Rich Paschall:

Here is the fourth episode in the continuing story of Harold, an organized man. Thanks to Marilyn Armstrong for editing and illustrating this piece.  Next week will bring the next episode, but if you can not wait for the continuation of Tuesday, read it on teepee12.com here.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

The continuing story of  The Case With The Missing Egg

Tuesday started out like every day for the perpetually prepared Harold. The morning shrill of the alarm clock announced the beginning of another well planned day for the Premier of Planning, the Overlord of Organization and the Lord of the Library. After his normal morning duties, Harold looked forward to his next reading selection from the local library.  It was the standard Tuesday plan.


He arose promptly and went straight to the window, as was his normal practice. He grabbed his glasses off the nearby dresser, opened the blinds and surveyed the weather.

“What a beautiful day,” Harold announced to himself and went on to brush his teeth, stare in the mirror a few moments and jump in the shower. Harold included shaving on the days he was to go out of the house. He always felt better if he…

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Rich Paschall:

This is the third short story about Harold, a well organized man. Thanks to Marilyn Armstrong for editing and illustrating the story. Next week we will have the fourth story, but if you can not wait, read it on teepee12.com here.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

Not just another day in the Life of Harold by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Upon awakening Harold went immediately to the window to check the weather.  He was instantly aware that it was grayer than normal for that time of day. He needed to decide on his schedule for the morning.

There was no putting off decisions until later.  His orderly life demanded plans be set and executed precisely. Since rain was falling, Harold knew that he’d follow breakfast and some newspaper reading with a trip to town for some shopping. His lists were made; he was ready to go.

When it was almost 9 am, Harold grabbed his lists, a light jacket and umbrella and headed for the back door to the garage. Just as he was about to grab the door knob he was startled by the telephone ringing. He could not imagine who in the world might be…

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Rich Paschall:

The second of the Harold stories from SERENDIPITY blog. Thanks to Marilyn Armstrong for editing and illustrating this.  If you can not wait until next Sunday for the third story, read in now right here.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

The story of Harold (Soup and Sandwich) continues with a new week.

Sunday started like any other Sunday.  Harold arose punctually with the sound of the alarm clock.  There was never any pressing the snooze button for Harold.  Time was too valuable to be wasted pressing a snooze button.  The world never snoozes, so why should Harold?  He quickly went through his morning routine, then went on to the kitchen for coffee.

Han Dynasty 206 BC - 220 AD

Han Dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD

As expected, Harold found the coffee already brewing.  He set it up the night before so that there would be no fumbling through the coffee-making process in the morning.  When Harold was ready, so was the coffee.  You would not expect anything less from the time managing genius that he was.  He had a light breakfast, did some light reading and followed that by cleaning the dishes and neatly putting them away.

Now Harold, master…

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Bel Kaufman

Bel Kaufman became famous when her 1965 novel Up the Down Staircase hit the bestseller lists.  It pointed out the challenges of being a teacher in the school system in New York City.  The novel later became a movie starring Sandy Dennis as the teacher.

At age 100 as an instructor at Hunter College she claimed she was too busy to get old.  She died this past week at 103.  Following is a tribute to her famous work that I placed here during National Poetry Month.  I think it is time for a replay:

Up the Down Staircase

Down staircase

Down staircase (Photo credit: quinet)

One way says up.
One way says down.
Go where you want to go
When no one’s around.

File these reports,
Attendance and tests.
Please, teachers, always think
Of doing your best.

Take on a class.
Challenge the world.
Share in the dreams
Of each boy and girl.

Up the Down Staircase, not down.
Down the Up Staircase, not up.
Let it be a challenge to you.
Never think that you should give up.

Up the Down Staircase, not down.
Down the Up Staircase, not up.
Shake up the school and enjoy every sound
And Up the Down Staircase, not down!

(Copyright Richard Paschall, music by Michael F. Teolis)

Based on ideas from the play Up the Down Staircase, dramatized by Christopher Sergel, book by Bel Kaufman.  The bestseller was also made into a 1967 movie.

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Why the old man feeds pigeons

It was a grey and gloomy Paris morning where occasional rain drops did not seem to chase the patrons off the sidewalks and into the many cafés that were sprinkled liberally around the area.  This particularly grimy part of town was liberally spray painted with “street art.”  Teams of youths and an occasional solo artist spent many evenings decorating the buildings, fences and a few trucks with their personal designs.  When we arrived at the nearby train station the afternoon before, we noticed the last few miles before the station contained a nonstop view of this French city artistry.  Back home we would call this graffiti, nothing more.



