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POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Naida and I Live Here.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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At Foster’s Restaurant in Rio Vista.

 

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

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

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HRM and Jake in Locke California.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The High Priestess of the Temple of Sumer, Enheduanna, was the first known author in human history. The following is an English translation of her poem known as Exaltation of Inanna:

Mistress of the divine, resplendent light,
Woman of radiance, righteous and beloved
Of An and Urac – Heaven’s Mistress! – breasts
Bejeweled; cherishing the headdress of your priestess –
She who grasps the seven sacred powers!
Goddess, protector of the powers, and giver –
Behold your necklaced hand and fingers. Yours,
The gathering of the powers and yours to clasp
Against your breast. In foreign lands your breath
Is like the dragon’s venom. When like Ickur
The earth receives your roar, neither leaf nor wood
Withstand you. You are as a mighty flood
To foreign lands, the might of earth and heaven, you
Are their Inana.

Living in the 23rd century BC (approximately 2285 – 2250 BC), Enheduanna was the high priestess of the Temple of Sumer. She was a daughter of Sargon of Akkad (Sargon the Great) and Queen Tashlultum, Today, it is known that Sargon was the son of a priestess and Queen Tashlultum may have also been a priestess. Religion played a very important role in those tumultuous times, serving as a check against any intention of the populace to rebel (either against an established overlord or a newcomer).

The Akkadians were Semitic–speaking people from Mesopotamia. Under Sargon the Great, the Akkadian Empire absorbed several Sumerian city-states, some say as many as 34. One of Sargon’s most significant conquests was the Sumerian city of Ur. As a coastal city at the mouth of the Euphrates River, Ur had easy access to trade and transportation, as well as great fertile plains.

Enheduanna was charged with the task of reconciling the gods of the Akkadians with the gods of the Sumerians so that the important city of Ur would acquiesce to Sargon’s rule. Not only did she succeed in that difficult task, but she also established standards of poetry and prayer that would profoundly influence the Hebrew Bible and Homeric hymns.
(https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/enheduanna-high-priestess-moon-and-first-known-author-world-007259?fbclid=IwAR0UKlmHvK-axl2XuSrQMxP5UgaIeaBxmY9xaB6t0Wy0rWnCz0DvxqPfr9s)

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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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war is a racket

I wonder why I keep writing  T&T. Maintaining a journal in order to record one’s stumbles from event to event or from adventure to adventure is probably a good thing. Unfortunately, in my case, there are a limited number of times one can write about walking the dog, the beauty of the flowers along the path or complaining about my health or boredom. I usually spend only about half an hour in any day writing. Why not more? Well, primarily because I refuse to spend time and effort editing what I write or struggling for excellence in expression. Why would I? It’s boring and I’m not getting paid. I spend most of my time instead reading or searching the internet for my favorite blogs, entering bits and pieces of some past T&T in various blog sites, watching MSNBC, CNN, old movies on TCM, walking the dog, looking at the flowers, eating, taking naps and so on.

This morning I woke up depressed. I did not know why. I did have odd dreams during the night. I remembered them for a while then, as the morning wore on, forgot them. Maybe that is why I was depressed. Not forgetting the dreams, although that could be depressing I suppose, but because of the nature of the dreams themselves. All I recall about them was my frustration, like when I was younger dreaming about being unable to get to a class on time or something like that.

Today the nation celebrated D-day. This evening I watched, “The Longest Day” and “Overlord” on television. That’s a lot of killing and dying. Of the two, I thought Overlord was the better movie. It told the tragic story of one callow young man who was a tiny cog in something he neither understood nor controlled. It was not a vehicle for aging cinema stars who avoided combat and young wannabes to strut their stuff in an epic glorifying war. As many of those soldiers who survived Omaha Beach said, “There were no heroes at Omaha Beach, only those who were lucky and those who were not.” If one adds to that the fact that some believe, myself included, the allied decision to pursue the difficult amphibious invasion in Normandy instead of continuing to push into Germany from the existing allied bases in Italy was as much a political, as a military one, the suffering and death of those forced to charge directly into machine-gun fire along the Normandy beaches that day seem even more tragic and unnecessary. As the two time Medal of Honor recipient, Marine Major-General Smedley Butler said, “War is a Racket.” There are no glorious wars, only effective propaganda. We fight to preserve the rulers we have and know, rather than submit to tyrants we don’t. Or, more likely, we are forced to fight by the rulers we have because they fear replacement by the tyrants they may know but we do not.

