Author - Paul Schatzkin

Natural Persons

(In case you’re wondering: for the past several weeks, I have been enrolled in an online class exploring The Future of Constitutional Democracy hosted by Clay Jenkinson, the creator of The Thomas Jefferson Hour radio program and podcast that I have been listening to for the past 20 years.  This week, participants in the class are asked to submit their suggestions for Amendments to the United States Constitution.  Here’s mine:)


In his critique of the proposed Constitution that was drafted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, Thomas Jefferson – from his post in Paris as emissary to France – wrote to James Madison on December 20, 1787 about the need to for a Bill of Rights that would limit the new National Government’s powers and protect the Liberties of ‘We The People:’ 

First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly & without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal & unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land & not by the law of Nations

In October 1788 – during the period when the Constitution was being ratified – Madison wrote to Jefferson about the components of a Bill of Rights, which by then several states had insisted be added to the Constitution: 

With regard to Monopolies they are justly classed among the greatest nuisances in Government…. Monopolies are sacrifices of the many to the few. Where the power is in the few it is natural for them to sacrifice the many to their own partialities and corruptions…”

Nevertheless, of the several protections that Jefferson and Madison discussed , the (only?) one that did not make it into the Bill of Rights when it was ratified at the end of 1791 was any provision that would have permitted “restriction against monopolies.” 

When Madison and Jefferson were talking about monopolies, the Industrial Revolution had barely begun, and the monolithic concentrations of wealth with which we are now so familiar were not even a glimmer in their imaginations.  

And yet, here we are, two centuries later,  with multinational corporations superseding the power of sovereign governments, and using their vast wealth to bend those governments to their will – precisely as Madison predicted: sacrificing the welfare of the many to the “partialities and corruptions” of the few. 

Over the course of the past century-and-a-half, one convention that has allowed corporate power to accumulate unfettered is the notion that “corporations are people” – and therefore entitled to the same rights and privileges extended to “persons” the Constitution. This convention has taken on ominous new meaning in the 21st century with 2010 Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United, wherein money was likened to speech and so could not be restricted under the protections of the First Amendment. 

Accordingly, I propose a Constitutional Amendment that would serve the neat trick neutralizing Citizens United and begin the process of restoring the sovereignty of We The People:

– – – – 

The rights, privileges, and protections embodied in this Constitution, and the laws adopted under its jurisdiction, are intended for the benefit of natural persons only.

[The first iteration of this post ended with the clause: “without regard to gender, race, religion or ethnic origin. I hesitate to add the last clause, which effectively breathes new life into the languishing Equal Rights Amendment.  I am reminded of John Adam’s rejoinder to Abigail, “one revolution at a time” (paraphrasing), but, hey, were just thinking here, right?]

– – – – 

The origins of the “corporations are people” doctrine is vague and mercurial.  What I know on the subject I learned from reading Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights by Thom Hartmann.  As Hartmann tells it, the transferance of Constitutional rights from ‘natural persons’ to ‘artificial persons’ or legal fictions such as corporations was never delivered in an actual decision from the Supreme Court.  

Hartmann traces the origins of “corporations are people” to a relatively obscure 1886 SCOTUS case, Santa Clara County -v- Southern Pacific Railroad – but stresses that the doctrine was not expressed in the decision in that case.  Rather, it was taken for granted prior to the decision being rendered. 

Morrison R. Waite – 7th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

On p. 104 of Unequal Protection, Hartmann describes a statement made from the bench by Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite to the attorneys representing both sides in the case: 

The court does not wish to hear arguments on the question of whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are of the opinion that it does. 

[Waite] then turned to Justice Harlan, who delivered the Court’s opinion in the case. 

Thus, according to Hartmann, the matter was never actually decided, it was just taken for granted prior to the delivery of a decision denying the right of Santa Clara County to tax the railroad in a manner unequal to other forms of taxation.  

Waite’s statement was recorded in the ‘headnotes’ to the actual decision by  Court Reporter (J.C. Bancroft Davis) appended to the actual decision in SCC-v-SPRR.

That statement-not-a-decision has been with us ever since – and a Constitutional amendment originally intended to assure the rights of newly emancipated Negroes has been used instead to assure those rights to corporations (so much for “originalism”).

For the sake of this Proposed Amendment, I would argue that Waite’s conclusion was ‘wrongly presumed’ (you can’t use the Justice Speak of ‘wrongly decided’ here because it was not actually “decided”).  Corporations are most decidedly not like actual human persons.  Corporations can 

–live forever
–exist in several places simultaneously
–change their identities at will
–chop of parts of themselves or
–sprout new parts 

Just that first provision – that corporations, unlike “We The People” can live forever – should be enough to disqualify them from enjoying the same rights as natural persons.  

And yet an obscure note, appended to a late 19th century SCOTUS decision, has bestowed the artificial persons called “corporations” with the same constitutional rights and protections accorded to actual persons.  And now those artificial “persons” can spend as much money as they want to influence our political process.

Grover Cleveland (Donald Trump’s inspiration for running again in 2024)

A few pages further into Unequal Protection, Hartmann quotes President Grover Cleveland, who rang an alarm about corporate personhood and monopoly power in his State of the Union Address in December, 1888: 

As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel.  Corporations, which should be carefully restrained creatures of the law and servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.” 

A Constitutional Amendment clarifying the definition of the word “persons” will eliminate the notion that “corporations are people.”

By denying corporations the rights and protections guaranteed to We The People in our Constitution, we can begin to reverse that domination and achieve the freedom from monopoly that Jefferson and Madison  wrote about in 1787.

