I was teaching American history to 8th graders in the 1980s . The principal of the small school walked into my classroom one day with a package . There was a Gold Star flag on top . She had five brothers , all of them in the military during WWII , a star for each , sewn on silk . One gold star indicates that one of them had been killed in action . ” This is what was in his pockets , ” she said . “This is what the Army sent home .” She told me that she would like me to have it . What is to be said after that . I told her it was an honor . There is an insurance ID card , a sewing kit , religious memorabilia , a couple of “Yank” reprints , patches . There is a map from his Army unit charting the unit’s path toward Germany . The map , not a working map , but kind of a morale -promotional souvenir map, is marked with the Victory-in- Europe date . He had this in his pocket when he was killed . Yeah . Think about it . After the war was officially over , this soldier was killed in action . What had been sent home easily fit into a small sack , but the results of what he and countless others did is boundless and immeasurable .
Monthly Archives: May 2014
Dolores del Rio
Mrs. Waldorf Astor
Eugene V. Debs
I was telling a friend of mine about my old friend Fred Kail. I don’t remember why I mentioned Fred . I don’t even recall right now who I was talking with at the time .
Fred Kail had left Austria in 1921 as Frederich Ignatz Kail von Eggenberg . He met a cousin of his in Scotland and the two of them worked for awhile at the British colony in Kenya . I think it was Kenya . They were teenagers .
He was the black sheep of the family , Fred said . He had a fine aristocratic education but had a thirst for adventure . He’d skipped out to Scotland against his father’s wishes .
Fred had two carved wooden figures in his little apartment from those days in Kenya . They were both naked , a male and a female . When any woman came to Fred’s place he’d hide the figures . He hurriedly put them in a closet . Fred had been raised a gentleman , old style .
His parents were minor aristocracy . His father had been an Austrian ambassador to Russia . An uncle was a bishop . They were big shots until WWI . During the World War the family lost all of its money , Fred told me . They had titles still but no land and no money any longer .
I met Fred’s sister . She had been a concert violinist . When I met her she was an ancient old person living in a ranch house in Sunland . Her minorly aristocratic von Eggenberg nose was high in the air , every bit a European aristocrat . In name and attitude, at least . I met a brother , too , who lived in a huge but broken down Victorian house in a lousy south L.A. neighborhood . He was ” Herr von Eggenberg.” His nose was in the air , too , further than the sister’s .
Fred was having none of that aristocratic stuff . Fred spoke up for the working man .
He described how he and his cousin found their way to Canada and got jobs as farm laborers . Fred spent the first few days watching for the farm owner , expecting him to ride up on a white horse and survey his lands . Fred didn’t speak enough English , yet , to realize that one of the men working along side of him was the farm’s owner . Fred told me that as soon as he realized this , he knew that north America was the place for him .
” Always respect the working man , ” Fred would say . He had had a painting business . I met him in his older age when we both worked cleaning student apartments around UCLA . I think I got $ 1.80 an hour . Fred probably got a small bit more , but I was a student making pocket money and Fred depended on his salary to supplement his Canadian social security . He drove an old car that could be heard a block away growling and gruffly coughing up the road , belching black exhaust smoke , and looking distinctly peasantish , very un-aristocratic .
I watched Fred put up wallpaper in my mother’s dining room once a long time ago . He was swift and neat and deft and the finished product not only pleased my mom but the wallpaper looked fine for at least the next thirty years . Seems like it took Fred no time at all to put it up . That wallpaper lasted longer , as it happened , than Fred did .
I was reading an article by David Lazarus in the L.A. Times this morning about the gap between executive pay and worker pay in the top 100 U.S. companies . McDonalds workers get $9 an hour . The top McDonalds CEO gets $4,500 an hour . The Walgreens CEO , at a salary of $4 million , makes 134 times more than the average worker . The CVS CEO takes the cake , though , at $12.1 million compensation , which is 422 times greater than the average CVS $28,700 salary . They claim , Lazarus says , that they need such obscenely high CEO salaries in order to attract high-calibre people . Lazarus call this explanation an added insult to working people— and he’s right .
I used to hear that explanation at contract negotiation times when the school board would fight tooth-and-nail to hold teacher salaries down but would hire a questionable new superintendent at an outrageous salary . And with perks , of course , with high-priced perks . We teachers would hear the same slap-in-the-face insulting explanation : their pay needs to be so high to attract the best people .
I think Fred’s turning over in his grave . But maybe he’s welcoming CEOs in when their times come , sharing a smoke with them , no doubt , and breaking it softly to them that they’re now in his income bracket .
