Warren Wilhelm Jr.

Warren Wilhelm Jr. was born in New York City in 1961. He received a B.A. from NYU and an M.A. in International Affairs from Columbia University. In 1987, he became a political organizer at the Quixote Center in Maryland. A year later, he traveled to Nicaragua to distribute food and medicine during the Revolution. Mr. Wilhelm was an ardent supporter of the Sandinista Movement and the National Liberation Front. He served as a fundraiser for the Sandinistas in New York. He considers himself a democratic socialist and he has espoused the tenets and policies of that party.

He married in 1994 and honeymooned in Cuba despite the U.S. travel ban. Mr. Wilhelm has been active in politics in New York. In 2001, Warren Wilhelm Jr. changed his name. To Bill de Blasio. . . . .

I Don’t Want to Drop Her

I was “there” when our daughter Lauren was born. Around 2:00 a.m. on the big day, I was sound asleep but I sensed Donna pacing around the bedroom. I drifted out of sleep and mumbled “what are you doing?” And Donna said “I think I’m in labor.” My eyes jerked open and I catapulted out of bed. “Let’s go to the hospital” and I started pulling on my trousers. Donna – calm and cool – said “maybe we should wait a little bit.” And we did until 5:00 a.m. when Donna said “okay – let’s go.

Lauren was born in the mid afternoon of that Thursday, June 24th. As she arrived, a nurse wiped her down, wrapped her up and handed her to me. What happened next has become legend in our family. Picture this – I’m holding my brand-new, just born baby girl. I walked over stood – with my left arm propped against a wall. The nurse – who had been walking around – came over to me and said “Mister Petersen, what are you doing?” I responded “I want to make sure I don’t drop her.” The nurse laughed “Mister Petersen – you will not drop her.” And so far, I haven’t. . . . .

When Lauren was married, my father of the bride speech bore a reflection of that day. Of that special moment. I quoted Psalm 17:8 in saying that Lauren would always be the apple of my eye – and in the shadow of my wings.

Billionaires

Do you know how many billionaires there are in the United States? Answer – 630. Do you know what the combined assets are of these 630 billionaires? Answer – $3.4 trillion. That’s about what the United States deficit was for the year 2020, The national debt is now escalating well over $21 trillion. Thus perhaps what we should do is simply confiscate all the money of billionaires to make up the deficit. But wait . . . .

I figure when I win the Power Ball Lottery tonight ($550 million) and then win Mega Millions tomorrow ($970 million), I will then be a “billionaire.” And then – the number of billionaires will be 631 and. . . .

Ugh . . . what a problem to have. . . . .

Wow!

In the late summer of 1994, Donna and I drove Lauren to Nashville — to begin her college career at Vanderbilt. As Donna and Lauren went off to do some mother-daughter bonding, I sat in the hotel room and thumbed through the Yellow Pages. I first looked under “Autographs” then under “Books – Antiquarian.” I had been publishing listings and catalogs of historic autographs and occasional rare books for perhaps a dozen years. And I was always on the hunt . . . . .

One old book store caught my eye. So I hopped in the car and drove to the location – a block down from campus. I walked in the door – sniffed – and thought hmmmm this could be interesting . . . . . I walked around for a few minutes then headed toward the back where an elderly chap sat hunched over a desk. “Do you have any old autograph material – old letters or documents?” The old fellow grunted “Nope.” I then persisted – “do you have anything handwritten? Any old signed stuff.” He looked up – grunted again – and shuffled off to a back room. After a few minutes he returned with a two inch thick file folder and – true – he blew dust off the top. And handed it to me. I could tell it was full of really old stuff.

I set the folder on a table and opened it. My jaw dropped. The top item was a Washington College diploma dated June 18, 1868, for “R. C. Morrison.” The second item was a Washington College report card dated May 31, 1867, for “William Cochrane.” Both were signed by the President of the College — Robert E. Lee. “Washington College” later became “Washington and Lee University.” I looked up. The elderly chap was back at his desk burrowed in some papers. I held up the diploma – “whaddaya want for this?” He thought – “a hundred bucks.” The second item he said was a “hundred and a quarter.”

Long story short, I bought the entire file folder for five hundred dollars. It was full of other gems. I sold the Robert E. Lee items to a dealer friend for many times what I paid for the batch. I still have copies of the Lee items. And I remember being glad I checked out the Yellow Pages instead of watching a football game.

The Dead Bug

On March 22, 2020, I discussed how I was dealing with excruciating lower back pain. Add to that was sciatic pain that radiated with a vengeance from my toes to my hip. We’re talking 9.5 on the pain scale. In the mornings, I could barely move. It was physical therapy that caused the sciatic pain to abate — all within the space of a day or two. True. . . .

Given that the back pain has morphed and seesawed, I had a couple of diagnostic injections that have helped considerably. The pain is now manageable at night and during the day – it is barely there. But I wisely continued with the PT.

Two clinicians at Athletico (Sarah and Brittany) helped greatly – with a protocol of exercise, movement and therapy. I sometimes walk out the door after PT winded – like I’d been pummeled by a personal trainer or a drill sergeant at Quantico. The exercises vary – in part to strengthen my back. In part to work on my “core.” And also to work on my weak knees (which is prescribed in Hebrews 12:12 – “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees“). There is one exercise though – that when assigned, I cringe. It’s called “The Dead Bug.” And I feel like one when I do it. . . . .

Visualize this. . . . the “Dead Bug” is an exercise where you lay flat on your back. Raise your legs – knees bent. And then (are you ready?) raise your arms – straight up in the air. What’s interesting (and I guess therapeutic) about the “Dead Bug” is that . . . . oh wait. Did I tell you? You have to hold the “Dead Bug” position for 15+ seconds. You’re laying there – arms up. Leg’s up and bent. For 15 seconds. This exercise strengthens your core, works your back, your legs, your arms and tests your self restraint when someone walks by and goes “oooh – look at the dead bug.

Three Ministers

A not-for-profit organization started a support group for clergy. At the first session, three ministers entered the room, introduced themselves and sat down. The facilitator gently invited each to share his troubles and concerns.
The first minister lowered his head and said “I am married – but I have been seeing another woman. She is a member of our congregation.”

The second minister shook his head. Tears began to flow down his cheeks. “I have a problem with the bottle. I begin drinking in the morning and I can’t stop until I collapse in bed. Often I give sermons while I am totally intoxicated.”

The third minister hesitated and slowly began to speak – “I . . . I . . . . I am a hopeless GOSSIP. And I can’t WAIT to get out of here!”

Don’t Get Tired

[A timely winter repeat from December 15, 2013]

My friend Al reminded me that in cold weather, it’s a good idea to check car tires since the cold will contract air pressure and tires can flatten out.  So, wisely I did.  And sure enough – my front two tires were low. Really low.  It was night.  Freezing cold.  So I drove to a gas station where they have one of those air pumps where you have to pop in 75 cents. I unscrewed the valve caps, had my air gauge at the ready and dropped 3 quarters. The machine kicked in and I applied the hose to the tire valve. Nothing happened.  The hose and valve were frozen.

Now this is not an issue that I’ve dealt with before so I went into the gas station where a lone clerk sat behind a thick glass partition. I explained the problem. “Valve’s frozen,” he said.  Hoookayyy. . .  “Stick the hose up your exhaust for a few minutes while the motor’s running and . . . . [he grabbed a lighter from the shelf and passed it under the window] warm your tire valves.”  “Bring back the lighter,”  he added. 

I went out and slid the hose a couple feet up the exhaust.  And let it sit for a few minutes.  And warm.  Then I fired the lighter and warmed the tire valves.  After a couple minutes, I took a breath, dropped in another 75 cents and applied the hose to the tire valve.  “PFFFFTT.”  It worked like a charm.  Whew!  The tire inflated and I brought the lighter back.  I thanked the clerk (offered him a tip – he declined).  “I used to drive a semi” he said.  “Used to happen all the time.  It’s one of those little tricks you learn.” 

Now you all know the trick.  🙂   

Conservation

My good friend Antonio, who lives in Monterrey, Mexico (see post of March 12, 2012), and I were communing about how conservation worked when we were young (he is a few years younger than me).  It was pretty simple.  

Bottles were returned for a deposit – then reused.  Clothes were dried on a line – by solar and wind power.  No 220 volt dryers chugging for an hour and a half.  Diapers were washed and reused.  We had one television in the house with a screen the size of a placemat.  There were no “stadium sized” televisions.  Our moms used an egg beater to whisk everything (there was no blender).  And when we shipped Christmas presents, our parents crumpled newspapers for packing.  There were no plastic “peanuts” or bubble wrap.  We cut the grass with a hand mower.    And raked leaves. Wardrobes were pretty modest.  No “new models” except hand-me-downs.   There were no plastic water bottles (which today are made, used in a minute and thrown out by the billions).  There was one water glass by the kitchen and bathroom sinks — that everyone used.   Rinse to clean – drink.   Stores and businesses had water fountains.  Thirsty?  Use the water fountain.   And my father changed razor blades in his Schick razor.  Very little was “disposable” . . . .  

Have we become lazy and complacent?  You tell me.   We hear political trumpets sounding about saving the environment and how we must look forward and not back.  But I do think that looking backward – at least in some areas – could sure provide a lesson for how we might best look ahead.

Crossing paths with Sean Connery

On May 21, 2017, I talked about my experience of being on the Board of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation – and spending my first board meeting (Taliesin West in Scottsdale) staying in the Sun Cottage – Mr. Wright’s home – and sleeping in his bed. Quite an experience. . . .

At one of the winter board meetings, I happened to be in the Taliesen (West) store perusing stuff. Some guy was next to me also perusing. He started to speak to the clerk and I thought I know that voice. I looked over and it was 007. Sean Connery. Oh my socks and shoes! I slipped out of the store and went into the architectural school – and casually mentioned that 007 was in the store. It seems that the speed of light was exceeded as the students whisked out of the school – to see the legendary actor. It’s what happened next that sticks in my mind.

Mister Connery came out and began walking to the parking lot with a chap (presumably a protector). Students approached him and asked for photographs and autographs. And Mister Connery could not have been nicer — staying the course until the gaggle of fans had been satisfied. And dispersed. It’s nice to see celebrities who maintain respect for those who admire them. The stories are legion about those who . . . . shall we say don’t . . . .

The Last Brownie?

(A repeat from November 29, 2012)

A man lay on his deathbed. Perhaps a few hours to live. His hands were folded on his chest.  And his eyes were closed. Suddenly his nose began to twitch. A familiar smell. He drifted upward out of the deep recess of sleep. That smell he thought. CHOCOLATE. Brownies baking! One eye flickered open. Then the other. And he slowly tilted his head. The smell of chocolate was overpowering. The kitchen was just down the hall.  I need. . . one last brownie. . . .

With great effort, he rolled onto his side and let gravity take its course. He flopped heavily onto the floor. Slowly, laboriously he elbowed his way toward the kitchen. After what seemed like hours, he crossed the threshold of the kitchen.  And there – on the kitchen table – was a plate of warm brownies. He elbowed his way forward and then slowly extended his grasp . . . . fingers . . . . reaching . . . . almost there.

Just then his wife walked in the kitchen – “GEORGE!   You leave those brownies alone! Those are for the funeral!”