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    Aging has its perks. It also has its disadvantages.


    Three weeks ago, I was on my way home from taking care of a few things. A police car was following me. Uh oh, I thought, what could this be all about? I assumed he wasn’t after me, but I was wrong. He lit me up, so to speak. I pulled onto the nearest side street and parked along the curb. He got out of his car, lights still flashing, and walked over. At least he didn’t turn on the noisy siren.

    “Good afternoon, Officer. What did I do?” I knew I hadn’t done anything, but I was a little apprehensive. I was slurring my words.

    “Nothing. But your tag is expired.”

    “It is? No way!” Hmmm… I thought about it.

    “Yes, it is, and I checked it twice, just to be sure.”

    “You know, my birthday was weeks ago and I don’t remember renewing it, but I never forget! I must have…” I always get one of those renewal forms in the mail. Usually, I go to the DMV office because they’re really nice and the wait is never too long.

    He asked to see my license. He didn’t need my registration or insurance card. Heck, the registration was expired anyway!

    “I’ll be back,” and he walked to his squad car right behind me. Just before he turned around, I mentioned why I was slurring, but he didn’t care at the time.

    When he returned, he was holding a ticket and asked if I would sign it. Of course. He said he wanted me to go to the Seminole County Courthouse.

    “Do you know where it is?”

    “Of course! I went there every day when I wrote about the George Zimmerman trial.” That interested him. “But why do I need to go there to set a court date? My tag is expired and I’m guilty.”


    “Hold on. Hear me out. I want you to set a date there and then you’ll go to a different court where, if you renew your registration by then, within 30 days, I will have the ticket dismissed.”

    “Yes, Sir, no problem!” And I was on my way. The next day, I drove to the tag office and renewed the registration. Good to go. Then, I drove to the courthouse where they set a court date: October 8, 2:00 PM.


    Yesterday, I went to traffic court. There were some surly looking people, but most of them were ordinary folks, like you and me — if there is such a thing as ordinary. I hadn’t been inside a courtroom of any kind since the Zimmerman verdict. More importantly, I hadn’t had ANY problems with the law in God knows how many years. I think, with age, we tend to mellow out, and it’s a perplexing thought. I’ll get to that.

    I had to wait in a line after several cases were called because attorneys were there to represent their clients. That deserves preferential treatment because time is money. Eventually, I got up in front of the judge and stated my name. The officer was there, he looked at my documents and nodded to the judge that all was in order. Dismissed!

    All I had to do was sign my name on a document at the back of the courtroom. There was a short line, so I talked to one of the other officers after thanking mine for the favor and for spending his time doing so. I told the other officer about an experience, probably 25 years ago, when I was in court for some infraction and the judge lined all of the DUI people up to expedite their arraignments. No, I was not in that line. Suddenly, the judge reprimanded one guy and told him to leave.

    “Do not come back here until you know how to dress appropriately in my courtroom!” I could see that he was wearing a sleeveless black t-shirt but, when he turned around to exit, it had art silk screened on the front that showed a drunk judge and some stupid drunk judge message spelled out, out of focus. Out the door, too.

    The officer I told this story to told me one of his own. He had arrested a guy on a pot charge and he showed up in a t-shirt with a huge bright green marijuana leaf silk screened on the front with a message that simply said LEGALIZE POT!


    Here’s the interesting thing about getting old. Or older. It’s not so good that my memory isn’t what it used to be. Oh, it’s not very bad yet, but… Two years ago, I wouldn’t have let the car registration slip my mind. The good thing about getting old is that, by now, most of us have learned how to respect people, and that includes the police. I was always respectful, but it’s certainly not like that with many of the younger generation. Look at the way police are treated! No, I’m not going to address bad cops or bad politicians or anything political. Period. Here’s what I think. This particular officer took one look at me and said to himself, he’s no threat. He looks harmless, and he gave me a break. Had I shown an inkling of attitude, I might have been paying the $113.00 fine and, maybe, court costs.


    Remember at the beginning I told you I was slurring my words? I told him the truth and he didn’t seem to care about it. You see, the Novacaine was wearing off. That was the day my front tooth (#7) broke at the gum line. Unfortunately, that’s another one of the drawbacks of getting old. Your teeth just ain’t what they used to be.



    A Very Nosy Bee

    Years ago, when I worked at the Weiner King in Flemington, my boss, Jack Little, would lay me off during summer months, usually some time in June. Former high school students, now in college, would come home and want to go back to work for him for two reasons: to make money and to work with their old friends and him. You see, Jack was, quite simply, the best boss ever. He would hire 3 or 4 kids in my stead and I would go off to paint houses and businesses. I made a decent living doing it, I was quite good, and it was therapeutic, so it was a win/win for everyone. Come September, I’d be back slapping burgers and dogs into buns.

    One particular summer, I was painting the Weiner King at Turntable Junction, a touristy area in town with Colonial-style storefronts. People who worked there dressed in 1770s attire. Not at the Weiner King. Anyway, Jack’s father-in-law hired me. Behind the restaurant and down the embankment are railroad tracks. An old steam locomotive with antique cars would take people on scenic rides through parts of Hunterdon County. Called the Black River & Western RR, it still runs today.

    Along that embankment were countless nests of ground hornets. I remember setting empty syrup bottles out the back door and they would fill up with the darn things, but it never seemed to make a dent in their population. They pestered customers but we just couldn’t get rid of them. Oh, back to my painting story…

    Generally, the hornets - we called them bees - were pretty friendly unless provoked. I got used to bees and hornets from all of the outdoor work I did, and they didn’t bother me at all. I had to paint an area above the patio one afternoon. Sometimes, I’d eat Weiner King food for lunch, but I got used to packing my own. I don’t remember what I chose to eat that day and it’s not really important, but when I decided to break for lunch, I unwrapped what I had and started to take some bites. Of course, the smell of food always attracted these little critters and I’d gently wave my hand. Eventually, they’d get the message and fly away.

    Except for this one pesky guy. He just kept buzzing around me and my food. No matter how much I tried, there he was. Finally, he took the message and off he went. Or so I thought. I distinctly remember that fateful moment; the kind of moment filled with so much pain, you know you’ll never, ever forget it.

    I took a nice, big bite out of my sandwich and I was chewing away. Chewing and chewing and breathing through my nose. Mmmm… tasting and enjoying my lunch when, SUDDENLY, Mr. Bee decided to buzz the right side of my face. A wing brushed my cheek, and…

    I sucked him right up my nose. Deep into the sinus cavity. Oh no.

    I knew what was about to happen. You know, when bees get angry.


    Oh, the pain. Such excrutiating pain in my sinuses. They swelled shut almost immediately and tears flooded down my face like a gushing waterfall. This wasn’t funny at all! But it was. I jumped up and tried to walk it off, pacing violently back and forth on the 6-pitch roof. That was all I could do. No ice or anything would help.

    You know, it’s a good thing that, as a child growing up, I got over bee stings in no time. I had a great immune system and never caught poison ivy. Without it, I would have been in serious trouble.

    I would say it took about 15 minutes and then, the pain was gone. My nose opened up and I was able to go back to painting. I know I didn’t finish that sandwich because I had lost my appetite.

    As I continued to paint, the bees came around again, but I left my sandwich on the other side of the roof. Just for them. And me. My bee buddy never came out. I didn’t swallow him. I think he ended up down in one of my lungs but by then, he was a goner. Interestingly, it wasn’t long after that incident that I switched from syrup to honey on my waffles, and I’ve been like that ever since.



    Forever the Optimist

    After the water pump was replaced and everything seemed to be back to normal, I was on my way to getting my groove back, so to speak. The next morning, a nice, little, two-part jingle popped into my bean and I sat down with the iPad on my lap. Then I opened one of the piano apps.

