The Protectorate

30 Dec



The Protectorate was written in December 2015, and is particularly appropriate for Super Bowl Sunday. If you would like to read it and comment, please go to About Me and find my email address, then email me so. I’ll send you a PDF file of the story.

BTW: I don’t care who wins today’s Super Bowl as long as it’s not New England.


It Doesn’t Always Rain at Funerals

19 Mar


It Doesn’t Always Rain at Funerals

By L. Stewart Marsden

It doesn’t always rain at funerals …
For some the sky is azure blue, with billowy clouds and birds aloft;
For others, bands and fireworks fill the air with joy and glee;
Still others find rest quietly, at day’s last light
While a bugler plays atop a hill
As the still of night steals in.

The Great Blood Compromise

16 Mar


The Great Blood Compromise

By L. Stewart Marsden

When the agreement reached the public, there was understandable criticism from many sides. But the overall fact was the two sides, having waged futilely at many levels for many years over the issue, had reached a compromise at last.

“It will ultimately save lives,” the Speaker of the House proclaimed, a solemn look etched by deep lines furrowed into his face as the cameras flashed. “No legislation is perfect,” he added before stepping down amid a hail of questions from reporters. He ignored them all.

When the law came into effect, thousands of semiautomatics and gear to upgrade them to automatic weapons were surrendered to Sheriff’s offices and police departments throughout the country. These were shipped to a central location in Iowa, where metal-crunching machines and huge vats, originally designed for the steel industry, were repurposed to destroy and melt down gun upon gun, including bump stocks and high-capacity rifle and gun clips. Armor-piercing ammunition was also, carefully, destroyed.

It took six months. Whether or not every weapon or ammunition clip had been collected and destroyed was a matter of fear among some. It was a matter of anger among gun owners and extreme 2nd Amendment supporters. It was a matter of hope among the survivors of past victims.

On February 10, one volunteer from each state, the country’s fourteen territories, as well as the District of Columbia were gathered in Washington at taxpayers’ expense. Their ages ranged from 18 to 93, and the ethnic and economic composite of the group was as diverse as the nation’s population.

They were quartered in the Trump International Hotel, in which each individual’s room was complete with a lavish supply of the finest cuisine and refreshment. Each was treated to exclusive amenities at the country’s expense, from spas to manicures; massages to coiffures.

They toured Congress, and met with dignitaries and the rich and famous who had gathered, and were touted in a televised ceremony that aired world-wide.

Part of their schedule was an unveiling of a memorial sculpture, onto which the face, name, age, and other personal details had been already etched. The President spoke solemnly at the event for a few moments, then posed with each of the volunteers.

The evening before February 14, Washington went dark for 65 seconds in tribute to the volunteers. NASA captured the event from space, which, again, was aired world-wide.

That first February 14 was chilly and rainy as the volunteers were bused to a point just below the Lincoln Memorial. One by one, they filed out of the buses and stood side-by-side along the western end of the Reflecting Pool, turned in the direction of the Washington Monument. Each was dressed as they would for a normal day wherever they came from.

Once positioned, members of the Marine Corps, in full dress, marched up and, one-by-one, stood behind each volunteer. The Marines covered the head of the volunteer they were assigned to with a black hood, then retreated a few steps back, rifles at the ready in stands.

“The Star Spangled Banner” was then played by the Marine Corps Band from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Spectators surrounded the mall, kept from the grounds by police barricades and officers at the ready. Family members of the volunteers stood at the west end of the Reflecting Pool, attired in black.

At the center of that gathering stood the chaplains of the Senate and the House behind a podium and microphone. Each prayed in turn for the volunteers, the Marines, and the nation. The chaplains stepped back and the Marine Detail Commander stepped to the podium. As he spoke, his orders echoed along the mall and seemed to hang in the air.

“Attention!” With rifles to their shoulders, the Marines came to a motionless stance.

“Half right … Hace!” Each Marine turned slightly to the right.

“Port … arms!” Rifles were positioned across each Marine’s chest at the ready.

“Ready … unlock!” The clicks of safeties being released sounded like metallic chatter.

“Aim!” Rifles were raised to shoulders, and each Marine pressed his/her cheek to the weapon and eyed down their sites.

A murder of crows chose the moment to fly from trees surrounding the mall and curved down the expanse towards the Washington Monument, loudly cawing at intervals.

