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Posts Tagged ‘Cancer treatment’

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

B. THE SATURDAY MORNING COFFEE.

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

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

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

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

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

 

C. SMOGY THINGS.

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

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

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

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D. AT NIGHT WITH NAIDA AND ANNABELL LEE.

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

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

Than to love and be loved by me.I

And so on.

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

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

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

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 A. IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

 

As I type this, I am also watching Ethel Waters sing one of my favorite songs, “Happiness is a Thing Called Joe” in the 1939 movie, “Cabin in the Sky.” A little ego boost every now and then is a good thing.

Before turning on the movie and writing this, I had just returned from lunch in the Golden Hills with HRM, Jake, and Kaleb at their favorite fried chicken places — for me it is not so much a favorite.

This morning, we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. Gerry, our leader, who usually runs these get-togethers, had been taken to the hospital yesterday evening with a heart problem of some sort. Nevertheless, following an exchange of information about how to contact Gerry and express our wishes for her speedy recovery, we shouldered on. Someone described the elaborate Halloween party we were throwing for the young children who live in the subdivision and the much more numerous children of the children of the old people who live in it. Those sponsoring the party have created an entire Halloween town out of cardboard for the children to frolic in. Someone else discussed the problem of termites and described the free termite inspection service provided by the HOC. It is pleasant, every now and then, to be reminded that there are people everywhere trying to do nice things for no other reason than kindness — well, perhaps a bit of comfort, self-interest, and guilt come into it as well, but those are merely like spices added to a good meal.

There being no more announcements, we broke up into small conversational groups. There were only three males at breakfast. Each of us sat in chairs as far removed from one another as possible. None of us moved from our chosen fortress. The significantly more numerous female attendees seemed to comprise two sociological groups. Those who remain alone or sitting in small groups and those who moved around engaging the others in conversation. Naida and Winnie were of the latter cohort. They moved from group to group like bees gathering pollen.

Winnie eventually got around to me. She and I compared photos. She of her former home in Salmon Idaho and I of that portion of our trip to the same area. Winnie and her husband, a distinguished architect from LA, moved to Idaho when he was diagnosed with incurable cancer. He wanted to die someplace surrounded by nature. They lived there for over twenty years. He did not die. They then decided to move into the Enchanted Forest. I do not know why. He is now in his nineties and remains vigorous but cantankerous. Interestingly, he designed the Methodist church in Salmon who’s minister was Naida’s uncle, the children of whom we had traveled to Salmon to visit. He also designed the Sacagawea monument in the town.
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Sacagawea and I in Salmon Idaho.

 

Sunday evening, we decided to drive with Boo-Boo the Barking Dog to Discovery Park, at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers, where the Spanish explorers first landed in the mid-sixteenth century. There they discovered the largest Native-American settlement in the area. They also noticed that the grass on the top of the mesa was so cropped by the roving herds of Elk that they considered it park-like (This had some significance but I no longer recall what it was.) Naida told me the Native-Americans from the other villages in the area would periodically gather here for dances and parties. Now and then dances and parties are still held here. We walked around for a while, then set off for home.
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Boo Boo the Barking Dog and Naida Under the big Cottonwood Tree at Discovery Park.

 

On the way home, we decided to stop for dinner at a restaurant among a group of night-clubs on J. Street. We ordered squash filled ravioli. It was quite good. While we were eating, a young woman with very long blond hair and very short shorts sitting at the bar left her seat, came over to our table, and asked if we were married. I responded that this was only our first date.

After registering her squeals of surprise, we admitted that, in fact, we had been together for about one year and a half but had known each other for over forty years. Following a few more rounds of chit-chat, she returned to her place at the bar. After finishing our meal, we returned home where we watched a reality TV program about gangbangers who found redemption.

Last week, Naida was not feeling well so on Wednesday she stayed home while I took the train alone to the Big Endive for my immunology treatment at UCSF. It was the first time I had taken the train to my appointment. I wanted to see whether traveling by train back and forth every three weeks would be more convenient and less exhausting for Vecchi like Naida and me.

 

 

 

B. BACK IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 
The train trip along with various public transport connections took about three hours to get me from Sacramento to Peter’s house — about the same time it takes by car with moderately heavy traffic. I was more relaxed and rested when I arrived as well. Since Barrie was in LA visiting her sister who was quite ill, Peter and I decided to have dinner at Bacco’s. I ordered my usual Gnocchi. We were joined by my grandson Anthony and his girlfriend.
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They brought me some product from the boutique cannabis store that soon will open in Dog-patch of which Anthony’s GF was manager. It consisted of samples of higher-priced, expensively packaged products that they hoped I would try and evaluate. They included a topical salve, a flavored drink, mints, chocolate, and the like. The cannabis industry is being rapidly veblenized. That is, marketing more expensive goods when there are cheaper alternatives available because most consumers think it will impress others in one way or another. One side effect of the Veblen Effect is that profits to the producers (growers) are reduced while those to the packagers and marketers soar.

