Susannah’s 2017-2018 Fall, Winter Reading List

I’ve done a lot of reading these hot, summer months, my new passion being…


Who knew Agatha Christie, with a shot of America’s Most Wanted, bubbled through my bloodstream.  I should have been tipped off by my O.J. leanings, clearly, in denial…


Speaking of The Juice, who walked away from his double-murder rap in 1995 like a thief, or murderer, into the night…

In Contempt, by Christopher Darden (with Jess Walter) 1996, one of the chief prosecuters in The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson.  From beginning to end you know, O.J. killed his wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman while our legal system rolled over, blinded by race, seduced by celebrity. Darden’s take is stirring, since the black community shunned him for turning against his own when he was merely, doing his job.

Always interested in both sides….

The Search For Justice, Robert L. Shapiro with Larkin Warren 1996, a member of what became known as, O.J.’s Dream Team, who successfully, and somewhat magically, got him off.  A wonderful chaser to Darden’s memoir lacking the emotion, but still compelling.  Shapiro, always the gentleman, leaves out how much he wanted to kill fellow dream teamer, Johnny Cochran, with that…if it don’t fit, you gotta acquit, darn glove business.

Since O.J.’s saga was coined, The Trial of a The Century, The Crime of the Century, about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, is a quaint segue. 

Cemetery John…Robert Zorn 2012, takes you back to 1932, uncovering who may have really kidnapped Little Lindy from his nursery window, after allegedly executing the wrong guy.  Imagine O.J.’s trial 60 years earlier since, it too, was as if the circus came to town, just Jersey instead of California.

Never Enough…Joe McGinnis 2012.  Nancy Kissel, 39 years-old, with 3 kids, married to a rich, investment banker at Merrill Lynch, living in Tokyo, decides to kill her husband to be with her blue-collar TV repairman, riding into the sunset with the insurance money, saying it was in self-defense.  It’s as though O.J. had a sista.

Who knew, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, was really just a Milton Bradley game.

After Etan, Lisa R. Cohen 2009.  The sad, bizarre tale of 6 year-old, Etan Patz, when on May 25, 1972, disappeared on his way to his school bus in downtown Manhattan, changing the laws for tracking down missing children forever.  Your heart will ache for Julie and Stanley Patz, still living at their same loft, as if still waiting for Etan, though declared legally dead in 2001, to come back home.

Finding Chandra…Scott Higman and Sara Horwitz 2010, about the disappearance of 24 year-old, Chandra Levy, an American Intern at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington D.C., whose skeletal remains were found a year later, in Rock Creek Park.  Reads like a Dominick Dunne novel, especially when you learn she was having a wild affair with married, California Congressman, Gary Condit, 29 years her senior.  The book should have been called, Whodunit on the Senate Floor.

Speaking of our favorite sleuth.

Money, Murder and Dominick Dunne…a Life in Several Acts, by Robert Hoflu 2017, is a page-turner suggesting Dunne, who died in 2009, had more lives than an alley cat.  Hofler, the little DICKens, decides to air Dunne’s dirty laundry as if Nick, as he was known, lived in a trailer park rather than a rustic home in Connecticut.  The murder of his only daughter, alleged star-fucking, along with rumored, random pick-ups of saucy, young men, will keep you engrossed, however, it doesn’t matter what Nick hid in his closet, he was still, one helluva writer.

Have you had enough thrills and chills?  Oh, come on, how bout just one more?

New York Notorious, Paul Schwartzman and Rob Polner, 1992.  The Reader’s Digest of crime, a collection of short, pithy essays on every murder in New York’s history, from ‘Crazy Joe’ Gallo getting whacked while eating scungilli in Little Italy, to 123 women dying in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Greenwich Village, cruising uptown to The Chelsea Hotel where Sid Vicious, of the Sex Pistols, stabbed Mrs.Vicious, to death.  Love their brevity, a refreshing change, since it made me feel, kinda like, Damon Runyon, in a twinset.

