Don Edwards Literary Memorial
Stories | Commentary/Opinion | Dialogue Posts | Poetry


Reclaiming Lives


I don’t have any story to be compared with Richard Halter….the closest was with my friend Anthony. But it occurred to me, I may be a reclaimed person for different reasons.

I probably went to Mont la Salle, our boarding “Junior Novitiate” high school because Brother Edward who was the recruiter at the time, convinced me it was a good thing for me to do. I had known him from the second grade so I trusted him. My mother and step father were going through a very complicated and protracted divorce so I guess Brother Ed talked her into it too. So I arrived in Napa, a failing and indifferent student from Christian Brothers School in Sacramento, not interested in much more than playing basketball and I was about 5’ 4” tall. I could not have cared less about math, literature, history, science.

We lived in dorms, got up around 6:00 AM, went to prayers in our chapel, went to Mass, went to breakfast in our cafeteria, were silent all that time, performed cleanup tasks, went to classes, came back for lunch, went to other classes, played sports most of the afternoon, had study time, went to chapel, had dinner, studied, went to chapel again, went to bed, and every day was like every other day.

I began to be interested in reading. I liked the physics labs. Our compatriot, Brother Bede, Jim Van Duren, swallowed a weak acid in an experiment, not dangerous to taste, but he really should not have drank the entire test tube, had the most severe case of heartburn ever seen at the Mont. I got “B”s in Geometry, Trig.

Basically, I began to learn how to study. Brother Robert Smith told me once, “It is easy to be a good teacher, Don. Teach students how to learn and make sure they like learning…then they will be life long students.”

Like you I became a Novice, took vows, spent a year in prayer and meditation, went to St. Marys College, took courses, expected to teach literature the rest of my life and then, one day, I had “redition” with our director, Brother Gabriel. Redition was the regular meeting with one’s superiors, mandatory.

He looked me in the eye and said, “I think you should consider leaving the Brothers. The Council (I had not idea what “THE COUNCIL” was) has questioned your vocation.”

I was stunned. I consulted with my surrogate father, Brother Pius, our Novice Director. He told me that I needn’t pay any attention to the “suggestion.” It was entirely up to me. I walked with Brother Ed for hours. Finally, I decided, who wants to be where he is not wanted, appreciated.

I wrote a story about this, as a matter of fact.

So I left the Brothers, full of resentment, angry, feeling the injustice of the whole episode. But I knew I could succeed in anything I wanted to do. I had a good feeling about my abilities. I was thursty for knowledge and experience.

But I held a major grudge for many years.

Now, though, looking back, two things strike me:
1) Going to the Mont reclaimed my life.
2) Being told I had “no vocation” also reclaimed my life. “The Council,” whoever they were, was right.

So if I can do it at this late date, I extend my hand to Brother Edward and, very reluctantly, to Brother Gabriel, and of course to THE COUNCIL, and echo Richard Halter’s comment:

“I just want to shake your hands and say thank you, you saved my life.”


Iran and other matters


Went to Colima, the volcano city, with daughter Tracie and Judy (Valerie’s youngest sister) and friend. Nothing special, nice plaza as in all Mexican cities, virtually no good restaurants, then missed the city wanted to visit on the coast and drove all day to get back. Won’t go there, I assure you, when you come for a visit.

It is hard to fathom the Condoleeza Bush Rumsfeld Cheney reasoning about anything now. They are so inept and so hated throughout the world that their influence is not taken seriously…..more and more so in Latin America. I would not be surprised if we actually attacked Iran.

Underestimating adversaries is a tradition in our species, Napoleon and Hitler both underestimated the Russians. Valerie and I went on an archeological dig in South Africa a couple of years ago, the very first exploration of the battle of Isandluanda, a massacre of British troops by Zulu warriors. The British were poorly bivouacked, and even with greatly superior weapons, a few hundred well trained soldiers were no match for 20,000 world class Zulu athletes with old guns and spears. Likewise Custer….poorly bivouacked and underestimated the ferocity and determination of a bunch of “savages.”

I am afraid that our governmental process, our Constitution, has been hijacked by big business and I don’t see any change in our lifetime. As pessimistic as that sounds, can you imagine what you and Cesar and your colleagues would do now with the duplicitous rhetoric about “illegal aliens” with cheap labor wanted by many businesses in the US and of course, the Mexican government likes the idea of getting their people jobs, legal or not, in the US. Takes the pressure off of them.

Good Friday to you, too, LeRoy. Friday the 13th comes on a Thursday in June.


My friend Anthony


I think I posted some ideas about heroes some blog posts ago. Joseph Campbell called them out:athletes, warriors. statesmen, and in our time, perhaps scientists and medecine. Most of our athletes are rich cry babies. We have no statesmen. We throw soldiers like fodder to some foreign country. No Albert Einsteins now, or at least if there is one, no publicity because our culture doesn’t care. Medicine is such big business it is sinful.

So my heroes are my sister in law, Judy, who reclaimed her life after nearly destroying herself with alcohol and Anthony who I met while working at The Open Door, the community for the homeless in Atlanta. He spent ten years under a bridge within blocks of my house. He gave me a gift I can’t even imagine….he took me on a tour of his hangouts, where he slept, where he panhandled, where he sat under the shadow of the Jimmy Carter Center. I took many pictures and made him a Christmas card with a collage of them. He has reunited with his two teenage daughters he deserted when he left Syracuse, NY. He has a good job, has had several raises. He’s paid back all his debts. He’s saved money. He’s smart and funny. He’s back among us for good, I think. He will probably come visit us here in Ajijic.