    Years ago, I would sometimes wake up in the wee hours with beautiful songs playing in my head; full orchestration and all. One at a time, of course. What always roused me was the sense that I had never heard them before. I’d promptly sit up and within seconds, the song would disappear from my mind, gone forever. Today, it would be like my brain hitting the delete button. It was heartbreaking. Now, I’ve got my trusty iPad by my side, so when something pops up, I can play it out and record it for future use. Sometimes, these ditties hit me when I’m in the shower or during the day. I’ve disciplined myself to keep playing them over and over and over in my head until I can record them. Usually, but I’ve lost a few here and there.

    On this particular morning, the song that came to me had a real country sound, which is unusual. I can’t really classify my style, but having a western theme grabbed my attention. Clint Eastwood sauntered across my head. On horseback. Before I sat down, I went into the kitchen and toasted an English muffin, continuously looping the song so I wouldn’t forget it. I don’t like to eat too much butter, so I put peanut butter on one slice and butter on the other. OK, ready.

    I went to the trusty iPad and played out the tune. Most of the time, I have to play it and play it and play it until I have it right. Then, I record it. On that particular morning, while I’m playing it, I’m eating the muffin. I saved the butter one for last, kind of as a reward because it tastes better than the PB one. Bite. Play. Bite. Play. Bite. Play…

    Suddenly, I felt something rock hard in my mouth. Not large or anything, but I knew right away what it had to be. There was nothing THAT hard in the muffin. A tooth had broken off! Which tooth? I ran my tongue across the top front of my teeth and there it was — a hole! I had lost #7 (as the dentist later called it) right at the gum line. It’s one of the ones next to the two front teeth. Immediately, I stopped what I was doing and called the dentist.

    “Can you come in right away? The dentist has time to see you now.” If I couldn’t go right then and there, I’d have to wait five days until the next opening, so I said I’d be right in. It’s only a ten minute drive. I brushed my teeth, but had one final thing to do. I know how my memory works (and doesn’t) and I had to record that song. It was of utmost importance. I sat back down, hit the red record button and played. Then, I hit save and off I went.

    What’s most interesting about this is that the same darn tooth problem happened to someone very near and dear to me, like smiling peas in a pod. One of the peas fell out! 

    Fortunately, I was in no pain, and when the dentist scraped it with one of those nasty looking shiny metal tools, “Does that hurt?” everywhere on the tooth, I didn’t feel a thing. Eventually, the office manager worked up a few different options. I decided to go with the best one. The remaining root had to come out, a screw hole had to be drilled into my top jaw, and a metal post had to be put in with a wrench. Of course, I was totally numb to it as he diligently did his work. Finally, my head turned slightly as he screwed the post in. Then, he capped it off, stitched it, and built a new cosmetic tooth so I wouldn’t walk around looking like a redneck hillbilly… not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not my style. Good to go!

    I was able to smile again, but when the Novacain wore off, I was in terrible pain. As days went on, the pain got worse and worse and spread to the back gum. I was in agony. The dentist gave me a prescription for Tylenol 3, which I filled and took, but it made me throw up. I also have Tramadol for migraines and bone pain (that’s another story.) I don’t like taking anything unless I really have to, and those pain meds raised havoc with my gut, without going into further detail. I stopped and decided that I simply had to cope with the pain.

    This incident happened a week-and-a-half ago and, on Thursday, I returned to have the stitch removed. This was also the first day the pain somewhat subsided. My mouth is still sore, and I’ve lost five pounds, but I’m getting used to eating mashed potatoes and soup. At the end of January, the permanent implant will go in and I should be back to my old self. Except that I’m still waiting for something else in the house to break down. It’s been a terrible year, not that I’m a pessimist or anything.

    Oh yes, one more thing. When I came back from the dentist, I opened up the iPad to listen to the song I came up with. What was it? I forgot. OH NO!!! It was still in the “Save” mode, spinning around and around. I knew right then and there that the piano app had locked up, and I also realized that the song was gone forever. It was a good one, too, but I have to keep on smiling through and through. Why? Because there’s new ones to write and…

    The pea is back in the pod! Right where it belongs.



    Whipped Cream & Wet Nuts

    When I was in the Weiner King restaurant business in central NJ back in the late 70s, we sold soft serve ice cream from behind the counter and had a self-serve sundae bar in the dining room area. This was long before the days of sneeze guards. Customers could load their cones or bowls with a wide array of syrups, like chocolate and butterscotch. We had whipped cream, wet, sticky walnuts, marshmallow goop, chunky strawberry and pineapple fruit syrups, and a nice assortment of sprinkles — also known as jimmies in some circles. I don’t know if they were called sprinkles in NYC and jimmies in Philadelphia or how it worked, but I preferred jimmies. Where I lived was kind of like an out of focus line of demarcation between the two cities and people had their selective allegiances.

    At one point, I played around with the idea of getting a sign painted to hang above the sundae bar, but I found that people were such disgusting slobs, it became downright impossible to keep clean. I mean, have you ever tried scouring gooey, syrupy stuff that was spilled all over the counter and floor, and splashed on the wall? With sprinkly fruit stuck to it? Walnuts became glued within minutes and you needed a paint scraper to get them up. There was the problem with maraschino cherries, too. They rolled across the floor and customers stepped on them. This went on day and night. Eventually, I yanked the darn thing out because it got completely out of hand. There was no such thing as respect. Oh well, it’s too bad, because it was designed with children in mind (and their supervising, adult-like, responsible parents,) and the sign I came up with would have been perfect for it. I would have called it the…


    Cafe Perks

    I recently finished a new trifold menu for Cafe Perks, a mom & pop, breakfast/lunch-style restaurant with four locations in the Orlando area. The owner is a friend of mine. We met years ago when I worked for one of his companies as a graphic artist. It was in the flexographic industry. Flexo is a printing process which uses a flexible relief plate. The art and design work I did was for plastic bags, like you’d get from supermarkets, and coffee packages inside motel/hotel rooms. That sort of thing. Flexo is a lot different from the offset web and sheet fed printing designs I did for many years, even though both use four color process (CMYK) and Pantone inks. Today, companies can go to places like Staples to get jobs run off a B&W or color copier. That’s exactly the case with these menus, although I don’t know where they were copied. In this instance, after I burned PDF files of the pages to a CD, my job was finished.

    What the owner wanted was the look and feel of a good, old-fashioned American diner, and he wanted an image of a diner on the front cover page. Having grown up in New Jersey, probably the birthplace of this genre of restaurants, I knew a thing or two about them, especially at 2:00-2:30 in the morning, after local bars locked their doors. As a matter of fact, my hometown of Flemington had the Circle Diner, where I munched out on French fries with gravy on many-a-night, along with a few slices of the best cheesecake in the universe.

    While I knew how to design the menu from many, many years of working in the field of graphics and typography, I just couldn’t find the right picture. There was nothing at all that I could appropriately incorporate, so the cover went on hiatus. Meanwhile, I had the rest of the menu to work on. The owner and I met many times to go over items, including additions, deletions and prices. This type of work is something I can really sink my teeth into because I spent so many years in the restaurant business. It’s in my blood, and there were four pages of food and a back cover that needed attention. The back was going to be daily specials. As far as the front cover was concerned, whenever I put something on the back burner, a design recipe always pops into my head out of nowhere, like rye toast in a New York minute. I wasn’t the least bit concerned.

    Eventually, I convinced him that there was no reason to put a diner on the cover. Not only could I not find one, I didn’t think it was necessary or pertinent. I guess it harked back to my old diner days because I couldn’t get the feel of the real deal out of my head. Take Denny’s, for example. Many of them call themselves diners, but are they really? Do you feel like you’re walking into one? I didn’t think so, and it’s the same thing with Cafe Perks. However, there was no reason why I couldn’t make the menu look like you were sitting inside of one and, in this regard, I left the integrity of his wishes intact. He wanted food pictures and I gave him that, although there were so many food items, it couldn’t be as loaded with photos as I wanted without becoming too busy.

