The Magic Trick

Jeff was a neighborhood boy who lived across the street and up a couple of houses from mine when I was growing up. He was a year or so older than me and I thought he was pretty cool. His mom was divorced and worked full time. It was the 1970’s and he wore his hair long like mine. We both had a sense of humor and got along well with each other. He had a paper route like many boys of that time, and I would help him deliver newspapers sometimes. One afternoon we were messing around in his mom’s office, waiting for the newspaper drop off time, when he asked if I wanted to see a magic trick. Of course I did, so he took out a match and asked, “You want to see a match burn twice.” “Sure,” I said, wondering how this was going to work. He lit the match, “Here’s once.” Blowing the match out he said, “And here’s twice,” reaching to touch my forearm with the still glowing match head. “Ahh,” I pulled away before he could get me. We both laughed at the joke and watched as the match cooled and stopped smoking. “Let’s go get the papers,” he said as he tossed the match into the plastic garbage can next to the desk. We hopped on our bikes and rode off to pick up the newspapers, fold them and deliver his route. It was a light load and he said he didn’t need any help so I took off back home. I got about half way down our street when I heard then saw fire engines, stopping right where we lived and smoke rising from a house. Of course I thought it was my house, but when I got close enough I could see it was Jeff’s. Immediately I turned my bike around to get Jeff. When I found him with his newspapers I told him his house was on fire and he needed to come quick. He didn’t believe me until I convinced him to just go around the corner and look down our street. He did and we rode our bikes as fast as we could to his house, which now had black smoke billowing out of the windows while the fire fighters hosed it down. It was a disaster for the family, who had to find someplace to stay while the mess was sorted out and the decision was made whether to rebuild or move. A few days after the fire Jeff’s mom wanted to show us both something inside inside of the burned out house. We went to where her office used to be and she pointed to a flat circle of melted plastic on the floor. “The fire inspector told me this was where the fire started,” she said. It was the remains of the trash can. Neither one of us up to that point had any idea we had caused the fire. Jeff confessed about the “magic trick” with the match. His mom told us if anything even close to this happened again she would make sure we reached adulthood in a juvenile home. They ended up rebuilding and Jeff and I had a few more years together before we drifted apart, but burning down his house was one of the highlight events of our friendship.


The Dividing Line

Joined By David Jacobi

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who wants to destroy a piece of his own heart.”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Vietnam Update

Aftermath By David Jacobi

My dad had an old, dusty radio in the garage

It would play country music

And give weather reports

And deliver the news

And cause dad to whistle along sometimes

One day it said the war was over

I asked my dad, “Is the war really over?”

“No, not really,” he said.

2008 By David Jacobi

Paul Swan

Paul Swan

My dad introduced Paul Swan into my life. A few years ago he was clearing out a part of his basement and came across a painted portrait of a relative on my mother’s side. None of us knew her in life, but the back of the painting had a note tucked into it telling us who she was and how I was related to her. Dad asked if I wanted it so I took it. I looked up the artist’s name online, “Paul Swan,” but could not find many details. As of this writing he does not have a Wikipedia page. All I could initially find was he was an artist and a dancer and, in his old age, was filmed by Andy Warhol. Somehow I found out there were two people, Janis and Richard Londraville, working on a biography of Paul Swan. I contacted Janis by email and began an online correspondence with her. After telling her about the painting I had by Swan she filled in many of the blanks about him, who turned out to be quite the Renaissance man. When their book was published I bought and read it. Born in 1883 in Nebraska, Swan ran away from the farm at fifteen to Lincoln, then Chicago and New York during which time he modeled, learned to draw and paint. He was a much sought after portraitist and was also famous in his prime as a dancer. He wrote and recited poetry, acted on stage and in early movies and was a sculptor. He died in obscurity in 1972. The person in the painting I have by Swan is my maternal grandfather’s cousin. Swan painted it in his Carnegie Hall studio June 18, 1955. The note behind the painting said she was a professional opera singer, played piano, lived in N.Y.C. and had no children. After some time of research, contacting opera halls and theaters to search their archives, I came to a dead end. No one had any record of her. On the back of one of Swan’s other portraits he quoted Dobson in black ink:

All passes, art alone

Enduring stays with us.

The bust outlasts the throne,

The coin, Tiberius.

The Roundup

Eastern Clouds At Sunset

The Core Historical Literature of Agriculture “is primarily a collection of landmark agricultural texts published between the early nineteenth century and the middle to late twentieth century. These full-text materials cover agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, animal science, crops and their protection, food science, forestry, human nutrition, rural sociology, and soil science. Teams of scholars selected the titles in this collection for their historical and scientific importance.” This free resource offers 2,084 books and 36 journals ranging from 1623 to 1969.

I first came across this site several years ago when I was looking for information on Buddy Rich. Drummerworld “is a encyclopedia-like website and features Drummers from all genres in the history of Jazz and Rock – from the past till present times.” This addictive site includes photos, videos and extensive biographies.

ScienceDaily “features breaking news about the latest discoveries in science, health, the environment, technology, and more — from leading universities, scientific journals, and research organizations.” Don’t forget to sign up for their free email newsletter. “is produced by the Academy of American Poets. The site was launched in 1996, becoming the original online resource for poems, poets’ biographies, essays about poetry, and resources for K-12 teachers.” They also offer a free email newsletter.


Our garden and a sea of corn

After a very long, cool, rainy, wet spring, summer hit us with everything expected: bugs, fast growing grass, faster growing weeds, heat, humidity, thunderstorms, mowing, and more heat, humidity and bugs. The mosquitoes we were used to in the city have been mostly traded here in the country for biting flies, which have left me with tiny bleeding wounds on my legs and arms if I forget to spray myself down with repellent when I go out into the acreage. We have gone through two containers of weed killer spray so far and are trying a homemade brew that is not working so well yet. We planted a garden of tomatoes, peppers, green beans and cauliflower. The green bean seeds were old, leftover from previous gardening in the city, and did not sprout. The little cauliflower plants I bought two for a dollar survived for a week. They just disappeared, so I don’t know if it was bugs, critters or disease that got them. The tomato plants are doing well, and the pepper plants are full of blooms and tiny peppers. The rain this spring and early summer has been epic for Iowa and the Midwest of America in general. This last year has been the wettest here since 1895. Now with June giving way to July the heat has ramped up, with temps reaching the low 90’s Fahrenheit. Combined with high humidity it makes for some soupy days and nights. Still, all in all, I will take a hot, humid summer day over a freezing winter blizzard any time.

Website Review: Merck Manual

Merck Manual

I was first introduced to the Merck Manual around 20 years ago when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. My dad gave my wife and I a copy so we could better understand what my parents were dealing with, but also for our own reference. The manual is both detailed and concise. For ailments they list an overview, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, treatment and prognosis. From their website, their Mission Statement reads: “We believe that health information is a universal right and that every person is entitled to accurate, accessible and usable medical information. And we believe that we have a responsibility to protect, preserve and share the best current medical information to enable more informed decisions, enhance relationships between patients and professionals, and improve health care outcomes around the world.” A noble cause and a valuable web resource.