The picture is where he slept.

My hero, Anthony.


On Myth, Religion, Dogma, Belief


We have talked about the Jesus of our monastic tradition being rather different than the Jesus we have come to understand. And that his persona was created by others after his death. And the dogmas of the Church, evolving over centuries. I believed it all when we were Christian Brothers. At this time of my life, it isn’t so important as to what of those days I believe….I have come to think that most of it is completely irrelevant. I don’t care if Jesus us god or man or both. I think the Trinity logic completely contrived and amusing. I find I have still retained a fondness for certain saints even though their lives are probably contrived by followers too. .St. Francis is my all time favorite….a genuine spiritual wacko. I am a big fan of the Virgin of Guadalupe, her mosaic on the bottom of my swimming pool here in Ajijic.

But I find my basic beliefs and values haven’t changed much, that is my moral convictions, notions of good and evil, what one should do to lead a virtuous life. I found many of the same ideas in Plato’s “Dialogues” and Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics.”

I take two of the children of the construction boss to a “creative writing” class each Saturday. The class is full of about 12 kids, all from poor Mexican families, and are taught by a very good teacher. Their theme was mythology this week. I chatted with the teacher and wondered if kids sometimes wrote about the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. He got very serious. “No,” he said. “Nunca…..never. The Virgin is religion, not mythology.”

Which got me to wondering quite what the difference is. Of course Jonah did not last long in the colon of a whale. One wonders about Lazarus, but he could have been entombed prematurely and an observant Jesus did what needed to be done to bring him back. Myth and Scripture…..I’m not certain I can tell the difference any more, though both often have very wise things to say.

My best, as always.


And I hope your Saturday was as good as my Friday, LeRoy


Yesterday eldest daughter, Tracie,came for a visit. I am amazed at how similar the two daughters are at least in appearance, quite different in some ways.

Today Valerie’s youngest sister, Judy, comes for a fisit too…the only member of her family I like. A recovered alcoholic, she reclaimed her life, one of my heroines. I found out, dealing with the homeless, how hopeless the life of the addict is, how humiliating, how dispairing.

The rainbirds sing most of the time now. The feast of St. Anthony is the traditional day of the start of rain.

I have a post coming up….belief, mythology and dogma. What is the difference?

My best,



LeRoy, here is an Loyd Webber song…lyrics by Jim Steinman… sung by the “boyzone” pop group. Love the song, but the lyrics are peculiar….I wonder what you think of them. You might want to hear the song sung by these kids. You and I have been talking about our early faith and how we progressed in our own more mature beliefs. These lyrics could reflect Nazi Germany or something more sublime. Interesting.

Andrew Lloyd Webber (music)/Jim Steinman(lyrics)

“No matter what they tell us
No matter what they do
No matter what they teach us
What we believe is true

No matter what they call us
However they attack
No matter where they take us
We’ll find our own way back

I can’t deny what I believe
I can’t be what I’m not
I know I’ll love forever
I know, no matter what

If only tears were laughter
If only night was day
If only prayers were answered
Then we would hear God say

No matter what they tell you
No matter what they do
No matter what they teach you
What you believe is true…”

…and so on.


Jesus in antiquity


The research I did for the early separation of “followers of Jesus” which was, at least in the beginning, mostly Jews, and later on Christians (the first time used in Antioch around 135 AD) including gentiles, was most enlightening. I think there can be no doubt Jesus existed if only because there were so many written accounts of his life, at least forty known gospels. The gospel of Thomas was included in the canon originally and then dropped for some reason. But as you point out, Jesus was likely illiterate, neither nor any of his disciples wrote anything about him during his life. It is unlikely he was thought of as very important otherwise there were would have been more written about him by historians of the time.

They didn’t teach this kind of stuff when we were Brothers. I doubt they taught it to seminarians either. When you see just how fluid beliefs were, how the early Christians were almost making it up as they went along, some deifying Jesus, some not, some like Marcion who made up a new God of the New Testament who was superior to the Old Testament God. Some insisted on Jewish rituals, some not. Peter, according to the Acts of the apostles, had dinner and baptized Cornelius the Centurion, a gentile, and convinced his followers it was ok because he had a vision and God told him “Why should you not eat something I have made” or words to that effect.

And then the Council of Nicea….that was a piece of work, called by Constantine himself. There Jesus was officially deified, the Holy Ghost to come sometime later. Of course justifying three entities, all of whom were God, took some very convoluted logic to explain: “Three Persons in One God.”

I believed it all when I was a Brother….but I was a child, after all, not fully cooked yet. Over the years some beliefs eroded, some just seemed preposterous and some seemed sensible. As I’ve said, I believe in the basic messages of the gospels: try to lead a good life, take care of the poor and infirm, care for children, treat people the way you would like to be treated.

My best,


Jesus 3


I don’t know exactly what happened to the pious Jesus of our monastic life, but here is what I think happened. And I don’t care whether or not he actually existed…his persona was created by people after his time anyway. I really like your characterization of him in your previous post. Josephus does mention him, but as far as I know, that is the only factual, historical reference to him.

