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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

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One day, I think it was Memorial Day, I spent several hours reading a Ph.D. dissertation by Eric Jones about the Iroquois Population History and Settlement Ecology, AD 1500-1700 (https://etda.libraries.psu.edu/files/final_submissions/1734). I came across this while I was researching the background to a poem that was reputed to be the opening lines to the Iroquois Constitution, The Great Law of Peace. While I failed to confirm the provenance of the poem, I found the treatise fascinating. It attempted to determine if evidence existed that proved there had been significant decline in the nations population post contact with European settlers (there had been, but it took over a decade before manifesting — just prior to contact (1634) the entire population of the Iroquois nation totaled 20,000 people and by 1660 it had decreased to about 7000). The author also tried to discover what, if any, were the factors that prompted the locations of the over 50 settlements that made up the Confederacy (distance to trails and well-drained farmland).

While searching the internet for information about the number of European settlers who populated NY in the 1660s, I came across a very lengthy letter by an Episcopal minister John Miller to the Bishop of London that after railing on at length about the general immorality of the colonists detailed his suggestions for the conquest of Canada and the conversion of the Indians. When it comes to conquest, murder, and destruction of indigenous societies the dolorous activities in the name of religion by men of the cloth never changes.

The great, most proper, & as I conceive effectual means to remedy and prevent all the disorders I have already mentioned & promote the settlement & improvement of Religion & Unity both among the English subjects that are already Christians & the Indians Supposed to be made so is That his Majesty will graciously please to send over a Bishop to the Province of New York who if duly qualified empowered & settled may with the Assistance of a small force for the Subduing of Canada by God’s grace & blessing be Author of great happiness not only to New York in particular but to all the English plantations [colonies] on that part of the continent of American in general. . . .

When I speak of converting the Indians ⎯ by Indians I mean principally those five Nations which lie between Albany & Canada & are called 1) Mohawks or Maquaes, 2) Oneidas, 3) Chiugas, 4) Onundagas & 5) Senecas, of whom though most of the Mohawks are converted to Christianity by Dr. Dellius & Some of the Oneidas by the Jesuit Millet, yet the first not being yet established in any good order at all & the last being converted to Popery, I look upon the work as yet wholly to be done & if what has been already done is not a disadvantage to it, yet that little advantage is gained thereby except a demonstration of the inclination of the Indians to embrace the Christian religion. . . .

1. The first thing then to be done in order to the conquest of Canada is to pitch upon a General for the conducting & carrying it on. The General then is to be but one to come & all forces both by Sea & land that are sent or appointed for this purpose: for long Experience has taught us that equal & divided commands have ruined many noble Undertakings & great Armies. . . .
2. The Second thing to be provided for is forces & warlike Provisions Sufficient for Such a design & those to be either sent for England or prepared in America. . . . (http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/becomingamer/growth/text1/newyorkmiller.pdf)

Miller then continues his letter with extensive and detailed plans for the invasion of Canada and its settlement by English colonists.

And this is how I spent Memorial Day instead of exercising, feasting, listening to music and enjoying whatever other amusements would make my declining years more pleasant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, slipped from my memory like fog before sunlight.

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

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

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

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

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June 2011

The following morning we left for LAX and our flight to Italy.

The depressing state of the American airline industry is additional evidence that the terrorists won. It was not the taking down of buildings, the killing of Americans or airplanes falling from the sky that was the goal of their attacks, but the subtle certainty of their understanding of the American psyche was their actual weapon. Their focus was to destroy the American economy by knowing precisely the reaction of America’s conservative elite’s thirst for power and profit. And we fell into the trap. Instead of making ourselves even stronger economically at home we wasted American treasure and dollars in unnecessary wars in the deserts of the middle east until we rewarded our attackers their victory, destruction of our economy. I consider the architects of our response nothing less than cynical traitors who wrapped themselves in the flag for personal benefit and power.

The American sad state of Airline travel is small but significant evidence of the extent of the terrorists’ success.

Anyway, following an especially uncomfortable flight, I arrived at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport with swollen legs, aching back and a foul temper. We were met by Nikki, who had arrived from Chicago a few hours earlier.

After about two hours of trying to secure a rent-a-car for our trip to Milan during which we experienced the full fury of Italian efficiency, we set off.

