November 19, 2017

Uncle Emile, good guy, good chess player

By John Guy LaPlante

Mon oncle Emile is what I called him.  Like my Papa and Maman, my Uncle Emile was an immigrant from Quebec, the heart and soul of French Canada.

My memories of him go back more than 80 years. He was great at many things, especially chess. The game was a passion. This memory was triggered, would you believe, by my discovering and downloading a Scrabble app. I’ve loved Scrabble.

In Pawtucket, R.I., my hometown, he worked as a short-order cook, a house painter, a furniture repair whiz, at this and that. That’s how immigrants got on their feet. He was a  hard worker. Big and strong and clever and genial.

His favorite pastime was chess. A kid at boarding school had taught me the basic moves. My uncle took me under his wing.

He and his wife Rosalie lived in a modest Cape Cod. Upstairs was one big room. That was where the  Chess Club met once a week. Tuesdays, as I remember it.  My uncle was its organizer and self-elected president.

If he happened to meet some fellow who liked to play, he’d sign him up. French, Italian, Irish, no matter, though most of his players were French. Any guy who didn’t have booze on his breath was welcome. No women, of course. Rosalie never came up the stairs. Thank God some things have changed. The big thing was their liking the game.

When I came home from boarding school—I was 15 or so—at his behest, and not wanting to say no, I’d show up. I was the only kid. They were all patient with me, all nice.

The big event came every two or three months, what he called Maestro Night. My uncle would hear of some good player and invite him to come be the maestro.

We’d arrange all the folding card tables in a big U. We’d sit one to a table with our chess board set up, facing the maestro.  We’d chat with one another and catch up. Then the Maestro would arrive and in a minute or two we’d hush up. Notice I capitalized Maestro here. Sometimes he was known from a previous session. Sometimes a  stranger.

My uncle would give him a great big intro and we’d clap and cheer.  He’d smile and say thank you. That applause was his pay, I believe . Maybe the members chipped in for a gratuity for him, I’m not sure.

All of us were playing the white pieces and he the black. In a tradition of unknown origin, a player with white has the advantage of making the first move.

The Maestro would stand throughout. He’d step to the first table, glance at his opponent’s initial move, and make his move. Then he’d step to the next table, and the same thing. Once he had gone all around, he’d start  the circuit again. As things progressed, he would pause longer before making his move.

On and on. Finally some pieces were being given up. Some players were better than others, of course. Finally one player would knock over his king, admitting defeat. Checkmated! End of game  for him. Eventually there would be only two or three  still playing. We all stayed seated at our tables. No kibitzing allowed! We’d crane  to catch the action.

I was playing out of pure charity from these guys. Sure, I was making moves, but puny moves. I was doing my best. Guaranteed I’d be  the first to give up. But it was exciting and I enjoyed learning.

Sometimes one of the fellows would beat the Maestro and then the clapping was loud indeed!  What was nice is that the Maestro would join in applauding the one who beat him.  A good sport. But I never saw that. It was hearsay I picked up. Every time I played, the Maestro, whoever he was, licked everybody.

But at the end of the evening there were always lots of Have a Good Nights and See You Next Week. It was a very nice evening though for sure some fellows went home crushed.

They played every week. I played only when I was home from school.

But what does this have to do with my downloading that Scrabble app?

You’ll see soon. I never found out how, but my Uncle Emile would locate  people that he could play with far away, maybe  50 miles, maybe 500, maybe up in Quebec. Correspondence chess! What’s that? Long-distance chess. The two never got to meet.

My uncle would open the game by making the first move, noting it on a card with the date, write it down  on a penny postcard and mail it to his opponent. In  a few days or maybe a week or two, he’d  get a postcard back with his opponent’s move.

My uncle would decide his next move and send it off. Every time he got a card back was a highlight for him.  I recall that he’d be playing more than one opponent at a time. Every day he’d check  what the mailman had brought.

I never saw  how he recorded the progress of the games, or how often he won.  I was back in school. But he was a strong player. I’m sure he did okay. I’m not sure whether he ever got to know these players as more than just a name and an address.

But in time, the postcards coming back  must have  included  personal words,  it seems to me. Maybe they played re-matches.

Now about my Scrabble app. As you may know, Scrabble is usually a two-person game. With this app, you can line up another player anywhere who also has the app. Or the app will match you with one.  No difference whether it’s somebody nearby or in Chicago or Miami or Anchorage.

Then you start a game, just as my uncle did.But these Scrabble moves  can go back and forth in minutes, in a single session. Not weeks. Sure, you can drag out a game as long as you like, several days or longer. The games can be set up by appointment. Tuesday at 9 p.m., or whatever.

And no penny postcards needed. None of the out of pocket expenses my uncle had.

If you’re interested, the Scrabble app comes free from Google Play. Your only investment is your time to play a game. No stamps needed. If Uncle Emile could see that!

I just checked. It’s also possible to play chess free online.

I’m no champion at Scrabble but I find composing words  easier than plotting chess moves. But I did teach my kids to play THE game, as it’s been called.

I told you Uncle Emile was clever. I saw that more than once. Here’s one instance. One Christmas he stopped by. He was my Maman’s brother, two or three years older. They were very close.

My sister Lucie came along nine years after me. She was four when I got to witness this. She was still using her baby bottle!   Always seemed to have it in hand. Yes, with milk and the rubber nipple. She’d take it to bed with her. Curl up on the sofa with it. Embarrassing.

If Maman tried to take it from her, she’d scream and holler. Sounds crazy, I know. But that was the situation. My uncle got to see this. Was appalled.

We had our Christmas tree up and decorated. He had Lucie on his lap.  Was gabbing with her. And he asked, ”Lucie, is there anything extra nice you would like Santa Claus to bring you this year ? Maman has told me you  have been a very good little girl. Makes me happy! I am proud of you. Now think hard!”

She was all ears of course. He went on, “I know Santa.  Very, very well. I will tell him you deserve a special gift this year. For sure  he’ll  will bring it to you.”

Lucie thought and thought. Finally she said. “Oui, mon oncle! Oui! A nice big baby doll. Like Claire’s.”  Claire was her best friend.

“Very good, Lucie! But first  you have  to do something for Santa.  And you will get that beautiful doll.”

“What?”

“As you know, Lucie,  you are not a baby any more. Give me  your bottle. I will wrap it up and give it to the mailman tomorrow. Santa will get it in two or three days. He will remember me. For sure.

“He loves to hear about wonderful little kids like you. Extra good girls and boys. When you get up Christmas, you will see all the presents he brought. And the doll you asked for!”

We waited through a long, long pause. We saw the tug-of-war going on in her.  Uncle Emile smiled and laughed and bounced her on his knee. She loved him. Just as I did. Maman was smiling, too. And praying, I’m sure.

She had her hand resting on her big brother’s shoulder. She ran her fingers through his thinning hair.

