Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Noid Returns

Does anyone remember the Dominos Pizza “Avoid the Noid” campaign? It featured a nasty red-suited character who attempted to ruin Dominos’ deliveries. With Domino’s Pizza, you could avoid the noid. Just about everyone except Kenneth Lamar Noid. A former mental patient suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, he concluded that the Domino’s corporatipon was out to get him. Sometime in the 1990s, Mr. Noid stormed into an Atlanta Domino’s store with a gun, taking hostages. He demanded $100,000 and a pizza. No word on what he wanted on his pizza. He ultimately surrendered to police and was tried on charges of kidnapping and armed robbery, but was found not guilty on reason of insanity.

Mr. Noid has managed to stay out of the news since then. My best guess would be that Domino’s Corporation is keeping him well-supplied with dough.

Ted Knight

Most people remember Ted Knight as the clueless anchor Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show or from Caddyshack. Ted Knight was born Tadeus Wlabysaw Konopka. During World War II, he served in the Combat Engineers, specializing in mine removal. His service was so exemplary that he was repeatedly decorated for bravery. Indeed, he received the Bronze Star five times. As a comedian, Ted Knight has his ups and downs, but his comrades in the Engineers were grateful for the fact that as a mine detector, he never bombed.

The Crying Game: A Hairy Situation

One time, when I was in London, during my second year of law school, I was stretched out on a couch reading a book when I heard a young woman from the undergraduate program crying and shrieking and waiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiling at the top of her lungs. She would cry and cry and gasp and then cry some more. I looked over and the young woman’s boyfriend was patting her on the back as she cried and cried and cried. I didn’t know her well, only enough to say hello. I debated what to do. Her boyfriend clearly had the situation well in hand, but a fellow human was in distress, and I wanted to help.

So after about a minute, I walked into the law center’s pub, put a fifty pence piece in the Coke machine, returned to the lobby, pressed the can of Coke into her hand. I said, “Here. Whatever it is, have a Coke and smile.”

This actually managed to settle her down a bit. A moment later, I turned to a friend of hers and asked in amazement what on Earth had set her off in such a manner. The reply I received stunned me. “She just got her hair cut and doesn’t like the way it looks.”

I considered this for a moment and when the young woman had finally settled down, I said, “Young lady, there are three things I want to say to you. First, I am so relieved to know that you didn’t just lose your whole family in an accident. Second, you look great and your hair looks great. Third, don’t you think that if anyone around here ought to be crying about the way their hair looks, it ought to be me?”

The English Eddie George

In 1900 or thereabouts, Winston Churchill did a speaking tour of the United States. On that trip, he met...Winston Churchill. You can find that story in his book “My Early Life.” Ironically enough, the American Churchill was: 1) a professional military officer who graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, 2) a published author many times over and 3) a politician. He served in the New Hampshire State Legislature and made an unsuccessful run for the governor’s office in 1912. When the two men had lunch, the English Churchill declared his ambition to become Prime Minister. (Even in his mid-twenties, Jenny Jerome’s son had a high view of his career prospects, though he did have to wait 40 years to achieve that goal.) It’s funny that two unrelated men with the same names should have so much in common. By the same token, I think it’s hilarious that two unrelated men with the same name should be so spectacularly different.

I recently learned of Edward Alan John George, GBE, PC, DL, born September 16, 1938. The man is perhaps England’s most famous banker. He capped a great career in banking by being head of the Bank of England for ten years. He was then named Baron of Saint St. Tudy in Cornwall. I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s quite nice. Mr. George earned the nickname “Steady Eddie,” which strikes me as a great name for a banker. I’d much rather do business with a person so nicknamed than one named “Slick” or “Sleazy.” In order to lure him to speak to a group, one must come up with a five-figure fee. (Editorial comment: apparently, someone thinks the guy knows what he’s doing!)

