This and That

Apr 2015

A Tale of Two Libraries – Letter to the Editor

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Jan 2013

Why Romney Didn’t Get Enough Votes to Win

Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012  by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

Rabbi Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun

The most charitable way of explaining the election results of 2012 is that Americans voted for the status quo – for the incumbent President and for a divided Congress. They must enjoy gridlock, partisanship, incompetence, economic stagnation and avoidance of responsibility. And fewer people voted.

But as we awake from the nightmare, it is important to eschew the facile explanations for the Romney defeat that will prevail among the chattering classes. Romney did not lose because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy that devastated this area, nor did he lose because he ran a poor campaign, nor did he lose because the Republicans could have chosen better candidates, nor did he lose because Obama benefited from a slight uptick in the economy due to the business cycle.

Romney lost because he didn’t get enough votes to win.

That might seem obvious, but not for the obvious reasons. Romney lost because the conservative virtues – the traditional American virtues – of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness – no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate. The notion of the “Reagan Democrat” is one cliché that should be permanently retired.

Ronald Reagan himself could not win an election in today’s America.

The simplest reason why Romney lost was because it is impossible to compete against free stuff. Every businessman knows this; that is why the “loss leader” or the giveaway is such a powerful marketing tool. Obama’s America is one in which free stuff is given away: the adults among the 47,000,000 on food stamps clearly recognized for whom they should vote, and so they did, by the tens of millions; those who – courtesy of Obama – receive two full years of unemployment benefits (which, of course, both disincentives looking for work and also motivates people to work off the books while collecting their windfall) surely know for whom to vote; so too those who anticipate “free” health care, who expect the government to pay their mortgages, who look for the government to give them jobs. The lure of free stuff is irresistible.

Imagine two restaurants side by side. One sells its customers fine cuisine at a reasonable price, and the other offers a free buffet, all-you-can-eat as long as supplies last. Few – including me – could resist the attraction of the free food. Now imagine that the second restaurant stays in business because the first restaurant is forced to provide it with the food for the free buffet, and we have the current economy, until, at least, the first restaurant decides to go out of business. (Then, the government takes over the provision of free food to its patrons.)

The defining moment of the whole campaign was the revelation (by the amoral Obama team) of the secretly-recorded video in which Romney acknowledged the difficulty of winning an election in which “47% of the people” start off against him because they pay no taxes and just receive money – “free stuff” – from the government. Almost half of the population has no skin in the game – they don’t care about high taxes, promoting business, or creating jobs, nor do they care that the money for their free stuff is being borrowed from their children and from the Chinese. They just want the free stuff that comes their way at someone else’s expense. In the end, that 47% leaves very little margin for error for any Republican, and does not bode well for the future.

It is impossible to imagine a conservative candidate winning against such overwhelming odds. People do vote their pocketbooks. In essence, the people vote for a Congress who will not raise their taxes, and for a President who will give them free stuff, never mind who has to pay for it.

That engenders the second reason why Romney lost: the inescapable conclusion that the electorate is dumb – ignorant, and uninformed. Indeed, it does not pay to be an informed voter, because most other voters – the clear majority – are unintelligent and easily swayed by emotion and raw populism. That is the indelicate way of saying that too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads. That is why Obama did not have to produce a second term agenda, or even defend his first-term record. He needed only to portray Mitt Romney as a rapacious capitalist who throws elderly women over a cliff, when he is not just snatching away their cancer medication, while starving the poor and cutting taxes for the rich.

Obama could get away with saying that “Romney wants the rich to play by a different set of rules” – without ever defining what those different rules were; with saying that the “rich should pay their fair share” – without ever defining what a “fair share” is; with saying that Romney wants the poor, elderly and sick to “fend for themselves” – without even acknowledging that all these government programs are going bankrupt, their current insolvency only papered over by deficit spending. Obama could get away with it because he knew he was talking to dunces waving signs and squealing at any sight of him.

Similarly, Obama (or his surrogates) could hint to blacks that a Romney victory would lead them back into chains and proclaim to women that their abortions and birth control would be taken away. He could appeal to Hispanics that Romney would have them all arrested and shipped to Mexico (even if they came from Cuba or Honduras), and unabashedly state that he will not enforce the current immigration laws. He could espouse the furtherance of the incestuous relationship between governments and unions – in which politicians ply the unions with public money, in exchange for which the unions provide the politicians with votes, in exchange for which the politicians provide more money and the unions provide more votes, etc., even though the money is gone. He could do and say all these things because he knew his voters were dolts.

