Feeds:
Posts
Comments

On day, I took a long uncomfortable plane ride to Bangkok. As I was getting in my seat and checking things one last time, I realized that I had either lost or left at home the small bag holding my tooth-brush, shaving equipment and all my medicines. While trying to convince myself that I was not senile, terminally stupid or going to die a horrible death during on the flight, I spent the next twenty-seven hours, worrying, sleeping fitfully, eating far too much airplane food to be healthy and watching movies,

One of the movies was John Turturro’s wonderfully touching and comic Fading Gigolo starring Woody Allen as Murray an aging owner of a failed bookshop turned part-time pimp who is living with a black woman with four children one of whom has head lice. Murray persuades Fioravante (Turturro), a flower store employee, to service his beautiful, wealthy and married dermatologist and other lonely middle-aged women. The movie’s central story is a a semi-sweet but ill-fated and unconsummated love affair between the gigolo and the widow of the Rabbi of a highly orthodox community in Brooklyn beloved by a shomrin (look it up) named Devi.

I liked the movie since it reminded me of my singularly unsuccessful attempt, in Rome many years ago, to experience life as a gigolo. My only so-called success in that doomed effort was due to the sympathy of an exceptionally kind woman named Mona. I think I may write a short story or a novella based on the escapade.

zev72dan_medium

MONA

Having lost my bag containing my medicines as I mentioned, the next day during one of my brief periods of fretful wakefulness, I realized that it would be several days before I could reach my Doctor, get the names of my medicines, and buy them at a local pharmacy. This fact confirmed my belief that my imminent death was highly likely. So, in my quasi-somnolent state, I contemplated what a good death in Bangkok would be for me. In no particular order:

Lying on a massage table, my face in the hole drool dripping from the corner of my mouth. The masseuse has just finished massaging my feet and lower legs and is spreading oil on the inside of my thighs.

Swimming in the health club’s outdoor pool, I have just taken a breath, and glimpse, floating on the water, the multi-colored fabrics of the indian woman who had entered the pool, as they do, fully clothed. As I dip my head under the water and exhale, silver bubbles flow behind me. Through the crystalline turquoise water I make out the sun dappled bottom of the pool.

Walking near my apartment, the sun shining, I fall through the sidewalk into the foetid canal and sewer that runs beneath BKK’s streets and as the slimy grey green ooze reaches my neck, I happily expire.

At the supermarket in the basement of Robinson’s I lean over a display of freshly opened Durian. The King of Fruit’s aroma reminds me of unwashed 1000 year old feet. I take a deep breath.

In Terminal 21 on the fifth floor, I sit at a booth at Baskin and Robins’. What passes for a root beer float in the area now that A&W can no longer be found, stands on the table in front of me. I press the vanilla ice cream deep into the soda and watch the foam fill the glass almost to overflowing. I suck deeply on the straw to see if I can forestall the foam from sliding down the glass and on to the table and topple over on to the floor..

I am sitting in my room watching a Thai soap opera on the television. the Little Masseuse sits on the floor eating fish heads and munching on some foul-smelling Thai vegetable. The beautiful but dense ingénue in love with the handsome, quite stupid but rich leading man had just come from being physically and verbally abused by her rival for affection of said stupid, handsome but rich young man, now confronts a production value deficient ghost and stands mostly mute and unmoving through two sets of commercials. I expire, probably more from terminal boredom than the lack of medicines. My head leans gently against the wall where I remain until a little after midnight when the late night slapstick comedy shows end and LM shuts off the TV and realizes I had not collapsed on to my rock-hard bed and covered my head with a pillow as I usually do.

At a sidewalk restaurant I sit and observe the hazy street life in front of me while I chew on the first bite of my lunch. Two ladies of the evening on their way for an early start pass by, one dressed in a tight tan mini-dress that barely reaches the tops of her thighs and the other in a similar red dress. I topple forward and my face plunges into my one dollar plate of pork fried rice.

Standing on the Sukhumvit Road overpass, by Soi Nana observing the stopped traffic below I glance to my right and spy the King of Beggars sitting at his usual post on the sidewalk his leg, amputated above the knee, extended before him. I call him the King of Beggars because he always sits at the prime street corner in the area, is well dressed with a north African style skull-cap on his head and, unlike the other beggars, he always eats his lunch at one of the regular restaurants near by. His face is dark tan, his hair white. Above his well-trimmed white mustache his eyes grey as storm clouds meet mine. I topple over the railing  and fall into the rush-hour traffic on Sukhumvit Road.

