January 31, 2007

Psychology 101

Old guy compares life in retirement to childhood. As Lucy said in Peanuts, the doctor is in. This diagnosis bears about as much credibility as Lucy’s, but her diagnosis cost a nickel as I recall, and at least this one is free.

In life, hopefully we are granted a long span of years. I am sixty-seven now (I have aged two years, now sixty-nine), and in reasonably good health, so unless some nasty disease has my name on it unbeknownst to me, I may be able to count on maybe another fifteen years or until my eighties. That is if heredity counts, as my parents both made it into their eighties. So with the fall weather approaching and melancholia blowing in the air along with the leaves, I have become philosophical about it all, life up to now that is. I have come up with this conclusion. It occurs to me that childhood up until middle teens, and old age after retirement is linked in this one marvelous way. Parallel frames of mind it seems to me existed within me fifty some years ago and now in the next century. I feel a connection with that boy’s feelings then as I do with the old guy he has become. With a waiver from argument that the childhood we are comparing is one which was not one of those, ‘when I grew up on the east side of New York’, kind of childhoods, but a normal not too traumatic regular kind that most of us were lucky enough to have been granted; and an equal length of years in retirement. As I recall, and I will presume to speak for all of us, it’s my ink; my childhood while not idyllic was certainly close enough to what I think idyllic means. My parents came out of the depression so money was not plentiful, but there must have been enough or my parents hid their distress from me very well. My frame of mind then, as best I can recall, give me a little latitude please, was one of contentment with no thoughts of having to make decisions which unbeknownst to me were lurking just around the corner. But I couldn’t see around corners and was content and happy living in the world as it was presented to me, either the real world or the world my parents made for me, either way I was happy. This parallels exactly the feelings I have had from retirement to the present day. I am content, happy, worry free, and angst free. I again refuse to look too far around that corner. I am not an idiot, I know around that corner I don’t want to look around is aging and all it’s possible horrendous possibilities. Those possibilities, or course are illness and since we not figured out anyway of dodging it, death. But being an adult and having a reasonably usable brain I have developed a faith that is my own private faith that even then I will enter another parallel existence of contentment and happiness.

Best most recent campaign line comes from John Edwards talking about the resolution to cut off funds for Iraq: They both (Hillary and Obama) favor passing a resolution indicating opposition to the surge.
Edwards, who wants an immediate cutoff of funds for the surge, thinks the resolution is a sham.
"What is the point in saying we are just against it?" Edwards said. "It is useless. It is exactly like a child standing in the corner and stomping his feet."

January 30, 2007

Rush Limbaugh doesn't like any of the republican candidates, according to http://thepolitico.com. I suppose only the ditto heads care about that.

Hillary makes light of 'evil and bad men' question. She says she was making a joke and for people to lighten up. Okay by me.

John Edwards leads in Iowa polling.

January 29, 2007

I always knew that retired? politicians garnered big bucks on speaking tours, but I didn't know they got this much. This much meaning fifty thousand dollars per speech. Newt Gingrich does and he makes about sixty speeches per year. Now, I'm not a math whiz, but I think that totals out to about three million per year. There is a good article about this in todays fortune magazine. The article is called THE NEW NEWT THING.

Newt is thinking of throwing his hat in the election sweepstakes, and I say why not. It's going to be a wide open race this time out, and we will need many, many candidates to trot out for our inspection. They will have to be built for endurance though as it will be a long haul to the end. The money that will be needed for almost two years of campaigning will be astronomical. I think money will be the killer for most of these guys and girls running.
Oh, I can feel for McCain. We're approximately the same age and I understand the need to get more sleep. I also understand though that Sen. McCain's schedule is probably a little heavier than mine, (joke) and the President is not the most inspiring speaker, but oh the fallout from this little nod will be the gist of many jokes for a while to come.

continuation of a work in progress: JAKE part II

At first Jake's parents felt pride in their son's accomplishments, and the attention being paid to him. But as time went by and Jake began to bring home book after book, and needing time alone to read and study, he was accused of shutting out the family.

He was too good for the rest of them, they said. "Why do you need to read about all these things?" they'd ask. "What good is a wisenheimer book going to do you in the factory?" they added.

The sister's tried to help by explaining that someday Jake would get a good job with all the knowledge he was getting. Jake tried to explain that studying about the planets or philosophy or history can all tell us something about ourselves and that is important.

"Well if it makes you happy go ahead", but they could not see how all that reading about those things would do him any good in the shop. He should be out in the air, not closed up in that room all the time. And the subject was closed, as were their minds. But Jake knew it was not out of meanness. His parents were stern with their children but never mean. He was just talking about things that they thought had no practical use in the world they knew. Their minds were not closed to Jake, but to the ideas he talked about because they didn't understand any of it. To them it was a disruption to the order of their lives.

And then, too soon, Jake's senior year came to an end. The accelerated programs set up for him by his teachers had only whetted his appetite for more, but there would be no more formal education for Jake. College tuition was impossible for his family to provide. There were no colleges in the town, so the only alternative was to go away to school, and this compounded the problem and added to the costs. Perhaps he could work and save enough money, but in his heart of hearts, he knew the desperation of that idea. The problem seemed insurmountable to Jake. It was an impossible situation. Then, as a final irony, he was named the class valedictorian, entrusted to be their voice, proclaiming their happiness and eagerness to be leaving school, and going out into the adult world. His mouth could already taste the hypocrisy he would have to swallow as he said the words. But the day came and Jake, dressed in his best clothes, with his whole family in the audience, climbed to the stage and stood behind the podium. He took his speech from his inside pocket, cleared his throat, and began.

. "I feel a heavy weight on my shoulders today. It is the weight of gratitude our graduating class owes the teachers we have been so very fortunate to have in this school. They didn't just teach us reading, writing and arithmetic, they did better. They opened our minds to the wonders that an educated mind can behold. They have opened that world for us to behold and maybe change for the better. They have given us a bright, always changing, always challenging, future. They have not instructed us how to make a million dollars, but how to discover a million things worth doing with our lives. They have set us free. Education is their weapon that slays the world of ignorance, and education is the force that sets our minds free to soar as far as our imagination will take us. We, the graduating class, will try to make you proud. So we say, God bless you, thank you, and good-bye."

The applause was gratifying, several girls in the graduating class were crying, his sisters were proud of him. After he received his diploma and the ceremony was over, he approached his teachers, intending to shake their hands, but ended up hugging each one of them, and attempted to thank them for what they had done for him, but instead, uttered some inane nothings. They smiled like they understood and said to keep in touch. And then, it was over.

Chapter Two
The room was semi-dark and the bed was unmade as he sat in a straight-back chair staring out through lace curtains onto the street below, where normal everyday happenings were going on. The milkman and the bread man had made their rounds, the children were running in and out of the street making noise and the neighbors were spending a few minutes gossiping with each other. The world seemed normal, but Jake could not see how he’d fit into any of it. A week had passed since graduation, but he had seemingly lost track of time when a knock came at the door. "May I talk to you son?" his father asked gently.

Jake sat unresponsive for just a moment or two as if bringing himself back to the present. "Of course Papa, please come in. How are you doing?" Jake asked him. "I'm fine son, it's you I'm concerned about. I see you sitting and I tell Mama that I think you are lost and I must speak. She agreed that it is time, so here l am," said Jacob.

"I'm sorry Papa that I'm acting this way. I'm not really feeling sorry for myself even though it looks like it, I just don't know what to do." He stopped talking and sat staring out the window again, until his father, after waiting a few moments looking at his son with affection and sadness, began talking.

