Saturday, May 24, 2008

One perfect Christmas...

Everybody has a "Perfect Christmas" somewhere in their memories. That would be the Christmas that they woke up and peeked in at the Christmas tree and were delighted and amazed at the abundance left by Santa and his elves or whomever. The Christmas tree lights would be sparkling and everything that they hoped for would have come true just like magic.

Or maybe it would be the Christmas that had all their favorite family and friends show up sometime during the day and the food and fun lasted for what seemed like forever and by the miracle of later memory was.

That's the Christmas that all other Christmas's would be measured by for the rest of their life. That is the image that's irrevocably burned into their mind as what Christmas should be. Unfortunately, Christmas isn't always the perfect Christmas. Time, money, travel, the deaths of loved ones and other reasons all conspire to make every Christmas thereafter slightly less than perfect.

Even the process of aging and the changing of positions between childhood and parenting or adulthood change the Christmas experience so that the "Perfect Christmas" only comes once in a lifetime. Still, that one experience is now our benchmark for the rest of our lives.

We all have lots of benchmarks in our lives that seem significant on the face of them. The perfect evening, the perfect date, the perfect meal and lots of other things. All of those things that only happened once. Some of the benchmarks are less significant but still important enough to be locked into memory.

An example of one of these memories might be the answer to a question I ask others from time to time, that question being: . "What does your mailbox look like?" It's not the mailbox you use today. It's not the mailbox on the front of your house. It's the mailbox that you remember above all others for some reason or another. It might be the one in front of your grandparents home or the one that brought you the job offer or college acceptance that you'd wanted so badly that you chewed your nails down to the quick and agonized over until it finally came.

In my case, that mailbox just happens to be the one that was placed at the corner of the "T" intersection and the end of our street when I was a child. It was a drop box like the ones in use now except that it didn't have the snoot to allow car drops. It was red, a faded dusty red color overall. Next to it stood a similar box except that it had no drop slot. Instead it had a locked door and it was painted Olive Drab. That was for the postal delivery. Mail to be delivered was placed there for the route postman to pick up and deliver to the individual houses.

These boxes stand forever, side by side, in my memory, in a dried, yellow patch of dead and dying weeds at that corner of two asphalt roads, forever baking in the heat of a Texas summer. I was maybe 6 years old then. Why I should remember that I have no idea. It's just another benchmark in my life.

Events form benchmarks for us all. Marriages, deaths, jobs, dates, and special holidays all make their mark on us.

I remember in vivid detail the day I met Emmett Kelley, Hobo Clown: Extraordinaire. I was maybe 8 years old and my parents scraped together the money to buy or were given some tickets to see the Cole-Barnes Circus under the big top. It was another hot , bright, dry and dusty summer day in Texas and my parents had dressed my older brother and I in matching suits and used a product on our hair that glued it into rock solid helmets. We had tickets that put us next to the ring and right on the rail.

On the way in, my parents had bought a bag of peanuts for us to share inside the tent after we were seated and during the show. Sharing was a difficult concept for my older brother. He was a selfish brat about carrying the bag and had no intention of sharing the peanuts with his younger brother. The elephants took care of the peanut problem for me. The first, best ally I was ever to have was to be an elephant. The big, gray kind with floppy ears. The way into the tent went right past the elephants because during that era the circus was to delight the crowds and the kids and their parents were allowed to pet the elephants and see the lions and tigers on the way into the tent as a tease to the main performance.

We'd stopped to see the elephants and give them a peanut or two, which was allowed and encouraged back then. Handlers were in attendance and the animals were well behaved so there was considered to be no danger.

I asked for a peanut to give to the elephant and my brother (after refusing my request and under command from the parental units) gave me 1 (one) peanut very grudgingly for met to present to the huge gray beast before me. I held out my solitary peanut and the elephant reached out a long, hairy, muscular nose and took it gently from my hand, leaving a coating of elephant snot in its place (which mom dutifully wiped up using her handkerchief). At the urging or perhaps command of my parents, my brother was encouraged to also feed the elephant and after due process involving denial and defiance he extracted 1 (one) peanut from the bag and (not to be outdone by his hated brother) held it defiantly towards the elephant.