Of course, I could always be run over by a speeding motorbike taxi, but that is just as likely if I am fully medicated as not, perhaps even more so.

Note: for those who have read this far and found the above entertaining the rest of this note is not for you. For those concerned about the state of my health (mental or physical) please know most of the missing medicines are various prescribed vitamins. Pretty much the only concern was with the loss of my doctor prescribed happy pills. True, sudden termination of the pills can produce withdrawal symptoms that are pretty awful. Also, should I decide to replace the drug with something like opium, LSD or Oxycontin it could be more than simply life threatening. Nevertheless, the withdrawal, jet-lag and exhaustion did make me feel as though death would be a welcome improvement.

I eventually manage to score the appropriate drugs from the pharmacy in Foodland. Everything else is the lies I tell myself. Lying to oneself is necessary for survival. If not, how would anyone make it through puberty? The ability to lie to oneself is natures compensation to those she has cursed with consciousness.

Samuel Beckett’s writings explored the depths of solipsism. That is, talking to yourself to know you’re alive. So what is it all about? Well Alfie, it is not about the Grey Gay Dane’s quandary. It’s about Stayin’ Alive. Even if you can no longer dance, as long as you keep hearing the music you are still living.
*************************************

I talk to myself in my mind all the time. I guess we all do. I suspect some people have debates with themselves. I never debate. I only make speeches. I picture myself speaking to a small grey homunculus with large glistening eyes sitting silently in a huge chair in front of me as I go on and on. Me talking and it listening. It frightens me. I believe one day it will jump out of that chair, kick me in the balls and tell me to shut up.

“ANVIKSHAKI, the triple Védas (Trayi), Várta (agriculture, cattle-breeding and trade), and Danda-Niti (science of government) are what are called the four sciences.

Anvikshaki comprises the Philosophy of Sankhya (Metaphysics), Yoga (Concentration), and Lokayata (Logic and debate).

Righteous and unrighteous acts (Dharmadharmau) are learnt from the triple Vedas; wealth and non-wealth from Varta; the expedient and the inexpedient (Nayanayau), as well as potency and impotency (Balabale) from the science of government.”
Kautilya, Arthashastra

In the West, Pythagorus and Plato developed a somewhat comparable system of education, Trivium (Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric) and Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy) that was generally adopted during Medieval period. Kautilya’s system appears more practical, as it includes applied economics and politics. (Applied economics – get rich. Applied politics – kill your enemy.)

I was feeling a bit out of sorts so I thought a visit to the Man Cave before picking up HRM at school would help. The Man Cave looks like a large dark living room; sofas, easy chairs and ottomans. There were five or six men there lounging about, smoking cigars and watching Sons of Anarchy on the big screen TV.

I had never seen the show before. It seems to be about the trials and tribulations of being a biker gang member. The actors and actresses stared solemnly at each other and spoke in tones so low that I could hardly make out what they were talking about but assumed it was very important to them because they never smiled.

No one seemed to work much. Now, I know dealing dope is not as vigorous work as digging ditches, but usually one has to do something – like meeting customers and suppliers, collecting money, distributing profits and the like – but these people did not do any of that. Maybe because they were not particularly good at anything but auditions. They seemed to fight a lot too. Maybe they were good at that also.

Anyway the visit did not cheer me up much. I have been feeling irritable and dissatisfied recently and unable to either understand or meet HRM’s needs. We argue every day and it makes me sad.

I look forward to my upcoming trip, at least the Sicilian part of it. I have not seen my Sicilian relatives and friends in about 35 years. I will try to take the Camilleri – Montalbano tour. There are two. One through Agrigento (Montelusa) and Porto Empedocle (Vigata) where the books are set and one in Ragusa where the TV series was shot. In Porto Empedocle there is a statue of Montalbano.

Montalbano-1b

When I lived in Canicatti, Sicily for a few months about 40 years ago, my favorite sea food restaurant was in Porto Empedocle.
***************************************************

Here in The Golden Hills of suburban comfort, swimming season slowly bleeds into cross-country season. The hummingbirds have begun their long trek to the shores of the Caribbean. I sit here every morning in the Bella Bru Cafe watching through the window as flocks of young mothers, having dropped off their children at school, descend upon the outdoor tables that surround the fountain.

