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Letters from the 2nd Civil War – #1

July 6, 2018
Dear Mother and Father,
It doesn’t seem possible that it has been two whole days since I joined the Massachusetts Blues. I am struggling to survive the privation being endured by the hundreds of recruits gathered on Boston Common. There is no WIFI to speak of, so many of us are scrambling to find pen and paper in order to write, only to find out that no one brought any stamps; indeed some of the younger members have no recollection of ever mailing a letter. We are also facing a crisis situation regarding our supply of coffee. It seems the Trumpite Regime has placed a heavy tariff on coffee imported from what they term as ‘sh*thole’ countries, so Starbucks is reduced to rationing our lattes and Frappuccinos. There is a rumor floating around camp that a FEDEX plane crammed full of coffee beans from Guatemala has landed at Logan Airport. If that is true, then I expect we will receive orders to load up our fleet of Prius’, drive to Logan, and commandeer that plane. I only hope that it isn’t during rush hour on I-93.
Well, I must sign off for now. Some of the fellows discovered where the Sam Adams brewery is located, and we’re off to enjoy some patriotic ale.
Your war ravaged son,



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Moronfest 2018 – Veni,Vidi, Moroni – We came, We saw, We were morons




I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about attending this year’s Moron reunion. All of us still maintain a close kinship for each other based on our shared history; a boatload of fond memories, a certainty that we each affected the others in ways that formed who we are today, but there is also a divergent set of opinions on politics, sometimes acrimonious in tone, that could, if left unchecked, shorten the reunion in a hurry. Fortunately we have a long standing rule about the topics that enflame – it’s a simple rule, to wit; Not allowed.

This year marks our 8th get together, but the first one for me in three years; financial woes kept me from attending the last two and was rearing its ugly head again this year, adding to the apprehension and doubt of my attendance. However, faced with the hard realization that we may not have that many more chances to swill cheap beer and shoot pool together etc;  mortality paying us a visit as we lost one of the original morons this past Spring. With that fact of life firmly in mind I made the 840 mile trek to once again conjure up memories and to create some more.



20180622_093815 (1).jpg The official opening of Moronfest 2018 was scheduled for Friday morning, 9:00 sharp at the venerable home of the Gourmet Omelette, Dan’s Diner – corner of 10 Mile and Hoover. My itinerary had me staying with Ralph and Denise the first two nights of my visit, arriving around 5:00 p.m. Wednesday after 17 hours on the road. One of the unplanned results of this reunion was that I got to spend one on one time with almost all the morons; catching up on life in general or as seemed to be the case with many of us, how many more grandchildren we now have, and none was better than the reacquainting of two kindred spirits-twin sons of different mothers, if you will. Ralph and I have been friends since circa 1957. Urban legend (that I am just now making up) has it that we met on a fine spring day in the alley between Lenox and Dickerson and at once recognized our potential friendship, and at the same time recognized that the alley was a concrete baseball field. We drifted apart in the 60’s and lost contact for nearly 50 years, reconnecting through the aether via social media and finally reconnected in person at Moronfest 2015. We emerged from that 50 year hiatus two people vastly different from our youth, yet strangely alike in our current mindsets. It was simply a wonderful visit, albeit bittersweet in retrospect as you ponder the lost 50 years.


It was with some hesitation that I pulled up stakes at Ralph’s and stayed at Tracy’s the rest of the weekend, but how often do you get to hang in his garage with a cooler and a mini-fridge full of cold beer, while remembering old deeds; told with gusto, laughter, braggadocio, and perhaps with just a slight hyperbolic slant (and nary a word or any snide/witty remarks about ‘the forbidden’ – more on this later)? The highlight of the ‘night in a garage with a bunch of morons’ was the memorial tribute to our departed moron brother, Wing Tom. The ceremony, hosted in true moron fashion by Chuck, included the passing around of the newly acquired, official Eastside Moron Hall of Fame beer stein, purchased in true moron fashion by Chuck. 35920418_10216775084353312_2472593452328550400_o  We each took a sip in memory of Wing, many of us relating sentiments or memories of our times with Wing. It was a poignant event, the laughter filling the cluttered, makeshift lounge with images of Wing’s smiling face, the sadness of his passing, never completely gone, but for a few minutes forgotten.