We approached a corner cafe with no thought of sitting outside.  My travel companions did not want to “take our breakfast in the streets.”  I would have preferred to be outside where I could watch Paris stroll by, but was left with the view from whatever window we could sit near.  My friends never actually took breakfast.  It did not fit their normal routine and they were not about to change for Paris or Strasbourg or any town in between.  One ordered Coke while the other attempted to order “jus d’orange” in his best sounding fake French accent.

“Café américain and croissant,” I ordered without any attempt to sound French.  I figured the waiter knew we were Americans before we sat down.  They always seem to know.  He smiled and wandered off to fix our drinks.  My tired friends stared off aimlessly as if sugared drinks would be required to bring them back to life.  I studied the room as we waited for our order.  Two men were standing at the counter enjoying espresso and talking loudly, as if that was the thing to do at 8 hours 30 minutes on the morning clock.  Paris life does not begin too early, unless you are a baker.

As our drinks were being set down in front of us, I spied a grey little man in a tattered grey coat walking slowly past the window to my left.  He was elderly, I presumed by his grey hair and grey stubble.  His open coat revealed a grey or dirty white shirt and several keys which hung on long strings from around his neck.  He carried a baguette in one hand while using the other hand to pull a cart with a small case attached to it.  I imagined the dirty, beat-up looking case carried his most valued possessions, whatever they may be.  Before too long, he disappeared from view.  My friends had not noticed him at all.

Our bill had come to fifteen euros.  Even at a good exchange rate, this would seem a high price to pay back home.  As it was a Paris cafe, I figured we were paying for the view of dirty streets and the indifferent service of our handsome waiter.  I really did not mind, however.  I was just glad to be anywhere we could take the pace of life as we pleased.  In that regard, we could blend in well for a week.

We left the cafe and were on our way to begin the tour of famous Paris landmarks, monuments and churches.  There is an ample supply of all three in the French capital.  A few days in the city of lights would not be enough to see them all, but one always hopes to return to Paris.  It will not matter how many times you go, there is always the belief deep down that you will return.

We moved up to the corner and waited to cross the boulevard lined with trash from the day before.  Although the city cleaned the streets often, it did not seem to matter as the locals tossed their trash anywhere along their path.  Perhaps they expected trash to be collected by city workers every day.  It is not for lack of trash receptacles that they throw garbage to the ground, as containers are everywhere.  I guess those must be for the tourists.



Down the center of the street was a parkway with a paved center and grassy areas along the sides.  We took the pathway which was lined with park benches.  As we moved toward the sign that said “Passage Public Metro” at the far end of the parkway, I noticed the little grey man just a short distance ahead of us.  He was standing in front of one of the benches and had the baguette firmly in hand.  As he tore a piece of the bread and put it in his mouth, pigeons flocked to him as if he was their leader and they were his faithful followers.  As a reward for coming to his side, he tore off a chunk of the baguette, then ripped it into small pieces and tossed them all around him.  At this site even more pigeons came to visit and soon the old man stood in a sea of birds, alternately eating some of the baguette and tossing some.  His subjects cooed their approval in a tone that I always found annoying.

As we wandered past the grey patch of ground where the old man stood, many of the birds took flight in order to clear the way before us.  We could not be slowed down on our trip to the stairway that would lead us into the ground and to one of the many subway trains of Paris.  I thought it was a shame all the birds were leaving the old-timer so I turned around to take a look after we had walked on by.  Since the old man had more baguette in hand, the black and white and grey pigeons all returned to continue the feast.  This would be the most attention the man would receive that day.  As a matter of fact, it was the most attention the man received most days.  As long as he returned each morning baguette in hand, his somewhat loyal avian subjects would appear to greet him.  This would bring him his daily moment of joy.

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I’m Not From Here

Life in Gaza

“Did I ever tell you that I am not from here?” my young Palestinian friend asked me one day.

“Yes,” I reminded him.  “You told me that.”

It seems my friend spent the first twelve years of his life in Abu Dhabi.  Now he has spent the next twelve in Gaza.

“Why would you move to such a place?” I naturally asked.

Photo credit: startrek.ehabich.info common license

Photo credit: startrek.ehabich.info common license

He laughed as he gave his response.  “It was not my idea.  My father wanted to return here.”

