Postcards to Richard

phone 009

 

The short backstory is this: My friend Richard was falsely accused of sexual abuse of a teenager. The minor later recanted his story in court but Richard already was imprisoned. I made a commitment to write to Richard weekly. With his permission, I am posting my messages to him here.

To make it easy on myself I bought 4×6 index cards and made a Word template to fit the available space on the back of the card. The 4×6 size is the maximum allowed by the Postal Service for a postcard stamp. I used a tiny font to squeeze as many words as possible on the card (sorry Richard!) which enabled me to write approximately 600 words per card.

Here we go. You will see the most recently published card first.

#25, 031014 – Hi Richard. Well, we tried. On Sunday morning I left my home at 7:15 AM to meet up with Pat by 7:30 at her place. We were on the road to HCI by 7:30. It was a beautiful morning for a drive. The sun was just peeking over the horizon on our left as we cruised down US 19, filling the sky with a reddish-orange hue. It was the first morning of daylight savings time. As soon as we crossed the Sunshine Skyway fog enveloped us. It wasn’t thick enough to be dangerous, just—shall we say—‘mist’ifying. I actually enjoy the ride from Pinellas County to Hardee County. I’m fascinated how I can get from the most densely populated county in Florida (3,347 persons per square mile) to the county ranked 52 out of 67 in population:square miles ratio, Hardee (with a whopping 43.5 persons/square mile) within 45 minutes. It’s refreshing to leave the congestion of Pinellas for the back roads of Hardee, where the major landmarks to HCI are the blue Spanish nightclub on the corner of 301 and 62, and the labor camp by the Wish Farms strawberry fields. There’s barely a 2-mile stretch of road anywhere in Pinellas County without a traffic light; there’s not a single stop along the 27 miles between 301 and HCI. The fog was our friend on Sunday morning. As we turned east at the blue nightclub we would have been blinded by the sun, had it been shining. Instead, it was a dark circle behind the fog, which cleared shortly before we entered the prison grounds. When Pat and I pulled into our parking spot, I saw right away that there was no line of folks waiting to enter. I said to Pat, “Either we’ve hit the jackpot or we’re looking at bad news.” The answer, of course, was the latter. A guard came out to tell us that y’all were in lockdown because of a “medical issue.” What that’s code for, I don’t know. Anyway, lesson learned. Looks like we need to call before we drive out to see you next time, although the ride home was as pleasant as the ride over. I’m sorry we didn’t connect, but at least you know we made the effort. I loved spending the time with Pat. She is so special. Other times when we’re together it’s usually in a group or gathering of others. When we drive together to see you, I have her all to myself. It’s as much fun to listen to her stories and adventures as it is to have a friend with a listening ear. She’ll be in FL for another 2 months, then she’s off again to “The Cape.”

I finished Elliott Roosevelt’s book on his parents and upbringing. I enjoyed seeing the world through his eyes but I found two major flaws in his story, flaws which I wasn’t surprised to find. We are our parents’ children, after all, and our familial perspectives are colored (or fogged) by our hurts, needs, and flaws. What I noticed most of all, and continually, was that he didn’t have one kind or loving word to say about his mother. He wasn’t downright cruel, only subtly-so. His grandmother, on the other hand, the controlling, heavy-handed, always-interfering matriarch could do no wrong and was always spoken of in glowing words throughout the book. The jaw-dropping statement he made about his father was that polio did not affect him in any way, except that he could no longer walk. Seriously, Elliott? Are you kidding me? This says more about Elliott than it does about his father. Next up: Too Close to the Sun by FDR’s grandson, Curtis Roosevelt. Love,

*****

#24 030514 – Hi Richard, Sorry this week’s card is late getting out. Yesterday I dropped off Barbara at the airport for her return to Texas. The rest of the day I vegetated, celebrated and drank whiskey. I’m not sure why her visit got the best of me. Part of my exhaustion is my own fault: we had something to do or somewhere to go every single day. In addition, her other brother Blake and his wife Carol were here at the same time. That meant even more get-togethers and fun events. Dennis’ oldest son also popped in during the first weekend, thereby adding yet another layer of visitation. After returning from the airport I burrowed in my home for the rest of the day and night. By 9:00 PM I was in bed, trying to read as my eyes drooped shut and the book on Roosevelt repeatedly fell from my hands. The first of four Roosevelt books is “The Dying President” by Robert Ferrell. I began reading it from the beginning, but quickly moved to the Conclusion, which says it all. It’s a damning judgment of Roosevelt. While Ferrell admits that the President’s doctors were as incompetent as they were dishonest, he still blames Roosevelt for not admitting how close to death he was (as if any of us really know that, and if we do, can we admit it?) and for not recognizing and responding to his downward slide to the grave. Crazy presumption. Moving on to “An Untold Story” by son Elliott. I think I’ll look up ahead of time the scoop on Elliott. I want to know if his life was a satisfying one, or if he’s the black sheep who is going to give me the poor little rich kid version of his neglected and loveless life. I’ll probably be able to get the gist of his attitude from the first page. If there’s a Conclusion, I will skip ahead…after looking at the pictures.

Another surprise element has been thrown into the mix which will become the Final Plan for my August/September trip. The International Women’s Writing Guild (IWWG) has announced their annual summer conference. This year it will be held in Litchfield CT at a retreat center called Wisdom House. I mentioned having attended the week-long conference several years ago when it was held in Saratoga Springs. I let my membership in IWWG lapse after that but now I’ve got a renewed interest in the organization. There is an application available for anyone who wishes to be a presenter at the conference. I’m going to apply and offer to teach a workshop on self-publishing. My primary motive is the financial benefit of being a presenter. Not only will I get free room and board at Wisdom House, but I will be paid $250 for my efforts. If I’m not selected to present I probably will not attend the conference because I’ll have to pay tuition and room and board. Since my Reiki Retreat is going to cost close to $1K, I can’t afford a second big expense within 3 weeks. If selected as a presenter I could fly into Hartford (or be dropped off by Jan in Litchfield if we drive together), spend the week at the writers conference, rent a car, drive to Hyde Park for a few days, then to Vermont, then to Lake George, then fly home from Albany. In the meantime, I have to write a curriculum for a 1.5 hour presentation that will be given four times (once a day from Monday-Thursday). I’m rather excited about the possibility of presenting. But we’ll see, won’t we.

Do you have a discharge date yet??? I haven’t seen Pat for 2 weeks. Hope to plan a trip with her 2 C U soon. Love,

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#23 022414 – Hi Richard, I finished reading The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency by James Tobin. It was excellent. I couldn’t put it down and was sad to see it end. I read many good books, but rarely am I sad when the end of the book approaches. It was very ‘tight.’ Even though the story was 310 pages long, Tobin kept the focus on 12 years of FDR’s life under the dark cloud of polio. It wasn’t another biography of FDR; it was more like looking at a period of his life through a targeted lens. The book perfectly answered the basic question: How did FDR defy polio to win the presidency? There were almost 40 pages of notes and a 15-page index. His Notes and Acknowledgements have peaked my interest in reading his referenced sources. In fact, I’ve placed online library requests to have the following books sent to the Seminole library for pickup: The Dying President: Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944-1945 (Ferrell); An Untold Story: The Roosevelts of Hyde Park (Roosevelt); The Roosevelt I Knew (Perkins); My Parents: A Differing View (Roosevelt). Also in the book’s Notes section were two additional, interesting references. One was to a 2005 article published in the Wilson Quarterly, ‘The President and the Wheelchair’ by Clausen, which is a refutation of the myth that FDR hid his disability, or tried to. Very good article. The second interesting reference was to the honors thesis in history written by Abigail Meert from Emory University. I tracked down an email address for her and expressed my interest in reading her thesis. Here’s what I wrote:

Hello Abigail, I noticed your work referenced by James Tobin in “The Man He Became.” I would love to read your honors thesis in history, “’And For What?’: Anti-War Sentiment in America, 1918-1941.” Are you able to share it? My interest in anti-war sentiment in America between 1918 and 1941 stems from a comment made by a Canadian woman on Facebook. We both follow the Gallery of Graphic Design, which posts ads from the 30s through the 60s. Her comment on one pro-peace ad published during WWII was something like, “If you [America] were so eager for peace, why did you wait so long to join the fight?” I was insulted by her remark but realized I did not have an intelligent response to write. But her question has remained in the back of my mind. I am eager to read your research because it will answer her question, and therefore, my own. I am willing to pay for the publication, if necessary. Thanks in advance for your response. Patricia Daly

She responded:

Dear Ms. Daly, Thank you so much for your interest. I’m actually working on turning my thesis into something publishable right now, so I’m not currently able to share it. I do, however, understand both your being insulted by that remark, as well as your continued frustration with not having a good retort! Again, I can’t send on my thesis at the present time, but a few books have come out on the subject of “Isolationism” in the last couple years….[she listed the books, then signed off] Abigail Meert

So now I have several more books to track down and review! I’m also still scouring Tobin’s Notes for more gems. My excitement grows concerning the Aug-Sept trip to Hyde Park. Can’t wait! Love,

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#22 021814 – Hi Richard, Can you handle yet another check-out fiasco story? What is it with me and check-out clerks? I don’t even shop that much! Anyway, here’s the story: I’ve had it in my mind to buy a basket that I can use as a bookcase when it’s placed sideway. It would have to be a rectangular basket that is deep enough and wide enough and long enough to hold normal-sized books. I want the bookcase for a table-top in my patio, one that will enclose the books on 3 sides because the table is next to a screened window that is open most of the time. If we have a blowing rain, it comes through the screened window if I haven’t closed it. I don’t want my books ruined by the rain. Last week I was in the Kimberly Home thrift store on Ft. Harrison in Clearwater. I go there a lot, looking for treasures. I spotted a ratty-looking, fake flower arrangement in a basket which looked like it would make the perfect bookcase. Price: $1.99. “Perfect,” I thought. My intention was to toss the trashy-looking flowers as soon as I walked out the door. When I arrived at check-out, the lady on duty looked at my find and said, “Oh, this is marked wrong. I can’t charge you $1.99 for this.” I honest-to-God thought her next sentence was going to be, “I’ll let you have it for $.99.” Instead, she shocked the crap out of me by saying, “I’ll sell it to you for $7.99.” “What??” I thought she was talking to someone else. She pointed to the furniture section where there were several fake-flower arrangements sitting on the thrift store coffee tables. “Those arrangements,” she said pointing south, “are priced at $20. I can’t let you have this flower arrangement for $1.99.” Then my wild Irish rose and I asked, “Why? Where’s the value in this thing? Is it the flowers? You can have the flowers, I don’t want them.” “Oh…” she continued, “Some people change the price tags on items so they can get them cheaper. This tag might have been switched from something else.” I counter-offered with my own question, “Then why didn’t they buy the item after switching the tag?” In addition, the price tag, clearly stamped ‘Kimberly Home’ was STAPLED to one of the droopy, dusty fake flowers! Did she want to check my purse to see if I was carrying a freaking stapler with me? Then I put my foot down and said, “I’m not paying $6.00 more for an item that is clearly marked.” “Well,” she continued, still examining the basket and flowers as though they were actually worth more than $1.99, “I’m going to have to call Sarah, the manager, over.” “Call her over,” I replied approvingly, waving my arm in a wide sweep. Sarah arrived. Time for my second shock in 2 minutes. Sarah also thought the shitty arrangement had been mismarked. Only she wanted $19.99 for it! “That. Is. not. fair.” I said calmly-but-decisively. “If it’s the flowers that gives value to this thing, then take the flowers. I don’t want them.” It certainly wasn’t the basket that had more value than $1.99.  I was ready to walk away at that point, but Sarah ripped the flowers out of the basket and said, “Give her the basket for $1.99.” I was still in shock when I left the store. After I had time to think about the whole drama I realized what they were trying to pull is called Bait-and-Switch. Believe me, I’ll remember that next time. I might also mention complaining to the BBB and writing to the head honcho of Kimberly Home. Crazy stuff.

I’m reading an excellent book: “The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency” by James Tobin.

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#21 020814—Hi Richard, It’s me again. I received your welcomed letter the very day I put the card in the mail that said I hadn’t heard from you since December 13. It’s really a treat to hear from you—thanks for writing!!

I was delighted to learn that you are receiving The Sun. I am also currently reading the 40th anniversary edition. Somehow I got behind on my reading of The Sun, but that’s really OK because then I go on a binge and read like an addict.

I may have expressed this before, but I have a love-hate relationship with The Sun. One thing I hate is Sy Safransky’s refusal to accept ads. I resent being asked for money to support The Sun when they (Sy) refuse(s) to access a revenue source to pay the bills; namely, ads. Since Sy has total control over the publication, he certainly can pick and choose what ads he wants to permit to appear in the publication. I don’t get his thinking on why he won’t access a real, controllable revenue source. And I asked him about it directly when I attended The Sun’s summer conference when it was held in New York City one year. It was sometime around 2007. We had to sign-up for a 30-minute one-on-one meeting with Sy. He was sweet and kind and vulnerable. When I asked him why he does not accept advertising he provided a mealy-mouthed response whose wording I remember not, but whose impact upon me I do remember; i.e., not good enough.

While I’m ranting, the other element I responded to negatively was the “Dog-Eared Page” which was added in 2009. “WTF!” I wondered, and wrote to Sy to express my objection. I just looked up my letter to him, and here’s what I wrote: “I resent the intrusion of The Dog-Eared Page in The Sun.  Are there not enough submissions from today that you have to dig into yesterday to print “works that have deepened and broadened our understanding of the human condition”?  Why consume a precious page with writers whose works we can access ourselves with an Internet link or Amazon.com?  I want to read writing that comes from the heart and soul of the living moment seen through the eyes of today’s writers (even goofy Sparrow).  Don’t presume that your choices for The Dog-Eared Page have the same ‘beacon’ quality for the thousands of us out here as they have for you and the staff.  If you’re going to take a page away from another area of the publication I suggest you make the interview a page shorter or replace Sy Safransky’s Notebook, or alternate months between Notebook and Page.  I feel like I’m being cheated out of a poem that will never be published, or a deserving page of Readers Write by a blast from the past.”

Are you getting the impression that I do not like the “Dog-Eared Page”?? Do you like it? Tell me your thoughts on accepting ads for The Sun and the inclusion of the Dog-Eared Page. And BTW, did you read about the “unilateral” nuclear disarmament (#6) “mistake” they mentioned? Ring a bell? I think we will have a lot of interesting communiques about The Sun.

My goal is to visit you, on average, once a month, but I may not be getting out there in February because of a visitor I’ll be having, beginning on February 19. My sister-in-law (sort-of), Barbara, will be here from Feb 19-Mar 4. If I don’t get to see you in Feb, I’ll make it up to you in another month. Love to you,

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#20 020514—Hi Richard, On the 30th of last month Pat S. hosted a New Moon Pot Luck Dinner and Ceremony. There were 10 of us in attendance, all girls, and a fine gaggle at that! Mirand (sp?) was visiting from Cape Cod. She asked if I would mention that she was asking for you. I told her I would be happy to pass on her kind wishes. We shared our thoughts and best hopes for you.

I took Jan to lunch after our Tuesday writing group meeting at the Seminole Library. Normally I don’t go out to lunch after we write, but because Jan was giving me a ride home I asked her if she wanted to go to lunch. Jan is a very good friend to me, especially when it comes to offering me rides to the places and events where we inevitably end up together. I think I’ve mentioned that #1 son and I share a car. Since he’s back in school I make sure the car is available for him to get to class and to work. I call upon Jan a lot, it seems, for rides and she responds—without fail—generously and spontaneously. I love her for that. Anyway, during our delicious BOGO Greek hamburger platter at the Firehouse Restaurant on Seminole Blvd., Jan mentioned an idea we had spoken of at an earlier time; that is, the possibility of our driving together to Cape Cod in the summer. I am already registered for a Reiki Retreat in Lake George over the Labor Day weekend. As we brainstormed, it became clear that we just might be able to pull off a 1300-mile drive and nice visit to Cape Cod before my Reiki Retreat. Jan wants to stay on the Cape for about a month. I would stay for a week or so, then make my way to Lake George for the retreat. Either before-or-after the retreat there are two additional stops I want to make: (1) On my Bucket List is a visit to the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. Ever since I read the biography of Eleanor by Doris Kearns Goodwin I’ve wanted to visit Val Kill on the Hudson. Have you been there? What was it like? I want to go! (2) A visit with my 1st cousins who live in-and-near Burlington, VT. If I plan this trip right, I can complete a week in Cape Cod, rent a car, visit the Roosevelt sites, attend the retreat, then scoot up to VT and fly home from Burlington. It’s doable. I’ve planned crazier trips than this, so I have no doubt it just might work out.

