’s good.  And what is. . . . yuck.  Then again . .

Frames of Mind

[A repeat from March 18, 2018] Most individuals have varied levels of competence with different skill sets.  I have reasonable eye/hand coordination which allows me to play a passable game of golf.  And perform magic.  I play the guitar, speak Spanish and express myself with some clarity.  But don’t ask me for directions.  And do not ask me about algebra.  I have the mathematical I.Q. of a chipmunk (I’m sure I’m insulting some very nice chipmunks).

Howard Gardner in his classic book Frames of Mind spoke of seven basic intelligences that all people share:  linguistic; musical; logical/mathematical; spatial; bodily/kinesthetic; interpersonal; and intrapersonal.   While everyone has a modicum of each of these seven intelligences, some folks are more heavily endowed with one or more of these capabilities (a la Mozart, Michael Jordan or Einstein).  It thus becomes important for parents to recognize – and nurture – the natural abilities of children rather than skew development with subjective expectation. “My boy will play football” “My daughter will be a lawyer.”  “My child will go to [XYZ] college.”    It’s one thing to encourage a natural athlete to study physics or a math whiz to take speech classes.  But it is quite another to discourage a young person’s natural gifts.  Or skills.  In such cases, it seems that everyone loses . . . . . 

Put Your Head on my Shoulder*

[A repeat from September 19, 2015]  The first time I ever danced with a girl was in my 6th grade classroom. Our teacher, Mrs. Speerschneider, put on some music and drafted Marilyn W. to dance with me.  Poor girl.  To say I had two left feet would be a compliment.  They felt like two left flippers.  I was scared to death. And I remember stepping on Marilyn’s feet in my pathetic effort to “dance.” I’m sure the experience soured poor Marilyn on the male of the species.

By 7th grade, I had danced maybe three or four times.  So I was an old hand.  7th and 8th graders in Mt. Prospect were invited to “Rec” as it was called on Friday nights.  At the park district.  It was a dance. . . .  Few of the guys I knew ever danced. They just stood on the sidelines. Joshing.  Joking. Snorting.  And acting like immature boys. Me too. That is until Sharon E. walked over to me during one “slow” dance and asked me out on the floor. My friends were stunned. They stared.  I was nearly apoplectic inside. But that was only a taste of what was to come. . . .We went out on the dance floor and began dancing.  And Sharon promptly pressed her head against my head.  I remember immediately beginning to perspire.   Heavily.  Notwithstanding her head remained glued to mine.  Sweat dripping down the both of us.  And the music ended and she walked back to the line of girls. And I sheepishly went back to the line of boys feeling like I’d just emerged from a swimming pool.  And got glares. And snickers. And when the slow music began again, I saw her moving in my direction. Uh oh.   And we danced.  Her head pressed against mine.    

I don’t think we exchanged a single word.  Ever.  But after a few times, dancing with Sharon wasn’t so bad . . . . 

*Title of the 1958 song by Paul Anka (check out )


·  A cold seat in a public restroom is unpleasant. A warm seat in a public restroom is worse

·  Apparently an RSVP to a wedding invitation “Maybe next time,” isn’t the correct response.

·  Don’t irritate old people. The older we get, the less “life in prison” is a deterrent.

·  Aliens probably fly by Earth, go home and lock their doors.

·  I really don’t mind getting older, but my body is taking it badly.

·  I miss the 90s when bread was still good for you and no-one knew what kale was.

·  Do you ever get up in the morning, look in the mirror and think “This can’t be right.

·  My wife asked me to take her to one of those restaurants where they make food right in front of you. I took her to Subway.

·  I picked up a hitchhiker. He asked if I wasn’t afraid, he might be a serial killer? I told him the odds of two serial killers being in the same car at the same time were extremely unlikely.

December 31. 1999

[A repeat from December 27, 2018] Do you remember the approach of the new millennium? I’m talking New Year’s Eve 1999.  Do you recall the media warnings that power grids might shut down. Telephone service interrupted. Computers could crash. And the world might come to an end. All because the shift from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000, a new millennium, would cause these catastrophic “issues” with computer networks.

Ever the Eagle Scout – with a penchant to “Be Prepared” – in the week prior to this possible cataclysm, I went out and bought a few gallons of bottled water, some cans of Chef Boyardee, Campbell’s soup and tuna and I squirreled away a couple thousand dollars in twenties and fifties. And we had a few bottles of Liberty School cabernet sauvignon — all just in case.  As the clock ticked toward the advent of the New Year, Donna and I hunkered down in bed and watched a movie.  I figured – hey – when ya got no control, ya got no problem. . . . .

So as the nudge from 11:59:59 p.m. to 12:00:01 occurred (in Africa, Europe, New York and Chicago) and the new year went off without a hitch, we turned off the lights and went to sleep.   We ate the canned pasta, consumed the soup over the coming year or so, spent the dollars, and we drank the cab (which was dutifully replenished).  

A few weeks ago, I went down to the basement and in the back of the closet behind some flower pots, there was a dusty gallon bottle of water.  Leftover from that fateful night.  No.  We’re not drinking it.  But it is being used to water plants in the house.   Eighteen year old water. . . . .

Calvin Coolidge

[An oldie from August 22, 2011] Calvin Coolidge – a.k.a. “Silent Cal” – was known for his brevity — and his wisdom.  Coolidge helped restore respect and confidence to the White House after the dreadful scandals of his predecessor, Warren Harding.

For years, I have had a quotation of Calvin Coolidge stapled, pinned or taped (once glued) to the wall of my office.  Each day when I arrive, I sit down, turn on the computer and my eyes drift to his words — to the left of my computer screen.   The saying of Calvin Coolidge – that has served as a constant inspiration (and kick in the caboose) – goes as follows:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination are omnipotent.  The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” 


It began with short wave. My parents had an old console radio and record player combination. In addition, it had a single short wave band. As a latchkey kid, I would come home from school, call my mother (“Mom – I’m alive“) and then start playing with my toy soldiers, trains and other stuff. And I would listen to records on the console. I never did homework.

At some point, I began noodling with the radio dial. And then I hit the short wave access. And it was “wow!” I remember listening to broadcasts from the BBC. And I told my father that I was interested in short wave. After a while, he bought me a Channel Master 6 channel radio. It had AM, FM, long wave (aviation and weather) and three short wave channels. It was a magnificent battery-powered device. There was no phased array or supercharged receiver. But it did have a long aerial. And I would listen to the BBC, Radio Moscow and a host of foreign language transmissions.

Boy Scouts and Morse code got me interested in ham radio (I was a novice) and shortly after getting married I got a newly-popular CB (Citizens Band) radio. I kept the thing in the car and I’d listen to the back and forth with truck drivers – rarely offering anything on my own. Today – no one really needs CB radios though a fair number of truckers still have them for short-range communication and updates. Short wave and ham radio have drifted away. But I remember well the pleasure I derived from my radio days known (to very few) as “KBOU-seven three one niner.”

The Library

[A repeat from May 22, 2016]   In my post of February 10, 2013, I talked about a visit to Boca Grande, Florida. Wonderful. Memorable time.    And I alluded to the Boca Grande Public Library. 

Fast backwards about 32 years. Donna, Lauren and I were in Boca Grande with our dear friends Diane, Dave and Dave Jr.  Dave said “want to go check out the library?”  And we did.  The Johann Fust Community Library.  Nice library.  Lotsa books.  In the back on the far right, there was a cage of sorts.  A fenced area.  And a locked fence door.  I ambled back and peered in.  Oh my socks and shoes

In that cage, on the shelves, I recognized books that were hundreds of years old.  I began to perspire. The librarian Pansy walked over.  “Can I help you?”  “Ummm. . . may I look in there (pointing)?”  “You’re in interested in that?”  Mmmmm. . . sure.   She keyed opened the lock and let me in.  And I drooled. . . . .  Dozens of first editions (e.g. Origin of the Species – 1859) and books dating to the 1500’s.  Without appearing too enthused, I casually asked “what are you going to do with these books?”  Pansy folded her arms, shook her head and said “I just don’t know.”  Now I am not as dumb as I look so I offered – “you . . . ummm . . . want to sell them?”  And she looked at me incredulously “you would want to buy them?”  And I said yes.   And I did.   Suitcases and boxes full of rare books donated years before by Charles Goodspeed of Boston’s famed rare book shop.  All brought home.  And quickly deaccessed.   

It was a memorable “score.”  Like buying the Rock Island Railroad archives (5/15/14) or stumbling upon the mysterious cemetery of books in Lisbon (8/24/14).  I have always liked libraries . . . .