One might reasonably object that not every Obama supporter could be unintelligent. But they must then rationally explain how the Obama agenda can be paid for, aside from racking up multi-trillion dollar deficits. “Taxing the rich” does not yield even 10% of what is required – so what is the answer, i.e., an intelligent answer?

Obama also knows that the electorate has changed – that whites will soon be a minority in America (they’re already a minority in California) and that the new immigrants to the US are primarily from the Third World and do not share the traditional American values that attracted immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a different world, and a different America. Obama is part of that different America, knows it, and knows how to tap into it. That is why he won.

Obama also proved again that negative advertising works, invective sells, and harsh personal attacks succeed. That Romney never engaged in such diatribes points to his essential goodness as a person; his “negative ads” were simple facts, never personal abuse – facts about high unemployment, lower take-home pay, a loss of American power and prestige abroad, a lack of leadership, etc. As a politician, though, Romney failed because he did not embrace the devil’s bargain of making unsustainable promises, and by talking as the adult and not the adolescent. Obama has spent the last six years campaigning; even his governance has been focused on payoffs to his favored interest groups. The permanent campaign also won again, to the detriment of American life.

It turned out that it was not possible for Romney and Ryan – people of substance, depth and ideas – to compete with the shallow populism and platitudes of their opponents. Obama mastered the politics of envy – of class warfare – never reaching out to Americans as such but to individual groups, and cobbling together a winning majority from these minority groups. Conservative ideas failed to take root and states that seemed winnable, and amenable to traditional American values, have simply disappeared from the map. If an Obama could not be defeated – with his record and his vision of America, in which free stuff seduces voters – it is hard to envision any change in the future. The road to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and to a European-socialist economy – those very economies that are collapsing today in Europe – is paved.

A second cliché that should be retired is that America is a center-right country. It clearly is not. It is a divided country with peculiar voting patterns, and an appetite for free stuff. Studies will invariably show that Republicans in Congress received more total votes than Democrats in Congress, but that means little. The House of Representatives is not truly representative of the country. That people would vote for a Republican Congressmen or Senator and then Obama for President would tend to reinforce point two above: the empty-headedness of the electorate. Americans revile Congress but love their individual Congressmen. Go figure.

The mass media’s complicity in Obama’s re-election cannot be denied. One example suffices. In 2004, CBS News forged a letter in order to imply that President Bush did not fulfill his Air National Guard service during the Vietnam War, all to impugn Bush and impair his re-election prospects. In 2012, President Obama insisted – famously – during the second debate that he had stated all along that the Arab attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi was “terror” (a lie that Romney fumbled and failed to exploit). Yet, CBS News sat on a tape of an interview with Obama in which Obama specifically avoided and rejected the claim of terrorism – on the day after the attack – clinging to the canard about the video. (This snippet of a “60 Minutes” interview was not revealed – until two days ago!) In effect, CBS News fabricated evidence in order to harm a Republican president, and suppressed evidence in order to help a Democratic president. Simply shameful, as was the media’s disregard of any scandal or story that could have jeopardized the Obama re-election.

One of the more irritating aspects of this campaign was its limited focus, odd in light of the billions of dollars spent. Only a few states were contested, a strategy that Romney adopted, and that clearly failed. The Democrat begins any race with a substantial advantage. The liberal states – like the bankrupt California and Illinois – and other states with large concentrations of minority voters as well as an extensive welfare apparatus, like New York, New Jersey and others – give any Democratic candidate an almost insurmountable edge in electoral votes. In New Jersey, for example, it literally does not pay for a conservative to vote. It is not worth the fuel expended driving to the polls. As some economists have pointed out generally, and it resonates here even more, the odds are greater that a voter will be killed in a traffic accident on his way to the polls than that his vote will make a difference in the election. It is an irrational act. That most states are uncompetitive means that people are not amenable to new ideas, or new thinking, or even having an open mind. If that does not change, and it is hard to see how it can change, then the die is cast. America is not what it was, and will never be again.

