Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Can we Just say President Barack Obama?

For the sake of fairness and full disclosure, I did not vote for Barack Obama. Still, I wish him well and pray he will be guided to make the right decisions for the security and benefit of us all, supporters and critics alike. I am grateful this election ended with none of the doubts, the hanging chads for example, that caused dispute in the past two. We as Americans owe the man a chance to prove to the nearly half of us who voted for that other fellow that we were wrong. I will certainly give him his opportunity, despite my many misgivings.

But this post is not about politics. I have a question. When you look at the photo on the left, what do you see (never mind where you stand on his politics)? How would you describe these people if you knew only a little about them?

In this picture I see an apparently cohesive family looking happy together. They look younger than their actually age (the parents, not the children). Knowing a bit about them, I would describe them as a successful, highly educated couple. She obtained a vice-presidency in a major hospital complex and he achieved the Presidency of the United States. They look friendly, a family you might like living next door. 

When I look at some recent photos in the press how do they describe these people? He as the first African-American President. She as the first African-American First Lady.  I understand the historic importance of that, but that is not what they are. They are the President-Elect of the United States and she is the First Lady in Waiting.

You know something, I live in a "mixed" neighborhood, I go to a church with a "mixed" congregation, I work in a place with a "mixed" staff, my wife's best friend is in a "mixed" marriage, my friends have been a "mixed" lot.  

Oh, how all my life I have wanted to see those hyphenated modifiers and descriptors such as mixed disappear. 

It can get silly. My father's parents were Welsh and Scotch-German. My mother's parents were Irish and Scotch. My wife's mother's parents were German with a bit of French. Her father's parents were Irish and Native American. My oldest daughter's boyfriend's father is African-America and his mother is Japanese. If my daughter and he marry and have a child, will it be listed as a Welsh-Scotch-Irish-German-French-African-Asian-Native American? 

I live in a nice neighborhood full of good people who are nice to know. a place anyone would enjoy living. That's all. It is ridiculous I should need justify myself by saying I am in the center of a "mixed" anything before I speak about race in any context. But somehow this seems to be a requirement.  I want to see the day it doesn't matter.

As I writer, I committed a few years ago that I would not describe characters by plopping some modifier like "Black" or any other such descriptors. You don't see stories where a character is introduced as the "White" something or other. Unless it is a necessity to the story, why should a character be labeled a "Black" something or other? Don't tell, show.

There are legitimate purposes when a person's physical characteristic are necessary.  If a child has been lost and a description is needed for the searchers, certainly, White or Black or Asian or whatever is an important aid. If the child is being recognized for winning a spelling bee, why is "Black" or "African-American" necessary? I know the same report would not say the "White" child or the "European-American" Child.

There is something demeaning in sticking a label on certain people and not others. It immediately puts them in a box.  It is time we got over skin color or other such superficial differences and recognize a person as a person...period.  When God looks at a person, it is not at the outside wrapping, it is at the heart. We should look at every individual's character, not their wrapping.

If we persist in tagging on a modifier of "Black" or "African-American" to Barack Obama we are unfair to him. We have established he is the first African-American to obtain this highest office. It had been duly noted, so for now on let it be only Barack Obama, President of the United States.

Originally written on November 6, 2008

Eight days a week/Is not enough all I care to do.

Eight days, it has been eight days since I last posted here. That's eight days I virtually disappeared online. I barely Tweeted, seldom Status Stated, didn't Blog.  I owe all my fellow writers I follow an apology because I even fell way behind on keeping up my reading.

I did continue to take my wife out to dinner several times a week and say hello to my kids occasional and call my mother so I wasn't a complete hermit.

In fact, we even got out this Saturday for a little jaunt now that all the snow has melted and the rain stayed away a bit (it came back in torrents Sunday and Monday -- the rain, not the snow).

Our jaunt does make a bit of a sad commentary on the times, though. We have always been big journers to Philadelphia often to just walk around. It isn't all that far away, a half hour to 45 minutes depending on the curse of I-95 and the traffic terror. Of course, I worked in Philly for 20 years in my early careers and we lived there during the Hippie era. My wife was born in the city and lived in it as a child. It is hardly a strange place to us. Maybe it is now.

When my wife awoke I asked if she wanted to go up to philly, and usually she jumps at any chance, but she hesitated. Why?  Because of these flash mobs that have infested it like some rampant, rabid, random swarm of locust recently. I  never feared the city, but I have to agree with her now. They are unpredictable, can sweep in anywhere at anytime and can be nasty.

Yes, some of it is simply the ways of the young, a kind of rush, a kick, a giggle. Some appear just as a pack looking for a connection and a laugh and cause little harm. But too many come pushing and shoving and knocking down others or with vandalism and theft in mind.  I don't know where it will go. It is an invitation to violence and mayhem and it may spread.

So we skipped the city (and I find we are not alone in this. I spoke with others on Sunday who have also stopped going to the City of Brotherly Love because it is becoming the City of Unbrotherly Shove.

It was a nice day, so what to do, where to go. The first place to go is the Internet. If technology can bring trouble, it can also solve quandaries.

We discovered a delightful, interesting museum that day called the Bigg's Museum of American Art. It is located in a historic section of our state capital, Dover, about an hour drive away down Route 1. I nor my wife had ever heard of it, which is a shame on us. It has about 14 Galleries each representing a period in United States History. In these galleries are paintings and some statuary, but mostly furniture and other everyday objects from each of these periods. It is very interesting to see these style changes this way and to learn what some of the terms mean.

The place was not crowded on that late Saturday afternoon, in fact, we seemed to be the only ones there. The curators were very friendly. If you are in that area stop in and spend an hour or so. And one of the best features is it is free.

We were out of the place just after 4:00 a bit too early for dinner and since my wife's leg was bothering her, we didn't take a long walk about the buildings in the area to kill an hour. Instead we headed north until we came to what is know here-abouts as the 13-40 split. There we made a U-turn down Route 40 to McGwynn's Irish Pub for some good comfort food. They have my favorite assorted cheese and fruit appetizer plate there.

Anyway, a bit of a getting away from my getting dug in to accomplish something last week.

As I have noted elsewhere, in older Blogs and on Facebook, a year ago I made a pledge to myself to do my own harmony of the Gospels. It was to be more than the usual harmony. I would weave the four Gospels into a single narrative and then comment on the passages as I went, so it became a harmonized Commentary on the Gospels.

I did it for myself, for my own spiritual enlightenment and my own better knowledge of whom I believe in, Jesus Christ, his life and his teachings. Thus I called it "Nitewrit's Own Harmony". I decided to do it as a Blog, however. Putting it in front of others makes it a commitment with accountability.  I have begun too many things in my life where I started well out of the blocks only to sit down on the sideline far from the finish line. Having someone else seeing it, reading it, even if only one other, would keep me focused on the goal.

It has been slow but steady going. There is no rush. I want to study as a go, not just go.

Then I realized a mistake at the beginning. I had chosen to use for the Scripture texts of the NIV Bible. Even though I am not quoting that text straight out, but interweaving the verses together, it is still too close to be considered permissible under their copyright. I knew I could not continue using it. I decided to change the Scripture text to that from the King James Bible, which is in the Public Domain.

I had to go back and replace all the NIV with the KJV. And as I did I began to correct any typos or misspellings I found. Then I found myself adding new material to my commentary. That is where I have been these last eight days, absorbed in the Word of God my every spare moment. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Last night I finally finished converting all I had done so far. Now I can get back to Blogging, to reading other people, to communicating with friends. I can also now continue to add to the Harmony from where I last stopped, which was where John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod the Great.  In other words, I still have a long way to go having only reached the third or fourth chapters in the Four Gospels.

