Sunday, November 17, 2019

436. Horrors of Voting


BIG NEWS: The sample print copy of my new book has arrived and it looks great.  Now, after one possible change, my designer team can go ahead and do the e-book formatting.  The title, as I've mentioned before, is New Yorkers: A Feisty People Who Will Unsettle, Madden, Amuse and Astonish You.  Once the e-book formatting is done, I can show the front cover, which is exciting and unique, and the back cover with my blurb.  And I can order ARCs (advance review copies) in hopes of getting early, pre-pub reviews.

                               Horrors of Voting

I’m a good citizen, I vote.  Usually.  Once I was rained out.  And occasionally there is an off-year election where nothing but judges are on the ballot.  I don’t vote for judges, since I know nothing about them.  Also, a lawyer friend tells me that, regarding judges, the real selection of candidates is done beforehand by insiders, who then present the results on the ballot.

         Though I don’t mean to turn this blog into a political platform, I have to confess that this year I’m more involved than usually in elections  Here in New York, a very Democratic city, the names of Biden, Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg are flying around like crazy, with the latest results of polls in Iowa being constantly announced.  These four top the polls, with frequent shifts among them, and other candidates trailing far behind this stellar quartet.  Undecided, I ignore the news, but am determined to vote.  The free, supposedly nonpartisan Voter Guide that comes to me in the mail doesn’t mention the Democrats’ stellar quartet (an indicator that I should have heeded), but it does mention candidates for public advocate, an office that I should pay attention to, but haven’t.  Also mentioned, and in detail, are five local proposals regarding such issues as authorizing “ranked choice voting” in elections, expanding the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and creating a “rainy day” fund for unforeseen future emergencies.

         Announced with great fanfare this year is early voting in New York State.  You don’t have to vote on Election Day, Tuesday, November 5.  If that is inconvenient – maybe an anticipated hurricane, or Aunt Minnie from Milwaukee is visiting – you can vote, from October 25 on, at alternative sites in your district.  This sounded good to me, so I went to the Internet to learn my district’s alternative site.  It turned out to be a school at a distant location from my building, much farther away than my regular voting site on Hudson Street.  So struck the first sour note: for me, early voting was flat-out a fiasco!

         When Tuesday, November 5, arrived, I had my day carefully planned, with errands on Hudson Street both prior to voting at P.S. 3 and afterward.  At 10 a.m. off I went, jaunty as can be, clutching a small card giving my assembly and election district numbers, so I could avoid a long line at the info table and go directly to my districts’ table and pick up a ballot and instructions for using the voting machines.  Outside P.S.  3 I found no lines, no commotion, nothing.  Inside two heavy doors I did indeed bypass the info table and, entering  the school gym, found my table quickly – the only one with a line.  And a line that moved very slowly. 

         Only when my turn came did I discover why.  As always, you were required to write your signature on a form they give you, but this time it was different, for the system has gone high tech.  Instead of putting pen to paper, you have to put plastic stick to screen.  Yes, just like in some doctors’ offices, you had to navigate this stick on the screen, something I have always had trouble with.  I managed to get a “C” down, but adding my last name was impossible; no matter how I moved the stick, pressing firmly or pressing lightly, it made no mark whatsoever.  “Try the other end,” the volunteer poll  worker said.  I did: same result.  “Try your finger,” she said.  I did, and at first got nothing.  Then, finally, I made a wiggly mark on the screen.  So with great effort, and many failings, I finally managed to slowly write my complete last name.  But what I saw on the screen was a series of wiggly lines, the poorest conceivable excuse for a signature. 

         After that it went fairly smoothly.  I took my ballot to a so-called “privacy booth,” a small platform with a wall on three sides where, standing,  you can scan the ballot and instructions and vote, with no one able to see what you’re doing.  Not quite a booth, perhaps, but far superior to the old booth where you closed a curtain and had only so much time for voting.  Here, you can take all the time you need, with no one in line behind you, waiting for you to push the curtain back and emerge.

         So at last I voted.  Or at least, marked my ballot, filling in the little oval on the lines where the name of each of my selections appeared.  But I found only the candidates for public advocate and the five ballot proposals.  Assured that I had the complete one-page ballot, I realized at last that the candidates for higher office wouldn’t appear on a ballot before the primaries next spring.  Idiot!  I told myself, this is still 2019.  They aren’t up for office until 2020.  Only dedicated citizens concerned about such trivia as the public advocate and the five ballot proposals would turn out.  And sure enough, the gym turned voting site was sparsely populated, with the volunteer poll workers outnumbering the voters.