Pat S. may have written to tell you that she has posted a For Sale sign in front of her mobile home. She is asking $50,000, which is utterly ridiculous, but far-be-it-from-me to say “she’ll never sell it for that price.” It’s Pat S. we’re talking about here, not a mere mortal. She intends to move to St. Pete, in elderly housing, near the Sunshine Center. I’m wondering if she’ll qualify for low-income senior housing, but that remains to be seen. She is moving forward and that’s what counts. My first—selfish—thought was, “Where are we going to celebrate the New Moon if she moves??!!” Not to worry. Pat will find a quiet spot in downtown St. Pete were we can build a fire in her Weber charcoal grill and send up to the Universe what we want to release, what we want to grow, and what we want to attract into our lives in the next 28 days.

I haven’t received a letter from you since December 13. Just sayin’. Next week I’ll tell you the saga of my doorbell ringing frantically at 1:45 AM on January 26. Let’s just say it involves #1 son and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Till then,

****

#19 012714 – Hi Richard, I’m backtracking to tell you more about my Bill Young experience. After refusing to believe that the feeble geezer in Publix was our esteemed congressional representative, I had to eventually admit it was he. I don’t know how he was able to function in Washington in his frail condition, but on he went. Until he died. You may be aware that his wife (who shall remain nameless lest I begin to attract her energy which I would not wish on my worst enemy) is not only outspoken but also an outspoken potty mouth who answers to no one. She sent a scathing email to Charlie Crist telling him to stay away from Young’s funeral. A few other chosen ones received the same message. Anyway, what became embarrassingly clear to me as the day of his funeral approached, and shockingly clear on the day OF his funeral, was that there was no sign of, nor mention of Young’s first family: three children in their 60s who most likely were parents and grandparents themselves. I wouldn’t have expected his first wife to be there, and didn’t know if she was even alive. But children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren? “WTF?” I wondered. What’s wrong with this picture? OK, he’s been married to wife #2 for almost 30 years and has children and grandchildren with her, but come on—family #2 can’t possibly be so classless as to ignore and/or deny that Young had a wife and three children for 36 years before he banged his secretary, had a son by her while still married to wife #1, then married her 8 days after his divorce was final. When I read his obituary in the TBTimes his three children by wife #1 were mentioned as survivors in a little box off on the side of the article, and only by their first names: Pamela, Terry, and Kimber. And I suspect they were lucky to get even that much. I emailed the writer at the Times and questioned the ‘elephant in the room’: the missing children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren from his 36-year union with Marian Young. I wrote it on the day of Young’s funeral. He wrote back a short answer that said “this will be addressed” at another time. And indeed it was. About a month ago the same writer published a front page article in the Sunday edition entitled “The First Family” which finally acknowledged Young’s life-before-wife #2 who, by the way, was not very happy about it. She was quoted in the story saying some real doozies such as the first family kids were jealous that she was younger than they; his 36-year marriage to Marian was loveless; son #1 was a horrible son; and basically that his life didn’t exist before she came along. Hum-dingers. Two of the three first family children were quoted in the article and gave a very different picture of a real, happy family that actually did exist before he moved on to take up with a woman younger than they were. It didn’t take much reading between the lines to figure out that his children became personae non gratae after Young started all over with his 2nd wife and family. Apparently it was better for everyone that they fade into the sunset as the new sun rose over Bill Young. Turns out, his daughters attended the funeral service, both invisible and unknown. The clincher was that his first three kids were mentioned by none other than Young’s adopted son, the son of wife #2 by another man. Could a better soap opera be written? I’ll bet wife #2 hasn’t spoken to that son since the funeral. Anyway, the price of stamps went up yesterday and I’m pi$$ed. Talk soon,

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#18 012214 – Hi Richard, I’m late getting my card out to you this week. On Monday I was in Tampa being attuned in Karuna Reiki I. My teacher, whom I call my Reiki Madre because she is from Peru, has already attuned me in Reiki I, II, ART, and Master. Karuna Reiki is a Reiki offshoot developed by William Rand, a respected Reiki Master in the US. Reiki is a form of stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes natural healing. It’s based on the Asian concept of life energy and is transmitted primarily by laying on of hands, although distance Reiki can be sent as well. The short definition is “spiritually guided primal life energy.” I’m sure you’ve come across it (and maybe used it) in your experience. I first learned of Reiki in the summer of 2011 while visiting my friend Mary in PA. Mary said she was signed up to be trained and attuned within a few weeks. I was so interested and enthused by her discovery that I immediately went online to see what I could find in Florida. I wanted it too! After a bit of a search I found the woman in Tampa who would become my Reiki Madre. I love the concept of healing and have always wanted to be a healer. One of my favorite authors is Agnes Sanford who wrote The Healing Light in 1942 (revised 1972). Her writing enabled me to see healing as a power for everyone, not just the specially gifted. The practice of Reiki is like icing on the cake. Energy is everywhere, and our minds play a key role in the use of energy in our everyday lives. While Agnes Sanford wrote and healed from a Christian perspective, Reiki is not affiliated with religion at all, but does acknowledge a primal universal energy or higher consciousness. It was started in Japan and came to the USA through Hawaii by a Japanese woman in the 1930s. What’s quite interesting is that the Japanese doctor who taught and visited her in Hawaii was called back to Japan in the late 30s and was sentenced to Hara Kari (seppuku) by order of the Japanese government because he was considered a traitor for being in the US when Japan was planning to attack us (“f*@!ing japs”!). But I digress. There were three students in Maria’s class and we are scheduled for Karuna Reiki II on February 3.  At the end of August, over Labor Day weekend, I’m attending a Reiki Retreat to be held at Silver Bay Lodge on Lake George. I can’t wait. Rand will be there, as will others whose names are familiar in Reiki circles. Rand conducts classes and attunements at his home on one of the Hawaiian Islands, but that’s a little too far and much too expensive a trip when I can meet up with him outside of good old Albany, NY! Another favorite location of his is Stonehenge in England. I’d like to go there and be attuned among the stones some year.

After returning home from Tampa I started dinner for Jan and me. Way back in April last year I offered Jan a birthday gift of dinner and a Reiki treatment. Here it is, January of 2014 and she’s finally cashing in on her gift. I spent extra time giving Reiki to her strained wrist that’s been bothering her for the past seven weeks. We ate salad, flounder, baked potatoes, broccoli with cheese, and stuffing. For dessert we had apple muffins and tea. We spent a nice evening together, then met again the next morning at 10:00 at the Seminole Library with our writing group. Sheila W. is home from her cruise. Love,

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#17 011314 – Hi Richard, For some reason I seem to attract strange checkout clerks at the grocery store. Yesterday I was in the Publix on 113th Street. I rarely shop at Publix, mostly because its location is not convenient for me. I know there are people who would not shop anywhere else. I stick to Winn-Dixie because it’s convenient. And I buy all my meats at the Albertson’s in the Largo Mall because of their prices. Every week I read both the Winn-Dixie ad and the Albertson’s ad. I may shop at either store or both, depending on what I need and what’s on sale. But yesterday Publix was convenient, so I went there. One item on my list was V8 Juice. I had a coupon for $1 off when you buy 2. The 46 oz. cans were $.50 cheaper than the 46 oz. bottles, so I put 2 cans in my trusty basket. I checked the expiration date of my coupon – plenty of time. But then I noticed that the wording on the coupon said it was valid for the 46 oz. bottles or the smaller, 6-pack bottles. If I bought the bottles rather than the cans, my coupon would cancel-out the $1.00 saving. I decided to wing it with the cans. If it didn’t scan my $1 discount, so be it. “No harm trying,” I shrugged. Once again, the 20-items-or-less (make that ‘fewer’) line was long, so I went next door to the line with no one in it except the people checking out. The checker was an older guy, older than the usual teenagers who look fresh out of grade school. I did not look at his name. He asked me if I had a coupon. Indeed, I did; doesn’t everyone? I handed him my V8 coupon. I’ve never seen a more anal checker in my life. He stood there and actually held my 2”x 2.5” coupon with both hands and began reading every word. Naturally, he caught the bottles vs. cans challenge and summarily dismissed my opportunity with a shrug and the excuse, “It’s a manufacturer’s coupon” like that explains anything. I was a little pi$$ed he was so easily bullied by a 2”x 2.5” coupon, so I suggested, “You could at least try to scan the coupon and see if it takes.” He balked. I pressed back. “Try” I suggested a bit more venomously. He looked slightly annoyed but grabbed one of the cans from under the counter where he had already dismissed them. He swiped the can, then the coupon. No dice. He looked triumphant. I reminded him, “The reason the coupon wasn’t accepted was because you swiped only one can. The coupon calls for the purchase of two.” I was tempted to add the qualifier, “you moron” after the phrase “purchase of two,…” but I kept my cool because I knew damn well the coupon was going to work. And it did. The checker looked at me as if he had performed some sort of magic trick; like it was only his brilliance that had saved me a dollar. So then he asked in a perky kind of way, “How do you like this weather we’re having?” I wanted to say, “Just get me the hell out of here” but instead I gave him a big smile and said, “I love it!!”