The following morning Peter drove me to the hospital for my scheduled immunology infusion. Following my appointment, I walked from Mission Bay to the bus terminal where I caught the train back to Sacramento and home. The walk to the terminal was interesting. I had not walked around this part of downtown San Francisco in a long time. Some places I recognized, but most had changed beyond recognition.

 

C. TIME GOES ON LIKE IT OR NOT:

 

 

On Monday, Naida was depressed about forgetting her tennis match. So in order to cheer her up, I took her with me to pick up HRM from school after which she and I had lunch at Selland’s in Town Center. We sat at a table on the veranda overlooking the lakes. Following that, I gassed up the car and decided to have it washed. While driving into the washing facility, I crashed the car into a wall crumpling its left fender. On the way home, Naida was no longer feeling depressed, but I was. Upon arriving home, I went straight to bed hoping tomorrow would be a better day.

And it was. I got to drive HRM to his dental appointment where he had six cavities filled. In the evening, Naida and I, having given up on the day’s news, watched several movies none of which I really recall, but I do remember that I enjoyed them.

On Saturday, Boo-boo the Barking Dog, for some reason failed to wake us up in time to attend the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. Naida and I decided to spend the morning in geriatric hanky-panky. I find geriatric hanky-panky superior to juvenile hanky-panky because it lasts longer and one never knows what can or cannot happen. Later we had a breakfast of pancakes and then watched Andy Griffith ham it up in “A Face in the Crowd.”

I do not recall what happened between Wednesday and Saturday except that on Friday night I dreamt I was dying. Strangely, I was neither unhappy nor frightened but instead content and resigned. Naida who woke me up during the dream told me she had done so because I had stopped breathing. Strange.

Saturday evening, Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I went for a walk along the American River. As we walked along, we noted the extensive blow-down of trees and tree-limbs throughout the Enchanted Forest and along the river caused by the heavy winds of the past few days. When we got to the clearing by the river where we like to stop for a while and take in the view, we sat on a log and watched while some people in the picnic area across the river tried to get a car that was half-submerged out of the water. After several failures, they did. A little later, flocks of Canadian geese flew in and out of the setting sun and paddled their way to the little wooded island in the middle of the river where they would spend the night.
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Monday, we spent the morning doing what has become our favorite pastime, sitting next to each other holding hands, listening to Boo-boo the Barking Dog bark at anything that moves within 50 feet of the house, watching television and reading or playing on the computer. Perhaps it is just our age catching up with us. Still, we sit here passing the hours singing at times and laughing a lot. It could be worse.

 

 

 

D. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

 

 

On Tuesday, Naida spent the Morning playing tennis and I sat alone fooling around on the computer. After Naida returned, we turned on the news and learned about the killing of nine people six of them children traveling in an American car caravan in Mexico. The news reports initially seemed to blame a Mexican drug cartel connection to the murders. Naida commented that she believed the caravan was composed of members of a fundamentalist Mormon family traveling from the US to their home in one of the sect’s communes that had been set up in the area by polygamous Mormons following Utah admittance into the Union as a State at the end of the 19th Century on the condition polygamy be banned.

Naida told me about a writer friend of hers who was a “sister” wife at one of the communes. The friend, Irene Spencer, the second of 10 wives and mother of 14 children, wrote a book about escaping from the community. Spencer also wrote another book about the almost ceaseless violence among the sects. She told Naida about the horrendous carnage between the communities that began by a falling out between two brothers (each claiming “Prophet” status), one of whom was her husband, They commenced an internecine war with each other over control of the sect. Over 50 people have been killed during the past 25.* Both brothers now are dead but the feud continues.

Sometime later the news broke the name of the dead and of the community they were heading to for a wedding. It was the same community as the one her friend fled from. She tried to call her friend who had moved to California but discovered she died two years ago.

(*In the 1970s and 1980s, Ervil LeBaron, brother of the leader of the LeBaron community, launched his own Mormon offshoot sect in which he and his followers believed they had a right to kill those who had sinned. The group murdered at least 25 people, one expert told the LA Times. (https://news.yahoo.com/more-hundred-years-ago-mormons-205004653.html))

Later, while walking the dog through some of the dark pathways of TEF, we met another elderly couple who recently moved into the area after spending much of their lives living in the woods beyond Nevada City. They invited us into their home. While touring their kitchen they suddenly forced us into their large-sized micro-wave, cooked us on high for 90 minutes, placed us in a pie-crust, added a bit of cinnamon and sugar, baked us in the oven for another hour and had us for breakfast the next morning.

