Memorial Day

May 30, 2010


Memorial Day 2010

On Memorial Day we always hear from the media, that the day should be more than  family picnics, BBQ and hot dogs. It is of course the one day set aside by the Federal government for remembering those who have fallen in service of our country. This call to remember  is often heard and felt by many this weekend in different ways. There are cemetery visits, religious services, and parades of honor.

I have  personal remembrances that I try  to recall each memorial day. I would like to share these with you.

I remember my visits to certain war memorials,  and reflect  how I felt when seeing each one for the first time.

Antietam and Gettysburg. I remember, being overwhelmed at these sights in the green, tranquil countryside of Maryland and Pennsylvania.  I attempted to comprehend the scope of  violence and death at these civil war battlefields. A total of  74,000 men were to become casualties in these two battles. All were Americans.

Tomb of the Unknown, Arlington Cemetery. The stillness is broken only by the heel clicks and rifle movements of the guard. It was rainy and gloomy the day I witnessed the guard change. Somehow appropriate I thought; A sad drizzly quiet, a tearful rain after war.

The USS Arizona. Pearl Harbor,  The solemn and respectful behavior of all who visited the memorial.  I somehow tried  to imagine the horror, death and destruction of that December day, while feeling the warm Hawaiian sun on my face.

The Vietnam Memorial, Washington, D. C. My generation’s war. I experience a personal sadness having known some names on the black granite wall. Of all the memorials in Washington DC, this one sees the most solemn and respectful behavior of visitors.

The Beaches of Normandy. An overwhelming sense of incomprehension; how the history of the world was changed by the thousands of brave American men who died at this place, on this sand, far from home.

To all the courageous men and women who gave everything, a simple “Thank You” seems just so inadequate and empty.  We were then, are now and always will be deeply and profoundly grateful to you. 

Rest in Peace


School’s out

May 29, 2010

This week, in St. Louis,  was the end of the school year for many kids. Sydney and Kate’s last day was Wednesday. I don’t think much learning was accomplished the last few days, however. I guess it never is, with all the anticipation of the summer break by the students…and the teachers! 

I know, both Sydney and Kate  are pleased to be free for the summer, and are making  plans to enjoy their time off  before they attend the 7th and 4th grades respectively next semester.

Every year to celebrate, we have an end of school luncheon. Usually we go to a nice little restaurant and I get to listen to the tales of happiness and woe about the just completed school year. Yesterday, we went to Lorenzo’s trattoria, a family run Italian restaurant on the Hill. The Hill is the very traditional Italian neighborhood of St. Louis with quiet little streets, quiet little houses and some of the best Italian food west of the Mississippi.

The food at Lorenzo’s is first class and the service is attentive. I enjoy these small family run places so much more than the corporate chains. The corporate giants with their big media advertizing budgets, tell you how much fun it is to be at their restaurants while they push you in, through and out like just so much feedlot livestock. The entire experience seems forced and artificial.

Neighborhood restaurants  are to me relaxing and refreshingly real.

For lunch, Sydney ordered the salsiccia pizza with roasted peppers and balsamic onions. Kate had the fettuccine alfredo and  caesar salad. Both had Dr. Pepper as a drink. Although, if old enough,  I think they would have liked a glass of Chianti!

It always amazes me the degree of sophistication that these girls display. When I asked Sydney how her lunch was, she replied,

“The balsamic onions provide a delicious sweetness to the pizza.”

Kate joined in by reporting that her fettuccine was excellent,  having  just the right amount of Parmesan cheese.

When I was their age, I thought peanut butter and jelly on toast was gourmet high living!

Kids seem to grow up so much faster nowadays. They are clearly more aware of everything around them. Their perspective and understanding of events and situations are a little scary to me. But they seem to handle things just fine.

After lunch, we had to make the requisite stop at Amighetti’s bakery for a few of their famous cannoli for desert. 

After eating two of them,  Sydney took a breath and said, ” This is the best thing I have ever tasted.”

Let the sweetness of summer begin.

 Kuno Von Aspenhaus

Yesterday, I took Kuno for his periodic visit to the spa. He goes every few months for a bath, pedicure and buff and rub.  It is an all day affair, especially this time of year with all the shedding and getting him ready for his summer season.

The spa we go to is nice and they love it when Kuno shows up. I think he is their rock star.  

The spa has a pool  and he is the only German Shepherd that really enjoys a relaxing swim with his toys. I usually watch him swim for a while and then leave and let the girls do their magic with him in the bath.

I do some errands and arrive back home to a very quiet and empty house. Kuno has a way of making his presence felt.

