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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.)

Sicilian Man Talk

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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.

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!

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

The weather broke colder this weekend. The temperature dropped from the mid-seventies to the mid-fifties. Not cold by the measure of those places that enjoy (or suffer) real winters, but enough to make these old bones prefer indoors with a warm cup of coffee to walking outdoors no matter how good the exercise may be for them. Nevertheless, on Sunday, instead of my usual stroll around the lakes, I rambled a bit through SDS park near my house. The paths in the park mostly circle the community playing fields and pool. One path, however, branches off through the woods and along the creek. It, for some reason, is called, New York Park. I rarely take that path because it contains signs that say, “Beware of Mountain Lions.” Next to bears, I fear mountain lions most.

Recently, I posted on Facebook a short piece I had written a few years ago about the 1950s Rock group Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. In 1956 or 1957, I attended a concert featuring the group in Brooklyn’s old Fox Theater with a young lady friend. We were both teenagers 16 or 17 at the time. We have not seen each other for over 60 years so imagine my surprise when that Facebook post received a “Like”  from her.

Now, I believe Facebook is one of the most pernicious things to have been foisted on humanity since the invention of warfare, nevertheless, for the anziani like me, something like this can make our day — perhaps even our whole week.
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Facebook Addiction.

I spent Monday helping Naida move some things around her house and disposing of some of Bill’s old clothing at Goodwill. While erecting a bookcase in her office, I noticed an amazing collection of books set in or about California during the period in which she set her great California Gold Country Trilogy. Many of the books she used for research. She pointed out a few places where she adapted the information for use in her novels. She also told me that while writing the books and even after they were published she received a number of original diaries written by people who lived in the area at the time in which the novels were set, including one that was so fantastic and dramatic that I still cannot get it out of my mind.

While the story contained in that diary (now lost) that she told me about while we took a coffee break is too long and mysterious to relate in its entirety here, some of the background is quite interesting. It all had something to do with the gold discovery at John Sutter’s Mill in 1748. Marshall was not the first to discover gold in California. Several others had done so before him. There was even an anemic and brief gold rush when gold was discovered In Southern California about 20 years before — in the San Gabriel Mountains I believe. About a year before Marshall’s find, a Mormon family had found gold in what is now the City of Folsom. They busily packed the gold dust and nuggets they had located in the local creeks into barrels. They intended eventually use the treasure to found the Temple City of the Mormons in the golden hills somewhere near where I currently reside. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your view of the Latter Day Saints, Brigham Young, their leader, took sick with rocky mountain spotted fever somewhere near the desolate shores of the Great Salt Lake in what is now the State of Utah and declared to all that God had decided he would build his New Jerusalem there rather than in California. The Mormon gold digging family tried to dissuade the leader of their church by pointing out the golden hills were indeed golden, the great valley contained some of the richest farmlands on earth and the native people were willing slaves. But, despite their arguments, their entreaties fell on deaf ears. So, about the time Marshall and his cronies were setting about publicizing their find, they packed up their treasure and returned over the hills to found their blessed City on the Mountain or in this case the desert.

Marshall found the gold at John Sutter’s the mill site in early January of that fateful year but did not announce it publicly until May. What he and his cronies — among which was the writer of one of the diaries Naida obtained — spent those almost five months searching for additional rich sites, securing the land, obtaining the supplies miners would need, establishing the campsites the miners would require as they traveled from San Francisco to the future diggings in the foothills and so on. In other words, it was intended to be a vast real estate scheme in the grand California tradition.

To put everything in context, it is probably important to recognize that San Francisco in March of that year when Sam Brannon — who may or may not have been one of the conspirators — prematurely ran down the City’s main street shouting that gold had been discovered, only about 350 persons of European descent and about 800 of African, Asian and Latino heritage lived in the City by the Bay. The Europeans who reaped most of the benefits of the scheme, as they usually do, were for the most part little more than thugs. Within the next five years or so, over 80,000 people flooded into the City in pursuit of the riches that ultimately mostly ended up in the hands and pockets of the thugs and conspirators. After all, in good old American business theory, the greedy grubby miners could be viewed as little more than unpaid workers and small independent contractors who paid to the conspirators for supplies, food, drink, and rent almost every penny of value they received from anything they dug up.

And what of Marshall? He was by some reports a very dislikable man, contentious, perhaps violent and a bit deranged who, after all this, died broke. But not before, along with some friends, Folsom, Ord (of Fort Ord fame), and others had dinner as guests in the home of William L. Leidesdorf. Leidesdorf, a black man from St Croix, a shipowner, and accountant, was the wealthiest man in San Francisco at the time (he is also considered the founder of San Francisco). He owned the land upon which the Mormons discovered their gold. He, in partnership with John Sutter, had acted as agent for the sale of the gold discovered in the area charging a 50% commission for their efforts while trying to keep the existence of the discoveries quiet. During that very dinner, according to the now lost diary, the host died under mysterious circumstances. Shortly thereafter Leidesdorf’s mother living in St Croix and his only heir received almost $800,000 (out of over $2,000,000 promised, the remainder of which she never received) in today’s money for renouncing her interest in her son’s estate that had been left to her by him and worth more than $50 million today’s value. When the estate was finally probated the land containing most of the value in that estate passed into the hands of the guest whose name the city eventually built thereon now bears his name. But, that is all another story.
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Leidesdorf                                          Folsom

Today, the skies and clear, the temperature in the mid-sixties. I continue to kick the can down the road as to not only what I shall be doing next month and to where I may be traveling but for the rest of my life as well. There are some days that that bothers me a lot and some nights it actually makes me thrash about in despair for a few minutes before I fall asleep.

As for my projected travels, while I agree with Josiah Bancroft’s dictum “Never let a rigid itinerary discourage you from an unexpected adventure,” I prefer to dispense with the “itinerary” altogether and get right on with the “unexpected adventure.”

Today, I saw my first ornamental fruit tree in bloom. Spring has arrived, appropriately on Valentine’s Day.
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I never liked Valentine’s Day. In grammar school, before they began requiring everyone to receive a Valentine’s Day card, I rarely got any even though my mom made me bring one for each kid in the class. I wasn’t a bully, just the quiet weird kid who sat in the corner and read history textbooks. The bullies all received Valentine’s Day cards. Everyone likes winners. Come to think of it, there were (and still are) very few holidays I liked, As a kid, I liked Fourth of July. The volunteer fire department in the little town I grew up in always put on a bitchin fireworks display. Memorial Day was pretty good also. A bunch of families would gather together at a place called Peach Lake in Westchester County, New York. The men would eat raw clams all day, drink beer from kegs and get drunk. The women would get angry because the men were all drunk and then the arguments would start. In a way, it was a little like Fourth of July, lots of fireworks. One day, my father drove the car into the stream that fed the lake — my brother and me sitting in the back seat thought it was great fun — my mother, not so much.

Another week has gone by, more trees have burst into bloom and the daffodils have pushed through the earth and splashed some of the local gardens with streaks of buttery yellow. I have not felt well this week, fatigue and listlessness. It could be the change of seasons. It often affects me like this. Well, not to worry, it is whatever it is.

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On Saturday, I helped Naida move more things out of the house, drove HRM to various skate parks, read late into the night and struggled with my fury over the latest massacre of innocents in school by right-wing fanatics with an assault rifle.

 

B. PONDEROUS PONDERINGS AND MEANDERING EPHEMERA:

Like most people I guess, I have lived more than one life — in my case three. We all live our own timelines of course, from birth to death and whatever might happen in between. I seemed to have lived my life in about five year or so increments usually ending in some life altering collapse, usually self-inflicted. After that, there would be about three years or so of wandering in between each phase as I tried to put my life back together.

My second life was the almost 15,000 books I have read in the past 75 years or so, most of them fiction — and most of the fiction fantasy — the farther from the mundane the better. I do not read words. Only images run past my eyes.

My third life is my dreams. Often they impinge on my waking memory and I believe things occurred in my life that never happened. For example, for years I believed there was a seacoast town I would periodically visit. I knew the people, the shops, streets and so on. One morning, I thought it would be pleasant to visit the place for a day or two. I searched for how to get to it and discovered it did not exist. It made me wonder not whether I was crazy or not but what else it was that I remember that also may be fantasy. On the other hand, I could be stuck in an ontological cul de sac or is it an epistemological dead end. There is no question, however, that I live in a metaphysical planned unit development with Descartes my neighbor on one side, Schrodinger on the other and Timothy Leary showing up once a week with a philosophical leaf blower strapped to his back.

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Almost a week has gone by since I returned from Mendocino. Most of the time, I have felt too exhausted to do much other than driving HRM to and from school, sleeping, and reading. Hopefully, I will get back to swimming this weekend. The weather seems to be getting warmer.

SWAC returns in early March. It will probably better for all concerned that I leave for the month or so that she will be here. While it is a bit of a bother, I look forward to a little traveling if my health allows. The problem I have is in deciding where to go and what to do when I get there.

On March 24th, I intend to accompany Peter to another concert at SFJAZZ. That breaks things up nicely in the middle. Two weeks in March during which I can travel visiting friends in other parts of California and perhaps stay with my sister and George in Mendocino for a few days. Then, my finances willing, spending the next three weeks or so in Italy, or Thailand or on some adventure cruise somewhere. Alas, this needs all too much planning. I hate that. Probably, I’ll just drift and see what happens. Something always does. Didn’t I just go through this a month ago?

Recently, Dick requested an update from the school counselor about HRM’s performance. Amid a generally upbeat report, the counselor mentioned that in a recent History exam on a question to be answered in three paragraphs, the first two paragraphs of HRM’s answer were “positively brilliant” but the third was, “from Mars.” Should we worry?

On Saturday, after almost a month of finding reasons not to do so, some real others make believe, I got it together to exercise again. Even while I sat at the edge of the pool, I still told myself it would be too cold, I was too sick or tired yadda, yadda, yadda and I should simply return home, clutch my hot pad, and put myself back to bed. But, in the end, I dove in and enjoyed myself immensely. I feel good tonight, better than I have felt in a while.

That same night, I had a wonderful dream that seemed to last for hours. In that dream, there was an ancient Roman Ruin located on San Francisco’s shoreline somewhere near Candlestick Point (this is a dream after all). There the Roman Nobility would greet the ships returning from war, their holds full to bursting with treasure. It was decided by the present day city fathers to restore those ruins as another tourist attraction — sort of like Fisherman’s Wharf. To kick everything off, they held a grand party in the ruins prior to restoring them. I assisted in the preparations for the party throughout the day. That night, the rich and the powerful and even the not so rich and powerful arrived dressed in period costumes, togas, chitons and the like. The richest and most powerful men were often old and shriveled with paper thin skin and blue veins pulsing beneath. The women came in all shapes and sizes and were aggressive and bejeweled.

Each room had something different going on — different food, music, dances, conversation, drinks and the like. I visited most of them and enjoyed it, especially the dancing and the music.

During the evening, I noticed there were about five or six people who traveled through those rooms and hallways that had not been fixed up for the party. They clearly were searching for something. One large room was filled with water and they used small boats to search for whatever they were looking for. They appeared to be led by a tall, handsome man dressed in a tuxedo.

Later, after most of the guests had left, I joined them. I never learned what it was they were looking for, but I enjoyed going from room to room with them looking for it. Later, we all sat by a campfire in the corner of a vacant roofless room and talked about lots of things for awhile.

Dawn came. I knew that I would have to wake up soon and rejoin my waking life. I was a bit sad knowing I probably would never return.

While I lay in my bed in that grey time between sleep and wakefulness, I wondered if the dreams of our waking life were our reality — whether life was just a long daily slog from the darkness of the womb to the night with no morning or if it was a series of time garbled one night stands that go on changing each night forever.

The week has gone silently by. Looking out the window as I enjoy my afternoon snacks of Oreo cookies dunked in milk, I watch the days zip by like cars on a freeway.

I have given some thought to my spring travels. One half or about 3 weeks I probably will wander about California visiting friends. The other half, when I began to look into it, seemed to depend somewhat on cost.Thailand, Italy, A Caribbean cruise, and Cuba all seem to cost about the same and may be affordable. Only my dream boat trip down the Peruvian Amazon looks as though it is too expensive. I still need to get a new car. Oh well, I guess I will kick the can down the road for another week or so. Maybe something will happen to force a decision or change my options.

The week has trundled by. During my walk around the lakes this morning, I saw the first greening of the trees. It seems to be a bit early for that. I think of the wintertime in the golden hills as the silver time. The naked deciduous trees have a silver cast to them and the often overcast skies are silver also. Late summer is the gold time — golden hills with deep blue skies. Autumn — red, brown and yellow, and spring — virescent and speckled in brazen pastels.

One morning while driving HRM to school, I in my grandfatherly mode mentioned to him that he is now getting big, adult-sized, and that simple physical actions like suddenly spreading his arms wide or rushing through a restaurant that to an adult would seem cute were he a small child, now that he is almost man-sized would make some people frightened and when frightened adults often act angry. I wanted to warn him that now that he is a teenager simple physical actions that may have drew smiles when he was little may cause a different reaction now that he is becoming man-sized. “Stop!” he responded, “I do not want to hear that. I do not want to be a teenager. I do not want to grow up. Why should I want to?” I could not answer that. Sometimes, grandfathers are just old and not too wise.

 

 

B. RAGGED ROBIN’S NATURE NOTES:

End of January means it is time for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – like many of you I’ve been doing this for years and it is always interesting to read on other blogs what people have seen in their gardens.

It was raining heavily on Saturday and there were few birds about so I did my birdwatch yesterday when it was dry and sunny. Our garden faces South making photography (and even watching birds at times!) a bit of a challenge but it did cloud over a bit for the last half hour.

So what did I see?

House Sparrow x 5
Wood Pigeon x 5
Robin x 2 (sometimes we get 3 in the garden and it is amusing to watch the “resident” robin chasing away the other two intruders!
Blackbird x 2
Great Tit x 1
Blue Tit x 3
Dunnock x 3
Goldfinch x 3
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Starling x 1
Long-tailed Tit x 2

As many of you have commented several species fail to put in an appearance during the hour – here it was Magpie, Carrion Crow, Stock Dove, Wren and Coal Tit. The Blackcap we had on the feeders for about two weeks has disappeared but the Ring-necked Parakeets are still visiting – they turned up an hour after the Birdwatch finished.
MONDAY, 29 JANUARY 2018

(JP — It appears that the non-native Parakeets have become as common in the English Midlands as Parrots have on San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill. Sometimes, when I used to walk home from my office in Embarcadero Center to my apartment, the parrots would congregate in the trees that grew in the little park I crossed to reach my building. They were a raucous bunch, as noisy as a singles bar on Friday evenings. Perhaps they were mating too.)

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Hayden and I, March 2011.

The following post from 2011 describes some of my impressions of California upon returning after spending one year living in Thailand.

“I guess leaving Paradise by the Sea and traveling to the Big Endive by the Bay can be looked at as an adventure that at least began in Thailand and ended back there as well.”

“Some of my Impressions of America after a one-year absence”:

“Following the adjustment of my system to the shock of the relatively cool and dismal weather, my initial impression was distress at the dark, drab, shapelessness of the clothing that everyone seems to prefer wearing. It was interesting to me that when I commented to others about my perception they readily agreed that the fashion was indeed dark and perhaps drab, but they denied it was shapeless. One person even went so far as to hold up a dark grey T-shirt as evidence that some people (himself in particular) did not wear shapeless clothing. And indeed, I could discern that it had the classic shape of a T-shirt.”

“Although the Bay Area looked mostly the same wherever I go, the latinization of the Mission district in San Francisco continues unabated, extending at least another 5 to 10 blocks in either direction along that thoroughfare and into the neighborhoods surrounding it. On the other hand, the Sinoization of North Beach appears to have slowed in favor of the Sunset.”

“The Holidays were, as usual, a mixed bag and the serious illnesses and suffering of several of my friends made almost everything appear listless. Nevertheless, my traditional Christmas Eve dinner with my daughter and seeing my son and his family along with my sisters family and my grandchildren cheered me up.”

“During my stay, I re-connected with many friends, Maurice Trad and his daughter Molly, Bill Gates, his daughter and his friend Tiffany, Peter and Barry Grenell, Sheldon Siegel, Terry Goggin et.al. and Bob and Charlotte Uram. Unfortunately, I was only able to contact others by phone.”

“In Sacramento, I spent three lovely days with Bill Geyer and Naida West on their ranch and a day with Stevie and Norbert Dall. Surprisingly, I was asked to take Hayden with me during this time so that his mother could go off to the coast (Pismo Beach) with “friends”. He had just returned the prior evening from spending 5 weeks with a family he hardly knew in Seattle while his mother traveled to Thailand to have what appeared to me to be a facelift. Nevertheless, I enjoyed his company and was quite sad when I had to leave him and return to San Francisco.”

 

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