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 . . . .   

Shortsworthy

[A repeat from November 17, 2016] I enjoy playing golf during the summer and in the shoulder seasons. And my preference is to wear shorts.  In the summer, that’s an easy sell.  Looking around the golf course on a hot summer day, most guys are wearing shorts.

However once Labor Day arrives and the temperature begins its inexorable slide down the thermometer, the long pants start coming out.  Even when it’s 60 degrees.   But not me. . . . .

I can’t count the number of times someone has said – as I walk in the locker room on a chilly Saturday morning – “you’re wearing shorts!?!?”  Posed as a question, the answer would be obvious — from my knobby, scarred legs.  Yes.  I am – indeed – wearing shorts.  But when presented as a statement, it might just suggest that I meet someone’s definition of “knucklehead” (see February 13, 2014, for the proper definition of “knucklehead”).  

Hey – I’m comfy in shorts.  But I also figure if a 110 pound cocktail waitress can wear a miniskirt when it’s 10 below zero, I can wear shorts to golf on a day when Andy Avalos says “it’s going to be 59 degrees and sunny.”  Such weather is in my opinion shortsworthy.     

John Wooden

[A repeat from August 31, 2017] Once in a while a person comes along who cuts a wide swath. And makes a significant difference in the lives of many. John Wooden (1910-2010) was one of those special people.  Wooden remains the winningest basketball coach (UCLA) in NCAA history – winning 10 national titles in a 12 year period. Coach Wooden was known for his short, simple inspirational messages which helped players succeed in basketball as well as in life.  

Make each day a masterpiece.

Never cease trying to be the best you can be.  That is in your power.

Young people need role models, not critics.

Never mistake activity for achievement.

Today is the only day.  Yesterday is gone.

Never measure yourself by what you have accomplished – but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.

The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.

You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.  

Seek opportunities to show you care.  The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.   

Interestingly, Coach Wooden rarely mentioned “winning” to his players.  He always stressed effort.  Doing one’s best was key. Do that – and good things happen. . . .    

Broken Glass

On July 26, 2022, I posted on how I worked on Saturdays and often Sundays (after Church) in our family business at 137 South Albany in Chicago. The post included a picture of me – age 8 – with my father in the factory. The place was about two blocks from Marshall High School in a poor and predominantly black and Hispanic area. Our small 3 story building had been a stable for Post Office horses – back in the day. Above the third floor outer door was a large beam extended over the alley – with a hook – to rope the hay up to the top floor.

I was usually pretty busy. After work hours and the lights went out, I would shoot the big Norway rats that would emerge on the factory floor. Then carry them outside to the garbage can.

Since the door was always locked, it was often we’d hear a loud knock on the wood panels. Sometimes it was a customer. Sometimes a salesman. And sometimes it would be a few young men from the neighborhood – looking for a handout. Rather than a handout, my father would give each one a paper bag and ask that it be filled with garbage. And broken glass. In exchange, he would give each one a quarter. Now I suspect that some of these bags were filled with glass from bottles broken for that purpose. But that didn’t matter. Each kid walked away richer than before – and learned a small lesson about “work.”

Carlos

[A repeat from February 4, 2018] Who remembers Carlos?  I’m talking Carlos Ilich Ramírez Sánchez.  Carlos was born in Venezuela in 1949.  Despite his mother’s desire for him to have a Christian name, his father – José – named him “Ilyich” after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.  Two siblings were named “Vladimir” and “Lenin.”  Young Carlos joined the youth movement of the Communist Party in Caracas but his parents soon divorced and his mother moved the family to London.   It was there that Carlos began to really move.  In the wrong direction . . . . .

The “Carlos” of whom I speak is “Carlos the Jackal.”  Carlos volunteered for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and was given extensive guerrilla training.  Carlos gained a reputation as a killer. And he became an assassin for the PFLP.  He was involved in many killings, bombings and attacks.  In 1975, he was detained in Yugoslavia, flown to Baghdad and settled in Aden where he founded his own “Organization of Armed Struggle.”  Carlos connected with the Stasi (East German police) and planned numerous attacks from a safe house in East Berlin. 