It’s Friday, neither Naida nor I recall much about the last few days other than they have been mostly pleasant. I think, given my general inactivity and shredded memory, I should give up writing T&T (https://wordpress.com/view/josephpetrillo.wordpress.com) as a journal. Maybe I should just write strange short-short stories. You know, like this old fucker who is so distressed about being old, forgetting everything, immobile and dyspeptic, he spends his days on his computer sending emails to the friends about sitting in his chair and sending emails to his friends or better yet weird Facebook postings to his Facebook friends. Can one have electronic friends one either never sees or never met? I have a Facebook friend who I know has been dead for six years. Children used to have imaginary friends. Now that they are aged decrepits more and more of their friends are just electric pulses.

Ah, one day later, things changed. Well, perhaps not so much. Let’s begin with my receiving an email from one of my dearest friends in Thailand with two little stories about recent events in his life. Much like the stories I write about here in T&T. Stories far far better than I could ever hope to write. Here they are:

The other day I was sitting with Sultan Ishmael Nasir at the bar we frequent watching the R. Crumb characters file past when a young man, built like one of those muscularly overburdened bare-knuckled tattooed cage fighters wandered in. He was hopping on one leg and asked to join us.
Seems he is a mercenary doing the devil’s duty in Fallujah Iraq. It is easily believed. I asked him why he is limping?

Turns out he tripped on a curb in Bangkok and tore a ligament.

Sheesh!

The other night we went to a movie theater here to see Joker. The theater was black with only a semblance of light on the stairway. My hands were full with a tub of fresh buttered popcorn and a cold Singha Beer. My eyes hadn’t adjusted and I fell tits over tea kettle down the stairs. I wondered if I had hurt myself, but stood upon the well-padded stairs and realized the beer was intact and I had lost only a small scattering of popcorn.

I ascribe this inane skill to being knocked on my ass a thousand times during karate.

Whatdaworld!

Richard Diran

 

It was Saturday again. Naida and I set off for the Saturday Morning Coffee. We walked from our house to the Nepenthe Clubhouse. We walked through brown, red, and gold leaves that covered the paths. Like kids we giggled while kicking them about, stepping on them and hearing them crackle. We both wear hearing aids. Although the hearing-aids may not work so well helping us understand what someone may be talking about, the snapping sounds of the leaves as we crushed them underfoot was ideally suited to whatever frequency the hearing aids were attuned to. We heard them like firecrackers a Fourth of July and we laughed.

About 30 people attended the coffee, eight men and about 22 women. More i Vecchi (old people) then I had ever seen at these events. Gerry, our leader, had returned from whatever hospitalization prevented her from presiding a few weeks ago. Announcements were made. I could not make out what they were about so I just sat there smiling like the village idiot. Later Naida told me she could not hear much either.

After the announcements, Paul the architect, Winnie’s husband came by and described at length how he designed the Sacagawea park in Salmon and picked out everything in it. I recalled that except for the two statues, everything else seemed to be just rocks.

Then off to the Golden hills. HRM called asking me to drive him and the Scooter Gang to COSTCO in Folsom so that they could eat their pizza for lunch. They think COSTCO pizzas are “the best.”

It is autumn in the Enchanted Forest. Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog and I went for a walk through the forest this evening. We walked further than we usually do along paths I had not been on before. It was a lot longer walk than I had attempted for many months except for that trek in SF from the hospital to the bus station a few weeks back. It tired me out, but I was pleased I did it.

 

 

All youse guys take care, ya hear….

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Argh! This morning after I had written a substantial portion of this post, somehow I managed to erase it all. I spent much of the day trying various apps and searching the net for help retrieving it. Eventually, I gave up and tried to recreate it from memory — with only partial success. Some things are gone forever from the computer and others just from my memory but gone nonetheless.

It seems that at my age, adventures are more medical than physical, more psychological than hazardous and more fantasy than reality. Nevertheless, they remain as idiosyncratic and as personal as ever. Unfortunately, for me and for anyone who chooses to read or listen to them they become more garrulous and tedious the older I get. Forgive me my trespasses O. Lord for I am rounding the far turn and on my way home.

The early summer heat has settled on the Great Valley. The breezes of springtime have begun to slow and the sun’s warmth lightly caresses the morning. It is a fine day.