Again, the elephant extended its trunk but instead of taking the peanut it made a slight redirect and like a huge hairy snake snatched the entire bag out from under his arm with one quick motion! Accompanied by howls of fright and indignation from my brother, the elephant stuffed the entire bag in its mouth! My brother was terrified and I was amused. This effectively solved the problem of the peanuts. I've liked elephants ever since that day.

Proceeding into the tent sans peanuts, we found our seats and waited for the show to start. I really don't remember much about the first part of the show but I do remember the intermission extremely well. There were times in the old circus that the lights went entirely down to black while the scenery was changed and during one of those intervals the lights went to black and the darkness was interrupted by a single voice yelling "Hey!" from somewhere out in the darkness near the center ring.

A single spotlight came on and highlighted a raggedy looking character near the center ring. Some conversation ensued between the "Voice of God", as the announcer on the public address system is often referred to in theater, and the raggedy person wherein the raggedy looking person agreed to start sweeping up the arena along with the shadowy figures busily moving props and cleaning up after the elephants and liberty horses. From time to time he'd move to ringside and talk to the people and be admonished by the "Voice of God" to keep working.

He worked his way slowly around the ring until the next acts were ready to start at which point he swept up the single spot of light from the spotlight into a smaller and smaller circle and taking a dustpan from his voluminous pocket he diligently swept the last little circle of light into the dustman and dumped the remaining glow in his coat pocket. With this action the lights went to black and after a second or two came back up full to reveal all the glitter, noise and spangles of the Circus!

I watched the raggedy man as he circulated around the ring during the performances and wondered who he was really. He didn't look like a clown. He looked like a tramp that just wandered in or at least he looked like the archetypal tramp that my young, inexperienced mind conjured up. At long last he wandered around to our seats on the front row and stopped and turned to look at us.

Producing an enormous comb from his inside coat pocket he proceeded to try to comb my rock hard hair. After a second or two he commented "Hmmmm... I guess that your hair isn't going to comb is it?" To which, in fascination, I replied "um... no." Then he tried to comb my brother's hair! My brother screamed, cried and tried to crawl under the seats! The raggedy man was sooooooo apologetic. He explained to my parents that he'd never meant to scare the child and was very upset that his little prank had gone so horribly wrong. My parents assured him that it was okay and after one more sorry and a small wave, which I returned, the marvelous Emmett Kelly, "King of the hobo clowns", wandered off to resume his act with the circus.

It was many years before I realized who he was and I cherish the memory of the day I met him. I also take evil delight that, to this day, my brother hates circuses and thinks clowns are scary! Emmett is long gone now and when I went to the circus recently it wasn't the perfect event I remembered but it was fun because I wanted it to be even though there was no Emmett Kelly to comb my hair.

It's odd and sometimes funny how we make our benchmarks in life. Some will always live within us and be as vivid as they were when they were made and other memories that we thought we'd always have are gone, but we all have benchmarks.

What does your mailbox look like?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Up on three wheels...

I've been interested in motorcycles, riding and the vagaries of the social dynamic surrounding them for many years but I won't add the usual sobriquet of "so it's only natural that I own one". Almost everything about motorcycles is nominally unnatural!

For the price of a motorcycle you could purchase a car instead. Most people do. In many cases the automobile is actually cheaper and offers far more amenities than does a bike. Automobiles may have things like air conditioning, heating, power steering, power brakes, and automatic transmissions as options and almost all of them offer better protection from the elements of nature and other traffic.

No special protective gear is required for operation of an auto although in some cases we often tend towards the opinion that a strait jacket for some drivers might be a service to humanity.

A point that has always astounded me, personally, is that the automobile is quite probably the single most complicated machine that most people will ever operate yet with no introduction to the operating controls, many people will seat themselves in a totally unfamiliar auto and after locating the ignition lock, insert the ignition key, start the vehicle and drive off! They may not be able to access the correct gear shift pattern, turn on the windscreen wipers, the AC and heater or the turn indicators but after starting the car many try to learn the operation of the radio first or foremost.

I have always been of the opinion that operating a vehicle while in motion was a skill that should be attended to before any of the minor functions were to be concerned with but if the word "normal" is defined as being the majority opinion then I'm definitely not normal. I searched for a word to describe my opinion and after rejecting anachronistic, minority, aberrant and odd I settled on "skewed".

A quick glance around at any intersection signal will reveal people doing virtually any human behavior that you can imagine save those which require special aids and equipment or more space than is generally available in a passenger auto although I've seen some pretty creative exceptions to the second alternative.

Without resorting to imagination or second hand vignettes I can truthfully say that amongst the things which I, personally, have witnessed on the highway was a fashion model on her way to the Dallas,Texas Apparel Mart for a fashion show, driving with a magazine open on her steering wheel, applying her make up using the sun visor vanity mirror and drinking a beverage while driving with her knees (both hands were otherwise visibly occupied). All this being done simultaneously while traveling 55 miles per hour on the Dallas Toll Road in a complex piece of machinery weighing in the neighborhood of 1.75 tons!

This display probably deserves an award for vehicular activity multi-tasking.

Lest this essay turn into a quasi-rant on automobile drivers I'll turn back to motorcycles. As previously mentioned and in the face of evidence cited the motorcycle is almost unique in its lack of driver amenities, it has almost none to speak of unless the rider has added a softer seat. About the only thing that comes to mind concerning lack of driver amenities that might be comparable is a horse. The horse is ahead on points. When was the last time you heard of a person killed in a collision between horses?

The ventilation on a motorcycle is best described as "Evil thoughts blown clean away". Air conditioning is provided by Mother Nature whom also provides small inconveniences like torrential rain and snow or ice in season. Heating is ambient outdoor temperature. The result is that the air conditioning works best in winter and the heating works best in summer. There are no windscreen wipers simply by virtue of there often being no windscreen.

There are an interesting array of instruments and controls which require the use of both hands and both feet to operate while the rider's attention is occupied with road surface, throttle control, his or her "line" and constant awareness of other traffic as opposed to the standard method of automobile operation which often requires only one hand and one foot with attention to the road bearing some degree of optional activity.

As a standard, the controls are usually placed as follows:
The right hand controls the front brake and throttle, starter button if electric start is featured, and the "kill" switch.

The left hand has the turn indicator switch, horn (yes, motorcycles have them but when needed the rider is often more concerned with evasive maneuvering), choke, clutch (bikes are almost always standard transmission), high and low beam headlight switch and other accessories that may have been installed as in my case, the electric camber compensator for the sidecar and the driving lights.

There is no headlight off switch on modern motorcycles used in the United States, however this is of little concern as motorcycles are invisible to many drivers and having the headlight on constantly does not necessarily affect their visual acuity.

The right foot controls the rear brake or brakes (in my case).

The left foot controls the gear shift with, most often, five speeds and sometimes six. There is no reverse except on some specially fitted bikes with sidecars and trikes.

Along with this array are the dash instruments which the rider most often ignores, speedometer and frequently tachometer with a few blinky lights for color.

Unlike an auto, all of the above listed things require the attention of the rider who, additionally, is occupied with traffic conditions, weather, road surface conditions and prayer (which is often scanted in favor of the more terse but equally meaningful "Oh Shit!"). The rider shifts gears by listening to his bike's engine rather than using the tachometer and speed is most often determined by whether or not the rider feels lucky.

Common questions directed to riders are usually some variation of "Why do you ride?" followed closely by "Isn't it dangerous?". The most often used answers are "I like it" and "Yes" sometimes followed by various degrees of self justification from the responder. Like many other groups riders often have only a few things in common, primarily; they ride motorcycles. There are motorcycling sports, including racing, that include riders from ages as young as 5 to seniors over 70. Asking why they ride is rather like asking "Breathing, is it good?".

I've always been of the opinion that I do it because I like it. Riding isn't really a lifestyle for most save the 1% group as in "1% of the bikers make the other 99% look bad". Most are friendly, reasonably courteous, often helpful and concerned with ordinary things like family, jobs and daily life. Their lifestyle is normal other than they share a passion for motorcycles. `Riders share a concern for other riders same as other people share concerns with friends, family and groups.

This passion can last a lifetime or it can be quickly disabused. The average length of ownership of a first bike is somewhere around 6 months. In the first six months the rider will have fallen one or more times, given up riding because of family or relationships, wrecked the bike (as opposed to falling)
or otherwise terrified themselves.

Is it safe? No. Is it addictive? Less than cigarette smoking. Can it kill you or maim you for life? Oh, absolutely! Why do we do it? We want to.