If Mr. Edward Alan John George were to check into a hotel in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo or just about any other place, I’m sure he would get the red carpet treatment. If, however, he were to attempt the same thin in Columbus, Ohio, common decency would dictate that someone needs to tell him about his Ohio namesake: Edward Nathan George, born September 24, 1973. At this point, English readers are probably scratching their heads, while Ohio readers are laughing out loud. If not, the results are probably embarrassing. I can see a 70-year-old English gentleman walking up to the check-in counter at the Hyatt Regency, announcing that he wishes to check in under the name of Eddie George. At that point, the counter person would say, “Right…and I assume you’ll be using Eddie George’s credit card?” To which George would reply, “Certainly.” The hotel employees would either fall down laughing or call the cops or both.

For the benefit of anyone who has never been to Columbus, Ohio, Edward Nathan George, better known as Eddie, #27. He is a very pleasant young black gentleman who stands six-foot-three with a playing weight of 230 pounds. (That 16 and a half stone to English readers.) He appears to have been forged from the highest-grade steel. He is also blessed with foot speed that enabled him to run faster than a terrified gazelle. He achieved undying fame in Columbus as winner of the 1994 Heisman Trophy as the top player in all of college football. He went on to a spectacular career in the National Football League, retiring as one of the top 20 rushers in the history of the game. He retired at the ripe, old age of 29, a millionaire a couple dozen times over.

So if the former head of the Bank of England ever visits Columbus, perhaps he’ll enjoy having lunch at the restaurant that bears his name: Eddie George’s on High Street, just south of the Ohio State campus. Another irony: as dissimilar as the two Eddie Georges are, it would be an interesting question as to which one of them has a higher net worth. Both men are undoubtedly worth well into the eight figures.

Just when you think there couldn’t be any more unusual name coincidences in this case, the Ohio State Eddie George is married to a striking woman who is a professional singer. The English Eddie George is married to a woman named Vanessa Williams. (No word on whether that lady tried to become Miss America.)

Several years ago, my father was hosting an old friend of his from his hometown in Arkansas. They visited the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility and happened to meet Eddie George. My father introduced himself, and his old friend and they shook hands with Eddie George. During that brief encounter, Mr. George was quite pleasant and well-mannered and made an all-around great impression on my father. Several years later, my father was in the Ohio State University Hospital awaiting triple bypass surgery. When I spoke to him on the phone, he mentioned that Eddie George’s team, the Tennessee Titans, were in the NFL Playoffs and said, “I hear Eddie George is hurt. I hope he gets to play.” I considered this for a moment, then replied: “Dad, reality check: Eddie George is more than fifty years younger than you and makes fifty times the money you do. You’re going in for triple bypass surgery and he might have a strained hamstring, and you’re worried for him? What’s wrong with this picture?” Happily enough, both my father and Eddie George are both doing quite well, thank you.

The Always Misquoted Charles Erwin Wilson

Charles Erwin Wilson of Columbiana County, Ohio was Chairman of the Board at General Motors when Eisenhower took office in 1953. Eisenhower asked him to become Secretary of Defense. During his confirmation hearings, one senator asked Mr. Wilson if there might not be a conflict between him serving the Defense Department after so many years at General Motors. Everyone thinks he said, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country,” which makes him sound like a megalomaniacal company man. What Wilson actually said was, “For many years, what I have believed is that what is good for the country is good for General Motors and vice versa.”

More than half a century later, General Motors is filing for bankruptcy, which is a terrible thing for America.

Paul Newman, Tony Zale and John Bindon

Paul Newman’s first big screen role was playing the middleweight boxer Rocky Grazuano in the 1950 film Somebody Up There Likes Me. Anyone who has seen pictures of Rocky Graziano can appreciate the irony. It’s like Charlize Theron playing Phyllis Diller.

As part of his preparation for the role, Newman worked out very hard and even did some sparring with Graziano’s real-life boxing nemesis, Tony Zale. Apparently, at one point, Newman overdid the “getting into the role thing’ and learned exactly how hard Tony Zale can hit, even ten years after he retired. As a result of that mishap, Zale was not allowed to play himself in the film. Newman was a bit gun-shy about sparring with him again.