"Jake, he started in a loud voice, then immediately started over again in a softer voice, Son, I may not be able to speak English as well as my children, and you may think my silences mean I'm unconcerned, but that is just not true. I usually let Mama talk for me because she takes care of most of the things that happen every day around the house. I suppose it's the way all the fathers from the old country think we should act. I admit I have acted just like my father did and probably his father before him. And I also admit, I think it's wrong. But I can't sit by any longer and watch you being miserable, trying to figure out what to do. You're a smart boy and I'm proud of you for everything you have done, but things have not turned out the way you think they should have. Maybe not, but these things happen. You're a smart boy, but you have a young brain. You're searching for answers that you won't be able to find, because you haven't lived long enough and accumulated enough of what life throws at you. That is the one thing your teachers could not teach you. But if you will allow me to make up a little for my years of silence, I would like to help you find your answer.

Jake, who had been staring at the floor while his father was talking, raised his head and went to his father. They held each other in an embrace. Then each with an embarrassed smile sat back down. Jacob cleared his throat and said, "Now I will talk some more and you will listen to your Papa and maybe you can find your answer."

January 26, 2007

If you have never seen this old movie, MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE, do yourself a favor and watch for it on the schedule or maybe even rent it. It is that good. This particular scene I laugh at everytime I watch it. There are many other very funny bits in the flick. With Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Melvin Douglas, it had to be good.

Is it just me or are these guys out of the same pod? I read a report this morning that Jim Webb put aside the democratic parties prepared speech he was to use as the democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union address, and used his own. For a brand new freshmen senator this shows courage and a lot of independence. He reminds me so far of the republican John McCain, a man who, when he is not running for president, suffers fools badly. I’d like to be an invisible presence in the room when these two have a personal conversation.

January 25, 2007

Oh heck, why not. There's been a whole lot of tinkering going on recently with what the founders put into place.

January 24, 2007

Political Plain Speak?

I don’t talk about politics on this forum because it seems you have to take one side or the other. You can’t talk philosophically about an issue or a person without everyone trying to identify you as a lefty or a righty. But in recent days I have listened to two politicians who have impressed me with their forthrightness and clarity. The first over CSPAN, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island was speaking to an empty senate chamber where he made a clear, concise argument about President Bush’s handling of the war and the financing of the same. He was to the point and I understood it all.

Last night I watched the democratic response to the Presidents State of the Union address given by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. All I knew about Webb was that he was a pretty good author of several books, two of which I have read. He too was clear and concise in his arguments. I think he must have gotten good marks for his presentation.

My point is: I stopped and listened to two politicians, that I chanced upon in the last couple of weeks, and understood the points they were making. Is this some new political trick? The lack of political smoke and mirror speeches where no Washington roadmap, or lexicon of political speak is needed?

Whatever your political inclination, clearness, truthfulness, and plainspeak in their spoken words would certainly be appreciated by all of us I am sure.

January 22, 2007


Daylight clocked in at 6:30 a.m. The sun called in sick. Light snow floated down to join its brethren already arrived. The curtain parted, and closed. At 6:30 p.m. the earth turned its back on us and daylight disappeared. Tomorrows forecast is for more of the same. Bears are awarded first prize for common sense.

© jim kittelberger 2007

January 21, 2007

A sunday kind of music, beautiful and slow. PACHABEL'S CANON. Enjoy it, I will.

January 20, 2007

That is not me singing and strumming about his hometown, I wish I had some musical talent, but oh well. I thought it was apropos to the subject of the moment.

I wrote this a number of years ago. Nothing much has changed in the old hometown. It's showing a little wear and tear around the edges as most towns do when they must change from an industrial base to a service economy, but we are only one of many thousands of american towns that this is happening, or has happened to.

By Jim Kittelberger

"As soon as I'm old enough, I'm gonna blow this hick town." Sound familiar? As young adults, depending upon the scope of our dreams, we are proud of our birthplace or it hangs around our necks like the proverbial albatross. It is big enough to provide all that we desire in life, or we can't wait to break free at the first opportunity. It is friendly and open or it is suffocating and oppressive. It is nurturing or it is cold. It's possibly all of these or none of these. But for young adults, ready and anxious to try their wings, to chase their destinies, it is usually something they wish to escape from. It does not take a shrink to figure out the motivation for this, it's an attempt to establish identities, without the baggage or help of family names or connections. It's so normal. It could also be that we have no idea what we want to do, and we would rather flounder or flourish somewhere other than under our families' protection or criticism. I, for some, or none of these reasons, left my hometown and stayed apart for seventeen years. Now I am not going to say I set the world afire, but I proved to myself that I could compete and advance in that world away from my roots, as most of us do. But it never goes away, it may for periods of time be free of your thoughts, but then you will see something, read something, smell something even, that will remind you of your ancestral home, that place you could not get away from quickly enough.

A hometown, no, my hometown as it is said with a proprietary air, is a place storied in literature and movies as that one certain place that is familiar, unpressured, and welcoming. That place that knew you when. That place where someone knew your parents, your grandparents, connections that somehow validate your existence. That place where you were born and as you age that place above all others where it seems appropriate that you will die. In my case, it seems very likely that I will die in the same hospital where I was born, and instead of being a thought that makes you shiver, it seems right, appropriate, just the way it should be. A hometown accepts you when you enter the world, and will mark your passage when you leave, and someone will know that you have been here. What more can we expect?

January 19, 2007

In just a few more weeks now the boys of summer will start arriving in Florida and Arizona for spring training. For the veterans it will be a time for getting the kinks out and preparing for the very long season ahead. For the invitees and marginal players it may be their one and only time in a major league environment. For sure most of these will leave with only the memories to take with them, but for some the hope of capturing some magic, and impressing those who matter and hold their future in their hands, it is a time of hope, praying, and playing the hardest they have ever played. Because reaching the major leagues is a plateau not reached by very many in this world. The skill level is too high, so only the very best make it to the top. But if you do make it to the top, the monatary rewards can be fabulous. Check below to see what the very best have made in their careers thus far and you will see why running through fences is a very viable option for some.

List of highest paid baseball players

Salary over entire career
The following chart lists the Major League Baseball players who have earned the greatest total salary over their career (through the end of 2006 and not including bonuses).