Within minutes it became obvious that we were not going to make the 4 or so hour drive to Milan that evening as both SWAC and I began to complain to Nikki of our various discomforts. At my suggestion, we agreed to spend the night in Orvieto a small hilltop city not far off the Autostrada.

As we entered the town, SWAC became quite excited. She thought she recognized the town as the site of George Clooney’s escapades in the movie “The American” or some such.

We located a pleasant B&B called “Las Palmas,” dropped off our luggage and set off in search of dinner which we found at an attractive restaurant a few doors away. Following a very enjoyable meal and the downing of two liters of local red and white wines among the three of us, we stumbled back to our respective rooms and to sleep.

The next morning we checked out of the B & B and set off in search of the Duomo as well as to hunt for the locations of scenes in the film that SWAC might recall.

Orvieto’s Duomo is an interesting church with a large Romanesque interior and Italian gothic façade decorated with large bas-reliefs, statues, and glittering mosaics. On the piers, about 30 feet high are carved a series of Bas-reliefs depicting biblical stories from the Old and New Testament that along with the view from the city walls are the towns glory.

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The Facade of the Duomo in Orvieto
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Orvieto

Orvieto like many of the hill towns in this part of Italy specializes in a type of pottery called Faience. Each town promotes in a slightly different design on the pottery and ever since Faience pottery became beloved of collectors, each town has developed its own pottery “artist.” In Orvieto, the renowned artist is the daughter of the owner of a pottery shop on the Plaza del Duomo called Giacomini.
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Giacomini’s

For those with knowledge and experience with the California Coastal Commission, yes they are the relatives of the late beloved suspender wearing, rotund, ex-Marin County Supervisor and Coastal Commissioner, Gary Giacomini sometimes also referred to as “Farmer Brown”.

Gary was an ardent environmentalist as long as it did not interfere with his and his family’s economic and political ambitions.

I spent about a half an hour swapping “Gary” stories with the family before we departed to search for the supposed locations of scenes from the movie, take photographs and return to the Autostrada to complete our journey to Milan.

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:
On Tuesday morning, Naida, Boo-boo and I left the Enchanted Forest for the Big Endive by the Bay and my meeting with the surgeon. Upon crossing the Bay Bridge, we drove directly to Peter and Barrie’s house where we unloaded and dropped off Boo-boo. We then proceeded to Mission Bay and my appointment. The night before, we had received a call informing us that the appointment time had been changed from 2:15 PM to 2 PM and insisting we be on time. We waited in the waiting area for over an hour before we were admitted into the examining room where we waited another hour before the surgeon showed up. During that second hour, we were first visited by a young woman who introduced herself as a “swallowing technician.” Yes, she did.

Interspersed between the happy talk and questioning me about the state of my swallowing, I was asked to make funny faces such as blowing out my cheeks while sticking out my tongue. I was also asked to make growling noises for some reason. Finally, a balloon was placed in my mouth and I was directed to press it with my tongue against the roof of my mouth three times. The only reason I could come up with for why I was subject to this silly but not particularly unpleasant activity was that I surmised it allowed the hospital to submit additional charges to Medicare. On the other hand, it could have been intended as entertainment in an effort to cheer me up for what was to come later.

The swallowing technician was followed by another young woman who introduced herself as the doctor’s assistant. Strangely, her first question was to ask me why I was there today. I responded, “Because I wanted to know whether I was a dead man walking or not.”  She seemed confused and stuttered a bit. She then busied herself looking up my records on the computer and informed us that there was a growth on both sides of my throat that had been there since my first CT scan way back in September. “O,” I said, “that’s interesting, no-one ever mentioned that before. Why is that?” She did not know and became even more confused and said she would have to ask the doctor. She then busied herself with administering me a sonogram on my neck and left.

Eventually, the surgeon arrived and his message sounded far less encouraging than I had hoped. Basically, he said that in his opinion it would be unsafe to operate at this time, and implied that at my age it would always be dangerous because my arteries were brittle from age and the effects of my radiation treatment. After musing about altering my chemotherapy regime, he advised me that I should enjoy myself as much as possible now. I did not take that advice as a positive comment on the state of my health. He then said, “I will see you in three months.” That seemed a bit more positive. At least he seemed to expect I would still be around three months from now.