Today, I received a message from Hayden insisting I pick him up at the skatepark after school. I was worried. He rarely demands my assistance. So, I drove off into the Golden Hills. I stopped for lunch at an upscale Italian restaurant near Town Center. I had wanted to try it out for some time now. Its interior reeked of suburban elegance. It’s menu limited but expensive. The wine list, however, was extensive but overpriced. I ordered gnocchi in a squash and butter cream sauce along with a glass of prosecco. The meal was tasty but too heavy for my liking.

After lunch, I picked up Hayden along with his buddies Jake and Caleb. As he was getting into the car, I asked him what was so urgent. He said, “I want to buy a hat for my trip this summer to Cozumel with Jake and his family. I picked one out at Tilly’s in Folsom.” So, off we drove to Tilly’s in Folsom to buy the hat following which I drove them back to Dick’s house where, after warning them not to get into too much trouble, I drove out of the foothills and back to the Enchanted Forest.

On Saturday morning, we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. Winnie, the ex-model was there. She had not attended the Coffee for several months. She told me she is suffering from inoperable brain and lung cancer and is now on immunotherapy. Her prognosis is bleak and she began to cry as she told me this. She said she now spends her days walking her dog through the neighborhood enjoying the trees and flowers. She said that she had hoped to live into her nineties but now she would be fortunate to live until year’s end. After she left, I sat there for a while trying to asses how I felt after talking to her. Sad for her yes but in general puzzled about the lack of any depth to my feelings as though a barrier had been thrown up to mask my own fear.

On Mothers’ Day, we had Naida’s daughter, Sarah, her husband, Mark, and their son, Charlie over for lunch and had an enjoyable discussion about our respective travel adventures in Europe. We toasted all our moms. There were a lot of flowers also — mostly roses.
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In the evening we watched the movie “I Remember Mama” on television. Although it all could be considered a pleasant Mother’s Day, still my mom wasn’t there. I miss her. Mother’s Day seems like just any other day without her around.
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As a counterpoint to the day, that evening I watched Episode 5, Season 8 of The Game of Thrones in which the mother from hell, Cersei Lannister gets buried alive along with Jamie Lannister her lover, father of her children and twin brother (all one person) while Daenerys Storm-born of the house Targaryen, first of her name, the unburnt, queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the first men, queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the great grass sea, protector of the realm, lady regnant of the seven kingdoms, breaker of chains and mother of dragons, from the back of her fire breathing dragon, Drogon, goes bat-shit crazy and destroys Kings Landing as well as burning to a crisp thousands of innocent woman and children who lived there. Sleep well tonight Pookie.

I did nothing the next day except sit in my chair, play on my computer and doze. That evening, Naida and I watched the Orson Wells directed movie, Mr. Arkadin. The movie featured Wells fondness for sometimes fascinating and at other times annoying camera angles and idiosyncratic plotting. In fact, when the movie was over, I realized I did not understand it at all, so the next morning I tried to find a synopsis of the plot. The first thing I discovered was that the critics understood what they saw as little as I did. Eventually, I found an adequate summary, but it still left me confused, not anymore about what occurred on the screen but why and who cares. Wells never finished editing the film before the producers forced its release. Some critics have called it one of the greatest movies ever made. Wells considered it a “disaster.” Oh, before I forget, there were a lot of close-ups of Wells’ face all bearded and goggle-eyed.

For the past eight months or so, I have published my various blog posts on Facebook in order to increase the “hits” on my blogs — not because I cared who or if anyone read them but to “beat my yearly hits record,” a game on which I spent not a little of my time. Now I believe Facebook has completely cut off my postings of the blog articles. Perhaps, they think I am a Russian bot.

Last night, Naida described how that morning she marveled at the many odd angles I had contorted my limbs into while I slept. We agreed on a new nick-name for me, Pythagorean Pookie. I like it.

On Tuesday, Maryann and George arrived. Maryann had to attend a training session regarding Federal Economic Development regulations in preparation for an exam she was to take on Monday that would if she passes, authorize her to administer ED grants. George had recently had his hip replaced needed someone to keep him company — just another decrepit old man with a cane like me. After they arrived, we had dinner in a local Mexican restaurant. The next day, Mary trundled off to her conference and George and I headed out for breakfast. Following breakfast, we drove to EDH to pick up HRM from school and drive him home. In mid-afternoon, after finishing her review course, Mary picked up George at our house and drove off to far Mendocino.

The next day, Suzie arrived in Sacramento for a meeting at a State Agency. After her meeting, Naida and I picked her up and drove to a local Japanese sushi restaurant for lunch. It was great to see her again. It has been too long. Naida and Suzie discussed growing up in Carmel. And we all told mostly funny stories about our experiences in coastal protection and politics as well as a few always interesting and often amusing tales featuring Terry and his many imbroglios.