1. $172,711,352 - Barry Bonds
2. $147,707,727 - Alex Rodriguez
3. $143,348,927 - Randy Johnson
4. $133,845,000 - Greg Maddux
5. $133,251,000 - Roger Clemens (est. $12.25 million for 2006)
6. $130,890,502 - Kevin Brown (retired)
7. $130,624,340 - Ken Griffey, Jr.
8. $129,766,173 - Gary Sheffield
9. $128,134,019 - Jeff Bagwell
10. $126,311,965 - Manny Ramirez
11. $123,568,000 - Sammy Sosa
12. $122,392,167 - Mike Mussina
13. $120,444,000 - Pedro Martinez
14. $118,030,000 - Derek Jeter
15. $113,139,293 - Tom Glavine
16. $111,676,002 - Mike Piazza
17. $110,363,431 - Larry Walker (retired)
18. $108,095,446 - John Smoltz
19. $103,799,000 - Carlos Delgado
20. $103,100,001 - Bernie Williams
21. $100,405,001 - Mo Vaughn (retired)
22. $ 97,376,294 - Albert Belle (retired)
23. $ 93,461,668 - Jim Thome
24. $ 93,158,000 - Curt Schilling
25. $ 92,885,467 - Chipper Jones
26. $ 92,126,410 - Ivan Rodriguez
27. $ 92,075,086 - Mike Hampton
28. $ 91,116,066 - Shawn Green
29. $ 89,295,996 - Rafael Palmeiro (retired)
30. $ 87,037,500 - Juan Gonzalez (retired)
31. $ 86,514,000 - Frank Thomas
32. $ 81,756,945 - Chan Ho Park
33. $ 78,860,000 - Matt Williams (retired)
34. $ 78,467,500 - Barry Larkin (retired)
35. $ 78,201,854 - Jason Giambi
36. $ 77,015,500 - Craig Biggio
37. $ 76,603,815 - Roberto Alomar (retired)
38. $ 76,082,416 - Andy Pettitte
39. $ 74,688,354 - Mark McGwire (retired)
40. $ 74,030,125 - Mariano Rivera
41. $ 73,706,500 - Andruw Jones
42. $ 70,983,474 - Moises Alou
43. $ 70,677,500 - Tim Salmon
44. $ 69,850,001 - Cal Ripken, Jr. (retired, no data available for 1981-1984)
45. $ 68,243,667 - John Olerud (retired)
45. $ 68,100,100 - Al Leiter (retired)
46. $ 68,010,367 - Jim Edmonds
47. $ 67,436,500 - Jeff Kent
50. $ 67,430,000 - Vladimir Guerrero
51. $ 67,151,344 - Steve Finley
52. $ 67,135,000 - Robin Ventura (retired)
53. $ 66,947,501 - David Cone (retired)
54. $ 66,665,500 - Kenny Rogers
55. $ 66,470,000 - Raul Mondesi (retired)
56. $ 65,860,818 - Fred McGriff (retired)
57. $ 65,743,750 - Kevin Appier (retired)
58. $ 65,504,063 - Chuck Finley (retired)

January 18, 2007

By Jim Kittelberger

Winter is finally coming to an end, but not soon enough for me. Cabin fever has definitely set in after five months of self imposed indoor activities. Retirement is great, but some days tend to get a little too long. Today was one of those. A lazy type day with weather not yet nice enough to start working the gardens, but with just enough change in the air to give you hope. I hadn't yet put on shoes this morning, choosing instead to amble from room to room in my soft slippers. I'd brewed myself a cup of lemon and honey tea, the taste of which seems lazy to me, and it matched my mood. Sitting in my comfortable reclining chair, I force myself not to recline and sip my tea, my eyes roaming over everything and nothing in particular. Not unlike a child, I'm thinking what to get into next when my eyes stop on the large old trunk sitting near the fireplace. I haven't looked in there for years.

The trunk is large and black, with a large brass lock, which has never been locked since we've owned it, and I'm not sure we even have the key. Inside, a wooden tray is filled with baby clothes and little shoes. Items that my wife is unable to dispose of because they evoke silent memories of the three children we co-produced, the best and purest evidence of our being on this earth. Under the tray is a witch's hat wrapped in tissue, a decoration from Halloween that it seems didn't get put away in the attic. Several owners manuals, one each for an old VCR, a computer scanner and our current microwave, were placed in here so we would know right where they were if we needed them. Yeah, right. Down one more layer lays a red book nestled atop a favorite sweater of mine from days gone by.

It turns out to be a forty-five year old telephone book. I wonder how that got in here, I mutter, as I start leafing through the book that is considerably smaller than the one we currently use, and the exchanges used in those days consisted of two letters and five numbers.

The yellow pages are more interesting. Coal companies are listed, are there local coal companies anymore? I don't think so. There are a lot of contractors and construction companies. Things were good in those days. Dance studios, we had three in the book. When I got to the F's in the book I discovered five, count them, five pages of full service filling stations. Oh those were the good old days, to be sure.

I sat on the floor over an hour with my legs crossed Indian style until I was not certain I would ever get them straight again. I decided I had better get off the floor, and the recliner looked real good. It was. After moving my body this way and that, it melted into the chair in gratitude. My eyes seem to be getting a little grainy as I continue reading through the telephone classifieds. As my mind starts to fog over, sleep, I know, is not far behind. I read one last classified for Seeburg coin operated jukeboxes. "Oh yes, how well I remember those wonderful machines," is my last conscious thought as I drift off to sleep and to dream.

As Johnny Ray's song 'Walking In The Rain' finished up, Paul fished in his pocket for another nickel. He found one nestled between a stick of Black Jack gum and a ticket stub from the drive in movie he had gone to last weekend. The jukebox was filled with really cool songs, but he had money for just one more. He was staring at the choices when his friend Jeff, who could not stand more than one minute of silence, chided him,
"So, I suppose you're going to play another sloppy slow one?"
"Yeah, so what if I do?" Paul answered back. And in fact he was pushing G2 to hear Pat Boone sing 'Love Letters In The Sand'.
"It's just that since you met that stupid Mary Jane, you've gotten so darn quiet. What the heck's with you? Jeff said.
I couldn't really say, I thought to myself. I'd had dates before, but something about this girl was different.

I was thinking about last Saturday night at the drive-in and smiling as Jeff discovered he again didn't have my complete attention.
"Oh for crying out loud. You don't need me here, I'll see you in school." Jeff said as he left shaking his head.

I had been thinking of Mary Jane and her clean smelling hair and an evening spent testing the endurance of human lips after long-term use. Somehow it didn't seem important that I wasn't paying attention, I was thinking about next weekend.

After some fancy talking and assurances to each of our families that we would abide by the 'unwritten moral code', seriously on her part, grudgingly on mine, we received their reluctant blessings and use of my parents’ car to attend a dance out of town. This was pretty exciting stuff for seventeen year olds, and as we headed north on U.S. 13, Mary Jane snuggled close and laid her head on my shoulder. The length of time needed to arrive at our destination we estimated to be about an hour. We drove through farmlands dotted with gold and tan pastureland, on a black asphalt road that meandered through the fall countryside in a more or less straight line, and watched cows grazing, farmers on tractors, and counted mail pouch signs on the sides of the barns. But to us, or at least to me, we were driving on the yellow brick road. A new world was opening up in my mind, a world of new freedoms, a world of unknown adventures; an exciting world, all new and maybe a little scary. My mind had done a 180-degree turn driving down this beautiful highway, and transformed me from a boy into a young man with hopes and dreams for the future. But those hopes and dreams were predicated it seemed to me at that moment in time on that one person sitting next to me. With her beside me, my life seemed to open up and any thing seemed possible.

A large illuminated sign appeared just ahead informing us that the road to everything wonderful, Carters Lake, Inc. was just ahead. The attendant directed us to follow the arrows to the parking lot, which we figured must be the area ahead that looked like a cloud had descended to earth. The dust was heavy and I knew I would have to wash the car before my father saw it again, or my days in borrowed wheels would be over forever. We maneuvered through the crushed gravel to a spot pointed to by boys in brightly colored vests completely covered with dust, where we parked. As we walked through rows of spruce trees, planted to leave the sight and dust of the parking areas behind us, we emerged on the other side to a vista of green. Sidewalks meandered between trees of maple, elm and oak. Soon we could hear the sounds of waves lapping on the shore off to our left just before we sighted a large white-sided building with a brightly lit marquee proudly announcing the band of the weekend. Just by luck the band this weekend was the Glenn Miller band, still one of the favorites even without its famous leader, who was killed in World War II. If there was a band that was tailor made for dancers, this was it. As we got closer to the door, we could hear the very familiar sounds of Moonlight Serenade. Handing over our tickets and collecting our stubs, we entered a huge room. Tables were surrounding a well-waxed dance floor. Omnipresent in its bigness and glitter was a revolving, reflecting glass ball hovering over the floor. Reflecting glitter bounced off the dancers as the couples twirled to the music of the band that was situated at one end of the dance floor. The band members were dressed in formal attire and male and female band singers were seated on either side of the bandleader. When they started the next song, String of Pearls, our feet could not hold still any longer. Mary Jane was a good dancer, thank God, because I had to cheat to barely be eligible for fair status. But the music and the atmosphere overcame all our hesitation and we swayed in time to the music. Mary Jane laid her head on my shoulder during the slow tunes and I was sunk. I was madly in love before the band signaled intermission.

