Monthly Archives: August 2013

a heartless gas

goodwill storeSomeday I might need gas money to get to Texas , too . You never know .  I’m too old to pretend to have a baby with my wife waiting  in the car . Why Texas ?  I think it was a sick , or dying ? , father down there . And no gas to get there . And , of course , no money .

I should give you a few dollars because you asked ?   I guess  if you don’t ask ,  you probably won’t get anything .

Decades ago , when the Hari Krishnas , and the Moonies , and the Born Agains , and others , infested the L.A. airport , I was there with my old friend Fred Kail .  Why we were there I don’t remember . Neither of us had any money in those days  to fly anywhere . We must have been there to pick someone up . Doesn’t matter .

All of these  askers-of-money seemed to be dressed  well , in crisp white suits and polished shoes ,  and they carried clip boards  ; even the Krishnas ; even the Moonies . Well , at first the Krishnas wore their orange robes , enraptured smiles , and , maybe , occasionally , hopped a little . But , I suppose , that wasn’t working for them  . Some head  Hari in charge maybe talked to a marketing guy . Get a crisp white suit , he must have said ; maybe a fedora hat to cover the shaved head ? ; and don’t hop ……    and  don’t mention Rama or white rice .   The Moonies got on board , too  :  white suits  ; clipboards .

They all looked like they may work for the airport . What is it , a survey ? An airport promotion of some kind , or a security check ?  They would approach just-arrivers  , especially foreign people arriving with confused expressions , and begin their hurried spiel  , holding the clipboard as if it should be respected , as if the confused traveler were being spoken to in some official capacity . Was it Customs ? The airport broadcast continuous announcements : These solicitors don’t work for the airport . You don’t have to give them anything .

Fred and I were walking into one of the terminals when we were approached by one of these anonymous beggars shrouded in white . This one was a cute girl . Maybe in light of that Fred reached for a bill to give her . I tried in that brief moment to dissuade him . He had a fiver in his hand . What , are you crazy , Fred ? A weak moment ?  She’s a Moonie , man !  He held the five dollar bill  out to her .

” Most people give ten dollars , ” she said .

Wow ! Yeah . Pushing her luck just a little bit . Fred instantly flicked the fiver back into his pocket . ” I’m not most people , young lady , ” he said . And we were off . I was reassured . At least old Fred hadn’t completely lost his mind .okies

So , I’m pumping  twenty dollars worth of gas yesterday  into my car in the mid-day heat  , minding my own business , when a young guy , maybe twenty-two , twenty-three , walks over . I’ve seen  him approach a couple of other gas pumping people on his way across the lot . ” Meaning no disrespect …..” he says to me . His opening gambit .

I’m not in a good mood that day , you should understand . Too hot . I’m looking at his tatoos . He’s evidently covered with tattoos . How much do those cost , buddy ? , I’m thinking .  Maybe you could have saved the tattoo money for your needed gas  . He looks healthy , strong ,  despite the hang-dog expression , the ” Meaning no disrespect , sir … ”  ploy .  What , are we in the Army ? Sir ?  That’s supposed to sound respectful , to impress me ?  Melt my stone-cold heart ?  I’m supposed to be awed by this guy’s pathetic circumstances . Now , it’s my responsibility to buy his gas ? Why would that be ?

I’d rather have the fruit seller on the freeway off ramp ,  or the beggars with the cardboard signs : ”  Veteran God Bless You anything helps homeless ”  Once in a long while I hand them a dollar , although I’m not under an illusion that the dollar helps . I think the homeless veteran god blesser should go to a social agency or an established charity or a church and get the help that will keep him/her off the roadways with the scribbled bullshit  cardboard signs .mission church front

So I told the gas station beggar  , a little too firmly , that I wasn’t going to give him any money .  He walked away . He’ll find some sucker soon enough . I stepped around the other side of the pump and asked some man with a Volvo , ” Will you pay for my gas ? ”  He didn’t laugh . I could see his little ‘crazy person’ antenna immediately go up . He shook his head solemnly  and looked away . I could see that he didn’t know if I was joking or not . Can’t be too careful these days.two hobos

Maybe I wasn’t joking . Maybe I should start asking . Ask and you shall receive . If you don’t ask you won’t get . It’d be easier for me just to canvass the people at the gas station when I go for gas . Won’t someone pay for my gas ? I have to get home . My cat’s sick and I need to replace the front garden hose .  I’m trying to upgrade the modem for my DSL . Anything helps .  I want to get to Oregon next fall .  Need gas desperately . Sir . How about a few dollars  ? Meaning no disrespect .

I was walking , once , with my Danish friend , Ivan , when someone asked for money . ” You’ve chosen your lifestyle , ”  Ivan told him ,          “not me . I’ve chosen my own lifestyle . ”  The poor guy was listening . Ivan speaks authoritatively .  ” I don’t ask you to finance my lifestyle , ” Ivan said . ” You shouldn’t ask me to finance your lifestyle . ”  And we walked away . At least the  guy didn’t call us ‘sir’ and make something up about needing to get to Texas .  Or dress up in a crisp white suit and carry a clipboard .

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nineteen fourteen

colored soldiers WWIswiss cavalry patrolling 1917Swiss cavalry on border patrol.

swiss soldiers 1914-16Swiss soldiers .

1914 dressFashion.

1914 suffragistSuffrage movement .

1914 french troopsFrench troops before battle .

1914-16 ger. hospital trainWWI ambulance british WWI ambulance

German hospital train    ; Amer. ambulance ;    Brit. ambulance .

1913 dressFashion 1913

1918 thomas hitchcockThomas Hitchcock 1918.

1914 bicycle

artificial limb factoryArtificial limb factory .