Many years later, Newman made The Macintosh Man. The director, John Huston, was a notorious practical joker. During the course of filming, Newman got into it with a member of the cast playing a heavy named John Bindon. This did not strike onlookers as a particularly bright idea because Bindon was five inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than Newman. Further, Bindon was a really, really, really bad guy. For him, acting was a sideline. His full-time occupation was being a collection specialist for London’s notorious gangsters, the Cray Twins. Bindon had done prison time and was acquitted on a murder charge that many people thought he did not deserve. In the film, there is a scene that takes place in a house by a very tall, steep cliff. Newman, wearing blue jeans and a plaid shirt, walked into the house and onlookers heard what sounded like an extremely acrimonious argument between Newman and Bindon. A few seconds later, they saw a blue-jeaned and checked shirted figure fly out of a window and fall onto the rocks below. Horrified, Huston and other cast members ran into the house, only to discover Newman and Bindon rolling on the floor, laughing hysterically about the prank they had spent weeks setting up.

John Huston managed to have the last word. When he recovered from his shock, he managed to say, “Way to go, Bindon. You threw the wrong dummy out the window.”

p.s. John Bindon is no longer with us, but he did achieve one bit of immortality on YouTube by inspiring a song that celebrates his name. Just search “John Bindon” to listen to a bit that is extremely funny and extremely raunchy. You have been warned.

Art Schlichter’s Attorney

Art Schlichter is a textbook example of how thoroughly compulsive gambling can ruin a man’s life. Schlichter was an extraordinarily talented quarterback at OSU in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In January of 1982, the Baltimore Colts made him the fifth player picked in the NFL Draft. It was all downhill from there. Schlichter signed a contract that gave him a half-million-dollar signing bonus. He gambled it away in a few months and was half a million dollars in debt to bookies. (Schlichter was dumb lucky in the people he selected to gamble with. When he was late on his payments, they threatened to inform the NFL. Had he been dealing with “wise guys,” he would have had good cause to fear for his life.)

He turned in his bookie and was suspended from the NFL for a year. That should have been enough to wise up anyone. For Art Schlichter, it was the beginning. He gambled again and again and was banned from the NFL. He has never been reinstated. He went to prison for concocting a fraudulent investing scheme to pay his debts. While inside, he hooked up with a doctor, and together they hatched another scheme. When they were released, the doctor would pose as a specialist in the treatment of compulsive gambling. So good was the doctor that he even cured the infamous Art Schlichter. And they would then ask for millions of dollars in startup funds. They were back in prison very quickly.

In the twenty years after he left Ohio State, Schlichter was convicted of felonies six different times, spending time in prisons in several different states. He did manage to remain free long enough to have a short stint as a disc jockey in Las Vegas. (Las Vegas? What’s wrong with this picture?) He was also married and fathered two children.

The Schlicters are now divorced and if I ever meet Mrs. Schlicter, I would love to ask her what she was thinking.

When I was in Alaska, I read a story about Schlicter going back to prison again, and the article mentioned the name of Schlichter’s public defender. I tried to call her in Indianapolis. I learned that she was no longer in the office. I did a bit more checking, putting in a call to the Indiana Supreme Court. Upon reaching her, we had an interesting conversation. What follows should be an object lesson in the dangers of representing a complete sociopath.

The young woman, quite understandably, did not tell me the whole story, but this is what I managed to piece together. At one point, Schlichter tearfully begged her to bring him a cell phone so he could call his kids, whom he missed terribly. A few days later, one of Schlichter’s friends brought her a cell phone. Against her better judgment, she brought him a phone in the full knowledge that it was a clear violation of jail regulations.

Shortly thereafter, Schlichter again begged her to bring him a cell phone, as that one had been confiscated. After all, what man doesn’t want to speak with his children. Once again, Art’s mysterious friend brought another cell phone. If she had a shred of sense, she would have thrown it in the dumpster. Instead, she tried to bring it to her client. She was caught in the act.