I wrote a story about how I left the Scholasticate, basically told to leave since I didn’t apparently have “the right stuff.” Thank God for that favor. They were right…I didn’t. I remember looking at a picture of St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle on the wall of the room when I told Brother Edward I was leaving, sweet Saint face, halo, very in my imagination, prissy little smile, very sissified. He was, in fact, an ass kicker. Making the rabble literate was just about the last thing the Church or, for that matter, the monarchy wanted to happen.

So our pious, sweet Jesus, the miracle worker isn’t even evident in the gospels, much less the probable life he led. Miracles can be in the mind of the person. Good psychology, sensible advice, “have a good attitude” probably works miracles in modern times to those with cancer. Healing is a very complex and, if we are looking for miracles, miraculous part of the world, plants, animals, viruses,….it is astounding to me to see a cut I accidentally inflicted on myself the other night while preparing dinner begin to heal, close, scab, dissappear. Milagro!

There is a science fiction story by Michael Moorcock called “Behold the Man” which is interesting. Let us just say Jesus existed. What happened after, how he was portrayed, the mythology built around very little evidence… can I believe all that? Perhaps you are right: we have gotten over our monastic ideas by living a long time. I believe much of the basic principles of leading “a good life” which is reflected in the gospels, but Socrates said many of the same things hundreds of years earlier and so did Gilgamesh, a document preceeding the bible by at least two thousand years.

So to answer your question, I find I go to themes involving religious ideas and because I was a monastic at one time, to some of those themes, but I have no faith in my earlier faith. I like stories and many of the stories of Jesus are really good stories. So are the stories of Beowulf and Grendel. I have recently scanned the Koran and the Upanishads and the Kabalah…not because I’m looking for answers, but just intellectual curiosity about what different cultures believed. Same old stuff. Buddah, Moses, Jesus….all tough cookies at least in the written stories.

The Jesus of our youth left me long ago. But I like some of the written accounts and many of the messages: take care of the poor. Be kind to others, protect children. Try to lead a good life. Good principles written by Aristotle as a matter of fact.

Friday the 13th came on a Saturday this month.

My best,


Jesus’ grade 2


I couldn’t agree more. What might have happened if Jesus had been literate, or had a chronocler like Socrates had with Plato or Johnson had with Boswell? We’ll never know, but I can only grade Jesus on the basis of what was recorded at least 50 years after his death.

I give mostly good grades to the basic principles. I give mostly bad grades to the Church that used his name. I give an A+ to the Sermon on the Mount, regardless who wrote it. I give an A to St. Paul who apparently crafted his own version for his used car salesmanship, but a D for his messages.

Of course the whole course of the early church was invovled with the Roman politics culminating with Constantine and his mother.

I actually like the Jesus of driving the money lenders out of the temple, but there are scholars who believe that was the actual reason for his crusifixion, not the trumped up charges portrayed in the gospels. Cyril Connoley had a short paragraph that is interesting. I’ll transcribe part of it here.

“Jesus was a petulant man: his malidiction on the barren fig tree was sheer spite, his attitude towards the Pharisees was one of paanoiac wrath. …Those parables which all end ‘There shall be wailing gnashing of teeth,’ what a tone for a Redeemer. …he does not wish to break away from the Jewish framework of the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, but mainly to enrich their ethical content; consequently he imitates the intolerance of the Pharasees whom he condems…(Oh ye generation of vipers) and maintains the avenging role of God the Father which he claims to superseded.”

I like the parables, but then I like fables, stories, write a lot of them myself. I like D. H. Lawrence’s “The Man who Died” because it is a credible alternative story.

I wonder how Jesus would have graded his own life?

As always, my very best.


On Grading our lives

Good morning, LeRoy, the usual splendid day in Lake Chapala, around 75 degrees, slightly misty over the lake, probably going up to a whopping 85 degrees this afternoon, mist gone, cool breeze coming off the lake in the evening.

Now that you mention it, of course all our lives are graded in the “incomplete” category, and having rethought my life it goes something like this. I chose a profession requiring completeness, but I think you did too in a sense.

The differences are many, however. My profession had project after project defined by studies, operational guidelines, specific objectives, technology tools, etc. You had to complete each project. Of course, some projects were incorrectly defined so the customer wouldn’t pay you or there needed to be a “Phase 2” to correct things. But by and large, very well defined, in fact many jobs I had were to do the definition….perhaps needs a little essay all by itself sometime.

And yours, on the other hand, had no blueprints, written guidelines, procedure documents, technology attributes….just a vague, but valuable objective: to help the farmworkers, to get Jerry Brown elected, to give hope and resources to poor and homeless people, to get rid of the fucking parking lot which has transformed William Land Park.

So there can’t be an end to most of these things, but I think they can be graded. How many projects you have written about while with Cesar were complete? I give my professional life a B+ because I can measure it a little. I was a very good engineer. I give your career a much higher grade, perhaps like an essay question on a history exam, it can only be graded subjectively. You are much more in line with St. John Baptist de la Salle than I, though I participated in the Civil Rights movements and spent a lot of time developing computer software for K-12 classrooms.

