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Archive for May, 2018

 

The week began with a series of warm sunny days. Last week, the wind and rain stripped many of the trees of their blossoms. Now, seemingly overnight, leaves wrap the naked boughs in a bright green crepe. (A wrinkled fabric, not a pancake. I am not too good with metaphors.) During the day, deep shadows hug the sidewalks where only last week the sun peeking through spindly branches left the ground cracked in shadows like thin ice beneath a skaters blades. (I’m not so good with similes either.)
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The Anguished Oak in Springtime.

Things moved on day by day pocked now and then by chilling fears of the lengthening shadows of fast approaching night. Thankfully, the weather imparted a feeling of a new beginning — a time for love even for those ancients warming themselves on sunny benches waiting.

Dick was gone to San Diego for most of the week and I watched H slowly drift into adolescent adventures leaving me free to slip away to visit Naida or to sit in the sun and wonder at the power of life to make one lust for happiness every moment even knowing failing is the default setting for us all.

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EDH Students Return to School after Spring Break.

It is Easter Sunday morning. The weather is sunny and warm. Alas, yesterday I did not get what I wanted, so this morning, I pouted feeling like everyone hated me. I sat in my car in the middle of a shopping center parking lot having a discussion with my self:

“I feel all alone.”

“You spend half your life alone. What’s so different about this time?”

“Nobody likes me. No one wants me around.”

“Hmm… how many people would like you around but you do not want to be around them?”

“Maybe you are right. Perhaps, I am overdoing it, But, why do I feel like I’ve got zits on my psyche?”

No answer.

So I went to a movie. Sometimes entertainment can cure most ills — especially those you force on yourself. I saw “Ready Player One.” A few days ago, I saw “Isle of Dogs.” If you want to experience the pinnacle of the animator’s art, these are two movies you should not miss.

El Dorado Hills is no place for introverted, cynical, sarcastic, grumpy old men. Sure, it can be pretty in its artificial well laid out way. But, it’s no place for the introverted and cynical. You have to go out of your way to meet people and if you cannot do happy talk, you soon will find yourself shunned — who likes a sarcastic cynic after all. Happiness here is as manufactured at the landscape.

Me, I’m a city boy. In a big city when you leave your home in the morning, there are people out and about all around you — some snarling and distracted — noise, urban smells — rushing here and about — tension and anxiety. You stumble into someone. He responds, “Hey, watch where you’re going old man.” You counter with something like, “Up yours.” So it goes all day, like the steel shot in a pinball machine rudely bounced around here and there until finally, if you are an introverted, cynical, sarcastic, grumpy old man like me, when you return to your home that evening you can consider the day well lived. Too much happiness is a precarious state, it inevitably leads to anxiety.

By the weekend, I had begun to slip deeper into depression — obviously. Adrian arrived and would leave Monday for Thailand so that he could shlep SWAC back to the US. Bob was to rip out the kitchen this weekend so that the remodelers could work on it next week. HRM had his two best buds staying over doing teenager things. Naida was busy preparing her taxes. Although I was not alone, I felt isolated. I began to plunge into an obsession about the hopeless state of the world. I needed to laugh soon or I feared I would be forced to flee into the bathroom and flush my head down the toilet. So, I got into the car and drove for three hours to San Francisco, dragged Peter out of his house and off to lunch at a Peruvian restaurant where I ate tarted-up scallops and drank some piss-yellow soft drink supposedly native to Peru but bottled In New Jersey.
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Peruvian scallops, cola and I somewhere on 24th St.

Eventually, we ended up drinking coffee while sitting on the Geezer’s Bench outside Bernie’s where we laughed a lot and I felt much better.
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The next morning, I returned to EDH swearing that next week would be better than this one was. Not that this week was all that bad, it’s just that I could not remember any of the good parts. I will try to remember things better next week.

I just looked up from my most recent book, Hearn’s “Scourged,” laughing at something stupid that I had read there. No wonder I can’t write a lick when I spend so much time reading about and enjoying things like the antics of that merry band of Fae deities Morrigan, Manannan, Fand, Brigid, Aenghus Og and a few others as they stumble around a muddy fen. (Not a bog. There is a difference. Fens look better. Fae deities do not stumble around in bogs.)

