[Housekeeping:  For those of you who get this by email each morning, you may have noticed it stopped coming.  Apparently, AOL and Yahoo are blocking emails sent from an AOL or Yahoo email address by another service on the sender’s behalf (i.e., MailChimp sending my column from myvastfortune@aol.com).  I think we may have fixed it.  We’ll see.  But for me-mail, myvastfortune@aol.com is still the one to use.]


Suggested here at $5.40 in December, it ran up past $9 for a few minutes but dropped back as low as $6.22 yesterday.  If you missed it the first time, this might be a second chance to get in — with money you can truly afford to lose.  My friend continues to think it’s worth two or three times this price.  I bought a bit more yesterday.


I have the best readers.  I know a lot of your names by now, but often have no clue who you are — until something sparks an exchange.  Like this one from Jim Burt yesterday.  (Who?)

Jim Burt:  “Thanks for the promo for Bryan Cranston’s ‘LBJ.’  Setting aside Vietnam, which certainly had a formative experience on my own life, LBJ was one of the five greatest presidents in American history.  He certainly leaves ‘Ronaldus Magnus’ in the dust.  I also have a personal reason for liking him:  He is the only US President who ever invited me to the White House, gave me a medal, and shook my hand.  I’ve been waiting for his successors to do that, but for some reason, they haven’t.”

Not being entirely brain dead, I wrote back that his email gave new urgency to the phrase, “Do tell.”

He replied:

“Aw, shucks.  T’ain’t nuthin’.  Truly.  I was a 1968 Presidential Scholar, one of 121 newly minted high school graduates selected for the honor that year.  The medal was a Jacques Lipchitz bronze about 4” in diameter with a profile of LBJ on one side and a figure of Prometheus on the other, bringing fire down from heaven.  I joke that this was for perfect attendance at Sunday School, good grades on spelling tests, etc., but that joke is close to the truth.  On the other hand, I believe I was the only Presidential Scholar of my year who had a) been blackballed from the high school National Honor Society and b) was later commissioned in the Army and sent to fly helicopters looking for bad guys.  I was not the only one of my year to have maxed the SAT or pulled down straight As.  The blackballing?  I guess I didn’t fit in.  So, I’m sorry for the big letdown after tantalizing you, Andrew.  I know my original message was pregnant with an untold war story, but it wasn’t a war story that got me to LBJ’s White House.  And my other war stories are pretty ordinary.”

So I had to dig deeper into the blackballing.  “Why didn’t you fit in?” I asked.  “Seems as though you must have done something pretty awful to be a Presidential Scholar but not make the high school honor society.”

He replied:

“The blackballing may have been done by my chemistry teacher, who felt slighted when I wouldn’t let him park illegally (it was my student service job).  He couldn’t push my chemistry grade down, so he got revenge in another way.  It’s also possible I was blackballed for treating my school’s few black students with respect.  This was Memphis, Tennessee, and Central High School, long considered the best in that part of the South, was desegregated in the fall of 1966 with a handful of carefully chosen, cream of the crop students from the segregated black high schools.  My parents were both working class (but self-educated and intelligent) people from the South and they had never taught me racism.  Just one of the good things about them.  Actually, they’re the ones with the good story:  Both were in the Army in WWII, meeting while stationed at Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma City, and carried on a correspondence after my father shipped out to the Pacific, returning after the war to marry her.”

Jim was perplexed when I asked whether I could share this with you and suggested, instead, that if I were looking for something amusing to share I should consider this:

Jim Burt:  “Charles Dickens was a Twitter pioneer.  He could compose an entire 700-page novel with fewer than 140 characters.  Not many fewer, though.  As far as I know, that’s original with me.”



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