I've never resorted to the "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand" type of answer. I have my own fears to conquer as does everyone. Amongst them, the ground should not move, there should be breathable air around me and there should be explanations that can be supported by fact. As a result I don't scuba drive, live in California or seek out paranormal experiences. Riding is by comparison, quite tame although not without its moments of excitement.

My version of good sense does not encourage me to climb mountains, jump out of perfectly good, still flying airplanes or swim the length of the Amazon river. I'm a wuss. But I do ride which is probably quite as dangerous in a different fashion.

My first bike was a new experience for me. I sold my conservative VW Kombi Camper bus and used the cash to buy a Kawasaki S2 350cc "rice rocket" that weighed 350 pounds, had 45 horsepower and was capable of approximately 100 mph. I'd never been on a motorcycle, had little idea of what to expect and had no training past the usual "this is the throttle, this is the front brake, this is the turn signal switch" and a very brief lesson in how to start it with the kick start. I stalled it 5 times in the first 6 blocks. After the 5th time I decided I'd learn to ride or admit that I'd been terribly stupid. I was in my early 20's and nobody in their "fresh out into the big world" years is going to admit to being stupid.

I treated the throttle more aggressively, got the bike up onto the outer loop around Denver, Colorado and rode it home at over 80 miles an hour. A distance of about 40 miles. This February and 40 years later, I plunked down $9500 on a Yamaha V-Star 1100 custom with Hannigan Motorsports "Classic" sidecar and with all of 25 miles of first ride around Murray, Kentucky I rode it home to Texas, 652.5 miles in 14 hours. I hadn't been on a bike in 18 years and never on a sidecar rig. Some things don't change much in the way we approach events in our lives. If it worked once It might work the next time. It's all a matter of degree.

My excuse to myself for buying a sidecar rig was that I have really bad knees and didn't want to have to hold up the bike but the real reason was simply that I wanted it and could finally afford to buy it. Stupid? Maybe. satisfying? Definitely!

We all should have something in our lives that we've waited and wished for and finally was able to acquire; whether we bought it, built it, found it or acquired it in some other (hopefully legal) fashion. We form archetypes in our minds of what it is that we desire and throughout our lives we look for that certain something, tangible or intangible. Some very lucky and self motivated people actively seek out their desires, some focus on other desires eventually and some, sad to say, just give up and take whatever happens to them or do without. Everyone should have a real dream of some sort to search for even if they never achieve it.

For Edmund Hillary it was Everest, for Scott it was the south pole and for Joe Normal it might be the meticulously restored 1957 Chevrolet that he profiles in on Sunday afternoons. What it is doesn't matter really. What matters is that the dream exists. Mine was a sidecar rig, yours might be a good relationship, a perfect Christmas or a new home but quantity isn't what dreaming is all about. Most importantly it gives us goals and hope.

Quoting Joseph Campbell:
When you follow your bliss... doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else.

It's a good philosophy to accept. Follow your bliss and by doing so take control of your life and your dream. It's seldom impossible to realize your wish. It's really all about the rider as much as the ride, even on 3 wheels.

Who really remembers?

Lately I've been thinking about my mom. Jane Stevens Eckstein is currently spending her days in a nursing home surrounded by people who've been warehoused for various reasons. The residents are elderly (for the most part), ofttimes senile, require constant medical supervision, and frequently have no family left to visit or care for them.

When she was able (before the stroke that placed her in the nursing home) Mom was more active than many people half her age. She did volunteer work in the community, pursued photography, traveled the US and Canada with my dad in their travel trailer and wrote for the local neighborhood newspaper and sale sheet.

All throughout her life she was awarded certificates of appreciation and awards for her service. I've found in her home Items dating back to World War 2 that were awarded or mentioned her as a valuable asset to the organization for which she was working at the time. She did a news letter for the Civil Air Patrol based at the now defunct Garland, Texas Airport and won awards for her writing. She spent many years of her life working for Arthur, Anderson and Co. LLP doing their printing and designing their accounting reports and annual reports and is mentioned in several of their annual reports with high praise.

She spent many more years actively involved in Scouting and designed project books and Leadership training materials (as a volunteer) and led many leadership training seminars. She was honored with an award especially created for her service and was the influence that caused the local Circle 10 council of the BSA to finally present their highest award to women as well as men. This was an award called the Silver Buffalo that previously had been presented to male scouters only. The award created for her was called the Silver Fawn and only four were ever made. After that the Fawn was replaced with the Silver Buffalo for both men and women. Mom was the only one who did not exchange her Silver Fawn for a Silver Buffalo when it was offered.