About five hours later,  I get a call from Whitney, she tells me, that Kuno is ready.  When I show up at the spa, he does indeed look ready to hit the summer scene. His coat has lost about a third of is thickness and he is about as fluffy as a German Shepherd Dog can get. He spends a little goodbye time visiting with the spa girls. He is a real charmer. They think it is cool that he speaks , well understands German and they always want me to run him though his paces.  They are also very impressed when I tell them he has a “Tat”. He then shows them his tatoo ( for id) inside his ear. Rock star.

But, by now, like all celebrities,  he is tired of all the attention and wants to go home.  He hops in the back of the Flex and we drive off. When we arrive at the house, he does his mandatory yard patrol to make sure all is in order and no one has taken advantage of the situation while he was out.  He then comes inside and slimes Oscar with a big old tongue lick and takes a nap. 

Later, he has his supper and sheds some more. The fluffy detritus from the bath will continue for a few days  as his summer coat adjusts to the warmer temps.  Think “Pigpen” from Peanuts with four legs.

By about 9 o’clock, Kuno reminds me it is his bed time. We go outside for one last patrol under the full moon.

 He then gets a treat and hops into his bed with his favorite chew ball and it is lights out. 

Tomorrow, the vacuum gets a workout!

 I’ve gotten a lot of mail (which I might add, did not involve delivery by the US Postal Service) on yesterday’s story, “Toilet Talk” . Most of the comments, agreed with this conclusion. Namely,  that people who spend time and money on gadgets like cell phones instead of basic necessities and education,  will be imprisoned in poverty with no hope of knowing the better life they seek vicariously though cell phones.

To give you a better idea of how this misplacement of priorities causes the endless cycle of poverty and disease  in developing countries, I have attached a link to a New York Times article that appeared yesterday. The article talks about people in the Congo spending $10 a month on cell phones and $12 a month on liquor, but “can’t afford” $2 a month to send their kids to school or acquire a malaria preventing mosquito net.

Now, it would be wrong to think that this misplacement of priorities is confined to India or the Congo or any other developing country. We have more than our share of poor priority management right here in the USA. Just watch the six o’clock news any night or go to the mall on saturday afternoon.

As the past president of Harvard University, Derek Bok once said, 

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”

In these cases, ignorance is measured in lives wasted.


Here is the link, if you are interested.


Also, for those who were asking, I need to point out that the World Toilet Association is headquartered in Singapore. Which makes sense as Singapore is perhaps the cleanest place in the world. It is like Disneyland with real people. There are probably two toilets for every person in Singapore and they are all clean, all the time. No kidding.

toilet talk

May 26, 2010


I just read an article about India’s toilet and cell phone situation. Apparently,  India with a population of 1.2 billion people, has more cell phones (564 million) than toilets (366 million).

My first question is, how do they know? I guess you certainly can figure the number of cell phones, by just adding up all the numbers. But how do they know the number of toilets in India? Did they have some sort of potty census? In my travels and experiences in India, I had trouble finding just one toilet!

 Now, I have not  thought much about this subject before, so I have no idea what a proper, acceptable ratio of  toilets to cell phones would be. I imagine that developing countries like India would naturally have a lower ratio than say Canada, where it gets very cold and indoor plumbing is very desirable.

I suspect that the USA would have a high number of toilets to cell phones.  Except maybe, at professional sporting events, where there is always a line to use the ladies room, but every other woman in line is talking on a cell phone.

As a culture, we are always  more concerned with sanitation and preventing body odor than any other country I have been in. I think that is a good thing. Generally, we despise offending anyone with odors or a lack of hygiene. There are of course exceptions, like Mr. Cohen at the hardware store or that restroom in the Texaco station on Olive.

We even have a culture of odor humor. Remember, the movie,  Monsters Inc., when Sulley and Mike are getting ready to go out and Mike needs some “odorant”.

Mike: Can I borrow your odorant?
Sulley: Yeah, I got, uh, Smelly Garbage or Old Dumpster.
Mike: You got, uh, Low Tide?
Sulley: No.
Mike: How about Wet Dog?
Sulley: Yep. Stink it up.

“Stink it up.” That cracks me up every time!  Yep, I would be willing to bet that the USA has a much higher deodorant use to cell phone ratio than India too. But I digress.

The author of this particular piece thinks that this low toilet to phone ratio is  evidence of  two bizarre parallel lives of people  in third world countries; the decrepit slums where the people physically live hand to mouth and the high-tech cyber life to which they escape, when connected with their cell phones and computers. If true, that in my opinion  is just backward vicariousness and they need to stop it before it causes real trouble.