Be easier on yourself. You get probably all grades: you try something involving William Land, and I give you an A for organizing and hasseling the city officials. It is “incomplete” but if you are still alive in 2007, those officials who don’t follow through are going to be very unhappy once you get involved again.

As for the Farmworkers era, I’m sure you get “F” for some things which didn’t get accomplished, “C” for some which didn’t meet your expectations (called “objectives” in engineering terms) and “A+” for forcing some powerful organization to do somethings they were never going to do without your involvement. And of course you get a virtual “incomplete” as far as the eventual result of fair treatment for immigrants, farm workers and homeless.

So did Jesus, for that matter, and I give Him very high grades for trying.

My best,


Past 2


Here’s what I think about living in the past. We always have lived in the past, with memories both good and bad, even when we were very active in our present, and thinking, planning our future.

But now we have a lot of time on our hands and, I don’t know about you, LeRoy, but I feel a certain sense of lack of purpose. We were both so active in our careers, though differently, when we “retire” I think it is natural to spend some thoughtful time about our lives. You’ve done it in your essays, I’ve done it in my short stories and essays. I see no harm in it and, for that matter, to chronicle ones past is what many great writers, politicians and adventurers have done. I don’t consider myself in a class with greatness, but I think I get a B+ for how I’ve lived my life…and it is certainly different than most. My Boston side of the family were patrons of the arts, knew Emerson, William James, Hawthorne, famous business people, and wrote about their lives in a Harvard collection known as “The Ward Papers.”

On another tack, the weather here now is getting hot. When it gets hot enough, usually in June, the lake evaporates and then at night, when it cools, we get violent, brilliant thunderstorms. The next day it is dry and cooler. The rains are preceded by singing cicadas, a gong-like noise, continuous during the day. The Mexicans call them “rain birds.”

The rain birds are singing outside my office. It is not clear if they predict the rain or the heat brings them out, but it is a nice noise.

Be good…..I’ve had great pleasure reading your essays, a kind of chronicle of your life, and sometimes I write a shortstory I like, detailing something in mine. I think we’re doing the right things….and I am always amused and amazed at your William Land pogroms. Wonderful stuff, inciting the neighbors to peaceful violence.


Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day

Buenos dias, LeRoy.
I was an only child, moved ten times before I was eight years old, father died at the age of thirty-four of tuberculosis, moved five more times before I went to a Roman Catholic boarding school, the Christian Brother’s winery in Napa, California, and for a short time became a monk in this fine institution. I have a lot of respect for Jean Baptist de la Salle who established this religious order in the seventeenth century to teach poor kids in France.

Poor kids didn’t get taught at that time. Rich kids had tutors. St. de la Salle was at least a contributor if not the founder of classroom pedagogy, something he never gets credit for. I wonder why? I have speculated that he might have inadvertently contributed to the French Revolution. Literate poor people in history are troublesome….they get angry at their poverty, with no other way out, start revolutions.

And speaking of revolutions, we had a chance for a good one during the Great Depression, but FDR threw everything to social programs, jobs, industrial works like the Tennessee Valley Authority waterways, dams, resources which made so much sense. In the meantime, Japan, Germany, Italy went berserk, caused millions to die, and our best friend, Russia, did its best to kill everything on their own countries. So we didnt’t get Hirohito, Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin. Good for FDR.

So back to Mother’s day. My mother, I know, doted on me. Her father, I had to call him “Uncle” Howard because he was divorced from my grandmother, some curdled Catholic logic which has always escaped me, perhaps more on that at some later time.

So Mother’s day was a sanctified time in our strange, wandering family. I knew I had a duty. My step-father, Willard Edwards, who killed himself with alcohol in a very pathetic way, told me something when I was around ten years old: take care of your mother, don’t forget her birthday and remember, always, Mother’s Day. I never met his mother or father, only saw his brother Dave once, at his funeral, but I never forgot her birthdays or Mother’s Day.

There are biblical references of course, “Marianism” seems to have been cult-like subservience attributes because the only time Mary gets strident is in the wedding feast. She asked Jesus for a miracle, turning water into whine (deliberate misspelling, sorry, I can’t resist the notion of a basement full of Jewish American Princesses…called a “whine cellar.”) and….mirable dictu, He did.

So tomorrow is Mother’s Day, hijacked by Hallmark to be a really dumb day when it should simply be this: regardless of economics and cultures, moms have very hard lives. Thank God for them. Mine gave me life and was always supportive, my wife, Valerie, has been a splendid example to our children over and above her care, concern and warmth.

Viva moms! God bless you all.


On Letters and Blogs

I wrote an overly long essay a couple of years ago entitled “On the Death of Letters.” I felt at the time that the Internet ease of emails was destroying something essential in our culture as humans, not just Americans. So I post a little of that essay. But maybe, just maybe, blogging requires us to be more thoughtful in the composition of our thoughts. So, just maybe, the blog will turn out to be the salvation of an art form now lost somewhere in UPS.

The Death of Letters

Letters have died. Rest in peace…we will never see your likes again, but we should mourn your passing.

The wondrous body of literature that comes from letters is so powerful, so enlightening and so special that it is a painful truth to say that the art of letters is no more and can never be again. Our species do not need letters any longer and they cannot be replaced by short notes, telephone calls or even visits.

Letters are forever.


