Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Hand in the Mirror

Once, I saw a photograph of a painting of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington DC. A small boy stood with his hand pressed against a name etched into the black stone. From behind the wall, a phantom-like soldier in Jungle fatigues, M-16 in one hand, pressed his hand against the wall so his palm met, from behind, the boy's palm. A father and son reached through a wall of tears to briefly, contact what both lost.

The poignant painting depicted life from both ends, allowing it to meet in the middle as if in defiance of time and space.

I always believed that Christmas transcended time and space too. That regardless of who we lost the previous year, or who we gained through marriage or birth, the fluidity of the season scooped all together in its embrace.

Wistful naivety or pensive innocence, yet somehow, I’ve since learned I was wrong, but acceptance of error came long after awareness.

The too cold night air filtered around the old red painted wooden front door despite my best efforts at weather stripping. The kit I bought, made in China of course, did not provide enough glue so I made do with some I had left over from a summer project.

Outside on the door, we hung an artificial wreath as if hanging one crafted out of real pine boughs might prove us cruel and inhuman. It bore a large shiny, plastic red ribbon and a string of brass bells too thin to ring or chime with any amount of authority. Shaking them was, to me cruel and inhuman when I listened to their pathetic tinkle.

Along with the chill that breezed into the living room, a light frost coated the edges of the windows, and fogged the ornate antique mirror hung in the narrow foyer. The mirror, passed down through the family for a half-dozen generations, had a gilded frame with an early nineteenth century style eagle perched on top. The eagle's pose made me envision, the first time I saw it, the massive bird leaping into the air, talons extended to tear into its unsuspecting prey.

Of course, he would need to first drop the arrows and olive branches, but I always believed that eagles were as close to mythical creatures as any I might ever see, like eight tiny reindeer's hooves clattering the slate roof tiles overhead.

The mirror glass was convex, bulging out like the roof of a dome, distorting images as if the designer knew something about human vanity I did not or could not conceive of.

By that night, Christmas Eve, I had walked past the mirror dozens, or hundreds of times and never used it as a mirror, mostly ignoring its presence. Perhaps, that elucidates my self-importance too well.

Of course, the old glass surface sparkled where the rear silvering remained intact. There were several frayed patches blackened by time's abuse, as the years steadily ate off the silver like a troll collecting coins from those who dared cross his bridge. I never saw any silver flakes sparking light from the floor beneath the mirror and so could never imagine where the flakes went.

The mirror hung high at eye level, which for me was about five foot six. If you stood much taller, you would need to stoop to have your reflection badly twisted into a fisheye distortion of vanity. No one used any mirror to see how bad they looked, so seldom did anyone stop to use this one after the first glance.

The condensation gathering around the edge of the gilded frame worried me. The wood was, after all, more than two hundred years old. How much moisture would be required to damage it, and perhaps loosen the old animal hide glue used by the carpenter when he assembled the pieces in his post-colonial workshop long ago?

There were some scrawled numbers and the letter S written in black paint or ink by him on the rear of the mirror but nothing that made sense beyond the assumption that they represented an inventory, style, or design number. The man remained anonymous in my mind. I might picture his hand-sewn clothing, tools, workshop, stained, and work hardened hands, broken fingernails, a splinter, or two, even his features to some degree. He may have smoked an old style ceramic pipe with a bowl shaped like a head wearing a billed cap, as those now found in archaeological digs. Yet, I would never know more, not his name, or where he lived, and worked.

I remembered that once, when no one was around to see, I smelled the mirror, front, and back. It reminded me of nothing but dried wood and old paint, which felt like a disappointment.

While the mirror was so vividly in my mental focus, I went into the kitchen, retrieved some paper towels, and returned to the foyer planning to clean the moisture off the mirror before company arrived.

As I stood directly before its dome-like surface, I received the usual shocking visual jolt. My nose appeared twice its already large size. A Morris nose, I once heard from my mother's cousin, herself a Morris but without the nose bestowed on male descendants only no doubt.

I moved slightly to the left and raised the paper towel to clean the surface, stopped before reaching my goal and stared at a small feminine handprint that covered from the bottom left center to just over the center of the mirror's curved glass.

Each fingerprint loop and swirl stood out clearly, as if I examined the hand not its image. I noticed the slight bend to the center knuckles of two fingers twisted by age and arthritis. The palm bore the fruits of accidents from years past that resided there in the form of spider web thin scars.

The feel of her flesh against my hand became as vivid as any memory I retained from the time I spent with her. It was not an intimate contact, but at first casual and later as family, welcomed and encouraged. The memories cascaded then, nearly overwhelming me as I found I could not pull away from the mirror that until then was nothing more than an ornamental test of one's narcissism.

It wasn't until I heard her voice speaking to me as if she'd just entered the foyer from outside as she kicked the snow from her boots and carefully peeled the soft cotton-lined leather gloves from her hands after removing her snow dampened wool hat that I looked away from the mirror. Everything she wore always matched, color and style.

I turned to face her and from the corner of my eye, saw movement in the convex surface of the mirror. It had to have been me, but I swore then it was not. The light brown eyes seemed to twinkle, the corners of lips rose in a warm smile, and then, when I glanced directly at the mirror, my breath clouded its surface, erasing any image I may have seen.

Someone raised and dropped the large bronze knocker alerting me that the first of my guests arrived. Before responding, I lifted the mirror off its hook and placed it carefully against the back wall of a seldom-used closet.

I'm having it restored, I practiced in my head as I walked by the now blank wall with an oval fade at eye level. Having it restored. It's so good to see you! How have you been? Have you eaten yet?

Then I opened the door and watched a small parade of relatives walk up the shoveled sidewalk as I forced a smile knowing that would be what she wanted done, and reached out to greet them one by one.

