According to my calendar, this is National Hemp Month. It’s perfect for us because it is growing on the deck and looking exceedingly healthy. Not ready for harvesting, but it is definitely working on it.

From the calendar:


Every July, National Hemp Month celebrates the roaring comeback of one of the world’s most useful and versatile plants – hemp.

For more than 80 years, laws banning cannabis also exiled hemp, even though it’s not intoxicating. Now, legal advancements are changing how people view and access hemp. National Hemp Month offers an occasion to rediscover hemp and its usefulness for both people and the environment.

Hemp provides an all-natural, eco-friendly fiber with many applications, ranging from clothing to paper to “hempcrete.” As a crop, it helps clean pollutants from the soil. Hemp also provides a rich source of CBD, the hottest new addition to the health and wellness world.

Given the state of the state, the state of the planet and all the nations on it, the state of our finances, the state of employment or lack thereof. and the general demoralized state of just about everything everywhere, cook up some edibles. Let the ugliness of life roll on past while you dream of better days that were and hopefully, will be again.

As a note for people who are wondering how bad it is? It hit 100.4 degrees F in Siberia yesterday and 96 in Maine. A hot time in the old town tonight!


I’m Samoan. You may not believe it, but a whole bevy of racists in the 1970s believed it and it has become an inside joke in local media  — or at least the retired members of local media.

Maybe you’ve heard it before and then again, maybe not. Back in the early ’70s, Boston was grappling with court ordered school desegregation and forced busing. It was an ugly time for race relations in The Hub of the Universe.

“The cradle of liberty” was under an international media microscope. Not pretty.

I was out covering the story and to my credit, everyone hated me. Black, white, politicians — everyone thought I was on the other side. I was proud of that. It meant (to me) I was on the right side.

One day, there was an incident in South Boston — also known as “Southie,” where all the action was taking place. A bunch of white thugs had cornered me and my crew. They were screaming the usual epithets, throwing rocks and bottles. They were on the move, coming in to give the hated, lying media a serious tune-up.

At that moment, I had what I call “A Mel Brooks Moment.” An veritable epiphany. The angry mob quieted as I raised my hand for silence. I spoke calmly, in my best (and most popular) soothing voice.

“Hey, I’m not a nig**r. I’m Samoan!”  

My crew looked at me dubiously. Surely, no one could be that stupid. Besides, I had that infamous ironic smile on my face. The angry mob was still quiet and obviously confused. So I repeated it again, slowly and louder, so the crowd could read my lips.

“Hey, I’m not a nig**r. I’m Samoan!”  

A brief pause and then … the crowd cheered. “He’s not a nig__r. He’s Samoan!!”  

They approached with broad smiles, offering handshakes. We got the hell out of there and pretty much ran for the truck. Yes, they were that stupid.  To this day, many colleagues call me “The Samoan.”

Now, that was real news!!

Lost in the Winner’s Circle

But really — the people who lost Jan’s name should have been humiliated. What a horrible mistake to make and to not even apologize for it!

Good for you getting past it. It wasn’t your humiliation. It was theirs.

Red's Wrap

Parts of it were funny. And other parts were humiliating.

And even though I’ve told the story before, it deserves another telling, if only to show that maybe humiliation can diminish over time while the humor of a thing can grow.

I went to New York in July of 2015 to get a BlogHer Voice of the Year award for an essay I wrote about hearing loss called Blindsided. The person who told me I’d won, Rochelle Dukes Fritsch, a good friend also from Milwaukee, won for her remarkable essay What’s Behind My Tears for Ferguson which I wish I could link for you but can’t. We were flabbergasted, astonished, but both of us knew we’d written really good essays, pieces with meaning and importance. The awards were well-deserved and we glowed about being recognized in this important way for weeks before the big conference in New York. Still…

View original post 824 more words


A while back, Marilyn wrote a piece using the word chutzpah. This is a word I’ve always badly mangled when I try to say it. It’s just a word, what the heck? That was my take for many years until Robin Williams and Billy Crystal gave me a proper public whupping for butchering the pronunciation of chutzpah.  I don’t try to say it in public anymore. It’s a word. I respect it because it carries its own meanings and images.

These days, people often use words or phrases without understanding their origin or meaning. I hear political aspirants, celebrities, athletes and civic leaders say things that make me scratch my head and run back to my dictionary.  Words!  They can be powerful tools used correctly. They can be dangerous used in ignorance.

I grew up in a home full of books. Including dictionaries. Big ones and pocket dictionaries. My parents insisted on using proper language and crisp diction. Street slang guaranteed a head slap or a smack. My two brothers and I were warned about using prejudicial clichés. Since my head has never been properly wrapped, I’ve been guilty of violating those warnings because of my warped sense of humor.