The main physical activity at Moronfest 2018, befitting the fact that we would most likely die dribbling a basketball or running a pass pattern, was two rounds of par 3 golf. Friday’s exhibition was a caravan of 5 golf carts bearing a motley assortment of 10 aging golfers and a seemingly unlimited supply of interesting golf shots.   The winning team on Friday was anchored by $6 Jim who carried his team to victory, a heavy task indeed given he had this guy with this golf swing as a team mate.  20180622_105620 (1).jpg Anyway, it was the most fun I’ve ever encountered in a ten-some.

We were down to a seven-some for round number two, a hurriedly decided affair after loading up with carbs and sausage gravy at Dan’s Diner Saturday morning, hoping to beat the anticipated showery activity predicted for our area. The team of $6, Turtle, and Chuck refused to split up, their greed for dynasty status overriding moron camaraderie. So, it was the three morons versus the four morons (Mark, Rick, Ralph, Me), hence the title of this section. 35932378_10216775080513216_3169687410636226560_o And as the title implies, the three morons are now a golf dynasty.



Prior to breakfast on Saturday, Turtle was complaining about his back, but insisted it would loosen up. His first tee shot in round 2 did the opposite of loosening, the club hitting more of the ground than the actual golf ball causing painful spasms instead, rendering him mostly hors de combat. However, he gamely pressed on, leading his team to victory (well, $6 Jim led the team to victory but I will not speak ill of the tragically injured.) How does this relate to the poker game the more astute might ask? Well, my peeps and fellow travelers, it goes like this. Upon arrival at Rick’s poker palace, and driveway basketball court, Tracy took a couple of Tylenol and laid flat on the floor. That seemed to help as he was soon able to get up and walk without using two golf clubs as props. The morons made their way to the backyard patio for some pre-poker game preparation. (Law abiding peeps should skip the next few sentences.) Someone in the morons produced a small shotgun holed pipe filled with a substance, that while legal (finally) in some states, is still verboten in MI. Back in the old days, many of the morons broke this law on a daily basis, but for many of the morons going one toke over the line hadn’t been done in years. Abstinence over decades plus more potent hybrid blends than we had back in the old days made for some great comedy.  And oh, by the way, Tracy was no longer in any pain and was practically dancing a jig. 🙂

Back inside the house, seated around the table, poker chips being counted out for dispersal, deck of cards being shuffled – what’s the first thing we do before actual card playing? Order pizza because now we are hungry for some reason. Now, I don’t know why Turtle decided that he should be the one to call the pizza place and put in our order, but that is how it played out. After placing the order, a miracle in and of itself, Turtle came back to the table laughing like crazy. We asked him what was so funny, and he began to tell us, but could not because of another bout of uncontrollable laughter. He tried three times and failed three times. Turns out that he could not remember what three toppings to order on one of the pizzas, even with Rick telling him multiple times.

Over the years we have learned to rely on $6 Jim to provide interesting poker games. One of them, Anaconda, brought out one the funniest poker moments I can remember. To backtrack a little, we play games that sometimes have the low spade ‘in the hole’ wild, or sometimes the low card ‘in the hole’ is wild for your hand. In this particular hand of Anaconda, and this is crucial to the story, we were playing Hi-Lo, meaning the high hand and low hand would split the pot. We reached the part of the game where you reveal your cards one at a time…there were three of us left in the pot, Chuck, $6 Jim and me. I had a full house queens over nines…it was obvious that $6 Jim had the low hand so all I had to worry about was Chuck. After three of his cards had been revealed, I knew I had him beat but he kept betting and raising. When the last bet had been called, $6 Jim won half the pot with the low hand, my full house won the other half, but not before Chuck thought he had won with a Royal Flush. Chuck’s hand consisted of Ace, King, Queen of clubs and a pair of nines. The poor moron thought we were playing low card ‘in the hole’ was wild thereby giving him the hand to beat all hands. Oh well, sometimes it doesn’t pay for a moron to think too much.  🙂



It was 5:30 a.m. Sunday. I was planning on leaving at 6:00 to drive to Ann Arbor for breakfast with college friends Rochelle and Steve Igrisan…however, the aging body rebelled and I could not get out of bed except to stagger to the bathroom, the bladder doesn’t care if you don’t feel like getting up. This lack of sufficient recovery meant I would eat one more time at Dan’s Diner and then head home from there – miles upon miles traversing I-90 from Toledo to Boston. It also meant that I had one more opportunity to sit with Chuck for a brief acknowledgement that the reunion was everything we could have hoped for. We did confess to each other that there were a couple times where a witty comment came to mind that could have broken the truce as it were. We both agreed that we did good not to utter them. So, hats off and high fives to a most endearing group of morons for surviving yet another test of our endurance, and proving again that once  a moron, always a moron.


One anticipated meeting, with Debby Prince-Vassallo, did not happen as due to her busy schedule she proved to be as elusive as she was when I, as a teenager, was making feeble and futile attempts to woo her. It’s an utterly devastating fact that she will have to wait even longer for me to sign her copy of my book, Clash of Empires (available at Amazon)   🙂



An important item on my schedule happened prior to the Moronfest, dinner on Thursday with Ralph and with great anticipation, my editor and old friend Marguerite Walker II.  We last saw each other sometime during our years at Jackson Jr. High, but it was our time together in 6th grade under the firm gaze of one, Mrs. Edgerton, that provokes the most memories. Now, it is fair to say that young Marguerite was the smartest kid in the class (oh heck, in the whole school), but had a foible in her makeup, one that I also have. Quick wittedness is a double edged sword, the laughs garnered from classmates at some vocalized retort, is quickly offset by the arrival of Mrs. Edgerton’s penchant for discipline. I think that, at least partly, my memories of Mrs E. are a bit kinder because I was rarely at the wrong end of her ire, while MW received more than her share of it.

Anyway our time together at dinner flew by quicker than the actual four hours we spent talking. I knew MW 50 years ago, after the four hours I was wishing we had kept in touch. However, it is now, and we have forged a partnership in my quest to write novels that will be turned into screenplays by Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg, so I guess we’ll have to be satisfied with that. 🙂


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Heavenly Libations – an excerpt



The Everglades style air boat that Two Birds had ordered through Amazon, paying extra for expedited shipment, arrived the following morning. They maneuvered the boat into the murky waters of the swamp. NASCAR Bob pushed his way to the driver’s station and announced, “I’m driving,” and then in his best Ricky Bobby’s voice, “Gotta go fast.”

“I love that movie,” said Joey excitedly, “ooh, ooh, can I be your sidekick? I’ll be Bake and you can be Shake.”

“I hate to interject some salient information here,” said Two Birds sounding much more intelligent than usual, “but, we need to get to that hangar in a stealthy manner. Now, through my very expensive binoculars I found a good place for us to beach the air boat.”

“Wrong,” interrupted NASCAR Bob, “it is not ‘the air boat’, its name is The SS Shake&Bake.”

“And, I’m navigating,” Joey added, “That’s the sidekick’s job.”

“How can you be the navigator?” replied Two Birds, “I’m the one who lives here and has spent countless hours looking at this swamp. You don’t know where to go, I do.”

Joey started shaking his head, “No, no, no, I’ll be the one telling Commodore Bob where to go.  I am Bake, he is Shake. You’re just a passenger on the SS Shake&Bake.”

Two Birds, his patience having been tested to the limit, threw his hands in the air in defeat and said, “Okay, I’ll tell you and you tell the Commodore.  Is that good enough?”

With that settled, Commodore Bob started up the Chevrolet 350 engine, “Whoowee, will you listen to that baby purr?” as he revved it up even louder.

“What?” screamed both Two Birds and Joey as they were climbing into the passenger seats in the bow of the Shake&Bake.

“Tell the Commodore to go past that line of large cypress trees to starboard,” Two Birds yelled to Joey.

Joey strained to hear Two Birds and turned to the Commodore and shouted, “Two Birds said to go fast.”

The swamp came alive, the sound of the SS Shake&Bake’s roaring engine sending flocks of waterfowl racing for the heavens. Two Birds turned in his seat and started to yell for Commodore Bob to “Slow down”, but as the boat plowed forward those in the bow seats were drenched by a sudden wave splashing the occupants. Commodore Bob was laughing, the exhilaration of going fast taking hold. It was when he noticed that they were headed into a copse of large cypress trees that he realized he didn’t know where they were going. “Hey Bake,” he yelled down to Joey as he slowed the boat to a stop, “Which way do we go?”

“Tell the Commodore to follow the tree line for eight-tenths of a mile,” said Two Birds to Joey, “we’ll see a landing area just a few hundred yards to starboard once we get past the trees. There’s a pipeline that empties into the swamp. I don’t know what is coming out of it, but the usually lush, green vegetation in that spot is a not so lush grayish-brown.”

Commodore Bob glanced to his left as they came to the end of the cypress trees, and with a gleam in his eyes, and without warning, turned the boat hard to port, sending Joey crashing into Two Birds knocking him over the port side rail, his head now in the murky water. Joey reacted quickly and pulled Two Birds back on board.  Two Birds looked up at the joy filled Commodore and started to scream but instead of “Commodore you idiot”, a gargled, sputtering sound came out with a stream of murky water and a small turtle.

Commodore Bob slowed the boat to a stop. Up ahead was a beautiful expanse of open water dotted with groves of lily pads, many of them being used as deck chairs for frogs. A great blue heron stalked among one such grove, striking down and skewering a sun bathing amphibian. A large gator, aroused from his shoreline nap, slid into the water and started swimming toward the SS Shake&Bake. “Anyone want to play buzz the gator?” Commodore Bob asked.

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Thoughts and prayers

Thoughts and prayers…thoughts and prayers…every disaster that strikes, we are inundated with ‘thoughts and prayers’.  Well, this last man made atrocity in Sutherland, TX where over 20 people were killed in church, has me wondering why those people weren’t already inundated with thoughts and prayers given their location.  If thoughts and prayers don’t help in a house of worship, then I think it may be time to look for another way to help the unfortunate.  Of course, it may be too soon, or not appropriate to talk about government officials living off of the largess of the NRA, or that maybe mentally disturbed individuals shouldn’t be allowed to buy weapons of any sort, or that maybe automatic weapons in the hands of the ordinary citizenry might be a bad idea, or maybe taking another look at the Second Amendment and the completely bastardized interpretation it has been given.  Nah, wouldn’t be right to look into those things.  We need a few more mass atrocities, I guess.  Thoughts and prayers to all those who put their greed before their humanity.

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Father Figure?

I saw a meme the other day thanking God for that man in the White House stating that he was the Father figure this country needs. I thought about what attributes a good father figure might have and have tried to apply them to you know who. I can only come up with questions as to what qualities the followers of this “father figure” admire in him. Is it the fact that he has been married three times and brags about grabbing pu%%y? Is it that he has fascist tendencies? Is it that he has started the process of deregulating banks and Wall St so his friends in WealthyWhiteManistan can accrue more wealth? Is it that he has effectively removed the Joint Chiefs of Staff and replaced them with a white supremacist who has no government/foreign relations/military experience? Is it that he has two spokespersons who continually lie, calling them “alternative facts”? Is it that he wants to take healthcare away from millions with no plan in place to replace it? Is it that he is so enamored of himself that he has to lash out at those who oppose him with mindless tweets(so-called judge????). Is it that he was born with a golden spoon in his mouth and hasn’t worked a day in his life, scrounging to make life better for his family; clueless as to how hard it is for those making minimum wage to make ends meet? And this is only a partial list of qualities he possesses. I’m sorry, but I find him extremely lacking in father figure attributes and I’m sorry for the followers of this un-fatherly figure as they come to realize that he is not their friend; never was-never will be.

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Clash of Empires excerpt Chapter 4

Chapter 4

The Raid

Abigail accepted a sip of cool water from the now noticeably pregnant Orenda as she rested from the last contraction.  Liza wiped the sweat from her mother’s forehead saying, ‘One more push and I think we’ll have that new baby.’  Abigail smiled at her daughter, ‘I hope so.  I am running out of energy.  Maybe 42 years is too old to have a child.  It was certainly easier when you were born.  Oh dear Lord, it is time.’  Orenda went to the foot of the bed and after a few seconds said, ‘I can see the baby’s head.  One big push Abigail and we’ll have a new life to celebrate.’  With all of her remaining strength Abigail pushed and Orenda soon had a squalling newborn in her hands.   ‘It’s a girl, mama!’ cried Liza as she placed the little one in her mother’s arms.  Abigail took one look at that tiny face and said, ‘It is only by God’s grace that she arrived safely.  Tell your father that his new daughter, Grace is waiting to meet him.’