The weather still felt warm even though autumn was getting near. I held Mary Jane's hand as we strolled over a bridge that led to the beach. The waves were lapping on the shore, and the water looked black in the darkness. The breeze blowing in over the water gave promise that cooler weather would soon be upon us, but not tonight. The sand felt warm and Mary Jane removed her shoes and teased me to do the same. I did so with no further coaxing. We walked hand in hand for a while without talking. Another couple passed us going the other way, but except for them, the beach was ours.
"You look very pretty tonight," I said, because I couldn't think of anything else to say.
"I could say the same about you. I've never seen you so dressed up before," Mary Jane answered with a smile.
Paul stopped and turned toward Mary Jane, took her hands in his, and kissed her tenderly on the lips. As the kiss ended, Mary Jane threw her arms around his neck and kissed him hard. The kiss was a long one and they swayed from side to side, neither wishing to stop. Just then, Paul felt something warm and moist land on the top of his head. They broke apart immediately as Paul looked up at the offending sea gull and shook his fist at it. Mary Jane stepped back and stared at the mess slowly oozing down from the top of his head. The look of shock and mortification on Paul's face kept her from laughing.
"Maybe you should stick your head in the lake?" she suggested shyly.
"I know what I should stick in the lake," Paul bellowed, stricken with embarrassment, "that damn bird."
He turned, ran fully clothed into the lake, and plunged his head beneath the waves. As he came out of the water, still looking like he wanted to sock someone, Mary Jane was standing at the edge of the water waiting. The look on her face was a look of sympathy, but as he came closer she could not contain herself any longer, and a small chuckle escaped her lips, as she watched his face. He looked at her with what started as anger, but as the embarrassment ebbed, the anger went also and he joined in. Their chuckles turned into knee slapping laughter as they recalled the story over and over. Finally he put his arms around her.
"I think I'm in no shape to return to the dance." He said.
"I don't care, I've loved every minute we've been here and anything after this would be an anti-climax anyway," Mary Jane said as she smiled at his discomfort.
On the road home, they retold the story over and over. Each time they put the emphasis on a different part of the story, and it got funnier and funnier. They laughed until they were exhausted. It would be a story that would be only theirs for the rest of their lives.

"Wake up Paul, it's almost time to eat," she said, as she gently touched his shoulder.
As he roused himself, he reached up and took her hand.
"I was dreaming about a young girl I used to know many years ago. She was a pretty thing as I remember. We went to a dance up at Carter's Lake and, well maybe you don't want to hear anymore of this, because it involves kissing on the beach and hand holding, and maybe it's too much for your tender ears," he said, as he smiled lovingly at this woman who has been his wife for nearly forty-five years.
"Oh for crying out loud 'birdman', she said, get yourself up and let's eat."

Mary Jane reached out her hand to help him up, and they hugged before he followed her to the kitchen.

January 17, 2007

Grandpa answering his grandson, a child of television and modern marriages: Do you and Grandma still like each other after being married for fifty years?

Grandpa thinks a moment, smiles, sits back, takes a breath and here is what he said:

Your grandma likes me just fine when I’m awake. In fact she thinks I’m quite o.k. at times. But when I’m asleep and unable to control my behavior, when the scarier other half appears, and she tries unsuccessfully to banish him, then she is not too happy with grandpa.

When your grandma is just getting to sleep, going into that blissful world of dreams in the hope of refilling her tanks with new energy to tackle a new day, that’s when the bad grandpa appears with a loud snort. Grandma’s eyes fly open upon hearing such a noise. Then grandpa emits a sound like a train venting steam at the train depot.

It’s a scary thing, it’s a grandpa thing that grandma’s for some reason can’t take a liking to. So grandpas usually wake up in bed all alone and grandma is fast asleep on the sofa. But grandma likes the awake grandpa so she forgives the sleeping grandpa and that’s how they’ve stayed happy for fifty years.

Why the grandson asks are grandma and grandpas hands all freckly? They weren’t always that way.

It happens to all of us, Grandpa says, as we age, to all colors of people. I think if we lived long enough, we’d all eventually be the same color on the outside when we march into heaven. The trick is to get our brains at an early age to understand we are really all alike except for a pigmentation difference which we all outgrow, some sooner than others.

January 15, 2007

The Ring
By Jim Kittelberger

Lotta Stores is bored. Lotta is eight years old and is a nice little girl. Her family is very rich, and she can have anything that money can buy, but she is very lonely. She has a nurse to help her dress and bathe and brush her hair. There is also a maid and a butler around. Her daddy is always busy making money and her mama is always going to teas and garden parties and things like that. She wishes she had a brother or sister or a dog or a cat or a bird or a fish or a horse, but alas she is not allowed to have any pets. But most of all Lotta wishes she had a friend.

Today, the weather outside is terrible, it's raining and thundering, and blowing, so she is not allowed to go out. She is told to amuse herself. Her home is at the top of her fathers' biggest building. At street level is the entrance to "THEGREATSTUFFSTORE". The store is five stories tall. Offices of the store are on floors six to ten. Floors rented out to other business are on eleven to forty nine. At the very top, on floor fifty, is where Lotta and her parents live. There are lots of windows but no blinds because no one is tall enough to look in. She can look out her window and see birds flying below. People on the street look like little toys walking around. Since she is alone most of the time, she uses her imagination and makes up stories in her head. Sometimes when she looks down and sees the little people and cabs and buses, she holds her hand in front of her face while she is looking down and imagines she can pick up whole handfuls of people and cars. If she is extremely lonely she pretends that she turns her hand over and all the little people and cars are on her palm and she talks to them. Usually the people are very scared, but she talks real nice to them and they calm down. One day as she was talking to her palm people, a boy of eighteen, told her, "I know just what you mean, I'm an only child also and there were many times I wished I had someone to play with or especially to talk to. I had so many questions that I couldn't ask my parents. They were too busy or I was too embarrassed to ask them."
"Yes, yes, that's exactly right. I have so many questions and my mama and daddy are too busy for me and that's when I wish I had a friend." Lotta said excitedly discovering that someone else felt the same way.
"Can I ask you what your name is?" Lotta asked, a little nervous.
"Sure you can. My name is Ozzie, actually it's Oscar. That was one bad name to have when I was younger. Kids made fun of me and it made it hard to make friends, and so many times I wanted to ask my parents why did you name me that? I guess it was my moms favorite uncles name so she just didn't think what it would do to me. But when you get older, it's O.K. you learn how to handle those things." Ozzie said smiling at Lotta.
Lotta was beaming. She loved talking to Ozzie, he was like a big brother. He knows what problems and questions I need answered.
Just then Ozzie said, "I am going to have to go now Lotta, I have to get to the other side of town before three o'clock and I will have to change buses three times to get there."
"Oh no, do you really have to go? Lotta asked, feeling sad that she would probably not see him again. All of the sudden a great idea occurred to her. "Wait right here Ozzie, I will be right back." As she laid him gently down on the windowsill. "Don't fall." She said and off she ran.