For Jews, mostly assimilated anyway and staunch Democrats, the results demonstrate again that liberalism is their Torah. Almost 70% voted for a president widely perceived by Israelis and most committed Jews as hostile to Israel. They voted to secure Obama’s future at America’s expense and at Israel’s expense – in effect, preferring Obama to Netanyahu by a wide margin. A dangerous time is ahead. Under present circumstances, it is inconceivable that the US will take any aggressive action against Iran and will more likely thwart any Israeli initiative. That Obama’s top aide Valerie Jarrett (i.e., Iranian-born Valerie Jarrett) spent last week in Teheran is not a good sign. The US will preach the importance of negotiations up until the production of the first Iranian nuclear weapon – and then state that the world must learn to live with this new reality. As Obama has committed himself to abolishing America’s nuclear arsenal, it is more likely that that unfortunate circumstance will occur than that he will succeed in obstructing Iran’s plans.

But this election should be a wake-up call to Jews. There is no permanent empire, nor is there is an enduring haven for Jews anywhere in the exile. The American empire began to decline in 2007, and the deterioration has been exacerbated in the last five years. This election only hastens that decline. Society is permeated with sloth, greed, envy and materialistic excess. It has lost its moorings and its moral foundations. The takers outnumber the givers, and that will only increase in years to come. Across the world, America under Bush was feared but not respected. Under Obama, America is neither feared nor respected. Radical Islam has had a banner four years under Obama, and its prospects for future growth look excellent. The “Occupy” riots across this country in the last two years were mere dress rehearsals for what lies ahead – years of unrest sparked by the increasing discontent of the unsuccessful who want to seize the fruits and the bounty of the successful, and do not appreciate the slow pace of redistribution.

Two bright sides: Notwithstanding the election results, I arose this morning, went to shul, davened and learned Torah afterwards. That is our reality, and that trumps all other events. Our relationship with G-d matters more than our relationship with any politician, R or D. And, notwithstanding the problems in Israel, it is time for Jews to go home, to Israel. We have about a decade, perhaps 15 years, to leave with dignity and without stress. Thinking that it will always be because it always was has been a repetitive and deadly Jewish mistake. America was always the land from which “positive” aliya came – Jews leaving on their own, and not fleeing a dire situation. But that can also change. The increased aliya in the last few years is partly attributable to young people fleeing the high cost of Jewish living in America. Those costs will only increase in the coming years. We should draw the appropriate conclusions.

If this election proves one thing, it is that the Old America is gone. And, sad for the world, it is not coming back.


Dec 2012

The Story of the Unhappy Nail.

A cautionary tale penned by Anthony Wayne Kalberg (with apologies to the movie, “On The Waterfront.”)

Once upon a time, the way all good stories begin, there was a nail. He did what nails do best – hold things together. Now this particular nail was unhappy doing what nails do best. So he said to his fellow nails, “Hail! Nails! I’m tired of doing what we do. I want more. I wanna have class! I wanna be a contender! I wanna be somebody instead of just an old nail high up in the bell tower of this old cathedral!” His fellow nails begged him to reconsider. They attempted to make him realize how immensely influential he was to the architectural integrity of the cathedral, but alas to no avail. And then it began. The unhappy nail wiggled and squiggled out of the tight hole that for years had been his happy home. Finally he was free!

“Goodbye all you loser nails…I’m out of here! The world will soon by my oyster!” (Not that nails know a lot about oysters, he just thought it sounded sophisticated to use such phraseology.) With his fellow nails looking on and powerless to stop him, the nail suddenly found his little elongated self sliding down the side of the bell tower at warp speed. And with a resounding plop the little nail landed on the sidewalk below.

“Here I am world…and any oysters that might be in the vicinity! Come and get me! I’m all yours!” Alas, it was not meant to be. No one noticed the little nail. People walked all over him, kicked him around, and finally after much abuse he was ignominiously swept into the street, only to be washed down the drain that night during a violent rain storm, never to be heard from again. And thus ended the life of the unhappy nail. But the nail’s story does not end there.

During that same rainstorm, which swept the unhappy nail to his early demise, his fellow nails found it difficult to hold things together. Much to their horror they were unable to keep the shingles covering the bell tower in their proper place. The shingles started clattering down the side of the bell tower, landing plop, plop, plop on the sidewalk below. “Oh! Where is that silly unhappy nail when we need him!” they cried. “Without him, we are doomed!” And so was the stately cathedral.

The violent rainstorm pounded the bell tower. It started linking. A small leak became a gushing waterfall. It coated the bells in the tower, causing them to rust. It oozed into the plaster covering the cathedral’s ceiling, turning its magnificent frescos into mush. The relentless, dripping avalanche then bore down on the priceless stained glass, loosening the lead that helped hold the intricate pieces of glass in place. After the rain had ceased, the morning sunlight exposed a total ruin, the result of one nail’s unhappiness and discontent.

Are you like the nail? Unhappy where you are? Discontented with the deck of cards that Life’s dealt you? Have you ever stopped to think that the Good Master’s put you where you are because you are doing what you do best – hold things together? Ponder this: Without you, and the power you possess because of God’s influence in your life, what stately “cathedral” in your life might crumble into ruin if you were not there to help hold it up? So when you become discouraged thinking you are useless, please remember the story of the unhappy nail, who should have stayed where he was because he was doing what he did best – hold things together. And if he had, his story would have ended happily ever after…the way all good stories should end.

Take care and may God bless.

Sep 2012

Kinard Fite

Sep 2012

Kinard Fite – A Few Thoughts and Memories

I was saddened to hear of Kinard’s passing on September 7, 2012; for many months the man has been on my mind. Over the years I’d lost track of him, not knowing how to contact him. But after hearing that he did not wish for me to accompany him to the 20th Anniversary production of Sweeney ToddI thought it was best to let well enough alone.

I first met Kinard in 1986. He and I were in that year’s Sanger Theater Production of OliverHe played Mr. Sowerberry to my Artful Dodger – a stretch if ever there was one…I was 34 at the time. LOL. That production led to another – a musical version of The Christmas Carol which he directed, casting me as mean ol’ Mr. Scrooge. And thus began a most interesting relationship.

Kinard was always kind, casting me in many of his grand, over the top productions: Cabaret (another stretch since I don’t sing or dance to well. LOL) Show BoatSweeney ToddGuys and Dolls, to name a few. There were times when he exasperated me to no end with his meticulous attention to detail. But I always knew that in the end, whatever the problems during production, said production would be the finest amateur theatrics the Mississippi Gulf Coast had ever seen. I was proud – very proud – to say I was in a KNS Show!

During that time, Kinard allowed me to enter his inner circle; said circle small, exclusive, and not easily accessed. It was there that I discovered the inner man, the man who few knew, or were allowed to know. More times that I can count, we dined at the Bombay Bicycle Club, or strolled the Biloxi streets in the cool of a Fall evening. There were a slew of Saturday morning motor trips to New Orleans, which were always a delight! Whenever I’d pick him up, he always had a colorful bag filled with strange, but entertaining objects: note cards on which were written his thoughts, or a bit of poetry, or a line from some obscure play; some tasty morsel or a bit of fresh baked bread; a lady’s high-heal shoe filled with artificial flowers or peacock feathers; and there were always his notebooks for KNS’s next production. “AWK,” he would say, “What do you think of this? Would such-and-such be better or worse?” AWK! No one had ever called me by my initials. I thought that was cool. And for that matter, I thought the fat little bald man with piercing blue eyes and a glare that could cut diamonds was just that too – cool!

Upon our arrival in the city, he always took me to the most evocative places – the old “Lavender District” in the French Quarter was a personal favorite. He told me that back in the day the area was where the city’s gay population had lived and hung out. He showed me where Tennessee Williams once lived; told a delightful tale concerning an old light fixture that once hung near the front door of Mr. Williams’ house. It was Mexican in design, made of multi-colored stained glass. When it was on in the evenings, it meant Mr. Williams was at home and was receiving – as it were – guests. Kinard said he had been one of those guests. To a country boy at heart, coming from small town America, I was enthralled by it all. We always ate at a delightful hole in the wall, embedded deep within the French Quarter on a back street. The restaurant had a French name that I can’t pronounce, much less spell. LOL .

But it was during our return trips at night that he often turned melancholy. He spoke of old lovers, life in the 50s and early 60s, and at times, his ex-wife, his child, and his family – a source of pride and remorse. Our little outings always ended with: “AWK, I’ll call you…” Which he did when he got home , and would continued to do almost every day for weeks thereafter. I always came away from those times with Kinard thinking I’d just experienced something out of the ordinary, strangely fascinating, but always uplifting, my knowledge broadened, my horizons expanded.

And then there was the first time he allowed me entrance into his house; not something that all were allowed to do. We always entered via the back door, where a note pad and pencil were attached to the door molding. With a creak, the back door slowing opened. I was agog! I thought I’d entered the home of the Mad Hatter, with accouterments purloined from The Old Curiosity Shop. I almost expected to see a male version of Miss Havisham waltzing toward us, reeking of stale rose water and brittle lace. But no such apparition appeared, only dear ol’ Kinard shuffling around in a tattered silk kimono, into which he had changed upon our arrival. The walls of his kitchen were covered in a menagerie of fascinating objects: a spindle from the grand staircase of the old St. Louis Hotel in New Orleans; a large poster of James Dean, augmented with a string of white Christmas lights; and a myriad of notes that people had left on his back door, along with old newspaper clippings and greeting cards. The sink was filled with dirty dishes, the stove top covered with cans of scented candle wax and the occasional ancient cooking pot. Then there was the bedroom: bed high up off the floor, stacked up on concrete blocks, a large rectangular mirror as a headboard; a rickety bookcase, filled to overflowing; a radio tuned to PRM, classical music filling the air. There were other rooms as well: a study, dining room, living room, and front bed room; all the rooms crammed-packed with old costumes, books, furniture, and my favorite – “sculptures” made of Waffle House to-go boxes. Those were just tooooo funny, and sooooo Kinard!

But the man did have his demons.

And many times those demons took us to sad, dark places from which I feared we’d never return. Those demons oft times materialized in the form of anger, or bitterness, or just a sticky malaise that was hard to breech, much less understand. I finally realized that Kinard’s demons were part of his genius – you could not have one without the other. And if you could not accept the demons, your time with him was short. I lasted longer than most, but alas, the demons won. They finally encrusted his mind, causing him to lash out at others with vicious cruelty and acidic criticisms. I saw dear old friends attempt help, only to be rebuffed. He was like a werewolf, killing the very people he loved the most and that loved him. I wanted to help, but did not know how. I wanted to reach into that brilliant, hard head of his and decapitate each of his demons, freeing him from their grip. But that was never meant to be. And thus we parted.

I last saw Kinard in the tumultuous months following the great storm of ‘05, when my dear Mississippi Gulf Coast was irrevocably change forever. He was in Dr. William Sams’ office in Gulfport. I’d taken Mother for her check-up, and when we were walking down the hall, I saw that dear ol’ bald head. When he saw me, I guess he thought I’d not seen him first – he acted as if he were asleep. I thought, “Oh! No you don’t…you dear ol’ codger you!” I bounced up, shook him awake, and planted a big ol’ smacker-roo right on top of his old bald head. “AWK, fancy meeting you here,” he said in that droll voice of his, glasses precariously perched on his nose. After a few pleasantries, we told each other goodbye, and as I looked back at the old man sitting in the chair, a tear filled my eye. I thought of all that could have been, should have been; all that I could have learned, and all that I could have created under his tutelage. But his demons – and mine – did not allow for that, and for that I am truly sorry. I can only hope that in his last days, Kinard made his peace with his Maker. And perhaps if he did, he’s experiencing an eternity, not one filled with demons, but one filled the joy, happiness, and love that he longed for on this side of Jordan, never quite found, but never gave up the hope of finding those human emotions that we hold so dear. Goodbye to you – my dear, long lost friend.

Sep 2012

Titanic Boat Songs. Great Collage

Aug 2012

The Art to Growing Old Graciously

Fifty years ago, when I was 10, I remember my sweet Granny from D’Lo telling me there was an art to growing old graciously. At the ripe ol’ age of 10, I smiled, not really knowing what that meant. Now I do. I was never good in art classes, but this is one “art” project that I intend to master. With age comes a wisdom that transcends book “learnin’.” You learn to say a polite “No” when needed; you learn to do the things you can do, and not to fret over those that you can’t; and of greatest importance, you learn who “sticketh closer than a brother,” so says the Good Book. At 60, you tend to look back over your life (if you’re brave) and realized that most of your dreams were just that: dreams. You intended to put “feet” to those dreams, but somewhere along Life’s hilly, bumpy trail, those “feet” lost their way. And when dreams get lost, they are sometimes replaced by a bevy of mistakes. And Oh! My Grasuhus! Have I had my share of mistakes along Life’s trail. Thankfully, I learned from my mistakes (for the most part) and I’m happy in the knowledge that God ain’t though with me yet! But although my dreams might not have come true, I do count myself as one blessed individual. Blessed with parents who loved me, warts and all. Blessed with dear friends, who indeed “sticketh closer than a brother.” Blessed with a strong belief in God and his only son, Jesus. And blessed with the knowledge that someday ( soon or not so soon) I’ll be granted access to a place that I don’t deserve, by someone who gave His life for me, a poor wandering wayfarer trying to get Home. Home – where there’s peace, love, and joy, no tears, no pain. It is then I will know that I truly did master the art of growing old graciously; awaiting a new, spotless canvas on which to splash the brilliant, sparkling colors of Eternity.

Jul 2012

Attention First Baptist Church Crystal Springs, Mississippi

In church this morning at FBC Gulfport, I was shocked (but not surprised) to hear of your decision to deny a black couple’s marriage in your sanctuary. Was it due to their color? Is it somehow related to church politics? Or a power struggle to rid the church of some member or staff member? Whatever the real reason, the reason was ill-timed. …

Ill-timed because those responsible threw dear ol’ Mississippi right back into the hands of the media; back into the shark-infested waters of the those that smell blood and viciously attack. Your decision only intensifies the country’s negative image of a state that for all of my 60 years I’ve called home; a state that is light years away from it’s racist past – your decision only strengthening the tether to it.

Question? Now that the Southern Baptist Convention has voted as its worldwide leader, a charismatic, highly articulate African American, how does that sit with you? Will you leave the convention? If you can’t let a Black couple’s marriage take place in your sanctuary, how can you be led by a Black man?

We live in trying times, times we’ve not seen since the 1930s – world-wide financial collapse, wars and rumors of wars, and seemingly inept, world-wide leadership. Do we as Christians really have time to worry about skin color? Or church politics? Shouldn’t we be honoring one of the Good Master’s last commands? “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” Does Christ’s command stop at the front door of some Baptist Churches in Mississippi because of skin color or life-style choices? To some at FBC Crystal Springs – some…NOT all – it appears so. Forgive them Lord. And forgive me, a sinner at best, struggling to get Home to thee.

Jul 2012

Anthony Steps Out to the Titanic Anniversary Dinner

To read the article in its entirety, click here.


Apr 2012

What good deed will you do this day?

Mornin’ Folks! When I was a little boy, I spent summers with my sweet Granny from D’Lo, Mississippi. Each morning started with the smell of bacon and eggs frying in an old black skillet, the smell of coffee filling the air. We’d sit at her little breakfast table, say our blessing, and dive into the delicious breakfast she had cooked for us. And then she would ask, as she did every morning, “Anthony, what good deed will you do for someone this day?” Her question is mine for you this morning – “What good deed will you do this day?” A kind word? A friend comforted? A loved one called? A shut-in helped? Just a thought on this lovely cool Spring mornin’. Later ‘Gaters

Apr 2012

Here’s the question: Are you a bully? Or were you the victim of one? I was the latter.

Morning Folks! Here’s the question: Are you a bully? Or were you the victim of one? I was the latter.

Reading about the poor teenager whose life has been irrevocably changed due to a spinal injury, the result of a bully’s fist punch to the boy’s abdomen, I was reminded of my days in High School. Thankfully, my injures were not physical, only mental.  In my High School annual there’s a snap of a group of girls, all aglow with Pepsodent smiles, standing in front of a water fountain. That water fountain was at the base of a Y-shaped staircase. For me, said staircase was not “the stair way to Heaven.” I had to climb that staircase everyday, passing the giggling girls. And when I started my climb, they started their jeers: “Whoooo! Look who’s here….sissy boy. Hey sissy boy, where’d you get that trench coat? Did you mama buy you that briefcase?” Their taunts brought the jeers of others, and if I could, I would have crawled between the paint on the walls and the concrete blocks to which the paint was attached. This assault was daily, and daily I climbed the stairs looking desperately for an escape. I never found one. If the girls were vicious, the boys were just down-right mean! One in particular seemed to take sadistic pleasure in making my life a living hell at school. I can see him now, tall with mop of coal-black hair, sauntering down the long school hallway; he was the cock of the walk, as it were. He was the campus football hero, the idol of his coach’s eye, and eyed by all the giggling girls at school. He was in a word – perfect. Perfect that is until I came into his sights. And Oh! My grashus, the nasty, lewd things that “perfect” boy would say to me. Some of the things he said, I didn’t even know what they meant. And looking back now, I wonder if he bullied me because I was small of stature and perhaps he was bullied at home; his father and brothers were all “real men.” And did I mention that he was also a member in good standing of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes?
But all good things come to those who wait.

Years later in the mid-90s, after a smashing run of The Christmas Carol at Center Stage, I was standing in the lobby receiving kind words about my performance as Scrooge. And lo and behold who should appear in the receiving line but Miss Pepsodent Smile of water fountain fame! She had brought her grandson to see the show. And when she came up to me, it was like old home week. She hugged me, and told her grandson that we’d been in school together. He was a cute kid, about 12 years old, and full of questions about my makeup and costume, etc. I smiled, answered all his questions, the entire time thinking, “Little one, I hope you never have to experience the living hell I did, all of it brought on by someone like your dear ol’ grandmother.”  I also saw Mr. Perfect some time back, gorging himself on raw oysters at Gulfport’s Half Shell Oyster House. I was dining on the upstairs balcony and had a bird’s eye view of him. I could not help but laugh. Gone was the mop of coal-black hair, replaced by a lovely bald scalp of blotchy pink skin. Gone too the muscular physique, replaced with one that somewhat resembled a large wooden barrel. He was escorting some bleached-blonde bimbo, perhaps all he could reel in his “declining” years. As I was leaving, our eyes met. For a second, he acted as if he didn’t remember me, but then he smiled a toothy grin and said, “Well, look who it is…the little pansy boy.” Little did he know that the “little pansy boy” had grown up over the years, and no longer feared Mr. Perfect. With a sweet smile, I looked at Mr. Perfect and said, “You know, in an ever changing world there’s one that never changes…once a jerk…you’re a jerk to the day you die.” The bimbo giggled. I left Mr. Perfect was a spot of gumbo on his tie and a look of bewilderment on his face.

Now…said all that to say this, were you a bully? If so…shame, shame shame on you. And if you were, have your reared you sons and daughters to be the same, or perhaps your grandchildren? If so…shame, shame, shame on you! I look back on those hellish days at school and can say without reservation that I would have not survived if it had not been for my loving parents – Mom the school teacher, Dad the Marine – and dear ol’ FBC Gulfport. Those two places – home and church – were my anchors in the vicious, turbulent waters of my youth. Had it not been for those anchors, which tethered me to places where I found true love and acceptance, I shutter to think where I might have ended up, or what I might have become. Bulling has erupted on our school campuses; its bitter pus oozing into festering sores. It has brought untold misery to millions of young people, and death to some. And now a teenage in Ramsey, New Jersey, will live the rest of his life in a wheelchair due to a bully. But how can we fault the bullies, when many times their parents taught them how? How? By never telling the little bastards: “No, you can’t do that,” or “Honey, it’s alright. Mommy and Daddy will smooth everything over…don’t you worry Honey…” But then there are times when parents do everything they can, bringing up their child as best they know how. And now the child has morphed into some type of Frankenstein monster, trying to kill the very person who created it.

So what to do? How to stop the bulling? I have no idea. But I do know if children who are bullied do not stand up, backed up by their parents, nothing will change. If you even suspect your child or someone else’s child is the victim of a bully, talk to that child. Talk to his/her parents, grandparents, school officials. I never told my parents or anyone else in authority about my days at the hands of bullies. Perhaps if I had, something would have been done about it. Silence may be golden in a library, but when it comes to bullies, silence is a road map to an irrevocable destination: disaster.

Feb 2012

To my angered Legislators:

“Many lawmakers – mostly Republicans – were fuming mad Tuesday over an online campaign that had teachers and other public employees and retirees ringing their phones and filling their email in boxes with complaints over a vote they took last week.” – this was the opening paragraph of today’s local fish wrapper.

Fuming mad? It’s your CONSTITUENTS who should be fuming mad. And even if your constituents – the ones who VOTED you into office – tied up your precious phone lines and emails with complaints and comments – and YOU had to “spend hours” reassuring them YOU are not out to cut retiree benefits – isn’t that part of your job description? Silly me…I thought it was. And unless I’ve been misinformed over the past 60 years, this is still America, and we – it’s citizens – can still voice our complaints on the soapbox of our choice. Fuming mad…indeed!

Here’s a few thoughts and comments concerning those august Legislators who were quoted in today’s article:

  1. Rep. Richard Bennett – You stated: “This is a partisan group putting out misinformation…” What partisan group? What misinformation? Care to elaborate on both? Inquiring minds (mine in particular) want to know. You also stated the Legislature is not “going to do anything with PERS this year…” THIS year? What the other three remaining in your tenure of office?
  2. Rep. David Baria – Thank you. But you do understand why State Employees and Retirees – past and future – look at the Sunshine Act with a jaundiced eye, as the old-timers say? Was it not revealed that Mr. Barbour’s PERS overhaul committee stated their lawyers had found a way around the PERS Retirement System? And as today’s fish wrapper stated: “if the agency (PERS) wanted to cut benefits, the agency would simply go hire a lawyer that agreed with them.” If this is not correct, PLEASE address this falsehood.
  3. Rep. Timmy Ladner – I’m sorry you received 60 to 80 emails…nasty form emails at that. You should let your constituency know, from now on, slews of form emails simply won’t be tolerated.
  4. Rep. Jeffrey Guice – “he (you) doesn’t believe lawmakers – at lease those from South Mississippi – are going to take any stance to take away any earned benefits…” Let me thank you for that – but – what about the other gaggle of Legislators from the other counties? Will you lead the charge against them should they “turn” against State Employees, voting to cut benefits? I’ll be your drummer boy if you do.
  5. Rep. Scott DeLano – “Who is this? Who do you respond to?….” Well, dear sir, why not join Honor Your Promise on Facebook. And if you do, you can respond and “deal with this type of new media…” I look forward to your future comments on that group’s site.
  6. Rep. Bobby Moak – I guess the old adage is true: “What goes ’round, comes ’round.” It’s the Republicans who are currently “weeping and wailing and gnashing” their teeth; it will be you Democrats when your back in power. Some things just never change. Your stated “Baria’s amendment, thought not a direct vote on PERS benefits, would have provided some protection to major changes in the direction for the agency.” Major changes? In the direction of the agency?

And therein Bill Shakespeare lies the rub. WHAT major changes? And you, and the other boys and girls in the Legislature, wonder why State Employees and Retirees are just a wee bit queasy when it comes to our retirement pay and 13th check? So – said all that to say this – if you folks have issues with Honor Your Promise and the “false and misleading information” spewed out by this group, put it in writing. Have a town hall meeting. Say it on the telly or the wireless. But by all means SAY IT. And if you do, perhaps your won’t be bothered by those nasty emails and bothersome phone calls. You have a bully pulpit! We – State Employees and Retirees – have no voice! None… other than the likes of Honor Your Promise.

Thanking you in advance for you consideration in this matter, Anthony Kalberg (A tax payer who votes.)

Jul 2009

Gulfport Little Theater Article

I did audition and got a part – a eunuch in Gulfport Little Theater’s 1975 production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. A eunuch? Don’t go there! But that first audition, that first part, and that first production was “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” with the local theater community – and of course Gulfport Little Theater.

Download JPG – Summer09

Feb 2007

A Letter to the Editor

Before we pay a visit to our individual sheds, barns, or outhouses, in a combined effort to sharpen our plowshares, bring the tar to a bubbling boil, and snatch up all the pluck-able, non-laying hens we can find, I would request restraint from my Fellow Armpits… restraint and also patience.

Download JPG – SunHeraldLetter

Aug 1998

The Romance of Ocean Liners

The same thing this nation is going through now with this Titanic craze, the nation was going through 86 years ago.

Download JPG – articletitanic