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America, David Von Drehle, 2003.  One book leads to another, I always say, so reading how, on March 25, 1911, as garment workers prepared to leave for the day, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, consuming the building’s upper three floors, killing 146 people, mostly young women, many jumping to their deaths.  If only those cobblestones on Washington Place, now a National Historic Landmark, could talk, what a tale they could tell.

Alright, alright, I’ll lighten up a bit.

Never The Less, Alec Baldwin, 2017.  Too much?  It’s actually good in spots, like his early acting days, and childhood in Massapequa.  Of course, when he starts being pompous Alec, the book takes a nosedive, his ego, the size of Wyoming, grabbing the wheel.

Mistakes We’ve Made; Some in French, Fiona Lewis, 2017.  Now she knows how to pen a memoir…a 60s actress turned screenwriter, married to a prominent producer with lavish lore under her belt, such as being invited to spend what turned out to be, Sharon Tate’s last night, cancelling at the last minute.  Candor mewls on each page, coated in heartfelt humility.  Are you listening Alec?

Seabiscuit, Laura Hildenbrand, 2011.  It was even better the second time, and boy, can this lady write.  A tale of three, tragic people saved by their mutual humanity and love of one, noble horse.  I wept, I cheered and may even have whinnied, as The Biscuit came barrelin round the stretch.

The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky, 2006.  Did you know New York, instead of the Big Apple, could have easily been called, the Big Oyster, since, up till the early 1900s, so many nested in our harbor, even the poorest soul could afford them?  Wow, considering now, they could go for 6 bucks a piece, you can’t help but be in awe, and think of the pearls that may have come as a side dish.

House of Outrageous Fortune, Michael Gross…15 Central Park West, the World’s Most Powerful Address, 2014.  All I know, ten pages in, I changed into my best dress and pumps being in the printed presence of such wealth and privilege.  Gross, a topnotch writer…a cross between Sherlock Holmes, Somerset Maugham and a Navy Seal, fiercely reports what life is like behind all those dollar signs, in this case, by the square foot.  A fascinating read.

Hallelujah Anyway, Anne Lamott, 2017.  We all need a little Annie, that queen of candor, and her tender, delightful two cents…essays on mercy and forgiveness that prod open one’s heart, not to mention consciousness, causing you to cleanup those spiritual closets.

Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott, 1994.  When her young brother sat overwhelmed at the family kitchen table, having to write a school assignment on birds, he said to their father, “Dad, how can I do this by tomorrow?” And he said, “Bird by bird buddy…bird by bird.”  What I refer to as, the Writer’s Bible.

Unless, Carol Shields, 2002.  Not much of a novel reader, this 200 page stunner, a birthday gift, about a writer and her family, had me by the short hair.  There’s nothing like purely penned prose to breathe new life into one’s own.  As I’ve heard it said…we writers, aspire to inspire, and Shields leads the pack.

Crackpot, John Waters, 1986.  An acquired taste, I’ll admit, but like tuna tartare or Tab, once you like it, that’s all he wrote.  Waters, the consummate nut, cheerfully spilling his guts without passing go, makes you laugh while hiding the book in the sports page.  He gets A for candor, and another, for shock…oh that Johnny.

Conversations With Capote, Lawrence Grobel, 1985.  Truman’s last interview reading like a brush fire, filled with brilliance and the casual evil he was so famous for. Sad in spots, since alcohol and drugs have taken their toll, but you get an idea of the addicted, tormented artist wielding his wit like a switchblade.

Hell No, Tom Hayden, 2017.  His last say, since he died at 76 in October, 2016, one of the leaders of the Chicago Seven…his heartfelt feelings on Vietnam, and why those who protested must be honored, remembered and appreciated.  Alas, a wonderful way to take flight.

The American Spirit, David McCullough, 2017.  The John Lennon of historians who never fails to educate and captivate…a collection of his speeches many given at colleges where he tells the graduates, how vital it is to read.  Amen, Mr. MCullough…Amen.

The Year of Voting Dangerously, Maureen Down 2016.  Esteemed columnist for the New York Times, a selection of smart, irreverent essays on Trump and Hillary that will have you laughing, despite Tweets, secret emails and the sad fact our country is presently mired in such deep shit.

