Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mes Amis

This is part of a Rant du Jour written in 2006.

I’m totally absorbed in reading a series of books by Jeff Shaara about the Mexican and Civil War. Gone For Soldiers, is about the Mexican war and chronicles, almost in novel form, the roles of Captain Robert E. Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, Jackson, General Winfield Scott, and the importance to the US of that war, which established boundaries of the US in the years just before the Civil War. Then there is a follow up book, Gods and Generals about, the early years of the war, followed by Killer Angels, about Gettysburg, written by Michael Shaara, Jeff’s father. Quite wonderful reading.

The Civil War so far overshadowed the Mexican conflict that it seems to have faded in history as not important, but it was very important, and shows how stupid our Presidents can be. Seems that Santa Anna was imprisoned after he decimated us at the Alamo, and then President Polk sent him back to Mexico with the promise that he would rally the Government and effect a peace agreement between the US and Mexico. Instead, he rallied an army to fight the US, and we had to go in and lost many men in a bloody fight. It seems all the Generals were prima donnas, except for Scott, known as old “fuss and feathers,” who didn’t care for politics or politicians, and they all were vying for fame that would catapult them into the presidency, and Polk wanted to do anything to embarrass them to keep them from getting any recognition. I am almost done with this first book, having already read Gods and Generals, and can’t put it down.

Speaking of Generals, I recently found this website,, which sends you DVD’s for the cost of shipping. They have just about everything you want, and I ordered quite a few, one of which was about George Washington’s life, because I knew so little about him. Seems as if he was a very stiff and upwardly mobile character---much like the aloof appearing, snobbish portraits of him. He was born in the Virginia patrician culture but was not rich, and wanted to be. He was a soldier for a time, making numerous errors, and was not promoted as he felt he should have been, so he resigned and returned to his family properties as a farmer. He married a rich widow, and worked her thousands of acres and slaves as a country nobleman. Then he risked it all when he accepted the post as General in the Revolution. If we had lost he would have lost all of his lands and probably been executed, and many heroes of the revolution returned to civilian life broke and died in poverty. It was a big chance, and only because of his cold steadfastness as a commander did he keep the starving and pitiful Continental Army under control. The Cont. Congress wouldn’t appropriate money for clothes and shoes and food, and he had to live off the land but he refused to pillage his own people. So therein lies much of the nobility and heroism he demonstrated and his men followed him. Most were volunteers and there were many desertions. It was a ragged bunch but he made it happen, and at the end he could have made himself king, but he preferred to return to farming after his presidency.

George Washington was born in Virginia (1732). He started out his career as a successful land surveyor and farmer, and he spent much of the rest of his life trying to get back to that. He was reluctant to advocate for armed rebellion against the British, but he eventually saw that it was inevitable. He served as commander in chief of the revolutionary armies, and after the new U.S. Constitution was ratified he was the clear choice for newly created office of the president. No other candidates were even considered. Washington was elected unanimously. He was the first elected president in world history.
Washington was in an awkward position as the first president because he knew that he was helping to invent the presidency by everything he did in the office. He wrote, "I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent."
When a Senate committee came up with an official title for him, "His Highness the President of the United States and Protector of the Rights of the Same," George Washington insisted on being called "Mr. President" instead.
Washington did believe in a certain amount of formality. He always wore a sword in public, and he never spoke casually to anyone at public events, including close friends. He didn't even shake hands; he just gave a formal bow. And he rode around New York City in a luxurious cream and gold carriage with silver-plated decorations and Washington's coat of arms on the doors, pulled by a matched set of six white horses with leopard-skin saddle blankets. When people criticized him for having such a fancy vehicle, Washington replied that it had been a gift to his wife.

So, he deserved the kingly appointments for having saved the nation. In politics, it’s a virtue to not be outspoken, to be able to hold in your thoughts and not reveal them for you will inevitably bump someone who holds a different view and therein lies trouble. I have only, and actually quite late, learned this and I still am not smart in this as I am unfortunately like an open book. For that reason, I realized politics is not my thing very soon in 1971 when I ran for City Council in Baton Rouge. I nearly won. Scared me. I just wanted to make a good showing so I could run for legislature later, then finally go to Congress. That was my ultimate goal, but seeing that a politician soon has to be able to talk out of both sides of his mouth, and still keep from offending, he will soon forget which is right from wrong---using situational ethics and nowadays sooner or later be accused of something he didn’t do, or busted for some infraction he did do accidentally, and always in the big fishbowl. Ugh! Either one must be superficial and shallow or be very well founded and at peace with himself so that he can float on the tide and still keep his own self respect. I was neither.
Responsibility: The following poem by John Donne ends with the little line—“never send to know for whom the bell toll; it tolls for thee. So what does that mean? Every act or inaction impacts someone or something else, in greater or lesser measure, which then ripples through the universe. Like a pebble dropped in a pool, the ripples flow out in all directions, touching places you never suspected. So everything you do has an effect on something else, and you are responsible for everything that may happen far away, even though you may never know it. I have had people come to me and repeat something I said to them a half century ago, and I couldn’t remember having said it, but they did, and it had an impact. I have said some very dumb things, and done some dumb things, and it always comes back in some way. So when I was disbarred, regardless of how much I can point fingers at those who did it, and regardless of whether nobody was hurt, complained, or even affected that I knew of, I caused it. It wouldn’t have happened had I not caused it in some way. I cannot send to find for whom the bells toll, for they toll for me.

No man is an island by John Donne

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne

My friend and poet Dean Blehert,, is an amazing poet.
I have a huge collection of his little musings, most of which are just two or three liners. I randomly clicked among those I have saved and out popped Feline Haiku, “The food in my bowl is old.”

The food in my bowl Is old, and more to the point Contains no tuna.
So you want to play. Will I claw at dancing string? Your ankle's closer.
There's no dignity In being sick - which is why I don't tell you where.
Seeking solitude I am locked in the closet. For once I need you.
Tiny can, dumped in Plastic bowl.
Presentation, One star; service: none. Am I in your way?You seem to have it backwards: This pillow's taken. Your mouth is moving; Up and down, emitting noise.
I've lost interest. The dog wags his tail, Seeking approval. See mine?Different message.
My brain: walnut-sized.Yours: largest among primates.Yet, who leaves for work?
Most problems can beIgnored. The more difficultOnes can be slept through.
My affection isconditional. Don't stand up, It's your lap I love.
Cats can't steal the breath Of children. But if my tail's Pulled again, I'll learn.
I don't mind being Teased, any more than you mind A skin graft or two.
So you call this thing Your "cat carrier." I call These my "blades of death."
Toy mice, dancing yarn Meowing sounds. I'm convinced: You're an idiot. Anonymous

Somehow, after reading of tuna, I thought of a poem of my own, published in, among other poems I wrote in the cuisine poetry section.


Sushi made of little fishes
eat’em raw on little dishes
how they make that funny rice
stuck together neat and nice
wrap around that eel so tasty
eat it all so none is wasty
Ooh Ooh wowie, that stuff ishot.
what you call it, wasabi what?
When it hit you, it start biting
Make you feel like Kung Fu Fighting!
Little leaves of pinky ginger
send me off on fishy bender
wash it down with vase of saki
hits me like a puck of hockey
Can’t believe how much I ate
started early ended late
Oh my god look at that bill
was it worth it for the thrill?
Full of fishes fried they not
rice and ginger wasabi hot
Help me get up from this chair
Carry me out to cool night air
I’ll be back tomorrow night
I don’t care if wrong or right
Little fishes every day
Make me troubles go away


While I am on the cuisine poetry, here’s another that was
Published in Spillway Review:

A Canticle to peanut butter

Yo! Thou creamy
Yo! Thou Crunchy
Lord of snackies
Lion of lunchies

Steadfast friend
when fridge is bare
Ever ready
Every there

Gob a glob on
sliced delicious
nibble public
or surreptitious

Soar on wings
of jelly highs
A malgam pure
of honeyed sighs

Nanners, Crackers
white or wheat
smear some on
this gummy treat

By star by sun
by hunters moon
viands por dios
lick the spoon

Before I die
I’ll say a prayer
that peanut butter
is Heaven’s fare
So this comes to you from the land of sunshine, on the west coast of Florida, where we have a bluebird day at sixty five degrees and dancing palms trees. I received an email today from a pretty lady I met on the Freewinds at the art convention a month ago from Moscow, Russia. They are under the snow. Elena, I am sorry, but our snow comes every fifty years here, if then, and only in little flakes that dissolve on our warm windshields.

Education doesn't fill an empty bucket, it starts a fire. W.B. Yeats.

L D Sledge
February 22, 2009

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