That much of the Bible text might typically take 32 pages. My Harmony-Commentary has reached 168 pages and 40,000 words at this point. I'm am very serious about my studying.

Although this is an act of love I started for myself, I hope some of you will occasionally visit and read it. Perhaps there will be something new, perhaps it will lead you to your own deeper study. I believe even someone who is not a Christian could learn from it and get a better understanding of why we believe what we believe and some insight into the history and times of Christ.

Anyway, that is what happened to me the last eight days and frankly, I could almost use eight day weeks I seem so busy anymore. I though these were retirement years where we just sat about mouldering?

Illustration: "Juggler at the Pennsylvania Renaissance faire" by nitewrit, 2004

Quick Takes: Suits

Times have changes greatly since my youth. Back in those ancient days men wore suits when in public. They wore hats, too. Not baseball caps as you see everywhere today, but wide brim hats. If going to the movies, men would don suits and certainly wouldn't be seen in a restaurant or church in anything but. I had a suit and hat as a child for going to church. I didn't like it much. That hasn't changed.

When I graduated high school, my grandmother took me to a tailor and had a suit made. It cost $100, a lot of money for a suit in those days. It was a dark gray pinstripe three-piecer, probably the only suit I ever had that fitted me perfectly. It was my only suit for a long time and it held up well over the years. Eventually it began to wear and I began to expand so it no longer fit as well.

The most suits I owned at one time were four. I was almost forty when I bought these suits for my new job at a bank. They lasted me through the twenty-one years I worked there. None were considered expensive suits although each was close in cost to that suit my grandmother gave me. The buying power of the dollar had certainly changed over the years. Men still wore suits a lot, but not as much as when I was a youth. Not very many wore hats anymore.

Needless to say, those four suits were pretty well past it when I left that bank. I had to buy a new suit for job hunting. That was the last suit I bought and last I ever plan to get. I never wear it now. Sometimes I wear the jacket like a sport's jacket when we dine out. (I can't remember the last time I wore a tie.) This isn't to be fashionable, but because it has pockets and that gives me a place to store my reading glasses. I don't wear a wide brim hat, but a baseball cap. I wear a cap because of an eye disease I had suffered that left me sensitive to overhead light. The cap visor shades my eyes.

You seldom see anyone in suits anywhere now. Some jobs still require the wearing of such outfits, but I am no longer in such positions. Very few people wear suits at my church, not even the pastor. I find it much more comfortable and less a decoration of status. I don't believe the clothes make the man. Character makes the man, and bad character can only be dressed up for so long before it is recognized. I will trust the Lord to keep his promises as to what I need in dress and if I ever need wear a suit again, I am certain I will know and it will be provided.

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" Matthew 6:28-30

Quick Takes: Shoes

I seldom owned more than two pair of shoes at one time. This began in childhood. My family had to be frugal and sparse on somethings in order to afford others. I had a pair of all occasion shoes, usually some brand of sneakers. (Keds was the popular brand in my boyhood, which I had at one time or another.) These I wore for play and for school; in fact, most of the time.

My second pair were my "good" shoes. They were for dress up, what folks called "Sunday-go-to-meeting" shoes. You had to be careful when you wore them. They were relatively expensive and you better not scuff them up or even worse, get them wet. From what I remember, they usually were heavy and pinched my toes.

I've seldom had more than a few friends at any period of life. I have been frugal and sparse. Friends are like shoes, they are close to you and they provide comfort and protection. "If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" Ecclesiastes 4:10 Thus Friends should fit well.

But sometimes even your best friends can pinch. Even the ones you are careful not to scuff may sometimes scoff at you. But friendship and forgiveness start with the same letter. You need to put yourself on your friend's foot occasionally, because remember to your friend you are like his shoes too. You don't discard a good pair of shoes because once in awhile a pebble slips in. You discard the pebble and regain the comfort of the shoe. It is a disappointment when a good pair of shoes are worn out. It is a tragedy if you allow a good friendship to wear thin over an occasional stone on the gravel road of life.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses. Prov 27:6

What's All This Talking About Beards?

Maybe it was my birthday or maybe it was June wasn't such a great month for us, but I slipped away for several weeks. Well, you got to crawl back into society again somehow even if by the hair on one's chinny-chin-chin.

Since another one started it, namely Retired in Delaware, let's continue discussing beards.

That's my current beard over on the left. I'm a "gray-beard". My mother thinks it makes me look old. Well, truth-be-told, ma, I am old. Frankly I fear I might look a whole lot older beneath the beard. Who knows what those whisker hide.

I guess it raises the question why I grew one. It wasn't a vanity-thing and it wasn't some childhood want. I don't remember thinking about facial hair one way or the other as a boy.  Closest I got back then was long sideburns. I didn't much like mustaches as a youth, though I did have a lip carpet occasionally over my life.

I thought about getting a tattoo when I was a teen, but never did and given I have a strong dislike of needles it isn't likely I ever will.  I thought about getting a motorcycle when I was a teen as well, but never did. Given my age and what that can do to the fragility of bones, I don't think I'll be buying a hog in the future either.

I never thought about a beard as a teen, but that I got.

I had a beard a couple times before. It was kind of a whim back then, but I discovered something very interesting when I grew one. I got noticed and not in a bad way. I'd go to a department store counter with a crowd, for instance, and I'd get immediately waited upon; strange but true.

I got rid of the beard when I went to work for the bank and I didn't grow it again until a few years after the bank requested I retire for being too old. Being clean-shaven didn't help me there.

Problem is I have this thinned out skin from the blasted psoriasis. I couldn't shave anymore without out drawing several lines of blood. My face always looked like I wrapped it in barbed-wire every morning. I just got tired of ritual self-mutilation every day and quick shaving. No one seems to mind. My wife says she likes my beard.

Here are some images of past facial foliage.

Now, I have managed to write something again. Send me some comments to cheer me up.

On the Road of Age

It sort of snuck up and pounced out of some bush along the road of my life, this old age thing. We like to pretend the calendar and the clock don't matter. Sixty is the new forty, and all those kind of lies we tell each other.

     But they do, indeed they do.

     Such a gradual thing is time you don't see the mauling it inflicts. Inside you see yourself as you always have or at least as an image of yourself at some ideal moment. Even staring in the mirror day after day you only see the same face you think you have always seen because the creases grow so slowly.

     Then someone takes a picture and you wonder, "Who is that old geezer?"

      Oh, people try to deny it through various tricks. Popping pills to rejuvenate the liver. Going under a surgeon's knife to whittle away the wrinkles and pull cheeks up into that elongated permanent thin-lipped smile of the living mummified. It's like putting a hat on a bald head. The hat ain't you; take it away and the bald head is. Plastic may wrap you up in a pretty package, but inside the box is still a wilting flower.

     It's the natural order of things. You can't dwell upon it because you can't defeat it. You learn to live in peace and a degree of harmony with it, but only after you recognize the truth. The truth is we all grow old and we all die.

     I woke up one morning in late June and knew a line had been crossed. We talk about our birthday year as if we are in it. This is not so. When we have our birthday, we have finished with that year, we have ended it and the next day we begin our next year. See, we have this habit all our lives of saying we are 10 and a half, which is technically true, but we are really half of eleven. When I reached 69 in June, I was done with my sixties. The next day of my life was the first day of my seventies.

     In 1950 my great grandparents looked like ancient pioneers. When I look at their photograph I am reminded of Grant Wood's painting "American Gothic," except my grandparents look older than the couple in the art piece.

