Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Dog and His Boy Dedicated to Betsy Vick and Richard Vick

A Dog and His Boy
Dedicated to Betsy Vick and Richard Vick
Loren Logsdon

            Some people dream of having the perfect pet. Many of us believe we had that pet when we were children and no other pet after that could ever come close to the ideal. We are indeed fortunate if we have the ideal pet when we are adults. Professor Lancaster Markem had such a pet when he lived in Weeder's Clump and taught at Heliotrope University. That pet was a dog named Bosco, and he was the most intelligent animal Markem had ever encountered in several years of college teaching. Sometimes Markem would tell him, “Bosco, you are the smartest, bravest, kindest dog in the whole world.” When Markem would say that, Bosco would wag his tail and wait for the special treat Markem would always award him.
            Through hard work and the patience of a saint, Markem taught Bosco to answer the phone. When the phone rang at the Markem house, Bosco would bark and bark. If Markem was working in his study or taking a nap, Bosco's barking enabled him to know the phone was ringing. “I'll get it this time, Bosco,” Markem would say as he handed Bosco a special treat.
            In addition, Markem taught Bosco to guard the house against thieves, a valuable skill for a dog to have in this postmodern world when there is discontent throughout the land and elected politicians in Illinois are plundering and robbing our beloved state unchecked by conscience or even concern for the welfare of the people. Bosco hated thieves with a fury, and he frightened many of them off the Markem property and saved the family home; however, Bosco believed all thieves had four legs, a long tail, and went “Meow, meow, meow.”
            Late one night Bosco awakened Mary Markem with his barking. She told Markem to quiet him down or she would kill him. When Markem came down the stairs, he found the brave dog at the picture window barking furiously. Cautiously, Markem pulled back the curtain and peered outside. Sure enough, there was a vicious little thief sitting on the lawn, nonchalantly cleaning his whiskers.
            “Good dog, Bosco, you have saved our home once again, and you deserve a special treat.”
            When Markem told his wife what the brave Bosco had done, she muttered something about the beauty of a dog and his boy and then she was fast asleep.
            Teaching Bosco to put the car away at night was easy. It took him only a short time to learn that task. Every night about 10:00 o'clock, Bosco would come to Markem, stare at him with his big brown eyes and sometimes put his paw on Markem's leg to get his attention. Then Markem would say, “Oh, is it time to put the car away?”
            When Markem said that, Bosco would wag his tail, run to the door, and wait for Markem to help him put the car away.
            Besides being intelligent and brave, Bosco was also obedient. Markem could always count on Bosco to do what he was told. When Markem would take Bosco for a walk and they would approach a tree, Markem would say, “Give it a shot, Bosco.” The noble Bosco would never fail to obey that order.
            Although it should have been obvious to everyone that Bosco was a special animal, Markem had two friends who disliked him. One friend was a colleague who taught at Heliotrope University and later moved to teach at a community college in southern Illinois. The friend was a brilliant teacher, a fine writer, and a White Sox fan. In addition to those admirable qualities, he had a beautiful wife. She was pulchritudinous if you want the honest truth.
            The friend had only one fault; he didn't like dogs. Instead he preferred the company of thieves. But he and Markem got along famously because Markem didn't take Bosco to the friend's house and the friend didn't bring his little thief to the Markem home. That was a perfect arrangement because the little thief's name was Fresno, and he was the most vicious, mean-spirited, vindictive little thief Markem had ever seen. And Markem doesn't exaggerate; he sometimes procrastinates, but he never exaggerates.
            The other person who disliked Bosco was a woman named Beulah Thompson. Actually, Beulah was Mary Markem's friend. They used to walk to school together when they were girls.
            Beulah never missed an opportunity to make snide remarks about Bosco, and she made certain that Markem heard them. She delighted in calling Bosco a good-for-nothing, worthless, flea-bitten mutt, and she claimed that Markem could pay her no amount of money to have Bosco in her house. At first, Markem's feelings were hurt, but he saw that no matter what Beulah said about Bosco, the noble dog acted as if she was his best friend in the world. Actually, if you want to know the truth, Markem was a little jealous.
            One day when Beulah was visiting the Markem home, Bosco came up to her, put his head on her knee, and looked up at her with his big brown eyes. He was begging for a treat.
            Beulah threw up her hands and said, “Oh, is there no balm in Gilead? No rest for the weary? No pause that refreshes?”
            When Beulah said that, Bosco offered his paw for her to shake.
            “No, that's the wrong paw, Bosco. A gentleman doesn't offer his left paw to a lady. You know better than that,” Markem said, genuinely disappointed.
            After a while Markem was able to understand what Beulah was up to. Actually she was just pretending to dislike Bosco. She was trying to rim-jiggle Markem into thinking that Bosco was worthless. Then he would give him up and she could claim him for herself. Markem was convinced of this strategy because of Beulah's husband. He always referred to Bosco as “Beulah's dog.”
            One day Markem said straight out, “Beulah, don't even bother to make me an offer for this dog. You would just be wasting your time.”
            “Why would I make you an offer when I don't want the dog?” Beulah replied.
            “Just forget about it,” Markem said. “Look why don't you get a nice pair of little thieves. Many people enjoy them, and sometimes they can be good pets if you don't expect much of them.”
            Markem lied to Beulah. He would have sold Bosco to her for a million dollars.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What Has Happened to Faustian Man?