The weekend arrived not as a lion nor for that matter as a welcome respite from the boredom or irritations of the week but unobtrusively sliding in like an introvert slipping into to a raucous party. The weather was meh, neither warm nor cold, nor sunny or stormy. I had no expectations or plans but an abiding curiosity to see what if anything may meander past my window.

On Friday, I picked up HRM and as I dropped him off told him the following: “Let me know if you need transportation this weekend. I say this not because I am eager to be your chauffeur, but because seniors like me approaching decrepitude just like adolescents often find themselves bored and for similar reasons. We need each other.” He seemed to grunt an assent as he exited the car.

Saturday brought the Saturday Morning Coffee again. Winnie was there. She seemed better this week. Back at the house, I watched, The Men from Laramie with Jimmie Stewart then took a nap. Followed that with The Manchurian Candidate, and Cabin in the Sky. Then I looked out the window to see if there were any meanderers passing by. It was raining, no meanderers out and about yet.

Waking up Sunday morning in Naida’s arms was delightful. The weather, however, was not. It broke grey and drizzly, The needles on the Deodar Cedars drooping by our window glistened with tiny droplets of water. But for the ashen skies, it might have added a sparkling beauty to the morning. Later, while standing before the mirror, I noticed my neck appeared a bit swollen in the area around my tumor. It felt so too. Naida also examined it and said, “I really feel no difference — but then my opinion may be affected by my not wanting to find any change and yours colored by your fear that there may be.” Perhaps next Saturday I can challenge Winnie to a race to the finish line. In any event, tomorrow is another day, a new week begins, additional adventures loom. As Rosanna Rosannadanna sagely observed, “It’s always something.”

Pookie says, “Be cool and stay well.”

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On the day before Christmas, I did not leave the house until the evening. That was OK. It was a grey day with a light drizzle and I was not feeling well. I did not sleep much during the night and the side effects of the cancer treatment played havoc with my body and emotions. I spoke with HRM on FaceTime. He had just finished a day of snowboarding at a ski-resort above Lago Maggiore. He looked well and happy.

HRM at Lago Maggiore

Nikki was there also. He looked pleased but seems to have put on weight. HRM is soon off to England to spend a few days with Adrian’s family after which they will all fly with Nikki to NYC to welcome in the new year among the Times Square throngs.

I rested in the afternoon. Then I prepared to attend the Christmas Eve party with Naida’s children and their families. Naida spent part of the day practicing Christmas Carols on the piano. I concluded that meant we would spend a good part of the evening caroling.

I expected the side effects of the treatment will limit my eating, drinking, and singing. I hoped it would not put a damper on anyone’s enjoyment.

I remember, one night in Sicily about 50 years ago following the local automobile races. The participants and their families gathered at a large farmhouse among the vineyards. The old grandmother, who was bedridden, insisted her bed be dragged from the bedroom and positioned in the center of the salon. She spent the evening lying there telling all who would listen that she was happy everyone was having such an enjoyable time singing and dancing and how much suffering her various maladies caused her. It was all great fun. Later my girlfriend and I slipped out of the house and walked through the vineyards until the music and the laughter drifting out from the open windows spread across the hills adding their silver sounds to the silver light of the full moon. There we spent the rest of the night until the first light of sunrise brightened the eastern skies somewhere beyond Mt. Etna.

Shortly before we were to leave for the Christmas party, I gave Naida the present I had bought her, a large brown leather purse. She was distressed that the present she had gotten for me had not arrived yet. She rushed out to the mailbox to see if there was a late night delivery.

She returned carrying a large box and happily announced, “It arrived!” She then left me to open the box, took the purse and went upstairs to prepare herself to leave for the party.

I set about cutting away through the tough cellophane tape that bound the box closed. After a while, I had severed enough of them to be able to rip open the box. In it, I found the box filled with dried flowers. Lot’s of dried flowers.

Now, I have learned in the past few months that Naida’s thought processes could be quite subtle and so I decided not to jump to any conclusions and spent the next 15 or 20 minutes attempting to unravel the conundrum of symbols and goals that this gift, one of love I was sure, represented.

I couldn’t help but recall the 0’Henry story of the down and out Babbitts of NY. She who cut off her magnificent hair to purchase a watch fob on which he could hang his grandfathers pocket watch of which he was so proud and he in turn selling that same watch in order to buy her a glorious baret to display in her hair.

Eventually, I gave up trying to rationalize my way through the puzzle and carried the box upstairs. There I found Naida in distress. “I cannot find the purse,” she exclaimed. “It just disappeared.” Now, this was not some little purse, but one of those giant ones that someone could carry everything they own in it, even a small car. We searched everywhere. No purse.