Few people realize their whole life is an adventure and as some explorers know, if you are traveling through the jungle, you’re going to be stung by mosquitos, may come down with malaria and have to keep on the lookout for tigers or other predators and if you’re lucky you will end the day with a few stories to tell around the campfire.

My dreams during the past week or two suck — short, annoying and unmemorable. Gone are the long fantasies and adventures that follow me through the day like iridescent hummingbirds. Mostly, my current dreams swarm about me like no-see-ums biting me into madness and raising welts on my subconscious. This morning, I dreamt about some small furry animal I was supposed to protect — perhaps it was a rabbit. I failed.

Speaking of rabbits, my Chinese zodiac sign is the rabbit. That always embarrassed me. I would have preferred to be a bear or a hawk or something heroic or coldly rapacious like that. Rabbits signify fecundity. That’s ok but my days of fecundity are long gone. Outside of that, all they seem good for is prey. If “Watership Down” is any authority, they may well have an interesting and complex social life, except for their unfortunate tendency to “Tharn.” That is, when confronted by a predator they tend to freeze up and die of heart failure before being devoured.This may be a good thing. It certainly seems better than waiting for teeth and claws to tear out your heart.

(What would humanity be like if we had that ability? Instead of shooting people or dropping bombs on people for whatever reason, we could instead just hide in dark alleys, jump out and shout “boo” when someone walks by. It would certainly lower the defense budget. Think about the terrorist on the subway. He jumps out of his seat and yells “BOO.” No one hears him because they are all ear-phoned up and staring at their smartphones. The terrorist runs up and down the aisle screaming “boo, boo, boo,” until he either scares himself to death or gives up and goes home, lights a joint, watches late night television and falls asleep. Imagine the second amendment — “A persons right to say, ’boo’ shall not be infringed.” Would a person’s right to bear a megaphone in a crowded subway be protected? Hmm… does a person have a right to bare arms? Do bears have a right to arms? Is it only limited to when they’re in the woods? So many issues, so little time.)

According to the Chinese horoscope, I am an earth rabbit.

“…Earth… Rabbit[s] are very frank and straightforward; however, they also give an impression of rudeness and stubbornness to others….”

“They are very strict with themselves… they always change from one job to another… and always pay special attention to details, being willing to do something trivial but soon getting tired of it.”

“Earth Rabbits actually have an excellent physical quality although they look unhealthy….”

Well, I certainly agree I look unhealthy, change jobs a lot and am obsessed with trivialities.

What got me on to this rabbit thing was during my walk around the lakes this morning a rabbit ran across my path. I have seen a lot of birds of all sizes, turtles (generally matte black) during my walks and assume lizards, snakes, rodents, and moles abound in the bushes but I never expected to see a rabbit. I wonder if it was “frank and straightforward.”

Another week goes by in a blur. Today, Thursday, the day was clear and warm. I walked my full three miles this morning then cleaned my room in preparation for my departure next week.

Family contretemps or why I prefer to travel alone:

When traveling with someone, one of you must assume a passive and agreeable role or the trip will soon become a nightmare. I learned this truism from a distinguished psychiatrist I had gotten to know many years ago when I ran the New York State Mental Information Service for the Bronx, Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland counties. He was distinguished not only for his intellectual attainments but his idiosyncrasies as well. For example, instead of an overcoat, he wore a cloak that he would dramatically swing off his shoulder when he entered a room. He and his family lived in a large 5 or 6 story brownstone just off Riverside Drive on the Upper West Side. One of the floors he converted into a basketball court so he and his young sons could shoot hoops on his days off. Off of his formal dining room, he had a room devoted exclusively to his large collection of native African art, every statue of which featured either enormously exaggerated boobs or elongated penises. He told me he got them so that whenever he had a dinner party he could walk his guests through the room and when they try to avoid staring at the protuberances he could tell them “It’s OK to stare. I’m a boob man myself.”

Anyway, he explained to me that in his long experience in marriage counseling, he found the only marriages that lasted were those in which one party assumed an accommodating role while the other was left to believe he (it was most often, but not always, a he) was in charge — whether or not in fact he was is irrelevant. So it is even in traveling.

