Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Revolutionary War Really Did Have A Poet

And his name was Philip Freneau.  He was born on January 2, 1752, and died on December 18, 1832.  He was a newspaper editor, a sea captain, and a poet which is apparently why he was called the 'Poet of the American Revolution'.  What's interesting about this is that Freneau lived in the West Indies for a good part of the Revolutionary War.  While there he wrote about the joys and beauties of island life.  I guess that little glitch shouldn't be too surprising because he later was hired by Thomas Jefferson to be a translator for the state department even though the only language he spoke, other than English, was French.  Jefferson apparently got a little criticism for that hiring choice.
His final career was farming.
Now, why am I talking about this at all you may well ask and to that I reply, "Good question."
There's a little shopping center in Matawan, New Jersey, called Poet's Corner.  The shops are about as uninspiring as Freneau's poetry.  However, the shops are built on what was once the headquarters of the Freneau farm.  The shopping center is close to the Philip Morin Freneau Cemetery on Poet's Drive also in Matawan.  That's where Philip is buried along with his wife and mother and doubtless others.
What makes Philip Freneau remarkable, in my opinion, is not his life but his death.  He froze to death while trying to find his way home.
The middle of December is really cold here in New Jersey and deserves the heaviest coat available.  I'm thinking that poor old Philip either got lost on his own farm or became lost in memories of the War and the West Indies where coats were never needed.
At any rate, RIP Phil.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

No More Happiness At Rita's

Rita's Ice Custard Happiness has stopped serving her Ice Custard Happiness.  She says it's because of an egg shortage.  I think it's because Rita has finally acknowledged that we can neither buy nor sell happiness.  We have to find it on our own.  Probably someone sued Rita for false advertising.  I once visited a Rita Venue on Route 35.  I ordered Happiness and then I picked up what I presumed would be Happiness.  Come to find out it was just Ice Custard.  Boy!  I felt pretty sad about that, I gotta tell you.
So, I'm not surprised that Rita has stopped trying to sell Happiness.  I'm still confused about why Rita no longer sells Ice Custard, though.
Life can be pretty complicated.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Let's Just Cut To The Chase Here

I don't use that expression very often and, in fact, I may never have used it.  Had I considered at any point using that expression, I probably would have thought it had something to do with fox hunting and with that background would have chosen to not use it at all.  Let's get to the point seems more direct and simple and not weighted down with cruelty to animals issues.  Come to find out, though, the expression has nothing to do with fox hunting but instead harkens back to the days of silent movies which generally included some sort of chase as the highlight of the film.  When things threatened to bog down, the common wisdom was to forget the details and just cut to the chase scene.  I love movies.  I'm not so fond of hunting.  I think with this new understanding I can now say with greater emotional comfort, "Let's just cut to the chase here."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I'm Back In The Saddle Again

The expression 'back in the saddle again' is defined as resuming doing something you stopped doing for a period of time.  The definitions I located weren't too specific about how long the period of time you stopped doing whatever you were previously doing and them resumed doing it had to be in order to qualify as being back in the saddle again.
I grew up on a cattle ranch and can speak with authority about getting back in the saddle again.  I rode a horse on my own at a remarkably young age and the thing I did best was fall off of my horse.  Getting back on again wasn't easy but I got used to the process and became expert at the long climb back up to the saddle.
Here's the bottom line.  Getting back in the saddle again can be tough but it's not impossible.
I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

R.I.P. Hungry Python

Talk about biting off more than you can chew.  A couple of weeks ago in the Lake Eland Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, a python ate a porcupine.  Yep.  You read correctly.  The python ate the entire porcupine.  The porcupine, before it became dinner, weighed over thirty pounds.  The size of the porcupine wasn't the problem, according to park rangers.  Pythons can eat animals weighing up to fifty pounds.  Apparently this isn't the first time a snake has eaten a porcupine as evidenced by a 2003 study entitled:  "Prickly food: snakes preying upon porcupines."  As a result of that study we now know that the quills of the porcupine aren't easily digested by much of any thing.  Seriously, did we need a study to tell us that?  At any rate, this particular snake that ate the porcupine died.  However, the cause of death has not yet been determined.  It could have been the porcupine quills and the snake's impossible task of digesting them.  Or it could have been that the snake, in some sort of post porcupine eating stupor, fell off of a cliff.  Based on these sketchy findings my advice is that if you happen to be a snake (and yes a lot of snakes will be reading this) don't fall off of a cliff after eating a porcupine.  Come to think of it, that's good advice for anyone.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Let's Go Out For Ice Cream

Here in New Jersey ice cream matters.  The winters are long and cold.  We celebrate summer.  Part of that celebration dictates that we go out for ice cream.  Going out for ice cream is much more than walking down the street to a '31Flavors'.  Going out for ice cream can involve driving to other cities and waiting in long lines.  We not talking just ice cream, mind you.  We're talking Italian ices and ice custards and soft serves.  Only a few ice cream or other frozen delight vendors stay open during the winter.  This is all new to me and I'm loving it.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Torah Thoughts on Pinchas

This week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, (Num. 25:10 – 30:1) shows us God’s decisions in two different episodes in the wilderness.   The first is one of the most disturbing and painful passages in Torah, and the second is one of the most forward thinking and hopeful.

At the outset of the portion, Israelite men are consorting with foreign women and worshiping their idols.  Pinchas, the presumptive high priest, deals with the most blatant of these occurrences by taking up his spear and killing the offenders in the sight of the entire community.  God appears to approve of Pinchas’ action; ending the plague that had been afflicting the Israelites, and granting him God’s covenant of peace and promise of the priesthood to his descendants through all time.  After all the laws the Torah has prescribed for Pinchas could serve as the model for every act of violence committed in the name of religious purity from that time on.  

Later in the Torah portion, five women, the daughters of a man named Zelophehad, come to Moses with a cause. The Israelite inheritance laws contain a flaw, they contend.  Their father died without having any sons, and they ought to inherit his portion, rather than have it go to strangers.  Moses takes the matter to God, Who confirms that the case of the daughters is just, and they should receive their father’s holding.  

So we have a case of a person in power acting with egregious rashness and receiving God’s blessing for his act, followed by the inherent fairness of allowing the daughters of a man who had no sons to receive his property and carry on his name. Like life, the Torah presents contradictions and conundrums, and we must accept it as it is, wrestle with it and try to make sense of it all.