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september is literacy month
We’re always celebrating one thing or another in this country — some industry, product, cause, or way of life — whereby Congress and the Chamber of Commerce encourages the rest of us to show our love by wearing a colored ribbon and opening our wallets.
September is National Literacy Month. Since Like the Dew is highly dependent upon literacy for its continued success, it celebrates the month by having one of its intrepid writers (one of them who can also read) spin a few words on the subject.
failings and foolishness
The summer after seventh grade my grandmother sent one of my cousins and me to a snooty boys’ camp up in New Hampshire. For me it wasn’t a great fit (who were these people?), but I tried to be a good sport. Around the campfire on skit night, I was asked to spell “yankee.” Hamming it up and following the script, I began to drawl, “D . . . A . . . M . . . .”
“Wait, wait,” hollered the MC. “What are you doing?”
1933 – 2015
We all know by now that the neurologist and author Oliver Sacks died recently (30 August 2015) at the age of 82.
In the New York Times obituary (31 August), his long-time personal assistant Kate Edgar, who described herself as his “collaborator, friend, researcher and editor” as well, wrote just before his death: “He is still writing with great clarity. We are pretty sure he will go with fountain pen in hand.”
free market vs. fair play
Sometimes communities get hung up over relatively trivial activities. Take what is happening in North Kansas City, Mo. This suburb, surrounded by the larger Midwest area, has a 2013 population of 4,319, smaller than most of the cities near me in Gwinnett County, Ga. It’s relatively small, only 4.63 square miles, and two miles from downtown Kansas City. There’s a casino in town, and the biggest employers is Cerner, a major health care giant founded in North Kansas City. The issue that has people in North Kansas City talking is food trucks…
Little has been written about the small band of men who flew ground support missions in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and North Africa during World War II. They came from Great Britain, Canada, United States, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia to fly with Royal Air Force (RAF) Squadrons, and lived like nomads in tents on the desert landing grounds. Flying conditions were dangerous and aircraft maintenance was difficult because of the hot, dusty, windy conditions and the rough surface of the dirt runways. Food, water, aircraft spares and fuel were in short supply…
way it's 'sposed to be
I would like to take this opportunity to say “Happy Labor Day” to those workers who produce the tsunami of goods swamping America’s retail establishments. I would like to do this, but, regrettably, I do not speak Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Hindu, Pakistani, or any other Asian dialect. (Levi’s are now made in Egypt, for pete’s sake. Pete is the American who lost his job.)
But, to be fair, due to the uptick in the economy, many more Americans have, thankfully, found employment; however, in most areas of the country, an Ivory-billed Woodpecker is easier to find than a good-paying job.
Almost 40 million people saw at least part of The Civil War when Ken Burns’ multipart documentary premiered in September 1990, making it the most-watched PBS broadcast ever. It’s still the record holder, and it’s coming back Monday, September 7, for a special anniversary encore on PBS.
Two things will be different…
on the campaign trail:
San Clemente, Calif. – The back yard of Richard Nixon’s old Western White House seemed like as good a place as any to start the search for a Republican soul, said researcher Ed Whitfield as he prowled the grounds with a metal detector late Wednesday afternoon.
“Any kind of beep, and I’m getting aroused, I’m telling you that right now,” said Whitfield, a retired entomologist who is among scores of GOP volunteers scouring the nation for any trace of a Republican soul.
I was reading an amusing description the other day of John Betjeman, a man who became poet laureate of England in 1972. He must have been a fun guy to have been around judging from how a journalist once described him as a man who looked “like a highly intelligent muffin–a small, plump, rumpled man with luminous soft eyes, a chubby face topped with wisps of white hair and imparting a distinct air of absentmindedness.” Although I am not chubby or overly rumpled, I would be delighted for anyone to portray me in such an endearing way.
less carbon = jobs + lower taxes
Wall Street likes it simple: promote bull markets; avoid bear markets. But there’s now an elephant on Wall Street, and few are daring to talk about it.
In you hadn’t noticed, the market has been essentially flat for a year; that is until it cratered last week, losing 18 months worth of gains. Unlike the crash of 2008, there’s no obvious smoking gun.
it wasn't me
About a quarter century ago, when Hercules Specialty Resins was still spewing its sulfurous emissions across the marshes of Glynn to be dissipated by mingling with the off-shore breezes, local wags dubbed the odiferous environment “the smell of money.” They may have been more right than they thought. For, within a decade, all profits had apparently gone up the chimney, even as every rain storm deposited more toxins to poison the marsh…
nice soot, kid
At eleven years-old, the most infuriating thing about trying to “apply yourself” is the universe doesn’t always cooperate.
Take the situation in which I’m in, the evening of Tuesday, September 10, 1962. Blindsided by Sister Jean, Sixth Grade teacher at Our Lady of the Pines Catholic School with a very first day assignment to write 500 words all about “What I Learned This Summer,” I’m stumped. Fully…totally …and absolutely!
I think of myself as a realist. A diehard realist. I believe I am truly a child of the Age of Reason. But can reason explain all things, unlock all mysteries?
Don’t think so. My Uncle Lehman, for instance, my Aunt Mary Grace’s husband, could talk warts off.
As I write this, I can see you shaking your skeptical head. Well, I didn’t believe it, either.
that or the rat shed
Grandpa was a quiet and gentle man. Grandma did most of the talking. He was over six feet tall and she was a little over five feet, feisty and independent. They obviously had agreed that he would make the big decisions and she would make all the small ones. All of the decisions were small.
I was four years old when my brother and I were sent to live with Grandma and Grandpa, whom I called Papa, during World War II.
