Out of the mouths of babes

Why do the children all do what they do?

My Joey asks questions until I turn blue.

How come two hands and not three or four?

Why not rugs on the ceiling instead of the floor?

How come oranges are orange and not pink or brown?

Why’s a smile called a smile and not called a frown?

Why’s Amy my sister instead of my brother?

Where do babies come from….Whoa, go ask your mother

Most of his questions are so young and so happy

But then later on when he wakes from his nap he

Asks me a question my answer will fail

Why ain’t the Reverend Al Sharpton in jail?


Over the hump

It’s really hard to believe that it’s been nine months since I started posting on WordPress. Nine months and almost one hundred posts later it’s time to take a look at where I am and what the future has in store.

When I started posting I had two goals: write delightful short stories, poems or commentaries and build a world-wide readership base that would be large enough to attract advertisers. The first goal has been met as evidenced by the “likes” I have received and the list of nations where my readers live. The second goal has unfortunately not yet been reached.  When I started posting I had a business plan that forecasted 1000 readers a day by six months, 3000 readers by nine months and 6000 readers by the end of one year.  With those kinds of readership levels, and the prime demographics that I reach, I was expecting to see advertising revenue from $.20 to $.50 or more per reader per day. For whatever reasons, the state of the economy or the recent government shutdown or fear of Obamacare, I have not yet hit those levels (last Thursday I had five views) while the expenses of writing a weekly post continue to mount (I had to buy a new computer in July and Diet Coke just took an increase on a twelve pack).

I think you can see the situation in which “Railroad Poetry” finds itself and I hope that you can see why I am now forced to ask for help to get me over this hump while I build readership levels.  Every week my latest post is there for you to enjoy and now I need your assistance to make sure that the stream of writing doesn’t stop.

Here is the “Railroad Poetry” commitment to you: if you will make an on-going contribution to “Railroad Poetry” (just until I hit 5000-6000 daily readers) there will be no interruption to the posts you have come to know and love.  Think about it, for less than the cost of five Starbuck coffees every day (the large one, with whipped cream and the caramel drizzle) you will know that the next “Railroad Poetry” post is, “coming down the line.”

Here is what you get:

“Railroad Poetry” – The writing never stops,

Convenience –  Automatic withdrawal from your bank account makes it convenient for you to partner with “Railroad Poetry” (please be sure to have the withdrawal set up so that I get the money before the 15th of the month),

Save Money – Automatic withdrawal saves you money—-no stamps,

Tax simplification – Since contributions to “Railroad Poetry” are not tax deductible there are no cumbersome files to maintain or tax forms to complete and no worry about nasty IRS audits.

Eco friendly – Automatic withdrawal means you are helping save the planet since no trees will be cut down to make paper for checks or envelopes,

World harmony – Supporting “Railroad Poetry” keeps readers from all over the world linked.

Premiums – If you sign up before November 15th I’ll send you a coffee cup and an “I ‘heart’ Railroad Poetry” bumper sticker.

What do you say, partner? Are you ready to step up?

We can do this, we can do this together.

Thank you.


Looking back at my childhood I am amazed at what we were able to accomplish.  Some of the things we did were pure genius and have helped people all over the world.  Remember holding a dandelion under your chin and if your skin looked yellow it meant that you liked butter?  I believe that simple grade school dandelion/butter test is now being used by heart specialists to detect high cholesterol levels and has saved countless lives (the only real drawbacks are that the procedure only works in late spring and early summer when there are plenty of dandelions and then only until the high school kid across the street comes over to mow the lawn).

Another thing that we had, and this was well before PCs or Macs, was a paper device called a cootie catcher or fortune teller.  Girls would stand there all recess with their fingers stuck in this folded paper origami contraption (we still really don’t know how it works) that could somehow answer questions, tell fortunes or tell you who liked who.

“Do I like pickles?”

“Pick a number, pick a letter, pick a color”

“No”, and it was right, I didn’t like pickles.

“Will Mary Kay marry Billy?”

“Pick a number, pick a letter, pick a color.” 

“Yes”, amazing, and then the girls would run over to Billy and torment the poor kid the rest of the day.

No bits or bytes, no 3G or 4G connections, no Google, just almost magical answers from the minds of fourth and fifth graders to the pressing questions of the morning and afternoon recesses.

The years pass but you always remember those things.  I can say that my childhood experiences helped make me the man I am and produce the success that I’ve had in my career which was why I was so surprised when I heard a door slam at the office and then when I looked over the wall of my cubicle saw my boss, Mr. Higgins, coming right toward me.

 “You! I need you in my office, NOW!”  Ordinarily, I’d have been terrified to have my boss call me in when his voice told me that he was upset and that I was not being invited to talk about a raise or a promotion but I was confident that my job performance was outstanding.

As I sat in the low profile chair that was positioned so he could look down at me across his mahogany desk I felt concerned but not really worried or scared. 

“Just what have you been doing?”

“Well, I…” and then he jumped right down my throat.

“Don’t ‘well’ me. Do you know that you’ve single handedly lost this firm’s third largest account?  Do you have any idea of the impact of your actions?”  And then he started to scream about sales and volumes and margins and stockholders and how I had insulted the president of Sunny Days Corporation enough to have him throw us out.

“Who authorized you to cancel their credit line?”

