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Archive for the ‘Trenz Pruca’s Musings’ Category

The weather was warm and sunny today, the temperature reaching into the 80s. We decided to go out wander along the edge of the nearby American River. Although we were breaking confinement, we were sure we would not violate social distancing guidelines because usually there were not too many people wandering around there. We walked to our favorite spot on the riverbank. Along the way, Naida, as usual, instructed me on the local flora.

We sat on some dry grass and watched people on the opposite bank launch a boat and the birds taking off and landing on the water. Naida recited a part of a love poem that featured rabid cormorants. She also, for some reason, sung an old Sam Cooke tune:

Every day, along about evening
When the sunlight’s beginning to pale
I ride through the slumbering shadows
Along the Navajo Trail

 

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The American River by the Enchanted Forest.

 

Before she became an accomplished novelist, Naida obtained a Ph.D. in sociology. Her 1978 thesis was entitled Leadership, and Gender: A Comparative Analysis of Male and Female Leadership in Business, Politics, and Government. She had previously published a book on the early results of her study entitled, Leadership With A Feminine Cast. She interviewed for her book and thesis such people as Ivy Baker Priest US Treasurer in the Eisenhower Administration who famously quipped, “I’m often wrong, but never in Doubt”; Ruth Handler of Mattel fame; Jess Unruh the powerful leader of California’s Assembly and over 70 other well known civic and business leaders.

We spent much of the day reading sections from the thesis. It was fascinating for me to learn that an overwhelming majority of these leaders, most of whom were and still are household names, were the children of immigrants or, in the case of African Americans, had migrated from the South. Another consistent element in almost all of their lives was the presence of a strong mother. One female leader commented:

“My grandmother never wanted to come to the United States. She made my grandfather unhappy some of the time. For instance, she wanted to see the Panama Canal. So she left to see it. She said. “If all these kids can’t take care of him, something is wrong (fourteen children) My grandmother went off to more places than you can imagine in those days when traveling was difficult.”

 

What seemed to differ in the lives of the women leaders from the men, other than the resistance of the latter to the aspirations of the former, was that women generally worked harder to get where they were. As for management and leadership skills, the men mostly learned and honed their skills in the military and tended to manage their institutions in a hierarchical top-down manner. The women, on the other hand, generally tried to encourage a feeling of family in their organizations with her as the matriarch. In fact, the woman leaders overwhelmingly reveled in being considered different in how they dressed, behaved, and led.

(Note — because women leaders overwhelmingly were the children of immigrants Naida specifically choose male children of immigrant parents to balance it out. She said, in either case, women or children of immigrants [including people of color] had a more difficult time of it than white males [and they were aware of it])

Days have rolled on by with little to comment on other than that the days of our confinement have increased. We have begun losing track of the days of the week. We have been in self-quarantine for about 50 days now — almost 15% of the year.

Interesting — the retirement village not too far from the Enchanted Forest that has been actively promoting us to choose them when we inevitably decide it is time to enter an assisted living facility, called today and offered us a free dinner from the local restaurant of our choice delivered to our home this evening. We chose Zinfandel a somewhat expensive Italian-American restaurant that we enjoy eating at.

In the afternoon, I drove up into the Golden Hills to see Hayden. I arrived just as he returned with SWAC from buying flowers for planting around the house. I put on my mask and rubber gloves and kept my social distance as he proudly showed me what they had been planting these past few days. In the side yard, they had planted about eight trees — a Japanese Maple, an orange tree, a lemon tree, apricot and peach trees, pomegranate, and some Thai fruit trees. I do not know how well some of these trees will do in that environment.

The front yard, actually a slope from the garage up to the road, has been planted with many flowers and an olive tree. On a bare area between two massive redwood trees next to the driveway had been used for burying pets — Pepe and Pesca the two Bichons, a crayfish, a couple of lizards, a tiny snake and a large goldfish named Sharky — they planted few clumps of flowers on that hallowed ground.

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I then returned home.

Shortly after my arrival, our free dinner that I had been eagerly anticipating arrived. It was a hamburger for me and chicken tacos for Naida. I was disappointed and pissed. What’s worse, the meat looked and tasted like it came in a can.

This afternoon we took Boo-boo the Barking Dog on a long walk through the Enchanted Forest. It was sunny and warm, in the upper 70s. We tried to find paths we had never walked before and we did. At one point we found ourselves by the lake and sat there awhile enjoying the view.
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Land Park is a large park in Sacramento. The Sacramento Zoo is located there. According to Naida, the developer of the area originally created it as an amenity for his real estate development. He went on to be elected mayor of the city.

We decided to visit it today, taking all the care necessary to avoid breaching social-distancing guidelines. Equipped with masks and rubber gloves we walked around a lake and through the rock garden.

The story about the rock garden: In the late 1930s a woman began planting the garden in the public park. The city did nothing to stop her. They even gave her an award for her efforts. After she died, the garden she worked so hard on was taken over by the city. I do not know if any of this is true, but history is a story and if the story is good enough then it is good enough. As Pratchett writes, “We make up our world according to the stories that we tell ourselves, and each other, about it.” (Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.)

For the next few days, the weather hovered in the mid-80s. Sunny with a slight breeze. I placed a folding camp chair in a spot of shade in the back yard and spent much of the afternoon dozing with the dog lying at my feet and now and then typing things like I am doing now. I wonder why lazing away outdoors in sunny weather is so pleasant and not boring at all, while sitting indoors often feels tedious and uncomfortable. Perhaps Peter knows. He understands things like this. I consider him a master keeper of obscure and unconventional notions.

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I think I will go up to bed. Napping also is neither boring nor unpleasant.

That night after I got up, we watched The Sunshine Boys for perhaps the fifth or sixth time in the last month. I did not want to. I thought of going back to bed. I couldn’t. I love that movie. One could say I liked it because of the timing between the actors, the directing, Neil Simon’s script, seeing Gorge Burn’s again on the screen, or Matthau tearing up the scenery. No, I liked it because it was about old guys. Also, because once, at a Coastal Commission meeting, I was mistaken by the press for Walter Matthau. I would have preferred being mistaken for Rock Hudson.

Last night, I had a dream. No not a dream about freedom from four centuries of oppression. Instead, I was riding the bus. I do not know where that bus was or where it was going, but something about it made me think it was somewhere in San Francisco. I was sitting as usual in one of the reserved for seniors and handicapped seats that are generally filled by 20 somethings or the mentally ill. Anyway, the bus was full of men — stuffed full. They started hassling and ultimately punching me. Eventually, I fought back, swinging my cane and discovered they were all ghosts because when struck they each disappeared in a puff of smoke — except for four big heavyset men. They were real and, hopeless as it may have seemed, I waded in, punching them with all my might only to wake up and discover I was punching Naida. Having experienced this before, she knew enough to avoid my punches and calm me down until I fell back to sleep.

The next morning I felt physically, mentally and emotionally like dog shit so after breakfast and a bit of news about our Commander in Chief recommending we shoot up with Clorox to cure us of the plague and stop us from criticizing him, I drove into the Golden Hills to visit HRM in hope that it would cheer me up. Donning my mask and gloves, I met him and Jake in front of the house and accompanied them on a walk through their most recent plantings at the back. Haden now has a bedroom on the bottom floor with a large deck extending into the backyard. He has festooned his deck with flowering plants everywhere, hanging from the rafters, on the floor, and in the backyard. He has included a large wisteria bush that he plans to train to extend onto the deck.