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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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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 
This morning I woke up and bleary-eyed looked into the mirror. I was surprised by what I saw there — something I haven’t seen for about five months. There on my upper lip hair was growing. I felt mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, now that my Chemotherapy has ended, this bit of fuzz on my upper lip signified my hair might be growing back and that is good. On the other hand, it means that I will have to begin shaving again and getting haircuts — Or, I could just let everything grow out. More decisions.

After the Barr testimony before the Senate a day or two ago, I get the impression that the White House is under siege again. The question I have is, why is He Who Is Not My President so frightened of having the Mueller report, his taxes, and business records released? It is difficult to imagine that his opposition to their release is simply a question of principle.

Also, is it just my imagination or does He Who Is Not My President seem to vociferously attack every potential Democratic opponent he may meet in the 2020 Presidential election except Bernie Sanders?

The weekend has arrived and so has Nikki. The weather is sunny and warm. The azaleas are still blooming. Naida busily works on volume two of her memoir. I sit here at my computer wondering what I will do today knowing full well I have ignored or forgotten things I should be doing. That is one of the aspects of arriving at the age of decrepitude, doing things are less important than having pleasant thoughts.

I drove up into the now once again Golden Hills and parked at the skatepark. Nikki met me there and we gossiped while waiting for Hayden and the scooter gang to show up. A large contingent of the gang soon arrived, including HRM, Jake, Caleb and a host of others. I imagined them all on motorcycles roaring into a tiny town in the foothills somewhere like something from a biker flick of the 60s. I shuddered and put the image out of my mind.

After a long time spent meeting and greeting all the adolescents on scooters that descended on us, HRM, Jake, Caleb and I piled into the car Nikki was driving and went off in search of a pizza. Milano’s, H and my favorite pizza place, seems to have closed permanently (sob). We found another place nearby, ordered the pizza and returned to Dick’s house. The adolescents disappeared into the basement to devour their pizza and play video games. Nikki and I retired to the back deck to sit in sun, eat ours, and continue our gossip session. After exhausting the scuttlebutt and gobbling down a few slices of pizza, I left and returned to the Enchanted Forest.

On the drive back, I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow I am failing HRM and that I simply am unable to give him the counsel, guidance, security, and friendship that he needs and deserves. Of the three children I have contributed to raising, I believe that somehow my efforts to guide them to happy and successful lives were horribly inadequate. It’s just another load of guilt we add to the pack on our backs that gets heavier and heavier as we grow older. Sometimes I think it is the crushing weight of accumulated guilt and failure that kills us in the end.

The weekend brought with it relief from my fit of melancholy. Perhaps it is because I keep lengthening my walks — you know, boosting my serotonin or dopamine or whatever. Perhaps it is because Naida wrote me a lovely poem — no one has ever done that for me before. Perhaps, it is because I was amused by attending a meeting at the clubhouse to meet those running for the Nepenthe HOC board — it seemed most of the people there favored the election of “anyone but the incumbents.” Of the pressing issues discussed, everyone seemed to agree they all hated leaf blowers. Naida suggested they be banned as they had been in LA.

Last night, Naida gave me a marvelous ring. It was made by one of her uncles, a prominent leader in the Methodist church. Naida said that when he was not doing minister things he would often wander into the desert looking for gemstones that he would bring home and, in a workshop in his basement, fashion them into jewelry. He made the ring from silver that he fashioned into lacework in which he set a remarkable opal he had found somewhere in the desert. The stone itself flashes through the spectrum from brilliant turquoise to a spectacular fiery red when light shines on it. I love it.
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I have noticed, after reading the last few T&T posts, my life has become dreadfully dull. Not traveling, wrestling with a crisis, or suffering through a real or imagined emotional or physical disaster makes retelling the day to day plod of an old man’s life tedious. After all, how many ways can one describe spending his days, reading the newspaper, checking his email and watching old movies on television? On the other hand, except for these fits of boredom and impatience, I am quite content and happy with my life as a grumpy old man starring at the end of his existence. It could be worse. I could be an adolescent again or I could be working in the Trump White House.

Today I drove back into the Golden Hills, picked up HRM and Big Tall Long Haired Jake at the Skate Park and drove them to the house where I left them after imparting to them today’s words of wisdom. “Remember.” I told them, “always keep on truckin.”

The next day HRM called me and asked me to pick him and Jake up again after school. I did. This time, after a brief stop at Dick’s house, I drove them to Caleb’s house in order for Caleb to give Jake his birthday present since it was Jake’s fifteenth birthday today. I then drove them back to Dick’s house where they picked up their bicycles and pedaled off to practice with the EDH mountain bicycling team.

 

 

B. OFF AGAIN TO THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 
Another beautiful sunny day. While Sacramento is no Paradise, here in the Enchanted Forest nestled between that city’s slurbs and a gentle curve of the picturesque American River this morning broke as close to that as can be and still not be considered a dream. Alas, we spent the morning rushing around preparing to leave for the foggy Great Endive by the Bay for my immunotherapy infusion. That preparation included getting Boo-boo settled with the dog-sitter. He wasn’t happy.
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That night at Peter and Barrie’s house where we spent the night, Barrie prepared a delightful meal that featured pasta with a sauce of garlic, butter, parsley, lemon, and topped with asparagus. It was accompanied by chilled Prosecco. (It has only been in the last few years that drinkable prosecco has been imported from Italy.)

They had invited a friend to join us for dinner. He was an aspiring author and wanted to discuss with Naida his literary ambitions and get her advice on publishing. He hoped to publish several works including a play about the travails of a man named Thomas White who had homes in San Francisco, Mexico and Thailand. He was accused by several alleged victims (boys) of having who sex with them when they were underage. He was tracked down in Thailand extradited to Mexico where he was tried, convicted and jailed. After spending almost seven years in jail White learned that the attorney who represented the alleged victims and reaped several millions of dollars in payoffs, he along with his accomplice as well as one of the underaged youths were convicted in California of murdering the target of another scam. The alleged young victim also confessed to lying about sexual contact with White. With the new evidence, he was released from jail but died soon afterward.

We had an enjoyable evening listening to the discussion of things literary and the pitfalls of publication. Over dinner, we all told stories. Peter told several about the early days of the Coastal Conservancy. I could not remember much about the things that he talked about although I was a major actor in the drama or more appropriate comedy. It seems my memory lately resembles a ragged lace curtain blowing in the breeze — more holes than substance.

I told the story of the developer who had been stymied by Denise, my wife at the time, in his plans to build a large spec house in our neighborhood and who had shot and killed his two investor threatening to withdraw their financing for the development. He then, gun in hand, jumped into his car and drove up into the Twin Peaks area, presumably to do to Denise and me what he had done to his investors. At the corner down from our house, I guess he thought better of the idea or perhaps he was stricken with guilt and decided to shoot himself rather than us.

As we finished dinner, Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda showed up bringing dessert, a wonderfully light cake and strawberries dipped in chocolate.
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The next morning, we drove to the hospital for my immunotherapy treatment. The nurse explained that the immunotherapy was intended to halt reactivation of the cancerous cells that still remain in the tumor. Most of the time, however, was spent with the nurse and Naida discussing books and book clubs.

After the treatment, we drove home directly.

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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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