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Posts Tagged ‘Coffee’

 

A. CHRISTMAS:

 

Christmas morning arrived dark and dank in the Enchanted Forest. Last evening, under a crystal clear sky, we attended a Christmas party at Naida’s daughter’s home in Land Park. It was fun. We sang Christmas carols, ate Chinese food, and opened presents. For a present, I got a throw blanket to remind me how old I am while keeping me warm in the evenings watching old movies on TCM and sipping egg-nog laced with brandy. I also received a book by Donald Hall entitled A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety also to remind me how old I am becoming. The book contains a series of short essays by the author, who also used to be the nation’s Poet Laureate, about how it feels to be ninety and still alive, the famous and not so famous people he has met, and his sometimes trenchant thoughts on various unconnected things. To quote the author on the nature and tenor of his opinions, “Why should the nonagenarian hold anything back?” I loved the book.

Today we drove into the golden hills to give HRM and Dick (or as we refer to him Uncle Mask) their Christmas presents. When we arrived, we learned they were both down with the flu. Hayden was nestled in bed in his teen cave. I went downstairs and gave him his Christmas presents, eight 5 by 7 wood-backed photographs of him and me over the years, also a pocket all-purpose tool, all separately wrapped. He unwrapped them one and a time and thanked me profusely after exposing each one.

Leaving him to ponder the meaning and significance of my presents and wrestle with the physical and psychological miseries of being sick on Christmas Day, I returned upstairs to find Naida and Uncle Mask in the kitchen making coffee laced with Kailua. For the next 3 or 4 hours, we sat around the table and discussed ancient Native-American society, the origin of bees, turkeys and grapes in California, petroleum development, coastal regulation, Willie Brown and related subjects. About halfway through our round-table discussion, Hayden, having resolved whatever quandaries I had left with him and suddenly cured of his maladies, emerged from his sickbed and told us he was off to the skatepark. The skatepark I concluded must be a miracle remedy that can cure certain adolescents of whatever psychological, physical, or existential issues they may have to wrestle with during that brief and certainly not beloved few years of raging hormones before recognition sets in as to how bad life can really get.

Eventually, Naida and I returned to the Enchanted Forest and watched a thoroughly silly movie starring William Powell and a far too young Debbie Reynolds. I wrapped myself warmly in my throw. It was warm. I was happy.

 

B. BOXING DAY:

 

(“In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect ‘Christmas boxes’ of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year… This custom is linked to an older British tradition where the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families since they would have to serve their masters on Christmas Day. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.” [WIKIPEDIA])

 

Boxing Day (or if you will St. Stephen Protomartyr Day or the first day of Kwanzaa) broke, as our mornings usually do, with Boo-boo the Barking Dog, our reliable alarm clock, barking. Every morning at 9AM he begins at the upstairs window then running as though his fur was on fire down the stairs, high pitched almost hysterical barking following, to the living room window for a few moments then to the sliding glass doors by the garden and finally back again to the upstairs window where he then sits quietly and, it seems to me, smugly waiting to see if one of us responds and lets him out for his morning pee and breakfast. If not, he leaps onto the bed pawing at Naida’s arm until she gets up and staggers down the stairs to do his bidding.

Thus, unless we wake up at 7:30 or 8:00 this leaves little time for shagging. For those who wonder about shagging over 80 be advised while perhaps the more athletic positions are a dim memory, we decrepits remain quite able, at times, to enjoy all the pleasures of that activity with little of the self-consciousness of youth.

This morning, for my viewing pleasure, Naida provided me with a brief fashion show of the tennis outfits she had received as Christmas presents from her daughters. After this, she presented me with a nice cup of cocoa.

Later we went shopping for pants for me — a belated Christmas present. All this excitement so exhausted us we went to bed at 8PM. St. Stephen Protomartyr would be proud.

 

C. SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST DAY OR FOR THOSE NOT OF A RELIGIOUS BENT YOU MAY CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE ONE DAY OF THE FEAST OF THE WINTER VEIL OR LIFE DAY (THE WOOKIE CELEBRATION OF LIFE) OR NOTHING AT ALL AND JUST CHILL OUT.

 

What was different this morning than all other mornings? This morning Boo-boo the barking dog did not bark. I woke up alone in bed. Naida and the dog had slipped out of the room without a sound and were enjoying an early breakfast together in the downstairs studio.

The only thing that happened today that may be of interest to Johnny the Saint or Chewbacca the Wookie is that I learned that today’s adolescents are experts in the gastronomical merits of various fast food joints.

 

D. HOLY INNOCENTS DAY:

 

(“On this day it is custom to give the youngest child in the household the power to rule the day. From what to eat, where to go and what to do, the youngest is in charge. In Mexico, it is a day for children to play practical jokes and pranks on their elders.” National Day Calendar.)

 

Today also happens to be National Download Day. I do not know what that means. It is also Saturday, the day of the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House here in the Enchanted Forest. Alas, we missed it. Naida was having a long, long conversation on the phone with someone, so I decided to make my breakfast and write this.

I did nothing the rest of the day — not anything notable, nothing, not even a nap. Nothing is hard to do. Try it sometime. We did walk the dog this evening, however.

 

E. TODAY, DECEMBER 29, I HAVE LEARNED IS: BARBIE DOLL’S BIRTHDAY, SECRETS DAY, SENDING SHORT MESSAGES TO UNKNOWN NUMBERS DAY, INTERNATIONAL NUTCASE DAY, AND, SPARKLER DAY.

 

(Note: I can find no reference on the internet for any of these days. I did find a site that indicated that this was, Still Need To Do Day. [I thought that was every day.] If one were really interested, one could check the Catholic Saints Calendar and find about 50 saints whose celebrations are listed for this day including Albert of Gambron, Trophimus of Arles and Ebrulf of Ouche [Ouch?] Ouche is a river in the Cote-d’Or in France.)

 

At about 11 AM today I set off for Peter and Barrie’s home in The Big Endive By The Bay to spend the night before my appointment at UCSF for my treatment. Naida stayed home to work on Volume II of her memoir and attend to the needs of the dog.

That evening Jason, Hiromi, and Amanda joined Peter, Barrie and I for dinner. Barrie prepared a delicious shrimp and Polenta dish for dinner. Unfortunately, she added jalapeño peppers making it too hot and spicy for me to eat, so I contented myself with a banana, a pear, a Japanese yam and a slice of coconut pie. I was happy and sept well.

 

F. DECEMBER 30, NATIONAL BACON DAY:

 

(It is also National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, Falling Needles Family Fest Day and the last day of Hanukkah. Or, if you would prefer you can celebrate the feast day of Saint Raynerius of Aquila Bishop of Forconium (modern Aquila), Abruzzi region, Italy who was noted for his excellent administrative skills, but little else. Does this make him the patron saint of bureaucrats?)

In the morning, I drove to Mission Bay for some CT scans, meetings with the doctor and my infusion. As I walked through the newly built areas of Mission Bay, I could not help feeling like I was participating in a movie about a dystopian world of the future. I strolled through long narrow public spaces with monolithic facades rising on each side. The view of the new development along the shoreline with their bulges and sharp edges looked like cartoon renderings of the city of the future. Unlike most cities, there were fewer people drifting along with you as you walk down the streets and sidewalks. Instead, they seemed to pop in and out of various doors of the buildings as you walk by. There was a small market at the edge of the bay where shaggy Dead Heads sold their wares, mostly dope paraphernalia. Strange tents filled a few spaces that appeared to have been intended to be parks. One seemed to require playing a round of miniature golf before shopping in the tents for something to eat. Odd I see.

My meeting with the doctor went well — no evidence of the cancer spreading.

After my infusion, I met my grandson Anthony. We walked to The Ramp one of the two old hippy hang-outs that still cling to the edge of the Bay. Today they are filled with somewhat less colorful patrons. We sat outdoors and enjoyed the view of the bay, boats and the old shipyard that included a large tanker under repair.
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I then set off for the Enchanted Forest and ran into a traffic jam as soon as I crossed the Bay Bridge in Emeryville. I heard on the car radio the entire freeway had been closed in Vallejo for a “police action” and drivers were advised to find alternative routes. I took 680 and eventually arrived home three hours later. There were no news reports that evening about what the “police action” was all about.