A hesitation, then the Commander ordered,


The volley of individual rifles sounded like rapid-fire to the untrained ear. Each volunteer crumpled to the ground differently, their life-blood seeping into the grass before the concrete walkway that surrounded the Reflection Pool.

There were gasps and moans, and finally weeping from the masses that had gathered to witness the event.

From the east end of the Reflection Pool a canon volleyed three times, its whitish smoke residue slowly dissipating, blown by a slight breeze.

Immediately more details of Marines marched in caskets for each body, carefully placing the volunteers into them. Each casket was then slowly hefted by Marine pall bearers, and taken to black hearses awaiting nearby, which drove slowly away.

A queue of funeral cars eased forward to pick up family members of the volunteers, and transport them to Arlington cemetery, where a special area had been designated for burying.

The media quietly and respectfully covered the day’s events without comment.


Mary Cullens watched the coverage on her open laptop computer as she carefully packed her pink teardrop backpack in her bedroom. Focusing a bright flashlight beam on colored wires, she flinched when the seven honor guards at the special gravesite area fired three times, then carefully twisted various wires together with needle nosed pliers. She knew she would not be afforded those honors, but she also knew her name would reside in the annals of history as the first mass murderer after the initiation of what had become known as The Great Blood Compromise. After all, if one can’t be famous for something, why not infamous.

Everyone Gets a Little of it Correctly

15 Mar


Everyone Gets a Little of it Correctly

By L. Stewart Marsden

We’ve witnessed the passing of two world icons over the past weeks: Billy Graham and Stephen Hawking. Polar opposites, one might think. Each convinced of beliefs they deemed pivotal to understanding the universe.

Social media reaction has been varied for both, yet there is an undercurrent of respect for these men, different as they are. And, just perhaps, their similarities outweigh their differences.

Who got it right? Who got it wrong? What happens to those who got it right, and to those who got it wrong?

I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole. Many already have and hold on stubbornly to their opinion come hell-or-high-water.

For some, the death of Graham signals the end times. Prophecies and words of wisdom are no doubt abounding among some groups. Still others, bent on profiteering from this particular death, are stepping up production of miracle healing water, or prayer cloths, or whatever tangible item is the justifiable reason for someone who can ill-afford it to write a large donation check.

Hawking pooh-poohed religion, preferring the stability of science to the flimsiness of faith. He predicted the extinction of humankind within 100 years, and was convinced humankind had and continues to shoot itself in the toe in so many ways. Air pollution. Nuclear proliferation. Unchecked population growth that is rapidly dismissing the earth’s resources and ability to sustained.

One hundred years. A little over four generations based on the current mean. That would suggest all of this interest in genealogy is a fruitless endeavor.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Sign Watchers have been lining up and checking off the events that will usher in Armageddon and The Rapture. Apparently some feel Graham’s death is one of those events/signs.

Only a handful of mankind seems to care about either when you get right down to it. We’re still bogged down in the mire of right v wrong and other presupposed absolutes.

A friend posted a speculative question: is Stephen Hawking in heaven? That’s based on my friend’s assumption there is a heaven, or afterlife. No one has speculated that about Billy Graham. That would be heresy.

The various TV programs that deal with UFOs and ETs and all of the other out-of-this-world contentions, include the possibility that we will return to our planet of origination, and that we are other-worldly. Like the religionists, there seems to be great effort to separate us from the other animals of the earth, and dismantle what they call the “theory” of evolution. You know, hopping a fast freight from a planet a billion light years away, or being molded from clay during the literal six days of creation are far-better answers to imagining we hail from the genetic materials provided by fish or apes. Someone at some time decided to KISS. Imagine the embarrassment of knit-picking through the hair of your brother or sister, and then eating the mite!

I like the simile of the blind men who attempt to describe an elephant by feeling the animal with their hands.

“The elephant is like a strong tree trunk, thick and massive,” says one. “The elephant is like a snake,” says another. “The elephant is like a thin leather blanket,” supposes a third. “It is like a thick, solid wall,” asserts another. “A rope. The elephant is like a rope.” “The elephant is like a spear,” the last suggests.

Each has a little of what an elephant is correctly. Each is vastly wrong.

In the finality, it won’t matter, I think. Which is kind of the Calvinist position, right? You either are or you are not chosen, which doesn’t change despite your life. (I don’t suppose to understand that slant, and probably have only a little bit of Calvinism correctly).

So, where is Billy Graham now? Where is Stephen Hawking? For that matter, where is Gandhi, or Joan of Arc or William Wallace or Genghis Khan or Columbus or Thomas Becket or Hitler or Marilyn Monroe? Or how about your parents, grandparents and beyond? Where are they?

One of my favorite movie scenes dealing with this is from the movie “Rudy.” Father Cavanaugh has sat down next to the main character, Rudy, after the young man goes to church in frustration at not getting into Notre Dame.

Father Cavanaugh: [in church] Taking your appeal to a higher authority?
Rudy: I’m desperate. If I don’t get in next semester, it’s over. Notre Dame doesn’t accept senior transfers.
Father Cavanaugh: Well, you’ve done a hell of a job kid, chasing down your dream.
Rudy: Who cares what kind of job I did if it doesn’t produce results? It doesn’t mean anything.
Father Cavanaugh: I think you’ll find that it will.
Rudy: Maybe I haven’t prayed enough.
Father Cavanaugh: I don’t think that’s the problem. Praying is something we do in our time, the answers come in God’s time.
Rudy: If I’ve done everything I possibly can, can you help me?
Father Cavanaugh: Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I’m not Him.

Whatever you think, whatever you believe, you, too, have a little bit of it correctly. But not all of it.

The Last Hurrah

14 Mar

The Last Hurrah

by L. Stewart Marsden

Winter’s last hurrah blew in over night, and I’m pretty sure once this storm has passed, I can breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to spring.

Meantime, the local bird neighborhood was gathered when I came downstairs this morning with the dogs. They waited patiently (their feeders were bare) as I fed the dogs and slipped on my walking shoes and jacket. And they were on the verge of impatience as I slowly poured a fresh supply of seed into the feeders.

A flock of larger black birds apparently heard the ruckus, and decided to descend upon the feeders, which are not designed for them, but the smaller ones.

Don’t know why, but it upsets me when the big birds bully the smaller ones away. They can always go to the dumps and trash bins –– and aren’t above picking the streets and roads of carrion. I have this impression they could take out a few of the smaller birds if they’d a mind.

I once shot a robin when I was a boy. Like today, it had snowed, and I took my bother’s BB gun into the yard where I spied the bird yards away and aimed at him, well above so as to miss him. The shot didn’t miss the robin, however, and I watched in horror as the pellet arched downward and hit the unintended victim.

Even so, if I had a pellet gun or BB gun, I’d be very tempted to whiz one by the large blackbirds as a warning.

I know … it doesn’t make sense, does it?

As it is, when the big ones try to raid the larder, I step out and shout BAH! in a loud voice. The bullies scatter, yet the smaller birds hang close and swoop down onto the feeder. And I have a fleeting feeling of satisfaction, followed by one of foolishness.



Out of the Blue

10 Mar



Out of the Blue

By L. Stewart Marsden


The photo above isn’t of my driveway, but it might as well be. I live in the mountains of North Carolina, and unlike last year, this year has been rife with snow and bitter cold, with short rests of 60º and higher weather –– enough to confuse the trees into budding early.

Each morning I take my new rescue dog, Gordie, for his constitutional, and Wednesday was no different. Overnight a light covering of very dry snow had fallen. Bundled up, and shod in my overpriced walking shoes (at least look the part, I always say), I snapped the lead onto Gordie’s halter and we set out as always, crunching onto the snow.

We had gone about ten feet when I stepped down on my left heel and –– whoosh! My leg splayed out to the side awkwardly and down I went, experiencing incredible pain along the back of my left leg. Did I say incredible pain? There’s not a word to adequately describe the shot of paralyzing agony that became the focus of my being for the next few moments.

Did I mention it was 7 AM?

Did I mention it was in the teens temperature-wise?

Did I mention I live in a cluster of condos where the owners are present ONLY during the warm weather mostly?

Flat on my stomach, grinding and writhing in anguish, with a confused Gordie licking my face, it dawned on me there was no one about; I didn’t have my cellphone (Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!); and I was already feeling the intense cold.

A sheet of ice beneath the snow (the original culprit) kept me from any progress at getting up, much less the pain I felt shooting down my leg whenever I tried to move.

I managed to get to my hands and knees somehow. There was nothing in the empty parking lot to grab to help me pull myself up.

So I crawled. Inch by inch. Slowly. Feeling woozy. Mentally seeing myself found days later frozen to death, by the propane gas man who periodically checks to see if my tanks are adequately filled. Or the electric meter reader. Most likely it would be the attractive postal carrier who brings mail to my door whenever one of my Amazon orders arrive, and I remembered I have two or three orders out there. It was 7 AM, and she comes around 10:30 AM. Then I remembered I hadn’t showered and I knew my hair was a mess. Which was enough impetus to continue my desperate crawl towards my condo door.

Gordie looked confused and a bit guilty …

All the while Gordie looked confused and a bit guilty, as though perhaps it was his fault. I did all I could to let him know he was not the problem, but my sporadic shrieks of pain didn’t help. Gordie is a rescue dog, as I said, and is about 20 lbs and just turned eight. He is a Havanese, but doesn’t look at all like the photos on the internet –– so I figure he’s a mix. The Havanese was bred initially in Cuba (Havana, get it?), and looks kind of like a terrier and Scotty dog mix. His previous owners got a new dog –– a big dog –– and Gordie didn’t take to the intruder. Small dogs are no problem. So, in their infinite love, they chose to give up Gordie for adoption, preferring the new dog. Their loss. The dog community around here is irate about it.

Anyway, I digress.

I managed to get to the wooden walkway to my front door, which has wooden rails on either side. I pulled myself up, and began the hurtful shuffle to the door, and then back inside. Both Gordie and I were glad to be inside where it was nice and warm.

Navigating through the first floor by holding onto doorknobs, counters –– anything I could use for support –– I finally fell into a recliner love seat in my living room.

Relief! Gordie jumped up onto the nearby sofa and curled onto his special dog bed and stared –– obviously worried.

Across the long room, which got longer as I looked at it, was an umbrella stand with several walking canes next to the fireplace. From

Across the long room, which got longer as I looked at it, was an umbrella stand with several walking canes next to the fireplace.

my vantage point, I could remotely operate both the gas fireplace as well as my TV, so warmth and diversion were not in question. But I knew my body was going to demand that I eventually get up in order to go to the bathroom –– either that, or the you-know-what consequences. And I wasn’t about to spend the money to recover the recliner.

There is no comfortable way to get out of a recliner when you have injured a leg muscle. I figured it was a hamstring, and looked it up on
my iPod, which happened to be close enough to the recliner.

How to treat?

I had ice packs in my freezer …

RICE, is what the internet told me. It’s an acronym standing for rest, ice, compression and elevation. The rest part was simple enough, as the pain that resulted from nearly any movement below my waist was plenty motivating. Ice. I had ice packs in my freezer. A mere 15 or so feet away. May as well have been in Siberia. Compression? Nothing. Elevation? Tipping the recliner to its maximum was the answer. According to the information, reducing swelling was the goal.

What if something tore? Perhaps a ligament that held the muscle to the bone had ripped away during the slip. I knew a guy who snapped his Achilles muscle during football practice in high school. I imagined how that muscle shot up his calf –– like a taut wire snapping. Nothing I want to experience more than surgery and the recovery necessary to repair that kind of injury. I will have a new respect for athletes who experience a torn hamstring. I swear.

Rather than recount all the tedious detail, suffice it to say I literally hobbled about to prepare my new command post for the next several hours/days/weeks/months. With each venture from the chair, I planned out every move carefully, from getting a cane, to getting the ice pad, and, eventually, struggling to the bathroom.

I popped Aleve beyond its maximum dosage suggestions. I mean, death by drugs can’t be worse than death by the pain I was experiencing. That probably wasn’t the wisest decision on my part. But the pain did gradually diminish to around a 7 on a scale of 10.

What to do with Gordie? Like me, he needed to be fed and relieved. My door to the deck is a few million feet from the recliner, and with the snow covering it, what did I care? Plus Gordie enjoyed frolicking in the white stuff.

It’s now Accident Day plus two. Surprisingly, I was able to stand and quasi-limp around later that afternoon, and learned very quickly what stances were not painful. I ordered a set of crutches from Amazon, and my son sent me these neat retro-fit snow/ice shoe grips for future use. All arrived overnighted the next day. The attractive mail carrier left them at the door and was gone before I could limp over to greet her. Snap.

All my family in the hinterlands (I live alone) berated me for going out onto the snow and ice. In my defense, how was I to know Nature had it in for me, and was going to striketh me down out of the blue?

Biggest question on my mind as I improved to hobble status was whether or not to Facebook the account. I decided not to do it. I figured most of my Facebook friends had experienced way worse, and that it would be seen for what it was: a ploy for sympathy. Well, not that day, anyway. I like sympathy as much as anyone.

I knew this before, but it’s different when you really know because you go through something that strikes out of the blue: there’s a learning curve.

I learned just how much my hamstring comes into play for the simplest of things, like putting on socks, or getting out of bed, or standing on tippy-toes to turn off the smoke alarm when the blackening salmon fills the kitchen with enough smoke to set it off.

I learned that crutches suck, and are not very comfortable no matter which way you use them.

And while I have written this meme many times before, I know that “this, too, shall pass.”

I pray this is my out-of-the-blue experience for the year. Last year it was kidney stones, which was not anything close to the pain everyone warned me about. My doctor shot the stones with sound waves, and the residual passed with no discomfort. Yeah, I know. I dodged a bullet. Actually more like shotgun pellets.

At 68, I’m hoping the health malady waves don’t begin to hit the beach with increased frequency. For me it’s a matter of doggone it, I don’t have time for this crap! Know what I mean? Places to go and people to see. Better ways to spend my time than detailing out how I’m gonna pull on my Tommy Johns in the morning.

The Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared, and that’s all well and good. As much as I can, I try to prepare, and have band aids and Aleve in the condo, and chains and emergency flashers in my car. Sometimes I run out of tonic water and limes, though. But I don’t take it to the nth degree like some of the Preppers do.

So, no doubt I’ll get caught again with my pants down when something happens out of the blue. I hope that’s a ways off, though.


The Fiftieth

25 Feb



The Fiftieth

L. Stewart Marsden

Barton Chandler looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and was not pleased. He pulled the bags under his eyes down with his index fingers, widening the spider-veined eyeballs until he began to tear.

There was no doubt about it –– the old man staring back at him was nothing like the taut-skinned pimply face of the 18-year-old he once was fifty years ago. He wondered if any of his classmates would even recognize him, and was a little fearful they might.

Taking the bar of soap and wetting it, he worked up soft white suds, which he gently massaged onto his cheeks and forehead. It was Dove. His mother swore by it, telling him it hid a thousands faults that had lined her face. He hoped she was right. It smelled good, anyway.

Rinsing and toweling off, he began to comb his hair. In his effort to distract from numerous bald spots, he had let it grow. He had never done the “old man thing” –– that of growing out the hair on one side of his head and combing it over his pasty dome. He had seen many of his father’s friends do that. Or pull it forward from the back in a quasi-Italian mafia style. He cringed at the thought. No, he preferred what he called the George Carlin look, and let his now fine and brittle hair grow long, into which he rubbed a special holding cream that cost far too much. He then combed everything back and into the nub of a ponytail, which he held in place with a tiny black rubber band. With his trimmed snowy beard and mustache, he fancied he did indeed look like the comedian. It was his homage to Carlin.

This, he thought, was the best of two worlds. He wasn’t hiding his hair loss, and he was making connection with the 60s and the hippy movement when he had been a fringe member in college –– until his dad sat him down and read him the riot act.

“I don’t spend good money on your education so you can traipse around looking like a long-haired freak, pretending to hate everything I’ve worked and stand for! Get it together, or get off the family dole!”

So he got it together. His dad was right on the money. The fling with the protest movements and anti-establishment was more or less a facade. Deep down he no more wanted to live in a commune with drug-heads than any other person. And while he shook his fist in rallies protesting the war, he was more afraid of being shot or blown apart than upset with the ethics of American presence in Vietnam. Plus, he had become used to the fineries his social and economic status afforded him.

He continued to primp, taking a small electric nose hair clipper to each nostril, and carefully plucking long eyebrows gone amok. Then he examined his ears, where to his horror tufts had appeared in recent years in the canals, but worse –– single hairs from his earlobes.

This was the first night of three at Caulden Academy for Boys. It was the must-do anniversary. The Fiftieth. After his graduation in ‘68, Chandler had been sporadic in his attendances, hitting the one-year and the five-year events. The first gathering was special because he knew many of the students and faculty still at the school. It was his opportunity to strut about on campus as a College Man; to flaunt the fact he could smoke there with impunity, and drink sherry with a faculty member without fear of being expelled. His second gathering he had graduated college, and was in his first year as an underling in the Chandler Corporation –– his gateway to ancestral sameness. His classmates were like him, many starting career paths. Still others were toe-deep in their post-grad pursuits of the law or medicine or some other impressive occupation. Fewer attended that reunion, although none had died yet.

Until tonight, there had been a drought lasting years where he had been too busy, too far away, too fearful to make an appearance. He had kept abreast of classmates who were featured by graduation class in the school’s annual report. It was how he found out the first death in his class was due to suicide. Other news items storied a variety of impressive and ho-hum feats, from world travel to partnerships in medical practices or prestigious law firms to various honors and accolades.

Chandler never sent in news items to the school about himself. Asked by his starter wife (he had gone through two wives) why that was, he couldn’t answer.

“You’re embarrassed, that’s why,” she said dryly.

He fell off the map where Caulden and his classmates were concerned, despite the regular requests for money, or invitations to attend school soirées held in local communities. Even his best friends at school grew distant, and he was totally out of touch with guys who helped him endure the prep school and its idiosyncrasies.

Satisfied he had soaped, cut, rubbed and covered enough to look presentable, Chandler reached for the starched dress shirt hanging from a hook on the hotel bathroom door. As he buttoned, he practiced smiles and looks of glad surprise. “Oh, you haven’t changed a bit!” he said mentally.

He opted to button his monogrammed sleeve cuffs, and not to insert the gold cuff links he brought. He preferred the toned down look. Tie, or no tie? Should he go casual, like a jet-setter? He chose a tie. It was a good juxtaposition to his ponytail, he thought. Go with who you are, his dad had told him. This is who I am, he thought.

As he measured the tie around his neck for a Windsor knot, he remembered Timbo Matthews. Timbo had taught him how to tie it. Previous to that he had always used the sloppy overhand knot he had learned when he was a Boy Scout.

“You can’t use that knot!” Timbo critiqued, then showed Chandler the only knot permissible if you wanted to prove you had class. For the school prom, Timbo tried to show Chandler how to tie a bow tie, but Chandler opted for the clip-on instead. Less frustrating. At least he still used the Windsor after all these years. When his dad retired from the family corporation, he took to wearing bolo ties, much to Chandler’s disdain.

“I can wear whatever the hell I like!” his dad said.

Chandler registered with the school for the reunion at the first email alert he received from the Caulden School for Boys Director of Development. He signed up for all the events, and made sure his room was booked in the only hotel in nearby Statler. That was months ahead of time. He even promptly filled out a questionnaire about himself that was to be reproduced in a yearbook format –– only paperback because of the cost. It was the first time Chandler could remember being put on an honor list of any kind having to do with Caulden.

Still, as the weekend neared, he found himself weighing whether or not to go. The class of 100 graduates had been whittled down to eighty or so due to a variety of illnesses and tragedies . His roommate during his Fifth Form year had just died. He had to find out via the annual report. It hammered home how out-of-touch he really was. Which led to him thinking about his starter wife’s comment. Was he embarrassed? He thought at age sixty-eight of what could or should he be embarrassed? Perhaps the greatest thing any of his classmates could boast about was that they lived long enough to attend the fiftieth.

He knew that wasn’t true. But embarrassed of what? Mediocrity? He was surprised to see one of his classmates referred to as The Honorable Terrence DuPree. A judge, for chrissakes! One day Terry bounded into his room during his Fourth Form year and dived onto Chandler’s bed as if to make a watermelon splash. The only problem was Chandler’s classical guitar was on the bed at the time!

When he was a student, comparisons were of a lesser, albeit more evil sort. Things like intelligence, looks, physique, athletics. Chandler fell into the midrange of each. He was smart, but not brilliant; okay-looking, but a bit dorky; never six feet tall; and though he reached varsity levels in sports his Six Form year, he mostly rode the bench. In college his greatest success was Shot-A-Minute Champ at his fraternity, and driving around campus in the ‘63 Chevrolet Corvette his dad gave him. Nothing stellar. And the guy who sat on his guitar at Caulden became a friggin’ judge!

Those thoughts gave him reason to reconsider attending the reunion. His was a hand-me-down career. The right of primogeniture and nothing more. Even his derelict brother –– the one everybody knew would end up to no good –– had created a business from the ground up that was now listed on the DOW.

Chandler pulled on stylish socks, then his pants, and slipped into his shoes. One last glimpse into the mirror. Oh, and a splash of Bay Rum cologne.

His hotel room phone jingled.

“Hello?” he said.

“Bart! Where the hell are you? The van is here to take us to school, man! Get your butt down here!”