She ran to the elevator and told the attendant that she wanted to go down to the store. The man asked her what floor and she said. "Please take me to the toy floor." The man knowing who she was said, "Yes Miss Lotta, here we go." When she arrived at the toy floor, she ran directly to the boy's section and the model cars. She told the lady that she wanted to take two of the model cars that had little engines in them. I would like the red sports car and the black pickup truck. Everyone knew Lotta and gave her what she wanted. They would just write it down and it would be O.K. The lady came back with the two she wanted and off she flew back to the elevator. When she arrived back at the apartment she went directly to the windowsill, and Ozzie was still there, gazing at the birds flying outside the window.
Beaming, Lotta sat the two vehicles down on the coffee table. Ozzie crawled back up on her palm and Lotta asked, "What if you had your own car? Would that help you get to where you have to go quicker?
"Why sure it would, Ozzie said, but I can't afford to have my own car. I am just getting started in this job and it'll be a long time before I can do that."
With that she took Ozzie over to the coffee table and sat him down beside the red car and the black pickup.
"They are yours Ozzie for being so nice to me. I only ask one thing in return."
Ozzie was flabbergasted and couldn't keep his eyes off the red sports car. "Absolutely Lotta, what is you want me to do?"
Lotta asked nervously, "Would you please come to see me every day and let me ask you things and maybe have lunch with me sometimes?"
Ozzie looked at her with understanding eyes. "Of course I will. I would be very glad to come have lunch with you and we can talk about anything you would like. But now I have to fly, well I don't think I can do that, but maybe you can set me back down on the sidewalk."
With that she picked up Ozzie and his red car and put them in the palm of her hand and put her hand in front of her eyes and set them gently down. Thank you for coming Ozzie. Will I see you tomorrow?"
"You sure will," he said as he jumped into the red car and drove off down the street.

That evening as Lotta and her parents were sitting down to eat, her father said, "You seem especially happy tonight sweetheart, it does my heart good to see you smiling. Did something happen today to cause these smiles?"
Lotta gave him a bigger smile yet, and told him about Ozzie and the car. Mr. Stores smile left his face, and he looked at Lotta and asked, "Didn't we have a talk about your imagining."
"Yes we did daddy, but this was real, I did talk to him, I did give him the car, He is going to come back and have lunch with me." Lotta said, a little sad because her daddy would not believe her.
Mr. Stores sat back in his chair and sighed. "Oh Lotta, I love you so much, but I worry about you. You know you were only imagining and Ozzie is not real. Now please eat, and I don't want to hear anymore of this nonsense."

The next day Lotta stood by the window at lunchtime and stared down at the street. "Oh no." she said as she was about to give up waiting, when she saw a little red car pull up to the front of the store and park. She put her hand in front of her face and lowered it, and picked up Ozzie and sat him on the windowsill. "Oh Ozzie, I am so glad you came. I was getting very worried that you would not come." She said breathing a sign of relief.
"Why heck, there was nothing for you to worry about, you're my friend and I said I would be here. Now what's for lunch"?

Ozzie and Lotta had a wonderful lunch and she told him of her fears and asked many questions about growing up, until it was time for him to go. Ozzie said as he was getting ready to go, "I almost forgot. I got you this friendship ring, so you will always remember me and smile." He took the ring and put it on the coffee table, and Lotta started to cry. "Don't cry Lotta, it was supposed to make you happy." He said concerned.
"I am crying because I am so happy. Thank you very much. Now you had better go or you will be late for work. Will I see you tomorrow?
"You will see me every tomorrow until you don't need me anymore." He said as he jumped into her palm and she gently lowered him to the street.

That evening at dinner, Lotta was uncommonly quiet as they ate and her daddy asked, "You seem very quiet tonight, is everything alright?"
"Why yes daddy, everything is fine"
"Well I'm glad to hear that, and I hope you are finished with that silly talk of that imaginary boy and his car. I worry about you and only want you to be happy. By the way, what's that ring you're wearing?"

January 13, 2007

This is the first part of an unfinished story I am working on. I apologize if it is too long a segment. I wanted to get to a somewhat proper stopping place. I am still writing and editing the story. Dialog becomes more prevalent in part two and subsequent parts. I will place all the parts in the sidebar under work in progress.

JAKE (a working title)
a work in progress

By Jim Kittelberger

Chapter One

Maplegrove Ohio would be described by a traveler passing through, or one of the legions of salesmen conducting business with one of the many industries that called Maplegrove home, as a pleasant little town. Located in the middle of fertile farmland, the town thrives as the depression still plagues the rest of the country. The smoke and strange smells from the factories give silent testimony that business is good. The factories are in the East End of town, situated near the homes of the European immigrants, who constitute much of the workforce. The factory owners live in the West End, away from the smoke and smells.

Egalitarianism, a fancy word that espouses the belief of equality of all people in economic or social life, was not the way it was in this country or this town, if indeed it could work anywhere. Class mattered in this little part of Ohio, just as it mattered in Europe. Venturing out of ones class was not encouraged or was it done by very many. The immigrants were happy and proud to be in their new land, but most lived and socialized with their own, in clubs that mirrored their homelands. But times would be changing.

The children of the immigrants born in the USA were sent to public schools to learn their ABC's so they would be able to contribute to the free society they were born into. They were taught the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and all the other wonderful documents that were the foundation of our free land. They were taught that if they worked hard, there was no goal they couldn't attain.

But as another high school class neared it's graduation day, one son of one set of immigrant parents, Jacob Miller Jr., discovered to his dismay, that the promises of equal opportunity for all, were empty words. If not empty, then it was a dream, a dream not yet fulfilled.

His father, Jacob Senior, had immigrated to this country and had immediately gone to work in a factory job that he had been trained for in the old country. He fit neatly into a niche that was already carved out for him, and he was happy and proud in that niche. Happiness and pride well earned. He did what hundreds of thousands of other immigrants had done, packed up and left their homes and families, traveling thousands of miles over the sea to a land where the mere fact that people spoke a different language, took courage. Courage that Jake was not certain he would have had. While Jake was growing up, in a family of all girls, excepting him and his father, it was just naturally assumed he would at the proper time follow his Dad into the factory. The prospect was not daunting, the job was respectable and
paid a decent wage and most importantly he would be following in his fathers
footsteps as most European sons did. The future seemed laid out for him, so he was
able to enjoy his childhood. He got into the normal scrapes growing up and teased
his sisters when he could get away with it. But being outnumbered four to one, he
had to be sure he had a clear exit behind him when he started that game. He played
sports, did odd jobs and enjoyed himself with little or no thought of the future. School, which he balked at in the normal ways of youth, seemed boring to him at first, until eventually, as he grew older, he noticed that he usually did better in his tests than the other kids, with no extra effort. The work got more challenging, his interest picked up, and his grades remained excellent. When he had reached his sophomore year, there was no more denying that Jake had an exceptional mind. Jake's teachers were aware of this boy with the brain.

A teacher's life can be tedious and their students are usually of average intellect with few exceptions as the years go by, so naturally they can become bored with the sameness year after year. But when a mind, an exceptional mind, a term Jake would hear many times in his life, comes along they remember the reason they wanted to be a "teacher, a spark is rekindled. Jake was introduced to all the standard subjects at which he excelled. This reinvigorated his teachers to reach back to their college days to remember what course of study or particular professor's method of teaching most inspired them to study harder. What is it that unlocks that recess in your brain, that when opened is unquenchable? That thing which opens up the world of art, literature, the sciences, all the worlds treasures and mysteries for young eager eyes to see. These are milestones in a teacher's life, to have the opportunity to see what they can contribute, to be able to be perhaps that person who truly makes a difference in a child's life.