The next day or perhaps the day after, we packed some soft drinks, a box of Fig Newtons, some coffee and Boo-boo the Barking Dog into the car, and set off for a ghost town on the banks of the Mokelumne River Naida had visited a few years ago. We drove through the Gold Country on Route 49, until we came to the turnoff to the town. Alas, the road was closed. “Let’s walk” I suggested. “How far can it be?”

So we parked the car and set off. The walk started out delightfully. The route ran along the banks of the river that snaked through the foothills of the Sierras. California Poppies, Lupine, and many other spring wildflowers covered the hills. A blue oak and Digger pine forest grew along the banks of the river.

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The Mokelumne River through arches of blue oak.

 

 

The town we were heading to was originally built to house the workers building a hydroelectric project on the river. Now and then small groups of hikers passed us along the road some of them looked like they had been bathing in the river. As the walk lengthened, I began to grow tired. I asked a group of young men coming down the path how far it was. “Not far,” they responded. Of course, “Not far,” for some 20-year-olds and “Not far,” for an eighty-year-old are two entirely different concepts.
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My plan was to walk as far as I could. Not too far (80-year-old far) from where we passed the young men, I had reached my limit and sat, exhausted, in some shade at the side of the road. I realized my plan to only walk as far as I could was flawed. I still had to walk back.

Naida, being healthier and more athletic than I, felt no such fatigue. Nonetheless, She agreed we should head back. And so we did. I walked from shadow to shadow and collapsed at just about everyone we came to. At one point I considered keeling over and forcing Naida to call for an ambulance.

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Naida discovered an unusual poppy along the way.

 

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She also found some bush lupine growing by the road.

 

 

Once we left the path to walk a few steps to the river so the dog could get a drink. (Did I fail to mention that despite bringing copious amounts of water and juice and Fig Newtons along, we left them all back in the car) While the dog was drinking his fill, a big black snake with golden stripes slithered out from under some detritus just after they passed. I thought it might be the California version of the east-coast deadly coral snake except 10 times larger. Not being much of a woodsman, I did the only thing I could think of. I screamed. “What’s the matter?” Naida responded. “A big snake,” said I. “What color?” she inquired. The snake had disappeared into the grass by now. “Yellow with black stripes,” I said. “Oh, no problem, they eat baby rattlesnakes” she explained. Not knowing if that made me feel any better, we slowly and for me agonizingly made our way back to the car without further mishap except for me almost stepping on an evil-looking thing that Naida said was an alligator lizard that she said grew much larger than the specimen I almost stepped on.
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Just after taking this photo, the snake appeared from beneath some fallen piece of bark at the foot of the tree.

 

 

(In case you wonder about my relationship with the natural environment, I am a city boy. As Neuwirth said, “We get nose bleeds if our feet are not touching cement.” We may love the wonders of nature but still prefer to sleep in our beds at night. We like the wonder better than the feeling of nature on our skin. That is why for some of us, our knowledge may be deficient but the wonder never dies. Sort of like, believing in God is a lot more pleasant than actually meeting the bearded old bastard.)

Back at the car, we drank copious amounts of water. Naida drove us back while I dozed and recovered. Back home we discovered the Fig Newtons were missing. We had not eaten any. We suspected the culprit was Boo-boo the Barking Dog, but we could find no evidence. (He is a very sloppy eater.) Perhaps it was the alligator lizard.

The next day, fully recovered from my adventure, I set off for SF for some CT scans. Traffic was so light, I was able to get back by early afternoon in time for lunch. After lunch, I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting and dozing on a chair in the back yard. I one point, Naida woke me from my reverie to inform me that she had just discovered a nest of black widow spiders in a cranny in the wall near where I had been resting.

That evening we watched every episode of Ricky Gervais’ network series After Life. It was great. One of the best things I have seen in a long long while. It was about a man with deep unrelieved depression and a group of extremely odd but often engaging characters with whom he was involved. It resonated with me. It seemed to say a life of pathological depression is livable and amusing. See it you’ll like it.

Finally, this morning I awoke, the room was dark, Naida’s body was pressed against my back. “It must be early,” I thought. Boo-boo the Barking Dog had not yet barked his wake up bark. I turned over to give Naida a hug and as I did so I heard a low growl. It was the dog in my arms. I looked up at the clock it was almost noon and the shutters on the window were still closed.

Later the doctor called about the results of the CT scan he said cancer in my neck has not grown but a nodule in my chest had thickened and he will be speaking with the surgeon about removing it.
That was how my day began today. I wonder how the rest of it will play out…

And, that was my past week or two of self-confinement. How was yours?

Take care.

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The following was sent to me by my cousin Lou. It’s a little sappy and a little long-winded but at our age (Lou is a little older than I am) being a bit sappy and long-winded is how we spend much of our time.

“THIS IS RIGHT ON THE NOSE. …….READ IT SLOWLY… I DON’T KNOW WHO WROTE IT, BUT I AM GUESSING IT WAS A SENIOR!!! I FIRST STARTED READING THIS EMAIL AND WAS READING FAST UNTIL I REACHED THE THIRD SENTENCE. I STOPPED AND STARTED OVER READING SLOWER AND THINKING ABOUT EVERY WORD. THIS EMAIL IS VERY THOUGHT-PROVOKING. MAKES YOU STOP AND THINK.

AND THEN IT IS WINTER You know. . . time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years.

It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams. But, here it is… the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise…How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go?

I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like. But, here it is…my friends are retired and getting grey…they move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some worse shape than me…but, I see the great change….Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant…but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d be.

Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore… it’s mandatory! Cause if I don’t on my own free will… I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so…now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!

But, at least I know, that though the winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last…this I know, that when it’s over on this earth…it’s NOT over. A new adventure will begin!

Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done…things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.

So, if you’re not in your winter yet…let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long!

Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not! You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life…so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember…and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!

“Life” is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one.
LIVE IT WELL! ENJOY TODAY! DO SOMETHING FUN! BE HAPPY! HAVE A GREAT DAY!

REMEMBER:….
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.
“LIVE HAPPY IN THIS YEAR AND EVERY YEAR!

LASTLY, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
TODAY IS THE OLDEST YOU’VE EVER BEEN, YET THE YOUNGEST YOU’LL EVER BE SO – ENJOY THIS DAY WHILE IT LASTS.
~Your kids are becoming you…….
~Going out is good.. Coming home is better!
~You forget names…. But it’s OK because other people forgot they even knew you!!!
~You realize you’re never going to be really good at anything
~The things you used to care to do, you no longer care to do, but you really do care that you don’t care to do them anymore.
~You sleep better on a lounge chair with the TV blaring than in bed. It’s called “pre-sleep”.
~You miss the days when everything worked with just an “ON” and “OFF” switch..
~You tend to use more 4 letter words … “what?”…” when?”… “what?”. ???
~Now that you can afford expensive jewelry, it’s not safe to wear it anywhere.
~You notice everything they sell in stores is “sleeveless”?!!!
~What used to be freckles are now liver spots.
~Everybody whispers.
~You have 3 sizes of clothes in your closet…. 2 of which you will never wear.
~But Old is good in some things: Old Songs, Old movies, and best of all, OLD FRIENDS!!

