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Observations on This and That
by Martin Green


     Believe it or not I had just about finished typing my January 2016 “Observations” on my computer when it suddenly disappeared and I couldn’t retrieve it.    I have no doubt it was a brilliant piece.    I’d started it,  following up on the December LLA’s and TGH’s “Observations,” by noting the LLA’s Beverly and I encountered on the cruise we took last November.     As I recall,first and foremost was the behavior of the ship’s elevators.    Elevators on shore seem to behave okay but on sea they become, like coat hangers, antagonistic.    If you want to go up, as to the buffet, all of the elevators are going down.    If you want to go down, as to the Promenade deck, they’re all be going up.    This leads to desperate passengers getting into any elevator that comes, elevators crowded with people going both up and down and confusion on all sides.    There were some other cruise annoyances but I won’t try to recall them now and I have to say that cruising, despite its LLA’s, is still good and at the very least gets you away from all of those ordinary LLA’s of your land life.

    Looking back at last year’s “Observations,” old age and its trials and consolations (if any) were a recurring theme.    I recently came across an essay entitled “This Old Man” by noted New Yorker writer Roger Angell, written last year when he was 93, and it’s highly recommended; you can Google it.    Here are some excerpts.   “I’m 93 and I’m feeling great.    Well, pretty great ,unless I’ve forgotten to take a couple of Tylenols in the last four or five hours.”    We can all relate to that.   

     On loss.    “Here, in my tenth decade, I can testify that the downside of great age is the room it provides for rotten news.”    He then goes on to enumerate the friends, relatives and, not least, Harry, the fox terrier, he’d lost.    “When Harry died,” he writes, “Carol and I couldn’t stop weeping.”    Readers may recall that Beverly and I lost our two cats last year.    We can certainly relate to that.

     He then quotes Casey Stengal as saying:  “Most of the people my age is dead.    You could look it up.”    Stengal was only 75 when he said this and today 85 might be more appropriate.    Angell writes:  “The dead have departed but gestures and glances and tones of voice of theirs … reappear unexpectedly, along with accompanying touches of sweetness or irritation.”    He goes on to cite studies showing that a majority of oldsters are “surprisingly happy.”    He writes:  “Our children are adults now and mostly gone off, and let’s hope full of their own lives.    We’ve outgrown our ambitions … We sense a trickle of contentment from the reliable springs of routine …”    I think this is in general true.    One more quote: “I’ve endured a few knocks but missed worse.    I know how lucky I am, and secretly tap wood, greet the day, and grab a sneaky pleasure from my survival at long odds.”     

    On this somewhat optimistic note let’s leave the subject of old age and, as this is the start of a new year, look back at the old one and ahead at this one and see how things appear.    I can sum this up in one sentence:  2015 was pretty bad and 2016 might be worse.    Instead of going into specifics (readers can supply their own) I’d like to refer to a short story I wrote a number of years called “The Earth Debate.”     It starts: “In a distant galaxy on a planet named Spielberg, whose civilization was so far advanced we can’t even imagine it (for example, they had no television) the Council on Earth Studies convened its annual meeting.”    The Council Chairman asks: “So what’s new” and the Council Secretary answers: “Same old thing.   Wars, famines, hurricanes, earthquakes, reality TV, Donald Trump.”    (Yes, even way back then I must have had a premonition).

    There is a brief debate and the consensus is that Earth is so far gone it’s time to take it over (regime change) or perhaps wipe it out altogether.    Then one Council member says: “The earthlings have a time they call the holidays, Christmas and then New Year’s.    It’s traditional at Christmas to wish for peace on earth and good will toward men and on New Year’s to forget past errors and move ahead with hope for the future.    Maybe there’s a chance, however slight, of a change for the better.”

     The Council Chairman considers and says: “Okay.    We’ll give them that chance.    The Council will meet again next year.    We’re adjourned.    Coffee and refreshments will be served in the next room.”      So, like the Council Chairman, I’ll give us another chance and hope that, against all odds, there’ll be a change for the better.    And that’s the message for the new year.    Now I have to hope that this piece doesn’t also disappear.


     Attention, readers.    In case you missed it in the last issue, my latest book of short stories, “Collected Stories, Vol. IV,” is available as an e-book on and other sites, only $1.99.



The Last Earth Debate
by Martin Green


     It was the end of earth year 2015.    In a distant galaxy on the planet Spielberg whose civilization was so far more advanced than ours that we can’t imagine it (they’d banned reality TV) the Council on Earth Matters was having its annual meeting.    During the past few years the Council had come close to deciding that, considering the sad state the Earth was in, it was time to put an end to it.    The majority pointed to wars, famines, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, corruption, pollution, politicians, television, cell phones, texting, rap music and the Kardashians.    The minority argued that, despite all this, there was some intelligence left and pointed to Einstein, Ghandi, Beethoven and Shakespeare.    Like the American Congress, no consensus could be reached.


     “Well, here we are again,” said the Council Chairman.    “What’s the latest?”


     The Council Secretary read from his staff’s report.    “The signs are not encouraging.    Terrorism is spreading.    Russia is expanding its power.    So is China.    North Korea is parading its nuclear arsenal.    The Mideast is of course is in its usual chaotic state.    Iran will soon be a nuclear power.    Its rivals will undoubtedly also try get nukes.    Europe is being overrun by refugees.    Greece is broke.”


     “But what about the United States?    Isn’t it still the most powerful nation?”


     “The United States has decided not to use its power; instead it’s leading from behind.”


     “Leading from behind.    What does that mean?”


     “It’s not clear.    To continue, the United States is dominated by extremists on both sides.    Civility is gone.    The police are demoralized.    Politicians routinely lie, that is, more blatantly than before, but nobody seems to care.”


     “Hmmm, that doesn’t sound good.”


     “Then let’s put the earthlings out of their misery,” said the Council member leading the majority who’d always thought the Earth was beyond saving.


     “Wait a minute,” interjected the Council member who led the opposition.    “Let me remind you that this is the time of Christmas and New Year’s on earth, a time when there is peace and good will toward men and a time of new resolutions.”


     “You make that argument every year and every year things get worse.”


     “There’s one more thing,” said the Council Secretary.    “The United States is having an election next year.    One of the candidates is Donald Trump.”


     “That Donald Trump?”


     “Yes, and the other candidate is Hillary Clinton.”


     “That Hillary Clinton?”




     “Well,” said the Council President, “I think that decides it.    I have to admit I’ll miss our yearly meetings.”


     The vote was a formality and it was unanimous with one Council member abstaining.


     “All right, that’s done,” said the President.    Turning to the Secretary, he said, ”You’ll convey our decision to the Fleet Commander.”


     “Yes, there should be no problem, half a dozen of our mega-ships at most.”


     “Good.    Let’s be merciful and do it before the next presidential debate.    The Council is adjourned.   As usual, there’ll be coffee and refreshments in the adjoining room.”




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