Copyright property of Larry Schliessmann, 2010 all rights reserved.

For the previous 14 years, I wrote a Christmas story for my mother-in-law Ruth Whalen Gaul. She loved writing, had written Christmas plays for children while living in Charlotte, North Carolina, and actively participated in a Charlotte writer's group.
She passed in July of this year, but when I wondered if I should or even could write another Christmas story this year, the above stuttered out.

Happy Holidays to all

Saturday, October 30, 2010

And then. . .

Due to a string of unfortunate events (unexpected loss always knocks me back), and distractions (my obsession with genealogy for one), I've been elsewhere.

I have been busy writing too, finished one SiFi novel, started two more, but all of that caused me to neglect other activities.

And then, I had a story idea pop into my head, well a title for a story, which is often what happens. If the idea jells into mental imagery, I give it some time and then hit the keyboard.

Yesterday, that happened with the phrase "a hand on the mirror", which is still sitting in my head calling to me.

So, I'm going to play with it and post the outcome here in bits and pieces until completed.

We'll see what happens.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Walking through Murrells Inlet

Some days, dawn is the best time to look around, stop wondering why, and accept that there are greater forces at work in life than those which seem to act against commonsense, and purpose.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eternity's Why

Strong wind carried scents of Queen Anne's Lace, layered over Rosemary. I was a boy in search, but not aware if I'd discover something worthy. I just knew the search was my quest.

Each day I asked myself why, but could not always put words behind it so why hung as a suspended moment that enticed the need to search further.

Wandering through forests not yet tamed by metal dozers of promise, a falling leaf, a rustled branch, sparkling water in a small pond I felt certain lay undiscovered for me to find. Why remained elusive, like a shadow seen at noon not at midnight. I knew it would reappear with the sun.

Silent examination, patience's companion, rode my shoulder when I left nature's protection as if I needed advice, or guidance when passing along trails trod by many people.

There was a deep meaninglessness to their haste, a confusion of chatter fired out like static lines of invisible whys. I was not sure they cared for answers, but rather sought definition for escape. They seemed to cling to the refuge their questions wove around them like a garden spider's five-foot web.

The search walked me through childhood, carried me into manhood until confronted with an answer I did not anticipate.

In war, I expended ammunition at an often-unseen enemy while we both responded to the call of life. Why never left me, never resolved, but the silence after conclusion rang with repercussions. The why of war bridges reality and passes into severed spirit. The unseen blood dripping is like the breeze bearing gifts of Queen Anne's Lace, and Rosemary, impossible to recapture and hold on the palm of peace, but balances on a blade of thorn.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Civil War Nurses, The Forgotten Heroes of the Great Rebellion

Our Army Nurses.

 Nurse Matilda E. Morris.

Interesting sketches, addresses, and photographs of nearly one hundred of the Noble Women who served in hospitals and on battlefields during our civil war.
Complied by Mary A. Gardner Holland.

(Written by Matilda E. Morris)

EARLY in the war I conceived the plan of going into some hospital as a nurse; but my friends would not listen to my plan, saying there was work enough to do at home. In spite of this, I could not feel that making shirts, bandages, etc., was all I ought to do.

My mother finally gave her consent, and I wrote to David Todd, then Governor of Ohio, to see if I could get a pass. In about a week came a reply, containing pass and transportation to Washington, D. C. I was not long in making my preparations, yet it seemed a great undertaking, as I was not accustomed to traveling alone.

It was one morning in August, 1862, that I left my home in Randolph, Ohio, leaving my two dear little daughters in the care of their loyal grand- parents, who bade me Godspeed in my undertaking, — though it was a sad parting, for God alone knew whether we should meet again on earth.

I took the train at Atwater, Ohio, Aug. 20, 1862, and at Wheeling, W. Ya., our trouble began. A dispatch had been received before our arrival, warning the officers not to start any train for Washington until further notice was given, as the rebels were making a raid on every train on the B.&O.R.R.

One thousand soldiers were sent to clear the way, and the next morning word came that the train could start.    We knew it was still a perilous undertaking, yet we were 391
glad to take some risk rather than wait any longer. Here I had been befriended by a family of Quakers, who were waiting for the same train.

The gentleman had been over the road a great many times, so he could point out all the places of interest. He had been employed by President Lincoln as a scout all through those mountains, and was only taking his wife and sister to Baltimore, then would start on another scouting expedition. He gave much valuable information, and a letter of introduction to some friends of theirs in Washington. We did not see anything of the enemy, but heard occasional firing, and of course knew what that meant. We parted at Annapolis, never to meet again; and that evening I arrived in Washington, but it was too late to see my husband, who was wounded and in a hospital there. I was very tired, and glad of a good night's rest at the hotel.

When I awoke I could scarcely believe that I was at the Capital of the United States (or, rather. Divided States,just then). At nine o'clock I went to Armory Square Hospital, and found my husband's wound much worse than I had expected. I will not try to tell you how we felt, to meet again after so long a time, although under such trying circumstances.

When the surgeon came to make his morning call I told him why I was there, and what I wanted to do, and learned that there would soon be need of more nurses.    The next morning I reported to Doctor Bliss, and we had a long talk, which ended by his engaging me to begin my duties as soon as more patients came.
He told me to remain until he needed me, but I was not idle very long.

One day I saw Doctor Bliss coming up the walk in great haste. "Ladies," he said, "it* you have anything in particular that you wish to have done, do it now, for your ward will soon be full, and there will be plenty of work for us all. The enemy are coming this way, and there will be a big fight to keep them from entering the city."

This was August 27th. Then came the Second Battle of Bull Run. The excitement in Washington was intense. We could hear the cannonading constantly. There were only a few patients left in our wards, and we put everything in readiness.

We were near both of the river depots, where the wounded would be landed. Soon we heard a great commotion outside, and, looking, I beheld what I never wish to see again. A sadder sight one could not imagine than those loads of wounded men. That day my life as a hospital nurse commenced. Our hearts and hands were full, tending to so many. Some died before they reached the building.

Each ward had fifty beds and two nurses; but at home we think it hard work to care for one patient. It was a hard day for us all. First we gave each a drink of cold water, as that was their only cry.    I shall never forget one poor fellow who was lying near an old building.

He looked as if he were dead, but I stooped to make sure, and thought I saw Ms lips move. The man who was carrying the pail cried : " Come along he is dead, fast enough." "No, wait a minute," I replied, and began to wet his lips.

Very soon I had him revived so much that he could drink out of my cup. He was a NewYork Zouave. The next time I saw him he was on his way to his regiment. After water had been given to all we went around with bread and butter and coffee. Oh, how the poor hungry fellows did relish it! I had many a "God bless you " that day. A great many had been carried into the wards while we were working outside, and we next procured washbasins, soap and water, and went to washing the blood from their faces — a work that was very grateful to the men. This occupied the time until midnight.

I might write volumes about what happened in this one hospital, but shall have to pass over a great many events.

One battle followed another, and each furnished wounded soldiers.    I remained until after the battles of the "Wilderness and of Spottsylvania Court House. I have a little Testament that one of my boys gave me. He picked it up in the Wilderness. Poor fellow, he died on the way home. His father came for him, and stopped in Philadelphia to get another son who was so badly wounded that he was not expected to live many days. Another son was at the front. The father wrote to inform me of his boy's death, and he said that the mother's heart was almost broken.    And so it was all through the war: fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, all suffering for the same cause.

After being in Armory Square Hospital a long time I was transferred to Findley Hospital, also situated in Washington, where I remained several months under Doctor Pancoast. We did not have much to do, and I made up my mind to go to the front. The doctor said he would like to have me stay, but finally made out my discharge papers. He also gave me a splendid recommendation. I feel very proud of these papers, as I do also those given me by Doctor Bliss.

In order to go to the front I had to enlist with Miss Dix. After going through with considerable red tape she employed another nurse and myself, and had us sent to Sandy Hook, near Harper's Ferry, where we reported to Surgeon Barnes, in October, 1864. He told us there was not much to do, as he had just sent away a lot of wounded men; but we had better stay, and perhaps there would be more in soon.

I said, "No, let us go farther down into the valley."

So he gave us passes and transportations toHarper'sFerry. They were made out to take us to Winchester, Va., but we could not go for several days, as General Sheridan was there with his cavalry. We all remember the battle, and the victories he achieved in the valley of the Shenandoah. In October, when things became a little more quiet, we started for Martinsbarg. We had not gone more than half way when we had quite a thrilling adventure.

Suddenly our train came to a standstill. The rebels had been there the night before and torn up the track for miles, and wrecked and burned the train ahead of ours. There we were in a barren country, not a house in sight, and with the enemy all around us. The rebels had made a mistake, and they were wild with disappointment. It was our train that had the pay-car attached, and that was why we had so many soldiers aboard.

Report said that a lady had been burned; and as Miss Evans and myself were walking- along the track, I found a piece of partly burned hair that surely had come from some woman's head. There was melted glass and iron all around — ruins everywhere; and we were glad when the road was repaired and we could leave that awful place, the sight of which made us nearly sick.

We reached Martinsville late at night, very tired and hungry. The next day we started for Winchester, and oh, how it did rain ! But we never stopped for rain in war times. At the station was an ambulance train to take us the remainder of the distance.

I think there must have been a thousand soldiers to guard the stores, for an officer "had said, " The rebs are thick as flies in August along that route."

General Custer was with us, and several other officers whose names I did not learn. It was a dreadful march. The boys waded through mud and water the livelong day, but not a murmur could we hear. At noon we halted at a place called Bunker Hill.

There was wood on one side and an open field on the other.    It was a dreary-looking place.    Soon after the train stopped we saw two men riding into the woods, and supposed they had gone as scouts. In a few minutes we heard a shot at no great distance, and soon saw the same men returning with a pig across the back of one of the horses. I never saw anything prepared to cook as soon as that pig. They did not stop to scald it, as the farmers do, but pulled off the whole skin, and in a short time the animal was in slices. In the meantime a fire had been started, and soon the coffee-kettles and frying-pans were on.

I told Miss Evans I was going to have some of that meat for our dinner. She skeptically inquired how I should get it. I took a can of condensed milk and some salt, and soon made a trade.

The boys seemed to enjoy the fun, and some of them carried us some coffee. It was a cold, dreary ride, but after a great many halts and skirmishes we arrived in Winchester about midnight. The next day Ave reported to Doctor Hayden, at Sheridan Hospital, which was composed entirely of tents, some so low that we had to stoop to enter; but they were all full of badly wounded men. If the scene at Armory Square was dreadful, this was a thousand times more so. Here the men lay on the bare ground, with knapsacks, boots, or any- thing for a pillow that would raise the head. Pas- sing along, I saw things that made me sick at heart. A young man not more than eighteen had both legs shot off.

He could not live, yet he seemed cheerful. We did what we could for them with our limited means; but finally our supplies gave out, and even hard-tack became a luxury.    We were told to care for the Confederates as we did for our own, and we obeyed orders; but deep in my heart I could not feel the same.

We remained there until it was safe to move the men to Baltimore. 'We had hospital cars,which are a little wider than ordinary ones, and are placed on springs. They have on each side three tiers of berths or cots, suspended by rubber bands, and so arranged as to yield to the motion. I made two trips with this train, and the men said it went like a cradle. It was a pleasure to take care of so cheerful a company. My journey lasted two days and nights, and I think I never passed forty-eight hours so fraught with both sad and pleasant memories.

We reported again to Miss Dix, who sent us back to Findley Hospital, where I remained until April, 1865; then went into the city to stay with some friends named Edson. One of them was (Miss) Dr. Susan Edson, who with Doctor Bliss were prominent figures during President Garfield's sickness.

One day I saw an immense crowd gathered in front of the War Department. Secretary Stanton was reading a dispatch from General Grant,— " Richmond    and Petersburg are ours. "

This caused great rejoicing, which deepened when the news of the capitulation of the rebel army was flashed over the wires. The next night we went to the White House, to hear the President speak. I shall never forget how his face lit up with joy. But ah, this was his last speech! A few brief days of wild rejoicing followed; then the bright future was suddenly overcast as Treason guided the assassin's hand in its deadly work. The mighty had fallen, —Abraham Lincoln, the noblest of martyrs, to a noble cause!

While I was at Armory Square Hospital he visited it several times. And how the boys would rally if we told them "Uncle Abraham" was coming. would go down one side of the ward and up the other, shaking hands with every one, and speaking a kind word. He would shake hands with me and ask me about my work and my home, and charge me to be good to “his boys”.

I have often seen the tears roll down his careworn cheeks while he was talking with some wounded soldier.

After the funeral I went with friends to Richmond, and visited many places of interest.
Among them, that terrible death-trap, Libby Prison, and do not understand how any of our men came out alive. I saw the basement floors paved with cobble stones, and a little straw was thrown here and there. The floor was so slimy we could hardly walk; yet here our men had to eat and sleep.

I saw Sheridan's army pass through the place on its way to Washington. The men had many strange pets on their shoulders. Some had owls, others coons, and one had a bantam rooster, that crowed several times in my hearing.

It took two days for them to pass, and we carried barrels of water for them to drink. so many left to go home.

The Secesh were surprised to see so many left to go home. I was talking with one of Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry men, and told him that was only a small branch of our army.

He replied, "Madam, we are beaten, but not conquered."

May 18th I started for Washington. I reached the boat in good season, and supposed I was all right, but a colored man soon came to me and said, "How came you on this boat ?''

I told him and showed my pass.

" Oh, you are all right, madam, so far as that goes; but we never carry passengers on General Grant's private boat."

I said I was exceedingly sorry for the mistake, and he could put me off
at the next landing. During the conversation a military-looking man had seated himself near us, and seemed to be reading; but I knew he heard every word, and I also knew very well who he was.

He soon laid down his paper, saying, " Sam, what is the matter?"

"This lady is on your private boat, sah."

He came to me and said, "Madam, will you please to tell me all about it? "
I did so, and he answered: "I don't see anything very serious about this mistake; there is room for us all. Make yourself perfectly at home. We only go to City Point, but you can change boats there.”

Then turning to the waiter he told him to " make the lady comfortable while she remains on board."

This gentleman was our good General Grant.

At City Point we shook hands, he bade me good-bye, and I thanked him again for his kindness, then continued my journey. In the meantime my husband had secured his discharge papers, and we bade adieu to our associates.

Peace reigned once more. All that remained to be done was to go home and make glad the hearts of those from whom we had been parted so long. father was at the same station where I left him almost three years before. Soon we met mother, sisters, and our own dear little girls.

This was a great many years ago, and those girls have children of their own now, and we are grandpa and grandma. They often coax me to tell a story of the war. My father and mother have long since gone to the home to which we must soon follow; but it is a pleasure to recall the fact that I had a part in the beneficent work in which it was woman's peculiar privilege to serve her country. I feel abundantly rewarded by the knowledge of having done something to alleviate the suffering of those who gave health and worldly prospects, ties of home, and even life itself in the perilous service.

Sweet flowers and tender plants creep over the graves that were made so long ago on many a field and hillside; and thus tender memories arise to enwrap the gaunt figure, and veil the grim visage, of "War, that must forever stand a central object upon the canvas that portrays the history of those memorable years.
I thank God for all his mercies and blessings during all these years. It was He who led us through; and if we love and obey Him, He will take us unto Himself, where all will be joy and peace, forever.

112 Harbor Street, Cleveland, Ohio.
Matilda E. Morris.

I selected Matilda E. Morris because my mother’s grandmother was Mary Lee Morris born August, 09, 1865. Matilda’s husband would be Mary Lee’s distant cousin.

Larry Schliessmann (AKA Marlowe Black)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lest We Forget - Memorial Day 2010, Memorial Day 1913 - G.A.R.

Memorial Day Oration.

MAY 30, 1913

Delivered by

James Shera Montgomery, D. D.



Arlington Cemetery, Virginia



"O Beautiful !    my Country !    ours once more
Smoothing thy gold of war-disheveled hair
O'er such sweet brows as never other wore,
And letting thy set lips,
Freed from wrath's pale eclipse,
The rosy edges of her smile lay bare,
What words divine of lover or of poet
Could tell our love and make thee know it,
Among the nations bright beyond compare
What were our lives without thee?
What all our lives to save thee?
We reck not what we gave thee?
We will not dare to doubt thee,
But ask whatever else, and we will dare!"

The Rebellion

The War! The War! Shall we recall its animosities? No!

May the bitter enmities and the hot antagonisms of the fiercest conflict that ever swept across the breast of any nation be forgotten, and may we cherish with the better angels of our nature "malice toward none and charity to all" with the will of God and the conscience of the Republic as our guide and inspiration.

Rather let this day arrest the whole country in its commercial march and learn anew how great the scope and how terrible the character of that war. May these emphasize our form of government, the safeguard of popular sovereignty, the protection of the rights of citizens and the promotion of the general welfare of our Nation, and how appalling the cost of the privileges and the opportunities of our united country.

The statistician tells us that there were 2,731 battles.

The slain of the Union Army on battlefield were: Officers, 5,221 ; enlisted men, 90,868; died of disease, 183,287; a grand total of 279,376.

The killed,wounded and captured, including both the American and British armies, during the War of the Revolution, were about 22,000 men.

The loss to either the Union or Confederate army at Gettysburg or the Wilderness exceeded this number. From the discovery of America to the Rebellion, the slain in battle in our country, in all our wars, were less than the combined death returns of the two armies at Shiloh.

At Racour (1746) the lost was two and one-half per cent of those engaged; at Lignitz (1760) Frederick the Great lost six and one-half per cent; at Wagram (1809), where the intrepid McDonald, under the Emperor's eye, charged the Austrian center, the lost was scarcely five per cent; at Austerlitz —the battle of the three emperors— with its "sun of promise." where Napoleon prevailed against the combined Russian despotism and Austrian tyranny, his loss reached only about fifteen per cent; at Waterloo, where set Napoleon's star, the Iron Duke Wellington lost about twelve per cent.

Gettysburg, the turning point of the War, where the thoughtful Meade wrung victory from a brave and chivalrous foe that battled for another destiny, and the Wilderness, and Spottsylvania, where death was like a monster from hell, each shows losses above thirty per cent.

This is enough!

Here was the spirit of the Cavalier and the fidelity of Cromwell's ironsides battling for supremacy. It is now too late to say what ought to have been done, or what might have been done, but let this be said: We cannot measure the gallantry of our heroes on this, our Nation's funeral day — is written on the page of history in letters of divine illumination  -- for is is inestimable by any standard that we possess. Even the rarest gift of eloquence cannot compass the task. The fillets that once set upon their youthful brows have long ago blossomed into enduring fame, and it remains for some bard, inspired by the majesty of his theme, to unite their deeds to immortal verse and song, and both shall become immortal.


"He speaks not well who doth his time deplore,
Naming it new, little and obscure,
Ignoble and unfit for lofty deeds.
All times were modern in the times of them,
And this no more than others. Do thy part
Here in the living day, as did the great
Who made old days immortal ! So shall men.
Gazing long back to this far-looming hour,
Say : 'Then the time when men were truly men;
Though wars grew less, their spirits met the test
Of new conditions; conquering civic wrong;
Saving the State anew by virtuous lives
Guarding the country's honor as their own,
And their own as their country's and their sons.'

The above is a small part of the total speech. But to me, a combat veteran, this section rang true, was both painful and hopeful, and reminded me that we should never give up the quest for world peace versus endless warfare that shreds the lives of those among us who honor their Nation and sacrifice their lives while so many others sit back and idly do nothing more than await the outcome.

Or instead, regard the defense of their Nation as someone else’s problem, one they believe they are too busy or, worse, too important, to engage. Until, of course, comes the day when the enemy might prevail, and then I am certain, those same men and women will blame the loss on those of us who wear the uniform and the scars of patriotism.

Larry Schliessmann (AKA Marlowe Black)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Might be a joke. . .might not


Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder. Somehow I feel better even though I have it!!

Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. - Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

This is how it manifests:

I decide to water my garden. As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.

As I start toward the garage, I notice mail on the porch table that I brought up from the mail box earlier.

I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table, and notice that the can is full.

So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the garbage first.

But then I think, since I'm going to be near the mailbox when I take out the garbage anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.

I take my check book off the table, and see that there is only one check left.

My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of Pepsi I'd been drinking.

I'm going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Pepsi aside so that I don't accidentally knock it over.

The Pepsi is getting warm, and I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold..

As I head toward the kitchen with the Pepsi, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye--they need water.

I put the Pepsi on the counter and discover my reading glasses that I've been searching for all morning.

I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I'm going to water the flowers.

I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table.

I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I'll be looking for the remote, but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I'll water the flowers.

I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.

So, I set the remote back on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.

Then, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:

the car isn't washed
the bills aren't paid
there's a warm can of Pepsi sitting on the counter,
the flowers don't have enough water,
there's still only 1 check in my check book,
I can't find the remote,
I can't find my glasses,
and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.

Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day, and I'm really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem, and I'll try to get some help for it,
but first I'll check my e-mail.....

Do me a favor. Forward this message to everyone you know, because I don't remember who I've sent it to.

Don't laugh...if this isn't you yet, your day is coming!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Future Vision Year 2050

By 2050 or much sooner, computers will program themselves, create architecture; diagnose disease and write patient treatment plans.

Computers will design clothing and all necessities, toys, furniture, etc.; create all entertainment, movies, Sitcoms, e-books, plays, poetry, and new games. Computers will use holographic display for 3D/HD characters and scenery.

Computers will write programming for and program all robotics.

Robots will create robots.

Robots will mine, and process raw materials, cut trees, and create all related products.

Robots will cut, assemble, and sew clothing, shoes, toys, furniture, other necessities, objects for pleasure, buildings, do all factory work.

Robots will perform surgery; fill prescriptions at pharmacies, do physical examinations using laser and other forms of technology.

Robots will plow, seed, tend and reap all food harvests; inseminate, breed, raise, slaughter livestock; fill and deliver grocery orders; cook and prepare ready to eat meals for sale at supermarkets; prepare, cook, serve meals at restaurants.

Robots will remove and process trash and garbage, and perform 100% recycling.

Robots will drive all vehicles used for deliveries and commercial buses, trains, airplanes, subways, taxis. Computers will control smaller family-size and recreational vehicles.

Robots will power and control all space vehicles, shuttles and off-world exploration. Robots will design, build and place new satellites into orbit, remove and recycle outdated equipment and technology.

Robots will build new construction, demolish and remove old structures; design and build all forms of infrastructure, roads, bridges, tunnels, power grids, water, and sewer.

By 2050, nine billion plus humans will walk the earth. Seventy percent or more will reside in mega cities.

Humans will be cerebrally wired for communication and entertainment, receive orders and instructions through personal WIFI.

Viruses, worms, and new forms of disruption will plague the communications network. Computers will write the spyware.

What will humans do? Fight political, religious, ideological wars, and breed to fight more wars? What else remains?

However, robots will do this more efficiently too, faster and with less emotional and physical expense and impact.

Robots do not require salary, vacations, health insurance, sick days, or any benefits. They will work 24/7/365 until they wear out, self-replicate, with improvements and continue.

Without purpose, humanity will be very expendable. Plan ahead, maybe the end really is near. Humanity will not end with a bang, but with a sputtering whimper of lost creation.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Facebook Data Mining. . .again

"ATTENTION EVERYONE--There's a site called - a new online phone book w/personal information: everything from pics you've posted on FB or web, your approx credit score, home value, income, age, etc. You can remove yourself by first searching for yourself on their site to find the URL of your page, then going to the Privacy button on the bottom of their page to remove yourself. Copy & repost."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Faith is not Fear

Faith is not Fear.

Several weeks ago, I published the article "Faith is not Religion." When I did, I felt somewhat reluctant, not wanting to wade into the religious quagmire spiraling through American politics. If you have not read the article, you might want to read it before finishing this since I feel no less reluctant to write this article.

As we all know, there are three dominant religions in current history. Two of these began as what I think of as relief valves for the original, which is Judaism.

The Jewish religion was, as I understand it, founded on the backs of those who suffered for their faith. Their God was an angry demanding and unforgiving deity. This God maimed, punished, and killed those who dared not obey without hesitation, without question.

Then, a man who many now claim to be the Son of God walked the lands of what was then Palestine. Everyone knows the stories of His deeds, His words, His lessons, and His death. Central to His message was compassion, loving one's enemy as one's friend, turning the other cheek, building plows out of swords. He healed the sick, welcomed all to listen and follow. He spoke of a loving, forgiving God.

Centuries later, another man, the Prophet Mohammad walked the same ground, offered, I believe, an enlightened message, teaching the need for harmony and education. He too spoke of a loving, forgiving God.

I do not believe that either, Son of God or Prophet, intended hatred and fear to be central to what they felt humans needed for peaceful co-existence.

Yet now centuries later, followers of all three religions seem to feel it necessary to reach far back in time for the Old Testament God's discriminating lack of compassion so they might now beget a future.

Fear is not Faith.

I write this with conviction. I do not think followers of the three religions can ever live together as long as fear is the batter from which loaves of justice are baked and shared during meals.

However, humans, it seems, need to dwell on the past to seek a future. I think that knowledge of the past can be a foundation only, not building blocks for the unseen and unknown tomorrow.

We expend too much effort; exhaust too many lives ramming wet clay cast from spilled blood into barricades and levies, to keep out the undesirable element, which too often is the element we would see if we had a spiritual mirror to gaze in to.

Elected leaders, men and woman entrusted to speak publicly, to promote reason, and doctrines of faith, twisted and writhed under the erotic and enticing caress of wealth and fame. They distorted truth for personal gain, not the common good. They used basic human psychology to further whatever agenda they received payment to promote.

Those leaders, speakers, or their masters, knew too that fear is the heart of religion. Therefore, they used religion.

They understood, it seems, that as time passed, throughout history, men rewrote, adjusted, and added to the original teachings of the Prophet and Son of God. They created demons, burned witches, hung or disemboweled heretics, dunked the innocent, stoned, whipped, or killed disobedient wives and daughters, beheaded non-believers.

Many at one time waded through flowing blood in the streets of the holiest of cities.

They performed these acts as needed to control the masses, the peasants, serfs, slaves and willing but uneducated followers, without regard for truth, justice, or the teachings of the Son of God or the Prophet.

Politicians and their moneyed masters also restricted education, or lowered the standards of educational success.

Until all the people of Earth can set religion off to the side of discussion between our cultures, we will never discover true peace. Moreover, when religion is dragged back into the rooms where cultures meet to resolve differences, those meetings must be curtailed until religion is again outside.

Peace is a living without fear. Fear is not faith. Fear is religion. With true faith comes true peace.

Listen to the voices of men and women filled with religious fervor, and you will hear anger, and know that anger is often an expression of frustration or confusion. Those emotions are deeply rooted in fear. Too often, the fear taught us by religious leaders.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The book that most influenced me as a boy

At the age of fourteen, I sat down on a rainy afternoon, bored and “trapped” inside. My mother, an avid reader, kept many books on the shelves in our recreation room. The shelving wrapped around, or up one side, over and down the other side of an upright piano that once belonged to her grandmother.

No one in our family played piano, or admitted it if they’d attempted the task. I was not prepared to sit on the bench and pound the keyboard.

I’d started reading while in elementary school, but I knew that any teenage boy caught reading the children’s books that mostly lined those shelves, would, if found out, die from embarrassment. Besides, I really was no longer interested in most, and those that might’ve held my interest, well, I’d read them before.

However, boredom works wonders, or at least it does with me. I truly hate boredom. After sitting alone in that room for fifteen or so minutes, I “struggled” to my feet, and glanced along the book spines, hoping to find something good.

It seems strange now as I think back, that I hadn’t noticed it in the past, but as I was about to turn away, I spotted the title Green Mansions on a plain, yellowing hardcover spine.

With but a small amount of reluctance, thinking the story would prove to be yet another attempt at juvenile entertainment, I slid the book off the shelf and flipped it open to read the author’s name on the title page: W.H. Hudson.