For this transgression, she had to resign her job and received a six-month suspension from the Indiana Supreme Court. Art, of course, had been using the phone to place bets. When I asked the ex-public defender what she had been thinking, she could only reply, “He’s very convincing.”

Around 2005, Schlichter was released from prison. To my amazement, he has managed to stay out of prison and is a color commentator on a radio show. If anyone who reads this happens to see Art Schlichter, you have been warned. Remember, it’s “No, Art, I will not float you a loan.” “No, Art, I don’t want to buy any cheap tickets.”

I think of Schlichter every time I visit the Franklin County Jail. Whenever the guards ask me if I have any cell phones, I want to ask, “Do I look like Art Schlicter’s chump?”

If I ever meet Art Schlichter’s ex-wife Mitzi, I will have to ask her what she was thinking. In the first place, I don’t think it’s a good idea for a woman to marry an ex-convict. Second, I later learned that, on the way back from their honeymoon, Art announced that they were going to have to sell all of their wedding gifts to cover his gambling debts. For some reason, Mitzi stayed with Art for nine-and-a-half years. The thought of what Art’s repeated trips to prison put his daughters through makes me shudder.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Dellums Family Irony

One of my favorite TV shows was always Homicide: Life on the Street. It catalogued the experiences of a group of Baltimore homicide detectives. With great actors and intriguing stories, you really got a sense of what happens out there. Among my favorites were the episodes in which the squad dealt with a big-time heroin dealer named Luther Mahoney. He was one of the most fascinating and terrifying television villains I have ever seen. Mahoney was played by a young actor named Eric Todd, a strikingly handsome, light-skinned black man who stands 6’6” and carried himself with the air of a king cobra. The first time Mahoney shows up, the squad is certain they have him on a double homicide for having killed two rival drug dealers. Mahoney beat the rap. A few weeks later, Mahoney was back and under suspicion for having killed a couple of his confederates who he’d caught stealing from him. Once again, Mahoney beat the rap. When Mahoney showed up again the next season, the thought occurred to me that he was as crafty as J.R. Ewing, but a whole lot more dangerous. He kills in large numbers and with apparent complete impunity. In yet another episode, the Homicide detectives thought they had an airtight case against Mahoney, but Luther’s boys managed to get to a Mahoney defector and scare him into recanting his story. Mahoney was brazen enough to walk into the detectives’ favorite bar and taunt them for their incompetence and even offered to buy them a round of drinks, flaunting a thick wad of hundreds. Finally, Clark Johnson, who in real life played pro football in Canada, gets nose-to-nose with the drug dealer and said, “Mahoney, get outta my bar.”

Finally, they managed to get Mahoney on videotape, gunning down one of his underlings and an unlucky innocent bystander. Once again, the series’ writers caught me by surprise. When Detective Meldrick Lewis arrested Mahoney, he was so enraged that he began beating him bloody with his fists. Finally, Mahoney sees an opportunity to grab the man’s pistol. When the second detective arrives on the scene, Mahoney stops fighting and invites the man to read him his rights. Instead, the detective shot him through the heart and casually asked his colleagues, “Got a problem with that?”

Years later, I did some research on Eric Todd and found out his birth name was Eric Todd Dellums. His father is Ron Dellums, former California Congressman and current mayor of Oakland, California. I can imagine Mayor Dellums has mixed feelings about his son’s acting career. It’s just a job, but my, what an evil character. Just a few days ago, I learned a fact that made my jaw drop. Congressman Dellums has eight children, and another of his sons has spent the last thirty years in prison for murder. He shot a man to death over a twenty-dollar bag of marijuana.

Beauty Pageant Runners-Up

Some people get upset about beauty pageants on the grounds that they exploit women. To a certain extent, I agree with them, but I find the whole idea of the pageant rather silly. Many years ago, Halle Berry was first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant and opined that the only reason that she didn’t win was because she was black and the judges were racist. I have to chuckle. Maybe the judges thought the other girl was just a little bit hotter. Besides, if they were really racists, would they have allowed her in the pageant, much less make her first runner-up?