Marilyn warns people that I have toys in the attic.True. And some of the toys are very old.

A friend and I were trading insults the other day. I snapped at him with, “That’s white of you”.  His smile said everything. Words!  You gotta know who, when, and where to use them.

Way back in olden times, I was 19-years-old and worked in a department Store in Hempstead, New York. I was the only non-Jew working in the children’s shoe department. I was waiting on a customer who drove me bonkers. I couldn’t take it anymore and told the parent he was a schmuck.

The manager quietly called me into the stockroom, explained what schmuck meant and asked me never to use it again — even if the customers were jerks. I think he was smiling although reprimanding me. It was a word I’d often heard used in friendly banter, but I didn’t know its origin or meaning. It was just a word. What was the big deal?  I was 19 and knew everything!  I used big words, “20-dollar” words to impress people. People often complimented me, saying I spoke very well. I didn’t understand the veiled insult behind many of those compliments.

After all, they were just words.

John Wayne, of all people, once commented on words and ethics.  It was movie dialogue but still reverberates a half century later. In the 1961 film, “The Comancheros,”  Texas Ranger “Big Jake” Cutter (John Wayne) is lecturing his younger sidekick, Monsieur Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman). Regret asks Big Jake to spin a lie to his superiors to alleviate a problem. Big Jake refuses. Regret doesn’t understand, saying they are just “words.”

Big Jake, with that iconic Wayne frown, says softly, “Just words??  Words, MON-soor, are what men live by. You musta had a poor upbringing.”  Regret looks puzzled, not fully grasping the ethical code of this rough and ready Texas Ranger.  It’s a sublime moment and perfect for the young 1960’s when youth was defying the older generation’s moral code.

I recalled the scene years later in an interview with John Wayne. He smiled, shaking his head because he was in the middle of on-going national dissent against the Vietnam War.  Wayne was one of the most visible and vocal “hawks” in the Vietnam controversy. He had been ridiculed by strident protesters at a Harvard University gathering earlier that day.

“Words, dammit,”  Wayne looked at me, angry and sad. “My words! No damn Hollywood script. I have as much right as those damn college kids.”  Wayne was fuming. The Hollywood legend collected himself as I redirected the conversation to my time as a Marine. I had enlisted in 1959, fired up by the “Sands of Iwo Jima.

“Words. Good words,” I said to Wayne who smiled broadly.

Today, words are often tossed around loosely on social media with little regard to truth or the repercussions of ill-advised words. We have a president who uses words without thought in a daily barrage of tweets. Our media is engaged in a daily war of words, ignoring crucial issues facing our nation and world. Those of us of a certain age shake our heads as we watch young people immersed in tweets rather than direct conversation with friends in the same room. Words have become an endangered species.

I remember the good old days when me and friends went face to face with verbal jousts like “Your Mother wears combat boots!”

Words!  I love’em.


Fandango’s Provocative Question #75 – CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS

Have you ever committed a crime? If yes, tell us about it to the extent you feel comfortable doing so. If not, is there a crime you might like to commit (i.e., fantasized about committing) if you knew in advance that you’d never be caught or prosecuted for it?

Some of the police are trying to remain under cover.

Can I be arrested for thinking? All through this pandemic, watching our world crumble, the economy collapse, and so many good people dying … and you wonder why the really evil ones are still doing fine.What happened to Karma? Are those people really demons and thus immune to the diseases of humanity.

I have committed no crime, but some days, I really, really, REALLY want to. I’m sure I’d feel fine about it and probably, so would you.



I had a great conversation with my mortgage bank today. I’ve got a six month don’t have to pay my mortgage thing, but I can if I want to. I want to. Sometimes I have a hard time doing it especially since social security comes in on on days of the month and we don’t actually have all the money collected until nearly the end of the month.

She said: “This plan runs out in November, but if you call in November, we can give you another six months.”

“I’m betting,” I said, “that we are going to be having a big resurgence of COVID-19 by then.”

“I think so too,” she said. “People are such idiots. They are all running around and partying and now we are starting to see a lot of younger people dying. And even if they are okay, don’t they have families to protect? Grandparents? Aunts and uncles?”

Wearing masks during the 1918 Flu epidemic
More masks in the 1918 flu epidemic

It turns out that epidemics and pandemics all end the same way. People get weary of quarantine. Some of them go crazy and decide come what may, they don’t want the rest of their life to be spent hiding.  Having this attitude is helped if you aren’t part of the “if you get it, you’re dead” category of folks, although many people who were not supposed to be at risk die anyway. It turns out that a lot of people have physical issue they don’t know about … until they get sick and then very, very sick. And sometimes, dead.