In Italy and even at times Thailand when sitting like this in some café, I usually have the feeling that everyone is talking to me even when they are not. Here each group seems encased in a bubble from which a low rumble of conversation escapes. Maybe it is not like that at all and I am simply eager to leave on my trip. On the other hand, perhaps it is just the increasing attacks of agita as I grow older that makes me more gloomy.
*****************************************************

Today at breakfast a woman walked into the cafe with her pre-school daughter in tow. She was wearing an American flag twisted around her neck as a scarf — I assume in remembrance of the twin towers attack. I recall 40 years or so ago displaying the flag like that would be considered an insult to it. It is interesting how malleable emotionally charged symbols can really be. Then again fashion rules all.

In a modern upper middle class subdivision community like El Dorado Hills it is difficult to observe, like Thoreau did, the macrocosm in the microcosm, the larger in the smaller, the world in a blade of grass, society in the clash of competing ant colonies. The reason for this is that the novelty and chaos of the microcosm is determinately eliminated in a place like El Dorado Hills and replaced by orderly organization of the environment and the society living in it. It should be pointed out, I am speaking of organization and not regimentation. In fact, regimentation would be antithetical to the appearance of freedom the orderliness intends to convey. Alas, freedom, if one can use that generalization, reflects more in our adaptation and reaction to the vagaries of our environment. If our environment is too organized and orderly we risk being absorbed into it like a fly stuck in wet paint.

For this reason I often find few observations to write about here. How many ways can one discuss an organization or anything that de-emphasizes change.? The same trees appear in orderly rows along the parkway medians, distinctions among them blurred. Change seems slowed and conflict submerged in silence. I expect even the ant colonies have given up their competition over food.

A relief from this organized orderliness lies in the appearance here and there of feral animals who have adapted to this environment, wild turkeys, coyotes, snakes and the like. They romp fat and unwary across the landscape as long as the gates to the subdivision remain closed and the humans within disinclined or prohibited from killing and eating them.

I welcome the odd and unknown clank and wheeze in the car requiring me to bring it in to the repair shop, as I did a few days ago, and, until the car is repaired, spend my day in and around Sacramento’s Capitol Park among my beloved trees.

Now, my friend Yeates is quite fond of birds and very knowledgable about them. I suspect that from a smear of birdshit on the sidewalk, he could deduce the latin name of the avian shitter; the color of its feathers; where it was going and whether it was reading the NY times when it shat.

I, on the other hand, love trees. True, I do not know many of their species names unless I read them on a plaque affixed to the trunk, but I know I can hug them when I want to and which ones give good shade to old men sitting on benches in the park. I can tell the differences between those with rough barks and those with smooth. I know which ones would be good for climbing if I were 60 years younger. And, I can imagine grasping the highest branches and looking out over the countryside while wafting back and forth in the breeze unafraid of falling, confident that the branches will catch me in their arms before I hit the ground cradling me like a mother embracing her child.

Anyway, eventually I left the park and the trees for lunch with Stevie and Norbert where we played “ain’t it awful” while we ate.

Molly’s Poem:

A New Years Poem
I have a desperate attraction to new beginnings
Sometimes the numbers on the calendar look so beautiful
I think
Today’s the day I drink less and run more
No smoking, all veggies
Honesty, integrity, self-reliance, perseverance, creativity,
No fear, live large,
Dream big, be bright, believe in love and believe in yourself!
And I do
Today is an auspicious day
Today is my new beginning
Sometimes I just feel it, on a Tuesday
Today’s the day I keep doing yoga
I don’t back down when I’m right
I go to bed at a reasonable hour, pay my bills on time
Clean out the toe jam, learn all those languages
All the little steps start here and I’m climbing
I can feel it now, right now, and I won’t look back
This is it!
Today is an auspicious day
Today is my new beginning
Then I find myself making the same mistakes
Who manufactured the grooves in my record?
How would it feel if the dj scratched me across the turntable?
The dissonant rip, like a zipper coming undone
A cut away from the 4/4 time that I was trying so hard to hold
But this is why the crowd came to the club
To hear the sound of the universe tearing into a new song
The maligned has become music
We throw our hands up and we dance
I am scratched across the turntable and the crowd is screaming
We are scratched and screaming
And the dj takes it back, and the song plays
All of it is beautiful
Every moment new
Every moment auspicious
Every moment beginning
Molly Trad

Sunday was blissfully warm and sunny. In the early afternoon I went into the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco to have coffee with my friend Peter Grenell.

For those of you not familiar with the City of San Francisco, it is a city of distinct neighborhoods. Noe Valley is one of the few that has gentrified gracefully. In the forty or so years that I have observed the area’s evolution, escalating home prices forced a few people to move out by. Most happily sold into the rising real estate market and moved to Danville or some place like that. Chain stores, although some exist along its main commercial street, have not overwhelmed the area.