Stay well, “OLD FRIEND!” Send this on to other “Old Friends!” and let them laugh in AGREEMENT!!!
It’s Not What You Gather, But What You Scatter That Tells What Kind Of Life You Have Lived.”
Robin Stevenson, January 7, 2016

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 
I am sitting here this morning in my favorite chair in Peter and Barrie’s house typing this. Naida sits at the table across the room reading the newspaper, her coffee cup at the ready by her right hand. Barrie has gone out into the misty morning to walk Ramsey. Peter has disappeared upstairs to prepare for the day. Boo-Boo the Barking Dog has just finished barking at imagined threats to the safety of the household and now lies quietly, head between paws, on the black sofa to my left. It is a good beginning to the day.

Naida and I arrived last night and today I intend to spend most of the day at the hospital for my immunotherapy infusion.

We agreed that Naida would spend the day here tending to the dog while I went to the hospital. I got into the car and had driven part of the way from Noe Valley to Mission Bay when I decided to check my wallet for my identification and credit card. I could not find either of them. In a panic, I returned to pick up Naida so that at least I would have someone with me with the means to pay for whatever may be needed. Later I discovered the missing cards were in my wallet exactly where they were supposed to be. And so, another senior moment passes through my life.

The only interesting thing that transpired at the hospital was the doctor informing me that my previous CT scans seemed to show cancer spreading. Adding that it was so small he could not hazard a guess at to what it may mean. So, he ordered new scans to be done before my next infusion and assured me that even if they do show some spreading of cancer he has me scheduled for participation in some clinical trials.

The next morning, after we left Peter and Barrie’s house, we stopped at Red’s Java House on the Embarcadero for breakfast with Anthony and his girlfriend. Anthony asked me to tell some stories as he has begun to take an interest in family history. I told a few of them including my midnight knife fight in the dark alley’s of Istanbul in the early ’70s. We then returned to the Enchanted Forest.

 

B. THE SATURDAY MORNING COFFEE.

 
The following morning we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. It was our “dear leader” Gerry’s birthday and so we had a cake and sang happy birthday to her. Later Winnie and I told each other a few stories. She told me that Ducky, the woman in the group whose white hair was always perfectly coiffed had some interesting stories also. Ducky lived and traveled in many places in the world with her husband who was in charge of a US submarine squadron. One of Ducky’s stories about her being kidnapped at knifepoint in Japan, she felt was worth hearing. So, she called Ducky over and left. I asked about the kidnapping. Ducky, said “it was nothing as serious as a kidnapping. It was more like being taken hostage.”

She explained that they were living in Japan at the time and she had gone to the bank. As she approached the teller, a Japanese man rushed up behind her, grabbed her, put a knife to her throat and demanded the teller give him money or he would kill the American lady. Ducky was proud of the fact that somehow for some unknown reason she had the presence of mind to signal to the teller to call the embassy. The teller cleverly gave the thief two large bags heavily filled with coins to slow him down as he tried to get away. The thief then dragged Ducky and the bags of coins across the floor of the bank and out into the street where he threw her down and tried to make his escape. Unfortunately for him, weighted down with the coins, he was quickly subdued by two policemen armed only with batons.

What happened later was the most interesting part of the story. Everyone, the thief, Ducky, the tellers, bystanders, and the two policemen were all taken to police headquarters, placed in a large room together where they sat around a table and each gave their account of the events. Then they were all taken back to the bank where they each, in turn, had to reprise their role and movements in the drama. They then were all returned to the station to review their statements once again. After about 12 hours of this, the embassy secured Ducky’s release. But wait there is more.

A few weeks later, Ducky received a visit from the parents of the thief. Apparently, following the trial, the parents were ordered to beg her forgiveness. Much to her embarrassment, they then crawled across the floor to lie at her feet and apologize for their son’s behavior.

Still later, she was ordered to appear at the prison to view the cell in which the miscreant was imprisoned. It was a small room. Ten prisoners were kept there. There were sleeping mats on the floor and a bucket by the wall. The jailer assigned to the room, she was told, checks the prisoners very closely every night because if one escaped, the punishment was for the jailor, himself, to take his place. Finally, she was informed that when the thief in question was let out of prison he would be prohibited from appearing in public without a member of his family accompanying him.

 

C. SMOGY THINGS.

 
Naida drives a white 1991 Mitsubishi sports car. It is the model that allows one to choose a touring or sports mode as they drive. In sports mode, the car can reach into the 180 mph range. Alas, while seeking to re-register the car for 2019 (yes, we are grossly late), it failed its smog test. As a result, we agreed to switch cars (she the Toyota Forerunner and I the Mitsubishi) while I set about doing whatever needs doing in order to secure the smog clearance. We first sought the opinion of something called a “smog referee.” That worthy, we were told, was supposed to assist people whose automobiles fail the smog test. “Not so,” he said. His job, he informed us, was to do the same smog inspection as had previously been done. And so he did with the same results. So, after that I enlisted the assistance of my grandson, who had worked for a few years in an auto repair shop, as well as Hayden and the Scooter Gang — they being at that age when adolescent boys obsess about all things automotive.

On Monday, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills to confer with my automotive consultant, Hayden. He informed me that he and the gang reviewed the referee’s report and believe that the repairs to the engine needed to bring it into compliance should not be too expensive. He agreed to seek out some estimates.

While driving back to the Enchanted Forest, I realized how much I enjoyed driving a sports car and decided to try to persuade Naida to make the switch of automobiles permanent.

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D. AT NIGHT WITH NAIDA AND ANNABELL LEE.

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One night, perhaps it was the same night, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills, Boo Boo the Barking Dog lay strangely quiet on the chair beside me. Naida sat at her computer happily pounding the keys in order to produce the paragraphs making up volume two of her memoir. I, in my black vest over a red sweater, sat in my favorite reclining chair, my laptop set properly upon my lap, flipping through the poems in one of my favorite poetry sites (PoemHunter) when I happened to strike with the curser a tiny arrow and a somewhat reedy voice with what sounded like a British accent emerged and filled the room with a recitation of Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabell Lee.

t was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me.I

And so on.

The dog raised his head for a moment then returned to sleep. Naida suddenly stopped typing, turned from the computer and began reciting the poem word for word along with the narrator. When they both had finished, she sprang from her chair and exclaimed:

“He said it all wrong. He sounded like he was selling aspirin. He is no poet or actor. To Poe, this was highly emotional. There were angels and demons and sadness and loss.”

She then sat back down and returned to her typing. Shortly thereafter she got up and took the dog for a walk.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

I type this while riding on the train on the way to my tri-weekly immunotherapy infusion at UCSF. Later we will spend the night at Peter and Barrie’s house. We are approaching Suisun-Fairfield. The sky is overcast, gray and dark. Next to me, Naida naps. I think I will join her.

It is now the following morning. We’re sitting around Peter and Barrie’s home eating breakfast and watching Marie Yovanovich’s testimony in the impeachment inquiry. My treatment yesterday was same old, same old. They did discover my thyroid continues to underperform so they upped the dosage of whatever magic concoction they had me on. After the treatment, we headed off to Peter and Barrie’s. I enjoyed traveling around the Big Endive by the Bay on public transportation observing the antics of my fellow riders and watching the brief melodramas of the City as we pass by.