I am a prophet telling my followers how to behave amidst widespread persecution of this new sect. I am lonely so I write them to say what is important for me to say.

My best friend is a banker. I am a social philosopher. I write him often to share my thoughts and readings.

I am an American poetess and have personally helped finance a novelist/poet living in England. I write him frequently.

I am a scientist. I want to give the president of the United States some urgent advice.

I am a computer technology expert visiting Israel. I am moved by the ancient cities and ruins. I feel the need to write my family about my thoughts.


All of us wrote our letters for one main purpose….to communicate. It took days, months, even years to receive answers depending primarily on distances involved and the means of transportation to the destination.

To assess blame for my letter obituary, start with Guglielmo Marconi. In 1895 he managed to send wireless messages over a couple of miles. He started something that has culminated in the personal computer, the Internet, e-mail and facsimile transmission. Don’t forget to assess equal blame to Alexander Graham Bell for the telephone and the Wright Brothers for the airplane. We can get anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours; with special air fares, we can get back and forth in the continental United States of America for what it cost for an extended vacation only a few years ago; we are able to communicate with our friends and business interests instantly by telephone and e-mails. Letters are so anachronistic now that there are few and brief. The dreaded Christmas saga letter, sent to everyone in the world, sharing with us all their vacations, how their neighbors Keisha and Gerald are doing, names and dates associated with our pets, mean that these letters are intended for everyone and therefore no one.

The art of writing graceful, well thought out prose in the form of a letter is lost forever to the technology of easy communication. The Internet has become a literary assassin.

….and I now add, perhaps blogs will resurrect, like Lazarus, thoughtful exchanges of ideas, concepts and, God forbid, insight into our short lives.


Protestants 2

Maybe, LeRoy, we can do our own indexing by referring to a subject with numbers like this one. Liked talking to you, even though briefly.

Here is a thought about Protestants: I believe very few things we were brought up to believe. It doesn’t make any difference to me whether Jesus was God or just Jesus, for example. We need Protestants, perhaps now more than any time in the last few hundred years. Unfortunately we really don’t have protestors anymore, either politically (Where is Cesar Chavez now that we need him?) or religiously. I suppose it is interesting that the earlyChurch organized itself after the Roman Empire, so took on many of the good and bad things of that era. But here in Mexico, for example, where it is not uncommon for babies to have babies…thirteen year old girls with their first child…..and AIDS is getting a foothold, I think it is unconcionable that the Church refuses the sacraments to anyone using condoms. And, by the way, that is one reason the fundamentalist Protestant sects are making such headway here and in most of Latin America.

I don’t think the Church is very responsive to these times and I don’t mean manipulating morality to accomodate a bad concience. Jesus’ messages are so simple, so fundamental, so out of the mainstream of Christian teaching now….the Church has lost its way I think. As I may have said in a previous post, Catholics should be out with pitchforks and torches like in the Frankenstein movies, protesting, protesting, protesting against the excesses and blindness of the Church….and I also don’t only mean pedophilia, I mean basic good, common sense, “natural law” morality.

I’ll end this small diatribe with a quote from Alex Hawkins, running back of the old Baltimore Colts. She was about five feet tall, but he was scared to death of her. After a night of carousing with his drinking buddies like Art Donovan, instead of going into the house, he just fell asleep on the bench in his garden. The next morning she looked in the bed, no Alex. Looked throughout the house, no Alex. Really pissed, she saw him out on the bench. She stormed out, shook him awake and accused him of drinking all night with his nere-do-well friends.

“Not so,” he said. “I just stayed up all night so I could see the sunrise over the rose garden.

Hands on hips she said, “You silly SOB, we rototilled the rose garden two years ago.

He thought about that and said…”Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

More later. I wonder what you would say to Pope Benedict if you had a chance to see him privately. What might you say that would get him to rethink some things.

My best,


Old Stuff

LeRoy, I’ve added things to some of your posts, so you might want to go back to the “Protestant” entry. I’m still not sure how to go about this form of communication. If we just add posts, it isn’t any different than sending emails. If we add to posts already composed, How do you know they have changed. Interesting new form of communication.. I guess a “post” should be a new composition?

Storm last night, humid today, very unusual for this time of the year.


Don’s Profile Photo & Test Post

Hi Don and LeRoy:

This is Jim. Don, I’ve posted this cropped photo to the profile on your blog. This is also a test of whether photos posted by you will appear on LeRoy’s blog. All seems to be in working order. This particular photo was uploaded in medium size (original was 500 pixels wide.)

Have fun with this…

William Land Park Premptive Strategies

LeRoy, I have very fond memories of the park. I went often to the swimming pool, caddied on the golf course. Any thing you can do to continue to make it a park as apposed to a parking lot is to be commended. When public officials are indifferent to these kinds of things, especially in urban areas, it reminds me of “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” I’ve followed your attacks and I must say I am astonished you made any impact whatsoever. On the other hand you have a lot of credentials that spell success in these matters. I suspect it might take a few days, weeks, months, years (?) to get rid of signs, but….what the hell do I know?

My best to you today


Italian Politics

Buenos Dias, LeRoy.

Yes, this morning I was in chapel, watching the sun come up over the mountains in east Ajijic. And for reasons I cannot possibly articulate, I thought of the Italian government.

