January 2016


My 2¢ and Then Some, on the $10 Bill to Come


It was announced last July that by the end of the year, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew would announce the decision on which woman was selected to grace a newly designed $10 bill. Now December has come and gone, and in lieu of an announcement… a postponement. Until sometime in 2016. As Mr. Lew explains:


"As a result of the tremendous amount of engagement, we have many more ideas than we had originally anticipated. Therefore, we are taking additional time to carefully review and consider a range of options to honor the theme of democracy as well as the notable contributions women have made to our country."


In this heavily politicized environment in which we now live, we had better get this right; we had better not offend.


As it is, Women on 20s, a grassroots organization started in 2012, has expressed disappointment that their goal of replacing the face of Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with an iconic American woman, will not come to pass. Why a “20”? To coincide with the 100th anniversary in 2020 (when the new currency will actually be issued), of the nineteenth amendment giving women the right to vote. Which of course, followed the birth of the nation by a mere 144 years. (Happy 90th Birthday to Ma and to the 19th Amendment!; SEPTEMBER, 2010 MUSE-LETTER). But let’s not go there today.


The selection of a woman for any form of currency could get a little sticky. What if you printed tons of money that nobody liked and didn’t circulate? The last two “woman currency” efforts —Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea appearing on dollar coins— never caught on. Though perhaps it was not a gender issue, but simply that we like our dollars in paper? They seem more valuable and less “foreign” that way, I guess. And they don’t weigh us down. But still.


The only woman ever featured on the front of paper currency, was Martha Washington on a $1 Silver Certificate in the late 1800’s.



The only other woman to appear on paper, was Pocahontas in 1875 on the reverse side of $20 bill, via a piece of artwork entitled "The Baptism of Pocahontas."



Why these came and went so quickly, I have no idea.


Frankly, I’m fiscally conservative. Not about spending money, but in terms of what it actually looks like. I’ve always been partial to the boring institutional green color of our currency, and the stone-faced men who appear on it. It all suggests some serious monetary heft and stability, which for me, separates “our” cash (bucks, dough, moolah, cabbage, lettuce, clams, bones, smackers,) from “theirs.” Theirs, invariably, comes in all sorts of colors and sizes often looking like board-game fare to me. And in lieu of folks in high governmental places, theirs, sometimes even defers to those in the arts.


A £10 note from Ireland for example, features a portrait of James Joyce on the front, along with a quirky poetic quote from one of his works on the back. Could you imagine an F. Scott Fitzgerald ten dollar bill, with his closing line from The Great Gatsby on the flip side: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”? It’s almost un-American.


I didn’t even like when they moved the heads off center… changed Old Hickory’s portrait (but made his “do” even larger, which like his politics, ran amok)…added watermarks willy-nilly on most denominations that I’m aware of (“What’s in your wallet?”)… and made other assorted changes that all had to do with thwarting the more sophisticated forgery that is now possible in a high tech age. But I, no Luddite, do concede that it was all for the better. And so yes, a woman on our “greenbacks” is something long overdue.


The appearance of any new face on our paper currency, is something seen less frequently than Halley’s comet. The last time it happened was in 1929 with the addition of Alexander Hamilton, (replacing Andrew Jackson, who was upgraded to a 20). Just 128 years after his fatal duel with Burr.


Ironically, it is now Hamilton who is under the gun (again) and will be trying to compete with a woman for face time—he won’t go away altogether Mr. Lew has assured us— when the new sawbuck is put into circulation in four years.


Enough on the history of money, so who should she be?


Naturally as might be expected in our “polling frenzy” environment, the public has been invited through various venues to weigh in on the issue. According to a piece in Time magazine this past August:

“About one in three Americans (29%) say the women’s rights advocate and longest-serving First Lady in U.S. history, Eleanor Roosevelt should grace the bill, the McClatchy-Marist poll found. That puts her ahead of Harriet Tubman, who is in second place with 20%, as well as Sacagawea, Amelia Earhart and Susan B. Anthony, who each received 11%. Sandra Day O’Connor, the country’s first female Supreme Court justice, received 4%.”

As for Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea (whose name I never could pronounce), I would say that ship has sailed.


                                                                          Graphic design by Ron Vazzano©


The aforementioned Women on 20s, has also posted its four “Final Round Candidates” on their website: Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and… Wilma Mankiller?


New Rule (with apologies to Bill Maher): It has got to be someone, that someone has actually heard of. Not to mention the gift that “Mankiller” would be to standup comics the world over, given this context. Again, think of poor Hamilton.


My vote would be for Gloria Steinem. In addition to her illustrious career as a leader and spokeswoman for the feminist movement— which arguably has made putting a woman on paper currency even possible—she is also a prominent journalist and social and political activist to this day. And yes, I’d love to see her punim on my money. And yes, I have a decided bias where Ms. Steinem is concerned. (“I Was Talking to Gloria Steinem Yesterday About Nestles Hot Cocoa;DECEMBER, 2011 Muse-letter).


In addition, her name would lend itself to a cool new monetary slang—“steinems.” As in: “That’s gonna’ run you a few steinems, I can tell ya’.”


Unfortunately, and I should have surmised, that by law, only the portrait of a deceased individual may appear on U.S. currency and securities. So there goes that idea. I’ll go with Roosevelt then. Though Tubman, might be a more politically correct choice (excepting in some sectors that will remain nameless and brainless). Either way, there assuredly will be some controversy to follow. Just make sure she isn’t smiling. Money isn’t funny.





Cocktail Hour in a New York Minute




of celebrations and stories; rewritten narratives on cocktail napkins that speak of encounters that might have been, with youth on our side. There we were, flirting over a drink amidst the smoke and commuter chatter before grabbing a train out of Grand Central Station—oh, if only I’d have known you then. Who knows where we might have gone; who knows the points we’d have passed along the way.

—Ron Vazzano









A “Good Guy” Considers Getting an AK-47



With bullets from the “bad guys” flying all about us, I— a “Good Guy” in capital letters— am considering getting a semi-automatic military weapon, aka an AK-47.


I am sick and tired of only the sickos and the terrorists among us having these weapons designed for mass killing. And since we are never going to stop them, or make it difficult for them to get their hands on such weapons— and of course why even make an attempt— I think it’s about time that I, obviously a good guy (and I still have the glowing report cards from my parochial school nuns to prove it), do my part to try to level the playing field. After all, it is so easy to do.


Even those on the FBI’s terrorist “no-fly” watch list, who are not even allowed to board a plane, can still legally purchase an AK-47 with no questions asked, or any real background check required. So what’s my excuse for having put this off for so long?


I can understand the problem to some extent. In the old days it would have been easy to spot us. We good guys wore the white hats…the bad guys wore the black ones. But since we’ve stopped wearing hats altogether, I do admit it has become a little more difficult to tell us apart. But as I am smart, conscientious and keep in good company, I’ll be able to find others such as myself. Which will be important since as I’ll be a newbie to this weaponry, and I’m going to have to rely on other good guys to teach me how to use it. I’ve never fired a gun before, save for a water pistol when I was a kid. But hey, no problem.


And let’s be clear on this at the outset: there is no chance that good guys ever turn out to be bad guys.


I don’t know about you, but when the media interviews neighbors and family members after one of these “alleged perpetrators” has massacred a group of innocent people in broad daylight, I have never heard, not even one of them say: “He was a nice guy. Quiet. Kept to himself. Even gave the kids candy on Halloween. You would have never expected him to do something like this.”


To the contrary, and I don’t know what news you’re watching or reading, but all I ever hear is: “Of course he would do something like this! It was so obvious, you could see it coming. I even told the kids watch out, don’t go trick or treating at our next door neighbor’s house. He’s obviously a bad guy kids, armed to the teeth, who is one day going to shoot up a whole bunch of people. In fact, that’s why I’ve never thought about moving, so I could be here to report all this on camera to you guys when it finally happened.”


I know what some might say regarding my considering such a purchase: Do you really need an assault weapon to defend yourself? Especially at home? True, that in my seventy years on earth I’ve never experienced a situation that required me to fire off 100 rounds of ammunition in a minute at someone trying to break into my dwelling, but you never know. And who knows—you never know— if one day the U.S. government doesn’t come to my apartment to take me away, even though we have a vigilant staff manning the front desk in my building. They did that to Japanese-Americans during WWII, and if the “Japs” as they were affectionately called at the time, had assault weapons to defend themselves, for sure they would have won a shoot out with the U.S. military and stood their ground thereby avoiding internment camps.



Alright, I admit that if I ever was so worried about that happening again, especially this time to a good guy like me, I’d have to ask myself why I don’t move to another country. Like Switzerland? They make great watches. And cheese. But in truth, I realize that most massacres on the public take place by people outside of government, and outside of the home. Which is why I intend to take my AK-47 wherever I go.


At Sunday mass, especially at St. Patrick’s Cathedral which draws such big crowds—many of whom are not even good Catholics, or one of us, or even live here— I’ll be sure to take it with me. Same thing when I walk through the throngs in Times Square—an area which might as well have a bullseye painted on it— heading to a Broadway show. When meeting a few friends in a bar for a few drinks, or at an outdoor café in a tony neighborhood—you saw what happened in Paris—I’ll have “ole Betsy” slung over my shoulder to signal that no one dare mess with me.


This whole thing has gotten out of hand. It’s time to take action. Not by making namby-pamby laws preventing the good guys from getting all the guns they want and need, but by arming us all to the teeth with no questions asked. But don’t worry. You’ll be safe knowing that a good guy like me is packing some serious heat.







Quote of the Month








Greetings from the Woodlands of Northern Virginia



Note: Last month in my Muse, I offered a poem that I had recently written entitled, “Smile: A Monologue.” Though well received, as it apparently struck a personal chord with some, it did present a rather dark side of life’s endgame. To say the least.

Then some three weeks later, I received a hard copy Christmas letter from a nonagenarian and excellent writer, Beverly Doran, that was in such stark contrast to what had been the inspiration for my poem.


Beverly’s work has appeared on this site before (PROFILED AND DANGEROUS: Older Drivers Get a Bad Rap? SEPTEMBER, 2009 MUSE-LETTER), and as members of the Independent Writers of Southern California, we had once participated together in a public reading at a Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles.


In tone, temperament, style (at times poetic), her Christmas letter is unlike any I have ever received. It has much to say, both in the lines, and in between them. Presented here in its entirety exactly as it appeared on the page, I’ll let it speak for itself.

Cats, Dogs and Critters

December, 2015

Greetings from the Woodlands of Northern Virginia


Five years ago I came to live with my daughter Judy, and son-in-law Hal, in their home near George Washington’s Mt. Vernon farmland. There is much George would recognize still, if he rode his horse along the shoulder of these paved roads. The church he attended holds services nearby; the mill and distillery are still functioning to the delight of visitors.


The houses on King Street in Old Town Alexandria were here when he was around as was the City Hall and the open market on the green.


Green is the word this third generation Californian still finds a marvel. Trees and shrubs, green all summer, are bare now. Glowing with colors all autumn, I find their black branches still beautiful, an artful composition of black “wrought iron like” frieze work against the newly visable sky behind them.


Equally marvelous, to me, are the four legged, furry members of this household. My two cats and fostered Jack Russell terrier know that I am the “go to” door opener in the early morning. The glass doors that open onto my patio give them access to the back yard and the teasing squirrels under the bird feeder. The “upstairs” dogs have their own ‘door openers’ who are trained to respond to the polite, single bark that tells them “I need out. Now.”


My usual “bah humbug” response to Christmas has faltered under the tsunami of holiday decorations and lights that Judy unpacked the day after Halloween. An LED holly filled glass jar in a central place among the row of snack filled apothecary jars on my bookcase suffices for me. Ho. Ho. Ho.


The kind people at the home care service (we don’t say hospice) have reset the clock since the intended six month life expectancy mark has passed with little evidence of an imminent exit. I have honed indolence to a fine art as I prefer to read or watch TV to attempting the stairs. There is never danger of running out of reading material. Judy is in charge of the books donated to the Thrift Shop and my favoriate authors (Robert Parker, Reginald Hill and Colin Dexter) are well represented and replenished.


My lap top is my link to the world. Judy continues to invite me to accompany her on her Costco runs, but energy is no longer there to match the temptation. (Now there’s a sermon)


Join me at 5:00, wherever you are, for a glass of wine and a hug.


Merry Christmas       






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