I agree, Jimmy, but it was never an actual “decision” to begin with!

How Is This Even Possible?

(Reflections on a Numerical Milestone)

by Paul Schatzkin
November 15, 2020 

For the past few months, I have been looking at this photo and thinking I should have something to say about it pertinent to the occasion of my 70th birthday. 

These are “the Schatzkin men.”  In the center, my father, Harvey; on the left, my brother, Arthur; on the right, yours truly.  The photo was taken in our backyard in Rumson, New Jersey in March, 1954 (note the white picket fence in the background).   I was 3.  Arthur was 6, and Harvey… well, we didn’t know it at the time, but Harvey had only a few years left on the planet: multiple myeloma dispatched him in 1958 at the age of 37. 

Arthur died in 2011, just a month shy of his 63rd birthday.   Glioblastoma – the same kind of brain cancer that nicked Ted Kennedy and John McCain.  “Heart disease runs in some families,” my brother’s widow said at the time. “In your family it’s cancer.” 

So here I am, having outlived them all, the only one of “the Schatzkin men” with a first-person need to learn how to spell “septuagenarian.” 

How is this even possible?

Mickey Mantle ca. 1951 (not a Schatzkin)

Before I try to answer that question, let’s talk about Mickey Mantle. (What’s that you say,  you don’t know who Mickey Mantle was? Then a) you’re an idiot, and b) Google it.) 

Mickey Mantle’s father died  at age 40 – as did several other men in the Mantle family.  Hell, they all worked in the lead and zinc mines in Oklahoma, so their early demise is not altogether surprising. 

But Mickey, even though he was a strapping athlete who worked in the verdant, sunlit expanses of major league baseball, lived his life like a man who expected to experience a similar fate.  He told anybody who would listen that he had no expectation of living past 40. 

“I’m not gonna be cheated,” Mickey said during the best years of his career, and he conducted himself like a man bound and determined to pack a lifetime of living into half a lifetime. 

When those decades of hard living  and hard drinking finally caught up with him – well after his 40th birthday – Mickey would often say, “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

Like Mickey Mantle, I grew up expecting I was gonna be dead by 40, too. 

But in my case, the lament is more along the lines of “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I might have planned my life a little better.” 

By which I mean, “I might have planned it at all. 

The really odd, perplexing thing is: even though I averted that Gateway of Doom for more than 30 years ago, I still live in its shadow. 

That’s despite a lifetime of therapy that started in the third grade – the  year after Harvey disappeared from the set.  Despite spending countless hours in the presence of a highly regarded (i.e. Freudian) child psychiatrist, nobody managed to figure out that I’d been traumatized by Harvey’s sudden departure.  

Guess who is going to have (at least) 67 more birthdays!?

Let’s do the math: 

Harvey Schatzkin: dead at 37. 

Arthur Schatzkin: dead at 62.

Mickey Mantle: dead at 63.

Paul Schatzkin:  hearty and hale and now 70 years old! 

How is this even possible? 

Well, for starters, it’s possible because I’m ridiculously healthy.  

Nobody is going to confuse me with Adonis or Apollo, but I get out of bed every morning, put on my sneakers and walk for two miles.  I close the fitness rings on my Apple Watch  and by the time I put it back on the charger each night I’ve walked the requisite 10,000 steps every day.

And, knock wood, in those seven decades the most serious illness I have ever had is the measles when I was a kid and a skin cancer on my leg that was thoroughly excised about 4 years ago.  That’s it.  Knock wood again.   

When I had my annual physical last spring, the doc said my blood-work numbers were nearing the threshold where I might want to start thinking about possibly doing something to bring them down.  That was about two months into Covid 2020: My weight was in the high 170s, but on the rise amid a pandemic spent sitting at home eating fistfuls of Wheat Thins in the afternoons and a hefty bowl of Cookies and Cream with Colbert just before going to bed every night. 

At the end of July I started counting calories and commenced a practice of (daily) intermittent fasting; My weight has gone from a peak in the mid-180s to the mid-160s today.   I’m gonna go see the doc tomorrow and run the numbers again to see if they aren’t below the aforementioned Threshold of Concern. In the meantime my jeans fit a lot better.  

Be it ever so humble…

So if I’ve lived this long and I’m in such good health, why do I feel I should have more to show for my time on Earth than a paid-for house, a muscle-car convertible, an old truck and a crazy cat? 

Others in my age bracket are settling into their retirement now: moving to Florida, setting up rocking chairs, counting their grandkids.  I’m still working at a part-time job and skipped the part about having kids altogether, grand or otherwise. 

Which brings me back to Mickey Mantle:  Mickey said he should have taken better care of himself, and I’m saying I should have planned my life better.  

If I hadn’t expected to be dead, maybe I would have paid more attention in school, gotten a better education and availed myself to one of those “profession” things that I keep hearing about.   

Lahaina, Maui ca. 1984 –What else do I have to do?

Instead, my academic career was most notable for bearing the label of “underachiever.” In the years when my classmates were earning their fortunes – in some cases raking in more money than a croupier at a Vegas craps table – I might have done something more lucrative than smoking vast quantities of dope and taking tourists sailing and snorkeling in Hawaii (it was a tough life, but, dammit, somebody had to do it…).

Despite my academic sloth, I did have one substantial material success in my life.    

The drugs and alcohol wore off in the late 80s. I came to Nashville in the mid 90s and, combining a little bit of knowledge of music with 15 years of experience with personal computers, I started an Internet music business – before most people had even heard of the World Wide Web.  With that enterprise I found a purpose, built a business and became part of a community.  Despite the lack of any formal training, I was  doing good work, making friends and earning the respect of colleagues. 