Anyway again, about a year ago when I was in Sacile near Venice an American friend who lives there during the summer months, invited me to accompany he and his wife (who was born and raised in Calabria) to join them next summer on a trip through Croatia to Calabria. Sometime previously, I mentioned my wish to drive through Italy from north to south ending in Sicily but that given my age, I would probably need someone to drive me if I were to visit all the places I would want to visit. My granddaughter got very excited and volunteered to learn how to drive and drive me on that trip. A month or so ago, when my friend told me the dates for his time in Italy (July-) I notified the family only to discover that arrangements had already been made for them to travel to Italy in late August and September and that my granddaughter would be traveling in August with others and needed to be in central Italy one day during the last week and would be on the Amalfi Coast during the first week in September, so our trip was limited only to Sicily during the second week. I still tried to arrange my plans in order to accommodate theirs. Alas, it would cost too much for me to hang out somewhere in Italy for over a month, so I explained I was disappointed but perhaps we could try again next year. Since then, I have been bombarded with accusations of disappointing family member and more nefarious things. Thankfully, I finally have learned, after a long and tumultuous life, to ignore emotional outbreaks like these (especially among family members) and to understand the two guiding principles for a happy life:

“It’s always something.”
Roseanne Roseanna Danna.

“Tomorrow is another day.”
Scarlet O’Hara.

On Friday night, I attended a “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” dinner at Campus Commons in Sacramento. Apparently, these themed dinners are held every month there. The dinner featured baseball food (hot dogs and crackerjacks). Everyone was dressed up in baseball-themed costumes (except me and a few others). A moment of silence was held for the volunteer bartender who had worked there for the past 20 years and recently died. I was one of the younger attendees but still had a great time. I met two people who were reputedly retired spies. For whom they worked and what they did, I never found out.

HRM and the Scooter Gang (Now the Scooter/Mountain Bike Gang) took full advantage of Pookie’s Chauffeur Services this weekend to travel from park to park in the area to try out their various moves on the slopes and hills.
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The Scooter Gang at Sunset in the Springtime of Their Lives.

SWAC arrives on Tuesday and in order to avoid an unseemly contretemps, I spent the next few days packing up my things and storing them away. It was a bittersweet time for me. My beloved sister had been diagnosed with stage one cancer, I was moving from my home, separating perhaps forever from HRM, family conflicts swirled about me like gnats and the ravages of age weighed heavily on my thoughts. On the other hand, I have experienced things like these before and probably will again so I know they too shall end one way or another. And love, like springtime, promises a new beginning and hopefully a blazing autumn.

And so, off to Mendocino.

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ADVENTURES IN SEBASTOPOL:

St. Patrick’s Day weekend arrived. On Saturday, I attended a memorial in Sebastopol for Persia Wooley, the author of a fantasy trilogy focused on Guinevere, King Arthur’s wayward wife, as well several other books. The affair was held in the community room of the senior housing project where Persia lived before her death. The housing project had been built on a portion of the Luther Burbank Gardens where the great botanist made most of his discoveries. Having a little time before the event began, we strolled through the nursery enjoying looking at the flowers and examining Burbank’s grafted fruit trees.
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At Luther Burbank Gardens.

As well as being an author of note, Persia was also a well known Bay Area radio personality who for many years interviewed various celebrities on her show including Norman Mailer with whom she was reputed to have had a long love affair. The affair ended after Mailer proposed to buy Persia a house next door to the one in which he lived with his wife and family — I guess so the great author wouldn’t have to travel so far for hookups. Persia refused and ended the relationship. A child of the counter-culture, she loved life, writing, wore diaphanous clothing, enjoyed partying and married often.

The audience, mostly made up of people from my generation, were dressed in their layered clothing. It included relatives, friends and a few residents from the senior housing complex who had gotten to know Persia during her stay there. Persia’s daughter hosted the event and along with several of the guests spoke lovingly about her and took us through the various stages of Persia’s life.