She was the first female recipient of The Judge Dee Brown Walker Award for outstanding work with scouting in the Dallas area. This award was created by Judge Dee Brown Walker and very few were awarded yearly so it was a startling departure from tradition for her to receive it.

She was active in the Kiwanis International and has several engraved plaques of special recognition for her service. In addition to this she served in the Southeast Dallas Chamber of Commerce and has more special recognition awards from them for her service.

There are several three ring binders here at the house full of certificates for her service.

In 1999 she was nominated for and received the Eckard's (later absorbed by the CVS chain) One of One Hundred award for outstanding volunteer service in her community. This national award was presented annually to one hundred women from all over America for their work in the community. From over 2000 women nationwide she was selected One of One Hundred and flown to Atlanta for three days and nights of being treated as the very special person she is. She was in her late seventies at the time.

She spent countless hours working with the American Red Cross teaching first aid classes and working with the Emergency Services at fires, tornadoes and other disasters.

The preceding list of honors is incomplete but gives an oversight to a extremely active and involved woman who did much for her community.

When my father died many years ago, he'd also received several honors of his own including the Silver Buffalo and the Dee Brown Walker award (presented "after" my mother had already been honored). There were maybe 25 people at his funeral of the hundreds in whose lives he'd made a difference by working in Scouting or the American Red Cross. He was all but forgotten. I had the displeasure of fending off greedy relatives who all wanted a cut of his possessions after the funeral.

Mom tirelessly continued her work after his death.

She's now over ninety and in a nursing home, away from her life, activities and her possessions. She's in a wheelchair and spends her days being bored by the television, enduring the indifferent attentions of the nursing home staff and wishing to be elsewhere.

My recurrent thought is "Who really remembers?"

When people grow older and are no longer active why do their life's accomplishments mean so little anymore? Living history in many of these people is uselessly thrown away or forgotten the moment they step from the public eye.

It's true that my mother didn't change the course of history in any major way but she made a difference in many lives. She touched thousands in many different ways whether as a Emergency Worker for the American Red Cross or the Boy Scouts of America or as someone in the community that just cared. A small craft book that she published for Scouting (and copyrighted) has been translated into 8 languages and seen thousands of copies made all over the world. Her copyright was shamelessly ignored in other countries and she never saw a penny of royalties but she shrugged it off as a gift to the children of the world. Sadly enough her name was removed from foreign copies even though the book traveled with Scouters around the world.

There are thousands of little people like my mother who dedicate their lives to good works and die forgotten although their work may turn up in bits and pieces around the world.

In this journal I'll tell some of my stories and some of my thoughts and maybe the electronic media that is the Internet will carry the memory of these people around the world and in this manner my mother, my friends, and I might live on forever. But today the Internet is under attack from sources ranging from commercial interests to governmental agancies so this journal may survive or it may not. Immortality is transient and ephemeral it seems.

If along the way, you find something that you like whether it's a story for children or just a random musing of mine that you like then borrow it. Just say "TomCat told this."

But then too, Who really remembers?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Once Upon a Time....

Everybody seems to harbor a wish that they'll be remembered long after they are no longer viable within reasonable expectation. The wish may go unspoken in ordinary life but it's there within us all, the wishing for some sort of recognition.

Modern technology now makes it possible for virtually everyone with access to a computer and the Internet to achieve their requisite "15 minutes of fame" as Andy Warhol once termed it.

Those with the right sort of mobile phone can also achieve this sort of transient immortality as well. I'm sitting here with Blackberry in hand even as I type this.

I'm not certain that this development is a good thing but with due consideration it's probably serving a purpose for those millions that wish they could stand in the middle of the busiest intersection they can find and scream at the passing traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular saying, "I'm alive! Look at me!". If they survive then they will be remembered for a while, most likely in sentences spoken to others saying, "There was a looney standing out in the traffic this morning screaming."

After a fashion this is recognition. Perhaps this isn't the recognition that author Terry Pratchette spoke of in his Discworld novel "Moving Pictures" wherein Ginger (one of the main characters) states: "I'm going to be the most famous person in the world, everyone will fall in love with me, and I shall live forever." but it's still recognition of a sort.

When I was in my teens I had a wonderful friend named John Heath who once told me that as long as someone remembered his name, told his jokes, and shared his stories he'd be immortal.

Over the many years since I've often thought of him, now long passed, and remembered his words. He wanted to write and told marvelous stories and tales of his youth. Unfortunately, it never happened as death overtook him first. I'll add one or two of his tales as this journal progresses.

In some ways we often wish to be immortal ourselves but usually in a more immediate fashion, more fame now and immortality later. However, immortality can come in many forms and journaling on the Internet can convey much the same effect as the more active "live forever" style that Ginger espoused.

In fact, Terry Pratchette's Ginger doesn't exist except in the minds of Terry Pratchette and his millions of readers but she's as immortal as anyone who ever did exist in real life. The mind doesn't make a distinction as to who actually exists in real life and who only exists in fiction. We know them or we know of them. It's much the same in many ways.

We all believe in the existence of many people whether they were as mundane as dirt or as famous as they could possibly be within the minds of mankind. We accept their actuality without physical proof other than that of the circumstantial sort. It's rather like believing in UFO's. There's lots of stories, some unsubstantiated reports, witnesses who claim to have seen them or been abducted by them but little actual evidence of their existence.

The same might be said of ancient gladiators from Greece and Rome. Writings, inscriptions on grave stones or monuments and a few skeletons provide some evidence of their existence but to those alive today it's all supposition.

In essence it's the Velveteen Rabbit theory. Belief in something makes it real. This applies to memories, objects, lifestyles and just about anything else you can name, animate or inanimate.

I don't collect coins but I often look at them carefully before I spend them. Some are quite surprising. Not so very long ago I was given a US nickel that was well worn. The US nickel of previous years was a particularly hard wearing coin. It takes many years of circulation before it shows appreciable wear from circulation.

This particular coin was notable for being dated 1941, the year of America's entry into World War 2. After I got home I sat down and examined it carefully and wondered where it had been on the fateful day that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Did it buy a newspaper with a 6" headline screaming "Pearl Attacked!" or "War Declared!" or maybe it was spent to buy a loaf of bread or even something less integral to ordinary life. Sixty-seven years ago that coin was new and since then there have been many events and people that have made irreversible changes to our lives and lifestyles.

The internet and easy immortality is just one of those changes.

This blog is a place to post things that I think about, some pictures of places I visited and the random post concerning people and events in essay form. If it happens that you, the reader, visit and enjoy part of it then I've added to your life in some way and hopefully that way will have been good.

Opening my new weblog

This is me starting out playing with my Blackberry 8310 phone and setting up my blog.

This weblog will read as much as possible like a book with each essay being much the same as though it were the next chapter. To this end I have placed the posts in descending order starting with this one. Oldest to the top and newest to the bottom in the interest of reader continuity. Check the archive in the sidebar to select any particular essay or return to a particular place in the queue. Most entries will be in essay form and save possibly the closing statement will also be stand alone reading. The reader can choose an entry at random and find the entry as a whole piece rather than having to read backward through the entries to find references.

If you are a new reader then you can start here and read the essays in the order they were written from the beginning and I will try to maintain continuity from one post to the next. This is not a book however, with a pre-designed plot and story line. The essays will appear as the inspiration comes to me although each will build off the closing statements of the one preceding in the queue. I tend to write in a timeless manner so usually there will not be any time constraint on the value of the essays. From time to time entries will be posted from my Blackberry mobile phone and edited online later to correct spelling and grammatical errors. If you find a post that has numerous typos and/or grammatical errors then come back later and I will have tried to review, edit and proof the incorrect post.

I'm not anal about my compositing but I, personally, dislike reading items that appear to have been written by someone with an inadequate command of the English language so as a courtesy to my readers I'll try to avoid committing that same form of behavior.

This is the internet so instead of saying "Please don't swipe my material", I'll say instead that if you find something that you wish to share then mention this as the source and let others also read this weblog. If you forget I will not come to your door to correct you. The material is here to enjoy so share as you like.

If you're a student needing an extra credit essay then don't bother trying to borrow these. Even the most cursory Google search will reveal the source and your teacher will fail you.

Thank you for visiting. Add me to your bookmarks!

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T/edited online