     Both my great grandparent died that year of natural causes. They were both 70 years-old. People said they lived a long life.

     And here I am at the start of my 70th year.

     I don't think I look as ancient as I perceived my great grandparents to be at that age, but I don't really know how others perceive me and my wife. When we are seated at a restaurant does the Host instruct a waitress to serve the elderly couple in the booth over there. Do small children shirk away from us the way I used to shirk away from my elderly Aunt Hattie?

     Perhaps not, I'm not at the suspenders and pants so high they appear to be eating me stage yet. Still, I'm gray and wrinkly. I'm certainly pass the stage where pretty young women pay me any attention, unless they are a pretty young nurse preparing me for an EKG.

     Frankly, I feel fairly good, not like anything major is disintegrating within. I hurt a lot. It takes me longer to get in and out of the car. I can't lift as much as I used to and I can't putter around doing chores as long as I used to and I can't run.

     It isn't anything of a physical nature that pressed me on this issue of being old. It is just the flat reality of it. Life expectancy in the United States is 78.4 years. Now, certainly I know full well 78.4 isn't some deadline — literally — where you reach it and your keel over and assume room temperature. It's a kind of average and one can surpass it by many years. My dad will turn 92 in less than two months and my mother is 90. However, it gets harder to fudge the math now.

     If you want to assume 80 as a tottering-on-the-brink year and you divide by three you get to be young until your 26.6 and middle age until your 53.2, and beyond that what are you? Okay, a lot of people don't see 53-54 as really old yet. So take 92, like my father and round it up a year to 93. Now you get to be young until 31, which a lot of people might agree with. You are middle aged until 62.  Huh, 62 is still kind of middle aged?  Then let's do 100 and you are middle aged until just about 67.

     Sure, maybe I'll lived to be a hundred. There are estimated to be 200,000 centenarians in the world. That gives me a .0033% chance and believe me, you get better odds in a casino to make a million bucks.

     Come on, let's admit that I am officially an old man. It isn't something to be ashamed of; it's almost an accomplishment. I'm not depressed about it. Outside this posting, I don't spend time thinking about it, other than it has made me take a different viewpoint of my future. There are changes I want to make.

    In line with all that, I decided I need to sit back and do a bit more relaxing thing here for a while. I am going to do a Blog more in line with what a lot of Blogs are, a kind of rambling personal journal, a gathering of random thoughts that strike me, plus a bit of reminiscing.  Now I am not abandoning my other Blogs. I'll eventually get back to them. I want to finish "Nitewrit's Own Harmony" someday, but for the here and now, hang on, you won't know what you'll get just yet.

    But come back and see -- at least until I'm 78.4 years old.


Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting

Okay, I admit it, we eat in a lot of bars.

The original reason for this is simple. We wanted to avoid squawky, shrieking infants and undisciplined wandering tots. The odds of avoiding these used to be better if you ate in the bar. The reason was the bar area was normally the designated smoking zone. Generally those bringing young children to sup avoided the cigar-cigarette crowd.

This all changed with the passing of smoking bans by the nanny-state. Now people will drag their infants and the infantile into any area of a restaurant. My suggestion was when smoking bans were implemented that restaurants should make the formally smoking areas child-free areas. But that didn't happen.

So why do we cling to eating in the bar area of restaurants?

More privacy and freedom to talk is the answer. Most bar areas have booths as opposed to the open tables in the dining rooms. You are presented with a buffer zone from the diners about you.

Now you might say, "Aren't bars noisy?"

Yes, often the bar is compared with the dining room. There is often music blaring and a dozen people about the bar itself chattering away at each other, but this just adds an extra layer of privacy. Who can hear your conversation over all that. Besides it is a different noise than that of a crying baby. Babies and young children can reach decibels in their wails and banshee shrieks that would down airplanes and break glass. Generally the bar sound morphs into a background hum, something like amped up white noisy.

Still and all, it is a bar and liquor is served. In our experience most nights have just been nice people getting together to untie the bounds of their daily stress, they chatter quietly, laugh occasionally and little more. Now granted, the Little Woman and I don't frequent Biker Bars and dives. None-the-less, once in a while there is an idiot in the house.

Thus it was this past Saturday night at our current favorite dining-out place.

We have a great fondness for this particular restaurant and its bar. It has booths in the bar with extreme high backs giving us that complete feeling of intimacy. The staff is always especially attentive and friendly. Even ones not serving you may stop by for a brief chat and wish you well. You are never rushed. The food is quite good and they have specials every night, which provides a nice variety when you dine often, and we do. And their prices are low.

Every place can sometimes make mistakes. On this Saturday our wait person messed up my order. I ordered a cajan burger, what I got was a fajita panini. I know, I know, how do you mix that up, they don't sound anything alike. Well, the Little Woman ordered a fajita salad and the young lady serving us simply got fajita stuck in her head. No big deal, they made it right and were very apologetic. The wait person was a bit upset, but we calmed her down and we were happy and at the end everyone was happy.  It wasn't the end of the world.

Then near the end of dining there was a ruckus at the bar. Some middle-aged guy was screaming at the barkeep, denouncing him in strong language, pounding and stomping about some mistake with his pizza. Everyone was looking at this clown demanding his money back and denouncing all the staff. There was no reasonableness here, just a self-centered (and perhaps tipsy) moron acting out.

The Little Woman doesn't take kindly to fools who disrupt her pleasant evenings. She let this bozo know he was a jerk, told him to hit the road and added on some descriptive characteristics far more saltier than the language I employ. The guy did stomp out of the joint.

You just don't rile the Little Woman's feathers.

The crowd at the bar applauded the Little Woman and at the end of the night the manager thanked us for having their back.

At the end my meal cost me only the tip I gave the wait person.

What more can one ask for a Saturday night but a dinner and a show for the price of the tip.

(Yes, the Little Woman - 5'10" - was once a mascot, a Road Runner, "Beep beep".)

Today, Tomorrow and Always

My friend asks this question about my recent posts.

"Is this your medical situation now or are you writing of a past event?"

I have been writing about some past events that led to my medical situation now. I will always have this medical situation because the cure for the medical problem during those past events included the "killing" of my thyroid gland.

It had gotten so out of control there were only two reasonable possibilities: have surgery to remove the offending gland or drink the poisoned iodine and kill the thing.

Either of these had the same result in the end that I would have no thyroid function. I drank the poisoned iodine. Therefore, I must depend on an artificial means of getting the hormone that controls so much of my body. I must take a small blue pill every day for the rest of my life. Otherwise I will suffer hypothyroidism and a decade and a half ago I did have hypo, resulting in often occurring extremely painful muscle cramps all over my body and an increasing difficulty in walking a straight line. Of course, going with no thyroid hormone would be the ultimate in hypothyroidism and lead to many grave problems, such as death.

Now when I say I must take this pill every day, I really mean I should. I admit I am not a good patient, although I have been pretty good at remembering to take my synthetic thyroid boost. It is easier to remember than my high blood pressure pills and they are actually made harder to remember because of the thyroid medication.

Let me try to explain that. First thing I do when I get to the kitchen in the morning, after feeding the cats and putting the coffee on, is take my thyroid pill. It is medication that doesn't adsorb easily into the body, so it doesn't want any competition. You can't take any other medication at the same time and you need to take it on an empty stomach. Therefore, I take it first thing in the morning before anything else gets into the belly.

This means I can't take my high blood pressure medication in the morning. I let that go to later in the day. Of course, then I keep forgetting to take it at all.