 

G. HOGMANAY AND NEW YEAR’S EVE.

 

On New Year’s Eve, we attended a party at the Nepenthe Club House. It was scheduled to end at nine PM when the ball was dropped on Times Square in New York. It was planned like this so that we decrepits could get home at a decent hour. Even so, most of the people had left long before the Times Square ball did its thing. We stayed to the bitter end, however. At some point, we danced. A relatively young woman insisted I dance with her. Later at home, Naida told me that the woman was trying to seduce me. I had not noticed. I thought she was just tipsy. Anyway, I was pleased to learn that.

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H. NEW YEAR’S DAY, AND ST. ZYGMUNT GORAZDOWSKI DAY.

 

I did nothing at all today. I took a long nap in the afternoon. Watched a bit of television. Perhaps I was resting up from 2019 and getting ready to tackle 2010 — then again perhaps not.

 

I. NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY, NATIONAL PERSONAL TRAINER AWARENESS DAY, ST. BASIL THE GREAT DAY, ST. BLIDULF DAY AND ST. CASPAR DEL BUFALO DAY.

 

This morning broke sunny and relatively warm for this time of year. The arrival of the garbage trucks and the leaf blowers drove Boo-boo the Barking Dog into paroxysms of hysterical barking and sent him running like crazy throughout the house.

Determined to approach the new year with greater vigor and determination than I evidenced yesterday, and to escape the unholy racket both inside the house as well as my realization that we were out of my beloved English Muffins, I left the house and strode vigorously and purposefully through the Enchanted Forest to where I had parked the car. I drove to the nearest shopping center where I stopped at Starbucks for breakfast after which I went to Safeway to buy the English Muffins, a few other necessities (e.g., frozen ravioli and several bars of dark chocolate with sea salt) and a bouquet of flowers for Naida. I then returned home with a sense of accomplishment that I was convinced equipped me to successfully face whatever the current year throws my way.

I put the groceries away and went upstairs for a nap. I had enough vigor and determination for the day.

 

J. TODAY JANUARY 3 IS 10TH OF THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. IT IS ALSO THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS AS WELL AS OF KURIAKOSE ELIAS CHAVARA IN THE SYRO-MALABAR CATHOLIC CHURCH.

 

On the 10th day of Christmas, I picked up Hayden, Kaleb, and their snowboards and drove them to Northstar near Lake Tahoe for a day of caroming down the snow-covered slopes. It was a sunny and surprisingly warm day, about 50 degrees. After we arrived, the boys set off for the slopes and I set about seeking amusement in the pseudo-alpine village at their base.

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Ready to hit the slopes.

 

I was hungry so before beginning my exploration I searched for someplace to eat. I found a modest place where I ate a breakfast of pancakes that cost as though they were made of gold and tasted like it also. I then wandered about and ran into Jake and his family. They were leaving because Jake’s friend from Arizona, Kaden, had fractured his arm snowboarding yesterday. Jake’s mom said the emergency room when she visited yesterday looked more like the results of a terrorist strike than a room full of holiday vacationers. Skiing seems to be a hazardous duty for recreation seekers.

I then found a Starbucks where surprisingly I was given a free cup of coffee. I took my free coffee over to a seat by a window and watched the crowds strolling by while slowly sipping my drink. This was not my first cup of coffee that morning. I had consumed enough coffee that morning that I amused myself by contemplating the possibility of dying here of caffeine poisoning.

After a while, I left and strolled through the faux village and inspected the wares in a few shops. Tiring of this, I sat on an upholstered bench by a fire pit near the skating rink. I watched the skaters, some gliding by and others whose by was something less than gliding. I also listened to a female twosome singing western tunes on the stage next to the rink.

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Just as I was about to drift off into a mindless reverie, HRM called to say that they had finished snowboarding and were waiting for me nearby. I found them and we were soon heading off for home.

