Six things I won’t live to see

As I am now some months into my fifty ninth ride around The Star, I find myself now, more than ever, soberly aware of my role of passenger on this ride, and try as I might, I know that I shall never be the Captain of the ship. With this realization I have not become cynical (as many of my fellow passengers have), but I have become more pragmatic. I have come to realize that there are some things that I shall never see within my lifetime. I have compiled a short list of them here:

 1. Sub-$3.00 per gallon gas – Last week, as I was driving to work, a newscaster on the Miami radio station that I was listening to said that the price of gasoline in our area had dropped 2 -3 cents gallon. The newscaster went on to attribute this drop in price to the fact that local fuel distributors had switched to their ‘winter-blend’, which is (apparently) somewhat cheaper than the ‘summer-blend’. Well, I thought to myself – it’s high time. Since it is mid-September and temps are already plummeting into the mid-70s overnight, I damn well want that winter blend in my old truck. In this part of the country, where summer runs until – well – New Years Eve, having winter-blend fuel in your vehicle is essential. My point in this short, cynical, rant being that the price of gasoline is, and always has been, manipulated by a few. We are now headed for the days of $4 per gallon fuel, and nothing that we passengers can do (or are likely to do) can change that.

2. Return of the electric car – Back in 1888, when the world’s first electric vehicle, the German Flocken Elektrogwagen took to the street, inventor Andreas Flocken probably felt that he was looking at the future of personal transport. He probably dreamed of a traffic jam of electrically powered carriages rattling across Europe on a cobblestone, 19th century, Autobahn. Actually, by the early years of the 20th century, electric vehicles had become very popular in both Europe and the U.S. Early models were easier to start, ran cleaner and were so popular with women that they became known as ‘women’s vehicles’ – so much so that manufacturers had to install fake radiators on the cars to attract male customers. In any case, we have made little progress in the past 125 years in making electrically powered vehicles available to the general public.

Oh I know all the arguments against electric vehicles: the batteries don’t last, charging stations are expensive to maintain, the power-plants needed to generate electricity dump tons of emissions into the atmosphere too…I have heard all of it, and I don’t buy into it. Each day I watch literally hundreds of gasoline powered postal vehicles take to the streets of my city, puttering from mailbox to mailbox, all of them spewing carbon emissions into the air. Later a UPS truck pulls up to my house in a cloud of diesel smoke. The mission: to pick up an envelope at my house for overnight delivery…see my point. Even if we had encouraged development of electric vehicles for commercial purposes (as they did in Europe for many years), we might well be on our way to breaking the stranglehold that the oil companies have on us all.

Without going into greater detail, the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car” does a much better job describing “what the hell happened” than I can. If you want the short version, see item 1 above in my list.

3. Who killed JFK –   I am convinced I shall never know exactly who killed John F. Kennedy. No, I don’t buy into every conspiracy theory that comes along, but I have never bought into the Warren Commission report either. I do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating Kennedy in Dallas back in November of 1963. There…I said it. A few days after the assassination, when I was nine years old, I watched (on black and white TV of course), Jack Ruby step from a crowd in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters, pull a pistol, and kill Oswald on national television. I smelled a rat then, and I still smell one fifty years later. But, I am certain that we will never know exactly what happened. Too many of the principals have passed away and barring a deathbed confession from Fidel Castro, or the resurrection of Jimmy Hoffa from whatever block of concrete he is encased in, the truth has already gone to someone’s grave and the paper trail shredded and cold.

4. The truth about Area 51 – Note those readers who know where I live: Do not send the padded van. Also, no need to call to ask if I am feeling okay, I’m fine. I just think that denying the existence of a super secret, military testing installation, for sixty years, and then suddenly announcing its existence is suspicious. Nothing to see here…keep it moving. Of course it was there all along…That’s what our government is telling us now.

Area 51 was, and still is, a top-secret military installation located in the Groom Lake area in the desert north of Las Vegas, Nevada. It was never a real secret. I mean you could drive out there — until they stopped you. For years we’ve heard about the plain white passenger jet that left each morning from McCarran airport, returning each evening – the Area 51 shuttle.

Those of us who have studied the area for decades have no doubt that the area is a super secret seedbed for advanced avionics programs. Programs that were born out of competition with the Soviets during the Cold War. But in the wake of a very suspicious crash of an airborne vehicle in Roswell, New Mexico in July of 1947, it is small wonder that rumors soon spread that the U.S. Government was involved in the secret back-engineering project of a craft that might have come from another world. Some people, like airline pilots, U.S. astronauts, scientists and thousands of others around the world, myself included, have seen things in the night sky that we know are not errant weather balloons or swamp gas. We also know that the same government that has purposefully denied the existence of Area 51 knows more about this phenomenon than they are saying, and they are likely to maintain this silence in the foreseeable future.

5. Travel to the moon – We are not going back to the moon. When Eugene Cernan departed the moon at 5:40 GMT on December 14, 1972, it marked the last time that man will set foot on that celestial rock for many, many more years to come. We shall continue to make noise about returning to the moon, spouting nonsense about man’s inherent need to explore the unknown, citing perhaps Magellan’s desire to circumnavigate the earth, or Columbus’ drive to find a passage to the East – but these guys had air to breathe and they were motivated by the dream of great wealth in undiscovered lands. Plus they didn’t know how heavily the odds were stacked against them. We will not return to the moon in my lifetime because: a) It is simply too dangerous to send a human there, and b) there is nothing there. Unless we discover oil on the moon, we will never travel there in the foreseeable future (notice I keep using the word ‘forseeable’. I am not a big believer in the word ‘never’).

Similarly, we will not send a human to Mars, even if we could actually find sane people willing to give up a decade of their lives to a cause that will likely result in their deaths. We will not go to Mars because: a) It is simply too dangerous to send a human there, and b) there is nothing there. Unless we discover oil on Mars, we will never travel there in the foreseeable future.

6. Rational gun control in the United States – We will not institute any significant gun control legislation in the United States for a very, very, long time – if ever. Today, as I watch members of the Florida Chapter of the Armed Citizens Project offer up free shotguns to Florida citizens as a way to protect themselves against crime (this in the wake of the D.C. Navy Yard massacre by a demented young man armed with a shotgun), I am now more than ever convinced that we are too far gone. We are destined to go from one shootout to the next, with the same scenario playing out each time. We shall see the innocent brutally gunned down by the deranged. The NRA will remain respectfully silent for a few days. After that, the cry will go out to arm the citizenry in greater numbers so as to reduce the risk of the innocent being brutally gunned down by the deranged. The way to ‘stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’…blah, blah, we blather on.

And so we shall continue – sitting in class with our bullet proof backpacks at the ready, casting a wary eye over our shoulder as we shop at the mall, planning an escape route as we sit at out desks at work, and hoping that the terror that we experience at the movie theatre occurs only on-screen.

But we shall go on.

So that’s it…I gotta go…

My tinfoil hat is smoking…

Mahalo,

–Ed

Advertisements

A flag for my lapel

I’m going to get a flag pin,

To wear on the lapel,

Of my fourteen hundred sixty four dollar,

Brooks Brothers suit.

The suit I am going to buy from,

The shop up on Madison Avenue,

The day I get a job,

And leave the house promptly at 8 am,

Every day.

…and then…

I’ll park my ass at Starbucks,

For forty minutes or so,

Just so I can check out the shit that’s,

Buzzing into my cellular telephone,

And my electronic tablet,

And all of the other electronic devices,

The ones that I am going to need,

Once I arrive at my job…no – my position,

Where I do lots of high speed things,

Requiring electronic endurance, and motivation.

…but…

My wife comes into the room,

It’s about a half an hour before sun up,

And she says to me, quietly,

“you silly old hippie, Jack,

You haven’t been out of bed in a week,

And you sure as hell aren’t buying,

Any Brooks Brothers suits with,

That tiny little check that you get,

From the United States Government.”

So you might as well get up,

Come drink tea with me before I go to work,

And then sit at your desk with the cat,

And try to write something…anything,

That’s what you’re good at…writing something,

How about a poem?

And I tell her that I haven’t written a poem,

Or at least a poem that I can remember being good,

Or a poem that was even halfway decent in say

— ten years,

Not since before my first deployment.

Location, location, location

An author friend of mine, an author that has known some success, and knows more about writing than I do, told me that the setting for his latest novel is Long Island, New York. Having lived in Long Island for three years back in the early 80’s, I was intrigued.

“Really,” I said to him, “Nassau, or Suffolk?” He didn’t know how to answer, but he did tell me the name of a town that I recognized. I went on to tell him that I lived for a time in Huntington Station, New York, which is in Suffolk County. Then I pressed him about his regional knowledge of that area – not because I was trying to embarrass him, or impress him with my esoteric knowledge of Long Island, but because I was curious as to why he chose that location as the setting for a novel – especially since his novel did not have to be set in that location for any particular reason.

My author friend finally confessed that he had never been to Long Island, or even New York for that matter, but he told me with great confidence, that with the tools available on the internet, today’s author can set a novel in practically any location they choose. By using MapQuest to locate streets and by using Google Earth and Street View to zoom in on actual locales, one can effectively write a novel set in any particular area without ever having set foot in Westhampton, Shinnecock Hills, or Amagansett.

I retreated from the conversation unconvinced.  I recall an article that I read many years ago in a magazine. I cannot remember who wrote the article, but it was an interview with a successful published author. It was one of those advice type articles, directed at novice writers trying to write their first published work. There was lots of good advice in the article, but I’ve retained only the following:

“Never, ever set a novel in New York City unless you know the town.”

Notice that the writer was quite emphatic about this particular point. While the writer spoke only of New York City, I suspect that the advice might be expanded to include many other large metropolitan areas, like Los Angeles and Chicago.

The author went on to explain that New Yorkers buy lots of books, and since many New Yorkers have lived in the city all of their lives, they will smell a phony in…well…a New York minute. Don’t alienate the New Yorkers!

I suppose it depends somewhat upon the breadth of the creative piece that a writer is trying to develop. It would probably be possible to set a short story in say, an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan by doing a bit of internet research, as long as the action doesn’t ‘leave the house’. Move your characters out onto the street, and then you’d better know the lay of the land. If your CIA agent meets her contact at the Feast of San Gennaro, you’d better, at some point in life, have walked Mulberry Street between Houston and Canal (something I have done, but I used the internet to verify that Houston to Canal Street part, thus highlighting my point that the internet is a useful tool for detail, but it does not take the place of the experience).

There are exceptions. Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of the epic Tarzan series of adventure books wrote prolifically about Africa, without ever having set foot on the continent. It is important to note, however, that Burrough’s work was consumed by an early 20th century audience who, like him, knew little of Africa either. Perhaps the more sophisticated the audience, the more regional knowledge the writer needs to effectively create a believable piece (and unless we are writing pure fantasy, we all want to write a believable piece – that’s the goal, right?).

I am wondering how others feel about this very important topic. You have the plot, you have the characters. Now where do you put them? Is it your hometown, a place you visit regularly, or maybe where you vacation? After reading some Nicholas Sparks (trying to find out what that guy is doing right), I suspect that he knows quite a bit about the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and I doubt he learned all he knows by searching the internet. I mean, has Google Street View ever swept through Rodanthe?

Hemingway once reflected that it was difficult for him to set his work in his present physical location. He felt that his 1937 classic novel, To Have and Have Not, a novel set primarily in Cuba and Florida, would have been much better had he not written most of it while living in Key West. He found that he wrote best about places he had left some years before.

In my own work, I am finding that Papa was onto something. As a native Midwesterner, I find it easier to write to mundane cities out on the Plains (The DUI Guy is set in suburban Chicago), than it is to set my characters in Florida, where I currently live – perhaps I shall have to move to New York in order to write the perfect Florida book.

In any case, I would be interested in your thoughts.

Until next post,

Mahalo,

Ed

You never know…

Ed’s Note: For my EEOTPB readers who do not reside in the U.S. (and there are several of you), the Powerball is a shared, multi-state lottery. Due to the large number of participants, coupled with the astronomical odds against winning, the jackpots often reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Lottery Fever usually hits at around half a billion bucks – that’s when it really gets out of control.

 *

Lotto tixAs the Powerball jackpot once again inches toward the half-a-billion mark ($400,000 tonight, but who is counting at this point), I find myself drawn into the great lotto abyss from which there is no return (financial return that is). As I have watched lottery jackpots grow over the years, from pathetic little jackpots intended to give the average person with fifty cents or a dollar, a chance to win a couple hundred thousand, or even a million dollars, into the huge mega-bucks income generating machines that they are today, I can only wonder, what the hell happened? What has happened to the U.S.A? Have we all become so disillusioned with the American Dream (if there ever was a real American Dream), that now we stake our last shot, or at least our last $2 on what I call “the longest of long shots”…a bet on not just the three legged horse in the race, but the dead horse.

Several years ago, I was traveling through inner-city Philadelphia. Some days before, I’d read an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer that called out the tobacco and liquor industries for preying on the poor by shamelessly erecting billboards advertising cigarettes (billboard advertising of tobacco has since been banned), and top shelf liquor in low-income (impoverished) neighborhoods. As I drove through this area, I saw those same billboards, and I thought, “I cannot not agree more” – until I also happened to notice similar signage inviting participation in the state run lottery. Apparently, the State fleecing of the poor is not recognized as being in the same category of ‘fleecing’ as selling tobacco and alcohol to people who can ill afford it.

Granted, lottery tickets do not cause cancer, and they do not cause the array of social, as well as health problems that alcohol causes – but encouraging poor people to spend their meager funds on lottery tickets, is at best a social sin, inflicted upon them by what can only be called a greedy government.

Or so it seems to me.

*

 So, I went searching for the odds of my winning tonight’s Powerball drawing. It was not hard to find: 1 in 175 million. That means little to me. Why…because I am not a big statistics guy. I’ve always  had trouble with statistics, probably because I never did well in math in general, but I do respect statistics. I just always need a math whiz to interpret them for me. Therefore,  because I am statistics challenged,  I went searching for a way for me to get my arms around this big lotto stat. I found my answer. I had to look no further than Professor Robert Williams. Professor Williams is a professor of health sciences at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. He is an expert in all forms of gambling, but most importantly, he is able, as few others can, to put 1 in 175 million into layman’s terms.

According to Professor Williams, if I walk into my local convenience store, and pick up a Powerball number selection card, I should be able to select six, random numbers, in about 10 seconds (I have tried it, and it does take about ten seconds). Those numbers will give me the 1 in 175,000,000 shot at the big jackpot. Now, if I want to increase my odds to that of a coin flip (even I know that is 50/50), here is what I have to do: I must continue to fill out six digit lotto cards every ten seconds 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year for the next 55 years. Provided I could afford to do so, I would greatly increase my odds of winning Powerball. Or, I might win tonight with my measly little $6 ticket…as they say…

“You never know…”

“You can’t win if you don’t play…”

“Somebody wins…”

“The odds go out the window when you hold the winning ticket…”

Mahalo,

–Ed

Dog years

I have an old dog named Chamberlain,

We work together on nights Allie is away,

He’s blind in his left eye and he walks sideways,

Toward me as I sit hunched over the old Olivetti,

That I use to type poems on,

It’s in the corner of the sun porch that Allie,

Closed in last summer to keep out the snow.

He leans against me for support,

Old yellow head on my flannel pajamas,

Tongue hanging out. I feel his breath through the plaid,

He’s old and dying, but we both ignore it,

Dying is a rite of passage, like being born in a litter,

Or being born an orphan, or even like finding,

Yourself trapped, in  years of late,

In an old farmhouse – up in the Poconos.

Rites of passage, they kill us in the end.

Allie comes home from work at twelve thirty and finds us,

Me, the Olivetti, Chamberlain, and an unfinished poem.

Allie makes a fried egg sandwich for us,

And we eat it on the porch.

Chamberlain licks my paper plate clean when we’re done,

After that we all watch tv until dawn,

The unfinished poem waits for another day.

Before we go to bed, Allie cups her hands over his ears,

She draws his face close to hers, and says,

“He’s 98 in dog years, if he makes it three more weeks”.

——————————

Ed’s Note: I have not written much poetry in recent years, but I used to write quite a bit of it. I am in the process of sifting through a lot of the old stuff, seeing what I want to keep and what I don’t. My collection, titled “Wearing Earth Tones in a Savage Land” is in the works and will appear here for a nominal price (like free) in a few weeks.

Mahalo,

Ed

Driving fast with guns

I don’t get a lot of satisfaction in seeing people fall, even people who I think deserve to fall. For some reason, I’d rather see people redeem themselves in some small way, but almost always I am let down. One person who I was certain was NOT going to redeem himself in any way was George Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman seems to have taken his place as Florida celebrity du-jour when it comes to extending his middle finger to the world after beating a murder rap in an Orlando courtroom last July. Believe me, I use the word celebrity loosely here. A man whose only claim to fame is shooting an unarmed teenager to death is hardly a celebrity, but as our own adopted O.J. Simpson cools his heels in a Nevada pen, and Casey Anthony seems to have faded into deserved obscurity, all eyes are on faux-celebrity Mr. Zimmerman, and apparently there is much to watch.

Since being found innocent back on July 17th, Mr. Zimmerman has assisted at a traffic accident (a good thing, if we believe it really went down the way it was reported, although it seemed as if he went from ‘assisting’ as first reported, to  ‘rescuing’ people as later reported), and he has been stopped for speeding twice – once in Texas while on a cross-country trip, and once in his home state of Florida (doing 60 in a 45 – okay, not death penalty stuff, but you’d think he’d show more respect for the law) .  More recently, he has been accused of attacking his father in law (although evidence seems to say otherwise), and threatening his estranged wife, ostensibly with a gun.  So, does the man brandish a pistol at the slightest provocation? Is he as trigger happy as he seems to be? Is he a lose cannon waiting to go off when it’s least expected? The answers to such questions appear murky at best. Even the police seem to be at odds with initial reports from his wife.

I’m certainly not an expert on marital discord. Within any marriage, my own included, there are only two people who know exactly what is going on. But when a person seems to have repeated contact with the law, one has to look toward a common denominator. I see guns.

I am thinking of the days immediately after Mr. Zimmerman’s acquittal when an absurd call went out for money to help Mr. Zimmerman purchase replacement weapons. Insanity once again trumping prudence.

This is all I can say today on this important topic. I will close here by saying that I am certain that we have not heard the last of Mr. Zimmerman. I only hope that I am not describing the fate of an innocent victim the next time I mention his name.

Mahalo,

–Ed

Happy Birthday Mr. Tolstoy

Today, September 9th, marks the birth of Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy who was born back in 1828, wrote, among many other classics, the voluminous doorstop, “War and Peace”. This novel, whose English translation word count runs slightly over half a million words is so lengthy, that it has come to symbolize an event that takes a long time to complete, as in:

“What’aya doin’ in there pal, reading War and Peace?”

To me, War and Peace symbolizes the Everest of reading challenges. Personally, I have attempted, and failed, to make my way to the summit, on not one, not two, but upon three separate attempts.

Attempt number one was when I was but yet in High School – my eyes were in great shape, and my reading moxie was at its highest. I had just finished reading Dickens’ Bleak House and I thought that I could tackle anything. Unfortunately, the maze of Russian names soon brought me to my adolescent knees.

Attempt number two was made in the summer of 1991. Having recently picked up a fine hardbound copy of this book at a yard sale for 50 cents, I’d just placed it on my bookshelf, with a mental note to pick it up and start reading it someday, when when my job abruptly ended and I had – well, lots of time.

Those were the days before computers and cell phones. After mailing out a stack of resumes to every company I could think of, the only thing to do was to sit back and wait for the phone to ring, and since all phones were tethered to the wall back then, I found myself virtually housebound throughout the business day, with little to do except, read War and Peace. And read I did, for the better part of a week, but in the end, I found other pursuits to fill my day, and my hardbound copy still sits on my bookshelf with a receipt from the Hackettstown, New Jersey Shoprite, dated July 17, 1991, serving as a bookmark. The receipt is tucked firmly into page 241 – a tiny pencil mark noting the exact spot where I left off.  I have not revisited this volume since.

My third and final attempt on the summit came in the winter of 1996 (or thereabouts, but it was winter). I was spending a lot of time on New Jersey Transit trains, riding back and forth from my home in New Jersey to my job in Manhattan. I had lots of time to read. This time though, I picked up a paperback edition of War and Peace, as it was considerably less bulky than the Bible sized copy on my home bookshelf. This time I approached War and Peace with fervor. I planned it carefully. I decided that 20 pages per day would be a reasonable goal. That would be 10 pages on the train riding into the city in the morning, and 10 riding home that evening. That shouldn’t be too bad, I decided. At that rate, I would finish it in about 72 days! I made sure that I always carried a golf pencil in my pocket so that I could jot margin notes. I was prepared.

This time I went deeper into War and Peace than I had ever gone before, but around page 300 or so, I could tell that I was losing my enthusiasm. Somewhere around page 400, or about 1000 pages short of completion, I misplaced my marked up paperback copy of War and Peace, leaving it for some other passenger on the NJT Gladstone line to pick up and enjoy. So if this is where you came across your copy of War and Peace, I hope that my margin notes helped. I also hope that you made it to the summit. I do not plan to attempt another ascent.

Boots on the ground

A cranky old friend of mine told me the other day, that the older he became, the more certain phrases annoyed him. He told me that one expression that he was tired of, was the overused expression, “back in the day”.

“That expression really rankles me,” he said.

“That expression rankles you?” I said fumbling through my mental dictionary for a definition of ‘rankles’.

“Yeah,” he went on, “like back in WHAT day. Why can’t people just say something like, you know, in 1967 we didn’t have any frigging internet so we had to get all of our news from Walter Cronkite on the black and white Philco at 7PM sharp! There…saying something like that should make you sound old, and curmudgeonly enough, without saying, back in the day all we had was Walter f___ing Cronkite to tell us what was going on in the world!”

This somewhat bizarre exchange occurred in the break room at the office where I work, and I took a quick step backward as my crotchety coworker brushed past me to thrust his dry Florida Panther’s mug beneath the water cooler spigot. Never get between a hard-core hockey fan and a water cooler.

I walked away shaking my head, hoping that a cool mug of Zephyrhills would return my friend’s blood pressure to at least the high side of normal, and planning a blog-post about the small annoyances that we humans choose to clutter up our lives. Such annoyances cause us to waste precious time on this planet, which could be better spent on more productive pursuits. I was planning on kind of a Zen blog about how we are all killing ourselves by focusing on the minutiae – the trivial. Then I heard President Obama (a President that I have voted for twice by the way), say the following, right there on my old Philco (okay, my 42 inch flat screen), regarding proposed and almost certainly upcoming military action in Syria:

“We’re not considering any open commitment. We’re not considering a boots on the ground approach.”

And there it was: “boots on the ground”. I was suddenly rankled. Since rankled is not a word that one uses, or even sees every day, I shall post the definition here:

to continue to cause keen irritation or bitter resentment within the mind; fester; be painful.

That describes my feeling toward “boots on the ground”, a catch phrase which, of course, refers to launching a real, full-fledged, military operation on foreign soil by sending in soldiers (who usually wear boots), and usually indicates that we, as a Nation, are ready to make a long-term commitment to a country or region, based upon real, though often fabricated evidence. Evidence that is more times than not spoon fed through the media to the general public. In order to keep the boots off of the ground we often instead, launch an air strike.  An airborne attack has the advantage of inflicting massive damage  (shock and awe), while making certain that NO boots touch the ground – supposedly.