Lucie was still quiet. She had been holding that cherished baby bottle all along. “All right,” she said finally, and so seriously. And handed it to him.

“Very, very good, Lucie! I will do this first thing tomorrow. You will be very happy on Christmas ”

On that wondrous day she was the first up. I’ll bet she kept listening through the night for Santa. She ran to the Christmas tree. She saw all the presents Santa had brought and counted those with her name on them.  But was her doll here?”

Finally it was time and we gathered around the tree. Maman, Papa, my little sister Louise, myself. (Louise was four years younger than Lucie. She had already given up her baby bottle.) But Uncle Emile couldn’t be with us.

Papa had been keyed in. Admired Uncle Emile for coming up with this terrific idea. Felt maybe Maman was spoiling Lucie.

Maman as usual handed out the gifts to us. She saved one for last.  She smiled at Lucie,  held it in her hands. It  was a big one. And said, “This last one is also for you, Lucie.”

Lucie tore the wrapping off. She asked Maman to help her open the box. And inside was the beautiful doll, and it was even nicer than Claire’s, she said later.  Was so happy. She looked it over. Every detail. The eyes, the hair, the little smile, the nice dress. The little booties. She ever mentioned her baby bottle. She played with her little baby all day.

Uncle Emile came a day or two later. Lucie ran up to him with a big hug and kissed him on both cheeks. He was smiling, glowing.  Showed him the beautiful doll Santa had brought. He picked it up and admired it and put it back in her hands. . “I told you Santa would not forget!”

Maman rushed to greet him and gave him a big hug.  “Merci, Emile!” And whispered, “Merci pour ton joli cadeau!” (“Thank you for your lovely gift!”) He beamed. Gave her a hug.

A true story!

Yesterday I called Lucie and told her I was writing up these recollections. When I mentioned how Uncle Emile had finagled to get her to give up her baby bottle, she laughed and laughed.

“But I wasn’t four. I  was five! Actually it was a big Pepsi bottle. With a black nipple. When I needed a new nipple, Maman would give me the money and send me to buy a new one. I’d run to Mr. Gendron’s pharmacy there on the corner.  Remember?

“Yes, I’d go buy my own nipple! I knew I was getting too old for that. But I loved my bottle.  Crazy, I know. One time Mr. Gendron asked if the nipple was for me, and I said no!” And she laughed again.

She told me that Uncle Emile had taught her how to play chess. I wasn’t aware of that. She doesn’t play now. But she’s a competitive bridge player. Gold level!

Yes, a smart man, Uncle Emile. And what a wonderful uncle. He and his wife Rosalie are buried just a few rows over from Papa and Maman.

Well, I think I’ll go to my computer now and play a game of Scrabble. And if I don’t manage to play with a live opponent,  I can even play against the computer!

Hope Uncle Emile isn’t aware I’m not playing chess much any more.

A  postscript for you

Interested in chess?

The victories will be few and elusive

The defeats many and humbling

It can easily morph into a passion

So be wary of this devilish game

But if this is your wish, do ignore these words.

An experienced loser

Anon.

~ ~ ~ ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not a poet but ….

By John Guy LaPlante

What I am is a wordsmith. Wordsmith is the right word. I cobble and hammer and shape words into sentences and paragraphs and pages to create something worth reading by others. I have indeed been called a wordsmith.

Plainly put, I’m a writer – at one time or another writing as a reporter, columnist, feature writer, essayist, author, or PR practitioner. And for some years now, as a blogger. So I’ve been wordsmithing for 65 years or so.

But of late I’ve been poetizing. Writing poetry, yes, strange as that may sound. I began dabbling at this just two or three years ago. It started as a lark, for fun and as a brain exercise. As a senior senior (yes, I’m getting darn old), I need all the help I can get, body-wise and brain-wise. I’m so glad I took it up

But I really am not a poet. I don’t do it for profit or publication. I’m not gifted enough. Few get to see my scribbles. But I write real poetry, yes, real poetry. But, you’re asking, isn’t all poetry real poetry?

Some say yes, of course it is. But I say no.  I think a lot of today’s poetry is crap. Here’s why. For too many “poets” nowadays, there is zero respect for the very basics of poetry. They just don’t bother. Why? Because that would be too hard for them, too challenging..

These basics are meter, rhythm, and rhyme. They are essential.

What they write is “free verse.” Free, meaning undisciplined verse – quick and easy.  They put down nice-sounding thoughts, set them up in staggered lines … and call it a poem.  It may have a nice rhythm, but no meter, no rhymes. To me it’s a joke.

Robert Frost put it beautifully. Writing that kind of free verse, he said, “is like playing tennis with the net down.”

Amen, say I.

What I find especially offensive is that read a “poem” like that and right off you wonder, what the heck does this mean? You read it again and too often come up with a blank. Because what it means is anybody’s guess. You may think, this poem is too brainy, too intellectual for me. Baloney, I say!

Carl Sandburg, I think it was Sandburg, said, “Modern poetry is a spot about half-way between where you read and where you wonder what it was your read.” I had to read that a couple of times but then I got it.

I have a simpler way of putting it. Real poetry says something. Free verse leaves you scratching your head.

The great Goethe 250 years ago opined, “Modern poets add a lot of water to their ink.” And how!

Again, I’m an amateur poet. But, to show you what I play at, I’ll give you a few examples. Truth is I’ve written dozens. I’ve enjoyed it so much.

I write two genres.  Quatrains and limericks. A quatrain is a four-line poem. All four lines to me must have the same number of syllables.

Two lines must rhyme, and so must the other two, though all four can have the same rhyme.

What about the rhythm? That’s more subjective. It’s up to the reader to decide if it’s good or not so good. You!

It must say something clearly. If I succeed, you won’t have to scratch your head to get it.

Again, I’ve set these rules to give my brain a strong workout.

Here’s a short quatrain of mine.

Today is blue and sunny.

And I am up and about.

Much to do so I’m busy.

So happy I want to shout.

             Have you checked each line’s syllable count?  Yep, seven. Make sense?

Another a bit longer.

Passwords—oh how they make me cry.

I cuss and cuss but hard do try.

They mess me up so very much.

I can’t find such and such!

 Line count?  Eight. Make sense?

And here’s a quatrain I wrote just for this blog.

A poet who plain ignores rhyme and meter     

Is, though he may not know it, just a cheater.

What makes poetry stand out as an art form

Is when to its rigid norms we do conform.

Syllables? It’s 11 in all four lines. And I felt my brain had to do 11 push-ups for each line.

Did it make sense to you? If it did not, I was a failure.

I was pleased with its rhythm. If you disagree, I won’t argue.

Here’s another, more ambitious.

It’s March 13th and time to spring one hour forward. 

How I do like that – in the eve the longer light.

But this morning, I feel very pooped.  My, oh my! 2

Much to do.  I hope I’ll feel better by and by.

The count? Fourteen. Rhymes okay? Make sense?

Here’s one about chess puzzles, which I also enjoy doing.

