Presidential Curmudgeon Portraits


A man can dream, can’t he?

If the United States can elect its oldest president, a man with no political background or experience, why can’t it elect a true elderly curmudgeon?  I can envision the day when, despite the (incorrect) prognoses of all the pundits, I sit in the Oval Office and determine whicih presidential portraits I get to hang on the walls.

I decided that I would pick a curmudgeonly president from each century.

The eighteenth century gives me only two choices – George Washington and John Adams.  Adams is the obvious choice.  He had no slaves; he considered his wife, Abigail, as his equal and he was, by all accounts, a true pain-in-the-ass.  The result is immediate elevation to curmudgeon status.


Although the nineteenth century has many choices, there really is only one:  Lincoln.  Abraham Lincoln was affected by depression, had a true black sense of humor and was, as I have often said, the greatest prose poet of the nineteenth century.  Alternate choices may include Jackson, Cleveland and McKinley but these pale in comparison.  Nope, Lincoln is my choice.


The twentieth century also has many choices.  Perhaps TR or Coolidge or LBJ but, again, they really don’t qualify as curmudgeons (in my humble opinion).  My first and clear choice is Harry S Truman (no period after the S. The S stood for nothing; Truman felt the need to have a middle initial.)  Despite the critics who point to his dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima, Truman accomplished many achievements during his presidency (or presidentiary, as Will Ferrell pointed out playing the role of George W. Bush);

  • Creation of the UN and NATO
  • The Truman Doctrine (which stopped the communist threat to Greece and Turkey)
  • The Marshall Plan
  • The Berlin Airlift
  • Establishment of the NSC, CIA and NSA
  • Ended racial segregation in the US armed forces
  • Legislation to allow immigration of 200,000 refugees from World War II

He also had time to pen and mail (by hand) a letter to Paul Hume, who was critical of his daughter’s concert performance.

“Some day I hope to meet you.  When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”

Immediate elevation to curmudgeon status.


For the twentieth-first century, we have only three choices – George W. Bush, Barak Obama and Donald Trump.  The first two are disqualified as being too cheerful.  The third is disqualified, period.  The Donald is many things but being a curmudgeon is not among them.  We have only started the century so we will have to wait on the fourth portrait.  It could be mine.



In the meantime, let me say to my fellow Americans…

Dream Sequence

One of the questionable benefits of a sleepless night is the discovery that you, in fact, do have several dreams a night.  What appears, at first blush, to be an uninterrupted night of tossing and turning does include interludes of fitful sleep, sometimes accompanied by sequences of dreams.  The constant sleeping and waking allows you to remember, at least for a moment, the makeup of these dreams.

I’m not sure what causes the sleeplessness, much less the particular dreams.  When Scrooge encountered the ghost of Marley in A Christmas Carol he attributed him to “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.”

Dreams, as stated by Sigmund Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams , are all forms of “wish fulfillment” — attempts by the unconscious to resolve a conflict of some sort, whether something recent or something from the recesses of the past.

According to several sources, we dream six to eight dreams a night but many of these dreams go unnoticed. There are several standard sets of dreams, six to ten in all.

One source lists the top ten as: car troubles; faulty machinery (Car troubles and faulty machinery? Really?  Do any of you spend your nights changing engine oil or adjusting the thermostat?); lost or trapped; missed a boat or plane; failing a test; ill or dying; being chased; bad or missing teeth (presumably less of this one in Appalachia); dream nudity (more of this in Beverly Hills?); falling or sinking.

Mine fall into none of the above.  My major dream seems to be what I call Endless Convoluted Maze Accompanied by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Tom Stoppard’s play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, elevates two minor characters from Hamlet to leading roles.  My dreams elevate similar inconspicuous and inconsequential players to major roles.  Hamlet and Ophelia sit on the sidelines.  [Uh oh, I see a psychiatrist type encouraging me to sit down on the couch and explain all of this thoroughly.  Fat chance, buddy.]

Endless convoluted maze is the main theme.  I find myself visiting a town only to find colleagues (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) there from work.  For reasons I can’t explain, we are assembled in a set of rooms that combine a doctor’s waiting room with a storefront and an old-fashioned diner but we are there due to some unexplained legal matter.  As time passes, colleagues are replaced by doctor’s patients. I go searching for the colleagues who, having finished their meal at the diner portion, go off to some undisclosed location.  In my attempt to follow them, I move through the town and outsides and insides become interchangeable.

In some part of my dream, I go into a building next to a parking lot, go through the whole building to upper floors, get to the end of a corridor and am faced with a small exit next to a small office that is the size of a crane operator’s cab.  The occupant of the room explains to me that the only out is to take an exit which is a combination of fire escape ladder and climbing rope.  Why I don’t just retrace my steps is beyond me.  When I complete the exit, I am outside once again in the middle of the parking lot even though the building would clearly be at the edge of the parking lot.

No wonder that I’m still tired in the morning.  I’m overworked trying to figure the dream out.

Please tell me that you dream about car troubles and faulty machinery.