The Strongest Man In Poland

I will write this without amendation or revision. It comes from the heart. When I think of my family, when I think of the past I think of what I have been told and what I remember. I don’t research, but I believe and I know what I know from those I loved and one of those stories came from my father who told me we came from Poland and one of our ancestors made his living in Poland by performing as The Strongest Man In Poland. Imagine. At a time when my great grandfather immigrated to American to build a log cabin and live in Wisconsin and raise eleven children with his wife in that log cabin which still stands, one of our people made his living as The Strongest Man In Poland. There are many strong men and woman in Poland and in Ukraine today. In those days […]

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Endurance

In 1915 the ship Endurance of the Earnest Shackleton expedition to Antarctica became trapped and sank in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea. Shackleton’s men abandoned ship and began a 350 mile trek across ice and open water pulling and rowing their lifeboats to Elephant Island. It took them over two months. When they arrived they stood on land for the first time since the beginning of the expedition, a total of 497 days. Now marooned, Shackleton and five members of his crew eventually set out in a 22-foot lifeboat by dead reckoning 800 miles to a whaling station on South Georgia Island. Fifteen days afloat, they survived a hurricane that sank a 500 ton steamer in the same waters. Shackleton and two others then hiked across a previously uncharted glacier, a distance of 32 miles in 36 hours without mountaineering equipment to find help. Eventually Shackleton returned with […]

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Memorandum

I went to a Civil War battlefield recently, a battle for which I had no knowledge. Bentonville, south of Raleigh in North Carolina. There, on March 19-21, 1865, General Joe Johnson and his twenty thousand Confederates met General William Sherman and his sixty thousand Union boys on their way anywhere they wanted. They fought. Three days they fought in sandy forests, amid teeming creeks and fields under cultivation in what some described as fighting every bit as horrific as anything that happened at Gettsyburg or anywhere else during the four year blood letting that became American history. Eighteen days later Lee would surrender to Grant at Appomattox. Johnson himself would surrender to Sherman eighteen days after that. No one at Bentonville believed anything but the truth, yet they fought valiantly, bravely, heroically and without respite. Casualties amounted to four thousand two hundred men. A wood frame house on the battleground […]

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The Great American Novel

United States Copyright Registration Number TXu 2-152-977 The day before a great storm he sat behind the wheel of his old pickup truck before his God with his eyes closed and he considered all the necessary preparations. He had made them. Now he wanted to go somewhere, because men like him want a breather before they enter the realm of combat, although so much of life is conflict. He knew this war would come. It had been predicted. Other men had told him of its coming. As a man he knew the inevitability. They just made it official. They told him when and how much and where but none of that concerned him. He just knew he needed to be ready. Nobody would take care of him if he did not take care of himself and those for whom he cared or loved, for whom he would give himself. They […]

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And What Have You Done?

It’s Christmas, so what does my neighbor do? He puts a ratty old chair out on the curb. That’s right, a ratty old chair. Now, you might think he’d wait until after Christmas, but no. Right before Christmas he puts a ratty old chair on the curb. It’s blue. It contrasts nicely with the snow right before Christmas. I’ve never liked my neighbor. When other people I do not know are putting up Christmas lights and getting ready for Christmas, my neighbor I also do not know but now thoroughly dislike put that, oh you know, ratty old over stuffed chair out on the curb on top of the snow. So you know what I did? I’ll tell you if you can’t guess. I went out there and first I laid a string of Christmas lights on the chair, every which way so its completely covered. Then I ran an […]

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Pandemic Polemic

The pandemic has done many things. No, that’s not true. It only does one thing to many things. It destroys. It’s a virus. It doesn’t know what the hell its doing, but its doing it to a lot of things and its doing it to a lot of people who thought they knew what they were doing. They were wrong. The pandemic is stupid and brutish and vile. People exposed to it may run a fever and develop a cough or become very weak, but some people may also become stupid and brutish and vile. Stay away from them. People may lose their appetite, but the pandemic eats everything. It’s omnivorous. The point I want to make is the pandemic is good for only one thing. The virus reduces everything to the lowest common denominator. You end up with only what matters. That can be scary. No one likes to […]

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Not One Alike

There’s a quilt on the bed. It’s a crazy quilt. It’s what’s called a crazy quilt. You know why it is called by that name? It is called a crazy quilt because it does not follow a pattern. It follows the shape and size of the pieces of cloth of which it is made, the pieces which are available. Any kind of cloth will do or any fabric of any size and shape. They are all sewn together and often with bindings and embellishments of added interest. Buttons and ribbons my be added, perhaps inexpensive yard goods or extravagant scraps from cut up dresses and men’s suits. Anything will do, but therein lies the secret. The best ones are serendipitous. Do you know what the word serendipitous means? It means you didn’t see it coming, it just came, just came together and that’s the way it is. That’s the meaning […]

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Prom Night

“Make it fast,” he said. I tried. “Officer,” I said. “This night is really important for me.” I broke the law. He knew it. I knew it. We both knew it. My girlfriend didn’t know it. I told her to give me a few minutes on the mezzanine level and she didn’t ask why. She hadn’t arrived. The police officer found me first. He stood looking at me with his arms folded and his gun and his badge and the perfect uniform with stripes sewn on the sleeves and insignia gleaming from the lapels with sewn creases and every button fastened over every flap and epaulet. In those days they didn’t wear body armor. I stood there in a rented tux which included a pleated white starched shirt with onyx studs and cuff links, a clip on bow tie and a cummerbund, but no badge, no gun and no rank […]

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The Night I Learned to Dance

I had good parents. They bought me dance lessons. Of course, the lessons they bought me never taught me how to dance. Oh, they taught me how to stand in a line with other boys facing a line of girls across the room and approach en masse to the girl directly across the room, bow and ask, “May I have the pleasure of this dance?” to which she learned to say, “Yes, thank you,” and we danced the fox trot or waltz or swing, but then we stopped when the music stopped. The boys led the girls back to their place and said, “Thank you,” in turn with another polite bow and the girls said, “You’re welcome” and that ended the lesson. As long as I stayed in the hall where lessons were given I could dance as long as everyone else danced, but I couldn’t dance. I was afraid. […]

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Night Train to Bucharest

It’s been twenty-two years so I suppose I can tell the story. “We are living an important and fruitful moment now,” I said. “What?” she asked. I repeated the comment. “We are living an important and fruitful moment now.” “Is that a line from some play?” she asked me. “No,” I said. “I just made it up.” “Why?” “I don’t know. I just did. Can you think of any better way to pass the time?” She looked at me whimsically. She had a little way of arching one eyebrow and screwing her mouth a bit to one side that made her look wicked. On her wicked looked good. “Pass the lighter,” she said. She lit a cigarette. The train we rode had no prohibition against smoking. In those days you could do anything you wanted on a train or anywhere else. People always do. The movement of the train made […]

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