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Easter Sunday, I did something I have not done in a very long time. I went to church. No, although faced with my own mortality, I have not converted back to religion just in case I have a soul and there is some vengeful deity somewhere eager to punish me for not giving him the respect he believes he is due.

Naida and I, after celebrating our one year anniversary being together, decided to attend the Easter Morning Services at the Unitarian Universalist center located near the Enchanted Forest. On the scale from a non-religious community organization to a full-blown religion, Unitarians are only one step up from the Society for Ethical Culture which is again only one step up from agnosticism.

The ceremony seemed more a meeting of Liberal Democrats with music than a religious one. The sermon was given by a woman who promptly explained that the Jesus Church, led by those who knew Jesus, was a religion of peace and ethics and that of Paul which eventually became Christianity, was one that focused on death and resurrection. Although the hymns we sang were recognizable, the words were carefully purged of any reference to a deity or a traditional creed.

With our brush with the supernatural behind us, we returned home and watched Anthony Quinn and Jack Palance tear up the scenery in the movie, Barabbas. (It was Easter of course and the entertainment mob, not satisfied that nailing someone to the cross was enough blood and mayhem to memorialize the holiday for Americans, decided to feature a movie instead about a thug and gladiator and a colosseum filled with blood and body parts.)

Monday came with a sigh like the month in which it resides and stepped aside for days of more promise, although the blooming azalea bushes in the backyard and the warm sparkling sunlight overhead heralded enough promise to suit me today.

On Tuesday, I managed to bestir myself enough to take the dog for a brief walk through the Enchanted Forest. The weather was almost summer warm, the skies clear and I walked along happily until my usual lightheadedness forced me to collapse on a bench by the path beneath the trees where I sat until the dog impatiently indicated that he was bored and that if we were not going to traipse around some more good smelling bushes, I might as well take him home — which I did.

I returned to the studio and watched Naida struggle with editing her memoir. She had a roll of butcher paper about eight feet long on which was carefully plotted the genealogy of her family going back as far as the sixteenth century to some British or Scottish Knight. We reviewed it for a while trying to puzzle out a problem with the genealogy of the Whipple family, a prominent New England family, whose progenitor arrived in the colonies in 1631 only ten years after the Mayflower deposited the dour, bigoted and racist Puritans at Plymouth Rock.

Captain John as he was known, tired of the oppression by the Puritan overlords and eager to make his fortune, left the Massachusetts Bay Colony along with Roger Williams and traveled to Rhode Island where he distinguished himself during Prince Phillip’s war. One of his descendants became a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (In case you are thirsting to learn more about the Whipples, in a fit of useless information overkill there some obsessive individuals have created a number of internet sites featuring that particular family’s genealogy and history, the most prominent of which is the Whipple Website [https://www.whipple.org/]. In there, if you want, you can learn of the eleven or so Captain John Whipples floating around the colonies at that time and how to tell them apart.)

The Whipples became quite wealthy “early settlers” eventually settling throughout the colonies and later in the new nation. Eventually, in the 1880s a young descendent named Emma after earning a college degree, something rare for women then, decamped for the Black Hills of the Dakotas to teach school, met an Irishman who could sing well, drink better, and owned a stagecoach, married him and was promptly disinherited by the Whipples for marrying someone below her station and a Catholic to boot. So, penniless, they traveled to Idaho, moved into an abandoned shack and lived a hard but at times exciting life. She was Naida’s great grandmother. Naida got to know her shortly before her death, heard her stories, and experienced a few or her own during her time with her (e.g., the curing of her great grandfather’s “quinsy” attack).

One of the many things I find fascinating about Naida is her apparently bottomless reservoir of stories. I spent my life gathering stories, but alas, compared to her, I am but a home library to her Library of Congress.

After that digression, I returned to writing this and reading my most recent trashy novel about the adventures some Templar Knights searching for the sacred bones of St. Stephen Protomartyr in Muslim controlled Majorca during the 13th Century in order to steal the sacred bones, and bring them back to their refectory (home castle) in Christian Aragon so it could become a prominent pilgrimage site, make tons of money, and allow the Knights to be well supplied with sacramental wine, mutton, and shiny armor.

On Wednesday, the sun was shining, the weather delightfully warm, and I dreadfully bored. So, I decided to go shopping. It is not as though I find shopping either invigorating or relaxing. It’s just that I could not think of anything else to do and we did need some things and Naida celebrates her birthday on Sunday and I wanted to buy her a present. And so, off I went, hoping I had recovered enough from my dizzy spells and other side effects of the chemotherapy to make it through the day. Off I went and made it almost through everything, but by the time I had made it to the last stop, I was well exhausted. Except for brief stops to and from my car to appreciate some flowering bushes, that is how I spent my Wednesday.

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At six AM on Thursday morning, I was awakened by Naida singing an old hymn and giggling. Bleary-eyed and muzzy-headed I turned to her and mumbled, “Sup?” She respond by explaining that she was amused at recollecting how a very old Easter hymn’s lyrics were often mangled by her children in church — “Low in the gravy he lay, a mighty feeling in his toes, bringing in the cheese and singing in the trees.” Now normally I enjoy the music and the stories, but at that time of the morning, I had no response but to mutter, “That’s nice,” turn over and go back to sleep.

The rest of the day passed from my memory leaving little behind but a vague sense of the passage of time and a whiff of ennui.

On Friday morning, nothing occurred worth remembering or writing about. So, I put on my favorite Hawaiian shirt, set my Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department straw hat upon my head, grabbed my faux blackthorn shillelagh walking stick and strolled off through the Enchanted Forest to where I park my car. It must be summer, I mused. Not because the sun was out, or the flowers or the temperatures but because for the first time since last October I donned one of my collection of Hawaiian shirts.

I set off intending to have lunch then to drive into the Golden Hills to visit HRM. I also thought I would try to walk around the lakes at Town Center that I used to enjoy so much but have not been able to since my most recent health setback. Today was the first day in many months I had not felt faint after walking a few feet or more.

During the drive, I decided that I would like to have pasta for lunch and tried to think of someplace that served decent Italian food. As I tried to come up with a place, I realized that good Italian family style cooking is hard to come by these days. I remember while growing up it Tuckahoe NY an Italian family style restaurant existed on almost every street corner. When I arrived in San Francisco in 1970 it was the same. Now those family style places have been replaced by either expensive restaurants pushing faux but chi-chi Italian food or fast food joints — both of which seem to have forgotten how to use herbs and spices as well as other equally egregious sins. I ended up at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

After lunch, I drove to Dick’s house where I found HRM and Jake playing video games in the basement. I told them, “As a responsible adult, I should say to you, ‘Why are you not out in this beautiful day getting some exercise instead of playing video games in the basement.’ You two, as responsible teenagers, should respond, ‘Hmmm, yes we’ll think about it’ and go back to playing your video games.” They laughed and returned to playing “Grand Theft Auto.”

I left after reviewing my mail and drove to Town Center. Following a quick browse through the bookstore, I sat on a bench in the rose garden by the lake. The roses were in full bloom and I sat there enjoying them for a while.
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At the Rose Garden.

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I then walked around the lakes for the first time in six months. I felt good about that.

Saturday, slipped from my memory like fog before sunlight.

Sunday we went to Naida’s daughter Jennifer’s house to celebrate Naida’s birthday. Before the party we all traveled to Sacramento City College to see Jennifer’s daughter, Josephine, perform in a play, a spoof of Little Red Riding Hood.

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After the performance, we returned to the house and the birthday party.

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That evening, back in the Enchanted Forest, I watched the third episode of the eighth year of GOT, the great battle at Winterfell, a bloodbath that lasted a full hour and 20 minutes and ended with Arya killing The Night King. Go, Arya.

And so, such as it was, that is what my week is like nowadays. How was yours?

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Today’s photograph–me at the coffee shop. Sorry about that but I am running out of local points of interest since my days so far have been limited to exploring the route from my house to the coffee shop.

There were no chickens on the road today nor for that matter very many people. I did however notice the huge number and variety of orchids festooned to the trees of everyone’s yard as I walked by.

The houses along our walk range from one that I call the Thai Hearst Castle to a row of small mostly rental units. I consider my house the second best in the subdivision, second only to Hearst Castle. Second best, I prefer to call it penultimate. It sounds more like you have won something.

One good thing happened yesterday. I met my driver. He is Laotian and speaks no English and I speak no Lao or Thai so I have not yet figured out how to get him to go where I want.

I promise never to write again with so little to say.

Have a great whatever you want.

Joe…

—————————————————————————

EMAILS WITH NIKKI REGARDING HAYDEN:

Joe’s email to Nikki:


I walked with Hayden to his school this morning. I spoke with two of his teachers. They told me Hayden is much better behaved since I arrived.
The principal said, “Natalie must be very brave, I could never leave my child the way she has”. Enough said.
She was supposed to come to Chang Mai yesterday. She called and announced that she was too busy and would come today. We will see.

Look forward to seeing you.

Nikki’s response:

OK this is a good start and things are going to be even better in the future
the boy is realizing the meaning of a stable school and life and thank to your tuitition he will improve his english reading and other things.
After we are ok with that we can start working on his sport life like put him on a soccer team or a karate class the neiborough is nice lots of people just he need to be social .
I hope u settle ok in the house maybe u need an office or a desk, when i will be there i ll drive u around and we can start to fix the house put a cable tv and a wifi line and other things we need.
try the new little restaurant close to the house is cheap and good thai food ask hayden he knows where is it
see u guys soon

From Nikki:

Ok joe
i am back safe in italy last development is that She is planning to leave again around the end of march or beginning of april.
i was firm to not make the baby travel again and she mention to leave by herself
moneywise she diddn’t put anything in chang mai yet
i payed the eletric and the food plus 2 thousand bath for food so all the new request of money is for her private expenses
the rationale here is that u should not giving her nothing unless is a verified bill with a valid proof of payments otherwise the money will go to her trough the maid
talk to geery about the security bill and the cost of the water
also tell her that i opened an account with bangkok bank to cover all the bills and food and baby needs so she don’t have to pay nothing in chang mai and will see what she come up with by the end of month i have to pay the school and i will send u the money
if she want she can stay in chang mai to eat and survive i am not gonna feed another mouth in bkk
let me know what Geery said about the water and ur visa deal
tomorrow i am busy for the all day so send me an eamil
ciao kiss to hayden

EXCHANGE OF EMAILS WITH IRWIN SHATZMAN:

From Irwin:

how far away is the coffee shop and don’t you have a kitchen at home? what is the significance of the orchids? and here’s a solution for dealing with your driver: draw some pictures ahead of time (i.e. like an airplane when you want to go to the airport, or a beach scene when you want to go surfing. as for f_____g i’m sure you can figure out some type of diagram). actually you can probably download pictures from the internet showing a market or downtown – how you are connected i am not sure as my imagination has you living in snake country awaiting the arrival of islamic militants.

i.

Joe’s response:


You are either up very late or very early.
It is a 20 min walk.
Yes, I have a kitchen and a maid also, but she does not make espresso.
Filling up space.
Thanks for the advice. I wanted him to drive me to the massage parlor. I will enjoy searching the web for appropriate pictures. Any sites that you recommend?
I am in the north of Thailand, few Muslims but there are a lot of snakes, drug wars, white (brown) slavers, corrupt police and of course elephants.

By the way, how did you sent up your blog? You did a great job. I am pleased that the recent postings are optimistic. I am happy for you.

Joe….

By the way, Hayden calls me his Pookie. Should I be embarrassed?
PS: I just turned on my spell check and it suggested: “Statesman” as a replacement for “Schatzman”. I always knew you were bound for great things. I suppose the next time it will suggest “Nobel”.
Petrillo on the other hand usually turns up “petrol” or “petrel”, black ooze or a damned bird.

Frpm Irwin:

You are either up very late or very early. i get up about 8:30 am, take breakfast at the computer and stay on the keyboard until noon, mostly reading non-personal emails (i.e. ny times, la times, food blogs, etc.). then either about 12:30 pm or 1:00 pm i take a nap and stay in bed until around 3:00 pm. i go for a walk around the subdivision (1.5 miles) no chickens, or elephants but lots of dogs, and crows; i take a walking stick with me to beat off the asians. after that i go to the market, dry cleaners, bank or visit my mom in the retirement care facility. then at 5:00 pm i start watching tv and make diner, after dinner i watch basketball on tv and then a violence movie or maybe i’ll read until midnight. once a month or two i try to get together for an uninspired lunch with former political operatives and we laugh at old tales. all of this is boring.

It is a 20 min walk. kaiser permanente say’s one should excersize for a least thirty minutes a day at least there days a week. i think it has something to do with releasing endorphins in your head or is a scam to encourage people to buy nike shoes. i never believed in it but its something to do and it’s the only time people on the street say “hello”. also i can use it against the doctor when i tell him i follow his advice but still feel like shit.

Yes, I have a kitchen and a maid also, but she does not make espresso. did you ever think about buying an expresso machine and giving the maid something to do. does she like make youe meals? what does she make and is it all spicy? last night i watched a movie bancok dangerous with nicholas cage. in a scene he was eating spicy thai food and had to chew some green leaves to cool off. the other scenes were better..he was killing people, but he didn’t score with the chick.

Filling up space. it’s the hardest thing you will ever have to do. i usually listen to a 24/7 opera radio station on the internet http://www.radiotower.com/player.php?channel_id=7366 and/or to a ham radio repeater station where they talk dirty. if i’m lucky the opera is italian, my favorite is puccinni, and not mozart although i beleive him to be one of the best composers of music.

Joe’s Response:

Thanks for the advice. I wanted him to drive me to the massage parlor. I will enjoy searching the web for appropriate pictures. Any sites that you recommend?
on the search bar just enter “image of a….” and spell out what the image is that you want..

I am in the north of Thailand, provide me with the name of the locale and address so i can google it and see the location on a map, few muslims but there are a lot of snakes what’s the difference, drug wars, white (brown) slavers, my favorite corrupt police my kinda’ guys and of course elephants.dumbo?

By the way, how did you sent up your blog? it’s all free and fairly easy. go to google.com and set up a name and password. then once in, click on “more” then click on “even more” and then click on “blogger”. i suppose you might just do a search for “blogger”. once in, everything is explained and you just have to experiment. the main thing i haven’t figured out yet is how to notify people of a new post without sending them a separate email which is what i do. if you haven’t all readyYou did a great job. I am pleased that the recent postings are optimistic. I am happy for you. thanks. thanks but i am not more optimistic i am just more realistic and have begun to face reality which is the wonderment of anxiety, depression and dispair within which i have lived and will for the remainder of my life. i fully believe that my physical/mental disabilities.infirmities are genetic and that the most i can do is alleviate the syptoms and recognize that that there is no cure. instead of avoiding the draft i should have joined the marines…maybe they would have made a man out of me.

Joe….

By the way Hayden calls me his Pookie. Should I be embarrassed? i’d be flattered. i think “pookie” was a positive character on the soupy sales show but i don’t remember what kind of character he was. not a dog like “white fang” or “black tooth”. although maybe “pookie” means something in thai! better get a dictionary.
PS: I just turned on my spell check and it suggested “Statesman” as replacement for “Schatzman”. I always knew you were bound for great things. I suppose the next time it will suggest “Nobel”.unlikely. i was once chased by a man in israel who came after to me to tell me that my name, which i had just signed on a guest book, meant “spokesman for the people”. usually, schatzman refers to a “dear man” or someone like a “treasurer: the word “dear” meaning worth something like money or jewels, i suppose i could have been at least a contender but was burdened instead by listing to the little guy on my shoulder carrying a pitchfork telling me that, “It’s all good, no one will know, you can get away with it.” But that little guy on my shoulder didn’t tell me that in the real world, you don’t get away with it because even when you are the only one who knows, that is enough to destroy you. It just will happen from the inside out.

Petrillo on the other hand usually turns up “petrol” or “petrel”, black ooze or a damed bird. no. i think petrillo comes from the name peter which is derived from the greek word for “rock”. you know like stong like a rock. wasn’t that a song by bob seger?

Irwin’s response:

what i really want to know before i die is that you had to pay for four wives. three children. were $80k in credit card debt and are now living in a palacial estate in an exotic country with a maid, chauffer, and god knows what else at your disposal. how was this managed?

the weather gauge is turning red and we are allerted by radar that torrential rains are anticipated within the next two hours. we have now had rain storms daily for three days. last night i noticed that my feet got damp when i stood on the carpet next to the french door in the computer room. my last wife, who sleeps upstairs, woke up this morning a head full of wet hair and a spot on the livingroom ceiling is brown and water has dripped down the wall. my backyard isn’t large enough to build an ark…i won’t complain, at least its not a tsunami coming over the back wall.

we are doomed i tell you but at least we maybe don;t have to deal with al gore anymore.

i.

Joe’s Response:


In my subdivision, I use my walking stick to beat off the Europeans. Today I will try to get the driver to take me to the Mall. From there I think I can find my way to the massage parlor.


My evenings so far are spent with Hayden.

The maid makes my breakfast and my dinner. Lunch I fend for myself. Breakfast is bland and dinner spicy. She is not a very good cook but she cleans the house, tends the garden and and washes my clothes.

I prefer watching the the young attractive barristas and waitresses to watching the maid who is kind of square shaped.

I always cry at the final aria of Co Co San in Madame Butterfly. Thanks for the site. I will try it tonight.

I am midway between the city of Chiang Mai and the village of Hang Dong (if you can believe it). I tried google maps but they are not very good for Thailand.

I have to go. My driver has arrived. Will write again later.

Joe…

From Irwin:

how far are you from Chiang Mai and how far is that from bankcok? i see that apartments in chiang mai are $13 us a night so i am beginning to understand how you might be able to afford a house – but it looks like you are in the middle of nowhere;hope you don’t need a doctor in the middle of the night. well i’m still in semi-civilization
and about to leave for the kosher butcher.

Joe’s response is missing.

From Irwin:

worldclub lane is not a very exotic name. who were the subdividers, people from the uk?

it’s now 6:30pm here (sunday) what time (and day) is it there? any palestinians?

if orchid’s grow on trees in one’s backyard what flowers do high school girls wear for a corsage at their prom?

irwin

Joe’s Response:

  1. It is exotic to the Thai’s. The developer is Thai. I think he was hoping that Chiang Mai would host the World Cup or maybe the Olympics. It has a huge indoor-outdoor pool in the health club that is now an American Christian high school. The school, I hear is being booted out for being assholes.

This is a strange subdivision. As near as I can tell there are virtually no zoning, health or design controls. As a result it now contains at least two pre-schools and an elementary schools, a pretty good convenience store in someone’s garage, a martial arts studio in someones house and a couple of restaurants. One of the restaurants is run by an old lady who is the widow of one of the City’s ex-mayors (The current one a woman, has just been caught in a notorious sex scandal). Anyway the widow lives on adjacent to a stub-end street that she closed off and now uses as an open air restaurant that she services from the kitchen in her house. She also grows most of her vegetables and herbs on the open area at the end of the stub-end. She also makes herbal medicines and a wine made from some fruit no-one can name or show me and mysterious herbs. The wine takes three months to “mature”. It begins as a rose’ and at “maturity” turns deep red like a burgundy. It actually does not taste bad, a little like a retsina. You get sort of a mellow drunk with a lot of giggling and no appreciable hangover. We think the one of herbs used is ganja.

My corner of the subdivision is the upscale section, with big houses with elaborate gardens and imposing walls and gates. Most of the occupants are corrupt Thai politicians and businessmen and a few Europeans. In other sections one sees enormous houses filling up the entire lot. On some lots, there are more that one house on others someone will develop a few row houses. It the low rent district there are about 50 row houses. These were the first and probably built for the athletes that never came

2. If it is 6:30 PM in California on Sunday, it would be 9:30 AM monday here.

3. The next time I take a teenage Thai girl to her prom I will ask.

Joe…

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Pookie and Hayden

A few years ago, while I was sitting at the table one evening doing little more than staring at the wall, I noticed Hayden writing away in a notebook. This was a very unusual thing for him to do. He typically spends the evenings watching television, building Lego Cities, running around the house screaming for no discernible reason and, just before bedtime, completing his homework. I asked him what he was doing. He said it was a secret and continued to diligently attend to whatever he was working on. When he finished he came over and showed me the notebook.

A few nights previously, I had promised him that we would write a short comic book together entitled “Hayden Without a Hat.” Each evening thereafter he asked me if I was ready to write the story with him and each night I gave some excuse or other. The notebook contained the following (everything is as he wrote it including the punctuation, except for the quotation marks which I added). I promised him I would “publish” it. So here it is:

     “Story for little boys, girls!

        

     Hayden Without a Hat

          Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Hayden Without a Hat.            

          “Oh, no!” says Grandpa Pooky. “Oh no!!!” Grandpa Pooky says “You need a hat.”

          “A hat…” says Hayden, “a hat.” “Let me think. Hmmm, ok” Hayden says. “I do need a hat!!!! “Hey, we can go to the hat store.”

          So Hayden picked out his favorite hat. It was just like Grandpa Pooky’s hat.

          Remember kids always have a hat!!! And mom’s and dad’s.”

I told him that I also sent a copy to his mom because it would make her so proud of him. He said I should not have because she would make him do it again and again until he got bored.

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Introduction

I met Trenz Pruca about ten years ago in Daly City California. In order to escape the fog and mist, I had ducked into a coffee house in a strip mall. As I ordered, I looked around the shop and noticed a large dark presence in a booth at the back of the cafe. Since all the other booths were occupied, I with my cafe latte in hand walked to the back of the shop and asked the presence sitting there if I could join him. He nodded and I took the seat opposite. Now close enough for my eyes to penetrate the gloom and study my table mate, I received a shock. Sitting across from me in the darkness appeared to be a six-foot-three-inch white rat with dark glasses wearing a black fedora and a red and white striped scarf. Before him, a Mac-book was propped open. Next, to it, a half finished cup of espresso settled wearily.

We had a brief mostly one-sided conversation as I tried to slake my curiosity. He responded to my attempts to engage him in a dialogue with a series of grunts.

Thereafter, I would run into him by chance now and then. He could usually be found sitting in the dark corners of lightly patronized coffee houses in semi-forgotten towns that rim San Francisco Bay or during the winter months, Marrakesh, typing away on his Mac-book and obsessively downing endless cups of strong doppio espressos. Although he never spoke much and he certainly never indicated he enjoyed my presence, we became what seemed to pass for friends.

A few years after that first meeting he surprised me by showing up at my door on my Name Day bearing a bottle of Charbono. Thereafter, once a year on my name day, March 15, he stops by my house to celebrate with a glass of the Charbono wine that he likes so much. Every day, he sends me reams of emails, most of which are gibberish. Now and then, however, I find he has written a clever bon mot or an interesting sentence or two from which I have culled the contents of this book.

A few months after I first met Trenz, I ran into him in a coffee house in Emeryville. It was here I received another shock. Until then, I had thought he was a six-foot-three-inch white rat. I was wrong. I had assumed he was a white rat from the few times we met because of his rodent-like denature and my youthful conjecture that, unlike me and my swarthy Mediterranean neighbors, individuals with slightly pink skin were considered white. Nevertheless, I noticed a rather un-rat-like short stubby tail jutting from his long almost floor length dark coat and the strange bluntness of his snout. After some prodding, I learned he was, in fact, a Naked Mole Rat, one of those hardy, courageous and gentle creatures so beloved of scientists and odd individuals everywhere. He finally admitted to it when I pressed him during that visit. The long dark coat and cap he explained, protected his sensitive skin from the sun and hid his nakedness as modesty demanded. He required the thick dark glasses held together by adhesive tape because his vision was poor and the light disturbed his eyes.

“Why,” I asked, “do you live here and not with your own kind?” He stared at me silently for a while, as he often did — a long while. Then finally, when I thought he would not respond he said in a soft voice, “I assume you noticed I am quite large.” “Yes,” I acknowledged. “But why with humans?” Again a very long silence. Then, “True, you humans are rather untrustworthy, barbaric and not very bright, and you spend all too much time foolishly talking about yourselves.” More silence, finally: “But I decided sitting in a dark coffee house with you humans was slightly preferable to living in a cave somewhere with a bear or similar creature, eating raw meat and grunting and growling and scratching myself — only slightly better, you understand.”

That, I was to find out much later, was not exactly the truth. He grew up in East Africa near the Horn of Africa. His family was reasonably well-off for Mole-Rats. Like the photograph, he gave me that graces the top of this Introduction shows, he cut a dashing figure as a young Mole-Rat rat. Alas, war and political turmoil ended his idyllic life and he was forced to flee the land of his birth. After bouncing about the world. he landed here in the Bay Area penniless and if truth be known slightly deranged.

I obtained a more recent photograph of him taken during his travels. It appears as though the photograph was taken of him as he passed through Japan. As the photograph shows, it must have been a difficult time for Trenz.

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As far as the items contained in this book are concerned, I have attempted to cull the more interesting from the mass of emails and provide some rudimentary editing. Some of the longer pieces included here he never finished and I have no hope he ever will. Others, seem to defy comprehension. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy at least some of them.

One note, although, for the sake of organization, I attempted to gather similar subjects into chapters, there is no magic to the order in which the chapters appear, One can start one place as well as another. There is no reason why readers cannot begin anywhere. I suspect it will be just as enjoyable, or not, no matter how they go about it.

J.E. Petrillo, Editor.

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Ireland-1

On March 17, while roaming through the Amazon website, I came across a book by Frank Delaney entitled “Ireland: A Novel” about Irish stories and storytelling.

Ireland has always been a special, perhaps even magical place for me ever since that day many years ago when while sitting in a pub somewhere in Kerry drinking a half and half I noticed a man beside slumped over the bar seemingly deep asleep. Suddenly he woke up with a start — hair wild, sticking out here and there like shards of glass, face red and lumpy, watery grey-blue eyes and missing a few teeth behind a stubbled jaw. He turned towards me  and said, “De ye know how d’Irish lost da battle o d’Boyne?”,  in a brogue so thick I could barely understand him. He then launched into an hour-long tale of King Billy with his shining armor and King Jimmy who ran away — about the last minute fording of the river by the English cavalry preventing the out manned and out gunned Irish from achieving a stunning victory and changing history. I was enthralled.

Weeks later, standing on the hill at Newgrange overlooking that same Boyne winding through the green far below, I could, in my mind, see the wounded King Billy riding off after being shot by the Irish gunners, rallying his troops to victory and the silver river turning red with blood.

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I turned from that scene and entered Newgrange, the massive 6000-year-old structure older than the Pyramids, older than Stonehenge (no one claimed it was built by aliens either). Bending low, I followed the long dark tunnel (people could freely enter then) to the large room in the center where no light penetrated.

On the longest night of the year, the winter Solstice, whoever it was that may have worshiped there so long ago gathered and awaited the dawn. Upon the sun’s first breasting of the horizon. a shaft of light would flash through a passage above the tunnel and illuminate the chamber in a brilliant magical glow. How wonderful, I thought, it must have been for those from a society bereft of movies, social media, books and the like to gather here once a year and experience such splendor.

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Anyway, that and my fondness for storytelling prompted me to order the book and begin reading it on my Kindle. As strange as it may seem, it was not until later that I realized that it was also Saint Patricks Day.

I found the novel delightful. It contains a series of tales told by an itinerant storyteller. The stories about Ireland include The Architect of Newgrange, King Connor’s Comeuppance, Saint Patrick Drives the Snakes along with the Devil from Ireland, Brendan Discovers America, and Finn McCool’s Wedding.

“THE GREAT IRISH WARRIOR, FINN MACCOOL, had the longest arms and the fastest legs and the fairest hair and the bluest eyes and the broadest shoulders and the soundest digestion of any man ever living. He was a god, a leader, a warrior, a hunter, and a thinker. And he was a poet.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel (p. 152). HarperCollins.

(Hmm, by “soundest digestion” did the storyteller mean the ability to eat everything from rusty nails to spoiled meat or was he focused on the other end of the digestive tract, stools, neither watery nor hard as rocks?)

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In the novel, all these tales were linked  by the account of a young man’s obsession with stories and storytelling and his long search for the itinerant storyteller who when he was a child had met the storyteller, listened to his stories and was forever changed. Although the storyteller relates most of the tales in the novel, the young man does also, including an appealing story about Brian Boru.

There is also a wonderful lecture by the fictitious but delightful history professor T. Bartlett Ryle, who loved Spenser’s poetry but hated his harsh treatment of his beloved Irish. The lecture given at his first class with his new students may be one of the more amusing expositions of what the story of history is and is not. It begins:

“THE MOST DISGRACEFULLY NEGLECTED PERIOD of Irish history stretches from the year seven-ninety-five to the year eleven-seventy. Those dates are in what many people call the Dark Ages. I am not one of those people. And I sincerely doubt that any of your teachers has clearly defined the centuries of the Dark Ages, so let us strap them down here and now. Most of the stuff that’s spoken about that era is good enough to grow roses in.”

“I dislike the term Dark Ages. Day by day, ancient texts and archaeology’s finds are brightening those centuries, and it may well prove to be the case that one day the Ages won’t deserve to be called Dark anymore. The word you should be searching for is medieval. In my lectures you’ll hear only the terms early medieval, high medieval, and late medieval. Let me see nothing else in your essays. You may write about the sexing of chickens—there’s deep sympathy around here for that sort of thing. You may write about the effect of drought upon a toper. You may write about the fate of maiden ladies who work in bishops’ houses. But you may not write about the Dark Ages.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel (p. 229). HarperCollins.

He goes on:

“So: old Irish, Vikings, and Normans—three people on one island; my purpose here is to pick a way for you through that mixture and give you a teaching our history since the Normans that’ll render you fit to go forth, marry decently, raise a family, live to a ripe old age, evacuate your bowels no more than once daily, cultivate your garden, or if you prefer, spend your life in low dives, gambling on two flies climbing up a wall while drinking cheap liquor imported from Rumania. I hope you’re still with me—in spirit if not in spite.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel (p. 232). HarperCollins.

Santayana’s statement that “Those who do not remember history are forced to repeat it” is partially true. We humans, singly or collectively, seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. We also suffer from our common tendency to concentrate on the minutia we understand and avoid where we can the difficult complexities of life. For example, the introduction of the steel plow, the internal combustion engine or the transistor may have changed everything but we still went about our lives and politics obsessed with the same things we have always been obsessed with, among which was how to control and ultimately consume all the resources necessary for us live and our species to survive.

“When politicians and those who observe them consider matters, they frequently fall into the trap of assuming—hopefully or desperately, depending which side they’re on—that a status quo may last forever. They forget what changes things—events. That’s what all politics are changed by—events.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel (p. 234). HarperCollins.

The young man, Ronan by name, goes on to become a storyteller himself wandering the byways, homes and pubs of the country where, in return for shelter food and some Guinness and Irish whisky, he told stories of old Ireland, of its heroes and its villains, its suffering and triumphs even about Kings Billy and Jimmy at the famous Battle of the Boyne.

“We merge our myths with our facts according to our feelings, we tell ourselves our own story. And no matter what we are told, we choose what we believe. All “truths” are only our truths, because we bring to the “facts” our feelings, our experiences, our wishes. Thus, storytelling—from wherever it comes—forms a layer in the foundation of the world; and glinting in it we see the trace elements of every tribe on earth.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel. HarperCollins.

Pookie says, “Check it out.”

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Although I am traveling, I still manage to put in time reading novels. Recently I read Arturo Perez-Reverte’s latest. Perez-Reverte whose taut but lush adventure and mystery novels generally take place in Spain during its long sad decline from world empire until the old order was finally snuffed out by the armies of Napoleon. His series of books, featuring the melancholy but indomitable soldier and peerless swordsman Captain Alatriste, are classics.

The Siege, as its name implies, takes place during the interminable multi-year siege of Cadiz where the armies of Napoleon and his brother Joseph, the imposed King of Spain, had chased the government of the tattered empire and its inconsistent allies, the English. Cadiz, however still had access to the sea and many of its merchants, smugglers and privateers flourished even while the bombs daily rained down on parts of the city. The plot revolves around the attempts by the brutal and corrupt Chief of Police to solve a series of exceedingly vicious murders.

Unfortunately, Perez-Reverte introduces a sub-plot, a bodice ripper straight out of Danielle Steele — A romance between the dashing but crude and dangerous, curly-haired, handsome and muscular captain of a privateer, Pepe Lupo (Joe Wolf) and his employer, the refined, learned, capable, aristocratic, accomplished and almost beautiful owner of one of the city’s premier shipping companies, Lolita Palma. Lolita, virginal from to tip of her leather boots to the top of her lace mantilla, unfortunately, is 32 years old and unmarried. In the Cadiz of that time, at 32, she hovered between the twilight of fuckable and the onset spinsterhood. Perez-Reverte, damn him, shamelessly introduces a scene where Joe confronts Lolita at an elegant ball, causing her to snap open her fan and rapidly cool down the rising warmth of a blush.

“At least,” I thought, “he does not have the poor woman wet her drawers.” Alas, not more than a couple of dozen pages later, as Joe Wolf’s cutter heads off on another venture in legalized piracy, the still virginal Lolita, standing behind the crenellations of the tower above her Palacio and staring at the corsair’s ship as it disappears over the horizon, does just that. Arturo Perez-Reverte, you should be ashamed of yourself

Nevertheless,
Pookie says “check it out.”

“…all things have their allotted time in the suicidal order of things— in life, and in its inexorable outcome, death.”
Perez-Reverte, Arturo. The Siege: A Novel (p. 358). Random House Publishing Group.

Note: Reading this book makes me wonder if getting involved in the shithole that was Spain at that time was not as great a mistake for Napoleon as his march into Russia. It is usually the inability of empires to know their bounds that bring them to ruin. I wonder if that was the genius of Augustus Caesar; to recognize there were limits to the expansion of empire beyond the need to establish secure boundaries. It probably enabled the Roman Empire to survive for another 1000 years until the thugs of the Fourth Crusade finally put it out of its misery.

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In one of my favorite books, written by William Kotzwinkle (E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Walter the Farting Dog) the main character Horse Badorties carries a battery-operated hand-held fan everywhere to keep him cool in the NY summer heat. In one chapter, Recently I ran across the following blog that captures the essence of the novel and I thought I would share it with you.

Why “Dorky Days”?

There is a book — a novel — called The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle. It is about a hippie named Horse Badorties who lives in New York City. To the reader, he has no job, no life, no direction, no this, no that, etc. To HIM, he is a very busy, important man. Think of The Dude, and then take away the White Russians and the car and replace them with bottled Piña Coladas and a stolen school bus. You end up with Horse Badorties….

…Horse Badorties spends a lot of time recruiting fifteen-year-old chicks to join The Love Chorus, a choir he instructs at St. Nancy’s Church. Horse Badorties is also very much sexually preoccupied with fifteen-year-old chicks. He isn’t a pervert — he just likes ’em that way. In fact, I think that Horse Badorties just prefers to assume that every attractive woman he sees is fifteen-years-old….

…Horse Badorties is dead set on making sure that The Love Chorus gets to perform a concert live on television. This book has no real plot (fuck plot), but if any Hollywood asshole ever gets his hands on a copy of this book and decides to make a movie, I’d say that the bit about The Love Chorus going on TV would probably be distorted and exploited in all sorts of bullshit ways. Anyway, our hero manages to tell the head of NBC about the concert. How? He’s Horse Badorties….

…Horse Badorties may also be a drug dealer. Well, I guess he pretty much is. Throughout the book he makes phone calls to various people regarding recent shipments of “carrots,” or how he’ll be by later with the “Swiss Chard.” He and a beautiful girl smoke “alphabets”…

…All right. I say I don’t identify with Benjamin Braddock (From The Graduate) anymore, and then I go on this long tangeant about a transient named Horse Badorties. First of all, he isn’t a transient — by the end of the book he has four “Horse Badorties pads.” Second of all, I don’t identify with Horse Badorties, but I dig his dogma: every day is an adventure, nothing is that big of a deal, and every woman in the world is a beautiful fifteen-year-old chick with a voice like a lark.

There is nothing wrong with the book. The book is perfect. It’s hilarious and irreverent and unpredictable and unpretentious. It’s about packing up your Horse Badorties satchel, getting on the subway, and seeing where the Hell the day takes you. It’s about playing bizarre musical instruments with people on the street and making thousands of copies of rare sheet music. It’s about freedom and love and hope and nirvana.

Sometimes, it’s also about loneliness.

So what the Hell is Dorky Day? Once a month, Horse Badorties spends an entire day repeating the word “dorky” over and over. Out loud. This day is called “Dorky Day.”

Constant repetition of the word ‘dorky’ cleans out my consciousness, man, gets rid of all the rubble and cobwebs piled up there….
fan_manhttps://dorkydorkydorky.wordpress.com/

Pookie says, “Check it out.”

Note: There have been times in my life when I thought of myself as The Fan Man — the reincarnation of old Horse Badorties himself. At other times, I believed Horse Badorties emigrated to California where he became our beloved Maurice Trad. Actually, Horse Badorties was really Keith Lampe, that irrepressible hippie that haunted the streets of San Francisco during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Keath hauled around with him a seven-foot single stringed instrument he called a drone that he would thrum and accompany with incomprehensible wordless lyrics often while sitting on the back seat of a Muni bus. Keath decided to give up speaking. Instead he chose to communicate with various shouts, growls and whistles. Occasionally at night, he would climb out onto the balcony of my upstairs neighbor’s apartment and bay at the full moon.

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