JFK’s Last 100 Days, Thurston Clarke, 2013.  It’s so interesting to me what came before that fateful day in Dallas…the plans he had, how he felt about things.  Clarke, who penned my favorite Bobby book, The Last Campaign, brings you back to the fall of 1963, before our country changed forever.

Nemesis, Peter Evans, 2009.  The hatred between Aristotle Onassis and Robert Kennedy flies off the page as they fight over Jackie, Bobby so against their impending marriage, Evans claiming, Ari chipped in to have Bobby, pushed out of the way, permanently.  Is it true?  Read it, then you tell me.

I Heard You Paint Houses; Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheehan & The Inside Story of The Mafia, The Teamsters, & The Last Days of Jimmy Hoffa, Charles Brandt, 2004.  How’s that for a title?  James Hoffa, notorious president of the Teamsters Union before Bobby, in 1967, put him jail, pardoned by Nixon in 1971, disappeared on July 30, 1975, never to be seen again.  28 years later, his best pal, Frank Sheehan, an eternal suspect, gives Mr. Brandt a deathbed confession that had me and my pal Ed on the edge of our sofas.  It’s the Godfather with the Sopranos, along with Goodfellas, On the Waterfront.  No wonder they’re making a film as we speak, with Pacino as Hoffa, and Di Niro, The Irishman.

The Revolution of Robert Kennedy, John Bohrer, 2017.  Just when you think you know everything, more lore is revealed.  Who knew, after his brother’s death, RFK wanted in the worst way to be LBJ’s Vice-President, despite the no love between them, Johnson just stringing him along until he finally resigns as Attorney General to run for the Senate.

 The Library Lion, Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes, 2009.  A swift, sweet read for all ages, with illustrations that will make you…well, roar.  I warn you though, you’ll want a big, old lion, of your very own, to read and rest your head on.  And why shouldn’t you have one?

Here kitty, kitty.




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Friends of mine invited me to Sagamore Hill to visit Teddy, as in Roosevelt, but alas, declined, due to my recent health issue.  But boy, if there was ever a time I need to talk to him, it’s now.

This North Korea business has me very nervous.  I truly don’t think our dear president, who should have his phone confiscated, should be playing, Whose Dick is Bigger, with Kim Jong,  since it’s probably a sore spot to begin with, considering he looks 12.

I don’t want to criticize our esteemed (in theory) president, but…WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH HIM?



You don’t have to be a Harvard grad to get it.  Did we learn nothing from the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis?  What’s it going to take…exhuming Teddy?  All I know is, a dead TR at the moment, would make me feel a whole lot safer, than a Tweeting Donald Trump.

But that’s just me.


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Zeke and Al

Al is a mutt, and Zeke, a five year-old boy, with autism.  Think Timmy and Lassie, just a tad imperfect.

Zeke’s mom has her hands full, which is why, when I see Al, tied to the no-longer-in-use phone booth in front of Starbucks, never lecture her, instead, sort of hang around Al making sure nothing happens to him.

About 6 months ago, after seeing me pet their dog for 15 minutes, Zeke, plastered to the window like ET, both came out, me kindly suggesting, why not make Al a wellness dog.

That would mean, he can go anywhere…restaurants, planes, you name it, as long as he had his credentials.

She looked stupefied, and guess I would too, if I had a son bouncing off the walls making Rainman look presidential (now there’s a thought). 

After that, I didn’t see them for a while, but guess what?

Today, when they ALL came into Starbucks, Al had on his uniform, which is a special harness that says…On Duty…Service Dog.

Do to my own circumstances, my emotions are so close to the surface, that when Mom whispered, thank you to me, had to run out the back door, so they wouldn’t see me cry.



Google Images

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The Barista and the Paperboy

Love is in bloom, and at 5 a.m. no less.

I’ve been watching it unfold for months now, like an exotic plant acclimating to a hotter climate.

Charlotte, I’ll call her, is overweight, but so, so pretty, reminding me of a milkmaid who may just drink a little too much milk.  She smiles the way we wish the whole world would at that early hour, always happy to see you, but not quite as happy as she is to see, Jerry, I’ll call him.

