Mes Frères

I have two brothers. Two older brothers.

Much older brothers, as I like to remind them.

See, I showed up a little late to the party. Guess I wasn’t part of the original family plan. Surprise!

So, my brothers and I didn’t have a lot of time together when I was little; they were practically grown already. I remember going to my oldest brother’s wedding when I was six. By the time they gave me three nieces and a nephew, I was twelve.

My brothers were my mentors when I was little, teaching me important things. Like curse words. Which I then repeated one day to Mom and her guest. Or so I was told.

Father was so proud. 😡

When they left home, they left behind some things for me. Like a small metal box packed full of their old 45’s. (Google it, kids.) Classic songs like “At the Hop”, “Jailhouse Rock” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” I still have ’em, in that same metal box, but I can’t listen to them; I ain’t got no record player anymore!

They also left me some comedy albums, by guys like Bill Cosby, Shelley Berman, Dick Gregory and Brother Dave Gardner. I memorized all their routines, and recited them to anyone who’d listen. (And a few who wouldn’t.) I’ve always loved an audience. My friends and relatives know this.

When my next oldest brother went away to college, he would often write to Mom and Dad at home, and at the end of every letter was a personal note to me. I always looked forward to those.

When I was a teenage piano player, he suggested I check out an artist named Elton John. Boy, did that have an impact! EJ has remained my man all these years. Thanks, bro.

Both my brothers made me laugh a lot when I was a kid. (Still do, in fact.) In my teenage years, I tried to make them laugh, too. I guess it was a way to make them think I was cool enough to hang with them. I didn’t want to be their kid brother; I wanted to be their peer. You know teenagers, they always wanna be grownups.

My next oldest brother has an artistic streak, like me. He wrote poetry, screenplays, a novel. He acted in community theaters. I used to play piano, and even wrote a few songs. I thought we were kindred spirits.

I didn’t connect with my oldest brother like that. I kinda felt he, like Dad, didn’t really get me. Maybe that was all in my head, I don’t know. We relate much better now. I’m proud of him; he gave up some unhealthy habits and is taking better care of himself, now. More so than me, for sure.

I know I’m just firing off random thoughts here; just writing these things as they come into my consciousness, things I hadn’t really thought of in a long time, until just recently.

The three of us got together last week. Twice. It was the first time in quite awhile that the oldest was here from Costa Rica, where he’s lived happily for 13 years now. I really enjoyed being with the two of them.

And as we all get older, I become more acutely aware of our dwindling opportunities to do that.

We are brothers. We may not have been as close as some brothers are due to our age difference, but the bond has always been there.

And I know the time will come when all three of us won’t be here. And I hate that.

So, while we are all here, I want to tell my brothers how much they mean to me.

How much they’ve always meant to me.

And how much I hope we’re all around for a good long time, yet.

Slim, Bubba, I love you. Always have, always will.

Your kid brother, Fat Boy. (AKA Stud)

Costa Ricans Live Longer Than We Do. What’s the Secret?

This is a long one, but since I have a brother living in Costa Rica, I thought he would find this interesting. I did; you might, too. And I think the U.S. could learn a thing or two from this article.


In the United States and elsewhere, public health and medical care are largely separate enterprises. Costa Rica shows the benefits of integrating the two—it spends less than we do on health care and gets better results.Photographs by Fred Ramos for The New Yorker

We’ve starved our public-health sector. The Costa Rica model demonstrates what happens when you put it first.

The cemetery in Atenas, Costa Rica, a small town in the mountains that line the country’s lush Central Valley, contains hundreds of flat white crypt markers laid out in neat rows like mah-jongg tiles, extending in every direction. On a clear afternoon in April, Álvaro Salas Chaves, who was born in Atenas in 1950, guided me through the graves.

“As a child, I witnessed every day two, three, four funerals for kids,” he said. “The cemetery was divided into two. One side for adults, and the other side for…

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How we can help: A message from Bobbi Jo Lewis, Kentucky Commissioner of Rural and Municipal Aid

Teri Carter, a writer in Kentucky, just published this post about what we can do to help those who were stricken by the horrible tornadoes in her state last weekend. Read it, share it, and help if you can. And if you want to help people in other states hit by this disaster, go to for a list of charities providing aid. These folks need help now, and Christmas is a time for giving. Thank you.

Teri Carter's Library

All photos property of Bobbi Jo Lewis.

This morning I spoke at length with Bobbi Jo Lewis, Kentucky Commissioner of Rural and Municipal Aid.

Commissioner Lewis was on the ground all day Sunday with Transportation Secretary Jim Gray, Deputy Secretary Mike Hancock, Chief of Staff Jamie Emmons and other Executive Leadership of KYTC in Mayfield, Bowling Green, and Dawson Springs.

While the pictures and video we have all seen is shocking and heartbreaking, it is so much worse in person and the pictures just don’t convey the whole story. The Main Street in Mayfield (Graves County) has been obliterated. Many residences and businesses were destroyed in Bowling Green (Warren County). Dawson Springs (Hopkins County), like the other counties, has an astounding number of homes lost, families displaced, loved ones lost and loved ones still missing. And, according to KYTC Personnel, Bremen (Muhlenberg County) was also devastated with countless families displaced…

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