Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Buchanan

Since I’ve been here in Lancaster. I’ve enjoyed many lectures at Wheatland, the former home of James Buchanan, our 15th President. The scene shifted on President’s day, though, and the lecture was held at a local bar, The Shot and Bottle, just a few blocks from my apartment. It was the best lecture so far. Stephanie, from Lancaster History, spoke on the theme of the evening, the life of Harriet Lane, Buchanan’s niece.

Since it was a bar, I started the evening, of course, with a beer. Then I looked at the President’s Day appetizer menu. The items included Buchanan Balls, Polk Stickers, Eisenchowder, Roosevelt Fireside Catch Tacos, Barackoli and Shrimp Salad, Bernie Sandler, Kennedy Fried Chicken, Trump Roast, Sherbert Hoover, and Washington Apples. I began with Buchanan Balls, breaded and fried sausage, beef, onion and sauerkraut served with sprouts, Dusselforf mustard and cucumber aioli.

It reminded me of the old joke about the tourist in Spain who looks at the menu and orders the Matador’s Surprise. It turns out to be a huge pair of baked bull balls. Though a little odd, they are so delicious than on his second night in Spain the tourist goes back to the same restaurant and once again orders the Matador’s Surprise. This time, however, he receives two very tiny balls, and he asks the waiter, how come it is so different from the meal he had on the first night. The waiter quickly explained that “Sometimes, senor, the bull wins.”


They turned out to be delicious, and the effect of the positioning of the sprouts got me laughing even more than that old joke did.

Two actors dressed as James Buchanan and Harriet Lane wandered around the room all evening, chatting with all the attendees and making themselves available for pictures. “Harriet” and I chatted for a long time, and she even displayed her Victorian-era curtsy move, but, unfortunately, I didn’t get that on camera.


I had a nice chat with the speaker, Stephanie, before she got up to present her lecture on Harriet Lane, and, unfortunately, the picture below does not do her justice. She, and the blonde on the far right of the bar, both had very pretty eyes, which were nothing like the “deer in the headlights eyes,” which reflected the bright flash of my camera.

Stephanie at Shot and Bottle

When the talk was over, I spoke with Robin from the Lancaster History, who reminds me of Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother. We debated the merits of James Buchanan’s Presidency. Since I seemed to be Jimmy’s biggest fan in the room, a member of the LH invited me to volunteer to be a guide on the Wheatland house tours. I’m going to take them up on the offer, and I pity the tourist fool who tries to tell me that James Buchanan wasn’t a great President. They just might find themselves drowning in James Buchanan’s bathtub.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


The Search for Intelligent Life

Two Aliens out in space were looking down on our planet. The first alien said, “It seems the dominant life-forms on Earth have developed satellite-based weapons.”

The second alien asked, “Are they an emerging intelligence?”

“I don’t think so,” the first responded. “They have the weapons aimed at themselves.”

– joke I read in Playboy


I recently attended a lecture given by David Quammen at Franklin and Marshall College. The lecture was on the importance of Grizzly Bears, wolves, and other predators in the wild. For many years in our National parks the rangers concentrated on trying to eliminate predatory species and keep only the “nice” tame animals. They only wanted the bears that acted more like Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. It turns out that circus bears who can ride bicycles are not what the park needs. Now, they realize that biosystems work best when predators such as grizzly bears and wolves are not driven away or killed. You shouldn’t take the WILD out of wilderness.

We, as a species, are very worried about predatory animals. On land there are lions, and tigers, and bears, and oh my how they scare us. In the ocean, predators such as sharks are widely feared by people, especially people who have seen the movie Jaws.  Alligators scare us both in and out of the water. All these animals are potential man-eaters, and we should take precautions not to come into close contact with them, but we go way beyond being careful, we try to exterminate them.

Okay, if a bear leapt into my backyard while I was grilling a steak, I would shoot it (if I had a gun). If an alligator was chasing my dog, I would shoot it (if I had a dog and a gun). If a shark was chomping on my surfboard, I would shoot it (if I had a spear gun and knew how to use it). We have every right to protect ourselves, especially on our property. The problem is that we are taking over almost the entire planet and making it all “our property.” Except for the penguins in Antarctica, where we don’t want to live, we’re not leaving any room for the wild animals of the planet to have a space where they can do their own thing and mind their own business. They would leave us alone and not eat us, if only we would just leave them alone, but we don’t.

We justify killing predators, with the argument that it’s a matter of kill or be killed, but we go overboard. There are several dozen shark-attacks every year, but mostly it is a case of mistaken identity. When we paddle around in the water, we look like tasty fish treats to them. One bite, and they often spit us out like a child would a vegetable. Unfortunately for us, one shark-bite can do a lot of damage and even be fatal, but, still, worldwide, fewer than a dozen people actually die from shark attacks in any given year. Meanwhile, we retaliate by killing about 7 million sharks a year. That seems like overkill to me. Shark fins are used in soup, so I can see fishing for them as a food source. That’s natural. But the fishermen catch the shark, cut off the fins and dump the rest of the shark back into the ocean to die. Killing sharks just for their fins is just plain cruel.

We’re at the top of the food chain, and, as such, we can feed on whatever we want. Years ago, I went to a restaurant in Manhattan that served blackened alligator. I gleefully ate it, even though no alligator has ever threatened me. Heck, I’ve eaten plenty of cows, pigs, and chickens, and they certainly don’t even pose the slightest threat to me. I figured that eating a predatory alligator was kind of a public service (and it provided a short breather for cows, pigs, and chickens). Actually, the alligator did taste like chicken though.