However, I do sometimes not take my thyroid medication either. This often happens when I run out. I neglect getting the prescription renewed right away and then I end up skipping my dosages.  Obviously I don't drop dead, but if I go too long I begin to feel the effects in my body or my mind. 

Earlier in the year, as I related, my current medication was not working. I was beginning to have repercussions in my daily activities as a result, but this new medicine is working and I am doing fine.

Anyway, the answer to the question is, "Yes."  I was talking about past events, but also a current medical situation, one that I will always have.

A Vat of Feral Cats

Maybe I shouldn't even write this. By doing so, am I being vengeful? I hope not. I'm not really a vengeful person, I don't hate anyone and I don't hold grudges. But I do sometimes get frustrated, if not always angry, with people.

I don't think being angry with people who have been cruel to you is wrong. Nor do I think if you could punish the people who were cruel to you is being cruel in turn. There is a difference between being mean-spirited and seeking justice. Seeking justice is also different from seeking revenge.

I'm not generally interested in "getting back" at cruel people. I just want them to stop being cruel.

This has not been a particularly good year for me and mine. I will admit to anger in the last few months and that only adds to the irritation of dealing with cruel people. And I don't even really know these cruel people.

The most disturbing is the egg-man (or perhaps egg-woman), but it somehow seems a more masculine act, although hardly a manly one. After all, the acts were done in secret, perhaps under the cloak of night. The person is a sneak and a coward. It began in mid-may when my son left for work and discovered someone had egged the side of his car. I didn't realize my car had also been egged until after I  finished work that day and was walking back to my car. Then I saw the goo down on the bottom of my windshield at the wiper bin. It had been so low I hadn't even noticed it while driving.

We were egged again during Memorial Day weekend, but this time no egg apparently hit the cars, but there was broken egg in the driveway.

I reported both instances to the police.

Yeah, like they care.

Then in July it happened again, this time eggs hit my windshield just below the roof line and drizzled down over the glass. I spend a good deal of time scraping and washing and scraping again and washing again to get this gook off so I could see to drive. It was hot. Some of the egg actually cooked. I still have traces. It is a hard material to remove. And it can leave a film you don't notice until one day it rains and you turn on your wipers. Swish, swish and you have an opaque smear across your line of sight.

Again I reported this to the police, who I am sure take it as a minor bit of vandalism. But since there is no apparent reason for anyone to do this and we don't have any known enemies it is a random act of terrorism. Who knows if it has stopped or if it could escalate.

The Little Woman has a theory that the perpetrator is not actually egging out cars, but is trying to hit stray cats that may have been wandering about or snoozing atop the cars.  If so, then the miscreant is even more vile, an abuser of animals.

A  _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ in other blanks.

During the initial eggings we also discovered someone had thrown beer bottles into our yard, probably the same _ _ _ _ _ _ _ again with the possibility they were tormenting  Hobo Joe, who was still just a stray cat at that time.

The beer is the brand that "most interesting man in the world" drinks. I didn't find this action interesting at all.

These acts of cruelty are most personal, directed at us or at some poor creature wandering across our land.

You know what I would do to such a person?

Strip them naked, smear them with tuna oil and throw them in a vat of feral cats. And then throw eggs at them.

Now that would be interesting.

Selfish SUV

So there I am on I-95.

It is a Friday mid-afternoon and I'm heading home from work.

Where I enter the Interstate it is five lanes wide and full of traffic. The speed limit is 55. You will get killed if you go that slow. The average speed is probably 80.

It isn't far from the toll booths on the Delaware-Maryland border. Traffic on the other side of the medium is at a stand still, lined all the way back from the toll plaza. Traffic going my way is moving, a hugh mass of cars, trucks and occasional buses all speeding to the Northeast like a strange metallic blanket on wheels.

The speed limit in Maryland is 65. You pay your toll, cross the line and suddenly it is 55. Nobody takes notice and nobody is only doing 65 either.

I have to cross all five lanes from the far right to the far left. Its part art and part daredevil act. If I don't slide down to the third lane I 'm going to find myself trapped going to New Jersey or New York via the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It's a Friday afternoon in the good ol' summertime. The seashore is beckoning, the outer lanes are already bumper-to-bumper and slowing to a crawl.

I've gotten pretty good at this and I make it down to the far left lane alive. Now around the bend another lane will appear and I will slide over once more.

I am coming toward Wilmington and around a bend I am suddenly in the middle lane. Five lanes went to six and now down to three. But the right lane is going to disappear down an off-ramp in a short distance and then we will be on a two-lane highway. Traffic is still heavy and fast and on the shoulder of the road is a sign. It says, "Road Construction Ahead - Right Lane Closed". That right lane is my lane now. Another sign warns us to "Merge Left 2500 Ft."

That's about a half mile, so I flick on my left turn signal.  I'm not one of those people who speed along as far as possible and then at the last moment zips into the other lane. They're the people who slow everything up or cause accidents. If everyone would ease over and each car in the open lane would let one car from the closed lane enter traffic would keep moving at a steady pace.

I know this won't happen and I am not going to get a half mile down the road and find myself trapped in the closed right lane.

There is a gap in the traffic to my left and I begin to slide in, but as I do a SUV in the left speeds up and closes the gap.  I am still trying to ease in, but now he beeps his horn at me. What is his problem? Doesn't he see the situation? Of course he does, he's just one of these selfish, self-centered losers who think they manhood is endangered if they yield to anyone.

I am still inching into the left lane, but now he speeds up a bit more trying to cut me off and I have to swerve back to the right. It is lucky I wasn't hit by the on-coming cars.

I am side by side with this guy now. I glance over. He looks like a yuppie-type. A woman is in the passenger seat. She looks yuppified as well.  The man is perhaps forty or late thirties, bald. He stares straight ahead.

I pull ahead in my lane. A sign on the shoulder says, "Lane Closed - 1500 feet".

I pull ahead of the next car in the left lane. A woman is driving alone. I pull ahead, my left blinker still blinking and she lets me over into the gap ahead of her. I am determined to let anyone needing to merge left to merge now.

Ahead is a large blinking arrow blocking off the right lane and pointing left. Now all those cars that have been whizzing past me and whizzing past the selfish SUV guy who wouldn't let me in are switching over to our lane. Traffic comes to a stop, then continues in a spurt and stop, spurt and stop.

The guy in the SUV is still one car behind me. This is what was ahead for him all along. What did it gain him not letting me merge?

It is one lane all the way through Wilmington. It seems to take forever to pass the city and the line of orange cones before we have two lanes again. Eventually we are out of the blockage and speeds pick up. There is far less traffic on this side and I am cruising along now. I look in my read view mirror and there is the SUV, trapped behind two trucks, slowly fading away in the distance behind me.

I couldn't be happier.

Toss Away, Toss Away, Wait A Minute -- Stop

Here is something you don't think about when you start off young. Over the course of your life you will gather all kinds of junk like a magnet. It will begin to overflow drawers, clutter up closets and if not whipped back with a super strength of will, wipe out whole rooms. One day you wake up old and you say what in the world am I gonna do with all this stuff?

There is a general rule of thumb, so I have heard, that if you ain't used it in the last six months, toss it out.

Yeah, easy for you with a non-hoarder heart to say.

Dang, I got stuff I ain't seen in six years. In fact, as I just discovered, stuff I ain't seen in six decades.

(That's about how long ago it was someone told me I ain't supposed to use the word "ain't". And as you can see its still cluttering up my grammar.)

Ain't that a shame.

Anyway, the Little Woman and I decided a few weeks ago we ought to get rid of all this claptrap of life. It is a hard thing to do for me. I don't know why. I know it is silly to hang on to things I'll never use.