I then showed her the box of dried flowers. “No,” she said, “it’s supposed to be a Hat. The winter hat you wanted, not dried flowers.”

We eventually reasoned that the dried flowers belong to one of the medical students living with us who plans to wed in a month or so. “But,” she said, “where’s your hat?”

We drove to her daughter’s house. Along the way, I noticed Naida appeared distressed. I asked her what was that matter. “I must be losing my mind,” she replied. “First, your present to me disappears and then there is no hat.”

The party was pleasant. We sang carols. Naida and Jenifer, her daughter, played the piano. I was a little too ill to fully enjoy it all.

Caroling in Sacramento.

After returning home, I climbed the steps to the bedroom with the dog trailing along behind. He scooted over to his bed and sat in that proud erect way dogs sometimes do. He stared a slightly arrogant stare into my eyes. “Oh ho,” I thought, “what do we have here?” I looked closer and saw a small patch of brown leather peeking up from a fold in the dog blanket. He glanced were I looked. He knew he was caught out. He tried to resume his arrogant look but could only manage shame. “The game is up.”

Apparently, while Naida was otherwise occupied, he dragged the leather purse to the dog bed — the purse being about the same size as the dog bed. He carefully tucked it in the bottom so it lay perfectly flat. He then dragged over one of his blankets and tucked that in so that the purse was well hidden.

I called Naida to come upstairs. When she arrived, I told her the story and added, “See you are not going senile at all.” She seemed dubious. “Look at it this way,” I said. “We solved not one but two mysteries. We had a good time at the party. We discovered our dog to be a master criminal and we came away with a great story. What better Christmas could one have.”

She remained dubious. “Yes,” she drawled, “but what about your hat.”

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

These are gloomy days. Moody skies cover the Enchanted Forest as the winter storms pass over the Great Valley. Threatening they may look, but they leave behind only a ceaseless cold drizzle and little silver droplets on the branches of the trees — the only bright spot in the muted and silent landscape. I assume the storms reserve their wrath for the mountains depositing layers of new snow to the delight of skiers and those who fret about reservoir levels.

My mood is bleak also. There are three daggers aimed at me now. My cancer of course, but also an enhanced threat of infection and a shut down of my ability to pee threatening irreparable damage to my kidneys.

Naida had a bad cold. We walk around the house with masks on, wash our hands constantly and I try to avoid touching places she has touched as though…well, as though a dread disease lurks there — which of course it does. As Rosanna Rosannadanna says, “It’s always something.” And, at my age, that is probably truer than ever.

My daughter Jessica is in San Francisco, thanks in part to the government shutdown and to attend a funeral she is hesitant to talk about. I am very excited to see her. It has been a long time, perhaps two years, maybe more.

(Note: As I type this, I am also watching a movie about Giant carnivorous rabbits attacking a town in the western US. This has got to be the nadir of my existence.)

During the past few days, a lot of the usual annoyances of life sped by — towing my car and the rush to get it out of the pound, confusing discussions with pharmacists and medical professionals, and so on. Naida remains sick, Trump remains not my president, life continues as it usually does until it doesn’t, and I find myself unusually bored. But, tomorrow is another day (Scarlett O’Hara).

On Sunday, my daughter Jessica arrived. She drove up from San Francisco to see me. Seeing her after almost three years made me very happy. It has been too long. She looks well. She’s recovering from a series of concussions she experienced playing soccer over the years. The concussion injury to her brain caused several perception and other problems. We talked about our various maladies and other things. He Who is Not My President’s governmental shutdown has had one good result, my daughter, furloughed by the shutdown, was able to return to California and visit with me.

It is now Tuesday night. What I wanted to write here since that time has passed on from when I thought it important or at least depressed enough to think so. It appears another of my medicines had caused an allergic reaction that resulted in me wanting to simply give up. It has passed.

I don’t often give up. Not giving up has always been important to me. In the almost incessant fights I found myself in during my youth, I would not give up no matter how badly I was beaten. And, I was beaten most of the time.

During my years as a trial lawyer, I asked only to be assigned cases no one in the office would touch because they believed those cases were losers. I still managed to amass the third longest string of consecutive victories at the beginning of a career in the history of New York (while also losing my marriage because of my obsession).

I refused to be daunted by opposition from the medical profession and my own colleagues in setting up NY’s Mental Health Information Service that reformed NY’s mental health hospital system from the horror it inflicted on my mom and innumerable others. It became the model for the nation. That agency still exists today.