We arrived at Peter and Barrie’s home and spent a pleasant dinner together telling stories and laughing as we often do. The following morning, after breakfast, we all set off for North Beach. None of us had been there for many years. I used to live in North Beach for a few years but had not been back in over a decade. We passed the restaurant where I used to sit at one of the outside tables and eat lunch or dinner several times a week. It is also the site where, in my unfinished and never to be finished mystery novel the main character, Dragon, would sit and conduct business lacking an office to do so. The novel opens with Dragon sitting at one of the tables when Mavis the beautiful Tattoo artist retained him to find her missing boyfriend. Dragon leaves the restaurant to pursue his first clue only too return a few minutes later bloody and frightened having been beaten by two mysterious fat guys. And so, the novel continues on to its non-conclusion. (If you wish to read one version of the novel it can be found here: https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/here-comes-dragon-an-unfinished-novel/)

We also passed several of the sites where Carol Doda, she of the large naked breasts and hydraulic piano and I during her declining years would meet now and then for dinner and tell each other stories, reminisces, and lies and laugh a lot.

We stopped first in front of a restaurant I intended to have us all eat lunch at owned by a man who immigrated from the same town near Avellino in Italy where my grandfather grew up. His wife was the chef and cooked some of the best Neapolitan food in the area. Unfortunately, it was closed.

Ultimately, we chose Cafe Sport on Green Street. Fifty years ago, when I first visited it, the place was a simple cafe with a pool table in the back room. Antonio (perhaps his name was Franco. I do not remember which), the owner, eventually began also serving some full meals and added some brightly colored tables. He also began decorating the place with whatever oddities he could find. Eventually, the pool table was replaced by more tables and more odd decorations. It became one of the favorite hang-outs of the Prop-20 Coastal Commission staff. For a short period, another room was added. To get there, one had to pass through the kitchen where Antonio, a cigarette in his mouth with its long ash drooping over the large pots of sauce simmering on the stove, held court. We would joke that it was the ash that made to food taste so good. That room became an unofficial meeting place of the Coastal Staff until the Fire Department realized the room lacked fire exit and closed it down.

The four of us had a good meal, talked a lot and joked with the waiter. We then piled back into Peter’s car and he drove us to the Downtown Transit Station where we boarded the bus to the Emeryville train station to catch the train to Sacramento.
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B. A DREAM BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

 

For the past two nights, I have been having a pleasant dream set in the dream world of my ancestral home in Sicily. It is nothing like the real place I have so often visited. In my dream lives, I have several places that over the years I return to now and then. They appear in my dreams nothing like the real places they are supposed to represent. For example, San Francisco in my dream world has no Golden Gate Bridge. Instead, when I look north, I see a crowded harbor filled with large ships and pleasure craft. Further north, there is a mountainous island or peninsular. I sometimes climb those mountains and stare at the endless ocean beyond.

Another dream place I sometimes visit seems like a combination of Mendocino and Eureka. Strangely when I face north the ocean is in my left as though I am on the East coast. I spend a lot of my dream time here. On the way to the town, there is an old hotel or resort sited a short way from the ocean. It’s a bit rundown down and the owner is a mysterious dyspeptic man who alternately frightens and annoys me.

The Sicilian town of my dreams appears like it had just emerged from the middle ages or had just been bombed during WWII. Both the women and men wear dark clothing — the woman generally long dresses, the men old working men’s clothing. My friend Vittorio, Naida and I were in a tumble-down house. A middle-aged woman (perhaps the owner) acted strangely, maybe she was angry at us for some reason. Fortunately, she took a liking to Vittorio and pulled him off into the bushes. At the back of the house, there was a large shed open on three sides. The shed operated as an impromptu cafe and meeting place for the neighborhood. In the evening, parties were often held there with a lot of singing, dancing, and storytelling. We had a great time and I woke up happy.

 

 

C. A FEW TRIPS INTO THE GOLDEN HILLS TO MEET WITH HRM:

 
HRM and I got together several times during the past few days. The first time we met, while sitting in Subway’s eating a meatball sandwich and discussing his schooling, he mentioned he was enjoying High School and liked all his teachers because they each keep a toy for him that he is allowed to play with in class.  He had been diagnosed with ADD while in grammar school and prescribed medication to keep it under control. Last year he refused to take his meds and longer. This year the teachers have decided it was best to allow him to release some of his excess energy by fiddling with the toys during class.

A few days later, I returned for the opening of the newly remodeled skatepark. A large herd of young boys and a few girls on scooters and skateboards crammed the place. After, watching things for a while, Naida and I went to lunch in Town Center.

One day I picked him up at the skate park. On the way to lunch at Subway, I inquired about his welding class. Some time ago I had told both him and my daughter Jessica that between adolescence the onset of adulthood they should develop competence in science, art, math, sports, social science, as well as a trade. I believe that given the changes we go through in our lives and the changes the society we live goes through, flexibility is needed for our sustenance, health, and happiness. In my daughter’s case, art became photography, science got to be virology, math (the statistical analysis necessary for her virology doctorate), sports grew into soccer (she continued to play competitively until very recently), and for social science her minor was semantics.

H then showed me his unfinished steel cube designed to look like a die. It was quite heavy and obviously unfinished. He explained he still needed to file down the welded joints.

On Friday, we went to have lunch a Panda’s a fast-food place we favor. He showed me his finished cube. It looked great. We discussed his upcoming Thanksgiving vacation and the possibility of he and I going away somewhere for a few days.

Another time, I picked up Kaleb and him and took them to the hot dog place in City Center for lunch. They had buffalo wings and an Italian sausage sandwich called “The Godfather.” Like teenagers everywhere they seemed at sixes and sevens about things to do, a bit bored but unwilling to give up the general comfort of home and running off into the woods or onto a ship and sailing away into an adventure.

 

 

 

D. ODDS AND ENDS:

 
Days pass, my short term memory slowly continues to shred. I have read a number of books these past few weeks. This is notable because, for about a month or so, I, for some reason, had substantially slowed my normal reading regime.

Naida and I continue our regular routine of spending most days and evenings sitting on our reclining chairs and watching either the impeachment hearings or old movies on TCM. In the early evenings, we walk Boo-Boo the Barking Dog through the Enchanted Forest or to the nearby dog park where instead of playing with the other dogs and running around with them helter-skelter he just sits and waits at our feet staring at us until we give up and take him home for his dinner. When we do go out somewhere to shop or to dinner and I get a chance to see us reflected in say a shop’s glass window I see two slightly dotty old people shuffling along on one of those mysterious errands the aged seem to enjoy.

One evening we watched the movie “Marty” on television. I had always liked it for its dialogue and portrayal of the social lives of young Italian-American men in the 1950s in the Bronx. And yes, I found Marty’s relationship with Clara endearing and appreciated the loneliness experienced by the two central characters, but I had not recognized or appreciated the fear of isolation that pervaded all the characters in the film. Angie’s anger and desperation at losing Marty’s companionship, the mother’s fear of abandonment by their sons and so on permeate the film making it less a comedy and more a caution.

It has been raining and cold for the past few days. The weather reports describe it as an atmospheric river flowing across California bringing with it the weather change. One morning when I went outside it was quite misty. The mist appeared almost solid giving in bulk what it takes away in substance.

We have spent the past few days inside, avoiding the cold and the rain. Naida works on editing portions of Volume II of her memoir while I write this or read a novel on Kindle. At other times we watch the news and political commentary on television. In the evening and at times during the day, we watch the flood of holiday movies on television. We also saw the Battle of Algiers, Giant, the silent film version of Joan of Arc and several other non-holiday fare. I am bored. If the rain and cold keep on much longer, I think I will shoot myself.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

 

Days pass. Discovered Kenneth Fearing, poet, novelist, and founding editor of Partisan Review (see below). He was a good old leftie. Alas, he probably would have become a Trumpite had he lived today instead of drinking himself to death at a relatively young age. Watched the movie made from his book “The Big Clock” starring Ray Milland and Charles Laughton and enjoyed seeing Laughton’s wife, Elsa Lanchester, steal the film away from the headliners as she usually does.