K. TODAY WE CELEBRATE THE DAY OF THE FALLEN AGAINST THE COLONIAL REPRESSION (ANGOLA), DAY OF THE MARTYRS (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO), HWINUKAN MUKEE (OKINAWA ISLANDS, JAPAN), OGONI DAY (MOVEMENT FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THE OGONI PEOPLE), AND WORLD BRAILLE DAY.

 

 

It is Saturday today and Naida and I attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Clubhouse. It went as usual and I paid little attention, drifting off into a semi-dream state while the others talked. Winnie sat down beside me. We discussed the state or our health. She observed that I needed a haircut and recommended the stylist she uses. She then invited me to join her and a few of the girls for a drink after the meeting.  I declined. Naida and I returned home and vegetated for the rest of the day. We did not celebrate those who had fallen opposing colonial oppression in Angola. But I did think about them. I, however, did not think very much about the martyrs or the Ogoni I am afraid.

 

L. TODAY IS THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS AND THE TWELFTH NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS, NATIONAL BIRD DAY, AND HARBIN INTERNATIONAL ICE AND SNOW SCULPTURE FESTIVAL (HARBIN, CHINA).

 

The Twelfth Day of Christmas arrived in the Enchanted Forest as bright as springtime. After breakfast, I felt the need — an itch — to do something, anything, even to just take a walk. And so I did. I hooked up Boo-boo to his leash and set off. It wasn’t much of a walk but it will do for me.

It is now a day after writing the preceding paragraph. I tried to recall what else I did yesterday. Failing, I turned again to Naida and asked, “Do you recall what we did yesterday?”

“Not much” she replied, “and I enjoyed it.” After a moment of reflection, she added, “We did see a marvelous movie with wonderful music.”

“Do you remember its name” I inquired.

More reflection. “Fiddler on the Roof,” she eventually declared.

There you have it. Pookie’s Twelve Days of Christmas, such as it was.
You have fun too and remember to always keep on trucking.

th-1

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One afternoon, we arrived home to find our fully decorated Christmas tree lying on its side amidst a splatter of broken ornaments and spruce needles. Dick the engineer hypothesized that the tree, despite out heroic endeavor three days ago to balance it properly, was, in fact, unbalanced and it took the tree this long to realize it. So, we lifted up the tree, rebalanced it, placed additional weights on the bottom, redecorated it with the remaining unbroken ornaments and hoped for the best.

On Saturday, a day of horrendous rain and fog, HRM happily announced he was going out to play in the rain. Noticing one of the eyelets in his boots was detached he decided to reattach it with superglue before flitting about in the rain. As misadventure would have it, rather than attaching the eyelet to the boot he managed to glue both his own eyes shut. HRM, Dick and I, then spent the next eight hours in the emergency rooms of two separate hospitals where the doctors worked to unstick his eyelids. One of the doctors, who was quite amused by it all, took me aside and asked, “We see this a lot, where children [usually in the 3 to 6-year range] glue one eye shut with super glue, but we have never seen anyone who managed to glue both eyes shut. How did he do this?”

“HRM,” I replied, “is a very special child.”

WWE blew in from SE Asia in concern for the welfare of her progeny and then promptly refused to accompany him to the ophthalmologist claiming she had more important things to do.

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A. IN THE GOLDEN HILLS.

Thanksgiving Day brought with it an intermittent sun playing hide and seek with the rain. We had lunch in the Golden Hills with HRM, Uncle Mask, Adrian and N. I was surprised to see N there. She had come to California a few days before and will remain until late December when she will take HRM to Italy for the Holidays. The lunch featured a well-made ham with several toppings to choose from. I was a bit disconcerted because I had expected I would be minding H during Dick’s absence in early December but with N there, I expect that would not be necessary.

N and HRM

Later, we drove back to Sacramento for dinner with Naida’s Daughter Sarah, her family, and their two dogs, a black and white brindled standard poodle named George Washington and Franklyn Delano Roosevelt, a large mixed pit bull and retriever. We brought along Boo-boo, a mixed Chihuahua and whatever, who although he may have lacked the size and prestigious name of the other two dogs, by the end of the night had clearly acquitted himself as an equal.