Comparison of German killing North Carolinians and humans killing themselves in North Carolina

Bubonic or Pneumonic plague has no effective vaccine. These days, heavy doses of antibiotics will help, but it’s a powerful disease and even with antibiotics, it often kills. Its favorite targets are young, healthy people, not very young or very old folks. Why don’t we see Bubonic Plague these days?

We do. Since it showed up in Europe in 1348 and decimated the continent’s population, it has made its way around the world, killing many millions, including in the U.S. where the last cases were in 1900 and again in 2015 when the U.S. had 1,036 cases. In 2015, 16 people in the Western United States developed Plague, including 2 cases in Yosemite National Park.

It has not disappeared. It is lying low and could come back. Let’s hope not!

How did it end? The most popular theory of how all Plagues end is through the implementation of quarantines. The uninfected  — when they have the means — either stay at home or move to the country.  Eventually, the plague stops being dependent on fleas and becomes Pneumonic, which meant that coughed up droplets or sneezes spread the disease from person to person, no sick rats or fleas required.

Museum of London, Plague 1665-1666

While it seems like the Black Death was the only instance of the bubonic plague  there have been many other bouts with it through the centuries, both earlier (Justinian’s Plague during the Roman Empire days) and a pretty big one in the mid-17th century London and China and /india in the 1900s.

Three great world pandemics of plague recorded, in 541, 1347, and 1894, each time causing devastating mortality of people and animals across nations and continents. The 17th century was not a pandemic and was largely confined to London.

On more than one occasion plague irrevocably changed the social and economic fabric of society.It was also going around when Henry VIII was a young King in England. A pandemic of Plague started in Asia in the 19th century. The World Health Organization didn’t consider this pandemic officially over until 1959 when the annual deaths finally dropped to fewer than 200.

Mask as worn in  the 17th century. plague pandemic and included a waxed coverall which was supposed to protect the doctor — hazmat suit for 1657

In 1920 Galveston, that “oozy prairie,” as early settlers described it, was only 20 years removed from the devastating 1900 hurricane. Then came Plague. A 17-year-old feed store worker was the first to contract and die from the disease. The first case was diagnosed in early June 1920. Over the following months, eighteen people were diagnosed. Seven survived.

There was initial mishandling with Plague. In two cases the doctor’s notes that patient isolation “was not accomplished as rapidly as desired,” both because families were slow to call in a doctor and because the doctor didn’t consider bubonic plague to be a possibility.

Bubonic plague pandemic India 1894

Vaccines have not been found for Bubonic Plague. It’s a bacteria, not a virus. Vaccinations work on viruses and are successful for diseases that don’t mutate. Smallpox and polio are two major conquests in epidemiology. All Coronaviruses are rapid mutators, so whether or not they will find a long-term effective vaccine is questionable. They might find an annual vaccine or a cure, but a long-lasting vaccination is less likely.

The plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, had lain dormant in China’s Gobi Desert for centuries. But in the 1300s, it emerged with a vengeance, fanning out via trade routes from Asia to Europe and killing millions of people along the way. The plague was transmitted by fleas harbored by rats, which flourished in the overcrowded, filthy cities of the Middle Ages. By the end of the 1500s, between a third and half of Europe’s population had died from the Black Death.

Even during the 1900s, the plague still killed millions of people, but since then, the advent of better hygiene in cities and swift treatment with antibiotics has reduced this killer.

Human reaction to pandemic outbreaks hasn’t changed at all. We blame others for it. We persecute others for it. We run away it if we can. The better-off survive while the poorest pay full price.

From the Boston Globe, announcing the arrival of the 1918 flu arriving in town.

People believe rumors especially when they like the rumors better than reality. In the end, life goes on, but not like before the plague. This “return to normal” is not a return to the world before. It’s a social return only. It doesn’t mean people stop dying. Viruses don’t care whether you believe in them or not. They aren’t even alive.

Epidemics come and they go and the world doesn’t recover in a few weeks or months or sometimes, ever. Never in the history of the world has that happened. Nations fall, governments collapse, economies are decimated. Plagues change everything, not just human lives.

Global trajectories of the “spanish” flu — and this was before air travel for vacationers

We are in the crazy stage where people are crowding onto beaches, partying heartily, acting like they are the only people in the world and if they want to risk their lives and yours too, well, it’s their RIGHT. I probably missed that particular amendment to the constitution.