Boots on WHAT ground, I always want to say when I hear that tired expression circa. 2002. We have boots on the ground in the desert outside of Las Vegas launching drone attacks in Afghanistan, while we have had boots on the ground for the past decade in the desert in Iraq – fighting in a war that was started on some very shaky, if not downright underhanded pretenses.

So don’t get my meaning wrong  here. I am not saying that there is never a time for “boots on the ground”, and I certainly mean no disrespect to those wearing the boots (anyone who reads my work knows that I am committed to the cause of better treatment for our veterans), but I fear that this Syrian mess is not one of those times, or so it seems to me, and unless I have been inhaling too much Florida swamp gas, it will soon prove itself to be just that.

bootsThis is a debacle in sheep’s clothing and I hope that we discover that before the first boots hit the ground.

Mahalo,

–Ed

All in the family

This summer, the Emmy Award winning daytime drama (soap opera) General Hospital has been airing a subplot in which young Michael Corinthos Jr. (played by Chad Duell),  the son of local mob boss Sonny Corinthos, falls in love with his half-brother’s girlfriend, Kiki Jerome (played by Kristen Alderson). In typical soap fashion, happiness and joy will not last long for these two young lovers. Michael and Kiki’s romance soon sours when it is discovered that they are, in fact, first cousins.

Since I seem to recall that real life mob-boss, Carlo Gambino, was married to his first cousin, I wondered why in fictitious Port Charles, New York, such a taboo existed. If such a relationship didn’t stop the Boss of Bosses from achieving matrimonial bliss with a not-too-distant relative, then why should it short circuit young Michael and Kiki’s plans? I mean, there are lots of other notable first cousin unions, notably Edgar Allan Poe who married his first cousin, Virginia Clemm, H.G. Wells who married cousin Isabelle, and Jesse James (the frontier outlaw, not the biker-reality-tv-star), who married first cousin Zerelda Mimms.

The list of cousin couplings goes on and on, and includes none other than Albert Einstein who married first cousin Elsa and of course, Jerry Lee Lewis who married first cousin, once removed, Myra Gayle Brown. Perhaps the most fascinating union, to me anyway, is the that of Charles Darwin who married first cousin Emma Wedgewood. Darwin it seems, was not too keen on the idea of marriage to anyone, and apparently weighed his options carefully before finally taking a walk down the aisle back in 1839. The Darwins went on to have ten children, three of which died in infancy. His other children went on to live out perfectly normal lives with three being knighted by Queen Victoria.

With a little further research into the topic of first cousin marriage, I was able to unearth the fact that while first cousin unions are allowed in 26 of our 50 U.S. states (some with restrictions), such marriages are legal in all European nations, Canada and Mexico. Here in the U.S., about 1 in every 1000 marriages is a first cousin marriage, while in Japan the ration is about 4 in every 1000.

These figures become more shocking when one considers that by some estimates, 80 percent of all marriages throughout history have been cousin marriages! And more shocking yet when one considers that all of us on planet earth are no more distantly related than 50th cousins.

So that’s it. We are just one big, largely dysfunctional family, here on this rock riding around the sun. I will remember that the next time someone – a stranger – cuts me off, rips me off, or in some other way pisses me off. I shall do my best to remember that he/she is just a wayward relative behaving badly, like Cousin Jake who has a way of offending nearly everyone at the Thanksgiving Day dinner table, but gets invited back year after year because – he’s family.

I am thinking of family now, as I hear the war drums pounding, way off in the distance. Members of this human family are at it again, killing other family members in very inhumane ways in a country halfway around the world. Here in the U.S. political leaders seem to be trying their best to rally support for an attack – an attack on something, or someone. Support for an attack is slow to gather among the populace. A poll in today’s Washington Post indicates that six in ten Americans want no part of another military action in the Middle East – probably because we have been lied to about the reasons for past military interventions.

We can  hope that this one isn’t another in a long line.

 

Mahalo,

-Ed