    Here is what I ended up doing. If you live in (or visit) the Orlando area, please stop by Cafe Perks. Believe me, the food is really good — exactly what you’d expect from a diner, but without the diner prices.

    (Someone else sold and designed the ads, which paid for printing the menus.)









    UH-MUSINGS, Part1


    That’s the term President Obama coined for the old, politically incorrect euphemism, illegal aliens. Yes, the president said so in his amnesty action, “Taking Action to Unlock the Economic Contributions of Americans-in-Waiting,” on Tuesday, February 24. Does this mean we cannot call them illegal aliens now, lest we have his PC Police come around to harass us for acting like disgruntled Americans? No, of course not.

    Coming into the country is an easy free-for-all today; however, it’s not what I’m concerned with at the moment. It’s about one more aggravating notch in the realm of political correctness. Aggravating in the sense that “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” unless one disagrees politically. Trust me, it’s always about the politics!

    First off, I’m not a gun owner and I will never be one. That’s my choice, but I do believe in the Second Amendment. That said, the president seriously wants gun control. To an extent, I agree with him, but this is too much of a mess. He can’t simply wave his hand by executive order and wish the problem away. So, for now, because of his new nomenclature for illegal aliens, I offer politically correct alternative terminology for gun owners.

    While the president prefers AMERICANS-IN-WAITING, some may like the other politically correct term UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS over ILLEGAL ALIENS. Applying this very same politically correct logic, along with the ‘good for the goose and gander’ idiom, doesn’t it make perfect sense that legally purchased guns should be referred to as DOCUMENTED WEAPONS? They are, after all, documented. On the flip side, consider illegal guns. Shouldn’t they be called UNDOCUMENTED WEAPONS? Or, since the president likes the term AMERICANS-IN-WAITING, how about going first-class executive branch with FIREARMS-IN-WAITING?


    The Mushroom Incident

    Since I was a child, I could spot a hair on my plate, whether it was on top, mixed in, or at the very bottom of whatever I was eating. For some reason, hairs always migrated my way.

    When I was in the Weiner King business, we bought most of our foodstuff from R&R Provision Co. based out of Easton, PA. Weiner King, for those of you who don’t know, was primarily located in the central NJ area. As the name implies, we specialized in hot dogs and hamburgers — Texas Weiners, in particular, with mustard, onions and homemade chili sauce. No restaurant made a better chili dog, and that’s a fact!

    To say that, after many years in the business, I got a little tired of the same food every day would be an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, I tried every variation possible — hot dogs and hamburgers with any and all combinations of toppings imaginable, but it got old. You could only eat so many French fries with mustard, in other words, and fish sandwiches with pickles and ketchup.

    Invariably, I’d send one of the workers out for a couple of good steaks. “Get one for me and one for you.” Or fresh sea scallops. Whatever I was in the mood for. A lot of times, the R&R rep would bring us samples in hopes that we’d put them on the menu, but we pretty much stuck with our main theme. The samples sure were a nice change, though.

    On my nights off, I would sometimes go to the Union Hotel on Main Street in the heart of Flemington, and order breaded, deep fried, mushrooms. For years, they were one of my all-time favorites, so when R&R gave me a flyer with them as one of the specials, I gobbled up the offer and bought a 10lb. case. Holy mackerel!!! I was in my glory. When the delivery truck arrived, I went outside to greet the driver.

    “Do you have my mushrooms?” He could check what was on the list.

    “No,” he responded, “not today.” Fortunately, deliveries were twice a week.

    I don’t know if I had to wait a week or not, but it seemed like an eternity, and my mouth was watering at the thought of biting into those delectable, deep fried to a golden brown, morels. Oops! I mean, morsels. They were button mushrooms, after all.

    Finally, the frozen treats arrived and I quickly and carefully cut open the box. Certainly, I didn’t want any of them to spill on the floor. Not a single one. I threw a whole bunch into the deep fryer and told my employees, “Eat them while you can. The rest are mine. That’s the law.”

    We were very liberal when it came to employee meals. They were always free and plentiful but, when it came to my mushrooms, I took a hands-off approach. Anything but them. While they were cooking, I went into the back room to close up the case and throw it in the freezer. I may have written DO NOT TOUCH on the box, too, but I did notice one thing that was printed on it: PRODUCT OF THE PHILIPPINES.

    I didn’t care where they were from, but it goes to show you that, even in the 1970s, we were outsourcing. Did I worry about foreign pesticides, hormones and antibiotics back then? No. All I cared about was that I could eat my mushrooms every single day until I looked like a fungus. Well, not really. As a rule, I ate them in the late afternoons, when it was very slow. I didn’t want customers wondering if I was serving them, and I didn’t want employees asking me to share. 99% of the time, I’m a very giving person, but not with breaded or battered mushrooms. Until one day…

    I was probably about halfway into the box when, one fateful afternoon, I had a life-changing experience. It altered this one eating habit of mine for the rest of my life. Believe me when I say that, until that day, I was enjoying bite-after-bite. I sat with my plate of about a dozen mushrooms when, as usual, I popped one in my mouth. As I chewed and chewed, I thought there might be a hair in there. Yuck! I stuck my fingers in my mouth and, yup, it was, indeed, a hair. I should have just spit the darn thing out on the spot, but I didn’t.

    I managed to grab the end of it without losing any of the mushroom or breading. Then, I started to pull. Out and out it came. I moved my fingers away from my mouth. The farther they got, I realized this was no ordinary hair. It was LONG and STRAIGHT and BLACK! It was as long as my left arm could stretch by the time it was completely out. I immediately spit the mushroom into the garbage and just about heaved on the spot. I was totally shocked and disgusted. How did something that long get wound up into one mushroom? I didn’t want to think about it. My appetite was gone. I threw the remainder of that case into the dumpster and, to this very day, I cannot eat deep fried, breaded mushrooms. Just thinking about them would make the hair on my head stand up… if I had any, but I won’t eat them to this very day.


    Nothing Beats Homemade Cornbread

    I think my mother is losing it. She used to make the best cornbread. This morning, she decided to make some. Oh, good, because it’s always been one of my favorites! After a minute or two in the kitchen, she plopped herself in her recliner and began humming hymns and watching The Gospel Hour on TV. This went on for some time and, eventually, I became a little alarmed. She hadn’t done this before, plus I was afraid the cornbread might burn or something, so I decided to check and this is what I found. Very bad, I thought; however, in a sense, I was quite fortunate, for she had forgotten to turn the oven on.

    Next time, if she tries to make carrot cake, I’d better give her a hand!


    My Garden of Weeden

    By Doris Willman 

    After contracting polio in 1953, I faced the challenge of leg braces and crutches. By 1981, I became a wheelchair user with post-polio syndrome. By this time, my three daughters were quite self-sufficient and I had some blessed leisure time.

    Coming from a family of avid gardeners, I thought, why not me too? My knowledge of gardening was quite limited, except for minor chores back home in the family garden before I acquired a disability. I obtained a copy of The Complete Vegetable Garden by John Seymore. And a very compassionate husband, fortunately for me, was handy with carpentry tools.

    At first we erected four planters, measuring eight feet long and two feet wide with a depth of approximately 14 inches. These planters were supported by legs and cross braces to make an overall height of about 28 inches.

    The planters were placed parallel to each other, with ample room to manoeuvre the wheelchair between each one. Each planter was filled with purchased garden soil and peat moss. A lightweight garden hose took care of the watering needs. My first crops consisted of radishes, onions, carrots, beets, Swiss chard and tomatoes.

    There is an advantage to container planting: Because of the wide row system, radishes, carrots and the like can be spaced as little as two inches apart.

    A good-sized crop can be harvested from a confined space. Close planting also creates shading, eliminating most weeds while retaining moisture in the soil. Most crops require tilling the soil only to a depth of eight inches. This can readily be done with small hand tools. Cucumbers, a vine crop, can be trained up five-foot poles and still be within easy reach of a gardener using a wheelchair. The height of the planters enables the wheelchair user to garden with a minimum of exertion. You are also in a position to make eye contact with any garden pests — get a jump on the flea beetle before he lands on your prized tomatoes!

    My planters were so successful that my husband then built my “Garden of Weeden.” This garden is 45 feet long by 30 feet wide. With the exception of a small tool shed and gateway, two-foot-wide planters extend around the full perimeter. The central area comprises three planters measuring 10 feet by four feet, lawn space bordered with flowers, and a few small shrubs thrown in.

    A wooden walkway provides sufficient space to service all planting areas. A watering hose is mounted at each end of the garden.

    Unless you are a fanatic gardener like myself, a garden this size is an option rather than a necessity. Much success and pleasure can be derived from smaller ones.

    I can truly say my “Garden of Weeden” has been my utopia — a place where I can get lost in the magic of nature. Stress evaporates once I wheel through that gate and am in complete control of my surroundings. I spend so much time in my garden, I expect my wheelchair tires will one day take root.

    Like the saying goes, we have to “stop and smell the roses.” My philosophy is, “Let’s grow ’em!”


    In memory of my close personal friend, Doris, now gardening in Heaven

    February 20, 1939 - June 25, 2015



    If I ramble today, please forgive me.

    Some people in the field of writing might say there’s no such thing as writer’s block — that it’s all in the head – and the bottom line is that’s it’s nothing more than a temporary inability to produce original content.

    I know there are reasons why someone like me could possibly be at a loss for words because I’ve been in these situations before, no matter what you call it. Maybe I don’t feel like writing, for instance. Or I’m lazy. There are times when words just won’t come out right and, as far as I’m concerned, they flow like a one-legged duck trying to swim up a trickling stream. Another reason might be shock. Yes, shock. The shock and anguish you feel after losing a near and dear friend. That’s what happened.

    Doris Willman was the best and truest type of friend a person could ever ask for in life. Strong-willed, feisty, witty, intelligent, sensitive, caring, loyal and never afraid to tell it like it is or give me a piece of her mind, she suddenly left her quaint and comfortable home in Halifax yesterday morning and I have been wafting in and out of “surreality” since I got the news. How could I possibly write when I’m mourning the loss of my friend? Because I have to tell you about her and what she meant to me. What we did for each other. That’s why. Because she is THAT important!

    I met Doris on my Marinade Dave blog as I was sprawled out in a hospital bed with pneumonia. I posted a short article on Christmas Eve 2008 called Casey Anthony’s Christmas Tree. She left her first comment under the pseudonym detwill39: “I believe the slacks that were washed by Cindy belonged to Casey but I may be mistaken. Hope you feel better soon, Dave, not a nice time of year to be sick.”

    The next comment came two weeks later on a post titled Creepy Cryptic Casey. She wondered about the Casey Anthony/Zenaida Gonzalez connection and wrote, “Dave, your input on the above, PLEASE!”

    The rest is history. She was hooked on my writing and, with each passing day, her input grew and grew. As nice as she was, she was very demanding, and I respected that. I’ve always liked and admired independent women. She was fiercely so. She wanted answers and if I was ever going to be any good at the subject matter I was writing about, I needed to do my homework and provide her and every other reader with the facts. Cut and dry, but she recognized I had a way with words that made things clear and easy to read, like you’re right there with me. The more information I could provide, the more she could decipher. She wanted bits and pieces that could be used as evidence in the case. I dug and I dug and I dug, and it led me to exposing one State witness as a fraud. If I was driven, she helped make me a 4-wheel drive.

    While I was focused on the truth, so was she. On many occasions, our versions didn’t see eye-to-eye and we locked horns. Oh boy, did we! There were times when I felt like giving her the boot, but there was something about her spirited ways that wouldn’t allow me to let her go. She did leave and flaunt herself on other blogs for months at a time, much to my chagrin, but she always meandered back to mine. She even created her own and I was glad to help her set it up. What we developed was a love/hate relationship. We were like Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, oil & vinegar and salt & pepper, all rolled into one. The yin to my yang. She was my Sgt. Joe Friday with a cutting edge sense of humor. On the blog, we complemented each other like no one else. Ultimately, it was a true friendship type of love that grew because we really, really got to be the best of friends. I learned a lot about her family and she learned about mine. When my father passed away last year, she was right there, just as good friends always are.

    In April of 2010, Casey Anthony’s defense filed a motion demanding that Judge Stan Strickland recuse himself. It was based on two articles I wrote prior to the judge complimenting me in the courtroom. What’s interesting about this is that I had my share of 15 minutes of fame, but, most importantly, I was accused by some in the peanut gallery of secretly working for the defense to take down the judge in order to throw the case. Of course, it was nothing like that, but those Internet trolls went on the warpath, hellbent on taking me down. Who immediately came to my defense? Yes, Doris. She was a real warrior who stuck to her guns. As they attacked me, they turned their attention to her, too. They published her address and phone number. It hurt her tremendously. I reassured her that no one was going to get a passport to go to Canada. She was safe. Those people were all talk (which they were.) Don’t worry about them. They threatened to throw me off the courthouse roof. I knew better. Her? They were going to ram her wheelchair into a snowbank and leave her there to freeze. BABs they were called. Bald Ain’t Beautiful. When the trial ended, they disappeared into the weeds, like the vermin they were. By then, Doris and I were hardened and seasoned pros. Stronger than ever. Talk about growing pains.

    We went through a lot together and we were bonded, so bonded that we often spoke to each other by phone, sometimes every week. What was it about? Friends just being friends. Advice. Small talk. Certainly crimes! But what was it about her? How do you explain the way friendships develop and evolve? That she was forthright and honest goes without saying. We earned each others’ trust.

    Yes, Doris was in a wheelchair. On Sunday, when we spoke, she said she had searched and searched for the article she had written years earlier for Abilities magazine. There was no trace of it on Google. I told her I’d look, too, but she was quite the Internet snoopysleuth. Nope, it’s not there. Titled, Garden of Weeden, I couldn’t find it, either. She told me so. Smart cookie that she was. I called the magazine this morning but they only archive back to 2011. I read it once and it was a fantastic article, but I have no idea where. In an April 2009 e-mail, she told me, “I just wanted to explain why I do not discuss my disability but don’t mind showing off my abilities…LOL.”

    Doris was loaded with abilities and she had the ability to push me forward. On Sunday, she told me she loved me. I told her I loved her, too.” On Tuesday, she called me about the Charleston case and that was the last time we spoke. As much as the digital world is alienating people, we connected over the world of electricity. Call our friendship a “current affair.” (She would love that!) We never met face-to-face.

    How much I write in the future will depend on what intrigues me, but there are many things I want to cover. She complained that I wasn’t writing enough, yet she beamed when I did. I have one story I planned on writing and I expected to hear her thoughts on it. I think about it now and it’s like a void. I know I didn’t write just for her, but her opinion was always important. From now on, I am going to feel a charge zapping my through my brain, as if she’s poking me with a cattle prod, reaching out with one hand from a pearly gate, standing. There’s nothing I will write without thinking of her.

    “Get busy, Buster!” And from now on, I dedicate all of my future writing to the memory of Doris Willman. She was my perfect sidekick. Or was I hers?



    The Roof of All Evil

    When I was around seven-years-old, I went squirrel hunting with my father. We were out in the woods somewhere in New Jersey when, suddenly, I spotted one of the critters up in a tree.

    “Look, Dad!” I loudly and proudly proclaimed, pointing up into the tree at the innocent little guy minding his own business. Up went the gun…


    Down came the squirrel, crashing to the ground with a light thump, about twenty feet or so below. I ran over to it to see the prize. It jerked and choked and gasped for air. I looked into his eyes and watched them glaze over as he took his final breath. It was a horrible experience — to watch death unfold. There’s just something weird about looking into the eyes of something or someone as they die.