His father is a Palestinian from Gaza.  He wanted to return to his homeland.  It is a common emotion.  Many people wish to return to their homeland after they move away.  There remains a certain yearning to be in the land of your ancestry.  This is part of the emotional conflict that resides in many people of the divided lands of Palestine.  In fact, it is one of the reasons for war.

Apparently they did not return to Gaza expecting a better life.  I do not know what they had in the United Arab Emirates, but it certainly had to be better than being in a land that is sometimes torn by violence or even all out war as it is now.  For one wishing to go home, perhaps the threat of future war does not dissuade you from returning.

Indeed Jews and Palestinians have risked their lives to stake out a home in what is mostly a hostile climate and, of course, frequently a hostile environment.  Finding peace among neighbors who question why you are on a particular parcel of land can be a tough life.

A narrow strip of land

A narrow strip of land

My friend knows of the harsh realities that Gaza presents to its citizens, mostly refugees, but he also knows first hand a life somewhere that is not as cruel as life can be along the Sinai desert on a small strip of land.  Like many others, he also sees what life is like in other parts of the world.  The internet provides the opportunity to travel to other lands, meet other people and learn new things.  For some, the knowledge that rides on the waves of cyberspace also calls out to students and citizens who seek freedom.  It is the siren call that some long to answer.

My friend knew that his family would be unhappy when he left Gaza one day.  He told me he desired to return to school, to be a student of languages, to have a job that would go along with his language skills.  Although he was not certain where in the world he could end up, but Gaza did not seem to hold a future.  It is devoid of culture that can be found in other cities.

“Who would build anything here when it might get blown up some day?”  This is a logical question.  Why invest in anything of value when you do not know what the future would hold for such an investment?  It could be lost in the flash of a rocket blast.

When I wrote of my friend in the story that first appeared here on Sunday, I mentioned that I had not heard anything since Friday morning when he wished me a good day as I headed off to work.  I don’t know where he was headed in the overcrowded and dangerous strip of land.

During Friday he “liked” my facebook status, “pray for peace.”  I have tried to contact him without success so far.  I can imagine that power must be knocked out to large areas of Gaza City and the internet may be unavailable.  I await go news and still pray for peace.

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Did You Hear That?

Life in Gaza

Last Tuesday night was a pleasant night in the big Midwest city I call home.  It was just about a perfect summer night, with pleasant temperatures and a light breeze.  You dream of nights like that.  On the other side of the world, it was more of a nightmare than anything else.  If you dreamed of anything, it was finding peace and perhaps a home somewhere, anywhere else in the world.

“Did you hear that?” he asked me in a quiet tone of voice.

“Yes, I hear it,” I told him.  It was the sounds of rockets landing nearby.  Gaza City was under siege by rocket attack.  It had been going on all night.  In the early hours before dawn in the Middle East, we talked by Skype.

I met my Palestinian friend a couple of years ago on a language learning site called Livemocha.  He was a student interested in languages and I was there continuing my feeble attempt to learn some French.   The site had a social media type component where language students could ask other language students to help with their lessons.  Through that method you could earn virtual currency you could then use to have teachers correct your lessons, rather than students.  Several asked for my help with English.  I would correct their lessons or listen to their voice lessons and comment back on their pronunciation and use of language.   It was all well structured then.  A couple of the students have kept in touch, one is a teenager in Brazil, the other is a young man in Gaza.

Gaza Strip

Gaza Strip

On Monday, when things were starting to fall apart in Gaza, I left a text message, “Write, tell me you are safe.  The news makes me sad, I want you to be somewhere safe.”  Later that morning he responded, “Hello! Thanks. I’m kinda okay.  The situation is not good at all but I’m still alive.”  By Monday night the tone of his message was a bit more somber: “Today was really terrible here. They rocketed us with more than 200 rockets.  I could not sleep all night long.”

On Tuesday night, I left another message at night.  I mentioned that we saw rockets landing on both sides.  “I wish you could get out of there right away,” I typed.  Then a file came across.  He sent me an English language article from a Turkish newspaper.  It said the three Israeli teenagers whose deaths may have led to this fighting were killed in an accident, and Israelis hid their bodies. Later they claimed Hamas had killed the boys.  I told him this is not the story the rest  of the world has and I sent him an article from my MSN home page.  I did admit Hamas did not take credit for the killing.

“Hamas said that they didn’t kill anyone. And they (Israel) want to start the war as usual. If Hamas rocketed 200, they rocketed more than 500 only for an hour.”  I told him I would be upset everyday until he could get away from there.  Then he called.