I spent time with HRM. Ate lunch with him at Subway and learned that the Slackers vs Jocks contretemps still simmers — the indomitable conviction of youth in the importance of their every experience — sadly to us decrepits we have forgotten how right they are.

Begun packing for our trip into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. I suspect there will be more to write about then — discomfort, fatigue, and, at times, beauty and novelty or boredom. That’s what adventures are all about, a lot of discomfort and boredom broken now and then with bits of terror and fear moderated by a dollop of poetic beauty. The photos are nice, however.

For the second time In the last few months, Naida and Boo-boo the Barking Dog have been attacked by another dog leaping from a parked car that they passed during their evening walks. This time, Naida was knocked to the ground. The dog’s owners, after securing their pet, rushed to see if Naida was hurt. She responded to their expressions of apology and concern, “Don’t worry, I am one of those eighty-year-olds whose bones do not break whenever she falls down.” More indomitability.

Thinking about indomitability, I have, at times, fought and refused to give up. Now, when it no longer matters, I realize it was not indomitability but merely fear that I would be exposed. I guess that is the way it is with most men.

Now I think it is time to leave this morning’s morass of introspection as well as my recliner and go out and meet the day, or greet it or something like that.

“It’s always something” (Rosanna Rosannadanna.) Lost my wallet. Probably yesterday after I returned from EDH and I stopped for gas at the Shell Station nearby. Perhaps someone stole it. I do not know how. It is a disaster. Losing one’s wallet is one of life’s great tragedies. Everything important was in there. My debit cards, my passport, other things. We are leaving for our trip on Friday. A new credit-card will not be ready by then so the costs of the trip will be all on Naida. Sometimes life sucks. I guess I have to get started on canceling and reordering things. Well, perhaps tomorrow. Tonight I’ll pretend I’m depressed. Tomorrow is another day.

Before going to bed we watched Sidney Poitier in Lilies of Field. I felt better. I’ll cry tomorrow.

It is tomorrow. Oh, happy day. I found my wallet. It was where I thought it was. I always throw the clothing I intend to wear the next day on the floor near my bed. They are easier to locate that way. I thought I had lost my wallet among the accumulated detritus next lying there. Several times I had picked through everything to see if it had fallen among them. This morning, I picked up a shirt I planned to take with me to SF today and there it was lying underneath. So, in happy spirits, we left for the Big Endive by the Bay and my immunotherapy treatment.

 

 

 

B. AGAIN IN THE BIG ENDIVE WITH PETER AND BARRIE:

 

 

Following a surprisingly delightful drive (I napped, Naida drove), we arrived at Peter and Barrie’s home in Noe Valley. After getting settled, Peter and I told each other stories. He spoke about his time in Cambridge and India as one of the famous anthropologist, Cora Du Bois’ doctoral students. In India, he and Barrie lived primarily in Bhubaneswar where he studied the politics and design theories behind the construction of the new capital of the then recently created state of Odisha. I told of my adventures in Turkey (a midnight knife fight) and old Jerusalem and Bethlehem (meeting with the dealer who sold the Dead Sea scrolls). Later Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda joined us for dinner.
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The next day we went to the Mission Bay facility of UCSF for my immunotherapy treatment. Nothing to report here.

We then returned to the Enchanted Forest.

 

 

C. BACK IN THE VALLEY:

 

 

The next day we prepared for our trip. I took a brief drive to EDH to fetch Hayden from school and to stop at the pharmacy to pick up the medicines I would need during our trip. After I returned to the Enchanted Forest, Naida and I enjoyed lunch at a local sandwich shop. Later, a box containing about 20 copies of the revised version of Naida’s memoir, “A Daughter of the West,” with her corrections arrived. Naida spent some time checking to see if the edits she had made were incorporated in the revisions. At about ten o’clock in the evening, we left for the train station.

 

 

D. OFF TO OREGON.

 

 

The train to Portland left the Sacramento Valley Amtrak Station at about midnight on Friday. We slept uncomfortably in our business class chairs. I had made a mistake not reserving a sleeping compartment. Nevertheless, train travel, in my opinion, is the most civilized way to travel. It is a shame the United States, unlike almost any other advanced nation in the world, pulled up its tracks, sold the rails for scrap and replaced them with asphalt roadways.

When we awoke, we had a pleasant breakfast, even if not of the quality offered on the Orient Express. Our breakfast companions were an interesting couple from Irvine who made it clear they were not married. “Neither are we,” we chimed in gleefully as though we all were old folks reveling in our naughtiness.

We spent the day mostly sitting in the observation car watching wooded northern California and Oregon landscape pass by. We arrived in Portland at about four PM.
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E. PORTLAND AND PUYALLUP:

 

 

We were met at the station by Naida’s cousin Debbie and went for a walk along the Willamette River. There are many bridges spanning the Willamette. I had not noticed that during my previous visits here. Walking along the riverside path I felt as though I was walking under a freeway interchange.

As we strolled along the path, I noticed on its inland side the Portland Food Festival was under weigh. It extended for many blocks. It was lunchtime and we were hungry but we decided to skip the festival and find a local restaurant.
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Naida and Debbie on the Waterfront.

 

After walking around a bit, we found a Chinese restaurant that looked interesting. I had not eaten Chinese food in a while and was eager to do so now.

In Italy and in many places in the US recently, I have noticed that a goodly number of Italian restaurants have been taken over by Chinese immigrant families resulting in mushy noodles and a poor understanding of the cuisine’s use of herbs and spices. Every national cuisine begins with its own traditional mix of herbs and spices. Failure to get them right may still result in a palatable meal but it cannot be called an example of those nations’ traditional food.

So, we entered. The waiter seated us and took our orders. I ordered Mu-shu pork. When he brought us our meals he told a lengthy story about learning to be a mu-shu pork folder and considered himself to be the best mu-sho pork folder in Portland. I had never known there was an art to folding mu-shu pork so, I asked him to show us this talent of which he was so proud as I was sure he wanted me to. And so he did.

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Folding Mu-Shu Pork.

 

After that, we went to Debbie’s house and promptly fell asleep.

The next day, several of Naida’s relatives from Portland joined us for a late lunch. Many interesting stories were told but, alas, T&T is not a venue in which I can share all of them. Debbie’s father, a renowned Methodist minister, was also an accomplished amateur mineralogist and jewelry maker. When he died, he left Debbie his immense store of rocks, semi-precious stones, and jewelry making equipment. Debbie and her son Nicolas have avidly continued his father’s avocation. Tumblers hummed all night, and piles of rocks and minerals covered much of the yard.
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Some of the Rocks. 

 

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The Tumblers.

 

 

Later, we visited with David, Naida’s son who assists the well-known regional sculpture Bruce West (Naida’s ex-brother-in-law). We met at the studio. Bruce was unable to join us because he suffers from late-stage Parkinson’s.
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Naida and David.

 

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Some Works by Bruce West.

 

Debbie then drove us to the train station and left. We had hoped to take the train to Puyallup, Washington to spend the night at the home of Debbie’s sister Colleen. Unfortunately, the train was full (since when do trains in this day and age get filled up?). So we trundled, in the rain, dragging our luggage a few blocks to the Greyhound station. Alas, the bus had left for Puyallup a few minutes before we arrived. The amused ticket agents suggested we try another bus line a few blocks away. Once again, we struggled through the drizzle to the place where we were told we would find the bus.