    I turned to my father, visibly shaken, and said that I never wanted to go hunting with him again. I never did, and soon afterward, he stopped, too.

    To this very day, I have never owned a gun and I have no desire to ever possess one. But that doesn’t make me an anti-gun person. I’ve enjoyed target practice in the past, although it’s been many years. I totally abhor shooting animals for game, but I’m not opposed to hunting for food. After all, I am a meat eater and I seem to look the other way when it comes to how chickens, for example, are treated by food giants like ConAgra and their many subsidiaries. I am trying to be more conscientious when it comes to the humane treatment of animals. Humane. How could you possibly show compassion or benevolence toward a creature whose sole purpose from birth on is to become food? That’s a question to chew on, but I won’t dwell on it right now since this is mostly about guns, Charleston, and the Second Amendment stating that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    I’m not here to argue the rights and wrongs of gun control, but I do agree with the president (and anyone else who thinks) that we need to have a vigorous and rigorous debate regarding how easy they are to purchase. I’m not stupid enough to feel the necessity to take guns away because some people want it that way. Guns will always be around and there’s no denying it. I think a minimum/mandatory sentence imposed on someone caught with an illegal firearm is something to consider, like 25 years. No parole. That may help to get them off the street, but it wouldn’t have stopped Dylann Roof from mercilessly slaughtering nine people inside of a House of God. He bought his legally. It was a simple thing to do. Too simple in some states.

    (There’s some question about Roof’s gun purchase. Federal law prohibits people like Roof from obtaining firearms because, in February, he was arrested and later charged with felony possession of Suboxone, a narcotic prescription drug. He was released, and the case is pending. Because of this, Roof shouldn’t have been able to buy from a gun store. Federally licensed gun dealers are required to run background checks and this pending charge would have turned up as a red flag. According to his uncle, Roof got his pistol as a birthday present from his father, Reuters reported. No background checks are necessary in private transactions in South Carolina and the seller is not obligated to ask about felonies or felony indictments, although it is illegal to give guns as gifts to those people. If Roof’s father knew about the indictment, he could spend 10 years behind bars.)

    Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop the crazies of the world from doing what they set out to do, and Roof is a perfect example of that and more. While I’m against the death penalty, this guy deserves to be snuffed out, with no grave or marker of any kind to identify him. He is evil through and through and he is proof positive that racism is pure evil, even in its simplest form. Nothing good ever comes out of evil. Ever.

    What Roof did should open a debate about guns and rightly so; however, I’m hearing some disturbing things about this terrorist attack on humanity. Anyone who thinks this wasn’t terrorism should think about the terror in the eyes of Roof’s victims as he fired away. That was terror in its rawest form.

    So what does a National Rifle Association executive in Texas have to say about it? Houston-based attorney Charles Cotton suggested that the murdered pastor of the church bears some of the blame for his opposition to permitting concealed handguns inside his house of worship. On, he insanely, absurdly wrote about the pastor of the church and South Carolina state senator Clementa Pinckney:

    “[Pinckney] voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

    Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee stated:

    “It sounds crass, but frankly the best way to stop a bad person with a gun is to have a good person with a weapon that is equal or superior to the one that he’s using.”

    Does this mean we should ALL carry guns (me included) or face the consequences of evil people? Well, kiss my grits!

    What I find abhorrently wrong with those two statements is that Roof entered a House of God with a gun. I’m sorry, but I think a church is a sanctuary; a place to go for solace and peaceful introspection — something Roof should have been doing. A church is a place to study. It should be the last place on earth to worry about violence. While a lot of Americans think it’s an inherent right to mix God and guns, I think it’s ridiculous. One does not need to believe in guns, nor God, to understand how opposite the two are, like night and day. One brings life into the world and the other takes it away. Unless, of course, you shoot targets in church or take out squirrels in the rafters.




    A Haunting Portrait of War

    I know I have published this before, but, in my opinion, it will never lose its importance. Each time, I try to bring it up to date. We should forever keep the memories of our lost soldiers alive in our hearts and minds…

    There isn’t a day that goes by when the thundering echoes of war escape us. Today, we live in a world rife with radical extremists like al Qaeda and daesh, defiantly justified to maim and kill in the name of their god. The following story is my hideous wake-up call. It came at a time when most wars were fought over more mundane causes - nationalism, patriotism, democracy, communism, bigotry and territorial rights. This was back when building a bigger and more powerful bomb was all the rage, and nations proudly strutted their massive hardware in shows of strength and unity in order to intimidate their neighbors and perceived threats. Today, our enemies use IEDs or strap a bomb to their chests and blow themselves up.

    On a distant morning in 1967, one of my classmates at East Amwell Township School was quietly asked to get up from his desk and follow the administrator out of the classroom. I remember that day and wondering why. Did he do something wrong? Of course not, and it didn’t take very long before the principal announced on the P.A. system that his cousin, Van Dyke Manners, was killed in action in Vietnam. He was one of the first from Hunterdon County, New Jersey, to die in the line of duty. I didn’t know him personally, but I remember it well because it was a solemn day. My friend had lost a loved one. Greg did not come back to class that week. To a 14-year-old, those echoes of war were a distant sound that lightly flickered in our young minds. We never thought of death then. We were invincible, but with each passing day, the reverberation grew louder and louder, and reality hit us fast and hard. The Vietnam War was in full boom.

    Back then, what was going on in our own back yards seemed more important than anything else, but the Vietnam war was lurking out there - somewhere in our heads. Despite our youthful dreams and aspirations, the war never escaped us. We saw it on our black & white television sets. We heard it on our AM radios. It made headlines in the daily newspapers. Everywhere we went, the specter loomed large and cut deeply into our subconscious minds.


    Early in 1968, a girl who lived up the street from me asked if I would be interested in creating a portrait of her boyfriend. Back in those days, a small town was just that; there was no city in sight. Windows were left open to let air breeze through because air conditioning was a luxury. We weren’t afraid to leave our doors unlocked, and neighbors knew all the gossip. I was known as the left-handed artistic kid. Ask Dave. He knows how to draw.

    She was a little older than me, and her boyfriend had enlisted in the Army. She offered to pay me and I accepted. I asked her to round up whatever photographs she could so I had something to work with. I asked her if I could meet him. To an artist, it’s good to know something about a subject that photographs alone cannot tell you. In the flesh, you get to know the person. Because of that request, I got to know Mike Baldwin. At 21, he was a man. At 15, I was not. He was old and mature. I was still a kid. He shaved, I didn’t, and with a war raging, I was in no hurry to buy my first razor.

    His girlfriend asked me to draw the portrait as big as I could. When I went to the store to buy materials, my old “Be Prepared” Boy Scout lessons taught me to have a back-up plan, so I purchased two giant drawing boards, just in case I messed up. I couldn’t simply up and go to the store back then because I was too young to drive.  Fortunately, I didn’t mess up, so I decided to draw another one, identical to the first. The original BOGO! I don’t know what compelled me to do it, but I’m glad I did. Maybe I thought if the relationship didn’t work out years later, at least he would have one to share with his family. That must have been the reason. Maybe the death of Van Dyke put apprehension in my heart. You know, one for his mother, just in case.

    When I finished the drawings, I made a date to deliver the artwork. My neighbor had invited Mike and his mother to “attend” the presentation. Everyone was very pleased with the job I had done, especially his mother, who was honored to have her son’s portrait captured by a local artist.

    Soon afterward, he left for Vietnam. He went because he believed in a cause. He believed in America and freedom. In school, we were taught about the Domino Theory. Back then, it meant that if one country falls under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow. Red China didn’t exist on any of our maps and globes. It was just a grayed out mass of nonexistent land, but it was still a major threat because North Vietnam was one of the countries under their grip. South Vietnam was not, and we came to its defense. Today, Vietnam is one country but, by the end of the war, 58,000 red-blooded Americans gave up their lives. Michael Baldwin was one of them.

