Archive for memoir


Posted in erotic, fashion, FLICKR, memoir, photographers, PHOTOGRAPHY, pinup, Sexy, women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2012 by cliffmichaels


Except when I look into my mirror (or yours) I don’t think I’m old. I’ve always been very good at self-deception. Inside I still feel young, not that different from when I was in my teens. When someone asks my age I shudder inside before answering, “sixty-four”.

One way cruel Parent Time (no sexism here)  has of mocking your desperate rearguard battle against decrepitude is by making all your peers look old, especially your former girlfriends. I was at my high school reunion just a few years back. Under the influence of cheap Scotch, golden nostalgia, and the mid summer soft twilight, my eye saw all those girls I chased in vain back in 1966 as still looking fine. As the evening, and my drinking, progressed the ladies grew younger and younger. The mistake I made was photographing some of them. The next day my precious photos were, I discovered, mere snapshots of a handful of plump women obviously pushing past sixty and displaying all the natural shocks that flesh is heir to at that age.

Its hard to imagine that my first adult girlfriend Kathy, a skinny brunette with bad skin, big eyes and small breasts, who awkwardly ushered me into manhood late one August night just weeks before I left for my first year of college in 1966, is now sixty-five or so. I haven’t seen her in – wow – forty plus years. She remains twenty in my mind’s eye. Gail, my iconic, intoxicating and near deadly blonde, is sixty-four wherever she is. That smooth, tawny skin is probably wrinkled. I wonder, has her honey blond hair turned gray? My first wife will turn sixty-five this year or next. The women I dated in the eighties have aged by twenty-five years.

Does they dare to eat a peach?

And Janet, my dear Janet… I fell in love with her my first semester at Swarthmore. Tall, she was, with long, straight red hair and pale smooth skin. Her smile was as sweet as her kind, sparkling eyes were inviting. I still recall the instant I first saw her standing with her roommate Beverly (who later married my roommate) in Sharples, the college dining hall. Meeting her that day was the first really positive thing that had happened to me since I had timidly tiptoed onto the campus a week before, a nervous refugee from Tennessee.

Someday (which usually means never) I’m going to write a wistfully sad (but brilliant) short story about the night in December, 1968, when I kept her safely mythical in my mind by declining her unspoken offer to sink into her dangerously real flesh. We remained very close, officially platonic,  friends from the time I left Swarthmore in 1967 for almost twenty years.

She’s turns sixty-four in seven days. 

I haven’t seen her since 1985 or so (when she was 37). She and her recently acquired second jealous husband traveled down from Philadelphia by car to visit me and my recently acquired second jealous wife.

Things Did Not Go Well…. The initial disaster (I felt like I was in a bad English drawing room farce and didn’t know my lines) was followed by an awkward strangeness between us that endured for several years. One unbelievable, catastrophic coincidence the next year cut the few threads of affection still connecting us. She decided I was a creep, seeing me as plotting to emotionally molest her eighteen year old daughter. I wasn’t,  but there was no way to convince her of my innocence.

 But that’s another, tiresome and overly long story. In any event all communication between us ceased. We haven’t spoken or written since 1988 or so.  This September, like a score or so past Septembers, I think about writing her or at least sending her a birthday card. I won’t do it, of course. I have no idea if she thinks the same each  May, before my birthday. We are, perhaps, each other’s slumbering dog.

I have seen a few photos of her taken in her fifties, head shots on the web for a counseling service she started. I have a hope (fantasy, rather) of seeing her again. Of somehow renewing our friendship. I know better, of course, but in my mind the woman who might welcome me back into her life is still an eighteen year old, elegant, fresh faced, auburn-haired beauty I swooned over that Fall afternoon now forty-six years gone. If  I do  see her she’ll be woman in her mid sixties; but maybe that will be OK, too…

She’s totally gratuitous – just another remix of a sexy lady (photo by Joe Nilsson, original and remix subject to this  creative commons license)

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In the Land of the Blind…

Posted in FLICKR, memoir, photographers, PHOTOGRAPHY, tennessee with tags , , , , , , , on September 8, 2012 by cliffmichaels


When I was five or six my parents figured out I couldn’t see very well. Trips to local doctors and a national  expert in New York ensued and I spent the next several years wearing varied combinations of eye patches, glasses and monocles. These measures, together with weeks and weeks and weeks of “eye exercises” – after surgery on my left eye – were all designed to give me stereoscopic vision.  All of this was in vain. Later discoveries and studies showed after age three or so it’s too late for surgery, etc., to work.

Kids are cruel. As a first grader wandering around with a eye patch or monocle latched to my glasses (or both) I was, to put it mildly, the butt of my fellow student’s taunts and insults and mocking laughter. To this day if a gaggle of kids pass me on the street and I hear laughter I start sweating and revert to my seven year old self.

My monocle naturally wasn’t cool, no gold chain or anything. It was black and had some kind of cumbersome mechanism to fix it to the left lens of my glasses. I hated it.  There was once some photos made of me with my monocle. I pray they are all lost or destroyed. I look so pitiful in the photos.

Of course in the past monocles, along with rakish mustaches and top hats, were cool, particularly in the 1920’s and before. Monocles, as a fashion statement, fell from from fashion  decades ago along with pocket watches,  top hats and fancy canes.

Thankfully, by fourth grade I was no longer burdened with eye patches or monocles, just regular glasses. Now, after cataract surgery, I only need glasses to read.


FLICKR GROUPS: Monocle Mania – Vintage Monocle 

For photo credit click on image. Remixed images and originals subject to this creative commons license

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Flagrante Delicto!

Posted in erotic, FLICKR, memoir, photographers, PHOTOGRAPHY, sexual, Sexy, tennessee, Uncategorized, women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2012 by cliffmichaels


I didn’t decide to go to law school until I was a senior in college. Up till then my career plans were as vague as a foggy mountain winter dawn. I realized I had to do something, you know, to make an actual living. I didn’t know much of practical use at 21, but I had a pretty strong hunch a liberal arts degree wasn’t going to get me a good job, especially in the weak economy of 1970.

By the end of the summer of that year I did have a wife –  a wife who worked and, even better yet, a wife who was willing to continue working if I decided to forgo regular, full-time employment to continue going to school. This good fortune, however, was counter balanced by the shocking unwillingness of my parents to continue supporting me in the modest circumstances to which I had become accustomed. Something about good money after bad, they claimed.

I had a part time job, too. I worked a three hour late night shift at United Parcel Service. Virtually the entire nightshift crew was college students. The work wasn’t horribly hard and, for that time, it paid a decent wage. It also helped that in those bygone days tuition at the University of Tennessee was quite modest for instate students and I would not be forced into debt as students are today.

So, with a working wife, a part time job, no real debts, and not needing much ready cash to continue my education, I decided to try law school in the spring. I wasn’t worried about getting in; 1971 was well before everyone, all his siblings, most of his first cousins, (and many of his second) was besieging every law school in America and clamoring for admission. I aced the LSAT, then wasted a month or so before school started.

The first quarter I took the curriculum seriously. I studied hard, spending hours and hours in the law library (we had something called books back then). Despite working part time late at night and having early morning classes, at the end of those first three months I had one of the highest GPA’s in the class. I felt so proud of myself! Wow, I thought, I must be really good at this stuff!

Of course, once I realized law courses weren’t all that hard (no math, after all), my dedication to study soon atrophied, as did my GPA. I didn’t care. I knew I was still good at this stuff. I mean, when was the last time you asked your lawyer, doctor, accountant, or plumber what her GPA was in school?

Looking back, my legal career now seems as if it was inevitable – like Custer’s Last Stand, the sinking of the Titanic or the explosion of the Hindenburg (only without all the press attention). Now, after thirty-eight years fiddling third violin in the back row of the frequently dischordant legal orchestra, I am now  resigned to never becoming the soloist out front.

But, by God, I’m still good at it…

I’ve only recently realized I was, at birth, fated to practice law – it was inevitable! The signs were all there. And those signs continued to appear over the next twenty-one year! If I had only paid attention to them I’d be a high income plumber today!

First, I was late to my own birth. I hung around in that cozy uterus for as long as I could. Now I don’t know a lawyer who isn’t late, at least to court. When I was in my early days of practice, there was a Knoxville lawyer I admired, Joe Levitt, who was known, particularly by judges he practiced before, as the late Mr. Levitt. He had a habit of arriving to the courtroom an hour or two after his case was called, wearing a brown rumpled suit and carrying his battered brief case in one hand and a half eaten sandwich in the other.  Sadly, now that appellation is literally true. Of course, if I had been really late for my grand entry to this world, say weeks instead of days, I’d be a judge by now.

After I was born I whined and complained to both my parents. Not understanding the justice of my demands, they seemed callous judges. I thereafter learned to talk and by two I could say habeas corpus, caveat emptor, ipso facto, and coitus interruptus. It was only years into my law practice, however, I learned, and truly understood, the phrase vigilantibus non dormientibus aequitas subvenit. 

 In another obvious sign, when I was about ten or so I developed an absolute aversion to any kind of physical labor. That year my Pater familias wanted me to cut the grassIn the summmer heat! This was long before we had either a self-propelled or ride on mower. We had a stubborn push mower and a large, moderately hilly yard. It took almost an hour to do the entire job; when I was done I felt like Lawrence of Arabia deep in Wadi Rum, but not as well dressed.

I honed my verbal skills to convince Dad to excuse me from my agrostological chore. It was easy. He was an engineer and knew only three things: water flows downhill, you can’t push a rope, and you get paid twice a month. Of course, I was aided in my brief by the the mere existence of my youngest brother Pat, now old enough to assume my duties. I assured him cutting the grass would be a promotion for him, several steps up from emptying the trash. But he balked. Luckily for me, his only skill at argument to counter my suggestion to Dad he replace me was his ability to stomp his foot, shake his head and moan, “Jeez, Dad, its not fair”, a modus operandi our parents had long before learned to ignore.

Perhaps the surest sign of my future vocation came in 1962, when I was fourteen. The summer before beginning high school,  I engaged in my first serious debate. The venue was our neighbors’ front yard one late summer afternoon; my adversary was Donna, their pretty fourteen year old red headed daughter. Our audience was a handful of other neighborhood children. The subject of our debate, chosen by me, was female genital anatomy.  Although I had no sisters, after having avidly studied my parents’ 1945 plain black jacketed marriage manual and its copious, if sadly schematic, black and white anatomical drawings, I felt fully prepared and confidently argued to this girl she was clearly wrong about what lay between her own two legs. My arguments were cogent, logical, and, if I do say so myself, elegant in both composition and presentation – yet shockingly proved futile. Declaring me guilty of argumentum ad ignoratiam, she remained unyielding in the face of my attempts to seduce her with my tongue to the truth.  Still, anyone who watched our great debate would have surely concluded by the last light of the day I was destined to excel at the law.

My only regret other than my inability to convince Donna of the theoretical soundness of my position was my failure to demand she allow me to fully discover her demonstrable proof she claimed supported her position before starting the debate (it was nearly another fours years before similar discovery came to hand for close and frequent study and my juvenile erratum were at last revealed to me).

Of course, if I had actually convinced Donna what she saw in her hand mirror when she examined her nether regions was wrong, I would not only be a lawyer today, but a very, very, very rich one as well…


Dear reader, should you think ill of my tales, or doubt their veracity, I urge you to recall this Latin phrase:

Dubia in meliorem partem interpretari debent

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As for me

Quo senior, eo immortalitati propinquior

For photo credits, click an image. All images, and my remixes, subject to this creative commons license

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Large DC House w/Veto & View – Cheap!

Posted in FLICKR, memoir, photographers, PHOTOGRAPHY, politics, religion with tags , , , , , , , on August 5, 2012 by cliffmichaels



Photo by dcJohn, subject to this creative commons license

I’ve been a Democrat since I was eighteen.  Raised by conservative parents in conservative parts of the country (east Tennessee and Southern California),  I aped my parents’ politics. My first year of college at Swarthmore opened my eyes. The Vietnam War was the primary reason, of course, but there were others. A lecture by a economics professor influenced me. He had been an economic advisor to FDR. The battle over Medicare was raging in 1966. His observation that we already had “socialized” medicine (“the sick rich pay for the sick poor”) helped change my view of how government should work.

By the end of the ’66-’67 school year I was a card carrying, bleeding heart liberal. I believed in an expansive role for government to alleviate suffering and level the playing field for the poor and minorities, and to curtail the rough edges of the free market system. Of course, at the same time, I believed the government was conducting an immoral and pointless war, but I naively thought the war was a blunder of our leaders and not intentional malfeasance.

In any event, I’ve remained a Democrat – a liberal Democrat – the rest of my life. I’ve even run for office twice (in a Tennessee county that skews Republican by better than two to one). When it comes the the Democratic party my attitude mirrors the one I have about the University of Tennessee sports teams: mindless, hooting fanaticism.

As I’ve written before, however, when the season’s over – or before it begins – I’m cynical, and know my beloved Vols are mercenaries looking out for themselves and are mere cogs in the big money, shamefully corrupt,  college sports machine.

It’s the same with the Democratic party. It grows ever more corrupt. Largely captured by corporate interests, the party’s prior concern for the poor and disenfranchised has faded nearly away. With Teddy Kennedy’s death the last influential liberal voice in the party was stilled. The few bona fide liberals left are largely ignored by the party leadership. Every two years we are admonished to be good little boys and girls and turn out and pull the Democratic lever in the  voting booth (and we usually do).

Whenever I hear anyone accuse Obama of being a socialist or liberal my laugh is a bitter one. Obama is a cautious moderate. His proposed policies echo Republican positions of the seventies and eighties. Obamacare? Weak beer: a thousand page gift to big pharma and the insurers. Don’t even get me started on his embrace of Bush’s tactics in the War on Terror and his refusal to bring to account the architects and practitioners of torture. No,  Obama’s no liberal, not even close.

The one percent may own more of the Democratic party than they do of the Republicans. The GOP is increasingly under the sway of the Tea Party. Unlike liberals in the Democratic fold, Tea Party fanatics keep knocking off establishment backed candidates in primaries. The extreme right has forced its party’s leaders to embrace its positions. The Democratic leadership ignores liberals’ positions. It’s telling that the single payer – Medicare for all – healthcare option was never on the President’s health reform table. In the struggle to pass a bill Obama and the party’s congressional leadership moved ever rightward: the Public Option was dropped, the attempt to rein in drug prices was dropped.

The truth is this: by and large we now have two corporate parties – one pro-choice and one pro life (corporations could care less about abortion)  – one for Bible thumpers and one for proponents of gay rights and marriage equality (another matter of corporate indifference)  – and one dead set against tax increases and the other only wanting to restore the tax rates of the nineties for the top two percent (business would prefer the former but could live with the latter). We have two parties who favor the endless War on Terror, the need to curtail civil liberties and the abandonment of the poor (war’s good for business, the poor not so much).

Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

FLICKR GROUP: The White House

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dcJohn’s set Protests

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Croon a Little Tune for Me

Posted in FLICKR, history, memoir, photographers, PHOTOGRAPHY with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2012 by cliffmichaels


You know you’re unacceptably old when most of the cultural icons who were in their heyday when you came of age are now gone, buried and forgotten.  Here a a trio of crooners who were big when I was in my teens…

My father was a huge Frank Sinatra fan. The singer was wildly famous when my father was in his twenties. By the time I was in my early twenties Sinatra’s career had  dropped off and then rebounded. The terrible, dark secret of my teens and early twenties: I cared little for rock. I loved old Blue Eye. What styling, what a tough, sexy, silky voice…

You Make Me Feel So Young


Unlike Sinatra, Bing Crosby seemed passe to me in the 1960’s. I’d seen a few of his films with Bob Hope, but I confess I didn’t really appreciate his singing until later. While I didn’t know it in the 60’s, Crosby was a fan of many black performers and would often drop into black clubs to listen – and learn – from the great black singers of the era. This song is forever burned into my brain:

White Christmas 


Dean Martin was a constant television presence when I was growing up. Long teamed with Jerry Lewis in one of America’s favorite comedy teams, Martin had a successful solo career as a singer, actor and television variety show host (and member of the Rat Pack). His first You Tube listing is…

That’s Amore



My Sinatra Group Why Are There No Frank Sinatra Groups? Dean Martin: The King of Cool – 1940 – 1949

For photo credits, click on each image above; all subject to this creative commons license

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Memorial Day 2012

Posted in FLICKR, memoir, photographers, PHOTOGRAPHY with tags , , , , , , on May 26, 2012 by cliffmichaels


I dodged the draft. Actually, the draft dodged me.

Was it 1968? I think so, but I could be off by a year one way or the other. Anyway, it was the year of the first draft lottery. My birthday came in at number 68. Bad, very bad. Visions of dying face down in a rice paddy rampaged through my head. Oh, no! Not me!! I was in college! Let that poor, most likely black, high school drop-out go and fight Nixon’s war; he probably needed the money and the free dental…

So I signed up for ROTC. I can still remember one of the questions on the test: would you rather shoot a gun or play the violin. True answer: play the violin; answer I chose: shoot that gun!! I passed the test! The crusty old sergeant told me all I had to do now was pass the physical. I did. Ah!! Now I’d be spared involuntary induction!! Even if the Vietnam war was still raging when I finished the program, at least I’d be an officer and would have a decent chance  of being stationed in Germany, Japan, or some other peaceful place.

Two days later I got the notice for my draft physical. Not yet understanding government bureaucracy, I naively inquired if, since I had already passed the ROTC physical, it was really necessary for me to take this new exam. It was, of course. Different bureaucracies altogether.

Short story: I flunked thanks to a very nice doctor. I’d tell you why I flunked but the reason was, and remains, too embarrassing. No rice paddies for me!  I was now free to continue happily protesting the war without having to worry I might actually end up fighting – and dying – in it.

Being the loyal, patriotic citizen I was and remain, I immediately dropped out of ROTC .

So much for my distinguished  military career.

Now, forty some years after my harrowing brush with the military industrial complex, our numerous wars are fought by professional soldiers we all pretend to honor. Sadly, we seldom, individually or as a nation, put our money where our mouths are when our Brave Men and Women come marching home. Thanks guys, here’s your first unemployment check and please don’t bother the VA with your possibly bogus claims of suffering from PTSD (but you may march in a nifty parade this weekend!)…

Just to show you what a hypocrite I am, I’ll tell you I think a professional military, politically speaking, is a bad idea. We may have the vote, but the army has the guns (not to mention thousand of tanks and black, death spewing helocopters). Polling suggests the military is much more conservator than the rest of us. There is also a growing strain of evangelical christianity among the troops. If, someday, the top brass and officer corps find our civilian leaders too liberal, or too godless, or too something else they don’t like, they can swiftly complete a coup.

My solution? A draft, of course.


Old Soldiers – Our Hot Soldiers!Universal Soldier American Soldiers

Photo by Andrew Becraft, subject to this creative commons license

Set by Andrew

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33,661,440 Minutes…

Posted in fashion, FLICKR, memoir, photographers, PHOTOGRAPHY, religion, women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2012 by cliffmichaels



Somebody’s granddaughter

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?

If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?

There are 33,661,440 minutes in 64 years (don’t believe it? remember there are, on average, 365.25 days in a year!). I’ve now surpassed that ridiculously huge number by more than 12,240 additional minutes. Ugh. Though, as has been said so often by so many, being sixty-four undeniably beats that irrevocable, insensate  and subterranean alternative.

I was conceived in late summer of 1947 and born in May of 1948. Those events are now lost to memory. After time spent idly as a floating fetus, then diaper filling infant and rampaging toddler, I decided to spend the next sixty years growing ever older until I reached  my present wrinkly decrepitude. Along the way I adopted liberal secularism (so people would think I was smart and not just another southern redneck idiot!), detoured into a couple of marriages, picked up two useless college degrees, made a disastrous foray into local politics, enjoyed my fifteen minutes of cut rate fame, became a lothario, cad and bounder, lost over a hundred pounds then gained it all back plus more, becoming fat but not necessarily happier, got plastic choppers, and found myself  lusting after adult women young enough to be my grandchildren. Luckily for them – and sadly for me – while the libido was willing the flesh was weak (and considerably more shrunken than in my youth).

 Thank God I still have my hair!

I find myself talking too much. Us antique codgers love to tell stories and will often regale the same listener with the same story several times. In sympathy with my fellows, I indulge them by laughing at their anecdotes every time they repeat them to me. This is particularly true if my fellow old fart is a judge or other officeholder. I suspect they indulge me in the same fashion. At least all my drugs are generic.

When I was a baby I was fed bland, mushy baby food. As I grew my meals became more adult, and by my teenage years I feasted  on milkshakes, burgers, sugared soda, and fatty pizzas. I never gained weight even when I tried and tried. When I graduated high school I tipped the scale at 120 pounds.  I am now reversing my childhood progression. At this point my doctor believes anything containing fat, sugar or salt is a deadly poison.  The approved choices are now salad (no dressing), uncooked vegetables and fruits.

Thank God I still ave my hair!

My feet hurt. My right thigh and shoulder hurt.  My legs get stiff. My hands ache. My belly sags. Hair sprouts from my nose and ears. New wrinkles arrive on my face with regularity of German trains. I get up to pee two or three times a night and flirt with flatulence during the day.  My medicine cabinet grows ever more crowded. But at least all my drugs are generic…

The one thing which comforts me in my old age is this: you, dear reader, if you manage to survive, will be, sooner than you think, in my perilous position.

But you may NOT have any of your hair…

UPDATE: If, by chance you are even older than me, I don’t want to hear about it!


Elderly’s portraitsGrowing Old Older People in Poverty – Elderly Nudists         

Photo by  Danila Panfilov, remixed by me, subject to this creative commons license

Danila’s Top Fifty

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