Openers: His very high forehead jutted to a distinct ledge, and then dropped at an angle, exactly matching the hawk-beak angle of his aquiline nose. With his square face and coldly intelligent, though mismated, eyes, he looked exactly what he was -- a highly educated, unusually capable professional man.
But Val Vickers was the only member of his unique profession in the world. He was the one and only Specialist in the Impossible.
-- Curtiss T. Gardner, "Sorcery in the Death House" (Dime Mystery Magazine, September 1943). This was the first of three Val Vickers stories that Gardner wrote for Dime Detective Magazine.
I've Been Reading: Lee Goldberg's True Fiction is an engaging romp involving a writer who is suddenly embroiled in a sinister conspiracy. Interestingly, the writer is named Ian Ludlow, the pseudonym under which Goldberg first published his Jury series. Bentley Little's The Handyman starts slowly as the narrator recalls an inept handyman whose shoddy work cost the narrator's young brother his life. The suspense and the horror builds as we learn that the handyman has been destroying lives throughout out the western part of the country for years. The story reaches a terrifying and deadly conclusion in a supernatural maze-like house in the desert -- think the famous Winchester House on other-worldly steroids. Little is really good at this stuff. Trigger Law by "Jackson Cole," a Texas Ranger Jim Hatfield tale, was my FFB this week. A good, old-fashioned, pulpish western. A hat tip to James Reasoner for letting us know that the name behind the house pseudonym was A. Scott Leslie. Finally, I read Nnedi Okorafor's Bindi: The Night Masquerade, the final book in the trilogy published by Tor.com. Interesting and likable, although I probably would have gotten much more out it had I read the first two installments. But this one was available, so what the heck.
Currently reading John Connolly's mainstream novel He, about Stan Laurel's relationship with Oliver Hardy. Mega-good so far.
Memorial Day: Sometimes, when people find out my first name is Ralph, they ask where did Jerry come from...your middle name? I tell them, yes, my middle name is Harold. They usually just stare. Some people just can't handle the truth. Ralph was my father's name and since he was (and remains) the person I most respect, I am proud to carry his name. My folks added the Harold to honor a friend of theirs, Harold Speed, who died in world War II at Guadalcanal. Harold Speed was nicknamed Jerry. (No one knows why; no form of Jerry can be found in his legal name. I guess I'm just continuing a strange Jerry tradition.) Anyway, I've been known as Jerry since the day I was born and I am kind of proud of the name. Today is the day when we honor the war dead. Today is the day when I honor Harold Speed and so many others.
I hate it when politicians say that our soldier heroes gave their lives for our freedom. Andy Rooney once said our war dead did not give their lives, rather their lives were taken from them. I wish that Harold Speed had not had his life taken. I would have loved to know him.
Here is my go-to song for this day:
Rest in peace, the fallen.
Graduation Day: Saturday, our grandson Mark graduated from high school, one of over 400 in his class. It was a beautiful morning. Alberto held off gifting us with his rains until late afternoon. Speeches were short. There was no guest speaker and much of the program was run by the kids. Mark was a little nervous walking for his diploma, making him one of many. I could not help but notice that 128% (my rough estimate) of the girls had long, below-the-shoulders hair. Everyone looked great. Some looked surprised that high school was over. It was a good time, but, really, has any high school ever had a decent school song?
Afterwards, there was a family cook-out where Walt prepared hamburgers, Italian sausages, pulled pork, cole slaw, and deviled eggs. Yum! I was told there was also potato salad but someone forgot to put it out. A super-yummy brownie trifle capped off the meal.
Mark will be going to the University of West Florida in the fall, transitioning from a Gulf Breeze Dolphin to a UWF Argo.
Names: I am always interested in the names of the kids in our grandchildren's classes. they range from the traditional to the creatively spelled, to the is it a boy or a girl, to dear God what were their parents thinking. Here are the approximately 430 names from Mark's graduating class:
Daniel, John, Rion, Joshua, Madeline, Herminio, Grace, Thomas, Blair, Tyler, Zoe, Robert, Audric, R. (?), Meghan, Alyssa, Dominique, Jacob, Cloe, Winston, Erin, Taylor, Sadie, Austin, Rian, April, Lucy, Anthony, Mason, Katherine, Caleb, Faith, Natalie, Taylor, Hunter, Katelyn, Melanie, Philip Rachel, Noah, Ryan, David, Melinda, Aiden, Alanna, Ryan, Ashton, Madison, Jasper, Jacob, Alexandra, Daniel, Dylan, Jenna, Sydney, James, Lauren, Brianna, Jackson, Ronald, Sidney, Kedron, Kyran, William, Bryce, Angeli, Charlotte, Andrew, James, Casie, Chase, Nicole, Erin, Hobbie, Morgan, Sydney, John, Margery, Andrea, Carmen, Mary Alyssa, Keirstin, Morgan, Delaney, Alexander, Avery, Kiehler, Paul, Lancelot, Nicholas, Briana, Jack, Pierson, Alex, Rachel, Justin, Kayleigh, Jackson, Brooklyn, Molly, Isaiah, Collin (because of the small italicized typeface used on the program, I had to look twice to be sure his name was not Coffin), Cody, Haylee, Enrique, Hunter, Reagan, Ethan, Kane, Andrew, Connor, Dagan, Charles, Spenser, George, Heidi, Alexander, Madelyne, Seth, John, Jeremiah, Jessica, Katriah, Kayla, Anders, Zoe, Xavier, Adeleine, Andrew, Antonia, Daniel, Steven, Ryan, Kelsey, Grace, Patrick, Carson, Olivia, Kort, Sierra, Orion, Joseph, Marissa, Christian, Luke, Ashton, Noah, Stephen, Lauren, Annabelle, Caleb, Ashton, Alexandra, Dylan, Amber, Skyler, Tessa, Matthew, Ethan, Landon, Kamryn, Micah, Morgan, Olivia, Zachary, Nathan, Alexander, Dawson, Madison, Matthew, Logan, Jessica, Alexandria, William, Erica, Andrew, Jiyu, Joseph, Margeaux, Keanu, Shayla, Katherine, Nautia, Abigail, Alexander, Brianna, Alexander, Aaron, Landrie, Nicholas, Noah, Katlund, Kaylah, Madeline, Taylor, Tyler, Samantha, Morgan, Samuel, Jordan, Rowan, Anna, Emma, Brandon, Catherine, Katherine, Jack, Kaden, Justin, Milly, Grant, Samantha, Ava, Alexa, Marissa, Tory, Caleb, Riley, Peyton, Alyssa, Maverick, Benjamin, Christopher, Alyssa, Kaelan, Maria, Tyler, Wyatt, Avery, Garrett, Hanah, Alanna, MacKenzie, Mallory, Dovie, Madelynn, Isaiah, Fiama, Macy, Aubrey, Colin, Casey, Lauren, Terra, Meredith, Kyle, Jacqueline, Emily, Colton, Kendall, Joseph, Tiffany, Elliott, Gabriel, Taylor, Alfredo, Jake, Maddilyn, Chandler, Kyler, Robert, Richard, Ghulam, Nicholas, Cameron, Shane, Jenna, Benjamin, Cythia, Rainey, Brandon, Brittany, Sadie, Aiden, Mason, Rocky, Haley, Katherine, John, Pike, Chandler, Emily, Grace, Madison, Stephen, Madelyn, Michael, Savannah, Preston, Heather, Gunnar, Karla, Isaiah, Arianna, Kasey, Sydney, Victoria, Jordan, William, Mary, Reagan, David, Emily, Marshall, Mary, Russell, Carson, Sidney, Israel, Dalton, Lexis, Benjamin, Kasey, Kaia, Ana, Mariana, Xiomara, Hailey, Brianna, Mark (our man!), Sarah, Nathaniel, Katherine, Alexandra, Joseph, Sophia, Leandro, Alura, Joshua, Lindsay, Vincent, Kyle, William, Adam, Michaela, Brandon, Brandon, Adam, Logan, Luke, Braden, Brinker, Ashten, Leanne, Christa, Sheila, Caroline, Claudia, Andrew, Harrison, Tannen, Laurie, Destin, Grayson, Jackson, Justin, Grace, Grant, Bianca, Sarah, Katelyn, Connor, Andrew, Autumn, Lauren, Alec, Tyler, Emen, Makayla, Avery, Kandace, Slade, John, Hunter, Karlee, Jacobe, John, Madison, Ethan, Tyson, Jacob, Amaya, Michael, Jonathan, Feather, Griffin, Sarah, Jackson, Jacob, Jenna, Joshua, Lawrence, Hunter, Blayke, Ryan, Philip, Terra, Hannah, Alec, Carissa, James, Jackson, Julia, Emily, Gabriel, Jake, Keith, Ethen, Derek, Alyssa, Natasha, Edward. John, Bayleigh, Brent, Joseph, Lauren,Tanner, Teagan, Colton, Connor, Kyle, Lexis, Abigail, Chloe, Walter, Nathan, Abigail, Benjamin, Palin, Broccoli, and Phew. (Okay. I made those last two up.) And, yes, I proofed the list to be sure I got the spellings right.
I wish each and every one of these amazing kids a bright future.
Sinkhole: So the White House now has a sinkhole. I'll forego the obvious correlation with the president. Free free to make up your own jokes.
Gardner Dozois (July 23, 1947-May 27, 2018): A great writer and a great editor. Damn!
Astronaut Alan Bean: The fourth man to walk on the moon, dead at 86. Another hero gone.
Trail of Tears: On this day in 1830, President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act.
A Seven-Character Quatain:
right and wrong gain and loss each hard to picture clearly
so I began to study wisdom of the ancients willy-nilly
but closed the books I'd double up with laughter
and have to get up pace the floor and rub my belly
-- Xin Qiji (1140-1207)