Jake became a voracious reader who would read late into the night until sleep overtook him, then would wake early to read more before classes. His teachers provided him with books of every discipline in all the sciences, and he would absorb them and return for more. The teachers knew they would probably never again in their teaching career, meet another student with a mind as porous as his. They became guides on his road, leading him to this book or that lecture. He was given access to the classics, including Charles Dickens, whom he devoured with relish. He had never been to England, but he was able to feel the hopelessness of Dickens' characters, unable to rise above their class and felt thankful he was in America where such things couldn't happen.

January 12, 2007

My wife and I were chatting and she replied to something I said by saying "youse is a good boy". We've been married for fifty years so we share a lot of memories about a lot of things, that being one of them. The comic strip character who said it was a character named Denny Dimwit. He appeared in the Perry Winkle strip which evolved into the Winnie Winkle strip later on. Denny, of course by the name you realize, is a little slow. I think the character was no longer used when PC came about. If political correctness met Denny, I'm afraid he would have been cut, but those were different days.

January 11, 2007


What is it about a river that makes a person want to stare at it and dream? I suppose it has something to do with the ever-flowing cadence of the river itself. Perhaps it symbolizes life passing by, never stopping, and always flowing on. A metaphor for life certainly, a symbol that life itself never stops, and our circumstances are always changing also, a symbol perhaps that says this to shall pass if your mind is dark with worry or grief. For years I lived near the banks of the Potomac in Virginia and I loved watching its slow moving progression toward the Chesapeake Bay, knowing that Washington himself, a couple hundred years before, had looked into this same river and perhaps pondered great things not far from where I stood. A river can evoke thoughts like that.

January 10, 2007

The brain won't function today. I have thought of many subjects to write about, but couldn't get it into gear to get the job done. I'm sure you have days like that. The good part of me having days like this is that I'm retired so I will just have to do what retired people sometimes do, read a little, listen to some music, watch a movie maybe or the final choice, look at a little television. See you tomorrow.

January 9, 2007


By Jim Kittelberger

While driving down a city street recently, I was struck by a scene that seemed reminiscent to me of a scene one of those famous Italian directors would put on film. On the sidewalk, oblivious to one another, three young ladies walked single file, each in their own world, with a cell phone glued to their respective ears. It was certainly not an unusual sight these days, certainly not in the USA. What struck me as odd about the tableau? Why did I feel a tinge of anger, or maybe disgust? Was anyone of them checking with their baby sitter, or their parents’ health or perhaps even a stockbroker, or some other important person who has timely information or responsibility for important aspects of ones life? Honest, and responsible behavior if that would be the case, but in most cases I doubt it. Regardless, if that were the case, then the cell phones worth, and it is a most valuable tool, would be validated. But the cynic in me believes otherwise. It’s that otherwise that gives me unease about our national mental health.

There seems to be a national aversion to solitary thought, to moments of quiet, to moments of introspection. Indeed a stigma seems attached to any practice of the before mentioned. Society, or at least teen-age society, takes a jaundiced view of a person sitting alone for more than a few minutes without some appendage attached to the ear, signifying a connection to someone or something, and validating them as not some out-of-the-norm person. Teen-agers I can justify giving some slack in these, my own jaundiced views, because they need no accreditation from an older person to know they’re right, indeed they get accreditation just by being criticized by an older person, parent, school teacher, or any other figure of authority. But adults that behave in much the same manner are much more complicated to understand.

Adults have taken to cell phones like bees to honey, they do love them and with justification. They are ideal for business people of all kinds. Appointments can be made and/or confirmed on the run. Those dead hours traveling can now be put to good business use. Travel plans, home plans, all at your fingertips by just punching in some numbers. You are free from having to find a phone and digging for quarters to put in the slot. Your boss is able to keep in touch with you at any time, day or night. Your boss is able to interrupt your lunch, dinner, break-time, anytime. Your boss is able to barge in electronically when you are at home, in the bathroom, in bed. Wonderful right? No, it isn’t. It’s one of these modern marvels that have all kinds of trap doors affixed to it.

There was a time when we gave one-third of the day to our employers and the other two thirds was ours. This is no longer the norm. There aren’t business hours now, they’re all business hours and you are on duty 24/7. You no longer work a forty-hour week or sixty, but 168 hours a week, every hour every day. It may not say that in any contract, but believe it; you are now on the hook 24/7 or 168 hours.

What hours can you call free hours belonging only to you? Pass the Rolaids please, stress has moved in.

The communication tools now available to us are on one hand fantastic, and on the other intrusive. Americans have a birthright of freedom above all, and the invention of the cell phone and GPS while magnificent in their purpose, must be handled with care. Americans must learn of the inroads to their individual freedom these devices uncontrolled will surely travel. A little personal taking back of your privacy is called for, if not now, surely soon.

January 6, 2007

Radio Raymond was a man ahead of his time. This was published in 1924, one of only seven drawn by a man named Stevenson. This strip caught my eye and brought immediately to mind the modern day walkman. Raymond, of course, had to tote his on his back, tubes and all. I found this strip at Barnacle Press a great place for fans of comic strips of the past.

January 5, 2007


By Jim Kittelberger

My eyes were burning, so I opened the car window to let some fresh air in to circulate in the hopes it would revive me enough to keep me going maybe another fifty miles. The final trick, if the fresh air doesn't do the job, is to turn the a/c on to coldest, until I get so darn cold, any thoughts of sleep are frozen out.

I like driving through the night on my business trips. I seem to think more clearly with darkness all around me. I have also convinced myself that the darkness helps mend frazzled nerve endings caused by trying to do too much, too fast.

A single flickering light appears in the distance, breaking the total black of the pre-dawn night. As it gets closer, it loses it's 'out of this world mysteriousness', and the single light becomes two as the approaching car closes the distance between us quickly. Another sojourner in the night breaking the speed limit, as I am also guilty of doing. He, believing as I do, I suppose, that we are solitary beings in a time warp of darkness that will cover our crime. The lights are starting to bother my eyes and I'm all out of tricks to stay awake, so I know that my solitary time is about over and I start thinking about breakfast.

The sun rose quickly this morning, changing the horizon I was driving into from deep black to charcoal gray with strands of red and yellow. Which, if you believe the old saying:
Red sky at night, sailors delight
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning, or something like that, promised a bumpy day.

The village, which was the first community I came upon that looked big enough to have a restaurant, was of medium size and quite pretty with small, clean, tidy streets, and a town square of grass and trees and benches. It was indeed square, bordered by nicely maintained vegetation. But food was on my mind.

The streets surrounding the square were red brick. On the opposite side of the street from the square were small businesses. Most of the facades were in the Williamsburg style and presented a unified look from the outside. There were some, though, that spurned the look of the majority and presented the patrons of their business an independent look. Perhaps, thinking that it was more eye-catching being different. In fact, one did catch my eye. It presented to the community two plate glass windows with the entrance in the middle. On the window was the logo I was looking for. "HOMETOWN CAF", followed by "You'll think your mama's doing the cooking." I was sold.

I straddled a stool at the counter thinking that I'd get faster service here than the usually slower service at a table. Finding just what I was looking for on the much-used menu, I ordered. Quantity and speed were my two basic requirements for breakfast. As I sat waiting to see if my simple criteria were to be met, I sipped on a cup of hot Earl Gray tea and glanced at the restaurants advertising emblazoned on the mirror behind the counter. It announced the ordinary kind of things you would expect to see there. The special of the day, a request that you remember that this is the place of the most famous milkshake in town, and the Hometown Cafe logo with the words-SINCE 1935 THE PLACE TO EAT AND MEET. Everyone seemed to be acquainted and the talk seemed friendly and animated, which left a stranger at the counter pretty much on his own, so I grabbed a morning paper and read until breakfast arrived.

"Damn", I said aloud.

