War is Over…If You Want It

Moon LandingWernher Von BraunWar Is Over

I was stationed in Germany in the late sixties. World War II had been officially over for more than two decades, but it wasn’t really over.

First a little background with the previous World War, WW I. After the Germans were defeated, the French occupied Germany, and treated the German citizens with classic French arrogance. The Germans had no choice but to accept it, but they harbored a deep resentment and knew that somehow, someday they would get revenge. Fast forward to WW II and Hitler and the Germans got their paybacks on the French and now occupied their country.

Then that war ended and we Americans occupied Germany with the same distain for the German citizens that the French had shown. The Germans had no choice but to accept it, but again, they harbored a deep resentment and knew that someday they would get revenge on the Americans the same way they had gotten revenge on the French.

When we went out on the town we were not welcome. Invariably fights would break out. It was a nightly occurrence in the taverns closest to the base.  Usually it began with a group of Americans hurling chicken bones at any Germans sitting nearby.  German girls were ostracized from their communities if they were seen with Americans. The War had been over for more than two decades, but like I said, hostilities were still going on. It wasn’t over.

Then, an amazing thing happened. It was on my brother Kevin’s birthday, July 20th, 1969, that hostilities ceased. That was the day we landed on the moon. Americans were naturally filled with pride for what they had accomplished, but the Germans were proud, too. The head of our space program was an old German rocket scientist, Wernher Von Braun. When we landed those men on the moon, we created an instant partnership with the German people. We were no longer the occupying army. We were now allies in the space race.

The fighting in the taverns stopped. Now, instead of hurling chicken bones at one another, we were buying each other drinks and toasting the great accomplishment of the American-German team of scientists at NASA. The German girls could now openly date Americans, and, their German fathers would insist that they brought their American boyfriends home, not to be inspected, but to be congratulated and toasted with a glass of German Schnapps.

July 20th, 1969, in my mind, is the day that World War II ended. On that day, we landed on the moon and found a little peace on Earth. “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind,” indeed.

Peace and Love, and all of the above,



Avon Calling…Not

Swat TeamBilly Crystal - Miracle Max

I usually get jolted out of bed long before I planned to get up. I order a lot of things online, so, usually it the mailman or UPS guy who rings my bell, puts the package on the floor, and dashes off to his next delivery. I get out of bed to meet them in case they need a signature. What the hell. I can go right back to bed after signing for the package. However, I rarely get to the front door before they are gone, tail lights in the distance. I even switched my nighttime attire from pajamas to shorts and a t-shirt, so I wouldn’t waste any time getting “decent,” on mornings that I was expecting a delivery, and he’s still gone before I get to the door.

Today, I was expecting knick knacks to be delivered for my backyard, so, I was sleeping in shorts and ready to run to the door as soon as I heard the bell.

Ding Dong Ding Dong! It woke me and I sprinted the 20 feet to the front door. When I opened it, I was face-to-face with what looked like “The Brute Squad.” Three very large cops, who combined could probably bench press Rhode Island thanked me for opening the door. Before I could say that I had nothing to do with what might look like pot plants in the backyard, they told me that they had business with the upstairs tenant. They banged on his door and charged up the stairs. Since they looked like they started each morning at Gold’s Gym, and since each of them had guns in their holsters, I decided that this was not a good time to play nosey neighbor. I went back into my apartment, closed the door, and thought about where I would hide if shots rang out.  I regretted that I only had a shower, not a big sturdy bathtub.

Then I remembered that I didn’t have any upstairs tenants anymore. They moved out last week. I thought they were just being unusually quiet, because I never saw them move out, but when I saw my landlord earlier in the week sprucing up the place and actually doing repairs, I knew something must be up. When he asked to put an “Apartment for Rent” sign in one of my front windows, I knew what it was.

So, remembering this, and hearing the mini swat team come back down the stairs without any shots being fired, I stepped bravely back into the hallway. “I think they moved out. I haven’t heard any noise up there, and the apartment is for rent.”

“Okay. We know where he works. We can pick him up there. Do you know his girlfriend’s last name?”

“I don’t even know her first name. I just know that she had a pretty face.”

“What color hair?”

“I didn’t notice.”

Realizing that I wasn’t going to be much help, they asked for the landlord’s phone number, politely thanked me, and left.

After they left, I was so pumped with excitement that I could hardly go back to bed, but I forced myself.  I needed my rest in case the UPS guy showed up.

Peace & Love, and all of the above.



Lord of the Butterflies

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When I was a little boy growing up in South Ozone Park, we had a tiny backyard between the house and the garage. When we moved in, it had a little lawn. Toy cars and monster trucks quickly turned that lawn to dirt. Then I added a few hundred little green soldiers to the landscape, and that necessitated the pushing around of that dirt to build foxholes and create hills to be “taken.”  I loved playing in that backyard. Eventually, there wasn’t a blade of grass to be found. That yard looked like a lifeless piece of the lunar surface. My folks didn’t care. It kept me quiet.

Quiet was in short supply around the Paulson house. It seemed that Brother X and I always competed to see who could make the most noise. When I was just a rug-rat barely out of diapers, there was only one thing that kept me quiet. My mother would put two pots on the kitchen floor, along with a bag of onions. I would fill one pot with onions and then dump it into the other pot. Then I would pour them back into the first pot. This would continue until the onions were mushy and the entire house smelled like onions, but my Mom didn’t care about the odor. At least I was quiet.

Now, I have a back porch and a small yard. When I first got here it had one tree, one telephone pole, a brick patio, and four rose bushes. I have since added a bar (which I made from 63 empty kitty litter buckets and three full sized mirrors), a round table, a banquet table, three barstools, a half dozen plastic chairs, a grill, a “4-foot farm,” a reclining beach chair, wind chimes, solar lights, wind socks, artificial flowers, and butterflies, lots of butterflies. I have butterflies made of silk, plastic, and cardboard scattered all over the backyard. I call it Butterfly Alley.

My backyard is colorful and a great place to hang out. It reminds me of that place in my youth where I drove monster trucks and stormed San Juan Hill with all those green soldiers. I haven’t added any toy soldiers to the landscape here, but I have tossed quite a few “dead soldier” into the recycling bucket near the bar. I have a radio back there, but I often go into the yard just to spend some quiet time.

So, instead of playing soldier or digging in the dirt, I mostly relax with a beer and watch nature. The first thing I noticed were the bees. They were attracted to the big yellow butterflies, not the green, pink or blue ones, just the yellow ones. They would literally make a beeline to the yellow butterflies. I witnessed their joyful rush and then the shrug of disappointment when the bees realize that what they thought was a giant yellow flower turned out to be nothing but a polyester butterfly. It may be nice and colorful for humans, but, to a bee, it’s a big waste of time.

The next bugs I noticed were flies. Spending so much time indoors at my computer, I had almost forgotten about them. Unlike the bees, who would leave me alone while they went around looking for yellow flowers, the flies seemed bent on annoying me. So I went back inside, to my computer to Google a solution. It seems that they hate cayenne pepper. So, I went back outside with a solution of water and cayenne pepper that I sprayed everywhere. That helped a little. Then I just started sprinkling straight cayenne pepper around like I was seasoning my porch for a barbecue. That got rid of almost all of them. There are still a couple around, though. They must have flown here from Mexico.

I’ve also got fireflies, who just flutter around blinking their tails to get attention. They remind me of those small planes you see at the beach flying slowly pulling advertisements. I’ve got strings of blinking lights hung up around the yard that are solar powered and come on when it starts getting dark. The blinking lights really attract fireflies. They must think they’re seeing the Promised Land. The local fireflies now start to gather in my backyard every night a little before dusk.  Then, when my solar lights start blinking they act like it’s a 4th of July fireworks display.

It’s funny the things you notice, when you’re just being quiet. Now I understand why my Mom loved quiet time so much. That gene is finally kicking in.

Peace & Love, and all of the above.


A Map to Somewhere Else

Map To Somewhere Else

It’s been a busy fortnight. In addition to seeing relatives at my nephew’s engagement party, I also got together with many old and new friends in the last two weeks. Being with friends makes the fun times more fun. Being with friends can also make the bad times fun, too, though. Sometimes.

Last Sunday, during a 4-day stay in NY, I got together with two of my friends, Maria and Tilda, and we went to an Off off Broadway show in Morningside Heights. That’s George Carlin’s old neighborhood, except he used to call it West Harlem to make it sound tougher. The show was called A Map to Somewhere Else. The cab driver, Mohammed, didn’t need a map. He knew exactly where the theatre was, and we zipped up the West Side Highway, past the Intrepid, and a whole bunch of buildings branded with the Donald Trump logo.

When we go there, the first floor was some kind of church. That’s why Mohammed knew the address. A small sign said that the theatre was on the third floor. We climbed the steps half-expecting to be mugged on the way. We got to the theatre and it looked worse than my last apartment before I moved out. It was packed with cardboard boxes. Were they there on purpose? Were they part of the set, or were we supposed to sit on them. We were dumbfounded.

Tilda broke the silence. “They’ve done a great job of making this place look decrepid.”

Maria and I agreed immediately, and we all laughed.

There were some seats here, and some seats there, and a few seats everywhere almost circling the center of the room. The couch in the middle looked like it might be part of the set, so we sat in the section of seats with the most people. We took three seats in the second row. Those had to be good seats, we thought. Until the show began.

I’m new at this theatre stuff, so I don’t know who does what, but whoever did the staging did a very poor job. It seemed that whenever the actors spoke they were always facing away from the audience, even though the audience practically surrounded them. I have a small hearing problem, so I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Then, I looked at Maria and Tilda and realized that they couldn’t understand the actors either.

I need glasses to read, but not to watch a play, but I still missed half the action because there were boxes in my way.

At intermission, Tilda had to explain to Maria and me what was going on. We didn’t even understand her explanation of the show.

Act II was longer that Act I. At least it felt that way, even though I was starting to get used to the acoustics, and I finally understood what they were saying. Except I still didn’t know why they were saying what they were saying.

On the cab ride back to Penn Station we immediately gave the show three thumbs down, and yet, we also instantly agreed that we had fun. It was an adventure, an adventure to somewhere. None of us were sure where, but it was an adventure none the less, and we enjoyed it.

I sure could have used a map, though.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,