Ahead of the curve? I was there before there even was a curve.

But I swear to God, the whole time I thought, “I guess this means I’ll be dead soon…” 

That was 20 years ago.  The business has come and gone. I was fortunate that its demise included a “liquidity event” that paid off my mortgage and has kept me  afloat for all of those 20 years.  

Like a scene in a Monty Python movie, “I’m not dead yet…” – but I have struggled mightily to find a similar measure of purpose and commitment in the years since. 

It’s not like I didn’t do things: I wrote a biography of “The Boy Who Invented Television” – a story that his transfixed me since my years on the periphery of the TeeVee business in Hollywood in the 70s.  As that volume went into the world in the fall of 2002, I imagined that I’d embarked on a career as a “biographer of obscure 20th century scientists.” Unfortunately the fabled ‘sophomore effort  went off the rails and took that career idea with it. 

There have been several other fuses lit – that burned off into duds. 

But… wait a minute. I’m not supposed to be finding a second or third career.   I’m supposed to be dead – like my father, like my brother, like Mickey-fucking-Mantle.  

And yet…. here I am. 

How is this even possible? 

I know that part of the answer to that question is a tale of sobriety.  

“I’m not dead yet!” because “The Reverend” Gene Perkins introduced me to AA in 1987

With the help of a friend who 12th stepped me into ‘the program’ in 1987, I stopped smoking, drinking, and snorting just in time to avoid imposing my father’s fate upon myself.  I have not had a sip, a sniff, or a puff since shortly after I turned… wait for it… 37.   I did a lifetime’s worth of drinking, I just stuffed it all into half a lifetime.  Me and Mickey – except, in my case, without the incurable liver disease.

Now I reach the biblically prescribed three-score-years-and-ten wondering “why me?” and “what for?”  

The decades-long inability to find answers to such questions – and make further contributions to the household treasury beyond paying off the mortgage and spending stupid money renovating the place – might be one reason I find myself living alone at age 70.   

When my cozy domestic reality started unraveling, I discovered that I needed to supplement my income with, well…. actual income.  That’s when I discovered that the only thing I was still qualified to do was peddle gizmos at the Trillion Dollar Digital Fruit Stand. 

Like everything else, that situation changed dramatically this year. Where I once got to spend several days each week having occasionally meaningful encounters with actual other humans, for the past several months I’ve just been sitting at a computer terminal staring at a screen and listening to people mumble inaudibly about stuff they need.  A couple of times a day I get to conjure up some useful knowledge and make a modest difference in people’s lives, but mostly it’s been telling  cardholders from the International Bank of Entitlement that they cannot have the thing they want in the minute that they want it.  

Arthur @ 2-1/2, Ellen @ 29, me @ 5 weeks.

That’s when the part about ‘not having a plan’  starts to gnaw at me.  I start to think “this is not what I had in mind…” for this stage of my life.  Then I remember, “Oh yeah, I never really had anything in mind for this stage.  I didn’t expect there would even be a ‘this stage’.” 

Which is when I stop thinking about the male side of the family and wonder if maybe I got a longevity gene from my mother’s side of the family.  She lived until she was 81. In fact, she got married for the third time when she was 73.  

Maybe that’s why, along with all the other thoughts percolating above, I keep circling back to this vague idea that I will (or should?) do something remarkable with my 70s.

“I took the tablets an hour ago. I’ll be gone by midnight.”

Given my continued good health (did I mention knocking on wood?) it’s not unreasonable to surmise that – like my mother – I’ve got a good ten more years before faculties fade and organs start breaking down and I have to face the decision that Ruth Gordon made in “Harold and Maude” (you can Google that, too). 

Then I catch myself, and begin to question this whole fixation, this lingering self-and-social pressure that I am supposed to “do” and “strive” and “accomplish.” 

I recall something Kurt Vonnegut (admittedly, no slouch in the “doing” and “accomplishing” departments) said: “I am a human being, not a human doing.”

And then it dawns on me:  Maybe I’ve finally reached the point where I can stop obsessing on the “doing” part of life and just make the best of the “being” part. 

Maybe, in the eighth decade of my life, that’s enough.  

It’s certainly more than Harvey and Arthur – and Mickey – were doing at this point in their lives.


This is 70 (OK, I took it last night, so it’s actually 69+365 (since 2020 is a 366-day leap year)


(Care to comment?  I think we’ll gather most of  them here at Facebook; in the space below if you’ve managed to get yourself out of roach motel….)

“Hamilton” – and Slavery:
I Made a YouTube

If you don’t wanna read all the verbiage, I’ll put the video here at the top:

Here’s a direct link if you’d rather open it in the YouTube app or a browser:

OK, Two things:

I suppose by now everybody who wants to has seen the Original Broadway Cast recording (not film!) of Hamilton – the musical sensation where a multi-ethnic cast (only George III is portrayed by a Caucasian actor) sings and dances their way through the classic (i.e. white-man’s version) tale of America’s Founding.

I’ve watched through the whole thing twice already, and various fragments of it as well and honestly… I think it’s pretty fucking fantastic.

I (finally!) managed to see the stage rendition last December when one or the ‘bus and truck’ road shows (finally!) found its way to Tennessee Performing Arts Center (aka TPAC) in Nashville.  And I thought it was pretty fucking fantastic then, too.

So, I will admit to being a bit of a Hamilhead – though perhaps not as much as the fellow I watched it with on the 4th of July who has seen it on stage like half a dozen times.  I considered myself quite fortunate to have seen it the once.

