Thursday, February 23, 2006

POW in the War Between the Sexes

Having grown up with two mean older brothers and no sisters or close female first cousins, I was brought up with a very scant knowledge of girls and women. But I was smart from the beginning; I didn’t understand females and admitted it. Despite my groveling and deference I grew up suffering at their hands. Women can detect even the slightest fear and will take advantage of any male who shows it.

Women teachers seemed to single me out for disapproval. No matter how hard I tried to please them, they came at me with a look of extreme displeasure, not unlike Representative Nancy Pelosi, who looks like the “before” picture in an ad for hemorrhoid sufferers.

In industry the person who caused me the most trouble was a woman named Mary Ann Something. She was bright, a very good manager and a sharp union steward, while I represented management. I could have a terrible day, but it always got worse when Mary Ann appeared in my office. I once tried to enlist Mary Ann in the ranks of management (we could have used a higher level of manager) but she would not sell out her Labor ideals and bore down even harder on me. No good deed goes unpunished.

In my personal life I have had two wives, a daughter, a step-daughter, a daughter-in-law and several granddaughters but my understanding of females has not improved because of them.

I have even taught in public school, where I often told my charges that women can do anything but play left tackle for the Detroit Lions and most men can’t do that, either. And I meant it. I wanted to be on record as pro-female when they took over the world. But my pretty students took this comment as mere groveling and wrote beside my name in their book of executions, “head of the line.”

My only saving grace is that I have a very good talent for fixing things. I would be pushing up daisies right now, if it were not for the day, early in my substitute teaching career, when a seventh grade girl I didn’t know brought me a handful of parts to her eyeglasses. It was during a test and she was losing time, so I quickly reached into my briefcase and bought out a tiny screwdriver and some very small screws. I had her glasses put back together again in less than a minute. She told other girls and my life was spared from that moment on.

There were several widows on my block and I was allowed to help them with electrical problems and plumbing disasters. That way I managed to continue in not good but tolerable standing with the female community. But it took lots of work to stay at that level.

The Bible says I came into this world with nothing. Nothing, that is, but a minus quantity of points with the opposite sex, and I have been trying to break even all my life. Like Sisyphus with his task of rolling a huge rock up a hill, I have been given the task of understanding women and failed every day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rocket Science Secrets

Nearly all of them are dead now. So I guess I can say a little about them and the adventures they described. I learned about them in a church, of all places. The church sponsored an autobiographical writer’s club and I was asked to join. Elderly ladies outnumbered us men, and their stories were no less interesting because they were women. However, it was stories about their families that caught my attention. Who could have expected to hear about the rocket science and its secrets that bound three of the ladies?

Over a period of years with this group I learned some of the secrets and even a tale of horror. For reasons I cannot tell, I was asked not to reveal their names. I understand why, but for the most part they are all gone now, and I can tell a little of what I learned.

The first story was one of horror and destitution. A German lady in the group, Heidi, revealed her story. She was raised in Transylvania, Romania as part of a German village with an almost ideal existence until WWII. Her uncle was a rocket scientist and professor whom I will call Hermann Schmidt. He was not a Nazi but his student Werner Von Braun, was. The little family managed to get through the War with deprivation, but they got through somehow. Then at the end, Russians came through, setting up a Communist government. The leaders of this government dispossessed Heidi’s family. The Russians took all German children of working age with them into Russia as virtual slaves to work on Russian farms. Heidi, a pretty girl then, worked a year or so in Russia and escaped first to East Germany and then to West Germany. Later, she went to Canada and ventured into the United States. Even now, Heidi is trying to locate the rest of her family in Europe.

The second story concerns a widow whose husband died just before I became a member of the writer’s group. A. L. (Bill) Belken is the name I have given him. He traveled as a civilian but had a high military status. Over a period of years I learned that he had worked directly for Presidents Roosevelt and Truman in Europe. I have seen personal commendations from those presidents for the work that Bill did, but I do not know what he did. The libraries of these presidents are silent on the subject. The National Archive says it has never heard of him.

All I could find from his widow was that he traveled extensively in Europe during and after WWII. Oh, there was one thing: when the P-38 plane was developed, it shook drastically. The two engines drove it were shaking the plane apart. Bill, with some kind of connection to Cal Tech, was asked to take a look at the problem. He suggested that the engineers reverse the rotation of one of the engines. That solved the problem and the P-38 was a great offensive weapon during the war.

I also learned that Bill was interested in JATO, or Jet Assisted Take Off of airplanes, which put him solidly in the rocket science camp. That was a short program, but rockets were just beginning to come into their own. Was Bill also involved in “Operation Paperclip?” It is quite possible. Very little is said about that operation, even today. But I can say that this operation, begun under President Truman, was one in which German rocket scientists and their laboratories were collected by Western Allies before the Russians could get to them. If the scientists were also Nazis, then their records were cleaned up. Perhaps little is known about Bill because of his involvement in that program. It was not a popular one.

Finally, there is another story. A wife in the writer’s group had a husband who was a simple MD and had been one during WWII. I will call him Dr. Mike Moriarity, because he has to have a name. Mike was part of America’s space program. The secret is that he was present at all Russian space program events during the 1960’s. He was a good friend of Yuri Gagarin and other Russian space people. He was an invited guest at each event. I personally have seen photos of Mike and Yuri together. Mike’s wife told us and later Mike agreed as he attended our meetings, that he would suddenly disappear from the U.S. No one knew where he was. Well, almost no one knew. Certainly not his family. But the Russians knew. Mike was with them.

When Mike would return from one of his clandestine trips, he was interviewed by not one but two U. S. intelligence agencies. The Russians had to know that he was being interviewed. And Mike was not allowed to tell one agency what he had told the other. That is, each agency had to ask its own questions; they did not share a common report or interview Mike at the same time.

Now, if the U. S. had a representative at Russian space flights, was there reciprocity such that the Russians had a representative to watch our space flights? Very likely.

Eventually Mike phased out of the Space program but all that he did was kept secret. Even today, although Mike and his wife are dead, almost no one talks about his exploits in the space program. Most don’t know. But there are good reasons for not using his real name even as I write this.

Looking at this group of elderly writers, no one could have detected the common thread among their stories. They certainly did not recognize the thread until I pointed it out to them.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Remarkable Cure for Headaches

If you knew me, you would never guess that I am, or was, a frequent victim of headaches. These were not the “My headache is gone!” run-of-the-mill type headaches, either. These were blinding, splitting, go to bed without any dinner and no TV headaches.
One afternoon, while in the early throes of one of these killer aches, I decided to take a walk and get away from it all. Living in upper San Dimas, CA at the time, I hiked to the closest trail I could find that led into the mountains. It wasn’t long before a path took me around the side of a hill among the trees and away from all the noise of city life.
Suddenly I found myself alone. There was no noise except for the chirping of a mocking bird and the cawing of a crow. Maybe a bee was zipping from flower to flower. The silence was stunning. Also stunning was the pile in front of me that had been left by horse which had recently gone on ahead. I was, after all, on a bridle path.
I stopped for some reason and took it all in, looking for a way to step around the pile, so I could continue up the hillside. It was then that I experienced an olfactory hallucination! I do not know to this day how it happened, but suddenly I was transported back to my youth when I would leave the big city and visit a farm for a few days. The farmer had lots of horses. It was Bluegrass country, you see. Those were happy times when the only responsibility I had was to clean my shoes and report for meals on time.
Unfortunately, my mind didn’t spend much time in that place. The forlorn cry of a hawk wheeling overhead snapped me back to reality. When it did, I realized my headache had fled to other places. I was healed! Well, not permanently, but for the afternoon. I found that as headaches occurred in the succeeding months I could dispel them by walking up into the hills until I found another fresh pile. It had to be fresh green stuff, mind you. The brown material with a crust on it would not work. Eventually, I was able to go for weeks without a headache and I can now report that I have not had a really bad one for years. Talk about a miracle drug!
Since that time I have offered this miracle cure to others. It has been successfully used against three headache sufferers, one hernia and a hangnail. I am sure it would help most people.
I have offered this miracle compound to people in a local hospital, but my kindness was refused. You would be amazed at the numbers of people who don’t want to get well. But I am sure most readers are not like them.
Probably, since most people live so far from a race track, they cannot get their own supply of this nostrum. I am prepared to ship a one pound box without delay. There is a modest cost, of course. But I offer a warning: use it right away. The shelf life of this curative is very short.
Please let me know of your needs; I have connections at Santa Anita Race Track. The regular spring season is about over and it will not be until the fall when a fresh supply will return to Arcadia.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Tale of Two Justices

Educated in law at the knee of his uncle, William Samuel Pryor quickly mastered Greek and Latin. But he never obtained much in the way of a formal education the way most boys did. He was poor and had to help support his family. A brilliant student at law, he was ready to hang out his shingle before he was twenty-one years old. So his uncle and his friends got the state legislature about 1843 to pass a special act to allow Will that privilege.

Will was good at law and quickly built up a substantial practice in his town. Then President Lincoln had him tossed in jail in 1863. Will escaped and went to Canada. Returning to his practice in 1866, Will was appointed a judge of the circuit court. He rode his circuit for three years, became popular, and suddenly found himself chief justice of the highest court in Kentucky. He served on that bench longer than anyone before or after—sometimes chief justice and sometimes associate justice. To do so he had to give up his lucrative practice and accept an income that was about one third of what he could make in private practice. But Will loved the law.

It is easy to imagine that Justice Samuel Alito is much the same way. He was poor but found his way through good schools to serve his nation in the legal system. Justice Alito certainly could have commanded a much larger income than the government paid him. But he loved the law and wanted to serve as a judge.

Like William Samuel Pryor, Justice Samuel Alito had his own tribulations as he worked his way to his present position. In spite of his fine career and service as judge he was falsely accused of things just so someone could make points with his constituency. He had to sit and bear the unjustness of a few windbags in the Senate. But in the end he was finally approved by that body. Very likely it was his love for the law that kept him going through that grueling time.

Now that Justice Alito has found his place on the U. S. Supreme Court many of us wish hi well and we feel confident that a very good man has been selected. And that a few very sad examples of Senators have been exposed for what they are.

Somewhere in time William Samuel Pryor has a smile on his face.