October 27, 2021

Uncle Emile, great guy, great 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.

~ ~ ~ ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and my penny game. Challenging and fun!

By John Guy LaPlante

Some twenty years ago I thought up a game to play in my car as I drove a hundred miles — from

Two cans and pennies. That's all I needed to play my game.
Two cans and pennies. That’s all I needed to play my game. Plus strategizing!

Connecticut up to Rhode Island — once a month to visit my Uncle Jack.

I called it my Penny Game.

He was a patient at the state veterans’ hospital up there. He was getting close to 100 and I was the only visitor he ever got now.

My game was simple. I played it all the way up. Great fun. So remarkable the way  it sharpened my driving skills. Every time I tapped my brake pedal would cost me one penny. The idea was to finish my ride with the fewest brake taps—the fewest pennies possible.

The idea was to beat my score every trip up. Patience, practice, concentration, skill—those were my challenge. It has paid off to this day though I no longer play it. I quit when Jack passed.

He was 97 when I started. He died just six months short of the 100 he was shooting for. So I made the ride many times. It was 105 miles from home in Deep River up to the hospital in Bristol. Yes, a state hospital, not federal.

Jack really, really qualified to be a patient—was in the Infantry and was one of those who hit the beaches in France to fight the Germans in World War II. Saw brutal action, so brutal he never talked about it.

My ride took me up through one of the most densely populated and tricky areas we have. It was not just one fast, straight, uninterrupted cruise through empty central Texas or wide-open Arizona, say.

Here’s what it involved. First, an easy nine-mile ride to Old Saybrook, Conn. Then 60 easy miles on I-95 up to tiny Wyoming.

Yes, Wyoming. I never figured how we got a Wyoming in these parts.  I’d turn right on R.I. 138, which was long and slow with several lights. It snaked me up through Kingston, the home of the University of Rhode Island. Easier when the students were gone.

Then a sharp left on U.S. 1, a four-lane highway which has changed little over the years. But just for 3 or 4 miles. Then a right on the next leg of 138. That would speed me down the long, steep slope right to Narragansett Bay. I’d hop on the big and narrow Jamestown Bridge to Conanicut Island, which is famous for the village of Jamestown. Very old. Thick with pricy secluded homes on its ragged shore

The village gives a clear view of Newport over on the eastern shore of the bay.

It was just 15 minutes across the island to the huge, wide, and high Newport Bridge—it was designed to let  enormous aircraft carriers get up to their base at Quonset Point. A toll bridge. So you had to stop. Bad to arrive with several cars ahead. All of us moving forward one car length at a time. So much braking! So many pennies!

 I visited him once a month and I got to know the route cold.  It would have been humdrum without my game.

Why all this detail? To give you an idea of the varied driving conditions I faced.  So many challenges. Hard to imagine more variety.

 But playing a game while driving? That could be distracting … dangerous maybe? No way.

All I needed were two tin cans and lots of pennies. The two cans might be a soup can and a coffee can.  I loaded the pennies into the soup can. It could have been peanuts, buttons, peppermint candies, anything easy to count. Pennies were perfect.

I had no idea how many I’d need, so I picked up four rolls — 200. Heck, I might turn out to be a worse driver than I thought. It turned out to be far too many.

So every time I’d hit the brake pedal, I’d toss a penny into the coffee can on the floor. Being  bigger, it was an easier target than just another soup can.  

 The first time I used 118  pennies—that’s the figure I remember– and that turned out to the most I ever had to use. I got better and better at it.  My best, as I recall, was 27.

That 105 miles had segments wildly different. Starting, I’d take the familiar old Conn. 154 eight miles to Old Saybrook, which borders  Long Island Sound. Then I’d turn north on I-95 and cruise up to tiny Wyoming in Rhode Island. Yes, Wyoming, R.I.—I never understood why we had a town named that. That stretch was about 65 miles, the longest.

Then a right turn on R.I. 138. That was slow and curvy and led me through tiny Kingston. It’s the home of the University of Rhode Island. That could mean lots of stop and go when the students were around.

Then a left on R.I. 1 but only for 3 miles or so. Then a right on the second leg of 138. That would take me down the long, straight and steep slope to beautiful Narragansett Bay and its two famous bridges..

The two bridges were exciting because I’d get brief but magnificent views on both sides—on the left of the island-rich bay leading up to Providence, and on the right, of the open Atlantic in the not far distance.

It also gave great views of the Naval War College atop a bluff on the left, and on the right of downtown Newport. Who hasn’t heard of Newport and its glitzy mansions built by show-off millionaires a century ago? But not visible from the bridge.

Now I’d be on the eastern shore. I’d head north, again on busy and congested 138 for three miles. Then a sharp left on old and narrow 114. This took me quickly to the Mt. Hope Bridge, named for the big and beautiful bay on the right.

The Mt. Hope Bridge is an impressive suspension bridge but narrow. It was an engineering marvel when built close to a century ago. Not much traffic back then. For decades you had to stop and pay a toll. It arches high enough to let large oil tankers make a right turn from Narragansett Bay and go on thefew miles to industrial Fall River to pump out their cargo.

I’d get irritated every time I’d cross that bridge. From its crest high up you’d have the potential for superb views of both bays. But! The engineers gave little thought to tourists. Their massive guardrails totally block the views. What a shame.

Now the ride became pretty. Scenic.  Roger Williams University, named for the minister who founded Rhode Island as a haven for settlers oppressed by the stern religiosity of the Pilgrims, has a beautiful campus. It’s perched on a crest overlooking Mt. Hope Bay.

 Over the bridge, lots of greenery. Lighter traffic. Peaceful. Fine estates on the Narragansett Bay side.  Finally Bristol. In its day Bristol was the capital of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. That, by the way, is the state’s official name. Interesting, don’t you think, that our smallest state has the longest name of all 50?

Bristol has great charm. Fine old buildings of changing architecture, from colonial to modern.  A Main Street lined with nice old homes and restaurants and boutiques of all kinds – art, antiques, furniture, on and on. The long street is striped red, white and blue along its middle for a long way. Bristol hosts an enormous parade down the street every Fourth of July. A Coast Guard station. Lots of pleasure boats.

And, most noteworthy, magnificent Colt State Park right on a prime stretch of manicured lawns along Narragansett Bay. In nice weather, after my visit with Uncle Jack, I’d try to squeeze in a ride through it. My leave-taking would take a toll. I needed this balance.

  Well, a couple of short turns now and I’d enter the fine grounds of the hospital.

 Reaching my uncle’s room finally, I’d give him a hug, ask how he was. He’d always say, “So, so.” He had gone there under protest and I sympathized. But it was a smart decision. Then smiling,  l’d  say, “Hey, only 43 pennies today!” He’d chuckle. I knew he was expecting this report.

 Yes, he was reaching one hundred. How many men achieve that?!  He was a cigar smoker for 80 years, but only a single Philly after supper during his saunter  around the neighborhood. Always Phillies. He was s shoe salesman his whole life. Squatting to fit shoes on customers kept him fit.

He was down to 110 pounds now and he spent most of his time in bed. But he still had all his marbles.  He was my dear Aunt Bernadette’s hubby. She had gone on five years earlier.  They were childless. I was his closest kin.

 An amazing, proud Irishman. He died just six months short of the full century that was his goal. That disappointed him. I know it did. It disappointed me! He had a peaceful and tranquil end. A blessing.

 So quite a ride, as you can see. Here’s what I had to do the whole way — strategize, strategize, strategize.

 If I got caught behind a slowpoke, I had to ease off to slow down a bit. If I spotted a traffic light coming up, should I slow down or speed up to catch it while it was green?

If a traffic light was at the bottom of a hill, a tougher decision. Would I have to brake 2 or 3 times?  Smarter of course to brake only once, but for how long?

If a car passed and swerved back hard to get into my lane, of course I’d have to brake.

Rainy weather …. snowy weather ….made the whole thing trickier.

If I spotted a McDonald’s on the right and noticed five cars in the drive-up lane, no way would I use drive-up.  Too much stopping and going.  Better to park and walk in.

No way would I stop for anything on the left side of the highway.  For sure I’d lose 3 or 4 pennies getting in and out.

I’d always start with a full tank of gas. God forbid that I’d have to stop at a station en route.

Of course at times braking was unavoidable.  To come to a halt at a stop sign at the bottom of a hill. Avoid getting rear-ended when I got caught behind a slowpoke. Or when a nut zoomed by me and then cut back in fast.

At the hospital, better to select a parking spot that I would not have to back out of.  Might have to tap the brake.  

Of course, it was important to play the game all the way. Crazy to give up just 10 or15 miles short of the hospital.

I never played the game coming home.  Getting there was enough. But soon I saw I was driving smarter in my everyday driving.  

Luck was involved. Starting during rush hour would be nuts. A week day seemed better. Rain or snow made a whopping difference. I went alone. I had to concentrate. A companion might get annoyed.

As you see, the game was dropping the fewest pennies in the coffee can. Playing it would slow me down in getting to my uncle’s. But I wasn’t trying to beat the clock. My payoff was getting more skillful as a driver. I took pride in beating myself. And I was having fun.

Why don’t you try it?  It’s a natural if you commute to your job. It can be far less 105 miles of course.  Just 20 or14 miles will do it, or 8 or even less, especially if you’re transiting a congested area. Try it for one week.

Note your score every time and also significant factors. The weather. Season of the year. The day before Thanksgiving, or after. You get the idea. You’ll have fun, too.  May get hooked!

Of course there will come the day when you’ll get the brake pedal taps down to an irreducible minimum and the fun will fizz.

For sure you’ll get upset by some jerk whose driving forced you to toss an extra penny into the coffee can. The game will make you a better driver, too.

Why not get your spouse or kids or a friend on the job started? You’ll enjoy hearing their reports. Just as my Uncle Jack did.

 ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Another wonder to make my life easier!

By John Guy LaPlante

Today was the summer solstice. Always notable. But I’ve seen many.

Today’s other wonder was a first. And what a first!

I had a check to deposit. Normally I would have driven to my branch at Chase and deposited it. Going  to a counter to fill out a form. Perhaps standing in line to deposit it.

Correction: I would have pedaled there on my trike.That’s a wonder, too.But I’ve already told you about that.

I’ve been a Chase customer for a few years. Also Liberty Bank in Connecticut but for 20 years or so.  And still am.

But I have become a full-timer here in Morro Bay on the California coast and I wanted to maximize the service benefits of my account. I spoke to friendly Nicholas, a banker, and on the way out noticed a placard: “Make deposits with your cell phone!” I went right back to Nicholas. “Sure,” he said, “”What you need is our Chase app.” And he loaded that onto my phone.

You may know about this dramatic service. I’ve found that other people deposit checks this way. Anyhow, back home I opened the app and followed instructions. I endorsed the check and below that wrote “A digital deposit for my Chase checking account.  I typed in the amount. I placed my check flat against a contrasting background–the green tablecloth on my kitchen table. All with my smart phone, which by the way is another wonder beyond words. I snapped a photo. Then I flipped the check over. Snapped another..

I got a message back: “Picture not clear. Start over.” Well, words to that effect.

But this was my first attempt. Sometimes I’m a slow learner. I  did the whole simple thing again. Took just a few minutes.Then, following the instructions, I emailed it. A message told me  that the check might take two days to clear. I would be alerted. And that was that.

I didn’t have to shave or do anything else to look better at the bank. No form to fill out.No need for envelope and stamp and getting that into a mail box. .No need to stand in line. And of course my deposit would be recorded  on my account. And of course I could pay bills with the same simplicity. But that’s something I’ve been doing for years. So many improvements I’ve gotten to see and use routinely all in banking….

Which set me to thinking.  All the wonders I’ve seen over these long years, in field after field after field, some bigger than others, of course, but all true wonders. I’m an octogenarian now–a senior octogenarian–so the list is mighty long.

Just before this I had been perusing a recent Time magazine. About the self-drive car, which will be a reality soon. How Uber is preparing to test Uber Elevate,,straight up and down electric air taxis for congested cities. How  Google’s Larry Page is putting emphasis on Kitty Hawk, an electric plane that will operate over water (not sure why not land also) without the pilot needing a license.   And how a company in Slovakia in just three years will begin shipping flying cars for use on highways as well–Paris – London just one hour. All that in just this  one field. And the same is happening in industry after  industry in so many areas of daily life..

Sure, the daily headlines are so often so scary and disheartening.  Nasty politics. Terrorism. Crime. Addiction. War here and war there. But the overall picture is so bright, so fantastic, so incredible.  I hope at least to get to ride in a self-drive car.  But I delight to think that my children will see and enjoy much of this. And  my five grandkids for sure. If the bad stuff doesn’t intervene!

And still thinking….it’s routine–don’t you agree–to hear, on a weekly basis it  seems, of new apps that can do this miraculous thing or that.

For sure one will pop up that will make ordinary dollars and coins totally unnecessary. For one and all and without carrying around cumbersome plastic cards in your wallet .How wonderful!

Forget the flying car. How I’d like to get that app!

~ ~ ~

 

 

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!

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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.

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Nine more inventions I’d love to “uninvent”!

By John Guy LaPlante

This is my second list of “uninventions.”  It was inspired by essays called that in The New  Yorker. You “uninvent” when you believe that something we use or do that is popular and taken for granted is now regrettable and we should turn back the clock on it. You could probably come up with a few.  Here are nine fresh ones from me.

 Our Way of Keeping Count.

 Our brought-from-England system of inches and yards, and pints and quarts and miles,  water freezing at 32 degrees and boiling at 212 and so on, is clumsy and crazy. Well, that’s undeniable to anybody who has seen the metric system which is standard to countries big and small all around the world now.  We are the big and stupid stand-out.

Metric was a French invention in the late 1700’s. It has swept the world. The metric system is infinitely better because it is based on 1 and 10 and 100 all the way up into the zillions.

How better? By making it easy for us to weigh bananas and mattresses and anything else not in ounces and pounds and tons, but in grams and kilograms and on up.  To drive not in miles per hour, but in kilometers per hour.   To measure a board or a distance not in inches and feet, but in centimeters and meters and on up.  To recognize that water freezes at 0 Celsius and boils at 100. Applicable to everything countable.

We can see this for ourselves just by crossing one mile, excuse me 1.6 kilometers, into Canada or Mexico. Which said goodbye to our antiquated system and went modern long ago.

We nearly went metric. That was in Jimmy Carter’s presidency. We voted to go metric.  But not whole-heartedly. There was massive and angry political obstructionism by vested interests and we were given a choice. We could use English—isn’t that what our alternate to metric is called– or metric, as we liked. A nasty and foolish compromise.

It is then that our cars began rolling off the assembly lines with every speedometer calibrated in both systems, but with the English markings bigger than the metric. I remember that vividly. Habits die hard. Most Americans chose to use the English markings. Maybe today’s speedometers are still equipped for both systems. I don’t know. Hey, even foreign cars began coming over from metric countries set up for English!

The same choice was permitted in every sphere of our life.  So, many people continued to think in miles rather than kilometers. Metric was doomed. Today it is used only by our scientific and technical folks and manufacturers who also appreciate its superiority. I don’t think they’d go back to using English for a million bucks. Nowadays there is zero talk of our smartening up.

All that said, we’ve had a long interest in metric way back to the 1860s.  Many efforts were launched to make it our national system. All of us use metric in some ways—we are used to liters of beverages and grams in our medications and so on.  The astonishing fact remains: the U.S.A. and Liberia and Myanmar are the world’s only metric hold-outs!

Imagine how our going metric would have facilitated our trade with those two neighbors of ours as well as so many others around the globe.

Why did Jimmy Carter’s big, brave push fail? Because Washington never proclaimed that we would be totally and forever metric as of 1 minute after midnight on January 1 of whatever year got chosen!

So I say. Uninvent that antiquated English system of ours!

 Foolish academic class designations..

In my previous list of uninventions I sent to you, I harped on education.  In that vein have another complaint: how senseless it is to call the high school years the Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. Ditto the college years.

Maybe those names made sense years back.  Maybe back then they had some relativity to real life, though I can’t imagine it.

Why not get realistic and call them something simple and clear?  How about just First and Second and Third and Fourth?  You would say, “My son is in high school and is starting Second.”

Someone in a community college would say, “I’m starting my Second in September.” And we’d understand that he or she would be approaching graduation there. Or, “We’ll be taking our daughter back to college this weekend. She’ll be in Third.”  And we’d know she has another year to go.

I believe this would be far clearer and more in keeping with our times.

 So I say: Down with foolish class names. Uninvent them!

Those awful, dangerous, crazy flashing lights on police cars at night.

I ran into the flashing strobe lights a few nights ago.  Very dark night. 9:15 p.m. I was driving home on two-lane Highway 154 north-bound here in Connecticut. I went around a curve and was blinded—yes, blinded–by the dazzling red and yellow and white flashing, pulsing lights.  Two police cars were parked, one behind the other, engines running, their lights screaming at us.

A cop had had pulled over a driver and another cop had rushed over as a back-up.  They had parked 10 or 12 feet from the shoulder, one behind the other, but offset. All to protect themselves while standing and checking the offending car. Makes sense. I understand that.  But it made it so difficult, so dangerous for me—and the drivers behind me—to squeeze by.  That was bad enough.

Worse were those awful, crazy lights.

Hey, the lights on our cruisers 15 years ago or so would work just fine. And I’ll bet they’d cost far less, If anybody is thinking about expense.

So I say, Uninvent those lights!

ROMANTIC MARRIAGES.

I know this is going to get me into trouble but here goes.  My marriage was a romantic marriage. You know what I mean.  I fell in love with a great gal, Pauline, and she fell in love with me and we got married. Most likely yours was the same.

That’s what we all do just about here in Western countries.  But many couples in other parts of the world wind up in arranged marriages.  From what I’ve seen, arranged marriages can be smarter … more enduring.

Think of what a dismal marriage is possible for some people in a romantic marriage.  They vow “till death do us part!” Well, they used to. Not sure about that today. But that promise goes down the drain when their relationship is falling apart and the two decide to divorce. And so many couples do split.  As we know, our divorce rate – call it what it really is, our marriage failure rate—is huge.  Divorce has become common. No argument there, I’m sure.

What is soaring are the couples who don’t bother with vows and live together, but that’s a separate matter.

The reason so many marriages founder is simple. Young people do not have the maturity—sufficient life experience–to choose a spouse wisely.  They dive into a relationship blinded by their physical passions and the wonderful romantic notion peddled in novels and movies and TV and that we grow up with.

In arranged marriages, it’s the father and mother who have the big say about the son or daughter’s choice of spouse.  That is a solemn responsibility for them. Not all arranged marriages turn out perfect. Of course not. But their batting average seems to be higher.

I have friends—they happen to be immigrants from India and Bangladesh–who have thrived in arranged marriages. I have seen this. And what they’ve told me about marriages back there has impressed me. Furthermore in my travels through India I have  met a number of couples brought together through the negotiations of their parents and in-laws.

Sometimes arranging a match ain’t easy—let’s face it, some of the young people involved don’t have much to offer. But the parents must do their best to achieve the best match. What about the notion of romance? “Love will come,” they say. Well, not always, I suppose, but I’ve seen that take place.

What I’ve observed is a mighty small statistical sample. I admit that. But the system seems to work better than ours.

So I say: Uninvent Romantic Marriage!

 Dual citizenship.

Which is a crazy idea!  I’ve already written about this, but I must include it in this list.   It’s surprising how many people are citizens of two countries. I know of one young fellow who is a citizen of three.

How come? Most often because the dual citizen is the child of parents who are citizens of different countries.  The young fellow was the child of a parent with dual citizenship.

Different countries have different rules, I’m sure.

I’m not sure how dual citizenship became a viable and accepted concept. I suspect that authorities kowtowed to people clamoring for it. And of course because they craved it for self-serving reasons.

I first heard about it years ago when two couples—immigrants from Greece who had become American citizens—had returned to Greece to retire.  Uncle Sam delivered their Social Security checks over there every month and they lived rich in their villages. And Greece enjoyed that American money pouring in every month—the couples I knew about were just a few of a huge number pulling the same strategy.

I know also of a young man who had American and French citizenships. France has compulsory military service. When he turned of age, he was facing the French draft. That’s when he dropped his French citizenship.

Some people would love to buy dual citizenship. It’s such a great perk. Hey, maybe that’s possible in some countries.

Gosh, I’d love  to be a citizen of six or seven!

I’m sure you remember our Pledge of Allegiance:  “I pledge allegiance to the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, and so on.”   To our one and only country. Not to two!

Please tell me, how in the world can a person pledge allegiance to two countries? From an intellectual and patriotic point of view, impossible! This will disappear when the day dawns when we are One World, and we’re equal citizens of it, all of us around the world.

Meanwhile I say:  Uninvent dual citizenship!

Cemeteries / Burial .

 Historically people all over the world found a satisfactory way to dispose of their dead. They would tie them to a tree and let the wild beasts and birds eat them up. Burn them on a pyre. Put them to rest in a cave.  Toss them into the sea or a stream. Found other ways. Some of these practices go on.

For three centuries or so, burial has been our solution.  In the early days maybe behind the house or beside the barn, or under a tree, or in the nearby woods. Cemeteries became the answer, in church yards or some designated corner of the community. Burial is still our most popular practice.

Some cemeteries began running out of room. What to do? Construct a mausoleum—a fancy building with a central corridor and crypts lined up on both sides. The design might have four or five crypts built one on top of another.  And the bodies could be laid to rest there, much like shoes in shoe boxes on the shelves of shoe stores.

Cemeteries have not been the perfect answer. Cemeteries take up room, often the best acreage in town. Burials can be difficult in winter in northern parts—frozen ground. Burial is expensive– embalming, casket, interment, a monument, and so on.  And so is “perpetual care.” Which, by the way, sounds preposterous to me.

Think for a minute of currently used cemeteries near you. They get few visitors. Families go for a year or two and that’s it. Think also of the old, old cemeteries that we have. Many have no room left for new graves. Never a visitor.  Simply because people don’t know anyone close buried there.

When cemeteries began filling up, that’s when a clever idea came up—mausoleums! Think of how many cemeteries now boast a mausoleum. A fancy, ornate building typically with a small chapel and a corridor with crypts on both sides. Single and double crypts, ranged four or five high, much like shoe boxes in a shoe store.  \

Mausoleums seem to be doing well. For the moment. Eventually they’ll fill up, even if expanded. How will our communities look 50 or 100 years from now, with closed mausoleums in this neighborhood and that one.  And hey, how permanent can a mausoleum be?  What happens to the bodies then? Can a mausoleum remain standing for a hundred years, five hundred?

The new answer has been a very old one, but modernized—cremation.  It’s a practice long abhorred in some societies, even considered sinful in others. Now it’s culturally accepted and quite popular.

For many Americans, cremation has become The Answer.  It costs, but it’s cheaper. The ashes—the “cremains”—take little space. Sanitary. No possibility of vandalism.

Cremation has skyrocketed. Look at the figures.  Here in the U.S., in the year 2,000 they were the solution 26% of the time. In 2010, 41%. Just a year ago, 49%.  Given this trend it’s safe to say cremation soon will become the choice of a big majority of us.

In my research, I found the top cremation state is Nevada, 76%!  Number 5 was Maine, 71%.  Number 10 was Vermont, 66%.  I did not get to see the percentages for my Connecticut or Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

It’s interesting to speculate why the numbers vary so much in our states.  I’ll let you do your own speculating.

I expect I’ll be the first in my family to be cremated. It’s my preference for solid reasons. I will be the first in a lineage of ancestors who are all underground. So I will be a pioneer. Gosh!

I have a good friend who just died. He had willed his body to a non-profit for anatomical research and medical education. I saw the good sense of it.  He was useful to the very end. His widow tells me she’s planning to do the same.

So I say, cemeteries and mausoleums no longer make much sense. Uninvent them!

Living till we die.

Still on the subject of life and death, a related topic.  As I’m sure you’re aware, some people aren’t interested in living until they die naturally.  Of old age, so to speak. Some people have true reason to call it quits. I have seen that in several instances.

In fact, we now have three states—maybe it’s four now?– that make that legal. With more states considering it. The idea of a planned death is accepted in an increasing number of countries around the world. The idea makes sense.

So I say, Uninvent the notion that we should all live to our final breath.

The wanton profiteering of our airlines nowadays.

I just ran into it. I’m flying from Hartford to San Luis Obispo, Calif., Dec 19. I found a good deal online on a short flight to Philadelphia, then a long  one to San Francisco, and a short one south to San Luis.

Because I was late, my seat choice was limited—middle seats on all three. I called, explained I’m old, and wanted an aisle seat close to the toilets, especially for the long flight.   Sure, but the price for an aisle seat would be $36. (True also for a window seat…my certain choice in my younger days.) In fact, more than $36. They would charge $50 for the privilege of opting for that! Ouch!

That’s the latest on airlines “modernizing”:  no free flight-changes or cancellations any more, no free meals, not even peanuts, no free baggage, no free speak-to-live reservation clerk, no free on-flight magazines…maybe no free other things.  Oh, for the good old days!

I don’t like that gouging.  Uninvent this rapacious dollar squeezing!

On a lighter note, popcorn.

I mean microwave popcorn, the kind of pre-flavored kernels ready-packed to slip into the magic oven and push Start for a quick snack. No fuss, no bother.

I have been eating popcorn since I was a kid. l fun food.  In fact, also a fantastically nutritious food.  My mother made it once in a while. What a treat to go to a movie and also spring for a bagful. My wife made terrific popcorn. Never did she burn it.  We’d enjoy it while watching TV or with the kids homebound on a snow day. I learned from her.

I’ve been making popcorn for myself for years.  Always with the plain, natural kernels, usually the cheapest popcorn in the market, by the way.

Sometimes for lunch I pop a bowlful and enjoy it with a banana or apple.  No butter. No cheese.  Just salt.

I make terrific popcorn. So simple.  Pauline used solid Crisco. Delicious, but not considered wise nowadays. Peanut oil is best, but not essential. Just one layer of kernels in my pan. My electric burner set just short of  half way on the dial. The pan cover on good and tight. In four minutes or so, pop, pop, pop. What fun. A glass of juice and an apple or some grapes and I’m all set. No doctor will wag his finger at you about a lunch like that.  And what nice memories it brings back.

So I say, uninvent those so-called convenient popcorn kits!

Some of my uninventions may bother you, I’m sure. May sound extreme. They go against popular thinking. Heavy stuff especially now in our merry Santa Claus season. But things have been busy and I’m late in getting this out. I look forward to your feedback, pro or con. Your con comments may force me to re-think. That appeals to me.  I’m not a great sage. But spare me anything nasty, please.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (You may hear from me before then.)  The French version that I grew up with had a third wish: “Et le Paradis á la fin de vos jours.”  “And Paradise at the end of your days.” What a nice wish.

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[JGL1]

Off to California I will go. For good.

By John Guy LaPlante

After  years as a southern New Englander, I am frantically preparing  to be a Californian.

My dream Townhouse in Deep River just went on the market.  I am selling it myself as I did my previous condo here at Piano Works two years ago.

Soon 'twill be "Au revoir"!

          Soon ’twill be “Au revoir”!

Piano Works is the condominium I have been part off for going on 20 years , so named because it was a piano factory back when every middle-class family had to have a piano in the living room.

(It made all the mechanical parts, which it sold to companies who installed them in their fine wooden cases.)

My townhouse is unique in wonderful ways,  and the price is fair.  I hope it will be snapped up and I’ll skedaddle to Morro Bay shortly after Thanksgiving, before another tough Connecticut winter storms in.

All these years – except for my far-ranging travels and Peace Corps service in Ukraine, of course–I have lived in Rhode  Island, where I was born,  then Massachusetts through r my career years, and finally Connecticut for my glorious retirement  years (though I have never literally retired….).

All three of those states, by the way, could be tucked into a modest corner of California, of course.

There, besides enjoying the blessed moral support of my loving daughter, I will be living among palm trees and enjoying year-round balmy temperatures – no ice, no snow, though a chilly breeze seems to waft in steadily from the Pacific just a mile away.

I know Morro Bay well, I have visited there for Christmas for more than 20 years, and I have just spent two half years there.  I will let you guess which halves and I’m sure you will be right in your guessing.

I won’t have any culture shock to deal with. I’m beyond that.  I know Morro Bay well by  now  and I count  friends there and even a new life.  Well, at least a little new chapter, as a Saturday talk show host on the area’s community radio station, 97.3 FM (“The Rock,” as it calls itself).

I call my show “Gabbing with Old Guy John.” I get to chat with interesting guests and I learn a lot of great stuff and so do my listeners –which is the whole idea.

But leaving Deep River will be a wrench.   I admit that.  For close to 20 years, emotionally, Deep River has been home for me.  I have friends here. I love the town. I’ve had a role here. And I never tire of its great beauty.   But “C’est la vie!” to use the wise words spoken by some Frenchman no longer remembered.

Monique and David insisted on flying in to help me, and I said yes to that in less than 10 seconds.  In making plans, I insisted we’d work very hard but would take a fun break every day.  That never happened.  It was work all day long, from morn till night, day after day for eight days in all.

Monique is a decision-maker.  In a minute she became the boss and David and I snapped to it, hour after hour and day after day, and morning till night.  We sorted stuff, and there was so much of it. We shipped some stuff west, put some up for sale and gave tons away. It brought me close to tears.

David had a special extra role.  He had this little thing to fix or to adjust, and then that one,  and then that one.  You know how it is.  He’s very good at all that. And always cheerful about it. I’m a lucky fellow.

In a nutshell they really prepped my townhouse – “staged it” in realtor’s lingo–for its sale. What a terrific twosome.  They just left.  What they accomplished was marvelous beyond words. It would have been impossible for me without them.

I still have a fully furnished house though slimmed down.  I will have to find a buyer or give away everything that remains when I sell. No room for it in my place in California. Also my Hyundai Sonata.  I already have a vehicle there. Also my wonderful tricycle. I have one there also.

All this has exhausted me, physically and emotionally. But I will bounce back. The hard work was worth it all.

You may be curious about what I describe as my dream townhouse.

Click: http://newlondon.craigslist.org/reo/5793881974.htm .

It will take you to my Craigslist listing.  You will also get to see 24 photos there.  That will give you a decent inkling. Twenty-four is Craigslist’s max.  I wish I could have put in twice as many–my place is that interesting.

If you know of somebody yearning for an extraordinary little townhouse in an uncommonly nice little town, pass the link on. I will appreciate that.  My little place was really a gem of a find for me and I believe it would be for them.  Deep River and its neighbor towns were another gem of a find..

Yes, I will miss my townhouse and the community.  But I’ll have plenty of memories and photos to warm my heart.

And I will continue sending you posts from 3,000 miles due west. Probably after Thanksgiving, though.  But knowing myself, I will undoubtedly squeeze in a post or two before then.

If I survive this.  Just kidding.  I hope.

 As always,

    John

 

My Salvation Army weekend–my candid report

By John Guy LaPlante

With numerous photos

Deep River, Conn.–Badly in need of a time-out, I’m back from a long weekend at the Salvation Army Conference Center in Sharon, Mass.—from 11 a.m. Friday to 10 a.m. Monday. It was terrific, as I expected.

I had been there 25 years earlier.  The weather was perfect that time, and so was the program.

Why the time-out now? It’s been a tough year. After two months-long try-outs in Morro Bay, Calif., near my daughter Monique’s, I felt I should be realistic –at the behest of her and my sons Arthur and Mark—and make a permanent move there. It made sense—I’m in my 88th year.

And that meant returning home, disposing of all possessions (no room in my manufactured home in Morro Bay) and selling my nice townhouse in Piano Works Condominiums here. I’ve lived at Piano Works for some 20 years.

Our leaders from start tp finish and morn till night, Majors Ed and Flo Forster.

Our leaders from start to finish and morn till night, Majors Ed and Flo Forster.

My timetable meant wrapping all this up and returning to California after Thanksgiving, before winter storms in.

So lots of hard work involved, compounded by strongly mixed emotions.

Deep River has been my home in the truest sense. I’ve been a part of the community, have fine friends here, love the area for its beauty and easy access to its full range of everyday businesses and services.

I had a well-thought-out timetable for moving but of course things have popped up that required adjustments. That’s life. But I was steaming along quite well.

I had planned a visit up to Massachusetts for a few days.  The Worcester area was my home for close to 40 years. I wanted a final visit with dear friends. I also planned a respite at the Salvation Army Conference Center to catch my breath, plain and simple.

Then a spoke in my wheels. I live alone, of course. On Saturday morning, after a strange and restless night I got out of bed—and nearly fell.  My body balance was way off. I made it across the room by reaching out and resting my right hand on a chair, my left on a dresser, and so on.

Sure, I had noticed a decline. That goes with getting old.

[Read more…]

Do you say “ain’t” a lot? A little? Never?

By John Guy LaPlante

It used to depend on where you ranked yourself in society. Well, it “ain’t” that way anymore .Times are a-changing. But language, any language anywhere, is always changing, of course, and that’s what this is about today.

I used to abhor that word. And imagine, I just used it.  For the very first time, by the way.

For years “ain’t” was used by the unschooled, the uneducated.  No

This was Philip Gove's bombshell. He expected protests, but not a hornet's nest of them.

This was Philip Gove’s bombshell. He expected protests, but not a hornet’s nest of them.

longer so.  Everybody seems to have adopted it, but sometimes in a restricted sense, as I’ll explain in a minute.

In fact, “ain’t” is now in the dictionary.  Which is where it belongs, though that was a long time in coming.  That was one of the huge cultural events of 1961. And that was accomplished by Philip Gove, a very brave man. I call him brave because he realized that his doing that would send shock waves through society. And boy, was he right! [Read more…]

My $30,000 scam…alarming follow-up!

Sorry, folks–As some of you noticed this went out with the text missing! Shows you how I screw up now and then. Hope this time you won’t be disappointed. So….

By John Guy LaPlante

What a surprise! I have come across a terrific expose of what a huge scamming industry is lurking out there and is eager to pounce. Yes, it is alarming. Scary.

The magnitude and slickness of it is detailed in  “A Crying Shame,” which was the lead

The big scams are all explained here.

The big scams are all explained in this November cover story.

article in Consumer Reports’ November, 2015 issue.

Consider the article’s subhead is:  “Seniors and their families lose $3 billion a year to con artists. What can we do to stop them?” The eight-page spread starts with “Lies, Secrets, and Scams … seniors and their families lose billions of dollars each year to heartless fraudsters….”

$3 Billion a year!!! And when you see the pain and the anxiety and the tragedy inflicted, it certainly is a crying, screaming, horrible shame.

The magazine does a brilliant, detailed, comprehensive job. It tells  of the scheming and conning going on every day by clever and relentless crooks. Smooth and sophisticated villains who are really professionals. Hard to believe.

It  gives fact-rich descriptions of eight popular scams. I was struck by the variety and the ingenuity. Mine is at the top. Explains each scam,  illustrates each with the sad story of a victim, how they got hooked, how much they lost, in some cases how they were talked into wiring a number of payments!  Photos of victims, their names, locations, backgrounds, it’s all there.

Oh, if only I had read this before that phony lawyer Mr. Miller tried to con me out of those thousands of dollars—and nearly succeeded. All based on the phony story that my grandson Ryan was locked up in jail in Mexico City on two charges and needed bail. I would have slammed down the phone!

Seniors like me are the prime target, but for sure many younger people  are vulnerable to some of the schemes and could be attacked.

The first of the eight case studies is about Beth Baker, 87, of National City, Calif. Her story parallels my story. She got a call from a smooth-talker telling her that Will, 24, the eldest of her five grandchildren, was in jail in Peru. Will was a guest at a wedding there. He was driving and hit a kid.  His “lawyer” needed $5,000 right away. She sent it. He called back announcing a bad turn of events and wheedled her out of another cash transfer. Called again, sucked up more money, called again, won more.  Beth sent him $65,000 over five days! The poor lady!

That was the nearly the same scenario pulled on me. The big difference in my case  is that the initial call came not from the lawyer, but from my grandson Ryan in Mexico City. I was convinced it was he–totally convinced. Then con man “Attorney”Miller exploited this. I was spared–saved– only through the determined efforts of Stephen Rednak, manager of the Liberty Bank branch here.

The article is valuable in several ways—telling you what to be vigilant against, how to protect yourself, how to check out these stories, and what to do afterward, which besides reporting the scam doesn’t seem to be much.

These scams are so clever and so smoothly played out on victims that you may face one someday and fall for it–become another sucker. This is my alert to you.

You can read the article on your browser. Just look up: Article  “Crying Shame.” I tested it. It comes up. It’s a fascinating read. A true public service.

 The older I get, the more I believe it’s a jungle out there.

And what is freakish is how I came upon the magazine, published last November, as I said. Would you believe, I found it in the “Take One, Leave One” basket of past-issue magazines at the Acton Public Library in next-door Old Saybrook here!

Now the old question comes up: Was that find accidental? Or providential? We’ll leave that for another day.

 ~ ~ ~ ~

My near $30,000 scam – Alarming Follow-up!

My grandson Ryan had landed in jail and…

…was calling for my help. From Mexico City! I was thunderstruck.

By John Guy LaPlante

SCAM: Merrriam-Webster Dictionary: noun, a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation.

SCAM: LaPlante: an act so insidious and horrible that you want to wring the perpetrator by the neck!

Ryan is 28, single but engaged, launched on a career in insurance as an adjuster in Frederick, Md.  I had seen him just four days earlier. He was one of my five grandchildren come for a total family reunion of 15 in Morro Bay, CA, where I winter.  He was fine, working hard, single but engaged to Samantha. Very nice.

I had just flown back to Connecticut with my sister Lucie, who lives in West Hartford.  We had a horrendous trip back—it took us 22 hours to fly back due to a missed flight in Washington, DC. We had dropped into bed at her home after midnight totally exhausted.

She awoke me. It was 8 a.m. I was groggy. She handed me her phone. “It’s Ryan!”

“Hello, Ryan! Gosh, how nice! How are you?”

“I’m okay, Pepa. I’m calling from Mexico City.”

“Pepa” is French for Grandpa. All my grandkids call me Pepa. I like that.

“Mexico City!” Unbelievable.

“Yes, I know. One of my college friends was down here getting married. He invited me to come down. He had a free plane ticket. So here I am.”

“What a surprise. I hope you’re having a good time.”

“Actually, I’m in jail.”

“What?!”

[Read more…]

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