Persia’s son was there also. When he was in his late thirties, he fell in love with and married a 100-year woman who owned a bull breeding ranch near to Sebastopol. Her name was Beatrice but she preferred to be called Bea. She had originally hired him to assist her with the ranch because she was getting too old to ride herd on the bulls. They fell in love and the rest, as they say, is history. After the memorial, we took a ride out to the ranch. We saw their cottage and barns but no bulls.

At the end of the memorial, an elderly woman in long flowing clothing performed what appeared to be an American Indian song and dance. Then, after enjoying the refreshments that were laid out and toasting root beer floats to Persia’s memory, we left.
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Persia Wooley —A Celebration of Life.

That night, we stayed at a Motel 6 in Santa Rosa. It must have been located in the high crime area of the city. A police car cruised the parking lot during the evening, a group of young men decided to hold a barbecue in that same parking lot and in the morning one could almost see, and most certainly could smell the cloud of marijuana floating over the place.

 

MENDOCINO ON MY MIND:

We drove to Mendocino. Naida spread Bill’s ashes onto the Pacific Ocean below the Mendocino Headlands. The next day, the sun came out. The ocean was a lovely shade of slate blue and the early spring wildflowers were in bloom. We walked along the bluffs above the water.
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Later we strolled through the town, browsed the books at the bookstore and ate lunch in a restaurant with a view
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In the evenings we enjoyed my sister’s special meals followed by a glass of Limoncello and talked well into the night with Maryann and George. We also laughed a lot.

On Tuesday morning, I attended a reenactment of an automobile accident as part of a presentation on drunk driving given by George and the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department at the local high school. Except for the few students who were chosen to play the victims of the drunk driver, the rest of the students were not informed of the event.

On a street by the school, the fire department placed automobiles in what looked like a serious accident. The selected students, made up to look like victims (blood and stuff), arrayed themselves on the ground or in the crumpled automobiles. Then everyone left but the students trapped in the cars or injured and lying on the roadway and someone wearing lumberjack boots dressed up as death and carrying a scythe who creeped around the crash site all morning. Along with a few of the other onlookers, I hid in the bushes. The emergency school bell rang and the students exited the building only to see the accident scene below them just as the sound of the sirens could be heard in the distance.

The fire trucks, ambulances, and police vehicles arrived. The first responders got to work extracting the victims from the vehicles (or out from under them) treating them, putting them in ambulances or body bags and hearses that then went screaming off into the distance. It was all very exciting and dramatic. Eventually, having completed their jobs, the first responders left leaving only the remains of the forlorn demolished vehicles and death in his lumberjack boots and scythe. The students trudged back into the school, there to enjoy further lectures on avoiding drinking and driving. Alas, they being teenagers, I am sure it all fell on deaf ears and those that survive their adolescence and decide to remain living there in their little town, I expect will eventually join the MVFD and participate in a similar performance a few years from now.

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BACK IN THE GOLDEN HILLS:

It rained during the long ride back home. It took almost nine hours to drive from Mendocino to EDH.

By Thursday the rains had let up and by Friday the sun was shining and the green hills and white clouds sparkled in the sky.
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The Green Hills of El Dorado.

I hadn’t exercised for quite some time having persuaded myself to accept all the good and sound reasons not to. Alas, the sunshine having stripped me of my last excuse, I went for my walk around the lakes. A carnival had been set up in the parking lot at Town Center. I diverted from my walk to explore it. It was early and the Amusement park was closed and empty. The Carneys were just waking up and shuffling about outside of their trailers. There is nothing more spooky (spookier) then an empty or abandoned amusement park — except for a seeing lone clown wandering the streets in your neighborhood at dusk.

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OFF TO THE CITY BY THE BAY:

I left the golden hills early Saturday Morning to travel to San Francisco in order to attend the Dave Holland concert at SFJazz that evening. It was raining when I left but turned sunny and warm by the time I arrived in The City. After dropping off my overnight bag at Peters house, he and I walked to lunch at Chez Marius a delightful French bistro in Noe Valley that Peter and I enjoy. It is also where Peter’s band, Blind Lemon Pledge, plays on the last Tuesday of the Month. I had an excellent Quiche Lorraine. After lunch, we walked a block or so down 24th Street to have some coffee at Bernie’s.