We spoke for 11 minutes and 04 seconds.  He explained the dangerous situation his family and friends find themselves in.  A few explosions were heard during the course of the call.  At the time we were finishing the call it was the early morning hour he might be getting up for prayers.  It is the holy month of Ramadan and the day begins early and the fasting lasts all day and well into the night.  I suspect there is little prayer and contemplation as homes are being destroyed and women and children killed.

Of course, I know there are rockets landing on the other side, but you will see that the other side has a comparative lack of casualties.  That’s because they have warning sirens, bomb shelters, missile defense systems.  In comparison, the average person in Gaza is defenseless against the constant bombardment that the other side brings against anything it might think could be Hamas, whether it is home or work, school or mosque, café or restaurant.  The proof that war is hell is everywhere in the poverty-stricken patch of the world called Gaza.

Wednesday began with some text messages as before.  He sent a video across and asked me to watch.  It was an explosion near his house.  Another video showed small children, injured and bloody being carried from a site of play by the looks of the background.  After a few exchanges about the videos, he called.  We talked about the situation in Gaza.  Odd to me is that people are not mad at Hamas.  He tries his best to explain that to me.  We talk of the sad history of Palestine.  He shows me a Wikipedia article to help get some time frames correct.  He also sends over a book whose merits I have yet to judge.  We also talk of other things.  In the midst of war, we can still dream of better times ahead for everyone.  He wishes to return to his studies and be a student of languages.  Now he is a prisoner, so to speak, in an overcrowded piece of land where most people are refugees from their own homes on land nearby.

I did not find him Thursday night online so I left a message.  I checked Friday morning before work and found him online.  We sent messages back and forth for a few minutes.  He told me it was much worse there.  I told him I would pray all day for peace, and I had to go so as not to be late for work.  “Okay. Have a good day,” he wrote.  In the midst of war he wishes me a good day.

That was the last message I had.  As I write this for you on Saturday night, I have nothing more.  He did like my status on facebook at some point on Friday.  I wrote, “Pray for peace.”

Note:  I have written many pieces of fiction for this space and another on Word Press.  This is the true story of a small part of my week.  I can not begin to imagine what it is like for my young friend in Gaza.  I can only recount for you some of his words and stories.
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Rich Paschall:

More summer greenery from SERENDIPITY. Thanks. Marilyn.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:


Today I’ll be at the hospital all day undergoing tests to see how my heart is doing. I will keep in my mind images from a dreamy afternoon on the bank of a river.


Where white wildflowers grow and birch trees arch over the water.


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Exercising your rights

“… to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.”

Liberty Bell, Independence Hall

Liberty Bell, Independence Hall

If only we could separate ourselves from the political powers that be.  They seem to have lost touch with us, or perhaps by not being an active part of the process, we have lost touch with them.  Oh yes, we see them all too often in political ads and very brief news clips, but do we really know them?  Are they serving our nation, our states, our cities well?  Are they only serving the causes of the rich benefactors that helped put them in power?  Do they refuse to comply with their appointed duties and to act under laws “the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.”  For if it is not the public good for which they serve, then they are not serving at all.  When it comes to the duties of having fiscal responsibility and reaching across the aisle for compromise, many have “utterly neglected to attend to them.”  While pork barrel projects can get tacked on to public bills and items that benefit one another can find agreement, some in turn “refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People.”  Where is service for the common good?  Do some of our politicians have a notion of “common good”, or is their idea of good being anything that opposes the other party?

“…That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…”

Perhaps many of the millionaires who pretend to represent the “little people” have forgotten that they owe their power to the consent of the people, or at least they should owe it.  We give our consent when we vote.  That is exercising our rights.  We also give our consent when we do not vote.  By withholding our voice, we consent to letting others decide who is in power, who sets policy and who spends our many tax dollars.  We can not accuse our politicians of “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent” if we fail to make any effort to give consent in the first place.  We should throw off the politicians who are not spending our money wisely or serving the public welfare.

“… it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.”

If collectively we are dissatisfied with the state of the union and the lawmakers who have failed to enact a budget and brought us to the brink of the fiscal cliff while campaigning for themselves, then it is not just our right, but our duty to step forward and elect those who will do a better job.  While we consider our slim choices, we must recognize we will continue to get more of the same if we keep sending back the same legislators to maintain the same stalemates, except perhaps when it comes to their own benefits.  With the monumental disappointments of the current group of clowns, and  “their Acts of pretended Legislation” it must be our patriotic duty to consider what is at stake in the next election and endeavor to “institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  For their will be little happiness if we continue down the road of perpetual impasse.