Dinner included turkey with all the fixings and pumpkin pie and cheesecake for dessert. The cheesecake made by Sarah’s son Charlie, who happily explained to all of us the secret of making a perfect cheesecake — first rule “do not beat your eggs,” mix them slowly using only a certain rotation of one’s arms and shoulders. He then demonstrated the movement. It looked quite painful

B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:


The rains have returned soft and gentle. The streets, lawns, and pathways in the Enchanted Forest glisten a brilliant red and yellow. Here and there pods from the Deodar Cedar litter the walkway like little banana slugs. For the first time, it seemed like autumn.

As usual, we attended the Saturday morning coffee at the clubhouse. Surprisingly, as many men attended this week as women. I sat a bit off to the side, observing as I often do. I could not help noticing the usual neatly coiffed hair on the spy who goes by the name “Ducky.” It always looks as though she just came from the hairdresser. Unlike most of us at this advanced age whose hair of various colors gone drab, interlaced with streaks or dreary grey, and winds about our heads like birds nests, hers, a brilliant white, sparkled like icy snow in the sunlight.

I decided to survey hands today. Most of the woman had long slender fingers gone knobby with age. The model’s fingers were the longest. Like many whose movements are often characterized as elegant, the tips of her fingers seemed to move as though they were independent of the hands to which they were attached. Naida’s hands, unlike the others, were the hands of someone who spent a life of a farm or a ranch, thick and strong.

I noticed while most kept their hands relatively still when they talked they would now and then gesture whenever they were making a point. Naida again was an outlier. Her hands flew about vigorously as she talked. She would not be out of place in Southern Italy. In fact, in Sicily, the Sicilians would consider her an uplifting and ebullient person before even hearing a word she had spoken. Alas, to these same people, her hand movements would appear to them as gibberish — meaningless noise. Americans use their hands while speaking only as punctuation. Without words it is meaningless. In Sicily, the gestures are words and have meaning independent of what is spoken.

We then returned to the house, Naida to work on her Memoir and me to write this. Later we walked the dog along the levee beside the American River. The setting sun shining through air recently washed clean by the rains lit up the autumn colors like fireworks.

On Sunday we sat around the house. Naida read to me sections from her memoir. As she read the words, my mind transformed them into scenes from a movie — the frightening 25 mile skate down the frozen Big Hole River; learning of her parents divorce; the comical introduction to her father’s new girlfriend; the infatuation of a 13 year old girl with her handsome uncle; the fight with her brother over a plate of macaroni and cheese; the dreams, the fears and the sorrows… It will be a wonderful book — a Little Women with real drama.

The Author at Work in Her Studio

Monday I had an appointment with my primary care physician. As he entered the examining room, I said, “Since my surgeons agree I am a dead man walking, I intend to go out happy, pain-free and without my bowels turned into cement. So, I need you to prescribe the pills that will allow me to do so.”

“We are from birth all dead men walking, ” he responded. “Nevertheless, I think I can provide what you need. I even know of something that relieves pain without constipation.” He added that he understood what I was going through because he has had two bouts of his own with cancer. Also, his seven-year-old child was struck with bone cancer and had to have his leg amputated below the knee.

Once again, I found myself embarrassed and humiliated by my misplaced sense of humor.

The doctor a youngish man, in his late thirties or early forties, is built like an NFL linebacker and specializes in sports medicine. At my prior visits to his office, I noticed a deep sadness in his eyes that made me wonder. Now I know why.

He prescribed a healthy supply of Xanax to keep my spirits up, a pain reliever that keeps my bowels lubricated and even a topical that eliminates the irritation caused by my clothing rubbing against the tumor. Finally, he explained that the most important thing he’d learned from his own experience with cancer was that one ought not to concern one’s self about the future but concentrate only on what needs to be done that day. In other words, take it one day at a time. I am not a fan of platitudes (unless they are my own, of course) but appreciated the effort.