For instance, I use to have four thousand books. That was just the start in the picture on the right. Bookshelves lined the walls of the family room and we have a large family room.  I had even more, but we had a leak one year and several hundred got ruined.

A couple years ago I gave away about 1,000 books to a local library and I tossed quiet a few more that were damaged or simply obsolete (there are some books that become obsolete, such as computer manuals).

Despite this, I still have way too many books and I should give more to the library, especially the novels. I know full well I am not going to re-read all the novels I own; I couldn't, I won't live that long. But to box them up and haul them away is very difficult for me.

I fight this pack rat urge all the time. The other day I pulled everything out of a big storage closet we have. Among the Christmas decorations, four bowling balls (like we haven't bowled in twenty-five years), 78 RPM records and other miscellaneous antiquities were two cartons of Plasticville buildings. These use to be on my model train layouts when I was a boy; WHEN I WAS A BOY!  Do you understand that my model trains were steam engines when I was a boy? This is how long I have held on to these objects.

I know I am not going to be putting up train platforms anytime again on God's green earth, so I steeled myself and decided they go out with the trash. So I mention this to the Little Woman and what does she say? "Oh, if they don't take up much space maybe we should keep those."

Woman, you aren't helping!

One carton is about three and a half feet high by two feet by two feet. The other carton is four foot long by two feet by one foot. They take up a bit of space and that is all they will ever do now.


Anyway, I pulled a large plastic tub out a few days ago and inside I found a stack of original copies of stories and poems I wrote. In the middle of the stack were some old sketches I did as a teenager, so I pulled these out and scanned them into the computer.  I was going to post them in my  "Tatters" Blog. But this morning I found in another old plastic tub a scrapbook and when I opened it I found a lot more old drawings, going back to when I was 7 years old. With so many old pieces, I decided to give them a separate blog called "Charcoal and Pen Lines".

One of the old drawings I found is the one at the top of this post, a sketch I did of my friend Ronald, known today as Retired in Delaware.  It was drawn in September of 1960.

I took a detail from a charcoal drawing, "Awakening", that I did in 1956 at the age of 15 to use as my banner on the new Blog.  Sometimes even things you haven't seen in six decades you still want to keep.

And the Judge Said What?

We were in a windowless room with no clock upon the walls. I had no watch. Time was a concept found in the world outside, not here. I wondered if this was how it was in prison. When you are locked in a cell there is no clock. Are you allowed a watch? Probably not. In movies there always seemed to be a barred window at the back of the cell, but that may not be the case in real prisons. Is it like this morning for me, is time only known by what someone outside choses to reveal to you?

There is no time in eternity and when you are denied time in a world that runs by the clock it seems an eternity.

I struggle again to read people's watches around me, but they are too small, too distance or arms are too much in motion.

When I last was called to jury duty in 1998 things had been different. Not just the lighter security when you entered, the whole court house was different. That was back in the old courthouse, the one built in 1917 when architecture demanded a Greecian look for such august buildings, so it was a long white structure with many marble collums and a grand stairway.

I was now in the new courthouse, a modern highrise of glass and steel with a modest atrium.

There had been no overwhelming crowd in the assembly room back at that time, seats were plentiful for everyone and it seemed less clausterphobia. A chipper judge had come in to greet us and explain the system that morning, he was causal and chatty. There was no one today but our DI. We were supposed to have an orientation, but that didn't happen because of the inclusion of the Capital Murder jury pool. It had been too crowded, too chaoic. Looking around I could see dark TV monitors mounted all about the room. I am sure no cheery judge would have appeared in person. This orientation was probably a taped version. Progress is an impersonal thing.

Back then, at ten o'clock that morning, a person entered the assembly room and announced all the cases had been settled, none of us would be needed and we could all go home, we had completed our civic duty.

I had a feeling history wasn't going to repeat itself for our Drill Sergeant was speaking again, calling names from a list. At long last the petit jury types were on the move.

The first group was called to the front and disappeared out the entryway.

I was called in the middle of the second group.

Our bailiff was Jessica, a young woman in an uniform similar to a cop's, a weapon belt about her trim waist, with her hair pulled back in a military bun, await us. She was fairly attractive. Let me put it this way, she would have looked good in a bathing suit. But she wasn't Miss Conjeaniality. She greeted us with a stone cold expression and a voice whose tone told you don't even think of giving me trouble.

We crossed paths with a couple other female bailiffs during this little jaunt, none of whom would have looked good in a bathing suit, but all of whom were smiling and cheery and warm. I suppose it is one of the ironies of this world that in order to be taken seriously if you are attractive you must ugly down your personality. Not that Jessica's personality was ugly, just very off-putting. She was like an icesickle on a sunny winter morning. She glistened with a frosty beauty. If you touched her you'd be frostbitten.

She escorted us down the corridor to the elevators and sent us up. We coudn't all go together, even though the lifts were freight elevator size. There must have been forty in the group.

Several floors up we were taken to a courtroom where we waited a few minutes in the hall gazing at a view of the city through huge glass panels that made up the one wall. Then one of those less-than-attractive-in-a-bathing-suit bailiffs popped out with a smile and invited us enter. Jessica was in there and directed us to sit on the benches to the rear of the room. We were too many even sat hip-to-hip for the three benches, so a few spilled over into the jury box.

I am in my seventieth year and this was my fist time in a courtroom. I guess that means I have been practicing good behavior all my life or I just haven't been caught yet. There is something imposing about it. It almost doesn't feel real and everything feels detached from normal reality. It took a moment to even notice we were not alone.

Everything was wood. At the front was a raised platform with the highest point being the Judge's desk. It had a computer on it. Behind it was mounted the Great Seal of the state. Below this desk was a long work area. At one end sat a thin man at another computer, persumedly the court stenographer. At the other was a young woman at yet another computer. She was the court clerk. Given her age and a certain awkwardness when she had to speak, I would guess she was a law student. Being clerk to this court was probably an honor.

In the middle of the room were two tables. People sat at these tables facing across them toward the Judge's stand so their backs were to us. Although they were not far, they somehow seemed distant. Something in the formation of this room, perhaps because we were higher than the floor where they sat, distorted these people and made them appear small.

Along the side wall was the jury box, fifteen padded gray, swival chairs.

Another woman was seated at the table to our front left. She had a two inch stack of papers before her, which she kept thumbing through. She was the state prosecutor. At the table on the right sat a man in a business suit (probably a public defender) and to his right another man in a white jumpsuit with DOC on the back. Behind these two sat two burly officers of the law.

We had been instructed to make no noise. we didn't.

Jessica went out a door next to the Judge's stand and we could hear her say, "They're ready, Your Honor." Apparently Your Honor wasn't ready. There was some sort of delay. Another bailiff appeared and went through the door. Jessica shut it behind her and we waited. Maybe the judge had to go to the rest room at the last minute. Maybe she needed an opinion on her hairstyle. No explanation was given, we just waited.

Finally, Jessica reappeared and announced the Honorable such-and-such and said "All rise." We stood and a blond haired woman in judicial robes entered, took a seat high above all the proceedings and sat down. We all sat down.

The Judge's name sounded familiar. later I realized she was pretty well-known. She had once been the state's Attorney General, had once ran for the U. S. Senate. She also had a reputation of being tough as nails, it had once been said of her she would put Santa claus in jail.

None of this showed, she seemed very nice and friendly when she spoke to us.

The clerk then announced court was in session on case number so-and-so, the State versus whozits on illegal use and possession of fire arms or something along that order. The Judge then told us this was a criminal trial expected to last two days.

"The Clerk will now ask you a serious of questions. These questions are designed to be answered yes or no. You should answer no to each question. If you must answer yes to any one or more of these questions, then we will speak to you further as to why you answered yes."

The Clerk stepped to a central podium and read the questions rapid fire from a paper, "Do you know the defendent? Do you know either of the lawyers? Two police officers will be testifying in this case, do you know either of these officers? The defendant is wearing a Department of Corrections jumpsuit, will that prejudice you against the defendant? Do you have a prejudice against people with freckles that own goldfish?" No she didn't ask that last one.

It was a long list. At the end the Judge asked if any one could answer yes to any question. Several hands went up.

The Judge now called the lawyers, the clerk and the stenographer to her bench. She flipped a switch and an annoying buzz of white noise filled our ears. Jessica led each hand raiser in turn up to the group gathered at the bench where they were questioned. The only non-movement was the defendant and the two officers behind him.

There was an easy dozen or more people who claimed dismissal because they had answered yes. About two-thirds of these were dismissed and left. The rest returned to the benches, all rather grim-faced. One woman returned with tears in her eyes.

After all had their moment in the spotlight the annoying noise was turned off to our relief.

Now the clerk stepped forward again and called out twelve names one by one. Jessica pointed out exactly were each person called should sit in the jury box. Once all were seated, the clerk handed Jessica a clipboard of papers. The bailiff in turn handed this to the defense attorney, who glanced at the jury box and flipped through the papers so clipped.

He handed the pack back to Jessica, looked at the Judge and said, "Mr. Blank is satisfied."

I am not certain if Mr. Blank was the lawyer's name or his client's. I am guessing Mr. blank was the client, but how the lawyer knew his client was satisfied is beyond me. He didn't show him the papers or consult with him. His client simply sat staring straight ahead the whole time. The defendant was the elephant in the room; he was more the invisible man.

The papers were then taken to the prosecutor. She flipped through a couple times, looked at the jury box and said one juror wasn't satisfactory to the state.

The Judge told this person she was dismissed and she left the room. She had been one of those who had previously answered yes and been questioned. I am sure she was happy to leave.

The Clerk again stepped to the podium and called another name. A person on the benches took the place in the jury box vacated by the dismissed woman and we went through the whole clipboard process again.

This time both Mr. Blank and the State were satisfied.

Now the Clerk did her thing once more and called two names, the alternates. Again the whole process was repeated.

This time the defense lawyer spent more time studying the list and he looked at the seated jury several times and back at us on the benches even more times. Obviously he was studying us on the back benches for a player more likely to be favorable to his client. Apparently none of us fit that bill and he finally said Mr. Blank was satisfied.

The State was also happy with the picked.

I had been noting the order of names called and it is my estimate if one more prospective juror had been dismissed, I would have made the team. In some ways I almost was wishing that happened. This was a new experience and might have been interesting.

But they had a complete panal now, we were no longer needed.

They Judge turned to us rejects and thanked us. "We are very appreciative that you were willing to serve."

Say what? Willing to serve, us, willing? What is this willing bit? We may have been willing to serve, but the truth is you don't have that choice, at least without dire circumstances. What did the summons say? if you failed to appear you faced jail time and a hefty fine. There was nothing about "come if you so will" anywhere on that notice. They don't call it a summons for nothing.

One advantage of having been called to the courtroom was we were told the time. As I left that room with the other losers (or is it winners) not empanaled for that trail I knew it was almost noon. But don't think the place was done with us. Oh, no, we may have been dismissed from this courtroom, but there were a lot of courtrooms in this building. We had to report back in at the assembly room and wait on the possibility our "willing" service was needed elsewhere.

Back in the big room, our DI, who frankly I was now thinking of more as our lovable den mother, called out some more names. I recognized they were all the people we left behind sitting in the jury box.

"Are any of those people in this room," she asked. I guess they wanted to be certain none of them had escaped, except some guy raised his hand.

"Were you in courtroom such-and-such just now?" she asked him.

"No," he answered.

"Well, why weren't you? You were supposed to go to courtroom such-and-such when I called your name earlier."

"You didn't call my name," he said.

"Oh, yes I did," she said. "I did indeed call your name. That is why I asked everyone to say here when I called their name. Your name was called and you should have been in courtroom such-and-such. You in big trouble now, hmm-hm!"

Everybody laughed.

Lunchtime was to be from 1:00 to 2:00, so when our Den Mother - Mother Hen - DI next appeared I expected an announcment that lunch was upon us. I wondered if I wanted to leave the building for an hour. Did I really want to go through security again. I might not be so lucky the next time I slipped off my belt. My pants might fall for sure.

"Everybody who took a magazine from these rack, please put your magazine back at this time. We paid for those magazines and provide them to help you pass the time. What you may not know, we mark those magazines with infra-red ink. Don't you even think of not returning the magazine you borrowed, we will track you down. Now you look at your neighbor and see if they have a magazine and you tell them to put that magazine on the rack at this time."

People flocked forward replacing magazines.

"Now people, you all look around and pick up any trash you may have. You bring that trash up and put it in these recepticles provided. This is my house, you keep it clean for my next guests. There were 21 coutrooms scheduled today. At this time, all 21 cases have been fulfilled."

She looked at us and made an upward motion with her hands. Everyone applauded and cheered.

"I knew you would like that. I am about to dismiss you, but we have a Certicate of Appreciation for each of you for being here today. As I call your name come get your Certificate and then you may leave. Now I will be calling your names alphabetically, so if your name happen to be Wurtz, you know where you be."

The guy next to me called out, "I think we should start in backward order for a change."

I said to him, "I prefer me start in the middle.

When I picked up my Certificate I thanked the lady for her good humor.

I got out and it was nearly one by the big clock on the street. I'd probably be home by the time I would normally get off work, if I made it to my car. I still had a three mile walk ahead mostly up hill.

There was no sign of that rain we were supposed to get mid-day. The sun was bright and shiny. It was also hot. We were suppose to hardly reach eighty, it turned out in was actually 91. I had no hat. Fortunately at this time of day the sun was to my right and slightly behind me. Still there was much glare.

And it was hot.

I began my walk. I was tired from the stress of the day and from standing. I had not had anything at all to eat or drink either. I had forgone anything that might cause frequent bathroom visits.

And have I mentioned, it was hot.

I made my trek. It is amazing how much of the route had no shade. I was feeling a bit whoozy after the first couple miles. Just another mile, I told myself, just a few more blocks, just a few more steps.

My jury duty concerns were gone. I will probably never be called again. I am not eligible now for two years and in two years I will be pass the age where I have to serve. Of course, I still had to survive and get to my car and go home or none of that mattered.

It is parked just around the next corner, but man, it is hot.

Ms Drill Instructor

There I sat in this corral of lambs for the slaughter. The line was still encircling the room like a giant python about to constrict us foolish sheep engulfed by it. It writhed slowly about the outer edges of the room, some never-ending body with no head and no tail.

I had chosen a seat at the very rear corner of this captive audience. It had been relatively easy to get to and I was not entrapped in the middle of a row where people would be crawling over me to come and go nor would I be climbing over them. It didn't take me long to realize this was a mistake.

It was getting rather warm in the room, so there was a small advantage being on the outer fringe. I had a teeny pocket of space rather than total engulfment by bodies all giving off heat, but it wasn't much comfort. It was still hot and I was beginning to sweat. Where was the air conditioning?

My real difficulty was hearing.