Irish . Enough said ?
Paul Brady was 67 this month. Here’s a tribute.
Bard: A tribal poet – singer skilled gifted in composing and reciting verses of satire and eulogy on heroes and their deeds.
‘Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake’. (Richard Sennett)
‘Some guys got it down …. Paul Brady …. Secret heroes’. (Bob Dylan)
Paul Brady harbours and husbands extraordinary talents. He is a great singer of traditional ballads in the Irish and American traditions able to breathe life into ‘set texts’ through his exquisite instrumental and vocal control and his natural discretion. These craft skills allow him to reveal the often buried wit, vigour, romance, tragedy and flat out strange power of those remarkable works composed by the great ‘Anon’.
He is also an accomplished guitarist with the quiet unflashy discipline of the skilled accompanist who can anchor a…
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Apparently airlines are rushing to crowd more seats into aircraft . They are taking out toilets and galley space and installing thinner seats . The word I heard for the first time today is “densification”. Airlines are densificationing . Or densificating .
Ada and I are flying to Poland in June . I guess we’ll experience densification firsthand . I think that we’re taking the Luftwaff airlines , and so maybe the Germans aren’t yet into densification . Those Germans are often ahead of us here in the USA these days , though , so who knows . Unfortunately , the Luftwaff has contracted with United Airlines to take us from LAX to ……. to……… I’ll have to ask my travel agent when she gets back home from the YMCA .
I don’t like United . No , more accurately , I hate United . Last time we did one of these deals we flew United from LAX to New York . Then we were supposed to fly with their corporate partner Lot , the Polish airline . We didn’t have a separate ticket for each leg of the journey ; we had one package deal for the entire L.A. to Warsaw flight deal . But . But the flight left late from LAX and landed shortly before the Lot flight left New York . The Lot plane was on the tarmac , but the doors had already been closed and the Lot people wouldn’t let us on . There were six of us in the same boat , standing there stranded . [expletive] . And it wasn’t last minute , either . We watched the Lot aircraft sit there for ten or fifteen minutes . No , they wouldn’t open the door . Too late , the Lot agents told us . Ada said the Polish kids manning the desk wanted to go home ; maybe they had parties to get to , who knows . They quickly closed up shop and left . They told us to talk to United . Left the six of us there to watch our flight leave without us .
You would have thought , were supposed to accept then , that United never heard of Lot and Lot never heard of United . One said : ” Talk to Lot ” and the other said : ” Talk to United” . They both said : ” Not our problem “. And the United people continued to say it hour by hour . The Lot people were long gone .
Meanwhile , as we were shuttling between the Lot counter and the United counter , some baggage handler ( I suppose ) stole items from my suitcase . [expletive] . Neither Lot nor United accepted any responsibility for anything . They both told us , in effect , ” That’s your problem .”
No more Lot flights were leaving that airport for days . Ada and I found a hotel for the night and were never reimbursed for our costs . Nothing from Lot . Nothing from United . We had spent hours arguing the issue . At the Lot counter , until they closed up for the night and went away , and at the United counter . [ expletive ] . [ expletive ] New York ; [ expletive ] Lot ; and [expletive ] United . Later , I wrote letters to corporate officers in corporate ivory towers and got no response. Not from United ; not from Lot .
So , looks like we get to experience the Friendly Skies of United once more . Oh , I can’t wait ! What a joy . And Lot ? Lot of [expletive]. At least we avoid Lot this time , the [expletive] [expletive] [expletive] .
And , I should say in passing , I’m pretty easy to please . I don’t demand too much . Fairness would be nice . The dirty [expletive] . [expletive] . “Friendly” , my [expletive] [expletive] . United eventually did send us 50 bucks . 50 [expletive] bucks , the [expletive] [expletive] . Try finding a hotel in NY City for 50 bucks .
P.S. We got out of NY on Delta ; and I sure hope the airport thief enjoyed the cheap camera and the perfume . But , remember , what goes around comes around , Buddy . You’re an [expletive] , but at least you’re not a corporate [expletive].
I might have written this . Many of us could’ve , I guess .
Recently, I was on an airplane. I had to write this post in order to distract myself from the horrors.
This flight is like a doctor’s office waiting room in the heart of Mumbai during a plague outbreak. It’s May; cold and flu season is far behind us and yet the last twenty-five people to get sick are in rows 10-18. I’m in 11 so I have no chance at avoiding the projectile germs being hurled in my direction over the four hours of flight time. I wonder if there is any Clorox bleach on board that I can gargle with? Or maybe the blue toilet water would work?
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