Friday, December 15, 2017

A happy man ..

I live in a very small town in North Carolina. Our Seaboard Street has a post office, a library, a hardware store and a few small businesses. They are all on one side of the street as you see here.

The other side of the street is heavily wooded and looks over the single train track that cuts through the town. The trains have to be scheduled very carefully since there is only one track. We used to get 3 or 4 CSX freight trains and an Amtrak one heading North during the daylight hours and another Amtrak passenger one heading South after Midnight.

A few days ago. at the Post Office. it occurred to me that I never saw the freight trains anymore. A chat with an old-timer verified this and he and I had great fun recalling when things were very different.
Only 8 or 9 years ago we had a fun loving conductor who would actually slow his freight train down as he approached our town. Then, as his train idled he would hop down and scale the small hill that led to the street. Once there he would jog across the street and disappear around the corner. According to “those in the know” he was on his way to the “Subway” eatery located in the BP Service Station one street away. “He does this once or twice a week at lunchtime” they said, “It's been going on for years.”

I remember actually witnessing this once and was trying to take it all in when the man reappeared carrying a large bag with the “Subway” logo on it. He had a big grin on his face and was thoroughly enjoying himself. He then disappeared over the edge of the bank and a few seconds later we saw him board the train.
As the engine gained speed he stuck his head out and gave us a last wave. “Now there goes a man who loves his job” I thought and the sheer audacity of his action makes me laugh even today. I want to believe that he's still breaking rules in this delightful way and certainly hope he hasn't disappeared along with the freight trains !

Sunday, December 10, 2017

1987 … Kenny keeps his "Eyes On The Prize"

Last night I read an article about the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and it brought back this memory. We had moved to North Carolina in the 70's and my husband had a small remodeling business. In 1987 he hired a 20 year old black youth named Kenny to help with the heavy stuff. Kenny had no carpentry skills but Dick told him that he would teach him the business if he were reliable and trustworthy.

Kenny had a sharp mind, was quick to learn and had a Southern accent that you could cut with a knife. They would often end the day back at the house and we would all share dinner. After each meal Kenny would say, "Mizzrus Richard, that was real good."
This time also coincided with the airing of the award winning documentary “Eyes on The Prize” America's Civil Rights ... 1954-1965". It was unbelievable to me to realize that Kenny knew little about his own history. He had been born and schooled in North Carolina but he said that he had never been taught ANYTHING about the Civil Rights movement. Naturally he was as excited to watch the show as we were.
As we nightly watched the segments Kenny became more and more agitated. This was completely new to him and he was amazed at what he was seeing. He even began to take notes and would ask my opinion on what we had seen. The part that affected him the most was when Gov. George Wallace stood on the schoolhouse door in Alabama and blocked the entry of the black students.
I could see the conflict of emotions that were roiling inside of him as he watched and suddenly he turned to me and said something that I'll never forget. He said, "Mizzrus Richard, do you know what? Someday that Governor is going to get real old and used up and he's going to spend his last days in a nursing home. And do you know who's going to take care of him? WE ARE !"
It wasn't meant as a threat...he was simply stating a fact ... but it gave me a chill. Yes, I thought, the day of reckoning may come to us all. I was glad that I could tell Kenny that Gov. Wallace had a change of heart and had begged forgiveness of the many people with whom he had clashed.
That was 30 years ago. After my husband died Kenny went on to form his own company in another County and has become quite prosperous but he has never forgotten me. He still calls to say "hi" and always ends the conversation by giving thanks to my late husband Dick for the life that he enjoys today.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

How does this guy deserve a pass …???

When I read this morning about Trump endorsing GOP Senate Candidate Roy Moore I felt sick. It doesn't matter to our illustrious President that there are credible sexual accusations about Moore … his concern is not about the man's character, he just wants to get him elected.

But here is my deeper frustration. What has become of our legislative body, the men and women Senators and Representatives that hold our future in their hands? Are they so thin skinned that they can't stand up to Trump? They were, just a few weeks ago, calling for Moore to step down from this election and now that Trump has given his endorsement they are, once again going right along like the good little sycophants that they are. 

 I can not believe that Trump gets away with his lies, his double talk and his demand for “loyalty” and almost none of his fellow GOP members have the guts to bring him to task. He may be President but he is not God almighty … although I'm sure he thinks of himself that way. Have you ever seen him display one bit of humility or, for that matter, genuine concern for anyone but himself ?

Men in high places are falling like leaves due to allegations of sexual misbehavior and yet Trump just blithely rolls along adding layer after layer of confusion to his checkered past in order to deflect the attention away from himself. And if he doesn't want to be questioned he can always head to his favorite get-away … the golf course (most probably one of his own.)


Thursday, November 30, 2017

1950's ad … and we bought it !

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) “Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the US, more than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries and firearm-related incidents combined.” WOW !

In 2006 the tobacco industry was court ordered to tell the public about the dangers of smoking. Now, after a decade of litigating (which must have cost them a fortune) they are finally out of options and are forced to post a series of TV ads that state the real facts.

All this information has made me look at my own past and I am happy to say that I never cared for smoking. I do admit that in the 50's I tried but, thank goodness, more cigarettes ended up burning in the ashtray than in my lungs.