That evening we had dinner back at Peter and Barrie’s. Barrie had cooked a very nice spaghetti carbonara for us. We were joined by a delightful friend of theirs from across the street who also happens to be my most responsive Facebook friend although I had never met her until that evening. She told us she was the daughter of a wealthy family in Orange County and that she had been kicked out of every college she attended until she ended up at some college in Mexico City before migrating to San Francisco at the height of its reign as the capital of hippiedom. There she was involved with people like Chet Helms and other leaders of the movement during those brief but wonderfully bizarre times.

The following morning we returned to the Enchanted Forest.

 

B. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
As I age, like many Vecchi, my short term memory seems to be…. well, a vague memory. If I do not write here every day, I often forget what has happened.

It is Friday evening. We returned on Wednesday. I recall little of what occurred in between. We walked the dog several times. I visited EDH a few times and drove HRM and Jake to Dick’s house. Susan McCabe called to see how I was doing. That made me happy. So did the Good/Bad David today. He was calling from the doctor’s office. It seems he is having blood-clot problems. That did not make me happy.

Today, I picked up Hayden, Jake, Caleb, and Hamza and drove them all to Dick’s house. I asked them how they were doing in school. Jake said his marks were improving because he was studying more. Hayden said his were also. I asked him why that was. He said that Dick promised he would be allowed to move from his small bedroom to the large family room downstairs if he gets certain grades on his final report.

I left them off at the house. There would be no adult supervision there (Hayden is a latch key kid now) because I was returning directly to the Enchanted Forest. I made them promise they would get into only a little bit of trouble. I worry about him. I know how distressing loneliness can be for an adolescent.

On Saturday, Naida and I exercised in the gym at the Nepenthe club-house. On Sunday, we sat in the studio, Naida editing her memoir in hopes of having it published before the State Fair opens in July while I passed the time writing this and trying to find something interesting enough on the internet to banish the pit of ennui into which I seem have fallen. I am not unhappy, in fact, I am as happy as I have ever been. It is just that I find this much sedentary living unsettling. Usually, whenever I have had this little to do, I take a nap. For some strange reason, I am both napping less and doing less. I will think more about this tomorrow, or the next day and perhaps understand it better.

It is now Tuesday afternoon. Tomorrow I leave for The Big Endive by the Bay and my infusion appointment. As usual, I will stay at Peter and Barrie’s house for two evenings before returning here on Friday.

 

C. OFF FOR TWO DAYS IN THE BIG ENDIVE WITH QUESTIONS OF MORTALITY.
So, three weeks have passed since my last Chemotherapy infusion and we are off again to San Francisco for what may be my final Chemo infusion and hopefully to find out more about my prognosis. As usual, we spent the night a Peter and Barrie’s home. My grandson Anthony arrived and joined us for dinner along with a friend of Peter and Barrie. She, suffering from incurable ovarian cancer, has lived for four years so far on immunotherapy alone. She has spent those four years happily traveling around the world. Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda joined us a little later but Amanda was suffering from a bad cold and since I was told by my doctors to avoid such contacts they left after a brief meet and greet.

Barrie prepared a great meal that featured excellent polenta. During the meal, we told stories and played “small world.” You know, recalling the famous and near famous we may have run into in our long lives. Sometimes, I feel a bit like Zelig that mysterious character played by Woody Allen in the film of the same name who appears in the background of photographs of significant historical events. If I can be excused for name dropping and I can (this is my Journal after all) let me list the US president’s I have met and known — Reagan, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — and presidential candidates, Fred Harris, Mike Dukakis, and Hillary Clinton. I assume most of us as we age have brushed shoulders with the so-called great and near great and experienced at least a passing contact with significant events. I guess we are all Zeligs to some extent.

The next morning I met with my oncologist, he told us that this was to be my last chemotherapy treatment and that surgery to remove the tumor was off the table because of my age and the fragility of my carotid artery. This opinion was devastating to me since it was essentially a death sentence. However, he also told us that the chemo has stabilized the tumor and it appears to have been effective in preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of my body. He informed us he was putting me on a two-year immunotherapy regime and advised me to enjoy life to the fullest. He appears quite confident that an early onset of death would be delayed to sometime beyond the two years and perhaps held in check long after that. This cheered me up — but only a bit.