    Nearly 46 years ago, he became a statistic. His body was zipped up in a bag and shipped home. That was the day I woke up to the horrible tragedy of war. It was my first experience. Someone I knew personally was dead because of it. 

    One of the things I learned, and it’s very important, was that Michael Baldwin put his country before his life. We lost so many and what did we gain? I know I gained a whole lot of respect for those who march off to war. Michael Baldwin was a man and I was a boy when we met, but I still look up to him and I will soon be 45 years older than he was on the day he died. To this very day, I wonder what would life be like had he lived. Would he have married my neighbor or someone else? Would he be happy? Or would he be mourning the loss of his children or grandchildren because of our brutal and self-inflicted world of terrorism, home-spun jihadists and plain, old weirdos? The more violence changes, the more it remains the same. Death is still death and the loss of loved ones over religion and politics is still just as senseless as it was the day Michael Baldwin died.

    On July 19, he would be turning 68. I will remember him as a true American hero; a very proud young man. As for the identical pictures I drew, they are lost and gone, but not forgotten. In my mind, the memory of them will forever remain a haunting portrait of war.

    Sgt. Michael Richard Baldwin (7/19/1947 - 9/12/1968) KIA - Binh Long Province, South Vietnam, ambushed while on reconnaissance 5 kilometers Northeast of Loc Ninh, along with:
    Ssgt. Phillip Kenneth Baker - Detroit, MI
    Pfc. Eugene Russell Boyce - Spartanburg, SC
    Sp4. Wayne Daniel Jenkins - Bryson City, NC
    Pfc. Kenneth Leroy Martin - Los Angeles, CA
    Pfc. Marion Luther Oxner - Leesville, SC
    Pfc. Dale Arden Palm - Toledo, OH
    Pfc. Kurt Francis Ponath - Cudahy, WI
    Sp4. J C Williams Jr. - Muncie, IN
    Pfc. William Wittman - Binghamton, NY

    September 12, 1968, was a long and sad day for Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.

    Pfc. Van Dyke William Manners (11/10/1945 - 2/15/1967) KIA - Kontum Province, South Vietnam

    To all our brethren lost in wars, rest in peace. Your deaths will never be in vain.

    I first published a different version of this story in 2006. Michael Baldwin’s cousin searched his name on Google and found my blog about a year later. She wrote me and said, “I just found your website and read your article about Mike.  I just wanted to say thank you…  It touched me and helped me remember my cousin very fondly.  He was a good guy and the last of the Baldwin men in our family.  He is remembered fondly by many of my friends who still [live] in Flemington, as well as my family.

    “I also wanted to let you know that Aunt Peg didn’t handle Mike’s death very well.  She couldn’t even bring herself to go to the funeral.  I do remember that both she and my Uncle Alvin (Mike’s Dad) did attend the memorial at Ft. Dix after his death.  That was really all she could handle.  She always said she preferred to remember people while they were alive.  I can’t say that I blame her.  I didn’t understand it in 1968, but I get it now.

    “Mike left a large impact on me.  The memorial service was really something and I can still remember the 21 gun salute at his funeral in the cemetery in Flemington.”

    Mike’s mother passed away in 1993. His sister contacted me right after her cousin got in touch with her. Here is what she told me:

    “My cousin called me and told me about your blog.  She had seen Michael’s name in it and read the story.  I read it too and also your reply to her.  I am Mike’s youngest sister.  You made me cry—but it was a good cry.

    “My family and I are so pleased that we are not the only one’s who remember Mike.  Looking through your blog and your e-mail to Mary, I found it so interesting that there are so many things we are connected through.

    “I go to church at Kirkpatrick Memorial Presbyterian church in Ringoes. Van Dyke’s mother went there before she died a couple of years ago and there is a stained glass window dedicated to him.

    “My father worked for the Forans in the foundry they owned in Flemington.  My father was friends with Walt Foran. [My friend Frank’s father.]

    “When I read your blog, I could feel that you knew Mike well.  He was a great kid and we loved him.  You talk about my mother—you may not know it but I had a brother who was older than Mike—his name was Alvin—we called him Skip.  He died in a car accident on Sept. 13, 1958.  No, I didn’t confuse the dates, it was one day short of 10 years later that Mike was killed.  It was a blow that my parents never recovered from.

    “I am so glad that you wrote about Mike, it makes me feel that we are not the only ones who remember. Thank you again for keeping his memory alive.”

    Please see: NJ Vietnam War Memorial - Michael Baldwin


    Posted on Daily Kos


    Melon Melange

    I generally take the interstates when I visit my best friend’s homestead near the west coast of Florida. That means, I-4 west to I-75 south. I get off on one of the Bradenton exits and head east until I arrive at my destination. When they’ve had enough of me and kick me out, I usually take back roads home. There are many possibilities. I visited this past weekend and, when I left, I took State Road 64 east through Ona and Zolfo Springs until I got to US 27 north in Avon Park. 27 took me back to I-4 and home.


    Along 64, I passed a lot of 18-wheelers carrying all sorts of loads, mostly produce. Just before I got to Zolfo Springs, I saw a number of rather interesting looking pickup trucks; the likes of which I had never seen. They were retired school buses. The cabs were left intact, but the remainder of the roofs were chopped off and the seats were removed. That turned them into makeshift pickups. Call it repurposing in today’s lingo. But what were they hauling? As I continued heading east, I found my answer.


    Upon entering Zolfo Springs, I stopped at a roadside restaurant that caters to locals and truck drivers. It was morning still, and I was sure they served eggs of the chicken variety. Even though, as I approached the town, a sign appeared that said Entering Zolfo Springs City Limits, I pretty much felt as countrified as a barnyard denizen. 

    What surprised me about the menu was that it offered scrapple, a staple in the Pennsylvania/western NJ area. Scrapple has Pennsylvania Dutch roots. I grew up eating the stuff. What was a mom & pop joint like that, in the middle of nowhere, doing offering scrapple – mixed up pork parts and cornmeal? We’re talking about backwoods territory without the woods. AHA, I thought! It was probably to cater to the OTR drivers from the northeast. Perhaps, they have a hankering for it every so often when they’re far away from home. Sadly, I didn’t see pork roll on the menu, not that I would have been inclined to order it.

    Anyway, I saw truckloads of watermelons. Watermelons EVERYWHERE! I had no idea. Could Zolfo Springs be the watermelon capital of the universe? Well, it might be pretty darn close when the season is right. Too bad it raises my sugar so much. I like it, but can’t eat it.


    When I looked up the demographics of Zolfo, as of the 2000 census, the Hispanic/Latino population was about 54%. Nothing should surprise us there; however, I wonder how many of them are illegals, and does anyone in the town care? Probably not, and neither do I, because there’s no way anyone else would be out working the fields all day in stifling heat, picking watermelons (or any other fruits and vegetables the companies grow and sell wholesale.) This naturally, organically, leads me to a couple of thoughts. Suppose we legalize them, which is what President Obama wants to do. Then, we turn those “seedy” migrant workers seedless by paying them $15.00 per hour, which will surely be the minimum wage by that time.

    Fertilize that thought for a moment… because your now $10.00 store-bought watermelon will jump to $50.00 a pop, but, what the heck, all of them will be Gallaghering all over the place with money! Right? Wrong. Why? I’d be willing to bet the farm that those companies will lay them off as more illegals enter the country to do the work they no longer want to do. Why should they? They will move uptown while the farmers will want to continue maximizing their profits. Uptown will eventually lead to unemployment claims.

    Maybe they’re all praying it won’t happen that way. Maybe they don’t know any different. Maybe I don’t know, either. Perhaps none of us do. Only the bus has the answer…


    From the Department of WHERE'S A COP WHEN YOU NEED ONE?!!

    My aunt is visiting from New Jersey and it’s great having her here. This morning, I decided to play social director so I asked her and my mother if they wanted to go to Kohl’s and Dollar Tree this afternoon. My mother needed something from a department store and you can’t go wrong at dollar stores when it comes to things like household cleaners.

    The stores are side-by-side in Altamonte Springs and I had to drive a fair stretch along FL-434 from the Longwood area. I hit a traffic snag near a busy shopping center and that didn’t surprise me at all. Suddenly, a lowrider came rumbling along side me, rapidly weaving in and out of traffic. This was probably a late model, pimped-out Buick with low-profile tires and tinted windows. I may have detected a hint of hip hop pumping out of the heavy bass speakers. I could not see the driver, but his car couldn’t have been more than two inches off the ground.

    This was a three-lane highway and I was in the middle. He cut right in front of me from the left lane, darted into the right, and dangerously maneuvered his car like a NASCAR racer on a mad mission, not caring about anyone around him. Everyone else was slowly and patiently moving forward. He was the driver from hell.

    As I approached a side street, I saw a motorcycle cop waiting to merge into the roadway. The Buick was now out of sight, absorbed somewhere in the traffic ahead. I wondered…

    In a flash, he lit up and someone let him in. My aunt, mother and I were hoping aloud. Wouldn’t it be nice..? We waited and waited… Aha! It wasn’t all that long before I saw the jerk turn onto a side street with the police officer close behind. As I passed by, I could see the cop cautiously approach the vehicle.

    I think the odds of lightning striking the same place twice are greater than law enforcement being at the right place at the right time. Finally, I saw it happen, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer or more deserving guy.


    Feeling Loansome

    Once upon a time, many years ago, I was in the fast food restaurant business in Flemington, New Jersey. It was called Weiner King and our claim to fame was a specialty hot dog with mustard, chopped onions and the best homemade chili you ever had. Called a Texas Weiner, the chili was made with finely ground beef. No beans! It was brown gold.

    We had a very faithful base of clientele; people who had come into the place since it opened in 1962. Many of them remained loyal right up to the very end, and tons of old customers from that area will tell you they still crave Texas Weiners and King Burgers. And chili cheesedogs with onions.

    One of our faithful customers was a guy named George. George came in to eat every day, including weekends. Sometimes, he’d come in more than once. Twice. Three times in one day. He was such a good customer, he was almost like family. One afternoon, he approached the counter with a relatively serious look on his face. Usually, he was quite happy and talkative. On this particular day, he just asked for Jack. Jack was my boss, the owner of the place, and the best boss you’d ever work for. He asked me if I would cover the burger grill so he could walk up to the front counter…

    “Hey, George. What’s up?”


    “Yes, George…”

    “I’m getting married on Saturday and I want to have our wedding reception here.” I had met his fiancée many times before. Clearly, George wasn’t playing with a full set of teeth, if you know what I mean.

    “Certainly, George! I’d be happy to accommodate you!” Jack responded. “We’ll make sure you have reserved tables. How many people and what time?”

    I don’t remember the incidentals, but Jack offered free ice cream for everybody. Maybe, they brought a cake, too. When the wedding party arrived, right on schedule, George was beaming! They drove around the parking lot several times, tooting their horns in excitement. George was a married man! When they came in, he said they cruised down the main drag and around the three traffic circles, something Flemington is famous for, beep, beep, beeping away!

    I know it was a big hot dog party. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers and fries. Milkshakes and Cokes. The orders kept flying. Plus we had to wait on other customers. After all was said and done, his entire bill came to just over $13.00. But you have to understand that, back then, in the early 70s - if my memory serves me correctly - a hot dog was 35 cents and a quarter pound burger was 50 cents.

    Yup, ole George did all right that day. Everyone had a great time, including us.

    “Where are you going on your honeymoon, George?” Jack asked as the affair wound down.

    “The Ringoes Drive-In,” he responded. The following Monday, George was back in for lunch. I don’t think anyone asked about the movie.


    Two or three years later, George came up to the counter and, one more time, asked to speak to Jack. He had that same serious look on his face. This time, though, he wanted to talk privately, so the two met around the corner, by the side door between one of the dining rooms and the back room where we did our prep work. They spoke quietly, but, afterward, Jack said he needed to borrow $50.00. He was in a real bind. Of course, Jack immediately reached into his pocket and handed him the money because that’s just the way he was. “Is $50.00 enough?”

    Sadly, it was the last time George came into the restaurant. It’s as if he fell off the face of the earth.

    One day, many years later, Jack was on Main Street and he ran into him.

    “George… George… where have you been?” The poor guy desperately tried to hide his face to avoid the encounter. Too late. “Listen, don’t worry about the $50.00. I want you back as a customer. We like you! We’ve missed you! Forget the money!”

    “OK, sorry, I’ll be in,” and he scurried off. Maybe he thought that Jack was privileged. (He certainly wasn’t.) Maybe he felt Jack was rich because he could simply dig into his pocket and pull out $50.00 and he resented it. Perhaps he knew, when he borrowed it, that he’d never be able to pay it back. I just don’t know, but Jack never saw George again. None of us ever did.




    The Durst Case Scenario

    Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do?

    “You ate that last piece of cake, didn’t you?!!” or “I’ll bet that car accident was your fault, wasn’t it?”

    You might mumble under your breath, “Yup, it was me. I ate it,” or “I ran right into that car on purpose,” knowing fool well you didn’t do anything of the sort. Some people mumble louder so the other person might hear that you said something, but…

    “What did you say?”

    “Awww… Nothing. Forget it.” You know what you meant, and all you were doing was being sarcastic with yourself. What irony it is that someone would have the audacity to accuse you, you think, disgustingly.

    Some people, like Robert Durst, have been known to talk to themselves. Intelligent people sometimes do. So do nutjobs. Occasionally, I do it, although I don’t know which category I would fall under. Without being presumptious, I think it’s easy to guess which checkmark Durst would get.

    But to be fair, I think it’s important to note that, perhaps, he was simply mumbling under his breath when he said, “What the hell did I do? … Killed them all, of course.” That could possibly be part of a solid defense. I was merely being sarcastic with myself. It’s certainly no confession. I knew what I was doing when I said it.

    We already know he enjoys playing with people’s minds. He could have uttered those words on purpose; to see where it goes from there. He does, after all, seem to thrive on skirting the law. Facing murder or the trial itself might be a perfect game to him. Another challenge. Why not? God knows he can afford the best attorneys. What a thrill!

    What a weirdo.

    Please see: Heir Robert Durst says he “killed them all”


    The Most Interesting Guy In The World?

    I covered two murder trials in central Florida as a credentialed journalist. I did some rather intensive investigative work and diligently reported on what I found out. I’ve written, quite possibly, millions of words. I shot videos from locations pertinent to the alleged crimes, right down to the tree where Caylee’s skull was found and where Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. Why? Because I wanted people to understand as best as they could. I live in central Florida. Most of my readers don’t. It was my desire to give viewers as much information about the cases as possible. I was very detailed in everything I did. I lined up timelines and distances. I interpreted statutes as they arose in motions and responses and how they played out in court. My heart was embedded in those cases. I loved reporting what was going on inside courtrooms during hearings and trials. It was in my blood and I felt I was quite good at it or I wouldn’t have done it. I could feel the intensity; the raw emotions and hidden expressions, as if I could sometimes read minds, and I did my utmost to be as candid as possible. To say I was at my best and in my element would be an understatement.

    God knows, I tried to get answers from everyone. Every day, I talked to attorneys directly involved in the cases, both the prosecution and defense, the witnesses willing to open up, and many of the seasoned journalists that helped educate me. One TV personality (a three-time Emmy winning reporter for WESH, the local NBC affiliate) introduced me to national reporters as Orlando’s own version of Dominick Dunne. I felt humble, yet very proud of that distinction, although I haven’t lived up to the name since Zimmerman’s verdict was rendered. To be honest, I don’t think I ever came close to Dunne, but I sure did appreciate the lofty compliment.