I ponder the chess board. Where, what’s the solution?  

I look. Ponder this move then that one. Oh, what woe!

Will I fail … have to give up in great frustration?

Then I find the key move and gosh, how I do glow!

  Syllables? Fourteen.  The rhyming okay?  Make sense?

 As you see in all the above, the rhyming can be line 1 with line 2, then 3 with 4 … or line 1 with line 3 and line 2 with 4.   I think the pattern of 1 with 2, then 3 with 4 is more dramatic, more powerful..

I’ve been known to write two quatrains, one after the other as a single poem. Why? It gives me twice as many syllables to say what I want to say.

Here’s a sextet that I wrote because I needed two extra lines. It’s addressed to my daughter Monique.

October 15th! How, how could I overlook a date so blessed?

I little foresaw what a gift you, Monique, would turn out to be!

So yes, I am blushing. No, no excuse can cover my distress.

You deserve great thanks and praise for all you do – this we all do see.

I most of all. I am grateful, my daughter dear, and here express

A wish for your health, success, joy, long life … may all this truly be!

Here is what happened. Her birthday is on the 15th. I forgot it—the first time ever. I realized my awful mistake the next morning and composed and sent her this. She loved it.

Reading it now I wish I had done better. Very long lines, too long, I now see – 16 syllables! It took a lot of heavy lifting on my part. I did enjoy putting it together, challenging though it was. Was so pleased that Monique was tickled.

Here’s one in a very different vein. To repeat, it’s an exercise. So I must think of a topic. Some are very mundane. Some more weighty.

Every morning I wake up to hear more bad news about Trump.

Shocked I was when he won, now every day I feel more in the dump.

I detest the sad, bad things he stands for and deplore how he acts.

So many, many things. Worse of all is how he distorts the facts.

 The count? Sixteen. If you disagree with my opinion of Trump, please do not give me an argument. Write a quatrain of your own.

As you see, not every quatrain or expansion thereof has to have a predetermined count.  It can be whatever will work best.

One  time I wrote a poem made up of four quatrains. All because I had a lot to say. I wrote it to fete my dear sister Lucie’s 80th birthday. I’ll show you just the first part. It gets  too personal later on.

Ma chere petite soeur, at 80 you still amaze me

You still have your famous zip and zest as we all see

And on so many fronts – at home, with friends, everywhere:

J-C, Michael, winning gold (!), and of course Quimper,

       Antiquing, volunteering, modeling…the Tango!

Ebay, stock market, dollhouse, all keep you much on the go!

And your friends!  You keep them so precious, old ones and new.

         In our family, so spread out, you’re loved as true blue.

   Of course faced many a challenge –but don’t we all?

     Yet you’ve survived them, pushed on, truly made life a ball!

The line count is thirteen. Like the rhymes? How about the rhythm?

When I got to see her, she kissed me on both cheeks! Told me I made her day.

We grew up with French as our first language. I’m sure some parts you didn’t get so I’ll explain.

Chere petete soeur means dear little sister. Winning gold because she’s a top competitive bridge player. Quimper: she collects this fine French pottery. The tango because she is still a tango dancer. Dollhouse because for years she’s built up the nicest little dollhouse, totally furnished, you’d ever get to see.

Well, I told you I write two kinds of poems. I started with quatrains. Then added limericks.  Who doesn’t like a good limerick? I consider limericks easier because they have a much looser structure.

Limericks have five lines. And the rhyming is very specific—line 1 rhymes with 2, line 3 with 4, and line 5 with 1 and 2. But the meter varies.  All 5 lines will have different counts. Line 1 is the longest. The second a bit shorter. 3 and 4 even shorter, and 5 about as long as line 1.

So the limerick winds up more natural, easier to read.  Still, there are many push-ups involved.

And a limerick’s topic can be much lighter.  It’s all about getting you to smile.  Even laugh…and laugh. As I’ll bet you know, limericks are often naughty, which can be fun. But often out-and-out obscene.

Here’s one. I also wrote a quatrain on the same subject. That shows you much it bothers me .It’s  clean, by the way.

Trying to recall a password, how often I do sigh

I want to yell and rant and curse

I feel I’m ready for the hearse.

I try this password and that but they defy

Once I felt I might even break down and cry.

 Here’s another limerick for you. Better put, a serious poem in limerick form.

Methinks there are too few poets out there

Who work to compose with classic care   

A thought or two in fancy words suffice   

And the result, sad to say, just ain’t nice   

Try harder and we’ll call you a poet fair and square.

I’m sure this didn’t make you chuckle and in that sense I’ve failed, I suppose. But it let me do my mental calisthenics for the day.

Familiar with the great old Saturday Evening Post? And Norman Rockwell? I grew up with the Post. It came out every week. The most famous magazine of its time. Just about every issue also  gave us a few limericks.  Clean limericks. Delightful limericks. I consider its limericks a wonderful model.

Did you know that the Post has been resurrected? But as a bimonthly. Six issues a year instead of 52. But it has a digital edition that comes out every week. Still worth reading. Take a look at it. Has limericks, of course. Go to www.saturdayeveningpost/limericks. You’ll have a good time.

(By the way, it recently profiled me.  The piece about me appeared in its digital  edition. If you’re curious, go to its website. On its home page look up to the top right corner. You’ll see its search window. It’s a tiny rectangle. Type in “LaPlante.”  The article will pop up. Hope you enjoy it.)

Why don’t you try your hand at one? And send it to me.  I’d love to think I might have inspired you to have fun while giving your noggin a workout.

Got to tell you I have a special tool for this versifying of mine. It’s a rhyming dictionary. I use it all the time. It’s “The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary – over 15,000 words” by Sue Young.  I’d be helpless without it.  There are others.   Shakespeare certainly didn’t have a rhyming dictionary.  Neither did Sandburg or Frost, as far as I know. That’s what made them the great artists they were. I’m not in that league.  Far, far from it.But I’m having fun.  Hope it’s helping me upstairs between my ears.

So free verse? Forget it. Free verse just doesn’t cut it.

Oh, one more delicious quote for you. It’s from true poet William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939:)

An anonymous reader of his says, How are you?

And Yeats replies, Not very well. I can only write prose today.

Yes, I chuckled. But to be honest, I resented it, too. I’d like to say to Mr. Yeats, “Sir, prose is damn tougher than you make it out to be! It has rigorous demands all  its own.”

Now a P.S. for you, my friends. It’s a couplet I just cobbled for you.

On all I write I welcome your praise or even flack

Do know I work hard not to come off as just a hack.

The count? Thirteen. Make sense?  Rhythm okay? I hope so. Now it’s your turn. Try your hand at a quatrain or a limerick. Email it to me—johnguylaplante@gmail.com. I’d be delighted. But no free verse, please.

~ ~ ~

 

 

 

 

But, Doctor, fair is fair, right?

By John Guy LaPlante

I’m getting set for my appointment with a new M.D. and planning to make an unusual demand.