There was no option for me other than the approval of California’s Coastal Program as it was expected to be, and the successful establishment and financing of the innovative California Coastal Conservancy no matter the cost to me (another marriage) and to those that worked for me. That occupied 13 years of my life.

The same can be said for the law firm on whose management committee I served and obsessively fought against often unanimous opposition to alter the economic and social mores of the firm for the benefit of the workers, women attorney’s and the firm as a whole by, among other things, demonstrating that the health and profitability of the firm did not depend solely upon the efforts of those with the largest books of business who inevitably end up plundering the firm for their own benefit. The health of a firm depended as much upon the lowliest of paralegals and junior partners and that balanced practice groups are necessary in order to weather the effects of the various business cycles and that those groups adversely affected by a business cycle should not be punished by those groups benefiting from the cycle (e.g., bankruptcy and real estate often operate on opposing cycles).

As a member and later Chairman of California’s High Speed Rail Commission during a period when it appeared to be foundering, I put it back on track so to speak, by pushing through its EIR, changing its tendency for locating its stations at the edges of the cities to bringing them downtown where they would revitalize the communities, developing the concept of the HS network as a backbone transportation system for California whereby multiple regional transportation systems could connect to the downtown stations and service the entire region; and finally fighting against the rapacious efforts of the four of five large engineering firms who sought to control the process for their own benefit and who, I believe, can be blamed for much of the criticism HSR has been subject to since I was removed by Governor Schwarzenegger over the issue.

On the other hand, when I lost (most often a marriage), I usually ran away and started again and again somewhere else. From New York to Pennsylvania, to Rome Italy, to back to the US, to San Francisco, to Thailand, to The Golden Hills and now to the Enchanted Forest. In each place, often penniless, I licked my wounds, struggled with despair, indulged in excess and dreamed of renewal, a new life somehow somewhere, and ultimately I moved on. There was, however, even during these times always something I could not give up on, first Jason, then Jessica and now HRM. I may not always have been successful in their view, but I tried and they kept me more alive and happy than I am sure they believe I have benefitted them. But no more now, they are grown (perhaps not HRM) and despair now is reserved for those times when the pains and discomfort of my various maladies become too much and instead of not giving up, I sometimes long for the peace of oblivion.

Talk about depressing things, the HAC just towed our automobile again. I left them a nasty message and threatened to sue them.

B. UPDATE ON THE MYSTERIOUS ORB.

For those interested in the odd adventures of the Mysterious Orb, it has moved slightly from when it emerged from the bush behind which it had been hiding to show Nikki the way to our house. It has now rolled on a short way and appears to be intending to hide behind another bush to await for whatever the orb waits for next.

It moved from its hiding place behind the smaller bush on the right where it had hidden for a few weeks to the center of the space where Nikki saw it. The Orb has since then moved on toward the bush on the left. Whether it will choose to hide behind that bush or proceed on up the alleyway, I can only guess. I await the next episode in the adventures of the Odd and Mysterious Orb.

The Mysterious Orb —Photograph Taken From Our Garage.

Today about four days after the above was written, the Orb made its decision and is now well hidden behind the bush on the left.

A few days later, during an early morning walk, I passed by the alley where the Odd Orb was hiding. I noticed one of the Turkey Gangs pecking around that part of the alley near where the Orb was hiding. It got me thinking. Do you suppose it is the Turkey Gangs that are moving the Orb around? The birds are big enough to do so. If so, why? Another mystery.

C. OFF TO THE BIG ENDIVE ON THE BAY.

First, we bailed the car out of impoundment. I grumbled and plotted revenge on those I believed targeted me specifically. On the drive home in response to my complaints, Naida said, “I guess we know now that there is a wicked witch in the Enchanted Forest.”

Then we spent some time on our computers doing last minute things. Finally, we and the dog set off to the Big Endive on the Bay. We arrived at Peter’s house in late afternoon. My daughter arrived soon after. We had a pleasant evening reminiscing. Jessica planned to leave on Friday to go back to Washington DC. I will be sad to see her go I do not know when I will see her again.

The next day I met with my doctor and received the first glimmer of good news in at least the past three months. He said that cancer had shrunk enough to bring the possibility of an operation to remove it before the board of surgeons. They then efficiently scheduled all tests and my infusion to occur the remainder of the day.

That night we had dinner at a local Italian Restaurant that I used to enjoy when I lived in that neighborhood years ago. It used to cost about $10 for the same meal I enjoyed that night. Now, that same meal cost me $70. Nothing had changed but the wealth of those that now live in the neighborhood.

Later, Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda arrived at Peter’s house for a visit.