The point I’m trying to make is that killing for food is natural. Killing purely for the fun or luxury of it, is unnatural. Plus, maybe we should have a tiny bit more consideration for big predator animals, especially since we humans are the biggest predators on the planet. Call it “professional courtesy.”

The irony is that as much as we fear death by some big predatory animals, it’s really the tiny bugs that kill the greatest numbers of us. Millions of people in poverty-stricken areas get sick and die from bugs in the unhealthy water they drink. Tiny mosquitos infect great numbers of people with deadly malaria. Some tiny virus is currently killing a lot of Chinese people. We’ve got our weapons trained on species that look scary, instead of the really scary things. The only big predatory animal we really need to fear is ourselves. People kill more people than lions and tigers and bears and sharks combined. People kill thousands of people every year, and, unlike lions, tigers, bears, and sharks, it’s not because they are hungry. It’s because they are cruel.

Many hunters explain that even non-threatening animals need to be kept in check. Overpopulation of deer in an area can lead to fatal car accidents when they wander on the road. So, instead of giving the deer more land to roam, we thin the herd. Maybe things like the Coronavirus are just nature’s way of thinning the herd of the most dangerous beasts on the planet, us.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,



Knock Knock

In my last article I mentioned for the umpteenth time that I was an Atheist and that I would require a personal visit from a Deity, before I would believe in any God. Then yesterday, there was a knock at my door.

My first thought was, “It’s probably the upstairs neighbor Shawn needing flour or sugar or something for whatever his wife Rene is making for their Super Bowl snacks.” I grabbed my cane and limped for the door.

I opened the door, expecting to see Shawn, and I was startled by a tall bearded man who seemed to be backlit by a thousand LED lights. I jumped backwards.

“Jesus Christ,” I exclaimed. “You startled me.”

“Wow,” he said. “You recognized me right away. That’s pretty good for an Atheist. May I come in?”


“May-I-come-in?” he said pronouncing each word slowly.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Jesus Christ. Didn’t you just recognize me and say My name.”

“No. That was just an expression, an expression of incredible surprise.”

“Oh, I’m not used to hearing my name used like that. Hmmmm. Interesting. May-I-come-in?” he repeated.

“Sure, sure. Come in. What can I do for You?”

“I’d like to talk.”

“Then let’s go in the kitchen. We can sit and talk there. Would you like something to drink?”

“Just water.”

“I’m gonna have wine. Unless, of course, you’re planning on doing some of that changing the water into wine stuff. I’d be very interested to see how that trick is done.”

“What the Heaven,” He exclaimed. “It’s your house, and I am here on a friendly mission. Give me two glasses of water.”

If I really believed that a miracle was about to go down and this bearded stranger could turn ordinary tap water into wine, I would have poured two glasses of ordinary tap water. I had my doubts, though, and I knew I would be required to taste the post-miracle results, so I used the good Brita-filtered water in the refrigerator. I didn’t grab dainty wine glasses, though. I filled up two large water glasses, just in case this did work.

He took the two glasses, folded his arms and crinkled his nose, like Barbara Eden used to do in “I Dream of Jeannie.” Then he chuckled to Himself and smiled. He was just teasing me.

I Dream of Jeannie

He got serious for a moment and then, He said, “Amen” and handed me one of the glasses. I tasted it. It was delicious, the best wine that I’ve ever had. (I know this doesn’t sound like much of a compliment since I drink wine from a 5-liter box found in the economy section of the local liquor store.) It was great tasting wine, though, and it was strong too. I started getting a buzz from the very first sip.

I asked Him what He wanted to talk about. He said He was there more to answer any questions I might have. So, I tried to think of a question for Him, as I drank more of the wine.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” I finally asked Him.

“I meant questions about Religion.”

“Oh, yeah, right.” I took another sip of the wine and tried to think of a Religion question, but I was getting a little drunk. Maybe I could ask Him how he felt about Judas. Was that a Religion question?  Forgiveness?

Then, the doorbell rang.

“That can’t be my doorbell. My front doorbell hasn’t work in six years.”

“It’s your doorbell. I fixed it.”

“How did you know it was broken?”

“I just know these things,” He said, and He gave me a look that was a very polite way of saying, “Duhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

I got up and I ran for the door. I stopped halfway to the door and grabbed my hip. I didn’t have any pain, and I wasn’t using my cane. My hip felt brand new. I turned to Him and He gave me another of those very polite looks.

“Did You fix my hip, too?”

“It’s what I do.” He said. “Healing is one of My hobbies.”

I continued to the door and when I opened it, a very old man with long silver hair and a beard was there.

“I’m here to pick up my Son.”


“He’s the only Son I have.”

“He’s in the kitchen. Do you want to come in?”

“No, we’ve got to get going. We’re having a Super Bowl party in Heaven, and He’s in charge of the liquid refreshments.”

I turned around, and Jesus was right behind me. “I wish we had more time,” He said, “but everyone loves my wine. Plus, Me and Pop have got a lot of prayers to answer this weekend. Sunday is supposed to be Our day of rest, but everyone in Kansas City and San Francisco is on their knees asking for a miracle. I’ve got to go.  We’ll have to do this again sometime. You could always come and visit me in Church tomorrow.”

“Okay, I will” I said, “Thanks for stopping by.”

They left and I went back to drinking the delicious wine. After a while I fell asleep. Then when I woke up this morning, my hip hurt, my 5-liter box of economy wine was empty, and the doorbell didn’t work. I guess that it was all just a dream. Well, at least that gets me out of going to church today.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday.

Peace & Love, and all of the above.