 

Report from the Geezer’s Bench:

In front of Bernie’s Is a bench, in fact, one of several benches, on which he and I sit and drink our coffee and discuss weighty matters. We call the bench, The Geezer’s Bench. While we were busy discussing important things like the fate of the world, our decrepitude and the benefits of olive oil and laughing, I noticed a car quickly turn into the parking lot next door, the driver, a woman, staring at us the whole time. We continued laughing and talking. We had just been musing on creating a television show about two old men sitting on the Geezer’s Bench stopping passers-by and asking them questions and engaging them in conversation. Suddenly the woman who had been driving the car appeared in front of us. She said, “I was just driving by and I noticed the two of you were having such a good time that I just wanted to sit on the bench and listen.” And so she did.

Eventually, she left, soon to be replaced by my daughter-in-law, AnnMarie who came by to discuss my summer travel plans with her and my grandchildren to Italy, Sicily and perhaps Morocco and Andalusia. But, that is another story. We did, however, laugh a lot more until Peter and I left to return to his house in order to rest before leaving for the concert.

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The Geezer Boys on the Geezer Bench

 

SF JAZZ, Oh Yeah.

Peter had tickets for the first row of the theater not more than 10 feet from the musicians. This was especially good because I had forgotten my hearing aids back in the golden hills. Dave Holland the bass player was the featured performer and composer. The performance was without breaks, the musicians playing for over two hours straight. It was thoroughly enjoyable, the bass often carrying the main line. The guitarist played an instrument that sounded more like a jazz violin than a guitar and the drummer was terrific. The audience seemed to love the performance as much as we did and some guy in the balcony seats played air-guitar and jumped around throughout most of the concert while his mate played air drums and bounced his head around as though he was watching a tennis match on speed.

The next morning, after coffee and croissants at Bernie’s, I returned home.

 

 BACK IN THE GOLDEN HILLS WITH TEA AND OLIVE OIL:

I was going to end this T&T post with my time in SF, however, something happened today notable enough to make me add it here.

The next day the weather broke clear and warm over the golden hills although a strong wind kept things cool and comfortable. After my morning walk and root beer float reward, I attended to my duties as personal Uber driver for the Scooter Gang. At about 4:30 I left them at the Folsom Skate Park in the hopes that they would exhaust themselves and their hormones and I returned home to await their call to pick them up and return each member of the gang to their respective homes.

On the way, I remembered a conversation I had with Peter regarding a book that extolled the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil. I decided that since drinking a glass of Port at bedtime was no longer a pleasure for me since the alcohol irritated my throat too much, a sip or two of extra-vergine olive oil with its supposedly preternatural health benefits would be just what the doctor ordered, or more precisely just what the doctor never got around to ordering. So, Peter and I scurried over to the famous (among Olive oil aficionados) local extra-virgin olive oil shop in Noe Valley, but unfortunately, it was closed. Having remembered that conversation now, I decided to drive to Town Center before going home since I recalled there was a shop I thought sold designer olive oil. And in fact, there was just such a shop.

I entered the shop and was directed toward some shelves containing a large number of olive oil bottles and some tiny plastic cups for tasting. I set to it and tasted them all including one labeled “Olive oil with Truffles” which was my favorite but I learned cost a small fortune — $30 dollars for a one and one half ounce bottle. I concluded that rather than being put on food or mixed into a salad, it was only to be applied behind the ears like perfume. I ended up buying a bottle labeled “Tuscan Herb” olive oil. The woman that owned the shop explained that everything was mixed by them personally in a small room in the back that when I glimpsed it looked less like a laboratory than an alchemist’s hideaway.

The shop, not only dealt in designer olive oil but other designer foods, like designer vinegars (one was cranberry flavored), designer honey, designer spice mixes and the like, but given its name, “Tea Exotics” what the shop was most noted for was its teas (also mixed in the back). I was shown a list of three hundred or more teas that were for sale and contained in large tins that covered one wall of the shop. There were tables and a bar where aficionados and perhaps addicts could drink their tea. One fellow sitting at the bar said that he comes in one day a week to drink a 14-ounce glass of his favorite tea which he also drinks at home — one cup, no more no less, every night, otherwise he explained it would get him too excited. You see, these are not the arrogant bitter teas that the British use to demonstrate their breeding or the Japanese delicate beverages requiring an elaborate ceremony to make you aware that even if you hated the stuff you were participating in a long-honored tradition, like say human sacrifice. No, these are health food tea.