The area began as a working family community of attached wood sided single family Victorian homes and duplexes. In the mid-sixties, the working class families, as was fashionable at the time, moved to the suburbs in a mistaken belief they would finding a better life and schools there. Artists seeking lower cost accommodations moved in, followed almost immediately by the hippies. The neighborhood transformed into a hip, funky, artsy scene.

They were in turn followed in the early seventies by young marrieds, often civil service employees, looking for a hip locale and attracted by the relatively inexpensive property prices at the time.

After a brief flirtation with the City’s lesbian community that was searching for a Castro District they could call their own, the dot-com inundation broke upon the neighborhood as the new young millionaires saw the area as fitting their ideal lifestyle, hip and expensive. Fortunately for the neighborhood that tide rapidly crested and the area retained its now somewhat upscale but still mixed appearance and atmosphere.

Some working class families still live there along rapidly aging artists and hippies, a few pioneer lesbian couples and the remnants of the now significantly less wealthy dot comers. The young bureaucrats, most of whom have made it into the upper reaches of the bureaucracy remain usually in same houses they purchased 30 years ago.

For about a decade I lived there too, in a 100-year-old Italianate Victorian two unit building. Before I purchased it, the building had served as a well-known crash pad for artists and hippies who had left the East coast in search of California dreaming .

Some of the old shops persist, like Haystack Pizza and Tuggy’s Hardware and Shu Fat’s grocery but others like Herbs Cafe are gone.

I met Peter, a man of about my age, at a coffee shop that had occupied the same spot for many years but was now called Bernie’s’ Cafe. It was owned by a woman named Bernie who had worked there during its previous incarnation and eventually purchased it.

Peter and I sat in the sun on benches in front of the shop, drank our coffee, stared at the parade of neighborhood people strolling by (a number of whom I recognized) and reflected about how lucky it was being old as we were to sit in the sun like we were and not be anxious that there was something we needed to do.

After a few hours, we walked up 24th St. ( the main commercial street) about a block to a bar called Bliss something or other to hear some live jazz.

Most Sundays, Larry Voukovitch, a mainstay of the SF jazz scene for as long as I can remember, performs there. A colleague of mine, Kerry Shapiro, was Larry’s manager when Kerry wasn’t otherwise lawyering.

Larry was appearing that day with his geriatric Croatian quartet. I really do not know it they were Croatian (although they clearly were geriatric and a quartet), but the base player, from whom Peter is receiving lessons in the instrument, was originally from that part of the world. On sax was Peter Yellin another fairly well-known and aging jazz musician.

There were also about 12 to 15 other people about my age there to listen to them. Additionally, two young japanese women from Tokyo in their early 20’s sat there attentively. One was a teacher (music I assume) and the other an aspiring jazz singer here to learn at the feet of the masters. (Peter and I deduced the aged and balding bass player and the willowy japanese jazz singer were an item. We guessed this after observing them walking hand in hand align 24th St. Aren’t we the little gossips now.)

Thank God or the vagaries of chance, that there exists in this world a nation like Japan full of obsessive compulsive personalities willing to travel the world to obsessively immerse themselves the dying western musical performing arts. Should the dark ages descend as some predict, I believe the Japanese will assume the role of medieval monks and keep alive the remnants of western musical culture.

As I listened to them play, I was reminded of New York in the late fifties and sixties when the cool sophisticated New York jazz sounds of musicians like Oscar Peterson could be heard in dives in Greenwich Village and elegant nightclubs like the Embers just off Times Square.( Of course then we, the audience, were usually drunk and stoned. I, however, now listened to Larry and the Gang on nothing stronger than lemonade.)

During that era the centers of music and jazz in the US were New York, Chicago, New Orléans, St Louis and San Francisco, until they were driven out by the sounds of rock and rhythm and blues coming primarily out of Memphis and Detroit.

During the bands second set the Japanese singer (named Miyomi) got up and sang a pretty good version of Gershwin’s Summertime.

Letter, as the sun set behind Twin Peaks and the temperature cooled, I walked the mile or two back to where I was staying. In San Francisco the sun does not simply set, after it passes behind the peak, the City east of the mountain lies in shadow while the sky remains brightly late afternoon for an hour or so.

Even when one is experiencing great sadness life can be wonderful. Don’t miss it.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers

%d bloggers like this: