My Penultimate Will and Testament

 

In the past couple months, my friend Mark, my friend Linda’s sister Cathy, and a country line dancing friend of mine, Norma, all died. It’s time to get some of my final wishes down in writing, should I ever become incapacitated or dead, not that I’m anticipating either happening to me, but like they say, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

I use the word “penultimate,” because I expect to make changes before I die, especially since I’m just writing this in sort of a stream-of-consciousness way.  I just want to be prepared with some sort of written document in case anything ever happens suddenly. After all, I was a Boy Scout. Who’s to say what might change? Maybe when I’m on my deathbed, I might suddenly scream out, “Screw Uncle Tony, he’s not getting my watch,” or something like that. Last Wills are impossibly tough to write, because you want it to accurately express your final desires, and you don’t expect it to change. It’s your LAST Will. It’s final. Plus, you’ve gotta feel like you’re putting the whammy on yourself just by writing it. Penultimate Wills don’t come with that pressure. It can always be edited. It’s just what the Pirates of the Caribbean would call “a guideline.” It’s also optimistic, because it shows that you don’t think you need a final draft just yet. This should be a breeze, and, in a way, it is a civic responsibility. Please understand that these are just my wishes at this current moment, they’re not chiseled in stone (though that would be cool).

I’ll leave off the “Hereby, being of sound mind” line, because I can’t really vouch for that. I can say, though, that this is probably as sound as my mind gets, and it’s not likely to get any sounder as I limp into old age. They say that there are two ways than a man can be sure that he’s getting old. Number One is he starts forgetting things. Number Two is…gee, I don’t remember. That’s another reason why I’m writing all this down now.

I saw a T-shirt that said, “I never though I would grow into a grumpy old man, but here I am, killing it.” I regret that I don’t yet have that T-shirt, but I do have a lot of t-shirts and clothes. Upon my demise, I donate them all to the mission in Lancaster. I think it’s on Water Street. Otherwise, Goodwill, or rags at the car wash.

John Brand gets my James Buchanan bobble-head doll. I think he will appreciate it more than my brother Donald would, though I know they both can’t say enough about the only President born and raised in Pennsylvania. John also gets my Lancaster Barnstormer stuff. Go Stormers.

Margaret Brand gets everything related to A Little Bit Better, the Children’s Book I wrote that was illustrated by her daughter, Eileen. Margaret gets my rights to the words in the book. Eileen already has the rights to the illustrations. If you dig around, I might have 40-50 copies of the book on a book shelf someplace just waiting to brighten some children’s lives. Plus, I’ve got some of the “Deleted and Bonus Material” that shows how the book evolved. It’s in a kitty liter bucket marked “A Little Bit Better.” (Clever, huh?) You can also have the framed artwork that Eileen drew that I bought at auction. They’re hanging on my Wall of Fame in the back room.

Deborah Jean Beck Donohue gets my tricycle, record collection, cd collection, video collection, and VCR equipment. Any beer or alcohol left over goes to her, too. Throw in the breathalyzer, too. She won’t use it, but it might give her a laugh. I know that I laughed every time I showed it to her and she slurred, “I’m not drunk. Go ahead. Take my blood pressure.” Debbie also gets the poster she had made of me and Muhammad Ali from a picture taken at the Vista International Hotel at the World Trade Center. I outlived both Ali and the hotel. Otherwise, I would give them this great picture taken by Angelo Dundee.

Earl and Ali

Maria Fundus gets my wine rack and wine glasses. It’s empty now, but I’ll try from now on to keep it stocked with a supply of Pinot Grigot. Maria also gets back the 25th Anniversary Mavericks T-Shirt she gave me. Odds are it will be clean. I only wear it when I go to Mavericks concerts with her, and I do have a washer and dryer, which I bought with my landlord Ed Pelton. The washer and dryer are all his now.

Barbara Hennig gets the armoire in my bedroom, and the big vase in the kitchen. Her husband James Cuozzo gets all my tools and any handyman sort of stuff. Jim also gets the Dutchland Rollers stuff.

My favorite skater, Vanitti #29, a.k.a. Jessie gets to know that I’ll be rooting for the Dutchland Rollers forever.