Anywhoo…. Hamilton was the First Thing.

The Second thing was… this ongoing discussion (via video conferences) that we’ve been having at my job about the whole #BlackLivesMatter moment and the necessary conversation the country has been having about the systemic racism which has been part of the American Story since…. well, since 1619, if you wanna be precise.

As part of that discussion, I volunteered for a “History subcommittee” that was assigned to come up with presentations to the rest of the staff about… well, whatever we wanted to dig into.

And since this discussion was all happening around the video release of Hamilton… I got the bright idea to do a (semi) deep-dive into the role (black) slavery played in the lives of all the (white) characters who are featured in the musical.

Open rabbit hole… fall in.

This turned into about 6 days of pretty much non-stop work: researching all the Founders portrayed in the musical (thank you, Internets), and then distilling what I learned into a Keynote presentation. Which also meant getting somewhat skilled with Keynote (Apple’s version of PowerPoint) and putting all my Photoshop chops to the test as well.

What was supposed to be maybe 10 minutes morphed into more than 20 minutes worth of material, and I finished the first complete top-to-bottom run through last Saturday – about 15 minutes before presenting it to a Webex with 100+ people tuned in. It was very warmly received and several people asked me to make it a video and put it on the YouTube.

Which meant another two days of fine-tuning; In addition to sorting out the vagaries of the Keynote  application, I have also been grinding my way through a program called Logic to learn audio editing, which I decided to do to grab some clips from the actual show. And then I had to figure out how to put it all together in iMovie so that I could upload it all to YouTube.

It’s a 24 minute production that took me about 60 hours total to compile -basically the most actual “work” I’ve done in all the time I’ve been #HomeAlone.  I guess it was about time I did something useful.

That’s all you need to know about what this is and how it got here.  I’ll drop it the embed in here again so that if you’ve read this far you don’t need to scroll back to the top.

Thanks for watching.  Leave your comments on the YouTube page.


#HomeAlone Day 105
A Trip to The Dentist

Notes from the Urban Dystopia:

My dentist is in the L&C Tower at 4th & Church, so I went downtown yesterday for the first time in four months. It was truly exciting to be able to put the top down on a beautiful summer day and have an actual place to go.

Once I got off the Interstate… “eerie” doesn’t begin to describe it.

I started to wonder where I was when I turned eastward onto Charlotte Pike and there was not another car in either direction for blocks. I passed a demonstration at Legislative Plaza where somebody was barking something through a bullhorn about the State Police stealing citizens property (hadn’t heard that protest before). I found a place to park right at the entrance to the garage (no circling around floor after floor looking for the one empty space).

The street was basically empty of pedestrians, though I was surprised/pleased to see that even outdoors most were wearing masks.

The lobby of the L&C tower was empty, with social distance markers spaced along the floor leading to the bank of empty elevators. I rode 9 floors to the dentist’s office alone in the elevator.

In the office, the waiting room was empty; The two women behind the desk were wearing masks. I was greeted by a masked young man who pointed a thermometer at my forehead and handed me a Covid Questionaire: “do you have a dry cough? fever? chills? headaches? fatigue?” After checking several boxes “no” I asked “are there any trick questions here or can I just mark them all ‘no’?” I handed the clipboard back and immediately went to the rest room and washed my hands.

The rest of the visit was like all the visits before. Hooray for nitrous – the only buzz I get after 32 years without a sip, a sniff, or a puff. The hygienist agreed with me that, despite all those awkward, adolescent years with braces, my front-lower teeth are “a mess.” She scraped away as best she could. My teeth are clean now. Mission accomplished, now back to solitary…

I drove down 4th Ave to Broadway, past several of the honky-tonks. More eeriness: the streets were empty, though here the few tourists I did see were less enmasked. What was weird was to hear country hits and standards blaring out of the clubs, and look inside to see them mostly empty. The sound echoed around the street in ways I’d never heard before.

Re-reading this before posting it, I realize the most-used word is “empty.”

Surprisingly, there are still scooters parked on the street, but it doesn’t appear that anybody body is using them. I’m surprised that’s still a thing.

Harvey & Ellen
Chapter 1: First ‘Darlings’

Harvey Schatzkin and Ellen Gould met on November 30, 1942.

As Ellen recalled decades later:

There was an Army Air Force communications school at Scott Field in East St. Louis.  My good friend Howard Beck kept telling me that he wanted me to meet his brother Norman’s friend who was at Scott Field who was only free on Monday nights.  At the time I had a regular Monday night date with a boy named Dan, and told Howard, “I don’t break dates.” But Howard kept  insisting that his brother’s friend and I would really like each. I finally agreed and broke my usual Monday date. I was working at the USO downtown and Howard arranged to pick me up there.

November 30 in Missouri “dawned cold, snowy… blizzard-like.”  Howard and Ellen rode the trolley through the drifting snow to have dinner at the home of a friend…

Hedy Lamar as the jungle temptress ‘Tondelayo’ in “White Cargo.” I’ve see the movie. It’s pretty awful.

And there was this really cute guy in the uniform of the U.S. Army Air Force Cadets named Harvey Schatzkin. We really did like each other. We had a perfectly great evening with lots of repartee and jokes. When the evening was over, Harvey took me on the trolley back to my apartment, and we made a date for the following Monday.  I am not sure we knew it that night but I know now that it was “love at first sight.”

A week later they had their first date: Chinese food and a Hedy Lamar movie called “White Cargo.”  Harvey returned to Scott Field and graduated from Officer’s Candidate School.  Then the Army  sent the newly minted Second Lieutenant to several locations on the East Coast  before he landed at his first post: a weather station in Greenland.