C. TO SAN FRANCISCO AND BACK AGAIN:


On Tuesday we left for San Francisco to spend the evening with Peter and Barrie before my visit with the physician at UCSF early the next day. We brought the dog along with us because Barrie thought it would be a good idea to see how he got along with their dog, Ramsey.

That evening, leaving the dogs with Barrie, Naida and I went to a French restaurant on 24th Street where Peter’s trio was performing. They were very good, as was the food. Peter played bass, the leader of the group, guitar, and the third member, the violin. Peter told us he (the violinist) is or was first violinist in the LA Symphony. If you’re ever in the Noe Valley area on a night they are playing you should drop in.

The Boys in the Band.

The next day, I met with the oncologist at UCSF to explore potential treatment options including clinical trials. As usual, I began with an inappropriate joke. When the doctor entered the room and settled into the chair opposite me, I said, “Now that two surgeons have agreed that ripping out a part of my throat and slicing off parts of my body with which to fill the resulting hole was not advisable, what options are available to me?”

The doctor a youngish Korean-American oncologist with a national reputation was not amused. Nevertheless, after asking some questions he played out a treatment program that appeared to me to be promising if we could get the insurance company to approve it in a reasonable amount of time.

D. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST AND A VISIT TO THE RIVER OF RED GOLD:


On Wednesday, I rested all day and Thursday, I turned my attention primarily to a request of Terry’s that I am sure, as usual, will turn out more interesting than beneficial. I also received a call from my doctors that the insurance company approved my treatment plan and it will start early next week. Hooray!

If I have learned anything from life (I am pretty sure I have not), it is that that one learns less from success than from failure and it’s more interesting too. Also, behaving foolishly is a lot more fun than propriety could ever be.

On Friday, I accompanied Naida to Meadowlark Inn at Slough-house on the old Jackson Highway. There Naida had a luncheon with a small book club (about eight women). They discussed her California Gold Trilogy. Later we all went to the historical Slough-house cemetery several of the characters mentioned in her books were buried. Naida told some fascinating stories about the area — the Native American, Chinese and European settlers, the gold discoveries, the massacres and the private lives of the people buried in the cemetery that she had garnered from their diaries. She even found the grave of the old woman who had become her friend and whose diary had begun her interest in the area and became an important part of her books.

The Girls at the Cemetery.

Following that, we drove to the bank of the Cosumnes River in Rancho Murieta where the Indian village described in her books stood. She became quite upset when she saw that the great old mother oak, sacred to the Native Americans who were buried in the ancient midden that lay beneath its branches, had been chopped down by the developer (despite his promises not to.) We then walked along the river bank and explored the rocks containing many native grinding holes and the stepped stone platform where she was sure the natives gathered to listen to the orations of the head man whenever there was a festival or a party. Naida mentioned that the area was so productive that it has been estimated the average time native male worked (built things, hunted and so-on) was only 45 minutes a day and the average women 3 hours. It was a peaceful paradise that existed for over 600 years until it was utterly destroyed by European immigrants from the United State in less than twenty.

On the Banks of the Cosumnes.




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One morning I woke up in the midst of one of my periodic struggles with depression and despair wondering if I even was going to be able to get out of bed that day. I turned over and looked across the room to the blanket on the floor in the corner where LM slept. She was lying there staring up at the ceiling giggling.

Annoyed that in the midst of my existential crisis anyone could find anything amusing, I growled, “What’s so funny?” Besides who giggles at 6:30 in the morning?

In her fractured English she said, “In America you white and fat. In Thailand you black and small.”

“And, you find this amusing,” I responded?

She did not answer but got up, squatted by the small water heating appliance and began making that morning’s jolt of instant coffee.

I turned back and stared up at my section of the ceiling and contemplated the impenetrable barrier of intercultural humor while she continued to chuckle in the background.

I later got up and glanced in the mirror and noticed that indeed my belly, if not necessarily flat, seemed to protrude much less than when I was most recently in California. As for the blackness, I decided that she was referring to the current state of my soul.

As I sat at the table drinking my coffee (three heaping tablespoons in a small cup), I wondered if there was not something about that morning that was auspicious, but alas, its meaning escaped me.

 

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