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Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

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Affirmation

To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
     Donald Hall

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Leaving the Big Hole we crossed the Bitterroot Valley entered the Lemhi Pass through which Lewis and Clark passed on their way to the Pacific. We dropped down into Idaho and the town of Salmon. Salmon Idaho is a smallish western town, near the place where Sacagawea was born and the home of some family members of the Smith branch of Naida’s family. The patriarch of this branch Don Ian Smith was the town’s Methodist minister and the principal author of two books published and substantially revised by Naida, Simon’s Daughter, and Murder on the Middle Fork (bridgehousebooks@gmail.com). Two of his children Heather and Rockwell still live there.

Heather, a tiny woman, who in her mid-seventies still rides out into the fields herding cattle. We arrived at the ranch just as Heather and her daughter rode in from herding some stray cattle into the corral.
Heather is also an accomplished author writing many books on the care and training of horses. She is also one of the most amazing pack rats I have ever met. I doubt whether she had thrown anything away in her entire life. Even the detritus lying around outside the ranch seemed to include farm implements going back to the nineteenth century.
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Heather and Naida converse at the kitchen table.

 

Heather’s daughter Andrea, a woman who lives her life as she wants to — untamed and tempestuous — suffered a devastating injury almost 20 years ago. A wildfire, one of the largest and most disastrous in Idaho’s history, began on a hill near the ranch. She and a friend quickly jumped on a tractor and sped off toward the fire intending to dig a firebreak in an effort to halt its advance. Alas, the wind changed driving the fire towards them. She jumped off the tractor and attempted to outrun it. She did not succeed. The fire swiped over her leaving third-degree burns over much of her body. She was eventually transported to the burn center in Salt Lake where she remained for a few years. She then spent the next eight years or so receiving skin grafts. It has been only a year or two since the worst of that process was finished. Now, unless one gets close to her and looks closely her scars are barely visible.

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Lynn Thomas, Naida, Heather, Andrea, and Andrea’s most recent boyfriend whose name we forgot.

 

 

Naida explained to me that the family over the years, suffered many other difficulties and tragedies such as the death of Heathers father, the respected Methodist minister of the City of Salmon, the vicious behavior of a close relative causing great financial hardship, the eternal vagaries of the ranching business and of course the creeping infirmity of age.

We explored the pretty little valley in which the ranch was situated. At one time Naida’s father owned a ranch further up the river. Before the land had begun used for cattle it had been populated by minors searching for gold. Some of their old dwellings built mostly underground were still visible.

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Naida exploring an old miners hut.

 
We also visited Rockwell Smith and his wife who live further up the canyon. Rockwell was a noted radio personality at the major Boise radio station who now, in his retirement, still conducts a popular talk show on the local Salmon radio station.

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Naida, Rockwell, and Beverly.

 

He recently built a large home further up the valley. Is was much too large for the two of them. Rockwell plans to use the excess space for housing AirBNB guests.

Rockwell is also a much sought-after Santa Clause during the Christmas season in Salmon.

We also explored the City of Salmon and its environs. Sacagewea of Lewis and Clark fame had been born in the area and war returned her by the explorers. We spent an afternoon a a park honoring Sacagewea designed by an architect friend of ours who now lives near us in Campus Commons Sacramento.

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I am resting in front of Sacagewea’s statue in the park dedicated to her memory.

 

One eventing, Naida and I had dinner at the Junkyard Bistro, Salmon’s premier restaurant. It actually is a bar with a few tables in the back. The food, however, is very good (a grate gnocchi dish) and the good California wine goes for only $9 a bottle.

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THE JUNKYARD BISTRO.

 
Finally, it was time to leave and return home.

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1. From Boise to Idaho Falls:

 

The next morning after breakfast we left for the long drive across southern Idaho. Upon leaving the city precincts, we crossed the bleak high desert covering eastern Oregon and Southern Idaho. During the hours and miles, Naida kept up a running narrative about the pioneers who traveled the Oregon Trail along the same route and their hardships, technology, and social relationships. She told about the Native Americans who lived in the area prior to the arrival of the pioneers, how they lived, their horse breeding prowess, and their initial reactions to the arrival of the white immigrants. Eventually, as we approached the Snake River patches of green cultivated land, some of which were on the bottomland of the river and others on lands watered from the massive irrigation projects of the New Deal.

We eventually arrived at Shoshone Falls, about halfway between Boise and Idaho Falls. Until the installation of the nearby hydroelectric project diminished them, the falls were reputed to be higher than Niagara. Directly downstream from the falls the Snake passes through the steep canyon where in 1972 the entertainer Evel Knievel attempted unsuccessfully to jump across the canyon on a rocket-powered cycle. Although I had watched the failed attempt on television way back then, I had no idea how wide a canyon it actually was.
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Shoshone Falls

 

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Knievel attempted to jump this canyon.

 

Following the brief diversion to the falls, we continued on. About halfway to Idaho Falls, we came upon a poorly signed detour on the Interstate. We became confused and took the wrong road and found ourselves traveling along a ten-mile detour, five miles out and five miles back. There appeared to be no place to turn around. After about two miles, I noticed an automobile parked at the edge of the road. As we approached, I realized it was a police car and mentioned it to Naida who was driving at the time. She tried to move into the left lane but couldn’t because a truck was passing us. Just as we approached the police car, its backlights began blinking. We passed it. I then watched in the mirror as the cop pulled out, caught up to us, and motioned for us to pull over. This annoyed me since I suspected this was just a speed trap, especially since the rental car had California plates. We pulled over to the verge with the police car directly behind us. He walked over to the car, motioned to me to roll down the window and announced that we had failed to move over one lane when passing an emergency vehicle parked at the side of a road. After my failed protest, he gave us a ticket and returned to his vehicle.

Our rental vehicle was a new RAV4. It came without an owner’s manual. As a result, we could not figure out many of the intricacies of its operation. So, as Naida started up the car and while trying to determine how to put it into drive, it began rolling back and panic ensued. We crashed into the police car. Naida was mortified. I found it the amusing high point of the whole trip so far. The cop was non-plussed and since there was no serious damage simply told us to drive on carefully.

A few miles after returning to the Interstate we arrived a Rupert Idaho, a small town where Naida spent part of her childhood. Almost every storefront, many of which were empty, had a plaque affixed to the facade declaring it a historical landmark and telling a bit about its history. What fascinated me most was a massive fabric shop catering primarily to the quilting crowd.

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Naida at the Rupert town square.

 

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Pookie in the fabric shop.

 

We returned to the interstate and arrived in Idaho Falls at dusk and drove directly to Naida’s half-sister Christy’s home. After a few minutes of relaxation, Christy got into her camper and we followed her in the Toyota for about 45 minutes until we arrived in the mountains to the east of the city at an area called the Palisades. There, we turned into a box canyon that terminated at the foot of Sheep Mountain and after a brief climb on the curving, unlighted dirt roads that snaked up the side of the canyon we arrived at Christy’s small but comfortable A-frame cabin where we would spend the next few days.

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Sheep Mountain.

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The cabin.

 

 

2. Christy and the Cabin at Sheep Creek.

 

Christy a hard-living, hard-drinking, dope-smoking, gun-toting, Mormon hating, radical woman of the Continental Divide spent her life hunting, marrying, selling real estate, boating up and down the Snake River, raising children and cooking the greatest pancakes I had ever tasted. That first evening as we got settled, Cristy mentioned that moose, grizzly bears, and other large mammals visit the cabin now and then. I told her about my pathological fear of bears especially those of the grizzly kind. She responded, “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you,” and immediately strapped on her pistol which she kept on her hip the entire time I was there. How can you not bond with someone like that?

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Christy, her pistol and I.

 

We spent the next few days eating pancakes in the morning, sitting on lawn chairs by the cabin staring at the palisades across the valley, smoking, drinking and telling stories. Christy spoke mostly about her third husband. She loved him very much. He shared her lifestyle, carousing, boating, racing their ski-mobiles through the forests in winter and the like. She was devastated when he died in an unfortunate accident.

One morning Christy drove us in her van around the valley. We stopped at the base of Sheep Mountain. Naida told me that the canyon and Sheep Mountain had been leased by her grandfather from BLM when he was raising sheep on a ranch somewhere near Idaho Falls.

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Naida and I at the head of the Sheep Creek Trail.

 

During the summer, he would drive his sheep into the canyon where they would graze along the creek on the way to the slopes of the mountain where they would spend the season. He would spend most of the summer there with his sons and ranch hands and his sheepcamp.
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A Sheepcamp.

 
We also walked along the trails and dirt roads. Naida would try to identify the flora that we passed by.

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At one point she mentioned that she thought the mountains thereabout were part of the Grand Teton mountain chain. If they were they were not particularly imposing. I decided to call them the Puny Teton Mountains.

On our last day there, Naida and I met with some more of her relatives who we met in the nearby town of Swan Valley.

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Naida and Brian Miller and his family.

 

and then, after saying a sad goodbye to Christy, we left the Puny Tetons and headed to the Grand Tetons and the second half of our trip.

 

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The Palisades and Christy’s Boat.

(To be continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

B. THE SATURDAY MORNING COFFEE.

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

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

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

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

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

 

C. SMOGY THINGS.

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

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

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

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D. AT NIGHT WITH NAIDA AND ANNABELL LEE.

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

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

Than to love and be loved by me.I

And so on.

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

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

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

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Given the events of the recent weeks in the United States, the massacres of innocents by White Nationalists, the abandonment of the fight against climate change, shredding of protections against nuclear holocaust and the looting of the national treasury, this poem by William Butler Yeats captures the dread we in America feel at this time as well as it did one hundred years ago. Then the slouching beast crept towards Berlin. Today its claws grip the heart of our nation while the worst in our citizens march into our cities and towns, our schools and shops our churches, synagogues, and mosques full of passionate intensity and carrying assault weapons.

 

The Second Coming
BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born
.
William Butler Yeats is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He belonged to the Protestant, Anglo-Irish minority that had controlled the economic, political, social, and cultural life of Ireland since at least the end of the 17th century. Most members of this minority considered themselves English people who happened to have been born in Ireland, but Yeats was staunch in affirming his Irish nationality. Although he lived in London for 14 years of his childhood (and kept a permanent home there during the first half of his adult life), Yeats maintained his cultural roots, featuring Irish legends and heroes in many of his poems and plays. He was equally firm in adhering to his self-image as an artist. This conviction led many to accuse him of elitism, but it also unquestionably contributed to his greatness. As fellow poet W.H. Auden noted in a 1948 Kenyon Review essay entitled “Yeats as an Example,” Yeats accepted the modern necessity of having to make a lonely and deliberate “choice of the principles and presuppositions in terms of which [made] sense of his experience.” Auden assigned Yeats the high praise of having written “some of the most beautiful poetry” of modern times.
(www.poetryfoundation.org/)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Friday evening while helping Naida* with some problems finding a book designer for her memoir, we fell into a discussion about Malcolm Margolin, a Bay Area publisher and author and a friend of Naida’s. Margolin wrote The Ohlone Way an acclaimed and seminal book describing the culture of the Native Americans who inhabited the Bay Area prior to the arrival of the Europeans.

“The Bay Area of today is vastly different from what it was two centuries ago. The grizzly bears, elks, bald eagles, ospreys, antelopes, wolves, and condors have totally disappeared. Introduced European annual grasses have seized the meadowlands from the native bunch-grasses. The widespread logging of trees for lumber, tanning bark, firewood, railroad ties, and fence posts have altered the forests. Ponds and lakes have been drained, rivers channelized, and thousands upon thousands of acres of marshes and swamps have been destroyed. The immense flocks of geese, ducks and pelicans, the great runs of salmon and steelhead, the enormous schools of smelt, the once numberless seals and whales are now a mere remnant of what they once were. As for the Ohlones — forty or so tribelets, some 10,000 people, indeed a whole way of life — that too is totally gone, replaced by a civilization technologically more advanced than theirs but in many respects, ecologically, socially, and spiritually more backward.”
Malcolm Margolin, The Ohlone Way (1978). Heyday Books: Berkeley.

I, of course, trolled through the internet to find whatever could about the man and his work. Ultimately, to my surprise what most captured my attention was neither his work nor accomplishments but this photograph:
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I spent a lot of time staring at the photograph wondering what I was really looking at. Margolin disappeared. In his place was my image of God or Gandalf, the Rabbi for us all, a gnome, Mr. Natural, an ancient elf, or perhaps even the aging Aristotle. Whatever it may have reminded me of, I knew that if I ever had the urge to find a guru for myself, I would want him to look like that. Naida described him as an intelligent, creative and compassionate man, part rabbi and part Native American who was changed by coming to California and changed California in return.

Saturday, Naida and I attended a luncheon hosted by the Sacramento Book Collectors Club. I realized, in my now getting on to be a long life, I have not gone to many events like this. Most of the thirty or so attendees were around our age. A few were local authors like Naida. I kinda enjoyed it. The guest speaker was the director of the Sacramento Library which I was surprised to learn was organized as a special district and as such was not part of the general City and County government. She spoke about the library of course and her role in running it.
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She also told stories about growing up and her love of books, mentioning several of her favorites including, The Wind in the Willows which was one of mine too. It got me musing about my own relationship with books.

Being read to in two languages while still in my crib led soon to me often being recruited to recite to family and friends the songs, poetry, and stories I had learned. I was, after all, the family’s Golden Child — I had blond hair. Not long into my burgeoning career as the Petrillo family child star, my hair turned black and I stopped performing. Things started going downhill for me soon after.

I began reading when I was a few months into my third year of existence. It was not an unmixed blessing for I soon came to be more fond of books than people. When I began formal schooling, I found it boring and would fake being sick so that my mom would keep me home where I would spend my time reading, especially the Collier’s Encyclopedia my parents were cajoled into buying. When I became a little older, I would slip out of the house after my parents went off to work or to some other adult activity and walk to the local public library in order to entertain myself there rummaging through the stacks and reading any interesting books that I found. I recall there was a children’s section and an adult section. All the books were marked on their spines with the Roman numerals, I, II, or III. I was for children and III were adult books. I do not recall what II designated. Because the librarians were very vigilant in making sure I would not read the III books, I would often pick out a large, colorful children book and prop it up on the library table I sat at so it would hide whatever III book I was reading at the time.

During the times I actually went to school and attended class, I would locate myself at the desk nearest the bookcase that graced each classroom and read the books stored there, usually history books, rather than pay attention to whatever was going on around me in the classroom. By the time I got to high school, I rarely attended class. When I was not skipping school and running off with some other delinquent, I would sit in the school library. I had challenged myself to read all the books in that library before I graduated, beginning with A and continuing to Z. I got as far an Emily Post if I remember correctly. The problem was not that I did not have time to read through to Z but rather the existence of one bookcase containing whatever new books that entered the library that month. These would remain in that bookcase until, in about a month’s time, they were removed and re-shelved in the general stacks. I simply had to read each new book as it came in before I would return to my trip through the alphabet. All this, of course, played havoc with my grades in school given that I rarely, if ever, did any homework as well as missing most class assignments. Nevertheless, I tested well enough to scrape through.

Later In life, as one would expect, I collected books, building up personal libraries of between 6 and 12 thousand books. Given how I conducted my adult life, — occupying myself with some obsession for about five to ten years and then suffering some real or imagined crisis causing me to abandon everything while I ran off somewhere to bury myself in overindulgence until I regained my balance and started off on some new obsession — I must have abandoned and reassembled those personal libraries at least three times so far. Alas, I fear the smart-phone and social media are killing off the age of paper books (1450 — 2020). Sad but inevitable.

One of the attendees at the luncheon mentioned she writing a book or article about California’s Coastal Program and some friend of her’s who apparently was very active in it but who I never heard of. When Naida mentioned my past involvement in things coastal, she asked to interview me for some background. I agreed.

Sunday was another nap day and Monday started out the same. Naida and I went out to eat lunch at a nearby restaurant named Roxy. I ordered a hotdog. While eating it a piece of the hotdog got caught in my throat and I threw up onto my plate. When we returned home, I took a nap. Vomiting up my lunch was enough excitement for me today.

 

*Naida West. Author of the critically acclaimed California Gold Trilogy.

Each book of the trilogy tells a forgotten story about people and events in central California. Each one can be enjoyed without reading the others, though history buffs insist they must be read in sequence. The spirit of a native woman lodged in an oak tree narrates all of them, and each one has substantial endnotes that provide more information about people and places. The books are required or recommended in college classes across the US and UK, but the author’s dearest fans come from all walks of life and all age groups, except for young children for whom some scenes are inappropriate. (www.bridgehousebooks.com)

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Bhagavata-Purana

While rummaging through the internet one day, I found a site produced by my old university, Fordham, intended for use by historian’s and students (https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/india/indiasbook.asp). In the site, I found the following poem, a portion of the Rig Vedas. Along with the poem, an interesting introduction was written by someone identified only as Mountain Man Graphics, Australia in the Southern Autumn of 1996. Enjoy.

Introduction

There is a certain amount of controversy surrounding the exact history of the Veda, the most ancient of Hindu scripture, which was first translated into European languages in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At this time, it was the contention of the expanding scientific, philosophical and religious doctrines of western European culture, that these writings simply could not be more ancient than the classical roots of European civilization. Whereas this hypothesis was strongly held by the expanding western educational regime, in recent times there has been cause to re-examine its claims.

In any event, although further references to this controversy are presented at the conclusion of this document, there is no doubt that these ancient Hindu scriptures are older than 1000BC. The word “Veda” is a Sanskrit word which means “knowledge” or “wisdom”. There are in fact four Vedas: the Rig Veda” or “Veda of Hymns”, the Samah-Veda or the “Veda of Chants”, the Yajur-Veda or the “Veda of sacrifice” and the Atharva-Veda, which is later in date than the earlier three.

Although the Vedas are the earliest of the Hindu scriptures, they are by no means the only body of writings to have originated from the ancient sub-continent of India. The Katha Upanishad is part of a large set of literature known as the Upanishads, and in the presentation of this, you will find some interesting mappings between the science of the east and that of the west.

The reference work which I have used in the presentation of the following selection of verses from the Rig Veda is one from the “Everyman’s Library” and entitled “The Hindu Scriptures”. It is translated and edited by R.C. Zaehner as recently as 1966.

For a more in-depth research concerning the Rig Veda, I would recommend reviewing Hymns to the Mystic Fire, an extensive publication in 1946 by Sri Aurobindo – in particular, the introductory sections in which he outlines the Doctrine of the Mystics.

I wish all research students the optimum of courage and determination concerning the pursuance of their common goals and have pleasure in presenting the following texts from the Rig Veda.

Peace,

  The Sacrifice of Primal Man

[1] A thousand heads had [primal] Man,
A thousand eyes, a thousand feet:
Encompassing the earth on every side,
He exceeded it by ten fingers’ [breadth].

[2] [That] Man is this whole universe, –
What was and what is yet to be,
The Lord of immortality
Which he outgrows by [eating] food.

[3] This is the measure of his greatness,
But greater yet is [primal] Man:
All beings form a quarter of him,
Three-quarters are the immortal in heaven.

[4] With three-quarters Man rose up on high,
A quarter of him came to be again [down] here:
From this he spread in all directions,
Into all that eats and does not eat.

[5] From him was Viraj born,
From Viraj Man again:
Once born, — behind, before,
He reached beyond the earth.

[6] When with Man as their oblation
The gods performed their sacrifice,
Spring was the melted butter,
Summer the fuel, and the autumn the oblation.

[7] Him they besprinkled on the sacrificial strew, –
[Primeval] Man, born in the beginning:
With him [their victim], gods, Sadhyas, seers
Performed the sacrifice.

[8] From this sacrifice completely offered
The clotted ghee was gathered up:
From this he fashioned beasts and birds,
Creatures of the woods and creatures of the village.

[9] From this sacrifice completely offered
Were born the Rig- and Sama-Vedas;
From this were born the metres,
From this was the Yajur-Veda born.

[10] From this were horses born, all creatures
That have teeth in either jaw;
From this were cattle born,
From this sprang goats and sheep.

[11] When they divided [primal] Man,
Into how many parts did they divide him?
What was his mouth? What his arms?
What are his thighs called? What his feet?

[12] The Brahman was his moth,
The arms were made the Prince,
His thighs the common people,
And from his feet the serf was born.

[13] From his mind the moon was born,
And from his eye the sun,
And from his mouth Indra and the fire,
From his breath the wind was born.

[14] From his navel arose the atmosphere,
From his head the sky evolved,
From his feet the earth, and from his ear
The cardinal points of the compass:
So did they fashion forth these worlds.

[15] Seven were his enclosing sticks
Thrice seven were made his fuel sticks,
When the gods, performing sacrifice,
Bound Man, [their sacrificial] beast.

[16] With the sacrifice the gods
Made sacrifice to sacrifice:
These were the first religious rites (Dharma),
To the firmament these powers went up
Where dwelt the ancient Sadhya gods.

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One day, while looking unsuccessfully for a deleted version of T&T (https://wordpress.com/view/josephpetrillo.wordpress.com), I came across the following. It records my musings several years ago while riding the train from Sacramento to San Francisco.

I took the train from Sacramento to San Francisco. The tracks ran through Susuin Marsh. I recall a time in my life when I would have moved Heaven and Hell to prevent even one acre of a wetland from falling beneath the blade of a bulldozer. Of course, I fully understand and agree with the intellectual, economic and ethical reasons for their preservation. At times when great flocks of birds fly screeching above the vegetation or mucking about in the shallows or at certain times of the year when they are bathed in the colors of spring or autumn, one can almost breathe in the tendrils of poetic inspiration rising from their fetid depths.

On the other hand at times like this, when the skies are overcast and grey, the vegetation a sickly yellow-brown and the waters a dingy black, I can understand a man coming upon them and thinking, “What a waste.” He would, I suspect, be likely to aspire to kill it in order to create something that would profit him more than basking in the glow someone else’s idea of aesthetic pleasure.

I would like to think most women coming upon the same marsh would dream instead about how the marsh itself could benefit them and their families without killing it first.

Being male, today those same marshes look like shit to me. I would not mind seeing them disappear beneath the antiseptic familiarity of a few Starbucks or MacDonald’s or the like. By the time we left the marshes behind and chugged into Richmond, however, I changed my mind and decided that, if I were not the one making the money from the deal, I would prefer leaving the wetlands pretty much as they are.

At night at my sister’s house in Berkeley, I began reading Sheldon’s newest novel “The Terrorist Next Door.” Its main character is a cop who, I suspect, to the disappointment of his Jewish parents, failed to become a doctor, lawyer or famous writer of mystery novels and ended up a Chicago homicide detective. He is teamed up with a black partner in a relationship reminiscent of that between Danny Glover and that famous anti-semite Mel Gibson in the “Lethal Weapon” series of movies.

There are three things I noticed and appreciated about the novel. First, it is an incomparable travelogue about Chicago (one should read the book with a map of the city nearby). Second is what one learns about Michelle Obama, a girl from the neighborhood. Third, Sheldon, in his own good-hearted and upbeat way, puts his finger upon the essential flaw in the American character and gives you a glimpse of how good things can be without it and how truly and horribly destructive it really is.

For those of you familiar with and aficionados of the Siegel cannon, he began his writing career trying to write a novel about a young Jewish attorney wrongfully accused of the murder of one of his partners, a fictional stand-in for a partner of ours at the time whose removal both Sheldon and I agreed probably would immeasurably benefit humanity. Alas, in his writing of the initial drafts, this character was overwhelmed by a fast-talking Irish criminal lawyer and his estranged Chicana attorney wife. This resulted in the beloved character’s prominence being eclipsed. He disappeared entirely by the third novel in the series; even his name is now lost to memory.

)My experience is similar to Sheldon’s. I attempted to write a mystery “Dominium” (https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/dominion-an-unfinished-and-never-published-novel/). The main character, a stand-in for yours truly, managed to come across as a boring jerk. He was ultimately replaced in interest and importance by a musclebound bisexual female deputy sheriff from San Mateo County.

Detective David Gold is made of stronger stuff. I see and hope for Gold’s career to be at least as long and as distinguished as Kaminsky’s Abe Lieberman, also a Chicago detective and also a disappointment to his parents.

I suspect Sheldon always wanted to write a novel with Chicago, the city he grew up in, as a setting.

I have visited Chicago only a few times. Nevertheless, for me given my ethnic heritage, it has always been one of the sacred places; like Umberto’s Clam House in New York’s Little Italy. For over a decade the stain remained on the sidewalk where, having staggered out of the restaurant after being shot, Joey Gallo fell down and bled to death. Every year, I would make an annual pilgrimage there until time and the City’s acid-laced rains erased every vestige of the epic event.

Chicago was the home of the sainted Scarface Al. Alas, I have never visited any of the pilgrimage sites there; such as Murphy’s Garage. I sometimes wonder whatever happened to the relics of my legendary ethnic heroes. Are they in a museum somewhere? Where now, for example, are the artifacts such as Anastasia’s barber chair, Mo Green’s massage table, St. Frank’s used condoms, Deano’s shot glass, and Mario Puzo’s typewriter? And, while I am at it, where have you really gone Joe DiMaggio? And, why did Tony Benedetto, (nee Bennet), a New Yorker who chose to live in LA, decide to leave his heart in SF?

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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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