Which left their new-found devotion to the vagaries of the mail in the middle of World War II.

I have all the letters.  There are hundreds of them.

Harvey and Ellen’s letters, aka “The Pile.”

One of the things I have been doing over the past few months of Involuntary Covid Incarceration is  reading all these letters and dictating them into digital documents.  I’m almost done going through the “first tranche” – the letters they wrote between their meeting at the end of 1942 and their wedding in New York in January 1944.  Whatever the final result, I think those two markers will serve as the bookends, so to speak.


Ellen and her father went to Alton Illinois to spend Christmas with family but…

I was feeling kind of miserable and I really couldn’t think why. I guess I figured I would never see Harvey again. We went to Alton and I was even more unhappy. In the middle of the afternoon the phone rang. It was Harvey. He had tracked me down and wanted me to come back to St. Louis. My father I thought I was crazy, but I talked him into leaving and taking me back to town. Harvey and I spent the evening together and we decided we were in love. We sort of got engaged. I don’t remember an actual proposal, but it was sort of taken for granted that we would get married someday.

While everybody is honoring their father’s on this Pandemic Father’s Day in 2020, I am going to honor both of my parents by sharing the beginning of their correspondence, exchanged over New Years 1942-43.  They have known each other about a month at this point.

Harvey wrote first:

December 30, 1942
Hotel Miami
Dayton Ohio


(That’s the first time I ever started a letter that way; hope I spelled it right.) 

In a room about six times too big for him sits a somewhat sleepy Second Lieutenant who has spent the day (1) signing papers and filling out forms, (2) thinking about you.

It’s been another one of those typical army days –standing in lines and waiting around while nothing happens. As usual I told six captains, ten sergeants and three men who sell Good Humors my name, address, birthplace and favorite seafood.

Tomorrow I have to go back and continue some more of the same since I did not get anywheres near finished today. Also tomorrow I shall move into the Bachelors Officers Quarters. By then I should have an address and will expect you to send me cases of champagne, boxes of caviar and other little items essential to my well-being.

I am wondering if you have enough Air Corps knickknacks to get along avec.  I’ve had my agents working on the case and they have come up with the following information which may be of interest to you: 

To begin with, very popular this year are full-size propellers; they are strapped across the back and considered excellent for travel in crowded buses; Another item that is definitely chic for junior misses, sub-debutantes and Pomeranians are old carburetors; A spray of wisteria and a few drops of 100-octane gas are added, and the whole business made into the neatest little hat you’ve ever seen. Also high on there list are hearts of newly-minted Second Lieutenants – but, then, what would you do with more than one?

Honey, tonight while waiting to see if I can sell the hotel the idea of letting me have a bed upon which to toss my weary bones and blood and stuff I heard music pouring out of the little bar they have here – the Kotex room or something, I think it’s called. Like a little, hungry tyke on a cold day looking into a bakery shop I pushed my nose against the glass. It was just one of those quiet little bars with a three piece orchestra, soft blue lights, and scattered couples sitting around. I figured it would take a long time to get your hat on and get down here, but something inside me just got all knotted up, and all I can think of was how I wish you were here, darling.

I kind of think I’m getting tired so I can sleep (Gee wouldn’t that make a clever song title) so I’ll close this one up. I’ll write you again as soon as I have an address. 

All my love, darling, and right now I’m kissing you good night.



The next day, Ellen wrote back….


December 31, 1942

New Year’s Eve


Gee, it seems funny writing that.  It’s the first time for me, too. 

I was so glad to hear your voice today. And you called just at a time when I was thinking hardest about you, wishing you were here and thinking about how much I love you.

The trip back from the station was like a rocket trip to some other planet, and equally as terrifying. In fact I’ve written to General Arnold to see if that cab driver could not be presented a pair of wings. He handled that cab beautifully in the air.

Daddy fell down a flight of stairs today and hurt his back! He can’t move. The doctor doesn’t know whether there are any broken bones or not. He told him to stay in the bed until Saturday, and then come down for an x-ray. He’s better tonight, though. He can turn over, etc. When he came in this morning he was a pale chartreuse. His stomach has been bothering him for two weeks, and now this. If it weren’t for you darling I wouldn’t have a very happy New Year.

As I told you over the phone, I lost my wallet with our gas ration books.  See what you do to me? I never lose things.

I think I have enough Air Corps bric-a-brac. In fact if things get too tough, I’ll turn myself in to the scrap metal drive. 

I really didn’t have to tell anyone about us. People just looked at  the expression on my face, and guessed that I was in love. They don’t know how wonderful you are.

I was going to a party tonight. They all insisted I come, date or not. But now I feel that I ought to stay home with Daddy.

I went marketing today. I just love to go marketing. You find such interesting things, things you’ve never eaten before, but someone must.  OK, I’ll take a can. As I stood in line with my booty, I trembled from head to foot, suffused in shame, thinking what Mr. Wickard  would say if you could see me.  I looked around, and instead of the usual expressions on the faces of my fellow shoppers – The pensive look: have I forgotten anything?; The worried look;:This is going to cost too much; The harassed look: Did the maid remember to take little Ambrosia out? – These were all supplanted by grim looks of of determination, as knuckles turned white from gripping the cart handles.  

Each woman had the gleam of a Commando in her eye. This strange transformation did not change till she was out of the store with her precious cargo of cans.  Then you’d hear something like this, “I know this is unpatriotic, but you know, Oswald just adores pickled snails, and what with rationing, well, I just don’t know what he’d do, so I just thought I’d get a few….  