         So I marked the ballot.  For public advocate, there were three choices, each accompanied by a photo: the Democratic incumbent, an African American male with a hearty grin; the Republican, a bearded white man, quite dignified; and way over to one side, the lonely Libertarian, a clean-shaven white man with a slightly forced smile. With the possible exception of the Democrat, I had never heard of any of them.  Though without a firm conviction, I tilted toward the Democrat, who looked quite jolly.  The Republican listed as his three top issues

  1.  Stopping the de Blasio agenda
  2.  Stopping the de Blasio agenda
  3.  Stopping the de Blasio agenda

Which was clear enough.  But I’m not too hostile to our current mayor, under whose leadership a number of good measures have been passed.  So this candidate didn’t tempt me.  As for the Libertarian, his announced issues sounded valid enough, but I have mixed feelings about Libertarians, and their total rejection of government regulation.  I agree with them in not wanting the government to tell me what foods and what supplements I can consume, or whom I can sleep with or marry.  But I also want my Social Security and Medicare, and have seen what havoc a lack of regulation can wreak on Wall Street, not to mention the misdeeds of Big Tobacco and Big Pharma.  So I went with the Democratic incumbent.

         My ballot marked, I went to a scanner, a mysterious machine into whose narrow slit of a mouth you feed your ballot.  If you do it right, a message appears on a screen, indicating that your vote has been cast.  Then, as I was leaving, another poll worker gave me a stick-um badge to put on my jacket, announcing I VOTED.  I stuck it on, feeling proud and patriotic.  Only later, given the minor and very local issues at stake, as witnessed by the light turnout, did I realize that, for some, it probably labeled me a nerd and a fanatic.  So ended my voting adventure, harassed by shameful ignorance and tech.

Coming soon:  Maybe "The Jungle and Me" -- my adventures and misadventures in Central America.  And maybe something else, like a repeat with variations of "Five Things I Cannot Do Without."

©  2019  Clifford Browder

Sunday, November 10, 2019

435. My Crazy Wednesday


Out of nowhere, I got a phone call.  A woman's high-pitched voice asked if I was the author of No Place for Normal: New York.  I confessed that I was.  She then launched into a rapid-fire spiel about something, I wasn't sure what.  She mentioned Something Press.  I couldn't catch the name, asked her to spell it, still didn't fully understand.  Finally I asked her to send me an e-mail, which she did.  It soon arrived.  It was from the head acquisition specialist at Stratton Press  Publishing, informing me that (for a price, of course) they could vastly improve my book's success by publishing a new edition.  The problems with the present edition:

  1. It was priced too high ($14.95, per the back cover).
  2. The cover could be enhanced to make it look more appealing.
  3. The book obviously needs editorial assessment and developmental editing.
They were confident they could position my book better and give it the maximum exposure it deserved.

          My poor book!  It obviously needed professional help -- theirs, to be exact.  After a little online research, I answered them point by point:

1.  My book's marked price, $14.95, is not too expensive.  I sell it at book fairs for $20.

2.  Its cover is fine.  The bright colors, and NEW YORK in bold letters against a bright background, draw readers to my stand at book fairs.

3.  My book does not need editorial assessment or developmental editing.  It was edited professionally.

I added that it upstages and outsells all my other books at book fairs.  Conclusion: I don't need the help of Stratton Press, whose troubled history would put me off anyway.  (It decamped from Wyoming because of tax delinquency.)  So please don't approach me again.

         Stratton is one of numerous outfits eager to get hold of newbie authors whose self-published books they claim they can improve by republishing, bringing the authors greater sales.  They usually begin with a phone call out of the blue, as in my case, which could well flatter and impress a first-time author.  But I was on to their game and didn't take the bait.  Stratton may well serve some beleaguered authors and publish or republish legitimately, but in my case their appeal was suspect.  I doubt if I will ever hear from them again.

          For this and my other books, click here.

                         My  Crazy  Wednesday 

Recently I had a crazy Wednesday, crazy in part because it involved too much in one day, and in part because of what happened.  Having a midday commitment in midtown, I went very early to the Union Square Greenmarket.  