Next week I have to tell you the story about the funeral and its aftermath for Congressman Bill Young. First I need to take you back to about a year ago when I saw Bill Young with his wife in Publix–yes, the very same Publix I just wrote about. In fact, that was probably the last time I was in that Publix, the day I saw an old, feeble, white-haired man shuffling down the canned goods aisle leaning on his shopping cart for support. He looked out-of-it as he followed a woman who was furiously putting cans in their basket. I began to stare at him thinking, “That tottering geezer looks like Bill Young. No, it can’t be Bill Young. Congressman Bill Young?!”

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#16 010613 – Hi Richard, Yesterday I was food shopping at Winn-Dixie. I had fewer than 20 items in my cart, so I could have gone to the “Less than 20 items” line. But there were two people waiting to check out after the current person was finished. I chose to get into Lane 5 where there was no one waiting after the current person checking out. Granted, she had a BIG load of groceries in her cart. But I calculated that I still would get out quicker than in the “Less than 20 items” line (which, by the way, should be “fewer” than 20 items, not “less” than). So that’s where I went, fully confident that I’d be out the door in no time. Wrong. So wrong. First, I noticed a new checker, Amin by name. He was of Indian decent – I could tell from his accent, which I heard right away as he chatted with the lovely black woman ahead of me, who wanted to get the hell out of Winn-Dixie as quickly as I wanted to. She was trying to smile and give him one-word answers to his Chatty Kathy (remember her?) monologues. I could feel a slow burn starting in my solar plexus. The more I tried to distract myself from his conversation with my predecessor, the more I became magnetized to his terrible check-out habits. I really did try to NOT let my mind get sucked into his ridiculous communication with the woman ahead of me who, I swear, began to see the smoke rising from my 7th Chakra. I began to stare at Amin, at first only thinking, “Come on, Amin, all we want to do is get out of here. Scan the stuff on the belt and shut the hell up.” I was hoping my intense concentration would get to him, but he kept on chatting with the intimidated, kind woman ahead of me. I could not help but notice that Amin was not scanning each item. Instead, in between announcements about his holidays, he would glance at the items on the belt, guess how many were there, then scan only the item in his hands for as many items as he thought he saw on the belt. Then he would have to stop talking (thank you, God) and check to see if he had scanned the correct number of items in the group he thought he correctly counted. Unfortunately, this interrupted his conversation, and increased the smoke of my 3rd Chakra, which she noticed as she looked at the burn mark on my shirt and my glaring eyes. I could not see the name on his name tag from where I was standing. My cart was between me and her. Lucky for Amin that it was invisible because twice I tried to inch my way closer to him to see his name and ask, “Amin, are you on your break? If not, please stop talking and start scanning. All we want to do is GET OUT OF HERE.” But I could not see his name. Finally, (FINALLY!!!) the customer ahead of me wished Amin a good day and glanced at me with genuine fear in her eyes. I kept repeating in my mind: I WILL NOT BE RUDE I WILL NOT BE RUDE I WILL NOT BE RUDE. It was my turn. Amin asked me how I was doing. “Fine” I responded, lying like a cheap rug and not daring to look him in the eye. There was something in my energy that told Amin “don’t mess with this one.” In addition, there wasn’t much time to say anything since I had fewer than 20 items. I watched everyone else who had been in the store go out the front door as I waited to be waited on, but I got out. Then I got home and discovered that Amin had charged me for two bags of chow mein noodles instead of one. “That’s it,” I said to no one. “There will be hell to pay.” TBContinued. Love,

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#15 123013 – Hi Richard, What’s up? It would be stupid of me to ask, “How was your Christmas?” so I won’t do that. We had a quiet Christmas here. I had my brother and his girlfriend over to my house for dinner on Christmas Eve. He lives off Starkey Road, about 5 miles from me. We don’t see each other often, usually around his birthday and/or the holidays. My brother is 10 years younger than I am and lived with my mom until she died in 1999. We have an interesting history that I will share with you some day. On Christmas Eve our dinner was spaghetti and meatballs, a la Shirley, our mom. I use her recipe for spaghetti sauce and meatballs, which we both love. John and I have very little in common, except our parents, but we always seem to find a common ground when we get together and talk. It was fun having him and his girlfriend, Sonya, here on Christmas Eve. In another post card (or two or three) I’ll tell you the stories of John and Sonya—very interesting.

Several weeks ago I told Patrick what I wanted for Christmas. I asked for (at least) the first DVD season of Breaking Bad (BB). During the last week of the last season of BB I watched it for the first time and was IMMEDIATELY hooked. There was a lot of buzz about the show’s nominations for several Emmy Awards. That caught my attention and I tuned in. Much to my enormous disappointment I found out that the show was ENDING after five seasons. I still can’t figure out why I never heard of BB during the past five years (six years actually), but there it is. I think that during the 24 hours preceding the final episode they showed back-to-back episodes which covered the last two seasons. I taped them all and watched them. But I still hadn’t seen the beginning of the story. Talk about a$$ backwards. So I asked Santa to give me the first season or two. Then a crazy thing happened. Patrick had to do a paper for his humanities class. Naturally, he asked me to help him on the day before it was due….He had to watch a movie and compare the movie’s surreal elements to surreal art of the 18th and 19th centuries. “No problem,” I responded as he looked at me like I had two heads. But where to get a movie on the day it had to be watched, the paper had to be written, and the project had to be submitted. “Let’s try Netflix,” I suggested. I didn’t care if I’d have to pay for it—it had to be done. To my surprise, I got a free month for signing up. My kind of deal! We watched a gruesome, horrible surreal film called Into the Void which messed up my head for two weeks. A week after the paper was submitted (‘we’ got an ‘A’ on it, thank you) I thought, “I wonder what I can watch on Netflix during my free month.” WA-LA!! There was Breaking Bad, Seasons 1-5!!! And so my BB binge-watch commenced. I can’t tell you exactly how many hours I watched, but there were 5 seasons of about 14 episodes each. You do the math. You might say I OD’d on BB! It was worth every minute. Breaking Bad, dark as it was, deserved the awards it received. The primary character, Walter White, was played by Bryan Cranston, from Malcolm in the Middle. “MALCOM’S FATHER??” I shrieked when I learned who the main character was. I couldn’t, for the life of me, imagine Malcom’s father in a serious role. But he was amazing. Cranston didn’t win an Emmy, but the show did, and it deserved it. I’ll tell you more about Breaking Bad in another card. Take care and have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY on the 4th!! Love,

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#14 122413 – Hi Richard, You’ll have to deal with the reality that I did not send you a Christmas card. I am very grateful for yours; I hope you don’t think less of me for not sending one to you. Not long ago I used to mail between 60 and 70 cards without fail. I was very loyal. My attitude was, I don’t care if folks send me a card or not. I send cards because I want to, without thought of whether or not I receive one in return. How wonderfully selfless of me!! I was not one of those folks who checks off a list of cards received to determine if the sender would have the incomparable honor of receiving a card from me the following year, depending on whether they sent one to me that year. Then four years ago my bubble burst big time. Instead of buying my Christmas stamps at the post office I ordered them through the mail. Big mistake. It took more than 14 precious days for the stamps to arrive. By then it was about one week before Christmas. My cards arrived at their destinations a few days before Christmas. The outcome of the late mailing of cards on my part was the late or non-arrival of cards from a high percentage of folks to whom I had mailed a card. If it had been one or two or even five friends or relatives who had not sent me a card because they thought I was not sending one to them, I wouldn’t have been surprised or disappointed. But what happened was that a very high percentage of folks did not send me a card, because they had not received one from me. To add insult to injury, about four folks did mail me a card, but only after they had received my late card. So much for my high-road I don’t care if folks send me a card or not… I was really pissed. I thought, “That’s it.” The next year I sent a lot of emails to friends and family telling them that I no longer send cards, except to older folks who don’t have email. To my surprise, I received back many, long email messages that I wouldn’t have received in a card! This year I did mail 20 cards, most to older folks who don’t have email. These are old-school friends who have no intention of giving up the practice of sending Christmas cards – thank God! As you might have guessed, the reduction of my mailing list from 70 to 20 has resulted in me receiving 50 fewer cards per year. But I really don’t care. Most cards arrive with barely a written signature. Sometimes it’s a photocard with a pre-printed signature. (Actually I like the photocards.) I still receive one lone holiday letter from a priest-friend of mind from MN. We’ve known each other since 1981 and have kept in touch annually. It’s that goofy letter of his that has maintained our tie. Crazy.