I read Daddy parts of your letter, and he thought you were very, very clever.  Of course, I think so, But I’m kind of prejudiced.  You see, I’m very much in love with you. 

Howard called the other night.  He kept asking me what was new.  So I started to tell, and then he admitted that he knew all about it, and thought it was wonderful.  So do I. 

Daddy is getting lonesome in there by himself and wants me to come in and talk to him, so I guess I’ll say Good Night, honey. 

Happy New Year, darling, and I hope we’ll be able to spend next New Year’s Eve together.  

I love you, 



They didn’t spend New Years 43/44 together but Harvey was furloughed back to the States for the holidays that year.  Ellen and her father went east to New York, and they were married at Harvey’s parents apartment on January 16, 1944.  Harvey had just turned 23, Ellen was 22.

I haven’t figured out yet what I am going to do with all this material… Book? Screenplay?  Podcast?  Multimedia Internet Extravaganza?  Dunno yet.

But I figure there’s a story in there somewhere.  Some of you already know how it ends… 

Incidentally, the working title “I’ve Heard That Song Before” comes from a popular recording by the Harry James Orchestra that Harvey and Ellen both reference several times in the correspondence.  I guess that was “their song.”  And it’s a pretty good one…



Today in #TMITM
And The Truth is Finally Breaking Through

The revolution may or may not be “televised” – but it is definitely being “packet-switched*.

I see a video like this and I think: oh good, the truth is finally breaking through.

Tulsa? Rosewood? Never heard about that on ABNBCBS, did ya?

This is what’s different between now and, say, 1968 – the last time convulsive dissonance tore a hole in the fabric of our cultural universe.

In the 60s, the media environment was dominated by three primary channels. Even when The Whole World WAS Watching, the message was homogenized and filtered through those three channels. Three points of origin transmitted that carefully pasteurized message to an infinite number of points of reception. Yeah, the police are rioting, and clubbing kids in the street, but… Laugh In! Mary Tyler Moore! Power structure intact!

This is what’s different now: The internet has produced a world of channel parity. Every point of origin is a point of reception. Every citizen has their own channel.

And the truth is finally breaking through.

We are all transmitters and receivers. And when a man gets murdered on the street in broad daylight, there is always somebody there to record it. As Will Smith said: “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” Because we have all these gizmos in our pockets, there is no longer any corporate or political force that can control the narrative.

And finally, the truth is breaking through.

Kimberly Jones lets us in here on the Dirty Little Secret: The system IS NOT broken, it is working precisely the way it was designed to work. The forces that we were taught are here to protect us are actually protecting the now obsolete narrative

We are all Kimberly Jones now.

And the truth is finally breaking through.

I use the hashtag that begins this post a lot. #TMITM = “The Medium Is the Message.” When he coined that expression in 1964 Marshall McLuhan explained: “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”

In other words, it is not until the media environment changes that new content can be delivered. The printed Bible fostered the Reformation; newspapers fostered republican democracy; first radio and then television reorganized society around broadcasting towers. The advent of the Internet reversed those trends toward ever larger audiences. Everybody is a transmitter, everybody is a receiver.

After a decade of smartphones, the truth is finally breaking through.

When I first got on “the Internet” in 1993, with McLuhan’s maxim in mind, I wanted to believe that this fundamental change in our media environment would ultimately foster a fundamental change in the way our society functions. The advent of the Internet fed whatever idealism was left over of my sensibilities from the 1960s.

I have despaired over past decade, as I have watched ‘social media’ poison the world’s discourse and flood it with disinformation and crazy talk and unleash a whole world of stupid. Even as the movement of the past few weeks erupted. I’d lost hope that the promise I thought I saw 30 years ago had foundered.

Kimberly Jones has restored my hope. This video is by orders of magnitude the most information-packed three minutes you will see this week, this month, this year.

It has taken almost 30 years since my first packets of hope were delivered, but the truth is finally breaking through.
– – – –

H/T Heather Larkin Vogler

– – –
*”packet switching” is the fundamental technology that made the Internet possible. When you Google those keywords, the result will be delivered in “packets.” You could…umm… Google it.


#HomeAlone Day 84
Uh, Houston? We Have…. A Kitten

Every year, around the middle of March, as the cold and dreary of winter wears on, I will say of the season, “Winter: it goes on until you can’t take it any more – and then it goes on a while longer.”

The same can now be said of the spring of 2020.

And quite possibly the summer.

Maybe the whole fucking year.

It can likewise be said of the past 5 years, when speaking of the descent that started with that ride down the escalator that has no bottom floor. 5 years later, new bottom after new bottom, and still we descend…

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….

I really have no reason to complain (but I’m Jewish, why should that stop me?) as I have been comfortably ensconced out here in West Bumfuque for the past nearly three months. My cupboards and freezer are filled with provisions, and “essential workers” have made the trek out here each week to drop off more.

It gets pretty damn lonesome at times, but I figure I am better off this way than if my ex was still around. I am grateful that all resolved itself well before I had to lockdown, otherwise the operative hashtag would be #MurderSuicide instead of #HomeAlone.

I wish I had more to show for all this time I have had to myself. I have ventured furtively into various creative endeavors, but let’s just say “the input exceeds the output.”

My attempt at an audio/video recording space. If only I sounded half as good as it looks…

I set up the ‘studio’ in the back of house – the space with the big picture window that I cleared of all but a mediation cushion once I had the house to myself  – to attempt some audio and video recording, but the first attempts at actually recording something sounded so bad that I have not tried again for a week or so.