I’ve been reminded of that tempest in a teapot in the past few days, when Miss California finished first runner-up after opining onstage that she believed marriage was something between one man and one woman. This was not a particularly politic position to take when two of the judges were openly gay. (My collaborator just wondered if Perez Hilton is “openly” gay or just “obviously” gay. I have to believe that the answer is BOTH!) I see that Fox News has taken up has taken up her plight. (My collaborator just wondered how that counts as “reporting the news.” I say that it just gives Fox News the opportunity to show the young woman walking across the pageant stage in her white bikini. Nothing like a nice piece of cheesecake, is there?) I think the real value of a beauty pageant win is to provide publicity as a foundation for a future career. By that criteria, Miss California has won the battle. Quickly, can anyone name the current Miss USA or any of her predecessors? Proves my point.

I take the attitude that the world doesn’t particularly care about her opinion. I would much rather hear about her plans to achieve world peace. I am, of course, deeply concerned about Miss California’s future prospects. I fear that being first runner-up will have the same negative effects on her as it did for Halle Berry.

p.s. Former Miss California, Carrie Prejean, has announced that she now understands why she didn’t win the Miss USA pageant. She said that God understood that she could endure all that she had to go through. Furthermore, “God has a better crown for me in Heaven.” To me, this raises a much more interesting question. Will God have a bikini top for her in Heaven or will he have the wisdom to provide her with a wet T-shirt. Further, will he grant her amazing sweater puppies eternal life so cynical skeptics like me can suppress giggle fits while listening to her silly pronouncements while scoping out her thoroughly excellent rack.

New York Times Headline: September 11, 2019

The failure of both the current and the two previous Administrations to prevent both North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons leads me to despair for the future. Here’s my prediction for the headline in New York Times on September 11, 2019:


Alaska Bear Story Number Four: Oreo and Ahpun

In the wild, most bear cubs arrive in multi-cub litters. Several years ago, the Anchorage Zoo happened to have an orphan polar bear cub that they named Ahpun and an orphan grizzly bear cub they named Oreo. Some genius suggested they put the two in the same enclosure and see if they could get along. For a while, they did. This inspired a deluge of politically-correct “ebony and ivory” claptrap that abruptly ceased when the bears achieved maturity and began getting territorial with each other. Ahpun and Oreo started getting into some serious fights. I would not have wanted to have been asked to separate those two.

No word on whether the two bears got couples’ counseling.

I have seen both bears myself. Ahpun lives in an expansive enclosure with greatly enhanced security measures to keep out uninvited guests. When I visited Oreo the grizzly bear, she seemed to be taking a nap. I noticed that when I called out her name repeatedly, she perked up her ears. That’s the closest I wanted to get to that critter.

Alaska Bear Story Number Three: Saturday Night Live

Recently, Saturday Night Live did a brilliant skit about a horde of New York Times reporters headed north to dig up dirt on Sarah Palin. One of the gags was that, of the horde of reporters, only one of them had ever been off the island of Manhattan. (When he missed his subway stop and ended up in Queens.)

The first question they ask is if they are likely to be attacked by a polar bear. The former Anchorage intern informs them that bears are native to lands 700 miles to the north. When he learned that Anchorage did not have Thai stir fry, half of them quit the mission. Upon learning that most Anchorage restaurants don’t have restrooms for preop transsexuals, even more left. The last gag was when one asked if, due to the four-hour time gap between New York and Alaska, he wanted to meet with two different psychiatrists in Alaska. The former intern with the Anchorage Daily News announces there is only one psychiatrist in the state.

The punchline to the SNL sketch is that one of the writers is mauled by a polar bear while driving a snow machine.

Alaska Bear Story Number Two: Binky

Binky, the star polar bear at the Anchorage Zoo, was a pipeline orphan. Binky’s mother was getting a little too aggressive toward pipeline workers and had to be shot. Despite that unhappy beginning, Binky got a one-way ticket to the Anchorage Zoo, where he lived an uneventful life until the day an Australian tourist wanted to get an up-close-and-personal photo of Binky. At the point, I should note that the people who designed the zoo are not complete idiots. They built Binky an enclosure with *two* sets of steel bars; one to keep Binky in and the other to keep tourists out. They did not, however, manage to make Binky’s enclosure idiot-proof. The Australian shutterbug decided she just *had* to climb an eight-foot fence and stick her arms through the bars to get a better shot of Binky. She had not calculated that this gave a good shot at *her*. Binky’s predatory instincts took over. He thrust his snout through the bars and chomped down on one of her feet. At this point, some of her friends thought fast and grabbed ahold of her to pull her away. Another thought even faster, videotaping the whole thing. He sold the footage to a TV tabloid for a quarter of a million dollars. The woman managed to get free of Binky’s teeth, suffering only a broken leg. It strikes me as a small price to pay for acting like a complete idiot around a full-grown polar bear. Binky did manage to retain a souvenir; that Aussie woman had been wearing red running shoes, and Binky managed to keep one of them as a chewy toy. Indeed, the next morning, Binky was on the front page of the Anchorage Daily News, the red running shoe between his teeth. This led to a spate of T-shirts: Binky for Governor/Take a Bite Out Of Crime, Send Binky Another Tourist (The Last One Got Away), and Support Binky’s Catch and Release Program.

A few months later, a couple of apparently brain-dead Anchorage teenagers (is there any other kind?) decided that nothing could be jollier than to sneak into the Anchorage Zoo and take a dip in Binky’s swimming pool. Apparently, no one explained to them that polar bears are light sleepers and get territorial. One of those teenagers got seriously mauled. It amazes me that that young miscreant made it out alive. The next day, the zoo director was quoted as saying, “If someone wants to commit suicide, could they please leave the zoo out of it?”

Other local jokesters suggested that they equip Binky’s pool with a diving board; it would reduce the zoo’s food bills and help cull the species. I once spoke with another public defender who swore to me that he had defended another polar bear pool trespasser on other charges. When asked about the nature of the injuries the teenager had sustained, he would reply in a falsetto voice: “I don’t know, but I’ve heard rumors!”

Sadly, a few months later, Binky died at a ripe old age in polar bear years. The humorist Dave Barry once visited Binky, describing him as a Winnebago with claws and six-inch fangs. Some people speculated that, perhaps, he’d eaten some bad tourist. R.I.P. Binky, a true Alaska legend.

Alaska Bear Story Number One: Secure Your Garbage

For the benefit of anyone who may relocate to Alaska, something you better learn your first day in-state is to secure your garbage. Secure your garbage. Secure your garbage. Failing to do so can result in a 500-dollar fine and earn the enmity of those around you. This is not just good manners. In Alaska, it can be a matter of life and death. Any cheechako (a newcomer) who leaves their trash out is likely to get a very unwelcome houseguest. In many Alaskan municipalities, black bears tend to lurk just outside the suburbs, and their noses are extremely sensitive. If they smell an easy meal, they will follow their noses into the suburbs. The Anchorage Police are pretty enlightened about dealing with the situation. They usually treat first-time offender bears with a barrage of rubber bullets, noisemakers and sirens in hopes of convincing the bear that humans are more trouble than they’re worth. In my five years in Alaska, I don’t recall a single instance of a person being killed by a black bear. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that a black bear poses a great threat to people and pets. Anyone whose sloppy habits result in the death of a bear is likely to be shunned by paroled child molesters.

Anchorage News columnist Mike Dugan once wrote an editorial from the point of view of an outraged black bear accusing humans in general of dirty dealing. They leave garbage and table scraps outside, knowing perfectly well they are bear magnets. Then the bears get shot, simply for looking for a meal.

Lieutenant Marcus McDilda, Unsung Hero of World War II

Lieutenant Marcus McDilda was a P-51 pilot who was shot down over Japan in the closing days of World War II. In fact, he was captured the day after the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima. His kempeitai interrogators very much wanted information about the new American weapon. (As my collaborator pointed out, McDilda didn’t know *** about the bomb.) When the interrogators realized he knew nothing, they beat him for several hours. A Japanese officer came into McDilda’s cell, drew a samurai sword, pressed the blade against McDilda’s face hard enough to draw blood and told the American that if he didn’t come clean, he was going to cut McDilda’s head off then and there.

At this point, McDilda had an epiphany, saying, “Oh! THAT atomic bomb!” He focused on remembering what he had learned in high school chemistry several years before. In desperation, he improvised, informing his fascinated captors that the Americans had developed a process of separating positive and negative charges, then putting them in a large bomb with a lead sheet between the two, and when the bomb was dropped, the lead sheet fell away, allowing positive and negative charges to meet, causing a huge explosion. Intrigued, his captors demanded to know what the next American atomic target was. Again, McDilda improvised, solemnly telling them that the next target would be Tokyo within twenty-four hours. His captors decided that he obviously possessed such valuable information that they shipped him to Tokyo for further questioning. When McDilda go to Tokyo, he met with an American-educated physicist who asked him exactly what he knew. At that point, McDilda confessed that he knew absolutely nothing about atomic energy, and he had made the whole story up. He and the physicist both broke out laughing.

McDilda’s desperate improvisation saved his life. The other fifty American POWs he’d been held with, all B-29 crewmen, were all murdered by the Japanese in the waning days of the war. McDilda may also have played a part in ending the war. The report that Tokyo was the next target was passed along to Imperial Headquarters and might very well have influenced the Japanese decision to surrender. I have not been able to find any record of what Lieutenant McDilda did after the war, but he certainly qualifies as an unsung hero.

Stevens Irony

One of the consolations of middle age is that, if you have a sense of history and a sense of irony, life can be a laugh riot. Way back in 1975, when Justice William O. Douglas FINALLY resigned from the Supreme Court (a year after he had suffered a stroke that left him wheelchair-bound), I read some left-wing columnists who declared in exactly so many words that once Douglas was off the court, the Bill of Rights was finished. When President Ford nominated John Paul Stevens to fill the vacancy, I distinctly remember a cartoon in New York Magazine lampooning the President’s choice on two grounds: he only had one X chromosome and his skin was melanin-deficient. A great many left-wing pundits condemned Stevens for being male and white.

Justice Stevens has now served on the Court for thirty-four years. He is eighty-nine years old. He is now within striking distance of being both the oldest and longest-serving Justice in the history of the Court. In the fall of 2008, I had a very good chuckle when I heard Air America play a song parody to the tune of “Hang on Sloopy” entitled “Hang on Stevens,” imploring Stevens not to die or resign before noon on January 20.


I only met Sullivan Wilson once many years ago, but he taught me something about a man who died in 1931. When I was a kid, every summer, the family would drive from Ohio to Kansas to visit our maternal grandmother, then down to Northeastern Arkansas to see the paternal side. Since most of those visits took place in the 1960s, I got quite an insight into what the Jim Crow South had been like. One evening, we got to meet a gentleman named Sullivan. He had been an employee of my paternal grandfather, delivering goods for his drug store.

He had been a grown man when my father was still quite young. My father’s father died in 1931, when Dad was only eleven, so my best guess is that when we met, Sullivan was about sixty. Dad had told us that Sullivan had worked in my grandfather’s drug store and I seem to remember that Sullivan was an orderly in Osceola’s modest hospital. I remember him greeting my father very warmly and he was delighted to see us. I guess the prospect of meeting four pre-teenage boys jumping with excitement could put a smile on an old man’s face.

At the time, it did not occur to me that teenage boys referring to an elderly man by his first name could be wrong. That was just the way things were back then: black men were referred to by their first names. Today, I would never dream of addressing a sixty-year-old man that way.