File:Union Square Greenmarket, New York City (4027732232).jpg
Jazz Guys

There, in the course of buying organic salad greens and kale at Keith’s stand, one of my longtime favorites, I saw a buyer take a huge basket of turnips over to the vendor’s counter, where it was weighed, following which he dumped the entire load into a big bag of his own.  Then, in the most matter-of-fact way, he paid with a hundred-dollar bill and departed, lugging his load.  This amazed me for two reasons:
  • I had never seen anyone buy a whole huge basket of turnips, every last turnip of that variety on hand.
  • I had never seen a hundred-dollar bill in the Greenmarket.

File:Turnips in a bin.jpg

         Boy, that must be some family, I thought.  But the vendor smiled and said, “He’s a chef.”  Suddenly, all was clear.  The buyer was following the age-old tradition of the best restaurants, big or small, in France.  Early in the morning the owner or head chef goes to the local market, sees what is fresh, and makes purchases that determine the whole day’s menu for his restaurant.  So diners in this buyer's restaurant that day must have tasted cooked turnips in whatever dish he chose to prepare.

         (A side note: Turnips are a good nutritional food, but by themselves a bit boring.  My only recipe for them: roast root vegetables.  Mixed in with carrots and potatoes, dripping with olive oil, and sprinkled with that legendary triad of herbs, thyme, rosemary, and sage, they are a great winter food.  I would gladly do it as the cold weather comes on, but the gas is still out in my building, meaning no oven, and you can’t do a roast on the stovetop.  Yes, I know, get a microwave, but my kitchen has only so much space.)

         After that I hurried home, changed, and prepared for the annual Lambda Legal luncheon at Etcetera Etcetera, a restaurant on West 44th Street.  Two outings in one day, and close together, were a bit of a challenge, but I went.  “We are your lawyers!” Lambda announces in its e-mails soliciting donations, and it’s true, for every day they are involved in some legal action somewhere in the country, advancing the rights of the LGBTQ community.  It would be a Golden Oldies affair, mostly male, thanking moneyed gays (I just can’t say “queers”) for their past generosity, though hosted by a younger set.  (I sneak in by virtue of a modest gift of stock.)  Getting there a bit out of breath (I hate to be late), I entered and told the first person I saw, an older man with drink in hand, “I’m here for the Lambda luncheon.”  “No,” he said with a mischievous smile, “this is a Trump rally.”  “Well,” I said, “I’m flexible.  I can do both.”

         A veteran of these affairs, I knew to go right to the bar and get a drink – free, of course, for Lambda, replete with gratitude, was paying.  That done, I eased my way into a host of mostly unfamiliar, though not unfriendly, faces, while sipping pinot noir.

File:Belden Barns - April 2018 - Sarah Stierch 05.jpg
It makes you sociable and witty.

Soon enough I was seated at a round table with a bunch of strangers, a place setting before me with real red cloth napkins.  (No pinching pennies here!)  Surprisingly, it turned out that most of my table mates were, or had been, residents of the West Village. Inevitably, the talk went to the weightiest of issues: recommendations of good local restaurants; the legendary chocolate store Li-lac moving to a new location to obtain more space; and the success or failure of the new plan to ease the traffic on 14th Street by banning most private vehicles.  As for the food, you started with a salad with thin slices of cheese, then went to a choice of (1) salmon, (2) beef, or (3) risotto.  True to my (at times shaky) vegan principles, I went with #3 and did not regret it.  

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Dessert was an apple tart, delicious.  And a second glass of pinot noir didn’t hurt.  Nor did the presence of Barbara, a gracious woman, whose presence was significant, the “second sex” being rare in these quarters, though not intentionally so.  She announced herself as Philadelphia-born, a lawyer, and a Lambda volunteer. 

         Being guests of Lambda, we could hardly complain when our fine dining and sophisticated chitchat was interrupted by a series of Lambda biggies at a microphone planted right smack next to our table.  Barbara spoke first, then the temporary recent CEO, and finally the new CEO himself, who updated us on Lambda doings.  I learned that 

  •   Half of U.S. high schools now have centers for gay students.
  •   Lambda has 75 lawsuits under way throughout the nation.
  •   Halloween is the gay Christmas.
  •   A teacher, in 1988 he came out to the student body, a rather gutsy thing to do.
  •  Lambda feels under siege by you-know-who and his cronies.
  •  There is no final victory or defeat; always, the struggle goes on.

Rounds of applause followed each of his comments, and more praise and gratitude were heaped upon us, plus a discreet request for donations. 