One unnheard of.  I’ll bet he’ll think it awful, preposterous, insulting .  So  be it. I’m tired of the way doctors are running  their business. Hear me out and  you’ll feel the same way.

Yes, I’m a new patient. And so his office has told me to bring in my Medicare card plus the card of my secondary insurer if any, plus my list of meds and if possible the actual meds, plus my co-pay. I’m familiar with this. No problem.

I’ll be handed a questionnaire. I will write in my name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, gender, race, next of kin and contact info, and my complaint(s). No problem.

I’ll be told that if his service is not fully covered, payment  will be expected immediately. Otherwise other arrangements must be made. Also that if my insurer declines payment, I will be responsible.

I’ll be confronted with many questions and I’ll be expected to answer them. Past medical complaints, surgeries, hospitalizations, etc.  Including potentially embarrassing ones – HIV, addictions, psychiatric problems, and for womenfolk, I wouldn’t be surprised, abortions,.

No surprise in this. I will reply fully. I understand all this is important, even essential.

(By the way, I’ve read in the New York Times that some doctors are now asking your sexuality–straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans-gender. News to you?)

Then, my turn! I will submit a questionnaire of my own! This will be my standard operating procedure from now on for Sir or Madame Doctor to fill out. As we know, more and more physicians are women.  My request will be met with surprise. Maybe indignation. Not laughter, I’m sure. Maybe shock. I’ll shrug this off. What I’m asking for is reasonable. And in fact overdue.

Here is my questionnaire..

Attending M.D.’s Professional Profile

Name _____________________   Place of birth __________  Age ___

Years of Practice as M.D. ____  As specialist ____

Medical School _________________  Location __________ Year of graduation  ______

      Internship   _________________________    When _____

      Residency   __________________________  When _____

      Post-doc      __________________________  When _____

Are you licensed to practice in any other state, or have been?  No ___ Yes ___

Hospitals where you have attending privileges:

     ________________________

     ________________________

     ________________________

     Specialty Certifications beyond the M.D.

      ____________________

      ____________________

      _____________________

Are all of these current?   Yes ____     No  ____

If no, why not?  ___________________________

Are you self-employed?   Yes ____    No _____

If no, who is your employer? _______________________

Do you have Malpractice Insurance?  No  ___   Yes __

 Provider(s) of your Malpractice Insurance

       ____________________    Address ________________________

       _____________________   Address ________________________

Has any Insurer ever canceled you?   No ____     Yes __

If yes, why?  ___________________________

                         ___________________________+

Upon request, do you supply a list of your standard fees for your various services, especially for the non-insured?  __________

Do you have different prices for insured and non-insured patients?  _________

Do you sometimes provide charity (free) services?   ________

Do you own in whole or in part any treatment center, laboratory, pharmacy, diagnosis center (for CAT Scans or other), physical therapy center, eye vision center, or other complementary or supportive service?  No ___   Yes ___

If yes, name  ­­­­_______________  Address   ______________________       

            Name _______________  Address _____________________

Have you ever accepted money or a gift in any form, including a trip or stay or vacation, in appreciation for a patient referral?  No ___   Yes ____

Or for prescribing certain medications?   No ____   Yes ___

Has a patient ever filed a complaint to a hospital in which you have  treated him or her?  

No ___    Yes ___ How many times _____

If yes, what was its or their disposition?

     Absolved  Yes   ____

     Warning   Yes ____

      Fine  Yes __

      Suspension Yes   ____

(Note: For the following, if necessary list your replies on a separate sheet)

Have you ever been sued?  No ___    Yes ___    How many times ____

If yes, disposition ____________________________

                               ____________________________

Has a complaint ever been filed to any other entity, such as your State Registry of Physicians and Surgeons?  No ___  Yes __

Where ____________________________

Have your privileges ever been suspended?   No __    Yes ___

If yes, please explain  ______________________________________________

Have you ever been treated for substance abuse or a psychiatric diagnosis? No ___    Yes ___

If yes, institution ______________________________

Any treatment / program currently underway?   No ___   Yes ___

Where __________________________________

In any surgeries or other procedures of any kind in which you are the principal, do you complete them from start to finish or get assistance from another professional, to “start” or “close” or do whatever? 

No ___    Yes ____

Of course, your candor is expected. If falsehood is discovered, be aware you risk a legal suit.

This questionnaire is respectfully submitted to you because my health and even my life may be at stake. A favorable report from you will be re-assuring.

In this way you, through the questionnaire I have filled out, and I, through this questionnaire you will now fill out, will know one another better and will be prepared to move forward confidently.

And Doctor, fair is fair, right?

Take three days to process this if necessary.  You may email it to me at johnguylaplante@yahoo.com.  Or johnguylaplante@gmail.com  

Thank you.Oh, one more question.  Does your waiting room supply magazines beyond WebMed and the AARP magazine? And do you automatically cull the older ones after the three latest issues? ___________________

Do you make the daily newspaper available?  _________________

Your signature __ ______________________  Date ____

~ ~ ~ ~

Dear reader, your suggestions for additional pertinent questions are welcome.

Truth is, I’m nervous about this. I’d feel better if some of you did the same with your doctors.  As we know, there is strength in numbers.

What do you think of starting up a new group to push this — the American Association of Progressive Patients?  The AAPP. Hey, sounds good, don’t you think?

 ~ ~ ~~

 

 

 

 

Remember the good old Palmer Method? Spelling bees?

By John Guy LaPlante

Probably not if you’re sixtyish or less.I do though I have not thought about those wondrous two for years and years.

The Palmer Method taught me how to handwrite the way I have all my life – cursive writing, it’s called. A blessing.

And I loved spelling bees. I couldn’t even sing Happy Birthday but I was great at spelling.

All this flashed back to me on Mother’s Day. We were all together at our festive dinner. Little Ruby had a cute card for her Memere, my daughter Monique. Memere is French for Grandma. Monique joyfully passed it around.

It was my turn. Yes, very cute. Ruby had added a little note, very touching. First I noticed her signature. So distinctive! Then I read her a note. Her spelling was excellent, which was not a surprise. And I liked her message to her Grammy, so far as I could tell. I had to guess at it a bit.

It was her writing. I frowned. Some of her words bumped into one another.  She didn’t write the way her Grammy does. Or I do. What she had done was print all her letters and words.

“Ruby,” I said. “Didn’t you study the Palmer Method back in the second and third grade?”

She thought a minute. “No,” drawing out the word very long. I could see she had no idea what the Palmer Method is. Chris and Kim, her dad and mom, were listening carefully.

Well, I studied Palmer Method. And I’m sure her Memere did, too.

Chris jumped in. “Yes, she did. But the teachers have the kids print, so she lost it. And now they all use computers. Now they’re isn’t much need to write anything down.”

And then Kim said, “Yes, John. And that’s what happened with all her classmates. They just plain forgot.”

That was all news to me.

Ruby was listening also, of course.

She likes to play games. “Ruby, would you like to play a little game?”

She nodded quickly. I asked her to get a sheet of paper and a pencil or ballpoint and put them on the table. “Now I will say some words and I want you to write them down. As neatly as possible.”

She was ready in a minute. I composed a sentence in my mind and dictated it clearly. Then another. And another. And so on. Using words she’d be comfortable with. “Now may I see it please, Ruby?”

I looked at it. I frowned. She had printed it just like on her card to her Memere. I couldn’t make out any misspelled words. But again her letters were all printed. So not connected to one another. And she had labored in put all the words down. It had taken a lot longer than using cursive.

And when she came to the word “write,” she had looked up and asked her Mom, “Is it right or write?’ Kim had said “‘write.” If that had happened to Ruby while on her iPad, it would have made the correction, I believe.

And if Ruby had taken part in a few spelling bees, I believe she’d know the difference between right and write.

I took a photo of her work and here it is. Please look it over.

Ruby's handwriting photo

See what I mean? Every letter stands alone. See how some words nearly touch? Her spelling is excellent. Isn’t her signature terrific?!

Ruby is in the sixth grade now. A big year, I was told. Because in sixth every child gets an iPad. They do all their work on it in class and at home.  They must bring it to school every day. All the lessons come to them on the iPad. There are no real textbooks. No need for paper and pencils and ballpoints.

Monique and I have discussed this and she made a point.  “Dad, Ruby does use a pad and pencil.  I’ve seen her using them when she comes and visits.” That made me feel better.

There is no blackboard. Instead, the teachers use a big computer screen that’s on the front wall. Can write some words or do a math problem on their iPad. What they do will show on the big screen.

In one way, that’s fantastic. This is the Computer Age and this is the only age these kids know. The one they will live and work in.  We old folks got into it late and the price we pay is clumsiness and exasperation.

At the Worcester Telegram-Gazette where I worked, the paper scrapped all the typewriters and put in computers. We had to learn to use them and fast.

I was hitting 40 and I remember how uptight I was. Some of my older colleagues were so shaken that they chose early retirement.

Ruby and her schoolmates are at ease with it. Which is wonderful. Just about all of them have a cellphone. And they’re at ease with that too. They can send text and read text. No problem. No way can I argue with that.

Ruby attends a public school in a nice small town. It’s not a big-bucks private school. And there she is with a free iPad. I marvel at that. But maybe that’s why the town’s education budget is so high.

On the other hand maybe that expense is washed by the school not having to supply printed textbooks and writing supplies and so on. All while launching the kids in a most pleasant way into the marvels of computers. No way can I argue with that either.

And maybe in the little game she and I had, Ruby learned something else. Maybe she got to think, “Gee, am I glad I’m not going to a school like the one Pepere did!”

~ ~ ~ ~

My interview with the world’s greatest astronomer

By John Guy LaPlante

Just a few weeks seem to go by before we get to read another news story about life being possible way, way out there in the heavens.

Well, that’s not news to me.  I heard that 66 years ago.

Harlow Shapley (1885 – 1972). Familiar with him? He was our greatest astronomer. The world’s greatest. Was called the greatest since Copernicus (1473 –

 1543). Copernicus was the Polish genius who said the sun was really the center of the universe, not our earth.

Harlow Shapley made big headlines when he said there were “zillions” of planets out there but—and this was astounding — at least 100,000,000 of them that could support life as we know it, with vegetation and animals and people!

[Read more…]

The disappearing !  Aren’t you worried?

By John Guy LaPlante

Don’t recognize it?  It’s ! –our exclamation mark. If you’re not worried, I am! It seems as dead as the dodo.

My memory is pretty good. I believe nobody has ever sent me an email and used an exclamation mark in it.  They might be saying, “Happy Birthday, John,” or “Sorry about your terrible fall.” No exclamation mark. Those are exclamations. So an ! is essential!

Haven’t you experienced the same thing? I’ll bet you have.

The big question is, why is our ! so imperiled?

Back in grammar school, excuse me, the elementary school so-called now, we learned we have 12 punctuation marks.  Well, I did. They are the period (.), comma (,) question mark (?), exclamation mark (!), colon (:), semi-colon (;), apostrophe (‘), quotation mark (“), the hyphen (-), the dash (–) , parentheses (which you’ve seen me use 10 times here), and brackets [ ].

In our newspapers and magazines, you never see an exclamation any more. It’s absolutely taboo. A headline will say, “Mother Kills Her Six Children.”  No exclamation mark! That’s absurd! One exception—our awful supermarket tabloids! They sock us with them.

And of the 12, the exclamation mark is one of the four biggies.

Online I just found a perfect explanation showing why they’re important and how they’re used. It’s dramatic! It’s so good that I’m reproducing it here right now. Hope I’m not infringing on a copyright!

First, its clever but unfortunately unknown author shows us several lines of English. With zero punctuation marks.  And asks us if we make sense out of it.  Here’s it is — I’m putting it in italic for clarity.

perhaps you dont always need to use commas periods colons etc to make sentences clear when i am in a hurry tired cold lazy or angry i sometimes leave out punctuation marks grammar is stupid i can write without it and dont need it my uncle Harry once said he was not very clever and i never understood a word he wrote to me i think ill learn some punctuation not too much enough to write to Uncle Harry he needs some help

Do you make sense out of it? Of course not. Well, only after a struggle! Now the author puts in the punctuation, and does so properly. Now take a look:

Perhaps you don’t always need to use commas, periods, colons etc. to make sentences clear. When I am in a hurry, tired, cold, lazy, or angry I sometimes leave out punctuation marks. “Grammar is stupid! I can write without it and don’t need it,” my uncle Harry once said. He was not very clever, and I never understood a word he wrote to me. I think I’ll learn some punctuation – not too much, enough to write to Uncle Harry. He needs some help!

Notice the incredible improvement? Those little marks are essential! I called this a perfect example. Not so. Only half of the available marks are used. It should have included every one of them. And a couple are used wrong, well, in my opinion.

Case closed!

Whoever first used those marks did so to make anything read on paper sound as close as possible to how they would sound if spoken.

When anyone speaks, they utter something and stop. That’s why on paper they’d put in a period. When they ask us anything, by their tone of voice we instinctively know it’s a question.  So on paper they’d include a question mark. If they yell something good or bad, or curse, or warn us about something, we know they’re exclamations. And on paper they’d include the marks invented to show that.

That’s for the main four punctuation marks. To make written messages crystal clear, the other eight were introduced, one by one. They have subsidiary roles, albeit consequential.

I for one would love to read the history of our punctuation marks. The inventor of each one. What year. And so on. Fascinating. I’m not sure a history exists. But hey,  one does exist! I went looking and found David Crystal’s wonderful  Making a Point: The Persnickety Story of English Punctuation. St. Martin’s Press, 2015. I quote him here about the exclamation mark. This is just one highlight.

Here’s a short selection of contexts where the [exclamation] mark would be routinely used these days, says he.

interjections – Oh!
expletives – Damn!
greetings – Happy Xmas!
calls – Johnny!
commands – Stop!
expressions of surprise – What a mess!
emphatic statements – I want to see you now!
attention-getters – Listen carefully!
loud speech in dialogue – I’m in the garden!
ironic comments – He paid, for a change! or . . . for a change (!)
strong mental attitudes – ‘Hardly!’ he thought

A complete list of situations would be impossibly long, as it would need to identify all the emotions that could motivate the use of the mark.”

Thank you, Mr. Crystal!

Well, I  said “Case closed!” Not quite.

What is still open is why, yes, why, the exclamation mark seems to have gone out of fashion. It seems so contrary to the intent of whoever’s the writer. Maybe the writer is a boring, cold-blooded, impassionate person.  Though I’ll bet that’s not so. I think it’s the fear of appearing emotional, or not wanting to run against the tide. Or plain lack of appreciation, meaning ignorance.

In our good newspapers, there’s a different reason. I believe they do so to maintain the “objectivity” that is the hallowed and important prime principle that backs up all their reporting. Which is totally lacking in many other countries where the press is just an arm of the ruling government. China. Russia. And so on.

I mentioned in their reporting.  But it’s different on their editorial page. That’s where they’re telling us their official, on-the-record opinion. True also of their columnists and op-ed writers and letter writers. It’s wrong here for them not to show their strong feelings by abstaining from the exclamation mark! They’re delinquent! That ! would add the needed emphasis!

I use exclamation marks a lot, and I’m sure you’ve noticed.  Though far more than usual in this piece just to dramatize my message. But hey, I’ve even been known to use two, yes, two !! together. Such as, “About this matter, I am damned, in fact, gxd-dammed upset!!”  See?

I can even imagine a situation when I might use three. Such as four years from now, “Trump gets re-elected!!!” See? And that wouldn’t be to show my amazement. No, no!  To show my utter shock!!! God forbid that does happen in 2020!

I’ve even been known to use two different punctuation marks together. Such as, “What did you think of that terrific editorial?!”  See? I’m sure you can tell I intend it as a combination question and exclamation.

Enough said!

But do you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill? Please let me know!

Do you think I’m too passionate and should calm down? Please let me know!

Do you think I’m fighting a losing battle? Please let me know!

If you agree with me, well, use the  ! more. Please, please!!

Who’s seen a Greyhound bus lately?

 

By John Guy LaPlante

I haven’t. They seem a disappearing species.Like the dodo.  Sad.

I checked.  Greyhound—now more than a hundred years old—is still in business. A decade ago, it had some 3,500 buses on the road.  Now, it’s down to less than half that. Corporations are like you and me.  There are up’s and down’s. Good things happen. Bad things, too.

Why am I telling you about this? I rode Greyhound a lot. I loved Greyhound.  Many trips, including several clear across the count from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back. Many thousands of miles. “Leave the driving to us!” Greyhound says.  We’ve all heard that slogan of Greyhound’s.

This beaut was the model that I usually rode. One of Greyhound's biggest innovations over the years was a nice, clean onboard toilet.What a differernce that made.
This beaut was the model that I usually rode. One of Greyhound’s biggest innovations over the years was a nice, clean onboard toilet.What a much appreciated difference that made.

Often I did leave the driving to Greyhound.

My first cross-country on it was in 1995, I believe.  Greyhound offered a sensational transcontinental ride for $99. I bought a ticket thinking of the grand adventure it would be.  And I loved the price.

Plus I had a reason that made that bargain irresistible. My son Mark was studying at the University of Washington in Seattle.  I missed him.

I hopped on a big, shiny Greyhound at the New York Port Authority terminal in Manhattan.  And it was three days to Seattle…day and night plus a few  hours more. In a way it was like the old Pony Express  mail service from St. Louis all the way to California. It was the same rider all the way.The rider would change horses after every so many miles. Ad keep going and going.

I said in a way.  On Greyhound, it was the same bus all the way, but with a different driver taking the wheel after every shift.

The hard part was the nights.  Trying to sleep was a nightmare.

Once, I rode Greyhound across most of Canada from Vancouver in British Columbia on through Alberta, then Saskatchewan, then Manitoba and Ontario, right across to Montreal In Quebec.

By the way,  those Canadian Greyhounds towed a beautifully matching trailer loaded with parcels. A trailer with the same paint job and same doggie logo!

Another time  I rode Greyhound deep down into Mexico right to huge Mexico City. Actually it was a Mexican bus line that partnered with Greyhound.  A great ride. I even rode a Greyhound, yes, a Greyhound on a visit to South Africa. Greyhound also operate in Australia, well, it did back then it did.  I never made it to Australia.

On all these trips, passengers kept getting on and off. Just a few would do the whole long distance.  By that time, we recognized each other and felt a special bond. We’d say “Good luck!”  to one another and “Take care!” Even if speaking to somebody who didn’t understand English. They got the gist of it.

Sure, there were bad moments.  Once Greyhound took off and left me behind!  Stranded! We stopped in a small town in Oregon, 20 minutes for a coffee and toilet brake. I had been sitting behind the driver. The seat next to me was empty. I left my jacket and a handbag on it. Across from me were two elderly ladies.   We had chatted a few minutes.

[Read more…]

The dirtiest book I’ve ever bought

By John Guy LaPlante

I’ve bought many books. None ever as filthy as this.

The book is “The Limerick” by G. Legman. An oldie, 1969.

I’m not given to writing book reviews. But  I’ve got to express my opinion about this one.

Gershon Legman when he was researching and writing full blast.

Gershon Legman when he was writing full blast. Didn’t seem the outdoor type.

I bought it online, so with no peeks inside first. It was considered a classic.  Written by a scholar, with scholarly notes. I liked the cover. And 1,700 limericks. Wow! And there was even a used copy.

One thing I saw right away.  Because it’s an old book, all the limericks in it are old, some very, very old.  Next I’m going to buy one that’s contemporary.

I like limericks. So clever. Often so funny.  Such a challenging art form.

I got my first taste of limericks as a teen-ager reading the great old Saturday Evening Post. And I’d look forward to seeing another, and another. [Read more…]

Ahimsa. What the heck is that?

By John Guy LaPlante

I know you’re eager to know. One minute, please.

Sulekh, my friend for 41 years.We have had many talks, big adventures. adventures together.

My friend Sulekh, new author. I believe the best known Jain in America, all because so passionate about Jainism.

Time and again my dear friend Sulekh Jain has astonished me.  For 41 years!

This time for writing and getting published a detailed, startling book entitled “An Ahimsa Crisis: You Decide.”

What’s it all about?  Ahimsa is a remarkable philosophy, a unique way of life. You’ll be fascinated. Maybe puzzled, too.

Sulekh gets all fired up extolling Ahimsa. He wants the whole world to practice Ahimsa. Its adherents are mostly Jains like himself. What’s interesting is that In India and the whole world there are only some eight million Jains. Very few.

More than 90 percent of them live in India. They’re a tiny minority there but incredibly successful and influential. That’s a fact. Sulekh is a Jain.  That’s why he carries that name. Not all Jains carry it.

Sulekh is an American, by the way. Came here 47 years ago. Part of the huge brain drain from India—doctors and engineers and such. And he’s not a preacher. Not a book writer. He’s a Ph.D. mechanical engineer. Nine patents and more than 50 technical papers to his credit. Which has zilch to do with Ahimsa.  Retired now but working full blast to promote Ahimsa.

Sulekh gives a thousand reasons to back up why everybody should take up Ahimsa.  So that includes me and you. Not his Jainism, but its way of life.  Ahimsa is its core belief.

[Read more…]

I clean my tongue twice a day. Don’t you?

By John Guy LaPlante

With 1 photo.

Probably not. Only because you’ve never heard of that and are wondering why anybody would bother.

Here I am, with my two essentials morning and night.

Here I am, with my two essentials morning and night.

Well, let me fill you in. I had never heard of tongue cleaning. Then I got an unusual call. That was about 30 years ago. A man with a strange accent but speaking educated English. “Sir, I have heard you do public relations work. I would like to meet with you. Perhaps you could help me.”

He was Dr. Gupta, a dentist from India. I’ve forgotten his first name. My guess was he was in his 30’s. Was now a staff dentist at Worcester City Hospital.  Which was one of my PR clients.  I’m sure that’s how he heard of me.

Yes, I was in the PR business at that time.  Had my own PR office with a small staff  — John Guy LaPlante Associates at 5 State St., Worcester. How come…me a journalist doing PR?

Journalism and PR dovetail. That may surprise you.  Journalists often deal with PR people because these folks want to promote, influence, change, launch something. So, truth is, many news stories often are ignited by a PR spark.

And PR people count on scoring with journalists because that’s how they earn their paycheck.

All that said, PR people don’t always get their way. Far from it. Journalists’ responsibility  is to deal with real news, not contrived, phony news.  So at times we say, “No, thank you.”

I became familiar with PR people when I was a reporter and then a feature writer at The Worcester Telegram-Gazette and more so when I became editor of Feature Parade Magazine in the Worcester Sunday Telegram. They’d come in and pitch a story idea to me.  Sometimes I’d day Yes. Sometimes No. Sometimes Let Me Think About It.

There was a disturbing  policy change about Feature Parade and I left to become PR director at Assumption College there, my alma mater. My job was to promote Assumption within its own constituency….alumni, benefactors, staff, even students. And with the outside world. Through news releases to the media and mouth to mouth through personal contacts– preaching Assumption to the media and to people who might be able to help Assumption.

I learned the ropes, and after four years left to launch JGL Associates.  All my clients were institutions….hospitals, banks, businesses.  I never got a call from a person interested in marketing himself. Curious, I said to Dr. Gupta, “Come see me.”

He showed up with a smile and a solid handshake. “I have an invention,” he said.  “I need help to get it introduced.  It is a tongue cleaner.”

A tongue cleaner?  He showed it to me.  It was made of wood, finely sculpted. It looked like a disposable plastic safety razor.  That shape and just a hair bigger but no blade. Well, yes, but plastic.

He stuck out his tongue, and went through the motions of cleaning it.  Scraping it, that’s what he was doing. I said. “But why would anyone want to do that? I don’t understand.”

“Cleaning your tongue is important for good oral health. It’s So important that many people around the world clean their tongue — people who never brush their teeth because they never heard of that.  People in India, my country. I’m sure  you did not know this.

“I saw the need when I was in dental school, yes, back home. And I began thinking about that. And this is the result.” He said it proudly, waving his little invention t and putting it in my hand.

“There is no other tongue cleaner like mine.  In fact, no cleaner of any kind in this country. I have researched this. It is designed specifically to do the task correctly.”

He mentioned the huge marketing possibilities. He told me every person who brushes should also scrape. Especially heavy smokers. Chew tobacco. Or people who take many medications. Eat spicy foods.

In fact, he said cleaning the tongue is good for the teeth and the whole mouth. It removes bacteria. Lots of bacteria in the mouth. It rids the mouth of lingering things, little left-overs too small to notice, that are not good for your teeth.  It cleans the breath, and so many people have bad breath. It’s nicer for kissing. It makes you feel better.

I said to him, “It does sound promising.”

I had just remembered the Hula Hoop, brand new back then. Just a toy. Do you remember the Hula Hoop and how it became sensational?  A hot item for millions of people, kids and  athletic adults. They would wear it low slung, just above their hips, and begin swiveling and gyrating. And the hoop would swirl around and swirl around and faster and faster. Or around an arm, or a leg. Fun. Good exercise. There were Hula Hoop contests. Millions were being sold.

In fact, I just checked and Hula Hoops are still a big seller. For sure, whoever called it the Hula Hoop was a genius.

Instantly I recognized the potential for Dr. Gupta’s tongue cleaner was enormous.  Every owner of a toothbrush could become a buyer. Maybe it could become another Hula Hoop!

How could I help?  I called six friends who were self-made in business and invited them to a meeting in my office.  “I have something exciting to tell you about. A new, inexpensive invention. Everybody could use it. Could be a huge money maker.”

Five were business men. The other was my dentist, Dr. Clifford Audette. My age and a good friend.  But dentistry is not only a profession. It’s also a business. True of the whole of medical practice, of course.

The meeting was on a weekday at 4 p.m. I figured close to the end of the business day would work best.  They sat around the conference table in my office. I took the floor.  Dr. Gupta was not invited but I had his prototype to show.

I showed the tongue cleaner. Stuck out my tongue and showed how to use it. Passed it around. Talked about Dr. Gupta and his need to get things going. Talked about its benefits. Everything Dr. Gupta had explained to me. Talked about universal tongue cleaning among peoples in far-off countries. Who didn’t brush their teeth because they had never heard of it. Mentioned the huge market in the U.S.  Of course, talked about the sensational Hula Hoop.

Then I said. “I’m sure you  see the potential. The huge market—each and every person, from age 3 up.  Do you see how cleaning your tongue might truly be important? I invited you because you’re all interested in new opportunities. You’d  be getting in on the ground floor!

“The way to start would be by launching a small corporation. Or maybe a partnership.  Investing in it. It will take cash to get going. Developing a marketing plan.  And following through.”

They asked questions, of course. But not many. They saw there wasn’t much to ask. If interested, at another another meeting the details could be discussed.. The meeting broke up. I had no idea whether the idea would fly.

Only one called back. Dr. Audette. “John, I’d like to meet Dr. Gupta,” he said.

“Cliff, I will arrange that.” I called Dr. Gupta, told him the big news, and invited him to a meeting with Dr. Audette and me in my office. That happened.  Dr. Audette held the prototype in his hand, studied it, chatted with Dr. Gupta, asked questions, and sized him up. They both left.

The two conferred again, worked out a deal, and Dr. Audette got an  exclusive to promote and market the cleaner.  Dr. Gupta was pleased.  I was pleased. I sent Dr. Gupta a bill.  It was modest. I don’t remember how much. He was a new immigrant.  He had meager means.

I myself had no interest. I had my hands full running my own business plus a sideline I had started in investment real estate..

Dr. Audette was enthusiastic. He refined the shape a bit.  It would be made of plastic, of course.  Instead of one “blade,” it would have two, in fact, eventually three. He worked with a plastics company.  He had samples made.  He gave them to patients to try. He gave me one.  I began using it.  I asked for an extra for my daughter, Monique.  We all started cleaning our tongues.

My mouth was quite clean. I noticed only my ordinary spittle. But I did feel better for the effort. I took Dr. Gupta’s word that scraping could indeed be healthful and therapeutic.

“I like it,” Monique told me.  “But I think the head is too wide.  Dr. Audette should make it narrower.”

I told Cliff.  He chopped off the ends of one, smoothened the ends, and  tried it.  “Monique is right. Great idea!”

Well, the tongue cleaner did become a big idea. Dr. Audette hired a lawyer and had it patented.  He made a study of some patients’ mouths before they started scraping and three months later, then six months later.

Most people liked scraping. Some definitely had a cleaner mouth.  Some hardly noticeable.

He launched a marketing effort, had cases of tongue cleaners made—spent a ton of money. He advertised… promoted especially to nursing homes.  So many patients have foul mouths because of all the meds they’re on.  Got a good response.

Well, the tongue cleaner never became another Hula-Hoop.  But he sold thousands of them. Slowly the idea took hold. Then know what? Some people in the tooth brush business paid attention and developed tongue cleaners of their own.

Today in the toothbrush-toothpaste area of store after stores you will see tongue cleaners for sale. I collected them for a while. Had one with a scraper at one end and a brush at the other.

Dr. Gupta was pleased but disappointed, of course, it didn’t become universal. He may still be practicing dentistry. I lost track. I did hear that he worked at developing the market for it back in India. I have no idea how that has worked out.

My friend Cliff died two years ago.  He was a successful dentist with many patients and friends. At his wake, his son Chuck slipped a tongue cleaner into his dad’s breast pocket.  That gesture spoke volumes.

His obituary spoke of him as the inventor of the tongue cleaner. I hope Dr. Gupta didn’t hear of that, wherever he is. Cliff was its very earnest  developer.

I haven’t thought of this in a long time. Curious as always, I looked up tongue cleaners at www.amazon.com and www.walmart.com. Amazing how many shapes and styles they now come in. And the range of prices!

Well, as I said, I clean my tongue twice a day, every day.  Sometimes I think it’s unnecessary. But maybe that’s because my mouth is so clean as the result of my daily efforts.

But maybe I do it also because deep-down I feel I god-fathered the idea.

Why don’t you try one? It’s cheap and easy and what’s to be lost? Hey, experiment tonight with a teaspoon turned upside down.

~ ~ ~ ~

 

My friend was useful to his last breath.

By John Guy LaPlante

With 2 photos and an interesting link.

I want to tell you how he died, and the extraordinary thing that happened next and how he had arranged that.

But I want to protect his privacy and his family’s.  So I will call him Harry.  Please do not assume anything about where he lived or how I knew him.

All you need know is that he was a retired businessman, quite successful, a civic leader, and a convinced Christian.  He talked to me more than once about dying, and always as being natural and not to be feared because he’d be in Heaven.

One more thing.  He was happily married for more than 40 years, with a fine family. They were comfortably off.  No mortgage. Never behind in his routine monthly payments.

He was in good health, or thought he was. He and his wife lived alone now – I will call her Harriet – with their children and their families widely dispersed.

One day after their late evening meal, he got up with his wine glass to put it in the sink—just one glass with dinner every night, and always red.  And fell to the floor.  Harriet was shocked.   Dropped to her knees to help  him. He seemed dead. Yes, dead. Just like that!

[Read more…]

How the Bike has impacted me, you, all of us since the day it was invented

By John Guy LaPlante

It has impacted how our country has developed, our society and culture, our very way of life, and all in unimaginably good ways.  Yet we know so little about all that.

But first,  I know, yes,  I know. It’s been a long time but here I am. It’s been nearly a month now and I’ve made the challenging and so life-changing transition from Connecticut to California and I’m in the groove again.

In fact I rode my trike today. The temperature was 55 and after several days of rain –  it’s winter here, too, and we get rain instead of snow –  the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the big clouds were gorgeous. I hopped on and started pedaling.

The plain fact is that in just a few weeks I’m going to hit 88. I can walk but it ain’t easy. But on my trike, Wow! It’s as if I have just slugged down a quart from the Fountain of Youth. It’s great for my muscles and even better for my mental health. My trike has a big cargo basket in the back and I can shop and do a lot of errands. And what fun!

I mentioned it before and here I go again. I rode a tricycle as a little boy, moved up to a bike when I was 10 and continued to ride right into my seventies. And here I am on a tricycle again. Lucky me.Sure, there were a few gaps here and there but I never lost my interest. In fact as I think back, nobody I know of pops up as having been as consistently active and  enthusiastic a rider as I’ve been.

Why am I telling you this? Well, just today in the online edition of the wonderful old Saturday Evening Post — yes, it has found a new life for itself  both in paper and digitally– I read a fascinating article on this multi-faceted and largely unknown impact the bicycle has had on us.  It has been humongous.

And today, as we know, particularly in our large cities, the bicycle is far more than just an interesting adult toy. It is an important and serious and for some, an essential personal vehicle. City after city is being redesigned with safe and practical special lanes to let it play its full role.  Even with fleets of “Here, take one and ride it” bikes.True also in large cities around the world.

I’ll bet most of you have been bike riders and have loved riding. Maybe some of you still bike. I hope so. Anyway, if you want a wonderful read, just Google “Backstory: How Bikes Built Our Highways.” It will take a minute and you won’t be sorry.The facts are so impressive and the details so fascinating.  You will be engrossed. Guaranteed!

For even more fun, Google “An Interview with Margaret Guroff on How Bicycles Built Our Cities.” You’ll be fascinated all the more.

While you’re at it, look over that edition of the Saturday Evening Post. I read it for years till it disappeared or seemed to. It’s just occurred to me you may be too young to have known iy. For years it was the country’s most popular weekly.  When it csame, Maman. French-speaking immigrant that she was, would suspend her housework and just curl up in her favorite chair for a good hour. She could read English a lot better than she could speak it. Well, the Post is back, just as a bi-monthly, but it’s very promising.

All this said,  I’m hoping that this will be just the first of a number of interesting posts that you will be receiving from me in this new year.

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