That evening back at Peter and Barrie’s during dinner we had to break up a contretemps between Ramsey and Boo-boo over possession of a well-chewed tennis ball.
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Boo-boo Hiding Out at Peter and Barrie’s House after Misbehaving.

 

The next morning we returned to Sacramento.

 

D. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST AND A BRIEF TRIP INTO THE FOOTHILLS.
After dropping Naida and Boo-boo off at our house in the Enchanted Forest, I drove up to the Golden Hills and Picked up HRM and the gang and drove them to Dick’s house. H and I discussed the possibility of making a trip to Portland, Idaho, and Montana during his spring break. I then returned home and wrote this while watching Ray Milland and Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder. We then walked the dog. I feel good.

It is now Sunday. Spring seems to have slipped into the Great Valley and taken hold, bringing with it sunny days, warm weather, flowers of every color and hay fever (It’s always something —Rosanna Rosannadanna.) It being such a beautiful day, I decided to walk the dog along the meandering pathways of the Enchanted Forest. The new leaves of the ground cover ivy were a bright almost iridescent green in the bright sun.

On Tuesday at about 2PM, I went to bed. Not for a nap, I knew I would not get up until the following morning. The side-effects of the Chemo infusion, depression, and general fatigue had exhausted me. I woke up periodically during that afternoon and evening. During those brief periods, I would read a chapter of Elena Ferrante’s Novel, “My Brilliant Friend,” or check up on Facebook and then return to sleep.

Ferrante’s book is marvelous and its translation extraordinary. The translation often preserves the Italian language’s ability to express itself in long (at times a page or more) complex sentences encompassing vast emotions and multiple events that in English must be broken up into many separate sentences.

At some point during the evening, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was going to die, sooner rather than later. It is clear that an operation is infeasible and any potential chemical cure has run its course unsuccessfully. I recalled when Bill Yeates’ wife in a similar situation had had enough of the suffering from attempts to prolong her life and the courage to chose to take advantage of the new law to end it humanely. I do not believe I will choose that approach. Primarily because I am, in fact, happier than I have ever been in my life. At night, every night, I lie entwined in Naida’s arms ( sometimes so entwined we giggle over our inability to easily identify whose arms and legs belong to whom). There is a peace and happiness I never experienced before. Yes, I always had hoped I would find that, but there was always something else to do, something more to explore. Perhaps happiness needed accomplishment and experience. And, it did — but only for the stories with which to pass the time and perhaps a bit of justification for one’s life. But enough of this. I woke up on Tuesday. It is another day. When I awoke she was in my arms and that is all that matters now.

Damn, I cannot connect to the internet today. I cannot figure out how to fix the problem. Naida’s computer is connected. My smart-phone after a brief problem connected, but my computer remains— stubbornly unresponsive. What to do? What to do? Is interruption of internet service a modern form of Death? I sit in my chair typing this and feeling a strange form of fear. What happens should I not be able to re-connect here, am I doomed to trundling off to Starbucks every day to access the internet and confirm my existence? Is my life so bereft of meaning that I am reduced to depending on the friendship of people on Facebook many of whom I have never met? Is social media simply an updated version of those two-way radios long-distance truck drivers used to use to avoid the boredom and loneliness of their working lives? Have we become the physical and emotional slaves of our machines? Are we needed for anything beyond self-indulgence? Am I so bored that I need to ask these questions even in jest? Is anyone laughing? If I were connected to the internet I could find out.

Ha, one of our medical student borders just came downstairs and said her internet connection was down also. She promptly marched over to the modem that I had fiddled with for a very frustrating hour or so, pressed a button on top and the internet connection popped right up again. I feel like an idiot. Now if she can do the same with my failed medical treatments I would call today a very good day.

This morning, Hayden called to ask me to pick him up after school. It was unusual for him to call like that, so despite not being completely over with the side-effects of the infusion, I drove into the Golden Hills. I met HRM and Caleb at the skatepark. They were planning to go to the Wednesday church youth get together. He said that his mom appears to have relaxed her opposition to him attending. She had wanted him to become a Buddhist and not a Christian. He felt Buddhism was a way of life and not a religion. “Besides,” he said, “it’s boring for teenagers.” She seemed to concede by responding “Whatever makes you happy.” So I dropped them off at Caleb’s home where they would spend the afternoon until it was time to go to the teenage get-together. I left them with my advice that they should be kind to all as much as they can but to be fair to everyone and drove back to the Enchanted Forest where I was met by a happily yapping little dog and a hug from Naida.

