We’ll start with big news that I am sure will please so many of you: there will not be a newsletter next month – that’s right, no June newsletter! Even from a distance I can hear the applause and the many shouts of “Oh, thank goodness,” “that’s wonderful,” “finally we get a break,” “I’ve prayed for this day for so long,” and similar pronouncements.
Here’s what’s on the agenda. Unless Vladimir decides to move his war further west, and if COVID doesn’t disrupt things yet again, we (Nita and I, Laura and Karen) are planning on being in Europe early to mid-month. The trip was originally scheduled for 2020 before being deferred twice due to COVID travel restrictions. So, please keep your fingers crossed on our behalf. The itinerary is Zurich, Basel, then via a Viking river cruise up the Rhine through the Black Forest, Strasbourg, Koblenz, Cologne, Kinderdijk (windmills), Amsterdam. I plan on coming back with walking stick, lederhosen, Bavarian hat with feather, etc. Nothing conspicuous, though.
With the trip coming up I didn’t want to launch into any new major projects. So … I hope to use the days that remain and the rest of June after we return to begin cleaning up some projects that have been in the works for a while. I have pretty much held up on submitting the military history manuscript to publishers. Almost all of them have cut back on staff and several have in recent years placed their focus on World War II material as the world passed through 75th – 80th anniversaries of the conflict’s beginning and end. Two of my military history books were published by a British-American company. I had originally hoped that this latest one would find also find a home with them, but they have continued to devote much of their production to history and stories from the WWII period.
I am reworking the fiction short story that I have mentioned before about actions taken to restore order as the nation spiraled into chaos. I have shortened it considerably and pretty much focused on the actions of one individual. The first, longer, draft went to a few prospective outlets. I sensed the concern on some of the feedback that perhaps they were a bit uncomfortable that portrayals of a few of the decision-makers struck too close to home (though no names were attached). The new version will focus more on the situation inside the country that resulted in the intervention and not on the causes or the people that contributed to the chaos.
For a long time I’ve had on the shelf some draft chapters that cover the careers of the first ten vice presidents. Other than Adams and Jefferson, many of the others are unheard of (and perhaps rightfully so). The original thought was to do a short history of all the VPs. Don’t think I’ll do that now. I’ve sort of lost interest in the project, at least for the time being. I mean, there’s a reason that these guys and many of those who followed in that office are unknown. So, I wonder if anyone would have any interest in reading about them. I suppose I could pick out the most unusual of the characters and write about them. One of them, Richard Mentor Johnson, the ninth VP (Van Buren was the president) had a really catchy campaign slogan. He led a force of Kentucky militia during the War of 1812 and was credited (there is some dispute) with killing the Shawnee chief Tecumseh during the Battle of the Thames. His campaign slogan was “Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh.” See what I mean? Really catchy, huh? Still, it’s better than some of the attack ads that are embarrassing everyone in Nebraska in the run-up to the primary election here in mid-month.
The Chicken Soup for the Soul editors have a call out for humorous story submissions. I sifted through some of the stuff that I’ve scribbled down over the years to see if there might be any possibilities. The story “The Ivory Fan” (below) appeared in A Pilgrim in Unholy Places: Stories of a Mustang Colonel. I may sift through that one for a day or two and decide if a version of it would be worth considering.
I met Eddie Moran on the flight that took me from my posting at Minot AFB, North Dakota, via Charleston AFB to Sidi Slimane, Morocco. It soon became apparent that Eddie had missed his real calling – he should have been a standup comic. This is a story that Eddie liked to tell about himself. He told it frequently – slightly more embellished with each recitation. I was “present at the creation” and observed the event that precipitated it.
On the leg of the flight from Charleston to Morocco, the Capital Airlines charter made a refueling stop at Santa Maria, a Portuguese airfield in the Azores. It was late night when we rolled in but a coffee bar – gift shop remained open in the small terminal building.
As we ordered, Moran immediately struck up a conversation with the proprietor. When we were on the way to our seats, Eddie noticed a very ornate fan – one of those folding, decorative, genteel things that women sometimes carry on special occasions – on display at the counter.
Eddie commented on the attractiveness. The manager agreed that it was quite beautiful. As they chatted, Eddie continued to admire the fan and eventually asked the manager where it was from.
“Angola” (then a Portuguese possession), the manager answered, and then said almost in passing, “it is genuine ivory.”
“Ivory?’ Moran was incredulous.
“Yes, genuine ivory,” responded the proprietor. “In fact,” he said, pointing to a snapshot on the wall behind the cash register, “this is a photograph of the elephant the ivory came from.” After the elephant was found dead, he related, the tusks had been taken to Luanda where the carving was made.
The price seemed reasonable, and quite pleased, Eddie bought the fan as a gift for his wife.
As we flew the last segment of the trip from the Azores to Casablanca, Eddie showed the fan to everyone seated around him, delighted both by its appearance and by the fact that he had gotten such a good deal. It was, after all, carved ivory.
His running commentary eventually drew the attention of a flight attendant (aka as “stewardess” at the time), who had flown the route many times. She smiled hugely and said “Let me see it.”
Eddie handed her the fan and she opened it as wide as possible. Way down at the bottom, where the folding pieces were held together, in the minutest possible print it said “Made in Hong Kong.” Plastic. Totally.
For several weeks, Eddie showed his “genuine ivory fan” to everyone who visited the small tar paper building that housed our unit. “Jeez, the guy even had a picture of the elephant …”
And now that increasingly seldom acclaimed feature: TRULY AWFUL PUNS.
I got gas today for only $1.39.
Unfortunately, it was at Taco Bell.
If your dentist fixed your cavities with different colors would it be okay?
Or would you have mixed fillings?
Have a great summer. See you in July.