The tea itself is sold mostly in little paper bags that cost about as much as a kilo of heroin. So I decided to taste some. I tasted about six different blends. It was a revelation. I had never tasted anything like it or so good. Eventually, I settled on a Japanese Matcha (they explained Matcha to me. I do not recall their precise description except is seemed they extracted the tea leaves from the plant before they had even emerged from the twig and crush them between the tender breasts of a Japanese virgin). Added to the organic Matcha was dark cocoa, coconut milk (supposedly better for you than cows milk or camels milk, although I recall reading somewhere that coconut milk can kill you quicker than strychnine) and cane sugar (very little they promised me). And so I walked out of there significantly poorer but a bit happier and went home.

And yes tomorrow is another day.

 

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I have just completed reading a mystery novel entitled “Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions” by Mario Giordano. Surprisingly, the author is not Sicilian. He is German. A descendant of a Sicilian laborer who had left the Island seeking work and a better life in the Colossus of the North. The novel itself is no classic work of literature. In fact, it barely makes it as light summer reading. I liked it, however, because of the kind-hearted way it plunges into the history, landscape, and foibles of the people and places that I have grown to love.

 

The main conceit of the novel lies in the author’s alter ego, a young struggling writer recording, at the behest of his Auntie Poldi, her adventures, and misadventures in Sicily. Auntie Poldi a dipsomaniac, over-sexed, bi-polar, caftan-wearing, overweight, sixty year old widow from Bavaria who, after the death of her Sicilian born husband, buys a home in a small coastal village in Sicily in the shadow of Mt Etna where she intends to “drink herself to death with a view of the sea.” Unfortunately for everyone, Auntie Poldi is also loud, pushy, nosy and her father was chief of detectives in some city in Germany. As a result, when she discovers, on the beach, the dead body of her part-time handyman, the handsome young Valentino, she drafts her dead husband’s three sisters and goes on a hunt for the murderer. Along the way, she also shags the handsome but mature local detective with the improbable name of Vito Montana.

 

Pookie says, “Check it out”

 

“[T]he worst thing that can happen to any Italian male, especially a Sicilian. Economic crises, volcanic eruptions, corrupt politicians, emigration, the Mafia, uncollected rubbish and overfishing of the Mediterranean—he can endure anything with fatalism and a bella figura. The main thing is never to present a brutta figura, a figuraccia. Bella figura is the Italian credo. The basic equipment for this includes a well-groomed, unostentatiously fashionable appearance, a pair of good shoes and the right make of sunglasses. Above all, though, bella figura means always looking good, never foolish. For an Italian this is a must, not an option, and quite indispensable. It also means you don’t embarrass your fellow men. Impatience is unacceptable and direct confrontations are taboo. You share restaurant bills with your friends, don’t put your foot in it, never receive guests in a dirty or untidy home, ask no intimate questions, address anyone with a university degree as dottore, bring some dessert with you when invited to dinner and—even at the risk of rupturing your abdomen—finish everything on your plate. You put your faith in beauty and proportionality and try to make the world a better place. Sometimes you even succeed.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

 

Note: The Sicilian language has no future tense. It is scary to think about a culture that lacks the ability to express the future. It does have a special tense to express the remote past that has ended. Sicilians use it a lot in their conversations — Everything is in the present or the far past and there is no future.)

