Meeting Lyndon Johnson

In the summer of 1960, I was a high school Junior in Sacramento with an almost brand new driver’s license and two burning ambitions:  to get the use of one of the family cars, and to get myself a date.   I was ecstatic when my father finally gave in on the use of the car.   Now all I needed was an attractive girl to drive around.

I wanted to date Jill, who was the daughter of a postman and a Mother who had flattered me deeply the previous summer by telling me I had nice legs, but I had no idea of how to go about it.   I knew that Jill was interested in politics, or at least she was interested in JFK, who had just received the Democratic nomination, so I arranged for the two of us to be volunteers at a Kennedy rally at the State Capitol.

On the appointed day, I put two Kennedy-Johnson signs in the backseat of my car, and drove over to pick up Jill, who looked very nice in her fitted blouse and shorts.    Then we headed out for the Capitol, which lacked the abundance of public parking garages it has now, so we parked a few blocks away, and carried our signs to the east side of the building, where we were met by an officious advance man, who lined us up with the other 20 or so teenage volunteers, all with identical signs, along a sidewalk that led to a side entrance.  And there we waited.   And waited.

After about twenty minutes, Governor patbrown-bw-sizedBrown (the first Governor Brown), short and intense with a streak of white in his hair, hurried out of the Capitol and down the cordon we had formed – he didn’t seem to notice us as he passed us.    When the Governor was about twenty yards from the end, a long black limousine pulled up to the corner of 10th and L Streets, and a tall, awkward figure emerged.   It was not Kennedy, as we had hoped, but Lyndon Johnson.   Johnson was scooped up by Brown as soon as he set foot on the curb, and Brown appeared to be urging him to hurry into the building.  But Johnson was having none of it.   He gamely shook the hand of every volunteer along his path. He looked miserable the whole time, but he did it.   Six years later, when I became so upset with him over Vietnam, I remembered that.



Kingsville, 1951

This is the first in a series of explicitly autobiographical poems I intend to post:

pocket knife

“Do you have a knife, boy?
I watched his fingers as they
Tapped the arm of his chair.
“Every boy needs a knife.”

I wanted one, all right,
One like his,
Small and sharp and bright with the sun
I wanted the power.

“A knife like this.”
He reached behind my ear like a conjurer,
And two inches of tempered steel
Became mine.

I could whittle.
“Soft wood’s best.”
I could carve the end of my pencil,
And call it sharpening.
I could cut twine,
And slice open bags.
I could make it stand straight up in the ground,

“Don’t give that boy a knife, John,”
My grandmother said,
“He’ll cut himself.”

A is for Arnyx Illustration
































A typical illustration from my book of children’s verse:  “A is for Arnyx”

Uncoupled Couplets

In 1966, William Cole produced a small book entitled: “Uncoupled Couplets”. The idea was to take a line from a poem by a famous poet and add a ridiculous or at least telling rhyming line.   For example  (From the book):

Oliver Goldsmith:  “When lovely woman stoops to folly,”
…”I want to be around, by golly!”

Here are two of my own:

Robert Herrick: “When as in silks, My Julia goes,”
…”The outline of her girdle shows.”

Lord Byron: “Did ye not hear it?  No! ‘Twas but the wind”
…”Escaping from my nether end.”


This is fun; expect some more.


The seventh and final principle of political life is Leadership: political leadership should honor and uphold these principles.  I have trouble with this one as a principle.  Political leaders are, by definition politicians, and politicians should honor and uphold these principles.   It seems circular.

Two more Clerihews

Carl Sagan
Dates an extraterrestrial pagan.
Late at night, he waits alone
Beside his cosmic telephone.

Percy Bysshe Shelley
Had a taste for citric jelly.
When he tasted lemon-lime,
He would burst into a rhyme.