When we arrived where we were directed, there was no ticket office to be found. We noticed a bunch of people across the street who appeared to be waiting around for something. We went up to them and asked if they knew the location of the ticket office. We were told there wasn’t one but, they were all waiting for a bus from that company to arrive and had already bought their tickets already. So, we waited there standing with them in the light rain. Eventually, the bus arrived. The driver told us that if there were any seats left after everyone with tickets had been seated he would sell them to us. So we waited some more. After everyone boarded, he announced there were two left. Relieved, we paid him and prepared to board. At that moment, a young man approached and handed the driver a ticket. The driver told him that the ticket said he must arrive at least five minutes before the bus departs and since he did not so the tickets had been sold. So, we boarded. I felt bad for the guy, but not bad enough to give up my seat.

Naida’s cousin Colleen picked us up at the bus stop and drove us to her home in Puyallup. Coleen’s home, a one-story building, appeared small from the outside but was surprisingly large once you got inside. She took us on a tour of the house. It seemed to me to be one of the more pleasant houses I had ever been in. For forty-seven years Coleen, her husband, and her mother lived in that house, constantly changing and remodeling it to better serve their needs and comfort. After Naida and Colleen exchanged a few family stories with each other we went to sleep in a far too comfortable bed.

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Colleen’s Back Porch.

 

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Naida and Colleen.

 

 

A ninety-nine acre heavily wooded park surrounds Colleen’s home on two sides. Waking up in the morning with the sun shining and the encircling trees rising up behind the yard was delightful.
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Later, Naida and I went for a walk around a nearby lake. It began raining as we walked along, a light drizzle at times interspersed with more heavy downpours.
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Following the walk, we returned to the house. Naida and Colleen worked on a puzzle together and quietly talked and reminisced about family and things while I sat on the sofa and played on my computer and dozed until it was time to leave for the airport and our flight to Boise.

Colleen dropped us off at the bus station for the brief bus ride to the airport. We flew to Boise on a prop plane. It has been a long time since I last had ridden on one.

We arrived in Boise at about 11pm. After an adventure securing our rental car, we drove to the hotel on the river where we were going to spend the night.
(More to come)

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melfibeka

“We’ll keep a crystal vase near our pink and blue pillows, and after we wish and then after we kiss, we’ll lower our faces to the very brim, the very delicate edge of the crystal vase, and then we’ll let the syrup flow from our eyes into the gentle crystal vase. And every Christmas and every Easter and every other holiday known to man, we’ll feed the syrup to our seventeen children, and they will remain children forever. Their imaginations will be in full bloom forever…and they will never die. Everything will be forever…”
-Leonard Melfi from TIMES SQUARE.

Melfi, the well known off-Broadway playwright, an old friend who I last saw in the mid-sixties when we got very drunk in a friends apartment in Greenwich Village and believed in our boozy stupor that we had solved a notorious mass murder of the time only to discover a few years later we were utterly wrong. He died alone in 2002 at Mount Sinai Hospital of congestive heart failure due in part to his alcoholism. His body was misplaced and discovered four months later in a potter’s grave in Queens. His brother had him exhumed, flown to his home town of Binghamton NY, and following a funeral service and Catholic mass buried in his family plot. He would have appreciated the melodrama. Alas, nothing is forever.

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Today, I awoke feeling chipper (an appropriate but seldom used word). It is often in my decrepitude that I wake up with a mouth tasting like old socks, aches in parts of my body I did not know I had, and a sour attitude towards life — but not this morning.

After the unusually good night’s sleep, I was awakened by the bright sunlight slanting through the shutter’s and onto the bed. The still air of morning moderated the heat of what was destined to become a sultry scorching day. The sound of the dog barking at every squirrel and cat in the neighborhood that chanced to step within fifty feet of the house accompanied me into the kitchen. There, I toasted to perfect crispiness a Thomas’ Original English Muffin, slathered it with butter and fig preserve and artistically placed it on a plate. Coffee hot and especially tasty made the morning complete.

While sitting in my reclining chair enjoying the morning, happily dunking my muffins into the cup of coffee, Naida descended the stairs ready to leave for a day at the California State Fair selling her books. She wore tight dark navy blue slacks and a very attractive navy blue blouse. She asked me how she looked. For an eighty-year-old, she looked smashing.

I felt a bit jealous as I looked her over imagining the 70 and 80-year-old lotharios at the Fair joking and sweet-talking with her. Now you may think that boinking and boffing among 80 year-olds is an image best avoided.  That in our dotage, jealousy is far from our minds — we being more mature and significantly less capable. On the contrary, even in our decrepitude, we are as randy as ever and far less constrained by social mores.

Upon first reaching the not so tender age at which I have recently arrived, this state of affairs surprised me. I thought the days of sweaty nights and ceaseless desire were behind and, if truth be known, beyond me (although I believe I remain a pretty good kisser, hugger and nibbler of ears).

A month or so ago, an elderly gentleman (younger than me, alas) moved into the empty house next to ours and immediately began energetically chatting up Naida until the man who lived in the house across the way told him to knock it off since she already had a significant other. Now, this amused me greatly. I realized we had reached that age where we became teenagers again.

In keeping with my newly revived teenager-hood, I entertained myself with thoughts of smacking him across the head with my cane. In my adolescence, I may have done so were we standing toe to toe, bathing in testosterone and shouting at each other. Even then I would, however, never go in search of someone in order to deliver the blow, comforting myself with the fiction I would do so were we ever to meet in a dark alley. Now, in my dotage, I am certain almost nothing would prompt me to leave my recliner and certainly not on this lovely morning. Besides, Naida undoubtedly would think I had gone nuts. That is another pleasure of growing old. One can become as crazy as one wants in your own mind without feeling guilty or worried about your sanity — after all the next stop on the train is childhood.

Never forget laddie, today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet the youngest you’ll ever be. So, enjoy the day. It is never coming around again. And so, I did.

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“Everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
Rothfuss, Patrick. The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle Book 1) (p. 658). DAW.

More days pass. In this the time of my decrepitude. As my memory slowly shreds, I find the quiet contemplation of nothing enjoyable.

In the past, I could never get into meditation or even the idea of quiet contemplation. It would irritate me. If I had nothing to do, I would prefer taking a nap, reading, throwing stones into the water, starting an argument or shouting at someone — things like that. I could not understand going so far into myself that the maelstrom of my senses, the screaming of my id, or that somehow the constant preaching by that little voice within that is always with us would go silent and that in some way that would make me better, happier.

Perhaps your inner voice enjoys happy talk. Good for you. Mine, alas, is a complainer. Always telling me how I screwed up or how I would fail at what I planned on doing.

If there were not something out there in the world around me upsetting me or demanding my attention, I don’t think I could feel completely alive.

Now, however,  in my dotage, not so much. Now, when I sit on a bench along some path in the Enchanted Forest, the dog laying panting at my feet, I smile, confident that whatever harangue or flight of fancy the voice within me obsesses on, it soon will be forgotten. That thought always cheers me up.

I guess for me, I should consider it one of the few upsides to my decrepitude.

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th

I spend many of my days sitting here in the studio marveling at the amount of time and effort my friend Naida West expends preparing her most recent book for publication — talking to book designers, editors and the like, reviewing photographs, re-editing drafts day after day. Even if I had the talent to write a novel for publication, I do not think I could or would put myself through this strain and toil. She seems to enjoy it, except when things go wrong of course.