I have not really been writing much. I lament that most of my verbal energy gets dissipated into Facebook posts and comments. Facebook has become my go-to distraction and frustration. On the one hand, it offers the illusion of some kind of contact with other humans. On the other hand, the conceit of keeping an open mind and peering outside my own bubble opens the window on a stream of crazy nonsense that melts my brain.

The back roads less traveled aka my typical top-down joyride routes – Old Charlotte, Pond Creek, River Road and back again.

I really didn’t leave the house for about two months, except for #LifeIsBetterWithTheTopDown joy rides along the back roads between here and Ashland City most afternoons. This has been the season for a convertible, and I have not let it pass without making the best of it, nearly every day.

As for writing… heh.

I’ve written a couple of accounts of my life in isolation, that, again, mostly got posted to Facebook. But I also made some notes about my visit to the doctor last month for my annual physical, posted to my website in two parts here and here.

I have been missing my job at the Apple store. The store closed on March 14. The good news is that Apple has so much cash (like $2-million-per-employee!) – and continuing revenue through online sales – that they haven’t laid anybody off. We’re all still on the payroll. I had a personal experience there that has transformed how I feel about that job and the company:

As the Coronavirus Panic reached its first crest of frenzy in mid-March, I started to worry about the risk for my age bracket relative to the rest of the personnel I work with (many of whom are literally a third of my age). I called the store on Friday March 13 and expressed my anxiety, telling a couple of mid-level managers that while on the one hand I didn’t want to ask for any special dispensation, on the other hand… I’m old and 3-to-5 times as likely to die if I get the Covid. A couple of hours later the Lead Manager called back and said “we’ll take you off the schedule and make sure you get paid.”

That moment brought me almost to tears. No, wait… actually… it did bring me to tears, to the extent that this emotionally-arrested old man is capable of them.

The next day they announced that the store would close indefinitely and offered a similar arrangement for all personnel. But I felt like the universe had singled me out in a way that I felt like somebody had my back – as my therapist pointed out – maybe the first time in my life.

And then I settled into my confinement. They have tried to keep us busy with online training and video conferencing – just more glass and silicon and mostly looking at my own disembodied image on the screen.

In preparation for what remains an unscheduled reopening, I actually went in to the store for the first time on Tuesday for several hours of “socially distanced retail training.” I wish I could say it was anything other than just fucking weird. It was great to be in the presence of other actual humans again but of course we were all visible only from the eyes up. And seeing people for the first time in months but… no hugs, no physical contact of any kind. Wearing a mask and trying to communicate through it… not fun. Also very itchy with the beard. And, of course… don’t touch your face…

“The Pile” – my father was a prolific letter writer; my mother saved them all.

The other thing I have done in the past couple of weeks is return to what I am now calling “The Pile” of letters that my parents exchanged with each other in the year between their meeting and their marriage in 1943. I have been reading the letters and dictating them into a digital document. I don’t know what I will do with this stuff. I have reached the point now where I feel like I just need to stay with “the work” such as it is and eventually something will manifest. I have been circling the idea of weaving my own memoir (remember the 1969 stuff?) with some of this material. I just don’t know yet.

As I’ve been dictating/transcribing these letters into a Scrivener doc, I’ve stored some on Dropbox so my sister in Connecticut can read them. Here’s one from Harvey, and here’s one from Ellen. I’m pretty sure there’s a story in there somewhere…

It’s not quite so lonely out here for the past two weeks… as some of you know (via Facebook), I got a kitten… Her name is “Buster” (she was gender-confused when she first arrived) and she’s about 8 weeks old.  I’ve posted pictures of her on Facebook almost every day over the past two weeks.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….

You Think You Know Me?

A few things I have written and posted to this website that offer some insight to the the journey I’ve even on over the past few years..,.

Posted November, 2020:

How Is This Even Possible?


From January, 2017:

Where’d Paul Go??

From April, 2019:

Are You Done Yet?


From September, 2019: 

The Dead Cat Christmas

And a bit of prior personal history:

The Summer of ’62

Posted March, 2017:

Harvey and the Lionel Trains


Posted May 2018

Return to Brigadoon


Posted May, 2018: 

Trauma, Nostalgia and Closure 

Posted May, 2018:

Whoever Said “You Can’t Go Home Again”…?

#Home Alone Day 63
To Doc or Not To Doc Part 2:
You Can’t Get There From Here

(continued from here)

As I suspected, the hard part was just getting to the clinic from the parking garage. 

The elevators, they’re easy to find, they are centrally located in a red-walled glass box in the center of the garage.  But the stairs?  Good fucking luck. 

The parking lot was fuller than I thought it might be, but I was pleased that everybody I saw was wearing a mask.  

After I’d parked the car, I searched for a stairwell  in what amounted  to wandering around in a dark concrete maze. I saw a couple of gentlemen in scrubs (and masks!) conversing near the entrance to the elevator lobby, so I approached, and from a socially safe distance asked,

“Do either of you gentleman know where I can find the stairs up to the Frist Clinic.” 

“The stairs are locked,” the gentleman in the navy blue scrubs muffled to me through his mask.

I took this news rather incredulously.  “The stairs are locked?” 

“Yeah,” Mr. Scrubs repeated, “on account the virus.  The elevator is the only way up…”

Let me see if I’ve got this straight:  Because there is an infectious virus a-loose in the land, the only way to get to the doctor is by getting into a small enclosed chamber with a bunch of strangers?

One of the more vocal members of the Committee Inside My Head said something like “if that’s true, that’s the dumbest fucking thing you’re going to hear all day.”  I’m not sure, but those words may have gotten through before the committee member that holds my tongue could stop them. 