The biggest shock for me was when, in the late 70's, I started working in a very active ER in our local hospital. I was amazed at how casual it was. Almost everyone smoked and ashtrays were overflowing at most stations.

The medical personnel would actually be exhaling smoke as they entered a patient’s room!! Luckily we had a doctor who specialized in pulmonary diseases and he started to complain. 

The first things to go were the ash trays in the ER ! Then, little by little the powers to be started to rally behind him and by the mid 90’s all smoking was banned inside the hospital, including in the cafeteria. However, it wasn't until 2010 that this finally happened …  HOORAY !


Saturday, November 25, 2017

FILIPPO...the “mad” Scientist/Inventor

Dick and I were married in NY City in 1958. It was a lovely affair but Dick's   eccentric best friend and ex-roommate Filippo was “missing in action”. He was a scientist/inventor and spent a lot of time out of town researching his projects so this wasn't unusual.
However I'd heard so much about him that I wanted to put a face to the name that my husband spoke of so frequently and this came about a few months later. Filippo was small in stature but his dramatic flair made him a daunting personage. He had been born and bred in NY City and was the prototype of the Italian male with sparkling eyes, a thin pencil mustache and a small, pointed goatee.
One of his passions was the stock market and one night we received a frantic call from him. He was “out in the hinterlands” and couldn’t get his hands on a “NY Times” and he asked Dick if he could read off the NYSE results for the day. I started to hand the paper to Dick but he shook his head at me and went on to give Filippo a list of the reasons why this would be extremely inconvenient...not the least being the fact that he would have to get dressed and go downtown to get the paper! After some further haggling Filippo agreed to buy us each a steak dinner upon his next trip home in return for Dick getting the paper and reading the results to him. He said he’d call back within the hour. After he hung up the phone I reminded Dick that we had the paper but he just laughed and said, “Oh, I know’s just something we do”.
It was more like 3 hours by the time Filippo rang back and when he did I was amazed to hear Dick say; “Well, Chappie, I have bad news. You know that our dog is paper trained and it took you so long to get back to us that I had no choice but to use that paper for Tiger. She’s sitting on it right now, as a matter of fact.”

Then he sat back with a big grin and held the phone away from his ear. I could hear Filippo fuming and fussing on the other end and every once in awhile Dick would throw in a sympathetic “Uh, huh” until I finally heard an exasperated sigh and Filippo caved in. “O.k., o.k….I give up“ he said, “ Get your damn dog off the paper and I’ll buy her a steak dinner too !”
This was just the start of a lifetime filled with good-natured bantering between Dick and Filippo and, although Dick has been gone since 1990 Filippo and his wife Mary have remained good friends. He's 89 now but I'm sure he's still stirring up trouble with a twinkle in his eye !


Monday, November 20, 2017


I was born in 1933, the youngest of 5 girls. We girls were all born during the great depression years but we managed. Our family was definitely middle-to-lower class with my dad working and my mother taking in sewing to make ends meet. Despite this the 5 of us all graduated from College. I won a 4 year scholarship which consisted of $1,000 a year and between that and living at home and working part-time I was able to get a BS degree from Boston University. That would be impossible today.

It was in the mid 70’s that I first became aware of the disintegration of the middle class. That was when the spate of millionaires sprouted up over night and the powers-to-be assured us all that the “trickle down” theory would be the savior of our economy. The only problem was that all the breaks were given to this newly wealthy class and they conveniently forgot to “trickle” anything down to the rest of us. Now it’s 47 years later and we're being fed the same tired line again.

If our government is truly interested in Tax reform they could start by closing loopholes that make it possible for large enterprises and rich people to “hide” their incomes. Inequality in our nation is at the worst level since the 1920's and giving the richest of our citizens a huge tax break is not only ludicrous but it's testimony to the heartlessness of the current administration.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if our representatives, while seated around their food laden Thanksgiving tables this week, could actually FEEL the needs of those who voted them into office ?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A small token of appreciation:

In 2005, I heard about a local Dr. and minister who were teaming up to start a Free Care Clinic in our County. I became very interested and signed up just as soon as they put out the call for volunteers. I’ve been with them ever since.

The first thing that surprised me was the actual NEED in our community for a Free Care Clinic. On the surface our area looks to be quite affluent and I had no idea how that masked the underlying reality. In order for a patient to qualify for free care at the Clinic they have to prove that they are a member of the County, have no medical insurance and are living on an income that is equal to or less than 200% of the federal poverty level.

For the beginning years we operated out of a large room in the Health Dept. It was quite a challenge to say the least but now we have this lovely location, complete with 4 exam rooms. We are funded by contributions and Grants and, although some of the staff is paid, it's the volunteers who make the whole project possible and it warms my heart to be part of it.

It's a very friendly atmosphere and the walls are aglow with lovely hand painted art work by members of our community. I was especially proud a few days back when our Director, Tony, told me that new pictures had arrived and they had chosen a special one to hang over my desk. I couldn't wait to see what honor awaited me. Hmmm ...

12 years of hard work. I wonder what they are telling me !