Friday, January 29, 2010

Jack Sprat

The Eastpointer


by Richard E. Noble

I knew Jack for a number of years. I always felt that Jack could have been the inspiration for the original Sad Sack cartoon strip. He was a “sorry” type fellow. He seemed to have just enough ambition to keep breathing. That's providing there was no serious obstruction to that circumstance. He was kind of like Forest Gump, but without the good fortune. He did some commercial shrimping, some oystering. He liked to fish with nets, poles or whatever. He fished the gulf, the bay, the rivers, the creeks, and the ditches. He enjoyed fishing with a cane pole, and had a passion for Bream.

I lived next to him at this campground. He rented an old camper – the kind that slid onto the bed of a pickup truck. This one didn't have a pickup truck; it just sat on an array of concrete blocks.
This poem began at the Eastpoint, post office. He was picking up his mail ... general delivery. He couldn't afford a box. He told me that he wasn't feeling well. He had been to the V. A. hospital. He couldn't go there often because it was too far away. Jack was a veteran of the Vietnam War. From then on I saw him here and there fishing, but each time I saw him he got thinner, and he looked worse and worse. He was like a stray cat with a deathly virus - everybody looked at him, but nobody ever stopped to pet him.

Jack, I always felt, was the kind of guy who didn't really deserve to die. I mean, for some people, death is a conclusion. As they say today, their death was a sort of justification, a closure. For some their death seems to serve as some sort of example, or moral lesson. For others death seems to be just what they have been looking for. Then there are those of whom we say there was no person that we ever met who was more deserving. But Jack didn't deserve to die one way or another. He was just here. He wasn't in anybody's way, and if he was, I am sure that he would have moved. He didn't bother anybody. He drank a little and fished a lot. He had no real opinions on anything, and always seemed to have a reasonable amount of compassion for anybody and anything. His dying served no real purpose, but I suppose, some would say, neither did his living. In this respect, I guess, he was pretty much like the most of us.


Jack Sprat could eat no lean.
He didn't have money for a packet of beans.
He worked enough to live in a truck,
And he drank a bit when he was down on his luck.

He was up or down, and roved about town.
He wore old clothes, but never a frown.
Jack Sprat, he ate no fat,
And his mother doesn't know or care where he's at.

Jack had no use for fancy things,
Diamonds, or jewels, or sapphire rings.
He sat on the bank and fished for Bream,
And the cancer made him slim and trim.

And when he died, no one cried.
Some shook their heads, and a few of them lied.
"He was a hell of a man, a really brave fellow."
But the truth was
He was kind of 'wussy' and rather mellow.

Jack rarely sat in a pew with a hymn.
He just sat on the bank and tried to catch Bream.
He never owned, himself, a good pair of shoes,
And he never got done payin' his dues.

He was always going to get him a car,
But, really, he had no need to travel that far.
He mostly stayed on the unpaved street,
With sand in his toes and dirt on his feet.

He never went out to try to win.
He mostly sat on the bank and tried to catch Bream.
And when the cancer caught him and made him so thin,
He just sat on the bank and caught some Bream.

And when he died ... no one cried.
Oh his mother frowned, and his father sighed.
But I swear, when I saw him in his box,
He had a little grin, and, I know darn straight,
He was sitting on some bank,
Trying to catch him some Bream.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Adirondack Gold II

A Summer of Strangers

by Persis Granger

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

Adirondack Gold II, A Summer of Strangers, doesn’t have a nasty character in it. It is “sweet and loveable.” No mean people, no dirty words … no demons, no devils, nobody flying around on broomsticks. It is wholesome and it’s real. Real live people in real life situations.
It’s FFA, FHA, and 4H – if you know what those initials symbolize, you will love this book even more.
It’s bringing in the crops, cutting and drying the hay, milking cows, gathering eggs, a boy raising and loving a colt.
It’s poor country living and all those troublesome economic decisions that go along with working the land and being raised on a small farm.
It is also history. It’s about life in a rural community called Thurman, in the Adirondack Mountains a hundred and fifty years ago. It takes the reader back to a time when hard work was understood and “struggle” was a part of every day. The author obviously put a lot of work into researching this period and it shows.
Hollis and his mom came there with a mountain of troubles in Adirondack Gold I, but you don’t have to know Adirondack Gold I to get Adirondack Gold II. It is better if you have read both books but not necessary.
Hollis is a young boy. He has ability and aspires to become an artist. He loves drawing. He is surrounded by a Walton-esque barrage of wonderful homegrown country folk – adopted family and neighbors. He meets a mysterious stranger in the woods and struggles with his new city cousin rival.
The problems and obstacles in this book are not supernatural monsters from another planet or blood sucking vampires but Mother Nature and life – old age, growing up, childhood jealousies, giving birth, dying and dreams where the reach seems to exceed the grasp – and the pocket book.
Everything gets difficult and involves a lot of growing up sacrifices on the part of young Hollis but a surprise ending ties all the pieces together and leaves the reader sitting in his reading chair with a big, warm smile.