Clearly the writer had something to hide, I thought and the intrigue drew me in.

When I read the first page, I felt satisfied that W. H. Hudson did not write children’s books. In fact, the 1944 edition I own now (of course I still have a copy) states: Green Mansions, A Romance of the Tropical Forest. A rather risque, for the time, drawing by E. McKnight Kauffer is to the left of the title page. Wonder if I saw that back then, hmm.

Well, I was fourteen and once I started reading, I could not put the book down. That was a first for me. Not only had I selected the book without suggestion from an adult, but it was terrific and I was hooked on science fiction and, no, not so much on romance.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

ABNA Expert Reviewer's comments on "Drop Dead Cadillac"

Before I comment on their comments, here are the Expert Reviewers opinions regarding my novel "Drop Dead Cadillac."

Feedback: Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Reviews

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The strongest aspect of this excerpt in my opinion would be the eccentric writer. I did like him. Although I don't find this character to be a total package, I did find him somewhat interesting. I wonder if the writer and Black will need to team up to solve this mystery.

What aspect needs the most work?

There are just to many questions in my mind about these characters to find them totally credible. Why would a well known writer (millions of readers about the world according to black) live on the outskirts of a 'rotting corpse dumping ground for mobsters'. That doesn't make any sense to me, and this needs some work. Black seems to be some sort of private investigator. He didn't seem to give much thought to taking this job from a writer who may be a "certified" fruitcake. what will the relationship be between these two guys, if any? I think their opposing and strong personalities would make them unlikely bedmates for this mystery. But that is what would make this story good. The problem is we don't get any hints if this is a possibility or not.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I could find this excerpt good, but that is the problem. I am not sure what is going to happen down the road in this story. I would love for these two unlikely fellows to have to join up together and solve this mystery. I don't know if that is what this write has in store for me though. I also believe these two main characters need some better development or descriptions for me. They just aren't believable with the information I have been given.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The author doesn't miss a detail in describing the scene or the characters in his story. The opening sounds interesting and readers are given a good mystery in the excerpt.

What aspect needs the most work?

The book starts out too slowly and the author spends more time describing unnecessary moments in the scene instead of introducing us to the character.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I thought the story was promising but it did not seem that original and we weren't given much insight into who the main character is. The author spent a lot of time explaining every little detail of the surroundings which will make for an absurdly long book if it continues in the whole manuscript.

Now, it's my turn.

First, any writer must acknowledge that every reader will read what they want, not necessarily what you wrote. It is difficult, if not impossible to do anything about this.

Second, reviewers -- like anyone else -- make assumptions when they have only a section of a novel to read and review.

Third, their opinions are theirs alone.

Fourth, many of's expert reviewers specialize in nonfiction and maybe should not review novels.

What I liked about their comments were that, for the most part, I can easily fix the "problems" without worrying about altering the plot. Marlowe Black is a PI, which comes up later in the story, but really should've sooner.

The eccentric writer -- name withheld to avoid fictitious lawsuits -- is a man well into his 70s, has lived in his home for more than 30 years, it wasn't always a bad area. He loves his home, period. We all know older people like him.

An excerpt is meant to lead the reader into the plot, not to deliver it in 5000 words or less. Although it may not be apparent to the second reviewer, character development requires description of the character's surrounding. Thus lots of detail, especially in fiction is necessary and does not imply a story will be too long and burdened with too much detail. Just ask David Weber, Elizabeth Moon, Harlan Coben, Laurell K. Hamilton, James Patterson, to name a few writers who use a lot of detail in description.

To state that the writer's use of description implies an "absurdly long book" demonstrates the expert reviewer's possible lack of knowledge regarding the average length of a mystery novel -- 60,000 -- 90,000 words.

Lastly, I think both reviewer expressed enough curiosity regarding how the characters would gel and work to reach a successful conclusion, which -- while it could've been stronger -- showed that the excerpt did work in that regard.

Here is a link to the excerpt:

Saturday, February 27, 2010's ABNA contest

It's a first step and I'll take it!

My novel "Drop Dead Cadillac" is one of a 1000 general fiction novels in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest to move into the second round of editorial reviews.

Since the total number of entries for the contest is 10,000, I'm happy about this.

If you are interested in reading an excerpt, it should be available on the website under ABNA contest.

If not there, I have the first two chapters on (

"Drop Dead Cadillac" is a Marlowe Black Mystery set in NYC 1951.


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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Zombie, my Zombie

How-to-enjoy that first touchy-feely date.

By now, you must be breathless with anticipation. Relentlessly, you tracked him down, watched, and waited for him at midnight of the last six full moons, until finally you saw him. Your heart raced as he shambled across the uncut lawn, dodging tilted and ancient bone white tombstones at Mount Clementine's Cemetery.

I know you felt hesitant, understanding that each word, every movement might be misconstrued by him. After all, he has been festering beneath six feet of earthworm-ridden moist loamy earth for least.

Yet, now his history is not important, only the excitement of the moment of first contact.

Therefore, here are a few tips to make the night special, this most exciting time of you life.

First, prepare to ignore the following: the way his hands feel kinda like raw fish in a pail. The way he smells, kinda like chop meat left out on the counter for a few days or months.

Second, when you run your fingers through his hair, hide your disappointment, even horror when clumps of it cling to the delicate flesh of your palms, follicles caking under that expensive manicure you got just for this occasion.

Third, as his lips graze yours hold the kiss as long as you can...about as long as you can hold your breath. Never, I repeat, never allow his tongue to touch yours until you feel certain it will not...well, you know, break loose at an inopportune moment. Do keep in mind, that your Zombie really is dead. He might be animated, but expectations beyond that should be kept in check.