An aspiring rapper who sits in Starbucks awaiting his paper delivery buried in his phone. pretending not to see Charlotte looking at him, the way she hides her knowledge of the sly looks he gives her.

I miss nothing, and who would want to miss something oh, so sweet.

I’ve seen them later on in the day when she’s on her break, huddled at his little spot looking right out of a Damon Runyon story, a cap pulled over his eyes…his New York Post apron fastened neatly.  She’s all aglow, hanging on to every word he utters, as they smoke.

Makes me think of the film, Now Voyager, when Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes, one for him, one for Bette Davis…who says, “Oh Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon.  We have the Stars.”   

Okay, in our version it’s Starbucks, but what do you want 75 years later.



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Going Bananas

I’ve mentioned not feeling well lately, a condition that’s humbled me more than I can say.

The expression, add insult to injury, really hits home, because you kinda find out who your true friends are when you need them the most.

I’m not one to readily ask for help.  I’m like the guy at the ER (see essay, Norma of Arc), who felt asking for assistance would shame him in some way.

But as life tosses you her crazy curves, there comes a time you just need it, plain and simple.

The person closest to me, when I called fearfully in tears, emailed…I’m in a meeting.

Perhaps I’ve seen one too many bad sitcoms, but that meeting line, never rings true.  It’s more like, I can’t be bothered right now.

Okay, got over that.  Then I asked a neighbor if she’d pick something up for me, and she said…I’m really busy, maybe in a coup’la days.

I could have been dead in a coup’la days.

After weeping like the Little Match girl, in tights, I just picked myself up and took care of business, even though, I was supposed to have stayed in bed.

Why didn’t I have whatever delivered?  I had misplaced my wallet, another essay.

This brings me to the 24 hour fruit man stationed on my corner.

A year or so ago, one morning in Starbucks he didn’t have enough money, not realizing how pricy their coffee is, embarrassed coming up short.  Right behind him, watching, I discreetly told Julie the barista that I’d treat him, motioning for him to take back his change, scattered across the counter.

He thanked me and that was that.  I’ve seen him dozens of times since then, as I buy berries and the occasional avocado never alluding to even a passing acquaintance.

This morning, limping like Chester in Gunsmoke, I go buy bananas, to offset the medicine I’m on.

When I hand him money, he says, “These Chiquitas are on me.”

Needless to say, I burst into tears, because if there was ever a time I needed a random act of kindness, it was right then.

Made me think of something writer, Anne Lamott, said, after seeing it over a picture of Koko the gorilla at the San Diego Zoo…

Mantra for the American Jungle…Remain calm, and share your bananas.  

Kinda says it all, doesn’t it?


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Norma of Arc

I recently went to the ER.

If you’ve never graced one before, it’s like a three-ring circus, there’s so much going on.

First comes the paperwork as if you’re enrolling in college, with 12 pages requiring signatures, that you know, you should be reading before signing, but d0n’t.

You could be agreeing to donate your organs for all you know, while you’re still alive.

Then, a young man, looking more like a rapper than a technician, comes over with a traveling blood pressure machine to check that and your temperature.

I stupidly say to him, “Do you think I’ll be here for hours?” and without pause says, “Yes,” moving down the line.  The woman next to me makes me feel even stupider by laughing before saying, “Where da ya think yar, the booty pa-la?”

If only.

Okay, so to my surprise, in less than an hour, a young doctor comes over to examine my leg, yes, I’m having gam issues, reassuring me, if I take my antibiotics the size of footballs, I’ll be okay in a few days.

There’s a handsome, muscular Latino man, in his 30s, sitting next to me, I see right away is in pain.

I ask him, if anyone has seen him yet, and he stoically nods, no.

When my knight in aquamarine scrubs returns with my release forms, I pull him aside and say, “Listen, the guy next to me is really hurting.  Can someone see him sooner than later?”

Lancolot says, “Sure, sure, I’ll see to it personally.”

Before leaving, I loiter at the door waiting to see, if indeed this will happen.

After seeing him disappear down the corridor of no return, realize, he meant well, but probably forgot.

When I call it a circus, I’m not kidding.