"I'm sorry", the rather skinny man two stools to my right said.

"Oh, I beg your pardon", I said. "I must have spoken out loud, I didn't mean to do that."

"Hey, that all right, sometimes I get so mad myself that I want to throw the paper on the floor", he replied, smiling understandingly.

"I usually don't speak to myself out loud, but this article really ticks me off. This crumb kills two people, gets eighteen years, and then he's back out on the street. This is not right. They give repetitive dope users life in prison, for crying out loud, and they're not hurting anyone but themselves. It just boils my ass; I'm sorry, now listen to me, I'm cussing out loud."

My companionable counter-mate smiled to himself. "Do you ever get so angry that you'd like to stand up and tell it like it is?"

"You bet I do", I said, "but who listens to us? You have to be somebody to talk and have someone listen these days."

"Well, my friend, that's not necessarily true. Did you take a look at that poster on the mirror there?" he asked, pointing to a red, white, and blue poster with American flags bordering the top and bottom. The message between the flags proclaimed our right as citizens of the USA to speak our piece. It also stated that the next gathering of opinion-ators would be today at high noon in the public square.

"What exactly is that all about? I asked.

My skinny friend turned on his stool to face me. "You've heard about the English allowing anyone who wishes to get up on a soapbox in Hyde Park in London and spout off about anything that's on their mind?"

"Yes, I have, but is that still going on?"

"Well here in the village we have the same sort of thing, with a little bit of difference," he said with a small smile.

"Tell me about it." I said interested.

"We believe that differences of opinion can cause dissension, which we have found is bad for the village. So from time to time we hold a town meeting, which the whole village attends. We allow the dissenters to speak their piece. The problems are ironed out forthwith and we can then go forward together."

"The whole village?" I asked surprised and becoming just a little skeptical of what I was hearing.

"The whole village," he repeated, "We villagers live closely together, and have very few secrets from one another. The town meetings foster a closeness, and any problems are quickly identified, and we are better able to fix any problems then and there."

He paused, and then continued. "In the towns square, free speech and thought are the rule. It can be fun and it would be good for you to get some of the things that are eating at you, like what you read in the paper, out of your system. It'll do you a world of good, it'll purge your soul of bad thoughts, and your mind will be cleansed of all the rottenness that goes on in this world today."

I listened to him, not knowing if I had run into an itinerant preacher, or maybe just a nut, or maybe what he was saying, if it was true, might be a hoot. I could afford to take the day off, and then get back on the road tonight if I could get a little sleep.

I agreed, and my skinny friend said to meet him at the entrance to the restaurant at 11:55, and he would accompany me across the square. We shook hands and parted, which left me some time to kill until then.

I decided to see what else the little village offered, and started walking around the square on the business side of the street. The businesses were the normal service type stores as in most towns, a hardware stood next to the restaurant, followed in succession by a men's clothing shop, a women's clothier, a toy store, and a book store completed one side of the square. On another side were city offices and the local police. On the third side were amusements, a movie house, a small bowling alley, a bar, a video rental store and a pizza shop. On the fourth side of the square were the bank, a loan company, an antique store, and finally, a computer/office supply store. Not unlike any small town in America, and in fact, maybe a little bit better than most, with the essentials required to keep the populace happy and home.

In a popular and civilized move, the city fathers had also switched to vertical parking, instead of parallel, with two-hour meters for a nickel, but only on this side of the street. There was no parking on the town square side of the street. Strange, he thought.

At exactly 11:45, on the sidewalk directly across from the Hometown cafe, a man dressed much like an English castle guard appeared, and began patrolling the sidewalk this side of the square. On each of the other three sides, the identical event was taking place. I thought to myself that perhaps they were taking the 'English Hyde Park' analogy a bit too far. The square itself was completely devoid of people; not one person was anywhere to be seen.

"This is really strange", I thought, almost like a pageant timed and choreographed to the second. A make believe headline ran through my head, "MAYBERRY AND PLEASANTVILLE TEACH CIVICS, FILM AT ELEVEN". I smiled at my small joke, although a slight feeling of apprehension had crept in, but I shrugged it off, thinking why ruin the experience. I'd have a great time repeating the story over and over again to my wife and coworkers.

At exactly 11:59, my skinny friend appeared and we walked together across the street. The 'patrolman' nodded to my skinny friend and at exactly noon, we entered the town square.

It was incredible. It looked like the entire population of the town was assembled around the bandstand that stood in the exact middle of the square.

"It looks to me like everybody in town must be here." I said, still amazed by the turnout.

"That's a very accurate guess," my friend said, "as I said before we take these gatherings very seriously and it would not be good manners to miss one." He continued as he looked toward the bandstand trying to catch someone's eye. He caught a man's eye standing near the bandstand checking names off a clipboard. "Excuse me," he said, and left to confer with him.

I stood, looking around at the crowd. Something seemed odd to me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. The men, women, and children were standing in separate orderly groups, which seemed a little strange. The females all wore pale blue dresses, which seemed really strange for today's women. But then I figured out what it was that seemed most odd. Each separate group was standing at what we called in the military, at ease. At ease is not exactly at attention, but also not at rest, and they all stood quietly, that's what it was, the quiet among so many people.
"Weird," I thought it's almost like I was beamed down in the middle of an Amish community, but not exactly. Something seemed chilling about this wonderful show of civic awareness and uniformity.

Then to my surprise, skinny-man appeared on the bandstand, and everyone went completely silent.

"Citizens of the new way, our beloved country is in crisis. We have become an amoral society. The freedoms that we so cherish have become freedom to slide into moral corruption. Drugs pervade our great country and we stand by seemingly unable or unwilling to control that which leads our young to degrade themselves in depravity and license. The ideals that we have strived to attain have been trashed as old fashioned, not worthy goals. In their place we celebrate excess. Our hero's are nonexistent. Why is this happening? I say to you, it is because we have no leadership, or leadership too weak to make decisions that might hurt someone's feelings or step on a freedom that perhaps, no not perhaps, a freedom that should be abolished for the welfare of the majority. The new way has the answer and the backbone to do what is right. The new way is the right way, it is our way, and in the future our example will lead the way for the whole country."

He stood back, put his hand over his heart, and stared with those cold eyes seemingly at each person there. The eyes imbedding in each the righteousness of his words.
The crowd erupted with the chant "so be it, so be it, so be it," their eyes glistening with love and hope for this man for whom they have waited all their lives.
They continued until he stepped forward and raised his hand for silence.
"The new way, the way of promise for the future, also has the humility to know that new idea's are welcome and indeed solicited. With the thought that we are all responsible for our actions and words, we begin."

"Citizen Will Gunther."
"As you all know, I'm a man of few words," Will began, "and I don't much like to complain, but I have to tell you that what I pay to have my garbage hauled is outrageous, and it should be lowered." "So there, I've said my piece and what say you?"

With the words still in the air, the applause began, and thumbs throughout the crowd turned upward as the crowd shouted and showed their approval.

Two other men quickly followed. Subject one was cleaner streets, and subject two was the suggestion they needed more jails. Both were given thumbs up.

Speaker number four, Citizen Joseph Miller did not meet the same fate. He climbed the steps of the bandstand and stood front and center, stuck his chin out and began.

"You all know me," Miller began, "and I don't complain much, but there comes a time when what's right is right, and individual choice should be a man's right." He paused as shouts here and there among the crowd started up.
"I know that's not a popular belief around here, and I usually agree with the majority and go along, but maybe I've been wrong." Now the crowd was becoming angry as one of them had the audacity to suggest that an individual's right was as important as the majority, or indeed, that he had any individual rights not allowed by the town.
Will ignored the shouts.
"It's my right," speaking over the dissension, "to paint my house whatever color I want, whenever I want, without having to get approval from anyone."