Geralyn Becker gets the big framed picture that her sister Marianne took of us singing at a LAM Dance. Geralyn also gets full rights to all the issues of The Cyber Space Cadet Gazette, which she helped to produce by letting me write them while I was supposed to be working at Cyber Medical. Hi Guys!

Marianne Driscoll gets her mother Arleen’s bowling ball, which I have kept unscathed from hitting too many pins. If I have any plays written, they, and all their rights, go to Marianne. As of this moment, I’m working on two of them: Alicia Off and Miles to Go Before I Sleep. If I live another decade I should complete both. If any of Marianne’s kids wants my LAM ring from Las Vegas, they can have it.

Patrice Davis gets a copy of all my screenplays and first choice on all my books and audio books by other authors. Whatever she doesn’t want I hope Marianne Driscoll will somehow manage to donate to Veterans, Africa, Goodwill, or Dentist’s offices somewhere.

Linda Merensky gets the unicorn spoon holder in the kitchen and the screen rights to Two Ships Passing…One Failing. If the book is ever finished, she can have the rights to that too. Linda also gets “The Band,” the complete collection of blow-up instruments I used to take to Karaoke.

Isabella, the little girl who lives upstairs gets my clarinet. That way the neighbors in Lancaster can all remember me whenever she practices on it.

Peggy Carbone gets my saxophone. She had to endure hours of listening to me practice when I first was learning how to play it as a kid in South Ozone Park.

Tierney O’Rourke gets all the rights to Bless Me, Jack. After all, it is his story.

The Hall of Fame of the Trotter in Goshen, NY gets the screen rights to Miles to Go Before I Sleep.

Joe Becker of Lancaster gets all the furniture that’s left after my friends pick out things they want. I don’t think Joe will want the stuff, but he’ll know how to sell it.

Tilda Virgilio Clark gets the book of Tuscany cooking I was supposed to give her months ago. And she also gets one of these:

WIN_20180207_22_27_21_Pro

She’ll know what it means, and it’ll give her a big laugh. She really would prefer if I did it with both hands, but I couldn’t hold both hands up and hit the enter key with my elbow. Believe me, I tried.

My nephew DJ, a teacher and sports coach on Long Island, NY, gets all my sports equipment.  He also gets my train style pocket watch to time his slow runners.

My niece Beth, a Lieutenant in the NYPD, gets my pet pig, Buzz Lightpig.

WIN_20180207_22_34_45_Pro

Caution: he’s a lot bigger than he looks in this picture.

 

My horseracing computer (The Dell) and all the horse information goes to my friend Caesar in the Downthestretch@yahoogroups.com group. Don’t worry about deleting any porn first, Caesar said he could do that himself.

My Harness Racing watch goes to Archie in the MerryGoRoundRacing@Yahoogroup.com. I also turn over the reins of the group to him. To the group I leave all the horse paintings and sculptures. You can have contests to see who wins what.

Barbara Flaherty a.k.a. Princess LaLa and her husband John don’t need any material things to remember me by, but, LaLa, I’ll contact you from the afterlife and tell you what Heaven is like. (I’ll also try to find out if Republicans are allowed there.) LOL

I don’t think I have anything that my relatives in Johnstown would want, but they’re welcome to have my TV’s. Maybe some Eagle luck will rub off on their Steelers.

The rent should, of course, be paid up until the end of the month, so anyone can stay in my apartment for a few days and go sightseeing in Amish country. (Unless I croak at the very end of a month, 😉).

I know that my cousin Debbie and my Aunt Jane love to travel (and probably would like to visit the Outlet Stores in Lancaster). Don’t wait too late. Come on out for a visit while I can still show you around.

My brother Kevin gets anything with a Batman logo, and the stuff on the shelf next to Buzz Lightpig. Speaking of pork, LOL, he also gets congratulations on making Chief in the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. There sure are a lot of cops in my family tree. I’m glad none of them ever found out that I smoked pot. Wink. Wink. (a squirt or two of Visine) and another Wink. Wink. Kevin gets all my other laptop computers. Hopefully, he will find enough material on them to inspire a story or two for his blog. Then he can give them to his adopted children Zane and Aiden. They will probably find them to be old-fashioned, as I’m sure they have the latest techno devices, but they can just take them apart or smash them if they want to. That would be fun.