Carlos was finally arrested in 1994 by French DST operatives. He was tried and convicted of numerous offenses and sentenced to life in prison.  Carlos the Jackal is today incarcerated in Clairvaux Prison where he converted to Islam, married his lawyer, and published a series of works including Revolutionary Islam which explains and defends violence in class conflict.

If there is something vaguely familiar about this story, it may be that the life of Carlos the Jackal was inspiration for Frederick Forsyth’s 1971 classic – The Day of the Jackal (the movie debuted in 1973).  Want a great book?  Movie?  Four stars. . . . .         

The Barefoot Contessa

[A real “oldie” from August 12, 2012] I enjoy cooking and I periodically post recipes, thoughts and ideas on these pages. While I consider myself to be a creative – and fiercely independent – thinker when it comes to food, I enjoy the creations of the Barefoot Contessa — Ina Garten (born February 2, 1948). Ina Garten debuted her cooking show on the Food Network in 2002 and it’s been all uphill since then. Her ideas and recipes are acknowledged by many as among the best.

At a recent dinner, Kathleen made Ina’s “Fresh Pea Soup.”  Cold.  She knocked it out of the park. I have the recipe and may make a meal of this someday.

Fresh Pea Soup:  2 tblsp unsalted butter; 2 cups chopped leeks (white & light green parts); 1 cup chopped yellow onion; 4 cups chicken stock (homemade if possible); 5 cups fresh peas (or 20 ounces of frozen peas); 2/3 cup chopped mint leaves; 2 tsp kosher salt; 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper; 1/2 cup creme fraiche; 1/2 cup fresh chopped chives; and garlic croutons (homemade are best).

Heat butter in saucepan, add leaks & onion and cook 5-10 min. medium heat (you want the onion tender).  Add chicken stock and turn heat to a boil.  Add peas and cook 3-5 min.  You want peas to be tender (frozen peas take 3 min.).  Take off heat and add mint, salt & pepper.  Puree the mix in batches.  Whisk in creme fraiche and chives and add croutons.  Can be served hot or cold.     

This soup is a perfect accompaniment for whatever you might serve.  I’d probably opt for a 2-legged or no-legged main course (perhaps a tilapia – see 6/14/12 or walleye – see 6/28/12).   A light pasta or risotto side.  Add a little Bacio Divino (yes, I prefer red) and you have heaven sitting on the table . . . that is unless my granddaughters are sitting there. . . . .  

Would You Get Me a Candy Bar?

The Court was in recess. The jury had left the room and the judge had gone to his chambers. I stayed at my table – mapping out plans for the next witness. The defendant – William H. – was seated at the defense table with two armed guards behind him. William H. was on trial for the murder of two pharmacists in a small pharmacy at Madison and Halsted in Chicago. William had also murdered some 15 others – one by one by one. All were murder for hire but these others were not of consequence in this trial. My job and that of my partner was to put the killer on death row.

William’s table was perhaps ten feet away. He sat there alone. His two public defenders had left the courtroom and it was just him and me (and the guards). During the course of the 3-1/2 week trial there was occasion when he’d look at me and say “good morning” and ever the polite Boy Scout I would respond “good morning.

As I sat – pondering the next witness and considering a quick trip to the bathroom – William looked over “Hey Mister State’s Attorney.”

Yes?”

You going out to that little food stand in the hall?” [There was a small concession stand outside the courtroom]

I dunno. I might.”

If you do, would you get me a candy bar?”

I chewed on this for a bit and responded “sure – what would you like?”

A Baby Ruth would be great. If you don’t mind.” I looked at the guards who shrugged.

Sure” and I got up, walked out of the courtroom, went to the bathroom and then to the concession stand. Baby Ruth. And brought it back and set it on his table.

Thanks” said William as he began to power through the chocolate.

This happened once or twice more during the remaining days of the trial. William was convicted of the murders and the jury polled for the death penalty. He sat on death row for about three years until an appeal nullified the sentence. Some years later I got a letter from William. From prison. Saying that one day he wanted to talk to me. I never responded. And yes – I set the alarm system in my house every night. If he ever does stop by, I’m hoping he’ll remember the Baby Ruth. . . . .