Now, I don’t know much about toilets in India, except that they are scarce, but in  doing some research, I did learn that there is a World Toilet Association. They appear to be a well-intentioned group with the stated goal of increasing sanitation practices around the world. A laudable objective I think, but maybe they should consider a name change.

There is also World Toilet Awareness Day on November 19. 2010. (I have already penciled it in my calendar and plan to celebrate appropriately).

In addition, since 2001 there has also been a   World Toilet College, where no doubt toilet training occurs. ( sorry about that one).

I don’t know about you, but all this toilet talk as left me positively giddy and flushed with excitement. After lunch, I am going to take Kuno and go to that fancy Kohler showroom and see what is new in low flow.


May 25, 2010


Kristy and Thomas Jason were planning an event the other day and the subject of coffee came up; the issue being to serve it or not. Thomas Jason, thought it would involve too many decisions.

TJ: “First, some people want decaf, some regular. Then you have the sugar, or sweetener decision, then milk,  regular or low-fat,…or cream, or half and half.”

KG: ” Don’t forget non dairy”.

TJ: See what I mean, that’s like 32 decisions, just for coffee!”

“I say, No Coffee.”

Observing this from some distance got me to thinking about choices. Particularly, how many we have to make every day. I know there are books written and studies done all the time about this. Most of which conclude that the abundance of choice can be paralyzing, exhausting, even debilitating.  I am sure you have experienced this yourself, either trying to decide which car to buy, or what to have off the lunch menu. Try ordering a sandwich from the deli counter at Publix. That is a nightmare.

When I was young, we did not have all these choices. We had one thing, two at the most. Bread was white, sliced and came in a bag with red and blue balloons on it. If you lived in an ethnic neighborhood, maybe there would be some rye. We did not have 26 different kinds of tuna fish or 10 choices of olive oil. I don’t think anyone had olive oil, except maybe the Italian people down the street. I know they had garlic.

Donna says this is all “marketing” and is essential to consumer capitalism. While I agree, that this freedom of choice is lots  better than say Marxist Russia, where you have one kind of toilet paper (rough) and no coca cola, I wonder if it is best for the country to have 18 different types of toothpaste. Could not we get by with just six?  On the other hand, perhaps our society would be perfect if we had 24 tooth whitening products that prevent dental decay. At least we would all have nice smiles.

Aimee would say, the market’s supply and demand functions will decide what the optimum number is,  and the others will fall by the wayside. Perhaps this is true, but I worry about it nevertheless.

Another thing I worry about is that a lot of this stuff comes from China and I don’t mean cute little Taiwan either. I am talking big, bad Red China. I find it ironic and somewhat amusing, that the world’s largest communist state restricts  everything it’s own people see, feel, hear, smell and taste; and  then provides the USA with unlimited choices of nearly everything. I wonder if it is not some brilliant, evil plan they have to turn our minds into mush as we think about which DVD player to buy and what wallpaper to put on our contaminated Chinese drywall.

Well. I for one, am not falling for it, I am restricting my purchase of all things Chinese to the takeout menu at Big Wong’s.

Lets see, should I get the Mongolian beef or the happy family shrimp with hot sauce. No, wait, the moo shu pork with egg roll,…no I mean  spring roll!

May 24, 2010


Click picture to close

Lucy Van Pelt


Well, my clientele of those random airport people in need continues to grow. On a recent trip, I found myself in the Atlanta airport waiting for a flight. With an hour or so to spare, I took a seat and proceeded to amuse myself with some light reading. After about 10 minutes, this somewhat nervous man takes the seat next to me. He is about 45 with glasses and a slight tic.

We nod the casual greeting that travelers do, and I settle back into my book.

“ I am so full” , nervous man announces.

I look up at him, thinking he is talking to someone else. No one is there.

“ I just ate at Moe’s, I could not finish my food.” He offered intently.

Now, I don’t know who this Moe is, but I assume it is a restaurant at the airport. So, I nod and say,

“ Yeah, those restaurants serve large portions”.

Taking this as his cue, he continues,

“ They just give you a lot, and I am trying to lose weight, I’m on no carbs!”

“My doctor says…”

 He then proceeds to give me a  rather detailed medical history of himself for the past ten years, including a particular intestinal affliction, which, if I had just eaten, I would not be sharing with others…MUCH LESS A TOTAL STRANGER IN THE AIRPORT!

He then moved on to complain to me that his mother in law is coming to visit next week and is staying for ten days. He apparently does not like it when she visits. She seems to find a lot of faults with her son-in-law.

Just when it was getting interesting, they called us to board the plane. I wished him luck and waved  good-by.

Walking down the jet way, I noticed I started to have a tic.