There’s a man in a wheelchair they rush into the OR because his appendix burst.

A heavy-set woman with a skin issue that makes you move to the other end of the room.

A kid who can’t breathe, plus a good dozen people thinking they’re having heart attacks.

But back to the man who feels it’s a weakness to complain.

I see another doctor I make my same plea to, who looks me up and down like the latest Oldsmobile and says, “Did we take care of you?”

“You did, and I’m very grateful, but this man…

He cuts me off saying, “Who are you, the Norman Rae of the ER?”

(No, I did not make this up)  Though taken aback, I say with great aplomb, “Yes, as a  matter of fact, I am.”

Not expecting this, he laughs and says, “Okay, where is he now?”

I take his arm, like Scarlett in Gone With the Wind, to make sure he really takes care of my man, who has no idea, Norma of Arc, is in the house.



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Four-legged Emissaries

I haven’t been feeling too well lately, but have still managed to walk a bit in the morning sunshine, knowing, how healing it can be.

I’m delighted with the team of dogs, sidling up to me, as if they know, I’m not at the top of my game.

This morning, a beagle, bullmastiff and a pitt-mix, all came to my aid, like candy-stripers, just with tails, having never made their acquaintance before.

It’s so interesting how animals just instinctively know, when you need a little care.

The beagle got yelled at, refusing to leave me.  His owner, shaking her tousled gray head said, “Malcom is the oddest dog I’ve ever had, since as a rule, he’s so obedient.  But every once in a while…

I winked at Malcolm whispering, “She doesn’t realize you’re on duty,” giving me one more good nuzzle before heeling, as it were.

Leona the Pitt’s father was so busy texting, he didn’t even notice he was minus a dog.  It was I who brought her back, frisbee and all, after tossing it a few times.

Have you ever noticed how dogs smile? Leona could easily do a Pepsodent ad.  Maybe I should introduce her to my print agent.

As for Monkey-face, the mastiff, who was clearly raised right since his owner came over with him and said, “You look as if you need a pal today.”

So Becky and Monkey-face, sweetly, escorted me from the park, Becky sharing her bag of walnuts.

It made me think of that Ram Das quote…that when all is said and done, we’re just all walking each other home.   



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A Little Diplomacy

It’s been, the First Day of School week, on the upper east side.  Kids of all ages, with parents, grandparents, nannies in tow, dressed like tiny cadets…boys in blue blazers and miniature knackis, girls wearing jumpers, tights and brand new Mary Janes, armed with backpacks filled with spanking new school supplies.

You can almost smell the sharpened pencils, along with fresh polish on all those pint-sized penny loafers.

How exciting it all seems, except for one.

A little girl, kindergarten age, when ordered by her mother to stand still and smile for posterity, refuses. “NO”, she screams. “NO NO NO NO.”

Well Mom, in her snazzy suit, clearly off somewhere after her daughter’s academic debut, isn’t taking, NO, for an answer.

So sipping my 8th of coffee, on the corner of Park and 87th, I watch the all-time battle of wills.

Since NO, at the top of her lungs, isn’t working, Miss Camera Shy, starts to cry.  Mom doesn’t care, yelling, “I’m telling Daddy, what a bad girl you are, and on your first day no less.”


The kid, one couldn’t help but to admire, refuses to be bullied, now on the sidewalk, legs splayed, screaming three octaves higher.

Atta girl.  That’ll teach her.  When a girl’s not ready for her close-up, that should be that, after all.

An Asian mother with her daughter, the same age, is walking by.  Her child whispers something before breaking away, now crouching next to the girl having the meltdown.  I have no idea what’s discussed, but…the little lady gets up, taking her new pal’s tiny hand, the little diplomat that she is, before continuing on their way, the two mothers following.

There’s no more talk of picture taking, at least for the moment, but what I notice is, neither woman speaks to the other.

Think Gandhi verses Mussolini, in pumps.

As for me?  After spilling coffee all down my Monticello T-shirt, I guess from all the excitement, cheerfully go home to write.





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September 11, 2017

I was asked, why do I insist on celebrating this day.