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Yesterday, I drove to and returned safely from the mall. Just before braving the “real” Thai streets, I practiced driving around the subdivision in order to get my turns straight and condition myself for driving on the right side of the street that here is the left. That’s another problem. Not only do I have to remember the rules of the road but I have a semantic problem as well, so I do not know what I am talking about. Did you know the test for a driver’s license in Thailand, in most jurisdictions, consists solely of a depth perception test?

I learned yesterday that they (whoever “they” are) have prohibited the construction of new commercial structures in the subdivision. Turning part of your home into a shop or restaurant is apparently excepted.

The fundamentalist Christian missionaries, that I mentioned in a previous post, who were sent here to convert the little brown Buddhists to the pleasures of hellfire and brimstone, are being criticized for acting as though they are exempt from Thai law and treating the locals like they do not exist. The huge Christian high school, filled with tall blond blue-eyed teenagers and containing endless sports fields, has been willy-nilly throwing up three and four-story classroom and “dormitory” buildings in the subdivision. It also forces native Thais and not people of European descent to pay a fee if they want to attend their charity garage sales. In addition, the school charges the residents a fee for using the subdivision’s own health club because it is located on the School’s leased land. What this demonstrates to me is that the politics of HOA’s are the same everywhere.

On Friday I get to leave this island of western pretensions and travel to Mae Rim and see the elephants, tigers, monkeys, snakes and whatever.

Joe…

Today’s photo: the view from the covered patio towards the “Sala”. During the day when I am not napping, I can usually be found in either the patio or Sala.

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Last night we had an East Coast style thunder-storm, full of lightning and end of the world cracks of thunder. The lights went out and we rushed around the house closing all the windows. What fun. Then, as quickly as it began, it ended except for some deep rumblings in the mountains that reminded me of Rip Van Winkle and his little men bowling nine pins and drinking beer in the Catskills. I suppose a more Thai related analogy would be appropriate. Like, the screams of the King of the Naga as it rises from the depths of the Mekong, all nine heads of it, to do battle with Rama or the Monkey King (I forget which). I prefer old Rip’s tale. By the way, did you know that the giant catfish of the Mekong can weigh up to a ton?

Yesterday I practiced driving on the wrong side of the street. I got tired of waiting for the driver for every trip to the mall I had to make to buy some toothpaste or the like. The insanity of a 70-year-old man learning to drive on the wrong side of the street and braving the impossible Thai traffic in order to go to the mall is appalling. After all, this is Thailand and one expects elephants, tigers in the bush, secretive mountain tribes deep in the jungle, dope smugglers staggering under their loads on narrow mountain paths, white sandy beaches, and elegant hotels and so on. Instead, here I am living in a subdivision with a bunch of fundamentalist Christian missionaries, the remnant of the “faith initiative”, the vanguard of the Armies of Armageddon, and loving every minute of it.

Today’s photo: me having my morning coffee.

I nope everyone is doing well.

Joe..

—————————————————————————

FROM MY JOURNAL:

January 22 2010.

Noon
Let’s jump to today. Tai called. Said the baby has been in Hospital since Tuesday. He could not keep down the milk and has a fever. Said she was at Hospital all alone. Mother not in BKK. The doctor said baby ok just a typical problem at one-month-old.

Said she did not return to my hotel because baby was throwing up and she went to Hospital. Tried to call but did not get through. Did not get note I left on her email. Needs money.

Belief??? It was Sunday night that she did not show up.

Started email correspondence with Irwin. Am enjoying it so far.

Began novel with Story Mill, first task. Stymied on second task. Cannot figure out disaster events.

Supposed to go downtown today. Natalie last night said she would call driver for 10 o’clock. At 11:30 after some communication difficulty with the maid she called someone whom I assumed was the driver. I asked him to come right away. He has not arrived yet.

He arrived as I wrote the above.