I explained that my analysis of the account showed that Sunny Days is in trouble and that… and he cut me off.

“Analysis?  Let me see the data, let me see the reports” and I was ready.

“Sir, it’s not so much the reports themselves. You see, I’ve gone farther and asked the question, “is Sunny Days in good shape and should we continue to do business with the company?” and then I pulled a cootie catcher out of my pocket.

“Here, sir, see for yourself, pick a number” and with that he slumped over his desk and his face turned a kind of reddish blue or maybe it was a bluish red.

My boss is a very lucky man.  When the “911” operator asked me for information on Mr. Higgins’ condition as he laid sprawled across his desk I was prepared and able, because it was late May, to tell her that it looked like he was having a heart attack caused by high cholesterol. Thank you, fourth grade.

When he gets out of the hospital I have no doubt that a grateful boss will be calling me in to talk about a new position and a little more money, but hey, let’s take a look.

“Will I be getting a nice promotion and a raise?”

This is so exciting.


I’m sorry

Not too long ago I went to a dollar store for flashlight batteries. When I gave the cashier my money she gave me the change and turned away so I stood there and waited and waited and then finally said, “You’re welcome.” She looked at me with a blank face and said, “Whatever” which pretty well sums it up where we are with courtesy today.

I can remember store clerks saying, “Thank you.”  I can remember getting on the city bus and having the driver make change using his coin changer which hung off the fare box and not being afraid he was going to be robbed. I can remember paying for merchandise with a $20 bill and not having the cashier run a special pen across the money to make sure that I was not passing counterfeit money.  I can remember a whole lot of things but mostly I remember when people didn’t feel the need to lock every door and buy security systems and walk down the street worried about attacks and thinking this might be their last day on earth.  I can remember those things.

So here I am, a person who has gone to and stayed in school and worked all my adult life and raised a family.  Here I am, a person who has paid taxes and obeyed the law and now guess what.  The problems with society? The crime and violence in the streets and the unemployment and the panhandlers and the vandalism and violence in the schools? Now I find out the behavior problems of some of my fellow citizens are because of me, it’s my fault.  Who knew?

Since society’s problems are because of me and my behavior then it appears that the solutions to these problems can be found in blaming me and taking away my freedoms and taxing me to death.   Here’s my proposal.

I will apologize for my behavior, I will apologize for the wrongs that I have inflicted on the violent, unemployed, uneducated, vandals and criminals and then the violent, unemployed, uneducated, vandals and criminals can mend their ways and behave like civilized human beings.

Is it a deal?


Where’s the pain?

When a store closes Saturday night everything will be just the way it was when the establishment opens Monday morning.  If you get up in the morning and leave without making the bed then it’s pretty certain that when you retire that night the bed will be just the way you left it.

The weather has been very nice lately with warm days, cool nights and no rain.  That’s the way it was on Tuesday when the government shut down different agencies.  If the weather bureau isn’t there to give us weather updates can we expect that we will see Tuesday’s weather carried forward?

Where’s the pain? Now I don’t have to have the snow blower repaired. They can stay out until early April.


I was on my way to Home Depot last Saturday afternoon to pick up some drain cleaner, a roll of duct tape and a small ball peen hammer.  Nice day, sunny and warm, better than usual for this time of year and then the radio played it. It was our song, Mary Jane Shimkey’s and my song.  I turned it up and listened to the whole thing as thoughts of Mary Jane flashed in front of me (I wonder what she’s doing, I wonder if she’s married, I wonder if she’s happy, I wonder if she ever got that thing on her ear removed).  There I was listening and falling back into one memory after another and driving and listening and day dreaming and when the song was over I looked up and I had passed Home Depot and was coming up on Lowe’s.  I cleared my throat and said something to myself about wanting to go to Lowe’s anyway and then when I tried to think about Mary Jane again she was gone with the song.  Memories are pretty powerful and so are the things that trigger those memories.

It usually doesn’t take long before people in casual conversations will bring up things they’ve done, places they’ve seen, adventures they’ve had, or people they’ve known.  They may get all misty and talk about the associated memories of the sights and sounds and tastes and smells and feelings related to those activities and those people.  These are the things that make a memory complete. The sound of a hammer pounding a nail on the neighbor’s new garage reminding you of a tree house you built when you were ten.  The smell of an asphalt road bringing back thoughts about riding your bike on a hot summer day.  The sparkle of falling rain and thoughts of sunlight shimmering on the water as you fished at the lake with your friends. A song on the radio and the memory of old loves and old friends and old times.  Associated memories can bring a world flooding back to you but to have those associated memories trigger deep feelings you first need to have those original memories.

I have those memories and the songs and sounds and feelings that go with them.  I guess I feel kind of sorry for the kids today like my nephew Richie.  Richie’s a good example. Now Richie has lots of memories about football and baseball and war but what is associated with the things that Richie has done and the adventures Richie has had?  The feel of the couch, the taste of stale Doritos sitting in a bowl from last night, yellow Cheetos fingers, dirty socks, electronic noise and the sound of his mother screaming at him to get up off the couch and go out and get a job.

Richie will never know the simple joy of being lost in a memory.  Richie will never know what it’s like to think about Mary Jane and her sweet voice and her hair falling down her back and that thing on her ear. I can’t wait to hear that song again. I think that thing was kind of dark brown with a hair in the middle.