Sullivan told us that his daughter had become a nurse. I hope she had much better prospects than her parents ever did. Years later, my father told me that, after his father had died, Sullivan and his wife once invited them to a chicken dinner along with my brother Terry. At least one person in the neighborhood advised them not to have dinner with a black man.

My father weighed the possible social ostracism against an outstanding chicken dinner, and decided they would take the chicken.

My father tends to describe his father as wearing a bit of a halo. Sullivan only spoke with us briefly, but I remember him saying something to the effect of, “Your grandfather was a good man.” Today, I think it’s kinda neat when the hired help says nice things about you thirty-five years after you’re gone.

The other thing that stays with me about that meeting is that when Sullivan took his leave of us, he walked back across a parking lot toward his job, I thought that I had never seen anyone walk so fast. About every four years, I usually catch a glimpse of the Olympic racewalking competitions. When I do, I think of Sullivan. Even though he was sixty years old, he would smoke those guys.

Representing Aliyah

I recently received a check from the Franklin County Auditor for my representation of Aliyah, one of the more sympathetic clients I’ve ever had. I was her guardian ad litem. I was assigned to represent her a few days after Christmas, 2007. She had been born just four days previously and the doctors at Children’s Hospital couldn’t help but notice that she’d been born with heroin in her bloodstream. Welcome to the world, kid. Hope you can handle going through heroin withdrawal.

A few months later, I met biomom and biodad (two people just out of their teens), along with both grandmothers. I also told them that they had, no doubt, gotten the “straighten up and fly right” speech from their parents a few hundred times, but they were only going to hear it from me once. I told the two biological parents that they had screwed up big time, and that under the laws of the State of Ohio, they were entitled to a second chance. I told them not to even ask me for a third chance. I told them they had to make a choice: do heroin or be parents, but they couldn’t be both. If they failed even a single drug screen, I would write a report to the magistrate recommending that he terminate their parental rights.

I guess I would classify Aliyah as one of the luckiest of the unlucky. Unlucky because she had to go through methodone withdrawal in the first days of her life, but lucky because the criminal justice system got wise to her parents so quickly. I got to visit Aliyah with her foster parents and got to bounce the kidster on my knee. I very much appreciated having a client who didn’t call me everything under the sun but a precious child of God.

Aliyah’s case turned out to be another good news/ bad news situation. Aliyah’s parents failed several drug tests, continuing to use heroin and adding cocaine to the mix. There are times when I admire the justice system of Singapore, in which drug abusers are simply lined against a wall. Fortunately for Aliyah, her paternal grandparents stepped up to the plate and are giving Aliyah an excellent home. I fervently hope that Aliyah will turn out better than either of her biological parents.

Driving Miss Francisco

A couple weeks ago, I got a call from a Miss Francisco. She responded to my letter offering to represent her in getting a Civil Protection Order. This young woman in her twenties informed me that two of her siblings had beaten her up and knocked her out of her wheelchair. Beating up on a sibling, I understand. Beating up on someone in a wheelchair, however, is a new low. I drove to the other side of town, picked up Miss Francisco, loaded her and her wheelchair into my car and drove her to my secretary’s office. We did up the necessary forms requesting a Civil Protection Order. I drove her and her wheelchair to the County Courthouse. I pushed her and her wheelchair into the courthouse, got her an ex parte order, then pushed her in her wheelchair back to my car. I loaded the car up and then drove her home. I told her that it would be very helpful if she obtained contact information on any witnesses and on the guilty parties.

The day of her hearing, she did not show. When I called her, she told me that she had not been able to get the information I had asked for. Therefore, she wasn’t going to bother. After consulting with the bailiff, I learned that she didn’t even need to appear; I could simply get her a continuance. However, Miss Francisco told me that she wanted to drop the whole thing. I had no alternative but to have the case dismissed. I probably shouldn’t have called her a “bitch” on the phone, but I felt SO much better after I hung up on her.