Everything else goes to Brother X, who will be in charge of sorting out the mess. That’s what you get for outliving me, Bro. You coulda put the whole stinkin’ thing on Kevin, but you took those 10,000 steps a day. I have a checking account with The Fulton Bank in Lancaster, PA; another checking account with HSBC in Nassau, NY; and a NY Life Annuity Plan. For details look in the locked steel box that is always somewhere in my bedroom. The key is in it. The key is always in it, otherwise I am positive that I would lose the key. There’s no money in there, but you should have enough money from my accounts to cover any final expenses with a little left over for a party for my friends. Otherwise, could you loan me the balance? LOL. I also have a betting account with Yonkers Raceway. I’m sure that you and a lot of other people will be very surprised if there’s any money left in that account.

I don’t want to be buried, but I would like my picture taken in a fox hole, just to prove that there are Atheists in fox holes. No, you don’t have to haul me around. You can Photoshop it. I don’t want any priests talking at any memorial celebration held in my name, saying that I’m in a better place blah, blah, blah. Even though I might be in a better place, if Trump is still President.

My first choice for the disposal of my carcass is to have my body donated to science, but if they send it back postage due, my backup plan is to be cremated and have my ashes sprinkled on a Harness Horse track. A burial at sea would also be nice, if the Navy feels compelled to honor me, thusly. (While I was on active duty, they offered to “throw me overboard” on many occasions.)

Please play, Prop Me Up by The Jukebox If I Die, by Joe Diffie.

If I should die while hooked up to a machine, unplug me. Wait five seconds and plug me back in. See if that works. If it doesn’t work, then…

Peace & Love, and all of the above.

  1. Earl Paulson

P.S. To get “dibs” on any of the other valuable momentos that will someday become available, just let me know what I have that you’d like to have, and be prepared to wait a very long time before delivery. (Hopefully.)

P.P.S. The washer, dryer, refrigerator, and the table in the back yard are not mine. They belong to the landlord. Everything else is up for grabs. I hope it becomes the longest going-out-of-business sale in history.

 

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A Tale of Two Teams

“Every picture tells a story, don’t it?”

-Rod Stewart

 

Happy Eagle Fans

Eagle Fans

It was the best of times…Philadelphia Eagles fans

Patriot Fans

It was the worst of times…New England Patriots Fans

I got to Fat Pigs Sports Bar in time to grab the next to last bar stool.  The seat next to me was the only one left.  A man came in and asked me if anyone was sitting there.

Everyone else was wearing something that indicated that they were an Eagles fan.  His shirt said, Just Do It.  So I said, “That depends.  What team are you rooting for?”  He said the Eagles, so I offered him the seat.  Roger was from Uganda, and had lived for a short while in New York, and then went to school in Minnesota.  It made for interesting conversation.

Roger

Roger

The Eagles were having a dream season until their quarterback, Carson Wentz, got hurt and the dream became a nightmare.  Then the backup quarterback, Nick Foles, rose to meet the challenge, and the dream continued all the way to Super Bowl LII.  The Eagles scored first and led for most of the game.  The dream was very much alive.  Then, a few hours later, the Patriots had the ball with just seconds remaining in the game.  They were trailing by 5 points and everyone knew what was coming next, a Hail Mary pass to the end zone.  Sure enough, on the last play of the game, the Patriots had their giant receiver, Gronkowski, standing in the end zone, with a swarm of little green men surrounding him.  Tom Brady threw a perfect pass that was headed right for the outstretched hands of the mountain, who towered over his defenders.  But Eagles can fly.  The swarm flew up and batted the football away from the big man.  The Eagles won the Super Bowl 36 – 31, and Nick Foles was voted the MVP.  Pennsylvania was party town.

I stuck around for the after party, but after a while my camera got a little drunk and started taking some very blurry pictures, so I knew it was time to go home.

Blurry Eagle Fans

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles.  This season, you gave all of us in Pennsylvania an opportunity to fly like an eagle.  Thanks.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

 

 

 

 

 

Groundhog Day, Groundhog Day, Groundhog Day…

groundhog-day

Twenty-five years ago, Bill Murray starred as Phil, a Pennsylvanian weatherman, in the movie Groundhog Day in which he inexplicable kept living the same day over and over again. The local library celebrated the event by showing the movie over and over and over again. Happy Groundhog Day. If you like the song, I Got You Babe by Sonny and Cher, this was definitely your day to visit the Lancaster library.

The celebrated groundhog in that movie, Punxsutawny Phil, is still making his prognostications and today at Gobbler’s Knob the rotten little rodent saw his shadow and predicted 6 more weeks of winter. That normally would not sit too well with Pennsylvanian’s, but this year we’ve got bigger fish to fry. On Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. So, a long winter, or an early spring is inconsequential to a Super Bowl victory by our Eagles.

This Groundhog Day was special to me, though. It was also First Friday, a day when Lancastrians (that’s what we call ourselves) support both their local musicians and the local purveyors of alcoholic beverages. I chose to go to a local sports bar, Yorgo’s, because some of the Dutchland Rollers were scheduled to make an appearance there. The Dutchland Rollers are the local Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby team, and I’m a big fan. Watching them brings me back to the days when Charlie O’Connell and his San Francisco Bay Bombers used to school the New York Chiefs at the Armory in New York.

I settled into a comfortable bar stool and glanced up at the TV. It was like Groundhog Day for me, as I was immediately brought back to relive my high school days. My old High School basketball team, Christ the King, was playing against Brother X’s old High School Team, Archbishop Molloy. What are the odds that these two New York high school teams would be featured at a Pennsylvania sports bar? Plus, I graduated from Christ the King 52 years ago. Sunday is Super Bowl 52. I looked around to see if Bill Murray or Rod Serling was in the bar. I was surprised that I didn’t see either of them.

Many years ago, when I was a bellhop at the Vista International Hotel at the World Trade Center in New York City, I had the pleasure of showing Bill Murray to his room. He checked in late one night and was probably coming from a Saturday Night Live rehearsal (or, more likely, an after party). He was upbeat and cheerful, telling me jokes and just being an all around nice guy. He was impressed with the wood paneling in the elevator and asked me what it was made of. I didn’t know. Afterwards I looked it up just in case he ever came back to the hotel. Alas, he never did, and the hotel was destroyed on September 11th. If you’re reading this Bill, it was a cherry wood veneer.

Back when I went to Christ the King, we had a very good basketball team, but Molloy had a better one, and they beat us every time we played each other. (Just in case you’re wondering, I wasn’t actually on the team. I was a cheerleader. My athletic ability back then was the same as it is today, nonexistent.) So, I was not surprise that the CK Royals trailed the Molloy Stanners throughout the game. But then, with about three minutes to go in the game, the Royals popped a few three-point shots and took the lead, and they held it to the end winning 64 to 61. I cheered like they had just won the national championship. The rest of the people in the bar looked at me like I might have been celebrating First Friday a little too long.

I went back to eating the delicious steak dinner I had ordered, and then I saw Mega Pixel and some of the Dutchland Rollers skaters. We talked for a while and then had a waitress snap our picture and I wished them success in the season ahead. I’m sure that picture will wind up on their website, www.dutchlandrollers.com, so look for it. All in all, it was a very good day, and not one I would mind reliving over and over and over and over.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Go Eagles.

Earl

 

Little B&B on the Prairie

 

Mama_Mary_Schmucker_bed_and_breakfast_lg

 

Slowly but surely, my friends are all finding their way to Lancaster, and I look forward to seeing all of them. When they visit, I convert my bedroom into a guest room. It’s still full of my stuff, but the sheets are laundered and the bed is made. That makes it a guest room.  For special guests, I might even vacuum. Since I have a queen-sized bed and I live on North Queen Street, I’m calling it the Queen Suite on Queen Street. Catchy, huh?

My most recent guests were my Scrabble-playing friends, Barbara and Jim. It was their second visit, but the first time that they stayed in the Queen Suite. The last time they were in town, Barbara had injured her leg and was in a wheel chair, so they stayed at a handicap-friendly motel nearby. I know that they both love to eat, so the first time they were here, I went out and stocked the refrigerator full. Then they showed up with enough groceries to feed an Ethiopian refuge camp. Naturally we didn’t finish it all, so after they left, I wound up finishing everything, and within a month, my belt was buckled about 3 holes beyond where it had been before their arrival.

This time they stayed here in my house, but knowing the way they travel, I didn’t stock up too much food ahead of time. I had the eggs and breakfast items I knew we would need, but little else. I guessed right. They showed up with everything in the supermarket except the boy who bags the groceries.   Oh well, there goes my New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. I was just glad I had notches left on my belt to accommodate the weight I expected to gain.

Jim is a handyman, by trade, and the last time he was here he fixed a major problem with my kitchen sink. So, when the handle on my toilet broke a few days before their arrival, I just bought the parts I needed and left them on top of the tank. “The handle’s not working so you have to open the tank and lift the handle manually,” I said knowing that Jim wouldn’t be able to resist fixing it. I was right again. The very first time he went to the bathroom, he fixed it and had it working like new. If you’re anywhere near Secaucus, NJ and need anything fixed, I’ll give you his number. He does everything…Plumbing, Electric, Carpentry, anything. If it breaks, he can fix it, and he does terrific work at a very reasonable price. (Free, for me, ‘cos I’m special!)

We had lunch, and then they ordered out for a pizza for “dessert.” I wondered if the few spare notches left on my belt would be enough. Then we settle down to a game of Scrabble before dinner. The games of Scrabble I’ve been playing with Crazy Debbie had lulled me into a false sense of security. I never lose to her. Now I was swimming with the sharks, though, and I got my ass kicked in the first game. Basking in the glory of victory, Jim was ready for dinner. No, I protested. Let’s play another game first. “Okay,” they said, and Jim proceeded to win again. Then we ate some more.

After dinner, I finally won a game, and then it was time for a snack. We played some more Scrabble and talked about the old days. I broke out a few picture albums, and Barbara broke out her FaceBook pages of pictures. Another snack and it was time for bed.

Breakfast is a major production, and Jim is the producer and chef. “Do you have any more frying pans?” he asked me. “There are two on the stove,” I responded. “Isn’t that enough?”

“No,” he said and gave me a look like I must be joking, thinking that two frying pans was enough to prepare one of his gourmet breakfasts.

“Look in the oven. I never use it. There might be something in there.”

He found what he needed, and was off to the races. Pretty soon we were sitting at a table heaped with scrambled eggs, home-fried potatoes, various meats, toast, bagels, and pots of coffee.

After breakfast, naturally, we played more Scrabble. Jim piled up two more victories, and so did I. Then it was time for dinner. When my friend John visits, he likes to go to the Onion Café. When Geralyn visits she likes to take me to the upscale Belvedere Inn. When Marianne visited with her family we went to the family friendly Alley Kat. Maria prefers Italian food, but she will eat anywhere that serves Pinot Grigio wine. My brother and our mutual friend Jimmy usually like a barbecue in the backyard when they visit. For Barbara and Jim, I picked out a special place for people who really love to eat a lot of food, Fat Pigs.

“Fat Pigs?” they both questioned.

“Don’t get nervous, the name refers to the menu, not the customers. It’s a sports bar for people who love pork. They put bacon on everything.   I think you can even get bacon and pulled pork on the vegetarian platter.”

We spent the evening there.

They packed their car in the morning, but Barbara was still 0 for 7 in the Scrabble games, and I was one win behind Jim, so we played one more for the road. Barbara finally whooped us.

They headed back to New Jersey and I took a nap. Managing a Bed & Breakfast is hard work. LOL

So, if you’re ever in the Lancaster area, you might want to consider staying at the Queen Suite on Queen Street, especially if you’re a good cook or good at fixing things.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

I Think Therefore I Am, I Think

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from near and far and still somehow, it’s life’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know life at all.”

-Joni Mitchell

 

I heard about a Philosophy professor years ago who began a lecture by saying that, “Ancient man believed in many gods.” That part was true. The Greeks had a pantheon of gods and goddesses, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Ares, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, etc. The Romans had Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, Apollo, Vulcan, Mercury, and more.   The Norse had gods like Odin, Frigg, Thor, Balder, Tyr, Njord, and many, many more. Then, the professor continued, “Now, we know that there is only one God.” The learned professor had unwittingly made a giant error of logic. He had presented his personal belief as a fact, without any proof that it was indeed a fact, which it wasn’t. None of us KNOW for a fact how many Gods there are, if any.

It’s winter. I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors. To give the hours greater value, I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books. Recently, I listened to a fascinating biography of the Monk Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas. I learned that when an African-American minister named King had studied the famous monk he was so impressed with him that he quickly changed his own name to Martin Luther King, and he changed his son Michael’s name to Martin Luther King, Jr. Since Monday is the day we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I thought this might be a good time for me to learn a little something about the monk after whom he was named.

The only thing I knew previously about Martin Luther, the monk, was that 400 years ago he defiantly nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church and kicked off the Protestant Reformation. The first thing I learned while listening to Eric’s book was that this fact, just wasn’t true. Yes, he had posted his thesis on the church door, but the church door in those days was like a community bulletin board, and most likely Martin Luther’s paper was one of many papers politely pasted to the door, not one defiantly nailed there. I also learned that the purpose of the paper was not to break away from the Catholic Church, but to initiate a debate in ways to improve the Church that Luther loved. The lesson for me, was that there are worse things than not knowing something. The bigger problem is all the things we think we know, that just aren’t so.

Monk Martin Luther had a problem with the concept of indulgences. The Catholic Church teaches that good souls go to Heaven, bad souls go to Hell, and slightly soiled souls go to Purgatory, where they are laundered and made ready for Heaven. Most souls need a bit of freshening up, so most souls go to Purgatory. The time a soul spends in Purgatory depends on just how dirty it is. It could be days. It could be centuries. It could even be for ages. So, the Catholic Church, which wanted to raise money to build churches and buy statues and gold chalices, got the idea of selling indulgences. Donate X amount of dollars, and you will reduce your time in Purgatory by X amount of years. It was a big hit. The money was rolling in. So, naturally, the Church decided to expand the program. In addition to buying indulgences for yourself, you could donate money for dead relatives and friends. Do you want your poor mama to spend centuries in Purgatory? Of course not. So, buy indulgences for everyone you know. Martin thought this was a pretty sleazy way to run a church, and he hoped to get the church to drop the program. The Church, eager to keep a good thing going, felt that Monk Martin, was a lousy salesman for their team, and they branded him a heretic.

The book reads like an action adventure and I am gobbling it up. I just have one problem with it. The author does a great job of presenting Luther’s argument against the corruption and greed of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, but he makes the same type logic error as the professor I mentioned in the first paragraph. Frequently, instead of saying that Martin Luther fervently believed that God would be for or against something, he states that Martin Luther KNEW that God would be for or against something. Maybe I’m a bit oversensitive about the semantics of the language the author uses, but I get a little bit skittish when people profess to KNOW what God is thinking. Besides, that’s not the job of authors. That’s the job of TV Evangelists, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time on Earth, it’s that the more I learn, the more I realize how little I really know, especially about God.

 

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

 

Earl

 

Declassified

Top Secret

I’m currently listening to an audio book by Liza Mundy called “Code Girls.” It’s the recently declassified story of the women code breakers in World War II. The book is basically a big thank you to the unsung heroes, who were not given much credit in their day, because, primarily, the work they did was Top Secret, and also because they were women in an era when women were not all that welcome in the military.

Codes and code breaking go back centuries, and most wars had their spies. The United States had its fair share of spies, until their number was greatly reduced during the Herbert Hoover Administration. President Hoover believed that “Gentlemen do not read other gentlemen’s mail.” Years later, the sneak attack bombing of Pearl Harbor taught us that Governments entrusted with protecting the lives of their citizens had damn well better start opening and reading the mail of those who threatened that safety.

At the beginning of World War II, while all available men were quickly being trained to do the fighting, the U.S. Government hired women mathematicians to break the enemies’ codes. Part of the training included informing them that the work they were doing was Top Secret, and that if they made any breach in this secrecy, they just might find themselves in front of a firing squad. Thus warned, the young women didn’t even tell their mothers what they were doing, and they remained unsung heroes until just recently.

I was drawn to this book, because I, too, had once been involved in the field of intelligence gathering when I was in the Navy. I worked on the Top-Secret Spy in the Sky Program. We were not threatened with facing a firing squad if we revealed our mission, but we were informed that a breach of security would entitle us to free room and board in the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. Fortunately, the Spy in the Sky program was declassified a few years ago, so I am now free to talk about it.  The Discovery Channel even had a show about it a few years ago.

We’ve all heard the admonition, “Loose lips sink ships,” and during my training we were treated to a few anecdotes about just how costly a slip of the tongue can be. My favorite was about the Cuban Missile Crisis, which I remembered well from my days of hiding under school desks to protect myself from atomic bombs.  You probably already know that American spy planes flew over Cuban and photographed the installation of Russian missile sites there, but do you know why President Kennedy sent the spy planes there in the first place? That’s the part I learned during my training.

The Intelligence community monitors all sorts of foreign communications, and one day they intercepted a telegram sent from Russia to Cuba. It was a simple thing, along the lines of “Happy Birthday, Ivan. Love, your wife.” Seems pretty harmless, because Cuba was a vacation spot for many Russians, but why didn’t the wife go on the vacation trip with her husband. Maybe the man wasn’t on vacation after all. Who was he? A little research turned up the fact that he was a Russian missile scientist. What was a Russian missile scientist doing in Cuba? Are the Russians building missile sites in Cuba? A few passes with spy planes and we had the answer. They were, and as Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes would say, the game was afoot.

So far, my favorite story from the Code Girls book concerns the Battle of Midway. The Japanese had already delivered a crippling blow to the American Navy at Pearl Harbor. Now they wanted to deliver the coup de gras somewhere else. The “Code Girls” deciphered a Japanese message that the Japanese were planning a major attack on “AF” on a certain day. So, we knew when a major attack was coming, but we didn’t know where. We didn’t know what “AF” stood for. The Japanese had used secret two-letter codes for all the major targets instead of spelling out the complete names.

To get the Japanese to tip their hand, the women had the Navy send out different false messages from the most likely targets. One of these messages was sent from Midway declaring that they were desperately low on fresh water. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. intercepted and deciphered a coded Japanese message that they had learned that AF was running out of fresh water. That confirmed it. We now knew that AF was the secret Japanese code for Midway, and the Navy rushed everything they could to Midway. The historic victory in the Battle of Midway became the turning point for the U.S. in the war in the Pacific.  It also became a blockbuster movie.

On January 3rd I celebrated the 47th anniversary of my Honorable release from active duty. I’m glad that the Spy in the Sky project was finally declassified and I can stop worrying about going to Leavenworth for being a blabbermouth. I will wait a while before telling any revealing stories about the program, though, just in case the Intelligence community is monitoring this blog.

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Halloween is Over

For Halloween this year I went as Jerry Garcia, and I didn’t need a wig. It had been a year since my last haircut. But now, as they say on Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.” It was time for a haircut.

I didn’t think it was fair to the students at the Barber School where I used to go to have to face the daunting challenge of cutting off all that hair, so I went upscale a smidgin. The employees at the Walmart barber shop questioned my timing. Since I made it through the dog days of Summer with long hair, shouldn’t I keep it long for the winter to keep me warm? I told them that I had read about a new invention called a hat.

Hats and long hair conflict. Whenever I pull off my ski cap, my hair looks like Doc Brown’s in Back to the Future. It was time to simplify. In short, it was time to get it cut short again.

I liked having long hair. It was the first time in my life I ever let it grow past my collar, and it was pretty cool, but there were some disadvantages. On windy days I felt like I was walking through a cave of spider webs, and when I ate, I often found myself chewing on Peanut butter, Jelly, and Hair Sandwiches. I was constantly picking hairs off my shirt only to find that they were still attached to my head. The cost of shampoo and conditioner was also escalating the longer the hair grew. Plus, the stylist who cut my hair last time said I needed “Product.” In the old days a little dab of Brylcreme would do it, but nowadays you need “Product.” I’m not sure what ingredients are in this product, but everyone told me I needed it.

The salon product was extremely expensive, so I experimented. I tried Coconut Oil. I tried Macadamia Nut Oil. I tried Mane and Tail Detangler. None of them really worked well, and they all attracted flies, bees, and mosquitos.

When I got home from the salon I looked in the mirror and loved my new haircut, except for one thing. The hair looked good, but now my beard looked scraggly, without the mop of hair on my head to balance the picture.

Oh well, I guess I’ll have to find some “product” for my beard now.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl