Monday, July 29, 2019


Fifty years ago we landed on he moon.
Fifty years ago there were 50 years ahead of me.
Now those 50 years are behind me.
Eternity filled in.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

GPS Gone Awry

Years and years ago I distinctly remember being in a conference room and telling someone before the meeting started that they looked sad. I asked, "did you just see a Lifetime movie?" "Did a tractor trailer inadvertently pull into your driveway thinking it was an on-ramp to an Interstate and run over your dog or cat?" Turns out, these things happen.

Today's WSJ's A-Hed piece is about GPS systems sending traffic onto people's lawns due to bad mapping that has their greenswards down as thoroughfares.

Back in the day when there were only paper maps, I would occasionally read of the map companies, Rand-McNally, Hagstrom, et al that needed to change a tiny detail of their highly detailed maps when they somehow showed a short road that was really a person's driveway. The owner of the house with that driveway would occasionally get a vehicle, sometimes a tractor trailer, trying to use their driveway as a connecting road, only to find it brought then smack in front of a garage door, or another vehicle parked in the driveway. Backups were often difficult.

Well, the same thing is happening when digital GPS such as Google Maps, Mapquest, or Apple Maps clearly sends instructions to the user that your driveway or cul-de-sac is the back way to the Interstate.  Houston, we have a problem.

The A-Hed piece reports on a flock of stories from across the nation of vehicles being sent down the wrong path and what the adjacent homeowners have taken to doing to correct the situation.

Notifying the creator of the application can result in corrections, sometimes taking a good while, sometime being quickly corrected, and sometimes not corrected at all.

When the situations goes uncorrected for a long time, homeowners have posted signs, such as the ones above, The homeowners have also parked large vehicles in an attempt to prevent through traffic. Sometimes this works; sometimes not.  Mail boxes, front steps and lawns have been driven into and onto before the driver realizes they've made a boo-boo.

A few years I went rock shopping with my daughter and my son-in-law to a rock landscaping concern here on Long Island. I wanted to buy a medium-sized boulder for the backyard to act as a bit of a focal point. I love landscaping, and have learned of establishing focal points.

The stone yard had boulders of all sizes, shapes and colors. River stone, marble, and granite. Everything was priced at 50¢ a pound. The owner would take your chosen piece with a Bobcat forklift and weigh in on a truck scale, then deposit it on the roadbed of the pickup truck you hopefully came in.

Since my son-law works as a land surveyor and is in excellent standing with the owners, he can get access to the company's crew cab Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck. A Godsend for rock shopping.

I even commented on his access to such a vehicle at my daughter's wedding. I said my wife and I were surely not losing a daughter, but were instead gaining a son-in-law who comes with a truck.

The first of the two times we went rock shopping the workers at yard were loading an ENORMOUS boulder onto one of their flat bed tracks using a hoist. The boulder was so big the truck seemed to list with the weight. It looked precarious. We gave that truck a wide berth.

We asked who was buying such a large piece. The story went that a woman whose house was fairly close to a sharp curve was tired of having speeding vehicles take the turn too fast and veer off and come to a stop somewhat close to her house, tearing up the grass in the process.

Her plan was simple. Place the boulder on her property near the curve so that if a driver missed the curve they would whack into the boulder before running up on the grass toward the house. Possibly deadly for the driver, but hey, I guess she thought, you ran into the boulder. It wasn't moving. Hopefully, your airbag is working.

Cars missing the curve is not quite the same as a GPS sending you toward someone's driveway, but if you do come face-to-face with the Rock of Gibralter, you've probably done something wrong.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Queen is Carrying

It would be extremely rude to say Queen Elizabeth is an old bag. She's up there in age, but she's not an old bag. And neither is her handbag, which for some reason we constantly see on the Queen's arm.

I don't remember ever seeing Hillary Clinton, or any other American female politicians appearing in public with their handbag. Wen Hillary was campaigning, someone in her entourage paid for the shots and beer she consumed when she was "one of the guys" in 2016. Current Democratic female presidential hopefuls also never seem to be seen slinging a purse. For for some reason the Queen of England is different.

I'm pretty sure when I would watch her entrance at the Royal Closure at Ascot this past June she was toting her bag. And being outside like that might still give her a need to keep her bag close by. You never know when someone is going to steadfastly refuse to serve you alcohol no matter how old you are. My wife, who is 72, has been proofed at a state store in New Hampshire for id.

But what just hit me now is that even when the Queen is pictured meeting someone in Buckingham Palace—her home—she is seen with her bag on her arm. I mean, the Queen is indoors, where she lives, and she's walking around with her purse. Quite honestly, I don't get it.

Is it product placement? Some leather goods concern loaded with Royal Warrants, in business since the age of Cromwell, has insisted that she parade their goods, whether it be saddles, or pocketbooks?

Being male, and American, I can't tell who made the Queen's handbag. It looks practical, but is it really necessary for her to carry it around the palace when she's greeting dignitaries?

I'm sure the queen doesn't answer her own front door when someone comes-a-calling, but what American woman, politician or not, would answer the door with their handbag?

She reminds me of Ruth Buzzi so many years ago on Laugh-In, who was always slugging Arte Johnson on a park bench with her sack of leather when he tried to get fresh with her. Is the Queen similarly prepared to whack someone who she feels is aggressive?

Joan Rivers, when she was making a name for herself as a comedian and appearing as a guest on the Johnny Carson show in 1965, was always schlepping out to the guest chair carrying her handbag. Even when she became quite established she would appear on Carson with a small clutch bag. (Check her and Carson out on YouTube. Humor as it once was.) I suppose Joan, being a native New Yorker, never felt comfortable leaving her bag somewhere out of sight.

The above photo is just the latest example of the Queen, in this one greeting Boris Johnson, the new prime minister and the 14th one to come on duty during her reign, with a leather satchel swinging on her arm.

I did hear a news clip of a press conference of someone asking Mr. Johnson when he was Mayor of London, "how long have you cutting your own hair?"

Boris doesn't quite look as disheveled as he once did, but it just might be that the sly old Queen, rather than beheading Johnson, will whip out a pair of barber shears and give him a haircut.

Now that would be news.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Morgenthaus

Ever wonder why 96th Street is an express stop on the Broadway Line, and not say 88th Street? If Jimmy Breslin is to believed in his biography of Damon Runyon, then it was due to Robert Morgenthau's grandfather, Henry Morgenthau Sr., who, as a NYC developer around the turn-of-the-last-century, among other things, lobbied the Interborough Radid Transit Company (IRT) to make 96th Street an express stop because he was going to be building apartments in the area, and what better appeal could there be to time-sensitive New Yorkers (even then) than to tell them they could live within a traffic light of an express train stop that would whisk them downtown faster than ever?

I love reading about the famously departed whose grandfatherly ancestry predates the light bulb. Robert Morgenthau, Federal and NYC prosecutor, has passed away at 99. His grandfather was born in 1856. That is some stretch of time to only go back two generations.

Robert M. gets the full-Monty obituary treatment in today's NYT obituaries section. Or, very nearly the full-Monty. Sure it's a six column full-page narrative of the highs and lows, but there was no front page obit placement, or even a teaser that his obit would be found further inside the edition. Perhaps it was the late Sunday passing that kept the 21-gun salute off the front page.

Regardless, I remember his father's signature on United States currency still in circulation in the '50s and '60s, because Henry Jr. was FDR's Secretary of the Treasury from 1934 to 1945. Turns out the grandfather, along with building buildings in Manhattan, was President Woodrow Wilson's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, that very large tract of the globe that existed prior to
World War I. You need an old map these days to find the Ottoman Empire.

If Texas Governor Ann Richards said of George H.W. Bush that he was born with a silver foot in his mouth, then it would seem Robert Morgenthau would have been born in a voting booth. But election to any office other than District Attorney of New York was never where Mr. Morgenthau found employment.

Over the years there were always stories in the paper about Robert's non-official life. His living upstate near where he was born and raising chickens. His boat ride with his second wife through the Erie Canal locks. How, despite his leading major prosecutorial offices in New York, he never prosecuted a case himself.

Some of us are just born to be administrators.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Mad Magazine

Over the weekend there were two essays that appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, one in the Journal's 'Review' section, the other as an Op-Ed piece in Saturday's Times. Both writers recounted the influence Mad magazine' had on their young lives growing up.

Both pieces are a reaction to the news that Mad will no longer produce new material, but will instead recycle its old content. Sort of like a greatest hits offering. Apparently, Mad is no longer as popular as it once was with the male, teenage wiseass who is crashing through puberty. The publisher is hemorrhaging money.

Both authors are noticeably younger than myself. Bruce Handy and Tim Kreider credit Mad for way more things than ever occurred to me when I read it in the '50s and early '60s. Of the two, Mr. Kreider in the NYT (perhaps fittingly) appears to be the most serious, crediting 'Mad' that..."behind all the adolescent satire and parody was a moral agenda."

Both Mr. Kreider and Mr. Hardy are writers, so of course having now grown up they can recognize what the grownups who were producing 'Mad' were all about. But believe me, reading 'Mad' when you're 11- or 12-years-old, you wouldn't know a moral agenda from a German Shepherd.

Both writers have some distinctive memories of the 'Mad' magazine content. Interesting, both recall the parody of Edward Gorey's "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" where Gorey, composing a macabre line of poetry for each drawing of a child he makes for every letter of the alphabet, works his way through the alphabet with couplets like: 'K is for Kate who was struck by an axe...L is for Leo who swallowed some tacks.

'Mad' apparently updated the rhymes with current childhood dangers that reflect the era of school shootings and active shooter drills, something my guess is Handy and Kreider grew up with, just as much as I grew up with the threat of nuclear annihilation and "Duck and Cover." drills. Q is for Quinn whose life has just begun...R is for Reid, valued less than a gun."

There have always been dangers lurking as you grow up. Not the same dangers, but ones that will nevertheless snuff out your life.

Aside from my memories of 'Mad' and its various regular features, especially 'Spy vs. Spy,' I will forever remember the 1961 issue whose cover showed us that 1961 is still 1961, even if you turn it upside down!

This was fantastic. What other year could you do the same thing with? It turns out 1881 is a good one. But the pickings are slim. The next upside-down-is-the-same-year after 1961 will be 6009, a year so far in the future you might conceivably be concerned that no one will ever see it. Or at least still be collecting Social Security benefits.

Can anyone tell me what NYC Subway line is depicted on 'Mad' magazine's cover? Or at least on the cover of the issues I would be reading at Siegal's Candy store in Flushing without paying for the issue? Look closely. There is a character jumping out of the M pointing to the IND line. The what?

Years ago my boss, who was several years younger than me and not from NYC, loved it when I explained to him that the NYC subway was once run by three private companies, known by their abbreviations as the IND, the Independent system; the BMT, the Brooklyn Manhattan Trains; and the IRT, Interborough Rapid Transit.

Each company had their own railroad standards, thus the gauge for each company's tracks was different, thereby preventing an IND car from ever rolling on an IRT track, etc. Just some of the baked-in incompatibilities of the current system that it is stuck with forever.

But learning is not always a one-way street. I will forever remember Rob telling how the western part of a town usually had the better homes than the eastern part of time. Rob, who grew up outside of Hartford, CT, with remnants of New England factories still dotting his landscape, explained that with smokestacks, and prevailing winds, soot would blow to the east of the smokestacks, leaving that part of town with dirty wash hung on the line, and therefore, a less desirable place to live. The swells lived west of the smokestacks.

Mr. Hardy credits 'Mad' magazine with leading him not to do so well in school, thus precipitating parental intervention when his grades started to slip. He feels his new found adolescent attention to the magazine caused his attention to wonder, causing him not to apply himself so well in school.

As for myself, I can't say reading 'Mad' caused any parental intervention. Bur my own reading habits didn't escape some parental worrying when the show 'The Untouchables' was popular on television, the story of Eliot Ness cleaning up the Capone-era gangsters in Chicago.

I became smitten with stories of gangsters. I bought a cheap paperback, complete with photos that gave little biographies of the bad boys and girls of the 30s, generally Al Capone, John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, etc. I read the Wanted Posters in the Office. (They really did put them there once upon a time.)

I loved reading about the names of the prisons they were sent to. I tucked the book between the mattress and the box spring in my room, only to have the book discovered, and the worry begin, when the mattress was flipped.

Mom and dad were still around as I got old enough and didn't become a gangster. When the 'Sopranos' was ever-so popular, I was watching something else. I couldn't care less about those guys.

We all move on.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

H. Ross Perot

I've been waiting a few days to share my thoughts and experience regarding H. Ross Perot. I read Maureen Dowd this morning, and, as usual, she sent me to the dictionary. Her screed this morning is aimed at AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and her tantrums against Nancy Pelosi and the older members of the Democratic Party. Maureen tells us she's been enscorcelled to write about AOC in the past... Well, I've been enscorcelled to write we about H. Ross Perot.


I'm sure there's list somewhere of what events changed the course of history. It might even be part of a test in some college course. Certainly the list could be divided into centuries and even countries, but again, you have to be almost of a certain age to realize that H. Ross Perot changed the course of history. He gave us the Clintons.

No, not because he was their father, or even their uncle. He was the third-party candidate in 1992 that upset the apple cart and kept George H.W. Bush from being reelected president.

Ross fittingly rated a front page, below-the-fold NYT obituary on Wednesday, written by the redoubtable Robert McFadden. It has already been noted in these postings that right now, anyone who passes away near, or over 90, it's pretty much a cinch that McFadden has pre-written your obit, waiting for the official pronouncement of your demise. The file is waiting to be dragged to the obits page. Perot was 89.

The Times gives Perot the full-Monty treatment. The page one obit jumps to a full two-page spread, with large photos, a News Analysis and a sort of appreciation column. The guy did change history.

In 1970 the company I had already worked two years for, Blue Shield of New York, or United Medical Service (UMS), decided to outsource the EDP department. It was EDP in those days,  Electronic Data Processing, not IT, and noisy keypunch machines were very much in use. (Computers were also referred to as electronic adding machines, EAM.)

As you might expect, this created quite an uproar because people's jobs were eliminated, and the small EDP department was "re-badged" as employees of EDS, Perot's rapidly growing Electronic Data Services company.

In came Perot's boys, and everyone was male. Suits, ties and white shirts, their work uniform. And nearly everyone was ex-military, Naval Academy types. Perot had graduated from Annapolis, and the military was his pipeline.

We all heard the stories of his delivering newspapers on horseback in Texarkana. He had been  a salesman for IBM, pushing mainframes computers into the workplace. Supposedly, has was so successful at meeting his IBM sales quotas that the stories went he was on the golf course by the end of January.

The EDS contract with UMS was to develop a new claim system for paying claims. Not that Perot's people knew exactly how to do this, or had a proven track record of doing it, but fly-by-the-seat-of- your-pants was the order of the day. They learned as much from us and we learned from them. I was part of a small group of people who tested their efforts before they went into production. And believe me, they were way behind in delivering the final system.

I distinctly remember the day Ross came into the office to meet some of his key people who were working in the office right behind me. As pointed out by Mcfadden, Ross was not tall, and I remember him going right past me, as tall as I was sitting down.

I guess the door was closed, because I didn't get to hear him. But if Alec Baldwin has made a living out of impersonation Donald Trump, Dana Carvey made a living impersonating Perot on 'Saturday Night Live.'  Perot did have a high pitched, nasal voice, that had homespun qualities, a homily sound bite waiting to happen. His presence in the 1992 presidential debates is the stuff of legend.

Mentioned in the obit is Perot's effort at getting his employees out of Iraq as they were being held hostage. I worked with one of those people, Bill Gaylord, when he was assigned to UMS. Perot's business was built on government contracts—domestic and international governments. He knew how to do business with governments and their complex purchasing rules. Anyone who can master the U.S. Government's purchasing manual is destined to get rich.

And Perot certainly did. After completing the work on the private sector of the business UMS administered, Perot and the "whiz kids" went to work on the Medicare Part B side of the business, the contract with the government. A new system for that took way more time than expected as well. But when it was finished, EDS had a system they could promote to all the plans that did Medicare business. And that was lucrative.

On the heels of snaring the contract to do work with United Medical Service, Perot took on Wall Street, trying to modernize the back offices that were awash in paper.

I worked as a clerk at a Wall Street firm, Burnham & Co., and you wouldn't believe how much paper there was. Yes, there were some computers, but stock certificates had to be handled and delivered by hand through the network of "runners"  between firms. The certificates themselves were kept in "Cashiers," a supposedly restricted area surrounded by what looked like chicken wire.

Perot was going to modernize the NYSE and bought a firm, dupont, Glore Forgan. This exposed the salty Texan to hard-bitten, cynical New Yorkers. It was not a good fit. Perot retreated from trying to modernize Wall Street, but not before losing a bundle and taking a parting shot and calling Wall Street a 'Red Light District.'  Perot did not stand for what he perceived to be immorality, and Wall Street, to him, had plenty to go around. Still does.

Yes, Ken Follett's best-seller, 'On the Wings Eagles' did recount the hostage rescue in Iraq. Not mentioned in the obit is the 1983 movie  'Uncommon Valor' staring Gene Hackman, Robert Stack, and Patrick Swayze about rescuing prisoners held in Laos after the Vietnam War. The movie is a thinly veiled story about Perot's efforts to liberate POWs. In the movie, more rescuers die than those that get rescued, but it is an action film.

Did Perot have an effect on the 1992 Presidential election? Was he a precursor to the rise of Donald Trump and alleged Russian influence in 2016 through social media? The obit says no, even though he got 19% of the popular vote, he got no electoral votes.

But he did sway states that might have gone with their electoral votes to create a majority within the state for George Bush? Bill Clinton picked up electoral votes that George H.W. Bush would have won. Perot changed the course of history.

But why did he jump into the election? George H.W. Bush was asked if he knew why Perot jumped in and hurt his chances. Ever the diplomat, Bush demurred and basically said he didn't know.

But there were known factors at work. As vice president for Reagan, Bush had to confront Perot and scotch his efforts at going to Southeast Asia and trying to free POWs. Perot's mission got cancelled, and the feeling is he never forgave Bush for that, even if he was just the messenger.

The other factor at work is a little harder to pin down, but Texans do not like interlopers, those that come into the state and do well. And George H.W. Bush was a Connecticut Yankee who conquered part of the Texas oil business and became quite wealthy. The Bushes were not real Texans.

The newscaster, Dan Rather is from Texas, and he seemed to have a misguided mission to embarrass the son, George W. Bush, with a story about getting out of the Army and into the National Guard during the draft era surrounding the Vietnam War.

Dan Rather steadfastly used a document that clearly could not have been typed when it was said to have been written. A use of an ordinal number with a 'th" could not have come from the purported timeline. Rather kept at it,  and eventually was booted from CBS News along with his producer, also from Texas. When your family is not from the from the Lone Star State, you are not a Texan. You can't say, "Remember the Alamo."

The 1992 debates were pure theater. Perot with his graphs, George H.W. looking at his watch, and Clinton being a country boy. It may never happen again; three left-handed people running for president at the same time.

Those were the days.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Wisdom on an 8-Year-Old

Like many things that I remember, you have to be of a certain age to also remember them. Take Coca-Cola. Does anyone remember when there was a "New Coke." Certainly not the people in the film 'Yesterday' where the main character goes into a store and asks for a Coke. They stare at him blankly, and say they only have Pepsi. The execs in Atlanta are wondering how that got into the script.

Ditching the formula for 7-x took courage. I've always heard that Coke's formula is hidden in a safe in Atlanta. But in 1985 Coke launched a campaign to promote New Coke. They were discontinuing the "old" Coke. It may not have been the "shot heard around the world," but you'd have thought they were doing away with the $1 bill.

The new taste was supposedly less sweet. Between Coke and Pepsi, Coke was always the sweeter of the two. As for my childhood preference I really didn't favor either one. I drank enough Mission cream soda that it's a wonder my teeth followed me into adulthood.

The only Coke and Pepsi I liked were the empty bottles we could find at the athletic field. There was a 2¢ deposit on the empties, and a 5¢ deposit on the "family" size bottles. We rarely found any 5¢ empties.

Coke was always unique to the other sodas of the era in the '50s. 7-Up and Pepsi could be purchased in 7 oz. bottles; Coke in 6½ oz. bottles. They had to hold back that ½ oz. Marketing.

Coca-Cola syrup, the gallon bottles that soda fountains mixed with carbonation, also had therapeutic properties. In 1958 when I had my appendix out and spent what was then the recovery period of 7 days in the hospital,

I distinctly remember it was 1958, because the Top 40 song of the summer on AM radio was 'The Witch Doctor,' sung by David Seville and his creation of Alvin and the Chipmunks. The song did have lyrics, but the hook was the sounds of the song: Ooo-eee-Ooo-ah-ah-ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang, repeated four timers as the chorus.

I was nauseous from the effects of  the ether administered as the anesthetic (The surgeon's bill was $75.) I distinctly remember a nurse giving me a cup of Coke from the gallon jug. Pure Coca-Cola syrup. It was good. I remember feeling better.

I was reminded of the summer of 1985 when I read the obituary for Philip H. Geier Jr., 84, Empire Builder Who Made an Advertising Giant Even Bigger.

The uproar over New Coke was raging. It turns out Mr. Geier was the head of an advertising agency that was responsible for convincing the Atlanta execs that a "New Coke" would give them the edge in the "Cola-Wars" (Billy Joel's, 'We Didn't Start the Fire.')

New Coke was DOA. In three months Coke abandoned the product and restored what was the "old" Coke to the shelves.  The campaign was an unmitigated disaster, and probably entered into a case study at Harvard Business school.

And if you think the uproar was an exaggeration, consider the 8-year-old boy Scott who lived next door and wondered out loud at the July 4th cookout, "how could they do that?"

I remember the post-mortem analysis was they felt the mistake they made was that by introducing New Coke they cut off access to the "old" Coke. Only "New" was available. They didn't count on the uproar they would generate when people were told they could no longer get their old standby.

They just didn't ask Scott.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Phrase Makers

There is nothing like the obituary of a salty print journalist to bring out the best in newspaper quotes.

And when the deceased is Steve Dunleavy, 81, "Avatar of Murdoch News,"  it's all the better because there is a greater body of work and acquaintances to draw on.

Mr. Dunleavy  had been at his trade so long there's even an Ava Gardner story. Ava, reluctant to give an interview to Steve at a New York nightclub, thew a glass of champagne in his face, trying, I'm sure, to underline what "no" meant.

Well, even "no" is a story, especially when you can create a headline: "Last night I shared a glass of champagne with Ava Gardner. She threw it: I wore it."

Mr. Dunleavy was with the New York Post as one of the original journalists to join the paper after Rupert Murdoch took it over in 1976, beginning what I would call the golden age for the paper.

Dunleavy was Australian, as is Rupert Murdoch, and with Ray Kerrison, editorial cartoonist Paul Rigby, Page Six gossip and photos, along with headlines like "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar," they all contributed to putting the Post ahead of the Daily News as to which tabloid was the sauciest. Given a choice as to which one I'd pick up if they were both left on a seat, I would always choose the Post.

Sam Roberts in the NYT obit gives the journalist's equivalent of a 21-gun salute, a 6-column account of his career. It's an affectionate narrative that gives Dunleavy credit for breaking major stories in addition to getting champagne in his face at the Stork Club from a temperamental actress. I suspect Mr. Roberts wrote the obituary on deadline rather than relying on something prewritten.

Dunleavy exposed Elvis Presley's drug use, and interviewed some very unpopular subjects: the mother of Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy's assassin; Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler.

"Mate, I've never had a bad day in journalism in my life. You win, you get drunk because you won. You lose, you get drunk because you lost." A bar on West 47th Street, Langan's served as his second office.

Reporters who knew him would observe: Charles Leduff, "Dunleavy doesn't take food with his meals."

And two of my favorites checked in. Pete Hamill, "I always thought he was writing his columns like he was double-parked."

Jimmy Breslin, "...and he wrote simple declarative sentences that people could read, as opposed to these 52-word gems that moan, 'I went to college! I went to graduate school college! Where do I put the period?'"

Over the years I've heard the Breslin quote repeated often, but I never knew the context. I immediately thought of Breslin's comment when I was reading something in the New Yorker by Robert Caro, I think, that was a sentence that went on for 101 words. Not run-on, as the thirds grade teacher always warned us against, but a true sentence that used dashes, clauses of all varieties, and prepositional phrases, that if diagrammed would require two pieces of paper and look like a schematic drawing for landing gear. No wonder Caro is still working on his last book in his Lyndon Johnson series.

Stuart Marques said, "there are a million Steve Dunleavy stories and they're all true, even the ones that never happened."

The news marches on.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Declaration of Independence

Live long enough, and you'll forget more than you remember. I've read many things, but it just seems some things stick more than others. How do you explain prominently remembering something you read decades ago, but you're unable to recall yesterday's headline? No matter.

For decades I've been carrying the memory around of the family I read about in the NYT that, lead by the senior member, would gather around each July 4th and take turns reading aloud passages from the Declaration of Independence.

I remember nothing about the name of the family, or where they gathered. But if it didn't get me thinking of doing something similar, it did have the effect of my paying more attention to the facsimile reprint of the Declaration that the NYT would reprint on the back of one of its sections each July 4th.

I don't know when the the Times started doing this—and they are still doing it—albeit they've shrunk the reprint from a full page to something smaller,  making it even harder to try and read it from the inimitable cursive script used by the colonists that has the letter "s" written in a looping "f." I never knew what was up with that, but if you can detect an "f", it's really an "s."

The Times has however provided a transcription in regular print surrounding the shrunken facsimile. And below, they've listed the signers and the states they were from. Reading the Declaration made easier.

You have to hand it to the colonists who actually took quill pen to parchment to write the Declaration out. It can't have been easy to write a lengthy document without the aid of white-out, or word processing. There are no cross outs in the Declaration.

It was fun to get past the Biblical opening..."The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands..." and dive down a little deeper into the text. It's hard to decipher, and it makes you wonder why are there so many people missing cursive writing?

The most fun was always found in trying to see who singed the document. Most people know the main signature belongs to John Hancock. Growing up I always remember the phrase..."put your John Hancock right there..." when someone was instructing you to sign something. I wonder how many people today would look at you if you were to now so instruct a signature to be placed somewhere. "John who?"

Where I grew up in Queens, there is main street that runs a very cow path route north/south that crosses Northern Boulevard: Francis Lewis Boulevard. There is a high school named after the fellow. And who was he? Well, he was one of those who put his John Hancock under John Hancock.

No, the family that reads to Declaration, the Seymour clan, were not signatories to the document. But with the scion's name of Whitney North Seymour Sr., followed by Whitney North Seymour Jr., married to Catryna Ten Eyck, a descendant of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island (not a signer of the Declaration) you might think about the toast by of John Collins Bossidy at a 1910 Holy Cross Alumni dinner...

And this is good old Boston,
 The home of the bean and cod,
Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots,
 And the Cabots talk only to God.

And how was I reminded that it was the Seymour family that gathered on Cape Cod on July 4th and took turns reading from the Declaration? How else? Someone dies and I read it in an obituary.

Whitney North Seymour Jr., a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District in New York, passed away at 95. And being a nonagenarian, there is no surprise that Robert McFadden has written the obituary.

And right there in the lead is the word that McFadden used when John Lindsay passed away, "patrician."

"Whitney North Seymour Jr., a patrician Republican who battled graft as President Richard M. Nixon's United States attorney in Manhattan in the 1970s..."

I remember the name, and I remember the headlines he created as he attained convictions.

When I thought of Whitney Seymour North Jr. I always thought of Whitney Darrow Jr., a New Yorker cartoonist who contributed pieces for over 50 years.

It's the name Whitney, first or last name,  that creates an air of high social hierarchy. But it can be deceiving. When I was giving a demonstration of some fraud software to a Dr. Whitney and he mentioned Saratoga, I immediately thought, hey, this guy might be one of the wealthy Whitneys associated with horse racing. Maybe I'll get a pass.

When I inquired if he was connected to the racing Whitneys, he dryly asked, "are they someone who is rich and famous?"
"Then it's not me."

Close your eyes, say Whitney North Seymour Jr. a few times and you correctly imagine a private school education, Princeton, and Yale law school. His father was President Hoover's assistant solicitor general and a partner in a white-shoe firm Simpson Thatcher and Bartlett. For a brief point in Junior's career he worked at his father's firm.

Mentioned in the obituary are books he wrote, and a reference to contributing articles to the Times and other periodicals. Not mentioned is the one article I so distinctly remember that he wrote that appeared in the Sunday Times magazine section.

The 1974 story is a several thousand word essay recapping a vacation trip with a station wagon and a trailer to Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona and the Seymour's run in with the law: "Frontier Justice: A Run-In With the Law." It seems the Seymour's got a traffic summons for "parking on the roadway."

It doesn't take you long into the story before you realize that the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York is splitting hairs with an Arizona state trooper over the definition of "roadway." It's turning into a Federal case.

When you're finished reading the story, there is a denouement, but you are left wondering why would you go through all this?

It's easy to understand when you know the family takes turns reading the Declaration of Independence every July 4th.