Responding to criticism that its soft drinks contribute to epidemic obesity in America, and that it hooks kids on the sugary sodas like Bill Cosby giving away Quaalude Jell-O shots to kindergarteners, and that it has funded research to confuse Americans about how horrible soft drinks are for human health, the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. said it is thinking doing something – but probably not.
“Sure, we could recall all 600 billion soft drinks Americans drink on an average day, and you could make the case that these sugar-packed sodas contribute to the nation’s appalling weight gain, in the same way you could make the case that eating ANYTHING, including alfalfa sprouts, contributes to weight gain,” said a Coca-Cola spokesman…
pioneer of trash tv
Contrary to his fragmentation-grenade TV persona, the Morton Downey Jr. I knew was a pussycat. A pussycat o’ nine tails sometimes, but a pussycat all the same.
I got to know Mort – the subject of a new documentary called “Evocateur” — when he was just beginning to develop the obstreperous, outrageous on-air shtick that a few years later would make him briefly notorious. All you “loudmouths” and “pablum-puking liberals” out there know what I’m talking about…
southern (hemisphere) stories
Grandpa was not a storyteller. It was only later, when Grandma wasn’t around, that he told me a few stories about his life and parents. He never talked about the hard times during the Great Depression, but he said enough to encourage me in later life to research his family history. When he died all of Grandma’s and Grandpa’s personal things, letters and photographs were given to my older cousin because she was the only granddaughter.
revenge of the grown ups
It is a fact that if you’re a kid growing up in America in the Fifties and Sixties, the last day of school is better than Christmas!
You’re free, unfettered and unchained. Nothing but blue skies ahead …at least for three months, which is ‘till eternity’ in the Kid Standard Time.
For the next three glorious months, you’re not required to study, sit still, do homework, do book reports, memorize, read, recite, remember or do anything remotely enlightening…
At age 5 I told anyone who asked, and lots who didn’t, “I want to be a doctor in the daytime and a preacher at night.”
Likely that was connected to the two people outside my family whom I most admired, our doctor who lived in the big house on the corner of our block, and our preacher who lived in the big house on the corner of the next block over. The preacher and my dad were classmates at college and in the vacant lots behind our house and in front of his they planted a Victory Garden together…
with heavy hearts
“Well, then, ask me your questions. I won’t be around forever.”
That’s what Floyd told me a few years ago when I said that just when we get old enough to ask the right questions of our parents and grandparents, they’re all gone. Floyd was true to his word and did not last forever. He is now gone, six months short of his one-hundredth birthday. I was assured he died without pain and without lingering more than just a few days.
loved to death
An acquaintance of mine, whom I will call Jasper, returning from a Florida fishing trip, after not catching a single fish and suffering a severe sunburn, once bought a used monkey at one of those back-roads’ tourist traps.
Jasper said the monkey was the most pitiful-looking critter he ever saw — skinny, its matted hair flecked with grey. Its sad eyes pleaded to him. Jasper and the unfortunate simian connected on a telepathic, spiritual level — one desperate guy to another.
easier than it looks
Americans anticipating a British driving vacation face two problems: driving on the “wrong” (left) side of the road… and British roundabouts. Britain has more roundabouts as a proportion of roads than any other country. Many get confused at negotiating the roundabout, while driving in a left-side steering car gets a little more comfortable after a while.
Americans vacationing in France face only the roundabout problem, as the French drive on the “right” side of the road. Yet there are more roundabouts in France (30,000 as of 2008) than in any other nation.
widening my american horizons
For ten years I’ve lived in the Shenandoah Valley, enjoying it so much that when my son whom I came from England to live near, moved to Kansas, I chose to stay here. I’m keenly aware of this vast beautiful country extending from Virginia to California (twice visited) in the west and Montana in the north and I’ve another son and family in Arizona, but there are so many places in America I yearn to explore. When I told Virginian friends “I’m going on holiday to Kansas,” they mostly said “Huh.” I think it’s something to do with the fact that Kansas hasn’t got mountains.
mostly white history
It is often said, “history is written by the victors.” I’ve found that not to be quite true in my research – at least not in the American South. Since the invention of the printing press, history has been based mostly on what the people who got themselves noticed by newspapers and had both the inclination and time to preserve their clippings in the archives historians are wont to peruse. In other words, historians ending up with a biased perspective is not entirely their fault. They work with what they’ve got.
let the free market decide
The Republican Party plans to auction off the bottom seven GOP presidential candidates on eBay. The party said the move will channel money to the low-polling stragglers and simplify the debate format.
“Look, we’ve got nothing against Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal, even if obviously voters do,” said a GOP spokesman. “This is threefold: it gives those boys a chance to raise money, it raises their visibility, and it gives the electoral process back to the average voter. Win. Win. Win.”
Used your debit card lately to buy something in a store? I tried yesterday, but the store began closing before I could answer all the questions that pop up after you swipe your card. I had started at noon The first dozen or so were child’s play, questions like:
“Do you want cash back?” Yes, but only if you’re giving it away.
“Is $3,590.23 the correct amount?” Only if the clerk is holding a gun on me…
Paul Simon wrote that line. It fits the paralyzing disequilibrium that took me over as I was handed a game-changing diagnosis of tonsil cancer. I wrote the following note on the subway home for the worst case scenario. Fortunately it has proved, like reports of Twain’s death, to be premature.
This is that maudlin letter you dread from someone who believes you would actually maybe like to have a farewell note: If you get this I have navigated a dark corridor descended slippery stairs to black water’s edge stepped into and pushed off waiting skiff into infinite night.
Worthy of Comment
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