Sunday, March 29, 2009

everglades reverie

ebb tide ripples,
boat glides silent
through shallows,
of mangrove islands.

dawn filters
thru night mist.
feathers stir and
birdwings flutter-up
egrets, herons, osprey
kites, pelicans,
terns and cormorants,
all foraging for
marine tidbits.

coons skulk
for crabs
or sniff for
other scraps
near tidal shores.

diving porpoises,
frenzied in chase,
lunge swiftly
through schools
of wheeling mullet,
making waves
while they feast.

then quiet and peace
in this holy wilderness
of natural wonders,
where everything is
part of everything else,
and I become wiser.

I sit now, far away
in a busy city
where men wear suits
and dream of promotions,
and wonder if my spirit
will dwell in that
peace, that paradise
yet once more.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


You smile
when others frown.
Your good will
and open heart,
mislead and
divert our gaze
from the gift
that lies within.

Your spirit creates
because it is inside
and wants expression,
a soul giving us
not a fantasy world,
but focused visions
that we can see
even in our myopia.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Depression Snapshot. How we ate well 1933-1939

We beat the thirties. My folks pulled us through. In those days there were bread lines, soup kitchens, and many bums roaming the streets begging for handouts at back doors.

Pa did odd jobs when unemployed, Ma cleaned houses, and helped out at parties. I sold newspapers, caddied, and shoveled snow for spending money. Welfare was unthinkable. In the worst of times they bought a two family house, paying the mortgage with income from one flat while we lived in the other. They never owed money for anything, always paying cash. There was a savings account, but no checks.

We survived through peasant frugality, brought from Europe, along with knowing how to work the earth. One of my jobs was to shovel up horse-balls deposited by nags that pulled the iceman or the baker’s wagon down our street. That’s free fertilizer for the gardens that filled our pantry with home-canned fruits, produce and preserves. Our organic rhubarb and tomatoes were the biggest and tastiest around. Italian neighbors had large gardens and also knew how to put food on the table.

Convenience foods were unknown. Supermarkets hadn't yet appeared. Ma made everything from scratch, mouth-watering German dishes and pastries. Noodles were rolled out on the dining room table, cut and hung over a broomstick to dry. What we had to buy came from small corner stores. Every meal was a treat, and I didn’t have my first American hamburger until I was 15.

Flour came in 25 pound bags. Bulk items and freshly slaughtered chickens were lugged home from the outdoor Polish market. On Saturday Ma baked, and our oven was busy from morning till night, baking for the entire week. Eggs were bought in quantity when the prices were low, and stored for the winter in crocks of fluid to prevent spoilage. We smoked our own pork, which was bought on the hoof and slaughtered in our cellar. The stink would fill the house and last for weeks.

Poor kids from down the street came to our house for "Samitches", or asked for "dibs" when they saw another kid with a snack. They were skinny and malnourished. Their diet was Wonder Bread and candy, and all 5 had rotten teeth. Their father spent their welfare money at the saloon. The boys all were in special education.

In addition to meat, our beer, wine, and “moonshine” were home-made. By end October we had stored a full winter's supply of food and drink. We had no problems with wartime food rationing. But those are other stories.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Perhaps it is
the raw power: marching threat of uniforms,
guns, blaring brass and crashing drums,
celebrating events of forgotten horror.

Perhaps it is ancestral memory of other marches,
of limping cripples and grieving women
become widows with war orphaned children.

Perhaps it was
a weeping youngster's farewell embrace
in a gloomy railway station,
imploring me to return from
my own march to war.

And perhaps that is why, even today,
a parade will fill me with great sadness
and I cannot help but cry.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bumper Stickers

Question: Why do rightwing Christians want to put their bumper stickers, "In God We Trust," on school walls? Why are they always pushing for an opening into our public schools?

Answer: Because that's where the young, impressionable minds are. No sense proselytizing jaded adults out at the mall. You've got to go hunting where the ducks are. It has been suggested that if such signs are allowed, we would have to add "In Allah we Trust" to be ecumenically fair to Muslims.

But that opens the door to the claims of others in the name of free speech and equal time. Perhaps we can also look forward to these signs in our schools from various interest groups:

Agnostics: "Trust is Good, Proof is Better"
Atheists: "There is No God to Trust"
Hindus: "Trust Recycled Souls"
Anarchists: "Don't Trust Government"
Government: "Don't Trust Anarchists"
Bill Gates: "Distrust Antitrust"
School Boards: "Trust Us"
Boards of Commissioners: "Trust Us, Too"
Mobley and Marchiano:(convicted swindlers)"In God We Trust,but The Buck Stops Here"
Norris and Constantine: (crooked commissioners) "Trusted, Now Busted"
Naples Sewer Department: "Don't Trust the Water"
Naples Water Department: "Don't Trust the Sewers"
Environmentalists: "Trust Manatees, Not Developers"
Developers: "Trust Martha Dyckman" (Onetime spokesman for Developer's lobby group)

Bumper stickers or T-shirts on the above available from Jeff Lytle, Naples Daily News.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Depression Snapshot. The False Teeth (1933-39)

Annually, Pa would buy a hog from a farmer to turn into sausages, hams and loins. Store-bought was inferior and expensive. He smoked them German style to perfection, in a brick smokehouse that he constructed in our cellar. For many years it was his pride and joy until he unthinkingly agreed to smoke fish for a neighbor. The next batch of hams had a fishy flavor. That was it. With great curses and a sledgehammer, our now unusable smokehouse was demolished. The corner butcher was glad for our resumed purchases.

We bottled homemade beer, that Ma made in washtubs from a kit. Pa made a winter's supply of wine and hard cider, in large barrels. He coaxed booze from a still. Home distillation was illegal, so basement windows were covered to avoid scrutiny. But that fooled no one. The neighbors winked at each other when the windows were darkened. That was a dead giveaway. Besides, you could smell alcohol fumes blocks away. It was so evident we feared he would be reported and go to jail. But our food and drink was a resource no one wanted eliminated.

When the window coverings were taken down we got friendly callers who knew the signs. Hearty sausages appeared. Cold hard cider or beer slaked summer thirst. Then came wine and brain-rattling Schnapps. Ethnics tearfully sang about the old country, about Galway Bay and elsewhere. I played the accordian, the ethnic’s illusion of future glory.

One night, neighbor Harvey’s Irish thirst and blarney eased out one too many corks. Old Harv's income did not support his love of drink, and Pa was his backup. He was all leprauchan, telling fine tales while Pa poured. Later, he energetically puked in our bathroom and lurched home, singing. Through the window we heard his wife screaming “Ya drunken bum...”, followed by wild argument. It was then we knew he had gotten up his steps and was safely home.

Next morning Harv showed up with a buster headache. Sheepish and pale, he asked whether we had seen his "foss teef". Pa got the wrench and retrieved them from the toilet pipe. After a quick rinse Harv popped them back in, and with restored jaw said, “ Oi, I could be usin' some hair of the dog.”

The idiom was unfamiliar, but Pa thought 120 proof would kill any germs, and got the bottle.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Changing Face of Capitalism
Last week our local newspaper, the Naples Daily News, published a commentary by a former business executive, which contained all the shibboleths of radical Conservatism. Then he urges that we find a consensus on his agenda in order "to come together.

Jack Tymann’s latest Promethean pronouncement, “America needs to stimulate Capitalism”, urges the retrogressive policies of Reaganism to save us from disaster.His rightwing nostrums are advanced as unimpeachable ideology. Stereotyped Capitalism and free market dogma are practically elevated to state religion. Ignored are needed corrections or variations to adapt to circumstances.

History shows Reaganomics fails on three accounts: Tax cuts are not self- financing, financial markets are not self-regulating, and trickle down is a hoax. Figures prove that tax cuts do not create net public revenue, and that wealth flowed upwards through these tax cuts. The Reagan and Bush tax cuts increased the federal debt enormously and the middle class got screwed while a few at the top got richer. “Starwars” and Iraq depleted our national wealth. Clinton’s tax hike, by comparison, produced surplus without inhibiting growth.

Reagan deregulation produced political and financial scandal: the Savings and Loan crisis. Deregulation under Bush required an even larger bailout of corrupted Wall Street. The Republican dogma promised that lifting supervision from banks would produce lasting prosperity. The opposite took place. Capitalism ran wild and the system crashed. Reagamaniacs spouted, “Let the market do it.” We did! And we got financial meltdown, and recession.

Should we now pursue the identical policies that caused the trouble in the first place, extinguish fire with a flamethrower? Thymann's Chauvinism and mythological assertions, ("we are the greatest, most prosperous, most compassionate nation in history", and "American's can tackle any challenge, defeat any adversary") ignore the reality that something has not been working properly, that our power has diminished in significant respects.

If there is to be a national dialogue and consensus it cannot follow Jack Tymann’s creed. New times require new solutions, not old partisan bromides.Any theory of economic organization is not written in stone. Capitalism is not a fixed concept, and must be adapted to prevailing circumstances. It is a great mobiliser of activity in formative stages of an economy. Incapacitated by age, as now, it needs government intervention. It was the withdrawal of regulation that permitted the sins of Wall Street, and onset of recession.

We will not turn to socialism. A different model of Capitalism will emerge, one evolved to be consonant with social responsibility, and with regulations designed to protect the economy from self-destructing.
Some deny it but evolution lives.

Take note all ye unbelievers. Here is the proof.
New survival challenges are already working changes on the human organism. The Age of Electronics has succeeded the Age of Reason. Brains and physiques, adapted to struggle and survival in a vigorous physical world, are evolving into new forms.
People are already fatter, butts broader, and legs stumpier from sitting before TV and computer screens. Runts rule. Gym rats will be considered unevolved freaks. Unable to find mates, their fate is extinction.
Handwritten letters have become obsolete. The human hand will change shape. At first, fingers will become pointed to fit a keyboard without straddling two letters. Ultimately, as manual typing disappears, unused fingers will turn into vestigial stumps.
Without fingers, rings will move to pierced lips, noses and ears that will enlarge to handle the load. Hitchhikers and flippers of the bird will be stricken dumb.
Heads will get smaller as minds, already beginning to atrophy, shrink more. The three R’s become fossils. One advantage: Screwball Letters to the Editor will stop as computerized form letters, spell checkers, and electronic dictionaries replace even rudimentary literacy. Memory and manual calculations will give way to EDP.
Instead of reading we will listen to talking file folders. Verbal fluency will disappear as we grunt English trash-talk from our residual vocabulary of 153 monosyllables.
For once Creationists will be silenced, because not even God will be able to love this evolved image of himself.