    I must say I savored every moment. I proved my worth as a writer. At my all-time high, I got over 200,000 hits on my blog in a single month. One day, I peaked at nearly 20,000 visits. I was hired by Orlando magazine to write on their Website about the Casey Anthony trial from inside the courtroom atop the Orange County courthouse. Am I bragging? Yes. Am I embellishing? No. Have I ever embellished? Kinda, sorta, no, not in the classical sense, but every professional writer elaborates a bit. Maybe it’s a mild form of embellishment. I don’t know, to be honest, so I will give you an example instead…

    I can’t remember, word-for-word, every conversation that takes place on a given day because I write from either notes or memory. This means that, when I type a part of my article from a conversational point of view, I’m not quoting verbatim. In order to help make certain thoughts clearer, I take what’s referred to as journalistic license to build a story, but I keep the gist of it intact. That’s most important and the bottom line is, I would never make anything up or change the facts to suit me in any way, shape or form. I would never add details that are not true. I believe in honesty because it’s my nature, and I learned a long time ago from experience, you do not write the news to promote yourself!

    There are ways to perk up stories without going over the line. It flows forth in writing styles, be it alliteration or rhetorical effect. You know… Onomatopoeia. Hyperbole. Metaphors. Similes. Euphemisms. That’s all acceptable, but there will never be a day when I have to clear up a “bungled attempt” at a fictional account of the truth.

    I am going to tell you flat out that I would distinctly remember whether my helicopter had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade OR NOT, no matter how many years ago it took place. Being shot at is something you never forget, so there’s no excuse for being vague about it. Every degreed journalist is trained to make distinctions between real and imagined. If you’re not sure, don’t say it, because, once you lose your credibility, you will NEVER regain it. Many reporters have lost their jobs over it, but a network news anchor?

    “… the fog of memory over 12 years made me conflate the” experience, Brian Williams said in his apology. Over the years, his nose grew and grew and, by Saturday, his apology wasn’t enough, so he took a leave of absence. In my opinion, it was an easy way to nudge him out the door. I don’t think he’ll be back.

    On the other hand, times are different. Today, lying is an art form. Skewing the truth takes no talent. Politicians do it all the time and we either buy it or ignore it. But news anchors? Reporting the news from a left or right slant is commonplace and a lot of it is pure entertainment. We expect that these days; however, it’s still mostly about the story, not the personality relaying it. That is, until the personality becomes the headline. Once Williams crossed the threshold and became the news, his anchoring days flew out the High Density window. The main question now becomes: Is he telling the truth? His integrity is toast. He has become the Lance Armstrong of the news industry. In his day, the impeccable Walter Cronkite would have been canned for lesser things. Sure, he was entitled to his opinions, but he never let his ego get in the way of what he reported each weeknight. 

    I never had any disdain for Williams. I liked him, although I didn’t put him in the same league with Tom Brokaw, whom he replaced at NBC. Unfortunately, this sad twist soured me on him, and I think he needs to be replaced.

    I tasted this business and I know the difference between bragging and stretching the truth. Hey! I just bragged about myself, but all of it was true. No exaggeration! I hated doing it, but I want you to know the difference. I don’t like liars and I don’t want to be the most interesting guy in the world. I simply prefer to be an interesting guy. One you can trust.


    Let Us Spray

    From the Estate of Samuel W. Knechel, Sr.


    I found something in his collection of things…

    When my father owned a front end alignment business in Flemington, NJ, his father, Warren, used to stop by to chew the fat. My father would be working on cars and pay close attention to detail. He was a consummate professional. All the while, my grandfather would be talking up a storm, generally speaking of his grandiose accomplishments in life. Eventually, my father would get out his can of repellent and spray it around the bay and lift. Ol’ Warren would take the hint and, without skipping a beat, promptly turn away and walk out without a word. Off his car would go until he decided it was time to come bragging again.

    What’s most interesting is that my father was just as bad, if not worse than his father. As a matter of fact, it seems to be a family trait, although I was quite fortunate that I did not inherit the Knechel knack for bullshit. 

    What perplexes me, though, is that people I have known a long time will sometimes remind me that I sound just like my late father. I have no idea why someone would think such a thing! How could anyone EVER insult my good character like that? As if I have the gift of gab. HAHAHAHAHA!!!

    SHOCKING! The NERVE of some people!



    Last Monday, January 5, George Zimmerman supposedly threw a bottle of wine at his erstwhile girlfriend after she broke up with him and attempted to flee his house, where she had been living for the past two to three months. Apparently, he demanded that she return one of his paintings and an argument ensued. He threw her cellphone to the ground, smashing it to pieces. Sound familiar? She may have called him a psychopath, which would have infuriated him to no end. She told the police he was. When she left the house, she was pulled over by Lake Mary police for not having her headlights on. A nearby officer had heard the sound of glass breaking. She was a total wreck, panicking and crying. The reason, just in case you’re not aware, why Zimmerman wasn’t arrested the night of the alleged incident is pretty simple.

    When police went to his house to investigate that night, the hot-tempered cop-wannabe was nowhere to be found. All week long investigators attempted to contact him, to no avail. He wasn’t home and he refused to answer his phone. It wasn’t until Friday that police found him at his residence, but he refused to come to the door or respond to phone calls for nearly two hours, and that was only after his attorney, Don West, was contacted. From what I understand, police could hear someone quiet the dog from inside the home prior to answering the door. He was then placed under arrest and charged with aggravated assault. Sadly, the victim claimed she didn’t want to pursue charges against him on the night of the incident, and she still doesn’t. Why? More on that, but…

    Saturday morning, he easily bonded out after Circuit Judge John Galluzzo set it at $5,000. He was ordered to turn his guns over to a family member or friend and to stay out of Volusia County, where the woman now resides. He’s still in Seminole. He cannot have any contact with her, either. True to typical Zimmerman form, he denied everything. She threw the wine bottle at the garage door after he refused to let her in. Her five-year-old son was the one who broke her phone long ago. He dumped her, not the other way around. Sound familiar? Nothing is EVER his fault. Poor boy, and you know something? He’s going to get away with it again. Why?

    The victim is refusing to cooperate with investigators and the prosecutor’s office. There’s a simple reason for that, so don’t misunderstand or condemn her. George Zimmerman is toxic, to say the least. She wants nothing to do with plastering her name all over every newspaper and TV station across the country, including TMZ and whatever gossip show picks up on it. Would you? Odds are, Zimmerman would get away with it anyway, since he always does. After all, like OJ, his name is synonymous with ‘getting away with murder,’ and after calling him a psychopath to his face, she’s got to be frightened to death of him now.


    Acerbic Redux: Absolute proof that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii

    When Barack Obama announced his candidacy over six years ago, a ruckus stirred over his birthplace. Was it in the USA or Kenya? At the time, I knew that Hawaii had been one of the fifty states, so anyone from there was an American citizen through and through. But was he actually born there??? My interest piqued, so I decided to do some investigative work. Initially, I had no idea what I’d uncover, but I never gave up, and true to my craft, it didn’t take very long.

    The so-called “Birthers” went on and on for years, led by Mr. Donald “You’re Fired” Trump. No, he wasn’t born here, they emphatically stated. They still do. Very early on, I held the unwavering position that he had been properly vetted by federal services, as any legitimate candidate would have been. To think otherwise would be to proclaim the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service and a multitude of other agencies complete farces and total failures in every worldwide arena. And remember who was president at the time. (No, I’m not looking for political critiques.)

    In 2008, I decided to put an end to the speculation before it spread by proving that Obama was, in fact, NOT from either country. Sadly, I failed miserably, but I still have my proof. You can choose to believe it or not…

    Here is a Moai statue of Baracku at Rano Raraku on the Polynesian island, Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island, where they weren’t Muslims, either:

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