First of all, celebrating is certainly, not the right word.  One doesn’t celebrate the saddest day New York City has ever had.

But yes, we remember.

I’ve been thinking of Hurricane Harvey, and now Irma, the photos of people hugging their children and animals, sopping wet on the floor of a church.

Why Texas, why Florida, when New York has had the nicest weather, me running around in a little cotton dress, a breeze blowing through my hair.

Victims at random, like on September 11th, 2001 when so many died, just by showing up for work.

A friend, if he hadn’t moved from Florida two weeks ago, would have been smack in the middle of Irma’s path.

My pal Joe, interviewed at Cantor Fitzgerald, deciding not to take the job.  They lost practically everyone on 9/11.

So yes, I remember the random, because like Joe, wasn’t one of them, but rather a witness to their fate.

This is why, on this day, I sit in a church and pray for them.

To quote the late Washington Post writer Mary McGrory, “Write short sentences in the presence of great grief.”

Even if it’s 16 years later.

Does that answer the question?


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Did You Know?

The expression…your name is mud, some say, came from Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was convicted and jailed in 1865, for setting John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg, after he shot and killed Abraham Lincoln.  Though pardoned by President Andrew Johnson, released from prison in 1869, his descendent, newsman Roger Mudd, evidently still takes offense.  Oh Rog, lighten the fuck up, will ya?

Speaking of Abe, did you know, it’s a 50 dollar fine for climbing onto his lap at the Lincoln Memorial to have a photo taken?


Another Memorial tidbit…  Abe’s fingers on each hand, are making an A and an L, in sign language.

The last man to be executed by firing squad in the U.S. asked for a bulletproof vest as his last request.  Nothing like going out laughing.

Ants never sleep.  My Aunt Tillie never did either, come to think of it.

Alexander Hamilton’s 19 year-old son, Philip, also died in a duel three years before his dad was killed by Thomas Jefferson’s, not too popular after that, Vice-President, Aaron Burr with the same pistol.

Jackie Kennedy had size 10 feet.  

Steven Spielberg in 2002, finally finished college after a 33 year interval, turning in Schlinder’s List as his film assignment.  

Bill Clinton, in his 50s while president, suffered acute hearing loss resulting in hearing aids in both ears.

Speaking of Bill, a pigs orgasm lasts 30 minutes.

Once Charlie Chaplin, secretly, entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest, and came in third. 

When actress Angie Dickenson   was asked, what it was like to sleep with JFK, she said, it was the most exciting 5 minutes of her life.  

How bout, FDR refusing to let Eleanor install the new electric Otis Elevator at Springwood, their family home in Hyde Park, because he was so afraid of fire. He knew, if worse came to worst, he could lower himself down the old shaft by shimmying down the cables.  After he died, Mrs. R. finally got her Otis.

When a bee climaxes, his testicles explode, then he dies.  But wow, what a way to go.

The only reason President Ulysses S. Grant was buried in New York, was because, we were the only ones who said his wife, Julia, could be buried alongside him, unlike Arlington and West Point, that both said…NO.

Fuck that, said Mrs. Grant.

After the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, rumor had it, it wasn’t structurally sound, so that showoff of showmen, P.T. Barnum, walked 21 of his elephants from the Brooklyn side to Manhattan, proving it was indeed safe.  Jumbo, his star elephant, in the lead was trained, when hearing applause to wag his ears, apparently wagging, all the way across.

Daniel Sickles, a northern union general in the American Civil War, later losing a leg at Gettsyburg, in 1859, shot and killed Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key who wrote the Star Spangled Banner, in Washington’s Lafayette Park, for having an affair with his wife.

Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln’s future Secretary of War, defended him, getting him off on a Temporary Insanity Plea, the very first in U.S History.

 Penguins will present their beloved with a pebble, as a way of proposing.  How cheap is that.  Give me a lion, with an expense account, any old day.

Teddy Roosevelt’s horse, Little Texas, he famously rode up San Juan Hill, is buried in the pet cemetery at his home, Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, Long Island, now a Presidential Landmark charging 10 bucks for a house tour.

Bully, as TR would say.    

So much to learn, so much to know.





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