Her new book, a memoir, entitled “A Daughter of the West — Herstory” can be obtained at her booth at the California State Fair (During July) or at http://www.bridgehousebooks.com/ or on Amazon.

During her review of the most recent edits to her memoir, Naida mentioned that she may have misspelled the plural of dwarf. She said she had learned to spell it in grammar school as dwarves but had spelled it dwarfs in the draft memoir. She wondered why Spell-check had not caught it. Having little to do with myself at that moment I decided to search the net for an answer to her concern. After a few moments, I learned that the traditional correct spelling indeed was dwarfs but recently a popular misspelling has begun to be commonly used. The reason for this, I found both odd and amusing. You see it all began with J. R. R. Tolkien. Yes, that J. R. R. Tolkien of “Lord of the Rings” fame. In a fascinating blog (https://jakubmarian.com/dwarves-or-dwarfs-which-spelling-is-correct/) I discovered that:

“Tolkien himself admitted that ‘dwarves’ was a misspelling. In a letter to Stanley Unwin, the publisher of The Hobbit, he wrote (emphasis mine):

‘No reviewer [that I have seen], although all have carefully used the correct dwarfs themselves, has commented on the fact [which I only became conscious of through reviews] that I use throughout the ‘incorrect’ plural dwarves. I am afraid it is just a piece of private bad grammar, rather shocking in a philologist; but I shall have to go on with it.’”

This is a fine example of how now and then over time scholarly mistakes in grammar or spelling become accepted as right and proper. There must be a phrase or word for cultural evolution caused by the errors of those who ought to know better.

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POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 
I spend many of my days sitting here and marveling at the amount of time and effort Naida expends preparing her most recent book for publication — talking to book designers, editors and the like, reviewing photographs, re-editing drafts day after day. Even if I had the talent to write a novel for publication, I do not think I could or would put myself through this. She seems to enjoy it, except when things go wrong of course.

Her new book, a memoir, entitled “A Daughter of the West — Herstory” can be obtained at her booth at the California State Fair (During July) or at http://www.bridgehousebooks.com/ or in the future on Amazon.

While she was reviewing the most recent edits to her memoir, Naida commented that she may have misspelled the plural of dwarf. She had learned to spell it in grammar school as dwarves but had spelled it dwarfs in the draft memoir. She wondered why spell-check had not caught it. I immediately searched the net for an answer to her concern. I discovered the traditional correct spelling indeed was dwarfs but recently a popular misspelling has begun to be commonly used. The reason for this, I found both odd and amusing. You see it all began with J. R. R. Tolkien. Yes, that J. R. R. Tolkien of “Lord of the Rings” fame. In a fascinating blog (https://jakubmarian.com/dwarves-or-dwarfs-which-spelling-is-correct/) I learned:

“Tolkien himself admitted that ‘dwarves’ was a misspelling. In a letter to Stanley Unwin, the publisher of The Hobbit, he wrote (emphasis mine):

‘No reviewer [that I have seen], although all have carefully used the correct dwarfs themselves, has commented on the fact [which I only became conscious of through reviews] that I use throughout the ‘incorrect’ plural dwarves. I am afraid it is just a piece of private bad grammar, rather shocking in a philologist; but I shall have to go on with it.’”

A fine example of how now and then scholarly mistakes become accepted over time as right and proper. There must be a phrase or word for cultural evolution caused by the errors of those who ought to know better.

Exhausted, I went to bed early that evening. Usually, because of my failing eyesight, I read books on Kindle since I can adjust the size of the text for my reading comfort. Nevertheless, I keep some books by my bed out of a stubborn and I suspect, sadly forlorn, belief that I am observing some metaphysical notion that by reading books on paper I somehow am contributing to the preservation of civilization. Before falling asleep, I picked up Overstory by Richard Powers. I read its first two chapters. Suddenly, I felt as though, despite a head full of factoids and opinions gathered over almost 80 years of existence, I, like Jon Snow, know nothing. Whether I felt fear, despair, or elation over this insight, I do not recall. Somehow at sometime in our history, we humans, we blobs of consciousness, began to believe we were important, unique. That we understood things. I realized, at that moment, we were none of those. We, individually and collectively, were only a tiny insignificant entity within that great collection of things we call life. Insignificant true but capable of great mischief and savagery.

The next morning, I watched He Who Is Not My President, once again, play the press for fools by getting them to convert an insignificant photo-op with the Butcher of North Korea into an earthshaking event driving all other news off the airways and requiring platoons commentators to tell us whether and how this may alter the geopolitical landscape.

A few days have passed by. I do not recall anything worth recording here. Yesterday evening we did walk to the monthly Jazz by the Pool concert at the community center. We got there just as it ended, ate a piece of cold pizza and returned home.

One evening, we watched the marvelous “Thief of Bagdad,” a silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks. The sets and costumes alone were worth the price of admission. Fairbanks and the other actors hamming it up was the whipped cream and cherry topping on the art-deco wedding cake.

Today, after a morning of indolence, I decided to leave the house, walk to the car and drive to eat lunch somewhere. I had taken only a few steps from the door when I noticed the wonderfully sweet smell of flowers, the perfect temperature, and the still air. I quickly decided it was too glorious a day to drive to someplace in the middle of a parking lot for lunch. I needed to walk through the enchanted forest, take some photographs of the flowers and the trees along the paths and breathe the sweet air. And, so I did.

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Naida and I Live Here.

 

That evening we watched the 1955 movie “Trial” starring Glen Ford as an inexperienced law professor defending a Mexican teenager accused of killing a white girl. The white supremacists and Nazis in the town threaten violence against the boy and attempt to lynch him. I thought this was going to be like an early version of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but suddenly and strangely, the focus of the movie changed to featuring Communist leader’s self-interested attempt to take over the issue for personal gain. It all ends with the Mexican kid being wrongly convicted but the bigots, upon seeing the error of their ways, and being good Americans, agree with the African-American judge that he should be shown leniency, more or less. The evil self-serving and corrupt Commie, and self-serving and corrupt he clearly was, was sentenced to jail for 30 days for contempt of court. According to the judge, he received a shorter sentence than the kid so that he and he and his Commie brethren could not use his sentencing as a cause celeb. Everyone looked as though they were happy with the outcome but for the Commie, who scowled. It all seemed like something that could be happening today. Little appears to have changed in the past sixty years here in the land where we all are created equal except for Commies and Mexicans and homosexuals. African Americans are accepted, more or less, as long as they were educated Uncle Toms, lived in their own neighborhoods, excelled in sports, and voted Republican.

Today, I drove up into the Golden Hills to visit HRM and pick up my mail. My mail consisted of a bunch of junk mail and letters from a few collection agencies threatening to hang me by my thumbs unless I pay up. I threw all of those in the trash. There were also two postcards from Barrie. Every week or so Barrie sends me a postcard with a fascinating picture on the front and an entertaining message. I love receiving them. I keep them all stored in a box by my bed.

HRM had three of his friends over. They were lazing around on the sofa watching a Sponge Bob Square Pants cartoon. They have now reached that point in their teenager-hood where they spend more time supine and draped over the furniture than upright and moving about. They eat a lot also.

I have just read in the newspaper that Lee Iacocca died (Iacocca developed the Ford Mustang, later became CEO and Chairman of the Board of Chrysler and was chosen as among the top 20 greatest business executives in American history.) A number of years ago, Suzzie and I traveled to Auburn Hills Michigan to visit Lee and his then new wife Darrien, a good friend of Suzie’s. We had dinner with Lee and Darrien. I remember the red velvet slippers with the gold embroidered design on top that Lee was wearing. I also remember Lee as a nice guy and gracious host, although at dinner he seemed a little grumpy— (he complained about the pasta). I think he and Darrien had just had a slight contretemps before we arrived. Today, I received a very nice email from Suzzie in which she wrote about our trip and her memories of Lee. Here is a portion of that email:

Earlier today I learned that Lee Iacocca had passed away. I’ve remained friends with his ex-wife Darrien, who maintained a relationship with him to the end. I spoke with her this evening and after our conversation, I recalled many fond memories of the times I spent around Lee. One of them was with you.

I’ve learned my memory is quite specific about certain things but not necessarily accurate. However, I do remember when you and I decided we needed to go to Auburn Hills where Lee and Darrien lived to pitch business, what business I’m not entirely sure, but I liked the idea of convincing the lobbying firm I was with at the time to pay my way to auburn hills to see my dear friend Darrien. You were game to go along for the ride. What a team!

I also remember Dick McCarthy was a big Mustang fan and gave me a poster of a Shelby mustang for Lee to sign. As I further recall, we were at dinner at Lee’s house and his friend Carroll Shelby happened to be there. I was so happy I could return to California with Dick’s poster signed by both. I’m quite sure neither of us returned with any business but we sure had a great time! I’m glad I have that memory of a really fun time with you…

I was very fond of Lee. He was a good man with a sparkle on his eye. He treated me with respect at a time when as a young woman in Sacramento I experienced the opposite from some men… He was one who helped build my confidence (along with you and Terry and Bill Geyer) and have made me the evil person I am today. Lol!

Rest in peace Lee Iacocca. I hope you are still wearing those bitchin slippers wherever you are.

On the 4th, I picked up HRM and Jake for lunch. We went to the Old Spaghetti House. I watched them stuff a ball of blue cotton candy into a glass of something green and wondered what something like that was doing in a so-called Italian restaurant, what it must taste like, and why teenagers seem to take such pleasure in doing things like this? After lunch, I drove them back home, returned to the Enchanted Forest, picked up Naida and drove to her daughter Sarah’s house for their annual 4 of July party. There, we played ping-pong and badminton, ate a lot, drank a little, watched a tennis match on television, and left to return home before the teenagers began their neighborhood fireworks war.

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Naida (in blue) and Sarah (in Pink) in Sarah’s backyard.

 

I sit here today, the next day, writing this. Somehow, somewhere far at the back of my mind, I feel an itch, a sense that something happened that I should record here, or there was some idea that needed telling — but nothing comes. My memory over the past few years has become like an ancient curtain more holes than fabric, or whispers too faint to understand. Perhaps that is a good thing, live for the day, forget the stories. On the other hand, my memories were the raw material of the stories I revel in. I like to shape them for their sake — for my love of a tale.

That evening, we watched Charles Laughton in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” followed by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Cary Grant, and Victor McLaglen tearing up the scenery in “Gunga Din.” The next morning while eating breakfast Naida and I enjoyed the old Wallace Beery and Jackie Coogan version of “Treasure Island”. I guess, as long as I am in the more sedentary period of my existence, old movies and fantasy novels will have to do as a replacement for the adventure and travel I may have enjoyed earlier in my life. I certainly experience fewer blunders and horrors now than I did then. Maybe that is a good thing too.

Then, it was off to the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and Big, Tall, Long-haired Jake. We drove into the Delta, to Rio Vista and Foster’s Restaurant. Haden, Nikki and I had been there years ago and H wanted to show it to Jake. During the drive, I was entertained by teen-talk — the dreams (To become famous race-car drivers when they are old enough to get a drivers license), the annoyance with anyone or anything limiting their desires (“I want to be rich enough to get the government to remove speed limits just for me so that I can drive my car as fast as I want.”), adolescent gossip (about the teacher who wears sexy clothing to school). This is that age when the explosive growth of their forebrain containing the ego assures them that the universe is there for their pleasure. It is only when they reach their middle twenties that the rest of their brain catches up allowing them to acknowledge that there may be others with similar claims. Strangely, they seemed to believe that if you were rich enough you could get away with anything. Trumpism poisons everything.

Foster’s Restaurant in Rio Vista is known for its display of the stuffed heads of just about every large mammal known to have roamed Africa and North America in the past one hundred years or so. All slaughtered by a bootlegger, turned taxidermist, turned publican who owned the bar from the walls of which he hung the severed heads of the hundreds of animals he butchered. But that of course was another era when things like that were more acceptable, like slavery and concentration camps. But, from a historical perspective, it does preserve the visage of those animals soon to become extinct so that we, if we survive, can have a drink, stare at their remains and ponder what we have wrought.

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At Foster’s Restaurant in Rio Vista.

 

I ate an elk hamburger. I was sure the elk that provided the chopped meat was old and at the point of death (or perhaps already dead) before it was harvested, because it was as dry and tough as one would expect the aged to be.

Then it was off to Locke the historical old Chinese town in the Delta. We walked around the town, visited the shops, explored the alleys and dropped into Al the Wop’s Italian Restaurant and bar and gaped at the hundreds of dollar bills stuck into its ceiling.

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HRM and Jake in Locke California.

 

When I first arrived in California in 1970-71 and was taken to that restaurant, I was still shocked and repulsed by anyone uttering that word. As a person of my generation and upbringing “Wop” was as repulsive to Italian Americans as “N****r” was to African-Americans (although without the same bloody history) or “spic” to Puerto Ricans. Use of the word, even by Italian-Americans, was grounds for instant mayhem being inflicted on the speaker. I could not even say the word without feeling disgusted with myself and yet here in Locke there it was, up there in a sign on a business no less, as well as falling lightly off the tongue of everyone around me. California was certainly an odd place, I thought.

After that little adventure, we drove through the Delta and back into the Golden Hills. The next morning, Naira and I drove to Denio’s Auction in Roseville where I purchased this year’s Hawaiian shirt and Naida bought a shovel.

The following day, Naida left early to play tennis. After she returned, we sat at our respective computers all day and did nothing more except walk the dog in the evening. I did not even take a nap.

Today, Tuesday, I did not walk the dog nor did I watch movies on Television. I did, however, begin reading Vital Question by someone named Nick Lane. It is not a mystery novel. It is a non-fiction tome about, as the cover points out, Energy, Evolution and the Origins of Complex Life. As I mentioned in a previous post, after reading about ten trashy novels, I like to curl up with something non-fiction. I guess it is something like cleaning one’s palate.

Some review copies of Naida’s memoir arrived today. We spent a few hours together reviewing them for typos and other errors. She said she was thankful there were not too many of them as there sometimes is. I thought there were a lot. I found participating in the process pretty exciting. I cannot remember ever assisting an author before. Usually, it was politicians, bureaucrats, and other lawyers and as everyone knows that is neither exciting, nor interesting, nor fun.

Wednesday, the day before the State Fair begins, Naida busied herself addressing last minute crises. I did nothing but read and answer her questions whenever she thought my input might have some value.

Tomorrow, after helping Naida drive copies of her books and sales material to her booth at the fair, I leave for the Big Endive by the Bay and my immunotherapy treatment. The pendency of that trip did not require I do anything to prepare, so I didn’t, happily. I did read more of Naida’s memoir and another chapter of The Vital Question which was all about chemical reactions in the earth’s primeval oceans. I did not understand it so I quit and consoled myself with Oreos and milk.

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