Jan and I are going to Midnight Mass together tonight at St. Jude’s Cathedral. Jan wants to go to renew childhood memories of her family. I haven’t been to Midnight Mass in more than 55 years. It will be fun for both of us. She’s picking me up at 10:20. Hopefully she won’t have to wake me up to go! I’m developing a ceremony for those of us who are going to Pat S’s house for New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day is also the New Moon, so I’m working on a celebration ritual that will combine saying goodbye to 2013, welcoming 2014, and honoring the fresh start of the new moon for all of our expectations and affirmations for the months to come. I’m expecting one of the months in 2014 to be the time we welcome you home! Take care! Love,

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#12 121013 – Hi Richard, here’s the end of Joni’s story…At the time her cancer was diagnosed late in 1985, Joni worked at a nursing home as the Activities Director and had no health insurance.  She soon had to quit her job, apply for Medicaid, and file for bankruptcy.  I moved from Nebraska to Florida in May of 1986.  Joni moved to Washington State to be near her daughter.  We wrote back and forth for two years.  She died in July of 1988.

My stuff was in storage from May of 1986 until August of 1988 when I moved into my condo.  In November of ’88 I prayed that Joni’s Thanksgiving instructions had survived the move.  They had.  I found the “General Property Loss Report” instructions and cried for an hour when I felt her presence.  There she was before me in a shroud of cigarette smoke, glass of wine at her side, gum cracking.  “Hi kid” she greets me every year at Thanksgiving when I pull out her insturctions.  “Hi neighbor” I respond.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was mah-velous. Pat brought the stuffing and Jan brought a bottle of wine. Everything was perfect. How could it be otherwise with Joni watching over me, supervising, making sure I follow her directions to the T. Patrick was also with us, but managed to make a quick get-a-way after our meal. Can you blame him? I’d also ‘slip out the back, Jack’ ASAP if I were a 24-year-old guy sitting at a dinner table with three old ladies!!

During Thanksgiving week I was house- and dog-sitting for my friend Sue. She and her husband have a home in the woods of western PA, and they spent T-giving week there. Sue returned on the Sunday after T-giving and I picked her up at the St. Pete-Clearwater airport. Her pug’s name is Winston and he looks exactly like Winston Churchill. Winston likes me. I’m his Aunt Pat and he’s my favorite nephew. The only ‘issue’ we have (actually it’s my issue, not his) is that Winston snores like a Harley Davidson sounds. After the first, sleepless night with my favorite nephew I knew a few changes were needed. First, I came back to my condo and retrieved a small space heater from my storage closet. I didn’t need the heater for the heat, I needed it for the loud, white noise it produces when in full-blast mode. Then I dug out my ear plugs from my travel bag and stuck them in my ears, real deep. Finally, I closed the bedroom door—me inside and Winston outside. I slept a lot better from then on, even though I STILL could hear the Harley Davidson motor running in the background. But it didn’t keep me awake. I think Winston’s feelings were hurt, but I know darn well he slept just fine. Every morning he greeted me like a long-lost friend. I think he was just hungry, frankly. We had a good week together but I was glad to get home to my own bed and quiet room.

Next week I’ll send you the last installment of the Krieger saga, [see #13 below] and then we can return to real communication. Thanks for your thoughts and comments about the Japanese in WWII. I worry about the collective mind of this country when it comes to history. When I visited London last year I was amazed by the awareness of history that the British have. And every year the Japanese memorialize the lives lost as a result of the atomic bombs. If we as a country don’t stand together and remember why we fought in WWII we are going to end up forgetting what a gift freedom is and why we must protect it.

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#11-120213 – Hi Richard, the story of Joni is continued…from the moment I sat next to her in class at the University of Nebraska and said hello. “Hi, kid” she said to me, chewing that gum like there was no tomorrow (she needed a cigarette, bad).

Joni did not intimidate me, she attracted me.  I can’t explain what it was, only that I recognized her as someone who was simply herself and who was not at all interested in trying to impress anyone.  She looked a little strange, there in the front row of the UNO classroom, pen in hand, ready to get to work.  With the 60s hair and polyester pants and strange shoes she looked like a bag lady, I swear.  She always had a “let’s get this show on the road” presence.  I loved her from day one.

When I asked her if she’d tell me how I could make a complete turkey dinner for my new beau, I can picture her in her Nouveu-Goodwill décor living room, in the corner of her sofa, cigarette in hand, glass of wine on the end table, gum snapping.  She looked at me in silence, thinking, deciding.  Then, without giving a yes or no answer, she ordered me to “get a piece of paper and a pen.”  I jumped up.  She gave me a blank paper with the words “General Property Loss Report” across the top.  It had blue lines and headings such as “Insured” “Adjuster” “Applicable Endorsements” “Claim #” “Cause/Origin” and multiple others.  The carbon second page was pink.

She started dictating even before I could get situated in the chair.  I did not ask her to slow down or start over; I knew this was my one and only chance.  “Get a frozen, self-basting turkey, 14-15 lbs.” she began.  I wrote it down.  She went right into the ingredients for the stuffing, “3 loaves of plain label bread, poultry seasoning, sage, onions, parsley…”  I was writing like mad.  “…celery, eggs, chicken broth, thyme…”  I began to realize that this meal was going to cost a fortune since I had nothing on the list so far except for the plain label bread.  “…margarine, 2 lbs, el cheapo…”  That’s exactly what I wrote, “el cheapo.”  I was not leaving any of the instructions or ingredients to chance.  I began a second column of items that included eggs, evaporated milk, corn starch, olives, hot rolls & butter; and then a third column that completed the ingredients: green beans, salad, dessert, cranberry sauce, potatoes, salt, and raisins.  Not once did she ask, “Did I mention thyme?  Did I remember to say chicken broth?”  No.  Her concentration was so intense that we both knew she had not forgotten anything.

The Thanksgiving dinner turned out better than the relationship with the guy.  I still had a freezer filled with leftovers a month later when I flew home to Pennsylvania for Christmas.  Upon my return to Omaha in January I reported to Joni’s door.  She let me in as always, without a word, snapping her gum, limping ahead to the living room.  She poured me some wine and I asked her about her Christmas and what’s new.  She said “nothing much” except that she discovered she had a little case (“a little case”) of cervical cancer.  I was speechless, mainly because she said these words with the same tone she might have said, “Nothing much; my kids came over and we opened gifts on Christmas Eve, as always.  How were your holidays?” (TBContinued)

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#10-112613 – Hi Richard, We interrupt this program (Pat’s Issue with the Opponents to the Bombing of Our Ruthless Enemy to End WWII) to bring you a postcard that is probably much more interesting than what you’ve been reading for the past 3 weeks. The Divine Ms. S. has arrived in Florida! She’s here! She’s home! She arrived around midnight between 11/23 and 11/24. Last I spoke with her she planned to arrive on Thanksgiving Day. I immediately invited her to join Patrick and me at my place on turkey day. She didn’t exactly accept the invitation, and I wanted her to be free to make her own decision, especially if she received a better offer in the meantime. When she called me on 11/24 I reiterated the invitation and she confirmed her divine presence—I was thrilled!

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, partly because of what took place many years ago when Joni Scott was my neighbor. In November of 1985 I was living in Omaha, coming down the home stretch of completing my Master’s Degree in Public Administration.  Joni lived in the next apartment in our building on 46th Street.  She was a big girl, over six feet tall.  Joni had big kids, and she cooked big meals.

Joni called me “kid” or “Trish.”  I called her “neighbor.”  “Hi neighbor” I’d say.  “Hi, kid” she would respond.  There is not one living soul who, before or since, has called me either “kid” or “Trish.”  They were her names for me, and I treasure them, just as I treasure the Thanksgiving dinner instructions she dictated to me one day; the hand-written instructions I still have after 28 years and which I follow faithfully every Thanksgiving.  The ingredient measurements have been halved for the most part, and I’ve made other adjustments through the years.  But I still bring out that precious, stained and fading paper annually and thank her again for being my mentor and friend.

Joni was ten years my senior, born in 1939.  She had the misfortune of suffering a stroke in her 20s due to birth control pills which at the time were “one size fits all” and that size was a massive dose of hormones.  The result for her was a weakened left side of her body, and a noticeable limp in her left leg that had to be dragged along as though an invisible toddler were clinging to it as she tried to walk normally. The toes on the foot of that uncooperative leg had been broken repeatedly because she had no feeling in her foot, and she had problems finding shoes that fit.

Joni had been around the block.  She smoked like a controlled burn, drank a lot of wine, and chewed gum incessantly.  She obviously cut her own hair.  She looked like a 60s throwback and had been married twice, once in a bar.

Joni could size up a man with one click of her gum.  She could tell what a guy was made of without even hearing him speak.  The first test was how they responded to her.  She was definitely not for the faint-hearted man: over six feet tall, looking down at most of them, chewing her gum, dragging her leg, chopped up red hair, always with a “I can see right through you” attitude about her. She intimidated most women, too, but I recognized the real Joni …(ToBeContinued)

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(Note: Postcards #7-#9 and #13 are one, continuous essay)

#13 121613 – Hi Richard, So great to see you on Saturday!! Here is the last installment of the Krieger saga…It was easy enough to find him online. I tried to send him a message on Facebook but his page would not allow messages. However, the Facebook page of his organization did. Here’s what I said as a preface, before pasting the letter I had written to The Sun:

Dear Dr. Krieger, I support the work and vision of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Thank you for your dedication to making our world nuclear weapon-free. I learned of your work through your published interview in The Sun. I am sorry for the unfortunate wording error made by The Sun. I hope their efforts to correct the error were successful. I wrote a letter to The Sun which was critical of things you said in the interview. My letter was not published and neither was any other correspondent’s letter, most likely because of the misquote incident. This morning I woke up thinking about my unpublished letter and decided I would share it with you. I feel strongly about my opinion and realize that it is more important that you know it, rather than other readers of The Sun. Here is the letter I wrote to Sy Safransky: (here I copied the letter I sent you in Weeks 8-9).

Krieger’s response was “more of the same.” He attempted to patronize me with quotes from researchers and ‘respected scholars,’ perhaps thinking that these quotes were ‘proof positive’ that he was right all along. I too could have sent him even more pages of quotes from sources that support my conviction. But what would be the point? Why get into a pissing contest over who can quote the most sources? Here is part of our conversation:

Dear Pat, I appreciate you taking time to write and express your concerns. I find that there is considerable scholarship suggesting that the Japanese were trying to surrender when we used the atomic bombs.

I wrote back: Dr. Krieger, Thanks for responding. I respect your research and I thank you for acknowledging my view and opinion. My father fought in the Pacific Theater in the Army in WWII, as did one of my uncles, on the USS South Dakota. Both came home alive. They might not have, had the Japanese not been stopped when they were; had the war not ended when it did, as the Japanese (at least some factions of their government and military) were “trying” to surrender (although I also have read that the Japanese military leaders were willing to keep fighting until the last man died). I am glad the Japanese were stopped and our ruthless enemy was defeated.

               Actually, I agree with Krieger when he wrote to me: I have devoted myself to the abolition of nuclear weapons because these weapons are a threat to the future of civilization and complex life on the planet, including human life. I totally get that and I feel the same way about nuclear weapons. My beef with him was the way he cherry-picked quotes and created his own narrative, then turned around and accused his country of creating a myth. My point is that he is as much of a myth-maker as those he disparages through his ‘respected scholars.’

Enough of this already, huh? How are you? I’ve got a lot to tell you. Will start again with real correspondence next wk.

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#9 111813 – Hi Richard, here’s part 3 of the Krieger story. My letter to The Sun continues: In fact, on pages 32-34 (screen pages; document pages are 27-29) of the referenced document, I read quite the opposite about Japan’s readiness or intention to surrender prior to (or even after) the first bomb was dropped: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/bomb/large/documents/index.php?pagenumber=1&documentdate=1946-06-19&documentid=65&studycollectionid=abomb

Neither am I impressed by his quote from the memoir of Admiral William D. Leahy. Leahy concludes his diatribe against atomic bombs with this thought: “Until the United Nations, or some world organization, can guarantee—and have the power to enforce that guarantee—that the world will be spared the terrors of atomic warfare, the United States must have more and better atom bombs than any potential enemy.” (Leahy, I Was There, p. 442) (copied from http://www.reformation.org/admiral-leahy.html) It seems that Leahy is not quite the nuclear disarmament supporter that Krieger implies.

All the best,

Pat Daly, Largo, FL

The Sun likes receiving letters from readers. When a reader disagrees with an author or an interviewee, the editor will give the author a chance to respond to criticism. This time, however, no letters were printed because the publication was in damage-control mode after a huge error was printed when it did not re-word something that Krieger had insisted upon when he read the interview before publication. I can’t tell you what the wording faux pas was but it led to an unprecedented, full page apology from The Sun. I’m not at all surprised that the publication wanted to put the whole David Krieger thing to bed and move on. Consequently, not a single letter of feedback (good or bad) was ever published.

I enjoyed every minute reading the Truman Library papers online. There was fascinating correspondence between Truman and others during the time surrounding the end of World War II. And there was a very revealing published interrogation of a high-ranking Japanese official who was smack in the middle of Japan’s internal government operations toward the end of the war. He testified that Japan’s military wanted to fight until the last person died, but the Emperor had the final word that no one could or would oppose. The Emperor made the decision to surrender after the second bomb was dropped, and probably would not have done so if he did not fear that the dropping of a third bomb over Tokyo was imminent. I not only felt justified by my criticism of Krieger, but I wanted him to know my opinion. However, that wasn’t going to happen, as I said. I let it go until I started reading Savage Continent in September. One morning I woke up and thought, “I’ll send my letter directly to David Krieger. I want him to know that I do not agree with him.” (To be continued next week)

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#8 11113 – Hi Richard, here’s part 2 of my story. Continuation of the Krieger quote: “The Japanese, however, viewed the atomic bombings as humanitarian catastrophes. It brought home to me the ways in which our government – perhaps any government – develops a narrative to justify its actions.” My hackles rose when I read that. I probably would not be here today if Truman had chosen to invade Japan rather than bomb our ruthless enemy who was as horrible as Germany. My father was in the Philippines in 1945 and would have been part of the Japanese invasion. He might have lived through it. But thousands more Americans would have died, no question.

Just reading that much put an end to the interview for me. But as I flipped through the pages toward the next article, my eyes latched on to more about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Krieger was asked, “How do you respond to the common belief that the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in August 1945 saved lives by ending the war?” Krieger’s response was, “I would say that’s a myth.” Well, not only did my hackles rise, I began to growl. Krieger cited a U.S. government publication to defend his position and, for good measure, threw in a quote from the memoir of a distinguished Navy admiral who was adamantly opposed to the use of nuclear weapons in war.

“That’s it,” I thought as I headed for the internet. I had to see with my own eyes this government publication that Krieger used to support his assertion that even though the U.S. knew Japan was ready to surrender, “we went ahead and bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki anyway.” I also wanted to check out this admiral who had so much to say about the decision his boss, Harry Truman, had made.

A simple Google search immediately directed me to the Truman Library and a scanned copy of the referenced document. I found what I was expecting to find, which was not what Krieger intimated was there. Then I went hunting for Admiral William D. Leahy to see if I could find out why he opposed bombing Japan. Here, too, I came up with more than expected. Not surprising to me, what I found in the archives of the Truman Library online did not support Krieger’s assertions. I decided to write a letter to The Sun to express my opinion of David Krieger. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Sy,

David Krieger (Interview, January 2013) is as guilty of developing a “narrative to justify [his] actions” as he accuses the United States of being in our country’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 to end World War II. As soon as I read his opinion of the “myth” that the atomic bombs saved lives by ending the war, and the way his words effectively accused the United States of needlessly and recklessly using those atomic bombs, I went straight to the internet to read the document he proposed as backing his statements, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, published in 1946. I did not read anything remotely supportive of what Mr. Krieger claims are the conclusions of the Survey. (To be continued next week)

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#7 110613 – Hi Richard, I’ve never been a World War II buff, although after I visited the concentration camp at Dachau in 1978 my interest in Hitler’s regime was stoked. I mentioned my recent library book, Savage Continent in another post card, which is an additional manifestation of some kind of draw I feel toward the history of World War II and its aftermath. Every now and then I read or hear opinions expressed about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I remember feeling surprised upon reading Monday morning quarterbacks who claim that the US did not ‘have to’ drop the atomic bombs over Japan and, in fact, it was totally inhumane for us to do so. What I had been told years ago was that the war ended as a result of the bombs having been dropped. I couldn’t (and still don’t) understand how that undisputed fact could be turned into an indictment of the USA. But it is.

I’ve been a subscriber to The Sun for close to fifteen years. The Sun is an excellent monthly magazine with great writing. It has a predicable layout, a template, for its contents. Every month a verbatim interview is published. The person interviewed is usually not famous except perhaps in his or her milieu. Rarely have I recognized the name of the interviewee in the Contents. The Sun’s interviews reflect the editor’s liberal leanings. He’s the boss and gets to decide what is printed in his magazine which he’s been publishing for about forty years. I too am a liberal, so you’d think I’d love reading interviews of peaceniks, tree huggers, protesters, and social-minded democrats. In truth, I rarely read an entire interview. For one thing, they take up too much real estate, too long. Secondly, after all these years I find my eyes glazing over when I see yet another interview with an environmentalist or an organic farmer.

The January 2013 interview was with David Krieger “On The Continuing Threat of Nuclear Weapons.” Oh good lord, I thought, here’s another interview I’ll be skipping through. I always give the interview a chance and will read the interviewer’s preface. It’s a summary of the person’s life and body of work. Krieger is no slouch. He’s got a PhD in political science and has worked for think tanks and international organizations that support nuclear disarmament. He’s got a law degree and has been a member of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation for thirty years. The Foundation works for a world free of nuclear weapons and boasts fifty-six thousand members. Krieger has authored or edited more than twenty books. Not too shabby.

But there was something in the introductory summary that caught my eye and made my internal defenses start to blink, like a silent alarm that’s triggered by invasive movement in a protected environment. After graduating from college in 1963, Krieger lived in Japan for a year where he visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The budding nuclear disarmament activist was deeply moved. He returned to the U.S. with a new slant on the ending of World War II. Here’s his quote in the introduction: “In the U.S. we viewed the bomb as a technological achievement that shortened the war.  (To be continued next week) 

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#6 102913 – Hi Richard, My 24-year-old son just walked out the front door, rolling his eyes and shaking his head back and forth over the antics of his crazy mother (that would be me). I was telling him about the skit I wrote for Spanish class. I’ve been taking Elementary Spanish II this semester at St. Pete College, and it’s been tough. I’m auditing the class, so I have to do only the amount of work I want to do. Since I’m a compulsive overachiever, it’s hard for me to NOT work my butt off. But even though I’m not doing real well in the class, my level of achievement is about even with almost everyone else, which doesn’t say much for class competence but at least it’s a comfort for me! There are only about 10 of us in the class. Eight out of the 10 are young, typical teens. Another woman and I are old enough to be their grandmothers. She’s Miranda. The professor grouped me with Miranda and Austin, a young, nerdy student who has an innocence and gentleness about him. There are three groups. Each group has to work together to present before the class at the end of the semester on an assigned country. The presentation has to be in Spanish and must concern an aspect of tourism or the economy. I came up with a brilliant idea (that’s my opinion and no one else’s, including my eye-rolling, head-shaking son). Miranda plays the tourist agent. Austin and I play the engaged couple. This in itself is hilarious because, as I said, I’m old enough to be Austin’s grandmother. Anyway, Austin and I will walk into Miranda’s travel agency all lovey-dovey and tell her that we are engaged to be married and want to spend our honeymoon in Peru. Miranda will tell us good things about Peru and ask us what we want to do and see on our honeymoon. I’ll say I want to be in the mountains, but Austin will respond with his desire to be on the beach. I will want to shop and Austin will want to see a soccer game. I want to stay in a high-end hotel with a spa; Austin wants a 3-room cabin with no electricity. Austin and I will start to get annoyed with one another as we realize we want entirely different things. Miranda grows increasingly nervous as she watches us escalate. Finally, Austin walks out and tells me to go on the honeymoon without him. Miranda asks me if I want to go to Peru and I say “!Si!” THE END!

Miranda is leaving in January for service in the Peace Corps in Peru, I believe. It’s quite serendipitous that she and I ended up in this class together because the reason I’m taking Spanish is in case I ever want to join the Peace Corps. My strategy is that knowing how to speak Spanish will land me in a Central or South American country; i.e., close to home and warm! Actually, I’m willing to go anywhere they send me, but I have to admit that winter in Ukraine or summer in any African country holds no attraction for me. I must be getting old. Wait. I AM getting old. So is Miranda, but she is now my mentor, if not my idol. I asked her if she would be willing to keep in touch with me while she is in service. She is fairly computer-literate but she doesn’t have a website, blog, or even Facebook (one of the few on this earth who doesn’t), so it looks like we’ll be communicating through email, which, these days, almost feels antiquated, but will do in a pinch.

Have a good week! Enjoy the cooler weather.

*****

#5 102313 – Hi Richard, On Monday afternoon Jan called me and asked if I wanted to join her for dinner at her place. Seminole Steaks and Subs runs a 2-for-1 special every Monday: a spicy chicken wrap. That sealed the deal for me and I said yes. I told Jan I’d walk to Seminole Steaks, pick up our sandwiches and bring them to her apartment. Jan lives about 1.5 miles from me and it’s an easy walk to her place from mine. My son and I share the use of my car. He’s in college and works part time. I’m retired so his need for the use of the car takes precedence over mine. I was willing to pick up the food and walk to Jan’s, but her kind offer to come get me in her car won me over. I hadn’t seen Jan in more than a month. Our weekly writing group stopped meeting in early September when several of us were out of town. As one or two of us returned, another one or two of us were gone, so we sort-of agreed to stop meeting until we all were back, and that won’t be until early December. I hope Pat S. is back by then, but I doubt if she will be. I was in California for a week in early September and then left town a few weeks later for a 10-day road trip. Jan is getting ready to leave for a two week vacation on Cayman Island. Anyway, back to our dinner….

Jan picked me up at 5:00 PM. We went drove to the drive-through at Seminole subs. You could smell the spiced chicken through the Styrofoam boxes and the carry bag. Jan insisted on paying for dinner, which assures that we will do it again and that the next dinner will be on me. Jan lives in a senior apartment complex. She’s got a one-bedroom that is about 1/5th the size of the mobile home she owned in Ranchero. The year-long saga of her losing her home there was pitiful, but Jan is a survivor and she has landed on her feet. The word ‘downsize’ took on a whole new meaning when Jan moved out of Ranchero and into her apartment.

We each took a beverage from her place and walked down to the eastern edge of the apartment complex which borders Lake Seminole. The scene was gorgeous. The sun was low in the western sky and the light created shadows and unusual shades of color on the water and in the clouds over the lake. We watched herons, ducks, and various species of birds in the water, among the rushes. Across the water we could see huge homes along the lakeshore. I remarked that we could enjoy everything they could, except we didn’t have the mortgage, real estate taxes, homeowners insurance and home maintenance costs that they did. How fair is that?! HAHA! In addition to the beauty we enjoyed with our eyes, there was a magnificent silence all around us. Only the occasional honk of a duck or the splash of a bird in the water was heard.

It was a great dinner with Jan. We got caught up on news of our families and friends. Jan – always on the move – asked me if I wanted to go with her on Saturday to the Times Festival of Reading. I said I’d look at the write up in Thursday’s paper and get back with her. I’ve been socializing a lot this past week and may decide to simply stay home on Saturday. I’m reading an excellent book, Savage Continent by Keith Lowe. It’s about the state of Europe after WWII and it’s due back on the 30th, with no renewals. I’d like to finish it before it’s due, but I’m only 1/3rd of the way through 400 pages. Take care,

****

#4 1015113 – Hi Richard, I received your welcomed letter – thank you! You asked if I had attended your last two hearings before Judge P. The answer is Yes. On the morning of your first hearing there were approximately nine of us who met with your attorney in the café. I was very impressed with her; however you came to enlist her services, you made a very good choice. I could see that she was committed to you, her client, and that she had done everything in her power to prepare for the morning’s hearing. She explained everything to us clearly and stated her relief that your case was going to be heard by Judge P. What’s interesting is that she was able to verbalize the best-case scenario for your situation. In the end, she was 98% on target to get you that outcome. She did not, as they say, “spare the horses.” Ms. M. very deliberately and methodically inched her way through the hearing before Judge P. She was able to make the State’s Attorney and the St. Petersburg Police detective look like conniving incompetents. Before you entered the courtroom the State’s Attorney made an impassioned plea to the judge to not make this poor child relive the horrendous experience of sexual abuse in public, on the stand. Huh? In my head I asked her: “What poor child? You mean the guy who is going to get on the stand and publicly recant his accusations? The one who is going to admit he lied and sent an innocent man to prison? That poor child?” Later on I could have added to this thought with these questions to her: “You mean the witness who is going to publicly testify that you and the detective threatened to extend his prison sentence if he took the stand? The young man who is going to make a fool out you and the whole justice system in front of Judge P. who is going to hear every word? That poor child?”

Didn’t you think his testimony was excellent? I sure did. He was truthful and repentant. And he was not afraid of the State’s Attorney, no matter what she asked him or tried to get him to admit. I think the only reason she stopped was because every time she tried to trip him up he came right back at her, either directly or through Ms. M’s cross examination.

Ms. M. was skillful when she called the mother and grandmother to testify. One response of the mother made me laugh, almost out loud. The State’s Attorney asked her something about there being adult videos in your home, the home where her son had spent time. She was trying to dramatize some horrendous den of iniquity and asked, “Did you know that this man had adult videos in his home while your child was there???!!!” “Doesn’t every man have them?” the mother asked in return. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

After the first hearing Ms. M. met with all of us outside the court room to regroup. Again she summarized the issues the judge would rule on and what the best-case scenario would be. He ruled on the ‘points’ issue before the second hearing. All that remained was to hear the revised sentence. He gave you a few more months more than the absolute minimum, so it was a good day in that respect. At Ms. M’s suggestion, I wrote a letter of thanks to Judge P. And I wrote a message of thanks to Ms. M. through her law firm’s website. Have a good week,

****

#3 -100713 – Hi Richard, I received an email from Pat S. with your internal address change noted. I’ve already sent two cards to the first address we had for you. I hope you received both. This is the third. Pat was so happy to hear from you and to learn of your anticipated discharge date next August. YES!!! That is great news, and a much sooner date than I expected to hear about. I’m so looking forward to welcoming you home – again! When I responded to Pat’s message I suggested that when she finally gets down to Florida she and I should plan a trip to visit you. On the internet it says that we have to receive a visitor application form from you to get the ball rolling. I need to look that up again to refresh my memory. You probably know what steps need to be taken already. If I remember correctly, getting permission to visit you is like making an appointment with the President. Doesn’t that make you feel important to know that your visitors have to undergo background checks for the privilege of seeing you in person?  HA!

Well, Barbara left for Texas on the morning of the 3rd. I drove her to the airport and said good-bye to her a little teary-eyed at the tramway. The Southwest employee who checked her bag asked me if I wanted to go with her to her gate. “Nah,” I said with a wave of my hand, “She’ll be fine.” One of the reasons Barb likes coming to FL is because I let her have so much freedom to be on her own. You should see her ride the PSTA buses. She’s a pro. She’s very familiar with the ins-and-outs of the Tampa Airport as well. She can find her gate and board the plane with ease. The other night I was teasing her about playing the Disability Card when it’s convenient for her. I asked her if she boards the plane early by telling the them she’s a Down Syndrome person and needs help. She said, no, she doesn’t do THAT (as though she didn’t need to do such a thing), she just goes to the front of the line when they call for pre-boarding. At that I laughed. “So in other words,” I said, playing with her head a little, “You only play the Down Syndrome card when everything else fails to get you to the head of the line.” “That’s right!” she agreed, then added, “Now you get it.” Yes, Barb, now I get it.

I’m looking forward to my days returning to their predictable, mundane schedule. I need to get back to finishing my book for publishing on Kindle. That’s a story all its own which I’ll tell you in another communique. It’s a process that took on a life of its own about a year ago. Self-publishing is like the spokes of a wheel: the center of the wheel is the book and the spokes are the many elements that have to balance together and be complete to enable the wheel to roll along.

I’ll tell you more about it next time.  Till then,

*****

#2 093913 – Hi Richard, it’s been a crazy busy week for me. My Down syndrome sister-in-law Barbara is visiting from Texas for two weeks and we’ve been hopping. You’d love Barbara. She is smart, loveable, fun, and a good friend. She was born in Philadelphia 50 years ago. Her mother did not beat the odds when she gave birth to Barbara at the age of 45. I was the best friend of Barbara’s sister Sally back then. You could find me at Sally’s house in Levittown, PA, just about every weekend, and her parents were my surrogate parents. In fact, when I moved to Florida in 1986 I lived with Barbara and her parents for 15 months before I bought the condo where I still live, 27 years later. Barbara and her parents moved to Texas from Largo in 1998 to be closer to Sally’s family when her mom’s health began to fail. In 2001 Barbara and her dad returned to Florida for another seven years after her mom’s death. Then an interesting role reversal took place between Barbara and her father Blake. He was 84 and almost blind with macular degeneration when they returned to FL for the last time in 2001. Barbara became her father’s primary caregiver. Blake was healthy but he couldn’t see much anymore, so he couldn’t get around easily. Barbara did their shopping (she walked to the nearby Albertson’s) and filled out checks to pay bills, which Blake signed. It was fascinating to see the disabled child become caregiver to the disabled father. If it were not for Barbara, there’s no way Blake could have lived independently. They balanced each other perfectly. It was quite a wake-up for the family to watch Barbara rise to the occasion and competently assume responsibility for the little dyad. Blake died in 2008. Now Barbara is a jet-setter, traveling all over the place and living the good life. Most of the year she’s in Texas, but she also spends a couple of months a year with her brother in PA, and a couple weeks here in FL. Usually she comes in March when the Strawberry Festival is on. This year, however, her niece and family were visiting her Texas peeps from London, so Barb postponed her FL visit till now. Lucky for us she could squeeze us into her busy schedule! Barbara is a devoted Rays fan. We saw two games at the Trop, including the Rays’ last home game of the season. As I type this we’re watching the Rays play the Texas Rangers in the tie-breaking game. If they win, they’ll play Cleveland for the wild card, then on to the playoffs and the World Series. GO RAYS!! Barbara returns to Texas on Thursday. The following day I’m leaving town on a road trip that will include Helen, GA (Octoberfest); Atlantic Beach, NC; Parris Island, SC; and St. Augustine, FL. That will be an interesting mix of locations and stops. I’m looking forward to seeing mountains and the ocean. The cool weather will be a nice change, too.

Have a good week, Richard.

*****

#1 092113 – Hi Richard, On the 19th I wrote an email message to Bill C. to ask if he’d heard from you and if he’d learned your new address. Much to my surprise, he wrote back on the 20th and announced to everyone on the address list that he’d just heard from you. Finally! I’m very glad to know you have, at last, landed. Now you can begin your countdown to the day when we come get you and bring you home. I’m looking forward to another, final, celebratory “Welcome Home” party.

I hope you don’t mind if I communicate with you by way of these post cards. It will be easier for me and I will be more likely to write to you weekly. This idea developed from necessity when I wrote to my cousin’s son who was in an Arizona facility for about a year from 2011-12. He could receive only post cards in the mail, no sealed envelopes. The stamp was removed from the card before it was given to the addressee, and no return-address stickers were permitted. These also were either removed, or the piece of mail was returned to sender with an ink stamp that said something nasty like, “Look, fool, read the rules on sending mail to this facility. You can choose to continue to get your mail returned to you for using a return address sticker, or you can follow the rules. Have a nice day.” So I decided to develop my own post card that was the legal size for the Post Office and upon which I could get the maximum number of words. This is the result. I’ve got it down to a science now, a template that works great. I’m numbering the cards to be sure that you know the number of cards I’ve sent and their order.

I’m sure Pat S. will be writing you soon and giving you the update of her life. She left FL on time in the middle of May and notified us that she wouldn’t be returning to FL until her son’s medical situation did not require her presence on Cape Cod. He’s got orthopedic problems that are complicated by other health issues. I expect Pat to return to FL when she can, even if it’s just before Christmas. Pat has become a very special person in my life. She has gifts and energy that are exquisite. Part of my love for her relates to another dear friend who I see in Pat all the time. My friend Marcie was the mother of my high school classmate, Sharon. Marcie was a special woman: full of faith, outspoken, perceptive, and loving. She and her husband had a large family of seven children. We got along like mother and daughter. She loved me and always showed genuine interest in everything going on in my life. Her daughter Sharon died unexpectedly in 1987 of a brain aneurysm. Marcie and I remained close through the years. Our relationship helped us both to keep Sharon close. Marcie died in 2001, but she is alive to me in Pat’s spirit.

I don’t know what rules you have to follow in your communication with others, but I want you to know that I do not expect you to write to me as often as I write to you. I want to give you something to cheer your week just a little bit. We all could use a little cheer in our lives. I’ll write again soon.

All the best,

*****

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