The shouts began to drown out Miller, and a sea of down turned thumbs showed throughout the crowd, which threatened to become a mob.
The skinny man, off to the side of the speaker's platform, nodded to several very big men who proceeded to escort Citizen Miller off the bandstand and hustled him into a small structure partially hidden by large trees. When the doors closed, the unmistakable sounds of a beating could be heard. The crowd expecting just that clucked their approval, and talked among themselves that he got what he asked for.
"This would teach him the lesson he had been aching to get."
"How dare he even think such things, let alone speak them out in public." "Unthinkable."

I stood toward the side of the speaker’s platform, literally feeling shivers go
up and down my spine, and my legs felt weak. Perhaps, taking poor, brave Mr. Miller away and beating him was just an elaborate staging of this grotesque play for my benefit. No, I was sure it was not. If it was staged, it was certainly not for my edification, I was not of any real importance to what was going on here. The lesson to be learned was for the gathered assembly standing before me. My guess was they got the message. As I was gathering myself back to some semblance of sanity, Skinny man stepped forward to the speaker's platform.

"A moment of clarification to a recent visitor to our town, I believe is warranted. I wish to explain to him, and all assembled, that Citizen Miller is in no real danger and will be as right as rain after a brief period of re-indoctrination and rereading of the town charter to which all citizens must adhere. Citizen Miller has always been a troublemaker, so it could be said he brings all his trouble upon himself. Now, we will say no more about it."
Whereupon the crowd broke into applause and chanting of "so be it, so be it, so be it," endorsing and empowering the leaders words and thoughts, until he raised his hand for silence.

"As I promised our visitor, he will get his opportunity to address you today on any subject he wishes. I want you all to treat him as an honorary, temporary citizen of our town."

"So be it, so be it, so be it," again chorused up from the assembled, filling me with the fear of many throughout history, the fear of impotence against power, one against many. I felt repulsion for the acceptance of the unthinking people as they endorsed wholeheartedly whatever their leaders espoused. Because I knew of no other recourse besides turning and running away, I started for the steps that led to the platform.

"What the hell am I going to say up there?" I thought. The proceedings of the afternoon in this strange town with these strange people had stifled my thought processes. My brain was filled instead with feelings of astonishment, fear, and bewilderment.
"I wasn't worried about making a fool of myself in front of these descendants of other mobs, from other times. Although, I must say, the feeling that I was jumping into a Roman arena with a multitude of unfriendly gladiators, and awaiting the verdict of the bloodthirsty spectators did not completely escape me."

I made my way to the center of the speaker's platform, and grasped the podium, trying to still the quivering in my legs. Off to the right, but in full view, stood the leader. His presence dominated everyone by a force unique to only a few in each century. What is it that allows these few to twist the thoughts and actions of a group or a nation to his will? The physicality of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, was not awe-inspiring. If they had any common feature, maybe it was the eyes, dark, cold eyes, and the complete absence of feeling for the human race. The Citizen Leader, from my short acquaintance of him and this village, had all the earmarks of a budding despot, despite his less than commanding physical stature, and yes his eyes were cold and dark even as he smiled his welcome to me.

I wish I could say here that I took command of the platform, and gave a speech second only to Martin Luther King's 'I had a dream' speech, and that I swayed them all in the direction of justice for all. That I convinced them that Citizen Miller was right, and he could paint his house any color he wished; but I can't. I stuttered and I stammered and finally I apologized for not being prepared and awkwardly made my way off the platform, feeling like the coward I was.

My only thought was to get out of this village as fast as my cowardly feet and high-powered automobile could take me. But as I was about to make my way out of the square, I was stopped by several of the leaders large henchmen, who informed me that The Leader would like a few words with me before I left, if that was convenient with me. To save my pride, whatever was left of it, I said certainly and followed them.

I was led to the same small structure that Miller had been taken to. Maybe I wasn't going to get off so easily after all. I had no other choice but to enter as the large men surrounded me offered no chance of escape. So I acquiesced again to the meeting and entered. The inside of the structure was Spartan with furnishings, a wooden table and two chairs. Dark stains on the floor, reminders of Citizen Millers visit, and others before I am sure, gave me much discomfort, as I thought I might also be adding some blood to the grisly decor. The Leader, already seated at one of the chairs, motioned for me to sit at the other. I did.
"Before you leave us," he began, "I want to make you aware of a few facts. One, what you see here is only the beginning of a new and better form of government. As you have seen, we have a village without problems, without disagreements, that is progressing forward arm in arm to achieve an ideal society. We think alike, we work together, and we succeed together. We believe that freedom for all in all things only creates babble, not unlike the Tower of Babel, too many voices, too many opinions only creates division and despair. The way to success and achievement is through one voice, one direction for the common good."

"Two, what you see here is only the beginning. In the next state election, I will run for and win the governorship, and what is good for this village will be good for the entire state. Then the entire country will see and compare and it is my firm belief that they will choose the new way."

"Three, if you find enough courage in yourself to inform your fellow countrymen of the new way, you will find that this village speaks with one tongue, and that voice will deny everything you say. You will be just another crackpot, your story will have a shelf life of one day, and your life will be ruined. So don't waste your breath, just keep looking at the news, and someday we will meet again citizen."

He smiled at me, but those eyes, those dark evil eyes, told me more than the smile ever could.

I was nearing the town’s edge, and was wondering if I would ever again be able to drive through the dark nights believing all was right with the world, or I wouldn't be stopped just up the road for a security check. These thoughts and many more were coursing though my head as I glanced back and read the sign that proclaimed I was leaving the sleepy village of Munich, Ohio, Please come back.

I floored the accelerator and trembled.

Jim Kittelberger 2001. All Rights Reserved.

January 4, 2007


I was reading a piece the other day about rigging up web cams in older peoples homes and in their far away children’s homes together with screens for the purpose of having a virtual dinner together. Here is the location of the article. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/lifestyle/297302_virtualdinner28.html

The dual purpose would be to relieve the loneliness of the older person and also to check up virtually on his or her well-being. I think they said it would cost two thousand dollars to get it up and going. A good idea mostly, after privacy issues are addressed. Cutting edge technology, right? Sure it is, but look at this cover of April 1924 Radio News, isn’t that a doctor communicating with his young patient using web cams? It’s a little Buck Roger-ish for its day, and not technically ready for the retail stores and us to use, but eighty-three years later it looks like its going on the market.

January 3, 2007

Peter, Paul, and Mary performing Puff the Magic Dragon live in concert.

It seems that perhaps folk music might be making a little comeback, or for those who have never had much immersion in it, an introduction to a new/old kind of music. Music with lyrics that tell a story. In this day of polls about everything and anything, I vote yes, lets have at it. You can't think folk music without thinking about Peter Paul and Mary.

I saw this in Salon a couple days ago:

Folk revival

The spirit of folk was everywhere this year, with a slew of tribute albums to various new hybrid forms -- from freak-folk to folk-punk and beyond.

By Andrew Marcus

Dec. 30, 2006 | "Well, you're in Greenwich Village now, where people come to get away from America. It's not jazz around here anymore -- it's folk music. Jazz is high-hat and aging. Young people have gone mad over ballads, blues, guitar playin' and banjo pickin'."

January 1, 2007

Negativity is an absolute downer. I had a good case of it for many years in my career days, and one day I decided my negativity was effecting no one but myself, so I stopped it. The job didn't magically get any better but I did. I discovered some things are what they are and I couldn't change any of it. But I could change my attitude and I did, and magical things do happen. Try it.