Once, around 1977, I went on a cruise to Tunesia with all the “winners” of awards in IBM Italy. Of all the assignments, I liked living in Italy the most. Italians have good values. Family and friends are number one, vino and pasta are number two, where you go for your vacation is probably number three and so on.

On the ship I had an occasion to spend some time with the general manager of IBM Italy, a tall, urbane, aristocratic man. I, naively, asked him why the Italian governments seemed so disorderly, every couple of years collapsing and regrouping. He looked at me as the politically dumb person I was. Here’s what he said to me.

“We don’t need a government. All important decisions are made between the Vaticano, the Mafia and the Industrial giants like Fiat and IBM. The only reason we have a government at all is because other countries, the United States for example, won’t lend us money if we don’t have one. So we elect and play and posture and collapse and regroup in our elective body. It is great theater. Any other questions?”

“Yes,” I said. “If the Vatican doesn’t like someone, do they get the Mafia to wack that guy?”

He just looked at me, smiled, waved to a waiter, ordered a Sambuca con mosca (coffee beans, looking like flies), and just toasted me silently as we watched seagulls.

Sounds a lot like Mexico.

My best this fine day.


Virus and us

This nonsense is getting better the more I revise it, so here goes my best recent effort, LeRoy.


I am a legendary sleeper. If I can’t sleep, there is something seriously awry. One night my system was invaded by an alien. Asleep, comatose actually, I was unaware of this foreign incursion. As a result, I was slow in observing signs that my system was inhabited by a destructive stranger. Eventually, I knew, it was terminal, just a matter of time. God help me! This was serious stuff.

I had been thinking about invasions anyway. Invasion of privacy. Invasion of Iraq. The pending invasion of Iran? The disquieting ideas in my dreams had been provoked by watching CNN hosting Alberto Gonzalez, our nation’s Attorney General, the appointed defender of truth, justice and the American way, while I brushed my teeth. He was discussing the validity of indefinitely incarcerating people without representation. In effect he was echoing John Ashcroft’s earlier pronouncements. He said that he found it very inconvenient that we had a Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Congress said he could do whatever he wanted to do if he wanted to. As it turns out, I am a very big advocate of the Fourth Amendment, so when I awoke from my troubled dreams, much like the hero of Franz Kafka’s story, “The Metamorphous,” I had to deal with my invasion.

Poor Melvin. Melvin is my beloved computer.

He is my cybernetic child, a splendidly crafted invention from various parts, with amazing capabilities, software purchased, software downloaded from freeware, hardware items such as scanners, backup devices. Generally, let it suffice to say, we get along nicely. He gives me information, corrects my inevitable spelling mistakes and comforts me when my wife is mad at me. In return I feed him data, put splendid video graphic tools in his voracious innards, pamper him with sweet techie stuff available on the Internet… short, we are very compatible. I am proud of the fact Melvin is a computer beast and to the extent man and machine can be friends, Melvin and I hang out a lot. I would like to think he likes me, but that is hard to say.

The alien I mentioned was a virus named after Ulysses’ strategy to win the battle of Troy, a “Trojan Horse.” It was a new one, this Trojan, and had the specific name: “The Da Vinci” virus. With all the publicity about the book, I found it interesting as well as a challenge. It snuck in while I was asleep, attached itself to the lower colon of my operating system, the accursed Windows XP. It attacked the central nervous system called the ‘Registry,’ the technology equivalent of human DNA. It made my computer sick. Very sick. Melvin had a parasite that was sucking the life blood from him. Melvin couldn’t tell me exactly what was wrong with him. When my children would whine and sneeze, puke, some symptoms I could deal with, I dealt with them…. but poor Melvin was just sitting there, virtual eyes glazed over so to speak.

I am by profession a computer doctor. My friend was ill….so I ran every diagnostic I could muster in the hope that I could make him well again. I took Melvin’s blood pressure, things like hard file fragmentation, CPU utilization, response time…and they seemed ok. I ran some other tests and there were no abnormalities found. And yet, he was still a very sick puppy, gradually slowing down, hard disk light flashing. I decided he needed the equivalent of an antibiotic so I looked for computer penicillin in the form of a virus scanning mechanism I found on the Internet called, “Pharohhkiller.”

It went down my computer’s gullet, looked all over its intestines, came out the….ahem….other end and reported several items it could fix. Alas, the fix didn’t fix my patient. It said that it was just a matter of time before my patient died and would transmit its disease to every other person it knew in the entire world. I knew Melvin knew a lot of other computer colleagues. A LOT of other computer friends. Some of his buddies’ owners were also my friends. If I couldn’t fix this, they might be enemies before long.

Well, in all modesty I am a very good computer doctor. I also took a one semester course in theology. Searching the Internet for advice, astonishingly I came upon a scriptural reference. I had to search my biblical memory. When did I read about a Pharaoh who made a difference? So I went to ancient Egypt, and read Exodus for the first time in many years. How did the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob get loose from the tyranny of Egyptian enslavement? Maybe a clue? So I went to the Source.

As it turns out, the Bible is actually a great resource in practical as well as spiritual matters. Don’t eat pigs is very good advice when trichinosis is going to happen because refrigeration is just about two thousand years off. Also there is a very good description in Exodus about how to deal with plagues. I’ve already described my computer plague.