Uptown Funk

[A repeat from March 7, 2019] I enjoy some music videos.  My post of January 5, 2014, links to a few favorites including Lady Gaga’s classic debut – “Pokerface” – in 2008.  But “Uptown Funk” is one of the best music videos on the planet.  It was released on November 17, 2014, featuring Bruno Mars (the American singer and songwriter), Mark Ronson (the British record producer) and Mars’s backup group – The Hooligans.   As of February 2019, the video has had nearly 3.5 billion views on YouTube making it the fifth most viewed video of all time.  In October 2014, Mike Mullaney (Music Director at CBS Radio/WBMX) called it “the greatest song of all time.”   

Why do I like it?  Spend 4 minutes and 30 seconds – to watch it – and see for yourself – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPf0YbXqDm0 /  Ronson won two Grammy Awards in February 2016, including the big one — “Record of the Year” — for “Uptown Funk.”

But there is a second – fun – reason why Baby Boomers especially (and everyone else) will want to watch the video.  After you watch Bruno and Mark do their thing – please spend 4 minutes and 52 seconds and join the 44 million other folks who have watched  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1F0lBnsnkE  Then try to guess the characters.  And try practicing the final routine. . . . .

Subsidiarity

Let’s say you purchase a defective product. You try to return it but there’s a hitch. There’s a temptation to call the company that made it. And complain. And ask for money back or a replacement. Some folks announce that “I’m going to call the President of the company and give him [or her] a piece of my mind.”  Sometimes it works.  And the decision is justified.  But if the President says “sorry” – you’re fresh out of options. 

When I have an issue with a company (or product or organization or whatever), I try to accomplish at the lowest possible level that which I want accomplished.  So when I have a problem, issue, complaint or rant — and I want something done — I start with the person who answers the phone.  It may be Nancy or John or Elmer or Bambi.  And I explain.  If they can’t help me, I say “may I speak to your supervisor please?”   And I go up the ladder.  Using this procedure, you get perhaps five bites of the apple instead of just one.  Recently an insurance question came up and it was resolved with the person who answered the phone. 

This methodology is called “subsidiarity.”  The premise is that a matter ought to be handled by the lowest authority capable of addressing the matter effectively.  This can serve with any kind of negotiation. It is a concept that has application in government as well.  Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic study Democracy in America spoke of subsidiarity in terms of “decentralization.”  Instead of constructing massive unwieldly federal programs, one allows local municipalities and citizens to deal with issues.  When you have a problem with your local grade school, do you go to the U.S. Department of Education or do you start with your child’s teacher? 

I think there is a lesson here. . . .    

Ken Burns

Donna and I watched Ken Burns’ new six hour series “The U.S. and the Holocaust.” Burns calls it “the most important film [he] will ever make.”

I have previously posted on anti-semitism (see May 22, 2021, and “Night” May 13, 2020). You may want to check them out given this topic. To quote 5/22/2021:

Most of us are aware of anti-Semitism from alt-right jerks.  But there is a smoldering – and growing – anti-Semitism from progressives and those on the left. We see bigotry and hatred of Israel and Jews in American colleges and universities. For the latter, it is pointless to ask why we do not boycott human rights abuses in China, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe. Oh no. It is Israel that is in the cross hairs of the left.  And because many Israelis are Jewish, it is their faith that take the heat. 

Ken Burns’ documentary explores America’s role in the Holocaust. He begins with American attitudes in the 1920’s and 30’s – which showed a growing antipathy and xenophobia toward immigrants — especially those from Eastern and Southern Europe. And Jews. While America took in 225,000 refugees during in the years leading up to and through World War II, six million Jews died. Burns lays much of the blame on Roosevelt, the Congress, the State Department and – the American people.

This 3 part series aired in September on PBS. Please – watch Judy Woodruff’s news report on this programming – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BRG97Vo_D4

One reason for watching this series is we were recently in Amsterdam – and visited the Anne Frank house (see https://www.annefrank.org/en/ ). The tour was powerful. Nazis murdered more than 100,000 Dutch Jews before and during the War. It really happened. Could it happen again? As is stated in the documentary – “the time to stop genocide is before it happens.