Persis ("Perky") Granger: Perky is an avid reader and a writer of fiction and nonfiction, including Adirondack Gold, A Summer of Strangers and Shared Stories from Daughters of Alzheimer's: Writing a path to peace. She studied at the College of Wooster (OH) and the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), earning a BA at the latter. She later completed her Master of Science in Teaching at SUNY Plattsburgh.
She presents programs to adults and youth, and hosts writers’ retreats in New York and Florida. Learn more at

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mr. Noble Goes to Washington

Mr. Noble Goes to Washington


By Richard E. Noble

I was in Washington D.C. once in my life. I was a teenager, so I am rather amazed that I can remember anything at all about the whole experience. But strangely enough, I have vivid memories that have lodged in my mind and for some reason they have never gone away.
It is my opinion as a wannabe writer for most of my adult life that when and if memories won’t disappear that is because somebody “up there” wants me to write about them. [I think sometimes I have been watching too much Oprah.]
My older sister was a rather daring young woman. She ran off, in her early twenties, with her coat and hat, a couple of five dollar suitcases, a 55 Mercury with a smashed in driver’s side door - compliments of her little brother - and got herself a job in Washington D.C.
She had been there for a few years and the only way we knew that she was alive was via her weekly letters home and the small regular check she sent to help out at home. She had been doing well; in fact, she was now an executive secretary for some big-shot in a newspaper. She had moved out of the YWCA and into some fancy apartment up on the tenth floor of this big apartment complex in one of the better parts of town. She was very proud of herself and she begged me and my older brother to come for a visit.
Neither my brother nor I had a pot to pee in and he had this old clunker of a car - but we decided to go anyway. It might be the only chance that either of us would ever get to go to the nation’s capital.
It was a beautiful apartment building with elevators, carpeting in the halls - the whole works. Everything on the inside of the apartment was the latest stuff - new refrigerator and stove, fancy sink, spiffy bathroom, a dinning room table; my sister had bought all the furniture and the whole place looked like something out of a slick decorator magazine. It was a far cry from what we had back home or anything that we had grown up with.
But my first big memory came that evening at bedtime. My sister rolled this fold-up bed out of one of the closets and proceeded to set up this make-shift contraption in the efficiency kitchen. My brother and I both looked at one another. My sister had spent her whole life on a hide-a-bed in our tiny parlor back home in Lawrence. My brother and I had a room with one big bed off the kitchen but my sister never had her own room. Now here we were visiting her in her fancy upscale apartment in Washington D.C. and she was going to sleep on a pull-out bed in the efficiency kitchen. Immediately my brother stepped forward.
“This will be perfect,” he said. “But where is Richard going to sleep?”
“No, no, no!” my sister said laughing. “You guys are the guests - you get the bedroom.”
We went round and round but my sister would have none of it. We would sleep in her new deluxe king-sized bed with the designer bedspread and all the big city fancy things.
So that is the first memory that I can’t get out of my mind - my sister in her million dollar apartment sleeping in the “pantry” or whatever.
My next memory has several facets.
We went to see Charlie Byrd, the famous jazz guitarist and June Christy, a great ex-vocalist for the Stan Kenton orchestra. The show was taking place at some famous jazz club in the D.C. area - naturally the jazz club was smack-dab in the middle of a section of town that looked like downtown Baghdad circa 2007. We had met one of my big brother’s college buddies and he drove. He had rented a new model car for the weekend.
The show was unbelievable. To this day I can still picture both Charlie Byrd and June Christy up on that tiny stage in this rather cozy, low rent nightclub. When I looked up at June Christy standing there, so beautiful and so talented, on that inadequate stage in this back-street dive - I thought of my sister sleeping in the pantry.
Why was this phenomenal talent, here, in the country that gave birth to this super-creative music, standing up there in the latter years of her career, in a beautiful presidential gown singing her heart out in a back room speakeasy down in the combat zone of Washington D.C.?
When we left the show and returned to our rented car, the side window had been shattered and the glove compartment ransacked.
So that’s memory number two.
Memory number three was a curious happenstance. We were downtown seeing the sites. Being about eighteen, I was in love at every street corner. I never saw so many beautiful young women in all my life. There was a crowd of what appeared to me to be movie starlets waiting at every crosswalk. And they were speaking and talking to me as if I was actually alive and on their level of existence. I felt like The Great Impostor - a book I had just finished that was written by this guy from my hometown.
One of these beautiful starlets dressed in a women’s business suit looked me right in the eye and asked me how to get someplace.
All that I could see was this lovely, smooth complicated face draped in auburn curls and these two, big, brown eyes fluttering at me. My brother saw my dilemma and began speaking on my behalf. I wanted to start signing something at her with my hands so that she wouldn’t think that I was some kind of idiot.
But that is not the third memory.
We were standing in front the White House or the Capital Building or whatever and I wanted to take a picture of one or the other of those buildings. I had a little Kodak view finder type camera and I couldn’t get the entire building in my site thing-a-ma-gig. So I began hiking up Pennsylvania Ave. - every now and then stopping to take a peek into my view finder.
Finally I had the whole building in my sights. Just as I was about to snap my picture I heard a clatter off to the right of me. I turned with a start and there in an alley besides an abandoned boarded-up building was a small colony of tramps. One guy, in his Salvation Army, give-away overcoat was holding up the lid to a garbage can and foraging. Another guy was sitting on the ground with his back up against the building finishing off the last swallow of a bottle of whiskey, or wine or rubbing alcohol or something. There were several others guys just laying around on the ground sleeping it off. There were two other equally destitute guys sitting on the cement steps in front of the boarded up building.
I had been to Skid Row once in New York City. This scene was reminiscent of any number of the visions I had been privileged to on that occasion. But what I could never forget was this skid-row vision on Pennsylvania Ave. which was a modest number of paces from the center of the “Greatest Nation in the Modern World.”
That picture of the Capital of the United States of America has never left my mind.
In later readings I stumbled onto the historical fact that the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson, Ellen Louise Axson, had taken it upon herself - as the “project” for the first lady - to clean up the embarrassing streets and neighborhood surrounding the White House. That was in 1914. Then I think Eleanor Roosevelt started a similar project in the 1940’s. And then in the late sixties or early seventies there was a story on the nightly news about a group of Vietnam Veterans who had set up a homeless shelter in an abandoned building right around the corner on down the road from the White House. It seems that the government was trying to have them evicted but they refused to leave without the government promising them a space to set up their operations elsewhere.
I haven’t been back to Washington D.C. but I have always wondered if they ever got that disgraceful business cleaned up.
I’ve got the Lawrence, Massachusetts curse – I see slums everywhere I go. I see the garbage in the alleys, the paint chipping and peeling on the dwellings and businesses, the desperate people. I see poverty. I see poverty everywhere. I see broken windows and abandoned buildings. I see unkempt parks and deserted playgrounds. But most of all I see people struggling, scrounging, selling themselves for nickels and dimes. It is like something out of Kafka. One day I woke up in Lawrence and realized that I was living in a slum. Now I see slums everywhere. And the slums are filled with slum dwellers … millions of them.

Monday, January 11, 2010

You Might As Well Live

The Hobo Philosopher

"You Might as Well Live" - Dorothy Parker

A Biography by John Keats

Book Review

By Richard Edward Noble

Prior to reading this biography most of what I knew of Dorothy Parker came from reading quotations attributed to her in one book or another. While reading this biography, I have also been reading selections from “The Portable Dorothy Parker” trying to get a first hand taste of what she sounded like.
As always seems to be the case with people noted for humor, Dorothy’s life is not very funny.
She was often financially prosperous and somehow always seemed to have money – or patrons. When she was wealthy, she spent her money, more often than not, foolishly. It seems that the consensus is that she was an attractive and fascinating woman. There is a picture on the cover of the book that testifies to that fact.
But as I lay the book down completed, I can’t help thinking of Marilyn Monroe. Dorothy was certainly Marilyin-ish in her confusion and insecurity with men. She was obviously lucky enough to find a loving man in the person of Alan Campbell. But it seems that she was not very deserving of his loyalty. She treated him horribly but yet he stuck with her. They separated off and on but eventually spent their last years together.
She was an anti-Nazi. She lived through the McCarthy Era and was labeled a PAF – a premature anti-Fascist. She, like many other intellectuals of her day, hated Adolf Hitler before the U.S. government declared such an attitude to be appropriate. She had difficulty getting work for a period but she was already established and had income from her royalties. At one point she was refused a passport due to her Leftist attitudes, writings and associations.
It is very clear that she was an alcoholic.
In reading a few of her short stories and some of her poems there is no doubt that she was intelligent. Her writing is thoughtful and I think that her stories and poetry will turn out to be more enjoyable than reading about her life. Her reviews of plays and other writers are much like all the others in that profession – they are accurate some of the time and totally inaccurate at other times. They are simply opinions.
I will continue reading her anthology – giving special attention to the poetry and the short stories.
As a male I feel that I have met Dorothy Parker type women. She loves you – she loves you not, is the problem. Women like her are so insecure in themselves that it permeates all their relationship. When they have you, they don’t want you; and when you leave, they long and whimper for the day that you will return. They are like the old Punch and Judy game.
For myself, I am very happy that at some point, I outgrew this type woman. They can’t be happy themselves. There is no right way to treat them. And to be a part of their life is to be continually involved in an emotional calamity. They can never make themselves happy and they can’t make their men happy either. Dorothy was extremely fortunate to have found Alan Campbell from what I have read in this biography. Nevertheless for some strange reason Dorothy Parker still manages to draw my pity and my curiosity.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Bay is Dead

The Eastpointer

The Bay is Dead

By Richard E. Noble

When we first arrived in Eastpoint many were saying that the bay was dead. Even when the bay was extremely productive and there were 1000 or 1500 oyster permits sold, some people told us that things weren't like they used to be. There was a time, we were told, when the bay was so full of oyster boats that you could walk from boat to boat and never get your feet wet. Old fishermen told us that when they were kids all they needed to go fishing was a pointed stick. They would whittle the end of a stick with their pocket knife and spear spotted trout from the bank. I was told that there was a time when every oyster in the bay was the size of a grown man's hand and that there were so many shrimp in the bay that they couldn't sell all they could catch.

All the bass in the Island ponds were "clunkers" - four and five pounds each.

But whether great, good, fair or poor the bay has always been there for the local seafood workers while all other types of employment came and went.

I truly thought with this recent real-estate boom and building spree that the seafood industry was a goner – maybe gone for good. But the other week driving through Eastpoint I saw pickup trucks waiting in line with their beds full of bags of oysters. That brought back some memories. Once again, it seems when all else fails locals are pushing their old oyster boats back into the water and chugging out to the bay to scratch up a few dollars.

But I must admit if the bay isn't dead today, it is the deadest that I have ever seen it. I haven't seen any bay shrimpers out on the bay at night for years. One shrimper told me that there haven't been any shrimp in the bay for five years now. There were never a multitude of crabbers here, but there were usually enough to speckle and dot the bay with bobbers periodically. I see very few crab traps bobbing around out there in recent years. And of course even with the line of pickups at one oyster house in Eastpoint the oyster boats are sparse.

Every building along the bay in Eastpoint was once a functioning oyster house. Today there might be three or four – and some of them are selling nick-nacks or peddling trucked in seafood to the tourists. As they used to say in Eastpoint – mighty sorry, mighty sorry.

The water war with Atlanta certainly isn't helping. I hear the Governor of Atlanta was out on the steps of city hall with a group of his supporters praying for rain. Wow, now we're back to the days of Elmer Gantry.

I've read that the people in Atlanta are saving their bath water to flush their toilets. On the other hand they opened their public swimming pools when Lake Lanier was at its lowest level in history and though they are not allowed to wash their cars in their driveways, they can still go to a pay carwash – supposedly the pools and carwashes recycle their water. The Coca-Cola bottling plant that is making big bucks bottling up Dansani bottled tap water has agreed to cut back 5 or 10%.
The author that I was reading does not attribute Atlanta's problems to global warming or even to the drought. He claims that Atlanta's biggest problem is that they keep electing conservative Republicans – eight out of the last ten governors of Atlanta have been Republicans. And even the two that weren't were Dixie-crats. Those are Southern Democrats who this author claims are really red-neck Republicans and not Democrats at all.

It does seem that all groups except the governor of Atlanta and his chums are in agreement that the water problems in Atlanta are for the most part the result of poor planning or no planning at all.

But nevertheless I do see a ray of hope in all the dreariness. We still have oyster boats and shrimp boats and a fisherman here and there in Eastpoint and Franklin County. You can still catch fish in the bay – whether off the old bridge, the bank (or the hill) or the side of your boat.

I know that there are places in the US where there is water with no fish at all.

There are parts of the ocean that are completely devoid of all life – plant, fish or other, I've read. But there is still life in Apalachicola Bay.

I doubt that Apalachicola bay will ever return to a time when you could walk from oyster boat to oyster boat without getting your feet wet or the days when you could catch spotted trout with a pointed stick or when the oysters were all as big as a man's hand or the ponds on the islands were filled with four and five pound bass – but we're still alive, maybe just barely alive but still alive.

Richard E. Noble has published 16 books. They are all for sale on Richard Noble is a freelance writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for 30 years. If you would like to stock his books in your store or business he can be contacted at