…Tom Joad’s Mom

A view from Ferguson Missouri –

 I’ve debated for sometime if I should write about Ferguson. As a resident the events are very real and very raw. I have no great wisdom, solutions or opinions to offer. This is just a perspective from a resident who cares about his neighbors and community.


In John Steinbeck’s classic novel, “The Grapes of Wrath”, there is a scene where Tom Joad first finds his mother after being released from prison and the following dialogue takes place:

“Tommy, I got to ask you–you ain’t mad?”

“Mad, Ma?”

“You ain’t poisoned mad? You don’t hate nobody? They didn’t do nothin’ in that jail to rot you out with crazy mad?”

I think I can speak for most Ferguson residents, we are stressed right now, we are tired of sirens and helicopters, we are tired of half truths and innuendo, we are tired of advice offered from experts who have never visited our community or those who just dropped by for their 5 minutes in front of a camera.

We are a diverse community. We have proven for years that we can not only get along, but also grow and improve as a diverse community.

We aren’t perfect, not even close; we exhibit the same capacity as all humans, to float between the planes of angels and demons, regardless of skin color. To put that more crudely, there are black jerks and white jerks, black saints and white saints. Our ability to thrive as a diverse community will be based on accepting each other for who we are, saints and sinners.

To view people of any race, religion, political group or profession as a monolithic block is very efficient, it saves you the trouble of having to get to know them as individuals and they can then be simply referred to as “those people”. Please Ferguson, don’t allow ourselves to be divided on simple terms like that.

Let’s fight the good fight of faith, faith in our selves, faith in our neighbors, faith in our community, faith in the better angels of our nature.

I for one refuse to be “rotted out with crazy mad!”


… Sounding Educated


I’ve given up on looking intelligent. I can’t tie a bowtie and I don’t smoke a pipe. Yes, it’s true I have a beard, a grey one even, but in all honesty it shouts age more than wisdom.

So what’s a guy to do?

If I can’t look smart then maybe the next best thing is sounding smart. And what screams education and intelligence more than being able to drop a few Latin phrases at key times during a conversation? The problem is that most well known Latin phrases are kind of boring. How often can you effectively employ, “time flies”, “seize the day” or “let the buyer beware”, during the course of normal conversation?

Enter modern Latin

What we need are modern Latin quotes that can be used during everyday conversation. Latin quotes that will amaze our friends, dazzle our co-workers and intimidate our adversaries.

Say you need a snappy comeback for those aggravating people in your life, maybe even your boss. Sure you could say, “Eat my shorts”, but how much more effective would that be in Latin, “Vescere bracis meis.”

That young lady at your office who is having trouble finding Mister Right, just imagine how grateful she will be to hear your words of wisdom in Latin, “Brevior saltare cum deformibus viris est vita” (Life is too short to dance with ugly men), or perhaps, “Viri sunt viri” (men are slime).

Need a good educated sounding insult? Try this one, “Mater tua tam obesa est ut cum Romae est, urbs habet octo colles!”,  (Your momma is so fat, when she’s in town Rome has eight hills!)

Here’s a few more:

Detesto Lunedi (I hate Mondays).

Diabolus fecit, ut id facerem (The devil made me do it).

Sit simplex, stulte (Keep it simple, stupid).

Capiamus cerevisiam (Let’s grab a beer).

Vene, Vidi, Velcro (I came, I saw, I stuck around).

Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum (I think that I think, therefore I think that I am).

Ubi non accusitor, ibi non judex (where there is no cop, there is no speed limit).

Quondo omni flunkus mortati (When all else fails, play dead).

And if you don’t like any of these, well, “Vescere braces meis!

… Taxes and Feral Cats

We are a family of softies (at least when it comes to critters). If you are a bug that has found your way into our house chances are you will be escorted out of the house rather than being stomped on.

Unless you’re brown recluse spider in which case I will pull out the 12 gauge Mossberg shotgun and blast your little spider guts into arachnid hell … oops, sorry, got a little carried away there … where was I? Oh yeah, we are a kind-hearted family.


So when the first feral cat showed up at our back porch a couple of years ago during winter, meowing and acting all pathetic what do you suppose we did … you’re correct, we fed the poor little creature. Continue reading

… mosquitos and bad drivers

Two eyes focused on the road ahead of me, one ear listening to the ballgame, the other ear is tuned to the pleasant drone of incessant chatter from my 7-year-old grandson in the backseat (which would be annoying if it came from anyone else).

The Cardinals have just taken a 2 to 1 lead over the Brewers when a deep philosophical question was offered from behind me, “Poppy, why did God invent mosquitos?”

The pressure is on… the great “Poppy” can’t say, “I don’t know,” my mind is racing trying to come up with a logical and theologically correct answer that would make sense to a 7-year-old. But all I can think about is buzzing, biting, scratching, malaria and yellow fever. And I’m not going to touch original sin with a 10-foot flyswatter! Continue reading

…New Plumbing

I say that very wistfully, because new plumbing is far from my reality. I live in a house built in 1890, and if that wasn’t enough and to show you how truly smart I am, this is the second old house I’ve owned, the first one being built in … wait for it … 1890!
I fantasize about modern plumbing the way most men lust after classic Shelby Mustangs, vintage Chris Craft runabouts or well, you know, the stuff that men fantasize about. I have dreams of pipes that aren’t rusting or leaking, fittings that actually fit and faucets that don’t carry out a slow form of water torture in the middle of the night …drip…drip…drip.

There are many things I enjoy about older homes, the solid construction, the well crafted millwork, the spacious rooms with high ceilings, but the plumbing … let me tell you about the plumbing.

Wine and Scotch improve with age.
Antique furniture can acquire a patina.
Classic cars become more valuable with each passing year.
But plumbing just gets old!!!!   (I really wanted to add more explanation points)  Continue reading

… Old Dogs and Kindness


On the day we heard of a second beheading of a journalist by ISIS, we had to put down one of our pugs, Tootie.

Tootie came to us as a puppy mill rescue. We were told she was 7 when we adopted her, but we were never sure of her exact age. We were sure however that Tootie had never walked the aisles of the Westminster Kennel Club, her tongue was two sizes to big for her mouth, her proportions were not even close to breed standard and her belly showed the effects having born litter after litter to feed the puppy mill machine.

While her body showed the signs of neglect and misuse her attitude and outlook on life were undamaged and pure.

Everything was a new experience to Tootie, walks provided the opportunity to smell new smells, dig in dirt that had long been denied her in the cage she was confined in, and nothing was better than walking out into new fallen snow where she would prance and gobble the wet white stuff as she went along.

If kids approached us while we were walking the pugs, wanting to pet the “puppies”, it was always Tootie that we let them approach, knowing she would be docile and tolerant of any poking or prodding.

I’ll admit I have been guilty of saying that, “Tootie has the brains of a caterpillar, but she is sweet” … on reflection that may have been more of a compliment than a put-down.

Perhaps an abundance of kindness is to be valued above intelligence or cunning.

Perhaps Andy Rooney was correct when he said, “the average dog is nicer than the average person.”

Perhaps God gave us dogs as a barometer of kindness, a reminder that no matter what depths of cruelty we plumb as humans, a lesser creation is there to show the path of gentleness, loyalty and kindness.

R.I.P. Tootie