1918 troop ship

U.S. troop ship in Vladovostok 1918.

k of c bus

Taking wounded on a tour .

WWI soldiers

WWI tank

World War I Memorialcensus WWI


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ice skater

ice skater 3ice skater irving brokaw

ice skater

Irving Brokaw

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more coppers

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cop 1908 on pnone

New York detectives in 1908 practicing Bertillon measurements ( pre- fingerprint / DNA )  :coppers 1908   2

copppers 1908

cops 1908  2

cops 1909 nycops jail 1908cop woman


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a simple comment on swipe

When I was a kid ” swipe ” meant one thing : to steal .

” Why’s he crying ? ”

” Because a teenager swiped his pencil case  . ”

Now , these days ,  the meaning of the word swipe is changed . I don’t hear the word used , ever , how we kids used it . Now I hear : ” Go ahead and swipe your card ,” or  ” go ahead and swipe it again “.   But I don’t swipe . My mother brought me up better than that . ” Swipe it one more time “, the store clerks say .

Swipe , meaning to steal , changed to ” jacked ” at some point in time , I guess . I used to hear my students use that word . ”  I’d like to hand in my homework , Mister , but he jacked it .”

” Who jacked it ? ”

” He did “.

” Who ? ”

” I dunno , but she told me he jacked it “.

——- Sorry . I got a little carried away with flashbacks of  teaching days . I used to have student messengers arrive at my classroom door with a message such as :   ”  She says you have to send her right away because they’re waiting for her . ”  Yeah . Informative , eh !

I used to , when I was young and naive ,  ask the student messenger — you should understand that many of these were honors students — to identify the nouns to which those pronouns referred .  I originally expressed my question just like that : give me  nouns .   Confusion , only , in response .    ” The names . Give me the names .”

“What names ?”

” Who are you talking about ? ”

” Huh ? ”  Consternation .  They had no idea who they were talking about . ” I’m just giving you the message , ” they would say .  What’s that teacher’s problem ? they were , no doubt ,  thinking .

Over the years I changed my approach .  ” I don’t have to do anything except die and pay taxes ,” I would say , ” so go away “.  Usually they did . Oh , they’d repeat the meaningless message again , trying their level best to carry out their messenger duties . And then they’d go away . Gruffly , usually . What’s that teacher’s problem , they were no doubt thinking . Once in a long while one might shout an obscenity over his or her shoulder on his or her  way out , a pride-saving  Parthian shot , I suppose .

I was at a retirement  party a few days ago . A woman was talking about her continuing smoking habit . Her husband won’t allow smoking in or near the house , she said , so she goes out on the street to smoke .  ” You wouldn’t believe the looks I get , ” she says . ” People waving their arms around as if they’re chasing the smoke away ! Dirty looks you wouldn’t believe !   Things didn’t used to be like that . ”

That’s somehow the point of my post : some things didn’t used to be like that .school old

At the party we talked about picking up dog poop with  plastic bags . When we were kids things didn’t used to be like that .  One guy , a very friendly man , he seemed , related his intense anger at a neighbor whose dog pees on the friendly man’s lawn . ” I turn the sprinklers on him ! ” he said . I could see his heart rate racing as he spoke .  A doctor in the group said he’d scoop up stray dog poop and drop it on the owner’s doorstep . He told me that he would have put it on my doorstep in a heartbeat . These party  participants  were fired up .

I quickly informed the group that I don’t have a dog .  Why are you looking at me ? I don’t even have a dog . Calm down , people . Chill . It’ll be alright .

Well , in fairness , I did start that dog poop discussion by relating a personal experience of mine when I was walking my sister’s dog and had forgotten to bring along plastic bags ……….  I shouldn’t  go into the gory details about that damn dog taking a huge poo when I had no bag . It was on a dirt field , not near anyone’s lawn , on public land . I felt helpless not being able to do what could have been done had I remembered to take along the bag .coyote drawing

But there was some guy with his dog about  fifty feet away who considered it his sworn civic duty to yell at me for my disgusting behavior leaving the poop to sit on the dirt . I , being a natural free-range chicken , didn’t stick around to try to entice this loud enraged  guy into a profound discussion of modern dog walking habits ,  dog poo responsibilities , perhaps  more  appropriate response alternatives  to my particular predicament ,  etc.  More likely it would have been a one-sided shouting exhibition . He would have felt better afterward , though , I’m sure .

I would have probably kept quiet as he shouted . I would have tried my best to comprehend his anger , somewhat justified anger indeed  , tried to calm him down perhaps , to reassure him in the uprightness of his  righteousness , to promise him that I would immediately repent and reform , that he had , thankfully , saved me from a rotten dog  poo-neglecting existence , that he had , in his passionate  albeit venomous  venting, actually changed my entire miserable life forever .

Or I might have said : ” I don’t have to do anything except die and pay taxes . ”  I could have presented him with a perfectly good explanation such as : ” She said I had to take him over there because they’re waiting for him .  ”  And then I would have considered shouting  an anonymous profanity over my shoulder as I walked away  . What’s that guy’s problem , anyhow ?

Times change .

I don’t smoke , so I don’t have to take the glares and the antagonistic anti-smoker gestures . I don’t have a dog , so I don’t carry poo bags around with me   [  okay , okay, one lousy mistake , one doggie -poo faux  paux ! It won’t happen again . Get over it , people ! ] So , some things that change don’t affect me .  But some do .   I will admit ,  I swipe things  , mostly credit cards ,  all the time nowadays . I never used to swipe things . chain gang

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army 1911

army 1908   2

army 1911

soldier vaccination 1911

soldiers 1908

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police N.Y 1908

police ny 1908

police tuba players

police women ny


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