Thomas lifted the child, tears in his eyes, ‘I am not a godly man but at times like these I can be.  Grace is a most wondrous gift and I thank God for her safe arrival and for the health of my beloved wife.’  He kissed the child on the forehead and handed her back to Abigail.  ‘Now it is time for a little celebration I think.  Liam, Daniel, get those ale casks out.  I feel a mighty thirst coming on.’  So the trading post took on a party atmosphere with plenty of singing, laughter and dancing.  The traders who happened to be there joined in the festivities, two of them producing fiddles, and with Phil Burke playing a banjo, Irish jigs and reels soon filled the night air.

From the top of the hill overlooking the post and in the cover of the woods, two Shawnee braves looked down on the proceedings below.  ‘It is time to teach these English a lesson,’ said Huritt, ‘Our French brothers would be very happy for this place to be destroyed.  Let’s attack tonight.  The English are in no position to defend.’  Chogan smiled at his friend, ‘That is what I would like to do but look again Huritt.  The white man called Snake Slayer is alert.  His bow is ever at his side and the other Mohawks with him are also watching.  No, we cannot attack tonight.  We have more warriors coming to join us in two days that is when we will attack and destroy this place.’  Chogan then turned and with Huritt jogged off back into the woods and to their camp three miles away.

Two days later with hangovers now forgotten, Liam, Joseph and Henry left the post to go hunting while Trent, Donehogawa, Dadgayadoh, Deganawidah and Wahta left on a separate mission.  They had heard from a trader who arrived that morning of a party of Shawnees heading south out of Fort Duquesne and were anxious to get more firsthand information.  Pierre and Liza were heading across the river by canoe to a meadow that teemed with plants Pierre used for their healing properties.  In the back of the main building in the room Thomas and Abigail lived Orenda was rocking Grace to sleep and feeling the movement of the child within her while Abigail took a deserved nap.  Thomas was in the front talking to Rob Carter and Rafe Stump Nose Emerson, two traders about the load of furs they brought in yesterday.  Those furs were stored under the canvas canopy of one of the freight wagons and were now being examined by Phil Burke, who could not believe the quality, knowing that he had come to the right place at the right time.

Chogan, certain that he knew where everyone was turned to the seven warriors with him and said, ‘Remember, I want the white woman and her child alive.  Kill the rest,’ he then added with a hint of disgust, ‘but leave the Mohawk woman to me.’  Silently the two Huron and 6 Shawnee jogged down the hill the rising sun behind them making them almost invisible as well.  The two Huron, Pajackok and Taregan headed to the southern end of the encampment in order to keep watch on Pierre across the river.  Keme, Kesegowiase and Nixamich raced to the front door of the main building while Chogan, Huritt and Etchemin veered off to the side door.  Unnoticed and forgotten, Phil glanced out of the wagon and saw the raiding party going into the building.  Climbing over the pile of furs he exited the rear of the wagon and ran to his tent to get his musket.

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First draft – complete Clash of Empires

Approximately a year and a half later at 18:00 EST on March 3, 2015 I wrote the final words of the first draft of Clash of Empires.  My editorial staff(well some friends and other fellow travelers) are hard at work giving it the once over.  As they report in I am editing the draft accordingly….or not, depending on how strongly I feel about the change they are suggesting.  I’ve never been one who likes to change things once he has written it down…a foible I may have to rein in a little bit but….the way I look at it is that if one of my editors says I should change something and another editor says they like that part then I will most likely leave that part alone…  :-)..

This is all new to me…this process of editing and so forth.  Next I will have the 2nd draft copy edited and then the real fun begins….getting it out so the unwashed masses can enjoy the fruits of my labor.  Oh and I will also begin book 2 of the series…have already jotted down some notes and ideas…heck I already have thoughts on book 3.  Book 2 will encompass the Revolutionary War period…book 3 will be the war of 1812 and years preceding the Civil War.  Book 4 will be the Civil War years, followed by the western expansion years in book 5.  Ambitious, yes, but what the heck, I wanna retire in style.  🙂

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