8:00pm
Went to Big C got 25,000 baht from ATM. Went to Central, ate lunch at McDonald’s. Tai called. Located BKK Bank sent her 10,000 baht. Went to Nokia shop bought Phone. Spoke with Tai again. Bought a Thai flower identification book and one for orchids. Waited for the driver. He did not come. Found taxi driver who charged 150 baht. for the same distance as airport driver charged 100 baht. Went to Hayden’s school and walked home.

Gave Hayden long thin bamboo type stick and we pretended to fish the canals. Stopped to watch two men who had spread a net in the large canal but caught only two fish.

Identified Tulip tree, Spider Lilly and a few other flowers from the book.

Hayden went bike riding with Leo and his father while I napped. Natalie arrived with driver. She seemed to be in a relatively good and friendly mood. Driver gave me the wood restoration oil spray can. Nat said it was not the right kind. Dithered to put her off.

Hayden returned, Went to restaurant in a street end in subdivision run by a 73 year old shriveled woman who had been the wife of a mayor of Chiang Mai. Ate a good but very spicy dish made from vegetables and herbs grown on site and drank a herb wine made by the woman from unknown herbs and fruits. Quite enjoyable chilled. Two of Hayden’s teachers arrived. We paid for their meals and ours. About 8 American dollars for all five meals plus wine.

Went home and now I am in bed. G’night.

January 23 2010.

2:39 am
Awoke, cannot get back to sleep. Do not feel like doing anything. Practiced typing.

10:00 pm
Waited for Cordt. Gave me the phone number of fixer for a visa. Went to the same restaurant.

Earlier went to Central. Withdrew 20,000 baht. Gave Natalie only 15,000 baht for “hot water” repairs. Got haircut. Played with Hayden constructing a new Leggo set Natalie bought for him. Used the spray can on the wood foot stool and a few other wood items. Looked pretty good will get more after Nat leaves.

Frank called. Things are looking worse for him.

Nat gave Hayden a time out. Not sure why.

Monday January 25 2010.

2PM
Natalie left at 11 AM to catch a noon flight to Bangkok. I do not know if she told Hayden she was leaving. Nikki is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

Worked on my novel. supposedly a one paragraph synopsis. I have written about five so far and am not finished. Should go back and condense.

Tai called. Needs money. Maid called driver. No answer. Called Tai told her I will try again tomorrow.

Wrote long email to Irwin.

COMMENTS:

From Ruth Galanter:

At the risk of seeming pedantic but out of loyalty to the legend, I have to remind you that it was supposed to be Hendrick Hudson’s men bowling. Same region as Rip van W, but slightly different story. But I have the same association with thunderstorms.

I must say I’m glad I’m not driving with you while you practice driving on the wrong side of the street. Drive carefully, as “they” say.

Nice photo, but I miss the beard.

Joe’s Response:


You are right. Irving had the bowlers as H. H.’s men’s ghosts. They did drink beer though. I was recalling an illustration of the story showing the bowlers to be definitely on the short side.

I made it to the mall and back.

From Ruth:

What are you doing in the middle of a community of Christian missionaries? It’s interesting how much religions may differ but homeowner associations don’t.
Send photos from the jungles!

Joe’s Response:


They moved in after I built the house. They, of course, are all staunch Republicans.

I do not know if all religions are so different. The “People of the Book”, Jews, Christian and Muslim, appear to me mostly male centered and authoritarian. The Jews at least were forced to adopt independent interpretation as a result of the first century dispersion. The far eastern religions at least avoided the Western hard edged authoritarianism by encouraging their devotees to look inward and submit to secular autocrats instead .

More democratic style institutions appear alike because of their inevitable focus on short term minutia.

Will send pictures.

I had a back yard (or in my case a front yard) barbecue last night.