“…with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

There was a time when America was not so polarized into extremes.  Great causes saw us come together to provide solutions, even when the tasks were monumental.  A land so severely divided with its king that its pledge to stand together for independence brought forth a land of determination.  Even divided against itself in civil war, it found a way to heal.  The calling of World Wars meant the mobilization of the nation to see the fight to the finish.  A devastating economic crash found a people ready to be put back to work and in turn built some of the greatest construction projects in our history.  Roads, dams, power plants, national parks, and countless projects saw legislators reach across the aisle.  Although vilified by some opponents, one president was returned to office four times to heal a nation and guide it through rough economic times, then through war across the globe.  Where is that great spirit?  It is time for a landslide of votes.  I am not talking in favor of any candidate.  This is about a turn out so tremendous in size, that politicians will understand everyone wants action.  Everyone is watching.  Everyone is willing to turn out and vote and that may just mean turning the rascals out of office.  We must pledge “our sacred honor” to vote!

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES…”

Wikimedia  commons

Declaration of Independence

If you did not already know, all the parts in italics above are quotes from the Action of the Second Continental Congress.  That is, of course, The Declaration of Independence.  Perhaps you did not know that Independence was actually declared on July 2nd, 1776.  The Continental Congress approved the final text on July 4th.  It was not actually signed until August 2nd, despite the wonderful scene in the play and the movie, 1776.  It may have been mostly the work of Thomas Jefferson, but it was a 5 member committee that wrote the Declaration (See, Congress can work together!)  One of the members of the committee, Robert Livingston, never signed it.  Committee members John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the 50th anniversary of the vote, July 4th 1826.  They had an infamous falling out, but historical letters indicate they reconciled through their final correspondence.  Roger Sherman and Benjamin Franklin were the other committee members.  Franklin was the oldest signer of the document.  He was 70 at the time.  Finally, historians doubt that anyone actually rang the “Liberty Bell.”

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It’s Your Party

Celebrate the true meaning of the day

It a day of parties and since it is Friday, many may be planning a bigger celebration than usual. That’s due to the fact this may lead into a 3 day weekend.   Your city or town may have started it off with fireworks last night.  The well-known Boston Pops moved their fireworks to the 3rd, not because they want to have an early party, but because bad weather is looming on the east coast.

Here in the Midwest, some towns began the party last night with fireworks while others are going for the more traditional 4th of July celebration.  I am all in favor of the traditional celebrations.  To me, moving the special events around is a signal that it is all about the party and I don’t think that should be it.

Assembly Room

Independence Hall, Photo credit: Antoine Taveneaux, taken with Pentax K-5

The day is actually about an event that was a long time in the making.  The final draft of the action of the Second Continental Congress was finished on July 2nd 1776 and passed on July 4th.  The famous signing of the document did not take place for a month while waiting for all participants to be assembled.  It did not lead to fireworks although the Revolutionary War had already begun.  The Liberty Bell probably was not rung on the 4th according to historians.  In fact, there likely was no party at all, as the matter was serious business for the delegates of the 13th colonies.

The group had already been meeting for over a year when the Declaration was made.  During the previous July they had adopted The Olive Branch Petition in an attempt to avoid all out war with Great Britain.  The very next day the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms was issued.  The Continental Army was formed and strategies were adopted.  The bitter struggle that followed led the colonies to declare independence.

Three committees were formed in June 1776.  One drafted a Model Treaty to establish a way to deal with foreign powers.  Another was to write the Articles of Confederation to put together the model for governance of the colonies.  A third committee of 5 members wrote the Declaration of Independence although it is largely considered the work of Thomas Jefferson.  Some of his language was likely the source of lively debate.  The result proves that difficult work can be done quickly and compromises can be reached across the many members.

When I put out my flag this morning, I noticed no others flying on the block.  It made me wonder how many appreciated the events that went into the making of this holiday.  How many really know the history of the Second Continental Congress that forged the nation we have today?  How many think it is just some sort of day we set aside for picnics and fireworks?  Has the meaning of the most important day in our nation’s history been lost?

It’s your party.  That’s for sure.  As a matter of fact, it is the party for everyone who calls these United States of America home.  When you see the red, white and blue, let them have meaning for you today.  If there was no particular meaning to the colors at the time they were adopted, let them be a symbol today.  They stand for the freedom that allows us to live in a country where we can celebrate our freedoms openly.  The people of many other countries can not throw such a party.

Source: National Archives
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