         The talks over, gobbling and blabbing resumed.  (Genteel gobbling and sophisticated blabbing, it goes without saying.)  At our table Barbara received a series of greetings, hugs, and kisses from older males who came to our table.  This inspired me to observe that people who think gay guys hate women know nothing about gay guys, who, with sex and romance excluded, often have lifelong friendships with women.  She endorsed this heartily, stressing that she, a straight woman, was blessed with the friendship of many gay men.  This said, an oozy warmth permeated us all.  Then Jonathan, a young Lambda staff member and a friend of mine, came to our table, crouched down so as to be on a level with us, and chatted knowingly and amiably.  When he left to visit the other tables, one of my neighbors said, “He’s cute!”  He is.

         So what’s so crazy about all this? you may wonder.  Hang on, craziness is coming.  Finally it came time to part.  Going down West 44th Street to the Times Square subway station, I noticed an elevator at the 44th Street entrance and took it down.  Alas, it took me only half way down, but there I spied another elevator, so I got in.  I pushed one button, nothing happened.  I pushed a second button, and the door closed.  I pushed the first button, the door opened.  I pushed the second button again, the door closed.  But what else was there to push?  A red button, so I pushed it.  Immediately the button lighted up, and an alarm began ringing.  I pushed every button in turn, but nothing happened.  I was trapped.  Ridiculous, I thought.  A woman with an infant in a stroller appeared, wanted to enter the elevator.  Through the big elevator window I shrugged in despair, unable to help.  Trapped.  I pushed a HELP lever, waited.  Ridiculous.  Utterly ridiculous.  Fantasies of permanent entrapment kindled in my brain.  Was claustrophobia next?  

          Finally two men appeared.  “The red button!” they said.  I pushed it, nothing happened.  Ridiculous.  “Pull it out!” they said.  I pulled it out, the light went off, and the alarm stopped.  Now, when I pushed the right button, the door opened.  Free at last!  I got out, waved the woman with the stroller in.  “There’s room for you, too,” said one of the men.  Though wary, with them on hand, I got in, and the elevator took us down.  She got out, I got out.  “It’s been an adventure,” I said.  She smiled, nodded, and we went our separate ways. 

File:Court Square Subway Station elevator doors.jpg
Not the one that trapped me, but its cousin.

         I got home without difficulty; my crazy day -- at least the craziness – was over.  That night I collapsed in bed, didn’t sleep well, and the next day felt all played out.  Only by Friday was I rested, able to cope.  Crazy days like this I don’t need; give me sane.  Dull, boring, monotonous, but sane.

         (I was going to ask readers to forgive the uninspired content of this post, but now I've decided that the BROWDERBOOKS account of my experience with Stratton Press redeems it.)

Coming soon:  Horrors of Voting.

©   2019   Clifford  Browder

Sunday, November 3, 2019

434. Of Spooks and Ghouls


Against my better judgment, poetry is coming out of my ears. Long ago I told my friend Vernon, also a poet, that I wanted to squelch my muse, so I could focus on other things.  He said, "If you try, it'll come out your ears."  And so it is.  I've even gotten up in the middle of the night to jot down a few words, a few phrases, which is the height and depth of absurdity.  And how do these golden inspirations look in the cold light of morning?  Not impossible, not base lead, and sometimes rather good.  That is the trouble.  If they looked mediocre and forgettable, I could forget them and be done with it.  But these, in their way, haunt me.  They say, "C'mon, write me down.  Link me up with other words, make me into a poem."  But I don't want these nocturnal ·or even diurnal) invasions.  I need my sleep.  And what I'm writing -- perhaps blatherings for a chapbook -- have something to offend everyone.  A kicky thought, admittedly, but I doubt if, given the chance, Everyone will read them.

Hogarth, "The Distress'd Poet," 1737.
And look at what a mess his place is.

          Today, poetry is a poor, sad thing.  Only a few hopeless addicts -- usually poets themselves -- read it.  The rest of the world have jobs to do, video games to play, love affairs to get into or out of.  So who has time for poetry today?  A paltry few.  Not like in the nineteenth century.  Back then, when Byron or Longfellow announced a new volume, people flocked to the bookstore, even lined up outside, sizzling with expectation.  Yes, really.  But that was before movies, television, and the Internet.

"File:A Classical Poet (Domenico Fetti) - Nationalmuseum - 23757.tif
Domenico Fetti, "A Poet from Antiquity," a painting of 1620-1621,
painted for the ducal court of Mantua.  Not meant as satire, but look at that outlandish headgear -- supposedly, a crown of laurels.  He's supposed to be inspired, yet human, and unheroic.  Agreed, heroic he ain't. 

My prose, fiction and nonfiction, is another matter.  People -- some people -- actually read it.  And it's all gluten-free and made in America, and it doesn't rob me of sleep.  To see it, go to my post BROWDERBOOKS.  And now, on to spooks and ghouls.

            Of Spooks and Ghouls

This post is a repeat of post #31, dated October 28, 2012, which I am resurrecting in honor of Halloween 2019.  If it sounds familiar, it also appeared as chapter 38 in No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World.  Apologies to those already familiar with it.  

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         It’s spook time, and I don't mean the election.  A candy store near my building features witches in orange and black in its window, and a pharmacy offers a host of eerie items: skulls, bones, skeletons, a severed arm (fake, of course; there are limits), a bat, huge spiders and their webs, a black cat, and a vulture that looks hungry.  (Not the best display for an outfit dispensing medicines meant to help and heal, but they like to be seasonal.)  So Halloween must be in the offing.

                  But I won't confine myself to the holiday.  This post's subject and the next will be our ambiguous attitude toward death and the dead, a vast subject that, given the many associations and scraps of history dancing in my head, will probably spill out in all directions.  But we'll start with Halloween.

         For most of us, Halloween means ghosts and witches and skeletons, trick-or-treating, costumes, jack-o’-lanterns, and innocent or not-so-innocent pranks  – a completely secular event.  But the name “Halloween” is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, referring to the Christian feast of All Hallows on November 1, and Halloween, celebrated on October 31, has both pagan and Christian antecedents.  It has been traced all the way back to the late-autumn Celtic festival of Samhain, when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest; the souls of the dead were thought to revisit their homes, and bonfires were built to ward their spirits off.

         The Christian holy day of All Saints’ Day, November 1, was a time for honoring the saints and praying for the dead, who until this day were thought to still wander the earth prior to reaching heaven or the alternative.  But this was also the last chance for the dead to wreak vengeance on their enemies before entering the next world, so to avoid being recognized by them (hmm… they must have felt guilty about something), people disguised themselves by wearing masks and costumes: the beginning of Halloween costumes.  So are the dead to be welcomed and prayed for, or dreaded and avoided?  Both, it seems.  Which shows, I think, a profound ambivalence.


         As for jack-o’lanterns, they developed out of the custom in Scotland and Ireland of carving turnips into lanterns to ward off evil spirits.  Coming to this country, immigrants from those countries used the native pumpkin instead, whose size and softness made it much easier to carve.  The name itself probably comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack who outwitted the Devil but after his death, being barred from both heaven and hell, was doomed to wandering the earth with an ember to light his way.

         Children’s trick-or-treating came later, being first recorded in North America in a Canadian newspaper of 1911.  Wikipedia dates the first use of the term in the U.S. from 1934, but I can testify that by then all the kids in my middle-class Chicago suburb were ringing neighbors’ doorbells in hopes of goodies, though usually not in costume, without any thought of pioneering a new Halloween custom; as far as we were concerned, this is how it had always been, though we were much more into treats than tricks.  (Still, my father, fearing vandalism, always wired the gates to our backyard shut, to keep out devilish intruders of whatever species or persuasion.)  By then, too, the costumes that some people donned were not confined to the eerie stuff (ghosts, skeletons, witches, and such), but included just about anyone or anything you could think of.  All of which shows how a holiday once concerned with praying for departed souls and warding off evil spirits has become, in the U.S. today, a children’s fun fest spiced with just a touch of the eerie.

         South of the border things are just a bit different.  Related to Halloween in Mexico is the Day of the Dead (el Dia de los Muertos), celebrated on November 1, a national holiday when people gather to remember and pray for deceased friends and family.  Altars are built in homes and cemeteries, and offerings are made of sugar and chocolate skulls, and bread often in the shape of a skull and decorated with white frosting to resemble twisted bones.  Photos and memorabilia are also placed there, in hopes of encouraging visits by the dead, so they can hear the prayers and comments of the living. 

         Associated with the Day of the Dead is the la Catrina, the Grande Dame of Death, a skeleton presented as an elegant woman with a fancy hat.  This beloved figure of Mexican folk art first appeared in 1910 as an etching by the printmaker José Guadalupe Posada, but can be linked to Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of the dead.  She satirizes high society, but also shows how Mexicans bring death close to them and celebrate the joy of life in the very face of its opposite.  During my two trips to Mexico long ago I never encountered her (wrong season), but photos of her are unforgettable, reminding us how tame our Halloween images are in comparison.  And in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City I saw many Aztec sculptures of gods adorned with human bones and skulls.  (They were a cheery bunch, those human-sacrificing Aztecs.)  Obviously, we mortals have many ways of facing – and facing down – death.

         All right, Mexico and la Catrina are pretty far removed from New York, the alleged subject of my blog, but I warned you that I might stray far and wide.  So to get back to the Apple, how about the doctors’ riot of 1788?  No, the doctors didn’t riot; in fact, they came close to being lynched. 

         Since the Renaissance medical science had been dissecting bodies so as to better understand anatomy, as evidenced by a Rembrandt painting of 1632.  But in England, Scotland, and the thirteen colonies that became the United States, there was strong popular feeling against the practice.  Fueling this feeling was the medical schools’ constant need for fresh bodies, which led them to snatch freshly buried 

bodies from graveyards.  During the Revolution, battlefields provided a good supply of unclaimed bodies, but with the coming of peace the need for more bodies intensified.  In New York the students at the city’s only medical school, Columbia College, raided the Negroes Burial Ground, where both slaves and freedmen were buried, but also the graves of paupers in Potters’ Field, while usually – but not always – respecting the graves of those “most entitled to respect.”  So great was the demand for bodies that a new occupation appeared, the professional body snatcher, or resurrectionist, whom the medical schools could hire.  Aware of the risks, grieving families often hired guards to watch over the grave of a loved one at night for two weeks following burial, since after that the bodies would be too decomposed for purposes of dissection.  The authorities were certainly aware of the activities of body snatchers, whether professional or amateur, but probably chose to look the other way, as long as it was all done discreetly and confined to the graves of the lowly, but by the late 1780s trouble was brewing.

         Then, in April 1788, the storm broke.  Accounts differ, but it seems that a group of boys playing outside the dissection room of City Hospital saw a severed human arm hung up to dry in a window, and rushed off to tell their elders.  An angry mob quickly gathered and surrounded the hospital, then broke in and, finding three fresh bodies there, one boiling in a kettle, destroyed everything in sight, including valuable specimens collected over many years, as well as surgical instruments.  Most of the doctors and students had escaped, but one doctor remained with three medical students, and only the sheriff’s removing them to the city jail for their own protection saved them from being lynched. 

         The mob's anger did not subside overnight, and many doctors found it convenient to take a sudden vacation out of town.  The governor called out the militia, but the mob disarmed some of them and attacked Columbia College, destroying more medical specimens and instruments.  Alexander Hamilton tried in vain to calm them, and John Jay (a future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) was hit by a rock and knocked unconscious.  That evening the mob threatened the jail, where the doctor and students were still lodged.  When the rioters hurled bricks and rocks at the militia, the soldiers finally opened fire, killing eight and wounding many more. Those doctors still in town treated the wounded, and the rioters dispersed the next morning, thus ending the new nation’s first recorded riot. 

         Some weeks later the New York legislature passed a law permitting the dissection of hanged criminals.  Unfortunately, there were never enough of them, so  resurrectionists and their opponents would persist well into the next century, often provoking (your choice) picturesque or grisly incidents, as my next post will show. 

         Of course body snatching is now a thing of the past, is it not?  Wrong!  In 2005 an ex-dentist in Fort Lee, New Jersey, was arrested for obtaining bodies from funeral homes in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania with forged consent documents, and then selling bones, organs, skin, and other body parts to legitimate medical companies and tissue banks for resale to hospitals, which needed them for transplants.  They did six or seven extractions a day, a male nurse involved in the operation later confessed; it took 45 minutes for the bones, and another 15 for skin, arms, thighs, and belly.  But why get involved in such a gruesome business?  Because, the nurse explained, he went from earning $50,000 a year as a nurse to $185,000 as a "cutter."  Yes, this illegal business is flourishing throughout our fair land, as a quick search for "body snatching" on the Internet will quickly demonstrate.  I myself plan to be cremated, but this doesn't guarantee a thing; so did the people whose bodies were stolen by the dentist and his fellow ghouls.

         Happy Halloween!

Coming soon:  My Crazy Wednesday:  A Hundred Dollars' Worth of Turnips, My Lambda Lawyers, Trapped

©  2019  Clifford Browder