From Ruth:

You’re right, the religions differ only in superficial ways and I think the Jews may not hate as virulently as some of the others. the differences among religions sometimes remind me of the politics of academia–the less that is at stake, the greater the hostility

I am hoping one day to get my yards (front, back, and side) fixed up. I got a rain barrel through a city demonstration program, now will get a free consultation on how to do yard for optimum water conservation. Every time I look at a “water feature,” all I can see is the ticking of a meter. Same with “decorative lights” and those horrible little lights on appliances. I paid a lot of extra money to get a stove that doesn’t have a clock and little lights telling me things–unless something is on. And I’ve got my dishwasher (which I finally justified as “resale value”) plugged into the circuit designed for a garbage disposal (which I didn’t get) because otherwise it has a whole array of stinking little red lights on all the time. I know they don’t use “much” juice, but I can’t think of a reason to use any unless I’m actually using the appliance. When I left the city, one of my gifts from DWP was a desk lamp made from an old electric meter. It still works. Turn on the lamp and watch the meter chug along….the water side of the dept gave me a clock made from an old water meter, but it’s on a battery. I’m the first person not directly involved in the water services branch to have received one. Since then, I’m told, several officials have “demanded” them.

Joe’s response:

Your garden plans look like they will keep you busy for a while. I do not have any idea how green my landscaping here is. We have a pump that moves water from a well to the house. It has been suggested that we water are garden from the canal behind our house. However when I look at the putrid water in the canal it does not look so appetizing to spread it on the grass.

All male dominated organizations that rely on the unverifiable (e.g. Religion, patriotism, etc.) are authoritarian ( maybe women dominated also but we have little recent experience). Except for the fundamentalists (and maybe the Mossad), thanks to Hillel and his brethren, the jews escaped most of it.

I have imagined that the religions in their constant wars for dominance expected their opponents to feel the same way “”convert or die” and felt it was the natural way of things. Imagine when they met the jews. “what do you mean you do not want to force us to adopt your belief and in fact do not want us in your club at all unless we can show our maimed membership card. That is unnatural and therefor you must be wiped from the face of the earth.”

That’s the problem with being taught by Jesuits. You never lose your fascination with what you do not believe.

From Irwin:

joe- my walking stick and i are now going for our morning walk, completing the circuit of los jardines east to where it meets los jardines west and back to where it again becomes los jardines east (“road trip”). we will pass the 21 acre green valley park, the north pool (home of the green valley dolphins swim team), the adult pool (not heated in winter) and the family pool and center (don’t think the pool is now heated). i also pass two elementary schools which one or both of my children attended. as perhaps a forewarning about the ethnic makeup of the community, one of the schools was named after the first japanese american (from this area) to die in wwII. at that school i also had planted a tree in memory of a friend who was from turkey but killed in a car crash in laguna beach. while a cup of espresso is not on the tour i will be within say one hundred feet of a pho shop which i have yet to try – it’s two doors up from nick’s pizza which is an abysmal place which we only went to once in all of the years we have lived here. it had, as i recall, lots of spaghetti and bad red sauce plus plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling. i suspect rumors of alleged anti-semitism also helped to discourage frequent visits. after i return i shall take a nap; if i am lucky i will sleep until three when i can go visit my mother or buy a lotto ticket or goods for dinner – there is the possibility i may go to the mall and have garlic and cracked pepper french fries with a draft root beer all for under five dollars. i will also be stopping at the mail box to insert a letter to my psychiatrist in which i express my dissatisfaction with the psychiatric services i have/have not received from kaiser permanente for over forty years and explaining that i took and anti-depressant for over ten years and see no reason to take another (which he wants me to do) if he or one of his fellow wizards won’t give me the psychotherapy which i think i need in order to rid myself of deep seated emotional issues and weekly co-pay. seems their current practice is to prescribe drugs and see the patient bi-monthly to checke how the drug is working or to place the patient in a cognitive therapy group consisting of fat or ill-dressed women and one older gay guy who is having a crises because his long-time live-in is expressing discontent about something the gay guy won’t face. then there was the woman who was shacked up with this guy who was talking marriage until she passed the bar and then decided not to practice law upon which (duh) he stopped talking marriage. i need to be with mentally ill people if i’m to be in a group again.

today’s photo is of our neighbor “felix the cat”. i am far from being a cat fancier, however there is something unusual about felix i think he is a reincarnation of someone i once knew but can’t remember. here he is sitting on an old stool outside my french door in the computer room. he knows better than to poop in my yard which my gardener jose jimenez would have to ignore as he does most everything else that should be done.

From Irwin:

j.d.salinger died. aside from being notable for his writing (i.e. catcher in the rye) he was also famous for not wanting to be famous and lived in isolation for the last fifty years.

i have wanted to be famous for the last fifty years and now am living in isolation. for this i am not notable.

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