Pandora Was Very Impatient.


I was up at 12:30 AM, working on a blogpost.  Pandora is not supposed to be fed at this hour, but she was feeling neglected.  She kept picking at my feet, as I was working.  It was getting old fast, but she’s the older cat here, and when she wants something, she wants it.

I surrendered at two a.m. and fed her.  I got the other blogpost done.  My toes thanked me.

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Tucson Sisters in Crime, University of Arizona Geology Senior Lecturer Dr. Jess Kapp


Dr. Kapp is also Associate Department Head, but the title was getting crowded and would have needed an “and.”  How’s that for an excuse?  Yes, what would something I’ve written be, without some humor, a Monty Pythonesque look at life and some genuine silliness?

I placed Geology in the title, because I wanted you to ask:  What do a mystery writers group and a geologist have in common?

Well, to quote my writer friend Piper Bayard, “I’m glad you asked.”

She was there because a chapter member roped her into it.  🙂  Isn’t that the way of the world?  🙂  They have something in common.  They’e both been to Tibet.  I have a vague connection:  I wrote my Masters Thesis about Tibet.  They still have me beaten and are on a higher plateau.

.     Well, I’m glad Dr. Kapp was roped into it.  It was a most entertaining morning.  OK, by now, Graham Chapman of Monty Python would be saying “Get on with it!”  I will.

Her purpose, which she definitely met, was to show that when you write a mystery, you need to have your fictional detective investigate and ask questions.  Dr. Kapp does the same thing, only with geology.  It’s a rocky road.  🙂    Scientific method creeps into both.  It’s called investigation.

Her slides were great.  You spend lots of time up mountains.  Some end up on ice, like the geologists in Greenland risking their lives to check the flow of water from melting ice to show global warming.  Do you see an Indiana Jones streak in here?  Only the villain is erosion.

I was already excited before Dr. Kapp spoke.  My father, Marvin Charton was a longtime chemistry professor at Pratt Institute and had an interest in geology.  My mother, Barbara Charton is also a chemist and still teaches part time at Pratt.   I’m not a scientist, but know basics and enjoy research and investigation.

There were slides of timelines, showing the continents splitting off from each other.  Another Pythoneque view:  Click on Galaxy Song.

There were also many slides of rock formations.  Luckily, Dr. Kapp is at the University of Arizona.  Arizona has all sorts of rocks.  You thought the Grand Canyon was just a giant hole in the ground.  🙂

What did I come away with?  Keep asking questions.  In many professions, this is a key.  For writers and geologists.

Thank you, Dr. Kapp!  Please come again!

Some links for you:

Her Web Entry at the university.

Personal Website:

Twitter:

Huff Post:

Amazon Profile:

Reflections on Tibet:

 

 

 

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A Tale of Two New York Mets World Series, 1969, 1986


If you grow up as a New York Mets fan, you understand heartache and pain.  I once wrote an essay about why Eastern Europeans should be Mets fans and sent it to a Hungarian friend.  

 

This will be more specific.  The 1969 and 1986 World Series.  

1969:  Season started out, well, like a typical New York Mets season.  Losing. In those days, the Yankees were a losing team as well, so a bit less of a sting, and the Mets outdrew them.  Tom Seaver threw a near perfect game. Suddenly, they started winning! If you’re a Mets fan, you enjoy it, but you keep waiting for the fall.  There has to be a catch.

This was the first year of Divisional Play.  The Chicago Cubs, had been way ahead most of the season.  They collapsed, and the Mets took over the National League East on September 10th.  When they won the National League Pennant and were going to the World Series, who could believe it.  

The opponent was the Baltimore Orioles.  The Orioles had a good 1960’s. Until 1954, they were the perennial American League doormat, St. Louis Browns.  

I have a cousin in suburban Baltimore.  My uncle was still alive. They were visiting and he had fun telling me what the Orioles were going to do to the Mets.  I held my tongue but believed him. If the Orioles won, the fact the Mets made it that far was something to be proud of.

It’s now Game Seven.  I got off the subway at DeKalb Avenue.  I was coming from school in Bay Ridge and going to Hebrew School nearby to prepare for my Bar Mitzvah, which was coming up on December 13th.  Of course, I would’ve loved to have been in Shea Stadium to see the game, but tickets were tough to come by.

The Southwest corner of Flatbush and De Kalb Avenue, across from Juniors Restaurant and on a diagonal from Long Island University, had a bar, at the top of the steps to the station.

I watched the last half inning, when the Mets won from that bar.  Hebrew School was a short walk on Schermerhorn Street. My teacher, an Orthodox Jew Mrs. Traub was displeased.  Enough said.

The Mets won though!  It was the same year as the Moon Landing.  Anything was possible!

There used to be a bakery called Ebingers.  They had a branch on Montague Street. There was a New York Mets cake they baked.  I remember it cost eighty-five cents. I know Mom, thinking about food, yet again.

I also remember Casey Stengel, the first Mets manager, shaking his head and repeating, “Amazin, amazin.”  He dealt with the Mets first season with one hundred and twenty losses. Amazin…

The 1986 World Series was very different.  With brilliant manager Davey Johnson at the helm, (Ironically, he was the Orioles Second Baseman in 1969, and made the final out, when hit hit a fly ball to Cleon Jones), the Mets won one hundred eight games, finishing twenty one and a half games ahead of the Phillies.

They were playing the Boston Red Sox.  This is important. Two years earlier, I married someone from Boston.  She’s a fanatical Red Sox fan.. Mom warned me about mixed marriages, but did I listen?  Of course not! If I were a Yankee fan, the relationship wouldn’t have gone anywhere. Now, domestic bliss was being challenged.

On top of that, we were living in rural Virginia at the time.  My father figured the Red Sox would win. My wife Elaine keeps saying, “He should’ve listened to his daughter in law.  Back then, Red Sox fans were used to major suffering. I’d need another essay for the history of Red Sox suffering I’ve seen personally, and with my silly looks at history.

Well, we’d only been living there for a month.  (I was there for a job). The well to do farmer across the street befriended us.  His running joke was which one of us would be sleeping on the porch.

Game Six is what most of us remember.  The Shea Stadium scoreboard briefly flashed “Congratulations Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Champions.”  Then the ball went between Bill Buckner’s legs. I keep telling her, you have to admire his courage to play with bad knees and ankles.  Manager John McNamara made the call to leave him in.

It almost made Game Seven anticlimactic.  Elaine was unforgiving. She wanted to see Buckner and McNamara hanged from the Citgo sign, behind Fenway Park.  She got her victory in 2004. After Game Seven, the phone rang. Elaine mumbled, “I’ll get it, I know who it is.”  It was my then brother in law, John. All he said was, . “Nice game, huh?”

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Chapters Three Through Five, A Warped Look at Russian History.


Chapter Three:  Saving Ivan at School from Grandpa?

Galina is a language tutor, so she can take time off between sessions.  Grandma and Galina go to an appointment with Mrs. Ivanova.

Mrs. Ivanova is as beautiful as Ivan says.  She meets them in an office, so they can have privacy.  Tea and cookies are served.

Galina begins.  “Mrs. Ivanova, how can we help keep my father out of your hair?”

Mrs. Ivanova sighed the sigh that’s been sighed for centuries in Russia.  It is one of world weariness and hardship. “If only it were that easy.”

“True,”  Natasha said with the same sigh.  “In Russia, there is always something.  The security guard has already told us how much he likes Grandpa.”

“The principal likes him too, they are Afghan veterans,”  Mrs. Ivanova sighed.

“So to quote Lenin, what is to be done?” Galina asks sadly.

“Let me think about it.  I can’t ban him, yet. The principal likes him, but maybe if interferes enough, and it can be proved, the advancement of the children is suffering.  Let me think about this and I will be in touch.”

When Galina and Natasha got outside, Natasha muttered. “We need to do something about the old fool, but what?  He has friends in low and high places.”

“Mom, I think I may have an idea.  Let me think it through.”

 

Chapter Four:  Grandpa Takes Ivan on a Walk.

Ivan is being well treated by Grandpa on their walk.  Ice cream, a walk in the woods. Ivan still respects Grandpa as an elder, but is beginning to wonder about him.  He wonders if he’s learning what not to do.

They come to a building.  The writing says Veterans Club.  Ivan is curious, but wondering what Grandpa is up to.

Both Grandpa and Ivan are greeted warmly.  It’s a large room full of cigarette smoke, sweat, and vodka.

The veterans rarely have young people in their midst.  Ivan has his cheek pinched and is picked up and carried about the room.

Ivan asks Grandpa for a Coke.  “We don’t have that American swill here, you will get juice and vodka”

Ivan has never had vodka, but is curious.  He is given juice then shots of vodka. Ivan feels important with the old men.  He’s feeling the warmth of the vodka, when Grandpa takes Ivan over to an older man seated in the corner.

“Boy this is Mr. Kirilenko.  He’s ninety-four years old and fought in the Great Patriotic War.  Like your great-grandpa he went all the way to Germany. Sasha, we need to make sure Ivan grows up a strong Russian.  There are some bad influences.”

“Come, boy,” Sasha said.  Ivan sat next to him and began his story.  

“I’d just graduated from secondary school, and was about to start a factory job, when the Germans crossed into Russia.  They were just one of many. Germans have been trying to conquer and undermine us for eight hundred years!

Well, as with Napoleon, we left him an empty Moscow, plus we of course can handle winter better.  So arrogant, those Germans. They thought they were going to wipe us out and settle in our Motherland!  More fools they!

I fought in all the major battles.  Stalingrad was the hardest. Once the cowards surrendered there, we were on our way.  There was much hardship, but General Zhukov and Stalin led us to victory!”

Ivan had questions.  “Why didn’t the Red Army save Warsaw from the Germans blowing it up?”

“So the Poles would be demoralized.  The Poles need to be kept in place! Always making trouble.  They think they’re better than us. So do the damn Czechs! Russia is the protector of all Slavs.”

Ivan laughed.  “We hear the Czechs are rich.”

“Because they sold their souls to that bum Vaclav Havel.  Poland had that Catholic, they called him John Paul, who helped the Poles be rebellious again.  All those centuries, they never stop and they look down on us? Anyway, before you so rudely interrupted, we liberated concentration camps and arrived in the heart of darkness, Berlin!  We got our revenge, and taught those nasty Germans what real Russians were like!”

Like Grandpa, he busily got himself all worked up.  Ivan wondered if he would do that, when he was their age.  Ivan wondered if men’s intelligence declined with age. Mom and Grandma kept their intelligence.  Then he made the connection. The vodka. The shots were already getting to him. So that’s where old men got their courage and bravado.  

Mr. Kirilenko snapped Ivan back to reality.  “Boy this is why, Russia lives! We are strong, and President Putin will keep us that way! Now go home, stop the foolishness your Grandpa Zhenya has told us about, and be a real Russian man!

Grandpa was happier than he’d been in a long time.  He held Ivan’s hand and sang as they walked back. Grandma and Galina greeted him at the door.  No amount of juice could cover the vodka.

“YOU GOT MY SON DRUNK!”

Galina’s yelling brought Grandma to the front door from the kitchen.  She smelled the vodka. “You old fool, have you finally gone mad? Where did you take him?”

“To my veterans club!  They enjoyed meeting Ivan.  Mr. Kirilenko enforced my Russian history lesson.”

“That fool?!”  He’s worse than you are!  I’ll make sure to kill you, long before you make ninety years old, if the booze doesn’t do it first.”

“Dad, Anton is already angry about what you did to Sergei.  Only some fast talking on his part kept Sergei’s parents from pressing charges.  Any more bad attitude toward Sergei, we will press charges with them. Understand?”

All Grandpa could manage was a belch.  “A belch works, you old fool. You took my grandson to be with those morons.  I’d like to say I don’t believe it, but I do. What’s to be done with you. I know, another night in your room.”

 

Chapter Five:  A Call from Mrs. Ivanova

Galina’s phone rang.  “Mrs. Ivanova, always a pleasure.  A debate? The students and the veterans?  Sounds interesting. Let me know. Thank you, bye.”

“What was Mrs. Ivanova saying about a debate?”

“She wants the children to debate the veterans.”

Grandma responded with a sly smile.  “The kids will win.”

 

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Chapter Two A Warped Look at Russian History.


 

Grandpa Zhenya is worried.  Ivan, in his mind might be betraying the Motherland.  He gets no sympathy from his wife, Natasha. Grandma responds to Zhenya by taking his bottle of vodka away, muttering “Stupid old fool.”  Ivan’s parents also worry that Grandpa is filling Ivan’s head full of all sorts of things. Galina, Zhenya and Natasha’s daughter came to the house one day, angry, with tears of rage.

“I know sweetheart, I know, I know,” Natasha said as she poured Galina a cut of tea.  

“Do you know what dad did?!”  Galina was so enraged she shouted.

“Yes,” Natasha said in a world weary voice.  “He was proud of himself and wore all his damn medals to go see Mrs. Ivanova.  He was even prouder, when he called the Uzbek child in the class an Afghan terrorist and tried to strip search him for bombs.

“That child is Ivan’s best friend.  Anton and I adore him. We are also mortified.  We’re friends with his parents. Sergei’s father is Russian, his mother Uzbek.  If they press charges, I won’t blame them I may even help!”

At that point, the front door was flung open, as Grandpa Zhenya tried to march without stumbling into the living room singing the duet of the two army deserters from Prince Igor.

“There will be no more vodka for you, you old fool,”  Grandma Natasha shouted.

“Woman, I’ve done my patriotic duty and shown what a real Russian is.”

“Yeah, a stupid Russian.  Dad you need to get sober,”  Galina said between sobs. “The boy you tried to strip search is Ivan’s best friend.  Anton and I are friends with his parents. This cannot continue and won’t continue, if I have anything to say about it.

Grandpa belched.  “You are doing a poor job raising him.  I saw the picture of the black from Los Angeles on Ivan’s computer.  Computers are bad for young boys, who need to be out in nature hunting and joining the army.

“To get killed?  This makes Russia great?”  Galina said her tone between sadness and rage.

Just then, Ivan came home and greeted his mother and grandmother, glaring at his grandfather.

“What no hug for grandpa?”

“Maybe to strangle you, you old fool.  That’s right, you humiliate him in front of his friends and teacher and then you try to take the clothes from his best friend, plus you smell like a goddamn distillery!

Go get changed take a shower, if you’re nice, you might even get dinner.”

Grandma’s tirade made Ivan and Galina smile.  Grandpa went into the bedroom. To sulk or obey Grandma’s instructions, no one knew.

“OK, Mom.  How are we gonna clean up the mess he made?”  Galina asked quizzically.

“Simple.  We are going to see Mrs. Ivanova and save Ivan’s reputation.

 

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The First Battle of Southie September 12, 1974


I was inspired to write this, because my post “Southie is My Home Town,” gets the most hits on my blog.  I wrote this short story, may make this into a detective series, depending on interest.  Let me know what you think.

 

September 12th, 1974:
Ray Lynch thought he’d seen enough conflict in Vietnamese Rice paddies, not thinking battle would follow him home.

“Oh lad, the mess we are havin’ here. You had poor timin’ becomin’ a Boston cop now.” Ray Lynch senior had been a Boston cop and you could still here traces of Galway in his voice.

“I didn’t come back from Vietnam to fight my own.”
“Lad, the choice may be made for you. You’ll go where you are told.”
“Captain said that yesterday at roll call. We are not Southie’s on the thin blue line, just Blues.”
“Yup. You better get goin’ you don’t want to be late today, they’ll think you’re doin’ it deliberately.

He thought back to that conversation, now that he was on the line with his best friend, Billy McDonald. They grew up together got in trouble together and served in ‘Nam together. Now they were on the line, waiting for who knew what.
It was only Five A.M. but some demonstrators with signs were already milling around at the top of the hill where South Boston High School stood. The orders came to allow peaceful demonstrating but the buses were not to be blocked. More demonstrators began showing up. It was easier for cops from other neighborhoods in some ways, but if they were from Charlestown, the same thing would be happening there.

“Ray, I can’t believe this.”
“I was just sayin’ that to my dad. We don’t like it, but we have a job to do. “
“You scared Ray?”
“Not of getting’ hurt. It ain’t like ‘Nam. We’re fightin’ our own here. I am afraid of our own neighborhood civil war. Before we were on a side in someone else’s civil war, now it could be ours, brother against brother.”
“I hope not, it could never end.”
“You are so right.”

The conversation was ended when they heard chanting from down the street. The buses were coming.
“Mother of God, I thought we’d seen the Yellow Peril in Nam.”
“Yeah, but this time the peril is from our own, not the buses.”
The chants began, “Here we go, Southie, here we go!” People started singing Southie Is My Home Town and yelling epithets at scared kids in buses.

“Billy, this sucks. Scaring kids not much younger than us in buses. They probably don’t wanna be here.”
A group of women got down in front of the buses and starting fingering rosary beads and saying “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.”

Then the first rock shattered a bus window. Then more rocks flew. Ray and Billy and to see who threw the rocks. They didn’t see who threw the rocks, but saw several women beating up a young blonde man with their pocketbooks and kicking him in the shins.
“Ladies ladies , stop it!” Ray cried. Billy reached over where a notebook lay in the street. Ray suddenly recognize the blonde beehive hairdo of his childhood babysitter, Mrs. O’Malley.

“Mrs. O’Malley, for the love of God, what is going on?”
“That fuckin’ Commie was writin’ about us!”
Billy came over with the notebook and started reading.

“I just came from covering Belfast, same women look the same just as hard.”
“Who are you?” Billy asked with a tone of annoyance creeping in his voice.
The shocked blond pulled out a wallet and showed a card. Heinz Schmidt, Der Spiegel. “It’s legit buddy he’s a reporter. “You OK?”
“Just a little shaken officer.”
“Here’s your notebook pal, be careful”
“Ray, the two of youse are lettin’ him go?”
“Ladies, he is a reporter, he is within his rights, and we can arrest you right now for assault.”

A ladies hand threw a rock hitting a bus window injuring a girl inside. “Mrs. Donnelly I saw that, Anne Marie Donnelly, you are under arrest.”
“Ray, you would defend niggers over your own?

The Battle of Southie had just begun.

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Native American Portrayals.


I thought of writing this, because yesterday at Tucson Sisters in Crime, (I am a member),  the morning speaker was Barbara Deloria, daughter of writer Vine Deloria.

This is not something I thought a lot about, but yesterday made me think.  I’m not originally from Tucson, but Brooklyn, New York.

Until yesterday, I’d forgotten that I met Mohawks as a child.  I grew up in Brooklyn Heights and they lived in a nearby neighborhood called Boerum Hill.  Some of them were in my Boy Scout troop.

Most Mohawks live in Canada, (Ontario and Quebec), with a few in Upstate New York along the St. Lawrence River, which is the International Border at that point.

The men would go to New York City to be the ironworkers on new skyscraper projects, because it was said, the heights didn’t bother them.  Heights bother me, I can’t imagine walking on a beam, hundreds of feet above the street.  I never got to know these kids well, because they moved back and forth from the city to where they were from.

The Mohawks are certainly not the image you normally saw in movies and on television.  I remember the movie Drums Along the Mohawk, from 1939, but they meant the river, not the tribe and the Last of the Mohegans, Masterpiece Theater on PBS.  That was the Eighteenth Century.  In the Seventeenth Century, the Dutch settlement was Manhattan, South of Wall Street and up the Hudson Valley to what is now New York’s state capital, Albany.  (Then called Fort Orange).

The era depicted in Drums Along the Mohawk was during the American Revolution.  Just west of Albany, WAS the frontier.  Loyalist attacks with the occasional Seneca war party.  There were “good guy” Indians, in this and Last of the Mohicans.  In the former, it was the Oneida member Blue Back.  In the latter, Chingachgook and Uncas.

Forward to the Nineteenth Century, and the West.  Normally predictable.  Cavalry defeats Indians.  Even in the depiction of Custer in They Died with Their Boots on, you were not cheering for the Indians, so much as picking on Custer for his stupidity.

I was young, saw these movies as entertainment, without thinking of the consequences, for the people involved.  If I thought about it at all, just saw it from my young eyes as, “That’s the way it went.”  The cavalry were doing a job, the Indians, well, the Indians.  It’s the danger in dehumanizing people.

Living in Arizona now, have Native American friends and want to see things from their point of view.  Moral of story.  Reach out and don’t just watch and read what is popular and simple.

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