Chandler felt a twinge of nausea and thought quickly about saying he was coming down with something.

“Yeah. Thanks. I’ll be right down.”

My stance on the 2nd Amendment

24 Feb


My stance on the 2nd Amendment:


Everyone has the right to bear arms.


Ignorance & Knowledge

24 Feb

Ignorance & Knowledge

L. Stewart Marsden

If you ever visit St. Augustine, Florida, make sure you get a drink from the Fountain of Youth Ponce de Leon thought would restore you to a younger age. At least it is reported that he thought so, but, like most things today, it could be Fake News.

It’s interesting to me that when the question “Would you like to be a child again?” is posed, most answer it conditionally: “If I can retain all I now know.”

That would certainly take care of a lot of the early learning necessary skills, like being potty trained, and how to tie your shoes –– not to mention how to tie a necktie. It would certainly give you perspective on what you need to know to survive, and why calculus, diagraming a sentence, and who was the drummer Ringo replaced when he joined The Beatles are not part of critical knowledge for most of us mere mortals.

Of course, most of the above skills eventually go in reverse as you get older, like the potty training. I’m not there yet, but I guess I’ll know at the time. It depends.

The problem with becoming younger is that we wouldn’t also go back in time, where youth is fondly remembered as being innocent and sweet. We revere our childhood days, otherwise there wouldn’t be all of the asinine Facebook posts asking, “Do you know what this is?” and “Like this post if you’ve ever used one.” I don’t use that anymore because there’s a new and better product that does the same thing faster and more efficiently. Since I don’t use it, why do you care if I remember what it was?

We rue the loss of understanding, as when Texas Instruments replaced the slide rule with a digital way of solving a math problem. Who the heck cares if I can figure out the cosine of 92º when I can press a button –– no, simply say, “Siri, what’s the cosine of 92º?” to get the very same answer with a fraction of the process?

I know. The answer is somehow invalidated if you don’t understand the process. BS.

Chaos Theory proponent Ian Malcom (Jurassic Park) screwed up innovation –– or the refining of innovation –– when he vehemently attested, “If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox …”

Funny how we don’t learn how to use an abacus in order to truly understand ones, tens, hundreds, It did precede the slide rule, after all.

Here’s the thing about somehow returning to a younger me: I’ve forgotten all the bad things that happened to me for the most part, and was unaware of other really bad things.

For example, people post things like “life was simpler back then. You could play in your neighborhood and ride bikes and frolic in the creeks and dirt. Schools were safer then. There wasn’t a threat of violence like today …”

Again, BS.

Now, if you were white, middle class or higher, and lived in an exclusive neighborhood – yes. If you weren’t?

The only people I observe pining for the “Good Old Days” are the ones who were part of a very exclusive minority of people (back then it was more than 1%, I think).

IF you were part of that small percentage of kids growing up, you weren’t aware of the struggles going on just beneath the living room carpet where they had been swept. Every once-in-a-while you glimpsed curious indicators that made little or no impact upon your daily existence: Whites Only. No Coloreds Served. Etc.

Perhaps you thought every family had a Virgie Mae or a Juanita or a Lora May who cooked the best fried chicken, cleaned the house and did the wash and ironing while your dad worked and your mother went to her novelty clubs (bridge and gardening). Who doted on you in many cases more than your own parents. Someone you fired with regularity whenever you didn’t get your way.

I don’t normally wish I were younger, because to be younger would probably be without benefit of what I now know. And if I were younger with this age-accrued wisdom, I would be miserable. Knowing what was really going on would be far more painful than not knowing. Kind of like playing cowboys and Indians but being aware of The Trail Of Tears.

Ah, there’s the rub! The dilemma! The … hypocrisy? I have the wisdom now, gleaned from the fields of years of living and experience. What the hell am I doing with it?

Perhaps God knew when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil how it would alter life as they had once known it.

Perhaps, like so many I observe, it is better to be ignorant. After all, the Wise Ones say “Ignorance is Bliss.”

That, and being young.

Disconnect – the first stage of Entropy

20 Feb


Disconnect – the first stage of Entropy

L. Stewart Marsden

Imagine a huge wagon wheel suspended from the ceiling, though not from a single supporting line, but from several lines, evenly spaced around its circumference. The lines are fastened to a single hub at ceiling level. Everything about the construct is symmetrical.

Imagine one by one the support lines begin to haphazardly disconnect over long periods of time. Weakened, the lines slowly unravel. Initially, the suspended wheel shakes slightly at the disconnection with the first line, but maintains its rotation, though a bit more wobbly. As more of the lines disconnect, the wheel becomes unwieldy, and its crash to the floor imminent.

That’s what I imagine is happening to our country and government. The supporting hub represents the ideal. The Constitution. The Declaration of Independence. The moral high road. Integrity. The pursuit of justice for all. Care and concern for the weak and downtrodden. The anti-bully. The believer of lost causes. The fan of the underdog. The optimist.

Every line of support to the wheel is tied to something to be reached for; such things as equality, non discrimination, freedom of religion, a government that serves its people at the local, state and federal levels, equal opportunity, freedom of expression, laws designed to protect and more. The lines have been more or less sturdy over the country’s nearly 250 years of existence. Some have grown stronger, some have been added, some are threadbare. Some are snapping and disconnecting.

Examples of disconnects that are disconcerting to me:

The Republican on the Democrat:
Democrats are out to destroy this nation and bring an end to God as the center of our democracy. They are out to spend this country into oblivion, and want to give away our great heritage to the lazy and the undeserving.

The Democrat on The Republican:
Republicans are only concerned about maintaining the status quos of money, power, and influence. Largely white, they are racists, and far-right judgmental Bible thumpers. They want more and more guns, and want to legislate women’s reproductive rights. They hate anyone who does not think, believe, or look like them.

The NRA is Satan personified, and interested only in promulgating an agenda of more and more guns and less and less gun control, which has resulted in schoolyards becoming the killing fields of America. Pro NRAers are largely Republican. They really don’t care about the blood spilt already due to the ease of buying a gun, or buying a semi-automatic weapon. Who needs a semi-automatic to kill a deer?

The NRA provides services that include safety instruction and education, the purchase and protection of wetlands, among others. Anyone who doesn’t like the NRA is an idiot, and doesn’t understand the whys and whats of the organization. Anti-NRAers want to take our guns away and destroy the 2nd Amendment rights we currently enjoy and revere. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before freedom of speech and freedom of religion are gone.

I could go on. These are, of course, extreme views represented. But when there is a disconnect and that line of support no longer exists, the extremists do seem to have the loudest voices and carry the most weight.

Largely, the disconnects I see (on social media, on news broadcasts, on talk shows, from DC and elsewhere) occur because “we” are no longer able to disagree, debate, compromise, and show unity despite our differences. It isn’t Russia’s fault the divides exist. We are dismantling ourselves, disconnected line by line. We want the fixes to occur in our state capitals, or in Washington. We are willing to abdicate our individual response abilities (not a typo) to people who largely seem to be interested only in self-preservation in office. And when you consider how well they fare in terms of their personal wealth, can you blame them?

Entropy is a physics’ law that, simply put, states things tend towards disorder. In terms of history and the rise and fall of nations and empires, it seems to be true. What goes up, must come down. Greece, Rome, the Ottoman Empire, Germany …

George Santayana (and a host of others as well) warned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Are we in jeopardy of repeating the failures and falls of others? Have we already begun the descent? Is there anything you or I can do to repair the lines of disconnect, and right our wobbling nation?

I have my opinions. Part of those opinions is that we are all blameworthy and culpable for our current status. No one is innocent –– at least, no adult. As part of the problem, I have to look within myself and judge what I can/should do. Pointing a finger elsewhere only exacerbates the situation. How have I contributed to the mess? How can I stop doing that? What are the reasonable and logical alternatives at hand?

What do you think?





A Play in Two Acts: The Age of Descent

9 Feb

The Age of Descent

A Play in Two Acts

By L. Stewart Marsden

I’ve completed the first draft of a play about an older man whose wife has died, and the adjustments he must make –– both life without her, and life as an older man.

While humorous, it has a little pathos in the mix.

If you would like to read the play, find my email address under the ABOUT tab and I will send you a PDF version. I will not respond to mere “Likes” –– I frankly don’t know what there is to like about me announcing I’ll send out a copy of a new play. The play is in PDF format, and must be emailed. Period.

The stipulation to sending you a copy is you will make honest commentary about the play, including plot, characters and whatever strikes your fancy. That’s work. If you don’t have the time nor the inclination for that kind of commitment, please don’t ask for it.

Not for younger readers, and most under the age of 50 will probably not relate, unless you have older parents in your family.

–– LSM