It wasn’t easy, given the labyrinthine nature of this particular parking garage, but I managed to find the vehicular entrance/exit, thinking I’d just go out on the street and find the entrance to the building that way.  But the way these buildings are arranged around Centennial, I couldn’t even find the entrance to the building I was trying to get in to.   

I went back into the garage, and after a little bit more dialog with Mr. Scrubs, resisted the Covid Wheel of Anxiety -induced urge to just get back in my car and go home.  I resigned myself to getting on an elevator in order to proceed with my mission: to risk my life in order to get a clean bill of health.  #IronyAbounds

Not so fast…

I wanted to wait for an empty elevator.  Two people with masks got into the first car that opened, and I figured “what the hell…” and got in with them.  But before the doors could shut… another woman got in.  She was not wearing a mask.  I got out. 

The next car that opened, there was just one other guy – with a mask –  waiting to get on, so I took my chances with him.  

I put on a rubber glove and pressed the “4” button.  #ParanoidMuch? 

The door closed before anybody else could get in.  In the few seconds available, to us, we exchanged our mutual surprise that there was no stairwell access to the building.  He got off in the lobby and again, mercifully, nobody else got on.   30 seconds later I had finally reached my desired destination.  

I’m sorry I didn’t think to grab a photo of the lobby of the Frist Clinic. It’s usually a pretty bustling place, but this time it was nearly empty.  Most of the seating had been removed, and what remained was all socially-distanced apart.  There were signs saying everybody had to wear a mask, and a Miranda-like warming that “if you don’t have a mask, one will be provided for you…” 

I waited a safe distance from the counter for my turn to check in.  The receptionist asked me for my Insurance card, and I made a mental note to thank Apple for keeping me employed and insured while so many millions of people are losing not only their jobs but also their health insurance – at a time when they are really going to need it.  Note to America: this is fucking stupid. 

After a short wait the nurse invited me in. 

“How are you?” she asked dutifully.

“Right this moment… I’m pretty agitated!” I replied, launching into a concise summary of the Ordeal of My Arrival and repeating the profane conclusion that the  Committee Inside My Head had arrived at earlier.

Then she sat me down,  took my blood pressure – and rattled off a number that didn’t sound right. 

“Is that good?” I asked, sensing some alarm. 

“No.” was all she said.  

She left me in the room to wait for the doctor while I wondered if being forced  to ride an elevator could actually elevate one’s blood pressure.  

Dr. Louis Johnson at the Frist Clinic, who has been my Primary Care Provider for the entire time I’ve lived in Nashville. Another, like my barber and my housekeeper, who have been around longer than my (now ex-) wife.

Eventually the doctor arrived and I told him the story of the limited choice of conveyance. He was surprised that somebody had told me the stairs were inaccessible.  We talked a little about the Strange Times we’re living in, and the exam commenced.  

I’ll spare you the sordid details of the ensuing poking and prodding.  The highlight for me may have been the discussion around my weight.  He didn’t say anything, but I did express my concern that I have add a few lbs from “sitting on my ass for the past two months.”  

“Yes,” he said, “that’s been a concern for a lot of people.” 

“Yeah, that’s what happens when the grocery store has run out of chicken but you can get all the Oreos you want…”

When the exam was over, the doc took me out into the hallway and showed me an exit to the stairs. “That’ll take you right down to the parking lot.” 

Before I left, he took my blood pressure one more time. 

“Normal,” was all he said.  


So, yeah… riding an elevator in the spring of 2020 is definitely not good for your health. 

Of course we won’t really know the full impact of this penetration into the Infection Zone for another 12-14 days so… y’all standby!

#HomeAlone Day 63:
To Doc or Not To Doc?

After much perseveration, I have decided to go to the doctor for my annual physical today.

Like every thing else over the past two months, the decision hasn’t come easily.

So far as I know, my health is good. Despite my advancing age (a “7-handle in November!), the only health issues I have are blood pressure and A1C that have hovered near the “you might have to do something about that” levels in recent years. The last time I did the blood work, all the numbers were fine and the doc said “just keep doing what you’ve been doing.” That was a couple of months after the divorce was finalized. Go figger.

This is a non-essential excursion into a potentially risky environment. The nurses I spoke to at the Frist Clinic assure me that they are taking all the necessary precautions: everybody in the clinic must wear a mask and observe social distancing. And there was one point during the conversation when I realized: the nurses and the doctors and staff at the clinic are going to work every day – and they’re not dead yet…

Once I’d decided it was probably (?!?) safe, The Great Wheel of Covid Anxiety starts turning again: How do I get from the parking garage to the clinic? Sure, once in the clinic, all the guidelines are being practiced, but I usually ride an elevator to the clinic on the 4th floor. What is the likelihood that everybody on the elevator will be wearing a mask? From what I read, not very likely. I can just imagine: one cough from somebody on an elevator and dial up the body bag.

It’s not helping to turn on the TeeVee or read something on the newspad (do they still make newspapers?) that singles out Nashville as one of the newest hotspots in the nation and wonder all over again, “why risk it?”

There seem to be two factors driving the Covid Anxiety Wheel: On the one hand, it only makes sense to be cautious. On the other hand, at what point do you realize that your life is being ruled by fear? At what point do you have to listen to the third voice in your head (it’s quite a committee…) that says “feel the fear and do it any way”? (H/T Julie).

Anyway I’ve made my decision.

Like Luke finding the exhaust port on the Death Star, “I’m going in…”

I just hope I can find the stairs. And I am grateful-sweet-jesus that I have the strength to climb them…