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Sicilian men (of which I am one) prefer to discuss the minutia of history and almost anything else rather than answer a personal question and risk making a brute figura of himself. Here is an example taken from a novel I am reading:

 

“Uncle Martino talked at me without a break. He pontificated on Sicilian history, the source of the best pistachio nuts, Lord Nelson and the Brontë siblings, life in the Middle Ages, Frederick II, Palermo’s Vucciria market, tuna shoals, overfishing by Japanese trawlers and the mosaics of Monreale. He commented on Radio Radicale’s live broadcasts of debates in the Italian parliament. He lectured me on the Cyclops, the Greeks, the Normans, General Patton, Lucky Luciano and yellow silk scarves. On the only acceptable way of making a granita. On angels, demons, the trinacria, the truth about Kafka and communism and the relationship between physical stature and criminality in the male population of Sicily. His rule of thumb: the shorter the man, the more threatening and the more likely to be a Mafioso. That I scarcely understood a word didn’t bother him. My Italian was appalling—in fact it was practically nonexistent apart from one or two helpful swear words and che schifo, allucinante, birra, con panna, boh, beh and mah, which constituted an adolescent’s vocabulary on the beach.”
Giordano, Mario.Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

 

 

For those interested in a translation of those common Sicilian words referenced by Giordano:

 
Che Schifo — how disgusting.
Allucinante — hallucinating, stoned.
Birra — beer.
Con panna — with whipped cream.
Boh — I don’t know.
Beh — I don’t care.
Mah — maybe yes, maybe no.

 

Facility with these few words will allow you to communicate adequately anywhere in Southern Italy and Sicily, but only if you also know how to gesture properly with your hands
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These are only a few of the gestures used in Southern Italy and Sicily. As with any language, it takes a while and a lot of repetition to learn. Failure to learn a language properly can lead to confusion and embarrassment. For example, after examining the chart, I realized that during my sojourns in Sicily I never quite understood the difference between the gestures for  what, where, why and you shitted your pants eh — much to my embarrassment in those cases where I have confused them and much to my annoyance in now realizing that I had failed to recognize when someone who I thought was asking a question was, in fact, commenting on my ignorance or worse.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN MENDOCINO:

 

Well, I am off to spend the weekend in Mendocino. While there, I will attend a concert by Patrick Ball a native Californian who is perhaps the greatest Irish harpist and storyteller living today. I am looking forward to it. It should be an interesting evening.

After a pleasant drive to Mendocino on Friday, we attended the Patrick Ball concert. It was mesmerizing. He plays a type of brass stringed Celtic harp that had disappeared for about 200 years until the art of making them was rediscovered by a musician and instrument maker in Santa Rosa California. In between the musical pieces, Ball told the humorous and engaging tale of Jim and Ellie, two elderly married couple who accompanied him on a tour of the Ireland of W. B. Yeates — a magical story interlaced with the poet’s words.
03_ballPatrick Ball and his original Santa Rosa Irish harp with strings of brass and a sound that, even without electronic augmentation, filled the theater.

The following evening we attended an entirely different sort of concert. A local musician running for election to the County Board of Supervisors decided to hold a fundraiser and concert highlighting the music of John Fogarty. The concert was held in a converted old Portuguese Church.
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The woman on the left was not a musician or a singer. She was a comedian. She was not very funny.

The concert featured many local musicians and singers including one of my favorite Druid Sisters, a musician, and member of the Daughters of Albion, a local lesbian community. Proud Mary and Bad Moon Rising were some of the audience favorites. There was also a lot of dancing. Most of the people there were elderly, not old like me but certainly, most had finished their adolescence during the last century, hence the choice of music. A number of elderly women dressed in flowing ancient hippie outfits gyrated in spastic solos in front of the stage. Even I danced.
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Pookie dancing. He was not funny either. Well, maybe he was.

The rest of the weekend we went for long walks through the town and along the bluffs or remained indoors reading, playing with our computers and eating wonderful meals prepared by my sister and George.
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I do not know why everyone has to stop on their walks when someone takes a photograph.

 

 

B. BACK IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Back in the golden hills, the days went by slowly. I did not feel well, tired, my throat swollen, listless. It could have been the beginning of allergy season or something worse. I slept a lot, coughed often and experienced a return of my dizzy spells. The weather did not help. Cold, rainy, and gloomy, I started to worry about my health. It is that time in life when everything starts telling you how little time you have left while your deteriorating faculties limit you from doing many of those things that will make that time enjoyable.

On the other hand, my dreams have been florid. Last night, I dreamt I married an Italian spinster named Annalisa at a wonderful wedding. This was interesting because I hated all my real weddings. Nikki, who for some reason was there, said that it was the first time he ever heard me talk as though I was truly in love. Only in my dreams.

Speaking of grumpy old folks, I hate hearing about 105 year old marathon runners, or 85 year old champion weightlifters or 92 year old ballerinas or reading stories of some oldie with galloping halitosis who cheerfully accepts the news that he or she with die from it within two weeks and yet continues to go on washing the sores of lepers. What really makes we Vecchi grumpy is spending all day with little bits of unexplained pains hopping willy nilly about our body while feeling like we need to vomit all the time, our noses running from no discernible cause, and for some reason our glasses make the world appear even more blurry while our hearing aids are screaming a high pitched sound like an insane dentist drill and suddenly some woman’s voice intones “low battery, low battery.” All of which makes you supremely disinterested in running, lifting, dancing or washing leper’s sores. And then, some sot with a smiling face and a concerned frown says to you, “Are you OK old timer?” Grumpy indeed.

Another weekend has rolled around. It has been cold and rainy and I have been tired and under the weather if that is even possible with weather like this. Bitching a lot. Then, I received the following as a comment on one of my Facebook posts:

Neal Fishman: It’s not an uncaring universe if we care for each other. I don’t need a god to care for me. A friendly note, a kiss on the forehead, some good pot, maybe a 3D head set so I can die flying around….I’m ready to go, and happy to have been here. God isn’t supposed to give you more, except for that living forever in heaven nonsense. The universe is just fine without God.”

Petaluma Jewish, communist, chicken farmers, one of the world’s great treasures.

The next week passed in quantum time. That is, there is no time between what you recall except for a vague feeling that something must have happened. In fact, most of our lives are spent in quantum time wondering if perhaps we missed something — then after a certain amount of reflection, we relax in the not so firm belief that if we cannot remember it, it must not have happened.

Anyway, on Saturday, we went to a movie at Tower Theatre in Sacramento. We saw “Lady Bird,” a film about a young woman coming of age in Sacramento. It was one of the more enjoyable movies I have seen in years. Well, the years haven’t been that enjoyable either. I could not help thinking that it does for Sacramento in the early 2000s what “American Graffiti” did for Modesto in the early 60s except that was about boys becoming men and this was about girls becoming women. During my adolescence I probably would have been satisfied becoming anything — maybe an amphibian — that would have been nice.

It’s directing was impressive. Greta Gerwig takes her otherwise light story and makes it riveting on the screen. No scene better shows this than the one in which Lady Bird’s ex-boyfriend breaks down in her arms in agony over coming out to his family as a homosexual. Gerwig could have dragged the scene out to milk its pathos but instead, she immediately cut to an unrelated scene leaving the audience with a fleeting sad memory in Lady Bird’s rush through adolescence and me wondering if him going to an all boys school had anything to do with it. I went to an all boys Catholic High School. A number of the priests were gay. We really did not know what gay meant back then. The great gay scare had not yet begun. We only knew some of the priests used to like touching us a lot or vigorously rubbing their thighs while talking to us. We felt sorry for them but avoided them anyway.

While all the acting was great especially the leads, Saoirse (pronounced Sur-sha) Ronan as Lady Bird was magnificent. The opening close-up of this long-faced, large-eyed woman with acne scars marring her face told me I was in for a special bit of acting. Later, I read that she refused to wear makeup in order to accentuate another problem besides sex, schooling, and parents adolescents must deal with as they stumble their way into adulthood. We all were terrorized by zits growing up. I know I was. Would I be forever scarred like Father Grogan and have to join the priesthood because I could never get laid? God those were tough times.

It is Tuesday. Tomorrow is HRM’s 13th Birthday. He now passes from loved and loving to annoyed and annoying. Adrian just arrived and Nikki is expected tomorrow. All the putative fathers will have gathered. HRM did not want presents only the money. He had a clear idea how he planned to spend it and had already ordered online what he wanted. He also insisted on baking his own birthday cake. We the four fathers put on fake smiles and rolled our eyes at each other. On the weekend, he will go with a few of his friends to a skateboard park in the Sierras. He was promised that if he got B’s or higher on his report card this semester.

Bunny McGarry lives!

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