D. BACK TO THE ENCHANTED FOREST.

We returned to the Enchanted Forest on Friday. On Saturday I drove into the Golden Hills to drive the Scooter Gang around. While we were driving HRM turned to me with a big smile on his face and said, “Pookie, I have a girlfriend.” How does one respond to that? I settled on, “Good for you” and high-fived him. Now I worry.

Among the books I have read so far this month was James Lee Burke’s most recent Robicheaux and Purcell saga. The boys are getting old — and they know it. They still, however, act like adolescents while Burke places in their minds the sorrows and sadness of aging heroes approaching their end. Although, the novel takes place by Bayou Teche in Louisiana and Monument Valley Arizona, the epilogue has Dave, Clete and Dave’s adopted daughter Alifair recovering from their efforts and injuries in a motel in Bodega Bay California and traveling up and down Highway One for entertainment.

Alas, I just got word that Lucia’s bar in Sacile, a place I always considered the happiest place on earth, is no more. It has succumbed to the downsizing of the nearby American military base and the Italian economy’s multi-year depression. Lucia is now working as a barista in one of the other cafes in the town. This is all so sad.

I am losing my hair as a result of the chemo. Great gobs of hair flitter down from my head often falling into my food as I eat, making it even more unappetizing than usual. It all amuses me. If it continues I will become the first person in my direct ancestry to go bald in at least five generations. My head looks like it is covered with down.

hemothera

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Yesterday, Thursday, was a marvelous day. It began with Naida and me going our separate ways — she to doctors appointments and me into the Golden Hills to walk along the New York trail and through the autumn leaf fall

Fall colors fallen

Later I picked up HRM and his friend Tall Long Haired Jake And
I drove them home, gathered up my mail and my first Christmas present. I then drove back to the Enchanted Forest where Naida and I watched old movies and worked on our separate computers. We later watched a Highwaymen video (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jonny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson). Naida took out her guitar and played along with them. We also sang. I felt like I was back in SF in the early 70s. At one point, we started singing Frankie and Jonny and noticed each of us was singing different verses. We checked online and found as many as ten different versions including one by Burl Ives of surprising bawdiness.

Frankie was a fucky hussy,
That’s what all the pimps said,
And they kept her so damn busy,
She never got out of bed.
But he done her wrong.
God damn his soul.
Frankie she knowed her business,
Frankie went to the front door.
She hung out a sign on the door:
She rang the whorehouse bell.
“Fresh fish cost you a dollar here,
“Stand back you pimps and whores
Fancy fucking cost ten cents more.”
Or I’ll blow you straight to hell.
He was her man.
I’m hunting my man.
He done her wrong.
Who’s doin’ me wrong.”
Frankie went looking for Johnny.
Frankie drew back her kimono,
She hung out a sign on the door:
Pulled out her big forty-four.
“No more fish for sale now,
Rooty-toot-toot, three times she shoot,
Go find you another whore.”
Left him lyin’ on that whorehouse floor.
He was her man.
She shot her man
But he done her wrong.

And, as the evening wore on things got even better.

The weekend rolled around again like time took a holiday. Hey man, I’m damned old now. I want time to move as slow as I walk, Slower even. I’d like to see time bedridden.

Saturday, Naida continued to edit her memoir in silence. Boo-Boo the dog yapped at the leaf-blowers until the noise drove me to contemplate mass murder. Naida seemed to weather it better than me. When it all quieted down, I went back to doing nothing except playing on my computer until midnight.

The days move quicker now even though I spend most of my time doing little more than writing here and watching the news. Today I saw something amazing and amusing. The dust-up in the Oval Office between He Who is Not My President and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer over funding the border wall. Trump managed to conflate shamefulness with transparency. After Trump bragged at how much he had accomplished with the funds he had last year for border security, Schumer said fine we will give you the same amount this year so that you can continue with your good work (actually he had only spent 6% of the funds appropriated last year). Pelosi simply pointed out to him he did not have the votes — in effect either negotiate with us or sit on it.

Two more days until my treatment begins. My neck pains these last few weeks have gone from non-existent to irritating to aching. I do not think that is a good sign.

Last night while we were taking the dog on his evening stroll through the Enchanted Forest, Naida recited Longfellow’s Ballad, “The Skeleton in Armor.” The following is the first stanza:

SPEAK! speak! thou fearful guest,
Who, with thy hollow breast
Still in rude armor drest,
Comest to daunt me!
Wrapt not in Eastern balms,
But with thy fleshless palms
Stretched, as if asking alms,
Why dost thou haunt me?”

An apt poem to recite while walking through a dark forest. It certainly represented a departure from our usual singing of old show tunes as we walk along.

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