Saturday, March 28, 2015


I received a call a couple of days ago, one of “those calls.” An old friend and correspondent had a heart attack, then by-pass surgery. Fortunately, he lives close to Fargo, North Dakota where there are excellent medical facilities (sometimes called “Little Mayo” because so many of their practitioners are from the Mayo Clinic). Fargo has such a good medical backbone since it is close to Canada. Many patients are Canadians who are sick and can’t get treatment in the model of “single-payer” socialized medicine known as the Canadian system.

Dick once recounted a story, and I can still see the cute grin on his face as he told it, about a fellow he knew who said he was sick of both science and Christianity and was converting to the Native American way of looking at Creation.

“Yeah,” he said, “They believe that the earth is supported on the back of a turtle.”

Dick asked, “What is the turtle standing on?”

There was quite a pause. “Its. Just. Turtles. ALL THE WAY DOWN.”

Haven’t we all used that logic at one time or another?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Red right returning

Many years ago, my daughter, the one who asked the question “How did Hitler come to power,” asked me what the saying “Red right returning” meant.
What an old convention. The saying was a way of giving a mnemonic device to the way the running lights were arranged on vessels--boats and airplanes.
There are several: the shorter words, red, left and port refer to the left side of a vessel or airplane. The longer words, green, right and starboard refer to the right side of a vessel when viewed from the perspective of the tiller, pilot or the driver.
So, if you see a boat or an airplane coming toward you, it is “red right returning.” Can be valuable to a mariner or aviator.
Pretty valuable if you are in the driver’s seat.
The answer to the first question starting with the Treaty of Versailles and the Weimar Republic is more difficult.
There are a lot of difficult questions, and like so many, the more difficult questions have fewer specific answers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meeting Clint Eastwood

I should really be more careful--after passing along the "Kissing Sophia Loren" story, my BIG STORIES may not be so important after all. That has never stopped me yet, so away we go.

This story isn't so much about Clint Eastwood, although dropping a name like that in the headline got you to read a little, didn't it? We were living in San Carlos, California, I worked at the old Navy airbase in Alameda and Linda worked in Silicon Valley and then in "the city." My boss was asked to attend a Republican fund raiser sponsored by Clint Eastwood at his Tehama Country Club in Carmel-by-the-Sea. He couldn't go (or didn't want to, which is more the case) and asked us to attend.

We paid our ridiculous price and stood around making small talk to people who we would never see again when Clint Eastwood entered the room. All the women (and these gals were no spring chickens) bee-lined for him and you expected to hear squeals like in high school. FYI, Clint is really, really skinny and he looks old. Really, really old. Wish I had another word for "really." His face is lined, and then there is that tall, really, really, TALL skinny body. And this was in 2002. Can't imagine what he looks like now. Probably still skinny and TALL...and old.

He didn't stay long at the party, so the girls settled down and we were seated for dinner. Linda sat next to a gentleman who owned a chain of facilities that provided physical therapy and I sat next to his wife. I was not involved in much of Linda's conversation, but she found him to be interesting, charming, Greek and rich. His wife was...well, she was just drunk. Really, really drunk.

One part of the conversation I overheard was him telling Linda about the secret of his marriage. "Oh?" "Yes, it's what I do for her in bed." "OH?" "Every morning," pause, "I bring her a cup of Turkish coffee in bed." "oh".

He told her about building his house on Seventeen Mile Drive which wraps around the famous golf course, Pebble Beach. He complained about the cost of the door hinges, which was probably justified as he quoted something along the lines of $200 apiece...not per door, EACH!! And he was upset because they wanted him to decide whether to use 4" or 6" hinges because, justifiably in my opinion, HE DIDN'T CARE! The landscaping for the caretaker's house ran over a million dollars, and that didn't even start on the main house which was torn down and was in the process of being rebuilt from the ground up.

Many times, I have said, "Only in America." His story is one of them as he grew to maturity in a poor, dirt-floor shack in Greece and somehow made it to America where he gained his fortune. We think he may have been in the Olympics, but not sure on that part.

Another world, for sure, but because Linda charmed him as well, we were later invited to Easter brunch at one of their friends, another Greek man. That was a truly lovely morning, not exactly on Easter as they observe Easter on a different weekend since they use the Orthodox calendar. We enjoyed the people, the customs (like tapping red-dyed hard-boiled eggs with a partner, you get your wish if you break their egg) and dining on a whole lamb roasted on an outdoor spit. Ironically, the wife of the household was from rural Kansas. Who knew?!?

The gentleman from the original dinner party was, again, charming, sociable and welcoming. He was still rich and his wife was, again, drunk. I'm going to guess she had a problem.

Soon after all this, we moved back to Kansas City and have not seen nor heard from those terrific people. Nor have we celebrated another Orthodox Easter. Hope they are all doing well.

Like Sophia Loren who wouldn't remember the kiss, I'll bet Clint Eastwood doesn't value this episode as much as we do. Ah, yes, California.

Friday, March 13, 2015


Joe Posnanski writes so well. Such a talent, and today he posits that the “Miracle on Ice” is the most important sporting event in the United States…EVER! His logic is good, his writing (have I told you how much I admire his writing before??) is good as ever. I think this stuff just pours out of him, too.

How do you get from a discussion of the US hockey victory in 1980 to Sophia Loren? Then, to kissing Sophia Loren? The circuitous route describes the important concept of perspective on the part of the writer/observer.

Take a look at Joe’s blog entry, it is worth it.

As you probably suspected, I am going to describe it to you, anyway.

Joe makes a good case for the importance of that US victory on ice and the lasting taste which I will allow you to observe on your own, but the perspective part of writing, the unique point of view, is illustrated by the story excerpted below:

Jon [Hock, filming a documentary on the Miracle from the Russian point of view] asked him [Kulushkin, the Russian sports writer] what his game story looked like the day after the Miracle. Kulushkin seemed confused by the question. What was in it? Game details. It was a short story. The United States had won. When asked if he had included all of the drama (it was, beyond the significance, an amazing game), Kulushkin asked, "What is the drama?" And then he said this:
"Once a crazy kid kissed Sophia Loren. And he's telling for the rest of his life, 'Oh, I kissed Sophia Loren.'"
Dramatic pause.
"Ask Sophia Loren if she remembers."
Another dramatic pause.
"Different point of view."
I love everything about this quote. I love the imagery of it, of course. I love the small but visible bitterness that still lingers in it. I love the unintentional way that he reveals how painful that loss was.
I was in Los Angeles the day the US beat the Russians in hockey. Not a hockey fan then or now, but that sticks in my memory like the day Kennedy was assassinated. I join Joe in lauding the story. Lesson for us all: let the punch line linger in our minds each time we foist OUR important event on others.