What Has Happened to Faustian Man?
Loren Logsdon

            Dr. James Canada is a distinguished professor of health science at Heliotrope University. He has an international reputation and is loved and respected by almost everyone at the university for his knowledge, his compassionate demeanor, his even-handed treatment of colleagues, his humility, and his boundless energy. His wife Mary proudly proclaims that Jim is the only professor on the Heliotrope campus who has ideas the instant he awakens in the morning.
            Last year Dr. Canada was chosen to give the annual Dean's Lecture at Heliotrope, a prestigious honor named after Dr.  Elihu Hypotenuse, an early president of the university. To be chosen to deliver this annual lecture is the highest recognition a faculty member at Heliotrope can receive. The chosen one is given a golden chair for the academic year and is relieved of all committee assignments in order to be available to speak on philosophical, religious, economic, political, social, aesthetic, and scientific issues in the academic community, the larger local community, the region, the nation, and the world.
            Dr. Canada's Dean's Lecture was entitled “The Transformations of Faustian Man: The Source of All Postmodern Confusion, Existential Angst, Fin de Siecle Hysteria, and physical Illness.”  The central idea of that lecture, in Dr. Canada's own words, follows.
            “Good evening everybody, I am grateful to be chosen to speak to you this occasion to honor the memory of Elihu Hypotenuse. I will dispense with formalities and cut to the chase. To begin, I need to remind you of the Faust legend, the defining story of unlimited human ambition and the quest for power.  Faust was a man in the Middle Ages who sold his soul to the Devil in return for the knowledge that God possessed, the secrets of life that could be used for personal power. Faust was a dynamic manifestation of god-like ambition, but perhaps an even better example is Merlin of King Arthur's days.
            “Merlin was one of those alchemists who were searching for the elixir of life, the philosopher's stone, and the talking bronze head. The objective of the search was for knowledge, not to be shared with other humans and dispersed throughout the world, but rather to be hoarded and guarded and used to give the owner personal power. People feared Merlin because he possessed knowledge they did not have and could not get. In fact, Merlin's power had the aura of magic about it. But it was the knowledge itself that was important because it had coherence, meaning, and power. Faustian Man was seeking knowledge of the secrets and meaning of life. 
            “With the Industrial Revolution, Faustian Man underwent a remarkable transformation. His ambition was not so much for knowledge as it was for wealth and political power, in other words the treasures of this world. Technology gave the Neo-Faustian Man the means to amass wealth and power. Examples are the robber barons in America in the latter part of the 19th century. These were not men of learning, but men of ruthless competitive spirit and greed, driven to amass great wealth and justified by the idea of Social Darwinism. But something important was lost: any coherent notion of meaning for life. As American poet Edwin Arlington Robinson expressed it at the beginning of the 20th century, ‘Modern man is lost in a spiritual kindergarten, trying to spell G-O-D with the wrong blocks.’
            “Currently we have the Postmodern Faustian Man in the guise of a television advertiser whose goal is knowledge of our inner desires and fears. Like a magician of the Middle Ages, the Postmodern Faustian Man enters our minds to discover our inner most secrets, and then sells them back to us in the form of products. Again, there is no coherent meaning to life. As Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote, ‘The best lack all conviction, and the worst are filled with a passionate intensity.’ Consequently, as the rampant use of sex in advertising, especially the Cialis and Viagra commercials, reveals, the goal of many humans is to swing like Howler monkeys right up to the moment of death. Ironically, Viagra is the postmodern version of the fountain of youth. But without reasonable limits and any coherent view of life, we find ourselves like Edward G. Robinson, who plays the gangster Rico in the movie Little Caesar.  Rico is asked what he wants, and he is at a loss to answer the question. Finally, Rico’s friend tries to help him by saying, ‘It seems that all you want is more.’ Rico agrees, excitedly, saying, ‘That’s it. That’s what I want. I want more.’  Without any coherent view that gives human life meaning, all we can want is more. Thus the transformations of Faustian Man over the centuries have led humanity to a dead end, wanting more but to what purpose?
            “Since about 1980 we have seen in America a concern about empowering people who have been marginalized by life. As noble as the empowerment movement has been, if there is no coherent context in which to use the new power, the result will be mere narcissism, a Faustian person like Edward G. Robinson’s Little Rico, who can only say, ‘I want more, that’s what I want, more.’
            “Thus the dominant impulse in people today is the search for coherent meaning, manifesting itself frequently in the idea that all that is needed is   personal empowerment or a messiah who can lead  us out of the confusion of the world to and answers and a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, the various messiahs are tribal, chimerical, and bizarre, thus intensifying the confusion. Huxley was right in Brave New World; people want to be told what to believe and how to behave--to provide the alternative to the search for meaning which requires almost superhuman courage.”
            As a result of the lecture, Dr. Canada was awarded a ten million dollar federal grant to undertake a world-wide search for the philosopher’s stone, the elixir of life, the fountain of youth, the Seven Cities of Cibola, the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, and Atlantis. In addition, Dr. Canada was invited to be an advisor on President Obama’s health care plan, but the indefatigable professor had so many projects going that he had to decline.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Piece of Chalk

A Piece of Chalk
Loren Logsdon

            The general public has the illusion that a college or university is a democratic institution. That is simply not true. Academic institutions are hierarchies in terms of government, with the greatest amount of authority at the top in the board of trustees. Next comes the college or university president, then the vice presidents, then the provost, deans, and department chairs. Faculty do no control the institution; their duties are to the curriculum and the students. In recent years faculty have made efforts to gain control of the institution, and those efforts have led to the implementation of a concept called faculty governance.
            At San Andreas Fault State University in the 1970s the high level administrators encouraged academic departments to draw up their own constitutions and operate by them, a move that sounds like democracy, but the levels of the hierarchy of authority were not changed. They were still firmly in place. But the various academic departments were in love with faculty governance, believing if they established clear operational policies, they could tie the hands of the administrators and control them
            Consequently, the English Department at SAFS, elected a committee of four to draw up a constitution for the approval of the department. To understand this process, you need to know something about the hierarchy within the departments. The chairman is the highest authority and then come the administrators he or she appoints. From there it goes to faculty in the following order:
            Full Professors: These have authority that comes from three sources: their rank, tenure, and their length of service at the university. These have such job security that they can be fired only for moral turpitude, whatever that means. A noted critic of the system at SAFS calls them the High Dummies.
            Associate Professors: These faculty have tenure but have not yet reached the rank of full professor. They are vulnerable because they are dependent on the good will of the High Dummies for promotion. The same cynic calls these people Middle Dummies.
            Assistant Professor: These faculty are probably young, just out of graduate school. Their first goal is to achieve tenure and then promotion. They are extremely vulnerable because if they do not please the High Dummies and the Middle Dummies, they are terminated. These are called simply the Dummies.
            Instructors: These are typically faculty without the doctorate. Usually the term of their employment is limited, and unless they earn a doctorate, they can be terminated. These faculty are referred to as the Low Dummies.
            The Constitution Committee consisted of one faculty member from each of the above ranks—a Dummy from each rank to insure a measure of representative democracy.. This group was charged to meet for an academic year and present a constitution which had to be approved by a majority of the voting members of the department. Once approved, the document then would serve as the basis for departmental government.
            Even to the cynic, the constitution established a remarkable system. It spread the power over a series of committees because faculty are keenly aware of how power has been used against them by ruthless administrators. So the idea of limiting power through a carefully established committee system was appealing. To make sure no committee would seize power, the constitution established a Committee on Committees, whose function was to oversee the entire system. It seemed to be the perfect device for controlling the university administrators. Actually it was a mistake for two reasons: In practice the system was as complicated as a Rube Goldberg device and wasted a lot of time. Second, the administrators went ahead and did what they wanted to anyway. One might almost believe that the entire faculty governance concept was promoted by administrators so that faculty would be so involved in political battles with each other that they would not have time to give administrators trouble.
            Now that you have this background, we can get to the real story. The English Department at San Andreas Fault State implemented the constitution and followed it through the 1970s.  Then in 1977, a crisis occurred at the university: a new president was chosen. There is always apprehension at an institution of higher learning when a new president takes office. Faculty become adjusted to the old president and wonder what changes the new leader will bring. In the case of the new SAFS president, a dynamic fellow named Molten Magma, concerns were legitimate. The first question he asked of deans and department chairmen was, “What are you going to do about the deadwood in your department?”
            “Deadwood” is a term that refers to faculty who have stopped growing, faculty who don't try to improve their teaching or engage in scholarship or provide service to the department and the university. They teach their classes and go home, and students can never find them in their offices. A case in point is Professor Arthur “Plates” Techtonic. He used the same faded lecture notes year after year, with the same jokes, and he even marked places where he should pause for student laughter. He hasn't had a new idea in years.
            There is “Deadwood” at institutions of higher learning, and it is protected by tenure, but when a president embarks on a campaign to get rid of it, faculty wonder where he will stop. “Who’s next?” Everyone but the most prolific publishing scholars is concerned that he or she will be numbered in the category of “Deadwood.”
            Shortly after Molten Magma announced that he wanted faculty members to achieve an international reputation, Orville Korkoff, an associate professor in the English Department, decoded he should strike while the iron was hot and apply for promotion to full professor. Everyone wants to be a High Dummy. According to the policy in the constitution, Korkoff lacked one year of service before he could be promoted. However, the constitution allowed for early promotion if the faculty member's credentials could support it. If anyone in the department had the credentials to seek early promotion, it was Orville Korkoff. He had published a scholarly book, poetry in a leading journal, and delivered papers at professional meetings, and had high student evaluations of his teaching. All he lacked was the one year of service to be fully qualified, and so he applied for early promotion to the rank of full professor. He wanted to be a High Dummy, and no one blamed him for trying. In academic circles one has to toot one’s own horn because no one is going to toot it for the other.
            The Department Personnel Committee was given the responsibility of making recommendations on tenure and promotion. Uncertain of how early promotions would be regarded by President Magma, the committee voted not to consider any application for early promotion that year and sent a letter to Orville Korkoff, explaining that they had not even evaluated his credentials because they decided not to send any early promotions forward this year..
            Korkoff's situation was frustrating because according to the constitution he was entitled to apply for early promotion. The Personnel Committee was exercising its judgment by refusing to act on early promotion. But the problem was that any faculty member's promotion had to originate with the person's department and then be forwarded to the next level. Korkoff's application was dead without departmental action; he could not submit it to the next level. Why not? University policy stipulated that he had to go through channels, beginning with his department. That was the university rule, an academic Catch-22.
            The key for Korkoff was the Department Personnel Committee. He appealed the decision, but the Committee stuck by its guns and refused to change. So he tried another strategy. He called for a meeting of the entire tenured faculty in the department, a bold move on his part. That meant everyone but instructors because they didn't have tenure.
            The meeting was scheduled for the largest classroom in the building. The tenured faculty were in their seats, wondering what to expect from this highly unusual meeting.
            When Korkoff came into the room, faculty were shocked because he was dressed in clothing that made one think of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry. Some faculty were aghast; others smiled in appreciation of the brilliant gesture: Shades of “Give me liberty or give me death” or “These are the times that try men's souls.”
            Korkoff looked at the audience. Then he turned to the blackboard but found no chalk, which was not at all unusual. Many times a professor at SAFS would want to write something on the board only to find  the chalk tray empty or full of tiny pieces of chalk impossible to write with. It was one of the mysteries of the times—no chalk in the classrooms.
            Korkoff said, “I must have chalk. I can't make my presentation without it.”
            Instantly, s people scurried to other classrooms to find a piece of chalk but to no avail.
            “Someone check the first floor,” Rocky Moraine suggested.
            Sandy Delta said, “I'll do that,” and she rushed out of the room.
            Harrison Fissure announced, “I'll run down to the department office and see if the secretaries have any chalk.”
            Various people were scurrying around looking for chalk while Orville Korkoff was calmly looking out the window, patiently waiting for a piece of chalk..
            One good thing about this incident is that it taught faculty to carry their own chalk with them, so all was not lost.
            Finally, Flo Lava, an associate professor of film studies, came into the room holding a nice piece of chalk.
            “Aha!” exclaimed Korkoff, who then turned to the black board and wrote two numbers on the board: 1978   2000.
            Then he went into a long, complicated explanation of how much money he would lose in total salary if he did not receive early promotion. He speculated about how this money would help him financially to send his five children to college and add to his retirement. Further, he argued that the negative decision not to promote him this year might work against him when he went up next year. He spoke for at least 30 minutes without writing anything else on the board. The longer he spoke the more his colleagues wondered why he was so desperate for chalk when he had used it only to write the two numbers on the board.
            Finally many of the faculty in the room realized what Korkoff was doing. He was demonstrating how ridiculous faculty governance was by rubbing their noses in the very system they had designed to protect them.
            Korkoff finished and thanked the faculty for attending the meeting and hearing his appeal. Then he left the room. Later he admitted to Dusty Corners, the janitor, that he had come to the room when no one was there, collected the pieces of chalk and put them in his pocket. He had wanted to see his colleagues scurrying around to find chalk for him.
            The next year Korkoff’s promotion to full professor went through without a hitch or a question. He was now a High Dummy. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Cautionary Tale for Young Lovers: What Charles Atlas Didn’t Tell Us

A Cautionary Tale for Young Lovers:
What Charles Atlas Didn’t Tell Us
Loren Logsdon

            Wesley Billings had a problem. He was a skinny, idealistic high school kid who wanted what would appear to most people to be reasonable felicities of life. More than anything in the world, he wanted a best friend in whom he could confide and count on to be there for him, and he wanted a girl to love and share her life with him in matrimonial bliss. Wesley's problem was that he had no self-confidence, he was ordinary and self-effacing, and he considered himself to be the most boring kid in his class.
            Thus he was a loner throughout his first three years of high school. Other boys seemed to have plenty of friends to hang out with and girls who either paid attention to them or dated them. There were cliques formed according to various kinds of peer pressure, but Wesley belonged to none of them. In terms of postmodern thinking, Wesley was the classic case of one who was marginalized by life and in need of empowerment.
What really puzzled Wesley was that the popular boys mistreated girls or bragged about them in the locker room as if they were of easy virtue.  Wesley became angry when one of his classmates would demean a girl to other boys, and he vowed he would never do that. He declared to his dog Fafnir, “I am going to be a gentleman at all times and treat girls with the respect and kindness they deserve.”
            If Fafnir could speak, he would have told Wesley that high school girls don’t give a hoot for respect and kindness. At that age, they want to be worshiped. They want the boys to be like Romeo in Shakespeare’s famous play. They dream of sitting in a balcony, looking down at a handsome lad who is determined to scale the wall to embrace them. Like Rapunzel imprisoned in the tower, they dream of letting down their hair as a rope for the lad to climb and rescue them. They dream of sitting beside the road waiting for the gallant young knight to come riding by on his horse and take them away from all this mundane existence. They dream of the brave space explorer who will take them out of Levittown and transport them to the farthest reaches of the night sky to gather star dust for their hair. Respect and kindness are strictly for the middle-aged people and the geezers.
            One day, early in his senior year, Wesley found a friend, or rather the friend found him. Wesley was especially good at geometry, and this kid named Vincent Karloff, a handsome jock and the son of wealthy parents, approached Wesley at lunch time and asked him, “Can you help me with geometry? I'm flunking the class, and I don't know how I can improve my grade. Mr. Hypotenuse hates me and wants me to flunk because he caught me doing an imitation of him in the john, and I just can’t understand geometry. It's all Greek to me.”
            Wesley was impressed that a popular kid like Vincent would approach him, let alone ask him for help. “Yes, I'll be glad to help you. We can study together, and I'll see what I can do.”
            “Well, I sure hope you can save me. If my beans are burned in geometry, I will be denied admission to San Andreas Fault State University, and my father has made up his mind that I should attend his alma mater,” Vincent confessed.
            The two lads began studying together, and by mid-semester Vincent had, with Wesley’s tutoring, brought his grade up to a B. More important, though, Vincent found Wesley to be an interesting person, likeable even if he didn’t have a high opinion of himself.  They were both into fishing, APBA baseball, movies, and folk music. They became good friends and had many long discussions about the nature of time, the difference between truth and validity, the necessity of identifying logical fallacies in political speeches and advertising, and the possibility of ghosts and other supernatural beings.
            Sooner or later they were bound to get around to discussing girls, and it was Wesley’s turn to ask for help.
            One evening after watching Ann Blyth and Burt Lancaster in the movie Brute Force, Wesley was inspired by the scene where Lancaster declares his love for Ann:

            Ann Blyth: “Why do you love me? I’m crippled. Most people don’t even give me a second look.”
            Burt Lancaster: “I’m not people. I’m Joe Collins. One Man.”

Wesley and Vincent agreed that Lancaster had embodied the profound nobility of love. Wesley went on to say, “There are so many nice girls in our class, and I feel that I could love any one of them and be happy.”  Then he asked, “But what is the secret? How do you approach a girl and begin to love her?”
            Vincent shrugged and said, “I can't explain it. I suppose there are tricks you could use, but I just ask a girl for a date.”
            Wesley shook his head sadly and opined, “Yes, that's easy for you because you are handsome and athletic and have savoir faire.  I would bet every girl in the school has the hots for you. I'm the proverbial 97-pound weakling, the wimp, the returned empty, the classic example of the no-date nerd. I know exactly how Ann Blyth felt. Girls don't give me a second look, and, worse, to most of them I’m invisible.”
            The bonds of friendship are truly miraculous. Genuine friendship is one of life’s most precious gifts. Wesley seemed so pathetic and sad that Vincent took pity and thought maybe he could persuade his shy friend to do something to help himself. He truly wanted to empower Wesley, but he didn’t know how. Grasping at straws, Vincent said, “Have you ever seen the Charles Atlas ads for body building in the magazines?”
            Wesley brightened and said, “No, I haven't even heard of Charles Atlas. Who is he, a circus strong man, a movie star like Victor Mature in Demetrius and the Gladiators?
            “No, he’s a man who has a perfect physical build. He looks like a Greek god. I’ll bring a book tomorrow and show you his ad.”
The ad told the story of a 97-pound weakling who takes his girl to the beach and a 200 pound bully knocks him down, kicks sand in his face, and steals his girl. The weakling goes home, throws a chair against the wall, and orders Charles Atlas’ dynamic tension body building program. The weakling works out religiously and is transformed into a 200 pound muscular specimen of manhood. He goes to the beach, knocks the 200 pound bully down, kicks sand in his face, and reclaims the girl.
“Give it a try. At least it’s something you can do,” Vincent said, patting his skinny friend on the back to encourage him.
The next day Vincent asked, “Well, have you sent off to Charles Atlas for help?”
Wesley shook his head and said, “No, but I have made an important decision. Last night I had a dream in which I obtained Charles Atlas’ booklet, and I worked and worked until I weighed 200 pounds. I looked so good that when I went to school the girls flocked around me and flirted with me. Finally, Sunny Tidings asked me if I would take her to the beach. She asked me! Can you believe that? Sunny asked me! I know it was only a dream, but I felt so good.  As James Cagney said, ‘Top of the world, Ma! Top of the world!’”
Vincent was elated and happy for his friend. “Yes, I know the feeling. It just goes to show that dreams tell us something important, and that dream tells me that you can do something to help yourself. You’re on the right track.”
Wesley held up his hand like a policeman halting traffic so a mother duck and her ducklings could cross a busy street. “But my dream didn’t end there.”
“Well, what else happened?” Vincent asked, curious.
“I took Sunny to the beach and a 300 pound bully knocked me down, kicked sand in my face, and walked away with Sunny clinging to his arm.” .
Vincent knew a crisis when he saw one. “But that was only a dream turned nightmare. You can’t  let that stop you. Go on with it. Stick it out,” Vincent urged.
“Vincent, you don’t understand me. The nightmare enabled me to make an important decision,” Wesley announced with confidence.
“Yeah, what did you decide?” Vincent asked.
“I decided that if God ever does give me a girl to love, I’m never taking her to the beach.”

Note: The Charles Atlas ad had tremendous appeal to 97-pouund weaklings throughout this great land of ours, giving them hope that one day they could take their girl to the beach without fearing they would be knocked down, have sand kicked in their face, and lose their girl to a 200 pound bully. What Charles Atlas didn’t tell us was that his body building secrets would also appeal to 200, 300, 400, and even 500 pound bullies.   

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The World's Greatest Lover

The World's Greatest Lover
Loren Logsdon

During his undergraduate years at Heliotrope University, Gort Rumson had several interesting friends, and he was the kind of person whom people could trust to keep their secrets. Like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, people frequently told him more than he wanted to know. Like Nick, Gort was not one to judge quickly. He gave other people the benefit of the doubt, and he tried to be fair in the way he treated others. Consequently, people just seemed to seek him out either as a problem solver, an adviser, or a shoulder to cry on.

One of his closest college friends was a lad named Lance Gallamore, who was in English 101 with Gort. After the first class meeting, Lance approached Gort and introduced himself. “I think we live in the same dorm,” Lance had said, extending his hand in friendship. “What do you think of this school so far? To be honest, I'm kind of lost. I don't think I'm ready for college. I think I'll go home and come back next year.”

Gort Rumson had entertained some doubts himself because the English 101 professor seemed to be a hard-nosed, humorless person who might take delight in seeing how many students he could flunk. In fact Professor Sculley Murdock came into the room, surveyed the class like a drill sergeant, and addressed the students, “Look at the person on your left and look at the person on your right. At the end of the year, two of you will not be here.”

What a wonderful, welcoming way to begin college, but Gort said afterwards to Lance, “Why don't you wait a while before you leave. We can help each other out, and together we can survive this peacocking egotist. Besides, any new situation will require some adjustment. Give it four or five weeks. My Uncle Biff told me it would take at least four weeks to get over being homesick.”
That conversation was the beginning of a close friendship that would last the four years of college and long after graduation. Lance decided to stay, and at the end of the semester he and Gort became roommates.

The first writing assignment in English 101 was an open topic: “What are you most concerned about and why?” Professor Murdock used that topic as a means to evaluate the intellectual depth of his students.

Gort Rumson answered the question in a three-page essay on the need to develop accurate self-knowledge. He opened his essay by writing, “The key to making the right decisions and choices is a matter of having two kinds of knowledge: knowledge of the world and self-knowledge. The most important of the two is self-knowledge because if one doesn't know who he is, all of the knowledge of the world will be of little use. “

Then he developed the major supporting points about what self-knowledge involved: an accurate awareness of one strengths and weaknesses, a respect for a greater power outside the self, a respect for other people as individuals, an awareness of one's mortality, and the realization that one is capable of making mistakes, being wrong, and doing evil. Gort had developed each point as fully as he thought necessary, then completed the essay with a powerful conclusion, emphasizing that the objective of a college education should be to empower the student to be a good citizen, to master ideas and oneself, and to choose the best people as leaders.

Gort thought he had written a good paper, and he was shocked when it was returned with no corrections or comments in the margins, with a grade of C and the evaluation in large letters “YOU HAVE A FIRM GRASP OF THE OBVIOUS.”

Gort was crestfallen at receiving a “C,” but then he consoled himself with the thought that at least he had passed . He could tell by the reactions of classmates that many had done worse than he. Gort told himself that he would do better on the next paper. He had the feeling that Professor Murdock wanted to show the students how tough he was to get then to work harder. Some teachers do that. They grade you down to challenge you.

Lance Gallamore, however, was beside himself, on the verge of tears. In responding to the topic, he had poured his heart into the paper. He handed it to Gort and asked, “Where did I go wrong?”
Gort quickly glanced over Lance's paper. There was not a mark, correction, or marginal comment anywhere on the paper, only a brief remark at the end. Gort decided to read the paper before he read Professor Murdock's comment.

I want to be the World's Greatest Lover
Lance Gallamore
English 101, Sec 3
September 5, 2003

I am most concerned about love. Why? Because love is the greatest of all human activities. Love is the test of how well we have lived. In one way or another, all human activity is directed toward love. There are different kinds of love, but I am going to limit myself to a discussion of love for another person; in my case, love of a female in the context of a connubial relationship. In other words, I am seeking a mate, a girl who will make me happy to the end of my life. But to accomplish this objective I will need to love four girls simultaneously.

Since my declaration in the previous sentence will seem controversial to people of conventional morality, a brief clarification is in order. There are four dimensions to a human being: the physical, the emotional, the spiritual, and the intellectual. The healthy human being must respect and attempt to balance these four dimensions. The problem is that in terms of temperament, no one woman in the connubial relationship can provide for all four. It takes four different women. In the following paragraphs, I will name them and describe them.

First is the physical woman: Jessbelle is always seeking fun and excitement She is impulsive and energetic, and with her life is a party. She realizes that we only go around once in life, and we should grab for all the gusto we can. Bold and daring, she takes risks and lives for the pleasure of the moment. She dances through life, avoids boredom, and lives in the fast lane. She goes all out in an uninhibited way with the motto “Tragedy tomorrow, Kabuki tonight.” Jessbelle is the kind of girl you would not be afraid to take to the beach . She would welcome the opportunity to knock the 200-pound bully on his gnastus and kick sand in his face. Jessbelle loves all sports: surfing, golf, mountain climbing, basketball, baseball, football, soccer. She would be willing to “ride the wild mustango” all over town. The only problem with Jessbelle is that she might be too wild and get you in trouble.

Second is the emotional woman: Comfort is the girl you take home to meet your mother. She is the perfect girl to be the mother of your children. Like the goddess Hestia in Greek mythology, Comfort is the guardian of the hearth, the house, and the home. She represents the attainable felicities of human society. She is practical and not interested in wild adventures, the type of woman you see in western movies who tries to talk the hero out of facing the bad guy in a gun duel. She regards such displays of manhood as ill-advised, uncivilized, and unlawful. She would never accompany you to the beach, but instead persuade you to take her to the church picnic. Always on the side of civilization and morality, Comfort follows the rules and has a firm sense of right and wrong. When Jessbelle is enthusiastic and exciting, Comfort is cautious and prudent.

Third is the spiritual woman: Elise is an idealist who believes in altruism and will always encourage you to be yourself. For her, life is largely mystery and miracle, and she strives to live a saintly life, putting others before herself. She is open to the idea that he universe sends us clues and vibes if we were open to them. Elise would not put any demands on you, always allowing you to choose. If you took her to the beach, she would sympathize with the 200-pound bully and help him understand his inadequate personality which led him to want to knock guys on their gnastus, kick sand in their face, and steal their girl. To Elise, life is a mystical journey; each person is on a path to discover the spiritual essence inside him or her. The trouble with Elise is that she might not give you the advice you need for fear of imposing on your freedom; and, like Joan of Arc, she might get herself and you killed.

The fourth and last is the intellectual woman: Klara seeks knowledge above all else. She is calm and objective, believing that reason and its laws lead us to truth. Klara trusts only reason because its laws are universal. Klara's great value is that she is a problem solver, and she enjoys the challenge of complex problems. Klara distrusts authority unless she can verify it for herself. Klara's counsel would enable you to find truth, no matter how unpleasant it might be. She seeks knowledge not for its own sake but for the pragmatic use it can be put to. For Klara, life is a long, never-ending journey in the search for knowledge whose end is wisdom. Klara might not be interested in accompanying you to the beach because she would consider the activity there to be simple-minded, boring, and a waste of time; however, she might go there to study marine life and the behavior of party animals. In her company, you should carry a dictionary because she is fond of words such as jejune, cogent, desuetude, binary, and phallogocentrism. The main problems with Klara are that you might not have sufficient intellectual depth and she places too much value on efficiency and technology .

Conclusion: Thus, Jessbelle, Comfort, Elise, and Klara! I love you equally with all my heart and soul, and I won't rest until I find you. It is through loving you that I will live my life to full measure. I hereby swear that I will worship the ground you walk on, and I promise I will not treat you like dirt.

Then, after reading the last word of Lance's essay, Gort turned to Professor Murdock's evaluation, and he knew why Lance was so upset.

F This paper is pure treacle! Although I am not given to delivering ultimata, I suggest you drop this class immediately!

Lance Gallamore refused to drop the class. He attended faithfully every meeting, and by the end he had pulled his grade up so far that Professor Murdock, in a rare moment of compassion, gave him a”D” for the course.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A College Love Story, Illustrating the Principle that
the Preferences of the Heart Cannot be Denied
Loren Logsdon

            Around the end of the 19th century, there was a beautiful young coed named Zephyr McCurdy who was the belle of the Heliotrope University campus. Many male students dreamed of winning her heart and sharing a life of connubial bliss with her. All their dreams were in vain because Zephyr had given herself to a lad who attended Upperville University, a prestigious private school in the Windy City that considered itself the Harvard of the Midwest. The young hero’s name was Farnsworth DuPont. He was the son of wealthy parents who were the crème de la crème of high society. Actually Farnsworth and Zephyr were practically married. All that was lacking was the formal announcement and the ceremony itself.
            One male student on the Heliotrope campus, a senior named Roscoe Goodson, was determined to steal Zephyr away from Farnsworth   He learned that Farnsworth was coming on the train to spend the weekend visiting Zephyr. Under the guise of friendship, Roscoe approached Zephyr and told her that Farnsworth could stay at his fraternity house that weekend. Roscoe wanted a chance to study his rival up close and devise a plan to defeat him. Roscoe had been in love with Zephyr for three years, but didn’t approach her and make his feelings known because he thought she was too far above him to have any chance with her. Finally, in their senior year, Roscoe decided time was running out, and he had better try to win her heart or forget about her. Unaware of Roscoe's true intentions, Zephyr rewarded his kindness with a sisterly kiss on the cheek.
            Now the Beta Alpha Delta fraternity house at that time was located south of the campus on the other side of the Bide A Wee Memory Gardens. To go to and from the campus, the BAD men would take a shortcut through the Bide A Wee. These were the days before there were any automobiles. The culture of the campus was much different then. The three main questions male students had were “Who are the easiest professors?” “Where can I tie my horse?” and “Where is the nearest tavern?”  Fortunately students have changed since then.
When Farnsworth DuPont arrived in town, Zephyr met him at the station and told him she had secured lodging for him. At dinner she introduced Farnsworth and Roscoe, who glad-handed the unsuspecting Upperville lad with that “hail-fellow-well-met” air of college men in those days. Actually, Roscoe was telling himself that he had to rescue Zephyr from this insufferable bugbear, this smug young oligarch, this supercilious stuffed shirt. Roscoe wanted to punch Farnsworth in the nose and walk off with Zephyr clinging lovingly to his arm. But Roscoe concealed his true feelings and rolled out the red carpet for Farnsworth.
            Roscoe had a couple of BAD pledges carry Farnsworth's suitcases and show him the way through the Bide A Wee to the fraternity house. Farnsworth felt that he was really being given the royal treatment because all the men at the house welcomed him as if he were a brother. They seemed almost too friendly because, in truth, Farnsworth was a wealthy snob whose friends predicted he would one day perish of self-inflicted love bites.  
            Farnsworth and Zephyr enjoyed each other's company the following day. They attended the football game and cheered for Heliotrope to defeat conference rival The New Madrid Fault State University at Quincy. They roamed hand-in-hand in the gloaming as dusk settled on the campus, and they watched the sun set over the Little Sleazy River. Then that night they attended the big all school Fall Festival Dance at Heliotrope; and Zephyr, looking beautiful like Cinderella at the Ball, introduced her Prince Charming to the campus community. She had long dreamed of this glass slipper moment.
On the other hand, Roscoe suffered through the dance, eating his heart out because he believed he should be the one dancing with Zephyr, fussing over her, and whispering sweet nothings in her ear. As he watched Zephyr beam with pleasure, it became evident that he had lost any chance of obtaining her affection. Long before midnight Rosco’s evening had turned into rats and pumpkins.
            With a heavy heart, Roscoe left the dance around twelve o’clock and headed back to the fraternity house. He upbraided himself for waiting so long to approach Zephyr, and now she was completely beyond his reach. “It’s the story of my life: always a day late and a dollar short,” he muttered to himself.
The night was dark, but Roscoe had made the trip through the cemetery so often that he didn't need any light. What he didn't know was that the Bide A Wee caretaker had dug a new grave and left it uncovered. Roscoe was trudging along singing “Don't You Remember Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt?” when he fell into the empty grave.
            Miraculously, Roscoe did not suffer any injuries, just had the wind knocked out of him. .He wasn’t alarmed in the least. In fact, he saw it as a delicious irony, an appropriate ending to his evening. So he would just climb out and be on his way. But the grave was too deep, and he couldn't get out no matter how hard he tried. Then, he shouted and shouted, but since it was late at night no one heard his cries. Not to worry, he would huddle in a corner of the grave and wait until daylight.  So he made himself as comfortable as one can in those circumstances. In fact, Roscoe even dozed off, dreaming of Zephyr and a houseful of healthy, happy children.  
            About an hour later, along came Farnsworth DuPont, who was whistling the “Garry Owen” to keep any evil spirits at bay.  He fell into the grave, unaware that it was occupied, and tried to climb out. Always the helpful one, Roscoe said, in the darkness of his corner of the grave, “You'll never make it.”
            Roscoe was dead wrong. Fear gave Farnsworth the superhuman strength to leap out of the grave and race to the fraternity house, where he packed his bags and left, without a farewell to Zephyr or a word to anyone. Doubtless he reached Peoria by morning, but Zephyr never heard from him again. One person knew the reason for Farnsworth’s sudden departure, but he wasn’t talking.   
Zephyr McCurdy probably would have died of a broken heart; college women often did in those days. But Roscoe Goodson was “there for her,” as today’s college students would put it. Roscoe and Zephyr were married the following June, the same day of their graduation.

[Postscript: The above story is true, told to me by Roscoe Goodson when I interviewed him for an award given by the Heliotrope University Alumni Association. I could never in my finest hour make up a story like that.]

Friday, March 9, 2018

Somebody's Watching You: The Creeper Visits Weeder's Clump Part II

Somebody's Watching You:
The Creeper Visits Weeder's Clump Part II
Loren Logsdon

            Sheriff Tub Huyler decided he would hold a public meeting about the Creeper to see if anyone in the community might have some information that could help him apprehend the person or the alien from outer space who had been spying on women. The turnout was larger than he expected, and he began the meeting by asking if anyone had any ideas.
Lloyd Mayfield rose to his feet and said, “I have a suggestion. Please don't give us any more of your silly jokes. This business is serious, and I for one would like for you to refrain from your jargon, your feeble attempts at levity, and your allusions to obscure movies.”
            “I second that suggestion,” said Lou Scannon, “and I think you should stop referring to the prowler as Randy Voyeur.”
            Tub was somewhat crestfallen because he considered himself unique when it came to law enforcement officers. But his good will prevailed, and he said, “Ok, no more jokes, and from now on I will refer to the prowler as our 'bete noire.' I doubt that anyone will be offended by that name because few of you will even know what it means. Now does anyone have any ideas about how to catch the bete noire?”
            Stub Underwood, the husband of Cynthia, who had lost several items of underwear to the Creeper, rose to his feet and said, “I have the perfect plan to catch this rascal. We build a large state of the arts swimming pool in my backyard and set up floodlights all around it. Then we station nude female manikins at various places in the pool and play loud music. The Creeper will be attracted by all that fun-filled excitement.”
            Sheriff Huyler interrupted and said, “So will every swinger in a 500 mile radius and maybe some from California and New York. Our community will be overrun by people wanting to party. We  will become a 21st century Woodstock. The Creeper will blend in and be lost in the crowd. There will be no way to identify him.”
            “I had not considered that,” Stub Underwood admitted.
            “There’s still an important question. Who’s going to pay for the fancy swimming pool?”
            Stub quickly answered, “I thought we could finance it out of your budget, Tub.”
            “Have you lost your mind?” Tub responded. “My budget can’t pay for a swimming pool. I can’t even pay deputies for overtime. How do you think I could afford a swimming pool?”
            Crestfallen, Stub said, “You can’t blame me for trying.”
            Bill Klechter then suggested, “Let’s hire a bounty hunter. That’s how they caught criminals in the Old West.”
            “Nice try, Bill, but again no money,” Tub remarked. “Would anyone else have suggestions? If not, I will tell you what I am going to do.”
            No one spoke, so Tub then explained his strategy. “I’m going to ask for volunteers to supplement my deputies. Those who volunteer will assist in a series of stakeouts. You will not carry weapons, but you will have cameras, and your job is to photograph the prowler for the purposes of identification. From all accounts, he appears to be a fast runner, so I doubt that we can capture him at the scene. I don’t want to shoot him if we can avoid it. So far he has not assaulted anyone, so at this point my orders are to take him alive. Now, are there any volunteers?”
            At first, no one seemed willing to step up to the next level, but then Granville “Possum” Gwathmy rose and declared, “I’m your huckleberry.”
            Uncle Bub Cutter said, “You can count on me.” And several other voices offered support.
            Tub Huyler beamed with pleasure. “We’ll start with Possum and Bub. I’ll call on others later. Thank you for your cooperation. I will keep you informed about our progress. Meanwhile, be careful out there and be alert.
            Tub’s first stakeout was at the Underwood home, where Cynthia, as usual, hung out a large washing. Possum Gwathmy was stationed with a camera at the upstairs window which gave him an unobstructed view of the clothesline. Meanwhile, Cynthia invited Tub to sit at table and have a large slice of Dutch Apple pie with a generous dip of ice cream. They became so engrossed in conversation they lost track of the time. When Tub looked out the window, he saw that the Creeper had been there and taken more of Cynthia’s underwear, much to Cynthia’s disappointment because she was running out of undergarments.
            Tub and Cynthia ran upstairs, and to their disgust found Possum Gwathmy sound asleep in his chair, with the camera lying unused on the floor beside him. He had failed to be vigilant, and the stakeout had been a waste of time.
            Ashamed at having fallen asleep on duty, Possum exclaimed, “I guess I’m just too old to cut the mustard, a day late and a dollar short, as the famous Peoria lawyer is always saying. But Possum felt better after they gave him a large piece of Cynthia Underwood’s apple pie. But they still didn’t have a description of the Creeper.
            Sheriff Tub Huyler was disappointed, but he had another idea. This time he would install night cameras at the Mayfield House and minimize the possibility of human error. And to help Possum Gwathmy save face for his failure, Tub took him along as his assistant.
The two men concealed themselves on the Mayfields’ back porch. Along about 2 a.m. they heard a noise in the backyard. Something was approaching the house and would soon be in view of the cameras.
            Their eyes glued to the monitor, Tub and Possum anxiously awaited the appearance of the Creeper, and then they saw a figure on the monitor. Tug exclaimed, “I don’t believe it. Did you see what I saw? Tell me I’m not dreaming.”
            “I saw! I saw!” Possum muttered.
            What the two men had seen was a full grown Sasquatch. He was tall and hairy, and he looked exactly like the Sasquatch on the beef jerky TV commercials. He looked like he could even play professional baseball for every major league team except the New York Yankees.
            The creature, suddenly halted, sniffed the air, looked around, and, sensing something was wrong, raced back in the direction it had come from.
            Stunned, the two men sat for several minutes before Sheriff Tub Huyler said, “What do we do now?”
            Although Tub had some irritating eccentricities, he was intelligent enough to see the big picture and realize the problem was more complicated than merely catching a prowler.
. “We don’t tell anyone about this. We have to keep it a secret,” Possum answered.
“Right! No one will believe us.”
Possum shook his head, “On the contrary, people will believe us because of the quality of the picture of our Sasquatch. The other pictures were suspicious because the creature was so indistinct that it could be a bear, a gorilla, or a human dressed in a costume. There’s no doubt about the reality of our picture. And that poses a huge problem.”
            Tub agreed immediately. “Yes, if this gets out, our community will be overrun with people who will try to capture the creature. Geraldo Rivera is wandering around out there somewhere, and he would want in on the action. So would Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, and a whole host of  Sasquatch hunters from all over the world will be here, not to mention the paparazzi.”
Puzzled, Possum asked, “What would the paparazzi have to do with Sasquatch?”
“I told you not to mention the paparazzi. You and I will have to handle this business on our own, but how? Let’s go to the Tally Ho and discuss this problem over coffee. But first I have to tell the Mayfields we failed once again. Will you back me?” Tub asked.
            “Yes, you can count on me.”

            A short time later at the Tally Ho, Tub said, “What do you suppose the Sasquatch is up to?”
“Well, I have been studying the Sasquatch phenomenon for years, and I have a theory. The creature we saw tonight is the last of its kind, and it is lonely and desperate for a glimpse of connubial relationships. That’s why it is approaching homes. We don’t have the slightest idea what loneliness is, what with all the emphasis on togetherness these days,” Possum opined.
Suddenly inspired, Tug said, “The closest we can come to understanding that kind of loneliness is in the movie Castaway when Tom Hanks created a companion out of a volleyball and called him Wilson.”
“That’s a perfect analogy. But why would a Sasquatch want to steal Cynthia Underwood’s underwear? It’s true Cynthia is a bit on the hefty side, but her underwear wouldn’t be large enough for a Sasquatch to wear.” Possum observed.
Maybe the Sasquatch is a female, or maybe a male that has hopes of finding a female someday. Maybe the Sasquatch just wanted the feel of soft clothing. Who knows for sure?”
 “Sasquatch has not harmed anyone. Are you in favor of capturing the creature?” Possum asked.
            Tub thought a moment and answered, “I don’t think so. The poor Sasquatch would then be locked up like some oddity at the carnival or featured on a wide range of TV shows.  I don’t think any creature like Sasquatch should be forced to live in captivity and treated like some grotesque freak. One of the worst things that can happen to a person in our world is to become a celebrity, but what can we do? I have sworn to uphold the law.”
            Possum stared into his coffee cup. “The letter of the law killeth; the spirit of the law giveth life and is good. Here’s what we do. When people trap raccoons that are plundering their gardens, what do they do with the animals when they catch them? “
“Shades of Dante’s Inferno, I think I see where you’re going. They take the animals out in the country and release them.”
“Yes, and that’s what we will do with Sasquatch. We set a trap and shoot Sasquatch with a Frank Buck Animal Tranquilizer Gun. Then we keep the creature sedated until we can transport it to the wilds of northern Minnesota and release it.”
Three nights later, Tub and Possum succeeded in hitting the Sasquatch with the tranquilizer dart. The next day they announced to friends and family they were going on a fishing trip to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.