How did Moses help me cure Melvin? Ok. If you are Pharaoh in ancient Egypt, you need slaves. If you are ‘The Chosen People’ you need freedom. Welcome Moses who, with God’s help and a few angels, persuades Pharaoh to let his people go. Plagues happened. Pestilences happened. At last, Pharaoh was forced to allow his slaves to go to the Red Sea and the rest is history. Pharaoh lost his slave population, catapulting his nation into bankruptcy because now he had to actually pay people to do what was heretofore free.

Enter Bill Gates, the modern day Pharaoh of Microsoft. The slaves, to paraphrase Walt Kelly;s Pogo, “is us.” The equivalent of freeing slaves is Linux. Linux is Moses, a complex, smart, very adaptable and, like Moses, more or less free. We slaves think we need Egypt, Microsoft’s Word, Excel, Windows…..we are held captive to the vagaries and capriciousness of Mr. Gate’s Egyptian building of his pyramids. He regularly releases bad pyramids, Windows in his case, and makes us pay for the upgrade that fixes the problems we bought. So he employs more slaves, programmers these days, to fix the damn pyramid. Our modern day Pharaoh employs angels who know plagues like the back of their hand. So as a professional computer doctor and amateur theologian, of course I study Microsoft, talk to their virus experts, talk computer scripture to their folks all the time.

So back to Melvin’s illnesses. I went to the gospels and Acts of the Apostles for insight, and I decided on a strategy of resurrection. Resurrection in the cyber sense is called “System Restore.” It is a kind of time machine. It can make my computer go back to some time in the past and be itself then. There is no biological equivalent as far as I know. Melvin was the equivalent of Lazarus. Jesus restored him to his former self, the poor guy probably stinking after several days of deterioration, but walking, well probably staggering, but more or less several days earlier when his corpse was still breathing. Did my computer resurrection work? Well, sort of.

Like any good doctor, having exhausted all known medical options, I went with a holistic approach. Melvin lay on my desk stubbornly resisting the technology equivalents of antibiotics, barely breathing. I had virus killers like Spybot, Norton Antivirus…antibiotics….so when one doesn’t work, we try another. But what if your body is allergic to them all? What if it is a smart virus that can mutate quicker than you can fix it with a serum of some sort like the measeles. What if there are angels doing mischief around your hard file and Intel chip?

So I called my favorite computer theologian, Joe, who happens to speak nine languages and lives in Manila. We talked in theotechnogibberish. Soon Melvin was singing again, well and bereft of plagues. Melvin was brought back from the grave, resurrected more or less….my Lazarus. He started speaking to me, of course in ones and zeros, new e-mails, important blogs. I was ecstatic. .Melvin was back, Melvin stopped stuttering, began to give me good information, sounded like he used to sound….one damn smart computer. Sometimes I have wondered if Melvin has a sense of humor, but…well technological theology is kind of complicated. Take my word for this.

Of course, after my Melvin arose, as it were, from his grave, I wanted to share it with my best buddy, Fred. So the next day I called him. He is a key guy who works for the Department of Homeland Security, has occasionally said some insightful and amusing things about Michael Chertoff and has very high security clearances. I figured he knew more about spying and viruses and stuff like that than anybody so I would have a good time trading stories with him. His doctorate in electrical engineering from Cal Tech made him a central person in the department and one damn good computer diagnostician.

We met at the Castle as usual, my favorite watering hole, and played some pool. After a few beers and several games of “look ahead eightball” where you have to predict and call your next shot we settled down. I went over my latest recovery success with Melvin, he talked about various virus alternatives. Finally I asked him a question that had been bugging me, having nothing really to do with Melvin.

“Fred, why do you think politicians and bureaucrats are so dishonest? I mean the Bush administration can’t possibly be serious. Can it?”

Fred looked around the bar carefully before he spoke. “The prevailing idea is that he can’t be that dumb. We think Bush has a virus. His family and all the insiders in the cabinet suspect it. Even his father. Barbara, is scared to death of him. It came, we think, from a computer. Maybe aliens. Who knows? We don’t have a clue how to get rid of it.”

“Come on, Fred,” I chastised, ordering more beers. “That sounds like pure science fiction. Melvin is one thing, but our president is entirely a different matter. He’s just plain dumb, as we say in the south, “dumb as a bag of hair,” and thinks Jesus speaks to him personally.”

Fred leaned over to me. He looked completely spooked.

“Promise you won’t say anything to anybody,” he whispered. “But we think he is possessed. It may have happened when he was at Yale. We went to Billy Graham, we’ve gone to two Popes, we’ve even gone to Pat Buchanan. They all think he has been invaded by demons, but they haven’t been able to exorcise them. Believe me, “holy water” doesn’t do it. John Paul thought Bush was so dumb he didn’t even try, but Benedict did. You can’t imagine the cloud of incense, the boatload of holy water, the deacons, the room full of cardinals, the weird chanting. Boy, you should have heard Bush wail when they dowsed him in the medieval oil vat brought out from Castel San Angelo in Rome. Pretty funny, actually,” he chortled, again looking cautiously around the bar.

Tiring of all this Bushology, I began to tell Fred how I exorcised the virus demon on my computer. He got very quiet. “What was the name of the virus?” he asked me.

“The ‘Da Vinci’ virus,” I whispered back, now very conspiratorial, complicit in something, hand palming close to his ear, looking around in my new paranoia.

“It was one tough son-of-a-bitch to fix, but I finally kicked its ass.”

I looked carefully at Fred. All the blood had drained from his face. “That’s what Pope Benedict said Bush had.” He got off his stool, staggered around for a moment and then turned to me. “Can you repeat your procedure exactly, I mean write it down?”

“I’m not sure,” I answered truthfully. “I did a lot of trial and error, but I finally nailed it. I needed Joe in Manila to help, so you might need to call him. But I can probably remember it.”

That night I sent the algorithms and procedures to Fred. He emailed “thanks,” but I didn’t see him again for several months. I guess he was pretty busy. I slept like a baby. Melvin was back as good as new. Resurrected. Smart.

The next morning, as I was brushing my teeth, half listening to CNN, Bush himself had apparently called a press conference. No press secretary. All by himself.

He began as usual with “My fellow Americans,” and I yawned.

Then he announced we were pulling out of Iraq, he was going to divert all the war funds to education and universal health care. He said he would restore all the holy places in Iraq. And he answered hard questions with the aplomb of a Harry Truman. He actually sounded like he was smart. I couldn’t believe it. I went over to the TV and sat down, toothbrush half out of my foaming mouth.

He looked the camera in the eye. No smirk. His only change of expression during the entire short speech was a genuine smile at one point.

“I want to inform the American people that I have fired my entire cabinet.

“Gonzalez is gonzo, (he smiled), and Janet Reno has graciously accepted the post. I have asked Senator Ted Kennedy to be my part time chief of staff to reorganize our entire approach to economics and he will talk to you in a few moments about a tax restructure which will bring us in line with our homeless, our sick, our elderly and our needs for the future.

“I have asked General Colin Powell to be my Secretary of State. Our new head of Homeland Security, Hillary Clinton, also obviously a part time job for the time being, will champion our need to take a new look at the whole concept of terrorism in proper balance with our Fourth Amendment and national health needs.

“FEMA is now a new organization reporting directly to me headed by Martha Stuart. My personal thanks to her for her help.”

“Thank you all, and God bless America.”

Holy shit, I thought. He sounds a whole lot like Melvin.


It is around 8:00 AM this Sunday, LeRoy. I’ve been up for some time, making coffee, watching dawn in Ajijic sneak into my office facing east.

I have counted the number of places I’ve lived, in fact when our three daughters get together on very infrequent occasions, we have contests as to who made the most moves. The winner is decided on the basis of definitions: do three moves in the same city count? Or can you only count a new city or country. The discussions are often animated…and amusing. This much I know, however, by the time I was six years old, going to a Catholic school in the first grade in Van Nuys, California, I had moved at least eight times, six in Massachusetts, a couple of them because of my father’s TB bed-ridden needs, one with a family after his death while my mother tried to figure out how to make a living as a travelling sales lady. And then she decided to move to California (one of the “moves” I made was being born in Auburn, California, because my grandfather lived there and my father needed to be in mountain air, and returning to Boston where their families were for his health). So I moved at least eight times in my first six years and I suppose that accounts for the fact I have no “roots” whatever. My roots are where I am.

My relationship with my step-father you have read. I never doubted the love my mother had for me and vice versa, but I had such a peculiar childhood, it doesn’t compare with many people. I was glad to go to Mont la Salle. To get away from a really ugly devorce, and it probably changed my life from being a completely indifferent student into someone curious about just about everything.

My best this fine Sunday.


LeRoy, lately I have been giving thoughts about my father. I never knew him, of course, since he died of TB at age 34 when I was three, but there are pictures and some telegrams and some letters. Here is a picture of him clowning with my mother and her brother and sister, a totem. Let me know if the picture comes through.


this and that

Hey, Leroy…I wrote this short note to the Atlanta Journal Constitution a couple of years agol Though a guy steeped in science, I don’t have any problem with the idea of “Creationism” for example the “big bang” being the design of a creator….as long as we try to find a way to understand the mechanics, the innards so to speak of what the creator did..

“Many creationist arguments are based on scripture or are modifications of the 13th century theologian, Thomas Aquinas’ “proofs of the existence of God.” These arguments are compelling, if not proofs: everything we know has a cause and effect; it is hard to believe that the wonderful symmetry inherent in the universe is accidental; all things, including such long lived things like stars, have a beginning and an end. Even the “Big Bang” begs the question, “How did it happen?”

But extending strong belief in a creator to making up science is just wrong. It is equivalent to inventing data to fit the curve, so to speak. Evolution, in the tradition of scientific method, is our best effort to unravel “the riddles of how the living world took shape,” and John Rennie, Editor in Chief of Scientific American, does an excellent job explaining and challenging, in layman’s terms, many of the creationist arguments.

Cobb County’s Board of Education capitulation to voodoo science pressures is shameful. Georgia’s test scores are among the lowest in the country. Our educational leaders should focus on fixing problems, not manufacturing new ones. “

Onward and upward. I’m still trying to figure out how to upload a picture, but I’ll figure it out.

I have wondered if I ever have gallstones if I need to quote Cesear: “All Gall is divided into three parts”….Omnis Gaullium in tres partes divisa est.

Sorry… it is the best pun I can manufacture this time of day.

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