Fourth, when he places his hands on your lower back, do not shudder. If you do, not only will he feel it and know you are quite repulsed, but your quivering muscles might jar loose a fingernail or two, or more and, well, guess where they might end up. That's right; at the end where you do not want them.

Fifth, let's back up. Before you even meet the first time, I suggest you invest in a Zombie bag. The Fifth Avenue Zombie Bag has a number of pockets, all lined with a space age waterproofing material. It also has a double strap like the backpack you carried in school and it comes in colors that blend well with your first meeting place...the cemetery. Colors like cool morning mist green, shimmering moonlit freshly turned earth, gleaming headstone off-white, and my favorite, pink veined gray granite. Oh, it's wonderful!

Sixth, use your Zombie bag whenever something comes loose and well falls off. He will want to reattach fingers, toes, even limbs before returning home before the next sunrise. As they fall off, plopping greasily to the sidewalk, slip on your kid leather, rubber-lined Fifth Avenue Zombie Gloves and quickly, discretely scoop up the part and slip it into an empty pocket. Do not worry; the Fifth Avenue Zombie Bag has fifty-five pockets of varying sizes. However, a word of warning here, try to avoid examining the parts or pieces. Unpleasant surprises might spoil your date.

Seventh, sneaking your Zombie into your home might seem easy, but occasionally Zombies cry out, producing a loud gargling snarling sound that is both repulsive and alarming. He cannot control this urge and often the noise will be loud enough to get every dog in the neighborhood howling. Lights will flip on, and neighbors will open front doors shotguns in hand. Well, it would not do for you to become a Zombie before your time.

Eighth, intimacy is, well, let's put it this way, forget about it! Remember that old timey saying "Loose lips sink ships?" Now a bit of basic logic compiled with what we already know about Zombies and disassociated body parts and you get the picture, right? Remember, physical intimacy as in more than just hooking up, may end up down right disgusting or worse. You may need a trip to the emergency room. Think about explaining what happened.

If you apply all of these helpful hints to your first and, well, every date with your very own Zombie, life will be more ways than one.

PS: Some Zombies are truly nasty ex-humans so beware, or you may be the prime rib he has been waiting for. Mace or a Taser will work wonders in these situations.


Copyright February 20, 2010: Larry Schliessmann, all rights reserved.
This article is not to be shared. It is for your own personal use. If it is sold by you or given away by you in whole or in part, that is an infringement of U.S. copyright laws. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Living Eyes Syndrome in Writing

Or, eyes of mine wherefore art thou now?

I am an avid reader, but have a problem with some writers that I really need to get out in the open.

To keep this simple, I will ask some questions and because basically, I am seriously sarcastic by nature, I might even answer one or two.

One: When you write, "Their eyes met?" Did two people pop out their eyes first, hold them aloft so they might get to know each other's as couples?

Two: "His eyes roamed the room." Do you keep them on a leash so you can reel them in when you need to see something?

Three: "Her eyes darted about." Looking for an object to inflict punishment on, correct? Darts of anger flashed from her eyes! Can you see those little lightning bolts? ZAP!

Four: "Her eyes fluttered when he kissed her." Is this while they roamed the room, or have they returned for the close-up experience fluttering with angel wings (like tiny cupids) while hovering overhead?

Five: "His eyes went up and down her body." Now that's just plain creepy, although not quite as bad as "He eyeballed her." Okay, I want to make some comments here, like, what else, exactly, did he do while eyeballing her, but I'll let you fill in the blanks.

Six: "His eyes scanned the area before entering." I know, something like question 2, however, the disassociated shiny and intelligent, no doubt, orbs are now taking independent action to a new level. Kind of like 007. They are about to enter an area, but we do not know what or even why.

"Seven: "She eyed me when I approached." Sounds like tiny wet global weapons. Eyed him versus shot him between the eyes, kicked him between the legs. The idea makes parts of me shrivel with anxiety.

Eight: "His eyes stared down at the floor." Okay, that's a redundancy 'down at the floor'. My question here is: if his eyes are doing the staring, what the hell is he doing while they stay busy? Does he need time to think without distraction?

Nine: "He kept his eyes on the box." Guess that's better than keeping them inside the box. Someone might close the lid, and then what?

Ten: "Her eyes met his for the first time." Sorry, I had to do this variation of number one, and here is my question. What did her eyes do when they met his for the second time move beyond visual flirtation? Think fluttering.

Eleven: "He suddenly sat up, eyes back on his PDA." Where were they before he sat up? In his pocket or resting on the palm of his hand? And then just a few paragraphs later "His eyes were still on his PDA." Now I'm just confused. Why leave them there? Are they of no use elsewhere? How long can he go without?

Twelve: "She wiggled her eye at me." Or "blinked her eyes at me." Eyes do not blink, eyelids do. And wiggle? Please. Certain body parts wiggle while walking. You can wiggle you finger, or um, well you know, um your toes.

Thirteen: "His eyes drifted towards the door." Leaving him standing in the dark, no doubt. Perhaps it's better he is in the dark.

Fourteen: "Exasperated, she rolled her eyes." Did she shake them first, blow on her fist? And what did she get? Snake eyes, you lose!

Fifteen, the last for now: "The stranger's eyes fell on me hard." Ouch! I mean, how hard can they fall? Did the stranger just nod too vigorously?

Sorry, but eyes cannot act as disembodied independent individuals out to show you or a companion the way. I mean some of this stuff can be downright gross, and now that you are aware of this problem, see what happens whenever you come across one in a story.

If you're a writer, please for the love of God, stop it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Time for some fun!




































Author unknown, but has a terrific sense of humor!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Froze Up in Coastal SC

On days like this even Great Blue Herons wish they could hibernate.

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