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Monday, November 18, 2019


President Trump made an unscheduled trip to Walter Reed Hospital on Saturday.  It would be unChristian of me to hope for the worst.  But then, I am not a Christian.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


1.  At The Movies

Susie and I have just returned from THE GOOD LIAR, a vehicle for two splendid actors, Ian McKellan and Helen Mirren.  Both give fine performances.  It is worth a trip to the flics.

2.  I Am All For Unions, But Really

Susie and I are booked on the direct Delta/Air  France RDU-Paris flight on December 6th, returning December 23rd.  I have just learned that the Air France ground crews have scheduled a strike for December 5th, this to support the Metro, Bus, RER, and TGV workers who are about to go on strike.  The ground crew strike is currently billed as a one day affair, but there is no telling whether they will extend it.  At issue is the government's plan to change, and presumably reduce, pensions.  I think it is very much an open question whether we will make it to Paris.  Fortunately, this time, for the very first time, I bought trip insurance.


So now Pete Buttigieg has jumped to the front of the pack in Iowa.  I recognize that this is a test of just how totally I am committed to defeating Trump, but I wish the good Lord would find a less painful way of testing me, such as perhaps fasting or scourging myself with whips or walking on nails.

Saturday, November 16, 2019


Last Wednesday, Susie and I went to a potluck dinner organized for the folks in her morning exercise class.  When I was chatting with our hostess, I mentioned my experiences on my early morning walks and she suggested that I write a post for the retirement community's blog, which I did.  Since I have so often mentioned those walks, I thought I would take a break from my obsessive impeachment watching and post it.  Really serious people may wish to navigate to another blog for a day.  Here it is:

Carolina Meadows in the Morning

When I retired in 2008, after a half century of university teaching, Susie and I moved from Massachusetts to a condominium in Meadowmont Village.  Susie signed up with an exercise class at the Meadowmont Wellness Center and I began a regimen of year round early morning walks that took me first to the top of the hill at Country Club Road and later past the Findlay Golf Course to the Botanical Gardens.  In July 2017, we moved into Building 5 here at Carolina Meadows.  Susie transferred her allegiance to James’ 8:15 exercise class, and I cast about for a new walking route.  I tried walking past Farrington Mill Road to the very end of Whippoorwill Lane, but the early morning traffic got the better of me, and eventually I settled on a walk completely within Carolina Meadows.  Rather grandly, I claim it is three miles long, but honesty compels me to admit that it is actually 2.85 miles, as measured by the trip odometer in my car.  I start at the front door of Building 5, cross Appletree Lane and continue on Peartree Crescent.  Left on Magnolia, right on Hawthorne, and then the long slog past the South Entrance all the way to the circle at the end of Hawthorne.  Around the circle and back to Peartree, where I turn left, pass the tennis courts, walk along Maple Lane past the Club Center and Buildings 1, 2, and 3, then onto Oak Lane past the old 100 villas to the Fairways and the pond, left onto Appletree and the 200 villas, swinging around to the right on Appletree, past Elmwood, Mimosa, and the golf course, right around Building 6, and home again.

Since I walk early, always before seven, sometimes before six, and on a few occasions before five, I assumed my walk would be solitary, but very quickly I discovered a rather lively early morning world here at Carolina Meadows.  My purpose in writing this blog post is to let the slugabeds know what they are missing.  In order to introduce some order into these ramblings, I have organized my experiences into three categories:  Cars, Dogs, and People.


On my very first walk, I encountered those little white cars with the Carolina Meadows logos driven by security personnel.  They cruise slowly up and down our streets, available should there be an emergency.  I wave and they wave back.  The night shift seems to end at seven a.m., and if I happen to be on Hawthorne as that hour nears, several cars will pass heading for the little road that branches off from Hawthorne Circle and loops around to the gated Operations and Maintenance parking area.  One of the duties of the night shift is to unlock and open the gate that closes off the South Entrance at night.  The gate is opened at 5 a.m. and on the rare occasions when I have walked so early that I actually see the gate still closed, I feel a little secret pride that I am out so early.  Somewhat later, the white CM pickup truck will drive by, stopping in front of villas to collect the bags of garbage left at the curb.  On Hawthorne, the stops are so frequent that I can actually keep pace with the truck.

My favorite early morning car is the black Nissan sedan delivering the Raleigh News & Observer and the NY TIMES.  In the buildings, our papers are delivered grandly to our front doors, but the poor villa residents must walk out to their driveways to retrieve them.  There seem to be two paper deliverers – a woman named Tiffany, and a man whom I have seen but do not know.  As the Nissan cruises slowly along a street, a paper, sometimes two, will fly out the window onto the driveway.  When the man is delivering, he opens the sunroof of the car and papers soar out of the top of the car, landing expertly on just the right driveway.  It is all rather theatric.  My walk usually occurs during the deliveries, and quite often our TIMES has not yet arrived when I leave for my walk but is lying on the doormat when I return.

I cannot end my remarks about early morning cars without saying a word about the long flatbed trucks with the green Ruppert logos that rumble out of the Operations and Maintenance parking area and deliver power mowers or large rolls of sod wherever they are needed on the Carolina Meadows campus.  CM obviously has a regular contract with Ruppert, and it must be a whopper, because those trucks are a regular fixture on the campus.  I tend to take for granted the enormous effort that is required simply to maintain our little community, my mind typically occupied with more elevated things, such as [to take an old example from my youth] whether to let Red China into the UN.  I am glad someone is taking care of things.


The first dog I met on my early morning walks was Phoebe, a large, aging, shaggy, caramel colored rescue dog who lives in one of the 300 villas on the old section of Hawthorne.  Phoebe’s mistress, Anne, walks her at roughly the same time that I am out, and I frequently meet them either on Hawthorne itself or on Magnolia or Peartree.  Phoebe is terribly afraid of strangers and still, after all this time, will not let me touch her.  But she knows who I am, and if she sees me coming up behind her and Anne, she will set her feet and not move until I have caught up with her and said hello.  Anne takes Phoebe on a long walk every morning, and on occasion I have seen them in front of The Fairways or on the golf course next to Appletree.  Anne is the wife of a retired UNC professor, and expresses interest in my weekly trips each fall to New York City to teach a course at Columbia University.  I like to think that Anne and I have become friends, even though I am not sure she knows my name.

Pearl is as eager to be petted as Phoebe is shy.  Pearl is long, low, shaggy, and all black save for a white head.  She is walked each morning by Dedra Stockton, the pet sitter who looks after our cat when we go to Paris.  Pearl will all but roll over when I see her, waiting to be petted and scratched.  Dedra also walks a pair of matched dachshunds named, I believe, Hansel and Gretel.

The dog with whom I have most intimately bonded is Bandit, an energetic little pug-nosed fellow who lives in a 100 villa at the base of the hill that leads to the Fairways.  His master, Willie Thompson, first caught my attention because he walks each morning carrying a cup of coffee in one hand while he leads Bandit with the other.  Bandit loves to be scratched behind his ears, and tugs on his leash to get to me as soon as he spots me.  Willie graciously allows to be pulled over and, summer or winter, I give Bandit a scratch before we go our separate ways.

But the most concentrated assemblage of dogs is to be found on Appletree on the down slope leading to the sharp turn that takes you past the croquet court to the pond.  Four or five dogs live in that stretch of 200 villas, and their mistresses meet each morning to greet one another while the dogs sniff one another curiously.  I am sure many CM residents have noticed the striking white Standard Poodle, elegantly clipped, who has only three legs.  Susie and I first met this dog in front of the Club Center shortly after it was adopted.  Poodles, of course, have an elevated opinion of themselves, and this one does not socialize with the common run of Appletree dogs.

I have recently made the acquaintance of Luke, a middle sized shorthaired dog who lives on Appletree, but even though I have said hello to him several times, he has not yet acknowledged my existence.


There is a small but hardy band of regulars who walk early in the morning, and as the days pass, we get to recognize and acknowledge one another.  Since my walk takes me virtually to every part of Carolina Meadows, sooner or later I meet them all.  Many are, like me, old guys who walk slowly, some on Hawthorne or Magnolia, fewer on Appletree or Maple or Oak.  Since I wear a bright yellow reflector vest, a holdover from my walks on Findley Golf Course Road, I am easily recognizable [and I hope equally easily visible to drivers coming and going in Carolina Meadows.]

One of my favorite early morning people is a slender, always elegantly dressed woman who, when it is cold, wears a form fitting brilliantly red coat and a natty fedora.  She walks faster than I do, but she is slowed down by a fascinating practice she has adopted.  She knows a number of people in the villas, and when she comes to the villa of an acquaintance, she stops to pick up the paper tossed at the end of the driveway from the black Nissan and walk it up to the front door.  Judging from where I have seen her, she must know people all over CM.  We say hello to one another whenever we pass, but, I am sad to say, she disapproves of me.  The reason is simple.  I sometimes walk on the same side of the road as the traffic, which thus comes up behind me.  The first time she saw me doing this, on Appletree as I neared the end of my walk, she chastised me gently, but unrepentant I continued my dangerous ways, and I think by now she has written me off as destined for a bad end.  She seems to know a number of the Appletree dog walkers and quite often as I make the turn and begin up the hill, I see her deep in conversation with two or three of them.

But quite the strangest of the early walkers, or so it seemed to me at first, is a tall gentleman who lives on Peartree just about where it is met by Magnolia.  A little back story is called for here by way of clarification.  In 1964, shortly after I joined the Columbia University Philosophy Department as a senior professor, I was walking up Broadway from 115th to 116th street with my new colleague, the unforgettable Sidney Morgenbesser.  As we approached 116th, I saw a man in a phone booth taking agitatedly into the handset, which was totally unconnected to the rest of the phone!  When I pointed this out rather worriedly to Sidney, he said casually, as though it was no big deal, “Oh, that’s a shouter.”  Apparently in Manhattan there were well-delimited subcategories of nutcases.

Well, I saw this Peartree resident repeatedly, at six a.m. or so, seemingly talking to himself.  Was this a CM shouter?  Of course not.  In the intervening fifty-five years, there had been several revolutions in technology.  This man had those ear buds with dangling wires that indicated he was talking on a cellphone.  But at six a.m.?  Was he a still active stock trader talking to a broker in Europe, where the market was already open?  Was he dictating instructions to some poor secretary who had dragged himself out of a warm bed to take a letter from the boss?

After a while, I began to conjure touching just so stories.  His wife had passed away and he was talking to nobody at all, lonely and forlorn.  His wife was in The Pines and he spent a little time with her each morning during his walk.  By now we were on an early morning nodding relationship.  He certainly did not seem forlorn.  And he certainly was not nuts.  What was up?

And then I actually met him and discovered that the real story was better than my unfettered imaginings.  It seems he and his wife are both retired physicians.  When he was a young man, he and his closest friend were running buddies.  They live now in different states, and although he no longer runs, his friend does.  Each morning, as his friend runs, they talk, thanks to the miracle of IPhones!  Indeed, one day, on Appletree, I actually met the friend, who was in town for a visit.

We are a hardy band of men, women, and dogs, we early morning walkers.  I count them all as friends, even Phoebe who still will not let me pet her, and the Lady in Red, who disapproves of me.

This is my version of Carolina Meadows in the Morning.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Well, I watched several hours of the hearings, and one simple fact seemed obvious, at least to me: whatever else the Democrats and their lawyers may be they are simply awful teachers.  Let me explain.

The testimony dealt at length with Ukraine.  I would estimate that there are maybe two million people in America who could more or less locate Ukraine on a map, which is to say fewer than 1% of the adults in this country.  The point of the hearings is to educate the American people about what is already known, not to discover new facts.  So the first thing any halfway decent teacher would do is put up a map on screen and spend ten minutes describing the location, the history, and a few salient facts about the country [such as:  Ukraine is the largest country, by area, in Europe;  Ukraine gave up the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union in return for promises of protection, etc.]

Did Adam Schiff do this?  Not even remotely.  So the entire day was incomprehensible to anyone not already totally clued in.  By contrast, the only fact in Watergate not already known to the general public was that there is an apartment complex in DC called “The Watergate.”

I seriously doubt that this exercise will move the polls, and hence the Republicans.

Meanwhile, Mike Bloomberg and Deval Patrick have decided the Democratic race for the nomination needs a few more centrists.  The monied classes must, behind the scenes, be in a panic.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


If there is anyone out there who has never read this classic short short story by Woody Allen, just click on this and enjoy.

When he was young, he was to die for.


All of us, I take it, are familiar with printed warnings, especially on milk and other dairy items, that a quart of milk or tub of cottage cheese is to be removed from the shelves after some specified date.  This is usually referred to as the “sell-by date.”

Yesterday, I traveled once again to New York to teach at Columbia University.  The trip began uneventfully, at six a.m. when I pulled out of my parking slot and headed for Raleigh Durham Airport, but it quickly deteriorated into a classic air travel sad story.  We pulled back from the gate on time at 8:10 a.m. and headed for the active runway, in light rain, but as we waited our turn to take off, the pilot announced that LaGuardia had just announced a one hour ground halt, so we sat.  After an hour, the pilot announced another one hour delay, so we continued to sit, but just as he was revving up the  engines for our much delayed takeoff, he announced that there was a mechanical problem that had to be fixed, so he returned to Gate D5, from which we had departed, full of hope, two hours earlier, and were told we could deplane but should remain in the area of the Gate as we might be leaving at short notice.  Half an hour later, we pulled back once again.  The mechanical problem?  A lack of appropriate differential pressure in the toilets meant that they would not flush until we reached 18,000 feet.  [I am not making this up.]  Finally, seven hours and fifty-five minutes after leaving home, I sat down at the seminar table, five minutes before the class was scheduled to begin.

That was when I got the real shock of the day.  One of the graduate students in the seminar told me that he had gone to see Professor Akeel Bilgrami about some philosophical issues.  Bilgrami is a quite senior member of the Philosophy Department who currently holds the Sidney Morgenbesser Professorship of Philosophy.  When Bilgrami suggested that the student consult some of the writings of Robert Paul Wolff [very flattering], my student replied that he was currently taking a course with Wolff.  Bilgrami replied, “But that is not possible.  He died ten years ago.”

Now, I freely admit that it has been thirty years since I have attended a meeting of the American Philosophical Association, and almost that long since I last published anything at all in a Philosophy journal, but, I mean, really!

Pretty clearly, I have passed my sell-by date and should be removed from the shelf before I give some unsuspecting consumer the intellectual version of food poisoning.