A woman's voice suddenly came out of somewhere to the front right of the room, the furtherest point from where I sat, and was saying something to we of the mob. I strained forward to hear. Now I know when I came in there was a podium with a microphone attached front and center , but for some reason she chose to stand to the far side of it and speak without amplification.  She was reading a list of names. Here and about the room someone would get up and go forward toward her direction. I couldn't see her because of the continuing line snaking through between her and I. I could barely hear her because as soon as she began calling her list odd cliques in the line just behind me began chatting about the minutia of their daily life in raised, giggling voices. Also at that moment I found the air condition as it suddenly snapped to life above my head with a constant hiss.

And so it went. The line limped along and a distant voice called forth bodies and I leaned further and further over listening for my own name. 

And then, finally, the line ended, its tail wiggled by and around and everyone coming had come. Every seat was filled and bodies stood or sat against the walls all about, with some small globs standing in the middle of the center aisle and another cluster of souls grouped near the entryway. Perhaps with the movement of feet done or just having grown use to this environment, I could hear the woman better. She was not calling names at that moment, she was saying she saw women standing and gentlemen should give their seat to the ladies.

Hey, what happened to the demand for equal treatment between the sexes? I though women had fought hard for the right to stand uncomfortably in a crowded room? Should they be forced to give up what they earned now for the sake of a seat?

Actually, because I'm an old guy from a different time when gentlemen did do such things for the fairer sex, I had just been about to give my seat to a woman standing by the wall opposite me. For one thing, I stand all day on my job so felt I am used to being on my feet for long periods, but with that announcement I was caught between gallantry and shame. Getting up now wouldn't appear a polite gesture, it would simply look like I was goaded into it. Maybe that is how all the men felt. Perhaps they had all been on the verge of sacrificing their hard plastic chair to some dainty lady along the wall and now they felt chided and reluctant. I saw no movement among the seated to change positions.

But I did. I left my chair and walked down along the left wall and squeezed in between a surly looking young man and a young woman seated on the floor.

I admit it wasn't all altruism. From this vantage point I could see the speaker and more importantly, hear her better.

 As I stood there I noticed the pretty young woman at my feet wore a very low cut top, one very revealing from my height above. Obviously I must be a sex pervert for it took me no time at all to notice this. Oh come on, I may be an old man, but I'm not a dead one.

The distant woman, who was obviously our caretaker for the day,  continued to call names. I saw those who came forth go to her one by one. She handed them a sheet of paper, whispered something in their ear and each then went to a table where a pail of pencils sat. They wrote something on the paper and brought it back to the woman, then returned to their seat. Rats, I though she was calling people to go to courtrooms. No one was going anywhere. The crowd was becoming a bit overbearing as time passed. I was waiting for my name so I could find out what this ritual was about, but before I was called she shifted gears.

And now finally, she moved to the podium with the microphone. Apparently she could not get to this microphone earlier because of that python snaking around the room. Now what she said was loud and clear.  She ordered everyone to listen up as free parking was about to be awarded.

"Take out your parking stub," she said, "and hold it up."

"Its like the lottery, isn't it?" I said to the surly looking guy. He just nodded, but surlily and gazed disdainfully at his parking stub. I, of course, had no stub.

"Look at the number below the name of the lot," the woman said. "If you see a number 43 below that name, then you have free parking. When you are dismissed for the day you will go to the garage. You will find your car. You will then start your car and you will drive to the gate. You will put your stub in the slot and the gate will rise, and you will go home."

My Surly did not have a 43 on his stub.

"If you do not have a 43 on your stub," said the woman, "look below the name of the lot. If you have a 44, you have reduced parking. When you are dismissed for the day you will go to the garage. You will go to the walkup pay window and you will pay $7.00. You will now have ten minutes to find your car and get to the gate. If you do not get to the gate in ten minutes, the reduced rate will go up to the regular fee and you will pay $10.00.

"Therefore, people, I suggest you find your car before you go to the walkup pay window."

She then called roll for those in jury type Capital Murder.

Ouch! Capital Murder, don't want on that jury, oh, no, no, that isn't going to be over in a day for sure. She called out the names and each person was to answer if they were present. We got some "here"s, some "yes"s and an occasional "present". Then we got someone who corrected the pronunciation of their name. 


The woman in charge looked at this person. "Folks," she said, "I am going to mispronounce some of your last names. I am going to mispronounce some of your first names. This list is in alphabetical order. You should know about where you will be. If I call something near close to your name, just answer here."

I liked this woman. She had a sense of humor, she made us laugh sometimes, she made the day bearable, but she had the look of a former drill sergeant. I remember when my daughter got through Basic training and came home. She told us the first thing she learned was when the DI said something you don't roll your eyes. She had and the next thing she knew she was doing pushups in a mud puddle with a fifty pound pack on her back. This woman calling roll looked like if she said, "Get down and give me twenty" you would get down and give her twenty and throw in an extra five just to be on the safe side.

She must have called over a hundred names before she asked, "Anyone here jury type Capital Murder whose name I did not call."

A man in the back raised his hand.

"What's your name?"

He gave it.

"You jury type Capital Murder?"

"I don't know," he says, "what's a jury type."

"Okay people. Pull out your summons. Look in the upper right hand corner. You will see the words 'Jury Type'. Sir, do you see the words Jury Type?"


"Do the words, 'Capital Murder' appear next to jury Type?"


"Then that is why I did not call your name, sir."

As I stood there, still waiting to hear my own name called for something, for anything, a young white man walked by a couple times.  He wore a Phillies T-shirt, satiny white basketball style shorts with a red stripe down the side and a Phillies baseball cap turned backward upon his head. Blast, I guess I could have worn my plain black hat, right way around, after all. And to think I was worried about courtroom decorum!

Someone in a uniform came in and handed our Drill Instructor lady a paper.

"Quite down out there, people," she said. "I'm going to get some of your out of here. I call your name you come up and form a line at the door. Your bailiff is Jeffrey. He will instruct you as to where to do. The paper you are handed, do not read it, it will only confuse you."

She now read off a batch of names and people filed out the entryway.  She turned and looked at them.

"What I tell you? I told you, do not read it, it will only confuse you. See now, you're reading it and now you are confused." She turned back to the rest of us. "When I tell you to do something, do it. I'm trying to help you people up here. Listen to me. I tell you, 'Don't read it'; then don't read it! It will only confuse you."

She called another batch, who marched out, then another and another. These were the prospective jurors for the capital murder case. There must have been well over a hundred of them. Yeah, that trial isn't going to be over in a day or two. It'll probably take them two weeks to impanel a jury.

Of all the people there this day, I only heard one familiar name, William S. It wasn't a common last name like Smith. It was a fairly uncommon one, so I wonder is it was the Bill S. I once worked for 13 years ago. He was called in one of these batches and sure enough as he walked down the aisle I could see it was him, looking 13 years older (as if I didn't). Poor fellow, he was on the capital murder list.

Once the capital murder unfortunates had left the room, she called everyone from the four corners of this world who were left into the main room. Those back in the little vending machine cafe adjoining the room were ordered forth. We were all told to find a seat and sit. Now she said she was going to call the petit jury type roll call.

Some guy in the back raised his hand.


"What's petit mean," he asked?

She raised an eyebrow and answered, "Small."

I am meanwhile trying to determine the time on the watch of a man across from me. I could not quite get the angle of the hands. It looked to be perhaps a bit before 10:00 or a bit after 10:00 or it could have been about 11:00.

She was calling roll. Again the "yeses", "heres" and "presents" until she came to a man seated to the front of me. She called his name.

"Shake 'n' bake," he answered.

She sternly repeated his name.

"Here, " he humbly replied.

When she called my name I gave a stout "here" in return.

Darn, I wish I could figure out the guy's watch. How long have we been here and then I heard my name called again.  She was back to calling little groups to her. I was going to find out what the mysterious paper was. I went forward and was handed the questionnaire I had filled out and sent back right after I received my summons. Two areas were highlighted in green. She whispered in my ear I must fill these space in. One was for my work number, which I had left blank because at the time I had no idea what my work number was. The other was Race. I had deliberately left that blank on principle. (It is too long to explain my stand on race here, that will take some future post.)

I went and filled in the spaces, hoping the number on the little folded yellow Post-it I fumbled from my wallet really was my work number, and returned it to her. I wasn't about to argue my theory on race with the sergeant. I had no intention of doing pushups in a mud puddle. I handed in my completed form and returned to my seat.

When, I wondered, will we ever be called to a jury if at all?

If not at all, when would we be dismissed?

And what was the time on that guy's watch?

The answers lay ahead.

Get Me to the Court on Time.

I got my Certificate of Participation. I fulfilled my civic duty and I am glad the ordeal is a done deed and over with.

I got the summons a month ago, the day I had been granted my vacation week for mid-September. I came home and announced to the Little Woman I had vacation the week of our anniversary, then I opened the mail to find I was ordered to Jury Duty on September 8, three days before my vacation would start. One doesn't want to spend their vacation in a courtroom, which was now a possibility.

Not only that there was the money situation. Money isn't something I have. Taking my vacation is costly enough, because I don't get paid for time off, and that includes vacation or serving on a jury. The justice system pays $20 per diem after the first day to jurors for their service.  For most people by the time they pay for gas, parking and lunch that $20 is eaten up. Even if I didn't have to pay for parking and skipped eating, that $20 doesn't come close to making up for my lost wages.

Nonetheless, there is nothing to be gained by moaning about it, one must go. Early Wednesday morning I set off to the city for my day at court. I parked three miles out from my destination. That is how far from center of town you must go to find free parking on the street. In the center of things are parking meters that won't cover the time you must be there or parking garages, which will for a good price. One mile out and you still have street parking limited to two hours, and you will get a ticket.

But I'm a walker and three miles is no big deal. Now came a decision. I wanted to limit what I had because of the security measures at the court. (My friend, Ron, would hate being called to Jury Duty. You can bring no cameras, no cell phones, no electronic devices -- so there would be no picture taking in the courthouse. Trying to enter with any such devices would result in their confiscation.) This brought a question to my mind about my hat. I always wear my hat (baseball cap, actually) when out. You see several years ago I suffered Graves Disease and it left me with eyes that are oversensitive to sunlight (and sometimes overhead lights in buildings) and if the sun is bright, without my hat I become blind as a bat. Sunglasses do nothing for me. It is the downward angle of light and the only thing which works is a good hat brim.

But I wasn't sure if my hat would be welcome in court.  I know, it was probably a dumb concern, but I didn't know, so I fretted about it. I wore an old cap driving in because it was one easily folded and tucked into a back pocket, but when I finally parked I wondered if I wanted even that hassle. The day was a bit overcast as I drove and the forecast was calling for some mid-day rain, so I left the hat in the car.

Ha, where did the overcast go? I came the first mile and as I crossed the interstate as the edge of the downtown area the sun was mid sky and bright. I was walking directly into this fiery ball. This was not good, but a line of small trees was not far and once I reached them it blocked that red globe. Except now the big red globe was to my left. What in the world was this? How could the sun be directly ahead, but also off to my left? Was this the end of the world? Were were two suns in the sky about to turn us to a cinder?

As I cleared the line of trees I saw my dilemma. The sun was indeed to my left, but it was reflecting in all it's brightness off the top of a mirrored high rise directly ahead. I was hatless in a double whammy. Too late now, I could only squint and hurry as quickly as my arthritic feet would take me to the shadows of the downtown buildings.

Now here's the thing, the court information was very empathic about time of arrival. My summons read I must report at 8:30 AM. However, on it and on the court website, in bold print it stated if you arrived before 8:15 you could not get into the courthouse proper. You could get into the atrium, it said, but warned there were no benches or chairs or water or food or any other creature comforts to be found in the atrium and you would have to suffer there in deprivation until 8:15 when security would begin allowing you passage forward.

I knew I had parked my car about 7:00 and I can walk three miles in forty-five minutes, but I was not certain of what time it was since I wear no watch. There is a large clock on a pedestal on the same street as the court, so I went to the clock. It was 8:47. I then turned down the next cross street because I knew a park was behind these buildings and I found a bench and sat down. I would wait here for a while rather than arrive at the court and it's alarming atrium before 8:15.

I sat and thought about not much of anything. I watch a few people go by. A pretty young woman in business attire came by and went up the long set of steps that joined this street with the other between these buildings. I followed her progress up. Her skirt had a long slit up the back from the hem to her...well, her rounder parts. Going up the steps she showed a lot of leg and then some.

I then watched an old man with a cane come down those steps, clinging to the railing and then the wall for the final few where no railing existed. I wondered if he did this every day.

I decided to go up the steps myself and check the clock. As I approached the steps what did I see? The clock, plainly visible at the very top from where I stood. If I had sat a bench further over I would have been able to watch the time seated. It was two minutes to eight.  I went and sat on a bench where I could watch the hands and decided I would head to the court when they reached five after.

It was two or three blocks further to the courthouse. I'm sure I arrived at the doors a bit before 8:15, it certainly wouldn't take me more than ten minutes to walk that distance.  I pushed through the front doors and there before me was security.

Let me say things had changed since the last time I was called for jury duty. I was called about this same time of year in 1998 just as they were about to embark on the biggest trial in the city during my life here. A very prominent, well-to-do lawyer with many political connections had been charged with the murder of his mistress and the dumping of her body at sea. I went in with some thought of being selected on that jury. That would have been a long trial (and indeed it was going from October 26, 1998 to January 19, 1999), but in those days I would have been paid my salary by my employer for the duration.

That was before 9/11. When I reported back then one simply walked through some metal detectors and as long as no bells and whistles went off one went directly to the jury services room. Not so this time. This time I had to empty all the content of my pockets into a little plastic box and hand it to the security guard. (Women had to place their pocketbooks on a conveyer for x-raying. Then the security guard asked if I had any metal on me. I held up my left hand.

"Just my wedding ring and my belt buckle," I said.

"You will have to remove the belt," he said.

I removed the belt and placed it in that plastic box atop my wallet and keys and reading glasses. I stepped through the metal detector, grateful my pants stayed up. No bells sounded.

I then had to lift my pant legs so the guard could examine my shoes. Then I was given the plastic box to carry to a table where I could put myself back together, still grateful my pants remained where they should be.

I walked down a long corridor to the Jury Assembly Room and stepped in the doorway.

What the hey?

There was a line that began where I stood and went all along the wall down a short hall, around the corner and along the wall of the room. At one point it went down another hall and came back and continued around the room and back out the entry hall to the clerk station, where you had to show your summons.

So tell me, if I arrived just at 8:15 and you couldn't get into the building before 8:15, where did all these people come from?

There were already some people through the checkin process and seated in the room. And you know what? When I finally snaked my way slowly around that entire large room and handed over my summons that line was just as long as when I entered.

Once checked in, I went back into the room and found a seat all the way in the extreme back right corner. The seats were filling up and the line wasn't shrinking. People just kept coming and coming. Chairs were filling with bodies and the line wasn't any smaller and there was no air conditioner going and it was getting very warm.

Something told me this was going to be a long day.